Results tagged “Race Report”

Kingsburg 12 Hour

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Going as fast as possible in a controlled environment has intrigued me since I competed at Desert Solstice back in 2013. I willingly admit that it can be incredibly mind-numbing, and debatably down right torture, to chase a long distance on the track. I will also confess, that I have spent way too much time on the road and track in 2014 and look forward to balancing out my road, track and trail time more evenly in the coming months. Anyway, the Kingsburg 12 Hour began to emerge about seven weeks ago while I was speaking with Peter Defty about future races. I mentioned that I would like to do a 12-hour track race where remaining in lane one the entire time was a reality. Peter suggested just renting out a track. It sounded simple enough. We didn't know what we were getting into: Peter ended up doing three weeks' worth of work in the two days leading up to the attempt. Getting all the pieces in place for track certifications, USATF sanctioning, doping control, etc. It adds up quick. Regardless, we got to the starting line Saturday morning feeling we had our bases covered.

track2.jpg

IAU 2014 100k World Championships

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Photo courtesy of Bryon Powell of iRunFar.com

Racing the world championships this year in Doha, Qatar, was probably one of the coolest experiences I have had so far in the world of ultrarunning. It was my first exposure to international racing, and it carried a unique set of dynamics—competition on both the individual and team levels.

I was able to fly into Doha late on Sunday, November 16. This gave me ample time to adjust to the nine-hour time difference, and it also gave me the opportunity to experience some of the Middle Eastern culture and not feel rushed in preparation for the race.

Team USA was comprised of six male and six female athletes. The men's squad included Max King, Zach Miller, Matt Flaherty, Michael Wardian, Nick Accardo, and myself. The women's squad included Larisa Dannis, Meghan Arbogast, Emily Harrison, Pam Smith, and Amy Sproston. The race was scored so that the top three finishers from each team had their overall times added together. The team with the lowest time won. This made for a really interesting "every minute counts" mentality for both squads.

Fall 50 USATF 50 Mile Road Championships: Race Report

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The Fall 50 race course in Door County, WI, has long been my favorite race course. The point-to-point route from Gills Rock down to Sturgeon Bay guarantees a scenic experience this time of year. Race Director Sean Ryan does a fantastic job organizing and exciting the participants in both the solo and relay divisions with a great race-day atmosphere, and possibly the most electric post-ultra parties I've seen.

My main goal going into the Fall 50 was to get a good training stimulus for the World 100k Championships in Qatar on November 21. However, knowing speedster Tyler Sigl would be toeing the line this year, I toyed with the possibility of getting close to or breaking five hours if I could latch onto Tyler—or at least better my 50 mile time from Chicago Lakefront last year. I was convinced that Tyler had the skills to hit that time, given good weather, even despite the rolling hills speckled along the first 30 miles and the one last climb at mile 39.

Race Report: Six Days in the Dome

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Six Days in the Dome (SDD) was one of the most intriguing events I have been a part of. Joe Fejes, the race director and six day competitor himself, is hoping to establish an annual venue in which folks from around the world can join in an environment conducive to very fast times in a variety of timed events. SSD is offers events ranging from 24 hours all the way to 6 days. As for me, I was graciously granted permission to enter with the intent to race for 12 hours. My reasoning for this was two-fold: First, with World 100k Championships taking place in November, I wanted my summer training to mimic 100k training relatively closely. Training for a fast 12 hour matched this protocol much closer than the training plan I would incorporate for a timed event of 24+ hours. Second, I feel I can recover pretty quick from a 12-hour effort and get back into the swing of training for Worlds, but I am currently unaware of how long a full-on 24-hour effort would take to bounce back from. My goals going into this event were to try to break the 100-mile world record (11:28:03), and extend my current 12 hour world record beyond 101.7 miles.

Photo courtesy of Jeffery Genova
The flight over to Alaska went as well as could be expected. I was arrived around 10 pm, which felt like 1 am from the time zone change. But because Alaska summers have extended daylight hours, it was still light out when I went to bed at midnight Alaskan Time, making the whole experience a little discombobulating. I slept well, though, and was fortunate enough to be able to run the following morning with Joe Fejes, Valmir Nunes, Richard Schick, and Jeffery Genova.

Psycho Psummer 50k

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Psycho Psummer is an event put on by Trail Nerds, which is based out of Kansas City, Kansas. It has three offerings of 10 miles, 20 miles, or 50 kilometers. I was visiting my best friend Sean in Lincoln, NE, as the final destination of my road trip out West to watch, crew, and pace Western States 100. Being that I was nearby and wanting to test some of the training I had done on the mountainous trails of the West, and not to mention looking for a good tune-up for Six Days in the Dome (SDD), I jumped at the chance to check out the trails of Wyandotte County Lake Park. The course is probably the most technical trail I've raced on before. It is described as: "A beautiful but challenging run on hilly single-track trails... All on bridle trails and single-track trails. This is a rocky and hilly unpaved loop course." Coupled with the temperature being well into the 100s (106 heat index I believe) this made for a good hard effort out on the trails.

My primary goal of tuning up for SDD meant no real taper and a hard but consistent effort. I couldn't afford to back off training as it is crucial time to get the last bit of hard training in before tapering for SDD (Strava). I was able to stay pretty consistent all day on the three loops of the course, never deviating by much more than a minute or two per loop (1:16:36, 1:15:55, 1:17:31). Full data breakdown can be found here. I felt like there were sections I was just cruising, and then a few more runnable sections where I could push it a bit. 

The trickiest aspect, other than the heat index, on this course was the constant twisting and winding. It seemed as if I was always slowing up to take a turn or braking to swing around a switchback. It was a blast, but it also highlighted my lack of experience in this type of terrain. I felt I was effective on the trails, but unable to really hammer most sections of the course (almost like a governor on speed). 

The loop aspect of this course was something very enjoyable to me. I like loop courses in that they allow for an added challenge to improve upon the decisions made in the previous loops. I could definitely feel myself gaining confidence on some of the more winding sections once I was able to visualize a little better what was coming up next. 

The aid stations at this event are frequent and friendly. It was perfect for a tune-up, because I had aid pretty much as often as needed. It allowed me to carry a single bottle of which I would drink half and dump the other half on my head for cooling. The frequent aid stations also made carrying fuel unnecessary. The volunteers were wonderful, often meeting you in front of the aid station to grab your bottle and direct you to what you needed. 

My fueling strategy was quite simple as I wasn't concerned much with things like stomach issues, caffeine, etc., for an event lasting under 4 hours. I used my typical Vespa protocol (see below) and trickled sugar using Mountain Dew and Coke periodically along the race course. 

An added benefit to the day was I was able to test out a prototype of the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoes. Of their models, I think the Superior has evolved the most. I've previously had the original, pegged as a "recovery run" shoe. The 2.0 has been redesigned to be a great race-day shoe for someone looking for good traction and stability but with a light feel. It will likely be my go-to trail racing shoe this year. 

A big thanks to Race Director Ben Holmes, the Trail Nerds, and all the volunteers for putting on a great event that had all the friendly and fun atmosphere common at ultra events. It was great to meet a bunch of new people and talk about running, etc., for a few hours post-race. I was thrilled, as always, to see a group of Team RWB runners toe the line and hang out before and after the event. 

Results:
  • Time: 3:51:31
  • Place: 1st, CR
Products Used:
Fuel:
Vespa Protocol:
  • Ultra concentrate with breakfast
  • Vespa Junior at start
  • Ultra concentrate every 2 hrs or Junior every 90 min.

Photos


Additional race photos available: here














2014 Ice Age 50 Mile: Race Report

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In the four years I have been blessed to participate in the sport of ultrarunning, one of the biggest things I have learned is that there is much to be gained from a struggle. In my last five races I was satisfied—or thrilled—about the result. I have definitely learned from these races, and I am grateful for my success, but there is a whole different type of learning and motivation that comes from a tough day. Legend Frank Bozanich said it best:
"Sometimes bad days make us stronger for our next effort. I learned many years ago while racing in Europe from the great runners over there that you can't win them all or even finish in the top, but that you just keep racing and the next time may be your day."

It was an early start in La Grange, WI, at the 2014 Ice Age 50 Mile (IA50). My goal going in was to try to earn a ticket to the "big dance," Western States 100 (WS100). I was feeling pretty confident. I had recovered pretty fast from the Mad City 100k four weeks prior. In fact, I recovered fast enough that I felt it prudent to log some pretty heavy hill and trail sessions before jumping into a mini-taper the week leading into IA50. After focusing on the track and road since late last summer, I felt the need to acclimate as much as possible to the winding hills of the Southern Kettle Ice Age Unit. In retrospect, I might have bitten off a bit too much too close to the race. But you never really do know. The speculation—and adjustments based on it—are what adds thrill and excitement to the sport. But at the end of the day, running for the sheer joy of the sport is great all by itself. The rest are exciting bonuses that just add to the joy.

The lead pack of Max King, Matt Flaherty, Brian Condon, and Michael Owen went out aggressively. And they all held up quite well, considering the IA50 is traditionally slower on the back half. Having raced IA50 the previous two years, I had an idea of how my legs should feel during the various stages of the race. After the first 9-mile loop, I felt like I was working a bit too hard, despite being 3 minutes back from the lead pack (I went through in 59 minutes). I wasn't too worried yet, as 59 is a pretty good split for that early loop, and at the time, I thought the leaders would likely have to pay for their 56-minute start.

One of my favorite sections of the course is from mile 9 through 17. I have always felt strong through this section. Today I felt like I was speeding up a bit. However, I had still lost a bit of time to the leaders.

The next stretch was very bland. I felt like I was fine mentally, but I couldn't seem to shift into high gear, which was becoming increasingly more important as the leaders continued their record-breaking pace. I came through mile 30 well behind Max King, and a solid 8 minutes behind what would be third place (the last qualifying spot for WS100). My first thought was that I had to trim that down a bit before the final turnaround at mile 40.5 if I wanted to have any chance of punching a ticket to WS100. Despite recognizing this, I just simply wasn't able to speed up. In fact, the stretch from 30 to 40.5 felt like I had really slowed in pace. I had been running with Matthew Laye for a good bit of the prior 10 miles, and when going through the aid station at mile 30 I lost him while stopping for a bathroom break. That was the last I would see of him until the turnaround.

