Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ray Miller Race Report

Photo by Natalie Kintz

Miles 0-5:

I was a little too excited at the start and took off ahead of everyone.  While my plan all along was to just follow Jorge Pacheco and Jorge Maravilla right from the start, I didn’t for the first couple miles.  After I was done running off my nervous energy I ended up running and chatting with Maravilla for a little while.  Didn’t take me long to realize that I was speaking in short sentences a little short of breath, while he was speaking as if we were just chilling at a cafĂ© sipping on coffee as we pushed it up the first climb of seven climbs spread out over the next 50 miles.

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Around mile 3 Maravilla passed me, and right after he did we came upon a little turn in the trail that wound around a bush that was 4 feet tall or so.  Instead of running around it he just leapt over it like it was nothing.  Sweet, I’ve got to try and chase this guy for another 40+ miles.  Just before we got to the aid station at mile 6 Jorge Pacheco had joined us, along with Jonathon Toker (Mr. Saltstick) who was running the 50k.  The aid station was well run, and it was great seeing friends Eric & Faye Wickland, and Eric’s parents, even if the aid station theme was all about the Dodgers.

Miles 5-11:

I stayed with the Jorge’s and Toker for the 6 mile loop up Guadalasca and down Wood Canyon. 

Miles 11-19:

I was about 30 seconds behind as we hit the Dodgers AS again, but I caught up after hopping on a fun winding downhill section of the backbone.

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Once we got to the coyote trail around mile 14 I realized that I was hurting wayyyyy too much for it being this early in the race so I started running in “damage control” mode.  Maravilla took off with Pacheco and Toker about a minute back.  Kept eyeing Toker and Pacheco around longer straightaways and as I got to the Sin Nombre trail I saw them across Sycamore Canyon pulling into the superhero themed aid station a couple minutes ahead of me, and got report that Maravilla was 6 minutes ahead.  I probably felt the worst right around this point of the race.  I realized I went out too fast and I felt like the 2 guys running the 50 miler in front of me were going to leave me in the dust. 

Miles 19-28:

I was dreading the climb up to Sandstone Peak, a steady 6 miles uphill.  Not super steep, but steep enough to slow you down a lot.  I actually started to feel better running up this though.  I knew I wasn’t running fast, but I thought to myself, well… most of my training consists of running up long ascents at a slower pace like this, so I guess there’s no reason I couldn’t bounce back a little bit right now.  Upon reaching the top and rolling along for a couple miles, hikers were informing me that there was a guy just a minute in front of me.  That boosted my spirits a bit knowing that Pacheco hadn’t left me in the dust quite yet.  It was a relief finally coming to the 2 miles of downhill to the Yerba Buena aid station and hearing Kate Martini-Freeman yelling for me as I came into view from the road. 

Miles 28-34:

The 3 miles out and back to the turn-around weren’t too bad.  I saw Maravilla coming back from the turn around, looking super fresh and cruising along pretty fast.  I calculated that he was 18 minutes ahead of me at this point.  Then I saw Pacheco and figured he was 3 minutes in front of me.  Again I was relieved that even though I felt like dog meat, his lead wasn’t growing.  Got my bottles refilled by Katie Desplinter, Monica and Sim then made my way back to Yerba Buena.  I knew my buddy Dom was dealing with a calf issue, so I was a little surprised to see him about 8 minutes behind me at this point.  He was looking pretty smooth, which motivated me to keep moving.  Jimmy Dean and I crossed paths, he was looking fresh and spry.  Saw the top for women, Amy Sproston, Shawna Tompkins, Meghan Arbogast and Angela Shartel, as I neared the aid station, all within a couple minutes of each other, looking very solid.  Pacheco was entered the aid station about 30 seconds in front of me, but I lollygagged a bit as I filled bottles and taking a gel, so he was out of site pretty quick.

Miles 34-45:

The nice cool foggy morning quickly turned to a sunny warm day as I climbed up the steep pitch back up to Sandstone peak again.  I kept on seeing Pacheco around a lot of the turns, but told myself not to get caught up with keeping up with anyone yet, that’s what got me into trouble in the first place.  I was stoked to start the long descent towards Serrano Valley and get off the hot exposed tri-peaks area as I entered the shade of the thick brush.  I reached the valley and canyon and soon realized that my legs were pretty close to cramping up, I maintained by Saltstick every 30 minutes regimen and staved off cramping, but couldn’t push it as hard as my mind wanted me to.

Miles 45-50:

Refilled the bottles at the Orange Aid Station, was informed that Pacheco was 3 minutes ahead, but I didn’t have it in me to chase him down.  I wish I did, but I was overly worried about cramping and really wanted to hold onto third place.  As I climbed up the Fireline trail I looked down on Sycamore Canyon and saw that Dom was not within striking distance behind me.  While that was a relief, it also gave me less incentive to push it the last 4 miles to the finish. 

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Slowly made my way up to the Ray Miller Trail, saw Jayme Burtis snapping some pictures with Sandstone in the background (the mountain pictured above that we went up and down twice), and leisurely made my way down to the finish, taking in the mesmerizing views of the Pacific.

