Sunday, October 27, 2013

Door County Fall 50!

Christine and Mary

Unexpected gifts are often the best gifts of all.

Door County's Fall 50 was certainly an unexpected gift for me yesterday. And like a kid the day after Christmas, the first thing that I thought of this morning was my favorite gift from the day before.

And then I took my first steps out of bed.


It was a gift that came with a bit of a kick.

Two weeks ago I did the Glacial 50K in the Northern Kettle Moraine. Perfect weather, beautiful fall colors and a surprisingly good race on legs that have not been getting a lot of mileage in recent months. That was a good gift too, but more of a stocking stuffer. A nice little something to put a smile on my face for a day or two.

The day after Glacial I thought, "Well, if one race went well, might as well do another." I went online to sign up for the Lakefront Discovery run, a 15K race just a few miles from home along Milwaukee's lakefront.

But no room at the inn. The race was full. 


I went to my favorite race calendar – -- and started hunting. I found a few things -- a marathon in Middleton, a few 5Ks -- but nothing that really caught my attention... until I saw a listing for the Fall 50.

I remembered hearing about the event, a 50-mile race from Gills Rock at the tip of Door County to the last bit of land on the southern end of the peninsula in Sturgeon Bay. But when I went to the site the first thing that I saw was "FULL." 

Criminey again.

Then I looked a little closer and realized that it was the team event that was full. There were still openings in the solo category. Being an only-child I don't always play well with others so going solo was more to my liking. I pulled out the credit card and signed up.

I meant to do the Discovery Run, which is a race along Lake Michigan of a distance divisible by five. In Door County yesterday I did pretty much the same thing: ran primarily on the shore of Lake Michigan (technically, Green Bay) but in a race of 50 miles instead of 15 kilometers. Still divisible by five.

A little after 5 a.m. on Saturday morning the Li'l Mister and I made the quiet drive to Gills Rock. I don't know who the heck Gill was but he must have been quite a blowhard. His namesake had winds that could rival Dorothy's Kansas. However, except for the wind, the weather wasn't too bad. Upper 40s for the start, a couple of raindrops but no downpour. Later in the day the sun even poked out to check up on the runners. But never for long. Must have been the sun's day off. 

Before the start I said hello to a few of my LPTR friends including Aaron Schneider and Christine Crawford. Aaron grew up in Sturgeon Bay so the Door County 50 was his home field. 

Christine and I started off together, gabbing away until a I heard a porta-potty call my name. Usually 50 mile runs are on trails without the luxury of such civilized things as private little johns with toilet paper. 

I was living large in Door County!

The Fall 50 course is primarily on quiet roads decorated in many spots with peak fall colors. The race advertises itself as the "Most Scenic Run in the Midwest" and they aren't bragging. Along the lakeshore, wind-driven waves splashed across the rocks. On the roads, beautiful canopies of yellows and oranges surrounded us. When the winds from the lake found their way inland the leaves swirled around us like a golden snowstorm. 

I wasn't the only Gorski getting a workout in yesterday. After a summer of illness that led to the amputation of a good part of his foot, the Li'l Mister was crewing me for the first time in months and it was no easy task. With hundreds of teams added to the solo division, there were a lot of vehicles wandering around the Door Peninsula. Well managed with different routes for cars and runners the race course was rarely congested but the aid stations often had field-based parking lots that could rival those of a county fair. 

But Dave was determined to return to his crewing duties.  Bundled up in his winter gear and armed with a cane for balance, he made his way to most of the aid stations and stood for hours on end only to have me quickly pass through saying "feeling good, see you down the road!"

I'm sure that after a few stops he was ready to toss that race bag he had been hauling around right into Lake Michigan. You know the bag, the one filled with all of those "just in case" supplies that the runner rarely ever uses. 

I was feeling good. Surprisingly good. After about 30 miles I saw some familiar gaits ahead of me. Runners can often identify each other from afar by running style. I came up first on Thao Hoang, a member of our "Turned Away From the Grand Canyon Because of Government Shut-Down" group. Talking with him I learned that he was eventually able to do from the North Rim what several us could not -- run from one end of he canyon to the other… and back. He said it was fantastic. My guess was that he still had some Grand Canyon dust in his legs. 

