Friday, May 27, 2011

Rock/Creek - Scenic City Marathon

Before starting into this report, I think it best to thank those who put together such an amazing event. R/C Race Series and Randy Worton proved yet again that no matter your experience level R/C continues to put on world class events which open the running world up to the pleasures of being in the woods. I mean how many races on the east coast have a helicopter and camera mounted mountain bikers filming a trail race? Unreal!

Following W2C 50k at the end of March, I took some time to recover from my back injury and build up my speed. After racing essentially eight races in three months, I felt that my base was good enough to start hitting the track and the pavement for some structured speed/tempo sessions. Over the span of six weeks, my speed progressed with steady long, long tempo runs and LT track workouts (milers, 1200's, etc). On paper, I felt that I was coming into the race with 2:30-35 road marathon shape. That said, on race day things tend to play out differently.

I started my taper roughly three weeks out from the race, hoping that by decreasing my mileage that far in advance, I would absorb my training and not feel flat on race day. Unfortunately, the extra time did not afford extra rest as work took over and I quickly found myself up to my nose in research. The week leading into the marathon was restless to say the least.

Race morning went off without a hitch (aside from a slight delay due to the helicopter landing). Within the first mile, the peeking order was established. I knew from Arron's previous races that he would take the first half hard so it was not a surprise when he assumed the lead position. My plan was to run conservatively off the back of Arron for the first half and then sort it out on the second. However, when we cruised through the first aid station (5k) well under 5:50/mi pace, I dropped back a few steps to run my own race. I figured the heat was going to be the deciding factor and if Arron wanted to push the pace hopefully I could catch him in the second half.

I clicked my watch at the ten mile mark around 57min. Apparently, I was not running as conservatively as I wished. On the road, this would have been acceptable; however, on trail, I knew this was probably a little quick for an opening ten mile. Reluctant to fall back further, I tried to hold pace still hoping that the heat would limit Arron's lead. At mile ~13, the lead had stretched out to two minutes. At ~18min, he had six minutes on me. Knowing that I was in command of second place and that I was starting to succumb to the heat, I decided to drop the gear down and not turn myself inside out. The finish line was a welcomed sight and I enjoyed the crowd support running around the field for the final 400m. The highlight of the day was without a doubt running with Kristen the final ~3mi. I was supposed to be 'pacing' her and she absolutely dropped the hammer on me. I am still recovering.

I would like to extend my congratulations to Arron on taking command of the race. He is a talent and I look forward to racing again in the heat of Raccoon Mountain at the upcoming R/C Stage Race. Before that though, I am off to the Washington D.C. North Face 50miler to square off again against Forest Gump (aka Dean Karnazes).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Way too Cool 50k

Getting acquainted with my Frog cup-cake (finisher award)

I want to extend some thank you's before launching into a full blown race report. First of all, a huge thank you to Julie Fingar, W2C race director. Not only does she put on one of the largest/most competitive 50k in the country, but she was willing to take time out to play host to Owen and myself the day before the race. She made the transition across the country seamless. Without her help neither Owen nor I could have made it the start line in reasonable health (more on that to come). Secondly, thank you to La Sportiva and Rock/Creek Outfitters for their support in sending me out to Cool, CA equipped with the best trail running gear available. The support I have received from these two incredible companies has allowed me to string together back to back to back to back races.

Alright... now a race report

Way too Cool 50k ... The best finisher award ever! Cupcakes!

Honestly, Mt. Mitchell went far better than I was expecting it to. The obstacles that aligned prior to that race really made the finish line a wonderful experience. Following Mitchell, I was mentally charged and ready to get back on a race course. So, the next weekend, I found myself toeing the line at the Umstead Trail Marathon. After a week of little to no running, I thought that my recovery had gone smoothly. However, as soon as the gun sounded, I knew I was not fully ready to race. I stuck in with the leaders believing that perhaps I was just still a little sore; however, as we cruised through the five mile marker and my legs/back were not loosening up, I decided to save the effort for W2C the following weekend. I took the following week tremendously easy with one short track session on Tuesday to judge how the recovery was progressing. Thursday I grabbed a flight out of RDU and seemingly 24hrs later arrived in Auburn, CA. A six hour flight from D.C. turned into eight+ hours of sitting as our plane was stalled on the runway for over two hours before finally taking off. Thankfully, both Hannah Pate and Owen Bradley were troopers, waiting a few extra hours to pick me up at the airport.

