Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Attempt: Trying to Run Down Michael Wardian's World Record Indoor Track 50k---Close But No Cigar in 3:16:43


This is the World Record Ultra-running extraordinaire, Michael Wardian set last year in December of 2014. The pace per mile equates to roughly 5:59/6 minutes a mile. To run the time, a runner must split 45.0 seconds every 200 meters for the allotted 250 laps required for a 50k (31.1) miles while not using pacers or switching directions of the track.

I had heard about this record based on an article that was published all over the main ultra running media outlets about Michael Wardian running a World Record 50k on a treadmill while on a cruise ship where he later found out he just missed the record and 7 hours later attempted a second go at the record besting the time.  An even more incredible accomplishment.  I felt that with having my first ultra this year at Cayuga Trails 50 at the end of May, I was looking for an event that I could run without the risk of harming myself as I did almost a year ago at the Tom B Run 52k in Dryden, NY where I harmed a ligament that connects into my ankle and was not at full strength for 6 months.  In the beginning of March, I had the idea that I felt I was fit enough to attempt for Michael Wardian’s 3:06:03 50k time and so I prepared. I was able to secure the Ithaca College Indoor Track with the help of my boss of the Finger Lakes Running Company, Ian Golden, on Sunday April 19th yet had to start early at 6am due to a tennis group that uses the facility on Sunday Mornings around 9:30/10am. Most of my ultras begin around a time as such so it was nothing that I am not used to.  The week leading up to the race went well. I was able to rest-up on sleep and eat a lot to get my fuel stores ready for the 6 minute pace.

The Race:
We awoke at 4:30 and then headed out to the Ithaca Indoor Track Facility. I had all of my gear: Mammut running shorts and Zip shirt, my pairs of Fits Socks, Tailwind Nutrition, Ultimate Direction 10 oz bottles, my Karhu Flow Trainers, and my Red Newt Racing/MPF shorts and shirt. We stopped at Dunkin Doughnuts, grabbed some glazed doughnuts and coffee and off we went. My fiancĂ© and father and I all arrived at the Ithaca Events Center around 5:40am just as the lights were coming on. We took to the track. It was exciting to realize I would be attempting such a crazy idea of running 6 minutes a mile for 31.1 miles (250 laps) around an indoor track.  Ashlee, my fiancĂ©, and my father prepared ourselves with the lap counter and I went over specific instructions to make the attempt go as smooth as possible. By 6:05am, I was off running. The sun had yet to come up and it was not too bad going through the first 10 miles as I went back in my head to the 10 mile indoor track workouts I was running at close to 5:31 per mile  on one day and 5:45 per mile the next workout and felt that this should feel progressively easier. I went through my first lap in 38 seconds (too fast) but soon settled the pace into a consistent barrage of 43-44 seconds a lap.  I felt strong yet knew this would be a hard record to get as running 6 minute-flat to sub-6 minute pace for 31 so odd miles surely would take the wind out of anyone’s sails. I was running hard but not red-lining it and felt this pace was something you find when the goal is to run as consistent as possible without blazing the tempo.

The first 10 miles felt smooth and controlled. I ran most laps in 44 seconds if not faster. I was on pace and building a cushion of time.  I went through 10 miles near 58 minutes, as I will have to check the books for the exact split. I was feeling strong. I kept going joking how this was going to take a long time and about what was I thinking about getting myself involved with such a crazy record. I took a gel every 35 minutes and used a 10 oz bottle of Tailwind every 6 miles. I kept my splits consistent. It was a nice thing to have a whole track facility all to yourself, with your family there to give you the splits and support. I enjoyed the moment and was staying focused on keeping the pace hot so that I could relax after the marathon distance and work on my time cushion. That was my goal—survive through the marathon mark and then surge the last 2 miles.  I hit a low point near mile 18. But as friends started coming into the facility, my sugar levels improved and soon I was splitting 43 second laps from high 45’s/46’s.  It was great to see all kinds of people checking out what I was doing. Some of the Ithaca College athletic trainers were up and at it giving me great words of encouragement. I continued to run around the track, hitting each lap split on pace and running strong though this was definitely much harder than I thought it would be.

Red Newt Racing/Mountain Peak Fitness Trail Running Team Gear!

