Thursday, December 5, 2013

4 races - too ambitious

Needless to say, I've been quite negligent on the blog scene these past couple months or so.  Guess I'm just getting "lazier", but it's also my "fatigued" feeling (mentally & physically) lately.  Of course I have no one to blame for this except myself . . .

At Massanutten in late Spring, I felt better physically than I ever had the previous 2 years when I was plagued with unpredictable abdominal pain.  After Massanutten, & with my new posture therapy, it was great to know I could run so far without the fear of that pain!  With that in mind, I made ambitious plans for the rest of the year . . .

However, I acquired a new pain in my back to replace those abdominal problems!  I thought it was temporary, but it's only gotten worse.  My running has been on a downward spiral since.  My back doesn't present a problem when I'm doing chores around the house -- only running & heavy lifting (which I avoid).  Unless I wear my brace (girdle) when running, my backbone can slip out of place.  When that happens, running & sometimes just walking are out of the question.  The brace is quite restrictive & also helps me endure back pain (it doesn't stop the pain).  I also learned that the brace itself can cause abdominal issues!  Wearing the brace too tight causes "unscheduled pitstops".  Wearing the brace too loose just makes it useless.

Results of that ambitious plan I made up back in May:

Jun 1    Music City Ultra 50k  -- in prep for Mohican, finished in the heat in 8:08
Jun 15  Mohican 100m -- DNF w/major back problems at mile 73, took month off from running
Sep 6    Hallucination 100m - DNF - back problems from the very start

all w/back brace:
Sep 28  Not Yo Momma's 100k - used brace for the 1st time, finished in 21:38 (18:35 in 2012)
Oct 12   Cumberland Trail 50k - finished in 7:34 (7:05 in 2012)
Oct 19  Big Backyard Ultra - new venue, novelty race, completed 29 miles in 7 laps(hours)
Oct 27  Stone Steps 50k - finished in 6:59
Nov 9   Georgia Sky to Summit 50k - new venue, finished in 8:18
Nov 23 Duncan Ridge 50k - finished in 9:26 (8:35 in 2012)
Dec 7   Tecumseh Marathon
Dec 21 Otter Creek Marathon

I'm too lazy to post a full race report for the past 4 races, so I'll just post somewhat shortened versions of each:

Big Backyard Ultra:

GREAT company -- got to meet & share stories with some top runners from across the country!

I learned that unlike the past, I need at least 2 weeks to recover from an ultra.  I had squeezed this in between 2 other ultras that were 2 weeks apart as I was curious about this race -- I won't do that again.

Had a worse night of sleep than usual:  Early in the night, BIG (Laz' dog) was barking incessantly (every 2 to 3 seconds) for hours (unbelievable) -- I wasn't the only one that dealt with that; the wind shifted about 4 a.m. and the smoke from the smoldering race campfire went directly (in)to my tent (what luck)!  The wind finally shifted again 30 minutes later, but it was too late then.

A quote about the course:  "while not easy, is not particularly difficult" -- I agree.  Completing the 4.167 mile lap in 1 hour is not that difficult.  There were many strategies abound.  Mine was to complete each lap in 58 to 59 minutes & have just enough time to go to my drop bag for drink & nourishment with maybe 15-30 seconds of sit (rest) time.  This worked well for 1 lap!  Apparently due to my girdle/back brace too tight, I had to sprint to the port-o-let at the end of the 2nd lap (no defecating allowed in Laz' backyard course) & barely made it back in time for the start of the 3rd lap (disqualified if you're not at the start).  I was out of breath, didn't get any rest & never really recovered from that.  It seemed the strategy for most was to finish each lap in 50 to 55 minutes (mostly because it was so easy for them to do so) & have 5 to 10 minutes rest.

Stone Steps 50k :

I scheduled this race as my Brother was visiting from Virginia during this time & it would be a good opportunity to introduce him to my sport!  We had a GREAT time together.

Fall colors were not prominent as in some previous years, but Mt Airy Forest in Cincinnati is still a nice place to run.

I completely forgot my salt pills this race.  I had my salt pill holder in my pocket but forgot to reload it after my last race.  I even forgot to take any salt during the race!  I can hardly believe I made it all the way to mile 24 before my right leg started to cramp.  A few minutes later & about 100 yards before the aid station, my leg completely locked up (very painful!).  Each time the muscles released themselves, I took a step & the leg would lock up again!  Several runners passed me & no one had any salt . . . so I resorted to licking my arm!  It was as salty as opening up a S-CAP & pouring in on my tongue.  This worked & I was soon able to walk & load up on pretzels at the aid station.

Georgia Sky to Summit 50k :

I wanted to do this race on the GA/NC border as I love new venues & the website promised "the 50k course is the most scenic on the east coast".  I doubt it was THE most scenic, but I wasn't disappointed.  Although I didn't see all the scenic views & waterfalls advertised, I was most impressed by Holcomb Falls:

It was hazy the 1st summit of the mountain.  The 2nd time up it had cleared up & the view was great!

The RD said if you like "inclines" you'll like this race.  My idea of an incline is a "tweener" -- a hill where you can't decide 'tween running it or hiking it.  This course seemed full of these -- even on the 2000' climbs up the mountain. 