The turnarounds are a really cool aspect of IA50. They allow you to calculate exactly where you are in comparison to the rest of the field, so they give you the opportunity to really gauge what kind of effort you'll need to muster. Max King came screaming by with what I'll just call a healthy margin between me and the turnaround. Shortly after, Matt Flaherty passed by. Both still looked strong with less than 10 miles to go. A bit after Matt came Michael Owen and Brian Condon, more or less running together. I was far enough back that there was little chance of me closing the gap for third place. On top of this, I found out when I made the turnaround that I was likely not at risk of getting caught by anyone behind me. It seemed my fate for the 2014 IA50 was sealed. In the back of my mind I knew this, and I had already recognized that it was not going to be a good day for me. The last 9.7 miles to the finish were a slow grind in which I tried to keep my mind on just enjoying the remainder of the day. Finishing in sixth with a time of 6:19:51 left me well behind the leaders and my course PR of 6:05:45 from 2012.

It was super exciting to get to see part of the women's field head towards the turnaround. Most notably Kaci Lickteig, who went on to a course record of 6:41. This was four minutes under Cassie Scallon's CR from last year, which itself had been an enormous improvement on the record before that. Both Max King and Matt Flaherty were able to get under Andy Jones' 26-year-old CR, while Brian Condon and Michael Owen both broke the elusive 6-hour mark (a feat that has been rare in IA50's lengthy history). I truly hope Kaci and Max's performances here don't get overlooked when 2014 comes to an end. They were staggering improvements on a very historic course.

One thing I've noticed in ultrarunning is that it is really easy to keep racing, until you have a bad day. In the past, I have used this as a reminder that it was time to take a short recovery break, and rebuild starting with base training. Since I won't be racing WS100, this will fit my schedule nicely, hopefully giving me the opportunity to come back strong in late summer.

The best part about ultrarunning is that even on a rough outing, the experience is always a blast. Race Director Jeff Mallach does a phenomenal job organizing things and providing a killer post-race atmosphere. It was really easy to stick around and chat with all kinds of runners about a variety of topics. The volunteers were great. My parents, grandma, and Beth (sister) provided me with an awesome crew and cheer squad at various aid stations. All this adds up to a fun and worthwhile experience.

Gear

Fuel

Mad City 100k USATF Road National Championships

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My Goals

My main goal going into Mad City 100k was to improve my chances of qualifying for Team USA's 100k squad, which will be competing at the IAU World Championships (WC) in Doha, Qatar this Fall. The system used to pick qualifiers for the team is based on a body of work,  but certain races, terrains, and distances are weighted heavier than others. For example, my time at Ice Age, Chicago Lakefront, Tussey Mountainback, and my 100k split from Desert Solstice all could be entered into a pool for consideration. However, the most clear-cut way to get on the team is to either finish in the top 10 at the WC, or win the National 100k Championships. With last year's WC being cancelled, the Mad City 100k was all that was left to secure my entry.

I went into the race knowing that I didn't necessarily have to win in order to make the team. I have a decent body of work that would likely look pretty solid come selections. With that said, I didn't want to leave anything to chance, so winning was plan A.

I didn't feel like I was going into this race peaking or primed. I had spent the bulk of winter optimizing my body for longer, slower efforts on the track (in preparation for Desert Solstice and the South Carolina 24 Hour). Mad City 100k is comprised of ten relatively flat 10 kilometer road loops, but it is by no means the fastest 100k you could ask for. I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a tad skeptical about my speed and the condition of my quads for withstanding the small, paved rollers. My saving grace was the fact that I had managed to run a pretty solid 400m workout and a really satisfying progression run in the weeks leading into the race.

I've wanted to qualify for Team USA's 100k squad ever since I completed my first ultra back in 2010, when I raced and met Matt Woods at the North Face Midwest Regional 50 Mile. Matt was great, and as a former team member he encouraged me to try to qualify. I was young, so I knew I had time, but it has always been at the back of my mind.

The Race

Before anything, a huge thanks to my crew of Krista, Beth, Mom, Dad, and Grandma who put up with the monotony of killing time to see me for a few seconds every 40 minutes, and handing off my fuel along the way. Also, to Tim (Timo) Yanacheck for putting on a great organized event, and finding some great volunteers to help out along the way.

Photo courtesy of Brian Finnel
The race started off comfortable. Everyone was anxious about the thunderstorms in the forecast, but any worry was for naught, seeing as they never fully arrived. About midway through the first loop, Nick Accardo and I broke away from the pack of 4-5 guys that started out together. Nick and I were hitting laps very consistently and chatting a bit for the first two loops. By the halfway point of the race, all our loops were between 40:35 and 39:27.1, which comes out to a 6:26.6/mi pace. I felt great and even started to plan ahead: I was on pace to finish under Andrew Henshaw's previous course record. I could tell at this point that I was going to be able to at the very least keep my time under 6:45, barring anything tragic. This was calming, as adding a 6:45 to my previous results would all but solidify a spot on the Team USA 100k team.

After completing lap five, I gradually pulled away from Nick; by the 60k point, I was alone. I began to process getting the next two laps done as a big benchmark. Six days earlier I did my final workout with my roommate, friend, and former collegiate teammate Brian Finnel (a 2:23:45 marathoner). We did a warmup lap around the Mad City Loop and then broke into a progression run. I kept thinking, "If I can maintain my pace over these next two laps, all I have to do is exactly what I did last Sunday!" Laps seven and eight went by smoothly.

Lap nine felt like a bit of a grind.  My quads began to process the beating I had been giving them for the past 5 hours and 21 minutes. The weather, which had turned out ideal with the exception of a slight warming in the late morning, began to offer up a cold and heavy wind. The flat section at the end of each lap became more of a challenge. When I crossed the line, completing my ninth lap, I thought I had run a much slower time than I actually did (I ran 40:29, but it felt closer to 43:29). This was probably good, because I had a mindset of needing to push hard for the final go-around. The last lap ended up being my slowest (42:03, in part due to the increased wind), resulting in a finish time of 6:44:03. Minus the last lap, my 10k splits were all within 1:08 of each other. I was pumped about the consistency for a course that had some variation, unlike the 400-meter tracks on which I ran my last two events.

Photo courtesy of Roy and Chris Pirrung

Team USA

I was really pumped to cross the finish line. By winning and setting the course record, I guaranteed my spot on the team. I am really looking forward to planning my training for WC this Fall. I now have a general idea of what I think I am capable of in the 100k distance, and it will be exciting to really get after it by increasing speed and intensity training this Summer and Fall.

Fueling

My fueling strategy for Mad City 100k was quite simple. I took the information I got from my VO2 Max test at the FASTER Study to crunch some numbers. I am pretty well fat-adapted, so I assumed even with mediocre glycogen stores I would be able to get by with around 150 grams of carbohydrate per hour. I have dabbled in consuming fat calories during longer races, but at a race like Mad City, where I was hoping to run at or below 6:30/mi, I knew there was no sense in ingesting fat during the race. Even the leanest athletes have plenty of body fat to tap into, and I would be done by early afternoon, so I didn't have to worry about going a full day or more without eating solid foods. My fuel was simple. I consumed watered-down Mountain Dew with Extreme Hydro-X (roughly 12-16 oz per hour), three gels, and a Vespa Junior every two laps during the race. It came out to about 1,100 calories that I slowly dripped into my system over the course of the run.  This is a strategy that I learned from Peter Defty. It's a key component of his Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) protocol. Doing the math, I consumed roughly 163 calories per hour. I was thrilled to see this! I had no bonk and was hitting sub-6:30/mi pace the majority of the day (see complete split breakdown below). Before I became fat-adapted, I would have definitely bonked going this pace for 100k averaging well under 200 calories per hour.

Gear

Fuel

Splits

10 Kilometer Loops

  1. 40:35
  2. 40:27
  3. 39:27.1
  4. 39:29
  5. 40:20.3
  6. 39:50.6
  7. 40:27.5
  8. 40:53.7
  9. 40:29.8
  10. 42:03.9
Total: 6:44:03.9

Miles

  1. 6:37.70
  2. 6:23.97
  3. 6:32.89
  4. 6:16.62
  5. 6:14.82
  6. 6:31.42
  7. 6:37.47
  8. 6:27.62
  9. 6:37.82
  10. 6:23.00
  11. 6:32.13
  12. 6:23.99
  13. 6:23.76
  14. 6:28.07
  15. 6:28.45
  16. 6:22.65
  17. 6:17.11
  18. 6:14.58
  19. 6:08.29
  20. 6:25.03
  21. 6:17.41
  22. 6:25.37
  23. 6:14.46
  24. 6:15.53
  25. 6:20.07
  26. 6:29.97
  27. 6:22.07
  28. 6:27.42
  29. 6:49.97
  30. 6:17.97
  31. 6:21.59
  32. 6:22.39
  33. 6:32.43
  34. 6:34.40
  35. 6:20.24
  36. 6:19.95
  37. 6:23.46
  38. 6:27.57
  39. 6:34.56
  40. 6:39.23
  41. 6:30.13
  42. 6:30.15
  43. 6:25.56
  44. 6:21.76
  45. 6:38.35
  46. 6:36.34
  47. 6:38.66
  48. 6:25.37
  49. 6:26.38
  50. 6:27.08
  51. 6:46.05
  52. 6:40.64
  53. 6:54.42
  54. 6:30.38
  55. 6:32.39
  56. 6:35.88
  57. 6:36.60
  58. 6:50.63
  59. 7:05.46
  60. 6:40.38
  61. 6:17.96
  62. 6:26.26
  63. 2:04.36 (.35 miles, 6:00/mi pace)
Total: 6:44:03.9

South Carolina 24 Hour

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After a 3-month layoff from racing, it was time to jump back into things. I ended 2013 at the Desert Solstice Track Meet, so I thought: Why not pick up where I left off? On a track, that is.

My original goal for South Carolina 24 Hour (SC24) was to rack up enough miles to qualify for Team USA's 24 Hour team (5th spot 153 miles, 6th spot 151 miles). A few weeks before the event, however, it was announced that the original date for the World Championships was cancelled, and it'd likely be moved from late June to December. At the same time, it was announced that the World 100k Championships were back on! This time with a projected date in November.

My 100k split from Desert Solstice was fast enough to qualify me for one of the spots on the 100k team, but I couldn't bank on standing up against someone who wanted to grab a spot by running a fast 100k before the qualifying window ends. With the 24 Hour Worlds and 100k Worlds appearing to be in part conflicting with one another (both in terms of recovery and scheduling time off from work), it appeared that, assuming I could qualify for both, I would have to make a decision. This flood of new information encouraged me to test the 24 Hour waters and go for some big miles. However, before the day would end, my plans would change.

