Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best & Worst of 2008

Best Race: I didn't have a great race, but most were pretty good training efforts. Holiday Lake 50K++ was good, especially the last half. Gator Trail 50K was good for the first half. New River Trail 50K & FATS 50K were both enjoyable on back-to-back days.

Worst Race: 24 Hour Blue Planet Run. Ran 55 miles from about 9 PM to 7:30 AM as part of a relay. The 5 mile loop was straight up for a mile & straight down for a mile. By the FIRST loop, my knee hurt like crazy, so I endured it for 10 more hours. Rough. Lonely running the entire way in the dark too. Taught me a lot about what I'm able to get through. Frosty 50K was rough on a bad achilles. I dropped out for a minute, started walking to the car & then continued running the race & finished.

Favorite Training Week: Running Camp in Brevard with the team or 3 days of running on the Appalachian Trail.

Highest Weekly Training Mileage: 110

Lowest Training Mileage: 16

Total Yearly Mileage: It will be just over 2,500 by the end of the week- the most I've ever run.

Best Route: Carver's Gap to Hwy 19 on the Appalachian Trail. I ran part of this last year in the sleet and 60mph wind. Conditions in June started off great with rhododendrons and azeleas in bloom and great views from the balds. The Roan Highlands are easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. 30 minutes later, I was in a terrible storm (again!), but I still loved the run.

Worst Route: Can't think of a particularly bad route. Running at school gets a little boring, but I'm not complaining.

Greatest Acheivement: Great summer of training with over 300 miles/month. Two 50Ks on consecutive days was my biggest acheivement racing.

Biggest Disappointment: I need to run more during track season! I get caught up actually coaching and don't get time to run & then don't feel like it afterwards.

Longest Injury-Free Stretch: Injuries?? I've been lucky this year. Tender achilles for 6 weeks, but it just made me scale back a little- not much. I ran two 50Ks on it, which wasn't smart, but I made it through.

Worst Injury: See above.

Most Memorable Moment: Seeing a bear on the AT near Dennis Cove. I've had some great destination runs this year- great Appalachian Trail runs, Crowder's Mt., 9 degrees in the snow & dark at Beech Mt...

Most Forgettable Moment: I forgot.

Best Run Shared with Someone: 28 miles on the Appalachian Trail into Damascus, VA with Hannah Parks; running all summer with the girls on the team, being amazed at their dedication.

Best Shoe: Went through several pairs of Brooks Cascadia 2s. Love them! They blister my foot a little, but overlooked that, I like them so much. Can't find them anymore & in the Cascadia 3s, the blistering is worse. The Brooks Adrenaline ASR is serving as a replacement & I like them pretty well. Montrail Streaks are working well.

Worst Shoe: Adidas something or another. Not bad, but the worst shoe I had all year.

Something I Never Thought I'd Do: I'm not sure how I decided to run a 100 mile race. I remember thinking, "I'm not meant to run over about 16 miles," in a few marathons several years ago. I've run several 50Ks this year and it feels like a very enjoyable, moderate distance to run. I sure wasn't thinking that before my first one & before considering an ultra.

Race I Enjoyed Most Watching: Loved this year's XC season.

Most Important Lesson Learned: I've been good about getting in my long runs in all year, but I've been lazy about getting enough runs in during the week at times. I lose motivation to get in runs less than 10 miles. Believe it or not, a 5 mile run is MUCH more boring to me than 20+ miles. Most people ask me how I can run so long, especially without listening to music. I don't get bored though. What I've learned though, is I really do need these lesser runs to be a better runner. I'll make more of an effort to get in more runs in 2009.

Thing I'm Looking Forward to Most in 2009: 100 MILES AT ROCKY RACCOON. I've been more than obsessed with this goal for the past 9 months or so. That's what I think about on almost every run. Also running 5 days solo & self-supported on the southernmost part of the Appalachian Trail this summer, which I've been really excited about.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On Schedule for 100 Miler in February

The goal for the past 9 months has been the Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler in Texas. My summer training was very good. Since then, my weekly mileage has been way down, but I've been getting in the long runs.

I ran 40 miles today in the the cold rain & mud. Around 42 degrees the whole run. The last 15 miles was great. Ran 4x10 mile loops and all loops were within 6 minutes of each other. The fastest one was the last one. On a day when you're out there for 7 hours in lousy conditions, not seeing anyone the whole run, you get a little lonely. I talked on the cell phone as I ran most of the last hour! ...and yes, it was my fastest loop. I think the phone distracted me from wanting to walk up the hills. I didn't stop that whole last hour, while I'd walked some of the hills earlier.

