Sunday, March 27, 2011

A bit of babble following the March 26th Chicago Lakefront 50K:

Mary Gorski's Race Report...

I say it every spring -- Chicago BLOWS!  But yesterday the lakefront was particularly blustery for this year's running of the Chicago Lakefront 50 Kilometer George Cheung Memorial Race -- a race that has a letter in its title for every kilometer run, plus one for a cool-down.  Though this year you really didn't need to cool down at the finish.  Runners were well chilled at the end having just pushed through the worst of the winds in the last couple of kilometers of the course.  

The Chicago 50K is a great early spring run -- generally flat, and contrary to what one  might think in a very urban place like Chicago, much of it can be run on dirt.  The course consists of three, ten-plus mile loops from Foster Beach to North Avenue and back.  Aid is available every two to three miles.  It was great to see several of my CHUG friends staffing one of the stations, including Ian Stevens and Brian and Kelly Gaines  at the turn-around.  That's another thing that I enjoy about the Chicago 50K -- it's a nice time to connect with runners that I haven't seen through the winter.  

Unfortunately, this year the cold got in the way of the usual pre and post-race stand around and chat time.  Pre-race, many runners were hiding in their cars, checking under seats and in the back of their trunks to see if they might have an extra layer of clothes to put on.  Occasionally, we popped out to head to the porta-pottie line.  But even then, bundled head to toe with faces covered, it was sometimes difficult to find a familiar face.  When Bruce Purdy yelled "hello" it took me a minute to figure out where and from whom the voice was coming from under his pile of clothes.  

Larry Hall -- doing just a loop or two as a warm up to next week's Umstead 100 miler -- was recognizable by his knees.  A down coat, hood up, and a pair of shorts with lily-white knees sticking out.  He's one of those guys who has never seen a need to cover his legs, at least when running (I hear that he wears suits to work, though I don't know if they have long pants or not).  

Actually, the temps weren't bad... if it were mid-January.  My car thermometer showed 25F at the start -- really not too awful.  And while I drove through a snow-globe of a storm coming from Wisconsin early Saturday morning, Chicago's lakefront was generally sunny.  

But the wind!  Again, Chicago blows.  Within a mile of the turn-around the course was supposed to go on a bike path close to Lake Michigan's edge.  But the incoming waves blurred the line of where that edge actually was.  Race volunteers re-routed us to higher ground.  I didn't mind running the extra distance to stay clear of the waves (and ice-covered path they left behind).  

So it was a typical Chicago 50K -- a wind-filled opportunity to get a long run in, say "hi" to a few friends. I know that I've missed mentioning a few like Bill Thom, Juli Aistars, Julie Wickwire Bane, Jerry Shepard,  and even Steve Batterson -- one of my buddies from crewing Nikki Seger at her last Badwater race.  Evidently Nikki still hasn't talked him into taking up running, but she did talk him into walking over to a run course.  The first step to becoming an ultrarunner -- hey Steve?

I have described the race as more of a social training run rather than a REAL race.  Being the self-absorbed only child that I am, I tend to forget that just because a social (WINDY, FREEZE-YOUR-BUNS-OFF) run was what I was doing, there were also a few runners on the 50K course doing a REAL RACE.
I was so excited to have spent a bit of time running with the first-place man.  That bit of time was about two seconds as he whizzed past me and headed toward the finish line while I went to the turn-around cone to mark the end of my second lap.  It was 3:16 into the race and I had just finished two laps while the guy who turned right toward the finish had completed all three.  Phenomenal effort in extremely windy conditions. The winner?  Matthew Flaherty, 25, of Chicago.  The women's winner was Jennifer Benitez in 3:53.  Effing FAST!

The rest of the race results can be found at:

So that was this year's Chicago 50K.  As for my run, I was in good shape for a nice 20-miler.  Must been that extra distance running up and away from the waves of Lake Michigan that tired my legs out for the last 10-11 miles.  During the final loop I felt like a cartoon character, spinning my legs but seemingly going nowhere.  And then I swear that those CHUGS moved their turn-around aid station a bit to the south. It took so much longer to get there that last time!  Ian?!?!?!?!?

However, after a few months of working out some injuries I'm happy to have that day-after-a-long-run-heavy-legged hang-over once again.  

