My First Ultra
by Peter Maksimow
This was to be my first ultra distance race (50k is considered an ultra, is it not!?) and the weather was going to be in the 80’s. Great!! It wouldn’t seem so bad if the Spring here in the Pikes Peak Region hadn’t been cold, snowy and miserable, with that token hot day every once in a while. I would much rather run in the warm weather rather than the cold snow or rain, it’s the Cali roots in me. To my surprise, the morning of the race was a bit chilly, but I realized that would probably change in the 3-4 hour period I would be out on the course.
The course: Greenland Open Space is located on 3,000 acres with rolling prairie land and consisted of four 8-mile loops with 500 feet of gain and loss each loop, the high point being at 7,400 ft. I live and train at 6,400 ft, but much gain beyond that seems to be a notch up on the difficulty meter, particularly when you try to get the legs moving fast. The effort is there but the splits are not. The route was all dirt trails, from single-track and double-track to dirt roads, which tended to be soft and loose. Not fun when you are trying to run fast--a double whammy with the altitude. The view to the south of the still-snow-covered Pikes Peak was quite spectacular, I must say.
My warm up was negligible because I figured I would get some time to warm up in the first few miles of this 31-mile race. Unsure of what pace I should be running (I knew what pace I WANTED to run, course record pace, of course!), I took the lead in the first few meters of the race and hoped I would have some company for the long ride. After the first mile I took a peek back and saw that the next person was about 20 seconds back and the heard was lurking in the background. After two miles it was about a 45 second lead. So, it was to be a long day, I told myself.
The first loop was rather enjoyable. I felt comfortable out on the prairie by myself and caught a few splits on the permanent mile markers that were not part of the course: a 6:30 there, a 6:20 here, high 6:50’s up the couple hundred feet of climbing and a quick 5:58 on the downhill on the way back to the turnaround point, which I hit in 49:36. I was doing some calculating to figure out what I needed to run to break the course record of 3:23:11 and figured I had to hit under 50 min 50 sec to be on pace. I was now warmed up after 8 miles and pushed the next loop because I was ahead of the record.
This is where I ran into lapped runners from the 8-mile, 25k and 50k races, a lot of them! I drew a lot of “he must be leading the 25k” and similar remarks from the lapped runners as I passed them. Unlike the first loop, where it was obvious that I was leading, I was not handed water but had to procure my own from the aid stations, trough style, as I blended in with the swarm of runners.
Since I felt good, I continued to push the pace but I had to keep reminding myself that I was going to be out there for 5 miles longer than a marathon and I remember how long a marathon feels! I had another fast mile on the downhill section, hitting a 6:01 and came into the turnaround point while playing Frogger with other runners. Passing the second loop split in 48:39, I was cheered on by Justin Ricks, the 50k course record holder, who was recovering from a 2:22 marathon win at the Eugene Marathon a week earlier. I saw the look in his eye, “he’s on pace to break my record.”
I went from feeling full of run on the second lap to struggling almost immediately after I hit the turnaround point for the third loop. This may have been because it went from slight downhill to slight uphill at that point. Passing other runners on the single track turned into a huge effort on the slight inclines. Maybe I was a little over zealous the first two loops. I tried to maintain somewhat of a decent pace so as not to lose too much time. After what felt like a long 8 miles, I came through the turnaround point in 51:12, still ahead of course record pace but slowing. I made a conscious effort to push myself over the last 8 miles, despite the fuzzyheadedness and fatigue which was now in fully effect.
A couple of miles into the final loop I passed the marathon-distance mark in approximately 2:45, but still had some miles to go, my body getting progressively more fatigued. I was able to talk myself through the final few miles and attempted to use the fast downhills to make up time that I had lost on the climbs that would have otherwise been quite elementary, if not for the 27 miles of racing already in my legs.
It was only the loop before that I realized, and had it confirmed by a spectator, that the finish line was NOT where the turnaround point had been but rather another 500 meters or so further at the entrance to the open space. As I sped down the final hill of the course, the turnaround tent in the distance, it was clear I was not going to run a within the course record because of where the REAL finished lay. I passed the turnaround point, pushing my body hard, in the same time as the current course record, 3:23:11, but still had extra distance to go. I can across the finish line looking like a salt lick in 3:25:12 and was immediately solicited by interviewers. In one interview I came very close to passing out. That would have been a fun one to watch! The next person to cross the line did so 26 minutes and 40 seconds after me, enough time for me to change and get a beer.
I was pleased with my time and performance in my first ultra-distance attempt but not sure I like the reserved pace at the beginning of the race and then the feeling of the legs not responding to what the brain is telling them to do. I did manage to garner a RRCA Colorado State 50k Championship title, so that may encourage me to attempt another one at some point.
The soft, sandy surface convinced me to lace up my X-talon 190’s for the race. I was concerned, however, that 30+ miles in a one-arrow shoe (3mm heel to toe drop) would leave me in post-race achillies-stretched pain. That was not the case. I didn’t suffer any lower leg issues from the minimalistic profile of the shoe. No blisters, nothing! They functioned beautifully on the sandy gravel and hard-packed surfaces.
After the race, the 3rd place finisher, W. Jared Scott (not to be confused with Inov-8 team member Jared Scott) said with the way I took the lead and pushed the pace, he figured I would either: A) blow up and get caught by everyone, or B) break the course record. Luckily, I didn’t do the former and unfortunately not the latter, either. (Side note: W. Jared Scott was aware of the Team Inov-8 Jared Scott and talked about how fun it would be to have a Jared Scott vs. Jared Scott race. It’s a Jared Scott thing, you wouldn’t understand)
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
My First Ultra
Friday, May 27, 2011
Ryan Woods - Expo 10k - Knoxville , TN
Amy Lane - Pineland Farms 50 Mile - New Gloucester, ME
Anne Lundblad - Solo Speed Attempt- 107 miles of AT through Shenandoah National Park, VA
Jared Scott - Solo Speed Attempt - Grand Canyon R2R
Dwight Shuler - French Broad Challenge Triathlon - Asheville, NC
Abby Mahoney - Wachusett Mountain Race - Princeton, MA
Peter Maksimow - Bolder Boulder 10k - Boulder, CO
Yassine Diboun - Forest Park 50k - Portland, OR
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Final Northfield Mountain Trail Race 2011
1200 feet of climbing
Over a span of 14 days I ran a 50 miler where I couldn’t manage to break 9 minute pace and the Northfield Mountain race, where I ran 5:50 pace for a trail 10k with a few rather large hills. It may seem like an odd combination of races, but they both serve important purposes, I think. Maybe.
If you are a dedicated ultrarunner who never races shorter trail races, you are definitely missing something. After all the planning it takes to do an event like Bear Mountain, I enjoyed the ease of getting up at a normal hour, having time to enjoy breakfast, throwing a few things in a bag and heading out to the race. Starting without a headlamp was nice, too. Thanks to a humid morning, I was about as close to running primitive as it gets, shorts and my X-talon 190’s.
I would have to say the strangest contrast between my most recent races was the start, where despite a very talented field, the Northfield race had a much more conservative beginning. There was a line of 8-9 guys that went through the mile right around 5:30 before starting the real climbing. Miles 2+3 aren’t continuously uphill, but the short flat and downhill sections don’t make it any easier. I was happy with being close to the front through the mile, and was wondering when everyone was going to take off. I was right at the end of the lead pack, running with Greg Hammett. Greg has gotten much faster since joining the CMS doping program of incessant racing, and I’ve been doing fewer and fewer shorter races, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up.
When we reached some of the steeper climbs, I seemed to be pulling ahead of Greg and Patrick Ard, who also right with us. However, Greg would fly right back as soon as the grade leveled or went downhill. This is a race where you really need to focus on good downhill form, and Greg was providing an early reminder. As we continued to climb up to the high point around 3.5 miles, Greg and I passed each other a few times, and Patrick started to fall back. As I looked up ahead and could see all the lead runners, I was thinking that we must be at least having decent races. In past races at Northfield, the first few runners seemed to just disappear up the hill.
