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.

Great Eastern Endurance Run 100K Report - Sept. 23, 2006

Great Eastern Endurance Run 100K
September 23, 2006

I ran in the 4th annual Great Eastern Endurance Run 100K on September 23, 2006. I am a newcomer to ultras and not only was this my first attempt at the 100K distance but it was also my first race in mountainous terrain and only my second ultra race.


I drove up from Charlotte early on Friday to help Gill, Frannie and Marty with pre-race preparations. Gill had been working with me since May as I transitioned from marathons to ultras. I mainly assisted Marty in ensuring the course was marked, which gave me an opportunity to see some of the back part of the course that I had not seen. In August, I ran about a 20 mile section centered around Sherando Lake as a training run. After finishing up, I got weighed, picked up my packet and headed to Waynesboro for the night.

Race Day

Start to Camp Marty #1 (0 to 11.1 miles)
I got to start/finish about 30 minutes early, checked in and sipped my sports drink before the start. I had planned to meet up with David Snipes to run some of the first section with. I had never met him and only knew to look for bib number 5. I did not see him so at 6:00 a.m., I was off to begin my adventure. Being a newcomer to ultras, this was definitely unchartered territory. Although I had gotten advice from various people (Gill, Frannie, Mike Mason, and Mark Long among others) on what to expect, I knew that there was a lot that I would have to “figure out” on my own. I didn’t really have a time goal …okay I really wanted to break 15 hours. Mostly I wanted to finish strong and in somewhat decent shape.

The first 8 miles of the course takes you down the Blue Ridge Parkway for 2 miles and then down a semi-paved/gravel mountain road for 6 miles to aid station 2 (Annette’s Dinette). This section was all downhill and it was hard to avoid running fast but I did my best to hold back since the real fun would soon begin. Not to mention, we get to run back up this section to finish the race. The weather was ideal – cool with a slight breeze. It was a little humid but overall it felt great. My plan was to drink only water while on course and drink sports drink at the aid stations. So I drank a cup of sports drink and ate a handful of pretzels and checked out of Annette’s Dinette. Aid Station 3 (“Camp Marty”) is only 3.1 miles away and I made my way there pretty quickly. I stopped here to shake a pebble out of my shoes. I also saw Gill for the first time who wished me luck as I left and headed into the first climb of the day.

Camp Marty #1 to Suzi’s Oasis (Mile 11.1 to 16.3)
The next section is almost entirely on trails and climbs up over a ridgeline and heads down into the Sherando Lake Recreation Area. At the next aid station, the 50K runners split from the 100K and head back home. I knew that this first climb was going to be a bit of a wake up call to me as I would see “what I had” for the day. I adopted a strategy of only running the small uphills and all the downhills and flat sections. On bigger climbs I ran the first bit and then switched to a power walk. This would prove to be a good strategy for me. During this section, the terrain got pretty rocky and I was amazed that I was still able to cover the ground at a decent clip. I stumbled a few times but never went down completely. The views looking down at the lake wee breathtaking in the early morning. I finally encountered David Snipes (aka “Sniper”) during this section, who was having a very rough race early on. I came into aid station 4 (Suzi’s Oasis) and checked my time. I was amazed that I was on a 14 hour pace but it was still very early. Sniper said he was going to stay a while to try and settle his stomach. I retrieved the contents of my drop bag, ate some food, filled my pack and I was off. I was looking forward to the next section since it was part of my training run in August.

Suzi’s Oasis to Jennifer’s Refuge # 1 (Mile 16.3 to 28.3)
After leaving Suzi’s Oasis, you have a rolling 5.5 mile run on nice trail to the Slacks Overlook aid station. The first 2.5 miles is on very good singletrack with good footing the whole way. Eventually you bear right onto the Slacks trail, which has many more roots and rocks and also has more elevation change. This section went very well for me and I ran the entire time with two women (Eva and Melissa) who were experienced trail runners. After reaching Slacks Overlook, I saw Gill again and soon made my way across the parkway onto the White Rock Falls trail. This section is very scenic and you can hear the waterfalls the whole time. In fact, Eva and I submerged our hats in the water of one of the falls before heading back up. Eventually you come out on to the parkway and head up for about 1.5 miles back to the Slacks Overlook. I munched on a bit of food and headed out for the climb up to Jennifer’s Refuge, where I would be weighed for the first time. The climb up to Jennifer’s Refuge was pretty taxing for me at times, particularly the rocky sections. I found that footing was more of an issue for me than the climbs up to this point but overall I was feeling very good. The weather was starting to get a bit warmer so I made sure to keep drinking often and taking my S! Caps. The last section to Jennifer’s Refuge is a very runable jeep road that I was able to make good time on and soon enough I was at the aid station.

Jennifer’s Refuge #1 to Bart’s Springfield (Mile 28.3 to 36.3)
Upon entering the aid station, I found that my weight had not budged – a good sign. I popped a couple of Aleve since my ankle was a little sore from rolling it several times on the climb up. I stayed at this aid station about 7 or 8 minutes and ate a good bit of food and had the volunteer make me a turkey sandwich to go. I knew I had a long descent of 6 miles down to the next aid station so I was off. The footing on this section was great at first as we were on the same jeep road that brought us to the aid station. Eventually, however, it turned very rocky and muddy in some spots. Eric Grossman, the eventual winner with a new course record passed me heading back up and said he was having a tough race. Obviously, he turned things around. I was running almost all of this section as it was all downhill but I was frustrated because it was taking so long. I soon realized that even though I was running, I was only managing a pace of less than 4 mph. At one point I lost it and began shouting and throwing rocks. Eventually, I calmed down after my temper tantrum and continued to push along. I finally saw a woman on the trail who informed that the aid station was just around the corner. I entered the aid station pretty frustrated and was told that the mileage was wrong, that it had been an 8 mile section. This made me feel much better so I filled up and headed out. The toughest climb of the day was soon to come and I needed to get going.

Bart’s Springfield to Jennifer’s Refuge #2 (Mile 36.3 to 45.3)
The first 3 miles are on a paved mountain road and take you to aid station 9 (Willville). I ran this entire section (even the uphills) since I was pretty pumped from the news that my trek from Jennifer’s Refuge had not been so abhorrent. I pulled into Willville and stayed longer than I wanted. I decided to rest in a chair for about 15 minutes. After all, I had been at this for 9 hours and had not been off my feet yet. I also ate several potatoes and some gummi bears. Potatoes were kind of my staple for the day as I always had a craving for them at each aid station. Soon, I headed out and began the grueling climb back to Jennifer’s Refuge. The climb covers 6 miles and rises about 3,000 feet in elevation. In previous years, this section was run downhill but the RD switched directions this year so that runners would not have to climb the road (where I had my tantrum) in the direct sun. Either way, you are in for a tough climb. I soon realized that I was going to have to walk most of this as there were not many flat or downhill sections. If I had a low point in the race, this was it. I began to feel the fatigue and grew concerned that my fingers were swelling. I also realized that I wasn’t peeing as often so I took a couple of S! Caps and kept drinking as I continued on my death march. I was passed by a couple of runners and soon began a leapfrog game with a couple of Marines. This leapfrog would continue all the way back to aid station 12. The progress was slow but it was progress. Eventually, I came back out onto the jeep road that leads back to Jennifer’s Refuge and the footing improved. I started to run again and it felt good to stretch out my legs and soon I was at Jennifer’s Refuge #2. Interestingly, I saw a dead rattlesnake in the road about 200 yards from the aid station. This is really the only “wildlife” I noticed during the day other than the dogs and cows on the first descent.

