Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hells Hills 50 Miler

I picked this race after other plans to get a Western States qualifier fell apart. I’m a two time looser in the Western States lottery. Keeping an entry in the lottery consecutive years gives me more names in the hat to improve the odds but it means every year I need a qualifier race to keep entering the lottery. My original plan to get the entry for and also knock out my first 100 miler was to get it at Rocky Raccoon 100 in February but a broken ankle in a 50k in December took that off the table. I signed up for another 100 miler (Tahoe Rim) and a got on the waitlist for yet another (Vermont 100) both on July 20th not really sure which race would work out but because of how fast these races sell out I wanted to have options. Plans developed and a family reunion with my Dad, brothers and sisters and families started coming together at the end of July in Maine so Vermont now makes great logistical sense then drive over to Maine for some earned R&R. I contact the Vermont Race director to check on my odds to get into with my placement on the waitlist and find my odds are pretty close to nil. There’s a 100k run at the same time (also a 100 mile horse race – that should make it interesting) so I figure maybe the 100k would work out – but the 100k is not a Western States qualifier race (too small I guess). The race director for the Vermont race offered that if I’m signed up for the 100k and there are fewer than 300 bibs picked up on Friday night before the race – she’d upgrade me to the 100 miler which is a qualifying race – but that was a longshot at best – I needed to find another race somewhere and get my qualifier. I searched the list of qualifying races and Hells Hills 50m seemed the best choice because it’s just a couple hours from home – only one problem – as I signed up for the race in January – I had yet to run anything since the 50k broken ankle – could I really ramp up from zero mileage in 2 months then run 50 miles…..hmmmm. I love a challenge.

See the bottom of the Texas Endurance Trail 50k for how training went leading up to this (or here's a graph if you like that kinda thing). Speed came back pretty quick – I could probably do a short race about the same now as I could have done in November. Endurance on the other hand was in short supply. One 20 mile run in training (with some walking) does not a 50 mile training plan make – but I got the peak volume for the last couple weeks up into the 70 miles per week range – I was hoping I could gut it out – I only needed to finish the thing in less than 11 hours – which really isn’t so fast.

Weather forecast was kinda a “B” – not perfect – not terrible – which is pretty good for this race – I think the typical for this race would be a “D/F” – hot and humid – so I’m grateful for this forecast – Start in the low 50s with high humidity with a high for the day around 80. 5am start in the dark means running by headlight for a couple hours with sunrise around 7am.

I invite my son to come with me for a tent out at the start-line. The course is at the Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, TX – a mountain biking park. The route runs along the biking trails – three loops around the park. The trails are generally filled with ankle twisters and somehow maximize the trail distance per acre ratio by twisting and turning its way through the forest. Check out the track from the garmin here: Link.  I think if you squint a little looking at the course you can see both the skinny and fat elvis.  Looking at the mountain biking course map the trails are divided much like skiing routes divided into the green, the blue and the black diamond trails and I note before the race the run course appears to hit every black diamond trail in the park. We pitch tent right next to the course about 100’ from the startline.
Since it’s a mountain biking park I bring one to scout out the course a little before it got dark the day before. I didn’t go too far trying to save my legs but my son scouted the trail out a bit farther and came back with a full inch of mud caked on the tires and breaks
– I’m imagining my shoes like that the next day – two pairs, 3 loops – I’m preparing Ryan to be cleaning my first pair of shoes while I run the second loop. A couple guys I know I see at packet pick-up (100’ from the tent) and they pitch tent next to ours. Robert King was the winner of this race the first year and I’ve known him for years running around the trails near my house, Sandy Corn I’ve known from an on-line running forum (went by Slowdown) and has run Western States a couple years back after 5 years of trying to get in (2 time loser then 2 time deferred auto-entry – first by a fire that canceled the race, second by the race splitting up the two time losers into two years) – I’ve read his race report years ago and loved that a flatlander like me can go conquer those mountains. Hanging out before bedtime we lamented how poor our training was coming into this race knowing it was likely to be a long race. Tent sleeping turned out to be not so restful – brain just wouldn’t turn off – normal pre-race jitters I guess.

Up about 45 minutes before race time (a 30 second commute to the startline is just sweet!) – get all my stuff organized – lots of gear decisions to make – what to wear, what to carry, what to have available on each loop.
Having the tent right on the course made the nice opportunity for a quick stop by the tent to grab whatever I needed on each loop rather than using the races drop area packed with a hundred other peoples bags. Head over with about 5 minutes to spare – find a portajohn – no line – amazing – then off to the startline.

The Race:

The 5am start had about 100 runners, another wave for the 50k started at 6 and another wave for a 25k at 7 and then a 10k too. Off we go into the dark headlights a shining. Everyone trots off pretty slow and I find myself following the leader before we get to the trailhead a hundred yards or so into the race. Last year’s 4th place winner Chris Robbins cautioned me to not start too slow and get stuck behind people too slow as passing is difficult on the single track trail so I don’t mind being towards the front of the pack. 1st place guy is running a little too hot so I ease off and have a pack of 3-4 bunched up behind me for the first mile or so. A glance at the heartrate up over 150 and I decide to cool it down a bit and eventually my headphones get caught on a branch making me pull over and let the bunch past me – I latch on the back of them and chill for a while – I’m finding either front or back or alone to be the preferred positions in running – so many ankle twisters to avoid on the trail I gotta have enough trail in front of me to spot them and plan my steps accordingly. On the Ipod I’ve got downloaded a bunch of podcasts from – these are fun to listen to interviews with an assortment of people in the Ultra community – racing stories or interesting topics – they’re a great way to pass the time. One of the podcasts was a nutritionist who’s husband (Paul Terranova) had just done what’s called the Grand Slam (4x100 milers) and added a Kona Ironman at the back-end just to add a little extra - the first ever Grand Kona Slam – as it happens that guy I come to find out later was in this little Hells Hills race – I’m pretty sure he was the guy who pulled away at the start – he won the race in 6:54 - impressive. Anyway I’m just plodding along maintaining pace and actually feeling pleasantly chilly in this low 50s pre-sunrise morning – but I could feel the humidity too as the sweat wasn’t doing much evaporating. I’m carrying two duct tape handled bottles and I’m focusing on getting my hydration and fueling with my watch beeping every 4 minutes to take a couple oz swig. The darkness seems to go on forever, the miles are clicking by slowly, occasionally someone new overtakes me from behind, finally there’s enough light I can take off the headlight that’s starting to give me a head-ache – felt so nice to be rid of that thing. In the final couple miles of the first lap there’s a little black diamond section of the course called the Grind followed by the Wall – steep down then ups that I know there is no way I could have navigated on a Mountain bike (I can black diamond ski – but I’m not ready for the mountain bike) – the Wall did that quick drop/climb three time in quick repeats – I was already dreading this for the third lap – quads were already complaining from just the first 15 miles of rollers. Anyway – keep jogging the last mile after that and do a quick stop by the tent to swap out/refill bottles – fortunately I didn’t have an inch of mud on my shoes as I’d feared so didn’t need a shoe change (and Ryan didn’t have to clean them). I’m at the back end of the range I told Ryan – 7:30-7:45ish – so he’s out expecting me and cheers me on for another lap – it was really nice to see him out there. Off I go for lap 2.

Lap 1 completed – 2:45ish.

Much of the same as I head off – I keep the trotting along through the rollers and twists and turns – this would really be a fun place to mountain bike – all these rocks and roots would be fun to bounce around on the bike – on foot it kept my eyes glued to the trails. Two main lessons learned from the 50k incident – 1) Eyewear – bifocal glasses are not proper trail running glasses as they leave blurry trail through the bottom half of the glasses – for this race I used contacts that fix the far away and no glasses – trail was perfectly clear – all of it – my arm was just a little too short to see my watch clearly :). 2) Eyes stay on the trail – certain pleasantries on the trail such as making eye contact with passersby with a little smile and a wave – or watching their cute little dogs – are dangerous things to do – better to be just a little less nice and keep looking at the ground in front of me. These corrections seemed to serve me well – although there was the occasional footfall with a slight slip left or right – not even once did one get to the point of even the slightest sprain’ish feeling – contrast with the 50k there were 3-4 sprain’ish kinda steps prior to the actual big one that snapped the fibula – a nice confidence boost to see I can in fact run trails without twisting my ankle. Anyway about ½ way through the second lap I cross the mental barrier to realize I gotta start accepting that I’m going to have occasional walking breaks in this race – I made it through my last 50M without any but I’m just not in as good a shape, this course is much harder and the weather is warmer than that race. The leg soreness and dehydration level was just starting to catch up to me – and I’m trying to find peace with the knowledge I’m only ½ way through this race. I make the best maintain much more jogging than walking especially on the less technical portions of the trails. I start grabbing a few extra snacks at the aid stations and filling my water bottle a little more than the first lap and gut it out. In the last couple months of training I did a lot of tracking before and after workout weights and I’m becoming more and more convinced my limiter in these longer races is not my fitness level or even my fueling ability – it’s all about water balance for me. I’m losing a pound every 2.5-3 miles of running and I can only drink about 1.5 pounds per hour so anything faster than 4.5 miles/hr on a cool day or 4 miles/hr on a warmer day – or maybe slower considering the extra energy burn on trails vs road - and I’m losing weight. Towards the end of the second loop I check my pee color and confirm I’m pretty dehydrated already. I’d estimate I drank ~7 lbs or nearly a gallon the first two laps but my weight was probably still down 6-7 pounds – about how I feel after a dozen miles in sweats. I really just can’t function well much lower than that. I finish the second lap around 10am again towards the back end of the estimate I’d given Ryan pre-race. I spend a little extra time before I set off for the third lap – decide to switch to the camelback instead of the two bottle system so I could maximize how much I drank so spend some time filling that up pouring in a few water bottle. My son’s asks – “do you have to finish?” – I think he’s pretty bored:). “Yes – I do – but expect it will be a while – say 3:30 ish” – I’m not going to walk away from today without my lottery qualifier sub11 hours – I could nearly walk all the of last lap and still get that so I just needed to stay hydrated and do what I could for the last lap.

Lap 2 completed – 3:25ish including the 8-9 minute break at the tent.