The next day was spent catching up on sleep after getting in around 2am. We got out quick in the morning and stopped off at the race expo at Auburn Running Company (amazing running store with extremely knowledgeable staff) before heading out to the race start in Cool canyon. Along the way, we got sidetracked on the Western State 100 race course. The scenery was breathtaking and once we finally got to the race start line I couldn't help myself so I ran for a little over an hour on the course. Unfortunately, I did not realize that for the first thirty minutes I was running down into the canyon only to have to turn around and run back up the canyon for the next thirty minutes. Almost too excited to sleep, I was up before my alarm sounded.

The gun sounded and we were off flying. I slotted in feeling very comfortable around fourth position. Talking with Julie before the race, she had said that in order to win this race you needed to play it smart in the early miles. With a newcourse (an 8mile loop before leading out on the larger 24mi loop), I knew I wanted to start the larger loop in around fourth position. The earl
y miles breezed by and I quickly realized two things. One, the course was extremely muddy. Second, the early pace was a little quick. Having never run the course and not knowing any of the other competitors, I glanced back only to see the world famous Hal Koerner leading the chase pack. I knew Hal was a smart competitor and had raced the course before so I eased up and dropped back to his group. We came in through the mile eight (back through the start line) in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh respectively while being chased by a large harry man dressed as a gorilla (not Owen Bradley who is equally as furry).

We dropped down the "shoot" which was more a slip-n-slide with the mud. At the bottom we were still holding around six minute mile pace. Onto the fire road, I was introduced to fourth place finisher, Tim Olsen, who ran a patient race to finish just off the podium. Best of luck next week, Tim as he takes on the best in the business at Krissy Moehl's Chuckanut 50k. Heading into the first climb of the day, Tim had already put a 20s gap on our group. I knew I needed to pick up the pace and bridge before I lost contact; however, at a creek crossing, I slipped causing my back to spasm. My heart sank as I began to worry that the same back injury that I had to fight during Mt. Mitchell was back. On the next uphill, I lost contact with the chase back as my back spasmed resulting me having to walk to the uphill. From that point on in the race, I was unable to lengthen my stride as my back repeatedly would spasm, contracting down on my diaphragm. Aside from the misfortune, I had a blast enjoying the beauty of Cool Canyon and American River. Coming into the last aid station, I knew my shot at a top five finish was blown out. I focused on breaking four hours and with a mile to go, I knew I had it pretty well in hand. Crossing the line was a relief as W2C was the fourth race started in four weeks. Honestly, I was a little upset with the overall finish but you cannot be frustrated with a 15 minute PR.

So what's next? I was registered to race Bull Run Run 50 miler. I have decided to withdraw and address my back injury. My next race will be in a few weeks but for the meantime best of luck to all those that are racing this upcoming weekend (to my running partner, Owen at Oak Mountain 50k). Finally, thank you to Owen and Hannah to putting up with me for a few days and getting me to/from the airport at ungodly early hours.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mt. Mitchell Challenge - I had my doubts

Going into Mt. Mitchell Challenge, I had my doubts. I had doubts about my fitness, my health, my nutrition and perhaps my sanity for even attempting the run. Since November, I have been targeting the Challenge in hopes of putting together the most competitive race possible on that given Saturday. For months, training went smoothly. I logged my base mileage then moved into a structured build phase which transitioned into a focused race/speed phase in the weeks preceding the race. This was all well and good until following Mt. Mist 50k the muscle running the length of my back locked up causing excruciating pain to run down the length of my back and feed into my right leg. Needless to say with three weeks to go until the start of Mt. Mitchell, I was having trouble walking up a set of stairs. A very focused approach to physical therapy (thanks in large part to me assuming the role of Kristen's PT practice dummy, yes, dummy) nursed me back to health. I was placed on a rigorous schedule of stretching, low level lasering, icing, messaging, more icing/lasering, more stretching, and a whole lot of ibuprofen . which got me to the start line of the Pilot Mountain Payback, a 15miler ("heavy half-marathon") sudo-pain free with a week to go. Pilot Mountain went well. I battled back a respiratory infection all week only to find myself on the start line with a pounding headache and a raspy cough. The race unfolded with me exchanging leads with the eventual day's winner. I took over the lead at the half-way point. The leader caught me on a downhill section and me not wanting to rip my
still tender leg reluctantly gave over the lead and limped in around 30seconds after the winner. Congratulations goes out to fellow Sportiva athlete, Jason Bryant, who set a blistering new course record on the marathon while overcoming a 5 minute deficit at the half-way mark.

