Dave – 46 Mile Ultra, Second Place – 7 hours : 30 minutes : 42 seconds

Well after 13 weeks of training the day was here, to run 46 miles for the Pinellas Trail Challenge Ultra in the Florida heat and humidly with a temperature in the high 80’s and feels like closer mid 90’s. 3 weeks earlier I had ran my first ultra, a 6 hour race, as preparation for this but still wasn’t sure if I would be able to run this far especially as I injured my hip after my only marathon a couple of years earlier which led me to having to take a full year off from running. At 55 years old, with a left total hip replacement would I be able to run an ultra at a competitive pace? I started my comeback around December and was averaging around 30 miles a week prior to me deciding to run these races and after taking 9 days off at the start of June for vacation I had to up my training to 50 – 70 miles. However with daily icing, morning and evening, in my 110% ice compression pants, my hip has felt great and really hasn’t given me any trouble. My main concern for this race was going to be the cramping, which I suffered with several times during the 6 hour race which cost me the victory but still managed second place with 10 laps for 35 miles. It was so severe in my hamstring it sent me crashing to the ground 3 times, each time was worse and if I had to run another 11 miles that day I don’t think I could.

 

How did I get here, after my marathon and subsequent injury and year long layoff the last thing I expected was to be embarking on a journey of ultra-marathons. It came about as I was tired of listening to music on my weekly 280 mile 4 ½ hour drive from Tampa down to Miami. I decided to join Audible and listen to some books, I’m not much of a reader so listening to books was an obvious step and now I wish I had joined earlier. So what was going to be my first book, I can’t remember how I decided but it was Chris McDougall’s “Born to Run” and I thoroughly enjoyed it and followed it with Scott Jurek’s “Eat and Run”. The thought of running any type of distance scared me but something inside me craved for the experience, the challenge, the unknown. Could I do this, I joked about it when we had dinner with my running mentor Ray and was happy when he didn’t say no, he’s always provided a lot of encouragement. So now the seed was planted and now I just needed the opportunity, the tipping point. I ran as part of a 6 person relay team in the Keys 100 mile race from Key Largo to Key West and was amazed at how many individuals ran the 50K, 50 or 100 mile options. I now started to research local races and then saw several post about a couple of local races, the 6 hour Durty Beer Run and the 46 mile Pinellas Trail Challenge, both of which were free but in the middle of the Florida summer heat. If these races hadn’t been free I don’t think I would have signed up for them as I wasn’t sure my artificial hip would hold up to the training and distance. It’s a credit that people like the Stork’s and Connelly’s volunteer their time to give people like me the opportunity to experience something I will never forget and would never have attempted without their generosity. Now I was ready.

 

PTC2015 About to Start This time when I woke up at 4am I didn’t have the same ‘why the hell am I doing this’, I had trained hard and was looking forward to getting it behind me. I was definitely very nervous about the race, the distance, the heat and the probability of cramping. I would be having several people join me along the way and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to run and would let them down. I would be running the first 11 miles by myself and needed to make sure I hydrated better than my first ultra when I only drank 8oz of water/Gatorade mix by that distance. PTC2015 St Pete Aid Station 1I had purchased a 20oz handheld and the plan was to make sure I drank that before the first aid station hosted by St Pete Running Company at mile 8 and then top up. I also planned not to go out as fast to try to avoid the cramping, in the previous race I ran the first 3 miles at an 8 minute pace then the next 18 around a 7:30 pace, my plan for this was to do the first 26 around an 8:30 pace with a couple of stops. The race started and I set off with the leaders for the first mile which was 8:10 so I backed off and let them go, which is hard as I’m very competitive but was hoping that it would pay rewards in the latter stages. Having looked at the splits at mile 22 and mile 46 from the race the year before I could see there was a significant slowdown the second half of the race so I knew there would be plenty of time ahead of me to catch them back up. It was dark and humid for the first several miles which went by easily before the morning sun came out and the temperature started to climb.

