Sunday, October 31, 2010

R2BM - Poor strategy . . . I never had a chance!

2010 Ridge to Bridge Marathon pictures.

Laura MacLean's Pictures

I thought I had this one figured out!

The Ridge to Bridge Marathon is a down-hill run ... probably 95%!  Amazing!  My strategy was really quite simple.  As I posted it on Facebook:
I've got a strategy for RtoB tomorrow ... when the downhill starts at 7 or so, I'm going to 'ball up' and just roll down the hill to mile 14. Then, get up and run it in!! 2,700 foot net decline start to finish!

Marcia . . . before she left me!!
Well . . . I was perfect going into mile 6 or so.  Didn't even take too many pictures as I was focused on what was to come.  Enjoyed running several miles with Marcia Godwin, a fellow MTCer and certified nice lady!  Also met a nice young couple from Asheville running their first marathon.

After 6 miles on rolling pavement, we finally hit the dirt, downhill road off Jonas Ridge.  The grade was just about what I was expecting.  But before I went into 'strategy implementation' I needed to take care of a little business.

My only suggestion for this event is MORE FRICKIN' TOILETS at the start!  Think there were 4-5 porti-johns to be shared by 400 people who had just finished a bus ride to the mountain top and had 20 minutes till the race started!

Given the lines I opted to handle the simple #1 problem behind a bush . . . but the #2 problem needed to wait for the 'proper' place.  Was hoping that would be in the first mile . . . but it actually needed to wait until about mile 7!  By the 4th mile folks were asking me if I was okay and why did I look so funny when I ran!

Long story short, I finally found a 'nice' spot for an off-road adventure.  Damn those hills are steep!  While relief was sweet, I couldn't savor the moment!  I had some significant time to make up!

But I had my strategy . . .

OK, it was stupid.  Of course the road was curvy!  'Balling up and rolling' was just not going to work for me!  So I just had to run!

Truth be known, I thought this marathon was going to be easy.  Virtually all down hill!  How hard can it be??  I'll never make this mistake again.  A marathon is hard.  Any marathon is hard!  Every marathon is hard!!!!  Remember that, fool!!

On the race website, David Lee (the RD) gives some simple, time-tested suggestions for success:  During the steeper, upper sections of the downhill, run conservatively.  Don't go all out!  Wait until the road levels out some and then pick up the pace ... maybe starting at mile 16 or so.

I was going to follow David's advice originally, but after my extended visit to the 'Jonas Ridge Comfort Station and Powder Room' I needed to make up some serious time!  I was thinking of David's suggestions as I was flying down the steep, upper section.  And it felt so easy!  I hit the 13.1 mile point in 2 hours and 27 minutes!  Maybe a 5 hour run today?  No .. it would flatten out at the bottom so it would probably take a little longer . . . maybe a 5:10 or so.  Silly me!!  Maybe that new, pumpkin-spice flavored GU has a little something extra in it to make you delusional!

The road was spectacular and I had totally enjoyed running down this mountain, past a bunch of my favorite trout fishing spots like Lost Cove Creek!  And we ran by Mortimer where Michael and I camped on his very first trout fishing trip!  Leaves were probably 1 week + past peak, but still very enjoyable.

About mile 15 I was thinking again about David's suggestions.  How did he know??  I needed to slow it down or I was going to totally 'bonk' at 20.  This was not going to be good!  My quads were definitely barking . . . no . . . they were howling at me.

I tried to revert to my normal 3/1 interval and this worked for awhile.  But by mile 18 I changed to a 2/1.  And in just a little while, I just shut the watch off!  I would run when I could and walk when I had to!  I wasn't cramping . . . just tired.  Jonas Ridge had gotten it's revenge!!  For the record, I thought this course was a little easier then a normal marathon, but not MUCH easier!

Miles clicked off slowly and I almost had to worry about the 6 hour race cutoff.  Finally I came to the Brown Mountain Beach Resort and the finish line on the right.  Of course, David Lee had one final little kick in the butt for us.  The course went past the finish line about 1/4 mile, turned into the resort and then made a long circle back to the finish.  Nice!!

The 'Welcoming Crew!'
Turning into the Resort I saw Laura MacLean there at the turn cheering all us 'back of the packers' ... camera in hand!

I turned in and made the circle and Laura went to the finish line to get my picture.

Laura and Daniel
After the finish, I saw Daniel Lieb who had just set a PR!  Lot's of food and drinks at the finish, including  BBQ and pizza!!  And even 'Throwback Mountain Dew!' ... runners jet fuel!  Sweet!  (no pun intended!)  An amazing number of folks were just hanging around, obviously having fun talking with everyone and sharing experiences!
Jean Evansmore

Moma Jean came in a little later with the usual smile on her face and a third place finish in her age group.  Laura said she sort of crashed at about mile 23 I believe, but true to form, she still managed to get 2nd place in her age group!

