"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nike Zoom Streak XC II Reivew

Nike Zoom Streak XC II

Early Janurary 2011 Jason (or J$ as I like to call him) told me about a sweet new shoe he was trying out, the Nike Zoom Streak XC II.  Later I noticed Ultrarunning stud Joe Grant wearing them.  I have had these shoes for quite a while.  I dont wear them nearly as much as other road or trail shoes, but can see they have great function. Some runs that I have done in them include a the last 20ish of a 31 something slog in the snow (thank u drymax socks for keeping my feet warm), tons of 5-6 mile tempo runs, and a 27 mile road run.  One thing I know, this shoe is light (5oz) and fast, and also an awesome deal.

They are incredibly light, on my feet I can barely feel them.  Right away my cadence increases while wearing these things.  Runningwarehouse (where I get most of my shoes) reports that they have a 3mm heel to toe drop, and its apparent.  Because I dont run in them often, if I do overdue it I will get some calf problems and achilles tightness.  Some people can wear them without socks, but for me the upper is a little too rough. 

Suprisingly, they provide decent traction and rock protection due to a fairly consistent rubber on the outsole.  However, I noticed pavement wears down the rubber nubs pretty quickly.  I am on my second pair after about 150-200 miles of roads in my first pair I felt like they had gained a over-used tennis ball feel in the midsole.  They have a non-removeable insole and a fairly deeply cut ankle liner, which I kinda like.  No problems with the ankle bones getting cut in this shoe.

The tongue is light and feathery, although I have heard this has been changed with the updated Zoom Streak XC III.  I thought this was very cool and a nice way to keep unnecessary weight down.  Speaking of keeping the weight down, this shoe has a very light, airy mesh used in the upper which allows for maximum breath-ability, but is prone to punctures from sticks.  Jason can wear this shoe without socks, however I find the mesh to be too abrasive for my feet.

Overall I use this shoe for the occasional track workout as well as hard tempo runs on trails.  I know some people use them for longer distance racing, but I am not confident enough in my stability to give this a try.

Friday, September 23, 2011

North Country Run - Race Recap

Race report sounds too offical - from now on they are race recaps.  :)

Last year (2010) The North Country Run was my first 50 mile race.  That year I used a run/walk strategy and finished feeling fairly happy with my time (9:09).  Returning a year later, I was a little more experienced ultrarunner with several more 50's under my belt as well as the Kettle Moraine 100 mile.  Thinking back, I had a super solid block of training in the end of June all the way to mid/late August where I backed off a little in preparation for North Country.  July was my highest total monthly mileage (465) as well as hitting my highest weekly mileage (126) in early August. 
Prerace goof troop

One of the most exciting things about North Country was the company.  We had a great group of runners from Ft. Wayne, many of whom were attempting their first 50 (everyone finished!), as well as having the support of Hillary.  Hill and I headed up North early in the afternoon friday, stopped to get some beer at a gas station and met up with the running crew late friday evening.  After a few beers (mmm miller highlife) we crashed out in the Toeriffica.

Toe be honest, I felt a little bit of pressure from the other runners we were as well as from myself as I wanted to beat my previous time.  Being my first race back since KM I was also anxious to get in a serious long run.  In order to quell my anxiety I wrote a lenient goal time of 8:33 on a little wooden block and threw it into the fire (a North Country tradition).  Once the race began I hung back with Jason for a while, we probably started too far back in the pack and wasted some energy passing people on the single track early on.  Live and learn I guess.  I had forgotten how many people were running and how congested the single track could be early on.  I indicated to Jason that I would be running with an even HR for the duration of the race, and in typical style, he took off during one of his runs of his Run/walk cycle.  Thinking I would never see him again I settled into a rythm and chatted with other runners.

