2017: Year in Review

It’s been about four months since I posted here – oops! We are almost a month into 2018, and I haven’t quite closed the door on 2017 – oops again!

To be honest, it wasn’t a great year with regard to running. Let me take you through some of it.

My first race of the year was the Syracuse Half Marathon. That actually went pretty well. I ran right around 1:17, and that included a pee break lol. Not too bad!

My next race is where things went south. At the Traprock 50k, I took a hard fall (see above), and I did a number on my ribs. Ouch. If you’ve ever injured your ribs, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, don’t!

Despite being banged up and undertrained, I gave it my best shot at Rock the Ridge 50-Miler. However, it was not to be. I dropped out about half way through.

My year was starting to go to shit, but by May, I was finally running again. In June, I had a good run at the Cayuga Marathon. After leading for 26 miles or so, I got passed with about .2 to go. It happens. Overall, it was still a solid effort.

At Western States 100, it was the year of ice and fire. Snow, ice dams and freezing cold streams gradually turned into 100-degree canyons and the warmest night ever for the race (the low temp was the highest ever).

I ran well for 70 miles… and okay for another 10 miles… and then the wheels came off the bus. The last 20 miles were not pretty. I was undertrained, overheated and somewhat inexperienced. However, my friend Laura helped get me to the finish line.

I didn’t do much for the next month.

In August, I came out of retirement and dropped a 3:42 at the Green Lakes 50k. That was good enough for second place. This was one of my best runs of the year.

The following month, I participated in the Free to Run 50-Miler. After batting with my friend John for 45 miles or so, I finally shook him. I went on to take the win (falling just short of the course record). This was probably my best run of the year on some of my favorite trails with some of my favorite people!

Two weeks later, I threw down a 17:16 5k. Not my best race of the year, but not my worst.

For a variety of reasons, I did not complete any other races in 2017. It wasn’t a great year. The injury in April really threw everything off a bit. With that being said, I ran a couple of decent road races, as well as a good 50k and 50-miler. I’m going to do my best to stay healthy in 2018, and I think I will have some good results. Check back soon to find out what I have planned!

****** It has been brought to my attention that I forgot one of central New York’s premier events. In July, I participated in the 0SPF Half Marathon (trail) in the Rochester area. I was hoping for a podium spot, but a late surge by elite trail runner Mike Welden (258) was too much for me to handle. I settled for 4th overall in a highly competitive field.

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Race Report: Free to Run 50-Miler

The Free to Run races are some of my favorites. First, they support Free to Run, which is an amazing organization. Second, the races are put on by BURCS. This means challenging, well-organized races with excellent support. Third, these races bring together an amazing community from all over the world!

This year, I traveled to the race with Zahra, who is now famous after being featured in Runner’s World. She was looking to finish her first 50-miler, and I knew she would be able to do it (spoiler alert: she did it!).

I saw many friends before the 5am start, and I looked forward enjoying the trails with them. After the start, I found myself running with John, and we were both content to stumble along in the dark together.

The course is a 12.5 mile loop that you repeat 4 times. It’s mostly singletrack and a few sections are moderately technical. Oh, and the 50-mile course has eight climbs that are close to 1,000 feet each and nearly 10,000 feet of total elevation gain.

Somewhere around mile 20, I took a pause and let John go ahead. My legs were off for a bit, and it caused me to lose my mental focus. I think his lead grew to five minutes or so. Around mile 30ish, things really started to come back. I was flying on the descents, and I knew that I was surely making up time. Sure enough, I caught up to John around mile 37 or so. We were now 75% of the way through the race… and right back where we started (literally and figuratively).

I left the aid station first and slogged my way through the 1,000-foot climb. I glanced over my shoulder at the next aid station (mile 40ish), and John was still there. At mile 44ish, same thing! I couldn’t shake him. The good news for me was that there were two big descents left and only one big climb. I think this played into my favor, as I was still floating down the hills.

I pushed to the finish and managed to take the win in 9:23:23, with John finishing just a few minutes behind me. My friend Farahnaz came through in 12:27 (3rd female and 8th overall) and Zahra finished in 16:56 (7th female and 16th overall).

I ran in the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra, which I’m completely in love with. I survived on Tailwind, GUs and Clif Shot Bloks.

Full results of the race(s) are available here.

I can’t say enough good things about this race, the BURCS running community and the amazing work of Free to Run.

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Green Lakes 50k Race Report

The Green Lakes 50k was yesterday. This was my first ultra several years ago. It is my local ultra. I also ran my fastest 50k ever on this course back in the day.

I was a little nervous about this one. I haven’t been running that much since Western States, and I’ve done a total of one long run in the last two months.

With that being said, I’m still planning on running the Oil Creek 100 in about six weeks so I needed to get some miles (and racing) under my belt.

The word of the day was patience. Chris Raulli (1st place at US 50-Mile Trail Championships) was running so I knew that a win was unlikely. The field was pretty competitive so I knew that even top three would be a challenge.

The course is comprised of four loops that are approximately 7.77 miles each. I ran the first loop in 53:04, and I was in 4th place. In perfect conditions, I felt that was a very reasonable pace. The second loop was a little slower – 55:06 – but I moved up into third place. The truth is, there was a pack of four of us running  together on and off. I knew Louis from other races, but Zach and Ryan were new to me. Patience.

I ran the third loop in 55:59, and I dropped back into 4th place. Chris was long gone in front, but Louis and Zach were less than a minute in front of me. As I switched out my bottle for the last time, I felt like I had plenty left. My patience was paying off. Zach was having some cramping, and I went by him around mile 23. Near mile 28, I caught up to Louis, as he was working through some GI issues. He was having a great race, and I tried to encourage him to keep pushing.

I still felt strong and I could smell the barn. The climbing was over, and I could coast to the finish. I took a few extra looks over my shoulder – I didn’t want to get passed again in the final quarter mile like I did at Cayuga (a.k.a. getting Heffroned). My final loop was 59:49.

I finished second overall in 3:43:57 – approximately 7:12/mile.

I’m really happy with my result. Given my training (or lack thereof), I don’t think I could have gone any quicker. This is an excellent race, and Tim Hardy is a fantastic race director.

Kudos to Chris Raulli and Laurel Leone for their respective wins and course records.

Full results are available here.

Next up: Free to Run 50-Miler in mid-September

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0 SPF Half(ish) Marathon Race ReportĀ 

The 0 SPF Half Marathon was Saturday. I signed up for this one a while back knowing that it was only three weeks after Western States. I figured I would need something to get my motivation back, as there is often a lull after a big race.

The course is comprised mainly of singletrack, and it was in premium condition considering all the rain as of late.

As you can see, there are a few rollers, but the whole thing is pretty runnable. Last year, I came in second to running stud Matt Lipsey, and he was back to claim the title again.

Since Western States, I hadn’t run anything longer than 7 miles and I hadn’t run anything faster than an 8-minute mile… so I knew this was going to hurt.

Fortunately, about a mile into the race, I was able to tuck in with my buddy, Mike, Phil and a couple of other guys. I was still with Mike and Phil at the turnaround and we headed back together. In fact, we were still really close together with just two miles to go. At that point, Mike pushed the pace and slowly pulled away. I was also able to open up a little gap on Phil.

I had run almost all day in 5th place, but I ended up 4th because one of the top runners missed a turn and got a bit spun around on the course. It happens.

– 4th place overall

– 1:53:06

Race results are available here.

This is a great race and I highly recommend it. The course is lots of fun and #TrailsRoc does it right. There are volunteers galore, and it’s an excellent representation of the Rochester, NY running community.

I’m definitely pretty sore and I’m going to need to ease back into training (again). Western States really took a lot out of me. Fortunately, I have some time before any big races show up on the calendar.

How was your weekend?

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Western States 100: Metabolomics Study

Western States offers runners the opportunity to participate in a couple of medical studies that vary by year. This year, one of the studies was on metabolomics (the study of the set of metabolites present within an organism, cell, or tissue).

I had some blood drawn the day before the race and then shortly after I finished the race. Over the weekend, I received my post-race results.

First, here are the normal values for the general population:

– Creatine phosphokinase (CPK): 25-200 U/L

– Glucose: 65-140 mg/dL

– Sodium: 135-145 mmol/L

– Creatinine: 0.8-1.3 mg/dL

– Hemoglobin: 13-17 g/dL (men), 12-15 g/dL (women)

– Hematocrit 40%-52% (men), 36%-47% (women)

– White blood cells (WBC) 4-10 x 10^9/L

And here are my post-race results:

– CPK: 17,096

– Glucose: 103

– Sodium: 138

– Creatinine: 1.31

– White blood cell count: 14.8

– Hemoglobin: 15.3

– Hematocrit: 42.6

There was some additional information included that suggests that my results are very typical – including the abnormal values.

