Monday, June 13, 2011

Goats Can Swim

So this report isn't about how knarly some trail race was, how pretty the scenery was, how much vert, or any of that stuff.  This goat swam, biked and ran and managed to complete the Boise Half Ironman Triathlon.
Sally is a friend that I’ve been bugging for years to do an ultra. She’s always put me off saying that they’re too difficult. Meanwhile, she’s been doing lots of marathons and tris, and last year did her first full Ironman. Finally, last year she agreed to do an ultra, but the catch was that I had to do a tri. Hmmm, didn’t really see that coming, but I agreed. Then she asked what distance I wanted to do. Since I run ultras, it really didn’t seem right to do a short little sprint or Olympic distance tri, so I told her I’d do a half Ironman. I figured doing that would make me expend enough effort and require enough training to qualify for an ultra level effort.
Last November we decided to do the Boise Half Ironman as our tri. That meant that I had plenty of time to get back in the pool swimming laps and to at least figure out how to stay upright on a bike for 56 miles.
Training for this silly little race began back in December. The first time in the pool had me worried. No upper body strength at all. Technique from my swim team days was there though. Within a couple months, I knew the swim wouldn’t be an issue. Check that off the list. I started attending a spin class once a week and stationary biking on my own at about the same time. Finally bought my own road bike and started using that to ride into work once a week. Ok, check that off the list. I’ll survive 56 miles, but it won’t be pretty. The run? 13.1 miles? Big deal, I’m training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning this summer. Check that off with no worries.
I was intentionally going into this race cold, I did no other tri's prior to Boise.  I think I wanted to add the unknown factor and see what it would do to me
So, Friday my lovely wife and I drive to Boise. We manage to check into our hotel and find the race check in. I was expecting the water temp in Lucky Peak Reservoir to be in the low 60’s. Then I saw this posted at check in.
Holy crap! 53 degrees? That’s way colder than the average tap water. That’s way colder than I was expecting. Wow! I was not looking forward to the swim at all.  Here's a nifty little link on cold water survival.
We met Sally and John, her boyfriend at check in and she was even a little worried about the water temp.

