Thursday, March 23, 2017

Validation of Training - Ruck a Chuck 50K

"On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow." - Friedrich Nietzsche 

This past Saturday I took on and completed my 12th ultra marathon at the very hilly (7500+' climbing) Ruck a Chuck 50K in Forrest Hill, CA.  This race also marked the 8th state in which I have completed an ultra marathon.

I picked this race for a few reasons:

  1. I liked the time of year (mid March) giving me motivation to train hard through the NE winter 
  2. It was located within driving distance of relatives, so we had family to visit 
  3. It was run on part of the iconic Western States 100 course, a bucket list race I hope to do some day. 

Training began in the second week of January after a much needed three week back off from training (30 or less miles per week).  After a text from a friend and a plea to hold sessions on multiple days, I quickly revived SHOP (Scot's Hills of Pain) and got out twice week to run the hills and get in as much climbing as I could.

For this training cycle, I also tried to get back to the basics and make sure my hard days were hard (most Tuesday and Thursday's were 15+ miles) and my easy days were easy (Monday and Friday being 3 miles).  I also got to the gym twice week and worked the core as much as I could (Upping my plank to 60 seconds, my push ups to 30, and my pull ups to 15, all at 3 sets).

As the weeks progressed, the climbing added up and I was feeling stronger and stronger.  I got my mileage up into the 70s and then low 80s.  I got in three "long" runs of 24, 31, and 20 miles and one good mountain run up at Monadock three weeks before race day.

Going into the race, I had 606 miles and about 30,000' of climbing under my belt.  As long as I didn't go out to hard, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't have any trouble with the race.

We flew out to California the Thursday before the race and after a stop at the park (to let the kids unwind) and some lunch we drove out to Roseville.  Our hotel had an indoor pool in which we immediately hit up after checkin.  Pretty tired after a 3:50am east coast wakeup, we headed to bed by 7pm.

For Friday we we headed over to one of the regional parks for a few hours before going to Auburn to pick up my number at the Knee Deep Brewery.  After a quick sampler for us (Mild, Barely Wine, Porter, and a Stout) and tater tots for the kids we headed back to hotel.

Race day began with a 5:30 wake up (thanks to the kids) and we were on the road an hour later for a short drive.  We got to the start, Rucky Chucky Park, shortly after 7am.

Most innovative race bib: Name (so people know who you are) and upside down elevation profile
(so you can read it while wearing the bib).  

Stream Crossing
The race started promptly at 8am and began with a 2 mile / 900' decent.  I ticked the first two miles off at 7:15 each trying to do as little damage to my quads as I could.  Shortly after this there were two small stream crossings which were a little higher then usual after all of the much needed rain that California had received this year.  At mile 2.75, we reached the first aid station and made our way onto the Western States trail.  I took it as conservatively as I could knowing there was quite a bit ahead.

Next there were a couple of sets of small hills (150' range or so) where I moved up from about 10th to 5th overall.  Around mile 8.5 is when the first major climb began and consisted of over 400' spread across 5 switchbacks.  After a false flat / aid station, the final (on the way out) major climb began which was a straight up rocky section with another 400' over 1/3 of a mile.

After this section, I was able to find a groove again knocking out the remaining 4+ miles to the
turnaround between 8:40 and 9:30 pace.  The turnaround just a box in the middle of the train with purple wristbands. You simply grabbed a wristband to prove that you were there.

As I began my trek back, I was feeling pretty strong.  At this point I was still running in 5th place, was about a half mile behind 4th and a quarter mile in front of 6th.  I figured if I could hold onto 5th for the day, I would be pretty happy with my performance, specially living in an area that requires a bit driving to get to the mountains.

As runners continued to run by, I got an adrenaline boost and instinctively picked up the pace.  I had a couple decent climbs to go before I hit the big descent. For mile 18, I was even able to drop an 8:03 mile.

As I reached the big decent, I bounced down it the best that I could.  My quads were starting to get pretty sore at this point.  Fortunately I was able to recover pretty well and went back to dropping 9 to 9:30 miles for most the the next 8 miles.

Just before I reached the final aid station with 2.75 miles to go, I saw the 4th place runner come into view.  It was a fairly flat section and he was walking so I knew that I could pass him as long as I held a somewhat consistent pace.  I ended up catching him right at the aid station and he fist bumped me and said "Go get it." I said thanks and kept on moving.

The final climb was a complete bear.  I employed a run walk method entirely based on heart rate.  I ran the best I could and walked when I had to.  Finally, Amy, Neil, and Nat came into view and just past them was the finish.  Neil jogged in with me.

-- 4:55:08 -- 9:30 / mile -- 4 / 120 OA --

All and all I was very happy with my performance. My loose goal was coming in was 5 hours, but I really had no idea what to expect with a race with that much climbing.  I have only ever climbed more then that in a day twice and both times were in 50 mile races.  

While sore and tired at the finish, I never felt like I blew up or couldn't continue.  Even as late as mile 28 I was able to click off an 8:37(which even included a stream crossing).  I like to look at this result as validation of my training.  Make your hard days hard, your easy days easy, and train as specific to the race as your can. 

Later that day we drove to Oakland where we stayed with Amy's uncles for the remainder of trip and visited with cousins and friends.  It was great to catch up with everyone. 

Next up: Boston Marathon


Richard, Amelia, and Nat

Dennis and Nat

Neil and Ethan


Jesse Morrow said...

Nice work boss! No bling for Age Group?

And I'm not a robot...


Scot said...

Nope. Just prizes for top three. Pretty laid back race with only a $55 reg fee.

Hendawg3 said...

Cool! I finally read it. Looks like you picked a great race, and you were certainly prepared. Nicely done!

Ilya said...

Congrats. Stealing your strength routine :-)