Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Success at Tussey Mountainback 50 !

   Right up until Thursday night before  the race I was about ready to just cancel the trip. The hamstring had finally began to show some improvement after over a week off but then would start to hurt all over again just as bad as before and I was getting very discouraged. As bad as I wanted to go and get the WS qualifier, I surely didn't want to go and have yet another dnf and make the injury worse. But the race was paid for as well as advance payment on the hotel so Friday morning I threw the stuff in the car and headed north.

  Woke up Sunday am to a perfect day for a race. At least I wouldn't have the weather conditions to worry about derailing my plans.  It was a chilly 40ish so I stayed in my car until a few minutes before the start. When it was time to get ready I headed over to the start and found Jim Plant who was in the same situation as me needing to get in one last chance to qualify.

   The sun was not yet risen as we began. I started very slow and easy to see how the leg would feel. No pain for the first few minutes and I was thinking just maybe it would be ok but no, within half a mile I could feel the pain coming on and by the 1st mile I was already hurting quite a bit. All I could do was suck it up and hope for the best. I stopped to stretch it out for minute and Jim passed by with some concern for me. I told him I was just doing some preventative maintenance before it got any worse. Well it didn't help. I was just going to have to deal with the pain.

  We finished the first climb which was about 3 miles long but not steep and was  runable the whole way although I did take a few short walk breaks. I soon passed Jim on the downhill and then settled in for the next several miles that were pretty easy with short easy ups and downs and lots of nearly flat sections. Normally I would have been pushing those downhills but today I was being careful  to save the leg for as long as possible so I just joggy jogged as Laura Frey would say !  I was moving along well and enjoying the gorgeous morning but every step was hurting. I just took pictures, took in the views and thought of my friends and family back home that I knew were supporting me to try and take my mind off of it.

 I did the first 10 miles in 1:47:22 and even with the beginning climb it was the easiest 10 mile section of the race. The next  aid station was around mile 11 at a State park and then we began another climb.  Jim caught up to me about mile 13 and after a few words of encouragement I let him go needing to stick with my own plan.  I was pretty much alone from that point on as far as other ultra runners because we were so spread out and there were only about 150 of us. The next 10 were pretty uneventful. Other than the pain I was actually feeling very good.

  I think it was around mile 18 that the first of the relay runners went flying by. They started in several waves beginning an hour after us. I normally don't like being passed but knowing they were fresh and only doing legs of 5 miles or less  made it easy to take. I did that 2nd 20 miles in 2:02, still well ahead of the pace I needed and feeling good.

  The next section had the hardest climb of the day, from about mile 20.5 to 25 was all uphill and 2.5 of that was fairly steep so I just settled in and not worrying. So far the leg had been  holding up but now it was flaring up for a few minutes every now and then. I was talking out loud to it and praying, just hang in there leg. We got this if you just hold up. It never got tight though and would soon just go back to the normal pain.

 I finally topped the hill and shortly after passed the halfway point in 5:07. My energy level was still good so I was feeling confident as long as the hammie held up. I had a pretty simple nutrition plan. I was drinking water in my bottle and Heed at the aid stations. I had taken 2 gels and eaten about 4 cookies and 4 small hand fulls of M&M's and the stomach was very happy. I normally have no problem eating or drinking whatever I want when it's cool. By now it had warmed up into the middle 50's  and the wind had kicked up a bit.

  I passed mile 30 in 6:09 slowing to a 2:19 for the last 10 and most of that slowdown attributable to that long climb from 20-25.

  The next 10 had some up and down with another long 2+ mile climb but it wasn't nearly as steep as the previous long one.  I was actually looking forward to the relay runners and their support vehicles passing me at this point. Nearly all of them were very supportive of us ultra runners, cheering and telling us how awesome and amazing we were. Just before the 40 mile mark we came out of the forest for the first time and ran on some paved road for awhile past some farms and homes with beautiful views of the Fall foliage on the mountains in peak color.  I did that 10 mile section 2:13.

