Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 by the Numbers

As I much as I enjoyed putting the images of my running year together with captions for each, I equally enjoyed crunching the numbers from my season as well. Being an engineer, numbers are like candy for me; I can never get enough of them!

Thanks for all of those who made it possible for the numbers to exist; my wife Laura, my dogs Sirius and Fiina, my sponsors inov-8 and Fleet Feet, my friends (you know who you are) and countless others.

I look forward to an even faster and more adventurous 2010.

My Best Performances
  1. 2nd Overall Dizzy Fifties 50km, 6th fastest time ever on the course (3:53:15) and 149th fastest 50km time in the USA in 2009
  2. 2nd Overall Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race (22/18/20M = 60M)
  3. 1st Overall Bartlett Park 50k, course record (4:07:10)
  4. 2nd Overall McKay Hollow 1/2 Marathon (1:51:51)
  5. 1st Overall Delano 50k, course record (3:53:54)
  6. Sub 3 hour Boston Marathon (2:56:17)
  7. 6th Overall Mountain Mist 4:32:15

  • 39 Races
  • 10 Ultra Marathons
  • 2 Marathons
  • 550 miles of racing
  • 34 Times in the top 10 overall
  • 27 Times in the top 5 overall
  • 17 Times in the top 3 overall
  • 4 overall wins
Personal Records
  • 2 Mile at Winter Winds February 10:48
  • 15km at Monte Sano 15km October 55:40
  • 50km Mountain Mist 50km 4:32:15 (1st time)
  • 50km Black Warrior 50km 4:15:27 (2nd time)
  • 50km Delano Park 50km 3:53:54 (3rd time)
  • 50km Dizzy Fifities 50km 3:53:15 (4th time)
  • 50M Mountain Massochist 52M 8:29:24
  • Hit 4,116 miles in a 365 day period on September 20 (3857 miles in 2009 calendar year)
  • Ran 15,000th career mile on October 24
  • Ran in 20 U.S. states (Alabama, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Washington, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Connecticut, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington DC, Virginia, New Hampshire, Georgia, Mississippi, Vermont, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota)
  • 2nd Overall HTC Gran Prix Open Male
  • Zero (0) rest days
  • Coaching Fleet Feet Mizuno half marathon program
  • Managing Fleet Feet Racing Team
  • Run Across Alabama
  • Earned spot on inov-8 ultrarunning Race Team

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Running Year in Pictures

Let me first say that none of this would be possible without the support of my friends, family, crew, sponsors, dogs and wife. Looking back, I have had an amazing year of running races and adventures across the country as shown by the photos and captions below. I am thankful for each step I take in running shoes and constantly counting my blessings that I am healthy enough for my feet to carry me to these destinations.


Starting the year with a breakthrough personal recording setting performance at Mountain Mist, finishing 6th overall in 4:32:15, I am compelled to run more ultramarathons and my passion for trail running blooms, while starting a series of races where I finish without a shirt begins.


Running in the most beautiful location on earth, I run the coastline from San Diego to La Jolla for 16 miles on the first day of a work conference, ending up at Scripps Park which has amazing sunsets, sea lions and ice cold water for soothing sore muscles.

An opportunity for a long run on the Pacific Crest Trail in the mountains of Southeastern California lands me in the middle of a perfect storm with driving rain and zero visibility and results in severe hypothermia, requiring a 911 call for emergency response, which was thankfully responded to quickly.

Running on mud laden trails through a controlled forest burn of the Sipsey Wilderness during the Black Warrior 50km, I am able to muster enough energy for a late push to lower my best time for 50km to 4:15:27 and finish 4th overall.


On a day where I ran for the first few hours on the 1 mile looped trail at Delano Park with sections underwater, I go on to set the course record and take overall honors with a time of 3 hours, 53 minutes and 54 seconds in shirtless (and arm sleeves) fashion for the picture that would later appear in ultraRUNNING magazine, before resting for a few hours and coming back to pace national class ultra marathoner Jamie Donaldson for 12 miles enroute to her own record setting 78 mile performance.

With fear of a possible cancellation of the race due to torrential downpours right up until the start, I run the modified, more difficult McKay Hollow Half Marathon Course in 1:51:51, hammering the hill climbs, including the final ascent up Death Trail, passing DeWayne Satterfield to take 2nd overall behind David Riddle's Course Record, and notch one of the premier finishes in my trail running career.


Proving that my time at the Dam Bridge 10,000 meter race from November was not a fluke, I am able to hold off a late push by John Nevels to run another sub 35 minute 10k at the 3M River City Run in Decatur, finishing 6th overall in this RRCA Alabama State Championship race.

Dink Taylor and I meet Ryan Hall on Sunday, then on race day, go on to run the first 16 miles at exactly 6:30 pace and despite the taxing Newton Hills, I am able to go on to avenge my lackluster first attempt and break three hours at the Mecca of all marathons, Boston.


Just 12 days after running 2:56 in the Boston Marathon, I test fate and my legs at Strolling Jim 40 in War Trace, Tennessee as we run through a heavy downpour for the first few hours and I go on to finish 8th overall in my first road ultra marathon.

Along with some very good friends, we travel to Sewanne, TN for an adventure run and complete the Perimeter Trail around the campus, accumulating 27 miles of mostly technical single track trail and despite having a map, get lost several times.

After a hectic weekend of preparation for the race with the elite dinner at our house for the second year in a row, I go on to have a lackluster performance at Cotton Row 10k, but still manage to be seeded near the top and get my picture on the cover of Southern Running Journal.

In a carefully coordinated effort, a small group of ultra runners trek from Clingman's Dome at 6600' south along the Appalachian Trail for 34.5 miles to Fontana Lake at 1600' in 10 hours, stopping along the way to take pictures, eat sandwiches, complain about the never ending descent, avoid black bear and find the occasional spring to refill our hydration packs, completing an amazing voyage that was preceded and followed up with primitive camping and enjoyment of adult beverages.


After having flights delayed, then cancelled from Washington to Huntsville, I fly to Atlanta and then drive to Tennessee for the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race, arriving at 2am, just six hours prior to the start of day 1, which leaves me tired and with no mental focus and after leading for much of the way, I miss a turn and get lost resulting in a disappointing 9th place finish.

Leveraging my ability to recover quickly, I make an amazing turn around on the second day of the Stage Race on Raccoon Mountain, running with the lead for 8 miles and later finishing in 2nd place behind only Josh Wheeler coming into the finish swinging my cooling ice towel in the air like a helicopter, moving me up to 4th place overall with a final day of completion to go.

I run out front with Matt Sims from the start and push hard all day, while making some great guesses on the barely marked course on Signal Mountain, coming in 2nd place for the final stage in the stifling heat and make up enough time to earn a 2nd place overall for the entire event before succumbing to utter exhaustion at the finish line, laying down just steps after the end.

Running neck and neck from start to finish with fellow Fleet Feet Racing Teammate Jason Reneau on the technical trails of Cotton Mill Preserve in Fayetteville, TN at the Run for Ella 5k, I finish less than a second behind, not being able to out kick Jason at the end, to finish in second place and run for a great cause.


Day 0 of Run Across Alabama for Elliott Schotz.

Day 1 of Run Across Alabama for Elliott Schotz.

Day 2 of Run Across Alabama for Elliott Schotz.

Day 3 of Run Across Alabama for Elliott Schotz.

I have the opportunity to share in one of the most moving and special moments of my entire life as I participate and help coordinate the 4 day, 183 mile Run Across Alabama for Elliott Schotz with Jon Elmore and Eric Schotz, and on the final day as we near the Mississippi state line, experience something magical as Eric and I are able to overcome immense pain and fatigue to nearly fly for 6 miles as we push each other to the beat of Chumbawumba’s pointed lyrics of “I get knocked down, and I get up again. Ain’t never gonna keep me down.”

The look of pure joy for three men who took on some short term suffering in a journey across the state of Alabama all for an amazing little boy, Elliott Shotz.

To continue with the annual tradition started in 2008 with Joey Butler, I travel to Florence, AL on an unusually cool 50 degree July morning to complete the first half of a double race day by competing in the Shoals Trac Club Da Doo Run Run 5k, finishing 4th overall in 17:05, before heading back to Huntsville to race the HTC Twilight 5k later that night amongst a stellar field of runners, finishing in 17:15 for 8th overall, giving me a combined race time of 34:30 for 10km for the entire day, just two weeks after running across the state.


Returning to the location of my first ultra marathon in August of 2007, Eric Schotz and I hammer the Bartlett Park 50km course amidst 90 degree temperatures and I go on to take the overall win and set the course record by over 50 minutes, finishing at 4:07:10, just minutes ahead of a surging Eric.

