Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4th Annual Grindstone 100 Predictions!

*Last updated 10/4/11 (weather forcast-sunny highs in the mid 70's, lows in the 40's)

Ladies and gentleman! Here come the 2011 Grindstone 100 predictions.This will be my third set of predictions for Grindstone, so here's to hoping they are the best. 23,000 ft of climb. Over 100 miles of varying terrain. Quirky fall weather. Who's ready? Karl Meltzer still owns the course record of 18:46. I'm sure he could have run much faster, sub 18 perhaps, but he was never challenged in the race, having won by over 2.5 hours. The men's field is deep, but as always expect a few drops here and there. I'm sure to miss a few folks, but here are who I think are the key players.

Neal Gorman: Grand Slam record holder is no longer an up and comer in the sport of ultras. He is already there. This summer alone he has been 2nd at Massanutten (19:40), 1st at Old Dominion(16:16 with 20 minute detour), and 3rd at the oxygen deprived Leadville(17:48). Predict Neal for the win in 19:15

Andy Jones Wilkins: *update- AJW will not be running*

Keith Knipling: Tons of experience in the VA mountains. He's the TWOT 100 record holder, which overlaps a large section of the Grindstone course, and he's been a contender in this race before. Predict 22:30

Frank Gonzalez: He's been a running machine this year and is fresh off a course record win at Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness (7:16). Frank the tank is my sleeper for the top 3, and I think he'll be in around 22 hours.

James Brennan: Ran well at his only two 100's (Vermont in 19:19 and Rocky Raccoon in17:34). James seems to always be in the hunt. I suspect he'll be in the top 10 and cracking the sub 24 barrier.

Jordan Chang: 1st 100? Jordan is a fast youngster who could make things fun. It'll be interesting to see how his road speed plays out in the mountains. Prediction???

Matt Hart: solid coach and runner. Don't know much about Matt, but he will probably be a top 5 contender. Predict 22:45

Jason Lantz: Lots of 100 mile experience. Another guy who can run sub 24 on pretty much any course, even when he has a "bad" day. 2 time Old Dominion champ (in the hot years). Predict a 22:30, and a top 5

Patrick McGlade: fast youngster who already has an impresive resume of wins, and a cross country run to boot. DNF'ed in '09, ran for fun in '10. Depending on whether he is running for fun, or competitive, he could be in the mix. Capable of 22-23 hours, or better.

Craig Thornley: Has finished WS consistently in 18-20 hours. Lots of experience on the west coast, and ultras in general. I suspect he'll challenge for a top 5. Predict 22:45

Mario Raymond: Another very seasoned runner, who's been running well the past few years. He has broken 24 at Grindstone before, and I'd expect the same. Predict 23 hours, or better, and a top 8

David Ploskonka: Had an inspiring and gutsy "return from the dead" performance at MMT. Dave is fast, and pacing will make or break his race. Predict 23:59, or better if he stays on course

David Ruttum: '10 Old Dominion winner. He's run well at Grindstone before. Predict a top 6 22:15

Sleepers in the men's race. Potential sub 24 and top 10:

Yosuke Murase- 2011 grand slammer has really come into his own as an ultrarunner the past couple years.

Tom Syre is a fast youngster, though I think this is his first 100?

Aaron Mulder is another consistent runner who could sneak into the top 10.

Thad Meyer has done well in 24 hour races and Matt Bugin is yet another speedy 50k and 50 mile guy in the mix.

I've been informed that Jason Wiley is one to watch as well, and is a strong late race runner

Age Group: look for Mike Campbell to set an age group course record. The guy seriously proves aging does not mean slowing down.

Women's race: ?? Grindstone has historically had very, very few woman. Not sure why the draw isn't there. Not really sure on the contenders, though I suspect Alyssa Wildeboer may be the fastest. Zsuzanna Carlson and Kerry Owens have a lot of experience, and could round out the top 3 women.

*update- Sophie Speidel informs me Katherine Dowson is one to watch. She was the 2009 Bear 100 winner and Bighorn 50 winner.

Per Zsuzanna Carlson, Deb livingston is another speedy one, though it appears much of her success, and wins, have been at the trail marathon and 50k distance.

Alicia Hudelson has the women's Superior Hiking Trail record, covering 205 miles in 4 days and 15 hours.

Rebecca Phalen- solid local runner. Not sure what she's been up to recently, but in previous years she's done well.

The women's race thickens!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ultramarathon Hall of Fame. Who would be in it?

I found myself daydreaming during a hike the other day about an ultramarathon hall of fame. Most sports have one, and actually many non sport related careers and industries have them. So, hypothetically, what if ultrarunning had one? There is an American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, but as far as I know there isn't a general one for the entire sport. Setting aside the formalities of what governing body would decide, or what is considered an ultra, here's who I think would make the list. You'll notice it's mostly an American roster, largely due to the fact those are the only names I am familiar with, but we all know many other countries have produced amazing ultramarathoners.

For starters, I suppose in order to be "qualified" of a hall of fame type "career", there should be some longevity, records, contribtuions, and overall success in the world of distance running over 26.2 miles. Of course, many of these folks are still competitive today, but I'd probably consider runners whose careers pre date the last five years. Perhaps prior to 2006, which, for the time being, would probably rule out current elites like Geoff Roes, Tony Krupicka, and Killian Jornet. Just an example.

The hypothetical Ultrarunning Hall of Fame class of 2011

Yiannis Kouros- the big kahuna
Ann Trason- the best female ever
Terry Fox- though he never formally ran ultras
Ted Corbitt
Sandra Kiddy
Marcy Schwam
Bernd Heinrich
Tim Twietmeyer
Stu Mittleman
Allan Kirik
Barney Klecker
Oleg Kharitonov- HOF performance, 11:28 100 mile world record. It should be noted that a 14 hour 100 was done in 1934 by Arthur Newton who set the bar for the distance.
Scott Jurek
John Geesler
Roy Pirrung
Sue Ellen Trapp
Chad Ricklefs
Bruce Fordyce
Dennis Herr
Karl Meltzer
Nikki Kimball
Howard Nippert
Carl Anderson
Valmir Nunez
Matt Carpenter
Arnulfo Quimare
Dean Karnazes- the guy everyone loves to hate
Eric Clifton
David Horton
Pam Reed
Mike Morton
Kami Semick
Courtney Campbell

Potential HOF'ers: Annette Bednosky, Anne Lundblad, Anita Ortiz, Hal Koerner, David Goggins, Monica Scholz, Dave Mackey.

It'll be interesting to see who is still running in ten years, as the sport really seemed to explode in the mid 2000's. With so many talented runners, I wonder how many will be quick 3-5 years stars, and who will stick around for a while?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A newbie's point of view: Shenandoah 100 Century Ride

Let me preface this short story by saying I sometimes intentionally enter endurance events without training, or experience, to make it tougher. The Shenanhoah 100, not the mountain bike race, was one of those events.

Having completed numerous long distance running events , I thought it would be fun to attempt a long distance event on a bike. I don't own a bike, and hadn't ridden in one in over 8 years. More importantly, I had never been on a road bike, which I quickly learned was a very different experience.

Thus, in August, just weeks before the SVBC's Shenandoah 100, I hopped on a road bike for the first time in my life. My friend Benjamin Jacobsen, a young, faster, local cyclist, was going to let me borrow his bike for the ride, and riding gear. Well, now I've got a bike! Now let me tell you this. Learning how to simply get on a road bike took about 10 minutes, and remaining upright was a challenge during my entire first ride. The seat felt high, the stearing was shakey, and the feel was rigid. After only a few miles, my butt hurt, my neck was stiff, and my shoulders ached. I poked along at about 10mph on the flat sections and was too wimpy to go faster than 24 mph on the downhills. All in all, my first road ride ever was 16 miles and nearly 2 hours. It was more learning effort, than physical effort, but how would this compare to riding 100 miles? Would it take me 10-12 hours?

A week later I got in my second road ride. This short 14 miler would be my last ride leading up to the following week's century.

Sept 11, 2011. On the ten year anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 I started my first endurance ride. It reminded me a lot of how I felt at my first ultra. There were hundreds of cyclists who looked fit, experienced, and ready to roll. Then, there was me. I wore running shoes, because I didn't own any "clip ins" which apparently help a ton. It was a cool 60 degrees, it was 8am, and we were off! And.... just like that I fell off my bike causing a small log jam of bikes behind me. Less than three seconds into my ride and I already fell! Fail. Not how I wanted to start the day. Geeze, my only goal today was to finish under 10 hours, maybe I should just try to survive! Pretty soon the hundred, or so, riders made there way into the first of four 25-28 mile loops. The course is shaped like a clover leaf, so you never repeat sections, but aid is always at the same spot.

