Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Beast of Burden 100 (summer) Race Report

Beast of Burden 100 Race Report

The first question to be answered is how did I end up in this race? I had originally intended on running 48hrs at Dirty Girls which is held the same weekend. Unfortunately crushing my ankle at Limberlost derailed those plans. I could not run for the next 2 weeks and after that I could only run flat. DG is very hilly and I knew that there is no way the ankle would last for 2 days of running on a tough technical course.

Problem is after getting my Western States qualifier at Mohican my main season objective was done so I came up with a new goal. I would attempt to run four 100 mile races in 4 months, kind of my own secret slam. I really wanted to see how my body would react as I was considering racing the mid Atlantic slam next year if I didn't get into WS.

A quick look at other 100 mile races in the area led me to Beast of Burden. The good, course is flat, on a towpath so not technical and less than 2 hours away. The bad, course is flat, not technical and totally exposed to the sun. Given my training had been aiming at hilly, technical runs I knew this would be a challenge. I figured I would either put up a really good time or I would struggle to finish, there would most likely be no in-between on this one.

Pre race

Kim and I drove down the morning of the race and arrived in plenty of time. This race starts at a weird time for 100 milers, 10AM. Good as we could drive there the same day, bad because if I ended up being slow I would be running in the midday heat twice. So far the summer had been unusually cool but forecast was calling for very hot temperatures all weekend.

I picked up my race kit which had a huge amount of swag in it and headed for the start line where I chatted briefly with fellow Ontario runner Brian Groot and then we were off.


It didn't take long to discover what I was in for as it was already hot right out of the gate. The course is a simple 12.5 miles out, 12.5 miles back along the Erie Canal. Just complete it 4 times and you're done, that’s all there is to it, easy right? Yeah not so much.

The race was as advertised completely flat (I got 36 meters of elevation change over 100 miles) and there was not a root or rock in sight to trip you up. The running surface is a bit of pavement and a lot of finely crushed gravel on the towpath. Actually a very comfortable running surface which should lead to putting up a great time. Yeah not so much.

From the start line you run about a mile, cross a bridge to the other side and run back in the opposite direction so that you pass the start line but on the other side of the canal at about 2 miles. From there you keep going along the canal in the same direction to the next aid station at 6.5 miles.

I run along with a guy from Florida for the next 6 miles or so and things seem to be going okay. My plan is to run faster than I would on trail and see what kind of time I can put up. It’s either crush it or be crushed and just end up finishing. There will be no in between in this race. I figure since there are no hills to walk I will run 25 min, walk 5. I mull this plan over for a week before the race and promise myself to stay with the plan. A mere hour into the race I end up off the plan. I feel great and am enjoying the company so I start skipping the walk breaks. It’s hot but not crazy hot so I kind of just go with it.

I end up losing Florida guy at the 6.5 mile aid station and back out on the course I run into another couple of Ontario guys at about 10 miles and run with them for a bit before letting them go. Its gone from hot to stupid stinking hot and its only noon. It is clear that this is going to get tough. The course is completely exposed to the sun and that is sure to spell trouble for me. By the time I hit the turn around aid station at 12.5 miles I am still hopeful of a good time but mildly concerned.

Kim is there and helps me get in and out fast. I pack some ice in my hat and bandana around my neck in an effort to stay cool and then head back out. It hits me right away, a wall of heat as soon as I turn back onto the canal to head the 11.5 miles back to the bridge crossing. There had been a nice breeze earlier but now that is gone and it is hot. I see a lot of people passing me outbound and many of them don't look happy.

This race is hard. I am roasting like a chicken on the spit at a Kenny Rogers restaurant. I stay on my drinking, take my salt and try to take my gels. The sun has converted the contents of my gel flask into a hot chocolate fudge sauce. It is disgusting but I manage to keep it down. It is so damn hot and at 20 miles I feel the wheels starting to come off already. What the hell!

I begin to see why this race can be so tough particularly for someone who does not run well in the heat. You often see a good mile ahead along the towpath where small ant size runners are making their way along the course well ahead of you until the path disappears around the next bend in the canal. Everything looks the same under a blazing sun, you can see the heat shimmering off the path ahead and the worse thing of all is you can see there is no shade. No shade just ahead, no shade for the next mile, no shade coming at all.

At 23 miles I pass the start/finish point which is still across the canal and 2 miles away. These next 2 miles seem to take forever. Finally I am in at 25 miles but things are a mess. My nutrition has been okay but I feel completely destroyed. The heat has already sucked most of the life out of me. I sit in a chair in complete disbelief as Kim gets me some food from the aid station. As far as I can remember I have never been this messed up this early in a race. Maybe at Creemore a few years back when it was crazy hot but that was a 50k, I didn't have 75 miles still to go.

I sit for a few minutes and rehydrate a bit. Kim brings me a snow cone from the aid station. Yes a snow cone and it is the best damn snow cone that has ever been made. I tell her I am no longer racing for time. I just got to make and effort and try to finish. I get ready to head out but first I pop into the aid station for another snow cone. I have to check and yes still the best snow cones ever made.

I am back on the course and moving, slowly but moving. I begin to feel a little better but not much. I run with an number of different people including a girl for Texas who was attempting the winter/summer Beast. She had done the winter version earlier in the year where there was no problem with it being too hot. I also ran a good deal of the leg alone which may have been good as I remember being tired and grumpy but slowly starting to come around.

I meet Kim and the 37.5 mile turn around. She gives me freezies and beer a near perfect combination for revival. I am starting to bounce back. She tells me that in the 15 minutes she has been at the aid station 7 people have come in and dropped. That is a huge number of drops for so early in the race. I tell her I am not surprised. The reality is there was only one reason that I had not dropped at 25 miles and that was previous 100 mile experience. If it had not been for all the previous races I had done, some ending in DNFs and some ending in finishes I would have called it quits. The one thing I have learned is that if you can hang in sometimes (but only sometimes) you can come back from the edge.

Soon I am back on the course again heading inbound. I go super slow to save my energy in the heat as soon it will be night and much cooler. By the time I get back to the 50 mile mark the sun is beginning to go down. I get a good bit of food into me and then proceed to throw it all back up as quickly as possible.

Back out the course I hook up with another guy and run a bit with him. The sun is almost down and swarms of black flies are out. I end up taking an unusually large mouthful of flies and one sticks in my throat. After a coughing fit I proceed to impress my new running buddy by puking out the flies, some gels and water all without having to stop or breaking stride. He says “Wow, that’s impressive.” I tell him not so much I just have a lot of practice at it.

The night arrives as does the cooler temperatures. I had hoped to pick up the pace but I am having a problem with my hamstring. I have lots of time and know time will not factor into my finish so I opt to run less and walk more. I get to the 62.5 miles turn around in decent time. Its actually cool enough to put on a long sleeve. I head back out quickly and early on I get passed by Brian. He is 25 miles ahead of me and as far as I can tell is in second place which is where he ends up finishing.

Its dark and I run the whole way back alone. For the most part I see nobody. Usually I occupy my mind during night running by watching out for tripping hazards, hills, wild animals and trying to not get lost but there are none of these issues on the course. Outside of one aid station stop all I see is gravel path in the beam of my headlamp for hours. A new problem rears it ugly head during this time as I begin to fall asleep on my feet. I have heard of this happening to others but have never experienced it myself. It is bizarre, I keep almost nodding off and am not able to run or walk in a straight line. I end up spending the next hour wobbling along the trail like a drunken partier just out of the bar after last call on Queen St. West. Finally I can see the start/finish turn around on the other side of the canal. The 2 miles to get there takes forever and I roll in just before dawn.

Kim goes to grab me food at the aid station and comes back with bacon. I have come to the conclusion that bacon is the greatest ultra food ever invented and send her back for more. I swear it must have some kind of magical powers. You can eat it no matter how messed up you are. I am told it comes from pigs but I doubt it. At least I doubt it about this bacon, this bacon clearly comes from Unicorns or maybe a Griffin.

I head back out for the last 25 miles just as the sun comes up. I feel okay but the hamstring is not very cooperative. Kim meets me at mile 2 with a Tim Hortons coffee and a gallon of sugar which really hits the spot. I am mostly walking or running very slow due to the leg.

I have no worries about finishing now but its going to take awhile and I can tell from the mist coming off the water that it is going to be hot again soon. By the time I hit the middle aid station it is scorching hot. I ask them if they know the temperature. The guy checks his phone and tells me 84 degrees, its only 9 AM! Oh crap.

I stagger along to the turn around for the last time occasionally seeing a few runners well ahead of me. I make it to turn around and Kim fixes me up and sends me back from the direction I have come. Much of the final 12.5 miles is a blur, mostly burnt out of mind by the pounding sunshine. I remember seeing Texas girl at the half way aid station. She wants me to run with her but my leg will not allow it, I am into zombie mode now.

Foot traffic has picked up along the towpath some kids run by me and just before they get to me one yells snake and jumps in the air. I look over as I pass and sure enough there is a big ass snake lying in the middle of the path. Probably would have stepped right on it if the kids weren't coming in the other direction. No idea what kind of snake it was, maybe poisonous maybe not, don't think I cared much at that point. Pretty sure it wasn't a cobra or a black mamba but it was freaking big.

Just past the snake I see one of the bridges that cross the canal. I know its just a mile to the 10.5 mile mark from here. I am so happy I try to run some. It hurts but I don't care soon I will be done. I run for a good mile only to discover that the bridge I saw was not the one I though it was. Did I mention things looked the same on this course? When I see the actual real bridge I can't believe it and immediately fall back into the death shuffle.

Finally I round a corner and see the start finish line across the canal. I am literally 300 meters away but still have to run 2 more miles. So cruel, so very, very cruel. Kim meets me here to “run” me in. It is a million degrees out now and every step elicits a grunt, groan or some other sound effect from me.

Some other struggling runner catches up with me and Kim in the last half km. He chats with us a bit and the tags along. I think he didn't want to pass me in the last few 100 meters of the race so I tell him he should go ahead if he can which he does. Somehow this says a lot about what ultra running is about.

Finally I see the finish line and slowly make my way across it. I am slow with a finish time of 28:16:01 but I manage to get it done on what turns out to be the 2 hottest days of the summer. I pick up my belt buckle and sit in front the cooling station which is a giant fan that blows water mist at you. Greatest invention ever. I little bit of cooling and then its time for a beer sitting in the shade.

Post race

A couple of final thoughts about this race. I had a lot of fun here, race is very well organized, unbelievably good volunteers and aid stations. Also crazy race swag including 2 shirts, beer mug, almond butter, bandana, sombrero. Even though the terrain is not my cup of tea somehow I ended up signing up for the winter version in January.

PS. thanks to Kim for driving me, snow coning me, beering me, getting me bacon, coffee and helping me to keep going. Sorry for almost throwing up on your shoes. No way I finish without that help.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Western States Entry, Time for a Slam, Pacing at the Tannenbaum 10k

Western and the Grand Slam

So for the fifth year in a row I rushed home from my Saturday morning run, booted up my computer and watched the Western States 100 lottery live online. Early on I was hopeful given all the tickets that I had in that big spinning drum but as the 270 spots for runners began to fill up things began to look grim again this year. By the time they had gotten to 200 runners picked a number of Ontario runners were already selected including Iris Cooper and Ken Niemimaa.

I had already begun to ponder what race I would run in 2015 to get my next WS 100 qualifier when I could have sworn I heard my name called. I actually thought I might have been hallucinating so I waited to see it posted in the list and sure enough there I was #219. I would like to say I was happy and I was very, very happy but also I think I must have been in shock because it took me a good hour to realize that I was actual going to be running this thing.  

I spent the next few days thinking about what I was going to do. You see I had told myself that the only way I would go back to try and run Leadville again is if I got into Western and then I would attempt the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. You see since I figured I was never, ever getting into WS I was in no danger of going back to Leadville and being stomped on by that altitude anytime soon.

Finally I figured heck I may never get another chance to do this with it being so hard to get into WS that I might as well go for it. Am I biting off more than I can chew, probably but it would not be the first time and hey sometimes it all works out. I have never regretted trying so no matter what happens I will not end up sitting around crying about what if I had taken a chance and just gone for it. I mean really failing and not trying both have you ending up with the same result.

So the big races for the season are set, Western States 100 on June 27-28, Vermont 100 on July 18-19, Leadville 100 on August 22-23 and Wasatch Front on September 11-12. Throw in a bunch of trail races in the spring to get ready such as PYP, Seaton, Sulphur, Hynerview and NFC Bear Mountain and we should be good to go.

Elf Sighting

On Sunday fresh off of my Western States delirium I headed down to the beaches to pace the Tannenbaum 10k. I had a number of runners that I coach running it so I wanted to be there but with my ankle still a bit tender from a trail “mishap” I was not going to be able to race it. Instead I volunteered to be the 70 minute pacing elf.  

I knew this would be a bit of a challenge as going that slow would force me out of my natural gait making it hard to keep a consistent pace. I figured a good start was to run with slightly tired legs so I ran a double on Saturday and then ran the 19km to the race start Sunday morning.

I have to say I had a lot of fun. The weather was really good for a December race and the course was ice free. I started with a fairly big group of runners and just tried to stay as close to 7 minute kms as I could. We ended up hitting the 5km mark just slightly ahead of schedule, 15 seconds fast overall, not perfect but acceptable. The section between 4-6km the group somewhat split up with a bunch of runners actually taking off ahead. From 6-9km I managed to keep a very consistent pace and chatted with the runners that were with me. It turns out that at least 4 of them were running their first 10k race which was very cool and they were all working really hard. When I hit 9km all my runners took off ahead of me and I was running alone but still stuck to the pace just in case anyone was trying to catch up from behind. At this point I was 20 seconds ahead of schedule so still pretty good. With about 500 meters left I passed a girl that was struggling. She asked me if I was on time, which I was, as she really wanted to break 70 minutes so I paced her / talked her into the finish with plenty of time to spare. Final time for the 70 minute pace Elf was 69:33.

Some of the runners that had gone ahead came and found me after to thank me which was nice but really they were the ones that did all the hard work. I think pacing at a race is one of those things that ever runner should do at some point, not only are you giving back but it can be a lot of fun as well.

Race day was not quite over though as I went with the rest of the C+C runners up to Mackenzies for brunch. I felt that it was part of my coaching duties to make sure my runners knew the proper way to consume beer with their breakfast.

Next up: Flash back - Beast of Burden 100(Summer) race report

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I'm Back .. Western States Lottery and becoming a pacing Elf

I'm back! At least that's the hope anyway. Would like to make some kind of guarantee about that but I seem to remember promising to start posting regularly again a few times before only to follow that up with the greatest impression of Houdini ever.
I have not died, okay maybe just a little bit inside. I have not been institutionalized in a State Hospital which is actually pretty surprising to some people and I did not decide to swear off technology and move to a remote cabin like Ted Kaczynski.
No I just got real busy and real lazy all at the same time. Yes it is possible to be both at the very same time. Looks like I am not going to fix the busy part so I will try to at minimize the lazy part. So what has dragged me out of my summer slumber? Well first came the realization that if I don't write this stuff down I am bound to forget that it happened or at least exactly how it happened. That's old age for you. Even the stuff I would much rather forget should be written down somewhere. Then there is the wife who likes to remind me that I once had a blog that some people actually read once and a while and when am I getting back to that. Lastly there was this encounter at Oil Creek as my wife ran me in to the finish. HaHa ran, who am I kidding, try slowly walked me in at a zombie death shuffle pace.

