Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Massanutten Mountain 100

Race Report from LPTRunner Brenda Bland...
The Massanutten Mountain 100. I signed up for this race, as I had heard so much about the beauty, and it is one of the older races at 19 years old. I like races with character, and this one has it in spades! The motto is "Massanutten Rocks". This is because the trails are indeed covered in rocks. They range in size from a small mouse to a huge barn. They have a glowing beauty in the early spring when the MMT is run, and feel like another type of living organism. They give this race its' character, and are what make it one of the harder hundreds.

The race itself is indeed hard. There is sufficient elevation gain for those who love climbing, but it is done on rocks. The rocks give the ankles and lower legs a beating. In addition, all the down-hills are fairly steep and again on rocks, so the quads get trashed as well. My quads were shot by mile 45, and I could only kind of shuffle-run. Fortunately, this worked well on the terrain and allowed me to keep moving at a decent pace.

Being a middle of the pack runner, I tend to be a back of the pack runner at hundreds. I think this is because most hundreds have a 60 to 67 percent finishing rate, so all the slower runners behind me don't finish. Either that or I'm just slow at hundreds. Either way, I don't have room for any kind of issues at these events or I won't make it. My strategy is to plan for everything and prevent all issues before they happen. This means I don't wait until that hot spot hurts. I stop on the trail and take care of potential blisters right then and there. This prevents lost time tending to my feet or slowing down from the pain. Same way, I don't wait until I'm hungry, but have a food schedule. I have learned from my failures that I need to address issues immediately, or they will only grow exponentially. Boy, have I learned from my failures!!!

That said, I had a really great race day. I was very lucky to come to MMT on a good year. MMT was almost magical with how much good luck I had! For example, there was a 50 percent chance of rain that day. It did rain, but only enough to minimally sprinkle and cool us off. The rain really didn't cause any mud or slippery rocks at all. Lucky me. The temperatures a week before the race were supposed to be a high of 85. Fortunately, the forecast dropped to a high of 73 and that is what we got. The lower temperatures made all the difference, and contributed to the extraordinarily high finishing rate of 76 percent this year. Lucky me! To be honest, I really felt good all the way through. One bad patch in early morning, and then I was fine after pounding calories. I was still singing on the last few miles into the finish. Oh yes, Lorraine Bunk would have been proud. Just before I turned the corner for the last 100 feet to the finish, I cleaned my face with a wet wipe, undid my hair, fluffed it, and dumped my pack on a tree stump. Photo opp ready!
I do these events partially for the challenge, but also for the people. Part of the fun for me is to chat up other runners and learn their story. I ran with various folks and was even able to keep up with the famous Gary Knipling in the first few miles. He was very positive and encouraging to everyone, and freely dispensed race advice which I took to heart. This was Gary's 16th MMT, so he knows of what he speaks. At 69, Gary was one of the older participants and was telling me about his running group who are all going out to The Black Hills 100 this June. Gary did indeed finish the MMT this year, keeping the legend alive.

I saw only one old friend there at MMT, Liza Howard. Many of you met or heard about her at Leadville in 2010. Since Liza was 5 months pregnant, she 'only' paced a friend of hers for around 40 miles or so. I chatted with her after the race, and was sorry I missed her on the trails. Imagine Liza and her cute belly traipsing down the trail! She'll be pacing again at Western States when she will be 7 months pregnant. That'll keep folks on their toes!

RD and aid station review:
Kevin Sayers is the Fabulous RD for MMT, and is old school.
1. Old school means the trails are marked fantastically. I never had the slightest worry about being lost.
2. Old school also means the aid stations were fully stocked and very attentive. You wouldn't need to carry any food at all!
3. Old school also means that each aid station had the GPS coordinates provided for crew in the race packet. That was so great. My patient and long suffering husband simply entered the coordinates, and our GPS took him right to the aid station. If you've ever driven in the dark on back roads looking for an aid station, hoping you don't miss your runner, you'll see the value of this immediately.
4. Old school also means that Kevin greets each finisher personally. When you cross the finish line, Kevin high fives upi. That means the last finisher gets the same treatment as the first finisher. If you run the Kettle, Timo Yanacheck will give you the same welcome. Well played Gentlemen!

