Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bear Mt. 50-miler: Nor'Easter but still course PR.

On my last blog update I noted how thus far, my lifestyle change with diet and exercise led to better race results, even with less training and the challenge of a now 10-month old at home.  One thing in the back of my mind though was if the success would continue to a mountain race.  The reason for having some doubt was because my normal training routine of running 8.7 miles 2-3 times a week to work and once or if lucky twice a week running home from work is on road and relatively flat.  Sure, there are a couple inclines here and there but nothing "mountainous".   My weekend runs if lucky would be one day in Forest Park on the easy trails there for about an hour.  My next major test would be my sixth time running the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler at Bear Mountain on May 13th.  I was lucky enough to get one day this year to train at Bear Mt. for 3 hours and challenged myself to a brutal course and didn't run it at a low heart rate.  I felt my climbing legs were under trained but my overall fitness was ok.  That was only for a 3-hour run and I covered 13 miles.  This 50-mile race would also be the longest run since the Tesla Hertz 100K in October which is a flat course.  In fact, the only hilly and mountain type of run I had done of more than 13 miles was the Bear Mountain race in May 2016!  I set a PR by 1 minute in that race of 9:39.

I was looking forward to a beautiful day for the race as it had been the last five years but the weather forecast 7 days out remained the same until race day.  Lot of rain, heavy at times.  Some news called it a Nor'Easter the day before.  You can't change the weather, you can only prepare for it.  Luckily, I had done some runs in the rain and was only a little worried about what a muddy and wet day and course would be at Bear Mt. with the rocks and descents.

As opposed to last year, where I stayed in a hotel before the race, I went back to my prior roots of sleeping in my parent's mini-van in the parking lot the night before the race to make it not so comfortable to wake up and get ready and also to spare me from the commute (and cost) of a hotel. Unsurprisingly, my sleep was pretty good or as good if not better than the sleep I get at home with Jake!  It was already raining when I awoke thanks to a volunteer's dog in the parking lot at 3:15AM, 45 minutes earlier than my alarm.  I tried to go back to sleep but never got back and at 3:55 decided to just get up and on with it.  I got dressed and all set up in the van and at 4:25, left the van to walk to the venue and give in my drop bags.  I was wearing my NYC Marathon Poncho (those who have run the race post-2013 know what that is) and didn't really feel much rain but when looking at the floodlights, it looked like a lot of rain was coming down.  It was just a easy, misty rain.

I didn't see anyone I knew as I walked around the start/finish area.  I chatted with some random people, one of which was from California and not sure what to expect with this east coast course.  Another runner chimed in and told us he was pacing a completely blind runner.  I find that incredible given the technical nature of this course.  Before I knew it, there was 5 minutes to the start so I handed in my start/finish bag and went up to the start line.  It's fairly low-key, wave 1 runners (as I was) walk up to the start and listen to Dean Karnazes say some motivational things and then we are off.

As usual, I run out at a fast enough pace but let the real speedsters go.  I slowly jog up the initial climb but start to hike about halfway up.  Then I fly down the rocky and wet descent.  I am the lone guy there with no headlamp.  I know the sun will be up by 5:30 so I just use my small sniper scope (gift from David Snipes 7 years ago which is a small LED flashlight with some bungee cord that goes around my water bottle).  Unfortunately, the batter was low on that so it didn't provide me enough light but everyone else's headlamps did enough for me and before you know it, the sun provides the light I need.  Lots of people pass me as I walk more uphills.  I know I will pass them later on in the race.  Even if I don't, I run my race and am not concerned about keeping up with other people.

This year, as opposed to 2016, I remembered that miles 12-20 were tough miles.  I was mentally ready for it and expected a down moment.  It thankfully never came.  Sure, things got a little tough at some points but I knew they were temporary and just went with them.  In fact for the entire race, I don't recall any real down moments like I've had before where I had to walk a good stretch before feeling better.  I believe there were 2 or 3 reasons for this.

