Thursday, November 19, 2009

UpChuck 50k - The Hardest 50k in the Daisy

Just saying.

The Upchuck 50k is the brainchild of two very demented trail runners. The run starts in Soddy Daisy and traverses over mountains, through canyons, beside an interstate, over ladders, across waist deep streams, along ridge lines and requires extensive mountaineering experience. Well maybe not the last one but the Upchuck does offer an trail running experience unlike anything else!

As my fourth race over the 26.2 distance mark in the last 7wks, I really wanted to come to Chattanooga to get in a long run in a fun environment without getting hurt. Mission accomplished. The trail itself was extremely challenaging as the wet leaves on rocks made for slippery descents and frustatratingly slow ascents. At times I found myself questioning if I was even still running on a trail but I came to realize that this is trail running in its truest form; a runner with limited assistance blazing down an endless trail through some of the most beautiful scenery the Southeast has to offer.


The numerous bridge, ladder, random obstacles that lined the trail broke up the boredom of running alone off the front for five hours.

The interstate section nuked my legs. Less than a mile long, the transition from trail to road and back to trail shocked my legs for the next few miles.

Two aid stations. Awesome. Who needs anymore than that, I ask?

Getting lost for fifteen minutes following property line flags instead of the actual trail race markers. I am a freaking genius.

Swimming across what probably was a knee high creek for most of the other runners. I was too zonked out to realize that I probably could have walked across, but instead I plunged headfirst into the creek and began swimming. Once again, freaking genius. Hey, I'm not in triathlon anymore so I've got to incorporate my swimming somehow.

Leaving the creek bed soaking wet, knowing I had six more miles to go.

Running to the next creek crossing two miles later only to be told I had six miles to go.

Running three more miles to the road only to be told that I had six miles to go.

Only having a mile and a half to the finish when I thought I had six miles to go.

By far and away the greatest, most challenging trail race I have ever competed in!

Monday, November 2, 2009

City of Oaks Marathon - The 2hr40min Enema

As the saying goes, 'even a blind squirrel can find a nut.' I believe this best summarizes my marathon preparation (or lack thereof) for the City of Oaks Marathon.

After the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k, I turned my attention towards picking out a good marathon to run a Boston Qualifying time (~3:10 for my AG). Orginally, I thought it would be cool to head over to the coast and run in the Outer Banks Marathon since the course would be flat and fast; however, with Kristen getting injured, I figured it would just be best to find a semi-local race and drive down the day before. No thrills.

Leading into the race, I had no idea what kind of pace I was running or where my fitness stood. Just as with the StumpJump, I was running exclusively on feel, without a watch. After StumpJu
mp I took a down week (80mi/wk) and then quickly revamped my mileage into normal ranges (90-100mi/wk). I took to running a little bit more on road to get my joints used to pounding the pavement. The weekend before the race I went down to Charlotte and logged out a nice 18mi tempo run (my first time running with a watch since May!) around 6:20pace. Things seemed to go smoothly, so I figured I would not have any trouble hitting the 3:10 Boston Qualifying time.

So here comes the blind squirrel part, my marathon taper:

The week of the marathon I logged 93miles (including the marathon) with my longest run (before the marathon) coming on Thursday (~18miles in doubles). I did my first 'track' workout since May (8x200m) on grass (without a watch) on Tuesday and took Friday down (running only 6miles total for the day). Both Tuesday and Wednesday nights I was at the hospital past midnight and averaged a little over three hours of sleep/night. I am more of a mad (exercise) scientist!

Saturday we drove down around noon, ran a little on course in bright sunny, warm weather and went to bed. I awoke on Sunday only to be greated to my most favorist weather, 50degrees with driving rain and high winds. Having gotten hypothermic numerous times in this kind of weather, I bundled up for the race wearing arm warmers, gloves, hat and an undershirt. Burr!!!! After my trademark 'josh, do not get hypothermic' warmup, I found myself shivering badly on the startline. Right before the gun went off my watch stopped working (way to go Garmin) so I had to borrow Kristens. I figured ah, what the hell, I will just find someone faster than me to run and see what the day brings.

