Thursday, April 29, 2010

Zane Grey 50 - the anatomy of a DNF

What happened?

Well, the race started fine and I had no problems leading up to the 8 mile aid station, and everything seemed to be fine at the 17 mile aid station. The course was tough, but I was getting through the miles ahead of the cut-offs.

Then about mile 21 - I noticed I had slowed down quite considerably. Next aid station was at 25 miles, and looking at the time, I had an hour to make it. The course at this point was such that I still couldn't pick up the pace. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I had only made it one more mile, I realized that I would miss the cut off at 25. Disappointed and angry with myself at first, but over the next few minutes I became at peace with it. C'est la vie. The course had one more suprise for me though. The next aid station wasn't at 25 miles, it was at 23.xx miles. I made it there with 8 minutes to spare. It was a weird feeling. 5 minutes earlier I was ready to get a ride home. And here I was at the aid station with time to spare. Well, despite feeling pretty crappy - I wasn't going to voluntarily quit! I left after downing a pint of OJ and eating some M&M's.

A mile later, I was beginning to regret not dropping. My hamstrings were cramping on every uphill, and I was physically and mentally beat. Totally and utterly fatigued. I could go back - but then I worried that the volunteers would have packed up and gone (I was one of the last through). (I have since learned that the aid station volunteers won't leave until they have word that all runners are accounteed for at the next aid station, which is a neat touch and good to know). I sat on the ground for 10 minutes trying to get a mild recovery, and decided that I would just plod on the next 9 miles and drop at 33.

Even though I had decided to stop at 33, every now and then, I would change my mind and try to move a little quicker. But then the next hill strewn with those red boulders would loom, and any enthusiasm I had built up, would get beat down again. My hamstrings continued to cramp on the uphills. Then at about 30 miles, I came across the ham radio crew, and that's where I stopped. Sat with those wonderful folks for an hour or so, rehydrated (I'm beginning to think that I didn't drink enough), and then we hiked out another 3 miles or so (oddly enough, I felt very rejuvenated after an hour's rest!) - where I was given a ride to the finish.

So there you have it. My first DNF.

What will I do differently next year?
  • Gear - I don't think anything will change, I was happy with what I wore and carried.
  • Get better conditioned - I need to make up time in the first 17 miles of the race to give a better cushion ahead of the cut offs. Oh oh, that means speedwork!
  • Work on rocky trails - I need to build up confidence, especially on downhills
  • Arrive at altitude at least 24 hours earlier
  • I think I will need to drink more. I didn't feel that thirsty during the race, but once I had stopped, I drank probably close to half a gallon over the next hour or so.
  • Fuel - going to have to think that one through, and experiment over the next year.
  • Company - would be great to have a friend to run with the whole race (working on that already!!), if not, I can have a pacer at 33 miles - I think knowing that someone would have been waiting for me may have mentally made a difference. So, plan A - talk someone into entering the race, plan B - talk someone into being a pacer from mile 33.
  • If I can, try to hike the whole trail - take two or three days to do it, and camping overnight (or do some kind of rental-car-shuffle to stay in town). Maybe get involved with the trail marking?

Despite the toughness of the trail, there were plenty of stunning views (yep, that is snow!)

But of course - if you spent your time looking at the stunning views, you would lose your footing or trip on a piece trail like this!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Zane Grey 50 - “The Toughest 50 Miler in the Country”

Short Version:

Toughest 50 miler in the country
Wonderfully organized
Terrific volunteers
More rocks
Yet more rocks
Unofficial finish in the toughest 50k in the country :)

Longer Version:

I am still getting over my first DNF - I go in cycles, I'm fine with it one moment, and next I am second guessing myself. The race was billed as the toughest 50 miler in the country - and having now done over half of the course, there is no way I will disagree with them. I fought the course - the course won.

I want to first really praise the organization from Joe Galope RD and the volunteers, it is a great event, and if you think you are capable of doing 50 tough miles, then I would have no hesitation in recommending this race. Oh, and I have already decided that I will be back next year.

"Be safe, and use common sense." "GO" - that was the pre race briefing.

