Friday, November 20, 2015

Stone Mill 50 Race Recap

In early September a Facebook post from a bunch of friends saying they signed up for Stone Mill got me interested.  A few weeks later I was signed up and started training.  I figured I had about 5 weeks to build up to acceptable shape and I did.  Every one of my friends dropped out, but I decided to stick with it.  Going into the race I had no clue what my pace would be.  I’ve run 3 50s.  One was in the snow, and two were fatasses where I ran completely alone for 35 miles.  I scanned past results and settled for a goal of around 8:45.  Which would be a 45 minute PR at the distance.  Knowing the course is very runnable I did a lot of miles of training on the Perkiomen trail and the regular trails at Evansburg.  The trails of Stone Mill were very similar in elevation to Evansburg.

The first mile of Stone Mill is downhill on a sidewalk before hitting the trails.  I was probably somewhere around 30th place and the pace was just right for this early on.  Mile 2, when we hit the trail, was a 9:59 and that was the slowest mile for the next 20+.  My plan was to stop as little as possible at aid stations.  I wore a pack with a bladder for the first time ever.  For every Aid Station up to mile 24 I simply grabbed a handful of chips or pretzels and kept moving.  Kym and the kids came to help me out and I would basically just get high-fives and keep going.
Photo: Ken Trombatore

The course was very well marked.  The only part where I was slightly confused was I didn’t know there was a long (~2 mile?) road section leading to the mile 14 Aid Station.  I was following a group of runners who appeared to know what they were doing, but I couldn’t help question it.  We crossed a 4 lane highway, then ran about a mile on the sidewalk, then crossed right back over it when they realized we shouldn’t have crossed the road.  The fact that we were on the wrong side of the road is probably why I wasn’t seeing any course markings.  But eventually we came to the aid station and crossed under the road back to the trail.

Photo: James Williams
Shortly after this a deer popped out and ran in front of a few of us on the trail for a few seconds.  It was a big buck with a nice rack.  It then left the trail and turned around and ran full speed about 50 feet in front of us directly across our path.  About mile 45 I saw another deer running full speed.  It was grunting like wild pig. Or maybe I was just delirious at that point.

Photo: James Williams
Everything went pretty smoothly and at mile 24 I handed Kym my pack and took a handheld for the 3 mile section along the towpath.  I didn’t want a full pack bouncing around on that fast section.  But, there was a stiff headwind the whole time to slow me down.  I did 3 sub 9 minute miles, and they turned out to be the last three miles I’d do under a 10 minute pace for the rest of the day.

Photo: Dan Reichman
At the next aid station I grabbed a half a PB&J, and that ended up not sitting well with me.  I spent a lot of the next section trying to figure out if I’d puke or not.  I didn’t, and when I got to mile 34 I was pretty miserable.  I couldn’t eat anything, but Kym gave me a ginger chew.  It seemed to really calm my stomach and I was able to churn on.  When I got to mile 37 aid station my watch read 35 miles.  I was 3 miles to the next Aid and when I got there my watch read 39 miles.  According to my watch this section was a mile longer than advertised, but I’d been expecting those miles to be made up at some point.  From mile 40 on I tried to justify walking every hill possible.  But the hills are so small it was hard to justify, and when I did walk, it didn’t feel right so I’d quickly start running slowly again.

I made my final exit of the trail just in front of a guy I had passed.  As we started up the road he passed me and we jockeyed a few times.  He joked it was like a snail chasing a turtle.  At one point I gave up chasing him and turned around.  I saw two other people exit the trail and decided I didn’t want to get passed.  I ran strong to the finish.  When I crossed the finish line, the announced said “Tim, come see me.”  I was the first 40+ year-old-finisher and that won me the Maryland Masters State Championship.  On paper, the best running accomplishment of my life?  8:31:18, 16th overall, 1st out of 66 in my age group.
If coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would've been state champions

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MMT, take 3

In 2014 I finished MMT in 24:43, and my main focus this year was to break 24 hours.  An Achilles problem in February lead to no running for over 3 weeks.  The mileage slowly built back up, but never got to where I was in the previous years.  I did more overall elevation, so my goal, though a stretch, remained sub 24 going into race day.  If I had any chance at this, I knew I’d need help this year.  My buddy Jeff casually mentioned he’d help if I needed it, so I reached out to him about 10 days out.  He was in, and recruited Garry and Marsha to join him.  Sounds like a party in Virginia.

After checking in, attending the race briefing, and eating we hung out with some friends at their upgraded cabin for a few hours before heading to bed.  It was a good time, and nice to relax before trying to sleep.  I got 3 hours of sleep before tossing and turning until the alarm went off.

not feeling bad at Edinburg
My perfect-day race plan was to go 5-10 minutes faster in the first 12 miles, then run at the same pace as last year for the next 75.  I thought that if I was able to get through Aid Stations better, I could be about 30 minutes ahead of last year where Jeff could jump in and push me to sub 24.  Well, plans are made to be broken, right?  The first 12 miles went according to plan.  I didn’t feel like I pushed too hard, though I was sweating a lot more than last year.  It was low 60’s, but very humid.  It was around mile 13 that I knew sub-24 wouldn’t happen.  I think the best aspect of my ultra-running is my fast uphill hiking.  As I went up the big climb at mile 13 I was already out of breath and had side stiches because of the heat.  And, it was only 6:30am.  My new goal was to just finish as fast as I could, regardless of time.

