Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stuff in the Basement: Graveyard 100, Round 2

(photo credit Russ Carawan and RacENC)

"Hey Rock. It takes guts climbing back in that ring knowing you're going to take a beating. Yo Rock....You're gonna do alright Rocko. There's stuff in the basement."

Eleven months ago I finished the innaugural Graveyard 100 in the Outer Banks. My body hurt more after Graveyard than other other race I have finished. My feet were swollen from pounding 101.2 miles of pavement. My teeth were chattering like castanets from being exposed to mid 30's temperatures and a constant wind. My mind was drained from gazing upon miles and miles of endless route 12 road. I told myself I was never going to run the Graveyard 100 again. Apparently, I lied. In two weeks I will step back in the ring for another round with the long lonely shoreline of the OBX.

I've always been a huge fan of the Rocky movie franchise, and as we are now fourteen days away from the Graveyard 100, the quote from above rings truer than ever. For those not familiar with the film Rocky Balboa, potentially the final movie in the series, the quote is from a short dialogue between Rocky and his often troubled brother in law Paulie. An old retired and recently widowed Rocky is coming out of retirement for possibly the last fight of his career. He knows he's rusty, decades beyond his physical prime, and knows he doesn't stand a great chance against the younger stronger opponent. He knows time is not on his side and that he's going to have to dig deep in order to go the distance. He has to find "the stuff in the basement", and if he does, only then will he be fully satisfied with the effort he gave.

Well, I may not be Rocky's age, but I am rusty and have had limited time to run the past six months. Thankfully, I seem to be mostly recovered from all the injuries that built up from September through January that prevented me from maintaining much of my fitness from 2012. I have some how managed to get in about a month of relatively consistent, though still fairly low intensity and low volume training. All my longs runs have had an average pace of 10:00 to 13:00 minutes per mile, and thus my speed is pretty much non existent these days. In all honesty, anything faster than a nine minute mile is probably too fast, so again, lack of speed isn't so much an issue as is conditioning for the distance. Like Rocky, I have had to revert to going completely old school in my training and methodology. No track workouts, no tempo runs, no 100 mile weeks, just grinding out the long stuff at a slow and steady pace.

If I am going to finish the Graveyard 100, I too will need to find the stuff in the basement. I'm not in the shape I was in last year, but I have valuable experience going in. Let's take a look at last year and see what I did right, and what I did wrong.

What I did right:

1. Not much, but my training leading up to Graveyard was solid, and eventually building up to some 90 mile weeks. Too bad I squandered good training with a poor strategy.

2. Kept my nutrition and hydration pretty good during the race.

What I did wrong: Everything

1. Went out too aggressively. Led through the mile 38.6 water stop before being passed by the eventual winner. Ran splits of 2:44 through 19.9 miles, 3:40 through the marathon, 4:22 through 50k, and 4:35 through 32.7 miles. Way too fast for a 100 miler, but it was tough earned lesson in realistic pacing. FYI, it was a projected sub 14 hour pace. Legs got too trashed too early which caused me to slow down way sooner than expected. End result, epic blowup, finish time 20:28.

2. Did not use a crew. This meant I had to carry all my clothing and nutrition in a pack for the 18-25 mile durations between full aid stations. Carrying the extra weight took its toll over the course of the race.

3. Did not pack warm enough clothing. My body got very cold after mile 80, and really prevented me from getting my legs moving much for the remainder of the race.

4. Did not take care of blisters early. Again, the blisters started forming, and I was still 15 miles from the next place to fix them. When I got there, they didn't have anything to fix blisters like duct tape, body glide, or vaseline. My feet were too wrecked to even jog after mile 80. Lack of running meant I got cold quicker and easier which led to even slower walking. In fact, lack of any running/jogging after mile 80 probably cost me over an hour.

5. Missed a waterstop. Some of the main water stops were not set up when I ran through, and therefor only gallon jugs of water were put out. I actually missed one completely and had to run backwards on the course a quarter mile to refill.

This year the game plan is to be smarter than last year, which shouldn't be tough. Looking back at last year's splits it's crazy how fast I went out. That 4:22 50k split was actually a personal best (which is never ever good to do during a 100). Factor in wearing about six pounds of gear, spending six minutes at the water stops, I was probably running low eight minute miles for the first third of the race. Stupid, stupid, stupid. This year, I will be uncrewed again, but hopefully plan ahead a little better.

On another note, this year's event has drawn some of the biggest names in ultrarunning, including Valmir Nunes, Mike Morton, Jonathan Savage, and Connie Gardner. This means the 2013 Graveyard will host two of the fastest Badwater champs of all time, a Western States champion, two American 24 hour record holders, and three members of the US 24 hour team. Every name mentioned above is capable of breaking 15 hours, and most likely 14, and dare say 13 for Morton. My one regret is that I will be hours behind and won't be able to watch this incredibly talented field. There are also several other very exciting names in the mix including Brad Smythe, Olivier Leblond, and Marie Ange Smith. Jan Erick Olsen, who battled Brenda Carawan for first place in the later miles last year, is back to avenge his mile 90 DNF. Andrei Nana (2nd last year) is another returner who has recently taken the 100 mile running scene by storm, as well as last year's female open winner Kelley Wells. All in all, it should be an exciting day, and depending on what the weather decides, we could be in for one wild ride.

As for me? I don't have any real goals, other than to finish. Hopefully, I can break 24 hours again. I still plan on putting everything out there and to do my best, regardless of where my fitness may.

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