 As I was passing he 40 mile I was doing some multi-tasking. Tried to take a picture of the 40 mile point with my phone to post to FB and somehow screwed up the phone address to FB. I was also taking pictures of the beautiful scenery with my regular camera and then texting Amy an update. Dropped my phone and then a few feet later dropped the camera and the battery popped out. Ok, time to get going here. Anyway the update I texted was I had passed mile 40 in 8:22. A little over 2.5 hours to do 10 more miles. One more big climb to go. I think I got this !

  There was another aid station just before the 41 mile point and  as I  begin to run again I noticed that my leg pain had actually subsided quite a bit and was now just a mere nuisance. My confidence was high now. I felt pretty sure it was going to let me get through this and once i got the last climb behind me it was nearly 4 miles of downhill to the finish.

  I settled into the climb and somewhere around mile 43 I caught up to Alana Garrison-Kast , a friend of Jim's that I had met at breakfast after Hinson Lake. Shortly after that the grade of the climb increased substantially. I really haven't trained much for climbing up long hills and I was a lot slower than usual but at this point I wasn't worried knowing if I was moving I was going to make it.

 I made it to the aid station about the 45.5 mile point and was disappointed  to find they were out of Coke. I like to wait until the last 3rd of the race to drink the soda but beginning from about mile 33, they had been out at every aid station.  As I was heading back out to do the last leg, Alana caught up to me and somehow she had snagged a bottle of Coke and offered to share it with me. Thank you ! It definitely hit the spot.

  We walked together up the next small hill and then with the downhill I took off. I was afraid it might be a quad pounder  but it turned out to be a sweet gradual downhill on pavement.  I welcomed the pavement because it was easier on my feet than a lot of the gravel had been over most of the course. I was still feeling great and was cruising along easily at a relaxed 10 minute mile pace.  With about 1/2 mile to go the course merged with the first half mile that we had started earlier. There was a woman at the intersection stopped and I could tell she was confused on which way to go. She looked back and I just waved her in the right direction. She was so happy she didn't go the wrong way. I saw her afterwards and she thanked me again for sparing her who knows how many bonus miles !

  With about 1/4 mile to go we came out of the woods and there was a slight uphill grade to the finish. As I approached I suddenly began to choke up and was fighting back tears of  relief joy. For that one brief moment I was almost happy one of my Angels wasn't there at the finish because I know I would have been boo hooing. But then I just got happy and was smiling big time as I crossed the finish to  lots of cheers and good job ultra. ( The relay folks called all of us ultra )

  As I crossed the line and got my medal , a group of young lady's handed me a water bottle and asked if I was ok and if I needed anything. I said yeah, I think I need one of you to take a picture. One of them said sure and was about to snap one when I said wait a minute and let me get ready and then I dropped down and started doing my pushups. They were all like OMG I can't believe he's doing that. After a few snapshots she said she had the shot and I could quit  but I said no got to do 50. All the other spectators were  cheering and amazed. I guess they just don't know who I am ;)

 I was so happy to have accomplished my goal, feel good and almost more so , glad that the leg held up on me so that I could do it. I fired off a text to the Angels and then found Jim. He had finished about 10 minutes before me with a pr and of course he was elated and while we were there Alana came in just squeeking under 11 hours.

  Other than running out of Coke way too early in the race everything else about the race was 1st class and I would recommend  it to anyone looking for a moderately challenging  50 miler.

  Now, I just have to take care and make sure the leg heals so I can get back into regular training and be able to race hard again.

  The lottery for Western States is on December 7th and I will have 3 tickets in the hat this year. wish me Luck !

  Here is a link to the pictures I took on this beautiful day in the Allegheney Mts of PA

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tussey Mounainback 50 miler preview

 It's not that I haven't thought about running this race eventually but it was certainly not on my schedule for 2013. After my DNF at Bighorn 100 miler due to hypothermia I was about to give up on doing 100's after a streak of bad luck causing  string of dnf's. But deep inside I knew I was not yet ready to call it quits. I still know I can one day improve on my pr and more importantly I still have the desire to fulfill my dream of completing the Western States 100. And that is where this race comes into the picture. Because of my DNF at Bighorn I had no qualifier to enter the lottery and without one I would have to start the whole process over again. I know if I don't get in soon I will be too old and slow to finish so I really need to get back while I am still running strong.

  Due to time and budget restraints I was having a hard time finding a suitable qualifying race but then I saw this one. Not too close but driveable and I could do it without missing a day of work.  I begin to get excited and was looking forward to coming up here and running a fast time knowing if I blew, up I could still finish under the 11hr cut-off. I even signed up for the USATF because the race is the National 50 Mile Championship and although I doubt I would have placed  I was looking forward to the age-group competition.

 Well, that was before I got stupid one weekend in early August and ended up with a hamstring injury that was avoidable. It's been hampering me ever since and most recently screwing up my BQ attempt two weeks ago. I have not run a step in the past two weeks in hopes that the leg will just get me to the finish line in under 11 hours. So, rather than race I will go conservatively and just try and enjoy the day and I guess that's not a bad thing  sometimes. I will take advantage of the slower pace and take in the views and take lots of pictures. It would be nice if an Angel or two could have made the trip to keep me company. I don't know anyone in the race except for Jim Plant who like me dnf'd in the summer and is running just to keep his name in the WS lottery.

  What seems a little strange is that under the new qualifying standards for WS only certain races are eligible and about all are trail with many road ultras dropped from the list. But this is a road race, about 75% dirt and 25% paved. I assume that it is due to the fact that it is the championship 50 miler. The course has about 5,000ft of climbing in the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania. It is one big loop with a short section at the beginning and end that is run in both directions starting at the Tussey Mountain Ski Resort outside of Boalsburg PA, which is just outside of State College PA.

 Here is a link to the website:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wineglass Marathon 2013

  My travels to Corning went well on Saturday with no issues. I drove straight to the expo from the airport and was happy to see The Werners just 2 cars ahead of me heading into the parking lot. Talk about perfect timing. We picked up our race packets and just before leaving we found Ronnie Jones, a CRW racing teammate that was running the marathon also. We walked over to the downtown area and found Rebecca Sitton, the last of the group and went to find some dinner before heading to our separate rooms for the night.

  I woke up an hour early with excitement of the race just ahead. I wasn't too happy with the weather which was about 20 degrees higher than normal for this area. It was mid 60's with chance of rain and humidity near 100%. Oh well, you do the best with what you got. My main concern was whether or not the legs would hold up to the pace and distance I was hoping to run. They had felt a bit better and I was hoping for the best.

  I hitched a ride with Ronnie to the start about 3 miles from the hotel and there we waited for Karla to arrive. Frank and Rebecca were doing the half which started , well halfway on this point to point course from Bath to Corning. We made our last minute preparations and then headed up the hill to await the start. Then it started to rain with 3 minutes to go. Not but a sprinkle and with the high humidity and warmer weather I actually wouldn't have minded if it rained later.

  The first half mile was downhill which allowed me to run at about my planned race pace with the effort closer to my training pace. The course then flattened out and I hit the first mile in 8:09. Pr pace is 8:12 so I was pretty happy to be right there. But I wasn't happy because the right leg was already tight and hurting. It wasn't too bad and all I could do was hope it got a little better and I could keep going. The 2nd flat mile was an 8:07 and with that I decided that yes, the pr attempt was on.

 I relaxed a little too much mile 3 in 8:21 but was right back where I needed to be with an 8:09 fourth mile. Mile 5 had the first significant uphill which slowed me down a bit to 8:23 bu tfor 5 I was 41:12 and right on pr pace. Mile 6 had some more climbing and then from 6.5 to 8.5 I was surprised to find that it climbed the whole way. It wasn't steep but it still took an effort and my pace was slowing to the 8:20's. At that point I realized with the warm conditions and a few more hills to come that I would not be making that time up so I switched to plan B which was to just get the  Boston qualifier of 3:40 which is an 8:23 pace. I was steady clicking away the miles at 8:20 to 8:22 and feeling very good other than the constant pain. It did seem to ease off a bit for a couple of miles but never went away like I had hoped.

 I passed through the half marathon point nearly dead on 1:49:00 which gave me a one minute cushion to work with, or about exactly where I needed to be.  There was a nasty hill just before mile 15 and I backed off the effort a little bit. It was then that the 3:40 pace group went by. I wasn't worried because I knew they were slightly ahead of pace and as soon as we crested the hill I was reeling them back in and ready to settle into pace behind them over the next several flatter miles. Well that was the plan but my leg had other plans.

