Friday, November 23, 2012

Here is path that led me back to Oil Creek in 2012:

In October 2011, I found out that Allison and I were expecting our third child.  I was so happy with the news and this really put me in a good place after the disappointment at OC.

-Stone Mill 50 miler =>  So in November I ran Stone Mill.  This year the race was about 54 miles long and the course was more challenging than the inaugural year.  The day did not go real well for me as I had to make several unscheduled ‘pit’stops in the woods because something was going on in the digestive track.  I finished still and was greeted by Allison, Virginia, and Julia at the 48 mile mark.  I met some guy from CNN around that point and decided to take it easy and sparked up a discussion which brought me to the finish line.
In December, I took a much needed rest and focused my time and attention on the holiday season.  I also started VSL#3 based on a recommendation by the doctor and it seems to be working well.  The insurance plan covers it which is a bonus ++!!  I also entered the lottery for MMT and thought I would have no chance but I actually made it.  I then had to seriously think about the commitment and time required traveling to VA for the training runs.  I decided against MMT and thought logistically it made more sense to run the CAT 100 at the end of April.  There were tradeoffs to this decision.  The CAT is a FA event with 25 runners but thought I could train on the course and still be able to spend time with the family on the weekends.    
-WE-CAT 50K =>  I ran the Winter Edition (WE) Catoctin 50K on 1/28 with 7 other runners.  This was from Gambrill to Manor and back.  Same course at the Catoctin 50K in July.  Good group of runners and nice day for a run in mid-winter with fantastic weather. 


In February the family was wiped out with colds and stomach bugs.  It was a revolving door of sickness (luckily nothing major)  this severely limited my running in February but everyone recovered and were back on schedule by the end of the month.

Seneca Greenway 50K – To continue with training for the CAT 100, I signed up for the Seneca Greenway 50K and spent the day out in Montgomery County.  These are the same trails that Stone Mill is run on so I was very familiar with them.  It was muddy in sections due to recent rain but the day itself was beautiful.  It was a great training run.

-Maryland AT hike => Jon and I planned an overnight trip on the Maryland AT.  This consisted of two 20 mile hike days and an overnight at a shelter along the way.  We really had no set agenda except to make it to Harpers Ferry by the end of the second day.  We parked on car at Keep Tyrst and one car at Pen Mar.  We went a little north to the Mason Dixon line then hiked to the Rt 70 crossing on the first day then camped out overnight.  My friend really knew what he was doing so I learned a few things from him. 


-CAT 100 (Flat CAT) =>this was supposed to be a mountainous course on the Catoctin Blue and Maryland AT that turned into a C&O canal towpath course.  I tried it, was extremely disappointed in the course and quit at mile30.  I will never ever run a race that is entirely on the C&O canal towpath, NEVER.

--The Ring => This was an awesome race that I really enjoyed.  I like the remote feeling of being in the mountains while still receiving fantastic support from the VHTRC crew.  There were so many difficult sections of the course but what I liked about this race was my ability to tough it out after seriously considering a drop at mile 30.  I stuck it out, kept going and made it around the entire 71 mile loop. 

-OC100 2012 = After completing the Ring I really felt like I was ready to tackle something bigger.  I was planning on running the TWOT course on the weekend of the 13th in Virginia with someone I met at the Ring.  Then I received an email from Tom through LLRC.  The email said that there were a handful of spots available due to last minute cancellations.  At this point, I started to ponder my options.  Am I ready?  Can I afford it?  Will this be too much of a drain on the family?  Etc.  I had several discussions will Allison and then went forward and registered for the event in mid September.  So I wrapped my limited training up and packed for the race feeling pretty good leading into the race.  No health issues this year and my weight was real good and I was mentally ready for the event. 

This year I was going to stay on the gym floor again but I was bringing the queen size blow up mattress.  This was so much more comfortable than the floor the previous year.  I left around noon on Friday and took the 6 hour drive to Northwestern PA.  It was a beautiful drive through PA and I arrived around 7 pm.  I then picked up the race packet, set up ‘camp’ for the evening, ate pasta dinner and then headed over to the local pub to watch the last few innings of the Orioles vs Yankees series Game 5.  I had a really good IPA microbrew but was disappointed in the outcome of the game.  This turned out to be my only disappointment with the weekend.

On race morning, I woke up, deflated, ate some breakfast, turned over the drop bags, and changed.  My only big decision of the morning turned out to be pants or shorts.  It was 25 degrees out so I went with pants.  Count down and off we went off into the early morning of October 13th.  Down the asphalt path to the trailhead.  About midway down the asphalt path, I turned off my headlamp (as I did last year) and enjoyed a beautiful view of the stars and said a few prayers for the courage to continue whenever I felt like quitting and for the safety and health of my family,

The first loop overall was uneventful but it really put a beating on my feet so I changed out into my Montrails at the end of the loop.  The aid station fare was well and the volunteers were extremely helpful.  I enjoyed the aid station themes this year and AS #1 did a great job with the ghosts and goblins.  They really put on a good show at this race and there was no let down with aid this year.  So I took it easy and moved along at a comfortable pace remembering that my goal was to finish.  I greeted Rockefeller and Ida with a smile. By the end of the loop the weather had warmed up nicely for this time of the year. 

Loop 2 was not much different, this year I sat down at most of the aid stations for a few minutes to rest my feet, eat and hydrate.  I was really trying to focus on the distance this year and not time.  In fact, I left all watches, garmins, etc. in the bag this year and did not carry anything on the course.  It helped!!  Towards the end of loop 2, right after nightfall, it started to rain.  I was prepared with a trash bag which I promptly stuck over my head to stay dry.  At the middle school, I rested for a few minutes and headed out.  Right after the bridge it started to pour down rain and I was thinking “I am glad that I am not back at the Middle School” because it would have been difficult to leave.  The rain lasted on and off for the next 6 hours.  Sometimes heavy and then light, it was become quite an adventure.  The third loop became very challenging mentally.  I was getting very tired after Petroleum center and for ½ hour I needed to sit down every couple minutes to prevent myself from falling while running.  After that ordeal, I started signing loudly to wake myself up. That worked but then as I was looking down, I started seeing things in all the leaf cover on the trail.  At one point, I thought I saw a flashlight, reached down to pick it up and it was a 3 inch piece of wood from a tree.  Next, I started imagining that I saw crumpled up bibs and thought they were from previous year runners that dropped out of the race.  Anyway, all this nonsense ended when I reached AS #3 which I arrived at 10 minutes later than the previous year.  I told one of the AS workers that I had to leave quickly because this was the AS I dropped at in 2011.  I asked another AS worker if it was going to rain more and he said look up, I did and saw nothing but a clear star filled sky.  I headed out to finish Section 4, mid way through the sun came up and it was beautiful how the sun illuminated the trail during the stillness of this autumn morning.  Another snapshot of something I will remember from the race. 

Back to the middle school again and ready to face the last 7 mile section of the course and the ‘Hill of Truth’.  I didn’t hang out long at the middle school because I wanted to get this thing done.  I knew I was going to get it done, just keep an eye on the feet and prevent any last minute ankle twists due to bad footing.  The ‘Hill’ was tough but not overly so.  As I headed back over the bridge by the school I could see a bunch of people standing there clapping and cheering but I wasn’t sure they were for me but as I got closer they were!  It was a fantastic end to a wonderful event. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs - October 8th, 2011