I'll do some snowy mountain runs next weekend, a 60 mile training run the weekend of Dec. 20, and probably a couple of long days on the Appalachian Trail the first weekend of January & I'll be ready to go for 100 in early February.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2 x 50K Weekend

Saturday morning, I had every intention of running the New River Trail 50K Saturday & the FATS 40 Miler Sunday. A couple of hours later, I told myself I wouldn't bother going to FATS. By the end of the race, I decided I'd go, but choose the 50K (31 miles) option there & not the 40 miler. Sunday morning, when I checked in, I asked where the closest bailout point was- the place where we came back to the parking lot. They told me 19 miles and I figured I might just do 19. I'm happy to have completed both 50Ks and in decent shape.
New River Trail 50K- This race is organized by Annette Bednosky and was a top notch inaugural event. Good swag, great ultrarunner volunteers who knew what people were going through, and a BEAUTIFUL course. At the race start, there was a thick fog & it was a chilly 48 degrees. Felt perfect. When I finished, it was 72 and sunny. The course follows the New River Trail between Fries & Galax, VA & back. It is an old railroad bed- a wide, smooth, completely non-technical trail, with no significant hills. There were several sections of long incline, but for the most part, you were using the same muscles all race long. I'm not used to running like that, with even cadence and pacing. I told someone it's too much like running. :) The biggest obstacles on the course were the acorns and walnuts. I talked to a lot of people on the course and ran with some people in the first half that ran faster than I wanted to go. After a few minutes, I'd tell them, "Go ahead, I need to back off." They'd tell me they'd back off too, but wouldn't, and I'd stick with them for a few more minutes. I met a lot of people at this race & some approached me, telling me they recognized me from reading the blog! Ha! Glad people are reading it. I assumed since I don't get many comments, no one reads it. A few people asked me how the Weddington XC teams are doing. I wanted to go out in about 8:30-9:00 pace, but ended up doing most of the first half in 8:00 pace, except for a couple of bathroom breaks and some timeouts at aid stations. I didn't feel great from about mile 16-25, but not too bad. I slowed a little, but didn't fall apart. I never walked, but did spend 2-3 minutes at each aid station. I could've PRed (4:41) at this race, but wanted to take it easy and save some for the next day. I was still not far off from my PR, finishing at 4:54. I just wanted to break 5 hours and feel decent at the end. For what it's worth, I came in 30th out of 100 finishers. I think there were 30 who dropped out or didn't start.

This race hurt more than it should have. I'm just not used to the terrain and my hips and hamstrings were killin' me. A dip in the New River at the end was nice. Brrr! I had a large blood blister on the side of my foot, but didn't feel it running. I got one on the other foot in the same spot Sunday that I didn't notice either. I usually don't get blisters if I tape my feet (and I did), so I don't know what happened. No toe blisters thanks to the Injinji socks.

FATS 50K- I drove home & stayed a couple of hours & then on to N. Augusta, SC. The drives were both about 2.5 hrs. I woke up sore and had trouble moving around the hotel room. I walked around the parking lot a couple of minutes to decide if I didn't just want to get back in bed. In the first 20 steps of the race, I wondered if I'd made the right decision. For those of you who don't do ultras, you don't really warm up for an ultra. You kinda pile out of the car 10 minutes before the start and get rolling. I honestly wondered if the legs would go at all and probably should've tested them out before the start, but I was too tired!

The race was small, very low key, free (I gave a donation.) & no frills. It's a new addition to the South Carolina Ultra Series put on by Terri Hayes. The course was more to my liking with rolling singletrack. There were a million little roller coaster bumps that took 2-3 steps to get up and down. That was rough on tired legs. I enjoyed the course though. The only part that killed me was the two 1.5 gravel road sections. Too much like Saturday. As expected, I was slow and just got through it, had fun, and talked to a lot of people.

"Either way, it's a long freakin' way. Let's just go that way," said a guy a came across at a confusing intersection. There were a few of those. Rather than run the risk of picking the wrong way, getting lost and adding more mileage, I always consulted with someone else. Once, I waited for about 3 minutes for the next guy & another time, I waited close to 5 minutes to be given the advice, "We went that way, but most people went the other way. I'm not sure which way is right." A couple of other times, I hit an intersection other people were waiting at. I came past 3 groups of people walking the opposite direction along one stretch who all told me they knew they were going the wrong way, but that's the only way they knew how to get back. One women I ran 3-4 miles with earlier said, "I followed those 2 idiots ahead of me even though I knew it was the wrong way." Ha! I never got lost, but I was extremely cautious.

There was a 1:45 gap between aid stations at one point and a 1:30 gap another time. I was going slow, but there were plenty who were slower than me and I can imagine it took them 2:30 to get between aid stations. I packed light today- just a hand held bottle. I went the first 2:45 with only 150 calories. Eek! The guy behind me said he'd give me a gel 30 seconds before we saw the aid station. I was close to a bonk. I still didn't eat much all race. 2 gels, 1 bottle of Heed, 2 handfuls of pretzels, 1 bottle of ClifShot drink & ...uh hmm... 3 cans of Mt. Dew. Aid station volunteers were friendly.