J$ likes them xcountry flats
Coming into the first drop back stop, I saw Jason digging around in his bag and gave his ass a slap (probably too hard, sorry buddy), and looked around for Hillary - she was nowhere to be seen.  I quickly dropped my current bottles and grabbed a Nathan pack already full and took off.  Jason followed and we ran together for the next 12-13 miles.  Coming into the start/finished/25 mile point at abt 4:15, I again dropped my empty hydration pack and grabbed a fresh full pack, took off my WT101s that had been killing my pinky Toe's and put on my favorite Salomon Fellcross.  Knowing I was on goal pace, but worried I would slow down in the 2nd loop I hurried through the aid station, Jason was also switching shoes, but in a hurry to maintain my splits I pushed on quickly.  Looking around again for Hillary I did not find her. Turns out I missed her by abt 30 seconds.  She even took a picture of Jason. 

Slightly worried something had happened to Hill/my car I had some good adrenaline that I let push me along the trail but started feeling the effects of running for 5 hours.  Finally at about mile 37 I saw her as I came into an Aid.  That certainly got the good vibes going again, I grabbed some noodles, dumped some water on my head and started down the trail.  Coming into a drop bag stop, I threw off my hydration pack (now empty) and grabbed the two bottles I had left in my first loop.  I started running along the trail and remembered I had wanted to take off my shirt, it was getting hot out.  Definitely not going to run backwards during a 50 mile race, I took off my shirt and stashed it in my shorts. 
Sweet midwest pine forest single track

I had been consistently reeling in folks all day, and as the race progressed I started seeing fewer and fewer people ahead of me.  Feeling really strong after taking off my shirt and grabbing bottle I really started to push.  Ran most of the hills until my HR got above 170 then backed off a bit.  Cruising and alone I wished I had my ipod for some tunes, but instead I just zoned out and concentrated on eating consistently.  I had a couple Gu Roctaines, something new to me, which seemed to work well, except I hate the flavor of Cherry Lime.  Nearly the finish there are a lot of hills which were taking their toll on the outside of my right quad.  I didnt care and continued to hammer them.  Coming into the mile 48 aid I knew it was a long steady downhill and really just let it all hang out and ran sub 7 min/mile for the last two.  As I neared the finish, Hillary was waiting and I told her to come with me and we sprinted it in to the finish.  Looking up at the clock I realized I had just run an 8:13, much better than I expected and a top 10 finish.  Cool thing was that I negative split the race and ran the second loop in under 4 hours.  Looking back at old Garmin data I averaged the same HR as last year (159 bpm) but was a good hour faster.  Very interesting.  Training must be paying dividends. 

We hung around the finish for a little bit as I tried to get my brain going again and watched more people come in.  they had some microbrew keg beer so I whet my whistle while waiting.  Our entire running group finished, which was by far the coolest part of the weekend.  Big congrats to everyone who set a PR on what is a fairly hilly course by midwest standards.  Not too technical (although I saw a lot of people crash?), but surely has some beautiful climbs.  In retrospect, I felt as if I lost 5-10 minutes getting stuck in the mid-pack single track, but maybe that helped me achieve a negative split.  I cant complain.  Great trails, although I am starting to feel the race is wayyyyy to over-produced which is a big turn off.
My prize - a bottle of Mi Wine
Way to go guys - stupid large medals well deserved

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kettle Moraine Race Report

Kettle Elevation chart
Training-wise I would say I was prepared for the distance. Managing 300+ miles a month for all of 2011 was a new experience for me. Even before in the fall of 2010 I had run two fifties and ended up taking November mostly off due to a bad IT band issue. This was probably a good thing as good solid rest always does an ultrarunner good.  Otherwise I ran through what I suspect was a metatarsal stress fracture that occurred following one day of really hammering on the treadmill (stupid and will never do again.  Treadmills are for incline work only).

Besides base mileage I had several runs that I considered "key". This included a 36 mile slog through deep snow that took 7 hours but built some character. The Mississippi 50 race, a 37/34 friday night/saturday morning run, a back/back trail marathon sat/sun, and the ice age 50 mile with a 28 mile trail run the next weekend after which i began taper.  Im not a person to do 20 mile road runs every Saturday, but instead aim for 1-2 long runs every 10-14 days.
I made Jason nervous with all my nervous comments

I was just about as anxious for the race as Ive ever been. got super sick with a sore throat that made me not want to talk or swallow about three days before the race. While I felt a little better by race day i was still a nasty mess. Luckily running in the winter has helped me master the snot rocket. Anyways.

Race started off and a lot of people took off passing me and my friend. This was both of our first 100s so we were going to feed off each other and force slowness during the early part of the race. We were accused of sandbagging by other…  less fit looking individuals… who were running with us for the first 10-15 miles. Our strategy was to run 7 walk 3 minutes and attempt to stay on sub 24 pace.  I am curious what peoples pacing strategies are for 100 mile races.  Men in particular always seem to go out too hard.  I see this in 50 mile races as well.  What are people thinking…  Its 100 miles, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason to tire yourself out in the first hour.  Anyways…

And we're off

It was hot.  Midwest humid hot, 80 degrees at 6am and apparently over 90 during the day. I think this made a huge difference in the overall standings. Last year when it was cooler they had 90 of 110 people finish. This year they had 46 of 120...

Despite what felt like copious amounts of walking that my friend and I were doing, we were slowly reeling people in all morning.  We both have 5 hour 50k speed so we just maintained a casual pace during our run sections.  After hitting the Emma Carlin aid we hit the moraines:  16 miles of exposed rolling meadows, we went through this section at 9am and again at 2pm. The only way I survived this was by putting tons of ice down my back to be trapped by my nathan hydration pack. I even put ice in my hat. Probably wont have this problem at any November 100’s.  At some point I notified Jason our short walk break was over and it was time to run again.  He didn’t seem too happy about the idea.  We got moving again, but as we rolled into a major aid station Jason decided he needed to cool down in the shade and I was urged to push on. We had agreed if this was to happen we would separate and run our own races. Its almost inevitable in a 100 mile. Just too many variables. 
Maybe shouldve had some more solid food early on

In past the 50 mile point I was still feeling pretty good but starting to get sick of gels, I had also developed a blister on one of my pickey toes. Nothing serious tho. Miles 55-62 were really tough. Nasty super steep short inclines and declines that my quads did not like. Maybe it was heat, maybe it was a mental error but up to this point (mile 47) I had been only eating gels and my stomach was getting a little finicky.  Running on an all gel diet for this long made me really sick of them before 60+ miles when I needed fast energy. On an impulse I had put ensure drinks into drop bags and these were very helpful getting through the mid 50-80 miles. I wish I had brought 12 with me instead of 6. I had never used clif blocks or gummys before the race but brought some on impulse. These were awesome when I was sick of slurping down gels. Again I wish I had brought more. I only had three packs of them, next time I would like 10. I probably brought 80 gels with me to the race and put them in various drop bags and etc. This was overkill. Should mix up my nutrition between gels, blocks, and bars a little better next time. I averaged an Scap every 40-50 minutes during the day.

At mile 62 you have the option to stop at 100k or go back out for more miles. The thought crossed my mind. I had some excuses, hey im sick, hey it’s a super hot day.  However, my pride got the best of me and I told myself to shut up and get moving. My friends wife was waiting and helped me change shoes socks and get my headlamp on. I changed out my Mt101s for the Salomon Speedcross 2 a more cushioned protective shoe.
At this point the race director asked if I was going back out – I assume a lot of people had said no, so he looked slightly surprised when I smiled and said “of course.”   Time to get moving again, grabbed my headlamp, another Ensure and decided to put on a long sleeve shirt (I thought it might get cold – it did not).  I made some  deals with myself. Run till it gets dark then take a walk break, run until the next aid station, run till you catch those people.  I had given up on 7/3 and was just running as much as I could take before needing to walk. This and a big cup of ramen soup at an aid station got me all the way to mile 77. 
Mr. Salty shorts - leaving mile 77 aid station

