Monday, February 10, 2014

Week 5 Training

Week 4 was a rest week for me.  Just 22 miles logged, mostly on the treadmill.  I traveled for work the whole week, so it was tough to get just 30 mins a day on the hamster wheel.

Training Week 5
Feb 3- Feb 9

Mon - AM: 6 Road miles
Cold day, easy run.  Just down Monument and back Patterson.  Trails are still nasty from the rain and snow.

Tues - AM: 4 mi easy
Very easy run today.  Everything is smooth and easy as we start to ramp up miles in the coming days.

Wed - AM: 6 mi Speed work
This was my first speed workout of the year.  Very cold out and cloudy.  Getting very tired of the bitter chill in the air.  I went over to the lake in Maymount Park and did .25 mi repeats (5) at 10K pace. Its about 1.5 mi warm up there and coming back I did the last mile in tempo pace, sub 7min/mile.  Very good, first hard run.

Thurs - PM: 4mi easy
Just an easy 4 today to recover from yesterday and gear up for Fri, Sat, and Sun.

Fri - AM: 10mi road
Very early morning run.  Forgot my headlamp, so I had to be very patient in the beginning, as the sidewalks in the fan sucks and are easy to trip and fall.  As the sun came up, I was able to stretch out the stride and go harder.  I went through the fan down to Monument up to Libbe and back down Patterson.  I finished up with the 2 mi loop that Jaclyn and I do.  8:10 avg the whole way, which I'm happy with, considering the first few miles were slow.  Legs feel good.

Sat - AM: 15mi road
Taking Jaclyn up to DC later, so had to get this in early.  Headed over the Nickel Bridge and west on Riverside.  Amazing houses and rolling steep hills.  Turned around at the main road 1.8 in and headed back east on Riverside past Forest hill park and over to the Mayan ruins/14th street bridge.  Hit Brown's isle and up the steep steps to VCU gym.  Main to Lombardy to Monument and home.  Great run, legs started to really feel the hills around mile 10.  Tough push home keeping 8:15 pace.

Sun - PM: 15mi road
I knew today was going to be a tough run.  I could feel the miles on my legs, but I knew that this feeling I have now will be nothing like mile 60 at the Keys 100.  Another cold day.  Got home from DC around 11am and suited up for the tough push.  Even though my legs were tired, I felt comfortable for the first 10 miles.  The hills were the real pain for me.  My pace got faster as I went though.  Around mile 12, I felt completely exhausted.  I thought to myself that I need more runs like this to get myself prepared for that 'edge' that I'm going to have to take myself to and go beyond.  Last few miles I actually sped up, cause I just wanted to get this over with.

61.1 miles - 8:16

Great Training week.  Started easy, got in some speed work, and finished long.  Very tired of this bitter weather.  Probably drank a few too many beers this week, but oh well.  Next few weeks its going to be critical that I listen to my body and plan my miles out as work gets busy and distances get longer.  I didn't get on the trails at all this week.  They were nasty and time didn't permit.  I hope this week I can get on them a few times.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Training weeks 2 & 3

Training Week:  2
Jan 13 - Jan 19

Mon-AM: 1500m Swim
Hit the pool this morning.  1500m of easy swimming with two 5 min efforts and 10 x 50 on 1:00.  Nothing special, just get back easy.  Looking forward to some passes across Lake Gaston this summer. 
PM: 5mi trail run
Parked at the Nickel Bridge and headed down the north side trail.  Went to the last section before the big mud puddles toward the end and turned around.  Felt good being on the trails.  Thought I was running fast, but the watch told me otherwise.  Humbled. 

Tues-AM: 4mi road
Rain came down hard this morning.  Ran 4 miles smooth and easy, holding back most of the time.  Didn't look at the watch at all until I was finished and pleased to see I was 8:45 pace, right on the dot.  Exactly where I want to be for the first 50 of the Keys 100
PM: 6.5 mi trail
With mud all over the trails, I knew this too would be an easy stroll through the woods.  Parked at the Nickel bridge and went down buttermilk trail to forest hill park loop.  Love being on these trails.  My pace was very slow, but I wanted it that way.  Really need to practice patience.  

Wed-AM: 1500m Swim
Continuing the theme of easy swimming, I did 3 x 300s swim, pull, paddles with 6 x 50s on 1:15 with hard effort.  Easy warm up and cool down after.  Stroke felt better, but sloppy toward the end on the workout.  To be expected.  

Thurs-AM: 5.5mi group run
Jimmy and Capt met me at the house for another early morning run.  Cold.  Went down to the bridge and over to Maymount and back around the lake.  All road with about .5 on the trail.  Legs felt good after yesterdays rest.  
PM-  Went skiing with Jac
AMAZING!!  love skiing.  Crashed a few times.  I like to go fast and not so great at stopping.  So much fun with Jaclyn and Melissa. 

