Monday, February 27, 2006

Houston Ultra Centurion Walk Report (2006)

Dave Gwyn, who really helps keep racewalking alive in the Houston area worked with the race director of the Houston Ultra weekend to get a Centurion walk for the 2006 race. 7 walkers signed up. Unfortunately, Marshall King (the newest US Centurion) couldn't make it due to a family emergency. So there were 6 walkers filling out the Centurion field, including first timer Beth Katcher (she has had success in he shorter walks, Lawrence Block (aka Buffalobear), yours truly, Doug Brown (from Florida), Andy Cable (finished the hilly Vermont 100 miler in 29 hours) and Jens Borello (who walked a 22:15 100 mile at the Dutch Centurion race in 2004).

The course was a 2.008 mile asphalt loop in Bear Creek park. The loop could be a fast one as there were relatively few turns; it was bordered by woods on one side (where deer, raccoons and armadillos would pay us visits), a street on one side, and soccer/softball fields on the inner part and on the other two sides.

But, within a hour or so of the start, it started to rain and it stayed rainy and windy for about 7 hours. The rain and the wind weren't that bad, but the pavement quickly became slippery which caused one to slip just a bit when using the "heel-toe" action. That was to have an effect.

Still, we were off and I quickly watched Jens and Beth get out of sight. For much of the first few hours I chatted with Andy Cable. Andy went through lots of funny mental gymnastics; he talked about a "hypothetical" 15 minute a mile walker and how many times we'd have to lap him in order to keep a centurion pace and things like that. I found that to be a pleasant diversion from the rain and wind. I had to make a couple of early pit stops and he then got away from me, only to lap me by around mile 20.

For the first 10 laps (20 miles/32 km) I was doing 27-28:30 per lap but expending too much energy; part of the trouble is that I let my walking technique get sloppy, and part of it was that this pace was too fast for me, given the rain and slippery surface. My calves started to tighten.

During this stretch, I noticed how several of the 100 km runners looked as if they were running a 10K. I didn't catch this guy's name, but this one tall guy finished the 100km run in under 7 hours! To put this into perspective, his average 50K splits would have won several of the Chicago 50K runs (which were also on a paved bike trail).

My socks were soaked and I noticed a hot spot on my left heel. I was 4:36:42 at 20.05 miles.
I started to slow a bit (to care for the blister and to eat, and due to the weather) and hit 30.1 miles in 6:58:15; still I was encouraged that I had a couple of low 27 minute laps (with Andy, who was 1 lap ahead). But then I took a 30 minute lap and decided to check on my blister.

It was now large and needed to be tended to. I thought hard and decided to go into the tent to tend to my feet; I retaped and put tape on my heel as well; I also changed into dry socks and shoes. That ended the blister problem for the day but set me back 33 minutes. I got back on the course at 8:03 and got back into my pace again.

The course was still wet but the rain had stopped (for the most part). The next 4 laps were ok; 27's to 28's and I hit 40.15 miles in 9:54:33. Becoming a Centurion was unlikely, but still remotely possible if I could hold my current pace for another 40 miles or so. But reality started to set in.

My next 4 laps saw me slide into a realistic 31-32 minute range and my stomach started to bother me; I couldn't hold down much in the way of food. I was at 12:28:03 at 50.2 miles and fading fast. But Ivo Majetic (whose 100 mile walk PR is 17:00) walked a lap with me and that helped; he gave me tons of good training advice and told me about his past Paris-Colmar walking races (stage walking race of 330 miles; you need a sub 24 hour 200 km (walking) to qualify to enter!). I had slowed to 35-36 a lap by then. Then followed a 39 minute lap where I felt sick and I had to rest. I slept for 30 minutes; Ivo wouldn't let me sleep longer. By then, I just wanted 100 km so I could get the Ulli Kamm Award; Dave Gwyn had showed us the plaque prior to the start of the race.

