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Category: Road Race

Pine Creek Challenge 100 – Friends make all the difference

I have figured out the formula for finishing a 100-mile race. Pine Creek is the 3rd time I have completed the 100 mile distance. The key to all 3 finishes was one underlying theme. Surround yourself with incredible people! I know that’s not easy, and it can be total luck. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of training you need to do, but that is just a matter of putting in the miles. If you can make friends with complete strangers on the course, find an incredible pacer, or put together a great support crew, you greatly increase the odds of finishing. I have been lucky enough those things happen each time. You are going to be battling your thoughts in the race. Having somebody there to talk with eases the pain. They are there to help push the pace or slow things down if you’re going too fast.

Why is it that in an ultra can you make friends with complete strangers? Is it the fact that you are facing a common goal and you both want to succeed? You create an instant bond because of the shared suffering. So the biggest thing I did RIGHT was to make new friends. It has helped me EVERY SINGLE time in a race, except for Vermont 100 where I was gifted the ultimate pacer by chance.

The other thing I really liked about this race was having a pace chart handy. From this point out, if it is a 100-mile race, it is critical to have every single detail of your race in an easy-to-look at Excel-like grid that is laminated. I am going to create one of these cards for every race at this distance.

Race charts like this make you feel like you are actually making progress in a 100-mile race. Somehow, Michelle, had the entire thing memorized!

The other benefit of running with a friend is you hear about new podcasts and books that are worth checking out. You learn about books and podcasts that might interest you and would never be exposed to. You hear about the most impactful material that is in that person’s life.

Michelle, Amy, and myself at mile 50.

I wouldn’t say I helped Michelle as much as she helped me. We completed it together. In my first hundred, 2 people stayed with me to get me to the finish. I remembered how much of a difference that made to have people to chat with. It helps with your mental state and I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. It was nice to go through the night with someone on their journey.

I am 100% sure Michelle was more than able to have completed it alone, but she was also kind enough to share the experience. Having someone to run the race with also keeps you honest about the pace. We would take turns alternating between a run-walk when combo in the later miles to keep under our pace target. It’s one thing to run 100 miles on your own, but an experience shared is so much more enjoyable.

Some of the things that I would say went wrong in the race were little slip-ups.
I skipped a shoe/sock change at mile 30-40 miles. There was gravel and dust that was getting in the top part of my socks that started to cause a rash. I should have cleaned and swapped socks sooner to prevent that. I also didn’t have enough caffeine intake later in the race and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I finally got a cup of coffee at mile 90 and it made a huge difference. Maybe I can bring my own instant coffee?

I should have had a drop bag at BOTH aid stations, not just the Blackwell. There is something about having access to YOUR stuff that gives ease of mind. Something in the bag you can look forward to that is not at the aid stations. I struggle with knowing what to put in each bag so I opted to put it all in one, which really didn’t work out.

I ran out of water between the longer aid stations, be mindful of a hot hundred and ONLY using handhelds, they actually might not be able to hold enough water if it’s greater than 8 miles between aid stations. I am just grateful the weather wasn’t too intense that day.

What would I have done differently? Not too much, my feet took a beating and I am glad I went with the shoes that I did. I switched out 2 pairs of Altra Torin 5s which felt great and caused zero hot spots. 100s can be extremely lonely, and if you get lucky enough to find a person running a similar pace it is worth staying together. You motivate each other to push when the pain can be unbearable. If I had to do anything different I would have lowered my expectations of a finish time when on a new course.

How would you know what to expect? My “A” goal I realized was going to be almost impossible to hit. My “B” goal was under 24 which I achieved. My “C” goal is to make friends and have fun, but my “C” goal was actually the most important goal. I am GRATEFUL for the experience and will be smiling for the next few weeks with the wonderful memories replaying in my mind. I still feel new to the 100-mile distance and feel like I have a lot to learn. Finally, don’t put your number on your shirt, I was an idiot and switched shirts and forgot to move my number. It should always be on your pants! How could I forget that!

Michelle Goldberg and myself right after the finish.

Final thoughts: I should have never told people it’s going to be easy because it was all flat. I completely underestimated the distance and the terrain. The course was beautiful as you can see from the photos. Would I do the race again? I am not sure… I think I enjoy a more rocky and technical terrain over the endless flat roads. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but I enjoy an actual hill every now and then.

More videos and photos can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/eA6UWL9FSdMsfC1F6

2014 Running Notes – Tips for a better season next year.

If I PR in just one distance, or place in a race I say my season was a success. I was second for the Upper Dublin Duathlon, and I took 6 minutes off of my marathon.  These are a few of my lessons from the past year I’ll take with me.  I also started a new training method mid-season so I have even higher hopes for next season.

  • Strength is critical late in the race. I have to focus more on strength.  I knew this but still neglected strength training for some reason.
  • Get your feet to the ground as quick as possible. I need to have incredible fast turnover while running. Do not spend excessive time in air.  Vertical motion wastes energy.
    • Over striding causes injury, uses more energy and is the biggest mistake people make with running.
      • I noticed lower heart rate the quicker I get my turnover.
  • Diet can slow recovery.
    • If you work out every day your body is in constant repair.  Eat food that promotes recovery.
    • Focus on more healthy fat / protein.  Train your body to use fat as a fuel source.  You will get less inflammation in joints and muscles depending on what you eat.  Excessive carbohydrates and refined sugar are not healthy and turn into fat.
    • Diet change can help get rid of the nagging injuries.
  • The race profile must match training.
    • You have to match the race elevation profile in training.  You can’t just expect to deal with a 1000 extra feet of climbing if you didn’t train for it.
  • In the marathon there are no surprises so don’t expect much better than training.
    • For longer distance races, you need to have quality training sessions.  There are no surprises that will happen race day, if you haven’t had some breakthrough in training.
  • Keeping low HR means quicker recovery, and more quality workouts.
    • This is also a form of injury prevention.  Using a HR monitor helps limit workout stress.
    • Lower perceived effort makes it easier to run faster.
  • When dining out always choose the low carb option and drop unnecessary sugar.
    • Wraps and salads.
    • Do not have excessive sugar with your meals.
    • Our bodies can’t use nearly as much energy as we take in with refined sugar.  The rest turns to fat, skip it when possible or have very small portions if necessary.
  • Race pace should be set and maintained the ENTIRE race.
    • Don’t fly off the start!
    • Don’t chase.
    • Put the ego aside.
    • Have a plan and execute it.

If I can remember these for next year I should have a better season then the last.

Lesson of the day: Pacing

As my season comes to an end I’m excited for next year.  I’ve had a poor performance at the Blues Cruise 50K, but other than that it went well.  I did learn a very painful lesson, but it helped me realize some of my shortcomings.  I need to be patient and put my ego aside.  That means setting the correct pace when the race starts, not getting swept up with the front runners, and not heading out too fast.  Let people pass you!!  Odds are if they fly out at the start you will catch them,  if you can run a consistent pace.  I did the exact opposite with that race and I deserved the outcome.  I also noticed I was about 1000 feet short in training for the elevation.  There should be no surprise come race day.  You should have run the distance, pace, and elevation profile before the race.

A few months back when I started with the Maffetone method, things were going very well.  My MAF tests were improving, and my weight was dropping from the new diet.  I stopped weight and anaerobic training workouts because of the unwanted stress.  I would say that both of those things combined ended up hurting me during the race.  It’s not that the fault of the Maffetone method, it’s just that it should not be implemented in the middle of your season.  If you are looking to convert to his style of training, it really should be started in the off season.  This gives you plenty of time to build a cardio base.  Once that’s complete, you can add in the other components, like strength and anaerobic workouts.  Don’t get me wrong, it definitely works.  At the end of my season I have been running very consistent times, and have had a few PRs at different distances.  I hope to take 10 minutes off of my marathon time with my final race of 2014.  I’ve been seeing the results in my training, so it won’t be any surprise come race day.  The hardest part is implementing the plan come race day.  If you set the pace too high you could put yourself in an anaerobic state.  Once that happens it is hard to get back to where you are running aerobically.  Keep a constant eye on your heart rate monitor and set alerts if it gets too high.  This is what happen to me at Blues Cruise, and that’s why I had such a difficult time in the race.

This was a learning process for next year.  I know the things I should change next season.  Perfect pacing!!  It’s the most important lesson you can learn as a runner.  Almost every long distance running record has been set while running even or negative splits. The men’s world records in the 10,000 meter run, two were run with nearly identical splits for the first 5k and second 5k, and the other three were run with the second 5k being as much as 13 seconds faster than the first 5k.  That’s proof that you need a plan and pace set before EVERY race.  During your training, you should have been running at a pace you can sustain.  Running with a HR monitor is just a form of pacing.  It forces you to be consistent with your effort and that’s the most critical part of the Maffetone method.  There are some exceptions, if it’s a hilly course you need to be conservative on hills, and for hot days you may need to slow your pace.  The wind can also play a factor as well, so set your pace accordingly.  When the race starts it should be easy.  The perceived effort is always low in the beginning.  You should not be passing people, and that’s where most people get in trouble.  It’s hard to put your ego aside, or not get swept up with the crowd.

I’ve realized that running is 3 things: diet, strength, and a good cardio base according to the Maffetone method.  Master those things with a set pace for race day and you’ll get the time/PR your trying to achieve.