Sunday, July 27, 2008

Products and Pics

Since I finished IMCdA I have been getting all kinds of ready for Lean Horse and that has included some trial runs of a few products that I hope will help me survive. I selected two items to keep me cool and on item to keep my feet from exploding. The cooling items include the Moeben Sleeves and a Cool Off Bandana.

The Cool Off Bandana is pretty much a regular bandana but it is sewn in half to form a pouch for ice. There is also an absorbent piece of material in it to slow the loss of water. You load the thing up with ice, tie it around your neck and it melts and evaporates. The cold water drips down your back and your neck stays nice and cool. As long as you get it ties right it is awesome. I’ve taken it running in temps in the low 90s and felt great. (I can't get the website to come up right now but you can go to Zombie Runner to find the cool Off Bandana.

The Moeben sleeves are supposed to function as arm coolers. I went for the Moebens because they come in a variety of sizes instead of a one size fits all. I ordered the XL which are as large as they come. I took them for a run this morning and by the time I hit mile 3 my arms were hurting, these guns just won’t be holstered so I’m going bare armed.

Finally I ordered a pair of compression socks. When I ran my 50 miler my feet blew up like balloons and while I have gotten a couple pairs of larger shoes it would also be great to keep the swelling down. I wore then out on my long run this morning and they worked great. I ran 15.2 miles at a pretty good pace and normally this would have left my legs a little stiff after sitting around a bit but my legs feel great so my next test of them will be an the Vineman and if all goes well there they will accompany m to Lean Horse.

I also have a few pics from El Scorcho

Monday, July 21, 2008

El Scorcho Race Report

My goal for El Scorcho was simply to have a good solid training run. A run under race conditions that was hot, humid and through the night…all conditions I will face at Lean Horse 32 days from today. I knew the weather conditions I was looking for would be there and the race started at 12:01 so running through the night was not going to be a problem. What I couldn’t decide upon is how to approach the race to get the most out of it as a training run.

On the one hand I considered just running continuously until I finished or couldn’t run any more. It is said that you shouldn’t plan on doing much more running during an ultra than you have been able to run continuously during training. I don’t know exactly how true that is because I know you can squeeze a lot of extra miles of running into your race if you use a run/walk strategy and race smart but there is a certain logic to the idea with regard to straight up leg strength building. On the other hand I have an iron-distance triathlon 11 days from now and while I’m not looking for a PR at that race I am also not looking for a 16 hour suffer fest. This caused me to think that maybe I should exactly mimic my Lean Horse race pace and plan. This approach simply would not satisfy my competitive nature and I knew it. I have slogged through several training runs at that pace using that strategy and it is not something that will lead to a decent 50K time.

What to do?

The GeekGrl and I left Albuquerque on Friday after I got off work and we drove as far as Lubbock, TX and stayed in our favorite hotel in the entire world. This is a story in itself because there is absolutely nothing special about the customer service, they are friendly and they allow you to stay the night as long as you are paying. The interior of the hotel, as far as I can tell, is comprised of the materials and architectural ideas of the most hard core 1970’s ideals that any Disco dancing, bell bottom wearing, silk shirt having Trans AM driving guy could ever hope for but the room as HUGE…HUGE I tell you. I honestly believe they are twice the size of today’s hotel rooms and they all come with a large sitting area. Anyway, if you ever come and race the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon you must stay here…oh, and you must race the BSLT 70.3, it’s a classic.

Anyway, the GeekGrl and I were then able to roll into Ft. Worth early afternoon on Saturday and we spent the remainder of the day napping and just laying around quietly in our dark and cool hotel room. We woke at 10:00 p.m. and headed to the race site at Trinity Park. We got our timing chips and mingled and got to meet up with a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs and we took a group photo.

We all lined up for the start and the RD said “GO!” and we were off and I still had no plan for how to run the race. We took off and it seemed like a pretty fast pace for a 50K and people were puling away from me but I figured there were far more people behind me and these were just the leaders and a few inexperienced runners that were surging ahead. I ran about a mile and checked my pace and it was about 9:30 min/mile, way too fast so I started easing back and more people passed. We hit our first out and back section where the course folded over on itself and much to my surprise there was hardly anyone behind me. “Geeze people, this isn’t a frickin’ 10K!” I thought. I knew that I was either going to be passing a lot of people late in the race or only really fast people enter night runs.

