Sunday, October 26, 2014

Peacock 100k Race Report - Oct 11, 2014

I ran into uncharted running territory after 50 miles and came out 12 miles later as a finisher of my first 100km ultra marathon! The Peacock 100km ultramarathon is run on a beautiful course in the Wainae Mountains on the North Shore of Oahu. It is also a brutally steep and hot course that sucks the will to run out of those who dare toe the starting line! This year 21 of the 35 runners who started the race finished within the 20-hour time limit. With a focused training plan and a conservative race strategy I was able to pull off a 4th place finish at my first ever 100km race.

775162_10152455003539072_5810619548445950006_o At the starting line, chatting with my friends Jason Hynd (1st Place) and Sam Haagenson (3rd Place).

IMG_8995 Sam and I anxiously await the start.
1912371_10205224543596432_2652073459441625236_n The Kahu saying a traditional pule (prayer) before the start.

The Kahu blessing all the runners before the start.

(Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post. It was my first 100km and I wanted to memorialize as much of it in writing as I could remember! I promise a little more brevity in my future 100km race reports. However, my first 100 mile race report may exceed the length of this one!)

Loop 1 (0 to 30 Miles)

After receiving a traditional Hawaiian blessing or "pule", we started up the Kealia trail to watch the sunrise over the North Shore. The first two miles were a pleasant run/walk up Kealia Trail to the Ares Loop split where the 50k runners turned and where the 100k runners would hit later during the heat of the day. I shared the first two miles running and conversing with my friends and training partners Michael Garrison (2nd Place 50k) and Sam Haagenson (3rd Place 100k). Michael left us at the Ares Loop split and we didn't see him again until later in the day on the climb back up Long Road. We climbed about 1,800 feet in the first 3 miles of the course! Needless to say, there was a lot of walking on this section.

Sam and I shared some pleasant miles together running to the Gordon's Loop Aid station (mile 9). We hit the aid station at around 1:40 into the run. The temps were not too bad early on and this section of trail has some decent shade and some not-so steep hills, which made for a very run-able stretch of trail. Gordon's Loop Aid station was a bare bones, remote aid station with fluids and a few snacks. It was manned by my friend Augusto De Castro, who is usually out taking amazing photos at the local trail runs on Oahu. Although it was nice to see Augusto, we didn't spend much time with him on the first loop and were on our way to the 3-Way aid station 2.5 miles away.

The section between Gordon's and 3-Way is the most remote and most beautiful section of the Peacock Course (in my opinion). This section is a combination of single track and fire roads and climbs from about 1,200 feet to 1,900 feet, which is the highest point on the course. This section has some very technical single track with some steep scrambles up and down solid rock. Here are a few photos of this part of the course from my friend Kalani Pascual:

Power hiking up the Kuaokala Trail. Power hiking up the Kuaokala Trail.

Feeling like the "King of the World" early on in the race! Feeling like the "King of the World" early on in the race!

We hit the 3-way aid station (mile 11.5) at around 2:13. This was another quick re-fill of the water bottles and off onto the 1,900 feet descent and 8 miles to the Long Road Aid Station. This stretch of the course consists of about 4 miles of relatively gentle/rolling fire roads to the "Rock Piles" at the end of the Kuaokala Access Road and another 4 miles of very steep, exposed, paved road down the Mokuleia Access Road. It was on the Kuaokala Access Road that Sam started pulling ahead of me. I stopped once for a quick pit stop and a couple of times to stretch my right hamstring, which was feeling kind of tight.  Sam is a very strong (fast) downhill runner and I had a feeling he would pull away here, based on what I saw during the 30-mile training run that we did together four weeks prior. I wanted to keep the pace deliberately easy on that first loop, so I didn't make any effort to catch back up to him.

