Saturday, November 21, 2015

IceBox480 - Wisconsin (12/50)

I just finished writing this race report once already, but somehow it highlighted the entire post, deleted it and auto saved. I can't retrieve my earlier words of wisdom. Just imagine how amazingly insightful my writing was. How inspiring, clever and funny. Now, you'll have to do with my second, less enthusiastic version:

IceBox 480 - Wisconsin

The Dizzy Goat 12h had gone so well for me that I looked forward to another timed event. I like the concept. Instead of running a given distance as fast as you can, you are giving a total time and you can run as far as you can get during that period.
The "480" in IceBox 480 indicates the 480 minutes (8 hours) that you have to compile as many miles as possible. The "Ice" gives you a hint at the temperatures that we would be dealing with. Even though the course did not contain any icy portions, the temps ranged between 35-42 degrees over the course of the day. Usually I don't mind these conditions, As I run outside for the entire winter in negative degrees (that is if my wife lets me!), but I hadn't had time to acclimate yet to colder temperatures. Work had recently taking me to Nevada (hot), Tijuana (hot) and New Jersey (surprisingly mild at 60ish).

What a good looking family!!!
Note Leiana's red cheeks and nose,
high time she gets back into the warmth! 
We arrived the night before and stayed a hotel just about 5 minutes from the race start at Whitetail Ridge. Christina packed up Leiana and I went through my gear and nutrition one last time. I was going to set up my own little aid station again, similar to what I did at Dizzy Goat. This way I would have access to my gels, Gatorade and a change of clothes. This was going to be key later on. After I stashed my equipment at the aid station I hugged and kissed Christina and Leiana, snapped a picture and sent them back to the hotel for some breakfast. No need to stand out here in the blistering cold while I wait for the race to start.

Everything was set and I still had some minutes to spare, so I went for my traditional pre-race poop. I'm glad I went when I did, because with about 5 minutes before the race started, everyone else seemed to have the same idea. The lines were about 20 deep and there was no way these runners would start on time or they would have to carry that little bit of extra weight :).

Race start from 2013-14. I couldn't find a 2015 pic,
but it looked the same
Race Director Chris gathered everyone a good 200 feet from the trail head and went over last minute instructions. I briefly chatted with the guy next to me. His GPS wouldn't work and I could tell he had clear set goals for today. He told me that he got 2nd last year with about 52 miles and he was hoping for for about 55 today. I found that quite impressive, as I thought a good day would yield 45-50 miles for me. I had made a course map and wrote time split times that I would try to hit throughout the day. He scanned them for a while and thanked me. He asked if we wanted to run together for a while as we seem to be going for a similar pace early on. I agreed and not much more time passed before the gun went off. We raced to the trail head in order to not get stuck behind some slower runners. I ran next to the trail while passing a few runners and careened back on the the single track a couple of runners behind him. That was the last I saw of him that day. He ended up winning the race with 56 miles!

beautiful single track
A little bit more reshuffling went on and I ended up running with ummm,....I think Jeff. Can't tell for sure anymore. He was running in a basketball jersey, shorts and shoes. I like to not wear too many clothes when I run either, but that seemed very ambitious for the given temps. However, he seemed to be doing quite well. We talked for the entirety of the first loop and I found out that he had already completed a 100Km (62 miles) race. That was quite impressive since I have never run that far. We were probably in 9th and 10th place, respectively. There was no reason to chase anyone at this point as we still had more than 7 hours to go and I figured that traditionally one runner gets lost, one or two are running too fast for their abilities, another will get stomach issues and someone else ends up twisting an ankle or something like that. As long as I made sure these things wouldn't happen to me, I knew was going to place well.

Jeff and I and I had two pairs of gloves :)
 The race course had a total of two aid station and covered 7 miles total per loop. I thought it was more like 6.2mi, but learned different later on. My goal was to finish each loop in one hour. That was ambitious, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I can always slow down later. There is a reason you have your A goal and then a B, C goal etc. The first loop was over with in ~54 minutes. I was well ahead of pace and was a little worried that maybe I was going out too fast, but I didn't even feel warmed up yet. I cruised through the aid station as I had plenty of Gatorade left and continue on solo, since Jeff stayed behind to hydrate and warm up a bit. I did offer him my extra pair of gloves, but he didn't want them.
It was freezing out and I welcomed the sunshine as it started breaking through the forest. Each ray was warming when it touched my skin. This wasn't so bad after all. I skipped the middle aid station again and enjoyed my day out. I didn't see anyone in front or behind and occasionally lapped the participants that chose to walk.
Finishing the second loop in ~56 minutes, I put more time into the bank. I knew I'll eventually start needed that time back, but was glad I was 10 minutes ahead of goal pace. I filled my water bottle with HEED electrolyte mix and started the loop anew.
a volunteer actually used a leaf blower to make
the trail visible. talk about service!
The way the 3rd loop started was indicative of how my next few hours were going to be. Reaching the half way point my toe caught a root and I ended up eating quite a bit of dirt. Oh well, that happens when you don't pay attention! On I went, only to bite it again a few minutes later. I must've been lost in thought or something like that and was mad at myself as my knee was now bleeding and I was lucky that it wasn't worse. Believe it or not, I crashed a third time shortly after. At this point my arms and back hurt from kissing the ground so violently and often. In hindsight, this was a good indicator  that my focus was trailing off. I think it was due to a sugar crash. I had started off too early with Gatorade, which is extremely high in sugar. Switching to HEED, I didn't replenish the sugar in my body and losing focus seemed to be the first indicator.
two cramping legs!!
Nevertheless, I finished the 3rd loop in ~58 minutes and was extending my banked time. After taking the first 3 loops behind the shed, their big brother "Loop 4" waiting anxiously for me and ambushed me right at the start of this soon-to-be painful loop. Another vicious root jumped at my out of nowhere and entangled my foot. I had a pretty good pace going straight forward and my foot stopped in place immediately, physics will explain what happened to me next. As I caught myself yet again, my legs seized up from the sudden impact and I had difficulty standing up in order to loosen them again. I couldn't believe that I was cramping now, when I had only been running for 3 hours. The next 5 would be very long if this would continue. Managing a slower jog I tried to make sure to not overextend myself any further. For the first time I stopped at the middle aid station and asked for some Coke, only to find out that they didn't have any. Only HEED. That wouldn't help me. I craved sugar now and knew it would give me another boost. I slowed to what seemed like a crawl and ended up walking extended portions in the exposed windy sections of the course. Since I had gone out fast early on, I was quite sweaty. In combination with the wind, I started freezing rapidly. I texted Christina to please bring me some extra clothing. See, if I have time to text, the race isn't going to well at that time.
I shivered my way back to the aid station and changed clothes that I had stashed in my drop bag. What a relief to get the wet clothes off. I was still cold to the core and gladly accepted a delicious cup of hot chicken broth. That was AMAZING!!!
awesome mountain bike trail to run downhill on!
I felt the hot soup trickling from my throat into my stomach and it was great! Unfortunately the little cup was gone within a couple of minutes and I cooled off again quickly. Also, it appeared that my sweating hadn't subsided and I was cold again before hitting the mile 2 mark. I contemplated heading out of my way back to the aid station to get more broth, but knew I'd basically be waiving the towel. I told myself to suck it up and continue. I'd walk the uphills, jog the flats and run the downhills. I grabbed half of a donut at the middle aid station, because I still needed sugar. How stupid was I? I had been at the main aid station and took broth. That was good, but I didn't even think about my Gatorade or the Coke that they had on hand! I was bonking pretty hard now and was just hoping that the donut would kick in sometime soon. All in all the 4th loop took me 1:12h. In that loop, I used up all my banked time from earlier. Well ,to look at it positively, I was 4 loops in at the 4 hour mark. That's on target, but I was still slowing down further.

I got to the main aid station a little faster though than I hand anticipated in my text to Christina. Now I didn't have another shirt to switch into as I was again shivering cold. I took off the wet shirt and threw on the hooded sweatshirt I had brought as that was the last thing I had left. I filled my entire water bottle with broth, downed an entire bottle of Gatorade and went on my way. I walked even more during this loop, but always found short sections that I could go a bit faster again. I got passed by a couple of people and was feeling sorry for myself. I hate that moment. I shouldn't feel that way. I decided to run this race and knew what it would encompass. I told myself that there is nothing to feel bad about as I am outside doing what I enjoy. I knew the down feeling came from nutritional issues and I would take care of them when I come through the main aid station again. The remainder of the 5th loop went by in a haze (~1:20h, I think) and I trudged through the main aid station, downing some Coke and more Gatorade and broth.
Awwwwwwwww yeah!
About 2:40h were left and I realized that I can't slow down any further, otherwise I wouldn't be able to complete two more loops. I forced my legs to move faster than they wanted and surprisingly they responded. Not in the "i am running super fast now" way, but at least they didn't slow down further. My goal was to get to the middle aid station and get some Pizza that I saw on the previous lap.
I got to the aid station and actually had a little bounce in my step envisioning how I would devour multiple slices in my very immediate future! hurts to even think about it today....they...they were out....

no pizza left for me..
How could the world be so cruel? I wanted to call it a day right there and then. What horrific news. I settled for cheese curds (they don't really have any nutritional value for endurance sports!) and a few pieces of a left-over brownie. I sulked my sorry self back to the main aid station (6th loop in ~1:18h) and was embraced by Christina and Leiana. It was so great to see them. Things were about to change! Well, first I changed into the clothes she brought. Then I heard that they would hold all runners until the top of the hour to then start the race anew on the one mile loop they had set up. That was going to help track exact distances as not many people would be able to finish another loop in the given time. However, I didn't like that we had to wait. I could've walked a mile in the 12 minutes I was going to stand here. On top of everything multiple runners came in after me and basically had caught up now. All day I tried to fend them off and now I had to stand here and just let it happen.
Christina got my head on straight. She told me that I also caught up to other runners ahead of me. True. Plus I have been given 12 minutes to stretch my legs, loosen them and get some food and drink in me. Basically a guilt free break. Leiana goofed off around the aid station while I was prepping for the final hour of the day. 

I started feeling excited for the last hour. I planned on staying ahead of the runners that came in behind me and maybe make up a spot or two to the front. My stiff legs got into motion when the RD signaled us that we could go a few minutes early. I wasn't ready yet! Man, others had a head start now. After some changing in the pecking order I was able to distance myself from some people behind me and zeroed in on the guys ahead of me. My belated start fueled me and I went a bit harder than I thought I should, but wanted to desperately catch up. After the first mile, I began to feel better. I could
main aid station
painlessly run the second mile. Lapping others now they started encouraging me to keep running as they were only able to walk. The 2nd mile was done and I chugged my water bottle into the vicinity of my drop bag. I'd have to find it later. No sense in wasting precious time now. I started feeling the adrenaline pumping and was riding the runners high. I somewhat feared that this would wear off quickly and I end up really hurting, but decided to go for broke. If I had to walk the last 20 minutes, then so be it. I kept passing people and felt better and better.
Christina yelled to me from the distance as she could see me through some of the less forest areas and I kept going even faster (at this point "faster" means around a 8min/mile pace). I finish the 7th mile with 4 minutes to spare in the day and knew I can't finish another mile and stop at the aid station. I was so elated. I didn't know exactly how many miles I had completed over the 8 hours, but felt great about the finish. I think I could've kept going at that pace for another hour. It ended up being 49 miles in 7:56H, which was good enough for 5th overall! The next 3 runners were only separated by a mile each. If this race was just another hour long, I could've really challenged them. Or if I hadn't slowed down so much earlier. 
Anyways, my PR for 50 miles is 9:04h. I think I could've finished another mile in the 1:08h to spare, so it is safe to say I would've beaten that time. Therefore, the day was actually a great success. I wouldn't have guessed it earlier as I was feeling so down, but I kept an even steady pace even during those dark hours.   
It turns out that I really enjoy these looped courses. It helps when I run races where I don't know the course, as the early loops give me time to familiarize myself with the route and know when to push and when not. 
Overall I did have a good time and look forward to resting up for a couple of weeks and then focus on the last race of the year, the RiddleBox 50K.

What a cute family!!! note my new racing shirt from 605!!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jack 15 (2015)

