Saturday, September 19, 2015

Superior 100: My First 100 mile race

In November of 2012, a few weeks out from our first half marathon, I was sitting at World of Beer in Orlando, FL with my wife, Crystal and two good friends, Josh and Victor. We were discussing how I'd just heard this running podcast called "UltraRunnerPodcast". They had just interviewed a guy named Mike Foote who lives in a yurt in Montana. The mountains are his backyard and he runs 100 mile races. Oh yeah and that is a thing by the way. These people are crazy! I want to do it!

 This was the scene playing through my head as my 100+ fellow runners and I made the long bus ride from the finish line (Caribou Highlands Lodge) to the start (Gooseberry Falls). I was no longer worried if I had trained or prepared enough. I stopped worrying if I'd informed my crew enough. Everything else was out of my control. The bus ride was a roller coaster of emotions as I looked back over the years of dreaming, researching, planning, preparing, sacrificing, and training for this moment. It was a great place for me to be before the race. I had my carrot that I needed to dangle for the day. Luckily, a repeat runner, Harold Curioz, brought me out of my daze and I spent the last 20 minutes of the ride engrossed in great conversation about the trail and his running life.

The bus dropped us off at Gooseberry Falls at 7AM. After the hour long bus ride, I was already starting to get hungry. I ate a banana, grabbed a coffee, and started making my way through the crowd. The sea of nerves was endless. Everyone was busy with last minute details or busy reuniting with people from years past. I started pacing back and forth along the visitor center. I was ready to get  going, but with 45 minutes remaining, I could lose my mind first. Out of nowhere, Guy Comer, comes and strikes up a conversation with me. We spent a few minutes on introductions and then went straight to trail talk. I could not have asked for better timing. I needed someone to help me keep my mind of the day and there he was. I am continually amazed by this community of runners! When we heard the 10 minute warning, we wished each other the best of luck and scurried in our own directions.

The last 10 minutes went by in a blink and before I knew it, we were lined up taking last minute instructions on the course. John Storkamp, the RD, counted down from 2 and we were off! This year, due to a closed section of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), the first 4 miles of the race were on the bike path along Hwy 61. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that had come out to support their runners. There were people all over the place for the first mile or so taking pictures and videos while cheering you on. A perfect start to the day! That first section seemed to go by in an instant. By the time I reached the tunnel that took us under Hwy 61 and into the mountains, my legs were starting to feel good. It was nice to get a few steady miles in before they got much tougher and slowed way down. I quickly thanked the volunteers that directed me to the trail and ran into the woods.

Once we hit the trail head, there was only 5 miles to the next aid station. I had already started eating and it was time to get my day into a rhythm. My nutrition plan was to eat half a sleeve (100 calories) of Clif Shot Bloks every 30 min. I planned on also eating at least a few things every time I went through an aid station. I started taking 2 salt tabs on each hour. Even though I wasn't sweating like I do at home in the summer, I didn't want to have any issues with water retention. I planned to never run an uphill, power hike only, and then run as many flat and downhills as my body would allow. The rest of the day, these would be my only jobs. Shouldn't be too hard to stay on top of. By the time we reached Split Rock Aid Station (mile 9.7) I felt like I had everything working right. I filled up my water bottles quickly, ate a few oranges, and was quickly back on my way.

Leaving Split Rock, I was looking forward to the next aid station. It was 10.3 miles to Beaver Bay and it would be the first time I'd see my crew. I had made a spread sheet for them with times I would reach different aid stations for paces from 24-30 hours. I was currently way under that and hoped it wouldn't affect things too much. During this section I set pace with Dan Rogers from Maryland. He was a strong runner that seemed to have done this a time or two. He had paced his friend at Hard Rock a month back and it was mesmerizing to hear his stories. We ran into the Beaver Bay Aid Station(20.1) together around 11:30AM. It was a full hour before the fastest time I'd given my crew. I quickly scanned the packed aid station. It seems that almost every fan of the race was here waiting for their runner. Even if they were here, I wouldn't be able to find them. I quickly decided to fill up my pack with Hammer Gel that they had at the aid station. I'd have to start eating them until I met up with my crew later down the trail. After quickly refilling waters, eating a few bananas and oranges, I headed down the trail. It was only 5 miles to the next aid station. I hoped I'd see my crew there.

Photo Credit: Zach Pierce
There was a lot of climbing on the way to Silver Bay and my hamstrings, which had been on the tighter side all day, really started to get tight. At one point, while running downhill, my hamstrings cramped up so bad that they didn't allow my legs to move forward for the next foot plant. My body took the next fall instead. I don't know what I was missing, but I needed to get this under control. I reached Silver Bay Aid Station (25) at 12:45PM. I was still an hour ahead of any pace my crew would have and I didn't see them anywhere. I couldn't let this alter my day. I refueled and watered at the aid station and headed off. The next aid station, Tettegouche, was 10 miles away and hopefully I'd see them there!

Overlooking Bear Lake
The section from Silver Bay to Tettegouche is beautiful. A few miles in, the trail rides along a ridge overlooking the Bean and Bear Lake. It is worth a stop! That was the last stop for me in this section. I was anxious to get to Tettegouche. It's always nice when you see people on the trail without packs. It tends to mean that you are getting close to an aid station! Just before I got to Tettegouche(35), there was a boy with his mom passing out homemade good luck bracelets. I gratefully put  mine on and sped up knowing aid was close.

Once I ran into the aid station, I immediately gave my water bottles to the volunteers to help me refill. I grabbed an orange slice and saw Crystal, my wife, running up to help with food! I was so relieved! Hammer Gels had not been working as fuel for me and it was nice to be able to get back on track. I reapplied foot balm, changed my socks and shirt, refilled my fuel, kissed my family and was out as quickly as I had entered. Seeing Crystal,Bea, and Wyatt, my son, was a big boost for me. I had still entered the aid station an hour ahead of any dream pace, so it was comforting to see that they were on the same page as I was.

It was 8.6 miles from Tettegouche to the next aid station of County Road 6. This section, though tough, seemed to go by quickly and with ease. I was mentally in a great place having just seen my crew. It was late afternoon and each view of Lake Superior gave it a different shade of blue. I started noticing that, one by one, I was starting to pass people that had been running nearby or in front of me most of the morning. My legs were finally loosening up and I was looking forward to the evening ahead.
Photo Credit: Bea McKee

We had originally planned that I would get my light and evening wear at County Road 6 (43.5). After arriving at 5:10PM, we decided that it would be unnecessary for another couple hours and we would postpone the swap until the next aid station. I quickly left County Road 6 for Finland anxious to meet the night! Other than a quick two mile ridge, this section was fairly run-able and I felt good. I continued passing people and feeling good as dusk was getting closer.

I  arrived at Finland Aid Station (51.2) around 6:45PM. My crew doubled in size as my brother, soon to be sister-in-law, and friend, Ben, were finally able to catch up with me after enjoying the local mountain biking trails all morning. Halfway done and I have all six of my crew there to support me for the start of the second half! I sat down and ate some food while Crystal helped me from my damp day clothes and into my dry, warm evening wear. My brother saved the day with a last minute extra "Mike's Bikes of St. Louis" jacket as mine was too wet! I wasn't there more than 5 minutes before it was time to go out and face the night. I said goodbye to my crew, which I wouldn't see for 12 miles, and was on my way.
Leaving Finland Aid Station  Photo Credit: Ben Jockers

It was 7.5 miles to Sonju Lake Road aid station. This aid station was not accessible by crew so I was hoping to get to and through it as quickly as possible. As the sun was going down, it became difficult at times to make out the terrain and there ended up being a lot of falls in this section. One could argue I was in a rush but it is a race. I remember feeling like I had missed the aid station after passing Sonju Lake and not seeing the aid station for a mile or two. Relieved, I reached the aid station and quickly refueled and left. Only 4 miles to Crosby Manitou (62) aid station. My family had camped here most of the week so I was fairly familiar with the area. I was looking forward to being comfortable with my location.

At 9:15PM, I was running up the gravel road into the campground parking lot. There were lights everywhere and a party atmosphere in the air. The aid station had a Hawaiian theme. Crystal quickly met me and helped me refuel. I was feeling good and wanted to just keep going. I wasn't there more than a few minutes, before I was headed 9.4 miles towards Sugarloaf aid station.