Fri-AM: 5.3mi road
Really wanted to ease up today and run smooth with little effort.  Didn't look at the pace at all. Went down Monument to Libbie and back Patterson.  When I was done with the run I was surprised that my pace was 8:20.  Felt much slower. 
PM: 5.3mi road
Ran the same run from this morning.  Again, everything easy.  Pace was a little slower than this morning but the whole run was done with little effort. 

Sat-AM: 2.1mi
Did an easy 2.1 miles with Jaclyn today for Meg's Miles.  Meg was a local woman killed by a drunk driver out for her morning run this week.  Very sad.  Love these runs with Jac as they help to flush out all the soreness and lactate in the legs.  
PM: 20 min Row
Did a row session today.  Easy 20 mins with one 500m hard effort.  Avg 1:52 for the hard and 2:12 for the whole time.  Really enjoy having the rower in the basement.  

Sun-PM: 12.8mi Trail/road
Ran down to the trails and out to the 14th street bridge towards the Mayan ruins.  From there, headed west on buttermilk back to the nickel bridge and then back home.  Felt ok.  Not great.  A lot colder than I thought, especially with the wind.  Good to get out for a long one though.  

Totals - 46.7 - 7:11

Great second week.  Mixed it up with some longer stuff and back to back runs.  First long run was good.  looking forward to get over 20 miles and doing it easily.  Fitness is coming back though.  This next week is going to the last of three weeks training and then a rest week, so need to stay focused.  

Training Week:  3
Jan 20 - Jan 26

Mon-AM: Rest
Travel to Blue Bell, PA.  All day work

Tues-AM:  4mi Treadmill
Early miles on the treadmill before work.  Very easy running

Wed-AM: 6 mi Treadmill
More easy running on the treadmill before work.  Its 5 degrees outside anyway, so I wouldn't be going outside even if I could.  Traveling back home today. A lot of snow everywhere.  Looking forward to getting on the snow packed trails

Thurs-PM: 10.3 mi James River trail loop
Leaving from the house, its an easy 10 miles down to the river trails and back.  I do this loop many times, and still love it.  Has climbs, rolling hills, trail, road, and flat sections.  I didn't move real fast today, as the snow and ice was a challenge to navigate.  Legs feel like I'm getting back in great shape.  

Fri-PM:  4mi Trail
Easy 4 miles today.  Legs felt great.  A lot of quickness, giving me the feeling like fitness is really coming back to me.  Still very cold out here, so lots of snow and ice everywhere.  

Sat-AM: 20.8mi Trail/road
Jimmy and I set out from the house and headed down to the trails with water, gels, and gear in tow.  We did two big loops of the trails and then headed back up to the house.  We both felt like it was a hard grind the whole day.  Def didn't feel like I did yesterday.  Our average pace was slow, but with all the ice and snow, along with feel bad, it was actually a great mental and physical training day.  

Sun-AM: Recovery-Rest
Decided to take the day off.  I could run, but I have a flight this afternoon and wanted to see Jaclyn (as I will be gone for a week).  

Totals - 45.3mi    7:16

Great week, especially with all the travel and weather.  Really feel like I'm ready for the next round of training.  Have a rest week coming up, and will mostly just get 30 min treadmill runs in with only easy running.  I have 60-65-70 mile weeks coming up, so I want to be fully recovered for these.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Training Week:  1
Jan 6 - Jan 12

Mon-AM: 3mi easy.  
Ran with Jaclyn up through Cary Street and around down Blvd and Monument. Great first run back.  Easy 10/mi pace.  Nasty rain and wind, but warm
PM:  3mi easy
With an easy run this morning I wanted to get a feeling of how I felt at what will be my Key West race pace of 8:45/mi.  Ran down Monument and back through Patterson.  Felt good, but not great.  

Tues-AM: 4mi easy
I wanted to see how 8:45/mi would feel again.  I head down Monument and back Patterson again.  Thats kind of my staple afternoon road course.  Easy traffic signals to navigate and pace to keep.  Felt ok, not great.  I think its just the first few runs back and cob webs to get worked out.  I am though, really happy to feel like I am back to training again. 

Wed-PM: 4+ mi
Finally got back down to the trails.  Ran Buttermilk from the nickel bridge parking lot.  Turned around at the Forest Hill parking lot.  I really like this route, as there isn't really anything flat.  All up and down hills that really test the lungs and heart.  I kept an easy pace, trying to pull back most of the time.  

Thurs-AM: 5.5mi group run
Early morning run with Jimmy and Will.  Love being out this early.  Feels like a ghost town, like you own the city, when everyone else is sleeping and you are training.  This was an easy run.  Couldn't really get warmed up till about 3 miles into the run.  Headed down Blvd to the river and across to other side of Maymont Park.  Ran around the lake on the way back.  Hills really challenged the legs, but felt really good the last mile.  Great running with Jimmy and Will, as always.  