That’s pretty cool – “I won a door prize”.  This is how my experience at the OC 100 started on Friday evening.  I picked out the Hammer mixer and then headed to the gymnasium to pick out “my spot”.  The sleep that night was restless and uncomfortable – not a good mix but you live and you learn.  Something I would do a lot of this weekend.
My overall health was getting better.  After the LP 12 hour in early September, I was still struggling with GI issues and went for a pouchoscopy followed the next week by a series of MRI’s.  All of these tests pointed to a severe case of Pouchitis and I continued my antibiotic treatment.  Two weeks before the race, things were getting much better and going into the race I remained positive about my health.
Race morning I woke up around 3:45 am and began with race morning preparation.  I ate a bagel and drank some coffee then put on my race stuff.  I was ready and looked forward to a good day on the trails.  It was nice to see familiar faces around the cafeteria on race morning. 
Loop #1
The race started at 5 am so headlamps illuminated the route for the first two hours.  The bike path led us down a hill towards the trail.  The early morning sky was beautiful, clear and the stars were amazing.  Getting to AS #1 was fairly slow, mostly walking due to the terrain and darkness.  The first few miles gave me a sense of what this course would be like – rocky, spider roots, and occasional mud with hills.  After AS #1 there was a steep assent called ‘Switchback Mountain’.  The next portion of the trail was less rocky and muddy and very runnable.  Coming into AS #2 was a steep downhill and uphill again after the aid station – this pattern was repeated for all aid stations.  The sections between AS #3 and AS #4 were rather difficult at night and a little easier during the daylight.  As a reminder, you run half the course in darkness.
Tom and I were running off and on during this loop.  At the end of the loop my Uncle Joe was there to surprise me with a visit.  He reminded me to take more food which really helped.

Loop #2
I ran the first half of this loop with a few folks from Wisconsin.  All three of us were surprised with the first section because it was so much easier to navigate during the daylight.  The second loop up to Section 4 was rather easy and pleasurable.  I was taking it slow, enjoying the company, and the day.  Night time fell and Section 4 on this loop was all dark.  Again, at night Section 4 now was much more difficult to navigate than the day time.
At this point the terrain was taking a toll on the body but I felt I was enduring it well enough.  I also started drinking Perpetuem mixer starting after AS #2.  Probably not enough and I’ll change this around for the next race.  Fueling became a problem at the end of Loop 2 and I was not focusing on getting enough calories in.  Hydration and electrolytes were probably fine but the calories were not going in.
Coming into AS #4 I was tired and my left shin had some noticeable pain but stretching seemed to help along with some Advil.
Loop #3
Heading out on Loop 3 my plan was reduced to – “15 hours to cover 38 miles”.  It seemed attainable to me at the time.  As I headed back down the bike path to the trail I was passed by a runner and a pacer who wanted to know if I’d like to follow along with them.  I did and followed along with them.  Off and on we’d talk and the pacer was really nice making sure we were doing well.  Unfortunately, I was now shuffling a little more than expected and was getting really sore and beaten up, Up to AS #2 it was tolerable but after that it was pure hell.  All thru Section #3 I wanted to bounce back but nothing was working – food, ginger, hydration, etc.  The last mile coming into AS #3 there were no positive thoughts.  My left shin and left knee were shot and the nausea that started after AS #2 continued to rage.  I was not in a good place physically or mentally.  I sat down by the fire at AS #3 thought about it for 5 minutes and decided to throw in the towel knowing I would have another chance at it someday.
DNF at AS #3 on Loop #3 (84.5 miles completed in 24 hrs and 50 minutes - 17:38 per mile)

Final Thoughts
My assessment is nausea, poor eating at night, and the left shin contributed to my demise and I also ran the last lap faster than planned though AS #3. 
Did I have a good time?  Hell, yes!  This was a fun and enjoyable event.  I missed the family but was able to check in with them on every lap.  Otherwise, I had a great time, socialized with some very nice people and the event was well organized with good sponsors and fantastic aid stations.  Tom was a great race director and I hope to participate again in the future.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ultra Training Runs in the Summer

Here are the race reports for two ultras that I used as training runs for Oil Creek:

