Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Week, Feb 11-17

[I am blogging this because I need a reason to blame myself for not enough training]

Last week was not that good as it could have been. On Tuesday I had a running day off, and we were doing pull ups at the office with colleagues (we do that every day), so I've done something like 8+8+3, and the last 3 were using really wide grip and on hanging training holds,  and I felt a striking pain in my back. My right shoulder got injured badly, my neck was hurting a lot and it was just really painful just to sit and walk, and even lying on the coach was pretty painful. I didn't go climbing that day of course, and on Wednesday it didn't go away, didn't even get better.

I skipped Wednesday planned 10m of running, and took the whole week off climbing.

I felt better by the weekend, and on Sunday we decided to hike up/run down Mailbox Peak instead of 10m running. It is very steep gaining 3800 feet for the last 2.5 miles with the total gain of 4100 feet and 6 miles roundtrip.

There was a lot of snow and I felt pretty idiotic in shorts and running shoes surrounded by people in gortex, la sportiva nepals, crampons and with ice axes. Lots of fun anyways :)

So, here are the totals:
Mon: 7m/650 feet, Cougar
Tue: OFF
Wed: OFF
Thu: 7m/650 feet, Cougar
Fri: 7m/650 feet, Cougar
Sat: 7m/ 650 feet, Cougar
Sun: 6m/4100 feet, Mailbox Peak

Total: 34 miles, 6700 feet

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week Feb, 4-10

I say recovery!

I felt amazingly good during recovery runs on Tue and Wed, little bit tired on Thu. Saturday run on Mt Si ended up to be a hike all the way up as my calves got pumped almost immediately (I need to warm up before the uphill!). On Sunday I tried to run hilly, but easy going course and pace, and that worked, though I walked some steeper sections.

Funny that my downhills are getting faster and stronger (and they are already pretty darn fast and strong!), though my uphills suck more and more judging by Mt Si hikes. Not worried, races are won on downhills :) Actually I shouldn't be judging my uphills progress just one week after the 50k race with 8400 feet of gain, it suppose to suck now.

Kolya at the same time is progressing on uphills fast, he ran almost all the way up to Mt Si summit after the same race.

Mon: OFF
Tue: 5m/420 feet, Cougar & bouldering
Web: 7m/600 feet, Cougar
Thu: 5m/420 feet, Cougar & lead climbing
Fri: OFF
Sat: 8m/3215 feet, Mt Si
Sun: 9m/1600 feet, Cougar (planned to go to Camp Muir on skis, but Kolya got sick).

Total: 34m/6255 feet

The number of my climbing days is scary small. I don't think I am going to progress in climbing this year, not before WS. Then I'll have few months before competitions season start, and I will not be ready to progress to Open group I think. It's ok, running Western States is a single life time opportunity and I know I can be really well prepared for it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Orcas Island 50k race report

There was no training on week Jan-28 to Feb-3.

We took two days off Monday and Tuesday, went for 7 miles on Wednesday (I noted that my legs finally felt good!), then we took two more days off on Thursday and Friday to make sure the tapering is done traditional way.

I also made sure that we've eaten a lot of carbs on Friday, departed Newcastle earlier and caught a 4pm ferry to Orcas Island. We were at Moran State Park just immediately after the dusk, setup the tent, and went to the building to check in. Kolya signed up for the early start, I signed up for the regular one (not because I am that confident, mostly because I will do anything to delay the running). I also had 3 drop bags with lots of gels (ate them a lot!), honey stinger waffles (have eaten none), roctape (haven't used it), bandages (nope), ibuprofen cream (nope - I don't ever use tablets, but I believe that cream and local applications is not that bad, and sometimes can be helpful), clean socks (nope), anti chafing cream (nope), and maybe some other stuff I've already forgotten about. Basically I was ready for anything to happen, but have only used my drop bags to get more gels and to dispose the trash :)

Then we went to the Island Hoppin' Brewery. The beer was really good! Smoked Amber had the smoking taste, and the IPA was just the best we've ever tried (but they had no food.. they actually just opened a month ago and still developing their service and facilities, but the beer is so good!). We were promised there will be few kegs from the same brewery at the finish, and it was a great motivation to finish faster. I remember my Chuckanut last year, by the time I finished (and I was ridiculously slow for this 50% road running course) all the food was gone, all the shirts of my size were gone and it wasn't fun at all!

Then we returned to the camp Moran, had our evening pasta (and I felt hungry :)), and waited for Maxim and Andrey to arrive from the 7pm ferry. Then we had tea, ate some more Ramen noodle soup, discussed the tomorrows race and went to sleep around 10pm.

I slept well, though had some neck troubles as my pillow made of stuff sack wasn't that good. Kolya woke up at 6:30 (early start was at 7:30, regular start was at 8:30), asked me to make the hot water and went to car to get ready. I had everything in the tent and didn't need to go back to the car. I started both Jet Boils, taped my left foot as it is the troublemaking one, covered both feet with anti chafing cream (I always do, though I've never had any blisters or chafing with Saucony Progrid Peregrine shoes), decided to use short pants (and it was a good idea), decided to go with light long sleeve shirt (and it was a good idea too, though next time if the forecast is that good, I should be using short sleeve shirt with armwarmers that can be left at the aid station, this time I just had no short sleeve shirts with me). It probably took me about 30 minutes to get ready, I was very precise and very slow.

It was amazingly warm outside for such an early morning. Last year it was much colder and there was ice everywhere on the grass.

I joined everyone in the building for the pre-race briefing for early starters, noticed the 100 people line to the restroom, had my coffee and snickers bar. Then we left the building and let Kolya go for his first 50k!

Then we went back to hang out for another hour and to look around on all these new racing vests and racing packs on the people around. Just one year ago there were Nathan Intensity pack and different hand helds, now it was like an ultra running technologies achievement festival with lots of brands and colors. I was wearing the Nathan, Max was wearing the Nathan, Andrey was wearing the small no name pack from Costco, and I felt so last season. Not because I do not try, but because ultraSpire vests are too big for me, and Nathan is a really good pack for supported races.

So far, some history goes here. It was my second Orcas Island 50k. Last year I signed up very early (maybe in October or so), I moved to Newcastle from Seattle downtown promising that I will start running more trails and just start running more, but haven't actually run at all. In November I ran Seattle marathon (my second Seattle and third road marathon) and PRed for 1 minute for my own surprise. I really trained a lot before Seattle 2010, and I had almost no training before 2011 race, I have also had a huge disaster during Chicago Marathon (known as the flattest marathon in America) in October (that I still believe was my worst race ever - something was bubbling in my stomach all the way from mile 5 to the finish, and I set my marathon anti record there too - 4:04 or something like that..). Anyways Seattle marathon was at the end of November and I was supposed to start training for Orcas Island somewhere around beginning of December. But I haven't. I actually stopped running at all. One week before Orcas I figured that the last time I ran was... end of November, Seattle marathon. So I went for a run in middle of the week. For 3 mile road run. It was fine. I still remembered how to run (same as walking, just do the steps faster). Then the race came. Did I struggle? A lot! I actually thought I was going to die (never thought of dropping off though). It's just stupid not to run at all for two months and then go for 32 miles with 7000+ of elevation gain! I sucked and it was a good thing, because it taught me that this is something I should never consider doing again. Though I actually did it again, at Chuckanut one month later (one 3-5 miles running between Orcas and Chuckanut 2012).

I truly believe that experience means a lot in long distance running. Experience gives you confidence, it allows you to learn what you can and cannot eat, how often, what should you be wearing, how to handle uphills, how to handle downhills, what is "your own pace", how to take care of your suicidal thoughts and so on. I have enough experience to run anything up to 50 miles now. I was not worried about Orcas at all. I knew the course was harder this year (8400 of gain), but I also knew that this time I am stronger and I am trained. Like for real. I have a coach, I have a schedule, I drink some powder shit from the big box after each run. I do it like a PRO! Though I trained this way for one month only, I knew I can beat my last years time. And it is OK if I don't. Anyone can have a bad day, even well trained and experienced person.

So we listened for the same pre-race briefing one more time and headed to the start. Maxim and Slava (not sure why Stanislav is Slava, but whatever :)) moved somewhere to the start line, Andrey who was running his first ultra thought he would feel better if he stuck with girls :) However when we started I let him go, he is a 3:26 marathon runner, and I really didn't want to let him set my pace. I definitely got into a faster group in the beginning, and it was a single track for the first mile or two. I talked to Tia who I remember from pacing Maxim at both P2P 2011 and WS 2012, she asked me about WS and stuff, but at some point she speed up and I have never seen her again during the race. She finished in 6:10, that explains why :)

I let people passing me and was not worried about being too slow. I was fine with my own pace. At some point we got to the paved road and apparently this was a pretty long stretch of road running to the top of little summit of Mt Constitution. I felt that I can run the whole uphill if I try really hard, but I didn't want to. I know from my Mt Si hikes/runs that my uphill running is not much faster than my uphill walking, and I didn't want to kill my legs that early. So I ran for 5 minutes, then walked for 5 minutes and kept going. At some point a girl with blue stripes on her pants passed me, she was definitely a better uphiller than I am. And it was fine. She also ran-walked and I decided that I will just try not to let her go too far. She was running faster, but she walked more, so I kept up with her for the whole uphill.

Then really nice technical downhill started and I passed a lot of people. I think I am a really good downhiller, and I don't get tired when running down. It must help me a lot at Western States :) Then there was an aid station, I didn't eat anything from it, just got water, Vespa and two gels from my drop bag. I think Vespa is the reason of my stomach not feeling good just few minutes after I've had it. That's pretty bad, because just few months ago I was able to drink as much Vespa as I wanted and had no problems. I don't know if this shit is real, but even if it's just a placebo I am fine with it as long as it works for me. Seems like it doesn't, not anymore. Anyways there was a very long stretch of flats and "rolling terrain" around the lake and I felt that I need to use a restroom. Fortunately there were no problems looking for good bushes, they were everywhere.

I think about 10-15 people passed me whiles I was there, but I didn't care, it was only about 10 miles in a race, and I wasn't competitive at this point. Amazing how fast your competitiveness goes away when your stomach decides to blow out.

And it worked I felt good again, I was able to drink and to eat. It was btw first time when I had two gels each hour (before I've always had one, and my coach actually says to eat three), I really used watch for tracking, and I think I've only missed one gel when I had this Vespa problem. Then there was a climb to two little mountains, the last one was Mt Picket, and I don't really remember anything good or bad about them except for that I was eating, drinking, hiking ups, sprinting downs, and pushing on flats, and also passed first Slava (who said that trying to run with Maxim wasn't a good idea at all) and then Andrey (who looked like enjoying his time). The "girl with blue stripes on the pants" passed me on every uphill, I passed her on every downhill, and we were joking about it. During that stretch I've also met "the bitch" for the first time. It was a long downhill and I was running really fast and had a lot of fun jumping over roots and rocks, smiling and laughing. I passed everyone, and nobody passed me. And then I got to that girl, stayed behind for some time and finally told her that I think I am going to pass her. She was quite. I kept going and told her again that at some point I would really like to pass her. She didn't let me. I decided that my goal of the race will be to finish faster than her, fuck the non competitive approach.

She left the Mt Picket aid station faster than me, and the next time I met her was the aid station before the Powerline hike started (mile 20.6). When you look at the elevation profile at his point, it feels like you will probably need a harness and a rope for this part of the route. Everybody was pretty scared of it. Maxim, Slava and Andrey even decided to make their own UTMB and brought the hiking poles specifically for this part of the course. I decided that I am not going to use poles at any race before Western States. They do not allow poles, and I got used to hands on knees technique while climbing Mt Si on weekends. Actually the powerline hike wasn't that bad at all. The first part before the dirt road started was, but the dirt road part was fine. Of course I couldn't run, and wasn't hiking too fast, but nobody could. My legs felt well, it was hard, but not too hard. I was much easier than that stupid approach to Hubba Hubba waterfall that we've done a week before for ice climbing (because I didn't carry the pack with 70m rope, two ice tools and other stuff I guess), though much longer. It was ridiculously long!

Anyways I got to the top, and was able again to sprint the downhill where I finally caught "the bitch". I asked her twice to let me pass her, but she again played the deaf girl. I asked her louder and I think I've got that steel in my voice that people at the office are so scared of ;) She finally responded that she will let me pass her when it's safe. Fortunately the man before us decided to let us pass him, so she had no choice than to step off the trail too. I also passed "the girl with blue stripes on the pants" (told her "see you on the uphill") and she was very nice. While sprinting downhill I suddenly twisted my ankle pretty bad. I do that sometimes, and it is usually my left one (that's why I tape it). I felt a lot of pain, but I think I was stupid and competitive enough at this point to not even slow down. I just kept sprinting on a hurting leg. Only one uphill left and I was not going to let "the bitch" pass me. She seemed to be a stronger uphiller, but I didn't care. It was the last climb to the top of mt Constitution. I pushed it really hard. I used everything left in my hips. I kept eating gels, drinking and breathing hard, but then I've seen that both "the girl with the blue stripes" and "the bitch" were farther and farther behind. They were tired too.

I reached the top of the Mt Constitution, didn't eat anything, didn't touch my drop bag, just got enough water to finish this mostly downhill stretch between mile 26 and mile 32, and kept going.

The downhill was good, I just let the gravity to do the thing. My only thought was "don't do anything stupid like twisting your ankle again, eat, drink and just finish this". There was a 1-2 mile rolling stretch at the end of the course and I really wasn't looking forward to it. But these were the last miles between me and finish line, so I just kept going.

Finally I've seen the parking lot, the people, the last stupid uphill, then the finish line, Kolya and Max. I was all smiling and happy, but then I've seen the big electronic watch that showed 6:29:55! I yelled something like "AAAAA!!!" and sprinted to the finish. I made it in 6:29:57! :) 30 minutes faster than last year on a harder course! Apparently I was only 2 minutes behind Max that is kinda cool :) Kolya finished in 7 hours flat that is  pretty awesome for such a hard course (Max's time was 6 hours flat last year, that makes me think that this years course is 30 minutes slower than last years one!).

Then was the best post race party ever with 4 kegs of the tastiest beer from Island Hoppin' Brewery and amazing band "The Pine Hearts"! We drank, and talked to people (including The Pine Hearts mandolin guy, Tia, Glen and others), and danced till 11pm! Then the band said they can't keep going, they are too tired :)

We stayed overnight in Outlook Inn in a great suite with ocean view and fireplace, next day had awesome breakfast at Mia's cafe (and met the guy who apparently won the race and sold me Hokas few months ago at The Balanced Athlete, but we didn't know he is the same person, so did not congratulate him!), drove to the top of Mt Constitution so I finally had a chance to get to the top of the tower (the view wasn't that good as a day before though :(), got back to the Island Hoppin' Brewery and had our midday IPA, caught the 2pm ferry to the mainland, went to La Conner and watched first two quarters of Super Bowl (I think I'm starting to understand what all these fat men are doing there with this little funny looking ball) before the stadium power went off, and then drove back to Newcastle on crazy empty roads (it is actually a good thing about american football and the Super Bowl, no traffic!).

I think so far Orcas Island 50k 2013 is the best running event I've ever been to. I was not that excited about finishing this race as I was when finished my first road marathon, or when finished White River 50m within Western States qualifying time, but it was just such an awesome weekend! I am happy with my result, and I am very proud of Kolya, who finished his first ultra on that super tough course in 7 hours flat!

I think I've done everything right while preparing for the race and during the race except for three things:

1. Vespa - if I keep this reaction on it, I will have to donate it somewhere. I had to make two restroom stops, that's a lot for the 50k.
2. I would want to tape both of my feet next time, the left one was good (before the sprain), but the right one was hurting. If I'd trust the podiatrist I've seen several months ago regarding foot problem, I have this kind of bones structure in my feet that I will always have this kind of problems with both of them.
3, The weather was really awesome and the view on the top was great, but I look awful on Glen's pictures. I need to think how to fix this in future.

Every time I race I get new experience and this is really good. Finishing 12 out of 70 women feels good too :)

Orcas Island 50k track from Ambit as usual shows few miles less, elevation is pretty close to the right one.