Up ahead was Christine. Before the race we talked about expectations. I said that I was looking at finishing the race in 9 to 9.5 hours. When we saw each other that was still my plan. 

"But you are on a pace to finish under 8:30," she said. 

"Oh no, I'll fall apart. Don't worry; we are still in double digit mileage before the finish line. The wheels are going to fall off any minute."

I had never run 50 miles under 8:30. I can't even remember the last time I ran under 9 hours. A road course is going to be faster than trails, but still, 8:30 hadn't been in my reach for years. I'm a "senior master" now, surely my PRs are behind me.

At the halfway point I was at 4:11. Double that and you have 8:22. "That gives me a nice cushion to slow down and come in under nine hours" I kept thinking to myself. But even with a few more pit stops and a newly placed hill that brought me down to a slow walk for about a half mile I was still maintaining a steady pace. 

The last aid station was less than five miles from the finish. I told the Li'l Mister that my legs were getting tired. My hip flexors didn't feel like flexing a lot any more. 

"What did you expect? You've run over 45 miles. You are supposed to be tired. See you at the finish!"

And off he went. 

I saw the 46 mile marker sign and realized that I was still on a pace to come in under 8:30. Actually, I was on a pace to do an even race: second half in the same time as the first.

But I still thought that the wheels would fall off. "At least now if I have to, I can walk it in and probably still finish under 9 hours," I kept saying to myself. 

I thought this up until I made the turn into Sunset Park and the last half mile of the race. By then I could have stopped, taken a short nap and still made my time goal of 9 hours. And at the start of the race it really wasn't a goal, it was just a hope. 

Coming through the finishing chute I looked at the race clock because I no longer believed my wristwatch. 

8:21 (and a lot of change, but still, it wasn't yet 8:22).

I ran the second half faster than the first.

I ran a personal best by… I really don't know. It's been so long since I have run anything under 9 hours that I haven't a clue. But I do know that I've never clocked a 50-miler under 8:30.

What a wonderfully unexpected gift. 

I saw Aaron, who finished about 15-20 minutes ahead of me. I thanked Ashley for cheering me on as I trudged up the longest hill of the course. Got some warm clothes on and saw Christine come in. Cheers and hugs. Finish photos. 

And then the shivers. That gosh darn wind still hadn't let up and I was turning into a popsicle, as was Dave. The party tent looked like a lot of fun but I desperately wanted a hot shower. It would be the bow on top of my most wonderfully unexpected most wonderful gift of a race. 

This morning my legs are whimpering. My back is a little stiff. My shoulder has a kink from carrying a waterbottle all day. There is a blister on my foot that could use a pop.

And I couldn't be happier.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Enter My Racing Mind: My North Face Endurance Challenge (Madison) 50K Report

LPTRunner Nick Wied's race report...

I have the same conversation weekly.  It usually takes place while in some non-trail running social setting.  Casual banter with others who run usually leads to questions of what races I have run, places I like to train, or distances covered. My response, that I run ultras and specifically trail ultras, always elicits the same reaction; disbelief, curiosity, awe, and fear.  Several responses are; “You ran how far?”, “That’s INSANE!”, “I don’t even like to drive that far!”.  My favorite two though are “How much do you run to train for that?” and “What the HELL do you think about for that long on the trail?”  Well I will answer both of these in the context of my last race, The North Face Endurance Challenge (Madison) 50K.

First, “How much do I run to train for ultras?”!  I will cover this in a future post detailing my training for this season as well as nutrition and recovery!  There 1st question answered.  I know procrastination right!

Second, “What the Hell do you think of for that long on the trail?”!  I am going to use my most recent race to answer this.  TNF Madison is a really easy ultra to wrap your brain around, as you can break it into distinct sections.  The first 7 miles are road and hilly ski trails, the next 5 are hilly and sand filled horse trails, followed by 9 miles of fast Ice Age Trail running, and the final 10 miles on the sandy horse trails. Now here is a breakdown of how I mentally handled the race and its challenges.  For a similar take, for a much longer effort, on race reporting check out Adam Condit’s (3rd place) Podcast “TNF 50Mile Audio Recap”

I arrived at the race about an hour early, which gave me time to warm my legs up a bit and head to the first aid station to watch the lead 50 Mile racers as they came through. The first two through, Tyler Sigl and Brian Condon, were moving insanely quick for a dark mile 7 with 43 to go. No worries for these two though, Tyler would go on to finish 1st in 5:38 setting a new course record, with Brian right behind in 2nd with a 5:55.  Anyways back to my race, I got to the start line so let the fun begin, welcome to my mind! (It will be in italics and underlined!)

