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No Go at Crazylegs; A Go at the JFK50

I didn't run the Crazylegs 8km this past Saturday. It's a super fun race and I was bummed not to be participating. I did, however, do some spectating, watching some of the 27,000 runners at the start and many more at the finish. The DNS was, of course, due to the nagging knee issues that I've been having over this past 12 or so days. Again, it was tough to sit this one out, since I love nothing more than to compete, but I think it was for the best. In any case, one my training partners, Fran Flanagan, had a great finish, running 26:20 for 5th place. Congrats to him and to all the other finishers!

A bit of good news from last week: I was accepted into the JFK50! This is a race I've wanted to run for some time now, and I'm thrilled that I'll have the opportunity later this year. For now, I'll be doing my best to have my knee in good shape for the Ice Age Trail 50 and, following that, I have a number of other races on the agenda, but I have an eye toward this historic 50 mile race in late November: it'll be a great, and hopefully competitive, way to end 2013.

04/22 - 04/28

Following the Mad City 50km, my legs felt just fine (that is, no serious muscle soreness). This is probably due in large part to the fact that I had an easy week prior to the race so as to let me bum knee rest. But, as expected I suppose, my knee was again giving me problems post-race. Here goes:

Monday (Apr. 22): off. My legs feel fine. If it weren't for my knee feeling like hell, I'd have been running today.
Tuesday (Apr. 23): off. Knee feeling better; I'll have a go tomorrow.
Wednesday (Apr. 24): PM 16 miles, 1hr:53, 7:34/mile, 16 x out-and-back sled hill, Turville Park. 3 mile warm up; 3 mile cool down; 10 miles of hill work with a half mile easy jog around a flat loop after repeats 4, 8, 12. The hill repeats were run on the front and backside of a nice 50 foot hill in the woods: 1/2 mile out-and-back, 100' of climbing per repeat (1,600' total). The "out" portion is a gradual, rolling, climb over .18 miles followed by a sharp descent over .07 miles; the "back" portion starts with the sharp climb and then follows with the gradual, rolling descent. My knee actually felt good throughout, but was again sore by the end of the day.
Thursday (Apr. 25): PM 6+ miles, Ice Age Trail, Kettle Moraine State Park. My knee/hip wasn't feeling great today but I wanted to see the trails where the IAT50 is taking place, so I drove about an hour SE. Unfortunately, however, I only made it about a half mile before I realized that I couldn't do anything close to a serious run (I was finding it difficult, i.e. painful, to maintain about 9:00/mile pace, and more painful still to do anything faster). So I mostly hiked and jogged occasionally for about an hour and a half. Good to see some of the trail, bad that the injury isn't going away. As you can imagine, I'm not particularly pleased as of now.
Friday (Apr. 26): AM 1100m swim. The plan is to stay off the feet as much as possible until Ice Age.
Saturday (Apr. 27): AM/PM 2400m swim. More time in the pool.
Sunday (Apr. 28): AM/PM 3800m swim. Ironman distance swim. The injury seems to be much improved, and I was able to play sand volleyball without problems, but I know that I need to stay away from running as of yet.

Weekly Totals: ~22 miles running, ~3hrs:30; ~4.5 miles swimming, ~2hrs:20. And LOTS of strength/core work. A mostly uneventful week. The only upshots are these: (a) I really only missed 3-5 days of hard training for the IAT50 and (b) the extra rest over these 3 weeks leading up to the race may leave me very prepared (i.e. well rested). The main worry at this point is that my knee won't be 100%. We'll see what happens, but I'm optimistic.


Race Report: Mad City 50km

Result: 1st, 3:14:24 (PR)

Presentation of awards, just after the finish.
On Thursday afternoon, 40 hours before the start of the Mad City 50km, I couldn't walk. I should be more clear: I could walk, but only with great difficulty and with much pain. After a 22 mile day on Tuesday, including 8 one-mile repeats, my left knee felt quite tender. I took the day off Wednesday because of the discomfort but was back out the door Thursday afternoon. After a few miles, the pain was back and it was sharp. "Shit," I thought, "I'm screwed." After four miles, I could barely lift my left leg. "Shit," I thought again. I limped along for a half mile, still over three miles from my house. Eventually I made it back, shuffling at a slow pace. I was almost certain that I wouldn't be racing on Saturday.