For each of the past two years I ran most of miles 15-30 with a group of other runners.  This year I was never really with anyone for more than a mile or two.  During these miles I got passed by a fair number of runners, many who I recognized, many who I knew I should not have been ahead of at this point.  Maybe I went out too fast, and would spend the next 80 miles paying for it?  In this section runners were slaughtered by a ridiculous amount of horse flies.  I said I felt like I was going to get a concussion because of how many times I was hammered in the head by flies.  The other memorable thing about these miles was my attempts at peeing.  I never had to, but forced myself to.  It barely dribbled out, and it was a dark yellow.  I was drinking 40 ounces between each aid, and drinking another 20 or so at aid stations.  I was taking salt every 30-45 minutes, but I could not stay hydrated.
feeling less than stellar after 33 miles
Kym putting suntan lotion on me
At Shawl Gap (mile 38) I saw hopeful winners Jimmy and Ashley in chairs looking like their days were done.  It bummed me out big time.  I don’t remember much about what I said or did here, but I know I had a deep, dark sense of jealously.  I was so spent that sitting down in a chair and calling it quits didn’t sound like a terrible idea at this point.  If I was rude to the group here, I’m sorry, I think I was trying to avoid letting those thoughts creep up.  I left here with 2 full handheld bottles, and an empty flask to fill up 3 miles later at Veach Gap.  During this short 3 mile road section I downed almost all of the water I had here as well.  I refilled those, plus the flask and headed out for what I knew to be one of the toughest sections.  There is a huge, mostly straight climb which has sections exposed to the sun.  I did most of this section with a guy named Dana running his first MMT.  I know for sure that if he weren’t there to help push me I would have sat down to rest a few times.  About 4 miles into this section he asked me if I had a lot of water.  He had just run out.  I had about 20 ounces left, and we still had 5 miles to the next aid.  I told him I had a little.  He said he was ok for now but might ask if he got desperate.  As I contemplated just giving him one of my half full bottles we turned a corner to about 40 gallons of water on a bench.  It was absolutely magical.  I topped off my bottles, and drank about another half-gallon.  I think that surprise-water saved a lot of people’s day.  It was here that Rande Brown caught up to us.  I asked him if any of his previous 10 finishes were this hot.  He said it was tough to tell.  He could only remember one other year of extreme heat.  I moved ok into Indian Grave (mile 50) where the awesome volunteers were having runners sit down while they put ice cold towels on them.  While it sounded great, I didn’t want to get too comfy there.  I quickly cooled myself with one of the towels, grabbed a bite to eat and set off on the 4 mile road to Habron Gap.  A light rain started on my way there and that felt great as the road is very exposed when the sun is out.  When I got to Habron I saw Jim, his day officially done.  He and Karen set me up with a handkerchief full of ice to wear around my neck for the next section.  This aid was bordeline overwhelming for me because there were so many people there to help.  Jim and his crew, Kym, and the crews of all the other Pacers.  It was excellent.  I sat down for a few minutes to rest, then set off in the rain for another big climb.
A haze over the mountains, with a storm brewing

It was here that my race took a nosedive.  During this long climb a pretty heavy thunderstorm rolled in.  It went from 90 degrees and sunny to somewhere in the 60’s (I think?).  I was sopping wet in a sleeveless shirt, and I was cold.  Teeth-chattering cold.  It wasn’t fun.  The extreme heat wasn’t fun, now the exact opposite was even less fun.  I didn’t want to do this anymore.  I couldn’t stop thinking that.  I didn’t care anymore.  I didn’t want to be out there.  I’m not sure what it was, but as the weather made a complete change, so did my hydration.  I couldn’t stop peeing.  During this 9 mile section I peed at least 15 times.  I was convinced that I was medically unable to go on.  I’m now sure I was fine, but I was convinced I was done then.  In this section, after the climb there are several miles before the next aid station where the trail is very runnable.  The rain had stopped and I’d try to run.  When I’d run, I’d kick a rock.  Almost always with my right big toe.  I grunted the first few times, then I yelled a few times, then it turned to blood curdling F-bombs.  My foot was broken.  I was again convinced I was medically unable to go on.  I was done running, I had to walk it in from there.  From the time the heavy rain started through the rest of this section I planned my DNF.  My best plan for a successful DNF would be if Jeff, Garry, and Marsha didn’t show up to help me at mile 63 like they planned.  Maybe they heard Jim got hurt and his crew would help me, and they wouldn’t be needed.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to convince Jeff, Garry and Marsha I needed to quit, but I could fight Kym on it.  My hopes rested on a DNS from my crew.  About a quarter mile from the aid station I spotted a long blond haired dude in a flannel shirt drinking an IPA on the trail.  My DNF hopes were dashed. When I finally reached him I apologized to him for having him come down, as I was quitting.  He had none of it, walked in with me telling me I just had to get it done, forcing me to run the last few yards into aid.  I sat down and told everyone I was done.  In 2012 I told Kym I was done at mile 88.  At that point I knew I really wasn’t done, I kind of just needed to say it to express how much I was hurting, and how much I needed a rest.  This time I was serious.  I was dunzo.  They all had running clothes with them and asked if I needed someone to go with me.  I told them I wouldn’t do it alone, and if anyone came with me it would be a 6 mile walk before dropping.  I was adamant I was walking the whole section, and then I was done.  Jeff ran and got changed.  I changed socks, moleskin, and my shirt.  My big right toe was a disaster, but I tried to ignore it.  I only had 6 more miles of walking on it anyway.

