The Runner's Reward

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hell Hath No Hurry 50k Race Recap : Poseidon's Revenge

After months of training and two marathons this year it was time for the final Marathon Maniacs qualifying race: The Hell Hath No Hurry 50k in Settler's Cabin Park near Pittsburgh. It was a nice,cool morning even at 10:00 AM when the 50k started.  Nice and cool because it had been and still was raining like mad.  Here was the forecast for the day:

The course is laps around a 10k loop. I had 5 laps to complete and ample time to do least it seemed like ample time. The weather conditions made even that hard pressed. There were two aid stations on the course.   The main one being at the start/finish line and another roughly halfway through the loop.

The 50 milers (bless them, the brave souls) started at 6 AM and the 10k group started at 8AM.  By the time we hit the course it had been trampled to mush. A few of the long downhills were particularly treacherous.  All I could do was carefully inch my way down or point my feet downhill and crouch like a skier and let the mud carry me.  I found it is much easier to run through the heavy mud than walk through it.  More force hitting the ground provided more traction.

All Trail Mud Pics courtesy of Alyssa C, the Wild Trail Turkey
 That being said, only 10-15% of the course was runnable.  Out of 31 miles I estimate less than 8 were ran. The rest was a back and forth between slogging mud and running short sections where the opportunity presented itself. On a favorable day 95% of the course is runnable.

With each lap the trail conditions deteriorated further. I was already feeling fairly tired when I finished the 2nd lap (12 miles in).  I approached the aid station for a refill on suppies.

The aid station volunteers were fantastic! They essentially crewed for each runner.  Coming out to meet me they took my bottle and refiled it with water and offered up an assortment of foods. There were donuts, pb&j sandwiches, pizza, watermelon, trail mix, gummy candies, pretzels, easy cheese, crackers, and more.  One of the awesome things about an ultra/trail race is the food. It is plentiful and wonderful.

After the aid station stop I saw John and Alyssa who were awaiting the 2PM start of the 30k race. We talked for a bit as I walked over to my gear to top off the Tailwind. Each lap I switched out soft flasks from a cooler.  One with Tailwind and one with water. Then I mixed up a batch of Tailwind for the next lap and put the soft flasks on ice. Unlike a road race I took my time at the aid stations without worry of the consequence of time.

Starting the 3rd loop I wasn't certain how I would fare being so tired and with so many miles left to go, but in these conditions the name of the game is simply constant forward progress no matter the pace. I decided to try and take my poles for this lap. They helped tremendously on the slick uphills, but I found them to be cumbersome and slow me down over the rest of the course. I did not take them with me after the 3rd loop.

Suprisingly, I started feeling a little better over this 6 mile stretch. It was short lived, but a nice respite, regardless.  Also, I started feeling muscles wanting to cramp. Keeping in mind this advice given to Pittsburgh Marathoners from Dr. Vonda Wright proved to be so useful:  [When you cramp (or in my case are on the verge of doing so) stop. Do not try to massage the cramp out. Instead apply pressure on the area until it subsides.]  Over the following 16 miles I used this technique many times and never once went into a full blown cramp/spasm.

End of the 3rd Loop - Me stuffing my face with a PB&J

 The 4th loop - Every loop this mud was getting worse.  There was a break in the rain which was welcome.  At this point I spent the remainder of the race mostly walking with less and less of the trail being runnable. The splits from here on out were mostly between 15:00 and 19:00 minute miles. I was more than content knowing this was sufficient to meet the cutoffs by about an hour.  These last12 miles I saw a lot of camaraderie out there.  I met a number of people along the way.  Julie, who was hurting from not fueling enough. I gave her a gel and we talked briefly. She told me how she couldn't quit because she told her children to always finish what they start.  What an inspiration and a role model! I logged a good bit of miles with a guy from the Air Guard who was running the 50 miler. I met a number of others along the way.  Most of us never asked each other's names. We were in it together and were all supportive of each other. There wasn't that competitive edge trying to get ahead. Just an urge for us all to come through it.
This condition was present over most of the course

