Sunday, February 20, 2011

13-19 February: Week in Review, MMT 100 Preview

Okay, I didn't mean to clear the crowded theatre, but apparently, this stupid website really, REALLY wants me to, since no matter how many times I try to post this picture from this weekend's MMT Training Run at the END of this entry (the count is at about 5 now), it stubbornly inserts it at the BEGINNING, and adds three extra spaces after each paragraph for good measure. If this is some easy problem to solve, and you're laughing at me right now for not being able to fix this, then at least I've managed to entertain. (And wherever it winds up, or whatever horrific website it probably links to now, since who knows what else this website insists on insidiously breaking, it's still a cool picture.)
But if you're still reading . . . the business:

13 February: 10 miles (73 minutes), Canton/Fells/etc.

14 February: 6 miles (45 minutes), Patterson Park

15 February: Butcher's Hill reps (4, in 2:52, 2:51, 2:54, 2:56), 9 miles (60 minutes)

16 February: 3 miles (23 minutes), APG

17 February: 7 treadmill miles (10:00/mile, 10% grade), +1 mile warmup/warmdown (77 minutes total)

18 February: 6 miles in the morning (45 minutes), 9 miles in the evening (65 minutes), Patterson Park

19 February: 32-ish miles, MMT 100 Training Run #2 (6 hours, 42 minutes)

Total Time: 790 minutes
Total Distance: 83-ish miles

So, in summary, slight mileage bump-up, good distance, good intensity. Overall, a good week.

Also, on Friday, 18 February, I was accepted for Badwater 2011 - more about that in another post, but for now, suffice to say that I'm excited, and thank you to Natural Vitality Sports, my sponsor for this event.

. . .

This wouldn't be a typically verbose post if I ended it there. So for the rest of your attention span, I'm going to carry on about the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100, the greatest 100-miler I never ran (but am excited to finally be running for real this coming May). Get ready for disorganized discussion of the course, my race strategy, and maybe some other stuff that doesn't quite fit.

In the interest of qualifying myself for this mini-dissertation, I completed the Old Dominion 100-miler in 2008 (from which MMT 100 plagiarizes parts of its course), paced runners at MMT in both 2009 and 2010 (2009 was the year of the torrential overnight downpour), and ran substantial portions of the course during my attempt at The Ring in September 2010. Oh, and there was the training run this past Saturday ( For those of you who can't be bothered to click on the link, the training run covers about 30 miles in the middle of the course, which contains a mish-mash of terrain - everything from gently rolling gravel roads to rocky, technical, semi-exposed single-track, for a grand total of nearly 6,000 feet of climb (and around 5,500 feet of descent). All in all, a fair representation of the course as a whole.

The 6 hours and 42 minutes that it took me to complete this 30-ish mile section of the course doesn't sound too eye-popping. However, considering that I was running at "100-mile pace," this went very well. I ran (a conservatively estimated) about 2 miles off-course when I missed a turn onto the yellow trail heading towards Shawl Gap, and debatably took a wrong turn on the orange trail on the Veach Gap Ridge (opting for the leaf-covered, narrow, cliff-face-style exposed low road, as opposed to the wide, gentle, comfortable horse trail on the high side). Subtract about 20 minutes for shooting the breeze and having pictures of my cut-up MT100s next to somebody's giant puffy Hokas taken at the aid stations, and for taking pictures of the Shenandoah River and a fire in the valley and posting them to Facebook during the run, and add in a little bit of extra hustle assuming that I don't screw up my nutrition during the race, and I'm looking at a very comfortable 6 to 6.5 hours to finish what I would consider a very representative third of the race, a pace that would put me on track to finish between 18 and 20 hours. (Incidentally, the course record is something like 17:40).

All of which sounds outlandish for a city slicker who exhibits an occasional dislike of trails. And of course, there are a few things that could throw a wrench in the works: the weather (it's been brutally hot and unbearably cold there, all in the same race), poor nutrition, some really horrible section of trail that I forgot about, a stupid decision that causes me to get injured during the race, getting lost, probably a lot more things that I can't think of off the top of my head right now. With methodical preparation and good ol' common sense, the effects of these can be minimized, and rest assured I'll be compiling and cross-checking this list with appropriate mitigation strategies prior to race day.

But let's focus on why I think such an aggressive finishing time is achievable. First, I'm gradually coming around to the "trail running is the only kind of running" camp, although I will never give up my late-weekend-night runs around Canton, Fells, and the Inner Harbor (the drunken hecklers are too funny, and the homeless people usually say nice, encouraging things to you, when they're not shouting random racial slurs), and I refuse to grow a beard (I'm not sure that I could in the first place). In particular, I love the trails in the Massanuttens, as I've now amassed sufficient memories on them for the thought of a late-night, headlamp-guided, caffiene-addled rock stumble to get the adrenaline and endorphins flowing. In fewer words, mega-positive mental state about this race, but not the kind that's totally disconnected from reality. Yes, at times it might be miserable and hurt a lot, but for the thrill of power-hiking a steep incline, then reaching the top and barreling down a rock-strewn mountain at breakneck speeds, it's more than worth it. It's compelling enough that I now go out of my way to run on the grass in Patterson Park, or wherever else would otherwise be too "urban" to simulate trail running.

Second, patience and consistency are my strengths, and I believe these are also the key to running well at MMT. In many ways, MMT can be an infuriating race, especially for the front-running types that insist on dropping sub-6 minute miles where they can early in the race. By and large, the trail sections are very rocky and technical, and require a huge amount of coordination and patience to navigate successfully. When you're playing "track meet" from the start, you're chipping away at that reserve that you're going to need when you're sleep-deprived and trying to wade through a sea of rocks at mile 93. I've seen broken-down runners in 100-milers, but the breakdowns at MMT have definitely been the worst. Burn yourself out too soon, and you'll pay dearly at the end of this one.

Third (and following closely on the heels of the second point), I proved to myself this past weekend at the training run that the kind of effort needed to run sub-20 hours at MMT should be within my limits. I finished the training run feeling as though I could do it again (and again), and ran 9 miles the next day, without any significant soreness or lingering effects of the run. All this by fast-hiking the climbs, letting momentum carry me on the downhills, and settling into a steady pace on the flats. Overall, I felt as though I had a good, consistent effort level dialed in for the duration of the run.

Taking all of that into account, my race strategy: Stay steady, let the inevitable "track meet" at the front of the pack go on without me. Comfortable 7-ish minute miles on the flats, power-hike the uphills at about 15-minute miles, roll the downhills at whatever gravity will allow, within the limits of my knees and quads. (And definitely no walking the downhills, as that is a sure way to wreck my knees and quads.) 200-ish calories per hour, mainly in the form of gels, wear the Nathan bottle belt (as I have better balance with this than I do with a bottle in my hand on the steep downhills) and the MT100s (unless I can sufficiently break in the MT101s). Enjoy the day, gradually reel in the people who went out too fast, and if I don't feel completely wrecked in the last 10 miles or so, give it everything I have left. And do something cool after the race (TBD).

In conclusion, if you were wondering why this post is entirely in red, it's because in addition to not putting my picture where I want it, this stupid website also insists on changing the font size and font color semi-randomly in various sections of this post, and, honestly, I give up. Red on black = visible. Whatever, blogger. I guess you got paid, so does it really matter?

1 comment:

  1. 1. Are you using Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox?? I have found that, when trying to use colors, IE does a better job. Additionally, if I want to change colors, I wait until the post is done and then highlight/change. If you change it while you're posting, it will never go back to normal colors.

    2. Posting pics. It will inevitably force the picture to the beginning of the post, but if you click and drag it you can move it to the middle or the end, and then just delete the extra spaces. I haven't found a way to position it where I want it from the getgo.