Runner passing me “Hey I know you” says the guy I don't think I have seen before.
“Yeah, I used to read your blog” he says.
Ouch!! I mean he meant it in a nice way but all I heard was used to read your blog which kind of translates into what ever happened to your blog. I just got lazy seems like a wildly inappropriate answer to that. 

Turns out I have lots to write about that is going on right now and lots of stuff coming up. I also have a pile of unfinished oh so last summer race reports. I will try to keep up on the new stuff while revisiting this past summers racing with a few untimely race reports. Nothing like reminiscing about a run in a heat wave while the snow is falling outside.

Western States Lottery
Here we go again, names in for the WS 100 lottery. Drawing is this Saturday and I will be watching it online which is some kind of sick self torture. This is the 5th year of attempting to get in and the chances are 54% according to the website. All my previous failures give me 16 tickets and it looks like a good chance but I am not holding my breath. The lottery gods hate me so I think it will be another 2 or 3 years before they honour me by agreeing to take my money.

Tannenbaum 10k
Will be heading down to the Tannenbaum 10k on Sunday. I am not racing but will be a pacing Elf for one of the pacing groups. That's Elf not Alf. It should be a lot of fun and there are about 6 runners I am coaching racing. Here's hoping for no snow between now and then. Check back next week to find out how it went.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mohican Trail Marathon report – Limberlost not really a race report

Mohican Trail Marathon
While I was running around in the woods in Ohio for what is a ridiculous amount of time and distance by sane peoples standards my wife was running with 5 other Ontario runners in the Marathon. Apparently she is still smart enough to run reasonable races no matter how hard I try to make her to get whacky.

Read her Mohican Marathon race report over on my coaching website.
You can check it out here.       C+C runners at the Mohican Marathon.

Limberlost- not really a race report

Well things didn't exactly go as planned in the 56k race at Limberlost. I made it a whole 13k before severely turning my ankle. I decide I should not be stupid and stopped running on it right away. I want to say that is because of the lessons I learned from running on a sprained ankle at Haliburton 2 years ago but that is most likely not true. The decision to drop was easy with 43k still to go, not sure how easy it would have been if I had been deeper into the race.

This is the second time I have taken a DNF in a 50k race. The first time was at ..... you guessed it, Limberlost. Have no idea why that is but it sucks.

It was kind of weird at the race this year as many of the usual ultra people were up in Collingwood running the NorthFace Challenge. I had actually though about doing Limberlost on Saturday and then hitting the half marathon distance in Collingwood on Sunday. Glad I did't sign up as there was no way I would have been able to run on my gimp leg.

I also noticed that there were a lot of very fast road runners that I know that were doing the HM, many of them as their first trail race which was kind of cool. I felt bad for the front of the packers as I read that they were misdirected by a race marshall and ended up DNFing. They didn't run the full course through no fault of their own. Not exactly the first time trail race experience you would want. Hopefully some of them will end up hitting the trails again.

I went up to Limberlost with Kim and a few other runners that I coach / run with. They all did the 28k and had decent races. See my previous comments about Kim being smart.

Hopefully Dirty Girls is up next but that will depend on how quickly this ankle heals.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mohican 100 race report - part 2

Here is part 2 of the Mohican 100 race report. Go here for part 1

Now for the easy part
For the most part my second loop of Mohican course is very much just a blur. I ran decently, stayed on top of my gel and salt intake but was running alone. By this point in the race the field was well spread out so I got lots of personal trail time which was nice.

I hit the crazy root climb section for the second time of the day sometime in the mid afternoon. It was hot (maybe 30) but not crazy or stupid hot like it was supposed to be and I was real happy about that. Although I liked the waterfall / crazy root climbing section of the course I was glad when I finally popped out of the woods by the dam. It is definitely the hardest part of the course but you only do it in the first 2 loops so at least that was out of the way.

This time the climb out of covered bridge seemed longer and further than on loop 1. It's got to be a good 1000 feet of climb in the first 2 miles past the aid station and was only going to get harder later in the race. So far so good and everything body wise felt okay. I passed over the ridge line where it had all really fallen apart in 2011 (the site of JD's “its all gone to shit video”) and was feeling great. I took this as a great sign.

By the time I hit the last aid station I had begun to wonder how Kim's marathon was going and how the 5 that had come down with us had made out. Three miles later I came out of the woods and into the camping areas. I was kind of lost in my own head when I heard someone shout my name.

A couple of Ontario guys that had run reasonable race distances were sitting at the campsite watching the foolish longer distance runners go by. James who I know from OUSER races shouted out to me that Kim had finished and ran well. Man did I ever want to stop for a beer at that point.

