Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 Western States 100 Race Report

19 hours before the start

As the field counted down with the clock for the start of the race, I felt all the things that you would expect to feel at the beginning of a journey into the unknown.  This would be the fourth time I was to run 100 miles, but only the first step in my self imposed BHAG.    I have thought much about how to tackle running a 100 mile race per month for the next five months, but the truth is, I don't know how to do it.

I think that is the almost magical part of taking on a challenge like this.  Diving into the unknown and being patient enough to see how it turns out.  It has been said many times that the fun is in the journey, not only in the outcome.

3....2.....1...GO! we all shouted and headed out the steep, winding access road at Squaw Valley.   My immediate focus was to make sure that I didn't do anything stupid like go out to fast, so I paid attention to my breathing and heart rate and kept repeating to myself to run my own race.

The first 3.5 miles to escarpment went by very fast.  Frankly I think that they had the aid station set up much before 3.5 miles as I reached it in only 35 minutes.  Considering my leisurely pace, I would guess that it came much sooner.  I grabbed a quick piece of payday bar and continued the climb to the top of the mountain.

Very shortly after the aid station we ran into the first snow field of the race. I immediately knew that I was going to be in trouble.  My shoes were dangerously slick.  I was wearing the Altra Instincts, a road shoe designed for pavement.  It has a very minimal tread.  

Since I run in snow all winter I thought my ability to tread lightly would get me through the snow easily, regardless of my shoe choice.   I had never run in the instincts in the snow and was shocked at how bad they were.  I had thought that we were going to be running in snow, but in the early hours of the morning we were running in hard packed ice.

I told myself to just relax and get through it and went to work.  When the running was level I was able to get through it o.k.  But shortly we were headed across long, exposed ski slopes and the off camber ice made it incredibly hard to run.  There were no footholds and every time that I slipped I had to do everything in my power to not slide 20 feet down the slope.  It was a scary, dangerous situation.

People were dealing with it in different ways, but it was obvious that shoe choice was extremely important in this area.  I tried to laugh it off and stay "light" emotionally, but by the third or fourth time that I slipped and slammed my right side into the ice I became frustrated.  My shoulder dislocates easily from an old snowboarding injury and twice I felt it go out and back in.  Here I was, only 7 or 8 miles into the race and I was using an extraordinary amount of energy just trying to keep moving forward.  I wondered how this was going to affect the rest of my day.

My feet were now soaked as the ice fields had finally leveled out and turned into legitimate snow fields..  That snow was ankle deep and just like running through mashed potatoes.  The snow got underneath my gators and into my shoes.  I had expected my feet to be wet, so it was not a big deal.  Towards the end of the snowfields we encountered a stream crossing that was incredibly cold.  As I held on to the rope to get across my feet, ankle and shins felt like they were being attacked by bees as they went numb from the cold.

We finally got into some nice running as we approached the Poppy Aid Station at mile 20.  The sun was now starting to warm us up nicely and my spirits were high as I knew I had dry socks waiting in my drop bag.  When I came into the aid station I was greeted by the most organized and friendliest workers I have ever encountered.  They had a person waiting a couple hundred feet before the station who got your number, asked if you had a drop bag there, and then radioed ahead to have it ready.  I was greeted by my own special worker who stayed with me during the entire stop and got me anything I needed.  This process was repeated at every single aid station throughout the race.  It was incredible and one of the things that makes this race so very special.

I headed out of the stop with much higher spirits (and dryer feet) and began to settle into a nice running pace.  I really wasn't worried about my pace.  I had decided that my goal for today was only to finish.  I would work on taking care of myself better than I usually do and if my body would carry me to a sub 24 hour finish it would simply be the icing on top of the cake.  It was refreshing to take my time and not worry.

Although I talked briefly to a few folks, I really stayed to myself.  The time was ticking away and about 6 hours into the race I hit Mosquito Ridge, the 31 mile point.  I thought that a 6 hour 50k time wasn't so bad and I remembered that I had my voice recorder with me.  I had made a last minute decision to take it with me instead of my camera as I thought it might be interesting to document what I was going through during the race.

As I headed up a hill littered with burnt trees I recorded that it was getting hot and it was starting to affect my stomach a bit.  I was trying to keep my chin up as I knew this was only the beginning of what could be a very tough day.

By the time I got to the "Dusty Corners" aid station at mile 38 things were getting worse.  I was now 7.5 hours into the race.  I changed my socks again and headed towards one of the toughest parts of the race, the canyons.  As I started up a climb I dug out my voice recorder again.   When I started to talk about how bad I felt and how neasous I was something happened that I was't prepared for.  I said "I am at mile 38 and I really didn't expect to feel this bad...." and then I started to cry.  I completely choked up and the tears started streaming down my face.  With 62 miles still to go I was completely stripped raw.

mmmm, Gu Chomps

I forced myself to eat some Gu Chomps even though I was convinced that I would throw them up.  I was so sick to my stomach, but realized that I had not eaten enough and that was most likely the cause.  After pulling into Last Chance at mile 43.8 I was starting to feel better.  Still neasous, but not so bad I couldn't manage it.  I kept thinking about how tough the Canyons were going to be so I was worried.

After leaving Last Chance I started the long, steep 3 mile quad pounding descent into the canyon before the infamous devils thumb.  I ended up running with a group of 4 or 5 guys and was following a runner who had done the race before and was moving well.  We chatted and he gave commentary about what we were going into and what we were about to experience.   I realized that I felt much better and we had dropped the other runners.  We were moving very well.  I asked him at what point would we be in the worst heat of the day and to my surprise he said that we already were.  I was happy to hear it because it didn't seem very bad at all to me.

Devils Thumb

The climb up devils thumb is well known to wreck runners.  It is very steep and  has more that 30 switchbacks as you hike you way to the top.  The combination of heat, effort and fatigue turn many into puking zombies.  My friend John who had never thrown up in any of his many 100 mile races threw up here and bet me $20 that I would too.

Honestly I didn't find the climb to be that bad.  Luckily it was only about 90 degrees, which is cool for this race.  I had built this up to be so bad in my mind beforehand.  The reality turned out to be just another steep climb.  I made it to the top with high spirits and headed towards the next canyon.

This next section is a bit of blur to me as I sit here trying to remember.  I do remember that the decent to El Dorado Creek was longer.  The climb up to Michigan Bluff at mile 55.7 was similar to Devils Thumb, but twice as long and not quite as steep.  I remember moving pretty well through here and excited to be done with the toughest part of the race.  I also knew that for the first time in the race I would be seeing my friend Jeff Waldron who had flown in from NH to crew me.

Jeff and I the day before the race

Jeff is an amazing kid.  He loves running and is so enthusiastic about it.  He knows who every runner is, what their stats are, etc.  He keeps me smiling and is just brings so much positive energy with him.  You will almost never find him without a smile on his face.  When he found out I was doing the race he told me that he wanted to come to help me in any way that he could.

As I came into the Michigan Bluff aid station there he was, with that big smile on his face.  He helped me with a sock and shoe change and told me how great I was doing.  He got me some food and brought over the resident pediatrist to help me with some developing blisters.  The doctor told me that considering that I had run all day with wet feet they looked great.  He told me that the blisters I was starting to get in the folds of my feet were tough to prevent and I just had to deal with them.  So I decided that is just what I had to do and I headed out in high spirits again.

Michigan Bluff (photo Ian Sharman)

Later, looking at my splits, I was surprised to see that I spent 20 minutes at that aid station.  I was enjoying not being in a rush, but this was also about the time that I realized that my leisurely pace was getting me further and further behind the posted 24 hour pace.  Knowing that the toughest part of the race was over and that I was headed to some of the faster trails I made the decision to try to get a silver buckle.

By the time I got to the Foresthill aid station, mile 62, I was feeling great.  Once again I saw Jeff.  The 7 miles between the last stop and here had been enough time to start developing a bad blister on my left pinky toe.  I decided to take the time to try to a dress it so it wouldn't be terrible later.  Dr. George, the aid station blister specialist helped me tape it and the extra time spent here paid off.  Jeff gave me a Boost to drink and also suggested that I take another Vespa Amino Acid supplement.  It was good advice!

I left the station feeling great. I was running well and amazed that my legs didn't hurt at all.  The trails at this point are beautiful gradual downhill through the woods along the ridge and I really enjoyed them.  It was easy to keep running and I felt like I was putting excellent time back in the bank. I gained back a bunch of time on the 24 hour pace during this section and really started focusing on getting that silver buckle.

 I had picked up my headlight at the school and was ready to head into the night time of the race without a pacer for the first time in a 100 miler.  I had decided after Leadville that using a pacer just gave me somebody to bitch and complain to when I felt bad in the middle of the night.  I decided that being alone would allow me to just focus on myself.  Jeff told me that he would be ready to pace me at each of the following crew aid stations if I changed my mind.  I think that he was a bit disappointed, but he never really showed me.

