No rest for the weary as Amy Lane will be back out there out at the Oleksak Lumber Half Marathon in Westfield, MA. Amy will be racing in the new Road X-233's. Ryan Woods likewise will be racing back to back weekends and will be at another LaSportiva Mountain Cup Race. This week's cup race is at the Dry Creek Half Marathon in Boise, ID. Kevin Tilton will be racing the 5 mile road run leg and the cross country ski leg of the Sugarbush Triathlon in Vermont. Jamesina Simpson will be at one of the fastest and most competitive 5k's in the world at the Carlsbad 5k this Sunday. DeWayne Satterfield will see how many laps he can do at the toughest of the tough Barkley Marathons. Katie Caba will be at the Horse Butte 10 Mile Trail Run on Sunday in Bend, OR.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Clark Zealand and his crew at Eco-x Sports put on another terrific ultra this past weekend. The Terrapin Mountain 50K and Half-Marathon are perfect early spring tests with a good mix of technical trails, runnable fire roads, and long climbs. I wore the Roclite 268s that arrived at my door on Thursday (yippee!) and proceeded to have an (almost) perfect race. Love my Roclites! Here is my race report.
What a day for a race in Chattanooga! The Rock Creek River Gorge 10.2 Mile race was an amazing experience. A top notch event I'd recommend to any one who has the guts to accept the challenging/technical course that this race has to offer. For starters, it was 45 degrees at race time, a steady down pour of rain, accompanied by a thunder and lightning storm that made me flinch a few times. Ideal conditions for a moron like me to go for a course record! We stood at the start waiting for the starter to get us going. I started talking to the locals who knew the course & found out we had a quarter of a mile (uphill) on a service road before we hit the single track which would last the remainder of the course. In other words, this would be a sprint for position to the single track. Ready? Well at this point I couldn't feel any extremity as I was numb. So sure, why not. Let's do this! Off we went up the hill. I entered the single track in 2nd overall, & Alan (who was in first) was kind enough to permit me by. Thank you Alan! We made our way to the first aid station around 3.5 miles, & I found myself alone by mile 2. When this happens, I run scared. Every noise sounds like a footstep on my heels, so I kept pushing my pace. The course was marked by white blazes (two white blazes meant grab a tree & swing 180 degrees!) and yellow flags. Running through the aid station I continued into the more "technical" trails of the course. This would include many 180 degree switch backs, creek crossings, tree hopping, & rock avoiding. Thankfully I wore my X-Talon 212's. Everything from the leaves to the rocks was slick. Good times! The next aid station was in the middle of a climb at mile 7. I continued on my quest knowing that a "Rock Garden" lay in wait 1.5 miles in my future. I finished the climb & came down an awesome stone stairway to a gentleman that warned me the rock garden was 200 yards ahead. I had no idea what I was in for. That's not true, I knew there would be rocks, but Holy Moly! We could have rebuilt the Castle of Camelot, & every building within a 10 mile radius! Once through the Rock Garden we had a final ascent to the finish. When I saw the clock read 1:08, I had an inkling I had broke the course record. My official time was 1:08:31, breaking the previous 2002 record by 2 minutes. Second & third place respectively were as follows: Jacob Bradley (Ringgold, GA), 1:10:08 Theodore Towse (Nashville, TN), 1:14:19 Thanks to Rock Creek for a great event! Congrats to all who finished the 6.5 & 10.2 mile races in those conditions! Next up, the Dupont Forrest 1/2 Marathon here in Western North Carolina on April 9th. Congrats to Ryan Woods for breaking my old Course Record at the Bel Monte 25k! Ryan & I were teammates at NC State University & agreed today that its great to be teammates once again! Thanks Inov-8!
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
Eric Charette will be at the McKay Hollow Madness Trail 25k at the Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, AL. A mostly technical single-track trail race with one of the sponsors being through Fleet Feet Sports of Huntsville, one of the nicest specialty running stores you'll ever visit and a carrier of Inov-8 products. Sean Andrish and Sophie Speidel will be at the Terrapin 50k near Sedalia, VA with a stout 7,500' of climb. The Terrapin 50k with also a half-marathon option is race #2 of the Beast Series and Lynchburg Ultra Series. Aaron Saft will be in Chattanooga , TN, taking on the River Gorge 10.2 Mile Trail Race (6.5 mile option as well). The course is a mix of single-track and jeep road in the Prentice Cooper Wilderness Management Area on Signal Mountain. This race is part of the popular Rock/Creek Trail Series. Team Inov-8 will have all 3 race distances covered at the Bel Monte Endurance Runs at the Lake Sherando Recreation Area in the George Washington National Forest of VA. Ryan Woods will be racing the 25k distance, Dwight Shuler and Amy Lane in the 50k distance and Mark Lundblad in the 50 miler.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Way Too Cool 50k/Chuckanut 50k Double - Part 2
Exhaustion. That's what I was thinking about today on my very easy and very short recovery run while taking a break midway to check out the view of the snow-capped Mt. Hamilton across the San Francisco Bay. Admittedly, having 7 days to recover between races is a lot better than running two 50k's in one weekend, such as a handful of people have done with the Silver State/Ohlone Wilderness combo. However, the cumulative effects of multiple, maximal efforts can't be denied.
Recovery from Way Tool Cool went well, with just a couple road bike rides, and a super easy run around Green Lake in Seattle two days before Chuckanut. I felt good enough on Thursday evening to drop in on a yoga class in downtown Seattle which was attended coincidentally by Menno Van Wyck, the former CEO of the Montrail shoe company. Menno noticed my Inov-8 shoes and we chatted enthusiastically for a while about the trail running world.
My main goal for the Chuckanut 50k was to win the Masters competition. I knew that there would be a tough and experienced competitor in Scott Jaime from Colorado who I had battled for most of the whole 50 miles at the San Juan Solstice race last summer. My secondary goal was a high overall finish, but with the incredible depth of the field this year - elite ultrarunners Goeff Roess, Erik Skaggs, Joe Grant, Tim Olson, and many more - I'd be happy to crack the top ten. The event grows every year and sold out within 2 hours. Adding to the draw for elite runners, and new to both Chuckanut 50k and the ultra world in general, were cash prizes for top 3 men and women overall finishers and for top Masters. A $500 course record bonus was also up for grabs.
I hadn't run trails in Washington State other than an epic 30 mile training run last year near Seattle with Chuckanut RD Krissy Moehl. I didn't realize that Chuckanut is the name of the mountain we climb up and over twice, and not a bodily malfunction as a friend had misinformed me. The 50k course requires a diverse set of skills. The first 10k, which is run in reverse for the final 10k, is a primarily flat, gravel road, with a couple short hilly rollers, and one very short section of hilly single track - perfect for road marathoners. The main part of the course consists of a fair amount climbing and descending along with a very fun and highly technical, 3-mile-long single track along Chuckanut Ridge. For the speed hikers, there is the "Chinscraper" climb at mile 20, which is steep enough to come close to hitting your chin on the ground.
Muddy, wet trails were expected, but the rainfall during the week was light and we were treated to sunny skies, albeit cold weather, on race day. A fast, but reasonably comfortable pace gave way to a very fast pace only 2 to 3 miles in to the opening 10k. Adam Campbell from Canada, hoping for a repeat podium position, and myself were at the front for a while until the real, elite bunch got to work. I fell off the front group as the pace hovered around 5:45 mpm. In the meantime, Mike Smith from Flagstaff, tore off the front by himself. This was Mike's first ultramarathon, but he is a former collegiate All-American and winner of the Trans-Rockies stage race.
Tim Olson of Ashland, Oregon, who I had battled with the week before and narrowly beat, was obviously feeling good and pulled away strongly from me through the middle section of the course, never to be seen again. The top 3 finishers were settled early on, but from 10k all the way to the finish, there was a constant shuffling of the next 7 places. I was able to pass a few guys in the technical sections, but then would come back on the gradual, fire road climbs. Stopping to pee a couple times didn't help, but I did save a bit of time by blowing through all of the aid stations (no disrespect for the wonderful volunteers), stopping only once at around 30k for a bottle fill. I was comfortably in 8th place and had held off Adam Campbell from mile 16, but I couldn't dig deep enough to match his speed on the flats, and was caught at mile 27. I immediately stopped to pee again, thinking that 10th place was far behind. Seconds later I caught a glimpse of the next runner and he appeared to be closing fast. It was Phil Kochik, who has finished 2nd in this race in the past and has also won Way Too Cool. The last 4 miles were nail biting, but I persevered and narrowly stayed away for 9th place overall. Two minutes ahead of me there was a close, 3-way sprint for 6th place, with Joe Grant staying away by two seconds from Adam Campbell and Oliver Utting. Oliver, who I had leapfrogged with until mile 17, has run a 2:21 marathon.
