Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TT 50k

 After gaining some confidence in my last race at the Cumberland Trail 50k, I decided to switch from one of my favorite races, Stone Steps 50k in Cincinnati on Oct 28, to the Pinhoti 100m on Nov 3 in Alabama.  In my previous 2 attempts at Pinhoti (in 2008 & 2009), my back shut me down & I only finished 60-65 miles each try.  I haven't had much trouble with my back since (knock on wood), so my biggest concern now is my gut.  With this change in plans, I also opted to run the Turbo Turtle 50k (TT 50k) this past weekend since that would give me 2 weeks rest afterwards, as opposed to 6 days rest with Stone Steps, before Pinhoti.

TT 50k was organized by Ben Lauer and Lil' J and I found out about this FA event thru the Indiana Trail Running website.  The course would be an out'n back on a section of the Tecumseh Trail, a loop of the Low Gap Trail and a loop of the Three Lakes Trail -- all in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest near Martinsville, IN.  The RD's did a great job with this event. 


Bypassing the short road section, the course starts with the same 1st 7 1/2 miles of the Tecumseh Marathon held in December each year.   This course was a major change from my last 2 events -- smooth footing with very little technical trail here.  There were a few leaves on the trails, but they weren't hiding ankle-turning rocks.  So I was able to "open it up" and ran just about as fast as I could (for about half the 50k, that is).  It was quite different from having 5 or 6 hundred other runners (Tecumseh Marathon) jostling for position, bottlenecked at the single track entrance or cued 5 minutes at the 1st stream crossing. 

Starting much quicker than my usual pace, I figured this would be my "speed work" (1st of the year!).  I also planned that when my legs gave out (& they did so badly about halfway), I would practice my "survival" pace -- a pace I'm sure I'll use again at Pinhoti.   It was the 1st time my legs have been pushed like that in over 2 years, so this was a good workout for me.  I was pretty tired at the end of this run as finishing 2 50k's in 2 weeks was a big step up in my training.

a few other notes:

There were 2 work crews on the trails during the race:  volunteers were building a new bridge on the Tecumseh Trail (I noticed 2 other new structures in the 1st 7 miles) and volunteers were correcting drainage on the Low Gap Trail.   There was also an ultra-hike group (w/bibs) on Tecumseh and lots & lots of hikers enjoying the beautiful scenery thruout.

photo courtesy of Charles Moman:

There were flags or ribbons at most junctions and the only other markings were the trail blazes.  Several runners (including myself) ended up getting off course.  3 runners even ran the sections in a different order.  I turned the wrong way at one junction & got in some extra running before finding a dead end (could have been a very long day).

There was 1 aid station at mile 15 & everyone would pass their car at mile 21.   Even though I did experience some gut discomfort starting midway thru the race, I couldn't resist the egg/cheese croissants & brownies (both a first for me).  I somehow survived that digression & even slept better than usual the night after -- I think only because I was so exhausted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Still experimenting with everything I do (mostly with the diet) and my gut has been feeling better -- most noticeably during the day.   A big improvement? - yes, I'll take it even though it may only be temporary.  Nights are still 1 or 2 hour segments of sleep before being abruptly awakened by pain.  By the time I need to get up, I'm more than ready to get out of bed.                     


Last weekend I traveled down I-75 to Cove Lake State Park in Caryville, TN to run the Cumberland Trail 50k.   A 3 1/2 hour drive, but didn't seem that long since I was really enjoying the Fall colors all the way there.  The RD is Susan Donnelly, an easy going, veteran ultra runner and sometimes participant in the Louisville's Lovin' the Hills event here in Louisville -- so I was happy to participate in her event (4th annual).  I was really looking forward to running on new trails.  The forecast was spot on (rare) and the weather would be a positive factor too:  45 degrees (nice shirtless temp) & no wind at the start.

 RD Susan Donnelly (2nd from the left):       

the details

Going from a 100k to a 50k, I was concerned pace wise that I would be stuck in a slower gear.  Well, no worry.  This course ended up dictating my pace from the word go:

Starting in the park, the first couple miles were flat & fast & I just tried to keep everyone else within sight.  The next 3.5 miles was a 1900' climb up Cross Mountain.  Had I not experienced the steep hills of the NotYoMomma's course 2 weeks earlier, I would have thought this climb was pretty steep.  It was really just slow going (19 minute miles) up a steady incline that was on a narrow, technical path.  It was single file hiking at this point & no one was passing for over an hour unless someone stepped off the trail.  I used a handheld since the first few miles of the race were in the dark, but wished I had used a headlamp so I would have a hand free to help steady myself maneuvering the slick rocky areas.