 I made it to the 70 mile aid station before having to turn on my head light.  At this point I only had 8 miles to go to get to the famous "Rucky Chucky" river crossing.  The stretch of trail between this area was fast and I felt great.   The combination of eating more at the aid stations and the cooler temperatures were making it much easier to run.  My energy was up and I was pecking away at the 24 hour pace.  I honestly don't remember much about this section except for just focusing on running as often as I could.  This is where all my training started to pay off.  I might not be that fast, but I have built up a lot of endurance.  I started passing a lot of people who were beginning to suffer.  I know it sounds terrible but I always get a boost of energy later in these races when I see others slow down and I am not.  It gives me confidence that I have the strength to make up time.

River Crossing, awesome volunteers!

The river crossing was fun and once again the volunteers were amazing.  On the other side was a crew aid station (mile 78) and there was Jeff waiting to help me again.  I sat down in a chair and told Jeff that I didn't want to bother changing my socks again.  The blisters where there and I was just going to power on until the end and get moving.  He got me some chicken broth, which I had been drinking at every aid station.  I found that if I first drank broth my stomach would be much more receptive towards eating.  It was a helpful trick and I relied on it a lot throughout the later parts of the race.

In order to meet me at the far side of the river crossing Jeff had to hike down almost 3 miles with my gear.  As I left the aid station he packed up my stuff and caught up with me on the 2 mile uphill hike to Green Gate.  I enjoyed this time with him a lot.  I was in good spirits, making progress on the 24 hour time and it was a beautiful star lit night.  It felt incredibly peaceful and calm.  When I reached the part of the road where the trail picked back up I asked Jeff for my ipod.  I said farewell and thanked him again for spending all day and night taking care of me.  The next time I would see him would be at mile 93, the Highway 49 crossing.

I really put my head down for these next 13 miles.  I kept doing the math over and over in my head trying to get that buckle.  It is amazing how something as simple as a silver belt buckle kept me focused and motivated.  I guess at this point it really is about keeping your mind in control over your body.  Having something to focus on is a big help.

I saw Jeff quickly at the Highway 49 crossing.  He gave me what I needed and sent me on my way.  I remember telling him that I would see him at the finish line.  Again I did the math.  It was 2:49am. At this point I had 2 hours and 11 minutes to get through the next 7 miles.  It might not sound hard but when you have already run 93 miles and have been on your feet for 21.5 hours you never know what sort of pace you are going to be able to do.

At this point all I could focus on was getting to the next aid station, No Hands bridge at mile 96.8.   I could feel blisters on the bottoms of my feet and left heel.  Every time I would step on a rock it would send shooting stabs of pain through my feet, but I just gritted my teeth through it and decided that it was time to be tough.  This has happened to me on every one of my previous 100 milers, but this time I had nobody to complain to.  I just listened to my music, focused on the trail in front of me and tried to run as much as possible.

No Hands Bridge

I reached "No-Hands Bridge"and still didn't know if I was going to make it.  For some reason I thought I remembered it being all uphill from the bridge, with the last 1/2 mile being really steep.  I was thinking that I would have to hike 3 miles and that could take an hour this late in the game.

It turns out that it is quite runable until the very last part, where you are cruelly sent up an extraordinarily step paved road before you wind through the town towards the Placerville High track where the race finishes.  As I finished the last climb I passed three runners with their pacers.  I was absolutely flying, filled with adrenaline knowing that I was going to get that coveted silver buckle.    As I made the turn onto the track I was in an outright sprint.  There was really no reason to do it, I was just so excited.  As I turned the last corner towards the finish line another runner and his family were going through.  I slowed down as a little boy  was holding his moms hand running towards what I presume to be his dad.  He tripped, so I stopped and let him get up and run through the finish line before I took my turn.

I broke the line at 23 hours and 27 minutes and was greeted by Tim Tweitmeyer (25 time WS100 sub 24 finisher) who placed a finishers medal on my neck.  I was quickly whisked into a chair where a volunteer took my blood pressure and pulse to make sure I was ok.  I was handed a bottle of water by another.  I then went into the medical tent where I gave blood and a urine sample for the medical team.  I will share with everybody the kind of havoc that running 100 miles does to your body's chemical balance when I get the results.

The Silver Sub-24 Hour Finisher Buckle!!

