Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016 Cayuga Trails 50: Could not Stomach the Day

This race has been my Achilles heel.

Then things became real!

Stomach Problems Led the Way:



Hyner View Challenge: 3rd Place, The View was Worth the Challenge

Alright, it has taken me a long time to write a post on this race so I will make it short and sweet for everyone but to sum up the whole experience, it was a true confidence booster for myself and a truly incredible event.

For all of those out there: Hyner is a tough race. With 5 long arduous climbs all 800ft-1200ft ascents with similar descents on Rocky and technical Central PA terrain, this race truly...Hard! 

I was unsure how this race would go for me as I had come from places such as Savanna, Georgia where the running is pretty flat so my dedicated hill-training was at an all-time low. Running this race was a great opportunity as preparation for Cayuga Trails 50.  With running with the Nathan Team, this was an even more exciting opportunity.  After my events in DC during that week, I took the Nathan car out to Lock Haven, PA for the race. I camped in my car at the starting line and arrived at the race site around 10pm. I rolled the windows down as it was a beautiful April evening and quickly grabbed some zzzzzz.

The morning came quickly and as I lounged around and almost missed getting my bib and had some contact with the Nathan crew: Maggie, and Brent; and then I was off with the crew for 50k of some of the most brutal trails around.

The race went out comfortable and sadly I could not get that darn GPS of mine to sync up. Time to race by feel. To say that the course record was not on my mind would be a lie. I really felt that with such a solid crew of runners and with some smart pacing, that the record could go down.

To see the top 3 including myself break the record, was something special!

The Top 3: Myself, Adam and Mike!

We hit the first climb and the run now became a hike. I was breathing a little heavy but was to be expected with running hardly any hills like this in quite some time.

I latched onto Adam Russell and Mike D, who are very accomplished Ultra runners. Adam recently was second to Ben Nephew at Breakneck and was the past course record holder of Hyner. As For Mike D, he has all kinds of fast times out in the East Coast trail scene such as A victory at Umstead 100, both course records at Green Lakes 50k and 100k and numerous other fast times. I knew that if I could run relaxed with these two for as long as possible, great things would come from it.

After the first climb, it was us three the whole way. Mike and Myself had to work hard to match Adam's strong downhill running. That guy knows how to fly on steep technical terrain! I felt pretty solid making sure to drink often and take my Boom gel every 45 mins. This worked great to keep my legs and body feeling strong. I felt strong on the climbs and even worked a few of them pretty well to test how Mike and Adam felt.
Making the first big climb at Hyner!
On climb number 3, I made a little move up the long gradual climb before running a little harder on the flat section and then into a nice runnable downhill. I gained some separation on the two but the goal was to test the waters and see how they would respond. Eventually, the two matched my pace on a steeper downhill section.
I still managed to feel fresh. We hit this creek section that was the next climb and Adam decided to ease off the pace as I led Mike into the wet rocky footing ahead. It was hard to run fast on this section and I felt like we were crawling but I could look back and it seemed that our pace was consistent. Remember, with no GPS, I had no idea if we were on record pace or not or any pace really. Towards the top of the climb, Mike caught to me on my shoulder and we talked how we were running close to 4:30 50k pace which was stellar as the old record was 4:52. I told Mike if we keep working together here, good things will come from it. It was fun running with Mike as we rocked the NJ love pretty well growing up only 7 miles from one another. Mike was also the man I attempted to break his incredible 3:28 Green Lakes 50k time so it was a pleasure to connect with him during the race.
I lost contact with Mike at one of the Aid stations. I stopped, he kept going. I lost about 20-30 seconds on him here as we made our way at the top of a ridge. I kept Mike in my sights as we began another descent. Once we finished the descent, we were now mixed in with the 25k runners. I knew that I wanted to catch Mike as this would be the final home stretch and we had one more crazy climb before the finish. I pushed hard on the wet rocky footing trying to pass the 25k runners as best as possible. To put it in perspective, this part of the course is wet slick rock and one bad false misstep and you could fracture an ankle. It is a trail designed for a few hikers every so often. Passing a conga line of runners was difficult as there was no place for the runners to step off to the side of the trail. A little frustrated as I was losing Mike in the crowd, I tried to maneuver off the course running as hard as I could to pass as many people as I could. With each strong pass, my body was getting exhausted. I could feel myself creeping into severe fatigue at this point as the small gap to Mike felt like an eternity.
I eventually gave up to trying to maneuver on this course and began to hike slowly behind the line of runners. I felt that all of this extra effort just was hurting my cause so I began to fuel up for the final miles of the race. I began to lose sight of Mike but knew that if I kept it within a few minutes, that I could close well. Maybe a few minutes go by and then I see Adam as he passes by on the trail. At this point I am just trying to stay upright as my legs have cramped on me.
Once out of the Creek Bed, I was able to run more as the trail allowed some passing but I was just frustrated that I gave up. I mixed in some run-walk to get the legs to have me power-up the last SOB climb. I have heard this one is a tough one. I clenched my teeth and gave it one last push. Once up the ski slope 40% type of ascent up the SOB, I fueled at the top of the climb and saw Brent. We chatted a little and then off I was running. This portion of the trail was more runnable and now after losing about 15 minutes I felt on the last few miles from Mike and Adam, I began to gain my energy and kicked it into high-gear. My GPS watch finally kicked on. Okay, let's see how fast I can go!
My last 4 miles, I split: 7:38, 7:15, 7:49, and 6:23.
I ran through the trail hard and was yelping "50k runner flying" the whole way to the finish. I was on a mission to catch Adam and Mike if I could and felt great the last few miles. As soon as I hit the road section, I opened up my stride and kicked it to the finish.
I hit the 3rd place mark in 4:47:27. I was 10 minutes behind Adam and 15 behind Mike.
We all broke the course record and my body handled the hills incredibly well. I was truly pleased with this performance and know that if I was to run this race again, I could improve upon that last section on the creek and serve up an even faster time.
The views of this course was unbelievable. This is a true mountain ultra. For me, it was a very technical race with rocky and loose footing but cannot express how incredible the experience was.
Thank you to all of my sponsors that help to power me through all of my running adventures:
Mammut North America
Nathan Sports
Fits Socks
Boom Nutrition
Mcdavid USA
Redfeather Snowshoes
Craft NA

