Monday, November 21, 2011

JFK Race Report

Heading into JFK I had mentioned the sneaking suspicion that it would be easy for someone to break the existing course record.... As it turns out, it was probably two guys trying very hard, but making it look easy! Congrats to both David Riddle and Mike Wardian for their accomplishment. David has very quickly shown that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

As for me, the race was the last of the year and I was interested to see how my body was holding up. Going into the race I hadn't done much intense running and was trying to balance healing with sustaining an acceptable weekly mileage total to maintain fitness. This tactic didn't turn out to be the best!

At the start of the race I let the front pack go almost immediately. I could tell these guys were ready to demolish each other on the trails and I wanted to run at my own desired pace for the technical section. At the start of the trail I felt great and began settling into my usual quick steps, pretending the trail was just a long obstacle course. It was really nice to be back in the northeast and to see the difference in landscape.

Slowly I began reeling people in and made it to about 6th place with a mile to go on the AT section. This is where I began to hit a bulk of the early starters. While dodging between two men I caught a rock with my left foot and lunged forward, slamming my right knee into a large, pointed rock. My initial reaction was more frustration than pain. After about 25 steps I began hobbling and felt my knee locking up. So I began an awkward looking sort of shimmy down the trail as a few of the elite guys passed by.

At the break between the AT and the C&O canal, I ran past my dad and he told me to stop for a second to assess the damage. I had a bloody welt the diameter of a quarter on my knee, and a massive desire to puke. I think this was the point where a lot of people had seen me stall and thought I would drop. After a few minutes of encouragement from bystanders I decided to see how I'd feel in a mile and slowly began hobbling toward the towpath.

Once I got on the path I felt a large rush of adrenaline and was able to get into a pretty solid rhythm. At this point I was probably running 6 minute miles and felt pretty good. I soon caught up to USA teammate Matt Woods and we began running together for the next 7 or so miles until the adrenaline left and I was forced to ease off the pace. Watching him surge forward, I felt a bit disheartened at not being able to join the fun at the front of the pack.

Normally I would have been extremely frustrated at the turn of events. However, I was happy to be taking part in the race and had resolved to finish regardless of time or place. The fatigue I was feeling made it difficult to sustain a pace, but whenever it became too much I simply walked and waited to catch my breath... taking in plenty of scenery as I walked along.

At one of the aid stations I hung out with my crew for an extra minute and enjoyed a Yuengling beer. It was fun to take a step back from the usual competitiveness and just enjoy the atmosphere for once, not to mention a beer I haven't enjoyed in a few years.

Towards the end of the tow-path I found Matt Woods hanging out at an aid station. When I asked him what happened he said he had blown up. I told him to join me and we began clicking off the final miles of the race in a slow but steady fashion. I think we were both relieved to only have 8.2 miles to go.

Finally at the last aid station I felt the itch to finish and thought I could finish strong. I left Matt and picked up the pace. My finishing time was somewhere around 6:23, not terrible but not anything to throw onto my list of top performances. I think I can do better, and this race is one on which I'd like to devote an entire training cycle.

Things I learned: 1) Although the trail section is short, it is a vital part of the race. I need to dedicate a bit more time to running extremely technical trails before running this race again. 2) Even though I didn't have a great race, I had a great weekend with friends and family, and actually got to spend more time with them while making the race fun. 3) David Riddle is a badass!

Now that the season is over I am planning to take a month off of any sort of physical exertion aside from hiking and the metabolism-boosting Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day. I'm also going to use my time and energy trying to get my hands into a few more volunteering opportunities as well as ranting on the blog about races, fads, funny stories, etc.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Running, as of late, has been a struggle. It's not an injury or sickness, I am just content with hitting 50 miles a week and feel that anything more would be a detriment to arriving at JFK perfectly healthy.

The last few months have been interesting. After World's I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. And although I was disappointed with the fact that I could have gone in the low 6:30's or high 6:20's that day (cramping issues), I am still extremely satisfied with my time as well as my placing in the first international race I've ever done. I am also ecstatic to be on the first USA team to win a gold medal in the 100K event. But after the glow of such a huge event, one that I trained a whole year for, I'm finding it difficult to get motivated.

