Trail Running: Kona, Hawaii

While the rest of you were following in the footsteps of the Ironman and cycling Highway 19 or swimming Kailua Bay, I was running the coastline, checking out Kekaha Kai State Park. I actually wanted to drive to Volcanoes National Park to run some of the trails there, but we were staying near Kona, and the schedule didn’t allow enough time to drive to the Southeast side of the island. My trail run wasn’t so much a trail run as it was bits of running mixed with hiking and picture taking. If I had it to do over again, I would have loaded up the family, snorkel gear, and beach supplies and made a day of hiking the unbelievably quiet beaches I found along the way.

I started my run by getting a cab to drop me off at the Southern-most entrance of Kekaha Kai State Park just off Highway 19. Trying to tell the driver where I wanted to go proved amusing as he originally thought I wanted him to take me directly to Makalawena Beach. Since the drive from HI-19 to the beach is unpaved and extremely rough, you’re unlikely to find a cab willing to take you all the way in. Instead of getting dropped off near the beach, I just ran the mile or so from 19 to the beach parking area. It might be tough for a car, but it’s not that bad for running.

Makaole'a Beach

Makaole’a Beach

Once I arrived at the parking area, I turned South away from Makalawena to run toward a small, black sand beach area called Makole’a Beach. The road toward the beach this direction is distinctly 4WD only, and it was much more difficult to run than the main road. The 4WD roads often have rocks in the 4-6” diameter size range bunched together anywhere the road has been washed out which is great for a vehicle but a little more challenging for a runner. After some time on the road, I noticed white markings on the lava heading toward the beach so I blindly followed.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

The lava was surprisingly runnable, but that isn’t always the case. The lava in this area was smooth with cracks spaced well for my stride. In other areas, the lava was much rougher and reduced me to slow walking to keep my footing. The marked lava route eventually rejoined a road and took me to Makole’a.

Makole’a was empty. At 11:00 am, I was the only person on the beach. Being the type of person who likes to avoid crowds, I was floored. I’ve never seen an empty beach…ever. It would have been nice to stay and spend some time, but this was my running time so I took a few pictures and headed north along the coast.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

Running from Makole’a to Mahai’ula Beach was a mix of rocks and really loose sand. If you wanted to get a better run without burning out your legs in the sand, returning to the 4WD road might have been a better strategy.

There were a handful of people at Mahai’ula Beach, but it was still extremely quiet. Most people coming to this area likely hike further North to Makalawena Beach.

If I’m remembering the route correctly, the hike to Makalawena is extremely rough. It’s about a quarter mile on little 4” diameter rocks. I was wearing trail shoes, and it was bothering my feet. I felt sorry for the beach goers navigating the rocks in their sandals, but the payoff had to be worth it. Makalawena Beach was so nice that I texted my wife and teased that I was just going to stay for the rest of the day.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

From Makalawena, I mixed some coast line running with some 4WD road running. At times the coast line slowed me to barely a crawl while I worked my way around tide pools, and at other times I was running on paths through the trees or along small, sandy beaches.

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

After I left Makalawena, I didn’t see another tourist until I reached Kua Bay at the North side of Kekaha Kai. The few people I did see were clearly locals either heading out for spearfishing or camping on beaches reachable only by truly off-road vehicles. The roads to these areas may not necessarily require 4WD, but you MUST have ground clearance. The smaller Subaru’s I saw earlier in my run wouldn’t have worked here, and an Outback would have been borderline.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

Eventually I had been out too long on too slow a route. I happened to see a car drive by out of the corner of my eye and realized I was near the paved road to Kua Bay. I cut across some of the worst lava rock I’ve encountered and hopped on the road for a quick half mile or so to Manini’owali Beach.

Manini’owali Beach is by far the most popular beach in this park. It’s a beautiful but smaller white sand beach with much less rock in the water making it a more attractive swimming location. When I arrived around lunch time, the beach was packed. I couldn’t even run the path through the beach without risking kicking sand into sunbathers. There were coolers and towels and people on almost every square foot of white sand.

I had planned to continue North, but there is a historical lava rock area just North of Manini’owali Beach with dire warnings about moving any rock. Not knowing how long it might take me to work my way through, I opted to run back out the Kua Bay access road and return to my hotel via HI-19. Even though my body was pretty well shot at this point, the roads gave me a chance to get in what turned into intervals for the final 3 miles of my run.

KeKaHa Kai State Park

KeKaHa Kai State Park

There are probably better places to run in and around Kona and definitely on the Big Island, but I had a blast at Kekaha Kai State Park. Mahalo, Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: 2015 Post Oak Challenge

The Post Oak Challenge consists of 2 days of trail races at the Post Oak Lodge in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On each day, 3 races take place simultaneously for a total of 6 races for the weekend. On Saturday this year, Post Oak went metric with 10K, 25K, and 50K distances. On Sunday, they ran the slightly less metric Marathon, Half Marathon, and Quarter Marathon. What makes Post Oak a bit unique in my experience is that they allow runners to “double” by running races on both days. Beyond your performance in any one specific race, they also rank all Doublers by their cumulative time.

