Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 2011 Duncan Ridge Trail 50k/30k Race Review

My day began with 5 scrambled eggs and a slice of toast.

Dave met me at my apartment, ready to go.

Me: Hey do you know how to get there?
Dave: Not really, but I have a GPS. It should take us right there.
Me: Okay, I'll follow you.
Dave: I really don't like it when people follow me.
Me: *are you serious face*
Me: *Loads GPS on phone*
Me: Fine, let's go.

The drive out to Vogel State Park was pretty uneventful. Apparently we took the windy way there, but it didn't matter since we were about an hour early.

We picked up our goodie bag and bib number and waited. It was cold so I was wearing long pants and jacket.

My dad and I trying to keep warm

Chattin' with the Natureboy

Dave, Angela(shiny), and I

Me, Dave, Paul, Angela, and my dad (clockwise)
Finally, Bobby, the race director, gave a speech about the race and we were off! I didn't really pay attention to the speech since I had run most of the course before.

Some were colder than others

The first mile was to get us out of the park and to cross the road. Right before the road crossed I realized that I was hot and threw my jacket in a tree. Hopefully nobody will take that...

The 3 miles downhill to the bottom of Coosa Bald was awesome. We glided down the hill in around 30 minutes. Great time! I felt it was a little fast, but I felt good and didn't want to do anything that messed that up. This was the first aid station. I handed my mom some gloves and kept moving. No sense in stopping when I'm not tired!

The climb up Coosa Bald was pretty nice("climb", "Coosa Bald", and "nice" are not usually used in a sentence). At this point I was glad that I had done the practice run. I had mental checkpoints that really made the mountain easier to climb. At this point I think I was still with Angela and Paul. I really needed to climb faster at this point and went around them. They were smart for keeping their pace, but I just needed to move faster at that point in my run.

Some runners around me started to complain toward the top of the mountain. Once again, the training runs helped as I knew what to expect. After 4 miles of climbing we were in a cloud. The cold mist felt great against my body warmed-up body.

The descent to the second aid station and turn-around point began. We were all lined up on the 3 foot wide trail trying to safely make it down the steep and leafy hill. I felt that I could have went down it a little faster if I didn't have to slow down for the person in front of me(I'm sure I'm not the only one). At this point though, I was just happy to be going downhill. Apparently these two sisters(couldn't have been older than 18) flew past us. They got the right idea!

Soon enough we made it to the second aid station where my dad greeted me with the above video. I didn't know he was taking a video and stopped to talk to him and get my Sanuks out of my bag. The Vibram Five Fingers Trek Sports that I was wearing were pinching my Achilles. Instead of wearing the Sanuks I slid them in my Camelbak just in case. My legs felt good. I saw on my watch that I was 2 hours and 15 minutes into the race. Could I break 4 hours? My dad said “no”, but my mind said “yes!” 

I refilled my Camelbak and drank some Coke. The sugary caffeinated sweetness was perfect. Off I went!
Leaving the second aid station

The dirt road to the “out” was longer and more uphill than I thought. I had imagined that this section of the trail would be my break, but it didn't turn out that way. It was at this point that I started to feel not-so-good. In search for food to eat I found some GU gummies. GU gels and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were not favorable at this time or any other time previous to this discomfort. I forced myself to eat the gummies. I knew I needed some of the sugars and other stuff they put in those things that make them great for running.

I was cruising along at 10 to 11 minute miles on this dirt road when some weird things began happening. I suppose this is normal for long-distance or fatigued runners, but my legs started to spasm. First my quads began pulsating, then my calf, then back again, then all together. It didn't hurt, but it did feel weird. I drank more water and tried to get more nutrients in me. The next few miles another woman and I went back-and-forth Tortoise and the Hare style. She would walk a bit, I would pass her, she would run and catch up to me then walk some more, I would pass her, repeat.

Finally at about the same time we made it to the turn-around. She said, “I can't believe we have to climb all the way back up that again!” A little frustrated by the situation myself, I put on my power-walking legs and hustled up the hill. By the time I reached the top I felt like junk and didn't want to run move anymore. My legs were pulsating and were very tired. I played the, “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi” game until I made it to about 45. It wasn't making things any easier. Or was it?

Eventually a nice guy came up behind me while I was doing a semi-run/walk. I asked him if he wanted to pass and he replied, “Nah, that finish line isn't going anywhere.”

Now, when somebody is 3 feet behind me I can't help but feel guilty for them. Even though I asked, I still thought he wanted to get by but was being polite. I increased my pace, as did he. We made small talk(I don't really remember what all we talked about). Soon enough we were out of the turn-around loop and making our way back up Coosa Bald.

