Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mike's 17-hour Umstead 100 Race Report

In Mike's words:

With the risk of putting myself out there by writing this, here is my recap of Umstead.  This turned out much longer than I thought, but it just started flowing and there was much more to write than I originally expected.

The hardest part of Umstead is getting into the race!  It was an absolute pain in the ass as it filled in seconds, literally… The race logistics made up for it…it’s adjacent to the Raleigh airport and we (Katie, Anders, myself) took a direct from NYC.  Literally 4 hours door to door.  And hotels right near the race site.  Katie/Anders & I flew down Thursday afternoon and the flight was only a touch over an hour.  Katie’s mom met us down there to help out.  I had trained a good amount for this race but didn’t know what to expect as I’ve knowingly never gone into a 100 miler prepared.  You can’t fake the 100 mile distance…my training leading to Umstead was the following:

4 days during the week – 1.5 hour run with 20mins of core/strength work following
Back to Back weekend days which started as 15x15 and grew up to a max of 35x15
I averaged 80-90 mile weeks.

Some would say this is light, but not doing the double midweek sessions enabled me to manage recovery, family, and work better.

I felt good leading into the race and I really tapered.  I ran 10/10/10 on Friday/Saturday/Sunday before the race and then 6/6 on the Tuesday/Wed prior…every other day I took off and really tried to maximize sleep (up to 10 hours if possible on days off).  My left groin was bothering me the weeks leading up to my taper but wasn’t an issue on race day. 

On the Friday before race day I went to the grocery store and Wal-Mart to load up on everything I thought I’d need…I overstocked anticipating some huge food ‘wants’ later in the race (chick peas, dates, veggie sushi, kind bars)…I just wanted choices but I always think I’m going to have an appetite but never do.  I was debating whether to go with dates as fuel source but my buddy Oz told me to stick to the gels and minimize the fiber, so I did.  I literally ate 1 gel every 30mins throughout the whole race and didn’t have 1 issue.  My energy levels were very consistent and I never hit any lows.  I also drank 1 raw coconut water at the end of each 12.5mile loop.  The loops made the nutrition very easy, and only eating gels took the decision out of the process.

I arrived at the race site and was forewarned from my friend Traci to learn how to get to your parking spot prior to the morning start as it could be difficult to navigate in the dark.  I still got lost but found my way eventually.  After setting up my cooler and backpack (clothing/supplies) near the main aid station, I was ready to go.  Conditions called for a great day, starting in the 40s, hitting the 60s, with a clear day.  I started in race ready shorts and a short sleeve tech shirt and that’s all I wore the whole time. 

The goal was to hit 2 hours per loop in the early stages and take it from there.  I figured on a great day top 10 in ~17 hours, good day sub 20, and then the normal break 24 hours and finally finish as my goals.  Umstead is an 8 loop course and contrary to what I thought, it was actually pretty hilly => 1000ft of gain/loss per loop.  Katie ran the loop pretty hard on Friday, prior to the race, and said she did 6:55s but said it felt like 6:10s effort.  The first 6.25 miles are definitely easier than the last 6.25 miles; however I liked the 2nd half much better with the rolling hills.  Here are some notes on the loops from what I remember:

Loop 1: (1 hour 57mins) – if you don’t feel good in the first part of a 100, then you’re in for a long day.  I was holding back as much as I could, hit the bathroom about 3 xs to clean out the system, and still came in under 2 hours.  I felt good, no groin issues, and the headlamp was put away after about ¼ of the way through the loop.  I always love meeting people in the early stages of the race.  You inevitable meet the ‘newbie’ who’s never done a 100 and is going out at 16 hour pace!!!  Of course you feel good, we’re at mile 8!!  I LOVE seeing the crash and burn for these people midway and later on in the race.  I have earned that right as I’ve been on the receiving end many times of having a 100 miler crush me. 

Loop 2: (1 hour 59 mins) – still feeling good and enjoying the day.  Nothing to report on this loop.  Probably a bit quick, but sometimes you just gotta move and hope for the best.

Loops 3 & 4 (2 hours 4 mins/2 hours 13mins) – if I had to pick a low point of the whole day, it was during this stretch.  But it wasn’t a low, just a low relative to the whole race.  My times were great and I was still moving, I just didn’t feel as good as what I was about to. 8 hours and 14 mins on the clock for 50 miles.

Loop 5 & 6 (2 hours 12 mins/2 hours 16 mins) – I started feeling REALLY good at this point.  Loops 5 & 6 were the easiest loops for the whole race for me.  I popped 1 Tylenol in and it was game on.  I took the Tylenol as I was worried that my groin would act up.  As a preventative measure, not because I was in any pain.  My loop time doesn’t look that much ‘faster’ than loop 4, but just to go faster than a previous loop is big in these races.  I was hoping this would last.  Mentally I knew I was coming home at this point.  I was moving very well and now broke the race up to 2 parts, the 25 miles from 50-75, and the last 25 when Katie would join.  I was loving life on loop 5 & loop 6.  No mental lows, just steady and consistent.

