Monday, May 18, 2015

Rattler Trail Marathon: Running on Rocks and Roots

I went to the Rattler Trail Marathon (May 9th) at San-Lee Park in Sanford NC with little to no expectations. I had a flair up with my arthritic hip on Tuesday before the race. The only thing I did fitness wise was swim 36 laps (1 mile) on Friday. I was well rested but had no idea how the hip would hold up during the race. My only thought going in was to take little steps so I would not extend my stride and stretch something which would cause more downtime. 

The race was put on by Dan Paige who is also the race director for Uwharrie 100 (link) in October. Dan is an accomplished ultra runner so he knows how to put on excellent events with all the details handled. The race offered 3 distances- 10K, Half and Marathon. Everyone started at the same time. 

Dan and Amanda Paige

The course comprised 3 loops around the lake at the park.  The bike trails are single track, twisty and constantly turning with all the rocks, roots and boulders you could ever want to run over by choice. There were not any significant climbs but you were constantly going up and down all day. The race was free with donations going towards rebuilding some of the park that burned in the past. Beautiful facility. Well worth the drive to enjoy the park. Two minutes off the highway 421 By Pass.

I saw many of my friends from the Southern Pines Ultra Club (Link) and Mangum Track Club (Link). The race started and we were off at a fast pace. As always, I wanted to watch my heart rate as a guide for not going out too fast. My aerobic threshold is 135 to 145. At the Umstead 100 miler, my heart rate averaged 141. Based on the short distance of a marathon, I wanted to keep my heart rate between 155 to 160 which is pushing the limits. The temperatures got up to 86 degrees which made the race more challenging to keep the body cool and keep the heart rate down. I run mostly in the morning so I am not used to running in the heat. Three miles in and my heart rate was 166 to 170 so I knew I was going too hard and needed to slow down. I was able to pass most of the slower runners and got my heart rate down to 162. I never was able to get below 160 the whole day. I decided to stop worrying about heart rate and focused on not letting it creep up any higher than 170 on the climbs. I figured if I bonked from going out too hard then I would learn more about my limits. 

"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into impossible" Arthur Clarke

I brought my own food and drink to carry during the race. I am a big believer in taking the thinking out of the equation and being self sufficient. I don't want to face any decisions in the race other than to keep going hard. The marathon race was 3 loops so I brought 3 bottles of water/fuel mix, a gel bottle and a couple of Clif Bars to munch on. During the race I ran up to my cooler, grabbed a bottle and I was back at it. Most other racers were waiting for their bottles to be filled up. It is time this 49 year old could not afford to give up compared to the youngsters I was racing. 

The course was super technical. I had to watch every step and I still managed to trip and fall 6 times. One time when I fell I landed in the creek beside the path. The cool water felt good. I felt like I was trail dancing as very few steps were normal. Because of having to take smaller steps to dodge obstacles, my hip held up well. I tend to push hard when I am racing and often don't pay attention so I was leading the marathon at mile 9 until I got off course for 1.5 miles and then I was in 3rd place at mile twelve. I kept thinking to be patient and run my race. As long as I did my best that day, I would be more than happy with whatever place I ended up. At the end of the second loop I passed the leader as he waited to get more water in his bottle and food. I took off and he got within 5 minutes of me at mile 18. I finished strong and was able to finish in first place by 25 minutes. The heart rate is the only thing I watched and if I respected it I would have some energy at the end of the race. I also want to give a shout out to Cherie McCafferty from the Mangum Track Club for winning the marathon for the ladies.

I highly recommend the race for trail lovers. 

Quest for the Crest 50K Link

My next race is "Quest for the Crest 50K" in Burnsville NC. It is billed as the hardest 50K in the US because of the 11,200 ft of climbing and 11,700 ft of loss in 50K. There is 22,900 ft of elevation change. As a manner of comparison- Speed Goat 50K out west is thought to be one of the hardest 50K's and it only has 11,000 ft of vertical gain and loss. I have been getting on the Stair Master for 45 minutes at lunch with my weighted vest in addition to running around 65 miles and swimming during the week. This race is going to be a climb fest for me. Racers are coming from around the country to run this event. I will be thrilled if I finish in the top half of the racers. 

