Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and the VT 100 Mile Endurance Race


Let's get right into The Bad and The Ugly to get it over with.  I've been dealing with some foot issues for a while and Tuesday night was my test night to see if I could run the VT 100 on July 16th.  Aliza was all set to run with me prior to the weekly 5k trail race at Catamount Family Outdoor Center to see if I was race worthy.  We ran some on trails and then hit the hard pack roads.  I think we ran 6 or 7 miles at a good clip.  I thought I was able to hold my own and prove that I was ok.  Aliza thought not with my gait totally off from the usual.  Still I wasn't convinced so for my own sake, I wanted to race the 5k trail race to prove I was able to run 100 miles.  Well, after a mile or less, the pain kicked in and I was fading fast.  Even on the uphill which I always look forward to I was being passed by others. On the twisty turny single track I was in pain on every corner.  The only bright star was that I was so cautious on every turn that I slowed down while others excellerated only to wipe out in the mud like Todd.  In the end, it was the slowest I ever ran this course and I was in pain.  Immediately following the race I sat in my truck, foot in the beer cooler while I sucked down an ice cold Bud as I knew I couldn't run the VT 100.  That was the bad and the ugly.

Some good during the week, I finally completed the exam for the USATF Level 1 Coaching.  I took the class in March or April and finally had time to sit down and take the test.  I scored a 96%.  Besides being able to coach for endurance running, I can coach for throwing a javelin or for the pole vault event.  I always thought the pole vault would be fun, hmmm.  Any way, for the rest of the week I ran a minimal amount and biked a lot. Thursday night Joe Cararra and I cranked out a 43 miler bike ride in the hills of Hinesburg, Huntington and Richmond folowed up by dinner, beer and tequila. 

Friday was the check in for the VT 100, something I would normally be looking forward to, but not this year as I would have to declare my DNS status.  I arrived late in the afternoon and got in line to check in.  Many runners came up to me and wished me a good race, not knowing my foot status.  When I got my race packet I pulled out my number and attempted to give it up to Deb, declaring my DNS.  I had a really, really hard time letting go of my race number.  Deb even told me I could hold on to it until the morning if I decided to race but I knew better.  Sure, after some tequila I could put on the shoes and shorts and be ready to run at 4:00 AM.  So after a few give and take backs, I finally gave up my number to Deb so I could not race in the morning.  Afterwards I went out for an easy run, then a mountain bike ride on some great single track to make room for dinner.  After dinner I chatted with some of the racers and then hung with Nate Sanel for some pre-race rituals.  We enjoyed some Patron's Tequila (Thanks Nate) and had a good look at his new made shoe which he was to run in on Saturday.  Soon it was time for bed so I retired in the F-150 camper for the evening.

Jack and Nate.  Pre-race training

Saturday, 3:30 AM.  I was woken up by the loudspeaker of Julia Hutchinson.  30 minutes to go to the start.  I rolled out of bed and off to the start.  It seemed kind of odd, no running for me and no official crew or pacing, so why was I there?  What purpose?  I met up with some familiar faces and wished them the best.  4:00 AM they were off.  I felt sort of lost, thinking now what???  For now I knew it was time to go back to bed, which I did.

5:45 AM time to get up.  I heated up some hot water while I prepared for the day and then had some tea to get myself going towards Pretty House, the first aid station at mile 21.  Still not knowing my role I figured I would just help out as needed.  As the lead pack came in, Mike Arnstein was part of this group.  I knew Mike was solo and had no crew so I found his drop bag and helped him to get on his way.  Bob Ayers was not far behind and I cheered him on as he went through.  Serena came in for a shoe change and was in great shape, not too fast, not too slow.  Mike Oliva, also solo, came through so I found his bag to help him through.  Nate arrive shortly thereafter, not looking good.  Hopefully his hard training will kick in soon???  So it went, I had plenty to do throughout the day.  Helping Mike and Mike as trail bitch and giving support to Bob, Serena and Nate as well as many others. 

Serena doing a quick shoe change at Pretty House.

Same at the Stage Road Aid station but had to also help out the aid station replenish squad comprosed of 2 elders.  They parked their pickup directly in front of the aid station so it would be a challenge for any runner to come through.  I jumped in the back of the pickup and handed supplies out to speed up the process.  Shortly thereafter, Joe Carrara and I were having our own tailgate party, cooking up pancakes with VT maple syrup watching runners and horses coming in.

Next up, Camp Ten Bear, mile 47.  The Lead runners were coming in including Mike Arnstein and Leigh Schmitt.  I grabbed Mike's drop bag to help out and off he went.  Bob Ayers wasn't too far off either.  Then, there was a large gap.  At this time I found some other friends who just arrived to cheer, maybe pace and also go for a morning run. 

