Saturday, September 13, 2014

SUPERIOR 100M - VOLUNTEER REPORT

After blogging for what seemed like every day for about 5 years this blog started to slowly disappear in 2010.  Now it’s to the point where I haven’t updated it in nearly a year.  However, every once in a while a new goal or event comes along that needs to be captured in words – or else I’m afraid I’ll forget about its magnitude completely.  The latest such event for me is the Superior Fall Trail Races, which consists of the Moose Mountain Marathon, along with 50M and 100M ultras.  Each race takes place in the Sawtooth Mountains along the Superior Hiking Trail.  As the tagline states, these races are “Rugged / Relentless / Remote.”

Never has a race had a more accurate tagline.  Rugged explains the trail that is completely littered with rocks and roots.  Jon Howard’s blog has videos from various sections of the course if you’d like a better idea of the ruggedness.  Relentless explains the topographical profile that looks like a saw blade, hence the name of the mountain range.  While the race can’t boast of the same altitude of say a Western States or Leadville, the 41,000 feet of elevation gain – all done between 600 and 1,830 feet – is more than either of those well-known events.  Finally, Remote describes the north shore, in general.  Travel north of the Twin Cities for a couple of hours and things get remote.  However, pass through the Silver Creek tunnel just north of Two Harbors and the remoteness is taken to a whole new level. 



Let me be clear up front, I was there solely in a volunteer capacity.  Race director John Storkamp posted a message on Facebook asking for more volunteers, so I raised my hand.  To be honest, John asked if I’d write an article on this event.  I’m embarrassed to say that was a couple of years ago and all I’ve managed to come up with so far is a recap of all the past race directors.  On one hand, I figured I should help out in another capacity since I’ve struggled so much with the article.  On the other hand, I thought seeing this event in person might actually spur my writing.  I think John was thinking the same thing too because he assigned me to a wide variety of tasks that would immerse me in the event.

First off was the start of the 100M race at Gooseberry Falls State Park.  Pulling into the parking lot I thought I might be in the wrong place.  Then I remember that it was still 90 minutes before the start of a 100 mile race that only had about 230 entrants.  Just after that I saw the TC Running Company RV and I knew I was in the right place.  Kurt Decker was there and he introduced me to Ian Corless.  Being new to the ultra scene, I had no idea who Ian was.  It turns out he’s like the Toni Reavis of the ultra world.  However, in addition to a blog, he also has a podcast and takes stunning pictures.  If you read no further in this post, do yourself a favor and check out Ian’s recap and photos Ian’s recap and photos of the race.

Back to the start of the race.  I can’t remember the last time when I was nervous for an event that I wasn’t even running.  But for some reason I was nervous for this group of people that were about to try to run 100 miles within the next 38 hours.  Perhaps I was nervous because it’s hard for me to fathom what these people were about to endure.  I mean I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to run fast.  You know, the kind of fast where I’d avoid races because there’s a slight up hill on the course or there are too many turns that might cost me a few seconds.  Along the way there have been a couple of endurance events, namely Ironman Wisconsin in 2003 and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in 2011.  But let’s face it, I probably walked two-thirds of the IM marathon and I never made it all the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  So yes, I was scared, excited, and nervous for the 204 runners that started the 100M race.
en·dureverb \in-ˈdu̇r, -ˈdyu̇r, en-\
: to continue to exist in the same state or condition
: to experience (pain or suffering) for a long time
: to deal with or accept (something unpleasant)

After the start we packed up the trucks and headed to the Silver Bay aid station at mile 9.7.  I know what you’re thinking; “Mile 9.7, not mile 10?”  That’s right.  One thing I learned during my research was that Don Clark and Bonnie Riley wheeled the entire course – over every root and rock – twice!  As a result, aid stations are listed to the nearest tenth of a mile – and we also know that the race is actually 103.3 miles long.

I didn’t hang out here too long because I was scheduled to work at the next aid station in Beaver Bay – mile 20.1.  There I met the aid station lead, Tom Burr, and his wife Nancy Griffith.  Tom assigned me to crossing guard.  That seemed easy enough until I figured out that spectators are as focused on their runners as runners are with the task at hand.  That means they’ll forget things like looking for cars when crossing the road.  I’d be waving cars through because there weren’t any runners coming and then all the sudden a spectator would dash out into the road.  Luckily, most of the traffic consisted of other spectators and they were very cognizant of driving through the aid station. 

