Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sulphur Springs Race Report: The Tank Be Empty!

Well!  The optimism evoked by how I felt after the Seaton race was a tad premature.  Apparently running 50K every 2 weeks catches up to you on the third race.  For this report I will skip the fueling breakdown as I think it is as good as it can get, for me.  I was a bit too fast for the first (10K) loop, comfortable for the second (20K) loop and disaster reigned rampant for the final (20K) loop!

I'm calling this report "The Tank Be Empty", but rather than envisioning a scenario where I simply run out of gas, think in terms of leg muscles, knees and ankles achieving meltdown.  It was ugly to behold.

Sulphur Springs is a 20K loop, which lends itself to having all sorts of ultra distances.  It also caters to the 10K and 25K distances, which is reflected in their numbers, as the race caps out at 1200.  To say the course meanders is an understatement.  This is more of a plus than a detriment as the course is well marked, so going off course takes care and planning.  However, since there are so many distance options, the course portions with 2-way traffic allows one to meet and greet a multitude of friends throughout the day (or night!).  The 10K is a segment of the 20K loop, the 25K and 50K run a 5K or 10K spur before tackling one or more full course loops.  The (take a deep breath) 50M (ile), 100K, 100M, 200M and relay races travel the 20K loop between 4 and 16 times.  With 1200 people on course, shouted greetings ring out every few minutes.

The highlight for 2017 was an interesting frictionless mud, generously sprinkled on a total of more than one kilometer of the 20K course.  I'm not sure how much this special mud costs, but the race directors (Andrea and Tim) certainly got their money's worth!  I decided to wear road shoes.  Obviously my decision ignored the fact that the 200 mile runners would have run through pouring rain for most of Thursday and Friday, chewing up the course.  I envisioned a few muddy spots that I could easily avoid, or "hop over".  Since the average mud track was about 50 meters long, the hopping concept did not fare well.  In fact, circumventing the mud was most difficult.  The easiest method was to run through the mud.  This resulted in a statistical range of results from your foot planting firmly in the mud, to your foot sliding to the right, left, forward or backward, all with about the same probability of occurrence.  This had the distinct benefit of keeping the runners sharp, but the disadvantage was the effort needed to undertake corrective action.  If the times this year seem a bit slower, the mud was a factor.

I mentioned above that I went out a bit too fast.  My thinking was that this was my third 50K in 4 weeks, so I should be "getting used" to the distance, hence I could step it up a notch.  This assumption was horribly wrong.  Factor in the mud and the first loop is a bit fast for me:

Loop 1 (10K):  1:03:12
Loop 2 (20K):  2:37:35
Loop 3 (20K):  3:06:29

Total for 50K:  6:47:28

You should be able to spot the anomaly - almost a half an hour slower on the third loop...

One mistake I made, which probably did not affect my race; I forgot my water bottle.  Before the race started I donned my hip belt, but failed to insert my water bottle.  This was fine as I passed an aid station twice during the first 10K loop, although I drank water, not Nuun.

All went well for the first 30K.  I started loop 3 feeling quite good, although my left hamstrings were tight.  Too tight, it appears, as around 40K they seized up.  Running came to a halt.  Although I had been fueling well for the entire race, my knees were hurting, quads were painful, breathing was ragged and calves were tight.  Although quite frustrating, I was down to a walk, but hoping, as at Pick Your Poison, I would shortly be able to run the downhills.  It took about 5K, but I could then run slowly if the gradient was gentle and downhill.  No matter what the speed, running in a race is always much more enjoyable than a death march.  This is totally cerebral, as the difference in speed between a brisk walk (let's say 5 KPH) and a slow run (6 KPH?) is negligible.  Perhaps I am old school (yes, there were schools when I was young), but my perception of races is that you run them.  I realize in an ultra it is of strategic importance to walk the steep or long uphills, so that you can continue to run longer into the race, but I don't like walking the flats.  I realize my attitude has to change if I ever decide to run 100 miles, but it makes sense to run in a 50K "race".  With just over 3K to the finish, my hamstring started cramping even when walking.  That was not the best feeling!  Fortunately, much of the last kilometer is a long gentle uphill; I did not lose much time by walking slowly.

I had not realized my time for the first 30K was fairly good, so I was worried that I would be last, after my third loop hike.  An interesting statistic is that 9 people finished the 50K less than one minute behind me.  Had I been one minute slower, I would have finished 115th instead of 106th.  This will not impress the podium finishers, but it shows that even under duress, runners should still push to the best of their (dis) ability...

So, I was under considerable anxiety before Seaton, 2 weeks after running Pick Your Poison, and had a good race at Seaton.  I was "comfortable" after Seaton, leading up to Sulphur, and had a tough race.  I now have 6 days before Kingston 6 hour, and have regressed to a state of anxiety.  Not sure if this old body will recover sufficiently to attempt an ultra so soon after Sulphur.  One week after Kingston, I have the Conquer the Canuck 50K.  I will likely pull the plug, should I make it to 42.3K at Kingston, in order to save the legs for CTC.

5 ultras in 7 weeks.  I obviously do not understand the concept of moderation.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Seaton Soaker Race Report

Blogger (what I use to write this blog) offers some simple statistics regarding people who read or follow a blog.  All bloggers are interested in knowing if their blog is gaining audience or dwindling.  I'm no different.  Some posts have large readership, such as my post on shutting down the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I understand that one, as it affected the plans of quite a few people.  The metrics also includes information on when a blog was read.  Example, I recently had quite a few hits on my Sulphur Springs race report from 2015.  Why, I asked myself?  The answer is simple; people are looking for information on a race they are thinking of doing, or are about to run.  It never dawned on me to do so, but what a great idea!