Fri-AM: 2mi easy
Jaclyn and I did 2 easy miles, on our traditional route around our house.  Its a great way to wake up and get the legs warmed up for the day.  
PM: 4 mi - smooth & easy
This was the first run where I felt completely smooth and running an easy effort.  I didn't look at the watch for my pace the whole time, and finished with a 8:32/mi avg.  Very happy with that in this first week.  I am starting to really itch for those long runs though.  

Sat-AM: 3.5mi w Jaclyn
With it pouring rain outside, Jaclyn and I took off for an easy 3.5mi effort.  It was warm out though, so that made the wet clothes a little more tolerable to wear. 60 degrees.  We saw Jimmy flying by extremely fast.  I just have to stay focused on my plan and I too will be running fast soon.  Legs felt great, but I tweaked my knee stretching and can feel some discomfort. 

Sun-AM: 6mi easy/fast
Parked at the Nickel Bridge with Jac and headed out and back on buttermilk nice and easy.  Ran the rest of the way home with a good tempo pace - 7:30/mi.  Felt good.  Knee tweak is feeling ok, need to apply more heat and ice after runs though.  

Totals - 36.3mi - 5:49.16

Week Goals :  First week back from 3 weeks of rest (sort of, I did get some light runs in).  I wanted to get just 35 miles in as I start to ramp up the miles soon.  I tweaked my knee a little, I think while stretching.  Applying heat before runs, and ice after helps a lot.  Nothing major, doesn't hurt while running.  Great first week back.  Happy to be back training again and itching to go further and faster.  In due time.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Keys 100 Mile Training Plan

100 Mile Training Plan
Richmond, VA
Target Race - Keys 100 - May 17, 2014

So this is really going to happen.  Its no longer a day dream, but a real, in the moment situation for me now.  Stating simply that I'm excited is such an under statement.  I have so many thoughts running through my head, and feel it might be good to document some of them now, here, at the beginning of this journey. 

I've run my first 50k, first 50 miler, and now it is time to reach for that distance that I feel will best suit my strengths and personality.  100 miles.  I've dreamt of this since I was a school teacher in Virginia Beach.  I always have wondered what it would feel like to tap those physical and mental places within myself that only something like 100 miles can.  I'm not a distance runner, in a competitive-athletic sense.  I'm not competing for any win at any marathon.  100 miles is more than just the distance.  This is the beginning of my training for the Keys 100, so I can't say I know what 100 miles 'is'.  But I will say that I believe it will bring out all the strengths of my personality and soul.  This post is about some of the training plans I have for the big day in May.

I've planned out the 19-weeks ramp up for distances, speed work, and preparation races starting on January 6th.  I'm starting on the 6th because I planned to give myself 3 weeks off from running after my first 50 miler (which was a great success and I feel I have already recovered fully, with one more week of rest to go) Each one of my training weeks start on a Monday.  Using the weekends for my long (and most of the time, back-to-back) runs, I have set up a lot of my Monday's to be rest or 'off' days.  Jaclyn and I have purchased a rower now, so a lot of my rest days will be spent rowing or in the pool swimming.  Most training blocks are two or three weeks long with a gradual increase in mileage.  Topping out at 85 miles, I have seven weeks of 70+ miles planned.  I have an idea on how most weeks will go, but everything is tentative now and certainly can be adjusted as we go along.  Obviously training for a 100 mile race the most important thing will be the "long run" each week.  The Keys 100 is almost entirely pavement, so I plan on a 60/40 mix of road/trail long runs.  I love the trails, so I can't exclude them…NOT gonna happen.  Of course the long runs are going to ramp up with each week, starting with a 20 mile run in week 3.  I haven't decided what the longest run will be for this training, but it will most likely be done is Virginia Beach, which has the best barometer to test my abilities with respect to the flat course of the Keys 100.

Preparation Races
One of the best ways to test fitness is to race, obviously.  I've planned 3 races thus far that fit into my training plan.  The first two races are back-to-back marathons in March, the Pocahontas State Park Marathon and the Shamrock Marathon.  The plan is to use these races to dial-in on the race pace required for the Keys.  I will not be racing here or shooting for a best time.  I will most likely struggle with running slow, but thats exactly what I need to "feel" that pace, especially while running on tired legs.  The third race will be the Charlottesville Marathon in April.  This is a very hilly course and logistically a great way for me to run, just being an hour from the race start.  My goal for the day after this race will be to run another 30 miles at home.  All of these races are designed during heavy training weeks, so there won't be any tapering.  

Rest weeks
A constant theme in my periodization is also "rest" weeks.  I have a total of 5 built-in, with just 15 to 30 miles of running, spending the rest of the time in the pool or on the rowing machine.  The goal for these weeks is just to get off the feet and recover from the impact of running.  I will also be shortening the duration of the workouts here, to recover from an all-around stand point (I also have a girlfriend I need to spoil, so planned 'us' time will be a major theme during these 7 days).  Rest weeks are huge for me.  I always come back stronger and really have a big itch to run towards the end of these weeks.  

