Monday, April 28, 2008

2008 John Bryan 50K

Drove 3 ½ hours very early Sunday morning to the John Bryan State Park just outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Weather was great – sunny & cool with little humidity and a very light breeze. These conditions were completely opposite from my last race. There was some mud along the Little Miami River, but it was easily missed & most of that had a lot of sand in it with no silt so it wasn’t slippery. The course had been changed from last year, according to the announcement by the RD, but I wasn’t there for the inaugural running & this really wasn’t directed to the 1st time runners anyway. Garry said that part of the first loop was moved down next to the river & was very technical – he was right about that. The race consisted of 2 loops run 4 times, the 1st loop almost 5 miles and the 2nd almost 3 miles. Three miles or so of the 1st loop were about as technical as you can get for a fairly flat trail. Unforgiving rocks were embedded in the trail along with roots. This section was not for someone with ankle or foot issues -- my ankles got achy though I never turned them. Some areas were really picturesque and most people (& there were many) in the gorge area had cameras and/or were packing tripods. The rushing water in the rapids (class II-IV whitewater) was very soothing to the eyes & ears! Wildflowers were in full bloom. Foot placement was so critical in some areas that it made it difficult to enjoy everything unless you stopped – which you had to do anyway for some of the visitors. The second loop was very flat and designed for bike use. This section was somewhat boring visually to me especially after running down by the scenic river. Whoever designed this section made the very most of every square foot of land – the trail snaked & zigzagged back & forth thruout this narrow strip of forest. Many times the trail was within 20 feet (sometimes even a few feet) from the trail going in the opposite direction. It seems like if you went very fast you would get motion sickness. The first loop more than made up for the 2nd, so overall it was an enjoyable course.

This is a very popular park as evidenced by the large number of visitors & with the great weather everyone seemed to be there: many people with cameras, pets or family and there were several rappelling outfits, some people with plastic bags with roots (ginseng?), bikers & hikers & other runners, park rangers leading educational tours, park employees (volunteers?) working hard (on Sunday!) on a new wood building, lovers, campers, cruisers, the ORRRC crew & 50K runners!

How did I do? Well, the usual as I never learn. The 1st third of a mile or so is downhill to the river and I took off feeling really good. I maintained a position in the top 12 for the 1st 5K, but of course this was a 50K. Much of this portion was very technical, which I liked, but I paid for that position as you would expect. The rest of the race was at a jogging pace that I needed to keep up to get to the finish without ending up walking – not good. Ten minutes after coming out of the gorge, a train of 15 runners passed me. About 20 minutes after that, another train of 12 runners passed me. I thought, there didn’t seem that many runners at the start, am I last now? I found that out in the maze of trails on the 2nd loop that there were still a few behind me (some of those would pass me too). I received a 3rd place medal for my age group (must’ve been 3rd out of 3).

In reality though, looking back at my too fast start, I don’t know if that changed my final placement by much in the long run. This course is runable pretty much from start to finish with no big hill(s) to climb. I like hills throughout a course so I can give myself an excuse to walk occasionally & take that opportunity to catch my breath. So I probably would have finished close to where I did anyway with a slower start. Sounds like I need more training . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

tempo in taper

Decided to get a tempo run in today of 7-8 miles in preparation for the John Bryan 50K. A little close to the Sunday race date, but I figured that my last 2 outings were at a 100 mile pace & I needed to get out of that mode. The temps in the mid seventies today was a big change (at least 30-40 degrees) from the very cool or cold weather on just about every run the last 4 or 5 months. My shorts were soaked after just 2 miles (no shirt of course) and I’m missing the cooler weather already.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

new objective

Finishing 100 miles was not only the goal of my last race but it was also the “ultimate” objective that I had set for myself some time ago. Now that I’ve accomplished that, I feel I need something else to work towards. I've looked at many popular races across the country I’d like to try, but they are either too distant, too high or in the summer when it’s too hot (I cannot take the heat whatsoever). I didn’t think I would ever come to this, but my new long term objective is finishing a 150 miler. It doesn’t have to be next year, especially if it’s too muddy or too hot or if there’s some other good reason. This will give me something to work towards each year and I will continue to set a goal for each individual race that will lead me on the right track. This will also mean that to get the additional training, I will be adding new races to fill in the gaps in a schedule made mostly of local events. I’ve went ahead & signed up for McNaughton, even though the decision to run or not probably won’t be made until race day as I won’t know the weather or course conditions till then.