The walk had become a race of attrition by then; Doug Brown had taken a massive break, Andy Cable was limping due to a sore knee, Beth Katcher was struggling with a recent cold and had slowed dramatically, Lawrence Block had taken a long break and only Jens Borello was still going strong, though he too had a 30 minute nap to deal with jet lag.

I got up and finished a lap, but the next two laps (to get to 62 miles) were a death march. I had slowed to 57 and 51 minutes! I also threw up 5 times during those two laps. When I saw the judges, I acutally asked them to DQ me! Once when I asked, Ivo said "you can only get DQ'ed for running, and in the shape you are in, running is impossible."

My 100 km split was an absolutely horrible 17:29:13. By then Becky Browning (a houston racewalker) walked with me a bit; she also gave me a nice neck and back rub at a stop; that really helped to loosen me up.

So I went down for another nap (about 2 hours). In the tent Beth was napping on the cot so I used the chair; we were a pathetic sight! . But I was actually hungry when I woke up which was a good sign.

I got back out there and knocked off laps of 35:50, 34:45, 33:39, 32:34. Not fast, but much, much better than I was doing earlier. I actually was moving forward. I hit mile 70.3 in 21:59:13. Cheryl Harris, who was also there to judge, walked a lap with me and that took 31:05! That really helped; she was worried about slowing me down but she really helped me focus.

At 23:02:53, I had time for another full lap, but since there were no partial laps I could take my sweet time, which I did (34:12). So my result was 76.3 miles in 23:37:06. A good thing is that I got to see Jens (in the distance) finish 100 miles in 23:2X. Afterward, Dave held a nice ceremony and Loja Vosta (another Houston ultrawalker who was preparing for a bike race) carried my bags to the car.

The race itself was fun (for the most part) as I got to meet several people. I didn't come close to my goal, but the fact is I am not a good enough walker to make 100 miles (in 24 hours) under these conditions (the slippery course). So, had my goal been simply to amass as much mileage as possible, I would have started off with 30-31 minute laps. But I went for it and burned out early.

I don't have official results, but if my memory serves me, Jens got his 100 with 40 minutes to spare, Beth got 66, Lawrence (Buffalobear) got 64, Andy got 62 (100 km) and Doug got 50.

Two mile splits: Houston Ultra weekend.

2 27:04
4 26:58 (54:03)
6 28:23 (1:22:26) bathroom
8 28:13 (1:50:39) belt
10 26:50 (2:17:30)
12 26:54 (2:44:24)
14 27:46 (3:12:10) raining hard now
16 27:49 (3:40:00)
18 28:04 (4:08:05)
20 28:37 (4:36:42) blister
22 30:25 (5:07:07) food
24 28:26 (5:35:33) with Andy
26 27:34 (6:03:08)
28 27:15 (6:30:23)
30 27:49 (6:58:15)
32 30:07 (7:28:21) blister, food
34 93:01 (8:31:22) 33 minute stop, no more rain
36 26:58 (8:58:21) Andy again
38 27:18 (9:25:40)
40 28:53 (9:54:33) food
42 27:52 (10:22:25)
44 29:35 (10:52:00) pack
46 31:52 (11:23:53) eat
48 31:45 (11:55:38) starting to suffer
50 32:24 (12:28:03)
52 35:50 (13:03:53) pack, stop
54 35:05 (13:38:59) Ivo
56 39:33 (14:18:33) nauseated
58 1:21:55 (15:40:28) 30 minute nap
60 57:23 (16:37:52) stop, threw up twice, becky
62 51:20 (17:29:13) threw up three times
64 2:45:43 (20:14:56) roughly 40 minutes, 2 hour nap
66 35:50 (20:50:47) feeling better
68 34:45 (21:25:33)
70 33:39 (21:59:13)
72 32:34 (22:31:47)
74 31:05 (23:02:53) Cheryl
76 34:12 (23:37:06) done (no part laps)


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