Monday, October 10, 2016

Tesla Hertz Run (100K) - Different Distance, Same Result

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  and   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 race:
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!   
1st Place prize was a cool rock
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 and make it a family vacation. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quick FANS 24-Hour Recap

My first 24-hour event was a glass half-full / glass half-empty type of result.  Per my last blog post, my goals for the race were: 1) Hit 100 miles in 16-17 hours.  2) A-goal of 140 miles.  B-goal of 130 miles.  C-goal of just surviving after 100 miles.  I can say that I hit my C-goal, but the problem with that is I didn't hit 100 miles until 20 hours into the race. How did the race evolve?  Let's first start with some details of the race itself.

The race starts at 8AM with a 0.78 mile out and back and then turning around again at the start finish to begin a long day of 2.14 mile loops.  The out and back makes it possible to count lap 46 as the 100th mile.  In the final hour, runners have the option to run a short course of 1/8th mile out and 1/8th mile back as many times because if you go out on another 2.14 mile loop and do not finish it before time is up, that last loop won't count.  There is an aid station with fluids at about 1.2 miles into the loop and then the main aid station at the start finish. The course is about 50% asphalt and 50% easy trail with only a few tiny hills.  Most of the course is shaded but when it isn't, the sun and heat can be powerful if it's one of those days.  For the 2016 race, the air was humid and it felt pretty hot in the direct sun.  Part of the course is directly in the path of planes landing at the nearby airport.  It's cool but also deafening when a plane about 200 feet above you flies overhead.  As you cross the start/finish line each loop, there is a large event tent set up with about 8 people sitting in it with binders and they take down the time when you cross each lap.  It's all manual, no chip times so you have to make sure they see you and get you as you cross.  It's not difficult or annoying, in fact, it was quite nice because someone would read off numbers of the runners and the runner can yell over to the specific person responsible for that runner and let them know.  For example, Leslie was responsible for taking down my laps the first 6 hours.  Next was Joe, then Heidi.  After that, I was too delirious to remember now who was taking my laps.  I wore my purple tutu for the race and that was a very big help in making sure they got me because it's impossible to miss me crossing.  All the volunteers were fantastic as is the case in all ultras I've done.

I have to give an incredible huge shout-out and thanks to Mary Harvey who introduced me to her crew of local Minnesotans Willie, Grace and Grace and let me use their amazing tent and helped me with whatever I needed and provided support throughout the race.  Mary was going for 100 miles in under 24 hours and also a little more than 100 just for proving she can.

I wrote the stuff above a week after the race and then proceeded to not write anymore.  It's now late August and I want to finish the recap so I won't provide as much detail.

I ran the first couple of laps with Mary.  The pace we were going was definitely too fast.  9s and mid-8 minute miles.  I was greedy and wanting to bank some time and really blow away my A-goal.   I feel like my nutrition was spot on.  I was drinking water and Tailwind Nutrition.  After roughly 30 laps, I finally looked at the leader board and saw I was in 1st place by 2 laps (lap 28 I think since there was a delay when they post the paper).  I knew at that moment I was screwed because I jinxed myself.  Literally, one lap later, I start to feel pain in my hip.  This forces me to slow down and walk a little.  Unfortunately, it persisted so I took some Tylenol hoping that would help.  It did for a short time but ten my other hip started hurting.  The blow that really killed me was looking at the leader board again and seeing how I was now in 3rd place somehow.  I believe I was on lap 33 and the leader was lap 35 or 36.   This just sunk me.  When was I passed?  And how was I lapped?!  I knew things weren't going to get easier.  My body was falling apart and my mind had let me down.  I tried to pull things together but mentally, I wasn't as strong as I would have been had maybe I still been in the lead or if I wasn't in pain this early or if I just didn't have stupid thoughts.  For example, I hit the 50-mile mark in a little over 8 hours. I should have been happy but I felt like I was too tired at this point and thought about how I ran the JFK 50-miler in 7:57, so I should be feeling great at 8 hours in this flat course.  So knowing some of my goals would likely not be reached, I started to fade and didn't care.  At night, I was really tired.  My lap splits continued to slow.  I was stumbling along the trail at 20-minute miles at some points late at night and did not allow myself any Coke or 5-hour energy because my goals were missed and now I just wanted to get to 100-miles, take a nap and then see how I felt.  I eventually got to 100 miles in about 20 hours.  This was even slower than my Tesla Hertz 104.5 mile race that I finished in 19:20 or something like that.  I was really disappointed in myself.

