Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catching Up and Cutting Back

holy crap ... seriously?  my last post was february?  man i am getting pitiful at keeping up this blog.  and time just seems to be getting away from me.  well, let's go back to what i've been up to ...

march - signed up for the NJ Ultra Fest 100 Miler.  thought of cutting it back to the 50 Miler but things seemed to be going good with the foot with my training, so i thought "why not?"  so i thought i would go for the 100M and see what i could do, since i was pretty sure that i could make it to 50 miles and if that is what i signed up for then i would certainly not try to push any further and i wanted to test the hoof and see where i was at.  so here's how things went down ...
loop 1 - 1:49. too fast. i knew it, but i didn't feel like i was going too fast and i had even included some walking. stretched my foot/calf, restocked my fuel, and headed back out.
loop 2 - 2:05. still too fast. and it was warming up and the sun was out. still fuelling good and feeling strong and the foot was still doing great.
loop 3 - 2:24. it appears by the time that i was getting my pace "normalized" but not really. still too fast ... the time just accounts for a bit of a bathroom break, eating, and socializing. foot still doing great.
loop 4 - 2:27. same as loop 3. really, still too fast. more socializing and another bathroom break.
loop 5 - 2:33. starting to slow some, but this time included clothing change and a longer period of stretching of my foot and leg. mentally getting tired of the flatness of the course and my hip flexors were started to wince just a bit. but i wasn't tired and i just needed to keep moving. so i did.
loop 6 - 2:57. really starting to tire of the flatness now. really wished i had some hills to stretch out my legs better. felt that i really was not fuelling that great now ... would have liked more "real food" and just wasn't getting what i need into me. but was getting enough energy from honey stinger waffles to keep moving. around mile 56 my right foot started to have intermittent twinges of pain in the heel and i got really nervous about the PF. it nagged me all the way back to mile 60 and that is when i decided that enough was enough. no way i was going to push it and end up flaring up the PF again and go through months of that hell! fortunately one of the RDs, rick, said i could go out on the 2 mile loop so that i could complete the 100K ... and get the coveted finisher jacket. hell, i could that!
loop 7 - 41:39. so this time looks ridiculous for 2 miles ... i was slow, but not that slow! knowing that i was done, i did spend a lot of time in the aid station talking with friends and eating. time didn't matter anymore, so why not have fun? got through the 2 miles, got my awesome fleece jacket and finisher medal, and sat down with good friends and good beer and just felt great that this "training run" actually went quite well.

so this was a good training run for the Peak Ultra 100 Miler (aka, McNaughton, in pittsfield, vt) in may.  my foot recovered just fine the day after NJ, so obviously nothing too bad was going on with the PF.  i felt really strong about my training for Peak, mentally and physically.  i had done my hill training.  i had trialed different fuelling strategies.  i had done hiking and running with the trekking poles.  i had studied the course and pictures from previous years.  i was as ready as i thought i could be.  but then we hit the course.  the hills were what i expected and i used trekking poles, which were a definite plus.  fuelling and hydration went well.  but then there was this ridiculous 1 mile section of mud and bushwhacking at the end of the 10 mile loop.  this section just broke me, mentally and physically, on each loop.  i think i fell here on each time around.  and in mid-day the heat really kicked up, which only tore at my wasting state.  on my third loop i opted to not utilize the "bridge" (an i-beam turned sideways - yet another challenge of the course) and waded across the "stream".  well, the stream was mid-thigh on me (so i guess i would say that anyone much shorter than me should have avoided this route) and the water was more powerful than it looked.  it was a bit of a struggle to get across but, man, did that cold water feel so excellent on my tired legs and it served to break the heat a bit and refresh me.

joe had signed up for the 50 miler but instead of running in the 50 mile "race" which was a different course, he opted to run his 50 miles with me as my pacer on my last 50 miles.  well, after i had completed three loops and time-wise things were not going as well as expected, and it already looked that likely i would not be able to complete the entire 100 miles within the given 36 hours.  so the RD gave joe the go-ahead to come out with me so that he could start getting his miles in.  it was nice to have the company on my fourth loop, as i had pretty much been running alone for the previous 30 miles.  but things just seemed to be falling further back for me, maybe somewhat because i knew that this was now turning into a 36-hour run to see how much i could do, instead of a 100 mile race.  and this mentally tore at me some more.  so after almost 14 hours of running and 40 miles under my belt, i really could not face hitting that damn bush-whack section in the dark.  the B&B we were staying at was less than 1/4 mile down the road and after talking it over with joe, we decided that a hot shower and a good night's sleep and then getting up early and getting in what we could on day #2 would be good.  now looking back at it, time-wise maybe, just maybe, i could have kept going and got the finish ... but as i was slowing significantly on an already slow pace, it was turning more into a death march than the enjoyable run i was hoping for.

so back to the B&B we went.  the hot shower was so very refreshing.  the climb up into (and subsequently out of several times) from the top bunk proved to be a bit, um, challenging.  somewhere in the middle of the night i got up and the first step on the floor sent ridiculous pain up my right heel.  well, to say that it freaked me out is a gross understatement.  as i walked around the pain continued.  WTF???!!!  the PF didn't seem to be acting up at all while i was running.  shit!  no way did i want to start the whole recovery crap all over again, so once joe was up i told him what was going on and that i was done.  i so didn't want to risk more injury and more recovery time.  i knew that he wanted to get in as much as he could so i made the call to switch into crew mode for him while he became the runner.  and i had not a single regret doing this.  i knew that at this point i would only hold joe back if i went out on the course with him and i knew that he had more gas in the tank to get some miles in.  and he was amazing.  his first 10 mile loop was around 3 hours, 15 min!  and he looked great coming in.  a quick turn-around and he was back out on the course again.  by that time the heat was kicking back up again and the second loop was quite a bit slower because of that.  joe came back in after loop #2 of the day looking just spent ... pale, tired, dizzy.  for him the 50 miles was not going to happen either.  so neither of us reached our mileage goals but we totally challenged ourselves on that wicked course.  and, as always, we had a BLAST with all of our old and new running buddies.  in the end it was a great weekend!

so, what did i learn from this great experience?

i enjoy challenging myself.

i really don't enjoy the 100 mile distance.  i do enjoy the 50 mile distance ... it's challenging but doesn't kill me and i get to sit around and drink beer and enjoy the company of good friends after.  that's what i like.

i still don't really get the whole injury/recovery process.  some days my foot feels great and then ... BAM! ... it's giving me grief again.  there were no long-lasting effects with what i thought was the PF flaring up again, but i haven't really found out (and am scared to try it) just how far i can push the envelope with stressing the foot.  what is just short-term pain versus what could be impending long-term damage?

i really need to start trying to "race" again as opposed to just looking at races as just another long run.  i want to push myself a bit more instead of "just trying to finish".  i really feel like i can do this with the 50 mile distance or even cutting back to some 50Ks and putting a harder effort into them.

all that said ... no more 100 milers for 2012.  i really think i need to pick JUST ONE 100 miler a year and make that my goal race.  so it's already kind of hard for me to write this report on the 2012 McNaughton when all i can think about is how i am going to attack it in 2013.  and i have a plan.  one that i am not going to share with anyone except to say that it's not likely to be running the 100 miles like everyone else ... i have a plan.  and i am already excited about making McNaughton my goal race for 2013.

some pics of the fun ...