Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 North Central Trail Marathon Results

30/400 overall
10/47 age
Video entry for the first half (camera problems on second half :( )

The usual suspects
The Saturday after Thanksgiving of 2009 I ran a race in Mississippi and I lost to a nice guy from Erie, PA, Gary Krugger. In the ensuing year, we have become great friends, he has become an incredible marathoner, running one or two marathons every weekend all year (most around 3 hours), and has started dating another cool marathoner, Morgan Cummings. who is currently the youngest women to ever run marathons in all 50 states+DC. Several months ago we figured out that we were both planning on running the NCR trail marathon in MD this Thanksgiving weekend so we decided to carpool to the race. My lovely wife was also able to go, which always make my marathon trips more enjoyable.

Mistique and I left at 5:30am on Friday and picked up Morgan and Gary in Pittsburgh, then drove another 4.5 hours to MD for packet pickup. Morgan and Gary are really cool people, and you can tell they are totally in love with each other. It was so cool to see someone in a relationship as happy as mine is. Had Misty not been right there the whole time, I would have been sick with all the mooshy-ness of Gary and Morgan, but it was ok since my lovely bride was along for the ride. Our conversations were fun and lively, talking about racing and relationships, the miles went by quickly. It honestly reminded me of a nice long run done with a good friend, chatting and helping knock off the distance.

Packet pickup was unexciting, except instead of t-shirts, everyone got very nice heavy hooded sweatshirts. I don’t need any more technical t-shirts anyways. We then headed to a Gary’s former bosses’ house which was only 20 min away from race start. Joe is a really nice guy who lives in a beautiful ‘empty nest’ home. I love staying with people who have grown children who have recently (in the last few years) moved out, because they are the best hosts. They are just so happy to have someone staying at their place, they go over the top to make them feel welcome and comfortable. I had that in Portland, OR, staying at Morgan’s house, and it was awesome then too.

Because everyone is so sweet and I am the only person who has a tight pre-race meal ritual, everyone was ok with a 20 min drive to the nearest Applebees. Gary’s diet is horrible. Cheese pizza is a staple of his, especially the night before races. He will also tell you that he has had to stop to poop 4 times during some marathons. I have tried to convince him there might be a connection and maybe he should try something else the night before a race. Luckily, Applebees does not serve pizza, so he ate spaghetti, and sure enough, he never had to stop during the race to poop. And even better, he managed to run his 32nd state in less than 3 hours (just barely, his official finish was 2:59:48)

Race start was not until 9am, so we all got to sleep in, which was awesome. A little confusion of the GPS got us to race start about 8:10, and the weather had us a little concerned. Gary does not have much meat on his bones (he is my height and 20+ pounds lighter than me, and I am not too big) and does not do well in cold conditions The temperature was in the mid 30’s but the wind was starting to pickup and predicted to be in the 18-20 mph range during the race. The course was mostly along a beautifully wooded trail (another railroad-repo trail) with hills and valleys on both sides, which meant the wind was swirling all day long. You would have nothing for a quarter of a mile then get hit head on with gusts for a half mile. Totally unpredictable which kindof stunk.

Gary took off and left me behind, but I knew I would be slower than him anyways. 9 days before this race I had a date with my Podiatrist and he removed (permanently) my two big toe toenails which will take 8-10 WEEKS to fully recover, so 9 days after, they were still quite raw and tender. Vicodin. Yum. Oh, and my other excuse was that I ran a sub-19 5K two days earlier, so my legs were actually still sore from that speed workout. I ran a 100 miler 2 weeks ago, too. Ok, enough excuses, but I have some more if you want ‘em.
Run. TiredI went out in what I thought was a comfortable pace. The first mile (paved road, downhill) was a quick 6:40, and I knew that was too fast. Once on the trail after ~2 miles, I got into a 6:45/mile rhythm which was fast, but I felt good. I have started out too fast before, but not felt this good. This course is considered fairly fast, and I could tell. Good footing, beautiful views so it was easy to see why people run strong here. At about mile 10, I started to slow a little, as my sore legs were getting to me. I hit the half marathon point 1:29:57, so I knew then that my chances of running sub-3, where slim. I have not run a sub 3 marathon in awhile (I haven’t tried though, this year striving for quantity, not quality) so I slowed a little more, deciding to enjoy the scenery. I had my iPod with me the whole race and was running by myself most of the race, but never turned it on. For some reason, today 3 hours of listening to nature was enjoyable. That almost never happens.

As I neared the turn around, I saw the leaders and Gary, who looked strong. I like out and backs because you get to see people on as you cross paths, which is always a little motivating, especially when you are starting to get tired. When I finally saw Morgan she had her pleasant smile on, like she always does, but I later found out she really was not in the mood to run today. She finished, but hated the run. It happens. She is still recovering from a hip injury earlier this year, so her motivation of late has taken a huge hit.
It being an out and back course, the last ~2 miles were back on open roads. Uphill. Into the gusting wind. The course was one of the most beautiful I have ever raced on, except for the last 1.5 miles. Just before mile 25 was a long steady hill, probably 300 m long. It sucked your life energy and then you still had 1.2 miles to go after that. For me, that last 1.2 miles took me almost 11 min. Yeah those hills sucked. It reminded me of the two massive sets of stairs in the last 3 miles of the Burning River 100.
Misty had fallen asleep in the car while we raced and woke up right at 3 hours into the race. She missed Gary’s finish, but managed to get to the finish line just minutes before I crossed. I really love it when I cross a finish line and she is there. It makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside and after this cold race, I needed that. We went back to the elementary school hosting the race for some good food and warm air. We found Gary and he looked rough. Really rough. He was so cold he stopped shivering, and that’s bad. We got him seated, tried to get some liquids in him and got some medical personnel over to check him out. As I said, he does not do well in cold races, and he was not doing well here. It was about 45 minutes until I felt he was back amongst the living.

Once Morgan got back to the finish we gave her some time to get some food and recover before we stopped back quick at Joe’s to shower (and have some food he laid out for us) before driving to Pittsburgh to drop Gary and Morgan off at Gary’s car. Originally Misty and I were going to drive all the way back to Jackson on Saturday, but as it was, we didn’t get to Pittsburgh until 8:45 pm, so we decided to get a cheap motel room for the night and push onto Michigan first thing Sunday. A good choice, for sure.

This was an awesome weekend, getting to spend a wonderful time with friends, run a pretty (but cold) race, and knock off state #45. At 90% of the way to my goal, 4+ years in the making, I am starting to see the end of a very long journey.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Jackson YMCA Turkey Trot 5K Results

2/190 overall
I was sitting on facebook last week, still recovering from my nice 100 miler mere days before and I noticed an event in my town, a little 5K on Thanksgiving morning, open donation. What the heck, I thought. I have not run a race shorter than a full marathon since June, and I knew I needed to get my legs some faster turn-over practice. Granted, I was still recovering from the 100, and I was going to be running a marathon in MD 2 days later, but that’s ok. I wanted to see how fast I could do it. Oh, did I mention that I had my 2 big toe toenails removed about a week earlier and they were still months away from full recovery? Yeah, I had no idea how I would do.

My running pal and former student, Joel Medina and I met up before hand to do a warm-up run. He was doing the 10K that day, so we did the 5K course as our warm-up. The temp was high 30’s and it was damp and overcast, but the predicted rain never fell, so it turned out to be a great day for racing. The course was a one large thin rectangle (1 block wide x 1.5 mile long) through western downtown Jackson. I saw some familiar faces before the gun, catching up with people which was nice. I rarely run these smaller local races, mostly because they almost always fall on weekends I am out of town running longer races. That will change, come next year as my state chasing goal come to a close.

5 min late and we were off, and I went out at what I thought was a comfortable pace I thought I honestly could hold. Mile 1 came by and my watch said 6:04, and I felt pretty good. Running a 5K is so completely different than a 100 miler or even a marathon, and I have never been really fast at this distance (I am mentally weak when it comes to racing, always have been) so when miles 2 and 3 went by in 6:06 and 6:08, I was tickled. At the last turn, I made the mistake of looking back and seeing a large gap between me and 3rd place, so I slowed a little, coming in with a 6:08/mile overall average.

The 3rd place finisher is a local friend, David Swarts who when her was younger, was an awesome CC runner (PR in the 15’s) and now is a world class race-walker. I had chatted with him before the race, swapping race/training war stories. It was pretty cool to race against him.

Cool race shirt, 9 miles worth of running (including warm-up and cool-down) on a nice brisk fall day. I got some much needed speed work in (well, MY definition of speed work, my muscles were sore for a few days) and then got to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. A satisfying day for sure.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 Mother Road 100 (part 3) Results

3/133 overall (167 starters)
Results at
Regular visitors to this blog are used to my written review of the race, but this time I am trying something different. Below I give my standard written report, but I also have a ~19 min video blog of the race itself. The video editing as not great, but come on, I was tired. You can see how I go from happy and excited at race start to mind-numb and frigid by race end. Enjoy!
Part 1 (~10 min) Start to mile 66:

Part 2 (~10 min) Mile 77 through finish and recovery

After the Burning River 100, I thought my next 100 mile race would not be until mid February when I attempt the Beast of Burden 100 miler outside Buffalo, NY. My goal for the fall was to get up to 100+ miles/week consistently in preparation for that. In early October, I did 4 marathons in 8 days which began a monster month where I ran over 420 miles and felt awesome. One of my future goals (hopefully spring, 2011) is to run across the entire state of Michigan non-stop. I realized that I could use a flat (non-snow-covered) 100 mile run as practice for that attempt. Since October was such an awesome training month, I thought I should strike while the iron was hot, so I signed up for the Mother Road 100 a mere 2.5 weeks before the race.

The Mother Road 100 was actually part 3 (and final) of a series of races running across the entire state of Oklahoma along historic Route 66. This final piece started in Baxter Springs, KS and would end in Castoosa, OK, a suburb of Tulsa.

I burned my free Southwest Airlines ticket (I have flown a lot lately) so I was at their mercy as to when I flew in (Thursday night) and when I flew home (Monday morning) but hey, it was a free flight.

Route 66 On Friday morning, I woke up and the drove the course backwards, then forwards. It being a point to point race along highways and backroads, I wanted to have a rough guess as to where I was going. The course was marked (on the road) ok, but I was still a little paranoid even after I drove it twice. Route 66 is a famous road, for sure, but the original road has been supplanted by new state highways and even has an interstate not to far from it. (Ever seen the movie Cars? That movie speaks to this section well) The original road, however still survives in some places. Imagine a one lane blacktop paved road with 8” concrete borders on each side. That was what it used to be. We ran along this ‘old’ road for several miles, and those sections have been graded over to make it a two lane dirt road, but you could still make out several long sections of what is known as the ‘Mother Road’. Imagining how many people have passed this way over the years was kindof cool, actually. Not sure if I would write a song about it, but…

On the trip ‘back’ along the course, I stopped for lunch at a dive bar in Afton (at about mile 34 of the course) for some lunch. Here in this po-dunk small town, I had a pleasant conversation (and a great burger) with the bartender and when I told him that I was doing the 100 miler, he told me that if I stopped at the bar while running the race the next day, he would buy me a beer, an offer I would not refuse.

I went to race check in and got my bag of stuff and boy what a bag. Not only did I get a nice gear bag there was my shirt, a deck of cards, neck warmer, small first aid kit, lots of food samples and a 2”x4”x6” chunk of concrete. Yup, I got a piece of THE Route 66. (I had a little problem at the airport when I was coming home, but after security re-ran it and I guess they decided it was not that much of a weapon after all.) There was a mandatory weigh in at the race check-in. They would weigh every runner at miles 34, 50 and 77 and if you dropped 7% of your initial weight they would pull you from the course. I took off my shoes and weighed in at 167 pounds. In case you were curious, at each station, I would weigh in at 167 or 168, but all three times I was wearing my shoes and my backpack with ~3 pounds of gear in it. Dinner at Applebee’s, and I was in bed by 8:30, having not slept well the night before.

Race morning I got up and had breakfast at the waffle house and got to the finish line at ~6am to catch the bus to the start line for the 9am start. It was about 40 degrees and I was dressed to handle such temperature once I started running, with shorts and a long sleeve technical t-shirt) but standing around was a little cold. Ok, it was a lot cold. At 9am sharp, we were off.

It being only my second 100 mile race, I was unsure how fast I was going to be able to go. At the Burning River 100, I ran an 18:30 but that was a trail race with a good chunk of hills. This being a flatter course, I hoped to break 17. When I looked at previous race results, the winners were in the 17:30 range, so I truly believed I had a shot at winning this thing. As such, when the gun went off, I trotted out as slow as I could (comfortably) and still took the early lead.

At about mile 3, the eventual winner caught up with me and we ran together for about 5 miles. He started to pull away and I finally lost sight of him finally about mile 16. Tom was a nice guy, telling me about his running history including a 16 flat run at the Rocky Raccoon 100. As soon as he told me that, I knew I should not be running with him and that, no, I would not be winning this race either.
‘Oklahoma’ is a famous (bad, if you ask me) musical with the catchy line “Oooooooklahoma, where the wind comes whistling down the plain” and did we have that. 10+ mph winds from the west were in our face a good chunk of the time, the course heading roughly WSW through northeastern Oklahoma. The temperature was nice, so I couldn’t really complain. It had rained something fierce the day before, so I chalk this up as yet another near perfect set of race weather conditions. The view was nice if you like wide open flat farms with unleashed dogs. There were three times where I had to stop, stretch out my arms and growl at dogs who chased me. Two times, I was actually a little scared. Oklahoma needs leash laws, darnit.
One of the many things I learned at the Burning River 100 is that I need to eat more. Gels and the like all take horrible to me, so I did some research and found many ultra runners eat Spaghettio’s during races. I tried it out on a long run one day, and it worked. I could swallow them whole, tasted ok, and my stomach did not reject them. So in my drop bags and my backpack I had a total of 4 cans placed in Ziploc bags. I took my first serving (half a can’s worth) at about mile 15 and it didn’t taste that good, but not horrible. The remaining half bag of moosh would stay in my backpack for the duration, and I left the drop bag sets at the aid stations. I seemed to be getting enough calories from the foods that the aid stations were providing. Normally I don’t want to eat what they have because my stomach doesn’t handle it and they taste crappy, but I forced some down this time. Bananas were good and I ate 4 of them during the race.”

I hit mile 25 in ~3:15 which is way too fast for me for a 100 miler, even a flat one, because that is my gentle-run marathon pace. I was starting to get tired, not in my legs so much just overall. I knew this as a sign I needed to get more calories in me and the mile 25 aid station had chicken broth of which I took a large amount and some gummi bears. That seemed to hit the spot and my emotions picked up. The worst I felt mentally (although I would be tired and cold and cranky later) was here at mile 25, which of course, is a crappy place to start to feel bad. I started taking occasional (hills only) walk breaks and also took two ibuprofen which helped. I never took anymore pills later because my brain was gone just enough for me to NOT remember later to take some more. It would have helped, damnit. Ever seen the movie Memento? I think before my next race, I am going to write some notes on myself. ‘Eat! Drink! Take a Pill!’ are good candidates. You would think these would be no-brainers, but remember, when running these distances, you do not think straight. Many non-runners think us ultra runners NEVER think straight, but that is a separate issue.

