Thursday, February 12, 2015

Louisville Lovin' the Hills 50K Race Report- Joy is the Essence of Success

Where it all started! Nine years in a row at LLTH!
Frozen dirt made a crunching sound underfoot as we stampeded and thundered through the opening miles in the Horine Reservation of Jefferson Memorial Forest. This was my ninth Louisville Lovin’ the Hills 50K. LLTH was my first ultramarathon back in 2007 and the journey ever since has been nothing short of full steam ahead, full throttle for nearly a decade.

Hahaha..Keep on reading to hear why this ridiculous pic is in this report! I should have kept this pic in the
At the start line I tried to find my buddy Matt Hoyes as I figured he’d be my most solid competition- a stellar runner who gets faster with each passing year, Matt has recently dropped his marathon PR into the sub- 2:40 field and is as likable as he is fast. During our time together on our Bourbon Chase Relay adventure this past fall he had no problem rolling out 10k splits with each mile in the upper 5 minute range. (While wearing a speedo mind you…)  

Myself in the white hat and grey l/s tee. Immediately to my left is Cory Linfield of Lakewood Colorado who finished 3rd in the 50K and then the (in)famous Ron Brooks to his left who finished 3rd in the 15mi.
Within a few minutes of the start Matt and Ron Brooks had no problem passing me with authority. Ron was running the 15 mile option and so I needn't worry about his positioning. To be honest, I was happy to be on his heels in the Horine Section as I knew it was a good sign for me to be running the 50K at my own pace and holding pace with Ron. For those of you who don’t know Ron, just jump on any social media outlet and you’ll soon see a post from Dr Brooks. Hahaha… Ron is often found running out of the surgical suite at the local hospital to sneak in some time on trails to get in a quick LT workout between scrub-ins. A surgeon and a beast of a  runner...Who has that much energy?! Notice the impressive #ultrabeard he sprouted to hang with the big-dogs. (Yet another great dude to be on the trails with, Ron is the best.)

I didn't worry about the growing gap between Ron, Matt and myself. I knew that my pace in the opening miles was blistering fast and my heart rate was near 90% of my max HR, (where it would remain all day.) My max is only 188 and I was running in the 170’s so I had no desire to go any faster.

Faith, confidence, and a lot of trail experience has taught me to run my own race. I knew that the pace I was keeping would yield the best possible race I was capable of and I could rest easy in that. ( much as one can “rest easy” while every cell in the body screams out in oxygen debt while climbing 6700’ in 32 miles on technical single track!) 

Lewis Jackson and I passed the time chatting comfortably during the first 7 miles or so, and I was elated to get a little lead on him after that point. Lewis is crazy fast and is a really strong tri-guy so once again I knew my pace was solid if I wasn't trying to push too hard and I was out in front with him.

From there on the race got a little lonely but I was stunned how quickly it was going by. That’s ALWAYS a great sign.

I was running with power and strength on the descents, bombing down the steepest of stretches, but my core kept me stable and upright. Most importantly, I was in control without risk of injury. I felt the sting of the cool air moving through my body as I climbed the single track trails towards the sky. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt to take in the rare warm day in February but the air was still frigid. The breeze fueled my soul and I enjoyed each mile. I imagined the space between the atoms that make up my body. The strong winds on the ridgelines tossed leaves by me occasionally in the gusts, and I envisioned my body one of the leaves, the wind transporting me tumbling through the air and up the climbs.

I kept seeing Matt on the ascents walking with power. I ran each climb and gained a little ground each time but I didn’t catch him until Scotts Gap near mile 20. I was glad to pass some miles with him and see how he was doing on our climb up Scotts gap. On the flat stretches he would cruise with road speed but on the climbs he would slow due to back spasms.

I emerged from Scotts Gap for the return trek on the Siltstone in first place and I felt really strong as I’d paced myself pretty well throughout the day and taken in disciplined nutrition all day. I started at a pretty ridiculous pace and kept it going through the middle of the race.

I was rested and recovered after a really low mileage January in which I let recovery take priority over training. I’d probably run fewer miles this January leading into LLTH than any other January in nearly half a decade. Its what I needed and I wasn't anxious about the lack of mileage. I had faith in my fitness.

The return trip on Siltstone is always fun as I like to cheer on runners on their way out. My return trip on Siltstone was quick to say the least. I knew I could solidify the win if I dropped the hammer because that late in the race I was moving as well as I had during the would be pretty hard for someone to pass me at that point.

My goal became internal to just enjoy each mile and look at the beauty around me, (all while pushing nearly 100%.). Very rarely am I in such a place of peace and calm mentally, while being surrounded by serenity and beauty extrinsically as well. It was a race to remember.

The return trip to the finish was also highlighted by seeing all of the runners I coach whom ran the 50K absolutely crushing their races! Everyone looked on top of their game and I was so proud of them!

The final climb around the lake within a mile of the finish I had motivation from a super-cute little 2 year old… My daughter Denali was being toted in her pack on the trail and when Denali saw me “RUNNING DADDY!” she started laughing uncontrollably like it was the greatest thing ever. Its always good to see that crazy little girl, especially during a race!

I crossed the line in 4:40 for the win and was 3 minutes off my prior best but this was a longer course than my previous personal record by over a mile, so I’d say without a doubt this was my strongest run at LLTH in 9 years.

Some “Yogi Tea” earlier in the week had a hang tag that read, “Joy is the essence of success.” I took this to mean that the highest self is achieved when joy is present. I personally run my best when I run with joy and happiness and don’t place too much thought on my running. (I place a LOT of pressure on my running...) Success requires balance. When you run without fear, when you run without anxiety, when you LIVE without fear, when you LIVE without anxiety, and THEN tackle your objectives and goals; success happens. I don’t care about my placement at a race. I am proud of the effort and that I ran my best if it happens. You never know who will show up. This is how we reach our highest potential. 

Many thanks to Cynthia, Todd, and Chase at Headfirst for providing the running community with events like this to fill our souls with camaraderie and competition for so many years here in Louisville! Check out Headfirst Performance for the next chance to share some trails with great local and not-so-local folks.

Huge congrats to the Shellhamer Ultra Endurance Coaching athletes who crushed their goals this race! Everyone ended up with big personal records and all performances were equally impressive feats which showed growth and strategic vision. Kudos. I am PROUD.

If you're looking for the best trail marathon and half the mind can conceive check out The Backside Trail Marathon . Awesome prizes, aid station food, and course. Great Volunteers too!