Catoctin 50K, July 30th, 2011
This end of July event has a good following in the ultra community, especially amongst VHTRC folks.  Going in, this would be a training run towards Oil Creek in October.  Several hundred people turned out at Gambrills State Park to participate in or support the race.  The forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s!  And given that we had several 100 plus days leading into the event, I knew it would be long and grueling.  Most finishers are in the 7 hour timeframe and after taking two practice runs leading into the event, I would be no different. 
This was an out and back course and the outbound seemed to be much easier than the inbound.  Coming back, the increased heat and added hills really put its toll on the runners.  The first mile or so was downhill and I seemed to be passing several people so I slowed it down some.  Going out was relatively smooth and I made it to the mid way point in 3 ½ hours.  The weather was cooler than expected and I was not pushing the pace – remember training run.
Coming back was a different story, climbing back out of the turnaround spot at Manor place was a bitch.  It was a two mile climb to get to the top of the mountain at which point it leveled out for a bit.  At the next aid station,  I eyed one of the Aid station volunteers with a beer.  He said would you like some and I said sure and then down the whole cup in one gulp.  Boy did that taste good!  In fact, I felt better after the microbrew but I a m sure I sweated it out in the matter of a mile.  It seemed like we would never get back now and it was getting hotter and hotter. 
I didn’t get into too many conversations during the race other than a couple quick one’s here and there but towards the end I was getting really tired so I started complaining to someone about all the rocks and  whataya know, I missed a turnoff and got lost.  After backtracking, got back on course and crossed the finish line at 7 hours and 48 minutes.  I worked for and earned every mile of that course and god willing I’d do it again next year.
Great event, great volunteers, and good running support.  Also enjoyed the orange soda at the end!
  Labor Pains 12 Hour Endurance Event, September 5th, 2011
Let me sum it up by saying a severe lack of sleep for three weeks leading into this event put a crimp in my performance.  I was not feeling on top of my game as in other races.  Felt similar at Bel Monte in March and luckily this course terrain paled in comparison. 
The course consisted of a 5 mile loop on rather easy terrain that was repeated over and over for 12 hours.  I really needed the bathroom at the end of each loop so that was a nice perk.   The course and event overall was mediocre.  The race started a little late after the RD was scrambling around to get people to the start line.  After running ½ of the first loop, I realized it would be a humid day.  My shirt was drenched in sweat and soaking wet after Loop 1.  After Loop 2, I had to do something I never do, I had to go shirtless – it was way too humid.  Luckily, I was not shot at by any hunters and there were no bear sightings reported that I am aware of.  So I continued the loops until the start of Loop 7 in which Allison met me for a pacer lap – this really made the event.  It was fun taking a loop with Allison through the trail.  She did twist her ankle at one point, I was concerned but she fought her way through it.  Loops 8 though 10 were just about getting through it and I struggled through and made it to my goal of 50 miles with a time of 11 hours 48 minutes. 
Happy to report that I am feeling much better!
Next stop Oil Creek!