Coming into 2015, I was still on the fence about the health of my achilles and only planning to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in late April. Near the end of January, though, I had some particularly good training runs culminating with a 1:42 half marathon training run. I was not trying to PR yet there I was at the end of 13.1 with a 10 minute PR for the distance. And what do you do when training goes well? You sign up for too many races.  The day after my training run, I decided to Double at Post Oak with the 25K and 1/4 Marathon.

Post Oak Challenge 2015 Starting Line

I’ve already discussed the 25K a bit on the blog, but let’s get into some more specifics and then talk about the 1/4 Marathon and what it took to get myself ready after my physical challenges during the 25K.

If you just want a quick summary of my thoughts on the Post Oak Challenge, feel free to jump to the end.

Post Oak Challenge 25K

Do I look determined in this picture?

No? That’s strange because that’s my determined face. Clearly my face isn’t psychic. If it was, it would have been more fear than determination. They weren’t kidding when they said Post Oak was hard. Humbled Turkey Mountain runner checking in.

As I always say, I like running in the heat, but I think I finally found some heat that didn’t go my way. The forecast Friday night before the Saturday morning 25K called for mid to upper 30’s at the start of the race.  The highs were supposed to get into the mid-40’s by the time I expected to finish the race. Instead of 40’s, the temperature made it well into the 50’s with the sun out for the duration of the race.

I dressed for the colder temperatures which meant I was running pretty hot by about 30 minutes into the race. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why I was so fatigued, but looking back, I think it had a lot to do with the heat and a failure on my part to realize I needed to adjust my hydration and fuel to accommodate it. If I had it to do over again, I would have stopped and taken off my long sleeve compression undershirt to keep my temperature down.

Unfortunately, there was not quite enough nice weather between Wednesday’s sleet and snow and Saturday’s race to dry the entire course. The weekend weather was great, but the melting snow left a lot of mud on the course. After spending the day navigating a lot of mud, I think I’ve decided I prefer running in the snow. Mud just knocks the stuffing out of you.

All of the races started in front of the lodge every 30 minutes starting at 8:00 am. That meant the 25K gun went off at 8:30 AM. After a brief sprint on the pavement, the race turned onto the trails.

My memory of the course is a little foggy, but what stood out to me from the first few miles was the technicality. Rocks were constant anytime there was single track trail. Some of the rocks even liked to hide under the grass. I witnessed ankles twist in front of me in ways that my ankles just don’t twist without injury, and it was almost always a sneaky rock hiding out in the grass.

It also seemed like we never got more than 4 or 5 strides before having to turn a corner. Those corners also led to confusion as trail markers for multiple paths could be seen and inadvertently followed because the trails are not quite as well defined as public trails like Turkey Mountain. I followed two runners the wrong direction in the first 2 miles, and then somewhere around mile 4, a large group of us thought we were following a volunteer’s instructions but missed turning into the woods. That mistake only cost us about 1/2 a kilometer. One other location near an aid station on a tight loop also caused further confusion, but I believe by around mile 7, things calmed down for me and those around me.

That wasn’t the case for everybody, though. You can see from the map that there are several places in the first half of the course where you could easily cut the course accidentally. Most of the locations had very clear markings and often a volunteer directing traffic, but some runners still managed to get confused.

Post Oak Challenge 10K-25K-50K Map

There was mass confusion through the out and back section. I didn’t get caught up in the mess, but I saw several runners crossing caution tape. Most appeared to be aware they made a mistake and were trying to get back on course. As I emerged from the out and back, the man in charge of the course was headed out to that section presumably to clear up some of the confusion. Whatever he and other volunteers did then and after the races to clear up the course markings must have worked because I didn’t see any of those issues on Sunday. I heard there were still some issues, but the 1/4 Marathon seemed fine, and the marathoners I chatted with weren’t complaining.

I basically ran my goal pace through those sections of the course. I didn’t feel good, but I was essentially on track. The problem was that the cumulative fatigue of carrying extra weight (ankle braces and hydration pack), turning tons of corners, dealing with technical trails, and sliding through the mud took their toll. Around 9-10 miles, my wheels started coming off. My splits went from mid-9 pace to 11’s due to all of the walking I had to do.

One interesting feature on this back half of the course was the zipliners flying around overhead. The volunteers told us to look up, and I heard encouragement coming down. Given where I was physically and mentally, though, I kept my head down and tried to focus. Little did I know I had friends from out of town flying around above me. I wouldn’t have recognized them given they were way up there, but it was an interesting coincidence to learn about after the fact.

How many races can you run that have people flying around overhead? There was also a plane, but I guess if you live somewhere like Dallas, that happens all the time.

The back half of the 25K brings you through Holme’s Peak and the Hill from Hell. Holme’s Peak is a straight but steep incline with reasonably good footing. It was the one I was looking the most forward to running after running it on the training day, but I was worn out when I arrived and didn’t have any energy saved up. After walking about 1/3rd of it behind several other runners, I finally took off.

With the race photographer perched at the crest of the hill, I took some jabs from my fellow runners for mugging for the camera, but like I said, I really just wanted to run the hill. To add to the comedy, I stumbled on a rock near the top, and the photographer managed to catch not only my only smiling race photo ever but also a lovely photo of what I really felt like after the trip.

