Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brazil 135 Ultramarathon

     I haven't written a "race report" in a long time.  They are always very linear: first this, then that, look at me. I personally became bored reading race reports.  Every once in a while, I'll read a report but not very often.  You may be asking, "WTH is guy writing a report for then?"  I'm with you. I'm not real sure except that I wanted to talk about this event and some of the training.
     The Brazil 135 (which was founded in 2004) is a race which was inspired by the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon.  Basically it is a road race of 135 miles in length where you have a crew, complete with a vehicle.  The crew follows you around the route providing you aid, water, etc.. for the whole race.  The Brazil 135 is run on part of a religious pilgrimage route called the Caminho de Fe.  This route is modeled after a similar religious route called the Camino de Santiago in Spain. 
     Recently I've been more interested in traveling and Brazil just seemed like a cool place which I'd never been too before. I applied for acceptance into the race in August of 2013 and Mario graciously accepted me to run.  This year, being the 10th anniversary year, he was allowing solo unsupported runners.  This change was a huge draw for me because it greatly reduced my cost of running this race. No car or extra plane tickets necessary for my crew members.
     I had taken off from running from about Oct of 2012 until August of 2013.  I did a few races, but didnt train for any of the races and drank a lot of beer, getting fat.  Finally  around August 5th I told myself, "Man Johnny, you gotta start training, you got the Bear 100 in 8 weeks."  As it turns out, I actually did start training and training a bunch.  I did a nice build up for the 8 weeks going into the Bear 100 and was able to finish!  Then after one week off, I started hitting the training pretty hardcore.  I've never trained so much, for so long for any race I've ever run in the six years I've been running ultras.  Here is a copy of my training (Brazil135). 
     Wow!  Absolutely wow is all I can say.  Here are the results with split times.  I worked out the mile per minute pace for each of the splits from the start to the end and I have 6 splits of: 12min, 16min, 12min, 15min, 15min, and 18min.  Very solid run for this distance. I trained my ass* off and I'm just going to be honest right now. It did not feel like I ran 135 miles nor that the course had 30,000 feet of elevation gain.  I ran so fluid, so long, with no pain.  The first 100 miles was completed in about 26 hours.  I've never run a better race, ever. Did I have problems with my fueling strategy?  Yes.  Did I drink 3 or 4 beers during the race? Yes.  Did the "aid stations"  have typical food?  No?  Did any of that matter?  No.  Had one or two things gone differently, I believe I could have easily run 32 hours flat or just a bit under.  I ran 34:27:20 for 135 miles.  And, I'm dammed happy with that time.  I joked to some friends that my stretch goal was 35 hours.  I felt 42 hours was do able and I didn't want to run past 48 hours.
     The real story to this race for me is the discipline.  The discipline to get out there and train for the 15 weeks between The Bear 100 and Brazil 135.  I developed my own training schedule, workouts, times, etc...  I've had coaches in the past, but I never did what they told me so I quit hiring them. I cut my beer back to 2 beer max a night on a typical night.  About once a week I'd have 5 or 6 watching football games on my recovery day.  My diet was a bit restrictive, but not really.  I still went into the race weighing about 185lbs, however that did not really matter.  At 5'6 and 185lbs, I would not strike you as the, typical runner.  I used every sort of ruse to keep myself motivated to get my workouts in.  I had some buddies that would go to the track with me.  I would listen to motivational talks on YouTube.  Tell myself that if I get that 15 miles in, once I get done I can go to Outback and get a steak and some wine.
     Specifically during this training cycle I spent a lot of time on the fundamentals.  Reading article after article on various websites on running form, running drills, Vo2 Max, aerobic endurance, etc... I re-educated myself on all manner of running related concepts.  I bought Brian Martin's books Running Technique and  Running Form Drills.  There were some great concepts in Brian's book which tied in nicely with my prior exposure to the POSE Method running concept.  Having already purchased a Concept2 Rower I put this toy in my tool box, but most importantly I bought a Versa Climber.  The Versa Climber is ridiculously hard.  No matter what, you're climbing.  This machine really works those glutes!  Hell it works everything.  What a great tool for the tool box, however these dammed things aren't cheap.  With the Concept2 and Versa Climber I threw in some kettle bell swings and barbell thrusters for a staple workout which is just killer!