After coming down the other side of Cross Mountain, the course sort of meandered up, down and around some much smaller hills.  There would be one more long hill with a 1200' climb before the turnaround.   I found myself with 2 others (Jennifer & Chris) running the single track for the next 7 miles after Cross Mtn.  We all approached the course differently, but pretty much kept together:   Jennifer was a very determined runner who would run up the hills that I hiked, but I would catch or pass her when she slowed down (sometimes to a standstill) where there were slick rocks.  Chris kept behind us & patiently kept his distance thruout.  At one blowdown, I somehow got turned around & was running the course in the wrong direction!  Thankfully I wasn't running alone & ran into Jennifer soon afterwards.  I felt sure I was on new trail, but just then I looked & saw a flag on the "wrong" side of the trail on this out'n back course . . .


toughest part

For the 1st time in a very long time, my gut was not a factor with my effort (I can only cross my fingers now), so after a while it wasn't my biggest worry.  This time of year the colors are beautiful, but it brings new fallen leaves & they were hiding the rocks beneath.  I ended up tripping several times & turning both ankles, not seriously, making them sore.  There were times I wanted to pick up the pace, but the fear of going down kept me in check.  Keeping mentally focused on every step was pretty tough.

favorite part

If I wanted to enjoy the scenery more, I just had to stop.   My favorite place was down in a deep hollow where the morning light almost turned to darkness & the temps dropped.  There were big, tall hemlocks & a creek crossing with a narrow, 25' long walk bridge (2 extra long railroad ties) that bowed with my weight.  Nice.

gravel road

There are several miles of gravel road near the turnaround, where there was a small, but scenic plateau.  It always seems like I go into slow motion when going from trail to gravel road & it was no different this time.  Jennifer & Chris flat left me in the dust at this point.  Yet looking back at my splits, that was by far the fastest 4 mile segment of my race.

 Cove Lake & Cross Mtn:

the finish

Talking about splits, I was under 15 minutes/mile pace for the race by the time I reached the top of Cross Mountain on the return trip.  But coming back down the 3.5 miles of technical single track at that pace was not going to be possible.  Despite feeling good, the best I could do was just a little faster than the pace going up -- around 17 minutes/mile -- having a faceplant on the rocks was not an option.  Reaching flat ground near the park, I finished well & was able to keep under the 15 mpm pace for the race.  I'm pretty happy about how things turned out, especially with my gut.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

still running

I'm still having problems with my gut, yet mentally I'm hanging in there & my legs still feel like running.  If the Drs. knew how much I was running, they would say:  "There's nothing wrong with you!"  Actually, I believe everyone one of them thought I was just a hypochondriac.  They ran all their standard tests, but none ventured "outside the box" as I wish just one would have.  As much as I don't like it, it's up to me to figure out what's wrong with me.  My biggest problem with that has been that the onset of severe pain has no real pattern nor does it clearly tell me:  yes, it's my stomach, or yes, it's my pancreas, or whatever.  So I experiment mostly with my diet as it's the one thing that I can control, even though it may have nothing to do with it.

For my 100k attempt in Chillicothe, OH, after the 100k DNF at Woodstock, I experimented with several new ideas.  I'm not sure which was a factor, if at all, since I tried so many different things.   I'm also going to try most, but not all of the same things in my next race:  Cumberland Trail 50k in Tennessee this weekend.  A 100k & 50k are really 2 different animals, so not sure I'm going to learn exactly what I'm looking for.

A little late, but here's my Not Yo Momma's 100k (Sep 29-30) race report:


If you love hills & single track, this event is for you.  Many hills & almost all of the course is nice single track -- no gravel roads, 3% asphalt and maybe a few hundred feet of old forest roads.  Four loops of 16 miles for 100k.  The hundred milers ran a tough 4 mile loop at the start, then 6 loops of 16 miles.  A 75k, 50k & 25k were also offered.

For the 1st 4 miles my pace averaged 18:40/mile!  The 1st word that comes to my mind for this race is "STEEP" (my 1st word for some other races:  Mohican - HOT, McNaughton - MUD, Owen-Putman - HORSES, Tecumseh - CROWDED, Grindstone - SLEEP).   Since this was the inaugural running, I think most everyone (myself included) was surprised at the steepness of the hills.   I've been on steeper hills (hand climbs), but never this steep for such extended periods.

There were straight up hills, but there were also gradual hills.  I like to call a "smokin'" hill one that's just steep enough that you could easily run at full speed downhill and not fall on your face.  There's one on this course where the downhill is at least a mile long, not technical and the only places that you need to slow down are at the sharp switchbacks.  Even if your legs are shot, this type hill sort of "pulls you down" & makes you at least start into a trot.  Well, on the 2nd loop of 16 miles, at around 29 miles, I came down this particular hill and halfway down I caught a second wind!  It's a rare thing for me, but when it does happen, it's like magic -- legs feel fresh & it feels like I could fly.  Those next 12 miles were perhaps my most enjoyable in several years in a race.  That made my day, whether I finished or not.  In fact, I felt so good I thought:  why didn't I sign up for the 100 miler (offered at the same price)? 

the short cut guy:

My second wind came to an abrupt end around mile 41. It was initiated by a runner who I thought I was "competitively" keeping ahead of, but later realized he had planned to cut the course when there was some separation between us.  I had widened the gap between us to about 2 minutes (after he had caught me at an aid station).  I was feeling great & getting into my 2nd wind & I wasn't planning on anyone passing me when I felt that way (surprisingly, only 6 runners passed me after the 2nd mile of this race despite how slowly I was running -- 5 were 100 milers who had made up the 4 mile extra loop at the start).

Anyway, cruising down the trail floating on air, I caught a glimpse of red way out in front coming from the right.  If this guy wasn't wearing bright red, I would have never noticed him one way or the other (I wish I had not seen him). When I got to where he cut in, I realized what had happened.  I blame myself then for trying to catch up to him (why? to look him in the eye? duh!).  Anyway, after a short chase (stupid!), I gave up realizing there was no way he was going to let me catch him & I found myself totally exhausted from the effort.  The next couple miles were the toughest of the day.  I didn't get back "into" the run until I finished the 3rd lap & told the RD what had happened.  I felt a little better after that & was able to trudge thru the last 16 miles.


gut feeling:

My gut pain was tolerable, for the most part, the entire race.  Maybe it was the very regular run/walk cycles with the hills.  Maybe it was the special pre-race diet.  Maybe it was the new acid reducing pills I took.   More likely though, I just had a good day -- this pain is so irregular & unpredictable day to day.

I took in gels only (w/water, Gatorade & Heed) the entire race -- that was another experiment I tried.  Just as I thought, I got sick of the gels after a while.  One volunteer saved my race by letting me have some Gas-X.  She said it was good for queasiness regardless if I had gas or not & it sure helped.  Gas-X will now be a standard drop bag item.

other notes:

I found a campsite that bordered the trail & only 200' from the start/finish.  Unless you stayed at a campsite, you were supposed to park a half mile away at the public parking area.  Having access to my car each lap was nice.  Also, it saved me from walking that half mile at the end of the race.

Since the race started at 5:30 a.m., I ended up running 6 or 7 hours in the dark -- and under a full moon.  There sure were some neat, but sometimes eerie shadows!

The forecast 12 hours before race start said a low of 45 degrees.  I was prepared for that in my tent,  and also brought a long sleeve shirt & gloves for the race just in case, but it was only 55 at the start (how can a last minute forecast be so off?).  However, temps thruout the day were great.  I wasn't going fast enough to generate much heat, but what I did sweat quickly evaporated with the cool breeze.  All but the 1/2 mile of road each lap was under a thick canopy of trees.

Saw numerous "tame" deer, reminding me of McNaughton Park.  Also met one whiney & disgruntled bow hunter (I was glad he was disappointed).

Race Director, Rob Carroll, should be commended for the great job, especially since he was directing his first event.   It makes my head spin to think of all the responsibilities & everything that he did in pulling off such a multi-faceted event successfully on the 1st try.


Only THREE (3) out of the 23 starters finished the 100 miles, winning time -- 24:44 (17 or so of those 20 DNFs called it quits at or just after 3.25 laps, 52 miles!).  11 finishers out of 11 starters for the 100k.  Happy to see that the 100 miler short cut guy did not even finish 4 laps.