Prior to this year, and since 1995, there had been a total of 12 sub-4 hour times. This year alone the top 10 were all under 4 hours. I won the Masters race in a time of 3:56:58, taking 21 minutes off the previous Masters course record. Inov-8 teammate Yassine Diboun, a highly accomplished ultra runner in his own right, finished close behind me in 11th place. Goeff Roess had no trouble winning the race in course record time. The performance of the day in my mind is the Women's winner Ellie Greenwood. Ellie's split time for the last 10 miles was the 6th fastest of the entire field!
The post-race party was a lot of fun with great food, friends, and music. Many stayed for the 3PM awards ceremony MC'd by ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek. It will be a tough decision next year to pick just one of these two classic 50k events.
Monday, March 21, 2011
In an extremely deep men's field at the Chuckanut 50k, Gary Gellin was 9th OA and first male master. Gary brought the previous male masters record down a solid 20 minutes. Yassine Diboun ran to a strong 11th place showing at Chuckanut in 4:00:20. At the New Bedford Half Marathon - USATF - New England Half Marathon Championships, Jim Johnson was 12th OA in a speedy 1:09:20. Kevin Tilton was 70th OA in 1:14:42. At the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10K, Abby Mahoney got herself a new 10k PR and a 4th OA female finish in 38:35 wearing the F-lite 230's.
The newly formed Northeast Snowshoe Federation announced their final ranking this past week. Jim Johnson and Amy Lane took top honors becoming the 2011 Federation Cup Champions. Abby Mahoney was the 2nd OA female and Kevin Tilton was the 6th OA male for the 2011 Federation Cup.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Way Too Cool 50k/Chuckanut 50k Double - Part 1
It may be just a coincidence that two of the most competitive trail 50k's in the U.S. are a week apart. Both events sell out the day registration opens, and only a very small number of people attempt to do both. I couldn't pick just one. After a 4th place finish and an enjoyable time at Way Too Cool in 2010, I had to come back this year. The Chuckanut 50k in Washington is a lot further from my home in California, but I'd heard good things about it, am a fan of RD Krissy Moehl, and I'd also have a chance to visit family in Seattle. It would also be an experiment in recovery, with the goal being a high finish at both events.
Way Too Cool always attracts a very competitive field, with a number of runners traveling from afar. It would be a bit different than last year, as the top three finishers from 2010 were absent due to injury (Pantilat) or different race plans (King and Roess). The strong favorite was U.S. National 100k Team member Todd Braje, but after that, the registration list looked like at least a 10-way race for 2nd place - Ian Sharman, Hal Koerner, Tim Olson, Rod Bien, Mike Wolfe, Peter Fain, Josh Wheeler, Lewis Taylor, Jacob Rydman, and okay, me, among others.
RD Julie Fingar of NorCalUltras does a great job improving the event year after year. The biggest change was to the route which now eliminated a long and narrow stretch of two-way traffic , but also had a bit less climbing, and more opportunities for flat and fast running. The last ten miles of the course, with its short, steep climbs towards the finish remained the same. What never changes is mud and wet feet.
We started out at a fast clip down the paved promenade. Jady Palko did his usual, and somewhat unnerving, time trial off the front and didn't come back to the leaders for about a mile. Jady must have the world record for the fastest first mile of a trail ultramarathon. This time, however, someone unknown to me took the bait and actually pulled away ahead of Jady. We passed the enthusiastic and costumed fans from the Auburn Running Company, including a gorilla and a banana, and turned on to the dirt trails for good. Both Todd and Mike looked very comfortable in the opening miles. I traded the lead with them for a while with Josh on our heels and the best of the rest very close behind. At mile 4 or so, Todd passed me on the single track and took off at a pace which would have put me in the red zone, but Mike was keen to follow. Before long, I settled in to 3rd place with at least 30 seconds on the rest. Coincidentally, I was wearing bib number 3. Was it a curse?
Through the American River canyon on mostly flat fire road, I could catch glimpses of the two leaders all the way to mile 12. The gap was about a minute. It appeared that Mike was making repeated attempts to get away from Todd. I thought (hoped) that these efforts might cause him to blow up and come back to me much later.
