Friday, September 9, 2011

US Trail 10k National Championships

Recovery from the Springmaid Splash 10k went just as I had hoped.  With the race being more of a hard effort than a 100% dig down deep grind I was able to run the next day pain free.  And long.  Which was important because I would be giving 100% dig down deep grind effort the next Saturday at the Continental Divide 10k which served again as the USATF Trail National Championship.  The field would include familiar names from the Mountain Cup in Jared Scott (winner this year) and Jason Bryant (4th) as well as reigning champ and recent USATF road 8k Champ Bobby Mack and training partner Joe Moore.  It was a stacked field that went much deeper than those guys but I don't know everybody's resume so I'll cut off the list there.
Jason's sadistic idea of a course

Jason Bryant created this course out of pure hate for road runners.  It only 5.8 miles but it runs like 10 miles.  It's technical.  It's steep.  It's up, it's down, and then up and down and then you have to try and run fast on a flat section.  It's brutal.  It was my first trail race I ever did and I recognized the pain I was in from some of my patients... the ones in car accidents.  But I've had fairly decent success taking the runner-up spot the last two years.  This year I wanted badly to win but Jason had assembled the deepest field yet.  Nevertheless I created a strategy to win the race and beat Bobby and I enacted it.

Garmin Link
Early on during the initial long descent it was me out front with a heard of buffalo stampeding close behind.  As we neared the bottom and began to climb Jared made a move out front and was followed by Bobby and Joe.  I watched them pull away from me on the climb but I didn't let them get too far ahead.  Then on the descent around 2 miles I made my move.  I went screaming down the trail/embankment and quickly caught and went past Bobby and Joe who were gingerly making their way down the trail.  For a little while Jared and I ran away from those fast guys but I was feeling Jared let off of the gas and made a move past him as well.  By the time I reached the second big climb I was alone in the lead without another runner in sight.  It should be noted that looking back through the thick woods didn't lend to a long sight line.
Trailing early to a dude in his underwear

This climb was long.  Last year Bobby caught me on this section and gapped me pretty good.  Since I had a solid lead this year I wanted to stay in front or be with Bobby at the time.  Bobby and Joe caught me again this year but it was late in the climb.  I came out of the woods just behind them and immediately caught and surged past. 
Spurting past Bobby and Joe

I would empty the gas tank on this flat/downhill section.  I opened up a pretty good gap and kept it till late in the second to last climb.  It was Joe Moore that caught me as I neared the top.  My climbing legs were pretty shot but he didn't go immediately by me.  Instead he waited for the grass field before the last single track descent to get in front of me.  I wish I had fought to keep him back because once on the single track I was looking for any opening to get by his gingerly pace.  I made a move on a grassy elbow on the trail and found a two foot stump in the middle.  I banged my knee on the old soft stump and spun right into Joe.  I apologized and continued in front.  He kept pace though and we hit the ridiculous last 1/3rd of a mile climb to the finish.
What I mean by "on all fours"

At this point I was ready for Joe to go by and claim his victory.  But he mirrored my every move while remaining behind me.  If I walked, he walked.  If I got on all fours to scramble up the rocks he did too.  When I ran, he ran.  It was going to come down to a 100meter gradual up hill kick as we exited the single track.  Here's where I lost the race.
Exiting the final climb

As I was nearing the exit of the trail I recognized where we were.  I thought "a quick spurt here would open up a gap and get me running on flat land before he could respond."  This would have been a winning move.  Instead I waited.  I hurt too bad.  As the terrain leveled off I kept pace and let him run by.  No fight at all and for the third year in a row I took the bridesmaid spot.  I was over 30 seconds faster than the prior year which was great news coming off the calf injury and leading into the world mountain running championships in two weeks.  It was great to beat Bobby.  He's been killing it the last two years so having my name listed before his is a great accomplishment.  Hopefully he doesn't get angry and start focusing on trail running.

Bobby, his dad, Joe, and I celebrated with a dogfishead 90 min IPA after the race.  We were on a rock with a great view and great wind.  By the end of the brew we were freezing and my lips were purple. 

Up Next
World Mountain Running Championships in Albania on 9/11.  The course profile is similar to Cranmore, the qualifying race, but the terrain is entirely different.  It's very dry yet hot and humid.  The dirt is lose and soft in spots and hard packed and jagged in others.  There's rebar, chickens, cows, and even a homeless man sleeping on the course.  The race will be at high noon so it'll be a challenge without the world's best mountain runners showing up.  Should be fun.  I'm looking to finish well enough to give our team a shot at the podium.  That's all for now.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back in action

Today I headed to Spruce Pine to run the Springmaid Splash 10k.  It's my first attempt at real racing since my calf injury at Beat the Heat on July 17th.  After two weeks on the exercise bike (and a ridiculously poor attempt at a Mtn Cup race) I gradually transitioned back into running.  Initially I started running in a shuffling stride staying off of my toes which did not aggravate the calf. 

Over the next few weeks I increased my mileage, left the exercise bike behind, and began running more on my toes which is my natural running stride.  Two weeks ago I attempted my first workout.  A fartlek run of 3x5min with 1 min recovery.  8x5min with 1 min recovery is a staple of mine so I decided to attempt it but cut in half.  I felt pretty good throughout it and even added on the 5th interval.  The next day the calf wouldn't let me run comfortably but that was the only noticeable bad event in the calf up until as I type right now. 

Springmaid Splash 10k
If I was going to compete well at the USATF Trail 10k championships next weekend I needed a tune-up and a test.  Springmaid Splash offered just that.  I lost this race last year by a minute but was 4 minutes ahead of 3rd place.  I was hoping that no one would show up this year and I could turn it into a hard effort.  I got my wish.
Springmaid Splash Garmin
It took me half a mile to pass the last hard charger at the start line and from that point on I was running solo.  There was 4 river crossings, mud, ruts, and the middle 4 miles had some major ups and downs.  I wanted to be conservative, to make sure the calf didn't get reinjured.  In the end though I was 5 seconds faster than the time I put up last year.  I couldn't be happier with that and feel much better about Continental Divide trail championships next weekend.

One big difference from last year to this year was shoe choice.  Last year I ran in La Sportiva's Crosslite which are heavy duty shoes good for the mud and rocks but they didn't drain the water from the river crossings well.  This year I ran in Inov-8's X-Talon 212's, a lighter shoe with equally good grip and a thinner lining which drained water very quickly.  It was a good choice in shoe wear this year.

Next up
USATF Trail 10k championship next weekend in Laurel Springs.  Two weeks later on 9/11 I'll be racing for the US in Albania for the mountain running world championships.  I got my USA gear this week and I'm psyched.  I'm equally psyched to be healthy.  Well, healthier.  There's still some rehab to do.

Hobbling Around California

Pre Table Rock 25kOver the course of the week leading up to my final Mountain Cup race I was trapped on the exercise bike.  I was walking with a limp for several days after feeling the calf pop during the Beat the Heat 5k.  Wednesday Kadie and I flew from NC to California for a week vacation centered around the race.  I had yet to attempt to run at this point but was walking with much more comfort.  Thoughts of winning the race and the series were long gone now. 

So with chances of winning at zero we rearranged the vacation to make the first stop Napa Valley.  Afterall if I can't push my cardiovascular system because of pain then why not make wine my prerace beverage of choice. 
Kadie at Black Stallion Vineyard (Heavy pours fyi)

Napa also was home to my first attempted run.  I was able to cool down after Beat the Heat in a shuffling stride.  Five days later I ran 3 miles...shuffling.  I could feel a bit of an ache in the calf and it didn't feel "right" but I could shuffle pain free and I had confidence that I could attempt to cover the 15.5 mile race in two days.
4 miles pre raceday garmin
After Napa we drove down to Palo Alto, had lunch at Hobee's and went north through San Francisco (bad idea) to Mill Valley where we'd be staying for the race.  Attempt number two of running proved to be much more positive.  From the hotel on the paths leading into the mountains I did a 4 mile run and the calf was significantly less angry than the previous day.  There were less restrictions in my running form and I was quickly and comfortably running 6 min pace.  At this point I began to believe that I could possibly be able to compete but there were still 3 huge lingering questions:
1) Could I climb?  Climbing requires considerably more toe off.
2) Could I steeply descend?  The pounding of downhill running would surely hurt.
3) Could I cover 15.5 miles.  15.5 miles of climbing, descending, flats, climbing, then descending.

Table Rock 25k
Warming up at Stinson Beach for the race the calf felt  much like the prior day.  I quickly saw series competitors Jason Bryant, Matt Byrne, and Jared Scott as well as female competitors Allison Bryant, Annette Bednosky, and Ashley Arnold.  The one guy missing was Bernie Boettcher.  Bernie struggled much like I did at Vail and came away with no points.  He could have raced for 4th place but instead decided not to make the trip to 6 races. 
The Coastline near Stinson Beach

So before the race started I had locked up 3rd place in the series.  To get 2nd or 1st I'd need to beat Matt or Jared who will be my teammates at the upcoming world mountain running championships.  I considered not running to ensure I didn't do any further damage but I'm way to stupid for that.

The gun went off and away went Jared.  Matt followed suit and I lingered behind the two of them taking careful note of every step and movement.  The first 3 miles of the race climbed 1500ft.  I was surprised that I was able to climb without much discomfort.  I was hanging in with the leaders and keeping them in sight.
Table Rock 25k garmin

But my gate wasn't entirely right.  Towards the end of the climb my right calf still felt ok but my left hip flexor was aching.  It was doing double time for the lack of toe off on the right side.  I was still moving well though and tightening the gap on the leaders when my dragging right side caught a root and I went face down to the ground.  This marked the end of my competition... unfortunately not the race.

This happened very near the top.  Hanging with those guys as long as I did gave me a huge gap on 4th place.  I didn't have any pain so I ignored my first opportunity to drop out.  My thinking was I could hold on to 3rd and put pressure on Matt and Jared to at least show up at the final race in the series and possibly a bad race by Matt could yield 2nd place in the series.  Just a little way on the down still felt good on the calf but near the bottom of the descent there was a series of repetitive tight switchbacks that inched down the mountain.  It was in the section, with the top two still in sight and less than a minute out front that things got bad.

It was the stopping quickly and accelerating that got the calf going.  I was noticeably limping from this point on especially on the flats and downhills.  9 miles away from the finish and 6 miles from my next drop out point.  Ouch.

I still climbed the last 3 mile 1500ft hill well and 4th place was way back.  The last 3 mile descent to the finish got very ugly.  I was hobbling down the mountain.  My left quad was taking on double the load as I tried to ease the impact on the right leg.  The quad was now hurting just as much as the calf.  With about a mile and a half to go I was passed and there was no chance of holding off the runner.  He beat me by 2 minutes over that last two and a half miles.  I was 10 minutes back of Jared and Matt who finished in that order.
Not quite at the finish yet
Bad idea racing.  I didn't need the points.

I'd also end up taking another week on the exercise bike for recovery.

Post race
Kadie and I headed to Yosemite for a few days.  We hiked Cloud's rest trail overlooking the valley.  We even lugged a couple of Mammoth Lakes Brewery's IPA's to the top and cracked them open looking down on the valley.  It was a good long hike the day after an injured trail race but I managed pretty good with some support from my black diamond ultra distance poles.  The next day it was a picnic in the valley.  Who'd have thunkt there'd be such a traffic jam for nature but what else would you expect in California.

Mountain Cup
Jared Scott would win the final Mountain Cup race and took home the overall title.  Matt Byrne would take second in the final race securing second overall.  After winning my first 3 races a poor race in Vail and an injured race in California would leave me in third place.  A Very disappointing end to the series for me as I obviously felt confident about defending my title 3/5ths of the way through the series. 

In hindsight if I could change anything I'd make Delta not cancel my flight to Montana.  Had I raced there then I would have finished better than Vail and would have been able to take that weekend in early July off.  Instead I had way too many races in a row and was flat and then injured.  Thanks Delta.

Kadie on the last tenth of a mile on the trail
Enjoying a brew looking down on half dome
Soaking in the river in the valley
Just a random huge waterfall

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gettin Stupid

Hello folks.  It's been over a week since my last bloggering session which means that I've neglected to write about a race till now.  I'm in Mill Valley, California as I type with my right leg in a recycling bin filled with ice water.  Tomorrow will be my final Mountain Cup race of 2011 and if all hopes of winning the series weren't dashed at the Vail hill climb they most certainly vanished last weekend at the Beat the Heat 5k in Winston Salem.

Beat the Heat 5k is the NC USATF state championship 5k race.  This years like each previous year I participated was loaded with North Carolina Talent.  First and foremost is local legend Bobby Mack, fresh off of a 8k road National title.  Joe Moore was the clear number two entering the race with a sub 30min road 10k back in May.  Then there was Devin Swann, a former NC State teammate of mine who I haven't beaten legitimately in two years.  Also Jon Compton would be showing up looking for revenge after I got him at teh China Grove 5k.  It was a deep field. 

Driving to the race with buddy Scott Williams I bitched and moaned about all my aches and pains and how I shouldn't be racing.  My right calf had a deep knot in it, my left hip ached, and my groin was sore.  I wondered why I was doing this race as the prize money would be gobbled up quick.  But it was just a 5k and it was less than 75 minutes from home so why not.  Plus, the weather was nearing record lows for July making ideal racing conditions.  "Let's do it" I thought.

After chasing Bobby from the gun last year in an opening 4:25 mile I limped home to a painful 15:30 5k.  This year I would be smart with all my aches and pains and let him and Joe go leaving me to race with Devin and Jon.  We cruised pretty quickly through the first mile in 4:41.  Quicker than I had hoped but I was racing and under control.  Mile two consisted of slight overall elevation gain (~80ft) and we checked in a bit slower at the two mile in 9:30. 

