Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stone Steps training run

Went to the Mt. Airy Forest in Cincinnati on Memorial Day for a fun run – the Stone Steps FA 50K. Temps were expected to reach the low 80’s so it was good chance to try to transition into warm/hot weather running.

About 15-20 runners attended this very low key event. A bring-a-snack table was set up along with a do-it-yourself time sheet where the 2 loops on the course meet. Dave Corfman, co-RD for the 50K Stone Steps race scheduled October 19, introduced us to speedsters Tom Possert & co-RD Andy Jones, lined us up for a picture, gave us a few tips & then off we trotted.

At first I was still having some low level pain in my right ankle from a sprain 2 weeks ago, but the endorphins soon kicked in & I didn’t notice it again till the end of the run. The 1st 5 mile loop went OK as I stayed at the very back of the pack. 1:05 for 5 miles was slow, but I was already dripping with sweat & drinking heavily. The sun rose higher & then I started having trouble keeping hydrated. As I was running slower & slower, it took longer to complete each loop & my bottle would run out sooner each time. After about half the 50K, the heat had already sapped my strength & it also felt like I just couldn’t get enough air. And to think I could run in the summer for once . . . . I guess the unusually cool weather this year made me forgetful.

Since my registration has already been sent in for the next 2 races, I still plan to attempt them, but they’re going to be much more of a challenge to finish than I originally thought. My next race: Another Dam 50K in Englewood, Ohio. Two years ago I attended this race -- that was my first & last attempt to run an ultra in June. I don’t think it was unusually hot for that date, but I do remember the sun was intense & that there were large portions of the course that were not shaded – I was lucky to finish. I think I said after that race “never again”!

My previous plan to run in DINO's Brown County 15K this weekend to check out the course & work on some speed looks doubtful -- may just give my ankle & body a rest for a couple weeks . . . will see.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fun Run w/Foxes

With a slow recovery from DWD, I did not venture out on the trails till last Friday. And then it was only a short run to be sure everything was in working order. Since I felt OK, I thought I’d try the Run with the Foxes 13.1M mini in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Indiana the next morning. It’s always been an event I’ve wanted to check out since doing the “sister” race – the Knobstone mini several years ago, but there was always a conflict with the date. This time I just wanted to try out the course and have no time goals. The weather was going to be nice so I intended to enjoy myself. And if my legs & ankle were feeling real good, I would take the chance to work on my speed.

The start for the mini was very close to where the Tecumseh Trail Marathon is started each December. The RD had a speech at the start & said this event lost a lot of runners this year due to a new race . . . somewhere -- she was difficult to hear. I did hear that she was letting the 10K & 10M runners start 2 minutes early – I think some mini runners didn’t hear her & started with them. Anyway, I started at the back of the pack so I wouldn’t be caught up with the speedy runners. The problem with that – which I soon realized, was after the start on the road, the race quickly went into a very narrow twisting single track. So I ended up either walking, standing still or jogging very slowly up close to the heels of the person in front of me for the first mile or so. I wanted to start slow, but not that slow. As the trail straightened out & widened, I was finally able to get by slower runners/walkers from the mini and also the slower 10M & 10K runners/walkers who had the head start. I’m usually the one being passed – this time I enjoyed doing all the passing & no one passed me that I didn’t pass back all the way -- except one very determined runner near the finish. The trail was well established & maintained. It was nice to see the forest in full splendor & to be there with cool temps & with no bugs (some stinging nettle though). It was very muddy in places & the streams were still up from a heavy rain 2 days previous. I thought the course had a good mix of short & long hills, technical sections & easy running spots. Using my McNaughton experience, I didn’t need to slow down running thru the mud and all the streams as many others did who I ran with – but those same runners had more speed than I did. So I took that chance to get in some good speed works until my ankle said it had enough. In summary, this run was a fun time & a good tempo work w/some short “sprints”.

Next up is the Stone Steps F-A 50K in Cincinnati on Memorial Day. This should be another fun run on a course that I really enjoy running on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 Dances w/Dirt Gnawbone

There was a dense fog when I arrived just outside Nashville, IN near Gnaw Bone. The skies started to lighten up about 6 and the race started at 6:15. I could not have asked for nicer weather this time of year – 10-15 degrees cooler than both the high & low temps of race day last year. That was my number one concern coming into this race as I didn’t want a repeat of last year. The fog cleared off by mid-morning & was replaced with a nice cool breeze & hazy sunshine. Most runners had long sleeves on at the start, but I wore a singlet as I knew I would warm up quickly, which I did. Two miles into the race, my singlet & shorts were soaked and I left my singlet at the 1st aid station. It was cool, but the humidity was at the max. The race had the same starting point & the 1st leg was exactly the same as last year up to about the 4 or 5 mile mark. The aid station had been moved to the 6.5 mile point this year. From the 1st aid station, the beginning of the 18.5 loop section began. This loop section would be run once for the 50K, twice for the 50M and then return back on the 1st leg to the finish. A big change from last year was the loop was being run counterclockwise instead. It seemed a little odd at first, but the course still remained familiar. I thought most of the course markings had been improved over last year although there were some markings that I thought would be tricky to someone new to the course. There were also new sections added & most notably a road section was omitted. I liked this version much better than the year before.

The weather cooperated this year, but the course conditions did not. It had rained on the previous 3 days and on a portion of the 1st leg there had been some logging activities that tore up the course -- it made for a muddy mess starting at the first hill. Trying to miss the deeper mud took extra effort & I got tired before reaching the first aid station – this was not looking good. The 1st leg ended below the dam for Ogle Lake, a very nice scenic area. I took a break there to rest up as the first section was tougher than expected. I downed 20 oz of Gatorade & some gel before leaving & and took off with 20 oz more in hand. Another change from last year was there was only 1 drop bag location at the beginning/end of the loop -- the 2nd one at the halfway point of the loop was dropped. This meant I would have to refill my bottle more during each loop. This was OK except the Gatorade from the coolers at the aid stations had very little taste, this was especially noticeable after drinking bottled Gatorade. The volunteers were very friendly though & eager to help. Each grabbed my water bottle immediately to fill it and all of them gave much needed encouragement. This year I figured I consumed about 2 ½ gallons of water & Gatorade, compared to nearly 3 ½ last year. I also remembered to take in more electrolytes this time around.

With the rest after the tiring 1st leg, I began to feel better on the 1st loop. The streams were up & I got my feet wet, but there wasn’t a lot of mud on the loop section. I really enjoyed the well groomed trails & the cool breeze. I finally got into a rhythm & really felt like I was cruising – this was fun! I even kept up & chatted with some 50K runners for a while. By the end of the loop back at the lake, the halfway point, my time was 5:08. The cutoff at this point was 6 hours, so I was OK in that regard – had there been a cutoff last year, I would not have finished. As I began the final loop I thought that sub 11 hours sounded like a good goal to keep me focused the rest of the race and it was a possibility the way I felt. So I took off feeling pretty good with something to shoot for. After the next aid station, I caught up to Josh Allfree, a runner from my local area though I had never met him. He had run the Louisville Lovin’ the Hills 50K this past February & he mentioned that I had passed him before the finish there. Josh was attempting his first 50 miler. As I kept up behind him for a while, he came to an abrupt stop as he cramped up. This happened on what the website calls a “stupid spot” -- a section of the course that is out of the ordinary. This spot in particular was not on an established trail or path, just a flagged section up & down the hills thru the woods. The briars here accounted for all the scratches on my legs & arms. It wasn’t as rough as last year though as much of the briars & brush had been knocked down. After I passed Josh, I went about 50 feet & promptly stepped on a hidden rock/log beneath the leaves. Ouch! I turned my right ankle & then I made an abrupt stop too! I knew right off that this was more than a slight ankle sprain, but not serious thank goodness -- although it wasn’t something that I was going to shake off after a few miles. As we both hobbled thru this section, we finally made it to the halfway point of the loop at North Gate. Right after leaving this aid station, we came across a beehive of 100K relay runners. For the next mile or so, we were running along with fast runners & they were also coming towards us in the other direction. This was a very heavily traveled section! With my aching ankle & stepping off the narrow trail for runners from both directions, I lost my concentration & rhythm that I had before – this was not fun. Then we came to a trail junction & suddenly the relay runners disappeared. Soon afterwards, Josh passed me again & I wished him luck as I knew I could no longer keep pace. I finished up the 2nd/ last loop at 9 ½ hours. Even though I had a gimpy right ankle, all I needed was 1:30 for the last 6.5 miles. Not impossible, I thought, since other than a couple hills, most of the course was level or on a downhill grade to the finish. So I took off hoping the mud from the morning had dried up giving me a chance. After a couple miles, I ran into the relay runners again. This time they were all running in the same direction only & most were traveling at high speed (of course). The trail was wider so it was just a matter of keeping to one side or the other, although sometimes I didn’t hear them approaching & it would startle me as they whizzed by. The mud had dried some, but I did not foresee the next problem – horses had used the trail since the morning! Anyone who has run on a muddy trail after horses knows what they can do to it. This time some of the mud pits were just unavoidable & I saw one runner lose a shoe in the muck. I checked my watch & time was running out for sub 11 hours, but I thought it would still be close if I quickened my pace. As I came down the gravel road at a fast clip & keeping up with the relay runners for once, we all turned left into a field for a run thru several more fields before the finish (as we did last year). For the first time during the day, I was not paying close attention to the flagging – this was one of my top priorities going into this race! Apparently this section was taken off the 50 mile course and was for the relay runners only this year. I ran across the field to what appeared to be a finish gate and a lot of people standing around cheering. I crossed under the banner & asked is this the finish? Must’ve been a silly question (my stupid spot) as no one answered. I saw some runners continuing thru the field so I followed. Soon after, I heard someone yell “you’re going the wrong way!” I came back & they told me the ultra runners don’t turn off the road! So I trudged back to the road disappointed that I had lost my concentration just a quarter mile from the finish. I didn’t get the goal I had set for myself during the race, but I was happy with the finish time nonetheless, a major improvement from last year.

