Tag Archives: ultrarunning

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

 

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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!

Embrace the rest days – I bet you’ll love it

I used to suck at rest days.

Dude – it’s the easiest day of the week!!!

I know, but I kept trying to turn rest days into running days and that never turned out well.  I always thought I could, or should, sneak in a few extra miles.  After all, I’m training to run ultras – I need miles.  But instead of successfully logging the extra miles, some combination of the following happened:

  1. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout, which lead to a crappy run on my actual training run.
  2. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout that made me skip my actual training run.
  3. I didn’t run, but felt like I should run, so I felt crappy about it.

Alas, I was not embracing my rest day.  Rather than looking at it as an opportunity to relax / recharge, I was looking at it as a missed opportunity.  The mindset can make all the difference.

I’ve since tried to embrace the rest day, and I love it!  I schedule it, just like a training run, and I’ve found it adds balance / structure to my week.  I no longer go to work thinking ‘I should’ve snuck in a few extra miles this morning.’  I go to work thinking ‘Hey, good job, you slept in today.’

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My rest days are now an opportunity to catch up on a few extra Z’s in the morning and grind / press a real cup of coffee.  I still try to stretch during my rest days, and read about running, and tweet about running, and blog about running … but I don’t run.  It also allows me to spend some extra time with my family because I’m up later the night before a rest day.  I know the morning won’t start before 4am.  Today I slept all the way till 6:15!!!

If you too struggle with your rest days, take it from me – embrace them.  I bet you’ll love it.

 

 

Week of 11/29/15 – ‘Tis the season

Miles this week: 51

2015 YTD: 1257


‘Daddy, potty, potty, potty!’

Me: Can you hold it?  We’re not by the bathroom.

‘Daddy, potty!’

Me: Do you just have to pee?

‘Yeah!’

Yeah … so, the toddler that dropped a deuce between the Christmas trees, at the tree farm … she belongs to me.  Eh, what’s a little extra fertilizer?  ‘Tis the season!!

It’s a good life skill – likely to come in handy while backpacking.  Or canoe tripping.  Or ultrarunning.  Not sure it needs to be learned at two though …

Speaking of ultrarunning, I had a great week of training.  At 51 miles, this was the longest week of running I’ve had since the final ‘big’ week prior to the Kal-Haven trail run back in April.  My first two runs, both 10 milers on Tuesday / Thursday were pretty uneventful.  I’m still working through the HR training and hit both of these w/145BPM.  No stars though.  Just dark, foggy running.

On Saturday I planned on running with a guy I met up in Marquette at the 50k in August.  The local running club was starting near the golf course over near the house and planning to run around the lake – 11.5 miles.  They had water set out – pretty sweet deal.

I was nervous as hell.

I typically don’t run with folks.  I asked Dan what pace they’d be running and his response was 8:30s.  I told him I could hang onto that for a bit (I didn’t tell him I’ve been running 10:30s/10:40s for the last few weeks.  I had no idea if I could keep up, but I was damn sure gonna try.  And in addition to the extra speed, I needed to run 18 on Saturday.

I had trouble falling asleep because I was worried I couldn’t keep up.  In the morning I wanted to vomit because I wasn’t sure I could keep up.  I don’t remember being this nervous before a race!

I left early to run about 3.5 before meeting them at the golf course only to be asked ‘Are you running it twice?’ (I was wearing my UD vest).  Nah, I’m just out to run 18.

I shouldn’t have been nervous.  It was a great run.  I’m very good with running alone, but every once in awhile it’s nice to have a partner.  I ran pretty well – 8:30s the majority of the way.  This was my first time running around the lake counter-clockwise.  I feel like it was uphill the whole way.  I know that can’t be possible, but it sure felt like it.  I started to fade a bit at the end, but we still ended up averaging about 8:40 for the run.  Whew – I made it.

After we got back to the clubhouse, I ran 3 miles back home to total out my 18.  Very.  Slowly.  Hey, I was done with the fast stuff for the day!

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I wrapped up the week with a pretty uneventful 12 miler this morning, but I made it home before the girls / wife were up so that’s a win.  Still not much in the way of stars this morning.  The whole week was crappy for stargazing, but –  as I mentioned, a great week of training!

In other news, we did get our tree.  After the backcountry dump.  My youngest was enjoying it with me this morning.  Or she was enjoying the iPad.  It’s hard to tell.
IMG_3491.JPGEarlier in the week, my oldest had an ‘art show’ at school.  It was actually set up pretty cool.  She was less excited about the art, and more interested in showing us her classmates.  And showing her younger sister to her teacher.

Next week is my peak mileage before my next race in January.  I have 55 miles on the schedule and it’s gonna be tough getting it in.  We’re heading across the state, and back, on Saturday for my nephew’s birthday party.  After we do our neighborhood Christmas party Friday night.  Nothing about either of those items screams – Hey, run 20 miles Saturday  morning!!!

Do you have a tree yet?

How was your week of training?

 

Sleep – the most difficult part of ultrarunning

Buzz, buzz, buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz … My alarm wakes me this morning.  It’s 2:40am.  Just 20 minutes after my daughter woke me to say her comforter fell off the bed and needed to be replaced.

I didn’t have it in me.  I rolled over, grabbed the covers, and faded back into sleep.  Bed won.  What should’ve been a 12 mile run, was left to what should’ve been.

When I finally awoke, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Sleep is the hardest thing for me with respect to my ultrarunning.  It’s not the running.  It’s not the darkness.  It’s not the rain, the snow, the heat, the fog.  It’s the sleep.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a very good sleeper, but what I realized is, with respect to sleep, there’s such a fine – fine, like a razor blade fine line between my ultrarunning success and total failure.  Too much sleep, and I don’t have the time to properly train.  Too little, and I run myself into exhaustion – which is probably true for most folks, but the line between the two feels incredibly thin sometimes.

Flash back to this morning …IMG_3492.PNG

I made the right call.  I’d slept less than four hours.  I can’t expect to make it through a couple hours of running, a day’s worth of work, hanging with the family and then get up at 2:20am the next day to run again.  It just wouldn’t work.

I’ve been trying to pull more of my running into the work week to spend more time with my family on the weekend.  I don’t sacrifice much time with my kids because I’m usually running very early while they’re sleeping, but consequently I lose time in the evenings with my wife because I’m trying to go to bed early.

It’s really quite selfish.  It reminds me of how selfish ultrarunning is, but it is … what it is.  So I’ve been trying to pull at least one of the weekends long runs forward.  To give us more time together at least one of the weekend nights.

It’s not working.

For the year, I average 6 hours 35 minutes of sleep a night.  3 hours 8 minutes of deep sleep, and I get up, on average at 5:48am (yes I track all of that).  Those aren’t really terrible numbers.  But those are just averages … easing the hills and valleys into more of a pleasing number.  Of course, on days I run, the sleep is much less, the mornings much earlier – and I ride the sleep trough into the next wave of rest.

I felt like I handled the sleep during the early part of the year much better than I’m handling it now.  Looking at the data, I was doing both of my long runs on the weekend.  But as I mentioned before – I don’t get to spend as much time with my wife that way.

So … what to do??

Ultimately I feel like I’m in a much better place when I’m getting my training in and feeling successful as a runner.  And by successful – for me, that just means showing up for a race, properly trained, and completing it.  When I’m not feeling successful with my running, that has other negative impacts – I get grumpy for one, and my fuse is a bit shorter.

Fortunately for me, the training cycle for my next race is about to peak next week.  But there will be others soon enough.

I think I’m going to go back to running both long runs on the weekend, drop the mid-week runs to twice per week (and lengthen them a bit), schedule deliberate off-days and take the opportunity to spend more quality time those evenings with the family.

When my wife, and I do get the chance to snag a sitter, and sneak away on a weekend date night, well … I’ll just make sure I schedule the shorter of the two long runs the next morning.

Sleep.  Who thought it’d be so hard?

How do you balance workout time with family time?

What’s the hardest part of your training?