This race was an amazing experience.  I can't believe that I am going to do it again in only 3 short weeks at the Vermont 100.  One down, 4 to go.  Thank you to everybody who wrote me emails or posted notes on my Facebook wall.  Your support and encouragement really keep me going.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Follow my progress at Western States

For those of you that want to see how I'm doing in the Western States 100, you can track me Here at the live broadcast!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Here we go! 24 Hours until the start of the 2011 Western States 100

Siting here on the plane heading out to California I am overcome with emotion.  It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at work watching the webcast for the lottery to get in to the Western States 100.  This is the race that I first read about in Dean Karnazes's book, Ultramarathon Man several years ago.  In that book he describes what a superhuman effort it took to complete this grueling run.  I had just started to run Ultras and I could not even comprehend running 50 miles, let alone 100.

Almost as soon as I had logged into the webcast I thought that I heard my name called, but the on screen update took a while to catch up.  Once I finally saw my name on that list I was psyched.  They call Western States, "The Big Dance" and it draws one of the deepest fields of any Ultra in the world.

Getting into WS also opens another opportunity for the truly aspiring runner, the option to compete in the "Grand Slam".  The Grand Slam consists of running WS in June, VT100 3 weeks later, the Leadville 100 5 weeks later and finally the Wasatch 100 in September.  With an average of only 4 weeks between these classic races, the runner that takes on the challenge has to be extremely dedicated.  If at any point you do not finish one of the races your slam is over.

Typically about 30 people take on this challenge and only 25 to 50 percent actually complete it.  Finishing the Grand Slam puts you in the certified Bad Ass category among a group of Bad Asses.

About a month after getting in to WS I was talking to Amy about my long delayed book and interest in public speaking.  The thought of entering the slam had entered my mind as a way to illustrate the methods and ideas that I want to write and speak about.  As we talked I remember actually feeling adrenaline course through my body in fear of the enormity of this type of challenge.  I will never forget her looking at me.  I could see her contemplating the reality of the amount of support and sacrifice she would need to make in order for me to do this.  With very little hesitation she told me not only to do it, but that I HAD to.  

At that moment the "Potentially Painful Summer" was sparked.  Readers of my blog already know the story of how I waited too long to get into the Wasatch lottery and decided to substitute the "Bear 100" instead.  To add more difficulty I have also decided to attempt the 124 mile Run Across New Hampshire 4 weeks after the Bear.  After attempting and failing to complete this run twice it will be a sweet ending to this effort.

My hope is that my constant blog updates since I made that decision will give others a glance into the process of setting and going after goals that you are not sure that you can complete.  I have told many of my friends that this is what I feel I am supposed to be doing.  I have a gut instinct that I am here on this earth to do more than just sell motorcycles.  

A simple thought sparked an idea.  The idea turned into a belief.  The belief turned to a burning desire.  The desire inspired passionate work.  The work created the ability.  Now it is time for the vision to create the reality. 

No matter how it turns out, I have been overwhelmed at how much loving support I have received from my family, friends and even strangers.  Thank you so much!

Here we go!!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

X-Talons and Talons

After the last update from the Western States Race committee I began to freak out a bit.  Everybody who is running the race is holding our breath waiting to see what we are going to be running for the first 30 or so miles of the course.  The Squaw Valley area has received the biggest snowfall in their history and the runners don't know if we will be running a modified course.  If so, then what does it consist of?  In the update we were told that there are several options that are being explored, but we most likely wont know until the day before the race.  We were told to expect to run the first 30 miles in snow.

Now snow doesn't really worry me.  I run all winter long in snow and on the packed snowmobile trails.  The part that does worry me is that I have never run in snow with my Altra shoes.  I have no idea how they will perform.  Considering the road based tread, I'm guessing that they won't be so great.  It is also against the rules to use any traction devices such as my beloved YakTrax.

Keeping this in mind, I decided to do some last minute exploring of shoe options.  Truthfully, this is really a stupid thing for me to do.  Its not good to start second guessing my game plan this late.  The one other shoe in my staple that is very similar to my Altra Instincts is my Inov-8 flite 230's.  Knowing that they make a more aggressive version I decided to see if my local Inov-8 dealer had a pair in stock.  The shoe is called the X-Talon 190.

As luck would have it, they had a pair in my size, and they were on sale too. Good sign, I thought. 

In the afternoon I decided to take them out for a little 5 miler in the woods near my house.  It was a nice run and the shoes felt great.  I was really focusing on how they felt and what type of traction they had when all of a sudden I heard a hawk screeching at me from the trees.  It was making quite a racket and I just kept moving.  All of a sudden it swooped down and dive bombed me, coming about 5 feet from me directly overhead.  Obviously I had gotten to close to its nest and this time of year it would have babies.