SC24 was a great event and a lot of fun to be at. The folks competing, volunteering, crewing, and directing were all class act individuals. They ranged from some of the coolest high school kids a runner could ever meet, right down to timed event phenoms Joe Fejes and Ray Krolewicz. Ray K had an old school system of lap counting and recording: pen and paper in the hands of his dedicated high school track and cross country gang. At first, I was a bit skeptical about how well this would work, but Ray assured me that it worked great in the 80's, so there was no reason for it not to work now. The kids doing the recording were amazing, staving off the fatigue of an all nighter to monotonously tally lap after lap for a growingly fatigued and smelly group of ultrarunners. In an age of short attention spans and "me first" mentalities, it was a pretty cool sight to see some of these kids really get into the "endurance volunteering."

The race started at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning and promised to be quite warm and windy. My philosophy for the day was to go with whatever pace felt comfortable. I wasn't going to back off to an artificially slow pace, or push to a pace that didn't feel comfortable. My pace definitely "settled in" after a fairly aggressive start of sub-7-minute miling the first couple of hours.

The first 8-hour block of the day was by far the most uncomfortable, environmentally speaking. Temps which I believe reached 82 degrees and a steady 15 mph wind the early stages of the race, made it difficult for many of the runners to fuel adequately. Between coming off a frigid winter and the heat radiating off the black track surface, the 82 degrees felt substantially warmer to me then what I had expected that number would feel like. Soaking singlets in ice water and the occasional cold, wet towel was the name of the game in the early stages. I managed to reach sundown with a pretty steady pace in the books (I believe I hit the 50-mile mark around 6 hours). At this point, by continuing my pre-race plan of going with what felt comfortable, I found somewhere around a 8:00/mi pace to be the sustainable effort. I began to fuel a bit more aggressively and felt pretty smooth going around the track, racking up 2 minute splits one after another.

The atmosphere was incredibly positive as the high school kids began to look for ways to kill some time. A combination of squats, pushups, and planks in response to completed laps by the runners they were recording was a very entertaining sight.

When the wind subsided and the cool night air set in, a new sense of energy fell upon the track. I began to run numbers in my head. Something occurred to me: What is the 200k (125 miles) American Record? A relatively obscure record that, due to the structure of most timed events, has few recorded attempts, began to intrigue me. I asked Joe Fejes what the record was, and he looked it up for me: 16:55, set by Rae Clark. I was familiar with Rae Clark and his accomplishments, so I got a bit excited about using his performance as a new benchmark for the day. One thing I am learning about these longer efforts is that if you can focus on smaller goals, the overall mental hurdle becomes much less overwhelming. I thought if I could focus on the beating the 200k AR first, I'd have less than 8 hours to wrap my head around in order to finish the event. The pace I was going was sufficient enough, so I pretty much kept the majority of my splits at 2:00 per lap with the occasional planned slower lap or bathroom break. After all, the overall goal was still covering as many miles in 24 hours as possible.

Somewhere between hours 12 and 13, I was met with a bit of a surprise. My right Achilles tendon got that familiar twinge that scares any seasoned runner. At first I wasn't too worried, because after 12 or 13 hours pretty much everything begins to hurt or feel a bit out of place. By hour 14 the pain had progressed and begun to spread up my right calf. Now I was worried. I began to think about all the races I have planned for this Spring and year. A substantial injury to my Achilles could potentially sideline me long enough to be down and out for all of 2014. At this point, I was still fixated enough on the 200k AR that my thoughts moved to getting to 200k quickly and then stopping to stretch and work on the Achilles tendon a bit.

As the early portions of Sunday morning crept by, my pace began to average between 7 and 7.5 mph. I would watch my pace just close enough to try to get into the 7 mph range. I figured if I could maintain an effort of just over 7 mph, I would be able to afford a drop down to 6 mph in the final hours of the event.

As I got closer and closer to 200k I began to think about what I would do to assess my Achilles tendon. I thought I would walk a lap and focus on some re-fueling, then follow that up with some stretching before ultimately jumping back into a pace similar to what I had been doing. I crossed the 200k mark with a time of 16:23:11, roughly 32 minutes under Rae Clark's previous AR. I stopped to a walk, and my right Achilles immediately began to tighten. Likely a combination of cooler temps and less blood flow caused my Achilles to begin to warn me that it wasn't up to par. I tried walking around the turn, but I was met with a severe limp. Joe Fejes and Ray K were incredibly encouraging, suggesting different remedies that might help me get back out on the track: everything ranging from a calf sleeve to a hot shower to try to loosen things up. With only needing approximately another marathon to obtain the final spot on the 24 Hour Team, it was very difficult to give up hope. After all, a steady walk for the remaining time would likely cover the distance.

A lot of thoughts came to mind during the next hour. Long-term damage? If I was hurt, would I be able to make it to Worlds anyway? Mad City 100k is in four weeks, and I would really like to try to solidify my spot on the 100k team! Ultimately, I decided it wasn't worth the risk. The mere thought of spending the summer months rehabbing a bum Achilles and watching all my good friends and fierce competitors tear it up was unbearable. With the softening blow of the new 200k AR, I made the decision to call it. Harvey Lewis went on to run an incredibly steady 154 miles, solidifying his spot on Team USA, and hopefully raising his confidence in his abilities at the distance. I know Harvey will represent the USA well when it comes time to race, and I am encredibly happy to call him a friend.

Pre-Race Fuel

  • Coffee with heavy whipping cream
  • Vespa Junior

Race Fuel

  • Vespa Ultra concentrate (every 2 hours)
  • Vespa Junior (2 in the final 3 hours)
  • Banana chips with unsweetened coconut flakes (first six hours of race)
  • Nuun with water
  • Plain water
  • One slushy
  • Approximately 32 oz of Mountain Dew/Mello Yello
  • Approximately 3 handfuls of M&M's
  • One protein bar (not sure what the brand was)

Race Gear

Desert Solstice: AR and WR!!!

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Mile three of 100...”I’m actually here. I’m at the Desert Solstice taking a swing at the North American 100 mile record.” I remember this thought passing through my mind during the early stages of the race. Everything seemed somewhat surreal after my shaky start to 2013: a last-minute race change to the Ice Age 50 Mile in the spring left me just outside of qualifying for Western States 100, and my summer ended with a DQ at mile 93 of the Burning River 100 after missing an aid station. This all left me wondering where I should go with the remainder of 2013. I knew I would be returning to the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, but I had completely intended on calling it a year if Tussey went badly. Fortunately, a second place finish at Tussey left me feeling confident, and a quick recovery left me wanting more. A last-minute sign-up for the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile put me on the start line of the pancake flat, four-out-and-back-style, paved course less than two weeks later. Exceeding my own expectations with a 5 hr, 12 min, 36 sec performance at the Lakefront 50 Mile rekindled my early 2013 aspirations of a 100 mile track race in Phoenix. Still not entirely sure if this was a wise move, I hesitated for a week. Ironically, Nick Coury of Aravaipa Running contacted me, offering me a spot at the Desert Solstice Track Meet. This was enough convincing for me.





Race Fuel


Pre-race:
  • Vespa Ultra Concentrate (1)
  • Vespa Junior (1)
  • Cup of coffee
  • can of coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp of almond butter
  • NOW Foods: Fruit and Greens PhytoFoods Powder and Spirulina Powder
  • Xendurance: 4 capsules

Race:
  • Vespa Ultra Concentrate (4)
  • Vespa Junior (4)
  • Banana chips
  • Potato chips
  • Mountain Dew
  • Gatorade
  • M&M’s

Race Gear:
  • Drymax Trail Running mini crew socks
  • Skora Base
  • Fuelbelt Slice and Sprint
  • Julbo Pipeline with Dust lenses
  • X-1 ipod shuffle headset


Additional Media Coverage




Talk Ultra Interview: Podcast, itunes

Paleo Runner Interview: Podcast, itunes




Race Photos

Courtesy of Michael Miller Photography and Aravaipa Running































Desert Solstice 100 Mile Track Meet Training

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Recently I received an invite to participate in the Desert Solstice Track Meet. It is an event that is hosted in Phoenix, Arizona, on a 400-meter track. Their goal is to provide a venue in which ultra runners can chase fast times. After this Fall’s race schedule, I felt like I still have one more left in my legs for 2013, so I accepted the invite to go after a fast 100-mile time.

Per usual, I have been running a lot of miles, and my speedwork has been quite promising the past few months. I feel like I am in a pretty good spot to run a solid 100-mile race in a flat environment. My recovery has been really good the past couple months. I feel ready and excited.

Like any ultra race, specificity training is key to maximizing performance. My past few months have provided pretty good course-specific training, but I’d like to share one last-minute workout I did that will help get me in the mindset of looping around a track 402.5 times.

Saturday, November 23, 2013
Weather: 18 degrees, below-zero windchill (20+ mph), sunny

  • 3 mile warm-up on the roads heading toward the UW-Madison outdoor track
  • 17 miles on the track:
    1. 6:27.5
    2. 6:39.95
    3. 6:37.81
    4. 6:32.75
    5. 6:18.77
    6. 6:23.51
    7. 6:35.99
    8. 6:32.43
    9. 6:26.61
    10. 6:26.43
    11. 6:20.96
    12. 6:10.03
    13. 6:18.03
    14. 6:02.50
    15. 5:43.88
    16. 5:49.61
    17. 5:16.02
  • 2 mile cool-down on the roads

I was very optimistic after this workout. The weather was far from ideal, given the wind gusts, but fortunately the looping did not seem to be a big issue. I only really noticed the turning on laps that I dipped below a six-minute pace. Based on this workout, I think the hardest part will be holding back in the early stages of the race. The track is so fast that it becomes easy to dip down into a low six-minute pace without even realizing it. Couple this with the fact that this will be my first track 100-miler, so I really don’t have a good gauge of what I am capable of doing. Finding a pace that is not too aggressive will be key to not have to death march the final miles. But the uncertainty is exactly what makes the sport of ultrarunning so much fun!

Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile

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Before I get into the specifics of the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile, I want to reflect a bit on ultrarunning. Ian Sharman wrote a really good blog about the recent upsurge of ultra running in America. This has been quite noticeable in the seemingly constant crumbling of course records and fastest known times, stronger event participation, and new events. It seems, though, that the majority of the upsurge has been in the trail and mountain scene. Matt Flaherty and I recently spoke about how road ultrarunning has seen little growth in comparison. With a simple glance at the record books for the 50 mile road distance, this is blatantly obvious.

The majority of top American performances are clustered around the mid-70s to early 80s. This is not because there is a shortage of guys who can crush a 50 mile road race; just a shortage in those willing. Now, there is good reason for this. With all the attention currently on trail and mountain racing, the top-notch guys head that way to find the competition, and in some cases potentially make a living. I have no doubt that some of the fastest 50-mile guys with road marathon experience would gear up for a flat road 50 mile; they would bang out sub-five hour performance (assuming fueling at that combination of pace and distance doesn’t cause them problems).

