Saturday, January 28, 2017

Still Alive.

I still exist, just not the same person that filed almost a year and a half ago, or the same person that started this blog when I was ramping up for the Louisville Ironman.  With age, priorities change as the kids get older, injuries occur, and the need to race is shelved as the career moves forward.  God has blessed me with the ability to still run races, be it triathlons, road races, or the local mud runs, and that makes all the difference.  So what has happened:

  • Injuries.  The early years of not stretching, compounded by lower body injuries created by the rocks and roots, most hidden by leaves during trail races, laid me up for awhile.  After the 100K, I didn't run again for almost 4 months and gained almost 20 pounds. Which brings me to:
  • Weight gain:  Yep, that 20 lbs ended ballooning to a rather large number, not nearly my max weight, but enough to make my doctor openly wonder how I could do ultras carrying the weight that I had.  Today, I'm down, but am carrying it around my core section, and its not coming off easily.  But, it is coming off.  It's harder to lose weight the older you get.
  • Age:  Perfect segue, and while not an excuse, it has to be kept in mind that getting back into form is a lot harder the older you get.  Right now, if I can average between 8:45 - 9:00 miles, I'm happy.  Yes, that's race pace.  The other thing is, I'm good with that because a lot of time, I'm running with my daughter.
  • Family:  I remember 5 things in my life as if it just occurred.  The birth of all 3 kids, marrying my wife, and being baptized.  My oldest is 15, and the realization that I'm never going to get those years back is relevant.  Teaching him to drive, and he's on the cusp of earning his Eagle Scout for Scouting.  I've even taken on the mantle of Assistant Scoutmaster to go through the last couple years of camping before he ages out and my youngest crosses over and starts his journey.  Cherish your kids now, take the time to put Lego's together, I'm obsessed with them, and skip a run so that you can canoe around the marshes.
  • Career:  Right now, I'm detailed to Washington DC into an entirely different job than I'm used to.  And I enjoy the new adventure.  I get home quite a bit, and have teleworked on several occasions, which is really new to me.  This is one of the few weekends that I stayed over, but that's for a farewell dinner for the awesome dude who put the bug into my ear to try this out.  I am using my time away to run more, and I brought my mountain bike to ride some of the trails around Arlington and into DC.
  • Racing priorities:  In 2016, I did the Oil Creek 50K with a friend who is a cancer survivor and type I diabetic.  It was very interesting, and in some ways, a surreal look into what should've been important as the years have gone by.  I did one triathlon, and numerous road races, but nothing with an urgency of "I had to get better."  I save that angst for golf.
  • Hobbies:  I really wish I had spent more time learning to cook. Just made my first omelet the other night.  Most previous attempts have been relegated to cheesy scrambled eggs with bits of bacon and sausage, mm bacon.  Also picked up the guitar.  I will never be a virtuoso, but the day that I can play "Take me home, Country Roads" by John Denver, will be my benchmark for success.
In closing, if I get a chance, I'll write more.  I'm not real thrilled with what Clustrmap did with their widget, but whatever.  My next blog might be about runner etiquette here in the nations capital and bikes and runners sharing a trail. 

On On

Friday, October 16, 2015

Oil Creek 100K Race Report

It's all about the buckle!!
I guess the photo sort of makes the ending anti-climactic.  But, if you're in the mood for an exceptionally long story about a journey filled with pain and mental gymnastics, then by all means, read on.  But, remember, I rarely proofread.

In 2009, when the Oil Creek races were started, my father, brother, and I decided to give it a go, and aim high, well at least the 50 mile high, because I convinced them that the 50k was just too short and not enough. Now why exactly would I say something like that:  Well,  I was also beating my body training for the Louisville Ironman, and bowed out of running the longer distance just a few weeks past my penultimate triathlon, but figured that pacing the last portion for the 50 miler would more than make up for it. While my Dad and brother understood, I always considered it sort of a "dick" move, and having been in the best shape of my life, probably would've rocked that 50.  Since 2010 - 2014, I had entered and finished the 50K, some years, like 2012, in stellar fashion, others, like 2013-14, in not so stellar, injured or under prepared, fashion.  In a previous blog entry, I explained why I was "nutting up or shutting up," but I think the deeper motivation was rooted in 2009, and that my opportunities were dwindling as my focus switches less on my own "wants", and more on spending the precious time with kids and how they are growing older very quickly.  So, without further ado, the Race Report:

Arrived at the HQ, Titusville Middle School (TMS), at 0505, which was perfect, because the 100 milers had just started and their families/crews were leaving either for AS2 at Petroleum Center (PC) or back to the hotel for more sleep. Regardless, I got a great parking spot, and was able to walk into the school, check in, and then return to grab my drop bags, water pack, and basically just make sure that I didn't leave something behind.  My two drop bags were fairly identical, two extra shirts, tights, flashlights, socks, gloves, flashlights, the better headlamp and 2nd pair of shoes in my AS4 (TMS) bag and dropped the phone in there as well so that I could text my brother when I finished the first loop.  So with the bags in the right place, everything else done, stretching routine complete (an amazing feat in itself), and actually in a good frame of mind, I sat and chatted with a couple whose daughter was out doing the 100 miler, drank a little water and half jokingly thought that maybe there was a 100 mile in my future.  When I should've been thinking much harder about sticking to the game plan that I had finally finished developing on the drive down.

I've been running for a long time, 31 years if you had to put a number on it.  In those 3 decades, I've done a pretty good job of keeping to the script, but being able to adjust when something goes awry.  On those occasions when I have gone off, I've learned and been good to keep that in mind.  So, here is the key point that will stick with me for almost 50 miles today.  What in the hell was I thinking at the start?  That's rhetorical.
At 0600, headlamps and flashlights aglow, the 100K had started with a whistle, and I started with a jog that had only one rule.  Do not break a sweat.  My aim was to head into AS2 feeling comfortable and then run the majority of Section 3, where there is a lot of very run able terrain.  From the school to the trail head is about 1.5-ish miles, and the fog was pretty good, so it was fairly difficult to see what was ahead.  I started talking to a guy and we jogged, and we hit the start of the trail fairly quick. Too quick.  But for some reason, the small alarm in my head wasn't registering.  I wasn't sweating, but I was breathing pretty good.  That, courtesy of the bronchitis that I had been diagnosed with the previous Monday.  Amazing what a Z-pack and Mucinex can do in a week.

LAP #1:
Heading up the trail, Section 1 is a lot of single track.  While there are open spaces, most of it is fairly compact. I have always been a good hill climber.  And as I trekked my way through , I noticed that a fairly large conga line of headlamps were following behind me.  My friend Mike was positioned a couple of people behind me and started calling out the mile times.  We were moving at roughly 13-15 minute miles through the trails.  And I was sweating.  As we pressed through some of the more open areas, I gave up the lead and made yet another tactical error, I listened to the small group in front and started to run.  Nothing fast, but not real slow either.  As we hit the Wolfkill Decent into AS2, I slowed up so that the areas of previous injuries past didn't grab another ankle of the present.  Moving into AS2, I was very aware that I was off plan.  But dawn broke and I wasn't in too bad of shape, so it was time to get some food and move out. Just like the 50K, AS2 always seems to break the race apart.  While I had a couple of cups of Heed (strawberry being my new favorite), and stocked up on some snacks, the majority of the group I had been with had already left.  After every aid station on this course, is some sort of really craptacular hill.  This one has the Switchbacks.  The smart Eric would've taken his time, regrouped the plan of the day, and walked the hill slowly.  Instead, this Eric was munching and crunching up the hill and tried to choke multiple times on a grilled cheese sandwich.  He also decided that since Section 2 into PC was also very conducive to running, that he was going to do that too.  Amazing how none of this was setting in with me the entire time I was running and power walking up the Never Ending Hill.
By now, as I rolled through the mock Oil Derricks, looking forward to seeing them lit up later in the evening, the sudden realization that I had set myself up for failure was started to dawn as the fog started to burn away slowly and it looked like it was going to be a real nice day.  The first of the 50K runners were starting to come by, all looking very controlled and moving quickly.  The beauty of the trail running community is that everyone always has time to say "Hi" or "Great job".  There is still a community feeling that road racing has always seemed to lack, and that the triathlon community had in the late 80's, but has lost in the recent years. Coming into PC, AS2, I knew that I needed to throttle it way the hell back.  I was 14 miles in and had blown up my plans for running Section 3.  I was also still less than half done with Loop 1.  After tossing my headlamp, flashlight, and gloves into my drop bag, I topped off the water pack, grabbed some more snacks, ate another grilled cheese, more strawberry Heed, the outhouse, and it was back out into the woods.
Section 3 starts off up a hill.  A fairly manageable hill named after John Heisman, he of the football trophy fame, and then followed by a lot of flat, or gradual, and wide cross country ski trails.  There is a couple of nasty little sections, but for the most part, they aren't too terribly bad.  But what it is, is long.  Both Section 3 and 4 are over 8 miles long.  There are water stops roughly halfway through them, but its still a good couple of hours through each.  I had taken a couple of pain relievers, before the race, but the dull ache in my hips and quads were starting to get noticeable. I abandoned the running for now and was more or less concentrating on power hiking/walking through the rest of the Loop and then re-group at the school before Lap #2.  I was fairly happy my knees and IT bands were happy, so all was not lost.  Besides that, the weather was fantastic.  The sun was out, it was fairly warm, and the trail wasn't overly covered with leaves.  Just roots and rocks.
Not far into Section 3, and walking behind me, was a young lady who would end up being my lifeline for this event.  Megan had fallen into the same trap I had with the start and was pretty sure she was going to be reduced to the same strategy that I had at the moment. Having run the 50K in 2014, she figured the natural course of action was the next level.  That makes sense.  So, we teamed up, shook hands and started the trek across the rest of Section 3.  I was fairly certain that she would take off and leave me at some point before the end of the first Lap, and that would've been fine, but I'm really glad she didn't.  Even more surprisingly, she listened to me ramble on about every topic that I could think of, and she answered all the questions that I asked her, I even apologized for being too nosy.  She was a great sport.  A few times, she paced the way, but for the most part, seemed more content to follow behind, which worked for both of us.  I have had the pleasure to "run" these events and have met some great people.  I'd be happy to run with them again too in the future.  What I think I learned most from this though, is that I can't recreate those runs from the past.  The 50K group from 2012 will always be special, because we ran real well together.  This "Fellowship" holds an identical spot with the 2012 group, not because we ran well, but because we never gave up on the goal.  That, and I would use the phrase "Never leave your wing-man'" more than a few times before the night was done.  But, I digress.
Megan and I moved through Section 3 fairly quickly.  Talking has a tendency to make time and distance fly.  After having done this race quite a few times, I thought I knew where all the landmarks were.  Why she never hit me with a rock and told me to shut it, I'll never know, but we eventually made the long down hill onto the road leading into Millers Farm and AS3.  We didn't stay there too long, again refueling on water, more Heed, and now I switched to cashews and Swedish Fish for the snacks.  Don't mock, other than ABBA, they are the best thing out of Sweden.  Leaving AS3, you climb the stairs and then commence to climb the Cemetery Hill for quite a haul.  Megan was a star on the downhills, but admitted she hated the climbs. So, pace adjusted, we worked our way up the hill, still at a decent clip, and made the short trip to the bridge that led to the last real climb, Rockefeller's Revenge.  Yes, this hill sucks.  And this hill hurt too.  I don't know why, but I wasn't too chipper after this climb, and I think it had the same effect on her as well.  But, we knew the end of the loop wasn't too far, and Section 4 has all sort of landmarks that let you know its just about done.  We were still pacing decently, basically walking quick and not power hiking and as we passed the exit of the 100 milers "Coming Home" loop we moved hit the hiker sign in box and finally the trail-head.  After the trail, the flat one mile walk around Drake's Well really sucks.  My hips started to really hurt, and my feet were less than happy.  I had my extra shoes in my AS4 drop bag, and I was looking forward to new shirts and just to sit for our agreed upon 15 minute break.

