Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Katy Trail 100K

This race was something I stumbled upon looking for a long race to prepare for Heartland 100. It was the same day as The Hawk, which made me sad, but it was much more geared towards my goals. I did NOT need 50 miles of White Trail Nightmare. I DID need 50-60 miles of gravel grinding. My distance options were 50K, 50M, or 100K. The 100K had a cool belt buckle, so the decision was made.

Coming into this weekend, I had a bit of left knee pain, which I rested and had worked on by good ol' Dr. Wisner. I was pretty confident in my training and in my plan to cut my race short and take the DNF if the knee caused any sharp, persistent pain or caused me to alter my stride in any way. Limping for 62 miles would cause more trouble than it's worth.

The Plan

The race plan was simple, I intended to start out at an easy 12 min/mile pace and expected to gradually slow down, eventually finishing between 13 and 14 hours with a 13-14 min/mile average pace. Nutrition plan was to alternate Huma gels and orange wedges every 30 mins, 2 S-caps every half hour, and grab fruit and salty stuff at aid stations as needed. I also had some ginger beer in my drop bags which I could get to at mile 17, 33, and 47. I brought a fresh shirt and pair of socks for the halfway mark. My ice bandana and sun sleeves were packed in my hydration vest pockets for use when the sun came out and it started to warm up.
Obligatory pre-race gear layout because duh
I mentally divided the race up into 4 stretches. The first 10-15 miles would be run conservatively with forced walk breaks to keep me from going out too fast. After the first turnaround in Bernheimer, I expected the toughest stretch to be mile 17-33 as the day warmed up and I had to settle in and start grinding. I planned to get out the headphones to carry me through 33-47, and then my pacer, Delaware, would meet me at mile 47 for the last 15 miles of my day.

What Actually Happened

Effectively, my result was exactly as I planned, though I accomplished it in a way I did not expect. As planned, my first 10 miles were pinned exactly at 12  min/mile. This did put me at the very back of the pack of 17 runners, which bothered me some, but I also knew I was going to run MY race regardless of what anyone else did. I cruised alongside the 2nd to last place runner for a while, but even she eventually dropped me, putting me ahead of only one other runner. My only complaint with this stretch was that my stomach felt mildly upset the entire time. The oranges went down really well, but the Huma gels did not. I have been noticing this more and more, sadly. I really love the idea of Huma gels, but they are becoming less and less palatable, and I'm noticing that more often than not, they are gut bombs that leave me painfully gassy and make eating in general unpleasant.  Two hours and two gels into my day, I abandoned them completely, switching to oranges every 30 minutes and supplementing with aid station fruit(grapes mostly). The ginger beers and Tums in my drop bags resolved my tummy issues and I was fine the rest of the day.

At the turnaround, I wasn't particularly efficient with my time, and the aid station workers fumbled and struggled opening, filling, and closing my hydration pack, so I basically ended up doing a lot of that work myself, losing a decent chunk of time. BUT, they were super friendly and were doing their best. I need to look into new hydration bladders that aren't a pain in the ass to open and close. Any recommendations?
The thumbs are lies.
 As expected, the 2nd stretch back to where we started was mentally the most challenging. The sun was up, and all the exposed sections of the Katy Trail made themselves known, having been cool and dark my first time through them. I busted out the ice bandana and sun sleeves, keeping them both full of ice for the remainder of the day. My target pace for this stretch was 12:30-13:00 min/mile, and I did a decent job of maintaining that, but my legs were starting to feel the miles. The left knee maintained a dull ache pretty consistently up to this point, but nothing worth stopping over. I was looking forward to the Spotify playlist I had downloaded to my phone for the next stretch, hoping to average 13:00-13:30 for the next 15 miles.

My stop at the start/finish area was once again, fairly inefficient. I refilled everything that needed refilling, drank my ginger beer, and changed my shirt(a new Lululemon tee that the Leawood store manager gave me for free after my 6 hour fatass at #fakeseawheeze2019). I got out my phone, texted an update to Delaware, hit play on the tunes, and headed back out.

The music was an immediate relief from the drudgery of the past 15 miles. I felt mentally light and was distracted enough that I was moving well. At some point during my first mile, I glanced at my watch for a pace check and HOLY SHIT I was dropping an effortless 10:30 min/mile.

Um...ok. I can work with this. I was past 50K and conservation wasn't really a priority. Besides, isn't this why we Don't Go Out Like An Asshole? It's so we can Come Back In Like An Asshole...or something? So yeah...I decided to go with it. Not wanting to be a complete asshole, I decided to shoot for 11:00-11:30 min/mile and just see where that got me, for as long as it lasted.

It lasted for the majority of the next 15 miles, and I started PASSING FOLKS! All that self-doubt and worry of the first 17 miles spent at the back of the pack drifted away in the most satisfying way. Checking on the people I was passing, I'd ask how they were doing and if they needed anything. Mostly they just said they had gone out too fast and were suffering.  A few words of encouragement and a fist bump, and I was on my way, leaving them in the dust. It felt absolutely bonkers amazing to be settling into my best running of the day AFTER THE 50K mark...well past my longest run of the year. And to be fair, the Katy Trail is flatter than pancake flat. But it still felt nice.

Delaware just barely missed me at the last aid station before the turnaround, so he met me at one of the many places where the Katy crosses the highway, joining me less than a mile before the Bernheimer turnaround. I was still cruising pretty well as I put away the music and prepared to be entertained and slave-driven by one of my best friends.

The final turnaround was once again a little funky and inefficient. They struggled with the hydration bladder again, and I forgot to refill my salt caps for the last 15 miles(it was ok, I was able to get some from an aid station to carry me to the end). The rest of the aid station stops went pretty well. Overall, the volunteers were all fantastic...enthusiastic, good-spirited, and extremely helpful. Meghan, the race director was super as well, bouncing around the various aid stations, helping out, and encouraging the runners.

My pace stayed rock solid with Delaware up until the last 6 or 7 miles, when my left calf began to really tighten up and start to hurt. This is the same calf that has been my Problem Area for the past 3 years, requiring constant maintenance ART by Dr. Wisner, so it's really no surprise that it was the first thing to go as I approached the end of my day. I'm just glad it lasted this long.

As the calf got worse, I alternated stretches where power-hiking was legitimately faster than running. Delaware kept me on task, limiting my hiking stretches to 5 minutes apiece before making me try running again. Sometimes, things would feel loose enough that running was economical, and we'd stick with it for a mile or so. Sometimes, the calf was bad enough and running was painful enough to alter my stride and we'd settle back into hiking. He also kept an eye on the horizon for runners to pass. He'd spot somebody up ahead and we'd agree they needed to be behind us, so that provided some good motivation for several unlikely stretches of good running.
Millie waits to greet us at an aid station
Pinkies up for ...buckles?
The last few miles were pretty ugly, involving very little running, and even my power-hike was beginning to suffer. With less than a mile to go, we spotted a group of 3 guys ahead of us on the trail, walking pretty slowly. Delaware convinced me we could pass them, and thinking that if even a couple of them were 100K runners, I might have a chance at a podium. Starting from 2nd to last at the 50K mark, I had passed 10 people...more than half of the field...and since I hadn't really paid attention to the front runners, it seemed a stretch, but not impossible. So the last mile, I sucked it up and ran the rest of the way. We passed them with maybe a quarter mile to go, but they turned out to be 50 milers and a pacer. Oh well...might as well bring it in strong.
But don't bother LOOKING strong. Look like a jackass instead.

One of these things is not like the other.
I finished in 13:42:11, with an average pace of 13:09 min/mile, just about exactly what I planned. And I am so pleased with this effort. My calf felt utterly destroyed though. Walking that evening, and especially the following few days, was a serious challenge and I had real concerns that maybe I was injured and that Heartland 100 was gonna be a bust. Additionally, my left shinbone was swollen in a way that I've never experienced before, so my brain immediately self-diagnosed it as The Dreaded Shin Splints and my racing season was over. That got me into some pretty dark places in my head, but some words of encouragement from Leia and an official "Everything Is Fine" from Dr. Wisner on Tuesday really put my mind at ease. The calf is still tight, but I can walk normally and I'm told everything should feel back to normal by the weekend. I'm enjoying an easy, worry-free week and looking forward to spending the weekend in Colorado with my lovely wife for our anniversary!

Laughing like a damned idiot

First buckle in over 4 years!

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Danny. You continue to amaze me. So proud of you, you crazy dude.