|Jake at almost 2 months old|
I want to start off by saying once again that I 100% realize my placing at this race, like in 2014, is only a result of faster people not running this race. At some point in the future, faster people will run it and demolish all the records and I would have no shot at a podium spot.
Pre-race goals and thoughts:
Since my last race, the FANS 24-hour event on June 4th in which I missed my goals but was still OK with the result (4th place male, 5th overall with 109 miles), my life and training changed. We brought Jake into the world on July 6th (well, I didn't really have much to do with this process aside from 38 weeks earlier) and my training was going to be a distant 3rd, 4th, or 5th behind everything else now (family, work, life, etc.). So with that in mind, I know I had to get smarter with my training. I recalled in a few Podcasts (Ultra Running Podcast, and Talk Ultra) they mentioned the Maffetone training method and I decided to read up on it. It's a combination of training and nutrition. In some ways a total change. A very good description could more or less be found on the websites of https://philmaffetone.com/ and http://primal-endurance.com/. A quick summary is you do all of your training for at least the first 3 months if not much longer at a very low heart rate. For me it was 144 or lower. Along with this, your diet has to change to reduce carbohydrate intake, nearly all through eliminating grains and rice and white potato products and not consuming refined sugar (honey in very small quantity is OK). Fruit is fine. It just can’t be a large percent of the calories. Most of it should come from healthy fats from oils (coconuts, avocado, etc.) and (unless you’re vegetarian) grass-fed/organic meats and wild fish. The training was tough because I was really moving at a snail’s pace (for me) and was forced to walk every hill, no matter how small. Slowly I got faster at that heart rate and I had fun with the challenge of the diet. Amazingly, I lost about 5 pounds while not starving myself and having less time training. My time spent training decreased by at least 1-2 hours per week if I include walking Jake in his stroller for an hour or so twice a week at least and 3+ hours per week if you exclude that from training. Again, all that training except for maybe two days was done exclusively at a low heart rate. I did one hard effort run of 9 miles home from work two weeks before the race and I felt good.
My goal for the race in hindsight was aggressive. Knowing my splits for the 100-miler I won in 2014 and knowing I finished the JFK-50 last year in 7:57 and was about 8 hours to the 50-mile mark during the 24-hour event three month ago, I figured I could go sub-10 hours. To get the suspense out of the way, that goal did not happen. I believe the lack of speedwork and possibly the overall lack of training and/or longer runs just made it so I couldn't hold the pace I needed to achieve that goal. But I see a lot of progress in this Maffetone method and new nutritional lifestyle.
The good thing about all the experience I've had in ultrarunning over the last 6 years and in doing this course for the 3rd time is that I had absolutely no nervousness going into the race. I should have at least respected that even a 10 hour day is a somewhat long day because I felt like the race was only going to take 5 hours instead of 10. It was a weird feeling but I knew I would suffer at some point and would get over it. My plan was to run at or below a 145 heart rate the first two loops (each loop is 10.4 miles). I stuck to that plan for the first 7 miles before my heart rate drifted up towards 150. I decided to just go with it since this is a race and my heart rate should be higher. I probably should have stuck with the plan. I ran the first loop with two other runners, Max Frumes and Anthony Vlachos. Max is a seasoned ultra-runner while this was Anthony's first 50-miler (50-milers start at the same time as the 100K runners). The first loop was finished in 1:40 and I just ran right through the start finish area as I needed no water or food. I was on exactly 10 hour pace.
The next loop was similar except I did start to feel my legs get a little heavy. My heart rate drifted up towards 155 and stayed around 145-155 until mile 15 when it moved up to 160 or higher. Loops 2 was finished in 1:40 as well, still 10-hour pace. Loops 3 I ran the first half with Max but then I had to step into the port-o-potty for 1 minute at the half-way aid station. When I left, I didn't see him so I figured I had to catch up to him. My legs were starting to feel a little tight now. Not the best sign when I still had 30+ miles to go and wanting a 10-hour finish I needed to be slightly faster than my first 2 loops pace. I finished loop 3 in 1:42. I took off my heart rate monitor because it was of no use to me now. My heart rate was high and was going to stay that way unless my legs were hurting so much that I couldn't move fast enough. The 2nd half of loop 3 and most of loop 4 was not a good time for me.
