Monday, December 10, 2012

End of the year.

Well, it's all done.  This post is pretty long and probably doesn't make a lot of sense.  You've been warned.

Some numbers for 2012:

8 ultras, 400 miles, 78 hours 30 minutes, and more gain than I feel like adding up.  Basically, a LOT of running.

The BEAST Series is a pretty special series.  Having the "faster" events of Mountain Masochist and Hellgate after the Grindstone 100 makes for some interesting decisions regarding recovery and training between events.  Regardless of what certain people might say, 100 milers put a great deal of deep and lingering fatigue into the legs, enough so for me that aside from the week of MMTR, I never ran a week over 55 miles all fall.  I substituted mileage for quality, doing 1-2 workouts per week which worked out well for MMTR, but by the time Hellgate rolled around, I felt pretty drained and somewhat de-motivated.  When anyone asked me about Hellgate recently, my normal response become "Well, I'm ready to be done."  That said, if I don't get into Hardrock for 2012, there is a very good chance that I repeat the series.  I've learned a lot this year, and I love Grindstone much more than any other event I've done, so I want to be back there every year for a while.

ANYWAY.  Hellgate.  That funny little 100k race in December in the mountains of Virginia. On a lot of horse trail.  There's nothing like it.  This was the snow year of MMTR and the warm year for Hellgate.  If I had been running better toward the end, I would have been extremely comfortable with my shirt off. I believe the high was almost 70.

The race:
Starting off, I took off a little bit, but quickly (within minutes) realized I didn't want to run all night alone so I slowed to run with Rudy and Fletcher, a couple friends and both good runners.  We made good work of the first climb, running most of it but not really working that hard.  Fletcher fell back because his foot went numb (and yet he finished), so Rudy and I proceeded to run together through ~mile 40.  Rudy and I have shared a lot of miles this year, so we work well together and could mover very efficiently over the course. We made good work of the following sections, just ticking off the miles talking about anything and everything.  There are some super fun single track stretches through there.  Somewhere in here, I managed to spotlight a dear with my headlamp.  I think that is a good testament to the Nao.  I started caffeine early (about 3:00 am) because it was all the calories I had left halfway through  the 10+ miles between AS 3 and  AS 4.  At dawn, I stopped to water the trees and could feel my heart beat doing some funny things, mainly being way too fast, so I cut out caffeine for 90 minutes or so to help settle it.  Rudy ran on when I stopped again at mile 40, and then began having peroneal tendon pain (MMTR strikes back)as I got through the rock-garden downhill switchbacks that caused me to have a complete breakdown last year.  Coming into Bearwallow, I took an Ibuprofen and left quickly hoping to pick off some people on the easiest(?) third of the course.

I am very, VERY glad Wyatt, another VT ultrarunner and friend, volunteered to pace.  He kept me moving when I was in a good deal of pain, and without him, there is a good change I would have walked down the entire final 3 mile stretch.  The pain in my peroneal tendon go worse and worse the last marathon until I began wondering if it was a stress fracture.  Leading to Bobblet's gap, I passed 1 guy, then going through the forever section, I passed 2 more and got passed by 3 or 4 and I started slowing.   I had told people prior to this that I didn't care if I had to crawl across the finish line, I would finish Hellgate this year, and the day almost came to that.  This was the most physical pain I've run through, and the hardest I've had to grind in a run or race before.  The next day, my ENTIRE body was sore.  Arms, legs, chest, core, shoulders, neck.  I seriously gave everything I had to Hellgate this year, and even though my time isn't what I wanted it to be, I know I did everything I could and I'm extremely happy with the outcome.  I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say I would have dropped last year.

The only thing I truly wanted out of ultrarunning this year was to get tougher, and I did.


Dr. Horton, our wonderful race director and inspirational ultramarathon guru, underwent a 7-way bypass today and this had me thinking a lot.  I'm not sure if I've seen Dr. Horton even 20 times these past couple years, but he has had a great impact on my life, not only through his races, but due to the spectacular sense of self-appreciation and encouragement.  I was quite honestly scared out of my whits during late summer as Grindstone began to approach and conversations with Dr. Horton had me feeling that I would not only finish, but finish well.  His attitude is contagious and he is one of the best overall people that I have met in my short life.  I heard his surgery went smoothly, and I am very happy for that, for him and his family.

Weekend in Pictures:

The start!
Aid Station 4

The nice lump on my foot Sunday afternoon.

Beyond done.  Check out that sweet form, heel strike all the way!
The gang.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Down, 1 To Go

Aside from a nagging achilles tendon (fixed with a shoe change), recovery from Grindstone went smoothly.  I took it easy basically the entire race there, which I guess helped a lot.  I did two interval workouts in the two middle weeks between races, and a couple tempo runs as well.  What else can you really do to prepare when you have a race only a month out from a 100 miler?  I topped out at a 48 mile week, which might actually have been more than I should have done, but everything worked out for the best. 

I had a very different thoughts going into Mountain Masochist compared to Grindstone.  Being 50 miles on an easier course,  I knew it would feel short and fast, and I had just spent about 5 months preparing to go slow for a very long time.  I was also excited to go and Hurricane Sandy only exemplified that.  I love bad weather and snow, so I actually thrilled to hear of snow on the second half of the course.  I figured that the snow would slow everything down a little and force some slogging (exactly what I can do right now).  I also figured that I wouldn't suffer as much as a lot of people nearby me, which would be beneficial late in the race.  I can never seem to get the right combination of clothes for 30ish degree weather, and I was warm once the sun was up, ditching my arm warmers at AS #3, and taking my gloves on and off all day.  Nothing really happened in the first half of the race.  I ran from mile 13 to the loop with Rudy, and we just methodically moved up through the places all the way. Relentless Forward Progress.  I stopped to fertilize the trees and he went on to a super great finish in 12th place in his second 50 mile. With the loop came snow, high up my shins in places.   The footsteps of those in front of me hadn't yet flattened out the snow, but just formed footholds awkwardly spaced apart, forcing a lot of awkward running and hiking.  If I had realized how big of a break this ended up being in the middle of the race, I would have probably run most of the climb up to Buck Mountain, but so it goes.  The snow was a blast, and I ran with complete reckless abandon on the downhills--something that I really love to do in the snow when everything is soft and smooth.  Talking to people after the race, I seemed to be the only person who really enjoyed going through all that snow.

 The snow got pretty deep and slog-worthy after leaving the mile 42 AS.  I left just ahead of Gary Robbins who (of course) caught up soon and we shared a couple miles together working through the awkward snow/ice covered trails.  He had actually run an extra 4.5 miles (the only way we were near each other) and was making his way back up, still having a blast.  Since I was wearing Montrail Rogue Flys (great shoe), he asked about them and the conversation turned to races and Grindstone as he was there too.  He told me my Grindstone time was "fucking awesome" which as a pretty great boost trudging up the steepest climb of the race before we go downhill the rest of the way to the finish.  Gary moved on and I stopped one more time before taking off after him.  I hit the last aid station with 4 miles to go at 8:36, determined to make a sub-9 hour finish, so I took a cue from cross country days, and started windmilling my arms to drive up my momentum.  The final mile of downhill ended up being ~5:56, super fast for mile 49 of a 50 mile race.  I took two bottles of my Succeed slurry, several packages of chomps, and two cans worth of mountain dew, plus some food at the aid stations.  The slurries have made racing a lot easier, I have energy throughout, and I think I've gotten pretty good at burning fat for fuel.  Few the few days after races, even after I've made up the calorie deficit, I seem much leaner than I used to.

I squeaked by in 8:58, meeting my original time goal for MMTR--before hearing of the snow conditions.  Plus 20th out of 297 starters is kind of cool, I'm not used to that.  This race actually took more out of me than Grindstone, so I'm taking it easy all week before putting in some focus work for Hellgate next month.  That will be fun.  Hellgate is something special, and so far everything this Fall has gone smoothly.  I won't DNF this time; I'm ready to suffer.  As soon as I crossed the finish line at MMTR, Dr. Horton said to me, "I hope you saved something for Hellgate."  I hope so too, I've got some redemption to take care of there.

