Sunday, March 18, 2012

3 Days of Syllamo

This was my first year running the 3 days of Syllamo.  I had been wanting to run it for a couple years and this was the year it worked out.  The race is a 3 day stage race with a 50K on Friday, a 50 miler on Saturday and what they called a 22K on Sunday which was actually 14 miles.  We headed down to Blanchard Springs near Mt. View, Arkansas on Thursday with our friends Dave and Jessica Wakefield. We hit the park where the race would start everyday and picked up my packet, then headed to the cabin we had rented for the weekend.  Dave has been dealing with an injury for quite a while now, so he would be crewing for me and supporting me thru the races.  It was nice to have my running buddy there for advice and support thru the race.  The best thing was all 3 races were on different trails and we would get to see a lot of the Ozark National Forrest.  I must say this was a great race and Steve Kirk (RD) puts on a great race with wonderful volunteers.

Day 1 50K
The first day started out great, nice running weather and clear skies.  I wasn't really sure how hard to go out on the first day, but Dave had told me to stay up front and hang on the best I could.  There were 75 runners in the stage on race morning and we were all ready to get going.  The race started and 5 or 6 of us hung together for the first 4-5 miles.  We chatted a little as we ran, feeling everything out and getting ready for someone to make a move.  Soon Nick Lewis took to the lead and a few of us followed behind. I felt really good, but also knew there was a 50 miler tomorrow.  I ran with Adam Dearing and Aaron Norman for a bit during the early miles before heading out and chasing Nick on my own.  There were some great views on this course along the ridges overlooking the White River.  Running single track trails thru the Forrest is really my thing, and it's what I enjoy the most. The miles came and went and I came into the aid stations grabbed some food, and new water bottles and back to the trails.  I seen Dave and my wife twice during the 50K.  I ran in second most of the day and really ran pretty well, maybe a little faster than I would have liked.  But, only time would tell if I went out to hard on day on.  I finished day one with a 4:36 50K with 7000ft gain in 2nd place stage.  I would of took a 4:36 50K here any day.

Day 2 50 miles This is where the fun starts.

After a hard 50K the day before, now you half to get up and run a hard 50 miler. I wasn't sure how this would all play out, I was a little sore and stiff the morning of the 50. The weather was great again today and we started at 6am. This course would be a 25 mile out and back on a different trail system. At 6am we were off on day 2 and 50 miles of single track trail. The pace started slow as we climbed out of the park right off the start. Once on top of the ridge the same pack as the day before held together for the first couple miles. After we hit the first aid station at mile 4 or so the pack thinned out and Nick Lewis again took the lead. I settled in behind Nick and was feeling good after loosening up in the first 5 miles. This was a beautiful section of the course running along the bluff with rock formation over head and the river down below. It was stunning, and the views were gorgeous, it would of been nice to stop and enjoy the scenery but we were in a race. My legs felt great considering and running was feeling really good. Mostly I just kept my head down and ran hard. I seen Jarret and Dave at a couple aid station and they had my new bottles and some food waiting for me. As I was approaching the turn around at mile 21 or 22 I ran right by a flag on the jeep road we were running on. I went a mile or so before running into another runner (who was running the 50 but not in the stage race) he thought we were lost and off course. I convinced him we were fine, I seen the flag a mile back or so and there was nowhere we could of got off. So we kept on truckin' finally we seen a highway and figured that was the aid station. When we got there there was no aid station and no flagging across the road. Yep, we were off course and that was a dagger in my heart. At the last aid station Dave had said I had put 14 min on everyone behind me, and now that 14 min was gone and I still had to get back to where we got off. We turned around and ran hard, looking for a marker or something. We got back a mile plus and ran into 4 other runners also off course. And as we kept running back we ran into other runners 7 of us total by the time we found where we got off. It was the place where I last seen a flag. The flag was tied around a tree right on the road, making one think you were to stay on the road. Upon further inspection we noticed the trail heading off the road. Let's just say this turn was poorly marked. We dragged some sticks across the road so others would not do the same. (however we heard later some people even went over our sticks down the road) By this time I was pissed, I ran about 4 extra miles and lost at least 30 min. That completely diminished my 14 min lead on those behind me and was now behind the 3rd and 4th place runners. They made the turn as both of them had ran this course in 2010 and were familiar with it. I ran stupid hard trying to get back the time I lost. Finally, I seen Dave he had come back down the trail some looking for me since the guys behind me came thru the aid station ahead of me. He knew I took a wrong turn. He kept telling me to stay calm I was only 7 min or so behind them. But I was pissed what should of been a comfortable lead on them was now a deficit. I rushed thru the last aid station and had 2 miles to the turn. Again, I was running really hard to make up ground and caught the 2 guys in 2nd and 3rd at the turn. I was a little pooped at this point and was trying to stay calm as I felt better getting back into 2nd. They stayed close till we made it back the 2 miles to the aid station. Again, I rushed thru the aid station and headed back out. One of the 2 behind me stayed close and eventually caught me. It was Adam Cassoday, he was running a good pace and I decided to just try and hang with him, plus it was nice having company at this point. I stayed with Adam and we chatted about running and got to know each other.  Adam, last year ran the entire Appalachian Trail  averaging 40 miles a day for 2180 miles incredible. I had a blast running with him and we stayed together for 8 or so miles.  It was then that I started cramping a bit and realized I had not been taking care of myself.  I was so focused on getting back what I lost and staying with Adam, and having blown thru the last 2 aid stations I was boinking and cramping.  I had let my fueling, fluid and salt intake slip and was now going to pay a price for it.  I had to let Adam go and downed some salt caps, water and a couple PayDay's and a GU trying to get back on track.  This was at mile 35 or so and the next 10 miles were miserable for me.  I just couldn't go, my legs were dead and if I tried to run hard my legs would cramp.  I did all the things runners do when things got to hell in a hand basket.  I asked my self why the hell I do this to myself and generally just felt sorry for myself.  I am really disappointed in my performance for this 10 miles, I let my emotions get the better of me and was just content with the minimal effort I was putting out.  And a couple other runners got around me.  In hindsight I was not in that bad of shape, just feeling sorry for myself and could of gave more effort for sure.  When I hit the last aid station, my buddy Dave gave me a stern talking to, which I needed and told me to run the last 5 miles as hard as I could I couldn't afford to loose any more ground.  I kicked it into high gear or as high a gear as I had, and made up a lot of ground over those last few miles, and got one of the runners back and could see another ahead.  Now I was running like I should be, but why did I wait till 5 to go to screw my head back on.  Anyway, finished the 50 miler in 9:36 and 4th place on the day.  Again, a little disappointed with my performance for a 10 or so mile stretch in this race, should of finished 2nd on the day.  Would of, should of, could of but didn't.  Live and learn and I learned the hard way today.