One of the cool things I noticed was a number of people who’d be running the next day, but still came out to volunteer or cheer for the 100 milers.  My only other ultra experience was crewing for Dave Dehart at the 2002 Ed Fitz 100K.  I can remember seeing a lot of the same people throughout the day and getting to know more about them and their runner as the day went on.  The same was true at the Superior 100M.  It’s easy to start up a conversation with whoever is standing near you, simply by asking about who they’re waiting for.
 
After about 4 hours of traffic duty, things started to slow down and I realized how hungry I was.  I soon discovered Nancy’s famous cookies.  I can’t even tell you what kind they were but they had a great combination of sweet/salty.  I found out that she doesn’t give out the recipe, but she did suggest adding some kosher salt to the top of my next batch of cookies before baking.

My next stop was to the race finish at Caribou Highlands Lodge where I’d help with packet pickup for the marathon and 50M.  This turned out to be a lot of fun too because I recognized a bunch of people that’d be racing the next day.   The 4 hours or so flew by and it was finally time to sit down for a meal and a beer or two.

With only about 4-5 hours of sleep, Saturday was sure to be a long day, but it’s hard to complain when you think that the 100 milers didn’t even get that much sleep.  The 3 AM wakeup call allowed us to get to the start of the 50M in Finland.  There wasn’t a ton of set up for the start, but some people would be picking up their packets prior to the race.

It was in Finland that the “funniest” story of the weekend happened.  Apparently, one of the spectators rode the bus to the start with the runners.  She proceeded to get off the bus, assuming it was the responsibility of the race director to get her back to the finish.  In fact, she basically demanded a ride.  I believe she eventually found a ride, but it was from anyone involved with the race.

Next, we headed to the start of the marathon where I recognized the most people, including Tony Kocanda and his wife Laurie Kocanda, Brian Peterson, John Naslund, and Ben Kampf.  Ben would go on to run one of the most impressive performances of the weekend, 3:32:27 – just over a minute off the course record on a very muddy trail.

From there we made our way to the finish where we’d already missed the first 5 runners, including the winner, Adam Schwartz-Lowe who finished in just under 22 hours.  I was able to watch John Horns finish in 6th place and first Grand Master.  A month or so ago I met up with John for a training run in Lebanon Hills.  He told me his plan for the day was 5 hours.  I figured that meant he’d be going “slow” and I could hang for at least 2 hours.  Well, I managed to make it a little over an hour before peeling off.  The thought of running even 1 more hour at that pace didn’t seem possible.

The next 12 hours were a complete whirlwind; including cheering for runners from all 3 races, catching up with spectators I’d met the day before, sorting out drop bags from various aid stations, and working with the HAM radio operators to track runners still out on the course.  

Perhaps the coolest task of the weekend was handing out trophies at the award ceremony.  Well, first off, it’s the award ceremony itself.  John holds the ceremony right by the finish line at 8 PM or 2 hours before the race cutoff.  Whenever he sees a headlamp approaching he stops the ceremony and encourages everyone to cheer for the approaching runners.  Part way through the ceremony as John continues to sing the praises of the runners, their crew and friends and family and the volunteers, the crowd starts to chant Store-Kamp, Store-Kamp, Store-Kamp.  Of course, John would have none of that.  He’s well aware that this is a very special event and even though he’s the race director, the race is really about everyone that’s been involved with the event; runners, crew, pacers, spectators and volunteers.  He exudes passion and it carries over to everyone around him.

I can’t help watch an event like this and think to myself; 1) could I finish, 2) would I enjoy it, and 3) would I be any good at it?  As Adam Lindahl said after finishing his first 100M this summer, I have to many ultra friends not to at least consider doing one.  With that said, I’m already signed up for the Wild Duluth 50K on October 18th and I'd like to try a 50 miler next year.  Is a 100 miler in my future?  It’s too early to tell, but I’ve been thinking about it more than ever before.
 
What is a certainty is that I’ll be heading back to volunteer for this event next year.  If you love running and/or the north shore I highly encourage to you check it out.  Whether that means running, crewing, spectating or volunteering is up to you.  You won’t be disappointed.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

RANDOM POST-RACE THOUGHTS

Now that I’ve had a few days to ponder my marathon, I’ve come up with a bunch of random thoughts.

