Yes, That's a GIGANTIC Sweat-cicle

Yes, that's a GIGANTIC Sweat-Cicle

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moonshiner 5K

I have to give some props toward this race. I'm not a big 5K fan but when I first saw this it popped out at me as a must do. I'm actually not sure I have ever done a 5K on trails. This one was not only on trails but at night and sounded like a lot of fun. Some other bonus': It was just a short drive down the mountain in Greenville, SC and it was on Friday night. I would still have the whole weekend to do what people do on weekends. Yardwork!

I saw this race advertised on my new favorite medium, Facebook. A Greenville friend of mine, Jeff, was going and I thought it would be a good reason to come down there and share an after race beer or two. I used to live in Greenville, but that was back in my fat-boy days. The race venue was Paris Mountain State Park, a place I had seen on the map but never actually ventured in. I arrived at Jeff's downtown house in time to car pool to the start. Apparently, the race had sold out and parking was going to be tight. Jeff, immediately hyped me up and told me it would be a pretty easy course (for me) and I would probably win. Nice. I don't think I have ever won any running race, and my 46 yr old legs really don't have the turnover speed to be anywhere near the front of the pack. Nevertheless, it sounded like a good plan so I got ready and scooted off for a long warmup.

By the time I got back from my warmup, the crowd of 300+ had gathered at the start. The sun had set a while back and it was now indeed dark. We listened to a few instructions from the race director and switched on the headlamps in prep for the rush to the trails. I have to say, it was pretty cool getting ready to run on trails that I had never seen in the total darkness. It made for an extra adrenaline boost anticipating the unknown. I have done a lot of nighttime adventure racing but never a trail race at 5K speeds. This was gonna be fun.

The race started off very typical for me. In the front and way too fast. I had been told that it was a short section of pavement before hitting the single track and I wanted to make sure I was near the front before that transition. It turned out that we had almost 1 mile of pavement (up hill) to the trails. Not knowing how far it was, I pushed pretty hard and hit the trail in first place. At this point, I was pretty pleased. I know I went too hard but I felt a bit recovered once it leveled out and I could see no lights behind me. Somehow, I faked everyone out into letting me go. Maybe they forgot about me and weren't even going to chase. Either way, I settled back into a solid pace for the last two miles.

Eventually, my fitness ran out, (as it should have). I started to see shadows in front of me signaling that there was now someone on my tail. At the same time, my trusty headlamp started flashing signaling that the battery was dying. Nice. I thought it would make it another 20 minutes but apparently not. I had to lower the setting on it (basically to low beam) making it tougher to see the trail footing. New Plan: Let the guy behind me get in front and I use his light to get me through the trails then take him at the end! Plan B, Part 1 worked fine. Problem was, he dropped me as soon as he got in front. I just couldn't hang. Then the next youngun' came along. Same thing. Passed right on by but this time I could actually hang. We both came out of the trail system together and back onto the pavement. I could hear the finish line but I couldn't see it. We took a hard right turn and up a steep driveway. I could now see the finish but it was too late to put on the kick. I made up a little time but finished a couple seconds back in 3rd place.

This was a very cool race. A great break from the usual hot and boring road 5K. Halfmoon Outfitters layed out a well marked course, good eats and swag at the end and turned out a big crowd for this inaugural event. Entries will again be limited next year so be on the lookout. Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tsali Challenge

I love this race. Its one I look forward to every year. Maybe because it is one I do very well at. Maybe because it is one of the first multi-sport races I ever entered. Or, it could be because, in my circle, it allows the winner bragging rights for the whole year. This is one of the oldest, at least that I know about, kayaking offroad triathlons in the country. The venue puts it smack dab in the heart of the US Olympic Kayaking neighborhood (Nantahala Outdoor Center and Rhino Racing Club) and home to a smorgasborg of outdoor studs and otherwise very fit and active people. The US Whitewater Center has officially moved to Charlotte NC but there is still an Old School crowd and heritage that comes with this event. Put that in with an absolutely beautiful venue and this becomes and instant "A" race for my season.

The race venue is at Tsali Recreation Area. Its single track trail system follows the fingers of a resovoir boardering the Smokey Mountain National Park. The race consists of a 4 mile flat water kayak, 5 mile trail run and 15 mile mountain bike. The kayaking start is too small of an area to accomodate all the racers at one time so there are two identical races on the day. One in the morning for the Masters men and all women and one in the afternoon for the open men. In the past, since I am truly of Master material, I have always opted for the morning race. Being the same course, I could always rate myself against everyone even though I wasn't racing head-to-head. The other bonus was that is was in the cool morning temps. I have a major battle with the summer heat and any time I can put out an effort away from the heat, it is a no brainer. I have done the morning races several times. I have waited around in the heat to watch the afternoon guys as well. I have won the morning race and indeed had the course record coming into this year but there was always something in the back of my mind that told me that it was really not apples and apples to compare the two races. The heat KILLS me. It has to hurt everyone else as well. So, this year, I decided to do the afternoon race and see how the old man does against the young boys.

One of the beautiful features of this race is that the kayak leg is handicapped. It starts out in waves with the slowest boats going first followed every minute by the next wave of faster boats totalling 7 differnt waves. The bottom line is that you don't have to have the most expensive boat to win the race. While these times are a bit subjective, the race has over 15 years of experience along with the National Whiterwater Team Manager's rating system (actually very scientific based on boat length and hull design) and is the best way possible to make for a fair start. Of course, I have my own super fast boat for these type of races, but all that means is that I start last, giving the first guys a seven minute head start.