Holme’s Peak is the highlight of the Post Oak Lodge trails. It’s up above the tree line and allows you to see the entire downtown Tulsa skyline. If I were a good blogger, I would have a picture, but as you can see there is no picture.

Unfortunately, my little outburst on Holme’s took the rest of the wind out of my sails. The cramps got much worse on the Hill from Hell which, unlike the straight climb of Holme’s, was more of a winding climb with a much shorter straight section. Knowing that I had only half a kilometer left, and my kids waiting for me at the finish line, I decided to try to run it the rest of the way in. I made it about 1/4 of a kilometer before my calf locked up. It locked up 2 more times before I finally crossed the finish line.

Post Oak Challenge 2015 25K Finish

After running a 16K at 9:12 in horrible conditions just a week earlier, to say I was disappointed in my performance would be an understatement. I ran 10:46 pace for a time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. Cramping calves aside, the only goal I achieved was coming home without any new injuries.

25K Results:

  • Overall 31st Place
  • Age Group 4th Place
  • 10:46 Pace

Recovering for the 1/4 Marathon

I’ve done my fair share of cumulative training. It was only a few weeks ago that I did a 6 mile run, upper body strength training for 45 minutes, and then swam for 90 minutes on a Monday following a long run weekend. I felt a lot better that Monday than I did last Saturday following the 25K. I might as well have run a road marathon the way I was feeling.

My calves had cramped. I was dehydrated. The scale had me down 3 pounds after I had already downed 24 ounces of soda post-race with 3 liters of water during the race. My left hamstring was on fire, and within a few hours of finishing, I started feeling a twinge of either bursitis or patellar tendonitis in my right knee.

My pre-race diet is designed to minimize potential GI distress and leaves a lot to be desired for endurance racing itself much less recovery. So far, though, my choices are to eat a combination of foods it’s taken me a few years to discover or take a chance of having to run porta-potty intervals. I’ve said too much, haven’t I? Moving on…

My pre-race diet is heavy on lean protein and light on carbohydrates and fats. There was no way I could stick to it exclusively and recover for more running on Sunday.

The first food I added was Ruffles. I realize that sounds terrible, but ruffles are oil, salt, and potatoes. They certainly aren’t an ideal food but they gave me some extra carbs and a bit of fat without much GI danger.

For quality fat,  I turned to coconut oil and green tea. That combination was an idea I derived from Bulletproof Coffee a couple of years ago. I can’t even stand the smell of coffee, but I can tolerate most forms of hot tea. Yes the combination sounds weird, but it tastes pretty good.

Other than that, I hydrated with a combination of soda (yeah, yeah, whatever), water, and coconut water. I also made sure I ate some Energy Bits and took a multivitamin to cover all of the bases.

Beyond nutritional, I first used my Addaday Roller, focusing on my cramped calves. After that, I wore 110% Clutch Tights for about an hour, 30 minutes of which included ice packs in all of the ice pockets. I also did minimal active stretching but mainly laid around the house, caught up with my Chinese studies, and watched some television.

My only concern before going to bed was that I was sore below my right knee. I’m not sure if it was/is runner’s knee or bursitis, but I was concerned it might flare during the 1/4 marathon.

1/4 Marathon

What the hell did I get myself into? I was up at 4:00 am for the second time in as many days only this time it wasn’t actually 4:00 am. My body thought it was 3:00 am due to Daylight Savings Time. Not only am I up ridiculously early, but I can barely walk without a severe limp. My left hamstring has locked up on me, and my right knee is none too happy. Seeing as I was already awake, though, I figured I should just go run the race. Or walk…there’s nothing wrong with walking. So off to the Post Oak Lodge I went for Day #2.

When we lined up, I saw Philip from Tulsa Runner head to the front. That meant the best any of the rest of us could do was 2nd. Philip ended up winning by almost 3 minutes with a time that I would struggle to run on pavement downhill with a 40 mile per hour wind at my back. That might have been an exaggeration, but for him to go out there and run sub-7 minute pace on that terrain was amazing.  Hats off to 2nd and 3rd place as well, both of whom came in under 7:30 pace.

For my part, I got it in my head that I could hang with a couple of runners I met during a training run. During the training run, I could tell they were strong runners, but I didn’t think they would be able to leave me behind. Of course, that day I was fresh and pre-injury whereas on Sunday, I was a shell of myself and tentative on anything remotely technical. Even so, I had it in my head I could stay with them so I tried.

Looking back at my splits, I ran the first mile at 7:46 pace. To put that in perspective, I almost never run under 9:00 for a full mile on trails. I will have bursts down into the 8’s and 7’s, but they’re only bursts. At the point this picture was taken, I was still trying to maintain that early pace.

Now that I see this, it’s clear that kid behind me is cheating. It’s a running race, no flying allowed. Of course, it was the guy behind him and the woman to my left who were truly flying. Both beat me handily.

