Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Allegheny Front Trail Run 50k

So this past weekend I ran the Allegheny Front Trail Run 50k.  It starts at the Mid-State Regional Airport near Philisburg, PA (not far from State College), and much of it is on single track of the Allegheny Front Trail, as well as some road, dirt road, and grassy trails. 

I made the trip early Saturday morning with my girlfriend Allison and my friend Rob.  Allison was just coming off an illness so wasn't sure if she was going to run, and Rob was looking for a PR and a sub-7 after his last 50k was Oil Creek where he hobbled to the finish on a bum ankle in 8+ hours.  My goal was a sub-5.  I made that a goal without knowing much about the course.  I just figured it was a good number, and would be a PR for me. 

So the race and the race organization was nothing to write home about.  A few people got lost on the course.   There were a few intersections where I myself could have easily gotten lost, but I just happened to make the correct choice on where to go, based solely on luck. 

photo by Shannon Niess

photo by Shannon Niess

We started off on the roads, probably going a little bit too fast before hitting the single track.  The two guys in front started to peel away after two or three miles, and I was hanging in the #4 spot with the #3 guy for a little bit until we came into an aid station.  I stopped for aid, he flew right through, and I didn't see him again for most of the race. 

photo by Shannon Niess

So, I ran along.  The trail is relatively fun and interesting, much of it is pretty runnable.  I walked some of the steeper hills.  Miles 17-20 were terrible.  It was a long, grassy, gradual uphill.  It wasn't so steep that I could walk, but it was tedious enough that I would run for a few minutes and then take a 10-second walk break, and repeat as necessary.  Finally I get to the top and loop around to an aid station.  It was here that I found out that the lead runner got lost.  So I leave the aid station to loop back around and go back down the long grassy hill.  Coming back down was pretty fun, and much faster obviously.  On the way down I saw Rob, and he said he wasn't feeling too good.  I probably called him a pussy as I usually do (for motivational purposes of course), and kept on going.   

Also, while I was running down that hill, a woman told me that I was in 2nd place.  So either she didn't know what she was talking about, or both #1 and #2 got off course enough for #3 to take the lead and for me to slip into the #2 spot. 

So around mile 23 or so I was feeling pretty good and I picked up my pace a little bit for a few miles.  And then around mile 27 or 28 I see the #3 guy that was in front of me way back in the beginning!  So I try to pick it up a little more and sneak by him, but as soon as he notices me behind him, he turns on the burners.  Damn!  I was hoping that he was hurting and that I'd be able to get by, but he must've been lollygagging a little bit because he definitely picked up the pace.  I tried to keep up, but he was slowly pulling away.   A little less than a mile before the finish, he went the wrong way and I went the right away, so I was in the lead for a short time only to have him blow by me again. 

So I ended up finishing in second place, 13 seconds behind the leader!   I need to work on my finishing kick.  Doh!!

Finish time was 4:52!  I got my sub-5 goal, and my buddy Rob came in under his 7 hour goal as well!  Allison stayed back and was an awesome cheerleader and photography.  It was a fun day! 

photo by Allison Jeric

Strava Data:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

African Runner Food - Recipe

This meal has become a staple in my diet as of late.  I've been feeling stronger and leaner, as it has good fats, healthy carbs, and lots of protein and fiber.   I call it "African Runner Food".   Why?  I'm not sure.  Africans probably don't even eat it.  But it makes me feel good to think that they do. 

Combine the following ingredients:

16 oz mixed vegetables
1 cup brown rice
1 can black medium olives
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can black beans
1 splash of hot sauce

I like to rinse the beans and olives to reduce the sodium content before adding it to the mix. 
The above makes about 3 servings.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

8k Road Race, 20 miles of Trails and Cow Shit

Today was a good day.  It started with an 8k road race in Silver Creek, New York called "The Laurel Run".  Great course, well-organized race, lots of good post-race food, volunteers, etc etc, all for only $15.  Awesome deal. 

I did this race two years ago and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to do it again and I didn't get the chance to do it last year.  Something different about this race is that there is a team element involved.  When I registered, I had the option of registering with a team.  Just like two years ago, I registered with the "Tri-State Runners".  We're the tri-state runners because we have runners from Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.   Team results are calculated by taking a cumulative time of the first four finishers on each team. 

