Monday, February 20, 2012

Iron Horse 2012

I'm not sure who talked me into this thing called "Ultra Running"... Baboo?  Vato?  Jenny?  I'll blame you all.  Di and took off from Tampa to head to Palatka, FL to run the 4th or 5th running of the Iron Horse Ultra.  I'd signed up for the 100k - my first Ultra ever - after Jen said, rather convincingly, "you've done an Ironman, you can do an Ultra".  Hmph.

So we rolled into Palatka - and if you are from Palatka, I apologize - but OMG this is redneck USA.  Our dinner choices were:  all of the fast food chains you can think of, a packed, line out the door Chili's, or Golden Corral.  WE CHOSE POORLY.  Not having been to all the Golden Corral's in the country, it's hard to say that this is the worst one...but it's got to be close!  Fortunately, I guess, the food tasted so bad that we didn't eat enough to be sick the next day.

5am comes early - we drove out for a 7am race start, and was startled with an actual "starter's gun" sendoff.  My plan was simple; walk a half mile, run a half mile for as long a I could.  I'd done so in practice runs, and was able to keep a 13-min pace... Also... drink lots.  Remember to eat.  Change socks and shoes at 28 miles.  Be tough.  Easy, right?

After everyone took off from the start, I spent the rest of the day pretty much running by myself.  Hit the 10 mile mark at 2:10, exactly on "plan".  20 miles came at 4:23 - only 3 min back from plan.  30 miles rolled in at 7:05 - now about 30 min back from plan.  But I had done a change of clothes, stopped to pee a dozen times (I was hydrating really well apparantly), and hit 4-5 aid stations as well.  At 30 miles I thought the plan was working well - I thought I'd saved enough for the next 30.

40 miles told a different story.  At exactly 10hrs of running, it took an extra 40min to run that leg then my 13-min plan.  I could tell - my walking pace and my running pace were much slower.  After changing shoes and socks, my right foot was developing blisters - It was almost as if these second shoes had a narrower toe-box than the first pair.  I'll figure that out... but the damage was done, and the foot was now hamburger.  I'd also somehow tweeked my left knee - the one with that I'd had my ACL repaired - I couldn't straighten it completetly, and soon running, even at a shuffle, was no longer possible.  My pace dropped steadly, and just like that, my miles were averaging in the 22-23 min per mile range.  The drop came fast and hard.  It was ugly.

My Garmin battery died 6 min into mile took an hour for me to walk it in to 50 miles.  I finished the 50 miles at 13:56, an hour under the 15 hr cutoff.  I was going for the 100k (62miles), but a 2 miles per hour, I was looking at another 6 hrs out there, and 20 hrs total - 2 hrs over the cutoff.  Good enough for government work.

Diana was a trooper - she drove out and met me at the 13.5 mile turnaround, twice, and also at the 28 mile point so I could change clothes.  She dragged my hobbled body back to the hotel and got me some food before I fell asleep.  It had to be pretty boring for her, not knowing anyone at her first Ultra, in a town without much to do in it!  

What did I learn?  Well, I don't think I trained for 100k.  Obviously I did enough to get through 50 miles, but I was so far removed from the next 12 miles, and the cutoff, that I think I need more miles in me next time.  Feet swell!  Especially with as much Heed as I was drinking, combating the humidity and heat buildup - I could really feel my hands swelling up, and that should have been my key for my feet.  I really didn't even think about it, even as the blisters grew.  Lose weight.  At some point, reality sets in for a 270lb ultra runner- there aren't many 270 lb ultra runners for a reason!  I really should be more like 230 for these things.  For all things.  C'mon Bigun!!!!!  Arrrg.  I really liked my waist pack.  I really, really liked my Knuckle Light!  I put it on my waist pack belt, and shined it downward - it was perfect.  I'm glad I carried it from the start, and didn't wait for 50 miles like I had planned.  Those last 4 - 5 miles would have been impossible in the pitch black.

Run more.  Duh.  Lose Weight.  Duh.  Balance the sodium intake.  Thinner socks, less padding, more room in the shoe.