The El Scorcho is a 50K race that takes place on a 5K loop so you just go round and round for 10 laps. It was also the kind of tedium I was looking for in a race and surprisingly I didn’t get bored at all. When I hit the mid point aid station at lap two I figured it was about time to take a gel and so I decided that every other lap would be a gel lap, which helped to break the run into larged but manageable chunks. Basically I had he run broken down into small bits per lap, I had five distinct sections to run, then it was broken down by lap and then by gel lap. This all made it very easy to think about what I needed to do next and before I knew it I was finishing up lap four and heading into lap five and best of all I had a race strategy.

I decided that I would run continuously to the end of lap seven, so through about mile 22, and monitor the deterioration of my pace, which I knew would happen because I had already decided that I was going to keep my HR in the upper 140’s pretty much the entire race whereas in a marathon I will allow my HR to head upward in order to hold my pace. Once I finished lap seven I was going to start in with the un/walk strategy and monitor how long it took me to recover and start running well again. I figured it would take an easy lap eight and nine and then I would be ready to get a strong final lap. I ultimately chose this strategy because I have come to believe that it is critical to become confident in the fact that you can save yourself when your race begins to come apart. I think that too many people enter a downward spiral when things start to go south and they end up pushing against whatever it is that is going wrong, fighting the pain, fighting the fatigue, the dizziness, nausea whatever and that just compounds problems.

So, with my plan in mind I ran on though lap 5 then 6 and lap seven. It was impossible to tell how I was doing relative to others because there were the small laps and the course was also full of people running a 25K at the same time. I would pass people, people would pass me and the night wore on. My pace continued to slow but I held steady on my HR. By the end of lap seven my legs were feeling fatigued and it felt like I was flying at an 11 minute pace. You can really see the slowing in my mile splits.

After completing lap seven I immediately went into a walk/run and really just took that by feel because the course seemed so flat but I knew it had some gentle roll in it but only one identifiable “hill” that was little more than a big speed bump. Much to my surprise my legs started coming back pretty quickly and I was running well between my walk breaks even toward the end of lap 8. I was starting to get excited about lap 10 when I would finally be able to look around and see who I would get to be racing against for the final stretch.

I entered lap 10 and started looking for people. I had been passing a lot of people beginning in lap 8 and by that time all the 25kers were off the course. I spotted one person after another and thought they would be a good target but I passed one after another and they were toasted so I pressed onward looking for someone to race. Finally I spied one guy who was about 200 yards ahead of me and we had about a mile and a half to go. I recognized this guy as someone who I had gone back and forth with a bit and he looked like a pretty strong runner. I began working on closing the gap and was gaining ground when I realized that there may well be others behind me who were also looking to take a few people out before the end of the race so I took a quick glance back and sure enough there were two, no three guys behind me. One guy had a dim red light and two others were like me, in stealth mode, no running lights so we could not be seen in the shadows. I began to pick up the pace and quickly passed they guy I had my sights on but now I was running from the shadowy figures behind me. I ran on a bit after passing the guy and then took a walk break at a quick pace. I thought this would be my last walk and would provide me with the strength necessary for a fight at the finish if it became necessary. Almost as soon as I started walking one of the guys from behind passed me but I just sucked it up and continued walking to the point on the course where I told myself I would begin running for the home stretch.

I hit that final turn where I decided to run estimating that I had almost exactly one mile to go. The guy who had passed me was maybe 50 yards ahead. I began running and began building speed. No more looking back, only forward. I passed the guy and pressed on but then I kept having this terrible paranoia that he, or someone, was pressing right at my back getting ready for a last minute sprint. I started pushing the pace harder but the feeling didn’t leave me and I could swear that I heard footsteps right at my back. This was B.S., I needed someone to chase. I finally saw someone maybe two or three hundred yards ahead of me and there was only a half mile or so left so I broke into a full on sprint. My legs were burning but it felt so much better to be on the chase than to suffer through the paranoia of having someone at my back. If someone was going to catch me they were going to work their guts out to do so.

