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!