Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Instant Classic Trail Marathon: A Long, Slow, Training Run

Jo and I made the long drive down to Chester, VA. for the Instant Classic Trail Marathon. I had planned to run the full marathon as a supported training run and Jo was running the half marathon in preparation for her marathon debut.

We drove down on Friday and planned to stay the night. We were joined by a good friend, and fellow ultra runner, Rob Goeckermann. Rob is getting ready for his first 50 miler, which is coming up soon. So, at the last minute I talked him into signing up for this event as a training run.

I'm an enabler.

This race is held at the Pocahontas State Park, a few miles outside Richmond. The park is a beautiful setting for the event. The trails are a mix of single track, double track, but mostly fire roads that are almost entirely unused, but fairly well maintained.

The full marathon started at 7:45 on Saturday and had a wave start, with 4 waves. I was in the first wave. Jo's race got underway right after the marathon runners got on the trails.

Jo and I before the race.

Me and Rob before the race...waiting for things to get started.

Over the last few months, I have been working my way into a new shoe for trail running. I had already abandoned trail shoes (almost) entirely and had been wearing lightweight, neutral trainers. I finally felt like my feet were ready for a long trail run in my Brooks T-7 Racers. If you're not familiar with them, they're essentially a racing flat for road running. I love them because they weigh almost nothing, but they subject my feet to a lot of abuse. It's taken time to work into them full time, especially on trails.

My "trail" shoes!

Like I stated earlier, this is strictly a training run. I have very few goals for 2012, but some days I feel like racing when I should just be running. It's hard to hold back and run easy when you feel like you can be competitive. So I had to have a long talk with myself before the race and I warned myself about the need to go easy and just enjoy the trail. I resigned myself to even sit mid-pack if necessary and just get some miles in. I was fully prepared for an easy run and nothing was going to mess up my plan.

Here I am leading the race right from the start.
I'm a weak, weak man who completely lacks self control!

After a half mile or so, I was able to reign myself back in and I allowed several runners to pull ahead while I backed into a more leisurely pace.

One of the coolest things about this race is the course markings. They're everywhere! Not ribbons like we usually see, but signs with directional arrows and every arrow has your current milage stated right on it.

Like this!

I was SOOOOO happy to see this sign, because I felt like I had only run .05 miles, when clearly, it was .07. I suppose that sign could have been measured in FEET, but that would have threatened consistency later on.

And after running for what felt like FOREVER, I found this sign!

I thought to myself..."So, that's what 9/100 of a mile feels like?"

These things were everywhere!

The course was mostly "flat", especially if you looked at the elevation profile over 26 miles. But what you can't tell from that profile, is that these trails are constantly rolling. The gradual up and down went on for the entire race. There were some very flat sections mixed in, but also some pretty steep, grinding hills. It had a way of wearing you down by lulling you into a sense of a flat course, but it was pretty challenging.

This particular Park really is beautiful and has a wide range of outdoor activities. Its just a very cool park.

Half marathon runners stretching and relaxing after the race.

Like most marathons, I didn't eat during the race. I did take one cup of water and one cup of sports drink from each table. The aid stations were spaced every 2-3 miles and were being operated by some truly fantastic volunteers. Everybody was extremely helpful and supportive and it was great!

As the day wore on, the temperatures rose into the mid 70's. I'm not quite acclimated to this weather in distance running yet and it began to feel a little oppressive around mile 20. But it was great to finally be running a race under blue skies. My luck with that has not been great so far this year. Every race up to this point has been a muddy, nasty, freezing mess!

The last 2 miles of the course represent a net loss of elevation, but the "rolling" terrain gets steeper and it was constant UP and DOWN. But at my pace, it was really only a minor annoyance because I wasn't concerned about my finish time.

I rolled into the finish at 4:10:08. My slowest marathon in a long time, but much needed and very enjoyable!

Wrapping it up! Very fun...

I finished feeling great! My feet were in almost perfect shape despite my experiment with the T-7's. My hips were slightly tight from the constant up and down, but that's the type of conditioning I was looking for.

My buddy Rob rolled in shortly after I did. Rob is a tough guy. He could probably run that race carrying me on his back.

Jo had a good finishing time and she really enjoyed the race. I was proud of her effort and it was a great course for her to get some miles on while training for her marathon. She was BEAMING after the race and had a ton of great things to say about her experience.

I would encourage others to come out and run this event. This was the second year for this race and I am certain this event is going to get very popular very soon and become almost impossible to gain entry into. Get in on it while you can!

I'm planning to rest and run pretty easy between now and my next ultra. Jo and I will be traveling to Albuquerque, NM so I can run the Cedro Peak 45 miler in 3 weeks. This isn't a goal race either, but I want to be rested enough to enjoy all 45 miles!

But between now and then, Jo and I will be running the beaches in Jamaica while we rest. Jamaica may not be known for its running opportunities, but it works pretty well for me!

Happy Trails!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mississippi 50...Rain, Mud, pain, and GOOD TIMES!!!

Jo and I traveled to Mississippi this weekend so I could run the Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50 trail race.

Getting down here to the "Deep South" was no easy task in itself. We had to fly into Jackson, Mississippi and due to record breaking tornado and storm activity, we had to sustain a pretty severe delay in Atlanta. We were checking our option for a return trip home when the plane finally arrived to whisk us away to Jackson.

