Mar 28, 2012

Old Goats 50 Race Recap

I remember seeing the listing for this race last year and wanting to one day run it due to the sheer challenge of it.  I was close to signing up for it but I realized I was nowhere near ready to tackle a race of that magnitude; 12,000 feet of vertical climbing to be exact (and 12,000 feet descent).  Fast forward one year later and there I was waiting the last few minutes with a crowd of other shivering runners ready to take on 12,000 ft. of climbing over 50 miles on technical trail.  I didn't have a chance to give this race much thought throughout the last couple of weeks due to being pre-occupied with my internship and realizing that I had absolutely no knowledge of the course.  So I'd been going about my training without really slowing down after Ray Miller 4 weeks previous and not giving this race much thought.  I had been more nervous and anxious before Ray Miller probably because I had put a couple of solid months of training without the confidence of whether or not it was going to pay off.  There were some of the best SoCal ultra runners toeing the line too and seeing where I was compared to them was going to be exciting.

Miles 0-21:
I had a cut out of the elevation profile with aid station points that guided me on this exploration of local mountains.  The first 21 miles was a lollipop loop that proved to be as rocky and technical a course I've run.  I was feeling pretty good from the get-go and just rolled with it.  I didn't hold back or push it and tried to be in flow with the single track and not fall.  It was actually kind of pleasant to start downhill just because it gave myself enough to warm up for the hills.  I was running alone from the get-go and that's the way it would be until the end.  I arrived at the 21 mile aid station in a relatively comfortable 3:12 and in good shape, got a kiss from my sweetie, and was off.  I was a bit nervous going into the next section because at Ray Miller this is where I started to feel like crap and I guessed it might have been a nutrition thing.  So in this race I adjusted my calories/salt accordingly and was hoping that would help me stay in a neutral place.
Early downhill.  Photo: Pedro Martinez

My babe at 21 miles. She literally just woke from a nap in her car. Photo: Jayme Burtis

Miles 21-28.8:
I soon caught Kurt Whittington, who was in 6th on the subsequent climb to the Trabuco Trail Aid Station, and we would soon be passing each other back and forth until mile 34.  The 5 mile rocky and technical descent down Horsethief Trail is where I experienced my first lowish point of the day even though it wasn't as deeply felt in previous races.  Fellow Coyotes Chris Hays and Pedro Martinez coincidentally were also running down as well which made for a short distraction.  I was trying to manage the very rocky descent with as little effort as possible to save myself for the next climb.  So I was running 8-8:10 miles and in hindsight I need to learn how to run downhill a lot better, because times like that aren't going to help.  Consequently, a much better downhill runner and Ironhorse (as I refer to him), Tom Nielson, who finished 14 seconds ahead of me at Ray Miller 50, passed me near the bottom of the descent.   I was secretly hoping that I could reverse the tables on him in this race.  After some hikers saw me unknowingly expose them to my privates while I was taking a brief leak I smiled and continued on.  I still wasn't feeling all that great and all I could think about was the 4000ft up Santiago Peak coming up: the crux of the race.
Photo: Jayme Burtis
Miles 28.8-36.70:
I started Holy Jim a bit slow shuffling my way through the multiple stream crossings and what seemed like tons of hikers.  I was soon able to see the multitude of antennas thousands of feet above and I guessed that was where I was headed.  After that harsh reality, I told myself to not look up anymore.  I established a run/hike strategy that allowed me to climb the ascent at 15-16 min/mile for the next 8 miles.  Boy, what a place to put a climb like that in a 50 mile race.  After seeing the top 6 men ahead of me barreling down the peak I finally made it myself bringing sweet relief with the only thoughts of not getting caught the final 15.  I then allowed myself to finally open up my stride and bust it downhill.
The look of exertion at the top of Santiago Peak. Photo: Mieko Morita
Miles 36.7-47.1:
The seemingly quick descent gave way to rolling hills with continued stiff sections of climbing.  I employed my run/hike strategy and really just plugged along keeping my eye behind me just in case someone wanted to make a run at me.  I also brought my average per mile time down to where I wanted it to be so I just maintained and kept pushing along.  The final climb of the race approached and at the top was the last aid station.  It was wonderful to see and I could smell the sweet, slightly tangy, flavor of the finish.