Me . . . will . . . I finished!  And I was smiling!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Medoc Trail Races - Done

It is a labor of love!

But there is a lot of labor involved.  Thank goodness there are four of us that share the load:  Ron Fleming, Scott Wingfield and Michael Forrester.  Each of us has our own parts that we are primarily responsible for but we all just share the decision-making so well.  Together we are so much better then we are individually.

And the real magic comes from all the people who volunteer their day to make a runner's day wonderful.  Their spirit is clearly felt by the runners!  And we had some unbelievable great volunteers.  These are just good people who care and have such positive attitudes!

I sure hope every single runner enjoyed themselves!  I believe they did!  And we've already started trying to determine what we did well that we must keep doing, and what we can definitely do better (we tend to focus a lot here!).

Lot's of ideas for next year and we're reading and analyzing all the feedback we've gotten on 1), 2) Facebook and 3) the e-mails we've gotten.  Nothing is edited!  We love the positive comments but we learn so much from suggestions and criticisms.

We're tired but invigorated!  Can't wait until next year ... year 4!

Check out our race website and 'friend' Medoc Trail Races on Facebook for a lot of comments and links to pictures!

PS  By the way, each year we have what we call the Medoc Re-Run . . . a repeat primarily for race volunteers.  No frills ... almost FA style.  Run free and get no shirt, medal or finisher's surprise.  Or we charge a little to get what you want!  Contact me if you're interested.  It will be November 27th this year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When a plan fails, but you succeed . . .

For yesterday's New River 50k, my goal was to be an official finisher and beat the 7 hour race cut-off (I did!).  I knew this would be a real stretch for me -  this blog got it's name appropriately!  I am a plodder and more then a little hard headed.

So I knew the 7 hour cutoff was going to be a very hard challenge for me (sad but true!).

So I knew I needed a plan.  After consultation with running friends and a few beers,  my plan was done.  I was going to go out fairly hard (for me) and see just how long I could hold on!  Basically, I was going to run 3 minutes and walk one, then repeat.

When I actually run, my pace isn't really all that bad for an overweight 60 year old!  Maybe a 10:30 to 11:00 pace usually.  And I was going to practice 'fast' walking.  My normal walking pace is hardly more then a stroll and I know I need to pick up the pace of my walking.

So my plan was set.  And quite frankly I executed the plan perfectly!  But it was a BAD plan!  Very bad.

The New River Trail 50k is an awesome event.  RD Annette Bodnosky, a top level ultra runner herself, put on a fabulous event!  And the volunteers!!  Wow!  That's all I can say!  This is probably the prettiest race course I've run.  A very easy course totally, on an old railroad bed.  Terrific running surface.  This course is made for running a 50k PR!

But Annette set a 7 hour cut-off.  That's a pretty strict time limit - Even with an easy course, I knew the odds were against me making the cut-off.

We had five RMEC runners at this race - Scott Wingfield, Ted and Liz Lord were here for their very first ultra and my buddy Ron Fleming.  This was going to be fun!

The morning was perfect!  Low 40s and a beautiful fog along the river!  Saw so many of my running friends before the race!  Pre-race is almost always my favorite part!  Once the race started, I couldn't stop taking pictures along the way!  Check them out!!

I felt absolutely GREAT!  I was thinking this was going to be my day- and in some ways it was.  I tried to stay mentally focused on my pace . . . especially my walking pace.  I really pressed hard through my walks and my runs were relaxed and strong.  I was encouraged!

Early on I fell in with Jade Wei, the wife of my running friend Jim!  Jim had suggested that Jade and I might be going at a similar pace and I totally enjoyed getting to pass some trail miles with her!  But I was feeling strong and decided to pull ahead.

Bad decision!  Also, ran a while with Donna Macguire, a awesome ultra runner.  Same thing.  I was feeling strong and pulled ahead - Same thing with Jim Plant and Connie Howe.

What was I thinking???  I should know better.  But I had a PLAN!  And a cut-off time to beat!

After about seven miles following the New River itself, we crossed a trestle over the river and started a slow easy grade up Chesnut Creek all the way to Galax, VA.  Very pretty with lots of things to see along the way and with the good footing of the trail, you could actually look around some!  Loved it!  But I stayed so focused on my goal.

From mile 5 or so I met Amos and Abby from Washington, DC.  Amos was obviously a very experienced ultra runner and he was pacing Abby on her first ultra,  spent all day long going back and forth with these two fun folks!

About half way up this leg the lead runner passed me and 10 seconds behind him #2!  Would love to be able to see how this one played out!  One more and then Jonathan Savage came by!  The the first female . . . flyin'!!  The one that really surprised me was my friend Rick Grey!  Rick had finished the Grindstone 100 the week before, but he was up there in the lead bunch!  I couldn't get my camera out quick enough . . . but did catch this shot!

Rick even stopped and turned around!  Sorry Rick!
Awesome Jenn!
I really love looking ahead to see friends!  Soon Jennifer Nickols came hauling down the trail . . . but took time out for a quick hug!  Thanks Jenn!  That picked me up!

Scott and Liz flying down the trail!
Was looking for the RMEC crowd and soon Scott Wingfield and Liz Lord passed looking VERY strong.  Was surprised that Ron Fleming wasn't with them, but it turns out he had some knee issues and turned to walking.  Still beat me by a wide margin!  Saw Frank Macguire at the park about 1 mile from the turnaround. Then, Bill Keene came by with a 'high five' between us!

At 15.9 miles we hit the turnaround aid station!  Fun group there.  Don't know what was wrong with me (or my eyes!) but Beth Minnick was there.  I talked with her but for some reason I didn't realize it was her!  Weird!

Maybe the last mile to the turnaround I started to shorten my run and lengthen my walk some.  But not much.  I was thinking the return trip was going to be downhill and I would easily be able to hold a good pace.  Well, I did for maybe two more miles.  Then reality set it!  I bonked!  My 3/1 changed to a 2/1 and then changed to a 1/1 half way down Chesnut Creek to the New River!  Oh no!  Not good!  Not good at all!  Finally turned off my watch!  Just ran when I could and walked when I had to!

I started getting passed.  Donna came, but continuing her solid running.  I would have been so smart to try and 'hang' with her the whole race.  She would still beat me, but I would learn a lot from her!

As I approached the tunnel (guess I forgot to mention the cool tunnel we run through!) I got a cramp in my right ankle.  I had been popping s-Caps all day, but I just took two more right then and walked a little.  Once the cramp passed I started running again.  But within 30 feet, another cramp in my inside upper leg and ankle.  Again, walked through it and ran again.

This continued all the way to the end.  There was no running through the cramps ... they would just get worse and worse until I just 'locked up' in pain.   All day I had been so focused on making the 7:00 cut-off and I could just feel it slipping away.  But I didn't know for sure.  There are no mile markers and I didn't have my Garmin with me, so I had no idea as to how far I was.  Got to the New River and found out I had 5.7 miles to go and my watch said 1 hour 10 minutes to cut-off.  I was crushed!  Given my cramping and degreed of bonking . . . this seemed impossible.  I was mentally giving up.

Run 20 - 30 yards and the cramp.  This sucked!

Then, Jim and Connie passed me!  But we did spend a few minutes together and Jim said, 'You've got this!  You can do it!' ,  then we talked about the distance left and the time to go.  Soon, Connie and Jim pulled ahead and I was left wondering if Jim was right.
'One thing I figured out, running 'fast' didn't cause me to cramp any more than running slow, so when I ran, I ran fast (for me!)  maybe a 10:30 pace or so.  Some runs lasted almost a minute, and some only 30 seconds, but I kept giving every single ounce of effort I had in me.

And then I was passed by the last place runner, Scott Giddions.  Scott and I hung together for quite a while.  We passed a point where someone said we had about a mile to go and my watch said we had 12 minutes.  I told him to not hang with me and to go for it!  Thank goodness he did!  Soon I heard a cheer in the distance and knew the finish line was near . . . but I couldn't tell how near.  My watch told me I had about six or seven minutes.

I just kept on running and cramping.  Maybe 30 yards running . . . but then the cramping.  Damn!   I heard a car or truck behind me!  I was totally lost in my effort and my focus on the finish line.  But the cramping . . .

Then . . . I saw the finish line . . . abnd I looked down at my watch and saw I had 5 minutes or so left to cutoff.  I TOTALLY knew I had made it!  I almost cried!

Liz , Ted and family had come out to meet me and run me in - even Annette came out to encourage me!  And then, Jade (who had just finished!) came back to run me in!  How cool!  And I looked at the finish like and saw a ton of friends there cheering . . .  Rick Gray stood out, so encouraging and happy for me!  And Scott!  And Ron!

So I did it!  I finished in maybe 6:56 or so.  Mission accomplished!

But my plan sucked!  Pacing is so important.  I'm sure my cramping was  partly caused by pushing too hard, too quickly.

But looking back I'm not sure I enjoyed my success as much as I thought I would.  For me, the fun is in the running, the friends and the experience.  But the cut-off pressure . . . not so much!  All day long I stayed so frickin' focused on time I didn't enjoy this beautiful run as much as I could have.  I just don't need or want this needless stress.

"Hurry slowly . . . but Hurry" is a perfect theme for me.  I just don't want to hurry so much I miss the experience.  Success was great, but the joy of running for me was, to some degree, missed.

But I know that for this race I gave almost 7 hours to total effort!  I left nothing out there.  I totally spent myself on the effort.  And I did achieve my goal!  Sweet!

But the best moment of the day was just after I finished.... Amos (who with Abby had finished several minutes before me!) went down on one knee and proposed.  And she said yes!!!

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.