Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Philadelphia 100 Miler - Preview!

I've got even more than the usual pre-race excitement rushing through my veins this week as Saturday's Philly 100 gets closer. First off, I get to run with my newly-wed friend Amelia, Jamie and David Donaldson, and a bunch of other talented runners who will be looping around the Schuylkill River with us all day (including Badwater vets Phil Rosenstein, Keith Straw, and Alisa Springman). On top of that, the weather looks amazing for the whole weekend! It should be between 55-75 over the course of the day, and even though that may be a bit warm for running this early in the year, I'm certainly not going to's my first 'no tights' race since October!

The other thing contributing to my pent-up energy is the fact that I haven't been able to run at all the past few days. For no reason at all, my right hamstring started hurting like crazy on an easy run last week and I had to shut things down to try and heal up. Talk about a forced taper - I'm going crazy!  It'll be 6 days of complete rest by time the race starts on Saturday, so I'm hopeful that will be enough to get things healed up properly. I've been super lucky since last fall in that I haven't had even the slightest bit of pain anywhere in my legs, so I guess I had something like this coming to's just frustrating to have it pop up so close to a race.  It's not the end of the world if I have to pull up early in Philly though, the big picture is what matters, so as long as I'm ready to roll in France I'll be more than happy.

...but I'm keeping the thoughts positive and going into the race with a plan to see how a slightly faster pace for France will feel. I'll plan on settling into 8:30-8:45s right from the start and see how that feels throughout the day. The trick is finishing the 100 miles with enough in my legs for another 8-9 hours of running. I know I can run the whole way if I pace myself with 9:00-9:15s like I did in Cleveland last fall, so this weekend I'll speed it up just a bit to see if I feel like I can go about :30/mile faster in the first 100 miles and still have plenty in the tank for 9 more hours of running. I really want to maximize my miles in France, and the flat Philly course will be a great testing ground for that!

As for in-race updates, unfortunately Utterli is pretty much dead at this point. Too bad too, since there were about 500 people who listened to the updates during the Iron Horse 100 back in February. That just proves there's a bunch of ultra fans who really want live updates from races every weekend...but I guess Twitter is the only option for now. I'll keep searching for an Utterli replacement, but for this weekend, the airwaves will be silent during the race. I should have a recap of all the fun posted on Sunday night or Monday. Until then, I hope everyone enjoys the great weather this weekend (on the east coast, anyway), and Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

West Coast Weekend!

Just back from a whirlwind trip out to San Francisco, and even though the folks at Delta Airlines rose to new and uncharted levels by managing to lose our carry on bag on the way back (seriously), we had such a great time!

First off, it was like I had a personal tour of the great 100 miler courses of the West during the flight out. It was perfectly clear weather-wise, so my view from the plane was remarkable. As an admitted GoogleEarth nerd, I pride myself on being able to identify cities and regions when flying over them. When we hit Denver and I saw how clear the skies were from 30,000 ft, I knew I'd be in for a treat over the next couple hours. First up was the Leadville course to the south, shortly after that, the big peaks of the Hardrock course could be identified too. A little while later, Lake Tahoe (home of the Tahoe Rim Trail which is on my lifetime to-do list) and the Western States course were easy to pick out from the right side of the plane. You can bet I was ready to run when I stepped off that plane!

...but this trip wasn't about running, it was about heading across the Golden Gate Bridge to the hills of Marin County for Amelia's wedding!

 The only thing that could distract us from the beautiful views was Amelia looking stunning in her dress!

 San Francisco smiles from below as Amelia and Joel say 'I Do'!!
 Lizzy and I happy to be in such a beautiful place on such a happy occasion!
Lizzy grabs a photo op. with the bride as the John Muir Woods serve as the backdrop!

All in all, not a bad weekend! To top it off, I'm getting reports that some blazing fast Umstead times were run in NC on Saturday. Did Zach Gingerich really run a 13:23?!! Holy Cow!!  ...and also amazingly impressive was fellow 24-Hour Teammate Serge Arbona's 14:09! When the discussion of running 100 miles in times like these come up, I definitely need to excuse myself from the table. Well done, guys!!  Also getting a big congrats is another 24-Hour Teammate Jill Perry defended her title by winning the race again this year in 15:58...looks like she's tuned up and ready for France!  A special congrats also go out to Tony Portera for nailing his ambitious goal of breaking 20 hours by rocking a 19:24 (!!) and Tammy Massie for destroying her PR with a 24:58 (!!!!!!!)...You guys are Amazing!!!!

