Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I'll Do for a Sticker - Yankee Springs Double Marathon

Background

Yankee Springs Double Marathon was held on 1 June 2013, in Middleville, MI.  This race came five weeks after my 100 mile finish at Indiana Trail.  For the two weeks immediately following that race, I didn't run at all.  It took me a bit to feel ready to go back at it.  
At the beginning of this year, I had discussed doing this race with a couple of friends.  My sole interest in it was to be able to put the 52.4 mile sticker on my car.  I'm a sticker whore, I freely admit.
So I went into this race not having put in more than 36 miles in one week in the five previous weeks.
All was well though.  I would be running it with my constant ultra companion, Kurt, with whom I ran 97 miles of IT with, and Tim, who was my pacer at IT.  Tim would be running the Yankee Springs Challenge, which consists of the 10k on Friday night, the double on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday.  After finishing the double, his first question was, "What's the cutoff for the half tomorrow."  After being told it was 5 hours, he decided to walk most of it.
Max King would be there for the race, so that was pretty neat for us.  I'm a bit of a sucker for famous ultra runners

The Day

The three of us had been checking the weather the day before the race.  It was forecast to thunderstorm on and off throughout the day.  That was not the case.  The weather was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  Temps in the mid 80's, low humidity, the occasional breeze.  Couldn't ask for much better.

The Course

This was run entirely on trails, of which I am not a fan.  It was not a technical trail at all, which was nice.  The soil was pretty sandy, which allowed the water from the previous days rain to drain nicely.  The trail itself was nice and soft. No mud to speak of.
It was a 13.1 mile loop, ran four times for the double.  Here is the Garmin data from the race.

Elevation profile

The Race

It turned out our friend that had run a large portion of Top of Michigan 100k, John Sands, would be running with us as well.  So the four of us started out at 6 a.m.  We were all feeling pretty good, and averaged just under 11:30 min/mile for the first loop.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful course.  I regretted not having any pockets in my skirt for my phone in order to take some pictures.
Courtesy of Runnerpics
At the start of the second loop, Max King blew past us.  We figured that he had lapped us.  When discussing this amongst ourselves during this loop, we didn't see how that was possible.  That would have meant that he completed a marathon distance in 2:20.  We found out later that he was just running the marathon, not the double, which started an hour later.  He actually went on to set a course record for the 26.2 distance, in 3:03.  I just don't understand that kind of speed on a course which, for him, had almost 1,500 ft. of gain.  He also took first in the 10k and the half marathon.
The second loop we slowed down, stopping to graze at the aid stations occasionally.  We averaged just over 12:30 for that loop.
A brief note about the volunteers.  They were fantastic, as has always been my experience at ultras.  There were fresh grilled cheese sandwiches at the aid stations, which was nice.  Always an offer to fill a water bottle.  Real class act.
Back to the rest of the story.
Kurt and I really started to feel the weeks of relative inactivity at the start of the third loop.  John and Tim went on ahead, while the two of us slogged through our mini doldrum.  This lap we averaged 15 minutes per mile.
There was a 14 hour cutoff to this race.  Our collective goal was to run it sub 12.  We all thought that it would be no problem.  But after the third loop, Kurt and I realized that we probably wouldn't make sub 12.  We still wanted to get as close to possible to our original goal.  We had an epiphany.  Just run when we can.  This meant a few things to us.  First, it meant run every stretch of ground that we could; just walk the uphills.  Second, it meant just run when we felt we could, and when we didn't feel that we could, reference definition number one.  So we set off strong.  By the time we got to the first aid station however, some of the wind had been taken out of our sails.  Kurt laid down on the grass for a minute, while I yelled at him "What do you think you're doing?!  Let's go!" (Many people don't understand our friendship or how we kid around).
The tendon on the top of my right foot started to bother me, and was really clamoring for my attention during this loop.  It was quite sore and tender if I landed on my foot the wrong way.  The other issue that I faced was more base.  I had a "I might have to go to the restroom" feeling since the end of the second loop.  During this last loop, it was intensifying with every step.  About one mile from the finish, I realized that I would not make it that last mile without going.  I found a nice log, told Kurt to go ahead, and left with a lighter step.
We averaged just under 16 minutes for the last loop

The Finish

All in all, it was an awesome race.  We all had a great time, and the course was super beautiful.  I finished only a few minutes after Kurt, but over an hour after John, and 40 minutes after Tim.  Because there were a significant number of DNF, all three of us got second place Age Group awards, a $10 gift certificate to a local sports store.  The funny thing about that is that we're all in the same age group.
My biggest take away from this race:  Running an ultra on little preparation and can be done if one has a super strong base, which Kurt and I had from our IT training.  It can be done, but it sure isn't pretty.
One other thing I took away from this race:  Oreos still taste awesome late in a race
Finishing time 12:25:01


l to r, Kurt, Tim, me post race

Finisher's pint glass

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Indiana Trail 100

Overview

On Saturday, 20 Apr 2013, at 6 am, I started what would be the most difficult, most rewarding experience of my life.  Indiana Trail 100 was held at Chain O' Lakes State Park, in Albion, Indiana.  It consisted of 6 laps, 16 2/3 miles per loop.  Three aid stations on the loop.  One at 4.25 miles, one at 8.8, one at 14.5, and the start/finish.
The week preceding this, Indiana, and my home state of Michigan, experienced a tremendous amount of rain.  Because of this, Much of the course was under water, forcing the RD to reroute some of the course.  There were still some sections that were under water, forcing us to wade through water that was up to mid thigh, three to four times per loop.
every crossing at least this long


The biggest problem that the rain caused was the mud.  Shoe sucking mud.  Quad burning mud.  The mud consisted of approximately 20km of the 100 mile course.  One of the worst aspects of it was that it would be 50 feet of mud, then some short runnable surface, then another 50 feet of mud, etc.  Forcing us to start, stop, start...
Here's a nice stretch of it.  Most stretches not as easily navigable.

It was pretty bad.  Here is a brief, 3 minute video of some of the mud and water.
My wife, Crystal, stayed awake with me the whole time.  She was invaluable through this process.
This race had a 62.5% DNF rate.  I was not among them.

Preview/Training

I won't get into much detail here, since this is a race report, not a training report.  All I will say is that I trained for 14 weeks.  Every weekend except 4, I ran greater than 26.2 miles with my friend Kurt.  He was also training for IT100.  We had decided to run as much of the race together as possible.  Turns out, we ran all but the last 2.1 miles together.  We had also discussed loop times for a sub 24 hour finish.

Loop 1 projected - 3:30   actual  3:37

Kurt and I before the start

My bib and the bib for Boston

We found out just how bad the course was on this loop.  We still made good time, only going 7 minutes over our projected time.  Did I mention the mud?  I had two 20 oz. bottles in a waist pack.  One filled with water, the other filled with Jonathan Savage's Go Juice.  This set up worked fine for the first four laps.  More on that later.
We were having fun, wading through the water, and not so much, slogging through the mud.  But we were doing it

Lap 2 projected 3:30    actual 4:02

It was a dirty business
Kurt and I decided to take the extra time it took to take care of our feet after every lap.  We changed socks, dried our feet, wiped all the mud from inside our shoes, and reapplied vaseline to our feet.  We figured that the time we took to do this would save us from major issues later in the race and a possible DNF (did not finish).
We were still in decent shape for our sub 24, but were thinking that just finishing was more in order.  We had fun still.  Picking up some running partners here and there, talking with them and each other about all manner of things.
At the completion of this lap, we met our friend Tim, who would be our pacer later in the race.  We were allowed pacers starting with lap 4, but Kurt and I wanted to wait until the start of loop 5, which we had dubbed the Loop of Doom in training.  We named it that because it would be the first lap done in complete darkness and it would be just the 5th lap.  We would still need to do 50 km at the beginning of this lap.  We wanted our pacer to not lose his efficacy.

Lap 3 projected 4:00   actual 4:38

This is where it started to fall apart
So yeah.  After lap 3, 50 miles, things started to go a bit south.  Half way through this lap, my stomach really stopped accepting anything, including the Go Juice.  I knew that would happen, that's why I made the Juice, to supply the calories needed.  But I just couldn't stomach that either.  I had some saltines and a couple of Tums at the last aid station before the finish, then we made it back to change our shoes.  Crystal (all pictures courtesy of her), and Tim were a great crew.  Crystal provided our clean socks, while Tim filled up our fluids.
It was at this point that we stopped thinking about the sub 24 hour finish.  We knew that we would still finish under the cutoff (30 hours) if we just kept on moving forward, so that's what we did.
Change of shoes, good to go.  Note how bright blue those shoes are.

Lap 4 actual 5:18

We started this lap in the light and finished it in the dark.  We knew that we wouldn't see the light again until after the Loop of Doom.  In the start/finish tent, Tim told us that people were coming in from lap 4 and not going back out.  They would sit down by the heater and drop, or drop and sit down by the heater.  But once they came in, they weren't leaving.  Dropping was not an option for us, so we topped off our fluids and took off.
The loop itself is kind of a blur.  My stomach wasn't getting any better, and I was quickly losing my energy.  At the 8.8 mile aid station, I donned an extra layer because it was getting colder.  I was now wearing a short sleeve tech, a long sleeve cotton, and two light weight coats.
We walked at least the last 5 miles of this lap.
One thing that we both looked forward to at the end of this lap was coffee.  We had cut our consumption significantly over the week leading up to the race.  Me, by two thirds of my normal.  At every aid station, we politely declined their offer of coffee.  Upon completion of this lap, we downed a couple of cups.  Mmmm.... delicious coffee...
At the start/finish, i donned another long sleeve cotton.  Now I had 5 layers on.

Loop of Doom actual 5:59

This is where I personally fell apart.  I hadn't been eating or hydrating for over 6 hours.  My back was a knot of flame from carrying 40 ounces around my waist for 17.5 hours.  I remember at one point stepping over a tree that was across the trail and just sitting down on it for a minute.  Then I got up and carried on.  We ended up walking a lot of this lap as well, despite Tim's efforts to get us moving.  Towards the end of the loop, Tim realized that I was dehydrated, and started making me drink Gatorade and take some salt tabs.
I'm gorked out

Tim putting fresh batteries in my head lamp.
When we got back in from this lap, I did my best to avoid the attention of the EMT's.  I didn't want them to start asking me questions, and me not being able to answer them.  So I just tried to mind my p's and q's, drank the Gu Brew that Tim gave me, and carried on for the last lap.
Tim had an extra hand held water bottle that he let me use for this lap, since there was no way I was wearing that waist pack anymore.  I wasn't too keen on putting a hydration pack on either.  So I popped an electrolyte tab in the bottle, topped it off with water, and we were good to go.

Final lap actual 5:12

At the start of this lap, Tim took the time to have a cup of coffee, so Kurt and I carried on.  As we passed over the timing mat, I broke into what passed for a run.  I told Kurt, "It doesn't matter how fast we're going, but we have to keep a running form to stay warm."
This lap was actually not too bad.  The ground had frozen (it got down to 28 degrees fahrenheit that night), so the mud wasn't that much of an issue.  That, and the fact that we just didn't care anymore, really helped out the slogging factor.  The water level of most of the course had dropped, so that by the time we finished, what had once been a 20 yard, mid thigh deep lake, had turned into something that got the bottom of our shoes wet.
We got to see the sun come up during this lap.  That was a highlight of the entire race.
At the 8.8 mile aid station, they had home made egg and bacon muffins.  The protein was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
At the aid station 2.1 miles from the finish, Kurt just checked in and carried on.  He said, "I just want to be done."  I told him that I just didn't have it in me to run anymore.  Tim had been a harsh task master throughout this loop, making us run often.  I found out later that my wife had told him, "Don't be nice to him."  Well, he wasn't.  I told Kurt to tell her that I would be 5 - 10 minutes behind him.  We walked for about .75 miles, then I found some reserve somewhere, and ran as much of the rest as I could.

Finish 28:48:30.35

This is where I left Tim

Coming up and around to the timing mat at the finish was one of the sweetest, most fulfilling moments ever.  I crossed the finish and told the small crowd, "I think I'll stop now."  That got a laugh out of them.  I traded my timing chip for a buckle.  Best trade ever. 152 people started the race.  57 finished.  I was 37th of the 57.


It seemed like a sprint to me

From l to r, me, Tim and Kurt

Lessons learned

I trained my arse off for this race.  DNF was not an option.  Not because of mud, not because of sub freezing temps, not because of huge water crossings.  Go into it with that state of mind, and that's a huge part of the battle already won.
Waist packs may be fine for 50M or less.  Anything more, not so much.  Hand helds being ordered this week.
Especially when your stomach goes south, pay attention to your hydration.  Keep drinking.  Keep electrolyte levels up.

Parting Photograph

Bright blue shoes on the right
Yes, it's a female shirt.  All my race shirts go to my wife



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kiss My Grits

So I seem to only write a non-race report post when I have something to vent about.  So this is my vent.
I worked my ass off at Henry Ford Community College.  I graduated in three full semesters.  I took 18 credits over Spring and Summer semesters.  I graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
I also studied my butt off for the CompTia A+ exam.  I passed.

It all means nothing

I've overcome alot of crap in my life.  Self made crap, but I've overcome it none the less.  I squandered 13 years of my life foolishly.  I acquired more than a few felonies.  It is those felonies that make all that I have worked so hard for for naught.  
I have had two serious job interviews.  They both went extremely well and the companies wanted to hire me.  The last one progressed all the way to the owner of the company.  They both came to an abrupt halt when I acquiesced to a background check.
The first company told me, in essence, "We have standards and you don't meet them."
The second company was the real heart breaker.  They were working through a staffing agency.  My contact there called me and told me that the company wanted me to come down yesterday and discuss salary.  Sweet, right?
Incorrect
I received an email at ten a.m. from my contact telling me that the interview was cancelled.  No further explanation given, but she would call me when she had further word.  I called her at 3 p.m. and left her a voice mail.  She didn't even have the decency to call me back.  She sent me an email at 4:30 p.m. telling me that they had extended an offer to another candidate who had accepted the position.
Cover Your Ass.  Transparent, but covered.

So in conclusion, I quit.  I accept the fact that as it stands at this moment in my life, I will be unable to get a job in the IT field.  I will be taking a job at a steel mill, doing whatever it is they do there (which is not anything that I want to do).  Perhaps I'll continue my educational pursuits part time and get a Bachelor's Degree.  I'm still not sure about that.

I leave you with this.  I can't say it any better than this: "Oh mother, tell your children not to do what I have done"  -Eric Burdon and the Animals