There is also the question of health. After world's I felt extremely depleted. The same issue happened after the Point Defiance 50K. Although I feel healthy on nearly every run, I still feel that the hard efforts take a little something extra out of me. In summation, I'm glad JFK will be a last effort! It's time for a little R&R and I'd like to spend a few weeks working on a beer gut! Before that happens, some serious racing needs to be done.

JFK is a race I've always wanted to do. And this year, I think the field of elite runners are going to push the finishing times down to a course record. With 90% of Team USA toeing the line as well as a few other really fast guys, I think this is a year it could be done. Of course, someone has probably said that every year since 1996. The fact that a time could stand for that long means it is solid for sure. But I also have this nagging notion that it can be easily done. Without giving too much of my strategy away, I think going through the first 15.5 miles in under 2 hours is doable without a superhuman effort, and from there you should have enough in the tank to hit 6:40's the rest of the way. Granted I haven't seen the course and I've heard the first section is extremely technical. But after that I've heard the terrain is quite pleasant. Combined with a large pack of equally talented runners, it should be an interesting day. Enough talking about it for now, I guess we'll see!

Another interest that has grabbed my attention lately has been a local group called Dock Street Runners. It is a group started to give the homeless an outlet for exercise. With a large amount of free time and no outlet, it is easy to see why an overwhelming majority of the homeless are either drug/alcohol abusers or obese. This group with combat some of those issue. One guy has already lost 50 lbs in 8 months! Wenche (phonetically spelled Van-Kuh) Wahl is the leader of this group and she has 54 committed members running with her every wednesday at 10AM. After speaking with her I learned that she is in need of new/slightly worn shoes, tech running shirts, shorts, etc..... anything we need as runners. At the moment I am trying to find ways in which to procure some of these items, one way being to place a donation bin at my running store. Please let me know if you have any other ideas. If you'd like to contact Wenche directly or make a donation, here is her contact info and website.
(253) 229-1654

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

3rd Place at Worlds!!!!!

That's right! My first event on an international level and I finished 3rd!

I haven't had a chance to write since I went back to work the next day after arriving back in the States. I'll have a very detailed write-up of the events in Winschoten soon.

For now, I'd like to say that I'm extremely happy about my race and being able to contribute as part of the first American team to win a Gold medal in the 100k World Championships.

I'd also like to say that Meghan Arbogast is a beast!!!!!!!! She now holds a world record at the event.

And lastly but not leastly, Montrail athletes did some serious work this weekend! Way to go guys

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Long, Slow Taper & two shoe reviews

World's is just about 1 month away! It's crazy to look back at the last 17 weeks since 100k Nationals and see the myriad changes that have occurred: fatigue, strength, sickness, various races that have either worried me or exactly the opposite. It's all gone by so quickly, yet so much has happened. Here is a look at the progression of mileage and some races I've done to prepare for the biggest race of my life....

Week 1: 18 miles
Week 2: 40
Week 3: 32
Week 4: 55 (Lost Lake 50k, 1st place)
Week 5: 62 (Capital City Marathon, 11th place)
Week 6: 52.5
Week 7: 77.5
Week 8: 101.5
Week 9: 92
Week 10: 81
Week 11: 98
Week 12: 110
Week 13: 103 (Four on the 4th four miler, 3rd place 19:54)
Week 14: 133 (3 X 8K @ 28:30 pace)
Week 15: 114
Week 16: 94 (White River 50 Mile, 4th place 7:15)
Week 17: 90

The increase in mileage was slow, but I think this was the best possible course of action I could have taken. Although I've raced far less this year than last, I think that has really paid huge dividends in health and recovery. At the end of last year I was so fatigued every day that I could barely run 3-4 miles without stopping to walk or double over. I had been overtraining and lacking in important recovery areas such as sleep, nutrition, and hydration. This year has been far different and I am 100% on track to meet and possibly even exceed my goals for worlds. That being said, I'd like to reveal a bit about what I had in mind.