Day 3 22K or 14 miler
The last day was rough, everything was stiff and sore and 14 miles seemed far.  So I went into the race telling myself it was only 14 miles, and when I was done I could rest.  Adam Cassoday, who was right behind me in 3rd place had an Achilles problem and drooped out of the last day.  This made my last day a little easier.  I was now comfortably locked into 2nd overall barring any catastrophe. We would run the entire 14 miles in the rain today.  So I just went out and ran at as easy of pace as I could and not give up to much ground.  Dave and Paul Scholenlaub had told me to go out as hard as I could the first 4 miles and that would loosen things up.  We'll I thought they were crazy when we started out running up hill.  I was running with Aaron Norman and my heart rate was soaring.  But when we got to the top of the ridge, things settled down some, but my legs still felt rough.  Aaron soon left me as he was still racing for position, and I was comfortable at just finishing out the day.  Finally with about 5 miles to go I really started feeling better and was able to run the last 5 miles hard without to much discomfort.  When I finally hit the road I was relieved to be done and glad to see the finish line.  I finished the 14 miler in 2:07.

All said and done 3 days of racing 95 (plus 4 extra) total miles 26,000 feet of gain in a total time of 16:19.39.  2nd Place Overall and First place Male Masters.  I really had a great time and this was one awesome race.  I feel like I learned a ton about stage racing, and can't wait to go back next year and give it another go.  Shout out to my buddy Dave and my son Jarret for crewing me in the 50K and 50 miler.  And of course my wife for her continued support of my running.  Thank you.  Can't wait to go back again next year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 50 and Pacing

Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in Huntsville, TX.  I have run the 100 there twice and as it was my first 100 is ran well, has awesome volunteers, and will always be special for that.  This year, I was also going to pace my friend Sherrie Klover for the last 40 miles in her first 100.  So I would still get in a good 90 miles and feel like I ran the 100.  I was just going to take it easy in the 50, go out and have some fun on the trails.  Stop at all the aid stations and thank all the volunteers.  Normally, I blow right thru the aid stations when I'm racing and don't take time to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  So it was going to be nice to just go out have some fun with out the pressure of racing.  This is something I don't do very often but, enjoy when I do.  The 50 mile course is 3 16.67 mile loops.  For the first time in a long time, I never obsessed about my pace, splits, or anything.  I didn't even write one thing down or even have a plan.  Odd for me and my OCD.  The night before I decided to run the first loop at the pace I thought I could run if I went in to race.  There was also a storm that came in before the race and during the first couple hours that left the trail in less than ideal conditions.  There was a light rain at the start, and I started up front, but was determined to hold back and not get in race mode.  I had bigger fish to fry and that was to get Sherrie to the finish of her first 100.  The trail was a mess in spots but nothing that was going to slow anyone down to much.  I kept the pace manageable and think I ran in 3rd place the first loop.  I didn't waste any time this loop just to kind of get a gauge of what I tought I could run a 50 there.  I ran the first loop in 2:10.  Based on that, and adding some time for getting a little slower each loop, I think on a good day I could run a sub 7 on the course.  The next two loops, I just took it easy and ran aid station to aid station.  The cool thing was in 50 miles I did not use one GU, not one.  Since I had time to stop at the aid stations, I just fueled solely on aid station fair, being sure to thank all the volunteers.  Without them, these race would not be possible and they do an awesome job.  This was the first time, I tried fueling with real food, and I must say it worked good for me.  It worked so good I even used it while pacing Sherrie, 90 miles and not on GU.  I had a little of everything over the course of the day. Here is the list as I can remember: Cookies, PB&J, chips, corn chips, M&M's, Coke, Mtn. Dew, bananas, ramen, chili, cheese quesadillas (my main source), hamburgers, sausage tortillas, Payday's, powered donut's, chocolate donut's, and even a hot dog.  Yes, I ran buffet line, to buffet line. Any way the next 2 loops came and went with little fan fair and I finished in 7:50 and 7th place. Now on to my pacing report as this is where the real fun began.

Pacing Sherrie in the 100.
I meet Sherrie a couple years ago on Daily Mile and meet her in person at the Patriot's run in 2010.  We quickly became friends and she began quizzing me on ultra running.  We talked a lot over the last year about training for and running 100 miles.  So when she said she was ready to attempt her first 100 at Rocky Raccoon, I was happy to volunteer to be her pacer.  Sherrie is an accomplished marathon runner and had run a couple ultras, but all these were on the road.  This would be 100 miles on a trail way different than running on a road.  So we got her some training on the trails and converted this road runner into a true trail runner.  She took to the trails fast and the transition was smooth. After finishing the 50 Sherrie was at about mile 45 or so and meet up with Henry and Zach her husband and son.  I got a full report on how she was doing and so far she was doing great and had been extremely steady to this point.  We got some dinner and waited for Sherrie to come into Park Road aid station at 55.6 miles.  When she arrived she looked good and was ahead of schedule for a sub 24 finish.  But, there was still a long way to go.  She left park road and had 4.6 miles back to the start/finish where I would pick her up for the last 40 miles.  When she arrived she was still running great way ahead of schedule and looking and feeling good.  She changed clothes for night and got some new shoes and socks and some food and we headed out together.  She was still running so well I did not want to disrupt what she had been doing as it had been working really well for her to this point.  I just let her take the lead and keep doing what she had been doing.  We chatted and ran the first couple miles to the Nature Center mile 63, we figured we still had 11hrs to go 40 miles and get that sub 24 buckle.  Barring any catastrophe, that seemed really doable at this point.  Sherrie was on a mission I could tell by the look in her eye. As long as the wheels didn't come off, she was going to have a great run in her first 100.  She ran and I followed, only slowing down at the mud pit's. On the way to Dam road, Sherrie had to visit the bushes a couple times but, being 67 or so miles in she was doing great.  From there we made the 6 mile loop from Dam road back to Dam road.  This is a lonely section of trail and the longest between aid stations.  But with me there to keep her company we kept on truckin.  Night had set in good by now and we began picking people off left and right.  It seemed like we were the only ones running on the trail.  Every now and then we would leap frog back and forth with another runner but eventually put them behind us.  She was running that well, we just picked off one after another.  Being 72 Miles in and about 20 miles farther than she had ever run.  you would of thought she was a veteran 100 miler the was she was moving.  Still maintaining about a 12 min pace.  We were now approaching Park Road mile 75.6 and would see the crew Henry and Zach there.  The day and the miles all the sudden caught up with her and for the first time I took the lead, to try and drag her.  I ran ahead right before the aid station to get everything she needed ready when she got there.  We didn't waste much time here in and out 4.4 miles and we would be at 80 miles and one loop to go.  From here on out I would lead and she would follow.  Keeping and eye on my heels and following my line on the trails.  To this point I must say it was the easiest pace job I had done.  I had not yet had to do much, she just kept running and we kept picking runners off.  We came into the start/finish around 11:30 pm and had 6 1/2hrs to do 20 miles to get that sub 24 which even walking the entire loop was doable.  I must say I kept waiting for her wheels to come off, I mean it was her first "trail" ultra and first 100 miler and she was now over 80 miles in and been running for 17+hrs.   I just kept leading and she kept following, the pace did slow somewhat, but the later it gets in a 100 the slower it get's and by now not many people out there were running a whole lot.  As we were still picking people off left and right.  Before we knew it we were at Damnation again, one more loop of the Dam Road back to Dam Road.  This was the last time we would half to do this section.  And Sherrie was glad to get it done, it was a long haul around the 6 mile loop.  But she stayed steady and just kept on trucking like she had done this a 100 times before.  When we hit 10 to go, I think Sherrie had a big sigh of relief as now there was no question of finishing, it was just a matter of time now.  Back at Damnation, Sherrie had some soup, and we didn't waist any time in and out we were now less than 9 miles to the finish.  I led and she followed and never once complained she ran and ran.  We hit Park Road for the last time and seen Henry for the last time.  I don't think we were here for more than a minute, she was on a mission to get this thing done.  4.4 to go, that's all we had left.  I just kept telling her she was awesome, and how proud I was of her.   She was doing great and killing it for her first 100.  It was a lot of fun for me seeing her run so well and accomplishing this lofty goal in such great fashion.  I was beaming from ear to ear.  I was counting the miles down and the closer we got the better she began running again.  I just kept telling her what a bad ass she was and what an incredible race she had run.  Damn was I proud of my protege.  With only a mile to go we just concentrated on running, I was giving her play by play what we had left.  As soon as we passed the house by the road we only had a few hundred yards to the finish.  I think I was more excited for her than I was when I finished my first 100.  And she finished 2 hours faster than I did.  When we came around the bend and could see the finish, I was so excited to see her accomplish this goal.  We crossed the finish line in 22:24 an incredible run for a first timer, and 4th place woman.  I gave her a huge hug and just kept telling he how proud I was, and what an incredible race she had just run. 