Jeff and I headed out with a baggie of food that Marsha gave me.  As we walked I ate all the food, leaving the two hard boiled eggs I was confused about why she would give me.  A few minutes later I realized they were potatoes, not eggs, so I ate them too.  This section consists of about 4 miles of mostly uphill trail, some of which is a stream.  Jeff and I talked and my spirits changed.  I may have even run a little in those first 4 miles, I can’t remember.  I do remember that the climb here has always been my favorite of the race.  It’s very steep, but only about a mile long.  I decided to attack it.  We went up fast, and this year the downhill after the climb was not in nearly as bad shape as last year, so I ran that whole thing.  I got excited when I passed a few runners, as I hadn’t passed anyone on the trail in a long time.  I got into Gap 1, and it was on.  My crew saved my race, and now it was time to make it worth it.

We headed out up Jawbone and Jeff remembered about a turn off the main trail that I surely would have missed if I were alone.  When we got to the top of this climb another storm rolled in.  This one was more refreshing.  It was a humid climb and the rain wasn’t as drenching as the earlier storm.  The trail along Kerns Mountain is pretty much unrunnable in the dark.  We fast hiked it and passed a few more people.  With a new moon it was complete darkness out there.  I started playing a game where I’d spot a runner’s headlamp far ahead on the trail and I’d say “headlamps”.  We’d make a push and pass them, then look for another one.  Every pass in the night felt better than the last.  I think I passed 6 or 7 in this section.  When we got to the 2 miles of road before Visitors Center (mile 78) it was the first time Jeff kind of pushed the pace for me.  We did two strong miles before reaching Garry’s redlighted headlamp waiting just outside the Aid Station.  Yeah, yeah.

In Visitors Center I put moleskin on my right ankle, got some soup and headed out.  I had meant to switch watches, and about a tenth of a mile from aid I realize that and asked Jeff to go back for me.  Probably a stupid ask on my part, but I use my watch to fool myself into thinking I have more to go than I really do.  We climbed up to Bird Knob fairly well.  One runner was in there, sitting in a chair, and eyeing up the lounge chair.  I was happy to be feeling positive, and we headed out with more soup.  After the next short climb we ran well, picking off more headlamps.  6 or 7 more. 

Jeff and I looking for food, Garry hydrating (photo: Andrew Burnette)
Picinic Area (mile 88) has been my downfall both previous years.  I napped in 2013, and too long of a sitting down, sock-changing break in 2014 lead to dead quads.  We moved in and out of there pretty quick, but my feet were too sore to try to run the mile of downhill out of there.  Regardless, we knocked off 3 more headlamps as we started the next big climb.  The last huge climb.  The climb that never, never, ever ends.  My fool-myself watch trick failed me here.  I thought 3 miles was a high estimate for how long this climb is, but it’s even longer than that.  This climb hurt.  On the downhill just before the road, we got passed the one time of the last 40 miles.  The road running was slower than I’d hoped, but once we saw Garry’s red lights I was able to run it in from there.  Again, aid was quick and at the top of the very last climb we caught the runner who passed us.  (He passed us again just before the last road to the finish, but must have made a wrong turn and got lost as he finished 45 minutes after me.  Ouch.)  Most of the last trail section is too technical to run at this point of the race so I just moved through it as best as I could.  We got to the road at 6:05am.  A strong finish for sub 27.  We ran every step of the road, and halfway up the campground road.  It was awesome. 
This was definitely the hardest run I’ve ever done, and finishing with the help of my friends was the best feeling of my running life.  Garry, Marsha, Jeff, Kym – I surely would not have finished without you.  I cannot thank them enough. 26:48. Two hours slower than last year, and 7 places better for 13th place.

As usual the volunteers were all awesome.  I was especially impressed at how Kevin just had a hip replacement, but I saw him all over the course.  At the finish he mentioned how bad I looked at Camp Roosevelt and he wasn't sure I'd make it.  To have 199 runners and a race to direct, remembering each runner and giving them the feeling that every one of the matters is what makes MMT great.
Best crew ever

Best Wife ever

A special thanks to JP Food Sales, Redners, and Great Lakes Cheese for sponsoring me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rattlesnake Ridge 50K Race Report

Since I saw no others online, I figured I'd do a quick report.  We were out visiting Kym's sister for 12 days, so I looked for a place to run or race while I was here.  I found the Rattlesnake Ridge races.  I was torn between the half marathon and the 50K.  Since I just ran MMT 5 weeks before this race I'm not 100% recovered, but I'm definitely not in half marathon shape, so I went with the 50K.  The elevation would be more than any east coast 50K I'd ever run.  So, in prep, a few days before the race I ran up Mt. Si.  I parked in the wrong spot and ran up the Old trail from the Boulder Loop.  It's apparently much more steep than the normal Mt. Si, and there' wasn't a single person on it.   When I intersected with the Mt. Si trail there were a few dozen people I passed in the last 1/4 mile up.  There was a thick fog at the top, so it made my decision to not climb the haystack easy.  I made a wrong turn at one point, and added about a mile on the way up. So, the climb up was 4.2 miles with 3600 feet of climbing in 1 hour 22 minutes.  The run down was 3 miles with about 3300 feet of descent in 40 minutes.  Nice way to pound my quads just before the 50K.  Mt Si run from little Si lot I think garmin

