Tuesday, October 21, 2014

JB's CanLake 50 race review

Last year, Kelly signed us up for a half marathon a few months out.  I told her she was crazy, since we hadn’t been running a LOT, but hey – it’s nice to have a goal.  Despite kidney stone surgery for me in the middle of training, the race went well.

I trumped her in 2014 by signing us up very early for a Spring half-marathon and a September marathon.  Long runs kept getting more enjoyable during training, and what I thought were long distances before (6-8 miles) became enjoyable midweek runs!  I challenged myself in June with a trail 30k named Hell Hath No Hurry in Pittsburgh and finished it on sweat, stubbornness and PB&J.  I’d highly recommend that race, it was a blast!

After the trail 30k, I couldn’t get the idea of a 50k ultramarathon out of my head.  Ultra runners were crazy friendly (and crazy), supportive and impressive.  50k, 50 miles, 100 mile stickers on their cars…and multiple stickers?  I love it!  I decided to look for a relatively local one and found the CanLake 50, a road 50k and 50 miler.  Kelly was up for it, so I got us on the wait list, continued training and started to hope it would work out.  The race director (Gil) is an awesome communicator via email and by having a great website, and following the race on Facebook I couldn’t help but get excited about it.  We lucked out and knew we were officially in the race before we even ran our marathon.  All of a sudden, my September bucket list 26.2 mile race was now a training run for something bigger!

I was nervous the night before.  We drove the 3 hours from Erie to the starting area of the 50k, a boat launch on the Canandaigua Lake.  We drove the course and it looked innocent enough at first.  Some rolling roads through the countryside, some nice country roads and then uh…wow.  Hills.  Hills like we don’t have in Erie PA!  Our plan was to walk the hills anyway and run the flats and the downhills, so ok, no big deal.  Wait, are we still going up?  Oh good, it flattened out, then turn left.  Look up, now that’s a HILL!  

We got to the Finger Lakes Community College and registered, got our bibs and sweet race shirts.  I'm sure I wasn't friendly enough to everybody that night and the next morning, I was pretty nervous. 

That ride had done nothing to calm my nerves but we were committed.  We drove 40 minutes north to our hotel near Rochester, and got a pasta dinner up the street.  As it turns out the hotel is apparently in the running for the least soundproof Courtyard Marriott in America award.  We were awakened by some stupid drunks at 1:00am that didn’t shut the hell up until 2:00am.  Why not just stay at the bar if you want to be a loud drunken idiot?  But I digress.

Up the next morning and hit the road south, we had just missed the start of the 50 milers and saw about a dozen of them running by.  Pre-race time in the warm lobby of the FLCC was a blessing.  After an anxious bus ride we were at the boat launch again.  Starting at the opposite end of the boat launch and running away from the direction of the race is so disconcerting!  Turn left and off we go for real.  

Nice view for the start, huh?

Kelly and I plodded along at our planned pace and felt fine.  I was overdressed and ended up taking my jacket off around mile 5.  No big deal, I stuffed it in the top of my Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest (which I’d highly recommend).  

Here we are at the turnaround:

Around mile 10 my chest started to tighten up, I just couldn’t get a full breath.  It took 3 miles for that to work itself out, which was really concerning considering how much further we needed to run.  Kelly was awesome though.  She slowed down for me, talked me through it and kept me focused.  That chick is a rock.

50 mile runners were passing us and looking strong, that’s motivational!

Some nice views:

I especially like this one. :-)

We finally got to the aid station on the lake and refueled again.  We knew the hills were coming so we wanted to be ready.  We walked, we ran, we walked…it’s a long hill.  Then at the left turn it just seems to go straight up. More walking.  Next year, I’ll be much more ready for the hills – they definitely kicked my ass.  Our goal of a 6 hour 50k was starting to look bleak after the slow miles because of my breathing and these hills.  Finally, we conquered the hill – wow!  A great aid station and just 11ish miles to go. 

At the midpoint of the hill, looking down:

And looking waaaaaay up:

Sadly, only one of our drop bags was at this aid station and we both were looking forward to a shoe & sock switch.  I’m not sure where Kelly’s drop bag ended up but we didn’t see it until after the finish.  Probably my fault, I put it in the right box but didn't realize I had to label it with the aid station too. 

We settled back in to a run/walk routine, walking when we had to.  I’m sure I could get into more detail on the race and views but they’re escaping me right now.  I was so focused on relentless forward progress (great book, by the way).  We wanted that medal badly!

Somehow over 50k, Kelly never whined once.  I think I probably did enough for both of us. 

We knew we were close, then we were directed to take a hard right.  When we saw the dead end at the end of the road, it felt like a cruel joke.  I was really glad to see the familiar white arrows directing us around it.  Then the grassy downhill seemed even more cruel!  We finally saw the finish line and finished our first 50k.  6:50:46.  I couldn’t be more proud of my wife, she’s just relentless when it comes to getting what she sets out for. 

I seriously have trouble calling myself an ultramarathoner.  I don’t feel like one yet.  I watched so many people do the 50k and the 50 miler and make it look so much easier that I’m not sure I’ve registered that I did indeed cover the miles.

It was a tough run, physically and mentally.  I never would have thought I could cover 31 miles on two feet, even a couple of years ago.  Now all I can think about is the next ultra.

Gil, I think if the arrows on the road were yellow and you had pretzel M&M’s, I could’ve improved my time by an hour. ;-)  Just kidding!  The race director Gil is top-notch.  The race is REALLY well run.  The aid stations are fantastic.  The volunteers are my heroes.  I had an older couple see me struggling to refill my bottle with Tailwind at an aid station and they came running over, did it for me and made sure I got my hydration vest back on.  I’m sure I didn’t express just how much I appreciated their help (though I tried).  Every aid station was loaded though and every volunteer was bending over backwards to help and cheer you on.  Pringles and PB&J rule!

This is a great race, worked by great people and filled with amazing, supportive runners.  The views are wonderful, the leaves are changing, the lake is gorgeous.  If you haven’t done the CanLake50, do it.  If you have, do it again.  Just say “go JB!” as you pass me in 2015!  We had already decided that we wanted to do the 50 miler before we had even untied our shoes from the 50k.

Thank you to everyone involved in the CanLake 50 – you’re awesome.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Erie Marathon

26.2 miles in 2014, we finished!  Full review to follow soon. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Running name

Running legend Micah True was Caballo Blanco. I am officially staking claim to my own endurance running name:  Goofballo Blanco. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hell Hath No Hurry trail race review

Last weekend, I ran in the 2nd Hell Hath No Hurry trail race in Pittsburgh, PA. It's a 10k loop in Settler's Cabin park. I did the 30k (18.3 miles), but they also had a 10k, 50k and a 50 miler. 

This was my first trail race and I really enjoyed it. I'll admit that it was brutal though!  

Some pics of the trails that I took while I was running:

Some of the pics are fuzzy because, well, I was running. 

There were some brutal sections, especially because of the rain earlier in the week. One section was steep, muddy, long and flowing water. Anyone who ran it knows exactly what section I'm talking about!  The steep grassy uphill toward the end was particularly tough for me in the hot sun. All in all, it was a great trail though, it had some of everything!

This is the trail map and elevation map:

And this is me at the end, in 5:02:46:

They do a really nice job organizing this race, I'd highly recommend it. I'll be there next year. The trail was really well marked. The volunteers were awesome, the aid stations were great. I can't wait to do it again!

I love how encouraging and friendly trail runners are, it's very different from road races. 

Plus, how cool is the trophy?

If you've never run a trail race and you're on the fence, give the 10k a try. Otherwise, run a long one!  I'd highly recommend this race, it's a great time.  Everything you need to know is on www.hellhathnohurry.org or follow the race on Facebook. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Running: one wrong turn…well two, and lessons learned

I had planned to make a Facebook post about yesterday’s run, but it would have been far too long.  So here goes:

We were driving back from Pittsburgh to the Erie area and I need to get a long run in to stay on my training plan.  The idea was to have my wife drop me off about 15 miles from home and I’d run back.  Here’s how the conversation went with my boys:

What are you doing, Dad?
Mom is dropping me off, I’m going to run home
How far?
15 miles.
How long will that take?
I’ll see you in  two and half hours.
Ok.  Bye!

I love that dropping their dad off on a highway exit to run home for hours doesn’t faze them!

I knew it was going to rain, so threw my iPhone in a sandwich bag.  I had no idea how HARD it was going to rain though.  I grabbed my water bottle, jumped out, tightened the Lace Locks (love these, by the way) on my distance running shoes (Altra Olympus - love those MORE) and started running.  Not even one mile in it started raining.  At two miles, it started POURING.  I love running in the rain so it wasn’t a big deal…yet. 

At the 3 mile point I’m running up Route 98, a two lane stretch with a 55 mph speed limit and about 3 feet of running room on the side.  I realized that no one moves over for runners, probably only 4 vehicles out of the 200+ that passed me moved over at all.  Every other vehicle sprayed me with cold water or actually splashed me from resting water on the road.  That which doesn’t kill you…

At mile 6 nature called so I took a side road that I know swings back toward 98.  It was still absolutely pouring rain.  I had heard thunder in the distance earlier but a lightning bolt slammed down on the other side of the trees (way too close!) and I sprinted up a driveway, speaking loudly so the homeowner knew that the guy going onto his porch in a torrential downpour was harmless.  I stood under his porch under some cover and had a great chat with this older gentlemen, explaining that I was training for a marathon, running from Edinboro to Fairview and that the lightning scared me onto his porch to either wait out the storm or get picked up.  He was great.  We chatted for 10 minutes while I surfed the Weather Channel app and texted my wife.  I realized that the giant red storm cell had passed and other one would dip south of me, so I decided to forge on.  After he told me I was crazy to be running in this weather, I thanked him and ran off…in the wrong direction at the Y in the road.  Tired, wet, discombobulated…I don’t know.  I realized my mistake about a mile up the road and should have turned around but didn’t.  The road turned to dirt and I waited for a right turn to take me back to 98.  A right turn never showed up and I realize now that I was actually running northwest instead of north. 
Here's the route:

Here's where I messed up:

I came to an intersection around mile 10 that I kind of recognized but couldn’t get my iPhone to center on my location through a wet sandwich bag so I made the choice to go straight.  Wrong!  At mile 11 I waved down a nice but untrusting lady at an intersection who barely cracked her window and I asked her where I was.  When she said Girard I knew I was in trouble!  I asked her how to get to Fairview and she told me I should turn around, which seemed like a crappy option, it was at least 3+ miles back to the friendly older gentleman – in retrospect, not a bad option!  I asked where the road she was going on goes and she said it would end near downtown Girard.  I figured I’d at least know where to tell my lovely wife to come get me if I could make it to Girard instead of trying to explain where I was in the middle of nowhere, so off I went, glancing back to notice the lady shaking her head.

At this point I still had no idea where I was.  The temperature had dropped from 78 to 62.  I plodded on.  Close to mile 12 I recognized a turn and knew where I was finally, and it was far from home!  At 12.5 miles I passed the kennel that we had kept our dog in last night.  I stopped and called my wife and asked her to pick me up in 25 minutes and gave her my general direction. Thank goodness my wife is a runner too and she understand me!  I had basically missed our house by about 6 miles.

As soon as I finished my 15 I started my cool down walk, and a very nice lady and her teenage son stopped and said “It’s pouring, do you need a ride?!”  How sweet is that?  I told them I just finished my run and had a ride coming but I really appreciated it.  Who offers to pick up a shirtless, soaking wet guy on the side of the road?  The kid said “crazy” under his breath and off they went.

Kelly pulled up a few minutes later and off I went to hot shower.  What relief!

Crazy?  I don’t think so.  It was challenging, it was enjoyable, it was an experience, it was a much needed long run and it was 23 seconds per mile faster than I planned for 15 miles.  Success!

Some lessons I can share:

  • Have a backup plan. Have a phone and someone you call to save you if you get lost or the weather turns bad.
  • Plan a route and stick to it.
  • Bring proper gear. Any rain gear would have massively improved that run.
  • If you don’t stick to the plan, turn around and take the road you know instead of trying to plot a new path on unfamiliar roads.
  • If you’re driving past a runner or bicyclist, give them some space if you can and slow down, especially in the rain. Yes, he’s crazy for being out there in the first place, but let’s not make it worse for our fellow man. Running on the road is a joy, but when you get passed by just a few feet, it’s scary no matter what the weather is like. If the runner happens to trip, you have no margin for error if you’re hauling ass 3 feet away in your big ol’ truck. I promise, you’ll get where you’re going almost as quickly if you slow down just a bit.
  • There are some really nice people out there. I got to meet a few of them yesterday. I hope they smile when they tell the story of the crazy guy running in the pouring rain.
  • I love running.

Keep running!