I looked around a few times and could see no one behind. A quick stop at the Mile 21 aid station, and I was off and cruising fast along the Western States trail. My average pace and heart rate to that point were right on target. I knew that trying to lift the pace any higher would likely spell disaster. At around mile 22, my heart sank. Out of nowhere, I suddenly hear the breaths and stomps of Tim Olson coming up from behind. There was no alternative, so I shifted in to the gear I would need much later and tried to reopen the gap. Suddenly, that bib number 3 on my shorts sure looked better than a 4. Tim shadowed me at about 15 seconds all the way to the Mile 26 aid station. After a gnarly, steep hike up Goat Hill, my calves started cramping a bit. It turns out that Tim was suffering the same state of overexertion. With about 2 miles to go, and long since out of sight from Tim, I see Karl Meltzer spectating, and caution him to be quiet so I can sneak by. Shortly thereafter, Karl yells (to Tim) "20 seconds!". With one mile to go, I dig deep and motor up the last gnarly climb and on to finish safely in 3rd place, less than a minute ahead of Tim. Todd finished just under 2 minutes in front of me, and Mike ran an incredible time of 3:28 to win by close to six minutes - phenomenal.
A week of no running and a few easy bike rides will hopefully do the trick for the next big effort.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Gary Gellin had another great showing at the Way to Cool 50k. This time he got 3rd OA in 3:35:50 wearing the X-talon 212's. Peter Maksimow and Alex Nichols rounded out the top 10 in a highly competitive field at the St. Patricks Day 5k in Colorado springs. Alex was 9th in 16:03 while Peter was right behind in 16:07. Alex wore the F-lite 195's while Peter chose the F-lite 230's. Team Inov-8 had a strong showing at the US National Snowshoe Championships in Cable WI. Jared Scott was 6th OA in 43:10, Jim Johnson was 8th OA in 43:54, and Kevin Tilton was 9th OA in 44:36. Jamesina Simpson took the overall female win in 20:28 at the Shamrock Shuffle 5k.
Friday, March 11, 2011
The USSSA National Snowshoe Championships in Cable, WI are on tap for this weekend. We have Jim Johnson, Kevin Tilton and Jared Scott heading to the upper midwest to do battle. Eric Charette will be at the Delano Park 50 mile ultra race Saturday in northcentral AL. Jamesina Simpson will toeing the line at the Shamrock Shuffle 5k in Rio Rancho, NM. Alex Nichols likewise will be doing a Shamrock 5k in Colorado Springs, CO. Gary Gellin and Dave James will be at the highly competitive Way to Cool 50k in Cool, CA. Gary was 4th OA here last year.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Ultrarunning
2) Team member since: 2006
3) City/state of residence: Huntsville, AL
4) Occupation: Software Engineer/Mathematician
5) Goals for 2011: Enjoy running and continue prodding others to join the odd clan of ultrarunners. Also run well at a fall 100 with a few quality ultras thrown in along the way.
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport: Too many great memories to name! Achievements: 9 time winner of Mtn Mist. Over 50 overall ultra wins. 17 consecutive years of winning an ultra.
7) Favorite inov-8 gear: X-Talon 212s – fits like it was made for me!
8) List one thing others may not know about you: Despite having mathematics degrees, I love to write. I finished my first novel last year…trying to get it published is a different story!
9) Favorite energy drink/food: Water (I do take electrolyte tablets) / Honey Stinger gels / peanut butter sandwiches / fruit / cola (later in the race).
10) Your favorite race and why? I have a couple: Mountain Mist 50K in Huntsville, AL. I love the technical aspects of the trail. While it does not have the relentless climbs of some ultras, it has footing “issues” that wear one down and the worst of the footing comes in the latter part of the race! Also, the Vol-State 500K Road Race…yes it is a road, but you sure do learn a great deal about yourself during that epic event.
11) Advice to other athletes: Always thank the RD and volunteers. Try to smile even if your race is falling apart or you are feeling horrible…it really does help. Be friendly! We are all given a window of ability, you can work hard and perform near the top of that window or not…your choice. Unless you are Haile Gebrselassie, someone else’s window may be “higher” than yours and that is alright…but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stretch yourself beyond your window on occasion. Did I mention to be friendly and smile?
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Ultramarathoning, Trail running.
2) Team member since: 2011
3) City/state of residence: New Haven, Connecticut
4) Occupation: Graduate student of Philosophical Theology at Yale University
5) Goals for 2011:
Find husband. Just kidding. Hit 135 miles in the 24-hour run and make the national team. Grow in racing confidence and make lots of friends. I want to make people laugh.