Had a hard time at the start.  It was like I had a "burnt out" feeling, like I'd overdone it the past month or so -- too many races -- this was not good.  Within a half mile, I looked & there were only 10 people behind me.  The next couple miles was mostly a hike up the mountain, so I settled in -- repeating to myself I was here to enjoy myself!  I started talking with some of the other runners -- I felt better mentally after that, but physically, I felt I needed an "unscheduled pitstop".

After relieving myself, I also loosened my girdle a tad & felt 100% better.   I passed at least a dozen runners in the next few miles.  The only people I had passed previously were ones who had fallen or were injured.  Leaves were unusually deep in places & hid all the hazards - I lost 2 toenails.  Other than a quarter mile section on the 2nd descent that was very steep & technical, the hills weren't as steep or as technical as other races I've run in the Appalachians.  Still, over 7000' of elevation gain.

Late in the race you had to run on some freshly re-graded gravel roads.  Some had just had new rock put on them.  This was the least favorite part of the race for me.  My feet had been wet since the water crossings early in the race and were very tender by the time I reached the gravel.  It was like I was walking barefooted.  It was here I aggravated the previous injury to the joint in my left foot where I had jammed the toe back into my foot.  It hurt enough that I could only walk these runable sections & even then I had to carefully guide each step into the smoothest area.

Duncan Ridge 50k :

This was one of my better races last year & thought I would return as I also had alot of fun.  There were some nice scenic views all along the course, but this year almost all of the race was in the clouds (fog).  Total elevation gain (10,000') is the most for any 50k race I run all year.

With the way I felt about burnout at my last race, I had 2nd thoughts about running this race that I had signed up for several months ago.  Plus, it was also going to be a 6 hour drive in the rain & the forecast was rain for the race.  Well, I decided to go anyway & take a slow & cautious 7 hours for the drive.  I was also slow in the race (not by choice) & tried to enjoy it the best I could.  It was drizzly, foggy & cool (low 30's) at the start.

My Garmin 310 started on all zeroes but when I checked it in the 1st mile, I was getting all sorts of mixed up numbers (moisture problem?).  However, I didn't need my watch to tell me that I was starting very slow, just like at my last race.  About a quarter mile of the course was changed from last year (faster) as we ran in the park a little longer -- this helped the backup that occurred last year.

I restarted my Garmin at the 1st aid station & it surprisingly picked up GPS fairly quick at the base of a mountain & worked fine the rest of the day.  Based on the time of day, I was running 1 to 2 minutes slower per mile than last year to this point.  Within a few miles of the 16 mile turnaround on this out'n'back course, it looked to be a possibility I wouldn't make the cutoff of 4:45.  The only time (so far) that I worry about cutoffs is when I get lost or in 100 mile races.  With 10 hours the official time limit, this cutoff was reasonable & I could live with that.  I wasn't worried if I didn't make it -- I was feeling pretty rough then.  Well, I made it out of the aid station in 4:35 and on the way back I had a couple "unscheduled pit stops".  Once again, I felt much, much better afterwards.  I finished 50 minutes slower than last year even though I did run the last 10 miles faster than my 1st 10 miles this year.

Next up:  Tecumseh Marathon

I've been resting since my races in Georgia, but feel unprepared for the Tecumseh challenge this year.  I've run only ultras all year & with it being a marathon, the pace is naturally faster . . . yet my recent running indicates I'm heading in the other direction!  Going to experiment more with my pre-race diet (just Gatorade now?).  Weather will be a factor for me this race (being able to drive to the race in icy conditions).  My anti-lock brakes were the only thing which kept me from the ditch the last time there were bad driving conditions at the event -- hope the forecast changes . . .

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cumberland Trail

First of all, if you're an ultra runner, this may be good for a laugh or two (found this link on the Ultralist):   I like "YOUR FIRST 100 MILER".

Went down to Caryville, TN, last Saturday for the Cumberland Trail 50k.  I really loved the trail & scenery last year & I also had one of my better races.  I would have to deal with 2 handicaps this year though:   the back brace for my still aching back; and the 5 to 10 degree warmer (hotter) temps.

At 55 degrees at the start, I didn't think I would have a problem, but with the early 2000 foot climb with my "deluxe heater belt" in place and warm headlamp (1st hour in the dark), I was sweating like crazy!  It felt like the afternoon high of 81 had already arrived (only 71 last year).  Like Not Yo Momma's race last time out, I was caked with salt at the finish.

The trees weren't nearly as colorful as last year, but still a beautiful area to run in.  The leaves were just starting to turn & most leaves were still on the trees -- the trail had some leaves on it, but generally it was fairly clear.  With fewer leaves, it seemed as though the trail was much more technical this time, but less dangerous as you could see most all the hazards.  Anyway, I just couldn't run the same pace as I did last year (finished almost exactly 30 minutes slower).  Also going down technical, steep grades was very tough on my back -- on a one mile section down the mountain it took 20:25 to gingerly climb down.

Next up on my ambitious Fall schedule is the Big Backyard Ultra in Bell Buckle, TN, next Saturday. This is the infamous "last runner standing" race -- a guaranteed DNF for everyone but the winner.  This is from the UR magazine:

Friday, October 11, 2013

"BACK" again

A couple races since my last report:

Hallucination 100 (Sept 6) at Woodstock - another DNF:

After recovering from the disabling back pain at Mohican, my summer training went very well.  It was a cooler than normal Summer, with a very cool 1st half of August.   I had several good runs over 25 miles (no back pain).  I felt like in the best shape ever this time of year since I normally run very little during the summer.  No signs of back pain . . . until 2 days before the race!!  Actually it was just tightness & it's the feeling I get when my back is about to go out.  I have no idea what I did to bring it on . . . .

