Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Race Report: Eastern Divide Ultra

The Land of 1000 Chipmunks

So a lot has happened since my last post. Ran the Borneo International Marathon, took two more MAF tests, and ran the Klimbambangan 15km Trail Run. Too late for retroposting those now. Movin' on.

Last Sunday I ran the Eastern Divide Ultra in southwest Virginia. It's a point-to-point course that measures slightly under 50km, with about 6500 feet of elevation gain. I knew that this would be a night-and-day different kind of race than my previous 50km. In my last one, the time limit to finish was 15 hours. In this one, you had to hit the 22-mile mark in under 6 hours. Oh my. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by this, and hitting that goal was really my only real target for the day.

I spent the night in a cheap motel about 20 minutes away. The morning of the race I was up at 5am, ate my light breakfast and took care of that most important business. I parked at the finish (Mountain Lake Lodge) and boarded the bus that shuttled us to the start line. The crew at the start was well-organized and efficient, and in no time I had my race packet, bib number and ziploc for my drop bag.

The race briefing was short and low-key, as was the start, which occurred promptly at 7:30am. The jackrabbits took off for the summit of Butt Mountain, while some of us power-hiked it. The mild incline looked runnable, but at the start of a 50km trail race, I wasn't going to take any chances. Nice and easy, I hit the first aid station (4 miles) in about an hour. Not bad for a 2000-foot ascent. Bacon and beer were among the other offerings at AS1. I didn't want to take many chances this early, so just a half-slice of bacon for me, please. :)

I suppose you can't write a race report of Eastern Divide without mentioning the Cascade Falls at the two-mile mark. I stopped for about 15 seconds, savored the view, and moved on. I did try to make smelling the roses a big part of my race. The race course was gorgeous.

One last look at the falls before moving on

After topping Butt Mountain, we had about 5 miles of easy fire roads to AS2, which is around 9 miles. I think I was at about 2hr 15min at this point. You know, I read about the large amount of fire/forest roads on this course, and I wasn't all that excited about it, since obviously single track is better, right? Well lemme tell ya, I'd run on these roads any day. Because on either side, there was beautiful forest and ferns just right there. All around you. One of the guys I ran with for some of the run complained a lot about the roads, but seriously, if you just look up, you forget.

I loved AS3 (about 16 miles, approximately 3hr 15min) because they had music blasting. That was a nice pick-me-up because the next three or four miles to the top of Wind Rock were brutal. Just constant uphill. Constant. But I just tried to keep my focus on the beauty, enjoying the run, and it was all good. At AS4 we had access to our drop bags. I didn't know what I would need to pack for a fully-stocked run, but the Payday I had in there did the trick. I didn't touch anything else.

From AS4 it was a pretty quick descent to AS5, the dreaded cutoff point. But to be honest, once I hit AS1 in an hour, I knew that this would be no problem. And as it was, I hit the cutoff point at 5hr 20min. Easy peasy. And here we got back on the single track, and it was delicious. You're just running on a narrow chocolate strip curving this way and that through a blanket of lush green ferns. This was probably my favorite part of the course...until we started going up. Oh my, the hill, the hill, where the heck did that come from? And once we finally crested the hill, we had to run on the perimeter of Mountain Lake Lodge's frisbee golf course, where we finally saw that yes, the sun was out, and it was hot. But before we knew it, we were out of the sun and reached AS6. I kept my stops quite short at the aid stations as I just wanted to keep going. Just gimme some fluids and I'll be on my way!

 The whole course was smileworthy

From AS6 it was only about 4 miles to the finish, with one last aid station about 1.5mi from the end. We had some more lovely fern-covered trails, but still a significant amount of uphill. Lots of power-hiking at this point, although I was still able to run any time the incline wasn't too severe. I was worried that the finish would be on an uphill, which isn't too fun, but as it turned out, the course leveled off not too far before the finish. I saw the finish line arch through the trees and finished strong at 7:26:55, about a half hour earlier than I estimated. Afterward I had only very mild soreness and chafing and no injuries. I felt like I paced myself pretty well, giving just enough but not too much, while making sure that I finished with a smile on my face.

Race organization was top-notch, volunteers were great, medical assistance was there if you needed it, and the food and refreshments were abundant. Bananas and oranges, PBJs, peanut M&Ms, and plenty of Hammer gels and Heed. Good food at the finish, and a good atmosphere overall.

