Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week in Review: 29 May-4 June, and Old Dominion 100-Mile Endurance Run and Bel Air Town Run 5K Report

Same ol' drill; first the miles, then the race report:

29 May - 1 mile (10 minutes)
30 May - 10 miles (75 minutes), around the Harbor - hot.
31 May - 9 miles - 6 in the morning, another 3 in the afternoon, including a 15-minute treadmill hill session. (95 minutes)
1 June - 8 miles, from O'Donnell Square (60 minutes)
2 June - 1 mile (10 minutes)
3 June - 1 mile (10 minutes)
4 June - 100 miles, Old Dominion 100-Mile Endurance Run, 19 hours, 14 minutes, 30 seconds

Total Time: 1415 minutes
Total Distance: 130 miles

Now, the race reports:

First, a little background. When I ran the Old Dominion 100-Mile Endurance Run back in 2008, I was able to run both Old Dominion and the Bel Air Town Run 5K because, in a relatively rare turn of events, the first Saturday in June and the first Sunday in June were not on the same weekend. Collin Anderson, who had put me up to Old Dominion in the first place, had said at the time (before I had checked to see if there was a conflict) that I should just run both races, thereby keeping my Bel Air Town Run streak alive. The more I thought about this, the more I thought I'd want to try it some year. This, apparently, was the right year.

First up, the Old Dominion 100-Mile Endurance Run. This was the first time that I'd run the same 100-mile race more than once. Despite knowing the course, I didn't know was how the race would turn out. As I mentioned in my last post, my training runs over the past couple of week have been shorter and more painful than I would like, which was either a sign that I needed some extended downtime, or that I had just hit a low point in my training cycle, and was on the road to recovery.

In any case, since I knew that the race would be stacked (70 entrants, up from about 40 in 2008, and the list being a bit of an ultrarunning who's who . . . of course, they don't post the entrants list online, so the best information that I had was through the grapevine: http://nealgorman.blogspot.com/2011/05/deep-field-at-old-dominion-100.html), my plan was to go out aggressively, but not totally kill myself, and hold on the best I could.

This plan worked very well for about the first 30 miles, as I was relatively comfortably leading the race. I was climbing well (I actually ran all the way up Woodstock Gap, without feeling over-exerted), attacking the downhills, and generally feeling strong. Then, nutrition caught up with me. Old Dominion is very old-school when it comes to aid stations, so most of the food, aside from bananas and oranges, was sugary-fatty (Snickers bars, cookies, etc.), and my poor digestive system couldn't handle that much fat, sitting there, most likely getting rancid. So I started slowing, from my relatively breakneck pace that put me through the first marathon in around 3:40 pace, and people started to catch me. First Neal Gorman and Eric Grossman (running together at the time), then a couple others, and before I knew it, I reached Four Points (around 32.5 miles) in fifth.

Over the long loop out from Four Points and back in, things got worse. It was starting to get hotter, and I had no desire to eat or drink, and my stomach was churning. I continued to press forward, but at a slower pace, jogging a lot less and walking a lot more. The end result was that I reached Four Points again, 15 miles later, probably looking okay on the outside, but barely hanging on on the inside.

Still, I remained patient, knowing that the dreaded exposed, rutted, ATV-ridden "ATV trail" was the next section of the course. I wasn't moving forward as well as I would have liked, but I kept moving forward, somehow in fourth place. It was somewhere along the ATV trail that Jeremy Pade passed me, relegating me to fifth place (spoiler: where I would remain for the rest of the race).

From then on, the rest of the race was less of a race than a war of attrition, which, in the end, most 100-mile runs turn out to be. I navigated the dreaded 11-mile Sherman's Gap/Veach Gap section in around 3 hours (starting a new tradition by shouting "911" from the top of Sherman's Gap), and kept a fairly steady (albeit slow) pace from there to the finish. My stomach never felt better enough, and my food never digested enough, for me to move much faster, which was a shame, because I still had legs left at the end, enough to run down Woodstock Gap into town (where a woman standing outside her house asked where I got my headlamp, because it was really bright, and then asked if she could have it for walking at night . . . bizarre.) As it turned out, Keith Knipling finished about 10 minutes behind me, which meant that he had been chasing me for the better part of the second half of the race, without my knowledge.

If all of the above sounds a little more mundane than usual, it was. Other than my stomach problems, I didn't have any problems with chafing, or blisters, or any of those other ultrarunning nuisances that can ruin a race. For me, Old Dominion was about continued forward progress, even as my pace slowed, and at this race, more than at any other, I successfully worked the "dogged persistence" angle. It helped to have a crew out there, because nobody wants to crew for somebody who's having a crummy race (and, on the flip side, people like to crew for somebody who's doing awesome), and it also helped that if I didn't finish the race in a timely fashion (i.e. before midnight, or sub-20-hours), it would be much more difficult to make the 3-hour drive back up to Bel Air for the Town Run in the morning.

The bottom line was that I finished in 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 30 seconds, which would have been good enough to win the race many years, but this year, was only good enough for fifth (the place that I can't seem to get above in ultras - I've also placed fifth twice at the Seneca Greenway 50K). I was pleased with my effort, but had my nutrition been a little better, up to two hours improvement in my finishing time seems plausible.

In any event, water under the bridge, because the Bel Air Town Run 5K (my 16th consecutive Bel Air Town Run) was at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, so I had about 8 hours after finishing my 100-mile run to get myself together for that. I can honestly say that I've never stood at the starting line of a race more afraid than I did at that run. I had no idea how my legs would respond. I walked around with my dad for about 15 minutes before the race to loosen up, and it was clear that I could walk, but this is the Bel Air Town RUN. As much as I wanted to keep my completion streak alive, I didn't want to have to resort to walking to do it, and I hadn't run a step since I finished Old Dominion, so there was no telling what would happen. My legs might just seize up, I might trip and fall and not finish the race.

For the first time ever, I started so far back that I couldn't hear the starting commands, so at a random gunshot, the pack lurched forward, and I began to desperately hope that I could keep up. So I took my first running steps, and - surprise! It hurt, but not as bad as I thought it would. Pretty soon, I was tucked in the crowd, running what would turn out to be about a 9-minute first mile. In fact, that first mile felt very cleansing. For the first time since things went south at Old Dominion, I was moving forward at a decent pace, without expending a lot of effort. It was, I imagine, the kind of pace I could have maintained at Old Dominion had my stomach not betrayed me.

Since the first mile felt okay, I started gradually picking up the pace, and came through the second mile in just over 17 minutes - an 8-minute mile. So I figured, why not? and ratcheted things up one more time, running the last mile at around 7-minute pace. It hurt, a little bit, but not much worse than it would have hurt had I been running on fresh legs at race pace. I crossed the line in 25:17 net (26:00 gun), which was a huge relief, since I was concerned that I would run over 30 minutes and be one of the last people staggering towards the finish. I stayed around for the post-race awards, and sadly, still did not win the bike, but nevertheless had the distinction of having bib number 999.

All in all, mission more than accomplished. While not optimal, I ran a strong race at Old Dominion, and I didn't run too badly at Bel Air. Provided that I recover quickly from this epic misadventure (which, at some point, will require having an appetite for some kind of nourishing food), this weekend's result indicates that I'm on track to do well at Badwater.

1 comment:

  1. I liked when you said you "hadn't run a step" since OD...which was approximately 8 hours ago. Haha. You make it sound like OD was a week or two ago. Great work getting it all done.

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