Gear used:

 Orange Mud
Orange Mud Link
Xtend Link
Skechers Link

"Limits like fears, are often just an illusion" Michael Jordan

Monday, May 11, 2015

Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race Recap: How I took off 7 hours off my 100 mile time (16:37) in one year

Last year, I had some running highlights: Running 3:00 at the Boston Marathon, Finishing my first 24 hour race with 103 miles (second place) and winning a 50 mile road race in June. I also ended the year on a low note as I was not able to train more than 30% due to a piriformis hip injury that started in August. I was in denial and just never gave my hip time to heal. What should have taken 2 months ended up taking 4 months to get back to feeling well enough to train. The blessing of this set back is I learned to swim laps and cross train (Lunges, Squats, etc.) which was lacking from my training and contributed to my running injury due to lack of core strength.

I started the year off with a coach for the first time after seeing the improvement other runners were having with a structured & balanced approach. Caleb Masland of Bonk Proof Running has agreed to help me which will introduce periodization to my training scheduled based on my races in the first half of the year and my “A” race (Uwharrie 100) in October. I am not running more miles but am doing more variety in the running workouts and at least 3 strength / core workouts a week. I also have become a big fan of swimming laps. I have found swimming to be a big advantage for runners. Swimming gets your heart rate up while your lower body recovers from the pounding of running. Swimming also gives a good upper body strength workout. I am currently swimming on Monday and Friday mornings before work. I do most of my cross training (lunges, squats, stair-master, free weights with a 20lb weight vest) at the gym during lunch. The other key aspect of Bonk Proof training is your recovery/adaptation days should be easy and the hard days should be really challenging as running each day at the same intensity.

 My training leading into the Umstead Endurance Race had been good. I went and ran at the course 2 times including a 38 mile long run by myself. I was consistently running 70 to 80 miles a week on 5 days while swimming 2 days a week. The week of the race, I had intentionally scheduled some business travel and we had an unexpected situation come up with a family member that took all my time. I did not run a mile for 5 days leading up to the race on Saturday. It was a blessing as I was healed and feeling rested.

My goals were in this order: Finish, Break 24 hours, Break 20 hours and if I really dreamed big and everything worked well I thought I had a chance to break 18 hours.  One of my Hero’s from Charlotte Mosi Smith had run 17:06 last year so I knew breaking 18 hours would be a stretch for me. I wanted to take all the thinking out of the equation and spend less than 1 minute at my own aid station per 12.5 mile loop. The race is made up 8, 12.5 mile loops on a rolling hill course. The course is on carriage paths which are smooth so all you have to do is run. Easy in theory.

I arrived at the course Friday afternoon to setup my own aid station with table to hold my bags, cooler and a chair to hold my clothes. I wanted to save time by not stopping at any of the 4 aid stations per loop. I only stopped at my own aid station to grab a new bottle (brought 8; 1 for each loop) using the Orange Mud handheld.

The Orange Mud Handheld is my favorite for 3 reasons:

·        Hand strap is adjustable so I can fit my entire hand including my thumb which gives more support.

·        The outer sleeve is flexible and is easy to switch out bottles without having to remove the lid of the bottle

·        The outer sleeve has pockets and holds a bunch of stuff (salt tabs, gels, etc)

My liquid fuel during the race was Scivation Xtend Endurance in Green Apple flavor. The carbohydrate drink mix is gentle on my stomach, gives consistent fuel for long events, and tastes good. It also has a bunch of BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) in the formula which helps with recovery and keeping your body from breaking down muscle for fuel during long events. I would use 1.5 scoops per 20oz bottle which gave me 150 calories. Xtend is available on Amazon.

My goal was to consume 300 calories per hour. I would carry in my vest a Cliff Bar and a bag of trail mix to each on each loop. After loop 2 (25 miles) and the rest of the loops (3 to 7), I started to drink a vanilla flavored Ensure drink with 300 calories. I would grab the small bottle from the cooler and drink it before I left the start finish area. After lap 1, 3, 5& 7 I consumed a Vespa Gel pack to help encourage by body to use fat at the main fuel instead of just carbohydrates which is the reason I never bonked (“hit the wall”) during the race.

