Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Agony of My Feet: 2009 Mt Si Ultra Race Report

The score: Me - 1, Mt Si - 2.

So far, a best out of three fight - I've lost this one. However, as long as the race still is being held, I will continue to return and not only even up the score, but make my victory table very lopsided.

I went into this run with less training miles than my previous year and the previous one before that. However, I had more gumption (or so I thought). My only goals this race were:

1.) Finish.
2.) Finish in the cutoff.

Fail on both counts. However, I didn't quite fail on the lack of training (even though my miles were absolute crap.)

An early morning drive with the family to the race start, I had prepared for the strong chance that I was going to be aid-less from the Cedar River turnaround (mile 34.5) to the finish. In my second drop bag, I had packed my hydration pack and a large thermos of flattened Pepsi. I was going really old school, all the way to the Karo Light Syrup I had in a gel flask to consume for some of the run.

The "gun" went off just after 5:15am and I went at a VERY conservative pace (15-16 minute miles). I eventually felt my body warm up well and began to run 12 minute miles instead once I got on the Sno-Valley Trail. I ran a bit with Francisco, a first time 50 mile runner. I told him what to expect from Rattlesnake to Cedar River and back, giving him some tips from my training runs there and previous experiences. (Francisco finished in just over the cutoff, but a 50 mile finisher all the same.)

As I continued on the trail, I saw that I was making decent time. Just enough to make the cutoffs. When I got back from the first turnaround (9.9 miles) and to the dropbag point at mile 14, I started to feel some hotspots on my feet - my left more than my right. I took off my left sock and slatered some vaseline on the area and continued. I should have kept that damn baggie of vaseline with the popsicle stick on the course, cause I was going to regret it later.

When I got back onto the road (it always seems longer when you head back), I proceeded to cruise easy on the asphalt. My road shoes were doing what they do best, run on roads. Nice downhills and flats to really get your flow going.

When I reached the 20.4 mile aid station, those hotspots started to feel HOTTER. I should have asked for Vaseline or something at this point, but I was...stupid. I pressed on and things started to go further south for me.

I ended up doing more walking than running as I was trying to reach the self-service aid station @ 24.3 miles. My legs were sore, calves and hamstrings were nagging the hell out of me, but the hot spots were now big blisters and I had one on each foot. I began the hike up to the second drop bag at mile 28.9. This was the place where I eventually dropped last year. I was dead set on not doing that this year and finishing. Well, I did half of that anyway.

The hike/walk with mild running combo got me to my dropbag with a good 12 minutes to spare. However, my time got gobbled up quickly after asking for duct tape and proceeding to tape up my damaged feet. I should have read up more on my Fixing Your Feet book by John Vonhof. You should only tape up after draining those blister bastards.

I strapped on my hydration pack and filled my bottles with pepsi with the help of an aid station volunteer, then setoff to Cedar Falls. As I went past the crowd, I felt some confidence and started to run. The tape didn't feel too bad...until the blisters exploded underneath. It turned into the horrific pain that I had last dealt with at Dizzy Daze a month ago. But unlike Dizzy Daze, I had more distance to go for Mt Si and both feet were suffering.

I was at a slow shuffle, seeing everyone else passing me (although I did appreciate all their encouragement) and then coming back the other way. I eventually made it to Cedar Falls, over 25 minutes from the time I was shooting for. The aid station folks were still waiting for me and gave me a ride back to the start. I was so grateful for them being there, race course volunteers are very critical to making these events work and work well. All runners should always give thanks and also volunteer as well, giving back to the community that supports their habit.

In the end, I covered 34.5 miles and took a very LONG 8 hours and 50 minutes doing it before I surrendered to my blisters. Further than last year, but still no cigar.

Post-race: I had to take two days off from work due to the inability to walk (blisters had wrecked some of the tendons in my foot, causing severe inflammation), my nervous system was fried, and my endocrine system was heavily taxed. I do know that I can build upon this failure of a race and make the rest of my running calendar for the year before the Oregon 100 a better one for sure.

Things learned:

- Acetaminophen, Caffeine, & Codeine pills from Canada make for a very fast and effective pain reliever on the course (better than NSAIDS since it doesn't inhibit the muscle's ability to repair itself). In the USA, it's known as Tylenol 1 w/Codeine, however this version has caffeine since it's from Canada. It's composed of 300 mg of Acetaminophen, 15 mg of Caffeine, and 8 mg of Codeine Phosphate (a very low dosage). Taking two of those took effect in under 15 minutes and if it wasn't for those blisters generating new bits of pain every time I took a step, I believe I could have gone on.
- Brooks socks (the Burn model - yeah, "Burn") are good for anything below 13.1 miles. Anything past that for me, I have to expect problems.
- I need to boost up my base, which means that I need to run longer on the weekends. A 2-hour run might be good for maintenance, but I should learn to stay on my feet for 4-6 hours at a minimum. As Mark Twight from Gym Jones said, There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If I want to run long, I have to train to run long. There are no shortcuts.

Well, that's the story and I'm sticking to it.

Run happy & safe everyone!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Tweak-Tweak here, a Tweak-Tweak there...

I'm still alive. Very busy, but still training. Starting to find my groove.

Basically, due to job office relocation (same company, longer commute), my training time has been gobbled up by the commute. So I'm left with doing short runs during the week (so no midweek long runs). But that's okay. I found that my body can't really tolerate that right now anyway. So it's going to be workouts during lunch (sandbag training for strength, some rope work, and some runs - hopefully it won't rain out there too often since I won't have any indoor facility to do those things), short runs immediately when I get home of 30-60 minutes, a long run on Sundays, and maybe a middle distance or short run on Saturdays.

I've also recalibrated my HR zones, going off of the Karvonen method for HR calculation (the Suunto T-Series HRM's seem to use that) and getting my resting HR from my morning averages (64 bpm) and my MaxHR from the Dizzy Daze run at the end (191 bpm), I end up with a completely different set of zones from when I did my metabolic test. I believe that my aerobic capacity has improved since then and my training runs seem to prove this as well based on the Training Effect that is being generated and my ground speed improving overall. I'll get into this later on.

Main focus: Dial into the Zones more and treat next week's 50 miler (Mt Si) as a practice in walk/run combos, hydration/fueling, pushing after mile 29 before Rattlesnake Lake, and then throwing the hammer down for the remaining 15 miles on the downhill to finish (hopefully within the cutoff).