Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 Old Farts Marathon Results (or How to Roll Your Own Ultra)

4:25:33 (but I ran 29.5 miles, see below)
10/69 overall
4th age
This race is billed as the ‘toughest race east of the Mississippi’, and while I agree, it is tough, I have run harder races on this side, notably the Larry Yaegle trail marathon in Louisiana. It would end up being tougher for me because of my poor attention, but still a fun race.
This race was only a 1.5 hour drive from my house so again I got to sleep in my own bed, a recent change of my marathon racing policy. When my alarm went off at 4:25 am, I woke up wondering why it was going off that early on a Saturday morning. It took me a few seconds to remember that I had a marathon that day. I chuckled at myself (out loud) once I remembered that.

It was three weeks after my Burning River run and one week after another small local marathon, and my body has been sore, so I decided to take the week completely off from running. While I was not 100% today, I was a solid 85%. Taking the week off helped, making it so I was not cursing myself for even running the race.

Being a small town trail race, the race organizers had no time limit (usually 6-7 hours for most major races) and so there were quite a few more ‘experienced’ runners. (translation very slow runners who would finish in >9 hours) of which I met several before the start of the race. Many of them have completed the 50 state circuit (some more than once) a few members of the 100 marathon club (a goal I will accomplish in a few more years) and a few Marathon Maniacs. We chatted about standard stuff (favorite races, costs of traveling to races, etc) and about 2 minutes before the race start, we all headed to the start line.

Race conditions were near perfect. The temperature was in the low 60s’ and would reach the low 70s before the end. The trail was mostly single track and in some cases looked like it was made mere days before with some guy driving through grass with a mover. There was one large grass area (with two foot high grass) that we zig-zagged through 6 times. Challenging, but not super tough. There were a few hills we went down that ropes had been put up so you could hang on to them going down the hill to prevent you from falling. I only fell one time, running on flat trail, stumbling on a rock. The course was VERY well marked, and I really appreciated it, except for one very critical part, which is why I ran an ultra marathon this day instead of a marathon.

All three races (5K, half marathon and full marathon) started all at same time. About 1 mile into the race, we turned left off a dirt road onto trail heading back towards the start line (to drop off the 5K finishers) then the half and full marathoners continued out onto another section of brutal hills, eventually coming back to the start line to drop of the half marathoners. I crossed the half marathon point in 1:50, which is a fine time considering the brutality of the course and I was firmly in 4th place.

So 1 mile past the halfway mark, I came to that spot that ~13 miles before I turned left onto the trail heading back to the start. There was just one sign and it said ‘All runners’ and had an arrow but said the words ‘loop 1’. I turned down the path and got about 50m before my brain said ‘hang on, is this right?’ I went back and inspected the sign again and it was certainly not clear. I stood there stopped for a good 30 seconds waiting for the 5th place runner to come up and help me figure out where to go. I finally decided to head down that trail, even though it didn’t feel quite right. I said to myself, what’s the worst case scenario? I add ~3 miles to the distance. Well worst case scenario happened.

I make it back to the start line (visibly upset) and I ask the race director where I went wrong. Turns out just 20 meters past that #$^@ing cone at mile 1 was another cone (smaller, on other side of road) with a sign that clearly pointed down the dirt road to the RIGHT. So I thanked them and left the start line. Again.
When I got to that cone, the race director was just pulling up in his car (making sure the cone was there) and he asked me how many ‘additional’ miles I had added. I told him a little over 3 and so he actually offered to drive me a ways down the course. I told him no, but thanks anyways and I trudged down the course, cursing myself for my stupidity.

Now that I had gotten back on track and given my competitors a roughly 26 min head start, I actually started passing people. In that last 12 miles of the race I think I passed at least 10 people. The second half was also trail but also a ~3 mile section of long rolling hills on back roads. The run was quite pleasant, just tough. When i crossed the finish line it seemed everyone near the finish area was cheering. Great ‘crowd support’ to go with the great feel of this race.

The schwag from this race was awesome. The entry fee for the race was $60 (not too bad) but for that I received a cotton t-shirt, a cotton sweatshirt, a finishers pair of sweatpants, a finishers beach towel, a nice finishers medal and a nice 4th place-in-age trophy. Hauling all that back to my car after my 29.5 mile run removed all the angst I had over my mistake. The spread of post-race food was also quite impressive. That hot dog tasted goooood.

While it was not the toughest marathon east of the Mississippi, it was a lot of fun and I will definitely be back next year to run this low-key-friendly-neighborhood-style marathon. And don’t worry, I will NOT miss that turn next time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lucky 13 (x2= 26) RUT Fat Ass Results

4:24 (ugh)
1st place (16 people did 2 loops, I was the first one who finished, I think)

Timing is everything, really. Just two weeks ago I tore my body up bad running the Burning River 100 and had not recovered yet. A local running shop (Running Fit) is a huge sponsor of running related things, organizing races, training, etc. They have started doing Fat Ass (= no entry fee, no frills, potluck style races) runs, and this one was only an hour away. I just could not say no.