The first lap was completed in roughly 9:30.  Considering that my normal 50K hovers around 8 hours, I wasn't too concerned, I just wanted to make it symmetrical.  What that looked like, was no big deal.  But, as we walked across the bridge and watched the 50K folks finish, I started to have my doubts concerning the second loop.  Yes, I'm interchanging "loop" and "lap", it's really no big deal.  This is where my appreciation for having Megan with me was starting to help.  How she felt, I wasn't sure, but she wasn't complaining about anything that I wasn't.  Putting on my newer shoes, I realized that my old faithful Nike trail shoes were probably at the end of their life cycle.  Two clean shirts, and a new flashlight and headlamp, running hat, and some Glide on my now aching feet, and I felt good.  Real food, and more Swedish Fish mixed with chocolate covered coffee beans, and I was ready to go.  I knew it was going to be long, but I wasn't going to let my wing-man down.  Also texted my wife to say all was ok and my brother, who was going to "pace" us back from PC to the finish.

LAP 2:
Leaving the school, we moved at an alright pace.  Not anything fast, but we also wanted to get to AS2 before nightfall, especially that mega downhill, which is not fun during the day, but absolutely miserable in the dark.  What was apparent was that climbing hills wasn't so bad, but going down them were hell on the quads and the knees. Both of our feet hurt, but we kept talking and Section 1 really sort of went by fairly quickly.  Which, for Megan, was good, because she had planned on changing her wardrobe and shoes for the last 2 sections.  The best thing about this 2nd loop and the 50K in general, is that once an obstacle is passed, you don't have to go over it again.  It was starting to get darker, but still plenty of light to move without the lamps.  Section 1 went by a lot slower than several hours earlier, but there was no complaints, just increasingly sore feet and screaming hips.

The great thing about the Aid Stations for 100K and 100 milers that I don't think 50K runners would understand, or really need, is that in the later hours, there are fewer people, all spaced apart, and the greatest volunteers of any race I've ever run, yes, even the Ironman too, will bend over backward to assist you.  AS 1 at Wolfkill were absolutely the best.  They made us sit, pretty much waited on us hand and foot, and when you have accomplished runners like Jeff Nelson giving pep talks, and other runners who had run the 50K earlier assisting you, it makes for a good feeling.  I took my first ibuprofen, and Megan, who knew all the local trail runners from having trained here quite a bit, bid our farewells, and made our last trip up the Switchbacks and were on our way through Section 2 toward PC.