In the very 1st mile, I realized that I was not going to finish the race.  Pretty depressing since I thought there was a possibility I could PR the distance based on my training runs.  The course is the flattest that I run on all year & if one wanted to run their best time, this was the course to do it on. 

The back pain progressed slowly until eventually my back gave out altogether a few miles from the end of the 2nd lap (of 6 laps).  From there I walked it (staggered) in.

Best part of the event was seeing all the local runners who also made the trip.  Cynthia Heady, RD for Louisville's Lovin' The Hills (LLTH) was leading the women's race until having stomach issues.

getting ready for Not Yo Momma's:

Last year this race was the only long race that I didn't have any gut issues.  I realize now what I did -- it was a cool night camping & I remember curling up on my LEFT side on a slight hill.  If I had only realized it then that this would prevent the pain, it would have saved me a lot of trouble.

So this year, with my gut issues under control (knock on wood) and no back pain after Mohican, I signed up for this race & many others this summer for a very ambitious fall/winter schedule.  The last time I set up such a schedule, I caught the swine flu & that destroyed me for several months.  This time, my fickle back has thrown a wrench into my plans.

With back pain my no. 1 concern this year, I made several changes since the DNF at the Hallucination 100:  Increased my fish oil supplements; started back on glucosamine chondroitin; and started training with a back brace.  I was going to start a series of pilates sessions, but after the 1st class, I realized I did not have the coordination & dedication to keep at for the time I needed to.  What would probably help the most is to lose 20 pounds -- but that's much easier said than done.  I even seriously thought about seeing a chiropractor, though I'm still a little fearful of that yet.

During that good spell over the Summer, I signed up for the 100 mile version of the races at Not Yo Momma's .  Since my back was acting up the night before the race, I switched to the 100k on race morning.  First time I've ever worn a back brace in a race & for an extended period.  Advantages of the brace:

Sucks in my gut like a girdle -- keeps it from overhanging & there's less strain to keep upright.
Holds in heat at the back & fits firmly (does not move causing raw areas).
So far has kept my back from going out (does not stop all the pain though).

Bulky & weighs in at 2 pounds -- more when wet w/sweat. The weight is very noticeable.
Makes it feel like it's 10-15 degrees warmer during the race than it actually is.  Most definitely makes me sweat even more.
Had to modify it by adding bubble wrap to provide more lumbar support -- haven't found a solution to keep it exactly where it needs to be & it slips alot.

May interfere with digestion.

Not Yo Momma's 100 (9-28) - close to DNF:

The race went very well for the 1st 3 laps (16 miles each) - the back brace did its job.  It got hot & I sweat so much the brace almost turned all white w/salt!  However, I made a critical error.  For some reason, I completely forgot to take my Ensure -- I think when I changed from the 100m to 100k at the last second, I just didn't use any nutrition plan as I hadn't planned on running the 100k.  Anyway, I get sick of just gels after 50 miles & that's just what happened.  I don't know if the brace restricting my gut had anything to do with it, but at 52 miles, I got very sick.  I sat down for 2 hours & took off the brace -- with the 32 hour time limit, I had time to spare.   Finally, after heaving up everything (I think I emptied my small intestine), I was able to limp in the last 12 miles.

At 50 miles, I was on pace to finish in less than 18 hours (last year was 18:45), but I'm happy just to have finished.  This course is an exact opposite of the Hallucination 100 with its' profile.  I believe this course is as difficult as, or more difficult than Massanutten & that's saying alot.  Not rocky technical, but the very steep hills are relentless & incomparable to any others I've encountered.  There are only a few technical areas on the well groomed trail -- however I did manage to bust the nail on my big toe and that's just another added pain to deal with now.

Next up:

My ambitious schedule continues.  I have 3 races in the next 16 days!  Starts with the Cumberland Trail 50k tomorrow morning . . .

Saturday, August 10, 2013

caught up

Last report of 3.

Mohican - 3rd attempt

2013 had been an odd year weather-wise and I have no complaints about this summer.  Even with a cooler than normal August last year, there have been 30+ fewer days this year where the temps have reached 90 here in Louisville.  It's been (so far) the coolest summer in recent memory.

So, back in June, I had several major factors in my favor entering Mohican:  normal temps (rare) on race day, a gut somewhat under control, injury free, mentally re-focused (from Massanutten) and some rare training days in June when it's usually too hot to even think about it.  I felt really good about my chances.

However, stupid me couldn't sit still taper week & decided to do some Spring cleaning & moved some heavy boxes around.  I didn't even realize what I was doing till my back went out -- just what I didn't need before a race where I DNF'd twice because of severe back pain!  Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!  So that's my race & report in a nutshell -- DNF with back problems -- again.

A couple notes about the recorded time above:

At the 50 mile mark, I was feeling good with a time of 12:43 and had over 19 hours to finish the 2nd half.  But my back started shutting me down around the 100k mark & by the time I got to the aid station at mile 73, even baby steps were painful & I called it quits.  Since they were the last aid station before the end of the loop, I believe the aid station captain was reluctant to take anyone back (this was about 1:30 a.m.) -- so I had to join the other disabled runner who was lying on the ground on a blanket.

