I thought it would be interesting to provide a supplemental to Alfred’s 2013 Medoc Race Report by providing some background on the lead-up to the event and our two widely divergent paths to arriving at Medoc.
Alfred and myself along with my wife and daughter were watching the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh on June 2, 2013, and it was awesome to see the event and some of the behind the scenes activities. Alfred had traveled to Raleigh early Saturday, so we were able to preview the course and develop our plan for seeing the maximum amount of the race. We were able to observe the set-up at the swim transition and drive along the course to pick the best vantage points for our Sunday viewing. We decided to forgo watching the swim due to the number of people at the location and road closings that would hamper our ability to travel to other parts of the event. This left more time to watch the cycling and running.
We set up at a water stop approximately 30 miles into the cycling. It was so exciting cheering on the athletes as they rode by. I cheered for everybody from the pros to those gray-haired Clydesdales that reminded me — of me. I had a special affinity for those guys who looked like they dragged their old bike out of the garage and went for it. After spending a couple of hours watching the cycling, we decided it was time to move to our observation point for the running portion of the race. We got in the car and hotfooted down to Hillsborough Street at roughly the 6.5 mile point, before the turn around of the out-and-back course. It was a fairly warm day and the participants were really showing the effects of the event and the heat. We did all the cheering we could to help motivate the athletes to keep going. It was exciting to see the effort and determination these people had to finish the course. Well, I got so caught up in the excitement that I told Alfred we should do another trail marathon. Once the words were uttered, there was nothing doing but to make it happen.
Alfred had been wanting to do the Medoc Trail Marathon for sometime and after some discussion and evaluation of other races, we decided Medoc was it. October 19th was the date. Only four months away. Just enough time for an 18 week training cycle. Four months for a couple of Clydes to train for a trail marathon would normally be more than a little crazy. However, Alfred and I had been working on our base running, knowing that we would probably do some sort of event in the fall. We had participated in the Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra the previous fall where we each completed 50K. So, we each thought it was worth a try.
Parsing Plans: Shifting Strategies
And now to the training: we each took different approaches to our training programs. Alfred is very much a planner and is able to stick to a plan no matter what. I on the other hand, do a lot of planning in my day job and can barely stand the thought of a plan in my recreational activities. Alfred settled on a Galloway training plan, which I’m sure he followed closely. I picked the Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan which I followed for about 4 weeks and then went freestyle.
(As Frank noted I started out using Galloway’s “To Finish” marathon training plan. It called for two short runs during the week and a long slow run on weekends. All of my weekend runs were done with a run/walk pattern, usually a 5/1 ratio. I followed this plan from early June to early August. Then I pulled something in my left calf, and my left IT band became very painful. At this point I took a week off and reassessed my plan. After reading The Running Injury Recovery Program by Bruce Wilk, I decided that I just wasn’t running enough. Mid-August to race day I switched to running four days a week loosely using the Higdon Novice 1 plan.)
Training in the NC heat and humidity is – for want of a better word – brutal. Normally, I can deal with heat and humidity fairly well, but lately, I struggle greatly in this environment. Once my body temperature rises to a certain point, I can’t seem to dissipate the heat and my performance basically comes to a halt. It is well known that the long run is the cornerstone of marathon training. I had intended on doing several 16-20 mile runs as part of my training. However, I just couldn’t seem to push myself through the summer heat. I tried running early in the mornings, but even at 6 am, the humidity can be over 90%. What to do? In desperation, I would load up my car with a cooler full of ice and water and do 4 mile out and back intervals. I could do a 4 mile run in about 50 min., take a 10 min break to cool down and do it again. With this method, I could do a 12 mile run in 3 hours, which would put me close to my goal pace of a 6.5 hour marathon. I found that even with this method, I just wasn’t interested in running more than 3 hours.
It wasn’t long before I decided two runs a day was the way to go. I would run 3-4 miles in the morning and 3-4 miles in the evening and do a 8 mile trail run on the weekends. I found that a 2 hour run was pretty much my maximum on those hot and humid days. Not enough, for proper training, but it was all I could manage. I worked up to running 30 miles a week towards the end of the training cycle, which is a little on the light side. I was going to run as much in one day as I would typically run in a week. Sounds painful to me.
