Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waldo 100K - Pacer Report

The following is a report of pacing Rob Hendrickson at Waldo 100K, 8/21/11.

Rob & Crew Chief Chris review the split sheet

Woke up early to watch the start, then went back to bed.  Got up again, had some tea and breakfast...then went back to bed again!  Slept pretty decently; a nice, relaxing morning, reading and resting in the tent.

My initial thought was to pace Rob only from Twins #2 to the finish - a mere 18 miles or so.  My knee was a bit irritable this week and I this distance was likely going to push it.  However, as the morning progressed it occurred to me that:

A.) He's going to need my help the most in that segment BEFORE Twins #2 (7.5mi of uphill wooded running), and
B.) Better to pick him up there, then sit around and have to hike into Twins and wait amongst the skeeters...

So I packed up and drove to Charlton at 10ish, suited up and ready to go.

Hung out at the AS, watching the front-runners (5th place, on) roll through.  Aliza L. didn't break a stride through the AS; the fastest pacer pick-up I'd ever seen.

I got a report from The Queen that Rob was struggling a bit out of Twins.  Bummer.  I thought two things: mechanics, or nutrition.  So when he rolled in a shade before 11AM, I made sure he filled up his hydration pack and got some fluid.  I asked him the last time he peed: "Not since this morning" (pre-race).  Uh-oh.  We're now 6 hours in. 

This is my 2nd time as a pacer - my first, post-100M racing, and first since being a true ultra runner.  So I took the lessons learned from the past year -- what I want/need -- and tried to apply them to Rob's race.

We took off toward 4290, with heavy emphasis on mechanics - using his gluts instead of "quad pushing".  We also talked about keeping the feet moving by trying to run "X number of steps" until walking, rather than walking right away.   Both strategies worked well on this relatively flat section - keeping a run going for nearly all of it.  As such, we made 4290 in just a shade over 50min for the 5+.  Not bad. 

Rob was getting some gut rot.  He also mentioned that he'd taken "a salt tab after 1hr, then twice an hour" prior to Charlton.  That's a lot.  And definitely not enough water.  So the plan going into 4290 was WATER.  "Your goal is to PEE in the next hour!". 

His dutiful crew was at 4290 waiting for him, but we mostly utilized the AS for water and a pack fill, then we were off. 

This next section - the 7.5 to the Twins #2 - was as tough as we thought.  Probably tougher.  We started off running OK, but then Rob's gut rotted more; and he began to feel dizzy.  Not good.  I wasn't hip to making him push and flame-out with so much race left; yet at the same time I wasn't about to let his race turn into a walk-fest.  So while we slowed up, I turned my focus toward hydration.

He was barely drinking.  He had a hydration pack which, while convenient and comfortable, is harder to drink from than a bottle.  You have to grab the house, put it to mouth, and suck with some force.  This may seem ridiculously easy, but not 40M into a race.  "Two drinks!"  "Three drinks!" became the most prevalent mantra -- getting some fluid into his body at all costs.

Tons of walk/jog through here - sometimes only 30-40 steps on the "irritating grade".  Before long, the new decry was, "Every time you walk, you DRINK!". 

Despite that, more gut rot, more dizziness.  F.  We began to yo-yo with the early-start shufflers.  Not good.  "This could be a long day", I thought. 

No Rob, you weren't hallucinating. A guitarist serenades runners between 4290 at Twins 2.

Just before Lost Lake, Rob stopped to deuce.  That helped alleviate some gut rot, but I continued to push the water and the brief run spurts.  Finally, we approached the hiking section up to Twins, then the runnable downs and into the Twins AS.
It was fluid-time.  I didn't have a problem being "a dick" about his nutritional needs; and at this point, it was more about him surviving and finishing; if he kept up these 15+min miles and poor hydration -- less than half his hydration pack was emptied on that 7.5M -- his ability to finish would be in jeopardy.  Another pacer decry: "Two waters and a coke! Drink!".  He didn't like it, but he took it.  That, plus some iced pops and we were walking.  His crew was there again with terrific encouragement, which helped the spirits. 

