Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Ondessonk 50k

2016 Ondessonk 50k 
Shawnee National Forest 
1st Place Overall 4:53:55 (CR)

Plans change. All through this past summer and early fall I was focused on XC 8k's, running in open invitational collegiate meets and this would in turn set me up for a solid indoor track season where I wanted to PR in some track races. Well like I said plans change. After some sub par XC performances, I was not where I wanted or thought I should be. I PR'd in an 8k a couples weeks ago but still was lacking motivation. I was also losing the hunger to continue this hall into an further long hall of an indoor and outdoor track season. I'm just tired of the regimented workouts. I needed a change of pace, I felt a push to do another ultra. Insert the Ondessonk 50k.

I stumbled upon the Ondessonk 50k in a search for nearby ultras in the Midwest. This one landing in mid October worked out perfectly. After deciding to pull the plug on a track season I decided this race would be my last hoorah for the year, then some down time for a couple weeks. This event was in its 3rd installment with the 50k only in its 2nd year. It has a 5k, 1/2 marathon and 50k option all in the backyard of the Camp Ondessonk, Ozark, IL on the fringe of the Shawnee National Forrest. In my search I knew I wanted a 50k with some decent climbing and I thought this course would provide me with just that...and it did. With a hop skip and a jump of a 3:30 hour drive south I was all in.

Pre Race:
I left Springfield, IL in the late afternoon and arrived at Camp Ondessonk around 6:30 p.m. On the way down I ran into a bit of rain and thought this needs to stop right now. It didnt and I will tell you why it was a bad thing it didnt here in a bit. I was planning on setting up the tent somewhere and camping out for the night. Once I checked in I found out they had cabins available for $9, plus it was still raining. The cabins were not your typical cabins. A 3 wall structure with an open face to the woods. I set up for the night as it was still raining. There were a few others in the cabins next to me who ended being very nice and showing me a few shortcuts around the campsite. The night ended up being pretty peaceful. Sleeping was in and out. As I fell asleep I couldnt tell if it was still raining or if it was just the water dripping off the trees onto the roof and fallen leaves. None the less I knew this rain would come to haunt us the next morning. I woke around 5:30 a.m. ate some breakfast and laid back down for 30 minutes or so. Woke back up and carried my stuff back to the car parked back by the lot a half mile away in two different trips.

The Race:
To be honest the only thing I was worried about was course marking and not getting lost. I was reassured the course was mark nicely though. Also, I was slightly worried about the course because of all the rain. The course would be one large loop and a couple miles in we were introduced to what we would be dealing with the next few hours. Right off the bat a guy went out at a pretty good clip, come to find out that was Kelly Hutchins of Kentucky. I started off running with Matt Pfau from Missouri and I looked over at him and asked if he knew if he was legit, we had no idea but he was moving for a 50k start. A couple miles in we all joined up and ran together for the first 10 or so. All 3 of us went in the tunnel together in waist deep water, talking about how if this race were in the middle of the summer we might have to deal with snakes. Toward the end of Jackson Hole there was a short but steep section that you had to scrabble up on all fours. I even remember saying out loud "Ya here we go." After this was a stretch of tall prairie grass that led to an aid station. On these two sections I started to pull away. I was feeling pretty good but still wanted to stay under control. Around the drop bag aid station at mile 17 or so I was in much need of my drop bag. I dont think I was taking in enough fluids early on. My eating was sporadic because I was so focused on my footing and not falling and just getting through the non stop slop. Around 20 miles I hit a low and was scarred this was the wall. I just kept thinking the foot and water I just put down will start to kick in here soon, just keep moving forward. By the way moving forward was tough. These trails are open to horse riding and the horses have done a number on the trails mix the mix of rain on top of that my footing was everywhere and it was starting to zap my energy and mood. This course would have been much more enjoyable if it were groomed but it wasnt and I could feel it taking its toll on me. My food intake was based on hours spent out on the trail and I was finding out Id out there longer than my anticipated 4 or so. At mile 15 I was at 2:04:00 but things slowed significantly the last third of the race. Fatigue was really setting in and I dealt with a cramped left calf 5 miles to go. I had to sit down on the trail and wait for it to stretch out again. Every step in the mud, or over a log felt like it was going to cramp up again. The last 2 miles seemed to take forever and the finish line couldnt come quick enough. I started to see 1/2 marathoners on the course and kept asking them what there mileage GSP was at so I could gauge of there course compared to what my watch had. None the less it was a challenge and I was able to over come it. There is satisfactory in overcoming a challenge physically and mentally. This race was definitely a challenge and one I wont forget. Overall, it was a good weekend. Talked with new people who share the same passion for suffering I do and catching up with old friends and even teammates. Lastly, a shout out to Jason for putting in so many hours marking the course and setting up and for also catching me as I passed out in front of him.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 Ozark Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race

2016 Ozark Trail MTB 100
50 Mile Option
Justin Stewart 
4th Overall 

For starters, I went into this race blind as a bat but full of motivation. I'm currently in the middle of my XC season so all Ive been doing is running miles all summer and practically no time on the bike. About the only time I got on a bike was when I was riding with my wife after work and occasionally getting in a secondary workout on the fixed gear bike in the afternoon, but nothing further than 20 miles or every other week.

