Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Not much excitement for my race. I had the lead for a few seconds at the peak of the first ascent and quickly lost it as we started to descend. I got a small scare early into the descent with a little ankle roll. I eased up to make sure it wasn't anything serious. By the time I reached the bottom I couldn't even feel the pain anymore, numbed from the body jarring descent to finish the first lap. A few seconds after passing the announcer booth on the first lap I faintly heard the speakers scream out that another runner was coming closely behind. When I glanced back I realized I had a safe lead, although early, still safe. Ran alone from there on out. I had my sights set on the lead, but slowly I lost grasp of it and eventually settled for second. The worst way to lose is when you had the perception of a win in your hands and accidentally drop it like the water at an aid station. When I had the lead I should not have backed off, but I did not realize how fast the course was and how short the race would be in terms of time. Its a mistake everyone makes at some point, my time just happened to come at a Championship and so, a great learning experience. I can't be too upset, this marks my 8th USA National Team and gives me the opportunity to represent my country once again at the World Championships.
Currently I have the highest finish of an American since Mountain running has become an IAAF World Championship with my top finish at 10th in 2010. I think with the team we have, a medal is obviously possible. Every guy on the team this year has experience, talent, and from what I could gather, a desire to win. Most of the guys on the team have already run at World Championship events so they know exactly what to expect. I would like to improve on my 10th place finish. I think this will be a very tough year to do so as the course does not have much climbing, nor much descent. So, the African countries who have been known to field very fast flat landers on their National Mountain Running Teams will have a field day with the cross countryesque course in Alabania. We Americans have speed too though, so hopefully we can mix it up and bring home some type of medal from the Championships!
News Article on the race
It was quite a sight to see so many Inov-8 athletes make the World Team. After the race I was chatting with a spectator and they mentioned something even more spectacular than the fact that Inov-8 had 4 athletes make the World Team. Out of the 6 athletes who made the team, ALL 6 athletes were wearing Inov-8's. I didn't believe him at first, but of course I had to go Sherlock Holmes on the scene and I checked every athletes race shoe out. Sure enough the guy was right and apologies were in order. Next up, North American and Central American Mountain Running Championships where I will be joined by Inov-8 Teammates Gina L & Tommy M! More to come....
Monday, June 27, 2011
Dwight Shuler successfully defended his title at the Elk River Challenge. Chris Reed had a strong showing at the Western States 100 Mile with a 20th OA placing in 18:12. Chris wore the Roclite 295's from start to finish. Eric Charette, likewise had a solid race at the Keyes Peak 50k, getting 3rd OA in 4:06:49. Eric wore the Roclite 285's on the wet course. Four Team Inov-8 athletes made the 2011 men's US Mountain Running Team by placing in the top 6 at the Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb. Congrats to Tommy Manning, Joe Gray, Jared Scott and Ryan Woods for their stellar performances.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb - USA Mtn Running Championships (North Conway, NH)
Chris Reed - Western States 100 Mile
Dave James - Western States 100 Mile
Dwight Shuler - Elk River Challenge - Clay, WV
Eric Charette - Keyes Peak 50k - Florence, WI
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
For over 2 hours my brain had been in an epic struggle of whether to DNF or not. What I had feared for almost 3 weeks came to fruition almost immediately at mile 3 of the Highlands Sky 40 Mile. I rolled my foot over once we hit the single track.
Backtrack to 3 weeks ago. I was smiling and feeling good as I descended the last hill in route to a nice long run PR on one of my favorite routes. I thought to myself I’m ready, I’m fit, I’ve trained my ass off…….whoops where did that root come from….man my foot hurts! How things change rapidly in the world of running. I’d been keeping the injury bug at bay for a few years now, fortunate for some nice wins and course records here and there along the way, no stopping me now. Right?
I wanted to race the Highland Sky 40 mile for many reasons but mostly because it is an awesome, beautiful course. An awesome, extremely technical course especially the first half. I had been staying off any type of technical terrain in the days prior to help keep my foot from further injury. I felt somewhat healed up but still I was optimistically cautious. I had been taping my foot and wearing a brace on some runs prior to the race. As I prepared the morning of the race I decided I would wear neither. My brain was already playing games and gambling with the race.
After I rolled my foot the first time I tried to stay positive but still I thought over and over why did I not tape my foot?? I locked in line with my competition and plugged my way up the first big climb. As I gained in elevation so did my confidence but climbing would not be an issue, it was descending, as I would soon find out. I came through 10 miles with the split I wanted but as soon as we started to drop down a very steep, very rocky, and very long mountain my foot would not cooperate. I rolled my foot over several more times, each time it progressively hurt so bad it took the breath out of me and also my confidence. I eventually had to step off the trail to gather myself and let my competition run off into the distance. At this point I knew I was in trouble. I had 6 more miles to go until I saw my wife (crew) at the half way point. I thought at this point it was not a matter of pulling the plug on this race but would I even make it that far?
A few minutes later I was able to gather myself and start chugging up the 2nd major climb of the race. Again my emotions were all over the place. I went back to thinking maybe I could finish this race after all and maybe reel in some of the guys who had blown by me over the last 2 miles. The climb kept my foot at bay but it also lulled me back into a racing mode mentality. However I struggled back and forth with what I should inevitably do many more times. I was totally becoming absorbed in the thought of a DNF and no sense of race focus as my splits were rapidly slipping away.
Should I even bother taking another gel, another salt tablet, and continue hydrating? What is the point? Ultras are as much about keeping your head in the race as much as being physically prepared. I had only half of what I needed working for me this day. One can train 100+ mile weeks, do all the recommended course specific long runs and speed work all you want but with out the mental component, it makes for a tough long day.
After the 2nd big climb an aid station volunteer told me I was 5 minutes back of the leader. I thought I was much further back so this teaser of info put my head back into race mode once more. The next 3.7 miles up until the midway point is mostly flat but most of it is also very rocky. I thought if I make it to the 7 mile gravel road section of the course I could get back into this race. Right? Wrong! There went my foot once again, and again and again. Back to the DNF mind set.
As I made my way onto the gravel road and the 1 mile stretch to where I would eventually drop out, I thought how disappointing this journey was going to be. My mind was still struggling with stopping. I had only had one DNF prior in an ultra and the thought of all the hard work (440 miles in a 4 week training block) and my string of good races being over was seemingly very tough to swallow. Was I quitting because of an injury or because I may not win or place high? I knew the answer was my foot but the fight within can be overwhelming. Do I race more because of my ego or my soul? This question is perhaps best answered through another post.
However, just before seeing that final aid station and having to tell my wife my day was over. I thought positively to myself that I have had several years of running well, staying healthy and I should be grateful for all that, not feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been fortunate and lucky to be able to run at the level I have wanted and there will be more good races to come, just not today. I settled on the positive. I was finally able to turn my brain off and be at peace. The mind games for now were over.
Monday, June 20, 2011
L-R: Tommy Manning (CO), Kevin Tilton (NH), Ryan Woods (NC), Ben Nephew (MA), Peter Maksimow (CO), Jim Johnson (NH).
Friday, June 17, 2011
Mt. Washington Road Race - Pinkham Notch, NH
Mark Lundblad - Highlands Sky 40 Mile - Davis, WV
Aaron Saft - Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race - Chattanooga, TN
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
For one, its a war of attrition. For the longer ultra marathons the guy who can fuel the best and whose body has the most stored nutrition I would say will usually be the winner. I didn't approach this race with a system of training for distances so long so my body was not really efficient as it needed to be over the final miles. I came through 19.2 well ahead of the record and calculated that in order to not break the record I would have to run extremely slow for the final lap. I did not down play the pain I knew a race this long could bring so I definitely did not lag knowing that the record was in my grasp. Slowly the hills started to feel a little different, each foot strike on steep descents started to send shockwaves up my spine and through my quads. I felt every step and even the colors of trees and the sky quickly shifted hues.
With 5 miles to go the hardest portion of the course still remained and for the first time in the race I was not comfortable nor was I confident. When I passed the 26.2 miles mark (Marathon) I got scared. Many marathon runners say they hit the wall with about 10k to go and thats usually run on flat courses. I still had almost 3 miles to go when I passed the marathon mark. With 2 miles to go the record was well within my reach, but the body was starting to shut down and still two steep climbs remained. I told myself I can't walk up this last climb, "I can't". There was a women running that I had lapped and I looked back and she seemed to be catching me on the climb and for the first time in my racing career I didn't care what happened I just wanted to see a finish line. The lights flickered a few times and I felt like I was gonna have to walk.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Some photos of Sam Robinson (9th), Katie Caba (4th Female, 1st Master), and Scott Dunlap (19th) at the USATF Trail Half Marathon National Championships in Bend, OR, on June 12th. Read the full story here.