We walked maybe 100 meters before shuffling down the merciful downgrade along the PCT.  The shuffle became a nice run gear - our first in a couple hours.  Awesome.  I said nothing; as if to not jinx the pitcher in a no-hitter.  Just keep it going!  We ultimately hit some uphill, on a ridge that ascended to the Maiden AS.  More forced-hydration before the long, steep climb up Maiden.

A rejuvenated Rob, no longer "All Shook Up", poses with Elvis, leaving Twins AS.

I've been up Maiden Peak four times in my life, and twice this summer in the snow.  I'm not sure if the snow -- measuring 4-6-foot depths at the end of July -- "smoothed out" the hills, or what, but wow, was that steep!  We ran a few bits on the "shelf" that makes up the initial mile of the ascent, but once the trail began to climb, it was a challenge just to power hike!  I was surprised and impressed that Rob kept up a continuous hike without stopping on this seemingly 20+% grade. 

We caught a few folks on this climb, which helped break up the strain, before it leveled out to the upper shelf.  There might've been runnable spots here but they were short or rugged with volcanic scree.  The tree canopy opened to the true base of the summit; waiting at the trail junction was Kelly Woodke, who encouraged Rob up the last half-mile to the peak.  We passed one more "runner" to the top, where Jeff Riley was waiting!  Incredible views.  I snapped some pics and encouraged Rob to take calories and fluid for what would be a technical and challenging descent.  We negotiated the loose scree, passed Kelly again, and descended upon "the Leap of Faith". 

Rob atop Maiden Peak, with Waldo Lake in the background

This was all new trail to me now; steep technical descent of two miles to the final AS.  Rob did a great job of negotiating the terrain, given he was now 51+ miles into the day.  We ran nearly the entire descent and finally made Maiden Lake AS.  There, for the last time, I again forced fluids on Rob - the magical "Two waters and a Coke".  He was having trouble with the volume, but I knew he was still behind, and I didn't want to him to blow up just a few miles from the finish.  The exchange:

Me: "Drink this whole glass!"
Rob: "I don't want to."
Me: "Welp, I don't wanna run this last seven-and-a-half miles, but we're going to!"
He begrudingly drank more, but tossed the last few ounces over his head.  I forced my last gulp of Coke on him, we thanked the AS crew (3 mile hike, uphill, to bring aid!), and we were off.

What a terrific stretch of trail -- mostly downhill, but the occassional (and enjoyable) ups.  Maiden Lake looked incredible through the trees, though I wondered how you'd get down there from our singletrack perch.  Rob made good time through there, and he began to get competitive: we'd passed another runner he'd competed against times before, "who always passes me at the end", so he pushed it as much as he could, walking only the steepest, longest segments. 

I let him run in front here -- actually, I let him lead for most of the last 30M.  Again, this was an imposition of my own wants; however, I feel there are so many reasons that it is advantageous to have your pacer behind:

1. It's tough for the pacer to maintain a "perfect pull" without gapping the runner and demoralizing their effort.
2. You can't see what they're doing; e.g. mechanically, or the frequency of fueling.

For the latter, I might seriously consider wearing a cycling rearview mirror on my sunglasses in the future. 

Rob ran in front for most of it, while I continued to give him pace and mechanical cueing.  After this series of terrific rolling singletrack, signage indicated the PCT was ahead.  The trail junction was manned by John Ticer and his dog, who directed us on to the "almost-home stretch", as I called it.

More incredible single-track!  So smooth and level!  If you could make a singletrack..."track", this section of PCT would be it.  Very fast and fun.  A couple switchbacks dumped us deep into the "Spooky Forest"; my name for anything with thick conifer trees that squelch most of the sunlight.  We again made good time; however, Rob began to complain of foot pain.  My response:  "Oh well! It's gonna hurt worse to stop and walk than it is to run!", which was absolute truth. He did walk a couple times, but never more than 5 seconds before running again.