Here lies my achilles heel.  Diet has always been my crutch.  I love food, especially cold pizza and chinese food.  Luckly I have a Jaclyn Battista on my team, as she prepares such great food with great nutritional value, otherwise I would never eat a vegetable or as much fruit.  I can't say I have a plan here, but I will say that I am smart enough to realize what I don't need, so I am going to have to rely on my discipline and focus on what I do need, rather than what I want.  Honestly this will be my largest hurdle throughout this whole journey. 

Personal Challenges 
Most people don't recognize these during a training plan, but I can't avoid them.  I have an amazing partner in Jaclyn, so there will be times where I need to plan the week differently or dial back the 'plan' to be sure to keep my relationship in a good place.  This is most important to me, so while training will be a priority, it will not jeopardize the strength of our relationship.  Second, I have an amazing job opportunity that I am happy to be a part of.  This is a major priority as well, as so many wonderful things could lead from this.  I am not one to work 100 hour weeks, but I will remained focused on progressing my career.  The key part of this is simply planning.  I believe that both my relationship and my career will be just fine, as long as I plan my practice and practice my plan.  I can't get lazy during these 19 weeks.  There will be a lot of mornings and afternoons where I would rather not run, but I will stay disciplined on what needs to be done.  

There is so much more about this race to share so please look for the next few posts to come. I wanted to keep this strictly about my training plan.  I will post on how my fitness is going through each one of the races this year and I also plan to post my race strategy, as I will have a full crew with me in the Keys crewing during my race.  

TFR -Wes

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race Report

Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race Report
Chattanooga, TN December 14, 2013

(First 50 Miler)

Training over the last few months was amazing.  I put in more miles, more runs, and more effort than I have for any previous race before this.  I'm not an experienced runner, so the training plan was something I just put together literally on a napkin and simply stuck to it.  Come hell or high water, I was out running every day (with multiple rest weeks of just 15 miles built it).  I also had two races during this time, during training weeks of 70 ad 75 miles.  I would like to note that the second race was a PR in the marathon distance during the hilly Richmond Marathon, 3:26, followed by a 15 mile run the next day. 

I tapered for three weeks before this race. I think that might have been a little too much, and will adjust from this experience in the future.  Driving to Chattanooga was easy, leaving at 4am from Richmond, VA.  We got down there by 2pm, checked into the hotel, and headed over the packet pickup at the old Rock Creek store site.  We got to see a good friend, Philip Mansueto, and chatted with him and his family for a few minutes in the parking lot.  Leaving packet pickup I had this huge rush of anxiety and nerves about the race.  50 miles is 50, 5…0…miles!!  Not a short race.  In fact it would be the longest physical activity of my life.  We had dinner and a few beers (with water) at a local restaurant with Jaclyn's mother Tammy, who came into town from Mississippi to help crew me along at several aid stations.  After getting to bed pretty early, I just tossed and turned all night, never sleeping for more than an hour at a time.  I guess thats to be expected.

Alarm went off at 5:45am to pouring rain outside.  Looking at the doppler radar, it was only supposed to get worse for at least the first half of the race.  Temperatures were in the mid 30s, so it was going to be a cold, wet, and long day.  "Get over it, can't control it", I told myself.  Driving to the race, Tammy and Jaclyn were talking about what I should do if I got hurt or needed to drop out for some reason.  Thats like talking to a NASCAR driver about a car accident and what hospital they should be taken to….COME ON!!  I made it very clear, I wasn't dropping out.  Period.  I brought my headlamp.

In Tennessee the sun doesn't rise until close to 8am, so the late 7:30am start was partly done in the dark.  The race start was a typical big banner and gun, with this being a championship race.  I prefer the 'old-school-side of-a-picnic-table' kind of race, but this wasn't really a concern of mine at this point as I was just happy to be healthy and ready.  When the gun went off though, I didn't expect the race pace to be so fast.  It felt like a 10k race on the quarter mile stretch of road before diving down the mountain on single-track heaven for 14 miles.  I pulled back and just let at least 50 people go in front of me.  I wanted to go real slow in the beginning.  However I did find out why they were running so fast. They wanted to get to the single track first before getting stuck behind much slower runners, which I guess I got luck cause the group I was with was running just my pace.  

My strategy today was to go slow and just gradually increase the effort throughout the first 30 miles of the race.  I knew after 30 miles I would be in uncharted territory, so I was prepared for the carnage to come from that point.  I had no expectations on pace, time, or place and didn't even wear a watch, as I have a tendency to check my pace and time.  I was running strictly on FEEL.  I carried two water bottles the whole day, starting with pickle juice and water for the first 8 miles.  These were all downhill miles, with crazy cliffs to the left.  In many spots if you tripped you could easily end your life.  I was amazed that the race was allowed to run next to these cliffs, with more than 300 people starting and funneling into a single track trail.  I felt relaxed and comfortable, drinking and talking most of the way.  At the first aid station I was one of only a few to stop.  I filled both bottles up with water, took two salt tabs and ate two gels while continuing on.  I didn't even lose my place, as I easily caught up with the group I started with.  From here we kept the downhill theme for another 6 miles to the first aid station where I could see Jaclyn and Tammy.  I ran with Erno, an experienced ultra runner for most of this section.  He was friendly and offered one piece of advise that would come in handy later, "Just know, that at some point you're going to feel terrible, you're going to have a bad-patch, and work through that. You'll feel better on the other side".  