Side note/more important:  This is the VT Ultrarunning Club's first true team race, and we had some great placing and 100% finisher's rate! Something that is definitely made even better by the course conditions.  Rachel maintained second in the LUS on her bum ankle, cringing all the way to the finish line.  David persevered through a rough day, Wyatt had fun all day, and I should probably ask Kelly how her run went.  Seeing people finish at and after twelve hours was very inspiring--those guys and gals are MUCH tougher than the rest of us, that's a long time to be out there and it hurts a lot more.  I was finishing back there just last year, I know how that feels.

See you people in 5 weeks.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Beast Series

Two Races left in the next 8 weeks.  I did my second run since Grindstone today, 6.5 miles in 70 minutes on Lookout Mountain--decent pace for that terrain.  Since I'm recovered well from Grindstone I thought I'd finally take a look into all of this race series business.

The top 5 for the Beast Series are below, pulled from Horton's website.

1Knipling, Keith4:36:145:12:395:24:0322:34:4237:47:38

2Murase, Yosuke4:23:224:57:535:16:5024:50:0639:28:11

3Myers, Michael4:33:455:32:255:57:0423:46:5539:50:09

4Love, Guy4:59:595:16:576:15:0724:51:1241:23:15

5Jasinski, Bob4:45:535:30:196:55:2126:08:3143:20:04

Keith is clearly untouchable.  He's a great runner, and it was fluke that I was a few minutes behind him at Terrapin.  I am curious to see if I can make up the 93 minutes on Michael though, and more so the 115 minutes on Yosuke in the next couple races--that one is probably not doable unless he's really hurting and I'm running really well.  I wish Masochist was one week later so I would have a chance to get out on the first half of the course that I've never seen and learn it, but so it goes.  I won't be pushing it until close to "the climb" anyway--I can't move fast on flats, but apparently I've learned to climb up and down mountains with reasonable proficiency.

This is weird for me; when I first started thinking about my goals for 2012, one of them was squeaking into top 5 for the Beast Series.  Now I'm hunting down 3rd.  It's interesting how much you can improve in this sport since mountain racing has so many variables that just don't come into play in shorter (or even just flatter) races.  I suppose Grindstone was what people call a breakthrough race? I didn't run an amazing time by any means, but I ran faster than people expected me to, and I ran that time in a very conservative race.  I think that will definitely help me in the next couple months as I won't have trashed myself before the last 120 or so miles of racing.  The variables of mountain racing are spectacular If one person has a bad day at a race like Masochist, they can very easily fall back 40 minutes to an hour off their normal race time.  Don't get me wrong, I know full well this could easily happen to me.  In a series where the 100 mile kicks off the fall racing, there is bound to be some carnage in the next two races.  I'm really looking forward to suffering at Hellgate.  I hope the weather is horrible.

On the VTUltra front, 6 of us are running MMTR, two people as their first 50 mile.  For the fast people, Rudy is the fastest of us; he doesn't have any time goals, but he's a good racer and he'll deliver on November 3.  Rachel--I'm predicting somewhere under/close to 9 hours and maybe top-3, depending on who shows up.  It's time for her to hammer a race I think.  Myself, I think I'll be somewhere near Rachel, but the faster the better. It's going to feel so short.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An exercise in preparation

Walking around Camp Shenandoah on Friday afternoon, I wasn't excited.  I wanted to run more than anything, but I did not have any of the usual pre-race jitters or nervous energy.  I just felt ready to go.

Let's start withe prep.  After two disappointing hundred mile DNF's plus Hellgate last year, when I started thinking about Grindstone I knew I needed to toughen up more than anything.  I read all the race reports I could find from things like Hardrock and the Barkley to learn more about the suffering.

For each of those three DNF's from earlier, I did the common back-to-back long run approach and I changed that this time. I wanted to get more comfortable being in the mountains for long hours.  So in July through mid-September, I did 5 40+ mile long runs (plus two back-to-backs).  The other big adjustment in my training was the inclusion of a 15-18 mile run one day during the week.  I really enjoy these types of runs now; 9-10 hours in the mountains.

