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: