Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Training Summary

In the month of February I ran:

26 times and logged 292 Miles
Longest Run - 100 miles
Shortest Run - 3 miles
Max HR in training - 173
Min Resting HR - 37 (Feb 26th)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What I Like Most About Western States...

For me, that’s easy, it’s “The It” of the Race.

Western States is more than a race, it’s more than a run through the mountains, it’s more than a journey, it's more, even, than an event. I guess, ultimately, it’s a quest, perhaps, even, a secular pilgrimage. For me, the race has gotten under my skin and into my blood. It’s gotten to the point now, after five finishes, that I begin thinking and dreaming about “next year” before even “this year” is finished. A little twisted, I admit, but I love so much about this race I cannot always put it easily into words.

As much as the 100 mile distance can sever the spirit and enrich the soul at times it comes down to the little things that need to go right to make running Western States a success. The Western States 100 demands patience and persistence. It rewards wisdom and luck. It takes a steady mind and a driven heart. Above all, I think, it takes faith. Faith in the trail, faith in the process, faith in nature, faith in the power of the human body to overcome adversity, and faith that, through it all, the Finish Line will make it all worth it.

Three aspects of the race epitomize, for me, the "it" of Western States.

First of all, there’s The Course. Not only does it ooze with history from the frontier gold mining days and the early years of the California Republic but it also stands as testimony to the history of trail running as we know it in this country. From Gordy and Cowman, to Jim King, Ann Trason, Tim Tweitmeyer, Scott Jurek and the rest, the Western States Course has been the Holy Grail of ultramarathon running for the last 35 years and the list of winners and other characters is truly awe-inspiring. Running through those canyons one can’t help but feel the presence of history, tradition and something more significant than just a day out on the trail.

Then, there’s the event itself. Some events in sports simply transcend the moment and become larger than life. In fact, these events often subsume the actual experience and make people do strange and unpredictable things. Usually these events, occurring annually in sacred locales, provide a perspective on sport and life that is transcendent. Augusta National, Churchill Downs, and Alpe D’Huez come to mind as such places. There are some who criticize Western States as an over-hyped race that threatens the old-school tradition of Ultramarathon running. In fact, some even avoid the event because of that. However, as much as those people may have a point, it is undeniable that the spectacle that is the Western States 100 has duly earned its place in the Pantheon of sports. It’s not only what it is it’s where it is, too. And that, as Robert Frost might say, makes all the difference.

Finally, there’s the “vibe”. I’ve only run the race a handful of times so I know there are many out there who understand this better than me but something about the race is magnetic. If an event can have charisma Western States has it. It’s the Ultramarathon version of Barack Obama! I have finished at least two Western States’ after which I’ve said, “Maybe it’s time to do other things.” But, each time, after it all settles in, I’m ready to get back to Squaw, back to The Canyons, back to that trip down to The River and back to those last 20 miles which, as we all know, is the crux of the race.

In the end, we have many things in life to like, to cherish, to obsess over and even to get so carried away about that we have quotes taped to our bathroom mirrors and entire weeks devoted to training and war-storying. In these tough times it’s nice to have something we can all love and look forward to.

Now, let’s keep these rains and snows coming so the thing doesn’t get burned out again!

Train on, friends!

This is the second in a series of synchroblogs leading up to the 2009 WS 100. Other posts include:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Odds and ends

Well, it's official, assuming 12th on the waitlist gets me in I'll be doing the WS/HRH "double" in 2009. That means I'll be training for two races at once which should be fun. I'd like to run a combined time of 48 hrs in the 2 races so given that I hope to be chasing Tweit's Masters' Record at WS I'd like to be in the 30-31 hour range at HRH. Am I nuts? Don't answer that!

I've also begun my hill training phase in my build up for WS which means the horizontal miles are fewer and the vertical feet are greater. Just today I did 10 miles in 1:48 but climbed 3400 feet (on snow). Fun stuff. I am hoping to be in 4 hour shape by WTC four weeks from now and then try to do an 8 hour R2R2R in late March before getting down to business.

And, I've got a bit of work travel coming up over the next two weeks so I'll be running on the fly and just getting by. These are the days....

Monday, February 9, 2009

2009 Rocky Raccoon 100 Race Report

Over the past few years the Rocky Raccoon 100, under the extraordinary leadership of Race Director Joe Prusaitis, has enjoyed consistent growth and become recognized as an extremely well-organized, logistically simple 100 mile trail run.

Known as one the “easier” 100’s, Rocky Raccoon draws veterans and newbies to Huntsville State Park 60 miles north of Houston every February to run five 20-mile loops through the park. This year Joe made significant changes to the course and, while the general terrain was still the same as in the past, the course contained far fewer dirt road sections and far more rooted, winding, sandy, single-track trail sections. From my perspective and for a runner of my ability I felt this added about 10-15 minutes per loop over the previous course.

My day started pretty well as I fell into a lead group with Scott Jaime and Jonathan Gunderson. During the first 20-mile circuit we chatted about our summer running plans (Jonathan – Badwater, Scott – Hardrock, and me – the WS/HRH double) and got a sense of the day. By the time we came around to the start/finish (in a new location from past year’s which cut out ¼ mile of pavement) we had settled into a nice pace and began to feel the heat coming on (temperatures ultimately reached the low-80’s). I took a bit longer in the Aid Station than Scott and Jonathan took a bit longer than me so we left for Loop 2 in that order.