About an hour later, another runner in really bad shape came into the aid station.  Since I tried & was able to stand without pain, I told them I would give that runner my blanket spot & try to walk it in (it turned out to be a slow & painful trek w/many breaks & wished I hadn't tried it!).  I had shut off my timer when I stopped at the aid station & for some reason (hoping for a miracle?) restarted it when I left, so that's why there's a discrepancy in the times.

Next up:

I've postponed all my construction projects around the house this summer due to my back & have been getting alot of back rest.  I used to call my running nemesis the "fickle" back -- I never knew when it was going to flare up.  I've dealt with it most of my running years and now, after a short absence, it has returned.   Since I no longer perform heavy lifting on a regular basis (using wood as a primary source of heat), I feel (& hope) this is just temporary.  Maybe I'll find out when I try Woodstock next month . . .

Friday, August 9, 2013

catch up - continued

After the mental disaster at Massanutten, I could hardly think about anything else.  I figured the best medicine to help get over it was to run another race as soon as possible.  I looked at the calendar & saw a familiar race in Mohican in June, so I set my sights on that race, although twice before (2008 & 2009) it was too hot for me & I also had major back problems.  I mostly don't consider Mohican each year because of that heat (mid 80's to low 90's).  So for it to be a possibility this year, I figured I needed to cram in some heat training. 

I looked for a shorter race in the heat that wasn't too far to drive to and found a 50k in Tennessee: the inaugural Music City Trail Ultra just outside Nashville.  As the date for this race approached, it was clear it was going to be what I was looking for:  forecast was for 89 degrees w/partly cloudy skies, humid and a chance of thundershowers.  I've NEVER finished an ultra where the temps have reached the mid 80's, so I knew it would be a challenge just to finish! 

I camped right at the start/finish line.  It was a hot & muggy night.  There were over 200 that signed up for the 50k, 25k & 10k -- a pretty good turnout for a first time running.  The RD had carved out a rugged course in what seemed to be a rarely frequented nature preserve & consisted of gravel roads, fire breaks and ancient logging roads, with a small amount of seldom used single track & a little bushwacking.  I heard it took months to knock down the brush & weeds to fashion out the trails.

Early in the race on a firebreak, pic courtesy of Chris Bosh:

The ticks & flies were the worst.  The flies weren't the usual deer flies I'm used to.  They didn't seem to bite as much but I've never encountered so many flies (kept the mouth closed). These were like huge houseflies (small horseflies?) that you could knock 2 or 3 down with every swing.  Aid station workers were pulling ticks off my legs even though I had soaked myself with repellent (probably lost it with sweat & going thru the streams).  I also ran over a long black snake before I knew it, as I thought it was just a stick.

I could hardly make heads or tails of the course from the small map on the website.  I couldn't tell which direction the race proceeded and on which trails -- turns out this would affect my race.  I came across 2 confusing intersections.  The 1st one I lucked out as a group of runners came up on me & after a consensus, decided the way to go (I would have went the wrong way otherwise).  At the 2nd intersection, I was by myself & with another 50/50 chance, I took the wrong way.  Ended up with about 1 bonus mile after double tracking twice.  I think if the people who marked the course went in both directions on the out'n'back sections, they would notice the markings can look alot different going in the other direction.

The skies were mostly cloudy with periods of sun thruout the day.  This kept the temps down (only 85!).  The sun only seemed to come out when I was out in open & then it felt like 110.  But what helped the most was the unexpected breeze.  Occasionally there would be a hint of rain in that humid breeze -- I finished the last mile in a downpour.  Had it reached 89 with partly cloudy skies & no wind, I would NOT have finished this race.  This was the hottest ultra I've ever finished.  I survived the challenge (w/the lucky break in the weather) & felt I was ready for an attempt at Mohican.

1 more catch up report to follow . . .

Saturday, August 3, 2013

catch up

It's been almost 4 months since my last post . . . where has the time gone!?   Really, I had a mental collapse at Massanutten in May & have been so depressed over it, I haven't been able to write about it till now.  The race will probably haunt me forever.

my physical status:

I recovered from my shin splints back in April.  I don't think I had a stress fracture as it would've taken longer than the 3 weeks it took to recover from the injury.

With my night time "position" therapy my gut continues to feel better -- this has been the greatest news to me!  I still feel there's a restriction or temporary blockage somewhere down the line.  I don't expect I'll ever get the real medical reason or treatment for this malady.

Stubbed my 2nd (& longest) toe very hard late April & jammed the bones all the way back a couple joints into my foot.  Usually I just crush the toe, but this pain is at a joint 3 inches back into my foot.  Hurts the most when I step on a rock at the middle of my foot.  It's still continuing to improve.  Jamming toes & the fear of breaking my toes is the main reason I abandoned my Vibrams years ago.  Maybe if the trails around my house were less technical or I ran races mostly on non-technical trails, I would train in them.

My back is the main physical ailment at the moment.  Moved some heavy boxes (stupid) & totally messed it up in mid June.  I haven't recovered & currently cannot run as long as I'd like to.  Back pain was the main reason for my DNFs before my gut problems took over.  I thought I had gotten rid of the pains when I got rid of the wood stove a couple years back.  Wood may be cheap to use, but it's not worth it by a long shot.

I've attempted 3 races since my last post, but to shorten this today, I'm just going to post about one race right now:

May 18 - Massanutten - Land of the ROCKS - DNF

Back in the Spring, I had plans to visit my brother in Virginia and while I was there I would try running Massanutten again.  Losing 3 weeks of training with the shin splint injury, I would only have 3 weeks instead of 6 to prepare after Potowatomi.  I debated it, but decided to go ahead with the race, although I didn't think I had a chance to finish it.  I believe it was this thought that was the actual reason for my downfall -- not mentally into it!

Also, another reason I believe contributed to my downfall:  the crazy 4 am start -- because of the excitement, the only time I can get good sleep before a big race seems to be between 3 & 5 a.m. & this race won't let me get any of that sleep. 

Felt great at the start with no signs of my previous injury.  In fact, I felt great all day up to the halfway point under "unusual" conditions -- there were very thick clouds with the threat of rain & temps were near normal (rare) -- nothing like the hot & humid weather in past years & were super conditions for me.  By nightfall, I was a couple hours ahead of my previous attempt 2 years ago.  In that year I was battling cutoffs. When it gets dark though, it's tougher & on the 2nd half of this course it gets even rockier (I didn't think that could be possible!).

At about 4 a.m. around 73 miles on what was the rockiest section of trail that I've ever been on, I had a mental breakdown!  I had ROCKS on the brain.  I didn't want to take one more step on any rock.  Every step seemed to alternate up or down & required the utmost attention & it being 24 hrs into a physically & mentally demanding race, I just couldn't handle it any more. Unbelievably to me now, finishing was not a high priority then!  No disabling physical problems -- yes, I was tired, but not overly so and although my jammed toe foot hurt, it was still at a tolerable level.

After that mindless decision, I continued to battle & curse the rocks (25 to 30 minute pace) for the next 2 very long miles.  I even passed 6 runners (actually I believe 3 runners & 3 pacers).  I then ran into a gravel road & coasted downhill 2 more miles to the aid station & dropped.  The fellow who took my number said I would regret it, especially since I was still 2 hours ahead of cutoff -- and he was right.  By the time I caught a ride back, I was in a state of depression.  Enough said.


2 more reports to follow . . . 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I racked up another DNF at Potawatomi on April 6 but it was hardly a surprise.  It wasn't my gut, back, the heat or the mud -- all the reasons (excuses) for my other 100 mile DNFs though.  I can now add my leg to the list.  Not sure exactly what injury that broke me down at mile 49 at Potawatomi -- either shin splints, a stress fracture or a combination of both.  I had always heard that this is a common runner's injury & wondered how it occurred.  And, what does it feel like?  Well it's like someone comes up & kicks you squarely on the shin with hard shoes on.  And every time you try to stand back up, he kicks you again.

how to get injured:

After Clinton Lake, all I had planned to do was to get in a recovery run so I'd be rested up for the long ultra in McNaughton Park in Pekin, IL.  Unfortunately, I did not follow thru.  My car needed work before the trip, so I decided to jog over to the gym (a half mile away from the shop) while the car was being worked on.  I did my regular routine with the weights.  My legs were a little sore as I would expect from a good workout & thought nothing of it when I went back to pick up the car.

Next morning, my right calf was so sore, I could hardly walk!  It felt like something was torn.  I had done my regular routine at the gym, but the problem was I hadn't been going to the gym regularly.  It doesn't take much to overstretch a muscle on those machines & apparently that's what I did.

So no recovery run & each day I had whirlpool/massage treatments & just hoped I would be ready for the race the next week.  Weather was going to be nice & cool & the course was going to be unbelieveably dry -- perfect conditions for an attempt at 150 miles!  How could I pass up this rare opportunity?

I was still sore come race day so I started with an extra easy pace.  The course was in super condition!  The 1st crossing of the creek was only ankle deep & the 2nd crossing you could carefully step across on well placed rocks.  There was no mud that couldn't be avoided -- pretty incredible for this course this time of year.

I felt OK for the 1st mile on level ground, but on the 1st hill, I was afraid to push off with my still sore right calf.  It felt like I was on the verge of straining it again, so I pushed off with my left leg up the hill while I brought up my right leg slightly cockeyed so I could not strain it (looked like a bad limp).  This seemed to work OK for about 18 miles on the hills.  By then my left leg was getting overly tired, so I had to go to my regular stride.  I really didn't have much choice and the right calf was feeling much better.

On the 3rd lap, mile 20 to 30, I felt great going back to normal running!  This trail is a bear when it's muddy.  When it's dry, it can be very enjoyable.  The sun was going down & it was cooling off too.  That had to be one of my favorite loops ever on this course.  I even had delusions of grandeur -- actually finishing 15 laps -- ha!

The 4th lap was in darkness.  It was fun too, but I got down to business & settled in for the long haul.  No gut issues made me very happy!  A very strong breeze with gusts up to 30 mph or more made for a nice, cool run.

The 5th lap was much like the 4th, except nearing the end of the loop, my left shin started hurting.  Quickly it started hurting real bad.  I knew then my race was over.  I didn't take a bad step or fall or anything like that.  The only thing I could figure was that shifting the load onto my left leg the 1st 2 laps was now coming back to haunt me.  Thank goodness I was nearing the start/finish area.  If I was out in the middle of the course, they would have had to haul me back.

The last short, but steep hill a quarter mile from the finish (for those who know the course) was almost an insurmountable barrier.  There was no turning this leg cockeyed to stop the pain.  It would have been faster to crawl on all fours up that hill (no one would have seen me in those early morning hours), but I literally inched myself up that hill & limped over the timing mat before I collapsed in the car.  That was just the beginning of the ordeal.  I had a very rough time, including a long drive home.

next up:

I'm out of commission at present.  Recovery has been agonizingly slow.  Here it is 10 days after the race & if I put weight on the left leg for a while . . . . heat, redness & pain return to the shin bone just above the ankle.

Some very good news though among the bad:  lately my gut has been feeling better than it's been the last 2 or 3 YEARS.  I don't think I'm cured, but I sure am happy about how it feels!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

no disappointment

Last Saturday, I finished my 5th Clinton Lake 30m race.  I came in with no expectations so that I wouldn't be disappointed.  I was prepared to enjoy myself regardless and would be happy with anything.  Well, it worked.  Guess that's how I need to prepare myself from now on . . . . . 
Clinton Lake power plant:
After the 800+ runners at LBL, it seemed like only a handful of runners showed up this race -- the smallest field that I can remember for this venue.  The RD had us park door to door so that everyone could fit into the parking lot, but only half or so of the lot ever filled up. 

The RD had another new idea:  have your race number imprinted on the white singlet that you were given at packet pick-up.  I wasn't planning on wearing a shirt.  I usually don't wear shirts that have advertisement plastered on them or if they're white either (because of deer hunters).  Most other runners were wearing them, so I wore it at the start.

Speaking of deer, this brute was just outside my bedroom window about a month ago:

It seems my abdominal pain is morphing once again:  some added pain along & under the entire ribcage w/occasional cramps.  It has been tolerable (so far).  It had no effect on me race day.

Race day temps were 33 to 50.  It was warmer than predicted, but still a great running temp range.  The only drawback to the warmer temps was the course thawed out quickly when the sun came out.  What was just wet on the 2nd half of the 1st loop, turned into a mudfest by the 3rd loop.  I couldn't believe that this trail would ever have me bringing out comparisons to McNaughton Park (not good).  The super sloppy sections were much shorter here, but beared the same ressemblance.  There were records broken this day (I was lapped by 2 runners for the 1st time here), but the faster runners missed out on this mud fun.

Even with a faster early pace, I never felt any of that fatigue feeling like at LBL -- just a steady loss of leg lift as the race progressed.

next up:

I've always used Clinton Lake 30m as practice for the longer race at McNaughton Park (now Potawatomi Trail Runs) that follows 2 weeks later.  The short up & down hills with soft dirt trails are somewhat similar, although Potawatomi has a few larger hills.  I hope I won't have to make use of the bonus practice I earned on last Saturday's soupy trails, although I suspect it's about time for another rainy day at muddy McNutty.  If it's anything like at Clinton Lake, I will likely have a very short time to have fun.  I'm signed up for 150 miles, but I have no expectations.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

a new norm

The abdominal pain I have is not consistently the same, whether it be when, where in the abdomen or its intensity.  If it was the same all the time, I think the Drs. or I could pinpoint it & figure it out.  I'm afraid my running performance has taken on the same resemblance -- unpredictable (& not pleasant) more times than not.  After my run at Land Between the Lakes (LBL) this past weekend, I believe I need to accept the new norm for my performances, which is inconsistent/unpredictable.  The "good" run I had at Mountain Mist last January seems to have been just an aberration.  My list of things that can go wrong just seems to grow.

At LBL, I had a very unexpected collapse at mile 11 of the 50 mile race.  The boring details:

I cannot blame the pace this time as I forced myself to run at about 12 minutes/mile for the 1st 2 miles -- this was mostly so that I would be placed with others near that same pace when the course entered the single track off the road.  As every year, where you were placed would largely determine your pace for the 1st loop, unless you did something drastic -- like pull off & wait or constantly pass a continuous line of runners.  I felt I did that better than any other of my 7 previous starts in this race.  It was also the slowest I've ever started.  The plan worked perfect & I was patting myself on the back as I felt the 12 minute/mile pace I found myself running on the single track trail was restrained, not pushed like in previous years.  I had run the 1st 18 miles of Mountain Mist 50k comfortably earlier this year at just less than a 12 minute/mile average & finished well so I was feeling pretty confident.

At mile 11 though, I suddenly became very fatigued!  I had just been thinking . . . in a couple more miles I can be free to run my style when most of the runners peel off after the 1st lap.  Really puzzled by this abrupt "collapse", I immediately had to go into my "survival" pace -- a pace that I would be able to finish the 60k race with & not have to walk.  The 50 mile cutoff was now impossible & in no way could I make 50 miles anyway the way I felt.  I had slogged 26 miles at Pinhoti at my survival pace when I was shutdown by the heat at 25 miles, so I thought it wouldn't be a problem -- I was wrong.  With 9 miles left to finish the 3 laps (60k), I just didn't have any more energy.  I should have dropped at mid-lap, but was just too stubborn & didn't want to bother anyone either.  What didn't help was I also lost motivation -- I walked everything, including every downhill.  It took over 3 hours to walk those 9 uninspired miles.  I tried hard to enjoy the beautiful day -- that's the only thing that kept me going.  Still, I was dejected & out of it as I slowly walked down the hill to the finish -- all in sight of the spectators who were cheering? at the finish line.  That was a first for me as I've always at least trotted across a finish line -- pretty sad.