The Race Part II:
 I was getting tired at this point (Mile 18-Finish) as the turns had made my arms clench and tighten up. I spent many laps massaging my arms to have them relax. I continued my solid pace with some laps at 45-46 seconds but for the most part I was hitting 44 seconds a lap. In 27 miles of running, I hit over 44 seconds in the 45+ range 12 times.  I went through the marathon near 2:36 and under perhaps closer to 2:34 but I still need to calculate my exact time but a PR for me. I was hanging tough taking in my gels and Tailwind. Soon I felt like I was over-heating a little as my face felt flushed and my throat felt parched. I motioned to my Father to grab me a bottle. On the next lap, I received a bottle of Gatorade, which I was hoping for the Tailwind as that was working incredibly well but I figured I could use some of the sweet sugar found in Gatorade. Boy was I wrong!  After consuming 5 out of the 10 ounces of the Gatorade, I felt the drink too strong and handed it back. I asked for more Tailwind. This would be the pivotal mistake. My lap time now became a string of 45 + to 50’s. My body was feeling tired and worst of all; my stomach started feeling like it was expanding like a blimp. It was BAD!  With each passing lap, I began to feel worse and worse. I still had a chance to beat the time of 3:06:03 but my early lead was almost out of time. It was with 9 laps to go, I felt so weak, my stomach forced me to throw up. It was embarrassing. I tried to walk some more but then I threw up again.  And….AGAIN.  My race attempt was over. I would finish to run a PR for myself and as I came so close but always tough to manage 30 miles to only fail on the last one.  

I finished my final lap with a 47 second split.  My overall time:     3:16:43!

It was a personal best for the distance and my first time running an ultra marathon on a track. 

Michael Wardian’s record for the indoor track 50k is no joke. The pace of 5:59/6 minutes a mile is RELENTLESS. It is a pace that on an indoor track you can keep it going but those last few miles are beyond a struggle. I found this out the hard way.  I learned so much from this run.  I feel that with another attempt in the future that the time of 3:06:03 is within my limits.  I came so close this time and I think that running this event during the winter, in the afternoon or evening may help my body in terms of being sharp for the relentless lap times of 44 seconds a lap.  I was very pleased with how though I did not feel fantastic throughout the run, I was able to run so consistently and even throughout the attempt that I am impressed with how I was able to run under the record pace yet could hold my own. 

I am so pleased I had the opportunity to run the event. It was such a wild and crazy experience but it was interesting how running on that track for so long really exposes your weaknesses as an athlete. For myself, it is remaining poised the last few miles of a race. I think that if I were to remain relaxed, perhaps I could have held onto my pace and stomach from exploding on me. I will let this run sit with me for awhile. I still have more work to go and would like to focus on the race for a December attempt next winter. I think by that point, I will be a little wiser and stronger and eager to go for this record. Who knows though. Maybe Michael Wardian wakes up one day and runs a new record for the indoor track 50k in 2:52. If so, I will be ready to give it my best shot!

Thank you to my amazing friends, family, sponsors: Redfeather Snowshoes, Karhu North America, Craft North America, Boom Nutrition, Fits Socks, Confluence Running/Finger Lakes Running,  and of course  Mammut and Red Newt Racing/Mountain Peak Fitness especially for the incredible support for this attempt.  Now, I prepare for Cayuga Trails, a 50 mile event that is one of the most scenic and fun-filled 50 milers I have ever run.  Thanks again!

My Splits:  



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

USA SNOWSHOE NATIONALS----Eau Claire, Wisconsin From 13th one day to 5th the next day! The Longer the Better!

Well, it has been about a month since my race at Snowshoe Nationals, and I have found that I have a little time to start working on my thoughts on the whole trip and the race weekend!

Some cool links to the Race Weekend: http://snowshoenationals.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Half-Marathon-Division-Results.pdf


The trip was a wonderful 5 days and it was great to see another part of the country.  I began my trip boarding a plane from Syracuse Int. Airport around 7am to Philadelphia then off to Minneapolis. I had some flight delays which cost me some extra hours of settling in hence why I flew 2 days before the first race. I ate plenty of Auntie Anne's pretzels as I awaited my arrival in Minneapolis.

Once I made it the Minneapolis around 4pm Central time, I was pleased to be greeted with plenty of sunshine but they had almost no snow maybe a half an inch. I thought... "I hope there will be enough snow in Eau Claire to even have a race." I picked up my sweet luxury Toyota Corolla with back-up camera and fancy headlights and headed out to Eau Claire, WI.  After my 90 minute drive, I picked-up some pizza for dinner and then checked into my room for the next four days and headed to Walmart to pick-up some few items. I was settling in.

The next day was nice as I had the whole morning of Friday to kill some time before registration at 1pm. What was nice was that my hotel was a mile from the race site so I had plenty of time to explore Eau Claire. The city/town of Eau Claire reminds me of any typical 70k Midwestern town.  There was a shopping mall, tons of franchise eateries, a state college which I had the opportunity to check out a little, a nice downtown with some cool shops and boutiques and fairly easy driving.  I began my morning with a 4 mile jog around town as their was maybe 2-3 inches of snow on the ground but we had perfect sunshine and very  cold temps hovering -20 in around 7 am warming to about 11 by midday.  It was fun to explore town and to get myself prepped for the 10k/half marathon double.