Jennifer’s Refuge #2 to Camp Marty #2 (Mile 45.3 to 50.8
I got weighed again and my weight was still the same. I was relieved because I felt like I had gained weight. I retrieved my headlamp from my drop bag and ate a grilled cheese. Suddenly I saw a familiar face – Sniper! He had recovered and was in good spirits. He went on the finish the race about 30 minutes ahead of me. My stomach wasn’t feeling terrific and Sniper suggested I try peppermint candy and it worked like a charm. I learned a lot from him during this race (seeing him recover, etc.) even though we only ran together a short bit. Pack and bottle filled, I headed out down a steep descent towards Camp Marty about 5.5 miles away. I felt very confident since I knew I could walk the whole way if necessary and still make the cutoff. Once the terrain leveled out, it turned very rocky and I rolled my ankle several times and had to walk. This was very frustrating since it was so flat. I did my best to mix in some running as often as possible. There were several creek crossings and the water felt good on my feet. I came upon a volunteer who was hanging glow sticks as darkness was looming. Before too long, I recognized the trail and could hear music so I knew I was at Camp Marty. At this point I knew the 15 hour goal was shot but I was feeling good and could break 16 hours if I hustled. I ate a good bit at Camp Marty and Marty played the Notre Dame fight song for me to motivate me. It worked and I took off, anxious to get to the finish.

Camp Marty #2 to Finish (Mile 50.8 to 61.9)
I left Camp Marty with a full pack and bottle. I also, had plenty of gels and clif blocks so I knew I could skip the final two aid stations. This would allow me to get moving on the long 6 mile climb up the road to the parkway. Shortly after leaving Camp Marty, I saw Gill for the last time before the finish. With his words of encouragement, I picked it up and ran the next 3 miles to Annette’s Dinette #2. When I got to the highway, I turned on my headlamp and reached aid station #12 around 7:50 p.m. I yelled out my number and kept on trucking up the road. I knew I would have to walk most of this and figured if I could reach the parkway by 9:30 p.m. I would be able to break 16 hours with no problem. The climb was pretty arduous and took forever. I power walked most of it and ran even the shortest flat or downhill section. I could see headlamp lights behind me and this motivated me to keep pushing. I could see that the parkway was getting closer to me (it ran parallel and slightly “above” this road) so I knew I was getting closer to the turnoff. I came upon Chris and Darla from Bend, OR and walked with them for a while. I enjoyed hearing about the races they had run and enjoyed the company. Darla was having some knee pain so I headed on and said I would see them at the finish. Eventually, I was on the parkway and saw that it was 9:22 p.m. and that I would definitely break 16 hours. I started running and stopped for some walk breaks every now and then as my feet were starting to hurt a bit. Soon I could see the lights and kicked in for the last 100 yards. I crossed the finish line at 9:42 p.m. for a time of 15 hours and 42 minutes. I was elated. Frannie and Sniper greeted me and gave me my finisher’s shirt. Gill came over shortly and offered congratulations.

What a great race! The volunteers were terrific and the course provides spectacular views. The whole event is organized exceptionally well from check-in to food at the finish. The course is very challenging and one must be well trained to succeed at this event. Thanks to the coaching work of Gill and advice of others, I accomplished this goal without making any major mistakes. I would recommend this event to anyone, whether a newbie (like me) or an elite runner.

Big Butt 50K Report - First Ultra July 21, 2006

Big Butt 50K
July 22, 2006
“A Newbie’s Perspective”

I participated in the Big Butt 50K on July 22, 2006. This was my first “official” ultra as I had ran further than the traditional marathon distance previously but only on training runs. This would be my first “taste” of an ultramarathon and hopefully would serve as a springboard of sorts for future races. My previous running experience included several marathons and I initially approached this race as a “marathon plus 5 miles”. However, as my training progressed I realized I should be more methodical with regard to hydration, run/walk strategy, etc. Particularly if I had an interest any running longer distance races. I was confident that I was well trained for the race and my only real concern was the heat (after all this was South Carolina in July).

I rose at 4:00 a.m. on race day to begin my preparations for the race. Since I live in Charlotte, I wanted to leave by 5:00 a.m. so that I could arrive at the start (RD Claude Sinclair’s house) by 5:30 a.m. As I looked out the window and saw the sheets of rain and rolling thunder that persisted, I shrugged my shoulders. All of my previous marathons have had terrible weather with the exception of Myrtle Beach this past February, which started out with rain but cleared by the start. This must be a pattern as this is just what happened for Big Butt. In addition, the temperature was much cooler than in previous years although the humidity was still high. As we lined up, I heeded the advice of a veteran of the race and plugged my ears for the powder musket start. However, Claude departed from the tradition and simply shouted GO! and off we went.

