Sunday, July 28, 2013

BUS 6 Hour Pajama Romp. Astoria Park, Queens, NY. 7/27.

Last night, I took a ride over to Astoria Park to run for a few hours at the 6 hour race.  I never intended to race it, but I hoped to get at least 3 hours in before my body had enough.  I had gotten up at 4:30 am Saturday morning and ran 15.5 miles of trails.  Once I got home, I did some stuff, like maintain my garden, clean the bathroom, play with my dog, etc... before taking off for Queens at 3:15 pm.

I wanted to test out a few things.  First I wanted to see how long I could run after running far in the morning.  I know that dehydration is hard for me to detect and I tried my best to drink after my 15 miler but I just don't feel like I was able to replenish enough fluid.  Although race temps were cooler than they could have been and I was drinking often, I still lost a lot of weight.  Sunday morning I woke up at 113 lbs which is the lightest I have been lately.

I was very pleased to have been able to run as far as I did when starting out so tired.  At one point about 2:30 hours into the run, I felt like I had a shot at staying in it for the whole 6 hours, but by 2:50, I crashed hard and my legs were toast.  The fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I am sure I could have fought harder to stay in this race had the race been more of a goal race for me.  However, I hit 20.3 miles in under 3 hours and decided that distance, plus the 15.5 from the morning, was enough for me for the day.  I really just did not want to pummel myself beyond repair for no great reason.

Another thing I wanted to test out was some new shorts. I bought some new shorts from Brooks which were more like bike shorts (spandex and mid-thigh length) rather than the looser fitting shorter running shorts I normally wear.  Sometimes thigh chaffing is an issue with regular shorts because I have thick thighs, especially in humid summer month. These shorts resolved this issue completely.  I also have a lot of trouble with waist bands putting pressure on my abdomen, which makes me feel crampy during long runs.  These shorts, which I bought one size bigger than I really should, put no pressure on my stomach.  The real truth is I first bought these shorts because I like the plaid print, but they feel so good I already ordered 2 more pairs.

I wasn't sure what shoes to wear.  My Launch are my training shoes and I reserve them for longer ultras. Running for 3 hours, 6 hours max, was short enough for racing flats for me.  However, going in beat up a bit made me decide to not waste mileage on my T7.  My T7's are my go-to racing flat and their life span is not terrible long. It makes no sense for me to pound out 20 miles on this super light shoe when I can save them for a better race and give them a chance to shine :).

Instead, I pulled out a new pair of Pure Connect 2. No way!  New shorts AND New shoes on race day... isn't there some type of  "rule" against this! :) I still brought my Launch and left them at the side of the race course with my cooler bag.   The Connect 2 were really the perfect shoe for this distance and the were problem-free for me the entire time I was out there.  Since the T7's are my marathon to 5k shoe and my Launch are my 24 hour shoe, I am feeling that the Connects are going to work out well for me for the 6 hour to 50 mile distance, although I have worn T7's for those distance without much trouble.

This was also the first long race in over a year I decided to try without taping my feet.  I have been taking my feet since early 2012 for plantar fasciitis.  I have had PF so bad that fibroma (scar tissue nodules) formed in my arches.  The tape was one thing that helped me the most.  I found the preventative taping helped keep my PF at bay.  However, lately I have been very pain free and this month I stopped taping for training.  My feet actually felt fine without the tape after 36 miles today.

I ran the first few miles with Cherie Y. and the next 12 or so with Tim.  It felt great to have company and I was more chatty than I would ever be if I was taking the race more seriously.  Like I mentioned, I was not sure I was actually going to drop out at 3 hours until just minutes before.  I started to track first place chick, who had about 8-10 minutes on me and pondered whether I could stay in this and be competitive.  But after 1-2 more laps, my legs felt heavy and dead and I knew it was because of all the running I did early and I just needed to rest.  There was nothing in me to dig for, so I decided to call it a day.

I wanted to be smart about doing something a bit extreme.  I could have slowed way down to a walk/run and logged a bunch more miles, but I just did not want to risk injury for no real good reason.   Instead, I stopped to chat with Trishul, who has a long history as talented multi-day runner and he is also a massage therapist.  He found another therapist who had a table, they set it up, and Trishul was able to give me a massage that really helped to revive my muscles.  In fact, I felt better after the massage than I had before the run.  My quads had not fully recovered from Running with the Devil last weekend and only after he worked on my muscles did they finally feel pain-free again.