Having run  this next section at the ice age 50 mile and knew it was technical with lots of climbing (relatively speaking) plus I was exhausted and it was dark. I was going to take it real slow and just get it done. Somewhere along the first climb I found a huge burst of energy and really flew through this part, one of my faster splits all day. At the turn around I got some more soup (soup rocks, nothing tasted so good) and some chips and decided to take a walk break. It’s a good thing I was walking because my headlamp was getting progressively dimmer, even with new batteries. I still don’t know why, but I had stashed an extra headlamp in my next aid station bag. It breathed new life back into me, and along with some more soup + mashed potatoes I was off again. As I approached the aid station I expected to be mile 88 it turned out to be mile 91! 9 more miles, I realized I would finish. Hung tough with some older dude (Steve Crane) for a while and even ran up a big climb with him. He was more experienced and told me to keep eating till the very end no matter what.  Great advice. I stopped at the mile 93 aid to get more soup and he kept going. It was ok id let him go. The last 7 miles were back through the quad crushing up and down. It was the longest 7 miles of my life. Not that I was “hurting” just that I knew it was so close but I had to go down all these short steep slopes combined with the darkness was just defeating. At mile 96 I sucked down 3 gels and decided to just run. I did this and passed two more people. I ate another gel at mile 99. I finished just as the sun was coming up.

In the end it was a great adventure. There were some not so fun parts, but overall im super excited and now feeling super strong in my running. The idea of pain in legs has changed a little bit. If anything I was overprepared. Not overtrained, just super adequately prepared. A lot of the battle is in the stomach, and the head. Legs can keep going. Im glad I practiced night running 2 long times, but with a good lamp its not that hard. Running smart races seems to be my strength since I don’t have blazing speed. It was interesting to see Zach Gingerich ran a 19:30 this year compared to his 15:17 in 2009, I wonder what I would have managed had it been a cooler day. I managed to hold sub 20 pace until about mile 62. But I guess that’s the way it works. First 50 miles is 40% of your time, second 50 miles is 60% of your time.  Mad props to everyone who finished despite such a hot day.  Also the race directors rocked!  I cant believe how perfect everything was organized, including food, drop bags, ice and water.  This is a great race and I suspect I will be back some day to give it another go.  Many thanks to Jason and Arden Robertson for physical and mental support, and a huge congrats to Jason who pulled it together and was running about 30 minutes behind me for the rest of the race.  It’s a good thing I didn’t know this, because I may have just slowed down and waited in order to get some company. It gets lonely out there.  I can finally see the reason people like to use pacers later in the hundo.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ice Age 50 Race Report

Finally getting around to posting old race reports that I had saved on my computer.   lets see, this one is only 4 months after the fact...  Headed to ice age, I got lost trying to get to Jasons house.  Luckily he had packed his cell phone in his bag already so he didnt hear it ring when I called 1000x.  Finally figured it out, packed my stuff in Jasons car and proceded to get us lost/stuck in chicago traffic.  I have no idea why Jason let me navigate after my earlier fiasco, but we managed to get to the brewery where we had a couple beers and picked up our race packets and timing chips and checked in friday night.  We slept the night in his minivan at the start line (take out all the seats and its like a room on wheels) and I must say my 10$ sleeping bag from walmart rocks.

Race starts at 6am on sharp.  I saw Scott Breeden who has run some impressive times at Ice Age and OPSF,  he was crewing for his girlfriend Emily who was running the 50 mile.  We encouraged her to run with us since we were gonna be going to be taking this slowly as a training run.  It was fun to take a younger runner under our wing and help pass the time with our jibber jabber.  I think I launched into a long spiel about how NSAIDs not only can give you rhabdo but also impede training gains (I should write a blog entry about this).
Me looking lost, Emily laughing at me.  Jason...  MIA

Every time we thought we had lost Emily, she would just pop back up behind.  Despite looking like she was 18 and lots of pink clothes she is tough as nails. Around 15 miles to go, and I was in the company of my friend Jason, and a new guy Ryan Krol.  I noticed he had some Ironman tats on his legs so i had to ask which was harder.  He exclaimed definitely running 50 miles!  maybe its true, maybe its because we had been running for 5 hours and still had 20 miles to go.  The last 20 miles went by pretty fast, besides the fact that Ryan had some trouble so Jason and I took off.  I dunno if it was because we knew we only had 10 miles left or because we are in 100 mile shape, but we really started running fast the last 10 miles.  Jason started his run walk on a long wooded section and never saw him again either.