I believe I will be provided with some additional interpretation in the next six months.

Have you ever had blood work done in relation to exercise? What did you find out?

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What’s next?

Western States is over and 2017 is now more than halfway over! I intentionally left my calendar for the second half of the year blank. I really wanted to focus on Western States, and there’s no way of knowing how the body will recover after a hard 100-miler.

With that being said, I’m alive and in one piece! I wouldn’t say I’m recovered, but I do feel like I’m on my way. For the rest of the year, I’m tentatively planning:

0 SPF Half Marathon (July 15)

Twisted Branch 100k (August 19)

Free to Run 50-Miler (September 16)

Oil Creek 100 (October 14)

Syracuse Half Marathon (November 12)

This is a very tentative list – I’m not signed up for most of these races yet. More than anything, they are just ideas bouncing around in my head. One day at a time!

I’m a bit deflated after Western States. There’s that post-race letdown that so many of us get, and there is also a bit of disappointment because I didn’t end up having the race I was hoping for. However, what’s done is done, which is part of the reason I’ve started looking forward.

What races are you looking forward to this year?

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10 Things I Did Wrong at Western States

As I recounted in my three previous posts, my Western States race included 71 really good miles and 29 (or at least 20) unbelievably bad miles. So what went wrong? I’m not exactly sure, but I do have some ideas. Here they are:

1) I didn’t change my socks or shoes during the race. For the record, I’ve never changed my socks or shoes during a race (I heard Kaci say the same thing on URP). However, this time, I should have. There was so much grit everywhere, and my feet were ultimately my downfall. Next time, I’m planning several sock/shoe changes.

2) I spent too much time obsessing about my pee. As you know, it was over 100 degrees for much of the day. When it’s that hot, you don’t pee a lot, and your pee is… weird. At one point near Cal-2 (70 miles or so), I decided I needed to stop and drink because my pee was way too dark. The funny thing is, I wasn’t that thirsty and I was still moving well. In retrospect, I should have kept moving. I broke my momentum and I never got it back.

3) I didn’t stay focused. I was running so well for much of the day. However, right around the time I started obsessing about my pee is when I saw Yiou Wang on the ground in a somewhat distressed state. I think it rattled me a little and threw me off my game.

4) I wasn’t always able to find my people. I ran about 50 miles on and off with Clare Gallagher and we were rolling. However, we became separated at one point, and I never quite got into a groove with anyone else out there. Misery loves company, and when it’s 100 degrees, it’s always good to have a sidekick (or be a sidekick).

5) I didn’t preview the course. I live in New York and it just wasn’t feasible for me to travel to CA to preview the course. With that being said, I may have underestimated the terrain a little bit. Nothing quite compares to experience.

6) I didn’t practice math. My plan was to take in 300 calories an hour. And I did. Right up until I didn’t. Ironically, I could still eat. I just didn’t want to because I was cranky and my race had gone to shit. However, by doing so, it is likely that I compounded the problem.

7) I maybe could have used more support. My friend, Laura, crewed and paced me. She also helped with things like dropping off a car at the finish line. Basically, she did a three-person job. I’m sure it was stressful for her, and it may have caused unnecessary stress for me.

8) I didn’t eat enough real food. This goes along with number six. I did eat some real food at the aid stations – fruit, pretzels, etc. I’m vegan, so selection was a little limited. However, when things started to go south, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to take in something a bit more substantial.

9) I may have gotten a little starstruck. For 70+ miles, everything was aces. Coming into Foresthill, I had already passsed Kaci Lickteig and Mike Wardian and I was closing in on Thomas Lorblanchet, who I would pass shortly. Everything was clicking. But I was also a little shocked, a little starstruck and maybe a little delirious from the heat. See number three – stay focused!

10) I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, this one is out of your control. When I applied to the Western States lottery, i figured I was looking at a three or four year wait, maybe more. And then… my single ticket got picked. Welp! Nobody was going to throw me a pity party, so I had to give it my best. With that being said, I only had one hundred under my belt, and it was in no way comparable to my 50k and 50m results. In addition, my training had been hampered by a bizarre injury at Traprock 50k. Next time, I’ll be ready!

I hope this helps you in your journey to Western States – cheers!

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