After a quick 1/4 mile out and back we headed towards the Rattlesnake Ridge trail.  Miles 2-5 go straight up the mountain, about 2600 feet of gain.  Halfway up you see the sigh to the Ledge lookout.  I was tempted to go take a look, but I had no idea how far the ledge was, and I was in around 4th or 5th place at this point.  The next 6 miles are downhill.  There's slight ups for the first mile or two, but its mostly down and fast.  I'm not a fast downhill runner and sore quads are the lingering effect of MMT.  I was passed by about 6 guys over the next few miles. The last mile before the turn back up the mountain is on a crushed rock utility road.  Shortly after the aid station I started to pass the 1/2 marathon runners, who had just started their race.  It was fun to have a lot of other runners out there climbing back up the ridge line. The only "problem" with the race, if you want to call it that, is the traffic.  After you pass the trail to the ledge on the way back, around mile 19, there's tons of people hiking up and down the mountain.  It was a beautiful day, so there were probably even more people out there than usual.  There was a lot of stopping and waiting, and slowing down to avoid people for about 2 miles.  After coming off the trail you pass the Finish line, and there's a 4.5 mile out and 4.5 mile back.  On the way out I was running really well holding low 8 minute miles.  On the way back, I realized I was running well because those miles were all downhill.  About 100 feet of mile down on the way out, then 100 feet per mile up on the way back.  Easy if it's early in the race, tough for the last 4 miles of a 50K.  It's all runnable, and I ran it all, but it feels like it'll never end.

The course was extremely well marked.  I bought a "clearance" shirt after the race for $5.  The trails on west coast are much different than the east coast.  Mostly in the long climbs and downhills.  There's definitely no 4-6 mile hills in the Philly area. Also, the trail is all smooth.  There's rocks and roots, but they're all avoidable. The trail up to the Ledge was probably the most technical with rocks.  The backside had more windy/switchbacky trail. Rattlesnake Ridge 50K garmin

view of the trail

another pic of trail

view from the Ledge, halfway up where the 50K runs

wiping daddy's sweaty kiss off

Icing my legs in the cold lake after

all the people on the ledge

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MMT100 Race Report (again)

Last year I ran Massanutten as my first 100.  I blistered early, sprained my ankle at some unknown point, and had no fun over the last 50 miles.  So, I figured, let’s do it again. 

Last year Kym and I had plans to go out to dinner with some friends from my running club (Pagoda Pacers), but we got there too late.  This year we left early to get there with plenty of time to set up, but heavy rains on the ride down delayed us.  When we stopped for lunch at Chipotle we sat down to eat and saw Jim Blandford and his wife Karen, and crew Beth.  Exactly who we were having dinner with that night.  We joined them for lunch and I talked to Jim about his nutrition plan for the race.  He does Perpetuem with a gel and S-cap every 45 minutes.  This is what my plan was, with real food added in since I’d be out there for many more hours than him.  We got to race headquarters around 3pm and saw the mess it was because of the rain.  The parking lot was a mud pit and the field leading to the start/finish line was underwater.  We checked in and learned the bridge to the campground was out.  This meant we’d have to drive between the two, and that the start was moved to the campgrounds this year.  We drove up to set up camp and there were only about a half dozen camps set up at this point.  I noticed one was Karl Meltzer’s car.  He had his speed golf bag out, so I went over and talked to him about it.  He was very friendly and it was an interesting conversation about the sport.  Kym and I set up camp, went to the pre-race meeting, out to dinner, and I was asleep at 10pm.  I woke up twice in the night with nightmares of DNF’ing at mile 54.
Overflowing river on race morning

Race Day
When anyone asked me my goal for the race, I generally would tell them to not get the blisters I had last year and to not sprain my ankle like I did last year.  By doing that I knew I’d be able to have a nice improvement.  I told only one or two people my stretch goal of finishing before the 6am sunrise on Sunday.  That would be a 2 hour and 49 minute improvement, and would not be easy.

Start to Edinburg Gap
Last year I recall the first time I had to get my feet wet was around mile 65.  This year would be much different.  On the 4 mile road to the trail we had several shin deep water crossings from the overflow of water off the mountains.  There were about 15-20 of these types of crossings through the day with miles and miles of wet and muddy trail.  My plan to keep my feet dry all day was out the door 1 mile into the race.  I ran the first few miles with my friend Lori (who won 1st place senior woman!).  When I got to the trail I moved much more quickly up Short Mountain than the group I was near.  When I got to the top I ran the rest of the section with two guys, Brad and Dan, who were friends running together.  I very much enjoyed the conversation and leisurely pace and the weather was perfect.  I rolled into Edinburg gap at 6:25, exactly the same time as last year, but at what felt to be a much more relaxed pace.  12 miles.  0 minutes ahead of last year. 

Edinburg to Woodstock to Powells to Elizabeth Furnace
photo credit: James Williams
After leaving Edinburg there’s a long climb, then about 19 miles of very runnable trails with one other climb before you see your crew again at mile 33.  This section all blends together for me.  I know that I climbed the first hill strong, then put in my headphones for the first time.  During the runnable sections Brad and Dan caught me after I went through the first Aid quicker than them.  There was a group of 5 of us that ran a lot of these miles together.  At points I felt like their pace was too quick for me, so I’d drop back from time to time.  At Powell’s I had some French toast that might have been my favorite food of the day.  It was exactly what I desired at that point.  After leaving Powells’ there’s a fire road for a few miles.  During this section there was some talk about being excited for the next hill so we could justify walking.  5 or 6 of us hit the mile 27ish climb together.  I’m still very new to running very long distances, but the best thing I’ve learned is to walk with a purpose.  When I’ve run with Jim Blandford and other Pagoda Pacers who are better runners than me, I’m struck by how quickly they can move while walking.  I made it a point to walk with vigor when I decided to walk.  All day.  If you think about it there are something like 30 miles of uphills.  If you can take that average down 2 minutes per mile just by walking quicker, that’s an hour off your time.  It’s a lot easier to walk 2 minutes per mile faster than to run 2 minutes per mile faster.  So, on this uphill I pulled pretty far away from the group.  I was a few miles past the hill before they caught up to me again.  I’m just not as fast on the flats/downhills as them.  I got to Elizabeth Furnace at 10:38am.  33 miles.  11 minutes ahead of last year.
coming into Elizabeth Furnace

Elizabeth Furnace to Shawl Gap
My plan was to change socks at Elizabeth, but reports of a very wet trail ahead led me to decide to wait until Shawl.  This section was one of my least favorite last year.  After all the runnable trail we had just been on, the climb here was a kick in the gut.  It’s not the longest climb on the course, but one of the more technical ones.  Lots of switchbacks, steps carved into the mountain out of stone, and when you look up, it seems like it will never end.  This year I knew what I was getting into, and just put my head down and hiked as fast as I could.  There’s some high grass fields in this section and Kym pulled a tick off me as I got into the next Aid Station.  38 miles. 23 minutes ahead of last year.

Shawl Gap to Veach to Indian Grave to Habron
Coming into Shawl I started to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my right foot.  I took a long time here to change socks and to put moleskin on the bottom of both feet.  This 100 million percent saved my race.  The bottoms of my feet did not blister all day.  During a short road section before Veach I ran a little with Kyle.  A friend of a friend who I’d met just before the start.  Kyle and I would leapfrog and run together a little for the next 30+ miles.  The climb out of Veach is one of the toughest of the day.  It’s long and mostly straight.  You can look ahead of you and see you just keep going up and up and up.  It’s the middle of the day so it’s hot, and there’s 9 miles between aid stations.  I had two handhelds at this point, so I had to drink a lot, yet conserve water for the long time it would take.  After the long climb, there’s some runnable miles before you get to a ridge on the side of the mountain.  Very technical and actually a little scary in spots.  You just have to take your time and get through it.  It was here last year that my bottom of the foot blisters started.  This year, I was feeling great.  Just before Indian Grave I caught back up to Dan.  Brad had been feeling strong and took off on him.  Dan, Kyle and I ran most of the road to Habron together.  54 miles. 41 minutes ahead of last year.
me, Dan, Kyle photo credit: Ryan Paavola
54 miles done and happy. photo credit: Tab

Habron to Camp Roosevelt
I sat down to change socks at Habron.  I also taped my toe as it’s always a blister area.  This was my only blister of the day, but I never felt it until about a day after the race.  Dan and Kyle left Habron well before me.  I was having fun talking with friends here.  I left there with two handhelds, a burrito, a half of a PB&J, and an amazing ice cream sandwich.  I settled in for one of the longest climbs of the day.  It was the hottest part of the day, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  The climb seems to take forever here and as I neared the top I caught up to Dan who was with Brad who had stopped and was forcing himself to puke.  I quickly moved on wishing them luck.  I don’t remember much about this section other than that rough climb. 63 miles. 47 minutes ahead of last year.
Pretty sure that guy is about to punch the girl in the face
my bro and me

Camp Roosevelt to Gap 1
When I got into Camp Roosevelt I was greeted by my brother.  He had asked me how he could see me at some point, but I never go confirmation that he’d be there.  It was an awesome surprise.  Unfortunately I was feeling so good at this point I got out of there as quick as I could.  I’d heard that the next section would be the wettest of the course.  Last year I had just taped my feet for the first time, and this was my best section as I ran most of it except the large climb.  This year was a lot of hiking, as running through the constant stream of water would have just taken too much out of me that I wanted to conserve.  The large climb was not nearly as large as I had remembered.  But, the back side of the trail was just as wet as the front, so it was slow moving down that as well.  69 miles.  56 minutes ahead of last year.

Gap 1 to Visitor’s Center
Coming into Gap 1 I was again changing socks and checking on my moleskin.  The volunteers here were amazing.  They gave me a foot bath, cleaned my shoes, reapplied moleskin and got me fed.  All while I just sat there.  Really awesome.  As I was being waited on Kyle came in and got out of there.  I could have stayed forever, but my midway goal was in reach.  I knew my best chance at finishing before sunrise would be made or broken here.  After leaving Gap 1 there’s a big climb then you hit the pie plates.  Mile 71 turn left, mile 98 go straight.  When you turn left you’re greeted with some horrible running along a ridge.  Up and down over the ridge with big rocks all over the place.  I wanted to cry here last year in the dark.  This year, it was not dark.  I looked at my watch when I made the turn and I think it said something like 7:55pm.  I had a few minutes to run in the sunlight.  So I took off like a bat out of hell.  I ran recklessly.  After spraining my ankle last year I am always afraid of it.  I didn’t care here.  I ran as fast as I could over this very technical section.  I made it through the worst of it before the sun set over the mountains. 26 hours was possible now.  I continued to move well here and passed Kyle for the last time of the day.  The last few miles of this section are on a road.  I welcomed it and ran strong.  Last year without stopping at Gap 1 at all this section took me 2 hours and 42 minutes .  This year I stopped for about 10-15 minutes and still finished the section 35 minutes faster.  78 miles. 1 hour and 32 minutes ahead of last year.
leaving Visitors Center (I think?)