Jack 15 (2015)
The Jack 15 will mark only the second race I have ever repeated (to this point, the SF Marathon was excellent, as was the Dizzy Goat 12H). The other one has been the Brookings Marathon that I have run a few times by now.
The Jack 15 stands out as a race for its’ long history (50+ years), as well as the story behind it. It stretches from the center of town in White, SD and runs 15.2 miles to The Campanile on the SDSU campus in Brookings, SD. I like these type of point to point races. It’s an actual journey. Once you hit the middle point, you may as well keep going, because quitting and going back is equal distance.
The race course is pretty straightforward. Well, you take a total of two (yes, two, tough to get lost!) turns. First a right (after about 5 miles), then a left (after another 5 miles) and you’re on the home stretch (you guessed it, just about another 5 miles). It starts on paved roads and switches onto gravel before going back on pavement. It crosses an interstate (over a bridge, you don’t have to play Frogger, which is a plus if you think about it) and is constantly exposed to the potentially high winds and cold temps that this time of year are very common in Eastern South Dakota.
This year, it was pretty mild though. If memory serves me well it was a cool/mild morning with low winds and lots of sunshine. Everything was setting the scene for a beautiful race.
I parked my car just off the starting line and went on a warm-up jog around White, SD. During this 1-2 mile, I hit both ends of town and was reminded of how wholesome the experience is to run on roads in a small Midwestern town, where you don’t have to worry about traffic and were other early-risers greet you on their way down the driveway to pick up their morning paper.
At the starting line realizing how stacked the field is!
I chatted with a couple of guys that I’ve raced against a few times (Tim & Brian) and almost always lost to (no suspense here, they both beat me today too). Tim had actually won this race before and I think Brian had gotten 2nd place the year before some other high placing like it. I asked them about the time targets and placing goals. They surprised me by being very modest and not going for the podium today. I thought of false modesty at first, but they pointed out a few other runners that were warming up (several former college runners and a couple of runners that have previously won the Sioux Falls marathon, including the winner from two weeks ago). This was a stacked field to say the least!
Starting line in White, SD
As we stood at the starting line, I thought about the previous years’ beginning and remembered that I had started out too conservatively in the first 3-4 miles and was never able to make up the time in the later miles. The gun went off and so did we. I was in the 3rd row or so and didn’t want to get sucked in the typical runners’ fashion of sprinting the first mile and suffering from it at the later stages of the race. So to recap, don’t start off too slow or too fast. Within 2-3 minutes it was clear that the first few guys were going to not be heard of again until the race is over. They took off fast and I could clearly see the top two guys ahead of everyone else. It was astonishing how effortless they looked despite their pace.
[The Sioux Falls marathon was still fresh in my legs and I didn’t want to risk injury by racing hard without proper rest. The two weeks in between were mostly spent at easy pace. Being aware of the potential risk for injury, I still wanted to use my current level of fitness and speed from the marathon and get a decent result. I just had to be smart and if I were to feel even the tiniest niggle, I would have to ease off and jog the remainder.  Therefore I decided to race.]

I counted the runners and settled into 16th position. As usual, I took inventory of my body and gear to make sure everything was in working order. Everything was. I decided to run on the right side of the road, while everyone else was on the other side. It wasn’t very windy, so I didn’t need the wind cover of other runners and I preferred clear sight ahead. After a couple of miles I noticed why everyone was on the left side. The right side was to be used by cars of people that were cheering on or part of a relay team and heading to the first exchange point. I felt a bit like a dumbass when I noticed several cars right behind me crawling along at snail paceJ.
By the time the first turn came, I had moved up a couple of spots and had zeroed in on the next two. I made small talk with the eventual female champion, who is in her 50s or 60s, and was moving along at an unyielding pace and her stride was extremely smooth. I hope I can run as efficient at the same age some time down the road as well.
A buddy from high school times was waiting at every mile marker (which, patriotically were signified by American Flags) to cheer on a friend of his. He recognized me and high fived me at mile intervals, as he was scooting ahead in his scooter (see what I did there? Clever word pun!). He took a video of their day on his GoPro, which I thought was cool, so I share it here -->
At this point, I got confused about what place I may or may not be in, as I wasn’t sure if the people ahead of me were in relay teams or not, but I could make out another runner, who always races the local Brookings races and always delivers impressive performances. He also is in his 50s or 60s and I saw him as I crested the last hill (at least 15 feet!!) before the second and final turn. I waited until he hit the turn and I looked at my watch in order to record the time between him taking the turn and me getting to the same point. This way I could estimate his lead on me and see what speed I would need to run in order to catch up on remaining 5 miles or so.
As I was on a downhill, heading towards the turn, I decided to open my gait and run faster than I had anticipated pre-race. I also fumbled around with my head-phones clicking on the little button to keep skipping songs until I landed on one that had the right bpm ratio that would help me keep my goal pace going forward.
I was behind around 46 seconds. On 5 miles, that makes…ummm…uhhh…9.2 seconds per mile that I need to be faster than him….ummm…uhhh…by the time my delirious brain (when redlining during a run, the brain function appears to be quite diminished at times! Who would’ve thought?)
By the time I was getting close to figuring out the mathematics, I was already in motion to pass him and subsequently the next guy as well who was only 50 feet or so ahead of him. Both looked like they were hurting. With the campanile (which represented the finish line) drawing closer, I pulled out some racing strategies that proved well in the past. Despite feeling the lactic acid in my legs and the pain ever so slightly increasing I need to speed up even further to ensure that they would not try to stay with me. Luckily, this only lasted a brief moment and I didn’t have to test my utmost limits at this time. I approached the half marathon mark (13.1mi/21km) and at this point I was racing the clock. My goal of 1:50:00 was approaching and I needed to be diligent about not letting up. Shortly after, I crossed the highway 14 bypass and looked back and saw no one close to me. To me that meant to go for broke. If I cramped up, I could still hobble in at my current place, but if I didn’t I would get in under my goal.
Finish at the Campanile (not my time on the clock)
The devious little incline from the highway to the campanile, which funny enough you only notice when you race the Jack 15, gave me a little trouble and I actually looked back yet another time, as I felt like I was almost standing still (I wrote before that only scared runners look back and I felt scared to be taken over so close to the finish). No other runner was in sight and I felt the runners’ high coming on. I saw the approaching finish line and pushed one last time and got in at 1:47:47 (7:05min/mi pace). I am very happy with the outcome and the fact that I snagged 10th place overall also made me happy. I ran ~10 minutes faster than the previous year and improved by only one spot. The 1:47:47 would’ve placed me second last year! That shows how incredible the runners were this year. I had a lot of fun and was happy to embrace Christina and Leiana at the finish line. After the SF marathon and the Jack 15 I am now looking forward for 2-3 weeks of rest before picking up racing again in the IceBox 480 Ultramarathon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sioux Falls Marathon 2015

Sioux Falls Marathon 2015

3:23:19 has been my PR ever since I ran my 3rd Marathon. I’ve run several more ever since, but have not been able to get closer than 5 minutes to it. Most of them actually hovered between 3:30-3:50. It’s actually been so long since I had run that PR that I thought it was a different time all together. I went between thinking it’s 3:19 or 3:21.

This year I have been able to have a more structured training and it’s been paying off at all distances. I had run my fastest 5K in years, won my first 5K on a different occasion, PR’d my 50K time, ran the furthest I have ever had (58.5 miles) and broke my Half-Marathon PR during a training run 3 weeks prior to the Marathon. I had put more effort into resting when I needed rest and pushing my limits when needed.

During the last few weeks of training, I’ve been giddy about my training runs. I love my weekend’s long run, the middle-week hill sprints and the hard track workouts where I expand my anaerobic capacity. Every single time training got hard and I wanted to quit, I told myself that it was then that I got better. The second after you convince yourself to keep going, you get better. It was a fantastic feeling. Sure, I had crappy runs. Especially in the heat, when my heart wanted to jump out of my chest or days when my legs were so tight, I had to stop mid-run to shake them out.

