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. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Sperunking Sandmine Challenge

2015 SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge 

Justin Stewart
Crystal City Underground, MO
Extreme Quad Challenge (4 Laps of "5k" Course)
1st Place Overall

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.