After going out way too fast, I must have needed a nap because I somehow logged a 10:39 minute mile, and I don’t recall walking at that point in the race . From that point forward, though, my pace was more inline with what I expected. Most of my miles came in with mid-9’s, and I had a couple of slower miles there at the end with the Holme’s Peak, backwards this time, and the Hill from Hell (slightly different route I think than the 25K).

Some of the improvement may have been due to the course, a lot of which seemed familiar from the 25K but run in reverse up until the Hill from Hell.

Post Oak 2015 Quarter Marathon Map

What I really enjoyed about the 1/4 marathon was that we merged with some of the faster marathon runners, and I spent some time chatting with a guy who came all the way in from Wisconsin. I think he ended up taking 4th or 5th, and unlike a lot of us on Saturday, he looked completely relaxed and comfortable.

More like my trail races in the past, he would pull away from me downhill, but I would eventually catch up to him as we went back up. He needed to conserve energy for a second lap so it wasn’t like I was faster or fitter. I was just running a different race with a different strategy.

There was also a guy in his early 20’s who caught up with me on a downhill section, and he looked like he was having a blast every single time I saw him. He got quite a bit ahead of me going into the Hill from Hell, but near the end of the climb, I caught him, Wisconsin, and the marathoner in front of Wisconsin. We all chatted for a second before we crested the hill and began running downhill again. Happy guy beat me, and I was happy for him.

The finish of all of the races loops around the lake in front of the lodge and back onto the drive. I could see the only guy in front of me who I thought was in my age group about 100 yards ahead of me. I had assumed he would have already finished, but seeing him with a couple hundred yards left to run woke me up. I opened up and flew past Wisconsin, but I was too far back to make a serious play for first in my age group. 2nd still gets you a trophy, though…

1/4 Marathon Results

  • Overall 11th Place
  • Age Group 2nd Place
  • 9:27 Pace

The Doubler Results

Like I said, the Post Oak Challenge is a bit unique in that they also combine times for people registered as Doublers. The 25K-1/4 Marathon Doubler was one of the less popular combinations, but 10 of us finished. To my surprise, I WON. I said this on Facebook just the other day, but to emphasize the point with a slight modification for the Doubler:

Sometimes it’s not how fast you run but which races the people faster than you run that matters.

So here’s the tale of the tape:

  • Overall 1st Place
  • Age Group 1st Place
  • Net Time 3:48:54

Things I Liked About the 2015 Post Oak Challenge

  • It is a serious challenge. I expected it to be easier than Turkey Mountain, and it was every bit as hard if not harder.
  • The Post Oak Lodge and the trails that surround it are beautiful.
  • The view of Tulsa from Holme’s Peak is incredible.
  • The PhotographerWatt Design Photography has people out on the course taking extremely high quality photos (note the ones captioned above and not my personal photos with an iPhone) all day, both days. Then, and this is the really crazy part, HE SELLS FULL RESOLUTION DIGITALS AT A REASONABLE PRICE.
  • Hearing out-of-staters say, “I thought Oklahoma was flat.”
  • Meeting out-of-staters. Hopefully I left them with a decent impression of Oklahomans.
  • Water Stops: Seriously, if you’re going to do water stops, this is how you do them.
  • Volunteers: Hats off to all of the incredible volunteers.This wasn’t just a little 5K. There were runners out there for almost 10 hours a day.
  • The Hill from Hell: You’re mine next year. I ran most of you yesterday, but I’m still not satisfied.
  • Swag: Long sleeve technical shirt bright enough to be seen from Mars, huge finisher’s medals, hat, and unique trophies.
  • Tulsa Runner: I’m not a group runner, but Tulsa Runner is where I shop so they’re the only group in town I know personally. It’s a great place to shop with a great owner who knows a lot about everything running and friendly, knowledgeable employees.
  • They Fixed the Problems: I know people got lost last year, and I truly believe they thought they had everything marked clearly. As soon as there were problems, though, I saw them out on the course making adjustments, and Sunday went much better.

Things I Disliked About the 2015 Post Oak Challenge

  • So Many Turns: It was hard to get in a consistent rhythm while constantly looking for the next trail marker those first few miles.
  • I’m Lost! In every trail race, there’s usually at least one point at which you think you’ve goofed. On Saturday, I had 3 legitimate goofs and several minor panics when I lost site of the markers in the woods.
  • Start Time: I know I’ll never win this battle, but between temperature fluctuations the first few hours of the day to the pain of springing forward for day #2, why don’t we just start around 11:00 AM both days. Who’s with me?

 

Post Oak Challenge 2015 Swag

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain is Fun, Right?

The Post Oak Challenge 25K is complete with the 1/4 marathon surely days away because running on these legs right now just seems comical. In all seriousness, today was brutal. I just ran 9:15 pace for 16K in the snow/ice on Sunday, and I came out of the Post Oak 25K with a 10:46 pace. I added a buck-30, and it started long before I reached the 16K mark. While it’s fresh on my mind, I thought I would run through what went right and what went wrong.

Post Oak 25K Finish

Ankle Braces

So the ankle braces paid for themselves in spades, but I think they also cost me some time. Of course, if I didn’t finish, that would cost me a lot more time, wouldn’t it? Anyway, I put my foot on some bad rocks several times in the first 3 miles. I might have been alright without the braces, but the braces gave me the confidence to keep pushing through technical and muddy trails without too much concern for my ankle.

The bad thing about the braces is the weight. These braces weigh 6.4 oz. each, and my shoes weigh 12.8 oz. That seems like a small amount until you think about lifting and setting it down some 30,000+ times during a race. I also added trail gaiter weight plus the weight of the mud I picked up off of the trail. Still, though, I don’t know that I could have finished without them.

Fuel

For this race, I went with my pack and the following fuel:

  • 2 16 oz bottles of water with 1 scoop each of BCAA powder
  • 2 6 oz gel flasks with EFS Liquid Shot and 3/4 scoop of EFS Prerace in each
  • Kelp

Instead of wasting time at aid stations like at Trail Madness, I only stopped once for a refill and some salt. That said, the extra weight wears on you, not as bad as the additional weight on my feet, but you still feel it after a while.

Unfortunately my gel mix didn’t keep me very well hydrated. I was losing tons of salt through sweat and was covered by the time I finished the race.  The problem was I didn’t really know it was a problem until it was too late to fix.

PostOakSaltySloth

Salty Sweat, Not Dry Skin

Worst of all, I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT MY KELP. Just a few bites of kelp around the 10 mile mark would have made the last few miles of the race go so much better. Apparently I just need to tape a sign to my forehead or something.

Training

Due to injuries, my training has been less than ideal, and it showed today. My hamstrings, glutes, and especially calves were wasted. Around 20K, my calves started cramping just below the knee. It was the kind of cramp where you can feel your muscle rolled up inside your leg, and it just kept happening if I tried to run very much. Again, the kelp might have helped some, but I wasn’t the only one experience severe cramping.

I think there are several reasons for mine and other runners’ difficulty with the course today:

  • Elevation: Post Oak nearly doubled the elevation gain/loss of Trail Madness, and I was carrying a lot more weight.
  • Mud: I train in mud about as often as I train on snow and ice…never. It’s amazing how much energy you waste dealing with soft, slippery landings and then carrying around mud with you until it falls off of your shoes.
  • Too Many Corners: I have never run a course that featured so many frequent, tight turns. This was especially true during the first 3 miles, and it wore me out much more than the mud, but the mud made it worse as I was often bracing for a slide at the corners.

I’m not sure what I would do different preparing for this race since my preparation was limited by injury. If I had been doing my full triathlon schedule for the 3 weeks leading up to the race, I like to think I would have performed better, but it’s impossible to know. One thing I do know is I’m getting back to calf raises and squats as soon as I recover from tomorrow’s race. It’s clear I need more power and endurance in those areas.

 

 

Race Report: 2015 Trail Madness

Oklahoma was in full on crazy weather form leading into the 2015 Trail Madness hosted by Fleet Feet Tulsa. Just 4 days prior, I was training at Turkey Mountain in 50 degree, sunny weather on a mix of dry and muddy trails, but by the time the starting gun fired on Sunday, March 1st, a couple inches of snow and ice covered the trails. It was my first ever run in the snow.

Trail Madness 2015 Sloth

Yes, you read that right. It was my first run in the snow. I stick to the treadmill when the weather isn’t cooperating. If I could convince my wife, I would move somewhere Winter doesn’t exist, where it’s 90 degrees year round.

Trail Madness consists of 3 race distances: 4K, 8K, and 16K. Last year at the inaugural Trail Madness, Fleet Feet setup two courses, a 4K and an 8K, with staggered starts. The 16K runners ran with the 8Kers and completed the loop twice. This year, Fleet Feet wove all of the courses together and used a single water stop to serve all runners with the 16K again being 2 loops on the 8K course.

TrailMadnessCourse

For the 16K, we started at the South end and worked our way up the Eastern most red line. Where the red met yellow and blue, we turned North on yellow and stayed to the East. We then ran back to the intersection and turned West on the blue staying to the North side. Then turning back on the Southern blue trail passing the intersection and taking the Western red trail back to the starting line.

One thing Fleet Feet Tulsa did for this race that was really great was to provide a diagram of the water stop traffic flow. They had volunteers in place directing traffic, but it was nice to have that little bit of extra preparation for what would happen during the race.

TrailMadnessWaterStop

It was a well-thought out design, but I must admit I preferred 2014’s route along the outskirts of Turkey Mountain. Who wants to spend a couple of hours running around Turkey Mountain without the opportunity to smell raw sewage or slip off the side of the mountain and die? Oh…

So, let’s talk about the race itself.

Before I ever arrived at the starting line, I lucked into some good decisions. The most important decision I made came around 10:00 am the day of the race.

Did I mention Trail Madness takes place in the afternoon? This year’s race started at 1:00 PM.  That’s right, you early birds. We got to run in the middle of the day. Ha!

Anyway, I began to get very nervous about the snow and ice the morning of the race. The weather forecast had called for mid-40’s up until the last 36 hours before the race. On Sunday morning, it was obvious the snow was not going to melt anywhere on the course. So, I wanted more traction.