Upcoming is a new race for me in Ohio, the John Bryan 50K. I like the timing of the race as it will give me my long run in preparation for Dances With Dirt in Gnaw Bone in 3 weeks. Last year I got sick in the DWD race as it got into the low 80’s. Even though I drank over 3 gallons of water & Gatorade & took S-tabs over the entire 50 miles, I can only figure I still did not take in enough electrolytes for the conditions.

Jogged 8 miles at an easy pace yesterday & felt I had recovered from McNaughton. I plan one more short run early in the week before resting again.

Monday, April 14, 2008

2008 McNaughton Park 100

The goal was to finish my 1st 100 within the official time limit of 34 hours -- mission accomplished! Weather conditions were tough – dropping temperatures, very windy and a light or drizzling rain thru much of the race. Course conditions deteriorated as time passed and made it very difficult just to walk at times. My personal account of the events leading up to, during and after the race:


I drove up to Pekin late afternoon Thursday. Going around Indianapolis, I ran into a heavy rain that lasted about half an hour. Crossing the state line into Illinois, the rain stopped but the cross winds continued to be very strong. Roads were dry and I didn’t see any standing water – a good sign! Checked into the motel and drove down to the start/finish and picked up my race number & a great bag of goodies. I ran into Andy and he said the chips would arrive the next day. I checked out the 1st downhill right at start & it was pretty muddy & slick looking. I asked Andy about the creek crossings & he said the water was only about knee high. Going back to the motel, I wanted to get some good quality sleep since even in the excitement the night before I had only gotten 4-5 hours sleep. Everything was fine until about 9 when the guest in the room above me checked in. I don’t know if it was the cheap floor construction or she was as big as it sounded (probably both) but I called her “BB” anyway. I looked in my bottled water to see if there were any ripples! The pounding stopped at 12 (if the bed squeaked, I don’t think I could have taken it). Anyway, I didn’t need my alarm clock as BB was up at 7 sharp and out the door by 7:30. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I just rested in bed watching the weather outside. The clouds were just zipping along & at times the sky was almost all blue. The weatherman did say certain rain, didn’t he? Anxious to get started, I decided to go & get to the start very early, that way I could get a good parking space. I checked out the 1st downhill again. With the strong wind & the sun shining earlier, the hill had dried considerably – meaning most of the course probably benefited also -- great news!


Lap 1: START 12 Noon Friday

I felt pumped at the start but told myself the 1st lap is the key & I MUST take it slow. So my start was at a shuffle & I walked most of the 1st downhill. From there I started a slow jog, not much more than a walk. As we went around the 1st large open field, it was easy to see all the runners – to my surprise I was in mid pack! The wind was strong & steady & was most noticeable in the open fields. The course was looking to be in excellent condition with only a few real muddy areas. I could see brand new wood bridges & evidence of a lot of handwork to drain & fill in low areas all the way to the 1st aid station. The 1st creek crossing was tough! Although it wasn’t much more than 12-18” deep, it was very cold. My reaction was like stepping into an ice cold shower, including some choice words. I walked after each creek crossing to let the water squirt & then drain out of my shoes & I walked up any inclines the entire lap. Coming across the finish line for the 1st time, I figured 2:30 at best. I was really surprised at the 2:09 time! I thought, is the course short or what?

Lap 2:

I took my time at the aid station and set off at a comfortable pace. The field had spread out considerably and there were only a few runners in sight in the 1st big field this time. Approaching the 1st creek crossing, once again (& for the whole race) there was a lot of hesitation before stepping in. I saw some people climbing a fallen tree over the creek – I sure did not want to attempt that – the last thing I needed was to fall in. The lap went smoothly with only a slight ankle turn that I shook off after a couple miles. Coming across the start/finish for the 2nd time with a lap of 2:29, I felt OK with what seemed to be a very sustainable pace.

Lap 3:

Maintaining my pace of the previous lap, I started to have strong hunger pangs halfway to the 2nd aid station. I don't know what brought it on all of a sudden. Although there was a smell in the air too, it was not of food, but of sour mash, like that of a distillery close by – reminded me of back home in Kentucky. Stopping at Heaven’s Gate, I went thru each of the snacks and stopped & emptied the potato chip bowl (my favorite). Bill Dey, who had also run at Clinton Lake 2 weeks ago offered me some warm chicken noodle soup & I took that. There was also a volunteer making PB&J sandwiches as I stood there. I usually don’t eat them because the peanut butter tastes so dry, but as I watched, she was really putting on the jelly that oozed out the sides as she cut the sandwiches. I grabbed one, then a 2nd, then a 3rd piece – they really hit the spot. I thanked her, grabbed some more potato chips from the re-filled bowl & down the trail I went feeling energized. Some light rain started and the temperatures were beginning to drop, so I put back on the shirts I had taken off earlier.