Just two weeks after running in hot and humid Tennessee, I compete in the inaugural Marquette Trail 50km along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and run with the lead pack for the first 20 miles before going on to finish 3rd overall on a day where temperatures never made it above 50 degrees and I was able to cross the line with my parents there to see me.


While on a late fall work trip to Vermont, I am able to schedule my travel to accommodate a side trip to run along the historic Long Trail (also doubling as the Appalachian Trail) from Route 4 near Rutland to the summit of Killington Peak and take in some sweeping views of the area from 4000’, while barely having enough time to run back down the technical and rocky trail before night fall.

While on an ordinary trail run along Arrowhead Trail on Monte Sano near the Cistern, Eric Fritz, Rob Youngren and I find Jack, a lost Jack Russell Terrier mixed dog, and after carrying him for an hour back to the Youngren’s home, we employ Kathy’s detective skills to somehow track down his owner through the realtor of a house that they just sold, and I return Jack later that morning to the thankful mom.


Running in my first ultra marathon against national class competition at Stump Jump 50km on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I am able to hold strong early and make a sustained late push starting at mile 20 and create separation on the 2008 Mountain Mist Winner, David Rindt, while later passing a Rock/Creek Race Team member within the final mile to finish 5th overall with a time of 4:44:39, solidifying my position as a competitive 50km trail ultra runner.

Just one week after running a hard 50km trail race, I toe the starting line of the competitive Fleet Feet Monte Sano 15km Road Race, the first event of the HTC Gran Prix Season, bringing out the best runners the area has to offer, and I make a late push through the fog while running the tangents through the turns of the neighborhood to pass Tim Vinson and finish 4th overall, shaving 21 seconds off of my personal best with a new time of 55:40, or sub 6 minute pace on this hilly course.

Making it three weeks in a row of racing, I turn to my lucky Black Fleet Feet Racing Team uniform for an attempt to break 17 minutes at the Liz Hurley 5km, falling just short in the late stages with fatigue in my legs, but still manage a 17:01 for 5th place finish overall.

After months of planning and course development, the Xterra Monte Sano 15km Trail race is run on the last Sunday in October and after falling to 4th place with just 2 miles to go, I repass Tim Vinson on the climb out of the Sinks from Three Benches and run with all out effort on the final climb and around the North Plateau Trail, barely holding off David O'Keeke by seconds with great final sprint finish for 3rd place overall.


On a last minute work trip to San Francisco, I am able to make time on the last day to discover the amazing sights in San Bruno State Park, located on the southern peninsula just minutes from the work site to run the mixed single track and gravel road trails that lead out to the point and back, making the entire trip worth while and near must run when time does not permit travel across the Bridge to the Marin Headlands.

Traveling to Lynchburg, Virginia with friends to run my first 50 mile ultra marathon turned out to be one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted and while wanting to drop out at the 27 mile mark, I get a lift from a Snickers Bar and knowing that the second half of the course was mostly uphill and matched my strengths and I go on to survive through mile 49 where I am able to then run sub 7 minute pace back downhill while being chased closely and come in to a top 15 placement finish of 300 runners and stand with ultra running legend David Horton and race director Clark Zealand for a picture at the end in complete exhaustion.

Having the utmost privilege at an HTC Board Member, I am honored to present the 2009 Outstanding Male Performance award to the hardest working and most deserving runner I know, David Riddle, at the HTC Annual Awards Banquet held at the Monte Sano Lodge and while slightly roasting him in my speech, I also share some great stories that help the audience understand what a humble person David is and then through his acceptance speech he proves my point by graciously accepting the award and thanking the running community for the years of support.

In possibly my greatest race of the year, I start out strong on the little loop, and then run very steady all day on the successive next three figure eight loops at Dizzy Fifties 50km again representing Team inov-8, staying consistently ahead of Tim Vinson and go on to lower my 50km trail personal record to 3:53:15 while in the process of running the 6th fastest time ever on the 50km course and the 149th fastest 50km time for men in the United States in 2009 and finish 2nd overall to David Riddle's ridiculous course record 3:21.

Not having done much speed work since before MMTR in November, I run the traditional Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5km race as a tempo run and blaze the first mile in 5:15, before slowing to 5:24 in the second mile and hanging on for the final mile running into a head wind and back up hill toward campus and finishing another fast race while barely missing the goal time, clocking in at 17:01 for 4th overall in a race where the top 9 runners go under 17:24.


Running in an all of nothing fashion, I settle in to lead a pack of runners on 2:49 pace through the intense head winds that bring on early fatigue to my legs and leave me unable to capitalize on the tail winds in the final 10 miles, resulting in slowing the pace down to maintain a sub 3 hour finish with a time of 2:58 at Rocket City Marathon, while later realizing that the true measure of my success in this race was the 3:01 finishing time of 16 year old Chris Brahm, whom I had been working with throughout his training for an amazing debut marathon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2009 Rocket City Marathon

December 12, 2009

Normally I would write out a lengthy race report and detail everything in meticulous fashion, all of the splits, what I ate, how I felt and spin it into a clever tale; but not today. Looking back, for me this was just another race. It was not a goal race or anything that I specifically trained for. I went into it trying to do something amazing on just an endurance fitness base, so when I fell apart at mile 16 after running 2:49 pace, I was not surprised, nor was I disappointed. I went into maintenance mode and did what I could to hang on to a sub 3 hour marathon finish. This doesn't mean that I didn't try as hard as I could and gave it everything I had, because I did. I will never 'mail it in' when it comes to a race. When the gun goes off, no matter what kind of shape I am in, I will try as hard as I can to do the best that I can, no matter what. I just was not properly conditioned to run a road marathon but that has never stopped me before because you never know when you are going to have a surprising performance.

Looking back, this race was really less about me and more about a few people that I had helped along the way with training and coaching advice. One of those people is Chris Brahm. Chris is 16 years old and an outstanding triathlete who attends Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama. Chris sought me out in 2008 to help him train for the Monte Sano 15km and again in 2009 when he decided he was going to chase Dink Taylor's Alabama marathon stage age record of 2:56 at Rocket City Marathon. I helped him out with a customized training plan and tried to be available for any questions that he had during the months leading into the race. I believed that he was a genuinely nice kid who had a bright future, and was willing to work hard to achieve his goals which is something I admire.

On Marathon day, his plan was to stay with me for as long as he could. We ended up running together for 16 miles before I had to back off and Chris stayed strong and ran on ahead.

Here is Chris in red running just off my shoulder at the half marathon mark, in which we split at 1:24:00, well on our way to a sub 2:50 finish with a second half tail wind just a few miles ahead.

Nearing mile 24, surprisingly, I caught back up to Chris. He was being attended to by a HEMSI volunteer and not doing so well. He started to run again and I convinced him to run with me to the finish. I tried every encouraging word I knew, and told him that I'd done the math and we could ease back to 7:45 pace and still finish under 3 hours. I told him that if he could manage that pace, though slower than I was running at the time, that I would stay with him until the end. Despite having thrown up (I think) before I saw him, he held on for another 1/2 mile before having to stop. He started to walk again and told me to leave him behind. I really struggled with this, and slowed down, trying to get him to go with me, but I could tell that he physically could not run at that point. So regretfully, I pushed ahead.

At the time, I thought that by finishing on his own, it would be a tremendous character building moment. Now having read his marathon race report, I see that he didn't need any help; he is not a kid, but a genuinely good young man that discovered a lot about himself out there on Saturday morning. He found out that through shear will and determination, that anything is possible if you are willing to try.

While his 3:01 28 marathon time is not a state age record, it is still utterly amazing for a 16 year old running his first distance event. If he chooses to run another one, I am sure he will build off of this experience, use his intelligence to alter his training and finish what he started.

So I ask that if you normally follow me, that you read the first hand account of Chris' marathon debut directly from him on his blog. If I had not told you that he was 16, you would never know it. He writes better than most adults that I know and accurately captures his emotions during the race. As I try to do, he makes you almost feel like you were there with him. I am fortunate enough to have been there with him for most of it and I will never forget that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009 Frosty Freeze 5km

2009 Frosty Freeze 5km
Decatur, AL
December 5, 2009

I decided to run one more short distance race prior to the marathon and use it as a last test of fitness. I also wanted to see if I could break 17 minutes in the 5km, having hit 17:01 twice this fall; Liz Hurley and Turkey Trot. I hadn't been doing any speed work lately, with a severe lack of motivation since Mountain Masochist, so local 5km races were all I have had to test my legs.

I also have this weird quest to run every regional race at least one time and the elusive Frosty Freeze in Decatur was on the *giggle* must-do list.

