Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back on Track

Well, I have finished "licking my wounds" from the pathetic DNF at Massanutten and am now gearing up for training in full force. I don't want to ever be as out of shape as I clearly was going into MMT ever again. That said, the DNF is a great motivator to get myself back in gear. I am still putting together my fall schedule but I just signed up for Mountain Masochist. I have run the race twice and have always had a terrible effort there - 11:40 in 2006 and 11:15 in 2007. Both times I ran the GEER 100K about five weeks prior but so have many others. In any case, I want to run the race really well this year.

I am really excited about ramping up the training again. I really missed running on a regular basis earlier in the year when I was surrounded by the "dark clouds". I am also doing the Laurel Valley Whitewater Run again this year. I love this race as it some of the most beautiful trail around and a great group of folks show up every year for it. Not sure what else I am planning but will update as plans firm up. Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments regarding my DNF at Massanutten.

Monday, May 18, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the key to DNFing MMT...

Respect. Seven simple letters that speak volumes. I didn't have enough of it for the MMT course - going into the race under trained. If you have looked at the results from Massanutten, you know that either I was confused and thought it was a 40 mile race or the race did not go as planned. Either way, I suffered my first DNF ever this weekend at my favorite race. What happened? It is pretty simple, the heat wore my under trained body out. I had hoped to get my third MMT buckle, but that will have to wait until next year.

I went into the race under trained but felt that mentally I could get there. There is a saying in ultrarunning: "Ultrarunning is 90% mental, the other half is physical". When it came to the "second half" I was waaaay short. I still had a great time up at the race and chalk this up as a great learning experience. The first DNF was bound to happen eventually and in some ways, I am glad to have the first one over with. Here is the brief (remember I only did ~40 miles) story.

I started out running fine but noticed it was very humid. Many of us remarked before the start how much warmer it felt compared to previous years. I got up the road and up to Buzzards Rock with no issues. I was drinking often and hitting a gel every 30 minutes. I was soaked to the bone in sweat due to the humidity. I came into the first aid station feeling good and kept on truckin' after refilling my bottles. Felt good all the way to Veach Gap, where I stopped for a pancake and sausage and again refilled the bottles. I also drank two cups of water here.

The section to Milford Gap was uneventful and I tried to take it really easy since there was plenty of time. Plus there was a 4 mile road section coming up where I could make up time if I needed to. I was taking an S! Cap every 45 minutes or so and things were going well. On the way to Habron Gap, I was running good and having lots of fun. I had to stop and pee a couple of times which was a good sign in terms of hydration. I did get passed by some folks but I was still moving along at a good pace. I was very focused on running my own race.

When I got to the road section to Habron Gap, I turned on the Ipod and cruised along the road. I ran the early couple of miles a little too hard and had to back off some towards the end because I ran out of water. Still, I got into Habron Gap later than I wanted but was not concerned. I sat and rested for a few minutes and then got moving. I drank a Boost, restocked on gels and S! Caps, downed a couple of cups of water and headed to Camp Roosevelt.

I deliberately took it very easy on the climb here trying to not wear myself out. Was moving along okay when WHAM!, the heat just zapped me. I had to stop and rest a few times but still was able to keep moving. When I would run, I started to get dizzy - not lightheaded but room-spinning dizzy. When this would happen, I stopped and rested. I have had heat exhaustion before, and knew this was an early sign. I normally do okay in the heat and humidity but being under trained, I obviously was more vulnerable. Lots of folks went by and all asked how I was doing. Eventually, I came around a bit and started to move pretty well. I was able to run some downhill sections pretty well but then the dizziness came back. Also, I started to shiver some (think teeth chattering). This was a BIG concern, since it was likely close to 80 degrees. From there, I basically "death marched" to Camp Roosevelt where I hoped to recover.

The volunteers were great, stuffing my bandanna with ice and making sure I had plenty of fluids. I picked up an extra bottle at Habron Gap and drank all three on the way to Camp Roosevelt. In fact, I was empty for the last 15 minutes or so. I stayed at Camp Roosevelt for about 30 minutes, then refilled and decided I would see how I felt at Gap Creek. I was worried that if the dizziness didn't go away, my race was done. I started out to Gap Creek and soon a wonderful thunderstorm started - it felt fantastic and really cooled me off. I actually made decent time on the climb up and then started to run down at a good clip. But, the dizziness was there still. I had to stop and get it under control. I was continuing to eat and drink, and take S! Caps regularly.

To add to the frustration, I slipped and somehow wrenched my back. Now not only did I get dizzy when I ran, but my back seized up as well. Finally I got to the aid station around 4:00 p.m.! I was almost at the next aid station at this time last year. I had an hour to get things under control and get moving. I stretched the back, lied down, sat up, did everything but just couldn't get it right. So, I dropped out when the 5:00 p.m. cutoff came. I hated to do it but it was definitely the right decision. If I had continued, maybe I would have finished or maybe I would have gotten hurt much worse. Who knows. I am actually proud that I was smart enough to pull the plug. Folks often say DNF is an acronym for "Did Nothing Foolish" and well as "Did Not Finish".

I learned that a course like Massanutten deserves much more respect than to go into it under trained. That is a lesson that I will not soon forget. Congratulations to everyone who started, especially the finishers. Massanutten is a tough race and finishing it is quite an accomplishment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Massanutten Preview

I can't believe Massanutten is already here! This is one of my favorite races and I am glad to have completed it twice. In fact, this is the only 100 mile race I have run (due to my DNS at Umstead this year). My training has been very lackluster but I am still very excited. I may not be 100% physically ready but I have plenty of mental fortitude that should help a good bit. Plus, I am a big believer in experience and having some familiarity with the course will be key to my success. The weather looks to be a little volatile - some rain, possible t-storms and warm temps during the day. I have heard that the course is already a little sloppy in places but hopefully things won't deteriorate too bad. The course drains very well and should be fairly dry as long as a ton of rain does not fall right before the race.

My plan for the race is to really take it easy early on. I am going to really try and get ahead on fluids and calories in the early stages. Easier said than done but hopefully I can pull that off. The toughest sections for me are later in the race when I tend to get really lazy during a couple of long 8 mile sections. I would like to really cover these sections better this year. Keeping myself in check early will be a key to this happening. In terms of a goal, I really don't have one as I just want to get the finish. But, I would certainly like to be closer to my time last year (31:34) rather than my 2007 time (35:02).

I feel very blessed to be able to even contemplate something as demanding as a 100-mile run. I am really looking forward to enjoying my time in the beautiful Massanutten mountains of Virginia. You can follow myself and other participants on the VHTRC's MMT page here.

Speaking of other participants, check out the entrants list as it is a very competitive field including the likes of Meltzer (my pick to win), Walker, Sproston, Kulak, Casseday, Mongold, Knipling and on and on... Look for a report from me early next week. Best of luck to everyone who is running/racing this weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Wow, things have been very busy the last few weeks. The new job is going great but I have been extremely busy. I am having a lot of fun again with work, which is a nice change. Running is going reasonably well. Massanutten looms next weekend and I am very excited to run this year. Despite not being in ideal shape. I love the course and am hoping for a fun time this year. I will do a more in depth preview next week. I recently saw "Running the Sahara" and thought the movie was very well done. It had just the right balance of drama and intrigue. No matter how tough one is or how elite an athlete, you have to be impressed with 111 days of running without a day off! Add in the variety of conditions from sandstorms, searing heat and even freezing temps, and it is quite epic. Look for more on Massanutten next week.