Massanutten Checklist:
1. Hallucinations-Check. I had many auditory and visual hallucinations. This time they were all about runners, including a fully stocked aid station. I could see the runners in their white hats standing around the aid station and hear the murmur of talking. Turned out to be a mud puddle.
2. Millipedes-Check. Race reports describe these as all over the place. I didn't see that many, but I swear I saw one that was 6 inches long!
3. People complaining of urinating blood – Check. At least two guys complained of this, and were out. Most likely they were low on water and food and so the bladder banged against the pelvis as they ran on the rocks. Better to be safe though.
4. Eat a peanut butter bacon brownie – Check. Each aid station vies to be the best one, and they ARE! However, the bacon aid station stood out. One of my buddies ate several pieces of bacon here, and went on to finish. You just never know what will work at an ultra!
5. Get off trail to pee in the bushes, come back to the trail and go the wrong way – Check. Fortunately two guys found me before I went too far. Boy, was I confused when I saw them running towards me!
6. Take your time and enjoy the beauty, majesty and mystery of Massanutten Mountain – Check.

That was my Massanutten. I had a great day, enjoyed the run, and found the area incredibly beautiful. If you decide to do this race, do your homework. The elevation change is nothing to take for granted, and you'd better get those Quads and lower legs ready to run on rocks and downhill. Prepare for heat and rain, but get ready to enjoy it if you get weather like I did.

Thanks for listening. Now get out there and run!

Friday, May 24, 2013

“You Run To Find Quiet” – Ice Age Trail 50 Mile Race Report

LPTRunner - Nick Wied's Race Report...