Since the 100k National Championship I have had an idea that I could potentially put down a very serious time at Worlds. The course has everything a person is looking for in order to run a fast time. From what I'm told, this is one of the few places where the 100k world event is taken very seriously, and the event is done extremely well. The course is also extremely fast and below sea level. The last American Record was broken here (6:30:11) and I intend to make an attempt to better that record. Its a bold statement, but one must have goals in order to reach their full potential. I think the competition in this race will help me achieve this goal, since there are quite a few guys out there that have already run much faster this year. I can only hope that the weather will be kind, and I can avoid completely wasting myself in the first half of the race.

There are still a few workouts I need to do before the race and I will update very soon on my progress towards the World 100K.

In other news, I have received two pairs of shoes from Montrail as well as some pretty gnarly gear from Mountain Hardwear to test for the Spring 2012 line.

Montrail Badwater - This is by far the best shoe I have placed on my foot from Montrail. I think the company is headed in a much better direction with the Spring 2012 line! So to give a full review I'll split the shoe into 3 parts: the upper, midsole, and outsole.
Upper - The upper material wraps the foot extremely well. Montrail has taken great care in cleaning up the stitching on the upper and has instead used mostly welded overlays to create structure in the upper. This means it has a nice, smooth feeling on the inside of the shoe and less irritation where stitching can sometimes create hotspots. Although a bit rigid at first, the upper material gives after about 20 miles and to a certain extent creates a custom fit for the person's foot. Combined with a subtle appearance I was pretty happy about the aesthetics and comfort of this shoe's upper.

Midsole - The midsole of this shoe is fairly simple. Since it is a hybrid road/trail shoe (thus the name "badwater") they have added certain elements to make the ride a bit smoother than a normal trail shoe. The foam is a bit softer than the average trail shoe, which makes it extremely comfortable from the moment you slide your foot it. However, they have used a unique styling of the midsole to create something that transitions smoothly but still performs well when moving laterally. It is extremely difficult to get the best of both worlds, but with Montrail's geometric design on the midsole, they have gotten about as close as one could get to creating a true road/trail hybrid.

Outsole - The outsole of the Badwater is about the only area where I would make complaints, and that is only because I am a true shoe nerd. The medial side of the shoe is beautifully done, and the micro-lug design is another feat of engineering that make this shoe responsive on the roads, and rugged on the trails. The one complaint I have for the shoe is that the heel area is not decoupled enough and the lateral side of the heel actually built about 1 to 2 millimeters higher than the medial side. This is something that is common in most shoe companies (to name a few, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony) and it doesn't necessarily hinder the shoe too much it just creates a bit stiffer ride. If the rubber outsole could be decoupled just a bit more on the lateral side I think this shoe could be mechanically sound for just about anyone who placed in on their foot.

Montrail Rogue Fly - All I have for this one is an iPhone photograph!

For those of you who have seen or worn the Rogue Racer, this is the exact same tooling (outsole and midsole) as the Rogue Racer. The only thing that has changed on the shoe is the upper. In my opinion it is a much better fit and it actually feels like a competitive shoe. Coming in at a scant 7.5 ounces, it knocked off about 1.3 ounces just in the upper material! I think this shoe is going to be able to rival any other minimal trail racing flat out there once again due to the 3-point microlug system that allows for smooth transition on the road (felt great at the 100K) but also for great grip on rugged terrain (felt even better at White River). This is, without a doubt, going to be my shoe for the World 100K!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

its been forever

its been quite a while since ive posted anything on here. i'd have to say for the most part its because i really haven't been doing anything exciting. mostly just running, working, eating, running, and sleeping. to give you an idea of my day ill map it out for you.

7:30 am - wake up, eat, drink coffee
8:00 am - get dressed and get out of the door to run between 6 and 10 miles
9:00 am - get home, run inside and shower, pack lunch
9:30 am - drive to work
10 am- 7 pm - work
7:30 pm - get home, put on running clothes and run between 6 and 10 miles
8:30-9:30 pm - cook dinner, shower, etc
10- 10:30 pm - decompress, sleep

I've found a pretty good system and I've been getting in some really good mileage, but there's not a lot of time to be inspired to write.... Sorry!

Anyway over the last few weeks I've really gotten back into great shape. The last 5 weeks have been: 103, 110, 133, 141, and 124. During one 8 day stretch from friday to friday, i racked up 187 miles. that is by far a record for me and now I am beginning the long and slow taper toward the World Championship 100k in September.

