Sunday, July 8, 2012

Western States Follow-up

I could have written a novel covering my experience at Western States this year, but I try to limit myself realizing that all of my readers have very full lives of their own and don't have the time to read an extremely long race report.  I think I hit the main points, but for those who are really interested and intimately involved in the sport, I wanted to share a few more details.  If you missed my initial race report, you might want to check it out first here.

First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who made Western States happen. There are far too many folks to name individually, but I'd like to say a special thank you to the RDs, board members and all of the many volunteers.  I have never seen the kind of passion and dedication that the people involved in Western States have for their race, and it makes it truly a special event.  Greg Soderlund has done a fantastic job the past 12 years carrying on the tradition, and I know the new run director, Craig Thornley, will only build upon that in the coming years.  And last, but not least, thanks to my parents for crewing me, Dink Taylor for pacing, and my wife, who couldn't be there, but has to put up with me through all of the not fun parts of living the ultra running lifestyle.

Sub-17 hr finishers (plus Tiernan who was sub-16.)

OK, now let's talk about recovery.  I'm quite pleased with how my legs are coming around.  The day after the race, I could barely run at all. Most people complain about their quads, but I couldn't pinpoint anything in particular.  Everything from my hips to my knees was locked down; my quads, IT bands, hamstrings all were useless.  My calves, however, seemed relatively unaffected.  I was so locked down that I seriously considered breaking my 6 year daily running streak.  But after walking around awards and such on Sunday, I felt loose enough to go walk/jog 3 miles in 45 minutes.  Being my first 100 miler, my expectations for recovery were tempered.  I expected the legs to hurt for a few days, and I expected them to be quite tight for a while. The first 3 days or so were pretty rough.  I just shuffled along under calf power and tried not to bend at the knees.  But two weeks out now and I am almost back to 100%.

Next up, WS100 nutrition.  I didn't spend a whole lot of time on my nutrition strategy in my race report, but pre-race I listed it as a critical component to a successful race.  I struggled with my nutrition at Quad Rock and feel it really hampered my performance in that race, so I was determined to improve on that front at WS100. My plan was to use GU Brew (the electrolyte beverage), GU Roctane drink (high calorie mix), GU gels, and then supplement with whatever looked good on the aid station tables.  I just recently started using the GU Roctane drink mix, but considering my difficulty in getting gels down lately, I figured a high-calorie drink would be a good way to get the energy I need.  I actually did pretty well getting down one gel per hour (a fraction of what some of my competitors consume, but good for me).  I used the Roctane drink when I could, but I could only refill when I saw my crew.  GU Brew was available at the aid stations, and it tasted the best of all my options, so I ended up drinking that most of the day. The only problem with that was that GU Brew has to be mixed very carefully to fully dissolve, and it is next to impossible for the aid stations to get the mix right in the large coolers, especially in the miserable weather conditions early in the race.  As a result, I never really knew how strong or weak my GU Brew was going to be, so I had to guess and supplement with Coke and salt.  

It's hard to say exactly how successful my nutrition plan turned out. After similar experiences racing above 6,000ft altitude at Quad Rock and WS100, I am now certain that the altitude bothers me, especially from the waist up.  My stomach gets queasy and I tend to feel lightheaded. That makes me not want to eat.  While I didn't feel very good in the high country, I was able to eat fairly consistently and then continue that the rest of the race.  I probably could have used a few more calories and maybe that would have smoothed out some of my low points, but it's hard to say.  A lot of folks eat more real food early in the race, but I already know that things like peanut butter and bananas don't sit well in my stomach, so I stuck mainly to gels, Coke and orange slices.  One new discovery of the race was chicken noodle soup or chicken broth of some sort.  Great stuff! But it's slow.  It takes time to get from the aid station volunteers and then time to drink, especially if it's too hot.  I was spending a lot more time at the aid stations than most of the runners around me, so I know that's one thing I'll work to improve next time, but it might be worth slowing down for some soup occasionally.

Gear.  Let's start with my shoes.  If you've been keeping up the last few months, you'll know that I was excited about the new light weight Salomon Sense and hoping I'd be able to run in them at States.  It wasn't to be though, because the low profile 4mm heel-to-toe drop was just too hard on my calves at the Memorial Training runs.  I didn't have enough time to adjust and feel comfortable in them.  I received my first pair of the XT S-Lab 5 just 3 weeks before WS100, but I knew I had a winner when I slipped them on.  They *look* heavy, but at 11.1oz they really are middle of the road.  I value comfort above all else, especially if I'm going to be running 100 miles in them.  I don't have the stack height for this shoe, but I expect it's very close to the version 4 XT which measured 9mm.  That's much more in my comfort zone, and the calves thanked me for that post-race.  They don't have as much grip as the Speedcross, but they had plenty for the WS100 course.  The shoe also has just a touch of medial support, which I actually kind of like.  If I have one complaint it's that the toe box is a bit snug, but it doesn't bother me once I start running.  The XT 5 should be available sometime this month, but you can get a great deal on the version 4 from RunningWarehouse.  It even looks like they still have a bunch of sizes in stock.  I'd scoop up a pair of those if you want to give them a try.  

The XT 5 paired nicely with a set of Swiftwick Performance 12 compression socks.  The long socks helped keep me warm in the high country and the compression was great late in the race.  All I know is my calves weren't sore at all after the race.  Although my feet stayed wet the entire day, I never changed shoes or socks.  I had a few small blisters, but that was a result of skin-on-skin friction and not sock-on-skin rubbing.  I might think about changing my shoes and socks after the river crossing if I get to run this one again.  I think I could have kept my feet dry all the way to the finish if I had done that.

I was super excited to be able to run with the new Suunto Ambit GPS and altimeter watch at Western States. Although it has an option to extended the battery life to 50 hours by compromising on the GPS accuracy, I chose to go with the most accurate setting and see when the battery ran out.  I was very impressed that the watch lasted longer than the 15 hours quoted in the specs.  It gave up on the GPS track around 15:30, but kept timing until 16:16.  For comparison, my Garmin 405 didn't make it 6 hours at Quad Rock ... granted it's a couple years old now.  Theoretically, the Ambit should be much more accurate than the Garmin 405, but it was running 4 miles short of the official course mileage when I crossed the river.  I'll reserve final judgment on its accuracy when I've had more time to test it out with a clear head (aka while not racing).

Photo by Keith Blom.

I mentioned in my race report that I started with my S-LAB 5 hydration pack, but I ditched it at Robinson Flat. I love that pack, but when you're racing up front and have as many aid stations at your disposal as we did at WS100, it's just not necessary.  If I was spending 3+ hours unsupported on the trail, that pack would be on my back without a doubt.  I love my Salomon hat as well.  I'm really picky about the way my running hats fit, but this one is is great.

If you have the time, you should check out Yassine Diboun's race report [link fixed].  He's the guy I chased down on the track.  Here are a few pics from his report to whet your appetite.

I haven't seen a great picture of myself at Emigrant Pass, but this shot of Yassine
is awesome and really captures the  extreme conditions we faced in the high country.
The catch.

1 comment:

  1. Link to Yassine's race report just goes to the picture.