Yeah, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed...

I've also noticed a trend in the timing when I write race reports.  Sunday morning, when I am normally out for a run.  Lee Anne ran 85K yesterday during the 12 hour Mind The Ducks race in New York.  This morning (about 13 hours after finishing her race) Lee Anne mentioned that she will be ready to run tomorrow morning and asked if I would join her...  Let's not bother to include my reply.  So I sit here, my legs in an advanced state of trash (Trashectomy?), unable to do more than type.

Since I plan to run 5 of these ridiculous ultra races over a 7 week period, I'll provide a condensed version for those who have no need to know the details:

The race went well, I was able to run the duration, was not as tired at 35K as I thought I would be after running 50K 2 weeks prior (Poison) and finished with a slow but respectful time of 6:49.

Seaton Soaker Race Report

Again, almost ideal running weather at Seaton.  This is filling me with foreboding, for upcoming races.  I don't ever recall having excellent weather for 3 races in a row.  The race started with a slight drizzle, then remained cool (8C?) and cloudy for the first 25K loop.  The sun came out for the second loop, so I doffed my fleece, although the temperature was never more than about 12C.  I ran with Nuun in my water bottle, which allowed me more freedom in what to eat and drink at the aid stations.  One is never perfectly certain, but I think I have found the correct schedule of fluid / nutrition / supplements intake for me.  I ate very little on the first loop, being more intent on wasting little time at the aid stations.  Seaton has none of the major climbs that are so generously sprinkled along the second half of Poison's 12.5K loop, but I was still surprised to see 3:12 for my first 25K loop.  Seaton has an ingenious course layout where you run on dry trail on the way out, yet there is a river crossing on the way back to the start/finish.  On the way out, there is a beaver dam, which means getting your shoes muddy, but with some care, you can avoid a soaking.  The course layout means that those in the 15K and 25K races get their feet wet about 3K from the finish, which translates into no blisters!

The 50K is a different story, as we have to run the course twice.  At the S/F (25K), I took the time to shed my socks and shoes and don dry socks and shoes.  Aside from a few muddy spots, the trail was in great condition.  I was hoping for this as I wanted to wear my road Hokas for the second loop.  The Hokas provide more cushioning, which translates into less wear and tear on the knees.  Off I went on the second loop, hoping to run at least until the turn-around (37.5K) without having to resort to walking.  More importantly, I was worried that the hamstring cramping that affected me at Poison might  resurface.  Again, wearing the road Hokas for the second loop meant my knees behaved themselves, resulting in less wear of my right quads on the downhills.  Using Nuun in my water bottle resulted in NO cramping during the 50K.  I had to slow for the last 5K, as I could feel the odd twinge that presages cramping.

Here is the 50K race nutrition strategy that worked for me:

Unit Type:  Late 50's human male @ 185 lbs., with 40+ years running and several injuries.

Calcium (Tums):  25K
Electrolyte:  In water bottle (hip belt)
Ibuprofen:  12.5K (one 200 mg tab) and 25K (one 200 mg tab)
Salt tab:  18K and 28K
Gel:  7K, 18K, 25K, 30K, 38K and 45K
Coke:  Most aid stations after 25K

I had a chocolate milk at 47K and although it sat funny in my stomach, seemed to help me get to the finish line.  I normally drink chocolate milk as a recovery drink.

At the turn-around (37.5K), I was still running well, albeit at a slow pace.  This surprised me because I normally take 4 - 6 weeks to recovery from a 50K.  When I run long 2 weeks after a 50K, I hit the wall very hard, around 35K.  Perhaps my 6K walk at Poison mitigated the normal issues running long shortly after a 50K, as technically, I only ran 40K, then walked 6K, then ran/walked 4K.  Who knows!  At about 38K, I hooked up with a youngster (she was 48) whose name escapes me.  Having no memory is normal for me, especially under the stress of a long race.  Since we were both in need of a pacer to see us to the finish, decided to run together.  We took turns leading.  A strange thing about leading a group (in this case, a group of 2) is that it feels great to do so while you are fresh, but at 45+K into a race, the opposite is true.  It sucks to be in front, desperately striving to maintain a healthy running pace.  At one point both sad and humorous, neither of us wanted to lead!

By 47K I had reached that point where I could not slow down, without resorting to a walk and increasing my pace would result in cramping.  We hit the river crossing where I ran across (I felt I would stop if I slowed down) and continue towards the finish.  The youngster caught up to me with about 1K to go, but as she was running at a pace I could not match, urged her to go ahead and finish strong.

I continued at a slow and steady pace, out of the woods onto a field, up a small hill, around the sports field, then towards the finish line.  The clock read 6:49:52.  I toyed briefly with sprinting to the line to finish under 6:50, but quickly realized that was a bad idea.  I had forgotten that my chip time would be a minute less than the gun time.  I finished in 6:49:36.

And so, 2 races down and hopefully at least another 6 to go in my own personal albatross known as the Norm Patenaude award.  Why and how people decide on these crazy ventures is beyond me!  Once more I have 2 weeks off (with good behaviour) before tackling the Sulphur Springs 50K.

Next year I'm going to run one 5K race...