He continued to hike behind me up the mountain. Have you ever been in a situation where everything is just bad and more bad things keep happening and all you can do is laugh about it? Well I was cracking up half-way up this hill.

Surrounding runners cheered as we made our way to the top. Down the mountain we passed a few runners and really started increasing the pace. I asked in concern of my slowness, “Are you shooting for a specific time?” He informed me that he wasn't and we kept on moving. My legs started going faster and before I knew it I had lost him. Darn, I didn’t' even get his name!(If you are that guy say so in the comments please.)

Moving down the mountain I ran into a group that had a dog. The dog would run 10 feet out in front of them, stop, look back, run back to them, and repeat. I honestly think that dog ran the length of the course twice.

This group was moving a little slower down the mountain than I wanted, so I asked to pass. The guy in front of me yelled, “Passer on the right!” and gave me the go-ahead. I always feel guilty when passing, but everyone in the group gave me nice complements like, “Go for it!” which made me feel better.

At this point I broke away from them. The thing is, the dog followed. It ran by my side for a quarter mile. I figured I and the owner were going to the same place, so it wasn't a big deal. Finally, the dog stopped and went back to it's owner.

Free at last I flew down the hill. My feet glided across the rocky slope. I was doing great until I saw that three feet in front of me the trail was ending! I grabbed a tree and swung around it. Apparently I didn't see the 45 degree turn at the bottom of the downhill. I re-associated myself and decided I needed to pay more attention to my surroundings.

By this time the group had caught up to me. We were starting to hit some uphills and my legs were toast. I tried to keep a steady pace since I was guilty for passing them.

Soon enough it was just me, the dog, and a few members of the group. She asked me, “How much further until the next aid station?” I looked at my watch and saw that we only had 3 more miles to go and said, “I think they took it away. We should have passed it by now.” Her silence was her nice way of saying, “I don't think you are right, but I'll let you find out for yourself.”

About 10 minutes later we hit the aid station. My watch read 16 miles. Odd, I didn't remember the aid station being this close to the beginning...

I decided not to stop. My mind was still set on 4 hours. If I ran 10 minute miles all the way back I could make it! The group disbanded and I was left alone in the woods.

I hit the hill and my legs fell apart. I did not remember that hill being that steep or that long. I was trying so hard to walk fast, but my watch informed me I was moving at a 30 minute mile. “Great, I can't make the 4 hour mark. Oh, and I might get passed by a dog.”

Struggling up the hill I tried everything. I counted, said “if I only get to that tree...”, tried running. Nothing worked. Finally I said, “What if I drag myself up this hill!?” I found a decent sized stick and tried walking with it. It was working! I had sped up by a few minutes per mile(not hard to do from 30 min/mile) and felt a little better. This continued for a long time. Too long.

Battling the hill I looked down and said, “Okay, I'm not going to look around for a few minutes. When I look up everything will be different.” I walked, and walked, and walked. Finally, I felt it was time to look up. I opened my eyes and BAM. Everything was the same. TORTURE!!!

At this point the girl who stopped at the aid station was catching up to me and passing me with the dog following her. She said, “I don't know who's dog this is, but it's following me!”

I laughed. She said, “Come on, we don't have too much longer to go!” I watched her run off into the mountains while I hobbled along. I just couldn't run.

After some minutes of walking another guy with a group passed me. He asked me if I was okay. I have been better.

Not one minute after he passed me he yelled, “Road!”

Oh what a sweet word. I knew the road was only one mile away from the park. I reached the top of the hill and broke into a slow run. As I approached the road I joked with the person next to me that it would be my luck to get hit by a truck or motorcycle after 18 miles.

I remember bits and pieces of the last mile, which involved a few more people passing me. I didn't care. I just wanted to finish.

After the passing I ended up on a road in Vogel. I ran a little bit, looked around, saw a bunch of campers in trailers and felt that I was not in the right place. I ran a little longer until I spotted a man. I asked him if the runners were coming through here and he told me that they were coming out over near some steps(the ones we went in on). His wife then yelled, "They are making a turn right there." This reassured me I was going in the right direction.

I wasn't. How did I get lost this far into the race? I looked at my watch which said 19.4. Since the road she was talking about was right there I decided to see what it led to. I figured I had already run my share of 30k, so followed the road which was marked with markers from the race. I took this opportunity as a time to open up and run a little faster. It felt good on my spent legs. Finally, I spotted the finish line and ran in.

I ended up finishing at 4:45ish, which wasn't bad at all. :) 

Shortly afterwords my friend Leigh finished. She did a killer job keeping a steady pace, which ultimately allowed her to catch me toward the end when I was struggling up the hill. Great job Leigh!

Paul came in around 5:15 I think. I was extremely impressed. He has only been running for less than a year and completed a really hard 30km in short time. Great job Paul!