I was really slow, but that's OK. I just wanted to get through it. I was 2:11 slower than yesterday. I attribute 60-70 minutes of that to the differences in courses, close to 10 minutes of it to waiting for directions and 50-60 minutes of it to me just being slower. Again, that's OK. I finished in 7:06. That's a long day for a 50K!! There's no doubt I could've done the last loop and finished the 40 miler, but I had already been out there so long I was ready to be done! The best part about the day was that I felt no worse at mile 31 than I did at mile 1, and I felt no worse at the end of Sunday than Saturday. I can honestly say that the homemade plywood finishing award was one of the awards I'm most proud of outside of Ironman medals. I didn't have to do this race. I didn't feel like doing this race, but I did and every step hurt. I am proud I got through it and ended up feeling OK at the end. I've done back-to-back & back-to-back-to-back long training days, but not quite this long. I most certainly would've bailed on my own. I don't think I would've been nearly as sore on Sunday if I'd done the two races in reverse order.

Overall, a very good weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ready for a Tough Weekend (& I Love the Ped Egg!)

So I'm running the New River Trail 50K (31 miles) in VA Saturday, coming home for a few hours & then running the FATS 40 Miler in SC Sunday. Am I ready? Sure. My summer training was very good (300 miles/month in June, July & August), but September was not. I was too busy with meets, directing the marathon, etc. Still, I think I'm good. If I'm injury-free after the 50K and my feet are in good shape, there's no reason I can't do the 40 miler the next day.


...which brings me to my next point- feet. A few weeks ago, I bought the Ped Egg because I heard people on the Ultra list talking about it. It's this infomercial foot grater and it's incredible!!! I got mine at CVS for $9.99 I think. I had bad callouses on my feet and was afraid of blisters forming underneath. 5 minutes with the Ped Egg & they were gone! Marking the course for 6 hours in the rain the other day, I developed a lot of swampy blisters. I didn't take care of them for a week and this past weekend, wondered if I'd be able to do either of the 2 races this weekend. I thought the blisters were too much for the Ped Egg, but after 5 minutes... WOW! Here's the before & after with still a little work to do.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Saw a Bear!

Decided the day before to go run some of the AT. Saw a bear yesterday while running from Watauga Lake to Dennis Cove & back. It was about 60 yards away & ran away as soon as it saw me. I was way more calm than I thought I'd be. I've been preparing for this day for a long time. :) Lot of rocks. Going north up Pond Mountain is tough (1700' climb). Laurel Falls is supposed to be one of the best on the entire Appalachian Trail.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Beach Trip

Went to Harbor Island, a tiny island near Beaufort, SC (which is between Charleston & Savannah). Sea kayaking, tandem biking, trail running, gator spotting, 108 heat index, horsefly bites galore...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Running Camp

I brought 25 runners from my team to Brevard Distance Runners Camp. All went well. I got a little homesick and missed Wren a lot, but had a great time with the kids & running. This is my second trip as a coach, but I came as a camper in the mid-1980s. I got in 100 miles, but just barely. My legs were toast on Saturday morning & instead of getting a nice long run in, I had to stop at 9 miles to reach 100. All of the afternoon runs were at Pisgah National Forest or DuPont State Forest. Many trails were double track or dirt forest service roads, but there was some singletrack. I was disappointed that there were no views except John Rock and Hooker Falls. Last year, there were a few more.

The toughest run I did was 16 miles along Sycamore Flats, part of Art Loeb and Black Mountain trails, all three of which are steep. My favorite was the run up Cat Gap Trail to John Rock. The camp calls it their Graduation Run. It’s an 1100’ climb over about 3.5 miles onto a rock face with an excellent view.

One day, I stopped into a local outfitter to ask where I could fit in a relatively easy 6-10 mile loop when I had some time. She suggested Coontree Loop. After climbing 1000’ in the first 35 minutes, I was a little confused about her definition of “easy.” Cruel joke!

Camp reinforced a few things I already knew:
1) The easiest way to get 100 miles for the week is not 11 runs. UGH! I would have much rather have done fewer, longer runs to get the mileage in chunks, but the schedule didn’t allow for it.
2) We’ve got some fast girls! …and our guys are coming along & will do very well for themselves. I couldn’t be more excited for Cross Country season to start!
3) I’m an awful climber. I felt really strong and remarkably fresh on the flats, downhills, & gradual uphills, but when the trail really turned upwards, I struggled.