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport:
100-mile PR: 17 hours, 21 minutes (Umstead). 24-Hour run: 125.8 miles (Lone Ranger).
I have a lot of great memories. Most of my stories start with, “You guys, this one time I was running 100 miles and…”
My favorite memory was my first 100, which I did at age 19 as a fundraiser for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition in honor of my mom being in cancer remission for 3 years. She’s an all-star. It was an amazing day of testing my bounds and running fast at all the wrong times. I didn’t even know there was an actual sport called ultramarathoning when I ran that. I just went outside for a 100-mile run because nobody told me I couldn’t.
7) Favorite inov-8 gear:
Road X-233s! I have never loved a sneaker more. They’re definitely light enough to race in without feeling encumbered, and they’re cushioned enough to train big miles in them. I also like the F-Lite 230s. They’re a FAST sneaker, and they let your foot strike the ground in a natural way. I feel like I can fly when I wear them.
8) List one thing others may not know about you:
I was a child yodeler, traveling around northern New Jersey performing yodels in a goat costume. Uncool. But the elderly LOVED it because old people like kids. This is a pun.
9) Favorite energy drink/food:
DOG FOOD…just kidding. Bananas, water with Nuun. Shot Bloks organic energy chews, iced coffee, anything that I can use as a vehicle for peanut butter consumption.
10) Your favorite race and why?
Grindstone 100! It’s a beautiful trail. The ground is so rocky and technical that it’s like playing tetris with your feet. The RD is well-organized, and a studly, fun group of runners shows up every year. When you finish, you get to hug a totem pole. Run it. I dare you.
11) Advice to other athletes:
Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Take rest days even if you feel awesome. It’s easier to prevent an injury than it is to return from one.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Marathoning and road racing
2) Team member since: 2011
3) City/state of residence: West Lafayette, IN
4) Occupation: Professional runner (formerly a Research Assistant in Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University)
5) Goals for 2011: Drop marathon PR from 2:38 to sub 2:35; win as many races and marathons as I can; drop PRs from 5K-Half Marathon
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport: Qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials at the ’07 Memphis Marathon; Running 2:38 to finish 8th at the ’09 Twin Cities Marathon to achieve the “A standard” for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials; winning my first marathon (2010 Dallas White Rock Marathon)
7) Favorite inov-8 gear: All of it! LOVE the socks, love the Inov-8 f-lite 195s and 230s
8) List one thing others may not know about you: We’re homebrewers and pianists! My favorite beer to brew is the Belgium dubbel cause of the multiply-timed hops and aromas.
9) Favorite energy drink/food: Oatmeal raisin Powerbars and chocolate energy bites; favorite beverage is our homebrewed beer.
10) Your favorite race and why? Mount Washington Road Race—there is no other road race that’s more diverse and intense, and when you get to the top it’s freezing, beautiful, and you feel like you conquered something amazing. I always think about this race when I’m climbing a hill cause no other hill is as difficult.
11) Advice to other athletes: My key to staying healthy, consistent, and continuing to improve is running my easy days very, very easy, sometimes 9-10 min. mile pace. The easier, the better cause you can go even harder and get more out of yourself on hard days and on race day. Consistent high mileage is the key to maximizing your potential in the marathon, and eating extremely well and sleeping well post-marathon is the key to a fast recovery.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Dave James ran a great race and got 2nd OA the Nueces 50 mile US Trail Championships with a speedy 6:43:24 clocking. Amy Lane tied for 1st female overall at the Pittsfield Peak Snowshoe Marathon in 4:42:52. Amy wore the Roclite 319's with her snowshoes. Abby Mahoney won the overall female title at the Hawley Kiln 5 Mile Snowshoe Race in 46:19. At the Jeremy Wright NA Snowshoe Championships, Peter Maksimow got 3rd OA in 59:04 on the tough 10k course. Peter also finsished 4th OA for the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series.
Team Inov-8 had a very nice day at the Caumsett 50k National Road Championships. Jim Johnson got 3rd OA in 3:05:37, Ben Nephew was 5th OA in 3:13:21 and Sabrina Moran was 5th OA female in 4:08:33. Here is Sabrina's race report on her blog. Speaking of nice days, Camille Herron won the overall female title at the Napa Valley Marathon with a fast 2:42:20 winning time.
