Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay 4 Person Team

Just realized I hadn't posted about BRR. Out of the blue, I was contacted by some friends of friends about running the 208 mile Blue Ridge Relay as part of a 4 person team... Thomas Eggar, Matt Jaskot & Chris Causebrook (who I knew as the boys XC coach at Charlotte Catholic). Sounded like fun. I was in.

I'd run BRR as part of a 10 person team in 2006 & ran 4 legs. It was hard. I remember thinking at the time, "Running what equates to 4 hard 10Ks is much harder than a marathon." How would I handle running what equated to 9 x 10Ks? Sounded challenging. It was. Blue Ridge Relay is divided into 36 sections and teams must rotate in order. It's designed for 12 person teams but smaller teams must also rotate, so it's not like we could each run 52 miles straight. 52 straight seems a lot easier than dividing it up & running 9 times, but I'm positive our time was way faster running 9 times and I think in the end, I actually prefered it. The breaks gave your body time to get sore but you'd be sore towards the end of a 52 mile mountain run anyway. Everyone on our team had major cramping problems in the van between runs.
So, if you're running nine 10Ks (really, the legs range from 2-10 miles but average about 6 miles) in a little over 24 hours, you're going to pace yourself, right? I ran the first downhill leg in 5:33/mile pace. Guess I decided not to go easy. Next 3 legs were mostly uphill or up & down and I averaged about 6:50 pace. Way way way too fast I knew. The guys on my team are young, really competitive & I'm probably the slowest of the 4. I felt a lot of pressure to do my best. I think I held my own and while I slowed down some, the wheels never fell off. In fact, all of us started off fast and no one died. I was impressed. I did feel like dying a couple of times. I ate some potato chips after a leg. With no gall bladder anymore, my body has a hard time digesting fats. The next leg was... umm... problematic, but I was OK after that. Collapsed at the end of a leg and came close to passing out, but that leg was fine & I was strong for the next one. 

I ran legs 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29 & 33. My toughest leg was my last one. An incredible 13% grade! 13%! Yowza! I ran the entire way on each leg, including this one. A guy 100m ahead of me walked the whole way up the mile long hill. I ran & he walked & I swear I didn't catch him until the very top. It was STEEP! I actually felt really good on this leg. Running down the mountain was more painful than running up. Legs were shot.
So, all in all, it was a fun time, tough challenge & rewarding experience. We finished in 27:11 (7:51/mile pace for the entire race), which was good enough for 23rd place out of 120 teams... not bad considering most teams were 12 person teams. We were the only 4 person team this year & only the 3rd every to try it with 4. We beat the previous 4 person record by nearly 3 hours. We were 3rd out of 19 ultra teams this year (All other ultra teams were 6 person teams.). Good stuff.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

103 miles at Hinson Lake. Difficult.

OK, yeah, how could 103 miles NOT be difficult? I guess it's always going to be hard, but this just seemed... more difficult than anticipated. I was a little foggy most of the race, just out of it mentally. Hard for me to remember many details or chronology. Had one MAJOR problem that let to other issues I think- dehydration. I lost TWELVE POUNDS during the race. That's not good. Not good at all. Keep reading.

Quick Facts:
* Marathon: 4:09
* 50K: 4:57
* 50 Miles: 8:49
* 100K: 11:22
* 100 Miles: 21:39
* 103.36 Miles: 22:55 (Yeah, I was done an hour early. Done.)
* 5th place male. 2 women beat me. 277 people registered.

PRs in 50 Miles, 100K, 100 Miles & 24 Hours!

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run & Mt. Mitchell Challenge are my two favorite races. I didn't get into the MMC lottery. I've been thinking about Hinson Lake since the last Hinson Lake! Really looked forward to it. Called out a pretty lofty goal- 112 miles. Got 92 last year, 102 at Black Mountain. I figured the next step was 112 to go up by 10 again. My running keeps improving, used to heat now, as opposed to early June for Black Mt. and Hinson Lake is an easy course. Thought about this race most days this summer. Imagined myself going around & around & around the 1.52 mile loop.

I came in with severe achilles pain, but different from anything I've ever experienced. More like nerve damage or something. Running didn't seem to effect it. Felt like a hard pinch every 30 seconds. Didn't hurt at all at Hinson Lake. Legs have been pretty dead since running about 50 miles at part of a 4 person Blue Ridge Relay team 2 weeks ago. They were dead at Hinson Lake but never really got worse until the end.

First 30 were fine & uneventful. Felt confident & strong. Controlled. Drizzly start. Humid. Yuck. Not muddy like I thought due to sandier surface. Hit a pretty quick marathon in 4:09 & 50K under 5 hours. Started feeling queasy about that time. Because of that, I got behind on calories and maybe fluid intake. As discussed here before, I sweat a lot & my body can't absorb enough fluid to replace what I sweat. So, what happens is I end up dehydrated & not sweating but also with a sloshy, bloated stomach.