Mile 49 almost home

Finished strong, feeling the best I have during a 50 miler ever.  Ran it in 8:58 which is about an hour slower than the Mississippi 50, but I wanted more time on feet anyways :)  It was still good for my 2nd fastest 50 mile time and I felt great.  Did my usual stuff of drinking lots of mtn dew and putting flat pepsi into my water bottles to mix with sports drink.  I ended up taking 1 too many salt tablets and my hands were a little swollen tho.  Anyways the trail race was on 50 miles of the course that the 100 miler im running in June is on so it was great to get a feel for the trails.  Jason ended up finishing in 9:01, Ryan in 9:18, and Emily in 9:45.  All in all it was a great day for team New Balance.

Hung around the finish for a couple hours because they had kegs tapped, had some beers and felt absolutely nothing.  Usually 2-3 beers buzzes me.  It was interesting.  During the drive home Jason and I stopped 3 times for McDonalds, Chipolte and Tbell.  Thats what happens when you have a 8000-10000 calorie deficit driving around in a car.

Mississippi 50 Race Report

Just couldnt catch this guy - photo by RBear

First, thanks to my buddy Hagy for coming along, splitting up the driving and listening to me talk about running (I could go on and on and on).  We hit the road Thursday after work with the goal of making it to Lexington where I planned on getting a good nights sleep.  The next day we would head south to Mississippi where another good friend had generously offered to host us.  While this didnt exactly happen, we had a great time drinking some beers and jamming to youtube with Drew and his better half (Kelsey). 

Got a pretty early start the next morning, expecting about 9 hrs to Oxford, I had begun carb loading the night before with miller lite so i continued my carb heavy diet by eating almost nothing but carbos all day...  Muffins, tortillas, bananas, raisin bread are my usual favorites.  Hagy and I rolled into Oxford around 6 pm.  Found Ty’s house tucked away nicely in the woods and got the full tour.  Ty awesome place by the way, mad props.  Logistically speaking, this was a tough race to plan for; I still had 4 + hours south of Oxford to Hattiesburg where I was staying the night before the race.  Probably back on the road by 7-730.  About half way through this drive I hit some torrential downpours really slowing down my progress.  Thinking about the race, I knew that this probably meant it would be muddy.  Finally made it to Hattiesburg by 12, checked into a hotel room where I double checked my gear, filled my water bottles, and passed out for 4 hours.  I was awoken by my alarm at 4, jumped in my car, got a coffee at McDs and started trying to find De Soto National Forest where the race was being held.  Ended up being an hour drive through the backroads but I made it in time to pick up my packet, take a portastop, and drop my dufflebag at the start where I could access it after each loop.

The course itself consisted of 3x12.5 mile loops followed by 2x6.5 mile loops, each loop brought us back past the start where I had left my bag with extra gels, a fresh pair of shoes, water bottles, salt pills and my ipod.  There really wasnt much time between when I arrived and the race started.  maybe 20-30 minutes.  Usually I like to arrive an hour early, but it just didnt work out this time.  However, there was no time to wait around and become nervous.  All of a sudden there were 2 minutes until race start and the usual scramble where everyone lines up.  The start was very casual.  The race direction (RD) just kinda said ok Go!...  And 200 people stormed off into the woods. 

The beginning of these types of races is always interesting.  They started the 50k (31 miles) the same times as the 50 mile and those 50K runners take off like jack rabbits.  Some 50 milers took off at comparable paces, but I had no intention of going out that hard and I just settled into a relaxed rhythm letting my heart rate dictate my pace.  Everyone was friendly as is typical at trail races/ ultras in general.  After about 10 minutes I started chatting with a Chris Dollar who had asked if I was the kid with the Michigan plates.  Apparently my haircut (or lack thereof) made it obvious that I was not a local...  I continued to run with this guy from the next 3-4 hours.  He was friendly, and was a faster marathon runner than me so I was curious how he would do in this event. 

Best aid station sign ever

The first three hours passed relatively uneventfully.  Probably the coolest thing was that the 20k race was starting just as I finished my first loop and as I came running in to finish the loop everyone was cheering and applauding.  The trails themselves were not too bad during the first loop.  The rain held off and since I was towards the front of the pack the mud wasnt too gnarly and the creeks were not very deep.  However, about 3:30 into the race the heavens opened and the storms that everyone had been predicting began.  The mud went from intermittent to shoe stealing deep and sometimes it was impossible to tell if a puddle was ankle or thigh deep.