I saw the two lead runners, Jason and Jake, heading back up long road about a mile from the aid station. I figured they had about 15 to 20 minutes on me. I bid them a "good job" and pressed on to the aid station.  After running down 4 miles of steep pavement, I was happy to see my friend Jeff Snyder (he's also one of my training partners and my neighbor) at the Long Road aid station (mile 19.5, 3:25). Jeff, along with Sam's parents, helped me refill my bottles with some Skratch Labs and water while I retrieved some food from my ice chest (I used a small cooler for my Long Road drop bag). My heart rate monitor didn't seem to be very accurate all morning and was just distracting me, so I ended up taking it off and giving it to Jeff. With the help of my impromptu crew, I was able to get out of there in about 3 minutes. I had Jeff fill my hat up with ice, but I quickly realized that ice directly on my bare head was not comfortable as it was giving me a headache. Unfortunately, I ended up dumping the ice on Long Road. Next time I try that trick I'll have to put a bandana on the head first and then place the hat full of ice on top. Here a few photos of me at the Long Road Aid Station (Jeff is wearing the yellow shirt):

Arriving at Long Road Aid Station (Mile ~19.5). Photo by Jeff Snyder.
Arriving at Long Road Aid Station. (Photo by Jeff Snyder)

Bottles ready for some icy cold refills of Skratch Labs (Mile ~19.5). Photo by Jeff Snyder.
Bottles ready for some icy cold refills of Skratch Labs. (Photo by Jeff Snyder)

Giving my handheld to one of the Aid Station volunteers to fill with ice water.
Giving my handheld to one of the Aid Station volunteers to fill with ice water. (Photo by Bob McAllaster)

Jeff helping me refill bottles while I pack some extra packets of Skratch Labs and food into my pack. Jeff helping me refill bottles while I pack some extra packets of Skratch Labs and food into my pack. (Photo by  Bob McAllaster)

I did catch up to Sam at the Long Road aid station and somehow managed to depart before him but he caught up to me about a half mile later and stayed ahead of me the rest of the day. The best word to describe the climb back up the Mokuleia Access Rd is MISERABLE! It's steep, there's no shade, the pavement reflects the heat back up at you, and it is LONG. Although, a very challenging section of the course, it was fun to cheer on my fellow runners and friends running the 50k and 100k as they charged down the road. This helped take my mind off the misery that was the "Long Road" climb! I saw my buddy Michael on his way down the hill when I was about two-thirds of the way up and really feeling the heat. Seeing him and hearing his words of encouragement really helped lift my spirits.

After 8 miles and 1,900 feet of climbing from the Long Road aid station, I reached the 3-Way aid station 5 hours and 5 minutes into the race (~26.5 miles). I don't remember much about this time through the aid station, so it must have been a fairly quick bottle re-fill. I think I was looking forward to getting to my drop bag at the Start/Finish aid station. As I made my way down the very steep terrain to the Start/Finish aid station I tried my best to keep the speed under control to save the quads.

Making the turn into the Start/Finish area at Mile 30. Making the turn into the Start/Finish area at Mile 30. (Photo by Bob McAllaster)

Arriving at the Start/Finish line Mile 30.
Arriving at the Start/Finish line Mile 30. (Photo by Bob McAllaster)

My make-shift personal aid station at the half-way point. My make-shift personal aid station at the half-way point.

I saw Sam departing the Start/Finish as I was arriving and shouted a "good job!" at him. My van was parked right next to where the drop bag tent was, so I ended up setting up a chair at the van and had all my gear laid out in the back of the van. I had an ice chest in the back of the van with cold water and food. Sam's parents were there and helped re-fill my bottles.  I sat down on my chair and ate half of a turkey-avocado-hummus sandwich and then dumped a bunch of cold water on my head and body. I ended up doing some minor wardrobe adjustments and got rid of the gaiters and donned my 2XU calf sleeves. I felt my calves were a little twitchy coming down the Kealia trail, so I thought the extra support would feel good. I was right and ended up having no issues with the calves through the rest of the run. I spent a little longer than I wanted to at the Start/Finish and after stuffing my pack with some homemade Portable rice cakes, two gels, two packs of honey stinger chews, and my headlamp I headed back up the Kealia trail.