Soon enough I was back at the start area. Kim was there and as I had requested she had gotten me fries and a mcchicken from McDonalds. Unfortunately my stomach was begining to sour a bit and the lunch pickup was a bit mistimed (kind of hard to time it as Kim was unsure where I was on the course). Fries were not edible and they accidentally gave Kim spicy chicken which was not going to go down well at all. I ended up chugging an ensure and heading back out.

Wish I could tell you what the loop time was but my watch died during the loop. Usually I run with a cheap normal watch as a back up but hadn't been able to find it when we packed. Kim said she would find me a watch before the next crew access point. I seem to remember the race clock telling me I was in at around 13:45 into the race giving me a loop of 6:45 but things are kind of foggy.

The 5 miles to the next aid station went okay but the stomach was definitely turning. I ate and walked a bit out of the station along a brief road section. It was starting to get dark and almost headlamp time. I was not looking forward to running alone in the dark with no watch to pace by and a wonky gut.

Just then a guy and girl passed me as we turned to go back onto the trail head. They seemed to be moving pretty well. Slowly but smooth and steady clearly taking a smart conservative approach. I decided that I would just settle in behind them for a while and see what kind of pace they were setting. I spent sometime behind them and liked the way things were going so decided to stop lurking in the background and talk to them. I asked them if they minded if I latched on and they said no problem.

Steve and Casey kept us moving along well with me bringing up the rear and in no time we had hit the Fire Tower aid station. I had been thinking about this aid station since the start of loop 3 as this is where I dropped last time. I was feeling decent which was a far cry from how I had been in 2011. Kim was there and gave me a new watch. She was kind of sheepish when she handed it to me. I think she thought I would hate it. I felt quite the opposite though, it was ungodly and hideous which seemed perfect. I immediately dubbed it the Herb Tarlek of watches due to its oh so stylish white vinyl strap. I plan to wear it at every 100 miler from now on. Kim was also glad to see that I was running with others.

We headed out and were quickly on to Covered Bridge and then up the steep climbs and switchbacks. Steve lead almost the whole way and really pushed us along nicely but the hills took there toll on all of us. We ended up losing Steve somewhere along the ridge line as he slowed with bad stomach issues. Both Casey and I hated to drop him but unfortunately you have to run your own race. That didn't make it any easier though.

We ended up sticking together until we were out onto the last km of road back to the start line. Caesy sped up here and ended up disappearing ahead of me. I figured that would be the last I would see of her but with only a few hours of darkness left and 23 miles to go I was really glad to have had someone to run at night with.

I rolled into the start line aid station but did not see Kim. My stomach was starting to give me some grief again so I took 5 minutes to sit on top of my cooler and drink half a beer. This was the only time I had sat down since the race started. I had lots of time to finish but figured I should get going when I finally saw Kim. She had gone back to the car to get more food. I had her find me some pizza at the aid station and then got her to walk me back out to the trail head.

Just as we passed the washrooms Casey came out which was awful good timing. She was having some stomach issues as well so we started out on our struggle to the finish line together. The going was slow but steady. Casey lead when she felt good, I lead when she didn't and it seemed to work out well. The sun was up by the time we got to the Fire Tower. It was stomach issues galore at this point but Kim met us and made us at least drink some pop. I was doing a really bad job of hydrating and eating at this point which probably didn't help much. Still things were going well and we had lots of time to finish.

I had actually started to feel good again until we hit the big climbs after the bridge. They just seemed to suck every last bit of energy that I had left right out me. From that point on the last 10 miles became a mammoth struggle. I hit the last aid station and plowed right through it not even pausing. I would have liked to stop but I felt like I might end up puking or passing out. I was toast and the morning was starting to really get hot.

Casey and I hung together until about 96 miles when her walking shuffle became way too fast for my zombie lurching and I fell behind. It didn't matter as I entertained myself with the hallucinations that I was now having. I stopped to pee and the stump in front of me was literally breathing, it kept getting bigger and smaller. So many people passed me in the last 3 miles I thought that there might be some kind of parade going on but I didn't care, I just needed to make the finish still standing. For the first time ever in a 100 mile run I was in actually danger of falling asleep on my feet. What an amazingly odd feeling that is.

Finally I was into the campground and headed down the last mile. Way down the road I could see people waving at me. It was Kim and all the other runners that had come to Ohio with us. Seeing them gave me a little boost as I realized I was going to make it. They met me about a half mile from the finish and walked me most of the rest of the way in. Somehow I was able to muster enough energy to at least jog the last 300 meters to the finish.

After the finish line
I grabbed a chair and a beer and watched the rest of the back of the pack come in. Ended up being done in 31:17. That is the longest I have ever been out on a course by far and probably the most tired I have ever felt overall. My legs held up a lot better than I expected and were not nearly as demoed as they were at Haliburton.

On the one hand I think I could have run this a few hours faster if I had not been so conservative but on the other hand going out faster or pushing during the night could have just as easily ended in a total meltdown or blow up and a DNF. No need for that as I got what I wanted, a Western States qualifier and my UTMB points. I also finally got a US 100 finish in the bank which was beginning to mentally mess with me.