I made it to the race in time to see the finish of the morning race. As per script, it was nice and cool. By the time my race started at 1pm, the sun was nice and high and the heat was brutal. Starting out in the kayak was uneventful. I had just 4 or 5 other boats in my wave and clear water. It took me about 3 miles to catch all the boats in front of me with the exception of one or two and a couple in my wave. The leg is an out and back section and I exited the water in about 7th or 8th position.

A quick transition to the run and I was off for the hot run up the gravel road to the trail system. Along the way I grabbed a water bottle as there are no aid stations. I was already overheating so this was a good move. This section has a 1 mile exposed uphill gravel road to negotiate before hitting the mostly shadded trail system. Its really easy to blow it right here. You need to keep the adranaline in check and get the blood flowing from the arms to the legs in the section before letting loose. I know this section well and kept cool passing one or two but at a manageable pace. On the trails, I pushed as cruised. I really played it by feel and backed off whenever I felt overextended. There is a very nice mix of hills and rollers and I caught a couple of others early on and was mostly on my own for the meat of the run. I was really feeling the heat now and wondering if I could pull this off. I finished my bottle but still no end in sight.

As I entered the transition area to the bike, I was really questioning what I had left in the body. Not so much my endurance but the heat I can take. I have a history of meltdowns and I was feeling horrible at the moment. Mostly, I needed some water. Luckily, I had a fresh bottle on the bike and took a long draw off of it before heading out on the bike leg. I was now in third place but still a few minutes back. I needed a good effort here to take the tape.

As I made my way out of the transition area, I tried to regroup and focus on the task at hand. I had to believe that all the heat was effecting the other guys as well. If not, well, then they were just better today. Either way, I was not going to give up. Never give up.

I quickly got into a good pace I could maintain to get my body switched over from runner to biker. It was another long uphill gravel road to the trail system and I just put my head down and focused. Surprisingly, I found the two guys in front of me in the first 3 miles. They were indeed struggling. Maybe from heat or maybe from effort. I kept pushing hard and dropped them on a steep climb. I didn't go into the red to do it. I just kept a very hard pace. If they could hang, then good for them. If not, then I break their spirit quickly and settle into a hard drive to the end. The latter was the game at the moment but, again, I ran out of water.

The bike leg was advertised as 13 miles long. I was near the end of that length but still not near the end that I remembered. I had the usual and horrible thoughts that I took a wrong turn and was now off course. This slowed me down a bunch as you just don't have the same drive if you think you are racing hard in the WRONG direction. Indeed that was how I felt. Now at 14 miles according to my odometer, I was very worried. I had to keep telling myself that I didn't see any other turns or signs. This was the correct way. Soon, I came to a trail intersection where the run had come into the course. I now knew that I was indeed on course. Still out of water I hammered as hard as I could to the end.

I crossed the line in first place with a new course record! Bettering my time from last year by a few minutes. First things first. Get some water! I was smoked. Feeling good to be finished but really bonking.

I'm glad I did this afternood race. It is truly not the same to race in the morning. As much as I like racing against an open group (not masters or whatever) the heat just makes for a more unpleasant experience for me. I think I will drop back to the old guys group next year....or maybe not. This felt pretty sweet on the top step.

Summer of This and That

I use this blog more as a race record than anything else. I can keep track of my past results and thoughts as I finish a tough race or pass through a threshold or just mark time and milestones. Unfortunately, life and work gets in the way more than I would like. So this is very easy to get left behind. I've had a lot of time in hotels over the past couple of months to keep things current but just haven't been able to pull the trigger. For those few that actually read this, I am attempting to make this happen now. Its not that I am a super human and did the next few reports in one chunk, but they were done over a period of a few months.

Just to catch up on a few issues. I had been partaking in the North Carolina XTERRA Trail Race series. This is a 4 race series trail run series where you earn points toward an age group ranking. Winners of this series get bragging rights and a free entry into the XTERRA National Championships in Bend, Oregon. Bend is unquestionably, my favorite place in this country. It is a place I dream of calling home one day. So, my goal was to get the series win and head out there for beautiful venue and a 13 mile trail race. Maybe hit a few of the killer brew-pubs while I'm there...maybe.

Well, I did indeed win the points series for my 45-49 age group. I competed in 3 of the 4 races and had AG wins in 2 of those 3. That part complete, I just needed to get work out of the way and train for the distance. What I didn't count on was a 3-week cold I caught on one of my business trips. It hit me very hard and especially hard in the chest. I opted to punt on the race. It bummed me out but it really made no sense to spend the effort and money to go out to the race when I really felt like shit. I may give it a shot again next year, but for now, I at least know that I have the potential to compete in this type of venue and am happy that I was able to set a reasonable goal and achieve it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Captain Thurmond's Challenge

A long hot Summer of hit and miss racing kind of put a damper on my motivation. It seemed like no matter my fitness, my race results have been ordained by the temperature, I.E. meltdown madness. Nonetheless, I have had a few good results lately and that was enough spark to push me up to Fayetteville, WV for one of my favorite races of the year. Captain Thurmond's Challenge!