After it was all said and done I underestimated the course. The course was absolutely brutal. Rocks, loose footing, tough, tough climbs with switch backs that brought you to a halt, river crossings, and sketchy downhills into sharp corners that almost sent you over the edge. None the less with all that said I still had a smile on my face...that was until the last couple miles when I started getting tunnel vision. My body was completely down with just 2 miles to go.

In just my first MTB race on a bike Ive only had for 2 weeks, I'd say I can come away with a lot to be happy and grateful for. I had the chance to meet new people and put myself in an unknown position to challenge myself physically and mentally.

The Race

The 50 mile race started at the mid point of the 100 mile race.  The start was a little questionable for the fact it was a mass start just a mere 50 ft. from the trailhead. I knew I had to get decent positioning so I wasn't too far back. Got out clean and on the trail in roughly 5th place. Stayed there for a while until the lead group of 5 or 6 was led into a wrong turn and a dead end. It didn't take up too much time but enough to really take out that initial high and really put a blow on the situation. From then on it was hard to tell who was where in what place. At the first aid station, which was confusing as hell, I asked what what place I was in and was told about 5th. From there to Berryman I was alone for the most part. Between miles 20-30 or so I was really questioning if I could complete this. My body was slightly tired but after the Berryman aid station at mile 31 I found that I was in 4th. After finding that out it lifted my spirits and I was also able to eat some food and get more water. From there I was riding pretty hard knowing Ive only got 20 miles left. I passed the lead single speed guy around 35 miles. Then came up on the 2nd place guy around 40. I passed him but we stayed together for quite some time. I made a bad turn on a corner and he went by me and I never saw him again. With about 7 miles to go I stuttered hurting a bit. My food and water intake was good still but the hours in the saddle on rough terrain was wearing on me and I was ready to be done. 2 miles to go I was in a world of pain. Walking my bike up a steep section with 2 miles to go is not where you want to be. The march felt painful and never ending. With just a quarter mile to go I came to a fence post at the corner of a cow pasture. I could see the finish across the pasture but there was a path leading right (which had an OT sign on it) and a path leading left. I literally stood there for what felt like an eternity, bent over my bike completely exhausted. I didn't want to go right because it was another incline. Still standing there, I decided, you gotta get moving. I went right, walking my bike up the incline. We'll come to find out I was supposed to go left which would have led me back to finish line. Also I came to find out that while I was taking the wrong way to finish the lead single speed guy went the correct way and finished ahead of me, bumping me to 4th. Frustrating, not the slightest. I was just happy to be done. I crossed the line and collapsed in the pavilion. I was in a world of pain. I literally push my body to the breaking point. Being in the saddle on that course for nearly 6 hours was rough.

Once I came to, I was able to put down 2 Coca Colas, 1 Sprite, 1 Dr. Pepper, 2 bags of chips, 2 electrolyte tablets, a bottle of water, a bag of cherries, a 16" pizza, 1 can of BL, and a sweet tea. FYI I never drink soda and I just had 4 in a matter of an hour.

This chart shows the elevation change for the 100 mile course. The 50 started mid way. Im no rocket scientist but I can read graphs and thats a lot of ups and down. Which in my book equates to a lot of pain. 

Lastly, theres a lot I can take away from this race. I think it's really important that when you reach a certain point in your athletic career that you challenge yourself in areas that are unfamiliar. I think you grow as human being when you put yourself in situations like that. I was close to biting off more than I can chew but none the less I completed the task with a good result. I needed a change of pace from my regular running schedule and this race did just that. Will I back, yes, next year ? TBD. Some day I want to do the 100 MTB in Sept. and then do the 100 running event on the same course in Nov. in the same year. We'll see about that. Till then. Happy riding and running. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Change of Pace - Ozark Trail 100 MTB

Change of Pace

So the plan for the fall of 2016 was and still is for the most part to put together a solid XC season to set me up nicely for a final attempt at some fast times on the track come indoor/outdoor season. Well after a couple stagnant 8k XC races I am in much need for a change of pace.