The first mile of this section,before Caribou River, had been traveled often by my family while camping and it went well. Once I got down to the river, I made a wrong turn and traveled ~.25 miles off course. Once I realized the markings had stopped, I backtracked and found the bridge to cross the river. The next few miles were some of the toughest hills on the course. On more than one occasion, I found myself sitting down on a rock mid hill climb because I found my heart rate too high. It was 12:45AM when I reached Sugarloaf (72.3) and my body had taken a beating.
Photo Credit: Ben Jockers

Photo Credit: Ben Jockers

It took me a bit longer to get through the aid station this time. My body seemed to need more fuel and rest at the aid stations than before. Crystal kept telling me that I was in 10th place and I was doing amazing! I couldn't believe it, but I just wanted to keep going! It was only 5.6 miles from Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (77.9) aid station. By this point in the race my body isn't moving very quickly, but I only need to move it consistently. Throughout the night there had been wolves howling in the distance, but during this section they got very close. At one point I remember just hoping and praying that the trail didn't climb up the ridge to the left, because they were up on or just over it! That will put an extra hop in your skip in the dark!

From what I remember, I dragged myself into Cramer Road aid station. I went directly to the fire as Crystal brought me a few food options along with some soda and broth. I told myself I wouldn't sit down, but soon found myself in the most comfortable chair ever designed. My body was shaking  uncontrollably. I was cold, it was in the mid to low 40s, but not freezing. I felt like a nap would do wonders for me. My body was trying to shut me down. There were a few volunteers, friends of other runners, and my wife all there giving me encouragement through some dark times.A few runners passed me but I was in survival mode and didn't pay attention. I spent almost an hour by that fire. Once I felt good enough to stand, it was time to keep moving.

I quickly made up my mind to continue and started hiking down the trail. I was freezing! I knew that once I got going my body would warm up. I tried to jog a few times when there was a clear trail or a downhill but my body wouldn't let me. I moved slowly but steadily and was at Temperance (85) aid station just before dawn. I was really starting to get excited. I didn't have much left in me, but I knew I had enough to make it 15-20 miles. Even if I had to walk the rest. It took a little bit of time to get through the aid station but I was determined to get it done.

I crossed the Temperance River and started climbing up to Carlton Peak just as the sun started to rise. The night had been long and my mental health needed some sunlight. By the time I reached the front side, I was showered in rays. The cold night was over and I slowly started warming up.  I reached  Sawbill (90.7) aid station at 7AM. My whole crew was there and I was pumped. I wasn't moving fast but I was alert and excited. I refueled a little bit and set off the 5.5 miles for Oberg Mountain(96.2) aid station.

Most of this part of the race is a blur. I don't know if I try to block it out or by then the repetition had become too much. I remember arriving at Oberg Mountain aid station and refilling my water only but stopping for nothing more. I just wanted it to be over. My brother offered to join me for the final 7 miles and I told him I would love the company. He was wearing jeans and a flannel. Within a mile he was looking for a knife to turn his jeans into shorts and had his flannel off. He was ready to rock! Unfortunately I had given almost everything already. He was patient and understanding when I crept down hills and kept my mind off of the road ahead. We passed a few hikers that lead us to believe we were close and reality started to sink in. The trail turned to a gravel road and my brother patted me on the back a few times and looked at me said "This is it....go get it!".

At 10:40AM , I started jogging down the gravel road which quickly lead to a paved road. My brother was jogging beside me giving updates on how much further I had left and which way the trail curved from here. We came up on some condos and the trail turned right and I could see the finish. It took everything in me not to break down. The emotions running through me in that moment were indescribable. I had never worked so hard for something in my life and the sense of accomplishment was more than I could comprehend or explain.  I can see how spending some time running the mountains of Montana while living in a yurt could help with that.
Photo Credit: Ben Jockers

Photo Credit: Dianna Hemann

Photo Credit: Dianna Hemann

Finished in 26 hours 43 minutes and was 15th out of 217 starters.

Shout out to my amazing crew!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dances with Dirt Devil's Lake 50 Miler Race Report

After dropping down from the 50 miler to the 50k just two months ago at Gnaw Bone in Indiana, I wasn't completely confident going into Devil's Lake 50 miler. Thanks to the recent move to St. Louis, I have been able to spend the last two months learning to run hills. I was just hoping that I had done enough.

Devil's Lake is located just south of Baraboo, Wisconsin. My wife and I drove up a few days before the race to relax and get familiar with the area. We stayed at the Devil's Head Ski/Golf Resort, which was located across the street from the Start/Finish line of the race. It was going to be nice to be so close the morning of. On Friday, the day before the race, Crystal and I spent the day exploring the course. We went to Devil's Lake and hiked up the bluff. What a beautiful area! The trail up the bluff is steep, paved, and has rock steps. There were many spots where you would come out on a ledge and think you were at the top, only to find that there was a lot more climbing to be done. Once we arrived to the top, it was completely worth it. I wouldn't have time to stop during the race to enjoy it, so I took plenty of time to do it now.

