Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Couch to 50 Miles - AKA My North Face Endurance Challenge Race

Too start with, I am pretty happy looking back at the last 20 months or so, as anybody that knows me I started running in April of 2012.  I won't bore you with the details because I have already in the past. :)

I signed up for this race right after the SOB 50k (July) because I knew (hoped) it would give me enough time to train for it.  I had also hoped at that time that it would be a stepping stone to greater goal of getting into Western States (it takes years sometimes to get in) I could have started that process with this race into 2015, as long as I could get this run done in under 11 hours. 

After SOB I started training in earnest for this, I was extraordinary fortunate to have John Burton offer to guide (train) me though this. He gave me some great help with what I should be looking to do with miles / elevation / time.  I think for the most part besides a kidney stone (which was part of my issue looking back at SOB), and a little bout of tendinitis I stuck to it pretty well even through in a 50k in Redding that sure wasn't a push over either. 

John has been very patient with me, and I was extremely lucky with with John, I also got to run with Amy who is an insanely good ultrarunner as well. So I get to ask her questions and advice while trying to catch my breath. 

Let's fast forward to before the race, I had a friend that was lamenting his lack of miles so I thought I would invite him to pace me for the last 23 miles since being a pacer for a slower runner like me is just a great long supported training run.  He has his first 100 miler in February that will be a lot of fun to hear about...

I picked up David Friday after work to drive up to San Francisco and we stayed at a cheap hotel near one of the shuttle pick up points. It was raining pretty good up there but died off later in the evening. We made it up to north face store to pick up the packet and there was meet and greet with Rob Krar and Dean Karnazes, fun to listen to them talk about the race and their experiences. 

Ate a pretty standard pasta dinner (can't really go wrong with that), then got probably 2 hours of sleep after tossing and turning before an asinine 2:45 wake up call.  I was frozen walking to the shuttle, but I found a race report somewhere that someone ran in oversized pajama bottoms so I had grabbed my oversized sweats. They worked great but I didn't think I wanted to run in them, so took them off and found a fire table. Sat around and BS'd with a few folks before race started all of us lamenting the cold but glad it wasn't the monsoon from last year.

Pretty soon it was time to start running and get warmed up. I felt like I started pretty well, I didn't go out fast just nice steady pace I felt I could hold up the whole time...  And I was pretty steady even up some decent climbs for the for 28 miles.  They had a section of "out and back" on some single track that was unforgiving you had a drop off on one side and a grassy up hill on the other.  Generally the going out runner makes way for the coming back runner, which I know the group I was bunhced up with did a good job of doing for sure even yelling runner so that people behind knew someone was coming.  On my way back their was a woman couldn't have been much more than 4 foot 6 going at a great clip right up the path, about 3 of us had to jump out of the way, I don't think she was going to give an inch :)  Kinda had to be there, but we laughed about that for a few miles for sure.

One of my favorite sections was the downhill for a couple of miles leading into the Stinson aid station it was wooded switchback with a bunch of stairs, I passed 6 to 8 people there. This is where I would pick up David. I was feeling really well minus some sore hip flexors. I think I was averaging about an 11 minute pace here so well ahead of what my "stretch goal" of 12 minutes. 

Then the wall or should I say stairs, coming out of the aid station you go up some of the dipsea stairs to the cardiac aid station (that is as imposing as it sounds) and got to see Rajeev again (Quicksilver teammate and RD for our new 100k). This is where it got tough, I was having a hard time running anything, I was still pretty strong on the downhill though.  David was trying to keep me moving along at a good clip and it was helping a lot.  Having a pacer to move me through the aid stations and ask all the right questions was great. I think we could get good at this if we traded pacing duties every now and then. 

At one point at the beginning of one of the climbs I saw a lego guy, now I just sort of went past because I wasn't quite sure how to handle that and I wanted to keep moving - I am certainly glad  David got a picture with him. Something to remember for sure!

Lego Guy with DavidLego Guy with David

As you can see by some of David's pictures the views were outstanding, these climbs were normally runnable and I did at the front end of this race just couldn't muster at the back end.  I will improve my time a lot when I can dial that in.

After looking back at my drop bags, I am wondering if I took in enough calories at the beginning (this is a new thought as I write this), I know a lot of my walking had to do with fitness, I think I can dial in my calories better as well though.  I might have to drop the Tailwind, I think it is harder for me to keep track of than GU or something like that.

I dropped most of my stuff at the Tennessee aid station as from there it was a pretty easy climb (I walked to much of :( ) and then flat / downhill to the finish only about 4.5 miles away! I finished at a run :)  (note both feet off the ground).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Whiskeytown 50k

This past week, I was stalking some of my friends on Strava and noticed that Amy Burton said she had labeled a few runs as "tapering" runs.  So I thought I would be nosey and ask what she was tapering for, it was the Whiskeytown 50k.  So after seeing what we were doing this weekend, just Julia's soccer game (in which she scored her 3rd game goal ever :) ), Melanie let me go to the race.  

