Monday, October 28, 2013

Race Report: Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile


As I drove down to Pennsylvania last Saturday in a steady rainstorm, I suddenly heard a tap-tap-tap on the rear window of my car.  I looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see my antenna, flapping wildly around and smacking the back window, fly off the car behind me onto I-80.

I probably should have turned around right then.

I came into the Tussey Mountainback feeling strong and confident, if a little ambivalent.  My training had gone quite well in recent weeks, with a nice 8-10 week buildup peaking with a three week stretch right before the race of 310 miles, with some solid hill climbs and a weekly tempo workout that had generally been acceptable, if not scalding fast.  I was having a hard time committing to the race mentally--I didn't even register until the very last minute--but as the race approached I felt enthused about the idea of mixing it up with some of the big dogs at the 50 mile national championship.  I set a goal of under seven hours, which I thought might get me into the top ten.  On race morning I scribbled the aid station splits for 8:15 pace, a 6:52, on my arm, and got ready to roll.

Pre-race selfie.
The race starts and finishes at the Tussey Mountain ski area outside State College, in the Rothrock State Forest, and climbs immediately after the start at a steady grade on dirt roads for the first 3.5 miles or so.  I settled into a very easy rhythm at 8:20 pace on the uphill, cresting the hill at AS1 with a group of four other runners in the top 15 or so, feeling very comfortable.  At that point the course dropped straight downhill for the next 5 miles or so, at a gradual, runnable grade.  Rather than put the brakes on, and tear up my quads even more trying to force myself to run the downhill slowly, I focused simply on floating a lightly as I could and not worrying about the pace, which dropped down into the 7:00-7:10 range for this stretch, until we moved into a rolling section with some climbing between 10-15 miles.   Conserving effort was the name of the game, and I felt like I was doing a really good job of it.  Everything felt very easy as we dropped back down another long descent to the 20-mile mark, which I reached in 2:33.

At this point I finally decided to make a pit stop, which cost me three minutes.  Of concern, this was my third trip to the restroom of the morning, which did not bode well.  In retrospect, I had started having some GI issues the night before, and had not thought too much of it; but in light of what happened later, I think I just built up too big a calorie and fluid deficit to recover from.

After leaving AS 5 at 20 miles, we started the toughest climb of the day, over 1300 feet of elevation gain at a steady unbroken grade for nearly four miles.  I came out of the port-a-potty expecting some tightness, but had none and quickly settled back into a strong tempo, alternating walking and jogging for the first part of the climb, but then just running at around 10:00 pace over the next couple miles.  I passed a few faster starters midway through, including Jason Bryant of La Sportiva, who would drop a few miles later.  I spent this stretch constantly monitoring my legs for any signs of tightness or distress, telling myself I had plenty of time and would walk at the slightest hint of fatigue, but it never seemed to come.

At least not during that climb.  And over the next few downhill miles, it seemed like it might not, as I passed halfway in 3:23 and 26 miles in 3:30.  But on a long downhill stretch on the way into AS 7, I started to really feel it.  I tried pushing some more calories and continued through AS7 and past the 30-mile mark at 4:04, but my struggles were starting, and despite everything I did--walking some spots, eating more, salt tablets, drinking fluid--I couldn't get my rhythm back.  I made pit stop #2 at AS8 (32 miles) and took an extra gel and a banana leaving the aid station, but the next three uphill miles to AS9 took over thirty minutes, and as I pulled into AS9 a string of runners went past me.  Another one-mile uphill to the 36-mile mark, which I walked the whole way in 17 minutes, then a four-mile downhill jog at 9-minute pace to 40 miles in 6:04, relay runners streaming past me; and a final half mile walk into AS10, where I officially confirmed what I had conceded privately for the past hour.

Lessons?  Sure, I guess.  My first instinct after a race goes poorly is to look at my training for some deficiency, but I don't think that was the case.  I came in fit (for me), with a solid mileage buildup and some good workouts thrown in.  The week before the race, in one of my last hard runs, I crushed a three-mile uphill climb that I've run hard countless times before in one of my fastest splits ever.  Maybe I didn't have quite as much of a taper as I should have, but the buildup was only two months long, and I don't think there was so much accumulated fatigue that a long taper was necessary.  I don't think fitness was the issue.

Race strategy?  To some extent, maybe.  I was certainly out quicker than I would have anticipated--about 10 minutes faster at the 20-mile mark than I had planned.  But that 10-minute cushion was due solely to the course itself, which presented a ton of downhill from miles 4-20.  I don't think holding myself back and incurring extra pounding on the downhill just to keep the pace around 8 minutes for the sake of hitting the right splits would have served my legs any better.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I screwed it up that way.

I keep coming back to two things: nutrition, and mentation.  As I said before, I think my GI issues put me in too big a hole to climb out of, in terms of calorie and fluid depletion.  Not much to do about that.  From a mental standpoint, I mentioned my ambivalence about the race coming in.  For some reason--fatigue? work stress? I'm not quite sure--I just couldn't get as excited and focused about this race as I should have been.  Even early on, when things were going well, I wasn't reveling in it or enjoying it; my attitude seemed to be, "Just keep this going and it will be over soon."  I don't think I blew up because of this, but when the legs gave out on me, I definitely didn't feel like I had enough incentive to dig deep and suck it up enough to get through.

And I'm not sure how terrible that is, necessarily.  I think if I can recognize it and try to learn from it, that might be OK.  I've now DNF'd in half of the 50-milers I've started--twice from real injuries, twice from just blowing up like this one.  There is a school of thought that says nothing is worse than dropping out.  I think to a certain extent that's true.  Dropping out sucks, it really does.  But I also don't know that there is alot to be gained, for me personally at least, by walking for two or three hours at the end of a 50 mile "just to finish."  Yes, I could have walk-jogged the final 9.5 miles of the race.  I probably could have maintained a 15-minute pace, which would have put my finishing time somewhere in the 8:30 range.  Which is fine.  Respectable even.  But I came to this race specifically to run fast and to compete with some of the best.  It didn't work out that way, but I'm not sure I'd feel any better about the experience if I had spent an extra two hours walking the final 10 miles.  I just don't think that gives me any added satisfaction.