But, somehow, on Saturday morning, my knee felt good enough to run (I didn't run on Friday). The gun went off on a cold, sunny morning and almost immediately I was alone, starting the first of five 10km loops around the UW-Arboretum. Aside from a few short spurts of pain, my knee held up. I couldn't believe it! What bothered me during the race, though, was my stomach, which induced two pit stops (during the 2nd and 5th loops) totaling around two minutes of stagnancy. I did my best to take in some calories without upsetting my stomach further, and managed to run a solid race (although, as my splits suggest, I want out a bit fast and paid for that later). My splits (roughly) were thus:

1st loop: 37:25
2nd loop: 1:16:10 (38:45)
3rd loop: 1:54:22 (38:12)
4th loop: 2:33:37 (39:15)
5th loop: 3:14:24 (40:47)

Full results here (Congrats to Mark Thompson on a strong second place finish).

I was especially pleased with the race because, if you take away the time that I spent on pit stops, my time was just over 3:12 -- the time I was planning to run. So, sans the pit stops, I ran more or less on pace. The downside was the way my knee felt after the race: again tight, again sore, again in pain. So much so that, when I went to run at 7am on Sunday, I only made it about a half mile before having to stop.

Setting the knee issues aside (which look to be much improved now, two days later), Mad City was a great experience, providing both a mental boost (running through some pain and on a bad stomach) and a physical boost (a very good training run: lengthy and at a fast pace) for the Ice Age Trail 50. I hope to get a few more days of good training in this week before taking it easy and resting for what should be a very competitive, and very exciting race on May 11th.

Thanks very much to my girlfriend, Cynthia, for helping out during the race and toughing it out in the cold temperature. Many thanks to Tim Yanacheck for putting on a great event, to all the volunteers for their assistance, and to RaceReady for the support.
Pleased, and still upright, after the race. 

A sunny, but very cold, morning.

04/15 - 04/21

Another race week! Here goes:

Monday (Apr. 15): AM 8 miles, :58, 7:13/mile, out-and-back on Cap City Trail.
Tuesday (Apr. 16): AM 14 miles, 8 x mile, quarter mile easy jog between reps, along the Lakefront Path with Fran. Really great workout: 2 mile warm up, 2 mile cool down, 8 x mile splits in 5:41, 5:38, 5:41, 5:30, 5:39, 5:34, 5:41, 5:34 (Fran sped to a 5:12 on this one). The odd numbered repeats were slightly uphill and into some increasingly strong winds; the evens slightly downhill and with the wind at our backs. PM 8 miles, 1hr:01, 7:38/mile, out-and-back along Lake Monona to Turville Park trails. My left knee started to feel weak (I think it's something with the IT band coming down from the hip flexor) and the second half of the run was quite uncomfortable.
Wednesday (Apr. 17): off. Knee feeling a bit twingy from yesterday, so taking a day to let it rest.
Thursday (Apr. 18): PM 8 miles, 1hr, 7:30/mile, out-and-back along Monona Bay to the Arb (road). I was reduced to walking, or, more accurately, hobbling, four miles into the run, and only barely managed to make it home. Concerning, to say the least.
Friday (Apr. 19): off. Less severe comfort than yesterday, but discomfort nonetheless.
Saturday (Apr. 20): AM 32 miles, Mad City 50km, 1st, 3:14:24 (6:15/mile). See my Race Report: Mad City 50km for details.
Sunday (Apr. 21): AM 0.5 miles, 5 minutes. Knee issues resurfaced after the race yesterday and, after jogging about a quarter mile with Fran, I had to turn back and call it a day. Rats!

Weekly Totals: 70 miles, 7hrs:45. The week turned out far less ambitious than I had hoped, having to take (basically) three full days off. The rest of the week was great, but I'm now left with some concerns regarding my knee. Hopefully I'll be feeling better in just a day or two. I need another five or so days of good training before taking it easy in preparation for the Ice Age Trail 50.


04/08 - 04/14

A relatively quick recovery following the American River 50 allowed for a solid week of training. Here's how it looked:

Monday (Apr. 8): off
Tuesday (Apr. 9): PM 10 miles, 1hr:16, 7:31/mile, out-and-back on the Cap City trail. After two days off following the AR50, I was back out the door. Not feeling great, and my legs are still a bit tight/sore, but feeling good enough to run again.
Wednesday (Apr. 10): PM 10 miles, 1hr:15, 7:26/mile, out-and-back along the Lakefront trail. Same story this afternoon as yesterday.
Thursday (Apr. 11): AM 6 miles, :44, 7:25/mile, out-and-back on Cap City Trail. Still feeling general fatigue and my legs are still feeling heavy. PM 12 miles, 1hr:24, 7:04/mile, along Monona Bay to an Arb loop (road). Finally feeling stronger since the weekend: legs more responsive, body feeling more rested.
Friday (Apr. 12): PM 20 miles, 2hrs:25, 7:14/mile, out-and-back on Southwest bike trail. My legs were finally feeling more fully recovered from the AR50, so I had a longer effort in the afternoon.
Saturday (Apr. 13): AM 16 miles, 1hr:47, 6:42/mile, 2 x 3mile repeats, Arb (road). 6 mile warm up, then 3 miles in 17:29 (5:50, 5:52, 5:47); 1 mile easy, then another 3 miles in 17:28 (5:52, 5:54, 5:42); 3 mile cool down. Felt good to pick up some speed.
Sunday (Apr. 14): PM 15 miles, 1hr:46, 7:01/mile, SMR loop + hills. 4 miles easy, then 5 x 150m hill; 5 miles easy, then 3 x 250m hill; 1 mile easy, then 3 x 350m hill; finished with 2 easy miles.

