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.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stair Climb Workout Update (2/14/16)

Stair Climb Workout Update (2/14/16)
Location: Springfield Wyndham City Centre (Formally known as and always will be the Hilton)

Photo courtesy of EB Photography
With the Springfield Fight for Air Stair Climb just around the corner I thought I'd share some of my stair workouts Ive been doing the past few weeks in order to prep for the event. Ive been slowly building my miles over the winter because of the Clinton Lake 30 miler coming up in late March. So in order to get in some stairs and keep my mileage up I've sandwiched in some stairs between some miles. The stairs have also, like always, provided an extra strength base to my base milage running wise. They go hand in hand in my opinion. Here are just a few samples of what I like to label in my log as "stair climb runs." Overview: most of my daily workouts during the winter time have consisted of incline treadmill (15% incline @ x mph for x amount of minutes/miles), trail runs, stairs, lunges, endurance strength based lifting. For me in the dead of winter means pure strength based endurance where I harden the legs to as strong as I can possibly get them so it can carry me through the spring, summer and fall months. I enjoy racing year around and in order to do that I must put in work like this in the winter time.


2.5 mile warm up
11 x 32 floors (5,852 steps, 3,630 vertical feet)
2.5 mile cool down

3 miles up
15 x 32 floors (7,980 steps, 4,950 vertical feet)
3 mile cool down

5 miles up
10 x 32 floors (alternating single steps and double step)
5 mile cool down

3 mile tempo run
10 x 32 floors (mixed intervals)
4.5 mile tempo run

3 mile tempo
3 x 32 floors hard (2:45, 2:46, 2:50) rest was just 90 sec elevator ride down then straight into next one
3 x 32 floors (single, double, triple step)
5 mile tempo run

10 x 32 floors (all under 3:30 rest just 60 seconds)

Photo courtesy of EB Photography
These entries aren't nearly all of them but they are just a few to give you an idea of what stair workouts I do. There much more to my training schedule. Many more miles, workouts, lifting routines, ploys, and other supplemental work. If you would like specific workout plans and other tips comment at the bottom and I will try to help. Enjoy and see you in the stairs or on the road.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Pere Marquette Trail Run

2015 Pere Marquette Trail Run
7.8 miles
1st Place 50:26

 Had to come back for this race, there was no doubt about it. Only bad part about this race is that its at the end of the year when I'm in the middle of my down time. After a long 2015 of racing in a wide range of events I took off for 3 weeks after my first ultra (McNotAgain 30) on Nov. 7th. My first week back training was the first week of Dec. I knew I wasn't going into this years race in tip top shape but I fell in love with the event and course last year; I had to come back whether I was 100% in shape or not. I still pulled off a win and a respectable time. Not the fastest but still solid. One of these days Ill come into this race 100% and give the record a run for its money. I'll also have to get lucky with weather that year and pray it cooperates.

What a lot of people didn't know about this years race was that I went into it intentionally tired and dead legged. The night before I was on shift at the fire house and I did a treadmill/circuit workout where I trashed my upper body, forearms and thighs. I did easy 8 quarter intervals on the treadmill at 15% incline and 4.5 mph. After each interval I did a series of pull ups, push ups, lunges, squats and abs. After that I did a series of grip strength exercises to when I was done I could barely pick up a pencil. None of these are excuses to why my time was a minute slower than last year but it just came at a time this year where I had to workout through the race. Meaning I didn't prep or taper specifically for the race.

I've got big goals for 2016 and in order to do that I have to start now with nothing but pure strength endurance blocks where all that's on my plate for 3-4 months is doing nothing but building strength in every part of my body. Im training specifically for some loaded trail and mountain events this 2016. In order for this flatlander to be competitive I have to be creative in how I build strength endurance for a trail or mountain. For example this was my first few exercise sessions back after some down time:

Monday: 1 hour indoor trainer fixed gear bike. Steady pace for 60 min. Body weight circuit after (Pull ups, push ups, abs)

Tuesday: 45 min incline treadmill @ 15% incline. Started at 4.5mph and increased slowly to 5mph over the course of 3.5 miles.

Wednesday: Stair climb run. 2 miles up, 1 hour of stairs, 2 miles down.

Thursday: 1 hour indoor trainer fixed gear bike. 45 min uptempo, 15 min backwards pedaling. Body weight circuit after (Pushups, pullups, abs)

Saturday: 1 hour incline treadmill @ 15%. Started at 4.5 mph and increased to 6 mph by the end. After did 5 x (30 body weight squats, 20 pushups, 10 pullups, 50 crunches)

Sunday: 1 hour of stairs. 5x's reg double step w/ descending on stairs, 2x's single step, 2x's triple step lunges. Stair plyo drills.

These are examples of some the workouts that I will have to do in order to build strength over the next few months to build my base. These workouts will obviously change in intensity and duration later on but for now its slow and grinding. That's why I just felt flat at the race this year. I had no intense training under my belt yet just slow easy grinding workouts. My body was able to perform decently because of the compounded work over the years but I just didn't have that pop on the uphills. Anyways it was none the less a great weekend to run with some of the guys who I share this passion with. Till the next one. Check out the official results below, pictures to come!