All the gear used from a solid race:
*Nathan Sports Fireball Hydration Pack with Exo shot 12 oz Flask and Speedraw Plus Insulated Handheld
*Mammut MTR 141 Zip Shirt, MTR 71 shorts, MTR 201-II Max Shoes
*Fits socks Runner Low Sock (No Blisters, No Problem)
*Boom Gels (Consumed one gel every 45 mins for perfect energy levels)
*Mcdavid Compression 10k Run sleeves!
*MPF/RNR Apparel for the race and cool down!
*Karhu Flow Trainer: Cool down shoes
*Craft Focus Shorts: Cool down shorts

Monday, March 7, 2016

Caumsett 50k USA Championship--Lucky Number 7

The other day I had the chance to race the Caumsett 50k in Long Island. The race served as the USA 50k Road Championships and competition would be fierce for a spot to be called the "Fastest US 50k runner of 2016". As mentioned in my blog in a previous post, I have been a busy man traveling all around and have not really done Caumsett 50k specific workouts. Instead, I have been getting in solid volume 70-90 miles a week and have had some runs with uptempo miles to help simulate a little of what Caumsett offers. Leading into my taper week, I had the chance to spend a portion of one day scoping out some of the trails in the Hudson Highlands. Honestly, these trails are not only technical with plenty of rocks and steep climbs and descents (almost sea level to 1,600ft in a mile) but the shape and design of the hills and mountains of the surroundings are unlike anywhere I have ever been. That day, I fell in love with the area! After getting some solid vertical, I was primed for Caumsett.

Check out Jason Friedman's Blog on his race experience here:

Storm King Mountain from the Breakneck Ridge Trail. Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

For those who are curious about Caumsett, it is a simple course but a great race to run a decent time for 50k. The course has little ups and downs throughout the 5k park path that is enough to tax you but it takes some of the strain of over-use your body will encounter in a completely flat looped course. Unfortunately for me, my body took a beating in the race as I cramped up at mile 23 and could not salvage myself back to the continuous 5:53 miles our group was sustaining.

Pre-Race Gear. Photo Credits: Cole Crosby
*The Pre-race gear was laid out and ready to go! Mammut MTR 201 Tech Low shoes (My favorite), my Mammut/RNR/MPF Orange and Purple Kit, Nathan Hydration Handhelds: (Exo Shot, Speed Shot) and gels in my Lightspeed Belt. Boom Gels for fuel, Mcdavid Reflective Compression Sleeves, and Fits socks.

I was able to stay at a nearby hotel the night before the race on Long Island which made the drive to the event nice and easy. 30 minutes later following a nice sea of cars to the staging area, I was able to check in quickly and secure my bib. I linked-up with  Eric Senseman who I have seen at numerous races: Tussey Mountainback and JFK. It was great to catch up with him and find out he is now running with Scott Sports which is awesome! They picked up a solid athlete and guy. Eric was planning on using this race as a tune-up for Mad City 100k where his hopes would be to make the USA 100k team.

My Father made the trip up and I was able to connect with him. The race was going to have some fast competition being a USA Championship race and those who could run under 3 hours could get their name in the hat for the World Championship Team. Top guys like defending champ, Zach Ornelas who ran 2:52 on this course last year, Cayuga Trails 2nd place Jared Burdick, C Fred Joslyn who has been an Olympic Marathon Trails Qualifier and a fast dude, Eric Senseman, and Chris Rauli, another runner in Upstate NY who has seen success at JFK with a 6th place finish along with many others.  Realistically, I was not sharp enough to run such a fast time to make Worlds. Maybe one day, I can get there but for now the even longer stuff has been suiting me well.  Looking back at my training, I was getting in volume, but not enough running at race pace: 6 minutes and under to prime my body for the pace.  That is okay, as Caumsett was always a bucket-list race and having the opportunity to even run this event was totally awesome. I also had the pleasure of racing with MPF/RNR Teammate: Jason Friedman who was looking for a solid performance at Caumsett.

My goals for the race:

*PR: Run faster than 3:16.
*If feeling good, go for sub 3:06 or if having a perfect day, sub 3 hours.
*Gain confidence running in a competitive road ultra.
*Test and see how my training has progressed since beginning a more rigorous work travel schedule.
*Have fun and compete.

Talking with Eric before the race, I think we both knew we would run together. We both have similar levels of fitness, have been close in all the races we have been together in with Eric getting me at the events we have race together in, and I know both have similar strengths and goals in ultras. That makes a solid person to work with and enjoy the race experience with. I was hoping to run 6 minutes a mile for as long as possible and be able to run that pace as comfortable as possible for the duration of the 50k event. That time would get us to 3:06.  With the initial start, Zach shot out at like 5:20-5:30 mile place which was way to quick for me to follow. C Fred, Jared and Chris formed the chase pack running 5:38-mid 5:40's which still was a little hot for my liking. The third group you can see in the photo below: Eric in the Yellow shirt, Arturs, and then myself. We really liked the idea of running 3:06-3:10 pace. So we rattled off the miles, enjoyed our time together and ultimately, worked together to keep us in tact through as much of the race as possible. We would trade-off pace leading duties and was able to run consistent 5:53 miles and some 6:02 and 5:58 miles. Ultimately, we would speed it up on mile 2 and 3 and run the first mile as our slowest of the 5k loop.

The group. Photo Credits: Mike Gadaleta
Using my Nathan Exo Shot handheld, I had no problem taking down my Tailwind nutrition. With cold weather, my body was not craving a whole lot of hydration which was truthfully my downfall.
As the miles rolled along, it became just a waiting game. Could we keep up the pace and not do too much damage to our bodies. The pace felt good for a long while. I took a Boom gel at and hour in and then again in the second hour. 24 ounces of Tailwind and I felt strong. It was until mile 21 that something started happening. My front quads started to cramp. I began to push the pace to see if maybe an increase in tempo could jar the muscles a little. No such luck! 
By mile 23, I told the crew that I was no more and had to drop back to try to recover. Before dropping off, our group was closing on the chase pack and to Zach. If only I had felt better. My consistent miles of 5:53 soon became 6 minutes then 6:08 then 6:15, 6:20, I'm slipping!  I stopped at the 1.5 mile aid station and drank down tons of Gatorade to try and get the salt my body was craving. I split a 6:44 mile with the pit stop.
I was now running alone, grimacing in pain, praying I would not get caught. I continued to slow down even with taking in more calories and salt. I then played the game of just holding on.
Hanging in there with one more loop to go. Photo Credits: Mike Galadeta.
The last 10k of the race was agony as I was fighting my battered body from completely failing on me. Each step was painful. Having legs of lead is never fun.
Half Mile to go. Photo Credits: Mike Galadeta.
As I hit the final out and back section, I was so pleased to be done. I gave Eric some encouragement as he headed for home. As I rounded the corner I knew I was going to run around 3:10-3:11. I pushed with all my might and finished in 7th place: 3:11:44.
It was awesome to be done and it was amazing seeing all of the other guys suffering from cramped legs just like I did. This race was such a fantastic event and experience. Next time, I am talking in more salt and probably wearing tights to keep my leg muscles warm if it is on a cold day again.
Jared B and C Fred qualified for the World team with 1st and 2nd place finishes sub 3 hours!
Overall, It was a fantastic experience. I will run this race again! I know that I can run faster than 3:11 and even when my legs gave out, my aerobic strength was there to help get me through. On not my best day, 7th at a USA championship and a PR is more than what I could have asked for.
Thank you to teammate Jason Friedman for the motivation and support, Mammut for the best gear in the biz and for having me build the MTR line, Nathan Sports for killer products like the Exo shot and the opportunity to help integrate your marketing initiatives as a Tech Rep, Team MPF/RNR for the inspiration and support to represent the true #beastcoast team of the trails, Boom Nutrition for the best fuel source out there for running, Fits socks for the best fitting socks period, SUNY Oneonta XC/TF for team support and coaching love, Karhu NA for training footwear assistance, Craft NA for amazing winter apparel and the best base layers around, Redfeather snowshoes for the best snowshoes on the market, and Confluence Running for being my local shop of choice.
What an amazing race. I will be back for sure. I would love to run under 3:06 here. Now it is time to train for Hyner 50k and for Cayuga Trails 50. At Cayuga with my first DNF, I am returning with a vengeance. I have run this course each and every year with so-so results. I have that feeling that this year is going to be the year.
Check out the awesome team I am with here:
 Here are the 50k Race Results:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Build-Up; Caumsett 50k!

I have been a busy guy traveling all over the eastern seaboard visiting running stores and managing to get some cool runs in wherever I may be.

I have been training for the Caumsett 50k which is almost a week from today and I look forward to seeing if I can crack 3 hours.

I am coming out of a flu bug that  I caught this past week and hope that I will be fully recovered come race day.

