Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pigtails Run

I've neglected this blog, but I'm still alive and still toiling away. The recent toil was at the Pigtails Run today.

Event: Pigtails Run
Location: Lake Youngs, Renton, WA
Course: 9.6 mi loop trail, rolling hills and lots of mud, 900 feet elevation gain/loss per loop.
Total Distance: 19.2 miles (2 loops)
Total Time: 4:34:38 (Non-official time)

Loop 1: 1:54:10
Loop 2: 2:40:27

Comments: This run was a huge jump in mileage for me since I had been running about 9-10 miles for my long runs so far. This was also some serious humbling running since I consider myself to be a seasoned runner. However, just because I have past experience with long distance running, there are lessons that need to be re-learned and re-learned hard.

I got to the race location 30 minutes before the early starters were supposed to run (6:30am) and tried to lend a hand to the race director to setup their home base. Now, this trail I am no stranger to. I have ran at Lake Youngs many times and it was one of my first ultramarathons I ever ran. My goal for this race was simple:

1.) Finish the distance of 19.2 miles that I signed up for. I didn't sign up for the 50k since I didn't want to do a serious jump in mileage from doing 9-10 mile long runs to a 31 mile long run. That would be just be retarded to commit to from the start.

2.) Finish the first loop within 2 hours or less and push to get through the second loop. If after finishing up the two loops and I'm feeling good and got enough time (the course cutoff time is 7 hours), I would go for the final loop with the 2.2 mile out-n-back to get a 50k.

After the early starters took off, I tried to help out some more and got ready for the run. The event was pretty full and there were plenty of familiar faces to get re-acquainted with. Soon, the race was on and I was moving. I tried not to push my pace too much, but I found myself running the uphills for most of the event and hit the flats and the downhills smoothly with speed. Although the course was muddy, this didn't slow me down much thanks to my Gore-Tex shoes that kept me dry and clean. Before I knew it, I had finished off the first loop and within an hour and 54 minutes! I was seriously stoked and seriously HUNGRY. I had chowed down on a bunch of Pringles and drank up several cups of Gatorade. I should have realized that my thirst needs were a sign of what was to come.

I must have spent about 5-6 minutes at the aid station and the port-a-potty before heading back out. One loop down, one to go.

Now, when I prepped for this race, I took only one 24 ounce bottle with a waist pack and about six GU energy gels and a Jelly Belly Sports Beans for some more carbs on the trail. I also had some S!Caps electrolytes and some Aleve with some Canadian 222's for pain management. The single bottle would be my fatal flaw. Since I have been doing one long run in my training and only ran about 9-10 miles at most, I would usually only use one bottle of water. This is why I was able to get through the first loop. 9.6 miles on one bottle is pretty much what my body was use to. Now I was going to go beyond what I have been use to and this was going to be the real test.

I ran out for loop 2 and after the first mile, my calves started to cramp up. I knew I had enough electrolytes. This was a different cramping. In my experience, you have two kinds of cramps - electrolyte imbalance cramps that can be fixed by taking hits of salt/electrolytes or pain cramps that are caused by physical fatigue that is beyond what your muscles are use to. This was the physical kind and I was in a world of hurt that I had not been in for quite some time since White River and Cascade Crest.

I immediately took action and popped a combo of two Aleve and two Canadian 222's. I needed to kill this pain quickly if I was going to get through this second loop and survive. I drank more from my bottle and pushed my walking pace uphill until I got to mile 3 in the loop. When doing any kind of races, if you push yourself to a "nothing to lose" point, you have no choice but to keep going until you're done. Since the course was a 9.6 mile loop, this means that once you get past mile 3, it's pointless to turn around to cover another 3 more miles usually. You might as well keep going and finish it all. Now I got past mile 3 and I had continued to do my usual pattern of walking the ups and running the downs and flats as my body would permit. Once I got to mile 5 though, I did find myself more parched and realized that I was sucking down my water too fast. 4.6 miles to go to finish off the loop and I'm now without any kind of hydration. In a race, this isn't good. People die from lack of hydration. I had to now be careful. If I ran too much, I would sweat more and dehydrate faster. If I walked, my sweating would be less but I would be slower. I opted to run where it was feasible but mostly power-walk everything else.

