Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Best & Worst of 2009

I thought I'd already posted this. Not too late is it?

Best Race: Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run. 90 Miles feeling pretty fresh. Was really moving for a few hours through the night. 7th place male.

Worst Race: I'm happy to say I didn't have any terrible races! There's a first. Things went bad at Rocky Raccoon, but geez, it was 100 miles & I finished. A few so so races, but no disasterous ones. SweetH2O 50K my worst & I attribute that to the heat.

Favorite Training Week: I love the trails we ran at camp in Brevard. The 3 day self supported solo trip on the Appalachian Trail with a cracked rib was a memorable one. Some misery involved, but character building and something I really appreciated. Not like, "Woo hoo, this is fun!" but enjoyable in a different way.

Highest Weekly Training Mileage: How many did I get in the week of Rocky Raccoon? 120? Many around 85.

Total Yearly Mileage: Right at 2,000. 500 less than last year, which was a little disappointing. I enjoy long training runs and missed some due to mild injury, recovery, illness and laziness. 22% of my mileage was in races, which is way more than ever before. Seems very strange.

Best Route: Ran a lot of good trails- Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest, Caesar's Head, GA section of the Appalachian Trail... Hard to pick one.

Greatest Acheivement: Hard to beat making it through a 100.

Biggest Disappointment: Rough period of training in October & November.

Longest Injury-Free Stretch: I didn't have many problems this year, but my sciatic nerve problem flared up a bit this fall.

Worst Injury: See above.

Most Memorable Moment: After puking for 20 miles, not having any fluid or calories in my system & having to walk almost all of the last 20 miles at Rocky Raccoon, thinking, "OK, I have to run across the finish line. I'll run the last 200 meters in," but not being able to run more than 2 steps. But boy did I walk fast across the line!

Best Run Shared with Someone: Several. 25 miles or so with Konrad at Hinson Lake. He totally saved my race. Running just about the whole time with Kevin at Black Mountain Marathon. 2 hours in the slush with Hannah. Cedar Rock Mountain with the team.

Best Shoe: Brooks Cascadia 4s. Wait- did I say I liked them better than the Cascadia 2s?? I'm not sure. I ran out of my stockpile of the Cascadia 2s so I moved over to the 4s. I haven't put in any really long runs in them yet. Ran in the Brooks Adrenaline ASR at Rocky Raccoon and Freedom Park with no complaints.

Worst Shoe: I didn't wear any shoes I didn't like. Tried Saucony Xodus. I wasn't crazy about them but can't say anything bad about them. Snug in the arch for me. Tried out the END Stumptown 10 oz. They're different. I liked them for running, but if I were running a long race and doing any walking I'd be in trouble with the collapsable heel. Also, they completely fell apart! Sole off the upper, stitching unravelled, hole in the fabric...

Something I Never Thought I'd Do: I ran 3 races of 70 or more miles this year.

Race I Enjoyed Most Watching: Boys Wendy's XC race. Girls Regional XC race.

Most Important Lesson Learned: GOT TO run more during the week. Don't want to just get by running 4 runs a week, as I did often this year. It's hard for me to get motivated to go out for 5 miles or something, but I need to be more consistant.

Thing I'm Looking Forward to Most in 2010: Hmm... I think this will be a good year for me. I am really excited about Mt. Mitchell 40 & will go for 100 at Hinson Lake.

Last Decade of Running

I still don't know what you call this past decade- the oughts? The 2000s? I dunno. But I do know my running has changed a lot.

2000- Did my first triathlon at Latta. I rode a 1988 Nishiki road bike I spray painted olive green. That race felt like such an accomplishment- around 600m swim, 18 mile bike & 5K run. Did a couple of other sprint & international distance triathlons that year, building up to Ironman in 2001.

2001- Another year of firsts, but all had pretty bad experiences associated with them. Ran my first marathon at Myrtle Beach. Screwed up my IT Band during the race and hobbled the last 5 miles. Probably should've dropped out. Funny remembering how hard it was to walk that night from general soreness. Walked like Frankenstein for days. First Half-Ironman at White Lake. 95 degrees. Realized once I started running that I wasn't sweating. Reduced to jogging 100 meters, and walking 100 meters throughout the "run." Really should've dropped out. Needed an IV. Did my first Ironman at Great Floridian. Hyponatremia. Fishbowl stomach until I... expelled the contents. Someone I knew went to the hospital with seizures with the same condition in that race. 13:40. Such a miserably long time on the bike. Perked up in the run.