So after the massage, rather than stick around I decided that Sleep was really something I needed.  I headed home to try to get settled in bed as early as possible.  I knew it was going to be rough to fall asleep after a night run. True to form, I was tossing and turning for hours.  However, at least I was off my feet.

As for Stats, all I know is:
- I ran 20.3 miles in about 2:56
- After a slow pace 15.5 mile trail run in the AM
- Giving me close to 6 hours of running and almost 36 miles for the day.
- The shorts were awesome,
- The Connects felt great,
- My plantar fasciitis was ok without tape and
- Swedish Massages by Multi-day runners are the best!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Running with the Devil, 6 Hour Mountain Race, Mt. Creek Resort, Vernon NJ

I might as well sit in bed and write up this race report, seeing that my quads and glutes are so beat up that walking is joke!  I will run at least one mile later, but for now I will enjoy what it feels like to be pain free by not moving.

Yesterday I competed in the 6 hour version of Running with the Devil. There is also a 12 hour as well as a 3 hour.  I always run the 6 hour and feel that the workout I get from 6 hours on that ski slope is more than enough.

Course Description
This race takes place in the hottest time of year.  Yesterday was the last day of a week long heat wave.  It is a 3 mile loop up a ski slope where we climb about 1000 ft per mile to the summit. The worst of the ups occurring in two steep ascents, one being about .3 miles long and straight up to a false summit, then a few tenths later we hit the next shorter but steep up hill to the summit at about 1.5 mile.

At the peak we are greeted with jugs of water, which despite the fact that they are sitting out all day and end up quiet warm, they are just such a happy site to see.  The descent is runnable for those who are not as chicken as I am to haul butt over sections of super steep loose gravel.  My descent speed is an embarrassment. I am sure I could improve my performance significantly if I could gain more confidence on my descent.

I did not upload my Garmin data from yesterday yet, but the course was similar to last year, especially the uphill segments.  The graphs (at least for now) are from last years data.
Multiple loops of the course from 2012. 
The race starts with us first running out of the ski lodge, off of the back deck and then up the first climb.  I tend to hike anything uphill because I know burning my quads/glutes/calves out early on in this race is a bad idea.  This race is an exercise in pain management.

Alanna and me with the first "warm up" up hill behind us
After the warm up hill, we get a short dirt trail break as we make our way over to the worst the course as to offer.  At about .7 miles into the race, we see this pictured below.  I found a two photos on the Running with the Devil FB page that shows the intensity and absurdity of this hill.

It may be hard to tell just how long and steep that hill is because you cant see the top of it from the photos.  Here is graph to help.

The steepest longest climb

After that stretch, we get a nice, but somewhat rocky dirt trail, that is runnable if your quads don't feel like chop meat and you arent afraid to lose your teeth.  After that reprieve, we hit the second shorter climb, possible steeper in some places, to the summit.  Finally we reach the ski lift where water awaits us.

The decline begins kindly with a nice grassy trail, that soon start to pitch steeper as we head down.  The very dry dirt paths were a bit precarious due to the the loose gravel.  I was able to run most of the decline straight through on my first lap (making sure to run a complete consecutive mile) and found that  about 1.3 miles of non-stop running was possible for me on fresh legs.  As the laps went on, I choose to hike over some of the loose gravel where the descent were very steep, and still had my feet slip out from under me a few time since my body was too tired to be very stable (I did not fall but it was still uncomfortably jarring).  This is where I lose a lot of time in comparison to my competition.

The final stretch of descent gave us a view of the lodge where spectators can cheer there runners in.  Crew can also begin prepping for their needs if necessary because it will take a few minutes for the runner to get down the hill, under the building's walkway, then up the last incline, onto the porch and into the building where Rick sits timing us.

We run past Rick, through the bar, which is now an aid station managed by Jennifer, and out to the porch before leaving again.

My Race:
I started out slow, because it was not like I actually had a choice.  I was pleased to be able to hike that steep hill non-stop the first 3 times I did it.  But, by lap two the heat was getting to me and I started with ice bandana, which helped.

I initially started with my 16 oz bottle, but I was not going through it all on lap one so I downsized to a 10 oz which was perfect for the first 5 laps. On lap 2 I would drink about almost 10 oz on the way up, but try to run hard down hill drinking less as I moved faster.  By lap 3 I was drinking about 10 oz at my aid station, then filling my bottle to empty on the incline, then drinking another 10 oz at the top, then filling my bottle to drink on the way down.  As you can see, I started with about 10 oz per loop, then as each lap progressed I was up to 40 oz per loop, which is by far the most I have every drank in a race.

The heat was getting to me.  My hands were swelling a lot and I assume it because I was consuming so much fluid that it was running out of places to go.  I did take some sodium (4 E-caps) before I started.  I had no cramping so I did not want to pump in more salt.  I did not see the need to add something to my body that it was not craving and if the salt causes my body to crave more fluid to balance it, then I just don't know where it would be stored.   I had not peed the entire race, despite drinking a ton.  I was sweating most of it out.  However, I did not feel like it was a good idea to drink more than I was since my rings were getting so tight it was uncomfortable.  I found that on the descent, when I drank less, the swelling decreased, while on the ascent when I drank more (almost mindlessly to help stay cooler) my hands would swell.  Had I felt crampy I would have then tried salt, but I prefer to not take it if I dont feel I need it.

Beside the fluids (Gatorade (24 oz total), a half bottle of Mt (6oz total) and the remainder just water), I also found myself feeling hungry twice.  I brought 100 calorie packs of pringles and twice I grabbed a few chips from the pack.  I had half of that pack left at the end of the race.  I find that in 6 hour races and even my last 50 miler, I eat very little as long as I am drinking calories.  I also find I am more likely to drop out of a race if I push in too much solid food.

Kathleen :)
On lap 4, I notice Kathleen W. heading up the first hill while I was refilling my bottle and while Alanna helped me refill my ice bandana.  I knew she was ahead of me, but I had time to reel her in.  Kathleen impresses me so much.  She is a nurse who works 12 hour shift and still finds the time to train when she can in such as way that she is just incredibly fit and strong. She is new to ultra running and will likely turn into a force in this sport if she makes it a priority.

On lap 4, I worked my way up to getting close enough to her on the steep part to wave, but I am not sure she saw me.  By then we were both reduced to the same technique.  Walk a few steps, turn around to face down hill, then turn back walk a few more.  It was a slow motion pursuit. We had hours left, so I didn't want to work too hard to try to pass her and get myself in a hole.  I started to plan out my strategy and hoped to catch and pass her on lap 5.

On lap 5, I headed out and it took half the loop for me to work my butt off to catch her. She asked me where everyone else was.  I just assumed most were done with the 3 hour race or dropped from the 6 hour.  This is a race of attrition.

Despite moving past her at the summit. I was concerned she might pass me back on the down, but I did work extra hard to move as fast as I could.  She did not reel me in and I wasn't sure how far behind me she was.  I found out at the finish that I was 2nd and was told first place was a full lap ahead of me.  I had one more lap in me and figured I could not catch first.  As long as stayed ahead of Kathleen, I would be able to hold second.  At this point, I was feeling like the heat was beating me up and this was now a race for placement.

I headed for the last lap, hoping to have time for a few short loops.  However, the mountain had other plans.  I was stuck on that mountainside like I was in quick sand.  I emptied my bottle very early in the hot sun. I was feeling odd, confused, not well.  I had gotten bit by some large insect on the lap before and started to wonder if that was impacting me.  With my view of the course, I could see not Kathleen.  At this point for me the race was just about finishing lap 6 and holding second.  There was a small chance Kathleen did not come out for her 6th.  There was a small chance that lap 6 could take us both so long that neither of us could do smalls.  As long as I complete 6 before her and neither of us do smalls (of if I do smalls faster than her, I hold my second place). However, I really did not want to head back out for smaller half mile loops.  I needed to stop moving.

After the slowest ascent of my life, feeling like it took me 30 minutes to get up just the .3 miles, I was in really bad shape.  I drank 10 oz od fluid, filled my bottle, and started my final descent.  I started to question whether or not I was on course (because I was feeling that confused). I worried that if I passed out, how long it would take someone to find me.  I slowed my ascent hoping it would keep up upright.

I came down to the finish with 12 minutes left.  I was asked if I wanted to do any short laps.  I tried to formulate a sentence and the unintelligible garbling left me realizing I was simply done for the day. . .  as long as Kathleen does not come in and head out for a short lap in the next few minutes, I will have 6 laps done, a great training run, and secured my 2nd place finish. People were running the loop in under 8 minutes.  It was possible but very unlikely she would have time for a final lap.

I got a cup of ice to help cool me down and clear my head. I sat down with a few friends, mindful of the time, watching the door, and waiting for the clock to tick down so low that I had secured my placement. Sitting just for a minute or so helped me feel a lot better. Then ice did good to cool me down.

Then, with about 9 minutes to spare, Kathleen runs past me, heading out the door for a short lap.  I believe after a string of profanities I cannot repeat here, I jumped up, yelled to Jennifer (one of the RDs) that I was going back out and I bolted out the door behind Kathleen.  This was now exciting!

I really like Kathleen but I didn't want to lose 2nd place b/c I chose to sit down and cool off rather than run the short loop.  As I run up to Kathleen, she was so sweet and said "Omg, I am so done with this."  I laughed and said, "No, you not... you are out here.  I WAS done with this, but now you are making work!" LOL! Clearly exhausted she said "No, I am not... Rick is making me run more!"  To which I countered, "If you are running then I have to run, so Rick is making us both run more! That jerk!" ;)

A few minutes of rejuvenation and the jolt of adrenaline helped to propel me past Kathleen and up the mountainside.  Once at the top, I looked back and knew I was going to beat her through the lap with less than 2 minutes until the end of the 6 hours.  It felt great to find a second wind in that final 9 minutes, I am grateful she gave me a reason to get back out there. I love a good competition!  Turns out that first place female slowed down a bit as well, and I ended up just one mile behind her at the end of the day.   I am not sure if I knew more about her during the race whether it would have mattered at all.  She was likely working strategy for placement like the rest of us.

18.5 miles in 6 hours
2nd place female
5th OA
Prize: Mt Bike passes to the same mountain...(for Sidney). I am done with that mountain until next year.
Weight loss: 5 lbs

Sunday, July 14, 2013

In Pursuit of My Perfect Handheld Bottle / Hydration System

I just ordered two different handheld water bottles and one race vest from Amazon to test out.  I have a long race coming up in the future and I know I will need to carry fluids due to the distance between some of the aid stations. Personally, I prefer to not carry anything in races except for maybe a few calories. I would rather use race supplied aid stations for fluids if the race is the type that does not allow me to access my own aid (like short loop ultras where I just crew myself).

I own a few race vests/hydration packs as well.  They are useful for training when running long without support or aid, but in a fast race I just don't find that I feel swift when I am wearing a hydration pack.  In a race setting, I find the aid stations are usually plentiful enough to allow me to go without the pack.

If racing seriously, I just don't want to be weighed down by a pack or even a bottle if I can avoid it.  For example, at Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug, I ran my fastest 50 mile race carrying nothing.  It was a 7.6 mile loop with 4 aid stations per loop.  I just ran from aid to aid and it was more than enough for me to run a 7:41, finishing first female in that event (coming in 4th OA).

Right now my favorite bottle is a simple 10 oz Sprint bottle (with
Nathan's Quick Shot 
out the pocket) made by Nathan Sports.  It seems that it is now called the Quick Shot.  I have 6 of these bottle.  Some have pockets, some have an insulated wrap. My favorite version has nothing but the strap and the bottle.

After assessing my own fluid consumption, I find that I drink 10oz -30oz per hour depending upon many factors (i.e. how far I am running, how hot/humid it is, how fast I am running, etc.)  For ex, if I am running 6 miles easy on a cool day, I often do not need to take any fluids at all, so carrying 10 oz of water for that run is more than enough. However, when I do speed work on a hot humid day, I have easily consumed up to 30 oz of fluid in one hour.   I know this because I spent a lot of time paying attention, logging what I consume and even weighing in and out after each run to see whether the amount of fluid I was consuming made sense.

Quick Note on sweat test and hydration planning:  Regardless of what you may read elsewhere, the body cannot always replace fluid at the same rate it can sweat it out.  Making an attempt to do so can be dangerous and even life threatening.  According to Noakes, on average a body can process approximately 400 ml to 800 ml of fluid per hour  (13.5 oz to 27 oz per hour) and therefore Dr. Noakes warms that trying to push in substantially more than that amount of fluid can, at worst, create a situation where the brain can swell, which is a very bad thing.  For the most recent resource about hydration, check out Noakes' new text, Waterlogged

So knowing that I consume approximately 10-30 oz per hour, I really dont need to carry alot of fluid if I know I will have a chance to refill within the hour. I love the Sprint bottle for loops that are less than an hour long, for short loop races where I can swap out pre-filled bottles, for shorter runs where I can refill if I need to, etc.  The bottle fits like a glove, it has a valve that simply holds fluid in until you squeeze and the pressure shoots fluid out. There is nothing to open or close.  It is perfect... except in the summer 10 oz is rarely enough, even for a short run of less than an hour.

Nathan's larger bottles, the best I found was the Quick Draw Elite, do not have the valve that I love (no other bottle does that I know of) and only the Quick Draw Elite bottle by Nathans has the same glove-like hand strap but b/c the bottle is 22 oz, it is not as well-balanced as the 10 oz in my hand. Unfortunately this bottle is no longer available on the Nathan's site and instead there is now just a QuickDraw... with a less ideal hand strap, in my opinion.  If you do get your hands on the Quick Draw Elite, you may also find that because the overlapping velcro closure is located on the bottom of the Quick Draw Elite bottle, this makes it hard to stand the bottle up when setting it down somewhere.

Nathan's Vapor Draw Bottle
Since I am a smaller person, with smaller hands, I find the circumference of 22 oz bottle to be too large for my comfort level, so I have been on a mission to find bottle smaller than 22-20 oz that are no of poor quality. (I thought Amphipod, with it's 12 - 17 oz ergonomic bottles, was my answer, but I had too many issues with the quality of their products to even want to try again... not only did the threading around cap wear out creating leaks (twice), the hand strap seams were weak and started to break from the bottle, but not after the zipper closure would repeatedly stick. The whole amphipod system just failed me.)

In a few days I will be testing out a Nathan's Vapor Draw Bottle.  At 24 oz, it is much larger than I know I would be comfortable carrying.  However, I could not resist the unique shape and wonder how that little grey hook thing will help balance it. I find that pouches seem like a good idea, but when ever I put stuff in them it seems to throw off the balance of the bottle making it feel awkward in my hand after awhile.  That little hook thing appears like it will help keep the balance.  I believe the nozzle is a twist nozzle, which I am not sure I will like.  We shall see.

UltrAspire 16 oz handheld.
The other bottle I ordered is an odd shaped UltrAspire 16 oz bottle.   I have high hopes for this bottle because the hand strap looks similar to the Nathan's Sprint.  The stretchy encasement is advertised as "pockets" to store things like gels or other thing that you can squeeze in there, like maybe a baggie of electrolytes?  That could work.  The rectangular shape throws me off a bit.  It seems odd and looks uncomfortable, but if that hand strap is comfortable and holds the bottle secure, the shape of the bottle may not be as relevant.

Finally the last thing I bought was a new ultralight race vest by Nathans 1.5L Minimist Race Vest.  The reviews claim that because the 1.5L bladder just sit in the pocket in the back it bounces too much, but I have some ideas to try to resolve that issue.  I like that fact that this vest has two front closures.  I altered my last Nathans race vest by adding a simple top closure and sliding the factory closure down as low as possible to stop the bounce of the front pockets.  I find I wear that vest more than my hydration pack and I prefer to carry bottles of fluid in the back pocket and when I want to carry them up front, I put them in the front mesh drawstring pocket.  The only problem I have with carrying a bottle of fluid in the lower front mesh pocket of the old Nathan's Race Vest is that the pocket bounces and eventually the incessant tapping of the the bottle against my rib-cage get obnoxious... in addition, if it is hot and I am only in a sports bra, then then mesh itself starts to take on a cheese grater effect. ouch! It always occurs to me half way into a long run that I may want to carry some moleskin and just stick a square of it where the bottle rubs and it would be perfect.