As I passed by each mile marker on the trail, I was more elated. 4 miles became 3.5...3.5 became 3 and so on. However, as each marker passed, I was really feeling the effects of not having anything to drink. My body was going to really let me know the consequences of 'running dry'. Like someone cracking my legs with a bamboo cane, my calves were cramping horribly along with my hamstrings. The pain was unbearable on a whole new level. This was a combo of electrolyte cramping and muscle fatigue cramping. Every step I took was agony. But I knew I just couldn't lay down. I was so close to finishing. I didn't care anymore about doing a third loop to get a 50k in or to get in a second loop in under or near 2 hours again. I just wanted to be done and not get to the point of possible organ failure from dehydration. I cussed up a storm with every step I took to power up the hills and attempting to run down hill and on the last set of flats. I looked at the puddles on the ground that were in the mud and was resisting the urge to get on the ground and drink from them. I kept telling myself, "You don't need to get dysentery. Just keep moving. Keep moving. KEEP MOVING! SHUT UP AND KEEP MOVING!!!" 1.5 miles near the finish and a runner who was in great shape had given me the last bits of what was in his bottle. It wasn't much, but I was grateful (it's stuff like this that others do in ultras that makes me come back to the sport - you don't get this from other sports). Around this point, my legs couldn't walk anymore and my knees locked up. I had to throw my hips back and forth and walk like I was a tin soldier to cover more distance until my knees would unlock from the pain and cramping.

With a half-mile to go, I tried to run as much as I could and rolled into the finish. Second loop time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was really really slow compared to the first loop.

So a total time of 4 hours and 34 minutes and I technically had enough time to do one more loop to get a 50k in. But with how much difficulty I had to endure, I couldn't do any extra credit and accepted that I finished what I set out to start.

The things I learned from my stupidity:

1.) MORE LONG RUNS. I remember my body use to do two of those loops without any difficulties easily. This showed me that if I train on a 9-10 mile training run, I will only do well for a 9-10 mile course. If I want to do well on longer distances, I need to do more longer distance training. PERIOD.
2.) One bottle of water for every hour I'm out on a course. The more bottles or water sources, the better.
3.) Practice more even pacing. I went out too fast in the first loop and I think that created some fatigue issues in the second.

Things that I realized were cool:

1.) Gore-tex shoes are awesome in muddy and wet conditions.
2.) Canadian 222's are a must for anyone to have.
3.) Some people are cool enough to help you out if you ask for help.

Now that's in the books, time to recover and get back into the mix again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Green River Urban Adventure Ultra

The short:

Total Distance: 35 miles (34 continuous, 1 mile broken up)
Total Time: 7:58:28 [13:40 min/mile pace]

Breakdown (mile values are rounded off):

Home to Marathon Start: 6 miles @ 1:17:45 [12:57 min/mile pace]
Green River Marathon: 26 miles @ 5:33:09 (Officially recorded as 5:33:40) [12:42 min/mile pace]
Marathon Finish to Water Taxi: 2 miles @ 41:29 [20:44 min/mile pace]
Water Taxi to Light Rail: 0.5 miles @ 19:55 (too many damn stop lights)
Final stretch home: 0.5 miles @ 6:07

The Long:

Now, after last year's bomb-out at Mile 16 at the Green River Marathon, I wasn't going to be defeated this time. But I also wanted to be a bit eco-thrift-conscious. The race itself is free, but transportation efforts usually involved me driving to the finish line and getting a ride to the start, finishing the race and driving home. I didn't want to drive this time and I didn't want a ride. So this is what I figured to do. I would run from my house to the start (about 6 miles), then run the marathon (26 miles), then run to the SODO area of Seattle to take the train and bus home (6 miles). So I was looking at 40 miles of pavement to beat my body down with.