As usual, I'll try to take these lessons and apply them for next time.  I can say with some certainty that "next time" will not be a 50-miler, at least for awhile.  I'm going to stick to shorter ultras for now and try to mix in some shorter, fun stuff.  Riding back to the start/finish with some of the relay runners really reminded me how much fun the sport can be, and I've missed that a bit recently.  For next year, I'll focus a bit more on races that suit me, try to run some shorter uphill races, maybe a relay or two, and maybe just one 50-mile, if at all.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Race Report: SOS4Kids

Normally, I do the running around here, and while I know you all have come to rely on Lexi for nutritional guidance, I like to think I hold up my end of this blog with race reports and thoughts on the sport that are at least mildly entertaining.  But now it seems even this small niche has been co-opted.

As vibrant as local scene is in New Paltz, in terms of outdoor sports trail running is a distant third behind rock climbing and triathlon locally.  And among local tri-geeks, the biggest race on the calendar is by far the Survival of the Shawangunks.  Having just completed its twenty-sixth running, the SOS is a multistage triathlon that basically involves swimming the three lakes of the Shawangunk ridge and running the trails in between--a bike-run-swim-run-swim-run-swim-run.  It's a nationally known event that attracts elites from all over the country and also the best the local competition has to offer.  In the past few years the race organizers have added a kids' race, which this year took place the day before.  It was the first year Lexi was old enough to run.  She went into this summer without any real swimming background--or ability--but worked hard on learning the crawl this summer and even joined my for a mile or so of running here and there, mostly home from art class on Thursday afternoons in late spring.

I will say that watching her race, and especially waiting for her to start, was orders of magnitude more stressful for me than any pre-race jitters I've ever had in my life.  I'll also say that I was more proud of her effort and her finish than of any result I've ever had.

Anyway, take it away, Lex.

Lexi's Race Report: SOS4Kids

The SOS4Kids is a triathlon for kids that is a mini-version of the SOS triathlon, which is a big race in New Paltz.  You can only run if you are 7, 15, or in between.  This was my first triathlon.  When I started, I felt excited and happy that the water was warm!  But also, I was worried that I would be one of the last ones in the race.
 

The race started at Moriello Pool.  It was a freezing cold day, which made the water feel warmer.  I swam four laps.  Then I put on my shorts, race belt, and shoes, and started to run.  After the swim, I felt wet and cold, and my hands were numb.  I was tired!  I ran down a hill and onto the Rail Trail.  Then I went around a corner and into a big field.  In the big field there were fences to show you the way.  After that, I got on my bike and started biking.  When I was biking, I sort of forgot that I was actually racing!  So I biked slow, like I was just on the Rail Trail waiting for mommy and daddy.  And then I got off my bike and I ran back through the fences in the field.  Then I ran around a corner and there was the finish line.  Everyone was cheering for me and that felt embarrassing but good.


The hardest part of the race was running or swimming.  At the end of the race I felt wobbly because my legs hurt.  Then I had an ice pop and a bottle of water and I felt better.

I liked the race a lot because I got a lot of energy and it was fun and I got to swim a lot.  I want to do the race again but maybe in two years!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mommy's Jam


My mom makes jam.  It tastes really yummy and it is good for you.  She makes it out of strawberries and blueberries.  We pick the strawberries at a farm and we pick the blueberries at Minnewaska Park.  I like eating the jam on toast.


Last night she canned plums which we picked from our backyard.  That wasn't jam, though.  Mommy says it tastes like ketchup.  Mommy is good at canning and I like her strawberry and blueberry jam.

--Lexi

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Race Recap: Great Cranberry Island 50K

Best Race Ever.

A few months ago I commented that every ultra provides an opportunity for learning.  Last weekend I learned a lesson I already knew.  I suppose I needed reminding.

Before I get there, though, I should set the stage.  The Great Cranberry Island 50K in Maine has been named the "Best Race Ever" by Runners' World, for whatever that's worth.  The race earns this lofty status not from the course, or anything terribly special about the actual race itself, but from the festival, party-like atmosphere that surrounds the entire race weekend.  The 50K is run on the only paved road on GCI, a rolling two-mile stretch of asphalt that bisects this remote outpost, reachable by a 25-minute boat shuttle from Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.  The race is the island's biggest event of the year, and the small but supportive community of island-dwellers turns out in full force to support the runners.  The action really starts when the race finishes, however, as runners, families, and volunteers pitch tents just a few yards from the finish line to enjoy a bonfire, lobster dinner, and outdoor dance party.  A bunch of friends from the Albany Running Exchange have been spreading the word about this one for the past couple of years and I was excited this year to fit it into the schedule.  I've been trying to build my race schedule this year around trips the whole family could enjoy, and this certainly seemed to fit the bill.


Jodi, the kids, and I made the eight-hour drive to Bar Harbor on Thursday, spent a very rainy Friday at our hotel's indoor pool, and made a 9:15 ferry out to GCI on Saturday morning.  Local residents with their pickup trucks and golf carts met us at the dock to transport our bags to the camping field, about a half-mile walk away, and pretty soon we had pitched our tent on the edge of a small tent city.  I checked in for the race and caught up with a few ARE folks before getting set for the 11:30 am start.  The weather was very promising: upper 60's and overcast, it felt like a great day to run.

Pre-race hug

Now, about that lesson.  It's so basic I'd call it a rookie mistake, though no ultra rookie would ever be so cavalier as to make it: RESPECT THE DISTANCE.  After two pretty-good 50 milers in the past eight weeks, it was all to easy to approach this 50K with the attitude of, "Been there, done that."  As race day drew closer, I found most of my energies were absorbed in nuts and bolts of the trip itself--parking, getting to the island, setting up camp, making sure the logistics of having the kids there went smoothly--and I neglected preparing for the little details of the race itself.  And the worst of it was, I recognized that this was happening, yet chose to ignore the problem!  I spent all of thirty seconds reviewing my nutrition plan, which was basically non-existent.  Knowing that I'm particularly susceptible to salt losses and cramping, especially in hot weather, I didn't even pack my bottle of S! caps for the trip to Maine.  Why?  Well, it's only 50K, and I don't usually need too much salt in a 50K.  That was my actual reasoning!  I fortified this belief with my experience at RFTH earlier this year, when I ran a 3:32 50K without any salt on only a couple of GUs.  Sure, that makes sense, it was 40 degrees that day!  I'm sure running with the exact same strategy when it's 80 degrees will work out perfectly! After all, it's ONLY 50K!  Not like we're going 50 miles or anything!

Getting some water from the girls.

Well, you can pretty much guess how the whole thing turned out.  After our anniversary trip to Spain (it was awesome, thanks for asking), my training hasn't been quite up to speed over the past month, so I knew going in I wasn't in peak condition, but I was quite sure that I could run in the 3:40-3:45 range on a paved course without too much climbing.  Judging from previous years' results, that would be enough to put me in the top three to five, possibly competing for the win.  I set out with a goal of running 7:00 pace for as long as possible and seeing where that got me.  The weather held for the first twenty minutes or so, and I got out significantly faster than I wanted, running 6:22 for the opening mile before backing off and letting Leigh Schmitt of the North Face open up a sizable lead through the first 5K; I split the 5K in 20:30, much faster than my goal of 22:00, and was already back in fifth place.  After that I quickly settled in to 7:00 pace, just as the sun came out and the afternoon heat started kicking in.  By the end of the first hour the temps had already climbed into the mid-80s and I was none too pleased.  My steady 7:00 pace became a bit of a struggle, but I backed off to 7:10-7:15s and was able to hold that pretty well, coming through 16 miles in 1:55, right on 3:42 pace.  Given my (lack of) nutrition plan, though, it was unsustainable.

By this time I was back in about tenth place, and it's a testament to how difficult the day was that I ran the second half of the race 20 minutes slower and yet moved up one spot in the standings.  Going back and forth on a two-mile stretch of road allows you to see your competition over and over again, and everyone else looked about as bad as I felt, with the exception of just a few folks.  Leigh was struggling visibly from about 10 miles onward, and several of the early leaders were later reduced to walking, or DNF'd altogether.  By 23 miles I was cramping so badly in my hamstrings and calves that I couldn't extend my stride past more than a shuffle, and I struggled to run 9:00 pace over the final four miles.  And all because I had no salt on me and hadn't even paid enough attention to the aid station setups to know where to find any.  (In my defense, there wasn't much more than the water, Gatorade, and GU that I was already using, but that's kind of beside the point.)  I finished ninth in 4:01:18, about two minutes in front of Leigh, who I passed just before the start of the final 4-mile circuit.

Not much more to say about the race itself.  I had a terrible race plan, I didn't commit mentally to preparing for it fully, I was more focused on everything else that was going on that weekend--and I paid the price.  A race where I could have run very well, been up in the top three on a course that suited me, turned into a lost opportunity because I didn't respect the fact that, even after running a couple of 50-milers, 50 kilometers is still a pretty long way to run.  A 20-minute positive split isn't the worst blowup I've ever had, which is probably the worst silver lining in the history of distance running, and feels pretty ridiculous to actually type like it's a good thing.  The fact that I still ran 4:01 shows that my fitness level is not terrible, I suppose, but this was a year where I planned to take a big step forward, and at this point trying to draw a bunch of positives out of a 4-hour 50K is pretty weak tea.

World's cutest volunteers.

The rest of the weekend day was great, which I suppose was kind of the point.  We ate ice cream, and went swimming off the dock in the ocean, which was insanely cold; we drank lots of good beer and ate a whole bunch of lobster and the girls had fun staying up until almost 11pm and camping out in the tent.  Overall it was a great experience.  The girls got to see alot of the race and had a blast handing out cups of Gatorade and GUs to the runners, and it was certainly great to have them there to cushion the blow of a disappointing day.  But, racing with the family around does present its own set of challenges, particularly in the ability to compartmentalize things from a mental standpoint, and I failed that test miserably this time around.

In camp.

It was particularly frustrating to have this kind of a race on a weekend when everyone else around the country seemed to be killing it.  Sage won yet again against an awesome field at Speedgoat, and my friend Jim Sweeney of Pearl Izumi had a fantastic race for third at the Burning River 100; on Sunday, my good friend Ben had another great day at the Escarpment, though was denied a mind-boggling 12th title (!) by another friend, Denis Mikhaylov, who continued his breakthrough season.  Congrats to all of them, and to everyone else at those races who I know and love (Max out at Speedgoat; HO at Burning River; Charlie, Jimmy, Joe, Mendy, all the ARE guys, and god knows who else at Escarpment, you're all nuts), all of whom seemed to have a much better weekend than I.  Oh well, onward and upward I suppose.  Let's look forward to a good month of training and see where the fall takes us, no?  Lexi will be back this week to post something about plums, I think.  Meanwhile, enjoy this clip of a very skinny man running up a very steep hill on Sunday:
 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Race Report: Cayuga Trails 50



They may run gorges, but it is some tough running.

When Ian Golden, the owner of the FLRTC and director of the Virgil Crest Ultras, announced the inaugural running of the Cayuga Trails 50 last fall, I couldn't have been more excited.  I went to college in Ithaca and always love any opportunity to go back.  I've run the Finger Lakes 50K twice, which is about 45 minutes outside Ithaca, off Seneca Lake.  It's a great event, but I knew Ian would put on a real world-class race, on the trails I used to run in Buttermilk Falls State Park back in college.  Ian announced a $12,000 prize purse as well, and made reference to forming an elite field, so I emailed him and asked him whether I might qualify as "elite."

"Well, it all depends who shows up," he said.

"Who have you asked so far?" I asked.

"Oh, Max King, Sage Canaday, Dave James, Yassine Diboun, Ben Nephew..."

Oh.  OK.

In the end, the field Ian put together was probably the second-best 50-mile field of the year, after Lake Sonoma.  Dave James (the two-time defending national 100-mile champ), Leigh Schmidt (top-10 WS100 finisher and VT100 CR holder), and Dave Mackey (2011 Ultrarunner of the Year) all pulled out last-minute, which diminished the star power only slightly.  Sage Canaday (quite possibly the world's second-best ultramarathoner), Jordan McDougal (a 14:00 5K runner and three-time winner of the North Face-Bear Mountain 50-mile), Matt Flaherty (winner of the highly competitive American River 50), Ben Nephew (eight-time winner of the Escarpment Trail Run and sixth at the World Trail Championships in 2011), Brian Rusiecki (winner of the VT50, VT100, MMT50, Bull Run Run, and many, many others), Yassine Diboun (Leona Divide 50K winner and 12th at WS100 last year), and Denis Mikhaylov (winner of the Virgil Crest 100 and the Massanutten 100) all toed the line.  The field was so stacked that Sam Jurek (Stone Cat 50 champ) and Jim Sweeney (a 6:06 50-miler and winner of the Umstead 100) got no love in the pre-race coverage.