Greg stayed pretty close up the final grind to the out and back section at the summit, and I also saw that Tim Van Orden was only a few seconds behind Greg. I tried to switch to my downhill legs as quickly as possible, but Greg went flying by as soon as we started to head back down. I managed to latch on as Tim continued to stalk us. I was able to get close to Greg during the early parts of the descent, but as the course got faster and faster, I lost a few more steps. Tim was bounding down behind me; I could literally feel his footsteps, and I thought he might pass us both. Although the downhill is all on carriage road, there were a few muddy sections that were difficult on tired legs. I couldn’t seem to keep my leg turnover consistent, and each stretch of fast running was followed by a few seconds where I was too tight.
We hit four miles in about 26 minutes, ran a 5:00 5th mile, and then started running fast. The three of us were within 6-7 seconds of each other the entire last 1.5 miles, which made for a very unpleasant experience. I still don’t understand how I ran 1.5 miles in 6:55. What was that, a 4:40 mile followed by a 2:15 half? To say it is a fast downhill would be an understatement, but it still follows 5 miles of very hard racing, and includes three small uphills. In relative terms, we weren’t going that fast, as Paul Low and Dmitry Drozdov ran that stretch at 4:15 pace.
The last hill on the course is right around the six mile mark, and I was worried that Tim was going to try and get by me. I figured I’d at least make him throw up as went for the pass, and made one last surge which Tim could not cover. I then realized I was right back on Greg, but I also had no blood at all in my head. I was working from the brainstem down the last few hundred meters and thought my legs were going to collapse on the last hard right downhill turn.
We ended up placing 6-8th, and I think we all had personal best times for the course. Greg and I had an identical finish a few years ago at Northfield in 2006. I was running well in 2006, even at shorter distances, so this year’s race indicates that my training is going well. Even though I was about 90 seconds in back of the winning time, I was within a minute of most of the guys ahead of us.
While it is unlikely that I’ll be running 4:40 pace during an ultra, it sure makes 6:00 pace feel pretty easy! The downhill pounding should strengthen my legs for the same terrain in ultras, and you can never get enough climbing. The pace and grade changes at Northfield are also a common feature of technical ultras.
As far as shoes my X-talon 190’s worked great. They are as light as most road flats, with enough traction for pretty much anything you would want to run through.
Jim Johnson rode his Mudroc 270’s to third place, and there were many X-talon 212’s on the course, including the feet of winner Eric MacKnight. I was able to bring about 4 dozen pair of various inov-8’s to the race for runners to try on, and the finish area looked like there was some sort of 2 for 1 sale going on!
Although this will be the last Northfield mountain race with Dave Dunham as RD, the rumor is that the race will live on, which is a good thing. Despite my opinion that it is crazy to call Northfield the New England Trail Running Championship due to the fact that is more similar to a XC course than most local trail races, it’s a great spot for a race. Even Dave admits that it is too fast, but like the Merrimack River race and the Busa Bushwack, it’s nice to run fast on trails once in a while. Most importantly, the Northfield race was a key component to the growth of US mountain running over the past decade. Even when it wasn’t a US team selection race it attracted strong fields of mountain runners looking to test their fitness, as well as fast road and track runners exploring a new sport. I finished my race day with one last relaxed run around the course with Dave, as I thought about all the great singletrack that could be included in a new Northfield course!
For results and stacks of pics, go to:
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Scenic City Trail Marathon took place at the Raccoon Mountain Reservoir in Chattanooga, TN. The race was delayed 30 minutes due to the large amount of race day packet pick up and people arriving late to park. This, unfortunately, allowed the heat index to rise a bit more. We've all grown to accept delayed starts as a part of race day preparations, so no big deal, but we were expecting temps in the 90's, so hydration and nutrition became very important as we've only had temperatures in the 60's & 70's for the last 2 weeks. The conditions were dry, so I chose to run in the Inov-8 F-Lite 230 & Inov-8 Racesoc 16.
As we lined up for the start, I talked with fellow Inov-8 Team Member Eric Charette about the race. I quickly learned just how popular Josh Wheeler is to Chattanooga. I had never met Josh, but respected his abilities as an athlete to know I had a race ahead of me.
When the gun fired for the start, the 1/2 marathoners started with us, some young bucks jumped to the front as Josh and I settled in side by side. I said hello to make sure it was him, and we made our informal introductions the way any one would at the start of a 26.2 mile race. As we headed out the entrance road of the park, the lead mountain biker took an early turn that made me suspicious as I had spoken with a course official (I believe it was Josh's father Co-Owner of Rock Creek & Race Sponsor) about the first turn, & this was not it. I told Josh I think we're suppose to be on the road. Luckily we were still parallel to the road and we cut through the woods back to the road. When we got up to the correct turn, the course officials confirmed we were going the right way.
We quickly turned onto single track after the first turn about a mile into the race. I was keeping a solid pace to separate Josh & I from the rest of the field. I began to gap Josh ever so slightly by 3 miles and continued to push the pace. At about 5 miles, the 1/2 marathoners (who had continued behind the mountain biker had caught up. There was a pack of three followed by Josh. I let them pass and latched onto them. At about 7 miles, the eventual winner, Daniel Mueller, threw a surge up a gradual climb and strung out the lead pack. As I trailed the group I kept an eye on Josh's proximity to us. By nine miles I noticed my gap on Josh had started to increase. From this point forward, I had to run controlled and smart. I felt ok at this point, and thankfully most of the course was shading us from the heat & sun.
Just after 10 miles, the 1/2 marathoners split off to their finish leaving me alone with my thoughts and my pace. As I climbed the hill to the aid station where I was to see my family and refresh my handheld & gel supply, I checked back the switchbacks for josh, but did not see him. I went through the aid station and back into the single track. Here's where things got fun! I tripped over Lord knows what and smashed my handheld making the cap fly off and lose all my fluids for the second half and a gel I was about to take. I cut my knee on a rock and scraped 2 knuckles in the process as well. This is normal for me, so I regained my composure and formulated a new plan as I couldn't find the cap to my bottle. I knew the next aid station was in 3 miles, so I would rely on the course to provide for me. A mountain biker filming the race joined me for the next couple of miles, & let me know I had about a 3 minute lead at that point.
At around 15 miles I took another spill & hit the same knee. I knew when the adrenaline from the race wore off, I'd be hurting, but for the rest of race, I was focused on the finish. Instead of focusing on my upset stomach, cuts & scrapes, the heat, & a sweet blister on the ball of my right foot, I thought about all the training I'd done, the hours I'd sacrificed for this moment. I'd get through.
At this point, let me explain why its not good to run a trail race with headphones. I had begun to lap other racers by this time as the race was 2 loops. I came up on a young woman listening to her tunes and shouted "On your right!" She showed no sign of hearing me so I tried once more. Nothing. So when I came up on her shoulder to pass, she screamed. So lady in pink, if you read this, I am sorry, but I did try to warn you.
I saw the mountain biker again around 17 miles and he informed me my lead had grown significantly. At that point, I took one more spill. This time I did a complete flip hitting my shoulder & butt on a few rocks. When I stood up, I just laughed.
Coming through the last aid station, I began to really feel the heat. Thankfully my wife shoved a new handheld in my hand and I continued to sip as I drew closer to the finish. I was told I had about 2.5 miles to go. They were the longest miles, but as I saw the finish area, everything dissipated, & and I succumb to the overwhelming joy that comes with the thrill of a win. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:44 on an extended course from the previous years. I don't know if I'll be credited with a new course record, but I'd like to say thank you to Rock Creek and all the sponsors for another fun event!
Josh Wheeler ran a fantastic race (2:56:24). And I've never heard a longer finishing bio than when Josh approached the finish line. Hometown hero sure has its advantages! Great race Josh! Also, a big congrats to Sarah Woerner for her win & course record 3:13:34!
