Sunday, June 5, 2016

2016 Cayuga Trails 50: Could not Stomach the Day

This race has been my Achilles heel.

I have finished 9th in 2013, 7th in 2014 and a DNF in 2015. The race has always been a tough one for me. Maybe it is because of the time of year, the humidity of early summer? I really am not sure.

Getting to the race site the night before and sleeping in the Nathan Mobile was nice to be able to be right where the action would happen. With a nice cool morning right around the high 50's, it was great to sleep with the windows down and the beautiful starts overhead. I felt poised and ready to go. You never go into a race feeling 100% perfect though training had gone well and I was hopeful for a great day.

Photo Credits ATRA  Myself and the chase pack
Photo Credits: Mountain Peak Fitness --Hanging with Avi and Zach
 * The race like all of the others had us gather together with Ian's blowing of the ram's horn. I settled a little further back than what I normal would do putting myself around 10-15th place. I wanted to start the run more conservatively than in years' past because I have encountered issues when going out with the front group. I also wanted to take the time to enjoy the beginning of the race more so than before. I felt that maintaining an upbeat attitude would bode well for conserving much needed energy for the longer ups and downs encountered the 2nd 25 miles of the course on tired legs.
Photo Credit: ATRA
 As the field began to separate, I met one of Zach's friends from Ann Arbor, Avi who we spent a large portion of miles together. The photo above shows the fun we were having rattling off strong but consistent miles. We kept our pace in the 7:45-8:30 minute range through the gorges and the steps of the course. It was really great to have someone along for the journey. This course knows how to pack a punch and I was feeling really strong besides the humid and warm day. With my job, I had spent the past month in some warmer spots of the country so this was helpful and felt that with maintaining a sound hydration and nutrition plan, things would go well. I was making sure to drink 18 oz every 6 miles and making sure to take a gel every two aid stations. Avi and myself began to catch other runners around the Buttermilk turn-around. I had some GI issues leading up to that aid station and had to stop to use the bathroom. I lost some time here as Avi heading up the steps of Buttermilk falls as I took my pit stop.
Photo Credit: ATRA
Life was going pretty well in the early stages...
Then things became real!
The pit stop was the first warning sign. I began to sweat a little more but my stomach felt better. I continued on my nutrition plan. I knew I could catch Avi again as he was maybe a minute or two ahead of me. I soon caught one runner and then latched on with former Red Newt/MPF runner, Ben Nephew. We hung together as I noticed Ben was going through a little low point and eventually decided to make a move to pass. I started taking in more Boom Gels and Tailwind and started noticing a weird sloshing in my stomach. I continued to try and remain calm knowing that stomach sloshing could be caused by all types of things.
Photo Credit: TJ Moore
After a bathroom pit stop, I did not think anything of this. I kept trucking along.
Photo Credits: TJ Moore 
This photo was the breaking point. The stomach sloshing with the heat really was making me feel sick. I dumped water on myself to get some evaporative cooling before the next push to mile 25 turnaround but really had that sea sick type of feeling.

All it took was right after the Highway Aid station I stopped to walk on one of the uphills and then felt it coming. I threw up some and then began to resume running hoping that was going to be all I had to deal with. Boy was I wrong. My body's system had enough. Any bit of running and I was projectile vomiting all over the trail. I had to walk. I thought maybe a few minutes of walking would do me good. Soon Ben Nephew and some other runners passed me by. They could tell something was off. In an ultra, you have some time to rebound and make a race of it. I knew that at this moment, top 5 would be out of the picture but if I could put together a strong last 25 miles, I could maybe crack the top 10.

It was torture. Every moment I got going into a running motion, I would find myself throwing up. I finally after struggling for the last 7 or so miles and being passed by the lead ladies, I knew my race was in jeopardy.  I finally crawled into the 25 mile turnaround point and knew I had to make a decision. I already felt dejected knowing that already 25 miles in that this race was not the redemption race I had hoped for.

Stomach Problems Led the Way:

Photo Credits: ATRA
Here you can see me dejected and sick. The whole team at the Start/Finish was incredible. A friend of mine, Dom was the man of the hour getting me back to feeling stronger with ice pops and plenty of water. It took me a solid 15 minutes before I headed back out. Kudos to everyone there to help boost me up as best as they could. That support was truly incredible. I was leaving the 25 mile mark at about 4:03. If I had a solid second 25, I could still make some magic happen. The downside, was that I was not sure if I was really feeling back to normal. I told my fiancé, Ashlee and my Dad to meet me at each aid station as we would play it aid to aid to see if I could improve and rebound.
From the energy of all the volunteers, I bolted out of the 25 mile aid and up into the gorges. It was maybe about a mile or so before I stopped by a rock and puked some more. Then tried to run again and the puking continued. That was it. I continued to average 15 minutes a mile through this section until I had made the near 50k mark. I hit the aid station finally and sat down on a chair here and said I had to drop.
At this point I had thrown up maybe 20+ times in those last 5 miles and was not able to put anything else down. I felt weak and dizzy. My race was over.
Again, the Cayuga Trails Course bested me yet again. I made it back to the Start/Finish to cheer on  MPF/RNR teammates and other finishers.
The heat made it hard for all of the runners out there but so many preserved and finished.
Incredible races by:
Tyler Sigl who ran a gutsy 6:43 besting Sage's course record on a hot and humid June day was incredible.
Jared Burdick who has been so consistent here with two 2nd place finishes!
And props to MPF/RNR teammates:
Ben Nephew for his 6th place finish
Jan Wellford showing he has some ultra speed too finishing 9th
and Silas Carey finishing in 10th.
Photo Credits: Ashley Lauren

So what went wrong?  

Pretty simple: After talking to everyone, eating fibrous fruit for breakfast was not the best idea. I had two apples and a peach with the skins on. This mistake with the hot and humid conditions only made things worse. I noticed when I threw up the first time that the skins were the only thing I could make out in the mush.  It goes to show that we can always learn new things about ourselves.
Even though the outcome was not what I hoped for, the people of this race are what  I truly love and am thankful for. Thanks to all of you, this is the reason why I love this event year in and year out.
Thank you to all of the race volunteers for keeping me going when I thought I should just throw in the towel, the RD: Ian Golden for putting on a killer race year in and year out, Dom for almost reviving me, Elizabeth of MPF and so many others.
Thank you to sponsors: Mammut North America for being such an incredible company to represent as well as Nathan which is also become a second family for me, Fits socks for the best in merino blister-free socks with the best Fit around, Boom Nutrition that keeps me fueled and ready to go, Redfeather Snowshoes for the best in running snowshoes, and Team MPF/RNR for helping to inspire me each and every day to train and race my best!

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