Monday, October 24, 2011

Pt. Defiance 50K Race Report

10/7 - 10/14: no running

What started as a scratch in my throat grew into 2 sick days home from work and feeling like crap for the better part of my taper week leading up to the race. I was careful to get more sleep and hydrate as much as I could stand (which probably still wasn't enough) leading up to the race. I didn't decide whether to run the race or not until I got up on Saturday morning. I felt pretty bad Thursday and Friday morning but by the afternoon on both days my cold was subsiding. I woke up Saturday morning (the 15th) feeling stuffy and a little scratchy but not quite as bad as the previous two days. I got dressed, ate some cereal, packed my running bag, said goodbye to my son (the early bird) and drove to Starbucks for coffee.

The drive out to Pt. Defiance from my house is only 20 min, one of the big selling factors in my running the race. I got out to the start/finish area at Owens beach 45min before the race started. There were a few hundred people running in the three different events (15K / 30K / 50K) but most of them hadn't arrived yet so packet pickup and the bathroom lines were minimal. I got changed in the car and relaxed listening to a podcast while I waited for the race to start.

Five minutes before the race started I collected my things (one hand bottle, four gels, some Clif Blocks, and my iPod) and headed to the start line. I jogged for a couple of minutes out along the course to warm up my legs. While I was slowly jogging I accidentally kicked the timing chip on my left foot and snapped both of the tiny zip ties holding it onto my shoe. As I looked around for the timing chip I heard "3 minutes to race start" over the loudspeaker. I found the chip on the ground, grabbed it up and practiced a little bit of speedwork as I ran the 1/10th of a mile back to the check-in table. They got some new zip ties for me and I was able to get the chip reattached to my shoe with my cold clumsy fingers with a minute to spare.

This is the first time I've used this style of timing chip (about 2/3rds the size and 5x the thickness of a business card) and I don't like them. They're too big, and the zip ties that came with them were the smallest flimsiest dainty little bubble-style ties I've ever seen. They were hard to manipulate with cold fingers and way too fragile. If people are cutting them off at the end of the race with wire cutters, why use the tiny fragile bubble-style ties instead of larger / stronger zip ties? After kicking it off before the race I was worried about losing my timing chip the whole run and kept looking down at my foot every mile or so. I remember running several marathons 10 - 15 years ago and the timing chips used back then were about the size of a quarter and required one small (normal) zip tie. They never came loose and worked just fine.

I lined up near the back of the pack for the race start. I figured that all of the 15K and 30K runners would be faster at the start but that wasn't the case. I found that my 9:00/mi easy pace still had me weaving in and out of people and passing several other runners for the first mile or two.

Pt. Defiance isn't a big place and holding a 50KM race on the trails there is quite a stretch. The race director was very creative with the route. The course consisted of three 16.6KM loops that zig-zagged and tangled all around the park. Each loop started with about half a mile of flat running along the water before heading up a big set of stairs and then snaking around the very nice trails that tangle through the park. The trails were almost all soft single track paths with damp bark and leaves under foot. There were a few road crossings every lap as well as a short section of road near the end. One nice thing that the race provided was crossing guards to hold car traffic at every single road crossing. There were a few short hilly sections and one steep 1/4mi climb every lap but it only made for ~1300' of climbing per loop. At the end of each loop there was a steep descent down a hillside with ropes provided to hold onto as you climb down to the shore and back to the start.

As a 50KM runner I had to complete three loops of the course. I wasn't sure if I'd finish all three given my cold so I started out pretty conservatively, running ~9:00/mi and trying to stay light on my feet with good form. I felt like I could have run much faster but I didn't want to wear myself out and pay for it later. The race was planned as a training run for the Ron Herzog 50K so I didn't have a "A" race mentality, especially just getting over a cold. It was tough to hold myself back and I had to keep reminding myself that it was okay to take it easy.

The first lap was pretty crowded with 15K and 30K runners but started to thin out by the 8mi mark. Just before the end of the first lap a group of 5 or 6 runners and I were mis-routed by a pair of volunteers who thought that the 50KM course had a different finish for each lap. It took us about half a mile to figure out that we were going the wrong way and we turned around and went back the right way. I finished the first lap in 1:41.

There were several picnic tables at the start/finish line where they had an aid station set up and runners could put their drop bags. I stopped to refill my bottle, throw away empty gel wrappers and fill my pockets with 4 new gels, some Clif Blocks and take off my base layer, hat, and gloves. I was feeling good after the first lap and set off at the same pace for the second lap. Over the second 10 miles my legs lost a lot of their spring and I could feel the warning signs of cramping starting to creep in. I kept up with my plan of eating something every 15 min (2 gels and 2 Blocks every hour) along with drinking my CarboPro solution. I power-hiked the one steep hill on the second lap but ran the rest of the loop. When I came down the steep descent at then through the timing mats for the finish I heard someone calling my name and looked up to see my wife and kids cheering for me.  I didn't know that they were coming so it was great to see them there and take a minute to chat while I refilled my bottle / pockets before hitting the porta-potty and starting on my final lap.

The third lap was where things started to fall apart. I was still running at about the same pace but I really felt like I was on the knife's edge cramping-wise. I was taking my electrolytes regularly, so I don't know where the cramping was coming from, only that I'd have to be careful not to push too hard and stay on top of my hydration. I began hiking almost all of the uphill sections on the third lap trying to save my legs from cramping. I make it a little bit past the mid-lap aid station before the first of the cramping started causing me to stop and stretch out my hamstrings and calves. Unfortunately it happened just as three other runners were passing me and asked if I was okay as I stepped off of the trail. I told them I was fine and that they should keep going.

The last 5 miles was a combination of walking all of the hills with slower jogging to keep my central governor just under the limit where the cramping came on. I was looking forward to the end of the race and happy when I finally arrived at the steep rope descent which meant that there was only 1/4mi left to the finish line. I made my way down the ropes and out onto the waterside path where I saw my wife and kids waiting about 20 yards in front of the finish line. Both kids ran up and hugged me, probably happy that they could go home soon after waiting so long for me to show up from my third lap. I held the kids' hands and we ran across the finish line together... while no one took pictures of it. Oh well.

I finished in 5:43:02 (46th / 112), which would have been good on it's own but when you look at my lap times, you can see my decline. I ran a 1:41 first lap, a 1:45 second lap (the difference being time I spent at the aid station) and a 2:15 third lap. A steady 1:45 third lap would have moved me up to about 24th place. A sub-6hr finish on the kind of training I've had this fall along with getting over a cold (and the 50 times I blew my nose during the race) isn't too bad at all. It was a great course and an enjoyable way to spend my morning. I'd like to go back next year and try to improve my time.

I hope I can pick up the pace a little bit for my next run on 11/5/11, the Ron Herzog 50K. I don't know anything about the race except how to get there. The race website doesn't give any real information on the course or elevation profile. It'll probably be fairly cold up in Granite Falls by then as well. Tough to predict a result for Ron Herzog. I'll just say that beating my time from Pt. Defiance would be nice.

As an addendum here just over a week since running the Pt. Defiance 50K, my legs feel horrible. My knees are the worst. I have some sore hamstrings but I'm getting knee pain in the sides of my knees that's keeping me from any serious running. I've run a total of 9.8 miles (2 runs) since the race. It looks like I'll be hitting the pool and the gym for a few more days and hoping that my knees calm down before I have to decide whether or not to brave Ron Herzog. I'm not sure what the problem is with my knees, whether they're sore, inflamed, tracking wrong, or if I did some actual damage do them? I really hope it's nothing serious.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A cold... sure, that makes sense.

Mon 10/3 (7.9mi, 1h 9m, 8:45/mi) I took it easy for a slow recovery pace run around the Bridle Trails. My legs felt surprisingly good after Saturday's 22.5 miles. The trails weren't too muddy either. Good deal.

Tue 10/4 (8.35mi, 1h 2m, 7:26/mi) I tried to run a hard tempo pace around the Bridle Trails today but my abs felt like they were on the edge of cramping the whole run. I pushed my body hard but I didn't feel like I was running very fast. Poor hydration the days leading up to the run? A Gingerbread man didn't help my pace in any way.

