Thursday, October 12, 2017

2018 Racing Schedule

2018 Tentative Racing Schedule

Frozen Gnome 50k                       Cyrstal Lake, IL            Jan. 13th  
Louisville Loving Hills 50k         Louisville, KY               Feb. 10th
Castlewood Cup 15k                    Ballwin, MO                  Feb. 24th
Hilton Stair Climb                        Springfield, IL               Feb. 25th
US Snowshoe Championships     Woodford, VT               Mar. 9th          A Race
Yamacraw 50k                              Streams, KY                 Apr. 7th           A Race
Quest for the Crest 50k                 Burnsville, NC             May 19th         A Race
Afton Trail 50k                             Afton, MN                    July 7th
Howl @ the Moon 8hr                  Danville, IL                  Aug. 11th         A Race
Rock Cut Hobo 50k ?
Rock/Creek Stumpjump 50k?
      
 

Hennepin 50

Hennepin 50 
Sterling, IL to Wyanet, IL (Hennepin Canal State Trail)
3rd Place Overall, 6:51:13

My first 50 miler in the books! The Hennepin 50 caught my eye at the beginning of the year and I knew it'd be a good fit for my first 50. Its flat & fast just like they advertise. Its a unique point to point race in NW Illinois that starts at Sinnissippi Park in Sterling IL and follows the Hennepin Canal State Trail along the Hennepin Canal straight south to Wyanet IL. The day was wet and rainy with a gusty head wind the entire route. The course was actually in really good shape considering all the rain the night before.

Training for this race went decently well. The weeks and months prior I was more focused on and training for the US Trail Half Championships the week before this race. So my training was more geared towards that race with a few 50 mile training runs and workouts in there. None the less I went into the race confident in my ability and felt nice and relaxed. Going into a 50 mile race was a lot different than any other race I prepared for. I felt calm but prepared for what the day had to bring, good or bad. One thing I knew for sure is that DNF'ing was not an option. Whether I felt great of terrible it didn't matter I was going to finish. I did have a couple lofty goals going into the race. I wanted to win and set a new CR. I did in fact go under the old CR but so did two others and they just happened to be faster than me that day.

The Race: 
The race goes off with all distances starting together (50k, 50M, 100M & 100 Relay) all with different color bibs. In the opening miles I got out in fourth place with two relays and one 50 miler ahead of me. I hovered around seven minute mile pace for the first 10 or so. I ended up catching third place around mile nine. I went through 10 miles in roughly 1:10:00. Around mile 11 the eventual winner of the 50 miler and myself moved into 1 2. Between miles 12 and 19 I slowly close the gap on the leader and we ran together for a short while and then he ended up pulling away again. Going through mile 25 was interesting mentally for the fact that you were only halfway done. I went through mile 25 in 2:54:00 and the marathon distance in 3:02. At this point the leader was a couple minutes ahead of me but I could still see him on some sections of the trail. At mile 29 I came across an overpass and noticed that he was walking. So at this point I passed him and continued to move well but was slowing slightly. Mentally it was nice to be in the lead and I just kept thinking to just maintain my pace and keep moving forward. By the mile 32 aid station I was still moving decently well and got to catch a glimpse of my lead. I had a decent lead at this point but my mile average was hovering between 730 and eight minute mile pace but I was still moving forward OK. By mile 36 I really started to feel it. My pace dropped significantly and I started having stomach issues. By mile 40 I was walking. I decided I couldn't just walk so I opted to run 3/4 of a mile and walk a quarter of a mile which seem to work well for a while but at that rate I knew that if the runners behind me were feeling good that they would eventually catch me. At mile 42 roughly the previous leader that I was chasing came back on me and he was looking strong and pulled away relatively quickly. The miles started to get extremely difficult and mentally I was ready to be done. At mile 47 you pass the finish and go on a 5K out and back. I took in some Mountain Dew at this age station and walked out and threw up quite a significant amount of fluid. No wonder I was having stomach problems. One thing that I am proud of that I did was that I was able to run the last 5K on the outing back but unfortunately I got passed at mile 48. At this point I really didn't care all that much I knew that I was going to finish and I just decided to stick with the pace that I was comfortable instead of trying to keep up with him. In some of those closing miles I was also dealing with some sort of tendinitis issue on the outside of my right knee which was frustrating because it would tighten up on me and force me to walk. Hence why I chose the walk run ratio. At the finish line you got to cross a cool canal lock bridge. I was extremely relieved to get to the finish line in my first 50 miler ever. It was a tough day physically and mentally he especially the last 14 miles. I'm proud of myself that I was able to stick with it and keep moving forward because giving up and dropping out was not an option at all for this race one way or another I knew that I was going to finish whether I had to walk it in or crawl it in. The top three males in the 50 miler all ended up going under the previous course record which is pretty cool. Also the race was able to double their attendance from last year which says a lot about this race and the race directors and all the helpers at the aid stations. Mentally like I said the course is rather doll but thankfully the aid stations were a lot of fun and really helpful. The distance itself was completely new to me and in hindsight I know that I went out a little too aggressive. I will take a lot from this race and learn from it and put it to good use for future races. I probably should have stuck around 7 to 715 pace for longer instead of dipping under seven minute mile pace early on to try to close the gap on first place. Overall I'm happy about the day I can't be disappointed in a third place finish in my first 50 miler I have to take it and learn from it and move onto the next one. 
Fueling: 
Vanilla Bean GU (10min prior)
BeetElite 8oz fluid (sip over hr prior)
GU around mile 8
Handheld Nathan bottle was filled w/ Tailwind at certain aid stations.
Cliff Organic Apple/Mango Squeeze 10m ish
EFS Quickshot around 2 hrs.
Another Cliff Organic Apple/Mango Squeeze. I also was taking a salt electrolyte pill every hour. 2 more GUs in there somewhere before mile 36. At aid station 7 mile 32.5 I started taking in cups of Coke and Mountain Dew at the aid stations which eventually all came up at mile 47. After mile 40 nothing would sit well in my stomach especially the GUs.

Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 US Trail Half Championships

2017 USATF Trail Half Championships
Hayward, WI (Birkie Trail Festival)
5th Place Overall, 1:14:06 (12.4 miles)

Once I heard the US Trail Half Championships were going to be in the Midwest I had to give it a go. I have wanted to do a trail half or marathon championship race but they have typically been in Moab or Bellingham the past few years.

An 8 hour drive north to Hayward WI wasn't too bad actually and the anticipation of getting to my destination made the trip go by quick. I got into Seeley WI, 4 miles north of Hayward, and checked into my room. The room wasn't ready yet so I decided to go check out the course and get a shake out in. I picked up my bib and went for a short 4 mile run on the course. Im glad I did. I got a good feel for the rolling hills and knew this was going to be a fast race.

Most of the course is typically used for XC skiing in the winter. The course was grassy and wide with lots of short steep inclines and declines, with a 2 mile section of windy single track that takes you up to 1,740 ft. in elevation. There was a modest 1,214 vert ft. of climbing on the course. The field was also not very deep but the competition up front was stout for sure and I knew I wanted to mix it up up front as best I could and see what could happen. The night before was really neat. I got to spend some time with sports best in Joe Gray and Hayden Hawks. Got some really good pizza in me and I was off to bed.

The Race:
The gun went off and I went out feeling good and settled right off the heals of 3rd and 4th place. Joe and Grunewald went out in 1,2 and were pulling away slowly. I stayed in the chase pack of Hawks and Sigl. A couple miles in the chase pack slowly thinned out and they were separating a bit but I could still see them within striking distance. At this point I was just focusing on staying uptempo but in control. Tyler Sigl ended up pulling away out of sight by mile 7 or so but I could still caught glimpses of 4th in Hayden. We entered the 2 mile section of single track that would take us up to the highest point of the race. I caught a glimpse of Hawks and I was closing in on him on the switchbacks. This put some pep in my step and just kept pushing. I tried to close but by the time I got close we were back out onto the wide grass trail heading back to the start/finish line. The last couple miles I was really starting to pick it up bit by bit and had a really nice flow going on the up and downs. The last mile or so was mostly downhill so I opened up my stride and really got after it. We came out of the trees and I could see 4th. I close hard but came up 5 seconds shy. None the less I ran really well and felt great doing it against some stiff competition up front. This was really a breakthrough race for me. I just have to keep putting in the work and keep going to events like this so that I can compete against the best in the sport.

Finish 5th Overall

4th, 3rd, Nancy, me, 2nd 

Top 10 Podium


Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017 Evergreen Lake 25k

2017 Evergreen Lake Ultras 25k
Evergreen Lake, Hudson IL
1st Place Overall 1:36:06 New CR (Add 6min. roughly)

With it being two weeks out from the US Trail Half I decided to jump in the Evergreen 25k as a last minute prep. The event is a real nice low key ultra scene on Hudson Illinois Evergreen Lake. Its a 25k loop around the lake that is a good mix of wide grass paths and windy single track trail. The field was small but all I wanted to focus on was staying around 6min mile pace and just getting a good effort in. We started out and I found a good tempo right away. On the flatter grassy sections I was moving pretty well at 5:45's and my pace varied and slowed on the single track. The single track was not fluid at all. At times I felt like a wide reciever cutting post routes around trees. Overall it was nice little event to get going at. I unfortunately cut the course short by 3/4 mile or so toward the end. I came off the road section and came to a 3 way grassy intersection and didn't see any flags anywhere. So I decided to go straight because it looked like the most used path. I kept going and didn't any flags and just said screw it and kept going. I ultimately came across some flags but they were pointing a different direction. I was confused and ended up just following the new flags which led to finish. Well, I got back to the start/finish line and come to find out I was about 6minutes fast. Either way I got the effort I wanted out of the race and it was a perfect prep for the race in 2 weeks.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1175536698

UltraSignUp Results Link: https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=41337

How to train for the mountains as a flatlander

I thought I'd share with you on how I prepare for a mountain style race while training and living in the flatlands. The reason Im posting this is because Ive had quite a bit of questions on how I train for mountainous events coming from central Illinois. The following is what works for me and hopefully could work for you as well and can be adjusted as needed.

