Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wildflower Race Recap OR How to not end up walking at the end of an ultramarathon

So I ran Wildflower this last weekend and I told myself it’s just a 50k and it’ll be over before I know it. But the other part of my brain told me that since it’s shorter, I’ll have to run faster. And I hate running fast. And before you think that, the terms ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are all relative. Your fast is someone else’s slow and vice versa. And your slow at the beginning of a race may be lightning fast at the end of your race.

How to run right (according to me)
Let me preface this all with what a gold shiny friend once said about me: “He has been known to make mistakes...from time to time.”

I’m too cheap to get a Garmin or Suunto or whatever. I learned to run by listening to my body. It might sound like I’m some Zen man or whatever, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it. And I use this to help me with my long 50-100 milers. Maybe the same concept works with shorter runs. I don’t know. Try it out. So here’s what I’ve learned that works great for me.

If you go too fast for too long, your muscles will die out before you’re mentally ready to quit. So you have to slow down at the beginning. It’s a little annoying because you feel so fresh and you just want to go at the pace you feel comfortable with. But believe me, ‘future you’ is gonna open a can in about three hours down the trails. And it won’t be pretty. Lots of people will be ahead of you and the competitive devil inside you will try to convince you to speed up. But for most of us, we’re not out here trying to win. We’ve all got various reasons for why we torture ourselves (as others consider it). You need to keep your body’s work output lower than what it can produce from your “energy reservoirs” and the awesome aid station all-you-can-eat buffets. Otherwise you’re using up energy faster than you can produce it, ‘future you’ becomes ‘present you,’ and then Pandora’s Box is opened.

How do I know when I’m going to fast? Again, I never even look at the watch I carry. It’s strictly used to keep track of overall time when I finish my run. You could use a heart rate monitor and do whatever calculations keep you below your max heart rate. But that’s a lot of work. I feel that heart rate is closely connected with breathing rate. All I need to do is listen to my breathing rate and that doesn’t cost me a fancy anything. If I’m breathing hard and fast, my heart is beating too fast, and I’m running too fast. And ‘future me’ tells me to slow down. My favorite pace is what I call ‘conversation pace.’ I’m pretty sure I got this from the Bible*. It states that if you’re running too fast to hold a long conversation with someone, you’re running too fast (for a long endurance run).

My race recap from this last weekend’s Wildflower 50k at Bastrop SP
There were five 10k loops. My times were 55 minutes, 53, 56, 59, and 61. Consistency goes along with paying attention to your breathing. I know I could’ve ran a much faster first and probably second lap, but then my other laps would’ve been incredibly slower. I have found that consistent pace with a jog is better than a fast run followed by slow walking. I found a pace that felt slow enough that I’d be able to hold it throughout the race. I was by myself for a lot of the time- sometimes this can be difficult because there isn’t anyone to encourage you, but it can also be good as you won’t get sucked into someone else’s race pace. I vaguely remember stopping at the aid stations to refill water, pick up some pbj’s and gels, get a sponge of ice water over my head, and then be on my way. But I know that the volunteers helped get me back out on the course a lot faster than I could’ve done on my own. Huge thanks to all of them.

Gear Used
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak NEO- I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. I don’t think this was the purpose in the design for the shoe, but there were plenty of sandy spots on the course and after finishing the race and removing my shoes, I had NO SAND at all in my shoes. Just sayin’.
Water: Nathan Peak waist pak- The aid station was only 3-3.5 miles away and the insulated 18 oz bottle was plenty large enough to keep me hydrated and keep the water colder for longer.
Gear Bag: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak- I love the moveable dividers on the inside. I also like to put another one of my Victory bags (the Bear III) inside of the Kodiak for even more organization.

*The Bible being referenced here is “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.

Brazos Bend 50- April 2017

I had just tied my shoes and was finishing up my breakfast which consisted of a small handful of granola from Katie Graff, when all of a sudden I heard Rob Goyen counting down "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!" and I thought to myself, "Well, I should probably put my drop bag by the aid station and start this race." It's one thing I love about ultra running- there is an overall hurry but a minute or two lost here and there don't really make much of a difference.

The weather was beautiful for a long run, but I knew it wasn't gonna stay that way and was ready for the upcoming heat. I had my Nathan 4L water pack which has two 18 ounce water bottles in front and I put a 2L empty bladder in the back in case I started going through water too quickly.

I took pbj's at the first several aid stations so I could have some real food for fuel before I switched to gels. And this is about all I ate throughout the whole race- I was promised a certain ice cream truck was gonna stop by but I must have missed him.

I ran the race by myself the whole time. Usually I like to find people to talk to and run with for awhile, but I didn't do that this time. I got to spend the morning entertaining myself.

The race has an out-and-back section with a turnaround at 4 miles before the finish. This is my least favorite part as it seems to get longer and longer each next time you run it. On my first of three laps I counted runners ahead of me. I was in 13th place. I didn't know what to expect, but decided to go about this one like every other race: find a nice sustainable pace and maintain it til I finish. I think it's the best way to run ultras. It's not easy as you have to run slow when you have plenty of energy. But the tradeoff is that at the end, you'll still be jogging instead of walking. And walking sucks (at least to me). It takes a lot of patience to know that there are people ahead of you and that you could easily pick up the pace and catch them. But I've done this enough times to know that patience pays off. Eventually. It just took a couple hours til they slowed down and I passed them.

By my third and final lap, there were runners from other distances on the course and I had a hard time knowing exactly which place I was in. So I stopped worrying about it and just kept running. But the goofy me saw two opportunities to have even more fun than just running 50 miles. With about 100 meters to finish my second lap, I saw Bhakti Chavda up ahead. I got close to her and them with about three steps to the finish I jumped between her and her friend and said "I beat ya Bhakti." I still had another lap to complete and didn't dint at the aid station long enough to let her yell at me for scaring her.

The other opportunity for fun presented itself on the dreaded forever-long out-and-back section. I had seen another friend, Lisa Decker, a number of times on the course. This time I got her. I snuck up on her as best as my I've-already-ran-43-miles legs could and I jumped and grabbed her shoulders. We laughed and hugged it out. I might owe her some Fireball now.

Back to the race. I felt awesome the whole time. No down times. And that helped me run the entire time. I never stopped except to pick up my pbj's and refill water bottles. Proper pacing is the key to success.

I used an ice bandana on my neck through the last two laps. I filled up my 2L water bladder with 12 miles left. It was nice not having 4 pounds of water on my back for most of the race.

I saw Luis Murillo coming back from the turn around, just a few minutes ahead of me. I never caught up to him, but was glad that I was almost done. I came into the last aid station and gave Rachel Adamson her last sweaty hug and thanked the volunteers for being there for us. My middle son Drew was waiting for me to race me to the finish with 100 meters left. He beat me. And then I was told that I was 3rd place. I really didn't expect that and had long since lost count of my place. I finished a few minutes behind my TROT teammate Luis Murillo for the second race in a row. I didn't beat my time from my first time out here, but it wasn't a bad time. I finished in 7 hours 15 minutes (8:42 pace). I was able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon talking with friends and hanging out (another great part of trail racing).

Four things I learned about the alligators in the park: don't feed them; don't approach them; don't annoy them; don't molest them. I'd have to agree with the last one.

Shoes: Altra Torin 2.5
Water needs: Nathan 4L Krar vest
Gear bag: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak