Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mud-n-Blood: Black Warrior 50K Race Report

I want to thank everyone for all the donations of Mojo I wouldn’t be writing this race report without it!

Long post- good pics.

I was feeling much healthier on Thursday but as dumb luck would have it I suffered a bit of a relapse on Friday and traveling to Alabama was pretty ugly, a day filled with hot and cold sweats headaches and a pretty overwhelming lethargy. By the time Friday night rolled around I was at my whit’s end and threw the hail marry pass and loaded up on drugs…chough suppressants, decongestants, pain reliever, sleep aid and mega doses of vitamin C. When I hit the sack I was out like a light and the GG said I didn’t move once the entire night. After sleeping the sleep of the dead I awoke feeling somewhat more chipper and certainly well rested. I was debating what exactly I should take to get me through the run and stuck with a 12 hour Sudafed and some 12 hour cough suppressant. I also drank as much as I could stomach knowing the Sudafed would dehydrate me.

When we left the hotel at about 6 a.m. the humidity was at 96% and a thick fog hung in the air. We drove over to the race course and got there just in time to warm up a bit and then head to the starting line. The Alabama woods were everything I knew they would be, beautiful. The run started on a small bridge spanning a mist covered river where we saw beaver, I think, swimming lazily to the other shore. The hardwoods were still bare and the pine trees closed in on all sides. The weather was perfect, around 40 degrees or so.

The run starts with about 2.5 miles of uphill on a gravel road before heading onto the single track horse trail where you spend the majority of the day. I knew I would be running conservatively so I went ahead and jogged a bit to get things started and then broke into a walk and just moseyed on up the hill running every now and again.
When we headed off onto the single track trail we were immediately engulfed in woods and the trail was a mixture of clay and sand with lots and lots of leaves. The day remained dry but there had been drizzle the day before so there was plenty of muddy patches that had been trampled by both runners and horses. I had the good fortune to only get my shoe sucked off once.

I quickly discovered that running my HR up above 150 resulted in a coughing fit that caused all the muscles in my groin and stomach to clench. I thought I was going to cough up a lung right on the trail and must have been the least healthy sounding ultrarunner anyone has ever heard. I also discovered that almost any uphill grade would cause me to breach the dreaded 150 BPM so I ended up walking many of the uphill sections that I would have otherwise run. I settled in to a nice easy pace and tried to keep my HR somewhere between 140 and 150. Knowing that I would be more of an exercising tourist than someone racing I brought along my digital camera to commemorate the run.

The first 15 miles felt pretty crappy and I felt sick and a bit weak. I was carrying my two hand held bottles and was drinking double fisted probably averaging a bottle every three miles. The aid stations were about 6 miles apart at the longest and every time I hit one I ate some PB&J or had some Mountain Dew or both, usually both. I tried to conserve the gels I was carrying until further along in the run where I knew it would be increasingly difficult to get from aid station to aid station without a lot more calories than I was getting from my bottles of Gatorade.

Early in the run I got to run with the current vice president of the 50 States Marathon Club, how cool is that! We had a nice chat and played leap frog for a few miles and then I ended up pulling a head and didn’t see him again until the finish line.
Somewhere around mile 14 I took my first fall. I was running up a slight incline and hit a root and dropped like a sack of potatoes. I got back up and felt a bit of a twinge in my right hip but was able to keep going without too much difficulty. However I was feeling a bit demoralized. I had really been looking forward to this event and my training had gone so well and now I was sick and at less than half-way through I was already falling. I thought I was going to have a long hard day ahead.

Something happened between mile 16 and mile 17 that turned me around big time. Later in the run I debated even posting this because it is pretty friggin’ corny and well, it’s just corny. There I was slogging my way down the trail and I hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. I got up and brushed myself off and thought, “Pilgrim, you are gonna’ have to dig a lot deeper that that” and then THIS popped into my head as I started running down the trail.

It was one of those rare moments I have experienced in ultra-distance events that I call a moment of purity, not clarity because that denotes thinking and figuring things out, these moments are pure and clean like some dark stain has just been scrubbed from my soul. Very dramatic, huh? Well, it is a very emotional experience and this is my race report so there you have it. I started running along thinking about all the other athletes out there on the course, young and old, male and female, black, white, Asian and Latin and chanting to myself “Yes We Can” and “When was hope ever false.”

The weird thing about this experience is it doesn’t always happen and you don’t know when it will happen, I mean, 15 – 16 miles?! It is a complete mystery to me.

I ran the next two miles in a trance and at one point looked at my Garmin and saw that my HR was over 160 and I was not coughing! I smiled broadly and immediately began coughing. But, something had changed, I did not feel sick, I felt strong and I was a runner again. I still didn’t screw around with my HR much but now I was running it up to the low 160’s before backing off. I was still coughing and let me tell you that was getting real damn old and the muscles in my stomach and groin were aching but I felt good.