The CTC is an unusual style triathlon. Totally offroad, each leg of the event could be a challenging race on its own. It embarks with a leman's start to a Mtn. Bike leg, followed by an 8 mile Class IV kayak down the New River gorge finishing with a brutal 8 mile climb out of the gorge and back into the cool little town of Fayetteville. Starting as a "challenge" among friends, the race has grown each year to be a full blown solid competition. With its largest field including the past 4 year's champions, and biggest prize purse to date, this year's 15th edition proved to be no exception.
In past years, the race required a shuttle to the start in the old-timey river resort of Thurmond. But to make it a bit more spectator friendly the past few editions have started and finished in Fayetteville. We start downtown in a carnival atmosphere at a very gentlemanly 12:00pm, just the right time to make it good and hot during the toughest part of the race.
Racers line up in front of the courthouse for the leman's start (we run to our bikes which are staged about 100 meters down the road). No easy thing to do with Kevlar biking shoes on pavement! Check out this video from last year's start.

I've done this race several times. I've finished first and I've finished dead last. For me, my results usually get dictated by the way I start. This year, I decided to keep it cool and stay under the red zone and try to finish strong. There are relay teams in the mix and you never know who is pulling a strong solo bike leg and who is going balls out just to pass the baton and bail at the next transition. I wasn't going to worry this time and would just do my own thing for the bike section. The bike leg is a big paved hill right from the start. Its usually very important to get out in front here before dropping into the single track. I went out pretty hard but kept it manageable and hit the trail in about 6th place. This section is 13 miles long and has some tight technical, wet and rooty trail mixed in with some screaming fast gravel downhills. I was able to pass a few folks but had to let a few go so I could keep my HR under control.

The trail ends in a 1 mile super steep paved grade down to the river. I have hit 50MPH there before. This year, the National Park Service decided (in their infinite wisdom) to enforce their 10 MPH speed limit. They said that they would "detain and fine" anyone exceeding this speed. For that reason, the race director asked for all racers to treat this as a no-pass zone. Whatever place you were in when you exited the forest, you should just cool down and coast (or in most cases, ride your brakes) into the transition. Indeed the NPS was out in force and clocking our speeds. Amazing use of taxes. I was matching last year's champ, Brian Menzies, to this point but let him drift off toward the end of the pavement. I had a pretty slow transition to the boat and let him slip away with a minute lead.

The river was a bit lower this year but always exciting. I put in the water in about 4th position and had a pretty solid run. I could see Brian the whole way but made no ground on him. In fact he was putting time on me for the entire course. The raft traffic was heavy as usual but I managed to time my entries in the major rapids to avoid being steamrolled by the large rubber beasts. I kept good lines until the last two rapids where I lost focus slightly and got turned around backward.
My 13' long down river boat is not an easy machine to spin around so I lost a bit of time with these lapses. I came out of the boat in 2nd place but Brian was now a full two minutes up on me heading into the hardest part of the race...the monster climb out of the gorge.

I had nearly drained my 2 liter Inov8 RacePro18 Hydration Pack during the bike leg and had been sipping on an additional water bladder during the paddle so I was in pretty good shape going into the run. I felt good. I could no longer see Brian ahead of me because of the terrain but I knew I could make some ground on him. It would all boil down to how good was HE feeling. Apparently, pretty good. I took a full 8 minutes off my run time from last year but was only able to make up 65 seconds on him for the 8 mile run back into Fayetteville. I ended up in 2nd place just a handful of seconds behind him. Same order as last year, but much tighter. I was really hoping to make this my last time at this event and go out on top. I stayed in control the entire way and never really redlined except right at the start. I felt very good in my trusty Inov8 X-Talon 212's. They were the perfect choice for this trail system. With all that going for me, I may just have to give it one more try.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Devil went down to Georgia

Yes he did folks....and brought his hell fire weather with him. I hadn't raced in a while so I thought I might take on a quickie race down in Gainesville, Ga over the weekend. Chicopee Woods Offroad Duathlon. It was a 3 mile run, 9 mile ride and 3 mile run on the SORBA built trails of Chicopee Woods.

I had a pretty good build up to this one. Did a few very good workouts and was embracing the Southeastern Heat wave that was hovering over Western North Carolina. I felt in fairly good shape. Even thought the weather forecast was calling for temps in the 90's and high humidity, I thought it was short enough that I could 'weather' the storm, so to speak. Bad pun and bad idea.

Trying to save a few bucks I figured I would drive down late at night, find a place to park and sleep in the car. No problem on the driving and parking but the temps were still in the 80's with no breeze. It was a sweltering night of 'rest' stuffed in the car. Still, I didn't feel all that bad in the morning and I was right at the start area so it was all good. I found a quickie mart nearby for a cup of coffee, checked in and started to set things up.

I met lots of old friends there and since it was the last of the Georgia Offroad Duathlon race series, lots of fast racers showed up as well. I did a good bike and run warm up before the start and felt the humidity quickly suck the life out of my legs. I was already having a hard time staying cool.

We had a 200 meter road run to get to the single track. When the race started, my plan was to go for the hole shot and stay in the front of the group. There were quite a few racers lined up and I didn't want to have to deal with passing folks right away. At the gun, I went out at my customary Way Too Fast pace and tried to hang with the lead group. This race also had relay racers and I wasn't sure who was going solo so I tried hang. I made it to the single track in 5th or 6th place but the lead 4 guys were sub 6min pace at that point. No way was I going to make that work so I pulled back and let them go. By the time I made it out of the forest and back to the bike transition, I was right where I wanted to be position wise and felt like I was the stronger runner among my peers but I was already in the red zone. Sirens were going off in my head telling me of pending doom. I tried to ignore it as I was in prime position to hit the bike. I just needed to get on the bike and cool down a bit.