Lining up for the start next to Jim and behind such an elite group (of women as well; Cassie Scanlon, Amy Rusiecki, Sandi Nypaver, Kristina Folcik, Debbie Livingston, Sophie Limoges...) I knew, obviously, I would not be contending for a podium spot.  Starting among such a field was a bit intimidating--this was a deeper field than any national championship race I've ever run--but also liberating, in that it freed me to run my own race.  I wanted to focus on staying mentally strong, avoiding down periods, and staying on top of my fueling.  If I could accomplish all this, I figured my placing would take care of itself.
A little bit of climbing...
The difficulty of the course also freed me from having to worry about time.  With a reported 10,000 feet of climbing, it was not a day for a PR.  This too helped me focus only on myself and let the race come to me, rather than worrying about hitting any particular splits. 

The opening pace, as expected when you've got a field full of studs, was pretty quick; I let the large lead pack go and ran in about 20-25th place for the first mile, uphill, in 7:50.  The first 5K section to AS 1 was a basically uphill jaunt up the Gorge Trail to the top of Lucifer Falls, immediately showcasing the spectacular scenery Ithaca trail runners know well.  I was happy enough to maintain 9-10 minute pace and just try to let the early miles pass.  At about 5 miles Jim and two other runners went by me quickly; they had made a wrong turn earlier and Jim explained they lost about 1/4 mile before getting back on track.  (At least that's what I think he said as he blew by.)

I reached AS 2 feeling fine, right around 1:05 for 7 miles, around 9 minute pace.  Looking at the course profile I thought 8 hours--just under 10:00/mile--would be a good day for me, so at this point I was pretty pleased.  Leaving the aid station I immediately caught up to women's leading and pre-race favorite Cassie Scanlon.  Cassie has been tearing it up this spring, with wins and course records at both Lake Sonoma and Ice Age, so I knew if I could run with her I'd be in good shape.  She was clearly laboring with what turned out to be a bad hamstring pull suffered on a fall in the early miles, but she hung tough for quite awhile, and we basically traded spots back and forth for the next two hours or so.

The course was beautiful.  One of the things I love about trail running in Ithaca is the balance that the trails tend to strike between difficulty and runnability.  Much like the singletrack around Cornell's campus or the trails I ran at the Virgil Mountain Marathon a few years back, these trails were challenging but runnable.  Unlike alot of courses I hate, I rarely felt forced to walk by the terrain, and it was great to find some areas where I could really slip into a nice steady rhythm.

Coming back to complete the first lap, I felt very strong.  Kristina Folcik caught me, and then Cassie, on a long downhill section near mile 18; the three of us ran together until Cassie fell back (eventually dropping after the first 25 miles) and Kristina pulled away very strongly; I wouldn't see her again for the day, though I was able to catch up with her fiance, Ryan Welts, an excellent mountain runner who was crewing for her.  I hung within a few minutes of Kristina most of the rest of the way and so was able to chat with Ryan at many of the aid stations; always fun to see a friendly, familiar face.  As we descended the gorge steps retracting our path to the start to complete the first lap, I picked off a number of faster starters, including a few who had gone by me between aid stations 1 and 2, and rolled into AS 6, the start/finish area, right around 4 hours, feeling tired but strong.

Lap two started off a bit slower than lap one and I had already surrendered three minutes to my first lap split by the time I reached the top of the gorge at 28 miles.  I tried not to worry about splits and just focused on getting nutrition in.  I had worked out a nice system of trying to take in 1-2 GU Roctanes between each aid station and then replenishing them at the next stop, along with filling my handheld with GU Brew each time and drinking some extra fluids in each aid station.  This, combined with a steady intake of S! caps, worked pretty well.  I'm not going to say I felt great the rest of the way, and I certainly spent my share of time walking on the uphills, but I never felt like I fell behind on the nutrition or completely hit the glycogen depletion wall.

The course got pretty muddy--two hundred runners traversing a double out-and-back on wet trails will do that--and my pace slowed throughout the second lap, though I was able to find a nice rhythm in some spots.  I was passed by one runner leaving AS 8 (32 miles), but otherwise saw no one between the 25-mile turnaround and the finish save for two runners who passed me in the final two miles (including women's runner-up Sandi Nypaver).  My GPS battery barely made it to the finish, and felt it necessary to warn me that it was running low; for the final 6 miles my watch display simply read "LOW BATTERY," which didn't help my split times any.  But I held it together as best I could for an 8:47 and a 16th place finish.
Almost there Dylan!
This was my slowest 50-mile ever--and also probably my best one.  Unlike every other attempt I've had, I was never stopped or reduced to a walk by "The Wall" or by overwhelming fatigue.  I certainly slowed down a ton, but my second lap was less than 20% slower than my first--not ideal, but not horrible either, and a reasonable showing on a difficult, muddy course.  If I could have held it together a bit better over the final 15 miles and maybe squeezed into the top 10-12, I would have been thrilled, but as it was, I finished the day pretty happy with the way things went.

As I said after Rock the Ridge, every ultra is a learning experience.  I had several good lessons to take away from the CT50, mostly in terms of nutritional strategy and pacing. I have several areas to improve, mostly in terms of training/preparation and mental toughness.  But I'm getting better.  I'm looking forward to enjoying the next few months (a trip to Spain, sans kids, for our 10th anniversary; what should be fun racing trips to Maine for the Great Cranberry Island 50K and to Lake Placid for the Whiteface Hill Climb).  Part of me, though, is already thinking about the next time I'll line up against a truly national-class field, likely at the Tussey Mountainback in October.  Lots of work to do before then.
With Yassine at the finish.  Good luck at WS buddy!

Thanks to Ian for putting on a great race.  From the course markings to the aid stations to the field to the post-race spread, truly a world-class event in every respect.  Thanks to the aid station volunteers who were incredibly friendly and helpful.  Pulling into AS 8 at 32 miles, I asked for some Vaseline to help with some, um, chafing.  They didn't have any, but one of the volunteers produced some shammy cream, which did the trick.  And I'll be damned if when I return to the aid station eleven miles later there wasn't a tub of vaseline waiting there for me.  Way to go, guys.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Perverse, in a shoe way


Right now, as we speak, there are running shoes on the floor of my car.  Not one pair of running shoes.  Six.  There are running shoes on a small rack pushed up against the side wall of my garage, on the way inside the house.  There are running shoes in another rack to the left as you walk into the house, through the kids' playroom.  This does not count the shoe rack inside the hall closet next to the front door.  (There are running shoes there.)  Nor does it count the shoe rack in my bedroom closet, or the overhead shelf above my hanging coats.  Or the shoes that are stacked on top of shoe boxes, in my bedroom, three feet from my sleeping head.  You know what's in those boxes, the ones that all the running shoes are sitting on top of?  Running shoes.

