Monday, June 27, 2011

Ft. Clinch Endurance Run

This weekend I went up to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach to run the Fort Clinch Endurance Run 100 mile race. This was my first trip to this part of the state. I went up Friday night and stayed at Kellie Smirnoff's place in Jacksonville-Thanks a ton Kellie!! That made things so much easier to get a full 6 hours of sleep and only be an hour away from the race site that starts at 6:24 am-RD Caleb Wilson's plan to start at official sunrise. Caleb did an amazing job putting this race together over the past few months. When he first mentioned it to me, it sounded like he would provide some basic aid and we would just run around the 10 mile loop primarily self supported. As time went along, more and more sponsors jumped on board. FitFul provided all of the aid station food and drink. MoeBen gave us arm sleeves which I am still not sure when I will use. They protect from sun and cold so I am sure I will use them eventually!
The course was a 10 mile loop that alternated directions each lap. We started by going out a pier and back in then heading out on the loop. The loop consisted of some road to the trail, rolling hills on all of the trails and a journey around the Fort overlooking the water and Cumberland State Park in Georgia. I would say 6-7 miles were trail, 2-3 miles we paved road and that last mile was the glorious concrete pier!
Light was breaking as we began getting ready to run and the mood was very casual as we gathered. The events being held were the 50M, 100M and 24 hour run. I started off as planned, very easy, around 11 minute pace and the first couple laps were very smooth. I was taking a GU at the 5M aid stations, manned by Caleb's mother and sister. Their aid station was set up around a .75 loop around a gator viewing area. I would drop a bottle so that I could take my GU on the loop, then top off both bottles and be on my way. At the main aid station I would take on solid foods such as Turkey subs and Goldfish and I was also drinking Perpetuem.
Everything was flowing so smoothly into the 4th lap where I started to notice a little fatigue in the legs, no pain, no cramping, just getting tired from the constant rolling hills. I had been walking the steeper ups from the beginning anyway. Lap 5 is where the wheels started to come off. I walked nearly the entire lap w/ Kellie but she was finishing the 50 that lap. I heard later that she said I talked her ear off, but I'm pretty sure she talked mine off without a problem also!! I tried to score to Caribbean Jerk Chicken at the Gator AS from Caleb's mother Chaundra. It looked and smelled so good. She was always keeping us smiling and laughing as we came thru. I am sure we kept her laughing too. She did promise that the chicken will be a staple at the AS next year! So lap 5 done and my feet are completely destroyed. There is pain in both feet and also my left ankle that make me wonder if some real damage was done. A handful of people had already dropped out due to the 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. I pretty much committed to one more lap and I would be done. I tried to start off the lap running but the pavement hurt too bad. So I walked to the trail and tried running again, that lasted about 2 miles and I was done. I would walk the final 7 miles without ever considering a jog. It was starting to rain and thunder when I got to the Gator AS. I was sitting on a bench fixing my iPod to protect from rain when I saw Caleb's sister Kristen getting in a car. I told her that I knew where she was going, the same place I was just alot quicker and easier on the feet. She kinda offered a ride but I knew I was gonna finish the lap to run 60 official miles. She told me that I better get going because of the lightning. I remember saying that at that point I didn't really care if I got struck by lightning. But I got up and kept walking and about an hour and a half later, I was done. 60 miles in something less than 15 hours and my feet were in a world of hurt. I wish I knew what was the problem with my feet.
I know this race report has been kinda brief. But really, every thing about the race was amazing. The RD, the support, the aid stations, the course, the competitors, my fueling, hydration, pace, cooling. Everything was aces, except for the feet. One day I will overcome the foot pain and finish a 100, no doubt about that!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wickham Park 50 Mile Fun Run

Well, my 2nd 50 mile race is in the books. 6 weeks after my first one up at Croom, I headed across the state to Wickham Park in Melbourne w/ Ultra Veteran Jim Rickards. Jim has 4 100's under his belt, including States and Leadville. We drove over Saturday and went to the park to check out the course. RD Matt Mahoney had chalked the course and put out used paper plates directing turns. We each filled a water bottle and just walked the course. To our dismay, most of the course looked runable. We were expecting a course that would demand walking for over a 1/3 of the time due to sugar sand. Of course, I had to hit my head on a tree branch, as I had done on the last training run at Croom. I was to pass this branch 28 times the next day so I made a note to pay attention. So we left Wickham and checked into our hotel just a few miles down the road. I think we were the only people staying at the hotel.