I’ve been really happy with my training lately, having run an average of over 10 miles per day this summer, including several days off (just not this past week!). It felt weird to go into the woods this week just for 45-90 minutes at a time. 10-12 mile training runs feel as standard as 4-5 milers used to. Not a lot of speed these days, but that’s OK.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Takin' it Easy on the AT

I had pole vault camp in Boone this week and got to run a couple times with Hannah- once at Julian Price Park for around 12 miles and 27 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Good time. I like going on adventure runs with her and just posted the report of the Sauratown Trail run we did last summer... a very different experience. Last year was a little shorter, 30 degrees hotter, and we wondered if we would die. This year, was much more relaxed.

I guess it's time to "publicly" announce I'm planning to run/hike/fastpack all 2100+ miles of the Appalachian Trail in bits & pieces before I die. I've got a long way to go. Whether it'll take 10 years or 30, I'm not sure. I'm planning on running the first 100 miles of the trail from Springer Mountain, GA in 5 days next summer self-supported.

We parked at Bike Station in Damascus, VA and took their shuttle up to Elk Garden near Whitetop Mountain, the 2nd highest peak in VA. It had been raining all morning and ended up raining on us most of the day. Cleared up a little in the middle, but we were in a hard thunderstorm for the last hour or so. 65 degrees made it nice! 92 degrees when I got home to Charlotte. Ick. I'm really getting tired of the heat & drought.

The first climb was rough. 800' of climbing in the first 20 minutes. Hannah made me run more than I wanted to on this first climb. I wanted to ease into the day, but after 6 minutes, my calves already felt blown! Not what you want in a 27 mile run!

I knew this section was mostly downhill, but hadn't looked at the profile. There were significant climbs too. 4060' of ascent and 6265' of descent. Yeah, it was downhill, but 4000' of climbing isn't easy. I'm glad we didn't run northbound! I was capping off an 86 mile week (a lot for me) and really wanted to keep today easy. I've run over 300 miles for the month and am a little pooped. Not difficult to keep getting the miles in, but I don't have a long hard effort in me. I wanted it to be one of those runs where you have no more fatigue at 6 hours than you did at 1 hour. Mission accomplished there. The downhills and flats were effortless, though the quads & knees took a beating. I know Hannah wanted to run more than we did on the uphills, but I think she warmed to the idea later in the run. When I walked, I usually walked just about as fast as I could. My HR got as high as 192 walking uphill.

Because it was foggy and raining, we didn't see much. There weren't many overlooks though. The two balds we went on- Whitetop and Buzzard Rock were fogged in. For 1/2 mile in the middle and the last 1/2 mile followed the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rails-to-trail- a wide smooth crushed stone path. Lotta rocks elsewhere, but hey, that's what you get on the AT.

The bladder for my hydration pack sprung a leak after about 4 miles. I drank Hannah's water twice, a hiker offered me water once, and I waited for the springs other times (had to go over a mile out of our way to get it). For most of the run, I had to wait about an hour between drinks. I didn't want to eat without water, so I went light on calories and liquid. No ideal, but I managed. Had it been hotter, I would've been hatin' it.

Everything felt great. Just another day of running. Very relaxed and could've kept going all day, but I was fine with stopping. :) I had a fantastic time today, but I'd rate the trail section just "pretty good." Nothing memorable except the long Creeper Trail Bridge.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

15 Hours on Appalachian Trail

What a great (but difficult) three days! 15 hours of running on the Appalachian Trail. I was planning on going up to the mountains Friday & just run the section from Carvers Gap to 19, but at the last minute, decided to go up two days early to get more running in. On Wednesday & Thursday, I ran on the AT from TN Hwy 19E to Dennis Cove & back. Wasn’t crazy about having to go out & back, but that was my only option. Wednesday, I started at Hwy 19 & ran about 11 miles out and 11 back. It was tough and 80 degrees. Long climb for the first couple of miles. I didn’t know much about this section, as I just decided to run it the day before. I thought it was flatter and less wooded than it was. I thought I read you go along roads and through farmland for much of it. There were a couple of old pastures, but those provided nice views. I didn’t eat enough, I was out there longer than anticipated because of the terrain and heat, and ran out of water for 30 minutes. I had been drinking sparingly as it was and when my hair & neck got dry, I knew I would soon be in trouble. Had it not been for a church spigot I passed at Buck Mountain Rd. with 5K to go, I would’ve been hurtin’.

The next day, I started at Dennis Cove and ran about 13 out & 13 back. Harder & warmer (82) than Wednesday, with a long four mile 2000’ climb coming out of Dennis Cove. The first ¾ mile had four distinct ecosystems as you went up in elevation, including a band of hemlocks and a larger section that looked like a temperate rainforest. Lots of ferns, moss, rocks & mud. All other parts of the trail were dry. A couple of nice rocky overlooks. Talked to some hikers for a few minutes at Moreland Gap Shelter. Below the shelter was about the only water source of the day, and it was a tiny trickle. Drought conditions throughout the region must make it tough on thru-hikers. The waterfalls Wednesday were nearly dry- not anything like pictures I’ve seen. Passed a place called Hardcore Cascades, but very little water there too. Not that hardcore. I drank and ate a lot more Thursday and felt better. It’s funny, though. 7 hours to finish a marathon! …and my PR is 3:22. Lotta difference between running on a flat road, a rolling trail, and rocky mountain singletrack. 16:00 pace can easily max out your heartrate & feel like 7:00 effort!

