Monday, May 12, 2014

Bear Mountain 50-Miler

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So the first race of the season was completed and it was another success at Bear Mt.  With a course change this year, I feel like the course was a little faster, although the elevation profile doesn't show much difference between this year and the last two years that I ran.  It still had 7,100 feet of elevation gain, compared to around 7,500 before.  However, to my dismay, the course change takes out the greatest part of the race and replaced it with boredom.  Basically, there was a 7 mile stretch between aid stations on the old course that had the 50-milers running on the top of the mountain that had fantastic views.  But because last year was hot, some runners were unprepared for that section and ran out of water and fuel and were feeling crappy at the end of the section.  Since the Park's department would not allow an aid station midway on the old course, the race director decided to make a new section which took away the awesome views and climbing and replaced it with what I think is at least 2-3 more miles of roads in total and some boring trail section where you are just running through a wide open non-technical trail.  Ho-Hum. . .

So going into the race, I was not sure what to expect.  I had been training well, but I didn't have many really long runs.  I probably went over 30-miles maybe 2-3 times in the year.  I didn't start training until late January because of a lower back injury.  But by President's weekend, I was back up to marathon distance (with a 3:21 marathon on a treadmill!)  And as everyone is aware of how brutal our winter was, I did a lot of work on the treadmills.  I did 2 decent back to back days.  Although my main training days that gave me confidence was in mid April when two great running friends, Mark Leuner and Jim Bruening went up to New Paltz to run a Fatass (unsupported race) trail marathon in the Gunks.  It's a tough run but I felt great that entire day (not to mention I found Jim's car key which he dropped in a mud puddle and we were about 1 minute away from giving up our hour plus search).  The next day I ran another marathon with some runners including the race director for the Great New York Running Exposition 100-miler that I'm doing in June.  I felt great that day and was even able to keep up with the RD (Phil McCarthy - an ultrarunning legend) the last 1-2 miles when we were clocking well under 7-minute miles.  Mostly though this year, I was working on running on an incline of 15 and doing stairs and also speedwork on the treadmill (tempo runs and Yassos).   What helped me get through treadmill workouts was listening to Podcasts on Ultrarunning.  TalkUltra, URP (UltraRunningPodcast), and DFL Ultrarunning were all I could find and in fact, plenty to listen with as TalkUltra Podcasts are usually 3-4 hours long so great for long runs.  While URP is usually 40-60 minutes which is great for the tempo and speed work.

So back to Bear Mt.  I was ecstatic last year with my time of 10:18.  It was about 90 minutes faster than my first year in 2012.  This year, I was hoping I could beat that time, and sub-10 would be great, but maybe around 9:45.  I wasn't sure what would happen especially because we had a huge downpour the Wednesday before the race and the trails were well past their saturation point and it was a muddy sloppy mess.  In fact, we had a few stream crossings (one about high thigh deep) where there was no way around.  But that was ok because it was nice cold water.  But there were plenty of mud crossings as well.  It was funny watching the marathon or 50K runners once our courses merged together.  They would stop at each minor crossing and look for rocks to step on or a way around.  Me and most of the 50-milers I saw would just say "excuse me" and just run or walk right through the mud or water.  But back to my race time, I think the course change helped me out more than any mud slowed me down as I came in at 9:40.  I was running hard the entire day.  The first 12 miles are basically uphill.  Not all uphill as there are some short flat sections and some rollers but it basically takes you from sea level to the top of part of the mountain (1,300 feet - not high). Here's the elevation profile of the race by my Garmin

I probably averaged an 11-minute mile during the first 12.  I think in 2013 I averaged closer to a 13-minute mile.  One thing was for certain though.  By going out harder, it probably made the last 10 miles harder.  I remember in 2013 being able to run really hard those last 10 miles.  Especially the last 3-4.  This year, I struggled once I got to mile 41.  I just felt like I was getting out of breath, my legs were starting to hurt, and it was like my ribs hurt from all the breathing I had been doing.  So I tried using my arms more to move my body and rotate my hips.  I took more walk breaks on parts that I wouldn't have walked had a I felt better.  Surprisingly, I was able to run just a little slower on the last 3 miles this year than I did last year.  Maybe it took an extra minute per mile.  So it wasn't a real meltdown.  But had this race been longer, it would have been bad.

I once again ran this race wearing my purple gear and Tutu.  It was a year plus since the passing of my friend Kurt Ousman and I thought about that a lot that day.  I did get a few people on the course that thanked me for raising money for cancer research.  And maybe I annoyed a few by running by them in a Tutu.  I always wonder what people think when that happens.  I like when people laugh and say something funny about it.  And I hope it helps them smile and stay positive in their race as it does for me.  When someone in a costume runs by you in a race, it either means they are fast and know what they are doing, or you'll pass them while they are in a bad place sometime later.  Either way, don't get discouraged and run your own race.  The best thing you can do is give a funny or positive comment to that person about their gear and let them go.

So to sum it up.  I was extremely happy to once again PR this race and go faster than I was expecting.  I still have much to learn though for the 100-milers in terms of pacing but this race makes me think my training has been good and if I pay attention to my body and stay healthy, I expect positive things this year as long as I also run smart.

So up next I'm pacing my friend David Snipes for the last 55 miles during his 11th running of the tough Massanutten Mountain Trials 100-miler in Virginia.

Garmin Data and pictures from the race are below.

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