Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mt. Falcon

Last weekend it was Deer Creek, and on Saturday it was Mt. Falcon.  Oh how I love hitting up these Front Range parks.  I'm sure after getting more regular in my visits, it won't be all that noteworthy.  For now it is.

I met up with Patrick, Jim, Todd, Brian, and Jaime for a loop that hits every trail (dubbed version 1 by Scott J.). While it was a little chilly in the parking lot, we were shedding layers quickly.  What a perfect day to be running in the mountains with friends.  The pace was quick, but sustainable.  I came away with 2:17 (moving time) for the 14 miles.

I was encouraged after this run because ever since Bandera, I've been nursing aches and pains pretty much all over.  My knee and hip have been the most problematic.  I was a little apprehensive about this run because Mt. Falcon can be so unforgiving.  While I felt my maladies a bit during the run, they were all kept in check and I'm none the worse today.  After a day of skiing at Winter Park, I got in another solid 10 late this afternoon to enjoy the last bit of our mild weather.

Now from almost 70 degrees on Friday, to a forecasted MINUS 17 degrees on Wednesday morning, I can't wait to see who the brave souls are that will run in this arctic blast!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Deer Creek

I got over the Deer Creek Canyon on Sunday afternoon for a completely refreshing run.  It was exactly what I needed after months on the same trails.  For the first 45 minutes, I couldn't stop asking myself why it has been 8 months since I've last driven the 20 minutes to run here!  I'm seriously considering committing to a weekly morning run at Deer Creek (and/or Mt. Falcon) this spring & summer.  I can probably get in 12-14 miles before work.

There was a nice mixture of snow & dry dirt to run on as shown by my pics below.  While the few lookouts over the plains were nice, I really found the most enjoyment running in the trees.  Once you get the initial climb over with, there's some splendid singletrack that is nothing but rolling fun.  With about 3 miles to go, I passed a guy (Todd Butler) for the second time.  We stopped and talked as he asked if I was running out in Moab next month.  It appears we both are, so it was nice to talk running ultras for a bit.  After about 10 minutes, I started getting the chills with the wind picking up, so we parted ways and I cruised back down to the parking lot.

 The wet.

 The dry.

The deer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bandera - What I Learned...

I haven't been motivated to blog much lately.  I think the "coming down" from Bandera got me pretty good both physically and mentally.  I've been wanting to jot down my thoughts about what worked and what didn't, but everytime I sat down to do it, I just got up and found something else to do.  So here we go....

What I learned from Bandera...

My Training - I felt my training during November & December prepared me perfectly to go the distance.  Heading into it, I was not afraid of going 100K at all.  Due to the limited time I had to train, I committed to train exclusively on the trails around my house.  From a hills standpoint, it wasn't far off from what I encountered in TX.  What I learned is that I must acknowledge (and thus train for) the "challenge" of the course.  Every race has some unique challenge (big climbs, big descents, high elevation, etc).  Bandera's unique challenge was the rocks and I blew them off.  It was a mistake that I won't make again.  I will figure out the unique challenge(s) of future races/courses and adjust my training to incorporate it, even if it's not convenient to do so.

Shoes & Socks - I wore my La Sportiva Wildcats w/ Smartwool socks.  The decision on the socks was due to the probable rain.  I trained with them many times and appreciated the extra warmth on those mornings when it was freezing.  Well, on race day, the rain held off and it actually got quite warm at times (sunny and 60's).  After about 4 hours, my feet were sweating and swelling.  As a result, my toes ended up pressing against the ends of my Wildcats.  I'm sure all of that contributed to my blister mess.  Thanks Aaron for the reminder about Drymax socks, as I'm going to check them out.  I've also worn Injini's with good success.

Fuel Plan - My EFS liquid shot & water plan worked very well.  I had mixed up about 10 bottles and stashed them in drop bags.  I ended up sipping on the stuff all day.  I did experience stomach cramping yet again (miles 27-30...seems to be the magic miles for me), but I can't pinpoint the cause.  The only other things I had were several cups of coke throughout the second loop and  a small cup of chicken noodle broth around mile 52.   I tried two cola flavored Powerbar Gel Blasts, but they weren't going down well this time around.  While I was definitely moving at a snails pace at the end of the day, I don't believe it was fuel related.  With all that said, I can't say I felt confident my fuel plan would have worked for another 38 miles.  Still have some work to do here.

