Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CATs at Masochist

The CATs made a great showing at this year's running of the Mountain Masochist Trail Run (MMTR) 50-miler, held last Saturday starting at 6:30 am.  Counting David Snipes and recent CAT-shirt inductee, Jack Broaddus, we had 12 CAT runners start the race and 12 complete it (the others were Neal Church, Bob Clouston, Joey Cohen, Christian Dahlhausen, Marc Griffin, Brian Kelleher, Jenny Nichols, David Smith, Sophie Speidel, and Jen Ward).

Christian Dahlhausen, Sophie Speidel, Andrew Krueger, Neil Church, Bob Clouston, Joey Cohen, David Smith, Quattro Hubbard after the race
You could not ask for better race-day weather. Cloudless skies and temperatures starting in the low 30s and rising midday to the 50s made for a perfect autumn day in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The CATs performed well on this beautiful day, with two top-30 finishers (Joey, in his first Masochist, placed 22nd, and Christian, with a PR, came in 29th), the Lynchburg Ultra Series female winner (Sophie, also was 6th among the women racers and ran her PR), the Lynchburg Ultra Series female 3rd place (Jenny Nichols, who also PR'd with a 10th-place finish among the field of women), and an age-group winner (Jack Broaddus).  Completing Masochist meant Marc Griffin and David Snipes were that much closer to capping off their fourth consecutive completion of the Beast Series, and newcomer Jen Ward finished her first Masochist after running the Marine Corps Marathon the previous Sunday.  Overall, an impressive group!

The day could not have been the CAT success that it was without awesome crewing from Drew Krueger, Cristina Reitz-Krueger, Jamie Dahlhausen, Ann Rice, and Harry Landers!

Below are pictures from the race and individual summary race reports.  The race reports reflect both the highs and lows from the race, so read on!


Christian
This was my second MMTR which made the race not less beautiful (peak of fall foliage) but definitely easier knowing the course. Last year I ran into IT-Band issues after 2/3 of the distance, had to walk quite a bit and soothe the pain with Advil. This year I was a lot better prepared: many more quality mountain miles of training with CATs, a couple of VHTRC events, and last but not least, Skinny B's workouts. My goal was to beat my time (9:55) by an hour and run a sub 9hrs - I figured that I had to run 10:06min/mile's on average to make this reality.

I ran the first mile or two with David and after wishing him well at the turnaround, took off. Generally I stick to the general rule to go out slower the first half of a race and run faster the second half - but not this time. I remembered Horty saying "Don't be stupid" and thought that I am right now but justified running faster by telling myself that the first miles are the easy, flat ones and that there is plenty of walking uphill ahead of me where I could recoup some energy.

During the race I felt a lingering pain in my right knee, immediately I thought this was my IT Band yet again but stuck to my plan and hoped it would just disappear after a while. The pain aggravated a bit but I could keep running without pain relievers. I convinced myself that if I'd run faster, the race would be over faster, hence the suffering would be over sooner as well. (What a stupid thought).

I was happy, felt strong and remembered parts of the course being very hard to run last year and this year everything felt much more do-able. I got to chat with a couple of other runners which made the time pass a lot quicker.  At the half-way point, Long Mountain Wayside aid station, I could immediately spot the bright green CAT shirts - fantastic! The "Drew Crew" (Jamie, Cristina & Drew + Harry Landers) were a great team and provided everything what you could ask for (THANKS!!!), it felt like a quick pit stop in a Formula-1 race. A motivation boost.  Now the real race began. I lagged a little behind my anticipated time but figured I could be able to make it up on the downhills.

A long way up Buck mountain, Rocky music, perfect running weather made the second part go by quick again. I kept up with my nutrition (two gels diluted in 24oz water bottle and one Endurolyte capsule every hour, a couple of snacks at aid stations). I felt much stronger running uphills than last year which kept my motivation going. I made it through the loop in 57mins (1hr 20min in 2010) and still felt I had lots of energy left. Great!

The final miles I ran with Kevin Smith, who was hoping to finish sub-9 as well. Despite feeling strong and keeping up the pace I couldn't quite make it and finished in 9:13. Still, I am really happy with that and felt the difference the better training made. Thanks to all the CAT's, especially the Drew Crew for support and going the distance.


Sophie
http://shiningsultra.blogspot.com/2011/11/race-within-race-masochists-2011.html

Jenny
http://jendenichols.blogspot.com/2011/11/mmtr-2012-redemption-run.html

Bob
I came into the race well-trained, healthy, and the weather was ideally cool for running.  So why did this race suck so badly for me?

With my birthday 5 days away, this was my "50@50" race, to be enjoyed with plenty of friends running, and a few others crewing/cheering us on.   A few are more or less my speed, so I figured I'd have some company along the way, and would hopefully come in under 10 hours.

The race starts in the dark at the James River on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We run 1.5 miles north, then turn around and head back to 501.  I started with Jenny Nichols so we could keep each other in check early on.  She peeled off near 501 to drop some warm clothes off with her hubby, and then I was running with Rachel Corrigan, who would become the youngest woman finisher in the 29 year history of the race, at 17.  It was quite a sight to follow the string of lights on the loop off the parkway onto 501, and then see the string of lights from other runners following us.

3 miles or so on 501, and we hit the trail and our first climb as it got light.  Jenny caught back up, with Marlin Yoder, and then Sophie Speidel came by and took them with her.  They faded from view quickly, not to be seen again as they all had great races.   I was a bit surprised to lose them but I felt ok about my own running so I wasn't worried.

At 16.7 I was thinking we were 1/3 of the way, but remembered that the course is commonly accepted to be  54 miles.  It seemed to take an eternity to get to 18.  Rachel dropped me and I was on my own now.  More climbing, and things were starting to hurt.  My butt hurt.  My left ankle was stiff.  My back ached.  These are the same problems that used to bother me, and didn't last year because I did more flexibility and core exercises.  Guess what I didn't do much of this year?  I was also getting weaker.  I had been taking a gel every hour and grazing lightly at the aid stations, but wasn't getting enough so I used the next hill to down a power bar and some beef jerky, along with an Aleve.

The downward spiral continued.  Why am I doing this?  I've already run a 50, why do it again?  Do I even like running anymore?  The halfway point aid station is coming up, and I know I can just get my warm sweatshirt and catch a ride or take the bus to the finish.  The trail flattens, and I don't have much of a run in me.  Everyone is passing me.  A 19 minute mile clicks off.  I do some math and figure that I won't make the 12 hour cutoff at this rate.  It's simple math logic.  If I can't finish, why go on?  The course gets a lot tougher in the 2nd half, so there's obviously no way it'll get better.  On an easy gravel road, I catch my foot on something and would fall but I'm going so slowly that I have no momentum, so I stay verticlal.  Yeah, that does it, let's get to the Long Mountain aid station and bag it.  I'm not going to trip and fall for another marathon distance, and I don't want anyone to see what a lousy time I'd have even if I did finish.

Drew sees me and tries to guide me to the food.  No, I say, I need to go to my bag.  What do you need?  I dunno, doesn't matter, I can't make it anyway, everything hurts, might as well stop.  No way, says Drew.  He tears open my bag and tells me to get what I need, and to get moving.  No, you don't understand (I'm telling the guy who barfed his way to a top ten 100 mile finish a month ago), I can't make it.  Drew turns deaf and pushes back out on the trail, putting some food in my hands.  OK, I say, but if I still feel like this at the loop (7 miles after a big climb), that's it.

I start up the hill and hear a couple other people call out "Go Bob".  Great, I hope they didn't see how pathetic I look.  This is a long hard climb, and everyone is walking.  It dawns on me that I'll lose far more respect by quitting than registering any time, or at least trying.   OK, what the hell, I'll probably miss a cut-off, then it's out of my hands, until then I'll keep going.  Funny thing, on the toughest section of the course, I start to recover.  Things stop hurting.  The "Rocky" theme is blaring from the aid station at the top of the climb, and I take off my headphones to hear it.  I get passed by a few more people, but before I know it, I'm at the top, out of the aid station, and running some rollers.  The notion of quitting now seems absurd, and I'm kicking myself for nearly doing it, but I've got to forget about that.

Another climb and then it flattens as I approach the loop.  I knew exactly what Drew would do, he wouldn't even ask how I'm doing, he'd just ask what I needed to get me in and out, and I play along.  Harry is there too, he says I'm looking good, and I call him a liar.  But I am doing better.  The 5 mile loop starts easy and then gets tough, but now I'm the one starting to pass people or at least hang with others.   The dynamics are different back here where cutoffs are in play.  Someone asks me what I think about making it in 12 hours, and I say that if it's really 54 miles, we have to average 16 minute pace, and with these hills, that means it can't be walked in.   A bit later, the trail seems to peter out.  There's someone behind me, and I ask if we're on trail.  Yep.  So I go on.  Campsite.  We're off trail.  Don't be stupid, Horton said before the race.  If you stop seeing the course markers, you're off course, don't keep going.  We double back and find the turn we missed, only a minute or so lost. 

Out of the loop and I see Drew and his wife again.  I want to ask how others are doing but I don't want to hear if anyone else has dropped or missed cutoffs, so I don't ask.  I really have to just focus on my own race.  Going downhill now, and every step I'm taking at 8 or 9 minute/mile pace is putting me in safer territory to finish.  I see Jack from Harrisonburg, who was at my dinner table the night before, and we chat a bit and then he picks it up to try to break 11 hours, which he does.  Up, down and around we go.  I thought there were going to be 3 climbs after the loop, but a 4th one comes, and even though it's not long, it's steep.  I never, ever, completely stop on in a race just to rest, but I take 5-10 seconds here, and then take it.  I ask someone if there is just one aid station left, or two.  Just one.  We get there and they tell us it's 3.8 miles, downhill.  I'm at 10:22, so if it's really 3.8 miles, and I can do 10 minute pace, I'll break 11 hours.  Whopee!