On the startline, there were a few guys spouting out PRs. I heard one of them say that he had ran a 2:31 at Boston. He looked fit, so I figured I'd run a little with him. The gun went off and up the hill we charged. Mother F, why do they always start races uphill? Just no reason for it, I say. Anyways, the Kenyans took control and I said goodbye to conservative pre-race plan. I was going to run for guts and glory.

The first 10k seemed fast. It was rolling and into some headwinds. The tall guy with the fast PR kept getting in front of me on the windy sections, so I had no choice but to draft (hey it's a race and I'm getting old). I could tell that it was frustrating him but I mean honestly he was not going to get any draft off of me.

Well, we went through the 10k and I was freaking already freezing to death. The PR guy had pulled out to a 15-20m lead and I was happy to let him run. Onward into the death rain we ran. At mile 10, I linked up with the guy who would eventually get second and ran with him through Umstead Park. We came into the 13.1 around 1:19. I figured that I had given myself a nice cushion, in the event of what was looking like a definite bonk, to hit the the 3:10 mark. I linked up and just maintained pace.

Umstead was 3.5miles of unpaved road. It was like the twlight zone! Let me set the scene, thank God it was close to Halloween or I would have been scratching my head:

We were alone (3rd and 4th on the running in pouring rain...fog...hail...frogs(?exodus)...For 3.5miles I did not see anyone expect the guy I was running next too. Up and down hills, over bridges and through the woods (towards Grandma's house?) we charged. I did not even know if we were still in the race. The trail was completely saturated and gave us about a 2 to 3inches of muddy cushion to trudge through, which made the uphills less than enjoyable. I have to say when we finally came out onto pavement, I was overjoyed to be greeted to the 20mph headwinds and freezing rain.

It was about this time that I realized that we were approaching mile 18 and that I was sitting in place. I thought, holy cow, I could podium. So I started to play the tactical game. On the uphills I slowed slightly next to my competitor and was slow to re bridge at the crest. He started to catch on as he was asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was freezing to death and that 20miles would probably be the end of my race. He said that I looked tired and cold and that if it was ok with me (nice guy) he would pick up the pace at mile 20.

At mile 19 we recieved word that the second place guy (the Kenyan...apparently not a cold weather guy either) was doing the death waddle. I also received word (for the first time that 3rd place got 600 bucks). Now it was on like donky kong!! I am not going to lie I felt slightly more motivated thinking that I could net at worst 400 bucks on the day.

Sure enough, mile 20 came and my new running buddy surged blindly. Sure enough, I had played my cards right and surged right back, picking up his draft. The look on his face was priceless. I stuck to his draft all the way through mile 24 as we bridged up to the death waddling Kenyan. Game on mother Fer!

It was at this time that the 90mi run week started to take a toll (I think in hindsight if I had known that I would be battling for an ~800dollar payday I might have tapered a bit more). I came slightly unglued as we started in towards downtown Raleigh. I was still roughly 15m off the back of the two Kenyans but that I was not making any headway into the headwinds. It was at this time that we started running into the tail end of the half-marathon finishers.

The highlight of my race came around mile 24 when the two kenyans in front of me were getting cheered on by the crowds only to have the same crowds react in utter surprise as a skinny, pale white guy came running like a madman 15seconds later. It was at that point that someone on the side of the road shouted "You GO get those Kenyans, WHITE GUY!" I have to say that I do not promote racial slurs but at that moment it was really funny...only in the south!

I was unable to bridge and eased up into the finish line. I was hoping to roll under 2:40 (finished 2:40:20) but a 6min marathon PR wasn't too shabby considering the conditions. When the dust settled, I made 400 bucks as the fourth finisher and 3rd american! I have to say that I am very pleased with how the race went considering I raced hard for a 50k less than a month ago and hit this marathon mid-90+ mile run week. Well, I qualified for Boston. What a great way to spend my 22nd Birthday times (minus how hypothermic I was post race)!

Side Note:

Hats off to the winner (ie the tall white guy at on the start line). You ran an inspirational race, negative splitting in the worst racing weather I have seen in over a year. I am enormously impressed as that has to one of the guttiest performances I have ever had the privilege to witness firsthand.