Sunday, October 28, 2012

CIM Training Week Ten and the World Series, Baby!

Week ten of my marathon training is complete, and things are shaping up well. With the guidance of Footfeathers Coaching, I have increased my training pace slightly and I feel like I am making better use of individual sessions. In addition, it feels like I am better preparing for, and recovering from, my race efforts. Plus, my San Francisco Giants made it to the WORLD SERIES! Here's how my week played out:

Monday: 45 minute walk, <14:00/mile

Tuesday: 60 minutes, 20 min warm up, 30 @ 8:00 effort, cool down

Wednesday: 30 minutes at 9:00 effort (cut short from 60 due to lack of energy and Game 1 of the World Series!)

Thursday: Hill repeats - 15 min warm up, 6 x 4:00 hill (recover on descent), cool down

Friday: Off

Saturday: Falling Leaves 10K (49:34, tenth overall)

Sunday: 1:54 minutes at 9:00 effort

Totals: 37.5 miles, 4239'/4280' elevation gain/loss, avg heart rate: 138

Sunday's long run was on my old training route along Pasquale Road in Nevada City. I love this course because it has minimal traffic and winds through a dense forest as it traverses Deer Creek canyon above Nevada City. It was good to get back to that run.

The icing on the cake, though, is the Giants in the World Series! They have overcome six elimination games in these playoffs, and now they have swept the first three games of the Series. Many people would rather have a competitive Series which lasts for more than four games, but I would be ecstatic with a four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers and a Giants Championship tonight.

Next up: a short taper for the US Half Marathon next Sunday. Across the Golden Gate and back is an awesome course; I'm really excited to be running this one again. My primary goal is to best my 1:48:51 time from Easter Sunday, but really, I'd like to see if I have a 1:40 in me, which would be a feat to beat my Giants Race time. There is more elevation next week as we climb from Bay level to cross the bridge, and then lose and gain a bunch as we cross under Highway 101 in Sausalito before the return trip. Tim has me doing some strides this week for leg turnover. It should be a good week!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Falling Leaves 10K

The tenth race in the 2012 Gold Country Grand Prix series was the Falling Leaves 5K/10K, benefiting Nevada City Schools Foundation. The course incorporated roads around historic downtown Nevada City and Deer Creek. As it was the second to last race in the series, it was well attended and organized at the Deer Creek School starting and finishing area.

Coming into this weekend, my coach had advised me to take it easy. "Probably not the smartest to race a 10K a week before a half marathon", he wrote. "Keep it at half marathon pace or slower." So my plan was to use the race as a 'tune up' for my tune up race next week. Keep the heart rate below 160 and let the chips fall where they may.

Upon arriving and checking in, I found Rob and asked which race he was entering. There was no way I could catch up to his first place point total, but if he ran the 5K, I had a chance at first place in the 10K, much like the Kellerman Batwa Challenge in August. "You're in luck, I'm in the 5K due to a knee issue". Good fortune for me, bad for Rob's knee. With five minutes to the race start, I warmed up with a short jog and joined the crowd at the start line. The Race Director explained the 5K/10K split, and then we were off.

I settled into a comfortable tempo and fell in with Machen. We talked a bit, about his gum chewing during the race and my marathon training and long runs. I did not have to run home from the race for a change. The course took a loop before heading off towards Deer Creek and the Pine Street bridge. During the loop I was jockeying back and forth with a small boy. He ran hard, his footfalls sounded like a hammer drill, and he did his best to stay dead in front of me at every opportunity. There were a few times I almost had to pick him up to get him out from underfoot. Fortunately, Machen took the lead shortly before the split, and junior chased him out to the 5K turnaround.

At this point, I found myself alone. I could see the first place woman a few hundred yards in front of me. She was dressed in a Spiderman costume, and she was covering ground quickly. We ran down to Pine Street, crossed over the bridge, and cut through downtown, around the Miner's Foundry, towards Old Downieville Highway. The road was shady and cool, the course and its many turns were very well marked. 

I was passed by a parade of women. Second, third, fourth and fifth all went by and I encouraged them to catch the next runner. My splits for the first two miles were a bit fast: 7:28 and 7:46. Too fast for my strategy, although my heart rate was still good, about 155-157. So, I slowed a bit, kept it conversational, around 8:30/mile. I soon encountered the leaders coming back from the turnaround; it did not appear that anyone in my age group was in front of me, and once I turned around, I saw that there were two men who could have been vying for my age group lead, but I had over 30 seconds on them, so I just kept my pace up, and my heart rate around 160. 

This section of the course is really enjoyable. Old Downieville Highway traverses the edge of Deer Creek Canyon through a thick forest. Before I knew it, I was coming back through Nevada City and catching up to the fifth place woman. No one threatened from behind, so I waited until the last mile, climbing back to the start from the bridge, to give a little kick. Twirly caught some video as I rounded the last turn and channeled Jorge Maravilla:

The race organizers and volunteers had it together and were enthusiastic, and the cause was a good one; Nevada City schools have been struggling with budgets for many years. It was difficult to tell this was a first year event. The spread at the finishers table included Gatorade, baked goods, bagels and plenty of fruit. They even had a couple of bikes hooked up to blenders to make smoothies! I'm sure it will be successful in the future.

49:34, tenth place overall
Four out of the top five 10K finishers were over 50 years old! In the end, I took first place for Men 40-49 and tenth overall, which puts me in a tie with Machen for second place with one race to go. How the standings look at the end will still depend on which race Rob runs. If he runs the 5K, I have a shot at finishing in second place overall. If he runs the 10K, anything could happen. The Turkey Trot is the largest race in the series. Many runners are from out of town, and I have no idea what the age group competition will look like. It is only ten days before the CIM, so I will not be pushing any faster than my marathon pace. Now, I get a mini-taper before the US Half Marathon in San Francisco next weekend. An out and back across the Golden Gate, it has become my favorite course for the half marathon distance.

Here are the Garmin details for the race:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Picky Bars, Freakin' Science...

It's Freakin' Science, Dude!

"Do you like those Gu's?"

I looked at the pile of energy gels on the counter. "I guess, they work and they're easy to eat. I like beer better, but it's a bit bulky for a trail run", I replied to the woman behind the register at Auburn Running Company.

"I just got these new Picky Bars in, and people really like them. They're made by Lauren Fleshman." 

I held the ziplock bag in my hand. The bar was cut from a pan, about a quarter of an inch thick. Dates were the first ingredient. I like dates. The label touted the 4:1 carb/protein ratio in each bar. I bought one of each flavor: Lauren's Mega-nuts, All-in-almond, and the Nutless Wonder (soon to be renamed the Need for Seed). The founders were bad asses from the track and triathlon circuits who happened to have some GI issues and dietary needs that encouraged them to formulate their own energy bars. It was a plan hatched during injury rest, which funneled all of the anxiety of being laid up into a nutrition bar start-up. Up until last summer, they were still making them in Lauren's kitchen! And those bars, they were damn good.

The whole 4:1 carb/protein ratio thing was something I had just discovered, and I was looking for products that fit the bill. Picky Bars are all 4:1, and less than 200 calories. Their website made it easy to buy direct, so I began buying cases through the mail. Soon, they initiated a monthly club, of which I was fortunate enough to become a charter member. They ship me 18 bars every month. Like a lifetime supply. They even throw in swag.

Before a run, after a run, an afternoon snack, breakfast supplement, lunch replacement. I could eat these bars all day! My favorite flavors are the Meganuts and the newest flavor: Smooth Caffeinator (hazelnuts and coffee). The ingredients list is full of recognizable food from organic sources! The recipies are all geared towards exercise  recovery and healthy eating, outlined on their nutritional principles page.

Picky Bars have been a staple of my training food plan, and now that I've been using them for over a year, I'm confident that they will continue to be my go to energy bar. If you cannot find them in your area, let your local running store know you want them! Or, do what I did and join the Picky Club. Lauren, Steph and Jesse have put together an awesome shop, they're in business for all the right reasons, and they are truly excited to bring a quality product to athletes everywhere. I have really enjoyed being a part of their growth from a small homemade start-up to the full fledged energy food player they are bound to become.

Monday, October 22, 2012

CIM Training Week Nine & Footfeathers "Eat to Win" Clinic

Dorks, posing. (Photo by Margaret Gagnon)
Week nine marks the beginning of my new training strategy: give in to being coached. Pretty liberating, I must say. The miles seem easier when they are imposed by a higher power. My first week with Tim has been my second biggest volume week of the year, and I feel awesome. He even had me walk one day! Check out the numbers:

Monday: rest day

Tuesday: 15 minute warm up, 40 minutes at half-marathon pace, 20 minute cool down

Wednesday: 60 minute MAF test

Thursday: walk 45 minutes faster than 14:00/mile

Friday: 60 minutes @ 9:00/mile effort

Saturday: 45 minutes @ 9:00/mile effort

Sunday: 20 minute warm up, 60 minutes @ 9:00 effort, 60 minutes @ 8:45 effort, 40 minutes @ 9:00 effort

Totals: 50.3 miles, avg heart rate 140

This approach is a shift from the Total Heart Rate Training program I have been using since my injury last year. Changing horses requires a change in paradigm, and although effort is not the same as heart rate, my starting efforts are based on the MAF test, and an effort-based program is better suited to the trail running I plan to be doing next year. Given the differences in trails, elevation and overall difficulty, learning to keep a steady effort will pay off if I can fine tune the process on the flat-lands and road races.

Another difference in the program Tim has laid out for me is my pace. The intensity and effort on my 3 hour run was a change in that instead of holding a steady heart rate and getting progressively slower over the length of the run, I held a steady pace/effort and let my heart rate climb as the run progressed. This mimics races better than the former method, and I feel like it is one of the more positive changes Tim has thrown at me. I learned a lot on that one long run (20 miles in three hours), such as I don't need as much fuel during training as I thought.

Footfeathers and Lucho dish it out (Photo by Margaret Gagnon)

The week was highlighted by a Footfetish, err, Footfeathers clinic, "Eat to Win". As with past clinics, we met Tim in the Marin Headlands at the Tennessee Valley Trail Head on Saturday morning. He brought with him a guest speaker, Tim "Lucho" Waggoner, to talk about nutrition, which Lucho has dialed in over a 25 year (minus a break or two) career as a professional endurance athlete. His bio from Ultimate Direction:

"Triathlon and Ultra-marathoning 15 time Ironman. 16th over-all and top amateur at Ironman Hawaii in 2000. USAT Triathlete of the year in 2000. 12th professional at Hawaii in 2002. US Ironman Champ in 2004. 2:30 marathon at Denver. 6th place at Leadville 100 run in 2010. 8:37 at Leadville 100 bike in 2011. [Won] Leadman in 2012."

Bottom line: bad-ass who has figured out how not to bonk! He also happens to be down to Earth and an all around nice guy:

The clinic was two and a half hours of anecdotes, information and questions & answers. Pretty informal overall, and Lucho turned out to be like Tim in that he is a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of coach. Some things I took home:

  • Food falls into two categories: fuel for training and nutrition the rest of the time
  • Personal experimentation is required to find out what works, as we all are different
  • We don't need as much carbs as we might think
    • Better to focus on protein and fat
    • Carbs should be ~40% of daily calories during base training, up to 80% during peak
  • Immediately after a workout, avoid protein and fat until liver glycogen is replenished
    • Switch to 4:1 carb/protein after initial carb replacement
  • Try to eat 4 or more hours prior to workout
  • Salt capsules might help with GI issues
  • During exercise, 1g carbs/lb of body weight/hour is optimum
  • Start simple, then get complex with fuel strategies
  • Fat and protein inhibit carbohydrate uptake
  • During recovery, max carb uptake is 80-90 grams/hour, some proteins can only be absorbed at 2.8 grams/hour
  • It can take 20-24 hours to completely replenish glycogen stores
  • Daily protein intake should be about 1 gram/kilogram of body weight/day
  • Race night dinner should be 12 hours prior to race start
  • Carb loading should be achieved by maintaining steady diet and tapering
  • No fuel is necessary if workout is sub MAF or less than 90 minutes
  • Some fuel/nutrition options:
    • Master Amino Acid Pattern
    • Co Enzyme Q 10
    • Maltodextrin plus sucrose and beet extract as gel replacement (liquid)
    • V-8 is a good addition to the drop bag
There was much more information thrown around, and some good discussions covering common maladies. A lot of my opinions and observations were reinforced, and I really enjoyed the experience and the group. I'm beginning to know people by name, largely due to Margaret Gagnon's compulsive photography and Facebook tags!

How else would we wrap up an eating clinic? (Photo by Margaret Gagnon)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

To Garmin, or not to Garmin?

This week marked the beginning of a new experiment. No longer am I in control, planning my own punishment. No longer must I saunter aimlessly along the path towards fitness. I have found faith in Footfeathers, and he has shown no mercy. One of my first workouts was the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test - 60 minutes at my estimated aerobic threshold, 140 bpm. This pace would normally have been an intermediate endurance run for me, and I was looking forward to it after the effort I had put in Tuesday. After work I stopped by Berkeley Bowl and stocked up on frozen fruit and greens for smoothies, and once they were squared away aboard Kuani, I got ready to go for my run. That was when I took my Garmin off the charger only to find it DEAD.

This was not the first time the Forerunner 610 had let me down. I purchased my first one in July of 2011, just before I was sidelined with stress fractures. Since then, I have had it replaced twice: once for corrupted firmware, and once for charging issues. Garmin's fancy magnetic charging contacts are prone to clogging with funk and gunk from sweat (great design concept for a piece of exercise gear there, Garmin), and it seems no measure of post-workout cleaning/rinsing/picking will enable the system to continue functioning.

So I fiddled with it, rinsed it, poked at the contacts with toothpicks. I even tried to mold some aluminum foil over the contacts, but nothing would get it charging. Sure, it said it was charging, but the battery percentage would remain at 0%. After 45 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to skip the MAF and just go for a naked run with no HR monitor or watch (gasp!). While I struggled with that concept (I even considered calling Tim for some emotional support), I called Garmin to get the ball rolling on a replacement. My fourth in 15 months. Fortunately, they already had me in the system, and the call lasted just a few minutes. I had to disengage the charger from the watch to get the serial number, and low and behold, the damn thing started charging properly when I replaced it. I always get a kick out of electronic devices coincidentally repairing themselves as soon as replacement options are underway.

The only thing worse than waiting around to go for a run while your Garmin searches for satellites is waiting around for your Garmin to charge enough for your workout! Would 25% be enough? Lets see... Eight hours of battery life, one hour workout. 25% should be two hours. Better make it 30% just to be safe...

It worked fine for an hour, then none of the buttons worked and it wouldn't stop when I was done. And wouldn't save my run.

And now I have a never-worn refurbished Garmin Forerunner 610 for sale.

Monday, October 15, 2012

CIM Training Week Eight & Footfeathers Coaching

After the Bizz Johnson 50K, the legs felt much better than I had anticipated. My marathon training schedule had around 45 miles planned, including an 18 mile long run on Saturday. Even though I felt like I had it in me, I ended up throwing it all out the window:

Sunday: 9.13 easy along the waterfront (HR<140)
Totals: 9.13 miles, 102'/98' elevation ascent/descent

Obviously I have not been able to complete every week (or many weeks) as planned, and even though I know it is the long runs that will ultimately contribute the endurance I need for the marathon, I have been hard on myself for not sticking to my plan. An old friend of mine from high school came into town last weekend for his 40th birthday, and he, his fiance, and I went to the Treasure Island Music Festival to celebrate. The plan on paper looked like I could get my 18 miles in on Saturday morning before we headed to the festival, but the plan on paper failed to account for the carousing we planned to do on Friday night after I picked them up at the airport. Added to that minor detail was my performance at the Bizz Johnson. I am happy with my finish, and my time, given my primary goals of having fun and finishing, but the late race pain has me re-evaluating my training strategies. Trying to fit so many races into a training cycle is difficult, and I lack the experience necessary to truly optimize my training around these race efforts.

Enter Tim Long.

Tim caught my attention when he won the American Canyon 50K this year, the same event that I ran my first trail race in the 15K. I discovered he had a blog and began following his adventures around the Bay (he was a transplant from Colorado, a home to which he has since returned). His writing style is at the same time snarky, witty and genuine. A very entertaining and educational read, and as I read more, I realized he was the kind of guy that I could get along with and learn something along the way. He offered clinics on running hills, which I knew would benefit me, and eventually one was convenient for me to attend. At the clinic, I met some athletes that were being coached by Tim, and I got more background on his approach, and ultimately, his accessibility. I had never considered a coach before, but I found myself thinking seriously about what I might be able to get out of such a a relationship. 

I had decided to wait until after the marathon to enlist his help, as I figured I should stick with one training plan and not "change horses mid-race". While trudging along the Bizz Johnson trail, I realized I wasn't doing a very good job of sticking to my training plan. I needed a schedule that incorporated my race days better. I needed someone to hold me accountable for missed mileage. I needed someone with more experience at what I was trying to accomplish. I needed a coach.

Serendipitously, Tim had two spaces open up last week. I took it as another sign from the running gods, and sold my soul to the devil. I threw out my training plan, took the week off from running (except for an easy 9 miles on Sunday) and put my fate into Tim's hands. I'm really looking forward to the change in my approach, and the dividends my investment will pay in the months to come. Tim's athletes range from elites to middle/back of the packers like myself, and the community he has built around his coaching services and clinics is one in which I already feel welcome. These people rock!

With two 10K's, the US Half Marathon and California International Marathon all in the next eight weeks, I know Tim's guidance will help me achieve my goals while having fun. He is offering a race nutrition clinic this Saturday which, after my GI issues at the Bizz, is perfectly timed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Bizz Johnson 50K

It all started at the finish of the "Other" US Half Marathon on Easter Sunday, 2012. My friend David and I had just completed our first half marathon on the spectacular San Francisco waterfront and Golden Gate bridge.

"I found our next race" he said, beaming. "The Bizz Johnson 50K in Susanville. It's downhill, it'll be easy!"
Mile 19
"Dude, that's two months before my first marathon! What are you doing to me?!?," I replied. The thought of completing an ultra before my first marathon seemed like it might be a bad idea for so many reasons. Was it not sacrilegious? Would it blow my marathon training? Would it diminish the marathon accomplishment? Could I even complete it on half a cycle of marathon training? In order to answer these questions, I realized, I would have to sign up and try!
As the summer progressed, I waited for David to pull the trigger and sign up for the race. I did not want to end up doing this race on my own, and no small part of me hoped that David might lose interest. Of course, in mid-July, David called and let me know he had signed up. It was on.
The Bizz Johnson Marathon was going on its seventh year, while 2012 would be the inaugural 50K. The course follows the Bizz Johnson Trail 25 miles from Mason Station to Hobo Camp day use area in Susanville. To accommodate the needed distance, the marathon begins with a 1.2 mile out-and-back along McCoy Road while the ultra out-and-back was stretched out to 6.5 miles.
The week leading into the race, I was still recovering from my 5K race effort and long run the previous weekend. Suddenly, running 50 kilometers in the middle of marathon training did not seem prudent. I cut the short runs and replaced a middle distance run with a day commuting by bike, and began to doubt my training. My longest run to date was 17 miles, and despite a "complete not compete" attitude, it seemed like a wheelchair might be in my immediate future.
Twirly, David and I drove to Susanville the day before the race and picked up the race bibs and t-shirts at the old depot, which was hosting the Rails to Trails festival. Then we checked into the hotel and triangulated the local brewpub, the Lassen Ale Works. The pub was full of runners and the pasta special sold out, leaving David and I to split the last portion. I recognized Coach Ken and we spent some time talking to him and Mrs. CK after dinner, then went back to the hotel to watch the Giants lose the postseason opener to the Reds (grrr).
The morning of the race, I had my ritual Bircher Muesli breakfast and made some coffee to get things moving. For some reason, I had Gangnam Style in my head. So to remedy the situation, and to enlighten David, I loaded up the video on my laptop. Unfortunately, instead of getting the song out of my head, it became a theme for the day!

Twirly drove us out to Mason Station, where the majority of the 50K runners were disembarking from the shuttle bus. Stands of ponderosa pines and an open meadow surrounded the trail head parking area and line of porta-potties. There were only 40 people in the 50K, and we lined up on be start line without much fanfare. Mrs. CK had red compression socks, which read "BACON" down the sides. That got her high fives from David and me. The race director told us that "no one had ever gotten lost on the Bizz Johnson trail", and outlined the out-and-back (don't turn around at the marathon turn around, keep going and get a rubber band to prove you went all the way). Then it was 8am. We were off. 