I had talked with Dink Taylor mid-week and since he had to drive over to Decatur to set up the Fleet Feet tent and Gatorade coolers, we decided to ride together. The plan was for Dink to pick me up at 6:30am at Starbucks on Govenor's Drive in Huntsville on race morning.

Fast forward to Saturday and as I awoke to a puppy (Fiina) licking my face, I looked outside and saw the snow that had been forecast. For once, the local weather man was actually right and over night we had accumulated 1/2" of actual snow. The temperature was in the upper 20's and windy. It would be a very cold race morning.

The drive over to Decatur in Dink's truck (with Fleet Feet trailer) was quite the adventure in and of itself. We witnessed 21 cars that had been in accidents and 2 of them happen in real time, both in front and behind us. All in all, it took us nearly an hour to make the 20 mile drive. I changed in the truck on the way over, so all I would have to do was sign up, pin on my number, go to the bathroom and warm up as much as possible.

We got to the race at 7:35, so I had 25 minutes to go through what usually takes me an hour. I was not stressing over it though, as I tried to remain as calm as possible. After all, there was nothing that I could do about it. We got there safely, which is more than I can say would have happened if I drove myself.

The competition was limited, but fast. Josh Whitehead, Steven Baker, Chris Platt, Jon Elmore and Eric Schotz. The top three were all running faster than me right now at this distance, given recent race results.

My plan was to go out and run as even as possible. I wanted to try to spend my energy evenly over the 3 miles as opposed to going out hard and hanging on, which has been my strategy lately. It would mean that I was going to do it on my own, as the others would go out hard. This would be a tough effort on a cold, windy day run on a hilly course.

After a quick warm up jog around the block, I stripped down to my Fleet Feet Racing Team singlet, shorts and Nike arm sleeves. We lined up, and with a quick call, the race was on. Just as predicted, by the first corner, I was already as far back as 10th place. I resisted the urge to pick up the pace, and ran smoothly and as we came through the first mile I clocked a 5:20. I wanted to be in the range of 5:20 to 5:25, so things were on track. I also had moved up to 5th position, and was closing the gap quickly on a younger kid in front of me.

The second mile was much harder, as the wind began to swirl around and it seemed to always be in our face. Jon Elmore had warned me that there were many turns in the second mile and that the hills began in the this mile also. I can validate his words as I was working much harder to keep the pace near the target range. A few short uphills later, I came through the second mile in 10:57; that meant that my second mile split was 5:37. There was some question later if the first mile was in the right spot or not, but through 2 miles I was right on track to break 17 minutes.

Since the first mile, I had slowly been closing the gap on Steven. He was coming back to me and I was picking it up so the gap was narrowing quickly. Looking back, had we gone on to 4 miles, I probably would have caught and passed him. That said, had we run together, I think that we could have shared the load, took turns setting the pace and breaking the wind, we would both have run faster. I know him, but not that well and not well enough to propose a team effort. We made the final turn and began the long stretch to the north and toward the finish. As fate would have it, the climb to the 3 mile mark was all up hill and I was working very hard to stay in the target range and give myself a chance to kick in for sub 17. I managed to clock a 5:28 for the 3rd mile. I am convinced that because I held back early, I was able to dial the pace in late and run what I needed to.

Coming in from the 3 mile mark, I focused on my leg turnover. I was breathing hard and taking in very chilled 30 degree air which felt like fire in my lungs. I could see the finish line and sped toward it with a purpose. I did have a few seconds where I felt a little weak, like I was running above top speed and that I was going to buckle, which gave me a minor mental lapse. That lapse was all it took to slow me down and as I crossed the line, the clock flipped over to 17:00 minutes. My official time was 17:00.50.

So I am trying to figure out if I am pleasantly surprised, given my lack of speed work, brutally cold conditions and tough course; or if I should be upset for missing my target goal for the third time this fall. I tend to lean toward the former, as it is much more logical, although the later is very true. As I mentioned previously, it is hard to be disappointed when you don't put in the proper training to hit your goal. I am not pleased, but satisfied that I gave it everything I had on this day and my best was seventeen minutes even, and 4th overall.

Afterward, I jogged back on the course and ran in with Jon Elmore. Later I went out on the Steeplechase 8km course with Eric Schotz and had a very nice cool down run.

Thanks to Dink for driving us over and getting us there safely.

So for now, I put aside my short distance goals and begin to focus on distance running for the next two months, including Rocket City Marathon, Fast Ass 50km and eventually Mountain Mist 50km in January.

Frosty Freeze 5k Results Top 4

1 Josh Whitehead
2 Chris Platt
3 Steven Baker
4 Eric Charette

Monday, November 30, 2009

Running Injury Prevention

Running Injury Prevention

It is that time of year when most runners are peaking for their fall goal race and are coming to the end of multistage training program. Having logged more miles than the rest of the year, this is also the time that runners may experience injuries.

Let me first say that I am not a medical doctor. What I am is a veteran runner who has been coached by the best; I have read dozens of books on running and training; have logged thousands of hours running and had just about every type of injury along the way. I understand how to apply the fundamental principles of training to achieve the desired result and maximize the ability of any runner. I have also successfully coached many runners of all levels.

Let’s first start with definitions.

An INJURY is a physical problem severe enough to force a reduction in training. Did you know that scientific studies show that about 60-80%* of all runners will experience an injury resulting in significant loss of training time (more than three days) during an average year? When compared to other endurance sports, the risks associated with running are higher. Injuries can have varying degrees of severity. The best source for grading these injuries is described by Bob Glover and discussed in "The Competitive Runner's Handbook." These grades are useful when describing the severity and knowing when to take corrective action.
  • Grade One: Minor aches that aren't noticed until after a run.
  • Grade Two: Some discomfort is felt, possibly during the later stages of a run but does not affect performance.
  • Grade Three: Severe discomfort and pain which may alter form and limits training performance
  • Grade Four: Pain is so intense that running is not possible and you are forced to rest until it pain subsides
Being SORE or experiencing SORENESS after a strenuous workout, a time trial or a race is normal. You have just stressed your muscles beyond the limit of your regular workout and your body is reacting. Scientifically, soreness is your body's defense mechanism responding to tiny tears in muscle fibers as a result of the workout. After your muscles recover, they actually should be stronger. Tearing and repairing is the process of raising your fitness level and allows you eventually to run further and faster. Swelling is a side effect of your body trying to repair these fibers and may contribute to stiffness in the muscles. This process usually peaks within 48 hours after exercise. For this reason, you are sorer on the second day after a hard workout but for the same reason you are able to work out hard two days in a row (DOMS). Being sore, stiff or fatigued does NOT mean that you are injured. As Hal Higdon suggests, "If you want to become a runner, you may need to accept some soreness as a natural part of the conditioning process." Running is a process of repeatedly stressing your muscles to become faster and stronger, so some pain or soreness is to be expected.

Running injuries are quite common among amateurs and professionals, beginners and veterans. Although a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 149(11), pp. 2565-2568, 1989) has determined that injury risk can be linked with inexperience. The study pointed out that individuals who had been training for less than three years were more likely to sustain injuries when compared with runners who had been running for longer periods of time.

A similar study by Dr. Murray Weisenfeld concluded that most injuries occur when running mileage starts to climb over 40 miles per week. That means that if you are training for a half or a full marathon, you are putting yourself at additional risk, even if you are able to limit all other factors.

Most injuries are caused by training errors with very few injuries occurring as a result of a single factor. Injuries do not occur suddenly, but more gradually, elevating up the scale as mentioned above. Of the many things that you need to know in order to avoid time limiting injuries is the ability to recognize the difference between normal soreness and possibly progressive injuries. Knowing your body and understanding when you have stressed it too much and when to back off is very important.

Injury causes

Improper form and/or poor biomechanics
This is listed first because it is something that you can do very little to change. You may choose proper footwear to correct pronation or study video of your running form to help make minor corrections, but in the end, your natural form may limit your ability to run without risk of injury. Some people may have a great desire to run and be competitive but do not have the basic genetics to support anything more than running for basic fitness. You can tweak your form, slightly improve your vo2max and your running economy, but as Marty Clarke has been quoted in saying, "You had all of the ability to run the day that you were born."

General overuse
This is a blanket category for running too much. This is the most common factor leading to injuries and means not backing off in training when the initial signs of an injury are felt. It simply means that you have stressed something repeatedly without adequate rest to allow for the rebuilding process as discussed above.

Equipment related
This is mostly related to footwear, though can also be improper apparel for the conditions. If you are wearing shoes that are not designed for your foot then you are putting yourself at risk when you take your first step. Going through a formal fit process, having an expert analyze your form to properly recommend the right shoe for you is vital. Since your feet strike the ground 90 times per minute per foot, it all starts with your feet and works up from there. Typically shoes need replacement after 300 to 500 miles and it is smart to begin to rotate in a new pair of shoes after 200 miles on the first pair. Not allowing your footwear to properly dry out after wear is the number one cause for them to break down and reduce their life.

There are no ways to truly avoid injuries, but you can do your best to lower the probability that you experience one that will set back your training. This is in no way a complete list, but here are things that you can do to improve your chances of staying healthy.
  • Build mileage at an increasing rate of no more than 10% per week, reducing mileage every 4th week to permit recovery.
  • Follow the hard – easy rule, scheduling a day of rest or easy running following a hard workout and before the next hard workout.
  • Don't do too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard, with too little rest.
  • Listen to your body. When it says to back off, take an extra day of rest, knowing that you can’t skip all of your hard workouts or you might consider a less aggressive plan.
  • Be sure to be properly hydrated and taking adequate nutrition, before, during and after your run. Carbing up is important to provide proper fuel before the run, during the run to help sustain longer efforts and immediately after to help the recovery process.
  • Incorporate stretching into your routine, after muscles are warm and after activity subsides.
  • When needed, leverage recovery tools such as message, icing, compression, elevation and rest on aching muscles.
  • Try to vary the type of surface that you do your training on, knowing that a softer surface such as trails are easier on your joints and will prolong your running career than daily pounding on concrete and blacktop.
  • Add strength training to your program, especially in the building phase toward your goal race.
  • Keep your weight in an acceptable range for your height and gender, eating as healthy as possible. Being on the heavier end of the ranges may cause joint (especially knee) pain.
  • Obtain proper rest during your training and understand that as your volume of running increases, so must your hours of sleep.
  • Warm up before each workout and follow it up with a proper cool down. This will help to ease into the workout before introducing stressors to cold muscles.
So what does all of this mean? Soreness is inevitable and while injuries are likely for endurance running athletes (based on studies and the law of averages), you can take steps to reduce your risk factor. Training too hard too often may lead to injury, while not training hard enough will lead to underachieving and failure to achieve goals; there is a fine line between these two. Training is about finding your limits and learning how far you can push yourself without getting hurt.

While there is proven theology behind these methods and they are applied with the utmost attention, there is no guarantee that they work unilaterally across all runners. This is because no two runners are alike and each person responds differently to training. When I am coaching runners, I do my best to instruct runners on how to train properly, give them the best chance to succeed while teaching them to run and remain healthy for the long term. If they follow our properly designed training program which incorporates the principles discussed above, listen to the advice given and listen to their bodies, they have the greatest chance of success.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 Turkey Trot

2009 Turkey Trot 5km
16th Annual HELPline Thanksgiving Day
Huntsville, AL
November 26, 2009

Official Results

Not too much to comment here since this was just a test of my legs and fitness following the great time I had just 5 days earlier at Dizzy Fifties 50km. I have come to realize that it is extremely difficult to be very competitive at both ultra (or endurance) running and short distance races. I admire elite athletes like Dathan Ritzenhein who is awesome at both ends of the spectrum (2:10 marathon and an American Record of 12:56.27 at 5000m). It more than just the star high school quarterback who also is the starting pitcher on the baseball team; the specificity of training for the marathon is much different than that of the short distance track races. Although I am not anywhere near the class of Dathan, I pride myself as being able to compete at any distance.

As far as the race goes, I told Rob Youngren at the start that this was either going to be a phenomenal day or it was going to be a horrendous disaster. I was going to go out hard and see how long I could hold on.

The competition was decent, although not as good as some of the recent road races I have entered. Josh Whitehead, a peaking Steven Baker, a few guys from the Fleet Feet Racing Team and the unknown runners that run Turkey Trots - visiting family, home from college, etc. Overall there were 1100 registered runners, making it good sized field.

The weather was cold but perfect for short distance running. The wind however, blowing steady from the north would be a factor after the half way point when the course would run back on itself to the finish.

The course for the Turkey Trot is the same as HTC Twilight 5k held in July. I had run this course at 17:15 back in the summer, but it was 50 degrees warmer and it was the second 5km of the day (double with Da Doo Run Run 5km that same morning).

We did take off fast, as planned. I wanted to get as much in the bank early, before hitting the wind. I tried to cover the distance as the lead pack pushed out hard. I split the first mile in 5:15.

On the way to the cone turn around, I was running with Steven Baker. I had the lead until about a quarter of a mile before the cone, when I strategically let him take the lead. He is a tall runner, and if he could hold the pace on the return, I would be able to draft off of him and then make my move on the hill.

So at the turn, I stayed just a single stride behind him as we ran back against the grain, seeing other runners. I was working very hard to maintain, but not as hard if I was doing it alone. I was careful to pay attention to my watch to make sure that we were not going too slow, where I could run faster into the wind alone. This was a great game plan, although I probably should have made my move much sooner. The second mile split was 5:24.

I finally made the decisive move on the inside as we hit the bottom of the hill. I focused on my form and made sure my arm swing was pulling up my knees. I put a few meters on Steve, but the race was far from over. I now had to hold him and his sprinting abilities off as we hit the home stretch. I split this mile in 5:42, which was by far the slowest mile. I know that it was into the wind and uphill, but I should have been able to run a little faster.

This course does have one of the fastest finishes around as it makes a final turn and progresses downhill to the finish. I had gone past the 3 mile mark with enough time to come in under 17 minutes, but the fatigue in my legs from the fast miles early on and presumably from Dizzy 50km jumped on my back and I just missed my goal as I ran 17:01. I was just 3 seconds in front of Steven. I think that by running together we ran faster than we would have run had we gone it alone. He would later tell me that after the cone turn around, that his legs were dead too.

My time was fast enough to place me 4th overall out of 993 finishers and 1st in my age group (M30-34). I can't say that I am disappointed in this time; I had not really done any speed work in over a month and had run a 50 mile and a 50km race since that last track workout. Actually, I am fairly pleased that I had enough muscle memory to hit this time and come down from my specialty distance of ultra running and be competitive with the short distance runners at their game.

Overall a nice belated birthday present.

Turkey Trot 5k Results Top 10

1 Josh Whitehead, 31 - 16:01 pace 5:10
2 Jeremy Winter, 18 16:41 pace 5:22
3 Dan Miner, 24 16:46 pace 5:24
4 Eric Charette, 33 - 17:01 pace 5:29
5 Stephen Baker, 28 - 17:04 pace 5:30
6 Donald Bowman, 42 - 17:11 pace 5:32
7 Avery Ainsworth, 29 - 17:14 pace 5:33
8 Tucker Oliver, 17 M - 17:23 pace 5:36
9 Robert Youngren, 35 - 17:24 pace 5:36
10 Aaron Saylor, 18 - 18:07 pace 5:50

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As I prepare to turn another year older, I began to look inside. When I did, I realized that should I not have another year or another day for that matter, that so many people would never really know me. I don't let people into my life to see more than what you know superficially. When faced with extended alone time over the past few days I realized that you don't know me at all and I want you to know that there is more to me. The best way I can do this is to relate it to running; my passion.

So take this for what it is worth; either an opportunity to get to know me and understand me better or a reason to dislike me more. That is your choice. Either way, I am trying. In the end, I am who you say I am.

I am confident, now. But did you know that for the better part of my first 18 years I was picked on, teased and struggled to fit in? My teen years were marked my growth spurts that came so quickly that it was actually painful and lead to awkwardness and lack of coordination? It was not until I found myself as a runner much later in my twenties and now mid thirties that I was able to ever be confident in anything. For a few years I struggled to find the proper balance between confident and cocky since I have never had to deal with it before but now my confidence remains within.

I have a completely addictive personality. Whatever I do, it is with every ounce of energy that I possess. I am not going to do something half way; I have to be going at a ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire all of the time. So when I found running and how it follows the unique principal of hard work returns twofold with results, I was hooked. It is, in fact, a very vicious circle as I have stated in the past. The harder you work at it, the more time you devote to it, the better you will become. The better you are at something, the more you want to do it. Within reason, this can go on and on for a long time. Most people never realize their potential as runners; it kills to me see wasted talent. I have made it a motivator to see if I can ever reach the upper limits of my abilities. I encourage people to invest the time to see how far they can go.

If I sense a weakness, I am going to be driven to do what I can to turn it into a strength. In my running, like getting out kicked at the finish of a race, you will see me out that afternoon or the next day running strides at the end of a tempo run or mile repeats. I have a strong will to be the best at whatever I do; this much is probably obvious.

I won't stop. It will never be good enough. As soon as I recognize one goal, I am already planning for the next; looking to the next challenge. At first it was to break 6 minute miles for a 5k; then it was to run under 40 minutes for a 10k; then it was to run under 3 hours for the marathon; then it was to run under 4 hours for a 50km. Each time I methodically laid out a plan that was researched by reading any expert running book that I could get my hands on. Then I went through an extensive period of putting that plan into action, culminating with the execution of the race goal. Yet despite personal accomplishments, I want to do more; I want to run faster or further. I want to do great things that have never been done before.

I am very goal oriented. When I was a kid, I would not stop shooting free throws in the driveway of my parents house until I could make 5 or 10 in a row. I remember some really dark and cold nights where I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with the ball, but I always stuck with it. I am stubborn like that. When I run track workouts, I will not stop until the last repeat is the fastest. I am willing to work harder than my competitors to reach my goals. I am willing to make sacrifices in my life that you aren't. One of my favorite quotes is "I will do today what you won't, so tomorrow I will do what you can't."

I respect the climb. Despite enjoying the results of an endeavor, I am enthralled with the journey. I learned long ago that you need to take time to enjoy where you are because when you get where you want to be, you will realize that it was about how you got there; not about being there. We all should take a step outside of ourselves from time to time to appreciate what we have. I am healthy, have a decent job, good friends and dogs that make me smile. I have much to be thankful for. I am in the best running shape of my life.

I know that I am not the best at everything I do. I know that I am not the best runner around. There are others out there that have better natural ability. They are probably going to beat me, but I am going to try my best to make them earn it on race day. I recognize when I am over matched or running against someone that is way out of my league. Yet I refuse to back down and am going to give it my all every time and run the best race that I can. I will line up against David Riddle a hundred times and he will beat me 100 times. Yet in the 101st race I am still going to line up again and try again. This is not idiocy or lunacy, which would be defined as performing the same action over and over and expecting a different result. Each time I learn a little more and get a little better. I will never be able to beat him, but in the same breathe, I will never stop trying either.

I like to be rewarded. Yes, one of the reasons I compete comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement. I want to continually prove to you, to myself, to those who race against me that I am a worthy competitor. We all run for different reasons. I may not understand your reasons, but I respect them immensely. All that I ask is that you do the same for me. For me, I like to have a ribbon around my neck as a mark of accomplishment. I am also greatly nostalgic and having a medal helps me to recall the race more easily. That is also why I blog my race reports; to provide a key to unlock unique memories of each race; the taste of the victory; the sound of the crowd cheering; the feeling of crossing the finish line, having given it everything that I had on that day. Trophies are more than just symbols to success. A good running friend recently said about me, "I don't think there is any distance that phases you..." For some reason this meant a lot to me. It was peer recognition.

I get great satisfaction out of helping others. With running, this comes in the form of instructing others on the art of running and training. I have been informally coached by some of the best runners in the area. They taught me what they knew, in hopes that someday I would take that knowledge and surpass them in running comprehension, but in physical competition as well. From there, as in life, it is my role to return the favor to the next generation of runners. Nothing is more rewarding to me than to see someone I have instructed, coached or written a training plan for, to reach their goals.

I want others to have the success that I have had. I am willing to run with anyone, at any time, for any distance at any pace. Joey Butler has often be caught saying that if you want to 'pop out' a 20-miler on a random Tuesday, to 'call Charette.' Part of it is that I hate to run alone; part of it is that I am addicted to the runners high that I get from a great workout. Part of it is that I just want to help you realize your potential. I didn't spend the summer of 2008 running hill beat downs because I enjoy running hills. Well, actually, I do, but that's not why. I knew that running hills would make my friends and training partners stronger runners and help them to achieve their potential.

I want to give back. I want to do more for the running community; to have a greater impact. I have plans in the works for a 1 mile invitational only race on a track, to organize an open mile road race. I want to start a trail running club. I want to organize a trail running festival of races where runners amass points in different trail running events like a 2k hill climb up Water Line, followed by a 20k trail endurance race the next morning and then a fast 5k easier trail run on the last day. Overall winners would be crowned in each event and for the entire festival. I want to continue to coach new runners through applying advanced training principals. I want to invigorate the runners in this area with new races and non-standard offerings that peaks their interest. I have great ideas and just need like minds and time to get these ideas off of the ground.

I have a continued desire to make my parents proud of me. They tell me that they are, but I always feel like I can do more. I was raised in a small town that revolved around the success of the football team. I was not made to dawn pads and tackle people. I was meant to run from point to point, as fast as possible, yet never knew that this was my destiny until recently. I never scored a touchdown or kicked a field goal; having success with running now partially helps me to capture that part of my youth that I missed out on. When I can return home and have success in a race, it is like a double reward; to prove worthy to my alma mater and to make my parents proud of their son.

I am very introspective. I spend many of my runs contemplating deep thoughts on how I can be a better runner, a better employee, a better person. I recognize that I have many faults and am not the person that I could be and this bothers me. With each run, I hope to continue to work on my flaws. As I write now, I am wondering what I can do tomorrow to be better in all of these areas.

I feel misunderstood often times. I think that people see one side of me; the one that is tenacious when it comes to competition; the one they see publicly. What people don't see is homebody that enjoys spending time with family and friends; the one who is constantly seeking approval. That is one of the reasons why I started writing years ago, was to give people a little peak inside my head; for people to get to know me.

I want to make a difference. I hope that I have made an impact on your life in some way. It doesn't have to be running related. If I have not impacted your life, provided motivated you to pursue your goals or start something big, then I have work to do. I think in general people want to know that they have made a difference in your life; it helps to validate self worth.

All of my chips are on the table in every single hand I play. I identify with Steve Prefontaine for so many reasons. For Pre, "it was more than a race." That is the way it is for me. It is more than a race; it is a way I live my life. When I put on my flats and toe the line, I am going to give it everything I have. Though I may not win, I am going to put on the best show that I can. When you watch me race you will see someone dig deep and compete beyond their capabilities. That is the same way I want to live my life; All out; 100% all of time.

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Don't let a day go by where you are not doing everything you can to be your best. You owe it to yourself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2009 Dizzy Fifties 50km

2009 Dizzy Fifties 50km
Huntsville, AL
November 21, 2009

Official Results

Two weeks ago I was in Virgina running a 50+ mile ultra marathon. Today I found myself lined up at the start of a 50km; my eighth ultra of the season. Since MMTR, I had dropped back on mileage and focused on returning to a healthy state. My knees had been sore from the downhill pounding of Masochist and my hips and glutes were sore from the climbs. All in all, I was a mess.

Earlier this week I did a tempo run on the track to test my fitness. I managed to run 25 laps with a 90 second negative split 10km at 37:54. This showed me that my legs had returned and that my cardio was still in tact. I was a little concerned about the right hip pain and left calf tightness, so I got in to see Kim Susor for a message.

Fast forward to this morning at 6:30am, just past day break, we were lined up adjacent to the Ranger Station on Monte Sano for Dizzy Fifties Ultra marathon. This event was originally developed by genius known as Jeff Kyser. All of the other ultras in the area are very difficult, so Jeff wanted to offer a 50km that would appeal to the first time runner. Also, at the time, there were no other 50Mile ultras around, so Jeff came up with a course that would permit runners to compete at 50km, 40Mile or 50Mile distances. For the advanced runner, the challenge is to break 4 hours on the 50km course; something that I would chase today.

The field was comprised of several very good runners, including David Riddle, Tim Vinson, John Brower, Tim Waggoner, George Sefzik, DeWayne Satterfield and Owen Bradley. Some of these guys were signed up to do the 40 or 50 mile distance, but if they were not feeling it, they would be competitive at the 50km distance.

My plan was simple; run out front and hard from the start. This course does not appeal to my strengths, as there is very little climb, so I would have to dictate the pace early and take away the strenghts of the other runners who can run fast on the flats and downs. So from the start I went out hard; but looking back at my splits, the pace was not overly aggressive where I would suffer later in the race.

The course does a little loop (2.5 miles) followed by repeating loops of 9.5 miles. My first two miles on the little loop were at 6:52 and 6:59. Coming back on the South Plateau Trail, I saw Jason Reneau, Sarah Bowden and Andrew Hodges; all whom were suprised to see me in the lead. I knew that David was just warming up and it wouldn't be long until he blew past me. I just needed to secure a safe lead heading down Chestnut Hill, Mountain Mist and into The Sinks to keep Tim at bay.

I came back through the pavilion, dropped my sleeves and headed out to run the north loop. This is the harder of the two loops, as it has the drop and the climb, but luckily is only 4 miles. Just past my 3rd mile split of 7:01, David came through and was looking strong. I knew from the start that I was not racing him; he is in a league of his own and it was me against the rest of the field.

