October 16, 2012

Farmdale Trail Run

Melissa and I ran the 30 mile Farmdale Trail Run on Saturday near East Peoria, IL. We heard about this race just a couple weeks ago from our friend Chris, and since Melissa's parents live nearby they were able to watch Will while she and I spent hours in the woods.

All the pieces had fallen into place for me. My training in the weeks leading up to the race was top notch. I had run personal best times on two of my favorite trails in the Saint Louis area without trying very hard. My heart rate was lower than ever for the pace I was running. I was running up hills with ease, thanks to the time spent on the Stairmaster. I was finally fully recovered from Howl at the Moon and I felt my fitness had even improved since then.

I had never run the trail before, so I didn't know exactly how fast I would be able to go, but I made some educated guesses. As long as the trail wasn't too hilly or technical I thought I had a realistic chance to average 8 minute miles to finish in 4 hours. And based on previous results, that should put me near the top of the field. It was a bit of an audacious goal for me, but, for the first time ever in a race of this distance on this sort of terrain, I felt I could back it up.


The rain began to fall lightly just minutes before the start of the race. The 30 mile race and the 10 mile race started together, while the 50 mile race had started 3 hours earlier. With the faster 10 mile runners and the slower 50 mile runners all on the trail together there was a bit of confusion as to what my place was at any given time. I started with a pack of 10 milers and by 4 miles in I had passed and left them all behind. The early miles were effortless. Despite the light rain the trail was in terrific condition. I finished the first 10 mile loop in 1:20, exactly on my desired 8 minute pace. Only 3 of the 113 10-mile runners were ahead of me. Old Rob (which was actually the young Rob) would have crashed and burned late in the race after pulling a stunt like this. But not today, I felt great.

I picked up some food and water and set back out. The rain was picking up and the trail was getting a bit muddy. Now that the 10 milers were off the course I asked a few 50 milers as I passed them if there were any 30 milers ahead of me. Most of them were just as confused as I was, but I had a strong suspicion there weren't. I just hoped/assumed I was in the lead, but pretended I wasn't.

Around 14 miles in I had to take off my (prescription) sunglasses because the sky was so dark. I simply wasn't able to see the trail. And without my glasses everything was blurry, but this effect wore off a bit as I continued on. By this point it was absolutely pouring. I had to slow down around all the (numerous) turns to avoid sliding right off the trail. Then on the second half of the loop there were about 3 miles of trail that were covered in standing water, which slowed me down even more. I still felt great, but it was obvious I had no chance of making my time goal. With the trail in this condition I couldn't have run a lap at that pace if it was the only lap I had to run all day.

I completed the second lap in 1:28, almost a full minute per mile slower than the first lap. And the trail kept getting worse from there. I picked up my headphones and listened to music for the third lap to try to keep me motivated. I started to get a little tired, but I still had plenty left in the tank. It was just all I could do to keep from falling over on the turns, or sliding on my ass down the frequent ravine traversals. I had slowed down a lot by now. With 2-3 miles left I picked up the pace and finished really strong.

I had been passing 50 milers the whole race and on my third lap I was passing 30 milers as well. I hadn't seen Melissa yet, but I thought she probably wasn't too far ahead. She's not a highly experienced trail runner and she picked a hell of a day to gain experience. I exited the woods into the open field to head to the finish line and I saw her just ahead. I caught up and finished my third lap at the exact same moment she finished her second lap, 4 hours and 27 minutes after we began. She was in good spirits and was preparing to gut out one more lap on the trail in horrendous conditions (it just kept getting worse and worse all day).

A major award

As I was chatting with Melissa the race timer informed me I was the first 30 mile finisher. Huzzah. It was a long, hard, nasty (at times) race, but I felt really great and I ran well. Melissa went back out and did what needed to be done. It was not pleasant for her, but she showed some serious guts. In the meantime I changed into dry clothes and ate and drank everything in sight. I chatted for a while with a few old friends and made some new ones. Melissa finished a few hours later, happy the race was finally over.

Melissa finishes

She was worried that she would finish dead last, but she was right in the middle, 24th of 47 overall and 4th female. Pretty good for her first trail ultra.

October 15, 2012

Blowing It

A little over a week ago I raced the Veldrijden Columbia cyclocross race. My friend and teammate, Mark, did an excellent job organizing the event. I was in the Cat 4 (newb) race. Warming up before the start I got a pretty good idea what was in store for me… I was out of breath and I had to get off my bike to walk up a hill that was so muddy my tires just spun and I started to slide backwards when I tried to ride up it.

A last minute bathroom trip left me at the back of the pack of 30 or so riders for the start. Which is exactly where I didn't want to be. The start of a cyclocross race is so important to one's chances of success. I took off like crazy, passing several people, to get up into 12th or so place by the first turn. Then there was a fast section where I moved up a few more places before we hit the challenging parts of the course.

I handled my bike well and I remained patient. I would seize any opening I could find to pass somebody and move up a bit. There was one guy way off the front and nobody had a chance of catching up to him. By about halfway through the race, though, I had caught up with the chase group. My teammate Mike was in 2nd, some other guy was in 3rd, and I had moved up into 4th. It took a while, but I eventually passed the guy to move into 3rd. Then Mike and I opened up a bit of a gap. I passed Mike, he passed me back, then I passed him back. The longer the race went on the stronger I felt and the more I could see the other riders fading.

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With one lap to go in the 35 minute race I was in 2nd place and I started to pull away from Mike a bit. I took a few unnecessary risks and got away with them. Then I blew it. On a fast, muddy downhill section I lost control of my front wheel and went down hard, smacking my (helmet-protected) head on the ground. I slid to a stop and quickly moved my bike out of the way so Mike didn't go over top of me. My first reaction (as is the case any time I've crashed on a bike) was that I was seriously injured. My head was killing me. My next reaction was damn, I just crashed out of the race with half a lap to go when I was in 2nd place. After wallowing in self pity for a few moments it occurred to me that nobody besides Mike had passed me yet--I was still in 3rd place. I was still in podium position. Was I really injured? Could I actually get back on my bike and ride half a lap?

I decided to try, just as I saw two more guys coming down the hill. I jumped on my bike to get out in front of them only to discover my chain had fallen off. Crap. I pulled over to the side to let them pass as I put the chain back on, then I took off behind them, but I was unable to catch back up. I held on to finish 5th place. My head hurt, but I wasn't injured. My body was fine. My bike was fine.

Looking on the bright side, I had a really good race. I moved up from a long way back up into 2nd place. I stayed strong throughout the whole race while other riders were slowing down. I have the fitness. I just need to learn to ride my bike.

October 11, 2012

September 2012


Forest Park XC Festival

I continued doing a lot of shorter runs throughout September (if 8+ miles per run can be considered short). More importantly I got back on track of running 3-4 times per week. I raced the Forest Park Cross Country Festival, my first race after the epic Howl. Later in the month I gradually started ramping my mileage up in preparation for The Next Ultra in October.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January78.06 Mile98.67333 Mile
February75.2586 Mile98.36206 Mile
March126.15 Mile149.01071 Mile
April146.28 Mile169.1425 Mile
May166.75 Mile189.26389 Mile
June54.83 Mile77.83286 Mile
July115.76 Mile912.8622 Mile
August91.81 Mile910.2011 Mile
September123.61 Mile158.24067 Mile
Total978.509 Mile1069.23121 Mile

Running 2012 9



Unfortunately, I missed out on Gateway Cup this year. My knee just wasn't ready for bike racing yet. I took a few more weeks off before starting to get back into the swing of bike racing at Gateway Cross Cup.

