Tuesday, December 18, 2012

at Otter Creek Park

The Otter Creek Marathon, south of Louisville near Brandenburg, is a flatter course than the Tecumseh Marathon with only one hill (repeated 3 times) of any consequence.  Several years ago Otter Creek followed Tecumseh by one week & I did both for 5 years (2004-2008).  I didn't have much recovery time, but since the Otter Creek course was easier, I was pretty much able to run both with very similar times the last 3 years.  Although a 2 week gap this year, it would still be a good check to see if my fast early pace at Tecumseh really did do me in that race.

With early pace a priority, I made it a point to take it easy from the very start.  About 240 runners, mostly 8m & 16m runners, would enter the single track only a quarter mile from the starting line.  I started near the back & runners got cued up several times the 1st 4 to 5 miles, which I expected.  Temps were in the 40's & 50's - OK.  It started to rain soon after the start & that made some runners really slow down (in slick areas) and I passed more people than I was planning on the 1st 8.5 mile loop.  The rain would continue & the course would steadily deteriorate as the day went on.  Places where the Forest Service had removed leaves for safety actually made it more dangerous.  I slipped down twice, but no "falls" this day.   

The view at the overlook along the Ohio River is always fantastic!  Years ago there WAS an overlook along the creek too, but the Forest Service removed that challenging rocky climb & descent & replaced it with a somewhat boring, back & forth trail away from the scenic creek and in a flat area.  Unfortunately, that same trail manager packed his bags a few years ago & moved to the Jefferson Memorial Forest & is now doing the same deal here with the Louisville's Lovin' The Hills (LLTH) course -- and that is removing challenging trails & replacing them with multi-purpose, family friendly trails -- how sad.

Besides being a fun race, one of the things I enjoy most about Otter Creek is that I can stay local & see friends & meet other trail runners from the Louisville area.  Long distance trail races & runners are fairly rare in Kentucky in comparison to other surrounding states.  It was great to see so many familiar faces & see such a good turnout for this event.

I was able to keep an even pace for about 17 miles (1st 2 laps).  I was feeling I could easily finish in between 5 hours & 5 1/2 hours, but my legs were beginning to give in.  Although the rain had stopped, the course conditions were by far the worst on that final lap.  Those who were done early (8 milers, 16 milers & the winner who lapped me) didn't get to enjoy the best of the mud!  Not all the course was muddy & I've encountered much, much more difficult conditions . . . still it felt like I was carrying leg weights with the caked on mud & it took its toll near the end.

I was able to better my time from Tecumseh, so I can say now that too fast of an early pace was a big negative there as I had thought.  Had the Otter Creek course not been so sloppy, it's possible I could have taken 10 more minutes off.

As to my gut, well it cooperated & was not a big factor, and for reasons why, I don't know.  The night before each race was terrible, as usual, but each race day was completely different.  Maybe it was the slower early pace, maybe because I didn't have to drive far, maybe it's all in my head (as the Drs. think) or maybe . . . 


 next up:

I was thinking about running my 1st HUFF 50k next week, but right now I believe I will run the new LLTH 50k course on my own about that time.  I have laid out a new course for the event since the Forest Service removed the hilliest portion of this challenging course -- several miles of narrow single track (including 7 hills and probably 1000 feet of elevation gain) have been replaced with a smooth, multi-purpose, ATV wide, handicap accessible (flat) dirt trail.  Overall, it's still a hilly course & it should be a long, fun run.

Friday, December 7, 2012

3 race reports in one

First of all, on the health front: 

Still battling the abdominal pain, mostly at nights at the present time.  In the last couple months it's felt more like a musculoskeletal issue (the connective tendons underneath the xiphoid process) than a gastric one.  That was until I ran the Tecumseh Marathon just this last weekend when it felt like pancreatitus.  At night, I've found that lying on my left side during an attack helps relieve the severe pain.  Ibuprofen also helps but does not stop the attacks.  Going to see a "Rehab" Dr. (the closest thing to a musculoskeletal specialist around here) next month.

Been negligent in posting race reports over the last month or so . . . got so beat up at Pinhoti that I just wasn't into it.  These are the 3 events I entered since my last post:

Nov 3 Pinhoti 100m -- a rough day

Coming into this race, I was feeling pretty confident on improving on my previous 2 DNFs here at around 100k.  However,  I couldn't even match the mileage of either of those efforts.  In fact, my race was essentially over at 28 miles.  There were 3 major factors (my excuses!) entering into this DNF:

First, my belly was hurting more than usual before the race & was made worse by the very rough bus ride to the start.  I've never started a race hurting this much before.  My belly was protesting, but it was tolerable while running (for the most part).  At the end of the day, I would be heaving up everything.

Second, I had a brutal fall before the aid station at mile 28.  Although the trails were pretty much clear of leaves, in contrast to previous years, my foot found a 2" tree stub leaning in from the sloped side of a trail where I thought I had smooth downhill sailing.  It caught me totally off guard.  Catching the side of my shoe (it felt like I ripped open the entire side), I went down awkwardly as I attempted to go into a roll, but didn't make it.  I landed heavily on my right side, with my arm, shoulder & ribs taking a hard blow.  Initially, it felt like I hurt my arm the worst, but as the day wore on, it would feel like I had cracked a rib. (It would take 5 weeks for full recovery from this.)

