Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grandfather Mountain Marathon


I came into the Grandfather Mtn Marathon (GFMM) with low expectations as I had not recovered fully from the 50 Mile Dust To Dawn 2 weeks before. I also was having an over-use niggle (injury pain) in my right shin. Whenever I over-train I develop niggles which is my body’s way of staying I need to stop and rest. I did not run the week before in hopes I could finish the marathon. I put on shin sleeves in hopes it would help keep down the pain during the race. I also wore my cushion shoe, which is the Ultra by Skechers.

Stu Stepp and I went to the race Saturday morning. Stu had never run the 4th hardest marathon in the US so he was looking at it as a hard training run.

The GFMM is usually the second week of July and is the only marathon or longer race during the month of July. If offers a great way to see some of the prettiest part of the state and get a heck of a hill workout at the same time. My experience shows you should add 15 to 20 minutes of time to your normal marathon time to get an idea of where you will finish at GFMM on a perfect day. If it is over 80 degrees with humidity, it can be a long day. The finish is one of the best as you enter the stadium where the Highland Games are being held and run around the track. It is neat to hear 3000 Scotts cheering for you as you finish.
My strategy for GFMM is simple. On the flat to downhill portions of the race, you have to take advantage of opportunity. The 5 big hills are going to eat up time and you cannot walk them if you want to have a good race. The first 3 miles are net downhill so it is more important than in most races to start strong. I drank a cup of Scivation Psycho Supplement which gave me a mental and energy boost at the start of the race.
Scivation Psycho- Pre Run Drink

I wrote where the 5 bigs hills are on my arm so I knew throughout the race what was coming. I started off with my friend Jake and Alisha from Boone. Jake has already won 2 marathon or longer races this year and Alisha is a professional tri-athlete. I expected to run with them if I was able to have a good race. Jake at mile 1 disappears into the porta-potties and says he will catch up. They finish the race 3 minutes behind me together. Alisha ends up 2nd women overall. I toll her if she had not waited on Jake she would have won. The shin started hollering around mile 8 and I mentally focused on a song to focus on something else. Whatever I focus on will only grow stronger. I started passing runners at mile 13 as the hills were taking to take casualties. My goal was to keep my heart rate on 155bpm knowing that it would rise on the hills. I intentionally never look at my heart rate as I am running or finishing a hill as I use to use it as an excuse to ease up. I knew from my breathing that I gave it my best on the hills which my heart rate peaking at 177bpm. I had one runner past me during the race at mile 18 as if I was standing still. He finished in 6th place. I used Scivation Xtend EnduranceSupplement in my handheld for my fuel instead of using gels. I used a small 12oz handheld that I filled up twice. Xtend Endurance contains the electrolytes and carbohydrates for fuel during the race. I finished strong and was happy with my 9th place finish. 350 runners started the race. Last year I finished 13th place.This year,  I was lucky to win my age group. My time was 3:27 and last year my time was 3:14. I ran a much better race this year and surprised at the end with the total time. This year was much hotter and more humid. Last year 31 runners ran faster than 3:30 and this year only 13. It would good to connect with runners I see at GFMM each year including Bobby Aswell, Phyllis Tsang, Baki Oguz &  Caleb Masland with Bonk Proof Running who won the race. He is a professional runner from Boone. Great coach too.

Stu finished in 3:45 which is an excellent first attempt at GFMM.
Next year one of his goals will be to not walk any of the hills which has to do with pacing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dust to Dawn 50 Miler Race Recap


The SPUR (Southern Pines Ultra Running) club put on a run Saturday night in Southern Pines NC within the Ft. Bragg military training area. The course was run on two lane roads in the middle of a forest. The only light along the course was from the passing cars and our headlamps. I was surprised by the amount of rolling long hills. There was one hill early in the race in the teen miles that I would put against anything I will be running at Grandfather Mountain Marathon in July.