We had decided that since time was not of the essence, only the finish, and that shiny silver buckle, that if we hit a bench or a log, we were going to take 5, but we were going to keep moving.  As the darkness settled, the incredibly well marked trail was easy to navigate. My hips and feet weren't feeling too bad with the ibuprofen, and Megan said she wasn't feeling too bad, and she hadn't hit me over the head with a rock yet, so once the Never Ending Hill ended, there was a sense that all was going to be ok.  If the wheels fell off, it was going to be fine as long as it was one at a time.  Section 2 seemed to last forever though.  At night, all you see is what the headlamp and flashlight show you.  And most of what they show you are the reflective tape on the course flags, and with no moon to speak of, really not much of anything else.  The most disappointing feature was the mock Oil Derricks weren't even lit up.  Granted, it was going to get foggy later, but those derricks being lit up would've been awesome.  Strike one as far as the course was concerned.

Heading down the road into Petroleum Center, AS2, we were pretty happy.  I was ecstatic that we now had a pacer, and Megan that we could change.  It wasn't too cold yet, but I had decided that my jacket and tights would be needed and I wanted my winter running hat and mittens.  Just sort of had that feeling.  Again, this AS is great.  My brother played nursemaid, and Megan had her own butler of sorts as she got changed.  It was not spoken, but I think she was feeling as bad I was.  The socks I had sucked, and I think I mentioned it several times.  Well, here it is in print.  They sucked.  What I really need is to find the supplier Champ-Sys used for the Erie Triathlon Club socks that were given as swag a few years ago.  Now with warmer duds on, more Fish and Coffee beans, warm broth and Heed, strawberry again, and a pacer with his mega lamp, I think we were ready to go.  With a new conversationalist, and heading back to the school, I figured the last two sections wouldn't be so bad.  I also noted that I had also eclipsed 14 hours, so I was officially longer than my longest event to date, the Louisville Ironman.

As we cleared Heisman Hill, I also remembered something that Megan had said earlier about suffering and those that are quiet are usually suffering most.  That was badly paraphrased, but you get the picture.  For one of the last times, she also mentioned that if I wanted to take off that I could.  Until then, I figured that she'd be gone already, and I was prepared for that.  But, I wasn't going to leave my wing-man, and if she were suffering, I wasn't going to leave her.  Call that more foreshadowing.

Continuing in Section 3, I noticed that my brother would walk ahead, 100 ft or so, then stop and wait.  As we would climb a section, and the fog started to roll in, he kept reminding me of Indiana Jones, standing at the top of the rise.  I'd chuckle a little, make sure that Megan's lamp beam was at my feet, then just keep walking.  Other than not having a clue what landmarks were where, another rock to the head I probably deserved, we just kept trudging onward into the night.  Thankfully, as we passed my Cow Run and the Boy Scouts, always awesome to have them, I was sort of glad we didn't stop there.  It would've made moving on real difficult.  I wasn't in a dark place mentally, but my feet really hurt, my hips were starting to ache again, and my knees were starting to ache.  But, my IT bands, they were a-ok.  And if you know my history, then they and my Achilles tendons, are my weak spots.  I can only say that the "Insanity" workouts must've helped.  Throughout the Section, we did stop for 5 minute breaks on a bench here, a log there, and a boulder on the ski path.  And through it all, the only thing to be seen was the incoming fog, trees, mud in ever increasing volumes, rocks, roots, leaves, my brother and his big ass light, and Megan's lamp beam at my feet. Not a bear or a porcupine to be seen anywhere.

Heading into Miller Farm, AS3, we had decided that 15 minutes wasn't too long.  In years past, I have heard that the fire ring at night was a deadly sin. The night gets colder, and the fire is warm.  The 8.6 miles to the finish are an eternity and folks tend to drop there. Well, my truck was at the school, and so was that buckle, so we were going to finish, style points be damned.  While the water bags and bottles got topped off, we ate real food, and drank warm broth, well, I did at least, and did sit by that awesome fire.  While sitting there, a 100 miler, whose name or bib # I absolutely did not catch, was sitting there as well.  He decided to drop on his 3rd loop, 8.6 miles from the school and 15 from the total finish, and still had 20 hours to finish.  A volunteer, and a 50K finisher from earlier, named Ava (or was it Eva) and myself convinced him to get back in the game.  Hell, we were only 2-3 miles an hour, and if he was going to drop, do it there.  We were adding a 3rd to the Team, only he was a transient onto a bigger goal.  After 20 minutes, my brother rounded us up and we pressed on to the stairs and those damn hills.