Jen, Bob and Jack

Glen Redpath, Theresa Ridgway, Meghan Arbogast and Aliza La Pierre.  Talk about royalty, this was the best of the best of the Ultrarunning world!  The sad part of it was that this was my dream team to help me race this VT 100.  Ugh... my crew and pacer not to happen this year, or ever like this.  Oh well, might as well enjoy the company and the great day.  We all decided to go for a nice run in the woods while it was quiet at the race so I taped up my foot and off we went.  We headed out from the course mile 70 and beyond.  Theresa and I were both having foot issues so we only ran about 2 miles out before we turned back while the others continued on for some time.

Meghan, Jack and Aliza.
Camp Ten Bear is always a busy place with a lot going on as it's the aid station for mile 47 and 70.

Mile Silverman (VT 50 RD) and Jack
There was a lot of hanging out and I drove Ron back to the Silver Meadow so he could prepare for his night of pacing and then returned back to Camp Ten Bear.  We watched the leaders coming in at mile 70, some in good shape, others fading fast or dropping out.  I continued to help for Mike and Mike.  Mike Arnstein at mile 70 said, "I'm either going to win this race or blow up".  He was looking good and was chasing the leaders at this point.  Bob Ayers was looking good and relaxed,  Serena was on a mission to conquor and wouldn't even slow down for food so hurt foot and all, I had to sprint to catch her before she was off in the woods with some solid food for her to eat.  Mike Weigand and Nate Sanel came in pretty close to each other at mile 70.  Nate had blister issues so the meds were attending to him and causing him some serious pain, but all for the better.  Mike was looking rather green.  We sat him down in a chair and soon therafter the puking began.  It was going to take a huge effort to keep him going so Team Mike was formed.  Joe Carrara was the crew but we recruited Theresa Ridgway to pace with Mike to get him to Westwinds where I would take over until Polly's where Joe would take over for the final stretch.  After about a half hour of wretching, Mike was ready to go, sort of.  Good thing he had Theresa to follow to take his mind off things for the 7 mile stretch.  Joe and I headed over to Westwinds to wait for Mike.  Meanwhile, Nate showed up feeling good and revived.

Nate ready to go at mile 77.

He was in and out in no time.  But it took Mike 2 1/2 hours to do the 7 miles.  When he arrived we got some food in him as he was still a bit weak and off I went with him at about 8:45 PM.  We had about 20 miles to go until Joe took over.  The moon was rising and the temps were comfortable and it wasn't raining so all in all a good night.  Good but long.  In the end it took us  6 1/2 hours to cover 20 miles doing the run/shuffle.  And there were many stops along the way to continually empty out Mikes stomach.  He christened Queen Victoria Rd.  He visited the woods later on and hit every port-o-let on the way.  We found a new diet for Mike, something that would stay down, it was the combo of gummy bears, chocolate chip cookies and Coke.   And he started running again, so fast that Joe mis-calculated his time and wasn't ready for us at Polly's.  At that time, it looked like Mike had a chance of getting in under 24 hours so we couldn't wait and we were in and out at Polly's.  Half a mile down, Mike had to empty his stomach again and then we were off and running.  Another half mile and headlights were coming at us, it was Joe ready to take over.  I was extremely happy as my feet were rather sore at that point.  Joe drove up the road to get himself ready and as Mike approached Joe took over.  I gladly took Joe's car and headed over to the finish with Theresa. 

Mike finally made it, a huge accomplishment!  And Team Mike celebrated the victorious day.

Jack, Theresa, Mike and Joe at the finish.
So all in all, I had a great weekend helping out and meeting some new faces and keeping up with running clients whom I coach. Serena kicked butt in the end and won for the women.  Bob Ayers ran strong throughout and took 5th for the men.  Nate after he fixed his feet from nagging blisters ran a strong second half.   Mike Arnestein ended up victorious and set a new course record with his win.  I ended up being on my feet way more than if I ran the race.  So be it.  If you can't race, you may as well help out and enjoy the day... and night :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Alternative Training This Week

The Week in Review, a variety of training

Last week I ended the week with a sore foot after DNFing at the Finger Lakes 50's.  In an effort to try to save my chances of running at the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2 weeks, I dug the road bike out of hibernation and that became my main training vehicle for this past week.  With 6 consecutive days on the road bike, the butt has finally adapted to road riding.  Each day also included at least a mile of running/stretching to see how and if I was progressing.