The next mile or so goes ok, and then everything starts hurting again, especially my feet, and my knee feels like it's about to give out.  I decide 11 hours isn't a meaningful goal, so I go to a run/walk, then a walk/run, then a walk.  I don't care, I just want to finish.  I hear 2 girls coming behind me, I think one is pacing the other in, leading her runner in army marching songs and generally screeching her home, probably being the best pacer ever, but I can't stay with them.  Finally the road comes, and I catch a glimpse of cars at the finish, and jog it in.  My running buds spot my orange jacket and cap and cheer me on, and I'm in, at 11:11.  I've got 51.4 miles on my Garmin, which SportsTracks later corrects to 52.01.  The 54 mile course is a myth.  I wonder what that would've done to my outlook mid-race, since the math probably would've worked out to finish.  Next time I'll know, but the course will be changing anyway.

Post-race I'm a bit down about my time, but happy that all of the CATs runners finished, with a few PRs.  As a day or two go by I feel much better about finishing on a bad day, and more grateful that I had the help to go on, and I get overwhelming support from my friends.  I'm also feeling pretty good physically, since I ran it more at training run pace than race pace.

Lessons?
- Come in stronger with a "don't quit" attitude, and if a race starts going back, forget all about time and just concentrate on finishing.
- Have a crew that will push you onward unless you are truly injured or ill
- Slacking on my flexibility exercises bit me, badly.  I think I also didn't do enough mid-week medium long runs.
Next up, Three Bridges Marathon on Sugar Hollow Road near the Charlottesville reservoir, Dec 4.

David
I entered race day pretty nervous, as this was my first 50-miler.   I knew too that my normal pace on a good day would put me not-too-far ahead of the race cutoff of 12 hours (which meant averaging sub 14-minute miles over the 52-mile course and 9,200 feet of elevation gain).  I had trained for the race steadily since the summer, so I wanted to believe that my training would payoff.  Indeed, I started to feel like I could even maybe pull a sub 11-hour finish!

I don't want to bore you guys with a blow-by-blow of the day, much of the run was a blur.  What I will say is this:  It was a very hard race, with both low and high points.  I finished 20 minutes short of the twelve hour cutoff, in 11 hours, 40 minutes. Now I can't wait to try the race again and improve on my time.  I need to turn the race blur into something more coherent to analyze because I think with some tweaks here and there, and continued quality speed and hill work, I could achieve my sub 11-hour goal next year.  And I loved, loved, loved the race.  Especially after I was finished!

Here are the high points for me:  Great undulating course, with nothing too technical and lots of beautiful mountain scenery; seeing Drew, Cristina, and Jamie at the halfway point at Long Mountain Wayside -- Oh how I had looked forward to that point through the first half of the race; getting to the Loop and being helped again by the "Drew Crew," with the added surprise of having Harry Landers escort me on my run through the Loop -- great time and conversation with Harry; and finally, the hammering, quad-busting run down the last two miles to the finish.  What a blast!

I will also talk a bit about one of my lowest points during the race. It came during the last 1/4 of the race, when I wasn't sure how the last "Horton miles" translated to actual remaining mileage on the course. Horton miles are longer on average than real miles, and can vary in their accuracy from station to station.  I began to fear that because the actual remaining miles were probably much higher than the Horton remaining miles, I wouldn't make AS cut-offs, and even if I did, I would still end up not finishing under 12 hours.  This was especially true through the second-to-last AS (with 7 Horton miles remaining), where I inquired about the actual remaining mileage. I got a shrug from the AS volunteers -- after all they were about ready to pack up -- and an answer along the lines of, "the next four miles are tough, then it is all downhill."  Well, I knew that meant 4 rough Horton miles and then 3 Horton miles downhill.  But what I remembered from earlier conversations and advice from Marc Griffin was that the last 6 miles were downhill.  So I said to myself, "Geez, assuming the next four miles is actually four miles (they could be longer), I still got 6 actual miles of downhill after that."  Doing the math in my mind, I calculated that there was no way I would make it down in time for the 12 hour cutoff.  And yet. . .I had hit all aid stations with 10-15 minutes on the cutoffs, so I didn't get it.  Was this some master Zealand/Horton trick, to take you all the way to the last AS with OK cutoff times, only to shut you out at the bottom??  I spent a lot of time pondering this and hating the run of "four miles" to the next aid station.

Then, as I continued to run/walk this section, hating life and hating running, I realized something  . . the downhill sections seemed to be staying with earnest, and I could even see that there was really no way to go BUT down now, towards the valley!  OK, so the last six miles of downhill begin BEFORE the last aid station.  . .I love you Marc, it all makes sense now!  In no time, I was at the last AS, it was 5:32 pm, and the volunteers there informed me that we had only 3.8 actual miles straight down to the finish.  And that was the end of my lowest, low point!