Miles 47.1-50:
As soon as I started the descent I started running harder than I did all race.  I wanted to get to that finish and I knew there was no pressure from behind either so it gave me a chance to reflect on the race a bit and appreciate what Steve Harvey put me through.  I finished the race strong and let out a whoop when I was in sight of the finish.  I crossed the line in 8:31 placing 7th overall.   What a joy it is to experience a journey such as this all while achieving goals and coming away healthy.  Again, Tommy Nielson was one place ahead of me. Grrr.  I'll see if I can turn the tables on him at AC100.  Huge congrats to Chris Price for running like a stud and establishing a new course record, Dom for running a course PR just coming off a calf strain, and to Keira Henninger for being the 1st female to cross the wire.
A few yards from the finish. You may not tell but I'm soaking it in.
I knew this race was going to be tough and it was the hardest I've run so far.  I was unsure how my body would react going into this race 4 weeks after a hard Ray Miller 50 but now I know.  I felt good from the beginning and I adjusted some race day strategies which I learned from the last race and subsequent training runs.  And I can say with complete certitude that it made a huge difference in how I felt throughout the entire race.  Things like tailoring my salt intake to meet my needs; if anyone's ever seen my face following a long or hot run I excrete an unusually high amount of salt.  With that adjustment I didn't experience the aches in my joints to the degree I normally do, was able to run some of the the final ascents, and overall had no significant highs and lows.  To my surprise music didn't really do much for me so I turned it off and just ran in the moment.  After two of my best 50 mile races in a span of a month I'm ready for a temporary change in venue.  The Boston Marathon is 3 weeks away and I'm excited to tackle the one road marathon I run per year.  I return to trail races in May and my training continues up the hills of the Santa Monica mountains on the weekdays while the weekends will be in San Gabes.
Overall, my performance has improved quite a bit since I started training in December and I'm excited to see what that means in 100 mile races.  I'm fully aware of what consistent training can do to performance and I'm excited to see it paying off early.  I have to continue to eat well, train right, listen to my body, and enjoy the process.  I feel I'm just starting to get my running engine established and I feel there is still a lot more to give in the coming years and only smart and hard training is going to expose that.  That's why my intuition is telling me to run Bishop in late May and use the next 2 months to solidly train for an all-out effort for AC, where I am happy to announce Sim will crew/pace me!  San Diego 100 is 70/30 a no-go, but I'll hold out until the last minute.
On another note, Sunday I picked up the stomach flu with Monday being absolutely awful for me.  Fortunately it only lasted 24 hours and it didn't really effect my training, even though I still can't run downhill <8 min/mile without getting some unwanted bowel movements from my GI system (sorry Westridge).
The New Balance MT110 performed flawlessly and I'm really impressed that they supported me through terrain like this and with no injuries to speak of.  Not to say it's 100% the shoes but minimalism is something I believe in and works (see above).
I also want to give a shout to Jayme Burtis for these great memories using his camera.
Happy Trails!

Mar 3, 2012

Ray Miller 50: Race Recap

Away we go...
The trail was starting to come alive with the creeping morning light and the pack started to move. Some starting their 31 mile journey or their 50 mile one.  Mine was the latter.  Being familiar with this trail it bottlenecks quite early so being near the front was my priority.  It would require a more aggressive race strategy, something I've been reluctant to employ mainly out of a fear of blowing up later.  However, today was different.  I wanted to run to my current potential and I believed a strategy of controlled aggression would be necessary.  The morning was overcast creating perfect running weather but that would soon give way to a strong winter sun that made things a bit toasty later in the race.

Miles 0-19:
A came out with controlled aggression and was feeling good.  I was throwing in some faster miles early for this type of race but I didn't care.  I was nearing the end of Wood Canyon Trail (Backbone Trail) and I got an unexpected surprise in coincidentally running into Megan, who was biking along the Sycamore Canyon Fireroad with the intention of meeting me at the Danielson Ranch aid station (mile 19).  We chatted for .3 miles before I branched off the Two Rabbits Trail.  After the brushy Coyote Trail it was fairly uneventful up to Danielson Ranch.  I was averaging 8:45 miles and was really focused on the upcoming climb to Sandstone Peak.  After getting a bunch of cheers from all the Coyotes and Megan and that aid station, I picked up an extra bottle and was on my way.