Highlights of the week:

Tuesday night at the Catamount Family Outdoor Center.  The usual trail series 5K run did not happen for me.  Instead I ran the cadet loop this week on the yellow course which was about 2 miles.  I was up against some good competition, 8, 9 and 10 year olds mostly.  In the end, I took 6th place overall but won my age group.  Afterwards I got in an easy mountain bike ride, riding most of the yellow course with Kelly.

Thursday night I was invited by my friend and training partner, Joe Carrara, (who is recovering from knee surgery and unable to run at the moment), to ride with the boys on their weekly tour.  When I arrived most were ready to roll and all I could see where these fancy machines they were on.  My mid 90's Cannondale looked like a antique from the past.  We took off at sort of a slow pace until we were organized and then off we went.  These guys are serious about their riding.  In a tight pack and cruising.  Maybe we had 15 or so of us in a line doing easily 25 mph.  These guys were cruising and having fun.  We hit some patches of dirt roads, not so fun, for a few miles of the ride and the pack broke up after Roger flatted on one of the dirt sections.  In the end we rode about 40 miles averaging 19 mph which included a few miles of slow dirt road riding.  Throughout the ride, the pack looked like a bunch of kids hammering along but when we finished and they took off their helmets, I could see the gray hair and wrinkles as most were in their 50's and 60's.  Impressive!  Afterwards it was cocktails out by the man pit and a bbq dinner:)

Friday was another beautiful day so I decided to get in more mental training, a trip down to VT Skydiving.  I had an almost new parachute to use today with a container that actually fit instead of the loose rental gear.  I also opted to jump without a jump suit and was forewarned that you lose some stability.  I got to sit in the co-pilots seat as we headed up, not really a seat but on the floor next to the pilot.  As we got up to 3,000 feet, Mike was heading out to do a quick hop n'pop to work on his landings.  It was fun watching him drop for a while as I got a great view with the door wide open.  I wasn't quite sure how the door would close but Joe rolled the plane back and the door immediately shut on it's own.  Then up to 12,000 feet.  On the way up I noticed my altimeter was not working correctly and was off 500-1000 feet, hmm?  I made some mental adjustments for that as I didn't want to open 1000 feet too late but at least I was aware of it before exiting.  At 12,000 I opened the door, saw the drop zone below and I was out doing my superman thing.  Front dive into a forward flip and then belly flying.  I noticed right away the instability without the jump suit but made some adjustments and it was fun.  I did some more rolls and some sit flying.  Without the suit you can also go faster so I thought I would try it out and went into a dive.  Keeping on eye on the altimeter and the mental note of it being off, it was time to throw out the chute.  Being a new chute it had way more pop to it and was very responsive in the turns, nice.  And in for a landing, right on but was very conservative in the landing and leaned was back to skim the feet along so no chance of tweaking an ankle a week before a 100 mile race.  (Did that last year 3 weeks before Burning River last year, not fun).  Another great day of playing superman!

Friday night consisted of a guest appearance on WCAX for the 30 show to talk about the VT 100 Mile Endurance Run with Julia Hutchinson, the RD of that event.  We were both a bit nervous as neither one of us had ever been on TV.  A friend at the station, Alden Pellett, greeted us and gave us a quick tour of the studio.  At first I thought we had 30 minutes on live tv but in the end, it was 5 minutes total.  It went well I guess and I think for the first time gave some significance to this event.  Here's a link to the interview:

Saturday was to be a good test for the foot.  I ran 1-2 miles a day all week but now I needed to see if I could get in a 20 miler and survive.  I met John Izzo down at the Moosalamoo campground outside of Ripton, VT.  I found John and Marsha joined us too.  She came from the Sharon area.  John had a variety of loops as options.  The first one was a trip to the summit of Moosalamoo.  Some great single track with roots, rocks and some great views.  We went at a fairly slow pace which was perfect for this morning.  Very enjoyable except for the stinging nettles.  I ran these trails years ago and still remember the nettles from then.  After the first almost 2 hour loop, Marsha headed out.  John and I continued on another loop, not as hilly but lots of mud and wet grass.  After this loop, we both decided to keep going so John picked out a third loop for us.  It started out the same as the 2nd loop but then turned onto another trail, remember this number 43.  NEVER take trail number 43 unless it's winter.  What started out as just mud and muck turned into a torturous journey.  Stinging nettles as high as my waist, good thing they couldn't sting through my shorts.  Before we knew it, were were totally engulfed in the worst stinging nettles I have ever been exposed to and it just wouldn't end.  Patches and patches of 100 yards of total torture and just when you thought it was over, there were more ahead.  At one point I grabbed some dirt and coated my legs in mud for protection.  Not sure if it helped but it felt good.  There was nothing else we could do but just run and that we did until we hit the road.  Then the deer flies came out looking for lunch.  Finally we made it back to the car, 4 hours and 15 minutes of running through the trails of Moosalamoo.  The foot survived with some pain but I think the nettles took my mind off my foot.  Thanks John!

Shins bathed in mud for protection from stinging nettles

Saturday I met up with Aliza at Catamount.  Although shorter, this would be a good chance to run the foot a bit faster and see how it felt.  We ran the woods side of the red course.  I started off slow and cautious but by the end, the foot was feeling better.  And for the rest of the day, the foot almost felt normal.  Weird!

The week ended with 140 miles of bike riding, one skydive and 33 miles of running and so it goes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This Week in Training - The end of June 2011

The End of June and the 4th of July Weekend

June marks the end of usually the biggest training month of the year for me.  With a number of longer races coming up, I seem to maximize my training during this period and this year was no different.  I had a goal for the month of June and in order to get there I needed about 60 more miles. That meant on average 15 miles per day for Monday thru Thursday.  That seemed possible.  Monday was a run out on the trails at The Forest and Sleepy Hollow.  Some of my favorite single track trails in the area.  Tuesday brought on the Catamount Trail Series of races weekly 5K race.  As usual a good running of the trails prior to the race and then running afterwards.  I felt good at the race with decent energy and no foot issues.  Wednsday brought about a lunch time road run around the block, running on the trails at Catamount later on then the mtn. bike races followed up with some more running the trails.  While there were threats of rain, it held off until later that night:)  Thursday was another lunch time run around the block with an evening run at Catamount after showing a house in Jericho.  And that ended June with just over 500 miles for the month.  Goal Accomplished!

With June over and just over 2 weeks until the VT 100, I thought I should do a good long run this weekend.  Being July 4th weekend, it just didn't feel right not traveling over to the Finger Lakes to run the Finger Lakes 50's which has become a tradition.  So Friday late morning the truck was packed and off I went to the Finger Lakes.  The drive is long, usually about 6 hours and can take some patience driving on the back roads of NY until you reach Rt. 90.  Once on Rt. 90 it's cruise control and away you go.  There are no big mountains to see, just rolling hills and you follow along the Erie Canal. 

Driving to the Finger Lakes
Once off the main highway it was more of the same heading south to Hector NY and the Potomac Campground.  In addition to the rolling hills were grapes, lots of grapes.  This area has turned into wine country with lots of vineyards.
One of the many vineyards offering great wine.
I met up with Chris Reynolds at the race headquarters, the race directior and her faithful helper and husband Joe.  They put together a wonderful race.  Low key with lots of volunteers to help yet professional quality even with chip timing which for a trail race is unusual.  It was great to see Joe and Chris again and some other familiar faces.

Joe, Jackie & Chris
After signing in, I got my race packet and headed back to the truck which is where I would stay for the night.  But I still needed to get in a pre-dinner run which was definitely needed after the 6 hour drive.  I met up with another familar face, that of friend Chad Denning.  Chad joined me in the pre-dinner run.  Chad was new to the area so I gave him a quick tour of the beginning and end of the course.  After the run, Chad and I had some dinner on the roadside besides our car camping rigs.  Good dinner, early to bed, not much to drink.

After a good nights sleep it was up at 5:00 AM to prepare for the 6:30 AM start.  They had awesome muffins to greet the runners prior to the race along with coffe or hot water for tea.  The Finger Lakes 50's has three separate races going on.  A 50 mile, a 50k and a 25k.  The 50's start together and it's a loop course with 16.5 miles per loop.  The nice part is that you can support yourself during the race by having a drop bag in one place as you loop around.  The 50k runners will do two loops which is a bit more than a 50k but then again it's a trail race, who's counting miles.  The 50 milers run three loops plus a baby loop.  The runners have an option to end after 50k or continue on with the 50 mile as they are running the loops so on a bad day if you decide you don't have it in you to run 50 miles you can stop after two laps and have run a legitimate 50k without a dnf on the 50 mile.  And if you are feeling great after two laps you can decide at that time to continue on to run the 50 miles.  For me, it was planned from the start to only run a 50k as I had the VT 100 in two weeks and I thought it best to give myself a break here.  Chad was planning on running the 50 miler as he was training for some upcoming adventure races and really wanted the distance.  Nice thing was that we could run together for a while. 

