Sunday, May 11, 2008

Green Jewel 100K Report/Review

While out my back window at home I see the temporary cross that marks the spot where Bailey lies, out my front door inside one of our pine bushes is 4 baby House Sparrows...just hatched within the last day. "Mama" Sparrow flies over our house to the feeder in the back and then back up front to her babies. She "stepped" aside for a moment while I snapped this picture. I just missed a shot of all 4 of them with their mouths open wide waiting for food. Anyway, pretty cool, eh?

And now on to my Green Jewel 100K review. I think Greg's still wrestling with his digital camera which has pics from every aid station (there were 10 of them). If he ever wins that battle, I'll post some of them. I got very few pics that day due to the constant rain after the 15 mile point.
Common Question: "Why in the world would you run 62.4 miles?! Isn't a marathon long enough?!" Answer: "Of course a marathon is long enough and was my first and still my main passion, but an ultramarathon is a test to see where my limits are. It's a completely different kind of event and test of physical and more so, of mental endurance. I toe the line of a marathon or a trail 50K to compete...mostly against myself and previous performances. I toe the line of these longer events to test even more of myself, my limitations, the effects of extended time on my feet, and also how to best fuel a finishing performance with regards to nutrition and how my body utilizes it and its effects on me physiologically. Pretty much, this past Saturday was a huge experiment, you might say."
The result? I finished in 13hrs, 9min! I found that 100K is in fact not my limit and I'm looking forward to this August's Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. (yea, I'll take the label "crazy" if you prefer!) I also found that Pure Fuel is an excellent source of race fuel and has zero adverse effects on me over the long haul. One kind of neat thing was that in the 2nd 30 miles of the event, any time I'd eat, I'd almost immediately get a chill and all the hairs on my arm would stand up on end. Why? It's because the blood rushes to participate in the digestion of the food thus giving up on maintaining body temperature for a bit. After a few miles, that always subsided. Also, from what other ultra-runners have told me, a cardinal rule is to always eat-eat-eat, drink-drink-drink, pee-pee-pee!!! If you're not going to the bathroom, that's a warning sign. Gotta drink early and often. That's different than a marathon where I drink far less and hope I don't need to stop at all during the race...which works probably 1/2 of the time. Different for the ultra as it's more about endurance and physically lasting the multiple hours on end...with hydration being a key component to that end.
I woke up early, like 1:45am EARLY, to brew my normal stovetop espresso and mill about before heading out the door for Mayfield Village...about an hour drive north and to the east of Cleveland. We met up with Joe and Vince (co-race directors) for a ride to the start WEST of Cleveland in Rocky River...a little northeast of the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. The start was very near the point where the Cuyahoga River empties into Lake Erie. Start was scheduled for 5am but we took off a few minutes late at 5:08am. At this point, we enter the beginning of the All Purpose Trail of the Cleveland Metroparks, AKA: the "Emerald Necklace." It's marked by a green dashed line down the middle of the pavement. It's an all purpose, asphalt-paved surface similar to the Summit Bike & Hike trail system. Click here to see it overlayed on a Google Map. You'll see why it's called a "Necklace" and also give you perspective on how far this really is. (ignore that crazy red line over Lake Erie)

The goal was to run with Greg, who had a couple of 50-milers under his belt, and go out at a 9-10 min/mile pace. One thing I knew: running at a pace much slower than my normal long run (ie: marathon training) would eventually cause pain. That's because my stride is different and different muscles are being utilized which aren't used to the extended stress. I was right and by mile 20, I felt like I'd raced a like I had been running at a 7:25-7:30/min mile. Who would've thought you'd be just as much or more sore by running so much SLOWER! Weather was decent through mile 15 when the rain started. But honestly, the rain made it feel like we were running in air-conditioning. Not heavy, mid-60s, very light wind...enough to stay comfy and help fight dehydration which was critical. Much better than being 75F and sunny!

There were 10 "mobile" aid stations spaced between 5-7 miles apart. Vince and Joe (co-race directors) loaded up their SUVs and just popped the back of them open to create the stations. Hammer's Heed, water, PB&J, Pure Fuel "bites", pretzels, crackers, etc. were found at each station. Once we passed the first handful of stations and the small field started spreading out, they started "leap-frogging" each other to ensure someone was at each aid station.

Some of the areas we passed through: Rocky River, Fairview Park, Berea, the Rocky River Reservation, Strongsville, Mill Stream Run Reservation, Broadview Heights, Brecksville, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Walton Hills, Bedford Chagrin Park, Solon, Bedford Reservation, Chagrin Valley, and finished in Mayfield just south of the North Chagrin Reservation.

Nearly 100% of the course is on asphalt. The exception was a very short section on the Towpath which was crushed limestone...except for actual portions of the Towpath which were asphalt! This was a true beating on the legs. I couldn't wait to recover on the trails during my recovery. Anyway, I was doing fine "mentally" until around 32 or 33 miles in...the section on the Towpath. Mentally, I was failing here and just zoned out. Greg kept on talkin' but I just slipped away fighting the mental side saying "STOP!!!!" Luckily, this dreadful stretch of silence ended as soon as we turned uphill onto Sagamore Hills. From this point on, the mental battle never again reared it's ugly head...and thankful I was for that! The next awesome hurdle was crackin' the 40 mile point. There was something about seeing 40 miles on my Garmin and having less than a marathon left that was stoppin' me now! In the 50th mile, a terrential downpour started and it was also the first time I really got cold...hands were freezing. Leaving the aid station just before 50, Greg realized that his 50 mile PR was close at hand. We bolted from the aid station with a pace we hadn't yet seen this day. We passed 50 miles 1 MINUTE faster than his PR...congrats, Greg! Oh yea, seeing 50 miles on the Garmin was another cool milestone and we were excited to be nearing the double-marathon point (52.4 miles). Right around the 55-56 mile point, the rain stopped and out came the sun...the first time we saw the sun all was SO awesome to feel sunshine. I'll never forget when that sun came out. As we entered the park near the finish (about 1.5 miles to the finish), we encountered a constant uphill to the finish where Joe, Vince, and Greg's girlfriend waited for us. We finished together in 13hrs, 9min. Dinner at Aladdin's followed by a hot shower and an awesome night's sleep awaited! What an AWESOME day! It was ironic how at 33 miles I was trying to figure out how to get out of the Burning River 100 Miler this August and at the finish, I couldn't wait to attempt the 100 mile distance.
I've gotta throw another big thank-you to Joe and Vince for putting on this event. It was a great experiment to test another level of endurance I had not seen before. A test of nutrition strategy, mental strategy, gear strategy...all valuable lessons for the future. To put on the event for so very few runners is a testament to their dedication to the sport and why so many veteran and new ultra-marathoners flock to their summer and winter Buckeye Trail 50Ks and the BR100.

Fueling Strategy:
Hammer's Heed in handheld finished between each aid station
1/2 Pure Fuel "Blue Blaze" Bar per hour
PB&J at each aid station
3 liters water via Nathan #020 race vest over 13 hours

Recovery Week
Well, what REALLY hurt afterwards was on both sides of my hips where that "meaty" muscle connects in at top. Those were pretty sore for a good 4 days. Other than that, the front of both feet at the ankle pivot point gave me alot of discomfort. Vince calls this "ultra ankle." Basically, the reduced stride over-stresses this area for such a long period of time. I took 3 solid days completely off, ran 6 Wednesday easy, Thursday off, another 6 around 8min pace on Friday, then had an AWESOME and easy trail run with Vince and Chef Bill yesterday. We did an easy trek from Pine Lane to Boston Store and back. Breakfast at Fisher's for my favorite Vegetable Scramble afterwards.

Next up: Buffalo Marathon in 2 weeks! #21!

Here's a quote from a book I'm reading that has absolutely nothing to do with running but I think it's so appropriate....enjoy!

"That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Kim said...

good race report. I think you are going to be in good shape for Burning River.
You know what would be a good training race for you? Come to Mohican and run the 50 mile race. Good hills, and good training in heat and humidity.

Nick Billock said...

I totally agree, Kim. I'd be doing just that but that's one of my drill weekends with the Navy so NO GO this year! Mohican is definately on my to-do list, though.

Greg said...

It was a blast running with you man! Want to do it again next year? :-)

Nick Billock said... year? Who knows what next year holds...I'm still trying to get this year planned after the BR100! Thanks for the 13hrs of company!

Lloyd said...

Nice report, Nick. Congrats on going farther than ever before. You will appreciate the experience much more on trails!

Good luck on your marathon.