Big thanks to Kim and the marathon group for all the help and support. Also a huge thanks to Casey, Steve and the other runners I had the pleasure to run with. In the end thats really what its all about.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mohican 100 Miler Race Report

Have to say that I was pretty nervous going into this race. The last time I attempted to run the Mohican 100 back in 2011 it ended up being a train wreck for me and my first, but not last, DNF in a race. I learned a few things that day none of which were particularly helpful. I learned that it was freaking hot and humid in Ohio, that it was super hilly in Ohio, and that this race was kind of hard. You would would think these things might have dissuaded me from picking this as my spring goal race but I can be a sucker for punishment and besides I needed a Western States qualifier and a big fat plate of redemption. Okay its true they also give out a pretty snazzy belt buckle.

Kim and I headed down to Loudonville, Ohio on Friday with 5 other runners tagging along. Somehow I had managed to convince (read trick) 5 marathon runners I have been coaching into running their first trail marathon. Kim was running the marathon as well and would crew me after that.

Things start bad and get worse
I figured things should go okay as long as it doesn't get too hot. My weather watch starts in earnest 10 days before the race. Each day I check as the race approaches and each day I find myself cursing under my breath. Forecasts bounce between hot, 32 C to stinking hot, 35 C  to stupid hot, 40 C. A little know fact, once you have been forced to run with your balls in your hand at a given race you tend to become really sensitive about the weather.

With the anticipation of stinking to stupid hot I decided to change my race plan from running my normal paces to going extra slow early on as heat exhaustion is not my friend.

The Thursday night before the race I go to bed earlier so I can get lots of rest and then proceed to not sleep at all. Somewhere around 3 AM I think about sticking my head in our oven, you know just to practice for the weekend, but worry Kim might wake up.

 pre race dinner

On Friday we drive to Ohio. We are late leaving as I had to work and get to our hotel in Mansfield later than expected. After having dinner I head to bed hoping to get a solid 4 hours in but instead its mostly a repeat of Thursday.

And worse
We leave the hotel a good hour before the race to have lots of time to drive the 30 minutes to the race start. Its humid and foggy and unbeknown to us the drive is almost all on back roads. We can't see a thing and are forced to drive very slowly. We end up making it to the race 5 minutes before the start only to discover bib pick up is back up the road a mile.

Ever have that dream where everything goes horribly wrong and you can't seem to get to where your going. Welcome to my world. We head back and pick up my bid as fast as possible. Strangely enough there is another guy there picking up his as well so I only feel like half a moron. We race back to the start line, again.

The RD is still at the start with a camera guy. I say hi, ask which way to go, click on my headlamp and head off down the road. Its dark and very quiet, I have never started a race by myself before and its totally freaking me out. No running along with the pack this time. I end up starting 15 minutes late.

          I didn't see this in person

Heres the thing about racing, you kind of want to get to the start line before the start. Lets just call that like a rule or something. Otherwise you end up having to talk about it in public while feeling kind of stupid.

I am into the woods and climbing by myself but worse yet mentally I am messed up. I know I have to focus, run my pace and just get going but I keep thinking how I will end up missing the cutoff by 10 minutes at the end of the race. The temptation to go fast is hard to resist but I fight it the best that I can. It doesn't help that I am coffee deficient on top of everything else. I think I now know how Darth Vader felt after being sucker punched by the Millennium Falcon. I am spinning out of control.

Light at the end of the switch back
I have been angry running for about 30 minutes alone in the dark up and down hills, damn its hilly in Ohio. As I come to the top of a switchback I turn and see the headlamp of another runner on the switchback behind me. I slow a little and let the light gradually catch up. I am kind of expecting to see the same guy that was at the kit pick up but its a totally different guy. We start chatting and since we are both running along at around the same pace we stick together. He lives just down the road in Columbus and he missed the start because he though the race started later. We will end up running the next 20 miles together.

A few minutes of running along with another runner and I find I am no longer running angry. There is lots of time to make up the mileage and we actually start to catch the back of the pack before the first aid station just as the sun comes up.

Things go really well for the next few hours. It is starting to get hot but not really hot. I am feeling great and moving well but still remembering to stay very conservative. Finishing is the only goal I have for the day. I am also quickly reminded that Mohican is a great course, tough but really beautiful. I am surprised by how much of the trail I still remember. Still I make sure to stay slow, last time I was here we were having a great time until the wheels fell off and when that happened it happened fast.

Soon we are about half way through the loop and pass by Lyon Falls. Last time I was here you had to climb down a stair case of huge stones to the bottom of the falls. Since then the stones have been replaced with actual stairs. Honestly I preferred the you could fall down and die stone stairs but thats just me.

At some point along this area we ended up falling in with another group of runners. Most of them were running their first 100. I ended up talking and running with these guys for the next 10 miles or so. One of the guys in the group was know as Tattoo Tom. He had set up a charity to help kids with cancer after his daughter had passed away and his run was raising money (per mile). Talking with this guy really inspired me, you can check out his charity here at Spoiler Alert - Tom finished the 100 and won the Last of the Mohicans award (last finisher).

Tough climbs out of the covered bridge aid station soon gave way to some really great running along the ridge lines and into the last aid station before you head back towards the start line. I was forced to make a sudden stop here to take care of some morning "business" which ended up taking way too long and costing me even more time.