Ok so I’m watching the time now – 16 miles to go – 11:10 pm on my watch and I gotta be done by 4 pm to get my sub11 hrs – it’s not a good sign when you start figuring out how slow you can go – the whole competitive side of me was gone – this was just about getting it done. I start setting time goals – first was to knock down the first 4 miles before noon – that would leave 20 minutes per mile for the last 12 to be done in the remaining 4 hours. I jog the more run able portions of the trail and walk most of the uphills or highly technical portions of the trails – I don’t quite achieve my goal but rather I seem to be in a rhythm to get 14-15ish minutes/mile and knock down those first 4 a little before 12:10 pm. I try to maintain that tempo and after a couple more miles I cross over the point where I could truly walk the rest of the race at 20 minutes per mile and get my sub11. That seemed like a major milestone – but I know anything can still happen so I want to start banking some cushion and keep that ~15 mpm’ish tempo – as pathetically slow as that sounds – it sure seemed harder than it sounds at the time – continuing to walk the climbs and jog/trot along the flatter portions or low grade descents and drinking all I can with sweet snacks along the way. Even walking – that black diamond portion was still killer on the quads but I survived and plodded my way until all the miles were done. I come by the tent for the final time – toss by camel back and other stuff then head off to the finish – I motivate my son to beat me to the finishline by giving him the mission of taking a finishing photo – he runs MUCH faster than I and beats me by a bunch and executes his duty snapping a pic.

Lap 3 completed – 4:00ish
Total Time – 10:10ish. 21st place/17th Male.

Finishlines are magical things – to be able to stop and sit down – even go back to the tent and lay down knowing the long long long task of the day is done – love it. After lazing around for a bit I start watching for Robert and Sandy and they eventually come trotting along both before the clock flipped over to 11. We waddle around for a while lamenting the tortures of the day – results and training pretty well aligned for each of us. I make the comment at one point that I’d still take a day like this over most days doing much of anything else and they were quick to categorically disagree – I guess after you’ve done dozens and dozens of these things the sucky days just plain suck – I can relate to that in marathons but for Ultras I’m not quite there yet – there were enough silver linings for this race I could still on balance feel good about it.

My silver linings in priority order:
1) No injuries, sprains or broken bones
2) Western States qualifier for the next lottery in November completed – takes the pressure off having to get into Vermont 100M (I still might try)
3) No getting sick – I’m now 3 out of 6 ultra events (2xironman, 3x50 milers and 1x50k) not getting sick
4) I’m guessing I won’t see much of a fitness regret from this race – after Rocky Raccoon 50 which was the only 1 out of 6 I felt like I half way nailed – my fitness dropped and it took months to get back to where I was pre-race. Aside from normal post race waddles and difficulty with going down stairs – I’m expecting within a couple weeks I’ll be continuing the progression I was seeing through February/March.
5) I learned a bunch such as I in fact CAN run trails without getting hurt – and I’m better zeroing in on the water balancing constraints so I can learn to work within and set my expectations within that.

Well I think that’s enough for this Race Report – I’m sore still but kinda wanna go for a little run again – if only it didn’t hurt so much – maybe another day or two :).


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Texas Endurance Run 50k

Saturday - 50k. I'm here for a workout - not a race - figured I'd just jog with Bryan (They guy behind me in the pic) - he's a 3 hr'ish marathoner and since we jog together a lot it's easy conversation most all the race - we also work together so lots of topics and miles of silence are golden too - a great running partner. He says he's going for 8mpm'ish pace which I think is pretty fast - I only did 9 mpm's on my 50 miler here in February - add to that it's a warm/humid day with dew points above 60°F - but I just figure I'll go whatever pace he wants - he can't out run me - and just hang. We take off - 3/4th place - ease by 2nd after about 5 miles - finish the 10k loop and a full 20k loop without any change in position. We’ve been averaging just over 8 mpm up to there which I didn’t think Bryan was going to sustain – I’ll go another loop – I decide I need to feel the pain of Ultras if I’m going for 100. We notice first female isn't far behind at the turnaround to finish the 2nd loop so likely she’s catching us. Sure enough about 4-5 miles later at an aid station we take a little longer and she jets on by us like we were standing still – ok we were. A few more miles jogging then for the last 10k or so the uphills turn into walk breaks – then some of the flats turn into walk breaks too – Bryan’s struggling – but we’re still joking around and having fun. The trails were open to occasional mountain bikers and groups of hikers.

About 28.23 miles according to my Garmin – a group of 5-6 hikers plus a wiener dog on a leash happed along the trail going the other direction. A kid was pulling the wiener dog to our left so we could pass to the right. With my eyes a bit too focused on that wiener dog – I failed to land one step correctly – hit something – probably a root in the trail – and rolled the ankle – heard/felt a pop of some sort and knew I was screwed. After many many many explicative’s that I chose not to write here – I find I can do no more than walk – I could do that without too much pain – but any jogging was out. Bryan’s real cool to stick with me the last 3 miles/1 hour of hobbling – (looking at the aerial now I see I had a path to the finish of less than ½ mile but I didn’t know that so stuck to the run course). Get to the finish – get my finishers medal and finishers hoody and find some ice to knock down the swelling. When I finally get the shoes off the ankle’s the size of a baseball – doesn’t look good. I manage to drive home with my left foot and elevate my right foot for the 1+ hour ride home.

Splits -
10k - 2nd/3rd Place
50:54.007:57 min/m

20k - 2nd/3rd Place
01:41:30.008:07 min/m

20k - 15th/16th Place
02:49:31.0013:33 min/m

Total - 05:21:53.00

Shower and head to urgent care for X-Ray – Cracked Fibula – out for 3 months :(.

X-Ray's didn't progress quite as hoped.  At initial visit's diagnosis - Cracked fibula - the doctor indicated the crack fill in within a few weeks and be solid bone again within a couple months.  Over-anxious me I was trying to walk on it within 3 weeks and took my boot off so probably prevented that from happenning - after 4 weeks I was told to wear the boot another two weeks - after 6 weeks there was no filling in - really didn't look remarkable different.  Doc said it would probably just stay like that so may as well and try and run on it - so end of January I started running again and January 31st I did my first double digit run.  I've come back from injury outages a few times - I'm always pretty impressed how quickly speed bounces back.

After a few weeks my foot started hurting so I stuck to the elliptical/spin class for a couple weeks - still around  45 minutes per day on average - turned out I had just started wearing a shoe that was too narrow - fixed that and ramped up the mileage averaging 80 min/day with mileage up to 70ish miles per week.  Pretty neat to have speed back about like it was in November within just a couple months of training :).   Next Up - Hells Hills 50 miler - April 6th - need to get my Western States Qualifier - sub 11 hours.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Duel with the Sun - Ironman Florida

Duel with the Sun - Ironman Florida 2012

As sunrise just begins in Panama City Beach, there is a loud "BOOM" as the crack of the canon fires to send off thousands including myself straight into the ocean to start my personal duel - with the Sun. One-on-one - me vs Apollo the sun god - racing to the finishline. All indications were the Sun would set at a predictable time nearly 11 hours later - my performance at ironman florida was not to be quite so predictable.

Background: 18 marathons or more completed and 2 Triathlons – one sprint tri and an ironman (IMTX) both about 18 months ago. I'd had on my life goals to complete an endurance trifecta including Boston Marathon (done), Kona Ironman World Championships and Western States 100 miler endurance run. The first ironman proved to me a runner does not a ironman make - mastering the other 3 disciplines of a triathlon (swimming, biking and stomaching enough food) takes some work.

Ironman Florida 2012 appeared my best opportunity to get to Kona without flying expenses. A new age group this year meant a little less competition for Kona slots awarded to the top x finishers in each age group so there was kinda a feeling of now or never to sign-up. Advanced planning is required as these races are so popular. I had to have hand on mouse when registration opened a year before the race and submit the (overly complicated) application before it filled up which took 15 minutes for 2012's race (btw - it took less than 1 minute for next year’s race).

After registering I tried to forget about it and stay focused on my running adventures. I polished off 3 marathons (one 2:40) a fifty miler and loads of relay races and shorter distances before coming back to thinking about the ironman. In fact I was having good times with running and considered seriously bailing on the ironman. I had some idea what it would take to even have a Kona shot and as time came to start putting in the kinda training required I found motivation to add the other sports lacking. In the IMFL program this year there's an article profiling the "average" ironman describing 80 hours a month in workouts for 7 months - that's average mind you - at max max running training volumes I rarely - maybe never over 40 hours a month and usually I'll train about 3 months for a marathon - sometimes up to 4. I'd decided I was NOT going to put that much time into training - a Kona slot is just not worth that much to me - so instead I changed my goals to just have a good race - get to a "respectable" level of fitness and try to improve raceday execution over the prior ironman.

The "plan" when I signed up was to train for IMFL after the Boston Marathon in April - that would have been 6 months - seemed adequate to get the job done if I really put my all into it - but instead I decided to (and needed to) slack off a bit until June - I was pretty worn down from lots of racing in the first third of the year and the body needed a rest. I was still running at a maintenance level volume and did a medium fitness kinda marathon in Anchorage towards the end of June (which was a blast) then thought I'd extend my slacking off/maintenance mode kinda working out thru July - finally in the first half of August I got on the bike and jumped in the pool to start picking up the other sports to do IMFL - 3 months is enough training for a marathon - I figured it should be enough to be at least "respectable" for an ironman. Here's the training I ended up doing:

So in the end about 10 hours per week average over 12 weeks - about 1/2 the "average" ironman does to train - and about 3 months instead of the average's 7 months of training. Although short of average, I felt pretty good about it delivering something respectable - beating the sunset seemed like a realistic goal for with what I had in the tank - sub10 hour is what it took for Kona in 2011 (actually 9:54) - I figured that was a <10 chance.="chance.">
SWIM: Swimming is by far my weak leg. A 25m pool at the YMCA was where 90% of my swimming was done. I'm sure with more focus I could cut down my swim time a lot but I really just wanted to do the minimum to get by because I just really didn't enjoy that part of the training - and this is all for "fun" afterall. I got two open water swims in the wetsuit and one full distance swim (in the pool) during the training. I was confident I could get by much like I did at IMTX although I was nervous about ocean swimming as I had never done that before short of playing in the waves as a kid or with my kids. Talk of Sharks, Sting-Rays and Jellyfish certainly didn't help. I arrived in Panama City Wednesday night and at least swam through the breakers a couple times Thursday/Friday mornings - but two 5 minute (somewhat fearful) swims was still quite different than 2.4 miles. But I figured I'd get over the nerves once the canon fired. IMTX's swim leg I finished in 1:32 - figuring the effects of ocean+wetsuit buoyancy and reduced crowds - I thought I'd be a bit quicker at IMFL.

