"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."








Friday, October 27, 2017

Lessons from Year 40 of Running

Friends have been forwarding this article: http://trainright.com/5-best-habits-athletes-over-40/ and, of course, I don't agree with it. Parts of it are correct for most people, which is true of just about everything. Athletes don't need more protein, older people don't need more protein; if you're getting 15% of your calories from protein (up to 20% if vegan), you're getting all you need and more just increases your cancer risk.

Here's some things I've learned about running when over 50:

1) Don't do the races your friends think you should want to do.

What you enjoy most, what you do best and what you do most should be the same thing. If you're running the Boston Marathon because every time a co-worker hears you're a runner they ask if you've run Boston - and you're a sprinter - something's wrong.

2) Rest better.

Rest more, sure, but rest better as well. You can still run hard workouts, but you'll need more days between them than you did in your 20's. I used to follow a day of 800m repeats in 2:25 with a 24 miler under 3 hours, because I couldn't run fast that second day - but it was, of course, a hard day, just "hard" in a different way. Take at least one day off per week, but be wary of masters programs that are only 3-4 days per week. The days you don't run can be devoted to:

3) Do all the preventative maintenance stuff you've neglected.

When I was in college, I had a coach that had us doing calisthenics that he was better at at age 70 than I was at 20. But I didn't need to do those things; I felt my time was better spent either running or doing nothing. Now, at 50, I have a million imbalances and weaknesses that could've been prevented and I do all the therapy exercises for rehabilitating old injuries every day; essentially, I'm doing the same exercises my 70 year-old coach was doing that he learned the same way I did.

4) Ignore the hype of the new.

Whether its Cordyceps, propioceptor neuromuscular facilitation or shoes with some "revolutionary" design, if you haven't needed it thus far, it probably isn't going to make much difference. "Runner's World" has survived for 50 years on finding new fads to promote because what you really need to know wouldn't fill one issue.

5) Know that no one will heed your advice.

Sure, you've had the same injury as your friend now has and you found a way to recover, but they're not going to listen. Yes, you've done the race they're training for, but it was a long time ago and that somehow negates it. That guy running faster than you, whose only been running for 6 months - now he must have the answer, because... he's faster than you.

You'll get used to it, once you remember that you were the same way once.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

10 Year Anniversary - The Elf Workout

This blog's turned 10! You've endured dating stories, cooking experiments, poetry and enough training theory to earn a doctorate. Time for the post-doc. I'm starting on a new project which will be of little interest to most people, but I think I can supply some grist for the windmills of curious minds (and there's the worst metaphor ever). As I do some workouts, I'm going to explain their history and that might be of some interest.

"The Elf"

On Tuesday, I went to the track and ran 20x100m in 19.5 seconds (800m pace) with recoveries of 100m in 1 minute. There were 75 year-old women running laps and a functional fitness class doing whatever they do, but I had the inner lanes to myself. This is a workout that's never been popular, but keeps coming back because, empirically, it works for some. I called it "extensive low volume," which became E.L.V., then ELV and finally "The Elf."

In the 1950's, a standard work-out for milers was 10x400m (440 yds then) at 1 mile pace, with 3 minute recoveries. For those whose pace kept dropping at the end of repeats, they started the season with 20x400; some thought about doing 40x100 first, but forty of anything seemed drudgery and the workouts became too long - they also discovered that the workout seemed to be different in essence; there was something physiologically different, but no one could say what it was.

When Lydiard was king, his high mileage runners did "leg speed" repeats and "wind sprints" which were a large number of short repeats, somewhat like my workout. The idea was to keep the legs fresh with some fast running, to work on form, to get a feel for a fast pace. This message ultimately got lost among those who did high mileage.