  Just before reaching the 16 mile point the leg just suddenly gave out on me. The pain sharpened and I had to limp and just could not extend the leg anymore. I walked into the water stop and tried to massage it and stretch it a bit but as soon as I began to run it was obvious that my race was over just that fast. Even my hopes of at least going for my 2nd fasted time were shattered. It was all very frustrating knowing there was really nothing I could do to change things.

  I saw a sign that said next medical tent 1 mile so I kept moving forward and figured I would drop out there. But as I got nearer I knew I really didn't want another DNF. I had plenty of time to finish but I did not want to have to walk the whole way or make the injury any worse.  The pain had eased of enough that I could run at a much slower pace without limping so I just went into my ultra shuffle  pace and mindset. As long as I could keep moving and not limp I was going to get to the finish and get my medal !

  It didn't help matters when the sag wagon with a few casualties inside came up behind me near the 18 mile mark but I resisted and kept moving. By now I was walking backwards a lot and looking to see if Karla was coming. I had been hoping she would run a sub 4 hr and doing the math in my head I knew that she should catch me sometime before mile 19 if she was on pace. Well, I didn't see here and by mile 20 it was obvious she was not going to do it today. Not long afterwards she finally caught up to me. I ran about 1/2 mile with her before I had to walk some more.

  It really stinks having so many people pass you in a race like this and especially knowing I was fit enough to be way ahead of where I was at but I just sucked it up an kept moving as fast as I could without making the leg any angrier with me. When Karla had passed I told her it would probably be a 4:45 finish for me but I was able to move a bit faster than I thought and I soon figured out I had a shot at going under 4:30. Really a meaningless goal at this point but it gave me something to focus on and yet another goal  to shoot for.

   I was so happy to finally see the bridge crossing the river and into downtown because I knew I had about 1/2 mile to go and I would break the 4:30 barrier. The crowds along Market Street were great cheering for us and despite the disappoint of the injury I was able to smile and wave to the crowds and enjoy the moment. I saw Rebecca taking a picture just before the finish and then it was over in 4:28:44.

  I felt pretty rough in the finish area for a few minutes but soon Frank and Karla and Rebecca came by and before long I felt a lot better. As I was getting up from the curb where I had been resting, Rebecca made some comment in joking about my pushups. So I dropped down and gave 50 which she recorded. That was a lot easier than running the marathon.

 So now it's time to heal and hope it won't be too long before I can get back to running again.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Wineglass Marathon Preview

  There are a several reasons why this race ended up on my schedule. I had been to the area with my family when I was about 14 years old and had fond memories of the trip and the area. I took my younger son Jeremy there when he was the same age on one of our vacations too. Two of my training partners, Karla and Lisa had expressed an interest in going to run this one and I was  excited to plan on going with them and sharing the experience and re-visiting Watkins Glen, one of my favorite places to see. After a couple of years we decided that this would be the year to sign up. It fit my schedule and I was looking for a fast Fall marathon to either run for a fast time or Boston qualifier so we signed up and began to make plans.

  Unfortunately, Lisa had been struggling with her training over the summer and decided she wouldn't make the trip.  Karla and I will be running the full, Frank, Karla's husband is running the half and our friend Rebecca Sitton will also be running the half.

  I had been hoping to go for a marathon pr with my training going great over the summer and running faster than I have in years at the shorter distances but a hamstring problem cropped up in August and September training was way off and things are still not 100%.  Right now  after a forced taper I will just have to see how things feel when the race begins. Hoping for the best but I just don't know and  I'm not feeling too confident . I will just go with the flow and if I feel great, I'll go for the pr. If I just feel good then I will go for the minimum BQ pace and if I don't feel like I can hold that then I may drop  back and run with Karla  and hope I can hang with her.

 When we signed up we were hoping for normal Autumn NY weather in the mid 40' to mid 50's  and dry during the race. But it looks  now like it will be 60- 75f during the race with humidity near 100% . Booooo !

  Here is a link to the race website.

and their facebook page.

 The race will be doing live tracking but I don't know how often it will update or at what points on the course. I have it set up to post to my facebook page. You can go to this link to sign up to get updates from ChronoTrack and have it sent to you FB or to a phone.