In preparation for the 2013 Route 66, I had panicked about wintery conditions as well and looked up every possible traction option. The recommendations were all the same: screw your shoes. I may have worded that poorly. Let me try again: put screws in the tread of your shoes. Most Google experts called for #6, 3/8” hex head screws, but Home Depot had nothing but #8’s. There wasn’t time to be picky so I took hex-headed #8’s over the pan-headed #6’s that looked like they would be good for ice skating.

Back at home, I inspected my Altra Lone Peak 2.0’s and decided that there wasn’t a suitable place to screw them without damaging the shoes and/or feeling one in my feet during the run . So I hauled my neglected Cascadia’s out of the closet, grabbed the cordless drill, and went to work. Notice the perfectly positioned rectangular pieces of tread along the side. As a mid-foot striker, that area was the most important to me, and it was solid.

Brooks Cascadis with Snow Screws for Traction

Having never run with screwed shoes (there has to be a better way to say that) before, I took my newly screwed shoes out to the driveway for a quick test. Between the slope of the driveway and the icy paths left by our vehicles, I figured I could knock myself out of the race in short order and forget about running 16K in freezing weather on snow and ice. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t slip even if I tried. I could push off just like I was wearing rubber soles on Oklahoma asphalt in July.

At this point, we could digress into a discussion of traction characteristics of parallel vs. perpendicular hex head slot orientation, but we’ll save that discussion for a scintillating article in the future…all I know right now is that image is driving me crazy. Why did I not line up the slots???? And while we’re at it, what the hell Brooks? Why do the arrows go one way on the inside and the other way on the outside????

Before I waste hours fixing that picture in Photoshop, let’s move on to fuel. I’m working hard to carry less gear in my races, and Trail Madness was no exception. Normally, I would run a 9 mile run with a handheld, but with my reflux at the Tulsa Run along with a fear of needing my hands to brace for impact (snow and ice, remember), I didn’t want to carry anything. Belts are an invention of the devil, and the pack just seemed like overkill so I went with….the Tennis Elbow Gel Flask.

Tennis Elbow Gel Flask

How do you get a gel flask on your arm? My first thought was to strap it to my iPhone carrier. Unfortunately, my iPhone carrier’s strap was too big, and it’s the wrong size for my current phone. Aside from that, I didn’t really want to carry my phone at Trail Madness. That meant the hunt was on for something that would fit on my arm and stay there because it’s always good to try something new on race day…

After a bit of searching, I stumbled onto my old tennis elbow strap which I’ve also been known to use for ITBS. My Ultimate Direction Gel Flask fit perfectly so we were up and running. If you attempt to do this for a trail run, please note that I have added velcro to my flask to keep it in place. The gel flask wants to be free, and if you hit a bump in the road, it will make a run for it. And take it from someone who’s been there twice, there’s nothing more annoying than backtracking for a gel flask during a race.

Other than changing my mind about what to wear about 20 times (number and types of layers…I don’t care how I look), the only other change I made to my gear was duct-taping my shoes. As far as blocking wind and water, it worked great while it lasted, but it didn’t last long. The duct-tape starting pulling off of my shoes in the first mile. I removed it around 1.5 miles, and as an added bonus, I dropped a piece out of my pocket on lap 1 and stopped to pick it up on lap 2.

So let’s talk about the race itself.

Trail Madness 2015 Starting Line

At the starting line, I made a mistake. I lined up mid-pack. Now, I had a good reason for making this mistake. I was concerned about my ankle and the footing on the trails so I wanted to start slow. That said, I didn’t want to start quite as slow as I did. My first mile took a little over 10 minutes, and it required a lot of questionable passing which tends to take its toll later in races. My guess is I was running 11-12 minute pace in the first 0.5 mile and 8 minute pace the last half mile.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad or slow about 10+ min/mile on those trails. It’s just that I had planned on running 9 min/mile especially on one of the only uphill sections of the course. I lost at least 1 minute in that first mile, and it likely cost me 4th place.

Once out of the larger pack, I stayed with some other runners for the next couple of miles which were a mix of mostly flat and downhill running, the latter part of which became fairly technical with a combination of rocks, roots, and tight turns. Once we broke out onto Powerline, though, it was on. The race skipped almost all of the downhill Powerline running and gave us two of the most difficult uphill climbs.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I passed the 4th and 3rd place runners on the 2nd hill only to stop at the water stop at the top allowing them to pass back. If I had known I was in 3rd place, I would have been a little faster moving through the stop. As it was, I think I gave them a good 30 second head start for the final loop of the first 8K.

I also managed to find the perfect sized rock somewhere on the West side near a little wooden bridge. I think I may have been too focused on not slipping on the wood and not focused enough on the rocks I was trying to tiptoe through to get to the wood. For the next 1/4 mile, I thought my race was over. I kept running, but I couldn’t imagine how I was going to run 10K more on an injured ankle.

Chalk it up to the cold I guess, but my ankle felt solid enough to continue by the time I reached the end of the first loop. Again, if I had known where I was in the race, I would have hoofed it up the hill a little faster, but I stopped at the starting line water stop where I filled my own cup and lingered way too long. Another 15-20 seconds blown.

Trial Madness Start Line Water Stop

By the time I reached the top of the hill, I caught what I know now was the 4th place runner. He was walking hills due to poor traction from his shoes and because they were just tough, technical inclines. And, he forced me to walk briefly as it was single track trail fenced in by boulders through that section. When he stopped at the top to adjust his shoes, I didn’t expect to see him again, but 2 miles later, he caught me.

He stayed behind me until we broke out onto Powerline, a much wider section of trail. We chatted for a bit in the flats, but as we hit the first incline, I took off leaving him to fight with his lack of traction on the 2 inclines. I then stopped for my last time at the water stop and in so doing, allowed 4th place to catch me again. I didn’t expect to be able to hang with him for the final 3K of the race due to much of it being downhill, but to both his and my surprise, I was on his heels until some 8K lap traffic and extremely technical downhill running allowed him to open a gap.

Once we leveled off approaching the parking lot, I pressed pretty hard and closed most of the gap, but I was out of gas and knew I couldn’t take my screwed shoes onto the curving, wet pavement at that high a pace. There was also a nasty little turn back onto the grass to get to the finish line that would slow me down further.

I’m not sure how far behind him I finished, but once you took my mid-pack start into account, I was only 3 seconds behind him on chip time. That’s why I say my lackadaisical approach to the start and water stops cost me. If you add it all up, I might have been competitive for 3rd place had I wasted less time at the water stops, but at the very least, I should have been significantly ahead of the eventual 4th place winner going into the final 3K.

That said, it was a fun race. I met some new people, put up a decent time, got some nice race swag, and most importantly, did not go home in an ambulance.

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The real question now is can my ankle survive 25K at Post Oak in just 5 days time? And then turn around and survive another 16K the very next day? It should be interesting. One thing is for sure, though. I’m lining up closer to the front at Post Oak, and I’m carrying my hydration pack. Trying to get the right mix of fluids at the water stops is for the birds. I’ll tweak the mix as I go and stop only if I need to refill a bottle. Then maybe I’ll revisit the minimalist fuel plan for the OKC Memorial Marathon where water stops should be a bit quicker to navigate or just go back to the dreaded fuel belt.

Trail Madness 2015 Results:

    Overall 5th Place
    Age Group 2nd Place
    9:12 Pace
    1 Lost Glove

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Back at 2014

Where did the hair go? Oh, oops…I meant…where did the time go?

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After 20 years with a ponytail except for a brief stint when my son was born in 2003, fitness finally pushed me into getting rid of my long hair permanently. I skipped way too many workouts just so I wouldn’t have to wash my hair for a second time in the same day. With it looking less healthy and thinning significantly, I decided it was time to take the razor to it. In February, my kids chopped off the ponytail, and I buzzed it down to a #2. Now I just have to convince myself to haul out the clippers once every couple of weeks or embrace looking like I stuck my finger in a light socket.

Anyway, I’m a bit late to the party, but it’s time for a New Year’s post. Let’s look at all things Sloth for 2014.

Fitness

At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t in great shape. I was lifting sporadically and running even less. Once higher temperatures arrived, though, I started training more consistently hitting peak fitness with marathon training in September and October. During the year, I managed to decrease my body fat by about 1.5%, but I also lost a significant amount of muscle between a trip to Florida and a wrist injury.

The picture below is where I’ve been during and since marathon training. I don’t usually post progress photos, but I’m going to try to be a bit less apprehensive about my appearance going forward. Since I’m planning to run a triathlon, there won’t be anywhere to run and hide anyway.

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My goal for 2015 is not to let my fitness fall apart during the first couple of months of the year like I have in years past. So far, so good for January.

Running

I’ve been running since 2011 when I made the rather impulsive decision to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon with fellow Sloth Kevin. In 2012, I only attempted one race, and then again in 2013, I tried to race more but still only made it to 3 races. Were it not for a late injury, I would have been in 6 races this year.  Instead, I laced up my running shoes 4 times, 3 of which happened to my trail shoes.

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My first race of the year was Trail Madness, a new trail run from Fleet Feet Tulsa on Turkey Mountain. I had been running trails off and on through the Winter, and when I saw the race was in the middle of the day (my favorite time to run), I had to sign up.  Being the idiot that I am, I signed up for the 16k extremely undertrained.

Even though I was a bit out of shape, I learned a lot on my first trail race. I learned that if you’re focused on making the turn, a broken limb on the outside of a curve can find your eye (le ouch). I also learned that even though I’m not the fastest trail runner, I am not too shabby running uphill. Other runners would pull away from me downhill and in the flats, but if we were headed uphill, I was usually gaining ground. The last thing I learned is that I should seriously think about hanging around for awards. I took 2nd place (9:43 pace) in my age group and have nothing to show for it because I left.

After training through the Summer, I next raced Escape from Turkey Mountain, another Fleet Feet Tulsa trail race at Turkey Mountain.  Are you sensing a theme yet? I ran the 5 mile distance and ended 5th in my age group at 8:42 pace.