Things were comfy early on. I talked with a few folks and told them I had just started riding. When we hit mile 17, I proudly proclaimed that it was now my longest ride ever. This was immediately followed by suggestions to slow down my pace, and take it easy. Of course, this meant I sped up. Whenever I receive sage advice like "slow down", I rarely follow it. Not much to really add other than the first 28 miles went by quick. The rolling hills and long straight aways started really working my legs in loop 2, but my confidence on the bike was growing. Here and there I would get into nice flat stretches averaging around 30mph, and even hitting 40 on the downhills. There was never an opprtunity to draft, mostly due to not having enough riders around. I was either struggling to keep up, or passing people. At any rate, I know it took up a lot of extra energy riding by myself into the headwind. So it goes.

Lap 3 was the toughest for me. My right IT band started really getting sore around the 100k mark. I stopped stretched, took a couple ibuprofen, and continued to ride with a rider named Tyler Spurlock, who happened to go to the same church as me. It was nice having company again, and we rode together for about 10 miles. Leaving for the final loop, my IT band was really throbbing, but it was a pain I had gotten used to several years ago when it really inhibited my running. I figured it couldn't get any worse, and it didn't. So, I sucked it up through the mostly flat 4th loop, enjoyed the crystal clear views of the valley, and took it easy. There were a couple odd looking "course markings" that almost sent me off route, so I waited to see other riders. Surprisingly, the course was so welled marked, I never actually made any wrong turns.

In the end, I casually rolled into the finish 101.8 miles later, in 7 hours and 40 minutes. I was a little sore, but in a good way. Considering I used completely untrained muscle groups for that long, I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt post ride. (though the ibuprofen was probably still working). I also realized around mile 70 that I hadn't use any of my small gears, which is why I kept losing time on the climbs. Many of the riders who did the century were more likely to be more experienced and faster than the less experienced folks like me. Quite a few people opted to cut the ride down to either a 75 mile, or 50 mile version. So, I am quite pleased with my debut. I will also note that I never went anaerobic during the ride. My heart rate was always pretty low, aside from a few steep hills. Due to the lack of conditioning needed for long rides, my muscles fatigued far sooner than required to to stress my cardio. In running, my legs are conditioned, so they often hold up longer than my lungs, and thus I go anaerobic. When my cycling muscles get trained, then I can finally start using my cardio to ride faster. After that, look out!


Average speed during my 102 mile ride: 14.2 mph
Average speed on my two short training rides: 9.0 mph (for 16 and 14 miles)
Highest training week: 16 miles. Other riders (150-200 miles)
Longest ride: 16 miles
Bike: 22 lb Giant
Nutrition: refilled 2 water bottles 3 times, consuming about 130 ounces
Calories: 300 pre-ride. About 900-1000 during (130 cal per hour)
Weight: before 157.5, after 156.5
Time: 7:40, time at aid and pit stops 0:30, total riding time 7:10. Finished about an hour ahead of the riders who told me to slow down during loop one :-)
Loop splits:
Loop 1: 27.8 miles (1:58) cum 1:58 (27.8 miles) time at aid: 0:12 (waited for potty)
Loop 2: 25.2 miles (1:54) cum 3:48 (53.0 miles) time at aid: 0:08 (waited for potty)
Loop 3: 26.0 miles (2:02) cum 6:00 (79.0 miles) time at aid: 0:08 (I'll pee later)
Loop 4: 22.8 miles (1:40) cum 7:40 (101.8 miles) finish (went pee pee)

Final thoughts: I think with basic experience gained from a century ride, I think I could knock an hour off this time, if I were to ride the exact same event a week from now. With regular training, maybe even sub 6 hours by next year's ride. But, that would require a bike, and a growing love for having my rear end hurt all the time. The SVBC puts on a great low key event. Very cheap to enter, and you can enter last minute. The well marked course gave me an opprtunity to see many of the beautiful back coutry roads that I rarely drive. Lastly, riding 100 mile has given me a new appreciation for Iron Man athletes who swim 2.4 miles, rode 10 miles furthur than I did, and then run a marathon. I also can't fathom how Tour Du France riders average their speed at altitude, through the mountains, for three straight weeks. No wonder so many turned to PED's, sheesh.