|(Sam, Katie, and Scott)|
|(Katie has time for a fist bump as she makes her way to winning the Masters title)|
|(Sam is ready to roll)|
Yassine Diboun tied for 2nd OA at the San Diego 100 Mile in a strong time of 18:12. Ryan Woods won and set a new CR at the China Grove 5k in a blazing 14:46. Ryan wore the Road X 155's. Amber Moran also wore the Road X-155's and won the female and overall title at the Human Race 5k at Waynesville, NC in a speedy 17:30. Jim Johnson was 3rd OA at the Market Square 10k in Portsmouth, NH. Jim's time was a stellar 31:56 wearing the F-lite 230's with 1,740 finishers in the race. Peter Maksimow (pictured) was a strong 3rd OA at the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile in 57:04. Jamesina Simpson won the female overall and set a new female CR at the Run the Caldera 10k in 49:38. At the USATF Half-Marathon Championships, Katie Caba was 4th OA female (1:26:07 -1st female masters), Sam Robinson was 9th OA (1:22:51) and Scott Dunlap was 19th OA (1:27:03).
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Katie Caba - USATF Half-Marathon Trail Champs- Bend, OR
Sam Robinson - USATF Half-Marathon Trail Champs - Bend, OR
Jamesina Simpson - Run the Caldera 10k - Valles Caldera National Preserve, NM
Yassine Diboun - San Diego 100 Mile - Mt.Laguna, CA
Dave James - San Diego 100 Mile - Mt.Laguna, CA
Ryan Woods - China Grove 5k - Salisbury, NC
Kevin Tilton - 10,000m USATF-NE Track & Field Championships - Westin, MA
Peter Maksimow - Garden of the Gods 10 Mile - Manitou Springs, CO
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Joe Gray (pictured) won the Fontana Days Half-Marathon in a speedy 1:03:41. Michele Hartwig, despite very warm temps and high humidity was the 1st master female and 4th OA female at the Kettle Moraine 100k with a 15:11 clocking. Peter Maksimow was at the Teva Mountain Games this weekend in Vail, CO. Peter was 7th OA in the Vail Pass Half Marathon in 1:22:33 Saturday and on Sunday Peter was also 7th OA in 43:15 at the 10k Spring Runoff. Jim Johnson won the Pack Monadnock 10 Mile Mountain Race in 1:02:46 at Wilton/Temple/Peterborough, NH (3rd race in the USATF-New England Mountain Series for 2011).
Friday, June 3, 2011
John Storkamp - FANS 12 Hour - MN
Michele Hartwig - Kettle Moraine 100k - Eagle, WI
Scott Dunlap - Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon - CA
Maria Sylvia Petzold - Golden Gate Dirty Thirty - 50k - CA
Viktor Alexy - Xtrail Mont Sutton - Quebec, Canada
Abby Mahoney - Pack Monadnock 10 miler- NH
Thursday, June 2, 2011
The month of May has been busy one for me, with three races in three weeks. I started by racing in Montana, New Mexico, and finishing off at home at the Grand Canyon.
The Prickly Pear Land Trust: Don't Fence Me In 30K, Helena, MT.
May 14th was The Prickly Pear Land Trust: Don't Fence Me In 30K in Helena, MT. I have to say, Montana is great. Good beer, friendly people, and outstanding single track trail racing. The race started in downtown Helena, and then climbed about 1200 feet up a mountain, then rolled its way down into meadows and valleys, up more mountains and ridges, down and then up again, and finally descending down a gnarly, rocky trail back into downtown. I figured I would go out and lead from the start and hope that my winter hill training in the Grand Canyon would pay off, and so that is exactly what I did. Right from the start I led the first climb and every climb after. I got caught a few times by Matt Byrne on some of the downhills, but was able to hold him off. I won by 30 seconds or so. I wore my 'RedShoes', the Flite 195. These shoes are ideal for anything in the western U.S. because out here, the trails are hardpacked and have lots of rocks and these shoes will stick to anything.
Jemez Mountain Half Marathon, Los Aloms, NM.