The swim course is two loops counter clockwise into the gulf around some buoy about 1/2 mile out. When I got to Florida on Thursday the seas were very rough with a sea breeze to stir them up. By sunrise on raceday the sea was breeze was gone and the sea was calm which helped to calm my nerves. My wife and kids joined me race morning and after dropping off all the transition supplies and getting my bike all set up for the ride we were able to hang out on the beach before the start. I was given the advice from a long time ironman to line up way way away from the crowds to the right away from the buoy - can't go inside the buoy but can swim as far away from then as you like. Perhaps its commons sense but the distance to a buoy 1/2 mile away is pretty much the same if you move 1-200m down the beach - and the crowd difference is so much nicer.

A few last pictures with the family and I wade out into the water and wait for the "BOOM" (yeah - I thought it was a "beach" start but I guess you can wade out however much you want pre start). Duck under a couple breakers then pretty clear water - visibility ~5-10' - lots of room between swimmers - SOOO much nicer than Lake Woodlands in IMTX - I almost like this :). I'm able to get right into rhythm and crank out the strokes. I get around the buoy - a little more crowded there but not bad - accidentally go inside the buoy and get a quick re-direct by a guy on a surfboard - no problem. With about 1/3rd of the race down I discover a couple mistakes in my race planning 1) A little glide on the neck would have been a great idea, 2) Wearing my slightly too small bike shirt to save time during transition might was a bad idea. Whatever - a little chaffing – no big deal. That big hotel off in the distance keeps getting closer and closer:). Finally get close enough to body surf a wave in then up and run the beach for the 2nd loop. Thought I was cruising but a little surprised my 1/2 split was only 45 min - I was hoping closer to 40ish for the split - no big deal - I'm still delighted by such a pleasant swim - ok that's going too far but it didn't suck anyway. Back into the water - duck a few breakers and back to smooth swimming again. Each chaffing point becomes a little more painful with each stroke but there was really nothing I could do about it but keep going. Lots more of the same then I'm standing up and running up the beach pulling off wetsuit and stuff. 1:35'ish - again a bit slower than I'd like but I'm mostly happy it's over. It wasn't anywhere the euphoria of been DONE with IMTX - because it just didn't suck anything like that.

T1: To make this a quicker transition my plan was to just strip off the swim stuff, put on my bike shoes and go - with one exception - I MUST have my socks! The pros may do the bike/run without but I refuse to even try. I cross the swim finish and watch for my wife and kids and see some big smile and give back a big smile myself:


Then the strippers, a quick walk through shower and I'm jogging to get my transition bag. My wife tells me after that if we ever do another of these things she really wants to be a volunteer stripper - she just had a ball watching those guys and gals stripping off the wetsuits. I jog my way with my transition bag into the changing area and spend all the necessary time to put on my socks - toe socks (injinji) on wet feet take some extra time but I have such good fortune with blister resistance with those - they were worth the extra 1-2 minutes to me. Jog out in my bike shoes - get some sunscreen and a volunteer has my bike waiting for me - sweet - off I go.

BIKE: The bike training went pretty good. No crashes!! I got in one 100 miler and bunches of 50-80 milers on the weekends with time on the aerobars up to 4-5 hours at a time - amazing how time consuming biking it! I got to ride a bunch with my son Ryan which I enjoyed a lot. I practiced fueling unlike for IMTX - and figured I'd learned some things about how to do it wrong at IMTX so was looking for improvements. My best rides were in the 19ish mph range which for 112 miles - not quite where I got to for IMTX where I averaged 19.3 for the bike leg. Then I got the suggestion (thanks Tim Wilson) to try ZIPP tires - I'd never thought of that before but for $150 it looked like I could expect at least a 0.5 mph bump - Tim said even more - as much as 2 mph - but I didn't want to expect that kinda improvement. For fueling I thought I had a decent plan - I'd tested elements of it in training but never to full length at full volumes consumed.

Weather forecast for the day was a 60/83F with dew points around 60 (translation hot and humid) with a light breeze building from near zero to around 5 mph WNW - little cloud cover so I can keep an eye on my queary the whole day. First part of the ride was into the small breeze going west. Pace plan was to be very easy the first 30 miles to help much needed digestion for the rest of the race and slowly step it up a little with a negative split effort over the bike. I figured below ~135 HR would be pretty easy - typically I was averaging 140-145 on my bike rides - sometimes up to 150 for a hard ride. Pace came in consistently 20+ mph despite "easy" and even a little headwind - these ZIPP wheels are very very cool! I'm zipping by everyone - advantage of finishing so far back in the swim is the majority is ahead of you waiting to be passed :). Turn north for a bunch of miles - cross'ish wind - then turn East. At the turn east there just so happened to be an oil tanker truck working its way by all the bikes and I had the nicest little 30 mph stretch tucked right behind it. I'm not real sure about the drafting rules regarding vehicles - it’s illegal to draft another cyclist but I don’t recall any rules about drafting vehicles - probably that is illegal but it was so much fun :). That really only goes on for a little over 1/2 mile before it's going too fast to keep up with. A bunch more miles East still feeling easy and still cranking out lots of 20+mph miles - turn south and now I'm very slightly creeping the effort up - still pretty easy. A nice tailwind creeps the speed up with some pretty fast splits as fast as 24 mph. A turn NE then around 50 miles in I was feeling pretty speedy with the average up over 21 mph - then there was the 5 mile out and back road that revealed my mistake #1 for the bike. The road was very very bumpy with lots of obstacles (bottle, CO2 bottles, spare tires) that had rattled off the cyclists ahead. My rigid steel frame did well to translate every bump straight to my rump. I didn't lose any bottles or anything else on this ride but I after it was done I took stock and something was very different. I didn't have the full power stroke in my legs any more - turns out the screws for my seat weren't tight enough and I lost a couple inches. It didn't seem too bad and there wasn't much I could do about it - I tried to pull the seat up a couple times but no way. A little more north then a turn for a good long stretch west - with a bit more headwind. I started thinking a bit less about negative split - my third bottle of fuelling was not as easy to take as the first two - taste seemed a bit off - harder to drink. I finish it down - but then energy level seems to be dropping. I cheat a couple times and take a break drafting. Take a South turn at the same spot I drafted the big truck - I'm thinking 4 hours 1800 calories consumed in 3 bottles - 450 cal/hr - not too bad - slightly less than I wanted. I stick with water for a while trying to clear the stomach. I chew on a ginger laced shot block also trying to settle the stomach down a bit. I'd planned 4 bottles of the stuff I packed on the bike but I couldn't take a sip of the 4th bottle. Instead I grab an Ironman Preform bottle from an aid station which I'd planned to be my 5th bottle at the end of the bike. I'm around 90+ miles in and I take a sip of this mango flavored Preform - yuck - what kinda flavor is that - within a couple miles I'm forced to stop and toss cookies - first and only time I unclipped the shoes - I get going again but energy is weak and my stomach isn't going to be taking any more Preform - or that 4th bottle of stuff I've got. In the last 20 miles or so I'm just cruising much slower - some tailwind so not TOO slow - sipping water - I at least chow down the rest of my ginger laced shot blocks so get a couple hundred calories - but by the end of the bike - I'm not fueled adequate to run a marathon.