Visitors Center to Bird Knob to Picnic Area
Coming into Visitors area I knew I was too early for Kym.  So, as I ran into the Aid Station I looked for her car.  Sure enough I was able to find her still asleep.  She popped up and got me what I needed while I ate some delicious soup.  I was moving well, so I wasn’t sitting down.  I got out of there quick.  The climb up Bird Knob is very steep and technical.  Last year there was also fog at the top.  I had back to back to back 27 minute miles here last year.  This year I moved very well and passed several people at the top.  Some more soup at Bird Knob, and back to running.  After you leave the aid station there’s a seemingly very long ¾ mile road to the next climb.  It’s a relatively short climb before a few downhill runnable miles.  These miles take a long time and last year just as I started to feel better I got sick of them and crashed.  This year I convinced myself there were more miles than there were, so when I got to Picnic Area I was mildly surprised.  88 miles. 2 hours and 57 minutes ahead of last year.

Picnic Area to Gap 2
Last year I got to Picnic and sat down to sleep for 30 minutes.  This year I sat down and had another amazing job done on my feet.  Cleaning, remoleskin, new socks.  Awesome volunteers.  I grabbed some food and got out.  There’s about a mile and half of downhill leaving this aid station and the sitting down for 10 minutes did my legs in.  My quads were toast, so I’d be walking this.  Fast walking.  After the downhill you start uphill and just keep going up.  I don’t remember it being this long last year, but there’s about 3-4 miles of climbing.  Some mild uphill, some steep uphill, some through a fast flowing creek.  After getting through that you then go back down a pretty steep hill.  It’s wide trail of loose smaller rocks.  Extremely runnable if it were earlier in the race, but not here.  When it wasn’t too steep I was able to do some running.  Finally you come out to about a 2 mile section of road before the last Aid Station.  I wasn’t moving too fast here, but I was doing my best to run as much as I could. 97 miles.  3 hours and 55 minutes ahead of last year.

Gap 2 to Finish
When I got into Gap 2 I looked for Kym and couldn’t find her.  I loaded up on some food and headed out.  Oops, Kym always hands me new full bottles, so I headed back to refill them.  As I was leaving here I looked up and down the street then heard my name.  I was again so far ahead of what she thought, so she had just woken up.  I grabbed a long sleeve shirt and headed out for what I knew for sure to be a sub 26 finish.  Heading up this climb for the second time of the day I caught somebody who asked me where the pie plates where. I pointed to the headlamps above us and told him up there somewhere.  He said he was on his first climb up as his stomach was giving him issues and he needed a nap.  I wished him luck and headed off.  Just then I got to the pie plates and shouted back he was almost there.  From here there’s a very steep drop then some very technical trail.  It was all fast walking for me.  There were some sections here that I was able to run briefly, but my quads were just too painful.  Finally I got to the glorious road.  4 miles to go.  I looked at my watch and it was 3:58am.  15 minute miles to go sub 25, 12 minute miles for a 4 hour PR.   I started running and didn’t stop.  I passed Keith Knipling with a mile or two to go and got that 4 hour PR.  I sat down and was able to amazingly see Keith finish his 15th MMT at the age of 38.  We're the same age, so if he follows his dad's footsteps he can do 50 of these.

103.7 mile in 24:43:03.  4 hours and 6 minutes ahead of last year.

Post Race
My goal of finishing before sunrise was blown away by the fact that I was able to get a shower and back to sleep by sunrise.  4 hours of sleep in the tent and I was actually able to help Kym pack up camp this year.  We went down and joined our friends at the finish to hang out, eat some tacos, and drink some beer.
Meltzer, Yoder, Lori, I forget his name, Marsha, Beth, Kym, Me, Jason Lantz. photo by Karen Blandford

A huge thanks to my awesome wife for chasing me down and being there for me again.  She's down on herself for not being awake when I arrived a few times, but I was so far ahead of my times that there's no way I could be upset.  She's done this by herself for the past two years and I can't imagine how difficult it is to do that.

Three days post race and I’m able to go up and down stairs without too much trouble.  My big toe blister is the only really annoying thing I have going on now, but hopefully that will be gone in the next day or two.