 – Ice Age Trail 50 Mile <>
“Daddy I know why you run for so long in the woods!”  This was how my daughter started a facetime conversation with me while I was in NJ, the morning before the race.  I asked her why and she responded; “When you run in nature your heart is talking to God.”  I was shocked, as I usually am, by the crystal clarity my daughter’s statements can provide during hectic times.  The days leading up to the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile <>  race had been truly hectic.  I believe that racing ultra-distance events prepares you for the challenges of life, and I was about to fully test this theory.
It started three weeks earlier when I raced the Mad City 50K <> .  I had a great race but had really punished my legs.  I have never raced 2 ultras so close together before so I was entering uncharted territory.  Then a week before the race my boss called to ask if I was busy the following week, race week.  I told him my birthday was on Wednesday and Saturday I was racing 50 miles.  His response was, “good you are free Thursday and Friday, we need you in NJ.”  Finally the winter in WI had been exceptionally brutal and had not really dissipated until the prior 2 weeks.  This meant that I had zero race specific training for a hilly, trail, 50 mile race.  As I was flying home Friday evening the guy next to me asked if I had plans for the weekend, after telling of the race he commented that I seemed really relaxed for someone about to run 50 miles. I was, deep down I needed this race, the trails, the challenge, and the quiet of nature so my heart could talk to God!  Well, let the challenge begin, it was time to find my quiet.
Racing the Mad City 50K <>  had left my legs tired, but I was pretty sure they had recovered enough to finish and possibly race the 50 miles.  Keeping this in mind I lined up in the middle of the crowd, and decided to take the first 9 mile loop extremely easy.  I say crowd because there were over 400 starters for the 50 Mile race.  Due to my starting position as well as the slower beginning pace (11-12 min miles) I got to run with some incredible individuals.  One such gentleman was Mike Price from Salt Lake City, UT.  Mike is 62, started running ultras in the early 80’s, and has run almost all of them (over 200).  Clicking off early miles with him involved an awesome game of name that race.  I named them, he told me how many times he finished, DNF’d, or DNS’d, and how to train for them.  This was awesome and the early 9 mile loop flew by.  As I came into the aid station (mile 9) I decided my legs felt good so I would gradually pick up the pace.  I made the decision here that I would not be passed by ANYONE in this race, I would only pass people.   I normally run ultras on water and gels, well I surveyed the aid table and there were no gels.  The volunteer apologized, I smiled, thanked them for everything, and told them; “No worries, you guys are awesome, time to run my first ultra on ginger ale.”
The next 14 or so miles down to Rice Lake (mile22) went pretty smoothly.  I took the technical sections closer to the lake pretty easy, especially the climbing.  I had mentally prepared for this eventuality as I had zero specific trail hill training for this race due to the disaster that was the WI winter.  I power hiked most of the hills, where I ran them last year.  (A great article regarding specific race training and it effects is Zach Bitter’s <>  (3rd place).)  A holdover benefit I received from my speed training for Mad City, similar to Zach’s, was my enhanced ability to descend the technical trails.  My descending, normally strength, was enhanced by the speed work which increased my foot turn over allowing me to “fall” down the hill more efficiently.  I had slowly picked up the pace, and by the turn at mile 22 was running pretty quick.  I was really feeling connected with the trail and my surroundings and was about to have even more time to acquaint with them.
I had been waiting for some deep hidden fatigue in my legs to slow me.  It was a driving rain/hail storm that got to me first.  Luckily I had kept my arm sleeves on and rolled them back up, right on hypothermia averted!  Then right after leaving the mile 26 aid some deep fatigue in my left quad, a hold-over from Mad City made itself known.  While descending a small hill I felt a small hot bomb explode inside my quad, ending my ability to descend quickly.  What I found truly amazing was that when this happened instead of causing my mood to sour, I suddenly began to enjoy the trail even more.  I ran mostly alone, other than passing people, till the next turn at mile 40.  During this time I reflected on just how lucky I am to be able to run in such a beautiful environment, and how truly blessed I am to have the ability to enjoy it in a manner that, as my daughter told me, allowed my heart to talk to God!  I was finding my quiet.  I was keeping good on my plan to only pass people and not be passed.  Filling my bottles shirtless, in 50 degree temps, and with 10 miles to run I had huge grin on my face that really fired up some of the volunteers.  I was suddenly ready to run hard.  I left and let my body float down the trail.
The final 10 miles to the finish were some of the most exhilarating miles I have ever run.  My quad had either gone numb due to effort, or my mind had shut the pain out, and suddenly my ability to descend returned.  I took full advantage of this and my euphoric mood to push the pace to the finish.  I ran truly feeling the trail, becoming one with my environment.  I ran hard.  I ran fast.  I danced down the descents like a child running to a playground.  I ran because I needed to, I had found my quiet on the trail.  I cannot really explain why I felt so at peace 7+ hours into a run, but 50 miles suddenly didn’t seem long enough.  During some of the flatter sections I glanced down at my watch to see that I was holding 7 min pace, and on a few of the descents had dipped into the 5 min range.  This fast running allowed me to finish the race in 53rd place.  I was never passed the entire race!
I crossed the finish smiling.  I was truly happy; not to be done, not because I had achieved some great race result or time, Just Happy!  I had found my quiet, my heart truly had its chance speak with God, and my body had a chance to be rejuvenated by nature.  I am truly thankful to Jeff Mallach, the RD, and his exceptional crew of volunteers form making the 2013 a great race, and great experience.  Thank you also to my family who supports my desire to push my body and discover just how far I can go!  Thank you also to my sponsors; Performance Running Outfitters <>  and VESPA <> , your gear, support, and advice make racing and self discovery so much fun! As a side note now that my mind thinks 50 mile/ 6-8 hour runs are business as usual, it may be time to increase distance and stretch to a new challenge!
Race Gear & Nutrition
1 VESPA <>  Concentrate
1 multi vitamin, fish oil, vit D
4 Capra Flex <>
3 Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter <>  packets
1 Green Tea w 1 TBSP of coconut oil
1 VESPA <>  JR
48oz coconut water
1 VESPA <>  Concentrate
4 VESPA <>  JR's
3 Gels
Ginger Ale
Coke (Final 10 Miles)
7 S-Cap salt tabs
Post Race
Guinness and good food!!!!
8 Capra Flex <>
1 multi-vitamin & fish oil
The North Face - Better than Naked shorts, & arm sleeves - Performance Running Outfitters <>  (PRO)
Hoka One One Bondi 2B - <>
Ultimate Direction - uno waist pack (1st 25 miles) & hand held (final 25 miles) - PRO <>
Drymax - Trail runner socks - PRO <>
Salmon S-Lab Hydro Set (2 8oz flasks) - PRO <

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

My First Ice Age 50 Miler!

Race Report from LPTRunner Tom Schiessl...

Tom Schiessl and Mary Gorski
I signed up for this not really sure what I was getting into. Up to this point I had run six 50K’s in the past year (my first year of ultra looniness) and figured, what the hell.
I spent a lot of time training  at Lapham, Muir trails, and Scuppornong with a variety of friends from LPTR but mainly Laura Reinders, Trish Diaz, and Jose’. The support from this group was fantastic, and the fact that Laura and Trish successfully navigated the 50K, as well as myself finishing the 50 miler (with Jose’ sweeping) is a testament to that.
Chippewa 50k with its freaky 70 degree weather and snow covered trail was my last long run prior to IA 50, but it didn’t prepare me for this. After some pre-race comments and a great rendition of the National Anthem, Jeff sent us on our way.
My plan was to run with my friend Dawn Chavez, which I did for about 18-20 miles. The time flew by as we yapped about all kinds of stuff. I had a sense we were going a bit fast, but I felt good, so I slapped that thought out of my mind. Mistake! I drew away from Dawn when I should have stayed right where I was. Idiot. I felt great and took off, thrilled to see friends on the way back, at the aid stations and road crossings. The wind kind of sucked at points, and the hail was flat out unexpected.
I bumped into the wall around mile 32 (I knew I should’ve run the 50K!). I slowed my pace but rarely walked, and really tried to eat. I trundled along until I got back to Horseriders, which is about 7 miles from the finish. From here I ate nothing, had zero urge, but oh did the ginger ale taste good. I pretty much death marched it in after that, running (shuffling) a mile, walking a ½, repeat. I hurt bad, but wasn’t about to give up. Especially with Deb closing in and giving me wonderful encouragement! As I got close enough to hear the cow bells and the crowd cheering, I picked up my pace with a surge of excitement! I was going to get this done, 50 miles! I came to the finish alone, with the place going nuts, saw my lovely wife and nearly broke into tears. The friends that ran over to congratulate me was overwhelming. Handshakes, back  slaps and hugs from everyone, you would have thought I won. And in a way, I guess I did.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Very lucky and always grateful at Ice Age...

Race report from LPTRunner Mary Gorski...

Yesterday I got to thinking about how lucky I am.

The Ice Age 50 (50 miles, 50 kilometers or a lovely little half marathon for the less compulsive among us) was held yesterday, May 11, on the trails of the Southern Kettle Moraine near Whitewater, WI.

For ultrarunners in Wisconsin, the Ice Age trail run is a ritual of spring, like opening day of baseball season for MLB fans. There are other events throughout the year but this is THE ONE, the real start of the new season.

Ice Age has the status of old home week; it’s an ultrarunners’ reunion. Veterans with 20 or more finishes under their belt toe the line with newbies doing an ultra for the first time. Icons of the sport, including those who have represented the US on international teams, come back – if not to run, then to cheer on others.

Even former race directors are on the trails, taking photos, cheering runners, and helping the current RD (Jeff Mallach) with the two million details that putting on such an event requires. 

For me, this would be my 11th finish at the IAT 50-miler. Added to that have been a few DNFs and one or two years of doing the 50K.

But while I love the race, the Ice Age race has often been one that has been accompanied by a bitof bad luck for me.

Note the emphasis on “a bit.” I’m not talking full-scale disaster; instead, just little twists in the luck continuum that add a few wrinkles that I’d rather not bother to iron out.