PHOTO:  Me, two of the RDs (Pat and Stuart) and Bill Thom of

Monday, March 7, 2011

Holy windburn, Bat Gringo

Jim Blanchard's Old Pueblo Race Report...
"Holy windburn, Bat Gringo"  All week I fretted about possible 80 degree temps on the flatter dirtroad part of the Old Pueblo course, but conditions were perfect.  That is until we took a hard left at 20 miles right into the teeth of what felt like a 50 mph gail coming straight off the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson Az.  What should have been 5 miles of runnable dirt road turned into a battle just to keep a walking pace going.  At 25 miles we start a 4 mile climb up beautiful Box Canyon, only this time it was right into this howling wind coming out of the cooler Mountains to the rapidly warming desert floor. I'm sure the Apache have a colorful name for this wind. We came up a few colorful names ourselves. When we got to the top of the climb, the wind turned back into a gentle breeze. Not a moment too soon.... It's always something.    This was my 6th finish at OP, it's turned into part of our Spring vacation.  The run is put on by Tucson area folks and has an Old West feel to it. Adobe walls, old cemetaries, mining ruins, all can be seen along the course along with some spectacular Southern Az. mountain scenery.  The well marked course consists of single track, forest service roads, jeep and atv trails and all kinds of other gnarly stuff. Experienced volunteers and a challenging course make it a quality event.  The race is no longer promoted, so a majority of the field is from Az. Of course many of these folks are displaced Uppermidwesteners so it does have a friendly  feel to it.  Speaking of which, at the 10 mile aid station, I ran into my old Ultra hero, Harry Sloan and wife Deb. Ran many miles with him back in the day. "Hey Jim, I thought you were dead", no we just smell that way.  Harry started running Ultras in the early 80s and besides being a 11 or 12 time Western States finisher and the founder of the Superior 100, he also was the subject of Ultrarunning's most famous cover. But that's another story.  Not bad for a guy from Duluth.  Later on I ran into Matt Long who was crewing for Dawn. It seems they've moved down to the area. The appeal is year round trailrunning. The heat becomes manageable in the mountains and no humidity or bugs. My run went better than expected, beat my target by a 1/2 hour and didn't need my headlamp. The Lapham Peak training is paying off.  If anyone is interested in doing OP next year, check on their website, registration is early Oct. and it does fill up quickly.  I would say it's similar in difficulty to Voyaguer or Masochist, maybe a little slower. The 15 hour cutoff is generous. It's a little tough to get ready in the snow in Wi.  I'm glad I came out a few days early.  See everbody next week.   Jimb   

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brad's 100 mile Rocky Road Race Report...

 Went out to Coto de Caza, CA to do the Rocky Road 100. My sister doesn’t live far from there, so I figured, why not. I’ve never been to California so what better reason to go out west, see my sister and run 100 miles.

This course was more different than anything else I’ve ever done. For starters it was done in one of these exclusive gated communities. There was a guard shack at the entrance. Had to give them my name just to get in the gate. Yes, my name was on the list.  Kind of surprised they let us grubby Ultra types past the gate.  The course was set up like this. It was on a horse trail, a very well groomed, smooth horse trail. Didn’t even see a horse print on the whole thing.  We did 7.5 miles out then the 7.5 back for 15 miles. We did that 6 times for 90 miles. Then did a 5 mile out 5 miles back for the last 10 miles. Aid stations every 2.5 miles with porta johns at every one. Talk about roughing it. Using a porta john in an Ultra, OH the humanity.  Standing in the rain before the start I recognize a couple of familiar faces.  Eric Clifton, who’s been a big name in the Ultra scene for years and Catra Corbet. She’s the tattooed, pierced runner with the popular Blog site, dirtdiva and a staple in the California Ultra scene.

Lap 1 started with the temps in the low 40s and raining. Kinda chuckled to myself on how everyone was so bundled up and I’m here in my shorts and long sleeve shirt. The first 5 miles had some hills, nothing too bad, runnable if you wanted them to be. Not for me though, I walked them.  From mile 5 to 7.5 got a bit hillier. Definitely not a flat course. It had some course markings, couldn’t get lost anyway, all you had to do was follow the white picket fence that lined the whole trail.  Lots to look at as well. On this smooth non-technical course it was alright to check out the lush landscaping, big expensive homes and a mountain range in the not so far distance.  On the way back from the turnaround my right foot was already hurting. I came into this race with foot issues, mainly the right heel, so training has been very minimal. So what else is new, right?  Just getting into this thing and already wondering about making it through.  Got a pick-me –up on the way back seeing my sister Carrie on her way out competing in the ½ Marathon.  End of the first loop I made some shoe adjustments to hopefully alleviate the pain, added gaiters because of the sandy surface getting inside the shoes.  Better to take care of this stuff early before it gets bad.