Third, after enduring below normal temps in the 30's and 40's in Louisville all week, not including the steady winds from Hurricane Sandy adding a below freezing windchill, the afternoon temps at the race would reach the low EIGHTIES!!   The temps were even above normal for that part of Alabama.  It wasn't like the dog days of summer, but it was hot nonetheless -- I'm already heat intolerant in the first place.  Before noon I was showing symptoms of heat exhaustion.   Feeling faint even after they sat me down in the shade at the aid station, I was literally cooked.  I didn't do anymore running after that.  I conceded that I would not finish the race & focused on trying to enjoy myself until I couldn't make the cutoffs.  I did manage to walk and slog into the wee hours of the next morning when everything caught up to me & it was no longer fun whatsoever.

A couple other notes:

Due to the hot weather, several aid stations were unprepared to handle the onslaught of thirsty runners.  I was waiting several minutes (felt longer) at each, but got in a good rest though.  I would recommend having filled pitchers as they work well especially when many runners come into the aid station at once & also help when there's someone wanting to fill their hydration pack.

Coming off Mt. Cheaha, it's a hand climb down "Blue Hell" thru the boulder sized rocks.  I happened to jam a splinter up my nail on my index finger (ouch!).  Bright red blood dripped off the end of my finger like a leaky water faucet.  Besides hurting, it made it very inconvenient as I use my right index finger for everything.  The pain lasted several more days as I tried to dig out all of the splinter from the infected fingernail with my left hand.

Nov 17 Duncan Ridge 50k -- a good day

When I was at the Cumberland Trail race in October, I heard about this event which was billed as Georgia's toughest 50k.  It promised lots of hills & single track -- which I love.  It also fell in a convenient time slot as I wanted to get Pinhoti off my mind.  One rib on my right side was still hurting from the fall at Pinhoti, but I could tolerate it (only hurt bad if I took a real deep breath).  Temps (30's to 50's) were going to be a positive factor, so I eagerly awaited this new venue.

The Not Yo Momma's course that I ran earlier this year was the hilliest (270 feet of elevation gain per mile) I had ever encountered until this one (310 feet/mile).  The hills were not as steep (except one) and were much longer.  I was able to get in a rhythm with a regular run/walk cycle and I felt real good (gut included) for almost all of the race.

Trails were in great condition ---hardly any leaves & dry (mostly ridgetop running).  Of all the runs I've had in the Appalachians, this was the least technical trail, which was surprising considering the major elevation changes.  There was one section of ridgetop running where you could see at least 40 miles even thru the haze.  This view wasn't just at an overlook and was visible for quite a while -- very impressive & the highlight of the run.

After enduring the oppressive heat at Pinhoti, the temps were a joy!  Starting near 30 degrees, the temps reached the mid fifties.  I guess being in Georgia, I got more stares than usual (especially in the park) going shirtless, but I felt great & energized with the cool air.  My time was not impressive, yet I won my age group (55+) and I had alot of fun -- this will probably be on my list next year.

Dec 1 Tecumseh Trail Marathon -- a disappointment

Of my last 3 races, this ended up being a big disappointment & I can put most of the blame on myself.  The last half of this race was a real struggle & not fun.

Taking on a marathon after running ultras has always been a challenge to me pace-wise.  I never seem to get the early pace right.  With hundreds of runners, it's very easy to get caught up into the fast early pace, especially when the 1st 3 miles of the course are flat, as it is with Tecumseh.  My best times on this course have been when I forced myself to make it feel like I could hardly go any slower, then nearly match my time for the 2nd half of the race.  I guess I was overconfident that I was in better shape than I was & didn't hold back this year.  Also my gut had not hurt this bad since I ran this race last year -- last year I pretty much had to walk the last half & that pain ended my running for a couple months afterwards.

With only 110 feet/mile elevation gain, this course has very long flat stretches compared to the other races I had been recently running.  I wasn't use to running nearly non-stop -- I did not get into a run/walk rhythm.  Once squeezed down to the single track with hundreds of other runners, I was pretty much stuck into the same pace as everyone else early in the race.  Seems like after 9 years of running this race I would learn where to place myself entering the single track -- apparently not.

Trail conditions were excellent.  There were several trail improvements & recent trail work was evident all along the course.  Temps were warmer than usual -- runners were peeling off clothes all thruout the race.

The bus ride to the start always seems eventful here & this year it wasn't any different.  I watched as a bus driver cut a turn & clipped a car in the parking lot.  2 buses broke down before reaching the runners.  I took the last bus & since it arrived at the pickup over an hour late, took a shortcut using the backroads to the start.  I got motion sickness on the windy roads, but it disappeared 5 minutes after we stopped & was not a factor in my race.

Next up is the Otter Creek Marathon, a trail race a short drive from my house put on by HeadFirst Performance, who also direct Louisville's Lovin' The Hills.  The first time I missed this race was last year as I was still hurting from Tecumseh.  3 loops of 8+ miles -- I hope the gut cooperates & I can pace myself better . . .