1) Different weather.  Sure, it was colder (50s) and constant rain but that prevented me from overheating.  I was wearing my new investment, the North Face Hyper Air GTX rain jacket and it worked great by keeping the rain from getting me super soaked and allowing excess heat to go through the jacket as opposed to the less breathable jackets that just stifle you.  In prior years, the temperatures would get into the 70s if not warmer and that seemed to sap me at some points.  There is a long road section from mile 23-25 I think and a long up hill road around mile 33 I think that I would always walk parts of because of its sun exposure but this year I ran both of those sections in their entirety.  Of course, the non-stop rain made footing in certain parts, especially once we merged back with the 50K/Marathon race more treacherous.

2) Nutritional - Last year they had Tailwind on the course.  That is my go to nutrition drink.  This year, they never announced what they would have and unfortunately, it wasn't Tailwind.  Still, I fried up and packed bacon in my 2 drop bags and those treats were awesome (even though I "lost" my first bag of it somewhere in my rain jacket - I ended up finding it on Sunday and eating it!).  That, along with banana pieces, a few Honey Stinger gels from the aid stations and Skratch Labs gummy chews was all I needed and I never felt the bonk.  I also attribute that to my Primal lifestyle where I eat mostly fats and less carbs and am able to go a long period of time whether exercising or not without nutrition.

3) Baby motivation - I was surprised to find how motivating it was to think of Jake and his silly happy smiley face and laughs.  That pure joy kept me going and lifted me up when I was on the cusp of feeling down.  Even thinking about how big a jerk he is by not sleeping well at nights made me laugh because I figured it's good training.

I'm not going to go through excruciating details of the race. Instead, I'll mention the memorable moments.
1) Strap on water bottle - The comfy strap around my handheld water bottle was always coming undone by the Velcro on the bottom.  This was so annoying because I didn't have a backup water bottle and it is very annoying "holding" the actual bottle.  But I spent so much time trying to fix it that in the end, it was a big distraction.  Finally, at the mile 45 aid station, I had the volunteer Duct tape the strap to the bottle so it wouldn't fall off.

2) Shorts falling down - I've been wearing the same blue shorts for races for about 5 years now.  The elastic has worn out a bit and I didn't tie the strings well before the race. Around mile 5, my shorts started to feel like they were falling down thanks to a couple things in the pockets and the weight of the wetness from the rain.  Since I was wearing gloves for warmth and rain protection, I couldn't tie the strings so I would just pull my short up and the strings tight and hope that lasts a while.  IT would work as a quick fix but every so often would start falling down again.  At the mile 18 aid station, I asked a volunteer if they could tie it for me and he did.  However, about 7 miles later, it came undone.  At around the 30 mile aid station, I asked another volunteer to tie it and they tied it well.  This leads into memorable moment 3

3) It's around mile 40 and I still haven't taken a bathroom break to pee.  Finally, I get that urge but with my shorts tied and not wanting to deal with untying and retying, I decide to give peeing while running a try.  Yes, peeing my pants while running.  It was a little difficult to start at first but then it was nice and warm.  With the rain and mud and puddles, any hint of it was washed away with in minutes.  I don't think I would do something like that on a warm day; or a cold day for that matter.  A rainy cool day is the perfect time to do that.  

4) The thing that sort of bothers me about this race is the number of likely first time ultra and trail runners but not that it is their first trail race, but the facts that either they haven't trained and had no idea what to expect from this course or are just so uptight that they do everything in their power not to get any dirt on theme at all.  Are you kidding me?!  My race was going well and the course was not a complete mud fest like the 2013 TARC-100.  However, once we merged back onto the course where the 50K and Marathon runners came through earlier it became much more slippery mud and a worn out trail.  The slower 50K runners were still out there on the course.  These are the runners that I'm complaining about.  Now don't get me wrong, this is nitpicking and I'm not trying to sound elitist.  The thing is, these runners, many of whom have resorted to walking a large portion of the course from that point on (roughly 12 miles or so left in both our races) are doing their utmost to avoid getting their feet wet and/or muddy.  There were more giant mud and streams that required crossing than I can count due to the heavy rains.  Yet every time I came from behind on a runner at these sections, they were looking for ways around the mud/stream or very carefully trying to balance on some rocks or trees to cross it, and taking a real risk of slipping on that wet rock or tree.  So as I approached many of these runners I just shouted that I'm coming from behind and then offered the advice to just go through the puddle and mud since you're already wet and dirty.  I get it though.  By that point in the race if you are walking, you are having a bad day.  It doesn't feel any better having to continuously walk through streams and mud.  That's the reality of it though.  Change your mindset and just embrace the suck.  Hopefully these runners will learn from the experience or won't ever bother repeating it (one and done).  But good on them for giving it the effort and not dropping out.  

So the fun thing about this race for me was as I mentioned earlier it was my first mountain type race since the prior year's edition.  I didn't know how my training for this would hold up versus my better road running results.  When the race began, I started my watch and the only time I looked at it was just when it vibrated and I looked down and it said "Mile 10: 10:05" meaning I just finished mile 10 and that mile was run at a 10:05 pace.  From that point on, I didn't look at my watch again.  Mostly because it was under my rain jacket.  I figured I was feeling pretty good most of the race.  I knew I was moving well but unsure of how the wet and muddy course was slowing me down.  When I got to the aid station before Timp pass, roughly mile 45, I looked at my watch to see what my time was and if I was going to have a shot at a PR or sub 10 hour finish.  My watch was no longer in tracking mode, it was back on regular watch mode.  D'oh!  I don't know how the watch stopped and restarted to that screen but that was that.  Later that week I saw that it stopped around mile 21.  Anyway, I looked at the time and it said something like 1:35PM and since we began at 5AM that meant I was 8 hours and 35 minutes into the race and had no more than 5 miles to go.  Sure I had the biggest steep climb and a minor steep climb coming up but that was ok.  I realized I had a solid chance at setting a PR and if lucky, sub 9:30.  So I started hustling but hiking those uphills that still made sense to hike.  After hiking up Timp pass without any issue I ran down the rocky backside portion recklessly but still in control and then opened up my stride on the more runnable sections that followed.  The last 1-2 miles we have the added benefit of having the marathon relay runners on our course.  They run roughly 3 miles out and then back for their relay course.  I find it funny to "compete" with those runners on the course seeing as how the 50-milers are at mile 48+.  I saw two marathon relay runners sort of pushing each other to go and I tailed them.  But when I felt like I could move faster, I passed them on an uphill and then the final downhill section back towards the parking lot before the final 200 meters.  That's when they decide to sprint it in and I'm not dumb enough to hurt myself by sprinting the last 200 meters of a 50-mile race for no reason.  I ran fast but comfortable and slowed down to walk the last 5 feet through the finish line.  My official finish time was 9:27:59.  I managed sub-9:30 in the Nor'Easter condition and was 5th in my age group and 27th overall (25th male).  

So my confidence now is unfortunately quite high heading into this last month before Bighorn.  I plan to take Bighorn like this race.  Just run within my ability and mentally stay focused and smart.  Once again, following the Primal nutrition and exercise program has given me my 5th PR in less than a year since I started it.   Tesla Hertz 100K result was a PR (though I hadn't run an easy 100K before so it would have been a PR regardless - but I took 1st palce). The Knickerbocker 60K was a big PR.  The Caumsett 50K was a PR for my marathon as well as 50K.  And now Bear Mt. 50-miler.  Bighorn will be a course PR regardless, but it's all going to be about having as great day and see how it evolves.  If I can avoid sleepwalking are death marching and have a decent time (let's say sub 26 hours) that will be a great success. 

No comments:

Post a Comment