At this point I was simply a little freaked out and thought that was the worst of it.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  It repeated its little dance about 3 more times as I ran faster and faster through the trail.  The trail is a tight twisty trail through densely populated forest.  I was only about 1/2 a mile from the end before it dumped out onto the main road.  My nice little run had turned into a track meet with me doing the 50 yard dash to get away from this rat with wings.

I had just realized that the screeching had stopped when all of a sudden it felt like somebody slapped my in the back of my head and I felt claws dig into my scalp.  The thing actually grabbed my head as it smacked me.  NOW I was freaked out.  I started yelling at it and reached down and grabbed a big stick.  I really didn't know what to do.  With one hand holding the stick up, the other feeling my scalp to see if I was actually hurt I ran like an Olympian to the end of the trail.  I was now prepared to play "hawkball" if I had to, but luckily it retreated once I was out of the woods.

Still shocked at what happened I could feel that my head was actually bleeding.  I was trying to figure out if it was just scratches or if the thing actually cut me badly.  Just a couple hundred feet up the road a nice young couple was pushing their baby in a stroller and I stopped to ask them if they could help.  Both of them kind of looked at me with concern as I told them of what just happened.  They told me that I had blood dripping down my face.  They also looked at my scalp and told me that it was cut, but didn't look like gashes.  The lady offered to drive me home, but I knew that I was only a mile from the house.  I thanked them and told them it wasn't necessary.

It turns out that there were just three scratches on my head and they weren't deep.  The next day as a precaution I went to the doctors to make sure.  They gave me a tetanus shot and sent me on my way. 

I think I'll leave these shoes at home...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

T-Minus two weeks and counting

Only 13 days left until Western States

Like every other person who is running the Western States, I'm counting down the days.  I ended up this week at 63 miles and I am ready for the taper.  Over the last 8 weeks I have run the highest mileage weeks I have ever done in training and I put in 424 miles in May.  That's the most I've ever run in a month.  My yearly total as of today is up to 1844, which just three years ago would have been close to my total for the entire year.

The big question for me heading into my first 100 of the year is, "has my training been specific enough?".  Just putting in the miles doesn't mean that I am going to be prepared as much as I need to be.  The other thing I'm struggling with is getting my head fixed on a certain goal.  Normally I train intensely so I can do good at one 100 mile race per year.  When that race comes, I go as hard as I can.  With my Potentially Painful Summer looming I need to decide if I am just going to see if I can survive or if I should race hard.  On one hand it would be very refreshing to just go along for the adventure with the only goal of finishing all the races.  The reality is that doesn't exactly fit my personality.  I better figure it out soon because it is very important to know what your intentions are when you start one of these things. 

Sub 24 Hour Silver Buckle

Here is what I think at this point.  My first goal is just to finish.  No matter what happens to me I need to finish this so I can start this big goal.  The other goal is to get a sub-24 buckle.  I have never finished a 100 in more that 24 hours.  Hopefully this won't be the first.

To see my training blog for the week, go HERE.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taking it all in Stride

In the past several months I have talked briefly here about how I have worked hard on changing my stride.  At the risk of jumping on the "minimalist" bandwagon I'd like to explain why I made this change.  After my first attempt to run across the state of NH in 2008 I ended up with a stress fracture.  On that day the pain started with a tightness in my shin that felt like the classic shin splint.  The thing that didn't make sense to me at the time was that the pain started about 60 miles into the run.  By the time I got to mile 65 the pain was almost unbearable.  I made it another 5 miles and called it quits.

I spent the next several months running a reduced mileage mostly on the treadmill.  It seemed that the softness of the TM didn't aggravate it and by the start of the 2009 season I was ready to go.  Several times throughout the season I would have shin/ankle pain, but with icing and a reduction in mileage I was able to keep it at bay.  At the end of the year I tried again to run across the state.  Again, by the time I got to 65 miles the pain was back, although not as severe.  I ended my attempt to run across NH in the exact place I did the previous year.  Although my ankle was in pain, I was able to nurse myself back to health using the same techniques.  It was at this time that I was formally diagnosed with "Anterior Tibialis Tendinitis"

At the beginning of the year I decided to figure out why this was happening.  I went to see a podiatrist who specializes in helping runners.  After gait analysis they came to the same diagnosis that so many of us have heard.  I was an over pronator and needed orthotics.  To make a long story short, I spent a LOT of money to get hard plastic wedges that hurt and didn't help my problem one bit.

About this time I had been experimenting with less of a shoe, rather than an overbuilt stability shoe.  It seemed to help.  My shin/ankle hurt less and I really enjoyed the feeling of my foot not being cradled so tightly.   Everything was fine until the week I was out at Leadville in the days before the race.  I noticed that after I ran down Hope pass in training that the ankle pain was creeping back. 

It didn't affect my race, and later in the year I decided to try to run a fast(er) marathon to qualify for Boston.  Coach Jack changed my training to do much more speed work and the more I did the more my ankle/shin flared up.  Most of my road running was being done in Nike Free's.  After running the marathon in October and setting a PR on a hilly course my ankle was really talking to me.  One of my employees who is a professional triathlete mentioned that my tendinitis was most likely caused by heel striking and I should try shoes with a smaller heel differential.  Although the Nike frees are very flexible and light, they have a HUGE difference in the height of the heel vs. the forefoot.

Here is a video of my running downhill at that marathon at about mile 20.

Courtesy of Pete Larson of Runblogger
I have spent the last 6 months working on eliminating my heel strike. I am only using shoes that have a 4mm or less differential and most of my time is being spent in my Altra Instincts which have zero difference.  This change has enabled me to increase my efficiency and all but eliminate my Anterior Tibialus Tendinitis.  Here is what my stride looks like now.  This video was shot last week.

Courtesy of Pete Larson of Runblogger

Barefoot, Minimalist, Zero Drop....whatever you call the current fad, my personal experience is that it is enabling me to continue with my love of running and decreasing my injuries.  That's called a win win in my book.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Peak" Condition

Pats Peaks - Henniker NH
Well, another weeks training is in the books.  Even though I ended up at 82 miles, it felt like I was beginning my taper.  Western States is only 3 weeks away and the big talk is how much snow there is.  At this point it's pretty much a given that we will be running a modified course, probably the same as last year.  The record amounts of snow might cause for an even more radical re-route, but regardless I'm excited to do my first 100 of the year.

Beginning of the 5.25 mile loop.  They do a 6, 12 and 24 hour MT. Bike race here every year.
After seeing some of the Western States course last week, I decided that I would get in as much hill training as I can this week and made it out to Pats Peak twice to run the 5.25 mile mountain bike loop.  Only 25 minutes from my house, the course offers some hard climbs, long descents and some beautiful technical single track.  Wednesday was my first time running there this year and I did two loops of the course in 1 hour 39 minutes.  My second loop was almost 2 minutes faster than my first, which is good news for me since my pattern there over the past few years is to see a 2 or 3 minute slowdown between loops.

Fun, muddy, rocky single track
For my 21 mile long run today I returned to see how I would feel after completing 4 loops.  They ended up at 52:50, 52:18, 53:11 and 54:19.  After the second loop I was really tired, so I was happy to see that my pace didn't slow down that much.

View from the top
I officially start my taper next week and I can't wait.  While I'm tired, I think that I've put in the training needed to get me to the starting line healthy and ready. 

As a side note, retyping my regular training runs into this blog is a pain in the ass.  I'm going to assume that showing my weekly total in the right hand column will satisfy most peoples curiosity.  If anybody wants to see the detail of my training log, just go to this link and type in "bikernate" (without the quotes).  I use www.runningahead.com to log all my runs and my user log is public.  I recommend the site.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Final Day - Western States Training Camp

Western States Running Camp, final day 5/31
Getting off the bus to start day 3
As we got off the bus and started down the trail I wondered how my body was going to feel.  In the last two days I had run 50 miles. Today we would be running the last 22.5 miles of the race, from a little above Green Gate to the track at Placer Union High School.  Besides a little hip pain afterwards, I felt great.  Would today be the day that my legs protested?  At this point in the run I felt pretty good, but I was guessing that it wouldn't last.  I purposely let Aliza go ahead of me.  I didn't want to get caught up in running to fast, plus she was planning on spending the day with Meghan Arbogast, last years second place woman's finisher.

Aliza and Meghan
About a mile in I was cruising downhill at what I felt was a very comfortable pace when I went by the two of them.  Meghan asked what the rush was and I started to wonder what I was doing.  Still, it felt very comfortable to me so I just kept up the pace.  I little bit up the road I stopped for a potty break and the girls went by.

I figured that would be the last I would see of them for the day and I went about trying to pay attention to the course, which was beautiful.  I was expecting quad pounding downhills and instead what I got was super nice single track through a pretty forest mixed with the occasional water crossing.