Once it was close to 1pm and I had explored the University of Eau Claire, the downtown, the shopping mall, etc, I made my way to the race site. I hit the highway and took the exit near all of these car dealerships to the Expo Center. I parked my car and proceeded to head in.

I was pleased to meet Bob and Denise Dion, Owners of Dion Snowshoes, Mark Elmore, Director of the USA Snowshoe Association and my new friends at Redfeather Snowshoes who I joined their athlete team this winter. It was great to spend some time chatting with everyone and catching up. By the way, I was amazed with how Redfeather operates as a Non-Profit Organization and the amount of creativity they put into all of their snowshoes. I was pleased to have my Redfeather Vapors adjusted with a better crampon for the hardly packed snow of this race.  After meeting with everyone, I decided to preview the course.

I was treated to a wonderful course of open vistas, some hills, and wonderful winding single-track and double-track trails. The snow was fast. I jogged the 10k in 47 minutes. This would be a solid winning time in any NY State snowshoe race this season as we received our fair share of snow I could not even believe what the pace would be tomorrow. I felt that a PR would be what would happen over the weekend.

I headed to the athlete Meet-N-Greet at the Local Store and V1 gallery. The food and wine samples were great. I also picked-up some great souvenirs. We found out that 2016 Nationals would take place in Ogden, Utah...time for altitude training. It was a fun social event then off I headed for bed for the bid day.

I felt primed for a top performance in the 10k and Half Marathon and was hoping to place top 5 if I had a great day in both events.
The morning of the 10k, it was a cold morning with temps in the below zero range with things warming to about 10 degrees by mid-afternoon. I had all of my awesome Mammut gear ready to go such as my Denali Tights, Anergy Thermo Vest, and MTR 141 Thermo Half Zip. I had two pairs of Fits Socks on my feet, and Acidotic Racing Beanie, Sunglasses, a Craft Thermal Baselayer and Gunde Shorts, and some Boom gels to power me through.