Personally, as I have grown and developed as an ultrarunner, I have begun to enjoy the roads. Sure, it doesn't always provide breathtaking views and natural scenery, but there's just something about getting on a long stretch of concrete and letting it rip that really intrigues me. With this said, I hope to see an upsurge in road ultra running in the coming years. After all, we need to see some sub-five hour performances.

Chicago started out as an experiment for me. My original goal was to run Tussey Mountainback as my main Fall ultra, possibly chasing that with the Fall 50 Miler, and finally running Chicago a few weekends later. I thought it would be a cool experiment in recovery to tackle a number of 50-milers in succession. But my recovery after Tussey had me optimistic that if I skipped the Fall 50 I would be able to run a pretty solid time in Chicago. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased I went this route.

The Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile is a 12.5-mile out-and-back course that is covered four times. This setup allows for a handy gauge of where you are in the race, especially useful for pacing. It also makes for little uncertainty after the first 12.5 miles.

The weather in Chicago was just about perfect. It was cool and overcast up until the final few miles. There was a slight headwind on the way out, which became a tailwind after the turnaround. The rain from the previous day and night made the pavement a bit slick, but this was by no means a limiting factor.

Based largely on the runs I had done between Tussey and the start of Chicago, I thought that if all went well I could probably break 5 hours and 20 minutes (5:20 is a pace of 6:24/mi.). A few miles into the race, I realized I would have to hold back quite a bit in order to run slower than 6:24/mi. I was willing to take some risks, so I allowed myself to hit a few low-six-minute miles. I told myself I would scale back a bit on laps two and three to make sure I stayed strong throughout the final 12.5 miles. I came through lap one in 78 minutes, averaging about 6:14/mile. I ran the numbers, and I calculated that I was right on target for a 5 hour, 12 minute, finish. This was both intriguing and scary. I thought about how Matt Flaherty and I had discussed that it had been about three decades since an American had broken 5 hours, 14 minutes, in a fifty miler; this intrigued me. I also thought about how crappy it would be to hobble in the final lap and sacrifice a potential PR because I had been too ambitious; this scared me.

On lap two I kept telling myself I would go easy on the way out (into the wind) and be a bit more aggressive on the return (downwind). But every time my watch would beep, indicating I had finished another mile, I kept expecting to see a pace in the 6:20/mi range, but surprisingly I was hitting low sixes on a good chunk of the miles. I couldn’t help but think that if it felt this easy going upwind, it would be even easier on the return. It was true: By the halfway mark on the way back, I had a few more low six minute miles in the bag. At this point I made my decision. I was definitely going to try to go sub-5:14.

After going through mile 25 at 2:36, I kept telling myself to just keep the same effort for lap three and I would have at least a small cushion to work with on the final out-and-back. I was pleasantly surprised that lap three was in fact my fastest of the four.

I felt really strong starting the final lap, and I began to get really excited. I thought about how small a distance one lap was when compared to the whole race. As I had been doing all day, I broke the lap into small steps. The primary aid station was about 3.7 miles into the lap. My friend and crew, Pablo Sampaio, was waiting there. It was great to get the quick supply and encouragement from him on both the out and the back on the first three laps. This aid station was mile 41 on the fourth lap, so I just told myself to get to Pablo and it would only be single digits to the finish.

Mile 41 came surprisingly fast, but I was beginning to notice the miles getting a bit more difficult. Even so, my mind was still able to remain clear and focused. Knowing the finish was not far off, I pushed harder to maintain a similar pace as before. When I got to the final turnaround, I was met with some familiar fear. What if I slowed down just a little too much and missed 5:14? On the other hand, what if I could finish strongly at 5:12? Miles 44 through 47 were definitely the hardest miles of the day. I had to keep telling myself to just get to the aid station where Pablo was at, and then it was just one final push to the finish. Still, the miles did not come easily. I was beginning to creep into the mid-6:20/mi range. As I went through the final aid station, I was met by lots of encouragement from Pablo and the volunteers. I knew now that I was too close to let my pace keep slipping. With the end in sight, I was able to push down into low-six-minute pace for the final three miles.

With a finishing time of 5:12:36 (mile splits below), I became the first sub-5:14 50-mile ultramarathoner in North America in 33 years. In fact, my time was the sixth fastest American 50 mile race ever. I am really happy about all of this, but will definitely keep it in perspective. There are lots of capable Americans who can go sub-five hours, and whether they choose to make that attempt is up to them. As for me, in the coming years, I plan to make a big push towards reaching that sub-five mark myself.

A big thanks to race director Pat Onines and all the awesome volunteers who came out early Saturday morning to keep us fueled and on track. A special thanks to Pablo Sampaio who crewed for me throughout the day.





Products Used


Splits

  1. 6:11
  2. 6:19
  3. 6:17
  4. 6:13
  5. 6:18
  6. 6:16
  7. 6:09
  8. 6:07
  9. 6:09
  10. 6:19
  11. 6:19
  12. 6:18
  13. 6:19
  14. 6:09
  15. 6:14
  16. 6:12
  17. 6:10
  18. 6:39 (bathroom break)
  19. 6:16
  20. 6:18
  21. 6:14
  22. 6:06
  23. 6:04
  24. 6:02
  25. 6:04 (halfway 2:36)
  26. 6:02 (marathon 2:43)
  27. 6:07
  28. 6:12
  29. 6:11
  30. 6:12
  31. 6:18 (50k 3:14)
  32. 6:08
  33. 6:06
  34. 6:07
  35. 6:08
  36. 6:11
  37. 6:11
  38. 6:10
  39. 6:08
  40. 6:14
  41. 6:15
  42. 6:21
  43. 6:24
  44. 6:22
  45. 6:39 (quick aid station stop)
  46. 6:26
  47. 6:14
  48. 6:14
  49. 6:12
  50. 6:20   
  51. 0:49 seconds (.14mi.)
Finish: 5:12:33

2013 Tussey Mountainback USATF National Road Championships

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David, Cassie, Matt, Me (pre-race)
I had been looking forward to returning to Boalsburg/State College, Pennsylvania, ever since last year’s Tussey Mountainback 50-mile race. Quite a few new faces made the trip this year, and it proved to be a competitive few hours on Sunday morning, packed with festivities both before and after the race. For example, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to give a brief talk and answer some questions at the pre-race dinner. This was a great way to interact with a bunch of the folks who were excited to hit the trails first thing in the morning.

Recap


The 50 Mile National Championships started out a bit slower than last year. We approached the first 3 mile ascent running just under 7:30/mi. Once atop the mountain, the pace quickened. Matt Flaherty and I pushed a bit ahead of David Riddle as David grabbed a drink from the aid station. Matt really opened up a quick pace—something comfortably below 6:00/mi—as I continued down at approximately 6:00/mi. When I arrived at the first major aid station (mile 11), Matt had a two-minute lead, and I was maybe 30 seconds ahead of David. I was a bit skeptical about whether I could push up towards Matt: Once at the bottom of the mountain, I had an average pace of 6:27/mi, and this year's course change made it a tougher race. Still hoping to dip below the old course record, I did not slow down.

Things stayed pretty even for the next few miles as we approached the next big climb at mile 14. The course wound gradually up the side of the mountain for just under two more miles before easing back downward for a few miles and then leading to the new section of the course at mile 20.

Here David caught up to me and we lowered our heads and grinded up what was, in my opinion, the toughest climb on the course. It was here that Matt really began to gap David and me. When we came into the aid station at mile 24, we got word that Matt had a seven-and-a-half minute lead. I was shocked that he was pushing the pace that much, but I knew Matt had the talent to pop off an amazing effort if all things fell into place for him.

I was feeling pretty good, considering I was only halfway through the day. I came through mile 25 at approximately 2 hours and 47 minutes. At this point I was hoping to negative split the course and try to squeeze in under five-and-a-half hours. I knew this would take a good push, but knowing we were at one of the highest portions of the course and already had the two longest ascents behind us, I thought it would be possible to run a faster second half.

Indeed, the next few miles proved to be fast ones. When we hit a downward portion of the course, I felt like it was a good time to get a bit aggressive. I managed to slip in a 5:45 mile at mile 27, followed by a 5:52 for mile 28. It was in this section of the course that I separated a bit from David. He wasn't far back—maybe 1 or 2 minutes at most—so the heat was still on from behind.

When I rolled into the next aid station, Matt had extended the lead to eight-and-a-half minutes. What a surprise! I felt like I had been running a pretty smart race, so I thought Matt must have been as well. If he continued at the level he was running at, it would be his day. This perspective calmed me because it allowed me to just run my race rather than worry about trying to close the gap ahead of me.

The next four miles were quick. I ran low-6:00 miles for a good portion of it. When I arrived at the mile 32 aid station, I again heard word that Matt was flying and maintained his significant lead. I spent the next mile doing mental math, wondering if he would manage to break 5 hours and 20 minutes. With the old course record being set by Michael Wardian (5 hours, 33 minutes and 46 seconds) it would be a monstrous day to go sub-5:20 on the new, more difficult route.

The three-mile stretch into mile 35 had a less lengthy, but still pace-killing, climb. As I passed through the aid station I heard that David had dropped from the race. He had had a lingering foot/ankle injury that acted up on him, and he decided to limit any damages by calling it a day. It was likely a smart decision on his part, but certainly a disappointing turn of events nonetheless.

Things held pretty constant through mile 40. As I came through the aid station, Matt was still clipping along and had a solid nine minutes on me. I felt mentally strong for a portion of the race, which can really play with your mind, so I continued to push onward. Miles 40 to 45 had some slight uphill portions that culminated with the last big climb at the 45th mile. It was a bruiser! A very humbling experience pushing up at what felt like a snail's pace. As I reached the top, I was certain I had probably given even more time to Matt. However, as I came through the aid station I was told that I had cut the lead to only four-and-a-half minutes. All the morale that climb took out of me immediately reappeared—I had just closed four-and-a-half minutes in five miles!

My mind ran wild. I hadn't blistered miles 40-45 but still managed to gain on Matt, so I knew he must have been struggling from his speedy start. If I could get close to 6:00/mi on the final descent, I thought, I could just maybe edge out Matt before the finish. I was able to hit this pace during the final miles—and even eke out one final sub-six-minute mile for the 48th mile of the day—but apparently Matt had been struggling only on the ascents. Here, with no climbs in sight, he was able to cruise along at a similar pace as me.