So what went wrong? Me. That was what went wrong - I thought I was ready for this kind of trail, in short, I wasn't.

It was the course that got me - it is was unbelieveably difficult for me. I usually do OK on climbs - not fast by any stretch, but a good steady pace, and then I make up time on the descents. For me, this didn't work out - I couldn't get into a steady rhythm climbing, and I certainly couldn't make up any pace on the downs - the effect of rocks everywhere. There were plenty of runners who did finish - so they probably just have more confidence on the downs than I did. I need to figure out a way to practice this kind of running.

Elevation - this was the first time I had problems because of the altitude (or at least I think so). I arrived in Payson about 10 hours before the start - other runs at altitude I have done, I have had at least a day or two to get used to the lack of oxygen. Not total acclimatization for sure, but I am sure it made a difference in my own little experiment of one. For example - at the Tetons last year, I had a week in Idaho ahead of the run. That was at 5,000'. The run itself goes up to just under 9,000'. Sure in the Tetons, I knew I was up there, but at ZG, I really seemed to have problems late on - at much lower altitude too. I will be arriving at least 24 hours earlier next year.

Heat - I live in the South, hot weather is my comfort zone, and here in NC we have had plenty of toasty days already. Physiologically, I was fine, the heat didn't cause me stomach upset - but what it did do, is make me slow down. That's not unusual - I do run slower in the heat. BUT.... I needed to have planned for that slowdown though. One way was probably to have been conditioned better to have been able to take advantage of the early morning cool, and get 10 or 15 minutes further ahead by the 8 mile aid station. This would have added quite a buffer - it also would have meant that the first part of the trail, between first and second aid would have been a bit cooler. I think by following this kind of strategy, it would have taken a fair amount of pressure off of me later on, because I believe that once the brain starts thinking "I ain't gonna make that cut off", it's hard to convince yourself to push a bit harder - I did try from time to time to make up some minutes, but that just adds to the fatigue and ultimately an even slower pace.

More thoughts to come later in the week................... but enjoy these pictures

Dawn brought about some really spectacular views

The photo doesn't quite capture how steep this down hill was. But this was not untypical terrain

This will be my abiding memory - steep inclines, no idea how long the climb goes on for, rocks you know you will slip and trip over, and those bushes that scratch your legs to pieces.

Covered in salt, trying to fake a smile - officially DNF.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This better be the final installment - Umstead 100

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

Lap 6 - this time my pacer is my friend Connie - we bumped into each other on the Jordan Lake trails a little over a year ago, she introduced me to Raleigh Trail Runners, and we run a lot of miles together by the lake.

After 100k, I think is where things start to deteriorate. As much as I have ran already, I am still facing 38 miles or so. It is now all about plodding forward, and staying mentally in the game, and refuse to allow thoughts of quitting from entering my head. This is where the pacers come in, and Connie did a great job.

Left right repeat.

A couple of miles into the loop, we had a similar 'incident' to the last lap. Baby wipes. YAY!

One thing I remember is about 4 miles into it, a runner was down, he was suffering from the cold, and was asking for warm packs. Connie and I couldn't help, but thankfully a pacer from a runner behind us could help. The poor guy was really not prepared. It can get cold in NC in March, even late March. I don't think we were much above freezing. We alerted the race staff when we saw someone on a bike, and let the folks at the aid station know - they had already picked him up, I guess he was OK.

At the aid station, it was time for a dumb moment. While Connie was getting me food and drink, I sat in front of the heater and needed to do a sock change. I took my time, because I needed a bit of a break, and the heater was so wonderfully warm. Anyway, dumb ass - I cleaned my feet, reapplied Hydropel, and then promptly placed my feet right onto the ground where they got covered in sand and grit. Start again.

Heading out with new feet and a filled belly I felt somewhat rejuvenated. A couple of miles later, I did notice that there was one piece of grit in my left shoe that was starting to give me bother - I decided that I would need to sort it out at the next aid station 3 or 4 miles away. Connie thankfully suggested that I would be better off to sort it out now - she was of course right - so I found and appropriate tree stump and cleaned my feet again and empied my shoes. This is why I wear a bandana! Much better.