Wow this is cold, good thing I brought this crappy old long sleeve shirt to stay warm!  Wait what did that guy just say?  As I was lining up a guy, looking like he stepped directly out of Trail Running Magazine, was laughing at the individual in front of him, wearing only Hokas, shorts, a head band, a torn up long sleeve shirt, and no bottle, stating “This joker should be farther to the back!”.  Well that guy was me, and my bottle was tucked into my shorts so I could keep my hands warm.   Oh yeah buddy, we’ll see what good all that compression and anchor(Hydration Pack)are doing you out at mile 25! Is that Dean Karnazes, huh why is he talking about Francis Scott Key?   A history lesson??  Whatever,  I guess he did write a book!   5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!

Alright we are running, man this road sucks I am so glad it is only1.5 miles till the trail and that 1st hill.  Man I just went from guy #20 to guy #120 look at these fools running at 5k pace.  Hmmm, Maybe I should be running faster, nope, I feel like crap!  Man I need to get off of this road.  Look there’s ANTON!  No wait just some guy with long hair, beard, and full ANTON kit, funny!  Wow when will this road end, oh wait there’s the trail and that first hill, time for some power hiking!  I dropped down a gear as this first hill is pretty lengthy and steep enough that hiking it at mile 2 is preferable. Holy shit, what the fuck!  Why are these people running this hill at 5 min pace, am I really moving that slow, man I feel like crap, come on legs loosen the hell up!  I glanced down at my watch for the 1st of only 3 times the whole race to learn that I was in fact “hiking” this hill at 9 min pace, so no I wasn’t moving slow they were just going way too fast for mile 3. Screw these hosers!  I’ll catch them later, WHAT is going on with my MOTHA F’N LEGS!!! My grandpa could move up this hill faster than me!  Oh well screw it, it’s gonna be one of those days.  Maybe if I think a happy thought they will loosen up, man maybe I should have warmed up a bit more.  Wait here’s the down hill.  This was the thought process that would accompany me for pretty much the first 7 miles. Early on about mile 4 I met up with Andrew Hollatz, from Madison.  He was running his first ultra, and had a few questions regarding the course and how it raced.  The conversation was flowing smoothly and he and I were running similar paces, though he was pushing the climbs while I would catch him on the descents.  We ran through the mile 7 aid station in 30something place, not bad for crappy tight legs that refused to climb.

Let the 5 mile loop on the Horse Trail begin.  Man these legs are finally starting to work, I must be getting old it now takes me 5+ miles to warm up.  Hmmm I’m getting hungry must be time for some honey.  Man I LOVE running!  For this race I simplified my nutrition plan to consist of a flask filled with honey that was diluted with coconut water.  I planned to use this, VESPA, and the odd orange or potato chip at an aid station until mile 22 AS then switch over to coke in my water bottle for the remainder of the race. Man that honey was good, and so easy.  Who says never try anything new on race day, this was a great idea.  Maybe I should have tried it in a long run.  Ahhh who cares I have a stomach of steel I could eat dirt if I had to.  Wow these hills are coming easier, and the downs are really starting to heat up! BLAMO buddy, yeah that’s right, you there, guy who was making fun of me at the start line, why are you running 10 min pace down this hill!  SWEET the final long hill into the aid station before we hit the Ice Age Trail, my legs feel awesome, it’s time to pick it up!  Man this hill is insane awesome I frickin love running down hills!  For the second time during the race I glanced down at my watch to see that I was holding 4 min pace down this hill.  I blasted through this aid station to learn Andrew and I were now in 20 something place. Now it was time to run fast.

The Ice Age Trail Section of this race runs really fast, similar to a fire road.  There are a few hills but they are rollers and you can really fly through the open meadows with the cool AM temps.  I was able to move through this section and maintain 6:50-7 min pace pretty easy.  Hell yeah, I am killing this trail.  Hey, I know this guy he went screaming by me on that first hill, why is he walking, this is flat?  Oh man I feel awesome.  Wait it’s starting to get hot I might have to loose this jersey soon.  MAN AM I HUNGRY, where did that come from.  Hmmmm, crap this honey is almost gone.  How long have I been running, ahhh that’s why it time for more VESPA!  Whew! Now I feel better, I hope  the honey will last, I only have a bit more to go till aid.  Where is this aid damn station? Oh here we go, I am starting the horse trail.  MAN, I hate this sand where the hell does it all come from!

