Saturday, February 26, 2011

2011 Black Warrior 25km

February 19, 2011
Moulton, AL

Black Warrior 50km was set to be my final distance tune up before a full three-week taper leading into my bid to break the Alabama state age record in the 50-mile distance at Delano Park. In the process I would also vie for a fast time and look for the overall win; well that was the plan.

Photo Courtesy of Greg Gelmis

In reality, the best laid plans of men are just that; plans. They must be prepared for and executed in order to be successful. In my case, I was coming off of an illness and maybe an ill advised road marathon just six days prior and far from being in prime shape for my plan. The marathon left my feet badly blistered from shoes I had not won since CIM in early December and the narrow toe-box forced my outer smallest toes under the next and the pounding on them for 26.2 miles was very painful. I had difficulty walking through mid week and running was even more difficult as proven by a test run on Thursday where I struggled to hold goal pace for a few miles.

So in the hour long drive over to Moulton from Huntsville, despite being with friends, I was very focused on the decision at hand; race the longer distance in the unseasonably warm February temperatures, or be fleet of foot and race the shorter distance and escape the heat and live to fight another day. Standing around and enjoying the camaraderie, I battled internally over the choice at hand. Even as I picked up my race number for the 50km, I was nearly certain that I was going to make the smart move and race the 25km. It was weighing heavily on my mind as we stood on the bridge at the start and that is when I decided that I was going to take the pace out hard up the first hill and race the 25km. Of course it was too late to change races and as we took off up the hill, I knowingly accepted the fact that should the race director not allow me to change, I was risking a potential disqualification.

The race was split up into 4 unique parts.

Gravel road (FSR 262): 2.6 miles from the start to 2.6 miles
Trail section on Keith Mill (Orange) Loop: 5.4 miles from 2.6 to 8.0
Trail section on Keith Mill (Orange) Loop: 5.75 miles from 8.0 to 12.75
Gravel road (FSR 262): 2.75 miles from 12.75 to 15.5

Section 1:

The first mile climbs steady from the bridge which lies in a low and chilly hollow to the top of the ridge, gaining 350’ in the process. I always try to keep my head up and run the tangents of this windy road and held the pace under 7 minute-miles to the top. It was clear that no one was coming along for the ride as the voices got softer and softer into the distance. Like last year when I was chasing the then unknown Dane Mitchell, I lowered the pace ever further from the crest to the trail head, running just over 6 minute pace on each split. My breathing was good and my turnover seemed to quick and the fast I ran, the more distance I put between myself and the pack and the more confidence I gained. I turned onto the first trail section at about 16:35, waving to one of the Fagerman brothers who were standing with a group of people at the final aid station.

Section 2:

This section actually has two parts with them split by Forest Service Road 363. The eastern portion rolls continuously with very fast flat sections. Marty Clarke always said that if this course was dry, that it could be scorched and if it was wet that the mud and horse manure would eat you alive. Luckily we had not had that much rain so the runoff crossings were manageable and despite a vanishing shoe into the mud when running through them, the trail was in good shape. My pace stayed below 7 minute pace through the aid station without having to expend maximum effort. I did kept thinking that I needed to relay information back to inov-8 team mate DeWayne Satterfield that I was indeed running the 25km; I did not want him to think that I was getting way and that he would have to make a bold move to run me down, but that he could focus on his distance and battle Alan Outlaw from Chattanooga. So when I crossed FSR 262, I made sure that Jeff Fagerman would pass along the message for me; in a serious tone and not that I was playing any sort of mind games and trying to trick them into slowing down… I was really thinking about their well being.

Coming off of the road crossing it was a solid two miles until the split. This section is notorious for washed away trail leaving large rocks. They are mostly run with easy footing but a few of them at the stream crossings were wet and moss covered. I had one misstep with an ankle twist but it wasn’t enough to slow me down. The 7th mile was the last mile on trail were I held under 7 minute pace but was just barely over it in the next.

Section 3:

Last year I started to melt down before the split as I basically stepped aside to let Tim Vinson go and then I never saw him again. MY demise further perpetrated as by the 15km mark, close friend Rob Youngren passed me and as I recall asked me if I was ok, given that I had slowed down so much. These thoughts weighed heavy on my mind at the split but I was still feeling strong and remained focused. I saw yet another Fagerman brother at the split and in making the turn, I knew that I had made the right decision. The temperature was still climbing and it would surely impact the 50km runners. I was more than half way done and had just 4 more miles of trail before the final road section where I could pick up the pace. So step after step I focused on an even effort through the mud as the trail ran into and out of each cove. At the crux of each cove there was typically a shallow creek crossing that varied from being able to jump over and stay dry to ankle deep which was no more than mildly annoying. The forest started to thin out a little as I approached the final aid station. The contour of the land was very familiar from the many training runs that we had done on this course. Fueling was coming along fine as I continued to snack on some Cola flavored Power Bar Gel-Blasts. My hand bottle was starting to run a little dry but I had enough to finish up the race.

Section 4:

My pace had started to slip a little after the aggressive first few miles building the lead, but I was still holding mid to high 7's over rolling terrain since the split. Making the turn onto the gravel road I came across Greg Gelmis who was out to support his wife Karen. He gave me some encouraging words and said that I had built quite a lead on the pack. I had tried not to think about anyone chasing but I admit that as I picked up the pace climbing back to the summit of the gravel road section, that I started to get a little nervous. All of the usual self doubt that can set in during the late stages of a race was creeping up. I have been in the situation dozens of times before but each time it seems worse than before. Will I fade in the final mile? Is there someone making up ground? These questions usually arise when my sugar levels have dropped and I simply need energy. Sometimes it is just hard to recognize what is going on while it is going on. On this day I did and quickly took some fuel and within minutes I felt better. I know that they don’t take affect that quickly, but I had fed my mind and then the energy would soon feed my muscles.