In order to train for a mountain race while living in the Midwest or any other flat terrain type of area you have to commit yourself to the boring training regimen of utilizing a treadmill that is capable of going up to 12 to 15% incline or even preferably one that goes up to 30 to 40% incline. Also you have to train in the stairs if at all possible going both up and down the stairs utilizing these two things along with a few others is really important depending on the distance of the mountain race that you are attempting. You have to scale the durations of your workouts, for example, I have been training for a mountain 50K with over 11,000 feet thousand of climbing so I was on the treadmill and the stairs four hours upon hours. If you are training for a shorter mountain race you need to do shorter more up-tempo sessions. You should also be finding the hilliest possible routes to be getting your easy runs in on or even long runs for that matter. Ideally you also need to be doing supplemental work such as lunges, bodyweight squats and some sort of core and ab strengthening exercises. You need to be diligent about doing core and hip strengthening exercises because more than likely you will be doing a lot of pounding on your body on downhills and having a strong core helps eliminate fatigue and cramping in that area. Lastly, just being in the best possible aerobic shape helps too. Again, making sure your training is geared for the specific distance you are going to be racing. 

I'm sharing this with people because I got this question a lot at the Speedgoat race. I'm sharing these tips so that other flatlanders maybe won't be so intimidated by such a course. It is possible to train for one effectively. Also to maybe challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone a bit. If anyone reading this had alternate questions or comments please feel free to comment below and maybe I can help, thanks, till next time.

Check out my Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2617345

2017 Pikes Peak Ascent

2017 Pikes Peak Ascent
Manitou Springs, CO
27th Overall, 2nd AG 2:54:07


The Pikes Peak Ascent has been on my radar for a couple years now. I actually registered last year for the event but wasn't able to make it out there unfortunately. This year I was able to free up a week and head out West once again for yet another mountain race. But this time I flew out to Denver instead of driving. Took a rental from Denver down to Colorado Springs and stayed with a friend there. Manitou Springs was just a short 15 minute drive from here which was nice. I got in 2 days prior to the race and was able to get a pre race run in and just mill around a bit. Getting into town a couple days prior was key for me in the fact that I wanted to kind of sneak up on the altitude so it didn't have a chance to catch up with me. I was excited and relaxed going into the race. I wanted to race well and stick my nose up front a bit. I knew Id have my work cut out for me racing against people who come from altitude. I wanted to represent well for the flatlanders.  I feel my training was adequate and well planned for the race; its just frustrating because I know I could do much better if only I could train out there in the mountains at altitude. But I can't so I try and make the best of it and find different ways to train for mountain races like this in the flatlands. I also kind of enjoy the challenge of training where I live for mountainous races and competing with some of the best that come from mountainous regions.

The Race:
The race itself was such a neat experience. The course is absolutely unbelievable and it was really really tough. Training on an incline treadmill is good to get you prepared but nothing can quite prepare you for a race like this other than just getting on similar trails. From the gun the race just sends you straight up. The opening mile is on the road that takes you through downtown Manitou and takes you to the trail head. The road section is still slightly uphill. In the opening mile I stuck myself up in the top 10-15 and just tried to find a pace.
Course Layout
The first couple miles my chest cavity just felt tight, maybe a quick altitude shock, but I finally settled in and just found a nice climbing pace. I think I did a good job of staying within myself and not redlining. I knew if I flirted too much with that line that the altitude would come back and bite me and I didn't want to deal with that too early in the race. Up to Barr Camp mile 7ish I was still feeling good and had a good clip going but was still getting passed by runners here and there. After Barr Camp and up to A-Frame I played yo-yo with a couple other runners and up to A Frame I was still moving really well. Once the tree line started to thin out I knew it was about to get real. I just stayed under control and tried to leave a little bit in the tank for the finish. Once the trees cleared and I had 3 miles to the summit it started to get real. My climbing slowed quite a bit but I was still moving forward and hadn't felt a bonk yet. The last mile was atrocious. My last mile was 21 minutes and some change. Which sounds terrible but actually the winners last mile was a high 15 minute mile to put it into perspective. I got passed quite a bit the last mile which is fine, I just tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The altitude was really starting to take affect on me and I started to get loopy and hazey. The last 1/2 mile was a lot of scrambling up rocks and boulders which made it tough to stay upright.
At the top
It was also tough because you could here and partially see the finish for the good majority of the finishing climb but it was still so far away. But once I got to the top it was all worth it. Unbelievable views and I had a real sense of accomplishment. Theres a lot of races that I do that I don't get that true feeling of wow I just conquered something extremely tough and with this race I got all that. Climbing a total of 7,815 vertical feet up Pikes Peak is something Ill never forget and I'll more than likely be back sometime soon.

Strava Link:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1141770685

Results:
http://www.pikespeakmarathon.org/Results.shtml








Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2017 Speedgoat 50k

2017 Speedgoat 50k
Snowbird, Utah
11th Place Overall 6:18:59

Hidden Peak 11,000 ft. 
Im a couple months behind but better late than never on making an entry for my Speedboat 50k race this past July. Id be remiss to not write some sort of race report. This was quite the race and quite the experience and to not recall on the happenings of the cross country journey would be unfortunate.

My journey began in the Midwest with an 03' Xterra, a bag full of running clothes and a cooler full of food. I had the week off leading up to the race so I decided to drive out to Utah. I broke up the drive to make it a bit more tolerable. I went from Springfield -> KC, KC -> Boulder, Boulder -> SLC. I stayed with friends at each stop which made the trip much better. I'd never driven I-70 through Kansas or CO before so I finally got the chance and enjoyed every minute of it...CO I-70 that is not Kansas I-70 that sucked. It was a beautiful day to drive through CO so I made frequent stops at rest stops snuggled in between the mountains. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I just wanted to climb every peak I saw. I got out to SLC a day before the race and opted to post up in a hotel bed instead of the back of the Xterra. The day before the race I found my hotel and checked in but the room wasn't ready yet. I decided to kill some time and jog around and see the mountain a bit. Snowbird was absolutely beautiful. Typically a hub for skiing and winter sports the resort was transformed into a mid summers outdoor playground.

I had my eye on this race since last year. I had done a few 50k trail races in the past in the midwest but I told myself I wanted the toughest one out there this year. This race did not disappoint. I had never done a race at altitude let alone a 50k mountain race. I feel I trained smart and trained adequately for this event given its grandeur and given what Im accessible to terrain wise. I feel the altitude never really got me because I was able to get there the day before, before my body knew what was going on. I also was smart about my pacing at such an altitude and stayed within myself never going above that redline. I also was able to train in the stairs and on the treadmill at incline quite a bit in order to prepare for such mountainous climbing.

The race itself went perfect. My pacing, food and water intake were spot on. The first 9 miles were straight up to Hidden Peak. Climbing for 9 miles straight right out of the gates made it tough to find a rhythm. For that matter it was hard to find any sort of rhythm at all because you were either bombing down a mountain or climbing it, no in-between. I put myself into the top 15 in the opening miles and once I got to the top of Hidden Peak the first time I felt really good. After that we went down the back side of the mountain and did a loop that took us through fields of flowers, down river beds across streams and back up ridiculous climbs that brought me to a power hike. After the loop out to Pacific Mine we made another tough climb up the ass end of Mt. Baldy to the Tunnel aid station. This climb was ridiculous. It was literally a power march up the back side. So slow my watch wasn't registering mile splits. I wish that was the last climb but it wasn't. We still had to make a long grueling climb up this spine of rock to the top of Hidden Peak once more. I was able to pick off a few runners on the loop and some of the other climbs which was nice but I got passed by the eventual female winner after the top of Hidden Peak #2. I was able to just stride out the remaining miles which were downhill. But those downhills are sneaky in the mountains because their able to sneak in those small steep uphills that by the end of a 30 mile run in the mountains you just want to be done with. None the less I made it back down the resort feeling amazing. It was such an amazing feeling coming out of that race in a new top 10 finish. I felt that much more excited about my result because of where I come from. I was competing with some of the best MUT runners in the sport and to represent from the Midwest was a great feeling.

After the race I went back to hotel to stretch, take a shower and get a bite to eat and just like that I was back in the Xterra and heading back home. I decided to take I-80 on the way back home through Wyoming and Nebraska. I drove for as long as I could that night and stopped in a hotel parking lot in Cheyenne and slept for about 5 hours. Woke up grabbed some breakfast, gas and a coffee and made a final 14 hour push home. It was a rough trip and I was glad to be home sleeping in my own bed and showering in my own shower but the trip itself was also a real adventure. One that led me to places to places I'd never seen and been before. Running has taken me to places I never though Id ever be. Ive gotten to see and experience things Im truly grateful for being able to experience.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1107643100

Results: https://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?fname=Justin&lname=Stewart&age=29