After I hit the 100-mile mark, I crawled into the tent and tried to nap.  It was f'n freezing though so 30 minutes later, I stumbled over to my car (Mary's crew later told me I looked like death), turned on the heat and passed out there.  I woke up close to the 22 hour mark and felt good.  I decided to see how much I can easily do and maybe support Mary to get her to 100 miles because I heard she was struggling.  I went out and ran and felt damn good!  I was able to rock out some 9-10 minute miles, probably could have gone faster but I stopped and walked a little with Mary or other people occasionally.  In the end, I finished with 109 mile which was good enough for 4th place male and 5th overall.  Yeah, I'm happy with that result but this race was a personal test for myself that I believe I failed.  I failed it because I didn't pace properly.  Lesson learned the hard way.  Mary got her 100 miles and I believe did 101 total.  She also took 4th place female and more importantly, her crew and tent won an award!

I must give a big thanks to Bob Higashi, the photographer at the race.  This guy was walking around the track in the other direction taking photos for about 16 hours out of the 24.  He was amazing and every time I saw him I had to fake it and smile and do something silly.

I did enjoy the atmosphere and everything about this race.  A 24-hour race around a 2ish mile course was something.  I definitely want to give my goals another go and more importantly pace well to accomplish that task.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thoughts Before FANS 24-hour

Every time I say I'm going to be better at updating this blog, I end up not doing it so this time I'm going to say I won't update this often and hopefully I'll have a recap of my next race up within a week!

So what has happened since the Grand Slam accomplishment last year?  A few weeks after the last race I ran an easy trail half marathon called Paine to Pain up in New Rochelle.  It was so much fun to push hard on a short race!  The entire time I kept saying, it will all be over soon so no walking hills and keep pushing the pace.  I was happy with my finish time of 1:38:50 and more importantly, went to the race with friends and saw a ton of other friends there and had a lot of fun not having to run for a whole day.

After Paine to Pain, I was feeling good and talked into joining a small group of Team in Training friends to run the JFK 50-miler in Boonsboro, MD.  There were 7 of us that went down and we called ourselves the 7 Dwarfs.  I was chosen as "Doc".  Prior to the race, I guessed what all of our finishing times were.  The guess for my time was 7:57.  I was hoping I could run this under 8 hours.  The course is hilly and trails (Appalachian trail) for about the first 18 miles.  Then it is a marathon on the easy C&O canal toe path.  Then it is 7 miles on rolling road.  I was pushing on the trail section and once we got off that onto the C&O canal I was trying to hold an 8 minute mile pace.  That didn't work out as planned and I noticed my splits slowing and then I was in the pain cave at mile 34.  I tried to use the bathroom but couldn't go.  About 3 miles later at an aid station I grabbed some food and ate and walked after it when I heard some cheering coming from about 100 feet away in a parking lot where some friends that came down to cheer for us were stationed.  They taunted me with "why are you walking?" and I decided I might as well jog a little at least until I'm out of sight and once I was, I decided I didn't feel as bad and kept the jog going and then slowly picked up the pace.  Finally, I got to the road section, looked at my watch and realized if I could run at sub-9 minute miles to the finish then I could come in under 8 hours.  So I pushed myself to maintain that pace on the rolling hills.  At the aid stations I filled up on Coke in my bottle (rocket fuel) and kept moving quickly.  Finally, I got to the finish line and the announcer called my name and said I was also the first placed Tutu runner (I wore the tut again for this race) and I came in at 7:56:50, 10 seconds faster than my predicted time!   That was pretty amazing!  Even better, all of the Dwarfs finished and I was pretty close on my estimates of their finish times too!

