Continuing the retrospection from my last post:
Frozen Sasquatch 50K (January 8, 2011, 4h46, 2nd OA)
I started 2011 pretty much the way I ended 2010 – doing much more running and racing than I ever had, with the snowy winter just making that even more fun. Fun is probably the best word to describe my experience at this race, but not in the sense that it was easy or even enjoyable the entire time. I wanted to run one more WVMTR race before leaving West Virginia, and the 2011 FS50 was an easy choice. Several people from our Coopers Rock training group had signed up, but by the time a pretty serious snow storm hit the day before the race, it was just Jason Balko and myself. Jason handled the tricky drive down to Charleston without a blink (literally), and we got there just in time and in perfect mood for racing. The trail was marked really well, and everything else was impeccably organized by Mark Dolin, so we just had to worry about staying warm and moving fast on the snow (but not too fast, especially on the downhills). In the weeks leading up to the race, I had been looking forward to racing Adam Casseday. But Adam had already started preparing for his AT attempt, which he later completed successfully, and was not really interested in racing that day (or year, for that matter). Selfishly, I thought this was too bad, but then again, another runner in the race was Michael Owen, a top 10 finisher at the 2010 San Francisco TNF 50M, and a guy who apparently could run just as fast and free as another Michael Owen, only for a lot longer. So I still had all the competitive challenge I wanted, and then some. At the end of the day, Michael was clearly faster and stronger than I was. But I was happy to be able to stay close to him for as long as I did, and even catch him at one point after he had gapped me by a few minutes. This was probably only because my Carpenter-style screw-shoes gave me much better traction than what Michael was getting out of his NBs, but I will take it anyway.
Here is Michael. I think ultrarunners will be hearing his
name a lot, especially if he can stay healthy.
And here is me finishing, without
having to try hard for the smile.
Running with Phil
I took some time off after the FS50K, or at least I intended to. But that did not quite work because I started running with Phil Turk on a regular basis. Phil is one inspiring runner, as well as a great guy, and we always seemed to have a lot to talk about during our long runs and hill rep sessions. Still recovering from an ACL reconstruction, Phil was training very hard for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, where he eventually ran a huge PB and qualified for Boston, a dream of his for a long time that is about to materialize! So how does one resist the road running bug while watching this guy? It had been a good 14 years since my last road marathon, and I really thought I wouldn’t do another one of these for a while (or ever), but before I knew it, I was signed up for the National Marathon in Washington DC and doing a bunch of long runs on the Morgantown rail-trail.
National Marathon (March 26, 2011, 2h51, 31st OA)
Training for this was actually more fun than I had expected. For one thing, a niggle in my right Achilles was preventing me from training at target race pace (6:20-6:30), so I got to discover that doing most of one’s marathon training at [target pace + 30-40 s] really does work. Not only was I able to run much faster than in training on race day, but I even managed to mess up my negative split goal by starting a bit too fast (the lousy/lacking mile markers didn’t help). In any case I thought my 1h23/1h27 splits for the two halves were quite good, given that I am a hopeless optimist when it comes to pacing. But without Phil’s contagious enthusiasm for road running around me, I doubt I will be doing too many of these.
Big Bear Lake 20K (April 30, 2011, 1h27, 1st OA)
My race tactics are usually pretty simple - go as fast as I can for as long as I can, and then deal with the inevitable crisis. This time was different because I had to work very hard to just stay with Brent Lopick (blue sleeveless shirt). But somehow I kept thinking that I had a chance to beat him, probably because I noticed that he was only gapping me on the smoother terrain, and that took some effort, whereas I was catching him very quickly on the more technical trails, especially going downhill. So when a long rocky descent finally came with about 2-3 miles to go, I went for it and ran as fast as I could for maybe 10-15 min. When I looked behind, I could not see anybody, so I slowed down a bit (I was cramping severely) and cruised it in. Winning a race is obviously pretty special, but doing this in front of your son is hard to beat!
Brecon Beacons 40M (May 21, 2011, 6h45, 4th OA; 7h11, 5th OA, after penalty for going off course)
Aberystwyth, Wales, I ran my first ultra in the Brecon Beacons. I had a good time and ran well, but I was disappointed with my navigational errors that made it impossible to compete with a strong group of runners at the front. Read my race report for more details.
Cadair Idris Fell Race 10.5M (May 28, 2011, 1h41, 20th OA)
Two weeks after arriving to Aberystwyth, I had found a great athletic club, a bunch of excellent trails, and a whole new dimension of running. I will be doing a lot more fell running in the future, but I need to work on my weaknesses, especially running downhill.
This is is how I need to run the downhills during
these races, if I want to be competitive.
Vitosha 100K (July 2, 2011, 9h48, 2nd OA)
Probably my best long run ever, but marred by another simple navigational error. In hindsight, I also made a few other minor mistakes: (1) chasing the lead group too hard and catching it a bit too early, (2) worrying about my time too much (I really wanted to break nine hours), (3) not taking enough electrolytes (it was a cool night and I didn’t start taking Nuun/S-caps until I noticed some pretty serious cramping), and (4) not eating and drinking while being lost and trying to find my way. "And so it goes…"
Ridgeway Challenge 85M (August 27, 2011, 16h05, 3rd OA)
This is where the story ended, in many ways. Ten races of marathon distance or longer over 14 months was apparently too much for me. Or maybe next time I should take some time to recover after running hard for 100+ km?
In any case, six months later and after a great winter build-up, I am ready to go again.