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