The strategy for next weekend's race will be to run smooth 6 minute miles for as long as I can through the first 2 hours then look to hammer the next 5-6 miles and then hold on. I am hoping that effort will get me a sub 3 hour finish which gives myself a chance to be selected for our World 50k team. This race has been a goal of mine ever since I was interested in ultra running about 4-5 years ago. I am super pumped to have the opportunity to race my heart out for a top time.

I had attempted such a crazy 50k feat looking to best Michael Wardian's Indoor Track 50k record and fell short with only a mile to go. The story is found below:

I learned a ton from my 50k attempt, about proper fueling, pacing, and listening to my body. Having a strong company like Nathan aboard, I know that I have a combination of solid hydration products coupled with my Boom Nutrition gels that I will be properly fueled and hydrated the whole race.

The new Mammut NA gear that we have coming out now is amazing from our solid apparel to footwear and I cannot wait to debut this gear this coming weekend!

The story of my training begins with a nice break after the Lookout Mountain 50 miler that I raced in December. I gradually began to ramp-up my mileage and had a solid training week the first week of February running the Cast-A-Shadow Snowshoe race in Rochester which in fact was turned into a trail run.

The race was a fun event where I was able to work a Nathan tent and had the chance to run the 6 hour footrace. I already had a solid week of training and new with 40 miles, that I would be right around 100 miles for the week with one more potential day of training.  I have yet to do some really specific training for Caumsett so I am hoping to wing it as far as pacing goes and hope for the best.

Friday, December 25, 2015

What a View From the Top: The Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race Re-Cap

What a special day.  I had such a memorable experience at Lookout Mountain and hope to be back one day!

With my job as a Tech Rep, I was so very lucky to have the opportunity to run one last 50 miler before the year was out in Chattanooga, TN. To put this into perspective: I have always heard such great things about the city of Chattanooga, its people, the racing community, and the host of races and trails that make the area one of the best in the entire country. Running an ultra in Chattanooga has always been a dream of mine!

As I ended up getting my trip solidified, I was excited to sign-up for the Lookout Mountain 50 miler.

This was a part of the Rock/Creek race series but is now under the "Wild Trails" non-for-profit race management group.  The course from what I was able to read online was a fair course with good vertical gain and loss (6,600ft) , had amazing terrain with scenic overlooks, runnable trails, and good long and gradual uphills. I was a fish that had taken a bite on the hook. I knew that after the Virgil Crest Ultra 50 that I had run in late September, I was going to be a little rusty on race tactics but had trained consistently from September and knew this was a prime opportunity to race hard one last time before the year was up so I was going to take it. I knew that this race was going to be an adventure and that in the past years, the race has always brought in some great talent. I was excited to see how I would stack-up to the competition and who knows, maybe run one of the fastest times at the event.

Here is the photo of the course map and design.  I was planning on spending the Christmas holiday with my family in Nashville, TN so everything was lining up perfectly. I signed up for the race the week before as I was making my way to DC, Virginia and Tennessee for work and then began to prepare.

My time spent the week out from the event was great with a highlight of running around the heart of Washington DC, having the chance to see honest Abe, Einstein, and other famous tourism destinations in the heart of our Nation's Capitol. I also really enjoyed my time in Lynchburg and Charlottesville, Virginia checking out the running scenes at UVA and Liberty University. My time the day before in Chattanooga was excellent!

Here is my Race Recap:

I arrived in Chattanooga the day before the race where I had the chance to settle into my hotel, grab some food and visit the local store accounts in the area. It was such a cool city, with nice rolling hills off of the rivers that it reminded me of Binghamton, NY a ton. It was fun and to get myself ready I gorged myself at a Little Cesar's Pizza Joint (That's right, cheap pizza before an ultra). It was such a cool place with some awesome restaurants, and a packet pick-up at the Chattanooga Brewery which was the place to be on a Friday evening. I ended up getting all settled and then it was a nice night of sleep before the race tomorrow.

Photo Credits: Cole C. All my Race Gear

I carried with me a much different level of running gear than what I have used before. I was planning on racing with:

*Mcdavid Compression Sleeves
*A Nathan Vapor Air Hydration Vest
*A Handheld bottle in combination with a vest
*Multiple layers, jackets, hats and gloves
*Trusty Mammut Racing shoes with 800 miles of wear.

The weather was looking to be cool: in the 20's in the morning with a high near the mid 50's which for me is an ideal 50 mile temperature range. The body warms so much in the course of 50 miles that these temperatures would mean with proper layers and fueling, I would have to worry about over-heating as much as in traditional summer temperatures. I felt that by carrying a hydration pack, I could comfortably stash my layers without use of a crew or drop bags and could do so comfortably. Also, I was hoping to stash a full set of Boom Gels (10 total) into my Nathan Vapor Air pack without much issue with comfort and weight distribution issues. The Mcdavid sleeves were a chance to try out one of our partner company's products and see how they stack-up with other graduated compression products on the market. I can give you a sneak peak and note that they performed nicely.

The sun about to rise 15 minutes before race start. Photo Credits: Cole C.

