Saturday, July 31, 2010

One Month at a Time…

It’s crazy how fast the summer seems to be going.  I think I realized yesterday when I had to get the light out for the early Hyland loop that fall will be sneaking up on us before we know it.  While I’ll for sure miss the long days, I don’t think I’ll miss the humidity much.

I’ve been sort of taking this whole year on a month-to-month basis when it comes to running and training.  After each month that goes by, I’ve been thankful mostly to have stayed healthy, learned a lot, gradually gotten better, and enjoyed it all.

As for July, it’s been a steady stretch of training and happy to have the legs feeling pretty good.  It helped that I came into the month all fired up and inspired from being out at Western States to crew and pace for Tony Kocanda.   The two races I ran this month – Afton and Voyageur – were definitely the highlights of July.  For both I found myself pretty relaxed and having a whole lot of fun…which is the whole point, right?  Just keeping it rolling and enjoying the trail.

Here’s a summary of training for the month and year to date:
  • Total Miles in July:  416
  • Highest Mileage Week:  110
  • Lowest Mileage Week:  82
    - - - - - -
  • Total Miles in 2010:  2,705
I’m already looking forward to a good month of August, which should include some quality time at Afton and Hyland, and a trip up north to train on the SHT!

Enough about me…
In other exciting news, it’s always fun to see good things happening for some running friends.  First of all, it was great seeing Joe Z making progress and out at Hyland yesterday walking on that recovering broken leg during our 6 am loop…I’m pretty sure he’ll be beating us all on the trails again before we know it.  I was also excited to hear that Chris Lundstrom will be competing as a member of the USA Mountain Running Team in the World Mountain Running Championships in Kamnik, Slovenia in September!  Good things happen to good people…especially when they work really hard.

See you on the trails!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Voyageur 50 Mile - Race Report

The Minnesota Voyageur has got to be up there with the best 50 mile trail races in the country.  Now I know some of you are probably thinking, "There goes Brian believing everything in Minnesota is the best again.", but this time I don't think it's just my excessive love of the state.  It's 29 year history certainly makes it among the oldest, the trail is beautiful, the people are incredible, and there's something about that course that leaves me wanting another shot at it as soon as I'm done.  

It was a great weekend and a really fun time on the trails on Saturday.  It's always fun to see and spend time with fellow trail runners, meet new people, and I even got to spend a couple days with my parents who made the trip over from Crookston to watch and crew (thanks Mom and Dad!).  I made a weekend of it and headed north to Carlton around mid-day on Friday to meet up with my parents that afternoon who were hiking at Jay Cooke State Park.  We hung out by the visitor's center and swinging bridge (around mile 3 and 47) which I knew would be a welcome sight a little under 24 hours later.

And the Race is On:
Saturday's race was all in all what I set out to do, finishing in 4th place with a time of 7:52 and change.  I knew quite well that there were faster runners than I am in the race, so I set out with a pretty good frame of mind and the focus on a steady race and enjoying the trail.  For a guy who loves the competition of the race, its hard not to worry about what place I'm in.  However, I also have just barely enough experience now to know what pace isn't sustainable, and what a second half blow-up feels like if I try to run that pace.  So in this my last race before Superior Sawtooth 100, the goal was a steady race, strong second half, and a good time.  While I was about 15-20 minutes off what I was hoping for a time, I do feel like I ran a steady race and finished strong.  And I definitely had a blast out there on the course which is what makes it all worthwhile.

The race started at Carlton High School right at 7 am.  The first half mile or so is on pavement where everyone sort of falls into the position they want to start before hitting the trail.  It was Dusty Olson and Chris Gardner who went out in front, and John Storkamp, Chris Rubesh, Chris Lundstrom and I who settled in relatively close to each other but quickly out of sight.  The first few miles of trail are quite rocky and rooty, much like most of Superior.  I'm wondering now since I tripped and fell in both the first two miles and last two miles, if that means I will fall down about 50 times during Sawtooth...sounds about right but hope not.  

After the first aid station in Jay Cooke though the trail really flattened out for a while and was really runnable.  For the next five or so miles it was Storkamp, Lundo and I running pretty close in 3-5 place.  It's always nice to have some company out there at least in the beginning.  Although after Storkamp asked me somewhere in here whether or not this was suicide pace, I thought maybe I would be best just letting those two guys keep each other company for a while.  I think we separated out a bit around mile 8 or 9, before the first trip though the powerlines.  

I really forgot how steep those powerlines hills those are some tough ups and downs.  I was already starting to not feel quite right before I even got there, which worried me a bit since I usually start off races feeling great.  Between the powerlines at around mile 10 until probably a few miles before the turnaround, I had lost a lot of time off my planned pace.  The legs felt good, but the body just wasn't moving as fast as I wanted.  I told myself if I kept it steady things would come around...always does, right?

Coming to one of the aid stations between the Powerlines and the Zoo.
Picture: Gregg Robertson
I saw Gardner, Dusty, Lundstrom and Storkamp all real close together on their way back.  They were flying through the course and had a tough second half ahead of them, but it was looking like there would be some crazy fast times posted.  I started feeling pretty good by the time I got into the turnaround at the zoo at about 3:40 or so.  I was not too excited to be 10 minutes off the plan, but was feeling good and shifted the mindset away from the race and just focused on a steady run.  By now I was already 20+ minutes back and had a solid lock on 5th, so didn't have much to worry about in terms of place anyway.  

Other than crossing paths with the other runners and friends on the trail, I was pretty locked in from around 25 to 37 or so when it was back to the powerlines.  It had been cool all day probably in the 60s and rained for a while so knew it would make for some muddy climbs back up through powerlines.  It was slick and slow going, but the vegetation on the side was good traction and trees and bushes came in handy to pull myself up those hills.  

By around mile 42 or so, I was told at the aid station I was 8 minutes back from 4th place, which was some progress and encouraging since the legs still felt pretty good.  It wasn't too long after that I caught up with John, who sort of had the wheels come off a bit with some leg cramps.  He was still positive as always and told me to just keep running and I gradually moved on ahead.  

From here on to the finish, I knew the top three were way ahead, so I was just running for time.  I thought I had a chance at sub-7:50, but just couldn't move my feet quick enough over that rocky last few miles.  I hadn't been so excited to see a paved bike path since last year at Voyageur, which means the finish is about 5 minutes away.  I cruised into the finish line in 7:52:51.

Chris and I talking just after crossing the line. 
Picture: Gregg Robertson
Hanging Out at the Finish:
After showering up at the school, the few hours after the race were a blast, visiting with the runners and volunteers and seeing people finish.  Duluth got the best of us once again, with Gardner absolutely rocking it and tearing up the course with a 6:55 - I think the fourth fastest time ever and just 14 minutes off Jurek's record...incredible run and real happy to see things all come together for him.  My fellow TC Running teammate and friend Chris Lundstrom had a great race as well and came in 2nd at 7:13.  It was also great seeing Val come in 40 minutes faster than last year as 4th woman.  And perhaps one of the best highlights of the day was seeing my friend and training partner Jeff Denney finish his first 50 miler...and he even went a couple extra miles with three wrong turns!  Pretty impressive for a guy who signed up two days before the race.

Many thanks to Race Director Andy Holak for all the work in putting on a perfect event, and to the many volunteers who made it possible.  We missed Andy in the race, but I've got a feeling he will someday find a way to both direct and win that race at the same time.

Already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Time for Something New...

I can't ever recall really enjoying the few days before a race.  I usually seem to find myself with a little extra time on my hands, anxious to just hit the trail, always a part of me a bit nervous, and the mind somewhat distracted.  So now two days before the Voyageur 50, after five or six days of forcing myself not to run much, maybe a few too many episodes of Lost, and a bit too much pent up energy, I have decided it is time for something new.  I am joining the growing and always-interesting group of running bloggers!

Now for a guy who's stuck in a routine and doesn't usually stay up much past 10, this is already maybe too much excitement!  Seriously though, I'm not sure how well I will be able to keep up with it all, but I'm hoping this will be a place to capture some memories and share some stories of road trips, races and running adventures with friends, training, goals, or maybe the occasional random stories about life.  Hopefully I will be interesting enough to keep the handful of you entertained...

Other than starting blogs, another thing a few days before a long race does is put me into sort of a reflective state.  It's coming up on two years now since I ran my first ultra in the Superior 50 mile.  In a little over 10 hours of stumbling up and down that trail, I got hooked.  In thinking back on the time since then, I've found it absolutely amazing how tight-knit a community trail runners are.  It's a sport where if you run a few races and keep showing up, you can't help but become part of that community - and more often than not it will hook you into just running more.  It's also a sport where if you hang around, and especially if you are young enough to be nicknamed by your running friends "The Younger", you will most likely receive an abundance of really good advice.  

While I know advice only goes so far, the two things I have found myself hanging onto the most during races as of late is "enjoy it" and "keep it steady".  Sounds simple I know, but on Saturday when 50 miles is feeling like a really really long ways, those five words will come in pretty handy.  

So there's my no-longer-top-secret race strategy for Voyageur.  I'm going to enjoy it, keep it steady, have fun out there, hopefully run my own race, and learn a lot.  It should be a good time for sure and hope to come out of it feeling ready for the last month of training before my first 100 miler at Superior Sawtooth!