The start went off right at 6:30 AM.  First part of the course is down a gravel road and then you turn into some nice single track.  The road downhill was fast and hard on my feet but all was feeling fine.  Sean Andrish from Virginia took off right from the start to take the lead.  I followed with Chad and some others together in a pack.  As we entered the single track, Sean was already gone.  I've run this race enough to know better than to run that fast.  Not that we were going slow as we were still going at a good clip but at a much more reasonable pace to hold on for the duration.  In the woods on the single track it was a slow gradual climb up to where you cross a road and then eventually through a cow meadow.  Chad and I had pulled away from the others at this point but after the long downhill following the cow meadow a couple of guys caught back up with us.  So for quite a while it was myself leading the pack of Chad, Peter Lawry and Jeff Powers.  The course was great with some mud holes that could pull your shoes off but still it was in great shape.  After about 8 miles or so, I was still leading this pack and felt some pain in my foot as I would go through some of the mud.  I've been dealing with this pain on and off all year and usually can run through it until it goes away or eases up and may have to slow down on hard decents.  But this trail was soft so I never anticipated any major problems.  The little pain got worse and worse.  We were still cruising but finally I had to back off to try to regroup.  The legs felt good, the energy level was good but this foot was becoming an issue.  After a few more miles I was running last in our pack but could slowly see them gaining distance.  Even on some areas where I would normally kick it in and take off, I was having a hard time even running.  With probably 4 miles to go, I finally had to walk and stretch it out as it wasn't going away.  Basically I limped it in to finish lap one in a time of 2:18 and at that point decided it was not going to happen this day.  Only my 2nd DNF ever.  Usually I can pull off a bad day and at least finish but I didn't think I wanted to walk the next 16.5 miles to get in loop number two.  Bummed I decided to go try to run slowly along the road for a bit to see if I could stretch it out.  Bad choice as I headed out for about a mile and a half doing the walk/run thing and it wasn't pretty.  Coming back it was more walk than run.

The Finish Area

I got myself changed and went to the finish area to watch the 50k guys finish and to see Chad thru after his 2nd loop of the 50 mile race.  First through from lap two even before the 50k runners was Jeff Powers a 50 mile runner followed by Chad Denning just seconds behind. Chad was looking good but would have to kick it in to pass Jeff.  Then the 50k runners came in.  As predicted, Sean slowed up on lap 2 and ended it with the 50k.  He just got back to training a month ago so this race was more to see where he was at with his training.  Still he finished the 50K in second place, first master. Excellent run, keep it up!  First in the 50K was Paul Wallace followed by Pete Lawry. 

Chad after lap 2
I enjoyed a great meal at the race BBQ as always, said my good buys to Chris and Joe and was back on the road for 6 hours to Charlotte.  The foot hurt all the way back home to which I administrered some tequila upon arrival and then rode my bike to a tiki party on the lake.  I found out later that Jeff held on to the lead in the 50 mile with Chad finishing about 10 minutes behind for second.  Good run guys!

Sunday morning, discouraged and with sore foot.  Now what, the VT 100 is in two weeks and I can't run.  I did some chores around the house and then by afternoon was thinking, "Desperate times call for desperate measures."  With that in mind I pulled out the road bike which has been sitting vacant for years.  I dusted off the saw dust and debris from it, pumped up the tires, found my shoes with the mouse family but luckily they only chewed up the pile from the winter boots and off I went on about an hour road ride.  It was scary at first looking at the pavement as I was going down a hill at 40mph wondering if I had tightened the front wheel.  It stayed on.  I guess this is training until the foot feels better.  After I got home, I did throw on the running shoes for a quick mile test run.  No, not ready to run, still hurt.

Monday was the annual 4th of July Clarence De Mar 5K road race in So. Hero.  I was signed up to run this and probably I could have pulled it off but was told by my advisor, Aliza, not to run.  So I did listen and instead of running volunteered to help out at the race.  After the race I hooked up with Joyce and Scott Holsten who had just finished running the 5k race and we went off on a bike ride in the Islands.  Joyce and Scott are avid bikers so I wasn't sure if I could even keep up. 

Joyce and Jack
North Hero Country Store
Jack and Scott
We rode about 33 miles on a perfect day.  Joyce and Scott took it easy on me and made it a short ride.  Got home, did some more chores and then time for a test run.  I went out for an easy mile and it was better but I know if I want to run the VT 100 and better yet the UTMB in August, I need to behave and take care of my foot. 

 "Desperate times call for desperate measures."  This is a variant of the proverb "Desperate diseases must have desperate remedies."  Whatever, I guess I'll be riding my bike for the next 2 weeks.