With all this great running going on, I'm anxious to get my final France tune-up in this weekend in Philly! I'll be sure to post some sort of update before heading up later in the week. It looks like Utterli is up to its old habit of working about as well as New Coke tasted, so I may not be able to call in live updates, but hopefully I'll figure something out to keep everyone entertained during the run!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Has Sprung...with Surprises!

Every now and then things just work out for the best. A couple months back I had to withdraw from running the Umstead 100 this weekend in order to head out to San Francisco for my friend Amelia's wedding.  I was sorry to miss out on the Umstead fun, but I certainly wasn't going to miss out on the wedding, and the Philly 100 the week after looked like a fine replacement for me to practice my pacing for France.

Now that the Umstead/Wedding week has arrived, I couldn't be happier at how everything worked out. First off, without any need to conserve energy or taper for Umstead, I was able to log some long and amazingly enjoyable miles in the perfect spring weather we had here in DC over the weekend: 70s, no humidity, breezy...It was incredible!
I've racked up more miles on the Mt. Vernon Trail than George Washington himself, but never have they been as enjoyable as this past weekend!

On top of that, earlier in the week I found out that friends Jamie and David Donaldson will be coming out to run the Philly 100 too!  It'll be so fun to have such great company out there on the Schuylkill River!  As Hannibal from the A-Team says: "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gimme a Break!

So there's this article about Scott Jurek in the April issue of Runners World magazine. The framework of the story takes place at last Fall's 24-Hour National Championship race in Cleveland. Lots of folks on the Ultralist have voiced their opinions about the personal nature/tone/relevance of the article, but I'm not too concerned about all that...

What I would like to point out instead is that I was referred to not once, but twice as "bald and gangly" in the piece. Ouch!  Sure, both adjectives may be true, but still...that just sounds so mean! Especially since that's all they said about me. Throw me a bone here, RW! I'm not looking for "dashingly handsome" or anything like that...How about just "tall and skinny" or "aerodynamically inclined" or maybe even "built like a long distance runner"?

Oh, well. I guess it is pretty funny....but even still, I'm totally taking author Steve Friedman off my Christmas Hanukkah card list!

[Edit: 3/11, 3:30 p.m. - Turns out Steve Friedman is a stand-up guy. See his response in the comment section below.]

Successfully executing a bottle hand-off in Cleveland despite my awkward gangly-ness

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seneca Creek-Greenway 50k - Race Report

Yes, there was snow chopping up our steps...Yes there was mud keeping us on our toes (and sucking at our shoes)...and Yes, there was a freezing cold river crossing (where, despite the guide ropes, I still managed to slip and dunk myself above the waist), but all of these challenges simply added up to a tremendously fun experience at the 2010 edition of the Seneca Creek-Greenway 50k yesterday!

First off, all the credit in the world goes out to Race Director Ed Schultze and his multitude of hard-working volunteers who put in 100+ hours of maintenance on the trail in the week leading up to the race. With daily website updates as race day neared, the maxed out field of 350 runners were all kept in the loop about the conditions of the course.  In the end, yes, the snow and mud did slow us down a bit, but to be completely honest, they added more fun to the race than they took away. I had such a blast storming down the snowy hills, skidding around muddy puddles, and truly appreciating the dry and perfectly runnable sections. The course reminded me very much of the Bull Run 50, and to no surprise of those who know how much I enjoy that fantastic route, I simply had a blast yesterday!

While standing around prior to the start of this point-to-point race, I enjoyed catching up with a couple VHTRC'ers Stuart Kern and Mike Bailey. We were all wrapped up in layers of clothing and mylar sheets (which the RD awesomely provided for us all) trying to ride out the 30 degree temps before the starting gun. Even though the promise of a sunny 50-degree day lay ahead, I knew I had to dress properly for the first couple hours of the race and stubbornly realized I needed to run yet another race in tights this year...Hopefully this is the last one! The disappointment of having to wear tights was somewhat negated by my excitement to finally strap on my New Balance 100s for a race. I correctly guessed that they would be a perfect match for this terrain. As I found out throughout the day, for minimalist shoes they certainly pack a ton of great features in such a small package.

