Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Lookout Mountain

Last year's fog on top of Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga, TN, kept all the scenic views at the overlooks hidden. This year it was cloudy in the morning, but no fog or real low clouds. Some GREAT views -- could see 30 miles or so even thru the hazy sky. Other than the Natural Bridge, KY, run 6+ years ago, this race setting has to be the most scenic of any ultra I've attended. At least half this course was changed from last year, but the organizers kept the scenic sites intact & even went by the waterfalls area twice this time!

I would classify the course this year as "fast" for a 50 miler. One real big hill and lots of runnable grades up & down. Unlike last year, there was no mud to speak of & no knee deep water crossings -- the trail conditions were excellent. I enjoyed chatting during the race with a couple runners I had met at previous races -- Ken Seidl & Beau Wendholt. Beau mentioned he had moved to Chattanooga from Indiana, but still directed a trail marathon there (Honest Abe Marathon). I also passed Troy Shellhamer (a LLTH veteran & a local runner from Louisville) on the out'n'back part of the course. He was in first place & ended up extending that lead!! CONGRATS Troy!

As for my race performance, I was disappointed once again (avg 14:41/mile) but I have only myself to blame for a silly mistake in the 1st half of the race:

Looking at the new course map prerace, I didn't notice (duh), or it wasn't obvious to me until I ran into it, was that I would be running the 1st 22.5 miles with only 2 aid stations in that distance (3rd aid station was at 22.5 miles). Under normal weather conditions, I usually need 20 oz every 45 minutes -- so at a pace of say, 14 minutes/mile, I would need seven 20 oz drinks. Since I only carried one 20 oz bottle (that was the mistake), there was no way I could drink all that I needed at the aid stations & not be bloated. Needless to say I became very thirsty & had to drag myself into the 3rd aid station.

Once I get behind on the hydration, it's hard to get back just right. Over the next 3 aid stations (spaced closer), I drank & I drank -- then it got to where I was peeing every 5-10 minutes! I backed it off but I didn't get it right till I finished.

Also, I almost repeated my blunder of last year -- missing a turn and going an extra 2 miles:

The course marking at this event is unique in all the races I've run. Generally, the trail itself was not marked with flags. Flags are placed in a line across turnoffs -- don't cross the flags & you'll be OK!! There is one major flaw/inconsistency to this & I discovered it last year & did so again this year: when you are on a paved road, you can't stick the flags into the hard surface when you need to show a turn (you need a sign or a person or pavement marking here). Once again this year, I missed a turnoff from the road but luckily was caught after only going a couple hundred feet by the observant gal behind me -- THANK YOU! With this kind of marking, if you make a mistake, you won't know you're off course till you come to a junction & there's no flagging . . . could be miles!

I was surprised to even see some "confidence" marking this year, that is, flags placed other than at junctions to let you know you're on course when you haven't seen flags for miles. Other than the one turn I missed, I thought the course was very well marked & would guess that there were 3 or 4 times the number of flags of last year.

Next for me is surgery on my cyst later this afternoon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

2010 Tecumseh Trail Marathon

A gorgeous day for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon! 4 inches of fresh snow -- reminding me of Louisville's Lovin' The Hills in February when the snow piled up on the branches till they could hold no more. Awesome scenery!

As for the race, well, I finished. Slower than the disappointing time of last year, as expected, and would have been even slower had the race been the same distance & on the same course as last year. Due to the snow, the race started & finished at the Yellowwood finish line -- an out and back instead of point to point.

I also learned a few hours later than instead of going to the halfway point where the largest hill on the course was located, the turnaround was at least 0.75 miles before then, making the race more than 1.5 miles shorter than last year & skipping the big hill altogether. That would have been fine by me except that I had left a drop bag at the halfway point & I did not realize that we were not going to pass by this area. I had disposed of my gatorade "water bottle" by mile 10 & was looking forward to picking up a new one along with some more gels! This was a mental & physical letdown for me at that point, but I managed to keep positive & continue enjoying the run on the way back to the finish, albeit a much slower return.

One thing about an out and back race is that you can see everyone in the race! I recognized quite a few faces although there were more runners who knew me than I knew (some even admitted they recognized me not by name but ONLY as that "fool" who never wears enough clothes). Felt sorry for the leaders who had to veer off the narrow single track when runners in the other direction did not yield and had to blaze a new trail into the unpacked snow. Much of the course was not meant to be double wide & with several hundred runners, there was alot of dodging for everyone.

I had some intestinal issues at the start & a foot (cyst) issue by the time I got to the finish, but I don't think either had a noticeable effect on my performance. My physical conditioning is still lacking, yet I feel I'm seeing some improvement. With the unsure footing in the snow, slush & mud, the cyst on the bottom right edge of my right foot received more lateral pressure than I was expecting -- even with my modified shoe. The cyst area is still swollen right now & reinforces the fact that this problem is not going away. Since I'm signed up for Lookout Mountain in a couple weeks, I believe I'll have surgery to remove the cyst after the race. Hopefully recovery will be quick.

Brian Holzhausen - Race Director:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

more surgery?

After OPSF a few weeks ago, I realized I had to do something about the cyst on the bottom of my foot as I could not place full weight on it without enduring pain. The Podiatrist stuck a needle in it (ouch!), but couldn't get anything out of it. A MRI of the foot confirmed the cyst was a solid, homogeneous mass -- likely a ganglion cyst & that it didn't appear to be malignant. The recommendation was to have it removed.

Ever since then, I've been debating whether to have this surgery, which would likely put me out of action for a minimum of 2-3 weeks (according to the Podiatrist). The thing is, I'm still several months away from recovering from my last stay in the hospital! As an alternative to surgery, I've discovered that if I modified my shoes, I could reduce the pain significantly. Adding another pad & making a hole in both inserts, I can keep most of the pressure off. But, raising the foot just this small amount makes it feel like I'm wearing elevated shoes and makes my toes prone to blisters on the TOP! Also, a hole in the side of my shoe allows some lateral relief. At a training run at Tecumseh this last Saturday, I added another pair of socks & plenty of lube & was able to finish the run without alot of pain. Biggest problem at the run was not the cyst, but being out of shape -- just been missing too much training time.

minimalistic footwear for around the house:

So, right now, with the shoe modification, the Tecumseh Marathon is a go & surgery is on hold. Based on the very slow training run, it looks like I won't be able to improve on my disappointing time of last year (when I was still recovering from the swine flu). Based on the pace I was able to keep on the training run, I'm going to have to downgrade my goal this year to 6 hours instead of 5.

Tecumseh training run crew, courtesy of Terry Fletcher: