Monday, November 7, 2011

Leadville and back to training basics

So if you are hoping to read my posting on my Rim to Rim to Rim ( R2R2R ) I am afraid that its not quite finished yet. That thing is getting written at a slower pace then I actually managed to do the run. It is coming before the end of the week. Honest.

In the intermission for your entertainment pleasure or perhaps laughter or maybe horror I have already begun to line up my major runs for next year. After finishing the run at the Grand Canyon the group of us hung around at JDs condo and licked our wounds. Somehow while basking in our glory we all became somewhat delusional and in this state an idea was born. I am not saying it was a good idea or a bad idea but it was definitely a crazy idea. We all decided that we should run the Leadville 100 miler.

Its 2 weeks since the planting of that little gem of an idea was first brought up and now 4 of us flatlanders from Toronto have paid the money and are all signed up. The race isn't until next August so hopefully I will be back in shape by then. How the heck I am actually going to train for this one is still a work in progress. I live basically at sea level with not a mountain in sight. The race takes place between 9000 and 12,000 ft in Colorado at altitude. Should be a blast. Leadville here we come.

Back to Basics
So with the season finally over its back to basic training. Usually I take a few weeks to a month of low mileage in November but since my injury kind of forced me into 8 weeks of low to no mileage in August and September I have begun the rebuild already.

Last week I put together workout program for both Kim and I that will take us to the start of January. I would call it the base building before the marathon training begins program. It will be a mileage rebuild with lots of cross training thrown in until the miles get up there. I am currently carrying about 10 extra pounds (above racing weight) which the Gods of BEER decided to grace me with over my injury time. Stupid beer, who knew. The plan is to be rid of my extra passenger by Christmas. Its that or become a mall Santa.

Week 1 of training went okay. Lost a run due to a slight hamstring pull but still got close to 50 miles in. That said my longer Sunday run showed me in no uncertain terms that my legs are still not recovered from the Grand Canyon. It sucks when 22km feels like 50km but I expect things will get back to normal in another few weeks.

Hang in there R2R2R report is coming up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oil Creek Race Report

Oil Creek 100 mile race report

Road Trip Again

One thing that has been great this season despite my displeasure at my race results and injury problems has been the road trip. Last year I travelled to a couple of races with people but this year has been peppered with nearly one trip a month over the summer. No matter what ends up happening in the race the trips themselves are always fun, especially when you are in a car full of crazy Ultra Runners. Oil Creek would be no exception.

We picked the rental car early Friday morning, made a quick stop in Mississuaga to get Morgan and Steve, then we were headed to the US.

Drive and border crossing were quick an easy. I was actually suprised how close we are to Pennsylvia. We all knew this was going to be a tough race on a difficult course but everyone was pretty pumped up about it. Some stupid stuff about this will be great to "challenge" ourselves. So easy to say before you have been running for 20 or 30 hours.

I was more worried about this race then any all season. Really I should not have even been attempting it with my leg injury and a sever lack of training time. Stupid injury! It had already cost me at Burning River and I didnt register for any distance at Haliburton or Virgil Crest as I could not run at all. I would have dropped to a lower distance at Oil Creek but this is not allowed (which is fine). I decided long before race day that I would just run as much as I could as I had already paid the money. I hoped to finish but would be okay with getting in 50 miles or so.

We got to Titusville, PA early on Friday afternoon and hit the hotel, stored our stuff and then headed to race registration. Things started out great as both Steve and I won door prizes (free toe socks, sweet). No time to hang around though as it was a 5 am start time. I dont know if you have heard but 5 am is really early.

I slept great and we had breakfast in the room. Steve had the brillant idea of buying a coffee maker. This is bliss for a caffine addict like me. I really wish you could take in coffee intervenously. It would save so much time. Everything seemed to be going fine. We got to the race in plenty of time and Morgan showed me how he taped is leg up for the same injury that I have (he was doing it as a preventive measure). All taped up it was time to go.

At 5 am we crossed the start line and head down the road and onto a paved pathway. This is about the only non trail part of the course that consists of running 3 50km loops and then an extra 7 mile spur at the end. The paved section was nice and flat so the three of us stuck together and tried to make sure we stayed slow. Weather is looking great, maybe 5 degrees at the start with tempatures in the mid 20's expected during the day. It was still pitch black out so headlamps were required and soon we were into the woods and on to single track trail.

Hey look what a suprise we are climbing up some steep hills from the second we hit the trail. Man I didnt see that coming at all. Its quite congested early on but we are in a decent position and keep it slow but steady.

The trail is tough and mostly single track and techincal. Lots of rocks and roots and tripping hazards with long climbs and shorter, not short but shorter, steep downhills.

I look down at my garmin to see that it has shut off. I curse loudly but nobody seems to notice. Maybe my running buddies are used to my foul mouth by now. I have been having a shut down / wont charge problem with my garmin for the last week and it now seems to be toast. I dont need it for distance or pace but do need it for time so that I can stay on my salt and food intake. Piece of crap. Okay thats not true I love my garmin just not the idea of having to buy another one.

We hit a long really nasty downhill with a slew of slippery rocks still wet from the dew and roll into the first aid station at 7ish miles. Its still dark but the station is lit up like main street at christmas time. The aid station is amazing (they all were) and we are quickly out and on trail again.

Just out of the aid station I see a sign announcing Switchback Hill (or mountain?). I dont need to guess what that means. We start climbing and we keep climbing for a great many switchbacks. Its no Pikes Peak but its no stroll in the park either. The course has 18,000 feet of climb over the 100 miles.

Coming out of the aid station I end up getting seperated from Morgan and Steve as someone is in between us. I have to wait a long time to get around the guy on the single track climb. We get to the top and start some steep downhill switchbacks He moves to let me by and I move past him but get slightly out of control on the downhill. I try to recover but catch a root and welcome the first face plant of the day. Hello ground, when I said I wanted to check out the trail I didnt mean this close up. I begin to feel some pain in the ankle at about 10 miles but it doesn't get bad and seems to disappear after about an hour or so.

This is how it always starts with the oohing and awing, the joking and laughing, the general merriment. I know it will not last and by sometime late it the day it will become about the pain, the blisters, the falls, the puking, and the darkness. Speaking of blisters I am already getting a nasty hot spot on the back of my heel. Strange as I dont think in all my years of running I have ever had a blister on my heel. I let Steve know I will have to deal with this at the next aid station as we cut through a field decorated with large wooden oil rigs.

We are at Aid station 2 in decent time already 15 miles into the race. A quick look at my foot, not to bad, no need to lance and drain anything, so I apply extra body glide and catch back up to the other guys. I suspect that the blister was caused by a bunched up sock and once I get running again all is fine.

I had started out cold but now at 9 AM its beginning to warm up. The trail is tough but nice and a lot of fun. My legs feel great. All is going well but its a hell of a long way between aid stations and is almost 9 miles from AS 2 to AS 3. Half way between the aid stations the guys start to pull away from me a little. I can see them just ahead but I am happy with my pace so just run along behind them. About a mile from aid station I lose touch with them and they are gone.

I pop out onto a dirt road and get in to AS3 just as the guys are headed out. I grab some food and head back into the woods again. Hey thats weird, its another big freaking hill climb. Half way up this giant hill in the middle of nowhere I look to my left to see a very old run down cemetery. Most graves look like they are well over 100 years old and lots of them are broken. Its a kind of oil drillers boot hill I guess. I wonder if it will be creepy running past it in the pitch dark later that night. I am not to worried as I figure by that time I will be too tired to give a crap.

I hit the 40km mark in 5:45 minutes. I had figured to be about 5:30 so a little slow but not bad. I am on the last 8 miles of the loop that will take me back to the start finish. The trail doesn't get any easier but I don't mind. My legs is holding and I am running and feeling really good. Before I know it I am coming out of the woods onto the road for the 1 mile museum loop where you run through a park that is the location for the oil creek museum. Just as I get into the loop I see Steve and Morgan about 400 meters away coming out of the loop. They are only about 5 minutes ahead of me so I figure I will see them at AS4 which is the start finish.

The loop is kind of cool, mostly grass surfaces and not technical (sweet). You run past a noisy old oil well that is still pumping as well as lots of other equipment then its across a bridge and onto the road. Here I encounter my only moment of confusion as far as course marking goes. There is a large sign on the side of the road. It says AS4 with an arrow pointed to the right which means I go across the road to the other side and down a paved path.

The sign is very clear but to the left I can see flags headed down another paved path and towards the woods. I actually have to stop for a second and thing about this as the trail runner in me is so used to following flags I actually think about going that way. I read the sign again and then go right, cross the road and start down the paved trail. Right away I see another sign pointing me down the trail so I am going the right way no problem. I also feel better as other runners going the opposite way coming back out from the Aid Station are passing me. I soon realize that I am on the same path I started the race on I just failed to recognize it in the daylight. That makes the flags going the wrong way at the turn make perfect sense now.

I come into the start finish 50km into the race at 7:15 just about right on pace. I change my socks and check my blister which is no longer an issue, grab some food from Kim and get ready to head back out. I don't see Steve and Morgan so I ask Kim when they left. She has not seen them at all. Oh Crap. Since they were ahead of me that can only mean one thing, they must have turned the wrong way at the sign (they did).

I head back out onto the course and a mile later I am into the woods climbing again. As I get to the top of the hill I guy stops me to ask if this is the way to AS4. He is going the wrong way as well so I let him know. Its a great day for running and I make good time to my second trip to AS1. I grab some food here. I am a little worried now. I have not been on my nutrition very well at all. Its kind of gotten away from me a little. I intake what I can and am back on the trail again.

Cue the first signs of trouble just after the top of switchback hill. I find my breathing a bit haggard and heavy. Due to past racing experiences I have come to recognize this as the first signs of a nutrition problem that will eventually become nausea. I down a gel and push through the next 7 miles to AS2.

I reach AS2 and Kim helps me try and get some solid food into my stomach. The initial tummy rumblings I had an hour earlier have now become full blown nausea. Its like I swallowed someones washing machine whole. Churn, churn, churn goes my stomach but I get some food into it. Does it help? Hell no!. Kim , like any good crew person, is pushing me to get going so I grab a couple of Rama Noodles and head back into the woods.

Like all of the aid stations as soon as you leave you are into another major climb. I walk the ascent and try my hardest to eat but my gut is doing backflips. Walk, eat, churn, walk, eat, churn, ARRGG! I finally make it to the top of the ridge line but the washing machine has gone from churning to spin cycle. Good god why do I do these things again.

I pop a ginger candy and start to run along the top of ridge. I am incredulous, I will not puke, screw you stomach. Its only seconds later I am bent over, hands on my knees, projectile vomit shooting out so hard that it could probably sandblast graffiti off of a brink wall. About 4 massive retches later I have just about cleared the system or so I thought. I runner passes by and asks if I am okay. I give him the thumbs up. Yeah buddy I am just great. Be careful you probably don't want to step in that giant puddle of ginger ale and noodles.

It is 8.8 miles from AS2 to AS3 and I spend every minute of it sick as a dog. The race has become a disastrous living hell. I need fluids but any eating or drinking is followed by an immediate clearing of stomach. I puke so many times I lose count but I am thinking it is at least 8 to 10 times that I am forced to make an unscheduled stop.

I finally pop out onto the dirt road just before AS3 and promptly puke one last time before I head into the aid station. Even in the dark they can see that I am in big trouble. The aid station people are fantastic though, they get me anything I want and hand me a chair to sit in. I am thinking that I may just drop here as I don't know how much longer I can continue in this state. I sit for 10 minutes and manage to get a banana and some crackers into me. I am starting to get a chill and someone at the station suggests that I move to sit in front of the fire. I know this is the kiss of death. Its drop or go so I manage to get up and head out. I take a package of crackers with me in hopes that I might be able to eat then on the trail.

Into the woods its a long uphill AGAIN!! I go past the old cemetery for the second time. It is not scary in the dark at all. I am to sick to be scared. I would actually relish a zombie attack at this point. If a zombie was chewing on my intestines I don't believe it would feel worse then they feel right now and it might be entertaining.

I crest cemetery hill and a really strange thing happens, like magic my stomach suddenly feels normal. Holy crap, I don't know how long it will stay this way but I will take it. I start to run again.

I run non stop (giant hills excluded) for the next 7 miles. I cant believe it. I pass a number of other runners along the trail. I feel pretty good again. I chalk it up to eating crackers like the ones I still clutch in my hand. I have been carrying them for nearly 2 hours. Mmmmhhhh, my Precious. I don't want to part with them but I am to afraid to eat them out of fear of a return trip to puke city.

I am now totally back and think I will be able to finish after all. I pop out of the woods and onto the museum mile loop. I am ten minutes from the start finish so I decide to toss the crackers. I make my checklist for the next aid station. I will change into warmer cloths, change my shoes, eat and be back out onto the trail quickly. I check the time and see that I will have more then 14 hours to run the last 60km, awesome. I make the turn onto the paved path and see 2 girls from Ontario headed the other way. They tell me that my wife is waiting at the aid station for me with soup.

All is good and stays that way for about another whole minute before the trouble begins. I go from great to gut wrenching nausea in less then 30 seconds. I am forced to stop running and start walking. Why did I toss those crackers? Why?

I slowly make it into AS4. I sit and Kim gets me soup as I update her on my condition. I begin to get the things that I need done at the speed of a giant sloth. I sit next to the heater trying to stay warm as the temperature has dropped to just above freezing which is fine when you are moving but not so great when you are sitting.

Kim is trying to get me to eat and get up and going but I am very resistant. I may not be at puke town yet but I am definitely pulling into the station. I have gotten it into my head that if I just sit for a few minutes and get some food in me I will feel fine again. Don't ask me why I think this. I should know that its wrong headed but in my brain dead state I am refusing to let go of this idea.

I tell Kim to give me the bottle of Pepto out of my drop bag. I take a big swig and then immediately empty the contents of my stomach again. Damn that sucks. Watch out for the sandblaster kids, its out of control. Everything that comes up is a lovely shade of bright pink, how festive.

I continue to get ready to go out. I have lots of time so there is no hurry. Then suddenly there is an EMS guy there. The aid station volunteers have called them due to my puking. What the hell.

Okay so some ultra explaining is in order I think. For those of you that read this blog and are not 100 mile runners, that means you 50kers, marathoners, 5kers and everyone in between, you know those of you that I like to call the sane people, throwing up violently might seem like a good reason to call the paramedics. Well as most 100 mile runners know it really isn't. I know that might be hard to grasp but the reality is that its a common non life threatening issue in the 100.

They ask me if I am okay and I say yes but they tell me that they have to do an assessment once they are called. It turns out the ladies at the aid station are not ultra people but are teachers from the school and kind of freaked out when I violently blew chunks. Not that I blame them as it must have been quite a sight for the uninitiated. To give you a comparison when I lost my lunch at the gate house during Sulphur Springs the guy at the aid station asked Kim if I was okay. She said “Yeah he's just puking”. To which the guy said “That should make him feel better”.

The EMS guy is soon join by a hospital worth of medical people. I expect Dr. House to show up any minute to diagnose this mystery illness. “Hes run for 18 hours and now he is throwing up, we can't explain it. Lets get the whole team on that, stat!” They try and take my vitals but have some difficulty so they ask me to come in the school where its warmer. I reluctantly go as minutes are ticking away.

It takes some time for them to get me accessed. They say that they are worried I might be starting to become hyperthermic (which I am definitely not) and suggest I go to the hospital. Ah, like no. I try to explain the best I can that I am just puking, I am not in serious distress or potential harm. I have run 18 Ultras and 6 different 100 milers. I am not feeling anything I have not felt before. It sucks being sick but its nothing new.

I ask them about my vitals and they tell me that they are right in line with what they should be. I am finally free to continue if I want. I look at the time I have lost, the way I feel which is terrible, and contemplate leaving the nice warm school for 13 more hours of running. I know that as soon as I get back out on the trail it will be back to battling my arch enemy the vomitnator again. Somewhere crouched down, hiding behind a rock he is waiting for me. It is a tough call but I decide to pack it in after 100km.

Post Race
This is definitely the hardest 100 course I have run so far. Its also one of the best races I have done. Hats off to the race director. I can not think of a single bad thing to say about this race, it was outstanding. I will be back again next year for sure.

Although I didn't finish I was not really that disappointed. I was badly under trained for this one due to injury and went in knowing that a full 100 miles was not likely to happen. The great course made the 100km that I did run well worth the trip. We will get this race done next year. You can count on it.

Next Up
Run report on R2R2R in the Grand Canyon
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