Other notes:

This race always has the most runners that I know and can recognize & I always enjoy being able say a few words with many of them -- whether it be at packet pickup or sometime during race day.  In fact, the highlight of the race was being able to run with Chris & Jeff, at least for a mile or two! 

Scott Breeden, who won LLTH 50k in an INCREDIBLE 4:07, repeated with another super performance with 4:07 in the 60k - WOW!   He lapped me near mile 15 (he was on mile 26).  He was running a sub 3 hour marathon & I know I couldn't keep up with him even if I was sprinting a 50 yard dash.

With global warming, the new norm for late Spring & early Fall (when heat matters the most to me) is that temps will be above average -- I realize that (but still haven't accepted it yet).  This year it started early with the 10 deg above average temps at LBL, but it was certainly not a factor for me this race day.  Had it reached the mid 70's (it didn't) and I was running (I wasn't), it might have been a factor.

My belly hurt a little during the race, but nothing unusual & not a factor.  I've found that my new posture at night & that the liquid diet pre-race (& only gels during the race) has helped (so far).  Based on training runs around home though, I've found that even this can be inconsistent.

Having gone on a diet after seeing my belly hang out at LLTH, I lost 5 pounds in less than 4 weeks and edged below the so-called "obese" weight for my height (I'm still very much overweight though).  At first I thought this diet could have had some effect on my race performance at LBL, but really, I don't think it would have been that drastic.  However, I have decided to suspend serious dieting till the summer off season & to load up with more carbs during taper week.

I came down with some kind of "bug" Monday night after LBL.  Other than a little nagging cough now & then, it appears I'm finally over it.  I'm planning on getting in a good run (in the rain) tomorrow morning.

Next up:

With my new norm, I have dropped all expectations for my 5th Clinton Lake 30m next Saturday.  I had felt I could run better than 6:30 and was hoping to break 6 hours, but that was before LBL.  Weather is expected to be cool (& windy) as it's always been there -- which will be nice.

LBL threw a wrench into my plans, however,  I'm still signed up for 3 long ultra races this Spring:  Potawatomi, Indiana Trail & Massanutten.  Potawatomi had a half price early bird special ($75) last April & I couldn't resist.  I signed up for Indiana Trail as a backup/alternate to Potawatomi (they're only 2 weeks apart).  Also, I'm on the waiting list (#22 currently) for Massanutten in May so I can't count on getting in.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

a most revealing video

A couple weeks ago, I ran in my favorite race, Louisville's Lovin' The Hills (LLTH) 50k.  As I predicted, I did better previously in my "solo race" (7:21) over the same course than on the actual race day (7:41).  Percentage wise, that's less than 5% slower -- is that the difference between a good race & a bad one?   Not really, but those 20 minutes extra were very, very tough, plus I felt terrible afterwards -- no comparison whatsoever between the two races.  What did I do wrong?  Again, I blame the usual -- get caught up in all the hoopla & excitement & start out too fast.   Will I ever learn?  Don't think so -- I may go a race, sometimes 2 after a disaster like this, but I always revert.  All my ultra PR's have been where my top priority has been to start out "slower than slow".  So the cycle continues . . .
 Feb 9, 2013 race day:                             Dec 18, 2012 "solo race"

At LLTH this year, I let someone use my camera to take some video of the race.  I've seen many pictures of myself during a race, but I had never seen a video.  Several things were revealed to me & a couple that I won't ever get out of my mind:

1.  I thought I started near the back of the pack, but the video revealed I actually started near the middle.  With the record number of runners this year, I clearly misjudged this & messed up big time here.

2There was also video taken at about the 5 mile point & I watched as the lead runners flew past the camera.  The main pack passes 10 minutes later.  Ten more minutes & some of the runners are walking up the slight grade.  Several minutes later, here I come, dragging along.  I was really more like "scooting" along.  Starting too fast? - in my mind only!  Didn't realize that my running style is truly a shuffle too.

3.  Also, there's one sight which others shouldn't have to endure:  seeing someone wearing very tight compression shorts who's also shirtless on a sub-freezing day & letting his beer gut hang a couple inches out & over at the waistline.  AWFUL!  No wonder other runners don't like being passed by someone looking so overweight and do their best to pass back!  I can be a great motivator though as some runners I pass really do come right back & pass me & I never see them again.

Yep, I've been on a diet since the race.  It took a video to renew my diet training which has always been the hardest type training to me of all.  Unfortunately, once your gut gets distorted to such an extent for so long, it will never go away no matter the weight reduction -- so people are just going to have to turn their head (quicker) if they don't want to see it.

Now that I've learned not to sleep on my right side, I've not had any more severe pain (knock on wood) and this has helped me more than anything else these past 2+ years.  One of the culprits could be temporary blockage or a physical restriction/dislodging of the intestines (my Dr. calls it an "anatomical issue") or a malfunctioning bowel.  The medicines I take, including those for acid reduction, could actually be contributing to the problem.  Still trying new meds though & the latest one I took was a combo for anti-cramping (muscle relaxer)/anxiety (benzodiazepine).  It was yet another med to help me sleep, but it too gave me such a buzz I had to discontinue it.

Next up is Land Between the Lakes 50 miler.  If there's one place where early pace has been a continual problem for me it's been at LBL.  I've had only one evenly paced race in 7 attempts.  It doesn't help that there's a fairly tight cutoff at 36 miles (must maintain a 13 minute/mile avg pace).  The urgency to make that cutoff disrupts my usual running scheme from the word go.  I would do better if there wasn't a cutoff, but I can't just forget it's there either.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

mist & ice

Last weekend, I was in Alabama for my 3rd running of the Mountain Mist 50k.  The previous 2 times I had serious issues  -- got lost the 1st time & was still recovering from foot surgery in the other.  This year I was only worried about the unpredictable abdominal pain.  I had a relapse with worse than usual pain the week after I ran the LLTH solo "races", but I'm happy to report I did not encounter any problems during my race.

The course included a hand climb up a "cliff" and thru these caves/tunnels:

The most difficult part of the race, though, was the drive down Interstate 65:  I was on the brink of not going at all because during the week the forecast called for mid-twenties & I didn't want to deal with ice on the rocky trail there again.  Not until Thursday night did they change the forecast to the low 30's for race morning and it would be rain, not snow or freezing rain in Huntsville on Friday.  The course would be muddy again, but I've heard it's almost always muddy.  The real problem with the drive was handling the ice storm leaving Louisville (& then all thru Kentucky).  I left Friday morning.  If it's raining when it's 25 degrees, that's a bad sign!  Wrecks, road blocks, tow trucks & emergency vehicles everywhere . . . it took 2 1/2 hours longer for an already long drive.  It was nerve racking on me mentally & tough on my gut, but somehow I survived with no ill effects.

I am now satisfied with my performance at this venue as I believe, finally, the finish time closely reflected the condition I felt like going into the race.  I'm hoping my gut will continue to let me run.  Each night & each day the pain is a little different, so I can't take anything for granted.  Oh yes, I did have my 2 Drs. appts since my last blog entry:  The PT Dr. gave me some steroid shots around my xiphoid & some medications to help me sleep.  The shots were very painful & the short term benefit I received from them was not worth it -- I do not plan to attempt that again.  The medications that were to help me sleep made me feel so drugged & dizzy that I've discontinued them, at least for now.  The gastro Dr. performed another EGD (upper endoscopy) and he was surprised to find I still had some evidence of reflux, despite all the stomach meds I'm taking!  He did not think this was the source of my pain though.  So right now, I'm awaiting results of the biopsies and then I'll proceed (wander) from there.

Next up is Louisville's Lovin' The Hills 50k on Saturday.  I did not run last year as I was taking time off from running during a 3 month period to see if the abdominal pain got better (it got worse).  Cynthia (RD) and I will start flagging parts of the course & marking downed trees for removal tomorrow.  I do not plan on any running this week in my taper.  And that includes when marking the trails -- I'll just hike them.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

solo LLTH "races"

First of all, on the health front:

In my last update, the abdominal pain was feeling as though it was a musculoskeletal issue.  Now, I'm back to believing it's more of a gastric issue (maybe a combination?).  I've found that by lying on my left side at night that I can prevent the severe belly pain from starting.  This is great except it's not easy staying in that position all night.  I've found that after doing so, these better feelings have carried over into the daytime hours & that the pain during my running is much less noticeable.  I hate to announce this though, as I've probably now jinxed myself . . . 

I have 2 Drs. appts next week -- I don't expect to learn anything new.


On Friday (28th) I ran the new Lovin' the Hills 50k course.  Besides the workout, I also needed a new GPS track for the race blog.  I was planning on Saturday morning, but with the 100% chance of snow Friday night, I cut my taper short.  I prepared for the run exactly as I would for an actual 50k race & not just for a "long run".  I could not duplicate the anxiety & adrenaline rush, but I tried to mentally put myself there & ran it at my best sustained pace. 

I felt great most of the way (until the last hill) & finished with a much better time than I expected.  Most of the reason was because of the major course changes since last year:  several miles of narrow & hilly single track were replaced with wide, flat, family friendly trails.  With fewer hills near the start, I had more reserve than expected the last half of the run.  I'm very happy with the time & I would gladly take 7:21 for the actual race February 9th -- why? -- because everything went well (including my gut) & because I didn't get caught up in anyone else's early pace, that usually does me in every year.  I doubt I'll be able to duplicate how I felt when race day comes around.  


Yesterday, I ran the new Lovin' the Hills 15m course.   It was more difficult getting into the frame of mind of a "race" this time.  I wanted to up the pace to a couple minutes faster than on my 50k run, but wasn't really sure if I could last the entire way.  There were a half dozen large trees blocking the trails, as when I did the 50k run, but these gave me a chance to catch my breath!  With fewer hills on this new course, I had to make myself take short breaks whenever I felt the need -- hills or no hills.  I'm very happy that I felt good the entire way & finished well. 

I'm thinking about posting the GPS track on the race blog, but I'm not exactly sure where the turnaround on the out'n'back section of the 15m course will be placed.  Since the route I took measured a little long, the out'n'back will probably be shortened on race day.

Both runs are posted on Garmin Connect:  50k  15m

Next up I plan to go back down to Mountain Mist in Alabama to redeem myself for the 2 previous efforts that I was disappointed with.