Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Pere Marquette Trail Run

2015 Pere Marquette Trail Run
7.8 miles
12/12/15
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. 

Results: http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/racing/race-results/pere-marquette-endurance-trail-run

Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 McNotAgain 30 Mile Ultra

2015 McNotAgain 30 Mile Ultra
McNaughton Park, Pekin IL
30 Mile Trail Ultra
11/7/15

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. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Sperunking Sandmine Challenge

2015 SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge 

Justin Stewart
2/21/2015
Crystal City Underground, MO
Extreme Quad Challenge (4 Laps of "5k" Course)
1st Place Overall
1:06:47

I stumbled upon this race while I was looking for new obstacle races to do this year. I didn't know a whole lot about the details of this event but I knew it had good reviews. Ranked as a Top 10 Ultimate U.S. Adventure where you run through the abandoned sand mine of Crystal City while avoiding obstacles.

As with any new race I do I did my research on past results and the details of the course. I heard there was waist deep water in some sections as well as small obstacles, natural obstacles and lots of sand. All the above were correct and it made for a fun event. As I was running I got the instant feel that most of the people there were doing it for fun. The obstacles were sub par and not too difficult. Most of the running was on loose sand and the water sections were fun. Most of the "obstacles" ended up bottle necking. My competitiveness/impatience got the best of me here and I had to realize that most out here were doing for a fun challenge while I was out there trying to go all out and win.

Upon arrival you are driving into an area that dead ends, goes into a one way tunnel, over a questionable bridge and to the parking in front of a gigantic opening into the rocks. Outside the weather was snowy and low 20's but once you stepped inside it was about upper 40's which was nice. I had to change a couple times to something that was more comfortable after the warm up because I realized I'd probably overheat quickly over the course of 12 miles.

The Race
The race went off and in no time we were in waste deep water for 30m or so. The great thing about water in the dark in a race you've never done is the unknown but you jump into it anyways and keep moving forward. The water numbed the legs and it took a minute or two to get feeling back once on land again. Once you got feeling back you were right back into an equally long section of water. The course was rarely straight and had constant turns that you had to be ready for before the headlamp can only light up so far in front of you. Also, running in the dark makes you feel like you are going much faster than you really are. First "obstacle" if I remember right was the "Brick Wall" which was a knee high natural brick wall that you jumped over. The course then went into a number of really short steep hills, a couple more water sections, a balancing beam obstacle that was always backed up with too many people, a short tunnel that you basically just ducked under, an elevated 4ft. stage that you jumped up onto and ran over, a number of volleyball nets that you ducked under, an inverted V ladder that was also always backed up, along with a bunch of hose and piping equipment that was randomly lying around that you had to jump over.
The event was ran in waves and the Quad Challenge went off in the middle of the waves. So periodically I would run into a large number of people to weave through and really made it hard to do the obstacles fast because I had to wait a few times. I pulled away from the Quad field relatively soon in the race and just kept pushing the pace each lap trying to equal or best my previous laps. I was happy I stayed on pace. I believe each of my 4 laps were faster than the overall winner of the single challenge and my overall pace was quicker as well.

Overall this event was a good tune up for other obstacle races in the upcoming months. Getting into the frigid water was a good test. The obstacles were not true obstacles that I need to be practicing on but it was still fun to get out there and try something different. Im not sure Ill be back to do this one next year but its too early to tell.




Results:
http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/racing/race-results/sandmine-challenge


Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Pere Marquette Trail Run

2014 Pere Marquette Trail Run

Justin Stewart
1st Place Overall
49:36 (6:37 pace)
7.5 Miles 
Grafton, IL 

The Pere Marquette Trail race went into my top 10 favorite races instantly. At first I didn't realize that this race was so popular and that registration closes up within minutes. I had wanted to do this race for a few years but never could make it but this year my schedule opened up last minute and I was able to race. I had to reach out to the race director last minute and swap registration with an athlete who couldn't make it so it ended up working out and I'm glad it did.