When all was said and done, Matt set a new course record with a time of 5:28:12. I came through (also just under the old course record) with a 5:32:22. It was fun to discuss the final miles and Matt’s mentality through the mile 45 climb, as well as throughout the race.

On the women’s side of the race, Cassie Scallon ran an incredible 6 hours, 24 minutes and 2 seconds, also setting a new course record for the women. Cassie now lays claim to course records at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, Ice Age 50 Mile, and Tussey 50 Mile—all in 2013! A pretty impressive feat.

The post-race festivities carried on for the remainder of the day as runners trickled in towards the finish line. With the usual post-ultra atmosphere that can drive people into the sport, both top finishers and newcomers to the sport mingled and told stories of how their days played out.

A really big thanks to my parents and sister, Beth, for coming down to watch the event, and to my friends Gary and Jakob Twoey for keeping me well fueled throughout the day. Thanks to Mike Casper for directing the weekend activities, and being very present throughout the weekend. Also, a big thanks to Vespa Power Products for helping me get to and from the event.

Reflection


Joshua, Cassie, Me (post race)
Thinking about my efforts and where I could improve, it's still all about the hills and simply growing as a runner. It was noticeable by my time and power on the final miles that moving to Madison had greatly improved my ability to run up and down substantial hills. However, I also recognize that I've only been in Madison for two months; given another year of this improved training environment, I should be able to continue to improve on hills. Overall, I am very happy with my efforts, and know I had about as good of a race as I could have expected on that day. I told race director Mike Casper before the race that I wouldn't be surprised to see three guys under the old course record. I strongly believe—and I know Matt does as well—that this course holds even faster times to be had, given a perfect training block and everything clicking. I look forward to coming back to Tussey in the future.

    
Dad, Me, and MomBeth and MeJakob, Me, and Gary

Products Used


Race Coverage

Burning River 93 for Me

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This was definitely an adventure for me. Weather patterns, race day strategies, jostling around the leader board, conversations on the trail, and my eventual disqualification at the Burning River 100 (BR100) brought many emotions and lessons by Saturday evening.

The weather outlook on race day was definitely not typical for late in July Midwest racing. Instead of the hot, humid weather that normally occupies this time of year, it was overcast, muggy at times, and rainy for the majority of the day. It rained almost consistently from mile 10 through 60. This left the trails of Cuyahoga Falls quite sloppy. In level spots the trails were often high ankle-deep in muck and water, and the ups and downs were slick.

My pre-race strategy was to start the race at or around an 8 -minute mile pace. I was prepared to hold firm to this pace regardless of how everyone else chose to approach the day. My thoughts were that I could expect to slow a bit as the race progressed, but 8-minute pace was both conservative and aggressive enough to put me into position at the end of the race. I was fortunate in that Michael Owens had a very similar approach, which meant I had great company for the majority of the first 50 miles of the race.

As the race progressed, it became apparent that a handful of runners were looking to be more aggressive at the start of the race. By mile 41, Michael and I found ourselves 18 minutes behind the leader, Peter Hoggs. I can't say I was overly concerned at this point, as I was quite aware there were 59 miles left, and that the well below 8-minute pace the lead pack was cruising at would unlikely hold up (at this point Michael and I were in 6th and 7th place).

It was after the mile 41 aid station that things started to get really crazy for me. As the course became more and more saturated, the sloppiness really increased. I was really struggling to get any advantage from the downhill portions of the trail. Miles 41 through 60 proved to be the sloppiest parts of the race, and they had the most slick descents (between miles 41 and 60 I fell at least 10 times trying to make it down hills). At the time, I assumed everyone was struggling as much as I was on the slick descents. Post-race conversation showed otherwise. It appeared that runners who switched to a trail shoe with a bigger lug were able to run down the slippery descents, while those with a lower profile tread were on ice skates. I wore the Skora Form, which is a shoe I really like, and on a dry day I feel that this would be the perfect shoe for this course. In retrospect, I should have brought along a pair of crampons (not the super big toothed ones, but a really low profile crampon like this) to throw onto the Skora Forms for the slick declines. My reasoning for this is that the Forms dealt great with the wetness of the course, and I wouldn't want to sacrifice the ease with which they repelled the water and drained post river/stream crossings.

With all this noted, as I worked into the mile 50 aid station, at almost exactly 7 hours, I was feeling really good. Better than I had anticipated feeling at that stage. I think a lot of this was due to having to walk down lots of the slick hills. I believe I was about 29 minutes behind the leader at this point. My mindset was that if the last half of the course was more runnable I would be able to make a big push, since my legs had been spared from much of the downhill running.

As I mentioned above, the conditions continued through about mile 60, but I tried to really be aggressive in the areas that were runnable because I knew the descents would be slow. I thought if I was conserving energy by not running down the hills, I could afford to really attack the flatter areas. This seemed to work pretty well, and after mile 60 the slippery downhills were much fewer.

Things in the middle third of the race began to look promising as I moved up the field. Runners began to drop and slow down. Here I found myself in third place.

As I went through mile 80, the volunteers were telling me I was within minutes of the leader. At this point I assumed Shaun Pope was running with Peter and that I was within minutes of both of them. I tried to move through the aid station quickly so as not to waste any time. I maintained a slower, but decent, pace until arriving at the mile 87 aid station, which as mentioned above is when I started to learn a lot. When I entered, they asked me if I had missed an aid station. "No idea," I said. I'd never been on the course before, and I didn't know where the aid stations were (other than that they were pretty regular throughout the course). The volunteers told me that there was an aid station at mile 70 that didn't have me checked in. Could I have missed it?

I wasn't paying particularly close attention to the mile markers at most of the aid stations—I just wanted to get to them, fuel up and get out quick (I was using aid stations primarily for fuel). I wound up spending about 10 minutes at that aid station trying to figure out with the volunteers what exactly happened. Knowing that if I had cut the course—or gone off the course at some point—I would be disqualified, I wanted to know what had happened before I continued on. The volunteers and I were both confused because my description of where I had gone seemed to follow the course exactly.

Rather than wasting more time at the aid station, we decided that they would figure out what happened as I continued to the next aid station (mile 93). This way, if it was ruled that I had not gone off course, I could finish the race—otherwise I would be disqualified there.

It was a very interesting six-mile stretch. It was tough to get my legs loose again after standing at the aid station for so long. Besides that, I couldn't help but think that I was about to be disqualified. BR100 is a USATF event, meaning that they would have cut-and-dry regulations: If I had not checked into an aid station, they would have no choice but to disqualify me. Before I left the aid station, they told me I was in second place. Apparently Shaun Pope, who I had thought was in second, had gone off course, got back on, and was struggling as he continued onward.

I definitely wasn't moving quickly towards the next section. With the knowledge that I was quite a bit ahead of third place, it was pretty clear that I was either going to finish second or be disqualified. I tried to enjoy this stretch of the course rather than focus entirely on what would happen at the end. As I approached the mile 93 aid station, one of the volunteers stopped me with the news that since I had not checked into the aid station at mile 70 I had two choices: go back to mile 70 and correct my mistake, or be disqualified. In order to correct my mistake and register a finishing time, I would have had to run a total of 147 miles (BR100 is actually 101 miles, and then there would be the 46-mile trip to the mile 70 aid station and back). With this news, I chose not to correct my mistake, instead taking the disqualification. It was a tough pill to swallow, but a good learning experience nonetheless.

It was interesting trying to find out exactly where I went wrong on the course. And since it was my first time on the course, I may never really know. The race staff seemed to think I had gone around the aid station on a different trail that just happens to reconnect with the course route after a bit; this would explain why I never went through a long stretch without seeing course markers. It was great to see how proactive the staff was at finding out where possible improvements in course markings could be made. It really showed that they are genuinely motivated to provide the best possible experience for those competing. Despite my misfortunes, I do think the course was very well-marked, staffed and supported by the BR100 crew. It's a beautiful course that has so much differentiation in its route that you never feel like a specific terrain is dragging on forever—a tall order for a 100-mile course.

A big congratulations to Peter Hogg for setting a new course record, and to the rest of the BR100 competitors. The positive atmosphere made what could easily have been a frustrating weekend into a really fun time overall. I look forward to returning in the future to take another run at it, and hopefully check out some other events put on by Western Reserve Racing.

Race Day Fuel

  • Vespa Power Products
    • 7 Ultra Concentrate
    • 3 Junior
    • 2 CV-25
  • XEndurance (review)
    • Extreme
    • Omega
    • Joint
    • Immune
  • NOW Foods
    • Kelp
    • Fruit and Green Phytofoods Powder
    • Spirulina powder
  • Products from aid station tables
    • Hammer gels
    • Hammer electrolyte capsules
    • Hammer Heed
    • Trader Joe's organic banana chips
    • Fruit
    • Water

Race Day Gear

Running Roller Coaster

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The last 10 days of running have brought both ups and downs. More specifically, a series of blissful days full of miles followed by days of no miles and tightness in the back of my right leg. What makes the title of this post even more fitting was the 100 kilometers of trail at the Kettle 100 this past weekend, which presented numerous changes in conditions throughout the morning and early afternoon.

After I finished the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile, I began to bounce back pretty quickly. In fact, a little over a week after IA50 I started toying with the idea of jumping into the Kettle 100k. I’m hoping to do a 100-miler at some point this summer, and thought a nice 100-kilometer morning/afternoon on the trails would be excellent prep. With this in mind, I set out one morning for a 24-mile long run.

Unfortunately, the tendon behind my right knee began to tighten up after I finished. By the next morning it was difficult to even put weight on my right leg. This being one week out from the Kettle 100k, I pretty much chalked the race weekend up to a loss. However, after two days of rest, my leg felt great! I was skeptical, but I managed to head out for an easy 9-miler with no ill effects. I was pumped! So naturally, I jumped onto the Kettle 100 website and signed up for the 100k. In the back of mind I probably should have better, but in the moment I thought I had dodged a bullet. The next day I scheduled a two-a-day (13mi a.m., 7.5mi p.m.). The running did not aggravate my tendon at all, which was very satisfying.

However, as I often do a couple times a week, I visited the weight room to do some stretching and strength training. It was in the weight room where I was likely a bit too aggressive. I did two sets of Russian deadlifts, and my tendon immediately re-tightened. When I woke up the next morning, the tightness was still there. With three days before Kettle 100k, I thought if I had any chance of competing in the event, I would need to shut it down until Saturday morning.

Throughout the three days of rest, my tendon progressed quickly. As I had done the first time, I pounded NOW yucca root. I love the stuff for tendonitis because it helps with the nasty inflammation without killing the pain like ibuprofen does. This is important because inflammation often sticks around after an injury is healed (when the pain goes away). Getting rid of lingering inflammation is fine, but if you mask the pain with ibuprofen you won't know if the injury is actually healed, and you'll risk further injury. I have had a lot of luck with this protocol with previous tendonitis symptoms.

After about a day I felt no pain walking around. This time I knew better than to test my luck, so I refrained from any exercising that used my legs. On Saturday morning I toed the line at Kettle 100k, fully prepared to drop out if my tendon tightened up too much. It was an interesting day. I could feel my tendon there from the get go, but it was barely noticeable. To be honest there was a general feeling of stiffness from general lack of running the past three days. After about a mile all the stiffness dissipated, and the tendon didn’t worsen.

Before I continue with how the day progressed a bit about the event. The Kettle 100k is an out and back. The course is much like IA50 in topography. However, because of the timing of the event, weather is usually quite different. It was a muggy 78 degrees with scattered clouds by early morning. The prairie sections were quite warm from the sun and humidity, but there was a fairly strong wind, which felt nice at the hottest points of the day. Along with this mixture of conditions were some very sloppy puddles throughout the prairie sections. My feet got soaked in the muck and water, and as soon as they dried enough to feel normal again I'd come across another muddy session. Overall, I'd describe the conditions as tough and varied.

As the race progressed beyond the first mile, I had a chance to run with some great guys: Jason Borst and Jake Hegge, from La Crosse, WI, for the first 35 kilometers or so. I felt pretty relaxed and casual heading into the 50k turnaround at approximately 4 hours, 4 minutes. I knew that despite feeling relaxed for the first 50k, it probably wasn’t in my best interest to continue at that pace. My goal was to get a solid effort in without creating the need for an extended recovery period. I backed off a bit on the return to Emma Carlin (midway point of the return).

Despite backing off, I hit a bit of a rough patch with about 22-23 miles left. I am pretty certain it was due to neglecting proper fueling. I didn’t really focus too much on this on the way out. I grabbed stuff from a few aid stations and tried to stay hydrated on the way out, but that was basically the extent of my fueling plan other than taking a Vespa Ultra Concentrate every couple hours.

It was during this rough patch that my tendon started to tighten up a bit. Possibly some cramping from the poor fueling caused the tendon to act up too? Either way; on the return to Emma Carlin (16mi to go) I was about ready to drop out. I didn’t want my tendon to get worse, and with 47 miles completed I would have been happy with the day as a quality training session for a summer 100-miler.

Before officially deciding whether to drop out or not, I took in a lot of calories at Emma Carlin. I immediately felt great, and thought I would test out my legs for at least a couple more miles. Miraculously, the tendon pain went away completely. In fact, it felt the best it had all day. Even better than at the start (this is why I hypothesized it may have cramped up due to poor fueling). At this point I decided to hit all the aid stations hard for the rest of the way back and, if my tendon felt good, finish out the race. It was an enjoyable final 16 miles for the most part. I stopped a couple times when a good view allowed me to admire some of the prairie sections from a higher vantage point (only a couple times). The Ice Age Trail really does have a lot to offer in terms of beauty. The last three miles included some pretty nasty rolling hills, and mentally I was ready to be done with them, so despite feeling good I was quite happy to be done with a first-place finishing time of 8:39, a course record.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Westlake Photography
I was happy with the quality workout, which will hopefully benefit me later on this summer. As I anticipated, my tendon was pretty sore the following morning. A couple days of rest and another aggressive cycle of yucca root will hopefully get me back on the run.

A huge thanks to all the volunteers, as well as race directors Tim (Timo) Yanacheck and Jason Dorgan. It never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into the planning of an ultra event. It truly is awesome how we can sign up and run these distances without worrying about all the things the volunteers and directors take care of for us.

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Ice Age Trail 50 Mile Race Recap

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Last year when I reflected my races and training from 2012, I emphasized how much I had learned about the importance of race-specific training. I considered my Western States 100 experience one of the most eye-opening experiences in terms of truly understanding how important it is to cater your training to a specific course if you really want to nail it. This year at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile (IA50) I learned even more about course specificity training and what I need to do as a runner to maximize my potential with various types of running terrain.
Because I've run IA50 twice now, I have had the ability to compare both my experiences to learn new lessons, which I discuss below. I thought this would be more informative and interesting than writing a straightforward recap of this year's race.

I identified two areas of weakness and one area of strength in my training leading up to IA50. The two areas of weakness were: lacking ultra-style long runs and little uphill running. The area of strength was downhill running. Throughout the race, I either led or was in second place, at least for 49.25 miles. Based on my experience from last year, aid station reports, visual contact with other runners, and a sense of pace; I felt like I really glided on the downhill portions of the course, but I gave up time on the uphill segments in the final 10k compared to last year. This ultimately resulted in a third place finish with a time of 6:08:17. My time last year was 6:05:45. The weather was slightly better this year with cooler temperatures throughout the morning.

Ultra-style Long Runs

Last year, I did multiple 30-plus-mile long runs leading up to IA50. Included was the John Dick Memorial 50k and the Mad City 50k, which were long and decently hard efforts. While reflecting and analyzing this year’s performance, I noticed my running log was much lighter on these longer efforts. My most notable long training run was the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee back in January. Part of this was due to an extended taper, which was the result of switching races last minute, and some of it was avoiding races early in the season in hopes of preserving myself for the end of 2013.

The reason I believe this was a factor in my performance at IA50 is because last year I felt I got stronger the last 9 miles on the return from Emma Carlin. This year, minus the first 5k of the return, I felt like the end of the race really caught up with me. At the turnaround I was 4:30-5 minutes behind the leader, David Riddle. With Matt Flaherty and Brian Condon nipping at my heels (45-60 seconds back) I thought it would be unlikely that I would catch David but quite likely I would get caught by either Flaherty or Condon—or both! Naturally this sparked some adrenaline. I sped up quite a bit for the next 5k into the Horseman's/Young aid station (about 10k to go). I was told there that I was about 3 minutes back from David. I am not sure if this was accurate or not, but for a moment I thought maybe I was closing in on him. Those hopes were exciting but quickly fizzled as struggles began to mount. By the aid station at mile 47.6 I was about 11 minutes behind David. Surely some of that was due to David’s consistent effort and, in my opinion, strong finish. Regardless, I believe part of my struggles was the lack of ultra-style long runs through training and racing.

Hill Climbing

To put it simply, I got owned on the uphills this year at IA50. Last year, I did weekly hill repeats in training. I did this because the Ice Age Trail is basically continuous roll of ups and downs. Nothing big enough to really kill you on any single hill, but enough to wear you down over time. David Riddle, this year's winner, described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts,” which I thought was a spot-on description.

The difference between this year and last year, was that last year I callused myself enough with hill repeats that the paper cuts were less detrimental. To put it in perspective; Last year I power hiked one hill (mainly because the staircase set up made it much more efficient in my opinion). This year I had to power hike 3 or 4 different times in areas that I had no problem grinding up last year. Most of my struggles with the climbs occurred in that last 10k stretch of the course.

Downhill Running

Though the uphills were rough for me this year, the downhills were a piece of cake. If it weren’t for how strong I felt going downhill, I have no doubt Matt Flaherty would have passed me in the late stages of the race, just as Brian Condon ultimately did. I attribute this to the amount of speedwork I did in training. This winter I based my training on speed in preparation for the Mad City 100k, which is a paved course that is relatively flat when compared to IA50. I felt way more comfortable bombing down the hills this year than last year. I think the quicker snap in my legs from the speedwork allowed me to ramp up the cadence on the downhill segments, resulting in much less instability (more efficient foot strike means less time on the ground), and less eccentric damage from braking on the downhills to maintain stability. Although my downhill training was brief, I think my efficiency allowed for lesser muscle damage in these potentially quad busting segments.

Takeaways

Next time I race IA50 or a similar course, I plan to focus my training on regular ultra-style long runs, weekly hill repeats, and road speedwork. With this I hope to maintain the strengths I had on the downhills while improving my uphill running and end-of-race endurance.

A huge congratulations to David Riddle for taking the win and third fastest time ever at the Historic Ice Age 50 Mile. An inspiring performance by Brian Condor in his 50-mile debut was exciting to see, to say the least. Great dialog with Joshua Brimhall for good portions of the first half of the race was a rewarding experience. Getting the chance to compete with support from members of my family and my girlfriend Krista made things much more comfortable. All of this, coupled with the excellent post-race festivities that seem to be the hallmark of every ultramarathon, big or small, resulted in a great way to spend a spring weekend morning.

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Pictures courtesy of Krista Satori












Pictures courtesy of Krista Satori

Training and Icebreaker Indoor Marathon

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I was really looking forward to the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. I scheduled it as the point in my training block that would mark the start of more intensive speedwork. Since JFK, I've taken my time building up my miles. Included in the base phase was what I consider pseudo speed sessions. They are small in comparison to what I need to do in order to peak for Mad City 100k, but important in keeping my legs somewhat accustomed to a faster pace.

Going into Icebreaker, my mileage had been hovering around 100mpw for a couple weeks. I tried to make about half of the miles a bit faster than I usually would on a base mile run. I generally hit between 6 and 6:40 minutes per mile. As I mentioned in a previous post, my plan is to get my body very comfortable with the mid-to-low 6-minute pace range for Mad City 100k. I tried to plan these sessions on days where the weather was not too bad. I ran into a few days where snow and ice made it difficult to hit pace without overreaching on effort.

The pseudo speed sessions were a handful of runs that included 20/40 sets (usually only 10), a couple tempo sessions at about 5:40/mi pace, two brief sessions with a sled hill, and one 6x400 meter interval session (reps averaged about 74 seconds).

I did not really know what to expect at Icebreaker. I had never run so far on a track, and I really did not have any concrete evidence of where my body was at. In the back of my mind I was hoping to be around 2:30 for the full marathon. The goal was to come away with a solid speed session and little need to spend lots of time recovering from the race.

Icebreaker ended up playing out nicely for me. I ran a 2:31:30, and I learned a valuable lesson in terms of fueling. I only took in 30 ounces of liquid (20 oz sports drink, 10 oz water), one gel, and two Vespa Juniors during the race, and one Vespa ultra concentrate 45 minutes before the start. I was hoping to tinker around with fueling a bit more during the race, but was rudely reminded that fueling is much different at 5:40/mi than at 6:30/mi. Around mile 15 I took in one gel, one Vespa junior, and a 10 oz sports drink. I ended up slowing to 6+ min/mi for what seemed to be about 10 minutes. Both my sides cramped up really badly to the point I felt I was hunched over (probably more perceived than actual). I broke away from the cramps and got my pace back down after taking in a 10 oz bottle of water. I am pretty sure I took in too many calories with insufficient fluid to balance it out. After that, I did not take on a single calorie for the rest of the race. I felt comfortable, and I was moving at the pace I needed to get the speed benefits I was looking for out of Icebreaker. So I was comfortable scrapping any more race-time calories. In the future I will be more cautious to dilute calories adequately.

The days following the race, my legs felt pretty good. I took a couple days off due to my ankles being sore from all the loops. I was probably a little more cautious than I needed to be, but I did not see a need to risk things in January (the below-zero temps made that decision a bit easier, too).

All in all, I am excited about where I am at in terms of training. I am really pumped to start getting in some higher intensity runs in the coming weeks. The gradual re-entry into training was definitely needed, and somewhat welcomed, but I am really glad to be getting back into full-force training mode.





JFK 50 Mile Race Recap: 2012

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This race report is a bit late, but in the world of a special education teacher, writing IEPs has to come before writing blogs. The JFK 50 Mile did not quite pan out the way I had hoped, but it was still a fantastic weekend full of excitement.

I went into JFK feeling pretty good. My patellar tendon had begun nagging when I fired things up after Tussey Mountain Back, but I didn't think it would be an issue because it didn't bother me in the 10 days leading up to JFK. Even so, I did cancel a few speed sessions that I had planned to do between Tussey and JFK; I figured I would go into JFK with a little extra rest.

On race day I felt good and started out the race conservatively. My strategy was to get through the Appalachian Trail (AT) without getting hurt and then ramp up on the towpath. I came off the towpath in just over two hours, which may have been a bit too conservative in retrospect. I was really glad to get off the AT because near the end on the descent my patellar tendon started to tighten up a bit. It was not anything severe, but it was enough to feel it, and I was hoping the smooth, flat terrain of the towpath would loosen things up. The colder weather, and not wearing anything to keep it warm, may have caused the minor flare-up.

When I began the 26-mile stretch along the towpath, I felt like I was cruising at around 6:40/mi. I could definitely feel my patellar tendon for the first 9 miles along the towpath, but I didn’t feel like it was hampering me. The worst part was wondering if it would flare up progressively throughout the race. Thankfully it did not get any worse, and by mile 24.5 I did not notice it again for the rest of the race. When I reached the 24.5 mile marker I realized I had slowed a bit since the start of the towpath, and I was only averaging just under 7:00/mi pace. Since I came off the AT in just over two hours, I knew I had to pick up the pace. However, my struggles continued and I could not seem to get any turnover out of my legs. I finally was able to pick the pace up a bit when Graham Peck caught up to me just before mile 30. He went past me, and instead of continuing on at my current pace, I went with him. We ran together for the next 8 miles, moving into sixth and seventh place (we had been in ninth and tenth but managed to catch some guys who appeared to have been a bit too aggressive on the AT).

By about mile 38 I was by myself again, after Graham dropped off the pace. I began to slip back into another funk where I could not seem to get a good rhythm going. Once again, I began to hear another runner coming up behind me. This time is was Mike Bialick, a fellow Midwesterner. As soon as he went by me, I sped up and passed him back. We went back and forth for basically the rest of the race before I managed just enough of a gap on the road stretch to finish ahead of him.

I entered the road in sixth place. At that time it had already sunk in that I would not be recording the type of race I had planned on coming into JFK. I glanced at my watch and began to realize it would be a struggle to break six hours, and that realistically it would not happen. I pressed on for a mile or two on the road before Michael Arnstein zipped by me, bumping me back to seventh place. He seemed optimistic. I was unable to keep up with him, so he put about a 2-minute gap on me before the end of the race. When all was said and done, I finished with a time of 6 hrs, 5 min, and 7 sec, and in seventh place.

Before the race, my plan was to be conservative on the AT and get in a solid rhythm on the flat towpath. I had hoped for that rhythm to be closer to a 6:30/mi pace, but it was not meant to be on that day.

The post-race festivities left little to be desired. I was privileged to be able to meet a lot of fellow ultrarunners. It was great to hear Ellie and Max talk about their inspiring performance and get to meet the freshly christened 50-miler Trent Briney, whose debut left him with the second fastest time in race history. I was able to talk extensively to Ian Sharman, who ran to a solid 4th place with a time that would have won the race most years. It was yet again another reminder of how down-to-earth and friendly the ultrarunning community is at all levels.

Later that evening and the next morning I was privileged to meet and talk with many Team RWB veterans from various branches of the military. JFK brings out many of the veterans through the support of race director Mike Spinnler, and Team RWB founder Mike Erwin. They are such a great group of folks, motivated to push outside their comfort level.

Tussey Mountainback USATF 50 Mile Road Championships: Race Recap

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I had Tussey Mountainback (TMB) on the schedule since last spring. Usually I don’t plan this far ahead, but the experience was definitely worth it! The course was beautiful and quite a bit different than the other courses I have raced. TMB hosts the USATF 50 Mile National Road Championships. The roads utilized are mostly gravel fire roads that run through the Tussey Mountains in Rothrock State Forest. The elevation gain is 5,035 feet. Very little of it seemed like rolling hills; long, gradual ascents and descents defined the course, with a few steep climbs and drops throughout. A really nice description of the course can be found on the TMB website.

Switchback on 3mi climb at start
I was very fortunate to have Gary Twoey, a local ultramarathon runner, both help me acclimate and crew for me. He took me to see the entire course the day before the race. It was really nice to get a sense of what lay ahead for me. He also joined me for an easy 7-miler up the first 3.5-mile section and back the day before the race.

The way the race unfolded was really interesting. I started out heading up the first 3.5-mile ascent with Mario Mendoza. We went at a pretty good clip, considering it was uphill. At the top, we began a rather long and gradual descent, and Mario slowly gapped me by the time we reached mile 5. I could see him up ahead on the less winding sections of the course. Right before the aid station at mile 11, Nick Accardo cruised up next to me, which was a bit of a surprise because I didn’t hear him coming. We chatted for a bit and picked up the pace. By the time we had passed the mile 11 aid station, Mario’s gap was about half of what it had been before. I looked at my watch and realized I had been averaging 6:27 per mile through almost 12 miles. This was pretty quick for this course, as Michael Wardian’s course record of 5 hrs, 33 min, and 46 sec, averages out to about 6:40 per mile. So, when Nick pushed on, I let him go.

Leaving an aid station
I could see in the distance that Nick had caught and passed Mario. When I pulled into the next aid station, I was told I was about two minutes back. With my pace still averaging 6:27 per mile, and feeling really comfortable, I was optimistic that I would be able to close the gap at some point. After mile 20 I could see that Mario and Nick were not as far up as they had been. They jostled back and forth a bit as I came closer to them. At mile 25 we had a gradual climb. It was here that I caught back up with Nick. As I passed him, we shared some words of encouragement, but I continued on, slowly separating from Nick. It was at the mile 26 aid station that I caught back up to Mario. It was the first time since mile 5 that we were side by side. He appeared to be struggling a bit, so I pushed on ahead. He did not let me get too far for the next couple miles; I looked back at one of the switchbacks and saw him no more than 30 seconds behind me.
Gravel fireroad along course
I kept a consistent effort, making my pace vary a bit depending on whether I was going up or down. My pace ranged between 6:27 per mile and 6:33 per mile. It seemed like whenever I would get a section of downhill, I could always get the pace back down under 6:30 per mile, and whenever there was a climb it would creep slightly above. Overall, I was feeling optimistic about my pace. My quads were noticeably sore from the hard ground and descents, but they I felt really positive about being able to push through the pain.

By mile 39 I checked my watch and was excited that my average pace was 6:29 per mile. I remembered from Gary’s course tour that around mile 45 or 46 the course became, for the most part, a gradual descent all the way to the finish line. I began to think ahead and told myself that if I could just maintain a steady effort, I would have a good chance at beating Wardian’s course record.

Aid station on second half of course
The next 6 miles turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Miles 40-45 included some of the steeper climbs of the course. My climbing legs faltered a bit and I began to hemorrhage time on the climbs. Miles 40 to 42 felt like they took as long as the entire first 40 miles of the race. I kept telling myself just get to mile 46 and I could glide downhill to the finish. But when I got there, I looked at my watch and realized I would have to average about 6:20 per mile in order to finish under Wardian’s course record. I thought this might be possible... until I met the last uphill section of the course. I had forgotten about this section of maybe 600 meters that made my pace slow enough to put me in a position where I would have to cover miles 48-50 at about 6:00 per mile to break the record. Even with a gradual descent, I didn’t have enough in my legs to quite pull off that pace. I gave it everything I had left, which was good for 5 hrs, 35 min, and 51 sec—and 1st place.

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. So despite being thrilled with the win, I wondered about whether a more conservative pace at the start would have saved me more time at the end. Or maybe a strategic hit of caffeine would have given me just enough to shave two more minutes off my time?

Who knows! This is the beauty of the sport. With so many miles, there is endless opportunity to learn from what we did before and plan for what we can do differently next time. All in all, I am excited about my experience at Tussey, and I am very satisfied with the results. In short, it was one of those races that makes you look forward to the next one.


Finish Line! Photos by fongstudio2.com.

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Splits (Finish: 5 hrs, 35 min, 51 sec)

First Hundo at Western States 100!

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Despite not cracking the top 10, this was one of the coolest running experiences I have ever had! The whole of the trip, I believe, has made me a stronger, more efficient runner. I left for California 10 days before the race in hopes of gaining some experience on the Western States 100 (WS100) course. I spoke about my training up to the race in my previous blog, but to sum it up I was able to get on 70 miles' worth of the course before race day. On race day I felt I had a bit more experience, and a better grasp of how to efficiently descend and ascend the mountainous canyons through a balanced approach, than I did when I left Wisconsin.

Using what I learned proved to be difficult at times. Old habits die hard. I would estimate on race day I was able to effectively use a balanced running approach on much of the ascents, but struggled to efficiently descend at least half of the time. I believe this hurt me in the latter portions of the race because running inefficiently down the mountains beats your quads up more heavily. The important thing for me was that I came away from this experience with the knowledge of how to run more balanced and attack descents efficiently. Now I can practice the approach and hopefully improve my downhill running.

I planned to start conservatively, mainly because this was my first hundred and I believed I was more susceptible to wrecking my quads earlier than some of the more experienced and talented mountain runners. During the first 3.5 miles of steep climbing, I focused only maintaining a comfortable heart rate. I believe I was in around 20th place when I reached the top. It was a strange year for WS100, as it rained for about the first 40 miles, and the high country saw 30 mph gusts of wind. A race that is notorious for its scorching temperatures in the canyons was replaced by a frigid and soggy first half, and a pleasantly warm and sunny second half. Those who handled the cold, wind, and rain at the start well ran some impressive times!

Once atop the wilderness area I began to eke my way further up the field. I pulled into Lions (mile 10.5) in around 14-15th place. My plan from here was to run conservatively by continuing to listen to my heart rate through the canyon sections of the course. I lucked out with some good company from David Riddle and Jon Olsen leading up to, and into, the canyons. I was a bit more aggressive in the descents leading down to the two canyons after Robinson's Flat (mile 30). In the canyons my approach was to run slowly unless I felt my heart rate start to climb too high, in which case I would power hike. This worked well, except I broke form a bit on the canyon leading into Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7) where I ran the majority of it. I think this took a little too much out of me, because I spent the majority of Michigan Bluff to Forest Hill (mile 62) trying to pull it together and feel comfortable.

When I was about a mile from Forest Hill I began to feel really good. I was able to run into the aid station at a pretty good clip and pick up my pacer Gary Gellin for the remainder of the race. Gary did a great job motivating me. Had he not been with me, I would have added at least 10-15 minutes to my time. We went through the next section, Cal Loop to Rucky Chucky (miles 62-78) at a steady clip of under 10-minute miles. It was in this section that I took my third, and hardest fall (other two were relatively gentle). I got cut up pretty good on my knees and right elbow, but was able to get up and keep moving without losing much time. It was in this section where I began to notice my form suffering on the descents. Gary would run behind me and encourage me to stay aware when he noticed my form begin to slip.

After the river crossing at Rucky Chucky we plotted along at a good pace, but decided to hike the steeper climbs in order to conserve energy for the flat and downhill sections. When I got to mile 80 I decided to break the remainder of the course into four 5 mile sections. I thought this would be a good way to stay positive and not think too far ahead. At mile 85 my pace began to suffer despite Gary's best efforts to keep me moving. We were close to other runners, so Gary was frequent in his encouragement to maintain pace. At mile 88, I took in some caffeine. With the sun going down and the race nearing its end I didn't have to worry about dehydration from too much caffeine use. In about five minutes my energy levels spiked, and I entered what was probably my most aggressive section of the course. From mile 88-95 Gary and I were able to pull into 12th place, with the 11th place runner not too far ahead. It was an interesting situation because we thought, at the time, we were in 11th and were closing on the 10th place runner. This certainly increased how aggressive we were during this section. I may have bit off a little too much, too soon, as when we got to mile 95 mile my quads began to really become non-responsive on the descents. I slowed significantly, slipping into 15th place. I actually looked forward to the climb from miles 97-99 because my muscles desperately needed a change from the tired descents. When we reached the top of Robie Point we had only one mile of pavement and track until the finish line.

It felt so good to be on concrete after being on the trails for so long. With no runner close enough to catch, and no runner close enough to run us down, Gary and I steadily moved towards the finish. We entered the track and I crossed the finish line in a time of 16 hrs., 53 min., 25 sec. It was great to be able to talk to the other runners and spectators about the race. I was especially excited to see Timothy Olsen, who we had heard was way ahead of course record pace. He was able to win with a time of 14 hrs., 46 min., breaking Geoff Roes' previous record of 15 hrs., 07 min. This also sealed the Montreal Cup Trophy Series win for him, which was a goal of his going into the race.

What did I learn on the WS100 trail? What I took away the most from WS100 was my weaknesses in descending. I was okay on the less technical descents but suffered on the descents that featured really technical and rocky terrain (as made evident by the huge scabs I have on my left knee and right elbow). It was impressive to see how the better technical runners attacked the downhill portions. It is definitely an aspect of training I will try to improve upon as best I can given the terrain available in Wisconsin.

A huge thanks to Peter Defty of Vespa Power Products for making this whole trip happen. Also, a huge thanks to Gary Gellin for pacing me in what I hope to be the first of many 100-mile ultras. I could not have asked for a better pacer. Keep your eyes peeled for Gary this August as he will be attempting to break the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Tahoe Rim.

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Race Photos

Escarpment in the early morning fog


Exiting Robinons's Flat


Forest Hill Aid Station

Leaving Forest Hill Aid Station (joined by pacer Gary Gellin)

River crossing after the Rucky Chucky Aid Station (mile 78)

River Crossing


Wrapping up the day on the Auburn Track!

Post race picture while talking to iRunFar's Bryon Powell

Ice Age 50 Mile Race Recap

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The Ice Age 50 Mile (IA50) 2012 was an amazing experience. The race drew a group of runners gunning for various objectives: a bid to the Western States 100 in June, Montrail Ultra Cup points, an IA50 course record... or simply to test their might against a competitive field. I am extremely humbled and excited to have come out of this experience as the overall winner. There was a bit of confusion about finishing times, but when the dust settled, it turned out as follows:



As for me, I entered the race when heard the list of talented runners coming to Wisconsin. I knew I could not pass up a chance to compete with them so close to home. Those who follow my blog will know that I specified my training for the IA50 course. For example, I did lots of short hill repeats. The course was relentless in this respect. I can think of maybe two areas on the course that were not rolling hills, and these areas were extremely short in duration and left little room to make big surges. And the rolling hills were not smooth: They were speckled with rocks, roots, and winding turns. This course was definitely the hardest trail course I have raced—a real quad thrasher.

I got an early start to the day. Well, let me rephrase that: I got an extremely early start to the day. I went to bed at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, and woke up at 11:20 p.m. and never fell back to sleep. I laid restless in bed until about 2:00 a.m., when I finally got up. It was crazy, but I didn't notice any additional fatigue from the lack of sleep.

The race began as I had expected. A group of five or six guys went out fast. We averaged about a 6:40/mi for the first six miles. I kept with the lead pack for the most part but fell back occasionally on the uphill climbs. My strategy going into IA50 was to be cautious on the ascents, aggressive on the descents, and aggressive on the very limited flats. The reason for caution on the ascents was to keep my heart rate down. If you drive up your heart rate early in a race, you can quickly turn your body to glycogen burning mode, and it is really difficult to go back once your body decides to prioritize glycogen. In a 50-mile race, you really need to use your glycogen stores wisely. My goal was to use fat as fuel, as much as possible.

Near the end of the first 9-mile loop was one of the sparse flat stretches. I made a move into the lead as we approached the mile 9 aid station. In transition, Tim Olson blasted right past me and gained a solid 15-second gap on me. We were both pretty aggressive through the next stretch. Once I had closed the gap, we ran together for a few miles. At about mile 16 I took the lead, with Tim following closely behind. When I reached the mile 17.5 aid station, I had a short lead on Tim, and at the time I was unaware of where the rest of the field was. The next section until the mile 21 turnaround was very technical. I did my best to maintain a reasonable pace without using too much of my late-stage energy.

I was really anxious to reach the mile 21 turnaround so I could gauge where everyone else was. The course is basically a 9-mile loop with two out-and-backs connected to it. The two out-and-back turnarounds serve as a nice way to see how far other runners are from you. At the mile 21 turnaround, my lead was slim on all accounts. I was maybe 20 seconds ahead of second place, and 40 seconds ahead of third and fourth place. If nothing else, it kept me urgent to continue to push myself.

It is worth noting that throughout the race I fell three times. Fortunately, I did not land on a rock or root, because a tumble in the wrong place on IA50 could have ended my day. All three times I bounced back up and continued onward, just with a little extra dirt.

I managed to increase my lead slightly on the way back from the Rice Lake out-and-back. At about mile 31, I was told I had about a 1:45 lead on second and third place, who were running together. This was encouraging in that I knew I had been making gains, but still alarming in that I was one bad mile away from being run down. My slim lead became even slimmer when I stopped for about 30 seconds to use the bathroom. Mentally I proceeded assuming my lead was about a minute. Soon after, I ran into a lower point in the race. I had felt very smooth up until about mile 36. Most of the previous miles I had actually felt I could be going much faster had I been more skillful on the technical descents, but during miles 36 through about 38 I started to break down a bit mentally. It was a little after mile 38 that I managed to convince myself that my mind was trying to make me feel worse than I actually was in attempt to stop me from beating up my body. This outlook helped a lot! I snapped out if it and was reassured by reminding myself I only had a bit more than 10 miles left.

Much like the mile 21 turnaround, I anxiously awaited the mile 40 turnaround so I could gauge my lead. This time I discovered that I had about a 2:20 lead on second place, and about 4 minutes on third. This made me very optimistic, because it meant I had managed to increase my lead during a stretch that included a bathroom break and my only low of the race. I started feeling that as long as I stayed upright, it was my race to lose.

Picture taken by: Tom Held of Active Pursuit


With less than 10 miles to go, I started getting really energetic. I strongly believe that my high-fat diet and Vespa fueling had much to do with this late-race energy surge. I had trained my body to prioritize fat for fuel, allowing me to reserve most of my carb stores for the back end of the race. Every rest stop I went through from miles 40 to 50 I was told my lead was growing. By mile 48.5, I had a six-minute lead. I crossed the finish line with a lead of about 9 minutes, 10 seconds.

My fueling was strategic for the most part. I waited until about 45 minutes into the race before I took in any carbs, because I wanted to make sure my body was primed to burn fat first. I also optimized my fat utilization by eating breakfast three hours before the start of the race, and nothing else between breakfast and the start other than water and Vespa. The idea was to keep my body out of carb burning mode at the race's start, something that can be easily wrecked by ingesting too many carbs close to the start. I listed my fuel intake below.

Fuel During the Race

  • 80 ounces of sports drink
  • 4 gels
  • 2 Vespa Juniors
  • 1 Vespa Ultra Concentrate
  • 12 ounces of coke (aid station)
  • 70 ounces of water
  • 1 small handful of M&Ms
  • Total of Approximately 1,300-1,500 calories

Gear Used on the Course



Post-race was a familiar affair for ultramarathons. All the competitors and spectators joined together to share their experiences—both today and in the past—and enjoy one another's company. The atmosphere at these events would be enough by themselves to draw someone to run an ultra.

One runner to keep your eyes on is Michael Owen. Many people claim that I am young for ultrarunning, but Michael is younger yet. He has some impressive finishes, including third at the Burning River 100 last season. He seems to be one of those runners who can succeed at all distances. (Dare I say a young Michael Wardian?) I know I will be following him, and hopefully competing with him many times in the future.
One final note. A huge thanks to my mom, dad, grandma, and my girlfriend Krista for crewing for me. It was a big help, especially with the higher-than-expected humidity.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of Fuel Belt's 2012 line and Revolution Natural Running.