I got up and headed out the door at 5:30am on an empty stomach and started the first 6 miles to the race start. I decided to maintain a 3 minute interval setup where I would run for 3 minutes and walk for 3. For the most part, this worked out very well for the whole race.

My hydration was my 2 liter pack and a 24 oz handheld bottle. I had a bunch of GU's along with a peanut butter and honey sandwich for later, some S!Caps, painkillers (Aleve & Canadian 222's), and some Tums. I primarily lived off of the bottle, but did need to take some from the pack when my bottle refills ran out along the course. I didn't consume anything more solid until I got 4 hours into the run. I was quite surprised by this. However, when I reached MY marathon point, the wheels came off. I was tired as hell and had to walk hard for a good stretch. After pounding half the PB&H sandwich, two Aleve and two 222's, along with another GU before then, I was able to rock the 3 minute intervals again.

About 2-3 miles towards the finish, the blisters on my feet decided to bust open. HURT LIKE HELL. I was still functional otherwise. Muscles weren't sore like I'd expect and joints (especially ankles) were feeling good. Blisters and just being tired were my two issues that plagued me after crossing the finish line.

After eating the other half of my sandwich and drinking some more, I set off to tackle the 6 miles to SODO to get to the Light Rail station and take the train home. But two miles of struggling to run, eventually walking the whole way - I decided to just take the Water Taxi to Downtown Seattle and then catch the Light Rail and eventually get home another way to where I would have less distance to run.

In the end...

Original Plan: Run 40 miles collectively
Actual Outcome: Ran 35 miles collectively.

When I got close to home, I didn't take any breaks in time and ran the whole 0.5 miles. Figured I needed to man-up at the end.

Didn't crack 40 miles for the week, but it was a solid effort. Now I just have to get these blisters fixed cause they hurt!

Redmond Watershed 12-Hour Race Report

I've seriously neglected this blog, but as I said before - I'm still toiling away and still training. Although I'm also trying to still sort myself out.

In late March, I switched employers (YAY!), but with changes (good or bad) always has some kind of growing pain. So after missing Mt Si, I was more focused on getting some serious miles for the Watershed.

Last year, I volunteered as the Trail Director and Course Sweeper. I enjoy sweeping the course and I'm GOOD at it. I really embrace the "Leave No Trace" thing when sweeping.

The main goal was just to go as much as possible for the whole 12 hours. However, I didn't put in the running miles that I should have. Most of my regimen has been lifting heavy and some cardio from some biking and running. The course was going to punish me for sure.

Throughout the race, my ankles and the tendons around my ankles were suffering a serious beating. This is what I get for not training more specifically. I was running fine until the end of the 3rd loop and feeling my ankles buckling underneath me.

Reviewing my training weeks, I ran anywhere from zero to 10 miles a week. The last three weeks before the event I ran/walked 7, zero, and 5 miles. The zero was when I was sick as hell and trying to recover. Major muscles groups were pretty solid from my lifts. My hamstrings were sore, but not to the point of being debilitating. Had I ran more per week, have some decent long runs, I believe my ankles would have held up better and I could have gone further.

Thankfully, a timed event that is as long as this one allows anyone to chill out for as long as they needed to and I took that opportunity. So after a really painful 4th loop that had me walking and sitting to massage my ankles, I sat on the sidelines and chilled my legs in a very tall horse trough for over three hours before my ankles were able to support my weight again. I had decided to offer up my services again to Chris and Tom (the RD's) and sweep the course in the last couple of hours. So I went through the course in the final two hours, taking down markers and signs, looking out for trash and erasing any sign that the race ever took place.

Near the end, I managed to get in before the 12 hours were up and throughout the last loop, I ran pretty good for a big guy. Plus, that small loop was the most exciting thing to be apart of. Runners were going full-tilt at this point and at the end, I chased the first place runner down to the finish while ending my sweeping duties at the same time.


