Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kansas Running




Wheat and Coronado Heights

"Hedge Trees"


Time to visit the family in Kansas.  I ran from our house in Salina to our family's land out in the country.  It was probably about 25 miles.  Hot and humid, but good cloud cover.  I got more tired than I thought I would, probably due to two days of sitting in a car and not enough sleep, but it was a nice change of pace from the highways that we usually take to get to the "farm".  These pictures are a sampling of what you might find if you go for a run out in the country in Kansas, but it does not do the land justice.  The weather and terrain is actually quite variable.  Yes, there is a lot of flat, but there are a lot of rolling hills with nice views that go forever. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pacing Marc Laveson at the San Diego 100

This past Saturday-Sunday I had the pleasure to pace Marc Laveson in the San Diego 100 mile race.  The San Diego course is a beautiful collection of trails that include sections of the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) in the high desert area east of the city.  The trails are characterized by beautiful sweeping views, rocky trails, plenty of desert shrubberies, and not very many trees.  Whatever the weather is, you are going to feel it.  The course runs at about 5000 to 6000 ft of elevation.

Marc was gunning for a podium spot but there was plenty of competition that were going to try to keep him out.  Among the contenders were Dave Mackey-pretty much an ultra legend, Jeff Browning-the returning course record holder, Rod Bien, Brett Rivers, Nickademus Hollon, Jonathan Gunderson, and probably some others I am forgetting about.  The race had some serious runners in it.

Marc was being crewed by his wonderful wife Libby and a bunch of friends, and I was to pace him from Sunrise aid station at mile 51 to the finish.  The factor that everyone was fearing come race day was the high temperatures.  We were warned that it was going to be the hottest day of the year and that people would have to give extra respect to managing the heat of the day during the race.

The pretty couple right before the start of the race.

Bunch of crazies getting ready for an insane adventure.
I saw Marc a couple of times before he descended into the Pine Creek hell that went from miles 22 to 44.  He looked relaxed and was cruising in about sixth place.

Marc on the PCT at about 22 miles in.
 When he arrived at the Pioneer Mail aid station at mile 44 he was looking weary.  The crews really had no idea what the runner just went through, but basically they ran through a desert with temperatures reported around 100 degrees, no breeze, no coverage, with white rocky trails that radiated the heat right back at you.  Rod Bien, who had been crushing the race going into the Pine Creek hell, came out a shell of his former self.  Marc passed him on the climb back up to mile 44.  He hobbled into the aid station shortly after Marc got there and was done.  DNF.  When Marc got there we took care of him Nascar style.  Two people with ice and cold water were cooling off his head and upper body.  Libby and I were changing his socks and shoes.  Others were filling his bottles and feeding him.  He just sat there in a daze.  It was quite the spectacle.  We got him back on his feet and sent him off.  And then I had to start thinking about what was going to happen when I join in on the fun...

The views from the PCT.
 At the Sunrise aid station at mile 51 I got prepared to join Marc with the first goal, to get him safely to the finish line, and secondly, to help him achieve his race goals.  The crew took care of him Nascar style again, and then we were off!

Views on the climb up to Stonewall Peak.
 It is sometimes awkward when you first hook up with your runner for pacing duties.  Do I lead, or let him dictate the pace?  How is he feeling?  What strategy is he using right now?  Run/walk?  What is he doing with the hills.  Sometimes you just have to get through the awkward stage and then settle into something that is optimal.  For the initial miles Marc lead and dictated the pace because he was doing everything he could to keep going at the time, and that turned out to be a pretty choppy, non-uniform speed.  I really wanted to enjoy the scenery.  And it really was beautiful.  But it is sad when it is 90-something degrees, and you can't think about anything except when you might see a tree that you can hide under.

We were cruising when we came upon a fork in the trail.  Generally these forks are very well marked as to which way you should go.  The issue with this fork was that you go out one direction, but come back from the other direction, meaning that there were trail flags on either side of the intersection.  Very confusing.  Marc knew the course because he had traveled there several weeks back and checked it all out himself with a series of training runs.  He said we should go right, so thats what we did.

We reached the Stonewall Mine aid station at mile 60-ish and Scott Mills, the race director, was there waiting to pounce on Marc.  He asked about the ambiguous intersection, and Marc confirmed that it was indeed not very well marked.  It turns out that Dave Mackey, who was leading the race by a comfortable margin at the time, had taken the wrong fork.  Scott was considering allowing Mackey to run the loop clockwise(as opposed to all of the other runners who had to run it counter-clockwise).  In the end it was decided to disqualify Mackey.  So he was out.