Monday, June 6, 2011

AEI 24 Hour Adventure Trail Run - May 7th, 2011

On May 7th I participated in the Athletic Equations 24 hour Adventure Trail Run at Prince William Forest Park in Manassas, VA.  PWFP brings back great childhood memories of family camping, exploring in the woods, and riding bikes through the park.  I particularly remember being spooked by “the adults” while camping when they dressed up like ghosts while we took a tour of the cemetery at night.
The race headquarters was Camp Happyland and I took the drive down the evening before, stayed in a cabin (part of the race fee!) and was able to sleep in a bit race morning.  There was a great pre race lasagna meal and great raffle prizes.  No one walked away empty handed.  I, by chance, shared a cabin with Keith Straw.  Keith is a rather hard core ultra and marathon runner.  He won the AEI 24 ATR race several times.  I took the opportunity to pick his brain about races (Western States, Boston, Badwater, Leadville, etc.) and the ultra elite (Scott Jurek,  Pam Reed, Iris Cooper, Jamie Donaldson, Ian Sharman, etc.).  Wow, his stories were cool and he is really dedicated to the sport.  His quote was “I show up to win these races!”.  As night came, I drifted off after calling Allison.  I knew it would be a long day ahead of me.  Keith reminded me “tomorrow you will have great moments, moments where you will hate everything and moments that you will be on top of the world.”
Race day started with coffee! And breakfast then off to the start line.  This was a 6.25 mile lollipop loop course that is repeated over and over and over.
The course itself was 25% technical, 50% runnable, and 25% miscellaneous terrain.  I enjoyed the run and stayed hydrated and fueled up for the entire event.  Having bathrooms on every loop was great.  My plan was to run longer than my longest run and then go home for Mother’s day.  I did jut that, so after 15 hours I took a shower, packed the car and headed home with 56.25 miles under my belt.  The weather was perfect and the course was very scenic with a portion running along a stream.  There were two swallow tailed butterflies that were magically dancing in the early spring afternoon that I remember most about the trail.  They fluttered against my shoulder as I passed and I thought – “ this is the reason I love being on the trails”.  I shared stories with folks while running and enjoyed running the final loop with two other guys talking about football and baseball.
AEI, Alex and Scott, did a stellar job with runner support.  Every need was met, there was food galore (pizza, perogies,  potatoes, candy, etc), clean bathrooms, and great company.  Job well done.
So from here I go onto the Catoctin 50K on July 30th.  I will do some shorter runs with the BRRC in between and some longer training runs but overall I will enjoy the spring and summer on the trails.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bel Monte Endurance Run - March 26th, 2011 - Waynesboro, VA

I am having a hard time pinpointing the root cause of the 50 mile DNF at Bel Monte but I do know that things started unraveling after the Turkey Pen Aid station at Mile 22.  This should have been the point where I made up time or at least maintained a slow jog on and off the next 4 miles but it turned into a long walk.  My energy level zapped and I think I may have started the race too quickly.  Underlying the energy level was an early spring cold making it difficult if not impossible to breathe through my nose. 

The trail was challenging!  A highly technical trail with a lot of rocks and roots to get in the way of my feet.  The elevation change was pretty intense and some of the climbs, especially the Mile 28 climb to Camp Marty, were pushing me to the limit.  All this did my feet in.  So at Turkey Pen (Mile 22), I remember the volunteer saying “You look good, how are you feeling?”  In turn, I said “I do? I must look better than I feel” and 1 mile later I was toast – game over.  Looking back I should have said “I do? Do you have two Advil?”  That may have been the critical mistake.  Those two Advil may have pushed me to the finish.  This is a lesson learned for next time.
Did I mention the views were beautiful?  Being in the Blue Ridge is such a special feeling for me, one of being in tune with nature and the country side.  Out of the city, out of the everyday rush of people and back to the calm of nature. 
So I left home at 2 am on Saturday morning and headed southwest.  I really missed my wife and kids during the day but I know they were cheering me on.  I really enjoyed their company at Stone Mill.  So I arrived in Waynesboro at 5 AM and picked up the race packet and dropped off my bag.  Had to use the headlamp to see because it was pitch black in the parking lot.  We lined up at 6:15 AM for the 6:30 AM start and off we went.  About 2 miles of rather level single track then a long climb to an elevation of 3.5 K.  It was cold on top of Bald Mountain.  At the 8 mile mark, I knew it would be a long day.  At Mile 22 I thought I would throw up before I called it a day and at Mile 28 I told the aid volunteer at Camp Marty – “I’ve had enough – how do I get off this damn mountain?”.  I then went an additional 8 miles to the finish and crossed as a 50 mile DNF but a finisher for the 50K (++ for me).  As I was running to the finish folks though I was racing up as one of the early 50 mile finishers, kind of funny.  As I crossed the I said DNF and they understood. 
I received my medal and ate some Mac & Cheese but my drop bag was nowhere to be found.  After asking around, I realized I would have to wait 3 more hours for my bag!!  So I went to get some more food to eat in town and then had to come back and watch a lot of the 50 mile finishers that were around me when I dropped.  It was not a good feeling.
It was a bad day and I lost, I was defeated but it is only one day and one event (as Allison has reminded me several times).  So fellow readers, my short term plan has changed.  I took myself out of the CAT 100, took myself off the BRR wait list and registered for the 24 hour ATR in Prince William State Park on May 7th.  This will be a non technical trail run on 6 mile loops with adequate infrastructure to support the runner.  Oh by the way, Allison will be taking her test for a Blue belt in Karate on May 7th also after only 6 months of class. 
Two overachievers trying to raise a family the best we can!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buzzards Marathon – Hershey, PA – March 6th