Electrolytes - I'm quite sure I got low in this area.  EFS is supposed to provide me adequate electrolytes, so I didn't plan on taking anything else.  As mentioned, it seemed hot out there, and I could feel the salt piling up on my skin.  Towards the middle part of the afternoon, something felt a little off  and I was plagued with "twangy" hamstrings.  I suspected electrolytes, so I popped an SCap.  I took one more an hour or two later.  Now that I've seen the pictures of my "white" navy blue hat, I can certainly see I wasn't getting enough salt for what I was pushing out.

Pace - In hindsight, I think I probably pushed a little too hard during the first loop.  I finished the first 50K loop in 4:54 (9:29/mile).  This is about 10-20 seconds per mile slower than what I ran all my long runs at.  I'm still a little stumped in knowing if running faster than my planned 10 min pace contributed to my feet issues, or if running slower would have produced the same results.

My Light & Garmin - My handheld light strapped to my wrist worked like a charm.  I needed it during one of the two most technical stretches and I had no issues seeing what I needed to see.  I can't say enough good things about this setup.  About 45 minutes after getting the "low battery" warning on my Garmin, I hooked up my external battery contraption.  It took about 2 minutes of walking to get it going.  You can see it in my race report picture with Joe...hooked to my hydration pack.  The big negative is that you can't see it without bending it up, which even still made it challenging to read.  I'm going to experiment with other placements on my pack.

Gaiters - I wore my DG gaiters for the first time in awhile  I figured they'd help with all the loose rock.  Not once in 12 hours did anything get in there.  During Pikes last summer, I had to stop to remove rocks from my shoes.  I'd much rather waste time during a race for some other reason.

Mental Stuff - I certainly got frustrated during the second loop when my feet blew up.  But overall, I was pleased with how I kept my head in the game all day.  I joked in my report about cursing the rocks during the last 10 miles, but during that stretch I also found myself saying...."hey, I signed up for this thing, trained by running over 600 miles in two months, paid money to fly down quit your whining, harden up, and finish this thing as best you can."  I wouldn't call it a breakthrough moment, but it was an important one.  It's one of the main reasons why I feel I'm a better ultrarunner because of Bandera.

It's funny how the mind works after a race like this.  The video on my report has me saying I don't ever want to run there again.  Now, I start thinking about how I could have run it better....smarter.  If I addressed the feet issues, could I have kept my sub 10 minute pace going?  I guess there's only one way to find out.  Ha!  No, I'm not planning on going back...but I'm open to the idea!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bandera Race Report

The Bandera 100k didn't turn out quite how I anticipated.  I had envisioned training hard, flying down there, kicking some butt, and coming home feeling quite proud of it all unfolding just as planned. Here I sit now feeling quite humbled by the whole thing. Oh, I heard all the warnings about the rocky course, but c’mon, how bad could it really be? I saw pictures of the course and there seemed to be just as many pictures of flat single track as there were of rocky spots. Can't I just power through the rocks and then recover on the flats?

The Texas Hill Country is beautiful. The town of Bandera is 50 miles NW of San Antonio, and there’s a reason they call it “the cowboy capital of the world.” You’re not going to find any big box stores, chain restaurants, or even common hotels. No, it’s like a page was ripped out of the old Wild West with a historic Main Street, open land sprawling as far as the eye could see, and dude ranches galore.

Instead of camping, I decided to get a room in town. Looking for something cheap, I settled on a place called the Bandera Bunkhouse on Main Street. It was a no frills small room with a bed, bathroom, broken TV, and a fridge. It was also located right next to the Bandera Saloon (which had a very large “Live Music” sign on the front). Sure enough, the music started pumping around 8:50pm and just kept on thumping. Thankfully I fell asleep at 10 and didn’t wake again until morning.

The weather was forecasted partly sunny in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon, and rain by late afternoon. Many of the runners chatted about finishing before the rain came. While that would be nice, I knew it was out of my control, so I felt prepared if the rain came.