Heading down into the sinks I ran 4th and 5th mile splits of 7:07 and 6:51. My plan was working as I manged to put a safe lead on Tim and took away his downhill running advantage. I too was feeling pretty good with no pain in my knees or hips. Just below 3 Benches starts the 1/2 mile climb out of the Sinks and back up to the Bikers parking lot. I had done repeats on this hill many times and most recently blazed up the first half in the Xterra 15km, so I knew how to attack it; which for me is a constant effort, focusing on form and staying below a red-line effort. This is a two part hill split by the Mountain Mist trail and climbs up 350'. My split up this hill was 8:50 and I felt very comfortable with it, though it dropped my overall average down to 7:15.

Once at the top, it is all about recovering quickly and getting back to my sub 4 hour pacing strategy. I ran along the cabin road and back through the pavilion and straight through without stopping for any aid. I was now 6.5 miles into the race with a little less than a marathon to go as I started out toward the south loop of the course. Although this is the longer of the two loops at 5.5 miles, it is much easier as it uses the South Plateau Trail and the Family Bike Trail. The latter is constantly winding and turning as it is intended for mountain bikers and is not very technical. This is usually where people trip as they lose focus on the trail. With all of the turns, it is also difficult to maintain a fast pace. As I entered the Family bike trail, I was able to catch a glimpse of Tim, who was about 2 minutes behind based on my estimation.

This loop was very uneventful and doesn't really deserve much attention. It is about running hard and trying not to puke with the twists and turns. I did see David at one point on the double U (it is a U shape inside of another larger U). He was blazing along as I expected. My splits were 7:16, 7:24, 7:05 6:56 and 7:24 in this section.

Coming back into the pavilion, I was feeling better than the first time through and I was amazed at how fast I was able to run through the first 12 miles. I did stop for a quick second to pick up some more Powerbar Gel Blasts out of my drop bag. I had taken 4 of them in the first 12 miles, along with 1 Advil and 2 S! Caps, keeping the cramps down. I also refilled my hand bottle with more Subtle Strawberry HEED, my favorite electrolyte drink.

Actual Loop Time 1:23:12 (2nd fastest split) for 11.88 miles for an average of 7:00 pace.

Lead on 3rd place was 1 minute 38 seconds

I did get a nice little emotional lift from seeing some friends at the turn, including Joey Butler and recent Pinhoti 100 mile finisher John Nevels. Leaving the pavilion and heading down the road toward the start of the north loop again, I did see Tim making his way up the road heading toward the pavilion. It looked like I still had about a 2-3 minute lead. I had spent minimal time at the aid station, and I had to assume the same for Tim as well.

Once again, around the Monte Sano Lodge, past the overlook into McKay Hollow, down Chestnut Hill and into the sinks. I was still strong, running in the low to mid 7's through mile 14 with a 7:15 pace average heading into climbing out of the sinks for the second time. I calculated that I would lose about 5 seconds per mile on my overall average, thinking that I would drop to 7:20. I ran all the way up the sinks and took a 9:14 split for the mile, which actually brought me down to 7:24 pace.

I knew that I could stay even for the next north loop, but I was starting to do the sub 4 hour math in my head. I always want to have a back up plan just in case I am not feeling it and need to know the worst case pace that I can run and still meet my 'A' goal. Coming through the pavilion, I stopped to fill my bottle with HEED and grab more Gel Blasts. My plan was to come out of the next south loop with a worst case 7:30 overall average.

My next splits on the south loop were 7:36, 7:39, 7:37, 7:36 and 7:35. I was amazingly steady which was surprising, as I was now 20 miles into the race, which I split at 2:28:46 for an average of 7:26 pace. I had been able to stay under 7:30 pace with only one full north/south loop to go and I was feeling strong. The notion of running under 4 hours was starting to energize me and I was feeding off of the adrenaline.

Actual Loop Time 1:12:38 (2nd fastest split) for 9.58 miles for an average of 7:35 pace.

Total Time 2:35:50 (2nd fastest) for 21.46 miles for an average of 7:16 pace.

Lead on 3rd place was 1 minute 46 seconds

Coming through the pavilion and then across the overlook, I was a little slow with splits of 8:14 and 8:01, but I was thinking about conserving some energy for the final push. For the final time, it was down Chestnut Hill and Mountain Mist Trail at a 7:43 pace. The next two miles I would struggle slightly as for the first time all day, I walked in sections of the climb back up to the bikers lot. But the nice part about a looped course with people running different paces and different distances, I had been passing people for quite some time. Despite not knowing what distance option they had chosen, passing people always provides a little emotional lift. So seeing others walk up the hill and being able to alternate run/walk to the top got me up their without completely melting down. In the process of running the hill and coming through the pavilion for the last time, I clocked two of my slowest splits at 8:47 and 9:41.

With 25 miles in the books I still averaging under 7:40 pace according to my watch. Pacing off of a GPS on a trail ultra is always difficult to do as the watch will sometimes measure inaccurate distances. I was right on for the little loop and the first north/south loop for the course to measure 31 miles, but now with just one 5.5 mile south loop to run, I was at 25 miles. So I was still looking at my overall pace from my GPS, knowing that my pace would be faster in the end as the distance would measure short, but the course would not be short.

As I mentioned I had spent a lot of time doing the math in my head. It really does help me pass the time when running ultra distances in races to work out complex math problems and allows me to dissociate for long periods of time, while still keeping up with my leg turn over and being reminded every mile of my split by my Garmin GPS. So having split 25 miles in 3:11, I knew that I could average a very high 8 for the last 5.5 miles and still hit my time goal.

Running on the Family Bike Trail for the last time, I switched focus from a time goal to a placement goal. Despite being aware of Tim's distance to me all day, I wasn't really thinking about placing, but had been time focused. Now that I was safely going to hit my mark, I decided that I needed to be more aware of my lead on 3rd place, not wanting to drop in the last loop. This meant that for the first time all day, I began to take frequent looks behind me when it was convenient to see if there were any glimpses of Tim. I figured that if he came up from behind me by surprise, it would be too late for me to react and he would run me into the ground as I didn't have much of a kick left. So even though it violates my policy of showing weakness during a race by looking over my shoulder, I figured that it was OK here based on the current conditions.

After splitting the marathon at about 3:22, I continued to run low 8's through the twisting and turning and mind numbing Family Bike Trail and out to O'Shaughnessy Point for the last time. I did toss in one more high 7 split at mile 29 after taking my last Gel Blast which gave me a little shot of energy for the home stretch.

Coming up the South Plateau loop to the Ranger's house road crossing, I saw Jason Reneau again, who was out on the course with his bike supporting fellow team mate and wife Jane, who was running the 40 mile option. This was Jane's first ultra marathon, but is well on her way through the 50 marathons in 50 states quest. Jason had been motivating me all day, probably unbeknownst to him. Jason had run a 4 flat here two years ago for the win and for the last couple of years has been my measure of success as I am always chasing him, but slightly behind. Knowing that I would finish ahead of his time gave me one last lift and hearing his words of encouragement to start running again really helped. I owe him much gratitude for his help.

For the last time, I left the White Trail and hit the black top road toward the finish. It looked like I could push sub 3:54 for sure if I was able to pick up the pace. My existing personal record for 50km was 3:53:54, but this was on a 'road' course at Delano Park. My real 50km trail PR was 4:07, a time I hit earlier this year at Bartlett Park 50km in Memphis. So I was pushing for a 13 minute PR for trail 50km, and if I could find anything left in my tank, I could have a true PR for the distance as well.

I managed to run the last section at a sprinters pace, coming through the finish line at 3:53:15. As I crossed, I stumbled for a few feet and then sat down. It felt great to just be done. David helped me back up and in the same breath I asked him what he ran, to which he replied "21", meaning 3:21; that is 6:30 pace. I think he smashed the course record by well over 20 minutes, but I don't have the exact figure. Either way, he is utterly amazing.

Actual Loop Time 1:17:25 (3rd fastest split) for 9.58 miles for an average of 8:05 pace.

Total Time 3:53:15 (2nd fastest) for 31.04 miles for an average of 7:31 pace.

Lead on 3rd place was 1 minute 26 seconds

Within 90 seconds, Tim Vinson also crossed the finish line. He had shaved significant time off of my lead in the last 10 miles, but I was able to hold on for 2nd overall. I think that this is the first time that Dizzy has had 3 finishers come in under 4 hours and the winner of the 50 mile distance split the 50km at 4:01.

There must be something about this time of year that I have great luck with racing. Last year I ran 1:16:38 at the Huntsville Half Marathon, followed by a 34:45 at Dam Bridge 10km. Now this year I shatter my own personal best for 50km trail. It must be all of the intense summer and fall training, combined with great weather that equates to fast times. Looking back at the 7 weeks, I had an awesome finish at Stump Jump 50km, then a PR at the Fleet Feet 15km, ran a low 17 road 5km at Liz Hurley, finished 3rd overall at Xterra 15km trail, held strong for a sub 8:30 in my first 50 miler at MMTR and now a PR at 50km trail at Dizzy.

I think that I am probably in the best shape of my life right now, and am very gracious for all that I have and have been blessed with. I could not be hitting these times if not for the support of my wife Laura, my running mates, great competition like David and Tim and the support of Fleet Feet Racing and Team inov-8.

My favorite quote following this race was a comment on my Twitter status from fellow runner and friend from back in Michigan, Steve Orchard. He said, "I don't think there is any distance that phases you..." which is a great complement. Thanks Steve for the kind words.

Congrats to all of the finishers, including first time 50km'er Luke Hobbs, who is barely old enough to drive!

Here are the top 10 all time fastest finish times for the 50km.

1. David Riddle 3:21:25 ('09)
2. Dink Taylor 3:45:52 ('06)
3. Feb Boswell 3:51:31 ('05)
4. DeWayne Satterfield 3:52:37 ('08)
5. Rob Youngren 3:53:07 ('05)
6. Eric Charette 3:53:15 ('09)
7. Tim Vinson 3:54:41 ('09)
8. Chad Davis 3:56:16 ('04)
9. DeWayne Satterfield 3:58:08 ('06)* (50km split of 40 mile)
10. Jason Reneau 3:58:55 ('06)

Equipment Review

Shoes: I wore the inov-8 Roclite 305's for the second consecutive ultra marathon. This ultra distance trail shoe was a good selection for the fast and flat sections of the south loop and had enough grip for the rocks and plenty of underfoot support for the technical north loop.

Compression: With my recent racing and calf tightness, I decided to race in my Zensah Calf Sleeves. I felt like they really helped to increase oxygen blood flow to my calves, resulting in the ability to push harder on the flats and avoid cramps on the climbs.

Other: After running MMTR two weeks prior, my knees were in rough shape, as I mentioned. I had been experimenting with KT Tape to ease the pain and provide some support. I had great luck with them leading into the race as they provided increased mobility and sped up my recovery. I will definitely keep these as an option for future races.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

2009 Mountain Masochist

2009 Mountain Masochist
Lynchburg, VA
November 7, 2009

Official Results

In my opinion, ultra marathons are more than just physical preparedness; they are also equal parts of mental fortitude, proper nutrition/hydration and experience. I have always said that a road marathon is much more physically demanding than a trail ultra marathon and I stand by that statement.

Mountain Masochist was my first attempt at the 50 mile distance, and while I could have chosen an easier race, the mystique and lore of this epic race drew me in to sign up back in May. I was properly trained, having run numerous 50k's this year and having a solid mileage base leading into perfectly timed taper to get healthy. My fueling plan was sound, though I didn't necessarily execute it that well during the race. Where I lacked, was in experience at this distance and with no course knowledge. I would also struggle mentally as the day and the miles began to take its toll on me. But let's start at the end beginning.

I was fortunate enough to share in this experience with a few close friends from Huntsville area. Traveling with me were Joey Butler, Eric Fritz and Jon Elmore and together we met up with Dink Taylor on race day. We decided to fly to Lynchburg due to the low flight costs when we booked, and not having to get in the car for 10 hours on the day after the race was more appealing. While there, we made camp with Paul (Jon's Dad) and Sandy Elmore who live in Lynchburg. They were kind enough to host us for the weekend.

On race morning, Paul drove the four of us out to the James River Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 5:30am start. The temperature was in the low 30's and would rise to the mid 60's during the day. It is clear that we were all bundled up for the first few miles, with a chance to drop our headlamps at the first aid station and our excess clothes at the Highway 60 road crossing near mile 27.

All photos courtesy of Clark Zealand.

As the start time approached, Jon and I made our way to front of the pack. After some light strides, we waited for Clark Zealand, race director, to give us the starting command. Most experts said that the Men's field was 'stacked' with talent. Current Wasatch Front 100 record holder Goeff Roes, local prodigy Jeremy Ramsey and Valmir Nunes from Badwater fame were just some of the names at the top of the list. Shown below are the top 10 seeds, courtesy of David Horton. I was lucky enough to be ranked at number 10, given my resume of ultra running from this year.

Seed / Name
1. Valmir Nunes
2. Geoff Roes
3. Gary Robbins
4. Jeremy Ramsey
5. Lon Freeman
6. Will Harlan
7. Glen Redpath
8. Chris Reed
9. Dink Taylor
10. Eric Charette

Here is a link to the full list of seeded runners at eco-xports

At the start, you can see Nunes and Roes in the center, with Jon and me off to the right.

It was an easy paced first mile heading north toward the turn around on the out and back section. It was time for old friends to catch up, talk about recent race adventures and ease into the pace. The first 6+ miles would be all on blacktop roads before we hit the trails and dirt roads until the final mile. I knew that the pace needed to be quick early on, but I didn't know that it meant sub 7 pace. It was not long before I realized that I was in over my head, but I wanted to stay with the front runners for as long as I could. The first mile was at 6:57.

Lon Freeman decided to take it out harder than the rest, and he was the early leader. The chase pack of ten or so runners stuck together through miles 2 and 3 with splits of 6:48 and 6:38 as we came back through the starting area. After that, we started to separate and began to run single file along a busy road. The only time that the pace eased up before the first aid station was in mile 5 when we had a slight uphill, but the overall effort was still even.

Mile splits from 4 through 7 were 6:36, 7:14, 6:33 and 6:37. It felt more like a road marathon at this point than anything else. I was one of 10 runners who came through at 46 minutes as we came through the aid station, with Goeff and Lon out ahead of us. I was carrying two bottles; one with fluids and another with my energy gels so I was able to bypass aid and start my ascent up the hill.

We started up what looked like an old washed out road that had multiple man-made berms that featured 500' of ascent. Hill climbs are my strength and my passion so I was able to close the gap to the leaders and pull about even. This was just the start of a much larger climb that would take us from 700' up to nearly 2000' at mile 11, all along gravel roads. I was really feeling great and running steady as I ripped off miles of 8:23, 8:29 and 8:34 on this section. Jeremy passed me toward the top of this peak, which was expected sooner or later. We came back down hill to Otter Creek, dropping back down 377' along a ridge line and hit the next aid station, having run 12 miles in 1:40:00, placing me 9th overall through this point. I crossed the stream and passed up another aid station without taking anything. Horton shouted out my name which gave me a little emotional lift, which I needed as my stomach was starting to complain.

Here I am seen leaping the creek, trying to keep my feet dry, knowing that I had another 40 miles to run.

Just before passing under the tunnel which lead us under the Blue Ridge Parkway, I had to stop to go to the bathroom. I couldn't hold it any longer as the pasta dinner from the night before, mixed in with coffee and and the early fast pace had gotten to me. I surrendered about 2 positions as I stepped off the trail for about a minute. It was well worth it though, as I was several pounds lighter after that!

The next few miles were rolling and it was just about staying even and not trying to red line. I kept the pace under 9 minute miles as I regained control of my stomach by mile 17. Running this distance was funny because of how quickly the tide would change; I would go from feeling great one mile to miserable in the next mile. The further along the day went, the more of a roller coaster it became in how I felt and the shorter the time in between how often that changed.

Thinking back to the course profile, I knew that starting at mile 18, we would climb for 2 straight miles from 1500' back up to 2100', so when we left the trail and hit the dirt roads again, I put my head down and started to grind it out. In the distance I could see the next runner and I set my sights on closing the gap to him. I ran an even 9 minute pace in the first mile, climbing 300', while keeping my effort just below red line. I picked off the first runner and set my sights on the next runner, who was much further ahead than the last, but I was feeling really good.

I dropped the pace even more, down to 8:43 climbing mile 19 up another 375' and moving up again. I had to red line nearly the entire mile, but it was worth it as I cracked the top 10 again by the aid station. My time was 2:33 at aid station 6 for 19 miles.

Here are several shots of me with runners that I passed in the background.

These photos highlight the gear that I selected for this race, headlined by the inov-8 roclite 305's. Given that this distance was longer than the 50k's I had been running, I decided to step up to this ultra distance trail shoe. It was ideal for the terrain with plenty of underfoot cushion for the hard packed gravel roads and support for being on my feet for 8 hours straight. They were a great choice. For clothes, I wore the inov-8 Race Top and Nike Split shorts with the Fleet Feet Racing Team logo. For socks, I went with the medium cushioned PhD Trail Run Mini from Smartwool. They kept my feet dry and blister-free all day. I also sported the Zooz arm sleeves for the first half of the race. They kept me warm while the temps were cold in the deep valleys. I was carrying along two Ultimate Direction Fast Draw Extreme hand held bottles. They have been my bottles of choice for several years.