We left Stonewall and started the climb up to Stonewall Peak.  It was a pretty tough climb with the heat and miles piled up and we hiked most of it.  As we were getting ready to head down the other side of the the peak Marc started to complain about back spasms.  He never had these pains before, and the rest of his body was in relatively ok order, but the spasms were wreaking havoc.  Several times on the way down he had to stop and try to stretch out, or catch his breath, or whatever because he was having a tough time breathing.  The pace was pretty slow too because of the steepness and added pressure on his back every time you hop down the trail.

We rolled into the Paso Picacho aid station at mile 66-ish, and explained the situation to the med person there.  There was some useless advice given, we were serviced, and then we were off.

Next was a little climb and then a nice rolling downhill section where I jumped in front and we pumped up the pace a little as the sun was going down and the temps were getting more manageable.  Marc seemed to loosen up during this stretch, or at least get into enough of a groove that he was able to deal with the back pain.
Some fun trails!
We got to the Meadows aid station at mile 72 and ran into some worried faces.  The crew was anxious to see how Marc was doing with his back.  There was a collective sigh of relief when Marc said he was doing a lot better.  We got filled up, handed our lights and jackets, and headed up the grinding eight mile climb back to sunrise at mile 80 as the sun was going down.  When it started to get dark Marc turned on his headlamp and within a minute the light died out.  He exclaimed that he just put new batteries in it.  Oh well, at least the sections were not too technical, so we just decided to cruise it in the dark for as long as practical.  We ran up a fire-road in the dark until we reached an intersection where I decided I better turn on my light to double-check the flags.  Good thing too, because I would have led us the wrong direction!  We decided to keep the light on and figured out a system by which we could share the light and still keep a decent pace up the hill.  If the trail curved to the right I would carry the light in my right hand and shine it to the side so that it could get around Marc(who was directly in front of me...).  When the trail curved to the left, I would switch hands.  In the strictest sense this might be considered "muling".  Muling is when pacers carry things for their runner and is generally always forbidden in these races.  A pacer is there to keep their runner safe.  I think in this case that this was well within the idea of keeping the runner safe.  It would probably not be very safe to make a runner find their way in the dark.

Sunrise aid station was a party.  Lights everywhere, music blaring, people going in all directions...  As we were heading back to finish the race, there were still runners just reaching the aid station for the first time as their mile 51.  Being mile 80 for us, Marc was doing pretty good.  We got filled up, Marc dropped one of his bottles and picked up a working flashlight and we headed back onto the PCT.  The early going was pretty slow.  At this point in the race a runner is pretty lucky if they can eat anything and have it do some good for them.  Marc was able to take in some calories at sunrise, but it wasn't riding too well and he was pretty nauseous.  We kept plugging along and little bit by little bit he started going faster and faster.  At some point we were cruising the climbs pretty good.  It was about 10 pm and Marc went berserk.  He was just flying...  Someone at Sunrise had told him that 4th place was only 25 minutes behind him.  We also knew that Brett Rivers was a little over half an hour ahead.  Whatever the motivation, he let it loose.  I was just hanging on.

We had a quick stop at Pioneer Mail and kept cruising along the PCT.  Shortly after the aid station though, Marc's flashlight went out.  What are the chances?  Two lights in one race?  That is why you always have backups for backups...  And in this case I was the backup again.  We settled into our old one-light groove, but it wasn't exactly optimal for Marc, especially considering the slightly more technical nature of the PCT.  It was all I could do to concentrate on keeping the light in a position that would keep Marc on his feet, all the while trying to keep pace with crazy man.  When we rolled into Penny Pines at mile 91 I was toast.  I handed Marc my flashlight and told him I would just hold him back at this point.  He should just go out and keep doing what he was doing.  He asked if I was sure, and then he was off into the night.  He ended up running the whole next climb, a task that I know I was not up for.

I headed back to the finish line with the crew, got a quick shower, and then waited as the finishers were coming in.  Jeff Browning won for the second year in a row, finishing in 16:59, about half an hour slower than his course record, but amazing considering this years conditions.  Brett Rivers held on to second place, running an incredible race and finishing in 17:23.  Marc came through at 18:06, almost two hours ahead of the 4th place finisher.  Scott Mills had quoted the stat that since he took over as race director for the San Diego 100, the finishing rate had continued to climb to where last year it was in the mid 70% of the field finishing the race.  This years conditions proved to be rather challenging to the runners and less than 50% of the starters finished the race.  Pretty brutal.

