Monday, July 21, 2008

BT50K - Aftermath

I woke up on Sunday with pain in every muscle and tendon in my legs! From hip to toes. Clearly my quads were hurting, but also my hips and my lower foot. What a difference from last year!

Last year I ran the BT50K and I was fine the next day. A few months later I ran the Towpath Marathon and then I was in pain for a week. So I concluded that a Marathon is much harder on the body than a 50K. Others agreed, and different theories were proposed to explain this: The 50K is run at a slower pace, with walking breaks (“It is not the distance but the speed that kills”.) There is a variety of terrain, leading to a variety of muscle work, which is much better for the body than the monotonous constant pounding of the pavement during the Marathon.

All this sounds good, but how do you explain what happened this year? My Cleveland Marathon was a piece of cake. I was ready to resume running the next day. And now, 2 days after the 50K, I can barely walk. With great pain (and lots of swearing) I can get down the stairs. I am suffering!

This leads me to believe that it is all relative. I was well prepared for the 50K last year and the Cleveland Marathon this year. I was under-prepared for the Towpath marathon and the 50K this year, and I tried hard in these two races. The 50K felt harder this year because I put (a lot) more effort to it. And now I am paying for it. It is that simple.

<- This picture (of me finishing) was taken by LloydT. My wife is in the back holding a camera (click to enlarge). Thanks Lloyd!

Photos and reports on the BT50K are coming in… The unofficial results are posted with 25K splits (new this year). There is some interesting information from the 25K times.

First, it appears that there are only two negative splits (someone actually did the math and posted the info in Vertical Runner's discussion list). You must make a special effort to go very slow in the first half, in order to have a negative split (run the 2nd half faster than the first). I think Vince mentioned that last year Jeff Hirt had a negative split. Maybe he was running with friends in the first half and then decided to go ahead alone. But this year, looking at the first page of the results it looks like the closest to an even split is a 4 minute difference. 2nd half times are from 4 minutes to over an hour slower. This from just looking at the first page. (Correction: finisher #84 Roy Heger who finished in 5:42 actually has a negative split: 2:55/2:47)

My 25K split is 2:33, so I ran the 2nd half 15 minutes slower than the first. No surprises here. I knew this was going to happen and I did not care. I thought I would be much worse than others, but, looking at the results, it appears that my second half was better than most.

Another good piece of information from the 25K splits is how many runners passed me and how many runners I passed during the 2nd half. Everyone who finished ahead of me had a faster 25K time, which means that no one passed me in the 2nd half. From the 9 people who finished after me, 7 had a faster 25K split, which means that I passed these 7 runners in the way back. That makes me feel good. :)

Since this is only my 2nd Summer BT50K, I am trying to figure out how I did, compared to last year. My time this year (5:21) is 7 minutes slower than last year (5:14), but my placement is better (19th vs. 28th). I see that Kam Lee ran 15 minutes slower this year. If I reduce my time by 15 minutes, my placement is about the same in both years, so I conclude that 15 minutes will account for the weather difference between the two years.

I am now looking forward to the next 50K race!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Buckeye 50K - Summer 2008

<- After 5 hours and 21 minutes of running (some walking too) I am ready to cross the finish line - finishing in 19th place, a great accomplishment for which I am very proud :)


I am happy… for two reasons:

1. The ordeal is over. As I told my wife “this was the hardest thing I have ever done!” And I am glad it is over!

2. Despite inadequate trail training, I did great… a) Even though my time was slower than last year (5:21 vs. 5:15), because of the hot weather everyone’s times were slower by 10 to 20 minutes, so relatively to others, I did well. Last year I was in 28th place (out of 149 runners), this year I finished 19th. b) I finished ahead of all my running friends, including those who are younger than me and have faster marathon times.

The Weather Factor

Last year we were blessed with a cool weather and dry trails. This year it was hot (70F at 6 am, going up to near 90F with humidity). It has been like that for a week now. The good thing about this dry weather is that the trails were mostly dry. For most people this hot & humid weather was a problem, but, for me, I will take a hot day with dry trails any time, compared to a cool day with wet trails. Plus, it was cloudy and it felt cooler in the woods. So I did not have a big problem with the weather. Yes, cooler would have been better, but it could have also been a lot worse.

My Training

Why was my training inadequate? For some reason I was unable to complete a trail run over 12 miles. The unusually wet weather in June/July proved to be a problem for me. I get very tired running in the mud. For example, my last training run before vacation was scheduled to be 24 miles. While the rest of the group was running half the distance (Brecksville to Pine Lane, about 15+ miles) I decided to do next week’s run of 22 miles (Brecksville to Boston and back). The first 6 miles were fine but then I got really tired, got bitten by flies and bugs, and ended up walking in the way back from Boston and finally walked home after 15 miles, aborting my planned run. In short, it was a disaster! After this fiasco, I had doubts whether I could finish the 50K race.