When the race began, the lead pack was out of sight in a matter of minutes. The first 5 miles were very technical, climbing around Sky Island and Ice Cream Hill, but with fresh feet and loads of energy, the pack of 5 runners I was in plowed through it in no time. Then things ease up a bit for about 10-12 miles before having to pass over the “Three Sisters” and heading to Lucky Peak, Cairns Climb, and Boyles Bump. Those final 15 miles of the loop were technical yet again.

Okay, let’s talk about the rocks. I think it's just one of those things you need to experience in order to fully grasp what I’m talking about. But I’ll try anyway. The hills are short & steep. They feature climbs of a several hundred feet with no switchbacks. Now try to picture truckloads of golf ball, baseball, and softball sized rocks scattered over the trail. Some embedded, most not. Going up the hills was difficult, but coming down was nothing short of treacherous. Tripping and falling is not an option as it would probably end your race.  You can click here to see over 700 photos of the course, but you'll probably fall into the same trap I did thinking it isn't so bad.

Before moving on, I must mention the Sotul plant…or should I say cactus. This evil plant is everywhere and could not be avoided. It looks like the type of cactus we have here in Colorado (long green leaves with a sharp needle point), but the one difference is that the leaves are serrated. When running through the sotul you could just feel the leaves slice your legs…think paper cuts by the hundreds.

The Sotul

Just like a knife

Despite the rocks & sotul, I was enjoying my fresh feet & relaxed pace and life was good.  As I cruised over the rocks, I was pleased that it didn't seem to slow me down or have any negative effects.  But as the day wore on, the feet deteriorated as the freshness disappeared. This really hit me at mile 27. I had been running a great race, but I was halfway through that final 10 miles of technical climbing and my feet whispered politely to me that they were done. Not good when you’re facing another 35 miles.

I finished the first 50K in a respectable 4:54. I had a nice hotspot on my big toe, so I stopped to take off my shoe and address it. I’ve read about runners using duct tape to care for hotspots and blisters. I even brought some with me wrapped around my SCap bottle. What I failed to learn was exactly what to do with the duct tape! So I ripped off a square and stuck it to the bottom of my toe, put my sock back on and started running. Well, you could probably guess that the tape didn’t stay in place, and now I had a bunched up foreign object in there. It finally shifted into a spot that didn’t bother me, so I just kept trucking.

I was all alone on the second loop and my plan was to put on the iPod and just zone out a bit while I ran.  But to my dismay, it was announced at the trail briefing the night before that they have a new rule….no iPods! Needless to say, instead of zoning out to music, I got to focus on my feet and the new blisters that I could feel popping up.

Coming into the Cross Roads aid station - Mile 47.  Photo by David Bubier

I got to mile 42 and that’s when it really hit me. I had 20 more miles of this junk and 15 of it were the most unfriendly. I saw my Uncle David & Aunt Hildy at mile 47. They drove out to cowboy country to catch a little of the race and to see the finish. It was certainly the bright spot of the second loop. After leaving the Cross Roads aid station for a 5 mile loop, I was hit with what I can only describe as exploding toes. The blisters on my right foot were at the boiling point. I stopped, took my shoe off, removed the bunched up piece of old tape and stared at about 5 blisters with the skin on my little toe peeling off. What do I do now? This time I slapped a piece of duct tape all the way around my big toe and then just left the other small ones to fend for themselves. I’m not sure the tape helped, but after another two miles, the blister pain settled down and became manageable.

Leaving Cross Roads aid station - Mile 52.  Watch me take off like a rocket!  Video by David Bubier

Back at Cross Roads, I saw David & Hildy again before venturing on the final 10 mile survival shuffle. My famous last words to them were, “it’ll probably take me 2...2:15 maybe...or around there.” Haha! How about 2:45 for 10 miles! The sun was setting, temps were dropping, and breeze was picking up. I went for as long as I could before whipping out my jacket and light. I actually enjoyed being out there in the dark. I didn’t enjoy how I was feeling at the time, but it was peaceful. Nobody was even remotely close, so I could curse the rocks as much and as loud as I wanted! Everything about this stretch was slow. I was in survival mode and didn’t want to fall. I just tried to make it from glow stick to glow stick in hopes that I would finally pop out on the dirt road that lead to the finish line.