I got back from the race and essentially crawled into bed for the next three days. The respiratory infection, that I was battling during the previous week, took the better of me and I started to run a low-grade fever. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were pretty rough but by Wednesday I started to pull it together. Honestly, I was tremendously worried about my health and ability to start the race considering I could barely get out bed without becoming fully exhausted. I figured I would take it day by day and see what Saturday would bring.

Following work on Friday, Kristen and I drove to Asheville. We checked into the Presidential Suite at the Motel 8 and before I knew it alarms were blaring and we were meandering our way to the start line.

Before detailing the race, I want to extend my congratulations to Mark Lundbald on putting together the race of his life. At 42 years young the guy can still throw down against the best runners in the country. Old man strength!

So the race went off and the only thing I can remember is a man sprinting up the road wearing a large cowboy hat. Aside from the early antics, the race formed as I expected with the pre-race favorites taking control on the lower slopes of Mitchell. Up, up and away. For the first few miles, my respiratory infection seemed to be taking its toll as I was still hacking up all sorts of green goop in an effort to stay in the top five overall. Still unsure of where my fitness was, having only starting running back without pain a few days prior to the race, I was more than happy to sit in around fifth.

As we climbed, the race pace quicken once we hit the Toll road. Dane Mitchell and Kevin Lisska made it honest up to the marathon turn around point. Here the race fractured with Dane gaining a slight lead. Mark Lundblad was the only one able to respond. I figured with about a marathon still to run it was a little early to make a decisive move for the win. So I waited. Across the parkway, we entered into a stretch of trail bogged down from snow melt. I lost contact with the chase pack as my back started to lock up on the uneven trail.

Through the icy section, my back continued to lock up as I tried to stabilize myself from slipping off the edge of the mountain. At the top, I got word that I was not too far off the chase pack. Interestingly, I also found that I was sitting in fifth overall with Dane Mitchell apparently having taken a wrong turn. (It was later determined that Dane had slipped on the ice and separated his shoulder).

Once we moved onto the pavement on the road down, my back completely locked up and I had trouble breathing. At the marathon turnaround, my dad, brother and mom were waiting. I told them that my back was locked and it difficult for me to breath. My brother gave me a quick pep-talk that went something like this:

Josh: "Dude, my back is spasming. It is pushing down on my diaphragm (gasp). I am having trouble breathing."

Jake: "You could call it for the day."

Josh: "Take my ipod. I'll see you at the finish"

I laid into the descent and before I knew it my back had loosened up. I was running in complete control. At the bottom of Appalachian Way, I saw the fourth place runner. I paced myself up to him and not wanting to get into a sprint finish, moved quickly past. Rounding the lake, I was determined to finish under 5:15. I am very happy with how the race turned out considering fighting through the flu and injury over the last few weeks. I am looking forward to building on my fitness through the Umstead Marathon and into Way too Cool 50k.

It has often been said that it takes a village. This race definately took a village to overcome injury and illness to find my way to the finish. Thank you for all the support from my friends, family and sponsers. A special shoutout to La Sportiva and R/C Outfitters for all that you do to help me reach the finish line.