We then left for vacation to California where I did a lot of (road/dirt road) running (see previous blog). In 5 days I ran 65 miles, including one 20 miler. This increased my confidence. After vacation I went to a conference. I came back on Tuesday, 5 lbs lighter. On Wednesday morning I was 160 lbs. For the next 3 days I did nothing but eat and sleep. On race day I was back to 165 lbs, rested and with full reserves. (I followed the same strategy before my succesful Cleveland Marathon - diet, then fill up). A proof that this "filling up" works is that, unlike last year, I did not need to eat anything during the race, I was filled. But I drank water… plenty of water!

<- This is the entire Summer Buckeye 50K course. We start at Brecksville at the top. First aid station (6 miles) is at Snowville Road. Then from Snowville to Boston is 5 miles. Then, 4 more miles to Pine Lane. And then we run back.

Race Day:

I got up at 6:00 am. The lights in the kitchen were on and I could smell something nice cooking. My 19 yr old daughter was up and she had baked a banana bread for me (I had a slice for breakfast). She said she stayed up all night long because she wanted to come with me to the race start to take pictures. How nice of her. She drove me to the start... She then met me at the first aid station (at Snowville).

The course is out and back and has three sections, with an aid station after each section:
1. Brecksville Park to Snowville Rd. (1.5 from my house) 6 miles.
2. Snowville to Boston, 5 miles
3. Boston to Pine Lane, 4 miles. Turn around, and 3, 2, 1 back to the finish.

The race started at 7:00 am. I positioned myself near the front. The first 6 miles felt easy. I caught up with Bob Clarke and Lindsey Loftus and we ran together at a rather fast pace of about 9:00-9:30 min/mile. Both these guys are better runners than me, so I was happy to keep up with them.

In a trail run like this, individual mile splits are meaningless. They are all over the place, depending on the uphills/downhills on a given mile. Most runners (myself included) walk the uphills. I was more interested in my average pace. For a long time this was around 10 min/mile which is very good, if not too fast for this kind of weather. But it gradually drifted to 10:30/mile.

My daughter met me at the first aid station and changed shirt. From Snowville to Boston I was following Bob and Lindsey. Right after we crossed Columbia road, Bob stopped to drop something (a bottle of water for the return?) I went ahead, thinking these two will catch up with me later, but I never saw them again. I ran the rest of the race mostly alone. The trail was not closed to the public, so we met walkers and other people enjoying the trail. I remember a group of runners that passed me in that section. All young males (local cross country team) all without shirts, running really fast. Later I met a (smaller) group of young female runners.

At Boston I was greeted by the helpful volunteers. Everyone was very helpful, asking if I needed anything. Howard Murray from our running group rushed to fill my bottle with cold water. I was very impressed by the efficient service and individual attention. Thank you guys!

As it turns out, I just missed my wife and daughter at Boston, by only a few minutes. I continued to Pine Lane. At some point I saw a young guy running in the opposite direction. Could that be the lead runner? Sure enough, a little behind was Kam Lee, the winner of previous year's race (and a number of years before that). These two guys were well ahead from the rest of the group (at the end, Kam Lee won the race). As I was getting closer to Pine Lane I got to see other runners in their way back. Around runner no. 6 I saw my friend Beth (mentioned in this blog) who was the leading female runner. As it turns out, Beth finished first and Elizabeth second. Elizabeth has improved a lot in the last year (she was well behind me last year and well ahead of me this year).

I reached the Pine Lane aid station, filled up my bottle and headed back. This year I tried to spend very little time at the aid stations. Saves a bit of time. In the way back I got to see all the runners behind me. Then I realized that I was doing very well, running ahead of Aaron, Jamie, Nick, and other runners who are faster than me. They were all very encouraging… Rose, Susan, Jen and Jamie were running together and got really excited to see me “way to go George!”, hi-fives, etc. That was really nice!

Even though I was running rather comfortably, I was not sure if I could even finish the race. My hip was starting to hurt from mile 13 and I was getting progressively tired. I had decided to run as I felt and if I had to walk the last miles, I would walk. If I had to quit, I would quit.

At the Boston aid station I met my wife and daughter. After that, my daughter went to sleep and only my wife followed me in the last aid station and the finish. It is nice to have a familiar face meet you at the aid stations in these long races. Makes you look forward to getting to the aid station. Plus it is nice to be greeted by the volunteers, encouraging you to go on.

The return from Boston to Snowville road was mixed. I did a fair amount of walking but also good steady running at some sections. I passed a couple of runners. I clearly remember when I was getting close to Snowville. This was one of the highs of my race, running fast and steady, not feeling tired at all.

