Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rockin' K Marathon - AKA "Training? What training?"

HARK! A race report!

I haven't had the inspiration to write in awhile. I'm not sure I necessarily have the inspiration to write now either, but something needs to change. Maybe a little bit of word-smithing will help.

First, though...a reader's digest summary of a bunch of races I might have written reports for but, due to the aforementioned lack of mojo, didn't.

North Face 50K: 5:53:25...stole the head-to-head
50K LWR from Chris! Hilly and hard.

Bandera 100K: 16:33:57. Freezing rain, mud, ankle problems, asshole cacti.
First loop sucked, second loop improved, but still limped into finish.
Qualified for Western States lottery. Yay.

WyCo "Ice" 5k: Brought Farley, both shoes came untied, stuff hurt.

Pi Day Half: trail half PR, felt great.
Celebrated by getting sick and then not training ever again.
So what's going on now?

I didn't quite realize it until this weekend, but I'm out of shape and in a rut. My training so far this year has been pretty hit and miss. I could list several contributing factors as to why this is the case, but they're simply excuses, and excuses don't help me break 12 hours in Ironman Canada. I'm simply not making the effort. I'm not being consistent.

It is April, and I'm basically in the same shape I was in January.

And I just got absolutely humiliated at the hands of my new favorite race...the Rockin' K trail marathon.
Subtle course marking
The plan for this year was pretty typical. Begin building my cycling and swimming base in January, add in running speedwork in February, start to build mileage through March, PR attempt at Rock the Parkway, progress from there. I even added in some strength training for good measure.

At some point the train derailed completely. I signed up for a highly recommended race that was to take place a week before Rock the Parkway, so that PR attempt was off the table. I instead signed up for the Pi Day River Rotation trail half. I set a new trail half PR at 1:41, which might actually be my 2nd or 3rd fastest half marathon ever(including paved). Speedwork was going really well until St. Patrick's Day, on which I allowed myself to miss the Runner's Edge speed session to spend in green drunken revelry. The next week I was sick. The week after that involved an unexpected but necessary day trip to Omaha. Suddenly three weeks had passed and I'm not sure if I ran more than a couple times in that period. 

Oh I had a solid half marathon, but that's about the extent of my training for Rockin' K. I showed up with not much in the way of expectations and no knowledge of this race except for the fact that lots of people I know really really like it. 

Weather was expected to be approximately perfect...and it was. Early lows in the 30's and getting no warmer than 70 degrees. Maybe some stiff wind in the afternoon, but I'd totally be done by then. Totally. Right? RIGHT?

I based my expectations loosely off of the men's course record, which was around 3:30. To me, a 4:30 to 5:00 finish seemed reasonable.

6 hours and 10 minutes later, when I limped across the finish line, it seemed somewhat less reasonable than I had originally postulated.

So what happened? I'll tell you.

"You can train stupid or you can race stupid...but you can't do both." 

Well, I knew that. But having no plan, questionable expectations, and really nothing to lose...that can cause some interesting things to happen. Sometimes really good, sometimes really bad...but always interesting.

I started off faster than I would have if I actually intended to race intelligently. But I was feeling pretty good, so I went with it. I was probably in the top 5-10 runners doing the marathon for quite awhile. I yo-yo'd a few times with a small group that included the eventual female marathon winner(who ended up finishing with the time I thought I would have). It was a gorgeous morning on fantastic trails surrounded by hauntingly beautiful terrain. I immediately knew why everybody loved this race. One second you're running across barren prairie, the next you've dropped down into a lush creek bed, surrounded by cool rock formations, then you're mobbing up an enormous hill that is borderline hands-and-knees-scrambling steep. And the views made it hard to keep your eyes on the trail.

Flying high in the early miles of Rockin' K!

<Author takes a several week break from writing to get his ass back to training>

Sweet! I caught the bug again! Had a pretty rough speed workout the Tuesday after this race, then a pretty successful Rock the Parkway, casual style in 1:52. Started hitting the pool and riding the trainer again! I'm back to tracking my calories and I'm starting to slowly shed my 5-10 extra pounds.

So...where was I? Oh yeah...smack in the middle of a race report. 

I was running really well for how little I had trained. As I said before, I was keeping up with some pretty fast folks and feeling pretty good! The course was breathtaking, in both the figurative and literal sense. The female winner slowly dropped me, but I was holding my own against the other members of my original group. Occasional backward glances showed I was in no danger of being passed any time soon.

I hit the staffed aid station at roughly the halfway point and in just over 2 hours. I got a refill and some snacks and then headed out for what they described as the most challenging, but most beautiful portion of the course...a 5 mile loop which would lead me right back to the same aid station, and then a mostly flat(psshhh) and fast(PSSSHHHHH) final 8 miles to the finish.

Mobbing up a huge hill!

Another obligatory aerial shot.
They weren't kidding...the terrain got harder and the views were amazing. I was starting to drop my pace a bit, but it was to be expected since the hills were so big and steep. Two guys who I had dropped earlier caught and passed me. Another dude I had never seen before passed me. For a mile or so, I was hot on his heels, but he eventually began to pull away. After a road crossing, there was a long stretch along a fence line on uneven grassy prairie. Another gal caught me and passed me, as I realized my legs, and particularly my ankle, were starting to complain quite a bit. The unevenness of the running surface was causing me issues with stability and my ankle was beginning to fade.

The girl caught up to the guy ahead of me and on a small hill they both stopped for a photo op. I suppose they knew each other? As I caught up to them, I realized that neither of them had a camera. What they DID each have were looks of worry and concern on their faces. The girl said, "I haven't seen a trail marker for quite a while."


The guy scouted up ahead and I began to backtrack. Nothing. As I saw other runners who had followed us down the path to oblivion, I waved at them to turn around. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails quite like uncertainty. I slogged back across the prairie and eventually saw where the trail markers indicated a turn right after the road crossing. I was back on course, but I had seriously lost whatever head of steam I had left. I really began to take stock of myself and how badly everything hurt. I began walking stretches that were unnecessary to walk. My ankle was causing alterations in my running form because it couldn't handle the punishment from the uneven ground.

After a water crossing and looping around a small hill, the trail went by a natural beaver-built dam. It was so cool to look at and was surrounded by chewed off tree stumps. I remarked to the guy behind me how cool it was. As the trail turned, I saw the water crossing we had just done straight ahead, and Eric V. coming straight towards me. Something about that Out loud, I cursed that I had taken us in a circle somehow. We backtracked briefly and then I realized that while I was marveling at the beaver dam, I failed to notice that the trail markers took us ACROSS the damn thing.

Dam. Damn.

Oh well...a short time after that, Eric V did catch up to me. I was really well into a full-blown race meltdown, but having a familiar face to run with helped a bit. I led him and the 3rd guy astray one final time, missing the course markers and wandering off in the wrong direction. I really shouldn't lead, I guess. We corrected our my mistake and after getting back on course, he dropped me pretty quickly. I hobble-ran the rest of the way to the aid station where Terri and JaneĆ© were hanging out giving love and water refills. They filled my pack and fetched my drop bag while I sat down. I announced that I was in no rush whatsoever and intended to take my time and eat(I was starving at that point). I ate my PBJ and a Honey Stinger waffle as well as some other munchies. My legs were toast, ankles shot, and I had added over a mile of bonus mileage to my race, with roughly 8 left to go.

The terrain would "supposedly" get easier from here on out, but in my condition, I mostly knew it would not. More and more people began to pass me, including several first-time 50 milers like Ann and Sharah. They looked like they were crushing...almost as if they had put thought into their race plan and were executing it intelligently.

The remainder of my race consisted mostly of pathetic hobbling, with sporadic stretches of pathetic unsteady "running" that wasn't actually any faster than hobbling. More people passed me, including Viking Warrior Princess Sophia. I was about 10 minutes too slow for Rick Mayo to snap photos of me doing one of the waist deep water crossings, but he caught me as he was hiking up the trail.

Danny pretends like he's running because Camera
The last few miles seemed to take forever. My watch was already well over 26 miles because of my bonus mileage, but it turns out the course was a bit on the long side anyways. I hiked and hiked and finally saw where the trail met the road which would lead us back to the finish line. Once on pavement, I was able to kinda sorta jog on the smooth surface, but the aforementioned toasted legs didn't make it that impressive of a jog. I was absolutely done for.

I finished my first trail marathon in 6:10:11. It is by far my slowest marathon, including all three Ironman run splits.

I am not proud, but I am not ashamed. I immediately felt regret for having let myself get into such poor shape, but then settled on the fact that I simply hadn't trained adequately and severely underestimated the difficulty of this race.

But you can bet your sweet ass I want some damned redemption! I will be back...hopefully next year...fully trained, fully prepared, and I will dominate this race.

You have my word... and my word is sometimes worth a shit.

Moving forward, season is beginning to take shape. I've been training more regularly as I mentioned earlier. I recovered well from Rockin' K, took Rock the Parkway easy, and I have a date with the Free State trail half marathon this weekend. I was originally slated to pace Brandy H. for the 2nd loop of her first 100K, but since she's sadly injured, I decided since I traded weekends to be there, I might as well run and volunteer. After I finish the half marathon, I'll take over as the main aid station captain for the rest of the day!

Three weeks after Free State, I'll be racing the Perry Lake trail half marathon, in which I am once again hoping for a podium finish. That will really all depend on who registers. If Ben Holmes, Rikki Hacker, and David Wakefield all do the half, that's out the window completely. If I ever want to compete with those guys, I'll have to be completely on another level as an athlete.

Maybe this fall?

Aside from that, in early June I'm planning on racing the Legends 100 triathlon, which replaced Ironman Kansas 70.3 when it was discontinued. I'm also planning on doing the KC Corporate Challenge Duathlon (run, bike, run) and the Perry Night Half Marathon. Then I've got this little Ironman thing up in Canada in late July, but that's a topic for a later post.

For now though, I'm hoping to keep up the current training momentum I've got going.

Be well, everyone.