I poured a bottle of water on my head before hopping on the bike but it just felt like a heat shower. The single track turned out to be a lot of fun. I tried to kick out the pace and catch up to the lead group but soon had a few folks pass me signaling my pending bonk. I was fading fast and just had no power in the pistons. I was overheating bad now and made it out of the trail system several minutes back.

Again, I did my best to do a fast transition but as soon as I started back on the pavement route to the running loop, I knew right then it was over. I was smoked. I thought maybe I would cool down a bit if I just took it easy but soon I was starting to feel dizzy and my breathing was labored. I began to walk at the first hill. Its over. I managed only a 11-12 minute pace for the last run leg and limped in several minutes back and way out of the game. My only saving grace was that I didn't DNF. I thought about it about 1/2 mile into the final run. I knew from past experience it as over and possibly I was in serious trouble. I was in the heat exhaustion phase and could have easily stroked out.

When I got back to the finish, I poured as much water over my head as possible. Drank several cups of Gatorade and water but was still having trouble breathing. I needed out of the heat so I packed everything up as quick as possible and hopped in the car for the maximum AC experience. I don't normally leave a race before the awards because I think its just bad sportsmanship, but I did this time. I needed away from this Devil palace.
I have had heat melt downs before. In fact, I have never had a good race in the heat...EVER. For some reason, I can't seem to learn that lesson. My body just can't process the heat and I have no mechanism to cool my body in the high humidity. I just need to choose my battles a little more carefully.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

French Broad Challenge

Well the birthday week ended just how it started. Overindulgence and excess. I was a far cry from prepared for my first 'A' race of the season but I towed the line anyway as I was really looking forward to this one.

The French Broad River Challenge has been a race just waiting to happen in Asheville, NC. A race that morphed from the old Riverlink Triathlon of days gone past and now part of the Mountain Sports Festival, the FBC was a showcase for the multi-sport scene that the festival was promoting. Starting at a very gentlemanly 5pm at the heart of the festival village, the race would be a 1.5 mile sprint from the velodrome to the French Broad River. From there, we would hop in kayaks and paddle downstream 2.5 miles. Next was a quick transfer to road bikes for an 11 mile time trial then back to running shoes for the final 3 mile run back to the festival and one last lap around the velodrome race track. It was a great venue and a prime time to bring out some tough competition and it didn't disappoint.

I really did have big plans to be in prime shape for this event. I knew there would be some good racers coming and I wanted to make sure I was at least in the game. Problem was it landed at the end of a busy race month and right in the middle of a 'birth-week' celebration. I lost a little focus and began enjoying the party before the work was done. I wouldn't say my pre-race week was a total washout but it certainly was not anything I would recommend.

I got to the race in plenty of time to set up my gear and transition areas. I tried to hang in the shade as much as possible and relax but with the festival energy and racers starting to mass, I needed something to do so I went to change clothes a little early. Good thing. As I was gathering the race kit, I noticed that I only had ONE shoe!!! Crap, I had dropped off a pair of shoes for the final run leg with my bike transition gear but I needed a pair for the first run and trek out of the water. I must have let a shoe drop out of the car during my gear placements. Running in my Inov8 Recolites, while super comfortable for after race wear, was not an option I wanted to deal with. So, back in the car I go to drive back to the bikes and pick up my RocLite 295's. Unfortunately, a 5K road race had just started on the route to my bike. This caused the police to shut down traffic. No problem, just a slight panic attack thinking I would now miss the start of my own race.

I made it back to the start in time to catch the pre-race meeting in the now very hot afternoon sun. Standing on the track waiting for the race to start, I was beginning to feel the rush and knew that all the beer and cake from the previous week made no difference right now. It was game on and there was no more time to worry. The race started straight away and very fast. Kevin Lisska and Jay Curwen began to set the heavy pace and I followed right behind. I kept thinking that it was only 1.5 miles. I just needed to hang on. Their pace was increasingly more than I could hold and soon fell back. I dug deep and finished the first run leg at a 5:50 pace but still found myself 30 seconds back in third place climbing into the boats.

The boat, Ahhhhh. I made a pretty quick transition and began to settle down for a section of the race that has always been very kind to me. I've been a long time paddler and had a speedy boat for the venue. It took a few minutes to catch up to Kevin and Jay as they were going very hard but I soon caught my rhythm and passed them by. These two are super strong riders and runners and I knew I needed to put the hammer down here. It was my only hope to keep them away from me. I did indeed put some time on them and came out of the water for the bike leg in first place. Unfortunately, former olympic paddler, Lecky Haller, was right on my tail. I had a bit of a brain fart looking for my bike. I lost a little mental focus and ran around trying to remember what my bike looked like amung all the bikes in the rack. During my little mouse maze test, Lecky hopped on his bike and headed out just in front of me.