The SPUR group started with 3 rolling aid stations that would move as the pack of runners move along the course. The actual route was a 52 mile loop so you never came back to your vehicle until you were finished. The volunteers at the aid stations were super helpful and enabled the runners to get back on pace quickly. The aid stations were 3 miles apart.

The race started at 7pm and everyone was required to bring a light and hydration bottle. I used my waist belt with a 20oz bottle on my backside. The fuel I mixed with water during the race was Xtend Endurance.

Martin and Mose Smith
I rode to the race with Caleb and Shane. Caleb’s monster truck is a great vehicle to travel to races in as we each had plenty of room for our gear and coolers. We got there in plenty of time, said hello to the other runners I see at Ultra events and got ready to start. The race had some military runners, which was great to see. I set my watch to show my heart rate.  My heart rate was the only thing I focused on for the first 20 miles, as I would not allow myself to go over 145bpm except when I was running up the hills. The idea was to stay in my low aerobic zone early in the race so I could finish strong. I always feel in long races like I am a horse and I need to pull in the reins early so I don’t go too fast and burn up all my stored energy. Late in the race, I feel like I have to whip myself to stay on pace and finish strong. My heart rate drops going downhill so I really pushed hard on the down hills to gain time and keep my heart rate in the 145bpm zone.


My training has been going well. I have been doing a 2-hour run on Friday with a 3-hour run on Saturday and a 1-hour run on Sunday besides track on Tuesday and 8-mile tempo runs on Thursday.

When we got to the race site, everyone with the SPUR group was helpful and excited about the race. The aid stations were mobile (every 3 miles) so as the runners ran along the course, the aid stations would move along the 50-mile course.

The race started at 7pm. After the first mile, I think I was in 10th place as many runners went out super fast. My heart rate at 145bpm came out to a 7:30 pace which was fine with me. I settled into an easy pace and comfortable breathing while talking to some of the runners.

Around 4-miles, some of the runners started slowing down as they had gone out too fast to hold the pace. I was putting Scivation Xtend Endurance mix in my water bottle I was carrying in my waist pack to give me the fuel to keep the pace without bonking. At mile-24, the last runner in front of me started walking. I stopped and asked if he was ok and needed any water. He said he was ok and needed to take a break. My mind started racing that I might be able to win this event. I started telling myself –I have 26 miles to go and I need to focus on this mile only. I started asking at the aid stations how far I was in front of the next runner. Each time the volunteers would tell me that he was slowly gaining on me and I needed to keep pushing. At mile 32, I asked who was the runner gaining on me is and they told me it was Tyler Peek from  who won the Boogie 50 miler 2 months ago. I knew he was an accomplished runner so I figured if he wanted to win, then he would have to come and get it. I stayed with my 145bpm and plowed on. At mile 38, I asked again about Tyler and they said again that he was gaining on me. I had upped my pace heart to 150bpm to put a little distance on him and he was still gaining on me. The last 10 miles had some big hills. One of the benefits of running in complete darkness is you are not able to see the hills. I noticed my foot was landing at an upward angle, which told me I was running up a hill. Occasionally a car would drive by at 2am and I could watch the lights rise in the distance to tell me what type of grade I had coming up with the next hill. I finished at 3:01am and won my first 50-mile race. I told the folks at the finishing line a runner was right behind me and they started laughing. It turns out the 2nd place runner was having a hard night with the lights from cars and talked about stopping a couple of times. The race volunteers kept telling him I was slowing down and he could catch me if he kept going. Both of us ran better races because of the volunteers feeding us incorrect information. 

Caleb and Shane

Martin, Caleb, Tyler and Shane

My recovery drink was Scivation Xtend Intra-Workout Catalyst. Xtend (watermelon flavor) is chock full of amino acids to help with the muscle recovery and rebuilding process. I ran in Sketchers Ultra shoes, which have enough cushioning to handle 50 miles on the road. Caleb ran a smart race and got a new personal record. Shane made a wrong turn, ran 58 miles and finished with a good attitude. I ran in Skechers Ultra shoe. The shoe continues to provide me the comfort and support I need in a long distance shoe.

1st Place Female and Male