Putting the Labor in Labor Day Weekend

Flatlanders 12hr race report

Round and around and around we go…The Flatlanders 6 and 12 hour timed race is held in Fenton Park and put on by the awesome pair (and fellow SLUGS) of David and Victoria White to help benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  It’s a 1.4 mile loop of pure fun, mixing shade with open areas and, as the title suggests, pretty flat (about 33 ft per loop).

63 toed the line that morning at 7:30.  It was a pleasant 75 degrees (heat wave having broken the day before), and the tents and self-aid stations were set up.  IMG_208841 would be running the 6 hour and 22 running the 12 and it was obvious from the start who the fast ones would be.  My goal was to stick with an 11-12 min per mile pace for as long as I could and see if I had any gas left in the tank later in the day.  3 hours in, about 10:30, I had run about 15 miles, so right on the 12 min pace.  The problem was, it was getting warm.  It was sunny and humid and the temperature was on its way to 90.  Some reports of the heat index put it at close to 100.  Not sure if that was true, but it felt like it!

To combat the heat, I had decided to try to cool off my pulse points.  I used 3 water scarfs (with gel beads or something in them that swell with water and stay relatively cool)- one around my neck and one on each wrist.  That plus the ice water I kept in an ice chest (and alternatively used to drink or spray myself with) seemed to do the trick.  At no point did I feel overheated or sick from the heat (of course, it could have been because I was moving so slowly!)  Regardless, after the first 15, I slowed considerably, taking more walking breaks, sitting a bit to eat and generally distracting myself with conversations with fellow runners.  There was a great group of people out there, so conversations were very interesting!

Clouds covered us from noon to about 2 and although it didn’t completely cool off, getting out of the sun was welcome.  There were sections that became “sun gauntlets”- 1/3 to ½  a mile of exposed course.  I had decided to try to “run the sun” and walk the shade.  Didn’t always work, but it was a good distraction.  In the meantime, I couldn’t help notice the number of times I was being lapped by the eventual winner of the 6 hour, Jon Cash.  I had lost count, but he turned in an impressive 45 miles in 6 hours for the second best distance ever.  I determined to at least do that many miles in twice the time.  Luckily, relief came in the form of my lovely wife and two boys! With Patrick in the stroller, Joseph and Sandra gave me a boost through a couple of miles.  Sandra, giving me encouragment and distracting me with stories, Joseph sprinting ahead and then saying “Can’t catch me!” or “come on dad!”.  I couldn’t have asked for a better mid race pick up.IMG_1387

As the day wore on, the heat continued to take its toll. My goal became to run enough to do sub 20 minute miles and a few times, even that was a struggle.  However, something clicked about mile 41 and I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and really push it.  Encouraged by a shout of “go FASTER!”.  I ran the next two miles at a 10 minute pace, surprising myself and starting to think that I might get the 50 miles I originally though was going to happen.

What I forgot was, at that point, I had been running for over 10 hours.  My legs reminded me and I slowed again to a 15-17 min pace.  I came around the bend for the last time and started the out and back sections (about .2 miles which everyone was doing).  The goal was to go back and forth in the final amount of time to get as far as you can.  After one or two out and backs, I once again decided “now or never” and ran the last .7 of a mile on what felt like a full sprint, but was actually 10:45 min pace, finishing with 47.8 miles, good enough for 9th overall. (and I just edged the 6 hour winner)

Compared to my 38.2 at Howl at the Moon 3 weeks earlier, I ran 10 more miles in 4 more hours.  It was cooler (15 deg at the start 10 deg cooler at the peak) and I think that made all the difference.  I will still continue to experiment, and have the 60k Hocking Hills Indian Run coming up on 9/21 where I’ll test out the UltrAspire SJ vest in preparation for the Hunter/Gatherer 50k in Texas on 10/5 (no aid stations).

Congrats to Tommy Doias on his 69.91 miles on the 12 hour, setting a new masters record and to all the other runners that braved the heat.  The aid station volunteers and lap counters were superb and went above and beyond, fending off bees and helping break down tarp/tents after the race!

Highly recommended race.

Louisville Lovin the Hills- 1st Ultra of the Year

The sea was angry that day my friend…Of course, I was in the foothills of Louisville, Kentucky, so not really relevant…

I had made the trek down from St. Louis the day before, the entire family coming to support me (or more accurately, visit the water park adjacent to our hotel).  I was now standing near the start line, a sunny 28 degree day, waiting for the “go” signal.  I was a bit nervous because I had changed my training to see if it made a difference and I was about to find out if I’d made a terrible mistake.  In my short ultra career, it had been drilled into me that miles was the training answer.  Not one to love doing the same thing over and over, I decided to switch things up in December.  I reduced my mileage (10-15 miles would be my longest single training run for a 50k), include a “speed” day and a “hills” day, and do leg strength training.  The net result was fewer hours training, more time with my family, and hopefully at least as good a result in my races.

Which brought me to Louisville and the Louisville Lovin the Hills 50k.  Originally, I had signed up for the race as a “training” run for my 50 miler in March, but it was becoming apparent that this one might be more difficult, even though it was 19 miles shorter! (Why do I underestimate these things?) The elevation profile on the site said there was 5200 feet of gain during the run, putting it on par with my Dogwood Canyon 50k I had run in October.  That one, if you remember, took me almost 9 hours, so I was in for some fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe run started a little after 8, and I had 3 layers on top and only my shorts and compression socks below. (Note I have no financial interest (NFI) in any product I talk about on this entry) On my feet were a pair of VivoBarefoot Neo Trail shoes that I had put a sum total of 7 miles on, and an UltrAspire Kinetic hydration vest that had zero miles on it.  I had Clip2 in my bottles, experimenting with them as well.  Nobody said I was smart.  My goal was to hydrate/fuel every hour with a bottle of the Clip2 (24 ounces ~ 150 calories), supplement with food at the aid stations, and use S-Caps when needed.

The first section was flat to downhill, and after about 2.5 miles we hit our first serious hill.  Everyone (there were 15 mile racers on the same course) bottled up a bit there as it went to single track and we trudged up the hill.  It wasn’t the 15° incline of Dogwood, but it wasn’t easy.  Here I learned the valuable lesson that, like Derek Zoolander who couldn’t turn left, I couldn’t go right and reach one of the bottles on the vest.  Super.  Luckily, during the run a few of my compatriots felt sorry for me and either helped me get it out or get it back in after they saw me writhing around like I was trying to swat a bee off my back. (note- must work on right shoulder flexibility)  So, back in the race, I hit the first aid station at mile 5.7 in 1:10 and was feeling pretty good.  Grabbed a banana and motored out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next section was the very definition of single track.  Barely more than a foot wide, we negotiated the sides of hills that luckily weren’t greasy with mud.  My pace was still pretty good, but because of the difficulty in reaching my bottles, I had fallen off the pace in staying hydrated.  I justified it by convincing myself I wasn’t thirsty, but in hindsight probably should have had a bit more to drink.

At this point (mile 10, 2 hours into the run) my feet (that I had mostly taped) were feeling pretty good with the exception of my second toe on my left foot (that I hadn’t taped).  It was sitting next to one that I had, and decided that rubbing was a good idea. A bit of pain that would be my constant companion for the rest of the day.  My drop bag (with new socks, a stick roller to get the lactic acid out of my calves and thighs, and some ibuprofen) was at a place called Scott’s Gap.  I didn’t know how far it was, and when I asked at mile 15, was told “I think it’s at mile 22″. While this was technically correct, it was at the beginning and end of the loop known as Scott’s Gap.  Luckily, mile 19 was the beginning and mile 22(ish) was the end.  I needed the stick roller both times I hit that aid station.  To explain, I had used the 5200 feet estimate from the website as a proxy on how many more hills I had to go.  By mile 19, I was very near that number and feeling it.  I was told Scott’s Gap was a “killer”, but my watch wouldn’t lie, right?

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Scott’s Gap took me an hour to navigate and it was only a little more than 3 miles. (the first 1/2 mile was a 10° incline and then it got fun) It nearly killed me with what felt like a lot of elevation gain and a lot of straight up and down trails.  Luckily, two things helped me.  The first was the realization that after Scott’s Gap, I only had 9 or so miles to go (less than double digits!) and the second was a fellow runner who I had seen off and on during the race. I caught up with him after leaving the Scott’s Gap aid station for the second time. We ran together, talked, pushed each other and made it through the final 9.  He was running his first 50k and he was a 3:30 marathoner. I wouldn’t have finished as quickly (a relative term) without him.  I was slower on the ups and he was a bit slower going downhill, but we ham and egged it to the finish.  (there was a bit of nice scenery on the way)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both my quads cramped about 150 yards from the finish, so my assessment is that I left most of it out on the course.  I finished in 7:57, nearly an hour quicker than Dogwood, and if Garmin is to be believed, Louisville had about 1000 more feet of climbing.  Regardless, a good run. Here’s the link if you really want to experience the entire experience!

Louisville Lovin the Hills by 8728753 at Garmin Connect – Details.

The volunteers were great, the runners were kind and the chili and vegan options at the end (as well as the massage therapist) were well worth it!

I’m convinced the training change was effective (although I was sore for longer after) and I’ll take the lessons learned (taping, fueling, hydration, training) and incorporate them into the next month before the 50 miler.  As mentioned on my tweet, I have a new challenge to help the kids at SouthSide Early Childhood Center, and I’ll have something out on that next week!

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