Target for the bike was to get around 2500 calories consumed with maybe a 200 calorie buffer from the minimum I'd need for a good run. This would have had my Fuel tank around 60% full which would likely be enough to sustain a 7ish mpm marathon. Instead my gas tank was down around a 1/4 tank with maybe 1800 calories from the bike. I knew this run wasn't going to go very well - add in the heat/humidity of the middle of the day with the life sucking orb - going to be a long run.

Mistake #2 for the bike turned out to my fuel choice and maybe my mixing of it. Ultrafuel is a ~70/30 mix of maltodextrin/fructose - long chain Carbs are good for getting the high calorie/minute movement through the stomach - a pretty normal fuel for cyclists as far as I can tell - but I mixed it a bit too strong - instead of 6 scoops + 24 oz water I did 6 scoops and filled up the 24 oz mixer cup - so the actual amount of water was less than 24 oz since the powder took up some volume - I think it won't pass the stomach that strong until diluted down with the water I was drinking. Also I think the mixture might get rancid in the heat after a while. I took it out of the fridge at 5am and was drinking it until ~8 hours later. Although there is no warning on the Ultrafuel bottle - I notice on other energy drinks "Time, temperature, humidity....may cause fatty acids to turn the presence of carbohydrates" - 3rd ingredient in Ultrafuel is a fatty acid - Citric Acid - I'm betting my 3rd bottle baked in the heat for 8 hours had got rancid. I'd used this stuff on long bikerides but the longest one was cool weather so it was refrigerated. One 3 bottle workout in the heat I was wondering a bit about that third bottle - but I didn't get far enough to see the results. Live and learn - I won't choose that fuel again.

Overall I finish around 5:45 for the bike leg - I figure I probably lost 15 minutes or so getting sick.

T2: I'd planned no change but also threw in a running shirt in case I wanted to get out of the bike jersey top and I decided to switch shirts. Otherwise this transition was pretty much change shoes - a little lube and sunscreen - and go. The neck scar from the swim hurt like a mofo when the lady spread the lotion over my neck. I down a gu and some water while I jog out of T2 and off I go.

RUN: Training was pretty much low mileage maintenance kinda stuff. One 20 miler - several 15 ish miles - a couple tune-up races - 10k and 5k - the 5k was 17:22 - a bit off my 16:40 PR but not bad for the low mileage I was doing with my running time crowded out by the swimming/biking. I was hoping to be running 7ish mpm which seemed like a pretty easy pace.

I take first couple miles very slow - my plan was to live off the course so I didn't bring anything for fuel or drink to carry. In an ironman there's an aid station EVERY mile so should be plenty of options. I'd planned to alternate Preform/cola from the aid station but I did water for first couple to help get the GU down. On the third I tried cola - that didn't go so well - 100m later I'm doing another cookie toss to the oohs and awes of a large family sitting outside their home watching the race. The fuel tank is now bouncing on empty and I just gotta sit down for a second and get my stomach under control. I picked the wrong spot as I was picking burrs out of my shorts after I got up a couple minutes later. I walk/jog onward - mostly walk - the calorie options at the next couple aid stations (mango preform or cola) made me almost sick just to think about taking them so I opted for pretzels, a slice of orange or banana - after a couple miles I see the most softest looking grass in the shade of a building - the idea of a little siesta was just too good. I couldn't stay there long and move along - I start getting the fuel gage off empty - every opportunity for chicken broth was taken - managed to down another gu after a while - I start developing a run walk routine that I could sustain. Running too slow was problematic - I'm not used to it - so I was either jogging ~8 mpm or walking and after a while the routine became 0.2 miles walk then jog to the next milemarker then repeat. It was a long long long time. Sunset happens around mile 17ish and I recall thinking - ok - you won. But the sun was not gloating - give me a very nice sunset - after that sunset it got very very dark for me for a couple miles. I finally took the prescription sunglasses off opting for blurry vision instead of dark and just keep the routine going - 0.2 walk, jog to the milemarker...repeat. What a long long marathon - but I was getting my damn finishing shirt and hat!