At this point I'm feeling good and I can feel Jon going back door and I can sense Devin laboring.  I pushed the last remaining uphill in the race and seperated from Devin.  I got seperation quickly and momentum began to build as I could see I was closing the gap on Joe Moore who went with Bobby early.  All I had to do was finish within 7 seconds of Joe to beat him in the WAVA age grading because I'm getting old.  Confidence was building as was my speed as I approached the final turn in the race at 4:30 pace with 3/4ths of a mile to go and 80 feet of decsending welcomed me to the finish.  Then....
Right in the heart of my Right calf muscle.  It was the pop of tendon pulling away from muscle and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Just like that I was walking in what should have been the fastest 5k I should have run since 2008.  There'd be no prize money, no Beat the Heat coffee mug, and now my Mtn Cup and World Mtn running championships were all in jeopardy.  I'll take "Bummed out" for $1000 Alex.  What is "Ryan Woods."

At least I broke Devin and he knows it.  :)

The Getting Stupid
Well, for the next 5 days I did nothing but ride the exercise bike.  I had planned a week long trip to California for my last Mtn Cup race as a vacation for Kadie and me.  Napa, Bay area, Stinson Beach, Hwy 1, and Yosemite all an the radar.  But what about the race?

Well yesterday I ran for the first time.  3 miles, at 7 min pace.  It was a shuffle with some deep aches but no real pain.  Today it was 4 miles.  6 min pace though!  Less ache, more on my toes, and faster.  Comfortable.  Still somewhat awkward though.  Tomorrow... it'll be 15.5 miles of racing with 3,800 feet of ascending and descending.  STUPID.  I mean I can tell patient's what to do to get healthy but when it comes down to it I can't make the smart decision for myself. 

But I need points in the series.  It'll just take a couple to maintain top 3 overall which just means a top 10 finish.  If I can sneak in the top 5 then maybe I can still get 2nd in the series.  There's about 3 grand of wiggle room.  I'm not broke but damn that has an influence on me.

Here goes nothing
Well, here goes nothing.  Odds are next time I blogger it'll be about dropping out half way down a mountain in California and how I can no longer walk straight.  Should be fun. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Highs and Lows and Highers

This past week has taken me east to west to east in order to go up, up, and up while still somehow gettin' down.  I've been busy but I'll try and keep it short.  Here's the story of 4 peaks.

Back in May I had a flight to run a Mountain Cup race in Helena, MT.  It was perfect, shuttle from the airport to the hotel, a hotel within walking distance to the start/finish area and a local brewery, and an opportunity to race in MT for the first time knocking another state of my list.  Plus the course was ideal for me with moderate climbs, a few long range views, and ups and downs over 18 miles.  Unfortunately my flight out was delayed.  And delayed and delayed until I missed all connections and couldn't get rerouted in time for the race.  I guess getting from Knoxville, TN to Helena, MT isn't the easiest to reroute.

So that left me to choose between a very competitive hill climb in Vail or a brutally technical 30k in Pennsylvania with a course record of 2:50 (9 min plus miles = yuck).  I chose the hill climb even though I knew I'd be racing back to back to back to back to back to back to back and was giving up my one free weekend in between.  Back 1 went well at China Grove, back 2 was disappointing at Mt Washington, back 3 was great at Cranmore, and now I'll let you know how back 4, Vail Hill climb and back 5, The Bear run went.

Vail, CO
This race has been fast in the past as at times it was a qualifier for the World Mountain Running team.  I expected Jared Scott and Matt Byrne to show up to compete in the Cup so it'd be fast again this year.  I didn't know how fast it would get though.  Warming up I first noticed Simon Gutierrez (5th at Mt Washington), then it was Peter Maksimow (6th Mt Washington), and then Rickey Gates (1st Mt Washington).  Four of the six who beat me at Mt Washington and Jared Scott were all there.  This was going to be a challenge but I was confident.

The gun went off with Simon then Matt spurting out front.  I hung back a little bit with Peter but didn't want them getting away from me in the early flat first mile before the climbing.  They were moving.  The four of us hit the first mile marker in 5:05.  We hit the hill and I was finished.
Jared went by me half a mile later.  He had his eyes up and I watched him continue to move up till he eventually took the lead on his way to victory and a buttload of Mtn Cup points.  Peter eventually caught and beat Matt and Simon was a few minutes in front of me. 

It wasn't till 5 minutes after Jared finished that I got to stop running.  I went lactic very early and never got my legs back under me.  2300 ft of climbing starting at 8100 ft after a 5:05 first mile equaled pain every step of the way.  I worked hard the second half of the race trying to keep the 30 second separation I opened up the first mile over what appeared to be a young high school kid.  I was lucky to not get chicked.  It was that bad. 
On top of Vail

Never the less the view up top was great.  It was hard to be too upset.