Aliza and Meghan
It wasn't to much later that I caught up with the girls and one of Meghans training partners.  The pace felt good so I just quietly stayed on their heels. As we started to chat I discovered that his 50 mile PR was just a little over 7 hours.  I became a little intimidated and again I wondered if I was going out to fast for a 22 mile run.
The train that I latched onto
My new friend Adam from Colorado had tagged on with us as well and had said to me that he was just trying to hang on.  I looked at my Garmin at somewhere around 7 miles and saw that we were cruising at a 7:15 pace.  "Shit" I thought.  What the hell am I doing?  I decided to just try to hang on until 10 miles and then I would bail out if I wanted to slow down.

On the other hand I felt pretty good about being able to keep up with some elites and it was a great mental boost, even if they were just cruising at what was surely a pedestrian pace for them.  Lately in the Ultra-running crowd I really don't know where i fit in.  I have only raced once this year and I was a little disappointed with my 9th place finish.  I know that I am not a mid-pack finisher anymore, but I haven't made the mental jump into convincing myself that I can place with the front runners.

We seemed to always stop to take a food or pee break right when I needed to and I felt great on the climbs, which we ran rather than hiked for the most part.  I kept wondering when I was going to blow up.

In a little over 2 hours we came to the 14 mile aid station and took a nice couple minute break.  As we headed out up a dirt road climb, I heard dirt bikes.  There was a motocross track right down the road and I really enjoyed watching the bikes.

Meghan gave us a lot of commentary on the course, which was excellent and sure to help on race day.  In 4 or 5 more miles we came to "No Hands Bridge", the 97 mile point during the race.  The camp had set up another aid station and again we took a nice relaxed break where I ate a few more pieces of my new favorite training food, Payday bars.

Meghan, Aliza and Adam at No Hands bridge, mile 97 of the race
At this point we faced a 3 mile climb to the finish line and I was hopeful that our group would stay together until the end.  As we started up I knew that the pace was something that I was easily going to be able to handle.  Honestly, I felt great.  In the last mile or so we came to the paved road and the hill got steep!  We all ran every step of it and then through the town headed for the track where the race finishes.

It was a great mental boost to be able to run those last 22.5 miles in around 3 1/2 hours.  On race day it will be much slower, but knowing that for three days I banged out 30, 19, and 22.5 miles without being very tired or sore is encouraging.

The finish line track
Going out to the training camp was a great experience.  Besides being pretty homesick within a few days, the trip helped me get a much better idea of what I am going to be facing during the race.  It also helped me decide on some of my gear.  I brought two shorts, to see which would be better and picked a pair to wear on race day.

Altra Instincts (left) and Intuitions (right, womens version)
 I went out with three pairs of shoes.  My Hoka Bondi B's, my Saucony Peregrines and my Altra Instincts.  I also used Drymax Ultra socks all three days.  The Hoka's and Saucony's never even came out of my travel bag.  I used the Altras on all three days and they were absolutely perfect.  I made a slight modification to the heel (I removed a piece of external strapping) and they handled everything I could throw at them.  Running all these downhills was a test to see if my toes would be comfy.  The fit of the Altras makes it so your foot is held in place and the toe box is so nice and roomy that your toes never slip and jam into the front.  I'm so happy this new company is in the market.

There are only 4 more weeks before Western States and the beginning of my Potentially Painful Summer. I'm finally starting to feel like I might be ready for this and that my hard work is paying off. Of course that could change any minute, but for the time being I'll take it!

Can't wait to see this plaque on race day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day Two

Ws100 training camp day 2

Me and Aliza at the start of day 2

After sleeping for 9 hours I woke up feeling groggy, but better rested than I have been in quite a while.  Unfortunately it was only 42 degrees out at 6:30 in the morning.  After a leisurely coffee at Starbucks we headed over to the start.  I wasn't sure what to wear since the sun was coming out, but it was still so cold I didn't want to be freezing for the first part of the run.  I decided to keep my lightweight raincoat on over my short sleeve shirt.  Of course it wasn't 20 minutes into the run that I had to wrap it around my waist where it stayed for the rest of the day.

Fog burning off

On the schedule today was the 16 miles from the school to the Rucky Chucky river crossing, plus a 3 mile hill climb to the buses where we would be transported back to our car for a total of 19 miles.  The trails were mostly gradual downhill and in the shade, but there were a few steep uphills.

Just in case you thought WS was all downhills

It was an incredibly beautiful course.  A few miles into the day I ended up behind a girl who was running the same pace as me.  Her name was Hannah and we stayed together for most of the day.  I don't usually run with anybody that long.  I really work on running my own pace.  I'm not sure if I was just distracted, but the running felt easy.  I wasn't sore, which was a big surprise after running 30 miles yesterday. By the time we got to the 16 mile aid station I looked at my watch and was pleased to see that I was under a 10 minute per mile pace.

