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Zane Grey 50 Mile: A Humbling Dose Of Rocks, Heat And Hills

Us At Mile Eight (Photo Credit: Kelly Gaines)

Us At Mile Eight (Photo Credit: Kelly Gaines)

Is it really the end of April already?!  It must be because last weekend was our trip to Arizona.

The planning for Zane Grey 50 Mile started with Brian mentioning we should do a run to celebrate his birthday.  It took all of two seconds to get on board, what a fine way to celebrate a milestone birthday (or any birthday for that matter).  He promptly went about finding a race and soon announced to us that he had picked ZG50, I knew very little about this race but what I did know was intimidating to say the least.  One thing about Brian is that nothing scares him, I admire that!

Our training went well, we did a decent number of miles, threw in some hill repeats, and worked a few flights of stairs.  What I didn’t do was all the other stuff I’d planned on, leg strengthening, core exercises, speed work, etc.  But, on the whole, I felt in decent shape heading into last weekend’s race.

A couple of days before the race, we got an email from the race director, it started like this:  Dear Zane Grey 50 Entrant, This weekend’s weather forecast is for exceedingly hot conditions on race day, 15 degrees hotter than the average high temperature.  Normally this race feels very hot to runners on a average day.  So with an added 15 degrees of hot Arizona sun, conditions will be BRUTAL.  Plan accordingly!” Oh boy!

When we touched down in Phoenix on Friday, it was hot.  As we left the airport, the car thermometer was reading 100 degrees but by the time we got to Payson, it was in the 80’s.  Saturday morning, the race got underway at 5AM, if it was going to be warm, it sure wasn’t evident at that moment.  Paige and I started toward the back of a relatively small group of starters (126 runners).  The beam of our headlamps cut through the dark exposing the large cloud of dust kicked up by the runners ahead of us.  We wound our way through the trees up a steady incline.  There was some chatter among the runners but we mostly ran silently in anticipation of the miles that awaited us.  It didn’t take long and we had run ourselves out of the cool valley and toward the edge of the trees where the early signs of a sunrise began to show and the temperature was also noticeably warmer.  We passed a few people before falling in with a couple of runners named Honey and Jon who seemed to be long standing friends with a lot to catch up on – it was a mesmerizing conversation to listen to with names of familiar people, places and races scattered throughout.  Time passed quickly and soon we were rolling into the Geronimo aid station at mile 8, Kelly and Caleb were there to greet us.  Brian was keeping with his plan to push hard early on to get some miles in before the heat got bad; he had been through the aid station 20 minutes before us.  We topped off our bottles and headed into the next section.

By now, the sun was up and it was starting to get warm.  We kept moving at a steady effort but the pace was slower than I would have anticipated.  The trail was tough with lots of rocks, some roots, and a perpetual up and down.  We were in pure unadulterated snake country and with the temperature now quite warm, I was on high alert.  Few things drum up the adrenaline like the potential for a snake spotting and this trail was 100% potential.  Every foot placement required some level of scan prior to landing, it was exhausting.

The course was strikingly beautiful and I often caught my glance wandering to the horizon, hung up on some feature of the landscape before catching myself and looking back to the trail in front of me, this trail wouldn’t be very forgiving if I drifted off for long.  The next AS was Washington Park (mile 17) and as we rolled in, I could see Kelly and Caleb sitting atop a small hill above the actual AS.  We waved as we passed to fill our bottles and as we started toward her, I could see Brian laying in the deep grass with Caleb.  The early push or the heat or the toughness of the trail or, more likely, a combo of all of these left him wondering how smart it was to continue on to the next section which was a long one through very hot and exposed terrain.  With very little convincing, he was on his feet and ready to roll – that’s what I’m talking about!

We spent much of the next 3+ hours trying to keep the pace up as much as possible but it was still slow going.  The footing combined with the steep and never-ending hills kept us hiking as much as running.  Several times we came across cool and fast moving streams which we fully took advantage of by rinsing off our faces, splashing water onto our arms and dipping our hats – it was really quite an amazing experience.  The heat was in full swing by now and when we hit the next stream crossing, Brian decided it was time for a plunge.  He laid himself down, right smack in the middle of the stream and started splashing around like a kid at the pool, it was hilarious!  Time was starting to get tight and we were keeping a close eye on the cutoffs.  Brian wasn’t feeling good at all and decided that the Hell’s Gate AS (mile 23) would be where he called it a day.  After a quick refuel, we said our goodbyes and got back on the trail, not wanting to waste any valuable time.

The next section was the hardest, hottest, and longest of the day – 10 miles of relentless hills, rocks, and sun.  We ran when we could, hiked when we needed to and tried to keep moving as best we could.  The streams kept coming and we never missed the chance to cool off.  Eventually, we made it to Hatchery (mile 33).  It was at this AS that one of my favorite memories of the day took place.  Paige, a normally quiet and gentle girl, has a most impressive ability to burp like a champ.  At the AS, she was drinking some warm soda and, as we were heading out of the AS, she let one rip which didn’t surprise me but it clearly took unsuspecting bystanders off guard.  One of those in range happened to be Joe Grant (an elite runner) whose head snapped toward us with a  look of shock.  Paige apologized but it was unnecessary, this chill ultra runner was more impressed than offended and replied with a chuckle and a “its all good.”  I just looked on with pride, that’s my wife.

The next section is a bit of a blur, very much like the last section except hotter, tougher and longer : )  Our pace was holding steady at something between slow and slower but, at this point, I was happy to be moving forward and making the cutoffs.  At home, we normally knock out 10 miles in 80 minutes, no problem.  It was a whole different story here, taking us more than double that amount of time.  I was trying to drink as much as possible and I ended up drinking all of the 90 ounces of water I was carrying with me by the time we got to the next AS.  When we did finally reach Canyon AS (mile 44), Brelly was there and full of energy – what a welcome sight!  We took a minute to sit down while volunteers helped get our bottles and packs filled.  It finally hit us, we were nearly done and no longer in danger of missing cutoffs so we could relax and enjoy the cooling temperatures and remaining daylight.  We put our headlamps on and got back on the trail.

It didn’t take long before I realized that my hopes to relax and take it easy over the last six miles were lost on Paige.  She is strong and when she gets focused on the finish, I know I just need to tuck in behind her and try to keep up.  As the final fingers of light faded, we reluctantly switched our headlamps on.  We were making pretty good progress and started passing a few groups of runners.  Soon, the “one mile to go” sign appeared and shortly thereafter, the sound of the finish line could be heard.  We had run the whole day together and finished side-by-side.

This is a classic, “old school” race that lives up to its reputation in every respect – well run, beautiful, and tough.  I love spending the whole day running through beautiful country and feel so fortunate to have such a compatible partner to share the experience with.  I’m happy to report that we didn’t see a single snake.  As is often the case, I can’t account for most of the day but the highlights were clearly coming into the aid stations and being welcomed by the friendly volunteers, seeing Kelly/Caleb (and eventually Brian too), and the contented feeling of having struggled through the ups and downs of the day to finish healthy and happy with my Paige by my side.  You can read her race report HERE, its got more pictures and is much more entertaining.

Javelina 100 Mile Run: A Party Disguised As A Run

At The Pre-Race Dinner

At The Pre-Race Dinner (Photo Credit: Brian)

Two years ago, I ran Javelina (read that report here) and absolutely loved it!  This year, when Paige and I were deciding what races we wanted to do, we quickly decided that Javelina would be our target race for the fall.  Well, its now fall and last weekend we ran Javelina Jundred.  Friday morning, we flew to Phoenix and met up with Brelly at the airport.  With Caleb entertaining us in the backseat, we drove to the hotel in Fountain Hills to check in and get some lunch.  Packet pickup and the pre-race dinner started at 4PM and we didn’t want to miss any of the action so we soon headed out to McDowell Park where Javelina Jeadquarters were already buzzing with activity.  The number of entrants was much higher this year versus the last time we were here but it still had the same awesome vibe.  We quickly found a few familiar faces and checked in.  After snapping some pictures and milling around chatting with friends, the Coury brothers provided a quick pre-race meeting chock full of info.  It felt good to be there.  After a most delicious dinner and some more socializing, we headed back to the hotel for our final prep.

Brian And I Doing Our Best "Juan" Pose

Brian And I Doing Our Best "Juan" Pose (Photo Credit: Kelly)

Race day, the alarm went off at 3:30AM and, surprisingly, I felt pretty rested and awake.  By 5AM, we were on our way to the start of my fifth one hundred mile race and the second that Paige and I have run together.  After getting our stuff set-up and dropping off our drop bag, we took a couple of pictures and were soon underway.  The night was cloudy but the temps were perfect so I started in a short sleeve with arm warmers that could be removed if/when it warmed up.  Starting toward the back of the pack, it was slow going through the first two miles and then Paige made her move, the first of many throughout the day.  For the next several miles, she was pushing past clumps of people trying to get to a place where we could run our pace, I just followed, which would be a theme for the day.  As we made our way around the first loop, I was happy that it felt so familiar and was everything that I remembered – runnable  and beautiful.  They moved the aid stations around some and added one more for a total of three on the course plus the main one, this turned out to be a nice change.  We finished the first loop fast but it felt comfortable so I tried not to worry that we were going out too fast.  We didn’t stay long but made sure we had everything we needed before heading out on our second loop, counter-clock-wise this time.

Finishing Up Loop One

Finishing Up Loop One (Photo Credit: Kelly)

In this direction, its a gentle up hill for the first several miles but it didn’t feel like it as we ran nearly all of it.  One of the many great things about this race is the ability to see everyone from the front of the pack to the very last runner multiple times throughout the day, so we got to say hello to all the Chicago peeps as we doubled back, everyone was looking fresh and in good spirits.  We cruised through the second loop nearly as easily and quickly as the first, again, my tendency was to worry it was too fast but it felt easy enough so we rolled with it.  Finishing up the second loop, we took a little longer to get in and out of the Javelina Jeadquarters with Paige changing her socks and me messing around with food choices.  It was fun to see some of our crew who were there to support other runners or pace later on in the day; they were a ball of energy and made us feel very cared for (i.e. Kelly and Caleb, Jen, Jim, Terry, among others).

Aid Station Fun

Aid Station Fun (Photo Credit: Kelly)

The next couple of loops got a bit warm with the sun peaking out and the warmth of the afternoon reaching the mid-70s, it felt warm but never hot which made it very manageable.  As the day unfolded, we saw many familiar faces throughout the day and enjoyed being able to keep tabs on how everyone’s race was going.  We finished up a loop around 6PM and were given the news that the latest forecast was calling for significant rainfall after mid-night, not the best news we could have received but at least we could prepare for it.  The amazing Kelly, went to the car and got our rain jackets and had them waiting for us on the next loop.

Getting A Little Pep Talk From Caleb

Getting A Little Pep Talk From Caleb (Photo Credit: Kelly)

It was dark now and we were running with our headlamps on.  Running with a headlamp always creates an odd sensation, but not in a bad way.  The headlamp typically comes out after running all day, the temperature has started to drop, the pace has slowed, the sleepiness has started to set in, the legs are tired, … and today was no exception – I love it, all of it!  I don’t know why but my absolute favorite thing about running these races is the night portion.  Somewhere during the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking about this and I started to feel just a little sorry for the race winner, Hal Koerner, who finished so fast that he didn’t even get to experience running at night, poor guy.  I say this, of course, just a little tongue in cheek because I would rather set a course record than run through the night but I would miss the night portion.  Normally, I experience a period of extreme sleepiness around 1AM and it typically lasts for a couple of hours but it can be normally be managed fairly well with coffee or soda but I had been fighting this feeling periodically throughout the day and when it hit at 1AM, it was a force to be reckoned  with.  I could hardly keep my eyes open and my body was trying to force me to sleep, sort of like someone was hitting the manual override button and I no longer had control.  I have been packing 5-Hour Energy in my drop bags for a couple of years but have never resorted to trying it.  I decided it was time and within minutes of ingesting the life giving liquid, I was feeling significantly better – the stuff really works!

The rain came early and by 10:15PM, we were huddled under a tent at an aid station putting on our rain jackets and moving our headlamps under the bills of our hats for protection from the rain and thought, “here we go.”  Fifteen minutes later, the rain let up and we were able to take our jackets off for a while longer, though the next time we put them on, it would be for the duration of our race.  The night didn’t get as cool as it did the last time I ran this race and with the rain, that was a very welcome thing.  Still, we saw runners who hadn’t prepared for the rain and were unable to move fast enough to keep warm – that’s tough situation to be in but thankfully, we were both moving well and protected inside our jackets.  As we finished our sixth loop, we were given our glow-in-the-dark neckless which signifies the “bell” lap.  We headed out and, after shaking out the stiffness that had quickly moved into my legs during the AS stop, we ran most of the way to the first aid station.  After a quick bottle refill, we were back on the trail which had now been soggy at best and shoe sucking muddy at worst for the past several hours.  The next section was the rockiest section of the trail, it was still pouring rain and we decided to walk through the worst of the rocks to make sure we didn’t take a fall on the slick rocks.  Two runners came up on our left as we navigated this section, it was Daniel and our friend Jim who was now pacing his cousin.  We’d been playing leapfrog all day with Daniel.  We stuck with them for a while and then Paige suddenly picked up the pace and took off.  Jim look at me and said, “well, you better go with her,” or something to that effect, I knew he was right because she was feeling good and could ‘smell’ the end was near.  I took off after her and I don’t think we stopped running until we hit the finish-line.  I had been doing some rough calculations in my head and knew I was close to my hundred mile PR but couldn’t remember exactly so I decided to keep it to myself and just keep pushing in hopes of breaking it.  As we crossed the line, several of our crew were there including Kelly and Caleb!  Jamil, the co-RD, came over and presented us with our buckles and congratulated us.  They Coury brothers put on amazing events but more importantly, they are just amazing people and this is consistently seen in every interaction with them.  As it turned out, we didn’t quite best my PR but it was within seconds and if you factor in that Javelina is actually 101.4 miles, I suppose it is a PR of sorts.  Paige, on-the-other-hand, broke her PR by 5+ hours, I was simply in awe of her all day, she went out there prepared and executed the run flawlessly.

And, We're Done!

And, We're Done! (Photo Credit: Kelly)

I want to send a shout out to Brian who had a fantastic race and shaved hours off his PR as well.  We had such a fun time with all the Chicago crew including some new friends.  A huge thank you to Kelly for being such an amazing crew person all day and for the others who stepped in to help as well.  Other than fighting with the periodic sleepiness and a slightly touchy stomach, I felt pretty good most of the day.  Despite feeling good, it was all I could do to stay with Paige for the majority of the day.  Two Dunmores ran Javelina this year and it is undeniable that my wife was definitely the stronger Dunmore … at least on that day : )  (You can read her race report here.)

Somewhere On The Course

Somewhere On The Course (Photo Credit: Vens)

Fifty Miles In Less Than Eight Hours

Des Plaines River Trail RacesWe meant to sign up months ago but didn’t, and missed the first two price break points.  Then we went back and forth as to whether or not to run the race or volunteer instead.  Eventually, we went with our original plan, paid our dues and ran the Des Plaines River Trails 50 Miler.

Our training has been going really well and I’ve been running between 90 and 100 miles a week without much thought about it.  I still look forward to every run and my body is holding up remarkably well. Paige and I do most of our runs together, which I love, then I try to sneak in a few extra miles whenever I get a chance – I need the extra training just to keep up with her.  Going into the race, we felt good but with Javelina just three short weeks away, our plan was to take it easy and use it as our last push before the taper.

The day started at 4AM with coffee and final packing.  A short drive to the north suburbs brought us to the race headquarters.  We checked in with Ian, Maria and Adrian before running into Terry (one of the RD’s for the race) and quickly started seeing familiar faces – I love the racing scene, so many friends all in one place.  Back to the truck for final prep and then to the starting line.  The day promised sunny skies and warm temps but, at that moment, it was dark and cold.

We started off at a conversational pace chatting with friends.  The first section was a short out and back which allowed us to see everyone who was running.  Then we settled in to a quick but comfortable pace and got serious about what lay ahead of us.  As the sun rose, we could see just how beautiful the trail was that we were traversing.  We found our “spot” in the group and moved silently through the early morning hours.  We passed through the first couple of aid stations without stopping.  I have been dealing with a tight hamstring for the past week and thought it might be a problem during the race – it was tight but so far, okay.  We chatted here and there but mostly just ran.  Eventually, we would stop to refill our water bottles, grab some grub and then keep moving.  We got word that Paige was the second place woman – oh boy, the pressure was on.  Soon, we passed the first place woman but she wouldn’t have it and quickly passed us back and then disappeared – with our target race just three weeks away, we happily let her go and kept to our plan of running a relaxed race.  The trail was unbelievably flat but incredibly gorgeous!!  We had run a portion of this trail once before with Ed but it was in the dead of winter and it was icy and windy that day which left a less than awesome impression – today, it was making a very different impression.

Finish Line Photo Courtesy Of Bill Thom

Finish Line Photo Courtesy Of Bill Thom

The middle section of the race was uneventful, our emotions were even tempered, there were no deep pockets of dark to overcome, our bodies seemed to be fine with what we were asking of them, our energy remained high, the weather cooperated fully, … we were happy to be spending the day running.  This section was also an out and back section which is really nice, especially on a wider trail, because it allows you to see everyone a couple of times throughout the day.  The day went fast and soon the end was near.  It was clear that we were running a decent race and the flat terrain was lending to a fast time but its not over till its over so we kept after it.  As we crossed the line, we both looked at the clock a bit in disbelief – 7:43:47, a significant PR for both of us.  I don’t want to overlook the flat and smooth nature of the trail but as Bill Thom reminded us, “you still covered the distance.”  He was right, we had covered the distance and it was good for second place woman and seventh place man.  As you might guess, we were happy with that.  We headed to get post-race massages, change and then to get some grub.  After congratulating several of our friends as they finished, we said our goodbyes and headed home feeling quite happy with the day.

It was awesome to see so many friends either running or as volunteers.  Thank you to Ed, Terry and all the volunteers that made the day so easy and fun!  As we go into Javelina, my confidence is high.  I feel good about my fitness and the next three weeks should prove to be the final touch to an awesome training buildup.

Ice Age Trail 50 Mile, The 2011 Edition

Post-Race w/Paige

Post-Race w/Paige

I actually started on time this year, so it was went better than last year right from the start : )  The race last year saw all sorts of bad weather but this year was nearly perfect for running.  The temperatures for the day reached into the mid to upper 50s with overcast conditions and while it was a bit breezy in exposed areas, most of the trail is through heavily forested areas that provided plenty of wind block.  There were a few showers but nothing that amounted to much and the trails stayed in good condition all day.  Leading up to the race, my preparation had been steady but minimal so I had expectations of focusing on having fun rather than going out hard.  Paige decided to run the 50K version of the race (her race report can be found here) so I was on my own but early on, I saw fellow CHUG Ed Kelly and latched on to him for the next several miles.  It was great catching up with Ed and there was plenty catching up to do.  Somewhere before the Rice Lake AS, we got separated and I settled in with a train of unknown runners for a bit as we cruised along the single track.  This section is one of my favorites in the area with a lot of rocky sections, some steep inclines and all single track.  Brian and Kelly were at the Hwy 12 AS with the pups, seeing them is always a lift.  I felt good and the easy pace early on was paying off as my energy held steady and my body remained strong.  At some point during the middle section, I ran into Jack, a friend from Iowa City.  This race is turning into our annual reunion of sorts and I always look forward to it.  I was getting reports from folks along the trail that Paige had had a great race and finished third in her race – wow, she’s getting fast!  When we hit the Horserider’s AS, Brelly was there cheering on runners along with Deanna, I stopped to chat for a minute and grab some food.  Then it was off for the Emma Carlin turnaround.  I was feeling the miles, but holding together pretty well for this late in the race.  I decided I was going to push it a little on the way back, it was only nine miles back so even if I blew up, I knew I could still finish.  I passed a few people but mostly ran alone.  It felt good to be moving a little faster and I was started to get excited to finish so I could see my soon-to-be-wife and hear about her race.  I finished much stronger than last year even though this year’s time was a few minutes slower.  Paige was waiting there at the finish and I quickly got the story of her race before heading to join the others in the post race festivities.  This has always been a fun and well run race but it seems to get better each year.  Congrats to my (now) wife on her awesome race!

Windburn Six In The Stix: 2011 Edition

Windburn Six 2011: Before The Race

Windburn Six 2011: Before The Race

Thank you to the CHUGs and especially to Brelly for offering such world class events – for free, no less!  Last Saturday was the the second edition of the Windburn race and it was quite different than last year.  The temperature this year was 28 degrees at the start versus the zero degrees we faced last year – the sun wasn’t shining but a definite improvement!  After some brief comments from Brian, around 50 of us headed out on our first 2.28 mile loop.  The snow was loose similar to last year but it felt like it may pack down over the course of the day unlike last year.  It took a couple of hours before it really felt good but once it did, we were able to move pretty well.  The format of the race was a self-supported timed event with the goal of running as far as you can in the six-hour time limit.  My hope was to run at least 25 miles at a bare minimum and the whisper goal of 30 miles.  We were moving okay through the first couple of laps and it was clear that we would meet my initial goal even if the footing didn’t improve.  As we started to spread out a bit, we could see who was having a good day from the get go and his name was Jimmy O.  Paige and I planned to stay together, as we often do : )  After two laps, we made a pitstop in the shelter where we had set up the “aid station” to grab some water.  Brian was there chatting it up and supporting runners as they passed through.  After a long bout of bronchitis, he was still taking some time to recover and opted not to run – it must have been hard for him to watch as we ran but he never let that get in the way of having a fun day.

Windburn Six 2011: Crossing The Bridge

Windburn Six 2011: Crossing The Bridge

We fell into a rhythm, plugging along and stopping every two laps.  I was using Ramen noodles for my nutrition plan – the warmth felt good and it was quite tasty too!  With two hours to go, I was starting to feel a bit worn out.  This was our furthest run by several hours and my body finally realized it.  Its a funny thing, when you set out to do a six mile run, that feels like enough.  When you set out to do a six hour run, that feels like enough.  The mind is an amazingly powerful thing.  It didn’t take long and I started to feel better and the final hour was perhaps our best of the day.  As others slowed (all except Jim), we were in a groove … literally, the snow was packed in a tiny grove around the edge of the path.  After our 12th loop, we were past our goal for the day and Paige decided she was done.  I decided to stretch out the legs and see how many more miles I could get before the cutoff.  I got a full loop and then two small loops (each a half mile) for a total of 30.6 miles.  As I came around the final loop, Paige had decided to do another small loop as well.  I was happy with the day and felt amazingly thankful that I am healthy enough to be able to pull off such a run on relatively minimal training.

We ended the day staying at the Brelly B&B and eating a delicious meal at Moretti’s!  It was such a fun weekend, it really got me excited for the upcoming running season!  Congrats to Jim and Jen for their respective wins, to Brian for another successful event, and to all the runners who came out for an awesome run!

All Is Quiet On The Blog Front

2010 SchmoopiesThe past month has been a blur despite my blog silence but… a good blur.  Since our recent engagement, my focus has completely shifted to all things wedding.  Yeah, it surprised even me.  What I can say is that it is wonderful and I am loving every second of it.  On top of that, we had a visit from our good friend Kalina.  Then we got  busy with the holidays.  Our holiday party season started out with the second annual Brelly shindig which, not surprisingly, was awesome.  Torey and Charlie hosted the CHUG holiday party the next week, their place was a perfect cozy setting to mingle with our favorite CHUGs and some new faces too.  Everyone brought fun eats to share and we had a white elephant gift exchange which landed me a CHUG ornament for our Christmas tree!  The following weekend, Ben and Sarah had us up to Marengo to help decorate the “shoe tree”.  We all brought a pair of old running shoes and after a delicious breakfast, we headed out to the tree.  The tree was more elusive than we expected and some of us had to toss our shoes multiple times before they found a branch to hang on to.  The next week lead us up to Christmas.  Friday, we headed to Iowa and to a huge amount of snow!  After a wonderful dinner followed by opening presents with my family, we went to see the Festival of Lights.  Then it was time to put on our snow clothes and play for a while.  Paige and I headed out to feel the snow under our feet.  The snow was deeper than I remember for a long time and we had a blast!  On Christmas morning, we made a quick stop at grandma and grandpa’s house before heading to see Paige’s family.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – the food was delicious and the company was great!  Christmas night, we opened our presents to each other.  Paige proved, yet again, to be the best Santa around!  Sunday turned out to be a productive but amazingly relaxing day.

That’s a quick recap of the past month. Somewhere in there, we bought our wedding bands (man, I can’t wait to wear that thing!).  I’m looking forward to getting back on a roll with my training and starting the new year on a healthy note!

Volunteering At The Chicago Lakefront 50/50

sunriseLast weekend, Brian organized a group of CHUGs to man an aid station at the Chicago Lakefront 50/50.  Being the hometown 50 mile, we were all excited to help out and cheer on those CHUGs who were running the race.  We reported at 6:30AM and helped the early shift finish setting things up.  It was a good group with several new faces and lots of familiar ones, we were instantly having fun.  Late October in Chicago is especially unpredictable when it comes to weather and we lucked out, it was going to be a perfect day!  Our AS was at the four mile mark and with the race being four (I think) out and back loops, we got to see the runners eight times – so we kept busy.  After the first couple of waves, the runners spread out and then it was a steady stream all day long.

aid-stationI figured the first couple of times we saw the runners there needs would be relatively subdued since it was early in the race and the temps were cool but, to my surprise, most of the runners stopped and drank several cups of water and Gatorade and started eating right away too.  As the day heated up, the consumption levels went up proportionately and several times, we nearly ran out of water before the next delivery came – it was quite stressful but all worked out in the end.  Several CHUGs stopped by and spent a few hours throughout the day, it was great to see everyone.

Brian And Siamak Battling The Garbage

Brian And Siamak Battling The Garbage

A couple of things really struck me about the day.  1) I couldn’t believe the amount of trash that was generated by this one AS.  We had two very large trash containers full, two equally large recycling bins full, half a van full of boxes to be recycled, and a couple of garbage bags full as well.  I always carry a bottle when I run and therefore don’t use cups very often at aid stations but this was not the case for most people.  Even those that did have bottles often took several cups, it was a real shocker.  2) I was very surprised by how much work it was.  I have crewed and paced at ultras but this was my first volunteer experience – I have always appreciated the volunteers at races but my level of appreciation just went up by a factor of ten.