I could not remember my time from last year but I knew that I was nowhere near the course record set by Dane Mitchell from last year. I was concerned with a strong finish and hanging onto the lead. Miles 13 and 14 were 6:51 and 6:40 with just a few minutes to run before crossing the bridge. The finish line is just further up the road beyond the bridge and is paved from there which provides some speed. I glanced at my watch and saw that there was a slim chance that I could come in under 1:44 if I dropped the pace into the 5’s. I increased my turnover and making the final turn toward the finish, I finally looked behind to see that there was no one trailing. I crossed the finish line at 1:43:58 with just 1 second to spare to stay under 1:44.

I had some mild intentions of running a few more miles but my legs were tired and thought that my time would be better used to clean up and find my way to the mile 17 aid station where my pals were working. It took a bit of time to find a ride but eventually I did and was able to help out by encouraging other runners in the 50km.

I am not sure this goes down as one of my better races but a win is a win and I will take it. I didn’t find out until I got back home that I actually had earned the 3rd fastest time on the course since the inception of the race in 2008 which put a great spin on the day! Inov-8 Team USA team mate DeWayne Satterfield ran a strong 4:10, finishing 2nd overall in the 50km and Fleet Feet Racing teammate James Falcon finished 10th overall with a pretty nasty head cold.

Top 10 Fastest Times Black Warrior 25km

1. 1:32:36 Dane Mitchell, 2010* (Winner)
2. 1:42:56 Brett Kmiec, 2010
3. 1:43:58 Eric Charette, 2011* (winner)
4. 1:44:08 Tim Vinson, 2010
5. 1:46:03 Matt Sims, 2009* (Winner)
6. 1:47:07 Rob Youngren, 2010
7. 1:47:14 John Thorpe, 2009
8. 1:47:23 Derick Hallmark, 2008 *(Winner)
9. 1:47:37 Daniel Ross, 2008
10. 1:50:39 Marty Clark, 2008

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Team inov-8 US Biography: Eric Charette

1) Primary sport (s): Trail and ultra running

2) Team member since: 2010

3) City/state of residence: Huntsville, Alabama. Hometown: Kingsford, Michigan

4) Occupation: Professional Electrical Engineer

5) Goals for 2011:

  • Break 4:30 and finish in top 5 at Mountain Mist 50km
  • Break 7 hours and set state age record (7:14:49) Delano 50 mile
  • Break 5:30 and finish in the top 5 at Strolling Jim 40 (41.2 miles)
  • Overall win at Keyes Peak Trail 50km
  • Sub 2:45 at New York City Marathon
6) Notable achievements/memories/PR’s in your sport:

In 2010, I set personal records at 2 mile (10:38), 5km (16:36), ½ Marathon (1:15:32), Marathon (2:43:40) , 50 mile (7:14:16) in 2010. Also I finished in the top 3 places 24 times of 36 total races, including 9 overall wins.

  • 2008 Huntsville Track Club Male Performer of the Year
  • 2009, 2010 Huntsville Track Club Open Male Gran Prix Series Runner Up
  • 2010 Huntsville Track Club Male Admiration Award
  • 2010, 2011 Ultrarunning Team inov-8 US Selection
  • Course Record Delano 50k 3:53:54 March 2009
  • Course Record Bartlett Park 50k 4:07:10 August 2009
  • 2nd fastest known time Alabama Pinhoti Trail 171.3 miles May 2010
  • 6th fastest time ever Dizzy Fifties 50km 3:53:15 November 2009
  • 11th fastest time ever Mount Cheaha 50km 4:54:07 February 2010
  • Course Record Keyes Peak Trail Marathon 3:19:58 June 2010
7) Favorite inov-8 gear: inov-8 x-talon 190 for short distance and inov-8 Roclite 285 for ultra running.

8) List one thing others may not know about you: When telling a story, I often relate it back to a situation from a TV show or movie that I have seen. Recently I was asked what I thought was the secret to life. I thought back to the movie City Slickers, where Billy Crystal says that it is just "one thing" and later goes on to say that it is unique to each person. For me it is a trail run in the fall with my two beagles (Siri and Fiina) when the colors are changing and the temperatures are falling, enjoying the beauty, serenity and simplicity of the wilderness.  There are no problems that can't be worked out in your head when in the solitude of the trails and nothing else matters out there.

9) Favorite energy drink/food: For short distance running I thrive on Honey Stinger gels, especially the Gold and Ginsting (ginseng) flavors. For ultra distance, I found a strange affinity for Vanilla Boost with high protein, along with string cheese. I ate this combination like it was going out of style during the FKT of the Pinhoti Trail in May of 2010.

10) Your favorite race and why? My favorite race is McKay Hollow Madness 25km. This race is held on the trails of Monte Sano State Park and The Huntsville Land Trust in Huntsville, Alabama. The race has four difficult climbs, including the final ascent up Death Trail to the finish. I have always been known as a strong climber so this race and the brutal finish suit my strengths.

11) Advice to other athletes: Never stop dreaming and always believe in yourself.  I am an example of someone with just ordinary abilities who trains very hard and strives to achieve extraordinary results.  I think that it would be an injustice to the sport and others who look up to me if I wasn't out there on every run trying to bust my tail and realize my potential. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given and it is my goal to pay it forward.