After relaxing a bit, we decided to head out for last minute supplies and some dinner. The awesome dude at Subway agreed to cut our turkey subs into quarters and wrap them in saran wrap to eat during the race. I grabbed a bottle of Mountain Dew, some Skittles and Gatorade. The chicken parm sub at Blizzaro's was amazing. And I even had half left over for after the race! Back to the hotel to relax and get some sleep.....which didn't really happen. I could not fall asleep. I was tired, and calm, I just couldn't seem to fall asleep. I think I finally got to sleep around 2am and was out cold until 6 or so. The park opened at 7 with a 7:30 start, so we grabbed bagels at Dunkin Donuts and headed over. The park was already packed at 6:50, which gave us plenty of time to get signed in, pick up our no t-shirt and get our Aid Station set up. This race is completely self supported. The race was chip timed, if you count the potato chips that I brought. The course was a 3.75 lollipop that would bring us back to the start/finish line 13 times to look at a watch on the hood of Matt's car where we would write our time and then head out a 14th time to do a 1.25 out and back to the Finish Line. We were gathered at the start line right at 7:30 when Matt came running out of nowhere w/ a bag of flour in his hand and announced "Ready, Set, Go"! I guess that means the race has started.
I started off at what I felt to be a very comfortable 9:15 pace w/ Krystle Martinez and Brad Lombardi. Krystle settled in with some woman for about half the race while I ran 4 laps with Brad. Then he pulled away before calling it a day after 50k with some pain in his foot that he didn't want to get worse-wise move. I felt very comfortable for about 5 or 6 laps. Oh, and the thing about the course being runable...yeah, not after 2 laps. There were 78 starters and we tore up the sugar stretches pretty quick. I walked the 1 decent hill, the 4 rolling hills and the 6 mogul stretch every time after the first lap. Beginning on lap 3, I walked the sugar sand stretches. I carried 1 bottle of water for each of the first 2 laps and on the 3rd, I picked up a bottle of gatorade and that was the pattern for the rest of the day. Toni Pyle was so helpful in topping my bottles off after each lap so they were ready when I needed them again. I was carrying 40 oz of water and was drinking about 30 each lap.
On lap 3, I wanted to start popping my endurolytes but when I went into my ziplock bag in my bottle pocket, they were soaked. I couldn't save any so I threw out the bag. Then at my cooler, I forgot to take some, but on lap 4 I remember I had a couple in the new bottle I had picked up a lap ago. There were 2 in there, so I figured I should drop the 1st one in the sand walking up a hill. So I am about 13 miles in and have only taken 1 endurolyte. I think I took 2 at a time at about 6 more times that day. I didn't remember after each lap, cause I had to go into the bottle in the car for them.
After lap 4, I began drinking Red Bull and Mountain Dew at the cooler and I took GU's after lap 4 and 6. Toni gave me a few potatoes and some watermelon but that was about all I could eat. I did eat some of two of the pieces of sub that I had but from Mile 10 to the finish I really thought I was gonna start throwing up after every burp. I was not a great feeling. As I was finishing lap 7, which I was debating calling it a day with the Marathon, I ran into Sissy, Keith, Cookie and Kyle, who came out to hang for a bit. They ran me in as I completed the marathon in 4:53. The fastest marathoner on the day was 4:10. They all ran lap 8 with me, which was awesome to have 4 pacers-well, I was leading the way cause I knew the course. Kyle was trying to be funny but I wasn't feeling too hot so his humor was not working (sorry Kyle, no offense). I do remember asking Sissy "who brought the ADD kid" after he pulled out and took off in a sprint. So 8 laps in, about 30miles or so, Sissy went on lap 9 with me. She helped me to the finish at Croom and is just the most amazing pacer. She knows exactly what to do and say and how to say it. I was in a really bad funk at this point and the heat was getting to me. I even did throw up a little, but not the all out hurling that I was expecting. She kept telling me that I was in Pittsburgh or Syracuse in the winter and that it was actually cold out-I wasn't buying her line of crap, but it was nice to hear her try! I explained some of the things that I was going through and she just listened and tried to help to keep going. I remember one particular scene in my favorite movie For Love of the Game when Gus says to Billy, "Oh Chappy, today just isn't your day." I really felt that way on lap 9 but having Sissy there really helped me a lot.
We finished up lap 9 and Cookie had the perfect gift for me as I sat at the cars. A bag of ice for my neck and back. So I have 4 laps to go and no energy, but all of a sudden, I jump up and grab my bottles. Brad asked if I got a new burst of energy and I just said "I gotta go." I don't think it was a burst of energy, but more of a panic that if I sit there any longer, I won't ever get up and finish. So I was off at a horribly slow jog. The gang had to take off but I was glad they were there when they were.
I don't remember lap 10, but I think I ran most of it, but then I walked every single step of lap 11 and 12. I remember panicking after lap 10, saying that I only had 4.5 hours so do 3 laps plus the out and back. I really felt that my laps were gonna slow to 90 minutes each and that I wouldn't finish. But that feeling went away when I did lap 11 in 70 and knew I could finish. I came up on Jim near the end of lap 12 and we walked and talked for a little while. Then Eric Friedman is coming towards us and suggests a basketball shoulder bump which I think is a great idea. Not true, as soon as I jump and hit him, a seizing cramp goes flying through my left hamstring. It's all good tho! It was quite funny, but the cramping laughs are only beginning. Lap 12 brought back a visit with that tree branch. I hit my head hard again. I kept checking for blood but I guess I didn't cut my head. So I finish up lap 12, which I walk in 61 minutes, 9 minutes faster than lap 11. I think I got the powerwalking thing down on that one. I only sit about 5 minutes and head out on my last full lap. I started out w/ a guy that I had spoken to earlier in the race and his wife was walking with him. He said he was gonna try to run the 1.25 out and back so with that in the back of my head, I tried jogging on a few the flat solid stretches. I turned in a 56 minute lap while running the last 1/2 mile and only had 1.25 to go after 11 hours of running. I was just into my out and back when I come across this guy finishing his 13th lap and he says he is gonna try and catch me. To think, a sprint finish after 49 miles. I ran as hard as my body could go, which was about 11:30 pace and my stomach was violent towards me. It was painful. My legs would go just fine by my stomach ached. So I step on the paper and head for home. When I passed the guy coming after me I told him I stepped on the paper so he knew I went all the way! I popped out of the woods and kept looking back, no sign, I held him off. 11:21:11 was my finish time, an hour and half slower than at Croom. I was not complaining, cause this course was not comparable to Croom. This course was so unforgiving and difficult that any finish was a real accomplishment. One pleasure in the last 3 laps is that I was going back and forth with ultra nice ultra awesome Cheryl Lager-an official FL Ultrarunner from Virginia. We didn't talk much cause we were both struggling through our own challenges but it was nice to feed off such an amazing person.
The other guy came in 2 minutes after me and I introduced myself. His name is Chris Reesh and he had finished his first 50! I told him I was running like I could hear banjo's, which got a laugh. I had nothing in me but just kept going. Then I go hang out w/ the crew of Toni, Krystle-who blew by me on lap 11 or so and lowered the women's CR to 10:17, and Brad. This is where the fun starts. Every move I made would start a cramp in some muscle, calf, hammy, thigh, back, toes even. I just wanted to get off my feet for a few minutes and when I sat down, cramps would seize thru my body, propelling me up, jumping around screaming in pain while also laughing at how funny I knew I looked. Brad was getting a real kick out of my pain because he has been there before. After a while I was able to settle down and relax. The awesome John Pyle came in shortly after me with a very solid paced run. Jim also came in right after me, having done 11 laps for 41 miles. A great day for him, good miles on a tough tough course.