Mountain Cup
It was hard to be too upset.  Until I started doing the math in the Cup standings.  Despite winning my first 3 races and even if I were to win my last race I can't mathematically win the series unless I get some help.  With just two races remaining and the final race typically not bringing in fast runners that needed help is unlikely.  I've been stewing a lot over Delta airlines not getting me to Montana.  Even if the Montana race had gone bad I'd have had opportunities to make up points elsewhere.  Now I'm out of options.  Vail has put both Matt and Jared in position to control their own Cup destiny and also helped Jason and Allison Bryant who didn't run.  Bernie Boettcher and Annette Bednosky of nearby Jefferson didn't finish in the top 10 and didn't earn points making the three of us Sunday's biggest sufferers in the Cup. 
Annette and I

Bad Race; Good Climbing
With an extra day to spend in Colorado I decided to tackle one of the state's 14,000 ft peaks.  Turned out I'd do two of them.
I mapped out a climb just a few miles off of I-70 that would hit two 14'ers in one hike if I had the time (Gray's and Torrey's peaks).  After a quick post race burger and pale ale at Pug Ryans (that's about how I felt on my way up the Mtn) I was off to the trail head in my Ford Fiesta Rental.

At this point I should mention the Fiesta had 4 miles on it when I first started it up.  A couple days later it'd be off roading along side Jeeps and other assorted souped up SUV's.  I apologize Hertz.
Brand new Ford Fiesta off roading
The hike was great.  It was a good way to forget about a bad race.  The trail started off pretty well groomed at the end of the tree line but it quickly turned into a technical rocky climb.  On the way up I met a few mountain goats. 
Mountain Goat looking to snack

Eventually I climbed high enough that all vegetation ceased.  At this point it was either rocks, snows, or runoff. 
Clearing 14k on Gray's with Torrey's peak in the distance
It was 100 degrees in Denver so the temperature was pleasant even on the peak.  Even the wind was  mild. 
Gray's Peak
Panoramic view from Gray's Peak

As I got to the top of Gray's I hung out a bit, took a few photos, and decided to trek across the ridge to Torrey's Peak.  The beginning section was rocky and finding the trail was next to impossible at times.

Clearly there's a path here

Torrey's was just a mile away.  It provided a more dramatic drop off view.
The trail was somewhere down there

Afterwards I headed to Denver to the Great Divide Brewery for a double IPA.  What a day!

The Bear Run
Oh boy.  Sunday I raced up Vail and hiked a pair of 14'ers.  Thursday I raced again.  The Bear Run has been my local race and this would be my 13th running in the 17 years it's existed.  I've won 4 times but this year I had a couple things not in my favor.  The first, fatigue of course.  The other being professional ZAP runner Chris Clark.

My hope was that Chris would go out hard; pull a Woodsy at Vail.  He was smarter than that and lingered back with me through the first mile.  At that point he pulled away.  I would make a half hearted run on him in the flats before the track with the Highland Games Scots preparing for a festival.  As we got near he pulled further away and as we hit the steep final two miles I was ready to walk and let Daniel Amick go by.  I kept moving though and stopped hearing him behind me.  As I climbed to the switchbacks I actually opened up a gap on Daniel and began to settle in for 3rd.
The final ascent

The Bear's finish is always challenging.  I managed to not walk any this year.  I also felt I didn't have to dig too deep which may save my legs for some of the races I have upcoming.  My time showed the lack of effort as it was one of my slowest performances on the course.

Overall it has been an exciting and exhausting few days.  Traveling, working, racing, and hiking have all provided a lot of memories and a lot of fatigue. 

Next Saturday is the state 5k road championship race "Beat the Heat."  I've had some good ones there and will probably be back.  The recovery has been short but this time I get a full 9 days.  If my legs don't start feeling fast again I may take the weekend off.  Or I may take the last mile off.  We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cranmore - USATF Mountain Running Championships

Weekend number two in the White Mountains was spent at the Cranmore Hill Climb.  For 2011 it's a 3 loop course climbing 600 feet up Cranmore ski hill in 1.25 miles and then dropping that same 600 feet in about 1.2 miles.  Repeat.  Repeat.
This type of race suited me better than the relentlessness of Mt Washington but since it serves as the USATF Mountain running championships and the sole qualifier for the US team at the World Mountain Championships in Albania the competition would be traveling from a far looking to get one of the six spots available on the team.  Not only would 3 of the 6 runners who beat me the previous weekend return but the prerace favorites would be flying in from Oregon (Max King) and Washington (Joe Gray).  I was excited to see how I could stack up against these guys and even more excited for a chance to run for USA at the world mountain championships.