I was pleasantly surprised by the other sections, but the highlight of the trip was the third run- Carvers Gap to Hwy 19. I ran part of this section around Roan Mountain this past winter in 60 mph wind with sleet and rain trying to peel my skin off and poke my eyes out. J Couldn’t see more than 50’ ahead of me, so I missed the spectacular views. Many people say this is the most beautiful part of the entire 2,100 miles of the AT. The history of the balds is a little cloudy, but most experts agree that they were once forested, but cleared and burned on a consistent basis by Native Americans, and were farmed to keep them treeless. Today, trees would grow back if they the grass and brush weren’t grazed or hand cut on occasion. There are dozens of rare & endangered species on the balds and tons of birds.

I wanted to take the family out to see the rhododendrons in bloom & apparently everyone else had the same idea. It really was beautiful (Wren’s new word- apparently, everything is beeeeuuuuuutiful now.)! Catawba Rhododendrons and Flame Azaleas in bloom in huge clumps all over the balds. Views from the balds were incredible. …but it was crowded. Over a hundred people out there. Cleared out a little after Round Bald, more by Jane Bald, and by Grassy Ridge, the day hikers were gone.

When I started, it was 65 degrees, sunny and breezy. 45 minutes later, I was caught in a huge thunderstorm. The rain doesn’t bother me, but being on exposed balds in lightning was a little scary. When the bottom dropped out, I ran ¼ mile back to Stan Murray Shelter and waited it out for 30 minutes. Read the shelter journal. Left when it let up a little, but was still raining and thundering. Trail was like a river. Didn’t see anymore lightning for awhile. When I came out of the woods around Overmountain Shelter, the rain stopped and the clouds swirled through the valleys. Great view of Hump Mountain from Little Hump Mountain. Can’t get over how little these mountains look like NC/TN.

At Bradley Gap, between the Humps, I turned around & it was like a cloud completely gobbled me up! More rain, thunder & lightning. It was like the lightning was right on top of me. No bolts or anything- just flashes of light. Frightening lightning! To get off of the open bald, I ran more than I would have up the steep upper part of Hump Mountain, and fast down the other side. The trail over some of the balds is barely wider than the width of my foot, and sort of a 6” ditch filled with water. If you click onto the picture to the left, you can see the trail going all the way up to the top of Hump Mt. The north side of Hump Mt. barely had a trail- more like ruts and rocks through grass. In the fenced section you go through, there were longhorn cattle and horses. Four mile descent down to Hwy 19. Many sections of slippery rock- nothing but rocks with the occasional root, but no dirt. I took more chances than usual, slipping all over the place, but I never fell. Halfway down, there were several sections of quick slight downhill and sidehill trails. This is my favorite terrain- relatively smooth singletrack with a log or rock to hurdle every 15 steps and long views downhill.

I was ready for the run to be over, but it did seem short after the longer ones this week. I have two other Appalachian Trail runs planned for this summer, and I can’t wait! Pooped now though! Long days, lotsa rocks, 12,000' of climbing, but the most fun I’ve had in months.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crowder's & Kings Mountain

Hot weekend! 92 both days when I ran. Saturday, the fam hiked to the top of Crowder's Mountain. It was Wren's first big excursion and I was so proud of her. Steep, but smooth 1 mile trail before getting to the 300+ stairs. She didn't complain or ask to stop. At one point, she did say, "Dad, these legs are going to fall off my body." I ran an hour after that. Dragging in the heat towards the end.

2.5 hours the next day at Kings Mountain State Park in SC. This was my first time there. Trail is fairly rocky and hilly. Horseflies swarmed my head for 30 minutes. I HATE that. I still haven't seen a snake this year. Last year at this time, I'd seen a dozen. Saw a snake skin in the trail today.

Today (Monday) I'm way more sore than I should be. I attribute it to the heat mainly, but the hills had something to do with it, I'm sure. My calves cramped a little in the last hour yesterday.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

55 Miles of Owww!

I ran 25 miles in this race on a larger relay team last year. This year, I started the Blue Planet Run 24- Black Mountain on a relay team at 9 PM and was planning on running until 10 AM. I made it to 8 AM, but I was in bad shape at 6 miles!! Yeah, that's 49 miles of being in bad shape! Owww. I had to stop because I ran the whole race with problems that could end up being serious injuries- the same old sciatic nerve problem, and achilles problem I've had when I run in the mountains for the past 5 months, and a knee problem which just appeared in this race. The knee was most severe and I would say for 9 hours, I was between a level 7-9 on a pain scale from 1-10. This picture (courtesy of Josh) is an hour after I finished, eating a tofu burrito with my team and "sister team."