T2 on Friday
Anyway, we did pizza and brews for dinner, went back to the hotel room to get my transition bags set up. That’s when I discovered that I had left my wetsuit, my tri shorts, and my goggles at home. Damn! Now what? There was no way to do the swim without a wetsuit. I looked online and found a dive shop that rented wetsuits and was open Saturday morning. So, Friday evening I head out to REI and bought tri shorts. Sally had an extra pair of goggles she let me borrow. And the next morning my wife and I camped in front of the dive shop until they opened. They just happened to have a tri wetsuit in my size. Thank goodness, the race is on. Now it was get back to the race HQ to catch the shuttle to the start, drop off transition bags, and generally start to get nervous about the whole thing. The nice thing about this race was the noon start. That meant I had time to go into a full on panic then figure out a solution and get another wetsuit, etc. It also meant that the day would warm up a little bit to help offset the cold water (dream on). John hauled our bikes to the T1 area for us. Lucky Peak is about 15 miles east of Boise and 1000’ higher, meaning the bike ride would be a net downhill. Nice.
The swim start was in waves rather than a mass start. This meant that my wave didn’t actually start until 12:09. So we had to stand there sweating in the sun in our black neoprene wetsuits until it was our turn to jump in the water. We all herded on to the dock by the boat ramp and jumped in. The water was refreshing for about 0.2 seconds, then it took a couple more seconds to catch my breath. The cold literally took your breath away. Every time my face got water on it, my chest would tighten and I had a hard time breathing. While I was treading water waiting for the start my thought was that this swim would not be a good thing. How was I going to survive for 40-45 minutes in this cold of water, let alone swim decently.
So the gun goes off and it’s a mad dash out into the lake.
My wave start, I'm somewhere in that thrashing mess
The course was triangular, with the first leg being about 850 meters. This looks like a long ways when you’re used to swimming in a 25 yard long pool. Nonetheless, I took off. For roughly the first 2/3 of the first leg, I was borderline panicked. Every time I put my face in the water to swim, my chest would constrict and I had a hard time breathing. I discovered that rolling over and doing backstroke really helped. Kept my face out of the water and I could make good progress. Finally, my face got used to the cold, my chest loosened up, I warmed up and I rolled back over and started really swimming. That’s when I found out that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, I started motoring past people at a pretty good clip, I felt good and had a good rhythm going. The remainder of the first leg and the last two legs went very smoothly and I actually finished the swim a little quicker than I was hoping. I wanted a time with a 4 in front of it and my swim time was 40:18. I was happy. When I stood up to exit the water though, I was so dizzy and disoriented I almost fell over twice. That was weird. I still had to make my way up the boat ramp, run a hundred yards to the T1 area and get ready for the bike. Needless to say, my T1 time was a very slow 8+ minutes.
Goat skin on and ready to go
The bike ride was actually the most boring part of the race. 56 miles, a little over 3 hours in a saddle and my ass was sore. We did have a screaming downhill start off the dam. I hit 30+ mph, but I still had people flying past me probably doing close to 50 mph, maybe more. Too scary for me. Sally went flying past me at about the 32 mile point. She started the swim 20 minutes after me, so she was that much further ahead of me. Sigh! Getting old sucks, can’t keep up with the kids. Ideally I wanted to go under 3 hours for the ride. Realistically I knew I wouldn’t. I did manage a 3:04 for the ride and was happy about that one.
My T2 time was a little quicker, about 3 minutes, but the same thing happened as I got off my bike and started walking. I was a little dizzy. I managed to get to my spot, rack my bike, put on my running shoes and head out on the run, but it didn’t feel good at all. I thought it would end up being a sufferfest. It took me about a mile to start to feel good about the run and then I discovered that I had some legs.  The other thing I noticed was how slow I seemed to be running after the speed of the bike.  The run was the best part of the day for me. 13.1 miles in two loops and I pulled a negative split by about a minute. It felt really good just cruising on that course. I think I made up around 100+ places during the run. I know I was passing all sorts of people. Some of them looked pretty rough. It’s like the run got rid of all the negative thoughts I had been having during the day, even thought it wasn’t trail, I was in my element. Sally had left T2 about 10 minutes before me and by the time I hit the second lap I had gained several minutes on her. She ended up crossing the finish line about a minute before me, but still kicked my butt because of her swim start time.
#999 Sally Shadle nearing the finish
Me nearing the finish, #270 is in my age group and I managed to outsprint him to the finish
So, how was my first experience with a tri? I actually had a good time. It was something out of my element, new and different. Would I do another one? Probably. This race forced me to expand my exercise options beyond running. I think the biking and swimming has definitely helped my running fitness.
It was fun to do the event with Sally and catch up. My wife and I have known her and her family since she was 14 but haven't seen her for several years.  She’s grown into a wonderful lady and an amazing athlete. But I’ll get her back. She has to do an ultra distance run now!
Sally and I the next day feeling much better
Stats-Since this was an official Ironman event, the competition is much stiffer than a more local half distance tri. Having said that, I think I did reasonably well.

James Skaggs

BIB     AGE             STATE/COUNTRY                                        PROFESSION
252        53           MARRIOTT SLATERVILLE   UT USA              Engineer

SWIM     BIKE       RUN        OVERALL       RANK       DIV.POS.
40:18      3:06:29    1:54:58           5:53:15             573                32

LEG                 DISTANCE                 PACE                         RANK      DIV.POS.

SWIM                1.2 mi. (40:18)            2:07/100m                     599             34
BIKE                 56 mi. (3:06:29)           18.02 mph                     750             48
RUN                13.1 mi. (1:54:58)          8:46/mile                       573             32

T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 3:12
There were 1420 athletes that finished. There were 74 in my age group.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Old Dominian 100

Old Dominion 100M run in VA. To say the important thing, it is the second oldest 100 miler in the country, in it's 33rd year of running. It came about as a follow-up of Western States 100 and has the same beginning as a horse race. The challenge the RD's put out was to not only finish a 100 mile trek, but to do it in one day, under 24 hrs. The organizers are not runners - it is a family in it's 3rd generation right now (well, 2nd, but the youngsters are already in it), and the aid stations, as well as most volunteers are not runners either - just local family who have houses on properties through which the run goes, and they set tables out (very often and very much appreciated, I must add) with water, coke and a few small items. I liked how simple it all was. I only ask for water and ice at the race anyway, because I go on gels, and only on Power Gels, so I never rely on AS for anything else. The price was absolutely right too - $135, I believe it is the cheapest 100 besides Cactus Rose and Rocky. Can't beat that. To stress one more point, as I said above, the run has to be completed sub-24 hrs, and while they extended the finish time to 28 hrs at some point (not sure when), the buckle goes only to those who make it in 1 day. And now I know even more - what a sweet buckle that is! It is a real silver buckle, just like WS provides to sub-24 finishers, and to my knowledge it's the only second 100 to do that. I might be wrong, please correct me (Tahoe?). All this said, there are a handful of things I also knew. The race fell off the Earth (a.k.a. competitive running) somewhere around 2001 due to 9/11, and the OD Memorial came to replace (and Vermont started a few years earlier too), and due to various reasons I have no clue about the participation was down to a dozen of finishers some years. Now that we have 100M races popping like blisters on our feet during a long haul, some do have shortage of runners. I kind of felt responsible to bring attention back to "old and true" (nothing wrong with new stuff). And, it fell well into my wounding-down the season. It listed about 14,000 feet of elevation gain (plus same for loss) and I think it is about 80% done on either rural country asphalt roads or gravel roads. The hills are nice, rolling, through beautiful area East Coast style, reminded me of my days living in NYC and hiking/backpacking Upstate NY (my true background to taking this trail ultrarunning thing), and it was lovely. The smells of blooming tress and flowers were overwhelmingly awesome. The hospitality of volunteers was unmatched - they learned your name and as they moved their help around (or simply you moved in circles around their AS's), you've been called up on very personally.
Now, because the event is put on by regular folks, names of runners are unknown to volunteers (besides "repeat offenders"). It was cute to be asked at the sing in if I ever run a trail, ever donw a night run, and have an idea what to eat when I do this thing. I just smiled. You also don't know who else is in the race until you show up - and get a print out of participants. Only 7 female were listed this year, but the total was the biggest in a decade, 70 runners. I came with a goal of 22 hrs and, obvioulsy, a belt buckle. I collect belt buckles you know:) I knew only a handful of folks - and I mean a handful: Keith Knippling, Greg Loomis, Dan Brendan, Bedford Boyce and Levy Rizk. Levy and I scouted the first/last 7 miles the day before the race and were glad we did.
Usually the weather plays a huge negative role at OD100, but we lucked out so much, I have no words. Some did complain on the heat, but for this newly-Texan, 80's and humidity way below 50% felt a paradise. The race starts at 4 am, but it goes through the town of Woodstock for 3 miles and then ventures on a road up, so lights are not necessary at all. Then the grey starts coming up. The field spread out some, but still kept close. After 7 mile AS you hit long steep-ish downhill and make a loop on half-trail and half-road for Boyer. Besides this little thing (about 2M on trails) first 32M are all road-run. I wore my old road shoes, to get rid of them was about time (2 years old?). Actually, come to think about it, the whole thing can be easily done in road shoes, in fact, trail shoes are contra-indicated. I was smack on time on my predicted splits, and despite running roads, was extremely happy. I felt awesome, I didn't breathe any hard at any point, I was hydrating and eating gels on cue, I ditched my old shirt (ran first marathon in it, 9 years ago) at AS and was running in a sportsbra for cooling effect (Texas teaching), and I was listening to my music. Talked to an "Alabama" guy (who happened to be Dink Taylor) just past mile 25, I think, told him how I always happen to have some serious thing happen to me in the last 20 miles or so (like, rolled both ankles at RR, broke tail bone at Cactus, explosive pooping at WS..). What an idiot, jinxed myself! Was passed a few minutes before 20M AS by a woman, and learned from volunteers we are 1-2. She pulled away. I could care less, besides, it was mile 20, for God's sake, who races that early! Had some stomach loose, visited woods couple of times, hit Immodium, was ok after.