Those late stages of a tough race really test you mentally as much as physically. The nonsense that streams through my head at these late mile moments! And the silliest things can pull you through. The theme song to Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt was on repeat in my head for far too long, which then made me think of a bit of solid advice from the show. "You can deal with anything for 10 seconds. When the 10 seconds is up start on the next 10 seconds."  Don't think of the 10 miles to go when you have been slogging along for over 5 hours. Think only of what is immediate or as some say,  run the mile your in.

Approaching the Finish Line

I set out to run 3 marathon length events in 90 days to quaify for the Marathon Maniacs. Ultimately, I ran 2 marathons and a 50k in  54 days. I also realized that I can run a 50 miler. After running 31 miles with almost 5000 feet of gain through these conditions I have no doubt I can run 50 in good conditions. Looks like I'll have some plans for next year! But, for now I will rest and recoup. In 2 weeks training begins for a sub-4 hour attempt at the Akron Marathon and possibly a PR attempt on the 50k distance in November at the Marshall Mangler.

This finishes up my fundraising effort for the Epilepsy Foundation with a solid $900 raised! Thank you to everyone who donated!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Almost Hell Time!

We are just a few days away from the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k and I am feeling dem ole taper blues. I am also excited! Excited for the race and some quality time in the woods with friends! Excited for the Marathon Maniacs qualification! Excited for the next training cycle and getting back to big miles! So the dichotomy is alive and well. All at once I am happy and a bit sad, or should I say endorphin deprived?

The course is 10k loops. While this may bore some I am happy that I can set up my own personal aid station/drop bag along the course. A cooler with icy beverages, a chair, extra shoes, and a mini first aid kit are priorities on the list.

This will be my second ultra distance event. My A-goal is to finish under 6:45. The B-goal is under 7:30, and the C-goal is simply to finish. 

All the Run Foods!

Over the past few weeks I have been trying different nutrition products. Most recently I have been using Tailwind for long runs. I also used it at the God's Country Marathon.  True to their advertising, I found I could use solely Tailwind and come out of a long run in pretty good shape.  That said, at God's Country I think I mixed it too strong leading to excessive water retention. We live , we learn.  I plan to have pre-measured bags of Tailwind to add to my bottles for HHNH.

One of my favorite distance tasties has been Hammer Perpetuem Solids. They are not as sickeningly sweet as gels and have a good flavor.  Recently a friend of mine was moving and cleaning out her apartment. I was fortunate enough to be bequeathed a bag full of Hammer goodies. Recoverite, Perpetuem Solids, Perpetuem Powder, and Gels.  I likely will try a Perpetuem Powder on Saturday's race with Recoverite afterwards.

Thanks Coach Cupcake!


Since God's Country Marathon was only 3 weeks before HHNH I took care in planning my training/taper out.  God's Country was the longest training run for the 50k. The following weekend I ran back to back 13 milers; one on road and one on trail. Overall the mileage was kept low and reducing week to week.  At the time of writing this the orange fields are actual mileage and white is what is to come. 

Taper madness has got me, but not for much longer! Packet pickup Friday and then a day full of nature and camaraderie! Vive la run!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

41st Annual God's Country Marathon Race Report

Marathon Maniacs Qualifier #2: God's Country Marathon complete. Official finishing time 4:45:23

This was a tough race, but I knew that it would be heading in. The first 18 miles are uphill. The last 3 of those uphill miles, the locally infamous Denton Hill, are very uphill! 

I arrived at the Coudersport Courthouse Square at around quarter to 5 AM. It was still dark out. A few runners had arrived and were stretching or just milling around.  At 5:30 we boarded 2 school buses which would take us about 20 miles East to the town of Galeton, our starting point. During that ride we traversed the majority of the race course in reverse. As we came up to Denton Hill and began the 14 mile descent to Galeton I sat at the edge of my seat taking it all in. As we kept dropping mile after mile my stomach dropped too. In the next few hours I would be running up this monster. 

