Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Running Short and Fast

I ran a local club 10K race this weekend. It is a nice hilly road race at Clopper Lake in Montgomery County called the Piece of Cake 10K. I ran this race two years ago as my first 10K ever. I finished that race in a little over 48 minutes and could barely walk the rest of the day. I guess I've come a long way in two years.

 I really have not done much speed work at all this year; primarily focused on longer distances as I prepare for a string of 100 milers. Nevertheless, it is fun to go out and push hard for several miles and I was pleasantly surprised that even without specific training my speed has improved. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall in a little under 36 minutes (yeah 12 minutes faster than I did two years ago). There is a certain type of pain that is distinctly different in short races than the pain involved in running Ultras, but the mentality to keep moving through the discomfort is the same. While it is definitely not my race distance of choice - I commented to my wife on our way to the race that I wished it was a marathon, as I would have been more comfortable with that distance - I will continue to through these races in my schedule to "mix things up" and add some variation.

I am not sure of the value of speed work when your primary focus is Ultras. For marathons, 50Ks and even road 50 Milers I am sure it has some value, but for 50 miles + on trails I would argue that long slow distance and higher mileage is much more important. Personally, with the exception of occasional tempo runs I do very little "fast" running, but my times in these shorter distance races has continued to improve. Could I be even faster if I focused more on speed? Probably, but will that help me at MMT? I am not so sure. Overall, for me it comes down to doing what you enjoy and what works for you.

Next up, I'll be driving down a few hours to Southern Virginia for the Bel Monte 50 Miler. I signed up for this race last second, and I am not sure how my legs will feel about all the climbing. I have been running a lot so far this year. I'll probably take it easy for the rest of the week and hopefully I'll be rested enough for the race. While I hope to do well, I don't intend on pushing too hard, especially since I have the Potawatomi 100 coming up only two weeks later. I really am just looking forward having some fun and spending a day out in the mountains.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nueces USATF 50 Mile Trail Championship

I’ll post my thoughts on championships, USATF, etc. in a future post. For now, here is my race report for the Nueces 50 Miler.

The week leading up to this race was quite stressful with work and school, and the fact that I was having trouble finding a flight out to San Antonio for the race. It looked as if Anne was not going to be able to come with me and I had to use Priceline to find a relatively cheap ticket. So, I got into SAT around 5 PM on Friday and then had to drive to Camp Eagle a couple of hours away. I made it to the Camp around 7:30; too late for packet pickup, but just in time to catch the tail end of the pasta dinner. I quickly ate a plate of food, emailed Anne (there was no cell phone service, but they had Wi-fi) and then went down to the camp site. Since it was late and dark and I probably would not sleep well anyway, I decided to forego pitching my tent and just slept in the car. After a restless night, I awoke around 4:30 am and ate my traditional pre-race meal – a PB sandwich and an apple. I then went up to the start/finish area and got ready for the race.

The wind was howling as we stood in line for the 6 AM start. Several of us joked about the fact that we started the 100k (Bandera) at 7 AM in daylight and a 50 miler in the dark. The race started and David James and one other runner sped off into the dark. Jason Bryant, Steven Moore, Jack Pilla and myself formed a “chase” pack. I led this little group for the first 8-9 miles before we started spreading out a little bit. The course was very rocky and near the end of the loop (first out of three 16.7 mile loops) there were some pretty good climbs. Jason powered up these climbs and I attempted to do the same, but my legs did not like it. I just had no power on the climbs. I finished the first loop in around 2:13, a little faster than I had planned, but nothing to be worried about. As I went out for loop two, my legs still were letting me know they did not like hills. I slowed down some and fell off from the leaders quite a bit. My energy level never seemed to get too high or to low. My only real problem was pushing uphill and then trying to pick up speed after the hills. Near the end of this loop the sun had come out and I started sweating quite a bit, but it was deceptive because the high winds kept it evaporating, leaving just trails of salt behind. I started popping Endurolytes like candy, and this kept my electolyte levels up. I finished the second loop about 10 minutes slower than the first.

As I headed out for the final loop, I knew I was in 6th place and that I would have a hard time catching anyone at this stage, especially since I was struggling so much on the hills. Luckily, this loop seemed to go by very fast as there were many 50K and 50 mile runners on the course for their second loop, and the quick “good job” or “keep it up” provided a good distraction. Even at the end of this loop, I still felt pretty good. I wish I could have run faster, but was running real comfortably. I pondered the fact that several months ago running 50 miles would not feel this easy and it gave me confidence that - if I am smart about it – I am in good condition to run my 100 milers coming up. I finished the race in 7:14, in 6th place and actually received my USATF medal at the finish.

After the race I stayed at the finish line ,ate some food, and chatted with the other runners. Jason Schlarb won the race in a sizzling 6:28, David James came in second, Jason Bryant in third, with Stephen and Jack finishing right ahead of me. I ended up being the slowest of the “fast” guys, but just to be included in the group made me feel pretty good. Later that night I decided to check into my cheap hotel (if Anne had come with there was no way we would have stayed in a place like this), but it was better than sleeping in the car again. The hardest part of the trip was having to wait until Monday to head back home because couldn’t find a return flight on Sunday for under $600 (damned high gas prices). I really missed Anne and the boys, which made me extremely glad to get home on Monday, despite the nightmare of flights. Got on my first plane at 11:20 and, three planes later finally made it back to DC.

Lessons Learned: If you are conditioned properly, running 50 miles is not that bad. Now if my legs had let me push a little more, I am sure I would have been more sore. For the most part, the only real soreness I had was my feet after getting beat-up on the rocks. I am sure I could have done things differently and run a better (faster) race, but I am pleased with where I am so early in the season and feel comfortable putting my focus on competing at the 100 mile distance. I also am going to focus more on vertical – need to get out in the mountains more (in all my free time:).

Gear that got me through: Wore the New Balance MT 101s again, probably not the best choice given the terrain as my feet are still screaming at me a bit. I will probably need to explore something a little more sturdy before MMT. I wore my road runner shorts, Balega socks and an Asics singlet. For nutrition I ate 3 or 4 Hammer gels early on and then drank a couple bottles of Ensure, and ate a couple quarters of PB and J sandwiches. I also took numerous Endurolytes. I probably should have tried to take in a little more, but I never felt like my energy level got too low.

This has been my second trip out to Texas for a Tejas Trails run and I have been very impressed. The races are well organized, trails are exquisitely marked, and the aid stations have everything you could ask for. Hats off to Joe (the RD) and all the wonderful volunteers.