Next up is the Rock Creek 3 Day Stage Race. Check it out at:
Monday, May 23, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Trail running, rock climbing, skiing (alpine), cycling
2) Team member since: brand new - 2011
3) City/state of residence: Eldorado Springs, Colorado
4) Occupation: software engineer, unemployed since May 16, 2011
5) Goals for 2011: a new female record for Pikes Peak Marathon
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport: broke the course record for Red Rock 40-miler last year, fall; http://www.allwedoisrun.com/2010_results.htm
Broke the course record and came in 4th fastest time in the race’s history for Sycamore 50k, Malibu, in April 2010; won Salida Marathon in March 2011, and Cheyenne Mtn 50K in April 2011; the Tuesday Tempo Run in Boulder always reminds me humbly how hard uphill tempo racing can be. I’m the only lasting girl there. Also, I paced at Hardrock 100 in both 2009 and 2010. I got on top of my very first 14er (Handies) right at sunrise, in 2010. Hardrock, and the great Colorado mountains is what made me decide to move to Colorado. I want to conquer them all, any which way, running, climbing, skiing, cycling…
7) Favorite inov-8 gear: BareGrip 200, Roclite models
8) List one thing others may not know about you: I am always planning something you don’t know, in the backyard
9) Favorite energy drink/food: Hammer Gel, cheese sandwiches, Hammer Heed, fruit, smoked trout
10) Your favorite race and why? Pikes Peak Marathon (for now). Its hardship inspires me. It’s one of the famous mountain running races in the world. Being “in town” and on top of a 14er, and back in town, is one incredible achievement, during just a few hours. However, you’ll never know what the mountain will bring ya, especially when you can already see its peak just half way up, glancing at you, smiling, telling you you can’t ever get it (in time). It is the process of conquering the mountain that inspires me about this race.
11) Advice to other athletes:
Be consistent and follow your dreams. Don’t make running your one and only activity – life is richer than that.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Abby Mahoney & Ben Nephew - Northfield Mountain Trail Race (Northfield, MA)
Peter Maksimow - Run to the Shrine 10k (Colorado Springs, CO)
Jared Scott - Jemez Mountain Half Marathon (Los Alamos, NM)
Eric Charette - Scenic City Trail Half Marathon (Chattanooga, TN)
Aaron Saft - Scenic City Trail Marathon (Chattanooga, TN)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
North Face Bear Mountain 50 mile
7k of climbing?
I think I avoid writing up race stories for 50 milers because I get tired remembering the race. For this year’s Bear Mountain 50 mile, I finally decided to skip the 7 Sisters trail race 6 days before this rather hard 50 miler. Brian Rusiecki kept telling me that he didn’t think it would make a difference, but I recall feeling leg heavy pretty early on in last year’s race. At the very least, I was looking forward to the race and not as worried about the state of my recovery from 7 Sisters. I will admit that race day for 7 Sisters had absolutely perfect weather, and I probably would have had a good shot at a PR.
The morning of Bear Mountain arrived early after a short nap following a long drive to NY from Grafton. I really don’t need sleep much at all, but driving in circles trying to follow a detour in Newburgh at 3 am was not ideal race day preparation. I was lucky enough to reach my friend Greg Lowe on the phone while completely lost. He kept me from killing someone and confirmed when I finally made my way back to route 9W. The solution to the ultra confusing detour was to avoid it and drive straight through a construction zone. The detour was there to avoid some very major construction, and I was glad to have my wife’s Outback over the huge holes in the road. That thing is a beast on rough roads.
On to the race. I made it to the start with plenty of time, and said hello to Brian and Amy Lane and caught up with Leigh Schmitt, who is now living in California. The field looked pretty strong, and I was curious to see how the race would unfold. Soon enough, we were off and one lanky fellow went straight to the front. His stride looked very familiar, and I soon realized I knew who it was. A pack of 6-8 others were keeping in contact, but everyone was asking who was leading. I told them it was Jordan McDougal, but I don’t think it helped anyone. I was surprised no one recognized the name, but considering Jordan and I grew up in neighboring towns, I’m a little biased. At one point, there were 3 McDougal boys who all ran, and were all very fast for their ages. The oldest, Josh, and Jordan both ran for Liberty University. I wasn’t going to look up his times to avoid getting depressed, but I just did. I’m definitely depressed, 14 flat for 5k, 29:30 for 10k and a sub 9 minute steeple, it is worse than I thought.
Even without knowing these times, I knew Jordan was fast, but I also knew he faded at the North Face DC race last year. I wanted to stay close, but I wasn’t going to kill myself to do it. Leigh wasn’t willing to let him go, and our reunion was short lived as he took off after Jordan. Brian and I settled in the chase pack, once again trying to figure out why ultra runners go out too hard. Even though we let the first two go, the pace was still quick. Somewhere in these early miles, another runner I knew saved my race. I tripped and somehow my bottle flew out of my waist pack without me realizing what happened. David Le Porho was right behind me and picked it up. I was surprised and relieved when he handed it to me. I was not surprised to see him running up front, though, as I had chased him at a 10 mile trail race just south of Boston last spring, and I think he just ran a 1:09 half marathon in NYC.
The next few miles involved several lead changes in our group of 5, pit stops for both David and I, a few missed turns, and several strong surges by some of the runners. Usually these pit stops result in me losing enough time to get separated from whoever I’m running with, and I was very happy when David and I caught back up with the rest of the group. We hit the 13.1 mile point slightly slower than the lead group from last year, but about 6 minutes behind Jordan and Leigh. I was surprised at how hard they were going that early in the race, but Brian and I told David that it was unlikely that we would see Leigh again. The next 7 miles were very technical, and the trail was difficult to follow at times. It was nice to have a few guys to help with the navigation.
Apparently we were about 11 minutes behind when we reached 20 miles. The next 7 miles included some more runnable sections, which was a nice relief from the incessantly technical first 20 miles. I told Brian I thought I was seasick from looking down and hopping around for so long. By the aid station at 27 miles the three of us had separated ourselves from Michael Oliva and Jim Mollosky and were told we were about 15 minutes off the lead. I think I led most of the way from there to mile 34 aid station. I didn’t feel like I was going very fast, especially on the incredibly long road hill, but no one felt the need to pass and increase the pace.
I was feeling better as we headed toward mile 40, which was a good thing, as Brian moved to the front and started rolling. He dropped me right in this section two years ago, and while I knew there were some hard miles coming late in the race, I went with the faster pace. David was right on my heels, and I was beginning to think that he was going to drop us once we got within a few miles of the finish.
Things changed at mile 40 this year. The three of us were all together going into the aid station, but David and Brian went for their drop bags, where I had been depending on the aid stations all day. I filled up my bottle and ran out of the station expecting that Brian would be along soon. By the time I looked back, he was about 20 seconds behind and my legs were feeling good on the flatter terrain. I decided to run somewhat hard for a couple miles, back off a bit prior to the hills at 45 miles, and then run hard over the hills and final carriage road section to the finish.
I figured that Leigh and Jordan were probably gone, but I was still hoping for a decent time and to possibly hang on to third place. The trails in this section, minus the hills, are some of best running on the course, and it was fun to be able to run them at a decent pace. Right when I was just starting to feel confident, I reached the final set of hills. After the hard winter and wet spring we have had, these were the dirtiest hills I have ever seen. There were piles of leaves, pine needles, and sticks that covered the dumpster of broken rocks we had to scale. I could hardly see what I was stepping on.
With the exception of some minor fatigue related cramping, my legs were holding up well. My only remaining concern was the downhill from Timp’s Pass, the nastiest piece of trail I have ever seen. This was a section where Brian might be able to reel me in. As I tried to push as hard as safely possible down the miserable trail, I pictured Brain doing cartwheels and back handsprings down after me. I was in a big hurry when I got to the next aid station, and the crew got a good laugh as I threw whatever I could grab into my bottle; Coke, Mountain Dew, and Gu Brew. Right as I was about to leave, someone mentioned that 2nd place was only about a minute ahead.
I can do that.
I set off like my shoes were on fire expecting to find a tired Jordan paying the price. To my surprise, it was Leigh that I spotted struggling up a short hill. He spotted me and took off like a startled deer.
Not this again, I’m too tired. Here we go.
A couple years ago I had run down Leigh right at the end of the North Face DC 50 miler, and I don’t think he wanted a repeat of that race. I went at him as hard as I could, but he was flying. I probably got within 40 seconds at one point. The very last hill did me in, and Leigh ended up 65 seconds ahead at the finish. Jordan ran a solid race to win in 7:28, Leigh and I ran 7:42 and 7:43, Brian ran 7:51, and David recovered from some GI issues to get 5th in 8:01. I was finally able to finish catching up with Leigh after the race, and also got to talk with Jordan and his Dad for the first time in a decade or so!
Jordan and I ran about the same time over the last 5.3 miles, which was about the same as Geoff’s last few miles in the 2010 race. I had a good first 13 miles and last 15 miles, but definitely lost quite a bit of time in the middle. Most runners ran a bit slower this year, possibly due to the warmer weather. It wasn’t hot, but I was sweating pretty hard and dumping water on my head in the middle miles.