So for the race:

My approach for the race--thanks in huge part due to some discussions with the one and only Dr. David Horton and 100s and the Grindstone course in particular--was to start slow and speed up.  Grindstone is an out-and-back course, and the way out has ~12,500 feet of the 23,200 feet of gain.  The way back is MUCH easier...if you still have quads to run.

I started out in the back of a conga line in the first mile, then had to surge a few times to find someone to run with that I knew.  I settled in with Alex Hall, a runner I met at training weekend who ran 26 hours last year and knew would be good to run with.  We did the first 20 miles together until he stopped to water the trees and I kept on.  He went on to cut 45 minutes off his time from last year.  Running with him established my style for the first half of the race.  Power hike uphill and then trot/shuffle downhill.  I was eating a Star Crunch and drinking a Succeed slurry (1 pack Clip2, 1 pack Ultra in 8oz water) between aid stations and then grabbing real food at every aid station (pretzels, Snickers bars, and soup mostly).

The way out I didn't have any muscular issues whatsoever.  I was wearing my Salomon Sense, and my achilles started nagging descending Lookout Mountain into North River Gap (mile 35). I think that was just due to the short choppy stride I'd been doing and wouldn't have been an issue if I had used a longer stride--but that probably would have caused other issues.  I swapped shows at mile 53 and that ended the problem.  I didn't stretch out my stride until I was descending down from Little Bald Knob on the way back and I was able to run every single downhill on the way back

The race went better than smooth.  Thanks to the easily-digestible slurries keeping my metabolism going, I was able to eat real food the entire race.  I joked with Rachel Corrigan, my first pacer that I felt cheated since I hadn't suffered, and that was true all the way.  I started to really hurt in the last few miles into the finish when my ibuprofen had worn off, but I never really suffered.  I don't want to do a play by play, so that's basically all I'll say about the race itself.  My crew was the best I could ask for, they got me in and out of aid stations very fast and did everything so I could just stuff my face while I was in them.  Even when I changed shoes I was stopped for maybe two minutes.

I finished and it feels great.  I ran the first 50 miles even with the finish time from my first (and very flat) 50-mile race 2 years ago and that feels better.  I negative split by 50 minutes and that feels even better than that.  I can actually walk around today and that feels best by far.

This race was great for many reasons.  I loved being able to see people I knew on the way back.  Huge congrats to Jenny Nichols on WINNING the women's race in her second 100! She definitely needs to stick to mountain races.  And also great job to my friend Marc Griffin for shaving over 2 hours off his previous best here and for now finishing all 5 Grindstones!

I've got the Hardrock application sitting on my desk, and that will be mailed off soon.  Masochist is in 4 weeks.  Now it's time to step back from running in general from at least a few days and let everything settle.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Promise Land and Updates

Some days go smoothly.  Some days are trials of mental strength.  Promise Land was the latter.  Early this year I had set this as a focus for the year, and trained through both Holiday Lake and Terrapin Mountain earlier in the year to be able to peak leading up to Promise Land.  I felt pretty much back to normal only a couple days after Terrapin Mountain last month, so I put in 3 solid training weeks with long runs, tempo runs, hill work, and climbing workouts before a structured two-week taper into Promise Land.  I was really tired by the time I finished that third week of training, but I figured two weeks would be plenty of time to regroup before the race. Apparently not.  I went through some ups and downs in energy levels in those couple weeks, and was sick for about 5 days in the middle.

Starting up the climb from the start Saturday morning, I knew I didn't feel right.  I felt pretty low, even though I had actually eaten a 300 calorie breakfast an hour before the start.  I settled in to some alternating hiking up that climb to take in some Gu and hope things turned around.  I started with a Lemon-Lime gel to avoid caffeine so early, and the taste made me gag. So there's another gel flavor I can't take anymore.  I was actually surprised at how mellow the grade was all the way to the first aid station and then again on the climb to the parkway the first time.  If I'd had energy I would have made that much faster.  I took a roctane gel on the stretch of path alongside the parkway and that perked me up a little.  I had still been running very conservatively all the way to Sunset Fields 1 waiting for my energy to come.  I thought the upcoming downhill would help since I really love technical downhill.  I got stuck behind a group of 8 guys here that were trotting down and several of them were not very courteous to my passing.  After a couple minutes I made it through the pack and started rolling downhill.  I had fun with this section and it perked me up a bit, but I felt the descent a lot more than I should have.  The section from Cornelius Creek to the mile 21ish aid station was uneventful.  I had taken a couple ibuprofen and was downing Clif Bloks as best I could to get some energy.  When I got to the mile 21 aid station just before the long climb back up to Cornelius Creek and then Sunset Fields, I was frustrated that i still did not have energy so I just said "F*** it" and decided that I might as well try to make up time.  I ducked my head down and began to grind.  I ran every step from that aid station to the 176 steps (except for a single 6-step set of stone stairs).  I guess those uphill treadmill workouts did some good.  I passed several people through here and it was a little motivating as I was trying to salvage my day as best I could.

I started to run up the stair section, but on the first step my calf seized and the cramps began.  I started an arm-swinging power hikes, lifting from my hips and keeping my feet flat to not flex my calves.  This worked fairly well actually, and afterwords the grade became level enough to run without cramping.   When I hit Sunset Fields for the last time, the sky was dark and storms were beginning to roll in.  The temperature felt lower than the 45-degree start at 5:30am.  I ate a handful of salt (they were out of potatoes) and left quickly for the downhill to the finish, fearing the storms as I was shirtless and did not have a shell or anything.  I have to admit, when the rain, then sleet, then hail hit on the grassy trail just down from Sunset Fields, running scared of hypothermia put some extra pep in my step.  I ran this section pretty fast even though I was definitely suffering down the mountain.  I was on the very of cramps still and the hail coming down on my tensed-up skin was stinging a good bit.  I got to the gravel road section and another guy showed up right behind me.  We both left for the finish, sprinting down the service road as fast as we could.  My form was poor from here on as I had adjusted to put most of the hammering onto my quads.  We really flew through this and I was just glad to be done when I hobbled across the finish line after my right leg cramps up just before crossing into the field.  All told, I only ate 2.5 gels, 6 clif bloks, and an orange slice all race.

So after the fact, I am content with how the day played out.  It was not the race I trained for and not the race I wanted, but I do think it was what I needed.  Holiday Lake, Terrapin Mountain, and my Spring training had gone off without a hitch, and I hadn't suffered in a while.  This is the most I've suffered to have still finished a race, and it gave me confidence in beginning my training for Grindstone in October.   I'll definitely be back to Promise Land, most likely next year, and knowing the course now, I'm excited for that.


In other news, I, along a few friends, have set up a Virginia Tech Trail/Ultrarunning club team.  Pretty pumped for this to be official and to hopefully get more people out onto the trails next year.  Further, I heard back yesterday and we are confirmed for Gu sponsorship for the following year!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Last week was a pretty good training week, even if I was pretty drained by the end of the weekend.  If anyone is curious, this is exactly what I did last week, and I've tried to do some version of this most every week this Spring.

Monday 8 Miles, tempo.  Run smooth up old farm, then at an anaerobic pace all the way around beauty and up beast, then smooth back down old farm with a little jogging/strides at the end.  This was supposed to be 12-14, but time didn't allow

AM: 5 Miles Shakeout
PM: 9 Miles Same Route as yesterday, but also ran up to the camping area on Horse Nettle.

Wednesday: 5 Mile easy day.

AM: 6 mile treadmill workout.
Warm up, then 2.75 miles alternating quarter miles of running at 11.5% and walking 18% for 2000ft of climb, followed by a short progression run (drop  ~:10 from the mile time every 30 seconds, hold at ~5:50 for 1 minute), cool down
PM: 10 miles--up Old Farm, down Beauty, up Snake Root, and back down Old Farm with Rudy and Frank.  Definitely felt the morning's workout when we were climbing.

6 Mile maintenance day
I've started doing this once every week to 10 days or so, and I think they've been a good help.

4 miles from my apartment, then plyometrics followed by 1 mile barefoot and a mile back to the apartment for a longer core workout.

19.5ish miles exploring by Mountain Lake with Rudy, GPS data here:
We hit a 1/3 mile 700ft climb straight up the side of the mountain on an old game trail that runs along a rock garden to a cliff overlook at the top.  Looking into a race of some kind up there.

20 Mile slog at Pandapas.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

La Sportiva Vertical K Review

Bear with me since this is my first gear review, but I'll give it my best shot.

First off:
I've been looking forward to these shoes since iRunFar posted their first preview of the shoe last year, and I'm happily surprise to see a shoe that live up to its hype.  I took them out for a 13 mile tempo workout on the local trail system, which thanks to the recent rain we've gotten allowed me to really put the shoes through their paces.

I was lucky to snag my size for the Vertical K, since (online at least) they've seen a very limited release.  I went with a Size 45, which length-wise is just shy of an 11.5, my usual shoe size (worn for toebox width, not length).  La Sportiva is known for having overly narrow shoes, but I was pleasantly surprised with these.  They are my first pair of La Sportivas so I can't speak to their other shoes, but these felt wide on the forefoot.  The upper seemed to hug my foot, but I could still easily splay my toes.  By looking at top profile of the shoe, you can see it has a flatter toe bumper than most shoes, immediately widening, which seems to have a fairly anatomical fit.

The upper is two-layers, Airmesh against the foot, with a Super thin nylon wrap over the shoe used as a scree guard.  The tongue system is one I haven't seen before, with only one open slit, on the inside of the tongue, a little further inward than a regular shoe-tongue.  This bothered me the first time I pulled on the shoes, as the tongue flipped under itself.  This was easily remedied, but I don't know why they didn't just use a full foot-wrap for the tongue.

One of my favorite parts of the shoe is the structure of the support system.  The looping points of the laces down the shoe double as the support, which seems to allow the upper to stretch when your foot need it, but still lock the foot in well.  I was able to plant around switchbacks without my foot sliding outward.  I did feel my foot slide forward a little on faster descents, but I believe that could easily be fixed by adjusting the laces before my next run.

Something I should note, that I don't like, but shouldn't be a problem for most people, is the seems on the inside. the heel cup and tong are made of a soft mesh, but the sides have subtle seems running along them.  These are all the same seams you see running along the outside of the shoe.  I only mention it because I like running without socks, and it might pose a problem with that, but I didn't feel any issues with regular swiftwick socks on.

I can't say much for the toe bumper. It looks and feels rugged enough to do its job, but I don't really ever kick rocks so I can't report anything.

Now for the best part of the shoe..
Photo by iRunFar
The big selling point for the Vertical K, and rightfully so, is its "Morphodynamic" sole, along with the 'FriXion' super sticky rubber outsole.  Walking around on pavement, the cushion actually reminds me of Hoka One Ones (though much less).  The idea behind the morphodynamic sole, and the lack of rock plate, is that the super soft midsole should absorb rocks and roots.  I aims for roots and rocks on sections of my run to see how it went, and while I could feel them, it was not uncomfortable unless I caught a sharp rock in one of the cut-out sections with a thinner midsole.  I felt that, for me, there was enough underfoot for most any run.

I really love the sticky rubber outsole.  It really made a difference coming from the hard rubber outsole of the Saucony Peregrines (my last trail shoe), and gave me the most confidence running downhill I've ever had.  The sticky rubber grabs so well that, rather than slowing nearly to a halt on switchbacks, I was able to come in full speed and simply pivot off without slipping even slightly.  The sticky rubber allowed me to feel very confident jumping down rocks and roots of steep technical downhill.

The lug pattern is simple, but effective enough.  This is likely due to the lugs coupled with the wavy shape of the sole.  The shoe grabbed well even in mud, with just a little lateral sliding on turnover.

All in all, I love this shoe. I'm likely not going to wear it for the bulk of 100 mile training this summer, but it will most definitely be my 50(k)-and-under shoe.

5/26 Edit:  I've put another couple hundred miles on these now,  and I'm very please with them.  They are a bit thin for super rocky runs, to where I can feel the rocks underfoot, but my feet aren't really sore after.  I do most of my runs in these, and use the Salomon Speedcross 3 for really long runs or if my feet feel as if they need a rest.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Break fun

I'm back into my daily routine after a full week off last week that I was lucky enough to spend doing things I enjoy.  I logged 130 miles in the 9 days I was on break, with two overlapping seven-day periods being over 100 miles.  That's the most mileage I've done this year, and I'm really happy with how well my legs absorbed it.

I started the break driving down to Georgia to do a small event attached to the new Double Top 100.  They had a 4-hour hill climb challenge that sent you up and down a 1-mile out-and-back up a powerline cut trail with maybe 400 ft of gain.  I'd never done something like this before, so I threw out 15 miles as a reasonable number for the day. After the first few laps, the whole thing became very comfortable as I bounced back and forth with a nice PT student from Atlanta, whose boyfriend was currently winning, almost a mile ahead of us already.  I thought about giving chase, but I kept with my plan of using this as a hard training effort for the two mountain 50ks I'm racing later this spring.  I pushed every descent and ran/power-hiked every up, though as the race went on, the ratio shifted toward a lot more power-hiking.  I stopped at 3:50 with 19 laps done, happy with the day.

Last Thursday I was fortunate to drive up into the Roan Highlands, a massif that sits betweeen 5500 and 6200 feet, less than two hours away.  I hadn't been that high up since summer, so I got a bit excited and ended up doing a 19-mile, 3 hour run over to Pot(s) Mountain, and back with some exploring the balds.  The trail up high was super rocky, and my favorite kind of trail for downhill.  Trail where you never really open stride, you just crouch a little and let your ankles do the work of keeping yourself upright as you jump around the rocks, hopping down 2-foot drops onto loose rock.  I really liked the area, and I'm looking forward to getting back out there this summer.

It was super winder along the balds

Then on Saturday, I met up with several of my favorite people, from the IMTR group, to run Eric's infamous 'two hour loop' over by Skulls Gap and Hurricane Gap. It is a fast loop, but 2-hours is insane.

Just a week and a half to go until Terrapin now. I had planned on training straight through, but I've got some aches in my feet that need to be addressed, and the mileage from the past couple weeks is catching up to me, so I think it's time for a short taper/recovery week anyway.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Holiday Lake!

Yesterday was the 17th running of the Holiday 50k(++) near Appomattox, Virginia.  It's  fun race in its own right, and it's pretty fast; although it is a bit flat for my taste.  The two loops make for interesting play as you can try to negative split if you'd like.  I can't really write an exciting report of the race since the terrain is a bit uninspiring compared to a mountain race, and possibly since it's my second time at the race, but here you go.

I sort of tapered for the week leading up to the race in that I skipped my long run last weekend, and then got miserably sick on Sunday, preventing me from running much the past week even if I'd wanted to.   Toeing the line Saturday, I felt itching to run, but I wasn't really sure how I planned to run the race.  I got hurt last year after Holiday Lake and had to pull out of Promise Land in April, so I didn't want that to happen.  A nagging IT band the days leading up to the race had me planning a conservative race, and that's what I did, if only just to have fun.  My IT band was sore leading up to Horton's sound-off at the start, but after that I haven't felt it again. It's funny how those things work.  I picked a couple of the faster ladies who was running a nice pace and followed in behind her for a while, just cruising along.  After a few miles, they took off for faster times and I just kept hanging out.  After running with a Liberty student I've run with before (nicknamed Idiot...I wish I knew his real name), he told me he was aiming for sub-5.   Sub-5 is a nice little benchmark and it would be a PR for me so I decided then it would be nice fitness test to see if I could run comfortably all day and still hit that...and that's exactly what I did!

I coasted through the halfway point not paying any attention to the time and after grabbing a bag of energy chews (Pink Lemonade Honey Stinger are delicious!) from my bag, I headed onward.  After a while, a lot of people who had passed me early in the race started coming back as I just held my comfortable cadence, hiking the couple super steep hills and grinding out the rest of them.

There's long section of soft doubletrack that follows some powerlines at around Mile 22-24, and somewhere in there, the unexpected heat of the day and my adjusted stride from my still healing right ankle cause my right hamstring to grab.  Another awkward stride change to keep the leg straighter (I'm glad HL isn't technical!) and I was still trucking along.  At the next aid station I just grabbed salt off a plate and ate it,  which helped.  The two super cold stream crossings locked it up again though, so I grabbed more salt at the last aid station before moving on.

