Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dizzy 50 (40)

Dizzy Fifties is not an easy 50 miler. Sure, it's not very technical. Sure, it only has one major hill (that you repeat 5 times). But, anyone who says it's easy has never tried to complete 50 miles on that course. Could I have finished 50 miles today? Probably. Did I want to? Not after finishing 40 miles. That's the thing that makes this race so difficult. When you approach the start/finish area, you really want to be finished! The freedom to quit without any real consequence was just too much for me to handle again this year.

The results... I was the second place 40 mile finisher in 6:46, (way) behind Dewayne Satterfield. There were no 50 mile finishers today.

The First Lap
Check out the Dizzy Fifties website for details about the laps. It starts with a little 2-ish loop and then it begins the North loop then South loop alternation. I started out conservatively at about a 9:20-ish pace. I let all the competitive 50kers go. I would have liked to have gone a little faster, but I was in a pack and saw no real need to push the pace.
That's me, #56, finishing up the 2.3 mile Little Loop. Happy.
The North loop has a long hill from the Sinks/Stone Cuts/Keith Trail intersection up to the Bikers parking lot. My plan was to try to run it the first time through and then walk it every time after that. The pack I was in was walking the hill, so I just joined them. Then I saw Matt running up ahead. I had to go catch him. Which was a little fun.

The South loop is an uneventful, mostly flat, windy, dizzying section of trail. On the first time through the south loop, I was with Matt early. I eventually pulled away and didn't see him again until after he finished the 50k. After pulling away from Matt, I caught Wayne Heckler (Alabama half marathon record holder for 61 year old men at 1:30). We chatted some and I pulled away because he was still recovering from his record setting effort last week. From that point on, I was all alone except for very short sections the rest of the way. That probably hurt my chances of finishing 50 miles as much as anything.

The Second and Third Lap
There isn't much to say here. I ran all alone for all of these laps. My nutrition plan was to eat Gu Roctane on the South loop and to eat a Clif Bar on the climb up Sinks and refill with water at every stop. That was working very well. My running plan was to run the flats and downs and walk the ups on the North Loop and to run 10-12 minutes and walk 2-3 minutes on the South Loop. I was feeling absolutely great through 50k. I hit 50k at 4:55, which is my second best 50k time ever. I think I could have had a very good 50k race today if I had planned for 50k.

The Fourth Lap
Again, all alone. As I started the North Loop, I was feeling great. I ran a solid pace until the downhill on Cold Springs trail. Then, I probably had my best descent of the day. 50 miles seemed to be just in the bag. I continued to run the flats and downs and walk the ups. I was passing some slower 50kers. Life was good. Then, out of nowhere, my stomach was turning sour. I couldn't think of eating anything. When I began the walk up sinks, I simply could not eat the Clif Bar. I thought I was going to throw up. I did a little in my mouth. I was just feeling awful. As I topped the hill, I continued to walk. I was completely falling apart. As I ran to the start/finish area, Matt was there holding up a bowl of chili and celebrating a 50k finish. So, I knew he wouldn't catch and pass me on the 50 miler. The chili was not even tempting at all. Throwing up was very tempting.

I got out of the start/finish very quickly to avoid any temptation not to go 40 miles. I was still walking and fighting nausea. I just could not eat. I hadn't had any calories in about 2 hours. I knew then I was done. I got more liberal with my walk/run on this south loop. I caught Joey and Shannon, and hung with them for a while. I knew that I could finish this 40 miler in less than 7 hours. I also knew that I had very little chance of going beyond 40 miles.

With about 3 miles to go, I decided I would just run the rest of the way. There was no use conserving energy now. I still couldn't eat and I had made up my mind to stop at 40.

Rob is trying to get me to go back out there!

The Finish
I finished in 6:46. Yep, it took me 1:51 to run that last 10 miles. Rob Youngren was at the finish really encouraging me to continue. He wanted me to finish the 50 miler very badly. I really appreciate the advice he gave me leading up to this race and I really appreciate the encouragement he gave. He continued to encourage me. He almost had me talked into going out there, but I really don't regret not going. I was done. But I am thankful to Rob for his support!

I'll take it. I was clearly falling apart. That's the best I could do in this race with only 5k training leading up to the event.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I've really enjoyed my recent 5k training. I've loved those fast track workouts. Love the 37 or 38 second 200m and 75 second 400m repeats. Running fast is fun. And the 5k training has paid off with a drastic reduction in my 5k PR. I went from 18:29 to 17:46. Forty-three seconds is a large chunk to chop off of a 5k time. What's crazy is that I really believe I could chop off at least 30 more seconds if I specifically trained for a 5k for the next few months. 5:25 per mile doesn't seem as crazy fast as it once did. And there is just something about racing a 5k. You can take silly risks because if it doesn't work out, you can race another 5k next weekend! It's a fun, no pressure, let it all hang out kind of a race. I used to despise the 5k, but now I view it as fun, plain and simple fun.

But I don't think that's the best preparation for a 50 miler.

It has dawned upon me that I have signed up for a race this weekend for which I am unprepared. I mean, I've known for a while that Saturday, November 19 would arrive. I just haven't done very much to get ready. Since I skipped the fall marathon this year, I let my buddy Matt talk me into signing up for this.

So here is my Dizzy Fifties race day strategy... Run the first 5k comfortably. Then, hang on for the next 46.9 miles. If it's too miserable at 50k, just stop running and get a 50k finisher's award.