I always feel like my running is pretty strong during 24 hour races, I just take to many breaks. I wanted to work on that this time, and I did to an extent, but the more I felt sick, the less I could eat and drink... the less I consumed, the worse I felt. Couldn't find a balance. At 33 miles, I took my first 10 minute, get horizontal on a picnic table break. They got more frequent as the night went on.

In loop courses, I pick spots I'll allow myself to walk and never stray from that. At Hinson Lake, I walk the little hill and aid station a little. It helps break it up into short sections I can run no matter what. ...and like I said, the running was strong. 8:15/pace for first 8 hours maybe, then 8:45, then 9:00 maybe. And of course that + bathroom/walking/eating/drinking/gear breaks. I stuck to the plan until very late but was disappointed I had to stop when I did. Felt like motion sickness. Dizzy. Restless. Tired. Skin really hot. Face & shoulders broken out. Not mentally coherent. Got worse & worse. As I looked down in the night, I didn't recognize my arms & legs. When I went to the bathroom & looked in the mirror, face, neck, chest looked different. Veins sticking out that don't normally. Knew I was dehydrated & had lost a lot of weight. Didn't know until I got home it was 12 pounds. Dangerous. I gained most of it back by now just by drinking a lot in the past 36 hours. 

To stay in it mentally is so so so hard for me and I imagine a lot of other people. People ask me how I keep going. I honestly don't know. For the last 18 hours or so, I think about quitting about every 20 minutes... "44 is a lot of miles. That's respectable. You can quit now & it's not a failure. Dude, 44 miles! That's not bad at all." An hour later, "OK, 50 miles. Now that's an even number. Quit now. Nah, better not. 55 sounds better..." "Nah, 100K. 80. 100." I think about quitting all the time.

One of my Blue Ridge Relay teammates, Thomas came to run some laps in the evening with a buddy of his and ran 4 with me. After one of them, I felt like I was going to fall on my face. First, but not the last time I really felt awful. I was down for about 5-10 minutes & then felt a little better. My energy & nausea really came in waves. 10 minutes of good, 10 minutes of bad all night.

I got to the point at 96 miles that I just couldn't run. I tried. Believe me. Step, step, OWWW! Legs just wouldn't go anymore. Mind was gone. Dizzy. Sick feeling. Had to think hard about where I was and what I was doing a couple of times. I ended up walking the last 7 miles until the last .75 or so, which, of course, I could run just fine (???). I got to the end of the loop at 103.36 miles with 65 more minutes. I could've easily walked 3 more miles, shuffled 4 or run 5-6. I decided to do none of those and call it quits. That put me at a 1 mile PR for 24 hours & secured me in 5th place. I was good with that. At the time, I didn't feel like there was a choice. Done. I was pleased.

 My training has been really good the past few months but NOT for 24 hour running. I haven't been doing any long runs. Nope. I did it on more like 1/2 marathon training. I let good general running fitness, experience & confidence get me to 103 miles, but I haven't done a run over 2 hours in 2 months. That could've played into the wheels falling off at Hinson Lake, but I don't think it was nearly as significant as the dehydration. Made me wonder about 24 hour/100 mile races. Was REALLY tough. I seem to do a lot better to 12 hours and then fall apart. I have been in so few ultras other than 24 hour races in the past 2 years, I just realized. Strange. I'm going to push it in some marathons & Frosty 50K. Don't have anything over that on my schedule for awhile. I'm positive I'll be back to 24 Hour races & Hinson Lake. Love what race director Tom Gabell, his crew & the friendly runners at the event!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lots of Work Ahead

Summer is over. Good. It wasn’t a good one for me personally . Running was good but other than that… I won’t get into all of that, but I’ve come to the realization that I just need structure in my life. Being a teacher and having summers free sounds great to most people but I’d rather be in school. It's been a long time since I've written here, but the running's been good.

The summer running was a lot different than most years. 3 years ago, I tried to get in as many miles as possible. Got in at least 300 miles each of the 3 summer months and my summers usually have some really long slogs in the woods where I’m pretty sure a family of bears is ready to rip my limbs off. I did plenty of trail running but I wouldn’t call it the wilderness. I ran far more miles on roads, paved greenways, and wide, groomed paths than I have in years. I’m not going to get my “crazy, ultra trail running dude” card revoked am I? This summer, I ran much faster than ever before but the mileage wasn’t as high. I averaged about 50 miles/week this summer with one week in the 80s and one higher than that with the 102 miles at Black Mountain Monster. I ran two good marathons at Seattle and Grandfather Mountain (pacing Shannon, but couldn’t have run much faster) this summer.

At Brevard Distance Runners Camp in July, I had the team write down personal goals. I wrote down my goals for the team as well as my personal running goals. Having them in black & white in front of me made them more real. Putting them in the blog makes them even more real.

• 5K under 18:00 (completed August 20- 17:52)
• 10K under 40:00 (completed August 2- 37:54 solo on a track)
• Marathon under 3:00
• Frosty 50K under 4:00
• 110 miles at Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run

These are really lofty goals. I have set PRs in everything from 5K-24 Hours these past 6 months. I have a lot work ahead of me but I feel good about it.