Lap 4:

I brought 2 flashlights but realized I had put the one without the hand strap in my drop bag. Good thing I had a close parking spot. Then I was ready to take on my first all night run. The light worked great. Once past the creek crossing, I was startled by some splashing behind me, but I could see no light. Then all of a sudden this fellow comes running by me with his light off! I tried to talk to him but apparently he didn’t hear me. But as we kind of leap frogged thru the remainder of the lap, I did find out he was hard of hearing (& hard headed like me), and that he wasn’t going to use his light “till it got dark” – what? Anyway, I felt real comfortable running at night and this lap went very smoothly.

Lap 5:

A bit lonely starting this lap as I saw very few runners -- actually I only saw their lights off in the distance. I did have 1 running “partner” for a short time though: as I was running next to a strip of woods in a field I came across a possum & when he saw me, started running (waddling). As I came up beside him he sped up just as I realized he wanted to get into the woods -- but I was in between him & there. Got a good chuckle as we were head to head! I backed off a second & that was all he needed as he made a 90 degree turn in a mad dash to the woods – “Great job” I say to him! I did see other wildlife on other laps: a total of 7 deer, several geese & one turtle. As I continued I noticed I was having a harder time seeing the trail, I thought are my eyes going bad or was it the light? I turned off the light and checked it to be sure everything was tight & when I turned it back on, it was bright again. But that lasted about 15 seconds & it started to dim. I couldn’t believe it. I had an energy efficient LED light that drained 3 AAA batteries in less than 5 hours? I guess I should have tried it out or read the instructions. Anyway, it came to turning the light off and on the rest of the lap and the 15 seconds of bright light eventually went down to just a few seconds. At times I ran without the light in straight stretches & fields. Talking about no light, on the last half of the lap, I heard a loud thud ahead of me. A short time later I came across the fellow who had been running without a light since the previous lap. He had fallen right at the beginning of a bridge over a 10 foot deep ravine. Another foot or so to the right or left & this would have been very serious. The trail makes a turn at the very beginning of the bridge and apparently he was trying to make the turn ON the bridge with wet/muddy shoes & slipped. As he slowly got moving, I could tell he was hurting but he said he was OK and to go on. I never saw him again or got his name so I don’t know how he fared.

Lap 6:

Put in fresh batteries – what a difference a good light makes! The good light didn’t keep me from tripping & falling this lap for my only time for the race though. Just a lack of concentration & I was able to break my fall, so nothing to worry about. I did notice however, what the fellow without the light was talking about earlier. It had gotten darker since earlier in the night. I think it was the glow from the city lights that faded as the night went on. It would have been much harder, if not impossible to run safely without a light this lap. I’m running smoothly & comfortably with 4 laps to go even though occasional showers make for some slippery sections.

Lap 7:

Skies becoming brighter, though still cloudy & continues to be windy. At Heaven’s gate, I could hear the bullhorn for the regular start for 50 & 100 milers. I feel a blister beginning on the bottom and middle of my right foot. With this, I favor my left side & continue at a comfortable pace.

Lap 8:

In the daylight, I could now see the trail very clearly, which was not looking good. With all the "new" runners on the course, I noticed the effects on the trail immediately. I felt I was still maintaining my pace at least to the 1st aid station until I started getting lapped by the new runners. From there, I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder & stepping out of the way for the faster runners & yes, they were very fast. Some of these great runners were running down hills that I had no other choice than to slide down.

Lap 9:

The steady stream of runners passing me starts to slow down. The trail continues to deteriorate with all the traffic. Getting tired of the mud.

Lap 10:

The 1st half of the course was the most difficult in my opinion the entire race. On this lap in particular, the mud was really getting to me thru this section. I was going slower than a walk for several miles. I can’t believe I began whining about the mud to anyone who would listen at Heaven’s Gate – a very weak moment. I can just imagine what they thought about me. I was more tired of the mud than I was tired. After this silly demonstration, I somehow felt better – I guess I just had to get it out of my system. The 2nd half had less mud and was more runnable to me and I ended up going at a half sprint & feeling pretty good approaching the finish line.