The Race
I didn't know much about the course other than it was pretty difficult with a few decent climbs for the Midwest at least. Racers were sent off in waves of 10 or so based on predicted times and past finishes. I was lucky enough the guy I swapped with was in the fast/first wave and I promised the race director I would disappoint. I was able to warm up on a few of the trails and knew the first mile was a decent climb.

On the line introductions were made stating last years winner and I thought I'd fly in under the radar undetected until the starter stated I was an elite stair climber racing this course for the first time. Gun went off into a narrow trail so I got out in first so I could see where I was running without any hangups.
Justin Stewart (Front & Center White Top)
After a few yards the trail started going up and up with natural steps every once and a while as well. At this point I wanted to push but stay under control. The first downhill came and I surged to see if anybody would go with, a couple did. We got to the top of the first climb within the first mile and I was leading the way with two other on my heels. I surged again and let my stride out on the long downhill. I put a decent gap on the field and just kept pushing. The course was really hilly so I couldn't get into a rhythm so my plan was to attack the downhills and tough out the uphills. After a while I found myself a ways out in the lead. I checked my watch at the mile markers and I couldn't get a good read on my pace because it was so hilly and inconsistent. The course took me back down by the start and I knew the last 1.5 had another hard climb with some old stone steps at the top and then it was a downhill stretch to the finish. I was able to run up the historically marked steps at the top. As I started on the downhill stretch towards the finish I started to tie up. I wanted to push the downhill to a suicidal pace just letting my body go but I couldn't because every step I felt my calves were tying up so I pulled back a little not wanting to pull anything with .5 miles to go.Came through the line with a good reception from the crowd and saw 49:30ish. I was about 3:30 off the course record which was what I was shooting for. Maybe next year. Who knows what the course looked like 14 years ago but the course record is one solid mark and it will be something to chase in years to come.

Overall, great event and great people. I got a sense of the history that this race has had and I will most likely be back next year to defend the win and go for the record.

Results:
http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/racing/race-results/pere-marquette-endurance-trail-run

Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 New Years Resolution

2015 New Years Resolution

Over the past couple months I have been going in a new direction with my racing and training and along with that I have gotten rid of a few things that I want to share with everybody.  Along with getting rid of these things that I mention in a second I feel much better about where I am at in my training and I dont feel so tied down. I feel my training has become more simple and free.

In 2015 I am going to get rid of my running watch and I am not going to worry about logging miles and planning out routes to run or anything. I am just going to simply walk out the door and run and workout. I am going to do this by simply listening to my body.

I have learned over the years as a coach of others and a coach of myself that YOU, YOURSELF is the best coach you could possibly have. Im not saying coaches of others aren't necessary but when it comes down to it only you, yourself knows your body better than anybody else. You know best on how you are feeling on certain days, or if you should push yourself harder on a run, or even hold back a day or two or weeks because you feel flat. I have caught myself getting so consumed with mapping out my runs and sticking to a regimen and having to log miles and type out my thoughts out on each run and how much vertical gain I got or how many intervals I did. All of these things are great and at one time in my athletic career it came in handy and should be focused on but I am at a point in my training that I feel I need a change. Thats why I am simplifying everything I do and getting rid of all this and I am just going to do it. 

So with all that said if you are reading this and you feel some sort of way you can relate to this then take up this challenge for yourself in 2015 and let me know how it goes for you. Like I said I have been doing this already for a couple months already without really noticing it and I feel so much better about everything. Its less complicated, I dont think about it as much I just go out and simply run or bike or climb stairs, or anything. Just be smart about what you are doing and don't forget to listen to your body.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Willis Tower Sky Run

2014 Willis Tower Sky Run

1st Place Overall
13:37

103 floors
2,109 steps

Pre Race

One, among very many more, good thing the stair climbing community does for each other is we help each other out whenever need be. Good friend and fellow stair climber great Jesse Berg was kind enough to let me crash at his place the night before the race.
I took the Amtrak from Springfield to Chicago Saturday morning. At the station I ran into Oz and chatted it up with him on the ride up, which was enjoyable. Once we got downtown we milled around downtown for a while with Bob. I went to go pick up my race packet and then found a place to get some reading and studying done.
After that I headed to the group dinner and it was great to see everybody again and catch up. The stair climbing community tries to get together as much as possible the night before a race over some dinner. Its one of the perks of this sport, the people who share a common mindset and love of the sport.

The Race
Went into the race with a relaxed feeling of Ive been here before. I knew I was at an interesting place training wise so I was interested to see how I would fair in the race. Last year I trained very hard in the stairs for this race but this year I didn't do any prep in the stairs except for one key workout I do every year before Willis. This key benchmark workout "secret" is a good indicator for me on how prepared I am for the climb. 30 minutes till race time I found myself across the street in the parking garage jogging around and climbing the 4 story stairwell a few times. Dropped my bag off and did some drills trying to fire up the stair climbing muscles.
Lining up before the start I really didn't want to go first but ended up going first anyway.

Game plan was to just work into the climb staying right at threshold pace until 50-60. Just focused on my breathing and rhythm on the railing and turns and to not get hung up on the doorway transitions where the railing was minimal. Got to floor 60 and was feeling not great but decent so I slightly picked it up and did a mental check. Floor 70 came along and I started feeling a slight slowing of pace. Around floor 85 or so I believe the stair format changes to the shorter skinner sections. Here I started picking it up again and did a watch check at roughly floor 90. Cant remember exact time I saw but whatever I saw I knew I had to pick it up if I wanted to get close to 13 flat. The last 10 floors I was really grinding it out and finishing with everything I had. Not quite the kick I would like but I pushed it and gave 100%.
Finished up at the top on floor 103 and collapsed on the ground. Checked the watch and of course it was still running so I didn't have an estimated time. Congratulated others as they finished up and milled around talking to others on how they did. Another year and another great Willis experience. This race is hard to figure out for me. Its truly a difficult and grueling race. I'll definitely be back next year to try and get that 13 flat mark. It is in me I just have to train harder for this race specifically.

 
Results:
 http://theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=2511&result_type=db

2014 Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon

2014 Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon 

1st Place Overall
1:04:03

Course: Flat, mostly pavement, some grass & gravel, & lots of stairs!!!

Pre Race
For starters I have been wanting to do this race for years. Finally this year I was able to get up to Chicago and compete. I had high expectations of winning this race. I went in confident in my ability. Night before I got about 4 hours of sleep after driving up to my friends place in North Park and crashing on the recliner chair. Woke up 4 hours later and ate some breakfast. Took the L down to Soldier Field. Walked around for a good 45 minutes trying to find the race site. Good thing I left early. Picked up my bib and found a place to get ready. Warmed up in the parking lot with some jogging and drills.

The Race
Anytime you toe a line at a race you can instantly pick out who looks competitive. I spotted two guys that looked promising. I signed up for the first wave which is considered the more competitive wave. Gun went off and a good group of 10 or so went out like a bat out of hell for the first quarter or so. I stayed comfortable and waited for some of them to fade. At about the half mile mark, what seemed to be a serious road runner, took the lead. I stayed on his shoulder for a little bit and instantly realized he was on a much faster pace than I would like to be this early in a 10 mile race with obstacles. I tailed him for a while and he slowly pulled away.

I kept within visual contact of him hoping that I could reel him in on the obstacles and especially on the stairs section. It felt like a got 2 miles before the first set of obstacles. First few obstacles came up with some over under barricade obstacles as well as some tire high knees. Route took us up the lake front towards Navy Pier onto an onramp over the river and onto the board walk. After the board walk I rounded a corner and came across the uneven balance beam. I saw the leader struggling on it. I maneuvered across it and moved into the lead. Headed back towards the stadium along the lake front. The 2nd place racer was reeling me in on the lake front path and we were shoulder to shoulder heading into the Tissot Soldier Field Stadium Stair Climb obstacle. I instantly opened up a significant lead and knew there were only about 2 miles left. Figured I had a minute and a half lead on him. Really used the down ramps in the stadium to my advantage to gap him as much as possible before getting back on the path and heading back towards the finish. Finished up strong and completed the VW crawl, the taxi cab jump, cargo bus and finally the 8 ft. wall.

Results:
http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-7677?lc=en