Got back to the hotel around 8:30, showered, ate the other half of my sub and watched the newest Indiana Jones movie. I jumped out of bed in pain a few times from cramps in my calves and toes. I was able to get some sleep though. The only damage I took was to 3 of my toes. I was certain that I would lose all 3 nails, but maybe not. I drained them from under the nail and they seem to be ok. Time will tell.
Well, I think that's all I have to say about that. On to the next one, Ft. Clinch Endurance Run 100M on June 25th-26th on Amelia Island in Fernandina Beach. I will be ready to finish my first 100!!!
Oh, and results with splits can be found here: Out of the 78 starters, 57 completed the Marathon with 13 finishing 50 miles. I ended up 5th, sandwiched right between some very respectable ultra runners!! Joe Ninke went on to finish 200 miles over 4 days for the 3rd year in a row-Amazing!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Croom Fools 50M

Yesterday was my 2nd attempt at becoming an "official" ultrarunner. Many people have told me that I already am one because I completed 66 miles in a 100 mile race and I have done (3) 50 mile training runs as well as many other 30s. But I felt that to include myself in that category, I had to complete a race longer than a 26.2 mile marathon.
I went into the Croom Fools 50 Miler knowing without a doubt that I would finish, I just wasn't sure how well I would run. I had set some soft goals for myself of 8:20 (10 min pace) and top 10. So here is how the story unfolds:
I headed up to Brooksville with Shanna early Friday afternoon. We went to packet pickup to save time in the morning. I am so glad I did because I was already trying to get all my aid station stuff ready in the morning to have one more thing to worry about. Then we went and checked into the hotel where they had a nice little happy hour for us. Then the friends started to show up. I got to finally meet Kellie Smirnoff who came down from Jax to win the 50k just three weeks after a solid 100k in New Zealand! Brad and Will then Krystal, John and Toni arrived and we hung out for bit before Shanna, Kellie and I headed up to eat the pasta that we had brought with us. It was just easier to eat in the hotel room and relax. Then we made up some bottles and rearranged the cooler for the morning and off to bed for a solid 6 hours of sleep! Man, 4:30 came awfully fast! But it was up and outta there.
We got to the start line around 5:30 and got the most perfect parking spot. I had just enough time to make sure all of my GUs and bottles were ready. I have myself believing that I wasn't nervous about the race but making sure that I had all my ducks in a row. Who knows if that was true, as I headed to the start line with my shirt on. was 70 degrees at the start, so I ran back to the car to ditch the shirt. I met up with John, Brad and Will at the start and Andy Matthews introduced himself as a co race director and that we were almost ready to start. He asked if anyone needed a lamp to which one poor soul said he did. Andy made no promises as to how long it would last; that got a laugh from the field. And then we were off. About 6 or 8 of us started down the road at a very comfortable 8 min pace. The course would go .7 of a mile down the road and make a left on a fireroad. The first loop was 5 miles followed by 3 loops of 15 miles each. I felt great on this 5 mile loop which was primarily flat with the exception of the climb up Tucker Hill back to the start line (main aid station). I also had my only fall of the day around mile 4. I got my foot caught on a root and went down on one knee and caught myself with one hand bottle. I popped up instantly and never missed a beat. As I came up to the car to grab my 2nd bottle, a GU and headphones, all of the runners in the 50k and 16M races were starting to gather as they were starting 1 hour after us.