At night, the hills have no end.  You can only tell the end is near when the reflective tape disappears.  Sure it took quite awhile, but we did it.  My brother was awesome and would continue to be this whole section. We just pressed on and would move to the side as more and more 100 milers and their pacers would pass like a train, and disappear just as quick.  All, very supportive, and moving very quickly.  It was at this point that Megan and I decided that we weren't built for that distance.  Apparently we weren't cut out for the 100K either if based on our current pace.  But, we did keep moving.  I still made sure that Megan and the 100 miler was behind me, and even though it was taking awhile, the end was getting there.

The trail-head ended and our final descent was the worst. There was nothing from my waist down that didn't ache at this point.  No, it pretty much all hurt, and hurt badly. All 3 of us gingerly got down the switchbacks to the painful pavement below.  While I was hoping the Drakes Well Watchers might've been gone and there was an honor system, it wasn't meant to be.  The 100 miler limped off ahead, saying thank you, and he moved pretty quickly too.  Megan wasn't moving fast at all. And she had quit talking almost an hour earlier. It had gotten colder, and that didn't help.  We walked very slowly, my brother sitting at the Watchers place while we moved around the museum at less than breakneck speed.  We stopped at a bench, and probably would've stopped at more, had it not been for the cold and the need to get finished.  At some point I think she got mad that I was stopping or waiting and wouldn't leave her.  Fact is, I might've kept going a little faster and been back a little quicker, even with the pain. I call it the Ironman Effect.  In that race, even with 4 missing toenails, swollen feet, and a digestive tract that was failing, I still ran the last 2 miles of that marathon at a 9:30 clip.  But here at Drakes Well, that wasn't happening, and the above would've incredibly wishful thinking. When you've suffered for 45 miles and several hours, there is a vested interest in safety.  Besides that, my brother would've beat me for leaving my wing-man.  And rightfully so.

The goal of running down the driveway had ended a couple of hours earlier.  Now, it was to get into the warmth.  As we headed down, the 100 miler, and I'm really sorry I didn't get his name or bib #, was dressed in a warm jacket, hat, and was actually running down the driveway toward the final Coming Home loop.  He thanked us again, and headed off pretty strong.  I hope he finished the last 7 miles, and I'm glad he listened to us and kept toward the goal.

The actual finish was great.  The simplistic setting and the fact that the RD greets every finisher, makes it one of the best finishes of any race I've ever done.  The feeling of being done, having gone further than I ever have, longer than I ever have, was incredible.  I was cold, hurt, incredibly tired, and feeling beat up.  Hopping on that mat at the same time as Megan was a great feeling though.  Team Silver Buckle was done.  Uber Race Director Tom Jennings graciously took off the ankle straps, and awarded us our belt buckles.  Time 23:48

A week later, my feet are still a little swollen, and I'm going to lose 2 toenails.  I think I'm relapsing toward bronchitis again, which isn't good, and the only exercise I've had was a 1500 yard swim yesterday, which felt really good.  I stretch everyday, but I find my sleep pattern has been screwy since that race.  Real screwy.  I "hot wash" the race and analyze what could've been done differently, and I conclude that I don't care.  That race went like it was supposed to.  If I ever toe the line for a 100K again, Megan is allowed to call me a dumbass, it won't have the same feeling that this race did.  No race ever does.  It's the journey, and if I have learned one thing in those 30+ years of racing, take each as a gift, thank God you could do it, and move on to the next goal.

To Megan Brook, I pray that your future PA career is as accomplished and with the same drive as your endurance running.  The pleasure was all mine, and I greatly appreciate the camaraderie as we made the trek together. This silver buckle is as much yours as it is mine. You never left your wing-man.  My only regret is we didn't get a Kodak moment at the end, completely slipped my mind.

I also greatly appreciate my brother and even though he said he felt like he was leading the walking dead, he still played the part of Sherpa graciously.  Thanks, dude.

As for the future at Oil Creek, I'll be back.  A good friend and cancer survivor wants me to do the 50K with him next year.  Not only will I do it with him, but I promise not to sing Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" like I did at Scout Camp this past summer.  I had entertained taking a year off, but this is a hard place to stay away from. It's a special race, and a lot of fun.

On On

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Presque Isle Half Marathon, or Long Run Sunday.

In the past 13 years that I've been back in the area, I have been around the peninsula too many times.  In terms of racing, you can't get any flatter than this course.  Whether it be a road race, triathlon, or the now defunct-soon-to-be returning Duathlon, there is no better opportunity for a PR than here.

So, in my run-up, excuse the pun, to the Oil Creek 100k, I figured for the weekend long run, why not make it a Half Marathon, and get a shirt and medal for my efforts.

Problem #1:  This race had 1600 people pre-registered.  Because this is Erie, you can safely add another 200-300 day before and day off registrations, but let's just round it up to 2000 entrants. So, given that number to work with, why would you only have 8 total porta toilets?  Even the wash house next to the pavilion was locked up.  You can blame the Park rangers and/or the maintenance staff for that, but only 8 port-o-johns?????  Heck, even the Turkey Trot has 500 port-o-johns and that's for almost 35-4000 folks.  Been this way the past 3 years too.

