Monday, April 28, 2008

Promise Land Post-mortem

(photo: Keith Knipling)

Promise Land 2008 will be remembered as the hottest on record (according to RD David Horton), and most of the finishing times reflected this fact. I was mentally prepared for the hot temps (high in the 8os), but not physically. We have had very few days to acclimate to this kind of heat and humidity. With the heat in mind, I started the race with two bottles, one with Sustained Energy and one with water (which later were replaced with Nuun/water and plain water, mostly for dousing my head and neck). I also consumed a 5-serving flask of Hammergel, a pack of Clif Bloks and a pack of Sportbeans. In hindsight, I could have eaten a bit more but overall I was pleased with my nutrition and electrolytes, particularly with the Nuun, which totally rocks in hot weather (I added one Nuun tablet to 20 oz. of water at three different aid stations).

I was hoping to run near to last year's 6:22 (my PR is 6:14), and was on track for most of the race to meet this goal, but knew it would be dicey because of the hot temperatures. I started off conservatively and felt strong through Colon Hollow (mile 25), but as soon as I got to the base of Apple Orchard Falls for the big climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (mile 28), the heat really turned on and I was fried. I stopped at every opportunity along the falls to get wet (which felt soooooo good!), sacrificing a bit of time...but in the end it was worth it. At the top of the climb I came upon my C'Ville training buddy and Team Ragged Mountain teammate Bill Potts, who, like me, really suffers in the heat, and we pushed each other down to the finish line in our slowest PL times ever, 6:42! I did manage to finish as first "old lady" (Masters woman), which is always a goal of mine in races, so all was not lost! Results are here.

The post-run was a blast and as usual, it was fun to catch up with old friends. Nancy Horton and her volunteers cook yummy burgers and dogs and it was wonderful to sit in the cold stream after the run, cold beverage in hand. Promise Land is one tough ultra and a great test of I know what I need to do to get ready for Grindstone 100 (climb, descend, climb, descend, and get heat acclimated!!). Mike Day has posted a good report on heat training here as well as Neal Jamison here.

Next up: volunteering at the MMT100 on May 17-18 and racing Highlands Sky 40 in June, after I take some time off to recover and lacrosse season ends!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goin' To The Promise Land!

Springtime in the Blue Ridge Mountains means purple redbud and dogwood blooming amidst green, green, green everywhere, and it also means it's time for some gorgeous mountain trail ultras---MMT100, Capon Valley 50K, and Promise Land 50K!! These are just a few of the more popular events held in April and May in our mountains and I am getting very excited for my absolute fave 50K, Promise Land.

I am healed up from my tight calf (see previous post), and am looking forward to being very fresh for PL. My buddy Anne sent me an email after BRR reminding me of all the positive things to remember from DNFing at BRR, chief among them was that I had a great 21-mile tempo run while at BRR and now I can focus on being really rested for PL. After BRR I rested, iced, and Aleve'd, and last weekend I was able to run nine miles with three miles at tempo pace with no problems on Saturday and then 10 miles with Mikey Mason on the infamous Trayfoot loop trail on Sunday. This week I ran 9 miles easy on Tuesday with VHTRCer Q-Bob Hubbard (in C'Ville this week for work) and tomorrow we will run an easy, short 3 miles. Then Friday night I join the rest of the gang at Promise Land for what looks to be a classic April day of thundershowers and temps in the 60s up on the mountain. Apple Orchard Falls, here we come!

Some news from my Boston people...the weather threw them for a loop again this year. This time it was sunny and 70 and almost everyone ran about 15 minutes off their target pace. That's the tough thing about focusing on an April never know what the weather will do. But they had a total blast up there, taking in the women's Olympic Trials, Red Sox and Celtics games. It was great fun training with them and I hope it pays off this PR on the Promise Land course is 6:14, and if I can better my time from last year (6:22), I will be psyched!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Did Nothing Foolish: My First DNF

(photo by Aaron Schwartzbard)

It was bound to happen.

Six years of ultrarunning, and not one DNF. I was proud of that fact, but rarely spoke about it out loud for fear of jinxing myself. I had some close calls---The Ring in 2004 and MMT100 in 2005 are the two races where I remember wanting badly to drop because of low energy, but with the help of loyal friends Gary Knipling and Mike Broderick, I was able to finish both. Western States in 2006 was a potential DNF because of the record heat that year, but I came in under the wire with 45 minutes to spare, thanks to my great pacer Gretchen Garnett, who kicked my butt for the last 40 miles.

Up until last Tuesday, I had no reason to believe that I couldn't finish Bull Run Run 50 in under 9:00, my best time on that course. I had trained hard and smart and was well-rested. But in anticipation of the heat and humidity that was in the weather forecast, I spent too much time in the steam room at the gym on Monday, and became dehydrated. On Tuesday I went out for my usual easy run and felt a pull in my calf during the first 5 minutes of the run. I tried to run through it and it got progressively worse, so I ended up walking back to the gym, dejected and worried, but optimistic that with rest, I would be fine for race day on Saturday.

After 4 days of rest, ice, compression, elevation and Aleve, I felt fine walking around on Friday. At the start of the race on Saturday, I had all but forgotten about the calf, at least until the first half mile, when suddenly, I felt it tighten. "Oh, no" was all I could say to myself. I spent the next 20 miles debating whether I should keep going or drop out. It didn't get too much worse was THERE. I couldn't get into my race groove, and despite running under my splits from 2006 and feeling great otherwise, I could feel my achilles tighten as well as my hamstring. I knew it wasn't going to hold up for the entire 50 miles, so after some intense conversations with myself, I called it a day at mile 20.

As soon as I sat down and plopped a bag of ice under my calf at the Marina aid station, I knew I had made the right decision. I had a great time cheering on the other runners, meeting other crew members, and watching the aid station chaos (one thing that I noticed was how long most runners stay at the aid stations, even those without a seemed like 5-10 minutes for some folks!). After an hour of this frivolity, I walked the 4.5 miles back to the start/finish via the trail. It was really nice to take it slow, enjoy the bluebells along the trail, cheer on those in the back of the pack, and plan my rehab and recovery. Despite my disappointment, I was grateful for the time spent on the trail at BRR and for the fact that there will be another race to run...hopefully at Promise Land 50K in two weeks. When I got back to the start/finish, I spent the rest of the day cheering for the finishers and hanging out with my VHTRC friends Linda and Kerry:

(photo by Anstr Davidson)

Tonight, I got an email from a fellow runner whom I met at the Marina. He had noticed my bag of ice and heard me lamenting my first DNF to the aid station workers. In his email, he reminded me that DNF can also mean "Did Nothing Foolish", and wished me well.

Thanks, Devon. As hard as it was to admit that my body wasn't up to the task, I know I made the right choice. Sigh...another ultra lesson learned!