I finished lap 6, in 4:11 - that is then a total time of 19:21 for 75 miles. Thanks Connie!

Another brief break while I ate a cheeseburger. I picked a new pacer - this time a volunteer pacer provided by the race. Rick did an awesome job - we managed to hold a conversation for most of the loop. I was feeling pretty crappy by this point. Nothing inparticular was wrong, I was simply beat, and was still facing a long run. Also, at this point, many of the people you run into on the out and back section are coming into finish, kinda makes you feel jealous.

Left right repeat.

Another break at the aidstation - I couldn't figure out what I wanted, I was starting to think I had taken too much salt, I was very thirsty and noticed some swelling, but I did need calories. Grapes, that's it. Rick got me a cup of grapes to eat, and they were just what I needed. Very refreshing.

On the whole this was an uneventful loop - I enjoyed getting to know Rick, he has since joined RTR, so hopefully I'll see him around at some other local runs.

Lap 7 4:28, 87.5 miles done in 23.49

Last lap. Still tired, but starting to sense that this is almost finished. New pacer, this time Blanca from the volunteer pool of pacers, and somebody else who I enjoyed getting to know. Blanca has done a few marathons and is looking to do some trail runs - she is thinking of Medoc marathon later in the year.

Not too long into this loop, daylight arrives and with it some warmth and of course a sense of accomplishment - there is no way I am not going to get done. Left right repeat. ALMOST THERE!!.

A brief pause at the aid station (remember the bad joke I warned you about??? Here it is..... " Woohoo 10K left, any fool can run 10K. My warm up may have been a little excessive though." Told you.). I took time to thank the aid station gang - really they all did such a phenomenal job, I can't thank them enough.

Time for the last stretch, I feel like there is a little wind in my sails now, and even jog some.

Up the jeep track for the last time, I thanked Blanca for the terrific job she had done, and then it was time to cross the line.


I got my buckle, it is probably one of my proudest possesions.

Jimbo finally getting his buckle from Joe Lugiano.

Lap 8 - 4:00, total time for 100 27:49.

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Some more Umstead stuff............

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

Lap 5, and time to head out with a pacer. I was pleased with the 50 mile split of 11:32, my second fastest - and 16 minutes faster than last year. More importantly, I was feeling good, and ready to tackle the second half.

My first pacer was my colleague Mike. Mike is an Ironman tri-athlete, no way is he used to running as slow as me!

"Pacer Mike" and I - love the way he is strolling along, and it looks like I am struggling to keep up

Remember the egg? Yep, that came back to haunt me. Stomach cramps about 1/2 mile into the loop. Hmmm, decision time, 1/2 mile back to the start, 3 mile to the porta-john. No way was I going to run 101 miles. Let's make it 3 miles. This creates another dilemma run fast, you get there sooner - errr, but stir things up at the same time. Run slow (walk in other words), and you ain't likely to make it. I walked. And didn't.

Thankfully, the trails at Umstead are surrounded by trees, even more thankfully I carry baby wipes.

Feeling much better, Mike and I had a good lap. My pace had slowed dramatically, but to be honest I wasn't concerned about pace, just keeping going. By this lap, though, the hills were definitely getting steeper, and the feet were getting a little painful - but other than that, everything was fine.

Left right repeat.

The beauty of having a pacer is the conversation and the company which makes the time pass quicker, but more importantly, it stops the brain focusing on the miles to go, the pain, and no doubt it prevents thoughts of the shear stupidity of what I was doing.

Lap 5 time, 3:36. Total time for 100K 15:10

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Umstead 100 - continued

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

All the nerves disappear the moment it is time to start. I was in no hurry, so for the first half mile or so, I was just power walking, loosening up and getting to grips with the task ahead.

At the one mile marker, I just knew that someone would say "99 to go". Even though I was expecting it, and heard it last year and at Boulder I still had to laugh at it - kind of an insane laugh though. It was still dark, but I didn't bother with my headlamp, I carried my Advance Auto $2.50 flashlight - and it did a great job.