To run fast at a race like Cranmore (steep ascents, descents, mud, and thick grass) a runner needs a light weight shoe that gives exceptional grip.  A race like this is what brought me to Inov-8 which equipped me in the X-Talon 190's. 
X-Talon 190's post race (Brand new pre race)

At 6.7oz the X-Talon 190 is one of the lightest shoes I've ever owned yet it's aggressive lugs provide stable footing through Cranmore's muddy section and most importantly the steep downhills on loose dirt.  Don't believe me?  Well, 9 of the top 11 men were sporting either the X-Talon 190 or it's bigger hefty brother the X-Talon 212 (a whopping 7.5oz).  Advantage nullified.

Lap 1
At the starting line a quick look around revealed 3 runners who beat me at Mt Washington (Tommy Manning, Matt Byrne, and Peter Maksimow), fellow Mtn Cup'er Jared Scott, reigning USATF Mtn Champ Joe Gray, and the runner I figured to be odds on favorite to win Max King.  Bang goes the gun and Max was off.  He wasn't messing around and began to set a hot pace as soon as we hit the first wall to begin our climb. 
Max King out early as I just clear the woods
I lingered back in 8th place or so but quickly realized that Max and Joe Gray were in front and weren't looking to settle in.  In the first 1/4 mile of the first climb I scooted by everyone in between Max and Joe and closed the small gap they'd already opened up.  I even kept on scooting for a little bit and found myself in front of Joe Gray halfway up the hill which lasted until we hit one of the four "walls" on the course.  I began walking and he kept running.  Spoiler alert:  This would be the last position change of the race for me. 

The "walls" provided me an opportunity to walk; keep my legs under me without losing much ground.  Joe and Max were setting a hot pace and as we approached the end of the first ascent they were still within 10 meters while I had a good 20 meters on 4th place.
Within smelling distance of the leaders
On the descents of the first lap I kept Max and Joe in sight.  Max began to pull away from Joe and I opened up a fairly large gap on 4th place.  I climbed the first lap in 9:17 and descended the lap in 5:04.

Lap 2
As the second climb began there was no big push coming from my legs.  Max and Joe had a bit of a gap and my legs were flat.  The game plan now turned into managing this climb and keeping my legs with the hope that my consistency would result in a late catch of one of the leaders.  I ran more comfortably this lap on the ups and took several walk breaks.  I lost all sight of Max on the climbs and was a good distance behind Joe with Matt Byrne running about the same distance behind me.  I climbed this lap in 9:57 (40 seconds slower) and descended in 5:12 (8 seconds slower).  I lost all sight of Joe at the bottom of the descent and would only catch a glimpse of Matt's Jersey once later on the during the climb.  I was all alone.  The legs hurt but I didn't have to push and was able to maintain a solid pace.
Looking for the leaders
Lap 3
At this point I'm in survival mode.  I know Matt's behind me and my only goal is to get to the top of the mountain ahead of him.  I climbed conservatively in 10:20 (dropped another 23 seconds off my pace) and descended in 5:12 (same as previous lap).  Overall climbing splits were ( 9:17, 9:57, 10:20) and the descents were (5:04, 5:12, 5:12).  Climbing is still a bit of an issue but I stayed strong on the descents.  As the raced progressed that turned into the game plan: Hold a lead on the ups while conserving energy to be able to extend the lead on the downs.  It was a recipe for success for 3rd place. 

I came in about 2 1/2 minutes behind winner Max King and 1 1/2 behind runner up Joe Gray.  I earned a spot on the US Team competing in the World Mountain Running Championships in Albany.  It'll be my first time running in red, white, and blue and I'm very excited for the opportunity.  I'll be joined by Max, Joe, Matt Byrne, Inov-8 teammates Tommy Manning and Jared Scott. 
Top 10 men and women

Jared Scott, a fellow Mtn cupper, grabbed the last spot by dramatically outkicking Scott Gall.  The women representing the US will be Kasie Enman, Michele Suszek, Brandy Erholtz, and Megan Lund.  The last spot on the women's side also came down to a dramatic kick between Brandy, Megan, and fellow NC Inov-8 runner Amber Moran.  That's about all I know of the women's race.  They started 5 minutes after us and only ran two loops so they were done well before the men.
Inov-8 Team

Going Forward
In the immediate days following the race my legs have hurt.  Monday's run was more of a crippled limp with fellow local runner Scott Williams.  I expect sore quads and a general feeling of surviving an auto accident but I wasn't expecting my hamstrings to feel torn in half.  Tuesday turned into an off day and so far it seems to have payed off as the legs are beginning to feel like themselves today (Wednesday).