Loop 1 - 1:16:00
Loop 2 - 1:15:43 (2:31:44)
Loop 3 - 1:31:20 (4:03:04)
Loop 4 - 2:18:03 (6:21:08) <- Took a serious poop and a good number of rest breaks to massage my ankles
Rest - 3:38:51 (10:00:00) <- Refueled, Recovered, and shy of fixing myself up with duct tape and Gorilla Glue
Loop 5 with Extra Credit - 1:59:20 (11:59:20)

Total Distance:

28 miles (actual recorded distance since the extra credit didn't count: 26.88 miles)

Lessons learned: More specificity training...and more ice baths...and mixing Aleve and Canadian 222's is a GOOD THING.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Still toiling away. Still trying to find my groove.

Strength: Until I got really sick about a week ago, doing pretty well. Current strength cycle 1RM numbers based on my lifts in the Wendler 5/3/1 program are:

Back Squat: 310 lbs
Bench Press: 215 lbs
Deadlift: 355 lbs
Military Press: 155 lbs

However, based on previous workouts, my calculated 1RM are around here:

Back Squat: 330 lbs
Bench Press: 230 lbs
Deadlift: 375 lbs
Military Press: 160 lbs

Looking back, I'm a freaking long way from where I once was strength-wise and with this program, I can do it forever due to simplicity and always get some kind of gain.

Cycling: Minimum miles per day is about 7 miles. More of a challenge on the return trip having to contend with riding uphill to the bus station for about 1.5 miles. Some days I had to ride more due to my car going tits-up for various reasons (bad starter/alternator/battery, car accident, etc). Blame it on the evil 100 mile commute I had to do for over a year at my previous company. Anyway, back to the bike, my ass isn't as sore as it was when I started riding again and my legs are not getting nearly as knackered. Although I need to suck it up a bit more and learn to run on tired legs from cycling and try and gut it out when I have a strength session and my legs are still feeling the effects of the bike.

Running: This is truly the suck. I missed out on the Mt Si ultra due to the car issues. My mileage has tanked hard between getting sick and getting tired from riding my bike. However, when I did run, I was faster. One of my 5k-ish loops I finished in about 33 minutes, which is faster than I've done in some time. I am gaining speed and there is some endurance left. However, I know that this Saturday's Redmond Watershed 12-hour run is going to really make me suffer for missing out on those miles. But I'll use this race to my advantage and make my body remember what ultrarunning is all about.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm still alive

I've been quiet here, but I've been training. More strength work (appreciating the barbell more) and trying to get my mileage to previous levels of 30 MPW as the minimum. I'm starting a new job on Monday and will start to re-incorporate my bike commuting again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pigtails Flat Ass Marathon Race Report

The short: Wet conditions on fairly flat gravel & paved trail. Finished the marathon in 6:13 (6:13:22 according to my watch).

The long: Since the Seattle Ghost, I tried my hardest to both recover and re-condition for this one. However, after some failures with getting my act together with my runs (17 miles the week after the Ghost, zero miles after that) and my strength conditioning (did some strength-endurance work with heavy weight, but not consistently), I knew I was asking to be punished by the course.

The race location was moved. Instead of it being in Renton, it was moved to Maple Valley. So the original turnaround was going to be the start/finish and we would run towards Renton along the Cedar River Trail until we basically reached the Renton border. Finding the race start area wasn't easy. Due to dark streets and lack of signs in the area, I ended up driving past where I should have gone. But common sense prevailed and I was able to find it well before the race was to start (I got to the race before Van 'Pigtails' Phan, the RD did!)

This race also had my wife and daughter in tow. It had been quite a long time since they were with me at a race. Since the race start was also the finish, I knew my ass would be grass if I didn't get myself to the finish line. No DNF allowed here!

As daylight progressed, things were much more the port-a-potties on the other side of the street and the parking lot. There was a good number of folks this year and the Maple Valley Food Bank was going to get plenty from the ultrarunning community this year since the entry is pretty much food donations and a minimum $5 fee to cover the insurance/permits.

