So...finally I found some time to blog about the past 6 weeks post the Ice Age 50 Miler. Life doesn't lend a helping hand when there are only 24 hours in the day. In the past, I was an afternoon runner on the weekdays, however, with Evan partaking in organized sports for the first time, I needed to sacrifice my afternoons to be a better father. It helps that there is a "large" supportive group of ultra runners in the area who train at..what some would call...absurb hours of the morning. "Large" refers to anything greater than 1. 'Cause as an ultrarunner, averaging 10-12 miles starting at 4:45-5:00am isn't considered normal. It is hard to convince anyone else otherwise. By the way...Johnny Cash was f$&cking cool!! (Watching Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison documentary). Well, Jason Wiley doesn't need any convincing. This MOFO is crazier than me. And that is hard to pull off! Jason has been running solo during the wee hours of the morning and it is only recently (i.e. the past 8 weeks), that I have been joining him. Daily we meet for an easy 10-11 miles on Monday at 5am from Oaks. Tuesday consists of a freaking tempo or something quick totalling 10-11 miles. This past week was 3 x 2 miles with 3min rest. Man I've lost some speed, but was still able to run the last 2 mile at 11:37. Considering that I used to do these things at 5:20 pace, that's not too bad for an ultrarunner at 5am. Wednesday typically takes us on the "Goat run" up the Perkiomen trail. Since Jason is really the only reader of my blog, I don't need to explain this one. Thursday typically takes us on the only real hills in the area in Valley Forge Park, Mount Joy and Mount Misery. A complete loop is ~3.8 miles with 750 ft of elevation gain. I done 8 in one session for a total of 6000' for 31 miles. Not a bad 50K. There's an idea!!! Hmmm! Anyway, where was I.
Oh....Laurel Highlands "race" report. I decided to run LH77 mile after failing to qualify for one of the remaining WS100 spots at the Ice Age trail 50 mile. Not that I really think I could have grabbed one of those spots when you have to run against Zach Gingerich, Lon Freeman, and Glen Redpath, but you gotta try. Laurel Highlands is a point to point race on the extremely difficult Laurel Highlands trail including 11,389' elevation gain and approximately the same amount of loss. With the race taking place in the middle of June, temperatures typically start in the mid-60s, however, rise over the course of the day to the mid-80s or more, with the typical high humidity of the northeast. Last year, I opted for the 50K event (my first non-fat ass Ultra) and took 1st place, uncontested, by 6 minutes. I learned a thing or two from going harder in the 50K race, that made me treat the course with respect the 2nd time around. Others may not have given the course the same respect that I did and paid for it in the end. Since this 77 mile race was an "unplanned" stop on my race calendar, I decided to use a extremely minimal taper. 2 weeks before (Memorial day weekend), I logged 70 miles from Saturday to Monday for a weekly total of 120 miles. With 1 week remaining until LH77, I decided to take it easier during the week, only logging 40 miles from Monday to Friday with Friday as a travel day and off-day from running. Adding on top of that the LH77, pretty much gave me back to back 120 mile weeks. This is mileage my legs aren't quite used to anymore, not since training my ass off for Philly Marathon in 2007 when I averaged 93 miles/week for the year (Took the last 6 weeks off following Philly). Anyway, my "taper" wasn't going to do me any good the day of the run, however, I am hoping the strength and knowledge that I gained from LH77 helps me toward my Vermont 100 goal ( 2 weeks from now...Yikes!!!). I am in taper mode now for that one. Hence the reason I am writing this "report" and not out running, especially tonight when my wife is consoling her friend (husband is cheating) and the kids are at my parents (who were out Roes-watching in Juneau the past couple weeks). I think they saw him dodging a porcupine on the trail. Anyway...my writing sucks, but I dont' think I need to plan things out to write something that will probably be used against me when they try to commit me.
So...back to the story....LH77 would be my longest run ever, with my previous best of 100K. 15 miles doesn't seem like much, but when it's after a 62 mile warm-up, it's like running with a monkey, orangutan, and gorilla on your back. My wife (Eleftheria) and I drove out to Confluence, PA and stayed in a nice house. Confluence is only about 10 miles from the start in Ohiopyle, right on the Youghigoney (sp?) river. The race started at 5:30am and I was off at a blazing 9 min mile. Respecting the course. I was in about 10th place or so. Others were not respecting the course. The first 9 miles includes over 3000 ft of elevation gain with only about 1500 ft descent. Last year I covered it in about 1:27. This year, I hit 10 miles in about 2 hours. Respecting the course! After 10 miles the course "flattens" out a bit and your able to infuse some "speed" into the legs up to about 8-9 minute pace. The rocky terrain keeps ya honest. At the first checkpoint of 19 miles, I was only 8 minutes out of 1st. Respecting the course and in good position to make strides over the next 58 miles. I reached the 50K turnoff about 23 minutes slower than last year and reached the 2nd checkpoint, gaining 2 more minutes on the leader (Dan Rose) with Andrew Bartle running in 2nd only 2 minutes up. Despite what some others may have thought.....this race wasn't in the bag. Still another 47 miles to go, with temperatures rising and another 5000' of gain to go. As I left each aid station, Derek Schultz would enter only about 1-2 minutes back. Derek is an up and coming ultrarunner who lives close to me, but I hardly ever get to train with, since he runs at about 8pm. His training seems to be going well for Pine to Palm under the hired hand of Ian Torrance. I don't understand why anyone would pay $125/month for training advice....when I will give it for free.....Run...Run...Then Run some more!!! At an aid station around mile 38, I decided to work with Derek to chase down Dan and Andrew. Figuring we were only 5 minutes in the rear, it shouldn't take too long to catch up to them, knowing they expended vast amounts of energy running faster earlier on the difficult terrain. As a side note, Andrew was the only real competition on my radar having run 6:11 or something at Tussey Mountainback. We do have similar road times for the marathon. Anyway, it was at this point when I hit my first setback of the day. A lack of energy sucked away from me on the detour. For some reason, I couldn't keep the pace with Schultz. Tired legs from no taper???? Lack of calories???? Hate running other peoples races???? I slowed to a walk for a couple minutes and tought about the WS100 Geoff Roes Comeback. I started doubling my calorie intake and felt a boost of energy within a mile. Soon enough, I was back to running 9 min pace up the hill toward mile 44 aid station, only to find that my the directions were horrible for crew access and my wife didn't make it there. So, no Ensure...no Endurox...no more S!CAPS!...Oh, well...after checking with the vollie, I found out that I only lost 3 minutes on Derek in my incapacitated state. I started running well and soon caught Dan Rose trotting along on the trail. I asked if everything was alright and he responded something about his hammy. Tough break. Respect the course. Within a few minutes I caught and past Andrew Bartle suffering from dehydration. Tough break...Respect the course. At mile 48-52, I succumbed to another tough spell. Dehydration, lack of calories, tired, all of the above. Taking ~1hr to cover those 4 miles seemed like a lifetime. When I reached the next aid station at 52, I was so happy to see my wife. I chugged down 2 bottles of Ensure (500 calories) and took 3 S!CAPS. Refilled everything I needed and charged after Derek, although now I was 6 minutes down. A vollie or observer commented that the next several miles were runnable. I started moving "nicely" 8-9 minute pace. Hoping to be gaining on Derek. However, I would reach the next checkpoint another 11 minutes in the rear and a total of 17 minutes down. The race was just about over. I kept pressing on and would reach the next aid station at mile 68 only about 14 minutes down. I was gaining on him!!!!! It's now or never. I left the aid station literally screaming down the trail. Pysching myself up for what hopefully would be a quick 9 miles with the last 3 miles of decent (~1200ft). The trail was runnable, so I was able to move at 7:30 pace and everything felt as good as it could feel until I hit the downhill and my downhill legs were shot. I actually had to walk downhill at 18 minute pace for mile 76 and lost anytime that I gained over the last 7 miles. It was a fruitless effort chasing Derek with his fresh legs. I look forward to going head to head at Masochist. But, for now..I need to focus on my first 100 miler at Vermont, followed by UROC in September. It will be nice having a racing break in August. I wil need it, if I am going to toe the line against the likes of Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Karl Meltzer and others...not that I think I will beat them...I just hope to finish with 1 hour of them.
Look for my next race report on the heavily contested Good Neighbor Day 15K on July 4th as a final speed session leading up to Vermont, which should be a fun adventure!!!