Saturday, December 29, 2007

Knocking Some Rust Off

Today I officially ended my break from running and over the next couple of weeks, will get geared back up for the early races in 2008. While the break has been very good both mentally and physically, I was psyched to get back out there. I did my best to stay in shape by riding the bike, training on the elliptical machine and doing slow easy runs. However, I definitely lost a good bit of speed (not that there was that much to begin with) and some overall fitness but overall felt okay today.

Mike and I ran in the trails at Kings Mountain State Park which is about 45 minutes from Charlotte on the NC/SC border. It is adjacent to Crowders Mountain State Park, where I did a good bit of training for MMT this year. I have been to the park before but never to run. I really liked the trails and found it an ideal place for both tempo runs or easy recovery pace runs. While there are no big climbs, there are several rolling sections (especially on the back side) that give you a nice break from flat terrain. There are a couple of spots that would be good for mini hill repeats as well. I had limited time this morning so I only did one loop plus an add on section up to Brown Mountain. It is listed as about 17 miles but I think there was at least one extra mile tucked in there somewhere.

I really noticed some fatigue in my legs (especially hips and quads) after about 2 hours. That is not surprising to me since I have not been running lately and did give a decent effort early on. I also bonked somewhat after about 2.5 hours, likely due to being a bit behind on calories. The weather was surprisingly humid which made the 50 degree temps feel much warmer - 30 minutes into the run and I was already drenched. I managed to roll my left ankle a couple of times which felt wonderful. :-) Towards the end of the season this year I had overcome my seemingly chronic ankle-rolling ways but a month away from the trails provided a window for them to creep back in. I iced it for a bit this afternoon and it feels okay now.

I would be lying if I said the loss of speed and some fitness didn't bother me but a wise man once said that the first run after a meaningful break should be difficult, otherwise you didn't take a long enough break. Mike made a good point in that my endurance seemed fine and the fitness will come back before I know it. I hope to run on these trails much more this year and could even envision putting on a race there someday. 2008 is a year that I have big expectations of myself (preview to follow soon) and am excited about taking the first steps today. Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New River Trail 50K

I wanted to post some information about a new 50K trail race planned for 2008 - the New River Trail 50K. The inaugural event will take place on October 11, 2008 in Fries, VA, which is about 13 miles from Galax, VA near the NC/VA border. This region has some fantastic trails and natural areas and will no doubt make a great locale for a trail race. The race is being organized by ultra runner extraordinaire Annette Bednosky. Annette needs no introduction but for those whose head has been underground for the last few years, she is an accomplished ultra running veteran with wins at several races including Western States, Rattlesnake and most recently, Hellgate. If her RD ability is half of her running prowess, we are all in for one heck of treat come October.

Proceeds from the race will go to The National Committee for the New River (NCNR) an organization that protects, restores and educates about one of the oldest rivers in the world. The New River's watershed includes North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and the NCNR does work in all three states. Entrants will also have the opportunity to make a contribution to NCNR's Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program. This option will be included on the registration form at (link included on the race website).

Annette is striving to have this be a "green" race, using local, recyclable items and products from companies with "green" practices as much as possible. In the spirit of being green, minimal disposable materials will be used and those that must be disposable will be recyclable. Finally, she is striving to have 75% of the goods used for aid station supplies and runner giveaways come from local manufacturers and/or growers. Way to go Annette! This is a great way to support the local economy and help out Mama Earth at the same time! This is something we should all do more of. I know what my plans for October 11th are and encourage readers to visit the race website to learn more and sign up through the online registration link. You can also contact Annette through the website with any questions that you have.

Best of luck to Annette with the New River Trail 50K. This is sure to be the first year of a great event. Be sure to check out the website and learn more about the race and the causes it supports.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Blabble

This time of year is one of my favorites, a time that I look forward to throughout the year. It is ironic, given how much I enjoy running, that I get so much enjoyment from a time when I do hardly any running at all. Perhaps it is the joy that the little boy in me gets from the Christmas season. I think a big part is that I don't have a schedule to follow - training or otherwise, which provides a much need mental break for me.

At the same time, I am anxious about the coming year and the goals I am already setting for myself in my mind. January is going to be a painful month with lots of track and tempo runs as I get ready for the Myrtle Beach Marathon. I haven't tried to race a marathon since I started ultras (not that my previous performances were races per se) and am curious as to what kind of time I can put up. I am hoping for something in the 3:30 range. While this is very slow for many of my blog readers, it would be a huge improvement for me and would be a terrific way to start off the year. I am not going to obsess about the time in training (yeah right) and will be satisfied as long as I give my best effort (and don't wimp out).

One thing I have learned from running ultras and the people I have met is that success can measured differently in each race. Those that can adapt as conditions change (including just having a bad day) are stronger both mentally and physically since they can "find the other gear" or be smart enough to even shut it down. As I look ahead to 2008, I want to continue to develop as a runner and improve my "running IQ" by continuing to run smart races that are within myself and maybe a couple that are on the fray.

The BIG goal for year will once again involve the 100 mile distance. I am going back to Massanutten to try and improve on the 35:02 I posted this year. It was my first 100 and that is a TOUGH course, but I still left a lot out there. I learned some very valuable lessons during the race that I have applied to shorter races but am anxious to see how I can improve. I also plan to adjust my training some to better prepare me. I am also going to try another 100 miler this summer - hopefully Cascade Crest in August. I want to try the longer distance multiple times in a year and also want to experience a race "out west" and Cascade Crest allows for both of these.

Stay tuned for a 2008 preview of sorts where I will provide more details about my goals for 2008. For now, I plan to enjoy a little time off from running so I will go into 2008 with a renewed focus and lots of energy for the miles that lay ahead.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Madness - MMT fills in 45 minutes!

Yesterday, entry opened for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT) mile race. I ran it this year as my first 100 and really hoped to run again in 2008 to try and improve on my performance. This past weekend the Western States 100 (the most popular 100 miler in the US) lottery was held and had a record number of entrants. How quick would MMT fill this year? Last year it filled in two weeks but only offered a print and mail application. This year entry was online only.

Enter a big wrinkle - I had to travel for work on Tuesday and would have no computer access when entry opened. I knew a buddy of mine would be fully engaged when entry opened so I asked him to enter for me. Good thing too as the race filled in about 45 minutes! Fortunately the race maintains a waiting list so many folks will likely get in through this avenue. I am amazed at how quickly ultra running is growing and how quickly races are filling up. I think it is a phase that will abate in a couple of years but who knows.

A lot of people were upset by the entry procedures and many didn't get in for a variety of reasons. Many want a fairer entry process. I submit that the current procedure (first come, first served) is the fairest. Although I was out-of-pocket all day, I improvised to ensure that I got in the race. I just don't agre with the notion that certain people had an advantage for getting in the race. Afterall, I was on a plane at 33,000 feet when the race filled.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about special consideration for top runners at races. I agree that a certain amount of spots should be reserved for top runners so that the competition level is maximized. Remember all the excitement this summer surrounding Jurek vs. Meltzer at Hardrock? How great would it be to see a battle between Meltzer, Krupicka and Skaggs (to name a few) on a tough course? It is not aboout catering to elite runners but 100% about maximizing the top competition at races. Perhaps even creating prize money for the top finishers. Some may argue that this will make the races more "high maintenance" and require corporate sponsorship, etc. Well folks, if the sport continues to grow the way it has the last several years then these will become realities eventually. Mind you I am a mid pack (at best) runner so I don't have a dog in the top competition/prize money fight.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vegetarian Bedrock?

Over the last few weeks I have done a good bit of reading about vegetarian diets. In doing so, I made a number of observations, none of which are very surprising. First, there are a number of "reasons" for choosing a vegetarian diet including improving health, protecting animals and supporting environmental causes. In addition, there is the whole "fad following" concept that is probably the worst reason of all. Second, there are a lot of "famous" people who have adopted various forms of a vegetarian diet including Paul McCartney, Tony LaRussa, Clint Eastwood and athletes Carl Lewis and Amby Burfoot to name a few. Other than Lewis and Burfoot both being athletes, each of these people are very different (other than being famous) yet all adhere to vegetarian diets. It is well noted in the ultra running community that Scott Jurek has achieved great athletic success while following a strict vegan diet. Rather than "follow a fad" or copy a celebrity, I would need to delve into this further to see if vegetarianism (or some form of it) was for me.

I don't think it is realistic for me to completely cut meat at this point but think I can gradually lower my intake over time. The thought being that a more gradual approach will likely be more sustainable in the long run. I began my little experiment after turkey day and have been amazed at the results so far. My two biggest concerns were feeling hungry and lacking energy, neither of which has occurred. In fact, I don't feel as "weighed" down after I eat and my energy level has remained normal. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that I haven't really missed meat all that much. In a nutshell, I just feel better.

I have started reading a book called Vegetarian Sports Nutrition by Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD(foreword written by Scott Jurek) that has been very interesting. One critical point made in the book is the need for variety in your diet. I have noticed that I have fallen into a soup and salad "trap" of sorts this week since those are easy options. For this to be sustainable in the long run, I will need to get smarter about varying my diet (that is true for non-vegetarians as well) so that I don't "burn out". I am looking forward to exploring new recipes and food combinations in a quest to capture the benefits while pleasing my palate. As an athlete a big key will be getting adequate protein to aid in recovery and to promote an overall balanced diet. Stay tuned for updates on this and as always, I would appreciate any advice or tips from others. Below are some links to sites that I came upon during my research.