All this training culminated in a mindset that I realized the night before the Sioux Falls Marathon. Christina asked me if I was nervous. She always asks me this the night before a race. I love that she is interested in what’s going on in my head before going into these adventures. I always tell her that I am nervous. Truth is, my heart races before the gun even goes off. It’s always been that way. Only this time, I told her that I am excited. Not in the way that I am nervous or anything, but really looking forward to the race. I told her that I feel prepared. Just then did I realize that it’s going to be a fantastic run!

3:35am and the alarm goes off. Race start is at 6:30am and I got an hour drive ahead of me, plus warming up. Better get going. I’ve been waking up sporadically since 2am anyways, nervous to have overslept. I had set out my kit the night before to prevent any last minute hiccups. I get dressed, grab some food and coffee, kiss my girls good-bye and get going.

I park right at the starting line and walk into Howard Wood Stadium to warm up. I’ve been dealing with a very tight IT band in my left leg, which had been tugging on my hip for weeks now. I focus on warming it up diligently, as this is the only thing that can cost me my race today.

605 Running Company enthusiasts
With about 10 minutes to go before the start I line up with the guys from 605 Running Company for a group picture. I head to the start and listen to the national anthem and a morning prayer.

I find 3:15 pacer Keith, whom I met the day before during the pre-race Expo. My goal was to stick with him for about 20 miles and then hopefully hang on to finish below 3:23. Earlier in the year, at the Kalamazoo marathon, I was on pace to PR until 4-5 miles left and I hit the wall hard and dropped roughly 2 minutes per mile off my pace and finished in 3:28. 

The race starts and I find Keith’s pace very EZ and we chat about our kids, other marathons and ultramarathons. Our group has 10-15 people in it and I drop off on the uphills and go ahead on the downhills. The “hills” in downtown Sioux Falls aren’t difficult by any stretch, but it does disrupt my even pace. We finish the first 8 miles in under an hour and I noticed my calves getting tight. I decide that I will stick with my group as I still like the pace. Either I have to walk later due to cramps or have a good time. No use in trying to have another 3:30 marathon without cramping. At the 10 mile mark, we’ve dropped most of the other runners in the group and we are down to Keith, myself and three others. I learn here that he is the current course record holder of the Kettle Moraine 100 miler. Talking with him about various ultramarathons gives me the feeling that we are just on a weekend long run and it doesn’t feel like a race. We never push the pace. He runs super steady and it’s a great feeling that I’m banking several seconds per mile in regards to my PR. We pass the half-way point in my second fastest 13.1 time ever and I still feel good.

We approach the last hill of the race at mile 16. Actually we ran it up, not knowing it was the hill we were expecting. On the downhill, I opened my gait and went about 50 yards ahead of Keith, fully expecting him to get me on the upcoming hill. Only the hill never comes. It was a fortunate moment, as otherwise I would’ve likely stuck with Keith for another 4 miles. I use some of the momentum and run a 6:50 mile, which scares me as I fear burning my energy too soon. I settle in to a comfortable, but only slightly faster pace (7:15) than we had for the first 16 miles (7:27).

Not quite sure what happened for the next 4 miles or so, but I simply clicked off miles and kept looking at my watch as the pace kept increasing. With 6 miles to go, I started “racing”. I look into distance and mark the next runner and set my goal in reel them in. With 4 miles to go, I turn on my music and go for broke. I can feel my legs burning with the ever increasing lactate acid. At this point, I know I have my PR even if I have to slow to a jog, but I decide to push even harder. Running on the bike trail helps immensely, as I can see far ahead and set my sights on the next few runners. This allows me to focus on something else other than the ever increasing pain in my legs. The last 4 miles are all under 7 minute pace. I pass a good 10-12 runners during this stretch and finally pop out of the bike trail and take a sharp right. I see the stadium and have about a half mile to go. My legs are really hurting, but I can feel the adrenalin pumping now. I have 3 runners right in front of me and frantically keep switching songs to get one that is slightly faster than my current pace. This always helps me running a bit faster than I thought I could. Turns out, my final half mile was under 6 minute pace. Weaving around the stadium, I turn onto the running track, throw my water bottle and put my head down to push for the last 300 meters and outsprint the last guy that hung on after I just passed him. The finish in the stadium is exhilarating. Lots of people are cheering and the runners high is kicking in. I can hear the announcer call out my name and I am in full sprint now. I dropped the final runner that tried to counter my kick and I can see the timer as I cross the finish line. 3:10:19. This was awesome!

I hug Leiana and Christina and am super elated about my race. My race strategy and nutrition plan paid off well and even though I began my push earlier than expected( mile 16, not 20), it paid off greatly. Great course and organization. I ended up 16th overall, which is my best finish at a marathon of this size (turns out I beat the 17th place by 0.1 seconds. Due to chip timing, I didn’t see him finish, but it comes to show, if you are racing, push until you are across the finish line.)

Later I look through my splits and ran a 10K PR during that last portion of the race. The strategy worked out perfectly and a great thanks to Keith who kept the even pace for my first 16 miles. I will definitely run with a pacer again. I got 5 minutes to shave off for Boston. Another 5 for my ultimate goal: a sub 3-hour marathon.

Sioux Falls, I’ll be back!

Nevada (11/50)

Nevada Marathon – Las Vegas (2015)

I got to Vegas early. I had a few hours before our conference would start. I got up early at 5:30am for a conference call at 6am (8am South Dakota time. Still not sure why I set it for that time, other than not thinking about the time difference). After the call, I finished the remaining e-mails, watched the sun come up through my 30th floor window view of the strip to the east and left my room. Navigating through the casino, which was very busy for it being 7:30am, I headed out of the front door and started walking for a half a mile evaluating whether I am really up for this today or not. The strip was fairly empty of people besides other runners. I hadn’t expected this. It was very encouraging. Exciting even! I got going, making sure I remain at a very slow pace. The constant sidewalk constructing made for an exciting maze of surprising dead-ends, endless up and downs on stairs and bridges crossing the main street and running past people trudging home from their (successful or un-successful, I couldn’t tell the difference) nights out.

As the first 2-3 miles ticked off, I started thinking about that I actually hadn’t set a plan for the route today. I was going to run the strip. That surely wasn’t enough for a marathon, but I hadn’t taken the slightest moment to plan ahead. I did know the Vegas sits in a valley of sorts between some beautiful looking mountain ranges, which I would’ve loved to scale for hours on end. Unfortunately they were roughly 14 miles from the Monte Carlo. Which meant, for my marathon goal, I would just make it to the foot of the mountain before having to turn around. That seemed like too much mental torture for me. If I had a rental car, I would’ve driven and run in the mountains, but I figured I’ll see Vegas from a different side that most don’t see on their 2-3 days stint in Sin City.

I headed towards the north aiming for what I call the Vegas Space Needle. Not sure what the actual name is. I could look it up when I land (I’m currently airborne, Denver-Sioux Falls), but I don’t care enough to do just that. I took a right and headed towards Sunrise Mountain. I wasn’t going to run up it, but there seemed to me a nice running trail (Flamingo Arroyo Trail that had popped up on one of my many running route apps.

The temps kept rising and I nearly had emptied my back pack bladder and bottle and made sur eto re-stock every few miles at gas stations or 7/11s. Here I ran past a young guy fixing his skate board as he looked up concerned and called out to me. I took out my headphones and stopped asking him to please repeat. He said: “DUDE, you dropped…(I was nervous)…your smile over there!!”. Made my whole day. Awesome attitude! Reminded me on how often you have the chance to impact somebody’s day by a single gesture or statement. Most people aren’t aware of this power. I am convinced that this guy knew what he was doing and I appreciate him for doing just that!

I ran along a while longer when I got stopped by a traffic light. I checked out the motorcycle that had just stopped across the street from me and heard a cop car turn on his sirens just behind him. The biker (crotch-rocket) rolled into the gas station and the cop slowly followed. The bike revved up and I heard him speed down the alley until I saw him pop out a couple of blocks later and turn 180 heading back towards where I was. He was gone for broke, running the red and was gone out of my sight. I looked back to the alley and saw the cop standing there not knowing which direction the guy had gone. A car rolled down the window and shouted towards me:” DID YOU SEE THAT, HAHA!”.

Vegas, I guess.

I kept going, passed Las Vegas High School and knew I was approaching the half-way point of my run today. I got to a nice section where you could really get the sense for running in a desert. One road reaching to the horizon and only cacti and dust to your sides. Ironically I was listening to an audiobook of a guy describing running through death valley in July for the legendary Badwater 135 (yes, 135 miles through death valley in July. As a race. Ultimate badass/dumbass race. I’m thinking about it J). Temps now hit 97F and I was feeling it. I ran out of water, but had my trusty LifeStraw that Christina bought for me a year or so ago. It filters the most sketchy water sources imaginable into regular drinking water. I don’t rely on it, but it’s an insanely reassuring back up to have! (Thanks hun!) Turned out I didn’t need it as I hit a gas station about 20 minutes later. I found a spot to take picture for my 605running shirt, with the strip in the background. The 605 guys are truly passionate about running and support my goal to get them represented in each state (#Run605)! As I was waiting for the traffic light to turn, a couple of non-trustworthy guys walked up next to me. Nothing was going to happen, as there were twenty cars waiting for the light and I had plenty of space in between us and could’ve taken off if I had to. BUT, these guys starting talking and I couldn’t help to listen…”Man, I was up ALL NIGHT….COULDN”T GET HER TO BE QUIET AT ALL…JUST KEPT SCREAMING AT ME…MAN…HONESTLY…DIDN”T KNOW WHAT TO DO………………………..THEN, I changed her diaper and she went back to sleep. She looked so sweet sleeping in my arm after that….” Seriously how awesome was that! I got a high just from that and was just overall happy (plus I grabbed some water!).

I was at around 17 miles and noticed my calves slowly seizing up and decided to walk for a bit. This wasn’t a race. No time goal. Nobody to chase down. Just minimize the damage, so I can run the IceBox480 in a few weeks. It was a wise decision as my heart rate slowed to a recovering stage and I enjoyed the view of the desert to one side, the strip in the distance to the other, all the while surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges (I will hit them at some point!). 

I walked for a couple of miles and started feeling good again. I had drank a 20oz Gatorade and the sugar got to me, I guess. I started shuffling, then jogging, skipping, running, backflipping, etc… you could say I picked up a 2nd wind. I felt really good and was excited having the famous Las Vegas strip hotels so close to me and only 4-5 miles to go. I started running around 8-9 min-miles again and after a 4-5 miles turned onto the main strip again. Now it was a game of Frogger dodging the on-slaught of tourists (same as me!) that were crowding the side-walks. I had switched from audio book, because I finished the book, to my “Running” Playlist and got pumped up by the up bead tempo of the music. It was a fast paced hop-skipping between people and I passed the 26.2 mile mark at 4:18 elapsed. By far not a fast marathon, but considering 97F temps, walking a couple of miles, plus doing this all for fun, I felt good. PLUS, I put into memory my San Jose, CA marathon, which I did in just over 5 hours years ago.

I had to go a couple more miles until I got to the hotel, so I am contemplating calling this an ultra-marathon (technically, it’s beyond 26.2!), but I was very elated walking through the casino again and knowing I got my 11th state off the list. Plus my 7 countries. Now it was time to shower and get back to attending to my e-mails, plus my afternoon conference call.

18 down.

82 to go.

Dizzy Goat 12 hour / Nebraska (10/50)

Dizzy Goat 12h

Schramm Park, South Omaha, NE

6:42am… I’ve decided to sit down to calm my nerves. I’m going through my mental checklist for the race preparations. Granted I’ve completed this list 5 times already in the last 10 minutes, but I can’t think of a good reason not to. I’ve got my personal aid station set up:
Drinks: check.
Blister kit: check.
Energy gels: check.
Extra socks: check.
Extra pair of shoes: check.
Hat: not found. Crap.
Band Aids: check.
Sun Glasses: check.
MP3 Player: check.
Many more things that I have never needed before, but who knows: check.

No shirts means fast guys 

6:47am… Next to me sit two other guys. They look fast. There tends to be a “fashion trend” for guys that are taking ultra-racing serious. The more efficient “outfit” or the less you care what you look like (no matching shoes/shorts/shirt), the more other racers can expect that you will be giving that race your utmost.

Well, these guys wore shoes and shorts. That’s it. A bottle in their hand and a watch on their wrist. As if we called each other the night before like high school girls matching outfits. I knew these guys were fast. Little did I know I’d be seeing much more of them throughout the day.

Breaking the silence, I asked what mileage they were going for…

{See, this race was a timed event. It’s not like other ultra-marathons, where you see who can run fastest over 50 miles or so. Here, you run for 12 hours and see who can go furthest. My goal was to set a new person record for distance. I’ve never run further than 50 miles (well ~52-54 due to some bad turns in a couple of races, but that’s neither here nor there). I’ve run for more than 12 hours before. Actually, it was around 12 hours, 2 minutes or something like that, but I covered only 50 miles that day. The elevation gain during this race in Maine was too much for me, and getting lost didn’t help either.}


Calmly they state “60ish” and “yeah, about that”. I confidently say: “same here”. Again, they looked fast. If they go for 60, I ought to go for 45-50. I’m quiet now. Re-thinking my entire race strategy. Forecast shows a high temp of ~93F and ranges of 88-93 for about 11am to 4pm of the race time. I hear people talking about “banking mileage” before it gets hot and then hanging on. I have a tough time re-planning my race, simply because I don’t want to red-line for 4 hours to get a high mileage and then zombie walk for 8 hours just to finish. Contemplating other peoples’ race strategies made me actually more confident. Their plan does not seem to fit for 12 hours of racing. I’ll let them go at the beginning and will catch them later. It’s not a sprint, it’s a (ultra)marathon.

6:52AM… the race director addresses the 12 hour racers. Going through the traditional pre-race speech, I look at my watch, which shows my heart rate. See, my resting heart rate is 47 beats per minute. I’m standing. It should be slightly higher. Hmm…103 bpm doesn’t seem right. Ohh duh, nerves. Alright, now I got really nervous and actually saw it climb to 118 bpm. I sat back down. Closed my eyes and analyzed my training. It hadn’t gone ideal by any standards. Having recently raced the Kalamazoo Marathon in Michigan, I strained my right knee and it still bugged me. I took off hard training for a full month and only did easy mileage sparingly in between. That’s not really what you want to do when you build an endurance base for a long-distance race. Also, the night before I ran barefoot around the yard and stepped on a perfectly placed rock that shot a sharp pain through the skin and muscles all the way through the bone (that was 2 months ago and I still feel it!). All night I couldn’t bear weight on my heel. I slept with an ice-pack taped to my foot, hoping for any kind of relief. None was to be had.

4:30am… (jumping back in time)… the alarm goes off. I quickly throw my phone across the room to shut it off. See, I didn’t want to wake the wife and baby. I am nice like that. I get up on my way to the bathroom and have to immediately sit down. My heel was bruised heavily. I had to walk on the ball of my foot. Great. How about running for 12 hours today? Sounds like fun.  

4:55am… I’m out of the door. It’s pitch black out and I am stuffing a banana and granola bar down my throat. I have a hard time eating this early with a race coming up. But I’ll need the calories. It’s about a 30 minute drive, but I need to find something to take care of my heel. I stop at a total of three gas stations to get something to cushion the inside of the shoe to relieve some pressure from my heel. I ended up with some tissues and electrical tape J.

6:53am… I’m sitting. Feeling the home-made heel-cushioning device in my shoe (patent-pending!), I finally calm down. I take the stress out of the race, because it’ll be impossible to race 100% today. Therefore, I will simply go out and enjoy the race.

7am… On the dot, the race gun goes off. Run a 3.25mile loop as many times as you can in 12 hours. 600 feet of elevation change per loop (that’ll add up, trust me!).
I was in the first row. No reason to run 30 extra feet from the back, it’s a race after all. Within 15 seconds I was relegated to 25th place or so many others took off as if they were running a 5K. Believe me, it’s very hard to hold back. All the adrenaline that you’re dealing with. The whole anticipation from the weeks of training specifically from this one event, and now I need to make myself slow down.
It helps that I’ve run a few ultras by now, as I also started off fast in my first ultras, only to truly suffer towards the end.

The section around the Start/Finish area was flat and paved. You didn’t have to watch your steps, so I used to opportunity to take inventory off how things felt. Heart rate strap felt a little tight, but was ok. Shorts were comfortable (two gels stashed in the back pocket). Had to run on the ball of my foot, which is a concern. This will strain my calves more than I have trained thus far, but I can’t put weight on my heel, so there is nothing I can do about it.

The two guys I sat with earlier, are way out of sight. So much for “same here”!

I strike up a handful of conversations throughout the first loop as people pass me and I’m passing others. Trying to get the first loop completed without expanding too much effort. My goal was to run each loop around 35minutes, and forcing myself to talk to people helped slow down.

I reach the end of the first loop after only ~28 minutes, which is reason for concern. The loop is about 5K, with said 600 feet elevation change, and 28 minutes is a decent 5K (especially if you plan on running 17-20 of them in a row!). I guess I’m banking a little mileage after all. However, I have to address my foot. Running only on the ball of my foot has caused a large hot-spot. If I don’t take care of it now, it’ll end up being a big blister within a couple of hours and can potentially end my race early.  I apply some Vaseline, tape it up to avoid future friction and take off one of my socks (I wore two pair to increase cushioning). I ended up changing my socks completely one more time a couple of loops later as I kept dumping ice-water over my head to cool myself down. That water trickled down into my shoes and my feet were constantly wet. Not an ideal situation to prevent blisters!

The next 8 loops go by un-eventful.

12:30pm…I’m on loop 10. Finishing this loop will put me at ~31 miles. We’re 5 and half hours into the race. Not quite half way done. Crazy, I know. It’s getting hot. I’m sweating like crazy and refill my water bottle every 15 minutes or so with pure ice and it’s melted completely by the time I reach the next aid station. Due to the heat and sweat loss, I make sure to consume a lot of salt. Because I am drinking so much water, I need to make sure to keep my body in balance and not suffer from Hyponatremia, which is just short of water poisoning.
I catch up with one of the two runners that I sat next to earlier in the day. We were greeting each other throughout the day as he ran towards me since he had started each loop before me (every 2nd loop, you ran the other direction). He’d been struggling with the heat. I told him that I’ve noticed that my fingers have swollen a bit and my wedding ring is getting a bit tight. I’d been trying to remember for the past 20 minutes whether that meant I had too much salt or too little. So many things that you need to know about your body once you start running beyond the marathon distance. He explained that I must have too much salt, as it make my body hold onto water, which in turn makes my fingers swell. Seems reasonable. For the next couple of hours I chose gels with little sodium and the problem disappeared.
My new friend tells me that he plans on taking an extended break at the next aid station to get some calories and liquids in him and to cool down.

The aid station in the middle of the loop was awesome! different costumes overtime I came by. Unless I started hallucinating...?

It’s ~95F. Running the paved section towards the Start/Finish area seems like torture. I see other people run a longer path just to stay in the shade. I feel good though and keep going at a steady pace. Cicadas keep attacking runners on this stretch as well. They are huge, fast and hurt when they hit you. One runner cramped up when he jumped out of the way of one. I contemplated the extra energy expenditure each time I swiped one of my clothes. I finish the 10th loop in ~5:57 hours elapsed and wait for an extra moment, so that the racers of the 6 hours race can start in front of me. Half-way done. Yay!

Christina and Leiana had waited for me and handed me my hat that forgot in the morning. I finally could put some ice into the hat and cool my head. This ended up helping me race as well as I did.
mid-race motivation! note the shirt on Leiana! >26.2!

Another 2 hours go by and the sun is just beating down relentlessly. Every time I come into an aid station I see runners that were far ahead of me earlier sitting on chairs refusing to go on. At this time I am in ~6th place I think. I run by another racer and she enthusiastically yells: “Only 4 hours to go!”

Felling chased at the start line
 by the 3h racers
I finish my 14th loop after about 8:57 hours. After an extensive ice-water-sponge-shower to cool off my head, I run towards the Start line. I hear the race director go:” 8..7..6..” and I sprint across the line. I was having some fun with the 3 hour racers. Several itched to jump the gun, but realize I wasn’t in their race. Therefore I was about 15 yards ahead of them as their mass start began. I smartly moved to the side of the road as they didn’t have 9 hours in their legs and the faster runners quickly sped by me.

I turn off my brain for a couple of loops and try to only focus on where my feet went, as now would be the easiest to get hurt by being careless and not watching the many roots that crossed the trail throughout.

I finish the 16th loop at about 10:55 hours elapsed. I speed through the aid station as I am trying to finish the next loop by 11:30 hours, because otherwise the race directors doesn’t let anyone back out on the course. Running by the water spot I noticed another couple of runners that were sitting in the shade. They were ahead of me all day. Sweet. Just moved into 4th place.
The 17th loop goes by without a hitch and I come in at ~11:22 hours elapsed. I get to go for another loop. The 5th place is right on my heel. I was racing myself and the time for 11 and a half hours, but I finally had a person to lock in on. Well, she did too. She actually passed on the first hill of the course (greatly named:” What the hill!”). She is looking strong and her pacer keeps her motivated. At the top of the climb I see her escape into the forest as I come around the last turn. My uphill legs were long gone, but I’ve always been able to go hard on the downhill, even after 10-12 hours. She had a good 30 second lead, but I caught up after the first downhill and stuck to her and her pacer’s heels. Catching my breath for a moment I contemplate my plan. I gotta look strong when I pass so that they don’t even think about chasing me. The ideal spot came up. A small downhill leading into an aid station. I pass on the downhill and put 15 yards between us and sprint through the aid station. My bottle is halfway full and I won’t need more water for the rest of the course. This immediately is

throwing caution in the wind on the final downhills

followed by a long uphill and my heart rate is spiking. I dumped the remaining water on my head. It’s warm. Not refreshing at all. I tuck the bottle into the back of my shorts, put my hands on my knees and power hike up the hill. At the top I resist the urge to look back. Only scared runners look back. If you see a runner look back at you, they are fearing that you will overtake them. I short flat section ensued and I am altering my running gait to avoid cramping. I am approaching a long downhill. I had grabbed my MP3 player for this last loop and the music (at 180bpm) matches my running stride perfectly. I am experiencing the most perfectly timed runner’s high ever! Nothing hurt. Adrenaline rushes through my veins and I’m basically freefalling downhill. Keeping only the minimum amount of contact with the ground to avoid eating dirt I run the fastest mile of the day. I cruise the last aid station and now I’m less than a mile from the finish. I run around the switchbacks fast enough that I need to hold onto trees with my hands as I take turns. Otherwise I would run down the deep end, and that wouldn’t be pretty. I pop out of the forest with a third of a mile to go and I put my head down and go for broke. Before crossing the finish line I see Leiana, Christina and some of her family who came to see the finish of the race. It doesn’t get better than this. I cross the finish line in 11:52 hours elapsed. 18 loops finished. 58.5 miles (~94km). 10,800 feet (3,6km) of elevation change. I stopped so abruptly that I needed a moment to catch my balance before hugging my family. What a race. I plan on coming back for sure! The other runner I sat next two earlier, had won the race for a third year in a row and was only 1 loop ahead of me (still, 3.25miles more!). I caught up with the runner I thought to be in 2nd or 3rd place, but he
informed me he only did 17 loops. That meant….I was 3rd! Sweet! Podium! What an excellent end to a great day. I sat down for a moment and the saying “Beware of the Chair” came true. Once you sit down, you might not be able to get back up. I seized up heavily and finally noticed the two huge blisters that formed on my feet as well as my heel. I sipped on the slushie that Christina had brought and already began planning my next 12 hour and what I could do different to add another loop or two J.

One last note. My theory from earlier came true. Run in shoes and shorts and you’ll be fast. The guys I sat next to were first and 4th overall. The 2nd and 6th place had the same “outfit.

Riddlebox Winter Ultra (50K)

Riddlebox 50K

awkward stance stretching my calves

What a fantastic way to end the racing year. The Riddlebox Ultra offered everything I could’ve wanted in a late year ultra-marathon to cap off a very successful year thus far (one 2nd place and one 15th place!). I had never raced a 50K before. 50K stands for 50 KM (kilometers, which is about 31.something miles). You get about 5 extra miles on top of your average marathon distance. Just so you know that you are physically done when you crossed 26.2 miles and tell yourself that another 5 miles isn’t that far (yeah right!). Your body is protesting but your mind is stubborn enough to tell it to go to *$&@ and that you will finish this S.O.B. (sorry for the language mom!!!).

This has been a harder race than my previous 50 milers. The overall pace was more strenuous and I kept looking back to ensure my overall standings starting from about the half way point. More on this later. Mentally this was a good test for my bigger ambitions coming up in the next couple of years.

The day started of beautifully with me waking up next to my beautiful wife and daughter, and they both slept in peace, which didn’t happen too often in those days. It’s like they knew that I needed a good night sleep to compete in the following day’s ultra-marathon just outside of Sioux Falls. I
 was tempted to simply go back to bed and sleep in until 6am! Imagine that!

My gear (with Gloves!!!)
Both how tired I was the morning of the race
and the morning after the race!
No, I got up a good 3 hours before sunrise to make sure that I can prep correctly prior to the race by going through my gear, map and breakfast arrangements. Christina’s dad enthusiastically volunteered to be my crew for the day and my single goal was to not ruin the day for him. If he semi-enjoyed the day, I would be able to count on him in the future for other races. He was up before I came downstairs and coffee was already brewing and the day had started out perfectly. We were out of the door within 10 minutes and back in(!) within another two as he asked me if I planned on bringing gloves, which were just hanging out in the hallway closet. Of course, he thought about the little aspect that I would’ve simply forgotten. But, it was only around 15F outside and gloves would probably turn out to be a good idea.

We conversed on our way out of town on commented on the ever declining gas prices but fell more and more silent the closer we got to the starting line in anticipation of the race start. I anxiously tied my shoes and shouldered my water pouch and we entered the local winery to receive the pre-race instructions. The rules were pretty straight forward and wouldn’t cause an issue throughout the day, It was interesting seeing the competition shuffle nervously from one foot to the next or in quite contrast calmly checking their Facebook newsfeed as the race director let us know what to expect on the course. Shortly after, we assembled at the starting line. As everyone was cautiously holding back, I didn’t mind taking the point at the starting line, and with the sound of the gun we were off.

The first half mile was probably the fastest split of the day for me. Even though I lined up knowing that I should not go out too fast, I always try to break the mile world record at the beginning of the race. So far, no luckJ.

me right after the start, going out too fast
Needless to say, I took the lead immediately. I thought that was quite alright if I now could hold on to it for about 31 miles. Unfortunately we crossed a creek after a half a mile, and since I couldn’t follow anyone, since I was being awesome winning the race and all,  I didn’t’ know quite where to go and stumbled my way back onto the road, where I was quickly over- taken. Alright. Second place is not that bad. Now I noticed my rather high heart rate and that I should really slow down to catch my breath. Otherwise I would definitely blow up later on in the race, jeopardizing the possibility of even finishing. Within 10 minutes of doing so, the next person shuffled by me. The Ultra-marathoner’s fragile mindset set in right way and I knew everyone else was going to pass me, but I was able to catch up on the ensuing downhill and I trailed the leading lady for the next 3 miles to overtake her after the turnaround point to settle into second place. I could only see the leading guy in the far distance. Either he bit off more than he can chew and I will catch him towards the end of the race, or he will easily win the race.

That early turn around after 3 miles allowed me to gauge the remaining competition. I had expected that a couple fast runners from Omaha would show their cards at this point, but I never figured out if they didn’t run hard enough or simply didn’t want to go for it. Either way, I had a good feeling that this was a 3-person race. The leader, myself and the leading lady.

After about 6 miles we returned to the starting line and my father-in-law professionally passed on to me my exchange water bottle, asked me what else I needed and told me that the guy ahead of me was about 4 minutes ahead. A perfect crew chief! The following rolling hills weren’t necessarily my strength and I lost visual contact with the leader. I had a short confusion at an intersection but luckily settled for the correct turn and continued on my way.

For fun I raced a couple of bikers from the Fat-Bike race which happened simultaneously. We went up the next big hill and I actually beat them to the summit, before they left me in the dust on the following descend.

I was surprised to see my father-in-law again after only 10 miles, but it was a great mental boost as the monotone gravel road had taken its’ toll and I slowed down to pedestrian shuffle. After meeting him I stormed up the biggest climb of the day. While climbing, I could see the 3rd place in the distance, which made me feel a strange mix of confidence and anxiety, as it was a good distance after 10 miles, but nothing to feel safe about.

To my surprise I reached the summit, took a left turn and was 30 feet behind the leader! Holy crap! I must’ve mountain-goated that ascend to make up that big difference! I was feeling it!

On the ensuing downhill, the leader looked back and simply left me in his dust. He quickly opened a 2 minute gap, which turned in to a 4 minute gap by the next aid station at the half way point. After the race he told me that he had taken the wrong turn and went off course. That’s why I popped in right behind him, which also explains why he was able to separate so quickly from me again. Turns out he had qualified for Boston before and entered to run the “Boston Marathon of Ultras, the Western States 100 Endurance Run” in California. As with Boston, you also have to qualify to run it, which I have done before, but need to enter the lottery and auction off your first-born in order to have a shot at getting a coveted spot, as only a couple hundred runners every year get to participate.

I spent a generous 10 seconds at the aid station refilling my bottles as I was trying to catch up to the leader. The course at this point was a stretch of 3 miles of straight gravel road. So despite the 7 minute difference he worked up, I could clearly see him straight ahead. What an agonizing feeling. So close, but yet so far!

A local farm dog encouraged me to speed up during the next mile or so as he wouldn’t stop trailing me while barking profusely. I know, barking dogs won’t bite, but why take a risk. That was probably my second fastest mile of the day!

I shed the protective dog and took a turn into the wind coming from the east. From now on I kept glancing back hoping to hear the dog bark at the next runner in order to know how far ahead I was. I never did hear the dog. I didn’t know if that meant that there wasn’t a runner or if they were just too far behind to hear. Either way, the leader was out of sight and I was approaching the 20 mile mark and I noticed that I had neglected my nutrition throughout the day. I bonked pretty hard and was glad that the next aid station had sugar loaded gels to get me back on my feet.  My father-in-law encouraged me to keep going at the 22 mile point, while he had become friends with a local lab, which came out of nowhere. He later told me that the dog vanished as quickly as he appeared in the first place.  At the aid station at 24 miles, the aid station attendant told me that the guy ahead was long gone, but that I wasn’t looking “too bad” (that’s code for: Man, you’re done!)  

Tired, hurting and overall whiny...
I walked the next mile. I am not proud of it, but I conceded the victory to the guy ahead of me. Well, really I was in no place of conceding as he was in a place of clinching victory, Knowing I would completely blow up heading into the wind, trying to keep up with the fast pace I had initiated, I took solace in the fact that I needed that short rest, physically, and mentally in order to keep off the 3rd place runner.

I reached the base of the second climb of the highest peak of the day (same as earlier, but from a different diredction) and started nervously looking back. This is not that mindset you want to have during a race. Look ahead, not back!

Anyways, I could see the next runner about 1.5 miles back and knew that distance could easily be made up if I didn’t keep my pace. The bicycle racers for the 100k started passing me after I was done with the descend and I asked each one how far the next runner was behind me. Interesting enough, each one had a different answer ranging from 10 minutes to a good hour. That turned out to really not be helpful at all. That portion of the race was mentally as draining as could be I ran scared. It is more fun chasing someone than keeping someone off your tail. \

I had about 5 miles to go and more bikers kept confusing me to the point where I told myself that the next runner deserved 2nd place if they caught me. That’s not necessarily a winning strategy, but it kept me going for the next 3 miles. The next biker told me that the runner behind was a lady, and only 3 minutes behind. HOLY CRAP!I could almost feel her breath on my neck!

I had maybe 3 miles to the finish and I started going for broke. I could’ve cramped at any point but altered my running gait from decline to incline depending on the situation and simply started eating up distance. I didn’t dare looking back. I faintly hoped to make out a figure in the distance ahead of me, but had not look with doing so. I was fighting for second place. With about a half mile to go, another biker passed me and told me no one was behind me for another 45 minutes or so (the next runner had taken a wrong turn! This is horrible for a runner’s psyche, but is necessary to develop your mental game!). It set in to me that I was going in for a second place overall after all.

For a moment I got quite emotional as I saw my father-in-law at the finish line taking pictures of me coming in and I was simply elated by breaking my personal record for the 50K and having him in that spot supporting me.

He ended up taking a sweet picture of me crossing the finish line, which he gave me framed for Christmas a few weeks later and is standing on my wife’s desk at work now (makes me feel awesome!).

The leader beat me by a good half hour and I gapped the 3rd place by another half hour. I think if I focus on my marathon training in 2015, I should be able to compete for the top spot next December. We’ll see.