The race is put on by SWEAT (Shasta Wonderland Elite Athletic Team), and as is the case with every trail race I have done so far, the volunteers were great and race was well organized.  http://www.sweatrc.com

I signed up on Thursday night about 20 minutes before the online deadline.  I knew it was going to be a rough race as I didn't really train for it, but this was ultimately my fitness goal - I want to be able to train for a few longer races (50m / 100m) a year but be able to go out and run a 50k on a weekend without much training.  I think if I ever want to hit a "podium" I will have to train specifically for one, but if I see a pretty one that isn't just a loop course, I want to be able to just go out and do it.  This fit the bill really well, far from a looped course this had at least on the map a lot of single track and by all descriptions it had a great deal of varied terrain and climb.
Course Map for the 50kCourse Map for the 50k
Elevation for the 50kElevation for the 50k

I got up at 2am in the morning to start my drive - a bit too early but I am nervous about being on time and it worked out well - I got to the start at about 6:30am and was able to check in and get my bib.  There was quite a turnout from the Quicksilver Running Club, 5 women and 3 men.  

At 8am we started, I decided last minute to just use a hand bottle as I haven't been feeling comfortable with my pack from Ultraspire (the Kinetic), on two separate runs I had a bottle fall out when running the downhills.  I think I just need to work on the fit a bit (at least I hope).  I felt like I started pretty strong, it was all up for the first 4 miles and I was going pretty strong. though about mile 9 when I tripped and hit my knee.  That is where I started making up issues ("my knee hurt, my achilles hurt, whine whine whine"), a bit early for me to do this :).  Luckily there was some downhill (next 5 miles) that I was able to enjoy before the next set of uphill (that is sort of the problem with downhill there is always an uphill component to it :) ).  

I used Tailwind, and in retrospect with an email conversation with John (who along with his wife have been great helping me with training and stupid questions), it seems I might not have been taking in the calories I should have been.  I was looking at taking in about 200 to 250 an hour, he was saying I should push more toward the 300 to 400 calories an hour.  Hard to say I am still trying to feel out my calorie intake options, but I believe him obviously he has a ton more experience than I have.  (mark that one down a lesson learned for the next 50k I find)

I felt ok (besides my whining as I have mentioned above) until about mile 19 or 20 where my hip flexors started to hurt and I was having a problem pushing myself.  I started to go uphill and even though some of it was pretty runnable, I slowed down to a faster hike.  Even the downhills where I thought I was going pretty speedy, turned out to just be 10 to 13 minute miles :)  

It was also this time when we hit the creek crossings. This is some pretty scenery where you navigated about 10 or so times across a creek, the first few I was able to stay dry but after that I just ended up getting wet.  I am happy with my new Nike Kiger's they drained well and didn't have any issues with blisters.  I used the Injinji socks as well so can't complain for sure if getting wet and a good distance with no blisters.  Good combo.  I wish I had my camera for some of the areas in the back, it was very pretty as I mentioned and sometimes unrunnable as I had to weave through a tree branch and gingerly cross a creek.  Couldn't have asked for much more out of a trail ultra (single track varied terrain is what I enjoy).  Unfortunately I spent most of this alone, which I don't mind but still talking to folks makes the hours running go by pretty quick.  I did connect with another Jeff for about an hour and we chatted before he left me in the dust (at that mile 14 or so).

Not much else to say on, I was a bit disappointed in my time, as I think I could / should have done better the last 12 miles or so I need to work on core strength so I don't hit that wall at mile 19/20.  My calorie intake needs to improve.  All in all I had a great time glad I did it for sure.  I finished in 6:31:32 which beat my first 50k by 17 minutes, which I am happy about because there was about 1500 feet more elevation climb on this even though it was at a lower elevation.  I finished 23rd of 49.

My next "ultra" will be the North Face Endurance Challenge 50mile in December, so I hope to have those things a bit more "dialed in" so I can do well.  Even with the news it isn't a Western States 100m qualifier now, I still would like to do well.

My quicksilver teammates did very well as you can see -http://www.sweatrc.com/Results/Ultra/50K/2013.txt

One picture that I liked Early onEarly on

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Jose Half Marathon

I thought I would test out the notes section for a quick run report and this is a complete brain dump that jumps around and is not formatted well...

John Laino and I did this last year, it was my first half marathon, I don't really remember why I did this one other than John was doing it and I had done the Dammit Run with Dan and him a few months before hand.

Last year looking at my miles and training it was a bit light but passable for running the half - and the half marathon isn't really that far when you break it down - worst case you are exercising with some walk breaks just 3 hours, best case if you have been doing some training you probably would hit my time of about 2:13 or so.  I remember being pretty happy about that.

This year while this isn't an "A" race for me it is one that I really wanted to improve upon and do better than my Portland Half which I surprised myself at coming in under 2 hours.  

I have recently gotten to run a bit further and really rather hit the trails than the streets for me it is just a lot more enjoyable.  But to that end, a friend of mine has been coaching me there with helping direct me on some weekly mileage / elevation / time goals also a lot of questions I have because running the trails and some of these distances are pretty new to me and having someone there that is very accomplished along with his wife I get 2 for 1 help sometimes.