Marc St. Angelo was there now too and assured me I could ditch my headlamp. He ran run a solid 9 hours last year so I trusted his advice and ditched it. Boy am I glad I did that, I would have hated carrying it for a lap or having to leave it at the next aid station and not pick it back up after the race. My only problem as I started the first big loop was that my headphones were tangled and with two bottles and not enough light, I wasn't about to slow down to get that situation straightened out. So I just shoved the headphones in my shorts and kept crusin! There was just enough light to really embrace the darkness of the trails up there. Next stop, Beaver Gulch. This gulch drops down fast with many roots and downed trees. This is also the place that just three weeks ago, I bashed my head on a low tree that goes across the trail. I was paying enough attention this time and was able to duck under it, as I was the next two times on the day! Climbing out of Beaver Gulch is easier than getting into it and then it was on to Camp Donkey, where Mark Jackson and his awesome family have an incredible aid station. He asks what I need and I reach into my shorts to ask if he can untangle my headphones. Tae is also there and refills my water as his waits for his father, the amazing Jim Schroeder to come through.
Full bottles and music playing, next stop, 5 miles to the road crossing station. I ran most of this way with Will Glover. Will is a pretty awesome dude that I met the night before with Brad Lombardi. Will was a little undertrained with a business to run as well as familial obligations but he was giving the 50 his best shot. He looked very strong at this point. We swapped back and forth for about 20 miles and it was great talking to him each time. I got to see Andrea Risi and Bill Slow Twin at the road crossing.
Full bottles and a GU down and I was off again. Three more miles to the Bundy's Pit AS. Quick in and out of there and it was 4 miles of hills back to the top of Tucker Hill. I walked most of the uphills because it was the smart thing to do. I felt great on the downs and flats so I just kept crusing at an 8:30ish pace, I think. Mile 16 was the last time I looked at my watch. It was at this point that I started to question how good or bad I felt. I had no problems getting back to the car but I wasn't sure that I felt great. All of the runners were out on their first loop by now so I just swapped out my bottles, left my trash and grabbed some new GUs.
Twenty miles down, 30 to go. I felt solid leaving, with Beaver Gulch and Camp Donkey only 3 miles away. Got there no problem but wanted Mountain Dew and/or Coke. Mark had Coke and he asked if I had been taking electrolytes. I had not but I had my baggie and grabbed two right then and at every AS after that too. I also had a potassium tab and an orange slice. I felt the need to sit a minute so I asked if I could sit. Mark told me I could but not for long. I sat for about 2 minutes and asked about the Labatt Blue that he had advertised on FB. He said he would have a cup for me on the next lap, that I had to earn it. So I got up and said I would be right back!
My run/walk "strategy" from here to the finish is pretty much a blur but I will try to chronical it to the best of my ability. From here, I ran when I felt I could run and I walked when I felt that I needed to walk but I took on the motto of ABM-Always Be Moving. There were many times over the next lap and a half that I really wanted to just bend over and put my hands on my knees, especially at the top of hills, but I resisted all of those urges. The only time I ever stopped was at an AS. So, on to the Road AS for the 2nd time. This was just a quick refill, orange slice, Endurolytes and a GU (which I think I only ate half and left it on the top of the water jug). Andrea also noticed that I was shaking pretty bad. I am not sure what that was about. Maybe cause I didn't take enough endurolytes early on, maybe the heat, who knows. My deal with the heat was not the same as anyone else in the race. I heard runners complaining left and right about the heat. I never once thought that it was "too hot." I knew that there wasn't really any humidity and a breeze most of the time so I had no reason to hate the heat. I put sunscreen on twice too and didn't even burn!
So from here it was run/walk through AS #3 and up and down all of the hills. There was a lot of run/walk in here and my feet were in some serious pain. I was wearing the Saucony Peregrines and I love them but my feet just don't want to cooperate with this kind of mileage. Oh well, up Tucker Hill to have a seat at the car. Shanna swapped out my bottles and asked what I wanted. I was in 1 word answer mode right then. I said "Red Bull" and then "Skittles." Looking back, I felt like Dorothy at the end of Wizard of Oz, I am looking at these people and saying "You were there" and "you were there too." My Dad walked over and said hi. I was pretty sapped of emotion as I responded hello back to him. I also threw a half eaten GU and said "I can't GU anymore, I'm F'd" and Sissy thought I said I can't GO anymore and was about to kick me back out. I could not take in any more GU and Chomps didn't taste good either. I was gonna have to rely on AS food and my bottles. I was always carrying one water and one gatorade.
