Saturday, September 27, 2008

1.86 Miles in 47:44

I ran my first Baldy Hill Climb today. It was the slowest 1.86 miles of my life!

It was the 30th anniversary of this community bonding torture chamber. The race itself runs straight up the mountain from Warm Springs lodge to The Top. Starting at 5,880 feet the finish rests at 9,020 feet. There are a bunch of cheerful people up there greeting you but nobody cares. You're just glad it's over. I don't care to do the math but it was, to say the least, an absolute sufferfest. I finished 9th. 2nd in my age-group. The most impressive performance was turned in by 64 year-old Del Pletcher. He beat me by over 3 minutes. In short, the dude's a cardo animal who clearly defies the clock (like a bunch of other people around here!) If you ever wondered what it might feel like to have two railroad spikes jammed into your calves repeatedly for an hour or so this event is for you. And, the post-race party at Apples Bar and Grill is about as good as it gets. It feels like Europe. Except everyone speaks English, I think...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on Stomach Issues

I just finished Rod Bien's race report from Angeles Crest and stomach issues came to mind. It seems that of all the things that bring people down in 100 milers stomach problems (along with blisters and trashed quads) are among the most common.

In my experience stomach problems are capricious and highly unpredictable. One race can go by with no problems at all while the next race things start going down early and the damage is done.

So, I thought I'd throw out a few things I've learned over the years that have helped me and perhaps these might help you as well. However, before I do, I should mention that in my 20 100 mile races over nine years I have experienced nausea in every one and have I experienced vomiting in five out of the twenty 100's. Here are some things that seem to work for me.

1. Regardless of temperature or humidity I begin drinking chicken broth about four hours into the race and continue it throughout. I find for me that the heavy sodium content in chicken broth keeps me from getting sick.

2. If it's hot I try to keep cool by dousing myself with water particularly on my neck, on my wrists and on my stomach.

3. I don't wear anything around my waist.

4. I eat all solid food during the first 50 miles so that the gels taste new and different during the second 50. I usually start with a 600-700 calorie breakfast and then eat something solid every 90 minutes or so. I try to eat going uphill so I can hammer the downhills without a full stomach. I usually eat yogurt, granola, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey, cheese and avocado sandwiches, pretzels, cookies and Payday Bars. I also try to drink sportsdrink (Gu20, EFS, Cytomax, Succeed Ultra, whatever tastes good) during the first 50 miles to keep the calories flowing and then I usually switch over to all water during the 2nd 50. Once I switch to gels I take them about every thirty minutes although as the race progresses I take them more frequently getting down to about one every 15 minutes for the last hour. Basically, as soon as my stomach feels empty I eat one (sometimes two)

5. If I get a little wave of nausea I take salt, drink a full bottle of water and I try to slow down for about 10 minutes or until the wave of nausea goes away. If I am near an aid station I try to get there and then ask for (and hopefully get) Ginger Ale. For some reason Ginger Ale works very well for me.

6. In the event that I do begin vomiting I attempt to get as much out of my system as possible. It can be pretty gross but I find that if I completely empty my stomach I can begin filling it sooner and faster.

7. After vomiting I usually enjoy a post-vomit feeling of euphoria which allows me to run fast for about 15 minutes. After this fast section I then need to start eating and I try to start with something fatty and salty like chips and then move up to gels if possible. After the 15 minute burst I need to slow down to refill my stomach. If it goes well I can get back on track within 30 mins of the "event."

8. I try to stay as mentally positive during my vomiting episodes as possible. When you stop to think about it it's kind of funny and I find having a positive attitude and saying things like, "Man, that was a full-blown rejection!" helps me forget about how bad I'm feeling. I find that many runners get in a funk after puking so I try to get motivated by it and laugh about it.

9. The most important thing I do, I think, is I always stay hydrated. I know it may sound obvious but in my experience bad things happen when I'm dehydrated. No matter what the temperature I drink 50-60 ounces per hour throughout the race and try to stay on top of hydration above all else. At Western States in 2006 when it was 114 degrees in El Dorado Canyon I drank 120 ounces in one hour!

10. I keep telling myself "It never always gets worse."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wasatch 100 Report - 2008

This was a great race! After Western States was canceled this year Wasatch became my focus race for the season. With a solid Vermont 100 and a quick recovery behind me I focused on hillwork and altitude training in the six weeks leading up to Wasatch. I think the combination worked as I felt solid all day with only the occasional bad patch keeping me from breaking 21 hours.

The race started in perfect conditions. Under a cloudless sky my pacer and good friend Craig Thornley drove me to the start and within minutes we were off to the races. The first three miles were along beautiful rolling singletrack and a small pack of five gradually assumed the lead. As we began the 4500 ft climb up Chinscraper the sun emerged in the east and Geoff Roes, Jack Pilla, Larry O'Neil, Leland Barker and I took it all in with smiles on our faces and excitement in the air.

After cresting Chinscraper we cruised the long rolling downhill to the first major aid station of the race at Francis Peak (Mile 18.6). Geoff and Jack had a 30 second lead on me and Larry and Leland were close behind. I met Craig and Jeff Riley at the aid station and ate my customary yogurt and granola, dropped off some stuff and was on my way. In my haste to catch up with Geoff and Jack to have some company for the next section I quickly went off trail and wandered around in the woods for about 10 minutes before I found the trail again and was on my way. Much to my surprise, a few minutes later Geoff, Jack and Larry came up behind me having also gotten a bit off course and we began running together. As the day warmed we enjoyed the scenery from the high ridge line above Salt Lake while Larry regaled us with stories of the powdery old days at Alta and Snowbird. Jack and Geoff were running well and I quickly realized that they were stronger than me on the climbs. Only over the last downhill two miles into Big Mountain Aid Station (Mile 39) was I able to catch back up to them on the long, 1200 foot descent. I knew this was going to be a tough day. In addition, I had already taken two hard faceplants so I was a bit bloodier than usual and had strange pains in my shoulders.

From Big Mountain we continued to run in a pack of four until the downhill into Alexander Ridge. At this point I tried to test my legs on the long technical downhill and thought I had gained a slight edge on Geoff and Jack only to have them quickly reel me in about a mile out of the aid station on the long, sloggy climb between Alexander and Lamb's. From there we ran together into Lamb's during the only really hot part of the day.

I got out of Lamb's quickly but Geoff didn't let me get very far. As I was eating my turkey sandwich he quickly ran by and within minutes had a 200 yard lead on me. As he made the right hand turn onto the singletrack trail heading over BearAss Pass I had a feeling that this was his move. I did not see the tough young Alaskan again until the finish line when he woke up to congratulate me.

The climb up BearAss was a struggle and by the time I got to Elbow Fork and ran in to Hans Dieter in his RV Geoff had a three minute lead. Running every step up the road to Upper Big water gave me a 1:50 split for the Lamb's to Big Water section and I was still within four minutes of Geoff. Craig started running with me here and we made steady progress up to Dog Lake and Desolation Lake where I saw Geoff's silhoutte up on Red Lovers' Ridge. He had 10 minutes on me. "Man, the dude is tough!"

Craig and I hiked hard up to the ridge and ran the entire way to Brighton. My 2:45 split from Big Water to Brighton kept me within 10 minutes of Geoff and I felt great getting into Brighton before 8PM. Looking back on the race now, this 14 mile stretch was by far the most enjoyable section of the day for me on what is, truly, one of the most beautiful sections of singletrack trail I know.

After a quick reload and one last visit with Shelly, Carson, Logan and Tully we were on our way up Catherine's Pass and the high point of the course, Point Supreme. Darkness came about halfway up the climb and we made it into Ant Knolls about an hour after we left Brighton. I was still feeling good. Geoff now had 20 minutes on me. The climb up The Grunt (600 ft vertical in a half mile) really beat me up and I ended up getting into Pole Line Pass 10 minutes behind schedule. At the aid station I pounded some soup and ginger ale and felt much better as Craig and I forged on into the night chasing the Alaskan Flash. If I had any hope of getting close I had to hammer now.

I was happy with my split from Pole Line to Pot Bottom as I took some major risks on the dive and the plunge and powered up the climbs as best as I could. By the time I got to Pot Bottom I was wiped out. It was shortly before 1AM, Geoff had an hour lead, and I was smelling the barn. I took 94 minutes to get home from there. It was a tough last stretch but I was pleased when I finished. Craig did an amazing job of pushing and guiding me to a second place finish and my crew, as usual, were awesome.

It must be said that Geoff's performance was truly outstanding. While he didn't break 20 hours his 5:15 from Brighton to the finish must be the fastest split ever for that section and he old-schooled it the whole way with no pacers or crew and only minimal drop bags. At 32 years old he clearly has many more great runs in his future. Vermonter Jack Pilla should also be congratulated for setting the 50 and over course record and giving me yet another scare (he was nipping at my heels in Vermont earlier this summer) with his 21:47.

As for me, it is time for some time off to enjoy the trails while not being in training mode. I may do something shorter this fall like the Quad Dipsea or perhaps Firetrails before gearing up in the Spring for another shot at Western States. In the meantime I will savor the fact that Wasatch was my 20th 100 mile finish in 20 attempts and continue to revel in the wonder of 100 mile mountain running.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Finishing touches

I ran with Rob and Mike up Hyndman Peak (12,000 ft) on Saturday after sleeping a couple nights at 9,300 during our school's Fall Campout. In addition, I made a couple trips over 10,500 during the week to finish off my altitude preparation for Wasatch. The last two days I've done a couple 10 mile Tempo Loops in Adam's Gulch and have felt strong. Now, it's just a couple more days of jogging in the dark before the family and I head down to SLC on Friday. I have MonkeyBoy and Lord Balls ready to pace me and I just took one more close look at Jasper's splits from last year for inspiration. At this point I've decided to try to simply run my own race and see where the chips fall. Not surprisingly, I am feeling a bit fresher this year since Western States was canceled so I don't have quite the fatigue in my legs that I've had in past years on Labor Day. That said, Wasatch is truly a beast and anything can happen on race day. Game on!