Maybe 20 yards from the finish I caught full view of the guy I had started to chase and he was obviously hurting. I knew I could close the gap just in time if I could find just a little more speed so I dug in and squeezed out the past of what I had. I blew past the buy maybe 5 yards before the finish. It was an ample finish line so it’s not like I had to shoulder him out of the way. Turns out he was just heading into his 10th lap so still had 3.1 miles to go. It also turns out that there was nobody behind me for maybe 200 or more yards, I had left my imagined foes well behind.

At the end of the race I felt fantastic, still had lots of strength and could have gone much further even at the pace I had been holding the past 6 or so miles. While I do not have official results as yet my Garmin got my finish time as 5:41:53 for 30.83 miles. I’m not sure if the course was actually short or if Garmin missed some distance when I was running under bridges but the time is a PR none the less.

Now it’s on to Vineman.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I win this round. Whether she believes it or not the GeekGrl and I do have a bit of a competitive relationship with each other. Not competitive in the sense of going head to head but more in the sense of egging each other on a bit. Allow me to elucidate.

The other day I was on tap for my heat training, a 16 mile run home from work along a route with a lot of asphalt, gravel and a complete lack of shade. This little foray takes place in the heat of the day and produces a lot of sweat. On that particular day I woke up and my leg kind of hurt, kinda sorta. I thought to myself that I could mention this life threatening injury to the GeekGrl and she would shower me with sympathy and praise my fitness assuring me all would be well if I missed this particular day. Oh yeah, I was going to get in a solid day of sand bagging.

Much to my chagrin, however, she responded, “Well, is it like bone pain” to which I admitted “no.” “Then just run easy” says she…sheesh, run easy! Where’s my warm fuzzy! I suppose that’s what I get for having an Ironwife.

Anyway, I have my revenge. This weekend is the El Scorcho 50K, the run that starts at midnight…in Ft. Worth, TX…circling the same 3.1 mile loop over and over. As you may recall the missus has been bragging loudly about the fact that she would not do this race. I suggested to her, “Maybe just the 25K…the La Scorchita.” Laughed in my face she did! Once the race filled she thought she was home free and all my cajoling had been for naught but low and behold what is this I see in my inbox? Why it’s an e-mail from the race director of the El Scorcho who lets me know he happens to have had three people drop and now has three spots open.

I immediately corner the GeekGrl and she folds like a cheap suit. The GeekGrl will be running La Scorchita this weekend…at midnight…in Ft. Worth, TX…circling the same 3.1 mile loop over and over and over again.
Check mate, my mate...check mate.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Kid Still Has Wheels: A Bottomless Lakes Race Report

This weekend was the 25th running of the Bottomless Lakes triathlon down near Roswell New Mexico and I just had to toss it into the schedule if only to take a brief respite from all the long, slow stuff I have been doing this year. I was anxious to see if I had any speed left at all and this was the place to find out because it is shorter than a regular sprint distance race and everyone is going absolutely flat out.

The race is a 400 meter out and back open water swim, a 14K bike on rough roads with a tough mix of climbs, rollers and flats and it ends with a 4K run that is flat as a pancake, straight out and back but it occurs as the day is beginning to really heat up and being down in a river valley it is protected from any winds and has a relatively higher humidity than you usually see out here in New Mexico.

When the GeekGrl and I hit packet pickup last night I checked the registration to see if I knew anyone in my age group and the only person I recognized was fellow Outlaw Orlando so I was still left wondering how exactly I stacked up against the competition. This year, as I have mentioned, I am running in my local/regional as an age grouper and every time I show up at a race I get that nervous tension going wondering how many guys out there could smoke me, wondering just how hard I would have to push to possibly fight my way onto the podium if I made it there at all. Honestly, I love that feeling, the great unknown, the fight for survival, there is nothing like it and it is something that I missed when I was racing locally as a clyde.

So the race started at 8:30 with the women’s wave and then my wave, all men 44 and younger, took off at 8:35. I knew that I was not going to don my wetsuit for this brief swim in relatively warm waters but I was still debating as to whether or not I would wear my Blue Seventy fastskin right up until a couple minutes before the race. I ultimately decided against it thinking that the fast skin probably wouldn’t afford me any greater advantage than the guys wearing the wetsuits and I would still have something to take off, which is something I wanted to avoid and why I went sans wetsuit in the first place. I went with just sticking with my trisuit and going for the fastest possible transition. When the horn went off I plowed into the water in a very aggressive position in the pack and just started swimming as hard as I could. It wasn’t long before I noticed I was swimming alone and when I looked to sight on the buoys I notices one guy off to my left and maybe two ahead of me and then a pack that seemed pretty far off to the right and behind. I kept swimming and sighted again and saw a similar scene and then it occurred to me that I was one of the lead swimmers…holy crap!

I rounded the buoy and passed a guy and then really dug in for the final 200 yards. I passed another guy and then I was out of the water and on my way to transition. As far as I could tell I was most likely the second or third male out of the water. I grabbed my gear and bike and headed out as fast as possible. It was difficult to tell where exactly I was because there were plenty of women still in transition but when I crossed the mount/dismount line the guy told me, “There are two ahead of you!” YES! I totally smoked the swim and now was the moment of truth, time to see if my legs were completely fried from the high mileage I have been maintaining in prep for some upcoming races.

I leapt onto the bike and started cranking it out. My breathing was ragged, my heart was thumping and I felt like I was going to puke…perfect. The road is a rough chip-seal and is warped in many areas so it makes for a pretty rough ride. To add to that the bike starts with a pretty good uphill climb and just when you thing you have finished with the hill and are ready to start sprinting you discover that you are not on the flats yet but just on a much less steep hill. I was cranking along passing more of the women and then I spied the GeekGrl cursing along and I yelled “Hey” as I passed not having the breath for anything else. About this time some guy in my age group passed me and just motored away and I knew there was no way I was going to catch him. Then a guy who was wearing a Texas A&M tri uniform passed me but he was 21 so I didn’t really worry but as he pulled in front of me I thought to myself “F-this” and I jumped up out of the saddle and passed him back and just cranked it out for all I was worth. I never saw him again on the bike and when I pulled into transition the guy at the mount/dismount said “There are three ahead of you!” so I just headed for my rack wondering if I could dig any deeper. At this point I knew I was so far forward in the pack that there were a lot of serious runners behind me.

I hit the run and felt like I was moving pretty slowly but I was working about as hard as I could. I grabbed some water and immediately threw it right up my nose and choked on it…I did not need that, seriously. Once out on the flat, hot road I just kept focused on keeping my legs churning and could just feel other runners at my back. I saw a guy well ahead of me and noticed that he stopped to walk and that was all that was needed to get my focus in front of me instead of behind me. I had a target and I started to chase. After about a quarter mile Texas A&M went striding smoothly by me and I couldn’t hang on but seeing him run did focus me on my own stride, which was a bit sloppy. I got my wits about me and was able to even out my breathing a bit and pulled my form back together. I was now running well and Texas A&M stopped making much progress on me but was still a hundred yards ahead and pulling away, albeit slowly. The guy who had been walking got his legs back and was off to the races but he had served his purpose in focusing me forward and now I was running well but was unused to running at such a labored pace. At the turn around I threw another cup of water up my nose, WTF!! I just couldn’t get anything down and I was really starting to bake in the heat.

Being on the home stretch I could finally see where the competition was and how close they were to me. I quickly spied another guy in my age group who was maybe a minute behind me and he was followed by a woman who was maybe 30 seconds back from him and after that there wasn’t really anybody for a while. I knew there were four guys ahead of me now and I knew one was in my age group and one was not but the other two were a question mark. I also knew I had one guy in my age group right at my back and that the fight for a podium spot was now on.

I just focused straight ahead and ran as hard as I could. I was half way back and nobody passed. I was ¾ of the way back and nobody passed. I was maybe 200 yards from the finish line and thought I heard footsteps right behind me. I said to myself, “No f-ing way am I going to get dropped at the finish line” and I dug in for a sprint to the finish. One hundred yards to go, fifty yards to go, 20 yards to go and I suddenly heard ragged breath at my back and the rhythmic slap of shoes on pavement. Ten yards to go and I had a runner thrown an elbow and try to pass me on the inside. I thought “NO!” and threw an elbow back and surged ahead leaning hard to the inside to close off any space for passing and right at that moment I realized that it was the woman trying to pass me! I felt like crap, looked back and the guy was nowhere to be seen.