Then I started passing people and I was racing! I took a worse fall again at mile 20 and cut up my knee and scraped up my shin a bit but I just rolled over on my back, stared up at the trees for a bit, smiled, got up and hit the trail.

The rest of the race I passed more people, fell no more and drank, drank, drank. My Garmin finish time has me in at 6:42:22, a 13:08 average pace. I don’t know how well I might have done had I not been sick, better I’m sure, but this trail is different from anything that I have even run. I would not have been able to come up with an accurate predicted time.

Great day – great race – I now have an ULTRAWIFE!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Looking for Mojo!

Help! It is two days until the Black Warrior 50K and I am sick for the first time in over a year. It started Monday with a very slight dry cough and by yesterday evening I was burning up and achy all over. I had to go into work today which I knew would be bad for me but I didn’t have any choice. I spent the day alternatively hot and cold and just felt like crap. Fortunately I can take off tomorrow so will stay in bed for the most part but then it’s travel all day Friday and race on Saturday.

Skipping this one is not much of an option as I am into it for three plane tickets to Birmingham, car rental, hotel and race entry fees for me and the GG. The kid is also running sweep for the 25K.

This sucks, this was an A race for me and now it is in question as to whether it will be decent or a slog to the finish…50K is a long way to slog.

If anyone out there can spare some Mojo I sure could use some extra!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Doesn’t Kill You…

Yesterday I had a bit of a race at the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruses, NM that they like to call a Duathlon. It is actually only a run then a bike followed by a shower and some sandwiches, about the way all duathlon’s should be in my opinion.

The WSMR races are small, inconceivably small by most of your standards but even small for my remote corner of the globe. I think there were 61 registered and 52 actually showed and raced. The run is an out and back on a sand road, which is mostly well packed but it does have some soft parts and the bike is also an out and back on a pretty rough road with some nice cracks in it. The run is pretty decent but that bike kind of sucks because there is about a 4 mile drop (fun) onto some very bumpy rollers (not so fun) back to about a 4 mile climb to the finish line (SUCKS!).

This was my second race in my age group and at 206 pounds I was still able to nail down second place out of the 5 that ran in the M 40 - 44. The first place guy beat me by two minutes; he crushed me on the bike but only had me by 10 seconds on the run. He was pretty small, I probably had a good 50 pounds on him if an ounce but he had powerfully built legs and was no slouch. I was happy with my race and don’t think I could have done any harder. I came ever so close to breaking an average sub-7 min pace on the run and was pleased with my bike split considering I have only ridden maybe a total of 400 miles in the past 3 months.

Today I headed out for my last long run before next weekend’s 50K and I crashed hard. I was going to do an easy 20 or so and the day was fantastic, the best weather we have had in 3 or 4 months. The temp was a nice 55 degrees and the sun was out in a clear blue sky. I must have underestimated how much yesterdays race took out of me and how much more fluid and fuel I need in the warmer weather because not only did I crash hard but I ran out of gel and water and Accelerade.

All I can say is that I am glad I have become used to having bad final long runs before an event otherwise I would be worried. Now it’s time to slack off and let recovery work its magic!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Biology of a Baboo Part 1

Yesterday the GEEKGRL and I went to the Sports Physiology lab at the University of New Mexico to begin the testing that I got for Christmas this year. We are getting all kinds of stuff done and it is all top of the line. As a matter of fact this is the same lab where the elite Kenyans and Ethiopians who live in New Mexico come. This week we had power and VO2max tested.

Power was tested using something called the "Wingate Test" where you are on a stationary bike and you pedal as hard as you can and then they drop weights onto the flywheel which instantly increases the tension to a predetermined level based on your body weight. Once the weights are dropped you continue to pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds. According to the exercise physiologist testing us the Wingate test causes about 10% of people to puke. The other thing the Wingate test does is measure your concentration of slow twitch versus fast twitch muscle. As a matter of fact the only test more accurate for this purpose is a muscle biopsy.

I was set up for the Wingate first and hit it as hard as I could…it was a long 30 seconds but I got my numbers and as far as I’m concerned they looked pretty good. Now I can’t say that I understand all the numbers involved but we are currently awaiting written repots, well, that is after we gat all our testing done.

My Wingate by the numbers:
Max power was just shy of 1600 watts
Average power output was right at 480 watts

Here are the numbers I don’t really understand but I can explain a bit or give comparisons.

With reguard to slow twitch versus fast twitch muscle fibers I “score” a 61. A person with nearly pure slow twitch muscle makeup scores about a 55 and most people score about a 65 so I have a higher percentage of slow twitch muscle and am more resistant to fatigue. I’m not sure if the 55 for pure slow twitch represents a real number or a theoretical number.

The other important number that I got from the Wingate test is my power to weight ratio. This is a number that I have no idea what exactly it refers to but I have some very cool comparison data. My number was a 16. The comparison data the lab had were for pro soccer players, power lifters and, strangely enough, Ultimate Fighters, those crazy mixed martial arts guys on T.V.

Remember, my power to weight ration is a 16.
Pro soccer players – 9
Power lifters – 12
Ultimate fighters – 14
Whoo Hoo! I win!

The VO2max test was done on a treadmill with the ventilator hooked up to a computer. That test was also tough. You gradually increase speed up to a max speed that you can maintain for a while and then they start to increase the grade until you are completely maxed out and can’t run anymore. My max speed was 9.5 mph and then we started going up in grade. I think I made it to 4% and blew up in about 40 seconds. The test is expected to last between 10 and 15 minutes and mine was a bit over 13 minutes.

I have some additional cool information on VO2max that I will add.

My VO2max is 53ml/kg. In my handy dandy book “The Lore of Running” by Tim Noakes it says VO2max values measured in otherwise healthy young men (between the ages of 18 and 24) is usually between 45 and 55ml/kg so my numbers make me a very healthy 18 to 24 year old. Yipee! I am 41 years old so for my age group I am at about the 95th percentile. To put that another way if you get together a random group of 100 men between the ages of 40 and 45 I will be more fit that about 95 of them. To put it yet another way my fitness is “excellent” for a man my age…there is no higher level of fitness so I guess I could just be even more excellently fit.

Ok, maybe it sounds like I’m crowing…well, maybe I am a bit but here is the real bit of humbling information. Also in my handy dandy book “The Lore of Running” by Tim Noakes it says that the VO2max of average people is about 60% lower than the VO2max of elite athletes. Let me throw a few numbers at you to illustrate.

Remember, my VO2max is 53ml/kg – excellent fitness for your average Baboo.

Frank Shorter 2:10:30 marathon VO2max = 71.3ml/kg
Alberto Salazar 2:08:13 marathon VO2max = 76ml/kg
Joan Benoit 2:24:52 marathon VO2max = 78.6ml/kg
Steve Prefontaine 3:54.6 mile VO2max = 84.4ml/kg

So all I have to do is work harder, right? NOT! Unfortunately VO2max can only be improved by 5 to 15% so assuming that I could push my VO2max up by the full 15% that would put me at 60.95ml/kg, well below elite levels. I suppose I’ll just have to forget my dreams of taking on Macca mano-e-mano.

Some final numbers… I was measured at an even 6 feet tall and 206 pounds. The exercise physiologist said my greatest limiter was my “mass.” Mass sounds so much better than “fat ass.”

So what do I take away from this?

I am in fantastic health and having been a 300 pound couch potato at one point and I must say I am very pleased. I have excellent power and my muscles are built with a nice mix of speed and endurance. I am pretty happy and am looking forward to the rest of my testing. Next up will be body fat percentage measured by hydrostatic weighing.

Public Service Announcement for your local U:

Most of you reading this are probably not very average Baboos either so you should check out your local University to see if they have an Exercise Physiology lab and get the testing done for yourself. Because the local U receives public funding it can't advertise to the general public because it would always undercut private sector pricing. However they love people to come in because it gets them some extra funds for cool new equipment and if gives their graduate students a chance to practice their craft.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

It’s Taper Time!

I can’t believe I have made it to taper time for the Black Warrior 50K. I have been working my running mileage higher and higher and higher and this week I turned in an astonishing 73 mile week!

Today’s long run was a easy paced 30 miles. I have done longer runs twice but they were both races that I was tapered for. I have never done a 30 mile training run at the end of a week that already had 43 miles packed into it. I went ahead and ran continuously for as long as I could until my legs were completely depleted. I made it 25 miles and then had to walk 2 miles to eat some and regain my strength and then I was able to start a run walk all the way to the end.

I actually ended up feeling pretty good. I knew that the training strategy I was using would result in a total depletion and I actually expected not to recover once I began walking but I was right back to 10:30 minute miles when I was able to run. I felt like I could have gone further if I had to so at this point I am pretty confident that I could do a 50-miler if I had a good taper behind me and implemented a run – walk strategy from the beginning.

Net weekend I have a little “duathlon” only one 5K run and a 30K bike, which will be a nice change of pace from all the running. I have barely touched my bike in the last couple months but did do a personal duathlon brick yesterday with a 4.5 mile run, 30 mile bike and 4 mile run so I am feeling pretty good.

It is almost time to start training for IMCdA!

Oh, I almost forgot. I have had a new Outlaws nickname bestowed on me, one that certain Bloggy peeps are sure to like.

The name is Flaco! (That's "skinny" for you non-espanyolers)

Oh, never fear, I'm still Clyde legal. On Bigun's advice I started doing some "curls for the girls" and the extra working out and associated food has kept me at right about 202 - 204.