Loop 2 - (30 to 62 Miles)

Running up Kealia Trail Mile ~31.
Running up Kealia Trail Mile ~31.

I felt that I had kept the pace under control and had stayed adequately hydrated and fueled on the first loop and was generally feeling good going into the second loop.  However, the will to trudge back up the Kealia trail during the heat of the day made for a tough start to the second half of the race. I passed Rob Lahoe, the Race Director, on my way up Kealia and chatted him up a little. He was hiking up to the 3-way aid station with a big box (which contained a race clock) and a fully loaded backpack (of who knows what?). I was thankful that my load was quite light in comparison to his! The short conversation with Rob helped a little to keep my mind off the misery that I felt climbing that steep technical trail in 90 degree heat.

About a half mile after leaving the single track Kealia trail and about 32 miles into the race, I made the left turn onto Ares Loop. I only ran Ares Loop once in training with my buddy Michael and we did it first thing in the morning. Needless to say, it was significantly more challenging at 12:30 in the afternoon on a relatively cloudless day. The first section of Ares goes downhill for a about a mile and is relatively shaded.  It then quickly turns uphill for the next 1.7 miles. While a 1.7 mile, 800 foot climb seems fairly benign climb in the grand scheme of trail ultras, it was anything but benign! This final part of Ares is very exposed and has a couple of "false" summits that trick you into thinking you are at the end of the climb. I'm pretty sure that every runner from the fastest (Jason!) to the slowest would agree that Ares Loop will test your mental and physical resolve to its limits! I was still consciously trying to run conservatively, but even if I wanted to push myself faster at this point in the race it would not have yielded much in terms of time or ground gained. Ares was all about survival and getting back to the 3-Way aid station without any carnage (cramps, vomiting, etc)!

Ares Loop ends up linking back up with the Kuaokala Access Road where we make a right turn and head back up to the 3-Way aid station (35.5 miles).  I remember coming into the aid station mentioning how glad I was to be done with Ares Loop. One of the other 100k runners was at 3-Way on his way back to the Start/Finish aid station and overheard me.  He looked at me with big eyes and said: "how bad was it?" I don't remember exactly what I told him, but I probably muttered something about it being hot and then just wished him good luck while flashing a big grin because I was so happy to be done with that beast of a loop!

I had a little bit of nausea coming into 3-way and ended up taking a few sips of ginger ale. It seemed to sit well with me and settled the stomach a little. After re-filling the bottles with water and Skratch, I headed down the hill and made the left turn onto Makai Road (aka Gordon's Loop).  I was looking forward to this part of the course, as it's a fun section to run and there aren't too many arduous climbs. However, the heat and the flashes of nausea really forced me to slow my pace throughout the next 90 minutes that it took to get to the Gordon's Loop aid station.  I was carrying some ginger chews and tums in my pack and popped a few to help with the nausea. They seemed to keep the nausea down enough so that I could still sip fluids and nibble on my food.  (side note:  I thought I had dropped my "pharmaceutical" kit on Makai Rd and realized about and hour later that had I just put it back in a different pocket on my pack!). Fortunately, the legs were just fine but the nausea made me slow the pace more than I wanted. It also made me slow the pace of my fluid and nutrition intake quite a bit as compared to the first loop, which probably perpetuated the slow down in my running (a vicious cycle!). A little mental trick I used to keep myself focused during the bouts of nausea was to assess what felt good. It went something like this:

"Feet? Check. Calves? Check. Quads? Check. Hamstrings? Check. Glutes? Check. Lower Back? Check. Shoulders? Check. Breathing? Check". I kept doing this throughout the last loop and I believe it was a great way to keep a positive attitude in spite of the growing fatigue and sporadic bouts of nausea.

As I rolled into the Gordon's Loop aid station (mile 41.6, 8:57) I took a seat and asked Augusto if he had any ginger ale or saltine crackers. No saltines, but he did have a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale and filled one of my bottles with it and some ice. He also dumped a bunch of cold water on my head while I was sitting trying to calm the stomach down. I was very grateful for Augusto's care! The special attention was needed and it really helped me keep things together between there and the 3-way aid station.

