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Miwok 100k Training

There’s a lot that goes into racing an ultra distance race. Training takes time, money, and social sacrifices. If you’re not a paid professional runner married or dating another professional runner, then all those things I mentioned are a strain to the person running and to those close to them.

Preparing for Miwok hasn’t been consistent. I didn’t hit my long mileage goals, but I’m happy with the work I did during all of my runs. In the 11 weeks following Sean O’Brien I averaged 61 miles, 12-20 hours of running, and 12,000+ft. of climbing weekly. There was a period of seven days where I didn’t run, otherwise I kept to a six-day run week with Mondays being a complete rest day.

I’m in awe of people to work full-time and manage quality training weeks. To put into perspective what my typical training day is, I wake up two hours before a run to eat and prep. When possible I take two hours to rest and recuperate after a run. This includes eating, stretching, and napping. What happens more often is I have to rush off to work without proper nutrition and recovery. I hate running at night, so when I’m pressed for time in the morning, I often cut my run short to have time after for a light meal and commute time. I’m constantly rushed to get to work where I try to recover. Never a successful endeavor. So, when I say I run so-and-so hours in a day there’s actually more time beyond “time-on-feet.”

One thing that has been consistent have been the kind of trails I’ve chosen to run. I prefer to keep a consistent running pace so I prefer to run less technical trails. I run Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. at least once a week, running to Idlehour trail or to the top rather than the more Instagram scenic Old Mt. Wilson trail where it’s more crowded and rugged. I feel the 10 mile downhill runs have helped toughened my legs more than the uphill sections. Although I’m still slow on the descents, I can consistently run long downhill sections.

I’ve also lifted a lot more weights. I go to the gym twice a week and I can feel the difference in how I’ve been able to handle fatigue during long runs and the pain-free day afters. Since I started lifting heavy eight weeks ago, I’ve managed to get pretty close to my four-rep. maxs. When I paddled my four-rep maxs were: 70lbs dumble bench, 185lbs barbell bench, 225lbs squat, 275lbs dead lifts. Just last week I lifted 55lbs dumble bench and 185lbs squat. I’m a gallon jug of water and 2 scoops of protein away from becoming a bro.

Well, all that to say I’ll most likely have an average day out on the trails this weekend. My goal was a top ten finish, now I’m aiming for a sub 12-hour finish. My training frustrates me because I know the work that needs to be put in to run a competitive ultra race. I know 70-mile weeks aren’t enough for a 62-mile race. I know the value of a 25+ mile run and the need for recovery, but I can’t put it all together. I know a race is determined long before the start. It’s determined in the preparation. One of these races I’ll have my act together and be able to compete as I know I’m capable of.

…btw.

Trying out Altra Lone Peak 2.0 for the first time since the Inov8 Ultra Race 290 were too stiff and opposite of cushioned. After two runs in the Altras I’m digging the design and concept of a cushioned zero drop shoe.

If you care to follow my decline (bib #46)…http://www.ultralive.net/miwok/webcast.php


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Trying The 50 Mile Distance…Again.

Although I fell behind my training schedule for Sean O’Brien due to the bike accident, I managed to pull together four solid weeks of running.
Distance: 322.64 mi
Time: 57:12:54 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 67,823 ft
Max Elevation Gain: 7,492 ft
Max Time: 4:55:08 h:m:s

I feel confident I can finish the race in under 9:30:00 based on my training. I would estimate a better finishing time, but I was unable to go on a 5+ hour/30+ mile run. So, all I can hope for is to run a gritty race. Two weeks ago I ran the back half of the course as a training run and was physically beaten by the amount of downhill running. I’d like to think all those runs up and down Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. has prepared me well.

I think I’ve been a responsible eater most of the time. I made sure to eat a recovery snack post-run (mostly in the form of a smoothie) and calorie/nutrient dense food most meals. I hydrated fairly well, being conscious to drink water first thing in the morning and intermittently during runs. I haven’t had any major stomach problems and have dialed in my race day nutrition plan. I’ll be using GU gels, Nuun tablets, and Probar chews. My mindset has been to eat for energy; food as fuel. It’s helped me stay focus and limit junk food.

Seven more days until I toe the line. I have goals for the race and none bigger than to keep moving forward no matter what happens or how I feel at any time. Big question is, music or no music?

