Things unfinished…My Why

Monday, October 21, 2019 9:09 PM

With less than 5 days left before I toe the line of our first 100 mile race, I find myself grappling with the same struggle I faced immediately after the 24-hour race at Lhotse.  (A struggle I wrote about, but never published much like my race report…hmm)  That place of struggle to know if I can finish this race or not. I am in that time of reflection and period of self-doubt where I wonder if I trained hard enough, if I have what it takes to overcome the pain, if my Why is big enough?  

Earlier today while discussing my thoughts with my running partner, I heard myself say, “I don’t know if my Why is big enough to get me through this race.” Those words have echoed in my head all day.

So tonight I read an inspirational article about a runner who finished the Tahoe 100 that Trex sent me, and I made myself watch Billy Yang’s film, ‘The Why’, to try and pull myself out of my funk and once again find that place of determination and inspiration that will help me push through, and to remind myself of my Why.

To be honest it has felt forced and cliché, but I knew there would be nuggets of wisdom in that article, and in that short film that I could use like life lines to help me pull out of my darker depths. I mean if I feel this way now how the hell am I going to feel at mile 82? (assuming I make it that far)

So did it help? Yes. Am I happy-go-lucky? No.  But it’s a start. I know in my head, that overcoming pain, both mental and physical, will be the hardest part of this, and I needed to hear this process described by other runners who have faced this and won their battles. It helps to hear or read it put concisely.

It helped to hear that last inspiring message that it is okay to use my body in this way, to overcome my mind and to look for the other side of the pain that will come.  It helped to be reminded that it is part of the story I will tell for years and years.

So now I am forcing myself to sit down and write these thoughts down, to remind myself of my Why and to create something that I can revisit and maybe other’s will too, whenever I am facing similar doubts.

I wish at this moment I wasn’t struggling with these feelings. I wish more than anything that I was confident and excited about this race. I wish that I had inspiring things to write about. I wish that I was going into this week with a hopeful heart instead of a since of worry and dread, but I am not, at least not at present while I write this. I am worried. I am anxious. I am afraid, and more than anything I want it all to just be over so I can put it behind me better or worse. But mostly I am sad and angry that right now I am feeling so negatively towards something I have been working hard for all summer. I gave up Saturday and Sunday mornings sleeping in and watching cartoons with my kids to run. I ran after work, exhausted, in the triple digit heat. I ran during the miserable sticky nights around the same paths I have pounded around for years now. And I ran through the pain of watching my dearest aunt die of brain tumors. It was a long hot painful summer and I deserve to see my work come to the bloody damn end.

So it is with heaviness in my heart and mind that I jot down my thoughts tonight in hopes of capturing the ebb and flow of emotions that this journey will bring, and it is just this very journey, the one of the highs and lows, that reminds me I have work to do in myself, that is my Why.

The Genesis issue

After my first truly long run race I’m finding some interesting and curious aftermath and the timing is on the odd side.

2 weeks after our LOHTSE 24 hour endurance run I ran a 5K that was part of the Fleet Feet 4 Seasons challenge. I’d signed up for the half originally when I signed up for the 4 race set but in the interest of being careful I dropped to the 5K.

Race day I was feeling okay and started off at a decent pace for me, in the sub 9 range. Around mile 2 I started to feel it in my left shin and backed off a touch into the sub 10s. I had a bad case of shin splints after running 24 hours on a concrete high school track at Lohtse. In the end it was my 4th fastest 5K and I really think I could have podium’ed if I’d of gotten close to my 5k PR. Anyway that was the only real issue I had 2 weeks for my first run.

I took another 2 weeks off in recovery mode before I ran again. And things took a serious AF turn for the worse. As soon as I shifted into a run every single thing below the waistline immediately started screaming at me. Knee joints, ankle joints, ITB, inner and outer fascia points on the knees and ankles, hip flexors, quads and hamstrings, I would have been hard pressed to pick out a single one of those that hurt less than the others. I was at another track but a compressed rubber one that was softer and even with that I ended up running the turf next to the inside lane.