I hit the 3-way (mile 44, 9:50) and re-filled the one bottle with ginger ale and ate some plain crackers. I was still operating under the assumption that I had lost my zip-lock of tums and ginger chews and asked Rob if he had any at the aid station. Before Rob had a chance to respond, one of the other 100k runners overheard me and ended up giving me a handful of chews from his own stash. I was extremely grateful for his generosity and told him I would pay it forward. I was ready to head down the hill to Long Road and was feeling pretty good overall after almost 10 hours of running.

The run down to the Long Rd aid station went fairly well. I kept sipping the ginger ale and was able to eat a few Honey Stinger chews, a Gu Roctane gel, and a few bites of rice cake. I felt like I was in the home stretch at this point and tried to muster as fast a running pace as I could. While I was not fueling as much as I wanted on the second loop, I think my caloric intake on the first loop was high enough that I had enough gas in the tank to keep things moving pretty well. The sun was going down and the temps felt like they were dropping into the mid-to-low 80s. I saw Jason a little before reaching the "Rock Piles" intersection. we exchanged high-fives, and carried on our separate ways. He was looking strong and had put about 10 to 15 minutes on Jake. I saw Sam heading back up the Long Rd Hill when I was about 2 miles from the aid station, so I knew at that point that he had put quite a bit of distance on me since we last saw each other at the Start/Finish aid station. It was great to see him still going so strong that late in the race. (I can't wait to see Sam, Jason, and Jake crush the HURT 100 in January against the "elite" out-of-town runners! Gary Robbins better watch out!).

I was feeling pretty good running the last several miles before the Long Road aid station. I saw the Garmin beep a couple of sub-9 minute mile splits at me and this made me smile. Knowing I was still able to throw down some "fast" running 50+ miles into the race really helped boost my spirits. An additional boost to my waning energy was seeing my good friends/neighbors at the aid station with their kids cheering me in to the aid station with handmade signs and all! They also patched me through to my wife and kids via FaceTime!

Grabbing my drop bag at the Long Rd Aid station - Mile 52. (Photo by Treena Butera)
Grabbing my drop bag at the Long Rd Aid station as the sun is setting - Mile 52. (Photo by Treena Butera)

Rifling through my drop bag/ice chest as I take a breather after 52 miles of running. (Photo by Treena Butera)
Rifling through my drop bag/ice chest as I take a breather after 52 miles of running. (Photo by Treena Butera)

My stomach had settled down quite a bit by the time I got to Long Rd aid station and I downed a couple of handfuls of boiled potatoes. With some food in the belly and the sun going down, I bid farewell to my friends and headed back up the hill.

As I headed back up the hill it was great seeing the other runners in good spirits as they made their way downhill. By the time I reached the top of the hill it was dark and I was feeling really exhausted. I hit a little bit of a low spot at the Peacock Flats campground gate until I saw my friend Patrick Castello, a Marine Corps pilot and very experienced ultra runner. I asked him sarcastically "this is supposed to be fun, right?" We exchanged "good jobs" and with a motivating hand shake like only a Marine can give I felt immediately better and was happy to be done with the last major climb of the race.

According to my Strava GPS data, the second time on the 3.5 mile, 1,500 foot climb from the Long Rd to Peacock Flats was about 7 minutes slower than the first loop (14:15/mi vs 16:15/mi pace). The 4 mile stretch between the Peacock Flats campground and the 3-Way AS is a series of rolling hills with a net elevation gain of about 300 feet. This stretch took about 50 minutes to cover on the first loop (~12:30/mi avg pace) and took me an hour to cover on the second loop (~15:00/mi avg pace). It was quite a slow down, but in hindsight I am happy that I was still able to run this late into the race.