At the end of the day, CHUG Shan Riggs pulled off the win and set a personal PR.  Congratulations to Shan and all the runners who toed the line!  And, thank you to Brian for organizing the effort!

Planning For Next Year

As the season begins to wrap up with Glacial Trail last weekend and the Deer Grove FA in November, I can’t help to begin thinking about next year.  Several things are rattling around in my head as I weigh my options.  I really loved the Leadville experience and want to incorporate a major mountain race every season.  I want to do at least two hundreds with enough time between them to really sufficiently recover and then train again which means timing is important.  I would love it if there were some CHUGs going to the race as well.  I want to get back to Javelina soon.  I want to run one race with Paige.  My uncle Steve got bit by the “crew bug” and is chomping at the bit to have another go of it, so something that he can make it to.  There are so many races that we have done and loved, those are always fun to return to.  Then there is the money consideration – local races are much cheaper since no flight is involved.  Vacation time is another commodity that is in short supply (relatively) and local races take less time.  With so many things to consider, I haven’t gotten very far with my planning but here is what I’ve come up with.

I am going to put my name into the lottery for Western States.  If I get in, that will be my “big” race for the year.  WS100 is a classic race, a sort of Boston Marathon for ultras.  The course is legendary, the scenery is awesome, the location is close to Steve so he can easily make it, and the timing of the race is perfect – early June.  If I don’t get into WS100, I may look to Tahoe Rim Trail as a back-up plan.  It is in a similar location, very challenging course, beautiful scenery, and being in July, the timing is still pretty good.  Either of those races would allow me to pick a few spring races as “tune up” races with Ice Age Trail being high on the list for its course, the proximity to home and the great organization.  It would also serve as a perfect last long run for WS100.  Either of those races would leave me plenty of time to get ready for Javelina in late October.  Throw in a few CHUGs events and that is what I’ve come up with so far.

Crashed And Burned!

topgunSlider: “Crashed and burned, hey Mav?”

Maverick: (sniff, sniff) “Slider… you stink.”

This scene from Top Gun pretty much sums up my race at Glacial Trail 50 Mile this past weekend.  Except in my version, I am playing both characters because I both crashed and burned AND I stank!

We drove up Friday night and stayed with my dad and Andrea.  We were up late talking so we slept in on Saturday.  After a late (and very lazy) start to the day, we got some food and walked around the Rotary Botanical Gardens.  The gardens were beautiful and the warm sunny afternoon was good for the soul.  After a delicious summery treat, we hit the road for Sheboygan Falls, WI.  We checked into the hotel and asked for a dinner recommendation – they offered the Falls Firehouse Pizza and we accepted.  The food was great, the service adequate, and the price was right.

Leslie, Deanna, Me And Ben - Pre-Race

Leslie, Deanna, Me And Ben - Pre-Race

After a fitful sleep, we were up and at ’em by 4AM.  We got to the Greenbush Community Center in time to check in, hear some of the pre-race meeting, and greet a few CHUGs.  Then it was time to roll out.  The day started optimistically enough, my plan was to start slow and finish strong.  The first part of the race went really well, I felt I was flying along the trails with little or no effort.  Before long, I had passed several people and I was toward the front of the pack.  Normally, this would indicate that I was starting too fast but today, it felt easy so I went with it.  I cruised through the first aid station and before I knew it, I was at the second AS (mile 13 something) – this was where I was to see Paige for the first time.

Coming Into Mile 20+

Coming Into Mile 20+

After a quick turnaround, I was back on the trail and feeling good but in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I should back off a little bit.  Around mile 18, I was starting to feel some twinges of fatigue and my stomach was not quite right so I slowed down.  By the next AS (mile 20+), I was starting to feel pretty rough.  I have felt this many times before and it usually passes pretty quickly so I paid little attention to it and waited for it to pass.  Little did I realize, it wouldn’t pass …. not today.

Just before the turnaround, I met up with Lisa Guinta, Lisa was running her second 50 miler and is married to Dominic.  Dominic is the first Chicago Ultra Runner that I met, even before the CHUGs were official, but this was my first time meeting Mrs. Guinta and she was rocking it!  By the time I hit the turnaround, I figured I had paid my dues and would be feeling much better soon so I just kept moving as best I could.  I was being passed frequently and kept thinking to myself that I’d be seeing them down the road (as in, I thought I’d get feeling better and then pass them all back again) but the day had other plans.  When I got back to Paige at the 50K mark, I was frustrated that the fog hadn’t lifted, I was thirsty and couldn’t seem to shake the crud I was feeling.  I spent a little time here, sitting down, changing my shirt, and trying to get some extra fluids down.  Eventually, I stood up and got back on the trail even though I wasn’t feeling that great.  About a mile down the trail, I saw my second snake of the day.  Normally, this would be startling but at this stage of the race, I was too tired and grouchy to care.  Another ten minutes, I saw my third snake.  Another 15 minutes, my fourth.  Another 20 minutes, my fifth… okay, I was tired but seriously?!?!  By the time I saw Paige just seven miles later, I had seen a total of six snakes – amazing.  One thing about moving as slow as I was, I had the opportunity to take in more of the surrounds… for better, or worse.