The thing that suprised me was how low I placed in the standings. I finished 55 out of 65 runners (not sure how many DNFs there were). But I think this course lends well to real runners, whereas I do better with climbing and technical trails. But speed is one thing I do plan to work on in the near future, which should help me all around.

If I ever find myself in the States this time of year again, I would DEFINITELY revisit this race. Glad to have another 50km under my belt! Now I have a few months off until the next one I've got in my sights.

With RD Kirby Walke after getting cleaned up. Great race shirt!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 5

Last month I postulated a correlation between training volume (hours per week) and pace improvement (or regression). After a 101-mile February (almost 26 hours), I did see some improvement. This past month, I ran 133 miles (31 hours), so you'd expect for me to see even more improvement, yes? YES.

Oct 31 Nov 30 Jan 5 Jan 31 Mar 3 Apr 3
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28 8:42 7:44
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01 8:33 7:43
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05 8:38 7:44
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12 8:53 7:56
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18 9:04 8:08
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03 43:51 39:15
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31 14:08 12:38

One more month to the Borneo International Marathon. I have no time goals, and don't plan to track my pace. I'm not even sure if I'll wear my HR monitor. I just want to have fun, run at a comfortable but purposeful pace, and if I feel I can give more in the last third, I'll go for it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 4

The past month has been one of experimentation as I tried to figure out why I wasn't seeing great results with Maffetone, despite my belief in the system itself. As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to focus more on my diet and also try to get in at least 6 hours of running per week, as there seemed to be a correlation between hours logged and progress (or regress). I also toyed with a low-carb diet (after reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance) but gave it up after a week; it just seemed counter-intuitive.

Anyway, after a 101-mile month (almost 26 hours of running), I saw some improvement. Here are my stats from the beginning until today:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5 January 31 March 3
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28 8:42
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01 8:33
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05 8:38
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12 8:53
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18 9:04
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03 43:51
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31 14:08

So I'm gonna stick with Maffetone for most or all of this month to see if I see more improvement next month. I have a trail race in mid-April so I may be a little bit undertrained for it in terms of hills. But I should be okay for endurance!

Monday, February 3, 2014

MAF Test - Month 3

I didn't do a great job eating right this month, but I still hoped for a better MAF Test. It was not to be! Here are my splits:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5 January 31
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04 8:28
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26 9:01
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51 9:05
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13 9:12
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20 9:18
45:26 43:38 43:54 45:03
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08 14:31

I was really puzzled about this. I could have expected to have stayed the same, but to regress? I really don't know.

But I have just stumbled upon the concept of Metabolic Efficiency Training (MET), which more or less uses the same aerobic training principles as Maffetone but with a greater emphasis on eating right in order to maximize burning fat as fuel. This is one area I have completely ignored. So this month I am going to be mostly free of grains (bread, rice, and noodles) and sugars, and we'll see if that has any effect. The MET people also recommend at least 6 hours a week of MET training, whereas I rarely get over 5 hours a week. In fact as I look at my training, I see a correlation. In November, I ran 22.5 hours and saw much improvement. In December I ran 19 hours and regressed. And then in January I ran just under 16 hours and regressed further. Could that be it?

All in all, I am not all that discouraged with my results (although I'd gladly take a faster pace!), because I'm running more than I ever have, with no injury or soreness. Not a bad way to spend the off-season, regardless of my improvement or lack thereof.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

MAF Test - Month 2

This was not a great month health-wise so I did not expect a great MAF test. I was not disappointed! It was about the same as last month, but a tad bit slower. But that's what I get. I took a complete week off, and it was December so I indulged in many Christmas specialties and treats. So I couldn't expect my body to reward me with increased performance after that. Anyway, here are my splits (with the first two months' data as well):

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30 January 5
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10 8:04
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49 8:26
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44 8:51
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55 9:13
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00 9:20
45:26 43:38 43:54
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03 14:08

So yeah, that's what Maffetone would call a 'plateau' and according to him all plateaus have a cause. I've got mine nailed so lemme work on eating better this month and see how next month looks. I didn't do a trail (hill) MAF test this month because I have less time for running now that school has started for the kids, and I want to focus on MAF fitness above all else.

Monday, December 2, 2013

MAF Test - Month 1

A month ago I posted the data from my baseline Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Test, both on a flat 5km surface and a hilly less-than-5km route. In the past month, I ran a total of 22 hours and 32 minutes at an average heart rate of around 127, I'd say. My target HR range is 121-131.

[A reminder for those who are just joining us: Here is the overview of the Maffetone Method and here is the info on the MAF test.]

Without further ado, here are the latest results:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31 November 30
Kilometer 1 8:19 8:10
Kilometer 2 8:45 8:49
Kilometer 3 9:26 8:44
Kilometer 4 9:23 8:55
Kilometer 5 9:34 9:00
45:26 43:38
Pace (min/mi) 14:37 14:03

Quite pleased to see my pace over 30 seconds/mile faster, with zero real effort or exertion on my part. I just hit the roads and kept my HR down, and my body did the rest. Now for the trails to see how I did there:

Bukit Padang Trails (2.83 miles) at 121-131bpm:

November 1 December 1
1:03:00 54:37
22:16 min/mi 19:17 min/mi

Okay now that is just insane. An improvement of 3 minutes/mile on hill running? I'll have to wait until next month's MAF test to know if this is a fluke or not. It's possible that at the time of my first MAF test my body was still a bit mountain weary after TMBT and the Climbathon, and that after a month of low-exertion (and mostly flat) MAF training, my legs were much fresher.

Regardless, to this point I'm quite pleased with Maffetone training and look forward to another month of aerobic improvements!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Maffetone: Baseline

Now that my racing season is over (makes me sound like such a pro, haha!), and with nothing on the calendar for me until April 2014, I can take the time to do whatever I want (or don't want) to do in my training. Normally that is a recipe for disaster, since if I don't have a race, I don't run. Sad but true. I need a goal.

So hey, good timing, here comes a goal: improve my aerobic fitness so I can run faster with less effort. I already mentioned this briefly, that I'll be following the Maffetone Method to work towards my goal. And it starts now. I probably won't be posting much here as there won't be much to say, but I'll check in each month with the results of my latest Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test. The idea is that you run a set distance once a month, and see how long it takes you to do it. If you're doing it right, you should see your times go down each month, while still working at the same heart rate as before. So for my MAF test I'll be doing a 5km (5 laps) course at the local sports complex, and then a day or two later I'll do a slightly-less-than-5km hilly trail course. I'll post both results here monthly. So without further ado, here is my baseline MAF test:

Sports Complex (5km) at 121-131bpm:

October 31
Kilometer 1 8:19
Kilometer 2 8:45
Kilometer 3 9:26
Kilometer 4 9:23
Kilometer 5 9:34


My normal pace for this 5km (regular jogging) is probably a 9:30- to 10-minute mile. At MAF I was expecting to run about a 13-minute pace, maybe a bit slower. As it turned out I ran a 14:37 pace! Wow. But on the positive side, it can only get better from here. Way better I hope. The hardest part was probably passing walkers as it felt like it took me about a minute to actually complete the maneuver! Okay, so let's see how MAF looks on the trails.

Bukit Padang Trails (2.83 miles) at 121-131bpm:

November 1

This route normally takes me around 40-45 minutes, walking up most of the hills and running everything else. So this was about as slow as I would have guessed. But it was much more enjoyable than the sports complex. I could see myself doing this more often. I also felt a bit more in tune with my heart rate and could (usually) alter my pace before my HR monitor started beeping that I was too low or high.

So now I will spend my days running for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, maybe an occasional long run, entirely at or below my training heart rate of 131bpm. I won't be keeping track of my mileage, only time. If I tracked my mileage, I would then know my day-to-day pace and might get a bit obsessive over any minor improvements or setbacks in my training. Once a month is good enough for keeping track. Blogging will therefore also be light, so arm your feed reader if you want to follow my progress!

At the same time, I have a second goal. I'll be working on increasing my barefoot running mileage, following the 12-week training plan in the excellent book Barefoot Running by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee. It'll involve running 2 or 3 times a week barefoot, increasing my mileage (and types of terrain) slowly over the course of the 12 weeks. I'm looking forward to improving my foot strength which will help ward off the typical running injuries that are caused by wearing shoes. You know the ones. More on my barefoot training later.