So, at the start, there is a long line waiting for the aforementioned 8 toilets and I'm in the middle of one line.  Unfortunately, it didn't thin the herd but I wasn't in a hurry, so I figured I'd wait.  That was until the last call to start rang out and then I figured I'd find a wash house somewhere along the course.  And I did, 3 miles away at the Ranger's station.  Which is kind of far when you have to pee.

The weather was pretty decent as well.  Mid 70's with some fairly nasty humidity.  Lots of water, some GU sports drink at 4 different stops.  I kept my pace moderate and just listened to the tunes as the pavement went by.  It was more comfortable running on the berms and grass, and better simulation of what'll happen in October.  Who am I kidding, walking 13 miles would be a better representation of October.

Total run time was 2:10.  My chip time said 2:12, and the gun time was 2:17.  Where I was overall or within my age group, no idea.  I haven't bothered to look.  It was a good time to get out and run a little further than normal.

On On.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Edinboro Triathlon Race Report

Well campers, it's time for another race report.  This one for a race that has been around since 1986, seen the highs and lows, but still keeps on chugging.  I know the course so well, I probably could fall asleep while doing it.  It might even be the last race that I received an award at as well...though this year wasn't that year.  It's also my home course and I feel that missing out on it would be an affront of sorts.  So, we race.

Pre-race:  Got here early, weather was nice, humid, but rain wasn't forecasted until much later.  Met a nice couple from Maryland and spent some time chatting with them.  Again, since I was going to be doing the Sprint version vs. the Olympic, doing the proper warm-up just seems to escape me.  However, I do stretch incredibly well in replacement, so the trade off is negligible.  So, gear was spread out, I was stretched, and then came the best moments of any race in recent memory:  putting on the wetsuit.  Ever tried to stuff dough back into it's can after it's been opened?  Luckily, my father was there, and we got everything tucked and I was ready to go.  Yes, I still need to lose some more weight.  The running mileage has helped immensely.

SWIM:  Get into the corral with all the other swimmers, for a Sprint version of a mass start, and no sooner had my feet touched the water, that the start horn was blown and off we went.  I was in the in the last person.  If there is one element that I have trained in, better than running, it has been the swimming.  Lots of stroke work, interval training, distance and distance intervals, arm pulls, and kickboard work.  So, I started picking off people, giving wide berth, cutting between groups and in general being a good sport and avoiding the masses.  Until the turnaround.  At the pontoon boat, I had done a pretty good job of maneuvering a great angle, and was rounding the corner when the first punch landed on the side of my head and a lard ass red headed guy decided to just keep swimming over me.  I didn't lose the goggles, the straps were under the swimming cap, but I did take on water and drink a ton.  Ok, that happens in the swim, and after 29 years of triathlons, I've had worse happen.  Until halfway back to the beach when same lard ass red headed guy decided to pull up and go into a breast stroke....and just guess where did his left leg went?  My stomach.  I pretty much had it at this point, I had pulled myself back into the upper half of the pack only to take another shot from the same guy.  Needless to say, I did manage to make it clear that in the middle of a large group, it's never a good idea to go into a breaststroke.  I did apologize for the three infractions as we exited the water.  TIME:  10 minutes something.  Considering that I was standing on sand at the start, I consider it a good swim.

BIKE:  Getting  out of the wetsuit was a lot like opening a can of biscuits.  After a fairly quick transition, it was off on my trusted Trek for an awfully familiar ride of 10 miles.  Because of the crap weather this year, my mileage wasn't the greatest, and the mileage I did have could've been better.  It wasn't bad, just could've been better.  Fortunately, my bike is in good shape.  I do take a little pride that I take care of it.  Goes along with the adage, take care of your gear, and your gear will take care of you.
So, I'm rolling along pretty smoothly, the short hills out of the lakeside area was easy enough, and my speed down into the first stretch was a lot better than I thought it might be.  I kept up the 22+ mph for a better part of 3 miles, and felt good doing it, so I went with it for as long as I could.  And that was the hill at the end of the road.  It isn't a long hill, maybe a quarter mile, it has a decent grade, but it is a challenge if you were hammering the downhill like I was.  After a little suffering, I was ok for the crest and the slight upgrade leading to the next hill.  As in most races, I ended up by myself with the occasional tri bike finally catching up to me after I had dropped them on the uphill.
Why else do I love these races?  The "rules".  And by that, I mean the pretty blatant drafting, the passing to amount mid bike before falling back and onto a rear tire, and the passing on the right.  If it had been marshaled, there would've been quite a few in the sin bin fo a spell.
Anyway, finished the bike in fine fashion, and roughly at 30 minutes.  The bike computer said it was 20.1 mph, but I'm not so sure I believe that.  But take it for what it is.

RUN:  After a pretty quick, no camping this race, transition, it was off for the run.  This run is an out
and back with a long uphill to start with a long downhill before the turn, only to become a long uphill with a nice downhill toward the finish.  Because my running has been pretty good, but with no speed, mainly distance, I wasn't expecting fast.  I wasn't going to surprise myself either.
Now, for those that sit behind a desk all day, the only way I stay awake is through coffee.  Even though I have limited myself and drink more than 2 liters of water a day, I still find when its hot, I get those cramps in my calves.  Pretty much after the first mile, they had worked themselves out and I was feeling ok until the turnaround.  The wide open, unshaded area was actually a little more brutal than it should've been.  After walking the water station, I started up again and pretty much ran the final 1.5 miles by myself, and once again proving the axiom that no matter what race it is, I will be by myself for long periods of time
I did finish strong, which was a plus.

FINAL:  Under new RD management, it went very well. Hopefully the race will be around for a long time to come.  Especially when it's been a fixture on the race circuit in NW PA for so long.  As for me, I was happy with the time, but not the race pictures that I saw today.  Yes, they looked that bad.  But, I'm not doing this junk for the pictures.  The next race isn't until the Presque Isle Half Marathon. More time to prepare for that.   As a reward for a job well done on the bike, it was taken in for new skins, tape wrap, and general adjustments.  Been almost 4 years.  The next triathlon is at the end of August for the Presque Isle Sprint Triathlon.  So, I imagine I will be time trailing that course quite a bit over the next 2 months.
Have a great summer, and until the next time.

On On.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Because 50k just wasn't enough.

Sign up day for the 7th Annual Oil Creek 100 races and this year was a little different.  Instead of a free-for-all for all three distances, they were staggered at 3:00 for the 50k, 3:15 for the 100k, and 3:30 for the 100 miler.  Give the RD, Tom Jennings, credit, he took a proactive approach, listened to whining about signing up for the wrong race, and added a "family" option so that two people could enter under one name.  But, was ensued, was RunRace was ill-prepared and the process was long and drawn out.  At one point, I could've signed up for the 50k, but had previously decided that 5 bronze buckles were enough.

So why the sudden change of heart.  The 50k is a safe distance, with a safe finish. But, after two incredibly lackluster 2013 and 2014 performances, and extra weight that doesn't seem to want to come off, it's time to start thinking of goals and forcing myself to train differently.  One lap of the course, done during daylight,  and finished in roughly 8 hours, has made me complacent.  In 2009, The Ironman year, I paced my brother for 14 miles through the woods at night, and have a good idea that it's going to be a new challenge of sorts.  My goal is to prepare the body, and my head, to survive. As for a time goal, nope. Not going to happen.  I'll take it one Aid Station at a time and keep moving forward.

Maybe this will be an opportunity to blog a little more than usual.  Maybe, but let's go with the highly doubtful right now.  My goal is to stay healthy, keep the weight in check, and earn the silver buckle in October.

Quick hits:  Guilty TV pleasure would be Chiller TV.  Great horror flicks encompassing the classic, cheesy, and God-awful.  What better way to watch the entire Saw series, 1-45.

Glad I didn't submit a NCAA bracket,  it would've sucked. Have watched a lot of college wrestling and high school winter championships. But, hardly any basketball.

On On

Friday, February 6, 2015

Out of the blue...

For all those who keep on blogging, and are consistent, my respect.  I don't have the time, and on most occasions when the urge hits, the energy to sit down and write something isn't there either.  I said I wouldn't quit, but I also said that it would be far and few.  Besides, who even reads what I write for the most part.

-I'm still running, swimming, and pedaling my rear around the basement 2-3 times a week. I'm probably going to have to replace the belt on the bike again too.  Second time in 8 years and Lord knows how many hours of riding.  I've also gained a bunch more weight because my job is centered between 2 monitors and I hate being out in the cold and snow.  However, I am tentatively looking at making the jump to the 100K for the Oil Creek race, so I am slowly re-thinking my activities.

Motivation sucker right there.

-I've started to enjoy swimming again.  I've added more kick board drills, a little of the breast stroke, and some interval work, mostly with arbitrary split times and 20 seconds between each set.  I can live with that.  Because I travel a little more these days, I've talked myself into being a more "pro-active" swimmer and make each trip count.

-The running has also been a little better.  I will never understand why I can run in single digits, as long as there is no wind, and enjoy it.  The ROTC pull-up bars are still accessible, and I use them on 90% of my runs. I still look like a floundering fish while doing them, but I guess doing them is better than not doing them.

-Pet peeve:  I might be carrying some extra weight, which I will admit is slower to come off then in years past, thank you mid 40's metabolism, but if you're going to brush me off when your talking about running your 5th career 5K or 1st 10K, don't be surprised when I completely ignore you at the New Years 5 miler for being an incredible douche.  I like to listen to people who have started running in races, there is an excitement that I've long forgotten, and it can be infectious.