I spent the night before the race going over every last detail I could think of. Due to the accessibility of the aid stations, Crystal decided to crew me for this race. I wrote up a nutrition schedule so she could refill me with what I needed at aid stations. This seemed like a much better plan than trying to fumble through my drop bag trying to remember what I needed to grab at mile 35. Thinking isn't my specialty that far into the race. There were two aid stations that she would have access to. They were called Steinke Basin, mile 10, 25, and 40, and Bug Pit, mile 20 and 35.

I was planning to use Cliff Shot Bloks as my main source of fuel during the race. I set my watch to remind me every 20 mins to eat. At that time, I'd eat 100 calories of Bloks or half of a package. I also planned to take 1 S-Cap every other time I ate to replenish my sodium and potassium levels. I have recently been introduced to a meat based protein bar called Epic Bars, and I was going to try eating them later in the race to see if they were something I would enjoy. I had purchased the Lamb and Bison bars for the run. Crystal was going to be at every aid station giving me nutrition refills while also offering me a new/dry bandana, shirt, socks, shoes, or anything else I might need. All I would have to worry about is running. I was prepared and excited. With the sun still up, it was curtains drawn and lights out by 8:30.

Pre-Race Anticipation
4 AM came early, but I felt rested. If you've had an early race before, you will know the next hour was spent concentrating on two different things. Fueling up and emptying out. Coffee, water, and a big bowl of fruit, granola, and almond milk for breakfast. After some last minute final adjustments, it was time to head down to the race. The sun was already up and it looked like it would be a nice day. There was some rain in the forecast, but that wasn't scheduled to pass through until mid to late afternoon. The humidity was high, but it wasn't unbearable after the years in Florida. The 50 miler and 50k both started at 5:30, so there were a lot of people at the starting line when we showed up. I looked around and saw a few familiar faces. The anticipation was starting to build. My toes always tingle before a race. Maybe it's their way of acknowledging the pain they might have to endure. Either way I was ready to go. I reached over to kiss my pregnant wife, listened to some instructions, heard the horn, and we were off.

The Race
The course is a 5 mile ski slope loop, followed by 2 x 20 mile loops, and completed with repeating the first 5 mile loop. The beginning of the race led along a road, through the ski resort and along the golf course there. Overall, people seemed to be running a fairly quick pace and I quickly decided to slow down and not pay any attention to how fast others were going. I was wearing my heart rate monitor and had planned to keep my heart rate in the high 130's. This was a perfect rate for the pace I wanted to run on the flats and the downhills, while it also required me not to overdo it on the uphills.

After a mile or so, we turned left onto a dirt road that started to climb. I immediately started power hiking. I wasn't going to even attempt to push the uphills until much later in the race. A strategy that payed off later on. I got passed by a few people on that first climb. I remember hearing a lot of huffing and puffing and wondering why there were using all of their energy 2-3 miles into the race. My timer went off and the eating began. Halfway up the slopes, we ran along a golf cart path through a golf course that winded up the mountain. Beautiful place to play. After reaching the top, we ran down the mountain on a few different ski runs. Some were more steep than others. This is the first time I had ran that far downhill for that long. I felt weightless. I remember mentioning to a guy I'd met named Matt, that "I could do this forever". He replied, "just wait until the second loop". He had ran the race every year, since the first in 2008. He knew what he was talking about. We reached the bottom of the slopes and went through the Start/Finish line. The first 5 were done with and I was feeling great.

