Sunday, September 30, 2012

MoMa (aka Mountain Madness 50K)

On Friday evening I wrote:
*Mountain Madness is TOMORROW*
I am all packed for Mountain Madness 50K.  Leaving at about 7 AM.
I ran 5:54 at Bear Mountain in May.  That is 11:24/mile.  I am hoping to run 6:30 at most tomorrow.  That is 12:35/mile.

2012 Mountain Madness 50K medal (thanks to Daniel W.)

Well it is Sunday evening, and not like you readers even care, but I am still going to tell you my story of how Saturday went...

The day dawned perfectly for a long distance run in the woods.  It wasn't raining.  The temperature was in the mid-50's, and was forecast to go up to the mid 60's.  The sun wasn't shining.  What more could we ask for?

I should begin by noting that anticipation among my circle of trail running friends for this event was huge.  In the weeks prior to this race, the eventual winner, Mike Dixon, sent our little group several ingenious emails featuring his Photoshop skills to pump us up for the upcoming ordeal...

"MoMa Fight Club" by Mike Dixon
"Night at The MoMa" by Mike Dixon
"Samuel L. Jackson Rocks MoMa" by Mike Dixon
I'm not really sure what this is, by Mike Dixon
In addition to Dixon's prodding which left me laughing at my desk at work for several days, I trained there three times with others in the best running club in the world.  We ran the 25K loop on Labor Day and September 16.  We ran the southerly loop on September 8th.  The two latter training runs included Angela, training for her first 50K; more about her later.

With all the anticipation and specific training, I was definitely mentally prepared for this race, even though I had a physical issue that was bothering me.  Namely, the pain in my right ankle that killed most of 2011 competition for me decided to reappear on September 12th's Wednesday night RVRR club run.  It wasn't the advanced pain, when it moved below the ankle bone, that was diagnosed as tarsal tunnel syndrome.  But it was definitely the earlier stage where the pain was on the top of my ankle area.  I backed off, and decided that I could mostly taper for two weeks since I was heading into the Liberty Waterfront Half Marathon on September 23, followed by a week of recovery/taper into MoMa.  What brought on the pain?  Probably running the USATF-NJ 5K XC Championship on the morning of MoMa course training on September 8th, which made for a 15 mile day with 4.5 miles of barefoot warming up and cooling down on the XC course.  And that particular Wednesday night run was pretty fast on pavement, and I wasn't really used to both fast running and pavement at that point in my training.  Speed will injure you a lot faster than going long and slow.  You can quote me on that.

And another thing I had on the mental side was the feeling that I knew the course, and had no fear of making any wrong turns, or missing any turns.  I had the plan to go out relatively fast, to wear my Camelbak and blow through aid stations 1-4, since I knew the big climbing was going to come after aid station 5 on the green trail, which was also the approximate half way point of the race.  I knew I would be doing some walking there and some eating.  These diagrams might help:

Mountain Madness course map by NJ Trail Series.

Elevation Profile from my Garmin 405
My Garmin's battery died a couple of miles from the finish, but you can see that climbing right past the half way mark.  That is about 1180' of climbing in miles 16-20.  My pace until aid station 5 averaged about 11:30 per mile, similar to my average at North Face/Bear Mountain 50K in May.  Three of my slowest miles happened on that 4 mile section, at 15:55, 14:11, and 15:22.  Ouch, but at least I expected it.

I ran with Teddi Schneider, visiting the NY area from Louisiana, for much of this race.  I think our paces merged between AS1 and 2, and we continued together until about mile 22.  Chatting about everything from running to politics to family to careers passed the time quickly.  She was good at going down hill, missing turns and getting lost. I was good at going up hill and knew the course better, so it was a good pairing.  She felt confident to follow me, and I felt like my run became something bigger than myself.  I even told her to chillax when she was getting a little frustrated getting stuck behind some slower 25K runners.  