Given that I ran fairly even splits and moved up nearly 200 places during the second half of the race, you’d think I’d be over-joyed. While I am pretty happy – especially given my last 2 year of running – I can’t help but think there’s more in the tank. If you think about it, I ran a half in June in 1:26:38. If you double that you get 2:53. For discussions sake I’ll say I ran 3:08 (my time without 2 pee stops). That means I needed 15 minutes – or more than 30 seconds per mile – to run the second half. That’s a lot.

The McMillan calculator says I should slow down 9 minutes, or finish in 3:02. Sure everyone is different, but I’ve never had a lot of speed and I tend to get better the longer the distance. Maybe my times actually behave as a bell shaped curve, where they’re below average at both ends of the spectrum – short races and long races – and above average in that 15K to 25K range. That just popped into my head, so I haven’t given it a lot of thought.

While I always try to run even splits, I wonder if it’d be worthwhile to go out harder and hang on. I mean when I look at other people’s splits, it seems like the majority of people are running the second half 5 minutes slower than the first half. Maybe if I went out in 1:31, I’d still come back in 1:36 and run 3:07. But honestly, that doesn’t sound appealing to me. I guess that’s why I try to be conservative during the first half.

I must say that my quads have never felt so good after a marathon. I have no idea if it’s due to the adidas boost that I was wearing or not. But maybe there’s something to their “energy-returning boost” midsole. In any case, I’m a believer right now. Even though my legs feel great, I still plan on taking at least a full week off from running. I think the recovery is the hardest part of a fall marathon. The weather is absolutely stunning and I’m forcing myself not to run.

While I still love everything about Grandma’s Marathon, I have to mention that TCM is pretty awesome in it’s our right. The course is terrific. I love starting down town, heading by the Walker then along the lakes, the parkway, and the river roads before hitting Summit and coming up on the Cathedral and the Capitol. And I had nearly forgotten how awesome the crowds are along the course – it’s all pretty hard to beat.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more thoughts on this in the near future, but that’s it for now.

Monday, October 07, 2013

TCM 2013 - RACE REPORT

Looking back, here’s what I wrote the night before the marathon;

Tomorrow I'd like to go through the half between 1:33 - 1:34. That way if I'm feeling good I can negative split and run 3:05. If things are just okay, I can still hang on for a 3:10.

That’s basically what happened – I went through the half in 1:34:32 and after that, things were “just okay” and I hung on for a 3:09:38 finish. While the half as a little slower than I wanted, it’s because I had to stop to pee at mile 11 and that cost me 50 seconds. Without that stop, I’d have gone through the half in 1:33:42. So my pacing was exactly what I wanted – during the first half my fastest mile was 7:03 and my slowest was 7:15. Another stop to pee at mile 15 cost me 50 more seconds. Without those stops I’d have been just under 3:08. Unfortunately, the clock doesn’t stop when you pull off the course.
Looking back at what I wrote, I think it was a pipedream to think I could run 1:33 / 1:32 or 1:34 / 1:31. The second half of this course is a grid and in order to negative split, the first half would have to feel like a jog. While the first half did feel relatively easy, it wasn’t a jog. And, history has shown, increasing the effort on the second half usually still leads to a 1-minute positive split – at least for me. With that said, my fastest mile during the second half was 7-flat (twice) and my slowest was 7:26. My last 5 mile splits were 7:24, 7:26, 7:12, 7:18, 7:22. Although I slowed on the hills, I ended up moving from 603rd place at the half to 412th at the finish.

I also like to combine my splits into 2 or 3-mile buckets because it eliminates some of the terrain. Looking at 3-mile buckets, here are my splits (they don’t include my two 50-second pit stops);

21:20 – 3 miles
21:27 – 6 miles
21:32 – 9 miles
21:32 – 12 miles
21:17 - 15 miles
21:20 – 18 miles
21:19 – 21 miles
22:02 – 24 miles
14:40 – 26 miles

I kind of forgot about this, but my last 4 of my last 5 marathons have been very consistent;

3:09:43 – Grandma’s 2009
3:10:36 – Whistlestop 2009
3:09:42 – Grandma’s 2010
3:24:41 – Grandma’s 2011
3:09:38 – TCM 2013

I guess the good news is that even though that’s a 4 ½ year stretch, I’m still running just as fast. And now that I think about it, the last 4 have been as a Masters runner, so yesterday’s race is my Master’s PR.

I should mention the weather. It was 45 degrees at the start, the flags were hanging, and the sun was coming out. I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather – at least for anyone that broke 3:15. After that it started to rain, but I timed it well.