Friday, March 4, 2011
We have three National Championships up for grabs this weekend. Dave James will by vying for one of them at the Nueces 50 Mile US Trail National Championship in Rocksprings, TX. Ben Nephew and Sabrina Moran will take to the roads at the Caumsett 50k US National Road Championships at Caumsett Park in Huntington, NY. Lastly Peter Maksimow will go after the Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championships which is race #3 in the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series. Two of the best female snowshoers in NE will feature Amy Lane at the gruelingly tough Pittsfield Peak Snowshoe Marathon in the picturesque Green Mtn. Valley and Abby Mahoney at the Snowshoe Hawley Kiln (5 miles) in Hawley, MA. Two of our fastest runners will have Camille Herron racing at the 33rd Annual Napa Valley Marathon and Ryan Woods racing at the Reedy River 10k in Greenville, SC which is also the S.C. State 10k Championship.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Mount Mitchell Challenge
Black Mountain, NC
February 26, 2011
5th place OA 5:18:11
Back in 2008, a few friends of mine traveled from upstate New York to North Carolina for the Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge. After hearing of their trip I couldn’t wait to take a shot at Mount Mitchell myself. I flew down to Charlotte on the Tuesday before the race with the wife and kids in tow and spent a few days visiting with family before joining my friends Alex and Mike in Black Mountain on Friday. Both had run the marathon three years ago and were back to try the course again, Mike in the marathon, Alex and I in the 40-mile Challenge.
At the pre-race meeting on Friday night we spoke briefly with race director Jay Curwen, who updated us on the icy conditions near the top. The big debate before the race, in addition to the usual questions in any winter event (hats? gloves? long sleeves? pants?), was whether or not to carry Yaktrax, or even to use screwshoes for added traction. Neither option seemed ideal—nobody wants to have to bother with that stuff in a 40-mile race when you’ll only need it for one or two miles at the most—but I didn’t want to be stuck on the final phases of the climb (or worse, the beginning of the descent) without something.
After a restful night and an excellent breakfast at the Inn Around the Corner we made the short walk downhill to the start on Saturday morning. Despite the cold, windy conditions at the early hour it felt like we were going to have a perfect day for running. We gathered near the front as I positioned myself just behind the likely contenders. I had a boost of confidence when I saw that my inov-8 teammate Mark Lundblad, the two-time Challenge winner, had selected almost the exact same gear as me for the conditions. With blue short-sleeved shirts, arm warmers, baseball caps, shorts, matching X-Talon 212s, and Yaktrax tucked into our waistbands, we could have been twins.
Mercifully, we were only at the start for about ten minutes before Jay sent us off. The early pace was brisk; not hammering, but certainly purposeful. I settled immediately into a lead pack of about 15-20, including all the pre-race favorites. I am more of a “keep in contact” runner by nature, so will often follow a quick early pace in the hope of positioning myself well, even in a long race. I have been working on being more patient and not forcing things early, and I briefly considered slowing down in the opening miles. However, because of the course, I knew I couldn’t lose contact with the lead. I’m a strong climber and a poor descender, and any chance I had to win would need to be seized in the first half of the race. Waiting until the downhill was not going to work for me. Besides, I could tell early on that I was on a pretty good day, and I had a nice rhythm going, so I was content to tuck in right behind Mark and inov-8/Rockcreek’s Dane Mitchell, who sent the early tempo, and just follow along.
We wound through the streets of Black Mountain until we hit the first climb in Montreat, a fairly steep grade that immediately reduced our pack to about ten. I climbed smoothly and easily and was right up front as we crested the hill and turned right onto our first trail section. Entering the trail, Kevin Lisska, a pro triathlete and another race favorite, made a quick spurt and opened up a gap. I followed him into the trail and felt myself open a short gap on the rest of the pack. It looked like Kevin was making a serious move, though it was still awfully early, and I simply continued the rhythm that I had enjoyed on the road as we covered a beautiful stretch of minimally technical singletrack. I ran smooth and easy, climbing the gentle grade without difficulty, and very gradually, over the course of about 25 minutes, pulled back up to Kevin. We came through the first aid station together, about 50 minutes in, with a small lead on the chase pack. That lasted for about 10 minutes as we ran together, chatting, on a nice flat stretch past the first bear-hunting camp, until suddenly we were swallowed by the group. At this point we had a pack of about seven or eight runners, including myself, Dane, Kevin, Mark, Rockcreek/La Sportiva’s Josh Wheeler, and a couple others.