I ended up wearing the Road X 255’s for this race after how well the 233’s did at Traprock. There really is no perfect shoe for such a diverse race as Bear Mountain. The best shoes for the technical first 20 miles are not going to be ideal for the faster miles towards the end. Although my feet were tired by the finish, the 255’s did great on everything except for deep mud. I suggested 318 GTX’s for Greg Lowe, and he was very pleased with how they handled the rocky terrain and kept his feet dry.
The folks at Mountain Peak Fitness made a nice video of the race, featuring some of the greatest trail “hits” of the course.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Trail and Road running, Mountain running
2) Team member since: 2011
3) City/state of residence: Albuquerque, NM
4) Occupation: Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
5) Goals for 2011: Have fun running more local races. Continue pushing through my
stress-induced asthma, especially in high-altitude races.
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport:
I remember the day my high school cross-country coach belted out to our team before a
race “Some of you will never be this fit again!” I told myself I wouldn’t let that be true,
and am proud that I’m significantly more fit now than at any point in high school.
Notable past race finishes / times:
18:30 Carlsbad 5K, 2010
3:09 Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL, 2005
1st place, 2010 Grizzly ½ Marathon, Choteau, Montana
1st place, 2009 XTERRA Topanga Turkey Trot 10k, Topanga, California
1st place, 2010 Shiprock ½ Marathon, Shiprock, New Mexico
3rd place, $100 cash award, 2010 Buffalo Thunder 12k, Pojoaque, New Mexico
7) Favorite inov-8 gear: Starting to try out the new Inov-8 road shoes. Love the Road-X
238’s so far!
8) List one thing others may not know about you: When my husband is out of town, I let
our dog and cat both sleep on the bed with me.
9) Favorite energy drink/food: Bananas! And green smoothies.
10 Your favorite race and why? Pikes Peak Marathon, because asthma and altitude
issues forced me to drop out the first time I attempted it. I can’t wait to go back and
really conquer that race (and at least place in the top 10).
11) Advice to other athletes: Find your limits and speed through them. Stress-induced
asthma has limited my performance in some races, and it may rear its ugly head again in
future ones. But, at the same time, I’m continually learning more about my body, and
how I can push it to new levels. I have become a much more accomplished runner than I
ever thought possible when asthma first became an issue. So, don’t let a diagnosis of
something cause you to hold back or give up!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
It was almost May and winter still seemed to be present for the inaugural Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race in Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs. This event, put on by Epic Endurance Events, was the first of it’s kind in the greater Colorado Springs area, a set of ultra-distance races featuring a 25k and 50k option. I opted for the 25k. To boot, the fact that NORAD was looming above us made me feel safe from the threat of a nuclear attack.
As the gun sounded (come to think of it, it might have been a person with a megaphone yelling “GO”), Inov-8 teammate, Tommy Manning, and I went quickly to the lead and the pace quickened. I was hoping the whole 25k didn’t continue at this effort, which felt more like 10k pace. The road turned to rocky and winding single track on the north end of the park. A mile into the race I looked behind us and no one was in sight—that’s a foolproof way to tell that you have gone out fast! We must have gone through the two-mile point in under 12 minutes! If this sounds like a suicidal act, you are correct, it is indeed in a technical and rocky trail race with such elevation gain and loss as this one.
After 5k, Tommy settled down a little and we began to converse and pass the long train of 50k runners. Let me make one thing clear: just because we were talking does not mean we were talking it easy. We were still cranking off the miles. Past us, in the opposite direction, goes the lead group of three men in the 50k race (otherwise known as the Boulder-Trio), tightly packed, with hometowner Dan Vega following close behind. Since Dan recently won the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler a month earlier, I believed he was just bidding his time and conserving energy.
It seems there IS a downside to being one of the fast runners. “Oh, no there’s not” you middle of the packers say! Well, let me inform you that we so called “fast runners” had to pass almost every runner in the 50k race before we had finished. This doesn’t seem too difficult in theory, but this guy named Steve Jobs came up with this amazing (read: distracting) device that blocks out the outer world—it’s called the iPod! It seemed at least 75% of these runner’s we passed had said “distracting device” plugged into their ears and did not hear us approaching as we first called “trail”, then shouted, “Trail!” and finally screamed “TRAAAIL!!!” Not to worry, they didn’t even know we were screaming at them. A little nudge or propel forward with a hand on the back got their attention.
On one gnarly single track I was taking the pace with Tommy following and I went high to scramble past a deaf (read: deviced) runner and planted my foot literally between a rock and a hard place, scratching up my shin in the process. I think Tommy said he punched they guy in the kidney (not really, but watch out guy, next time….). Note to device wearers: wearing blaring things in your ears on a technical trail race is a bad idea.
There goes the Boulder-Trio again, still together, like Siamese triplets. Where is Dan Vega? 6 minutes behind at this point. As we hit the prairie section of the race, the wind picked up and the snow flurries pelted us. This is where running with someone really helped as Tommy and I alternated breaking the hellacious winds and snow nuggets coming out of the sky.
The second half of the course included the climb and descent of both North and South Talon, the high points of the park. We shot past the aid station with barely enough time to grab a cup of water, or as Tommy discovered, not JUST water, but some type of energy drink. “What the hell did I just drink!?,” he exclaimed. I was hoping for a gel but the crew was not expecting us to pass by as quickly as we did and no gels were ripe for the picking. I saw the Peeps at the aid station and they looked so…florescent!
The climbs of the Talons were a chore and the chitchat ceased during this portion of the race. As we approached the 1 hour 45 minute mark, I wondered why we hadn’t finished yet and why this guy was yelling at us from a trail somewhere below: “Stop sandbagging it!” Who was that? Ahh, there’s the 20k marker, finally! “This seems long,” I thought out loud. Tommy thought out loud back to me in agreement.
Approaching 2 hours of racing in the cold, windy, flurry conditions, we concurred that a sprint finish did not really sound like a good idea, so we ran in, stride for stride and agreed to share the abundant supply of VitaBev nutrient / antioxidant / vitamin drink mix were to win. What we really wanted was a beer, because, as Tommy was quoted in the local newspaper, The Gazette, “carbs are carbs.”
All is all, a challenging but successful event for the ultra running enthusiasts in the Colorado Springs-area. I found it interesting that all the ultra runners seemed to think a mile or two long was not out of the ordinary for a race like this. “It’s an ultra,” they said. Well, I want my 25k’s to be 25k, exactly.
The X-talon 190’s that I wore were a perfect fit for the terrain of rocky and rooty, fast and technical single-track, as well as the open prairie. We look forward to it again next year and in the years to come. Hopefully, next time with proper spring weather and flowing fountains of beer!
Note: That guy yelling at us was identified as 3rd place finisher, Sean O’day. Throw rocks at him next time you see him.
The USA Mountain Running Team for the 2011 NACAC Championships to be held in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico has been announced. Team Inov-8 athletes will have a strong presence with 4 team members selected. Joe Gray (2-time NACAC Mtn. Champion) and Tommy Manning are on the men's team. Gina Lucrezi and Amber Moran will help to fortify a strong women's team. The race is on July 17th on a 13.8k mostly technical, mountainous single-track course. Here is the press release.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Jamesina Simpson was the 2nd OA female (34:40) at the Run With the Kenyans 8k race in Albuquerque, NM. Joe Gray won yet another US National Championship, this time at the USATF 15k Trail National Championships in a speedy time of 54:57. In a close race for the women's title, Gina Lucrezi raced to a strong 2nd OA female placing in 1:06:08. Here is a nice recap from the race. Aaron Saft won the Burnsville, NC Fit Families 5k in 16:17, also good for a new CR. Sabrina Moran secured her USATF qualifying mark for the 24-hour team on day one of the 3 Days at the Fair races. Sabrina bagged 131 miles on day 1 to qualify, then got 41.5 more miles on day 2 to get the 48 hour overall win. A total of 172.5 miles in 2 days! True to form, Jim Johnson ran 2 races this weekend at a high level. On Saturday Jim raced the Breakheart Classic 6k in Wakefield, MA getting 2nd OA in 18:35. On Sunday it was the Soapstone Mountain 24K in Stafford Springs, CT. Jim not only got 1st OA in 1:36:30 but also set a new course record in less than ideal conditions (pouring rain/muddy course). Jared Scott won the Don't Fence Me In 30k in 2:14:57 which is part of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup Series. The race was tight for the top 3 men.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
On May 7 I ran the Montalto Challenge 5K in Charlottesville, Virginia and finished as second woman, wearing my Roclite 268s all the way up (and down)! This is a 5K that is 1300 feet of climb with a finish on a mountaintop overlooking Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. All proceeds from the event benefited the Saunders-Monticello trail systems maintained by Monticello and open to the public. I wrote a report here. A great "mini-mountain" race for history buffs!
