Race Report: Desert Classic Half Marathon

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Made the mistake of driving the course before the race and was reminded of how hilly the course was. I started the race doubting my chances for an 85-minute finish. I had done a 13.1 time trial about 10 days before and finished in 86:40. But I felt incredible during that time trial and managed to stay in the 6:30 to 6:40 range most of the run in what was essentially an all-out effort. I had struggled to stay in the 6:40s after about 6 miles previously. Duplicating that effort on this course was gonna be a tall task. On top of this, I would be running the race in new shoes because my NB XC900s ripped at the base of the sole on my last run of the training cycle (mile repeats on the treadmill). I’d be running the race in a brand new pair of Mizuno Wave Ekidens.

Started the race in third place, but after about half a mile realized I had zero chance of maintaining that pace so I eased up and dropped into fifth place. At the mile one marker, I realized I had forgot to start the timer on my watch. I decided not to start my watch there and just run the rest of the race based on effort instead of time.

The course is rolling hills with a first half net ascent of about 350 feet, that doesn’t sound like much, but essentially 90 percent of the first half is a gradual uphill. At about mile four I was already regretting not doing more hill work. I was working pretty hard and felt like I was probably running in the high 6:30s to low 6:40s. I drank a mouthful of water at each of the three water stops on the first half. Between mile four and five someone passed me. I was now in sixth place. I made no attempt to keep up with him.

The turnaround came and I did some quick calculations based on the time of day on my watch. I figured I did the first half in just under 44 minutes. NOT where I wanted to be, but I figured I would have a pretty sizable negative split.

Sure enough, the gradual downhill after the turnaround was like water on a 110-degree day. I started to cruise, but knew 85 minutes would be virtually impossible as I’d have to do about 6:10s for the rest of the way to make up time. I could see one dude in front of me and to my surprise he was pulling away. I wanted to catch him, but I knew if I pushed much harder things could go bad in a hurry. My breathing  was already “finishing kick-like.”

I fought to maintain my pace and bypassed the last two water stops. Hit a couple of nasty uphills and figured I had a couple of miles in the 6:30s instead of the 6:10s I should have been running. Ran as fast as I could on the last downhill to the finish and hit the line with the clock reading 1:26:0-something. I was fairly disappointed to miss out on the 1:25s by just a few seconds, but immediately heard a couple of dudes saying their chip/net times were 40-plus seconds faster.

The results station by the start wasn’t working so I had to wait about 20 minutes for my results online. 1:25:27, sixth place overall and first in my age group. Technically about a 20-minute PR because I haven’t officially run a half marathon since I moved to AZ about 15 years ago.

I’m unsure of my racing plans for the rest of the year. I’m for sure doing the Bataan Death March (with a 35-pound backpack) again in March and I’m 90% sure I’ll be doing the PHX Marathon in a month, but I’m not sure if I’ll try to lower my half time further or shoot for a sub-3 hour marathon.

 

 

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More idiocy

Welp, my training was short, but intense.

I did 3 105-mile weeks, followed by 2 140-mile weeks. I did 10 milers Monday and Tuesday of race week, then 3 full days off. I consumed about 4,000 calories a day those 3 days with about 80 percent coming from carbohydrates.

I showed up on race morning primed and strangely confident. I decided to not deal with any drop bags and basically run with my hydration pack stuffed with all my clothes and a bunch of food. I’m guessing it weighed about 20 pounds with the hydration bladder full.

The first 20 miles were kind of a mess. First of all, I must have peed 25 to 30 times! This is no joke. I also spent the early part of the race fiddling with my hydration pack waaaaay too much. Still, I settled in nicely behind a woman who I believe ended up being the second place female in the 55K. I would pull up just behind her, then pull off to pee, then work to catch-up with her, then pull off to pee again.

I took some time at the 55K finish/second major aid station. Pulled off two extra layers and was now just running in a tech shirt. I can honestly say that I felt better from miles 30 to about mile 60, then I did mile 1 to mile 30. Because I stopped peeing so much, I finally got into a nice rhythm. I also had a nasty fall at about mile 35, in a section with tons of loose gravel. At the mile 45 aid station I was in 8th place and felt I was gonna reel a few people in.

By mile 55, I believe I was 6th place and still felt really strong. The course changed a lot here. We had spent a lot of time in the early part of the race on Jeep roads, from here on out, about 95% of the course would be on the Arizona Trail exclusively. Navigating the trail was critical.

That’s why it was unfortunate that my headlamp started to die 30 minutes after the mile 55 aid station. Luckily, a worker at the next aid station (62ish) was happy to lend me hers. Got to the mile 67 aid station and still felt remarkably good, also picked off another runner. As far as I could tell, I was in 5th place in the 100 mile race. Within 20 minutes of leaving the 67 aid station I passed another runner. I was in 4th place.

At about mile 70, I stopped to pee for the 114th time. I was on a short section of Jeep road. (On these roads, I’m constantly going back and forth between the two “gutters” because one is generally smoother than the other.) I made the decision to switch gutters, kinda clipped my toe on the mound in between the gutters and landed awkwardly between to big rocks and heard a “pop!” through my headphones. Pain shot through my leg, but kinda dissipated as I keeped running. I didn’t know what to think. Was it a “pop!” or was it just crunched bones. I had run through a broken bone in my foot before and while it certainly wouldn’t be ideal, I could deal with it. Unfortunately in about 30 to 45 minutes it became clear it was probably a tendon. As the adrenaline wore off, I got a sharp pain every time I landed on my right foot.

I continued to run. Trying to figure out a way to position my foot in a way to not hit the sore spot. I could never really make it work. I tried to stay positive, but the pain was too intense. By the time I got to about 2 miles out from the mile 80 aid station, I was basically just hobbling in pain and got passed by 4 100-milers.

I decided that I would stay at Hull Cabin for 30 minutes. My sub-20 hours was out of the question at this point, which was a real drag. By my calculations I made it through 50 miles in 9:15 and 70 miles in 13:30. I hit Hull Cabin (80 miles) in about 16:30 hours. It had taken me 3 hours to do 10 miles.

I actually laid down for 30 minutes, then forced myself to get up. Had to go pee again, so I hit the bathroom that was about 60 yards from the main cabin. Every step to the bathroom was dagger in my right foot. Excruciatingly painful.

I was done. My first DNF in 11 ultras.

Come to find out after the race, that pretty much everybody struggled in the race and if I could have just walked the last 20 miles at a 20-minute mile pace, I would have finished 3rd.

Got my foot looked at and my GP says he is 95% sure it’s a torn tendon or two or three. An X-Ray also revealed some bone fragments, but I’m pretty sure those aren’t new. I’m supposed to go to a specialist next week and get an MRI because my doctor says there’s a chance it’s a damaged fascia.

Instead of doing that, I’ll be training next week for the Javelina Jundred. Went out this morning for a 10-miler and although my right foot was sore, it wasn’t anything I can’t train on.

Yes, this is probably yet another stupid decision on my part. Popular wisdom is that it’s very important to let tendons heal properly.

But this DNF eats at me every day. Just gnaws at my innards like a hungry Grizzly and the sooner I can get rid of it, the sooner I’ll be able to live with myself.

I’m an idiot.

 

The folly of men

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I’ve spent the last 9 weeks getting into shape. I started at 182 pounds and 22% body fat and now stand at 154 and 10% body fat. It’s been a lot of work. At least one hour of exercise a day and 1,200 calories. I have sacrificed a lot of D.C. Mountain DIPAs and Imperial Stouts at Wilderness. I run 10 miles or do my upper body (vanity) work out with a 5-mile tempo run on the treadmill on the weekdays. Then typical a 15-mile trail run on Saturday and a 1-mile swim on Sunday.

Things have gone well, but I’ve been craving a race. My initial thought was a marathon, but then I started thinking about the Javelina Jundred. I was about to sign up for it, then saw the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line race. Let’s see 6 1/2 laps in the desert or a point-to-point race covering some of the most incredible scenery in the country. It was a no-brainer. And by no-brainer, I mean it’s one of the dumbest things I have ever done.

One month to train for a 100-miler at elevation.

I’m an idiot.

 

Bad Day at Black Rock: 2015 Zane Grey 50

Stomach was bad all day. I puked 7 times and had 2 “accidents.” I puked twice by the first aid station and wanted to quit, but didn’t. At the 33 mile aid station they were pretty close to dragging me off the course, but they let me continue. After that I just went into “let’s get this shit over with” mode and finished in 12:35, which was only 35 minutes slower than my goal time. 54th out of 150 starters. That represents my poorest finish in an ultra ever, but effort-wise it was probably my best race. As usual, I watched Touching the Void the night before the race. During the race, I kept thinking about Joe Simpson talking about being “reduced to nothing” during his ordeal. While my experience can’t even begin to touch what he went through, I did spend much of the race covered in my own poop and vomit. Luckily, it started to rain fairly hard at the end of the race, so I was presentable at the finish line. Unfortunately, I immediately puked my guts out as soon as I got there.

Don’t exactly know what happened to my stomach. I did eat a bit more for breakfast than I normally do before a race, but I certainly didn’t pig out. Some dude looked at me at the finish and said I may have had altitude sickness.

This was my hardest race. The plain truth is, I’m not a mountain runner. I do well in flat races where I can run fast for long stretches of time, not races with 10,000 feet in elevation gain, fallen trees everywhere and river crossings. If that makes me less than hardcore, then I’m totally fine with that.

All that being said, I’m looking forward to hitting the Grand Canyon in June and trying to break 4:30 for rim to rim.

Extended race report to come later.

It’s getting close

Training has been going well. Despite my declaration that I was gonna slow down and put in some decent miles, I have done no such thing. I’ve been running fast and only putting in 60 to 70 MPW. I don’t know, as I have said before, this kind of training has always worked for me.

I hit Payson and did the first 10 to 11 miles and back (~21 miles) of the course in just under 4 hours (I ran for two hours, then turned back). I had planned on going up again the following week, but sick kids and freeway work convinced me not to. I did the Towers run that Saturday and followed it up with 20 miles on Sunday. I have dropped to about 165 lbs. as of Monday this week.

I’m feeling good, but will stick with my 12-hour finish goal for the race. I’ve read too many race reports where this course just ate people up. We’re talking 2:30 marathoners that finished in over 14 hours. 50 miles at altitude with 10,000 feet in elevation gain is just too much to recover from if I go balls out and bonk. I’ll be doing 5 run/5 walk on the ups and then cruising on the downs. And I’ll be trying like hell to eat a gel every 30 minutes.

Update

So much for keeping this blog updated. The past couple of weeks have been really good training-wise. I dropped about 18 pounds in 3 weeks and my 10 milers have consistently been under 70 minutes. I had a 35-mile weekend 2 weekends ago and 30-mile weekend this past weekend. The bump in speed is probably all mental, but it did coincide with switching to an old pair of NB 101s and ditching the tunes while I run. I like being able to hear my breathing pattern. I’m gonna have to start putting in some 20-milers soon AND start hitting the hills.

Dead legs

10 miles in 80 minutes on the treadmill

Legs feel shitty and my achilles is a mess. Kinda surprised that yesterday’s (Saturday) run beat me up so badly. Supposed to run the toughest 50 miler in the country in 6 weeks and I can’t do a 15-15 weekend. LOL.