Dane reasserted control over the next stretch and with Kevin continued to push the pace. The grade started picking up gradually and pretty soon the running, which had been so free and easy, started to feel a bit like work. To be expected, though, after 90 minutes of steady running. Our pack stayed pretty close together, shifting around a bit. Mark seemed happy to hang in the back and let others do the work. I ran behind Dane and Kevin, usually trading spots with Josh depending on the terrain, and just tried to stay alert. Josh wore headphones with music blasting and also had a pair of yellow La Sportivas with screws in, which made quite a racket over the rocky terrain. Between the music and the click-click-click of his shoes I could barely think straight.
At about the 1:40 mark there was a big move from the back of the pack. A tall, skinny runner who looked about 20 years old, who I didn’t recognize, suddenly burst to the front. He was the only one among us with a red bib number signifying a marathoner, and the move was a solid one, since we were approaching the Blue Ridge Parkway and the marathon turnaround. It seemed to spark Mark into action, though, and he followed from his position in the back of the pack right up alongside Dane, who had a small gap at that point. The two of them quickly put a few seconds on the rest of us as we maintained our steady climbing. I hit the Parkway in sixth place, at 1:50-flat, just behind Kevin, Josh, and the final member of our pack, Scott Williams from Boone. I caught back up to the three of them as we climbed off the Parkway on the paved road that would lead us into the summit trails. Once again I felt good on the easy climb and pressed the pace a bit. Josh fell back slightly as we entered the Buncombe Horse Trail.
In an email about two weeks before the race Mark had mentioned that course record pace meant hitting the Buncombe Horse Trail in about two hours. Our little group stepped onto the trail right at 1:59, about two minutes behind Mark, who trailed Dane by about a minute at that point. I had no aspirations of a course record and figured even now that I was probably running for third at best. But I was still feeling pretty strong, and I knew our split meant the pace had been honest. The chances of us getting caught from behind, my recurrent nightmare over the past few weeks, suddenly seemed a lot less likely.
Rather than feeling refreshed by the return to the trails, though, I started to go through a bit of a bad patch. The trail was boggy from the recent snowmelt, with several streams of runoff that needed crossing. I sank a tiny bit into the ground with each step, which started to sap my energy a bit. I tried to keep a decent pace but lost contact with Scott and Kevin over the course of several minutes. Fortunately my trusty X-Talons kept me upright. I was pretty thankful to be an inov-8 athlete at that point; four of the top five of us were all wearing inov-8s (me, Dane, and Mark in the 212s, and Kevin with what looked like a pair of Roclites, though I can’t be sure).
The final climb to the summit from Commissary Ridge was a bear. Steep, rocky, and icy, it was only minimally conducive to running; I concentrated on staying upright and just moving forward as quickly as I could, but I found myself walking most of the time and could feel third and fourth place slipping away. About a half-mile from the summit I finally gave up and slipped on my metal-tipped rubber GripOns, which provided a bit of added traction for what had become a pretty slippery ascent. What a relief to enter the clearing at the top and climb the final steep paved grade to the summit! I knew that with the end of the climb the strongest part of my race was over and that I was going to have to fend off challenges from behind the rest of the way. Still, it was pretty sweet to touch the sign at the summit and take a quick moment to savor the accomplishment of running to the highest point on the East Coast.
I headed back down to the summit aid station (3 hours flat) as Josh was making his way up to the top; I couldn’t have had more than a minute on him and knew I had my work cut out for me. Diving off the paved path onto a steep, gnarly singletrack descent, I concentrated on my footing and tried not to worry about the fact that Josh had to be closing in. Indeed, when we got to the gravel-lined Toll Road and started climbing back up toward paved road that led back to the Parkway, I checked back and found Josh not ten seconds behind. I felt suddenly exhausted and struggled to merely push on, awaiting the inevitable pass. Part of me was actually looking forward to it so I could stop to pee, which I didn’t want to do while I still have the lead over Josh. I got back to the pavement though without seeing him and stopped to strip off my GripOns, then charged down the paved road, suddenly feeling rejuvenated. Back to the Parkway and past the marathon turnaround in 3:42, I was bombing downhill and looking to put some distance between myself and any pursuers.
Just past the four-hour mark, still moving well, I caught a root with my left foot and came crashing down on my right side. It was my second or third stumble on the downhill and the first one I hadn’t been able to recover from in time. Before I had even hit the ground my left leg seized up into a knot. I lay on the ground for a few seconds, taking inventory. Nothing seemed seriously injured. After about fifteen seconds of waiting for Josh to hurdle over my carcass, I got up and took a few steps. Other than the cramp in my left calf everything seemed OK. I bit into a couple of S! caps and started easing back into my rhythm.
