Tag Archives: 50k

No head. No heart. No feet.

Ultrarunning is hard.

I was supposed to run 20 miles this morning for my log run leading up to the Marquette Trail 50 mile run in August.  Except I only ran 5.  Actually I covered 5 miles, but most of the fifth mile was spent walking, reflecting and watching satellites zoom overhead.

Yes, ultrarunning is hard.  And I’m likely dropping from the Marquette Trail 50 miler again this year.

After the 50k I ran on January 2nd, my running imploded.  I intentionally took a couple weeks of rest / relaxation after that race, and then some things happened at work over the course of a few weeks – some planned and some not – that impacted my ability to run what I wanted / needed to run.  After that much time of inconsistent running, my head was out of the game.

Within the last couple weeks I realized that if I’m still running the MT50, and I still planned too, I had to start training seriously.  Except – one can’t just jump right back into training for an ultra without really training to train for an ultra.  It was foolish think I can hop right back into running 35 mile weeks right out of the gate after not running that kind of mileage for a few months.  And so I sit here with a with pain in my knee and pain in my foot.

Just after starting my fifth mile this morning, I stopped to watch a satellite zoom across the sky.  Once I started hobbling forward again, it was only a couple minutes before I stopped again.  My heart wasn’t in it.

At that point I realized I had – No head.  No heart.  No feet.

It’s also at that point I realized ultrarunning is hard.  It’s not just training for the miles, but it’s training the mind.  It’s training yourself to get up at crazy hours.  It’s training yourself to run through shit weather.  It’s training yourself to push through pain.  It’s training yourself to sacrifice time with family.

What I learned this morning is – you can’t just jump back right to where you were.

So with that … I don’t know.

I don’t know what’s next.  Will it be an ultra?  Or a marathon?  Half marathon?  I’m not sure.  I need some time to heal my knee and my foot.  I need some time to rebuild my head and get my heart into training for something again.

 

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Next up => 50k at Pinckney Recreation Area

Next up => 50k as part of the Trail Marathon weekend at Pinckney Recreation Area.

I began the year with hopes of returning to the KalHaven Trail Run, where I ran my first Ultra last spring.  I thought it’d be cool to see what a year of Ultra running would do to my time.  Unfortunately work had other plans.  And by work, I mean me – I’m the one that originally scheduled this maintenance window (I’m a computer nerd) without checking the schedule against the races I wanted to run this year.

*Sigh*

Thus, the last few weeks – since I realized I can’t run KalHaven – have been a bit off the rails from a running perspective.  There were other reasons too, but I’ve already covered them.

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Winter training – trying to dig out of the Hole

Truth be told, after the minimal running over the few weeks, I was also starting to fall back into the Hole.  A few days ago my alarm went off to run, I silenced it, rolled over in bed and told my wife – I need to find a race to run this spring so I can get my shit together.  I then went back to sleep.

Well, I found the next race and I’m pretty excited about it.  I’ve never run out at Pinckney, but I’ve heard awesome things – especially the Potowatami trail where we’ll be running.

I’d considered it earlier in the year, but dismissed it thinking there was a conflict between it and the 5k at our local Nature Center where I’m volunteering and my daughter is running the kids run (her first run – she wants to learn to run w/me this year – awesome!!).  Well – upon further review, the 5k is Saturday and the 50k is Sunday.  Woohoo!

Now that I have my sights set on a race that I can train for, here’s to digging the rest of the way out of the Hole.

In other news, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – who are you rooting for?  I knew you’d say the Broncos! – Go Broncos!

Also, what’s your go to beer, or wine, or spirit, for the game?  I’m going with Bells Hopslam.  It’s awesome.

 

 

Ultrarunning: not always run through the woods drinking PBR

It’s been a tough few weeks – from a running perspective.  Yes, the year started off with a bang when I ran the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge.  From there, my running went downhill.

And not in a good, I just crested a hill and I’m ready to let gravity help me cruise sorta way.

I’ve been challenged from work on a couple of different weeks – the hours have been creeping up as we near the finish line of a major project.

My wife has work travels coming this week which will interrupt my running (kiddos can’t stay home alone while I run in the morning and it’s the time of year the double stroller is firmly ensconced in the garage, behind all the deck furniture.

Work will continue to hit me with more and more hours through the month of February.

The April race I picked, a reprise of my first Ultra (Kal-Haven Trail Race), has been trumped by work and I had to bail on it.

In short, I’ve been generally bummed out and unmotivated from a running perspective.

Dude – don’t be such a downer!

Why do I share this?  At first I didn’t think I would.  It’s not an exciting / motivating post.  But – Ultrarunning is hard.  And I thought it was worth sharing that aspect of the sport.  Too often you see only the ‘awesomeness’ of the sport.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of awesomeness, but my goal with this blog is to share the experience – the whole experience – of training / working toward my goal of running Western States.  That includes the good and the bad.  It’s easy to tell you how awesome it is to run through the woods and drink PBR.  It’s harder to write about when things are going tough.

What have I learned over the past few weeks?

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Keeping my eye on the prize – 2016 Marquette trail 50 (miler this year) – with last year’s 50k pint glass.

Well – it helps to keep life prioritized.  As I’ve mentioned previously, running isn’t at the top of my list of priorities.  That keeps my running disappointment from becoming general disappointment.

I’ve also learned when you miss a few runs, it’s not the end of the world.  And you shouldn’t try to make up for all of that lost mileage in a single day / week / or even month.  Keep focus on the goal.  For me it’s running my first 50 miler in August and building a strong base to run my first 100 miler next year.  It’s not running 10 miles on last Tuesday.

Finally – run when / what you can.  A short run is, hands down, better than no run.

 

 

 

Race Report: 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge

2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50K

32/64 runners => 6:08:24


 

Why not start 2016 with a bang?  While most were still hung over from New Year’s (when I went to bed at 11:57pm – just because I couldn’t care less about the ball drop), I ran 30 miles.  Me and almost 340 other runners met in the early morning cold, at Yankee Springs Recreation Area, on the second to run between 10k – 50miles.

I ran the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50k.

I’ve hiked the YSRA many times (I even saw the elusive eastern massasauga rattlesnake there once – Michigan’s only venomous snake), but I’ve never run there.  When I hiked there, it’s always been the same 4 mile loop so I didn’t really know what to expect for this two-lap race.

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My daughters decorating the most awesome drop bag.

After my typical pre-race meal of PB&J, I headed North and arrived at Yankee Springs, under the cover of darkness, about 7am – an hour or so before the race.  A short walk took me over the lodge where I picked up my number, race gloves and a pretty sweet long sleeve tshirt.

After a quick pit-stop at the port o Jonathans, it was back to the car to hang out and stay warm until time to race.  I double checked my UD SJ vest, pinned my number to my pants, and strapped on my Yaktrax.  Thank goodness I had them along.  The ground was covered under a layer of ice from a recent ice storm.  They proved very beneficial.

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Before the start of the 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge

About 5 minutes prior to the race, I walked across the parking lot, dropped my drop bag, took a quick pre-race picture and took my place at the start line.  I find the start of ultras to be very chill and I love that.  No Metallica.  No pyrotechnics.  No jumping around.  Just a ‘hello’ from the RD, a quick countdown from 10, and we’re off.

I started out the first lap at a pace that felt very slow.  As I’d been running at a low HR for a couple of months, I decided to try to keep it down through the first of two loops.  I wasn’t shooting for zone 3 like my training runs, but definitely trying to keep things in zone 4 – as opposed to my first 50k where I jacked myself into zone 5 4 miles into the race and subsequently blew up.

A couple miles in I caught a gal and just kinda hung behind her for a bit.  She was running pretty much the exact pace I wanted to run.  I didn’t want to pass and force myself to run any faster trying to keep from slowing her down, but I think she didn’t really love having me hanging so close behind either – she felt like she was holding me up.  We chatted a bit about running and family and then about 6 miles in I stopped to remove my jacket and let her roll on.  My jacket – the UD Ultra Jacket, is sweet.  After a few more runs in that, I’ll have a review on here.

At this point I was all alone, where I stayed for the majority of the first lap.

I came up a hill about 8 miles into the race and saw a guy standing with  cooler and a radio in the tree behind him …

Hey, you wanna beer?

Me: Huh?

Yeah – I have a cooler of PBR here.

Me: Are you shittin’ me?

Nope.  I have some fried chicken too.

Me: Well, since you twisted my arm…

(You can read about how I really feel about beer / running here)

But … I figured, what the hell?  It was only about 3 or 4 ounces, what could it hurt?  The first lap – nothing, all was good.  I did pass on the chicken though.