I literally made it about 100 meters before I stopped from the pain and tried to stretch it out. Starting up again and nope, the stretching didn’t help. I made it around the rest of the lap back to the starting and then stepped off onto the grass. The next 3+ miles were…. not fun. About mile 3.5 some numbness kicked in and was able to shambling stagger flail up to a 9 minute pace for one lap before calling it quits.

I’m pretty worried at this point as I can’t figure out WTH is going on. 2 weeks prior I was feeling fairly okay.

I wait another week+ and go for a trail run. It’s only marginally better. 4 miles at an average of 14 min avg pacing (11 minute run pacing) felt like I had just run a 10K at sub 10’s.

Another couple of days and 5K at 12 min miles on trails feels like 8 minute pacing.

And that’s just RPE, my HR during these is 12 beats higher on average with spikes into zone 5 which I should never hit on this terrain at this speed than it should be for the same pacing and terrain of which I have hundreds of runs to compare it to.

It’s so bad I’d rather run solo than inflict my zombie like death shuffling pace and form on anyone and of course my mood.

Now my RW made a blanket statement that this is what happens when you tear down your body and you’re now running on a lot of new tissue which has no ‘experience’ with running yet. I certainly tore up from the floor up some things with the 24 hour race so that does fall in line with her thinking.

And at a month after that there’s going to be a lot of new tissue in those areas. So another correlating fact for her argument.

Tomorrow will be my fourth run since Lohtse and hopefully I’ll be able to push faster than a 12 min average, I should be doing 10’s at this distance and this terrain at worst for a measly 3 or 4 miles.

But the observed aftermath of a first time > 50 mile run (82 miles total in 21 hours running) seems rather daunting. After Rocky 50 I was literally fine to run within a week and ran 42 miles two weeks afterwards on some pretty rough terrain. That extra 50K for Lohtse really seems to have put a hurt on me.

I can tell I’m recovering obviously but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have some concerns about our 100 mile training which starts in 2 weeks for the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 in October and then 2 months after we’re going to try for 164 miles at Snowdrop. If 82 miles has this kind of impact, how bad is 100 miles going to be? Or 164 miles?

Why 164 miles you might be wondering when buckles are only given out at 100, 150, 200 and 250 miles? Because one of the ladies I ran a few laps with at Lohtse, Becky (Rebecca) of the Oklahoma Landrunners, did 163 miles last per a race report I read from Bob Stearn’s on Snowdrop. And I’d like to see if I can beat that even though she’s a far more experienced and accomplished runner than myself. I’ve already blocked out a pace chart for the 55 hours of Snowdrop which puts me at 164 miles in hour 54.

Best laid plans and all that…

Rails To Trails 100 2019

We’ve mostly settled on the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 Mile race for our first 100 mile attempt this year. This is October and I’ve mapped out our training plan which starts up in May. We’ll obviously run between now and then but the actual plan starts then.

This is about as first timer friendly as 100 miles can get. The route is flat, it’s mostly a straight out and back, it’s in cool but not freezing temperatures and it averages 8′ wide so there’s plenty of space to run side by side for 2 or 3 people. The surface is non-technical being mostly crushed gravel. So if we DNF it won’t be due to the innate difficulty of the race course but the sheer difficulty of running 100 miles at one time.

There’s also the problem of gear selection and choices. It’s hard to determine the best gear for a 100 miles without actually running a 100 miles so there’s a lot of unknowns there. For example my Altra Paradigm 4.0’s are good shoes up to 30 miles. After that they don’t work so well. This is something I had to find out the hard way. Gear for 100 miles is only going to be harder to figure out.

In 2020 we’ll be going after more challenging races with some vertical and better terrain/scenery. The next logical step forward in building skill sets and pushing limits.


TANSTAFL – aka The Price We Pay To Run

Last weekend I did my first ‘endurance’ race, a 24 hour run, run as many laps as you can race. Going into this my goal was 80 miles; I felt 80was quite achievable at my current skill set. TL;DR I did 82(ish) miles.

TANSTAFL

But…. about 5 or 6 hours from the end my left ankle, specifically the shin muscles that pull the foot up toward the shin started really bothering me. Like ‘really’ bothering me.

I had a choice to make, take a break, maybe just stop and call it a day and take my completed laps or push through it and shoot for my goal. I chose to push through. I did this fully knowing what the end result would be; knowing the consequences. And knowing that ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. i.e. for every action there is a reaction, for every decision there is a consequence.

In my case it’s being unable to run for the last 9 days after my 24 hour race. I knew that injury was not only likely but almost guaranteed to happen. Not that I’d of likely run that first week but other than my ankle/shin as of the last few days I’ve felt pretty recovered and ready to get back out.

I have a half marathon scheduled for this weekend but trying to do that in my condition would be less than wise. Wisdom when it comes to pushing through injury isn’t something I’m known for but at least for this race I do have the option to drop down to the 5K. Although I have to pay for dropping down. I mean WTH?

So that’s what I’m going to do, run the 5k, probably with a friend at a cruising pace and just limp through it so that I can continue with the recovery so I can get back out on the trails.

The point of this if you made it this far, is choose very carefully and with full understanding of the ramifications of pushing through pain while running. Pain means something is being stressed. Stress is injury. Injury is being forced to be sidelined to avoid greater injury which leads to greater down time.

2 Weeks from now…

2 weeks from this moment right… now we’ll be 7 hours and 39 minutes into our first 50 mile run at Rocky Raccoon 50. It won’t be the longest time we’ve run although hopefully it’ll be the longest distance we’ll have run.

We’ve taken this last few days after our 2nd 50K off to recover although we both did a bit of work right before this post. Bunny did some trail work and I did hill repeats and some road work. It’s obvious to me from the hills that I’m not 100% recovered from the 50K but that’s not unexpected and it’s why there is such a thing as a taper period before a long race.

We’re still playing fine tuning with our plans for the race although mostly I think of something and find out that Bunny has already thought of it and made plans. Case in point today I decided it might not be a bad idea to have some small cans of sugared, caffeined, soda in our drop bags just in case the AS’s don’t have or have run out by the time we swing through. I text her and of course she already thought of that and has already bought them.

So having a Uber Planner for a running partner is a giant bonus towards our success on our journey toward our ultimate goals.

Speaking of ultimate goals this week I’ve decided that my target goal right now is a sub 24 hour 100 mile race. For me that’s going to require a perfection of training, hydration, nutrition, weather, course and a fair bit of luck. And of course some crew help.

For whatever reason Rabbit has proclaimed she will crew for me. She’s an very experience ultra runner and experienced at managing a crew and running a crew so making sure she’s there will go a long way toward letting me reach that goal. Having her waiting in the AS’s and Bunny on the trail makes me think I have a fair chance of accomplishing that goal.


Spring Energy fuel results

We successfully used Spring Energy gels and drink mix to finish our 2nd 50K in good shape nutrition and hydration wise.

We both had a plan based on the fuels we had, while similar wasn’t exact. At the high level nutrition consisted of primarily Long Haul and Canaberry with the occasional Hill Aide, Power Boost and McRaecovery. This was supplimented with a little candied ginger, a Skratch bar and granola bar for me, some Miur gels and Justin’s PB for Bunny.

I find I don’t care for the Hill Aide much, it’s not gag worthy but it’s also not something I’ll look forward to but the quicker energy and caffeine boost was appreciated. The other Spring energy flavors aren’t bad. They’re about on order of baby food in terms of enticing’ness. Just a little bland and short on flavor for an adult palette.

But over the course of the 50K the one gel every 30(ish) minutes and one bottle of water kept my energy levels stable and even keeled for the entire race. My aches and pains were the primary reason I was glad to see the race end, not hitting up against a wall of lack of energy.

They’re certainly not cheap, standing out as pricey amongst running nutrition but there are a number of coupons available that will knock up to 20% off the price bringing them more in line with other gels or at least less egregiously overpriced.

Go Short, Go Long, Go Very Long Race Report

Yesterday we did our last long run before our debut at Rocky Raccoon 50 mile in 3 weeks. We really couldn’t have picked a worse day to have a race. The weather on Friday was 50-60 and no wind, the weather today is clear and no wind although cold. The weather on Saturday was 20’s with 20mph winds gusting to 40mph.

I won’t lie the headwind was real and when we had to cut across it it was worse. A 3/4 angle 40mph gusting in the face as we determined is just more horrible than it bashing you straight on in the face.

The race got off without any issues, we started out doing our planned Rocky pacing which over time proved to be just a little slow for our legs. About 5-8 miles in we ended up going about 30 seconds per mile faster than we’re shooting for for Rocky. This continued over the course of the entire 31 miles.

Due to the cold not everyone showed up we’re guessing and of those that showed up it’s possible a few decided not to go back out on the second lap. In the end only 32 people crossed the finish line the second time to clock in the full 50K.

Support was typical for a street race held by FleetFeet but again the cold cut the number of volunteers down to the barest of bare minimums for lap 1. We’d like to offer our most heartfelt thank you for the few brave souls who came out to support the runners, you’re always appreciated from the bottom of ours and every runners hearts.

3 or 4 miles from the end of lap 2 we started to see groups of 25K runners ahead even with the 8 minute resupply we did from our own car based aid station and some 2 and 3 minute potty breaks. At this point my competitive streak, not very wide but sometimes pointy, kicked in and we kicked the pace up by a couple of minutes per mile and skipped our breaks to reel the runners ahead one by one, group by group. Not the wisest of things to do on a training run but it proved we were capable of doing it and pushed us a bit which with the 3 week taper coming up should in the end make us stronger for Rocky.

For lap 2 it got pretty lonely out there with all but 1 of the aid stations deserted when we came through with no one in sight or possibly trying to warm up in their cars. But there was water and some pretzels and granola bars at each one when we needed them. A trail ultra with fresh cooked bacon and quesadillas it was not but it also doesn’t cost as much as a trail ultra so one can’t complain too much.

Our pacing and plan showed its value as we continued to reel in a few 50K’ers catching up and passing another 5 or 6 who’d started out good but burned out by mile 20-25. In fairness the cold and wind was just miserable. We know of at least one person who seems to have dropped around 40k, at least they didn’t have a finish time.

Tim, the owner of the local FleetFeets, was there along with a helper till the bitterly cold end to greet Bunny and myself as we crossed the finish line for lap 2 completing our second 50K. Even announcing us over the PA system even though there was literally no one else around to hear it. He gave us our medals and as it turned out we placed in our age groups so we got a race logo’d coffee cup as well.

Finishing long distance races with little fanfare and zero crowds or cheering is something we’re used to and will always have waiting for us. We’re never going to be in the front pack where the excitement is. But we run for us (and the medals) not for having a crowd of strangers applauding our showing up at the end of a race. 🙂

Overall it was a good race/run. We cut almost an hour and a half off our 50k PR and half an hour off our trail marathon PR. We proved to ourselves our race plan works. We determined that Spring Energy fuels work for us without any bad side effects and that our fueling and hydration plan worked.

Now just to do it again + 19 miles at Rocky on Feb 9th 2019.

Pacing

One thing I’ve had major issues with so far in marathon and longer distances is pacing. My ass writes checks my legs can’t cash basically. Each run over 20 miles my resource problem has been my legs. If it’s not blowing out my quads then it’s my calves going to Crampington and more worrisome with the 50K it was my knees.

Because of the foot problems I’ve been having it’s throwing off my gait which is stressing my other joints like my knees. At least I hope that’s what it is. They’ve been slow to recover for sure.

TLDR;

Anyway one of the things I’ve been trying to work on is coming up with pacing that will let us finish 50 miles in some reasonable pretense of being healthy at the end of it.

Once I ‘go long’ I invariably go out too fast which kills me in the end game. So I’m trying to be a little smarter about it.

We finished a 30K run two weekends back and it wasn’t too bad. We hit every run and walk segment at the pace I was shooting for. I’m not sure I had another 50k in me at that pace though. Okay let’s be honest I’m pretty sure I didn’t have another 50K in me.

Last weekend we did a 40K and I was good up till mile 22 or so and then fell over a bit but we were hitting the runs faster than I plan on doing a 50 mile. I was kind of wanting to see how it went.

I’ve taken the last 4 days off with some gym work only. The tendons behind my knees continue to bother me and be a worry for going long.

I’m going to alter my plan for Rocky as a result to have a longer recovery every 3 runs instead of 5 runs. It shouldn’t cut our overall pace significantly but I think it’ll help push the crash and burn point further out.

Rocky Raccoon 50 2019 Route

Using the heat map function and some freehand pathing I re-created the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile route for 2019 in Garmin’s route app.

Rocky 50

You can find it over here. It’s not 100% accurate to the published route, at least I only have 24.86 miles and the actual route is measured at a hair over 50 miles for 2 laps. So I’m a quarter short give or take over 50 miles.

But it should be ‘good enough’ for following or just looking at the vertical. Per Google elevation data there’s only 900′ of vertical per lap. Which is practically flat. We did 25 miles this last weekend with 1800 total vertical and while it was rollers none of it was badly sloped.

One of the things I realized when I was charting this is that when given the option to turn, always turn left and when you can’t turn left go straight. This only applies to the T junction with the out and back to Gate that you don’t do on the way back. So if you consider Farside as the turn around then the route is somewhat shorter on the way back than the way out. So that’s a plus I think.

We’re down to 4 Weeks (plus a day) before we load up the truck and head down to see if we can finish a 50 miler in less than the time allotted.

For this honestly my current target goal is 14 hours for various reasons. I think it’s pessimistic I’d like to do it in under 12 but I’d rather be short than long of my goal.

What does it take to try a 50 mile race?

Running 50 miles or rather traveling 50 miles on foot in one stretch with a fixed time limit is rather daunting to some, most, all but a few? Take your pick on that answer.

My wife tells me I’m crazy each time I set a new distance goal. And I’m doing it to myself every time I come home showing my true age from some long run or back to back long runs.

And maybe you do have to be a bit crazy to keep setting these kinds of goals for yourself. Everyone has to make their own determination as to what at any given point is a major goal in their lives. Because I don’t believe 99% of us can pick ultra marathon distances as a minor goal. The sheer amount of time on feet if nothing else to train the body to be able to sustain the abuse of a 50 miler, 100k, 100 miler and beyond for most of us makes it a major investment of our available time.

And you can’t even say it’s a cheap sport. Running can be a cheap sport if you’re doing shorter more ‘normal’ distances. A few miles a few times a week to try and stay in shape. You can do that in any pair of shoes, in cotton shirts and socks without any other gear than maybe a bottle of water in the summer time.

But once you reach the point where you’re running for hours on end multiple times a week then the gear costs creep up. Shoes wear out every couple of months and the wrong shoes lead to injury.

So cheap it isn’t.

Reaching this point where I’m going to attempt my first and hopefully not last 50 mile race over the last 2 years I’ll have put in a little over 3000 miles. I’ll have logged a little over 700 hours of on my feet time. 700 hours… That’s the equivalent of running 29 days 24 hours a day. Plus a little extra. It breaks down to about an hour a day unless you count travel time and then it’s more like 1.5 hours a day. So of the past 24 months I’ve given up one full months worth.

I’ve gone through 15 pairs of shoes, granted some didn’t last long because in the end we weren’t compatible for each other for the long haul and they were delegated to every day wear or boxed up in case of a zombie apocalypse. Or just being too broke to buy new ones.

I’ll have burned roughly 500,000 calories. Half a million calories or roughly 1800 standard sized Snicker’s bars. Half a million calories sounds like a lot more than 1800 candy bars but the math is what it is.

So to sum up, for me, what does it take to try your first 50 mile race?

  • 4+ runs a week
  • 15 pairs of shoes
  • 53 races of everything from 5k’s to 50k’s
  • 700+ hours of running
  • 3000+ miles of running
  • 500,000+ calories

Seems like a lot to ‘just’ do 50 miles.