Friday, February 03, 2023

Mike Postaski's Wilson Creek Frozen 50K Race Report: Brooks Catamount 2 for the Win! Stryd race data analysis.

Article by Mike Postaski

Wilson Creek Frozen 50K Race Report


In the article, race report about my 1st place at Wilson Creek Frozen 50K (Melba, ID) - New training (less run miles, more training hours total through other activities), Brooks Catamount 2 for the win!, Next Gen Stryd Pod data analysis.

I kicked off my 2023 season with a semi-local 50K here in Idaho. The race is located in the Owyhee front range on the opposite side of the Treasure valley from Boise. The terrain is typical foothills-style terrain - a mix of rolling single track, dirt roads, semi-rugged mountain trails, solid climbing, and quite picturesque vistas. 

The 50K covered 6,300 ft of elevation gain with a big chunk of it coming in a 5 mile, 2,5000 climb up to Wilson Peak within the first 7 miles of the race.

Leading into the race, I’ve dialed back my running miles quite a bit, skiing a bit more, and trying to ramp up volume via treadmill hiking and indoor biking. I’ve only averaged 54 mpw in the 2 months before the race, although my overall training volume has been higher with the skiing and biking added in. 

I also made the decision to move my speedwork to the treadmill over the winter. That’s something that I usually tend to let slip when the weather gets really cold, so I’ve been conscious about maintaining one interval day on the treadmill per week. 

Going into the race, I was feeling really good about my “offseason”  and  base building training, and I wanted to test if it was working or not. Being a January race, weather is definitely a big factor - typically this race has seen very muddy conditions in years past. This year it snowed a couple days before the race, then remained cold through the weekend, so we had majority snow-covered trails. Traction was pretty slick on  the dry snow, and in the higher sections of the course  there were some drifts to contend with. Going down/up from Wilson Peak involved hurdling knee-deep drifts and dancing on rocky side sections to find shallower areas.  

I started off the race running in 2nd place for a few miles. BTW, it was 9 degrees F at the start! I paced myself for a bit, again being so early in the year, I wasn’t really amped up to “race” from the gun. But I found myself creeping up on 1st position and actually took the lead around the middle of the 1st big climb, while keeping my effort pretty steady and relaxed. I was able to get a decent gap and just focused on running steady for the rest of the 1st 20M loop section. It seemed like I was stronger on the climbs (shocker for me), so I focused on keeping up pace on the more runnable descents, so I wouldn’t give back much time. 

[Wild horses around M14]

By the time I got to the aid station before the final 10M loop, I had timed out a 3ish minute gap at least. So I just kept up the same mentality, strong and steady on the ups, and keeping up speed on the downs. I felt really great overall, kept up my fueling and hydration, and despite taking two spills in the snow - I cruised in at 4:24, 12 minutes ahead of 2nd. I ended up running almost the exact same time as I did in the same race in 2020 - and this year’s race had much slower conditions with full snow I’d say for about 90% of the 50K. It was a big confidence booster for my new training plan, so I’m quite hopeful for the upcoming season.

[Final stretch to the finish]

I wore Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review) for the race and they were fantastic. I toyed around with the idea of using different shoes with some ice spikes due to the snow. But it wasn’t icy, so I figured I’d just go with my original pick. The Cat 2’s did have decent grip in the slippery snow, as much as could be expected outside of wearing something like a Speedcross. 

As in my testing - they just felt fast throughout, and the added width up front made them feel so stable in the uneven and rocky sections. My feet felt totally fine after the race, so I’d definitely feel confident in racing them for a 50 miler at least. They’re for sure a beast at 50K. This will definitely be one of the top shoes by the end of 2023 and I will definitely be racing them more this year.

[A mighty fine looking shoe in the snow!]

I also got my first ultra race data with the Stryd pod (My RTR Review). Stupidly, I forgot to add the Stryd data field to my ‘Ultra Run’ activity type on my watch (since I hadn’t used that activity type since October). But luckily Stryd records data in the background whenever you use it. So I just had to manually import from the pod and sync it up with my activity file via StravaTools. Below is the main chart of watts and pace, with the elevation profile in the background. 

[Watts in yellow, pace in blue - biggest wattage early on during runnable sections of the climb]

[Final 13M of the race]

I had some higher watt numbers early in the race, which you can see from the 1st chart coincides with the big initial climb. But the average watts were very steady over the last two thirds of the race. This shows me two things - 1) I must have felt pretty good and strong during the race as I was able to keep my power steady throughout and 2) power really can be a great gauge of effort when racing. 

You can see from the course profile in the 1st chart that there were quite a few ups and downs, and you can also see in the second chart a wide variation in paces. I don’t have heart rate data in this chart, but heart rate varied just as widely as pace. So pace and heart rate metrics vary quite a bit, yet power remains relatively steady. If your goal is to keep a steady effort - which metric would you choose?

Now I didn’t actually look at my power numbers during the race - as I mentioned earlier, I forgot to add the field to my activity. But perhaps that’s even more proof of the efficacy of power data. I wasn’t just trying to keep the number steady - it just turned out that way. So once I can dial in target wattages a bit better for ultra distances, I can definitely see using it as a primary metric when racing.

[The farthest line to the right is the Wilson Creek 50K race. The line to the left of that one is my previous, longest “power test run” - 60:00 @ 297W]

Some other notes on power- for the entire race my average was 243W. I did a 2:30 test run a week earlier in dry conditions, at an easier effort level, at an average of 231W.  I’d say this tends to confirm my idea that some power does tend to get “scrubbed” or lost in soft terrain or when traction is not so good. Also there’s that fact that it’s flat out more difficult to generate the power itself when you have less secure grip to push off from- i.e. soft, slippery snow. I’m sure in dry, grippy conditions, I’d have higher power numbers at a similar effort level. Stay tuned as I plan to post a more long term review of the Next Gen Stryd pod later in the summer.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike won both the Standhope 100M and IMTUF 100M trail ultras within a 7 week period - both extremely rugged Idaho mountain races. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Brooks sample was provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships (but not with Stryd) and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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