Shortly after that, I rolled into my first aid station (third on the course).  I had a really odd experience.  I could smell the campfire on the way up the hill and shouted something about it smelling wonderful.  I walked up and thanked the folks for being there and they all totally ignored me.  No one said a word.  I don’t know if it’s cause I had my GoPro on, and it freaked them out, or what.  One dude was cutting pickles.  Another was telling him not to slice his thumb off.  And 3 or 4 people were sitting around the campfire ignoring me.

Oh well.  I thanked them nonetheless and rolled on – right into the toughest part of the course.  Terrain-wise, it was cool – hilly and challenging, but it really slowed me down.  I walked most of the up hills and tried to roll through the icy downhills as best as I could.  It was in this section that I started to see the gal I ran with earlier in the race.

I pushed on through this section, still trying to keep my HR under control and came out of this to the last aid station.  The gal I was chasing chose to skip it, but I stopped to refill my bottle.

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They were stoked about my camera.

Hey, are we on camera!?

Me: Do you mind?

No!

Me: Cool, I don’t think the last group appreciated it.

I thought I turned it on, but apparently all I got was this picture.  Notice the dude on the right – I thought he was wearing a baby out in the cold.  No – it was a dog.

This stop rejuvenated me and I begin running pretty well after this.  It was also about this time that I decided to shit-can the heart rate running.  I was going to push it into, and through, the second lap.

I caught the gal I’d run with earlier and wished her well.  This was her first ultra and she was going to stop for some traction between laps and I rolled into lap 2 feeling very good.

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I stopped to take a picture of lap 2, a couple miles in, and that killed my phone.  It froze up.  Oh well, onwards!

I felt really good the first half of lap 2 and passed quite a few people.  Whatever quite a few people is in an ultra, in the winter.  Probably more than 5, but less than 10.  Not bad in a race of 64 runners though.

At one point I remember seeing an Oreo on the ground.

Damn that looks good!  I thought.

Fortunately for me, a couple miles further and I happened on an aid station – and they had Oreos!  I choked one down (it seemed hard to eat) and it tasted delicious.

I was still feeling good as I ran into the PBR guy again.  I had no intention of stopping – I was running well.  But he asked again.  And … that’s all it took for me to stop.  Now he had a group with him.  I chatted a couple minutes and one of the guys I’d passed snuck by.

Then … I ran out of gas.  I don’t think it was the PBR, but I think it was just stopping again so soon when I felt like I was running well.  I never really got back into the groove.

I skipped the oddball aid station from lap 1 and powered forward.

With about 5 miles to go I passed a guy sitting down.  I chatted a minute, he wasn’t feeling well, but he started moving so I moved along.

I continued to slow down and finally Alex (the guy who was sitting earlier) caught me.  He wasn’t feeling well and I was gassed so we kept each other company for the last 4 miles in.  Alex – if you’re reading this, nice to meet you!

Post race there was chili and beer – how can you go wrong!?  Well, you can go wrong by leaving your ID in the car and being too lazy to go get it.  So for me, it was just chili.

Over the course of the race I drank about 5 16oz bottles of Tailwind.  This followed my typical hydration strategy pretty closely and seemed to work out well.

In the end, even though I believe it is hard to compare ultras because of the varied terrain, it was a 50k PR for me by a long shot.  So I guess I’ll take that.

This wasn’t an A race for me, but rather something to keep me training through the fall / early winter.  I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to folks!

Aside from my new UD jacket, I received a Patagonia Air Hoody for Christmas.  I know you’re not supposed to wear something new in a race, but I did.  And it was awesome.  I love how the hood keeps the neck warm and when up can be pulled up over the face.  I’d highly recommend it.

As I mentioned earlier, I was wearing my GoPro.  That was a first for me and here’s a short video compilation from the race …

If you want to see my Strava data, you can find it here.  Otherwise, here are the just the splits:

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2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge splits

 

2015 was a very good year …

Let’s just rip off the band-aid …

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this is where I quit the training for my first 50 miler

From a running perspective, my biggest disappointment in 2015 happened 3 miles into an 18 mile run on a Thursday morning.  I can tell you exactly where I was (see picture to the left).  Rather than running the 18 miles, I went home and went back to bed for 2 hrs.  Yes – 18 miles before work is difficult.  But … so is a 50 mile race (I imagine).

With that said … 2015 was awesome.  I won’t dwell on the negative, but it happened.