Me and Hannah

At the very start of the 3 mile climb I felt great.  I noticed that Hannah's breathing was a little labored and I realized that I was going at a pace that might have been a little to fast for her.  I felt so good I told her that I would see her at the end and then I set about seeing if I could run the entire climb.  I had no idea how steep it was going to be, but it turned out to be doable and I finished strong in 3:15.

There are lots of trails like this

I felt much better today than yesterday.  Today's run put me at 102 miles for the week, and it is really nice to end the week feeling good.  Tomorrow we go 22 miles.  I really hope that I continue to feel good because after this run I get to start to taper down my weekly mileage in preparation of the first 100.  As of today there are only 4 weeks until the Western States 100.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Auburn arrival and Day One of the camp

Friday, 5/29

Oh, that's where my bag went....
I met Aliza Lapierre at the Sacramento airport and we shared a rental car for the short drive to Auburn. Along the way we stopped at Whole Foods to stock up. I could live at that place, I wish that we had one at home.  After arriving at the Auburn Super 8 we decided to take a little run of 5 or 6 miles.  We looked on Google and saw that only a little bit down the road had the potential of getting us on some of the trails.  As we headed towards the trails we ran over the highest bridge in California.  I was amused at the signs saying that no horses were allowed. 

As we got about 1/4 of the way over the bridge Aliza started to freak out at how high we were and took off like a rocket towards the other side.  Unfortunately the bridge is almost a half a mile long and it took her a couple of minutes to get to the other side.  When I reached the other side we decided to head down the steep switchbacks to get down towards the water and check out underneath the bridge.

We were amazed at how massive the bridge was.  It made me dizzy to look up towards the top of the columns.  Neither one of us had brought cameras, so we went back a few days later and took the pictures I'm posting now.  While we were there we saw a big snake, which we later identified as a King Snake which is non-poisonous.  We were pretty careful at the time though because we had been warned about many dangerous snakes, including rattlesnakes.

King Snake (I think...)
As we were heading back up the hill a rock came flying down from above and landed only a few feet from Aliza.  We were freaked out to say the least as it would have severely hurt us if it we had been hit.  Later we saw a few kids smoking underneath the bridge and I'm guessing that they were throwing rocks.  Sometimes people don't think.....

Training Camp, Day One

Saturday 5/28
This morning about 150 people met at the Forest Hill Elementary School in Auburn California to attend the first of three days of training on the Western States 100 course. 

Foresthill School, Mile 60 during the race
We took a bus from the school for a half an hour drive to the start of the days run.  On the schedule was 30 miles.  Unfortunately we were unable to run the canyons due to the excessive amount of snow.  The first four miles of today's run was not part of the course.  We ran from the top of Drivers Flat road to Forest Hill in reverse and then on to Michigan Bluff where we turned around and ran back to the school.

I was under strict instructions from Satan, I mean Coach Jack, to not run fast or hard today.  He told me that he wanted to make sure that I was tired before this weekend so I could go slow and concentrate on learning everything about the course possible.  No problem there, I'm pretty tired.  There were lots of ups and downs today.  Many of the downhills were long, but not that steep.  Only a few of the climbs were steep, but I power hiked most of them in an effort to take it easy.  It actually felt great to take it easy and hike as I have not done any yet this year.

Beautiful Trails
At the 10.5 mile aid station I left with Tim Twietmeyer. I don't usually get star struck, but Tim is a legend at Western States. He has won the race 5 times and has completed it in under 24 hours 25 times! He was great company and I learned a bunch about the course in the hour or so I ran with him.

5 Time WS100 winner, Tim Twietmeyer
The 18 mile aid station was back in the parking lot were we started and I thought for a minute about calling it a day.  Luckily that was just a fleeting thought and I went back out to finish the next 12 miles. 
After running up a road for a while I headed down Bath Road.  During the race we run up it in the opposite direction, and it is steep.  I was alone and stopped a couple times to see if I was still going the right way, as there were no markings.  After finding the trail I went down a long hill and nice trail to the turn around at Michigan Bluff.  Along the way was a cool stream crossing that required a rope to help you through the rushing water.  I met up with Adam, whom I ran some of the Leadville race and training camp and we had a great time catching up and talking about training, jobs, etc.

Fun stream crossing
It went really well today.  I took it easy and didn't beat up my body to badly.  Tomorrow we have 19 miles on the schedule.  That will give me another 100 mile week of training.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of the course, and I'm also looking forward to getting this week over so I can begin my taper and rest up for the race.