I may have a problem.

It wasn't always this way.  In high school and college, I almost never changed shoes, and I never collected them.  My usual modus operandi was to acquire one pair of training shoes and run in them until they disintegrated.  I will grant you, I took this to extremes, some might say unhealthy extremes.  A single pair of shoes could last me upwards of 1200, 1500 miles.  My shoe maven friends cringed.  But I was happy.  Oh, was I happy.

It was in my post-collegiate years that I started, for lack of a better word, hoarding.  At first it was just the availability of the shoes.  I was hanging around the Haddonfield Running Company, a fantastic specialty shop in South Jersey, and sometimes running for their store team.  Shoes were plentiful.  I acutally started wearing racing flats for some track workouts.  I think that may have been what did it.  Then, I owned a shoe store for two years, which gave me an excuse to try all different kinds of shoes, all the time.  Now I can't go back.  Sometimes they're free, sometimes they're discounted. I almost never pay retail.  But somehow, I get them.

Right now there are thirty-four pairs of running shoes in my house.  I have thirteen pairs of Inov-8s, four New Balance, three adidas, three Brooks, two Asics, and assorted others. I have seven pairs of racing flats, including four brand new pairs of cross country or track flats that have yet to see the outside of their boxes.  I count nine pairs of shoes that are seeing some sort of regular use, and ten pairs that have been worn less than five times apiece.  I have seven pairs of shoes that have too many miles and too much mud on them for any further running to occur.  I have a pair of Brooks Adrenalines from 2008 with sheet metal screws drilled into the soles.  I have the black Nike Air Prestos that I wore to my wedding.  I have two pairs of shoes that I actually gave away to people and yet are somehow back in my house.  I have a pair of fell running shoes from Bolton, England that cannot be purchased in the US.  I have three pairs of Vibrams, for god's sake.

I can't help myself.  Two weeks ago I walked in to Rock and Snow to take a look at the Hoka One Ones (which I'll buy at some point, trust me) and left with an on-sale pair of New Balance 1010s because they were in my size.  Right now on my phone's "To Do" list, I have reminders to try out two other pairs of running shoes that I don't even own yet.

Which reminds me, if anyone wants to send me a pair of Montrail Fluid Flex or Salomon Sense Ultras, I wear a 10.5.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Healthy Food Think-ups


  • Apples are delicious and nutritious.
  • If you want to peel, peel a banana. But make sure you eat it after that!
  • If you eat an orange, you can peel up skin.
  • If you want to yank, yank off carrot tops and eat carrots.
  • If you want to bite something hard, bite an un-cut apple or a super-hard carrot. But you shouldn't do that with loose teeth!
--Lexi

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RTR Race Report: Almost a Good Day


One of the nice things about racing ultras is that there are always lessons to be learned. The races are so long, so many things can happen, and whether you have a good day, or a bad day, or more likely, a combination of the two, you're sure to come away with one or two nuggets that will help for the next time.
The Rock the Ridge 50 mile last weekend was no exception.  This race was not in my plans at the beginning of the year, but ultimately the allure of running a 50 miler on my home trails was too tempting, and I bailed on the Ice Age 50K for a chance to race the beautiful carriage roads of the Shawangunk Mountains.  As with any inaugural event, you're never quite sure what to expect, but race director Todd Jennings did an excellent job partnering with the Mohonk Preserve to put together a nice, smoothly-run race.

I knew going in that I'd be running for second place, with my good friend Ben Nephew, one of the country's top trail runners, slated to compete.  Ben had a good week, as just a few days before RTR he was named to the US team that will compete at the IAU Trail World Championships in Wales in July.  (He'll join a stacked team, with Brian Rusiecki, Jason Bryant, Dave James, Justin Ricks, and Dave Riddle, that should be one of the favorites for team gold.)  Ben and I spoke a few days before the race and made a plan to run together for the first half, hoping to average 7:45 pace or so on the flat segments, maybe a little slower on the climbs.  I knew this would be an easy pace for Ben, but figured it would help me to settle into a not-too-slow tempo in shooting for my goal of 6:40 (8:00/mile pace).  The forecast was promising: cool at the start, clear, with expected highs in the low 60s.
 
Feeling good, at the start.
(Photo: rockhillhayes)
After the opening jaunt across the fields from the Testimonial Gatehouse, we started the climb up Lenape Lane, a 3.5-mile dirt road that climbs about 1000' at a steady 4% or so.  This is one of my staple training stretches, particularly in the winter, when the trails are covered in snow and we basically run up and down Lenape until the thaw.  I know every step of the climb and was happy to settle into a nice, steady tempo with Ben as we chatted about recent races and his prospects for worlds.  About a mile from the top, we gave up the lead to eventual second-place finisher Dylan Armajani, who pushed through the top of the climb with about a 5-10 second gap on us.  We crested the hill, and the 4-mile mark, at just over 31:00, right on 7:45 pace, but for the uphill!  I felt fine, but was wary of going any quicker this early.  I could tell that Ben was itching to chase after Dylan, though, and let him go just past the top, as we entered the Mohonk golf course.

And that was basically the last I saw of either of them.  I quickly eased off the gas, passing 5 miles in 38:10, and fell into a back-and-forth battle with CPTC's Jeff Holy, which we would continue most of the day, as I easily put time into him on the long climbs and gave it right back on the downhills.  I settled into a nice solo rhythm, running right on 7:50-8:00 pace, passing 15 miles at Smiley Tower in 1:59:59, and 20 miles, on Overcliff, in 2:38.  By the time I reached the second aid station, Lyons Road, just shy of 24 miles, I was starting to feel the heat of the day, but was still feeling pretty strong.

Not me, but pretty sweet.
(Photo: rockhillhayes)
The next six miles were a slog, gaining over 1000', including the brutal 3/4-mile, 400' climb from Awosting Falls to Lake Minnewaska.  I struggled badly, falling off to about 10-minute pace on the exposed section as the heat and elevation started to sap my strength, but rallied back to 8:30 pace coming back down and was able to come through Lyons Road on the return trip, 38 miles in, at 5:15. I knew 6:40 was out of reach, but with the last 12 miles being almost exclusively flat and downhill, thought I had a pretty good chance at breaking seven hours.