Andy greets me at the finish announcing I’m the 1st 100 miler to finish for those who took the early start at Friday noon. A real shocker to hear the words “1st to finish” and my name in the same sentence! No matter that only 15 started and the time not fast -- I was very happy to have reached my goal. I consider myself very lucky too in selecting the early start & not the 6 am Saturday starting time – those poor runners were still out in that muck – I really felt sorry for them. Physically, I ended up with a large blister on the bottom of my right foot that I believe came from one of my adhesive pads that came loose & found its way there. I experienced my first case of feet swelling and they’re still swollen to some extent as I post this. I did take S-caps throughout the race and stayed well hydrated -- my hands did not swell, so not sure of the cause at this point. I have surprisingly little muscle soreness, but my feet are still hurting from the swelling. Mentally, other than being very happy over finishing, I’ve not gotten over the mud yet. I think this race surpassed the muddiest race I ever ran – the Owen-Putnam State Forest (OPSF) 50 miler in Indiana back in 2004. That race had more shoe-sucking mud, but this race takes the cake with slippery mud. Would I run another race in Pekin in the mud – NO. As for setting a new goal, I’m not looking at the 150 miler, maybe just improving on races I’ve run for years.

I thought the race organization was tremendous considering all the different starting times for different distances and also considering the duration of the event. I had no trouble keeping on the course day or night. The volunteers were super, Heaven’s Gate in particular! I liked the picnic table in the covered drop bag station – that was so very useful. All the manual work that clearly helped on the trails was much appreciated. I enjoyed seeing again & talking to several people I met from previous races, including Andy, Bill, Bob, Brian, Chris, Dave, Ellen, Garret, Josh & Margaret – Thanks for the support!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

preparations are in full gear

I’ve started my usual prerace rituals. Checklists have been made & items are being sorted. I’ve also included taking special attention to the freshness & quality of the food I eat this time (hoping for no repeat of Clinton Lake).

In preparation for my 1st all nighter, I went out on the trail Monday night & checked out all the portable lights I have. Even though most of the lights are convenient to wear or attach, I’m opting for one designed for hand carry (a 3 watt super LED). It’s by far the brightest one I have and takes 3 AAA batteries. The others I can still see by (best on roads), but I don’t want to have any more strain on my eyes than they’ll already have.

In preparation for the wet feet for many many hours, I’m packing some extra thin socks & have bought some more adhesive pads. I sure don’t need thick/heavy waterlogged socks as I’m going to have enough trouble picking up my feet anyway.

I’ve heard of some people spreading vaseline all over their feet to help keep them from turning into tender prunes. It seems to me like the vaseline would keep your feet from “breathing” and make them swell up! I’ll have to check into that a little further . . .

I’ve started preparing a drop bag for the Heaven’s Gate aid station. Brian Kuhn, the head of that aid station & one of the nicest persons you’ll ever meet, has told me that although leaving drop bags had not been set up for this aid station, he would see to it himself that if anyone wanted to do so, they could bring them to the start & he would take them & then they would be returned after you finished. He has relayed his intentions to Andy and there’s no problem there. What more can you ask for? Super.

Mental preparation has been a continuing process since I first thought seriously about doing a 100. My increasing excitement & anticipation has told me I’m on the right track in that department. My physical preparation at this point consists of eating right, eating at the right time and getting all the rest I can. It’s always difficult for me the night before a big race to calm down enough to get in some quality sleep -- I hear some people take a shot or two, or even take a sleeping pill. I may revert to that some day if I get close to the point of no sleep at all.

Just checked the forecast for Pekin – they seem to update/change it twice a day -- heavy rain expected tomorrow with a flash flood watch – the weather has just been unreal this year! Let’s see, how do I prepare for freezing waist high water? Sure hope there won't be any need for ropes at the water crossings . . .

Monday, April 7, 2008

taper time

My focus this past week has been R-E-S-T. I’m not like other runners with legs of steel (Brian), I need some down time! It’s been difficult, though, to figure out just how to taper for such a long run. One 8 mile trail run at an easy pace Saturday has been my only real training since Clinton Lake. I had scheduled a shorter run today, but cancelled that after deciding yesterday to start the race a day early. This is a big change in my plans but the time of day of the start (& hopefully the finish) are more to my liking at this point and I don’t think there’ll be escaping the mud & high water crossings either day. Although I have some night experience, I’ve never pulled an all nighter -- I like the idea of hitting the dark trail after a 12 noon start rather than after a 6 am start. Hey, a new experience awaits -- this is fun already!