Less mud and quicker through the Aid Stations for sub 24 next year….?

edit:  GPS records

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Kym and I arrived at camp at around 3:30pm Friday and immediately made our way to the registration for the 4pm race briefing. We met Biddi, Larry, Nebs, and Mike B. there. We we going to go out to dinner with a group with my running club, but we got there too late and didn't have time to set up camp before dinner. After setting up camp and heading back down for dinner at the race headquarters I was actually able to fall asleep at around 9pm. Of course I was up by 10:45 for a few hours, but I got a decent amount of sleep before the 3am wakeup. One thing led to another on race morning and I was literally running from camp to get to the 4am start. And we’re off. The first 3-4 miles was road and Nebs and Mike B don’t know it but I stayed about 5 feet behind them the whole time on that road. I didn’t necessarily want to get into running “with” anyone this early, so I hung back a little. When we hit the first trail it was a decent, not too rocky trail until we hit Short Mountain. Short’s a great place to start the race because you’re quickly introduced into the ridiculous rocks, and it’s very much 30 seconds running, 30 seconds rock-hopping. So, there’s not much room to really hammer in this section to get into too much trouble. In this section it was probably in the mid to lower 60’s out, but the humidity was very high and I couldn’t wait to get the stupid headlamp off. Around mile 8 I started to feel a hotspot on the ball of my right foot from my shoes slipping on all the rocks. Shortly after that the trail actually became runnable, so I didn’t want to stop there to fix it. Just after the first crew aid station (12.1) I remembered to stop and adjust my shoe. I had put them on in my tent at around 3:15am, with intentions of readjusting later, but forgot. I should have adjusted both at this point, but I didn’t. And here’s where the rest of the day/night becomes mostly a blur, so I’ll just randomly say stuff now. Nebs and I ran for about 8-10 miles together from like 20-30. It definitely helped get through a very boring 2-3 mile crushed gravel section. Ball of left foot blister started around mile 40 and was uncomfortable for the next 7-8 miles before it burst. Then I could put pressure on it. Every step was a stabbing pain, but I was moving well. At mile 63 I decided to have it addressed and Biddi moleskined me up and definitely helped save my day. Two of the aid stations had cold towels/dunking stations and they were the greatest baths of my life. My Garmin first died after 12 hours and 48 minutes and 55 miles and did not upload the elevation stats today. Devastating. I borrowed Biddi’s Garmin at mile 63 while I was feeling good and had fresh coverings on my blister. I put in a 22 minute mile during the big climb before the downhills into Gap 1, and I thought it was my best mile of the day. My least favorite part of the day was after Gap 1. There was a big climb, then what felt like miles of unrunnable trail in the dark. Massive boulders the size of cars you had to jump across and off. My right foot blister kicked in here and every jump was murder. From mile 78-82 were back to back to back 28 minute miles. A brutal climb and thick fog at the top put me at a race low. (Amzginly, looking at the splits, that 3.5 mile section was very middle of the road, while it felt like I had to have been worse than everyone) After Bird Knob AS It was 7 more miles to the Picnic aid station and I worked on a way to talk myself out of quitting. It was going well as the trail became runnable, until I thought the aid should have already been there and it was no where in site. When I got to Picnic Area (87.9) I grabbed a chair and a blanket and closed my eyes to the best of my ability. My blisters were killing me and my attitude sucked. After 15 minutes I opened my eyes and Kym and Biddi talked and Reike’d me into going. It was then 3:30am, my brain wasn’t working and I thought I had 18 more miles and I was calculating 18 miles of 30 minute pace for 9 more hours and I simply couldn’t do that. But, eventually I decided I had to. I took some magic pills (carbo veg 6c) from Biddi and got on my way. Forgetting to re-lube, my headphones, a new Garmin and everything else I wanted. About a half mile later I actually started running again. The magic pills worked? The blisters still killed, but my head was much more clear. Over the next 5 miles I passed about 6 or 7 people, I was feeling great. A comical section of about ¼ mile – straight uphill through a fast flowing creek. It was ridiculous. A girl I had caught was trying to quit throughout this section but her pacer kept her going. I think I need one of those pacer things if I ever do this again. Then a downhill rocky section did me in. I had to walk it all because of the blisters and all those people I had passed, then passed me back. I was in and out of the last aid station in a few minutes. The sun had re-risen and I was going to finish. The only way I was able to get through a very technical section around mile 99 was to literally lean into a tree, then fall into another tree to make forward progress. Once the 5K road section to the end came I was cruising. I didn’t have a watch, but I’d guess I was doing around 9 minute miles. Largely because at one point I turned around and saw a blond girl pacing a tall guy. I thought Nebs and Biddi were catching me, so I put my head down and ran as fast as I could. Coming into the finish, I hadn’t had a watch in 16 miles, so I had no idea if the clock would read 29 hours or 32 hours. I was in shock when I saw I went 28:49:15. All in all the lows were lower than the highs were high. I’m very proud of myself and I couldn’t have done it without all the help I received along the way. Thanks to Biddi and Nebs, and especially my awesome wife who was there for me at every stop. PostScript - almost two weeks later and I still haven't run. Two days ago I pulled a 3 inch by 3 inch hunk of dead skin off the bottom of my left foot. My left ankle is still bothering me and I have an MRI set for next week. Oh, and I know I can go about 2-3 hours faster if I can figure out the blister issues.

mile 33.3 - Elizabeth Furnace

Note left foot is twice the size or the right

mile 13ish rocks after Edinburg Gap

I think this was mile 67ish before Gap1.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Febapple 50 race report