Also, I'm focused on a March 3, 2012 marathon, so I'm just running through Dizzy Fifties. I'm not tapering and I'm continuing to do my marathon prep. Today I did a warm up with 6 strides, 5 tempo miles (6:15 pace), and a cool down with 4 strides for 10 miles total.

And maybe I'm not as unprepared as I think... I've had a few 75 mile weeks, and an 85 mile week. But no single run has been over 17 miles. We'll see. I should have learned from last year that you can't fake your way through a 50 miler, but I'm going to try again this year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ragnar Tennessee

If you've never done a relay race, you're pretty much missing out on one of the silliest things you can do. It's silly, and you get 5 or 11 other people to do it with you. You run 196 miles together, usually 15 to 30 miles each, in just over 24 hours. And you do it while depriving yourself of sleep. Just. Plain. Crazy. But it's fun!

I would try to describe this for you, but no words can adequately explain the relay experience. It's an excuse to break all the rules.

Rule 1: Recover properly from a hard effort before giving another hard effort.
You gotta break that one or you're not giving your teammates what they deserve from you. Give your best effort for 10.9 miles. Then, 7 hours later give your best effort for 11.2 miles. Then, 5 hours later give your best effort for 12.7 miles. While your best may get progressively slower, give your teammates your best.

Rule 2: Eat well to fuel and recover from a run.
Reese cups, peanut m&ms, Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, cookies, PB&J (okay, that's not so bad), chips, and a Clif bar or two thrown in just to give the appearance of balanced health in convenient ready to eat packages. Midway through, you're badly craving a cheeseburger or a pizza or a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. Better yet, a cheeseburger pizza with bacon and a biscuit crust. And oddly enough, you don't want dessert when you're done with the cheeseburger pizza.

Rule 3: Sleep plenty.
How are you gonna sleep while the van is in motion and everybody is talking about directions and where the next exchange is and who's running next?

Rule 4: Warm up and cool down properly.
Yeah. There simply isn't time. You get to the next exchange just in time for your runner to get there. And you're really guessing about when he'll get there. You don't want to be out warming up when he gets to the exchange. If you warm up too early you'll get stiff again waiting. And cool down? You don't want to run after you're done with your leg and your teammates are all... "Let's get goin to the next exchange." Run hard from cold. Get in the van and get stiff. Repeat. Repeat.

Having said all of that, it's insanely gross and fun. Dudes stink anyway. But now think about this van we were in... Dudes were running hard and getting sweaty. Then, we'd get right into the van, change clothes and shoes and leave the nasty smelling shoes in the van floor. Then we'd compound that odor by having 6 dudes do the same thing. Then, we'd eat junk food which creates its own set of different odors. Now, don't shower and only use port-a-johns for 24 hours. GROSS! You gotta try this. It's so much fun.

Now... How did we do? We ran 196 miles in 24 hours, 2 minutes, and 51 seconds. That was good enough for first place ultra team and third overall. Yep. That's right. We won that. And second place was over two hours behind us, so it wasn't even close. We had people at the finish line saying... "You guys were an ultra team? And you're finished already? You started later than we did!" Yep. That's right. We're bad. And we're sore, too. :)

Here's my quick rundown of my legs on this adventure.

Leg 1: 10.9 miles
This was an extreme downhill leg. I had a net loss of 1140 feet over the first 6 miles. That was some of the most fun running I've ever done! I had to climb about 180 feet in the first mile which slowed my overall pace down, but then I let it fly on the downhills. Then, I got disoriented with about two miles to go. I didn't see any other runners or any course markings and panicked and thought I had missed a turn. So, I turned around and walked a bit. Then, I ran. Then I saw other runners so I turned around and ran like mad to the end! Even with that diversion, I averaged 6:20 pace for 10.9 miles. I only passed 3 people during this leg.

Leg 2: 11.2 miles
This leg started at 10:00 PM and the first thing I saw after getting started was a couple of dogs to chase me. Nice. But they backed off because the road was busy and cars were coming, thankfully! Running at night is neat because you see the blinking butt lights ahead and you just go and try to pick them off. Pass. Next. Pass. Next. Pass. It's pretty motivating to pass people like that. I was able to reach 6 people during this leg with the concentration coming toward the end. There was one guy who was trying to hold me off at the end. I wanted to ask him... "Are you on an ultra team?" But I didn't. That seemed... not nice. So I told him that I was very tired and he'd probably hold me off. He ran faster and I stayed with him. Then he faded and I kept going and put about 10 seconds between us. I was kinda glad that he did that because I would have mailed in that leg without his motivation.

Leg 3: 12.7 miles at 4:40 AM
Still running in the dark for this one. And fog... Man, it was foggy. I was so sore from the downhills and the fast running of the previous two legs. I really just wanted to keep a sub-8 pace. Anything faster would be gravy. Given that I wasn't warmed up, I just started at about a 7:45 pace to shake my legs out. Up ahead, I could see a light that I wasn't gaining on very quickly. So, I tried a little harder to gain on him. When I did, I didn't blow by. I was toast and not feeling it on this run. I asked him if he wanted to work together for a bit, and he did. We ran pretty much 7:00 miles for about 4 miles before he faded. That was very nice to have some company. I just tried to hold on to that pace for as long as I could. The last section was uphill and my pace slowed way too much. I averaged about 7:30 for this leg. Very disappointing, but it was all I had given the sleep deprivation. Really, I'm convinced that the sleep deprivation contributes more to poor performance  than the previous hard efforts. The good news... Even with that slow pace I was able to pick off 35 runners on this leg! Too fun!

Do a relay some time. It's an experience.