At mile 14 I could see Jaclyn and Tammy in the distance, as they were dawning their trademark green ponchos.  They were both cheering load and were such a great site for me to see.  I felt great and filled up one bottle with pickle juice and one with water, took some gels from Jaclyn, and got a 'see you soon' kiss.  Right after this aid station I knew we had the long climb back up the mountain.  So I took a deep breath, took off my coat, and headed up.  In Richmond, VA you can't train on mountains, so I had hoped that my extra mileage and tough speed work would allow me to find a rhythm up the mountain.  I continued to feel great.  I passed several people with a steady grind and fast paced hiking style that is certainly a strength of mine when the ground pitches to a steeper grade.  There were several times where I felt I might be off course.  For more than and hour, I didn't see another person or see any markers that led me a certain way by the race organization.  I could tell that people were making tracks on the trail, so I continued on my way.  Soon enough I came across signs left by the race org and could see several runners up ahead on the switchback climb.  Relief.  

At the top of the climb I could hear the crowd from the Start/Finish line, as the race did a big loop back to this point for the first half and for the second half (the race was in a figure 8 loop).  I stopped to fill up my bottles from Jaclyn and her Mom and talked with them for a few minutes.  Jaclyn kept saying "you're in the top 20, you're in the top 20".  I just shrugged it off though, as I knew there was a lot more ground to cover, and felt there was going to be a gut-check or two coming pretty soon as well.  I left here feeling good, but just a quarter mile down the road got lost and off course.  I was immediately pissed.  One of the race officials saw me and quickly directed me back on course.  I didn't lose that much time, but the whole thing got me frazzled and irritated.  I hate being lost in a car, so imagine my reaction to being lost in a race. ha.  Once back on course I got into a steady pace, smooth and easy.  All of a sudden though, I ran head on into four guys.  WHAT?!?!  They instructed me that I was again off course.  They were the top four runners and I was running head-on into them.  I was pissed, irritated, mad, and confused.  I turned and ran with them for about 30 seconds when we ran into Erno.  I remember him telling me that he had run this race 3 previous times and he said I was on the right track, so I again turned around and head back the way I came.  I knew I could trust him, as he was very confident about the way to go.  From there, we ran into another group of 10 runners who were off course running straight at us.  They too had to turn around and run with us.  I thought back to what Jaclyn had said though…"you're in the top 20"…doing the math, if I had just run into a total of 14 runners who were ahead of me, then I must be in the top 10 now.  WOW! The race just turned in to a race, I thought. 

I was right, but I was also in trouble.  Now I was starting to run their pace, and this wasn't smart.  I should have just let them go and eased back into my rhythm.  That was the competitor in me coming out to play with the big boys.  Around mile 28 I stopped at the aid station to get some water and HED.  After taking a few more gels and salt tabs, I left the aid station in really good spirits.  I decided to walk and put my iPod in for the first time.  As soon as I did I ran into a guy I met at the start line, Neil, who was also running his first 50.  We chatted for a while and made it to the rope section of course, where you had to climb a very steep section with a rope to the top of the mountain ridge.  As we crested the climb, the ridge turned out to be a gentle incline that completely put me on my ass.  I immediately had this feeling of exhaustion.  I got depressed and felt like I wasn't going to make it.  I kept pushing on, walking at a slower pace than my previous steady power hiking rate.  I was defeated.  

As I topped out on the ridge, it turn quickly into a downhill section that hit a portion of the trail hit hard by some kind of storm.  There was a lot of cut up branches, down trees, and debris everywhere.  I struggled again here as the trail went up and down.  Making the final climb to mile marker 34, I knew I would see Jaclyn and her Mom.  I came to the aid station with a massive crowd of people cheering.  I was 18th but feeling terrible.  I told Jaclyn and Tammy that my legs were shot.  I didn't know how I was going to finish.  In the aid station I got some powerade and water from Tammy and gels from Jaclyn (I will note that I experimented with gatorade and powerade during training, and gatorade gave me terrible stomach cramps.  Powerade sat well in my stomach and gave me the electrolytes that I needed.  I highly recommend experimenting with different aid items before a race).  I made my way over to the food station and grabbed some sugar gummy bears that really hit the spot.   

