Sunday 18 August 2013

Leadville Quick Race Report

Photo: irunfar

Epic summer battling with fellow Brit Nick Clark. Photo: irunfar

Leadville went well, especially since it was race three of the Grand Slam and race two (Vermont 100) was kind of horrible for me. Since my body won't let me sleep I might as well write the race up briefly.

In summary, there were some fast guys aiming to do ridiculous times. Scott Jurek wanted to be the second man to break 16 hours and Ryan Sandes was coming back after a fast win in 2011. irunfar did a great write up of the contenders. So Nick Clark and I were dark horses given the two 100s in our legs from recent weeks and we weren't expected to be around the lead at the end.

It started off with a huge pack zooming off in the pre-dawn dark, which wasn't surprising given it's downhill and there were around 1,000 runners. Most of that pack stayed together to Mayqueen at 13.5 miles but then by the first proper climb around mile 15, former Olympian Mike Aish took off followed by Ryan Sandes, Andrew Catalano, Nick Clark and myself. I was amazed by how flat a lot of the course was, especially the road sections, but I bore this in mind for later so that I could aim to conserve energy to allow me to run those easy bits on the way back (it's 50 miles out and back).

Nick and I spent much of the first half running together or near each other in around fourth and fifth and entered the Twin Lakes aid station at mile 39 together. We'd had plenty of banter all day long but were both running well so headed off towards the 3,000ft+ climb up Hope Pass.

I decided fairly early on that since I live at sea level and the race is almost all above 10,000ft I'd need to keep my perceived effort down to make my legs and energy reserves last the whole way. Plus I'd already run the other 100 milers recently so wanted to be conservative due to that too. So I hiked every step of Hope Pass both directions but I practice that a lot since I'm not a strong uphill runner and it seemed to work well since I got into second by the top (12,600ft) on the way out, although Nick and Ryan were just behind. Ryan dropped at this point with back problems after looking so strong through the first half.

On the return journey I kept focusing on power-hiking anything tougher than about a 5% gradient and was catching Mike Aish gradually as well as pulling away from Nick. Now I was thinking about the possibility of winning but couldn't let myself think about that and instead stuck to my tactics and just hoped they'd pay off. Amazingly I was still feeling good at mile 60 and at around mile 67 I caught Mike as he was walking - he looked destroyed and I just hoped he'd be able to finish after dropping the previous year.

Things kept going well through to the Outward Bound aid station at mile 76 and my crew and pacers, Meredith Terranova and Sean Meissner were looking after me well. Hiking up Powerline in the next few miles I still felt fairly good but by about mile 82 things turned and I felt delerious. On the downhill trail into Mayqueen (86.5 miles) I was dizzy and almost tripping over every rock. Nick managed to close on me during this section although I had no idea. Then after Mayqueen a toilet stop seemed to bring me back to life and I was able to cruise along the rolling lake single track.

About eight miles from the finish I was told at the last time check (Mayqueen) Nick was 10 mins behind me so that lit a fire under me and I suddenly kicked it up a gear and ran really hard. I couldn't eat anything and just hoped I wouldn't bonk and that Nick wouldn't catch me - frankly I was terrified he'd take the win from me in the last couple of miles.

Somehow my body let me run in those final miles fast enough to break two hours for the split for the last 13.5 miles and I gapped Nick by 36 mins in the end, but I only found that out when he crossed the line. I assumed he was still catching me.

So Grand Slammers got 1-2 in the race and now we're around 4h40m (me) and 3h30m (Nick) under the Slam record splits with just Wasatch Front left. I really don't want to think about doing another 100 now but I'm sure that'll change in about a week.

My GPS watch lasted long enough to capture each of the three Slam races so far so here are the data for my runs on Strava:

Western States 100 (6/29):

Vermont 100 (7/20):

Leadville Trail 100 (8/17):

Gear used at Leadville:

Scott Kinabalu T2 trail shoes
UltrAspire handhelds and Spry vest
Julbo Dust shades
Clif Bar Shot gels and Shot Bloks
Drymax Max Protection Trail socks

Also, here's a TV interview I did about the race with Mike Wardian called Gotta Get Running:

Mayqueen on the way out (mile 13.5), briefly leading. Photo: irunfar
Meredith helping a speedy transition around mile 72. Photo: Eric Senseman

Nick and myself at the finish, completely drained. Photo: Meredith Terranova

Thursday 1 August 2013

Top Five Tips for Recovering Between Grand Slam Races

Only photo I have of massage, back at the 2009 Rome Marathon with Roberto 'the Butcher of Pimlico'

One of the biggest challenges of running four 100-milers over the summer for the Grand Slam is recovering in the three to four weeks between each race. So far I've found a few easy tips have helped but the more races I do, the more the body has to deal with so the more important these become.

1. Rest - don't feel the need to run much between races. The main training occurs before the first race so I take at least one week completely off running after each 100. Even after that my mileage is tiny compared to normal, generally not running on consecutive days.

2. Don't race in the rest periods - it's tempting to throw in extra races to fit in long runs to get rid of the 'guilt' of running less than normal. I paced at the Badwater 135 a few days before race number two at Vermont. The speeds involved were gentle enough to not be an issue but the sleep deprivation and overnight flights didn't help.

3. Eat well - the body has so much more muscle damage to deal with than during normal training and the recovery rate needs to be so much quicker. Nutritionist Meredith Terranova gave me some pointers here - lots of protein, branch chain amino acid supplements, CoQ10 supplements and BComplex/B12 vitamins. Generally I try to get my nutrients purely through food, but in this extreme case I can see the benefit of topping things up.

4. Quality sleep - giving sleep a higher priority than usual and aiming to get eight hours or more as often as possible allows the body to heal itself more effectively. Events like the Grand Slam involve a huge amount of time so it's worth including this as part of that commitment.

5. Massage - I generally get a sports massage every two to four weeks even when in normal training, but I find it really helps to get one of these about three to four days after each race (to allow enough time for muscle soreness to subside) and again about a week later (when a deeper massage can be given). It reduces tightness and I certainly find it speeds up recovery, even if that hasn't been proved conclusively in scientific studies.