Sunday, April 14, 2019

Madcity USATF 100K Nationals 2019: all this for a patch?

This is Boston weekend and I'm typing this blog from Boston indeed but it's a race report for a race I ran yesterday, go figure! The best advice before running a marathon or ultra marathon is to pace the week before, if not for 2 weeks for an ultra. I used to follow that wisdom 20 years ago when I ran my first marathons but, after 25 marathons and 162 ultras, I seem to have forgotten about it. Or disobeying. Or losing my mind and not behaving... ;-)

Anyway, I was at a client in Milwaukee on Friday and decided to give a third try to this 100K Nationals in nearby Madison, Wisconsin. I did the back to back Madcity/Boston 2 years ago and that played quite well: well I fell apart on the 100K, I still won my age group title and even the Masters division, hence a super nice crystal vase. Then, 9 days later, I had my redemption run at Boston, clocking a 2:44 and getting second on the M50-54 podium, 10 years after getting on the Boston marathon too as top 10 Masters (they don't go that deep anymore, I got lucky!).

Another reason I gave more emphasis is that I had such a slow qualifier with 3:02, I ended up in the 7th corral, really not a great place to start and compete. Then there has been the nagging gluteus injury since November which is more bearable at lower pace, and prevent me to really train hard for speed. In other words, running an ultra at 7 or 7:30 min/mile pace is easier than sub ultra distances at a faster pace right now.

And I had a few other goals:

  1. One more title, which seemed an easy goal knowing that I was the only one in my age group in the entrants list. A note about the title here: when you get a National title, you not only get a gold plated medal, but a patch and, inspired by Roy Pirrung who has more than 80 of them, I kind of got hooked up in collecting those (12 so far), although I started way too late to compete with Roy on this! ;-)
  2. I got the two Masters division vase the last two times I participated but I wasn't aiming at it this time as Billy Merteens had registered. Billy and I ran quite a fast Jed Smith 50K in 2017, one year after Rich Hana broke our age group record and I had a mini stroke running my PR of 3:18 a few weeks later. It was Billy's first 50K and he smashed the record by more than one minute at 3:16:29! Billy's goal this Saturday was to break the 100K mark for my ex age group which Steve Stowers had improved by a few seconds at 7:38:32 (the record I was after when I flew to China last October).
  3. On my end, I had a clear eye on Roy Pirrung's 8:39:35 M55-59 record. While I never excelled at the 100K distance, I've run several under 8 hours and believe another sub-8 is in reach.
  4. Given the super small field, potentially finish in the top 10 which gets you another USATF medal.
  5. Oh, and still not kill myself so I could at least run Boston 2 days later!
All in all, pretty achievable goals.

I drove from Milwaukee after lunch, against a super wind from the West which Timo, Madcity Race Director, assured me would calm down before the race, phew! To give you an idea of what was going on Friday evening...

As opposed to my previous 3 posts from French Polynesia, I only have one picture of this race, here am I with Bill, at the bib pick-up.

No wind indeed, but it was freezing cold at the start at 6:30 am. Freezing as in 32-34 F. After the 95F of my last 60K long run a week ago on Moorea, that's quite a thermal shock, literally! I got the second spot on the parking lot at 5:30 am but stayed in the car for 30 minutes, on my heated seat. At 6 I went for a warm-up run for 10 minutes and actually got too hot and sweaty with 2 layers plus a wind breaker. I ditched the wind breaker and also opted for shorts instead of my tights. The time to get a parking permit (new this year), I was rushed to get to the start line...

I settled in 12th place for the first half mile, losing sights of 4 to 5 super fast runners in front. Then I passed a few runners, getting to Mike Bialick (winner in 2015, 3rd in 2016 and 2017) and Bobby. I stayed for a few strides with Mike who mentioned he was aiming at running 45-minute laps, rather a conservative pace for him. But he slightly pushed the pace before mile 3 and passed Billy, while I stayed a few strides behind Billy thinking our 7-7:15 min/mile pace was already too aggressive for me.