Doing a lot of short repetitions worked for a few runners, such as Jim Ryun and Ralph Doubell, 800/mile specialists, but it never caught on. Physiologically, there's a delay before your body reacts to moving fast and the energy used comes from stored creatine phosphate; after 5-20 seconds (5 for most runners), the body starts using glycogen anaerobically and recycles the creatine, so one can do a lot of short bursts. After a large number of repeats, it becomes a matter of producing lactic acid (I'm going to ignore some facts in favor of convention here). Your body adapts to the workout by storing more creatine phosphate, by increasing the speed you have to run to deplete the creatine stores and by increasing tolerance to levels of lactic acid (actually, of ADP).

There were a group of East German coaches that developed an engineering approach to training. They would look at this in the following way: if you allow the heart rate only 1/3rd the time required to return to normal after a repeat, then the training stimulus comes from the heart having to start from a higher rate with each interval until one is running largely near maximal heart rate, even during the recoveries, but a large number of repeats is required.

In the late 90's, a version of this workout was rediscovered by Veronique Billat and became a favorite of high intensity interval training aficionados. This workout consisted of 30 seconds run at a pace that could be maintained for 6 minutes, followed by 30 seconds done at half that pace, repeated until one could not continue. The best runners ended up managing 12 minutes run at their maximal oxygen uptake.

It's never going to be a favorite of long distance runners, but it's a good weapon to keep in one's arsenal.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Steve's Evil Kitchen Presents the Vegan Apocalypse

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, and it's Friday the 13th, so why not?

The year I ate vegan included 51 weeks of "Why does vegan 'cheese' taste good for 5 seconds and then get progressively more disappointing?" The other week, I just wept. What I missed most was the really smelly French cheeses, the ones that can't be brought onto public transportation (it's a law in France - no Epoisses on buses!) and get pasteurized to blandness when imported. Then it occurred to me that all the rules/laws/traditions/regulations for making cheese don't apply to cheez.
Epoisses - the bacterial source

Later, it occurred to me that they're all designed to keep one from dying. That is a consideration.

What makes cheese stinky are bacteria. The ones I wanted thrive on air, moisture, salt, protein and cellar temperatures. I could grow the bacteria first - making the bacteriologist's pal LB media, substituting soy protein isolate for tryptonized beef by-product; it's made of protein, yeast extract (which is vaguely cheesy on its own), salt and water (and a drop of sodium hydroxide for pH balance). This would give years of bacterial cheese growth in a few days.

Most of the flavor and "stank" ends up in the water, unfortunately. It also made my basement unliveably smelly - well, more unliveably smelly than usual. Some of the components are fat-soluble, so I added coconut oil and kept it at a warm room temperature to keep it liquid.

The next step was to coagulate the protein. Tofu is made from calcium precipitation of soy milk and I wanted to up the calcium content of my product, so I added pickling lime (calcium hydroxide) to denature the proteins. Then, to coagulate the proteins, I added citric acid (I considered phosphoric, but that involved some tricky analytical chemistry problems and isn't readily available to home cooks) and cooled it rapidly. The proteins clump while the coconut oil hardens, forming a mass that floats on top of the liquid.

Straining out the water, I had a vaguely cheese-like substance. The calcium citrate crystals formed add to a smooth mouthfeel - a lesson learned from molecular gastronomy. I considered pressing out the excess liquid, but didn't want to lose the flavors trapped in water, so I set it out to dry. This led to a white mold natural rind.

It looks wrong (no photo, sorry), it smells like barnyards and feet and the taste ended up a bit sour from the citric acid. But it didn't kill me.

It did make me ill for a few days, though. Evil kitchens will do that.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

How Hugh Hefner Informs Your Personal Social Media

After the passing of Hugh Hefner, there's been a lot of talk about his influence on modern society, ranging from "chauvinistic smut-peddler" to "empowerment of women and liberation of restrictive mores." There's a planned biopic, starring Jared Leto (an odd choice). I have not seen anyone address what I think is the essential story of Hef, so here's my take.


When "Playboy" magazine was started, there were already a lot of nudie magazines. What Hefner realized was that most people have little problem with nudity, if they think it's tasteful; the number of people who insist on putting a fig leaf on Michelangelo's "David," for example, are few. What Hefner was selling wasn't sex - there's little sex in Playboy; I doubt anyone could figure out the mechanics of sex from the magazine - but "sophistication." The 1960's were a time when French films would show in the U.S. and they'd have some nudity, but it was okay, because it was "European," it was "sophisticated." "Playboy" was based on the idea that anyone could put on the trappings of sophistication and remain "masculine." That was the selling point: this wasn't pornography, but art.


This ersatz sophistication was eventually his undoing. He started with a smoking jacket and pipe, then dropped the pipe when smoking became taboo, which left him "an old man in pajamas." The choice for sophistication went against the trends of society; "Playboy" always sided with jazz over rock&roll, because we all instinctively feel jazz to be more sophisticated. Hefner, a poorly-educated Chicago publisher selling "sophistication" to blue collar guys, relied on some odd choices, such as Norman Mailer over Tom Wolfe, because "masculine" trumped "sophisticated."







The legacy of Hefner, I think, is found in social media. In your (yes, your own personal) social media. First, let's consider the photographs. Though you may not post nude photos of yourself or others, you probably edit your photos to look their best, whether with Instagram filters, Adobe Lightroom or going all-out with Photoshop. The women in "Playboy" didn't exist, but were idealized images, just as what you see in every magazine and now throughout social media is altered.


Secondly, there's the image of fake sophistication and luxury. People post photos of themselves standing next to luxury cars they don't own, or at exclusive resorts they pass by, or with celebrities they just happen to meet; it's not "look who I am" or even "look what I have" but "look at what I have access to." People do not post their lives, but an idealized image of what they want people to think their lives might be.


Hefner pretended to live in a bubble of an endless party among beautiful young women. What are you pretending?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Generalized Training Schedule

I've been asked how I run when I'm not training for something specific. Here's a schedule of how I plan to train for a while - it's pretty good for racing from as little as a mile up to about 25-30K.

Monday 5 miles AM, 5 miles PM
Tuesday 12 miles with 10x400m @ 1 mile pace with 3-5 minute recoveries.
Wednesday 5 AM, 5 PM
Thursday 10 with 20x400m hill (100 foot climb per hill)
Friday (rest)
Saturday 12 with last 6 at marathon pace
Sunday 16
Monday 3 AM, 3 PM
Tuesday 10 with 5x 1 mile at 5K/10K pace with 3-4 minute recoveries
Wednesday 3 AM, 3 PM
Thursday 10 with 6x50m sprints (long recoveries)
Friday (rest)
Saturday 10 with race or 10K time-trial.
Sunday 12

I usually give schedules based on time rather than distance. This one, with easy runs done at 9 minutes per mile, is a good 1/2-marathon schedule, at 8:15-8:30 per mile is a good 15K/10 mile schedule and at 7:45 is a good 10K schedule. The interval workouts are HARD - they're more aspirational than realistic.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 Superior Trail Run 100 Mile Race Report

"There is nothing in this world that would make me happier than to see you finish this race." - Bill Pomerenke
"I'm cheering for Steve, more than anyone else." - John Storkamp (race director)
"I want you to finish more than I want to finish." - runner whose name I didn't catch


Where this really started: July 2011


My Achilles heels were like walking on broken glass every step. Half-way through the Afton 50K, the pain became so unbearable that I quit. I didn't want anyone to see how much pain I was in, but when I got home, I couldn't walk. I crawled into my house on my hands and knees.


My running days were over.


The comeback


Five years of thrice-daily physical rehab had me thinking I could not only run thirty minutes in extreme pain, but maybe do something audacious, startling, nearly inconceivable. There was one un-checked box on my running rèsumé... the Superior 100, which had nearly killed me in 2008 when I was healthy. Beside the heel problem, there was: the dead quad problem, the heat problem, the cold problem, the chafing problem, the swelling problem, the knee problem, the GI problem, the vision problem, the back problem and the scatterbrain problem. And now I'm a decade older.


"I'm not sure training increases your odds of finishing Superior." - Matt Patten


I started running hills. Lots of hills. Up to 10000 feet of climb - first 101 times up the Stillwater Main Street stairs, then 30X the Afton Campground Hill. My best week:


T 6 miles, with 4 at marathon pace
W 15 miles with 3000 feet climb (18x Ohio Street "Snake" hill)
Th 8 miles
Sa 31 miles with 4500 feet climb (Afton 50K course)
S 20 miles


I needed to work on balance, flexibility, core strength and posture, so I took an exercise class for ballet (let's never speak of this again). I gradually built up my tolerance for my heel pain to two hours, then four. Then a disastrous first race back, the Chippewa 50K in just over 7 hours. I cut more than an hour off that by the Afton 50K and was optimistic.


Next up was the Voyageur 50 Mile, a good test, 11-12 hours of suffering. My heels hurt from the first step and after the powerlines, it was like 2011 at Afton all over again. Then, sliding in the mud, I grabbed a tree for support, which snapped and fell on me. I dropped at 19 miles. Something had to change.


To finish Superior, I had to be a different man, internally as well as externally. I have a nearly infinite capacity for suffering, which is good for 1500 meters, because, when self-preservation kicks in, it's the one who's willing to lose most who wins, the one who has nothing left to lose - no family, no career - whose blacking out from anoxia at the finish line is a reward. It's not healthy, but it's what I know.


"I don't enjoy the races and I don't enjoy them for a long time." - me, 2010.


People talk about how painful trail 100 milers can be, especially if they go wrong, but it's different. The mantra is "stay as comfortable as possible as long as possible." Entrants talk about it being an all-night buffet and hanging out in the woods with friends. For a former balls-to-the-wall competitor, this is a challenge of its own.


And damn if they aren't a cheerful bunch of lunatics! Ed Sandor (Sr.) told me to smile so often it seemed like a prank of some sort. Then Joel Button told me to smile. I may smile rarely, but it's genuine. But I get it: optimism is important, as is enjoying the pleasures of the moment between the rough patches.


Ian Corless photo.
Pre-race


I'd packed my drop bags and was headed to the pre-race meeting when it seemed cold, so I took my famous blue raincoat out of one bag to wear. At the meeting, I didn't see some people I expected, like Allan Holtz and Jason Husveth, but I said hi to a lot of people who were happy to see me. We were told that there's be a river crossing because a bridge was out, but the real problem was a new beaver dam creating a deep water passage. "It's pretty typical for a wet year." - John Storkamp. It was too loud and crowded for me, so I left early.


My reservation had been lost, so I was spending the night in my car. I never really slept, which is typical before races. At 3 AM, I was freezing (it was 40 degrees) and needed a toilet, so I drove to the wayside rest between Lutsen and Grand Marais. I decided to do all my pre-race stuff then, rather than in the morning and hoped to get some rest.


I shared the bus ride to the start with Matt Lutz and we had the usual pre-race banter - well, usual for me, anyway. (paraphrasing) "Half your age plus seven?" "Just under." I was surprised to find at the start that I had to fill my hydration bladder at the one drinking fountain and I spent a lot of time waiting in line for a restroom, which is expected.


I can't find my laminated split chart, which is worrisome.


Gooseberry falls to Split Rock


The gun goes off and I start both my GPS watch and regular stopwatch, with a 30 minute repeat alarm to remind me to take in calories. I was planning to keep my effort under control by heart rate monitor, but it had been balky and wasn't working, so I just planned to stay relaxed and hike all the hills comfortably. The first miles are on paved trail, which gives everyone space and is a nice warm-up. When we hit trail, it's immediately muddy and people are trying to keep their shoes as dry as possible, which will later seem pointless. The initial river crossing is uneventful and cut about 0.7 miles off the course, so I wasn't surprised to come into the first aid station early, but I was well ahead of where I expected to be. I was stung by a bee one hour into the race in my armpit, which seemed a bad place and an hour after that under my vest, where it rubbed with every step. I left the station at 2:00 (planned 2:15-2:20)


Split Rock to Beaver Bay


This is generally one of the less-remarkable sections, but it had the new beaver dam. The water was thigh deep, with small submerged boulders and roots to navigate. Stepping over one rock, I went into a hole with water up to my crotch and had to work to keep my balance. Coming out of the water, race legend Susan Donnelly stopped to snap some photos. My heels suddenly hurt - that was my real concern. Fortunately, the problem self-corrected rather quickly and I was still on time. 4:36 (planned 4:28-4:37)


Marcus Taintor photo


Beaver Bay to Silver Bay


I stopped four times to removes rocks and twigs from my shoes. I should've worn gaiters, though the caked mud and swelling later served that end. Each stop cost a few minutes and I'd be with different people. I was spending no time in aid stations, so I was leap-frogging with a lot of people. When Susan passed me again, I thought that I might be being too hasty at the stations. Then I had an empty hydration bladder and I knew I had been. Finished at 5:50 (planned 5:46-6:01)


Silver Bay to Tettegouche


This is one of the tougher sections, with climbs to the Bean and Bear Lakes lookout and to Mt. Trudee, but I was feeling good. I hadn't peed in a long time, and when I did it was dark, so I made sure to drink as much as possible. Soon I was peeing almost clear and too frequently, making me wish I'd salt caplets on me to restore electrolyte balance. I was moving well and having fun (yes, you read that right). The infamous "Drainpipe" was child's play compared to 2008. Arrived 9:01 (planned 8:35-9:05), which was the last split I could remember from my plan.


Photos by Zach Pierce


This was already my longest run since 2010 and I was only one-third done.


Tettegouche to Co. Rd 6


I had a bad patch in this section, where my brain went fuzzy and my fingers swelled. A little extra food helped, but flavor fatigue had set in (and Raspberry Hammer Gel tastes like burnt motor oil - still better than their banana, though). Being the heat of the day (maybe 65-70 degrees), it was good to be out of the open. The sun went down and I pulled out a headlamp.


"Two lights is one light. One light is no light." - ultrarunning adage.


Headlamps have improved dramatically since I last ran 100 miles. I had a 300 lumen lamp and decided to switch out my old back-up with another, which I'd just put in the batteries it came with. The batteries were old... a rookie mistake. I figured I'd use the bad lamp until the next aid station, where I'd switch headlamps and see if I could switch out the batteries on the bad one in case I needed it.


I was going too slowly here. I'd hiked through the night at both Kettle and Zumbro, so I figured I'd do it again. I needed to run where I could, or at least hike faster, as I was getting caught by a stream of runners. Eventually, the faint light caused me to feel I was going much too slowly and I switched out early; I got help from another runner, maybe Steve Sjolund, who'd looked iffy when I saw him 25 miles earlier. This had me wondering just how slowly I was going. I pulled into the station at 12:29, behind my scheduled 11:25-12:15, but I did not know this, not having my splits, nor crew.


John Horns, Part 1


John made me his pet project at the aid station. I've known him since we had classes together more than 30 years earlier and he's won this particular race - after age 50! - so it made sense to listen to him as he questioned me about hydration and food intake. I'd finished both Zumbro and Kettle 100's on just liquids, as my body seems to say "blood for muscles or blood for intestines, not both" and it just sluices through me. That's not possible at Superior, as the electrolyte drink they have is HEED, which contains xylitol, which is a laxative for some people - such as me. It had taken me two years to tolerate gels. Now I was about to find out whether, if I went slowly enough, solid food would be tolerated. John had calculated that the gels I was taking was the absolute minimum, but he also had exerted 50% more calories per hour in breaking 24 hours, so I wasn't so sure.


More pressing was that I didn't have a drop bag here, the temperature was plummeting (it got down to about 40 degrees) and I was underdressed. I was wrapped in a mylar blanket and had a rain poncho in my pack, which I figured could get me to my famous blue raincoat at Finland.


Uh-oh.


Remember the pre-race meeting? I took the jacket out of the drop bag. It was sitting in my car. I had some shirts at Finland, but not what I needed. I'd have to make do.


Co Rd 6 to Finland


Only meters onto the course, I was asked about my clothing choices.


2017: the Year of Wendi


Though we had a bunch of running friends in common, I first introduced myself to Wendi on a training run at Afton. We ended up running the Powerlines at Voyageur together while I pretended my heels weren't killing me and before everything fell apart for me. UltraSignup had predicted we'd finish together here in 36 1/2 hours.


Wendi said that she had an extra nylon shell back at the aid station and was willing to go back . She dug it out and John Horns helped me take off my pack, put on the shell and then put the pack back on. Then he made sure I had food in my pockets.


Jason Mullenbach is a great dad


I spent much of this section with Jason, who I'd run with a bit earlier. I had done all of my training runs alone - not by choice - and wanted the quiet of a night on my own in the woods, but we talked a bit about how I knew his hometown of Owatonna. There was a lull in the conversation and, though I wanted quiet, I could tell he wanted the distraction of talking, so I asked about his kids.


He mentioned his three boys from youngest to oldest, which seemed odd until he mentioned his 17 year-old, who has Down Syndrome. He'd been an advocate for his son and mainstreaming him in school despite some deficits, learning the bureaucracy and jargon and helping him pursue his dreams, sometimes at a heavy cost.


My own father didn't talk to me until I was 14, though we lived together; still, his own father was much worse. Over the years, I'd told myself that it was probably just as well that I never had kids, as I had no example for fatherhood. Then I had to take care of my mother when she had Alzheimer's and one goes through all the same steps, but in reverse order, ending with diapers and spoon-feeding and never getting sleep. I'd actually have made a pretty good dad, but not as provider, as my father had seen his role. Too late now - though I'm about the same age my father was when I was born. And I've taken an interest in a younger woman who seems a bit "broody" and whose "clock is ticking."


It was the time of the night when people hallucinate. Birch bark looks like discarded paper. One group of leaves looked like a box of mints. I saw grouse and amphibians, but nothing unreal.


Instead, I was thinking of a woman. She has broad shoulders for a girl and I have narrow shoulders for a guy. She has a strong chin and I have a weak one. Is that really what interests me - compensating flaws? I remembered a photo of her taken in innocence that left very little to the imagination, a pose that would be unflattering to anyone else, but... I really need to think about the race.


Finland to Sonju


John Horns, Part 2


John got my drop bag (an ice cream bucket) and helped me off with my pack and shell, put on a long-sleeved shirt which is always tight, but especially hard to put on over puffy hands - and John insisted on turning the shirt right-side out - then putting the shell and pack back on. I had him look for replacement batteries for my headlamp (in case I hit sundown #2), since they were in aid station supplies the times I ran an aid station and it took forever - I shouldn't have bothered. I had spare socks and used a pair as mittens. I ate two quesadillas and put another 4 in my pockets for later. I was also wearing a buff for headgear (I think this was since Co Rd 6 - it was in my pack). John filled my pockets with gels and I was off.


I'd packed several flavors of caffeinated gels in that drop bag and was looking forward to the buzz and the change in flavors. Unfortunately, John had given me the same ones the race handed out at every station. This is one more reason crew would've helped.


The trail to Sonju was largely unremarkable until the end. I'd expected that, with all the rain the previous week, the long beaver dam crossing would be under water like it was when I volunteered in 2006. It was fine. Toward the end of this section, before the real cedar root maze begins, there's a fairly steep decline of small boulders; I'd been down it twice before and slipped both times. I slipped this time too, banging my butt and the heels of my hands, but I can't call a 4" drop a "fall." The tree roots were just as tough as I remembered, but not hard to navigate. One could hear Maria Barton's aid station more than a mile away. She had it decorated in over-the-top fashion, most of which the darkness hid.


Kathy Jambor filled my water and gave me two mini hamburgers. I could've eaten 6 more, but thought better of it. I briefly warmed my hands at the bonfire, where several runners were seated and looked like death; I'd been there, having dropped here in 2008, but pressed on, making this my best run here.


Sonju to Crosby


This is the shortest section of the course and isn't bad, except for the roots (which is like saying Everest isn't bad except for the elevation). The last mile or so is very runnable, some even on a gravel road, but I was not running. The tops of my feet were very sore, perhaps from the constant pull of mud.


Then the sun came up. "Oh hell - I'm done." That everyone has to do Crosby in the dark is the one equalizer of the course, so I must've slowed far more than I thought (which was true) and would time out at Matt Patten's aid station (which was not true). Could they have eased the closing times of the stations that much? Still, the 38 hour cut-off at the end is firm.


I arrived at 22:50, three to four hours behind schedule, but still oblivious to the fact that I needed to make up time. I used the toilet (I handled solid food well!) and heard that Jason Husveth was doing well - where did he pass me, if he had? I remember his wife Amy's 1000 watt smile sometime in the daylight, so it must've been early. He always comes on strong at the end, so I'd been looking for him, but I must be way behind him by now.


That left Allan Holtz, who always pushes the time limits at the aid stations, but is relentless in hitting them. I told Matt and his son (#3, who I think is already taller than his dad!) that Al wouldn't pass me, "Because I will kill him." Everyone laughed at the dark humor; this was said as a coldblooded statement of homicidal intent, not hyperbole. Maybe you had to be there. The truth was, if Al passed me and wasn't having a spectacular day, I wasn't going to make cut-offs.


"Here comes Al!" Shit. I grabbed my gear and tried to make time.


Crosby to Sugarloaf


This is the longest section and, by every account, the hardest. There's an immediate steep descent to the river gorge, broken into two with a rise in between. It's treacherous, but I got to do it in daylight. The first 50 milers passed me here (I didn't recognize Jake Hegge as he went by, but I was staring at my footing). The other side of the bridge is a rise so steep it has to be done without a pause and one may use one's hands at points. It wasn't all that bad, except I got stung by another bee. Otherwise, I was feeling good! Now 50 milers were passing continuously. The rest of the section isn't technical - there was a lot of mud, still - it just never ended. I started leap-frogging with two 100 milers, including a woman who was making very good time with her pacer and trekking poles (poles may be worth investment), who I passed only when she needed a pit stop. There was a guy whose pacer was obviously just trying to get him to the next aid station to drop - I was doing great, compared to some. [I think I was unintentionally rude to that last guy; I'm sorry.] The section was endless. Distances telescoped. I finally arrived at Sugarloaf at 27:43.


At the Sugarloaf station, I stripped off clothes and stuck them in my pack. The young girl who refilled my water broke the hydration bladder - the hole was near the top, so I could still carry plenty of fluid. As it was, I sucked it down to a reasonable weight - I needed the fluid then anyway. I asked what the cut-off was at the next aid station. "1:45," I was told. It was 11:45. I can't do the math; 120 minutes, 5.4 miles, that's what, 22 minutes per mile? Is that right? If it was, I was fine, I just needed to run the downhills and what little flat sections there were.


Sugarloaf to Cramer


I hear from behind me "You were hard to catch!" It was Al. "You're the only one who's thought that," I replied, thinking of the 100 plus who'd passed. I told him I couldn't do the math for the cut-offs. "30 miles, 9 1/2 hours, we have to do 19 minute miles." 19! I have to speed up several minutes per mile AND do it while going up Carlton and Moose Mountains?! I complain a bit about how the cut-offs get harder as you go, rather than easier or staying the same. Al says he's not sure he can make the next cut-off. "Gotta try," I say. I decide to go into marathon mode; I've done marathons without water on much hotter days and in a third of the time we have.


I leave Al and catch the girl who was fast-hiking the last section. It turns out she had been doing then what I was doing now (and should've been doing then) and she'd given up hope of making the next cut-off. I sped way up. I caught Lisa Messerer on an uphill - she really should be a larger part of this narrative, as we'd leapfrogged - and I knew that she had finished this race before, so I was probably still in it. I sped WAY up again. There was a mudhole in which I remember splashing mud up to my eyes. There's a downhill I think is worse than the Drainpipe, worse than the Crosby gorge and I lose some time on it. I'm sure the course opens onto a road where the aid station is - I've never run this bit before (though I'm having continuous deja vu) - and twice I mistake fallen birch trees for gravel road in the distance. It has to be soon. Then I see a road and hear vehicles and I really hammer. I get to the road... and no aid station. "Quarter mile to go!" a woman calls and directs me across the road, through a tunnel to a wide paved trail with nothing in either direction for at least a mile. "Which way?!" I call, seeing a flag to the right as I ask. "RIGHT" several voices call, so it must be close. I go on, to the right, another turn (and I swear by this time I've entered a different time zone), maybe yet another road, another turn, another trail with nothing on it, another turn and three quarters of a mile since I started kicking, I see the aid station. I make it with two minutes to spare. 29:58, but I've killed myself doing it.


If that section needed 22 minute miles and I barely did it, 19's were out of the question. I jettisoned everything from my pack (my drop bag here was meant to hold what I no longer needed) and I didn't even want the water topped off, to cut weight. I got less than a quarter mile when the overwhelming fatigue of having raced that last bit stopped me and I walked back to Cramer. I met Al on the way. How the f$%^ did he make the cut-off? I considered Al's dictum "never stop until they pull you off the course" and thought maybe he and I could push each other... but I was toast. I went back to Cramer and dropped. Later, it occurred to me that Cramer to Temperance is largely downhill, perhaps the easiest section; I should've probably tried.


Some aftermath


Paul Hasse was laughing hard at my comments ("This section's longer than 5.4 miles" "There's no way in hell Al ran that just a minute slower than I did"). After stopping, my feet started to ache badly. Jim Wilson gave Lisa and me a ride back to Lutsen.


My feet had swollen so much that I had to cut my socks off. I had two small blisters and two blackened toenails that I won't lose. The swelling in my feet is still there a week later - it appears I damaged all the toe extensor tendons. The backache, made worse by the drive home, is slowly improving. There's no post-race depression.


My GPS watch shows I ran the last mile in 7:02! I went sub-6 at some points. My heart rate shot to my maximum of 180. That's why I couldn't go on.


How the eff did Al come in a minute behind me? Even if I were at the start of a minute and he was at the end of one, he had to run a 9 minute mile. I don't see it.


So.. no falls, no serious injuries, no bizarre accidents, no drama. Just a fun slow stroll in the park.


With better organization or with crew, I would've finished. I simply loafed when I should've been thinking of it as a race. I'd ignored the dictum I first heard from Al in 2007: "Run when you can, walk when you have to and when you can't walk... walk anyway." My heart rate monitor worked sporadically during the race. I figured I could average 120-122 bpm for the length of the race, but barely averaged 86, with long stretches in the 70's and 60's (and at night aid stations, 34, my resting pulse). I was way too conservative, taking "stay as comfortable as possible as long as possible" far too literally.


I was physically and mentally prepared. Though I didn't finish, I'm calling it a success. Considering where I started, "miracle" might be closer to the correct word.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Delay in race reporting

My Superior 100 race report will not be available for at least a week. I DNF'ed at 78 miles, but had a good race.