Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Umstead 100 Race Report

I should have known it was going to be an interesting day based on the way it started. On our way to the race I ran through a mental list of things to bring - running shoe - got it, food to last the entire day - got it, sunscreen - got it, running leg - oh crap, FORGOT IT. A u-turn and 10 minutes later I was racing through the house to grab the most essential running component I own. This meant that Alex (my fiancee) and I got to the race site with just 15 minutes to spare, enough time to throw my race bag along the side of the course, open a fold-out chair, and stand in line for the bathroom only to give up because I didn't want to miss the race start. We finally got to the start line at 5:58am...and then the gun went off.

With all the excitement of the morning, I barely had a chance to think about the actual race until it started. By that time I chose to settle into an easy 11:45 pace that put me in the middle of the pack with Alex, and had brought us through for lap 1 at 2:28:32, slightly slower than planned, but respectable. At that point Alex said, "see you tomorrow" (which luckily was not the case as we crossed paths a few more times on the course and after he finished), and I was on my own for the rest of the race.
I was able to stay with the pack most of the race this year.

I continued on in silence for a few miles until I realized that I was already focusing on my aches and pains...and it was way too early for that. I turned on an audiobook I had already listened to (so I wouldn't have to pay too much attention) to drown out the completely unproductive thoughts running through my head, which sounded something like this: "why am I doing this again?", "isn't 25 miles still considered a good, long run for the day?", "how many more laps do I have?", and so on and so on. The audiobook distracted me enough to get through lap 2 in 2:27:26, which was great for 25 miles, except I felt like I'd already run 50.

Now, to back track for a moment, I spent most of Friday evening packing up individual bags with everything I would need for each lap. Food, change of socks/shoes/clothes/liners/or whatever other item I thought I would need by that lap, ibuprofen, and pepto tablets. These bags were laid out neatly next to my chair to require as little thinking as possible as I came through the start/finish area for each lap since I'm notorious for wanting something for the next lap (I'll ruminate on it for miles before I get to the aid station) and then completely forget about it until I'm a quarter mile past the aid station. So I planned ahead. Poorly apparently. Because everything I needed was in the wrong bag and I didn't want any of the food I'd planned to eat.

Since nutrition had been such an issue during this race last year, I wanted to be particularly smart about it this year. I was going to take in ~100 calories in some form (shot blocks, slim jims, pb&j) every 3 miles and then ~200 calories at aid station (AS) #1 and AS#2, a good plan in theory, but not one that my GI system would go along with. Initially I settled on potato pieces covered in salt followed by a small cup of sweet tea and cookies at AS#1 and AS#2. By 11am the volunteers had started up the grills and were offering hot dogs, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. I have to admit, I was surprised by how well the hot dogs, potatoes, cookies, and sweet tea sat on lap 3 and 4.
Ginger ale and salt concoction prepared by Shannon. Not sure if I'll do that drink again! 

I crossed the 50 mile mark in 10:14:45, which was a good time for me, but my aches and pains were getting more noticeable and I'd already pulled out all my tricks to feel better (I'd already changed my shoes, my sock, and my liner). The next lap ended up being more of a mental feat than a physical one as I urged my body to keep going and try to enjoy the experience in the process. I started walking more, even slight hills that I could have easily run, because my head just wasn't in it and my nutrition started to go down the toilet. I needed a personal cheerleader, which was exactly what I got as I came in from lap 6 and asked for a pacer. My pacer, Rich, was a gregarious and efficient runner who might as well have been carrying pom poms as we quickly (or at least more quickly than last lap) ticked off the miles.

Some of the downhills were actually tougher than the uphills because of the breaking forces on the quads and  hip flexors.
I had also changed at this point into compression tights and a new sports bra, which put a new spring in my step. I felt better for some reason. Maybe it was the company. Or maybe it was the fact that I was 3/4 of the was done. Whatever it was, I found a second wind, which carried me through lap 7 and into lap 8 where I picked up a new pacer, Collin, who was even more aggressive than Rich. He had pulled his last pacee through to a top 10 finish for males and when I told him my desire to finish under 24 hours (I had 3 hrs 45 min to meet this goal), he asked what I thought about trying to finish in under 23 hours. I thought he was crazy.

The bottom of my left foot felt like it caught fire every time I took a step and my left hip flexor muscles would occasionally stop functioning. On top of that I could no longer take in more than a few sips of water and GU without feeling like I would get violently ill, and I had the hiccups (likely from all of the unprocessed hot dogs pressing against my diaphragm). Surprisingly, the only thing that still felt okay was my residual limb, which was tenuous at best and I knew could give out on me at any moment. Despite that, when he said run, I ran. And sometimes, even when he didn't say run, I ran anyways. It honestly felt good to run so I ran as much of the lap as I could, even if it was just a slow shuffle at some points. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't want to know how fast I needed to run. I just maintained the fastest pace that I could until I saw the lights of the start/finish line ahead. And then I smiled when I saw the clock, which read 22:55:24. It felt good to be done before the sun came up. It felt good to beat my goal. And Collin should be proud that he also pulled me in for 10th place overall for females!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mile 61 at 45min

Wow, exhaustion is slowly catching up with me. And it's getting quiet out on the course as 50 milers retire for the day. Going to have to start focusing on putting one foot in front of the other!

Mile 23.3 in 4:30

Walking up another hill. Whee! One hot spot on my good foot. And a little hip pain. Whoot

Mile 17 of Umstead

Feeling pretty good at 3hr 19min. Got some  tightness in my legs. Otherwise eating and drinking well.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Truly, one of the most difficult periods of training is the taper. As the volume and intensity gradually drop off until race day the body begins to recover fully from the constant and demanding training. This is also about the time when your brain starts to question all the training you've done until now. Are you ready? Should you have done one more long run or another brick workout? Will it all come together on race day? Every rest day (and there should be more now that you're tapering) youll wonder if you should fit in one more workout. And this is when you must turn off your overactive brain and just trust in your training. You're about 2-3 weeks out from race day (or 1 week out from the Umstead 100 in my case right now) and there's nothing you can do now except recover. So sit back, relax and enjoy your easy weeks because race day is just around the corner!

This post comes at a time when I am indeed tapering so I am very familiar with this scenario. I have trained hard for this race, but there are a lot of unknowns on race day that you can't prepare for, especially during a 100 miler. I will do everything in my power to beat 24 hours, but only race day will tell if that'll be enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The flats of Florida

Ahhh...the good ol' flat asphalt of Florida. About as boring as running gets. Just slightly more exciting than pounding out the miles on a treadmill. Which, is exactly where I ended up today when the temperature reached 90 F and the wind gusts hit 25mph.

Floridians, please don't take offense. I actually learned to love running 12 years ago when I was high school cross country runner in Boca Raton. And every time I return to Florida I look forward to the endless flat roads that should be so fast. So why aren't they? I asked myself this question yesterday during my moderately fast (speed is relative when you're training for a hundred) tempo run yesterday.

After much debate with myself I settled on the fact that the run just becomes so monotonous that my mind goes numb and I stop pushing myself. There's no hill to push myself to the top of and there's no cruising downhill for a few minutes of needed recovery. The only change in speed and effort is when I tell myself to push it to the stop sign or when I let myself walk the last 0.2 miles home.

Except for this 7 mile bridge. I'd be happy to run this road a few time.
I biked it once with WWP, but still hope to run it some day in my life.
In the end, it's really not that bad. It just reminds me how much I love change in terrain and the excitement of trail running. It reminds of me of why I love to run. Which is a good thing less than 3 weeks out from Umstead 100 as I taper for the race and remind myself why I signed up in the first place.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Part 2 of my long run

Today marked the final day of my longest back-to-back runs for the Umstead 100. I woke up with heavy legs this morning after putting in 18 miles yesterday on the trails and thought, "this is perfect." It actually was exactly how I wanted to feel going into my long run today. Tired, fatigued, sore. My legs could attest to all of those.

I decided to hit a different set of trails today to bang out my next 20 miles and actually felt refreshed as my feet hit the trail. The first few miles were actually the worst, as my legs were still rebelling after my run yesterday, but once they caught on that I wasn't going to stop, they gave in and cooperated. By the end of the 20 miles I actually felt better than when I started.

I think these back-to-back weekend runs have been a superior way to train than just one long run. Of course, I won't really know until race day on April 6th, but for now I'm feeling stronger, faster, and less injured. The only complaint today was minor shin splints when I started and some rubbing on my residual limb where I had rubbed the skin raw yesterday. Luckily, a little Vaseline took care of that problem.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Longest run before Umstead

Today was the start of my longest run before the Umstead 100 miler on April 6th. Last year my longest run was 50 miles and afterwards my left calf was so tight that stretching it brought tears to my eyes. I frantically bought every contraption I could find that might help to loosen it- a compression sleeve, roller, etc. So this year I decided to approach my longest run a little bit differently. Instead of tackling it in one day I decided to spread it out over 2 days. This is not unusual in ultra training in order to get used to running on tired legs though most amputees avoid back-to-back long runs because of the stress on the residual limb, which often doesn't hold up with constant banging around in the prosthesis. However this is the plan Ive decided on since clearly my plan last year didn't work out! So
20 miles today and another 18 scheduled tomorrow. At least I'm feeling great after my first long run of the weekend. Even had a little photo op with Augustus Cho, from GI Jo: Retaliation, on the trails of North Forest. Ill let you know how tomorrow goes when my legs are sufficiently pooped to properly simulate the second half a 100 miler.