One thing that stands out to me in this race was running with this guy I didn't know, from mile 15 all the way to the finish. We were constantly passing each other back and forth and we never said a word to one another. Heck, I didn’t even know if he knew I was keying off of him. Once we finished and were in the chute we started talking about how much we helped each other. It was really cool – one of those things you can’t plan - they just happen.


High-fives at mile 24.  Thanks to Terrance Lee for the photo.

I’ll end by saying that this whole training cycle has been a blast; changing my diet, shedding weight, mixing in cross training, cutting my mileage, feeling great for workouts, getting in some solid long runs, and just getting back on the marathon “horse” has been great. After the last 3 years of training, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run a decent marathon again. So, it’s nice to be back.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

GO TIME

Here I sit the night before the race. I don't have much to report from the taper. It's been pretty normal, meaning I felt great for about 2 week, but the last week I've only felt so-so. In my last post I wrote about a great run 2 weeks ago that include 2 x 3 miles at MP. Well last Wednesday I ran 7 miles, including 2 at MP. Those 2 at MP were at 7:13 pace, which is slower than two weeks ago - and they felt harder. So like I said, my taper has been normal.

The forecast looks pretty good; 45 degrees for the low, 56 for the high. The biggest concern all week has been the rain. After not having much rain for like 2 months, it's been raining off and on for 4 days straight. Right now they're saying "spotty showers possible". Another concern has been the wind. It seems like it's been really windy all week long, but now they're saying a 5 mpw N/NW wind.

Mainly I wanted to get a final post in before the race to mention my goals and race plan. Some people like to keep this stuff to themselves, but I don't mind sharing. Heck, it's as much for me if I ever want to come back and see what I was thinkng leading up to a certain race. Anyway, everytime I've been asked this week what I'm hoping to run I've said sub-3:10, but I think I have a shot at sub-3:05 on a good day. Right now my race plan is to go out around 7:10 pace, which equates to just under 3:08. If I'm a little slow, like 7:20s for the first 2-3 miles, that's okay. I'd rather be a little slow, than too fast - like I was at the COL 25K where I was trying to run MP and went through the first mile in 6:50. Tomorrow I'd like to go through the half between 1:33 - 1:34. That way if I'm feeling good I can negative split and run 3:05. If things are just okay, I can still hang on for a 3:10. Besides, I can't see a crash and burn if I run in that range for the first half. I'll have to look it up again, but I think anything faster than 3:05:41 and it'll be my fastest marathon in like 5 years.

Just over 12 hours till the start. GO TIME!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

COMING TOGETHER

Two weeks till TCM and I'm just gonna say it; I feel great. It seems like it's been forever since I had a decent training cycle for a marathon. I've really enjoyed this training cycle and I'm liking how things are coming together down the stretch.

Thursday called for 4 x 1200m, but there's this prairie loop at Hyland that is probably between 900 and 1000 meters. It's a great place to get back to my cross country roots, get in a fun workout that includes hills and leg speed.

I decided to head back to the trails for my last 20 miler. After the run I posted on Facebook that I don't know how fast I am, but I sure feel strong - especially considering that this training cycle has included an 18 miler and two 20 milers on the hilly trails of Lebanon Hills, plus a 22 miler on the TCM course.

WEEK #14
Monday: Day Off
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 7 miles on the trails
Thursday: 10 miles with 5 x ~1K run on the Hyland trails
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: BIKED 12.5 miles
Sunday: 20 miles on Lebanon Hills trails

Total:47 miles plus 12.5 miles of biking

Nothing to fancy this last week. Wednesday I hit a dirt track at one of the local middle schools for some 600m repeats. I tried to focus on 5K race pace, rather than going all-out on every repeat. Then today's long run just called for 17 miles, but I added a little twist. During the run I stopped at a high school track and ran 2 x 3 miles at MP. The first set was at 7:15 pace and felt really comfortable. Then I dropped down to 7:01 pace for the last set. I could tell I was working harder than the first set, but it still felt comfortable. So now I'm pretty confident with my plan of going out in the 7:10 - 7:15 range.

WEEK #15
Monday: Day Off
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 8 miles with 6 x 600m on track
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: Day Off
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 17 miles with 2 x 3 miles at MP on track

Total: 40 miles

Sunday, September 08, 2013

4 WEEKS AND COUNTING

Would it be a marathon training cycle if some doubt didn’t creep in? Things have been sailing along pretty well for 3 month, but then I got a cold and scaled back my training for a couple of week. On Labor Day I ran a 10K that was so-so. While I felt fine, I just couldn’t go any faster. At mile 5, I seriously thought I wasn’t going to break 40 minutes. I figured I had to be at 32-flat at 5 miles and when I saw 32:15 instead, I thought it was over. I was able to pick it up and run my fastest mile of the day to finish in 39:50.