Leaving aid 6, was a lengthy downhill covering nearly 4 miles and dropping back down over a thousand feet. Running in this section was the first time that I struggled. The constant downhill pounding started to bother my quads and hips. Also, I had been nursing a sore ankle since the Xterra 15km a couple of weeks earlier, and the pounding had retweaked that injury. I actually walked for awhile downhill and took two more Advil, bring my total up to 3 for the race. Before we hit the 'half-way' point, I managed to lose 5 spots and dropped to 14th overall. Dink Taylor and Byron Backer were two of the folks who passed me by on the downhill, though I would pass Byron up later on. Dink put 13 minutes on me in this section as did many others, capitalizing on my weakness; downhill running.

I went on to split the marathon in 3:44. I felt pretty decent about this time, given that I had another marathon to run after that.

I seriously contemplated dropping out at the half way point. I knew that Jon's Dad would be there with the truck and I was struggling mentally. I had lost count of my placing and I really thought that I was running about 25th. I certainly did not want to go on for another 5 hours having to deal with the pain I was going through. I finally told myself that I was done about a mile before Long Mountain Wayside. Fortunately, when I got there, Paul told me that I was running in 14th place. It finally sunk in that I was faster than 275 other people to that point and if I could hold on, a top 15 finish at Mountain Masochist would be something to be proud of; so I decided to stick it out. I went to the truck, changed my shirt for sleeveless inov-8 top, dropped my arm sleeves and winter hat, picked up my sun glasses and a handful of mini Snicker's bars.

As I left the aid station and started the climb up Buck Mountain, I realized that this was the first solid food, other than energy blocks, that I had all day. It was amazing how much better I felt once eating real food. I probably should have started earlier than half way. This is where my inexperience at this distance really hurt me. In a fast 50k, I can get by without solids whatsoever.

From mile 23-28 we had already climbed up 1000', and now with Buck Mountain in front of me, I had another 1500' to climb in just over 3 miles. At the aid station, I dropped one spot to the first female, but quickly passed her back on the way up the mountain, and even overtook another runner in the process. I went with 4-1 run/walk method, meaning I would try to run about 4 times as many steps as I would walk, but push hard when I was running. I was taking no more than 10 steps while walking. This proved to be the recipe, along with the Rocky Theme song that played at the top of the mountain. When running I was clearly red lined, but I was able to sustain it to the summit. My splits were an amazing 12:32, 12:10 and 12:07, as I hit the 50km mark in 4 hours, 44 minutes.

Coming down the backside of Buck, I was running with Tamsin Anstey again. She was the lead female and running in her first 50 miler, as was I. She was strong on the downhills and pulled ahead slightly before the start of the 5 mile loop.

The start of the loop up toward the peak of Mt. Pleasant and then over to Pompey Mountain would prove to be the hardest section of the race. What was non technical gravel roads turned into technical single track with never ending climb. I think that I walked most of the climb in the first two miles, as noted by mile splits of 17:33 and 15:52. I would later hear that Roes would run this entire loop in 37 minutes; a true testament of his performance. I kept thinking that I could have done without this detour and laughing to myself that I would never be able to get back the hour that I lost between those mountains. My miles back down were almost as slow, as the trail was leaf covered and I had to put the brakes on to keep from slipping.

Coming back down through the aid station, I continued my onslaught of solid foods taking a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie, followed by 3 Swiss Cake Rolls. I managed to get all three Swiss Cake Rolls into my mouth at the same time. It was wonderful! I walked for a few minutes before seeing Paul again at the start of the loop. He asked how I was and I responded by saying "I can hold on for another 13 miles." I was starting to gain some confidence again, despite now running in 16th, having dropped one spot on the loop while I stopped to take electrolytes to ward off leg cramps.

We continued on for another few miles with more gravel roads rolling along I did manage to leapfrog another runner in this section with about 12 miles to go. I was back in the top 15. When I arrived at Salt Log Gap, I picked up some more chocolate chip cookies, filled my bottles and got some encouraging words from the aid station workers. They asked how I was doing and said that they were amazed at my performance given that I had never run this distance before. I'm not sure how, but they called me by name which brightened my outlook.

The next climb was pretty brutal as we ran more gravel roads with berms every few hundred feet toward the top of Rocky Mountain. I was down to a 2:1 run/walk ratio but still running hard when I was running. This method got me to the top and to the next aid station. The volunteers were fuzzy on how far it was to the end. The sign said 9 miles, but they didn't know if that meant 9 'actual' miles or 9 'Horton' miles. They laughed, but I didn't think that was so funny:) I was starting to work the math and slowly realizing that I would have to run strong to stay under 9 hours. They guys told me that it was a long 4 miles to the next aid station and that I should take plenty of nutrition.

What they really meant was "Prepare to run along the Appalachian Trail in a straight climb back up to above 4000' for the 3rd time of the day." I had no choice but to hike my way to the top. At one point, it seemed like there was no trail, but just white ribbons on trees as we passed a camping trailer and went straight up to the summit. I knew that somewhere Horton was laughing at me!

I was trying to ration my water, but ran out with a mile to go. I had also just finished my last Gel Blast and things seemed to be going downhill fast. I was guessing that I would have another 5 miles to go after the next aid station and I had just taken my 7th and 8th Advil for the day, maxing out on what I will take during a 24 hour period. My right knee was throbbing and I didn't think that I had anything left. This was one of my lowest lows of the race.

When I came through the next aid station, I asked again how many actual miles I had left to go. The volunteer said that it was about 3 miles. Again, I asked if these were 'real' miles or 'Horton' miles. He said that they drive this up by truck, so the measurement was precise. As I was taking a few steps in the wrong direction, I caught a glimpse of the next two runners behind me. I hadn't seen anyone in several hours and had no idea that they were that close to me. The guy at the aid station yelled for me to go (and in the right direction), so I took off. I immediately began to run scared. I wasn't about to finish in 17th place after being in the top 15 this late in the game.

I picked up the pace and it wasn't long before I tripped and fell, for the first time. I had been shuffling my feet for hours and having to increase my turnover meant lifting up my feet. I went down pretty hard, but landed on the bottles carried in each hand. I took a quick look to see if the two guys behind me saw the fall before getting back up; they had not as I was just around a bend on the decent.

I was running without any regard to personal safety on leaf covered roads full of rocks, yet I was driven with adrenaline. My first split after the aid station was 7:11. I was relatively shocked that I wasn't redlining or totally gassed, but in reality I was dropping at a rate of 500' per mile for the last 3 miles which really helped. My next split was 7:12. I saw a few people hiking back up and they told me that I was pretty near the 1 mile (to go) mark. I glanced at my watch and it read 8:23:00. That meant that if I could break 7 minutes for the last mile, that I could come in under eight and a half hours. I could no longer see anyone behind me, so now it was a true battle with the clock.

I ran around the last gate and onto the blacktop, now striding out pretty well. There was one more left turn and then the home stretch. I could faintly see the cars toward the finish and as I got closer, the faster I ran. As I neared the end, I could see everyone and hear them cheering. They could tell that I was all out, and that I was pushing to be under 8:30.

I rounded the corner and ducked into the parking lot and under the banner in 8:29:24, having run the last 5km in 21:27 or at 6:54 pace. I immediately dropped my bottles and bent over to catch my breathe; I had made it! In the process, I had put 4 minutes on the next runner coming down the hill.

The joy was immense as I staggered over to Clark and Horton to shake hands and take some pictures. I have to say that this may be my favorite picture of the year.

In the end, we decided that the total distance was somewhere between 52 and 53 miles or about a double marathon with 2.5 miles of climb and 2 miles of decent.
The elevation profile for the race is below.

Assuming 52.5 miles, that meant that my overall pace was 9:42. I am very proud of the fact that I stuck this through when I hit the emotional lows and that it was my first 50 miler. On this day, there were 14 people who were faster; but I was faster than 275 other people. I may forget how hard this was, but I will never forget the amazing feeling of accomplishment when it was over.

Here is a picture of the Huntsville gang before Dink and Suzanne had to head back home.

Then here we are all as proud finishers of the mighty Mountain Masochist. Dink nearly missed another sub 8 hour finish, coming in 10th overall at 8:00:40 with his 15th finish at MMTR. Jon ran a personal best 9:12, Eric Fritz ran 9:31 and Joey ran injured but finished at 11:42.