Grass root events are great.  Expectations are low and they bring out the runner who just wants to enjoy the challenge of the course.  Those who came out to the 2011 Buzzards Marathon also were challenged by Mother Nature.  The course was sponsored by Harry Smith (Chief Buzzard) and held outside Hershey, PA.  I took this as an opportunity to visit Mom and Pop with the princesses.  The princesses had a blast and so did Mom and Pop.  OK, back to the race.  So it takes a special runner to show up in torrential rains with flood warnings posted.  A race consisting of four climbs and 8K in elevation gain/loss (per the Garmin).  With the weather, add in running up mountain stream now flowing with the rain.  All this combined –FUN, FUN, and more FUN.
The climbs did not have any switchbacks,  straight up with plateau after plateau.  On days like this you start the climb in the rain, pass through rain and fog, and end up back in rain (sometimes) or just get into more fog.  Today I went all out on the down hills, fast and furious – for me at least.  The second climb was Marcia’s Madness – enough said.  I ran up creek beds with flowing water, through briar patches, over fallen trees, and many, many rocks – all at a 45 degree angle.  Then back down the other side of the mountain on fire roads rolling down to an aid station.  This was point to point so we turned around and did it in reverse.  Again, I minimized my time at the aid station.
By the end, I was completely waterlogged.  Imagine 2 inches of rain fell over the 5 hrs and 27 minutes I was on the course.  This was a great hill training run. 
What did I learn?
Hills can be fun and fast paced walking works to get up them in decent time.  Dry creek beds turn into creeks very quickly in the mountains during rain storms.  Running downhill fast and being in control is a careful balancing act.
What’s next?
Two more 50 milers on the horizon – one late March (Bel Monte) and one in early April (BRR – currently on wait list) as the next and final stage of training for the CAT-100.

Hashawha Hills 50K, Westminster, MD – February 26th

I was using this run and the Buzzard’s as shorter distance training runs in the CAT-100 plan.  This 50K was somewhat muddy and a little icy.  The course consisted of a 15 mile loop that was repeated.  The terrain consisted of a lot of meadow perimeter running (not too exciting for me) and single track trail running.  Since this was late February, overall the conditions were good, the forest was bare and not much to see.  Can’t wait till spring time!  My strategy was to start slow and gauge the conditions.  I did this through the first loop and pretty much kept my position.  Passed a few folks here and there at the end of the first loop.  On the second loop, I was slowly trying to catch someone in front of me.  The chase was on for about 5 miles I would get within striking range the loose grip over and over.  I had my 100 oz Camelbak with me and this turned out to be a strategic advantage.  I passed this competitor at the aid station and little did I know that I would also pass another competitor as a result.  I am learning that strategy and planning plays an important part of ultrarunning.  You must find a way to minimize the distance (less time at aid stations, faster downhills, etc.)  or risk falling behind in the pack.  This race was all about passing by the aid stations and focusing on the event.  My hydration system and food was all I needed.  Although I did want to overly partake in the perogies!!  I had to fight back the temptation. 
The unexpected swag was a locally made coffee mug to all the finishers.  I collected mine after 5 hours and 51 minutes!
What did I learn?
I am getting better and I am focused on my mechanics and body.  I am learning how to stay hydrated and fueled properly.  I also am finding ways to pick up and drop off the pace as needed.  I am not on one speed that continues to get slower.  I can store reserves and tap into them if needed later in the race.  I learned that my progress is slow and that I have a lot of training left before CAT.