Incredible Lows, Amazing Highs
2011 Strolling Jim 41.2 Miler
War Trace, TN
May 7, 2011
As the title reads, this was a day filled with incredible lows, followed by amazing highs. It only took a shirt trip up the highway to a small town in Tennessee, not found on most maps, for me to regain some confidence in my never ending battle of mind over matter. I can not tell you the number of times during the middle miles of this race that I walked, considered dropping out or contemplated giving up the sport of ultra running all together. Being passed numerous times from the middle of the hill at mile 20 to the entrance of "the walls", I experienced some incredible lows. Then something snapped, to which I will share later, and I was able to reengage my mind and get back into the game, making a late staged comeback in the final 12 miles in which I experienced some amazing highs at the 2011 Strolling Jim 41.2 miler. Read on for more...
Photo Courtesy of Graham Gallemore
What started back in 1978 as what can only be conceived as a cruel joke between John Anderson and Gary Cantrell was born one of the south’s only ultra marathons, Strolling Jim. The first part of the joke to those who don’t know is that this race is advertised as a 40 mile run, but widely known to be 41.2 miles, unless it is a year when the flood waters divert runners away from a road that is washed out (like in 2009), then the mileage could be as high as 42 and change. The other “funny” part is that there are only 4 official hills (10, 20, 24 and 30 miles) but when in fact the course continually rolls and the hills at miles 4, 12, 13, and throughout the entire “Walls” section are nothing to laugh at. Still, for 32 years would be hopefuls keep coming back to War Trace on the first Saturday in May with aspirations of earning a Gold (sub 5 hours), Blue (sub 6 hours) or Red t-shirts (sub 7 hours) on one of the most brutal road courses anywhere.
Luckily this year, the weather seemed to be cooperating as the starting temperature was in the low 50’s but promised to reach the 70’s, a cool day for southern Tennessee this late in the spring. What the runners didn’t know was that they would get the benefit of intermittent cloud cover shortly before lunch time and that would turn into light rain for those running late into the day.
The field was full of stout runners and many former winners at the overall and masters’ level. Veterans like Dink Taylor, DeWayne Satterfield, Tom Possert and David “Hollywood” Jones, who between them have 18 gold shirts (9, 5, 3, 1 respectively). Then there was the younger group, lead by Owen Bradley, Rob Youngren, Blake Thompson, Carl Laniak, Jadyn Stevens, Eric Schotz and me, all who have run either a sub 3 hour marathon or a sub 4 hour 50km in recent years. All in all, it was a deep field and that doesn’t include Leah Thorvilson, who no one thought could give the boys a run for their money… (Heavy foreshadowing) but was a strong marathoner out of Arkansas.
Early Stages: Mile 0 though 15
From the start and climbing the first hill, Owen and Rob were out fast and lead the way. I was in the chase pack, along with a group of a few others, running a pace that I swore I would not go out in… sub 7. From my phenomenal crash in 2009 where I split the marathon in 3:15 and 50km in 4 hours (before slowing to 9:39 pace for the final 10 miles) I had said that I was going to keep the pace in check this year and try to be as true to 7:30’s as I could. But as always, it is so difficult to resist the urge to go when the temperatures are cool and to take advantage of feeling good. My plans were to try to run around 5:15 (7:40 pace) best case, around 5 and a half hours most likely and anything under six hours should the wheels totally fall off the bus. By going out at this aggressive pace and trying to close the gap on Rob before the 5km mark, it would be either a banner day or one to forget. As we continued to roll off miles splits at or under 7 minute pace, Rob, Blake and I ran together through the 5 mile split in 34:45, holding down places 3rd, 4th and 5th in no particular order. I met my crew of Luke and Brandi Hough for the first time, taking a hand bottle for hydration.
The next 5 miles were much of the same as the three of us ran together at about the same pace. We would take turns falling back on the climbs, then leading on the faster downhill sections. We talked and laughed and joked about the hills that were ahead. I was feeling mostly relaxed and strong on the hills, having spent the quality shaping period of my training with repeats and tempo runs on the hills. We made the right turn in Normandy having come through a rollercoaster section of back-to-back hills and forged ahead toward the 10-mile mark. One of the great things about the Strolling Jim course is that despite the fact that Gary no longer directs the race, his spray painted sayings that became the staple of the course live on to this day. Read as you climb up the hills from bottom to top, phrases such as “This is not a hill”, were repeated over and over again until leaving Normandy, when it finally read, “But this is.” Cruel? Yes. Funny? Totally. Together we split the 10-mile mark at an even seven minute pace now at 1:09:45.
Sometime before the half marathon mark, I met my crew again and they let me know that Anne (Noble) was doing well behind me, which helped to ease my mind. Blake and Rob had pulled ahead on one of the hill climbs and made the decision to let them go. They stayed within sight, but I as Jonathan Basham and Andrew Thompson have said, “You have to be your own man,” and I felt that I needed to do this my way and not rely on others to pace along with. Thus began the most difficult part of ultra running (for me), the endless mind games. To the best of the memory, the half marathon split was in just under 1:32, still averaging at 7 minute pace and just off of my split from 2009. Not long after the split, Jadyn Stevens and Ashly Dewberry, who had been running together, ran through along with their mobile crew on cycles. Again, I wasn’t out to run with anyone and had found a pace that was comfortable and stuck with it. By the 15 mile split, I dropped into 7th place overall in 1:45:00 but I was not putting forth too much effort to hold on and was feeling easy.
Middle Miles: 15-29
No matter if it is a 5km, 5mile or 50km, I always tend to struggle mentally during the middle miles. I’d like to think that everyone goes through it and the best keep the impact of these low times to a minimum. For me the lowest of low times set in before the 20-mile mark as my stomach was starting to cramp. I couldn’t figure out why, but I was starting to drink a lot of water, but as the sun was now full in the sky, was sweating profusely and had no urge to urinate. The more HEED I drank, the sharper the pain in my left side. For a short period, I considered throwing up, but knew that such an act would abruptly end my day and I was not ready to throw the towel in. My crew caught up with me during this section and Anne walked with me on a hill climb (she said that she was not loving the race and dropped out earlier) and forced me to eat part of a PB&J. I took two bites and tossed the rest off for the birds.
Rounding corners on the course, I began to catch glimpses of runners behind me and as I walked nearly the entire hill at mile 20 on Bottle Hollow Road, friends Dink Taylor and DeWayne Satterfield came by. They were not moving that quickly, but still maintaining a running form and when compared to my hunched over walk, they seemed to be flying when they passed, dropping me into 9th. DeWayne asked how I was feeling and I responded with some mumbling. Later he would mention that he was pretty worried about me, so I must have not looked so hot. My 20 mile split was 2:23:45, averaging 7:45 pace for the last 5 miles, but slowing my overall average down to 7:11 with more than half of the race yet to run.
What can be more painful than a killer hill climb? The ensuing “quad crushing” downhill where you reclaim all of the gain back in decent. The good news is that three of the four official hills on the course were now behind me with just “the walls” to look forward to from 29-32. I was now alternating a walk and run strategy but fighting my stomach more and more. It is amazing how on a flat course just 6 months ago I was able to run 6:15 pace for a marathon, but on this day I was being completely humbled by the hills of Bedford County, Tennessee and holding 8 minute pace was a chore.
