Sunday, April 12, 2015

Race Report: Circular Logic Marathon 2015


The 2015 Circular Logic Marathon on March 28 came off the best of the four we've done.  The timing system worked flawlessly and runner satisfaction was high, despite the 18F temperatures on race morning.  Our Wabash River Runners Club volunteers pitched in and did magnificently.

Though our marathon participation was down slightly from 2014, our relay teams were up substantially.   We left Cumberland Park truly litter free, as if nothing had happened...that's a tribute to all our runners.

It was a good race, thanks to all our runners and volunteers.

Race Details:

Why on earth would any sane person decide to become a Race Director?  I asked myself that question regularly in the run-up to this year's event...I'll answer later.  Suffice it to say, though, it's fascinating as a marathon runner to actually organize a marathon.

Here's the story of the day.  I thank Scott Fultz, a member of WRRC and a fine photographer for virtually all these photos.  We made all our race pictures this year free to anyone for download, a cool addition to this year's race.  If you are truly interested or have insomnia, you can also read my reports for the first three CLMs in 2014, 2013 and the inaugural CLM on 2012.

The one thing you can never guarantee is the weather on race day.  You set a date and hope for the best.  Weather was decent in our first two years, considering it's late March in Indiana.  In 2014, we had snow on race morning.  This year, it was bone-chilling cold!  Sunny, clear and a mere 14F when I arrived at the race site at 5:30am race day.

Illustrating this point, take a look at how I dressed as I made a very few pre-race announcements.  A hoodie and stocking cap, four layers on my torso, running tights, blue jeans and Carhart bibs on my legs, boots plus toe warmers was it cold!!

We were fortunate to have very little wind and a cloudless blue sky, which was at least visually attractive if not effective in its warmth.  My uber race assistant and Head Race Day Enthusiast Mike Taylor met me in the dark at 5:30am and we got the water tables, the packets set up for race day arrivals and marked the course on our one mile loop course.  We also saw a guy with a headlamp doing laps already...why??  Our timing crew arrived just after we did and we scurried to be ready for our 7am early starters.  

Runners started showing up by 6am and, by 7am, we were set to send off 24 marathoners and one relay team early starters to blaze the trail.  We then  got set for our second wave of early starters at 8am, who arrived in time, with 5 teams and 9 marathoners joining the 25 folks already on the course, going round and round.  

Our main race began at 9am, this being the only section for which we give awards.  While about a fourth of our field picked up their packets the night before, we welcomed the rest of the crew between 8 and 8:45.  Folks dropped off their water bottles, got their bibs, chips and t shirts and many scurried back to their car to stay as warm as they could for as long as possible.  

We were able to continue our tradition of having a race participant lead us in the National Anthem.  This year, Emily Ohland, a member of a relay team and a local school music director, did an awesome job!  

No one was interested in any long-winded speeches and we started promptly at 9:00am.  95 marathoners and 27 teams got rolling, making our race day 128 folks running the individual marathon and 35 relay teams sharing the load for their 26.2.

It was a great size field on our one-mile loop, though the addition of the 31 no-shows would have worked too.  We've figured out about how to size this race and these numbers seem to work well.  

So, let me take you around our one mile course using Scott's excellent pictures to tell the story of the day.  

Just past our start/finish line, runners head north and soon encounter our Litter Free Water Stop.  This is a unique feature of our event, made possible by our loop course.

It's a hoot to see the menagerie of water bottles people bring each year. We label a spot for each runner, by bib number and it magically takes shape as the start time approaches.

Every size, shape and type of water bottle showed up and this makes it looks like home every mile for every runner.  

Runners grab their own water bottle when they choose, take a swig while running or walking, then toss their water bottle in a laundry basket placed down the course a ways.  Our intrepid water stop volunteers then spent the day retrieving the basket, returning each bottle, bib number written on it, to its appointed spot.

Our water stop team not only handed out fluids but became cheerleaders, friends and even counselors as the day went on.  Here you see help extended to a runner with a detailed request.

SaRah Hill is our water stop coordinator...bundled up and serving wonderfully!   Thumbs up, even with mittens on in the cold!!  SaRah has already agreed to head up the water stop again in 2016...she's awesome!  

Just past the water stop, a right turn heads runners straight east.  You can see almost this entire stretch in these two photos.  

Several of our relay teams included full families. Here you can see one of our youngest participants making her way around the loop!  