This run was organized by Farra (guru to Running Fit’s Ultra Team) as a training run for people getting ready for the Run Woodstock series of races (including a few ultra distances) in September. It is a nice little ~13.5 mile loop (hence the race title ‘Lucky 13’) in the Island Lake Recreation Area near Brighton, MI. The idea was people could sign up to do as many loops as they wanted, with most people signing up for 1-4 loops. Since it was advertised, over 50 people showed up (spread over all distances, not sure how many did 2+) and we even got race shirts, I am counting this as a marathon race for my 100 in 1 quest. I can do that since it is my idea. :)

Burning River kicked my butt and I took I seriously dialed back my mileage these last two weeks. I took the three days before this race off hoping my body would be at least 80% recovered by then. I was wrong. The course was not all that well marked and I had never runs these trails before, so I got in behind a speedster (a nice Running Fit employee named Trevor) who is a 2:50 marathoner who was doing only one loop. I figured I would follow him for the first loop and then do the second loop alone. The trail is almost all single track with small hills, but tree branches and grass growing over the trail. No way of getting into anything like a stable running pace, but that’s what you get when you do a trail race. Trevor and I were doing a decent 8:15 pace which is not slow for that trail. At about mile 11, I was starting to get seriously fatigued and my legs were started to protest, so I let Trevor go figuring by this point, the trail was self explanatory (it was).

There was a light drizzle for most of the day and the trail was wet, but not bad. My shirt got soaked from wet branches, but my shoes and feet stayed reasonably dry. As I was coming into the start/finish area, (1:55 into the race) I was seriously considering stopping after 1 loop. I felt awful, I was wet and cold and the night before our power went out, and Mistique was home alone still with no power. I couldn’t come up with a reason to go back out. But I changed my shirt, grabbed a cookie and went out anyways. I have run several marathons where the full marathoners run right by the finish line for the half-marathoners at the halfway point and considered dropping down to the half distance that day (usually allowed) but I never have done it. I guess this was just another case of ‘Get out there and finish the marathon, darnit’. Those other times, I was not still sore from a previous race, unlike this time where I felt rolled hard and put away wet.

The second loop was harsh. Frequent speed-walking sections and sore legs every step in addition to the same wet trail conditions (did I mention the mosquitoes were terrible?) made for a just not so fun run. But, since I am bull headed and I always finish what I start, albeit slower than I want, I finished. Once I hot the end, I spend only a few minutes chatting with others and eating some of the large amount of food brought by the kind souls of the race before the bugs got to me and I wanted to get home to my power-less home.
A fun little local marathon, which is exactly what I am looking for with my new 100 in 1 goal. Sleep in my own bed, wake up, run a marathon, and be home for dinner. I love that part.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

100 in 1

So finally, I near the end of a 5+ year quest, to run a marathon in 50 states in under 4 hours. I have known this goal is getting close for a while, and I wanted to make sure I had something ‘in the pipe’ before I got there. I have many friends who have grand running goals that when they hit them (many after several years) they burn out since they have achieved what they set their heart out to do. I have seen runnerswho devoutly run marathons 1-2 a weekend stop stone cold after achieving some ‘goal’. I did not want that to happen to me.

I have been thinking hard about what to do next. In 2010, I started doing some ultras, with a 24 hour race (>100 miles) in April and a 100 mile race in July. I did quite well in both and thought that maybe that was going to be my next step, becoming one of those crazy 100 mile ultra people. Then Burning River 2011 happened. Without going into detail, it was really really rough on me physically and mentally. While I was good at 100 mile racing (9th and 10th in the 2010 and 2011 national championships) the actual running is rough for several reasons:
- Training 120-130 miles/week is a part time job that takes away from family time, no matter how well I schedule it
- Race costs are steep, >$200 for a cheap one.
- To do it right, you need a crew. I don’t like asking for help, so this is a big one. I have a great friend Ryan who has crewed for me in two of my 100 milers and he does an awesome job, but I can’t rely on him every time. Mistique is supportive of my racing, and will crew for me if I ask her, but it is a lot to ask of her.
- Recovery time is so damn long. 100 miles take a lot out of you. My most recent 100 miler took more than 2 weeks before I was back to normal. That’s just rough.

I didn’t start running to be a freak, I started running to get healthy. The racing is just fun and gives me an extra special bonus to reward me for getting out every day and slogging some miles. So after a long torturous time of self reflection, I decided to step back from the 100 mile thing for a while. So that left me hanging, I still need a new goal, something to keep me occupied for a few years. Many ideas have been given to me by friends which include repeating the states (too expensive, more time away from family) or doing 7 continents (WAY too expensive). I needed something that took me 5-7 years, is cheap, and minimizes time away from my family. 100 in 1 was born.

100 marathons in 1 state, that is my new goal. You might think that it will take me forever since it has taken me 6 years to run 64 marathons as of right now, but you would be wrong. There are over 15 marathons (or shorter ultras, under 35 miles) each year within a 3 hour drive of my house. That means I can sleep in my own bed (no hotel!), wake up early, drive to a race (no plane ticket!), run the race and be home before dinner. I am gone from my family less than 12 hours each time. It satisfies all my new desires, cheap, will take a few years, and less impact on my family.

In trying to save time in my 50 states quest, I have only done 6 marathons in the state of Michigan so far, so I am starting almost from scratch. But, if all goes to plan, I will be at 10 by the end of 2010. Whatever it takes to keep me out of trouble