Check out the NEW!!! R/C website to learn about our newest Race Team Member, The Toyota 4Runner by clicking here. In the Toyota's debut race, she took home top honors in the team car division. Be sure to look for the Toyota out training on the roads around the Chattanooga area in preparation for the next R/C event.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mt. Mist 50k - Lessons Learned

I finally have had time to link together a solid training block as I settle into my new routine of graduate, real world working average Josh. Last semester/year brought a lot of challenges and changes. The transition from a 'constant on the road, go-go-go, 4am blaring alarm' to a now 'calm 4:30am alarm clock routine' has been a welcomed shift. My frustrating drop out at Lookout Mtn. 50 renewed a willingness to commit to a training cycle in preparation for the 2011 season. In hindsight, the race probably turned out for the best as I was able to recover quicker. With that said, the added pressure of a new job coupled with running expectations has made for some listless nights. However, going into Mist, I was confident in my fitness.

Mist has always ranked high on my racing bucket list. I first heard of Mt. Mist when I was fourteen years old. People have always said, "Oh, you run ultras in the south? Have you raced Mist?" There is a rich history that surrounds this race not only because of the strong fields that the race assembles early in the season but also with regards to beauty/difficulty that accompanies the course.

I targeted this race as an early marker of where my fitness stands as I prepare for my main spring goals: Mt. Mitchell at the end of February and Way Too Cool 50k in March. Since Huntsville was within driving range, I could not pass up a chance to race some of the top 50k runners in the country. Coming off a three consectitive 100+ mile weeks culminating in a 115mile run week, I knew I would not be fully rested. Regardless, I took the week leading up easy and, before I knew it, found myself shivering at the start line Saturday morning with 350 other scantly clad, large quaded ultra-running loonies. Thankfully, the gun (a rather large civil war style musket) sounded (exploded) and the race was underway.

I slotted in behind defending Mt. Mist champ David Riddle and passed the early miles chatting pleasantries. As expected, Hal Koerner was nice enough to join us (not only from Oregon) but also with the pace making at the front of the race.

I was told that the early miles were fast and sure enough before I knew it we were making our way across a clearcut power line trail somewhere around mile ten. The first climb was a welcomed shift from the icy descents we had been tackling; however, trying to stay on pace proved difficult for everyone as we slipped and slided our way up the icy ascent. Hal dropped back on the climb leaving just Riddle and myself to march on into the second half of the course. Unfortunately, on the next uphill section, I lost contact with Riddle as an inopportune bad patch left me scrambling for nutrition. From the limited information I could gather at aid stations, the next few miles proved decisive in the race outcome. I stayed roughly 1 to 2 minutes behind Riddle; however started to lose time at creek crossing (and cave crossings?) due to my unfamiliarity with the course. The white markings on an already snowy backdrop added a little difficulty spotting the correct path and often I had to stop to scout out my next few steps. The second to last climb was a barn burner as we had to navigate an icy waterfall into the second to last aid station.

Moments following losing contact with Riddle. Coming into a colorful aid-station, somewhere around halfway(-ish).

Here is where the lessons were learned. With six miles left, I skipped the second to last aid station figuring that the limited calories I had taken earlier in the course would tide me over to the end. Normally not one to train with calories, I felt the gas light come on around mile 29. I glanced back and saw Hal making his way down the trail towards me. I knew the catch was inevitable. Figuring I still had two miles left and one large climb, I slowed my pace and tried to gather my remaining energy reserves to match Hal when he caught me. As soon as Hal came up on me though, I knew I was on fumes. In the last two miles I lost my podium spot as I got passed again in the final half mile. All in all, I learned an important lesson. THE MOST IMPORTANT AID STATION IN A RACE IS THE SECOND TO THE LAST. You can rest assured that at Mitchell I will not make the same mistake.

The story of the day goes to Riddle as he crushed David Mackey's course record by close to three minutes on a very slippery/icy day. Impressive is hardly the word I can use to describe it. Honestly, it was a privilege to run with him as long as I did. I wish Riddle the best of luck as he tries to make the US 100k team. Hal, I look forward to racing you again in short order at WTC.

Having trained through Mist, I am now turning my attention to the Mt. Mitchell challenge here in a few weeks. In the meantime, I want to thank Huntsville Track Club for putting on a wonderfully organized event which will definitely remain on my race calender for years to come.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010.12.18 - Lookout 50

I usually let the dust settle for a few days before jotting down my thoughts from a race. Unfortunately this time around I had a few more hours than I had hoped for to piece together my impressions. So what happened?