The next week, I traveled with my wife and three dogs to Los Alamos, NM to race the Jemez Mountain Half Marathon. I was excited about this race because it was at high altitude, in the sunny and dry Southwest which meant it was like 'Playing at Home' for me. Again, I wore the my RedShoes because I knew the race would be on dry, hardpacked, rocky trails. The race basically has one hill and one descent, so I figured I would again play on my climbing strength. I lead from the start, but I noticed that the course was not very well marked. I was never comfortable and was always feeling lost because the orange flags marking the course were far and few between. As I climbed up the mountain, I constantly glanced back hoping to see someone following. As I made the final ascent to the top of the course there was an aid station, but no one telling me wear to go. I started to go left, (which was the wrong way), when I asked, “Which way?” The people at the aid station then answered, “This way! Go right!” Again, I felt even more uncomfortable. As I made my way down the long descent back into town, Bernie Boettcher caught me within a few minutes. I don't know how he caught me that fast because I thought I was hauling down that hill, but he must be a lot crazier than I am. So, I fought him off, by throttling it on any flat section we encountered. Wherever there was technical downhill, he would catch me, but luckily there was enough flat sections for me to keep the lead. As, we made our way back with about a mile and a half to go, we finally began to double back on the beginning of the course. There was some uphill sections, and I was able to put a sizable lead on Bernie. Finally, running through a tunnel with a mile to go, I saw flagging marking the course to go to the right, and up a hill, and so I did. I finished the race doubling back the whole way to the starting line. When I got there, no one was cheering, it was weird...and where was the finish line? Someone finally led me to the finish line. Someone then let me know that I finished the race in the wrong direction. Instead of going to the right after the tunnel, I was supposed to go left. The course was not marked correctly, and I was disqualified from the race. I was pretty frustrated because I worked pretty hard the whole race and got DQ'ed because of faulty course markings. I confronted the race director about the inadequately marked course, and he basically just told me that, “It is the runner's responsibility to know the course.” I guess that also means when the course is marked wrong! Oh well, I will never return to this race.
Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Record Attempt
Disclaimer: The Grand Canyon is a Dangerous Place to Run! It is hot at the bottom of the Canyon and many people every single year die from the heat. I want people reading this to know that it is difficult running the Grand Canyon. It is quite possibly the most difficult run anyone will do in there entire life! So please be aware that I prepared all winter and spring for this run. I live at the Grand Canyon, and I had the convenience of being able to run almost every weekend down in the Canyon since January. And even now that I look back on my run last Friday, I was still under prepared for the hot temperatures, and if I do this again it will not be in late May. It's just too hot!!!!
Finally, last Friday, my friend Jason Wolfe and I made our attempt to break the 30 year old record Single Crossing of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim. The record 3 hr 6 min 47 sec was set in 1981 by Allyn Cureton, a local guy from Williams, AZ who is now in his 70's. We had to start early in the morning because it was going to be hot at the bottom of the Canyon. I wore, once again, my trusty RedShoes, Flite 195s. We drove to the North Rim the day before with our good friend, Caleb. Caleb was going to see us off and shuttle our stuff back to the South Rim. Thank you, Caleb!
My plan was to run the steep first 7 mile downhill fast...but not too fast and hopefully cross Cottonwood Campground around 52 min, then run the relatively flat next 7 miles fast...but not too fast, and hopefully get to the river somewhere around 1:40 to 1:45. If I hit the river at this time, I should be able to break the record, even if I had a bad day. I knew the heat was going to get to me, so I ran with a 16 oz water bottle and packed with me two Hammer Gels and a package of Sharkies Fruit Chews to give me a boost when my legs felt weary. Right before we started, I pounded 32 oz of water. I always do this when I run in the Grand Canyon, I always try to have a belly full of water when I go down into the canyon, because It's Hot Down There!
We got started at 6:45 about 15 min behind schedule, but no big deal. As Jason and I descended, the pace felt easy, we talked quite a bit. We were going fast, but not too fast. This section of the trail was absolutely beautiful, lots of green trees and shrubs embedded in the red dirt, with a nice 2000 ft cliff right off the trail. It was great! My legs started to feel tired around 15 minutes down, but no big deal, I expected them to be tired.
We got water for the first time at Roaring Springs. I downed 16 oz and then carried 16 oz with me. I ate some Sharkies. We passed Cottonwood Campground at about 41 min and 50 secs. Perfect! Jason and I were still running together at about 10 min past Cottonwood, my right hamstring began to feel tight. I had to stop and stretch it out. I told Jason to go ahead, and I gave myself 30 seconds to stretch. It worked! Over the next 7 miles, I ran fast, I wanted to catch up with Jason. About 4 or 5 miles later, I caught back up with him. I passed him and continued to push this section fast but not too fast. I ate a Hammer Gel.
I reached Phantom Ranch and downed 32 oz of water and filled up my bottle. About the time I had just finished filling up, Jason arrived. I headed out saying, “See you at the top!” I passed the bridge to Bright Angel Campground, the 14 mile marker, at 1:40 flat. Not bad. Now to the River.
I got to the river at 1:44, still not bad, and still as planned. Now to begin the final 5000 ft climb out. It was pretty freaking hot at the point. The air was still, and I wished there was a breeze. As I climbed, I knew this was the steepest part of the trail. I was going to run until I had to walk, and I when I had to walk, I would only walk for a minute or two but no longer. On a few of the switchbacks, I caught glimpses of Jason who was only a couple of minutes behind. I wonder how he's feeling? I got the Tonto Trail at 2:07, still not too bad, considering that section from the River to Tonto usually takes me about 20 to 21 min. This time it took me 23 min.
At this point I could see a mule train ahead of me in the distance. It took me about 7 min to catch the mule train and I was in luck! They were stopped and letting people pass. I walked by them because you must always walk and not run by the mules in the Grand Canyon. Then I continued on. Now to the switchbacks just below Skeleton Point. I think this is the hardest part of the S. Kaibab Trail, and it is about half way from the River to the Rim. As soon as I crossed the first switchback my legs slowed and I started to walk. I was extremely overheated and almost out of water. What was I going to do. I still had plenty of time, so I knew walking would be OK. I ate my final gel and downed my last bit of water to see if that would help. I when I hit the second switchback, I started running. I ran/walked but mostly ran to the next major marker on the trail and crossed Skeleton Point at 2:27. Still not bad, that section from Tonto to Skeleton took me 20 minutes and it usually takes me 16 minutes on a good day. I still had plenty of time left to get out in under 3:06:47.
This next section from Skeleton Point to Cedar Ridge, I don't really remember too much, except that that it was very hot, and that I walked a lot. Then, every time I walked, I felt dizzy. I must have looked about as bad as I felt because people were starting to ask me if I needed water. Each time one would ask, I would decline, but then a man stopped on the trail handed me his water bottle. It was sealed bottled water and I couldn't even open the freaking top. So he opened it for me. I pounded most of it and then poured the rest on my neck. I hyperventilated from the cold of the water, but it felt so good. I continued on. Feeling a little better I got to Cedar Ridge at 2:45:36. Still I was making great time considering I was feeling so bad, and as a bonus, there was another mule train stopped, and I was able to pass. I had 21 minutes left to go to break the record on a section that usually takes me 17 minutes. I could do it.
I left Cedar Ridge ready for the next steep ascent. Again as I started walk every time I hit steep switchbacks. I ran and walked, running as much as I could. Still feeling dizzy on my walks. I thought I was going to fall over at one point and thought I should sit down. But then I saw my wife, she was like an angel beaming at me. She asked if I wanted water and food. Because all I wanted was water, I only heard her offer the water, and so I said to her “Water!” Since we started 15 min late she thought that I had missed the record and that there was no hurry, so she slowly started to take her water out of her bag. I then said, “Uh, can you please hurry, I'm close!” She then instantly grabbed her water and handed it to me. Mmmm, so cold and so good. I continued on.
I was close and I knew it. I saw two of my friends, Eric and Scott, with 7 minutes left on a section that takes me about 6. They too thought that we had missed the record but then I said, “I have 7 minutes.” When, I passed them Scott followed me up. Every minute I would tell him, “6 minutes.” “5 minutes.” Then we hit the final switchbacks. “I don't think I'm going to do it,” I said to Scott. Then I started to walk. I only walked until the next switchback an then started running. I was going to run until the end. “3 minutes...2 minutes”. There was hope! With one minute left, I hit the last switchback. I could see the finish. Finally, the top! I stopped my watch at the Kiosk...3 hr 6 min 10 sec! “I did it.”
As I sat there, a man approached me. It was Allyn Cureton's brother. He had driven Allyn to the trailhead to see us finish. I invited Allyn a few days earlier and hoped he'd be there. Allyn came up and we introduced each other. He was a very shy and quite man. I told him how long each of his Grand Canyon records stood. That his single crossing record was 30 years old, and that his double-crossing record stood for 25 years before it was broken and that only three people have broken it since then.
Jason finally finished about 7 minutes after I did. He got held up by the two mule trains and said he lost about 6 minutes. If he could have passed them, he might have gotten the record too.
We decided to get pictures of us with Allyn. As we stood there getting our picture taken by our friends, Allyn said to us, “Maybe I'll run this again. It might take me a while to get in shape, but maybe I'll run this again.”
I would like to thank everyone who encouraged and gave their support before and after our run. Thanks, to my wife, Marybeth for hiking down and giving me water and saving my life. Thank you, unknown man, who also gave me water along the trail. Thank you, Caleb, for camping with us, taking pictures, and driving our stuff back, it was a good time. Thank you, Scott, for running the final 7 minutes with me. Thanks, Eric for coming out and running the final minutes with Jason. Thanks, Allyn and family, for being there at the finish. And thank you, Jason, for helping turn this crazy idea into a reality, and I hope you rest well...maybe we'll do this again in the fall...maybe.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Pineland Farms 50 miler 2011
I seem to be in races with entertaining finishes quite often, and this race was one of those. I wish I would have been able to enjoy the entertainment more than I did, but it could have been worse. I made some lemonade, but them lemons didn’t want to give up the juice.
Last year at Pineland, I was fighting a GI bug that I got from my son ran by myself for 30 miles after getting dropped by Brian Rusiecki. This year I just wanted to come back and see what I could run when healthy. The family and I found a great B&B right near the start, which is definitely a little easier than camping. The original plan was to camp, but the weather forecast was all over the place, so we decided to play it safe. The surprise of the day was getting a honk from Kevin Tilton as I ran the mile from our B&B to the start. I had no idea Kevin was running, but was glad to have someone else to possibly run with. I was hoping to run with Brian, but he has run very fast on these trails, and I wasn’t entirely sure how fast I’d be able to run. It was incredibly humid at the start, with water falling off the trees just due to condensation, but the temperature was only in the low 60’s.
The race starts off with a 3.5 mile loop before three 25k mile loops through farm fields and forests. The footing is generally pretty good, but the course has almost no flat terrain at all; it is a never ending ride of rolling hills. A group of six of us completed the first small loop right around 7 minute pace, and proceed to continue with that pace on the first 25k loop. Neither myself, Brian, nor Kevin was really driving the pack that often once we got past the first 10k or so. We lost one runner around 15k, but the other two guys were still with us going into the last 5k of that first loop. These last few miles have several significant hills, and Kevin and I moved into the lead during this section. Brian had been making up ground on the downhills following some of the earlier hills, but was content to let us go as we approaching the start of the second 25k loop.
I told Kevin we just need to stay patient and get to the last loop in good shape, as the hills suddenly get bigger at the end for some strange reason. We took turns leading, and after a while would just switch the lead without any discussion at regular intervals. The pace felt comfortable, and I was able to relax when we went through aid stations as Kevin took a little more time. I had my own bottles of concentrated Gatorade and ice tea, and Kevin was relying on the stations at this point. The farm field miles were much easier during this loop after all the runners had packed down the grass. Although the fields were pretty soft, it was actually a good thing as it allowed for a bit of leveling on some of the heavily cambered sections. When the fields are hard and dry, the slanted sections are hard on the ankles and hips. It started to get warm on this loop, and I was regularly throwing water on my head to keep cool. Kevin and I could spot Brian occasionally, and although we seemed to be extending our lead, he still seemed to be pretty close.
As Kevin and I reached the last few hilly miles of the loop, he started to put a few seconds on me on each hill, and my legs didn’t feel good enough to make a hard effort with almost 20 miles of racing left. I thought my quads were just tired, but I was probably starting to run low on electrolytes. I let him go as we started the last 25k loop, and wasn’t sure I’d see him again. He seemed to be running pretty easily up the hills all day, and although this was his first ultra, Kevin has run plenty of 4-7 hour mountain runs. My plan was to try to maintain contact while conserving energy for the last 10k.
I was still only about a minute behind Kevin with about 22k of racing left, but my quads were getting tight on the hills. I tried to back off the pace and let them recover, but it wasn’t really helping much. At 8k into the loop there is a rather large hill, and my quads shut down at this point. I tried to stop and stretch, but the cramping got worse, so I just shortened my stride and tried to keep my legs from tearing themselves in half. I needed to slow down, but I also clearly realized that I needed salt badly, which meant getting to next aid station as quickly as possible.
