Monday, March 16, 2009

Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me. . . Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”
II Timothy 4:17

The Lord has certainly stood with me and strengthened me over the past couple of years; He has allowed me to accomplished feats that I thought were impossible and for this I give Him great thanks. He has also brought me to a point where I can look past my pride and stubbornness, listen to my body and know when it is telling me that it has had enough for the day. This is what happened on Saturday at the Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K and the lion that I was delivered from was called “Sherman’s Gap”.

The day started out great with temps in the high 30s. There were about 70 of us grouped together in the Signal Knob parking lot at the north end of the Massanutten Mountains, when “go” was shouted and off we went down UP the trail. The first three miles or so of the run was straight up the mountain to Meneka Peak, the pace was good and I found myself running with John Cassilly and Jack Kurisky (who would eventually come in 3rd and 4th). We made our way across the ridgeline and down to the first aid station at about 7 miles. Thanks to Quatro and the others volunteers for hiking the support into the remote aid station (you’ve gotta love VHTRC Fat Ass events).

We continued down the sidewinder trail for a couple of miles and then started the 2nd climb up Mudhole Gap. This is a great section of the course with a lot of runnable uphill trail. The stream was low this year so it was pretty easy to keep the feet dry. The Mudhole Gap trail met back up with the orange blazed Massanutten Trail and turned into a very steep climb for about a mile, bringing us to the 11 mile “critical turn” point. Even though Mike Bur provided a stern warning about this turn, I some how missed it and took our merry band of three down the west side of the mountain. Having run this last year the downhill just didn’t seem right after a half mile or so, unfortunately, John and Jack had pushed on ahead before I yelled out that we I had made a wrong turn, so back up the extremely steep and un scheduled trail we climbed. This was a good 20 minute mistake.

Once on the “proper” blue blazed trail the beauty of the Massanutten’s shined through, ROCKS. This is a very slow and tedious section that is littered with rocks of all sizes. This went on for about 3 miles until we descended back onto a fireroad and started the 3rd climb up to Signal Knob. At the top, I stayed on the road and neglected to follow the orange blazes for the short detour to the Signal Knob Overlook (Sniper, I will not make the same mistake next year). The trail continued back up to Meneka Peak and back across the ridgeline. It was at this time that my body was starting to tell me that I might be asking for to much. Although I never got sick, my stomach was starting to turn and my legs were feeling the effects of the Seneca Greenway 50K the week before.

By the time I got down the mountain and into the 22 mile aid station I was certain that I didn’t need to continue and take the risk of breaking anything at this point in my training. So I called it a day and headed back to the Signal Knob parking lot. No regrets about stopping early, it was the right decision for the way my body was feeling. I have the Bel Monte 50 miler in two weeks and to push myself to hard would have been unnecessary and unproductive. I am trying to keep my eye on the goal for this year and that is under 24 hours at Western States 100.

As in every event, I learned more about my physical conditioning each run. This race showed me that I still have worked to be accomplished and through the strength and determination that God gives me, it will be done. Thanks to Quatro and Bur and all of the VHTRC volunteers, you put on a great show, I look forward to next year. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 9-15 Mar: Weekly Mi (44.2), Monthly Mi (90), Yearly Mi (451.2)

Mon: 5.7 mi / 50 mins - Crossramp
Tues: Off
Wed: 7.5 mi – WO&D Trail PM Run Commute (Tempo)
Thurs: 8 mi – WO&D Trail AM Run Commute (Fartlek) / Abs
Fri: Off
Sat: 23 mi - Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K
Sun: Off

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Seneca Creek Greenway 50K

"Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6

Saturday, 7 March, I ran the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K which started n Damascus, MD and finished 31ish miles later at Riley’s Lock on the Potomac River. We could not have asked for a better day to run, the temps started out in the mid 60s and rose up into the middle 70s. It was hard to believe that there was 7 inches of snow on the ground just days prior to this run. This race was sponsored by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) and they did an awesome job in taking care of about 300 runners all day. The MCRRC was taking care of active duty military by offering us free entry into this race, thanks for the support.

This was a point to point run, starting at Damascus Regional Park in Maryland and heading mostly south to the Potomac River. It was a net downhill run with some pretty good size hills in between, but for the most part it was an easy running trail. This was my 3rd race of the year and with the incorporation of some speed training in my workouts I wanted to use this race to test my fitness level, so I intended to run this race pretty hard.

We started out at 0800. The first mile of the course was on a paved park trail that went downhill to Seneca Creek, this gave me the opportunity to really over extend my limits and push out to hard, but the temperature was good, my legs felt great, what could possibly go wrong? After about a mile we jumped onto the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail (SCGT) and headed down stream. The trail continued with the downhill theme with the exception of a couple of small hills thrown in for good measure. I continued to run at about an 8 – 8½ minute per mile pace, the trail was in great shape and the miles were clicking by pretty easily. I got to the first aid station (~7 miles) in 56 minutes and met my Mom, who was crewing for me all day, grabbed a water bottle refill and kept on truckin’.

It was about 5 miles to the next aid station and I kept on pushing hard, reaching it in 39 minutes, refilled, and was on my way to the Clopper Lake aid station. Clopper Lake is the point where the 50 K runners and the Marathon runners part ways, with the 50Kers doing a 3.5 mile lap around the lake and then continuing south on the SCGT. I reached the lake (~15 miles) in 2h:14m and was still feeling pretty good, although I could tell the pace was starting to slow. The loop around the lake took about 34 minutes and offered great views the entire time. So I came back to the lake aid station, picked up some fuel from my Mom and started back down the SCGT. At this point I had completed just over 18 miles in 2h:47m and was feeling pretty good, that was about to change.