I've raced against Lecky many times. I win some, I lose some. With my current fitness, I didn't trust that I could let him go and wait to catch him in the final run. I got on the bike and settled into a pace to match his speed and waited for the blood to work its way into my legs. When I felt good enough, I went for it and passed him hard, hoping to drop him right there and be done with it. Just after that, I saw something flash past my left side. It was Jay streaming past me like a bullit. I looked down at my speedometer and was going 26 mph. He had to be going 35+ Incredible.... Now in second place, Lecky got a second wind and passed me as well. Because of drafting rules, I had to drop back 15 bike lengths before passing him back. Touble was, I was starting to doubt my fitness and didn't know if I could. I tried to wait it out but got a little nervous and made the pass back ahead of Lecky. A mile later, he rolled ahead of me again. He was definitely feeling good today and looked focused as he rolled on through. The course was an out and back, and at the turnaround, I was only a few seconds back in third place. I was still not feeling great so I was content to hang back. A few miles later, Kevin came flying past. Now in 4th place, I had to do something to stop the bleeding so I dug in and gave it one last effort. I was able to bridge the gap back upto Lecky and pass by him one more time. I made it back into the bike transition ahead of him and just 35 seconds back of Kevin in third place. Quickly changing shoes, I began the hot 'sprint' back to the finish.

Switching from bike to run is always tough. Your legs just aren't ready to move in that rhythm right away. It always feels like you are in slow motion. Hopefully, if you are in good form, you begin to snap out of it in about a half mile and begin to feel like a runner again. This time, not so much. It was a HOT HOT road run and I just couldn't get my breathing under control. All that cranking and back and forth with Lecky had taken its toll. I tried to relax and just let it come but I kept looking back and waiting for the others to arrive.

There were a few moments where I thought I was starting to feel normal but then the heat or effort sunk back in and I was back to the same slow motion mode. On the way back into the festival village, I looked back a few times but didn't see anyone. Maybe the heat was slowing everyone else down as well. I rolled into the finish line at a surprizing 7:11 pace in 3rd place. Jay and Kevin finish 1-2 as I faded to 3 minutes back in 1:20:45

This was my shortest, but hardest race of the season. It was a bit stressfull for me but it's nice to know that hard work makes for a good race. Just showing up and hoping for the best is as hard as it SHOULD be. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Luckily, I had a bit of fitness left over and was able to pull out a good finish. Nice race for its inaugeral year. I'll be back.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Birthday Week

Well, its come around again. As much as I run, you'd think I could stay ahead of the bitch. Yes, I have gotten one more year older. My knee still hurts, I still have a beer gut and the real bitch of it all, I still have to work. Way off of the retirment finish line. Oh well.

May has been an exhausting race month. I have one more quicky coming up this weekend at the French Broad Challenge, in Asheville. But, I took a break last weekend and just went out and had fun. I got to do one of my favorite local trail runs and was rewarded with a "three bear sighting". I got in a long kayak and run brick and a fun mt. bike and run brick. Also got a few honey-do list dealios checked off. This week, its some easy but intense workouts then coast into the weekend race.

I'm really looking forward to June. I THINK I am taking the month off of racing and hopefully get back into Ultra fitness. I really think training for a 4-5 hour run really gets me ready for most shorter triathlons. Its great endurance training. And as my good friend Mark Lundblad always tells me, Speed is 90% endurance. I believe him and continue to get faster as I get stronger.

I'm posting a short video I took from a mt. bike ride this weekend. I lost my good video editting software on one of my computers, I know, how could I LOSE it? So, anyway, I had to use some cheap stuff and the processing turned it a bit choppy. Regardless, its a good song.

Until Next time, Enjoy.....d

Monday, May 17, 2010

Elk River Challenge

Another week in May and another race. This time up in Wild and Wonderfull West Virginia. After racing 3 of the last 4 weeks, including the 50k last weekend, I was feeling a bit tweaked. But I just can't pass up a 'kayaking' triathlon. I spotted this Elk River Challenge a couple of weeks ago and quickly threw it on the schedule as a 'must do' event. My race week preparations were pretty lame. A good river paddle, followed by a very tired 3 mile run. Another tired treadmill run at 10min pace and a silly way too hard road bike ride. Needless to say, I didn't have a great deal of confidence in the body mechanics or performance energy going into the weekend.

Dispite not having a threat of snow this weekend, the weather gods were not happy. Strong thunderstorms crashed down all night and were possible the following day as well. This was good news for the boating leg of the race but not for the ride. The race was advertised as a 5 mile paddle, 15 mile road ride and 3 mile run. It was to start at the Clay County High School and follow the Elk River the entire way. On the drive up to Clay from Fayetteville, I knew it would be pretty. The morning brought dry conditions and an absolutely glorious blue sky day. I had never been to this part of West Virginia and I kept asking myself why? It is nestled in the deep valleys formed by the New and the Gauley Rivers. No hotels, stop lights or cell coverage but a very beautiful Elk river.

I arrived on site to find a very friendly race director and staff. They quickly gave me the low down on logistics. We needed to drive a few miles down the river to drop our bikes in some guy's yard that he was nice enough to lend us for the river takeout. We start in our boats from the School (Start/Finish line) in waves, hop on our bikes for a scenic 15 mile country road ride and make our way back to the School. Grab the running shoes and do an out and back to the small town of Clay (making sure you go around the water fountain just after the Rite-Aid) and finish back at the School. Driving down to the bike drop, I realized I may have made a mistake bringing carbon wheels to this one. The road was very rough and loaded with killer pot holes. Topping that off was the plethora of wild dogs and this was NOT looking like a ride you wanted to spend a lot of time in the aero bars. You were going to need a long view and a quick brake hand.