The race start time was at 7:30am with a sunrise at 7:40am. With a traditional start, I wound my way up the hill to Covenant college, a small religious university at the top of Lookout Mountain. The course would cross the college three times which made for a terrific central location. It was a cold morning with a little frost on the grass and the Wild Trails race set-up is cool with a huge bon-fire and pulsating music. It truly had the vibe of a big-stage event with the lovely southern charm the area's people showcase.

It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to run this ultra. I soon crowded the starting line with the top group as we got ready to race. I knew some top local athletes would be there. Nathan was guy that had won the race the year before in 7:14 and from what I was told from staff at the local running store: Fastbreak Athletics, I knew that he would run a smart evenly paced race and had excellent course knowledge. I was also told that a guy named Daniel was hoping to run 6:30 on the course and was quite a speedster. He would be blasting off the front so I knew to key off of him later in the day.

As the horn sounded for one last 50 miler, I settled in with the top group of 4 including myself. I decided to hang with Nathan as he would be my guy to key the smart race with. As we know with myself, I have a habit of making wrong turns and I was not wanting to make that mistake at all in the event so I wanted to have the security of not making a foolish decision.

Daniel shot out and ran with another gentlemen who turned out to be third place finisher: John Kelly. I ran the nice road section as we left the college for the first few miles before entering the trail and beginning our descent off of Lookout Mountain.

Mind you, Lookout Mountain has some incredible views and vantage points right on the sinuating trails from the get-go. I was treated to 100 mile views as soon as we entered the trail section. We began the rolling descent along one of the ridgeline trails of Lookout Mountain and man was it perfect. I was in awe of the beauty of the course as the sun was rising through the trees. It was so great to spend the early miles hanging with Nathan, a solid local Chattanooga Ultra runner who had some great accolades himself such as a 7:14 on the course last year for the win. We talked and enjoyed the early morning miles and I even had a slip-up where I banged and scrapped up my knee pretty badly. With my fall, Nathan stopped to help me up to begin our pursuit of 1st and 2nd. We kept that group in sight for the most part but knew that after the ascent back up the mountain, then the real race would begin. Anything to kill yourself too early on could be a move that had the potential to bite you in the rear later in the race.


Aid station one in the race went by nicely!
Photo Credits: Wild Trails

After the first few aid stations, we began to make our move together running a strong and smart pace. As we hit the first few climbs, my lungs could feel a little of the early fatigue from not having insane vertical training before the race but I knew my body was primed and well-trained for the race. I had to be at ease with feeling a little extra fatigued from the hills.  As we made our way along the ridgeline back up to the summit, I must say it was so much fun running the race with Nathan and having that chance to get to know him. This guy is going to do great things in the ultra world. I cannot wait to see how he does at the Georgia Death Race! 
As we hit the last climb, Nathan let me go ahead hoping that we may see one another later in the race. I began to begin making a slight surge up to the top. As I hit the top, the morning sun was clear in the sky and man the view from the top was unbelievable. It was awesome! I kept a steady effort through the finish area and then felt ready to start rolling into a higher cadence in the next few miles. I was hoping to run miles 25-30 faster than my previous 25 and then work on picking up the pace miles 30-45 and then hold on for what I have left. I was able to do just that.

With perfect fueling with Boom Gels every 45 mins and I was drinking plenty from my Nathan Speedraw Plus Insulated 18oz handheld and that was a great call on my part. I felt strong, relaxed and ready to race hard. As I was entering the next section of trail I heard a yell coming from behind me. Then I saw a runner sprinting off trail towards me.

Was I going the wrong way? It was the second place runner at the time: John who came up and mentioned he had been lost for like 5 minutes. I assured him that we could get back on track. I then led the way as we looked around the dirt mounds at the top of the school. There we saw the Race Director: Randy and he apologized about the markings. We maybe lost a minute or two here. Nothing big in the scheme of things. I then continued to lead the charge after Daniel, the race leader. I felt strong and had the confidence that I could catch Daniel. We navigated the Tennessee switchbacks in the deep woods until also missing a turn at the top of a jeep road and luckily a volunteer hollered to get us back on track. Jason held his own with me really well as we worked together to close the gap. After each aid station, the gap was mentioned as either 2-4 minutes. We were extremely close. Jason kept going as I took the time to shed my layers and place them in the back of my Nathan Vapor Air Pack. This was a smart move. I took down some soda and loaded up on gels as I heard this section had a nice uphill push with a rope climb. I surged on the jeep road and was able to catch Jason going up the steep rope climb section. With a solid mix of power-hiking and running at the top of the ridge, I began to pull away. I threw down a surge here to create a little separation.

Photo Credits: Jim T. at Flickr

Let me tell you that the views from this race were unbelievable! Once at the top we were greeted to massive views of Chattanooga. I was in awe of what I was seeing. The next section began the tornado section that was devastated in a tornado and the low-lying windy trail made for a technical hop-scotch game. As I hit the next aid station coming from a 1 mile road section, I was about 3 minutes behind. I fueled well again and then proceeded to try and catch Daniel. This point in the race it was near mile 35 or so and I began to feel a little bit of muscle cramping. I immediately worked on taking gels and fluids. This 5 mile stretch was a tough one. The trail went around a lake and a creek and this winding narrow trail section was hurting my ankles and putting extra strain on my body. I worked hard not to walk here but most of the walking I did do was in fact in this section.  In spurts I would walk 10 seconds here, 20 seconds there, intermixing both walking and running while trying to get my body back to balance. I would feel good for a few minutes then would cramp a little again. This was my rough patch. I was still running strong but had to ease-off my pace slightly.