I tried to work a bit more over the past month on some speed work and doing the "strides" and some progression runs have helped I think.  Strides are probably different for a lot of folks but what I am doing is about 200 meters or so you divide that into 3 sections mentally and start at your normal pace for the first third then push to a faster pace in the second third and the final section you are "doing a controlled sprint" (not a full on Phoebe sprint - from Friends).  I am sure that has helped increase my general foot speed.  The great thing is on some of the trails I have taken to doing this in the middle of runs when I hit some flat areas, so it is great to be able to see that really help.

I got up early and got everything ready, I have new short shorts so I look a bit more like a runner than a jogger now :)  Dan gets to the house and we are off - of course I pick the car that has just 25 miles left in the tank but that is plenty unless of course you take a wrong turn and get stuck in traffic, luckily we left very early so we just parked away from everyone and got a mile warm up walk with plenty of time to meet up with John and take a picture and complain about everyone that sure didn't look like they could run a 2:00 half lined up in our corral :)

Waiting for the start!Waiting for the start!

I did a classic start too fast - I think I was hopped up on old coffee and peanut butter as well as nerves to get out of the pack - http://www.strava.com/activities/87337218

Looking at the first 6 miles were all under 8 minutes a mile (which is pretty fast for me) after that it was a slow climb up to 8:47 a mile for the next 6 then the last mile I had to push pretty hard (and I think I saved a bit too much I could have pushed harder earlier).  Hard to say if going out that fast was good or bad, I don't know that I would have came in the time I wanted.  Once I hit mile 12 I realized if I didn't start to go faster I would be very disappointed (again I wish I had figured that out earlier I think I had a bit too much left at the end).  I ended up with a time of exactly 1:46:00, which is 27 minutes faster than last year (that much improvement might be hard to duplicate :) ).  I can almost give my Brother-in-Law a run for his money now.

I think something that helped quite a bit was I carried my water, and a gel because I hate getting caught up in the drink stations and when I try to drink out of them and run I always choke.  Then the gel because I think getting a gel at mile 9.5 is more of a mental help than a real benefit at least for me I think I would rather have one at mile 5 or 6 and maybe another at the gu stop...?  Something I probably should have talked to John about.  

It was great fun joining Dan and John because we have been encouraging each other a bit, John hasn't been able to get in the miles lately but Dan has and he said he felt great for a lot of the run so that is encouraging for next year and any other races I can drag him to!

I also had a few other friends out there (Melissa, Renee, Michael, and the Hawkins Clan)  and I wish we could have all connected before and after but this place was a mad house - I saw an article that 16000 people entered they only have slightly more than 10000 in the half so I assume there was quite a few doing the Mini Marathon as well.

All in all it is a fun "jog" through the city besides the normal soreness, I feel pretty good, that is my story and I am sticking to it.  I don't think I am going to do anymore of these road half or full marathons after the Las Vegas Marathon in November, except for this one every year - it seems like a fun gauge as long as it doesn't hit any of the trail runs I want to do.  The roads just aren't as interesting to me, that may change someday but I don't see it anytime soon.

I want to make sure and throw out a few thanks to some folks mentioned here;
Dan Burton - it is his fault I am running now he started me out with the Dammit Run and continues to keep me going
John Laino - He really killed it last year and gave me a target to shoot for, if he gets the time to train I will be in trouble next year for sure.
Amy Heywood - My sister for harassing me all the way and having fun running while I jog
Kenny Heywood - He has been running a lot and really doing well so it is fun to progress with him and he has a full marathon coming up soon so that will be exciting to watch
Bryan Brown - My Brother-in-Law, I look like a walking Nike billboard because of him and giving me a time at the portland Half to shoot for - I didn't quite make it but hopefully you guys could come down next year and we could run this together
John Burton - He has been coaching me and I didn't want to embarass him by saying that and putting up a bad time - I can't tell you how nice it is to find someone that can mentor / talk about this because the internet can only get you so far if you don't have someone to work with and talk through my questions plus both he and Amy have shown me some great trails here very close to home!
Amy Burton - John's wife who has put up with me on a few runs and slowed down to a walk on some of them while answering my questions and showing me some good techniques as well
And Mostly Melanie - My wife for putting up with me running around the block and letting me do this "cheap" sport

Of course that isn't all and I am sure I am forgetting some folks this is my first try at this so sorry for missing you :)

I would like to put in a quick plug for the Quicksilver Running Club as well - so far they are a great group of folks, and the Quicksilver park is a great place to hike and run (a lot of real runnable fire roads and single track) I would be happy to show anybody the area.  If you want to join the club and support the area it is very reasonable and they also have a great running team that is very supportive and does very well within the USATF rankings here in Northern California.  http://www.quicksilver-running.com/

They are also putting on a 10k / HM and a free kids race on the 19th so if you have some time and want to come for a run, I will be volunteering and would be happy to show you the course or meet you there!  http://www.quicksilver-running.com/#!12m-10k--kids-races/cpu1

If you made it this far you deserve a medal as well.