Entering Bug Pit aid station at mile 20 with Geoff
followed closely by Aaron Schneider. He waited
a few more miles to make his move.
From there the trail takes us west along the Ice Age Trail. It took us up 700 ft over the next few miles. From there we ran up and down these higher elevation fields and hills. It was beautiful. At mile 10 we came into Steinke Basin, which was this huge grass field basin surrounded by hills. At the aid station, I refilled my nutrition and quickly continued onward. I knew from studying the map that the next few miles were very runnable, so I was excited to get into a rhythm. I fell in behind a guy running with Anton's UD pack(I've been eyeing this pack for month's!) whose pace I felt comfortable with and zoned out for a few miles. At some point I started talking to my new running companion, Geoff, about his pack. Before you knew it we were deep in conversation about running, his life, mine, and everything in between. The smell of campfire was in the air as we ran into the Devil's Lake Campground. It was roughly 7:45 and people were just starting to get moving for their day. I remember hearing a runner yelling that they wanted pancakes for breakfast. It was a beautiful morning and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The Lake Aid station was coming up soon, which marked mile 15. I knew the trail went 500+ ft up the bluff from there over the next mile, since Crystal and I had hiked it the day before. I took it fairly easy going up and felt great by the top. We had passed a few dozen people, but they were all super nice and supportive. Once at the top of the bluff, the trail leveled off a little bit before descending way down into the valley below. Up until this point, I had been able to keep my heart rate around where I wanted it. I was feeling great and decided to continue the slow and steady pace I was keeping. I was still able to breathe only through my nose and keep pace, which is a good way for me to tell my intensity level. I was looking forward to seeing Crystal at the Bug Pit aid station at mile 20. I also had half of a lamb Epic bar waiting for me there. I had been eating straight suger for 3 1/2 hours and I was ready to switch it up a little.

The trail continues through the Bug Pit aid station for .6 miles and then turns around. It is nice because you see how many people are in front of you. I saw Crystal at the aid station, grabbed my Epic bar, and told her I'd stop on my return trip a mile later. Up until this point, I had seen roughly 10-15 people running the opposite direction and knew I was pretty far back. It was almost a calming relief that I wasn't anywhere close to the lead. I ate the bar and took comfort in the pace I was keeping and continued to plug away. Within seconds it happened. My sugar coated mouth that was on the verge of a canker sore population quickly became coated in a thick layer of fat. This was a bad idea. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be eating any more of those for the race and spent the next mile trying to wash out my mouth while running.

When I came back through Bug Pit aid station, grabbed a coke to wash my mouth out and drink. Filled a water bottle with gatorade and one with water. Crystal refilled my Cliff Shot Bloks and gave me a dry bandana replace my soaked one. Later on Crystal said that this was the worst I looked in the race. It must've been the fat coated mouth. Either way I was back on the trail and getting prepared for the bluff climb up ahead. It was only 5 miles to the next aid station back at Steinke Basin. It would also mark the halfway point in the race. I ran most of this section alone. The climb back up the bluff wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and the trail quickly led to a road that took us straight north to the aid station. While on the road I passed a guy walking that was super pale and didn't look good. I stopped to offer assistance. I handed him some Cliff Shots and a few salt tabs and told him to eat them and walk it out to the aid station. It felt good to help someone and that kept me smiling into the aid station.

At Steinke Basin, mile 25, the trails split. All the 50k runners turn back to the finish line while the 50 miler runners turn the other way for another loop. I quickly refilled and was back on the trail. The next 5 miles area bit of a blur but I remember coming into the Devil's Lake Campground for a second time. I wasn't looking forward to the bluff climb for a second time. There were a lot more visitors on the trail this time but it was okay because I wasn't moving as quickly as the first time up. It gave me a good chuckle when people would ask how far we are running. By the look on most faces, they couldn't comprehend 50 miles.

Lonely trail into Bug Pit at mile 35
Running down from the bluff towards Bug Pit aid station a second time wasn't too bad. I crossed paths with a lot of racers coming up the path from either their first or second loop. The back of the pack seemed to be just as inspiring as the front people. It kept me in good spirits. Once at Bug Pit, I did the same thing as before and ran through the aid station to stop on my way back. While running to the turn around, I saw Geoff from 20 miles earlier and told him that I was coming for him. In all honesty, I wasn't coming for anyone. I was just working on keeping pace. Once I reached Crystal again, she told me that there was rain close. I had been getting a little chilly in the trees and so I asked for a shirt. At this point in the race I was done with my shot blocks. I couldn't eat anymore. I dumped out my gatorade and filled one of my water bottles with Coke. If I can drink 20oz/hour, that'd give me 250 calories. It was worth the shot. Before I left the aid station I dropped my water bottle and coke sprayed everywhere. This could get messy.