Wed 10/5 (6.4mi, 53min, 8:19/mi) I took an easy pace out to Viewpoint park for a few loops. I felt okay but slowed down for loops around the park trails. The good news is that the steep uphill section on the park loop doesn't seem as steep as it used to. Adaptation I assume. I'll take it.

Thu 10/6 (6.25mi, 51min, 8:12/mi) Another easy pace run due to a scratchy feeling I'm getting in my throat indicating that a cold is probably on the way. I'll be tapering for another 10 days, so I'm annoyed but not worried. As long as I'm good about getting some rest and staying hydrated I'll be fine for the race on the 15th.

That's it for the week...I did end up coming down with a cold on Thursday night. I'm a little bummed that I'll have to take a few days off of running but it's taper time anyway and as the saying goes, it's better to be a little under-trained than a little over-trained. Pt. Defiance is a tune-up race for the Ron Herzog 50K coming up in November, so no pressure to push myself if I'm not feeling good on race day.

Shoe Geek talk:
I was in downtown Seattle to meet a friend for dinner Wednesday night so I stopped by the flagship REI store to buy some running food (chews, gels, recovery drink, etc...). While I was there I got to geek out on some new shoes. I saw a tweet the other day from @scottjurek saying that the new Brooks Pure line of shoes had been released. They're Brooks' first steps toward a minimalist shoe. I looked at the four shoes in the Pure line and tried on the trail version, the Pure Grit. I ran around the store in them for a couple of minutes and I wasn't impressed. I wasn't disappointed either, they felt taller and bulkier than their advertised 4mm heel - toe drop. Their swept-back streamlined lugs didn't look like they've be very effective. I didn't buy them but I'm sure I"ll try them on again soon and see if I can convince myself to take them home with me. They've got to be better than the Cascadia 6 that I've hardly used.

While we're on the topic of shoes and shoe stores, a new running shoe store just opened next to my favorite coffee shop. The shoe store is called Born To Run. Those who've read Chris MacDougall's book of the same name would be correct in assuming that the store focuses on barefoot / minimalist running shoes. I was in the mood for a cappuccino so I stopped in Born To Run after getting my espresso fix. The store was pretty minimalist itself in the layout and arrangement of shoes, which I liked. I'm sure they'll add more clothes and gear to the store as time goes on but it was only shoes when I was there. Mens on one side, womens on the other.
The woman that I talked to wasn't very knowledgeable about Merrell's upcoming barefoot releases, or New Balance's soon-to-be-released minimalist shoe updates sadly. One thing that the store did have was several shoes from the Inov-8 line of shoes. This is the first store that I've seen selling the shoes. Unfortunately for me, being a British brand most of their shoes only go up to a UK size 12 (13 US). It's a shame because they make some great looking lightweight minimalist shoes for both road and hardcore trails. I imagine that some of their shoes with the really agressive tread (that look like cleats) are born from British Fell running which sends runners through bogs, swamps, and just the nastiest muck that the UK countryside has to offer.

It wasn't a total loss though, I found a pair of the F-Lite 195s in my size which I tried out and liked enough to buy. They're very light and have a good mix of minimalist feel (3mm drop) and a little bit of cushioning, something I've been looking for in a running shoe. They felt good on Thursdays' run but I'm looking forward to putting them on for a few longer runs to see if they'll work out better than the Merrell Trail Gloves which start to hurt my feet if I go more than about 12 miles. I love the trail gloves for shorter runs, but a little cushioning would bump them up from everyday shoes to 50K race shoes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekly update - now with more miles!

Mon 9/26 (7.9mi, 59min, 7:31/mi) With no running on Sunday the legs are somewhat fresh on Monday. I got a good run in around the Bridle Trails in the fresh mud. It rained enough over the weekend that the trails got a bit sloppy. I mentally didn't have the drive to push a hard pace from the start so I settled for a Fartlek run to get a little bit of hard pace work into my legs. I ran easy out to the trails, then pushed hard on the East and West sides of the trail with recovery pacing in the middle. Once I got out of the trails on the way back to work I picked up the pace and finished with a 6:03 mile on trail / sidewalk. Running a full loop in just under an hour was even better than it sounds because of how slippery my Trail Gloves (forgot to wear socks) get when they're soaked and muddy on trails.

Tue 9/27 (7.9mi, 1h 4m, 8:08/mi) One run through the Bridle Trails wasn't enough so I came back for more. I ran the opposite direction than Monday and wore my other pair of Merrell Trail Gloves. I kept a slower pace this time and didn't try any tempo paced running. It felt nice to be able to pick my head up and look around at the beautiful forest instead of watching my steps as I do when I'm running hard. The legs felt good.

Wed 9/28 (4.0mi, 33min, 8:27/mi) Run #1:  Wednesday was another double run day. It's the only way I can manage to kick the mileage up to run 50+ mile weeks. I ran 4 miles on the treadmill at the gym taking it easy at a steady 8:27/mi pace. It's boring but it's a good warmup before hitting the weight room and the Kettle Bells.

Wed 9/28 (13.25mi, 1h 44m, 7:55/mi) Run #2: After work I ran down to the trail that goes along the East side of Lake Sammamish. I didn't time it very well and it was getting pretty dark by the time I got to the turn-around point. The trail along the lake isn't lighted so it was tough seeing where I was running. Luckily it's a very flat smooth dirt/gravel surface. I picked up the pace on the second half of the run, hitting some mile splits in the low 7:00/mi range. Instead of running back up the trail along Hwy 520 I ran up 51st st which is shorter and steeper. I was pretty tired so I practiced some power walking / hiking to recover a little bit. Overall a good run.

Thu 9/29 (6.5mi, 54min, 8:26/mi) I ran out to Grass Lawn Park for 3 miles of barefoot running around the track. It still feels good to get out and run barefoot as long as I don't try to push the pace and it's neither too hot or cold. I expect that I won't be running barefoot at the track much longer with the rainy season approaching.

Fri 9/30 (4.0mi, 34min, 8:29/mi) Another easy 4 miles on the hamster wheel at the gym before lifting weights. It's almost like I'm cross training but I hate to not run while I'm building up to a race.

Sat 10/1 (22.5mi, 3h 29m, 9:17/mi) I got out on Saturday morning for a long run. I started the run with a side-stitch for the first 3 miles as I headed out the Tunnel Trail and around past Kopachuck. I kept to my standard route out to McCormick Park near the women's correctional facility. I ran about 6 miles around the different trails in the park. I started out with a perimeter loop and then followed some arrows marked on the ground that probably indicated a previous race. I normally only run the largest perimeter loop around the park so it was nice to run some of the interior trails that were new to me. The trails at McCormick will be a pretty close match to the trails I'll be running at Pt. Defiance in two weeks. It hasn't rained enough yet to make a mess out of the trails and I hope that the same can be said for Pt. Defiance come race day. After my 6 miles on the trails I headed the same way back home.

My nutrition on the run was pretty good. I drank from my Nathan 2L bladder pack which had 3.5 scoops of CarboPro and a few Nuun tablets in it (100 Kcal/scoop) and I ate two gels and two gummy chews per hour like clockwork. I was trying to drink on pace to finish the 2L in 3 hours but I was falling short. I ended up drinking more based on thirst. With 4 miles to go I stopped at the Island View store and bought a small Gatorade, a small bottle of water, and an ice cream sandwich. I took a break at the store while I ate most of the ice cream sandwich before getting back to the run for the last few miles. I drank the Gatorade and about half of the water. I never felt hungry / full, or bloated / nauseous on the run luckily. I was probably consuming 320 - 350 Kcal/hr for the first 3 hours. If I can eat like this on race day I'll be very happy. I need to work harder on staying ahead of my eating in races.

I didn't run Sunday (but would have liked to get a short very easy run to flush the legs out) and finished the week with 66 miles, a new personal best. This will be my biggest week for this race cycle. The heel pain is easing and I'm learning to ignore the Glute / Piriformis pain (F*!%&^@# the legs!). I finished September with a new monthly best of 211 miles, eclipsing last August's 208 mile benchmark. I'd love to run a 100 mile week some time but I'm pretty far away from the place in life where that kind of thing could come together. Maybe if I sent my wife and kids off on vacation, and house-sat for someone who lived 10 miles from the office...

Next week will be the first week of a mild taper for the Pt. Defiance 50K on 10/15.