Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sickness, chemicals, 2012+

In the past two months I have been sick an unprecedented number of three times, once with bronchitis for three weeks, which I took for a fluke that my daughter had brought home from preschool. I reckoned it was a fall-time illness brought on by school stress and end of season racing fatigue, and subsequently tried to get over it and race on.

I raced UROC, which I bombed, then started to feel better for two weeks, jumping into Firetrails 50, thinking I was over the hump and on the upswing into a stellar fall season of fall classics. Post FT, a common cold set in, which once again I counted as a fluke, so I got over the cold during my October week off from school. This past week I’d run a nice Sunday three hour run with Geoff, Topher, Galen, and friends, but I felt unusually fatigued during and after this mellow effort. Years ago a student of mine from Lichtenstein said, “Jamais deux sans trois, never two without three.” True to Liechtensteinian philosophy, another cold set in solidly this past week.

Post FT 50, I had been running about every day, not long but an hour to hour and half, anticipating speed work being the basis of my training until JFK 50 on Nov 19, then tailing off that to the North Face 50 two weeks later. I’d counted on calling it a 2011 at TNF, then pick up with Bandera 100K in January. As of now, I am reading the writing on the wall that my 14 solid months of straight cycles through races and training have taken their toll, and the cumulative wearing effect has kicked in. Maybe the combination of the running, combined with school and family obligations is the cause. I am on somewhat foreign terrain with so much of life happening combined with races every 6 weeks, that I may have reached my plateau this summer and am now headed towards the edge. That said, I am pretty solidly committed to taking the rest of the year off from racing. I will run most every day for the next month with some days off, but just easy to keep metabolism up and to keep my head straight on my shoulders. I am in no way burned out on running (“mental fatigue”?) but physically I may be more tired than I realize.

Another variable that may have shot my immune system this fall is fleas. Yes, fleas. We have a solid trail and house mutt named Tanker, who I am guessing brought them home from a walk, as Novato is notorious for flea infestations. Our apartment then became infested in September, and we had to treat the place twice with permethrin-based sprays, which is known to cause immune-system depression . When I’d sprayed the apartment, I don’t think I vacated soon enough and inhaled the vapors for two hours. We were at a tough place in choosing to spray, given we have little kids and hate unnecessary toxin exposure. But moving was the alternative, so I sprayed and aired the place out while we slept elsewhere for a couple days, and I may have paid the price. Hopefully I didn’t cut my lifespan by a few years too, as many American's suffer the ill-health brunt of chemically-induced and chronic disease in our everyone-for-themselves country. I made my own choice though and mostly regret it.

All this said, 2012 is coming up quick! And I want to run some different stuff next year, including longer “gold standard” ultra-races of that distance through 2013, and then take on something even longer the next year than will involve many nights out and long days, for which I have a tentative plan. I am super-excited for the next couple years of running and practicing as a PA, which I think will be as successful as my prior fifteen years of trail, adventure, and ultrarunning. To top it off, we will be back in Colorado next year, to which my family and I look eagerly.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hoka One One seeking ambassador athletes

Attention Hoka One One footwear enthusiasts! Hoka One One is presently seeking athletes and brand ambassadors — from road and trail runners to triathletes in all corners of North America. Please send us a resume of sorts and/or a brief summary of your running (and/or triathlon) passions, recent endeavors, race results and future goals.
Deadline is Nov 15th. Oh and if you have not already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Time to Fly!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dick Collins Fire Trails 50 2011

Firetrails Fun

(10/21.. JUST reset my comments was set only to accept non-elite thoughts, so that's why Rose kept getting bounced out of his snarky commenting. And now even anonymous trolls like Cloud can cut me up a bit)

Two weeks ago was the Ultra Race of Champions, an up and coming event with a bright future, which left me somewhat unsatisfied. My running lately is a game of race, recovery a week or so, squeeze in 3-4 weeks of moderate but quality training when possible, taper a week, race, take a week more or less off, then repeat. My experience at UROC had broken the cycle for the first time in 12 solid months, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t that I was down on myself for DNFing; rather racing the cycle had been broken, disrupting my groovy year of racing. Injuries, train wrecks, personal disasters.. none of these had prevented me from this series of four to six weeks cycles of racing, until UROC. I had somehow fit put it all together to have a solid year (with one exception I guess). I didn't feel derailed by UROC; incomplete is a better word to describe my experience. So I’d had a couple light two weeks of running sincw, and local Firetrails 50 was coming up, so why not show up and have some fun, and try to get back in cycle again? One year ago, I'd started my unplanned 12 month race cycle at the 2010 FT 50, and in the name of completion, but not closure (as the cycle continues) I wanted to return.

The past two years at FT 50, 5 or 8 fast guys would set a typical quick pace off the start. Looking at the start list pre-race, no Chikara Omine, no Leigh Schmidt, no Gary Gellin, no Victor Ballesteros. All these top Bay Area guys had gone out fast in the past. But no one was registered who looked like they’d push things. I’d also thought maybe FT 50 would become a top national caliber 50 at some point, but that trend seemed to be reversing at Firetrails. (Come on guys! Fly out here and bust it up a bit at FT 50!). The lack of speed was actually fine with me this year; I was uncertain if I was even recovered 80% from my 30 mile DNF at UROC, and didn’t want to dig into the well too deep. Shallow it may be, I race to have fun, but I race to win most every time.

The race started mellow enough in the dark, with enough light to avoid a head torch, and chatted with perennial FTers Jonathan Gunderson and Jean Pommier, then quickly pulled away on the first hill for a self paced 47 mile run thereafter. I felt phenomenal this first half of FT, which heads out 26 miles to Lone Pine aid station to the north near Kensington behind the metropolis and suburbia of Oakland. You wouldn’t even know that you are surrounded by millions in the megalopolis which is the Bay Area. Then you reverse and return basically the same way. Yes, an out and back, but a fine one on ½ singletrack, ½ dirt roads, all tacky dirt with good push off from recent rains. I didn’t bother with bringing splits with me, as I didn’t feel like going for my old record of 6:19, and if it were going to happen, it would just happen that day. This year, it didn’t happen.. well, it half happened.

The long descent to the turnaround at Lone Pine means you pass the runners coming up from the start of the Golden Hills marathon which starts at Lone Pine. Leading the pack was Bay Area legend Leor Pantilat, closely on his heals was Boulder mountain runner and Pikes Peak marathon champion Galen Burrell. Galen is a close climbing and running buddy of mine who transplanted out to San Fran and now lives in Mill Valley, and will have a new little girl this coming spring. He won the the Rodgers Hill climb up Mt Tam a few years ago and almost broke the old record. He oozes talent, and raced with me in the Tour de Flatirons in Boulder. Galen is a class act, and so is Leor, and to see these guys duke it out made my day. Leor and Galen actually have similar fast mountain and climbing backgrounds, but Leor had the course record, and my chips were laid 50/50 for either of these monsters to take the W and a new CR..

So while those guys battled, I hit the turnaround 3 minutes faster than my course record time from last year, but the last few 500’ climbs before dropping down 1200 feet to Lone Pine felt harder than last year. My stomach was a bit queasy too, which is rare. Coming back up the climb, I felt like the octane wasn’t getting out the tank fast enough, and knew there weren’t any guys close this year as I’d seen them on the turnaround. That said, I more or less checked out on pushing the pace to make sure I didn’t go into a deficit and crash. The rest of the run then became a very pleasant trip of 20 miles back to the Lake Chabot start finish BBQ festivities, with the thought of food, family, and friends. I had one of the more pleasurable second halves of racing in a long time. It’s funny how the years of ultras and consistency has brought me to a point where a whole day of vertical trail running doesn’t make much of a dent. In fact it does the opposite, counter-intuitively making for more enjoyable productivity and time for the other things in life which are important.

Passing all the marathoners and outcoming 50 milers wasn’t too much of a problem on the narrow singletrack near Skyline aid station, which is roughly 15 miles heading out and 35 miles returning home. Everyone was fine stepping aside as I passed and I yielded to most incoming runners, feeling in no particular rush. About 4 miles to go, due to rains 2 days prior, the last aid station was moved, adding about 500 vertical, which was not a big deal and maybe made for slower times, but not by much.

The finish saw my kids and wife swarming me to give me lollipops and attention, the best finish a dad could want. 6:34 was a decent time and I met my goal of winning the race three times. I and everyone else knows that this is a pretty shallow accomplishment, as Firetrails 50 is a low key event that Carl Anderson and a bunch of other guys like Dave Scott could have won 10 times if they so chose, but Carl and Anne Trason directed FT for such a long time that supporting the running community to them was more important. Me though, I am the parasite that keeps coming back for more.

Galen and I

In the marathon, turns out Galen and Leor did indeed have a battle royale, with Galen having a top day and Leor having a very rare off day. Amazingly, Galen wasn’t even watching the clock, but broke Leor’s course record by THREE seconds, on a slightly harder course. Galen and I go way back, so our Firetrails wins made the day all the better.

Next up; I am registered for JFK 50 and TNF 50.. In 2003 I ran JFK in 5:55, having raced a 24 hour adventure race the weekend prior; I can better this time now, and it looks to be a doozy for the men's field. Quite a scary field actually. Wardian, Woods, Riddle.. all much faster than I.. on paper at least.

TNF 50 will on the other hand, be a walk in the park. Yeah. Right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ultra Race of Champions.. late race report 1.5 weeks later

From early on in the year, UROC was high on the priority race list. I am game for anything new and exciting, and love racing against the best at any distance under 100 miles (with a few 100 mile exceptions here and there). Gill and Francesca, with Geoff Roes as go-fer, wanted to try something cutting edge and sexy in the unsexy sport of ultrarunning. And they got off to a great start in this first year event!

I’d come into the race having been sick the prior two weeks with bronchitis. Okay so I hate to make excuses.. but the reality was I was 50/50 on the morning of the race. Last time I made a split second decision to run at the last minute based on sketchy pre-race circumstances, I set a course record.. For the prior week, my heart rate was in the 60-70 bpm at any given time during the day, even if I usually spend the majority of my days on my butt. I ran 5 days in two weeks before the race, with only one run being an hour. My muscles felt great, but the upper respiratory system was taxed, and I was unsure what the overall effect was on my running ability. I’d had enough rest since Waldo, so normally I would be keyed up and ready to rumble. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I went for it. My gut said “don’t run”, my wife said “don’t run”, my 3 year old daughter said “run”. Me, I said “run”. Listen to your wife, Mackey.

I arrived Charlottesville late afternoon Friday, getting a ride from up and coming runner and Chicago lawyer Matt Flaherty , who’d won a North Face race the weekend before. We got to the race brief Fri eve just in time to attend the panel discussion and Q and A with AJW as MC. Loads of fun it was, with Scott McCoubrey waxing poetic about ultra teams in the past 20 years and a table panel of running elites 100 feet long.

Race morning; as said, I was on the fence but the kicker was the fact that I wanted to help this race succeed, and my attendance would help the event kick off to a fine first year. The race started with a solid crew of guys, but unfortunately only four or five fast ladies in attendance, a big surprise given that the prize money was there. I felt fantastic for the first 30 miles of the race, and all signs were full steam ahead. Roes, Wardian, Scott Gall, Dave James, Matt Flaherty, Ian Sharman, and tons of other guys went out fast. I was comfortable with the pace, my legs and stomach felt smooth, and on the first long paved downhill coming off the Wintergreen ski are access road, my legs weren’t trashed in the least. Scott Gall and I were pushing the pace up front on the long ridge road out to some nice singletrack lollipop around a little lake, having some good chats. Scott and I have raced each other at 10k snowshoe races in Colorado over the past ten years, and we both raced for the nAtlas snowshoe race team , with him winning handily most every time over me. Ultras are my turf though and I eventually pulled ahead over the nice misty Bald Mt section. But this would not be that last I’d see of Scott, or everyone else for that matter.

I thought I was making time on the runners behind me as we ran a bunch more on the Blue Ridge Park way, when I came into mile 30 aid station and started to suddenly feel as if the light switch to my legs turned off. I had only had this happen in one other race, and it was disconcerting to realize that blood flow was completely and suddenly shunted from my extremities. I knew what protective mechanism my body was pulling on me; it was protecting the core from illness, and I didn’t like it! At that point, Mike Wardian came in yelling “Wardian! Gels, Water!!” behind me, just as I filled my bottle and started out on the single track four mile out and back. I thought this was amusing and shows the passion with which Mike runs. I tried to dig deep and chase him, but after 1.5 miles, I had response. What was odd was that I knew I had gas in the tank! But the fuel line had been protectively cut already.

Over the next ½ mile things just started to get worse. About another mile later, I turned around and started to walk back. Mike passed me again on his out and back about ¼ of a mile before the aid station ,and even then started to yell again, “Wardian, water, gels!!” I laughed again and kept walking. I checked into the aid station, felt fine walking around and chatting, then spent a fun afternoon with the Trailrunner magazine crew in their car stealing their food and beer, and catching up with other runners at the other aid stations as we spectated. I felt fine with my decision and didn’t kick myself over it, as it was out of my control, and made the most of spectating what turned out to be a dramatic finish. (Roes over Wardian, only due to Mike’s wrong turn I reckon. And congrats to dark horse Regan Petrie on the ladie’s side!)

As far as DNF’ing, I probably could have walked the remainder of the race if need be to save a life. But I wanted to race hard another day, and may even do so in the next two weeks if I feel recovered (I feel fine overall now.) I also wanted to function well during the next week and not detract from life outside of running, which is more important than running these days, so even if I could have finished, I am happy with my decision to drop. I hate DNFs, but the only DNF I have ever hated was Zane Grey 50 in 2003, when I’d lost only 12 minutes half way through but felt overly competitive, bitter about it, and wussed out in not trying to regain the lead. That was a poor spineless choice. I went back in the next two years to Zane Grey to run well and redeem myself. I hope I can do the same at UROC next year, which is a fine first year race with more potential and drive at the race-director helm (Bad to the Bone events)than any other ultra I know of. I’ve walked into the finish at ultras and know the satisfaction in the effort to cross the finish line only for the sake of completion. Finishing at all costs may work for some, but it doesn't always work for me. a time for everything though. To each their own in their DNFs; everyone has their reasons and that should be respected.

A somewhat haggard and incoherent Post Race interview with Scott Gall's Running Village

Next event for me.. It is so local and I am feeling groovy, so FireTrails 50 is this weekend October 8th! Going for my third consecutive win. Not sure I can take down my course record, but may give it a shot if the planets align.