The course and elevation profile:

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Land Between The Lakes Race Report

We arrived in Grand Rivers, KY just in time to have dinner with the Rusted Bears crew. The house we stayed in was incredible and the lakeside location was very scenic. We had a nice potluck style dinner and most of us called it an early night.

Since this was my first race beyond 50K, it was nice to have experienced it with the Bears. I learned so much just from observing their pre-race and race day rituals. One thing I learned from them was to keep an organized drop bag. My drop bag was a mess. I just threw everything inside a cooler bag thinking I could quickly rummage to get what I needed during the race. I learned that in a long race an efficient drop bag stop can mean saving a lot of accumulated time in the end.  Next time I’m going to make sure to pack supplies in a way that I’m able to see everything. What you don’t see, you’ll forget!

Race Day
Everyone had their own pre-race breakfast routine. Most of us had some kind of oatmeal and coffee combination. I opted to eat a banana coconut oatmeal mix I discovered a few weeks ago. Basically oatmeal with brown sugar, bananas, and coconut milk. I try to eat early enough so everything will be digested and I have time to “move” things out. Success!

The Rusted Bears crew.

We got to the starting line in enough time to drop off our drop bags. There weren’t enough porta johns at the start line so a bunch of people (all men) used the rocky area by the start line to pee. At that point none of us cared who saw what we were doing cause when nature calls, you gotta answer!

The Race – Start and First Lap
Course description as described on WKRC webpage:
START: The course starts on the shore of beautiful Kentucky Lake. Turn off Hwy 453 at the entrance to Lighthouse Landing and proceed past the sailboats to the shoreline starting area. From the start, take a right onto 453 and proceed south for 1.5 miles, utilizing the canal bridge. If we have a clear morning you should see the sun rising over Lake Barkley. Turn right onto Kentucky Lake Scenic Drive and head up and over the hill to the trail head, which is just before the road takes a sharp turn to the left. Note that you take the trail to the right, and will run in a clockwise direction. This initial 1.9 mile road section should allow for separation of participants before entering the trail. The Canal Loop trail (designated by blue markers on trees), is a scenic, well-groomed 11.3 mile loop on mostly single-track between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes; offering many breathtaking views of the lakes, and several short challenging hills.

Elevation change has been measured at 1119′ for the 23km; 2068′ for the marathon, 3017′ for the 60k, and 3966′ for the 50 mile. Be alert for sections containing exposed roots and some rock.

50 mile run: Start at Lighthouse Landing, run Canal Loop 4 times, turn left onto Kentucky Lake Scenic Drive, run .6 mile to turnaround, and proceed to finish at Grand Rivers Welcome Center. Make certain an official records your name/number before proceeding at the end/beginning of each loop.

The plan was to start somewhere close to the front to avoid the bottleneck once we got off the roads and onto the single track. What happened was an 8:30 average pace for the first nine miles. A very comfortable pace…if I was running a marathon! I learned later was it was way too fast for a 50 miler considering my lack of training.

The first lap went by pretty quick. There was a big group of us and we were like a train with the guy up front setting an honest pace. We ran through the aid stations and basically refueled at the same time around 5 and 10 miles during the first loop. I wanted to keep up with the group thinking they would help me to the finish. Not the case. We were all doing different distances, some dropped out of the race.

The course featured rolling terrain on packed dirt. None of the climbs were too hard. There were two climbs that were long and most everyone hiked them. Some sections were rocky and slick. The tree roots were mostly visible and fallen trees could easily be navigated around or over. Some of us fell at least one time. In my case it was a root I didn’t see. After I fell I made a conscious effort to lift my feet over sections that were heavily covered with leaves. The first half of the loop was definitely much flatter than the second half.

The trail conditions were perfect and I noticed a good number of runners wearing road shoes. I intended to change into my Mizuno Wave Precision 13s after the first loop, but I was too hyped up and my mind all over the place to remember to change into them. It was all a blur. I changed shoes after the second lap and it helped a lot as I was able to run confidently downhill with the added cushioning and support of my Mizunos.

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Finishing the first lap. Cristina blogged her review of the race. Click here to read her race report.

The Second Lap
The group of runners began to separate during the second lap. This is where I started to feel some stomach discomfort. My average pace dropped significantly to about 9:30, but I still felt confident in finishing. For some reason I couldn’t handle the taste of the gels or any of the food I packed for myself. After two laps, I consumed three Clif Shot gels and a bite of my salted mashed potatoes. Not enough calories!

The cool temperatures probably saved me considering my horrible fueling. It remained in the low 60s with a cool breeze and mostly overcast skies.

Third Lap
The lack of nutrition had a lot to do with a horrible third lap. My average pace dropped to 10:30. I stopped too long at each aid station trying to force myself to eat things I hadn’t trained eating before. I survived the third lap eating orange wedges and pretzel sticks while doing a lot of walking. Somehow I survived.

I underestimated the role the mind plays in an ultra. I was aware of how emotions affected me during a marathon and I thought it would be similar to an ultra. There’s a huge difference! In an ultra there is more time to get caught up in emotions and mental blocks.

I found myself walking a lot more and that can be dangerous because of all the self-talk. I was rationalizing how a DNF (did not finish) wouldn’t be that bad. I could chalk this race up as a learning experience and I can run another 50 better prepared. Yeah, that sounded okay.

As the miles kept passing, more excuses filled my head: my left knee felt funny, my breathing erratic, the hill too steep, the weather too hot, the wrong shoes, not enough training miles, no one too run with. I seriously entertained the idea of quitting after the third lap. I came to the realization that my pace goals were too ambitious and unrealistic — sometimes I set lofty  goals for myself. Disheartened and broken, I was totally okay with a DNF.

Coming up to the inevitable end to my day, I ran down a short descent to the main aid station with my head down when I hear, “Choy!”

The Fourth Lap and Finish
Obviously, quitting didn’t happen. What happened instead was a renewed sense of purpose and energy provided to me by my girlfriend… and soda! I didn’t expect to see her at that point (she was with Josh who found the energy to cheer after running the 23K distance) and after getting over the initial surprise (I honestly was in a daze similar to the first lap) I was happy. I felt horrible, but was reminded that I physically looked okay. All I had to do was complete one more lap.

I was given potato chips and cola and sent on my way with a kiss, from my girlfriend, not Josh. There’s comfort in knowing it was the last lap and I would never have to see any part of it again. Each step would be a step closer to the finish line and not the start of another lap. ENERGY!

I ran every single step except for the two long climbs which I managed to power hike. I continued to drink soda and eat chips at each aid station. I think I found the magic formula!

At the end of the lap Cristina directed me to run a .8 mile out and back. I didn’t know I was running the wrong way until she yelled at me to turn the other way. I started the longest .8 miles I’ve ever ran. Two hills to get to an unmanned spot where all 50 mile runners would turn around to make their way to the finish. I was pulled up by a guy who was struggling. I tapped him on his back and told him to run on my heels and we’d both run to the turnaround. He tried, but he was falling back. I hi-fived him on my way down and gave a thumbs-up to everyone else making the torturous climb.

Cristina met me at the aid station with plans to run the 1.7 miles to the finish alongside me. This was until I caught site of a couple of runners who I thought were also finishing the 50 miler. I started to chase them down to get a better placing (because I’m competitive like that!), but found out they were 60K finishers. In the process of chasing down the runners, I managed to  leave Cristina behind. I felt bad afterward and should have continued running with her. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have mattered had I finished a couple of spots higher.

Click here to read all race results: RACE RESULT

Post Race
Safe to say we were all hurting. There’s some pride in knowing we all ran hard enough to feel discomfort. I think I would have felt bad if I was without pain after the race. It would have been as if I had taken it easy on the course and not pushed the limits of my capabilities.

Lessons Learned
Mileage, mileage, mileage.
To improve running longer distances with speed I know I have to put up the miles. Running 50 training miles weekly is not enough to run a 50 miler. I remember running 60+ miles in preparation for a 25K and how I felt during and after the race. No problems whatsoever and I finished second ahead of some pretty good runners. I think 12 hours of running per week is a start.

Nutrition can make or break your day.
I need to find a way to be okay with eating when my body tells me otherwise. Cola and chips isn’t enough. I need to man up and chug those gels and eat some protein. Something I can work on during longer training runs.

Convey positivity and encouragement.
I realize when I was feeling horrible during the second and third lap I was not engaging other runners and I was ascribing fault on them and on myself. People walking the downhills became obstacles and my tone in asking them to move aside was harsh. When I began to be nice, I ran more at peace and with some joy. During the last lap I encouraged people on and said “thank you” as they moved aside for me. Awesome!

Major thanks to my girlfriend who always amazes me with her support and encouragement.


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Thoughts On Racing

I’m inspired by other runners and their love of running. I love how runners talk about running and what it means to them. Some share very personal reasons and those are the ones that have a lasting impression on me. Seeing others run or hearing someone talk about their runs energizes me. Their views and attitudes towards running help shape and, in some cases, reshape my own views of the sport.

One person who is eternally stoked on running is Billy Barnett. I would describe his BillyBarnettapproach to running as casual determination. I sense he’d be happy whether he finished first or not, as long as he was daring at some point during a run. He truly is a man that marches to the beat of his own drum. His genuine love of life and minimalist lifestyle is very apparent in the way he practices the craft of running…and living.

So, why bring up Billy and the inspirational stuff? The reason is this Saturday I’ll be running the Land Between The Lakes Ultra and have been feeling flat as of late. By “flat” I mean lacking motivation to run and lacking emotion when I do run. Honestly, I don’t care whether I do well, but I do care that I can have an effect on the race and the race affects me.

Enter The Frog Blog! I’m a fan of running blogs and some are influential to my running. I recently revisited Billy’s blog to find his entry about the 2010 Hilo Marathon. I remember parts of it and what he wrote stuck with me to this day. That entry and a conversation we had a couple of months after the race has helped with framing my approach to this weekend’s race. Run free and with joy. Read the entry and hopefully you’ll be affected by it.

I also remember a conversation I had with Steve and Jim after a really bad Hilo Marathon where I crashed and burned after running a fast half. Pacing strategy was the topic and I brought up the idea that pacing is only good for those who want to finish instead we should challenge ourselves during races to accomplish something more. I mentioned how we never really know when it’s going to be THE day; the day when we run the race of our life (considering we’ve put in good work leading up to race day).

All of the reflecting I’ve been doing has led me to one conclusion; run the race of my life! It’s a new distance and what better way to discover uncharted territory than to find the boundaries and know my limits. Cristina will also be there and I want to show her what running means to me and how much her support affects my running.

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This was one of those perfect runs that I can reflect on so vividly. Mana Rd.


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February 25 – March 3, 2013 Weekly Recap

Bowerman and ChoyMiles: 40.46
Time on feet: 7:02:37
Long run mileage: 17.36
Elevation gain: 1,592 ft.
Number of activities: 4

Two weeks out from Land Between The Lakes 50 Miler and I found myself still frustrated with the weather.  The rain and sleet messed up the local trails thus preventing me from putting up miles and time on my feet. I had two runs longer than 10 miles. One was a muddy midweek run at Eagle Creek. It was a wonder I didn’t slip and fall considering the slop I was pushing downhill and the constant drizzle (later turning into snow) falling.

A good thing about living close to a golf course is being able to run on it when the trails are slick and the roads icy. I was able to get in a couple of nice recovery runs on manicured greens, albeit they were frozen or wet, but much better than running on concrete.


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February 4 – February 10, 2013 Weekly Recap

Bowerman and ChoyMiles: 55.15
Time on feet: 10:15:42
Long run mileage: 20.99
Elevation gain: 4,164 ft.
Number of activities: 6

I increase my time-on-feet even more this week with a high of 4:20:00 over 21 miles. I felt good considering it was my longest training run since I moved to Indianapolis. It was followed by a stop to Upland Brewing in Bloomington for their Three Lil’ Pigs sandwich (breaded pork tenderloin, pulled pork, and bacon!).We love that place and find running in the area a great excuse to enjoy their food and beers.

This past week I also discovered a couple of new trails. First, there’s Southwestway Park in the…southwest corner of the city. I first ran a section of the trail system while competing at one of the DINO trail races. I remembered there were small climbs, so I went there to run a hard pace. What I didn’t realize is how far you can run the trails along the White River. Over the course of 11 miles I managed to get over 1,000 ft. of climbing! That’s really good considering it’s Indianapolis.

On Saturday I ran Morgan Monroe State Forest in Martinesville. A few Rusted Bears took me along a 20+ mile run along the Low Gap and Tecumseh trails. It reminded me of the trails I ran in Altadena. Morgan Monroe has become my favorite trail in all of Indiana! Long-ish sustained climbs, technical single-track, and beautiful landscape make it a very attractive place to run. Also, you can go on forever when you connect to the Tecumseh trail.

Three more weeks until my first 50 miler. I need to get in a run of at least five hours on my feet to feel confident I can race a miler.

This same time last year I ran 65 miles, was on my feet for over 11 hours, and climbed over 13,600 ft. for the week. There’s a difference between a strong runner and a fast runner:-)