I left the aid station with a defeated attitude and ran about a mile with terrible thoughts of dropping out.  Suddenly though, I started to run, and run, and run.  I was listening to music and just running easy.  I gained this sense of misery and accepted it.  I pushed on, and on, and on.  Through this whole 4 mile section I felt better and better with each mile.  I finished by coming into the aid station again to see Tammy at the top of the hill screaming at me.  I was smiling and gave her a big hug and told her that I was feeling much better.  I couldn't believe it.  Erno was right.  I felt the sense of defeat, that 'bad-patch' he had told me about.  I just pushed through it and felt better on the other side.  My spirits were high and I knew I was going to finish.  I didn't care now even if I hit another bad patch, I would just put my head down and power through.  I described it at the end of the race to someone, that I wasn't really feeling better.  I still had a lot of pain in my legs, exhaustion, lack of motivation.  I just had learned to cope with it.  I accepted it and ran with it.  This was a place I had never tapped before.

After I left the aid station, I carried some sugar gummy bears out with me for the first part of the next section.  This part of the trail I had already seen from outbound trip, so I was a little hesitant by the amount of climbing still required to finish.  Feeling good though I push the pace and ran hard, hiking some of the up hills hard, hands on knees grunting.  I was pleased to hit the now gradual downhill on top of the ridge and run the whole way back to the rope section.  I passed so many people, still at mile 30 in the race and knew how much struggle, aka miles, they still had left.  I felt bad for them, but didn't say a word, other than encouragement.

At the last aid station I joked around with the volunteers who were amazing all day.  I didn't spend much time here, as I just wanted to get this race over with.  I crossed a wooden bridge just after a quarter mile and saw a porto-john straight ahead.  I needed to pee again so I ducked in real fast.  As I left I continued down the dirt path about a quarter mile with a larger stream on my left.  I kept hearing something other than my music to my left and finally found out what it was.  It was two runners in the same race, but on the other side of this large stream.  SHIT!!  I was off course again.  I was pissed, irritated and mad.  I missed the course markings again because they were laid down from all the rain and mud.  The race organization didn't put any ribbons on the trees, they were all on the wet muddy ground.  

As frustrated as I was, I didn't have time or the energy to spend on being upset for long.  I just focused on the last 6 miles.  As I worked my way down by the river, I knew I was going be heading up to the finish with a long 5 mile climb.  Again I hit a bad patch.  Probably self-inflicted though, from missing the course and getting upset.  I kept moving forward but not at the pace I wanted to.  Neil, from the beginning of the race, again came barreling past me.  He had some friends running with him, that I thought was against the rules, but they were all nice and encouraged me along.  If I were racing for the win, I would have been pissed, but I didn't really care.  I was in survival mode at this point.  In the last mile I came back to the powerline section of the course that was covered in mud.  I passed two people here as they were struggling to run in the thick mud.  With a smile on my face I knew I was going to finish.  I almost want to say that I slowed to savor the moment.  I was smiling, laughing, almost crying with joy.  I could hear the finish line announcer.  When we came up to the finishing area I was running with another guy who I hadn't spoken with.  He was ahead of me by about 5 yards for the last mile and I just let him go.  I stopped and turn to see if anyone was coming.  I wanted him to get his glory without me in the picture and mine without him in the picture (though Jaclyn was shooting video).  I could hear the cheering for him and starting running again.  I saw Tammy at the top of the climb and kept on running with a smile.  She was extremely loud, amazing crew member, and supportive all day.  As I made the final turn out of the woods I could see Jaclyn standing by the barriers at the finish.  I threw my hands in the air and realized I actually made it 50 miles, and absolutely loved it.  The woman at the end egged me on to run the last few steps, but I didn't care one bit.  I walked, savored, and will never forget those moments.  

After the finish I sat cold, wet, and hungry and just replayed the day with Jaclyn and her Mom.  Their stories of the day were almost as exciting as mine.  It was no easy walk for them traveling all over the mountain to several locations in the rain and cold to see me for 30 seconds at a time.  They told me that they had a lot of fun, which I believe, cause if you know Tammy, you know she likes to change scenery and take care of people, and this was a 9 hour and 16 minute event of just that.  BIG thanks to Jaclyn and Tammy.  So grateful to have shared it with them.  I can't wait to do this again.  Addicted.  

Pearl Izumi N1 trail shoes
Injinji Mini-crew 2.0 toe socks (zero blisters)
Salomon Twinskin shorts
Salomon Exo motion long sleeve top
Buff head band 
GU gels - Roctane/Peanut butter
Pickle Juice

TFR -Wes

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eastern Divide 50K Race Report

Eastern Divide 50k Race Report

Pembroke, VA June 22 - 7:30am

(Got to Baltimore super early for a meeting and finally finished this while sitting in a parking garage for two hours.  With this race done, I have my first 50 miler in Tennessee this Dec.  Promise that race report will come soon after)

First Ultra Marathon - First Trail Race - First Mountain Race

As you can see, a lot of first's here.  The anxiety levels were very high for the better part of 4 days for this one.  Not really nervous, but more fearful of what to expect.  This wasn't really a race for me, as I wasn't looking for a win or even a top "x" finish.  My expectations were to finish strong and to try to pace it right to get under 10min miles for overall time.  Before you read on, I'll preface this with stating that I grossly under-estimated the amount of elevation gain and how that would relate to my expectations on pace and feeling strong.   

The start of the race took place at the Cascade Falls in the Jefferson National Forest, just 15 mins west of Blacksburg, VA.  Great place for the start of a race.  When you pull up you can hear the roar of the falls, but can't see them through the thick trees.  The race start was very 'old school'.  138 racers lined up on the side of two picnic tables, where the race director stood on top and counted down…"5,4,3,2,1…get after it".  No gun, no start line, no corals, no crowds lining the route, just a trail straight ahead, and a creek in the first 100 yards to get your feet wet right from the start.  

Jaclyn had come with me, dropping me off at the start, as this was a point to point race.  She took some pictures and video and then drove about 20 miles to the finish area and the first and only aid station where she could see me throughout the day (22miles into the race- Aid Station 5).

The first 4 miles of the race were straight up the side of Butt Mountain.  3,068ft of climbing in the first 4 miles, with very little spots to run with any consistency.   About half way up I realized this was going to be a long day, with a lot of power hiking involved.  Hands on knees, hiking with some kind of speed I finally made it to the top.  The first aid station was this old fold-out table that I thought was going to break with just the slightest breeze.  The race director, Kirby, had run with us to the top of the mountain and met up with the truck that was there.  The trail turned left onto a fire-road that ran along the top of the ridge.  It felt like at least two miles we ran on the ridge before dropping down the other side.  

I knew that climbing wasn't going to be my strength, however I knew I had the quad muscles to descend hard.  So I just let loose and fell down the mountain.  I passed probably 15 people on this stretch of trail.  It was good to be out front too.  There were massive pools of water along the road and if you got stuck behind a bunch of people it would have taken forever to navigate through there.  Just as you could feel you were coming to the end of the downhill section the second aid station popped up.  CHEEZITs!!!! My absolute favorite food, full of salt too. Stocked up on some water and busted out the music.  

I jammed for about 8 more miles before the next big climb, passing 5 more people.  As soon as I hit the climb though, the legs started feeling very heavy.  I got into a good rhythm of running and hiking.  I would look up to a certain tree and decide I would run to another fixed point on the climb, then walk and repeat.  The climb seemed to never end.  As soon as we crested the mountain though, I passed two others and again fell down the other side.  I felt pretty good here, but was starting to get tired of music, tired of water, tired of running, and realized quick that I had many more miles.  This is where really good long run training becomes important.  Its not just for the legs, but for the mind.  Keeping focus this long is tiring as hell. 

As I hit a flat section I started to think of seeing Jaclyn at the next aid station.  I was hurting at this point (mentally) and knew that would bring me some good vibes.  But BAM!!!  another incline.  This time it wasn't as steep, but the first two climbs just took it out of me.  Normally I would have run this section, no problem, but I was spent.  Back to my run/hike method adopted from the last climb.  At this point in the race I was on track to break 10 min/mile.  I started slow and gradually cut the 13:30 avg down to 10:15s and was negative splitting the whole race thus far.  I met Jaclyn on the side of the trail just before the aid station.  She was sitting with a new friend, another girl waiting for her man to come by (truth was, he passed through several minutes before me).  Jaclyn was all smiles and I was happy to see her, but I'm almost positive I wasn't smiling when I stopped next to her.  She handed me some more GUs and I gave her my iPod.  I think she was surprised I didn't want music, but I had had enough.  Jaclyn asked how everything was going and I remember telling her that I didn't realize how much climbing was involved.  Probably not the best first ultra to choose, especially considering I didn't have a lot of mountains to train on in Richmond, VA.  

I ran out of this aid station ready to get this thing over with.  I was having fun, but I just wanted to be done with the hiking.  I wanted to run.  I knew it was only 8 miles to the finish and that I could easily finish 8 miles.  DNFing never came into the back of my mind, as I was set on finishing, even if I had to crawl to the finish.  For the next 3 miles it was a gradual downhill, so I ran and ran hard.  I kept thinking though, that if we are going down so much, then we are going to have to go back up at some point.  This was going to hurt.  The first climb wasn't too bad.  Some hiking here, with periods of running.  For 2 miles I would run about 1/4 mile and hike a 1/4 mile.  Then I could feel the incline really increase.  I could see the top of the tree line, and knew I had a ways to go.  I was hiking for several minutes in a row and felt the pace slipping away from me.  I just couldn't run.  I was tightening up and thought that if I just kept moving forward I would eventually finish the race.  Then….BAM!!  Another steep climb.  This time it was so steep that I thought I was going to have to put my hands down on the ground and crawl up, literally.  I was cursing mad.  This climb wasn't long but I had to stop several times with my hands on my knees it was so steep.  When you got to the top you could see the aid station in the distance.  It had to be a full mile away though.  It was this long field that you had to run through.  No trail. 