Angela came in next at around 5:30. Apparently she had been battling stomach cramps the whole way. Her time and smile didn't show it! She gave me a big hug. I think she is getting hooked on the idea of ultra-running.... Great job Angela!

Dave came in around 5:45, which was also great. He apparently twisted his ankle and fell a lot. I need to talk him into getting some minimalist shoes. I have never twisted my ankle and feel like we have a much lower chance of doing it.

The food at the end was perfect. There must have been 30 pizzas and a ton of other food. I was really impressed.

The race was really well organized, especially for the small $35 entry fee. The course was well marked(even though my dumb self got lost) and there was a ton of support from volunteers. I am definitely adding this race to my calendar next year. Maybe the 50km...

Did I cheat by getting lost? I don't think so. I asked others and they all got 19.6 miles, which is what I got. Either way, it was more than 30km, so I was happy. Anyone got a good story about getting lost in a race? If so, post in the comments!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Duncan Ridge Trail Race 30K is Approaching...

This Saturday is the Duncan Ridge Trail Race (30K for me, 50k for the loco). Honestly I am less nervous about this race than any race I have done. These longer runs are great for me because I don't have to stress like the 5k races, which are essentially sprints.

My quads are gonna be sore after this one!(out and back)
Instead, I can relax and enjoy the run. Hopefully I don't hit a time when I feel bad and I actually enjoy it. I hope to run it between 4.5 to 5 hours. I know that sounds slow, but this trail has some hills!

So this Saturday when you are out on your long run think about me dragging my butt up a mountain while eating peanut butter and jelly and whining about my leg chafing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Study at Penn State looking for data

Penn State is performing a study on BF/Min running. It appears to be targeting runners wanting to transition. Here is the link and the survey info to see if you qualify.

Study Website:
Screening Survey: (Username: barefoot, Password: barefoot)

Carpe diem

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Adventures at the Pinhoti 100 Mile Race

When my friend Angela asked me, "Hey, Natureboy Willy is running a 100 miler and needs a pacer. I can't do it, would you be interested?" I sparked up and said "yes".

I have read about many ultras but have never been a part of one. With 3 days until the ultra I checked with my calendar and loved ones. Neither told me to do anything so I made plans to drive to Heflin, Alabama. Granted, when I first heard about the race I thought it was closer, but 2.5ish hours isn't too bad of a drive anyway.

When I arrived at the hotel I was greeted by Willy "Natureboy" Syndram. He shook my hand as I went around the room and talked to the rest of the crew, Josh and Leigh. Apparently I had already met Josh earlier in my life(10+ years ago). They had already set me up an air mattress in the hotel, which was much better than the anticipated floor.

We discussed pacing and crew work. It was the usual stuff. I got the sense that it was going to be a very flexible race, meaning we weren't going to go crazy trying to get everything perfect, but we would anticipate Willy's needs as the race progressed. This is probably the better route for such a long race where anything can go.

4AM rolled around quick. We hopped out of bed, got ourselves ready(as ready as a pace crew needs to be) and headed out.

The start point was a cluster of cars and runners. Imagine accidentally driving down the forest road and finding this festival of runners.

Willy kind of walked around, warmed up, and did his thing.I took some pictures


The Starting Line

After the race started we moved along to the different aid stations. The first was 6 miles away. Karl Meltzer passed by, then a few minutes later the rest of the runners came through. Willy did great and covered it in a little over an hour and was in 4th or 5th place.

The next aid station was near a train track about 6 more miles down. It was so cold there for some reason. I was trying to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The mayor of the town was there talking with some people. He stopped talking, looked at me, and started laughing. "Your so darn cold that you about near tore your sandwich in half!" We laughed and went back to waiting on the runners. Meanwhile a train passed by.

"Oh good a train passed by. There probably won't be anymore for a while." Karl passed through and a few minutes later the rest of the runners started to show up. A few passed by and then we heard it. The train....

A runners came out of the woods, stopped at the aid station, and was yelled at, "There's a train coming! Go!" The runner took off and just made it past the train.

Mmm... An ultra feast! Every aid station was like this. I was impressed.

Willy wasn't so lucky. Since we were on the other side of the track we were able to give him food and tend to him.  Tough luck, but 4 minutes isn't really going to make a big difference in such a long race.

Finally the train passed and Willy was on his way. We got into a pattern of anticipating what Willy needed and getting everything ready for him.

 After a 20+ mile stretch, ending in the Bald Rock trail parking lot(the highest point in Alabama), Willy came in. He was really sick and had just thrown up. Apparently one of his gels was old and really messed with his stomach. We gave him some Motrin and food and sent him along his way. This was past the 41 mile mark, so Josh was able to pace with him for the next 3 miles.

The scenery was very beautiful
At that point I was ready to run. I had my clothes on and was sporting my KSO Trek Sports. I was so happy that my stretch to pace was coming up and took full advantage of the Bald Rock bathrooms(Pooping in the woods is something I am not so comfortable with yet...)

Willy came out of the woods at the next aid station. Leigh asked me if i thought that was him, and I agreed it looked like him, but we didn't see Josh. In a slight panic we checked the radio but Josh was not calling.

A minute later Josh came out of the woods. Awesome! Willy must be feeling good!

Willy plopped down on the chair and did not look his finest. We fed him some mashed potatoes and chicken broth. Hopefully the sodium will get him going again.

Willy and I started our trek into the woods! 10 miles to pace and I have never paced in my life. In fact, all I know about pacing is what I have read in Jason's blog.

Willy was keeping a great pace despite his problems. I could tell he wasn't feeling good and  was very quiet for most of the run. I know as a pacer I am supposed to keep him company, but I know that if I am feeling like crap I don't want people bugging me.

I was trying to keep an eye on him. His stride was pretty consistent, but he was tripping a lot. I didn't put much thought into it since he was approaching 50 miles.

I asked him, "Is there anything you want?" and he replied, "There are a lot of things I want, but I can't get any of them now." Darn, he is feeling toasted. His head was hurting him really bad. Dehydration wasn't a problem since he was drinking, but he was probably lacking some nutrition. I encouraged him to drink more since he didn't want to eat and kept putting it off when I suggested it to him.

I knew an aid station was around mile 5 or 6. Expecting but never seeing it, we progressed down the trial. As we approached the top of a little bend Willy laid down with his arms out in a very relaxed position. I thought, "Is he taking a break?" I rand back and asked,

Me: "You okay man?"
Willy: No answer.
Me: "Shi.. Willy wake up!"
Willy: "No answer."
Me: "**** **** **** Willy wake up *grabs leg and shakes it*"

His eyes opened like he had just woken up from a nightmare.

Me: "Here, drink some water."
Willy: No answer.

As he came in and out I was able to get some water into him. I scrambed through my bag and pulled out the radio Josh and Leigh gave me. I tried to use it and realized I had no idea what I was doing. "What am I doing wasting my time on this radio? Just  use a phone!"

Luckily I had reception and was able to dig through my text messages from Angela and find Josh's phone number. I explained to him the issue. Looking at Willy I though, "There's no way I can carry him. He is going to have to get up..." That is when I thought I heard voices. I yelled, "HEY!" Nothing... Then a second later, "You need help?" "Yea!"

5 or 6 people came down to help. I asked if they were hikers or aid station workers. They said, "We are from the aid station. It's right around the corner!" I told him he was out. A man came behind Willy and started rubbing his shoulders. By rubbing I mean almost ripping the muscles out. The man was yelling in his ear, "Hey we are here to help you! What is your name?" Willy, with a discomforted look on his face replied, "What do you want!?!"

The man asked his name and age, which Willy replied correctly in a weak voice. The man said, "You couldn't have passed out at a better spot." We walked Willy to the aid station, got him some oranges and chicken broth. I really appreciate those volunteers help and everything they did.

Willy got back on his feet. He seemed much better and there were only three more miles until the next aid station, where Josh and Leigh were(the last was out in the middle of the woods and was not open to everybody).  Those last 3 miles were spent mostly walking at a fast pace. I could tell Willy is a hiker. He kept a killer walking pace even when feeling crappy.

By this point my achilles was killing me. I have bruises from a month ago from the Merrell Sonic Gloves. If I had to run again I would need to switch into my Sanuks.

Finally we started to hear music. I believe it was 3 Doors Down. We tried to run out of there but ended up going back to walking.

Willy plopped down in the chair and looked horrible. He was cold and his head was still torn up, so we took him into the warm van to sit down. He fell asleep. After about 15 minutes he felt the same. We asked him if he wanted to go on and he didn't give us a straightforward answer. Josh said, "Well from the way you are looking I can't see you going on. Do you think you can finish this race?" Willy chuckled and replied, "I can maybe do the next section(A 5 mile dirt road section), but I am scared to death to do the 17 mile section after that." With that answer Josh made a good decision and told the official that he was dropping out.

Just like that, at mile 55, the race was over for Willy. Am I disappointed? Heck no! He kept telling me that he was sorry about passing out. I kind of expected it to happen sooner or later, so it didn't really bother me. He made the right choice dropping out. He can learn from the misfortunes of this race and do better next time.

All-in-all I had a great time! It was an adventure I will never forget and I am so happy that I got to run on the trail(it is a really great trail and pretty barefoot friendly).