My goal for the race was sub-31:00.  This would require a 6:12 pace.  I haven't been running a lot of fast short road races lately, but my training (consisting of mostly long slow trail runs and an occasional speed workout) has been helping me get faster at a variety of distances, so I knew I had a shot. 

Many would describe the course as hilly, which is partially true. There's some decent uphills near the beginning, but it levels out for about 1.5 miles at the top, and then the last mile is nearly all downhill.  So anything lost on the uphills could easily be gained back on the downhills. 

My splits for the race were as follows:

1:   6:15
2:   5:57
3:   6:29
4:   6:08
5:   5:31

So coming into the last mile I was very near the 6:12 average that I wanted, and I shaved quite a bit off with the last mile and finished in 30:15, good for 7th overall.  This was a big confidence booster as I continue training for the Erie Marathon in September at which I hope to qualify for Boston with a 3:05 or better.

P.S.  Tri-State Runners won again!


Tri-State Runners! Jerry, Brooke, Judy, Adam, myself, Judy

I want to apologize in advance for not having any pictures to better describe the following. It was raining pretty good and I didn't want to bother.

So, after the race and the awards ceremony, I met up with my good friend Rob Kolodziejczak to run a planned 20 miles of trails. (Out 10, back 10) Not only was this training, but it was an opportunity to check out a trail that we've been wanting to run for awhile now.  We've been kicking around the idea of trying to stage a race on this trail based on the limited knowledge we had of it.

The trail is the Fred Cusimano Overland Trail that runs between Panama, NY and Mayville, NY for an alleged 24 miles.  And out-and-back with a couple extra road miles in the beginning to spread out the field would (or at least we thought previously) make a great 50 miler.

So we start on the trail, and the early section is as expected.  We ran a few miles of this trail quite some time ago, but it was during a time when the snow and slush were so bad that it wasn't worth going much farther.

The trail was runnable and smooth (though a bit muddy in certain spots) for about the first... 8 miles.  Honestly, it was pretty boring.  But that's okay.  It'll be a fast race! 

So anyway, we get about 8 miles in, and suddenly there's a barb-wired fence and a wooden step-ladder to get over the fence.  That was the first "WTF" moment.  Okay.. we so climb over the ladder and discuss ways to negate the use of this ladder during the race into an area of the trail that was apparently private property and on a farm. 

So a few hundred yards later, the trail turns into a muddy swampy quicksand-like bog.  Just ridiculous thick, shoe-robbing slushy mud that went above our ankles.  We were determined to get our 20 miles, so we pressed on. 

Then we come to another ladder and a field.  The trail basically disappears completely through this field (except for the occasional blue blaze on a fence post).   The field is uneven and basically too dangerous to run for fear of a twisted ankle.  So we walk through this field for probably 1/4 mile, and we get to another ladder if I recall correctly.  And then another field with a trail that really isn't a trail at all.  And there's cow shit everywhere.  And it's a muddy (or perhaps it's not mud) mess.  We're still not at 10 miles, so I insist that we press on.  We laugh loudly at the absurdity of this, and I state (as I often do to encourage stupidity), "It's good training!"   More field, more cow shit, more mud.  And then we get to a section with even more cow shit.. and we both make it through the minefield unscathed.  We come out to a road, almost to 10 miles, and as soon as my watch reads 10 miles we see a sign for the continuing portion of the trail that reads "Trail Temporarily Closed".   The timing of reaching 10 miles exactly as we saw this ridiculous sign that was really representative of the entire day on this ridiculous trail was rather humorous.  So we turn around, back through the minefield of cow shit, but this time I make a wrong step and SPLAT.  So a few feet down the trail I hop into a stream and wash off my muddy shitty shoes and socks and keep going.  Through more cow shit, more fields that are allegedly trails, more ankle-breaking fields, more ladders, more barb-wire fences (don't grab the fence if you slip in the mud!), more mud bogs and swamps, and finally back to the smooth runnable trail.

But in all seriousness, it was good training.  Our legs were pretty fatigued after hiking through that mess.  The feeling was similar to a "run" I did over the winter where I basically trudged through foot-deep snow for 12 miles. 

Once we're on the smooth trail, we run about 9:30/mile for 7 miles or so and finally get back to the trail head.

Tomorrow, we're off to Oil Creek State Park for another 27 miles of trails, and I'm sure they'll feel like heaven after today!

Thanks for reading.