Monday, April 22, 2013

I Finished My First 50K! - Mt. Diablo Challenge 50K Race Recap

Las Vaqueros Reservoir from the first climb.
Well I did it!  I completed my first 50K at the Mt. Diablo Challenge, and while it wasn’t pretty, I am thrilled!  It took 10 hours to cover 31 miles and over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, and while I didn’t meet my target times, I learned a lot about myself and drive It was warm and challenging, but I was determined to finish, and did.
As I stated in my last post, my primary goals were to run my own race and to finish.  And my final point was to “flow and know when go with the flow.”  Well the night before, beginning about 9 PM until 12:30 AM, our son was having problems with bloody noses and coughing related to his allergies.  We have a series of trees next door that, when in bloom, provide these beautiful white puff balls of allergen.  When the trees are really going, it looks like it is snowing.  So can say that I knew when we showed up for the race I was just going to have fun.  With wake up time at 3:30 to be to the buses at 5:10 it was pretty rough, but we got there on time and ready to go.
We got to the start line a full hour before the beginning and I was kicking myself for not taking my wife’s suggestion to drive to the start, which would have given us an extra 2 hours of sleep (we live 30 minutes from the start) and the need to recover from my inherent motion sickness.
I had seen a twitter alert the night before that Ian Sharman would be joining us for the morning.  Up to this point I thought Footfeathers record would stand for a while.  However, I later found out, Sharman had smashed it by 36 minutes.  He was joined by Brett Rivers and it sounded like a duel for most of the day.

As the race began, we took off through Round Valley.  So that I wouldn’t get caught up too much in the race, I hung out towards the back of the pack for the first 1.5 miles.  Having run this last year, I knew I could keep my pace and would also catch up with folks on the first long climb.  
I forgot how steep that first climb was though!  It is about two miles long; however, you climb pretty steeply in the first mile.  My upper glutes were burning midway up the hill, but I trudged on.  Also, it was about here, just after we had passed the cattle gate, we came across a chalk outline of a dog that was left by the course marker which gave me and every other runner a nice pick-me-up.  We latter found out that the first half of the race had been marked by Catra Corbett, and then it made sense - the dog was a picture of her dachshund Truman.  Thank you Catra!

Entering Mt. Diablo State Park after the second climb.
After the summit, we crossed a short camel back and then a quick drop down into the first aid station. It had taken me two hours to this point to cover 8.7 miles, so I was pretty sure I would not come close to my 3 hour goal.  However, I didn’t stop long, talking only some potato and salt, a slice of watermelon, and a GU packet for later.  I had my water bottles refilled and began the next climb.

This climb was not as hard as the first; however, I quickly learned that my trail mix strategy was not going to work, almost throwing up on the steeper part of the hill.  At the summit, we were rewarded with awesome views of the Livermore Tri-Valley.  It was really windy here, but I was able to keep my pace, getting to the next aid station within 1:45.  There was part of me that was thinking at this point of pulling out. I sat at that aid station for about 15 minutes, drinking now a Coca Cola, eating more watermelon, and a GU.  I had thought I would have seen my wife at this point; which I didn’t.  At this point, though, I knew I had built in an hour to finish and that I was averaging 2 hours between stations, so if I made it to Curry Station by 2:00 that I would have 4 hours to finish 8 miles.
View from Oyster Point Trail
Up out of Old Finley, onto Oyster Point Trail went quicker than when we ran this part of the trail a couple of weeks ago.  I did pass my wife just as I was beginning my assent which further gave me confidence to finish the race.  The poison oak was still there, but the trail was nice and dry.  The biggest challenge with this section was the second half of the single track.  Since this is one of the few mountain bike single tracks in all of the California State Park trail system, there were parts that made you feel as if you were running in a gully.  This meant that I had to slow down a bit.  I IT-Band is cursing that section today! This is beautiful country though.  The trail parallels beautiful sandstone back country.  

More awesome sandstone from Blackhawk Trail.

With the slow down on the single track and the climb back up to Curry station, I had made it to the next aid station in 2:45.  I took 10 minutes here, determined to finish at this point.  

I had reached my backyard and knew every inch of the trail.  It was also going to be downhill for the most part and three more hours, I knew I was going to finish.  It was rough going down Wall Rd. and Dusty trail.  By this time I had thrown on my music.  By the time I got down to the bottom of Dusty, the course monitors made sure I was OK and let me continue on, telling me I had 40 minutes to get to the Burma Aid station.  I was about 1.5 miles away and was fine.  That is until I got half way up Stage Road.  The heat had finally taken its toll and I and to stop a little while to cool down.  My lower back was hurting and it was getting tough to breathe.  After a couple of minutes I got going again.  I was able to pick up the pace going across Buckeye Trail, until I kicked a rock and tripped.  Instantly all of my muscles seized and in that brief moment, that close to the aid station, I thought I wasn’t going to finish.  Finally everything loosened and I pushed on to Burma.
I took about 15 minutes at this aid station.  They were packing up as I arrived but really took care of me.  The volunteers for Brazen are the best!!  I sat a bit, learned that Ian Sharman had one.  I downed another Coca Cola, some Mountain Dew, a GU, some electrolyte, and some watermelon.  I thanked everyone for their help and went to cover the final 3 miles.  I knew I had 1 hour to cover 3 miles to beat the 10 hour time and new that was really feasible.
Allen running me in. Photo Courtesy of Brazen Volunteer
The drop down of Burma was quick but painful.  I hit my first creek thinking it would be refreshing and then the second; however, I quickly found that the bottom of my feet hurt.  About  1.5 from the finish, my ankle slipped which again caused me to tense up my legs, which meant instant cramping.  I fell back into a bush, which I was happy wasn’t poison oak.  Once everything settled I got going again, picking up my pace. 

I came around the last turn to see Mr. Notthatlucas waiting for me at the final cattle gate.  He was a sight for sore eyes.  He ran me in the last couple of yards which I am so grateful.  Thank you so much Allen, you have no idea how much that meant!
Photo Courtesy of Brazen Volunteer

With the finish line in site and after clear the last (baby) hill I was able to muster enough to run to the finish. My wife was there waiting for me.  I guess she had become really worried since there was no word from the last aid station that I had made it before they had packed up.  She put my medal on and gave me a big hug.  Mrs. Notthatlucas gave me a half-hearted scolding about worrying my wife but all was good.

The next hour was excruciating.  My leg muscles were in constant cramping.  My mistake was that I went and lay down.  I probably should have kept standing for a bit.  Sam and Jasmin (the race directors for Brazen Racing) both came over to congratulate me.  There were three other runners behind me, and they were concerned with one who was directly behind me.  He showed up twenty minutes behind and quickly after that the sweeper with the final two. 
Photo Courtesy of Brazen Volunteer
As I have always said, Brazen Racing is the best, and they did an excellent job again this year with the Diablo Challenge 50K! You can find the full results for the Mt. Diablo Challenge 50K here.

What would I do different? 

 I really need to nail down my nutrition and salt intake.  I understand flat road marathons, but trail distances are a different animal.  

Dancing Post Race Legs

I would also look at building my base mileage a quite a bit more.  For all six of my marathons I was running 35 to 45 miles a week in training as well as about 50 miles on my bike. My longest run would be 22 miles.  Here, partly due to my calf and toothpick injuries in January, I maxed out on 30 miles a week, with my longest run being 18 miles.  My energy output petered out right at 15, which means my base needs some work.

Was my strategy too aggressive?

Remember, my first two goals were to run my own race as well as finish, which I did.  I feel such a great accomplishment in that!  Yes, it would have been great to finish at 8 hours, and if I had more sleep, I might have gotten close to it.  But the key here was that I had a strategy and worked to attain the end goal and I can say that I have attained the 50K distance. 

Will I do another 50K?

Definitely!  I know that this was a really tough course, especially for my first 50K.  Will I do the Diablo 50K again? Probably, however, I would also like to get some other 50K’s under my belt before my next go at it.  It kind of reminds me of when I learned to ski.  I so wanted to do a black diamond after my first few ski lessons, which I did, took my time, and finished.  When I went back to the beginning and intermediate runs I realized I had learned a lot and was better prepared the next time I skied a black diamond.

Also, just like when I ran my first half marathon, I had only run one other race (a 7 mile trail run) and trained over 8 weeks for it.  My IT Band flared up then too and I finished at 2:23.  However, now my road half marathon PR pace is 1:51.  So I know I can improve my time on the Diablo 50K.