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2015 Kal-Haven trail run – look at that sexy form

2015 was the  year of the Ultra for me.  I ran my first two Ultras – my first in April, the Kal-Haven Trail Race, and the second in August, the Marquette trail 50k.  The ‘k’ was supposed to be a ‘M,’ but see two paragraphs prior …

Perhaps it was a bit unrealistic to expect to run a 50 miler during the first year of running ultras, but I figured I’d keep cranking up the mileage.  Oh well.

In addition to the two ultras, I ran two marathons.  That’s it – four races in 2015.  But I ran a PR in all of them!  Hey, it’s easy to do when you’re still a relatively new runner!

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Ready to high-five my nephew during the Flying Pig Marathon

Of course my first Ultra in April was a PR, especially at the odd distance of 33.5 miles.

In May, I knocked over 50 minutes off my Marathon PR at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati.

In August I ran my first 50k, on trails, thus that was a PR as well (and my favorite race of the year – by far!).

Then in October I dropped another 20ish minutes off my marathon time at the Grand Rapids Marathon.  This was also my first sub-4 hr marathon.

Beyond the four races, I also crushed my PR for miles in a year by over 300 miles.  It was a very good running year.  I hope 2016 treats me half as good.  We’ll begin to find out tomorrow – as I line up for my first race of the year, the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50k.

Beyond running, 2015 was good to me in other ways…

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My 2yr old caught her first fish …

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We went camping as a family for the first time (nephew and my daughters) …

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Backyard camping with my oldest …

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Watched Howie Day from this far away with my wife …

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Helped my daughters make snowmen in June …

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Took the family to Rocky Mountain National Park …

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… and watched my daughters explore the rocks at 10,000 ft near Dream Lake …

I hope you enjoyed your 2015 as well, and have some cool stuff planned for 2016.  My big goal for the year is to conquer the 50 mile race that I gave up on last year.

I’d also like to be a better husband and a better dad in 2016.  Not to say I was bad in either instance in 2015.  By my totally unscientific measure, I was an A-, but there’s always room to improve.  Sometimes I focus a little too much on the running … or let my temper escape when it shouldn’t.  I will do better in 2016.

Happy New Year!

What’d you like best in 2015?

What are your goals for 2016?

Fueling and Hydration

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Fuel for the 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge

My race fuel for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge arrived.  As I pack it away in my race vest, prepping for the coming race, I’m thinking about hydration and race day fuel.

I’ve spent much time trying to figure out the best way for me to hydrate / fuel for my training and races – either by trying different things or reading about what works for others.

I’m a runner w/Crohn’s disease, so that affects what I put in my body pre-race, and during the run.  I typically go for things that are low in fiber / carbonation the day before, and during, my race.  Those two items don’t sit well with my Crohn’s.

I love beer, but it’s not what I choose to carbo-load with.  The carbonation in it is very uncomfortable for my Crohn’s.  I’m also a big fan of Clif bars, but they don’t go near me before a race.  I’ve tried it; it wasn’t fun.  After a race, sure, they’re both usually the first thing I consume.

I’m sure things vary from person to person, but I thought it’d be worth sharing where I’ve landed.  Perhaps it helps.  Or perhaps it at least gives you some things to try – even if you’re not a runner with Crohn’s (and I’m guessing most of you aren’t).

A couple of my baseline rules are:

  1. No beer / chicken wings / Chinese / ghost pepper sauce the night before any race, or a training run longer than 6 miles.
  2. Drink water.  All the time, regardless of whether I am running the next day.  Staying hydrated makes me generally feel good.  If I’m not enjoying a Michigan beer, or a stout cup of coffee, I pretty much only drink water.

I wear a UD SJ 2.0 vest to accommodate my fuel / hydration (amongst other things – we’ll get into that in another post).  I love this vest (you can see it in the picture below).  At this point, it’s pretty much like wearing a seatbelt – I wear it on every run.

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recent grocery run, featuring the Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest

Training run: If I’m running less than 10 miles, I fill both bottles with water only.  I don’t need both bottles full, but I like the balance it provides having them equal weight.  My watch alerts me to drink every 10 minutes and I rotate between the bottles to evenly distribute the weight through the run.

If I’m running 10 miles, or more, I fill one, or two, bottles with two scoops of Tailwind – one caffeinated and one non-caffeinated.  Each bottle provides me with 200 calories and 16oz of hydration.  Since the calories and electrolytes are in the liquid, I don’t have to mess w/carrying gels.  Or stuffing messy gel packets in my pockets.

If it’s a really long training run, I’ll utilize the 70oz hydration pack that slides into the UD vest, and mix it at the same ratio of 200 calories per 16oz – half caffeinated and half non-caffeinated.

The combo of raspberry buzz / lemon Tailwind go together very well.

Marathon: Two 16oz bottles can’t get me through a marathon and a 70oz hydration pack isn’t very conducive to running fast.  After doing some research I found that some folks mix their tailwind to a higher concentration.  I tried this during my last marathon and it worked fabulously.

In each 16oz bottle I mixed 4 scoops (4o0 calories – again half and half) so I was carrying 32oz with me and 800 calories.  At the end of each mile I took a small squirt of liquid – alternating between bottles, again to keep them balanced.  This made the bottles last through the marathon.

I tested this ratio prior to the race to ensure my body was good with it.

However, since I wanted to drink more than 32oz over the course of the 4 hours+, I supplemented the hydration side with water at each aid station.

The bottles in the vest took care of the calories / electrolytes and the extra water from the aid stations kept me hydrated.

I ran a PR at that marathon – 3:56:58.

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ultra setup – a stick of Tailwind in each

50k: I move slow enough during an ultra to carry the hydration pack, but I don’t – that’d be dumb with the aid that’s available.  Pre-race, I fill both of my 16oz bottles with 2 scoops of Tailwind (200 calories each bottle).  This time I mix one bottle caffeinated and one bottle non-caffeinated.  I start the race with these in my vest along with a number of Tailwind sticks.

Rather than alternate drinks in each bottle during the race, I typically down an entire bottle first.  This makes refilling one bottle, vs. two partial bottles, much easier at the aid stations.  That convenience is worth more to me than the minor imbalance the bottles create.  At aid stations, I fill the empty bottle and fill with one of the aforementioned Tailwind sticks, shake, and go.  It works out pretty quickly and stuffing the empty Tailwind packet in my pocket isn’t as gooey and sticky as an empty gel.

The Tailwind provides me the calories / electrolytes / hydration I need through the race.  So far, I haven’t had to eat anything else during an ultra.  But – I haven’t run anything farther than 34 miles yet either.

Pre-race: There are times in life I still feel like a big kid.  My pre-race dinner is one of these occasions.  I eat Kraft mac and cheese w/hotdogs.  Seriously.  It’s a bland meal, provides some extra carbs, and is comforting as it reminds me of childhood.  The salt in the hotdogs make me drink a little extra the night before the race.  It’s wondrous.

The morning of the race I get up and eat a peanut butter and jelly a couple of hours before I run.  Again, simple and bland – easy on the ole’ gut, but it helps me start the race without feeling hungry.

After that it’s me and Tailwind until the finish.  So far that’s worked out well.  We’ll get a chance to test it again in a few short days.

How do you fuel / hydrate for races?

Do you choose different methods for different distances?

What’s your pre-race meal of choice?

 

 

Who needs luck? Just go out and enjoy the race.

A few minutes before I left the office yesterday one of my coworkers stopped by to wish me a Merry Christmas and chat about the family.  Since he’s a runner too, the conversation always eventually ends up with us chatting about recent or upcoming races.  He has a long training run this weekend as he then begins to taper for not one – but two marathons next month.  Whoa.

Have fun and enjoy them!

A lot of people do, but I don’t generally tell folks ‘good luck!’ for a race.  Most of us aren’t elite athletes that need a little extra luck to earn a place on the podium anyway.  And really – what is luck?  Per my friend Google, luck is …

  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

As runners, we’re involved in many actions for months leading up to a race – obviously the running, but there’s also the stretching, foam rolling, eating well, proper rest and mental preparation.

Thus, I personally don’t believe in ‘luck’ for a race.

I too have a race in early January – the 50k Yankee Springs Winter Challenge (though … I don’t know whether we will get any winter before the start).

I view it, as I do with all of my races, as the reward for all of my aforementioned actions that lead up to it.  It’s the reward for the early mornings, running through the rain, missed drinks with friends on Friday nights, good runs and bad.  I know I have put in the time training and preparing, I trust that training, and now it’s time to enjoy!

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For me especially, being that I’m a #darkskyrunner, races are even more special.  For one, they’re during the day (or at least most of the race is during the day).  Running through the daylight and seeing the scenery of ultras is awesome and one of the many reasons I run them.  I also run alone during almost all of my training, so being around other people during a race brings an exciting vibe that I don’t normally get.  It’s fun to meet new people and share stories (and a beer) with them.

Who needs luck?  Just go out and enjoy the race.  Have fun.  You earned it!