Last lap, the bell lap, haha! I left out of there running and I think I made it a mile, maybe two, still running before the walking hit me again. Anytime I sat or walked for a longer period of time, I was able to follow up with longer stretches of running. Walk/Run seemed to be the plan this lap. I made it to Camp Donkey for the last time and there was no way I was asking Mark for the Labatt Blue. I just refilled bottles, ate a little bit and stumbled out of there. I ran/walked with Andy Barrett for a while in here, which is always amazing to do. He is the man and has helped me out a lot early in this career.
On my way to the Road AS for the last time, Stephanie Miller blew by me like I was barely moving. I just said "Great job, way to defend your title." Which she did in Rockstar fashion. She was still at the Road AS when I got there but she left quickly and I never saw her again. Wendy and Sally were there. Wendy helped me get some stuff together, bottles, food, endurolytes, introduced me to her boyfriend. I looked up, said hi and crashed back to my hands on knees (remember, I was allowed to do that at aid stations).
I left out of there for the last time and I think I was running 30 seconds to 60 seconds of walking the rest of the way. Somehow I made it the next three miles to AS#3. They were pretty cool people, I sat and had some coke, topped off bottles then get on my way again. By now, my theory was that the quicker I got to the finish the sooner the pain would stop. I just kept plugging away, running downhill and some of the flats and walking up the hills.
I was probably less than 1 mile from the finish when I turned a corner to walk and Sissy was coming towards me with a gatorade and tons of support. That gatorade was so good. We ran a little and then I had to walk some. We laughed about the cat sign, which is an inside joke, sorry folks! Then we hit that camp w/ picnic table and it was time to climb Tucker Hill and cross that finish line. I was able to run the top of Tucker Hill and out the trailhead straight into the finish. They handed me my finishers mug and I just sat down, completely spent. I just sat with my face in my hands, nearly crying, not really sure what was going on. Thinking back, I was laughing and joking with Sissy just 2 minutes before and then I had nothing in me. People came over to congratulate me but I can't completely remember who all was there. Shanna sat next to me and wanted to know what I needed. I had no answer for her. I had no idea what I wanted. Kellie did come over with a piece of cake on a plate so I did eat that. And my face wore some of it. Other than that, I could not function.
After a while, I was able to move over to the gathering area where the Speedsters had been hanging out for the hours they had been done running! Sissy and Keith dominated the 16M Fun Run in their first Croom race and the will be back again for sure! Patsy, Jami, Bob, Angela and Jim all ran the 50k. We toasted with champagne and I sat around like dead weight. Shortly after I finished, my mentor in the sport of Ultra Running, John Pyle, came through looking stronger than ever. I somehow was able to stand up and made my way over to share congratulations and get a picture with my hero.
It wasn't long before we decided to start heading home. Nothing sounded better than a hot shower and a comfortable bed. I got in the pool for a quasi ice bath, then got that hot shower. Then dinner and crashed on the couch to watch a movie. Not really sure how I stayed awake for it, but then that comfortable bed was calling my name and I was out cold until about 8:30am Sunday. Woke up and legs felt quite a lot better. Still sore but not crippling. Looking forward to Wickham Park Memorial Day Weekend! I want to thank all of the people that worked the aid stations and supported me. I also want to thank Andy Matthews and Jim Hartnett for putting on such an amazing race. Also need thank my Dad for coming to support me. He saw me run a 5 mile race about 2 1/2 years ago when I started running but this was a whole different story.
Lastly, Dear Shanna, your support is unreal!
Finish Time: 8:49