This weekend I will be racing the White River 50 miler. I'm excited to see how the two climbs go, and to see how I feel after pounding my legs for 50 trail miles.

Also, recently I've received a few new pairs of Montrail shoes to test out for the Springs 2012 season. One is called the Badwater, a hybrid shoe made for both road and trail. The other shoe is called the Rogue Fly. For those of you who liked the Rogue Racer, get ready for a massive improvement in fit! I'll be giving a detailed report of both shoes soon.

For now, I'm off to sleep, and ready to start another "above-mentioned" day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Regaining form

It's been 3 weeks now since I race and only now am I feeling healthy and ready to start building up my mileage again. The first week was a combination of working toward walking correctly again and trying to consume a healthy amount of calories. The muscle soreness and fatigue are something I am quite familiar with, but the aversion to food was something that has never happened to me before. After about 5 days this passed and I was left craving red meat and fresh vegetables (my guess is iron deficiency). So, I obliged. It certainly isn't a chore eating a large steak with an even larger salad.

The second week was spent trying to regain my running form. There were a few things impeding this process. Firstly, my legs were still very rigid and stiff from the race. Secondly, I simply felt like I was working at 80-90% running at 7:30 pace. Not only was this very frustrating but also left me with a lot of concerns. Ever since I burned myself out last year I've been extremely cautious not to overtrain. For races you can't really hold anything back, and I thought maybe I had blown a fuse. However, at the end of the second week I made my way out to a favorite trail of mine (Tiger Mtn.)with a few work friends and ran close to 14 miles. The uphills were difficult but the rest of the time I felt very comfortable.

This week has been more of a transition back into training mode. I haven't been able to wake up early under my own willpower so far, but I have been logging some solid miles in the evenings. Its nice to have the sun stay in the sky until around 9 o'clock. Score one for living in the North! This weeks total should be around 50 miles, and then I'll just be doing maintenance runs until Lost Lake 50K.

This race won't be a massive effort on my part. I am doing this race to gauge how physically ready my body is to start seriously training again. But I do have the course record on my mind. The hill climb should be treacherous but the views will be worth it! If you'd like to view race photos please click the link below.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mad City 100K

So I've had plenty of time to digest the events of this weekend....

About 4 days prior to the race I was intensely worried that I was going to perform terribly at this race. I had a pretty amazing weekend the week before watching my good friend Brooks Williams compete at the Brew to Brew 44 mile race from Kansas City to Lawrence. Brooks was running this race because it is sponsored by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Brooks is affected by this illness and wanted to show his support by running the race. Not only did he win, but he demolished the competition by over 40 minutes.... Often times this happens in ultras. The longer the distance, the more of a gap there will be between finishers. But to win by 40 minutes is just amazing and I was speechless as he crossed the finish line.

After the weekend I was feeling slightly fatigued. Crewing is a tough sport in its own right. To be honest, I find it a good bit more exhausting than running the race. And day after day I woke up feeling a bit tired... not my usual feeling the week of the race. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive having my parents, girlfriend and friend/#1 crew member Shelley travel all the way to Madison to watch me fail miserably. Great thoughts before a race.

The day before I took a red-eye from Seattle to Minneapolis, then on to Madison, sleeping every chance I could. Once I got the hotel, I slept more. Then I ran for 20 minutes just to shake out the legs and get the blood flowing. I took a healthy dose of Emergen-C just to make sure I kept my antioxidant levels elevated, then ate a pasta dinner. Sleep that night was restless but I got in a full 8 hours.

Apart from my mother telling the entire crew that the race started at 6 am, there weren't really any hold-ups, and now that I think about it I am glad we got there early. I had some time to just relax and mentally prepare for the day. About 10 minutes before the race started, I stripped down and began to wait by the start line.

When the gun went off, I was expecting at least one person to dart out to a 5 minute first mile, the way most races do. Interestingly enough, everyone went out way slower than I had imagined. The first loop we pulled through in a modest 42 minutes, a bit slower than the pace I'd wanted to run for the first 50k. After lap one I pulled ahead of the pack a bit and caught the lone front-runner. After some brief chatter I learned that this was THE Zach Gingerich. In my mind he was the person I was going to need to beat in this race. But even though his list of accomplishments is certainly intimidating, he is a really nice guy. For the next lap he told me about the night he had spent staring at the ceiling as a high school party was in full swing in the hotel room next door. And even though he says sleeping is overrated the night before a race, I can't think that it helped him too much.