Dammit...now I actually have to run this thing.

Coming off a tough 50 miler last week, I was unsure about the potential outcome of this race. I've been feeling out of shape and unmotivated for the last few months and have been too busy to even think about my races and training. But who can pass up a trip to Laurel, Mississippi?

Here I am right before the race, looking all serious and contemplative. Notice I'm wearing my awesome race shirt from the 50 miler I ran last weekend. I love the shirt...you can't beat quality swag!

The race started at 6:00 AM and the race documents promised that we wouldn't need to carry lighting with us, as sunrise would be underway, emitting "surreal predawn darkness". In Mississippi, this means that it will be light enough to see the person directly in front of you, but not much else.

As promised...we were off on time! I'm buried in there somewhere.

The 50k runners and the 50 milers started at the same time. For the 50 mile runners, we had to do THREE 12.5 mile loops, then head out on TWO 6.3 mile loops.

Due to the rain leading up to the race, the trails were nasty, muddy, sloppy and some of the water crossings were swollen to waist level, when they are normally ankle deep. The trail is mostly runnable, but the greasy mud added a level of complexity.

The pictures below illustrate the trail conditions...

I finished my first loop in 1:56 and felt like I could maintain that pace for most of the race. I was feeling surprisingly good, and just allowed my body to dictate the pace.

As always, Jo was taking care of my crew needs and did an amazing job. There is no better ultra crew in the world!

This is me after the first loop. I have mud ON MY SHIRT!!! Seems a little excessive to me. Brand new shirt + mud = pissed off Kelly.

Nonetheless, the brownie I was eating seemed to make it all better. I love me some brownies!!

My second outing on the big loop was 2 minutes slower, coming in at 1:58, and my third loop even slower at 2:04. I had completed 37.5 miles in 6:01:02. I still felt good, but the trail was being chewed up and brutalized by the relentless foot traffic. I was looking forward to getting off this section.

Coming in to finish my last 12.5 mile loop before I started the "little loops".

After finishing the big loops, I was excited to head out onto new trail...new scenes...and hopefully less mud and standing water.

I was 6 hours into a 50 miler, and I had to essentially run TWO 10k's to complete before I could finish the race. I like breaking my race down to more manageable pieces...running an ultra is like eating an elephant...one small piece at a time!

I was happy to see that the small loop was slightly flatter, a little drier, and easier to run. In my first loop, I passed a few 50 mile runners and felt good to be gaining spots. I was running with heavy legs, but still felt good. The new trail revitalized me and I felt like the end was near.

I ran that 10k loop in 1:02:01, which I was pretty pleased with after 44 miles of running!

Here I am getting some food before heading back out. This was the point that I absolutely knew that I was going to have a good day. Pure happiness!

As I started my last loop, I realized I was well on pace for a 50 mile PR. My current PR came only a week ago at the Febapple Frozen 50. Not being overly sentimental, I was willing to crush it if I had a chance!

I ran my final loop like a man possessed! There were several runners on this section of the trail, but several were 50k runners, finishing up their day.

I forced myself to run hard in spite of the pain that was building in my body. I pushed harder than I normally do and it was excruciating. My legs became heavy and laden with lactic acid. I wanted to walk, but pushed that thought from my head. I was grinding my way to the finish and vowed to hold my pace at all costs.

I had to pause at this runner when I passed him, and was thankful that Jo took a picture of him. This is EXACTLY what I hope to be doing at his age. I love stuff like this! This is my buddy Leon in 40 years!!!

I was able to pass two 50 mile runners on my last loop that I had been seeing from a distance all day. They both looked fast and fit, but they had faded in these final miles. I am always reluctant to pass fast runners in fear of simply having them pass me back. This can lead to "ego running" that leads to us swapping places several times and tends to sap my reserves and leave me feeling foolish! But after sizing them up for about a mile, I decided I could put them behind me and keep them there. I gave them encouragement as I passed and got the same in return. It's a satisfying feeling when you see runners pull away from you all day and then manage to pass them near the end. I was pleased.

The last 1/4 mile of the race is on a hard packed gravel road. When I emerged from the trail onto this surface, I let my legs fly! I knew I was going to score a big PR and I was feeling great!

Finishes like this leave me hanging between laughing and crying. I'm swept up in emotion, but my mind is racing and doesn't seem to know how to react. All I can say is...these are the moments I live for.

A few pictures of my finish...

I finished that 10k loop in 1:02:23, only 22 seconds slower than the previous loop. This gave me a finishing time of 8:05:26. This is 16 minutes faster than the PR I scored last weekend in New Jersey. I was elated!

I want to take a moment to mention the volunteers. The aid station crews were amazing. They were engaging and entertaining. The food was great and everybody was very helpful and supportive.

The entire race staff did a great job and I think this is a very well managed event and would encourage others to travel down here for a great event.

For finishing the 50 mile event, we receive this...

I am very proud of my buckle collection, but I am conflicted about giving buckles for races below the 100 mile distance. I'm pleased to have it and I think its a beautiful award, but as a 100 mile runner, I simply don't know what to think. I'm not condemning, or passing judgment. I'm simply conflicted.

Jo and I have next weekend off, but will be heading down to Virginia on the 17th to run in the Instant Classic Trail Marathon. I'll be doing the full and Jo will be running the half. It should be a great weekend and we're excited!

I hope to see some of you there. Until then...happy trails!