I can't remember how or where or when I heard about the Ozark Trail 100 but once I did it gave me a bit of mtb fever. Plus ever since I got rid of my TT bike Ive wanted a mountain bike. Last week I was able to pick up a 2017 Trek Stache 5 to fuel this flame and once I went on that first ride I signed up for the 50 mile option. What am I doing? I haven't been on a bike all summer. Doesn't matter. Part of me wanted to sign up for the 100 which I know I could do as well but I figured I should play it somewhat smart so Im not sore afterwards. That way I can continue to train for XC 8ks through the end of October. Plus signing up for the 50 I am able to scout out the course for next years attempt on the 100 mile course.  Im excited to mix in this race. It will keep things interesting for me and present a new challenge for me. Ive never done an endurance mtb race before but my endurance work I think will be enough to get me through with good results.

My weapon of choice, after much research, is the 2017 Trek Stache 5 29+ 18.5" Hardtail. This thing is like a supercharged monster truck. Super quick for bike that has 3" wide tires. It is also a lot of fun to ride and it brought a smile to my face the entire first ride. We'll see how she handles come this Saturday.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30

2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30 Mile Trail Run
1st Place Overall  3:33:37 (New Course Record)

What a day. Completed my second 30 miler this morning. Felt great. It was three 10 mile loops, with each loop having roughly 1200 ft of climbing, I think. There were roughly 125 runners. I went into the race with mixed emotions. I wasn't sure my foot would hold up from aggravating it after a trail race in late Feb and that my mileage hasn't been where I wanted it leading up into this race because of my foot. Highest mileage week leading up to the race was a few weeks of 55, with my longest run being 14.

      Good news the foot held up for the race bad news I irritated it again and Im icing it as I type and hobbling around the house. More good news is that I was able to get a new course record. I went into the race with an idea of what the record was (3:35:52) but I was confident I would only be able to go 3:45 on a good day and that if I broke 4 hours Id be happy. I had plans on running with last years winner for the first loop and evaluating the situation from there because he had run the 30 mile course many times before. Right after the start I found myself alone for the first 2 laps, just me and the trail. I caught myself really becoming engaged in the trail and my surroundings and was mentally telling myself enjoy this moment. Theres just something about running on a good trail. Each loop I felt better and better and each lap I was dropping minutes. It was hard to tell what exactly my pace was in the woods b/c my GPS watch isn't too accurate on trails and in tree cover but I knew I was moving pretty well. Its a hard line to run between going out too fast and just enough to keep a good pace but without dying those last few miles. I kept feeling good so I just kept pushing the pace. If I died on the last loop Id deal with it then.

      First loop was 1:14 so I knew I was close to record pace, second loop I dropped 3 more minutes and came across in 1:11 (2:25 and some change) Last loop I was 1:08 which to be honest really surprised me. I was pushing so hard that last lap I knew I was flirting with danger. One thing is I think I ate just right, my intake settled well in my stomach. I had one GU at mile 7 ish and some water at the 5.5 mile aid station the first loop, second loop I had a 12oz coconut water that I carried in my waistband behind me, 100 calorie baby food squeeze thing,(sweet potato and carrot I think), a GU (Vanilla Bean) and an organic fruit roll up type thing, same thing for the 3rd loop. Third loop was awesome, I started seeing runners on their 2nd loop and they were really encouraging which helped lift my spirits.

    Overall I had a blast today and really surprised myself. I also met a lot of new and awesome people, this ultra running community is great. Ill definitely remember what happened on Saturday for a long time it really was a special day. Congrats to all who battled the course and finished. A special thanks to the race directors Don and Ellen for putting on a great event, Ill be back next year. Also it was awesome meeting and talking to Joel Lammers from Wisconsin and sharing an icebath in the nuclear lake soaking in the radiation. Lastly a special thanks to Denise McKinley from Amer Sports (Salomon & Suunto Rep) for the hookup on some shoes, Ill most definitely be putting some miles on them. From here Ill have to take some time healing my foot. Ill be on the bike and in the stairs for a month or so probably and then maybe start running hopefully getting ready for the USA Mountain Running Championships in NH at Loon Mountain in July. Till next time.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30 Pre Race

2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30 Miler
Justin Stewart (3/24/16)

Pre Race:
Clinton Lake
 Its 2 days out from the 2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30 miler that takes place on a 10 mile hilly trail around part of Clinton Lake just NE of Clinton IL. We'll be doing the 10 mile loop 3 times, there's roughly 125 runners that will start the course. There's roughly 1500 ft of climbing each loop which isnt bad but it will be difficult to get into a rhythm with all the undulations this course holds. Ive been on this trail twice before. First time was a couple years ago and I finished one loop in an unofficial course record of 1:06 and some change. Second time wasn't too long ago in January when the course was tore up with frozen muddy footprints everywhere and made for a horrendous run footing wise. Hopefully the course and trail are better than that day.

Anyway I thought I'd reflect on the days before leading up to Saturday. Back in late February at the Castlewood Cup 15k I aggravated a tendon in my foot that hindered me from running for two weeks. I was on the bike for 2 weeks, which wasn't bad but it wasn't running.  Just this past week I was able to finally put in a solid week of mileage, which felt great because I was getting worried if I was even going to be able to run the race. I am still feeling good about going into the race though. We all hit snags in our training and this snag came at a time when I was really gearing up my mileage and this event was right in the middle of the build up. I am still confident in my ability but I will have to be more cautious with my foot to not aggravate it again. So the game plan is to take it lap by lap.  This will only be my second 30 miler. I had great results in my first 30 (2015 McNotAgain 30 Miler, 1st Place 4:01:00), but each race is different and I'll have to take this one just like I did with the first; which is to ease into it and eat early and often to avoid crashing later on. I love this distance right now for me because it still feels like uncharted territory for me. Its a big unknown and I enjoy that, pushing my self physically but more so mentally. I am excited to see what Saturday brings.   

Monday, March 7, 2016

2016 Castlewood Cup 15k Trail Race

2016 Castlewood Cup 15k Trail Race
Castlewood State Park, Ballwin MO
Feb. 27th 2016
1st Place  57:30 (6:11 pace)

The Castlewood Cup is easily one of my favorite races. I first ran it last year and fell in love with the trail and atmosphere. I was able to win the event in 15' so I had to come back do defend it, plus I want to see how much time I can personally cut from year to year on this course. Last year I covered the course on a bitter cold and windy day with trail conditions that were icy in 58:20. This year the conditions were much better with trail conditions that were muddy but the temp was at low 50's. Covered the course in 57:30 this year.

Went into this race confident in my training and ability. I had just been doing strength endurance workouts all winter long and slowly build my miles. I knew the competition would be a little tighter this year. It seems to be attracting more and more talent each year.

One thing I love about this course are the hills. This course has some decent climbs for this area. The gun went off and 3 of us went to the lead. The first 3/4 mile is flat grass which was mud this year. Heading around the tree line I found some footing and found myself side by side sharing the lead with Travis. 3/4 mile in we head up our first climb 300-400 ft ish climb. Once we hit the hill I pushed up front. At the top I threw in an intentional surge to separate myself. From there on I never really saw anybody. I could catch a glimpse of 2nd place every once and a while when the course switched back on a ravine. I could sense I was pulling slightly away over the course of the route but I knew I had to keep pressing and not settle in. The course has some great climbs and some sections of roller where you can really open up. With about 2 miles to go you can fly back down into the river section. Headed into the river crossing and back up into the flat grass section where we started. This section was even more sloppy after hundreds of people ran on it. I felt like I could open up my stride here but couldnt because of the footing. Just did my best to close strong.

After the race my right foot was tight and days after I could tell I aggravated a tendon in my right arch behind my big toe and it was uncomfortable to run on flat hard surfaces. So Im on the bike and stairs for a couple weeks. Hopefully it can clear up come March 26th for the Clinton Lake 30 miler.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

2016 Eastern Illinois Friday Night Special 800m

2016 Eastern Illinois University Friday Night Special
Indoor 800m 
2nd Place

 I was able to head back to my old stomping grounds and jump in an 800 at the Friday Night Special. Such a good feeling heading back to EIU where I had so many memories with teammates and friends. Speaking of friends, I was able to spend the night at and see a couple old teammates and spend some time hanging out with them. Even got a nice 10 mile run in on a Walt's run with them on Saturday morning. I laughed so hard for two days straight I left with my side aching. Love the running culture that has been created at EIU and I try to make every effort to come back and race a few times a year. Im very thankful theres a coaching staff that is willing to let alumni come back and race as well.

The streak continues...12 consecutive years of breaking 2:00 flat in the 800. Its a long term goal of mine to break 2 flat for as many consecutive years as possible. Its a goal of mine just to keep me motivated to stay in shape. The race went great. I was super relaxed and feeling good. Funny thing about running events now is that theres absolutely no pressure. Went out and stayed in 2nd place for 3 laps. Went through in 27. Then 56ish through the 400, 1:25 ish at 600. Last lap on the backstretch 2 guys passed me. 100m to go I was ready to pass them and felt an amazing kick in my legs but I go boxed and had nowhere to go. Turning on the homestretch they shot out wide and I took a chance diving down in lane 1 inside the guy. Leaned for the line and came up .04 second shy of first. Can't be upset though, I was thrilled with my race and effort. Considering where and what my training is/has been geared towards just building miles for trails and an ultra in March.

Overall great weekend of racing and seeing old friend. Really tempted to try and put together another attempt at a PR next season. Well see how things pan out. Till then Im just taking one race at a time and enjoying the ride.