The course was fairly tough- 1 mile straight up a mountain, 1 mile straight down a mountain, 1 mile pretty flat, 1 mile mostly uphill, 1 mile mostly downhill & flat. The downhills were, by far, the worst parts. Because 9.5 of my 11 loops were in the dark, I had to be a little more cautious than usual on the washed out gravel road downhill sections and had to put the brakes on. That's what caused my sciatic nerve & knee problems. 6000' of elevation gain & loss.

So I ran 55 miles in 10:49. OK given the pain, dark & terrain, I guess.

60 miles last fall felt very good- and like 100 wouldn't have been a problem that day. My last lap was my fastest then. Today was completely different. The worst experience I've ever had running, but I did learn a lot of things. One of the biggest was, "Hey, if you can run 55 miles in under 11 hours in the mountains being dead tired in the middle of the night & having your legs completely thrashed, you can do a lot more than that on a good day starting in the morning."

Oh- and all day before I ran I stood around officiated a regional track meet. That didn't help things.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

OK, Yeah, I Choked

Gator Trail 50K today. Lake Waccamaw, NC- near Wilmington. Just decided to run a week ago. Not expecting anything. Three 2-3 hour runs in the week leading up to the race.

Race starts & I look around & wonder why I'm in FIRST place! I didn't want to be in first place. admittedly, there were only 28 people running. I was in the lead for the first 18 miles before the wheels fell off. Let me make this clear- I was leading the race! I still don't understand how that's possible. As a wise coach once said, "They don't give awards for winning the first half of a race." :) I do NOT think I went out too fast. I held back the first lap & ran comfortably the 2nd.

2nd place was 40 meters behind me at the 2 mile mark & I felt a lot of pressure, so I decided to surge a tiny bit for the next 800m. That gave me a more cushion so I could relax. At the end of each of six 5+ mile loops, you have a 4:00 section of out & back where you can see where people are. At the end of the first loop, he was about 2:00 back. I went to the outhouse (yes, outhouse) in the 2nd loop, but he was still 2:00 back, which means without the stop, I was still gaining ground. I decided, "If I'm going to win this thing, I need to get some separation and by the next loop, I don't want to be able to see him." My thought was "Out of sight, out of mind." If he knew I was making up ground, he'd forget about me. At least that's what I thought. ...I mean, I'm never close to this situation, so... So I picked it up from miles 10-13. My already queasy stomach had enough & at 14 miles, I puked. At the end of the 3rd loop, I was still 2:30 or so ahead. I took a little long between laps to get more drink & special needs stuff. Puked twice on the 4th loop and he caught me at 18. Another guy caught me at 19. Two others caught me at 19.5. Two others caught me in the 5th loop. I was forced to walk a few times the 4th & 5th loops, but ran the whole 6th loop- just slowly. I passed one of the guys less than a mile from the end, so I ended up in 6th. 4:49:40.

Laps 2-6 included about 2:00 at my car/aid station, but I was going pretty well until the 4th loop.
Lap 1- 42:11, Lap 2- 42:40, Lap 3- 41:59, Lap 4- 49:41, Lap 5 - 57:16, Lap 6- 55:45

I decided a while back my puking trouble has always been about nerves. I used to have stomach problems in every road marathon I ran b/c I put so much pressure on myself to PR. With trail running, I relax more & enjoy it, so no stomach problems. I think because I felt the pressure of not getting passed, I had the stomach problems. Dumb, I know. I've never led a race since 10th grade! Uncharted territory. I freaked out a little, I guess. Some of the problem, I'm sure was picking up the pace, but I wasn't exactly flying- 7:30 pace for those 3 miles maybe.

The course was OK. Very flat, longleaf pine forest, sand. The sand was loose & soft. Not ideal, but it was good enough. Not very technical, but there were sections with roots & little stumps. The sand made it tougher than it should've been though. Weather was perfect! 60, no sun & breezy. Course well marked & race director & volunteers nice & helpful. Sweatshirt. Finisher's award is a framed picture of you, which I like better than a medal. Something different. Saw no gators, but there was a baby alligator skeleton on the course. A 12 foot gator recently died there.