As a team competing at the World championships I'm hoping we can compete for a medal.  Max and Joe are clearly contenders for the top 10 overall.  I feel like I've identified an area for improvement (climbing) and have a few months and several hill climbs to prepare better for the event.  I'm hoping more competition throughout the entirety of the race can keep me closer to Max and Joe.  I know Matt's got more in his legs as he's beaten me before.  He's been beat up a bit since Rothrock 30k and by September he'll be ready to go.  Tommy's new to me but he ran very well at world's last year and hearing him talk post race he seems to be gaining confidence in his descending.  Jared has beaten Matt this year and has improved a lot since I first race him at the USATF trail 10k championships last year.  He's been healthy and it shows.

In the meantime I'll start immediately working on my climbing by heading to Vail Colorado this weekend for the Vail Hill Climb.  It's a 7.5 mile race that climbs 2000ft.  Hardly a climb compared to Mt Washington but the first mile is flat.  The competition will be excellent once again as Matt Byrne and Jared Scott will be there as well as a few Coloradans.  Four days after the Vail hill climb I'll be lacing them up again at our local hill climb "The Bear."  It'll be my 13th running and I'll be looking for my 5th victory on the just short of 5 mile run up Grandfather Mountain.
Bear run 2009

Post Race Feast
Kadie's sister Melissa and her boyfriend Tyler came up from Boston to watch the race and Tyler took me to his favorite BBQ place in New England, The Yankee Smokehouse.  Ironically during last years Reach the Beach Relay David Patterson and I stumbled upon this gem after our first legs of the relay.  This time around I had the beef brisket and ribs.  Perfect!

Post Race Brew
The Atlanta airport shutting down for a few hours gave me time to kill in Boston so I stumbled in a Harpoon pub at the airport.  I had an IPA and called it an evening.  Nothing too special about the Harpoon IPA and even less special was being in an airport bar.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mt Washington

7.6 miles and 4600ft of climbing greeted runners lucky enough to win the lottery to get an entry into the Mount Washington road race.  Just a few minutes after the gun sounds just about everyone's luck runs out. 
View from the Start
I'd had my eye on this race for years.  Partially because of the challenge and partially because of the prize purse.  I've been doing mountain races over the last 2 years and I felt I was ready this year to tackle the challenge.  I felt I was prepared to grind out the 7.6 miles because I've had the experience climbing Squaw Valley (3.6 miles/2000 feet), 14 x's the bear run (4.75 miles/1500ft), a handful of trails up and overs, and a more regular training regime covering Elk Knob (1 mile or 1.5 miles/1000ft) and Mount Jefferson (3 miles/1400feet).  I felt I was mentally prepared to keep one foot moving in front of the other ignoring the burn in my quads and calves.

I was wrong.
Nothing I had done had prepared me for the length of Mount Washington.

First 3rd of the race
In review of the race I can break it down into three 2.5 miles sections.  The first 2.5 miles went according to plan.  The rain that started an hour before the start let up and left the air thick with humidity but it was still fairly cool out.  Shortly after beginning the one hill I found myself in a pack with Matt Byrne and fellow Inov-8 runner from Colorado Peter Maksimow and we had a short visual to the spread out leaders of Glenn Randall, Rickey Gates (eventual winner), and Tommy Manning.  I was patient, felt good, and stuck in that group for about 2.5 humid and warm miles.  I have had a lot of experience racing Matt so I was confident that I was with the right group.  According to the garmin I went through the first third of the race in 20:01 and climbed about 1450ft.  Towards the end of this segment my legs were getting heavy and in order to keep them from going lactic I decided to walk a few steps to keep my legs under me.  That's were things fell apart.

Middle 3rd
I could see Randall coming back and Matt had caught him with Peter shortly behind.  I thought I'd still get past him and be running for 5th place the rest of the race looking to pick off anyone else that had gone out too hard.  But I was the only one doing any walking.  I wouldn't see anyone else walking either. 

Shortly Eric Blake and Simon Gutierrez had caught me.  Each time I walked I lost ground and my legs weren't getting any fresher.  Once Simon and Eric caught me I ran with them as it was much easier for me to set a pace with others around me.  But Simon had a gel is his shorts which he sucked down at the half way point and proceeded to surge ahead as if he were floating on clouds of caffeine.  At this point Eric (a former champ struggling with injuries) was trying to set an even pace up the mountain while rookie me kept surging past him, walking, then surging past again.  It was pathetic and I could tell he was annoyed but I couldn't find a rhythm and kept on sloppily making my way up the mountain in that manner even after Eric said "if we keep an even pace we can hold on to our position."  A very polite way to say "screw you newbie."  Those middle miles were a mess.  I ran my middle third of the race in 23:24 and climbed around 1700ft.  That was the slowest section of the race.

