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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RUTS Oak Ridge

Planning 2017 has been quite interesting.  With the USA National Championships in September as my main goal, I needed steps to take and races to get me to where I needed to go.  This round, it was the RUTS (Run Under the Stars) Oak Ridge 10 hour run that would get me to where I needed to be.  I never was any good with night runs because I enjoy my sleep, so psychologically, this would be tough.  Second thing is that I needed to use this race as a training run and not as a A race.  With my new training phase, my max weekly mileage was at 40 miles, which meant (to me) that I had about 40-45 miles of race miles, I knew that racing any more than that would require more time off, which wouldn't get me ready for my next race, a month and a week from now.  I needed to insure that the races added the longer miles I need without sacrificing any of the quality I was adding to my current training schedule.

With that in mind, I was ready.  It called for chances of thunderstorms and at least a bit of rain so I prepared by bringing as little things as I didn't want to take care of anything that would blow away.

Weapons of choice:

SWORD waterbottle:  (as a SWORD sponsored race, I knew I was going to do well with electrolytes)
normal waterbottle:  Mainly used to cool myself down but also as an emergency drink
Table:  Keep all my stuff on
Fold-out chair:  Used for when I need to switch shoes or feel like chatting
Garbage bag with my shoes:  Because knowing it's going to be rainy, I prepared 7 pairs to run with
Shoes:  Asics Gel-Lyte 33 3, pretty sad they're discontinued because they are my favorite, helps tons
Socks:  Injinji socks and another pair to make sure I don't get blisters (and I didn't!)
KT-tape:  Helps support arches (and I ended to race w/out feet pain)
Nike Combat Compression Shorts:  that and Aquaphor keeps me from chafing in a not so fun place
Adidas shorts:  Just your average pair.  Light, and pretty awesome
Underarmour shirt:  After the rain, needed it because of the chafing and temperature
Ice-Bug Buff:  If you fold it just right, you can easily put in your iPod shuffle in it!
Peanut Butter Crackers:  The perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat.

Since I didn't bring too much as it was a shorter race and a possible rainstorm, I had only one goal:  Get to 62 miles and get myself a decent 100k time.  Race the first 40 miles and then coast from there.  Here's how the race went down

The Course:

RUTS 10 hour race was held in A K Bissell Park, where they concocted a 1.25 mile loop that was on mostly gravel-like paths and one bridge and a good bit of turns to keep you thinking.  It was pretty darn flat, making running big miles an easy thing to do.  The aid station was a quarter mile from the finish line, and had all the goodies that any runner would need.  All they needed was a little excitement.... which the thunderstorm definitely provided.  Haha

Mile 1-30:
I originally had thought that I would be at the point of getting the first 30 miles done in 4 hours and then spend the last 6 hours getting in 40 miles, but because I needed to plan ahead, I decided I'd get the first 30 at race pace and then back off.  However, that being said, I hadn't planned on running with Steve Barber, who was part of a team.  I really am a rabbit and enjoy being up front, so when he went out ahead, I let him go, because he was doing a relay with Joy.  That being said, try as I might, I couldn't help but little by little catch up to him.  Then with a tad of brashness, I thought, "What if I lapped him before the hand-off to Joy?" and so for the first 5 hours he was going to run, I battled against myself whether or not to lap him because that was an immediate goal.  Having one's mind wander during the race can be good at times, but sometimes, it can also be detrimental.  That's why I chose to focus on lapping certain people.  I knew lapping Steve was nearly impossible if he put the hammer down, but I also knew who was in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th.  With that, I decided that I would focus on chasing after those people one at a time so I don't get side-tracked and bonk because I overshot myself.  Another interesting thing that happened in the first 30 miles was the horrific thunderstorm.  My sister and brother-in-law surprised me by coming and visiting AND sticking through the thunderstorm while supporting me.  Wow,  I thought I was crazy for running in the typhoon winds and lightning and sideways rain, but not as crazy as those two who were sitting through it all seeing me every 1.25 miles.  As the rainwater flooded the little creek, creating a roaring river, the path I was on became enveloped in the longest puddles, and there was no way around.... so I went through.  When it's raining sideways, you don't really care about your shoes getting wet.  You just go.  Some people didn't like the bigger puddles, but I imagined that if I ran fast enough, I would be running through without giving the water enough time to get in my shoes (disclaimer:  It didn't matter) and so I went at it like a maniac.  I figured that the disco lights (aka thunder) was for me and I needed to perform, so I began to press a little harder.  The first bits of the race, I went fast because I was fresh, but as time went on, I began to slow my pace down, so with this change of pace midrace, I allowed my body to stretch out a bit more!  To some, the thunderstorm was a great hindrance (ask all the people that had their tents blow away) but to me, it was as if chains were lifted.  I finished my first marathon portion of the race in 3:27:05 and the was just at 3:59:59 for my 30 mile split.

30-41.25 miles

It was during this time that I had to make a decision.  According to Sho-math, I was good to race up to 40 miles without significant damage, 50 miles with some recovery, and 60 miles with way too much recovery that I wouldn't have enough time to train for my next race, so the question was... how much should I push it?  I decided to talk it out and see where everyone else stood, because despite me continuously telling myself this was a training race.... I still wanted the win.  The timer crew told me that I was ahead of the number two guy by about 10 miles.... but that Cathy Downes... she was 5 miles behind me... or 4 laps.  That meant that I needed to be careful.  I continued at a decent pace, but I knew that I would have to make a decision soon... my legs were slightly sore from the distance, but more than that, I was sleepy.... so Red Bull it was, and it helped me stay awake, and my sister and brother-in-law had to leave...and now I had 4 hours left.

41.25-63.75 miles

4 hours left and Cathy was 4 laps behind... techincally, I needed to do about 4 laps per mile (5mph) and if she did 5 laps per mile (6.25mph), I would still make it.... but first, recon.  After lapping me, I decided to stick with her and confess.  She said right away that she didn't care and that it's normal to want to win... and we became friends.  We started talking about running (well mainly me) and that went on and on for quite a long time.  After almost 2 hours, I decided to take an easy lap and start running with her after she caught up, and then we chatted again.  This time, being the last hour plus change, she needed 4 laps to get to her goal of 60 miles, and so I calculated the time for her and we figured out that she had a good shot at getting 61.25 miles, so we went for it.  Finishing with about 5 minutes to spare, we both had a blast and it was a great time getting to know her!

Conclusion:

Quads and calves were sore from the race so I definitely need to work them out a lot more.  Form was good throughout the race, but I need to also work on my upper back as it was sore from keeping my back straight throughout the race.  I tried to get through the race without pickle juice.... but I'll put that in my diet because I think it would have helped alleviate some of the soreness my legs got in the first 30 miles of the race.  Overall, the storm didn't really affect me, so mentally I was okay, but the post-midnight run definitely hurts me mentally, so I'll need more work on that somehow... I'll definitely have to add more miles for training.  As always, RUTS was spectacular, I'd love to race all the races, but always have other things going on, so will get in as many as I can!  Really appreciate my sister and her husband, as well as the aid station and timing crew.  They were all so encouraging.  Also appreciate all the runners.  No matter what, they were all encouraging and kept on pushing.  It was awesome to experience a thunderstorm with them and still run through it.  Finishing a strong 63.75 miles and winning was nice too... but the nicest part of the race was meeting everyone and enjoying the time I was able to spend with everyone.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Run4Water Race Report

It's been too long since my last blog post/race report but here's something worth sharing.  If you're wanting to go to the race report, just skip to the Race section of the post.  I'm a story teller and I love my stories~

The Planning:

Normally, when running a race, I have this one question:  How can I perform at my best?  However, this race was completely different.  This was the final shot to qualify for the US National team.  It was my only chance to run in the World Championships for the 24 hour race!  Looking back at my training, I understood that with my current ability and training, I would probably finish a 24 hour race with between 135-140 miles.  However, in order to qualify for the team, I calculated that I would need 153 miles, given the talent of the field and who already was in the top 6.  That was 13-18 more miles than I was physically able to do... which meant one thing.  I either just do my best and be happy with a PR, or go balls to the wall and hope I don't blow up (I'd give it a 10% likelihood of success... probably less).  My question for this race was this:  Am I willing to risk not finishing the race because I ran with a pace faster than my body could possibly handle?