Weekly Totals: 89 miles, 10hrs:45. A strong week following the race last weekend. I ended the week feeling rather rested, which is promising for the upcoming week.


Evaluating, Re-evaluating, and Re-re-evaluating the Mad City 50km

This past December, I laid out some goals for my first three races of 2013: 2:42 for the marathon in DC, 6:05 for the 50 mile in CA, and 3:12 for the 50km in WI. So far, I'm one for two, having run a 2:36 marathon and a 6:20 50 mile. My 50 mile goal stayed stagnant throughout training this winter/spring, but, since speed work went well, I re-evaluated my marathon goal and thought that a sub-2:40 was a legitimate possibility. After finishing 3rd in that race, I thought that my 3:12 for Mad City was too conservative. I thought, "if I can run a 2:36 marathon, I can run around 3:06 for a 50km and, given that the course record is 3:03, I might even have a shot at that."

That was my re-evaluation of Mad City. But I've now re-re-evaluted! Among the things that I learned from the AR50, I learned that I could have benefited from longer long runs, and more long runs. In preparing for the Ice Age Trail 50 (IAT50), my goal is to do just that (in addition to hill work). The IAT50 is less than a month out and, with time dwindling, I don't have time for a proper taper and recovery from Mad City. Instead, I'll need to use Mad City as one of my longer training runs in preparation for the IAT50, and will need to follow it up with another long effort the next day.

This is all to say that I won't be going all out next weekend. Sure, I want to win, as much as anyone, and I'll do my best to do so; but I need to ensure that I require no more than minimal recovery from the race, and I need to keep in mind that I won't be coming in fresh. It'll depend on how I feel on Saturday, but I'm back to the more conservative goal of 3:12, with an eye toward a sub-3:10 if conditions permit.

Of course, my evaluating, re-evaluating and re-re-evaluating will all be behind me once the gun goes off. On race day, you never know what will happen.


Race Report: American River 50

Result: 2nd, 6:20:58 (PR?)

If you find yourself eight miles into a fifty mile race, you already feel fatigued, your legs don't feel completely under you, and the harder portion of the race won't come for another eighteen miles, you might be worried. Such was the situation I found myself in as Matt Flaherty and I came through the William Pond aid station (8.16 miles): fatigued, legs uneasy, daunted by what was to come. Matt and I had plugged along at around 6:20/mile pace to that point, and so continued until the Sunrise aid station (14.61 miles). Given that I had run a 2:36 marathon three weeks prior, I didn't find the 6:20/mile pace at the beginning of the race either too quick or too physically taxing, but the pace didn't feel comfortable and I didn't feel quite right. So, after Sunrise, I throttled back in the hopes of regaining my composure before we hit the trail from miles 17 - 20 and again from miles 27 - 47.

My hopes never materialized, for I continued to struggle throughout the race, slowly fading more and more but never blowing up completely. Evidently Matt was having a similar day, as is evidenced by his own account of the race here. His day seemed more readily explainable: his 2012 was wiped out by injury. Unfortunately, I can't quite determine what accounted for my off day. Perhaps I hadn't quite recovered from the cold that I picked up two weeks ago, or maybe the traveling during spring break had me run down. Whatever the case was, Saturday was not a good day for me.

Matt remained in my sights on and off through 21 miles before he disappeared for a while. I did my best to maintain a reasonably fast pace during during the portions of trail and remaining miles of bike path as I crossed the marathon distance in around 2:49/2:50, coming into Beals Point aid station (26.53) a few minutes later. I couldn't believe how poorly I felt, but was also surprised to find that Matt was in sight, across the bay, running along the dam toward the trails. This provided hope, and so I put my head down and continued after him. I lost sight of him, for good, three and a half minutes before I exited the bike path and picked up the trail a bit after mile 27.

