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 . . .