At the end of this section is gentle zig-zag through the chicane cones which make our course exactly 1.000 miles in length, as certified by USA Track and Field.  Runners then make a very gentle right hand turn onto the third-mile "backstretch" of our course.  

This is the narrowest part of the loop, on a concrete sidewalk.  We appreciated runners trying hard to run single file here, allowing the passing which happens a lot on a loop course.

At about this point, you can see a runner correctly looks behind to see eventual race winner Jake Gillette, in the blue singlet, passing him, something Jake did all day.  A bonus when you run as fast as Jake:  you can wear a singlet on a freezing day and live to tell about it :-)  

This same photo shows part of our entire loop.  Across the open field, you can see the start/finish line and many team tents set up in the background. 

The astute reader may have already noted one addition for this year's race...all our race-day volunteers donned these yellow vests.  It seemed to help all of us know who was a runner and who was helping out on a cold race day.  Simple and effective, the way we like it. 

After the long run southward, we have a hairpin right turn around a boulder which is the hardest part of the course.  From there, runners follow a winding path and head back towards the start/finish line, along woods still asleep in late winter.  

And, once past the woods, it's back to the start/finish line.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  26 times...that's how our race works.  Thus, our motto "Together We Run".  

The race is really about people though.  Our marathon relay teams have become a big part of CLM.  Kids, families, and adults all formed teams.  New runners get to run alongside experienced marathoners.  It is cool to watch happen on race day.  Green bibs identify the's fun.  

A local middle school put three teams together and they were great, as were their parents keeping them organized all day.

We had three teams of kids from a local middle school.  Kudos to those kids, plus their parents for helping out all day.

We had lots of adult teams too...some with quite creative names, such as "Harvey Rose and the Baby Stealers"....don't ask me, I have no idea...but I was assured it was harmless!!

And, overall, it was all about our runners, of every age and skill.  

And, since we run in a loop, we are together all day, not spread out as in a typical marathon.  The fast runners appreciate all of us in the back of the pack, while we are able to admire their stamina and speed.  

And Jon, like most, enjoyed the day, especially after running a few miles to get warm. 

Shoot, one of us even ran barefoot!!  We had it all!!

And when you finish a marathon, it's like few other things.  A few high points at the finish line.

Jake Gillette won his third consecutive CLM, this time in 2:38:05, a PR for Jake.  And he was thrilled. 

Matt Holle had a real race for second place and was so happy to get under 3 hours, in 2:58:23. 

Laura Gillette won the women's division, also for the third consecutive year, in 3:07:21.  She and Jake are wonderful runners and fine people.  You see them here, post-race, with WRRC President Cyndi Meacham.  On behalf of all of us at CLM, I would also like to thank Laura's mother as well for taking care of their two kids on race day!!!  

Kay Evans was thrilled and moved to place second.  

And every marathoner has a story.  Here I am with Hilary Cooke, finishing her second marathon, having persevered well all day long.  Hillary is an Episcopal priest and a friend of our family.  Running is one part of our lives...there's a lot more to each of us, as Hillary illustrates.  

Mark and Becky Groshans planned well for CLM, as it was the first marathon for both of them.  They ran together all day, working through all the ups and downs which makes the marathon the compelling challenge it is.   And marathoners they are now.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, this is Jen Savage who was one of seven people who have now finished all four CLM's.  This was also Jen's 118th lifetime marathon.  She's a pal who truly knows how to persevere.  

Nancy was beaming...she was the third woman and happy to have a plaque!

James was justifiably thrilled with his finish.

Jen is stylish and appreciated her medal a lot!!  

Finishing a marathon never gets old for me, even after 54 of them...I'm grateful it was a thrill for all our runners as well.  

On a personal note, the officers of our running club, the Wabash River Runners Club, surprised me right before the race with a wonderful treat.   

Right after the National Anthem  (note: I removed my many hats!!!), the WRRC officers presented me this plaque, made by club member Brian Raub, a local concrete artist.  

Brian was the first registrant for the first CLM we ever had.  I've always been grateful for that and it was great he could finish his fourth race this year.  Thanks to WRRC leaders  Cyndi, Brian, Susan, Mark, Nancy, Barb, Bill...that was so special and I'm deeply appreciative.  I was and continue to be moved by their thoughtfulness.  

So why does a sane person become a race director??  I love to run races and every single race happens only because some person, somewhere, decided to put forth the effort to make it happen.  It's a lot of work.  Yet, where would our sport be if not for such efforts??   Thus, I keep doing this.  And I felt rewarded in the end.  