The next seven miles ranked among the worst of my life.  No real pain--my quads, which were my main concern other than my balky hamstring, held up really well.  Just overwhelming fatigue.  I tried pushing the nutrition, but to no avail, and by 42 miles was alternating walking and running, as relay runners streamed past in a quick procession.  It took my 91 minutes to get from Lyons Road to the 45 mile mark on Forest Drive--13:00 pace for seven miles.

And then, suddenly, as I turned downhill towards the finish, my legs came back. (Actually, they started coming back about a mile or two before that, when I was able to get back into a slow but steady rhythm of probably 9:00 pace along the flat section of Oakwood Drive.)  I certainly wasn't fast on the downhills, but the quads felt OK, and I was able to cover the last 5.5 miles in 41 minutes--close to my original 7:45 pace, and sneaking in just under 7:30, for a fourth-place finish and a two-minute PR.

I'm taking two main lessons away from this race.  One has to do with nutrition.  I learn more and more about my in-race fueling with every ultra I do, and I'm certainly getting closer.  I basically used GU and S! caps the whole way, drinking Gatorade, Coke, and a little bit of Nuun.  For the most part, it worked pretty well.  My salt intake is definitely my most limiting factor.  I carried 21 S! caps for the race, joking beforehand with Ben that if I needed more than that, something had gone horribly wrong.  Well, I used every one of them and probably would have been happy with 5 or 10 more.  Three capsules an hour should be plenty, but I think my personal requirements may be a little higher, particularly on a warm day where temperatures got up into the low-to-mid 70s. Every time I was able to pop a couple of tablets, though, I felt better almost immediately, so future efforts will focus on more regular salt consumption, and maybe switching to a higher-salt drink, such as Perpetuum, rather than Gatorade.

The other lesson is, I'm just not in shape for a full 50-mile effort right now, and I can't fake my way through it either.  I have an excellent fitness level for 50K and feel like I could run a really good one (which bodes well for GCI in July), and I can stretch that fitness out to 35-40 miles at sub-maximal effort.  But I don't have the mileage, particularly the long runs, to hold up hammering a full 50 miles just yet.  So, in the four weeks I have left before Cayuga Trails, I'm focusing on getting three solid weeks of mileage with at least two back-to-back long runs in there.  If I can average 90 miles/week with a couple of real long ones, I'm hoping to be ready to mix it up in Ithaca.  With the field they're expecting, I'll be lucky to sneak into the top-20, but it should be a ton of fun.

Thanks again to the Bicycle Depot for sponsoring me by covering my fundraising commitment to support the Preserve, allowing me to run.  And thanks to Todd, Ken, Norman, and everyone at the Preserve for putting on a very nice event.  For a $150 entry fee, I think we could have expected more than three full aid stations, but in all other aspects, you guys did a hell of a job.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ridge Rockin' with the Depot



Last month I posted about Rock the Ridge, a new 50-mile race/hike that's being held for the first time this year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Mohonk Preserve here in New Paltz.  I didn't say anything about running the race at that time. I've been planning since last fall on running the Ice Age 50K in Madison this month, a race I've wanted to do for quite some time, and with RTR falling just one week before Ice Age, it didn't seem doable for me.  Also, though I support the Preserve and their fundraising efforts, I wasn't too keen on going around, hat in hand, in order to raise the $250 in pledges necessary to compete.  But as the race approached I got more and more enamored of the idea of running an ultra right in my own backyard, on the trails I train on every day.  I don't know exactly what happened, but all of a sudden one day I decided I HAD to run RTR.  So I asked my friends Geoff and Mike, the co-owners of the Bicycle Depot, if the shop would be interested in sponsoring me for the race, and they graciously agreed.  So, my first sponsorship for 2013: the Bicycle Depot!

The Depot is one of several excellent bike shops in our area, and in my opinion is the best one.  They offer a wide range of road and mountain bikes, accessories, and apparel.  They have a full-service shop for assembly, repair, tune-ups, you name it.  They have a full fleet of rental bikes that they re-stock every year, so they remain in great condition.  And, they are just about the friendliest group of bike mechanics and business owners you could ever imagine.

Mike and Geoff are strong supporters of the local racing scene as well as the local community in general.  In addition to being one of the main sponsors of the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis, they are longtime supporters of the ridge, the Preserve, and the Mountain House.  They've donated brand new bikes as raffle prizes for local events like "No Petrol Day" and the New Paltz Regatta, and they've formed partnerships with other excellent local businesses like Rock and Snow (another huge ally of the Preserve and one of the main sponsors of RTR) and the Mudd Puddle Cafe to help support our unique community.  I'm proud to represent the Bicycle Depot and hope that I can put in a good showing this weekend.  In terms of the race, Ben Nephew is the overwhelming favorite, but hopefully he'll take it easy on me and we can run together for awhile, at which point, I don't know, maybe he'll get eaten by a wildebeest or something.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Supposedly Fun Thing Jay Will Never Do Again

I don't want to talk about Boston.  The past week was incredibly difficult and I've had more conversations about it than I care to remember.  I'm generally not an open/sharing person, particularly about "emotions," and you'll have to forgive me if I just want to say I'm tired of talking about it and dealing with my emotions about it and for now I'm just going to have to internalize whatever I have left.  There are many, many other places where you can read people's feelings about what happened, people who will say it much better than I can anyway.  Go ahead, I won't be offended if you click on someone else's blog.  I just don't have then energy to do that.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Taking Stock


Last week I had my semi-annual crisis of confidence during what was all in all a very pleasant (if exhausting) family trip to The Most Magical Place On Earth. After a long day on our feet in the Mouseland I was struggling through a very slow five mile jog, not acclimated to the 80-degree temps, and engaging in one of my favorite easy-run pleasures, listening to Ultrarunner Podcast. For those not familiar, URP is basically two mid-pack ultra geeks in Northern California, Eric Schranz and Scott Sandow, who interview ultrarunners--top studs like Max King, Dave Mackey, Anton Krupicka et al, but also "everyday" athletes with interesting stories to tell. They're very enthusiastic, they love the sport, they love good beer, and they've become pretty good interviewers over the past two years.  I was listening to their conversation with Russ Thomas, who a few years ago weighed 400 lbs but opted for diet and exercise over gastric bypass surgery, lost almost 200 pounds and now runs ultras all over the country. This was the guys' second interview with Russ, and he was reflecting on some of the obstacles that had forced him to curtail his training somewhat in the 10 months that had elapsed since his first interview.  Anyway, around the 18-minute mark, I hear this:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dylan's Salsa

Mommy really likes to can things (and put them in jars).