A quote from the Race Director "But contrary to rumors, we did not have rain. Rain is when the ground gets wet and there are puddles and you see drops on the windshield. We had a monsoon, with creeks appearing out of nowhere and covering the trail and coming down the access road, and through the s/f tent, and rising to waist deep in the woods. There were no puddles or mud, just ponds to run through"

The entire time I was running through this crap I just kept thinking, man I love this shit.  I had decided to wear a new shoe I hadnt raced in before and had opted to go sockless.  Turned out to be great choice on both counts.  New Balance Minimus folks.  If you get ur hands on a pair ull understand what I mean.  Anyways after the second loop I noticed the Chris wasnt talking very much and was starting to breath kinda hard.  He was having stomach issues and suggested I continue on while he slowed down to digest, I pressed on, wishing me good luck to which I thanked him for the company and took off into the rain on my own.

Somewhere between 5 and 6 hours an aid station volunteer informed me that I had moved into second place and that several other runners had "dropped" because of the weather.  This was just the encouragement I needed and I begun chasing down whoever it was ahead of me.  Looking at my splits, I came within 4 minutes of this guy during this loop. However, running nonstop for 6+ hours was starting to take its toll on me.  Strangely, my legs felt fine but my stomach was going south fast.  At about 6hrs I started feeling barfy and had to really force down gels.  Thinking long and hard about this I realized I probably had been hitting my calorie window very precisely early on, but had eaten too much during hour 5.  The type of sports drink (HEED) they provided was clear and had almost no flavor, however I ended up drinking several water bottles full of this when i only wanted water.  Too many calories when running overwhelms ur stomach and can be quite unpleasant.  I think i puked a little bit and just spit it out into the rain.  No biggie.  I drank only water for the next 30-45 minutes and started to feel much better.

With about 40 miles in the bank and only 10 remaining, an aid station worker told me that I was in first place.  I became very excited.  I didnt remember passing any other 50 milers, but at this point it was hard to tell who I was lapping and who I was passing.  I did my best to maintain a consistent pace and not bonk despite having little fuel during the last hour.  I kept my pace consistent but probably slowed a little bit.

Coming into the 44 mile mark a different aid station worker informed me I was in 2nd.  Boo.  Much to my disappointment I had been wrongly informed earlier on and had been thinking I was winning for the last 45 minutes.  Oh well.  By this time I was feeling much better so I slammed a couple gel packs and decided to run with everything I had left and try to catch the person ahead of me.  I think he knew I was coming because he really turned on the jets during the last 6 miles too.

I ended finishing in 2nd overall, only 8 minutes behind the leader,  who was awesome friendly and an experienced ultrarunner.  Even better though was the 8:02 on the clock.  That meant I had shaved over an hour off of my best 50 mile performance and in incredibly challenging trail conditions (although the course itself wasn’t too challenging).  I didnt hang around the race for too long after I finished, but saw in Chris running in just as I was leaving.  He ended up taking 3rd place in his first 50 miler.  Watch out folks he is gonna be a good one.  Not only was I freezing, but I also wanted to get back to oxford and see what was going on with Hagy and Ty.  As I was driving away I noticed the park service talking to the race director.  Apparently they were forcing him to shut down the race because of the dangerous conditions.  Any 50 milers who had not finished were given credit for the 50k and no one was allowed to start new loop.

Where exactly did the trail go?  Jump on in.

Picked up a McFlurry and inhaled it on my way back to oxford.  Got back to Tys by 7pm, showered, drank some beers, had a huge blue cheese burger at Boure'.  Whew.  Great recovery.  Passed out hard.  All in all a fantastic weekend.  I think my shoes are ruined but it was worth it.  Ty and Drew thanks again for the hospitality.  Might just have to head down to MS again next year and try to get that 1st place.   If you are still reading this I commend ur diligence.  This looks like a lot of words.