Friday, February 13, 2009

The Iron Horse Testing Grounds

With just a week to go before the Iron Horse 100, I thought I'd take a moment to let everyone out there know my many reasons for running this race:

First off, let me dispel any thoughts that I'm only running this small race (capped at 75) to try and get an "easy" win in a 100 mile race. This is simply not true - I am not running this race to "win" - I don't run races for pride or glory, and picking a small race like this wouldn't be a way for me to gain either anyway. The reason I'm running this race is for research and testing purposes that will hopefully help me reach higher levels of success in my "focus" races later in the year. The only Pride and Glory I'm after will be found after I both qualify for the US 24 Hour Team and then work harder than ever with my teammates to represent the country on an international stage. After my bitterly disappointing run at UltraCentric last fall, I knew I needed to hit the drawing board and find ways to both improve my training and racing plans in order to perform at a higher level. Here are a few of the things I'll be working on while running the Iron Horse 100 next weekend:

1) First and foremost, I need to learn to start out at a slower pace in 100+ mile races. My goal for this race is to hold 9 minute miles for as long as possible. Previously I've gone out at 7:30 or 8 minute pace, and while that brings me through 50 miles at a quick and flashy time on paper, the reality is my inevitable crash is just around the corner when going out that fast. I may "survive" the next 50 miles and finish with a 16+hour time in a 100 miler, but in order to have enough gas left in the tank to continue on for a 24 Hour race, I need to find a way to more smoothly crash and burn. I think learning to run 9 minute pace right from the start is a great place to start. Iron Horse's flat surface is the perfect terrain for holding a constant pace while not worrying about climbing over any mountains or through any rivers.

2) The more I run, the more I realize how important it is to find the best gear possible to wear in 100+ milers. I've learned that something that may work for 50 miles might not be the best for 100. I love my fuel belt, for example, but there comes a point in my 100+ mile runs that I just need to take the thing off and give my stomach/back a break from it. Occasionally it's the weight of two full bottles late in a race that bothers me...and sometimes it's a random point of contact on my back or side that begins to painfully chafe. Whatever the problem is, I've decided I needed to come up with an alternative piece of gear to wear when just a hand-bottle isn't enough. Enter the Nathan 2.0 HPL vest. With a 2 liter bladder on the back and enough storage pockets on the front for my gels, S-Caps, etc, I'm excited to test out this new (to me) hydration system at Iron Horse to see how it holds up. Even if I don't find it to be perfect for 100 miles, I hope it to be a nice break from my waist belt when I need one in the future.

3) At this point in my running career, I know the type of shoes I like to wear in training/racing on the roads and on rocky n' rough terrain. The missing link in my closet arsenal of footwear is what to wear when racing a course that requires a light trail shoe. Since I have 3+ races scheduled this year on such terrain, I'm testing out a great new shoe at Iron Horse that I hope will become my go-to trail race shoe this year. The new Vasque Aether Tech SS is nothing like any shoe I've worn before. First off, it has the Boa Lacing system (just a knob you twist to tighten the wire laces), which is nicely adjustable in how/where you loop it along the top of the shoe. Next, it has a completely soft fabric material on most of the upper (everything in red you see on the shoe is non-reinforced super light fabric) that both makes the shoe impermeable to trail debris/dirt, and also has the beneficial effect of making the shoe super light (less than 10 oz. for my size 11.5s). The treads on the bottom are perfectly "light trail shoe" appropriate, and I look forward to wearing them in at Iron Horse to see if they're 100 mile appropriate as well. If they pass the test, I'll surely be wearing them in the Bull Run 50, Mohican Trail 100, and my "TBA" 100 miler on trails in the fall.

4) In terms of nutrition, I've definitely worked out the kinks and determined what works for me during a race (gels, perpetuem, S-Caps), but with the new GU Roctane gel claiming all sorts of magical and wonderful benefits over regular gels, I'm bringing a box with me down to Florida to see how they perform over 100 miles. As I mentioned in my last post, the "Orange-Vanilla" flavor might as well be re-named "Rusty Car Undercarriage" flavor, but whatever, I'm not after taste, I'm after performance. Hopefully I find some positive benefits out there that make it worth the gag-reflex work-out these things give me.

5) Finally, this will be my first 100 miler (or race of any distance, for that matter) wearing compression socks. I'll still have my Max-Protection Drymax on my feet, but from ankle to knee I'll have my compression socks shining brightly. I'm already sold on the benefits of these things after a few weeks of training, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they help out in a race of a much longer distance. Picking up a new nickname to add to the already popular "Mr. Kneesocks" will be nice as well. Here's hoping the kids of Florida are kind.

With all the new plans and gear to test out in this race, I must say I'm just as curious about how everything will go as I am excited to get back out there and race again. Since I've dealt with some nagging injuries lately (including a shin issue that won't seem to go away this week), I won't bother to guess at what my finishing time will be. Mostly I just want to be able to get in some quality 9 minute miles with my new gear and avoid any injury issues that can throw a wrench into my plans for later this year. I'm hoping the shin issue clears up in the next week (I've been on the elliptical for the past 4 days, but not much progress has been made in the healing department). With 7 more full days of non-running, I'm hoping things clear up. The soft surface of the Iron Horse trail should be kind to an impact injury like this...I have my fingers crossed!

I'll post again before I head down to FL for the race next week. Since this will be a solo trip without a crew or pacer, I'll be sure to work on my ipod playlists between now and then. With only 75 people stretched out on the course, I'm guessing there won't be much human interaction during this race for me. Maybe I'll just have to chat up a few alligators as I run by them...


AnthonyP said...

"I need to learn to start out at a slower pace in 100+ mile races."

I so need to learn this as well !

Best of luck !

Jamie Donaldson said...

My Garmin has been a lifesaver with this. I force myself to stick to my planned miles per loop. At first it feels slow, but it really pays off late in the race. Good luck at IH! I'll be following you!