During this section of the course, there is a spot where you are about 200 meters from the Yurt aid station, but have over a mile of course left before you actually get there. My quads were cramping horribly at this point, and I was concerned about what would happen to them if I kept running. I slowed and was inches from pulling off course and heading straight to the aid station to get some S-caps. At the last minute, I deciding to keep crawling on the course and see if I make it to the Yurt without my quads tearing themselves in half. I finally got there and begged for S-caps like a crazed animal. Thank you, Mr. Aid Station Man, for running to get them and saving my race. He asked me how many I wanted, and I said all of them. I came to my senses and settled on four. I really had no idea how many to take, but overdosing probably wouldn’t have helped much.
I wasn’t surprised when Brian came around the corner right as I was leaving the aid station. He could tell I was in trouble, and offered more S-caps when I told him about my cramping. I ended up taking about 4 over a 15 minute period, and was hammering Gatorade at the remaining aid stations. I must have had 20oz of Gatorade every 3k for the last 12k of the course. While it may sound like I wasn’t taking in much water and electrolytes prior to that, I was consuming 30-40oz over those first two 25k loops which included 3 scoops of Gatorade. This is the same schedule that allowed me to run well over much harder terrain at the end of the Bear Mountain 50 miler. It was warm towards the end of Bear Mountain, but I must have been losing salt much faster at Pineland. It was definitely hot on that last loop, as dumping water on my head would only help for a few minutes.
The good news is that the S-caps and drowning slowly seemed to work, and right as my quads were starting to recover a bit, I spotted Kevin through the trees with about 10k left. Now, this course is so convoluted I’m not sure if was a minute or 3 minutes ahead, but he looked like he was hurting. I was guessing that I must be gaining if I could see him after losing so much time due to the cramping. I didn’t actually have my normal stride back, but my quads were contracting AND relaxing, which was a big help. After all the slow running, I wasn’t all that tired and it was frustrating to not be able to open up my stride.
I think I hit 17k right around 5:41-42, and focused on trying to run 40 minutes for the last 8k. My legs were not liking hard turns or steep downhills, but they actually felt good on the uphills. I came around a corner someone near 19k, and there was Kevin, walking. I asked him if he wanted to run it in together, as I was pretty sure Brian was long gone, but his legs were done. Team Inov-8 had officially self-destructed on the men’s side. I was thankfully able to run the rest of way to the last mile, where Steph and Gavin were waiting to cheer me on. As I ran past, Gavin took off after me at full speed, with his cowbell going like mad. He fully expected to be able to keep up, and Steph yelled to me so I could see how far he had gone. Being 4, he was pretty upset at not being fast enough to catch me, and was too sad to run the final few meters into the finish when they ran across the field to meet me. I wish I would have stopped and gone back to run with him the last mile, we both would have had a good time.
Brian got his third win in 6:13, I was 7 minutes back in 6:20, and Kevin pulled off the course at mile 47. If I had known that it was going to get to 83 F on race day, I probably would have run the 50k. I don’t do well or enjoy racing in the heat, but I might have had a pretty good day with a bit more salt early on. There were many great PR’s despite the tough conditions, and Amy Lane had a great race to win the women’s title. I went with my Road X 233’s, which worked fine on most of the course. I had to be careful on the few mud holes, but I stayed upright and they dried out very quickly. Kevin was pleased with his X-talon 212’s, and I saw many 295’s and a few pair of 190’s on the course. My friend Greg ran a 17 minute PR in his 318 GTX’s despite taking a 10 minute detour to observe one of the fine farm roads in the area.
The RD’s, Erik and Ian, really do a great job with all the races over the weekend, and the aid station crews are practically professional compared to some of the other ultras I’ve done. They know how hand cups, defizz the soda, and can refill a water bottle before you even realize you gave it to them!
Pineland always makes a great vacation even if I can’t manage to have a decent race. The highlight of the weekend was heading out to Popham beach after the race. We had promised to bring Gavin to the ocean before heading back to Mansfield, and Steph found quite the spot. Gavin and I played in the waves almost until sunset, and then we drove down the road to Spinney’s to have dinner while we watched seals play just offshore. I continued to replenish my sodium naturally through the ingestion of my third lobster of the weekend, with plenty of butter. I then drove home, and my day that started at 3am Sunday ended at 12am Monday.