Mile 19 aid station manned by Superman (aka Jack Rosenfeld)

                                       Mile 19-28.5:  
As soon as I left Danielson Ranch I started to hit my first low point.  A bit odd so early in the race but after an aggressive outing it was expected.  About 3-4 minutes up the Chamberlain Trail I hear a coyote howl from Jimmy Dean Freeman letting me know he was not far behind, which made me try to push a bit harder.  The climb up Chamberlain was warm now and I forgot to ask for my ipod at the last aid station so I was counting to 10 repeatedly and I must of done that 100 times.  Pretty mundane but it got me into a rhythm and I was very happy to see the Yerba Buena aid station.  I saw Katie Martini Freeman there and soon asked her for a hat.  She came through with a turquoise women's visor but as soon as I put it on it provided immediate relief from the unrelenting sun.

Mile 28.5-34.5:
This out and back section was where I started to see some of the race leaders: Jorge Maravilla, Jorge Pacheco, Chris Price, Dom Grossman, Mark Hartell.  I reached the turn around point and saw Sim and Natalie manning the aid station.  After my hug from Sim I headed back to Yerba Buena and saw who was behind me.  A whole army of people within 5-10 minutes of me including Jimmy and Meghan Aborgast.  I tried to maintain my pace and reached the Yerba Buena aid station needing respite from the sun.  I got my gels and water and headed out.  About 1 min into the climb roars for Jimmy could be heard and I knew he was right on my tail.

Coming to the turnaround point. Glad to be here!

Mile 34.5-45:
This climb to sandstone and subsequent technical descent was welcome even though the next aid was 11 miles away.  I took the downhills OK considering the mileage and situation I was in and soon made my way to the beautiful Serrano Canyon where nausea spoiled my full appreciation of this place:  Rolling grasslands on a clear blue day.  Arriving at the last aid station I was prepared to make the final push up Fireline Trail and thoroughly enjoy the descent and final 3 miles of Ray Miller.  I ran most of the way up Fireline after a runner asked me if I had enough salt. Of course I did, I thought to myself.  However it dawned on me that I tend to sweat more salt and that maybe 1 pill per hour was not enough in this weather over this distance.  I took two pills and immediately could sense a difference.  My nausea had abated and I could run the uphills again!

Final half mile!

Mile 45-finish: 
To my surprise I ran most of the way up Fireline and was soon shuffling on the Fireroad arriving at the apex of the famed Ray Miller. I knew that the race was cake from here and I had the intention of fully cranking my legs on this descent with the hopes of catching some people.  I enjoyed the views but was mainly focused on getting down to the finish.  I passed one runner and was 14 seconds away from catching the next but the finish line came quicker.  I arrived in a personal best of 8:19, 8th OA, in full appreciation of the challenge of this course.  There were personal ups and downs that never seemed to veer too far in each direction and taking in more salt is something I need to start practicing.  Even though this is taboo, I tried something new on race day: Take gels every 20 minutes. Well that didn't work because I felt bloated and full for the majority of the race and frankly gels are disgusting.   So I'll stick to consuming them every 30 min.

I knew if I had a good day and I did what I thought I could do I'd run 8:20.  It was my A-goal and an ambitious one at that considering my last (2nd) 50 miler was half the elevation gain in 9:25 on fireroads.   I laid everything I had out there that day on the course and I was happy I was able to achieve it.  It felt and still feels good.  But it didn't come magically, just hard work on a consistent basis.  I'll be the first to tell you that I don't have the talent the top dogs have but I'll work my ass off to see what I'm made of.  This is a step in the right direction and hopefully there's more where that came from.  I want to thank RD Keira Henninger for putting on a great event, the volunteers, and Megan for making this happen.

Finish. Pose of satisfaction. PR too.

Post-race love with JDF.  Had a mini battle the entire way with him pulling away by 10 min in the final 8 miles.  Great run Jimmy!
Cresting Fireline with Sandstone in the background. Photo: Jayme Burtis

Coyote Power!

Next up is Old Goats 50 in about one month and it's something I'm not 100% sure about.  I mentioned in my last post that running high effort races takes a lot of someone and I can say with a fact that this was one of them for me.  Will I expect a solid of an effort at Old Goats? I hope so but I think it's going to be a different goal: to gain more 50 mile experience under my legs with tons of climbing (13,000 ft in this case).

Denali Expedition Recap

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