First, a little perspective. The last few months I have been traveling between Boone, NC and Durham, NC. My weekly schedule had dissolved into a blurred marriage of night driving and lab work. Friday through Monday I worked in the Center for Human Genetics at Duke University. Following work on Monday I would get in the car, drive to Boone and take classes Tuesday through Thursday in order in finalize the remaining General Education requirements I had left to graduate. Thursday after my 5:00 class I would get back in the car and drive the 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour drive back to Durham. Aside from the spastic nature of my schedule, I found a rhythm that worked and got through the semester only reasonably sleep deprived. This was all great except when it came to logging consistent run mileage (most runs were pieced together at 4am then again around 9pm).

Following the crash and burn attempt at the sub-4hr mark at the R/C StumpJump, I went back to drawing broad and closely scrutinized my training logs from the previous months. A noticeable pattern arose, the absence of rest. So, following StumpJump, I took an easy week to get back into the swing of things, then hit it hard with a very consistent build in mileage up to a 110mi/wk. Following, I took an easy recovery week in which I started to have dull shin pain. Discarding it as artifact of the previous week's work/school/training schedule, I pushed into the next week with a steep jump in mileage to start the new training cycle. My body thought otherwise and before I knew it a short run around East Campus (~3mile) turned into a scene from Thriller. So fearing the onset of a tibial stress fracture, I promptly took 10 days of complete rest. I came back refreshed, rested and as usual (no matter how much I worry about it), without a loss in total fitness. So I hit the mileage hard again, linking three weeks of >105mi which included a stretch of 4 18-20mi/days and 2 5.5hr runs (both in the snow). Coming into the race, I was pleased with where my fitness was considering the inconsistency over the preceding few months.

I "graduated" from Appalachian State University Magna Cum Laude on Sunday, December 12 at 2pm. I put graduate in quotes because in typical Boone fashion, the weather prevented my family and myself from attending the commencement ceremony. I did return to Durham, however, and got a very productive few days of work, aside from battling off a slight cold. On Thursday morning Kristen and I awoke only to find the ground covered in a thin layer of ice. We got out for a short jog to judge the severity of the storm. It quickly became aparrent that we needed to get onto the road. Sensing the urgency in us getting on the road before the sun came up and the light falling snow turned to ice, we both threw together travel bags and with a quick fish-tail out of our parking deck we were on our way. What normally would account for a 7hr drive, turned into a slippery 12hr pludge down through Chattanooga having to pass through Atlanta.

Friday passed uneventfully aside from a morning MRI. Before I knew it I was standing on the start line shivering, waiting for it to get light enough outside to start the race. The gun sounded and I found myself towards the front enjoying a lighthearted conversation with fellow R/C racer and super shirtless stud Owen Bradley who was running the 50 as a training run for Bandera 100k in three weeks time. I pushed the pace early in order to get to the single track without getting boxed in. I assumed second position and within two miles had quietly slipped into first. As we descended off of Lookout Mtn, my stomach became unsettled. For every 4 minutes I built on the chase pack, I would lose 3 minutes as soon as I had to pull over to take care of business. I will spare the reading audience the details but every 4 miles and or every full bottle of liquid I had to make a pit stop. This was not a problem early on and I hit the climb out of Reflection Riding with a commanding lead. Onto the climb, I felt in control and on the steeper sections picked up the pace to put a larger gap on the group chasing. Passing through the Start/Finish line for the second time around 2:45, physically I felt great; however, my stomach continued to deteriorate. By the time I got out to mile 28 at Lula Lake, I had roughly 10 minutes on second place. The section through Lula lake was different from previous years which I believe vastly improved the difficulty and novality of the race. At the climb out of the Lula Lake waterfall, I saw Randy Worton who imformed me that I had a 12 minute lead. I could only comment that my stomach was trashed before turning back to getting out to the 34mile aid station at Nickajack. In a span of four miles I had to stop three times to take care of business and was having trouble finding my balance over technical terrain. I hit 34 and took Coke with three Gels before running up the hill and onto the 4.5 mile loop at High Point. The High Point loop was the low point as I knew my race was deteriorating into a stumbling mess. For every bottle of liquid I got in, it would come right back up. Alas, I pulled up at the 38 aid station recognizing that an attempt at 10 more miles would have been a crippling shuffle as I could not keep any liquids on my stomach.

So what did we learn? Unfortunately, there were not a lot of life lessons to be gleaned from Saturday's performance. Physically, I felt great. My training was perfect. In ultra-running especially when tackling distances over 50k, the stars have to start to align. Often the smallest issues can turn into huge problems. In retrospect, I probably had a stomach bug combined with the flu/cold symptoms I was experiencing earlier in the week and was not fully recovered. As I venture into longer and longer distances, I will need to alter my racing style of charging off the front. I hope to take on a quieter role in my next few races in hopes of learning how to race with patience and strategy. Sounds good on paper but when the gun goes off...

So the record stands: Lookout 2, Josh 1. I will be back next year to even the score.

Upcoming News and Events:

I am proud to announce that I will be racing for La Sportiva and R/C in 2011. I could not be more honored to have the privilege of representing two such outstanding companies. My next race will be in Huntsville, AL at Mtn. Mist 50k towards the end of January but for now a few days of concentrated rest/recovery. Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early Birthday Run

Since the Fall is rapidly leaving the high-country, only to be replaced with 5months of winter, I wanted to get in an early birthday run roughly one week out from big number 23. Historically, my birthday runs have been...well...epic. There was the year that I decided to run 50mi off the couch, only to have to call in room-mate life support around mile 38 and have them pick me up at 8am on the side of the interstate. Then there was the year that I repeated the stunt and ran through a whiteout snow storm on top of Grandfather Mountain only to have to pull up and call in room-mate life support at an Exxon station where they found me frozen to an empty cup of chicken noodle soup. Needless to say, my track record has been less than exemplary. Without the option of calling in life support and perhaps since I am gaining some wisdom in my old age, I opted for the less epic ~27mi run between 19E and Carvers Gap on the Appalachian Trail. A few years ago, in the middle of the summer, Kristen and I tried to run the out and back on this beautiful piece of trail but in the end had to turn back early due to dwindling food and increased grumpiness (word?). I have ran on this trail repeatedly throughout the years; however, I have never gone back to run the entire stretch end-to-end in one out and back push. Today seemed like as good of a day as any to try.

As usual, for the Birthday Run, I was awoke to driving rain and dropping temperatures. I drove over to the trail head in the dark. Awesome! Determined to not have another hypothermic birthday blast, I put on two rain coats (thanks Gore-Tex Trans-Rockies for the awesome running Gore-Tex gear) and started up the trail in the pitch black. Note to self, probably best to bring a headlamp when starting at 6am. Enjoy the pictures from my day-off adventure.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

StumpJump 2010 Race Report

Coming into this year's edition of the R/C StumpJump 50k, I felt like my aerobic fitness was tremendously higher than in previous years. Not only was the so called "monkey off my back," having finally won the event in 2009, but I really was eager to gage exactly where my fitness stood following what on paper was my strongest running training block in recent years. The spring saw an easy progression into reasonable mileage weeks (avg. 95mi/wk) with an early season emphasis on back to back progressive tempo runs on the weekends. A second place finish in June to Dane Mitchell (drug test?...)at the R/C Stage Race put my fitness right on track to keep up with Nick Selbo at TransRockies in late August. I built my mileage steadly throughout the summer having a nice block of ten weeks at 100miles (M, hill repeats; Tu, mile repeats; W, easy; TR, hard tempo; F-Sun, long aerobic) even with MCAT studies and working full time. Thankfully, this paid off and I didn't slow Nick down too much at TransRockies where we had a surprising third place overall finish.

After TransRockies, I took an easy workout week, mainly to get on top of the lab and school work I had missed the prior week. However, once I got my feet back on the ground the next two weeks saw the mileage sky rocket back into the 110-120 range with two solid 4hr trail runs up Grandfather Mtn and two encouraging high aerobic track sessions (1200's and 800's). The next week I dropped my mileage back into the manageable 70-80 range and increased the intensity of the track workout (2x200m,4x400m,2x200m) running in spikes for the first time since my mile repeats pre-TransRockies. Then finally I backed it down into taper time for the StumpJump.Coming into the race, I knew that the field would be stronger than in recent years with my toughest competition coming from my TransRockies partner and now close friend Nick Selbo. However, with the addition of Inov-8 strongman Mark Lundblad and the tribe called La Sportiva, the field looked wide open. Race morning finally came and after a quick car ride over with Vasque mutant-runner Bryan Dayton I found myself aimlessly wondering down the start line after a few warm up laps on the Nolan High School track.