 

PTC2015 with RayI had arranged for a good friend of mine, Ray, to meet me at mile 11 on his bike and he was going to ride alongside me to the end of the race. He’s been a huge mentor over my short running background and I knew he would be a massive help and would make sure I drank and ate more than the first race. By this time I was in 8th place and holding the 8:30 pace he had outlined for me,  he checked I was feeling good and then gave me a salt-cap which we had decided I would take once every hour during the race. He had arranged for several members of his small run group “Head Over Heels” to join me on the course to run alongside me and a couple of miles later we were met by Dave Moorehead. DPTC2015 Clever Training Aid Stationave hasn’t run much recently as he’s recovering from an injury and this was his longest run for a while so I really appreciate that he joined me to mile 18 before turning back and running home. It’s always good running with someone that has a similar cadence as it makes the miles pass quickly.  At Taylor Park Clever Training had setup an aid station, that’s the weekly run and triathlon group I’ve helped run for the last 3 years, thanks to Jen for setting this up and to Chris, Bill, Cliff, Cheri, AnaMaria, Dave & Luis for coming down to support. My daughter Sarah and our 2 grandsons Alex & Eddie also surprised me there with signs and a hug, along with my wife Judy with a change of clothes. I lost about 5 minutes there but the change of shoes felt good as my On’s start to hurt the underside of my feet where the clouds are, my shorts were also very wet with all the sweat. PTC2015 Clever Training Aid Station 2I was in 5th place at this time when Christina Greene, also from Ray’s group, now joined me on the run up to Dunedin. She had planned to run a little further but the heat got to her and the pace was a little fast but it was still great having someone there to share the miles with.

 

PTC2015 Mile 22 standingsThe next aid station was mile 22 where I knew the splits from last year’s race, the leaders had come through at 3:13 plus and I was there at 3:10 and had now moved up to 4th place. We stopped had more drinks and then pushed on to the next aid station at Dunedin Box Car at mile 26 where Jeff Sievers and Darin Moore joined me to run the last 20 miles and Christina left us. My splits up to that time were averaging 8:30 excluding the stops but now I started to slow down a little, which I had expected and planned for given the heat and humidity and was now running closer to a 9 minute pace. However at mile 31 I started to feel cramps coming on in my calves and had to stop and walk a little which continued for the next 3 miles or so. PTC2015 Jeff DarinRay was trying to encourage me to set a point to walk to then run a quarter mile and repeat that. I tried but couldn’t even manage that, I was in pain and just struggling to run, now I wasn’t sure if it was the cramps, low energy or just feeling low because of the cramps. I kept walking, determined to continue moving forward but this was pretty much the same place where the severe cramps hit me in my first ultra. Although the cramping wasn’t as bad and was just in my calves I didn’t know what was in store for the next 14 miles or so. I rolled down my leg compression sleeves but that didn’t help so pulled them back up. Eventually around mile 35 Christina showed up with her husband James Greene, who was going to run with us to the end, and their 2 young boys and we started to run. I think having the 2 boys there really helped me to push through the pain and kept me going as I didn’t want to stop and walk in front of them. David Toms also turned up along this stretch on his Bionic Runner, a bike similar to my ElliptiGo, for his first real ride on this bike and also Jim Polacek turned up for the fPTC2015 Spray Coolirst of several points. Dave & Jim organize a boot camp which they do 3 times a week which was a real boost to me during my year’s injury where I couldn’t run and started doing boot camp to strengthen my core, abs etc., without that basic strength training I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be running as much as I do now. I now provide a travelling boot camp for people at work in Miami, also free of charge, to help encourage others to lead a better health style. Robin also joined us again on her bike and we had a group of 11 coming in to the aid station, such a boost to motivate you to get through anything. As several people said, during those 4 or 5 miles I looked like crap and I’m not sure if anyone was confident I would be able to finish.

 

PTC2015 Crew TeamIt was enough to get me to the next aid station at Tarpon Tavern, mile 36, where Judy would be meeting me again with another change of clothes. At this aid station, I believe hosted by Run Tampa, they greeted runners with cheers and a cow bell. I had more drinks, another popsicle, water melon and a salt cap. I had started in my On’s, then ran the next 18 with my Nike Pegasus Zooms from Fit2Run, recommended by my Miami running friend Matt, and was now changing into Newton Distance Classics. As I reached down to put my shoes on my calf started cramping so I had to pull up, every time I reached down I experienced the same with my calf cramping more each time I tried. Judy & Jim were trying to help but my calf just kept cramping, what was worse is that I heard the cowbell ringing again as another runner came through without stopping and was looking strong. PTC2015 support crewI was hoping that having ran the last mile I was over this but now it was worse, I still couldn’t straighten my leg and then the cow bell rang again as another runner came through now pushing me back to 4th place. For those that know me I’m very competitive, hearing that bell ringing and wondering when the next runner may be coming through is enough to motivate me and after several attempts I was able to get my shoes on and was ready to go. I got up and set off without looking back and hoped the crew was going to follow. As I ran the next half mile I felt good but wasn’t sure how far I would be able to run before my next cramp, with 10 miles to go I had no idea what to expect, could I catch either of those runners or would I be passed by more.

 

My pace started to pick up to just under a 9 minute mile and I felt great, my team had joined me and we pushed forward. The temperature had climbed and the sun was out but I had a clear goal in my mind, I knew first place was out of my reach but was determined to do everything I could to regain second place. As we ran along the side of the road I was trying to decide if I needed to take a leak, I hadn’t all day and had drank a lot and didn’t want to stop in the last couple of miles if I was in a leg race so decided to take the opportunity and ran off to some bushes. Business taken care of now it was down to the chase, shortly after that we passed the 3rd place runner who looked like he was tiring and I’m sure being passed by me looking strong with a crew of 6 was demotivating for him. it seemed like no time at all passed before we reached the next aid station at mile 40 where Judy met us again. Judy was surprised how quickly we had made it there, especially given how I looked at mile 36 and the time it took me for those long painful 5 miles. She asked if I needed anything, which I didn’t, I just grabbed a popsicle, some water and was off again as quickly as I could again without announcing it to my crew. They followed but as I picked up the pace Jeff and Darin weren’t able to keep up and we left them behind, now it was Ray and David on their bikes and James running alongside. He’s a strong runner, tall and sleek, I had only met him once before at a 5K race where I chased him down but wasn’t quite able to catch him but we both had PR’s that day with an 18:47 for me and he was a few seconds ahead. He provided encouragement and handed me drinks along the final run in and kept checking how I was doing.

 

We now had just over 5 miles to run and I could see the 2nd place runner ahead wearing a blue shirt. I didn’t want to push hard to catch him as I thought  just maintaining my pace was more important and reeling him in slowly was okay, it had been a long race, it was hot and this section of the course was brutal. I have a pretty good kick and I was fine if it came down to the last half mile and I had to sprint to catch and pass him. We continued to run, now at an 8:45 pace and I could see I was slowly gaining on him, he looked like he had started to walk a little but then ran again as he looked back and could see us in the distance. We continued to narrow the gap and I passed through a couple of unlisted volunteer aid stations without stopping as he did. With about 2.5 miles to go he started to walk again and then jog and then he stopped at a car as he met his crew team, we ran past him, probably picking up the pace a little to make it look like we were strong. Now I kept asking my bike team has he started again. He did and we kept pushing. We ran another mile at 8:49 and he had slipped further behind and now they couldn’t see him. Rays wife Robin had joined us again riding down from the finish and Beth Terry, another of Ray’s running group, joined us for the last mile and half. I kept pushing but then I felt my calf cramping again and then hamstring, I called to Ray to give me the last of the pickle juice I had and stopped to drink it. It’s awful, but I wasn’t prepared to give up so just drank about 5 ounces and set off again. Not a quarter of a mile passed and I started to cramp again, this time I refused to give up, I hadn’t come this far not to finish second. I moaned a few times as the pain came in and out, I backed off the pace a little as we couldn’t see the third place runner. PTC2015 Finish LineThe crew kept telling me the turn is only half a mile away, just after the lights which I still couldn’t see, man that was a long half mile. A few more cramps came but I just pushed and refused to stop and now could see the turn, only half a mile left. We ran in and passed shelter 1, 2, and 3, only 2 more to go. Now I could see the finish line and Ray passed me my bib which I hadn’t put back on after my last change of clothes. PTC2015 FinishAs I ran in I was being cheered by the race organizers, the Storks, and others, and I proudly held my bib in front of me as I crossed the finish line. I doubled over, tired, but probably not as bad as I expected, I caught my breath and then stood up high and proud of my accomplishment. My second ultra and second overall, I came through without any injury, with a time of 7 hours, 30 minutes and 42 seconds. The week earlier I had posted this to Ray’s group “I’m hoping to finish in under 8 1/2 hours, my best time would be 7 1/2 which I think would be achievable if it wasn’t so hot” so to finish this within 42 seconds was major.

 

PTC2015 FinishedI still think I have a lot to learn about nutrition for races over this distance and preparation leading up to the race. I didn’t carbo load prior to this and also didn’t eat as much as I had planned during the race. After reading Jurek’s book I also switched my diet considerably eating a lot more plant based foods and also reducing my dairy intake, not quite vegetarian or vegan but I do try and practice that several days a week. Maybe as I learn more I can get my cramping under control and improve upon my times so far. I think increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables I consume also helped control inflammation around my hip but I still ice 2 or 3 times each evening and every morning.

 

Right now I’m not sure if I will do any more ultra’s, especially summer races in Florida, but you never know.  Now 1 week after the race I’m leaning towards running all 3 events in this series and will be looking for a first place finish. Part of the reason I challenged myself was to also motivate other hip replacement runners about what is possible. I’ve never liked being told what I can’t do and that I’m too old, and that’s what also motivates me to keep pushing the boundaries. I love what I do and if my passion rubs off on others and encourages them to step up then I’ve succeeded in my goal. I would love to compete in a national recognized race like the Western States 100  but without a crew I don’t think I could do it.

 

Thanks to John Gregg for taking many of the photos I’ve included here, he was posting live from the race which helped others follow me along the course.

 

Thanks to all the running and training groups that I train with, without their help and support I also wouldn’t have been able to even tackle this. Fit2Run for their Thursday night run group where I run 11+ miles and the monthly Rundezvous In The Park. iRun for the Monday night interval training and the Saturday long run when I stay down in Miami. Brickell Run Club on a Tuesday evening, Clever Training for the weekly triathlons and Seminole Hard Core for the Saturday boot camps. I’ve met many great people at these groups that help drive and push me every day and also make my weeks so enjoyable.

 

Most importantly thank you to Ray and his Head Over Heels Run group, for his support over the last couple of years and the members that came out to make this such a memorable day. This is what I posted about Ray the evening of the race.

 

Huge thank you to Ray from both me & Judy for the support he (and others, another post to come) gave me today. He joined me at mile 11 and biked alongside me for the next 35 miles and 6 hours. Providing me with drinks, food, encouragement, guidance, spraying me down with water, organizing others to join me in the run. You …name it he did it. Without his support, while I may have finished the race, I wouldn’t have finished second and only 42 seconds off my best possible projected goal time. Even when I cramped he gave me advice, rubbed freeze gel on my calf and helped me push through the pain. If you had seen me around mile 32 you wouldn’t have thought I could finish the race. Then additional friends showed up and I was able to push on. Although I got more cramp at mile 36 and saw my position drop to 4th I was able to push hard after he got me back to health and ran the last 10 miles at about a sub 9 pace excluding a couple of aid station drops. He has been my coach since the Race for Fish 5K about 3 years ago and has always been the main driving force behind my running and my success. He’s been like a brother to me and I couldn’t have done any of this without him. Even after having to take a year off after injuring my hip that I had replaced, he continued to provide advice, and while I haven’t been able to run much with him since I started a job in Miami he’s always been there. Right now I can’t think of anyone that’s had a bigger influence in my life and I truly thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he’s done for me and many others.

 

As I think back again, I really didn’t have to think about my hip that day or during my training leading up to this. I hope this continues as I now switch to half marathon training mode and hopefully a Boston qualifier Marathon push at the Miami Marathon in January.

PTC2015 Shirt

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