One of the factors that make this course more difficult, in my opinion, than Harriman trails for the Bear Mountain 50K, are the woods roads that are not maintained.  They have big rocks and a lot of erosion, or what I call "oversized gravel" that consists of loose rocks about 2-5 inches in diameter.  You can't get away from them and it is hard to find a good line.  I think the single-track trails MoMa follows are easier than the woods roads.  In contrast, Harriman double track tends to be grassy or dirt, and the tire track line is very easily runable.

So the miles went by quickly and easily.  I thought we missed an AS4 for a few minutes, because I forgot there were two Boy Scout camps, but once we hit yellow I knew we were good.  I was a little worried about the AS2/AS4 area, because it was we got lost and spent a lot of time figuring out the maps on our training runs, but race director Rick McNulty had the route clearly marked with the orange ribbon through that area.  Then it was the merge with 25K runners in the woods, then downhill on one of those horrible woods roads into AS4.  About a quarter mile from AS4 a guy fell in front of us.  He was yelling because his calf was cramping.  We stopped and I could see the muscle spasm.  I instinctively just reached down and massaged it.  He yelled, "Oww!"  So I stopped and realized maybe I shouldn't have just taken that liberty with some guy I didn't know.  But then he said, "No, keep doing that.  It is exactly what my leg needs."  So then I felt even more awkward, and I didn't want to stop too long.  I think I only massaged it for like 20 seconds and he said he would be OK, and thanks.  So we took off.  Good Karma.

Aid station 4 was where Laura was, and it was the first time I actually stopped at one.  "Why are you here?" I asked.  "I just couldn't do it today." She said, but she didn't look too unhappy.  She made the right decision.  I took a cup of Mountain Dew, grabbed a couple of Hammer Gels for the climb, and was off again for those slow miles.  At least I got Teddi to take that 10 yard detour where you can see the NYC skyline over the adjacent ridge.

At this point I knew I was in my remaining gear for the rest of the race, feeling maybe 30 seconds per mile slower, but steady, and I informed Teddi that is where my pace was going to stay.  After mile 22 there was some significant downhill running on that horrible woods road, so Teddi got some distance on me between there and AS6.  

Aid Station 6 is also the finish line, after doing the final 7 mile loop, that is.  Dixon had already won the race in 4:39!  It was nice to see him there cheering me on, along with friends from the best running club in the world who had done the 25K and 7 miler.  I had more than an hour of running left, at least!  I had an 8th of a PBJ sandwich there, and had them put some Heed in my Camelbak, took another E-Cap, reset myself mentally for that beyond-the-marathon part of this and relaxed my way back onto the run.

Me, entering AS6, "Are you saving me a beer?" (pic by Sally H.)
I had seen Teddi on her on her way out for the final 7 mile loop, and I caught her again on that loop going up hill.  This section, which was described to me by Dave A., a MoMa veteren, as relatively easy, was nothing like easy.  The climb on this eroded horrible woods road made me curse the glaciers that dropped those rocks all those millions of years ago.  We climbed to the "aid station", which was really just some gallon water bottles in a box.  I was looking forward for some calories there, because the volunteer didn't put enough Heed into my Camelbak to supply me, so that pissed me off and I kicked an empty bottle in frustration.  Then I must have been a little delirious, because all of a sudden I didn't see any more pink ribbons that marked this loop.  We had missed a turn - damn!   See, this is the part of the course I had not done before; so much for muscle-spasm Karma.  Teddi went back and saw one, and I went forward and saw one, but it turned out to be an orange ribbon marking an earlier section of course.  We had to double back, adding maybe a quarter mile to the course, and allowing at least one guy to catch us.  I suddenly had a stomach issue here, and needed to empty more than my bladder.  I told Teddi to go on with him and went off trail.  Lucky I had a bandanna on my head....

I felt a little shaky after the stomach issue for 5 or 10 minutes.  I couldn't tell how long, because my Garmin battery died about then.  I recovered on the downhill back to the finish line.  I felt pretty damn fast over the last mile when we hit the part of the pink loop that merged with the orange we had run on earlier.  Another amazing thing about these ultras, having that third wind.  That does not happen in a marathon,  Once you are toast in a marathon, you are toasted.

Finishing kick (pic by Sally H.)
The adrenaline, the elation of finishing such a long day combined for a happy finish (sans bandanna).  Friends and beers awaited.  I finished a minute 15 seconds after Teddy, who was the 2nd place overall woman.  I was 22nd/71, 3rd 50's guy.  My time of 6:13 was just under 12 min./mile average pace, and faster than the goal I stated on Saturday.  Here is the slightly short Garmin data.

Teddi and Me right after finishing. (Pic by Joe Azze)
Dave was 3rd at about 5:02, Jay ran an incredible 5:28 despite a long rest and drinking a beer at the last aid station, Bill ran sub-6 for both his first 50K AND marathon, Lindsay was sub-6, Dragon finished his first 50K, Elane breezed through without popcorn, and John- who has a curse upon him for this race - got lost and a sprained ankle DNF. In the 25K Peter was 2nd.  In the 7 mile Sally finished her first trail race.  Angela, who I mentioned earlier, fell quite early in the race, before AS 5, and deeply gashed her knee.  She used her shirt as a bandage, and got properly bandaged at the aid station.  She finished the race, her first 50K, sub 7 hours on a knee that needed stitches.  After she finished and removed the bandage, we could see the connective tissue under the laceration.  That takes some courage and strength!  Here is the pic of her knee, if you can see it on FB, and stomach it....

The "Before" picture of the Best Running Club in The World at MoMa (Sally's pic again - Thanks!)

The End (Pic by Joe Azze)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Newport Liberty Half Marathon

Mile splits were 6:20, 6:31, 6:43, 6:44, 6:41, 6:47, 6:55, 6:44, 7:04, 7:06, 7:25, 7:19, 7:51, 7:40. Think I went out too fast? Trying to run with fast females Lianne and Nova, I was feeling good for a long time.  Lianne pointed out that we were running 5K pace for those first couple of miles.  I needed Gatorade late in the race and there was none. Then my ankle pain kicked in.  As a result, lots of people passed me in the last few miles as I slowed down. BUT, my time was faster than the last time I ran it in 2010 @ 1:34:39. My PLP today was 74.59, and in 2010 it was 71.29. One can't run all trail miles at 9-12 min per mile and expect to race 3 minutes faster per mile. MoMa in 6 days!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Liberty Half Marathon is TOMORROW

My ankle hurts in the vicinity of my old injury.  That isn't good.  The pain showed up at the Wednesday Night Run on September 12.  It was about 10 miles.  The first few were barefoot.  A mile of the barefoot was on pavement.  Then the last 7 were on pavement, wearing New Balance 730 shoes.  I think the fast running with shoes on pavement was the over-stressor.  Combined with the previous Saturday of running the USATF-NJ 5K Championship race, with about 4.5 miles barefoot warm-up and cool down that day, and which I followed with a 7 mile trail run over rocks and roots in Ramapo State Forest.  I had a painless trail run this past Monday at Watchung Reservation.  Took a Tuesday and Wednesday off - my lower back was hurting; I think I went a little too hard on the rocks, but was feeling great.  I ran a painful couple of miles on Thursday, felt better for 5 on Friday, but today the ankle wasn't too comfortable.  So I tried a bunch of different shoes to see what I should wear tomorrow for the Liberty Half Marathon.  Surprisingly, the shoes that felt the best are my oldest pair of Merrell Trail Gloves.  I think because the heel does not get in the way.  (Even the Merrell Road Glove heel gets in the way of a comfortable midfoot strike for me.)  I think I will use them with an extra plastic arch thing thrown in for good luck.  I should be icing the hell out of the ankle, but I have not been.  I think I will go do that ASAP.

Proud Parent

My son recently started college at Rutgers University.  He lives at Livingston Campus, which is right next to Rutgers Ecological Preserve.  I have told him to run there.  He posted this today on Facebook.  Could I ask for anything more?