We began to pass the Rosary Lakes -- they sat beside a substantial rocky uplifting, which made for a picturesque backdrop, much more impressive than I imagined they'd be.  We passed our final competitor - Gary Wang - at the middle lake, just after the stream crossing, then pushed it to try to make it a strong gap. 

The last couple miles, as Meghan alluded to, were long.  Again, great trail, but the scenery was monotonous; I kept waiting and anticipating our trail work area -- the big root hole we filled back in July, which was a marker for us that we were about a mile away.  I waited and waited as we scooted down the trail.  "I'm out of water", Rob said.  Perfect timing. 

We finally passed the trail work - first the huge boulder we freed but couldn't slide, then the freeway-width resurfacing of the root hole.  We both flew across it jubilantly, knowing how close we were to the end.  More downhill, then finally the trail split that took us to the Pass. 

Rob runs over the newly-filled root hole, a mile from the finish.

My last words to Rob, as we ran down the rocky double track road to the Ski Area, finish in sight, were, "You've got about a quarter mile to make your stride look bad-ass for the finish".  I then pulled off and let him roll through.

Approaching the finish.

Fun day.  Really glad I did the entire last half, as I seemed to be the most useful there.  Moreover, it was a great experience to put to use all I've learned in the past year.  Also, I'm quite proud of Rob for pushing himself to a new level; he was able to learn things and fix problems -- lessons that will pay off big time down the road!

Rob surrounded by his crew, getting post-race work by Mike Blackmore.
Post-race: soaked in the terrific atmosphere (and wonderfully warm weather conditions) at the Pass, including a great grill-out food, some tap beers from inside, and great company.  Chatted with Dave Mackey, "The Gentle Giant" who broke the CR, as well as with Ken Sinclair and Denise Bourassa, who I felt had the performance of the day, taking 2nd in an impressive 10:59 and punching her ticket to WS. 

A truly awesome event that I hope to run all of, soon.

Post-race refreshments!  Thanks, Ken!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Joe's Training "Pattern" - Spring 2011

Here's a nice analogy of how my training has been this spring, through WS:

Now if I could only figure out how to get unlimited turbos....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Dream It All Up Again"

...It's no secret that the stars are falling from the sky
The universe exploded 'cause of one man's lie
Look, I gotta go, yeah I'm running outta change
There's a lot of things, if I could I'd rearrange...

 Tumult: 1. Confusion or disorder. 2. Disorderly agitation or milling about.  

For as enjoyable as 2011 has been, tumult has been the theme since April. Tumult brought drama, and - in a pre-WS build up - brought elements of excitement sprinkled into a mound of gut-wrenching stress (think: corn kernals in a pile of poop).  

Post-WS was the first time a great while I felt content. And relaxedSatiated.  Gazing upon that sterling silver - and knowing that my "pants won't sag" - has been a tremendous source of joy; not because running 100.2 miles is particularly tremendous feat (I'd say doing 100.2, then another 100M + 33K' gain/loss at 11K' elevation, three weeks later, would fit that classification); rather, that buckle is a physical representation of that day: that I was able to take part in such an incredible adventure, multiplied several-fold by forming a collective experience amongst my best friends and family. For that, I'll be forever grateful and cherish 6-25-11 as one of the best days ever.  

But the world doesn't stop spinning; and those trails won't run themselves (or, as I've found out - won't clear trees or fill root holes).  Before my CPK dipped below 10K, Waldo 100K was looming on the horizon.  I registered in March.  Not only because it's a great race in one of my favorite places in Oregon, but that's it's a Montrail Cup race in my backyard.  