In a race where a crew is vital to success, when you start to see the crew vehicles (of those running behind you) pulling ahead and stopping nearby, it can only mean that you are slowing, or that they are gaining; either way the gap is closing quickly. For a few hours I had seen the crew for friend Eric Schotz hop around and now it was more frequent. Eric’s mom Louise is a really nice lady who I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know while Eric, Jon Elmore and friends ran Across Alabama in 2009 in honor of Eric’s son Elliott who was dying of Tay Sachs. On this day, Eric had the name of his two children, Elliott (who unfortunately passed away in early May of 2010) and Fiona written on his upper thighs as motivation. As my walk had even slowed to a stumble, Eric came through and I could tell that he was a man on a mission. We would later say that his smart approach to the race was a negative split, to which he would nearly achieve in running 2:35/2:38. I wished him well and before I knew it, he and his mom were out of sight. Despite the warm and fuzzy feeling I had in seeing Eric run so well, I had just split the last 5 miles in over 44 minutes, and was now just over 7:30 pace on average with 16 miles yet to run.
Before the marathon split, I dropped to 11th as Sung Ho Choi from Jacksonville, Florida passed me during a prolonged session of walking. My feet were hurting, but mostly I was just queasy to best describe it. My crew was doing a great job thus far but after a minor mix up, thought that seeing me around mile 26 was too soon and I saw them pull out of a farmer’s driveway and head down the road. Seeing them sit there, I finished my bottle; seeing them pull away I felt my heart drop. I would not see them again for another 2 miles but luckily this was during one of the water stations, where the race directly had placed several clear milk jugs full of water. I picked up one and poured some in my bottle, and way too much in my mouth. I choked on the water and spit some of it back up (not in the jug!). Looking back I felt that I was in a downward spiral and I was nearing the bottom. My marathon split was 3:17:30, a full two and a half minutes off of my 2009 time, when I was running on empty from the Boston Marathon, just 12 days prior.
Somewhere along Thompson Creek Road, I had an amazing case of déjà vu, which began with seeing David “Hollywood” Jones. I have always joked with Strolling Jim runners is that the measure of a good day at the Jim is how long you can hold off Hollywood before be passes you by. For me in 2009 in was at mile 28 as I had enough and decided that it would be smart to lay on the side of the road. For me in 2011, it was at mile 28 when I WANTED to lie on the side of the road, but there was too much traffic. I could sense his spandex shorts and perfectly manicured hair approaching and as he ran by, I wished him well on the rest of this day and then at Badwater (135, his staple race but unfortunately I found out later despite his many finishes, was turned down for 2011). David is a great guy and gave me some encouraging words as he pulled away. I was now in 12th place.
My crew was waiting for me before the entrance to the walls where decided that something had to give; I was not going to drop out, but I was not about to walk it in for a slow finish. I changed up some equipment, grabbed some food and told Anne that I just wanted to keep it under 6 hours. As soon as I walked away it started to sink in for the words I had just uttered… “under 6 hours”. Not that there is anything wrong with someone who runs over 6 hours, but for my present conditioning that would be an epic fail. Then something happened that can only be straight from an ultra running fairy tale. As I turned left onto Cathey Road, “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 came on my Apple iPod. It was this very song that have me motivation at Boston in 2008 and fueled part of the final 10km at Run Across Alabama as Schotzy and I found a rejuvenated spirit and put aside our pain to finish strong. I decided that I needed to be stripped down to my lowest elemental level and dropped my shirt and put on a mindset that I was going to break out of my funk and finish strong.
Late Stages: 29-41.2
Most people won’t say that they started their finishing kick of a 41.2 mile road race with 12 miles to go, but that is what I did. I split the first 29 miles in 3:49 (7:54 pace, which had dropped by nearly a minute in the last 14 miles) and was bound and determined to turn this back into my day. I wanted to own “The Jim” not be another victim of its brutality. Heading into the walls I was in 12th place and nearly 6 minutes off of my time from 2009, neither of which I was ready to settle for, so I began to run. It was not fast at first, nor was it steady, but it was running. I was running and it was into “the walls” where the trees line the narrow single lane road and the rolling hills in front of you prevent you from seeing the rolling hills ahead, but that is where I remembered my training. All of the hill work from recent and the strength that I derive from climbing empowered me to run through the walls. My first two miles back in the game were not swift, but at 17 minutes to split the 50km at 4:06, I had averaged 8:30 pace and it felt very good. Anne had started to give me half water and half Coke with ice in my bottle and it was hitting the spot, along with some Powerbar Gel Blasts.
I had a renewed spirit.
Coming through the next four miles I ran with a purpose and that was to finish near my original goal of 5:30. I could tell that my crew had noticed the change in me as I started to surprise them at how quickly I covered the distance between seeing them. I had started to see Sung Ho Choi again and was closing the gap quickly. He would walk some of the hills, and I tried to walk only half as much as he did. By mile 33 I had caught him and as we neared my crew, I noticed that he needed water. Luke filled my bottle, then his but while he waited, I was off and running again. I had reclaimed one position and was back in 11th place. The game was fully on now.
Casey Fritz drove by just before the crossing of 41A and said that Eric (Fritz) was running strong and was not far behind. Now I had motivation to chase and be chased, which helped even more. I thanked the police who where directing traffic again on the 41A crossing and ran through. I could see my crew slightly ahead who was now checking in on me every 2-3 miles at most. I was banking on the fact that they were going to soak my Team inov-8 singlet in ice water again so I could drape it around my neck for an external cooling feeling. Just as we approached the 35-mile mark, Carl Laniak caught me. Carl is such a funny guy and we joked a little and he said that it was time to start racing! We ran together thought the 35 mile mark, which was split in about 4:40, meaning that I had held strong on my 8:30 pace since mile 29 through the hills and was onto smoother pastures of the final 10km. Doing the math in my head, I wasn’t sure if I could run a 49-minute final 10km but I sure as hell was going to try.
We turned together onto Three Forks Bridge Road and my crew handed me my shirt and gave Carl an S! Cap as he was in need of some electrolytes. I told him as he ran ahead that if there was prize money for 11th place (to which he was now in, moving me into 12th) that I wanted half for my contribution to his success, to which he laughed heartily.
The final 10km was slightly a blur in my memory, mostly because I was so focused on my foot turnover. I knew enough to keep drinking and every hitting reply on my iPod every 5 minutes and 38 seconds to keep hearing my U2 song over and over again (to which I did for the final 12 miles to help keep me focused). I remember catching up to Dink Taylor before the Crack Sells Bridge and drinking a Boost to aid my caloric intake. I remembered how well Boost had worked for me during the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run last year and thought that I needed a little lift for one final push. I had no idea how far we had to go and he thought it was about 4 miles. That didn’t seem right, but I kept at it. I was now back in 11th with no idea who was still ahead of me or how close they were.
The more I ran, the better I seemed to feel. Good friends Rob and Kathy Youngren often talk about they don’t really feel good in an ultra until the 50km mark. Normally I disregard this as they seem to have superhuman abilities to run ultra distances, but on this day it was holding true for me. I met my crew with 5km to go and asked them to drive ahead to the finish then back track 1 mile. I didn’t trust the marks and had taken my watch off before the walls so I really did not know how much was left. When I ran in 2009 we were diverted away from this section due to flooding and the course ran longer. I asked for a time check with 3.1 miles remaining and it was 24 minutes to come in under 5:30. Slightly discouraged, I walked for just a brief moment, and I think that this was just enough to put me over, though there were so many moments to look back at in hindsight that this was just the last one I remember.
Luke thought I had about a mile and a half but before making the final right turn onto the main highway, I crossed the 2 miles (to go) mark. In doing so, I miraculously caught sight of two people running far in the distance. With as straight as this road was, I would guess that they were anywhere from ¼ to ½ mile ahead and certainly I had no potential of catching them but with that same renewed spirit that I discovered back at mile 29, I was going to put my head down and see what I had left.
As the gap closed, I could tell that it was Hollywood in his blue spandex and he was running with someone (who I would later find out was his wife). Not knowing her ability to run, I thought that this was either a friend running along in the final few miles, or there was something wrong and he was struggling through. Knowing that he had captured a gold shirt in the past and had won masters 9 years in a row (before 2010), that the later was not likely but I used it all the same as my new motivation. So with my U2 song on repeat for the 20th time, I dropped the pace even more until I was running at top speed (after 40 miles I will guess that this was around high 6 pace) but faster than I had all day. As the final mile unfolded, and the town began to emerge, I could sense that I was running out of time, literally. Just as I could see the gas station for the first time and on the final climb into town, I caught up to David and we shared some friendly words and I continued on. I looked back only once as I entered the main square of town but did not see him behind.
I charged through the finish line with everything I had, and crossed at 5:31:17. I had just missed my goal of sub 5:30, but still lowered my Strolling Jim personal best by ~7 minutes (15 minutes officially, but as noted, the 2009 course was long based on the detour). I took a few staggering steps and proceeded to lay down with my head on a traffic cone, exhausted from the effort put forth all day, but mostly in the final 12 miles. My comeback had earned me 10th place.
All along I kept thinking to myself that everyone has low periods during an ultra marathon, and I had mine on this day. But the difference on this day, the difference between this day and my DNF at Delano Park (at mile 35 of 50) was that I was able to come back mentally from the incredible lows to experience the amazing highs of the finish.
Thanks a ton to my crew… by the end of the race we were a well-oiled machine and I would not have been able to finish without your support and words of encouragement. I owe you guys more than you know. Thanks to inov-8 for putting the jersey on my back and letting me represent you in the 33rd running of Strolling Jim. Finally, thanks to Gary Cantrell and John Anderson (as well as Mike Mellon the new race director) for keeping their dream alive. It was your cruel intentions that keep runners coming back year after year to the hills of Bedford County, Tennessee.
Yeah, Leah Thorvilson would go on for the overall win; first time in the 33 year history that the OA was taken by a female and if my numbers are right, she broke the old record by more than 30 minutes. Wow.
At the Strolling Jim 40 Mile, DeWayne Satterfield was the 1st Master and 8th OA with a time of 5:23. Eric Charette was 10th OA in 5:31. At the hilly Ramble 12k, Ryan Woods was 3rd OA in 41:12 and Mark Lundblad was 7th OA in 44:57. Amber Moran was 2nd OA female in 47:35. Yassine Diboun was 8th OA at the Miwok 100k with a strong finishing time of 8:51. At The Indy Mini Marathon Camille Herron was the 5th OA female with a speedy 1:16:36 clocking. A PR for Camille, wearing the Road X-155's. Peter Maksimow smoked the Greenland 50k course in 3:25 for the overall win. Likewise at the North Face Challenge 50k at Bear Mtn. Dane Mitchell won the overall in a fast 3:30 winning time. Ben Nephew was 3rd OA in the 50 mile distance in 7:43. Jim Johnson doubled up the racing this weekend. First he won the Children's Museum of NH 5K in Dover, NH in 15:36. Then on Sunday Jim raced at the Medical Center 6k - USATF New England 6K Championships in Nashua, NH. Jim was 7th OA in 18:59.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Since I didn't do any race write-ups during the Winter/Spring months, I decided to review them all in the First Trimester Review!
The first day of 2011 started off with the ice and snow covered Rescue Run 10k in Colorado Springs. Part road, part trail, some ice, some snow, cold as balls! It was in the single digits at the start. I was already into marathon training, so I felt really strong in my first win of the year in 36:44. A lot of people wore Yak Trax or some similar device for some traction on the ice-covered roads. I wore the X-Talon 190’s, which kept me from falling on my face.
My second race was the next weekend, the Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series #1. Being the race series champion from 2010, I felt sort of obligated to run again in an attempt to defend that title. It was a course that suited me with some steep, long climbs and fast technical descents past other runners on a snow-lined single-track trail. Only had a few near collisions. The marathon training was really paying off, as I was feeling strong like bull. It was my second win of the year in 44:07 for the 10k (actually, 6.8 mile) course. Race number three of the year came the very next day with big tennis racquet-like things on my feet.
A snowshoeing friend of mine, who had crashed his mountain bike and was unable to race himself, somehow convinced me to run the Beaver Creek Adventure Snowshoe Series. The huge prize purse was a big draw. This series bragged to have “the largest cash purse in snowshoeing in the world with more than $15,000 in prize money.” “I want some of that”, I said to myself! So, I put on my snowshoes for the first time in a year and surprised myself to a second place finish (10k, 57:01) behind the 2010 Snowshoe National Champion. The $125 prize money was almost worth the 8 hours of driving I did through blizzard conditions to get there and back.
On the third weekend I thought it would be a good idea to double up on the Frosty’s Frozen 5- and 10-mile race, which were 40 minutes apart, for “marathon training”. Wow, what a bad idea! I placed 2nd in the RRCA 5-mile CO State Championship race with a 27:12, attended an awards ceremony where I was awarded a $300 check for being the Colorado Runner Racing Series Winner. This was a 15-race series ranging from 5k to half marathon: (www.coloradorunnermag.com/cr/past-issues/issue-45-januaryfebruary-2011/) Page 18-19 describes my pre- and post-race routines that include Inov-8’s and beer. Then right into the 10-mile race. I didn’t even bother to take off my F-lite 230 PK’s, I just jumped right into the 10-miler. Talk about death marches! I struggled to a 5th place finish in 57:59 and went and healed myself at a local brewery.
The last weekend of the month meant my 6th race in January…you would think I was Jim Johnson with the amount of racing I was doing! The second of the Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series was a bastard of a windy 8-mile course. How do you get constant 30 mph headwinds on an out and back course?!?! I really shouldn’t have tried to break the wind and expect to come out with a fast race. I had nothing on the returning 4 miles, but was able to hold on to 3rd place with a 46:28. I was still leading the series because of 1 min 16 second win at race #1. My marathon training really felt to be catching up to me now. It was quite a show watching the 4 mile race unfold with Robert Cheseret, 2010 US Road 5k Champ and brother of Bernard Lagat, easily winning in Gazelle-like fashion. Pretty impressive!
The sophomore month of the year brought the sophomore race of the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series. The resort had received 11 inches of new snow the previous day, which meant deep, deep powder. It turned out to be one of the worst race experiences in my life with points of the race having waist deep snow and only the first few ‘shoers in front of me to break it. The energy-zapping snow slowed me to a crawl and I struggled to a 5th place finish in 1 hour 15 min 28 sec finish for 10k. I thought I would be about 10 min behind the leaders but was actually only about 3, so I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the deep white stuff. Marathon training is exhausting!
The 12th of the month was race three of the Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series. OK, so since the snowshoe races had been at 11:15 am, I was under the impression that the Winter Series races were at the same time. I was wrong. And late to this one. I realized at about 9:45 am that the race was at 10:15 am and took 30 min to get there. Rushing to the race, taking my clothes off and putting on my 190’s in the car, I saw the string of runners which told me the race had already began, I screeched to a halt in the car and on the way to the start line I misjudged how deep the snow was and fell over a little wooden fence, superman style. This caused a pastrami-looking wound on my shin, which I discover after the race. All you vegetarians out there understand how gross that is. I reached the start line with 2 min 30 sec on the clock and trudged through the deep snow past almost everyone in the race, playing Frogger with the returning 5 mile racers. We encountered snow that was a foot deep at points on this out and back, flat 10 mile race. Putting my head down and running hard paid off as I caught all but 3 people in the race and managed to hold onto my series lead. The 190’s worked like a charm, the large nubs digging into the loose, rutted snow, helping me to an almost 5 min negative split to finish the 10 mile course in 1 hour 1 min 34 sec. I avoided taking off my compression socks because I didn’t want to see what the fence had done to my shin.
The next weekend was the big one: the Livestrong Austin Marathon. After doing a stride on the start line I was walking back and looked to my right and who else happened to be walking next to me but hot-pants-Lance himself. I thought about asking him if he wanted to race but he looked a tad chubby and was currently going through an intense court case for doping. Probably drinking too many of those Michelob Ultras. Those 95 calories add up, Lance!
It was a balmy, windy, miserable day. And so was the marathon itself. The early sections were windy uphills and took their toll on me. Before 10 miles it went downhill, and I’m not talking about the grade. I was still on 2:30-marathon pace at the halfway point, but the disaster was just beginning. My legs just wouldn’t go faster than a pace I normally run in training and other runners went easily past me. It was a strange experience, one I have never had before. A 7th place, 2:39 finish is not terrible, but it wasn’t the 2:25 I was hoping and feeling confident on running. I had to bottle the frustration and use it later.
I did just the thing the next weekend in the final Winter Series race: a hilly and gale force winded, hilly 20k on a combination of dirt and paved roads. Although my calves were angry with me, I took the F-lite 230’s to a second straight PPRR Winter Series Championship, winning the race in 1:17:47. I figured, I didn’t run very fast the second half of the marathon last weekend, so I shouldn’t need much recovery time before resuming my training.
The final leg of the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series served as the Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championships. This time the race began at 10,000 ft and climbed from there.
