Friday, September 11, 2015

Green Lakes 2015

Ah, the Green Lakes Endurance Runs. Back for another round, I decided to give the 100K a go as my final training run for Virgil Crest. That meant double the pleasure and double the fun I had during the 50K last year and the year before. (Race report from 2014.) My main goals for the 100K (62 miles) were to make sure some of my new gear is in working order for a race situation, to further dial in my nutrition, and to spend a long day on my feet. The tricky part was to remember that I'd need enough left in the tank to recover adequately during my three week taper between Green Lakes and Virgil. The common "I have no goal time" statement of course was always a lie. In the back of my head, I thought a sub 12 hour finish seemed reasonable, but I had to remember it was low on the priority list. I was telling people I wanted to finish before 7:00 pm when the park's swimming area closes so I could cool down in the water immediately afterward. A chance to hop in the lake meant breaking 13 hours.

Race Summary


The course is a loop of mostly flat trails, about half of which is exposed to the sun when the trails deviate from the woods for a few extended stretches. The loop is repeated eight times for the 100K, with access to a drop bag at the start/finish area.

Midway through lap 7. Photo: Tom Garby
In brief, the 100K went pretty well. It didn't really hit me until a few miles into the race that today would be my longest run ever by a full twelve miles. I was forced to push that thought aside and focus on pacing to avoid starting out too fast and burning out in the second half.

I got worried as I started feeling the first bits of fatigue around mile 20. I thought I could easily breeze through the first 50K before experiencing any signs of slowing, but to no avail. Laps three and four weren't terrible, but felt like more of an effort than I was hoping for. I made it through the first half in about 5:30 - not a bad split to go sub 12:00, but I already knew this time was not in the cards today.

Laps five and six were a struggle. I managed to keep moving in part because of all the 50K runners still on the course that I was able to converse with. This helped to take my mind off the pain and the monotony of such a repetitive course. On lap seven, my friend Tom, who was out for a long training run on the trails, kept running into me at different points and told me to keep moving because I was looking strong. I knew it wasn't true, but hey - sometimes those little white lies are what gets the job done in this sport.

Tom met me at the start of the eighth lap to pace for the final 7.7 miles. Whenever I took an unnecessary walk break Tom would "remind" me again to start running. We continued this strategy down to the final flat stretch around the park's two small lakes. I hadn't been paying much attention to my watch for the final lap, but I happened to give it a glance as I rounded the last major turn. This 90 degree turn marked exactly one mile to the finish. I performed some clumsy calculations in my battle fatigued brain and decided a sub 10 minute mile would bring me to the finish in under 13:00. A wave of energy took over my lead-lined legs and we took off around the lakeside on the flat pathway. The pace felt suicidal but I only had to sustain it for a few more minutes. According to Tom I threw down an 8:18 mile to end the race - my fastest mile of the day! I broke 13:00 by a mere 10 seconds, meaning my intricate mathematical formula contained a near fatal flaw. The beach had closed about 15 minutes prior, but by this time I was just happy to be done and didn't care. Success!

Takeaways for Virgil Crest

Midway through lap 7. Photo: Tom Garby

I didn't have any issues with any of the gear I was trying out. My new pair of Salomon Sense Pro shoes felt light and durable, while providing a blister-free experience over 62 miles. I've also been getting used to Tailwind.  I enjoy Tailwind so much more than other electrolyte drinks because the stuff isn't obscenely sweet and doesn't have a host of unpronounceable chemicals to enhance the taste and color. It worked well during the race; I began to use it once the sun got overhead and temperatures reached the mid 80's. Unfortunately I didn't pack enough of the Tailwind powder and found myself wishing I had more during the race's second half.

I was able to practice a few other strategies that will help me during Virgil Crest - getting in and out of aid stations quickly and efficiently, refraining from going out too fast at the start, and pushing through once severe fatigue sets in, as it inevitably will during any ultramarathon. The last point here is huge, as I've discussed in previous race reports. Learning to override one's brain when it inexplicably tells the body to shut down and walk or come to a stop can save significant amounts of time in a race. After 40+ miles, running is really no more painful than walking. Playing tricks in my mind to continue moving forward as smoothly as possible is something I'm continuously working on, and doing it over the second 50K at Green Lakes seemed to help.

Somehow I still took the first three laps too fast, as my lap splits will indicate. My positive split for the second 50K was huge, and after lap number four the splits got significantly longer. This is something to keep in mind for the first 25-50 miles of Virgil. However, the fact that I narrowly missed my PR for the 50 mile mark without trying to hit it is something that provides a huge confidence boost going into the 100 miler. I think recovery over the next three weeks won't be much of an issue, and I am fully confident in my ability to complete Virgil Crest in the allotted 36 hours.

Thank You


The Green Lakes Endurance Runs 100K was successful in that it put to rest any lingering doubts I had about making it through my first 100 mile race. Additionaly, it provided a long and rewarding day on my feet full of beautiful scenery and a great group of people. Big congrats to fellow blogger Jason Mintz for taking the 100K win, and to Cole Crosby for winning the 50K while narrowly missing the course record.

Thank you to race director Tim Hardy for his hard work and dedication to making Green Lakes the quality event that it is. Thank you to all the volunteers that gave up their Saturday to help us runners make it through the day in one piece, and to my pacer Tom for helping me to keep moving forward. And as always, thank you to my wife Hayley for her support in my running endeavors!

Finished with my longest run to date.