It was amaising to see the levels of finess out there.  The speed and effortless of men and women running after 50 and 75 miles was hard to believe.  Everyone was friendly and genuine - even the frontrunners had encourgement for me, even as they lapped me on a 25 mile loop.  The volunteers were awesome, the race was well run, and except for the rocks not yet grown over from years of duty holding up train tracks, it would be an easy decision to sign up again for next year.  I'll have to wait for the pain to wear off first...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bigun FatAss 50K Ultra

I"m still not sure this was a good idea.  265lbs, and 31 miles do not, in general, make for a nice day.  But, I was looking for the next challenge, after 2 Ironman finishes, and quite a few of my bloggy, Facebooky triathlon friends have gone over to the dark side of Ultra, and lets face it, I'm easily influenced.

So how do you complete an Ultra?  I really had no idea, 12 or so weeks ago when I first started getting the itch.  I did the online research.  I got a couple books.  I self-coached.  I signed up for an event - perhaps a bit overreaching, but you all know the way these things work - you have to put an event on the calendar.  It's the rules.

So I signed up for Iron Horse 100k Ultra (Feb 18) back in November, and most of the sample training programs say that, at a minimum for a 62-mile run, you should really do half of that at some point before the race.  Now I've also read that there's not much reason to have a long run much longer than 20 miles, a plan I like a whole lot better - but I really wanted to some point of reference under my belt before February.

I had a couple of choices - Gator Ultra and Everglades Ultra both had 50k runs, but Gator was a 2.5hr drive away, and the Everglades Ultra wanted $155 to go run.  Seemed a bit excessive - so in my infinite wisdom, I decided to do a self supported, lonely 50k right here in Flatwoods, 20 min from my front door.  A last minute suggestion was a good one - go and pace someone at the Long Haul 100 mile Ultra being held about 30 min from my house.  This whole thing was such an unknown to me, however, I don't know, it just didn't seem fair to go out there and run-walk when my agenda was something other than helping out another runner.

So I packed up my gear - just my Camelbak Delany DC

and some gels, I loaded one bottle with Gatorade, the other with water, and off I went.  Lesson #1:  It's dark in the woods at 5:15 with no moon.  I'm used to running out on Bayshore; the lights of Tampa and the streetlights are such I could read a book at midnight.  I'd forgotten how scary the woods are at night.  Alone.  I figured out at mile 5 something I used to know - I run slower in the dark.  In this instance, perhaps that's a good thing, but those first rays of dawn were a welcome sight!  Bottom line, the Bigun needs a running light.  It was still 9 miles before I saw another (real) human being - my first inkling of a eureka discovery.

One full lap at Flatwoods, Gate-Gate is almost exactly 13 miles.  I ran back to my truck, and lubed up with some Body Glide - lesson #2:  Lube up BEFORE starting up the run.  I've got some nice NIKE lycra under-garments, but I still had some chafing issues not even half way into this thing.  Out I went on lap 2, and into the unknown.  Once past 26.2 miles, I had no idea what to expect (yes, the Body Glide cured the issue, and I was good to go to the finish)...

My Dad rode by on his bike, in the opposite direction, a bit later at the 18 mile mark.  I was in the midst of some really bad pain at that point, so a short break was ok - but stopping even for a minute just made it hurt more.. had to keep moving!  Dad rolled back around at 21 miles, so I turned back on the loop and welcomed his company for the two miles back to his car.  The eureka moment is coming into focus now...

At that point, I just couldn't keep my shirt on any longer.  My nips were rubbed raw, the simple act of removing my shirt meant one less painful piece of this strange new puzzle.  Hard lesson #3:  Bandaids become a part of the pack!  A nice reminder of taking my shirt off - today I've got a bit of sunburn.  I was still running a bit, even at +22 miles when my Dad was with me, but once I left his car, I really had a hard time doing anything but walk.  I did the "just run to that fence" and "run to that trail up there" for darn near 7 miles! Here's how the pace looked by mile:

My goal was to stay at 5 miles per hour for as long as I could.  I walked .15 and ran .85 almost to the 20th mile.  Each time I do a long run, I can maintain that cadence longer and longer.  I think it's a valid way to eat this elephant - at least until at some point where I just can't run any longer.  Like those last 9 over 15-min miles.   So maybe I'm going out too hard still, for me.
I got back to my truck at mile 30... how cruel is that?!?  I turned around, walked back down the trail a half mile and then walked back in for the full 31 miles.  How was that mile faster than the one before it?  I saw a runner that I saw on one of the laps walking it in.  I walked in faster.  Eureka knowledge comes completely into focus!