After lap two, Zach slowed a bit to grab some stuff from his fiancee and I gradually gained a gap on him. From that point on I was alone, and spent a large part of the time just focusing on my tangents to not only increase the lead, but to spend the least amount of energy on wasted footsteps.

Other than tangents and occasional random thoughts, the rest of the race was putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on form, length of stride, etc. Here is a list of the splits for the race....

1st Loop - 10 Km 6.214 42:11.0 6:47.3
2nd Loop - 20 Km 12.427 1:21:41.7 6:34.4 6.21 39:30.7 6:21.6
3rd Loop - 30 Km 18.641 2:00:00.2 6:26.3 6.21 38:18.6 6:09.9
4th Loop - 40 Km 24.855 2:38:08.6 6:21.8 6.21 38:08.4 6:08.3
5th Loop - 50 Km 31.069 3:16:02.9 6:18.6 6.21 37:54.3 6:06.0
6th Loop - 60 Km 37.282 3:54:46.7 6:17.8 6.21 38:43.8 6:14.0
7th Loop - 70 Km 43.496 4:34:32.2 6:18.7 6.21 39:45.5 6:23.9
8th Loop - 80 Km 49.710 5:17:14.8 6:22.9 6.21 42:42.6 6:52.4
9th Loop - 90 Km 55.923 6:02:31.1 6:28.9 6.21 45:16.3 7:17.2
10th Loop - 100 Km 62.137 6:47:34.0 6:33.5 6.21 45:02.9 7:15

As the race progressed, the lactic acid build-up and overall fatigue became a bit too much to maintain a solid rhythm, and the hills were primarily the area where I began to be more cautious. Rather than going into oxygen debt, I decided to lay off the pace a bit and just run comfortably up the hill. This paid huge dividends in the later laps! By the last 2 laps though, it was the downhills that were wrenching my quads and hamstrings. Each step felt like I might have an entire body cramp.

As the last lap came around, I learned that my original theory that the CR was 6:46:00 was way off, and all I had to do was run consistently for the next 6 miles and I'd have it for sure. So I dropped my bottle and gave it my all. I took one more gel at the 1.5 mile aid station and began to press harder. With a mile to go I let my legs relax and dropped my shoulders, and let the adrenaline surge as I knew I'd only have to run for another 7 to 8 minutes. Half mile to go, I saw my dad waiting on the corner of the final stretch. I smiled so hard my face cramped up, and just started laughing. The last 200 meters was exhilarating. Crossing the finish line, I felt an extreme weight lift off of my shoulders. I had been wanting to join the world team for USA for about 2 years. It was nice to know I'd be representing my country internationally!

On a side note, during the worst race of my life (WESTERN STATES), I came by a woman who was having an equally bad day. After a while of chatting while laboring up the hill to our eventual drop-out point at mile 55, I learned she was Devon Crosby-Helms. We talked for almost an hour about other races, why we were feeling terrible that day, how much it sucked walking up a hill since we both knew we were just going to drop anyway.... When I saw her cross the finish line on Saturday, she looked so strong. I approached her at her car and we hugged. Apparently both of us were feeling much better since then. Congrats to her and her 14 minute CR!!!!!!!!! What an amazing athlete!

I'd also like to give a shout out to Nick Clark and Ryan Burch for their impressive finishes at American River. I know they are both mountain specialists and those times are pretty gnarly for the course not being their preferred style. Congrats to you both as well!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I'll be writing more in a bit, I just wanted to write that I've finally achieved what I'd set out to do last year!

1st Place at the Mad City 100k National Championships, earning a spot on Team USA. I'm so excited to be traveling to the Netherlands this fall!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Montrail's New Website

As of today Montrail has switched to a new format on their website. Now you can order Montrail shoes directly from the website!!! If you'd like to visit the website please visit and enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shoe and Gear Review

Since my last post I have received a few pieces of gear that I am pleased to say have met or exceeded my expectations!