Next on the agenda came Rocky Raccoon 100-miler in Huntsville, TX.  It is a relatively flat trail run that comprises of 5x 20-mile loops.  I went down there with two friends and we had hoped to run much of the race together.  The course was hillier than I expected but on very easy (though rooty) terrain.  I ran very easy for the first 40-miles until Snipes told me to just go out and run my own race.  So I took off running hard.  I felt good and everything was ok until I started having the Corneal edema problems that I had in Leadville.  My right eye fogged up and then my left eye was fogged up too (but not as bad as my right eye which was completely useless).  Combine that with my headlamp batteries dying out quickly and that made the night section a slow slog as I couldn't see where I was going and stepping.  Still I managed to finish under 23 hours and given my slow first 40 and my slow last 20, I'm ok with that.

1 week after Rocky Raccoon, I lead my Bear Mt. Team in Training group on a trail run in the Palisades Park and about 6 miles into a 12 mile run, I started to feel pain in my knee.  Since it was an out and back course, I couldn't just stop.  It was a familiar Patella Femoral Syndrome (Runners Knee) so I tried to do what I could to heal it but it came back again the next weekend during a group run I lead on the Staten Island Greenbelt.  Because the pain got worse and I needed to get it under control, I went to physical therapy and stopped running for 3 weeks. Thankfully that is all that was needed and I was back running well and the mild winter, especially compared to last year's nightmare had us hitting the trails nearly every weekend and we went up to Bear Mt. to train at least 5 times before the Bear Mt. races on April 30th/May 1st.  I ran the 50-miler for the 5th year in a row and beat my best time by about 90 seconds.  I had hoped to run faster but had a pretty rough stretch from mile 14-20. I was still happy with that finish time as it showed I was in good shape.

A week following Bear Mt. I ran the Long Island Greenbelt 50K and was very happy to come in 9th place with a time of 5:11.  The race was tougher than I expected although I did expect my time to be around 5:10.  I just didn't understand why it would take that long on Long Island trails until I got to the section that was just very hilly that explained why times were so slow on this course.

So my training had been going well.  I wasn't running very long runs on my own and my longest runs were the two races on back to back weekends.  I was putting in mileage each week by running to work most days of the week and then running home and then sometimes running more after that.  

So what am I expecting out of this 24-hour race around a 2.14 mile lake in Minnesota?  For starters, I am not sure.  I have set goals for myself and we'll see how well I do in hitting them.  I want to run 100-miles in 16-17 hours.  So my intermediate goals are to basically run 25 miles in 4 hours and repeat that 4 times.  That's at its fastest a 9:36 minute/mile pace for 16 hours including any bathroom breaks and stopping to refill my bottles and fuel up.  Hopefully I can hit that goal and then my "A" goal after that is to run over 140 miles.  I do not know what the odds of me doing that is.  But if it is a great day for me, maybe I can.  "B" goal would be 130 miles and "C" goal is just survive and keep moving after I hit my 100-mile goal.  If my 100-mile goal takes me longer, in the 18-hour range then the same concept will apply.  Just keep moving and see how many miles I can get in the remaining time.  It's a new type of race for me compared to mountain running.  I don't know how I will come to like this type of event but that's why I am trying it.

I do not have anything on the calendar after this race and likely will not do another 100-miler this year.  Hopefully I get into Hardrock next year and if not, I'll probably sign up for Bighorn to get another two years of qualifying towards Hardrock.  But the real ultra is now in the cards and that is birth of my first child due on July 18th.  So if you've read this far, that's what it really on my calendar. So that's an update of what's been going on and if I'm lucky, I'll be able to update this blog shortly after the FANS 24-hour event.