Saturday, December 19, 2009

1st Ultramarathon: Rodeo Beach 50K

I finished my first Ultramarathon today, in 5 hours and 57 minutes. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was just AWESOME! I met at least 5 new friends, who I ran/hiked with during the course of the race. The camaraderie was instant, and I'm hoping to see them again to continue our conversations and our friendships. With 6 miles to go, I pulled out my wife's ipod and listened to some tunes to keep me company. At the last aid station, I profusely thanked the volunteers for all their hard work. And then the song, "The Climb" came on, and the lyrics hit me like a ton of bricks. I broke down and cried and laughed at the same time (my previous 2 marathons had very little hint of emotion).

The Climb, by Miley Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming but
There’s a voice inside my head sayin,
You’ll never reach it,
Every step I’m taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I’m going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
The struggles I’m facing,
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes they might knock me down but
No I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m going to remember most yeah
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

I had run the CIM Marathon 13 days ago, and had not fully recovered, but heck, it was my last chance to run an Ultra in 2009, and I nailed it! There was a last minute course change due to some recent rain, so the start of the race got shifted (less 100-200 feet of elevation gain). But since there was originally ~6000 feet of elevation gain, this really did not change much. I used 3 servings of Vespa, 8 S-caps (every 30-45 minutes, or when I started to cramp), and ate a bunch of food (potatoes, gummy bears, oranges, pop tarts, etc.) at the various aid stations. I carried a handheld, but only filled it halfway at each of the aid stations. I did stop at all the aid stations briefly to eat and refill my bottle. I wore my Asics Piranhas (4 oz.). I had a lengthy conversation with a runner (Phil) who thought my shoes were a little crazy, offering no protection against rocks and roots. I told him it was my first Ultra, and that I was experimenting, and won't know if it was a mistake until after the race. I also wore compression sleeves on my calves and newly bought gaiters (to prevent junk from getting in my shoes).

My first rookie mistake was to hit the early downhills too hard. I have always thought downhill running was one of my strengths. Unfortunately, it only bruised my right foot, and at mile 8, I had a scary tightening of my right IT Band (often the result of hammering downhills, without breaking). Thankfully, the tight IT Band went away, and I took every downhill after that much more conservatively. I hiked the long uphills fairly fast, especially since some of my company during the race were awesome hikers (and 100-miler runners). That resulted in sporadic cramping of my left quads. With 3 miles to go, I had a chance to break 6 hours, and with the downhills, I was able to crank out an 8 and 9 minute mile, before running out of juice for the final .59 miles. My Garmin measured only 30.59 miles, but the hills have a way of messing with GPS Accuracy, I think.

Overall, this was a highly successful first Ultra, and a PR! The scenery was breathtaking, and the people were fabulous. For those folks contemplating a 50-miler, I would highly recommend you tackle a hilly 50K first. These races are really different animals compared to marathons.

8:41, 12:53, 10:58, 7:45, 14:06, 11:21, 7:25, 8:52, 13:50, 9:23, 15:42, 17:01, 10:25, 11:37, 11:51, 9:59, 9:15, 8:54, 16:20, 12:14, 17:35, 11:32, 13:57, 17:34, 10:19, 12:00, 11:46, 11:13, 8:03, 9:04, 5:44 (9:47/mile)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

CIM Race Report (PR by 11 minutes!)

Before this 2nd Marathon, I was pretty confident that I would PR. I trained better, I wore lighter running shoes (Asics Piranhas), I used Vespa, I took Gu from a handheld (no more struggling to open Gu packs with numb fingers), I drank less water from the aid stations (it was cold, and I wasn't sweating much), I ran a half mile warmup, I stretched better, I wore a Power-Balance wrist band (bought at the Expo), and I started out slower. My A goal was to run a 3:25, which is what the McMillan Calculator predicted that I would be capable of. My B goal was to break 3:30. My C goal was to break my previous PR of 3:41:41. And my D goal was just to finish, because lets face it, a lot can go wrong in a 26.2 mile race.

I ran a 3:30:48 (gun time), and my chip time was 3:30:21, and I didn't bonk at all this time!

Here are my splits according to my brand new Garmin Forerunner 405 (maiden voyage with this watch):

7:49, 8:10, 8:00, 7:46, 7:44, 7:44, 7:46, 7:47, 7:49, 7:42, 7:25 (my fastest mile thanks to some nice downhills), 7:51, 7:58, 8:15 (trouble opening my Vespa package with numb fingers), 8:26 (my slowest mile due to some nasty headwinds), 8:09, 8:05, 8:05, 8:10, 8:01, 8:03, 8:07, 8:02, 8:08, 8:10, 8:22 (some fatigue is setting in... I was wondering when it would really show up...), 2:39 (0.33 miles at 7:59 pace).

I was skeptical about this Power-Balance wrist band thing, but it clearly gave me more flexibility and strength during some simple tests. If a wrist band made you stronger and more balanced and flexible, would you wear it? I figured it couldn't hurt, and there were clearly many other believers.

I think Vespa allowed me to run a more consistent race with no energy problems. By burning fat more efficiently, you end up burning less sugars, resulting in less lactic acid, less cramping, less soreness, and a quicker recovery. The compression calf sleeves (by Zensah) kept my legs warmer (around 31 degrees at the start) and was supposed to aid in providing better blood flow and circulation (I had a mild calf strain 5 weeks ago). The Asics Piranhas are super light at 4 ounces each, and helped me with a faster foot turnover, even though my feet felt numb most of the time. After being slammed by headwinds at mile 15, I slowed down and found a pace that would keep me close to the 3:30 goal time. And I surprised myself at being able to hold the pace through mile 25. There was no wall and no cramping this time, and the time flew by pretty quick. During my first marathon, these last 5 miles were agonizingly slow.

At mile 26, I had a nephew pace me for about a tenth of a mile, which gave me a final boost to the finish line, for a strong finish.

This is why we run marathons. They feel like awesome accomplishments sometimes (not all the time), and today was one of those awesome accomplishment days.