     On the running side I averaged about 50 miles a week, which isn't a whole lot of mileage, but there were some 70 and 80 mile weeks mixed in as well. Early on I hit an 80 mile week, about week 5.  This did not go well as I started having problems with my shin area on my left leg.  Too many miles, too fast.  However by week 15 I hit another 80 mile week and felt like a champ.  I broke every 10% rule there is when increasing your volume, but there is a limit.  I ran in the AM, at lunch, and after work on some days.  Some days I ran 20 miles steady state.  Some workouts with hills, some on the track, but running a lot and consistently. 
     I was in Brazil about 3 days before the race started.  The race management team had a shuttle pick us up from the airport and take us to the town where the race started.  I met Alphonso Chan  from Dallas, Texas and Martin and Christian from Cordoba, Argentina on the bus.   Alphonso and I hung out each night before the race, eating dinner at a nice local place called Casarao.  The food was excellent, the beer was cold, the conversation was great.  Alphonso had a friend that was also running which joined us on night 2.  Great guy named Martin Pascual.
     On Tuesday afternoon the 14th of Jan, once I arrived in Sao Joao de Boa Vista I went for a nice shake out run of about an hour.  The town is super hilly and cruising around on foot is a great way to see a new place.  On Wednesday morning, Alphonso and I went for a run for about an hour up the road from his hotel.  I stayed in great place called Hotel Mansão dos Nobres.  The place was nice with awesome breakfast.  Quite a few runners were staying here as well.  Thursday the 16th of Jan was race check in and "briefing".  I took Mario the RD 12 pairs of shoes and about 10 Ultimate Direction water bottles for donation.  He seemed pretty happy.  We spent most of the day at the race check in site and was able to turn in the drop bags, but by 3PM I had to leave. Just had to get away from folks, too much stuff going on.  Went for a 30 min shake out run with some folks from Florida. One of the guys owns this awesome post-workout recovery wear business. 
     Race morning went well. Nice breakfast in the hotel and some coffee.  Took my last bit of smokeless tobacco, Copenhagen.  Have had any since, so I'm pretty happy about that.  Been needing to quit.  I made a video of the race which you can see on my YouTube Channel.  All of the race went well. No complaints, except for my "nutrition strategy" didn't work. You can't eat just UCAN, Cliff Blocks, and Coke all day.  About 15 hours, UCAN was not good.  GI problems.  Ran from mile 40 to mile 95 with Andre Chaves so this made the night section go pretty easily.  Great guy who lives in Brazil and his wife and mother in law were crewing so they helped me quite a bit.  He founded Down To Run and puts on some races in Florida.
     Wore trail shoes for the first 70 miles and that was a big mistake. It was all road, most of it was not paved.  The race has like 30K of gain, but it did not seem like it.  Drank a few beers to get calories and stopped at some shops along the way to buy food as necessary.  During the day on Saturday, I really was able to get a lot of help from the various crews who had runners on the course.  Thank goodness.  They really saved my race.  I tried to thank as many of the folks as I could.  The last 20K of the race sucked because I got lazy and quit eating in addition to it being pretty dammed warm.  The finish was fairly anti-climatic.  Took some pictures and drank beer.  Typical finish line stuff.  Was able to get cleaned up and have dinner with one of the crews that helped me out!
      I highly recommend you to do this race!  I had such a great time and the race has a great culture around it.  Mario has done a great job over the years creating an awesome running challenge.  All of the Brazilian folks I met were friendly and outgoing!  The place is beautiful and safe!  Go see the world!