Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Austin Rattler 100K Run

I signed up for Austin Rattler early on in the year without much intention to train any differently in terms of targeting that particular distance. In fact I have not trained specifically for anything since college outdoor track in the spring of 2012. Leadville is perpetually a goal for the end of the summer, but I basically run as much as free time will permit regardless of whether there is a race on the horizon or not. After so many years of structured training throughout high school and college I was ready to relax and just run for the pure enjoyment of the activity. My mentality was that the further I could run the better and that pace, taper, and workouts were immaterial in a hundred mile race. I still believe that this is true to a certain extent, however, I believe that if I ever want to improve my time, I must regain my collegiate running frame of mind.

With that said I was inspired to become a bit more organized after my girlfriend Apryle’s success in the Nueces 50 miler. Apryle had done a few marathons, but never an ultra, but back in October after my Cactus Rose race she started entertaining the idea of training for a 50 mile race. She built up slowly and by early February she was running in the mid-twenties for her long runs. Although she was a great athlete prior, her improvement in endurance running was nothing short of amazing. She stuck to a rigorous schedule and meticulously plugged away at her training plan and it paid off in the end with a sub 13 hour effort on a challenging course.

Around the time of her race we were comparing training styles and ideas for training. Our methods of attaining the same goal varied drastically. I have only two guidelines in my training, run no less than ten per day during the week and run long on the weekends. These guidelines typically keep my mileage at a comfortable range while I deal with the stresses of PT school. Conversely, Apryle has her days mileage planned out well in advanced and prepares each day accordingly. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods but ultimately I think organized training elicits more desirable results. Not really much of a surprise there; when I did workouts, tempos, fartleks, ect. I ran a 2:39 marathon and when I just ran easy miles I did a 3:10.

With that said after Apryle’s 50 miler I tackled my training with more of a purpose. I did progression runs starting in the low seven minute mile range finishing in the high five minute mile range. I pre-planned my mileage each day, incorporated a 28 mile long run to prepare my legs for the hours of pounding I would experience. I even added a two week taper, even though I am traditionally not a fan of the taper prior to a race. I still am not completely sold on the taper idea considering that I ran one of my fastest 10K’s (32:22) of my life on the most intense and highest mileage week of practice during college. However, the Austin Rattler contributed a bit more anecdotal evidence validating the taper.

It is hard to say whether my quickened paces, longer duration long runs, or taper was the key to my drastic time cuts during the Austin Rattler or whether it was due to the fact that it was a flat course. At any rate it was solid day and I am recovering quite well. It was dark and a little chilly as the race got underway; I settled into a comfortable 8 minute mile pace, which is where I stayed for much of the first 31 miles. I consider myself a weak “night time” runner but I also tend to get sucked into a quick pace early on. Luckily the race took off pretty pedestrian so I was able to conserve energy. As soon as the trail illuminated, I was able to begin increasing the pace. This resulted in a negative split for my second 15.53; 2:06:36 down to a 2:04:18. It was great to have such a warm reception from the Lifetime Fitness race crew and even reports on my lap splits throughout the race.

Entering the third loop I knew it would be unlikely that I could hold onto that low eight minute pace without any real incentive to hold up the pace. I also felt that I would have been better suited to a 50 mile distance based on my lower mileage leading up to the race. At any rate, I estimated that I lowered my 50 mile personal record to around about 7:15 within the race. My third lap was an unimpressive 2:19:31; but I was feeling pretty good and was able to slow down and take in the beauty of the countryside. It is difficult to find anything to compare to the beauty of tramping around the Front range of Colorado, and I am not going to say that Texas comes anywhere close to matching it, but Texas does have some stunning hidden gems (most notably Big Bend NP, North Padre Seashore, and Hill Country SNA). Rockhill Ranch also finds its way onto the aforementioned list as the course wound through seas of blooming Blue Bonnets and stands of skyscraping Loblolly Pines. Although it felt a bit like ground hogs day entering the fourth lap; I really did enjoy the course and the scenery.

My forth lap was a painfully slow 2:47:21 as my gastrocnemius and Soleus went into spasm any time I excessively plantar flexed to ascend a small hill. Additionally, my semimembranosus, exclusively chose to spasm, while the other two muscles of the hamstring appeared to function without a hitch. These ailments, along with the increasing heat continued to create challenges for me as I trudged through the final 15.53. I kept up drinking copious amounts of water but discontinued food consumption with about 11 miles to go, thinking that I would have enough glycogen stores to get me through the rest of the race. However, with about a mile and half to go I became dizzy and lightheaded and squeezed down another energy gel. Either the glycemic index of those things is so high it works instantaneously or the placebo effect kicked and I was feeling great. Regardless of which, I finished out the race strong and came across the line with a smile on my face.

I finished out the race with a time of 9:17:47 and an overall pace of 8:59. I was very happy with the time considering that my “A” goal was to break 9:18 or keep around a 9 minute mile pace. However, after allowing myself time to reflect I feel that I should have been able to run about 8:45 if I had stayed a bit sharper, disciplined, and diligent with my race diet and hydration. This has been my thought process for the past 8 years of competing though. I believe it is what keeps me motivated and striving for that next goal. With no races on the calendar currently, I suppose that goal is simply to survive school to my first clinical rotations.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2011 Trip out West PART 3

As the pancakes were being digested, we traveled to the Monterey Peninsula and visited Pebble Beach. We were able to check out the Pebble Beach golf links, which is held as one of the most pristine golf courses in the world. I was also able to get in some sea level training to the tune of 10.65 miles in about 6 minute mile pace. We concluded our trip to Pebble Beach with a walk along the coast and one last dip in the Pacific Ocean. Our hosts in Novato were kind enough to allow us to stay with them two more nights as we finished up our trip, so we headed back toward the city by the bay. Upon arrival, we headed out to eat and as Bowers so eloquently stated, our ears were delighted by some live music. We were able to get a table right next to the band (the basest sat his drink on our table). The band was Fat Opie and they put on a great show with some excellent original songs.

August 16th marked the last day of our trip out west, we awoke to clean out two weeks of debris from our rental car. The compact Nissan Versa became our home for the trip, we slept in it, ate in it, and pushed it to the limit, covering over 3900 miles. After the car looked like new, Craig took it back to the rental place at the airport while Bowers and I strolled the Presidio to the point one last time. We all walked to Fort Mason and I ran another 10.25 miles trying to explore as much of the city as I could. On our way to the Bay Area Rapid Transit we walked to Pioneer Park (Coit Tower), China Town, Triangle Tower, and Lombard Street. We hopped on the red-eye flight back to Cleveland and reflected on our amazing journey. It was difficult for me to come down from such a high point in my life, something that I had wanted to experience for so many years. However, cross country camp started a few days later and helped me readjust my mind state quickly.


August 2nd 1.5 13:34 in San Francisco (Up Hyde Street and around Golden Gate Park) 8.05 1:00:00 in Novato 9.55 miles

August 3rd 4.78 44:25 around Muir Woods 5.69 46:35 out and back on Golden Gate Bridge 7.70 1:04:47 up Mount Tamaulipas 18.17 miles

August 4th 7.01 56:39 along the coast of Pacific Ocean near Glass Beach 7.01 miles

August 5th 7.50 Redwood NP (Trillium Falls, Redwood Creek, Tall Trees Grove and Fern Canyon) 5.50 44:07 in Cresant City beach 13.00 miles

August 6th 3.00 up and down Upper Table Rock 7.60 1:03:37 in Crater Lake NP (up and down Garfield Peak) 10.60 miles

August 7th 5.00 up and down Mount Scott 2.00 out and back to Plainki Falls 2.20 out and back to Cleetwood Cove 1.00 in Burns 1.20 in Meredian 5.02 38:15 in Boise (along Boise River Green Belt) 16.42 miles

August 8th 10.85 1:22:46 out and back to Heavens Gate Lookout in Hells Canyon 10.85 miles

August 9th 10.20 1:30:06 out and back up Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City 10.20 miles

August 10th 11.21 1:31:06 out and back up Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City 1.40 out and back up Rattle Snake Gulch 12.61 miles

August 11th 18.23 2:31:44 along the south shore of Lake Tahoe 3.18 26:39 near Truckee Marsh 21.41 miles

August 12th 10.01 1:21:46 from Emerald Bay to Rubicon Bay and back 2.00 hiking near Emerald Bay 12.01 miles

August 13th 15.80 Yosemite NP (from Glacier Point to valley, Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, valley to Glacier Point) 15.80 miles

August 14th 5.01 38:59 in Mammoth Lakes 7.60 up and down Upper Yosemite Falls 3.56 28:11 in Yosemite Valley 3.00 hike Mariposa Grove 3.01 24:56 Mariposa Grove 22.18 miles

August 15th 10.65 1:04:47 in Pebble Beach 10.65 miles

August 16th 10.25 1:22:27 in San Francisco 10.25 miles

August 17th 8.74 56:04 back in Tiffin 8.74 miles


Sunday, January 12, 2014

2011 Trip out West PART 2

After some debate over the destination of the next leg of our journey we landed on Hells Canyon in the northern panhandle on August 8th. Hells Canyon is actually the deepest canyon in North America at an impressive 2.4 kilometers deep. This was a surprising fact we learned upon arrival. Due to time constraints we had to prioritize our activities so decided to run up Squaw Creek Road to the Heavens Gate Overlook. We parked the car at the bottom and trudged our way up the mountain side, after arriving at the top Craig, Bowers and I agreed that I should run back down and drive the car to the top. This added a solid six more miles to my day and gave them a breather. The views from the top were breathtaking, including the winding Snake River, the pervasive Seven Devels Mountain Range to the east, three states and about five national forests. The lookout also serves as a wildfire lookout spot and due to its elevation (8429 feet) is prone to frequent lightning storms. After a long day of driving and running we took some time to walk around downtown Boise and of course much to Craig’s delight check out the famous blue turf football field.

We changed states once again on August 9th as we entered northern Utah. Isolation was the theme of this morning drive, surrounded by an all-encompassing desert. In the middle of nothingness, however, we paid homage to a large piece of American history in the form of a railroad. It was quite an experience to set foot on the very spot where the gold spike was hammered uniting the Union and Central Pacific Railroads on May 10th 1869. After the history lesson, we made our way down to Salt Lake City to meet up with our next couch surfing family. They gave us suggestions on where to go for a run; Millcreek Canyon where we put in a quick ten in the Wasatch Range. Then we enjoyed a great dinner, great conversation and reflection on where our trip had taken us thus far.

August 10th included another eleven-mile run up Millcreek Canyon, but also a hike up Rattle Snake Gulch where we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and lake below. In the afternoon we wandered around the city and of course stopped to observe the Mormon Temple. On our way out of the city we were distracted by several side attractions, one of which included wading out into the Great Salt Lake which was pleasantly warm but teaming with Brine Flies and Shrimp. The other was Antelope Island, which was quite a sidetrack but worth it after Bowers and I spotted our purpose for going to the island, a bison.

Once again we stopped into Dennis’s for all you can eat pancakes in which Craig, Bowers and I each consumed eight. Then we hit the road to traverse the Utah and Nevada deserts on our way to Lake Tahoe. All the while, we attempted to “dance off our pancakes” in the car. We arrived in Carson City Nevada very early the next morning much to the dismay of our couch surfing host. As a result of our late night of driving we slept in on August 11th, before traveling to Lake Tahoe. Upon arrival we avoided all the cheap attractions and visited a history museum to get our chronological bearings of the area. Then Bowers took off on a 77 mile ride around the lake, while Craig and I began a long run. We started in Emerald Bay and after some miles on the road I veered off onto a trail that took me to Cascade Falls and Lake. I headed back to Baldwin Beach and Craig and I went for about a 500 meter swim in the mild Tahoe waters. Then while Bowers and Craig enjoyed some all you can eat Chinese food I went for a three mile run around the Upper Truckee Marsh, giving me a solid 21 miles on the day in my attempt to compete with Bowers’ impressive ride.
On August 12th, we arrived early and Bowers and Craig did some hiking while I ran a quick ten-mile out and back from Emerald Bay to Rubicon Bay. After the run I attempted to catch up with Bowers and Craig by hiking down next to a waterfall to the castle near Emerald Bay. After refueling we headed toward the Sierra Nevada’s and Yosemite National Park. We stopped at several roadside vistas, most notably the Lake Mono overlook. Then we went up Tioga Pass into the National Park, and did a sunset hike through the Tuolumne Meadows. Just off the beaten path this was an amazing wilderness with countless Mule Deer and upland meadow flora. It would have been a miserable and sleepless night in the car but Craig manned up and drove through the night to Glacier Point where we caught the sunrise over Half Dome on August 13th.

After catching a glimpse of the first Black Bear I had ever seen we descended the 4.6 mile trail down into Yosemite Valley. Then we explored in the valley, Lower Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Bridelveil Falls. Then we made the hike back to the top of Glacier Point. A 27 kilometer hike may not seem like it would be too difficult but our lack of any water or food for the day made the final ascent miserable. After we were satisfied with our days adventures we made the decision to get a hotel in Mammoth Lakes. We stayed at the Sierra Nevada Lodge and aided muscle recovery in the hot tub. After a restful nights sleep I awoke and ran a quick 5 miles with the snowcapped peaks as my back drop. After the run we indulged in a significant amount of food at the continental breakfast which had a spectacular patio view of the mountains.

August 14th marked our third day in Yosemite, and to celebrate the start of another day we took an ice cold plunge in the waters of Lake Tenaya. After the exhilarating swim in the mountain lake we headed back to the valley and made the 6.4 mile round trip hike to Upper Yosemite Falls, which we completed in about 2 hours 5 minutes. It was one of the more challenging ascents of my life, which included over 120 switchbacks. Once we were back in the valley my compulsive mind was convinced to run another four miles in the valley while Craig and Bowers checked out the famous Ahwahnee Lodge. After I too made a quick walk through of the lodge we headed to Mariposa Grove. I did not think I could be again impressed by trees after our exploration of the Redwood National Park, but the Giant Sequoias proved me wrong. It is impossible to capture in words how impressive these organisms are, so instead I will describe our adventure in the grove. I am a stubborn person and when I set out to complete something, I intend to finish it, which is probably why the three of us had to sprint clumsily through the grove in the pitch black without a light. We managed to visit each named tree before the sun went down, as a result we were three miles from the car as the sun set. After we made it out of the grove safely relief washed over us and we made our exodus from the park to the town of Merced where we stayed the night in a dive motel.
August 15th marked the fourth and final installment of the Dennis’s all you can eat pancake challenge. This was a momentous occasion that resulted in both triumph and misery blended to yeild 100 total pancakes between the three of us in four trips to Dennys. Craig poured his heart and soul onto the breakfast table and devoured ten pancakes, while Bowers finished with nine and I fizzled out at seven. Nonetheless, the trip total was 31 pancakes for both Bowers and myself and an impressive 38 for Craig. This was arguable the telling statistic of the trip, and that statistic is we exercised excessively and did not eat nutritiously enough to compensate for it. Either way it was an extremely memorable and entertaining part of our journey!

Monday, January 6, 2014

2011 Trip out West PART 1

Craig, Ezekiel, Myself in Tiffin
Craig & Myself in Pacific Ocean
Our 2011 trip out west was first planned back in grade school in 2002, when we wanted to take an extended road trip across country. However, the trip never came into fruition in high school like we intended. But at the start of summer 2011, the idea reemerged in the minds of Ezekiel Bowers, Craig Genet and myself and we solidified the commitment by purchasing round trip tickets to San Francisco. After this, we began planning the specifics of the trip, which included the traverse of five states over the course of two weeks.
San Francisco
San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge
So on August 1st we headed to my house in Berea, Ohio and the next morning, August 2nd, we boarded a plane at Hopkins International Airport. As soon as we arrived in San Francisco our first stop was fisherman’s Warf where we took a plunge in the bay. To dry off we sprinted to the top of Hyde Street, hopped back in the rental and wandered around Golden Gate Park. For the evening we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge into Novato to stay with our hosts.

Waking up on August 3rd we drove to Mount Tamalpais and dropped off Bowers and watched him as he disappeared into the foggy switchbacks. Then Craig and I ran some miles around Muir Woods on the lower slopes of Mount Tam and then ran out and back over the Golden Gate Bridge. Finally, after Bowers finished his second summit of Tam, I decided to run to the summit, for a total of about 18 miles on the day. After an extensive day of running and biking we wandered around San Francisco and took a plunge in the Pacific Ocean at Muir Beach.
Sea Lion
Myself & Bowers at Bodega Bay
Muir Beach
August 4th began with our departure from Novato and a meandering drive up highway 1 to the iconic Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay was the setting for the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds. Our next stop was Fort Bragg, where we began our quest for the all-you-can-eat pancake record at Denny’s. Craig mowed down nine pancakes to add to his two from Stinson Beach from the previous day, while Bowers and I both grinded out seven. Following our binge we went for a seven-mile run along the pacific front and coastal bluffs near Glass Beach. We took some time for wildlife viewing at MacKerricher State Park, and spotted several sea lions. The remainder of our voyage up highway 1 was engulfed with the sound of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. We finally called it a night and slept at a rest stop near Trinidad Beach.
Fording Redwood Creek
Myself, Craig, Ezekiel in Grizzly Creek
Trillium Falls
Gray Whale in Klamath River

After a painful night of car sleeping, August 5th was a new day in a new location. After waking we made the drive to Redwood National Park and upon arriving hiked the 2.5-mile Trillium Falls trail. The lush forest, massive redwoods and banana slugs made this one of my favorite hikes I had completed to date. After our warm up we obtained our Tall Trees permit and made the painstaking drive down the dirt road. Upon arrival, we hiked along Redwood Creek and took a quick dip in the clear waters. Then we began a series of painful fords over jagged rocks until we reached the Tall Trees Loop. After staring at the sky in awe we traveled to Elk Meadow where we caught our first glimpse of the Roosevelt Elk. Then we finished our adventure in Redwood with a trip to the impressive Fern Canyon. As I attempted to jog back to the car I was chased by a few elk and thus took a ride back to our car. While riding along with the couple we were informed that there was a Gray Whale in the Klamath River just to the north. Naturally we made our way to the bridge and took advantage of the unorthodox opportunity to see a whale in the river. We decided to get a motel in Cresant City and I went for a 5.5 mile run along the beach while Craig and Bowers grocery shopped. The night ended while we watched the sun set on the Pacific Ocean.
Bowers in Fern Canyon

Myself & Craig at Jacksonville
Oregon State Line
Sunset on the Pacific Ocean
August 6th began with a much more restful night sleep behind us and we finally made our way out of California and into Oregon. However, before we began the long drive we made our second stop at Denny’s and Criag and I consumed nine pancakes while Bowers powered through seven. En route to Crater Lake we hiked to the top of the Upper Table Rock and enjoyed beautiful views of the Rouge River Valley. Additionally, we would have been remiss to not stop at Jacksonville, a destination of the Oregon Trail. We reached our destination of Crater Lake and it remains to be the most breathtaking view I have ever witnessed. After taking in the scenery I ran 7.5 miles up and down Garfield Peak and we camped in the backcountry of the mosquito infested Cascades.
Craig & Ezekiel at Plainki Falls
On top of Mount Scott
In Crater Lake
Lower Table Rock
Plainki Falls
We awoke early on August 7th, and started the hike up Mount Scott, where we had a panoramic view of Crater Lake. After the climb we jogged the two-mile loop around Plainki Falls and then finished our 33-mile drive around the lake. We concluded our trip with a hike down Cleetwood Trail and took the plunge into Crater Lake off of the 17-foot jumping rock. After jumping into the water twice, I swam a ways out into the lake and reflected on the fact that I was swimming in the second deepest lake in North America. We hopped back in the versa and made the trek across the eastern Oregon sagebrush. After running a mile in each small town we stopped in along the way I ran five more miles along the Boise River greenbelt in Boise Idaho.
Crater Lake

Jumping in Crater Lake