The race began easily enough on a runnable 1/2 mile of paved bike path before we hooked up with the trail itself for the rest of the race. I was in no rush to try and hang at the front (some folks were just running the marathon option and headed out pretty quick), so I just slowly warmed up at a nice steady pace over the first few miles like I usually do. Most of the first 4 or 5 miles of the course were covered in about 6" of crusty, packed snow. There were lots of uneven footprints from the 70 or so "early start" runners who took off an hour before the official race start. Trying to run in the path of all that chopped up snow proved to be pretty tough, but I quickly realized the top layer of snow was strong enough to support my weight if I ran just off to the side of the crushed path.  I was pleasantly surprised by the fantastic traction my NB100s gave me on this top layer of snow/ice.  It was great to know I made the right move leaving my Yaktrax at home for this run.

About 30 minutes into the race, I came to the river crossing I mentioned in the opening of this post. I knew it was coming (Stuart warned me before the start), but seeing as how it was still 30 degrees outside, I can't say I was too excited about stepping into the knee-deep current of the icy-cold water.  There's no time to pause during a race though, so in I went. I grabbed the guide rope and support stanchions (which the awesome race volunteers hammered into place for us) and started to make my way across. Just before the end, however, some mischievous race demon must have decided I was making it across entirely too easily. As I went to pull my first foot onto dry land, the end of the guide rope (which was apparently floating in the water) somehow wrapped itself around my foot and tripped me as I tried to hop out of the river. In an instant, I went from being wet from the knees down to being dunked all the way up to my waist. Holy #%^* that was cold!!!!!  To make matters worse, I banged the outside of knee/top of my tibia on a rock on my way down in the river. Faaaaantastic.

As I pulled myself out of the river and tried to start running again, my knee hurt so badly I was limping quite a bit as I tried to slowly gain a rhythm on the snowy trail. I'm no Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman or anything, but I was pretty sure the pain would eventually subside if I just ran it off slowly, so I just did my best to keep moving and stay loose (not to mention dry off and stay warm!).  As it turned out, my tights actually kept my legs warm even while wet...and before too long, they were completely dry too. Kudos to the CW-X folks for making such a great product!

Speaking of great products, I should also point out that my combination of Drymax Maximum Protection socks and the NB100s drained and dried amazingly fast on my feet. Even though it was still in the low 30s out, my feet felt both warm and dry in less than a mile after I hopped out of the river. Despite the water-crossing and all the wet and muddy sections on the rest of the course, I finished the race without any blisters, raw spots, or skin damage on my feet at all. I didn't use any bodyglide or tape or anything else on my feet either, just the Max Pros and the NB100s. I highly recommend this combo for wet trail runs like this.

Getting back to the race, once my knee loosened back up after a mile or two, I settled in behind a runner moving steadily along the trail. There were a few spots where I could have passed him, but I kept telling myself to keep it in a low gear for a few more miles before picking up the pace. Also, to be quite honest, this area of the snowy trail didn't leave too many chances to pass safely, and I really didn't want to fall again with my knee still throbbing. As the trail undulated over the hills, we all got a pretty good feel for how to run on/trust the snow under our feet and folks started picking up the pace a bit.

After the first Aid Station (mile 11) I skipped past a couple runners (I didn't stop at any aid stations the whole race since I ran with a 72oz Camelbak with 7 or 8 Hammer Gels mixed in) and caught up with two great guys, Paul and Tom. We chatted about all sorts of things until the next AS (mile 15) when Tom stopped off for a refill. Paul and I continued our conversation through the mile 20 AS, at which point the 50K runners have to do a 5 mile loop around a lake before coming back through the same AS and continuing on toward the finish (marathoners just skip the lake loop). Paul pointed me in the right direction around the lake before stopping at the AS himself and leaving me on my own for the first time all day. Most of the snow was gone at this point and I started picking up the pace a bit whenever I found firm footing. Soon enough I caught up with another great guy, Travis Warren, and we had a nice chat while running together around the lake. At the end of the lake loop, Travis stopped off for some fuel and I figured it was time to pick up the pace a bit more and finish the last 6 or 7 miles with an honest effort.