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi16.65 Mile28.325 Mile
Pocket Rocket17.2 Mile53.44 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird11.61 Mile111.61 Mile
Total45.46 Mile85.6825 Mile

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January25.33 Mile212.665 Mile
February40.08 Mile313.36 Mile
March213.43 Mile2010.6715 Mile
April253.27 Mile2311.0117 Mile
May322.147 Mile2413.4228 Mile
June282.57 Mile1321.7362 Mile
July260.12 Mile1616.2575 Mile
August81.87 Mile810.2338 Mile
September45.46 Mile85.6825 Mile
Total1524.28 Mile11713.028 Mile

Cycling 2012 9


Walking home

I found walking and hiking to be the best thing for helping my knee recover. I could stretch out my legs and get blood flowing to the problem areas with no impact and little risk of further injury.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January51.53 Mile163.22063 Mile
February42.92 Mile182.38444 Mile
March41.15 Mile142.93929 Mile
April31.89 Mile122.6575 Mile
May37.5107 Mile132.88544 Mile
June39.4 Mile182.18889 Mile
July2 Mile2Mile
August64.99 Mile252.5996 Mile
September85.88 Mile253.4352 Mile
Total397.271 Mile1432.77812 Mile

Walking 2012 9


And now for something completely different. I found a reasonably priced, high quality, used StairMaster stepper machine on Craigslist and bought it. I have wanted one of these for years. I first started using a machine nearly identical to this during the winters at the UIUC gyms a few years back. I wanted to do it more, but going to the gym was a bit of a hassle. Here in STL I don't have a gym to go to, and going would still be a hassle. With this machine at home I can use it whenever I want. I've mentioned repeatedly how I don't run on consecutive days as a rule. With this stepper I can get a comparable workout with zero impact on my knees. As a side effect, I've already noticed (after less than 20 miles of stepping) that my hill running has dramatically improved. I might just have a chance on the slopes of Volcan Maderas next year…

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
September13.85 Mile43.4625 Mile
Total13.85 Mile43.4625 Mile

Stairmaster 2012 9

October 10, 2012

Gateway Cross Cup


Gateway Cross Cup snuck up on me this year. I was out of town at a conference in Chicago the weekend before the race. The Cat 4 race was 40 minutes. I hadn't ridden a bike for 40 minutes in several weeks, let alone raced. But, whatever.


I took the afternoon off work and went over to Heman Park. It had rained heavily the entire day before the race and the course was ridiculously muddy. I was the last person to register for the race and was unfortunately placed at the very back of the pack for the start (last year I was in the front row). This made things difficult. I spent the entire race going slower than I needed to and trying to find the right place to pass people. I steadily moved up the whole time. I caught up with my teammate Mike with about a lap to go and passed him with half a lap to go. We finished 14th and 15th. I moved up through more than half the field, but I just started too far back to have a chance at a good result.

Cross Country

A couple hours after the bike race was the "5K" cross country run. This year it was only a half mile longer than advertised (last year it was a full mile longer). The turnout was even smaller than last year with just 9 starters. From the gun one guy took off and would never be seen again. I hung back in a small pack but broke free about a mile into the run. I ran the last 2.5 miles alone and finished in 2nd place. Just like last year. There was a payout for finishing 2nd that exactly covered my entry fees for both races, so I broke even on the day. Just like last year. I also received a bottle of Michelob Ultra, which I gave to Melissa.

More Cyclocross

I stuck around for the Men's Open race, the Women's Pro race, and the Men's Pro race. It was a lot of fun to watch really good riders on the extremely sloppy course. Here's a bunch of photos.

Quantum Mesa Cycles in the open race:





Pro race:








October 3, 2012

Forest Park Cross Country Festival

Back on September 8 I ran the Forest Park XC festival open race for the 3rd year in a row. This was the first race I ran after we moved to St. Louis. I improved a little bit over my first outing last year and I was hoping to improve a little bit more this year.

Forest Park XC Festival

The race is short and fast. It's 4km in length (about 2.5 miles). This was the first race I ran after Howl at the Moon and it was quite a shock to the system to go from racing 8 hours to racing 14 minutes. I was totally unprepared. I took it easy for 3 weeks following Howl, then I did one moderately hard training run before this race. Somehow my Howl fitness carried me through. I finished in 6th place, but I ran the same course 17 seconds faster than last year (when I felt better prepared).

I'll take it.