I would say that Marc ran a tactically sound race.  He endured the heat of the day and still had enough in him to hammer it when the temperatures got better.  He definitely proved that he is tough with the performance at the San Diego 100.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Canyon Meadow 30K 2013 Race Report


I take off with a lead group of runners.  We lean into the first climb of the day.  Man, who are these guys in front of me?  They are wearing basketball shorts and tee shirts!  There is no way they should be in front of me, with my little shorts and high tech, fast wicking racing singlet with some fancy label like "better than naked".  They are probably just 5 mile runners, or they don't know what they are doing.  I look to my left, there is Will G.  I know I will be racing him for the 30k win.  I just want to keep him in my sights.  If I can stay with him up the first climb, then I got him.

Oh man, this climb just keeps going...  I'm breathing way too hard this soon into the race.  Keep pumping the arms, keep pumping the arms... The legs will follow.

We hit a slight reprieve from the climb and I stretch out my legs a little and make up a few steps on Will.  At this point I am right on him and then we hit a fork in the trail.  He tells me that the sign is wrong, that we have to keep going straight and then takes off.  I stand there and stare at the intersection for a moment.  The sign says go up the hill to the right!  Will stops and tells me the sign is wrong, he knows the course.  Another runner catches up to me and waits for the verdict.  I decide to go with Will and the other runner follows.

The three of us are cruising down this wide open fire road when my toe catches a rock.  Seriously?  Am I really falling?  I just kicked that rock.  Uh oh, here comes the ground...  Thunk, slide...  Will is out of sight, the other runner stops and asks if I am ok.  I pop up and exclaim that I am fine, and we continue on.  But then I look down and realize I am bleeding pretty good.  I tell the other runner to keep going, I was just going to do a damage check.  OK, just scratches, everything seems to be in working order, keep going!  I keep the other runner in sight and realize that he is a really good downhiller.  I am trying to keep up with him, but the only time I make up any ground on him are on the climbs!  Well, this is new...  At some point I loose contact with him and I am on my own on the fire-roads that seem to be rolling on forever.  The same view repeating itself over and over again.

Well, this is boring.  I wonder when I will catch those guys.  When are we going to hit the next aid station?  Man, it's getting warm.  Wow, what's this?  The landscape totally changes on me.  I am now running amidst ferns and redwoods, down a technical single track trail.  Fun again!  I hit the next aid station.  Do you need anything?  Nah, just need to drink.  Slam a few cups of gatorade and a cup of water and I am out.  I run some nice hills in the shade of the redwoods and am having a pretty good time when I come down to the intersection with the stream trail, which should take me around to finish the first loop.  But then I see the other runner running back to me.  "I don't think we go that way" He tells me he didn't see any flags.  But the sign points that way.  I look to the left and there is another sign hanging form a tree, sort of just dangling, pointing up.  Not much good that does us.  I tell him the only way to go is to the right.  So we run together and finally see some more flags.  He is obviously not happy about the course marking, but we find out later that there was some significant vandalism on the course.  We hit some bike path and come around to the start again.  He finishes, which means he is a half-marathon runner.  I breath a sigh of relief because that means all I have to do is chase down Will on the next five mile loop.

The climb up the hill is different this time.  No more pop in the legs.  All by myself.  No body to catch or push me.  Come on legs!  Move!  Man that sun is pounding down.  Keep an eye out for yellow flags on left. That is where I turn down off of the hill for the final descent.  It never comes.  Keep going, going, when will I ever be done with this!  There!  There is the tricky intersection, and yellow flags on the left.  I shoot down the steep rocky fire road.  Ok, if I can push this all the way to the finish, maybe, just maybe I will catch Will.  Turn-over, keep the legs churning...  Oh wow, this trail looks familiar.  I remember this!  This is the section of trail where I passed Victor at Firetrails last year.  Keep the legs moving.  Just a little bit more!  I hit the road again, turn a corner and see the finish line.  2:21.  Not a bad time.  Definitely not what I was shooting for, but a good fast workout...

Jeremy:  Will!  How did you do?

Will:  2:17, new course record... but I knew it was soft

Jeremy:  Awesome man!  Congratulations!  You ran well.

Will:  Was that you that fell back there?

Jeremy: Yeah, caught a rock and went superman, you know how it is...

Will:  Yeah, sorry man...

Race Notes:  Drymax midweights + brooks puregrits + high sweat rate + short course = sloshfest.  Should have went with thinner socks and NB 110s...
No need for gu or to carry water.  That plan worked fine.