Finally, I arrived at Snowville for the last leg of the race. These final 6 miles are the most critical. They usually make or break a runner. And, in a hot day like this, most likely break :)

I started this last leg very well and actually passed a few runners, but gradually I started to get tired. I was of course walking the uphills but soon found myself walking the flat sections too. I was running alone and was looking back but could not see anyone behind me, so, as I was getting more tired, my motivation to run was declining. It got to the point where instead of running with a few walking breaks, my run was reduced to walking with a few running breaks. I was afraid that people would catch up with me, but there was no one I could see behind me.

Finally, I reached a (unmanned) water stop with a sign "1.7 miles to go". I filled my bottle, drank plenty of water and poured water over my head. This refreshed me and I started running again. My times in the last two miles were surprisingly fast: 9:00 and 9:30.

I entered the park area looking good (looks are deceiving... I was feeling like s---t!)... My wife was there to take pictures. I crossed the finish at 5:21. My whole body was hurting. I could barely walk. My first reaction was to sit down, take off my shoes and pour cold water over my toes. I needed plenty of cold water. I told my wife " this is the hardest thing I have ever done" and "Why am I torturing myself like this? I don't think I will do it again next year".

Chef Bill Bailey had prepared a nice meal for us but I was in no mood for food, other than a few bites of fruit that my wife brought and plenty of water. After resting for half an hour, my wife drove me home. I could barely get in and out of the car. At home I took an ice bath and felt better. I then got dressed and drove back... Jen had already finished ahead of the rest of the group. Rose finished a bit later, with a smile in her face, looking fresh as if she had just come back from a 10 minute leisure walk. Susan looked really tired. This was the first 50K for these three ladies, and maybe the last, if we can believe the after-the-race statements. :)

Finally, I was feeling better and ready to eat! Chef's Bailey's wrap was delicious! My friend Dan was there, so I had a good time eating and socializing with other runners.

When I got home I went for a long walk with my wife. I am already feeling better. And guess what? I am making plans for next year's 50K run!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Vacation to Remember - July 2008

<- 4 runs to remember (Top to Bottom, Left to Right): 1) Outside Yosemite Park on a beautiful 5 mile dirt road, 2) Monterey CA, 3) San Fransisco downtown, 4) Grand Rapids MI downtown

We left for a 6 day family vacation to California on Thursday July 3rd. My wife had a conference in San Francisco and we turned it into a family vacation.

We started with two days in Yosemite. We stayed at a lodge just outside the park. We arrived on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning I went for a run on a local country road. It was 5 miles, mostly uphill from our lodge, ending in a campout site up the mountain. This was a dirt road with no traffic. Regular shoes were OK but trail shoes gave a bit better traction.

I started around 6:30 am, with the temperature at 50F. It was absolutely beautiful! I crossed streams, meadows, and beautiful vistas in the rising sun. I was inspired with this nice run that the next day I did the same thing but took my stereo camera to record the beautiful scenery and my audio recorder (Olympus LS-10) to record the sounds of nature (birds, etc). So I took my time combining photography and running.

<- Scenic Monterey CA run (click for a more detailed map)

Saturday afternoon we left for Monterey where we stayed 2 more days. On Sunday morning I went out running and right away I saw a group of runners along the seafront. I joined them for a long run. They were part of a local running club, doing their long Sunday run. One fellow (who happened to be Greek, like myself) was training for a marathon in 3 weeks so he was doing a 20+ mile run. It was again a beautiful route along the Monterey bay, a combination of roads and dirt trails, with the rocks and waves on our side. Part of the route was along the famous 17 mile scenic ride.

One runner expressed surprise that so many runners showed up in that “cold” and “rainy” day. Well, this day was perfect for running, beating the hot & humid days we often experience in Ohio. The next day (Monday) I went running alone, 10 more miles.

<- I would not mind running in SF every day! (click for details)

Monday July 7th we left Monterey and arrived in San Francisco in the afternoon. Another beautiful city! On Tuesday morning I went for a long run by myself. I followed Market street to the Bay, then towards Fisherman's Wharf and I ended up at the Golden Gate bridge. I ran half way through the bridge and then back. Total of 15 miles. Again, gorgeous run. This is the best way to see/experience a city: Run through it! I was again carrying my camera and stopping to take pictures along the way.

This was only the highlight of my runs, not including all the walking, tours, shopping, eating, and other family activities. Overall, a memorable vacation. I came back with 20 rolls of film (stereo pictures) and interesting audio recordings. In 5 days I ran 65 miles: 10 + 10 + 20 + 10 + 15. This must be a new record.

I returned to Ohio on Wednesday July 9th. The next day I left for Grand Rapids, MI, to attend the NSA (National Stereoscopic Society) annual convention. During the convention I ran a total of 4 x 5 = 20 miles in 6 days. This was fun too. I also did not eat much so I lost some weight, but gained it all back, while carbo-loading in preparation of the Buckeye 50K race tomorrow.

I have dropped all my film (20 + 17 = 37 rolls) for processing and I look forward to mounting the stereo slides and re-living this memorable vacation.