This was the second to last aid station.  I was so happy to get here.  I walked for a while and drank some water and coke.  I saw a few people stop and lay down, so I decided that I needed to keep moving.  I saw on the race profile that there was one more decline here and then an up hill finish.  3 more miles, just 3 more long ass miles.  I passed a few more people here and felt good about that.  However along the way down I could feel my legs really starting to tighten up.  I was cramping bad.  My thighs were locking up and my calves were on fire.  As I started the last up hill everything was locking up.  I was cursing to just get through this.  I could hear this horn in the background, so I had to be close to the finish.  The last aid station was just 1 mile from the finish.  I could see the clearing the whole time.  The trail turned extremely technical.  You couldn't run this section even if you were fresh.  I was jumping, hoping, and ducking through trees to get to the finish.   Once you made it through this gauntlet of rocks and trees you were directed back on to another fire road leading up to the clearing and finish line.  

So happy to finish and pleased with my effort.  I could honestly say, that I couldn't have finished that course any faster.  I gave 100%, and was pleased with just that.  I kept think "forward progress, just keep moving forward".  My time was 5hrs 27mins for 30.2 miles.  7,893ft of elevation gain.  Avg heart rate = heart attack. (Didn't bother wearing a monitor)

TFR - Wes

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Different Mind Set

4/1/13, Richmond VA

Happy Easter Everyone!  I've never been one to celebrate Easter, but I certainly can recognize it and appreciate what it stands for.  I am a Christian and do pray often, but I have much more of a philosophical approach to how I recognize these types of special days.  I tend to lean more towards having a day of thought around what meanings and inspirations I can take away from the recognized day.  This year was no different for me.  

Jaclyn decided to retreat to Mississippi this weekend, having a few days off from work to see her Mother.  I was left to guard the house, and survived with the instincts I acquired through years of living alone, with beer and frozen pizza.  Great time to reflect on life, future life, and in particular what Easter represents to me.  Of course the best way for me to think is during long extended periods of physical stress.  It slows my mind down, just enough to hone in on clear thoughts.  My best ideas, decisions, and action items come from these event-like athletic circumstances.  Being that I had all day Saturday to myself, I figured why not stage one of these occasions.  

I had a plan to run, hike, or traverse 17 miles of Richmond's local area "Fan" and lower hilly trails of the James River.  In planning the course, I took into account how I knew I would feel throughout the run.  I planned to completely trash my legs.  I end up completely trashing my whole body and breaking my psyche down to the root.  My fingers hurt after this run, yet I was smiling and in some kind of Zen state throughout and after.  Emotionally I was exhausted.  I went from feeling ok, to feeling happy, to sad, to mad, to happy, irritated, and back to feeling ok though this process.  I had every emotion.  It wasn't just a great run, it was a bad run, a reviving run, a painful run, and a rejuvenating experience.

Like most endurance events, it takes some time to get in the grove of things, find that pace or comfortability.  I remember distinctly this taking place around mile 7 inside the Forest Hill park area on the south side of the James River bank.  I had done 4 miles through "the Fan" street sidewalks (which could be considered trail taking in account that nothing is even and it can be very technical footing).  Hitting mile 7 though, I got into the rhythm of the ups and downs of the hills and the short flat sections where the heart rate could recover a bit.  My thoughts became very clear here.  

Recently I read the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall (highly recommend). One of the major take aways that I got from the book was about HOW did our ancestors survive on running prey down.  HOW have we evolved to be this society, largely around the world, that relies on transportation provide by something other than our own means.  Being that it was Easter, you have to think of the environment that Jesus must have "run through" (pun intended).  Running almost solely on trails, I began to think of how the connected towns, villages, and cities must have been linked by trails or dirt paths.  These were the highways of the time.  When Jesus wanted to move from town to town, did he simply go for a trail run? What kind of distances were they covering then?  Were there aid stations?  Probably not.  

17 miles turned into 23 miles.  I felt good, not great.  Good enough to keep pushing the limits.  I found that grove and stay in it, until I was completely fantasizing about getting home.  Rarely does anyone push those limits.  I was tired after 10 miles, hurting after 15, exhausted at 20, and just plain trashed right at 23.  I've only been back to running for 4 months, so I was very pleased with the distance covered.  It wasn't so much the distance though that I was so thrilled with.  It was the experience and the different mind set that evolved throughout the process.  The survival instincts that took over through the last few miles were so intense that I felt completely alone with tunnel vision to get home.  

I plan on doing this run again next weekend.  Maybe not the full 23 miles, but certainly far enough to regain that feeling.  Recovery has been great since Saturday.  I ran six miles yesterday (Sunday) and the legs although tired, performed without any pain.  Being that I'm not God, or a God of any kind, I rest on Monday.  

I dare you:  Plan something of the like.  Thing of something you might be capable of, and add more to that.  I kept repeating to myself (as I am training to two ultra marathons this year - 50k & 50mi) 'Your long run isn't far enough if you didn't have to walk a good portion of it'.  

Thanks for Reading - Wes