I also carried a gel bottle with me to help with consistent energy. I hooked the gel bottle to my waist band and filled it with 3 gels of Hammer Chocolate Espresso (50 grs of caffeine) and enough for 2 oz’s of maple syrup. Mixed together the combination was gentle on my stomach and I did not get sick of it like I have with the thick Hammer Chocolate Espresso in the past.

The weather was perfect as it never got above 50 degrees and we had a consistent 10 miles per hour wind which kept my core body temperature low which made it easier to push late in the race. The start of the race was 30 degrees Saturday morning and it was forecasted to get down to 26 degrees late Saturday night which was more reason to push hard so I could finish as early as possible.

I had looked at past race reports and thought if I could run the first 50 miles (4 loops) around 2 hours per loop (9:36 pace) then I had a shot at breaking 18 hours. In practice, I had run my 3 laps in under 2 hours per lap so I knew on a good day it was possible. I had been training going down 12% on the treadmill for 60 minutes to strengthen the quads and be able to run all the hills during the 100 miles. It is a tough workout.

The Umstead Endurance Race is sold out every year in less than 6 minutes. You have to be at a computer when the noon comes around in the fall. It is the best run race I have ever been a part of. They offer a 1000 mile finishing buckle once you have completed 10 finishes. Umstead offers 2 finisher buckles for 100 miles. One for finishing under 24 hours which says “100 miles in 1 day” and the other says “100 mile finisher.” The aid stations have just about every food you can imagine to help runners finish under the 30 hour cut off. An added bonus of finishing Umstead 100 miles is being able to enter the Western States lottery.

My plan for the race was to take the thinking out of my plan and just run. I wanted to keep my heart rate in my aerobic range of 135 to 145 beats per minute. I knew the first 50 miles I would feel like I was holding myself back and saving some energy for the last 50 miles. On my watch, I only followed 1 thing which was my heart rate. I never looked at pace throughout the race.  There is 1 downhill on each loop where I would accelerate so my heart rate would not dip under 135. I was really happy how fast my heart rate would recover after each hilly section. A couple of times I saw my heart rate get up to 150 on the steep hills and I would slow down until I got back into the zone. Many racers passed me in the early laps because they were feeling good. Later in the race, they were getting lapped as they had used up all their energy. The reason I only care about my heart rate is it keeps me from running too fast because I feel good at the start of the race and end up paying for it later on. I adjust my heart rate goals based on the distance. In a race of marathon length I will try to keep my heart rate at 160 bpm. A fifty mile race I will focus on staying at 150 to 155 bpm. As long as I stay hydrated and consume enough nutrition (300 to 400 calories per hour), my aerobic engine should carry me to the finish.
The last 4 laps (50 miles) of the race can be with pacers. This was the first race I had pacers to help me continue to push hard. I ran with members of the Mangum Track Club Bryan H Hojnacki from Charlotte on lap 5 & 6. Eric Fogleman from Alberdeen paced me on lap 7 and Carl Douglas Hunt. from Wilmington paced me on lap 8. Umstead provides pacers for the final laps. I will use pacers whenever it is possible in the future. Big advantage.

Time: 16:37:29 (9:59 per mile)

Lap Times (12.5 Miles)
Lap 1: 1:52 (8:52 per mile)
Lap 2: 1:53
Lap 3: 2:01
Lap 4: 2:05
Lap 5: 2:04 (9:55 per mile)
Lap 6: 2:07
Lap 7: 2:14
Lap 8: 2:20 (11:12 per mile)

I wore Injinji 5 finger socks and Skechers Ultra shoes. I did not change my socks or shoes during the race. My lightweight vest is by Nathan.

Overall it was a good race and I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers.

My Upcoming races are:
·        Rattler Trail Marathon: May 9th- Sanford NC

·        Quest for the Crest 50K: May 30th- Burnsville NC

·        Dust to Dawn 50 Miler: June 27th- Pinehurst NC

·        Grandfather Mtn Marathon: July 11th- Boone NC

·        Death Before DNF 50 Miler- August 15th- Black Mtn NC

·        Table Rock 50 Miler- September 26th- Morganton NC

·        Uwharrie 100- October 24th- Troy NC