The last few miles went well and I sauntered into the start line finishing the first loop in 7:01. That was much slower then what I would normally expect but still kept me on pace to finish. I also had to take into account losing 25 minutes to the late start and the call of the porta potty.

Part 2 to follow

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Coaching Site, Mohican 100 this weekend

Coaching site is up
As some of you already know I have been coaching distance running for a running store for about the last 4 years with co coach Chris Henderson. Although we are still doing that we figured that it was finally time we start taking on some runners on our own.

Check out our website at candcrunnningfactory to see what kind of programs and group runs we have going on. If you have any interest just let us know. We are looking forward to spreading our own personal kind of misery as far and wide as possible.

Return to Mohican
This weekend I am headed back to Loudonville Ohio to run the Mohican 100 miler. In 2011 I attempted this race only to be forced to drop out at around 70 miles with heat exhaustion. If you need reminding read it here. It was my first DNF ever and left me bitter for years afterwards. Some say I am still bitter today. I had no idea it was so stinking hot in Ohio. So here goes with the do over. Funny thing is it looks like after 2012 and 2013 of having hot but not crazy hot weather the same nasty temperatures have come back for my return run. Not much you can do about that though. I plan to start slow and stagger across the finish line at a snails pace where Kim will resusatate me with a giant beer.

Should be fun though as Kim is running the marathon distance and 5 other marathoners that I coach are also joining us. It will be the first time doing the marathon on trail for all of them. Hopefully nobody bursts into flames.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Toronto Maraton 2014 Race Report - Alice runs a marathon

Got to be honest here, originally I had no intention of running the Toronto Marathon this year. I had expected to go back to Bear Mountain which is on the same weekend but sometimes things just don't go as planned. Okay really things rarely go as planned.

As it turned out the place we lived in was going to be sold so May 3/4th became stay home and move your crappy weekend. We planned to be done moving by Saturday evening and I needed to get a long run in on Sunday so running the Toronto Marathon made sense. I know myself and there was no way I would wake up and run 40k on my own Sunday so at least the race would get me out to run plus I had a cheap entry through the Running Room.

There was just one rule, NO RACING! I would find someone mid pack to pace and stick to my long run speed.

I met up with a few of the runners that I have been coaching and we shared a cab up to the start line. Two of them were first time marathon newbies and were excited and nervous. Once we got up to the start line I ran into lots of clinic members and a good number of Longboaters as well. Everyone seemed pretty pumped and the weather looked good except for the predicted 35k winds on the Lakeshore, yikes!

One of my runners who was trying to BQ had her watch die before the race start. I ended up giving her my Ambit so she could pace properly and since I was going slow I was not worried about time at all. Soon I found Sarah, another runner I coached, who said she was going to run around a 3:55 - 4 hour race so I decided I would run with her for as long as she could put up with me. No easy task on her part.

Just before the gun Sarah asked me why my race bib said ALICE. I looked down and what the heck it did say Alice. Turns out the race was out of blank bibs and the manager at the Running Room thought it would be funny to get me "an interesting pseudonym".  I didn't mind but was disappointed that I had not noticed it at home. If I had I would have donned the Alice Cooper makeup and run incognito. We lined up in the corral and then we were off.

The Not Racing Race - Go Alice
Sarah and I ran the first few kms at a decent but easy pace effort wise. We chatted and she told me that she would have liked to beat her PB which was just under 3:49 but didn't think it was doable. When I heard this I decided that we should at least go fast enough to give her a shot at it so I picked it up some. There is a good bit of downhill in the first half of the race so now was the time to take advantage.

Since I didn't have a watch I just ran by feel and whenever Sarah called out a split I found a little slow I would pick it up just a bit. I wanted to make sure she ran hard but didn't want to see her burn out in the second half. The race was going pretty good as we turned into the wind hitting the half way point at 1:50. That meant Sarah was on pace for a PB and that I was running way to fast for an easy run. I was right in my junk mile zone, too fast to be an easy run but too slow to be at race pace. That means you are doing more damage to your legs than a training run with no real training benefit you would not get running easy. My legs were getting tired, 3 hours of sleep and 2 days of lugging furniture and boxes around was catching up fast. Might have still been feeling the 50k trail race from the week before in my legs, who knows. I decided I would keep pacing for as long as my legs felt okay and then would back off.

The wind for the next 12 -15k was soul sucking. Looked like the weather guy got it right as much of this section was into 35k winds. I ended up staying with Sarah until the 31-32k mark. She was running great and had lots left so at that point I slowed it way down to save my legs and let her go. Even going slow my legs were beat. The damage was done already which made for a painful last 10k even going extra super slow.

The one great things was all the Longboaters and clinic runners that were out cheering (about half my clinic people were running Ottawa so not racing that weekend). As anyone who has run in Toronto races knows fan support is few and far between. Kind of sad really but for those that came out a great big Thank You.

Ended up finishing in a more painful than necessary 3:58. Sarah ended up just sneaking in under her PB. Way to go Sarah.

Next up Seaton 50k May 10th

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pick Your Poison 2014 50k Race Report

PYP 50k - Pick Your Poison race report
Finally after a winter that seemed to never end the start of the Ontario Ultra season was just around the corner and six months of road training had left me twitching like an addict to get back onto the trails. For two weeks I ran on the snowless trails of High Park and the Sulphur Springs course getting the legs ready for the first race of the OUSER, Pick Your Poison.

