Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Annnnnd.. NOW the training starts

Last Monday, I finally got the good news that I'm officially IN as an entrant of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run. I have been planning/plotting for this race since last year, but having to wait since January to finally get in. As I sat on the sidelines the earlier part of this year, I devised a training program that I have deviated from many times. I've added a lot more strength training and worked on general fitness with squats, push ups, pull ups (trying!) to get my body acclimated to the stress of hard and intense workouts. I've also rested a lot. I'd rather take a day off to recover than push myself and risk aggravating something that might already hurt, leading to injury. I've been training harder, and runner faster than ever before and used a couple recent training runs to test my progress.

As I noted in a recent post, I took some time off after the National Marathon and ran sparingly before a big training weekend. I was very happy with that run especially with my times over Short Mountain and from Edinburg to Woodstock. Keeping both under 2 hours while not bonking was a big positive in my training and confidence.

This past weekend, we covered almost the same route for the Chocolate Bunny 50K, which runs from 211 East to Powell's Fort Camp - miles 58.1 to 89.3 of the course. Most people cover this section as night, to the training run lets you get in some headlamp time on fresh legs with a fresh mind. No matter how much rest you might have, the night time can play some wicked tricks on your mind.

I talked with my GF on the drive over and worked on strategy for the day. I've been really dehydrated the past few runs and wanted to focus on staying hydrated. No matter how much or little I had been, or thought I had been drinking on whatever section, she was to give me a full 24oz bottle of water I was to finish before leaving the aid station. I also wanted to get in/out of the aid station and not dilly dally. Nutrition wise, I was going to load up on Oreo's while stopped, but rely on a gel flask of about 500 calories, which I would switch out for a new one at mile 17.8 (Edinburg Aid). Most importantly, I wanted to run fast. Fast compared to how I used to run, and compared to the night time 'shuffle' most people resort to. I especially was interested in the time it would take me to cross Short Mountain and cover Edinburg to Woodstock, and see how close to my daytime times I could get.

I started off a little faster than I should've, but wanted to get a good start and find a good pace and level off there for a bit. I was in the middle of the pack and preferred to run by myself, which I did for the first 5 miles or so. It was my first time on the 'new' course at night, so I got a tad lost when we turned onto Scothorn, which took us through an open field for a short stretch. I stopped thinking and headed in the direction I thought was right to keep moving, and eventually found the trail. It was a long winding 'fire road' of a trail that was mostly downhill. Since I'm a horrible downhill runner, it was a good time to practice. Unfortunately, I succeeded in losing my gloves which I had loosely stashed between my body and the chest strap of my Nathan hydration pack. Not a good idea, but I didn't stop to look for them. It wasn't too cold out so I figured I would be fine. I hooked up with another runner once we hit Crisman Hollow Road, which kept me moving and runner at a good clip along the boring road section. She went head on the climb up Jawbone since she's a much stronger climber, and also enjoys climbs. I just powered upward. The nice thing about running at night is you don't see where the climb ends; you just keep moving and know it will come soon. Finally up and over, I started the decent toward Moreland Gap. This was another slow part for me two years ago, so I wanted to move quickly.

The real part of the run started after Moreland. Once I arrived at the aid station, I noshed on some Oreo's and washed them down with a fresh bottle of water, as planned. I kept my stop under 5 minutes and headed out as quickly as possible ahead of other runners. The voices and headlamps behind me were motivation to keep moving quickly. I didn't want to be caught or passed on this section since I was treating it as a race. I moved quickly on the climb up Short Mountain, but couldn't help but stop for a few seconds to watch the moon rise in the East. It looked like a fire in the distance and was an amazing thing to watch.

Once on the ridge, I was all business - one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible. I ignored my watch and figured if I did look, I'd be disappointed in how slowly I was moving. About 3/4 of the way across, I noticed a headlight behind me and picked up the pace. The wind was blowing and the branches rubbing against each other were really freaking me out, which also made me move faster. I ended up catching another runner and moved on, reaching the point of Short Mountain where I know there's about 2 miles left. I still didn't look at my watch until getting to the road, which took longer to get to than I had hoped. I could tell the frustration of night running was starting to set in and I was getting a bit cranky.

I got to Edinburg in 2:07, which I was very happy with. Refueled on some Oreo's, another bottle of water, some Mt. Dew, and a 5-Hour Energy drink. I first used this at the Reverse Ring back in February, and knew it would help me get to Woodstock. I left with another runner to tackle the climb to Wanoze Peak, which I dread. We caught up with a group of 3 runners before I powered on by and continued upward. At the top, I passed another runner and caught up to a second. He held a good pace and I followed. I took the lead for a bit and we chatted about the course, training, races, etc. At this point, I wasn't too concerned about 'crushing' this section, but more about holding a good pace (running) and not getting hurt. My Achilles was starting to bug me and I had already decided that I'd drop at Woodstock after 26 miles. With Bull Run Run 50 miler this weekend, I didn't want to push it.

We passed 2 more runners in the last mile and got to the aid station in a total travel time of 2:20, which is what I'd typically cover the section in on a slow day. I was pleased. Total time for 26 miles was 6:45. It was probably a good idea I was dropping since my GF approached me quickly and helped me across the road like a volunteer would do with someone finishing an Ironman triathlon. Apparently I was teetering a bit, which I did not notice.

I refueled, changed, then packed up. Good thing I was on that 5 Hour Energy 'high' as I had to take over driving after 45 min on the road. It's rough on the crew peeps as well, and my GF couldn't keep her eyes open. I can attest to the 5HE working, but wearing off after 4 hrs and 40 minutes. Luckily we were only 10 miles from home at that point and made it home safely where we finally went to bed at 6am.

I'm pleased with how the run went and hope to take care of my Achilles issues with icing, massage, and light stretching. I moved well and held a good pace, one that I probably could've held for the last 5 miles. I'm now looking at old reports from the past 5 years of BRR, comparing times, and coming up with a game plan for this weekends race. Considering how my running has been going so far, I hope to do very well.


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