Short Race Recap:
Goal was to maintain decent tempo on uphills and tackle the downhills. This race is either going up or down not very many flats at all, its hard to find a rhythm. From the gun it was the typical 3 of myself Caleb and Brandon. I stayed under control fo the first climb which is about 450 ft. of climbing the first 1.5 miles. I didn't want to go out too hard and pay for b/c I knew what I had in my legs going into the race. At the top of the first climb I took a glance back and Caleb was still within striking distance. After every hill I threw in a surge and tackled the downs hard, hence why my quads feel trashed as I type this on Monday night. The rest of the race was enjoyable. I felt I had a comfortable lead but still wanted to press. Around 4.5 miles theres another decent climb that doesnt seem like much but can still hurt because of where its at on the course. Headed back down to the road crossing and here I knew there was just about 1.5 miles left with one more hard climb "Stairway to heaven" The stretch leading up to the "Stairway to Heaven section was a slight up hill I felt like I was trotting on. Got to the "Stairway to Heaven" which is a steep section of stone steps that most have to submit to walking on. Had it in my mind no matter what I wasnt walking them. Barreled threw the steps and made one final push to the top, same top where the first climb finished, then a nice mile down back to the finish. I wanted to push that last downhill harder but my legs were feeling it. Took a glance at my watch and figured maybe I could get under 50 again. Came out of the woods and finished up at 50:26. Good friends Caleb Brackett took 2nd and Brandon Smith 3rd. Also shout out to Patty Schaefer also from Springfield for taking 1st on the womens side. 


Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 McNotAgain 30 Mile Ultra

2015 McNotAgain 30 Mile Ultra
McNaughton Park, Pekin IL
30 Mile Trail Ultra

Justin Stewart
1st Place Overall
4:01:00 (New Course Record)

Im finally able to sit down and reflect on my first ultra because I feel theres a lot to take about. I learned about myself both mentally and physically through this challenge. With this being my first Ultra I didn't know what to expect. What I did know is that this will be the longest run Ive ever done to date and I knew there was a good chance of going into the hurt box. 

My training going into this race was not your typical training plan for an ultra or even a marathon for that matter. My training consisted of most of my runs being 10-12 miles 4-5 times a week. During the months of August to October I was running workouts more gauged towards 3mile XC races because I was helping out with the local HS team. I would run to and from practice do the workout and hopefully get in a "long" run on the weekend if I wasn't working. I say "long" run because if your training for an ultra a long run should be anywhere from 15-23 miles. My longest might have been 14 ish only a couple of times. My longest mileage week was 65 or so. So with all this said I went into this race with an open mind that it might not turn out great. When I ran my first and only marathon back in 2013 I died the last 10k and I trained for that. Here I am going 4 more miles with less specific ultra training. 

Race Day-My goal for this race was to hold a solid pace and to just make it to the finish without going into the hurt locker too much. I just wanted to challenge myself, put myself in an unknown situation and see what happens. I think you can learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself into unknown challenges like this. Im not going to lie though I did want to win and get a new course record as well. This race stands as the 2nd installment of the big spring event in April-The Potawatomi Ultra Races. This event was smaller and much more low key, which I thought would be perfect for my first Ultra. The course was a 10 mile loop 3 times with each loop having 1100-1300 vertical feet of climbing. So not an easy course but not the worst by any means. There was also a 10 mile race that went off with the 30 mile group. The gun went off and I found a nice pace I could manage and found myself in 3rd overall with the 10 milers included. A few miles in I was running nicely with a fellow from the south suburbs of Chicago who I found out has some ultra experience. I decided to stay with him for a while and thought he'd be able to pace well with. I found out quickly he was not as strong on the uphills. Once we came on the back half of the first loop which had some good climbs I pulled away and never saw him again. I just gained pace and kept chugging along. Went into the second loop feeling good. My food intake was feeling good. I used a ESF fueling gel that had electrolytes and 400 calories on the 2nd and 3rd loops. I drank 16 ounces of water on the back half of both the 2nd and 3rd loop after the aid stations at mile 5 ish. I started feeling it at mile 27. But it was unlike my shutdown mode I had for my first marathon. My paced slowed a little but I was able to keep moving forward. I power walked a couple steep hills late in the 3rd loop and caught a second wind with 2 miles to go. I cruised in the last mile and felt great. 

I was thankful to have my parents and wife there with me as a grinder out my first Ultra. They were a huge help in getting my food ready to grab at the aid station. Im really glad I ended my 2015 racing season with this race. Its encouraging to have this result under my belt and going into next year. In 2016 I want to focus on trail and mountain running. I want to show others that a flatlander can be competitive in that world against others who live in mountainous areas. I also just enjoy the training that it provides and theres just something about running on the trails that beats any run or race on the roads. Theres something about the long grueling climb that I enjoy. I already signed up for my next Ultra in March at Clinton Lake 30 Miler. Im excited about what next year has to offer. Time for 3 weeks of down time and then its back on the grind with a long block in the winter months of just cycling, stairs, incline treadmill, lots of squats, and leg press to strengthen the legs to get them ready for another long and hard year of racing. Till next time.