The Male Open wave started first. I felt a little bad bringing my Ruahine Firebolt to this one. It was the perfect boat for the race but it was a bit of an overkill for the other racers. There was only one other 'racing' style boat and the operator was still trying to figure out the skill set to keep it upright. Needless to say, I started off with a big advantage. The boat leg was extra gorgeous. I really enjoyed the paddle and with the high water level, made quick work of the 5 mile sprint down the river. No rocks, no problems. There were more nice folks at the river takeout waving their arms to make sure I didn't miss it. The takeout was a nice sandy beach with an easy grade up to the road.

I was the first out of the water but I had no idea how big my lead was. The bike would travel 5 miles down stream then turn around back to the boat take out, then back to the school. I would be able to see the competition on the way back and do a time check. Doing just that, I passed the 2nd place guy with about a 6 min lead, 8 miles into the ride. I had thought I would have had a bigger lead but he must have been a strong paddler and/or my legs were still shattered from last weekend. He could have been a real strong biker as well so I pushed the pace to keep it difficult to catch me. Passing back through the boating takeout area, a truck pulled right out in front of me, completely blocking the road. If I was on my TT bike it would have been all over. Instead, I was able to grab the brakes and lock up both wheels to avoid the collision. This gave me a pretty good fright. Still shaken from that encounter, I was soon greeted by a pack of 3 dogs looking for a fight. Usually, I don't take shit from dogs. I will get off my bike and attack them! In a race situation, not so much. They seemed to work well together, one trying to cut me off, the other going for my ankle, then one stopped right in front of me. I yelled at them to GO HOME. They must know that one. It worked. Ha. The rest of the bike was smooth and I cruised into the School parking lot, still in first place. Hopped off the bike and threw on the RocLite 295's for the last leg into town.

Now I've mentioned before that I really don't run the road very much. In fact, I really don't have any road shoes. The 295's are about as aggressive as they come for the trails. But, they are still very light and they were setup with elastic laces so I brought them along. They must not be too bad as I was still able to run a sub 6:30 pace for the hot pounding leg into town and back. I had checked out the course before the race and never saw the fountain they were talking about. On my run into town, I kept thinking this was the only thing that could screw me up. Getting lost in a no stop light town. Nice. I can see it now. As I made my way out from the school, I asked the RD one more time if I would know where this fountain was. Yes was the answer. Right after the Rite-Aid. OK.

The run seemed endless for such a short course. It was along a 55 mph, 2 lane highway, mostly in the 2pm sun. I did indeed find the fountain but there was nobody there to make sure I went AROUND it. I must have out run the volunteers. Maybe they were sipping a cold beer in the shade (as this was the exact thing I wanted to do right then). Whatever, I did as I was told and cranked on back to the finish just as the 2nd place guy was leaving on his run. My run was modestly fast but not great. I must have put the hammer down on the bike as I won by over 15 minutes. I finished in 1:35:25.

The post race food and awards were very casual and laid back. More very nice folks and good easy conversation. It was a long haul to drive up to this venue but I really enjoyed the change of scenery and the challenge. Since this was a new course this year, I not only came away with the winning prize money but with the course record as well. It might not last long but its the only CR I've ever held and its mine for at least a year. I'll take it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ice Age Trail 50K

I must not have had enough Winter. One week out from the hottest race day of my season and I was already headed North in search of snow. Well, not really but that's how it played out at last weekend's Ice Age Trail 50 in Wisconsin's Southern Kettle Moraine Forest.

Once again Mark Lundblad and I teamed up, this time heading north to hit the roller coaster historic Ice Age trail system that makes up most of this 50 mile and 50k race. We showed up on site Friday morning to find a balmy 50 deg and rain. No problem because it was supposed to pass in the night and leave us with dry cool conditions for raceday. Perfect ultra weather. We drove around a bit looking at all the road crossings and getting familar with the trail system. Mark had run this race in the past and I had run a few miles on it as well while watching him take the win in 2007 but we were really just waiting for it to stop raining so we could stretch our legs. After a couple of hours, we gave up and ran a few miles to get the blood flowing. Surprisingly, the trails really handled the water well and were in great shape. Back at the hotel, the weathermen were still lying to us. Clearing and cool, Rain ending by morning......

Though the venue held both races, the 50 milers started at 6am and the 50k "Fun Run" folks got to sleep in and start at 8:00. Since Mark was in the former and me the latter, and only one car, I got to experience the early morning event as well. Waking up, it was pretty obvious that the weather had not changed. Except maybe to make it even colder, windier (now 30 mph) and threaten us with SNOW. It was snowing north of the race and felt like it could here at any moment. We debated what clothes to wear as we sipped our coffee with the car pumping out heat and decided that the trails were mostly wooded and offered a break from the wind. We would both go with singlets and gloves. This turned out to be a great call.

The 50 milers started off with a little spitting rain and gusty winds. Not too bad for running but standing around for two hours was going to be chilly. Mark's race did a 9 mile Nordic Loop back to the Start/Finish before heading off on the Ice Age Trails for the remainder of the day, so I waited for his return to pass off a bottle before hiding back in the car. There were a lot of racers milling about now and the hype energy was building. I couldn't do the car thing any more so I started running circles in the parking lot. For once in a blue moon, my legs felt great. Maybe my taper had worked this time. Getting to the hotel at 2am (airplane issues) the previous night kind of screwed up the sleep but I couldn't wait to get going.

My race consisted of an out and back on the northern IA trail system before returning to the Start/Finish area. From there, we did two 9 mile loops of the Nordic XC Ski trail. I thought I had a pretty good plan for the race. 55 minutes out, 55 back. 1:15 kind of easy first loop to see how the terrain felt then hammer the last loop at 1:10. Put my finish time about 4:20. That's all fine and good but I really had no idea what the trails were like. The website said that the 50 mile had 12,000 ft of gain! I questioned that and the response was that that was a typo. 6800 ft was correct. I guessed about 4500' for the 50k. Now if anyone has ever been to Southern Wisconsin, it looks an aweful lot like Northern Illinois. Lots of farms and very flat. Those kind of elevations seemed big to me. I had heard that there were lots and lots of little nasty hills that crept up on you and eventually wore you down like a bad set of tires but 4500' seemed a little generous for the landscape. Something wasn't right.

The race went off without a hitch. I hooked up with a good crew of runners that were pushing me hard. As usual, we were all going too fast and beyond our plans but its race day baby. Go with it, right? The course was beautiful. Pine forest single track, smooth grassy double track and wildflowers foolishly starting to bloom. The weather stunk but I could hardly feel it as the forest protected us from most of the wind. My first 13.2 miles sailed by in 1:41. While I felt very prepared for the race, training, taper and race plan, etc. I made a near fatal error. I had been experimenting with fuel, eletrolytes and ibuprophen. I had my needs down very well. Everything was going to be great as long as I stuck by my dosing schedule. My flaw was a hole in the baggy. At hour 1, I pulled out my electrolytes only to see them scatter all over the forest floor. I had a hole in the bottom of a brand new bag. Uggggh! Since they were white, I was able to collect a few of them but not all. My IB's were gone. I only take two but they were gone. I had a couple of extra of everything but was only able to save one IB. It was now wet and fading fast. I stuffed what I could salvage back into the worthless bag and carried on. I ate all the dirt covered pills I had left but really wanted the IB by the 3 hr mark. I desparately licked the dust out of the bag in a faint hope that it might somehow take away the ITB pain in my hip. I wont do that again. Yuk.

By the time I made it back to the start/finish, I was my usual sweaty mess. Grabbing a fresh bottle, I took off for the first of two 9.2 mile loops. I was still with my running mate, a new aquaintance, Thom (sorry don't remember your last name), but at the next aid station, he dropped back to refuel and I never saw him again. I cought up with a couple of other guys that I had been chasing all morning and ran with them for awhile. Again, they were pushing me pretty hard but I needed it as I was beginning to feel the race. Then the hills hit.

It was described to me by my brother why they call this the Kettle Moraine. The 'kettles' were the endless 20-80 foot dips in the earth. They were steep and plentiful. This trail seemed to find all of them. Nothing very long at all. Just crest over the hill and drop straight back down and back up again. One after the other. Incredible. Now, there were hills right from the start, they were steep little stingers as well but I (and everyone else) had fresh legs. These just seemed to rattle my body going down and fill my shoes with concrete on the way up.

You can see from the profile, there were very few flat spots. The graph shows a downward trend but that was from the cold front moving through and rising pressure. Anyway, once these kettles started coming, my running group was shattered. My companions, smartly, started power walking the hills but I decided this was the place to go. I kept running. They hurt and I was probably running at walking speed but I kept the motion going and soon gapped everyone in my sight. Now running on my own with no pace reference and not knowing how far I was to the end, I started to lose faith and slowed a bit. Once I made it back to the start/finish for my second loop, I knew what was ahead and felt like I gained a little spark in my stride. It might have helped that I started lapping a lot of the other runners. They all had such great energy even though they would most likely be out on the course for several hours more than me. It really gave me a lift to run with them, even for a short time.

Although, I was 3 minutes slower on my second loop, I passed the marathon point under 3:30, felt great and finished with a strong surge to cross the line at 4:14. This turned out to be a PR and put me in 5th place overall. As for my race plan, I was 10 minutes fast in the first half and 5 minutes slower than expected in the second half. I didn't negative split anything but I came away very happy with the outcome. Just for the record, no way did this have the elevation they were claiming. It must have been done on a GPS because they don't really do elevation well. My Suunto watch recorded an even 2700'. Even with the changing pressure it was more likely no more than 3000'. Mark recorded just over 4000' for the 50 miler. Regardless, these hills did have a bite. Even though I live and train in the mountains, doing hill repeats at the end of a 50k is rough.

Still rainy, windy and cold. I waited just a few minutes for Mark to finish his 50 miles and watched him cross the line for a super strong 3rd place. As we got warm and began to consume the great post race beer and brats, the sun finally arrived. Then the snow came. Burrrrrr. We headed back to the airport and hopefully a warmer southern climate.

This was a very well run race from first time RD, Jeff Mallach. Volunteers were awesome and the Wisconsin folks are some of the most hospitable around. I hope to come back next year and do it again, without the cold. I chose to run for the first time in the Inov-8 X-Talon 212's. These are their lightest trail shoe and were somewhat of a gamble for my old, 4-knee surgery legs. But they turned out to be superstars. I absolutely loved them and had no issues at all. Perfect for this somewhat soft and less technical ultra.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Day Biathlon

My big race for the month is the Ice Age 50k, May 8th, up in Wisconsin. So, since it was only a week away, I thought I should kill myself just one more time by racing 6 days out. Bad idea? Maybe but it was pretty fun. In reality, Mark Lundblad, (he's going with me to Wisconsin to do the 50 miler), and I had planned on doing a 5k on Saturday just as one last short effort to get some good leg turnover before our ultras. Unfortunately, my plan to do the Highland Lake 5k was stupid. Its about a 4hr round trip. Duh. So Mark, the smart guy that he is, remembered that the May Day Biathlon was on Sunday. It has a 5k race and a 5k run - 30k bike biathlon, Mark's company was one of the sponsors so he got a comp'd entry and it was only a 45min drive. All good and a no-brainer. To top it off, they were offering $$ to the top 5 in each race and top masters. Sweet.

The conditions race morning were HUMID and hot. Don't know where this came from but it was a shocker to my system. My little ten minute warmup left me dripping with sweat. I decided to go with the Inov-8 f-lite 301s. A little heavy maybe but the tread was good for the road and I really have nothing else but trail shoes. When Mark pulled out his sweet looking f-lite 220s, I have to admit that I had a little shoe envy going on. Need to work on that.
Mark was doing the 5k and since both races started at the same time, we lined up together. I'm not sure when his last 5k race was but mine was years ago. His goal was to go sub 17 min. Mine was to go 19 flat. or 6:15 pace, whichever comes first. You do the math, something doesn't add up. All the engineering school knowledge flushed right down the drain. Anyway, overall, I was looking for a finish under 1:15.
Since both races started together and ran the same course, I really had no idea who I was competing against. When the gun went off, the pack spread out fairly quick. Mark and the lead dogs were gone but I still had a group around me that were making me hurt. Still not sure who was doing the Biathlon, I tried to stay with the pack that was in my reach. My first mile was 5:50, oops. Not sustainable. Second went at 6:10, OK, maybe but still a bit too fast. So much for running negative splits. By the last mile, I was paying for that quick start and slowed down quite a bit. But, I clocked into the bike transition at 19:25 for a 5k PR and right at 6:15 pace. Awesome! A great result for me but still left me in 11th place to start the 30k bike leg.

The bike ride took us on a very pretty course that had about 1100' of elevation gain in 20 miles. I would call it moderately hard as far as road multi-sport goes. I passed a couple folks right out of the transition area but, still wheezing from the run, reeling in the rest would take me the whole race. In the rules, and mentioned twice right before the start of the race, the no drafting law was spelled out pretty clearly. There must have been some non-English speakers in the race because I was trailing a group of 3 that were clearly working together for a large chunk of the bike. It really started to get into my head as I just couldn't seem to gain any ground on them. Then the hills really took over about mile 10. Drafting doesn't work as well there. I stomped on the pedals and quickly passed, then gapped them. I had thought about what I would say when I caught up but in the end the best words were simply just action. I dropped them on the climb and never looked back. Yeah, its a petty thing but its not how the game is played. It is such and energy savings to ride with a group than to hit it solo. If I had to do another run after the bike I might have paid for my effort but this time at least, I could go all out on the bike.

Luckily, I was able to pass most racers in my way but had two pass me (I wont mention that they could have been my children). Did I just write that out loud? Sorry.... I crossed the finish line in 5th place and in the money, 1:14:56, just under my goal time. Overall a pretty good race and I was happy with the result for something that I had no plans of attending. Mark, BTW, changed his strategy mid way through his race and went for the win instead of the time. He ended up hanging back a bit and out kicking everyone for the win in 17:02. Experience does have its rewards!
This was the first time this spring for me racing in the humidity, so it was a bit oppressive feeling. It always takes its toll getting the body used to its new environment.
The f-lites turned out to be a good choice. I don't run on the road very much but I had the same great feel and comfort that I am used to with all the Inov-8 models.

Friday, April 30, 2010

May is a Busy Month

I don't know how it happened but I have booked a race every week for the month of May.
May 2nd. - Mayday Biathlon - 5k run, 30k road ride - North Carolina
May 8th - Ice Age Ultra Marathon - 50k trail run - Wisconsin
May 15th - Elk River Challenge - 5mile kayak, 15 mile road ride, 5k run - West Virginia
May 21st - Town Mountain Hill Climb - Uphill Road Time Trial - North Carolina
May 29th - French Broad River Triathlon - .5mile run, 2.5mile kayak, 12mile road ride, 5k run - North Carolina

I'm sure I'll do great at all of them.

Once Upon a Time

I've started a Blog because, well, all the cool kids are doing it. Facebook and Twitter, while informative, are very "showboaty". It feels a little strange sometimes telling people about yourself like you have a some kind of Zen knowledge and everyone should listen. A blog feels a little more like a journal that you allow other to view IF THEY WANT TO. If not, then I always have myself to talk to and laugh at.

So, check back from time to time. I will tell you more stuff about me and my travels than you will want to know but I will also pass on the knowledge that 45 years of life have bestowed upon me. It has the potential to be funny, or not. Mostly it will be goofy pictures, race results and bitching about everyday work and play, or lack there of.

Until the next chaperter, Cheerio......d