As the 9 mile fast Ice Age Trail ends you are introduced to the horse trails by a long climb that seems like 2 hills but is really just 1 long one with a false top.  Andrew and I were still running together at this point, but my season of racing was catching up with me.  My body and mind were tired.  I would be hiking all the rest of the ups, and running the downs and sandy flats as fast as possible.  Andrew told me he was feeling strong, I encouraged him to go smash it and catch as many as he could!  HE did! Andrew ended up finishing 3rd 6 minutes ahead of me!  Man, this stupid sand, this is why I said I would never run this race again!  Where is this mile 22 AS?  Why is it so hot?  Man I feel like crap, I am so tired I just want to sit down!  That tree looks pretty comfortable!  Oh there’s someone, crap I should try to pass.  AHHHHH why do my legs hurt so much, passing was not a good idea. CRAMP!!!! FUCK!!!  Where are my S Caps.  Man those taste like shit when you chew them!  Sweet no more cramp, works everytime.  Through experience I have found that when I start to develop a cramp if I chew salt pills or drink a super salty liquid, pickle juice, my cramps will abate within a few seconds.  No real science to back this one up, just my personal experience.

As I ran through the mile 22 Aid I learned I was now in 12th place, and I was feeling pretty good and ready to finish my last race of the season!  There is the 22 mile AS, man I can’t wait for that coke!  Man I am so hot this jersey is coming off now!  WHAT, PEPSI, who the hell drinks fucking PEPSI!!!! Fine who cares its sugar and caffine, it can’t taste any worse than chewing these damn S Caps!  Alright I feel so much better without out that jersey. Man if only this carbonated Pepsi in this stupid bottle would stop spraying all over my like some jungle shower! Sweet there is the lead women, I am not going to be chicked today!  Man I am moving ok through this sand.  It is time for some tunes.  That’s right bitches I am rocking Aerosmith and now you all get to enjoy my lovely voice as I run down this trail.  Man I love running.  WOW, it is getting hot again, crap I can’t pour this stupid Pepsi over my head.  Is that a water faucet, it is ahhhh, sweet relief!!  At mile 24ish there is a water faucet a few feet off of the trail, and it makes for a great cool off station.

Just a few more miles of sand and then you come upon the final hill that leads back out to the road and the finish.  It was running down this final hill that I check my watch, for the third time, to learn that I was running another 4 min mile!   Man I CAN NOT WAIT FOR THIS SAND to END!!!!!. I hate sand!!! Man this music is awesome, I hope this mp3 player doesn’t die.  Arrrgghhh!!  When will this sand end!  Oh wait I am coming up on that final hill.  Holy sweet mother of GOD I only have 2 miles left!!  ARRGGGHHH, I will run this hill, I will run this hill, I… I am running this hill.  There’s the top time to let it rip!!!  Kamikaze!!!! Is that Dean K running at me, look out Dean I am going too fast to stop.  Right on that’s another 4:30ish mile!! Holy smoke this feels awesome! Wait what’s that cop doing down there at the bottom.  WHAT, wait here WHAT!!! I don’t have time to wait I want to be done with this race.

The final 2 miles are back on the road to the finish, unfortunately you can hear and see the finish but it always seems to be just too far away.  I just have one final stumble through a ditch to the finish arch, and the announcer trying his hardest to pronounce my city’s name, Wauwatosa, then giving up and just saying Milwaukee.  Yes, I can see the finish! Yes I can hear the finish!  Man I must be crushing this pace right now! I was only running 6:55 pace but it felt more like 5 min effort!  I can see the finish!  I can see the, WHAT THE…. when does this damn thing end. Screw you cramps I am just going to keep running!  Where is the damn…ooooffff…who the hell puts a ditch right before the finish!  Finally, the END!  Smile nice for the camera, make it seem easy!  What the heck is the MC saying, ha ha he can’t pronounce Wauwatosa! Oh man am I glad to be done.  I NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!  Well we’ll see how I feel tomorrow ;)!