On Saturday April 26th I headed up north of Barrie with Chris H. for the 9 AM race start. Kim was nursing an IT Band injury from Around the Bay so decided to be smart and rest it.  Chris was running 25k while I was in for 50k of hilly goodness.

We arrived at Horse Shoe Valley Ski Resort nice and early only to be met with an unexpected treat. There was a tonne of snow still on the course and I mean a tonne. It was a little startling given the clear trails at Sulphur but apparently Northern Ontario gets more snow than we do. I guess I knew that  but given this is the 5th time I have run this race and every other time out there was little to no snow it was surprising.

Snow on the course
We grabbed our race kits, which contained a nice race shirt and a bottle of fresh honey, chatted with other runners and then headed to the start line. There were some last minute race instructions from the RD and a quick up date on course conditions, something about snow on the course, and then we were off.

PYP is a 12.5k loop course which has a little bit of everything. There is some wide groomed trail, a good deal of  technical single track, some jeep / logging road, open field running and even a small bit of pavement. Oh I almost forgot there is also the hills, lots and lots of hills, with each loop coming in at around 2000 ft. of climb and 2000ft of decent. You got to love that.

Loop 1  0 - 12.5k
I came in planning to run semi hard my first loop, take it easy for the next 2 and then pick it up in the last one. With my goal race being Mohican in June I really just needed to get some decent miles in on the trails. Chris and I ran together for most of the first loop but it became clear pretty early that a hard first loop was not the way to go. The course was slow due to the snow and my ACL less knee does not do well running in the snow. After a few km I fell into a decent but moderate pace and ended up just using the first loop to get a feel for the course.

Race Start

Some sections were clear and very runnable others not so much. I would guess there was packed snow on around 30 - 35% of the course but the rest was relatively dry and not much mud at all. At some point I lost Chris and ended up finishing the first lap in 1:29 much slower than expected but okay given the conditions.

Loop 2   12.5 - 25k
I stay at the start/finish aid station for a minute or 2 waiting for Chris to show up but I don't see him so I just take off. It's a bit of asphalt and a quick turn onto jeep road which is clear and very runnable. Soon you it hit a little short section of technical running and then are out onto wide groomed trail. This is all snow covered and slow going. The jarring is already bugging my knee and my feet are wet but besides that things are going okay. I bump into a number of other runners that I know during the loop although most of them are doing the 25k and I end up running parts of this section with different people.

Eventually the snow gives way to some nice clear technical single and double track before reaching the mighty ski hill climb at around 5k. Its long, its tough and the snow make it even harder. I plod along eventually catching up to Andrew H. who was kind enough to pace me for a loop at Sulphur last year and who I keep running into at short road races (which is kind of weird). We cruise along together for the rest of the loop. I end up running 1:33 for loop 2.

Loop 3   25 - 37.5k
Just as I finished 25k Oliver F. arrived at the aid station at the same time. I met Oliver during my first 100 miler at Sulphur where he was also running his first. I can remember running together for a while debating whether we had come out too fast (I had of course). I had also seen him at Leadville last year where we both ended up DNFing.

As it turned out we were running around the same pace so we just ended sticking together. Oliver was running to get Ks in and not racing either so it made sense to cruise along with each other. We chatted about upcoming races and bitched (but only a little) about what had happened at Leadville. I told him I was going back in 2115 or 16 as for me that race has become my White Whale. He told me he would come crew and pace me if I wanted....SWEET.

How Leadville has become in my mind

With the 25k runners done we saw nobody else on the course until we hit the big ski hill at 5k. Way up at the top of the hill we could see 2 runners going through the aid station. They were about 3 minutes ahead so we decided to try and run just fast enough to catch them before the end of the loop. By the time we hit Mount Evil (see prior PYP reports) we had closed in on them and quickly passed them at the next aid station.

By now my legs were getting tired, my knee was becoming very unfriendly, and I was in no mood for a snow cone. Ended up finishing the loop in 1:38

Loop 4   37.5 - 50k
The first part of the loop both Oliver and I seemed to get that "almost done" feeling and picked up the pace some. Honestly I think I was just wanted to finish quick and get to the hamburgers. Once again when we hit the big ski hill we could see people at the top so we ran a little faster with the plan to catch them in the next few kms.  Once again we passed them just before Mount Evil. This time it was a bit different however. I knew one of the runners Kim V. and when we passed her it was clear she still had lots of energy left.

She ended up falling back some but was still in sight most of the time. That meant that my plan to putter along into the finish was out the window. Thanks for keeping us honest Kim we thought you were going to pass us for sure. Soon it was down the last big snow covered ski hill and into the finish where I picked up my finisher socks and made a bee line for the burgers. Loop time was 1:36.

Post Race
Final time was 6:18 which was not the 5:50 I had planned for but not bad given the conditions. Once again RD Adam Hill put on a great race. I always have fun on this one. Special big thank you to Carlos Vicens. for sticking around and giving me a drive home.

Next up Seaton 50k on May10th

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