While standing in the wet-wet-wet (a big F-U to the meteorologists who said it was going to be a dry Saturday!), everyone was ready to go. The course was in the shape of a "J" (or a funny upside-down "y" if you're doing the 50k), we would run for a half-mile down one access road along the river, turn around, go over the river, and then onto the actual trail where we'd be for about 12.5+ miles out and then back.

Closer to the race start time, Van tapped me to announce. Guess my loud vocal work at other events have given me a reputation to make everyone stand to attention. :-)

And as a simple 3-count, we were off and I was going to be punished for this one. I was in the back of the pack with folks like Michelle Barnes, Jenny Appel, and the ever cool hardcore marathoner, Bob Dolphin. Soon after we got past the bottom of the "J" and started on the longer part, Brian Pendleton caught up to me and we ran together to the first aid station about 5.8 miles away. Brian had been rehab-ing from a shin issue, so he wasn't going to go at a blistering fast pace. However, his non-fast pace did push me quite a bit more than I should have done. But in retrospect, I think it was necessary. We got to the aid station within an hour, which meant that if I could keep up everything, I could potentially get to the finish between 5-5.5 hours if nothing went wrong. However, I was shooting for closer to a 6 hour finish based on the Seattle Ghost time of 3:10 and the 14+ mile long run the week later also at 3:10.

After Brian went on ahead after the aid station, I drank some more soup (Thanks to Jess, Shawn, and Heidi for manning the aid station in the soggy weather!), put on my hydration pack I stuck in my drop bag and headed out. The wet never let up. Thankfully, it wasn't freezing cold and my body was radiating heat from all the activity. As I continued, I switched to a run 5 minute/walk 1 minute pattern until I got to the 2nd aid station. This one was unmanned and had just water and Payday bars. I chomped down on one and kept going. I was about 2.5 miles away from the turnaround and my time was around 2:40. I was very thrilled...until after the turnaround and I reached mile 15. After that, my quads and hamstrings seized. I didn't want to pop any Aleve unless absolutely needed. But after the gals from the Y-Run club passed me after they thought I was going to die, I decided to take three of those blue pills.

A mile or two of power-walking and the quads and hamstrings were feeling better. I got to the same unmanned aid station from before and was looking forward to the Payday bars...until I got there and saw they were gone. Like a drama-queen, I screamed out, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! YOU BASTARDS!!!!!!!!". That lit a fire under my ass to get to the last aid station and get something better than the GU's that I've consumed.

As I continued, I ended up running for three minutes and walking for three for my pattern. My calves were trying to cramp up, but thanks to wearing diabetic socks with the feet cut off (TAKE THAT EXPENSIVE ZENASH CALF COMPRESSION SLEEVES!!!), the socks pushed the cramping muscles back into place and I was able to continue on. Note: My calves were 100% fine after the race, my quads were the only things trashed.

About 1.5 miles away from the final aid station, Michael Cartwright caught me on his bike doing sweeping duty. I let him know that there was Bob Dolphin behind me still and one other person. He assured me that I wasn't too far away from the aid station and that lifted my spirits. Checking my watch, I realized I would be on target to hit 5 hours to the aid station and my 6 hour finish time would still be possible. I was also glad that it wasn't too far away for one other reason: The hydration pack ran out of water and I was fortunate to still have a bottle on me that was half-full.

I made it to the aid station and sucked down more soup. By this time, I had consumed 3 Aleve, 4 S!Caps, and 3 Tums Smoothies chewables. Any more pills in my gut and I'd be able to open up a pharmacy. The GU's I had on the course were not agreeing with me very well, so it was a welcome site to have some real food. I also got some mental relief talking to Jess, Shawn, and Heidi before heading off to finish (apologies to Shawn for playing "Party in your Bedroom" by Cash Cash).

