Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to back and back to back

Between April 28th and June 10th of 2012 I ran three marathons (two on trail) and one ten hour ultra marathon (and a 5k just for kicks).  Back to back were two marathons in two days, a first for me.  Then, a few weeks later, in back to back weeks I scored a couple of wins and course records.

It started with my first trip to the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon.  A late April tradition, "The Mini" as it's more commonly known around here because of the umpteen thousands of people that opt for the half marathon version, it offers a challenging course with the hills of Iroquois Park and a few gnarly climbs in the last 10k.  But, I had adhered to the taper plan and was ready to attempt to push my PR down to a goal time of 2:45.  It had been a spring of near misses - falling off the leaders to place 4th at the LLTH 50k, and missing my goal times by a collective 17 seconds across three races at the 5k, 10k 10mi. Triple Crown events.  This was a day to not let up and not to settle.  Early on I found Bourbon Chase teammate,  Jeremy Burtel, and would spend much of the race running along side him, trying to convince myself that the 6:10's and occasional 6 flat were not too fast - the miles ticked away easily.  Finally we split from the halfers and headed down toward Iroquois park.  Then, shortly after entering the park, we started reeling in a lone runner.  It was Troy Shellhamer, a friend and ultra running stud.  Now our threesome was knocking off climbs, rolling descents closing in on runners. Somewhere between miles 17 and 20, I was feeling too good.  I rolled away from my buddies with a couple mile surge that I would later realize took a bit too much too soon.  With 5k to go, I was toast.  Jeremy passed me back up, Troy passed me back up and I was just hanging on for dear life.  I remember looking up at Jeremy as he crested a climb thinking "man, he's usually so fluid - he looks terrible."  Then it hit me "wait a minute, he just blew by me.  What do I look like?"  But, I kept pushing, and made my goal time by one whole second.  2:44:59.  Finally. 

And, in making that goal, I earned a comped entry into the following day's Backside Trail Marathon (thanks to an arrangement with friend and race director Tim Barnes - if I didn't make my goal, I had to man an aid station all day).  There were many of us "doubling down" and completing our second marathon in as many days.  This was uncharted territory for me, and I was glad to share in the camaraderie with Troy for another day.  Surprising was the general consensus about how bad our legs did NOT feel.  Not that we were feeling zippy by any means, but the tight and twisty trails of Cherokee and Seneca Parks made the miles go by somewhat painlessly and we rolled to a  two-lap negative split sub-3:40 trail marathon.  Although, Troy hammered me in the last mile, it was a really enjoyable day out - not like racing at all.  Here's a link to Troy's blog:

Troy Shellhamer and I after the Backside Trail Marathon.

Following a short month, which included a surprisingly successful 5k, I was headed to Bernheim for their trail marathon.  Placing 2nd there last year, and knowing the trails pretty well, had me gunning for a strong result.  However, shortly after the players were sorted out, I knew that I had at least one full marathoner in front of me.  It was one of those days where I felt like I was pushing really hard but getting nowhere quickly.  Every aid station had worse news as the time gaps crept up to 2 min, 3 min, 5 min!  So, I just kept hammering.  Not feeling good all day, I simply kept telling myself "don't be a _________!"  (insert chosen word).  Then around mile 20, I saw a figure way out ahead of me walking up one of the gravel road sections.  It was the leader.  He was done.  Apparently, I hadn't been going that slowly, he was just going that fast, and now he was done.  I checked to make sure he was OK as I went by, but he had food and water and just said "I'm done."  So, I told him good job and went on my way.   After a day of feeling pretty dead, I was rejuvenated.  Entering the final section of trail, I realized that my time wasn't even too bad.  I kept hammering.  I was re-entering the arboretum thinking "what was Althaus's record time?".  The I hit the final road section, I was close, checked the watch,  remembered 3:39 was the time to beat.  Hammer down.  Done.  Won.  3:36.  Not bad for day that didn't really feel like it was my day.

Then, the fourth and final installment, in a pretty good month of racing was the Race Under The Stars (RUTS) 10 hour endurance race.  The premise:  run as many laps as you can around a 1/2 mile crushed limestone horse track in 10 hours.  The end result?  Too much time in my own head to relay in one blog post, let alone one fourth of one.  So here goes - I started our very easy and disciplined, stopped every hour, ate food, then went a little faster, then found myself in the lead, then just wanted it to be over, ended up battling with Chris Estes for most of the second half, then wound up winning and beating the course record (as did Chris).  Pretty epic finish to the back to back a month after my first back to back.  Took a nice rest and soon came back again.

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