Doing loop 3 in 1:42 meant my pace had slowed (even with the bathroom break) and I could feel it in my legs as well. All of a sudden negative thoughts went through my head. I though that my pace would continue to slow and the rate of decline would increase as well. I tried to estimate how much it may slow and somehow calculated a 12-hour finish time. That got me thinking that I brought the Sniper scope (mini flashlight) and not my headlamp and was a little nervous about when it may get dark. My legs felt much tighter and heavier and I looked at my watch and saw I was really slowing down. I contemplating dropping out so that I could go home and be with Jake because my goal of 10 hours was not going to happen. Then I thought about a few things to get me out of this funk by the end of the lap. First, I wanted to be strong and not quit because even though he'll never know it on this day, I wanted to teach Jake to not give up and to always work hard. Second, I thought about some of my friends who were running other races that Sunday and wanted to be an example to them and if I quit, that might enter their minds when it gets tough in their races. Third, I knew I had under 21 miles to go and that my legs will hold up and yes, I won't get sub-10 but sub-11 is still fine. I'll finish in daylight and still be home at a decent hour. Fourth, there is a quarter-mile section of the race that is an out-and-back and you can see who is behind (or in front if they have lapped you) in the race. As I was on the back part, I saw Max on this section which meant I had at least 5 minutes on him and I was in first place. That's always some motivation. Loop 4 was finished in 1:52:30. That was a big slowdown. I took my hat off since it felt like a weight at that point and headed out on loop 5.
I forgot to take my iPod with me though and then thought it was fine because I could use that to crush the last loop. I felt ok on loop 5. The tricks I mentioned above were working. My legs were still tight and hurting a little but I pushed the pain aside and moved at a faster pace at times. When I got to that out and back section, I looked at my watch so I can get an idea of my lead if I saw Max on the way back. from the out and the back was about 10 minutes and I didn't see him so I figured I had at least that time on him for first place. The back half of loop 5 was tough at some points so I made some games to help me out with the final loop. One was trying to figure out how long before certain sections in this course would appear. The one negative thing I can say about this race is that as nice as these trails are to run on. After a while, it all appears the same and very monotonous. I just kept wondering when I would reach a certain landmark and it seemed forever. So I played this game to just get the mileage correct and not worry about on this loop. I ended up being able to move well towards the end of this loop and was ready to take on the last 10.4 miles. Loop 5 took 1:48. Still slow but 4 minutes faster than loop 4 so an improvement.
At the aid station, I grabbed some gummy bears (my first real food?) and then looked to my right and I saw some bacon!!! I squealed with delight and grabbed a bunch and shoved it in my mouth for an immediate boost. Then I got to my bag and took out some ginger chews and my iPod and started walking while eating and putting on my music. Unfortunately, the iPod dude in the headphones said "battery low" as soon as I turned it on but hoped it would have enough juice to last me at least an hour. After finishing the bacon, taking some enduralytes, and putting a ginger chew in my mouth, I started to run again. Within 5 minutes, I was feeling great. Yes, I could feel my legs but I could say to hell with it and move. I put in a sub-10 minute mile before reality set in a little and some of the smaller hills forced me to slow it down just a bit but in each of these miles, I was able to up the pace for parts of it. The music was working perfectly. Some amazing motivating songs (for me) came up. Unbound - by Avenged Sevenfold is the greatest for running ultras and that came on. Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. I Stand Alone by Godsmack. Music sure does work when you need it to and when you don't use it normally during training. I got to the half-way aid station and filled up my Tailwind drink and grabbed some root beer flavored twizzlers, thanked the RD's father who worked the aid station for being out there and got out there to finish the race off. This was the final stretch and I killed it! My watch had me running some parts at sub 8-minute miles and I had two miles in a row of 9:05. I just wanted the race to be over and the faster I finish the better! With about 2 miles to go, my iPod died but I had all the music I needed in my head now. I kept running hard and finished the race in first place in a time of 10:30:56, just four minutes shy of the course record!
Obviously, I was not over the top thrilled with my finish because I missed my goal time of sub-10. In fact, I ran a faster 100K split during my win in the 100-mile distance in 2014! However, based on my training, the way my body held up given the pace I was going, not dropping out when I felt like it, and taking home the win, I am satisfied with the results! Also, I am going to stick with the Maffetone / Primal lifestyle because I do believe it is helping. I ran the first 20 miles of the race before taking in any nutrition (3 hours 20 minutes into the race). Did this harm my performance for miles 21-35? I don't think so. Once I start to incorporate more strength and speed sessions which will be a part of my limited training (thanks Jake. . . :-) ), I expect to see positive results. Finally, Vinny and Nichole (congratulations on your third kid!) of Happily Running always put on a great low-key event here. I highly recommend this race to someone going for a new mileage goal with an ultra. Since I missed my goal and the course record, I may come back next year to race depending on my schedule. Or maybe I'll come out to volunteer/crew if I am not running and a friend wants to make this their first 50M,100K, or 100M.
I believe this has been my fastest race recap publication ever! Up next is the lottery for Hardrock. The plan is to run Hardrock if I am selected. If not, I will go to Bighorn 100 to get another 2 years of qualifying for the lottery and maybe run this cool Icland Ultra http://marathon.is/ultramarathon and make it a family vacation.