Race day was very gratifying for me this year, despite the brutal cold.  Our new timing company, Flashpoint Race Timing, did a terrific job and we had zero errors in counting laps...a necessary element for a loop race like CLM.  I thank them for suggesting the more sophisticated "triathlon" reusable ankle strap chips, which did the trick.  Our runners did a great job self-selecting into the early starts, so we had a very even flow of finishers and wrapped up just after our hoped-for 3pm finish time.  The water stop just's amazing to me and quite satisfying.  

And that guy with a headlamp at 5am?  He ran the marathon but added laps before and afterwards to run 50 miles on the day...actually, 50.2 miles.  He got done just before 3pm...that was truly amazing.  

Thus, it's the satisfaction of having a race work well that keeps me going.  There are a few things we'll simplify for next year's event which will help.  

Ya gotta give back.  Ya gotta persevere.  And it often works out.  



Saturday, March 07, 2015

On the Road Again

ORN:  10.7 miles, 1:51:20, 10:25/mile, R/W 3/1

In my previous post, I outlined the pain in my right Achilles tendon which put me on the sidelines for how long, I didn't know in early February.

A month later, I'm back running.

With a lot of input, the logical advice was the best advice: dude, go see a professional.  A local running friend referred me to a doc in town who is also an ultrarunner himself.  It worked well.  He did a full work up, bent me every which way and said "Yep, you are really tight on your right side."  His analysis was clear:  the pain was in my Achilles but that wasn't the cause.  Instead, he found some real tightness in my calf which, effectively, shortened my Achilles and thus it hurt.  The key was to get the calf looser.  In addition, my entire right leg was tight, likely triggered by the calf.

Sympathetic to my interest in running again, he told me to lay off running for two weeks and get very well acquainted with my foam roller.  There was no serious damage and I needed to simply help the muscle loosen up via deep massage.   That I did.  In addition, I found a place to do some stationery bike work.

On February 19, I held my breath and took an ever-so-ginger 3 mile run on an indoor track at a local gym.  It was better.  The weather then went to pot here, with sub zero temperatures, snow and ice.  So, for two more weeks, I ran, round and round, on this indoor track.  I used my usual 3/1 run/walk sequence and reversed my direction on the track every four minutes.  I could tell the calf was staying loose and getting better.

Finally, today, the temperatures got into the lower 40s, on a Saturday no less, and so I went out for my first outdoor long run since January 17.  I was quite encouraged.  Shorts in the was great to be out and do a 10 miler

And why do I have a running blog??  Because I'm forgetful. So I write things down.  Case in point:  I just noted this post from three years ago, March 10, 2012.  The topic of that post, little-read and soon forgotten??  My sore, right Achilles tendon.  So good to read...the very same leg, the very same symptoms, the likely same cause of increased mileage.  I had completely forgotten the previous event.  The lesson?  Clearly, there I have some structural tendency towards this specific injury.  It reinforces to me the requirement to stretch well as a countermeasure.

My annual plans remain the same...still hoping to run a sub-four hour marathon.  However, I've shifted my target race from the spring races to the fall.  I'll use the spring races to get back to the mileage I need and get the calf working well. Next up is the Sam Costa Half Marathon in two weeks and then the Carmel Marathon on April 18.  Hopefully, the summer will then allow the work necessary to prepare for fall.

One way or another, I'll persevere.  As will you.


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Recalibrating 2015 Plans

ORN:  zero

I posted on New Year's Day about my plans for 2015; focusing on road marathons, hoping to get under four hours for the first time ever.

January training went well for three weeks, as I nailed each of the prescribed workouts.  I had a little strain in my right Achillies tendon but nothing too I felt it a bit during the HUFF 50K on December 19 but not enough to even mention in the blog write up.

However, following a hard 14 mile run on January 17, with a fair amount of snow covered or icy running paths, the right Achillies was really hurting.  By the next morning, it was so sore, I cut off the planned 8 mile easy jog at a single mile.  I rested until Wednesday, attempted to run again and after 3 miles, that tendon was still sore.  I then took 10 days off, iced the tendon several times daily.  The tendon felt better while walking and while going up and down stairs.  I felt it was improving.  So, I tested it with a very, very gentle four mile run on a flat, dry course last Saturday, January 31.  Wham, the discomfort sprang right back again, sore by the end of the run and turning very uncomfortable later in the day.

So, what to do now?  

It seems the general advice is to rest extensively, like 2-3 months.  This is odd...I've never had an injury like this, requiring so much time off.  But it seems to be the deal.  Probably an overuse injury from the increased mileage all last fall leading to my 50 mile and then 50K races, I'm now paying a bit of a price.

I have found a place to use a training cycle while the weather is cold and hope to get out on my real bike when the weather and streets permit.  But this precludes any serious racing through the spring, it appears and so I'm making the mental adjustment.  I hope to be able to begin to ramp back up through the summer and take a shot at some good races in the fall.

I welcome any comments or insight any of you have!!  I'm grateful to have running as something I do, yet it is not something that defines me.  So, this will be an interesting and instructive interlude!


Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 Year In Review, 2015 plans

2014 was a good running's interesting to look at the numbers.

The stats here show 1,480 miles run for 2014.  The weekly mileage show some expected ups and downs but particularly low in the early part of the year. The spring months were tough with the Midwest's Polar Vortex and an extended flu/cold for me.  Summer and fall was great, though.

My graph

Looking at it monthly, there is less variability, simply low Jan-Mar.

My graph

Stepping back further, here is the graph of my annual miles for the past 11 years. There are 13,483 miles here...amazing... one day at a time.  2014 was my second highest mileage year.

My graph

I reached my main goal for the year, finishing a 50 mile race for the first time ever.  That one still amazes me.   In addition to that race, I ran one 50K trail race, six marathons (two of them a double, also a first), four half marathons and other shorter events...a total of 23 races for the year.  In my desire to "give back", I continued as the RD of the Circular Logic Marathon in March and will do again this coming March.

Looking to 2015, I've decided to focus on road marathons.  Specifically, I want to try to get under four hours for 26.2.  My current PR is 4:07:28.

What do I do differently to get there?  I'm using Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 plan, a strategy that will get my weekly miles up (3 times hitting 50 weekly miles) with weekend runs designed to help hold my (relative) speed in the final hour of running.  I've not done either that mileage or that intensity before.  I have two spring marathons targeted (Carmel, April 18, Wisconsin, May 2) and if I don't go sub 4 in either, I'll regroup, retrain through the summer and try two more fall marathons in Indy (Indianapolis, Oct 17, Monumental, Nov 7).  If I don't go sub 4 at all, I'll be OK.  But I want to give it a serious attempt this year.

Can I knock off seven and a half minutes, getting from a 9:27 pace to a 9:08 pace over 26.2 miles??  It'll be tough.  But I'm up for the attempt.  All the training focuses on this one objective for 2015.

Have a great year!!  And, as always, persevere.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Run 2014

ORN: December 20, 2014:  50 Kilometers (31.1 miles); 6:19:28, 12:13/mile, R/W 6/1 thru 20, then 3/1

In this, my fourth consecutive year of running The HUFF 50K Trail Run on December 20, I managed to set a 50K PR by 9 minutes.  It was both fascinating and you would expect anything different in a run this long??

The HUFF holds a special place in my running history.  It was 10 years ago, on December 16, 2004, that I first participated, running a single 10 mile loop.  Until that day, I had never run trails at all.  It's funny to read now my race report of that day.  Dan Quayle, where are you now??

I've written about all three prior HUFFs since the organizers had to move it to its current location at Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Weather conditions in late December in Indiana give each year its own character . 

2011:  The Deep Water Year.  The most philosophical I've ever been on my blog.  The lessons of that wet, cold, muddy day still hold, remarkably.  link

2012:  A very runnable race day:   link

2013: Another nice HUFF race with more snow pack:   link

This year, the race was before Christmas and the weather afforded us the most runnable track of the four years at Chain O' Lakes.  But I'm slightly ahead of myself.

By experience, I knew I'd need to put screws in my shoes to have traction on cold, frozen trail.  So, a few nights before the race, I pulled my least-old running shoes and added eight #6, hex head, 3/8" self-tapping sheet metal screws to each shoe, six on the forefoot and two at the heel.  Total cost of 32 cents and I had traction.  They worked great!

After a very hectic Friday at work, I drove the 3 hours to Columbia City, a few miles south of the park and had a not-carbo-loaded spinach salad for dinner:

I then stayed at a perfectly fine motel in Columbia City and, even though its grammar wasn't perfect, the rooms were fine.

Turned out there were a lot of fellow HUFF runners staying here and I had some nice chats before getting to bed early.

Up before 5am on race morning, I was in the park and had a prime parking spot by 6:05am.  I appreciate races with race day packet pick up and that all worked fine.  I had time to grab a nap and was easily able to be ready for the start.