With some folks running the marathon distance now ahead of me after my lake loop, I really didn't know my placing in the 50K race, so I just worked on running hard and catching up to whomever was ahead of me. I was moving pretty quickly as most of the snow was gone and any muddy sections were pretty short and manageable. With about 4 miles to go, I was surprised to be passed by another runner just as I was losing a shoe in the mud. When I caught back up to him and found out he was also a 50K'er, I knew I had a nice goal for the final 3 miles of the race: Beat this dude!  He did me a favor by pausing for a quick drink at the last Aid Station with 2.2 miles to go. I took the lead there and did my best to quick-step through the next mile or so before popping out on the road for the final stretch. With a mile to go I took a peek back and saw I had about a 20 second lead, and I knew I had plenty in the tank for a quick but not painful 7-flat to hold off his charge. I really enjoyed being able to finish a race without being completely drained - 50Ks are so great!

There was a volunteer w/ a megaphone welcoming me to the Riley's Lock finishing area as I crossed the finish line in 4:25:32. The time-keeper told me I finished in 3rd place for the 50K, and that sounded pretty good to me. I honestly had no clue all day where I was running in terms of placement. I felt my pace was quick-but-safe on the terrain for a training race like this. My training week leading up to the race was pretty intense, so I'm more than happy with how my legs responded in this run. Big Congrats go out to Josh Hunsberger (4:17) and Luke Finney (4:23) for their 1st and 2nd place finishes, nice run guys! Full Results Here (marathon results listed first).

All the credit in the world goes out to the RD and his legions of volunteers for their amazing efforts to make this race a reality despite Mother Nature's wrath over the past month. Special thanks also go out to Drymax and Hammer for their awesome products and support - They really make these things too easy! This race was just what I needed to replace the Reverse Ring mess from last week. Now I have another solid month of ramping up my training even more for France before my final tune-up at the Philly 100 on April 3. Back to work!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quick Seneca Creek 50k Update

Since I don't have any photos or official results from the race to report yet, I'll wait a bit before posting my race report from today's Seneca Creek-Greenway 50k. That said, I can happily pass along the news that 350 of us had a beautiful day for running in sunny Maryland today, and the course (even with all the snow/mud) was such a blast!

Even though I don't have the wheels to hang w/ too many 50k studs in my old age, I was able to employ my usual 'start slow and hit the gas in the second half' strategy to finish 3rd in 4:25.  I never run 50Ks, but I realized today maybe I should since they're so much fun! It was great to run so hard in the second half knowing I only had 15 miles or so left ( need to save anything for mile 123 or something in a 50K!).

I'll be sure to get my race report up w/ some photos and official results as soon as they post them to the race site. Until then, I'll be happily enjoying the fact that I don't need to worry about any recovery time after such a "short" race...I really need to run more of these things!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail the Rescue!

 OK, so maybe trying to run a race in the Massanutten Mountains didn't work out that well this past weekend. None of us came even remotely close to finishing the race. ...but did I learn anything from that failed experience? Of course not. Since I still need to cure my racing fever, I'm excited to toe the line at another local trail race this Saturday. The Seneca Creek Greenway 50K isn't too far from DC, so why not step up and take my chances with the trail conditions again this weekend? Of course, it won't exactly be PR-setting conditions there either, but certainly it can't be as bad as the nightmare snow/slop of the Reverse Ring, right?!!  Here's the latest update from the Seneca Creek RD, Ed Schultze ...sounds like my Drymax will come in handy once again!

"Feb 28, 2010: Tons of volunteers have been hard at work, opening sections of the trail, scouting, shoveling snow, and executing trail repairs. As of today the race is on. Expect slower times and wet feet. You will be running and hiking in the snow. We do not have much  capacity to transport runners who cannot finish to the finish area. Please understand that the trail will be pass-able but not necessarily totally run-able. This means snow, ice, ,mud and some run-able sections. It is getting better each day. We will try to update the website several more times before race day."

If nothing else, at least I'll be able to enjoy another adventure with 300+ of my newest running muddy-buddies!