Eureka: Doing these things alone, on your own, is NOT the way to do it!  The camaraderie of fellow runners.  Their support and the support of volunteers and of pacers, even on bikes.  Seeing that person you've been chasing, or that passed you, who is now hurting and passable - that's what these events should be about, and that's how I'll do better than 7:23:10 next time.  I learned a lot about my self and ultra running with this exercise, but I missed all of the fun things about running and ultras - all those things centered around other people.

The next day, I'm sore, but not crippled.  By tomorrow, Monday, I'll be walking fine, and on Tuesday I'll be back on my training schedule, with any luck.  My feet, in the way of blisters or hot spots, are clear with the exception of a small area on one toe that almost always blisters (duh, I really need to get preventive with that as well).  I truly have NO IDEA how I'm gonna go double that distance in 4 weeks. This workout was NOT a confidence booster - more like a reality check. Gulp.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A year gone by!

Holy crap!  A whole year since I've posted... Facebook sure has killed my blog, at least.

Major happenings in 2011... lets see...
  • I got promoted at work - kind of a big deal.  
  • got back on the training wagon - did some runs, did some tri's, lost some weight...
  • I'm now a multiple Ironman finisher... IMAZ is in the books.
  • Did a "clean" cycle - almost like a cleanse, but without the supplements.  I liked it.
So here we are in 2012.  I've already signed up for a new, different endurance event - Iron Horse Ultra.  I'm pretty sure at some point I said I'd NEVER do another stand-alone marathon, let alone attempt a 62 mile run - but as they say, "never say never".  I'm pretty fed up with one horrible Ironman run after another, so I'm taking 2012 and concentrating on my running abilities.  Sure, I'm signed up for a couple of half IM's already - Gator and Florida Challenge - but I'm also mixing in some running events to spice it up.
  • Iron Horse 62m Ultra - Feb
  • Gasparilla Michelob Ultra Challenge (15k/5k on Sat, 13.1/8k on Sunday) - March
  • Gator Half IM - March
  • Sunrise to Sunset cross-Florida 180 mile Relay - March (hard time fielding a team of 4... but getting close)
  • Florida Challenge Half IM- April
  • Gulf Coast Half IM - May (might have a work conflict...)
  • Wickam Park Ultra - May 
  • Mad Beach Sprint Tri - Jun
  • Morton Plant Meese Sprint Tri - July
  • IM Louisville - August (not signed up yet... still saving, still debating)
  • Hinson Lake 24h Ultra - Sep
So it's a diverse year; I may get bit by the Ultra bug, I might hate it.  I've got a 50K (32mile) training run in 2 weeks, that will be my first official unofficial Ultra - I'm just running it on my own around the house.  As they say in Ultra world, a Fat Ass 50K.  Hopefully I'll learn a bit that day - I'm pretty clueless as to what to expect, and I'm sure at the Iron Horse (don't you just love that name?) I'll be trying to simply follow the masses.  Start out slow and taper off.

They say that Ultra people are the friendliest athletes out there - other than my Tri friends that also do Ultras, I've only met one other guy - the RD for Hinson Lake 24HR Ultra - Tom Gabell and his wife Donna who went to school with Tri-Sherpa Di.  What a great couple, and everything I read in blogs about his race makes me want to go there and do it all the more.

So, a different sort of year this year - we'll see how it goes.  Perhaps I'll have a different flavor to my blog - an ultra flavor - lamenting on my many mistakes as I figure out how to run further than I've ever gone before.  Do you hear the theme to Star Trek now, or is it just me?