I hate ironing.

Getting to the tenth finish was a tough one for me. I DNFed my first attempt two years ago with a bad case of the flu. Coughing and wheezing, I called it a day at the end of the first nine-mile loop.

A few days before last year’s race my back went out without me. Three days before Ice Age I could barely walk.

But as is usually the case, more good luck than bad seemed to be with me and I slowly made my way through the course. I was a member of the 500-mile club.

This year I’ve again had some incredible luck at races, most notably in Boston where my finish time had me close to but not too close to the horrific events of theday.

I can’t think of a race in which I’ve had more luck.  I walked away unharmed while many right behind me did not.

I had been saving my Boston Marathon shirt for a special event and I couldn’t think ofanything more special than Ice Age. Yesterday was the first time that I ran in the shirt.

Every time there was a wrinkle in my good luck I looked at the shirt to remind myself that there was always more good luck than bad.

More simply– there is always more good than bad PERIOD.

As usual, there were wrinkles for me this year. Once again I was trying to get over a nasty cold (a tradition in spring that seems to go hand-in-hand with Ice Age for me). And then without any prior warning my right knee ached from the first step on the course (WTF?).

The weather… we all had that crazy wrinkle to deal with. Mother Nature was in a whacky mood yesterday. Sun and 50-degree temps, then face-stinging sleet and hail, then sun again coupled with high winds, a little rain, and then repeat. WTF again.

But even crazy Mother Nature couldn’t shake the good luck of the day. Though it had been a wet spring, most of the trail was dry (except for those lusciously slippery sections on the way to Emma Carlin).

Though my equilibrium seemed to fly out the window every time I blew my nose I managed to stay upright on the trail all day.

And the crabby knee didn’t really start to whine too loudly until the last three miles. By then this horse knew that it was close to the barn and had plenty of time to walk it in before Farmer Jeff closed the barn doors.

Eleven hours into the race I made that last turn and came in for finish No. 11.  Lucky 11, as with all of my other finishes.

This morning – the day after – I feel grateful again. Grateful for a lot of good fortune.

And I also feel… a little bit like shit.

Hell, I ran 50 miles on a gimpy knee with a head full of snot. I mean I’m grateful, and happy, and lucky and all those other very sweet things, but my body still feels like it has been run over by a truck.

But even fort hat, I am grateful. Not everyone has the opportunity to run 50 miles – even with the sniffles and a gimpy knee. Not everyone has the choice. I am grateful that I do.

Finally, some highlights:

- Relocated LPTR Cassie Scallon blowing the previous women’s course record out of the water by almost 20 minutes to win the race.

- Seeing long-time running buddy Jim (Jacques) Blanchard come in for his 25th consecutive Ice Age finish. As someone who has DNFed a few of my starts, I have incredible respect for Jim’s accomplishment. The level of respect ranks right up there with Cassie’s amazing win.

- Getting the number “123” because it was so darn easy to remember whenever I came into an aid station. “What’s your number?!” “1,2,3!!!” Loved it! Thanks Jeff.

-Celebrating the first 50-mile finish of Tom Schiessl. I remember Tom’s first night running with the Lapham Peak group about two years ago. Then, the idea of a 50-kilometer race seemed out of his range, much less 50 miles. “Really, you guys meet out here to run in the winter too?”  Thanks for joining our merry little crew Tom.

- Spending a little time on the trail with JoDeen Hettenbach, who constantly reminded me that “This is such a fantastic day, isn’t it?” regardless if it was sleeting or sunny.

- Seeing Tom and Lorraine Bunk, the king and queen of the Kettle Moraine, cheering us on in the first mile of the race. Tom has a much tougher ultra to deal with right now than most of us; it was great to see both he and his lovely bride where they belong – on the trails.

- Getting home and remembering that I had apple pie waiting for me.  Mmmmm… excellent refueling.

I am lucky. And grateful.

