Posts Tagged ‘ultra running’

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Darden Pentecostal Church’s tent to aid runner’s – from Last Annual Vol State Road Race facebook page

Every year it seems more and more people come out to support the runner’s of Vol State. There are signs and tents set up at local businesses, in open fields on the roadside, and people’s homes and yards welcoming runner’s to help themselves to fruit, snacks, fluids, a place to rest and possibly some aid if needed. This year, depicted in the above photo, the Darden Pentecostal Church set up to help with a sign reading,

“Welcome Runners

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”

“Good Luck”

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NUMBER 67 – Westbrook has checked-in for 60 hours. He has covered 113 miles and is right at the Tennessee River. Still in the screwed division of 68 runners strong, RW has moved on up into 32nd place tied with three other runners.

No call home from him today so not sure how he is feeling as of now. The weather has been a nightmare I am sure. Maybe he is resting or too busy trucking along through the night.

Race Report:                                                                                                                                                             The Swamp Rabbit Trail Urban Ultra                                                                                                                         50 Kilometer                                                                                                                                                               Oct. 4, 2014                                                                                                                                                           Greenville, SC

I drove to Greenville, SC on Friday before the Saturday race.  This would be my first 50 kilometer ultra in a long time.  I see the 50K as an extended marathon.  The 50K usually treats me like an extended marathon would…harshly.

However, I looked forward to this run because it would traverse a multi-use trail once it left the Lake Conestee Nature Park.  This would run through parts of Greenville and north toward Furman University.  It would be an out and back route.  Also, I was eager to run this because I DNF my last run, The Pinellas Trail Challenge – 46 miles, for reasons I don’t want to think about.

So, I stayed at a motel alongside I-85 upon entering Greenville.  I drove to the park to see how long it would take to get there and know what time I should leave in the morning.  It was easy to find.  I would just have to find the race starting area upon arriving, but that would be no problem.  Then, I drove north to see parts of the multi-use path as it passed through parts of Greenville and through some nature areas.  It would be fairly scenic most of the way.

After my exploration, I ate my pre-race meal.  That was the trusted Big Mac Meal at the world famous restaurant chain, McDonald’s.  With a full gut, I drove back to the motel for a restful night.  The race would start at 7:30 a.m.  The weather promised to be relatively cool with partly cloudy skies.

I prepared everything the night before and was ready to wake up and leave for the park.  I arrived at the park and quickly found the starting area.  There were plenty of cars already parked, so it was easy to find.  I checked in, got my number, and BAM!  I was blindsighted!

The clerk told me that the route had been changed from the multi-use path to be 100% within Lake Conestee Nature Park.  Now,  instead of the long out and back that I looked forward to, it would be five 10 kilometer loops, with most of it on nature trails and a little bit on the paved part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  There would be an aid station at the five kilometer mark of the loop.

I was extremely disappointed when I got this information.  I was depressed.  The reason for the change was that the city had closed a bridge over which the course ran.  Some construction on the bridge was the cause of the closure.  Luckily, they could modify the race to the 10K loops.  That would make race management a lot easier.  But, my mind was jangled with mixed emotions about this race.

Right off the bat on the first loop, I took a wrong turn.  Actually, I didn’t take a turn that I was supposed to take.  I barged straight ahead and eventually met runners coming toward me.  I made it back to the course after losing about 10 to 15 minutes.  Great start!  And, things would get worse.

I was chasing two runners that I could see up ahead.  I eventually paced myself to gradually catch up and pass them.  Then, later in the race, I learned that those two guys were ahead of me by a whopping amount of time.  But, they never passed me.  Something was wrong. 

They had taken a wrong turn like me, but theirs’ was a lot worse.  And, they never corrected their distance.  But, they got credit for the 50K with a better time than mine even though they ran a significantly less distance. 

Without the correction, the race management should have listed them at the bottom of the results.  Their names should have been asterisked with the distinction of running a short course.  That seems logical to me.  Obviously, the race management didn’t think it was worth while.  So, I was listed behind two guys who ran shorter.  Must be a swamp rabbit thing.

A Get Out Greenville festival was going on in the park while the race ran.  That added a little variety and excitement as the runners passed the start-finish area.  There were people everywhere.  A lot cheered the runners, some just wondered what was going on with those people, the runners.  Either way, the environment helped the race at that point.

I changed my race thoughts with the course change.  I went out slower than originally planned because of having to repeat the hilly trail course five times.  After the 50K runners were on their way, the 25K runners started at 9:00 a.m.  Naturally, the 25K runners ran at a faster pace than us 50K runners.  So, when they buzzed by me, I subconsciously picked up my pace.  I ran the second loop faster than I had planned.  But, it seemed OK.  I felt fine.

I felt fine until I managed to fall harder than any fall-while-running that I can remember.  I just ran a slight downhill and had the slight increase in speed.  At the bottom, my left foot found a root, caught it, and did not stride forward.  That put me in a fall while being twisted to the right.  My arms and hands didn’t make it out to break the fall.  My left shoulder, left ribs, and head broke the fall.  My ribs hurt then and afterwards through the rest of the race.  I thought I might have cracked one because it felt like my cracked ribs that I have had in the past.  My head hitting the hard ground in a whiplash fashion resulted in being dizzy and light-headed for about 15 minutes after the fall.  I walked a lot during this dizzy period in order to get my head back on straight.  Of course, I lost a lot of time to add to the lost time in the wrong turns.  And, this was the highlight of the race.

The day was one of great weather…not too hot, not too cold.  My 10K loops sped up as the race progressed, and I recovered somewhat from the fall.  For me, primarily a road runner, it was a hard course.  It was a hilly course.  And, when I was on the ground, it was even harder.

I finished in 6:28:03 and in 13th out of 14 finishers.  I managed to out kick an alien female who had two antennas protruding for most of the race.  Afterwards, I lay in the sun and enjoyed the warmth and the inclined position.  I watched the people enjoy the festival.  After some rest, I wobbled over to ride a geared peddle machine somewhat akin to a four-wheel cycle.  It even had an electric motor to assist with the start when the pedaling required a a lot more effort.  It was fun.

The race director spoke of having the event on this same course next year because it was so easy to  manage.  All the runners stayed in the park…not spread out all over Greenville.  If it is on the same course, the swamp rabbit will have to get along without me.

(Richard Westbrook)

OK, I know, the title of this writing makes no sense. So, I will explain. “Kyotee” refers to the Nike Kyotee trail shoe. Nike, in their wisdom, has chosen to discontinue the shoe. Nike does that a lot.

            I own two pair of the Kyotees. The oldest pair is used for physical education teaching outside in the mornings when the grass is wet. They keep my feet relatively dry. Ah, but the other pair…they have been rediscovered by my feet.

            The Kyotee’s are a fat pair of shoes. They are trail shoes and have a thick sole, much thicker than any of my other running shoes. I run on the roads 95% of the time, so I started using the Kyotee’s in my rotation of shoes for my runs. I wasn’t using them much on the trails since I wasn’t getting to trails very often. The Kyotee’s give plenty of cushioning with their fat soles. They make the asphalt feel soft.

            As I was wearing them in my rotation every once in a while, I found them to be very, very comfortable. My feet enjoyed the softness of the fatness. After a few rotations, I started working them in the rotation more often. Then, I started looking forward to the “Kyotee” day.

            They felt so good on my feet and legs that I started using them on longer runs. This was an addition to the usual long run stable of shoes, Brooks Glycerin 9’s; Brooks Glycerin 11’s; and Brooks Flow’s with the Flow’s bringing up the rear. The Kyotee’s were coming up fast.

            Finally, I took the Kyotee’s for a 30-mile run to see if they would hold up and feel as good as they did on shorter runs. They hung in there. The fat-soled Kyotee’s felt great all the way through the thirty miles. Now, I’m thinking about using them in ultra races. Hmm…

            My go-to shoes right now for ultra races are the Brooks Flow 2’s. I wore them in the Last Annual Vol-State Road Race last summer and in a 50K on trails this last October. They performed with no problems. I wore the Brooks Glycerin 11’s last May in a 24-hour run with no problems in that one. But, the Kyotee’s make me rethink the “go-to” selection.    

            You know, one can become thoroughly confused by reading the shoe analysis reports in running publications such as Runner’s World and other running magazines. And, if you read the advertisements from the shoe companies about their latest models, that will only add to the confusion for the runner in search of new and better shoes. There is just too much conflicting information out there about which is best for the runner. Over there, they tell me that the zero heel drop is the best ever. Over here, they tell me that barefoot is the way to go; after all, it is all natural and what could be better than that? Then there are the guys telling me that their latest and improved model makes it best for comfort, protection, and durability. Oh! Don’t forget the shoe improvisers who want to get me into the wide toe box for natural function of the foot.

            If I didn’t know better, I would just flip a coin to pick a shoe. But, I do know better, so I tend to go with the simplicity approach. If it feels good, it is probably a good shoe for me. Not that I eschew the information about the new shoes, but I will put more stock in the information from other runners who have used the shoes in question…those runners in an on-line forum and who have no vested interest in anything connected to the shoe except, maybe, the money they paid for the shoes. These forums have positive and negative feedback about particular shoes. After reading the remarks, it is just a matter of deciding to try or fore-go the shoes.

            So, now I am in deep thought about the feeling I’m getting from the Kyotee’s. Should I stay with the traditional big company shoes such as the Brooks Glycerins or the little less traditional Brooks Flows and Flow 2’s? The Nike Free shoes have definitely been surpassed to leave that level of minimalism behind. Should I try the fatter soled shoes that promise more cushioning with some stability? Hmm…

            Hoka in the title refers to the Hoka One shoes. Some runners in the Last Annual Vol-State Road Race have worn the Hoka shoes. Just about all the feedback from those runners is positive. Durability seems to be the only question. At first, I looked upon the Hoka shoes as another gimmick, but after the Vol-State feedback, I began to give them more serious thought. I haven’t tried them; haven’t even thought about trying them. But, after rediscovering the feeling of fat shoes through the Kyotees, the Hoka shoes have entered my brain scan. If the Kyotees feel that good, would the Hokas feel even better?

            I don’t know. But, maybe, I will have to find the answer. Or, maybe not. The Washingtons, much less the Jacksons, might not agree.

            I will have to ponder on taking the step of trying the Hoka shoes. I’m still searching out feedback on these fat boys. So far, it is all positive except for the aforementioned durability aspect. I have a “Shoe Hall of Fame” on my website,, in which a pair of shoes will make the hall of fame if they reach 500 miles. There are several pair of shoes residing in that Hall of Fame. The durability question of the Hoka shoes might prevent their entry into the Hall of Fame. That would be a big negative against the Hoka shoes. Decisions, decisions…

            That leads to the term, “Poka.” That term in the title doesn’t mean anything. “Hoka” just reminded me of the term, “Hocus pocus” which I would use before my lame magic tricks as a kid. “Hoka-Pocus” just doesn’t sound right, so there you go. “Hoka-Poka.”

            Come to think of it…That sounds a little strange also.


                                                                                                                                     Richard Westbrook

                                                                                                                                      November 5, 2014