The rest of the descent passed without incident until about the 35-mile mark. I was definitely starting to tire and kept waiting for Josh to come by, but I remained by myself, picking off marathoners one by one. (I did eventually quit waiting and pulled off the trail for a quick pit stop.) Then came one of the steepest, nastiest drops I have ever run down—at least a mile of paved downhill hell. My pace dropped off as I struggled just to get down, and my weak spot—my IT band—finally reared its head. I limped into the final aid station at Montreat a total mess. As I was trying to cram as much salt into me as I could, I finally heard the click-click-click of Josh tearing downhill behind me. Within a hundred meters after leaving the aid station he blew past me; I didn’t even pretend to have an answer for it, instead limped on towards the finish. About a mile of generally flat running later my IT pain had eased off enough for me to approximate a normal stride, and I was able to drag myself to the finish in 5:18, good for what I assumed was sixth place. (I found out a few minutes later that Dane had taken a spill coming down from the summit and injured his shoulder, and that I had actually finished fifth.)
Overall, the race was a great experience. I was pleased to average under 8-minute pace and was encouraged by the fact that I was able to run competitively with some of the country’s best ultramarathoners. Obviously I have a ways to go, as evidenced by Mark’s awe-inspiring 4:52 course record, but my trip to Mt. Mitchell showed me that I can at least compete with anyone on the right day. The race also reaffirmed that I run for the best trail shoe company around. My X-talon 212’s performed brilliantly as always, and with three of the top five finishers inov-8 had easily the most successful day of any brand on the trail.
1) Primary sport (s): Ultra Trail Running
2) Team member since: 2010
3) City/state of residence: Lakewood, Illinois
4) Occupation: Accounts payable manager for Hartwig Transit
5) Goals for 2011: Train smart, stay injury free and set some PR’s! My first big race this year is Kettle 100k in June.
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport:
FANS 12 hour was a big race for me last year. I wanted to finish a 100k in under 12 hours and I did. I ran 63.07 miles to finish 2nd overall female.
I ran all 4 races in the Illinois Grand slam series and finished 2nd overall female.
Set a 100-mile P.R. at Lean Horse 100. I’m always happy to simply finish a 100-mile race, but I have a strong desire to improve at this distance.
I’m very excited about a trail running club my girlfriend and I started in 2010. We call ourselves M.U.D.D., which stands for McHenry county Ultrarunning Dudes & Dudettes. We have been successful in getting many new people excited about running trails. Our weekend trail runs have 20+ people showing up some weekends. If you’re in the Chicago Land area look us up on facebook. We post runs weekly with some fun destination runs.
7) Favorite inov-8 gear:
I love my FlyRoc 310’s on the technical courses. They hold my feet in place and give me great “feel” on the trails.
In the winter I can’t live without my GoreTex Roclite 275’s! My winter training has improved with these!
8) List one thing others may not know about you:
I love to camp with my 10 year old daughter Tasha, and my dog Diamond. It’s a fun all girl weekend! My daughter loves to gather the wood, and get the fire going. We cook potatoes and bacon for breakfast…hike all day…then come back to our tent and cook burgers on the open fire. My daughter teaches me survival tips and talks my ear off. Pure Bliss!!!
9) Favorite energy drink/food:
I can’t express enough how much I love Coffee!!!
Plus I make a mean smoothie with a banana, peanut butter, Udo’s omega 3-6-9 oil, ice and milk to feed my muscles and recover after a hard run.
10) Your favorite race and why?
100-mile races excite me! I love training, preparing and running them! I love studying the course, reading trail runner’s blogs, and getting my drop bags ready. I choose races in areas I want to explore; it’s a perfect way to see our country. I bring friends with me! If you ask them they’ll tell you, I’m a pro at talking others in to wanting to run 100 miles...ha ha!!!! We have a blast traveling together! I love the camaraderie and nervous excitement at our shared challenge. It ends up a weekend of best friends hobbling away from the race with a life long treasured memories!
11) Advice to other athletes:
Don’t be afraid to sign up for a race, challenge yourself. If a race excites you…go for it! You just have to decide you want to do, and then do what needs to be done to make it happen.
It was not that long ago that I couldn’t imagine running a 100-mile race… I made the decision to try….trained, and now I’m a 100-mile finisher.