Final stretch - I'm jogging it in - I looking carefully to the right where the family is and see them and stop for high fives and a kiss. I hear "John Hill from Kingwood - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!" from the announcer - love it! - and something about get on across the finish and greet the family later:). I charge across quite happy to have made it to the finish of my second Ironman. I'm very very weak but somehow make it through the after race section with my own personal "catcher" holding me by the arm and walking me through making sure I'm OK.

I don't really have any "mistakes" for the run - I did what I could with the fuel gauge bounce on "E" - just can't run like that.

My wife and kids were great waiting by the finish for extra hours for me to finish the run. They got to see all from the leaders ~8 hours to me at ~12.5 hours come across the line. They enjoyed teasing me about the one-leg'd guy and the guy on the wheelchair and many overweight guys and girls that made it to the finishline before me. I remember that wheelchair guy - I had a 10 mile lead on him early in the run but he rolled by with many miles to go - I'm still wondering how he swam w/o legs - incredible.

I'm a happy finisher but I'm also so so weak. An hour line to get my drop bags nearly had me passing out - I had to sit a few times with someone holding my place. Finally I'm back with the family swapping stories and eating pizza - life is good again - it was so nice to have the family there - other then them I didn't know a sole in the race or spectating. We had some great times before and the next couple days playing in Florida - a nice little vacation.

So it's done - made a few mistakes which is OK - I was hoping for much better but mistakes are OK - things to learn from. Looking at the results it actually would have taken sub9:30 to get a Kona slot in my age group. After a 1.5 hr swim I'd need a 5 hr bike and 3 hr run to get in the ballpark which was not at all realistic. Even with a lot more training and perfect execution I doubt I'd get that low. The 50-54 AG didn't look a whole lot easier. Maybe the 55-59 AG I'd have a shot. Maybe I'll just wait a decade before thinking of taking any more Kona shots - I don't think I can get that much faster but maybe I can work on getting older for a while. Shift my focus back to what I love doing - running.

Next up - Kingwood Marathon - 1/1/2013.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ironman Florida Training Log

Miles Wk End'n Run Bike Swim hh:mm
0 4-Nov 37 143.8 2.8 15:08
1 28-Oct 29 69 2.6 8:42
2 21-Oct 41 89 3.5 11:12
3 14-Oct 34 122 1 11:32
4 7-Oct 54 108 2.8 13:50
5 30-Sep 44 118 3.7 13:52
6 23-Sep 27 172 2.2 14:05
7 16-Sep 9 154 1 12:48
8 9-Sep 24 49 1.2 6:44
9 2-Sep 21 125 0.5 10:24
10 26-Aug 42 15 0.7 7:27
11 19-Aug 2 84 8:59
12 12-Aug 7 116.7 7:45
Total 370 1366 22 142
Per Week 28 105 1.7 10:57
Per Day 4 15 0.2 1:33


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Anchorage Marathon - 2012

A quick recap from Anchorage Marathon.

I wasn't going for record times but wanted good strong grit from this race. Fitness hasn't been at a high since Houston back in January, tapering wasn't ideal with a fishing trip the entire week prior with lots of beer and late nite cards, and 10 days of mostly no running ending the week prior to fishing (about half from being too busy and half from a sprained ankle) - I was figuring I was around 6:25ish mpm marathon pace. But peak fitness wasn't my goal. My goal was all about having a good strong with all I've got kinda race - I didn't get that in Boston where I felt I'd squandered the opportunity giving into weak thinking - and that mental wimpiness has been knawing at me since. I wanted that all-out race at Anchorage. And I got it. No weakness any part of the race today. Gave all I had.

Ran the highest average heartrate for a marathon at 162. That's 1.5 bpm higher than my highest in the prior 14 marathons (which happenned to be 2008's Anchorage Marathon). Whether or not HR is any indication this was my grittiest effort or not I won't debate. But it sure felt as gritty as any race I've done before - I'll take it.

9th place overall and so glad I had a recent birthday so instead of 4th in the 40-44 AG for nada. I get the gold medal in the 45-49. Cool beans. 2:55:37 finishing time - about a 1 minute negative split. Temps weren't ideal averaging mid 60s - but soo much better than Houston running - felt great.

Here's the splits:

Distance Split time Avg HR
1 6:12 150
2 6:34 162
3 6:43 162
4 6:50 162
5 6:24 162
6 6:44 161
7 7:00 162
8 6:20 159 trail
9 6:25 158 trail
10 6:38 159 trail
11 7:14 160 trail
12 6:26 159 trail
13 6:55 160 trail
14 7:49 160 trail
15 6:28 158 trail
16 6:17 161 1/2 trail
17 6:24 161
18 6:22 162
19 6:29 163
20 6:39 164
21 6:44 164
22 6:30 163
23 6:33 164
24 6:36 165
25 6:41 166
26 6:51 169
26.48 2:49 (6:01) 173 (175 max)

1st half 1:28:18 160
2nd half 1:27:19 163
2:55:37 161.6

Temps - Start/End 59°/68°F
Elevation - +672 ft, -769 ft.