Also last year, I was unable to sample the grilled food at the finish since I was not feeling well then, to say the least. I was so looking forward to the food this time. So just after the finish I picked up a hat, a pen and an age group medal and began looking for the food. To my dismay, the food line had about 60 or 70 people in it – what a bummer! As I stood there for a few minutes thinking about what to do, I watched as only 3 or 4 people got food in that amount of time & the line grew by 10 more! That decided it for me, anyway I needed to get off my feet & cool down my ankle – pigging out could wait till I got home.

Not sure as to my next race as I’ll have to see how recovery goes. I have quite a bit of muscle soreness, more than my last 2 races combined. I have no blisters, which is surprising since usually when my feet get wet, I am prone to them. My entire right foot is still hurting from the top of the ankle to the toes & is still slightly swollen.

The heat of summer is coming & it looks like my goals will no longer be time oriented now -- my focus will be on adapting to & surviving the heat.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

DWD taper

An easy pace run both yesterday & Saturday is all the training for the past week in preparation for the 2nd running of the Dances With Dirt in Gnaw Bone, Indiana this Saturday. I would have liked to have had a tempo run in like before the John Bryan 50K but I’m thinking DWD at 50 miles with some hills needs a different approach.

After getting sick in and after this race last year, I shut down ALL running till I recovered & till the heat of summer subsided. With the record high temperatures all the way thru August & much of September, that meant 3+ months of no running & a loss of the fitness I had built up after many months of training (it didn’t help that I hurt my back over the summer also). This year I’m considering an event each summer month to keep from losing what I have gained back since last September. No attempts at PR’s, just maintenance type running with the emphasis on surviving the heat.

First though, I’m hoping to have a better showing at Gnaw Bone & to finish not bending over. I was hoping they would keep the same course so I could have something to compare to, but according to the website, there have been course changes. Some portions of the same trails will be used as last year, but basically it’s another new course. So much for an advantage for knowing the course – which was a factor in the 1st running of the race last year. I didn’t get lost, but I did go the wrong way several times, and I definitely wasn’t the only one that did that. I was used to having a trail flagged well when the course moves off a main trail/road onto a smaller side trail, unfortunately that wasn’t how I felt the course was marked last year (unless someone took down some flagging, which is not unheard of). I’m planning to be better prepared in that regard this year – also, like when I’m in the middle of a long line of runners, I won’t assume that everyone is paying attention to the course flagging – keep the head up & be alert & not act like sheep!