Montrail Badrock OutDry-
I had received an email a few weeks back that I was being sent a pair of the Badrocks to test out. Included in this shoe is an OutDry laminate that works infinitely better than Gore-tex for a few reasons.

First, OutDry is a laminate that is bound to the mesh, whereas Gore-tex is an independent bootie. This eliminates the possibility of water and debris buildup between in the mesh and the bootie of the shoe, which will keep the shoe truer to its original weight. Secondly, OutDry is able to "breathe" without a heat and moisture gradient, which Gore-tex ultimately needs to perform. Thus, the OutDry keeps the interior of the shoe at a more agreeable temperature.

What I really liked about this shoe was the seamlessness of the OutDry technology as its built into the shoe. In Gore-tex shoes I was always aware of the extra layer. While wearing the Badrock on several 20+ mile runs I never once felt any hint of added fabric or rigidity in the shoe on account of the waterproof laminate. As for performance, I'd say this is a true trail runner's shoe. I wore it on the roads up to my usual trails several times and I felt it was completely unresponsive and clunky. But once I got on the dirt roads and single track the shoe completely transformed under my feet. It became responsive, grippy, fluid, everything I want in a shoe. I also wore it yesterday while running in the snow and mud and I was actually aiming for puddles by the end. I've gotta say, this is the first waterproof shoe I've ever liked, and it will be a "go to" for any future muddy or snowy runs.

Montrail Rogue Racer-The Rogue Racer is a shoe I've been excited about ever since I approached the Montrail tent at Western States last June. Its light and fast, but also has a lot of added elements that I could never get with my usual road flats or even some of the trail flats I'd tried. I really like the 3 micro-lug system they have placed on the outsole. This system allows for fantastic traction on the trails, but also allows for a much more fluid motion on roads. I have used these shoes quite a few times on trails, but also for a 25 mile progressive run last wednesday on paved bike trails. I can say now, with complete confidence, that I will be able to race in this shoe (unmodified) at the Mad City 100k. This is definitely going to be a favorite of mine for the season.

Mountain Hardwear Geist Jacket-
This 6 oz slice of heaven was delivered along with my team uniform pieces. Since then I have not missed a single chance to wear it. It is completely windproof with small pockets of mesh for venting in all the right places. I also has 3 pockets for storage, which is very uncommon in such a light jacket (usually i've seen a lot of sacrifices in storage to save weight). Whether its 45 and sunny or 18 and blowing snow (on the progressive run that happened within 10 minutes), the Geist Jacket has kept me warm, dry and comfortable. And since its so light I am able to tuck it into my waist band when its not needed.

So that's all for the reviews for now.... Training has been going well. I took a few down weeks after the marathon to make sure I didn't put myself into an early deficit like last year. I want to make sure this year that I am fully recovered before starting training for the next race. But this week I have already logged 101 miles since Monday. I'm hoping to hold on to this streak for a few more weeks to gain some much needed strength for the 100k in April. I certainly have the aerobic capacity in place, but I can tell every 20 mile day I add on is bringing back that familiar ache and fatigue of early last season. Now I just have to wait until that starts feeling normal :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


As of 4 hours ago I thought this week couldn't get any better.... I was wrong. I am now an official Montrail Athlete for 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congrats to the others who have been added, I went ahead and copied and pasted their info from the website:

Megan Lund: This Aspen, Colorado native is a 2-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier and 2-time USA Mountain Running team member. She’s the winner of the 2010 Sierre Zinal Mountain Race in Switzerland. Megan looks to run many high-profile mountain races in Europe this summer, along with the Pikes Peak Ascent and USATF Trail Half Marathon Championship.

Amy Sproston: Amy lives in Portland, Oregon and is a 2-time Massanutten 100 winner, winner of the 2010 JFK 50 and the 2010 Pine to Palm 100. Her focus for the first half of 2011 will be Western States 100.

Ryan Burch: Ryan is a native of Colorado and is a force in the mountains. 2010 highlights include wins at the Antelope Island 50, Leadville Marathon and Grand Mesa 100. This year, look for Ryan to compete near the front at Western States 100 and Leadville 100.