Eating didn't happen. With that & the pukes, I'm surprised there was no bonking, but I was OK. Got very hungry the 5th lap and ate some trail mix, which hit the spot. I also remembered why I don't like Perpeteum. My sciatic nerve problem was pretty bad. I'm sure I would've slowed due to it in the last 2 laps. My toe problem is getting worse & worse. Since I was little, one of them has curled under, but it's getting worse. When I run, the end of the toenail faces all the way down- perpendicular to the ground, causing some nasty problems. I'm thankful when it falls off 1-2 times a year, because it's so mangled you can't really cut it well. I think I need to have something done to it. Surgery to straighten it has always been in the back of my mind & I always say, "After the next race." I'm thinking it may be better to just get the nail permanently removed. I dunno. Yeah, it's gross.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Break '08

I've enjoyed the time off. Went to the mountains with the family. Everyone had fun. It snowed an inch and the high was 28 one day. Got in some very difficult runs. Saw a couple of bear tracks yesterday during a 2 hour run far from people. Made me think I should be more prepared for encounters like that. I'm running the Gator Trail 50K Saturday at Lake Waccamaw, near Wilmington, NC. Very flat, but sandy & possibly muddy. Should be fairly fast, but I'm not feeling that fast lately. Only 17 people ran last year. I just decided to run this race at the last minute because a track meet fell through.

Ian & I are officially a 2 person team for what was the 24 hour Relay For Africa, but is now called the Blue Planet Run 24- Black Mountain. It still benefits clean drinking water in developing countries. I'd wanted to run the whole 24 hours, but they changed the date and now it's on the day of our regional track meet. Instead, Ian will run from 10 AM-10 PM and I'll come after the meet & run 10 PM-10 AM. Hoping to get in 65 miles. The 5 mile loop has one incredibly hard mile and a few other decent hills, but also has some nice downhills & flats. We haven't come up with a team name yet, but there's talk of costumes! We'll see.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Crowder's Mountain

I'd planned to do a 4-5 hour run tomorrow, but wanted to get in an hour today. Decided to get the family in on it and suggested we go to Crowder's Mountain. It's about 35-40 minutes from our house, but I've never run there before. Pretty tough! 900 ft. of elevation gain in the first 30 minutes, along with crawling on my behind over rocks & lots of unrunnable rocky patches. Total elevation gain of 1140' in the 1:03 trip. I went from the Visitor's Center, up along the ridge, down what must've been 200 stairs(!), and back on the nice rolling main trail. Nice clear day & good views, but I didn't stop to take them in. Jennifer & Wren walked around the lake and we ate a picnic lunch. Fun little outing, but it ranks up there for the most difficult hour long run I've ever done. Now on to the ASC Greenway trails for my long run tomorrow.

3/2/08 Update- Ran the whole marathon course I came up with for the ASC Greenway Trail Marathon (Sept. 27) today. Pulled a muscle in my back earlier in the day. Sore from the Crowder's Mt. run. Maybe I'm not that smart. Felt decent though. 4:35.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Holiday Lake 50K++

Good day!

So I've had this achilles problem off & on (mostly on) since early November. It's been at its worst since Salem Lake 50K in early January. I've gone to the chiropractor several times and done ultrasound on it almost everyday for the past couple of weeks (We have the machine at school.) It's felt fine when I run lately & just hurts a little when I'm not running. I've been able to run runs of 1.5 hours, 2.5 hours & 3 hours in the past 3 weeks without any pain, so I thought I'd give the Holiday Lake 50K++ a shot since I'd already registered.

Holiday Lake is north of Appomattox, VA & I keep hearing it's the easiest race David Horton puts on. I took that to mean "easy," but considering he also puts on Mountain Masochist 50+ miler & Hellgate 100K, I should've known better. It was not easy, but it wasn't incredibly hard either- 34 miles, over 2,200 feet of elevation gain, 6 creek crossings, 1/3 singletrack, 2/3 muddy jeep roads. Of course the jeep roads bored me.

I got lost getting there following someone out of the hotel & got to the race 10 minutes before the start. Locked my keys in my car. I can't explain it- I just wasn't "feelin' in," early in the race. Literally, at mile 3, I thought about turning around. Didn't get much better for the first 2 hours. I was convinced I'd stop at the end of the first 17 mile loop. I think a lot of this had to do with being a little out of shape from resting my achilles. I've only run 3 days/week, being sure to get in a long run each week. Those have been more tiring than they should be. I was also worried about my achilles. It didn't hurt, I just thought it would. Because I'm scared of messing it up, I've started running more in the middle of my foot instead of my normal tiptoe running. I feel like the new way doesn't give me much power.

After 2 hours, things started clicking though. I am VERY glad I kept going because the second half was much better. With 9 miles to go I kind of giggled to myself, "Ah, you can finish now!" Part of that was the aid station worker saying, "OK, you've got 9 miles & 3 hours before the cutoff." I responded, "I must look worse than I thought if you think I might not make it!" I picked it up with about 7-8 miles to go. With 5 miles to go- I can't tell you how hard I was pushing it. I really don't think I could've run faster if it had been a stand-alone 5 mile race. I was flying- taking risks on the singletrack, and really going for it. I was hoping to break 6 hours. For kids I coach or others who don't run trails, don't get the calculators out. Yes, that's 10:30 miles, but it's nothing like a flat road race.