Snowshoeing is already a difficult discipline. When it is carried out at over 10,000 feet of elevation, however, it becomes a pain in the...well, lungs...especially when the course takes you up steep grades and down powdery snowfields as it did in the Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championships. No matter how Herculean you fitness level is this race is a grind.
At one point on the last long climb I began to see little twinkely stars in my field of vision and thought how funny it would be if I passed out. You have some strange thoughts when there is a lack of oxygen to the brain. I was able to hold onto 3rd overall behind two veteran snowshoes, 2-time US Snowshoe Champion, 5-time XTERRA National Champion Josiah Middaugh and the omnipresent Bernie Boettcher who races 50+ times a year with an over 50% win average. Since I had a rough second race of the series, I was out of the top three into fourth, however, still earning $250 for the series and $75 for the third place finish on the day. Paydays are good!
The race was named in honor of Jeremy Wright, who was an extremely talented snowshoer and mountain runner, and who was killed in 2005 by an IED serving our country in Afghanistan as a member of the Special Forces, Airborne Division. He was a 3-time US Mountain Running Team member and was the impetus in my mountain running interests. My first mountain race was in 1999, Mt. Baldy Run-To-The-Top, where Jeremy won the race, narrowly missing the long-standing course record. I admired him and wanted very much to get involved in this extremely difficult type of racing. I vowed to win Mt. Baldy someday and finally did in 2003 and again last year, 2010, as an Inov-8 team member. He was an inspiration to me and so many other people and it was an honor racing in his old stomping grounds of Beaver Creek.
The second weekend of March was the St. Patrick’s Day 5k in downtown Colorado Springs. It was another impressive local field with three-time British Olympic steeplechaser, Justin Chaston, winning in 15:01. Teammate Alex Nichols and I rounded out the top 10 with a 9th and 10th place finish in 16:03 and 16:07, respectively. It was a 14 second improvement at this race over last year. Must have been the marathon training!
It was strange to have a weekend off of racing. I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I trained a lot! A trip to Vermont over spring break was conducive to lots of miles. Running at sea level is considerably easier than altitudes over 6,000 feet.
So, within hours of driving back from VT I joined a friend for his 36th birthday and a group of us embarked on a 36-mile run from Colorado Springs to the old mining town (now gambling town) of Cripple Creek. It was a quite a climb in elevation in the couple day period, from about 1,000 feet to over 10,000 feet gain. It was my longest run ever, the other longest being in December when I ran 32 miles for my 32nd birthday. It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t had the brilliant idea of refueling with a lot of dried fruit. I am sure I don’t have to elaborate on eating too many prunes and dates and ginger and figs. Needless to say, I sharted with about 1 mile of the run to go. My stomach definitely felt worse than my legs did after 5 hours and 21 minutes. No issues with my feet in the Roclite 295’s and the new Louis Garneau hooded-zip-up-thingie kept me from freezing in the blustery wind.
This month was mostly training for the longer races and the up coming mountain season. I did jump into a low key time-handicap 5k called the Tortoise and Hare (www.pprrun.org) put on by the Pikes Peak Road Runner, where your age, gender, height, weight and income level are plugged into a computer program and you get your handicap time (not really income level, I just threw that in there—if that was the case, I would have had a better handicap time!). Some individuals had up to a 15 min head start, while I, the youngish, skinny, male of an opportune height with a low income had a scant 2 seconds, the last to start by over a minute. Not an easy thing to do, chase down people that have a 15 min head start. It’s like the last 800 meters of a race the whole way because one feels (I did, anyway) that they must make up time as soon as they start. Of the 148 people that finished, I caught all but 7 of them, running the fastest time of 16:25.
On April 23rd I ran the 25k of the inaugural Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race (25k and 50k) at the base of NORAD in Colorado Springs. It was everything from technical rocky and rooty trails to flat gravel paths with 2,500ft of climbing and turned out to be more like 16.75 miles rather than 25k. Inov-8 teammate, Tommy Manning, and I ran together the whole time and traded off breaking the brutally high winds and snow flurries, finishing in the same time of 1:57:33. As we approached the 2-hour mark, we chatted about how much we were looking forward to having a beer at the finish. Tommy was quoted in the local newspaper, in reference to beer, “carbs are carbs.”
So, on the eve of my first ultra race, I am looking forward to another great trimester!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Yassine Diboun will be racing the Miwok 100k against a super strong men's field. The race is near Sausalito, CA and has 10k of climb on mostly fire roads and single track with spectacular views. Ben Nephew and Amy Lane will be at the North Face 50 Mile Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY. Dane Mitchell will be racing the 50k distance at Bear Mountain. Peter Maksimow will be at the Greenland 50k which is also the RRCA 50k Championship for CO. Eric Charette and DeWayne Satterfield will be racing the Strolling Jim 40 mile in Wartrace, TN. Ryan Woods and Mark Lundblad will be at the Ramble 12k in Asheville, NC. Sophie Speidel will be at the Montalto 5k, a unique all uphill 5k run in Charlottesville, VA. Camille Herron will be racing at the 35th Indy Mini Marathon this weekend. The largest half marathon in the US with 35,000 entrants.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
1) Primary sport (s): Trail Running
2) Team member since: 2011
3) City/state of residence: Bend, Oregon
4) Occupation: Physician Assistant
5) Goals for 2011:
Remain injury free. Run my first ultra. Maybe a PR in the marathon (would like to go sub 2:55 but haven’t decided if I want to run on the roads this season).
Races on my calendar include the USATF Trail Championships- ½ marathon, marathon and 50k (top 3 masters) and TransRockies Run (80+ mixed team with husband, top 3).
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport:
It’s been a while but my best memory in the sport is winning the WA State XC Team Championship and NAIA National XC Team Championship my senior years. I’ve always enjoyed sharing wins with a team more than as an individual (which is why I’m excited about TransRockies).
Top 4 finishes at the XTERRA ½ Marathon National Championships (’08 & ’09)—particularly due to the honor of running behind 3 elite runners on my home trails (unfortunately they were so far ahead I couldn’t see them).
My marathon PR in Portland 2008 (2:58)—big achievement given I was busy with 3 boys (ages 1, 3 and 5) and only training 40 miles/week on average.
USATF 2010 National Trail Marathon Champion—this was my biggest surprise. Nice gift as I was just starting to run again after battling plantar fasciitis for the last couple years.
7) Favorite inov-8 gear:
First love is the X Talon 212 for trails. Also love the Road X 238 for faster terrain. The Recolite 190 hybrid is so comfortable I can’t resist wearing them despite our freezing temperatures and snow outside.
8) List one thing others may not know about you: My high school coach was Prefontaine’s college roommate, teammate and good friend.
9) Favorite energy drink/food:
Nuun, Shot Blocks, PowerBar Gels, trail mix and protein rich smoothies (chocolate peanut butter). I tend to burn out of Gu and Power Gels while racing so look forward to incorporating Honey Stinger Gels, Bars and Chews into the mix for a change this season.
10) Your favorite race and why?
Any race put on by Super Dave (Superfit Productions). The Footzone Dirty Half is my favorite because it is dirty, fast, hilly and mostly single track. I love that it attracts all the locals, as well as speedsters from afar. The post-race celebration offers good company, food and beverage. It recently became the USATF Half Marathon National Trail Championship. I love kicking off my season with this race!
11) Advice to other athletes:
Worship the Giver of the gift rather than the gift itself. Be thankful in all things. Set goals and follow a plan, but never let the plan get in the way of spontaneous opportunities (whether related to running or not). Incorporate strength training into your plan to prevent injury and improve performance. Find another athlete (or want-to-be athlete) and encourage them to become their best—help them set a goal and achieve it. Keep the training fun by changing it up as much as possible. Find a training partner. Run the trails. Rest.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Gary Gellin set a new masters CR and was 2nd OA at the Quicksilver 50 mile with a 6:29 clocking. Aaron Saft set a new CR at the Mountain Medley 10 miler with a swift 54:42 winning time. Jim Johnson was 9th OA with a very fast 32:08 at the James Joyce Ramble 10k. Kevin Tilton won and set a new CR at the Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race in 1:28:51. Kevin wore the X-talon 190's on the mixed terrain. Joe Gray was a top 20 finisher and the top WA resident at the Bloomsday 12k with a 36:25 finishing time.