I rolled into the 3-way aid station, filled one of my 20oz bottles with water and stashed my empty handheld bottle in the back of my pack (I was carrying 64oz of fluid capacity total, but in hindsight could have easily managed with only two 20oz bottles). With the hands free and an my mind on the finish, I grabbed a couple of saltine crackers, thanked the 3-way crew and headed down the hill. Looking back at the Strava data, I was only 2 minutes slower covering the last stretch from 3-way to the Finish line as compared to earlier in the day. Apparently, my legs were nowhere near being maxed out and I was surprised at how hard I could run down the hill to the finish line after 60+ miles of running and 17,000 feet of climbing and descending!

I had run all day not knowing whether my family would make it out to see the race due to a busy social calendar, but my wife and kids (along with our friends) were at the finish line to help celebrate my first 100km race! It was great to share this experience with my family and close friends.

My race wasn't perfect, but my biggest fear of major muscle cramping never materialized. I felt like I still had gas in the tank when I finished and I probably could have pushed myself much harder on the second loop. I was very surprised at how little muscle soreness I had during the days following the race. Obviously, this is a clear signal that my plan to run a conservative race and notch my first 100k finish worked. I am very encouraged at how my body and mind handled the distance and I know that I have some faster 100k times ahead of me!


Done and done! Sam and I are clearly happy to be done. (That's my son photo-bombing us in the background.)
Done and done! Sam and I are clearly happy to be done. (That's my son photo-bombing us in the background.)


Shoes:  Brooks Pure Grit 3
Socks:  Injinji Trail 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew (no blisters!)
Shirt:  Under Amour "coldblack" sleeveless running shirt (no chafe!)
Shorts:  2XU Compression Shorts (a little bit of chafe, but didn't notice it until I showered that evening)
Calf Sleeves: 2XU Compression Sleeves
Pack:  Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 w/2 20oz bottles
Handheld 24oz Ultimate Direction bottle (next year I'll skip the handheld, as I didn't really need the extra fluid).
Headlamp:  Black Diamond Storm

Links to Other Peacock Race Reports

Jason Hynd's Peacock Race Report

Sam Haagenson's Peacock Video Report

Eric Tanaka's Peacock Video Report

Results:  Peacock 100k UltraSignup Results 

Special Thanks to:

My wife and kids for putting up with the weekend mornings I missed due to long runs and my obsessive talking about all things ultra!

My training partners and friends for keeping me motivated: Jeff Snyder; Michael Garrison; Sam Haagenson; Jason Hynd - even though we never linked up for a training run you still kept me motivated via Strava!; and Jake for pulling me through on my Triple Trek training run victory.

Stamina Race Management / Rob Lahoe and all the aid station volunteers.

The Butera Family for the moral support on race day and especially Tony for driving me home after the race!

Kalani Pascual and Bob McAllaster for the great race day photos.

My Dad (5-time WS100 finisher). He's my number one fan and the one responsible for introducing me to the world of ultra running many years ago. Thank you Dad for your constant and unwavering support!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Peacock Miles in the Bank

I started training for the Peacock 100k in May. Over the course of the past 5 months I have logged 1,167 miles (as of today). The 100k is a new distance for me and it's hard to know how the body and mind will endure over that distance. However, knowing that I have banked so many quality miles while staying healthy, gives me the confidence that I need going into the race this Saturday (October 11th, 2014).

My strategy is very simple. Keep the pace mellow during the first half of the race and use my heart rate to guide my efforts.  My goal is to keep the average heart rate below 150 bpm for the first half. I will also remind myself to not be too aggressive on the downhills during the first half. Based on the training that I did on the actual course, I am confident that I will feel good going into the second half of the race if I keep the pace under control during the first half of the race. As long as I pace, fuel and hydrate like I did in training, this should be a great first 100k for me.

The final piece of my race day strategy will be to run my own race. I figure if I write it down here, I'm more likely to adhere to this piece of the strategy!  If the legs feel strong during the latter parts of the race, I will push the pace regardless of who is in front or behind me.

Two more taper runs this week and then it's game time!