Monday, November 19, 2007

2007 Ultra Season Review

With the completion of Mountain Masochist on November 3rd, my 2007 ultra season is complete. This past year has been my first full year of ultras since "discovering" the sport last summer. It has been a tremendous year of "firsts" and I am very pleased with both my development as a runner and the improved fitness I have achieved. In short, 2007 was comprised of 7 ultra races, each of which played an integral part in my continued development as a runner. The focus for 2007 was the Massanutten 100 (MMT), my first crack at running a 100 mile race. Below are some notable highlights of my 2007 season.

January - completed the Frosty 50K and improved my PR at the distance by more than 30 minutes. Also used the race as a speed workout as I prepared for MMT.

February - completed Horton's Holiday Lake 50K and for the first time, ran strong at the end of a race rather than totally falling apart.

March - ran the Bel Monte 50K and completely fell apart. First there was an electrolyte issue and then dehydration. Managed to finish but ran significantly slower than I hoped.

May - completed the Massanutten 100, by far the hardest physical feat I have ever undertaken. The course was brutally challenging but crossing the finish line was surreal.

I took a much needed 6 week break from running during the second half of May and June. My body and mind needed the break and I was able to resume training in July with renewed energy and determination.

August - completed the Laurel Valley Trail Run, my first "unsupported" race and a huge mental toughness test. This was one of the more scenic courses I have run but the view was costly - 100+ degree temps!

September - ran the GEER 100K as a "comparison" to last year (this was my first trail ultra in 2006). In my opinion this was my best performance of the year. Although my time was roughly the same as 2006, the course was about 90 minutes slower (evidenced by comparative mid pack times). Also, I put together a "complete" race and felt strong from start to finish.

November - ran Mountain Masochist for the second time and was able to run 20 minutes faster than in 2006 despite not running near as hard. This was my 10th ultra race in less than 18 months.

My race times are still not where I want them to be but I am having a ton of fun and realize that improving my performance is going to take some time. I learned a tremendous amount during the year as I gained something from every race that I did. In a nutshell, I feel as though I became a much smarter and confident runner throughout the year. Two things I really hope to improve on next year are leg turnover and toughness. The first will require a little alteration to my training methods. The second will get better with time. I just need to learn to "suck it up" more during the "dark spots" in races. Much easier said than done. Overall, I am really excited about 2008 and hope to reap many benefits from all that was learned throughout 2007.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

25 Years of Masochism

The Mountain Masochist Trail Run ("MMTR") is a legendary if not infamous race in Virginia that celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The race is known for its challenging yet runnable course, scenic fall colors and energetic race director. David Horton (Mr. Energy himself) thinks so much of the runners, that he provides some extra distance (he does this in all his races) to ensure you get plenty of time in the woods. The race is a bit of a homecoming of sorts as it attracts a national field and the pre and post race festivities provide and excellent venue to visit with old friends and meet some new ones.

I signed up fr the race in May as I knew that it would fill quickly with the whole 25th anniversary and all. This would also be Horton's final year as the RD of MMTR as he passed the reigns to Clark Zealand after this year. This made me particularly glad that I was running in the race this year. Although I am still relatively new to the sport, I still have a tremendous appreciation for what Horton has done to promote ultrarunning.

I really had no business running MMTR this year. After all, I was pleased with my effort at GEER 5 weeks earlier and had only logged about 40 miles TOTAL since that time. My original intention for running this year was to go back so a friend of mine could avenge a DNF from last year. However, he was injured and not running. So why run the race? Well, despite my lackluster training I felt that I could still improve on my time last year. Check the results and you will see that rocket speed was not necessary to improve over 2006. So off I headed up to Lynchburg for my second helping of Horton Masochism.

Given my training (or lack thereof) I simply wanted to run a smart race, have fun and hopefully improve over last year. The only section I wanted to run hard was the "loop" where I struggled immensely last year. Once again, John Teed and I would run most of the race together since neither of us were really concerned with posting a great time. We decided to run the opening road section harder then normal to try and bank some cushion on the cutoff and this seemed to work well for us. We were both happy to get that section over with and hit the trails. The weather was perfect, much better than last year and as the sun rose, you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. The first half of the race was pretty uneventful as we tried to power walk the hills as best we could and really run the flat and downhill sections. We ran a bit with Sophie Speidel before she left us in the dust. Sophie was very helpful to me during a "dark moment" at Massanutten this year and it was great to run a bit with her.

John and I remarked how much more we liked the course this year. Last year's race was a comedy of errors from the time we left Charlotte so it was no wonder we weren't thrilled with the course. The fall colors were close to peak and sections of the course were bathed in bright reds, yellows and orange. The crystal blue sky made for an excellent backdrop as well. We rolled into the AS 10 and Long Mountain Wayside right where wanted to and quickly filled up, got a few things from our drop bags and headed out. John had to head back to retrieve something and I headed on. I would run mostly alone the rest of the day until John caught back up with about 2 miles to go. I settled in to Buck Mountain and made much better time this year. I was amazed at how relaxed I was ad how much I was enjoying the race. before long, I came upon the Loop, which I wanted to run really well. Last year I was in death march mode here and it took me over 1:30 to complete the section. This year I ran very focused but did not push the pace too hard. I covered the loop in just over 1 hour and felt great leaving there. I continued to make steady progress and arrived at Salt Log Gap just as the sun was starting to really heat up. I took it easy on the climb to Forest Valley because I knew the next section was a beast.

Upon leaving the aid station I reflected on how bad I felt at this point in 2006, where I was worried that I might not make it in under the cutoff. This year I knew that I could walk it in and make it with time to spare. I still moved purposefully and tried to march up the steep climbs and pound the downhills. Finally I came upon the final aid station and moved through to get going to the finish - I could smell the barn! After a mile or so of a pathetic shuffle, John caught back up with me and we ran in together to the finish. I did improve over last year by about 20 minutes or so but did not "kill myself" to do so. I really had a lot of fun this year and think running more relaxed was a huge benefit.

After the finish, John and I met up with Jeff McGonnell who finished about 10 minutes before us and watched as the other finishers came in. We saw Tom Green complete his 25th Masochist - the only person to do so and watched our buddy John Teague come in. We then headed back to Lynchburg and headed to the post race dinner. MMTR is the only 50 mile race I have run and I have now completed it twice. Last year it was my third ultra ever and this year it marked my 10th ultra. I am amazed at how much I have learned over the last year and the many friends I have met on the trail. But then again, that is one of the things that makes this sport so addictive.

Thank you to David Horton for his 25 years as RD and thanks to Nancy, his wife for putting up with it. I know we are in good and able hands with Clark Zealand as the new RD. Thanks to all the volunteers and aid station workers, you guys did a great job.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mountain Masochist Preview

Today I am heading up to Virginia to run in the Mountain Masochist 50 mile trail run. This is a storied race that is celebrating 25 years in 2007. Since GEER, I have taken a bit of a break and focused most of my efforts on tempo/speed workouts. The weather is set to be near perfect which will be a welcome change from the bone shivering cold of last year. I had a tough time last year battling nausea the final 10 miles to finish in the back of the pack. Then again it was only my third ultra and I am a much fitter and smarter runner this year (hopefully). My only goal this year is to improve over last year and enjoy the time on the trails. I will post a report next week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back in the Routine

After taking all of last week off, I am getting back into a regular running routine. I generally take at least a week off after peak races and my travel schedule last week wasn't conducive to regular workouts anyway. The rest, albeit a short one did me a lot of good both physically and mentally. I am easing back into weights and running this week and with Masochist only 3 weeks from this Saturday, my training will be somewhat measured. I am curious if any readers out there have any tips for "training" for races that follow closely to a peak effort. I do want to improve on last years time at Masochist but realize that my legs will likely not be 100%. However, I am much fitter now than last fall and think I can improve over last year despite not being 100%. My plan is to do two tempo/speed runs, two recovery runs and one medium long (2-3 hours) run each week. Now, if only the weather would become more October-like rather than July-like.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

GEER 100K - Perfect Weather, Tough Trails and Legs Late

The GEER 100K was the site of my first trail ultra back in 2006 and I was anxious to use this year's event as a measure of my improvement since then. The course was changed significantly this year incorporating more single track trail and about 16,000 feet of elevation gain and about 15,000 feet of descent. I feel I have learned a lot over the last year and with finishes at Massanutten and Laurel Valley, I felt very confident both physically and mentally going into the race.

I have really tried to focus my recent training on developing my climbing skills with hill repeats and improving leg turnover with more speed/tempo workouts. An added benefit of the speed work has been the improvement in overall fitness and running form. I knew these aspects of my training would be very important to run well at GEER. I also hoped to be much more efficient in the aid stations as this has been a pariah of mine in past races. I went in to the race READY - I felt as good as I ever have from a confidence standpoint.
The weather was near perfect as the RD sent us off into the early morning towards the first big climb of the day. The first 25ish miles would be shared with 50K runners so it was important to keep that in mind as folks flew by early. My plan was pretty simple - run conservatively for 35 to 40 miles and then pick things up after this point. I am tired of going out too hard only to blow up halfway through. I am also tired of being sooooo slow, and wanted to have legs to really run late.