2002- Very good year for me. Ran another bad Myrtle Beach Marathon and then dropped my marathon PR by 45 minutes at Kiawah Island. Dropped my Ironman PR by over an hour- 12:18 at Duke Blue Devil. Had fun running. Loved doing hard workouts with the team I coached.

2003- Overall, a good year, with one really bad race that I let define- not only the year- not only my athletic ability, but ME. I dropped my 5K time by a lot that year and raced probably 6 of them. Went from just under 21 to 18:58. Dropped my marathon PR by 10 minutes- 3:24 (would've been 3:22 had I not gotten lost!) at the Louisville Marathon. But I got the bright idea that, "Hey these Ironman races aren't that hard. I need a bigger challenge. How about Ironman Austria, in the Alps?" Dumb. Didn't finish the bike. Really hot that day and I couldn't make myself drink the warm water & drink that had been sitting out in the sun all day. The 3 loop bike course over the mountains did me in & I called it quits after 2 laps. I got in a bad funk for a year & didn't ride my bike a single time.

2004- This year & the next would be sort of ho-hum. I would've had a good Chicago Marathon, but I started throwing up at mile 16. Still managed 3:31. Turned out to be a stomach virus, as I was sick for days- not just from the running.

2005- Nothing very eventful. Bad marathon in San Diego. I trained pretty hard for marathons back then and put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. Sort of raced my long runs and looked at my watch at landmarks every quarter mile. Lost a lot of sleep worrying about splits, PRs, etc. I think it was 2005 that someone told me to chill out and enjoy the running. It didn't make any sense at the time. "But no, why run a race if you're not going to PR?" My brother lived in San Diego when I ran that marathon & said, "Everyone else was waving and having a good time, but you looked mad." My response was something like, "It's hard work out there. I'm not out there to have fun." Amusing that my outlook's changed so much since then. I still have goals, but they're not measured in seconds, or really even minutes. "Finish feeling good and having fun," is sort of the goal now. It was around this time I started enjoying running on singletrack trails, but I was horrible at it. There was a 16 month period where I fell and cracked ribs on 3 different occasions and tripped and pulled the muscle off my ribs in a 4th incident! Jennifer made me swear I wouldn't run on trails anymore. I didn't for a year or so. Before that hiatus from the trails, though, I ran part of a 3 person relay in the Triple Lakes Trail 40 Miler and saw my friends Watts & Konrad finish the whole 40 solo. I felt like crying for them. How could you run for 7 hours straight?! And on trails?! Crazy.

2006- My first 50K at Salem Lake was in January 2006. I entered on a whim and knew I would hear it from the kids I coached if I didn't finish. Wasn't sure I could though. It was 20 at the start and didn't warm up much. I thought the pain in my hamstring was just being tight from the cold. Turned out to be a problem I still have, which no one's ever been able to pinpoint. I've heard everything from herniated disc to piriformis syndrome. I call it sciatica. I dunno. Taking the leap to 50K seemed nuts. I only did it because I found out in 2005 that this crazy race even existed. I tried to run the Tybee Marathon the next month and was only able to get through 4 miles of it due to this sciatic--- or whatever problem. It got bad & I couldn't run much at all for a couple of months. Once I was a little better, I ran the Blue Ridge Relay in 2006 with some friends and others who became friends. It sort of got me thinking about expanding what running was. I also completed the White Lake 1/2 Ironman again while injured and just doing what I could on the run. I wanted some sort of redemption for not finishing Ironman Austria. It was my first triathlon in 3 years & I haven't done one since.

2007- Big, big changes. I was able to complete a February marathon after being injured for most of 2006. Time wasn't great, but it felt like an accomplishment. I realized I'd quickly become a trail rat. All of my long runs leading up the marathon were on trails. I continued to run more & more trails and had a great time doing it. There was a new purpose in running. FUN!!! By the spring, I developed this rule that I wouldn't bother running if it wasn't at least an hour. I still don't like to, but I break the rule now. I also sought out new trails & fun places to run. Since then, I've run less than 150 miles on roads & about 5,500 on dirt. I ran 25 miles at the Relay for Africa and came across these insane people who were doing it solo. 24 hours. Who were these people? In the back of my mind, though, I was thinking, "I wonder if I could run for 24 hours next year." Soon afterwards, I signed up for the 12 Hour Adventure Trail Race in VA. I officially got something like 53.xx miles in, but went out for another loop, bringing it right to 60 miles in 12:35. I felt good doing it too. Better than any marathon I'd run. After swearing off road running, for some reason, I ran the Outer Banks Marathon and it killed my legs. I thought about dropping out in the last 2 miles! Went on the first of my Appalachian Trail runs at the end of 2007.

2008- Ran several ultras, but more than that, I ran probably 20 training runs over 26.2 miles. Got in 3 consecutive months of 300+ mile months. Ran 50K races on 2 consecutive days. Had some achilles problems early in the year, but half ignored it. Ran Salem Lake 50K on it against my better judgement. Also ran Gator Trail 50K, New River 50K, FATS 50K, 55 straight miles at Relay for Africa, Holiday Lake 50K++. It was a good year & I put in a lot of good training for my first 100 in 2009. My highest yearly total, right at 2,500. For a few weeks in December 2008 & January 2009, I think I suffered some effects of overtraining. So many long runs. Had long runs of 40, 60 & 31 miles & 3 out of 4 weeks and ended up dragging, having trouble breathing, etc. Ended up OK.

2009- Ran my first three runs over 60 miles, including my first 100 miler at Rocky Raccoon. Man, that was a rough day. I'm still saying no more 100s, but I'm enjoying 24 hour races. Ran 90 at Hinson Lake and 70 at Freedom Park. Those were big runs for me, but the year as a whole... I dunno. I really enjoy training. Not sure why. My training wasn't all it could be- sometimes for legitimate reasons and sometimes because I got a little lazy. I got in 2,000 miles, and ran some races I'm proud of, but didn't enjoy as many of those Sunday long runs as usual. I think I ran more races in 2009 than I have since I was in high school. I got through 70 miles with a cracked rib on the Appalachian Trail over 3 days. I gained a lot of confidence during 2009- that I could get through whatever... not that I think I'm fast or anything- just that I can finish if I have to. Funny I should say that after going home early in the 24 hour race I just ran, but if somebody said, "You have to run 20 more miles," I wouldn't have had a problem. I got sponsored through the Brooks ID program for 2009-10, which I'm happy about.

2001, 2002 & 2007 were my favorite years of the decade. 2009 would be 4th.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Freedom Park 24 Hour Full Report

24 Hours of asphalt. Man, I'm dumb. I got in 70 miles & left several hours early, but I'm OK with it. It's hard for me to write a review of this race because there was a lot I liked & a lot that was just... off. It's hard for me to say anything bad about the race because it was so well-organized & the volunteers were great, but I just didn't have a great time running it. In my last 24 hour race, I really enjoyed myself and felt like I was running with purpose. In this race, it just felt like I was going around in (cold, wet) circles for no good reason.

I walked out of the Sleep Inn to around an inch of sleet/snow on the ground. It was right around freezing- 32 or 33. I showed up at the race & picked up my packet with a nice fleece pullover, a fleece scarf & Injinji (my favorite) socks.

Everyone was really low key & bundled up at the starting line and we were off with little fanfare. The first of my 1 mile asphalt loops followed. Freedom Park is adjacent to Freedom High School & I've been there for Cross Country meets there before. The XC course is pretty nice but the paved loop has a view of a grassy field. According to, the temperature never got over 38 all day and it was drizzly and misty the whole time. I would've prefered the race be on a portion of the XC course but it would've been a muddy mess yesterday. The forecasted high tomorrow is below freezing and the overnight windchill is 5, so I guess I can't complain about the weather. Is 38 and wet better than 17 and windy? Maybe so.

I ran more on asphalt yesterday than I did in the past 2.5 years combined. I really don't know why I signed up. Around mile 8, I noticed my knees throbbing. By about 14, my ankle hurt. Around 18, my shins hurt. Those problems lasted the rest of the race. That's a long time to hurt. For the better part of 16 hours, my primary thought was, "Ow." The race director said it was OK to run on the edge of the path in the grass, but I was really the only one who did. I'd run in the mud down the slight hills & another 100m stretch. It made me feel like I was cheating, but running in the mud was certainly not faster than staying on the path. After several hours, the path I'd blazed got muddier and muddier, so I stopped after awhile.