I must say, this was one of the funnest things I have done.  Pacing her was a privilege and I'm just glad I got to be a part of it.  I really didn't half to do anything, she did everything she needed to do and made my job way to easy.  I can't wait to see what this sport has in store for her.  But, if she ever needs me again I'll be there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rest Days

So today I needed to take a rest day.  It has been 9 days since my last rest day.  Last week I logged 70+ miles of running and 55 miles on the spin bike.  In less than 2 weeks I am running the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler then pacing my friend Sherrie in the 100 for another 40 miles.   So why is it I feel like I'm cheating on my girlfriend tonight.   I came home did nothing, and looked at the spin bike and said "no you need a rest day and you need to start a taper".  I still feel guilty, like I haven't done enough to get ready for Rocky and really fell good so who needs rest right?  Everyone needs a rest day and I know that, but it doesn't make me feel any better about it.  I guess that's why they call me Runnerfreak!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Athens Big Fork Marathon

So the other night while talking with my wife, about all these crazy ideas I have, I thought why not start a blog and share some of my crazy ideas and thoughts I have about running and maybe even life in general.  Most people think I'm a little crazy and this blog may give some people insight into what drives me to do some of the things I do.  I have a lot of ideas for blog posts on this subject running around in my head and plan to post at least one a week so check back often.  If you enjoyed the post leave me a comment and any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. 

In early December after a run with some friends, they suggested I come and run the Athen's Big Fork Trail Marathon in Arkansas, on 1-7-2012.  It is one tough marathon with 4000ft of gain out and back.  So I add this race to my schedule and make it my first race of 2012.  I looked at the results from previous years, and thought I can do that.  So I set out to run this race and see what I could do.  Most people would taper for a race like this, but not runnerfreak.  Especially if they intended to race, and do well.  But in the week leading up to the race Runnerfreak goes out and runs 105 miles.  With runs of 30, 21 and a 50K (31 miles on New Years Day) the weekend before.  And I still felt like I could go out and race.  Runnerfreak then runs another 28 miles the week of the race.  On the way to the race, I tell the wife I want to at least run a sub 5 hour on this course (never seeing it) and you take out the guy, Tom Brennan who has won like 8 times or something and has the course record of 4:22 (yes 4:22 for a marathon that has been run since 1999 shows how tough it is) there have been very few sub 5hr finishes.  So anyway, I go out and run with the leaders the first 7 miles and let the leader go and nip on his tail all the way to the turn around at 13.1.  He was ahead of me by a minute or two at the turn. In the second half I catch him at about mile 18 or so and he tells me it's not his day and let's me go without a fight.  I run the rest of the race looking over my shoulder as there was another 4-5 runners who came into the turn within a couple minutes of me.  I wind up winning the race in 4:49 and still felt like I could of run faster.  Note: Tom Brennan did not show up this year.  Most people would be tickled pink with that, but not Runnerfreak, he analyzes every mile of the race and determines where he could of run better and faster.  That's why they call me Runnerfreak!