Time for more pie.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day of Challenges - Mad City 50k

Race Report from LPTRunner Nick Wied...
It is just running everyone can do it, some are fast and others slow.  But there are a select few that can really embrace the suffering required to run for a long time.  One of the reasons I love ultra-running is that it is a challenge.  Most often the challenge is 90% mental and 10% physical.  This mental challenge, the willingness to suffer to persevere, is one of the reasons I went from racing 5 miles to 50 miles.  The other reason was my love for and need to connect with nature.  Well with that in mind I decided to step, way, outside my comfort zone and attempt to race an early spring road ultra, the Mad City 50K.  For me this would mean running at an extremely uncomfortable pace, for a long time, in circles, on pavement, fully clothed, and in some really cold weather.

The Mad City course for both the 100K (USATF National Championships) and the 50K is the same.  A 10K loop around Lake Wingra in Madison, WI.  This is a faster course with the men’s 50K CR a stout 3:03(Zach Bitter) and the 100K 6:56 (Michael Wardian).  Do not let the times or the fact that it is pavement fool you; each loop has an elevation gain close to 1200ft.  That is right around 6k of vertical gain for the 50K and 12K for the 100K, not too shabby for a fast “flat” WI course.  The RD Tim “Timo” Yanacheck creates an environment befitting a National Championship race.  There are two aid stations; one at the start/finish and another right before the 4 mile mark.  Timo’s dedication to the race and its participants allows the runners to focus solely on running.
Focus is indeed what I should have been doing right before the start of the 50K.  After jogging to warm up I ran into Eric Senseman, the eventual 50K winner, and we began to catch up.  Well the next thing I heard was someone stating that they called 30 seconds to the start of the race.  So as I ran to drop my sweatshirt the race started.  My first thought was, “What the hell, how do you miss the start of a race you showed up an hour early for!”  Followed closely by, “Oh well I have 31 miles to catch everyone.”  Well it is just another challenge, right?  The 10K loop rolls out pretty quickly around the lake to right around mile 2ish where the first bigger hill is.  This hill is runnable, as they all are, but taking them too fast early on will really fatigue your legs.   From there the path follows the lake past the University’s arboretum and up the other large hill near mile 4 right before the 2nd aid station.  From this aid station you run downhill following the lake to zoo.  From there you have a quick flat shot to the start/finish to start your next loop.
It is sometimes tough to remember that this is an ultra when you are running 10K loops, since you can so easily wrap your mind around that distance.   I was taught this lesson at mile 29 right as I passed the backside aid station for the last time, when my left hamstring seized due to fatigue, now that’s a challenge!  Up until that point all of my miles had been consistently in the 6:40-7:00 range.  Well not mile 29 that was near 17:00, but what can you do when you can’t really walk, but wait for the cramp to relax. As soon as that happened I pushed back into the 7:00 range and finished the race for a total time of 3:51:38 and a 7th overall.  “Timo” put on a fabulous race, and really made running on pavement in 28 degree, windy, weather enjoyable.  I would highly recommend the 50K as a spring tune up race to prepare for an Ultra summer. 
Speaking of making you feel awesome, my friends who run shorter distance races always ask me what kind of swag (gifts) you get for running “crazy” ultras.  Well Timo and his fabulous sponsors do not disappoint, the bag I received at check in was jam packed.  Plus there was a huge bonus!  I was a little fatigued after the race so I was not quite sure what the giant box I received along with my medal and plaque contained.  Well it was a giant box of dark and milk chocolate truffles, 60 of them, NOW that’s SWAG!  I love chocolate so I had my final challenge for the day, for this one I would need to enlist the help of my two little girls though!

50K         3:51:38 (PR)          7th Overall

(3 hours pre-race)
3 Packets Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter
1 Green Tea with Coconut oil added
1 VESPA ultra-concentrate
Multi vitamin, fish oil, 4 Capra-Flex
3 VESPA junior’s
1-20oz Chocolate Coconut Water with 3 TBSP of honey
2-20oz (Mexican) Coke-Cola
Salmon, avocado, sweat potato, & kale salad
Multi vitamin, 4 Capra-Flex
1 AWESOME Hard Cider!