Well, this is enough for now.  Maybe, I'll get back into the swing of things.  Most likely not.

On On.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oil Creek 50K Race Report

In what is surely becoming a rarity, I am back in the same month with a race report. For my next trick...well, there really is, no next trick.

This was the Oil Creek 100's 6th annual event, and I have been a part of all 6. The first, which I affectionately call the "Ironman Year," I was used for pacer duty, guiding my brother and another lady through the last 14 miles of the 50 mile race.  Since then, I've been earning the bronze buckle in some fashion or another.  Either in glory, or just trying to get my rear to the finish. But in the end, it really doesn't matter, a buckle is still a buckle.

START:  This year was different from the start.  This was the first year I didn't have my brother or father anywhere near the event to help me out or just to go through the paces of the pre-race dinner, and the post race dinner and coffee fest. My brother has a bum wheel, and has been advised to keep to the lower distances. Something I think he has no real issue with.  My father, he's earned the ability to "retire" from the ultra-distance races.  He's earned a couple of buckles, and his knees were giving him fits at best,  So, I'm back to being by myself.  A theme for the first half of this race.

The first 7.5 miles to AS #1 was spent as most of these are.  The first 2 miles are on the bike trail and then a sharp right up the Gerard Hiking trail and the single track adventure begins.  This is a fairly long race, and speed is not supposed to be of the essence.  But, if you have a time goal in mind, like 8 hours, there is some jockeying for position in the first 2 miles to ensure that you aren't behind that long a conga line.  And when you're stuck, the agitation starts to mount, and irritability surfaces pretty quickly. I made it into the AS in 1:30, pretty happy with the pace, and not feeling badly either.  I spent less than 5 minutes grabbing what I needed and shoved off, climbing what I consider the worse climb of the event, the SwitchBack.

Trekking my way into AS #2 at Petroleum Center, I was still feeling pretty decent.  The fairly short distance between AS 1 and 2 have some decent areas to run, you just have to be smart about your pace.  I was thankfully keeping myself low and wanted to get in by 1000, or roughly 3 hours, but wasn't disappointed in the 3:10 pace because once you get to the top of this monster hill, there is probably about 3 miles of very runnable terrain.  Time spent in this AS was a tad longer at 10 minutes, but that was to fill up my bottle pack and get some more gels and the always popular grill cheese sandwich.  Although, having been deprived of my starting coffee, I should've gone in that direction.

After climbing Heisman hill, named after the local man who has a trophy named after him, I pretty much had the wheels fall off my bus. Near the top section is a group of rocks that you walk through and then hit the trail and it becomes a nice, fairly smooth track. Stepping over one small rock, I landed on another one and my foot slipped off it and when it hit solid ground again, the jarring throughout my entire lower back was pretty gnarly.  I stretched it for a few minutes, tried running for a little, but the knot in my back wouldn't release.

So what to do?  Figuring that I had to head back to the school, start/finish, for my truck anyway, I might as well do it as fast as I could, even if I had to walk real fast to do it.  And off I set.  Surprisingly, I didn't have a lot of people passing me, and when I did, they stayed with me for awhile. A girl finally caught up with me, she was doing the 100K and had screwed up her ankle and was more pissed than disappointed.  She had been a Marine, and her boyfriend was running the 100 mile.  Her own running resume was pretty impressive though.  We spent the better part of 7 miles together when she took off a half mile before AS #3.

Leaving AS 3 for home, having spent almost 15 minutes chatting with the very helpful, very cheerful group there, I made the 2 last big climbs fairly easily, wondering if maybe I could run again.  The next 1/4 mile pretty much told me I couldn't and that's when I met up with Greg.  Greg lived in my town for a long time.  We went to the same University, and we were going to spend the next 7-8 miles together walking a pretty decent pace.  It was also where I started to get real stupid in my future plans.

Nearing the last 2 miles, at the trail head, Greg was explaining that he pretty much power walked the 100K.  He did make the caveat that you just couldn't walk the entire 62 miles, it needed preparation and some running, but if you weren't pressed for time, could be done in a 24 hour period.  We separated at the end, Greg would go on to finish in 23 hours, and I finished up in 8:30, or something close, I quit looking at my watch after awhile, and didn't turn it off until I took it off for the shower.

FINALE:  This is a hallmark year.  I really love this race.  It's a well organized event, with a world class RD in Tom Jennings, a decent ultra runner himself, and a volunteer organization that I would be hard pressed to find better.  But, I just can't do the same thing over and over again.  At some point, I either have to move up, or move on.  Having talked to Greg, and put the bug into my brothers ear, I'm leaning toward the 100K next year.  There is a completely different mindset at work with this one. I have until March to figure it out.

On On