After this loop, I found that my time down on Daniel stayed the same. That drew confidence for me as the roughest section of the race so far had me lose no time on the lead which showed he was hurting some. After fueling here, I felt like a million bucks. My 5 mile so-so patch was gone and I was back to the hunt. Now I would head back on the course the way I came. It was great to see so many people on the trail giving words of encouragement. On some of the uphills, I had to grind them out but I began to surge and regain my early pace. I went through the Tornado section, the Vantage point section back on the crazy descent of the Rope climb and then back to the Lula Lake Aid. I was 2 minutes behind and began one final push. As each mile progressed, I felt stronger and stronger. Time to Race! I grit my teeth at my slightly tight muscles as I pushed with all I had. Some people I was passing on the trail said I only had 30 seconds to catch him. I was close. I got to about mile 45 and by this point my body was tired from the surges I had made. I briefly power-hiked some of the uphills and hammered the downs. The rest of the story is history. I kept pushing hard the last few miles, slowing in pace as I was truly tired now. I knew that if Daniel was to falter, the past 10 miles was my chance to catch him. He fought hard and earned his victory. I hit the sand dunes and knew I was almost home free.  I fought the last few climbs and then shot through the finish chute.

I finished 2nd in about 6:45:13 beating the old course record of 6:52 and only finishing about 4+-5 minutes behind Daniel. I ran a perfectly executed race for myself on the day and truly felt very strong almost the whole time. I was so pleased with how I fueled in the race and with adjusting to my new life on the road, I did amazing on a great course that is a solid challenge.

The Finish!!!!!!

Me and my Award, Photo Credits: Charles Crosby

Podium! Photo Credits: Charles Crosby

All the awesome gear at the race. Photo Credits: Cole C.

I want to give a big Thank you to my sponsors:
Mammut North America
Nathan Sports
Redfeather Snowshoes
Fits Socks
Red Newt Racing- MPF/RNR Team
Fits Socks
Boom Nutrition
SUNY Oneonta XC/TF
Karhu NA and Craft NA
Mcdavid USA

This race performance was thanks in part to your continued support!

I would like to thank my father for making the trip out to see me race. I would like to thank my amazing fiancé for believing in me each and every day.

I would like to thank RD Randy Whorton and his wife Kris for putting on such an incredible event. I would like to thank the amazing volunteers that helped me stay on course, helping ensure I was well-nourished and kept me motivated with some great stories and jokes. Thank you to Nathan Holland for keeping me company throughout the first 20 or so miles of the race. Best of luck in your future races.

The Trail Running Community here at Chattanooga is truly one of the best in the country. The trails are fantastic; the perfect blend of technical with runnable ability and the views and the style of the trails were so cool. The people of Chattanooga are what make this area tick. I met so many kind and interesting people here that with coming from Upstate NY, I felt like I was a part of the family. My advice for those Chattanoogans are keep doing what you are doing. I was treated to one incredible race experience so thank you. What a way to close out 2015! 

So I got in my last ultra of the year. Now what for 2016?  For starters, I am going to get back to training and preparing my body for winter. I

Christmas in Tennessee and the Year Ahead:

I had a great time spending the opportunity to run some of the rolling hills of Tennessee right in West Nashville. I had a beautiful 70 degree day running at Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Park which is one of my favorite places to train in period.

I am so excited for 2016 and the year ahead. My plan will be to run many USA Championship events from 50k-100k on both road and trail. Thank you again everyone for an incredible 2015 and onward to 2016.
Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Photo Credits: Cole Crosby

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Life At the Moment: East Coast Tech Rep: The Journey.

So, a lot has happened since the Virgil Crest 50 miler in September.

I have accepted a position with Nathan Sports as their East Coast Tech Rep which has me traveling all over the Eastern Seaboard visiting running stores, participating in staff clinics, working expos etc. It is a fun but also busy and tough transition.

I am taking the time from the VCU 50 miler to acclimate to life on the road, the new job and spending the time to figure out my race schedule for the remainder of the year as well as for 2016.

I feel fitter than ever, even with not training insane volume. I would like to race one last ultra before the year is out as I am coming off an incredible base phase from Virgil Crest where I am primed to run a sound race.

As for right now, I am eyeing the Lookout Mountain 50 miler in Chattanooga, TN around December 20th or an indoor track marathon around the same time in Arlington, Virginia. It all depends on my schedule but I am eager to test my skills. Looking at 2016: I plan on running on the Big Stage. I have spent my time running solid events performing at a top level and am ready to race more often in ultras of different styles of disciplines.

For next year the events I am looking at:
Beast of Burden Winter
USA 50k Road Champs
USA 50 mile Road Champs
UROC: Ultra Race of Champions
JFK 50 miler
North Face 50 mile Endurance Challenge

I am excited about mixing it up again as the year unfolds and I hope to really test myself against some of the best competition around.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Virgil Crest Ultras: 50 Miles: 50 Ways to Run, 50 Ways to Fight, 50 Ways to Feel Like A Champion!

All I have to say from this past weekend is "WOW". I have never left this much on the line in an ultra before and have been able to hold it together for the full 50 miles. Yes, it was not a perfect race, but I am still in shock with how GOOD that I felt for so long in the race.  I would say I felt perfect for 37 straight miles the heat got to me in a 7.6 mile stretch without any aid.  The photo below sums up how much energy and spirit  I put into this race.

Total Exhaustion after 50 grueling miles. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

MPF/RNR Team Pic before the Start. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Instead of writing a lengthy re-cap of the race as there is too much to express, I plan on giving you the Spark Notes version: 50 Pathways to Success at the Virgil Crest Ultras that I have found in my race.

#1.  Be at ease with the present moment, be calm, still, and silent like the night.

#2. Eat lots of good food that does not weight you down.

#3. Wear a headbuff. It helps eliminate a headache from wearing the headlamp too tightly.

#4. Take it easy, it's a long way to go.

#5. Drink plenty of fluids.

#6. Compression is your best friend.

#7. Gels can be just as good as a preventative measure than just some grub for your tummy.

#8. Be courteous to others, pay it back.

#9. Camaraderie out on the trails is priceless.

#10. Feel the energy of your environment and roll with it.

#11. Ski Slopes are hard. Take your time, walk most of it, and remain in constant motion.

#12. Do not over-do-it! Fuel, drink, walk, run, enjoy the view.

#13. Get the blood flowing, those hills can take it out of you. I think it is time to run a little bit more.

# 14. Am I lost, I am following markers. When the trail is slightly overgrown, keep following the pig tail markers, it should get you to where you need to be.

#15. GPS watches are over-rated. Go Wal-Mart watch!  I should be by the TrailsRoc Aid Station soon.

#16. I see people, I see signs, that is a great sign. I still feel great. Time to re-fuel and keep running smooth. I am back on course so my doubts of going the wrong way can dissolve. I am back in this thing. 

#17. The Orange Trail at Greek Peak is Awesome. It is wide, gravely, and fun. I love this section and have trained on this a bunch. Off to the pile of Rocks I go!

#18. Boom Gels every 45 minutes have been working wonders for my energy levels. I still need to ride the wave and run more controlled until 50k.  I can open it up a little but still need to remained controlled. 

#19. Alright, I love this section. I am going  to drop my pace. Lets see if I can hit sub 4 hours at half-way. That pace would place me under the 8 hour course record. 

#21. Trail Runner Magazines= Rock Pile Aid Station. That was a pretty cool lead-up to the Aid Station. 

#22. Man, these Mammut MTR 201 Tech Low shoes really feel great on my feet! I feel like a million bucks. In the aid station at Rock Pile in 3:52!  I am running super solid. I feel even better than mile 1.

#23. Alright, I have about a mile lead. Time to build upon that lead. What a beautiful day. I feel so good. When the going is good, roll with it. 

#24. Dry creek crossings mean I need to dump water on my head at every aid station.

#25. I am not a fan of these sand dunes on the trail. I try to stomp on them and I sink in. I just have to keep moving along. Still a long way to go. 

#26.  50k in at 4:32! Um, I ran that last section like a Greek Spartan! I feel so good at 50k. This is scary. By far the best I have ever felt in an ultra. Everyone at the aid station seems kind of chill.

#27. Pumping up the crowd at 50k is now going to be my new thing in all of my races. It was fun getting everyone to cheer and get them pumped up. #raisetheroof  #bringdownthehouse

#28. Time for more ski slopes. I think I should have a decent lead at this time. I still need to put the pressure on.  

#29. When running up ski slopes the second time, be smart, do not hammer the downhills, and know this is by far the most-difficult section of the entire race. If you can come out of this section in one piece, that can be the deciding factor.

#30. Power-hiking can be life and death for you here. If you can manage a 13 minute/mile split hiking, that will give you the edge. Conserve energy, fuel intelligently, and stay as cool as possible in the exposed sun. 

#31. Hey look it is Ian with his video camera. I am in shock with how good I feel. I have no muscle soreness, fatigue or tightness. Today must be my day. I let Ian know that in his video.

#32. I am getting a little warm but still feel great. Getting ready for that big descent.

#33. Here it is. Well, this is very steep and slick. I am going to take it easy until I am almost all of the way down.

#34. WEEEEEEEEEE!!! That last downhill part was fun. 

#35. Time to work it up this hill.  I am almost out of this section. Or that is what I thought.

#36. Man, I am getting a little tired. My legs feel still fantastic. I surely wish I was wearing a hat and had some water to dump on my head. 

#37. Man, this section was much longer than anticipated. Maybe I am slowing down? Remain focused. This section is the hardest stretch of the race. Run this well and tackle Carson Rd's long climb and then the race is almost over.

#38. Do not get lost Cole! Be smart and pay attention to those course markings. Alright, the descent into the next aid station should be solid. Yeah, your legs are starting to cramp and you are out of water. Time to just tough it out. 

#39. Tenkate's Crossing the second time is the most crucial aid station of the entire race. If I do not take the time to splash in the creek, fuel with delicious fruit, drink tons of soda, I will suffer the last 13 miles and lose my attempt to break 8 hours. Looking at my watch, I am well under course record still. I just need to maintain my pace.

#40. My legs are not feeling so good right now. This is hot. I hope  I do not get sun-burn. Man, Carson Rd if a death sentence. I have to run as much as possible though I want to walk it all. I need to keep the pressure on to make sure I can hold my lead to Silas and Jim. I know they are strong second-halve runners so I have to push here. 30 seconds hike, run for 2 minutes. C'mon Cole. This is how we get it done.

#41. Carson Rd is done. I lost time here for sure but my legs are tight but I can pick up my pace. These next 10 miles mean everything. 

#42. Ian tells me I am about 20 minutes up on second place. I feel okay. I tell him that I should be able to maintain this pace. I believe I am running 9 minute pace. 

#43. Once I hit the first hills near the snowshoe trails, I am flat. I feel over-heated, nauseous, and I am cramping. I cannot run these uphills. I just have to hope and pray I do not get caught. I am a sitting duck right now. Just have to keep forward progress and hope that it is enough.

#44. Man, this ultra thing hurts a lot. I forgot how much I dislike a 50 miler's last 10 miles. Mind over matter.

#45. I am cramping bad. There goes the race. I am out of fuel. I still have a few miles until the next aid station. I would say I am running on a prayer here. Let us see what I can get out of myself.

#46. The long descent into the last aid station is one of my favorite parts. The downside is that I have 5.5 more miles. I need to fuel-up here. I am not feeling so good.

Last aid station. 5.5 more miles to go. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

#47.  This last part of the race is torture. People say this section is mostly downhill but every little log or undulation is killing me. Just hold on Cole. If I average 10 minutes a mile, I run 10 minutes under the record for a 7:50.

Setting off for the last 5.5 miles of the race. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

#48. Well, the record is going to be out of reach. I am in the Nordic trails a few miles from the finish and my watch reads 7:55. I do not think I am going to make it. Hey this rain feels great but I have to watch my footing.

#49. Run this last lap around the lake. The race is over…almost.

#50. 8:04:55 watch time for the VCU 50 miler. On a course that was labeled as "much harder" than the course I raced in 2013 and set the 8 hour course record. Amazing Race, Amazing People. Amazing Experience.

Coming into the finish gritting my teeth. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Ski Slopes in the background highlight the tenacity of the course. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze.

Ashlee coming to save me. I am spent. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze.

This is what putting it all on the line is like. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze

Conclusion:  There you have it. I raced one of my best ultras to date. I felt Unbreakable for 37 out of 40 miles on a course that should induce fatigue by mile 14 by the latest. The heat and the longer stretch in aid stations towards the end of the race got to me and weakened my strong state. That is okay. I learned a lot from the event. I learned that my training has been paying off. Though things may not always go your way, how you handle those moments of adversity are what I feel are the make of a champion. This year's race was an incredible experience and I look forward to the next Virgil Crest. 

Thank you to RD, Ian Golden for putting on an amazing race and event. Thank you to all of the volunteers for your continued support and help. This race to me is like Family! I love the people that make-up this event as it is because of you that makes me come back to this each and every year. Thank you to my friends, family, My true love, Ashlee and to so many others.

Thank you to my sponsors: Mammut North America for being my prime company support in all of my running and life endeavors. You took a chance on me and I am so blessed to have your support behind me every step of the way. Thank you to Boom Nutrition for giving me the best fueling capabilities in your gel products. I love the natural fruit flavors and extra carbs. Thank you to the Azze family with Mountain Peak Fitness and Red Newt Racing for your continued support, the awesome photos, and your inspiration. Thank you to Fits socks for the best in merino athletic socks. Blisters have never existed once thanks to your products. Thank you to Karhu North America for the best in training shoes for the roads. Not only does your fulcrum help my efficiency, but your shoes are just plain cool. Thank you to Craft Sportswear North America for all of the best gear and clothing for training. Thank you Redfeather snowshoes for the ….BEST SNOWSHOES EVER. Having a snowshoe named after me: the "ColeVapor" is probably the coolest thing ever. Thank you for that. And thank you to SUNY Oneonta for an incredible coaching opportunity where I have loved every second helping to motivate our school's student athletes. 

Time to rest, begin hill training for the Tussey Mountainback and enjoy pumpkins since it is now officially the Fall!!!!

What a race! #teamlove. Photo Credits: Elizabeth Azze
*It was amazing to race with Silas and Jim for a good chunk of the race. These two kept me honest and constantly look back. Congrats gentlemen on a hard fought effort. Both of your performances were awesome!

Check Out Ian's Race Video of Virgil Crest here below:

It was so great to see all of the inspiration out there on the course. It has given me more fire than ever before to train smarter and hopefully run with heart and spirit in my next events. I love the community of ultra running and ever Virgil participant should be very proud of their accomplishments.