I settled in early and made good time through the early sections, which were a combination of single track trail, gravel road and a short stint on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I felt really good when I got in to the 25 mile checkpoint and quickly got what I needed and headed out. At this point the 50K runners were headed back so the runners were much more spread out. I continued to run easy down the Kennedy Ridge trail as the toughest climb of the day was looming. Ironically, the climb up Kennedy Ridge would be our final climb of the day so I tried to memorize landmarks. Upon reaching the bottom, I slammed a Balanced protein drink, filled my bottle and headed out. A short gravel road section took us to the climb up the Stony Run trail (miles 32 to ~40). This would be the hardest climb of the day but also the climb that I covered the fastest.

I "attacked" the climb (at least to the extent a mid-pack runner attacks anything) as I wanted to get it over with. I knew that after the mile 40 aid station, we had a nice 7 mile section that was completely runnable that I really wanted to cover fast. I made it up the climb in about 2 hours, which was really quick for me (perhaps too quick?). I got what I needed from the aid station and headed out to run the 7 mile section along Mill Creek. This was my favorite part of the race. We started out with about a 1 mile section down several switchbacks and then covered about 5 miles along the valley floor. The last section is about 1 mile along a forest service road to the aid station. In the two previous races that I have run on this section of trail, I have bonked badly here. I was determined to hammer this sections as best I could and ended up running the whole way, covering the section in 65 minutes. Really fast for me.

Next I took it easy on a 3 mile gravel road section to "save up" for the last big climb up Kennedy Ridge. I was pretty spent though as the hard efforts up Stony Run and down Mill Creek had taken a big toll. Not to mention I was at the 50 mile point and had yet to sit down all day. I put my head down and moved up Kennedy Ridge but knew that I was really slowing down. I just couldn't get the leg turnover I needed to make good time up the climb. I did my best to run the flats and covered the jeep road heading to the aid station well. I made it about 54 miles or so before I turned my headlamp on.

At the 56 mile aid station I grabbed some broth, filled my bottles and took off to get this thing done. I ran all of the jeep road but took it easy on a really rocky (think Short Mountain at MMT) section and then trotted into the last aid station with 5 miles to go. I checked in and out and took off for the finish. I have never had the legs or mental resolve to do this in previous races and I have to admit that it felt GRRRREAAAT (think Tony the Tiger). I ran about 95% of the way in only walking a couple of hills. In fact, I only stopped once to take my final gel with about 3 miles to go. I cranked the final half mile on the road and finished in 15:48, about what I ran last year. I picked up 6 places over the last 12 miles including 3 spots in the last 3 miles. The best part was passing someone about 200 yards from the finish!

Although I ran well all day, I really hoped to post a faster time since I thought my training had prepared me to do so. However, I gave it everything I had and did not waste any time during the race. The truth is, I am just not a fast runner and have to accept that I have a lot more to learn and develop before I will be. That is okay though since I am having lots of fun in the sport as I continue to learn. I try to give myself a break and remember that I have only been at this ultra thing for 15 months. In fact, 24 months ago I was 30 lbs. heavier and was struggling with road marathons much less trail ultras. The RD said the course was about 1.5 to 2 hours slower than last year and comparing times with last year generally supports this. So overall I am pleased with my effort.

I was very efficient in the aid stations, never spending more than 5 or 6 minutes and didn't sit in a chair throughout the whole race. Nutrition and hydration worked the best it ever has. Water/E-caps and a combination of gels and solid foods for the first 40 miles. Then I switched to a sports drink/water mix and ate gels and shot blocks (no solid food at all) for the final 22 miles. Throughout the race I drank a Balanced protein drink every 2 - 3 hours and ate some crystallized ginger about every 2 hours. No foot issues (only one small blister) and my Montrail Continental Divides worked perfectly.

This race was very well done. The course markings were as good as I have ever seen and the aid stations were well stocked with good food and enthusiastic volunteers. At the finish we had warm showers, hot lasagna and the most comfortable chair (wooden bench) my posterior has ever sat on. Definitely one to put on your list of races to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

GEER Preview

I will be running the Great Eastern Endurance Run (GEER) 100K this coming Saturday. The race is located just outside Charlottesville and was the location of my first trail ultra. My running has improved immensely over the last year and I am anxious to see how I do relative to last year. I have really put a lot of work into my training and expect it will pay off on Saturday. The course has had some significant changes all of which make the race more challenging. However, the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains will make it all worthwhile. The weather outlook calls for temps in the 70s with clear skies. Hopefully the forecast will hold.

One of my goals for this race is to really focus on holding back early so that I can run stronger during the last 20 miles. I want to continue to move purposefully but not open things up too much early on. Another key goal is to be much more efficient in the aid stations, getting what I need and then moving on. I think a key component of this is to avoid any extended breaks at the aid stations. If I need a rest, get through the aid station and rest further down the trail. In my opinion, aid station efficiency and having legs late in the race are two ways to significantly improve ones race times - particular in longer races such as 100K or 100 mile events. Regardless of how the chips fall, I am expecting a fun time on the trails in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Will post a report next week.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Crowder's Mountain Training Run

Yesterday I headed over to Crowder's Mountain for a 6 hour training run. This run was important for a number of reasons. First, it would be my final "long" run before the GEER 100K on September 29. Second, it would give me a sense of how much my climbing has improved over the last 8 weeks. Finally, I hoped to test my leg turnover on technical terrain in the latter half of the run. Both climbing and leg turnover late in the race would be critical to my success at GEER.

The weather was warmer than I hoped for but wasn't totally unbearable. I hoped to cover about 31 miles but would start with two 14 mile loops. If all went well, I would add on @3 miles before covering the final 2.5 miles of the second loop. If I had about an hour left at this point, I would add the 3 miles. I would make one stop at my car after the first 14 miles and had two water spots along the route. There were two "goals" for the run. First, I wanted to go out easy and cover the first "half" in just over 3 hours. By doing so, I would hopefully save my legs and be able to push the second half of the run, hopefully breaking 3 hours for the second half. Leg turnover would be critical in achieving this goal. My second goal was to climb strong on the hills and run all but the steepest sections even if it was more of a trot at times.

The hardest climb would be at the beginning of each loop and it went well both times. It was about 2 miles to the top and I was up in around 30 minutes and down in around 20 minutes both times. After the climb, I had a 5 mile out and back that also covered a big climb at the halfway point followed by a nice 2 mile downhill section. This would allow me to not push too hard on the climb and make it up on the downhill. I covered the first 14 miles in about 2:50 (@ 3:10 for 15.5 miles) and felt really good. I quickly refilled my pack and bottle, replenished my gels and shot blocks and was off for the second loop.

I again took the first climb relatively easy but was actually 4 minutes faster up and ~6 minutes faster down. On the next round of the 5 mile out and back, I pushed the pace some(heart rate up to about 160, 164 on uphill sections). After the second climb, I cranked the downhill section (heart rate up to 166) to do a bit of threshold training and to test the quads. I covered the two miles in a little over 15 minutes, which is pretty quick for me. When I arrived at about 2.5 miles to go, my time was about 4:55 so I added the "extra" three miles and decided to push as hard as I could. The hope was to cover the last five miles in under an hour. My legs were pretty tired but it was worth a shot.

The "extra" three miles included the two mile downhill section but added a steep one mile climb on a gravel road. Before getting to the downhill section I had to go up to the Crowder's summit one more time. I ran the gravel section and pushed the stair steps to the summit as fast as I ever have. I pushed the downhill section and again covered it pretty quickly in about 16 minutes. I was pretty wiped but made my way up the steep climb, running all but the steepest sections. My legs were screaming the whole way but I covered the climb in about 12 minutes, leaving me only 17 minutes to break 6 hours for the day - no way that was happening. I stuffed my watch in my pocket and decided to run the last section as best as I could. I opened up and ran as hard as my body would let me, never once looking at my heart rate or time. When I got back, my time was 6:06, I had covered the second 15.5 miles in 2:56 and the last 2 .5 mile section in 23 minutes! These are fantastic times for me.

This was one of my best training runs ever and I accomplished both of my primary goals. I am particularly excited about covering the second half ~14 minutes faster. Also, to see the benefit of holding back early so you can turn it on later is a huge mental lift as well. Hydration and nutrition (gels, shot blocks and e-caps) all went exceptionally well. I also used this run to "test" out the gear I would use during the race and everything went off without a hitch. My confidence level is pretty high as GEER approaches. Hopefully, the race will go as well as the training run yesterday.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

September Arrives - Football and Cooler Temps

Flipping the calendar from August to September always gets me excited. This generally signifies the arrival of football season and a reprieve from the summer heat. In North Carolina, the landscape will soon become picturesque with fall color.

This year September means my training for the GEER 100K (September 29th) is coming to a close. In fact, this week is my last big push with next week being a "mini push" of sorts before I taper for two weeks. Total mileage for this week will top out around 70 with another 50 or so next week. My training has gone very well as I have focused largely on leg turnover and improving my climbing. These are two areas that have limited my performance in some previous races and I wanted to really make a concerted effort to improve these areas. Hill repeats are hard in Charlotte as the longest climb can be covered in about 15 minutes. It is not realistic for me to get to the mountains mid week for repeats so I have had to improvise - treadmill!

I am not a treadmill fan by any means, but my climbing has definitely improved with the addition of 3 x 30 minute repeats on the treadmill at 12 to 14 incline. I usually alternate running and walking every 10 minutes with a 10 minute "recovery" on 0 incline at ~8:00 pace in between the repeats. The results have been good so far but the real test will be in three weeks. I have also done a good bit of tempo and threshold training to improve leg turnover and have incorporated segments of these into my long runs. The improvements from both of these workouts as boosted my mental confidence, which is also a very good thing.

Tomorrow I am headed to the mountains to do about 6 hours on technical mountain trails as my final long run before GEER. Hopefully, the weather will be cooler and my legs will stay strong. Last but not least, my friends Mike Mason and Brennen Wyssong are both running the Wasatch Front 100 this weekend in Utah. This is a tough race that I hope to do someday. Both Mike and Brennen ran very strong at Massanutten this year and I am sure both will do great out west. Good luck guys.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blisters on blisters

I know this picture is disgusting but I put it up anyways. In my Laurel Valley report I noted how bad the blisters were on my heels at the end of the run. Well, this picture is three days after the run. Actually, the picture doesn't really do them justice. They are all healed now. Lesson learned - Vaseline is your friend!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hot! Hot! Hot! at Laurel Valley

Laurel Valley is an infamous trail run put on by the Runners From Hell running club each August. This year, it felt like the venue was moved to Hell rather than the usual location in the upper northwest region of South Carolina as it has been noted that this was the hottest year ever. This race is unique in that it is purely about the run as Claude (the RD) provides no wicking t-shirts, goodie bags or even aid stations (the remoteness of the race precludes aid stations). The low-key nature of this race is a nice "break" from typical races and allows new generations of ultra runners to get a glimpse of the way the sport used to be (all about the running). You carry everything you need to sustain you on your journey including food, water purification (you drink from the many streams along the course), electrolyte tablets and last but certainly not least, a heaping dose of mental resolve and a dash of stupidity. So what do you get for completing this race? Well, you get a t-shirt and some Coke and pretzels at the finish. You can also order a handmade wooden plaque but have to pay extra for it. What this race lacks in swag is more than made up for in scenic trails that challenge a runners limits forcing you to look deep within yourself for strength on multiple occasions. For me, I gained a new form of mental toughness and confidence that can only be developed by going through such an adventure.

On Friday evening John, Mason and I met up with Byron Backer, Mark Long, Jim Musselman, Stephen Morris and Mohammed Idibi at a local pizza place to fuel up. Afterwards we all headed to Byron's house as he was kind enough to let us all crash there. We spent the rest of the evening reminiscing and talking about past and future races and finalizing our preparations. Everyone turned in early as we had to be on our way before 4:00 AM to drop off cars at the finish and make our way to the start. Once there I talked with several others including Jeff McGonnell, John Teague and Bill Keane about the course. Although it was my first year, I was given a waiver on sweeping since I had sufficient experience with some tough races (the finish at MMT being the crown jewel). Nonetheless I wanted to be certain to show proper respect to a course I had little knowledge of. Key was to stay hydrated, eat properly and follow white blazes. How hard can that be?

We took off promptly at 6:30 AM and I ran most of the first 2 hours or so with John Teed. We pushed a little hard early to try and take advantage of the cooler temps and downhill terrain. Within an hour I began to feel a blister on my right heel. It didn't hurt too bad and there was nothing I could do about it anyways so I just pressed on. All went fine until I got off course and lost John for the remainder of the run. I rumbled around on the wrong side of some whitewater falls for about 25 minutes or so until I finally saw a backpacker on a trail above me and realized where to go. Next I realized that I was getting low on water so I tried to slow the pace. This wasn't too hard as I had to go under a number of fallen trees and had some nice climbs to conquer. Eventually I got to a water source, filled up and went along my way. Several runners passed me in the next hour including Richard Schick who was going for his 10th finish. He looked strong and had a good race on a tough day. I continued to make decent progress but was beginning to feel the effects of pushing too hard early and knew I was behind on fluids. I was eating well and taking an S! Cap (341 mg sodium) every 45 minutes.

My blister had stopped hurting and at my next water stop I found out why, my right sock was red on the heel from where the blister had popped. It looked unsightly but again there was nothing I could do so I kept going. Eventually as I was heading down some stairs I rolled my right ankle, which I had injured during a run up Mt. Mitchell last month. It hurt but was fine until I rolled it again as Mark Long and Richard Sexton were passing me. Mark asked if I was okay and I said I was fine and he moved on. He and Richard also had a good race. Fortunately I had no more problems with the ankle and ran alone for most of the next couple of hours until I met up with Bill Keane, Leon Harmon and Lynn DiFiore as I was getting water. The views to this point had been spectacular with several suspension bridges and waterfalls. I ran with them for awhile and we got off course again briefly but soon found our way back. We continued on but I was really starting to struggle in the heat. I was amazed at how strong Bill and Leon were despite the temps. I took it as proof of the benefit of experience. I hooked up with Lynn and we ran most of the rest of the race together. Eventually we caught up with Bill, Leon and Tyler Peek. Brian Beduhn also caught up with us. Bill, Leon and Brian ran ahead while Tyler, Lynn and I got some more water. At one point we encountered some backpackers who were really cheering folks on. That was a big help for me as I was pretty low on energy at that point.

When we got to the biggest river crossing on the course, the Horsepasture River, Lynn stopped to get in the water for a bit. I should have stopped but ran on to try and make up some time. We continued to leapfrog with Tyler for a bit until he finally left us for good. At this point I was having to stop and rest for a couple of minutes in an effort to cool down. Why I never got in the water baffles me. I knew that any hope of a good time was long gone but I didn't really care since I was using this as a good training run for the GEER 100K in September. I justified that the extra time on my feet would serve me well. Whatever; the things you say to yourself during these runs never ceases to amaze me.

I enjoyed talking with Lynn who now lives in Colorado and volunteered at Hardrock this year. She lives near the course and it was nice to get a first hand account of the scenery there. Eventually, we made it to an intersection in the trail that gave us an indication of what we had left (probably about 4 miles or so on mostly flat trail). We slogged our way through until we saw the sign indicating it was 1.7 miles to the parking area. Lynn mentioned that it was farther. It felt like it was 10 miles as opposed to the 1.7 posted on the sign. Once we crossed the final bridge oer the Whitewater Falls, I was in awe of the beauty of that section. Next up was a scramble over some boulders and then several switchbacks up to the stairs that take you to the top. All told, you gain about 1,000 feet in elevation over the last mile of the course! I had to stop and rest a couple of times on the climb as I was whipped. Lynn ran on as I sat down and wheezed while I searched for energy. Finally I reached the top and ran down the asphalt walkway to the finish in 10:26.

After the finish when I took off my shoes I had some of the worst heel blisters I have ever seen. Others commented that they were the worst they had ever seen. Three days later and they still look like something out of a horror film. This was a very tough race, one that I underestimated but I learned a lot as a result of the experience. That alone makes it worthwhile. In my opinion this race is harder than Horton's Mountain Masochist which is 20 miles farther. Although very difficult, the experience makes me a better runner (a reward much better than any medal or finisher's award) and Coke and pretzels have never tasted so good.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Laurel Valley Preview

This afternoon I am headed down to South Carolina for the Laurel Valley 35 mile trail run. This is a unique race in that it is totally self-supported. Each runner must carry everything he/she will need and get water from the many water sources along the way. As such, a certain amount of strategy must be employed as you decide what to carry. I am going with a "packing light" strategy and will carry just enough gels, pretzels and S! Caps to get me through about 8 hours. I also will go with two handhelds and a smaller bottle, using iodine to treat the water. This race is a very low-key event, known for the incredible scenery along the way including suspension bridges and waterfalls.
Mason, John and I are headed down together today. John and I plan to run most of the race together. Mason is going for the win so we will likely come in about 2 hours after him. The temperature has been very warm this week (Charlotte topped out at 104 yesterday - the hottest ever) but it is supposed to cool down (to the upper 90s) tomorrow. As with all of my ultra races, I am looking to have a fun day with friends on the trail and enjoy the scenery. I plan to use this race as a long training run for the GEER 100K (my focus race for the fall), which is a little over a month away.

Hopefully, all will go well with the race and perhaps we will get a bit of respite from the heat. Then again, it IS August and it IS South Carolina. When you look at the list of those who have run this race, the list includes a number of well-known veteran ultrarunners throughout the Southeast. I am certain there will be many points of suffering in the searing heat tomorrow, but at least I will be in good company. A few pictures of the course have been included and I will post a report next week.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back to the Mountains - Day 2

I had so much fun going up Mt. Mitchell that I decided to check out another "local" trail on Thursday morning. Brian suggested I check out the Kitsuma trail in Ridgecrest, which is literally just off 1-40. I headed over early Thursday morning and was surprised that the gate was open at 6:00 AM. I had a headlamp since I expected it would be dark under the canopy. I knew little about this trail but read that there were some nice switchbacks as you climb to the top. The weather was again near perfect and I decided to take it very easy since a) I was running on unknown terrain and b) I was a little tired from the day before.

I had a lot of fun on this trail and figure it was about a 10 mile loop, with the last portion on an asphalt road. At a picnic area there is a turn and I went left and ended up on the road. Perhaps if you go right you can stay on the trail. Trail was pretty well maintained and is no doubt very popular. Definitely one to consider if you are in the Asheville area.

Back to the Mountains - Virgin Trip up Mt. Mitchell

After taking a much deserved 4 week break from running (not one step run at all) after successfully completing my first 100 miler, it was about time I hit the mountains again. I eased back into running a month ago and focused most of my efforts on speed/tempo workouts and medium (90 minute to 2 hour) distance runs. Total weekly mileage has averaged around 30 to 35 miles with peak weeks over 40 mpw.

I had to be in Asheville last week for a conference so I decided to take advantage of my luck and attempt a run up Mount Mitchell. I have long wanted to do this run since Mitchell is a noted landmark in NC and also the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. I checked in with my pal Mike Mason who had recently run the 40 mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge course for advice on a good route. I decided to start from the mile 352 marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This would give me a good 3 mile warm-up and cool down run on relatively flat terrain. It would also make my total distance around 16 miles, which I hoped to cover in 3 hours at a moderately easy pace.

The weather was near perfect, about 64 at 8:00 AM but a bit breezy. My route took me up the BRP for 3 miles and onto SR 128 for about 1/3 mile. I then veered onto the Buncombe Horse Trail for about 3.5 miles or so and up the Mt. Mitchell trail for 1.5 miles to the summit. I would then retrace my steps for a total of 16 miles or so. I made good time and felt strong all the way to the Mitchell trail. All along I could smell the evergreens as I was covered by a good canopy most of the way on the horse trail. Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud cover so I missed a lot of scenic views on the way up.

While the Mitchell trail was much more difficult with a lot of steep climbs, I still made good time and was even able to run some of the shorter climbs (something new for me). Unfortunately the summit was closed as they are replacing the observation deck and there was a large log blocking the way so I had to go down the Balsam trail to the parking area. On the way I rolled my ankle pretty badly but was able to keep going after a decent break. My total time up was 1:42, a little slower than I hoped but I hadn't really pushed very hard. I also had stopped to take a couple of pictures and the little break after rolling the ankle. I figure this ate up maybe five minutes total.

I chatted with the rangers at the snack bar for a bit and then headed back. Moved purposefully but cautiously down the Mitchell trail and made it without incident. I then ran all the way back on the horse trail except for stopping to take one picture. I pushed pretty hard here in an effort to make up some time. When I got to SR 128 I ran all the way back to my car. I was fairly tired but couldn't justify walking on pavement. The down trip only took me 1:09, which surprised me as I thought I would be closer to 1:20. Total time was 2:51 and most importantly I had a blast. I will definitely be back for this and may consider the race in February.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Welcome to Bedrock Runs

Seemed like it was about time for me to create a blog to share my running and life adventures. Since beginning ultrarunning in July 2006 I have completed 7 ultras including my first 100 miler on May 20. I have posted all of my reports from these previous races below. Hopefully everyone will enjoy.

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Report - First 100 Miler May 19-20, 2007

Growing Up at Massanutten:
A First Time 100-Mile Adventure

Late Fall 2006 – Two of my good friends and I decide that we want to go for a 100-mile finish in 2007. After a bit of research we decide that Massanutten is the place to try this. Many would say: “What are you thinking?” or “That is not a good idea” while others would say: “That was my first 100” or “Just keep moving and you will be fine”. That last quote turned out to be quite prophetic…

I am a bit of a “research freak” as those who know me well can attest to. Everything from buying a car to planning a vacation, I get somewhat “consumed” by the details. So as I decided to embark on my first 100 mile attempt at Massanutten one of my first tasks was to print off every piece of information I could find about the race and create a binder that I read and re-read about 20 times since signing up in December. Did it help? In a word, yes. Although it may appear somewhat obsessive, it enabled me to have a little more confidence come race day and at Massanutten, any shred of confidence you can have will be your friend.

Newbie Goes the Distance
To some extent, I am a bit of a “newbie” to ultra running having run my first ultra in late July 2006 (Big Butt 50K in SC). However, since that first race in July, I have managed to complete three more 50K’s (Frosty 50K, Holiday Lake and Bel Monte), GEER 100K and Mountain Masochist. Though relatively new to the sport, I felt that I had learned a lot and was ready to attempt what I viewed as the ultimate challenge. John and DC, two of my friends who were planning to run this with me were more experienced endurance athletes so I knew I had my work cut out as far as training goes. Unfortunately, DC would get injured in March and be unable to run with John and I. Being the trooper that he is, he agreed to make the trip and crew us for the entire race.

I am not going to bore everyone with all of the aspects of my training but will share a “mistake” that I made. Although unavoidable, not making any of the training runs on the course was a mistake on my part. This would have benefited me (although it may well have scared me away) by preparing me for the unrelenting nature of the course.

I am amazed at how quickly the months flew by and before I knew it, we were on the way up to Front Royal on May 18. As we drove up the weather continued to get worse as the dark clouds in the distance never got further away. Weather was bit of concern for me as it can be so unpredictable in Virginia this time of year. I figured it would be very humid during the day and cooler at night so I prepared accordingly.

We arrived at the Ranch, attended the briefing and socialized with some other runners. The weather report at the briefing was not promising – thunderstorms possible from midnight to 9:00 AM. Couple this with the rainstorm commencing outside and it looked like we were in for a muddy, slippery and wet couple of days. We grabbed a bite to eat in town, attended to a couple of last minute details and then headed back to the Super 8 to finalize our preparations. We talked a good bit with other runners including David Snipes, Mohammed Idibi and Brian Beduhn. Mo and Brian were also from North Carolina and would also be going for their first 100 mile finish. Eventually, we crashed and before long it was time to head to the start. John and I caught a ride with Mo and Brian so DC could sleep in a bit since he had a long day and night and following day ahead of him.

Let’s ROCK!!!
The weather turned out to be perfect for running. The high would be about 68 on Saturday and warmer on Sunday but no rain!! I was not near as nervous as I usually am before the start of a race. Perhaps because I couldn’t comprehend the enormity of what I what I was about to undertake. Perhaps because I truly had no other goal than to finish. Sure, I had certain times where I wanted to be at various points in the race but truly, 35:59 was the goal and anything under it was gravy.

I don’t really recall the start other than everyone started running at precisely 5:00 AM. John and I settled into a steady pace and planned to run the entire race together. We figured (hoped) that ones low point would be overcome by the other energy and so forth. Either way, at this point all we had to do was run.

The first several miles went by uneventfully as we were trying to take it easy on the climbs but really hit the flats and downhills. Our thought was to try and “put some in the tank” so that we would have a bit of cushion later. This proved to be a very good idea for us and it felt good to really run some early on. I was amazed at the shear beauty of the views along the course, particularly at sunrise. Seeing the sun come up along the ridgeline confirmed that I made the right choice in choosing MMT as my first 100 miler.

Habron Gap (24.4 miles) to Camp Roosevelt (33.3 miles)
We would not see DC until AS 5 (Habron Gap) at mile 24. We knew there was a big climb after this AS and planned to spend some time at this AS to really fuel up and hydrate well. I also grabbed my sunglasses and Ipod and we were off towards Camp Roosevelt. As we climbed, a variety of music filled my hears: punk rock from my skateboarding days including the Dead Kennedy’s and Sex Pistols, other alternative bands including Flogging Molly and Primus and even a little ska which reminded me of my college days. The music really helped in this section. In my opinion, this is the hardest climb of the race. It IS the first major one, it is in the heat of the day and it just seems to go on forever. I have wavered on which was the hardest climb (they all seem hard) but I really think this was the toughest. We made pretty good time though and really had a lot of fun on the downhills after the climb. We began holding back some since we knew we had a long way to go. This was the only portion of the race where my stomach started giving me a little grief. As for hydration/nutrition, I had a simple plan: 2 GU gels per hour and 30 oz. of diluted Clif drink per hour. I maintained this (avoiding solid foods) through mile 58 and then planned to switch to water and E-caps with some solid food mixed in.

I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I decided to visit the toilets at Camp Roosevelt and hydrate really well. I also put some Icy Hot on my legs as they were starting to ache just a bit.

Beware of the GRIM SWEEPER
One odd occurrence in the early part of the race was my fear of the cutoffs. I had read that Bill Van Antwerp (aka Van Animal and Grim Sweeper) was responsible for warning/pulling runners who were close to or over the time cutoff. I had read that when you see him at an aid station, beware and get going. While we were at Camp Roosevelt, the Van Animal showed up and put me in a panic even though it turns out I was over 3 hours ahead of the cutoff. This “Mania” of mine would stay with me all the way to Bird Knob. Not sure why I couldn’t shake it but it had to be incredibly annoying to John since he had to listen to all this crap.

Camp Roosevelt (33.3 miles) to 211 East (48.0 miles)
I left Camp Roosevelt feeling like a new man and although we spent a long time at the AS, I was glad that I did. John and I began running with David Snipes in this section and would do so through 211 East. On the way to Gap Creek, Sniper showed us where we would rejoin this trail later after leaving 211 East for the second time. We noticed the trail was pretty muddy here and expected it to be much harder when we cam back in a few hours. Eventually we came to the Gap Creek/Jawbone AS (38.9 miles). We noticed that Jay Finkle was dropping due to injuring his back in a fall. It was unfortunate because Jay looked to be having a strong race. I also had DC call my wife Joy to let her know that I was ding okay since the website update likely had not begun yet. I also went ahead and took a couple of Tylenol both for a headache and for some minor pain in my quads. Eventually, we began to make our way towards 211 East.

On the way we came across Gary Knipling, a VHTRC legend of sorts. I had emailed with Gary but had never met him and it was great to finally meet him as we started up Kern’s Mountain. I was feeling pretty low at this point and it was all I could do to keep moving. I recall thinking, how can I feel this bad with not even half of the race complete? I managed to just put my head down and kept pushing on to one of the “highlights” of the race – Waterfall Mountain. The good news was it was a downhill, the bad news was it was a STEEP downhill. So steep, you couldn’t walk but were forced to run. My quads screamed at me as I made my way down but eventually we made it to the gravel road and headed to 211 East. At his point we were passed by a couple of runners including Mike Mason and Brennen Wysong. I have gotten to know Mike since his move to Charlotte and he would go on to a strong 10th place finish. The notable thing about his performance was that he has been somewhat consumed by his new job so his training has been on the light side. Brennen’s report from 2006 was one of my favorites and it was good to see him have such a strong race. We rolled into 211 east and met up with DC a little before 6:00 PM.

I met Sophie face to face finally and she offered me a fruit cup and tons of encouragement. While I was still worried about cutoffs she assured me I could walk it in and break 36 hours. After a bit of rest, John and I headed out to Bird Knob.

211 East (48 miles) to Bird Knob to 211 East (58 miles)
This 10 mile section was really tough for me. The first 2 miles or so (and last 2 miles or so) is runnable as is the fire road into the aid station. Progress was soooo slow for me in this section. I think it seemed so much harder due to the other runners coming back by you. Faces I recognized were Byron Backer, Ed C. and near the top, Brian Beduhn. John went on ahead as he was making much better progress than I and eventually we met up at the top of Bird Knob. I had some very tasty soup and some Gatorade, then topped off my bottles and we headed back. We had our flashlights with us (we grabbed these instead of our headlamps) for the trip down. This proved to be a big mistake as we were unable to run the last section since we could not see clearly enough. We probably cost ourselves a good 15 minutes or so here but we got back to 211 East where we would pick up Eva Rosvold, my pacer. I changed my contacts, grabbed a long sleeve short and my headlamp here and switched over to water and e-caps for hydration. We spent a long time at this aid station but it was probably necessary looking back.

Midnight in the Garden of ROCKS! – 211 East to Edinburg Gap (75.9 miles)
The nighttime portion was here and for the next several hours, we would traverse the course by the light of headlamps with glow sticks as our beacons. The trip to Gap Creek II was pretty laborious given all the mud and the funk I was in. We definitely walked more than we ran, costing us precious time we could have used later. I tried to remember that these things are supposed to be hard and that I was in unchartered territory. Nevertheless, I was getting tired and decided that I would drink a cup of Coke at each aid station to try and give me a boost. Eventually we rolled into Gap Creek II where again, we spent a ton of time in the aid station. I ate some quesadillas and drank some water, filled up and then we were on our way. I forgot to drink the Coke but the next aid station was only a couple of miles away.

We began the climb up Jawbone again and new that we would go straight at the top rather than bear left towards Kern’s like we did earlier in the day. We again met up with Gary Knipling and ran with him some as we headed to Moreland Gap. My feet were bothering me a bit as were John’s so we again made an extended stop. I cleaned off my feet, powdered them (thanks for Zeasorb Mo) and changed my socks. It felt so much better but I could not pull myself from the chair. We sat for probably 30 or 40 minutes here. Part of me was “scared” because I knew that Short Mountain loomed. I did drink a cup of Coke to try and wake up and eventually we started on our way a little after 2:00 AM.

The section over Short Mountain had been on my mind all day. This was the one section that I thought I would need my Ipod. However, after about two hours earlier in the day, the Ipod became an annoyance and I never used it again n the race. I knew this would be a tough section because: a) it was at night, b) I had almost 70 miles on my legs and c) this is MMT where every section is tough.

We started to make pretty decent time and lugged away over the rocks. The sky was clear at first but then we did start to get a little rain. Mercifully it did not last long. For a good hour or so we were part of a “train” comprised of about 10 runners/pacers, including Hans Dieter-Weisshaar. It was fun talking with him about his many races (he is scheduled to run his 100th 100 miler at Hardrock this year). He had a tough day but went on to an emotional finish in spite of a severe list to his right side. In this section I became very discouraged as we were moving at a snails pace. Eventually, Hans and others passed us and went on. John latched on and followed them all the way to Edinburg Gap. Eva was a bit of a saviour here. She had me sit down, eat a gel, take an E-cap, drink some water and just RELAX a bit. I guess I was being a bit hard on myself. I also changed the batteries in my headlamp and we soon began moving again. Eva was using her pacing duty as a nighttime training “run” for her upcoming 100 mile run at Bighorn.

Soon enough we could see daylight coming up and I did get some sense of renewal. It was hard to believe that I had been going for over 24 hours and still had a marathon to go. I ate some of the yummy potato soup at Edinburg and drank a couple of cups of Coke. I kept my long sleeve shirt as I was a little chilled. My spirits were high for a bit until I realized we had another 8+ mile section to conquer.

Edinburg Gap (75.9 miles) to Woodstock Tower (84.1 miles)
This was another tough section for me. It was hard for me to find the strength or willingness to run much at this point. It was starting to get warm and I knew that Eva would need to leave soon since it was taking us much longer than I expected. She hung in there and said that she wanted to try and make the finish with us. I didn’t think this section would ever end but finally (exactly 3 hours after starting it) the aid station came into view and we trotted into the aid station. I was becoming a little concerned about the cutoffs and it had nothing to do with the Van Animal being there. I knew that we had to start moving quicker since we burned up so much time on the last four sections. I dropped my long sleeve shirt, filled my bottles and dropped my hydration pack and we were off. To my surprise, Eva came trotting down behind John and I. She decided to get a ride back to 211 but then realized that DC would not be able to get to Powell’s Fort in time if he took her so she ran this next section with us.

Woodstock Tower (84.1 miles) to Powell’s Fort (89.3 miles)
This was the section where I gave the most pathetic effort. It was extremely runnable and I walked almost all of it. I also complained a lot. One thing I learned is that I get very grumpy after about 24 hours. I was convinced that I was a wimp, a wuss and a pathetic mass of nuttin’ (pun intended). Eva finally told me to shut the %&*$ up and quit complaining. She said: “how can you be a wimp when you have gone over 85 miles?” “I suppose you are a wuss because you didn’t break 24 hours?” This made me realize how ridiculous I was being and from that point on, I quit complaining. John ran on ahead to get a blister looked at and eventually Eva and I joined him. I drank some ginger ale and ate bacon and sausage with a pancake wrapped around it. We bid Eva goodbye and thanked her for everything and John and I headed for Elizabeth’s Furnace.

Powell’s Fort (89.3 miles) to Elizabeth’s Furnace (96.8 miles)
PANIC! That pretty much sums up how we approached this section. I finally realized it hurt to walk as much as it did to run, so might as well run. Also, resting at aid stations wasn’t helping either so might as well keep on going. We ran the entire road section here as hard as we could, trying to make-up some time. The climb was pretty tough but we were rewarded by a long downhill that we could “attack” (to the extent we can attack anything at this point). I had stated earlier that I would like to hit the last aid station by 2:00 PM. In order to do so, we would have to run every flat or downhill and march strongly up every climb. We did just that and passed several people in this section. As we passed more people, our confidence grew and we ran even harder. We came into the aid station at 1:57 PM which was “Freaky Fast” for us and we were thrilled. Even the Van Animal said he was impressed by our effort in this section. At this point I could “smell the hay in the barn” and knew I would finish.

Elizabeth’s Furnace (96.8 miles) to Garden of Eden (AKA Finish)
We still had a doozy of a climb out of Elizabeth’s Furnace (remember what I said about an unrelenting course). It seemed like it would never end. I even tried cussing at the rocks but that didn’t help either. We finally made it over and started the descent, which we were able to trot fairly well. I thought that once we hit the road it was about .25 miles to the finish. Turns out I was wrong but so was the guy that told us 1.5 miles. We were trying to break 35 hours but held back because we couldn’t do 1.5 miles in 10 minutes. Shame on us, if we had kept running at our pace we would’ve broken 35 hours. But, alas who cares. Being a first 100, any finish is a PR. As we rounded the corner and the ranch came into view, John and I did our best to pick up the pace. It was amazing hearing our names called out and surreal when it was all over. I have never been so happy at the finish of any previous race.

Lessons Learned
The title of this report denotes “growing up”, well that is what I did as a runner at this race. I learned the importance of staying positive and the delicate balance of confidence and cockiness. The confidence boost one gets from finishing this race cannot be explained. Even though I was way in the back of the pack, I feel like I could accomplish just about anything. Although I still have been running ultras for less than a year, with a finish at MMT I feel like I have graduated from the “newbie” school. Another critical lesson is to limit the amount that you listen to others to just the basics. Every race is unique for everyone that runs it and what works for Person A could be disastrous for Person B. Also, if someone ever tells you that there are no more rocks after Woodstock Tower, they are LYING!!

Looking back, I really didn’t have any problems at MMT except for the minor stomach issue early on. Hydration and nutrition worked very well, shoes worked great and my feet held up pretty well. Part of me wishes I had a “problem” to blame my tough spots on. The bottom line is MMT is just HARD! It tests you beyond any limits you deem possible and then tests you even more. Glow sticks really are that high up further down the trail. The rocks are literally everywhere.

True Friendship
I have NO doubt that I would not have been able to finish without the help of others, particularly DC. The original plan was for him to run with John and me but due to his injury that was not possible. Rather than sulking about it, he charged up there with us and stayed up both days to crew us and think about all the details we were incapable of. He even washed off my nasty and rank feet at Moreland Gap, talk about a true friend. In Peter Bakwin’s Double Hardrock report (which I re-read for inspiration a couple of days before MMT) he talks about feeling supported during his impressive run. I would say with DC there, I definitely felt supported.

Why This Report?
I remember last summer after running my first ultra, I stumbled upon the VHTRC website and found the MMT reports. Most notably I read reports from Sophie Speidel in 2005 (my initial inspiration for running MMT), Ed C in 2005 and 2006, Brennen Wysong in 2006 and Jamey Groff in 2006. All of these reports (except Ed C’s in 2006) were first time 100-mile attempts at MMT. Hopefully, my report will serve a similar purpose for someone else who is looking for such a challenge.

Thank You
The first thank you goes to God for giving me a healthy body and the strength to undertake such a challenge. The VHTRC and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job in not only putting on a great race but sticking around to cheer us stragglers on at the finish. Russell Gill for all of his help in getting me trained and in the proper mindset before this race. He has been with me since I started doing ultras and is a huge factor in my success. Thanks to Eva Rosvold for agreeing to pace me and putting up with me for 13 hours. All of the veterans of this race that helped in my preparation and answering my many questions about this race including David Snipes, Mike Mason, Sophie Speidel, Anstr Davidson, Ed C., Jeff Washburn, Joey Anderson and others that I am forgetting. To John Teed for undertaking this adventure with me, hopefully he will want to do it again next year. And thanks to DC again for being our crew chief and number one cheerleader out there.

After I finished, several people have remarked “welcome to the club” as a form of congratulations on my finish. Well, what a club it is and I am proud to say that MASSANUTTEN ROCKS!!!

Bel Monte Endurance Run 50K Report - March 24, 2007

Bel Monte Endurance Run 50K
The “Bel Monster”
March 24, 2007

So far, 2007 has been very “lucky” for me with regard to race conditions. The Frosty 50K in January had temperatures in the 60s and Holiday Lake in February was cold but dry. The Bel Monte 50K has been cold on both of its prior runnings with significant snow accumulation last year. My “lucky” streak continued, at least as far as the weather was concerned…

I arrived in Waynesboro late Friday afternoon and learned that the weather forecast was warm (70s) but we would likely have rain to deal with. My plan was to treat this race as another training run as I prepare for Massanutten in May and the only time goal I had was to break 7 hours. Most of the course would be familiar from the GEER 100K but many sections were run from the opposite direction. I knew there would be plenty of rocky climbs and descents which I will no doubt see plenty of in May. The race started at daylight with partly cloudy skies and we were off on the first section of single track. About 5 minutes into the race I heard Gill exclaim “Bedford, slow down!” over the megaphone (I have had a tendency to go out too fast). I heeded his advice and kept moving at a reasonable pace and was soon across the Parkway an onto the White Rock Falls trail. This is one of my favorite parts of the course. The trails are technical and the waterfalls are incredible. There was also a 25K race and those runners were with us for the first 7.5 miles.

The climb up the Torrey Ridge trail was much easier for me than it was at GEER, although at GEER we were at mile 25 rather than 5! As I neared the top, the front runners of the 25K were coming back so it was a little tricky on the narrower sections. Eventually I arrived at Camp Marty and got in and out pretty quickly since I was feeling great. The next section is a great section that includes a long descent down a jeep road and then the Kennedy Ridge Trail. Kennedy Ridge was one of the harder climbs at GEER but the views are spectacular. It was nice to go down this section for a change. About halfway down I took a stumble and rolled my left ankle pretty severely. The runner behind me said it rotated a full 90 degrees the wrong way. I have had some trouble with this ankle before and had to stop and walk for a bit to ease the throbbing. My plan was to see how it felt at the next aid station (@ 13 miles). I planned to drop if it did not improve because it was too early in the race and I did not want to risk a more severe injury. However, at the next aid station it was feeling better and we had a nice 3.5 mile section of rolling gravel road for me to work out the kinks on.

The other issue was my stomach was acting up a bit but I was not really sure why. Turns out I was taking in way too much sodium. What I thought was an E-cap every hour was actually an S! Cap which has 3X the sodium. In addition, I drank Clif drink the first hour and was eating two gels every hour. I did not realize it but it the high sodium (and resulting stomach discomfort) was causing me to drink less and get behind on fluids.

The run on the road helped and I continued on. Even with the injury I was still ahead of my goal but had the most difficult section of the race ahead of me. We had a nice runnable section through the woods that leads to a long 1.2 mile climb back up to Camp Marty. This was about a 6 mile section that would be an enormous struggle for me. I walked a bit early to give my ankle a break but started running after about 15 minutes. My ankle was pretty swollen now and I could not run for more than 10 minutes at a time and then I would have to walk. I started to feel a few raindrops and tried to soak my foot at each stream crossing. After about an hour, some runners came upon me (including Vicki Kendall) and offered me some ibuprofen or Tylenol. I took two of each and hoped they would take effect soon. The warmer temperatures were giving me my first taste of the heat in 2007 and I was amazed at how fatigued I was. Throughout the day my heart rate seemed to consistently be about 5 bpm above normal. Perhaps it was the heat or injury or both. Maybe I was just a wuss today. Who knows, but regardless I was getting tired.

When we got to the switchbacks, the “drugs” took effect and I was able to move more quickly. I have found that I am a much stronger climber now than I was even two months ago. No doubt the hill repeats and weight training are at least partially responsible. I got behind a mountain biker and tried to stay with him and passed at least 5 or 6 people on the way up. I got to the top at 12:30 PM, giving me 1.5 hours to go 8 miles to break 7 hours. It was almost all downhill but very technical and exposed to the midday sun. In hindsight, I should have stayed longer at Camp Marty and drank and drank and drank some more. Instead, I filled up both bottles and headed off. I was behind on fluids at this point and had not urinated in over an hour. This combined with the exposed ridgeline, tender ankle and technical terrain did not make a fast pace possible. John Straub was at Camp Marty and was pretty dehydrated and we would spend a lot of the next two hours together.

I ran out of water about halfway to the next aid station and was having difficulty navigating the rocks with my ankle soreness. I was able to move but frustrated that I was not able to run faster on such flat (although technical) terrain. I made the best of it and John and I leapfrogged one another. He was in pretty bad shape dehydration wise and stayed at the last aid station for a good bit to rehydrate. I drank four cups of water and filled both bottles (even though it was only 2.7 miles to the finish). I tried to put the hammer down and ran the entire way. I ended up drinking both bottles before the finish. My time was 7:35.

I was pretty discouraged initially with such a poor performance less than 2 months before Massanutten. However, in the coming days I realized that even with all of the “issues” I was still only 30 minutes behind plan. After all, you have to have “bad” races in order to have “good” races. One thing I have learned is that success in ultras is dependent on how you react to problems that arise.

The race was won by Sean Andrish who blazed the course, beating the record by 18 minutes! The race was very well organized and one that I look forward to running again next year.

Holiday Lake 50K++ Report - February 10, 2007

Holiday Lake 50K++
February 10, 2007

Since becoming involved with ultrarunning last summer I have learned a lot, albeit some lessons have come the “hard way”. One of my original goals for 2007 was to complete the LUS and perhaps the “Horton Slam”. Almost immediately after registering for Holiday Lake I learned that I would not be able to make Promised Land in April so the LUS in 2007 was out the window. I decided that although the LUS was not in the cards that this would still be a good race for me to do. After all I enjoyed MMTR last year and Holiday Lake fit in well with my training schedule for Massanutten in May.

The Holiday Lake Center folks did a terrific job with the prerace dinner on Friday night. All of the volunteers made it very easy to get in out with your packet as well as sign up for lodging. We were all encouraged to try and donate to the Holiday Lake Center for the new men’s bathroom building. When I put some money in the box, it was overflowing. Hopefully, the Holiday Lake folks got a meaningful donation from all of us. After dinner I got organized for the morning and crashed in the bunkhouse.

It was very cold at the start. Depending on who you asked the starting temperature was somewhere between 8 and 15 degrees. As the course consists of two loops, I decided to use my car as a midway aid station. This would allow me to refill bottles, etc. very quickly. I was going to try and only consume gels and liquids for calories in the race to see how I reacted to it. My only time goal was to break six hours and more importantly to feel good at the end.

The first few miles were a little slow as a conga line formed right as we got on the trail. This was a year where the course was mostly dry which undoubtedly led to faster times. Eventually we spread out and I went to work trying to run steady easy miles. I was cold and often found myself picking up the pace just to stay warm. I moved along uneventfully and met several folks along the way. I took it easy on the downhill after AS 4 since I would have to go right back up after the turn around. I followed this advice and moved along reaching the turn at around 2:48, a bit faster than planned. I refilled my bottles, replenished my gels and headed out. So far the gels were working great but the shot blocks had become “shot rocks”. The second loop was definitely more difficult but I continued to make good time. I leapfrogged with a couple of runners on the way to AS 6 and we seemed to motivate each other.

Between AS 6 and 8 I began to feel a little tired but kept pushing on. As I came into AS 8 I knew I had around 9 miles to go and that 6 hours was definitely still possible. I had lost a good bit of my cushion at this point but I was still passing others and feeling okay. The remainder of the race was uneventful and the weather felt almost perfect for a run through the woods. As I came down the staircase and crossed the dam, the photographer said it was about 2 miles to go. I knew I had one more little climb up to the road at the end so I turned up the pace a bit. For the first time, I really had legs at the end (maybe I am finally learning. I came into the finish at 5:55 and felt the better than I ever have after an ultra finish. I shook David’s hand and congratulated other finishers while I stretched.

Overall, this was a very nice experience. I believe close to 250 starters were on hand despite the cold at the start. Thanks to David and all of the volunteers and the Holiday Lake Center staff for putting on such a nice event.

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50K Report - January 6, 2007

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50K
January 6, 2007

My first experience with the Frosty 50K was iwhile I was training for my first marathon. I lived in Winston Salem to attend MBA school at Wake Forest and did the majority of my training around Salem Lake. My final “long” run of 20 miles occurred on the same day as the 2002 Frosty 50K. I remember as I ran through the 2 inches of snow that these people must be crazy for running five 10K’s….

Now I am about to begin my first Frosty 50K and fourth ultramarathon. This was the year of the “Not So Frosty” Frosty 50K as temperatures at the start were in the high 50s and expected to be close to 70 by the afternoon. Nonetheless, the weather was beautiful for running and the warmer temps were a bit of a respite “normal” January weather. Since July 2006, I had completed three ultras, all at different distances and therefore all PRs! My 2007 plans call for my first attempt at 100 miles at Massanutten in May so I had a deliberate race schedule geared to get me ready for the big day. My only hope with the Frosty 50K was to beat my previous 50K time of 5:34. Although my running was a little lackluster coming off the holidays, I still felt like I could do it. I drove up that morning with my friend John Teague and thought this would be a great way to start off 2007. John had major knee surgery in 2006 and this was his second ultra in his “comeback” (first being Masochist in November). At the start I saw familiar faces Mark Long, Eric Grossman, Joey Anderson and Byron Backer. I also was introduced to Jay Finkle, whose name I knew from many of the VA and NC races.

With the temps expected to be warmer later, my strategy was to push the pace early and build a cushion so that I could “take it easy” when things heated up. I recalled this strategy worked for many at the 2006 Western States. While our conditions would be nowhere near as brutal, the concept still seemed to make sense. The course is a double out and back and was slightly altered due to high water levels which resulted in a one mile out and back on the road (yuck!) at the start of each loop. I started out strong and moved ahead at a steady pace. On the return from the road out and back, I heard words of encouragement from many of my race friends. I felt good and my heart rate was in check as we headed into the trails. I recalled how bad one particular hill was here back when I was training for that first marathon and was amazed how miniscule it was. Given the course of GEER and Masochist as well as the regular hill repeats, I definitely felt how much stronger I was. I continued on and enjoyed recalling various sections of the trail. I ran mostly alone at this point but kept Jay Finkle in sight. I heard him say he wanted to run a 4:30 and I hoped to run around 2:20 for the first loop. I passed through the first two aid stations and was soon on the first back portion. I could feel the temperatures climbing and my heart rate was at about 75% of max and I felt good. I came to the end of the first loop in 2:17 but was feeling a bit fatigued. The faster pace coupled with the extra holiday baggage were taking its toll. At this point I knew the PR was likely in the bag and felt like I could probably break 5 hours so off I went.

I continued to move well although I did slow the pace some so that I would have something left at the end. Around mile 20 or so, I felt my Achilles tightening up and my leg was really throbbing. At his point I had only stopped briefly at the aid stations and had done no walking. I decided to stop and stretch my calf and Achilles really good. This loosened it up well and I started off again. I had to walk briefly for about 10 minutes about 3 miles later but then had no more problems. Given the time I had taken I knew that braking 5 hours would be tight. I pushed as hard as I could and hit the tape at 5:02, an improvement in my 50K PR of 32 minutes! While I didn’t break 5 hours, I was very happy with my result

I had a lot of fun at this race and would like to try it under normal (cold) conditions to see how I fare. Maybe next year.

Mountain Masochist 50+ Mile - November 4, 2006

Mountain Masochist “50 Mile” Trail Run (“MMTR”)
November 4, 2006

Since starting my ultrarunning “career” in June of this year, I heard from countless others that this was a must do race at some point. MMTR was to be my third ultra race. In July, I ran a small 50K near my home in Charlotte and I completed the GEER 100K in September. I was a little concerned about being a “newbie” and running this so close to GEER, but several of my running friends were doing MMTR (including one who was going for, and got his 15th finish) so I decided to tag along and see what “Horton miles” were really about. I had no illusions about trying to go for a fast time as I literally wanted to make the cutoffs, which as it turns out, is no small feat. My buddies and I drove up to Lynchburg and went to the pre race dinner and briefing. In the morning, we boarded the bus in frigid temps and made the trip up to the race start. Brrrrr, it was cold and I was anxious to start just to warm-up. Soon enough, we were off on the road portion, which took us the first 6 miles or so and then we hit the first trail section. My plan was to run a smart race. Meaning, I wanted to really take it easy on the first half so that I would have something left in the tank for the climbs on the second half. I focused on maintaining a steady pace, hydration and my caloric intake. I moved along uneventfully and walked most of the hills but ran the flats and downhills and soon was at the midway point.

David Snipes, whom I met at GEER warned me about hanging at the aid stations too long. So far, I was in and out of each station in about 1 minute and was about 40 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I grabbed a couple of items from my drop bag, filled up and was off for the climb up Buck Mountain. This climb went well as my friend, John Teed and I made good time. Eventually we began to hear the famous Rocky music that I had read about in previous race reports. A few miles later came “the Loop”, a nice single track section of the course. Along the way, it was suggested that you run the first 2 miles or so on the green moss as I would have plenty of time to walk later. I followed this strategy and made good time around the loop. Upon exiting, I was greeted with a warm cup of chicken soup and a 45 minute cushion.

The next section was fairly uneventful and I made my way to Salt Log Gap. I ate some food (the brownies were awesome) and drank some Coke and headed off. I had lost a little cushion but was still comfortable. This is when things got fun. About 5 minutes after leaving Salt Log Gap, I suddenly projectile vomited three times in succession. Having never dealt with this before, I just kept moving. That seemed to be the theme for the day – just keep moving. I continued to drink water but had no appetite for anything. Soon enough I was at Forest Valley and had lost even more time. My watch read 3:05 and I simply filled my bottles and pressed on. The next couple of climbs were pretty tough for me as the vomiting continued. I took a gel to try and keep something down and that worked somewhat. All told, I vomited about 9 times. It was very odd as I was drinking, taking S! caps, eating and urinating regularly. I continued to drink water and just kept moving. I knew it was going to be close because I could feel my energy dropping and my stomach was pretty much empty.

I came upon a woman named Mical from MD and we began to leapfrog one another as we made our way to the final aid station. Once there, I saw that I had enough time to make the cutoff as long as I kept moving. This section was nice as it was extremely runable and I began to feel better, leapfrogging with Mical. We eventually came upon the group carrying the injured woman on the stretcher. They indicated they had enough help so we pressed on. Finally, we got to the “1 Mile to Go” sign. Apparently, this is the only measured mile on the course. I decided to go as hard as I could and hammered (at least what felt like hammering) the pace to the finish. I crossed the finish line to a handshake from David Horton in 11:48. I covered the last mile in 7:30, fast for me. I was pumped as I reunited with my friends who finished about 15 to 20 minutes ahead of me. I was glad that I finished but also happy that I ran a smart race. I had no problems during the race, save for the brief vomiting episode that I will chalk up to experience.

David Horton and all the volunteers did an excellent job and I look forward to the 25th edition in 2007.