Finally it came, and I ran the half mile into the finish. 12:10:50.  Joe Prusaitis (race director and finisher of over twenty-five 100 milers) was on the other side ready to give a handshake and present me with my first BUCKLE!  David and Hildy were also there for hugs and to help celebrate. I only wish I didn’t have to make them wait so long!

Loving the buckle!  Photo by David Bubier

On a positive note, I beat the rain! It absolutely poured that night and I can only imagine the experience of the runners that were still out on the course.  AND...I'm now 1-1 against Geoff Roes in head to head competition!  Unfortunately, he dropped at the 50K mark after a very rough day.  Dave Mackey shredded the course and set a new record by over an hour finishing in 8:17.

With a few days separation from the race, I have to say that I'm now glad for this experience.  I was disappointed that things unraveled after what I thought was a good first loop. I learned a lot, and I supposed you need a race like this for the lessons to occur. I’ll try to process that in future posts, but for now, I do feel I’m a better runner because of Bandera. I can tell you that I don't plan to be back (for the 100K). Joe and his crew of volunteers put on a spectacular race, but as I hobble about on my tender feet, I know 62 miles on that course is not for me.  But then again, I have been heard saying "never again" far too many times for anyone to believe me anymore.

I must end in saying that I can’t thank David & Hildy enough for coming out to support me, and then taking me back to their lakehouse in Austin for the night. I slept in the most comfortable bed and ate like a king! Breakfast on Sunday featured three Texas-sized & shaped waffles and 8 strips of bacon. Lunch #1 was two bowls of pasta soup, and lunch #2 was a feast of beef brisket & sausage at Rudy’s BBQ. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you both!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bandera Result

Bandera 100k in the Texas hill country...while beautiful, it was not kind to this runner. 12:10 (unofficially). That is far too long to be running on rocks. Race report coming soon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Get 'er Done!

At work we have a little slogan that has become our theme when it comes to projects.  "Get 'er Done".  It simply means to do what it takes to finish.  I don't work in a high pressure & intensity environment, no it's actually a great place to work.  There are just those times when something comes up and it takes extra effort to complete it well.

There's not much else to say about Bandera other than it's time.  I like the simple mantra of "Get 'er Done" and plan to use it.  There appears to be rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon & night.  That's some good motivation to take advantage of the dry hours by constantly moving forward...and hopefully at a nice rate of speed.

I'll try to post an update on Saturday night.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Year in Review - In Progress...

I've loved reading all the year end reports that everyone has been churning out lately.  It is quite amazing to see the growth, successes & failures, races, crazy trail runs, and experiences shared among friends.

My year in review will come in a few weeks.  One week out from Bandera and I'm not quite ready to close the books on 2010.  Yes, the date is now 2011, but I feel like Bandera is a 2010 race with all training but my final taper week being completed last year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Garmin 305 Battery Life = 30+ hours??

Venturing into the 100K territory next weekend has presented a new issue for me. That would be running longer than my Garmin watch battery will last. I usually begin getting a "low battery" warning around the 8-8.5 hour range. It will still work for at least another 1.5 hours (I got to 9:49 at Steamboat in September), although I've never tested just how long it will go. The Garmin website states battery life to be 10 hours.

Seeing I will be out there longer than that, I need to find a way to keep my watch plugging along beyond 10 hours. My wife as a Garmin 405, so I could bring her watch and swap at the half way mark, but I like having all the data for the race in one activity.

I stumbled upon this website and thought I would give it a shot: Garmin 305 Battery Pak

I recently picked up this Duracell Instant USB charger and connected it to the 305 cradle/watch and then devised a way to attach it to my hydration pack. I took it on a four hour run on Friday, 12/24. When I returned and powered off the watch, immediately the screen showed the "Battery Charging Complete" message. Nice.

So for the race, I'll probably wait about 9 hours and then hook up my contraption for the last couple hours.  I'll report back how it worked...and how many people told me I looked goofy.