No one passed me in the last half of the race & I caught about 20 people. I'm often on the other side of that, getting passed at the end. Both feelings feed into themselves. If you're getting passed, you imagine problems and it gets worse & worse. If you pass people, you look for just one more person ahead of you to pick off. Such a good feeling- not because I'm all that competitive, but just knowing you're giving it everything you have. I felt kind of white-knuckle-ish. I never got any sort of runner's high until my second Ironman in 2002 & then not again until this past year of running longer distances. I didn't have my heartrate monitor, but I had to be at 182 or so the last few miles. I started feeling sick and got that feeling like in a 10K, "Oh no, I'm flying. What if I can't hold this? What if I puke?" I was able to maintain & finished 5:54. I'm pleased. I didn't have a great race, but the end made it pretty darn good. I may have sandbagged it a little early on, but maybe that's why I had a good second half. It feels SO much better to run the way I did than go out hard and fade late. Best of all, no achilles problems!

Had a pretty good time too & talked to more people than usual. Ran with a SIXTEEN year old for a few minutes. He finished a minute behind me, so he must've been bookin' it too. This was the first time I've worn my Nathan HPL #020 hydration pack. It just came in this week. I liked it a lot & especially the pockets up front. Since I'm not used to a hydration pack, I didn't drink enough though. I took a sip every 5-10 minutes, but it wasn't enough. I got lucky I didn't have problems with dehydration or bonking. I barely ate anything- just the HEED in my pack, a few pretzels, half a Mojo bar & a few Sharkies.

I need to sit down & rework my race schedule. 3 of my races for the year are out now. I wanted to find a 24 hour race to go for 100 miles in. Looks like I may just go with Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler in Feb. 2009. Who knows? Anyone want to go to Texas with me??

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ASC Greenway Trail Marathon

So, I've decided to direct a trail marathon. After talking with the Greenway for the past couple of weeks, we've nailed down a date & name. It will be called the ASC Greenway Trail Marathon, Relay & 5 Miler and will be run Saturday, September 27, 2008. 7:00 AM start time to keep the temperatures down a little. The course will be 100% on unpaved surfaces- a good mix of singletrack, horse trails & some dirt roads.

I run there most weekends & I think people will like the course. Incidentally, ASC Trails are 34 miles long & they will eventually link to the 30 miles of Nation Ford Greenway trails (just 2 miles opened now) for a total of 64 miles in Fort Mill, SC. Amazing!

Online Registration & Info:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What an Idiot!

We decided at he last minute not to go to a track meet today, so on Wednesday, someone asked me, "So, that means you're going to run the Frosty 50K, right?" I hadn't considered it. My achilles have been hurting since last week's long runs & I've been sick all week. For some reason, I signed up Wednesday night & didn't feel like I could back out. If for no other reason, I shouldn't have run since I ran my most difficult 5 hours ever just 8 days ago (& 3 hours the day before).

So against my better judgement, I ran the Frosty 50K today at Salem Lake in Winston-Salem. Flat, easy course. Not really a trail race- hard packed, wide trail. I used to run there all the time when I was at my last school. It's not much different from a flat road race, which I told myself I would never do again.

Went out in exactly 8:00 miles for the first 11 or so & was close after that. Around 12, I felt a blister & some chafing coming on. At the halfway point, I used some Vaseline & realized my blister covered half the ball of my foot! I was worried about taking care of it & forgot to eat or drink at the aid station. I hadn't eaten yet & wouldn't get to until about 19 miles. I really made mistake after mistake with this race. Everything about it- from registering to dealing with the problems that came up to forgetting to eat was a mistake. Felt very bonky from 16-19. Ate some at 19 & felt better in 20 minutes, but still had the blister, chafing & achilles problems. The achilles made me most worried, by far.

At 21, I said, "OK, I'm done." At that point, you're right near the start. I started to turn around & saw I guy I knew who said, "Keep running." I did. The last 6 miles weren't so bad really, and I picked it up a little.

Last time I ran this race, I was disappointed in my 4:41 finish. Today, I ran 2:08 for the first half & a disgusting 2:48 for the last half! 4:56:40 finish time. I am glad I finished & considering all of the problems & the fact that I ran my tail off a week ago, I guess I'm OK with it. I will go get those achilles check out though!

Thanks to Braden who came out & ran 10 miles with me & Hannah & Nick who ran about 5. Unexpected, but nice.

Next stop, Holiday Lake 50K in Virginia in 5 weeks.