About 2 miles prior to Clopper Lake, wooden mile markers started to appear on the trail, counting down the distance to Riley’s Lock and the end of the race (so I thought). The last mile marker I had seen prior to the lake was mile 13½, so it was no surprise that the first marker I passed as I re-entered the SCGT was mile 13. Simple math for Marines 13+18=31 (50K), no so fast Cowboy this is Maryland and apparently they do math differently.

Mile 13 to 12 went well and I ran it in just over 9 minutes. I hit the lap counter on my watch and kept on moving. After running for quite a while without seeing another mile marker I thought that either I had missed it or it was vandalized but what I did not expect was that after 23 minutes of running to see mile marker 11½. Apparently the course left the SCGT for a couple of bonus miles and rejoined just prior to the 11½ mile remaining marker. Psychologically this hit me like a brick wall and I had a very difficult time reconciling the extra distance in my mind, I was prepared to see a 9½ mile remaining marker. I immediately noticed a slow down in my pace and the rest of the race was a slog to get to the finish.

I came into the last aid station about 20 minutes later than I predicted grabbed some water and started toward the finish which was about 6½ miles away. The pace during this section was run at about 12 minutes per mile and my head was still playing tricks on me. I finally reached River Road and knew that there was less than a mile left. I crossed the finish line in 5h:32m and was told that I finished in 25th place, I’m not sure how many completed the 50,the final results are not out yet, but there were 192 signed up for it.

After the race there was a great lunch buffet that was set up with plenty of food and drink. Overall the race was organized great, the volunteers were awesome, weather was perfect, and the trail could not have been in better condition. I was truly amazed by the impact of the mile markers. The perception of what was expected and what occurred nearly shut my body down. I ran a full range of emotions trying to figure out how to process 2 additional miles, knowing full well that my body could easily absorb that distance my mind was not willing to accept it and my anxiety overcame my physical condition. I believe that course familiarity is a great advantage when running ultras, it goes a long way to eliminating surprises. I think that my conditioning is about where it needs to be and I am going to continue to add speed training to my weekly routine. March is a busy month for races, I have a total of three. The next event is this Saturday, Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K, by Front Royal, VA. Run Strong.
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 2-8 Mar: Weekly Mi (45.8), Monthly Mi (52.8), Yearly Mi (406.9)
Mon: 7 mi – Rancho Penasquitos Canyon
Tues: Off
Wed: Off
Thurs: Precor EFX 546 CrossRamp (5.8 mi / 50 mins) / Pull Ups and Abs
Fri: Off
Sat: Seneca Creek 50K(+)
Sun: Off

Thursday, March 5, 2009

California Runnin’

Wow! What a great week of vacation in San Diego, CA. My wife and I were lucky enough to spend 5 days in San Diego with some very dear friends and had great time catching up and of course enjoying some fantastic running. San Diego is known for some of the best weather in the country and this past week it did not disappoint, temps were in the 70’s with a couple of days hitting the 80’s. I almost felt bad when I would call back to check in with the kids here in Virginia. . . almost.

We were staying just a little north of San Diego in Escondido and I had easy access to some great trails. On Thursday, I had a great 20 mile run on the middle section of the Coast to Crest Trail. After training for 2+ years in Virginia, it was amazing to run on trails that had no rocks. The Coast to Crest Trail follows the San Pasqual Valley, this valley was almost completely burned out about 2 years ago by wildfires and the damage is still very evident with scarred eucalyptus trees throughout the valley. But life blooms anew and the abundance of early spring wildflowers made for a beautiful run. The relatively flat and rock free trail led to a faster pace that left me a little sore the next day.
Saturday, I was able to cover the Lakes Hodges portion of the Coast to Crest Trail prior to heading to my Godson’s baseball game. This was another great trail and the run totaled about 13 miles. After running in cold weather for about 5 months it was awesome to feel the heat of the sun and generate a good sweat. During the rest of the visit I was able to have a couple of great runs with one of best friends; you can’t buy time together like this. We ran trails around Poway lake and had a great run in Rancho Penasquitas Canyon. I believe that the running bug has overtaken Randy, as he mentioned a couple of times to me that he was thinking about running the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego this summer. Here is the link, the time to sign up is now. Randy, thanks for the company, it was good to run with you again.

So the California trip ended a good month of running and I topped the 200 mile mark for the first time this year. The incorporation of some Fartlek training is making a difference in my overall conditioning. I plan to continue with the Fartlek training as well as starting some tempo runs. I am running in the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K on Saturday, with the intent of running hard. I would like to use this race to measure were I am physically and assess what areas I need to concentrate my training on. I will be providing a race report early next week. Run Strong!

God Bless and Semper Fi,
Training for 23 Feb-1 Mar: Weekly Mi (44.2), Monthly Mi (202.7), Yearly Mi (361.2)

Mon: Off
Tues: Lift and Abs / Precor EFX 546 CrossRamp (5.7 mi / 50 mins)
Wed: Off
Thurs: 20 mi – Coast to Crest Trail
Fri: 5.5 mi – Lake Poway Trail
Sat: 13 mi – Coast to Crest Trail (Lake Hodges)
Sun: Off
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