I was nearing the end. 4.7 miles left and the 3 run/3 walk was still working for me. I tried to run a bit more, but anything past 3 minutes was only making me more beaten up. I caught Lorie Alexander from BC coming back to do her 50 miles (she's doing fifty 50 mile runs for this year to celebrate her 50th birthday, this race was number 49.) I gave her a hug and wished her well. As I kept moving, I noticed that the mile markers that the trail had (not done by the RD, but by the city/county) seemed longer, unless my math was just wrong. But thankfully, I eventually saw the finish line and I finally made it across hearing cheers and getting a big hug and kiss from my family. Family does make a race better, yes it does. For my efforts, I received another excellent finisher's medal from Van - a pink colored jingle bell made to look like a pig.

Oh yeah, I also gave *tc a kiss on the cheek and licked the crease in his face per Shawn's instructions. (Don't worry *tc, my wife isn't jealous. ^_^)

Laughter aside, I downed some more soup and did some socializing before leaving with the family. Post-race eatings with the fam after the race? Carl's Jr. and it was delicious.

Post-race analysis:

- Quads still feel beaten up, but not the hamstrings or calves. So doing the deadlifts & good mornings helped. I should get back into doing more squats though.

- Now that I've gone 26.2, I can use this as a launch point to get more quality long miles done that are much longer than 13-14 miles and feel less of the sick effects of being under trained for distances.

- Need to find alternative to GU's (unless the batch I have left is just bad).

Next event: Tiger Mountain Fat Ass on January 2nd. I'll do at least one 16 mile loop, but if things go right, I'll take another trip around the mountain range.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ghost of Seattle Race Report

The short: Opted for the half-marathon and was slow as hell, clocking in at 3:10:51

The long: After the bout of the flu and the chaos that was this past Thanksgiving weekend, I went into the event to just get as much time on my feet as I could have allowed myself without screwing up too much and to see my friends during the event. Doing the whole 26.2 miles was a mild pipe dream due to the fact that I hadn't had run anything longer than 12 miles and that my conditioning levels for strength were okay, but I was on the downside for aerobic capacity compared to before (should have gotten that flu shot when I had the chance.) I also decided to go a bit minimalist and run in my Crocs. I wanted to maintain my form as best as I could and there is no better way to do that then to run minimalist.

As I said before, it's the Thanksgiving weekend and I was busy as hell. Even though I had a 4-day weekend away from work, home and family took over like mad and I got just as little sleep as I would have during the work week. Rest is important and I gave it the finger.

On race day, I scrambled out the door in my cold-weather gear and got to the race location later than expected. No parking spots near the start/finish for me. Even though I was supposed to early start with everyone at 7am, I ended up 10+ minutes past. Lucky for me, Scott Krell (the RD) was cool enough to let me just keep my own time. Wasn't like I was going to break any records or BQ anyway.

So with Crocs on my feet, I set off along the trail. It was a cold and windy day, so with my construction bag/body-bag poncho I made up the night before, I was kept nice and warm while the winds that came off the waters of Lake Washington doubled as an invisible hill. The bag acted like a parachute when running into the wind and as a sail when the wind was on my back. Yin and Yang baby, gotta love that.

My feet/legs were feeling good for the first 8-9 miles and I was running at the pace that I'd be grooving at (sub-12 minute miles). However, my hamstrings gave out on me at mile 10 and I ended up practically slow walking most of the last 5k to the finish line. I tapped out and opted to take the half-marathon finish. Funny thing is that from the waist up, I was fine. I wasn't winded and felt like I had the energy to keep going. But from the waist down, those hamstrings weren't cooperating and a blister on my right foot (4th toe) wasn't helping things along, even after downing two AC&C pills to ease the pain.

So what did I learn? Well...

1.) My running form has improved, but it's not there yet for a longer distance yet.
2.) I need to run more and get my long runs longer and more frequent.
3.) I need to hammer on my hamstrings more. I've neglected deadlifting and other exercises that targeted the hamstrings.

I've got about a month before the Pigtails Flat Ass run, but I'm more optimistic about that one to finish it and do much better time wise on a minute per mile basis than I did at the Ghost.

Do I consider this a defeat? Nope, just another learning experience. I figured out my faults and will start beating the crap out of them before I test out myself again for the next event. Onward!