I was desperately hoping for a very cool race day, as I knew that heat was the one hurdle I might not make. We didn’t get it. The day was overcast, but a high in the low 70s was predicted. I would be running in 68 deg. F for much of the event. The humidity was off the charts, great.
The race started well, the temperature was in the 50s, I was feeling good. Alfred and I ran the first mile or so together, and I decided to push the pace in anticipation of a substantial slow down later in the day. The first loop was OK, I remember Alfred telling me the course was easier then the Triple Lakes course we ran a few years ago. When I hit that long rocky hill, I was wondering what alternative reality Alfred was in when he made that statement. Eventually I got to the “stairs”, looked more like a ladder to me. I was wondering how I would manage on lap 3.
(Alternate Reality Al here. Both Medoc and Triple Lakes trail marathons are excellent races. Both are tough. Medoc has fewer but bigger hills than Triple Lakes. It also has far fewer roots. I can handle hills better than roots. So in my opinion, the Medoc course is easier than Triple Lakes. I could be wrong.)
Blog Post with Medoc Elevation Profile (This is for one loop so marathoners will run it 3x)
Triple Lakes Course Info with Elevation Profile
Halfway through lap 2, the wheels started to wobble. 13 miles in and I was already in trouble. I was getting hot and was struggling to stay below my critical temperature. My pace had dropped drastically. I was wondering if I could even finish the 2nd lap. At the stairs once again, Alfred caught up with me, I was really glad to see him. Alfred chugged on by like a metronome, as he receded in the distance, I told myself in no polite terms to “get it in gear” and wrap this thing up. I hustled up the pace and caught up with Alfred, and he basically pulled me through the finish of lap 2.
One thing about a loop course is you get an easy opportunity to DNF on each loop. When we got to the parking area at lap 2, I was seriously thinking about a DNF. Once there, my wife and daughter were there to cheer us on. I told them I was thinking about quitting and my daughter said “No way Dad, you can do it!” Well, how can you just quit when your daughter is there saying go, go, go.
Off into the woods I go once again, lap 3. Only 8.7 miles to go. There is that blankety-blank rocky hill, Hey, Alfred! You said this course was easier than Triple Lakes! Alfred replies that it is easier, once again I wonder what reality he is in as it is clearly not the one I’m inhabiting.
The shirt comes off, this is an indication of how desperate I am to cool down. The thought of a 50-something Clyde running shirtless is frightening, even for me. This afforded an opportunity for the race volunteers to exhibit their dedication, none of them ran screaming into the woods when I shuffled up to an aid station and mutely held out my water bottle, being too tired to talk.
We started focusing on just making it to the next aid station. I would drink half my water and pour the other half on my head in an attempt to stay functional. Alfred knew the cutoff time for the 20 mile point: I couldn’t remember my name. Somehow, we made the cutoff with time to spare. We felt good for a couple of minutes and then realized we had 6.2 miles left. At the 22 mile point, the wheels really started falling off. The only reason I didn’t stop was because it would be a bigger pain to wait for a ride than just gut it out. I had visions of someone showing up on an ATV, throwing a lasso around me and dragging my butt back to the parking lot as an example to those foolhardy enough to attempt Medoc on a short-run training plan.
We shuffle the last few miles. Alfred smells the finish and picks up the pace, I just shuffle along hoping to make the last quarter mile.
We both made it and each cut huge amounts of time off our previous trail marathon. I was pleased that my short run plan had worked and feel that had the temperature been cooler, I could have had an epic (for me) run.
I left with a glimmer of understanding on why people get addicted to marathons. Perhaps, just one more…
(Despite our different approaches, both Frank and I ran about 350 miles preparing for Medoc. Frank’s records show that he ran around 250 miles training for Triple Lakes. I don’t have good records of my training for that race but I’m sure I ran less than Frank. Hal Hidgon’s Novice 2 training plan calls for about 500 miles. My plan for my next marathon will be to find a way to increase mileage while avoiding injury. Wish me luck.)