Loop 7 (2 hours 26 mins) – Katie joined me and she only made it in time because we had chip timing and she was able to see at the hotel where I was.  I still felt good and her goal was to bring me in the last 2 loops in less than 5 hours.  I knew something special could happen if we kept up the pace.  She had a backpack and took our headlamps.  I stuck to the outfit I was wearing and my nutrition plan.  I think she prepped for the worst as she brought quite a bit of stuff which took a toll on her later the next week (having run 25 miles with a 10 lb pack on!).  I told her to just keep me going…not that I needed much encouragement.  I saw my buddy Jonathan and his pacer Myles (both training partners from NYC) when I left at mile 75 and they seemed in good spirits.  Umstead is a great course in the sense that you get to see others in the race due to the out and back format prior to the loop.  Katie was actually shocked I was in such good spirits and how I was moving given the disasters I’ve had at previous 100s.  She had her phone on her and our buddy Mike got patched in ~mile 85 and he said I have 3 hours to finish this race, no more…he also suggested to start taking the caffeine gels.  I took his advice and after loop 7, I started popping in the caffeine gels and I think they worked really well.

Loop 8 (2 hours 29 mins) – I came into the start finish and had 2 hours and 41 mins to make it under 18 hours.  I felt good, but in these events, you just start to slow down as hard as you try.  I told Katie to keep me under 2:30, which were 12 min miles.   The effort was there, but time just starts to slow.  I stayed disciplined and ½ way through the lap the caffeine started kicking in and I was moving well (relative to others!!).  I passed a few people on this lap and felt better than I could have ever expected at this point of a 100.  Kate was dying to give me updates on what I could do time wise but I just told her not to tell me anything as I didn’t want to have a last minute meltdown.  You never know in these things.  I dropped at the VT 100 last year at mile 90, and I’ve known people who have dropped with less than 5 miles to go.  Sometimes you just can’t go anymore. But not this time…I kept it consistent and finished in a very solid 17 hours and 38 mins, a PR by over 5.5 hours. 

The worst part of this race is that the park only opens the entrance every hour, on the hour, from 8pm – 8am.  This made finishing at 11:39pm quite the transition.  I literally did a U-turn at the finish, grabbed my stuff and told Katie to be ready to take off.  With Anders at the hotel with grandma, we wanted to get back ASAP.  Plus, you never know when you will start going downhill and I didn’t want to hang out at midnight figuring that out.  We sped out of there and made it out of the gates at midnight and went home where I started to get low blood sugar, light headedness and nauseous.  I collapsed on the mattress in the living room still in full gear and just laid there for 1 hour.  I told Kate just to put a blanket on me (still had shoes on, etc.)  I just couldn’t move as I felt sick…go figure. 

Umstead is a great race…the support, the logistics, the course.  I would highly recommend this race to anyone and will most certainly be back someday!! I was very happy with my day and felt in control the whole race.  No real lows and I was steady.  I think a lot of this had to do with my diet outside the race, staying disciplined with the training, and sticking the ½ hour gel plan.  It’s so easy to forget or not want to eat during these races, and it can catch up so quickly.

Notes to self:
-         Injinji socks were crucial to not getting blisters, not one!
-         I didn’t wear gaiters, nor did I take my shoes off, change socks, or doing anything to my feet during the race
-         gel every ½ hour worked like an absolute charm and that’s the only way I’ll race going forward
-         jockey tight sport underwear (that kate found) is the greatest thing ever (especially for a guy) to prevent chaffing…none whatsoever…I cut out all ‘running underwear’ that comes with most shorts and just wear these under them
-         Wearing a watch was key for nutrition purposes more than distance purposes.  Eating every ½ hour was a must and the watch kept me to this.  In an 8 loop course, it’s not too hard to know where you were mileage wise.  I think the GPS component is more valuable early in a race (to hold you back).
-         the Nathan small fanny pack works best to hold gels, etc
-         I wore the race ready shorts and had electrolyte pills and Tylenol 8 hour in the pockets.  Plus great to put the gel packet trash once you eat them.
-         I ran with Saucony mirage size 13s.  I really need size 13.5s but they don’t make them.  No blisters and I love these shoes, but as you run long, your feet/toes swell a touch and the extra ½ size is needed.  I will try the HOKA size 13.5s going forward to give me extra space.  Size 14s are too big.  I hate how they stop ½ sizes for MOST shoes after size 13!!
-         I used the butt water bottle (tuck in back shorts) and this was great given the ample amount of water on the course but would be tough for a race with longer stretches between aid.  This also left me bruised the next week as I hadn’t trained with it at all, however I LOVED running hands free and will need to figure that out for my next race.

I sit here 2 weeks post race still in a ‘funk.’  The groin flared up (what a surprise) and running is pretty painful.  The recovery is taking longer than I thought.  I took 2 weeks off completely and everyday I wake up feeling as though I had a hard training day.  I know it can take a while to recover, it’s just VT100 is right around the corner and I’m losing valuable time.  So I’ll be on the bike for a while as the leg doesn’t bother me doing this activity.  The lesson learned is that recovery sometimes takes longer than we anticipate. We have to be patient, even at the risk of pulling the plug on some planned races/workouts if you don’t feel back to your normal self.