We arrived at Galeton High School around 6 AM. I grabbed my packet and started getting ready, which included pinning my race bib on and using the bathroom a couple of times and walking around to loosen up.  I met Ron Brown, of the Steel City Road Runners.  I had seen him running the Pittsburgh Marathon. At that race he had donned his full fire fighter gear. Helmet, jacket, pants, SCBA tank. What an inspiring guy! We chatted for a bit and ran the first mile or so together. I also ran into the pacer I had run with at Pittsburgh. At least I had run part of the race with him.  He and his wife were running and she was doing so with 3 broken ribs and a broken wrist from a recent accident.

There is never a lack of inspiration and dedication within the running community and that ,as much as the running, is what draws me in.

 The temps were a bit lower than anticipated (low 50's) with cloudy skies making for perfect running weather aside from the headwind in some spots, which seemed considerable to me. 

A few things that made this race difficult for me were GI issues the whole race (I only needed the port o john at mile 15 thankfully) and waking up the night before the race to my right calf charlie horsing. It was still hurting race by morning.

The first 4 miles of the course were all within Galeton town limits. There was great crowd support  and I found the town to be enjoyable to run through. Leaving town we hit the open road of scenic Route 6 to and through the Susquehannock State Forest. I love running along open, hilly country roads. The surrounding mountains, some wreathed in morning fog, created a backdrop that is etched in my mind.

For me, the first 15 miles leading up to Denton Hill were worst than the big climb itself. Big hills..I am used to those to a degree, but a gradual and constant uphill grade is not something I train on often. The first 15 miles had 430 feet of gain which averages to a little under 30 feet per mile. Denton Hill averages 189 feet of gain per mile for 3 miles, which is more in line with the hills I have trained on and I found that part of the climb the easiest in some ways.

Somewhere around miles 7-8 I briefly talked with girl as I was passing. Her name is Amie. She would catch up to me around mile 10-11 and give me the boost I needed. I was really starting to drag a bit after mile 10. The long climb was wearing on me and the mental was creeping. Once she had caught up with me we started talking and the miles started flying by. It is amazing how an occupied mind can influence performance so greatly. We ran together until the Mile 15 aid station, at which time I visited the Port O'John due to those GI issues I have mentioned earlier.

The break at the aid station gave me a moment to switch out bottles of Tailwind and the rest a moment. Those 5 minutes or so did me so much good. I started up Denton Hill feeling fresh and moving at a good pace.Smoky the Bear was at the top of the hill giving high fives and if there is one thing I have learned about distance running it is this: Never underestimate the power of a high five.

From this point on it was all downhill and flats! Cake, right?

The downhill and flat 8 were tougher on me than the hill climbs. I dread long downhills on the back end of a long race. That said this went off well. I caught back up to Amie around mile 18-20. We ran together for a little while before I needed to walk a bit. I wasn't looking for any specific time so I walked often and just enjoyed it..and when I couldn't enjoy it I just plowed on towards the finish.

As I rounded the last turn onto the final stretch I fell into form and ran to the finish. I could hear Tara cheering from 0.1 miles away! After crossing the finish I gave sweaty hugs to Tara and received my medal. Another one down! That is Marathon 4 (5 if we count 50ks).

About 3 hours after I finished the race I was feeling good. Tired, but good. There will be no walking backwards down stairs for this guy!

The event was well run, friendly, and challenging. Everything the reviews have made it out to be was true. Tara told me that as runners approach the finish line the announcers said there names and a little about them. I heard none of it, but apparently I got a good talk up with name drops for the Epilepsy Foundation.

In 3 weeks training culminates with the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k. From here out it is taper and more trail miles. Marathon Maniacs save me a number! I'm coming