I felt a bit low with 3ish miles left (no calories for a while) and a nice Australian man gave me a gel that I sucked down and started picking up the pace some; he followed suit.  Somewhere around here, local runner/friend Rachel Corrigan passed me on her way to finishing 11th overall. She had a bit of a breakthrough race yesterday! The Australian and I were moving along nicely with like a mile left and he mentioned we were starting to cut the 5-hour mark a little close, so when we hit the road, I leaned into it and just let gravity take me down all the way to the finish.  I just squeaked by too.

So, I finished the first race of the Beast Series (which I'm leaning toward over the LUS) still feeling pretty fresh.  Today, I was a little stiff, but other than a nagging right knee from the awkward form I had for a while, I don't feel any worse for wear.  Next up is the Gahuti Ring-of-power challenge on March 3 in Georgia!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 Running plans and fun.

I think I've made a few 2012-themed posts already, but I've just not really been sure what I wanted out of the year.  With Holiday Lake a week away though and this head cold keeping me indoors, I thought I'd make a post.

I'm doing a two week taper for Holiday Lake, sort of out of necessity. I didn't take as much time off after Hellgate as I'd planned (meaning only 4 days), and I have a tendency to run pretty high mileage during the winter.  The amount of trails near my home and the free time of having no classes makes me head out the door for a lot of running.  So by the time last week was ending, although I had put in a recovery week in the middle of January, my body was asking for some leisure time.  Thankfully Holiday Lake was coming up so I just pushed through a hard week before beginning a real two week taper.  I'm taking Holiday Lake to be a fitness test for the start of the new year.  I'd like to see where I am compared to last year, so all I really want to do is PR.  I'm planning to peak for Promised Land and then the Eastern Divide 50k in June to have good runs at those--the latter will most definitely be a big PR.

Racing aside, I want to just run more this year.  I've been discovering a lot of new trail in the area and I want to just go run. Having only 4 days of classes this semester will let me get out for some super long weekends too.  I'm planning to head down to Umstead in March to crew/pace Jennifer as she runs her first 100.  That will be a great experience, and I'm excited to be able to help her get to the finish line however I can.  She's been a great encouragement to me.

My real goal for the year is finishing Grindstone in October, and beyond that, trying to finish the Beast Series.  If I get through GS, there's no reason not to toe the line at Masochist and try to finish it all.  That all depends on how much I get to run this summer between classes and working though.

Monday, January 9, 2012


This past Saturday I did specific two-a-day workout that I read about on a blog, and I think I'll start incorporating them more regularly.  In the morning, do a "long" run of 15-20 miles and a comfortable pace, then that night do a hard foot turnover workout (I did an 8 mile tempo). It gives you pretty good mileage on the day and trains your body to run fast when tired.  I'm not going to replace long run days with these, but I think I'll do them during the week every couple weeks.  The evening workout can be hellish, so they won't become frequent.

I feel really good about wear my fitness is right now. My legs are absorbing whatever I throw at them, and while I'm only running ~70-76 mpw right now compared to the 85 I was running this fall, I feel strong and faster.  I'm not slacking off so much as just focusing more since I'm not running anything longer than a 50k until August. 

This weekend I'm going out with Rudy from the VT Tri team and whoever else might decide to tag along to do back-to-back long runs.  The Saturday run will be an AT route I've wanted to do for a while but haven't since it requires stashing a car.  20 miles of singletrack with ~5500 feet of elevation gain, which is the most you can really get here without just doing hill repeats or heading north of Roanoke.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


2011 was the best year of running I had, even though my two big races went abysmally.  This fall especially, I had the best training cycle ever, with routine quality workouts instead of ust running every day.

Looking forward to 2012, I'm doing the LUS (Lynchburg Ultra Series), as well as a the Gahuti Ring Of Power down in Georgia and the Cheat Mountain 50 miler in August.  If I bounce back quickly from the CM50 then I'm going to run the Grindstone 100 in October and try to finish the Beast Series.

It'll be a fun year though, that's for sure.