I hod forgotten to take a Vespa at the start, and my S!Caps pouch in my pocket. With the cold and the gloves, it took me 45 seconds to get them and stayed that far behind Billy for the next 3 miles, before deciding to dial down a little and get closer to my 7:20-7:30 min/mile goal.

With this 45" stop, my first lap was 45:15, my second passage at 1:29:22 (slightly too fast), then 2:14:52, 3:01:32. I passed the marathon distance at about 3:11, a good sign for, another recent scoop, my new job of pacing the 3:10 group at Big Sur International Marathon in 2 weeks, with Chris Calzetta. From there, the wheels started to fell off, as it did 2 years ago. I was bummed but resolved to keep going no matter what to at least get that patch. My legs were tired and my breathing was also affected.

For the next laps, I forced myself to jog as much as possible, knowing that I walk really slowly. My other motivation was that I had to drive to Chicago in the afternoon to catch my flight to Boston early Sunday morning. And, after a glimpse of clear sky and sun 2 hours after the start, the weather was quickly getting back to colder and windier and it looked like getting worse at every lap.

I passed the 50K mark 3:51, actually not too bad from a goal standpoint but it took me 55 minutes to complete lap 6 and 1 hour and 9 minutes for lap 7, ouch! I was around km 74 when a runner approached me from behind and asked how I was doing and feeling. I had met him in Vegas in February but didn't realize who he was and I was devastated when I saw on his back pack a M55-59 bib: I wasn't alone after all and he was moving way too fast for me to catch-up. He had registered at the start and, would have known that, would certainly have had a different race strategy!

With that, I decided to call it a day and drop, well, after walking the remaining 6 kilometers on that loop of course. In these finals miles I got passed by the top runners who were finishing their 10th lap. Israel Merke won in 6:54:33 and will be a great addition to Team USA at the next 100K world championships! Martin Erl 2nd in 7:14, followed by an impressive Mike Bialick again for 3rd place with 7:15, what a consistent machine!

I was shivering badly at the finish, sipping some hot chicken broth under the tent protecting from the cold wind when I saw Billy finishing his 10th lap. I gave a heads-up to Timo so he could give Billy a shout out in the microphone for breaking the M50-54 record by 7 minutes! Super impressed with Billy's consistency who ran 10 laps at 45 minutes for a total of 7:31:50. 2 USATF records in two attempts, both on his first take at the respective distances, this is remarkable!

Kudos too to John Bertram for winning the M55-59 age group, breaking 9 hours by a few seconds!

For some reasons, the 1-minute 3D fly-over from looks much easier than my 7.5-hour struggle... ;-) Click on this link or the image below:

So what happened to me at Madcity? Of all the potential excuses, I'd put the cold first as I was clearly unprepared for this after my runs in 90-95F the past week. Second, still a lack of proper conditioning after the gluteus injury: it's getting better, and not at the point that it's hurting at every stride (or is it that I'm just getting used to it), but I can't still stretch the muscle fully and that impair my stride. Third, I got my diet off during the vacation because it's an offense to visit French Polynesia without indulging their local fruits. Between the high protein of the fish and all these carbs, plus MacDonalds' invasion, many locals eat more than they should and it shows. I gained 6 pounds in one week down there! Then there is the hectic travel, jet lag and work schedule. While I could say this is work as usual, travel has been really heavy this year, I already logged more than 68,500 air miles in 3 months...

That was ultra race #163 out of 315 races in my log, 100K race #23, DNF #15.

It's Sunday and I made it to Boston, not a small fate after O'Hare got it by snow this morning.

I got a sweat to rush through the downtown area to pick up my bib (it's rather warm here after all) and went for a painful 4-mile run before dinner. The muscles are sore but the stride is okay. It's my lungs who have the most to recover through the night hopefully, still feeling some signs of short breath, not even running sub 7:30 min/mile yet. Oh well, I'll have to go with the flow tomorrow morning, pushed by 25 thousand runners behind!!

Weather wise, rain is supposed to stop around 10 (race starts at 10) and temperatures show around 65F, not too bad. Not so excited to get in the crowd, but that's part of these major marathons. On to the 123rd edition of Boston then!

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