Final 3rd
The final third of the race actually got better for me.  As I got closer and closer to the finish my confidence grew and I walked less and less.  I didn't walk at all in the last 1.5 miles except for two steps on the final 22% percent grade wall greeting finishers.
The 22% grade wall to the finish (Courtesy of Inov-8)
 I covered that section in around 22:53 and pulled away from Eric in the 6th mile to finish 7th overall in 66:18.  It was this last section of the race which added confidence that I can mentally and physically improve those last miles. 

Final Thoughts
Going into the race I'd hoped to have run 63 minutes and finish in the top 3.  I felt I could run 65 minutes and finish in the top 5.  I was a bit off but not too much considering how disappointed I was with the middle miles.  I feel that another attempt at the race in two weeks would results in minute or two improvement and with a few tweaks in my training I expect to take that time off next year.  I also learned that nothing I had done adequately prepared me for the length of the hill.  Truth is there's very little that can be done anywhere to prepare for that grade over that distance.  I suspect the Rockies would be a good place to look though as 5 of the top 6 men were from Colorado.  Next year I expect to prepare better and improve my performance by a couple of minutes. 
Male and Female winners with Matt and I at the Summit

Next week I'll be back in the White Mountains of NH for the Cranmore Hill Climb and a shot at running for the US at the world mountain championships.

Post Race Beverage
I went over to check out the Cranmore course and on the recommendation from Chris, my ride down the mountain, I swung by Moat Mountain Brewery and had an IPA.  Delicious!

Next Day's Run
The legs weren't sore but my head was woozy after a few short miles at Bass Lake.  As I crested by the manor house I shortly found my legs to be wobbly on the downhill back towards the lake and a long run quickly turned into a shorter run.  By Monday I was feeling back to normal.  Overall a good outcome for a ridiculous climb.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting Started

Well, after some time thinking about how I'd like to start a blog this will be the start.  It will be unenlightning and fairly basic information about me and where I'd like to take this blog.  First, I'm a chiropractor and a runner.  Here's a bit of a brief run down of my running. 

I got my start at Watauga High School in my current home town of Boone, NC.  We won the 1996 NCHSAA cross coutry team title which propelled me to a walk-on spot at NC State University.  At NC State I spent 5 years running cross country and track for an xc team that didn't finish lower than 11th in the nation during my tenure.  I also earned All American honors on the track at 5,000m and won 3 ACC track titles.  I then spent 2 1/2 years running for the Nike Farm Team in Palo Alto, CA before heading to Florida to start my chiropractic career and turning solely to road racing.  In 2008 I came back to Boone and started my appropriately named chiropractic office... Marathon Chiropractic.  In 2009 I ran my first trail race.  Since I've been racing trails and roads and maybe one day I'll even toe the line for a track race.

15 years in 15 sentences or less.  Less.

Back to present day and the kick start of my "Runnings and Ramblings" blog.  It's a great time for me and my running and I want to start sharing these events with friends, family, patients, running peers, and future me.  I've got a great upcoming schedule and I want to document and share the miles and climbs that lie ahead.  In just the next two months alone I'll be running the prestigous Mt Washington Hill climb, competing for a spot on the US Team for the World Mtn Championships, racing two more La Sportiva Mtn Cup events, racing the NCUSATF 5k Championships, and even competing for the umpteenth time in my local hill climb "The Bear." 

Not only do I have a great upcoming schedule but I've kicked off this run with my best road 5k since 2008.  Last Friday at the China Grove 5k I posted a 14:46 to outkick Stuart Moran and John Compton.  Garmin of race.  It was ideal June conditions in North Carolina's piedmont as the 92 degree temperature dropped dramaticaly in the 90 minutes before the race from a neighboring storm.  Luckily the storm just blew in cooler air without a drop of rain keeping humidity levels shockingly low.  Stu took the race out from the gun and led us through the first mile while I purposely and consciously sat back and waited.  Well, with about 8 of us together through the first mile I got impatient and started pushing.  John, Stu, and I were then alone and we stayed tightly together till the last quarter mile.  John set most the pace while I surged several times thinking I could pull away.  I couldn't.  But that last quarter mile I opened up like I haven't done in several years and pulled away.  The Garmin put me at 3:51 pace for the last .11 miles which was about what the previous .11 miles was.  I don't think I could go to the track right and do that. 

A fast overall time and a big kick has momentum riding high.

But back to the notion of a blog.  I plan to update with my runs of course but I'd also like to talk some about healthy and nutrition as well as running equipment and some of the great pleasures in life... beer, wine, dogs and cats (Timber and Charles Henry).  We'll see how it all develops.  I encourage any and all to follow and comment.  Up next is Mt Washington on Saturday.  7.5 miles long and 4500 feet up.  Right now it's game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  Go Bruins!