I had to take a lot of breaks to stretch & massage my legs. I'd put on a sweatshirt, get in the back of my car, shiver, mess with my legs, and get out absolutely freezing. Teeth chattering. Shaking. Miserable. I wasted a lot of time doing this. I can't even remember how many 15-30 minute breaks I took. 5, I think. Before each of them, though, my knees were so bad, I nearly quit, so I think it was the best decision.

I was wet the entire day. For most of the race, I wore shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, a thin jacket & a hat. I took the jacket off for about a third of the race, which was a good decision. I was a little colder without it, but drier (not as much sweat). With wet feet from the mud I sloshed through, I'm amazed I have no hint of a blister.

I can't say enough how good the support was. Great food, friendly volunteers, chip timing (which I've never seen at an ultra). David & Rhonda Lee & their BMRC volunteers were fantastic and almost seemed offended if they couldn't get you something. I felt obliged to take something most times through the aid station. Seriously, they had a U-Haul truck full of food! The veggie burger Rhonda made for me as I left was the greatest thing I've ever tasted. Only hot food I'd had. I ate a lot more solid food than I ever have in a race. PB&J, potatoes, cookies, trail mix... but there was also pizza, burgers, grilled cheese, etc. I think I ate more than usual to stay warm.

No offense to anyone, but I've got a theory that trail runners are much more friendly than road runners. I went on a fairly long road run at the beach over the summer, I waved or gave a "How's it going?" to about 20 other runners. Not a single response. Training on trails, I've had people turn around and run with me for 5-10 minutes, and I've done the same. Now, I would imagine nearly all of the people in the Freedom Park do their fair share of trail running, but I just never got much of a conversation started with anyone. Some of the comments people made made me laugh.

Them: How many miles have you run?
Me: 38.
Them: Oh, I've run a lot more than that. I'm at 44. It's weird that we're running together but really I'm 6 miles ahead of you. It must feel bad to know that you're that far back.


Them: How many miles have you run?
Me: 46.
Them: I've run 40, but at my age, that's a much bigger feat than your 46. You're young. I'm suprised you only have 46.

What?! Really strange stuff. I've never had such conversations with people in an ultra. I blame the asphalt for making people mean. :)

I did meet a few people and ran maybe 2 minutes with people at the most, but that's it. I talked to some people I already knew everytime we passed, but everyone just seemed to be doing their own thing in this race. It felt like the weather and monotony of the course just had people stuck in their bubble of "I'm just getting through this." In most trail races, I befriend someone and run with them for 2-3 hours. That's part of the fun of it. Half of the people had headphones in. I have never run with an ipod, but when it got dark & started feeling lonely, I listened to the finest in 80s thrash metal and punk rock. Gave me a little company.

I got in a relatively fast two laps so I could make the ringing in of the New Year, which was kinda fun. I thought I was at 69 laps then and at that point had decided to run 74 miles (75 laps- each lap was .98xx miles) for some reason. I went to double check and was told I only had 65 laps. Hard to question chip timing. It had been about 10 miles since a break and I knew I wasn't running 10 more without a break. I got back in the car thinking I had 10 more miles for 74. As I got out, I decided to get in 6 more laps for 70 miles instead. When I got back around, they said I had 69 laps! Huh? I must've misunderstood before. I was a little out of it. I sure wouldn't have taken a 30 minute break before running 3 miles though!

I wasn't sure I could even make it a marathon on asphalt (again, why did I sign up?), so I'm pleased I made it 70. I probably should've signed up for the 6 hour option & tried to run faster rather than grind it out with all the breaks I took. I don't mean to paint a bad picture of the race. It was put together very well and most people were more than happy to get in a lot of miles on a quick paved course free of roots, rocks and mud. That's the kind of stuff I like though.

Pictures to follow.

Made it 70. Stopped Early.

Asphalt & I hate each other. Really, I have no idea why I signed up for a 24 hour race on asphalt. I ran more today on asphalt than the last 2.5 years combined. Knees started hurting at mile 8. Ankle, shins, feet... 70 miles. Got to ring in the New Year, but went home early. If I were still there, I'd have 4 more hours. I'm glad I'm not. Temps ranged from 32-41 with drizzle & mist all day & night. 1/2"-1" of snow/sleet on the ground this morning. Cold & wet the whole time. David & Rhonda Lee, along with the other BMRC volunteers put on a great event, but it just wasn't my thing. More later. Time for bed.