However, because this new pack has two front closures and one being low on the pack, below the bottom of the front pocket that I would use to possible carry a bottle the bounce may be less.  But, since the other race vest has a bungie closure on the pocket, which I use to tighten than tie down the bottles, I am not sure if that front pocket will effectively carry bottles the same way. I also added a second tie down to my race vest to hold down the top of the bottle when I stick it in the pocket.  I may need to do some personal alterations to this one as well to get it to do what I need it to do.

So in a few days, the experimentation begins and hopefully by the end of the summer I will have figured out a system that allows me to carry fluids in a minimally disruptive way.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Belmar 5 miler. Belmar, NJ. 7/13/13

I always like the idea of this race, but I just don't like the start time.  It is so humid along the shore by mid-morning mid-July that I always find myself wishing this race started at 7:30 am instead of 8:30 am.  The last 5 miler I ran was a night race and also quite humid.  I hoped to run a little faster than I did last race.  This race is flat, that one was rolling, so I had a shot.

I got to the race at 7:00 and hoped to run about 5-6 miles before starting (right now I am training through my races so I am not truly showing up race ready), but between parking, packet pick-up, shoe changes, potty breaks, socializing, I ended up with just over 3 miles.  I already knew it was going to be a tough day for me as humidity and I just don't get along.  I know that this is true for most people, but I often feel like it hits me harder than those I generally compete against.  However, running hard in hard conditions for me, even if the time is slow, usually does me a lot of good come fall.

Off we go and I am happy to run with Jim O. and "Guy in Blue" Jamie B. :)  I think of these guys as my race people, the people I look for out there on the course to help me gauge things.  After settling in to a 6:4x pace, I just felt good and wanted to go a little faster.  I hit M1 at 6:37.

I was happy with that.  I felt good and wanted to stay around 6:45's until one mile left.  As long as I was under 6:48's I should be able to beat my last 5 mile time.  M2 6:44.

I felt very much in control at this point, except for the fact that I just did not feel very loose or very peppy.  As I ran through mile 3, I started to feel like I was losing my "umph" ... I wanted to run harder but my body just felt slow and heavy and unresponsive.  I struggled for turn over and felt like I was simply over-heating.  When I was able to douse myself with water, it helped, but only for moments.

My memory from the last time I raced this event was similar.  Between miles 3-4 I recall feeling like I was overheating. Last time I ran it it was much warmer and I remember walking part of mile 4 just to get my heart rate back under control. I remember being quite bummed after that experience.  I always worry about my heart rate in hot weather because I have a minor leak.  Running in the heat always seem to make me very aware of my heat rate.

I slowed down a lot in mile 3, hitting it in about 7:03. I tried to stay positive by focusing on regrouping, using the time to recover so I can find something to dig into later that could bring my pace down.  But as ran through mile 4, I just did not feel any better.  I ran through hoses, grabbed cups to cool me off, but nothing really helped.  I just wanted to be done.  M4 7:05

With the final mile before me, I tried to pick it up, but I had nothing.  I also could not find any good reason to dig in that moment.  This race was just for fun and I felt I was running hard enough for it to be a good workout.  I did not see any women I could catch.  I did not feel I was at risk for being caught.  I just felt Blah, like I was trying to run in a dream where I want to move but I am are stuck.  It did not help me to see the finish line from over .5 miles away.  At one point I recall thinking "Come On... why does it not seem to be getting any closer."

I did my best to stride into the finish strong, but I had already known I was not going to beat my last 5 mile time. I feel like the humidity sapped my mojo and that bummed me out.  M5 6:50

Despite feeling so horrible I only ran about 5 seconds per mile slower than I did last time, so this was not a complete train wreck.   However, I would like to be moving forward not backwards in pacing as I work towards the fall.  Thank goodness I race often, so I can get a do-over soon and get my paces back down into 6:40's or better where I would like to be.

The reality is that even if I race again soon, my paces wont drop until I get stronger and leaner from higher mileage training and the humidity level lowers.  So for now racing is about showing up knowing I will not do a great job and trying to be ok with that by focusing on how this physical and psychological beat down will help me come fall.

Time: 34:21 (6:54)
OA Place: 124 of 2368
Female: 24 of 1162
Age Group: 3rd
Prize: $25 gift card to a local restaurant and $10 cash prize