Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vermont 100!?!

I have changed my goal race (yet again). I will be running the Vermont 100 and not White River 50. I have been itching to run something longer that will bring me into the element of the unknown. I know I can push through discomfort and stick it out for 50 miles, and on a good day I can run (relatively) fast. Although I have done one 100, it was at Umstead, which took a lot of the unknown out of it, as it was a loop course. I knew what awaited me in terms of terrain and aid, and I never got to a breaking point—rather, the closer I got to the finish, the stronger I felt. Vermont will be a different story, especially if the conditions are similar to what I have been dealing with this year.

I went into Umstead with no expectations, as I was injured for the four months leading up to the race. In the ten days between June 19-28, I ran 100 miles over a ten-day span, with 4 18+ milers and three rest days thrown in for good measure. I am much more physically prepared, it would seem, but I also go into the race with much higher expectations. I always set myself several goals, especially when the race is long and so much can happen. Here are my goals for Vermont—dream: under 18 hours; ecstatic: under 20 hours; happy: under 22 hours; pleased: under 24 hours; content: finish under 30 hours.

Part of the uncertainty has to do with the race course itself; although one of the first 100 milers and part of the grand slam, it has no map, no elevation profile, and until a few weeks ago had no course description, and the course description is long but not very descriptive. I know I will be running on mostly smooth gravel roads, some single-track, and a few miles on the road, with lots of ups and downs. I will be looking for more blogs that contain descriptions of the race.

This will also be the first time my family will be seeing me run an ultra, as well as the first time that I will have a crew (guess who?). I am excited to have the support and hope that they enjoy the experience. I am also worried about wearing them out. 20 hours is long enough when one is running, but probably even worse when someone is driving around and then sitting, waiting, and worrying. I also worry that, although I am always exceedingly polite and thankful to aid station volunteers, with my family my real (i.e. a-holeish) side might come out. All in all, though, I am excited.

I have a Twitter account now, but I don’t know how to use it. I will figure out how to do so and have someone send out text message updates of my progress on Twitter. I got my Twitter account solely so I could follow last weeks Western States 100. The webcast was overwhelmed with web traffic (big surprise), so Twitter and the webcast’s “Live Blog” were the only way to get updates. Twitter was even more timely than the “Live Blog” in letting us know who was up front and who was dropping out, thanks to some people tweeting from the aid stations. I think it’s only a matter of time before big races like Western States have designated Tweeters (Twitterers?) at aid stations, much like Scott Dunlap suggested on his blog back in April. Congrats on the finish, Scott.

Last Two Months

I always get annoyed when people whose blogs I follow fail to update them in a timely manner. I wonder if anyone is annoyed with me? That would mean someone actually reads this thing. A lot has happened. We (wife, cats, and myself) moved to Grant Park literally next door to church. (I ma looking at the church right now as I type this. If I make any typing errors it is because I am looking at the church. [Only one error!])

I ran lots of races. Short recap:

May 2—IOCC 5K: 1st- 17:59

May 3—Buncombe Forest 34 miler: 4th- 5:31:41

May 12—Atlanta Track Club (ATC) All-Comer’s Track Meet: 800m- 2:07, 3200m- 11:05

May 19—ATC All-Comer’s Track Meet: 1500m- 4:24

June 2—ATC All-Comer’s Track Meet: 3000m- 9:46

June 6—YMCA Louisville Run to the Sun 4 miler: 3rd- 22:35.5

June 19-21—Rock/Creek Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race: 12th- 10:16:53

I returned to the track for the first time since college back in 1998. Even though I have been training to run long and (relatively) slowly, and having run nothing faster than 5:30/mile pace or so, I ran pretty fast. I guess I have a fair number of fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is encouraging, as I really enjoyed running on the track, and now I know that I can train for longer stuff but still run well on the track. I am thinking about training for some early spring 50Ks and then crank up the speed work and see how much faster I can run with proper track training.

I was also really pleased with my road racing. At the four-miler in Louisville I did something I had never done before—I ran each mile faster (5:47, 5:44, 5:33, 5:31) and went from 8th to 3rd from mile 1 to the finish. This race made me want to run Peachtree in hopes of PRing for 10K, and thanks to Reebok and Susan Jones, I have a number up front. Now all I have do is run fast on the 4th.

The ultras were a bit more taxing. I haven’t felt really pleased with any races this year (with the exception of Fat Ass, which was more of a run than a race). This year has been the year of heat. Mississippi was the first hot day of the year, Buncombe was hot and HUMID, and the Stage Race was in the upper 90s each day. I have not dealt well with the heat. I have learned several things about myself and the heat: 1) don’t use gels with lots of caffeine (caffeine seems to overheat me and make me nauseous); 2) use Endurolytes rather than S-Caps (I’m not sure why, but my stomach tolerates Endurolytes better); 3) don’t rush through aid stations and possibly forget something (saved seconds lead to lost minutes); 4) water tastes better than sports drink later in the run; 5) don’t mix the Perpetuem too strong and make sure it’s mixed with COLD water; 6) sucking on ice feels great.

Short recap of the ultras:

Ran every step for the first 3.5 hours of Buncombe, walked a little before getting to the final aid station at mile 28 in 3:57, and walked most of the way to the finish. This was unplanned, but I was treating this as a run and not a race. My legs were spent from the 5K and weight training the day before and from not walking at all. I got a great 4 hour run with a nice 6 mile hike as a cool down.

Made a wrong turn in the first two miles of the first stage (Picture at top of the post is before I got lost; all the guys in the picture followed me). I should have gone out slower, I should have been thinking about all 60 miles, not just the 22 of day one. I ran too hard playing catch up and bonked at three hours, walking a long downhill that I should have flown down. I felt by far the worst after this first stage. Day two I ran smart early on but then pushed too hard in the middle, falling apart again in the last half hour. Day three I suffered from running too quickly early on, but ran steady for the final 2.5 hours, finally getting the hang of racing. (Picture at the top of the webpage is from day 3: I am wearing the hydration pack and waiting to climb out of "Randyland.") The stage race was great preparation for a summer 100.