I was pretty pleased with my race, my pacing, and my nutrition.  I started off slow and only got faster.  I was never passed the entire race and worked my way up the field from somewhere around 40th to 7th overall and a 1st place in my age group!  As for not trying something new on race day, the diluted honey worked great.  The rest of my nutrition plan consisted of VESPA, salt, water, and Pepsi.  Keep it simple, right!  I want to thank my family who always support me no matter how crazy my next adventure is. I also want to thank my sponsors VESPA and Performance Running Outfitters, your support and advice allow me to pursue and conquer great challenges.  I had a great racing season and cannot wait to start planning for next year.

I hope you enjoyed the report, I know it was different, but I hope it gave you a feel for how my mental state changes throughout a race, and how important it is to keep a good mental outlook when things are starting to go wrong.  For those of you still racing this year, let it rip!  For the rest of us, sit back have a drink, and enjoy the rest!

4:20:41  (7th Overall)  (1st Age Group)

Hoka One One Bondi 2
TNF “Better than Naked” Shorts
Drymax Trail Socks
PRO Sugoi Race Singlet
Ultimate Direction Hand Bottle
Nike Head Band

Pre Race
2 hours before
2 Justins Chocolate Hazelnut packets
1 Green Tea with coconut oil
1 VESPA Ultra Concentrate
1 Multi Vitamin, 2 Fish Oil, 1 Vit D, 1 Magnesium,
6 Capra Flex

45 min before

6oz honey diluted with coconut water
2 UD bottles of pepsi
S caps

Post Race
1 Guinness

1 recovery smoothie
1 hard cider
1 Large meal followed by several more large meals

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Birkie Trail Marathon

Race Report from LPTRunner Joe Fitzgibbon...

On Saturday I made it back to the start line of my favorite marathon.  I love running the Birkie.  Here’s why
1.     Tough - With 4500 ft of elevation in 26 miles, it is not too different from running 4 consecutive black loops at Lapham.
2.     Small - The race is growing in popularity.  Now in its 4th year, there were around 130 runners at the start (and 109 that would cross the finish).
3.     Point to point - I just like a straight line course.  Start in Hayward, first one to Cable wins.
4.     Beautiful - I wish I could spend more time in the Chequamegon Forest.
5.     Well run - Good aid stations, bike patrol on the course, multiple events plus a kid’s race, great food and beer at the end.

In short, I had a great race for the shape I am in.  I ran this race faster in 2011.  This year I got a late start on training due to a foot injury in spring.  I ran the race in 4:51 with a very even pace.  Here are the highlights;

What worked / what went well
Pacing - I started the race with the mindset that I was racing a 10k – and the starting line is 20 miles down the trail.  It worked for me.  I held as even a pace as I ever have in a marathon or ultra.

Ice Bath – I am a believer.  6 minutes of soaking in a tub full of ice after the race, and my ankles felt springy again.

What didn’t go well / what to improve for next year
Hill Training - Didn't get nearly enough.  I ran about 9 black loops total in the weeks leading up to the race. More would have been better.   Next year I plan to run 40 in the 18 week span between Ice Age and Birkie.  

The Taper - Like always, I screwed it up.  I just have a hard time passing up a ride, or run, or Spartan-fit class.

Lucky breaks
Weather - Starting line temperatures were in the 40’s and there was cloud cover most of the day.

Chafing - It started mid race and not every aid station had petroleum jelly.  Fortunately I found a tube of brand-name healing ointment on the trail around mile 17 (dropped by some unfortunate faster runner).

Door prize - I won a subscription to a reputable trail running themed magazine!

Favorite Moments
The last 6 miles - I am going to paraphrase a quote from one of the LPTRs, and I really believe this.  "We put in all the hours of training just for that brief feeling of invincibility that you sometimes get late in a race."  I got that feeling this time and it was AWESOME!

Crossing the finish - My daughters were waiting for me, and we all crossed the finish together.

The feeling of competition - anticipation at the start, the lift you get when someone cheers for you at an aid station, utter exhaustion lying on the ground 10 minutes after the finish, and the reborn fervor for next year as you mind turns over ideas to do it better next time.

Not catching my wife - She ran the half marathon again.  Last time I caught her at mile 24.  This year she beat me to the finish.  Nice work Sarah!