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Forget the PR – April 2011

April 2011

Just a quick update on the running front. After running the OPSF 50 miler last fall, I felt pretty good about where my running was at. I had a great year of injury free running, spent lots of time in the woods, got to hang out with a whole host of great people, and had racked up over 2,000 miles during 2010. So, of course, I had to do something silly, and that boiled down to registering for a 100 miler this year. In the beginning of June I will attempt to keep moving for +/- 24 hours and cover a distance I would never have dreamed possible just a couple of years ago.

So far, 2011 has gone exceptionally well in terms of running (although the trade-off has been a regular loss of lazy weekends). On the first day of the year, I joined in with a group running a “fat ass” ultra (no official registration or time keeping, just running) and haven’t stopped yet. Despite the typical winter challenges (wind, snow, ice, lack of daylight), I have already racked up over 800 miles in the past 3 1/2 months – lots of long runs and being far more consistent with the day-to-day mileage. I did one official road race (a fifteen miler here in Granville) and one official trail ultra (more below). Overall, it seems to be paying off, but the real test will be the next 6 weeks. In 2 1/2 weeks, I will run another 50 miler. The first weekend in June, I will be running in the Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin. Oh boy.

Halfway up Big Ass Hill

At this point, I feel quite positive about the challenge. Last weekend, I ran my third Forget the PR 50k on the trails of the Mohican State Park. Two years ago, this was my first trail ultra. The race is incredibly well thought out, organized, and run. The volunteers are amazing. And the hills are deadly. This year, the race director decided to increase the elevation gain (i.e. find bigger hills) and make us do a couple of river crossings because, well, that is what makes a race like this fun… So this past Sunday, April 17, around 130 runners gathered for the start (a smaller group doing a 25k version started a bit later). After a thorough explanation of the course markings and a moment of remembrance for a runner who had passed away earlier in the year, we hit the trails. Actually, we had a bit of gravel road to navigate before we got to the trails, but before long we were in the woods. And heading up.

the Purple “trail”

The new course was two loops, the first longer than the second. The loop involved climbing from the Mohican river to the Fire Tower outlook (several miles and a massive elevation gain affectionately called “Big Ass Hill”) then running down some singletrack to the river again. From there we headed up a trail section known as “the Purple Trail”, but one I call the “Can’t-really-run-because-I-have-to-jump-over-rocks-and-downed-trees-and-navigate-along-a-stream-until-I-actually-have-to-climb-a-cliff-to-get-out Trail”. That slowed things down a bit, but I had a blast and was feeling good. We passed a dam and then spent a mile or so on pavement making our way up “the Dam(n) Hill” to another singletrack section that took us back to the river. Throughout this portion of the race, I was really just cruising along. I ran with various folks, but paid very little attention to who passed me and who I passed. We returned to the river and this time had to run through it…

refreshing…

The water was cold, which felt great on the legs, but my feet went a bit numb by halfway and that made navigating the rocks a challenge. Still, despite the wet shoes and leaden feet, it added a great new element to the challenge of running over 30 miles. Once out of the river, we headed back along a technical trail that ran along the river for a couple of miles before heading UP and then back down to the starting area. While running along the river, I met up with a friend that was having some knee issues (stemming from an amazing 100 miler he had run a couple weeks previously) and we chatted and ran together – a welcome break and chance to reset myself mentally. Coming back into the start area to begin the second loop, I suddenly felt energized and ready to race. This was my 6th “official” ultra (race over 26.2 miles), and to this point I had always focused on maintaining, because, well, that was all I could do. So, looking ahead at the other runners, and thinking those “racing thoughts” scared me a bit (this was no 5k along the bike path) but also excited me. I had counted 13 runners ahead of me as I made my way to the turnaround area, so I suddenly thought I could possibly crack the top 10, if I didn’t crack. I was 18 miles into the race, and had another 13+ miles to go. I had been hobbled by cramps both my last attempts at the FTPR, so I knew that I had ample opportunity to crash and burn…

Still, I had been smart to that point, and my nutrition had been going well, so I picked up the pace heading back towards the trails and passed a couple of guys. I met up with another runner just as we hit the woods, and I settled in and started up a conversation. Nice guy, but can’t remember his name… We ran together to the start of “Big Ass Hill”, and then I started “power-hiking” (running was futile on this hill) a bit more aggressively and pulled away. At the top, I felt good and focused on getting into a rhythm, and I started closing the gap on another runner. This time I used the aid station at the fire tower to surge ahead and I didn’t let up going into the rolling downhill sections that took us back to the river. I kept catching up to and passing other runners during this section – I was right on the edge, any faster and I would crash and cramp and burn but at that point it was just right. Once I reached the river again, I just had to cross the water again (we skipped the extra Purple Trail section on this second loop) and make my way back to the finish. The water felt even better the second time. Yeah for water crossings! Once I was back to running, I could tell it was going to be very close – the pre-cramping twinges and pangs were increasing in both frequency and painfulness. Happily, I caught up to another couple of friends who were doing the 25k and had the chance to exchange brief pleasantries (or possibly I just grunted, speech may have been beyond me at that point) – another mental boost just when I needed it. The last few miles were tough both mentally and physically, but I stayed as focused as I could and maintained a solid pace towards the finish. I reached the finish in 5:18:46 – about a seven minute improvement from last year on a much tougher course. I also crept up to 6th place overall. I almost collapsed at the finish – my legs had truly given me all they had. Happily, there was food (awesome vegan soup and brownies) and beer and showers, everything I needed to reconstitute myself. I got the chance to hang out with some great folks as we recovered and rehashed the day’s effort. Great day.

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