Mile 36+ put me back in Paige’s care and really wishing I was done.  Everyone around was very encouraging but all I wanted was to be left alone.  I sat for a few minutes, drank some ice water but failed to take in any calories.  I was starting to worry about making the cutoff times and decided that I should move out.  Back on the trail, I realized that I should have eaten something and I should have brought more water.  As slow as I was moving and as hot as it was getting, I was certain to run out of water before I reached the next AS – I did, and it wasn’t even close.  People continued to pass me and all had encouraging words but I wasn’t in the mood.  I put my head down and pressed on.

Head Down: Story Of The Day

Head Down: Story Of The Day

The final AS was seven miles from the finish line and a welcome sight.  I sat for a moment while several people tended to my needs.  Paige was amazing all day long and this stop was no exception, she put up with my grouchiness and didn’t take it personally… it wasn’t.  With time ticking away, I got up and moved down the trail.  As soon as I crossed the road and was alone again, I realized I had made the same silly mistakes as before – I didn’t eat anything and I didn’t bring enough water with me, it was going to be a slugfest to the finish.  I knew there were people behind me but I also knew that there weren’t many and I was basically by myself for the rest of the race.  I ran when I could, walked when I needed to, and just tried to keep focused on finishing the race.

The last few miles felt very long.  The only thing that broke them up was Paige at a random road crossing, Mr. Bill and his bells, a few odd fans waiting for their runner, and the seemingly endless number of rocks to trip on.  Eventually, I hit the edge of town where Larry, the RD for Rock Cut Hobo 50K, was waiting for one of his group to come.  I met Larry in Leadville and could immediately tell that I liked him.  A couple of weeks ago, we went to his Hobo run to cheer on several CHUGs and my impression of Larry was further solidified – he is a good dude.  Anyway, the edge of town was meaningful for two reasons, 1) no more rocks to trip over and 2) it was less than a mile to go – I picked up my pace.  As I turned the final corner, I felt a little choked up which is unusual for me during a 50 miler.  Paige was waiting with a big hug.  Rob Wehner, the RD, was there with a finisher medal.  It was finally over, the reality of that set in and I could finally relax.

I don’t know what caused me to have such a rough day but I know I have never felt that bad, for that long, while running.  It was a good experience to push through the discomfort and still finish a tough race but it wasn’t much fun.  Rob puts on a great race, on a gorgeous trail, with great volunteers and an awesome atmosphere both pre and post-race.  We got so see several friends including a bunch of CHUGs.  We also had a chance to catch up with Timo and Jason, co-RDs for the Kettle Moraine 100, they are such awesome guys and always a joy to spend time with.  Despite the tough run, it was a beautiful day and a fun weekend.

Wrapping Up The Week At Deer Grove

Kelly, Paige, Me - Deer Grove

Kelly, Paige, Me - Deer Grove

This week was my first real week of running since Leadville.  I’ve done a fair amount of running since then but this week felt more focused with some quality thrown in and then I capped off the week with a long CHUG group run on trails.  I had a couple of five and eight mile runs, a couple of tempo runs, did a Vibram FiveFinger workout, and ended with sixteen miles at Deer Grove.  My legs feel decent but worked.  Between adding the tempo runs and the Vibram workout, I can really feel it in my calves.  The highlight of the week was our group run this morning, meeting new people and catching up with others – it was awesome!  Another item of note, my girl ran today for the first time since RDL – oh, how I’ve missed her on my morning runs, I’m so happy to see her back out there.

Next week is Glacial Trail 50 Mile.  We went up to this race for the first time last year and absolutely loved it.  This year, Paige won’t be running and my race will be much slower but I am looking forward to it just the same.  We will be accompanied by many CHUGs but our usual partners in crime will be manning our pad as their Chicago Marathon headquarters.  Despite looking forward to the race, I’m a little sad to be missing the marathon, it is always such a fun weekend, not to mention missing the chance to hang out with Brelly.  On the upside, we will get to see Dad and Andrea, run some gorgeous trails, and spend some time with our other CHUG friends!