I stopped cold and let her go by for the pass then I trotted across the line right behind her and immediately went over to apologize. She laughed and told me she was sorry for trying to pass me on the inside like that and I explained my paranoia about the guy that I was absolutely certain was right on my heals. All was well; no harm, no foul.

So, by the end of the race I was the 4th male to cross the finish line in the 44 and under group though I know that some of the guys in the 45+ wave behind us made some time on me so I don’t know where I stood overall but most likely in the top 10. I can tell you though that I took 2nd in my age group and was glad to see I still have wheels despite all the long, slow training. I was also reminded that these little sprint races are hard!

My final time for the whole race was about 51:45 give or take, there are no official results as yet.

Later tonight I will be off to do another long night run in prep for next weekend and the El Scorcho so if you will, dream a little dream for me.

Friday, July 04, 2008

As A Matter Of Fact I Have Been Asked

"…what are your race plans for next year?” Scary huh…is it even more scary that I had an answer?

Well, I didn’t have as precise an answer as I like to give but I had a pretty good outline. There are at least two races that I know for sure I will be doing, Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon, their 20th anniversary, and Ironman Arizona. Yeah, I wasn’t going to do any official IMs next year but after CdA the missus definitively stated that she would be racing IMAZ 09 so what the hey…there is no joy quite like the household in full Ironman training.

Apart from those races I am really looking more at next year as an ultrarunning year. You see I have it in my head that I might want to run Badwater and in order to get into Badwater you have to build a credible ultra-distance racing resume. You don’t have to be fast but you have to have proven you have a reasonable chance of finishing. The minimum qualification standard that I will go for is the completion of a continuous 100 mile foot race. Of course that is the bare minimum. They say the “ideal” applicant has extensive experience, 5 years, in ultra endurance sports as defined by ultra-triathlon (double-ironman or longer), ultra-cycling (500 mile races or longer) and ultra-running (100 miles or longer).

Double irons are rare and seem to take place mostly outside the U.S. and seem like they would be mind bogglingly boring. They seem to pretty much always take place in a pool on a mile or so ling closed circuit road and on a track and it is one iron distance per day for consecutive days. I think I would rather attach leaches to my eyes and pop them out.

The ultra-cycling, well, I’ve given that somewhat of a try and, um, after more than 13 hours on the back of a bike, well let’s just say I was panic stricken for what felt like years…let us never speak of this again.

So, what is left to me is running, which is a good thing, I think. So like I was saying I MIGHT want to run Badwater and I am not one to let my dreams slip away for lack of trying but I have never run 100 miles and am not so audacious as to start making too many 100 mile race plans without some realistic understanding of what I am getting myself into so I await my Lean Horse debut and then I’ll be in a better position to plan my 2009 season.

In the mean time, oh yes, you didn’t really think I was going to leave it at two measly races with the remainder of the year spread before me like a sea of darkness, did you?

In the mean time I am planning a serious base building activity in the form of the 50-Miles Texas Style Grand Slam. This slam consists of:

1. Palo Duro 50-mile – mid-October (2008)

2. Rocky Raccoon 50-mile – early February (2009)

3. Cross Timbers 50-mile – late February (2009)

4. Grasslands 50-mile – end of March (2009)

5. Rocky Hill Ranch 50-mile – mid-April (2009)

Depending on how Lean Horse goes I will probably use this slam to jump start a season that may include a couple more 100s. Actually, if Lean Horse goes well I may attempt the Rocky Raccoon 100 instead of the 50 since, as I have already discovered, I would get credit for the slam if I were to finish 50 miles of the raccoon even if that meant a DNF for the 100.

I have done Grasslands before and loved it. I also have tremendous faith in Texans and their ability to put on a fun race so I don’t have any worries about any of the others.

Yes, yes, I am staying focused on the rest of my current season but how can you not get excited when the future is so full of possibilities!