The out-and-back
David and I were not out to set an ambitious pace; we were more interested in having fun and finishing. So we had decided to do run/walk intervals of five minutes walking and twenty minutes running, beginning with a walk interval at the start to let the crowd thin out, which actually only took a minute. The course went out-and-back along McCoy Road, and before I knew it, the lead runners were coming back towards us warning us about a patch of road that resembled a sand box, with deep, loose dirt that kicked up into a cloud as we ran. We picked up our rubber bands at the turnaround aid station, got more high fives from Mrs. CK, and sauntered back to the trail head. Due to our pedestrian pace, we ended up running smack into the marathoners (who had started at 9am) as they rounded their turnaround mark about ¾ mile from the starting line. Fortunately, David needed to hit the head as we ran through the starting area, which allowed most of the crowd to disappear down the trail. I hung out with Twirly and gave her our gloves, etc. and did a quick body-check: no niggles (walk breaks are AWESOME), all systems go.

The first 10K out of Mason Station
The next ten miles were pretty uniform, and we got into a good groove. The trail was tourist-douche grade, yet I still managed to roll my ankle when I kicked a baseball sized rock with my left foot, and it landed precisely beneath my right Hoka. Fortunately, rolling the ankle is something that happens to me frequently when hiking and as a result I have pretty good proprioception, which saved my day. As we continued our run/walk intervals, we oscillated with the other runners, being passed while walking only to pass those same people while running. One pair of men was obviously on a 10:1 run/walk schedule, and we were close to them through the 12 mile aid station.
David and I were shooting for a 6-6.5 hour finish, and through the halfway point, we were right on schedule with high spirits and feeling great. There were lots of high fives and jokes, and the miles clicked by without much change in the scenery. I knew the course would top out and enter the Susan River canyon somewhere, but it never really provided any contrast as we shuffled along through the ponderosas. Twirly was cheering us on at the 14 mile mark, which was cool, as there was no aid station there, just some spectators. I got a quick kiss, and we continued on.
At mile 16, things started to get interesting. I had been eating a Gu energy gel every twenty minutes, and was still feeling pretty good, except for the dark storm brewing in my bowels. I began looking at the foliage along the trail, searching for green leafy plants or smooth branches, but there were none. The urgency of the situation grew over miles 17-19 as I scanned the trail side for potential locations and accoutrement's.
This location was missing a hole in the ground, and some TP
I was so distracted by my predicament, those two miles went by in a flash of clenching and the mantra: "don't pants your poop, don't pants your poop." As soon as I sighted the portapotties at Goumaz aid station I bolted:

I was already two miles into unfamiliar territory, and the final twelve miles would be everything I had imagined, and more. My GI issues did not abate, and began compounding when I realized something I had not anticipated; I could not stand to eat another energy gel! Eating every twenty minutes had worked for the first 3 hours, but the gels were not going down, and I had stopped caring. I had some Endurox 4:1 recovery drink with me, and mixed up a dose in my handheld bottle hoping that I could continue to take in calories without having to eat any more gels. It tasted alright, but my stomach continued a downward spiral into discomfort.

By the aid station at mile 22, I was again feeling the urge to evacuate my bowels, but I soldiered on. The course had obviously entered the river canyon and the last ten miles were much more scenic than those in the beginning. Meadow vistas, wooden bridges and volcanic rocks made for welcome distractions from the pain and discomfort we were experiencing. I had expected more Autumn color and water in the river, but I guess we were a few weeks early.

Miles 22-25 brought David and me to, and through, "the wall". Our pace slowed considerably, and we decided to change our intervals to 10/2 in the hope that walking more often, but less, would get us back on track. 

Somewhere around mile 24, our interval schedule fell by the trail side. Our pace was all over the place, as David would crack a joke which would force me to break into a walk to avoid losing control of my gut, and David felt better running than walking, so he would pick it up once the laughter had passed. The pain became an epiphany: I was finally pushing through boundaries and trying to find out what is on the other side. It had sounded like a better idea on paper.

The only real hill on the course (less than 200') came at mile 25 when the course crossed under the highway. The aid station at Devil's Corral trail head was a welcome sight (although there were no portapotties)! Twirly was blowing bubbles which drifted down the trail towards us as we crested the hill. I tried some potato chips and Coke and got some very encouraging words from Twirly, "I know you can do this, honey, you can do this!" I realized at that point that I had not doubted my ability to finish, but I had already accepted the fact that 6 hours was out of reach. I got another kiss, and we set off down the trail. Twirly told me afterwards that we were walking pretty slow as we left, but I think it was mostly due to David drinking his Accelerade straight from a zip lock baggie.

Bridge near Cheney Creek

About a half mile from the aid station, there was a trail head toilet, which I hobbled over to use while David stretched. Once I had that out of the way, it was only 6 miles to the finish, and "relentless forward progress" became the mantra for the home stretch. Our run/walk intervals continued to be random, and we both experienced our low-points between miles 25-29.

My fastest 26.2 to date
A body-check yielded bad news: form was ridiculous, the late-race lurch was all arms, each stride an awkward attempt to hurl the body forward. 

"YOU did this to me!" I would jokingly yell at David. Every time I slowed to a walk the pain would increase, so I took an ibuprofen, and gave one to David. The scenery continued to improve, and after a mile or two, David began to perk up.

"I think I've pushed through! I feel like I can run again! What they say is true! The legs do come back!" he said. "Are you feeling it? Oh man, I wish you could be here with me!"

"I'm right here, dude", I replied.

"No, I wish you could be feeling better, like I am", he said. I waited about five minutes, while he bounded down the trail thinking his body had miraculously repaired itself on the run.
Tunnel vision

"You don't think it might have had something to do with the ibuprofen, do you?" I asked.

"Oh... Well... I suppose that is a better explanation."

 "Shit, man, we should have taken those hours ago!"

The course incorporated two old train tunnels, which were cool and dark, and welcome distractions. The longer of the two (800') was somewhat lit by lanterns and glow sticks, and the mile 29 aid station at the end of the first tunnel signaled the final leg, and we were determined to run it in from there.
Second tunnel entrance

The final 5K seemed like it took forever, but the scenery improved as we went, and our pace, while slow, felt good. We finished strong at Hobo Camp, cruising the last little single track into the finishing chute, the irony of the end. I was done, it was over. 

In the chute

6:28:00, 24th overall, 10th in my age group, which included 3 out of the top 5 finishers. David took home third for his age group, which means he's gotten hardware in every race this year.

"Look at this guy"
The event, overall, was put together well. I heard that some marathoners complained about the lack of aid stations, but by my count they were all 2 - 4 miles apart, which was just right. The Boy Scouts were volunteering at the aid stations, which was cool, they were all genuinly helpful and eager. Putting up with cranky runners cannot be fun, but their spirits were high until the end.

I learned a lot in this race. Obviously my nutrition needs some attention, and I did end up with one tiny blister, although I did not know it until I took off the Hoka's. Also, the discomfort of the later miles was more significant than I expected, and in hindsight, I find it difficult to recall exactly how bad it was! I am really happy with my recovery; no lingering muscle soreness and no Achilles flare-up. In fact, my niggles seem to have improved, except for a new voice in my right hamstring.

I could not have designed a better ultra debut than the inaugural Bizz Johnson 50K. I had a blast and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast marathon or first ultra.

Here is the Garmin data:

Monday, October 8, 2012

CIM Training Week Seven... Sort of.

Week seven called for 48 miles and a 17 mile long run. As always, the plan did not pan out:

Tuesday: 6.5 miles easy (heart rate <132)

Sunday: Bizz Johnson 50K (heart rate all over)

Totals: 38.14 miles, 973'/1981' elevation ascent/descent

Mile 19 of the Bizz Johnson 50K
Short runs were excluded completely, and one moderate run turned into commuting by bicycle all day. My original schedule did not include an ultramarathon in week seven (that would be silly). So I had modified the week to begin with, but my energy levels were low after the 5K and long run the previous weekend and I figured some sort of taper might be a good idea come Sunday morning.

I will report on the Bizz Johnson in my race report in the next few days; I'm still collecting my thoughts, and 31 miles is quite a rollercoaster. I will say that my previous observations of more pain near the end of the long runs followed by speedier recovery are holding true. The pain of an ultra looked better on paper, but I am walking tall the day after with considerably less discomfort than I expected. Hell, I feel better than I did last Monday!

Stay tuned for the race report (David got some hardware!), and reviews on products and upcoming running clinics.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Am a Marathon Runner

A friend posted this to Facebook, and I laughed at how much it resembled my internal dialogue. There is some NSFW language, beware: