Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Summer of 2014: Revenge, Recovery, Recommitment, and Revenge!

"You said "revenge" twice..."

"I like revenge."


Yes, I've already spoken at length about the sweet and delicious revenge I exacted upon my race arch-nemesis, Ironman Kansas 70.3. If you are just tuning in to this summer's mayhem and haven't heard about that one, do yourself a favor(or whatever) and CLICK HERE! 

Moving right along to...

Recovery AKA "Recovery?"

I had plans to recover from this race properly and build mileage back up in a sensible and timely manner in preparation for Ironman Boulder. I really did. Promise. 

Summer Intro Run
And to be fair, I did pretty decently. Actually...for once I think I did it right. Good for me! The following Saturday, I did the Trail Nerds Summer Intro Run, a splendid 2.8 mile race. For goofs, I decided to do it as fast as I could, and when I arrived it appeared that very few of the fast people I know  of were racing. It looked like it might come down to a race between myself, Eric Viera, and Keith Dowell (cheeky British kilt guy). Ben mentioned me in his pre-race instructions. "If you get confused, just follow Danny." Even HE seemed to think I was a top contender. 

Weird? Yeah...weird.

Anyways, the race started and the three of us bolted out to the front of the pack and led everyone onto the singletrack. Keith, Eric, and myself remained the front 3 until the trail opened up to a wide gravel road near the turnaround. Orange-shirt-guy behind me took this opportunity to immediately pass us all like we were standing still. Keith and Eric appeared to have no interest in THAT action, so I decided to go for it and try to catch him. 

It wasn't a true out-and-back course, and the return journey to the finish line was MUCH hillier, but I at least knew the course pretty well from my occasional appearances at the B.A.R. (Beer Appreciation Run). The guy in the orange shirt(you can see him in the above photo) soon disappeared from sight, but I at least thought I might be able to hang on to 2nd place if I didn't explode on the hills, and MAYBE if Orange Shirt DID explode on the hills...well...I wasn't gonna get ahead of myself. 

I fought through the hills as best I could. I walked on some of the steeper portions, though I kept a wary eye behind me to see if anybody was closing in on my 2nd place glory. I didn't see anybody. I gutted it out through the hills and finally hit the long and glorious downhill before it flattens back out to the finish. Still no sign of orange shirt. I busted into the clearing with nobody even close behind me and strode in for 2nd place, a Trail Nerds visor, and a hearty handshake from Bad Ben. 

I had run 2.8 miles in 19:27, which is a sub-7:00 pace. AT FREAKING WYCO! Didn't think I was even capable of that, much less a week after a half ironman. Orange shirt had beaten me by well over a minute. Oh well, I'm not that kinda fast. It was cool to race though. 

The following day was supposed to be the Corporate Challenge triathlon, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather. And that's a pity because based on last year's times, I thought I might have been able to finish top-10 and earn some age group points for Children's Mercy. Bummer, dude. Maybe next year?

Recommitment AKA 

"The Final Training Surge"

The following weekend was my first century ride of the year at the Tour of KC Gran Fondo. Del had signed up as well and I was looking forward to riding with him and testing my speed on a long hard day. The heat hit me pretty hard and I began falling apart around mile 50. I had a few 2nd winds, but for the most part I just got beat down. I even resorted to drafting off of Delaware for a good chunk of the 2nd half of the ride, simply because I needed to finish by a certain time in order to make it to a gig with my band later that day. Del was riding super strong, luckily. The last 10-20 miles were a real struggle, but I finished. AND I made it to the gig on time with literally minutes to spare...aaand the gig ended up being delayed about 45 minutes. Womp womp. 

Heroes For Hospice 5K

The following day, on sore and pitiful legs, I ran the Heroes For Hospice 5K, an event conceived, organized, and and executed by my dear friend Karli Ritter. You may know her from the Fox 4 morning show and from previous cameos in my blog. She's a wonderful person. With absolutely no experience race directing of any kind, she was able to get over 500 people signed up and raised well over $20,000 for local hospice organizations! 

Training continued to go well, and then I heard about Koach Karl's Hardest "Half" on the 4th of July. This consisted of a "no electronics allowed" run through the not-so-nice parts of Kansas City(Troost, Prospect, etc) which then looped back downtown to hit all the big hills in the city(WWI Memorial, Summit, Hospital Hill, etc). It had been a long time since I had *intentionally* run unplugged and I found it to be a real breath of fresh air. Letting my body dictate the pace kept me comfortable for the entire run, and I even had a good surge in the 2nd half, which I very likely had a negative split on. No way to know for sure though. It was great to run with friends for most of the day, and really great to listen to my body for once, rather than telling it what to do. 
We also got heckled by a prostitute. Hooray!

The following day, Delaware had planned a final long ride for us. I knew I needed another century ride, especially because of how poorly the first one had gone. The plan was to ride from Kansas City to Allen, KS where we would meet up with his wife Jess for a barbecue and then catch a ride home with her. The goal was not to maintain a particular pace, but simply to get the hours in the saddle. I remember one of my big failures in training for Ironman Florida was that I didn't get in enough long rides and was unable to maintain aero position for the duration of the 112 mile bike split. We got the pedals turning early and were moving before sunrise. 7 hours later, I made a left onto a gravel road and was greeted by some of the best grilled meat I've ever eaten. Delaware had to drop out around mile 85 because he was starting to experience either electrolyte imbalance, heat stroke, or possibly both. Not sure, but he was feeling dizzy, tingly, and out-of-sorts. After Wifey SAG picked him up, I continued and finished the journey solo. My overall speed wasn't impressive, but it was a big confidence booster for me that I never bonked. Add in the heat, humidity, net elevation gain, and hilly nature of this ride, and I'm super stoked with how it went!

Yet again, the VERY NEXT DAY, I ran the WyCo "Fire" 5K, an out-and-back on the Three Sisters, or more accurately, the Three Bitches: The three(actually four) big hills in the last few miles of the WyCo loop. I wasn't sure what kind of legs I'd have for this, but I ended up finishing 8th place! 
Catching some air on the Three Bitches

Up until this point, I had been tentatively planning on running the 10 miler at Psycho Psummer the following Saturday. After WyCo "Fire", I had this weird itch to do the 20 miler instead. It seemed risky, given that WyCo has a reputation for beating you up and injuring you. But it was a full 3 weeks before Ironman Boulder, and I technically have never gotten in a 20 mile run as a part of Ironman training. This stupid impulse began to make more and more sense the more I thought about it. And when I pitched the idea to my massage therapist, she thought it would be ok, and I was sold!

Revenge: Part II AKA 

"The Unexpected Race Report"

So having decided to do 20 miles as a training run instead of 10 miles as a "see how fast I can go" I got to thinking how best to approach my last long run before Boulder. I didn't think I wanted to push myself too much, and I recalled that when I last did the 20 miler in 2011, it not only destroyed me, but it also ended up being one of my worst races of all time...ever. So with that in mind, I figured a light-hearted approach might be best. I thought back to Koach Karl's Hardest Half. It really had been an absolute joy to run unplugged, especially in the midst of triathlon training, where every single thing is micromanaged and scrutinized. I decided I wanted to do Psycho Psummer completely unplugged once again. I would simply run by feel and enjoy my day, regardless of how slowly I went. I just needed the miles at this point. It's hard to know if that decision played a big part in the outcome of this race, but I have a strong feeling that it did. 

I signed up for the 20 miler at packet pickup the day before the race. Keith was working the table and offered me a beer. So for the next three hours I helped out with packets, drank beer, and exchanged race stories with the cheekiest Brit I know. While working, I had the delightful opportunity to meet Kaci Lickteig, an utterly delightful ultrarunner from Omaha, NE who delightfully won her first 50K here a few years ago. She also delightfully placed 6th at Western States this year. Did I mention that she's delightful? Seriously, maybe one of the friendliest strangers I've ever met. She reminds me a lot of my "Favorite Person On The Planet", Deanna Culbreath...who also happens to be a ridiculously friendly ultrarunner who wins long races. In the fantasyland of my mind, I'd like to see Deanna and Kaci race each other. It would be epic!

Anyways, laid back, casual, and comfortable was my mindset on race morning. My status that morning was "20 miles at WyCo. No watch. No expectations. Let's see what happens." I lined up with the rest of the 20 mile and 50K runners as Ben gave his usual pre-race speech. The horn sounded and I went to press the Start button on my non-existent watch. I laughed quietly to myself as I began running. 

First lap, working the hills
As usual, I wanted to be near the front of the pack to avoid slow conga lines and awkward passing on the rough terrain of the first few miles on the bridle trails. As a result, I needed to push the pace a bit early on, but I don't think I pushed quite hard enough to be short of breath at any point. I kept my cadence high on the hills and walked a few of the worse ones. I have a funny memory of a guy who must've scouted the topo of the course, but had clearly never actually run it. On one of the bigger hills before the first aid station, he shouted out to anyone within earshot...he probably thought he was doing us a solid by sharing his Must Know beta on the course..."Hey you guys, this is the worst hill on the course."


To be fair, it was a pretty stout hill. And on paper, maybe it was the "biggest". But anybody who has ever run at WyCo knows that nothing on the summer loop comes close to the misery, the suffering, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the humiliation of the Three Bitches.

I passed Topo Guy and never saw him again. It's too bad because he looked pretty fast. I stayed within myself up to the first aid station, staffed by Eric Viera, and to my surprise Taylor and Robert! I had met Taylor and Robert in September when I crewed and paced at The Bear 100! They had recently moved back to KC from California and I'm pretty sure they both got sweaty hugs. I grabbed some quick orange slices and got my bottle refilled and got back to it. A short stretch on the road led back to the trailhead for some of the finest singletrack in the area. I suddenly felt really good and decided that I needed to gun it, and the next several miles zipped right by on the twisting and turning Boy Scout trails. I was completely in the zone and everything flowed beautifully. 
I saw Bob Hall hanging out in his canoe taking pictures just before I hit the road and arrived at the Dam Aid Station, staffed by Moosesomething. Additionally, Mudbabe Lisa was helping out there and grabbed me some S-caps and some ice for my hat before I headed across the dam. 

My cadence was still plenty high and everything felt amazingly smooth. I upped my trail karma by picking up some empty gel wrappers on the road and deposited them in the trash can that was literally 50 yards away from where they were dropped. Some people...

I don't remember much else about my first loop aside from the fact that it was absolute bliss. It was amazing to simply not care how fast or slow I was going and just enjoy the pure, simple act of running. The Shelter 14 aid station was fantastic, staffed by Terri, Wayne, and a few others. The last aid station before the Three Bitches was covered by Janee, my pom-pom toting crew sweetheart from OT100. 

Finishing my first loop
Mile 90 takes awesome pictures!

I think I passed some people on my first tussle with the Three Bitches, but I honestly don't remember. I was just cruising and enjoying myself. I finished my first loop to loud cheers from Ben and other volunteers as I blazed across the timing mat and headed over to the aid station. I tossed my water bottle to a volunteer, chugged some coconut water from my drop bag, ate a Honey Stinger waffle, and then got a Tums from another volunteer. I was in and out in no time and headed back out for my 2nd loop! 

Obviously, my legs started to fatigue a bit as the miles piled on, but I was still moving really well. I passed a girl and guy who were running the 20 miler together. They looked like they were both suffering. The funny thing is that they had both smoked me at the WyCo "Fire" 5K a week earlier. So that was a really nice confidence booster! 

I passed a guy on the bridle trails who looked to be cramping really badly. I instructed him to ask for S-Caps when he got to the aid station coming up. Not sure, but I think he was a 20 miler. I started wondering how I was doing in the overall standings, but didn't give it too much thought. Upon arriving at the aid station, Eric Viera offered me bacon. And it was amazing. A few more orange slices, S-Caps, and a full bottle of water, and I was off. I could hear some runners gaining on me as I made my way through the singletrack. Eventually a lady caught up to me and was content to stay behind me for the time being. Another lady caught us and we all stayed together for a bit. My legs were starting to feel heavy and at some point they both passed me, and even though they were both doing the 20, I really didn't care. This wasn't about racing, it was about running. So I just ran and kept the smile on my face. 

It was definitely heating up at this point, and I kept fresh ice in my hat to stay cool. At one point I dumped some of the water in my bottle onto my head and was shocked to realize that somewhere along the line somebody had filled it with HEED instead of water. Oh I smell like sports drink. 

And sweaty mud. Yeah, people probably won't notice.

One thing I really loved about the 2nd loop was that I began passing some of the slower 10 mile runners. Seeing these people out there getting it done is so inspiring to me, and I love giving them words of encouragement and pats on the back as I go by. It's my way of paying it forward from the times that race leaders have lapped me and done the same. Approaching Shelter 14 for the 2nd time, I passed a mother and her young son and even got a high-five from the little guy! It's totally awesome seeing such young kids who already are excited about living an active lifestyle!

As I made my final trip traversing the Three Bitches, I kept wondering if I'd end up catching the 2 ladies that had passed me earlier. It didn't end up happening, but I had still had a complete blast running! I had a huge smile on my face as I approached the finish line. I had absolutely no clue how long I had been running, but I was still jubilant about a fantastic 20 miles. That alone was a huge success for me, especially in the heat, and ESPECIALLY because I got to exorcise the demons of my epic blowup here 3 years ago. 
...was a good day.

Keep in mind, the shit-eating grin I'm wearing in the previous two photos was worn without any knowledge of what I was about to discover. I was happy simply because I had enjoyed myself.

As I crossed the finish line, I saw Ben. He went over to the table, presumably to grab a finisher medal and 20 mile sticker. But he also picked something else up. A glass trophy of some sort, from what I could tell. I getting an actual award for something? 

The first word that came to mind immediately exited my mouth, rather loudly.


Incredulousness is the word I'm looking for...
Kristi Mayo of Mile 90 Photography may have captured the exact moment when my brain short-circuited at the sight of Ben about to hand me a trophy. I yelled "Bullshit" at him a couple more times in the 10 yards between the finish line and where he stood waiting to fork over the hardware. He handed it to me and said, "Congratulations! 3rd place male". I stood there dumbfounded with a stupid smile on my face. Kristi captured THAT moment too. Thanks, Kristi.

So THAT happened. And I still had no idea what my finishing time was. They later posted some results and I finally learned that I had done 20 miles at WyCo in 3:35. Which is way WAY faster than I thought I was capable of. I'm extremely curious if I would have run as well if I had worn my watch and paid attention to my pace. I suppose that's a mystery I'll never solve. The amazing thing that occurred to me is that within the span of just over a month, I was able to revisit the two worst races of my entire athletic career and easily vanquish them both in fine style. These recent results have even got my wheels turning about future possibilities and I've already started tentatively planning my fall and winter race schedule. Obviously, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'll just say that I've got some pretty crazy goals that I'd like to throw myself at once I recover from Ironman Boulder. 

When I crossed the finish line at Wyco, Ben informed me that my stellar finish was likely the result of the good karma I had earned by suggesting he install a bottle opener on the side of the Trail Nerds truck. I like that thought. But ultimately, I think I simply have hit the training sweet spot. Not too little and not too much. And I did this mostly with the help of circumstance and dumb luck. My ankle injury has kept my running mileage quite low, but I was still able to do it consistently and I still ended up getting in my long runs right when I needed to. As of today, I am in full taper mode and I have not a single complaint about the physical state of my body. 

I am swimming stronger than ever before, biking faster and longer than ever before, running really well, AND I think I've finally gotten my summer nutrition strategy nailed down. At this very moment, I'm hanging out in Silverthorne, Colorado acclimating to altitude at 9000 ft, and Ironman Boulder is 10 days away. 

I'd say I'm in a pretty good place and I can't wait to see how things shake out on race day! 

Thanks for reading!

Until then, 


No comments:

Post a Comment