A year ago, I knew nothing and knew nobody in this sport. This year it was almost a reunion of the many people I have met, TammyJonathan, Susan and Fred, Marie, Ray, Shannon, Meredith, Tom, Tony, Steve and probably others that I can't think of right now.

"If you wanna run with the kool kidz, you're gonna have to take the ear buds out". So I ran a few miles with Susan Dummar, and I think it was the last time I listened to music the whole race. All that worry about how I am going to give my MP3 player a booster charge came to nothing. It was great to have company, and it really does make time go fast. Into the first aidstation - yay, FOOD!! I was ravenous. These days to avoid stomach upsets, I tend to avoid solid food the 24 hours preceding a race. I get my calories from Boost/Ensure etc. It works well, unless I do something stupid. Like eat an egg. (Remember this when I start talking about lap 6).

I have a wonderful knack of being photographed at just the right time:

Time was flying. About 16-17 miles in, I found myself passing and being passed by the same woman, About half-way up a hill we figure out that we are pretty much running and walking at the same pace, so we decided to hang out for a while. This was Julie, who was running her first 50 miler. ("I'm just doing the 50", she said. "No no", says I, "It's never JUST 50, 50 is still long way."). Julie and I ran together for the next 36 miles, she was great company, and I was thrilled to be a part of her first 50 mile race. It was all very reminiscent of last year when I ran with Frankie for a good length of time, except that then  I was the one doing my first 50. Julie ran very strong on her last lap, and we came into the halfway point for me at about 11:32. I'm hoping I have talked her into doing a 100 in the near future! That was a very solid time for me, (16 minutes quicker than last year, just 6 minutes slower than at Boulder), and a very solid time for Julie's first 50.

Holy crap I look like a moron in this one - but this is Julie and I at 50 miles

It's pacer time........... and time to head out into the night.

There is more to come......................

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

Friday, April 2, 2010

Umstead 100 - time to get some words down!

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4

It's about time I start to put some kind of write up together! Actually, it helps that I am now allowed to remove my splint as of yesterday, typing is not so much as a pain as it was one handed. Still got the pins in though.

So anyway, Umstead 100. My second 100, my first 100 at Umstead, and my second run Umstead (50 last year).

Here's a few keywords that will remind me of what to write about as I go along:

Wot no music Jimbo?
Bad Eggs
Baby Wipes
Bad Joke
Good friends

Right then "booze". It has occurred to me that lots of running and lots of booze have a similar effect on the body. Bear with me. You see, the first thing, the memory goes. I was out there running for almost 28 hours. If I piece together every single memory I have, it probably wouldn't amount to more than 5 hours. If I drank for 28 hours straight, there would be a similar reaction. I guess that's my way of saying "I forgot a lot, so excuse the random ramblings". Booze also makes me tired the next day, and can upset the stomach. It also makes me stumble around in the early hours of the morning and pee a lot. Sound familiar? Not sure they have rehab for ultrarunners though.

"Cold". On the Friday the day before the race, I just had to get there. No reason except to be amongst the other 'crazies'. So I left home at lunch time and headed up to the park to hang out for a bit (and get a great parking spot right next to the course). And check out the cabin. The cabins at Umstead are great, and next year I will reserve one again. It is nice to be able to fall out of bed and be at the start line. All well and good, but a cold front moved through early evening, and the temperature plumetted - close to freezing during the night, and although I was cozy [trying] to sleep, it was very difficult to get up, lube up and get ready to run 100 miles. Next year, I will remember to bring some kind of lantern

Pre race was all about getting some coffee in me and trying not to panic. The race HQ was pretty full, and there were plenty of people with flying elbows - which meant that the warm caffienated liquid I was trying to consume - well 30% went over me, 50% ended up on the floor, 10% ended up on the folks with the flying elbows. I managed to consume the rest. A second cup had similar disposal ratios. A third try - the urn was empty..........

A couple of minutes to six, and we all headed outside, and at 6 exactly - I think it was a gun blast that set us off - away we went.

More to come......................... but well, it's a toasty day in NC, and I am thristy - I wouldn't want to forget what I wrote now would I?

Umstead 100 part 1
Umstead 100 part 2
Umstead 100 part 3
Umstead 100 part 4