Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tantalus Triple Trek 2014 Race Report - 1st Place!

Big Mahalo (thanks):
Before I get into the meat of my race report, I need to offer my sincere gratitude to the wonderful people who made this race possible. The race was put on by the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team (HURT) and is the last of the 2014 HURT trail series, so it is very special to me that I ended up winning the race (too bad it doesn't count as an automatic entry into the 2015 HURT 100, though!).
I want to personally thank everyone involved in making the trail series possible and especially the Tantalus Triple Trek (TTT) race directors Sue, Fish, and Heather -- MAHALO!  And to the gals (or angels) at the Tantalus Aid Station Rosie, Cheryl, and Kelly -- you ladies were the best (salt and vinegar chips for the save)!  Thank you to Ryan and Talia for being my Nature Center support crew and personal cheerleaders! Also, a special thanks goes to John and PJ Salmonson who are the "Godparents" of the HURT Ohana (family). They and the rest of the volunteers/friends have welcomed me with open arms into this very special running community. I'm incredibly fortunate to be part of this amazing group of people!
Now on to the race report...
Goals.  Going into this race I had several goals:
  1. Stay healthy and don't get injured (always my #1 goal). (yes)
  2. Have fun. (yes)
  3. Place in top 3. (yes!)
  4. Break 5 hours. (almost)
Goal number one was the most important, as it has a direct impact on my ability to achieve my bigger running goal, which is to finish my first 100k at Peacock in October. I had a little scare on the first loop when I rolled my ankle. I was running down the Kalawahine trail and had a quick little roll of the right ankle. I was probably attacking the downhill a little too hard, but I think the speed of my turnover and the low profile of my shoes saved me from actually doing any real damage. The ankle felt a little off for about 5 minutes afterwards, but I didn't have any real pain so I figured all was well. Fortunately, there was no post-race swelling or pain so it clearly was not a big deal. It was a good reminder that even on the most runnable sections of these trails there are always dangers lurking underfoot!
The Course
Although I've run these trails many times, it's easy to underestimate how difficult this course is. The course starts at the Hawaii Nature Center and does three 10 mile laps around a portion of the Oahu Mauka Trail System.  (Disclaimer:  this race is advertised as a 30 mile trail run. Actual lap distance as measured by the spotty GPS reception is closer to 8 miles, for a total GPS recorded distance of about 24 miles. I guess the GPS signal just doesn't break through the Jungle canopy too well. Anyway, as someone who has run a few 50k races, it definitely felt like a very hard 30 mile course. So I think it's fair to just call this 30 miles regardless of what the GPS says!)
Course Map (from the HURT website)tantalusmap
Elevation Profile (from my GPS Track)
Triple Trek Strava Elevation Profile
While the change in elevation is a challenge in itself, the actual trail condition is what makes this run so difficult. Between the roots, rocks, and mud it is very difficult to get any sort of a steady rhythm going on this course. The environmental conditions can also factor into the challenges of the course. The weather on race day was relatively humid with very little, to no wind. Temperatures ranged from about 76°F at 5:30am start to 89°F by the time I finished.
Things That Worked
  1. Hydration strategy was perfect. I carried two 20oz bottles in my UD SJ 2.0 Vest; one filled with Skratch Labs hydration mix and one with water. My good friends Talia and Ryan helped me quickly swap out my bottles after each lap.
  2. Energy levels were relatively even the whole way. I ended up eating one chocolate/blueberry rice cake per lap (the recipe is from the Feed Zone Portables book). These are about 250 calories and have a water content around 65%. I also ate a couple of small pieces of watermelon, 2 small pieces of banana, and a small handful of salt and vinegar chips. Real food worked for me! I had zero stomach issues and was surprised that food was still appetizing late in the race when the heat and the fatigue were becoming issues.
  3. Feet were great. I wore my Brooks Pure Grit 3 trail shoes with Injinji trail weight socks and had zero issues with blisters. The Pure Grits were awesome on the trail and their "grippiness" really gave me the confidence to attack the course in spite of the slippery roots, rocks, and mud. I believe the lower profile of the shoes also helped minimize the one ankle roll I experienced on the first loop. Overall, I was very happy with the shoe/sock choice for this course.
  4. No chafe! This is no small accomplishment during a 5-hour race where you are pretty much soaked from head-to-toe in sweat within the first 5 minutes of uphill running. The first layer of defense was putting Boudreaux's Maximum Strength Butt Paste pretty much everywhere that I've had past issues with chafe (which is quite a few areas!), including the feet. I wore a pair of 2XU Compression Shorts not so much for the compression, but to prevent chafe. Along with the diaper creme, the shorts worked great.
  5. Fitness. Needless to say I'm very happy with my current fitness level and the training plan that got me here. Between the volume of running, core work, and attention to diet quality, I have managed to lose 9 pounds of body fat since May. Being a little lighter is a definite advantage when you have to haul your body up 7,000 feet of mountains!  Although, I had some quad cramps on some of the uphills during the last loop, I was able to resolve them with some stretching. Fortunately, the last part of the course is downhill and I had no issues with cramping while running the downs.
 Thing(s) That Didn't Work
  1. Pacing strategy (or lack of strategy). I actually did have a strategy and it was to run hard. However, I definitely ran the first lap too hard. Part of the race strategy was to really test my fitness and see how hard I could run, feel good at the finish, and recover quick enough to resume the 100k training. I came through first lap in 1:32 and knew that I was going to pay later for that fast of a pace.  I deliberately reeled myself in on the second loop and ran it in 1:41. Towards the end of the 2nd loop I was starting to feel the effects of loop 1 with some very mild cramping in my right quadriceps muscle. At the nature center I took a little time to re-group, ate a few pieces of banana and watermelon and drank a few cups of ice water. I ran the third and final loop in 1:54. I had to really dig deep on this lap as the legs started falling apart on the uphills. Towards the last third of the uphill on the Manoa Cliff trail my quads were really barking at me. The worst quad spasm I had was on the little uphill right before the Tantalus Road Aid Station. A little stretching, a brief rest, the smiling aid station angels, and some salt and vinegar chips seemed to bring me back to life. I was back up and running with no more cramps from there to the finish line. Had I ran a more sensible pace for the first loop, I believe I would not have had any cramping issues. (For a good synopsis on the current research on Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping [EAMC], read this article.)
So, even though the pacing strategy was poorly executed, I was happy that I was able to finish the race strong enough to hold on to 1st Place. As with every race I do, I always learn something new about my physical and mental limits. I truly thrive on the personal growth that comes with toeing the line of an ultramarathon. Overall, I'm extremely happy that these 40 year old legs pulled off the win on such a challenging course.

10653782_10204843854359439_2086898105843919768_n Ultrarunning Rule: Try to smile while running downhill, especially if there is a camera nearby! The guy behind me is Jake, last year's TTT winner. He missed the registration due to being on deployment but was kind enough to run the first 2.5 laps with me before using his 30-year old  legs to ditch me!
Double fist pumps for the win!
Double fist pumps for the win!

1st Place Tantalus Triple Trek Trophy. Sporting my Mango Madness "Attitude Improves with Altitude" t-shirt.
1st Place Tantalus Triple Trek Trophy. Wearing my Mango Madness "Attitude Improves with Altitude" t-shirt.

Now it's time to focus on the final push towards the Peacock 100k, which is less than 6 weeks away. I look forward to taking the lessons learned from this race and using them to run a great first 100k!
Run Steady! Run Strong!

More TTT Photos Here
Strava GPS Track

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