The race being almost entirely on highway allowed me to see quite a bit of roadkill, in all stages of decomposition. I saw 40+ dead animals from fresh to almost completely decomposed. Armadillo roadkill, I figured out, is the easiest to recognize. Only once was there a smelly one, some dear that had recently been offed, but being a Michigan runner, I was familiar with the smell and knew how to hold my breath. :)
The first drop bag/major aid station was at mile 34. I changed my shoes and re-lubed my toes, the only thing that would cause me real trouble this day. I did not have a crew for this race, so I had to carry my supplies (bandaids, spare calories, my phone) and also carefully plan my drop bags, including where to put my ‘night gear’ including tights, jacket and reflective vest. Sunset being a little over 8 hours in, I decided I better grab that night gear at the mile 34 drop instead of the mile 50 drop (I would not put them on until mile 57ish) While changing my shoes and re-packing my running backpack at mile 34, I got passed by another guy, putting me in 3rd place. He looked fresh and was moving good. I was tired and it took some wind out of my sails watching him take off.

The bar&grill I stopped at the day before was only a half mile after that aid station, and sure enough, the same bartender was there and yes, he did give me my free beer. I took 2 large swigs and headed back out on the road less than 45 seconds after I entered. At this point I started paying attention to my watch and doing 20 minutes run/5 min walk. Since the course was relatively flat, there were few ‘hills’ to walk up (a common practice in 100 milers, walk up every hill) but those that were there, I for sure walked up. Once I started the walk breaks, it helped me mentally, giving me small breaks while still making progress.
The course included very long stretches of straight rural highway. Ugh. I have never been a big fan of being able to actually see the next 5 miles right in front of me, especially when you have 50 more after that. Some stretches had no shoulder to run on, so I was actually running on the fog line (that white line on the right side of highways) so I was REALLY close to traffic. Most drivers were courteous and moved over at least a little bit, but many came a little too close for comfort. There were several times during the race I could have stretched out my hand and had it removed by a passing vehicle. At night, I have to admit, that was rather terrifying. Being 18 inches away from a 18-wheeler doing 65 mph. Ummm, yeah…

Somewhere along the way I was in between aid stations and my Gatorade bottle was empty. The next aid station was coming up soon, but it was an unmanned station so I knew there would only be Heed energy drink, which I do not like. It being rural highway, there were convenience stores along the way, so I stopped by one and bought a 16 oz bottle of Gatorade (I did remember to bring cash) which tasted great. The nice lady behind the counter knew we were coming and had been expecting someone for awhile.

At about mile 42 (aid station there?) I started looking behind me to see how far the 4th place runner was, and I saw him slowly gaining on me. Every time I took a walk break, he gained on me, but never caught me. I thought he would catch me soon with me taking those walk breaks, but no. When I got to the mile 49.5 aid station I was feeling solid still, but the darkness was a comin’. As I left that aid station, the 4th place runner was just coming into the aid station. Would he finally take me? Nope. That was the last I ever saw of him. 3rd place would be mine.

I crossed the 50 mile timing mat in 7:20, which should be said is a darn good time by itself. I have never finished a 50 mile race before, so I guess that counts as my 50 mile PR. :) I rolled on and watched the sun start to reach the horizon. At the mile 57 (??) aid station, it was time to stop and add some more clothes to my wardrobe. Being from Michigan, I (though I) knew what I needed to wear to survive 32 degree weather. Well, I know what I need to wear when the sun is up and I am running at 7:40/mile pace at that temperature. Running (and walking) at 9+min/mile pace is a different story. Umm, yeah, I got cold. Freaky cold. Had I stopped moving for more than 5 minutes at any point, I would have been in serious trouble.

Several aid stations were ‘unmanned’ and at night, that meant you came upon a large table on the side of the road marked by a camping lantern that had a large jug of water/Heed energy drink, some saltines, bananas, gummi bears, and some other assorted foods. No humans at all. Nobody to talk to after you have been running for 11+ hours but at least you got to stock up a little. I never spend too much time at these aid stations, usually less than 90 seconds, just grabbing another banana (the one solid food I seemed to be able to handle this day) and heading back out.

I hit mile 77 and this last ‘big’ aid station was one of the coolest. Great volunteers helping out, including helping me change my socks and shoes to my third and final set. They had a nice fire going nearby and I deliberately chose not to go too near it as I knew it would suck life energy out of me. My key to finishing ultras in good time is that I don’t ever stop for more than a few minutes. Walking is fine, just no stopping. Relentless forward motion. I need a tattoo of that on my body somewhere.

The last 23 miles were a little rough. I was pretty cold, and my brain was starting to go a little. I was still sortof focused, but I could see the fuzzyness coming in. I tried to keep moving, now walking pretty much half the time. My legs were fine, but my arches and especially my toes were all hurting. Tired and cold, I just tried to keep moving.

With just a few miles to go, I tried to run as much as I could. My stride was so short, I was running barely faster than I was walking, but that was ok, I was still moving forward. The finish line was on the Catoosa High School track, and a-la the Olympic Marathon, I had to do a once around of the track before the finish. I never like running track in High school, and I certainly hate running track after already running 99+ miles. Had there been more than 2 people (seriously) there, maybe it would have been better. I did my handstand (and even got it recorded on my videocamera) but it was rough. I actually did three ‘steps’ walking on my hands, not because I was cocky, but because I lost my balance as soon as I was up, and had to walk a few steps so as not to completely fall down.

I wandered over to the fieldhouse nearby and sat down. I was offered all sorts of food, including a fresh omelet, but only drank some soup and a small amount of soda. They did not sit well, and I began to feel nauseous. I lied down on the floor, which felt better, but then my cold started to really get a hold of me. I told the aid workers I was going out to warm myself in my car, which I did. It took me about 15 min there with the heat on high before my shivering stopped. Twice while lying down in the car with the engine running, the aid workers came out to check on me to make sure I was ok. They went in and grabbed my gear when I told them that I just needed to go back to my hotel and sleep. As I was sitting up telling them my plan, the soda and soup decided to leave my system. I could eat and drink at every aid station during the 100 mile run, but at the finish line, my body seems to reject everything. At Burning River, I puked up my post-race beer. I guess it wasn’t the beer, it was the 100 mile run.

Since I just puked, I felt great for a little while so I drove back to my hotel room, took off my shoes and climbed into bed still with my bib pinned to my shorts. No shower, no food, just 4 hours of sleep. I woke up and felt a little better, so I tended to my toes, which were rough. My mid-race addition of Udder Cream was not enough lube. In the future I need to have the creamy petroleum jelly (my usual toe-lube) with me during the race to re-apply. I will lose one of my big toe toenails after this race, so I will be heading to my podiatrist this week to have it treated so it does not grow back. That will mean I only have 2 toenails left. That is a good thing, actually. 

After a gentle-don’t-make-any-sudden-moves-or-you’ll-fall-down shower I went back to the finish to partake of the post-race food, now that I thought my stomach would hold something. I got there right about the time the 23-hour finishers were rolling in so I chatted with many of them for a while, swapping stories of this and other ultra races. Ultra-runners are a different breed for sure. Nice people, but we all have a screw or two loose. My non-running friends think I have many screws already loose, but here I was amongst my own.

I went back to the hotel and did a little packing before taking another 3 hour nap. I woke, ate another real meal and by 4:30pm I was getting tired again. I packed up the rest of my gear and was asleep by 6:30pm. A 4:30am wakeup, a third waffle house breakfast for the weekend and I was heading back home. It was a long long weekend, but a memorable one for sure.

Have I found my niche? Honestly, I am not sure. No matter what distance I race, I seem to be just behind the lead pack. 5K, marathon, or ultra, I am there, just one solid step behind the winners. I did not start seriously running until my mid-30’s and only ~4 years into my distance running career, I should be (and am) quite happy I have accomplished what I have. What do I want? I think my ‘placing’ will be that one-step-back for a while, never becoming anything worth getting a nod in a running magazine, which is fine. I seem to like pushing myself, though. I really hope I can pull off the trans-Michigan run next spring. I hope to find a cause and/or a sponsor for that one. With a 16.5 hour finish on mostly flat road, a 35-40 hour finish for a 177 mile cross-state trek is very doable. What will that get me? Probably just motivation to do something a little harder, a little farther, a little more unique.

What does a guy do when he keeps accomplishing his dreams? Dreams bigger. I would be lying if I told you I have not already planned out a course running across the entire US. Want an Alaska-Miami route? I have that too…