Lessons learned:

I need to integrate more speed work into my training.  Not being able to run kinda fast on the flats without totally straining my legs in the beginning trashed my legs for the rest of the race. 

DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST.  I can get away with doing this in shorter races, but ended up paying for it this race.  I am realizing why I had the little bit of success that I had racing 50ks last year:  you don’t have to worry about pacing yourself as much in that distance and you can just run hard.  Also, the big dogs are more likely to come out for 50 milers versus 50ks.  

Drymax socks worked great, as always.  Love the lite trail running 1/4 crew height model, the extra height seems to help keep rocks out of my shoes.

Realizing that I went out too fast, and couldn’t hang with Maravilla was demoralizing.  After all the hours of training and thinking about this race, I really wanted to do better, or at least be in contention for longer than 14 miles.  On the other hand, it was inspiring to see him run as solid and in control as he did, and it looked like he was having a great time.  I’m looking forward to hitting the training hard and seeing what I can do when we meet again at Miwok.

Can't thank Keira and all the volunteers for making race day a big all-day party.  Loved seeing my wife out running around on the course taking pics as well.  Ray Miller 50/50 is definitely going to be a classic early season 50 miler for years, glad I can say I ran it the inaugural year.

Up next:  OLD GOATS!!!!!!  I have heard nothing but good things about Steve Harvey's races and I'm excited to jump into this competitive 50 miler.   Really looking forward to running with Jorge again, trying to outlast Fabrice, and seeing the look of pain on Wickland's grill on the out and backs - regardless of who's chasing who.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Putting in the work.

For the first time in 9 months or so I’ve finally put together two consecutive solid weeks of running.  The last week being my highest mileage to date so far at 110 miles.  I do feel good considering the mileage I’ve been running.  My legs are definitely more sluggish than normal, but I’m still able to run up most of the hills in the Front Range and I have no injuries to speak of (knock on wood).

My confidence to put in a solid performance at Ray Miller 50/50 has increased with the work I’ve put in, but as I see names like Jorge Maravilla and Jorge Pacheco start to populate the entrants list, along with Dom, Tom, Mark Hartell, AND 3 superfast females all capable of chic’n’ me, I can’t help but think to myself, “yikes, we’re going to be beating ourselves up out there in 3 weeks.”  Perfect.  While I’m less likely to place well at this race with all the speedsters, I do think I’ll be able to throw down a faster time chasing them around than I would if they weren’t out there.  Awesome.  Reminds me a quote from my high school’s basketball coach when he would say, “I’d rather lose by one point than win by twenty.”  Competing with people better than me pushes me to achieve what was previously thought to be unattainable.  My goal of winning a race 50 miles or longer should be qualified with the statement that I don't want to hunt out "easy" fifties to do so.

One are point of concern for me regarding this upcoming race is the terrain I’ve been training on compared to the terrain I’ll be racing on.  Most of my running consists of running steep inclines for 5-10 miles, reaching a peak, then turning around and running downhill back to my car.  A couple days a week I’ll hop on the treadmill and get in a tiny bit of “speed” work.  I like running slow, up steep long inclines.  Will my legs be able to run fast on shorter rolling hills on race day?  Will only running 30 miles as my longest training run be long enough? 

I love my job and I love to run.  I wouldn’t enjoy either of them as much as I do, if I didn’t have the other there to help balance out my life.  Working at a world renowned pediatric hospital, with crazy technological therapies, in the middle of metropolitan Los Angeles is fascinating.  Part of me cringes every time I think about the freeways, smog and nastiness of such a big city.  But, on my days off I am only a few miles from gorgeous mountains that feel thousands of miles away.  I get to lose myself in the steep lush canyons and huff and puff up rocky pitches, breathing in pristine air. 

Elissa running up to Echo Mountain with downtown LA and Pacific Ocean in the background.

In some ways I love that these two worlds are very separate and don’t overlap often.  I am however excited that I’m taking a hemofiltration class at work in the near future.  Hemofiltration is treatment modality used primarily for patients in renal failure.

I have begun to review and relearn information about the kidneys, what they do, what happens when they fail, etc., etc.  The kidneys role in fluid balance is paramount.  Proper hydration in running is crucial.  Now is enhancing my understanding of renal physiology going to help my running?  Highly unlikely.  But, understanding the inner workings of the kidney – including but not limited to:  baroreceptors, juxtaglomerular cells, the hypothalamus, anti-diuretic hormone, aldosterone, the renin-angiotensin system, nephrons, oliguria, and renal failure, empowers me with an appreciation of what is happening inside my body when I’m out there running, sweating and drinking.  I like knowing what’s going on inside of me, gives me something to think about when I’m running around in the mountains hours on end.  So far it has already scared me out of taking ibuprofen while running due to kidney failure stories like what happened to Erik Skaggs.

Another aspect of my job that sneaks into my running hobby is my appreciation of health.  Helping care for children who are either temporarily or permanently disabled makes me feel almost obligated to take advantage of being healthy enough to run by running.  I probably go overboard a bit with it, meaning I might be healthier if I ran a little less, oh well.