I’m finding it difficult to increase my pace much beyond 9:00 min. miles on trails as I’m applying the brakes way too much downhill and burning out my quads as I go. Even though I’m running shorter distances in the mid to low 7’s on the road, I’m stuck around 9 minute pace on the trails. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to figure out downhill trail running a little better during 2015 so I can move into the low 8’s for my average pace.

For my first and only road race of the year, I entered the Tulsa Run. The Tulsa Run is one of Tulsa’s biggest and oldest races. At 15k, it’s an in between distance that is scheduled perfectly as a tune-up for the Route 66 Marathon or any other late-Fall marathon. Two factors conspired to make this a great race for me. First and most importantly, it was unseasonably warm. I think it was in the 60’s at 8am for the race start and warmed up from there. Second, the route changed from previous years. Instead of the long, flat route down Riverside, construction forced the race to pick an alternate route, and they chose a portion of the Route 66 Marathon course. It was a hilly route, but the downhills weren’t too steep for me to run hard, and I’m fine with uphill.

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My goal for the race was to stay under 8:00 pace and hopefully get in under 70 minutes. I just barely met both goals by running 7:48 pace.

I ran my final race of the year one week later, the Turkey and Taturs Trail Race. I ran pretty well for about 12 miles, and then the wheels came off. Never having run 25k on trails before, I made poor pacing decisions. I attacked all of the early uphill sections and burned out all of my lower leg muscles in the process. I finished 25k at 10:23 pace.

Turkey and Taturs is where I think I knocked myself out of the 2014 Route 66 Marathon. Within a week, my achilles was injured, and it appears I may have kicked myself or been hit by something on my calf during Turkey and Taturs. Oddly enough, I didn’t realize anything was wrong until 4 days after the race.  After some rest and rehab, I tried to get back to it and ended up injured again. I decided not to run Tulsa Runner’s Jenks Half Marathon, one of my favorite races of 2013, in favor of more rest and rehab to get ready for Route 66.

Finally, the weekend before Route 66, I thought I was feeling better and did a test run. Before I finished the first 10k, I could feel my leg wasn’t right and knew I wouldn’t be able to run the race. Instead of packing it in, I decided to go ahead and run long. At 15 miles, my leg was pretty bad, but I had run an out and back route so I had no choice but to keep going or face the shame of calling my wife for a pickup.  I finished 20 miles on a bum leg in 2:54 for 8:43 pace. I realize it would have been close, but I think I could have run another 10k under 10:00 minute pace to get my 4 hour marathon.

For 2015, I hope to break 4 hours at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, and then look at significantly lower times in the Fall.

Cycling

In August, I decided to move toward competing in triathlons by getting all of the necessary equipment for training including a bike. After visiting a couple of bike shops, I found a Kestrel Talon at Legends Bicycles.

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I had never ridden a bike with clipless pedals (seriously cyclists, horrible misnomer), and I was well prepared by everything I was told and read that I would fall over a stoplight a few times before making the adjustment. In my first ride, I managed to survive an hour of riding without an incident. On my 2nd ride, though, I screwed up, and it had little to do with the pedals, but they made it much worse.

During a noon ride, I was headed into the last 3 miles when I stumbled into the Jenks Middle School track team. I came up behind 3 kids walking the shared path shortly before a downhill turn under a bridge. I went wide around them and must have lost my focus. I put my front tire in the gap between the pavement and the grass causing the wheel to lock up and flip the bike.

I didn’t have any serious injuries, but my entire right side, including my bad ankle, was injured. The worst of it was a jammed wrist which eventually knocked me out of upper body strength training for several weeks. I stayed with cycling for several weeks but also had to give it up to let my wrist heal. The great thing about what little cycling I was able to do was that it translated directly into a faster run cadence. The higher cadence translated directly into more speed.

Now that 2015 is here, I’m getting back into the saddle and heading outside. Most of my late 2014 rides were on the trainer which makes the treadmill feel positively exhilarating. Seriously, how do cyclists do trainer rides and spin classes? It feels like torture to me, but then again, I bet they despise the treadmill so to each their own.

My other goal in 2015 is to get out on the actual roads and not just the trails. I need more time in the saddle, and it’s tough to do with all of the construction on the trails in Tulsa. Most triathlons are also on roads so I need to time to practice avoiding road hazards which are less prevalent on the trails.

Swimming

Well, I pretty much punted swimming in 2014. After a couple of training sessions in August upon deciding to add swimming to my training regimen, I felt some problems in my shoulders and backed off. I’m also having trouble finding the time to get to the pool.

To cure both problems in 2015, I’m going to start swimming when my kids are already practicing with their swim team. Jenks has a masters swim program at the same pool, at the same time so it will fit well with my schedule. Hopefully I’ll be ready once TAT starts doing their open water swims in the Spring.

SubdueTheSloth GPS for iOS

I haven’t talked too much about it on the blog to date, but I am still developing mobile fitness tracking software starting with SubdueTheSloth GPS. I realize STS GPS has been under development for a long time, and both mobile hardware and fitness software are evolving rapidly. Nevertheless, no other hardware or software has stepped in and filled some of the gaps in functionality that caused us to found SubdueTheSloth originally. So, we’re still moving forward and should be needing beta testers sometime before Summer.

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