There were quite a few Marathon Maniacs running and we managed to snag a group photo, thanks to Jen Savage's skill in herding cats.

And, though a few minutes late, we got started at about 8:30am.  This race has such a long tradition, it enjoys wide appeal.  Thus, it is one of the bigger trail ultras in the can see the start pack size here.

And from the start, we headed into the woods.

The 50K course is a 15.5 mile loop which we ran twice.  Having run that loop eight times now, I'm finally getting to the point I know where I am!!  The interesting part of the course is that the perimeter portions are gently rolling while the interior portions have lots of steep ups and downs as they work over and along the hog-back ridges which make up the geology of the lakes chained together in the aptly named state park.

The best tour of the course popped up a few days ago from some guys who carried a GoPro camera with them and then edited it to a very comfortable 4+ minutes.  Here's the link:  HUFF 50K Video .   This captures well what the trail was like.  Enjoy the fiddle background music!! 

I found the trails very runnable this year.  The temps were in the low 20s through most of the race, leaving the trails frozen and solid.  We've had no snow yet either, so it was open and firm.  

I approached the HUFF as a long training run, since it was not a goal race for me.  I opened using a run/walk ratio of  run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute and tried to simply run comfortably.  And comfortable it was.  The first lap went very well and I crossed the start finish line at exactly 3 hours, the best I'd ever done.  

I'm not sure why I look so dour here but I do.  I have a banana in hand and was feeling good but I'm not a poster child for trail running in this action pic. 

With the field fully spread out, the running was wonderful.  You can tell here just how nice the trails were for this race.  

Interestingly, though, distance races are fair but demanding taskmasters.  While I had been careful to hydrate well, carrying my own water, I had deliberately not eaten much at the aid stations, taking just a few pretzels or corn chips at each.  Well, as mile 20 approached, I could feel the "Wall" hitting...just as I've seen it at other times when I was too casual about race preparation.   Within a mile, my legs got heavy and the energy was dissipating.  

Realizing this was not a target race, I reset my run/walk ratio to 3/1 and re-calibrated my expectations for the remainder of the race.  But it just hurt from miles 20 to 23 and I was reduced to simply grinding it out.  

But then.....

A great thing about ultras, compared with regular road marathons, is the relaxed and unusual approach to aid stations.  And this great thing served to turn my race around this day.  The AS at mile 23.5 was a fun, welcoming place as you can see here and I was glad to see it again.  

I pulled in with my water bottle out already and one volunteer asked before I did "What would you like?"  I answered and she set off to refill it with water.  Another volunteer at this table said "We have potatoes!"  YES!!  He served me two hot, peeled, large chunks of boiled potato out of the roasting pan.  "Do you have salt?" I asked, almost reflexively, craving the electolyte.  Yep, there was a bowl, with a spoon.  I layered the salt on and popped the potatoes, whole, quickly, as the volunteer's 12-ish year-old daughter looked on, slightly amazed at what she was witnessing.

But, there was more.  As I finished the potato, I spied they had also just brought up a pan full of hot cheeseburgers.  And, boy, did that look good!!  Cut in half, they were ready for prime time.  I pulled one out and proceeded to squirt copious amounts of ketchup onto its flat edge.  At the same time, the lady came back with my water bottle and stuck it into my water belt for me.  I was set.  Thanking the crew warmly, I headed back down the trail finishing off my cheeseburger.

And it made all the difference.

Within five minutes, I was a new man.  The ingestion of the carbs and protein and salt worked wonders.  I had no trouble digesting any of it and my running pace picked up, my legs felt better, my mind was clearer and it carried for the remaining 6+ miles of the race.

The majority of the hills remained between me and the finish line but it all rolled fairly well.  The low spot behind me, the cheeseburger in me, it was a matter of keeping a decent pace.  I ran the final mile of the race and, to my amazement, crossed the finish line under 6:20, the fastest of my five 50K races.

Post race was interesting.  On Sunday and Monday after the race, I was as sore as I've been in many years following a race.  I think it was due to the fact I have not trained on trails hardly at all this year.  Thus, the hardness of the frozen surface and the un-evenness of the ground all demanded much from seldom-used muscles.

So, that wraps up 2014 races for me.  It's cool to have 10 years experience with one event.  It was a good  year and I'll address that in another post.  Plus a demanding target for 2015.

Most of all, just hang in there.  Ultras teach you that.  And be grateful for each helpful cheeseburger which surprises you along the way.