Geoff and I running into Steinke Basin at mile 40.
I wasn't but half a mile from the aid station when I crossed paths with the runner I had helped with nutrition 15 miles earlier. He looked much better and thanked me as we ran by each other. I couldn't believe the turnaround. By the time I had gotten to the base of the last bluff climb, I had mastered relieving CO2 pressure from my coke bottle before it exploded in my face. The climb went fairly well and by the top I could see Geoff in front of me. Once we got close to the road, he waited for me so we could run together. It was nice to have something to keep my mind off of the pain. Coming into Steinke Basin for the last time at mile 40, we were in great spirits. We both seemed to have planned to take our time through the aid station. Crystal cleaned my face and fed me salt tabs. I ate a few handfuls of M&M's. What a treat! With a water bottle full of coke and one of water, I ran towards down the trail towards the Start/Finish line with Geoff.

We had a 5 mile run to the finish line followed by the same 5 mile loop that we had ran to start the day. We both agreed that there was no reason to push the pace from here on out. Together we were making decent time and having the added encouragement was a huge bonus. Different parts of my body were starting to hurt but seeing someone going through the same thing with you helps to move on. The trail seemed to really drag on but we finally reached the Start/Finish. Geoff's girlfriend and mom were there, along with my wife to give us extra support. With 5 miles left, we were getting excited. Both of our legs were done. I was being driven purely by adrenaline and anticipation for the pain to stop. We would welcome the uphills and curse the downhills. Once we got up to the golf cart path near the top at mile 47, I remember discussing that if for some reason someone was to come up from behind and pass us. We'd pat them on the back and cheer for them because it would be an amazing effort. Not more than 5 minutes later, we look back and there is a bright orange shirt running after us. Not only was he running uphill, but he was running fast. We were on the edge of turning downhill and I moved to the side while continuing. As he passed us, I looked over and noticed Aaron. I first met him down at Green Swamp in Florida and he is running the series of 4 as well. As he ran by we cheered him on. I couldn't believe the determination in his eyes. "Good for him!", Geoff said. Inspiration everywhere.

The next mile was a decent down a grassy ski slope. My toes and quads were on fire and this was possibly the most miserable part of the course. I had it coming to me after gloating to Matt on the first loop how I could run down that forever. He was right. At some point during the decent, I slowed down to walk for a second. With Geoff running ahead he yelled, "Don't worry, I won't cross the finish line without you!". At some point our race had turned into a joint effort. I don't know if it was at mile 14 when we were smelling the campfire in the campgrounds or when we had our thumbs out to bum a ride from the beverage cart on the cart path at mile 47. I quickly continued running because I wouldn't let him wait for me. We'd finish strong together. The next half mile was full of fist bumps, laughter, and talk of our first beer. As we crossed the finish line, the time said 9 hours 45 minutes. We came in 11th/12th. I'll take it. It was over and I was relieved. What an amazing day. The location was gorgeous and we couldn't have asked for better weather. I am so blessed to have found this sport. After a long day of fun and lifetime friendship building, it was time to eat and pass out. Which was exactly what we did.

Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone 50 miler turned 50k

I remember thinking during the last 20 minutes of the drive into Brown County, Indiana, the Thursday before the race, "Wow, these hills are serious!". They were a surprise, after driving through western Indiana. I was about to spend the weekend learning all about them. What a gorgeous place to camp for the weekend and run!

After all of the hectic running around I had gone through the morning of my last race, I decided to pack everything and have it set the night before. After what seemed like a short nap in the tent, it was time to get up and start rolling.

My friend, Josh, was just leaving the campsite as I was getting up. He was planning on being a part of the early start option. I remember being a lot calmer than I had the previous race. After breakfast and my morning coffee, it was time to start heading to the race site. It was nice and cool outside and I was excited about the idea of it not being super hot all day. We had some rain overnight, but it looked like the radar was clear. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

There were a lot more people at the starting line for this race. I saw a few friends that I had met at Green Swamp and was excited to see more throughout the day. There were 2 spots to drop off drop-bags. One of the drop bag locations was Hesitation point (miles 11 and 30) or Fire Tower (miles 21 and 40). I only had packed one back so I decided to leave mine at Fire Tower.

After dropping my bag off, it was pretty much time to start. I said my goodbye's to my wife and dogs. It was time to run!

The Race
This race was basically a 5 mile run from the start up into Brown County State Park, 2x20 mile loops up and down the hills around the park, and then 5 miles back down to the finish line. 

To be honest most of this race is a blur for me. I remember in the first hour or so there was a lot of climbing followed by some runnable terrain. Roughly 10 miles into the race it started to rain. It really started to downpour and the trail became a creek. The following 3 hours were a tunnel of rain on the trail trying the best I could to stay fueled and hydrated. By mile 25 my hamstrings were cramping up. Not being able to run dropped my core temperature way down and I was miserable. I opted at this point to drop down to the 50k and finish the final 5 miles down the hill. I regretted my decision the whole way, though I wasn't in any shape to change my mind. I had come to the race mentally unprepared and it had defeated me. Much more preparation will go into the next one. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Recipe of the Week: Balsamic-Mustard Vinaigrette

Balsamic-Mustard Vinaigrette
            This is our favorite all-around dressing, it is especially good in a kale salad, the vinaigrette softens the strong taste of the greens. I usually make a double batch and keep it stored in a large jar in the refrigerator so I don't have to make a new batch every time we have a salad. Just make sure to shake well before use, since the olive oil tends to separate when it sits for awhile. When mixing with a salad, add less dressing then you think you need, then toss and taste, adding a bit more as needed. It is very easy to put too much on a salad, a little bit goes a long way.

Prep Time: 5 min

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 C. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbs. Coarse ground mustard
1 Tbs. Honey
1Tbs. Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper
1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1.      Put all ingredients, except for the olive oil,  in a tight fitting jar or container. Shake thoroughly.
2.      Add olive oil. Shake again.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Race Recovery to Race Ready Update

It has now been 6 weeks since I ran Green Swamp 50 miler and 4 weeks until my next at Gnaw Bone 50 in Indiana. The recovery from it took longer than I thought, but I've learned so much along the way. As of my last post I was on week 2 of recovery and I had just started feeling good enough to get back on my feet. I reached a new point of my training. For the first time I didn't have a training plan I was going to follow. I had decided that for the rest of the year, I would take what I've learned and try to train myself.

With 8 weeks left until my next 50, I could barely run 8-9 miles without a lot of pain in my feet. This was a great time for me to learn what different pains are and what they mean. Fatigue pain is okay and you can fight through it, where damage pain is not so good to fight through. Knowing and applying this are two different processes. Through the following weeks my goal was to feel comfortable on my feet again. I decided to cut out the long runs for a bit and focus on running more often.

Before Green Swamp, I had been running 5 days a week. I decided I would start running every day and take a break when my body felt like it needed a break. During the last 4 weeks (3/17-4/13), I have missed 3 days of running. The first 2 weeks (3/17-3/30) didn't have a run over 10 miles. I wanted to focus on getting my foot strength and balance back. During the first week of April I started mixing in some speed work and hill training. I was finally feeling optimistic about my upcoming race. With just 5 week remaining it was time to add a bit of volume to my training. I started out last week, 4/7-4/13, wanting to run every day and hoping that a few of those would be long runs. It turned out I was able to push through my first 100 mile week!

With 4 weeks left, I hope to repeat the volume this week. Then, I'll slowly start tapering for the race. I am feeling so much more optimistic about my potential race condition. It has been quite the journey watching how the body recovers from an extreme activity. Next time it should recover even quicker.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Recipe of the Week: Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled Vegetable Salad
We sometimes eat this huge salad 2-3 times a week. It is super quick and easy. Often, we grill a protein along with the veggies, chicken or salmon go well. You can add or substitute any vegetables that grill nicely.

Prep Time: 5 min
Grill Time: 15-20 min
Servings: 2-4

1 Red Pepper (quartered, stem and seeds removed)
1 Green Pepper (quartered, stem and seeds removed)
1 Red Onion (sliced in half)
2 Portobello Caps (stems removed)
1 Small Eggplant (Sliced 1/2 inch thick)
1 Small bunch of Asparagus
1/2 Pint of Grape Tomatoes (halved)
8 oz Blue Cheese
Spinach or Salad Greens
Olive oil
Red wine Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar (or both, depending on your taste preferences)
Sea Salt and Pepper
(optional toppings: avocados, chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs, grilled salmon or grilled chicken breast)

1.      Preheat grill
2.      Drizzle peppers, onion, portobello, eggplant and asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Grill until done. Remove from grill and slice all vegetables to desired size, I like thin strips.
3.      In large bowls spread out spinach or salad greens, top with tomatoes, grilled vegetables and blue cheese. Lightly sprinkle with vinegar ( A little bit goes a long way).
4.      Add additional toppings and proteins as desired.