Came to mile 32 spot on, changed into my Fireblades (trail shoes), re-supplied and took off, happy camper. Passed a few guys, was told Linda (that turned out to be woman's name) was 5 minutes on me, could care less. There was a long ATV climb, and when we got to a motor-biked in AS, water was sparse to offer. But I was peeing fine and did ok to manage one bottle per person request. Kind of got a bit tired of those ATV rocks, and also started feeling weird pain in my right lower shin, right above my ankle. Thought may be it's my shoes too tight. I never had my shoes tight before, but who knows, I had no other ideas. Kept plugging away and passing a guy here and there, was a nice ridge stretch, hot and open and with a bunch of flies, but nice smelling blooms. Finally came down some road, passed Levy and entered mile 48 AS (same as 32, it was a loop) while Linda was getting tended to by her spouse (or friend). Could care less. Got ice, re-supplied, took off on a 4.5M climb on a road.

Linda caught up with me in a mile, I was rocking my best music selection, hopefully she didn't think I am a nut case. Dancing, you know. Depending on music, either swaying hips (pop) or throwing fists in the air (rock, hip-hop). She didn't say much (I pointed to a sign to a house with wedding and proposed we should stop by there). I think she mentioned she doesn't do well in heat. I was just running my own race, and yes, I did think that I might come back to her if I still feel good, and if I don't catch her - it means she is a better runner, that's all. Besides the ridge before, that was the only open section. Everything else was in a shade, so I felt great in this regard. There was a line on the road saying "50M", and I was there at exactly 10 hrs - not even funny. And it was exactly when I thought I should be there. Got to the top of the hill at mile 51 - and suddenly that pain in the shin got unbearable. Had to step aside, loosen up laces (still thought it was the cause). Felt some relief (now I understand the swelling started, so yes, there was a relief). But shortly after, as the downhill started, I couldn't run from pain. My mood dampened. Took Ibuprofen. Not much help. Took Aleve. When course goes up, I am fine, strong and almost don't feel anything. As soon as we go down (and road at that) - I am in tears. Still think it's from shoe laces and simply an aggravation, like an anterior tibialis tendonitis. You don't stop for tendonitis. So I went on. By Elizabeth Furnace, mile 75, the pain is really, really bad, and I am loosing the ground on Linda (I was given updates). I weighed in (same exact number as at the start, good thing) and yelled out for a duct tape. The woman came in and asked "What's wrong, I am a doctor". I said "I am a doctor too, I need duct tape". The RD Ray was there and later at the finish said it sounded very funny. I don't know, I wasn't much smiling. I taped my leg and walked out. We entered a bitch of a climb, but it was only bad last mile (straight up). The whole 6M section was on an extremely rocky trail (worst Massanutten memories imaginable), but when going up, I was so full of energy and almost no pain. The other side was a completely different story. I left Elizabeth Furnace still on predicted split, but all hell got loose here, past the top of the climb. It was very steep and very rocky way down, and it just got dark a few minutes ago (just about 9pm, I put headlamp on), and I couldn't put any weight on my right leg without crying, screaming and remembering every mother of God (and many, many more choice of words I could come up with in English). I actually made a cane out of a stick and basically hopped down on one leg. At the bottom the un-manned AS ran out of water. Sucks for us. Another 2 miles up the road was a regular AS, but I was in pain and on a "get the F* done" mode. Just got water. Another trail section, up and over Veach Gap. Again, my climb was awesome, gave me hope, I was just so pleased of how strong I felt and how well I took care of myself. On the way down I repeated the crying and swearing - but no stick. It was a somewhat "milder" trail downhill with "fewer" rocks. We wandered more on roads after that, and I even tried to shuffle some mild mellow decline parts (besides flats), calculating and re-calculating what is possible to still come under 24 hrs. That was all I could focus on. Ran many parts with a guy Juan on his first 100 - when he finally left me at 93, he was done in 22:40. At mile 93 a nice volunteer enthusiastically told me the next 4M are almost all downhill. I knew that (repeat beginning course back) and I still almost killed him:) I tried to run, then gave up and hobbled. It was way too steep for my leg. Left ball of the foot developed a mother blister due to putting all that weight and pressure on only one leg, and walking downs. At this point I had no leg that could take any pressure (right or left). Took me 1:05 to make 4 miles downhill. At last AS (which didn't have water, and I kind of wanted it) I almost quit. I was positively sure I will not be able to make last 3 miles at all, in any time. And I couldn't scream (it does provide mental release when the anger gets out) - we were in town, and people are sleeping in their homes! So, I just walked and cried quietly. 50 minutes total. The last 3/4 mile is on a gravel horse track, a really cruel joke - you can see the finish line, but can't go straight to it. I was in so much pain, I knew even if another woman comes from behind with 2 feet to go, I will let her go. It didn't matter anymore. But - it was a guy who came up on me mid-way, and asked if I'd like to run in together. I looked up and said "Do I look like I am eager to run?". Sorry, I can be very moody like that. I walked through the finish line in 23:11:23, good for 29th overall and 2nd gal, a bit over an hour later than Linda (who ran a great, consistent and strong race). Would I have caught her? Nothing is a garantee in life, but everything is possible. All things considering, I am thrilled with physical aspect of this race.

Below is a synopsis from the VA Happy Trail runners:

The 33rd Old Dominion 100 was an epic year with great weather, a packed field, and fantastic volunteer support. Neal Gorman won in 16:16.47, Linda Gaudette was first woman in 22:03.22. Of 68 runners from 15 states, 54% were awarded the silver, sub-24 hour buckle. 72% finished under 28 hours. Neal, Eric Grossman, and Jeremy Pade lost 25 mins due to missing course markings heading into Elizabeth Furnace. Karsten Brown was second in 17:20, Eric third in 17:40, Jeremy fourth in 18:10, followed by David Ploskonka in 19:14 and Keith Knipling in 19:25. Sean Andrish finished near 22 hrs. Many other VHTRCers finished the challenging course. Bobby Gill photo credit.
The travel was really bad. The pain was getting worse, the swelling, hotness and redness on my leg, I couldn't walk a step...the airport people are the best, wheeled me around, put me up with no folks so I can elevate my leg, people giving me Ibuprofen, flight attendants giving me bags of ice, the first pilot announcing I am a "bad ass". I had to keep apologizing that not all 100's end up like that, it is really not a bad thing to do. I don't think they believed me much, I did a poor job explaining we are normal...well, kind of...
I hobbled to a doc for x-ray Monday morning - no serious fracture. Got to MRI - and yes, indeed, a hairline stress fracture about 2 cm on the anterial/medial side of lower part of tibia (about 1 cm above distal end). There is also some soft tissue trauma, hematoma and tendinitis. Seems that the soft tissue was giving more pain than bone crack itself.

Bottom line? As an event, it is awesomely organized, very pretty and really historically important - both for American history and for ultrarunning history. For me, personally, roads just don't do it. Nor super-rocky trails where running is imapred (at least somewhat). I like to glide mindlessly. I am still glad I checked this run off my list, and I still recommend it. You can run a great PR on the course, if you will take good care of yourself. I am thrilled to have done just that - take awesome care of myself, the whole day long, even as the pain become excruciating, I never lost sight of my hydration and fueling. Body-wise, I felt great. Like, better than many other 100's by a long shot. And that's with 45 mpw. Speaks volume of wisdom: patience, pacing, taking care of yourself, and experience, along with weight workouts (yes, those helped). My muscles are not sore. And while I was fitted for a boot to not have me walk around much, if you know me, I ain't wearing it. I will, though, keep my leg wrapped, elevated, iced and not run on. It's an off-season time. Lets the other challenges begin.