2014 Iron Horse 100k Race Report

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Firstly:

I want to thank Richard Handley for crewing, pacing, and pushing me during this race. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Also, thanks to the Race Directors and Aid Station workers; it was an awesome race and it all went very smoothly.

Course:

The course was a 3.7 mile paved out and back to Start/Finish, run past S/F for a few miles, take a trail under power lines for a mile or so to an Aid Station, and then take two lollipops out from that AS. The second lollipop had an AS at the very back.

The Plan:

During all of my previous races I’d run very, very conservatively. I wasn’t sure before if I could finish the distances. I was confident I could finish this race within the 26 hours I had to complete it by, so I decided to try to *race* this one. The plan was to run ~4:45 first marathon, while conserving my glycogen as much as possible.

I follow a ketogenic diet so I knew I should need minimal carbs and based on my rough calculations from a spreadsheet put together by Dave Brillhart, some data hacked in by me from The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance,  I should be able to maintain a decent pace while primarily fueling off of fat. I only need to eat about 100 calories an hour to maintain even keel. This would help avoiding the fueling bottleneck and significant bonking for quite some time, possibly the entire race.

Lap 1

We got to the race early and were able to get a nice spot near the Start/Finish to set the truck up about 10 feet off of the trail to act as my aid station. This helped a lot mentally as I knew it would be easy to get whatever I needed to get quickly.

I drank 4 scoops of Super Starch w/protein about 30 minutes before the start to get the fat burning process started. It started raining around this time and threw my prep ritual off a bit but no big deal. Rain stopped after about 10 minutes and I spent some time talking  with other FURbies.

When the timing is done with timing chips I normally walk to the very back of the pack; there were no chips on this race so I got to the side very close to the front. Out of the many runners this would probably save me thirty seconds or so.   it was around 60 degrees and I stripped down to just a shirt, my Zensah full leg compression pants and shorts. I wanted to be as cold as possible.

Everyone started out fairly strong, and I held the pace while easing off when my heart rate got too high. Lots of people went past me, and I let them go without being too concerened.

I realized at this stage that we were in rolling hills, not flat. They’re Florida hills, but I had really wanted no hills =)

Completed the out and back and realized that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen, Richard grabbed it while I was coming in and took a quick pit stop. Stripped off the shirt as I was now warm and ran without it the rest of the day. Grabbed my waist belt as I’d run the out and back wtihout it and took off.  The hills were now in our favor so I cranked up the ipod and ran as quickly as possible while keeping my heart rate around 175.

Ran to the rolling hills under the power lines, hit the Aid Station, refilled water and grabbed a macaroon from my bag.

We were about 7ish miles in and I was feeling good, so I started pushing the pace and trying to reel people in step by step. Hit some water and had to jump around some water and turned a little weird while landing but laregly ignored it. A few miles later the outside of my left knee started aching; I was concerned and did high knees and mule kicks to loosen it up. Finished that lollipop, grabbed a cookie from my drop bag, and started the second lollipop. Lots of hills here and I ran down the slopes as quickly as I could while using good form, and ran the uphills as much as I could while keeping my heart under 180. I passed a lot of people on the way out to AS3 and realized I *really* wanted some coke. Chugged a cup of it, refilled my water and took off.

Passed up a few more people on the way out of the loop and hit the power lines and that’s when my knee started to *really* hurt. There was something about my foot strike in the shoes, the zensah tights, and the loose sand that was really aggravating it. Nursed it out of the hills and hit the asphalt and ran as quickly as I could without blowing it up.

Got to the truck, told Richard what was going on, slammed some ibuprofin, changed out of the full length Zensaa’s, and switched to my Nike Free’s, ate a macaroon and swung by the AS. Ate a boiled potato with salt. Best thing ever.

Elapsed time ~4:26, including clothing change.

Lap 2

Richard yelled at me to NOT stop again and I started moving but my left leg was completely locked. Tried high knees, mule kicks, and squatting but nothing loosed it up, I knew at this stage that it could get better, I just needed to not lose time while it was aggravated. I was super pissed at myself and frustrated at what this would do to my time. I let it go and focused on doing what I could about it.

I have a fairly good ultra walk and can do a 14 minute mile with a completely gimpy leg. So I did that for most of the way out and watched people I’d passed easily cruise by me. This sucked bad. I kept hustling and about a mile out the knee loosed up and I could run as long as I kept good form. Got back to the S/F, picked up Richard, cranked up fast music and focused on breathing, form, and cadence.

From the time I picked up Richard until the end of the race no one else passed me, and we constantly attacked the pace regardless of the situation.

We discussed early on this loop that I didn’t care about the 100k, that I *would* finish no matter what. I wanted to run a sub 10 hour 50 mile, so we were just racing the remaining 21.3 miles . I refused to talk about how much distance we had left and only talked about the next 5k we were running together or made jokes about “I only have two halves left!”.

My leg continued to lock up whenever I stopped running for any period of time. I would power walk it for a few minutes then and test it to see if it was better. If it wasn’t after 10 minutes or so I’d eat something and take more salt.

I’ve joked on Facebook that Angry Mike Tyson lives deep in my pain cave and I went to very dark places during this loop especially while my knee was locked up. I refused to slow down and I would not stop. I’m getting used to the emotions and understand that it’s just a sign to eat more and to not worry about them.

This whole time Richard is yelling at me every few minutes; I can’t hear what he’s saying over my ipod, but I understand the gist of it. “Doing Good, keep moving.”

We get to the blacktop again and Richard takes off about half a mile out from Start/Finish so that he can eat; he’s done this whole loop on a few pringles and water (!). I’m cruising about 100 feet behind a runner when I hit 50 miles on my garmin 9:22; beating my previous PR of 13:11 by three hours and fifty minutes. My yell made him jump; I felt bad about this but was elated and kicked it up to finish the “official” fifty mile portion of the race.

I’m sucking down coke and potatoes when Richard asks the race crew where I’m at in the 100k standings. They say: “He’s #4…no wait, he’s #2” Richard says “Did you hear that? Do you know what that means? He’s on the out and back. Go!”

Lap 3

I’m not really sure what to think about all this; it *must* be wrong. I’ve passed a lot of people, but there’s no way I can be that close unless someone in front of me has DNF’d or all the fast people are all running the 100 miler.

I’m suck down a potato and some more coke on the way out of the Start/Finish. I want to be able to turn up the heat for the remaining 12 miles. I am also running scared because I don’t know how far back other people are behind me. The out and back is pefect though because you can see people coming towards you and get an idea of how far ahead of you they are…..then my GPS dies. I see a few people but know a few are in the hundred mile race. I hit the turn around and run for a long time before seeing a lady; she is probably 10-15 minutes behind me but looks like she’s hurting. A few minutes behind her is another lady and she looks strong and is running the uphill.

Richard joins me at the Start/Finish and we hustle through the road running almost the entire blacktop. I know that I’ll have a hard time on the power line section because my knee has always given me issues here. I’m hunting for first place (even though I know it’s very unlikely), and running scared to keep #2. How strong are the other people behind me?

The turnaround for the 100k is ¼ of a mile past the aid station, so I know I’ll see #1 here; I have to have seen this runner on my out and back, only a 100k person would be coming back on this stretch.

Then I see him, walking with his daughter. He doesn’t look strong but I can’t really run much because of the sand.

We blow through the aid station, turn around point, and start heading back; I can’t manage to run at this stage and I’m afraid to risk blowing my knee up and losing any chance of finishing in top 3.

We see the two people from my out and back about a half mile from the aid station and I know I have around a mile lead on them.

1 mile = 10 minutes if they’re hauling ass.

I’m walking so fast that Richard is having to jog every 10 paces or so, I don’t have a GPS, but I must be in the 13’s. We have 3.5 miles left. The math doesn’t work, I lose my place if I can’t run, I will get passed around .5 miles before the finish.

I take salt and more ibuprofin as we get to the blacktop and we run. It’s dark now, and we have no headlamps. The road is a sea of black and we’re running with just the moonlight to guide us. It feels like we’re doing 7 minute miles and I tell Richard I can’t keep up. He yells that this is what pacers do and that I need to run.

After a mile or so we see forms in front of us in the dark, people headed the same direction. Two of them. It’s got to be them.

They.Are.Walking

We slow and rest for a few paces. The Race Directors pass by in an old Army Jeep just as we’re about to pass them the headlights hit them….not the leader. He’s still ahead.

We charge up the hill; I’m certain that the leader has already finished, but I’m afraid of who is behind me and how quickly they’re gaining. Richard says “You need to run, you can still finish under 12 hours.”

I see the lights of the start finish in the distance; I’ve been red lining almost continiously since we hit the blacktop and every part of me is screaming to stop. I can’t read but I can see the red clock. Richard yells that it’s still at eleven hours but I need to run faster. I’m a ways away and I see that it reads 11:59:25…I push with everything I have left, run through the finish and throw myself on the grass.

Finished. Done.

Richard about crushes my rib cage congratulating me. =)

I ask what place I got; they don’t know. Uggg.

“Oh wait, you’re fourth”

Hah! They had it right the first time. I wouldn’t have fought so hard if I hadn’t of thought I was close to the lead. I wouldn’t have gotten sub 12. It all worked out anyways. For the record; I still haven’t seen official postings so this *may* change.

Either way, I ran a good race, and I couldn’t have tried harder than I did.  The RD gives me my first ultra buckle and I’m in a very good place.

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What worked:

Eating Salt- I went light on salt tabs on purpose; there were several times where I had significant muscle spams and the salted potatoes helped both my knee and the muscle spasms. I’d researched this after another runner had knee issues during Long Haul. What I found was that having the salt in your mouth reduces muscle spasms faster than if you eat a salt pill. They think this works because it tricks the central govenor.

Getting naked-It was around 60 degrees most of the day with a high of probably mid 70’s. I wore only shorts and calf sleeves all day. I had zero heat issues.

To be clear, this was slightly risky; I’d seen several people have cold problems at Long Haul when they had issues and couldn’t run any more. My safety plan was that if my knee locked up and I couldn’t move at all I’d alternate crunches or pushups to keep my core temp up while gimping out. The risk was also mitigated by having a pacer and there only being a few miles between AS’s.

Going Light-I carried only a small bottle instead of wearing a heavy pack with lots of water. Given my speed it just made sense to quickly fill up at each place.

Nike Frees-These may not be the shoes that I end up using, but the Cortana’s are simply too heavy for these long runs. Switching to them sped me up significantly.

Form-I focused on keeping good form a lot during the race. I felt like I made awesome time on the blacktop and my Garmin running data confirms that while running I had good cadence, oscillation and ground contact time. At least for the first 52 miles….

Drinking to Thirst- I used to drink based on taking X water every hour. This time I drank when thirsty with a safety plan of ocassionaly forcing myself to see if I needed more water.

Color of Pee

Protien before/during/after-My only significant soreness the day after is my left knee and bone pain in my right foot; everything else is as sore as I’d expect from a typical training run. Using the superstarch with protein and eating an awesome cheeseburger right after probably helped protect me from significant muscle pain.

Epsom Salt and Ice Bath-I also have taken an epsom salt bath and an Ice Bath. I know these work wonders and expect.

Threshold training-I’ve added a lot of lactate threshold training and it seems to be working. I can maintain a fast pace for much longer. Also, I’m mentally more used to the noise from that level of exertion, which is very similar to the end of a race.

Foot care plan- I tape my right big toe, spread vaseline over the rest of my feet and carefully put inside injinji’s. These then go inside a compression sock. I have some issues here; the surviving big toenail will probably shed because of this, but I believe all of the issues are because this pair of Nike Free’s are too small. I will address the shoe issue and continue using this plan until it stops working.

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Mistakes were made:

Drop Bag-Should have had some ibuprofin in my drop bag, would probably have saved me several minutes. I also didn’t put superstarch in my bag as planned, this caused me to be light on calories during the first loop (probably why I craved the coke).

Kinesio Tape-I should have taped my knees; I’ve had problems with them on every long trail run I’ve done. I had KT tape but didn’t proactively tape them. After it unlocked the first time I was afraid to stop for any length of time to tape them. If I won’t stop during a race then I need to tape before.

I also didn’t tape it because I wasn’t confident that the way I taped it would be effective; I was worried it would cause more harm than good. I need to tape it in practice so I can be confident on race day.

Trail running-I need to do more of this; running on the grass just isn’t the same as a real trail. I said this 13 months ago. There’s a lesson here.

There are a few more things, but for a first draft this should do.

I’m looking forward to paying back Richard when he decides he’s racing an ultra again.

P.S.- It’s awesome seeing people I know at these things. I’m looking forward to the next big race. Rhymes with “Bees”.

P.P.S.- I think this is too long, but the first draft of anything is always crap.

 

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