Out for lap 2 got to see Carrie again on her way back to finish the ½. She ended up being satisfied with her race, finishing in 2 hr. 30 min. By this time the rain had stopped and was getting warmer.  Took off the gloves and eventually the arm sleeves. Finished lap 2 got rid of the extra clothes, grabbed some supplies and was out of there.
On lap 3 I recognized a face. It was Mimi Ko from Chicago. We had a quick chat and moved on.  Met  her at Frozen Otter this year. Her father lives in the area so she was out there to do the race as well. Even in California I run into someone I know. Crazy. My pace was slowing but the foot was holding out. 45 miles down.

Decided to head out on lap 4 without my light. Judging by the time and my pace I figured I could make it back before or close to dark. I need to come up with different formula because my guessing was off by a couple of hours. Was alright though we were out in the open and there was enough light from traffic, houses and the occasional street light. Was also getting cold with the sun going down. Guess I should have brought my gloves as well. Hands work better when there not frozen.

Headed out on lap 5 with extra layers, gloves and light. This lap had some head issues. My pace had slowed quite a bit because my feet here hurting by now and I couldn’t keep warm.  Just had to keep moving forward.  With all the lights on the trail we started to spark some interest in the residents of the area. Heading back from the turnaround I was stopped 3 times by people asking me what was going on. No problems with them, they all thought it was cool and crazy that we were out there. Even the group of teenage girls that pulled up in a brand new BMW. 

Heading out on lap 6 was a little better. Knowing that this was the last full lap was good motivation to keep pushing forward. Pace was slow and limping a bit with my sore feet. Still having trouble keeping warm with the slow pace.

Lap 7 was the final 10 miles.  Mentally I was good again, knowing I had just 10 more miles to go. About 3 miles into it, it was light enough to get rid of the light. Hit that turnaround and it was homeward bound. 5 more miles to go. Time to get this damn thing done, so I put my head down and pushed the pain away and push for that finish. What was walking the last couple of hours turned into a run again. Ran everything I could. Hill what hill, I’m running it. At 2.5 miles to go I took 1 more gel and pushed for home. Coming up to the turn for the finish Carrie was standing there waiting for me. She couldn’t believe I was running at this point and joined me to the finish line. Finally finished and glad to be done in 25 hrs. 15 mins.

It still amazes me how much these things take mentally and how mental you have to be to keep doing them. So, if anyone is looking for an “easier” 100 out west this would be a good one. Well run and nice people.

Actually kept track of my times. I pushed the lap button on my way out for the next loop. Kinda came in handy for keeping track of laps.

Lap 1/15 mi; 2:25:11
Lap2/ 15 mi; 3:10
Lap 3/15 mi; 3:10:07
Lap 4/15 mi; 3:53:02
Lap 5/15 mi; 4:39
Lap 6/15 mi; 4:52:22
Lap 7/10 mi; 2:39:42

Annual Bear Trax 20k Event Coming up May 1st...

Mary Gorski wanted give everyone a reminder about this great event...

A challenging but fun 20-kilometer TRAIL running race and 4.3K run/walk to benefit the Nancy Sellars Memorial Foundation, an unincorporated non-profit association. Inspired by the memory of Nancy Sellars, a Milwaukee-area endurance athlete killed by a drunk driver in July, 2008, the Nancy Sellars Memorial Foundation is devoted to the promotion of bicycle safety and the elimination of drunk driving.

Registration is available on-line at Day-of registration is from 8 - 9 a.m. at Homestead Hollow. Registration is limited to 500 participants so sign up early!

Race fees for the Bear Trax 20K are $25 by April 8 and $30 after. For the Brownie Shuffle, fees are $20 until April 8 and $25 after. 

Participants who sign up by April 8 are guaranteed a commemorative shirt. Those who sign up after April 9 are not guaranteed a shirt, but will receive one as long as supplies last. Food will be available after the race.

AWARDS: Awards will be given to the overall male and female winners of both the Bear Trax and the Brownie Shuffle.

In the Bear Trax 20K, awards will also be distributed to the top three (M&F) in each of the following age groups: 18 and under, 19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+