Sunday, June 10, 2012

6 Weeks to BR100

6 Weeks to Burning River 100!

This is the first blog on my focus race this year, Burning River 100!  The way I see it, there are 4 distinct phases, to prepare for this race:

  1. Background:  Everything until the Cleveland Marathon, 10 weeks before BR100
  2. Intensive Training Phase 1:  Cleveland to Mohican 50, 4 weeks
  3. Intensive Training Phase 2:  Mohican 50 to BT50, 4 weeks
  4. Taper Phase:  BT50 to BR100, 2 weeks

In this blog, I will go through the background, discuss what I learned from the Intensive Training Phase 1 (ending now), give some ideas about Training Phase 2, and, finally, state my goal for this race. 

Maybe I am over-analyzing this, but, what the heck, it is my first 100 mile race!


I got the idea of running BR100 exactly two years ago, when I completed my first (and only so far) 50 mile race at Mohican.  The report is here:

I went to this race without any serious training and with no expectations, and did very well, finishing under 10 hours, in 9th place overall.  What’s more important, I did not struggle and I recovered very quickly.  

Given that 100K races are rare, the next logical step in my development as an ultrarunner was to attempt my first 100 miler and, being local, the Burning River 100 was the obvious choice. My ultimate goal is to run the Spartathlon one day (, from Athens to Sparta in Greece, 153 miles)

I signed up for BR100 last year (2011) right away, but suffered an ITB injury which took a while to resolve, so I was forced to cancel BR100 (also, my first Boston, and other good races).

I managed to resolve my ITB injury by switching to minimalist shoes!  With the injury out of the way, I started to increase my mileage in the summer.  Even though short races were OK, my long runs felt like a drag. I was hitting the wall often (I remember one day in particular, I went to run from home to the Rec Center in Brecksville, only 4.5 miles, and at mile 3 I called my wife to bring me food!!) 

By August my weigh hit an all time high of 172 lbs.  Normally, in the summer my weigh drops to 160-165 lbs and in the winter it goes up 5 lbs or more.  So now we are in the summer and it is high.  I was afraid to think of what would happen in the winter.

Low Carb Epiphany:

On August 11th while checking my email, I saw an interview with Gary Tubes, talking about how carbohydrates make you fat.  At this point, I had an “epiphany”, described in this blog:

I realized that the reason I am struggling with my weight (and my running) is that I am eating too many carbs!  It was a simple but profound realization, which changed my life.  I immediately and drastically changed the way I eat.  After a 2 week adjustment period, the positive results starting showing:  More energy, weight loss, better running endurance.

Fall Winter Running/Racing:

After this change in nutrition and weight loss, my Fall/Winter running went great.  Some highlights: Towpath marathon: 3:25, Run with Scissors Trail M 4:09 (6th overall), Badass 50K 5:10 (4th overall), Run for Regis 50K 5:19 (great time for a winter 50K! 7th overall).  In all the trail races I won the Grandmaster’s award and in some races I was even faster than any Masters runner!  

Things were going well (with the exception of a bad marathon in Miami at the end of January.)  I had a great race in Green Jewel 50K in March.  It looked like I had a head-start in BR100 training, and then, disaster hit, a back injury 10 days after GJ.  Maybe the fact that I ran 3 races in one week (50K, 5M, 15K) had something to do with it??!!

I took two weeks completely off running to get over this.  I was aqua-jogging and promised myself to continue aqua-jogging once or twice a week, and stretch more.  The back problem gradually disappeared. I returned to higher mileage and racing, and forgot about stretching and aqua-jogging! (In retrospect, not a good idea.)

I switched the Fools 50K to a 25K (April 1) and did OK, and ran the Forget the PR 50K with good results (April 15).  I was getting back in shape and ready to enter the intensive training phases for BR100!

BR Intensive Training – Phase 1 (Cleveland to Mohican)

The BR100 intensive training for me started with the Cleveland Marathon, 10 weeks before BR.  I am glad I did not race Cleveland, but treated it as a training run on hot day.

The week after Cleveland I ran the Dirty Bird 15K and finished 7th overall, a great placement, but in the process I injured the ball of my left foot by slamming my lightweight shoes in the ground in this twisted course.   The next day we had the first BR100 Training Run, covering the first 24 miles of the race.  That went well, running at a slow pace, no problems.

Two weeks after Cleveland I ran the Buckeye Buster 50K, with great results, finishing 4th overall with a 50K PR (5:04).  By all indications, I was reaching a peak and I was very happy.  I ran 80+ miles/week in these two weeks.  Thinks looked better and better for BR!

Then, disaster hit again!  The day after BB50K, while running an easy 17 mile BR100 Training Run #2, a muscle in my left quad started hurting, getting progressively worse and forcing me to stop and walk the last two miles.  I have never had anything like that happen!  It was a big blow!  It is amazing how a runner can go from the Zenith of his running to the Nadir in just one day!  

The next day the quad was hurting a lot!  I could not go up and down stairs without pain.  But the recovery was amazingly fast.  On Friday I did 3 miles without a problem and on Sunday I ran the first BT50K Training Run, 14.5  miles in 3 hours with no pain.

What worries me about this injury is that I have no idea what caused it or how it can be avoided.  Actually, I do have some ideas:  A few weeks ago I reached my lowest weight ever, 152 lbs. I then experienced a strange pain in my right calf that forced me to abort a 20 mile trail run at mile 10.  This also went away quickly.  I was sure that the weight loss and dehydration caused this, probably muscle cramping.  Now I suspect that dehydration and lack of sleep/rest might have something to do with the quad problem.  It is possible that the low-carb diet might is back-firing, and I need to be more carefully with hydration, replacement of lost minerals and vitamins, and rest.

Also, I end to race too often and too intensely. I participate in two race series, Hermes Road series, and Dirty Trail series, so I race every weekend and there have been times when I had two races in one weekend.  The problem with me and races is that I cannot take it easy, even if this is part of the plan. I tend to give 110% in every race.  The results are satisfying, but I am flirting with injury.  So, I have made a few decisions:

  1. Do not race from now until BR
  2. No running one or two days of the week (Monday and/or Friday)
  3. Aquajog at least twice a week (I feel that the pool helps me extend my range of motions and it is beneficial in many ways)
  4. Stretch and strengthen key muscles, at least once a day
  5. Hydrate and eat well. I am currently at 158 lbs. I’d rather arrive at BR100 a bit heavier and healthier than thinner and injured.
  6. Rest and sleep more (I have been having trouble sleeping more than 5 hours/night, so I need to take care of this.)

The Mohican 50 race on Saturday will be an interesting test. I am definitely not racing it, given the situation with my quad muscle.  I plan to take it easy, running at BR pace (~12 min/mile or slower) and finish at about 11-12 hours. I am also ready to abort the race after the first loop (25 miles) if things are not going well.  It a bit sad not to be able to improve my time from 2 years ago, but BR100 is taking precedence over everything else right now.

BR Intensive Training – Phase 2 (Mohican to BT50K)

There are 4 weeks between Mohican 50 and the next key race (Buckeye Trail 50K).

My general plan is to run 3 long runs during the week, at least 20 miles each, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (the “back-to-back” runs).  The weekend runs are mostly part of the BR and BT training runs.  On Wednesdays I am on my own.  Then run 12 miles every Tuesday and Thursday, back and forth to the Rec Center, where I take a fitness class.  I would like to hit 100 mostly easy miles per week in this phase.  By paying attention to the 6 previous points, I will hopefully arrive safe and sound (un-injured) at BR100.

Here is the summary, day by day:

  • Monday: 5 easy miles in the morning, or rest, aqua-jogging in the evening
  • Tuesday: Total of 12 miles in trails, plus Fitness Class
  • Wednesday:  Long run #1 of about 20 miles, mostly trails, followed by aqua-jogging
  • Thursday: Total of 12 miles in trails, plus Fitness Class
  • Friday: 5 easy miles in the morning, or rest, aqua-jogging in the evening
  • Saturday: Long run #2 with training groups, 20+ miles
  • Sunday: Long run #3 with training groups, 20+ miles

Some people do not think it is a good idea to run the Buckeye Trail 50K race, 2 weeks before BR100.  I love this race (coving technical trails that are also part of BR100) and I think that 2 weeks is plenty of time to recover, provided that I do not race this like mad, which is what I plan to do.

BR Tapering – Goals and Expectations

Generally, I do not like to taper before long trail races. I have found that I actually race better if I do not taper.  So, there are going to be a lot of miles during these last two weeks, but easy miles with lots of rest.

My expectations from my first 100 mile race:

I should be happy to just finish the race.  However, I would like to finish it under 24 hours. I think I am capable of doing this, provided that I remain injury-free.

As a matter of fact, I believe that I am capable of running this race under 20 hours one day.  I base this optimism on two factors:  1) I generally get better (compared to other runners) as the distance increases and I run well in the heat. 2) I see other runners with similar running abilities, finishing BR100 under 20 hours.  So, I think I can do this, not in this particular race (because it is my first 100 miler) but in a future one, provided that I continue to run strong and I stay away from injuries!

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