I had two strategies coming into the race, one was conservative while the other was...well...less so. Since Bryan Dayton ran a sub-4hr StumpJump (old course), I have had it my head that is possible to break the 4hr barrer. This year with how my fitness had progressed through the summer I wanted to see if I could run four hours. To everyone that figured I looked like a loony dropping 5min/mi pace for the first 1to2miles of a 50k let me explain. It was my hope that by jumping off the start line I would attract a few other brave souls to help me push the pace. I had the mile splits in my head and when no one was up running next to me by mile 3 I honestly started to doubt my strategy to run for broke. However, after slowing up on the pace, I hit Suck Creek Road crossing for the first time right on pace for four hours (37:23) with no one in sight. I figured I would keep the pace at the 4hr mark until the Indian Rock House. The pace (7:45min/mi) felt very comfortable and did not seem unreasonable. Coming into the Rock House (1:16:change), I knew I still had the four hour mark in my cross hairs and after a quick water bottle switch I was up the trail without glancing back. My nutrition was spot on as I was taking in a 100cals every 20min. (3miles), plus with a steller carbo load thanks to my carbo and bread coach (Kristen) I knew I was running with a full tank. My next checkpoint came at roughly the half-way mark as the trail turned uphill at a fire road. I cruised through mile 16.58 change right on target (2hrs and 4min). On the uphill I noticed that the ambitious pace was starting to sting a bit. Being alone since the start line, I too was starting to lose a bit of focus. To get back in the right state of mind, I paced the next uphill section, switched songs on the Ipod (Celine Dion was just not cutting it) and entered into the infamous Rock Garden. Out of the Garden I made sure to get my entire water bottle down with a few extra calories.

I came back through the Indian Rock House for a second time right on target to go under four hours (2hrs 36min.). I thought great all I have to do is a 1:24 on the return trip, I made it out here in 1:16. Passing through a few people on their way out, I got an adrenaline rush from their encouragement. The next four miles breezed by and before I knew it I found myself at Suck Creek Road for the second time. At this point, I noticed my pace had slowed slightly and I had in fact only 40minutes to get back to the start line to du
ck under the 4hr mark. No matter, I grabbed two cups of Coke and turned my attention towards setting my mind right for the grueling final 5miles. In hindsight, I knew my pace was slowing but instead of playing the conservative (smart) card, I pushed the pace on the upper portion of the climb out of Suck Creek. At the top of the climb, nueromuscularly I started to feel off. I felt like a car running out on fumes. My legs started to get the familiar tingling of encroaching cramps. I knew my fate was sealed as my pace slowed to all but a walk on the decent. On the downhill into the swinging bridge, I lost the lead and almost the will to continue. Instead of dropping at Mushroom Rock like I first considered I walked the remaining 3.5miles back to the start line unable to muster up even the slightest jog.

It was the greatest experience I have ever had in a trail race. The words of encouragement and my brief attempt to run with Bryan Dayton kept me from crashing out. On this day, I went for broke. I have no reservations and would run the same race today if I could walk upright. I was confident in my fitness and confident in my ability to run off the front; however, in risking everything, I went all in and came up short. Through it all though, I remembered why I love trail running.

A huge congratulations to Jason Bryant of La Sportiva for a wonderfully calculated effort. I am looking forward to learning from your experience at the upcoming Mt. Mitchell Challenge

2010/2011 Trail Race Schedule (Tentative)

18-Dec R/C Lookout Mountain 50

22-Jan Mountain Mist 50k

6-Feb Uwharrie Mountain Run 40

25-Feb Mt. Mitchell Challenge 40

5-Mar Umstead Trail Marathon

9-Apr American River 50

Early May Rest, Build for Vermont

Late May Smoky Mtn. 1Day Traverse

June R/C Stage Race

17-Jul Vermont100