RACE DAY-----10k National Championships  Hosted by Dion Snowshoes

It was cold!!!! -10 degrees to start out the morning. Not too much wind, just straight cold air. I had a nice warm-up and felt as ready as I ever would. I had great snowshoe training this winter and had some solid races even with feeling tired at both events. I knew this would be more like a track race than a snowshoe race so I was prepared to let the race come to me. I wanted to run as relaxed as possible and to maintain contact with the top 5-7 positions to be in contention for the National Team. The field was very strong so I knew I would have to put up a really solid run to place top 5. Guys like Eric Hartmark(MN), Scott Gall(IA), Zach Rivers (NY), Jeff Quednow(WI) and many more. 
The race went out hard. Our first kilometer went through in 3:08
 (5 minute pace!)  We then slowed to a 3:20 kilometer for the second k.  It was a fast pace from the get-go and I was in great position but the pace was tough! I felt like this pace could not be maintained the whole time as it was a relentless pace but the top guys were able to manage a fairly decent average not too far off from the first few k's.
Photo Credits (Skymotion Media)
Photo Credits (Skymotion Media)
The first 2k of the 10k race!
Photo Credits (Brandon Nall)
Photo Credits (Brandon Nall)
Photo Credits (Brandon Nall)
Coming around the woods loop at 8k
As you can see, we ran a blistering pace. I think the first mile was in 5:20 or so. With that pace and the cold air, I was foolish enough to not wear anything to cover my face as the cold air seemed to almost shock my system by 5k into the race. I stayed in a solid place 5-8 but soon I felt my chest seize up on me like I was having a heart attack. What was going on??? Physically, my body felt ok but my lungs were trying to power myself as much as possible but I felt like I was running backwards. Was I running underwater? I hoped it was a cramp so I pressed on but my chest never really improved. It sucked. I started to look all pale and was struggling so bad. Like any ultra runner I let the things that happen be as they are and work through the kinks so that hopefully I can improve. Though I never felt better. I went from National Team contention to just trying not to make myself look like a fool out there.
 I  was passed by a couple of guys as I had no response to even move-up. I finished in 13th in the race and ran about 42:30.  It was disappointing to run not so well but it happens in sports. My thought as I reflected on the race was that the cold air at that fast pace zapped my chest a little too much as I had a hard time breathing and warming up the air.  The course was beautiful though it was hard to enjoy while suffering the way I did. I am glad I hung on tough as all of my gear performed great!  I wore all the right layers, my Karhu Flow Trails kick but and my Redfeather Vapors have changed my snowshoe racing for the better. As I reflected on the race I felt that some form of warm face mask would have kept me in the game but you never know when it comes to competition. I felt hungry for the next day as I wanted to run solid for the Half Marathon and go for the win. I fueled up and got some rest for the big day.
Redfeather Snowshoes National Half Marathon Championship!!!
 What a perfect day to snowshoe. It was cold but around mid teens and snowing which was much better than the other day. I warmed-up as per usual and physically felt as fresh as could be. Maybe suffering in the 10k was good to prep my body for feeling well-rested for a race I had been waiting for since I found out last summer. As I hit the start line, I noticed all of the top 5 guys from yesterday's 10k on the line too. Dang! Well, my hope was to go for the win but maybe this race was going to be harder than expected. I took to the lead of the race and began to run a fast but comfortable tempo. The top guys followed suit. I think my wardrobe change to the grey Mammut Hoody and Green Beanie plus a face wrag was a great move. I fueled with Boom Raspberry gels during the race: one before the start and one past the 10k.  That worked great. On this day I was a different Cole Crosby.
Photo Credits (Brandon Nall)
The pace was still fast for a half marathon but we went out much more controlled. It was going to be a battle of attrition. Who could hold on to the pace set in the beginning the longest?  As you can see I soon dropped the lead pack of three as I was red-lining a little bit too much so I felt that I had to run a little more within myself. I dropped back but still had plenty of steam to go.
 I am off in the distance in fourth.
Photo Credits (Brandon Nall)
From there, Eric Hartmark pulled up on me and I let him pass but still wanted to maintain eye-sight of him. Was I going to be passed again like yesterday. The answer would be...NO! 
I hung tough and went through the first lap in about 47:50. I grabbed some water and then kept going after my Boom gel. I knew that 5th and 6th were closing on me. I was in no-man's land so I told myself to kick it in gear if I wanted that 5th team position. I rallied in the last 10k. I started to gain my second wind and pretty soon I was whipping through the trails smiling enjoying the peacefulness of the race fueling at the aid stations and closing on 4th and 3rd even. Eric at the 10k had about a minute and a half of a lead on me. By the end of the race, it was 30 seconds!  My last 4k was amazing. I felt like I was flying with a big old smile on my face as the Half Marathon felt more like my race. The peaceful snow falling and my focus on my own running was intense and vibrant.  I continued to push the pace until the final circuit around the stadium into the finish. I came across the line in 5th place a National Team spot in 1:34:37 where I negative split the last 10k pretty well. I was so pleased to run well in the Half Marathon as the 10k the day before was not a good performance at all. The guys in front of me deserved their placing and props to Scott Gall who won both the 10k and Half Marathon!  I still have a lot of work to do in the sport of snowshoe running. I do not have the speed for the 10k yet. Maybe I can get there. For year three of snowshoe racing, it was a good one.
I got to spend the rest of my time in Eau Claire, hanging out with buddies Jon and Matt Grey who drove to see me on a whim and man was it great to see those guys. It had been too long but they have always been like family to me and I think we will always be close till our dying days. Monday, I flew back to Upstate New York, Land of deep snow and cold.
Overall, this was an incredible trip. I loved every moment of it. I did miss Ashlee like crazy but I hope for next year we can get her to come along to Ogden, Utah.  I am excited to race the new Marathon Distance Snowshoe Race in 2016 as the longer running is more of my style. What a great season of Snowshoe Racing and I am very grateful for the opportunity to race and represent such awesome companies.
Thank you Mammut North America: Your support as my Title Sponsor has been tremendous and I am so luckily and blessed to be apart of the team!
Thank you Fits Socks for the best fitted Merino Wool socks on the market.
Thank you Acidotic Racing and Chris Dunn for your continued support and connections in beautiful New Hampshire.
Thank you Boom Nutrition as your gels are not only the best tasting but have the best packaging, serving size, real-fruit, calories, and everything else that just plain works for athletes.
Thank you to Karhu and Craft North America for great road running shoes for my training and apparel that is great for training and your "cashmere of baselayers" fabric technology.
Thank you to the Finger Lakes Running Company and Confluence Running for keeping me going with gear and a wonderful career in Run Specialty.
Thank you to USATF Niagara.
Thank you to Redfeather Snowshoes for the best racing snowshoes I have ever owned. I had so much fun hanging with the crew and it was such an honor to represent the company at Nationals.
To a great winter!  Now it is time for Ultra season.  I feel my winter running in snowshoes has given me more strength than ever before. Onward!  
Next up will be to break Michael Wardian's 50k indoor track world record of 3:06:03! 6 minutes a mile for 31.1 miles. I plan on an attempt at the end of April!  Wish me luck!  Then it will be Cayuga Trails 50 in May!