A negative ~1 minutes split - my second ever negative split with the first being this same race in 2008 with a -37 second split (2nd half is a little faster with more downhill and less trails). I think the HR was raising as the temps were creaping up last 10 miles. Execute pretty much as planned - back off a touch through the trails then step it up again after they were done - easier to see that in the HR data - pace data bounces all over with hills variations start to finish. Clearly the fitness is off 4 years ago with a 10 minutes slower time - but as a race - I think I ran it about as good as I could with what I had in the tank. Course factors add about 5 minutes on this race (trails and hills) plus the temps probably added 1-2 minutes from the ideal so I'll call it a ~2:48ish equivalent flat marathon - which is about where my fitness reads were saying the prior week. Good enough for me to feel good about.

I ran this race my favorite way of running a race - no indication of pace - only HR - and like a robot just stick to the HR plan I've proven in the past I can sustain without worrying about the clock. Worked like a charm most of the way through varying terrain until last 10k or so where it felt OK to take it a bit higher. Not usually possible with most races that give constant updates along the way of the time but this race was small enough there were no splits given anywhere so I could rig the Garmin to just give me HR and distance with high/low vibrating alerts when I drifted too fast or slow - my prefered way to run these things.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beach 2 Bay Relay - Corpus Christi

Beach 2 Bay Marathon:

Time forecast for the relay race split between the 6 on team “Chariots of Striders” was based on 4x5:45 mpm runners and 2x6:10-15 mpm runners = 2:34 total time for the marathon or 5:53 mpm. Line-up in order of the running was Steve Schroeder, Andrew Sharenson, John Yoder, Tommy King Jr, Garrett Rychlik, John Hill(me) - That's an awesome line-up of runners out of Houston - a very competitive team and we were looking for a podium spot in the Master's division.

It was a hot day – that pretty much sets the scene for the last 5 races in a row for me. On this particular day by the time I ran my leg (~9:30am) it was 80°F with a Dew Point around 70°F. I’m still in a bit of shell-shock from the blazing hot Boston Marathon recently but this is actually hotter – fortunately I only get to run just under 5 miles in this marathon relay instead of the whole thing like Boston. Heat and Humidity overcame 1,050 people treated for heat exhaustion compared to last year there were 60 according to news reports the next day. With 2500 teams of 6 (15,000 people) – that’s around 1 out of 15 people – amazing since we “only” ran 4-5 miles each.

Our pre-race forcasts had me getting the baton at 9:06 so I timed my pre-race 5 miles of jogging around to finish about 10 minutes before. 9:24 was when I received the handoff to start my relay after apparently a late start at leg 1 plus we were all a bit slowed by the heat vs the time forecast. I’d counted 9-10 people through the exchange before my handoff so I started this leg in either 10th or 11th place and I could not see the next guy coming so figured he was pretty far back. Here’s my splits:

5:34/163 – I kept trying to slow down – I was targeting ~5:50-6:00 for the first mile but I couldn’t seem to get that slow – there was a pretty good tailwind this mile that about matched my speed so the air felt very still (and the heat felt hotter). A kid (High School?) caught up and passed me before the end of the mile which surprised me a bit since I was so much faster than planned and didn’t see anyone close and the handoff – he must have been flying that first mile.
5:53/174 – closer to my target pace – not feeling too hard yet - I'm all alone.
6:06/177 – I was hoping to stay in the 5’s but pace is slowly slipping – getting hard.
6:15/178 – getting real hard – man it’s hot. I resist the temptation to look behind to see if anyone was chasing me down – there’s no one for a long way ahead.
5:58(pace for 0.95 miles)/180 (186 max) – last ¼ mile or so a couple team mates get me motivated to sprint it in and I’m still not so sure if there’s someone coming up from behind to sneak past me at the end so the last ¼ mile was closer to 5:00 pace.

Total 5:57 mpm/4.95 miles (per Garmin – 4.89 miles per race website).

The magic moment as I’m running full speed for the finishline --- announcer calls over the loudspeaker “First Place Master’s Team from Houston” – YESS!!!!

Our final time was 2:40 (6:07) so we all averaged ~14 sec/mile slower than plan (did I mention it was hot). That's about 1 minute faster than last year's 2nd place Master's team which 4/6 of the team was on (not me or Steve) and also about 1 minute faster than my 2nd place team back in 2008. 11th place overall with 7 open teams and 3 junior teams ahead of us leaving us 1st place Masters! Great job guys!!

Others on the team certainly mentioned the heat out there – three of us had just run Boston so we were feeling the déjà vu. Leg 1’s out and back with 2500 packed together running opposite directions on the same stretch of sand sounded especially interesting. I think I managed to get two extra beers at the finish beyond my 2 per bib allocation so all was good in the post-race party.

That’s the 4th team victory I’ve been a part of this year. The other three were Houston Marathon Team Challenge – 1st Marathon, Texas Independence Relay – 1st Overall, Bayou Bash Relay – 1st Masters. There’s something pretty sweet about winning as a team – love it! I’ve got one more team challenge next month (track meet – Shell vs Exxon are the typical rivals for top spot) – hopefully we can bring home one more victory. Chances are pretty high that report will start “It was a hot day”. I do hope to get a cool race in next month to break this streak of hot races – after my fishing trip in Alaska in June I plan to hang out a couple extra days and run the Anchorage Marathon on June 23rd – I ran that race back in 2008 and found it a fun cool race so looking to repeat and maybe I can pull out a Master’s win up there since they define a Master as 45+, something to shoot for anyway.