Monday, December 31, 2012

Memory #4

My first 24 hour didn't go so well. 111 miles and 18:30 at the San Francisco One Day back in 2007 didn't quite leave a satisfying taste in my mouth. I knew I would run another 24 hour sometime in my life but it took until this year, and the goal of making the 2012 World 24 Hour Championship Team, to pull the trigger.

The site was the NorthCoast 24 Hour site of the United States 24 Hour National Championship in May. I had already signed up for the race figuring I wouldn't be traveling to Italy for the 100k World Championships, however, I got the late call to join the team and with the trip to NorthCoast already paid for, I made the decision to still run eventhough it only left me with 13 days of recovery time. Obviously, not ideal, but I had nothing to lose and in my mind, I was playing with house money.

I was pushed early in the race by Valmir Nunes, Serge Arbona, and David James. I just locked into an 8 minute per mile pace and just tried to run comfortable and under control. Valmir and David eventual stopped and the race Serge and I would duel it out throughout the night. The weather conditions were good. It was a little breezy during the day but the winds died down during the night time and the cool overnight temperatures stayed away.

I finished the first 100 miles in about 13:40 and I didn't have to walk my first steps until 17:30 into the race. From there I ran walked until I hit 21:50 and 151 miles. I knew at this point with a little over two hours to go that I could walk it in and finish in the lead. Serge pushed hard and made it interesting, but I was able to hold on for a 4 mile victory.

Charles Wickersham was my MVP! He made the trip with me to Cleveland and he crewed for the entire race.....taking no time to nap. Whatever I needed, he would supply. We looked like we had worked together for years. Charles kept me motivated, hydrated, and fueled for the entire race. There is no way I could have won the race without his support. Thanks Charles!

Adding a U.S. National Title to my list of accomplishments was definitely a dream come true. The mileage was good enough to qualify me for the 24 Hour team traveling to Poland for the World Championships, but I decided not to take the invitation because of a fatigued body and too much time away from work. The U.S. Men did take the Bronze medal and Mike Morton won and in the process broke Scott Jurek's 24 Hour National Record by 7 miles(172 miles). I plan to join the team traveling to the Netherlands in May for the 2013 World Championships.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Moment #5

The Modesto Marathon starts my top 5. That may be a surprise because I didn't even finish first, but it may have been my most complete race of the year. Moreover, it is my hometown race and the race in which my Teens Run Modesto runners have been training six months for to complete. All these factors supply a lot of motivation for me to run well. I feel a little pressure to run well because this is the only race I run in town, so this provides people one chance to see me run instead of just hearing about my running. I want to have a good result not just for myself, but for the kids at my school and the people in the community that follow me. Lastly, I just found out that I was going to Italy to run in the 100km World Championships for Team USA.

We had ideal race conditions. Morning temps were in the 40's and would warm to the 50's by early afternoon and the cloud cover and the absence of any wind just added to perfect conditions for fast times. As I settled into a six minute flat pace in the early miles, I kept the leaders insight......well I thought I kept them in sight but I would soon find out this to be untrue. I was nearing the half way mark of the race and just passed what I thought was first place, but after a couple of minutes, I could see a runner running back in my direction on this out and back course. My draw dropped not just because I thought I was in first place, but because if this was the leader, I was still a mile to 1.5 miles behind him.

After taking a minute or two to gain my composure, I decided to try to chase down the leader. I knew it was probably too late but I was going to go for it. I wanted to see how much I could push the pace the last twelve miles and if I hit the wall, I hit the wall. No regrets.

With the large number of half marathoners in the race, it was hard to see ahead of me. I had no idea where the leader was except my wife reporting to me he was eight minutes ahead with nine miles to go. I kept it at a good sub six minute pace and ran relaxed. I used the energy from the TRM runners and the Shadowchase Running Club members in the race. I wanted to be ready just in case the leader started to bonk. I kept trying to convince myself that there was no way he could keep up the pace. I was right. As I approached the 9th Street bridge(2 miles to go), I could see the leader running down the backside of the bridge. I was shocked! I looked at my watch to see how far I was behind and as I got the backside of the bridge, I saw that I was 2:30 behind the leader. That was a lot to make up in the last two miles, but I put the pedal down and tried to run him down. I could see myself getting closer, but I just didn't feel like I was making up enough distance. I was going to run out of road and I was right. I made the turn onto M Street and I could see him crossing the finish line. I made up 2:14 in the last two miles and with reports that he was dry heaving the last four miles, it was an impressive finish and race for the winner.

It was a 6+ minute personnel best for me in the marathon(2:33:01) I finished with a little tank and some confidence that would fuel me for the weeks to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Year in Review

It has been a crazy year! Going into 2012 I was hoping to run a time in the 15’s at the Rocky Road 100 Mile and after that……I had no idea what I was going to do. I certainly was on the downside of my career and the days of running PR’s were over…Right? Well, 13:14 at Rocky Road and the rest has been history. How do you explain going from a second alternate on the 100k Team(four weeks prior to the race) to 2nd  place finish on the team, 7th in the World, and a Team Silver? It is hard to imagine the runner I once was waaaayyyyyy back in 2011:) 

People ask me what major changes I made to bringing on such success. Well, I can narrow it down to three things.

1.) Change in diet. I went from a high carbohydrate diet, to a high protein diet.

2.) My Chiropractor Dr. Paul Forakis has taken care of my minor nagging issues before they became big issues. Because of this, I have been able to run higher mileage weeks without injury. Before this year, I had only recorded one one-hundred mile training week, and this year I have run double-digit 100 mile weeks.

3.) I gave up mountain trail running and focused on road/trail ultras that I could train for locally here in Modesto. Too often I would race in the mountains at elevation, but I couldn’t do the training to mirror the races I was running. Therefore, I would do poorly. My wife has been trying to tell me for years, but I was too stubborn to listen. Thank you Honey:)

I will use the next five days to chronicle the five biggest moments of my 2012 running year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Exclamation Mark to My Year!

A last minute change in race plans(I was going to run ATY 24 Hours December 29th.) landed me in Phoenix for the Desert Solstice 24 Hour at the Central High School all weather track. The race is called a 24 hour race, but the race was created to go any distance you want. The done rive of the two race directors Jamil and Nick Coury is to design a race for top level runners to attempt at World/National records. The race was comprised of about twenty runners with varying goals. Mine was simple. I wanted to run a fast hundred whatever that meant. I threw out the number 12:30 but running a 7:30 mile pace for 100 miles seemed mind boggling. Breaking 13 hours would have been nice.

Jamil had set me up with a place to stay while I was in town. Rich and Erin McKnight, newlyweds, and ultra runners of there own opened there house to me and took care of my every need and they were going to also double as my crew. This was going to be a tough task because I'm a high maintenance runner:) After a medium steak and baked potato dinner and a good night sleep, I was ready to go and off to the Central High School track and the start of the race. A cup of coffee and two Vespas would fuel me prior to the race.

I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't a little intimidated by the field in the race. David James, Ian Sharman, Michael Arnstein....just to name few, were runners I looked up to and followed in the sport. BUT I knew what race strategy worked for me, so I planned to stick to it and where the chips fell, they fell.

The race called for some showers off and on throughout the day and that became the biggest understatement of the day! The gun went off right at 8 am local time and the runners began to make there way around the hamster wheel. We would start the race running counter clockwise, and we would change directions on the track every four hours. That is exactly how I planned to break up the race, three separate four hour races. The first four hours would be a warm up. I would concentrate on running a comfortable pace and working on calorie consumption and staying hydrated.

In the first hour David James and Ian Sharman lapped me three times. They're sights were set for sub 12 and a World Record! I didn't even entertain the thought of running with them. I got a chance to talk to Ian before the race and he wanted to aIso run a fast 100, then jog the rest of the 24 Hour. He would reconsider this strategy later in the race. I had my strategy and was sticking to it. As my wife had said the night before,"Run your race like you did in Italy." She was so right. By the second hour, I had gone from 7:30 pace to a consistent 7:15. It felt comfortable. By the end of the second hour, Ian and James had at least five laps on me, however you could see David slowing and soon he would drop. It wasn't his day, but it didn't stop him from providing motivational support throughout the entire race. He is a class act.

We hit the four mark and the first turnaround without much drama. At this point Ian was 8 laps up on me, but I was now running a solid 7:10 pace and feeling good. The stomach was also strong. I was consistently rotating gels, V8, chicken noodle soup, potato chips, gummy bears, and M&Ms the whole day. I would take a caffeinated gel every two hours and also a Vespa every two hours. Moreover, I would wash this down with water. Rich took care of my every need. Every couple of laps I would be shouting out requests and Rich was on it. His job would soon become more difficult as Mother Nature would make her presence felt in the 4-8 hour section of the race.

My plan for the second part of the race was to maintain my 7:10-7:15 pace with an occasional faster mile at the beginning of each hour. This seemed to wake the legs up and help reduce some of the lactic acid build-up. I noticed Joe Fejes, the eventual 24 hour champ and National 24 Hour team member, work this to perfection on his way to running 156.5 miles! However, it became difficult to stick to the race strategy when the Heavens opened and the wind picked up. With temps in the 40's and a bone chilling breeze/shower on the back stretch, the race strategy had to be altered. I ended up changing in and out of two shirts, three hats, one beanie, and a jacket during a three hour window in the 4-8 hour stretch. Unfortunately this put a heavy burden on my crew to keep me dry. Then on again, off again, and off again, rain showers played tricks on the runners and made the runner's crews work like NASCAR Pit Crews. You could see Ian was starting to slow a little and after increasing his lap lead to nine, I was able to chip away a get one back. It seemed as though he had fought through a tough stretch and was back to his old self quickly after the pass.

Then, all of a sudden the rain shower became a steady rain. Lakes were forming on the track every inch of me was soaked. Ian and I tried to work together as we made the turn at eight hours but the cold was starting to get to us. Luckily enough, Rich persuaded me to change the completely saturated shirt I was wearing under my jacket into a long sleeve shirt. I then requested a beanie. This was HUGE! Within a couple of laps I felt warm and rejuvenated. However, I noticed Ian didn't make any clothing changes and was beginning to feel the effects.

I was able to make up one more lap on Ian, but the guy is as tough as nails and I knew he wouldn't go down
without a fight. Unfortunately within a few laps, Ian was reduced to a walk after having a leg issue. And with the weather the way it was, it didn't take long before he was hypothermic and had to drop.

We were now nine hours into the race and I was now in the lead. My strategy needed to change. I originally had planned to use the third part of the race to try to run down the leaders, but since I was in the lead, a change was in order. I went through a body diagnostic test and determined I felt good, stomach and all. The legs were tight but that was to be expected. I now determined that I would run a comfortable pace that I could maintain for the duration of the race...easier said then done, especially with the weather the way it was. It was hard to get in any rhythm. This would be the longest 3+ hours of my life.

I concentrated mile to mile. Trying to hit each desired split. Also, I tried to keep my spirits up and converse with other runners as we passed each other on the track. Anything to distract me from the overall distance/time. Erin had arrived to help crew and with their combined help, I didn't have to pause or think much other than about my running.

Between the 10th and 11th hour the lights came on over the track but my pace had slowed to about 7:55 per mile. Then, out of nowhere Michael Arnstein comes flying by me running a low six minute pace and he says to me as he runs by, "I'm comin for you Jon!" Needless to say, this woke me up! I knew it was said tongue and cheek, but I felt the need to refocus.

The rain had finally subsided and with about two hours left to run, I was on pace to break 12:40 and I wanted to make sure that happened. That 7:55 pace became a 7:40 pace. My eyes were focused on Michael. Trying to keep him at bay, but even with my increased pace, he continued to lap me. Mathematically, it may have been a long shot that he make up the seven mile deficit, but I didn't want to give up this race after working so hard and steady all day. With less than two hours remaining in the race, it came to the attention of the Jamil Coury the American Record for 100 miles on track was 12 hours 27 minutes and 2 seconds. This information was relayed through my crew Rich. He told me that I would have to run 1:52 laps(7:28 mile pace) to break the record. I quickened the pace for a mile but it was short lived as I noticed this pace was too much with so much time left in the race.

I was reserved to the thought that 12:27 was not going to happen, but I continued to plug away. At this point, I found a pace I felt comfortable with for the rest of the race and was clicking away laps. BUT the race staff and my crew weren't going to stop encouraging me to pursue the record. I told Rich to let me know when it was eight miles to go. I thought I could push my body to the edge with one hour to go, and with eight miles to go, I started my pursuit towards history. 1:48's were the target with 32 laps to go. It seems crazy to have to real off 7:10 miles from mile 93-100 in the race, but that was the situation I put myself in. Jamil asked the runners to give me the inside of lane one as I was on pace to break the American Record. It was electric feeling on the track. All the runners were very encouraging as I passed them. And with their help, I was able to stick close to this target for the first five miles, then the clock struck twelve hours. That meant another change of direction on the track. It seems so simple to have to turn around a cone and run the other way, but it was anything but that. The legs got a little tighter, and my left hamstring was starting to twinge. What was I to do? Do I keep pushing until I couldn't push any longer? or Did I make sure I finished running? The later was more important. To me, nothing would have been more demoralizing than crossing the finish line walking. So after crunching the numbers, I could break 12:30 with the 8 minute pace I was running. And on that last lap, a sense of accomplishment fell over me. I couldn't believe I was just about run under 12:30 for 100 miles, but at the same time, I was a little disappointed that I didn't break the American Record after being so close.........I guess that means I will have to come back in 2013:)