Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mad City 100k USATF Road National Championships

My Goals

My main goal going into Mad City 100k was to improve my chances of qualifying for Team USA's 100k squad, which will be competing at the IAU World Championships (WC) in Doha, Qatar this Fall. The system used to pick qualifiers for the team is based on a body of work,  but certain races, terrains, and distances are weighted heavier than others. For example, my time at Ice Age, Chicago Lakefront, Tussey Mountainback, and my 100k split from Desert Solstice all could be entered into a pool for consideration. However, the most clear-cut way to get on the team is to either finish in the top 10 at the WC, or win the National 100k Championships. With last year's WC being cancelled, the Mad City 100k was all that was left to secure my entry.

I went into the race knowing that I didn't necessarily have to win in order to make the team. I have a decent body of work that would likely look pretty solid come selections. With that said, I didn't want to leave anything to chance, so winning was plan A.

I didn't feel like I was going into this race peaking or primed. I had spent the bulk of winter optimizing my body for longer, slower efforts on the track (in preparation for Desert Solstice and the South Carolina 24 Hour). Mad City 100k is comprised of ten relatively flat 10 kilometer road loops, but it is by no means the fastest 100k you could ask for. I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a tad skeptical about my speed and the condition of my quads for withstanding the small, paved rollers. My saving grace was the fact that I had managed to run a pretty solid 400m workout and a really satisfying progression run in the weeks leading into the race.

I've wanted to qualify for Team USA's 100k squad ever since I completed my first ultra back in 2010, when I raced and met Matt Woods at the North Face Midwest Regional 50 Mile. Matt was great, and as a former team member he encouraged me to try to qualify. I was young, so I knew I had time, but it has always been at the back of my mind.

The Race

Before anything, a huge thanks to my crew of Krista, Beth, Mom, Dad, and Grandma who put up with the monotony of killing time to see me for a few seconds every 40 minutes, and handing off my fuel along the way. Also, to Tim (Timo) Yanacheck for putting on a great organized event, and finding some great volunteers to help out along the way.

Photo courtesy of Brian Finnel
The race started off comfortable. Everyone was anxious about the thunderstorms in the forecast, but any worry was for naught, seeing as they never fully arrived. About midway through the first loop, Nick Accardo and I broke away from the pack of 4-5 guys that started out together. Nick and I were hitting laps very consistently and chatting a bit for the first two loops. By the halfway point of the race, all our loops were between 40:35 and 39:27.1, which comes out to a 6:26.6/mi pace. I felt great and even started to plan ahead: I was on pace to finish under Andrew Henshaw's previous course record. I could tell at this point that I was going to be able to at the very least keep my time under 6:45, barring anything tragic. This was calming, as adding a 6:45 to my previous results would all but solidify a spot on the Team USA 100k team.

After completing lap five, I gradually pulled away from Nick; by the 60k point, I was alone. I began to process getting the next two laps done as a big benchmark. Six days earlier I did my final workout with my roommate, friend, and former collegiate teammate Brian Finnel (a 2:23:45 marathoner). We did a warmup lap around the Mad City Loop and then broke into a progression run. I kept thinking, "If I can maintain my pace over these next two laps, all I have to do is exactly what I did last Sunday!" Laps seven and eight went by smoothly.

Lap nine felt like a bit of a grind.  My quads began to process the beating I had been giving them for the past 5 hours and 21 minutes. The weather, which had turned out ideal with the exception of a slight warming in the late morning, began to offer up a cold and heavy wind. The flat section at the end of each lap became more of a challenge. When I crossed the line, completing my ninth lap, I thought I had run a much slower time than I actually did (I ran 40:29, but it felt closer to 43:29). This was probably good, because I had a mindset of needing to push hard for the final go-around. The last lap ended up being my slowest (42:03, in part due to the increased wind), resulting in a finish time of 6:44:03. Minus the last lap, my 10k splits were all within 1:08 of each other. I was pumped about the consistency for a course that had some variation, unlike the 400-meter tracks on which I ran my last two events.

Photo courtesy of Roy and Chris Pirrung

Team USA

I was really pumped to cross the finish line. By winning and setting the course record, I guaranteed my spot on the team. I am really looking forward to planning my training for WC this Fall. I now have a general idea of what I think I am capable of in the 100k distance, and it will be exciting to really get after it by increasing speed and intensity training this Summer and Fall.

Fueling

My fueling strategy for Mad City 100k was quite simple. I took the information I got from my VO2 Max test at the FASTER Study to crunch some numbers. I am pretty well fat-adapted, so I assumed even with mediocre glycogen stores I would be able to get by with around 150 grams of carbohydrate per hour. I have dabbled in consuming fat calories during longer races, but at a race like Mad City, where I was hoping to run at or below 6:30/mi, I knew there was no sense in ingesting fat during the race. Even the leanest athletes have plenty of body fat to tap into, and I would be done by early afternoon, so I didn't have to worry about going a full day or more without eating solid foods. My fuel was simple. I consumed watered-down Mountain Dew with Extreme Hydro-X (roughly 12-16 oz per hour), three gels, and a Vespa Junior every two laps during the race. It came out to about 1,100 calories that I slowly dripped into my system over the course of the run.  This is a strategy that I learned from Peter Defty. It's a key component of his Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) protocol. Doing the math, I consumed roughly 163 calories per hour. I was thrilled to see this! I had no bonk and was hitting sub-6:30/mi pace the majority of the day (see complete split breakdown below). Before I became fat-adapted, I would have definitely bonked going this pace for 100k averaging well under 200 calories per hour.

Gear

Fuel

Splits

10 Kilometer Loops

  1. 40:35
  2. 40:27
  3. 39:27.1
  4. 39:29
  5. 40:20.3
  6. 39:50.6
  7. 40:27.5
  8. 40:53.7
  9. 40:29.8
  10. 42:03.9
Total: 6:44:03.9

Miles

  1. 6:37.70
  2. 6:23.97
  3. 6:32.89
  4. 6:16.62
  5. 6:14.82
  6. 6:31.42
  7. 6:37.47
  8. 6:27.62
  9. 6:37.82
  10. 6:23.00
  11. 6:32.13
  12. 6:23.99
  13. 6:23.76
  14. 6:28.07
  15. 6:28.45
  16. 6:22.65
  17. 6:17.11
  18. 6:14.58
  19. 6:08.29
  20. 6:25.03
  21. 6:17.41
  22. 6:25.37
  23. 6:14.46
  24. 6:15.53
  25. 6:20.07
  26. 6:29.97
  27. 6:22.07
  28. 6:27.42
  29. 6:49.97
  30. 6:17.97
  31. 6:21.59
  32. 6:22.39
  33. 6:32.43
  34. 6:34.40
  35. 6:20.24
  36. 6:19.95
  37. 6:23.46
  38. 6:27.57
  39. 6:34.56
  40. 6:39.23
  41. 6:30.13
  42. 6:30.15
  43. 6:25.56
  44. 6:21.76
  45. 6:38.35
  46. 6:36.34
  47. 6:38.66
  48. 6:25.37
  49. 6:26.38
  50. 6:27.08
  51. 6:46.05
  52. 6:40.64
  53. 6:54.42
  54. 6:30.38
  55. 6:32.39
  56. 6:35.88
  57. 6:36.60
  58. 6:50.63
  59. 7:05.46
  60. 6:40.38
  61. 6:17.96
  62. 6:26.26
  63. 2:04.36 (.35 miles, 6:00/mi pace)
Total: 6:44:03.9