According to Sam, there were 169 that started the race and 158 that finished. So while I came in the bottom four, I am happy I finished.  I have completed my first 50K!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Diablo Challenge 50K Race Strategy

The Diablo Challenge 50K is here!  And I am so ready.  The weather looks like it might be slightly cooler than last year which is good; however, we are much better prepared (mentally and physically) for the heat.  

Last year attempt at the 50K, we were coming into the race with injuries from the Napa Marathon a month before as well as reduced training. I was also mentally not in the game being unemployed much of the month (I actually started work two days after the race).  Combined with temperatures in the 90's, we received our first DNF.

This year, we have followed closely with our training plan, even with my toothpick and calf injuries back in January.  The result has also been a much improved trail half marathon time (Trail P.R. at Lagoon Valley) as well as my 5 mile training runs moving closer to a 8:30 pace (Road half marathon PR pace). 

Taper Strategy

One modification I did to the training this year, however, is adjust my taper strategy.  In the past, when we were training for our marathons, we followed a two week schedule which greatly reduced both our volume and intensity.  In fact, we typically would do no running, and I would cut out my bike commute.  For the 50K, I have followed more closely with a three week plan, again reducing the volume; however, I have implemented an increased intensity taper.   After doing the research, a low volume high intensity taper actually helps maintain (or improve) your fitness since you have already built up your endurance.  This also allows your muscles to heal any micro tears that have developed over time on long hilly training runs.

I have noticed over the taper that my 5 mile times, and more specifically mile 2 to 5 improving dramatically.  I am interested in seeing how this will affect my race day performance.

For more references on long distance tapering (marathon and greater), I found these resources very useful:

·         Taper for Endurance Athletes

·         Not So Easy

·         Tapering for the Marathon

·         Tapering for Endurance Runners

Race Day Strategy

My wife and I have decided to run separately, since much of our training during the week has been as such.  My main concern is getting caught up with the other runners, so I have set the following goals in place:

1.  Run my own race - Since I will not be running with my wife, I know it would be very easy for me to get caught up with the other runners around me.  So I am going to stick with my strategy, keep my pace and meet my goals.

2.  Finish the 50K - I left a job to be done last year, so I will not jeopardize finishing this year.

3.  Reach the halfway point in 3 hours – this means that I will be averaging a 12 minute mile, which is very doable; however, most of the elevation gain is in the first half.  More specifically the toughest climb is begins at mile 3.  The main reason for this goal is to beat the heat.  

4.  Reach Curry Station in 2.5 hours - I know the remaining climb from mile 15 to 23 has a lot more shade, so I should be good to go heat wise. Curry Station is my line, where I know that no matter what I will finish.

5.  Since I have a goal to finish in 8 hours, this means that I will be giving myself another 2.5 hours to cover the final 8 miles, which is mostly downhill but is also fully exposed.  I do expect an adrenaline rush though since the final 8 is in Beth and my training grounds.  I also plan that my strategy up to this point will allow me to have enough reserves to kick in.

6.  “Plan to flow and know how to flow when it is not going to plan.” – Jimmy Dean Freeman – To flow means go.  So keep going ! In other words, if something happens and I need to alter my strategy to meet goal #1 and #2.

Now that is my 8 hour strategy, which should have me finish in the middle of the pack.  In reality, depending how I feel I hope to shave off an hour on using the uphill portions for mini recovery spots so that I can run down Wall Road.  So my stretch goal is 7 hours. 

For more great information on race strategy:

With the heat planned for tomorrow, I will definitely be running with two water bottles.  I also plan on taking extra trail mix and focusing on picking up trail mix and GU at each aid station. 

Also Mr. and Mrs. Notthatlucas introduced us to these awesome cooling bandanas that when exposed to water, keeps cold.  We both have one, so they will be well used tomorrow. 

And while I am bringing my IPod, I don’t plan using it until I begin to have problems. 

And one last strategy I learn last week listening to the Max King interview this week, if I need to go…do it at the bottom of the hill.  You are more likely to catch up with other runners on the uphill than the downhill.

So the race starts at 7:00 and we need to be at the buses at 5:30 so I hope we get some sleep.  I can say I am pretty excited about this race.  If all goes well and I meet the 8 hour goal, our next run will be the Big Basin Redwoods 50K (or marathon) in the first week of June, followed by Brazen’s 12 Hour July 6th.
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