Things went from bad to worse soon thereafter. As I ran toward Granite Bay aid station (31.67 miles), my legs got heavier, my body felt increasingly fatigued, and I was reduced to hiking on some of the (honestly, not so steep) inclines. My pace, too, dropped on the flatter sections of the trail and, before I knew it, I was running on some fairly technical trail that I wasn't mentally prepared for. Running toward and leaving Buzzard's Cove aid station (34.67 miles) proved a nightmare, as the trail wound, rose, and fell around rocks, roots and mud for a good 10km. In part because I was unprepared for such terrain, I had a really tough time maintaining anything close to a decent pace during this time. Every step I felt like I was handing Matt extra seconds, and with each passing mile I knew I was giving away precious minutes. But I couldn't get myself to move, and instead could only laboriously move forward. With persistence (and more than one thought about ending my misery), I made it to Rattlesnake Bar aid station (40.94 miles), and the trail opened back up. I convinced myself to try to make a bit more of a push after hearing that I was 17-18 minutes back of Matt, and brought the pace back down to 7:30-8 minute miles until the dreaded dam wall that commences the final three mile climb into Auburn.

I hiked up toward Last Gasp aid station (47.56 miles), with the elapsed time around 6 hours flat, and it seemed that tracking down Matt was out of the question, since I was told that he had passed through 16-17 minutes prior to my arrival. Still, I pushed on and was able to maintain around 8 minute miles during the final miles as the road slowly rose toward the finish in Auburn (*Note: my finishing time ended up being 12:41 behind Matt Flaherty's solid 6:08:17 performance).

In the end, I managed to finish 2nd with a time that, in almost any other year, would have placed me closer to 5th, 6th, or even 10th. It's true that the field was far less competitive than most years, but second place at the American River 50 is something to be pleased with, despite a less than ideal day and a less than ideal finishing time.

I was disappointed to have not given Matt a better chase. For one thing, it would have made for a more exciting race; for another, a finishing time closer to Matt's would have made my performance look more formidable. Matt Flaherty is in the top echelon of ultrarunning, someone whose name you'll hear alongside the likes of Geoff Roes, Ian Sharman, and Sage Canaday.  It was an honor to have run with him at all, and more of an honor still to have finished no-so-far behind him. Hopefully there will be more of that to come next month at the Ice Age Trail 50!

I can't thank my wonderful crew (Kathryn, Stephanie, mom, Cynthia) enough for doing such a great job; thanks also to RaceReady, and to Julie Fingar and NorCalUltras for putting on a first-class event (if you are looking to run a well organized race with great spectator support and well stocked aid stations, then this is a race for you).

Ready to start in Sacramento

Coming through the Sunrise aid station (14.61 miles)

Leaving Sunrise aid station with Stephanie alongside

Stephanie and Kathryn having a photo shoot

A nice view at Beals Point (26.53 miles)

2013 American River 50 winner Matt Flaherty

Enjoying a cup of wine with Matt post-race

Men's podium (L-R, myself, Matt, RD Julie Fingar, Paulo Medina)

Jean and Cynthia near the finish

04/01 - 04/07

The American River 50 was Saturday and, as such, I had a low key week otherwise (with a number of days off). Here's the breakdown:

Monday (Apr. 1): off
Tuesday (Apr. 2): AM 10 miles, 6 in 37:18 (6:12/mile), around the Arb (road). Fran and I planned to run some miles at a quicker pace this morning but, since neither of us felt quite right, the pace stayed brisk albeit not fast. It was a very cold morning (hopefully the last of them!).
Wednesday (Apr. 3): AM 8+ miles, :57, 6:53/mile, out-and-back on Cap City Trail. Easy miles.
Thursday (Apr. 4): off. A day of travel out to California.
Friday (Apr. 5): AM 6 miles, :43, 7:11/mile, American River bike path, Sacramento, CA. Nice views on a cool morning just outside of downtown Sacramento. Excited for tomorrow!
Saturday (Apr. 6): AM/PM American River 50 mile, 2nd place, 6:20:58, 7:37/mile. There's a lot to be said about this one, and it can be found in my Race Report: American River 50.
Sunday (April 7): off. My legs and body feel pretty alright, although I was exceedingly tired by the time I made it back to Madison in the afternoon (at which time I crashed for 4 hours before dinner).

Weekly Totals: 74+ miles, 9hrs:10. Recovery from the race seems to be going well, so I should be able to get back to higher intensity training mode very soon.

Nice scenery during a Friday morning jog in sunny Sacramento, CA

The scenic American River

A friday afternoon wine tour (with Stephanie, Kathryn, mom)

Pre-dawn at the race start (with Cynthia, Stephanie, Kathryn)

Just before the race start (with Matt Flaherty)

In downtown Sacramento the evening before the race

The finish line of the American River 50