I am elated to be chosen as an athlete for this great brand! For more details on the Montrail team and products click on the montrail logo on the right hand side of the page.

Monday, January 31, 2011

In-Depth Review of Miami

As I stated in previous posts, this race was meant to be a test: a test to see where I was aerobically, a test to see how much pain I could endure, and also a test to see if my opinions hadn't changed about road racing. And if you're looking for the abbreviated version here it is. I think I'm in pretty good shape to do well at the mad city 100k as long as I put in some longer runs, I didn't push as hard as I could have during the race but the difference in time would have been insignificant, and no.... not so much a fan of road races still. For those looking for a more detailed explanation, please read on.

The last time I've actually had a marathon timed was at the split of the 2010 American River 50 Mile in Sacramento, CA. My time was 2:46:?? and I was elated to find that I had cut 6 minutes off of my previous PR (which was during another ultra). However, at the end of that race I had a nagging feeling that if I could run such a time with a hefty amount of fuel left in the tank, I might be able to put a solid time down on a paved surface.

Things came together when I was planning this year's schedule with a focus on making the 100k world team. I had made that a goal last year, only to come up short by 6 minutes. This year I wanted to be prepared to go the distance and reserve myself a spot for international racing. And as I began to formulate my schedule to build up for the big race in April, my coach suggested I try a marathon for time to see how fit I was. Eventually we set our sights on the Miami Marathon. There would be some good competition and it was a warm area in January, nuff said.

So, getting back to the actual race. I woke up at 4:45 to my watch alarm and slowly began my usual routine: forcing down some sort of "food" with a large portion of water or sports drink. This is always a difficult routine regardless of how nervous I am. I just can't seem to eat in the morning. Then, on to the race bib preparation. Next up, shoes and socks. Lastly, listening to some music that would be delightfully stuck in my head for the race (Ratatat has a great selection of music if you're interested). And then we were out the door.

I often wonder what a person might think if they were to wake up in their hotel room and look out their window at 5 am. It really is quite a spectacle seeing 21000 pedestrians congregate in a central location. I wonder if the noise woke anyone up?

Anyway, with about 30 minutes until the race started, I began wading my way (mother in tow) through masses of befuddled strangers; people wondering how to find their designated section, where to find a stick of body glide, talking race strategy, etc. Finally, after forcing my way through the crowd I made it to the front and began my warmup. A short 5 minute jog with a couple leg lifts was all I could manage. Any more than that and my heart would have exploded out of my chest. I was really nervous.

Making my way back to the crowd, I tried to pry myself into a good position to start at least somewhat close to the elites. However, it seems everyone has the same idea at these races and I soon found myself stuck behind a man that, at first glance, appeared to be wearing a sweater. Upon further inspection, I realized he was just extremely hairy, and thus spent the remainder of the time in the tent avoiding bumping into him.

When the gun went off everyone shot forward. Immediately I saw the front pack surge forward. My coach had advised me to start the first mile slow and then pick it up from there. This served a dual purpose as I would be able to make my own race once the urge to run up front left me, and also to warm up a bit since it takes me quite a long time to do. At the first mile I clocked in at 6:13. Yikes. Way off pace but I felt really good. I began to slowly pick up the pace, and in the process, picked off several people along the way. This was fun!

Going through downtown Miami was a bit strange, mostly due to the smell. I notice this in a lot of big cities, but there was an overwhelming smell of old cigars and trash and it really threw my stomach off balance. Another oddity was their bridges. It was very difficult to run a consistent pace since your mechanics are thrown off by the metal grating. Back to the race.....

Every 30 seconds or so I was able to pass someone and keep them behind me. This became the norm for the race. At around mile 8 I passed the three leading women and continued my journey to find the front-running men. At mile 10.5 I was able to see my mom and the rest of the cheer station. It was really exciting getting through that section. I felt renewed after leaving that area and put in a good surge to catch the next person. Another thing I noticed, every person I passed during the entire race was entirely gassed. It took absolutely no effort to pass them. At the full/half marathon course split, I was informed I was 21st place. Not too shabby, but I thought I could do better.

