Monday, October 20, 2014

Trailman 50K Race Report

What a race!

Some 50 people lined up in the rainy pre-dawn outside Rude Skov. The race director gave a quick speech about the course and went on to tell us to disregard the the required head lamp. There was no gear check, despite the stern warnings on the website. I hate running with a backpack but the instructions had been clear about including a 1 liter hydration system, 2 meters of gauze (!), 3 bandaids, an emergency blanket and a collapsible cup for the aid station. I hate running with a backpack, but saw no other options. 

Oh well. 

The lead pack ran together for 10K, quite slowly. We got lost several times, so it was not very attractive to run alone. Dorte Dahl and Søren Rasmussen did most of the pacing; Dorte is a international-caliber age grouper and Søren is a former 2:21 marathoner. I did notice that they ran with tiny hydration belts. Nothing against them; the list of required items was decidedly silly, but I wish I had known the race director was not going to be tough about the rules. Once before a race in Denmark, the RD almost disqualified runners without a collapsible cup. Again, I would have loved to run with a belt or handheld, but the website said all runners would be checked before entering the start corral. 

For a while we were 6, but going up and down Maglebjerg 4 times broke things up a little bit. Søren took off and Dorte and Claus Høier fell back a little. It appears that Søren got lost, because suddenly he came racing up from behind and re-joined the group. Talk about a thoroughbred runner; I don't think he was used to running so slowly. He eventually took off, never to be seen again.

That left three of us fighting for two podium spots (and prize money): Christian Nørfelt, Anders Aagaard Hansen and me. One of us was not like the others. That one was me. There was a clear pattern of me losing 20-30 yards on each downhill and then catching back up on the flats. On each flat, Christian would complain about how mind-numbingly boring it was NOT to run off-trail, steep, muddy hills. I said nothing.

I hated those hills. I raced in Asics racing flats with no traction whatsoever. Before you roll your eyes, please realize that that is all I have ever raced in. The only time I raced in non-flats was when I ran Chippewa this spring in Inov8 Mudrocs, and that was, I think, the only time I have not placed in the top 3 in a 50K. Those shoes sucked, and made my, if possible, more of a curmudgeon. But yesterday, my shoes were inadequatw. It rained all day, and by the end, all the downhills were made of slick, shiny mud. i wiped out completely in one turn and Bambied dangerously countless times. 

At the end of lap 1 (of 2), there was a long non-technical section. I had some vague plan of breaking away from Anders and Christian, if we were together near the end. I'm sure they thought about dropping me on a technical section (as well they should). 

I think the 3 of us ran together for almost 2 hours, debating doping, training, Danish trail/ultra, various race directors, Killian Jornet and everything else under the sun. Anders is a future star of Danish trail running, with lots of bright-eyed passion. The dude hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail and throws around words like GI index, junk miles, fartleks and Maffetone. I'll be honest: at times, Danish running feels like it is too much forefoot running and colorful gear, and not enough tempos and intervals. Hearing a young guy discuss training theory warmed my old stone heart. 

Here we are (maybe early on lap 2). credit: Andreas Carlsen

At one point we acted out the stars of ultra running. I was the speedy, but non-technical Sage Canaday, and they were Killian Jornet and Marco de Gasperi. Marco had to defend himself after his wife was caugt with EPO, and Killian had to admit that he didn't really live off mountain roots and berries. It got very animated, especially when Killian screamed in broken English that he was taller than Emelia Forsberg in real life.

Ok, none of that happened.

Then came 4xMaglebjerg. On the first long downhill, Christian and Anders did their usual Legolas-from-Lord-of-the-Rings downhill, gapping me by almost 50 yards. I had to sprint to catch back up and ran most of the next climb (while they powerhiked). Just when I caught them, the second downhill started and they uber-gapped me again. By then, we were passing lots of runners from the shorter-distance races (and possibly a few from the 50 mile race), so mentally it was harder to focus on catching them. 

After the fourth downhill, I had lost sight of them. I never saw them again.

The rest was ok but not great. Without having anyone to keep up with, I too fewer risks on the downhills and generally slowed down. At 40K, I started cramping up in my right adductors during a bad Bambi moment on a very slick downhill. I thought that was the end, but curiously, the cramps went away and I was able to run the last non-technical miles fairly fast.

My time was 4:21. That's slower than the insane-vert UROC, which shows you how tough the course was (at least for a clutzy runner like me). Certainly not my type of race, but admittedly tons of fun. 

The crazy part? Christian trains mostly on roads, while I train mostly on trails. I don't know how he gets so good at the technical stuff. I have gotten better over the years but my trajectory is not exactly stellar.

The biggest story of the day was the non-prizes for the top women. The Girl was going to run the 50 miles, until she found out about the lack of prize money. Let's say she got a little mad. It is fun to imagine how she would have felt, if she had won and then gotten no check on the podium. 

The whole thing set off a social media shitstorm, which Politiken (a big Danish newspaper) got wind of. The Girl was interviewed by them this evening, so it'll be fun to see what happens next. Søren ended up sharing his 10.000 kroner with the top 3 women in the 50K, which was a pretty damn classy move.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hello, Blog

This all leads to UROC, so stick with it!

Life has not been easy for the Hoegs. The details are not important, but we have spent less time together than apart in the last year, all due to various complicated cimcumstances.

This summer, I have worked in Duluth, while the Girl and our sons have been in Denmark.

I don't want to elaborate on how hard it has been for both of us (maybe all four of us), because thankfully it's over. Our big Duluth plans all failed, and now we are going back to life in good old Næstved, Denmark.

One side effect of living alone in Duluth is that I have gotten into great shape. I run hard every other day, and swim/strength train on my easy days. In the last month before UROC, I have set PRs on all my treadmill speed sessions. 

This all leads to UROC, which has gotten me to want to blog again. It may be the most fun I have ever had at a race. Since running it 5 days ago, I have been asking myself how I can find a similar race, anywhere.

Ok, so first of all, I only ran the 50K, and only signed up because the Girl was doing the 100K. I didn't know anything about the race, other than the 100K is very competitive and has big cash prizes. I assumed (rightly so) that the 50K was a comparative fun run.  

I didn't realize the altitude of the course (2700 to 3800 meters), nor the simplicity of it. Basically, one climbs from the valley to two different peaks/saddles and runs back down. I didn't realize how much fun that can be. 

Climbing to 3800 meters is normally something one does slowly, perhaps with a camera and a backpack full of lunch. In a race, it is different, of course, and for me, complete virgin territory. 

The race started with a 5K or so on a golf course and a less challenging section of the Colorado trail. This spread the field out nicely. I started out super slowly, as is my wont. The pros took off very fast. They are pros after all. Tons of women were ahead also. 

Slowly, I warmed up and picked up the pace. At 2700m, I never felt super springy, but the legs loosened up as the sun rose, and I started passing people. At this point, I saw the Girl, finishing an out-and-back portion of her race course. She would go on to win her race by a half hour, but had fun competing with the men. 

Then the climb began. I was running with two Minnesotans at the time, discussing how Borst had blown up at Superior (although I later learned he took 2nd behind a wiser Adam Schwartz-Lowe). One of the Minnesotans said something like "I can't believe how this altitude feels", and I realized that I felt great. Like, really good. 

So I said a (proverbial) "fuck it", and threw caution to the wind. The sun was coming up over the mountains. I took off my jacket and started working. I passed maybe 20 people going up the mountain, and caught up to a woman someone had told me was Cassie Scallon. She turned out to be more of a girl than a woman, though; she was 18, and her name was Ashley Erba. 

Ashley ran the whole way up, and after I had caught up with her, she seemed to speed up and re-dropped me, while telling me her life story. I would grunt as much as my breathing allowed, while she spoke full, unlabored sentences. Seriously. 

We made it to the top and caught up with Avery Collins. I didn't know him before the race, but he was presented as one of the elites (along with the Girl) the night before. He was doing the 50K, so the fact that I was passing him, made me feel pretty good in my skin. I was simultaneously in denial about getting dropped by an 18-year old girl, of course. Call me a glass-half-full guy. 

The three of us ran down the mountain together. I wasn't sure how much to "bomb" the downhill, but I figured Avery must know what he was doing, so I stuck with him. 

I felt great and a little high. Running in beautiful weather, at altitude, in perhaps the best long-distance shape of my life. Geoff Roes was suddenly there, cheering on the runners. All enough to make me feel a little loopy.

Up the second mountain we went. I passed only two or three runners up this climb, but of course there were fewer runners to pass. I made it to the top with Ashley and young (also 18-year old) Jack Daly. Ashley and Jack were both starting college in Boulder, so that was interesting to hear about. I wondered how ancient a 39-year old must seem to them. I mean, Natali is only 5 years younger than them. 

When we made it to the top, we found out that we were 2nd to 4th in the 50K. Jack said something about not wanting to get chicked, which seemed unwise to say in front of a world-elite junior girl. She has run a 16:18 5000m, which I am sure would be the Danish national junior record. 

They took,off down the mountain, whereas I had a plan. Shit, I smile just thinking about it. I took a GU with 40mg of caffeine and drank a cup of Mountain Dew. I turned on my music and felt "so good it oughtta be illegal" as I'm sure they say in Sterling, CO.

I caught up to the two kids and absolutely bombed the downhill. A lot of people on their way up couldn't help smiling; I'm sure they could see how high I was. I don't remember a lot from the long downhill. 1000m+ of descent should take a decent amount of time, but it felt like 5 minutes. 

Suddenly, it was over. The Girl, her parents and our boys were there waiting. I was still om such a crazy mountain high that it was almost disappointing that it was over. I was holding back tears, as I was taking it all in. Here we are:

Poor Jack did indeed get chicked, but was a good sport about it. He has a bright future (he just moved to Colorado from Mississippi and was already talking about all the "14'ers" he has "bagged"). Ashley Erba could be the next star of ultra running. For those of you not into regular track, 16:18 is wicked fast for a college freshman. Like, bound for a pro contract fast. It will be fun to see how far she takes it.

Matt Flaherty won easily. I think he was supposed to run the 100K, but dropped down to the amateurs in the 50K. Every time I saw him, he looked like he was out for a jog. We talked for a while, and he seems like a nice guy. 

So, yeah, since Saturday I have longed to find a similar race to train for. Ie. at high altitude, with lots of continuous climbing, and not too technical. The latter point is important, because I suck at technical downhills but excel at fast, non-technical downhills. UROC was mostly on gravel roads and mountain bike trails, which made it very runner-friendly. 

The worst part is that they are likely to move the course for UROC next year. That sucks, because if they didn't I would totally go for the masters 100K next year (yep, I'll be 40 by then). I still might, if this high continues until the sign-up for 2015 opens up.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 2013 Running Log

2 Long run on SHT
4 NMTC race. 6th place. Usual pack of myself, Rubesch, Hyopponen and Swank. Fun.
6HPTs - 3 loops from the lower trailhead
7 Last SHT with the Girl. 
9 Long run on SHT - Piedmont trailhead to Zoo along roads and then back along SHT
11 long run in Lester
13 long run in Lester Bog - super muddy and terrible
15 Treadmill (rainy anc cold in Duluth. 4x800 15:16 (huge PR). 5x400 10:38
17 HPTs - 2 big loops from lower trailhead. Felt ok
19 8K with the Girl. 8K fast

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 2014 Running Log

1 2M@5% 13:22 (a minute slower than PR but still it felt very hard). Meant to do another one, but I was too tired. Chippewa fatigue.
3 2M@5% 12:39. Got interrupted by pages. A few 800s.
5 400s on the treadmill
7 4 mile NMTC trail race. 4th place. Felt good, but others around me were faster than I remembered from last year. Did "chick" the Girl (>1 minute per mile faster. That won't happen often)
9 2x(2M@5%). I think one of them was in 12:21.
10 Maybe 10 miles watching the Girl take an incredible 5th place at Ice Age! Way more fun than running myself.
11 Around 10 miles on HPTs and Hixon trails in La Crosse. I love those trails. How I miss La Crosse.
13 Increasingly fast 400s om treadmill
15 Something fast om treadmill 
17 2M@5% 12:15 (close to PR on fitness center treadmills). 4x800 (no time, as I got interrupted)
19 4x800 15:25 PR, 5x400 (400s all out with 200m jog at 7.5 MPH 1%) 13:48
21 2x3000 with the Girl in Bagley. Then 1.5 hours alone on the SHT
23 28K on the SHT with the Girl. Great day.
24 Another long run on SHT. Maybe 26K
26n4x800 in 15:55. Felt really slow. 5x400 10:45
28 4x800 15:40. 5x400 10:38 (PR?)
30 something on the treadmill

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ultra Death

At 8 miles to go, things were going somewhat according to plan. 

I hated the fact that I was wearing a pair of Inov8 Mudrocs. I had thought mud = Mudrocs; they had to be better than road racing flats, I figured. Well, it wasn't super muddy, and whenever it was muddy, it was on the low flats, where the mud was so deep it wasn't really a question about traction.

Those shoes were bugging the hell out of me. My toes were burning, like I was in a road cycling shoe that was too tight. The shoes are so inflexible that I was forming all kinds of blisters. And it suddenly occured to me they might be low-drop shoes. 

But anyway, except for the much-maligned Mudrocs, I was where I wanted to be at 7 miles to go.

I was running with Alex kurt; Rubesch was a little bit behind. Jordan Hanlon and another guy were up ahead. I had run conservatively all day. Nutrition had been good. I felt ready to put it a nice little late-race surge. I drank a 5-Hour Enenrgy (which contains caffeine) and told Alex I was going to go for it. I turned on my music and charged for home, honestly thinking I had a chance at catching up with the two leaders.

Yeah. That didn't happen. At 5 miles to go, Jordan Hanlon suddenly came running toward me on the trail. He thought he was lost and wanted to run back to find the right trail. Alex caught up and said he thought we were on the course. At which point Jordan turned arund and took off at what looked like 6-minute mile pace. 

That's when Ultra Death had started to set in. Alex disappeared in the distance. Rubesch went by me with a cat-like stride. I walked on, hurting everywhere, feeling faint. I walked and hobbled the rest of the way in. Another guy passed me on the last hill, just for good measure. 

Jordan Hanlon ran the last 5 miles 16 minutes faster than me! He passed the second-place guy, whose name I didn't catch, in the last few miles. I was impressed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From treadmill to Chippewa 50K

Saturday is Chippewa. Our very first ultra back in 2007, when Christian was a tiny baby. We both ran it in 2011 and then again in 2012. In 2012, the spring had been so warm that late April felt like the middle of summer. The trails were very fast. 

This year, It looks like there will be some mud and snow, although not as much as I would have thought two months ago. 

All my training has been on a treadmill. All of it; okay, except for two weeks in Denmark in March. How 50K on the trails will go down, I have no clue. I know I'll be wearing my clunky Inov8 Mudrocks (Mudrox?), which I don't really like. All my other shoes are racing flats. No, the Girl has not been able to hook me up with a pair of Salomons.

I looked at the list of entrants and found plenty of competition. 

Jake Hegge would normally be the favorite, but he ran the Zumbro 50 Miles. I have trained some with Hegge, and I know he recovers fast. I still remember how he outsprinted John Storkamp up the last hill in 2012. Jake was on the UW La Crosse track team, but chose to focus on trails. If I am with him near the end, I need to drop him before the last hill. Most likely, I will be far behind him, and if not, I don't see myself dropping him anyway.

At least Mike Borst is not on the list. When Jake and Mike, the two wise men of La Crosse, show up, they usually place 1-2.

Jordan Hanlon is faster than me for sure. I beat him at Afton a few years ago, only because he started out with the leaders, while I was weaseling away at my own pace. I think he has a 2:35 marathon, which may be faster than Hegge (although Hegge has a sub-15 5K as I recall).

Chris Rubesch could kill me at 50 miles. 50K is a little short for him, but in any case, he is peaking for Ice Age, so he may just use this as a training run.

John Storkamp is always running in the front group, chatting away and cracking jokes. Like Rubesch, he is a pure ultra guy, and 50K may be a little short for him. Maybe the mud benefits him? 

I may have missed some names on the list, and obviously some fast folks from outside the group of usual suspects may show up. 

The women, you ask? I honestly think the Girl would win this one, but in her absence, I did see Christine Crawford on the list. I did not see the Scotches (nee Lavin) on there. Alicia Hudelson is injured and far away. I did not see the fast Duluthians, like Christi Nowak or Leslie Semler. But, honestly, there are so many women excelling at ultras that someone whose name I don't recognize could show up and chick me. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 2014 Running Log

2 5K@8% 21:30?. 5K@8%. ? time
4 5K%8% (no time; pager went off in the middle. "4x800" 15:20
6 2M@5% 12:19, "4x800" 15:18. PR
8 5K@8% 20:20 PR. 4x800 15:19
9 An hour or so with Christian on his bike.
115K@8%, 2M@5% 12:09 (though on unreliable YMCA treadmill
13 A few miles with Andreas in the hotel gym
15 2M@5% 12:16. "4x800" 15:25. I think I got fatter on vacation
17 8 x 800, I think. i forget the times.
19 2M@5% 12:11. PR? but the treadmill seems like one of the faster ones
21 800 m intervals. Got interrupted too many times.
23 9 miles. 10 K "progression intervals in 39 something
26 Chippewa 50K. 4:12. Terrible race.
28 Swam some
30 sore legs on the treadmill