My sister doesn't like regular salsa very much, so Mommy made a special salsa for her called Dylan's Salsa. She likes it very much. Tonight for dinner my sister put salsa in her burrito. I didn't know she was going to like it that way. She usually likes it plain. That's how much she loves Dylan's Salsa!


I asked mommy how it is different from regular salsa. She says it's not but Dylan likes it because it has her name in it. Also she said it is pretty bland which means not too spicy which is what Dylan likes. She makes it with a lot of vegetables that she grows in our backyard and also vegetables we get from a farm in town. The salsa is made especially for Dylan, but other people in our family like it also.


The recipe is from a book called Put 'em Up. Here are the ingredients:

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
3 lbs heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 lb onions, diced
1-2 jalapeƱo peppers, finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Buy the book if you want directions to make Dylan Salsa. Or you can ask my mom for a jar.

--Lexi


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rock the Ridge

I'm lucky to train almost every day on the beautiful trails of the Shawangunk Mountains, a small but arresting cliff-face that rises abruptly from the farmland of the Wallkill Valley.  The Gunks, home to the best rock climbing on the East Coast, is also repository of hundreds of miles of well-maintained carriage roads and single-track hiking trails.  The carriage roads date to the late 19th century, built by the owners of luxury resorts that offered a "return to nature" for wealthy city dwellers who would venture up from Manhattan.  The Mohonk Mountain House still rests atop the Shawangunk ridge.

Outside of the Mountain House, most of the open space on the ridge is maintained either by the New York State Parks system, in the Minnewaska State Park, or by the Mohonk Preserve, a private land trust.  The Preserve encompasses over 7000 acres of open space and is visited by 150,000 people a year.  As a non-profit, they depend on access fees, memberships, donations, and fundraisers to maintain their swath of the Gunks.

One new fundraiser for this year which is generating alot of excitement locally is the Rock the Ridge 50, which is a twist on the modern ultramarathon.  Rock the Ridge takes its inspiration from the endurance challenges popular in the 1950s and '60s, when President Kennedy challenged his military officers and, later, the general population, to maintain and improve their physical fitness by engaging in prolonged hikes.  (It was out of this movement that the JFK 50, now the nation's largest ultramarathon, was born.)  In the spirit of this movement comes Rock the Ridge, which is aimed at both ultrarunners and "weekend warriors" looking for an extreme challenge.  The course will show off the best the Gunks have to offer, and to encourage people to try something new, will have a 24-hour time limit, which will allow for hikers and walkers to complete the course with support from the aid stations.  There will also be team and relay divisions, which will allow teams of four to complete the course either in sequence (relay format, each person covering 10-15 miles) or all together (team division).

The event organizers are requiring a $250 per person fundraising commitment--the entirety of which will be donated to the Preserve--in addition to the $150 entry fee, so yes, it's pretty steep.  But the response has been encouraging, and many of the race's 100+ entrants have already met their fundraising requirement.  If you're looking for a new challenge this spring, take a look at Rock the Ridge.  It looks to be a very well-organized event in a unique part of the country, and you'll get to experience what my training partners and I do every day.  And if not, please consider donating to someone else who is running or walking and support the effort to conserve one of nature's last great places.

My across-the-street neighbor will be hiking it.  He is pretty goofy, so here is his fundraising video.   Check it out and if it makes you laugh, throw a few bucks his way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Post Mortem: Caumsett Park 50K Championships

I've been quiet on the blogging front recently as I prepped for the US National 50K Championships at Caumsett Park.  I pulled my left hamstring during a track workout in late January and I've been skittish talking about racing for fear of jinxing myself.  Through heavy use of the foam roller and the excellent work of ART expert Dr. Ness I've been able to keep training at about 85% intensity which kept me in reasonable shape and got me to the starting line yesterday feeling cautiously optimistic about my prospects, but unfortunately it was not to be.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Muscle of the Month

Photo: http://marshaclarkermt.com

At school, I've been learning in gym about muscles. Every month we learn about a different muscle.  (September didn't have a muscle.)  The muscle of the month for October was the quadriceps.  In November, the muscle was the biceps.  In December, the muscle was the gastrocnemius.  In January, it was the pectorals.

Now, in February, the muscle of the month is the heart.  The heart is the most important muscle in your body.  At first, I didn't know that the heart was a muscle.  Whenever you do exercises, it pumps blood through your body.  (You might think that blood is a little yucky, but it's good for you.)  My dad says blood carries oxygen through your body for the rest of the body to use.  An exercise video would keep the heart pumping.

The quadriceps muscle is the part of the leg in between your waist and your knee.  A good exercise for the quadriceps is running, jumping, skipping, and walking.

The biceps muscle is part of the arm.  It is the part that makes a bump when you flex it.  When you eat, your biceps muscle gets stronger.

The gasrtocnemius is the muscle in between your ankle and your knee, in the back.  Some people call the gastrocemius the calf muscle.  The gastrocnemius is good for all of the things that the quadriceps are good for.  The gastrocnemius muscles are a star for jumping.

The pectoral muscles are in your chest where your lungs are.  Pushups are good for pectorals.

--Lexi

Friday, February 1, 2013

Being Healthy

Lexi points out tonight that eating healthy foods and running both are useful ways to stay healthy. I'm not sure if I have anything to add to that, but it is good advice.

"Healthy running is almost the same as healthy eating because they are both very very very good ways to stay healthy." -- Lexi

In other news, I ordered a race vest from Ultimate Direction today. I don't know how much actual use I'll get out of it, as I rarely run long enough to need something like that, but I do have a couple of 50-milers planned for later this year. When I get a chance to try it out I'll post a review.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Day in the Life

Ten miles with Dr. Mike before lunch.



It's got salmon. Fish is good for you.

Six miles with Alex before a quick visit to Dr. Ness. Then Zagi's for dinner.



It's got sausage. Sue me.