My own hubris (albeit shrinking by the day) told me that this would be my best, and most reasonable bet for entry into the '12 WS.  That rest for the weary!  Despite numerous aches and pains - the right ankle, then the left achilles - I pushed onward, once again hitting the trails in hopes of once again "cram-preparing" for a major ultra run. 

The worst of times in PT school were finals weeks that first year: in the fall term we had ten exams in a little over a week.  You'd cram for 2-3 days for each test, but as you went along, you had less and less time to prepare for each successive test.  Melt down.  

During a nice trail work weekend in the Waldo area, I stuffed in two "modest" trail runs: 10 miles (3K' elevation), then 20 miles (5K').  Felt great to be on the trail again (and mostly healthy), but also out of shape, tired.  Two days later: the dreaded left knee pain returned. 

Less panic, more dread.  

Enough is enough.  It's time to re-tool.  

I've learned a great deal in this first year of 26.2+ running, but some of the best lessons were reminders; Jake wrote a post about his rookie year and lessons learned, most notably the importance of consistency.  

Everything about my running this spring and summer has been wildly inconsistent: mechanics, training, performance, health.  I'm tired of it.  I need to step back and re-generate.

I'm a huge U2 fan; studying the history of band is fascinating: they began in high school in the 70s as a "[Christian] punk rock" band, then into more conventional rock, with tinges of R&B and soul.  As the 80s ceded into 1990, the band felt a same level of stagnation - and need to re-tool.  Said Paul Hewson:
"I was explaining to people the other night, but I might've got it a bit wrong – this is just the end of something for U2. And that's what we're playing these concerts – and we're throwing a party for ourselves and you. It's no big deal, it's just – we have to go away and ... and dream it all up again."

So they went away.  They came back a year and a half later with one of greatest, most formative albums in rock history.  And in doing so, not only returned with newfound energy enthusiasm, but with a degree of relevance to the shifting scene of music of the early 90s -- not only did they simply "fit in", they became a driving force in music for the decade.

I'm not the U2 of ultra running.  :p  But that message resonates with me: time to step back and "Dream it up again" - to get back to the fundamentals of running first, develop that consistency, so that I can not only "do awesome stuff", but to maybe to "do awesome stuff, awesomely". 

Simply put: I wanna see how good I can be.  And cram-training and un-prepared racing, then "burning CPK" for a month is not the way to get there.  It's frustrating, embarassing, and downright silly.  Nick and Ian can race a ton because that's their consistency.  I want to get there - not simply their performance level, but that "frequency of awesome acts".

Therefore: no more ultras until October.  The focus will be on the following (in order of importance)

1. Mechanical excellence, namely foot strike, trunk alignment, and turnover
2. Consistent training: 6.5 days a week running - replete with core work, weights and cycling cross-training.
3. Speed and strength: weekly tempo- and interval sessions.
4. Trail running mechanics: namely hills and technical footing.
5. Good health: no "lost-time" injuries (which should be the result of executing 1-4).

Here's the fun stuff on the horizon:

1. August: Fun bike rides/trips (e.g Crater, Cascade Lakes, etc.)
2.September: get into the mosquito-free mountains for camping and trail running (Waldo Lake circumnavigation); Squaw Valley-to-MB with Jake at the end of Sept.
3. October: Autumn Leaves 50K - back to where it all began.
4. December: CIM 26.2.

So, here's to a great late summer and fall of racing to my cohorts -- namely the fellas at Waldo and UTMB.  Until then...I gotta go, yeah I'm running outta change / There's a lot of things, if I could I'd rearrange...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WS 2011 Finish Video

The last 250m of WS, courtesy of my brother-in-law (good foot- and camera-work, Nate!).  Probably the coolest piece of "race memorabilia" I have:

The finishing stride could use a little work...

Note the audio from "Tropical John": his comment regarding LB was meant as a humorous compliment.  That he finished a few spots behind me lessened the humor somewhat...but Mr. Medinger more than made up for that.