Slowly but surely I picked off 20, 19, 18, all the way down to 11. About every mile or so I would get these gut-wreching side stitches that would leave me short of breath. But it seemed that every time that happened I would see another runner ahead. Somehow that took the focus off of my stitch and I was able to hunt them down. Finally, around the 20 mile mark, I began to feel sharp. Tired, but sharp. I'm not sure if it was the realization that I would only be running another 35 minutes or some other physiological miracle, but I was able to put in a surge that lasted the rest of the race. In the last 10k I picked off 6 more people. I passed the last guy with 1.2 miles to go and put 3 minutes on him by the finish. Crossing the finish line was surreal. I was genuinely happy at my performance. About 10 steps after the finish line I began throwing up white foam, and this continued in spurts for the next half hour. In my mind I like to think it was just weakness leaving the body, because it hurt like hell.

So there it is, my first race of the season. I think this race is going to be a good indicator of how I perform in the 100k in April. I still like trails better, of course. And I still like running until my legs give out, rather than my lungs.

Hopefully this is a foreshadowing of what the season will bring. For now I've got 2 solid months of training to get in before the race, and one very important pacing job. My good friend Brooks Williams will be running the Brew to Brew 43.2 mile race from Kansas City to Lawrence on April 3rd, 2011. For all of you who would like to know more about Brooks or the race, you can visit his blog (a link is located on the sidebar under "blogs of interest").

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Miami Results

Finished in a time of 2:26:37 and took 5th place overall. Had a good race but I'm glad its behind me, more details to come.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Miami Marathon

I've realized lately that it is very difficult to write or even be creative when it feels like I'm doing the same thing every day. I'm not big on finding the little differences in the day to day events that surround my life... specifically running. I believe that is why I try (and succeed) most times to throw in a new route or to explore a trail I haven't run yet. But lately it seems that my desire for new adventures has taken a backseat to calculated and well-managed training for my race this weekend.

The marathon has been a race I have looked over for the last 3 years as "insignificant" or "boring". In a lot of ways, I still see it as such. Most marathons are on roads, they are almost always crowded, they don't offer the scenery that most ultramarathons do, and they offer little in the way of changing terrain. But in these last few months I have really started to appreciate just what it takes to run one of these races to the extent of your ability.

Ultramarathons have been a safe haven for me mostly because I can avoid completely losing my breath (Leadville excluded) and also can be quite lax with my regulation of pace.... I can always count on catching the next surge of energy. I mean, if you have all day to run, there are going to be highs and lows no matter what you do. The marathon, however, is an elusive monster since it involves toeing the line of complete anaerobic meltdown for what I hope to be two hours and twenty-five minutes.

Three weeks ago I had one last test to see if I could manage this pace with a 30 kilometer progression. For those of you who have never done a progression (I hadn't until 3 weeks ago), the name implies the gradual nature of increasing effort and lowering pace throughout the run. During this run we chose a paved bike trail that travels 15k out, and 15k back.

We began with the pace at around 7 to 7:30 miles, then "progressed" each mile until we reached the 15k mark at just below 6 minute/mile pace. At this point we took a gel and began to hammer the pace until we reached my goal of 5:30. Shockingly, I felt great. We were cruising along for the next 4 miles at this pace and I decided to pick it up a bit. 5:23, 5:21, 5:18... I felt like a machine. Then the last 2 miles came about. 5:14, I felt like I was going to die. I had side stitches, my stride was breaking down, I couldn't breathe correctly, I was in the throws of anaerobic shock. My training partner Dan, a superb marathon runner, kept trying to tell me to breathe easier, focus on my stride, all the of the usual things one might try to say to deflect attention away from the pain. And in some ways it worked, but that last mile was excruciating. We crossed the last mile marker in 5:11. I dry heaved my way back to the car. The pace for the last 15k was 5:23. I couldn't help but smile as I drifted in and out of sleep.

And so this workout, combined with about 3 months of consistent yet redundant training has led me to the starting line of the Miami Marathon. Needless to say, this isn't my ultimate goal for the season. In reality it's a tester to see what I can run for the Mad City 100k in April. But I have a feeling if this race goes well, there won't be much stopping me from a good race in Madison.

One thing is certain. After this weekend, I'll be running a lot more unknown trails and consequently writing more....