The beer is an Belgian-style Dubbel from Captain Lawrence. Excellent.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

3103

Usually at the start of the new year I'm pretty quick to add up my mileage from the previous 12 months.  Sometimes I'll even do it a few days in advance, in case I need to squeeze in a few extra miles to hit some nice round number for the year.  The holidays this year were a bit harried, however, and I didn't even get a chance to add up 2012 until last week.

So, there it is.  3103 miles.  Considering the beginning of my year, I can't complain too much.  I had a sacral stress fracture in the middle of December 2011 and didn't run a step in 2012 until February; I didn't crack 250 miles for the year until the first week of April.  The 1023 miles in the first six months of the year was my second-lowest six-month total dating back to 1997.  So, to have a solid 2080 miles from July 1st on--my best six-month stretch since early 2010--was a nice finish to the year.  The total is my lowest since 2008, but all in all, given the extended recovery time early on, I'm more or less satisfied.

And yes, I know tracking yearly mileage is passe, arbitrary, meaningless, and probably counterproductive.  I don't care.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some food for thought

Apples are my favorite fruit because they are delicious and nutritious.
I love tomatoes! They are so healthy.
Juice is healthy for you, but only if you drink it sometimes.
Sometimes veggies don't taste so good a little, like spinach, but they're still nutritious.
Milk is healthy.  It's a good drink to drink!

--Lexi

Friday, January 11, 2013

Recover from the Holidays 50K

Training has been going pretty well recently.  After a decent race at the Blues Cruise 50K in October, I was able to recover quickly and build up my mileage; I ran just over 500 miles between Thanksgiving and the new year, with a few decent if unspectacular workouts mixed in.  This stretch of solid training gave me some confidence heading into the Recover from the Holidays 50K last weekend.

The RFTH is a fat ass-style event hosted by Pete Colaizzo and Charlie Sprauer of the Mid Hudson Road Runners.  The course is ten laps of a 5K paved out-and-back with two short climbs.  It's been held the first Saturday in January for the past 18 years and is a great test of early-season fitness in a nice low-key, low-intensity setting.  In 2011 I ran 3:53 for the win, which set me up for a pretty successful first half of the year.  This year I thought I could run closer to 3:45, maybe even under 3:40 if everything broke well.

Things didn't start well though, as I wound up stuck with a shift at the hospital Friday night which I couldn't get out of. The shift ended at 3am and I was finished with my work around 4, so rather than drive home and then back to Dutchess County just a few hours later, I grabbed one of the unused OB/GYN call rooms and snuck about two and a half hours' sleep. Not an ideal race prep! But by the time we lined up for the 9 am start I was feeling more awake than asleep, at least.

I took the lead immediately at the start and knew within two minutes that unless I completely crashed, I'd be able to secure a win; the only person with me was my friend Ian, owner of the excellent specialty store Finger Lakes Running Company. Ian was in town on business and was staying at my house for the weekend; I knew he was only planning on two laps and that I'd be on my own pretty soon. By the time we reached the halfway point of lap 1, we already had close to a minute on the chase pack.

Look out!  Heel strike!
Photo: Bob Kopac

My initial plan was to run 22:00 per 5K lap, which works out to a 3:40; this seemed pretty reasonable. Ian was feeling good though and we fell into a nice tempo while we chatted, coming through 5K in 21:30. No panic, but I made a conscious decision to try to slow down on lap 2. Didn't work: 21 flat. Ian was nice enough to tack on a third loop, and we came through the 15K after another 21:30 in 64 minutes, two minutes ahead of schedule.

Cruising.
Photo: Bob Kopac

As Ian peeled off, I let myself ease off the gas a bit and settled into what felt like a nice sustainable tempo. If I could find 22 minutes now, and settle into a rhythm, I'd be set. I was definitely feeling good, though, because the laps just kept coming in the 20:45-21:30 range. The second 15K was a 1:03, good for a 2:07 30K split, a full five minutes ahead of 3:40 pace. By the middle of lap seven, though, I was starting to feel a bit of strain, and knew that my effortless day was about to get much more difficult.

People think an ultra on a multi-loop course is boring, or demoralizing, and though it can get repetitious, I kind of like it. Laps make it very easy to find your rhythm and gauge your progress. Mentally it can actually feel easier to run a lap course; rather than think about how long you have to go, it's much easier to focus on each lap individually. You can do this on a single-loop or point-to-point course as well--"Just get to the next aid station"--but it's very comforting to know exactly how long each lap is and how far you have to go at all times. The out-and-back made this even easier, with the added benefit of being able to track the progress the competition.

By the start of lap 7 I had about 15 minutes on second place and nearly 20 minutes on third. I didn't know either runner, but both looked pretty strong, and they were both still on pace to run close to, or under, four hours, an excellent time. At this point I started playing some mental games to try to keep myself focused on the pace. By now I was committed to holding 21:00-21:30 per lap for as long as I could. I drew motivation from the prospect of my iPod. I wouldn't turn it on, I promised myself, until either I ran a lap over 22 minutes, or I had lapped second and third place.

Ten minutes later I lapped third, starting to strain a bit but still feeling pretty smooth. Another 21:15.  Lap eight, 40K, almost a marathon now. Tightening a bit, but still strong; another 21:15. Finishing up the eighth lap I saw second place resting at the aid station for a few minutes and breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally able to fire up the iPod.

Starting to feel it a bit.
Photo: Bob Kopac
Over the final two laps I started to struggle, especially on the hills, which were not terribly long but after the eighth or ninth time through were getting pretty annoying.  My ninth lap was my slowest of the race (only by about 20 seconds or so) and, powered by Springsteen's "Better Days" and Titus Andonicus' "Ecce Homo" over the final circuit, I finished with a 21:30  for a 3:32:08, sixth-fastest in race history.

Overall I was very pleased, holding extremely even splits (1:45:45/1:46:23) during a basically solo effort on limited sleep and taking in just three GUs over the course of the race.  All in all, a great start to the season and a solid confidence-booster for my next race, the USATF 50K Championships at Caumsett Park in March.

Much thanks to Pete and Charlie for a great event.  Not many folks would give up a Saturday to take splits in the cold for a free fat-ass race every January for 18 years.  This is a great event to have on the local calendar.  Only 16 finishers of the full distance this year (about the norm), but over 100 people showed up to run at least a couple of laps and get their weekend long run in.  Also thanks to Jason Bellamy, who again provided long-sleeve t-shirts to all finishers--a nice perk for a race with no entry fee!