In December I won a chance to run the Massanutten 100 so I started looking for semi-local ultras to use as long runs to help prepare. The Febapple 50 fit perfectly in my schedule to use as an early long effort, and would be my first official 50. Kym and I started the 2 hour drive at just after 4am. The weather forecast was 40s and rain all day and a light rain fell for the whole drive. It hadn't snowed in a week and the mild weather had melted it all. All except the snow on South Mountain in NJ. Somehow the trails were still largely covered in a thick layer of ice and snow. We arrived and I got dressed in the car and had just enough time to hear the RD's pre-run talk (which I should have paid attention to) and we were off. Knowing some of the others running, I settled in a smaller pack of about 4 off the lead pack which had about 10-15 guys. The first mile was on roads and then we took a quick 300-400 foot drop over the next half mile on a trail similar to those on the Horse Shoe Trail around here - small, somewhat loose rocks. A short flat stretch, then back up. I tried to keep a steady run up this whole big hill, but even the first time around ended up walking some of it. Several technical miles with several very icy spots followed back to end the first mini-loop to the start/AS area. The first 4 mile loop was about 25% covered in ice/snow and the second 6 mile loop was closer to 2/3rds covered. The second half was less technical, but the ice made the going a bit slower than I was hoping to run. I noticed some people wearing yaktraxs, but I feared that wearing them for too long would tear up my feet.

Slipping into mile 4 Aid Station
 The course lollipops around mile 7 and mildly confusing trail markings and my stupidity of following the people in front of me, and my failure to listen to the RD's directions before the race lead to a 2.2 mile mistake when we turned right instead of left. I noticed this as I reached the 2nd Aid Station for the 2nd time in a row. Another runner in front of me, and the one I followed who was now behind me started to backtrack, picking up several others that made the same mistake. At least 8 runners did this on the first loop. It mentally crushed me for much longer than it should have. I also ran faster than I should have trying to make up that time, which surely hurt me in the long run. After my second full loop the ice and snow was bothering me enough to decide to put on my yaktraxs for the 2nd half of the race. Of course though before I put them on I had a nasty, feet above the head, cartoonish fall on the ice. Initially I thought only my right hand took the brunt of the fall, but a few days later when my left leg was the only thing still hurting, I realized the bruise on my hip was due to this fall. Once I put the yaktraxs on I cursed myself for not just wearing them the whole time. No feet issues, no slipping, and no prancing around trying to avoid the ice. At mile 30 I changed out of my wet shirt (as far as I can remember there was a light rain all day) and this made my outlook a lot brighter. I felt so much better being warm and dry, if only for a short period. When all was said and done I finished in 9:39 and in 8th place. Out of 40-50 that started, only 20 did the full 50 mile distance. The race has 50K, 20 mile, and 10 mile options that all start an hour apart and if you want to drop down, the RD allows you to just enter in that race's standings. When I finished up and was eating a little, the awesome volunteers pointed me towards a cooler of beer they had and offered me to help myself. Can't beat that. While leaving my house at 4am for a race isn't the most desirable thing, I'd definitely do this race again. The race and course are awesome (my Garmin measured 5500ft of gain, a friend's measured somewhere around 6700 ft of gain). The "swag" was a vest with the race logo. It's nice, but I always prefer a technical shirt to run in.

Finishing happy

Monday, October 08, 2012

Blues Cruise Race Report

I can't say this will be a very exciting recap, but I also like reading others' recaps when I first run a race, so I guess I'll just put one out there.  First off, great organization, great race. 

 Two weeks before the race I met up with some of the Pagoda Pacers to run about half of the course. What we ran that day was from mile 2 of this year's course (clockwise around the lake) to 17. Lots of rolling hills in this section with one or two that were big enough to walk. It was a good preview of the course. Definitely the most difficult stretch of the course. The first two miles of Blues Cruise to get to that section are mostly downhill. The course is a good mix of single track, double track and a few farm roads. The course has a lot of farm land that has deeply grooved single track which is not my favorite type of trail to run. I always feel like I'm going to trip up on it.

One major plus was that Kym and the kids came to cheer me on and they were able to drive around and see me a lot. They were at the start, then I saw them at the mile 4 Aid Station, at backroad around mile 12, at the mile 17 Aid Station, mile 24 Aid Station, mile 27.5 Aid Station, and back in time for the finish. It was a great boost seeing them so often.

Leading up to this race my training was not exactly where I wanted it to be. Besides the 100K last month, I hadn't run more than 16 miles in almost 2 months. But, for the first 19ish miles I was feeling great so I just kept it up. What I lacked in physical preparation I hoped to make up in the confidence I gained when I ran 100K. When I reached the biggest hill of the course at mile 19 I was averaging around 8:15 miles. The hill here really sucked a lot out of me (I think this was skislope hill?). I've run tons of trails lately, but nothing with hills like this. While that hill hurt, luckily the layout of the course this year provided me ample time to recover. From mile 20 to 26 there are very few hills. I was able to get my legs back and continue with a decent pace. I ran with another guy for about 3-4 miles here, which was really the only extended time I spent running anywhere near anyone. He was stronger, and eventually took off when I stopped for a bathroom break.

From all the race reports I'd read in the past, I expected the entire last 11 miles to be as flat as miles 20-26. But, they weren't. There were lots of very small, slightly steep hills over the last few miles, with one very steep short hill, and then a hill that seemed to go on forever at around mile 30. My 8 minute miles slowed all the way down to a few 11 minute miles at the end. The mental game could not beat the physical. But still, I came in at 4:33:40, a 24 minute PR over my HAT run time.