Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Charleston Riverfront Marathon

I did not have a lot of expectation going into this marathon and was certainly not "racing" just one week removed from running 100k in Bandera. My wife, kids and I headed down for a nice weekend visiting friends in a charming Southern city, Charleston. We got to Charleston on Friday night after a nine hour drive, ordered some food and let the kids run around the hotel to burn off some energy. On Saturday morning, after some confusion as to where the race start was, I got to the start line about 5 minutes before the gun went off. As we started, I was moving rather comfortably at around a 6:30 pace, when a guy running next to me (Joseph) asked me what time I was hoping for. I then went into how I had run Bandera the week before and was just looking to have fun...Well, he was looking to run sub-3 hours and qualify for Boston so I decided to pace with him and we chatted for the next couple of hours along the marathon course. This was his second marathon and he had many questions about Ultrarunning, which really helped the time go by fast.

As we approached the second half of the race, still feeling pretty good, the course got quite confusing. They run you on out-and-backs through neighborhoods and you are constantly coming back to a spot you had been before and coming across other runners. We made it through all this only to find around mile 20 that we were lumped together with the back-of-the-pack half marathoners. After about a mile of weaving in and out of "traffic" we separated from the half-marathoners for our last out-and-back to finish the race. At this point we both felt pretty good and decided to pick up the pace. I was surprised my energy level was still quite high as I hadn't really been able to take in many calories (only two Hammer gels). The last few miles I ran around a 6:15 pace and it felt quite easy. The only lingering effects from Bandera were some tightness in my hamstrings, but really nothing to affect my stride. I came in around 2:54, and probably could have run in the mid-to-low 2:40s if I had decided to push it from the start. I was happy that Joseph was able to qualify for Boston, although I think he was a little disappointed that he did not make an earlier effort to break 2:50 as he still felt he had a lot of “gas left in the tank” at the finish line. After the race my family and I spent the weekend enjoying Charleston and visiting with our friends. We ate at many very nice restaurants, took the kids to the Beach, etc. On Saturday night we went out to dinner with Marathon Maniac Hideki Kino and several other Maniacs; trading stories of races run and discussing plans for upcoming races.

What I learned: One of the keys to running many races is that you cannot "race" each one. While I would like to try and see how fast I can run a marathon, this was not the day. As I get closer to solidifying my 2011 racing schedule this will become very important. Currently, it looks like my main races this spring will be the Nueces 50 Mile USATF Championships and Massnutten Mountain Trail 100. However, I plan on running many other races as training at a somewhat reduced effort.

Gear that got me through: I ran this in my Brooks Green Silence running shoes, with my RoadRunner Ultra shorts and an Asics singlet. Since it was about 28 degrees at the start, I wore a pair of Moeben sleeves. I also wore my Zensah Compression calf sleeves and these seemed to work well as my calf muscles never felt fatigued despite running on back-to-back weekends.

Overall, it was a fun trip and my family and I really enjoyed Charleston. I would come back just for the restaurants...but I am sure I would find a race to run as well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bandera 100K

After JFK 50, where I could not find my stride and struggled greatly, I took some down time to recover. I had a couple of good weeks of training after that, and was feeling pretty good, so I decided to head out to Texas for the Bandera 100k (and USATF 100k Championship).

My journey to Bandera started early Friday morning, with the hope of being able to fly stand-by on an early morning flight out of Washington Dulles/International Airport.  I wanted to get there early so I would have plenty of time to get my necessities for the 100k race, and still have some day light to set up my tent.   I was lucky to get on an earlier flight and able to get to Bandera in time for packet pick-up and plenty of time to set up my tent at the start/finish area. I set up my tent and sat in my rental car to eat my footlong sub from Subway and listen to Potus on Sirius Radio. Around 8:30 PM I settled in my tent and went to sleep for the night (except for getting up to pee several times during the night).

At the start of the race the weather was in the upper 30’s to low 40’s so I decided to throw on my tie-dye Moben sleeves to keep my upper body comfortable.  I debated all week on my shoes, but decided to go with the New Balance MT 101s, what I lost in protection from the rocks would hopefully be made up for in having more control on the technical trail (I never fell during the race).    

The first loop of the race a few guys started out at a torrid pace. Dave Mackey, David James, Geoff Roes and a few others. I thought about trying to keep up, but my better judgment took over and I held back. After the first 50k loop I was feeling alright, not great, but alright. I stopped at an aid station around the marathon point and drank a bottle of Ensure from my drop bag, which has become my source or nutrition for most of these longer distance races.  I am able to digest it relatively well, and it gives me that boost of calories and energy that I need to keep going.  Along with the Ensure, I was taking in a couple of Vanilla Hammer Gels and Endurolytes every hour.  This helped to keep me fueled from aid station to aid station. 

 At each aid station I usually just filled up my water bottle and went on my way. For most of the second loop I kept passing/being passed by Mark Godale. He was having some trouble on the technical terrain, and I just felt privileged to be running with such a talented runner.  I was running well (probably not as fast as I should have been) and coming into CrossRoads at mile 42, my spirits were getting down and the pain from the rocks was starting to get to me.  Then as I came into the aid station, there was my wife who had flown in from D.C. to surprise me!  This really helped to boost my spirits and gave me a push through the latter portion of the race.  At the next aid station, my wife was there to help me out and then kick me out and tell me to get on my way. 

Over-all the race went quite well. I was able to take in nutrients without a problem and run at a fairly competitive pace. My goal was to finish in 10 hours and I finished in 10:05:33. I finished 7th overall male in the USATF trail 100k championships, which is pretty cool and I’ll get a medal.  

The race was well organized and the rocks were brutal, but rewarding at the same time.  It was a great experience for both my wife and I. We were able to hang out in San Antonio the next day; eating some good food and taking in the “beauty” of the Riverwalk (they are in the middle of draining and cleaning it). Now I am looking forward to the Charleston, SC Marathon on Saturday (only a week after the 100k) and am thinking of coming back to Texas for the 50 Mile USATF Championship in March…

What I learned: I could have run faster, but really was focused on just having a good race at the over 50 mile distance. My nutrition was good, my muscles felt really good throughout the race, but this was the first race where I had to learn to deal with managing the pain and had to be mentally tough. I made it through and feel better about future races and my ability to push through at (hopefully) a faster pace.

Gear that got me through: I ran in RoadRunner Ultra Shorts with small pockets for holding gels. I had my lucky orange Craft shirt (it has provided me with some luck in Ultra races), Moben Sleeves that kept me comfortable despite the higher temperatures during the middle portions of the race. I also wore Zensah Compression leg sleeves, although I am not sure there is any definitive science behind the use of compression wear, I can say that I feel much better in races with the compression sleeves vs. those without the sleeves. Finally, I went with the New Balance MT 101s. I am a fan of more simplistic/minimalistic footwear and despite the technical terrain I found the lighter MTs provided me with the maneuverability I needed to keep my pace on the trail.

Overall, it was a well race and well put-on. I will definitely consider coming back to Bandera next year, and run a much faster timeJ