Obviously, I answered yes.

I have a dream and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there.  I was willing to 'look bad' or 'fail' or just have a real bad race if I had just a glimmer of hope for success.  In order to do so, I needed to plan to succeed and hope my body followed the plan.  Studying a few professional runners and their pacing patterns and then applying my own personal variables, I calculated that I would need to run this race with 4 phases.  Phase 1:  Run the first 5 hours at a 7 miles per hour.  Phase 2:  Run the next 7 hours at 6.5 miles an hour.  Phase 3:  Run 10 hours at 6 miles an hour.  Phase 4:  Run the final 2 hours at 5.5 miles an hour.  Obviously, this would only result with 151.5 miles, but I assumed I would go a little fast and get the miles needed and get to approximately 153 miles by the end of the race.  Perfect planning!  I studied Yiannis Kouros as he made the 24 hour world record and looked at his pacing and created my own plan for success, assuming my body could handle a faster than anticipated pace.  I wasn't really worried about the first 5 hours.... I wasn't even worried about the first 10 hours, but after that, I didn't know what my body would do as with my own planning, I would be up 6 miles more than where I suspected my body was capable of doing.  However, there was no turning back.  This was not a race for running as best as I could.  It was a race to see if I could handle a USA Team qualifying standard.


Preparation:

Due to my shoes untimely 'death' I scrounged 12 pairs of my Asics Gel Lyte 33 3s as these shoes matched my feet well and I have never gotten blisters from them... however, with all the miles they had on them and some of them being tattered up in an early demise, It would be rough on my feet... but outside of that, here's what I got!

KT tape - taped the bottom of my feet and ankle as there would be swelling, I needed the stability and compression
Injinji toe socks - best thing ever!  Extra help to prevent blisters
your average socks - second layer of protection
Nike Combat compression shorts - the best anti-chafing compression shorts ever!
Adidas running shorts - I do like the color black for running!
Underarmour compression shirt - in case it got a little too cold and no armpit chafing
tech shirt - breathable and red, fav color!
Asics Running Gloves - because I have delicate hands... not! I do get cold hands when running
Sinister 7 Buff - keeps my head warm AND holds cold water when it's warm
ipod shuffle - because sometimes, running around in circles gets a little boring
Focus 100 earphones - helps them stay in and don't have to worry about them giving your ears too much pressure
Sword and UD waterbottles - gotta keep my drinks in something!
SWORD - the best electrolyte/energy replenishing product I've ever taken that hasn't upset my stomach
water - splash myself, or drink
Coke - because we all need caffeine
Red Bull - because some caffeine is better than others....
Peanut Butter Crackers - best small source of energy that I would need throughout the race
Ben Gay - gotta keep my muscles loose!
Vitamin B pills - get some vitamin!
Aquaphor - because raw skin isn't fun to run with
extra jacket and other warmer clothes as well as some extra shorts


The Plan:

Outside of running the 4 Phases, it was rather simple.  My lovely little sister Maika was crew captain and she made sure that I got what I needed!  Each mile, I would walk for 20-40 seconds and during that time, I was given everything I needed.  During that time, I could recover, re-calibrate, and start anew!  Every mile, I was to receive a drink (rotation between water, SWORD, and Coke).  Every other mile, I was to receive two peanut butter crackers.  Every 3 hours, I needed a shoe change pit stop.  I also needed to know how fast I was going so I could figure out if I need to speed up or slow down.  During normal eating hours, she would ask me what I may want for a meal, and basically treat me like a prince for that day.  She's really the best.  She handled all that and directed the crew to help me in whatever way I needed help and that's part of what makes the race go smoothly!


The Course:

In Lebanon, TN, around Winfree Bryant Middle School, a small 0.50849 mile loop stood.  Though it started out flat, over the course of a few hours, a few hills do seem to pop up as the slight inclines become more noticeable as your body gets attuned to the race, as well as some of those speed bumps... but nevertheless, a simple course designed for high mileage.  Average temps are just crazy great!  45-65 which is good running weather for most people (I like the 65 side better, but eh, it's cool)


The Race:

Phase 1: the first 5 hours

As I needed to go at a faster pace than originally anticipated, I just needed to hang on a little more and needed a good distraction.  Running the first 3 hours without headphones and the last 2 hours with headphones really helped me out.  I figured out I had a bigger breakfast and therefore didn't need the crackers and even had a bathroom stop the first hour without losing too much time (which meant I was going about 20-40 sec/mile faster than planned) but I slowed down and was able to get to where I needed to be by the second half of the phase.  I was a little more tired, and so I think I needed more running during my tapering phase of my training so that my legs wouldn't get too stiff from not running.  Everyone was saying I was going too fast, and though I was going slightly too fast compared to my plan, I knew that it was vital that I find a good rhythm and keep it and so I continued.  I finished a little more than 36 miles.

Phase 2: the next 7 hours

Coming down from 7 miles an hour to 6.5 miles an hour was rather nice, because in my original plan, I would've been here a lot sooner.  The relief was good and I was able to keep a decently consistent pace, but by the time it was 9 hours into the race, I had built an extra 20 minute buffer that I needed to use, so I decided to use it the last 3 hours of phase 2.  Part of me thought that this would be a good break, but another part of me was thinking that in doing so, it could possibly accelerate the downward spiral, so I was at a crossroad... or perhaps the impasse.  I chose to go down to 6 miles an hour and still meet the original plan's goals, but by the eleventh hour, I felt that exhaustion creeping in.  The change of plans and my speed had caught up.  I had no care to placing up til then (I had learned that I was first for a long time, but knew Jon Olsen was going to go at his leisurely pace and overtake me, which he did during the latter half of Phase 2) but my legs were telling me that I had pushed myself and that small glimmer of hope in making the team slowly flickered out.  I'm not much of a gambling man, but given the odds of me making the team before was 0, I knew that taking the chance was a no-brainer.  However, it seemed like at this point, my body rejected the idea and I was out of tricks.  I believe I was at about 80 miles

Phase 3/4/Finish:

Unfortunately, after the heroic tale of the first 12 hours, my body was done in and the choice was now to walk to my 100 miler or to stop.  I talked with my crew and they suggested I continue on towards that 100 mile and take that 5 hours to finish... but even then, with their encouragement, my willpower depleted as I no longer had a true goal, I slowly faded.  Of course, by fading, I meant, I had a nice 30 minutes massage which to my crew was a hilarious show of me yelping, jerking, making other unreasonable noises, but it was fun.  I knew the odds were not in my favor (thanks Hunger Games) but I knew that in not attempting that, I would be cheating myself of that opportunity and I would regret that.  At 87 miles, I decided that it was time for me to drop and thus go home to a lovely 4 hour nap before going through the next day limping and hanging out with my awesome family and friends.


Conclusion:

Did I run a good race?  Nah.  Do I regret running as I did?  Never.  Did I learn something?  Yes!  My training quality worked but my quantity needed more improvement.  As always, I'm happy to be with my running family and meet new people and make new friends.... it was an enjoyable occasion.  Thanks to Greg Armstrong for being an amazing host/director/dude/runner/friend.  The course was amazing.  Thanks to my sister Maika for captaining the crew, and all my other crew-mates, for helping her out and helping me tremendously.  There is no way I could do any of these races as good without you guys helping and dealing with me.  Thanks to SWORD for sending me an amazing care package and allowing me to use their products.  No stomach issues means high mileage!  Can't wait to show you guys off!

So much happened that day and I am happy to be able to share the road with some of the greatest athletes in the USA.  Good news is that I have 2 years to get ready for the next world championship... but I think I'll just take 6 months of training and take a stab at the USA National Title.  This race may be the end of a phase, but I'm already on the next phase and excited to see what happens now.

Side note:  Run4Water is a non-profit organization that serves to help the water crisis going on in the world by raising support and awareness through these running events.  Pretty cool organization.  You should check them out!