This morning I ran the Jeff Winter City of Lakes 25K. My plan was to treat this like marathon race day and go out at the exact pace I want for TCM, which is in the 7:10 range. I thought I was holding things back, but I still passed 1 mile in 6:54. I settled down a little after that and ran everything between 6:58 and 7:11. If you look at my 3 miles splits, they’re 21:01, 21:19, 21:12, 21:08, 21:07. Overall, my pace was 7:03. What’s the problem, you ask. Well, it didn’t feel like marathon pace. I don’t think I could run another 10.7 miles at that pace.

Of course, there are some factors (read excuses) to keep in mind; I ran 10 miles yesterday, this race came at the end of my biggest week yet, conditions weren’t awful, but not ideal either, blah, blah, blah.

Maybe backing off to 7:10 pace, carbo loading and tapering will be enough come October 6th.

Given that TCM is on a Sunday, and so was today’s race, I’m transitioning from Sun – Sat weeks to Mon – Sun weeks. Not a big deal, but it means I’ll run my last few long runs on Sundays, instead of Saturdays.

WEEK #13
Monday: 10K race, 39:50, 10 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 11 miles with Scott and Lance
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Day Off
Saturday: 10 miles
Sunday: 25K race, 1:49:30, 18 miles

Total 58 miles

A couple of weird things. How can I love half marathons, but hate 25Ks? And how can a couple of guys that I beat by minutes in the 15K, beat me by over a minute in 10K. I don’t get it.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

VITAL SIGNS

I’m happy to report that I’m over my cold – and that I survived last week’s heat wave where the heat index was over around 105 degrees a couple of days. Given my cold and the weather I decided to keep things easy this week, then I can make a push for 2 more weeks before tapering.

WEEK #12
Sunday: Day off
Monday: 5 miles
Tuesday: 5miles
Wednesday: 8 miles with Scott at Hyland
Thursday: Day off
Friday: 7 miles at Lebanon Hills
Saturday: 13 miles

Total 38 miles

Finished August with 171 miles, plus 88 on the bike.

It’s been a while since I mentioned anything about my diet. I still haven’t eaten meat since April. I join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and I get a bunch of fresh veggies every Tuesday night. Each week I feel overwhelmed by the amount of veggies I get, but somehow I’ve seemed to get through most of it. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to use veggies I’ve never eaten before, like fennel and eggplant, as well as how to get through a head of cabbage 3 weeks in a row.

When it comes to my weight, I always try to weigh myself every Saturday morning after my long run. Typically, I’ve been in the 145-150 pound range. Then, from Halloween till New Year’s I probably gain 10 pounds. At the time I switched my diet I weighed 148 pounds. Within a month I was below 140 pounds and I haven’t seen 140 all summer. After yesterday’s run I weighed in at 135 pounds, which is the lowest I’ve been since high school.

Given my new diet – and the fact that I haven’t had a physical exam in 6 years – I thought it’d be a good idea to go see my doctor. I met with him last Friday and here are my vital signs.

August 2013

Total Cholesterol 123
Triglycerides 80
HDL 41
Chol/HDL Ratio 3.0
Non-HDL Chol 82
LDL 66
Blood Pressure 100 over 70
Height 5’ 9.5”
Weight 139 lbs 6 oz
BMI 20.3
Pulse 56
Glucose 96


September 2007

Total Cholesterol 132
Triglycerides 85
Chol/HDL Ratio 3.4
LDL 76
Blood Pressure 90 over 60
Height 5’ 10”
Weight 146 lbs 10 oz
BMI 21.0
Pulse 68

A few things that stand out to me;

Six years ago my HDL (good cholesterol) levels were low, but so my total cholesterol, so my ratio between the two was okay. Now my HDL levels are up and my total cholesterol is down, so my ratio is even better.

I’m six years older by 7 pounds lighter and my Body Mass Index is down a point.

My pulse dropped from 68 to 56.

Oh, it just occurred to me, the spring of 2007 was when I set all my post-college PRs, so this is only 4 months after I was super-fit.

My doctors one suggestion is to take a B12 supplement due to my vegetarian diet. If nothing else, things aren’t getting any worse, so I guess I continue down this road.