I pushed a bit for the first 10 minutes of Loop 2 thinking I could catch back up to Scott but he appeared to be making a move so I let him go. By the time I got to Dam Road (Mile 26) he had a 90 second lead on me that he built to about five minutes by the end of Loop 2. He looked steady and strong on each of the out and back sections and it was shaping up to be a pretty good race. In addition, Jamie Donaldson, one of the strongest female 100-mile runners in the country, was cruising along about 10 minutes behind me and I knew she would be close all day.

Loop 3 went well. The temperatures were starting to rise but a nice breeze was keeping it manageable. My nutrition plan of eating all solid foods and sports drink for the first 60 miles seemed to be working and my legs felt strong. By the time I approached the turnaround at Mile 60 Scott’s lead was a bout five minutes and I thought I might have a chance to make up some ground on Loop 4. I also spent a bit of time at this turnaround talking with Joe and Kevin Sullivan (the 50 mile race winner and my crew for the last two loops) and Joe said he had a pacer for me for Loop 5 if I wanted one.

I left the 60 Mile mark at 8:55 on the clock and was thinking 15:30-16:00 might be enough to win. I pushed pretty hard up to Dam Road at Mile 66 and as I was leaving the aid station I saw Scott about two minutes up the trail. It was a long, straightaway section so I was able to keep him in my sights. After about two miles I met up with him, we chatted a bit, and I ran on. He seemed pretty tired but I wasn’t sure if I’d seen the last of him. Not only is Scott tough but he’s fast and his experiences at Hardrock and other mountainous 100’s suggested to me that he would be patient and smart. By the time I got back to the start/finish at Mile 80 I had a five minute lead and was in and out by 12:15 on the clock. The race was on!

I quickly filled up my bottles and grabbed seven gels (my plan had been to switch over to all gels and sports drink for the last 40 miles as my stored glycogen was clearly tapped out by this time! Needless to say, I’d be eating one gel every 25 minutes for the last loop). I also was joined on this loop by Larry King, Olga Varlamova’s boyfriend, who, even though we had never met, seemed to know exactly what I’d need to do to finish strong. At about Mile 94 he told me that there was light behind us and it was gaining. He said, “I’d bet money that it’s Scott.” We put the hammer down and ran hard for the next hour. I came across the line in 15:58 and Scott came in about 12 minutes later. However, we came to learn that he was with 2 minutes of me with four miles to go. It was good reminder for me of how a pacer can help late in the race.

After finishing we had a blast hanging out and seeing Jamie finish (3rd overall, first place woman) was a thrill. After an hour or so of smack talking and generally being my usual obnoxious post-race self Kevin and I left for the hotel and a quick night’s sleep before my 9AM flight on Sunday.

One final note: I had always wanted to try running every step of a 100 miler and in this race I did it. With the exception of a few walking strides on my way out of the aid stations I ran the entire race. I am not sure if my time was better than it would have been had I walked but it was fun to try and was good mental training for Western States (where I certainly won’t run every step!)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rocky Raccoon - 2009

I'll post a full report in the next few days but I wanted to let everybody know I had a great day at Rocky and managed to pull out the win in 15:58. Scott Jaime made me earn it (he was 2:30 behind with four miles to go) and Jamie Donaldson ran an outstanding race for third overall and top woman.

The new course is a bit slower. Not necessarily harder (it is Huntsville State Park after all!) but the addition of more single track and the elimination of all but a handful of road sections slowed the course somewhat.

All in all, a really fun day! More later.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rocky Raccoon

I leave for RR tomorrow morning. The weather looks perfect (77 degrees and sunny!). I'd like to run somewhere in the 15:30 range but the course, conditions and competition may have an impact on that over/under. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to my first 100 since September and getting a sense of my foundation going into my WS Training Cycle.

I'll have a report on Monday!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Polling Update

Well, in the Men's Masters' Race you voted for:

Jorge Pacheco
Mark Lantz
Jeff Riley

Hopefully Jorge can recover from his torn plantar and get to the line ready to roll. Big surprise to me in this poll was that Neil Olsen got so few votes. Watch out for that guy. And, Thornley did as expected.

In the Women's race readers seem to think it's a three-woman race in this order:

Nikki Kimball
Krissy Moehl
Jenn Shelton

Finally, in the Ten-Year bet poll readers overwhelmingly chose Craig Thornley to win even though he is currently 2:36 behind. That will be a fun race to watch!

Now, I need to get to bed. Going 100 miles on Saturday and I bet FastED's asleep already!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Western States/Hardrock Double?

Well, I signed up for the Hardrock lottery thinking I would not get in and only planning on building up tickets in the lottery for future years. As luck would have it I have ended up 12th on the wait list. In most years, this would mean I'm in but won't know until May. So, at this point I am looking at the WS/HRH "Double." The races are 13 days apart. I know Scott Mills has done this "Double" and may have the best aggregate time. Anybody have any advice for me? I fully plan on going hard at WS but I must admit I will be thinking about those Big Mountains for the next 5 months.

Oh yeah, Geoff Roes is 14th on the wait list which means he gets in too. He'll be tough to beat.