My plan was to try and run a 10 minute mile pace, which would allow me to finish in just over 5 hours. I knew this might be a bit aggressive but as long as I finished strong and felt good I would be pleased. I wasn’t too worried about a time since this being my first 50K, as long as I finished was guaranteed a PR. I started out running with Tyler Peek from Durham. I recognized his name from other ultra race reports around NC that I had read about. Tyler mentioned that he had taken a hiatus from running a few years back and had not run this race in a while. However, since he was experienced I figured it would serve me well to run with him some. The race was going great as I felt really good and the humidity was not impacting me as much as I expected. I knew that this would likely change so I stuck with the plan to hold back as much as I could. We encountered several aid stations and got water or Gatorade as needed. The aid stations were great as there was never more than 3 miles between the “roving” stations. Had the heat been worse, this would have been especially beneficial. Even without the heat, the frequent stations seemed to make the miles go by more quickly. I stayed with Tyler until about mile 7 or so when I stopped to refill my water bottles and empty my bladder. I met Eliza Weston at this station, who was another name that I recalled seeing on past race results/reports around NC and SC.

I continued to feel good and pressed on. At mile 11, I saw Leon Harmon who I knew previously through a recent financing we worked on together. The humidity stayed high but the sun still remained behind the clouds and I was about 3 minutes ahead of schedule. As I reached the next aid station at mile 13, the volunteer informed me that it would be a loop and I would see him again at mile 20. I decided to slow my pace a little to build some reserves. A small pack of runners including Bill Keane and Andrea Stewart caught up with me around mile 15 and I ran with them for the next couple of miles. My strategy was to run halfway up the hills and walk the rest and resume running the flats and downhills. I was happy with my hydration level and had consistently been taking 1GU and 2 shot bloks each half hour along with electrolyte tablets each hour. Around mile 17 I settled in to running alone again, but noticed that my stomach was starting to turn a bit. By the next aid station, I was having some problems in that I had no appetite. This had never happened to me before and I expected this was due to eating too many sweet tasting foods (i.e., gels) and not enough salty stuff. I was not eating pretzels, etc. since I was using the sodium tablets. At the aid station, the volunteer suggested some Coke, so I drank it and grabbed a cup to go and continued on. My stomach problems would continue off and on until around mile 25. At mile 23, I got some more Coke and some goldfish from Leon Harmon. This started to settle my stomach and I was able to pick my pace up some but still had to walk a good bit. Around mile 24, Mark Long caught up with me. I mentioned it was my first ultra and explained the stomach problem. He slowed and walked with me a bit to talk me through my tough spot. He offered some peanut butter crackers and reminded me that there were only 7 miles to go. As he started running again, I began my run/walk combination and started to feel better. At the 26.2 mark the aid station volunteer said I looked strong coming up the hill and this further boosted my confidence. At his point I knew I would finish strong although I would not hit the 10 minute pace average. My legs were surprisingly strong and I still felt well hydrated. As I approached the final aid station at mile 28, I got stung by some sort of fly on my finger. It wasn’t a big deal but the swelling caused my finger to rub against a seam on my water bottle sleeve. I got some ibuprofen from the volunteer and topped off my water bottles for the last time and headed out. I knew if I ran strong, I could still finish under 5:40. Around mile 30 I noticed that another runner was coming up about 200 yards behind me. His yellow shirt was easy for me to see and I resolved that I was not going to let him pass me so I pushed harder. I continued to look behind and although he was gaining on me, I was close enough to the finish that I knew he would not catch me.

As I turned into Claude’s driveway, I pressed on and finished in 5:34:30.

After the race I collected my finisher’s plaque, rinsed off and changed clothes and socialized for a while. I thanked Mark Long, Tyler Peek and others for their support and encouragement and talked with some veterans about other races and distances I should try. Two things were very clear: 1) I found myself “addicted” to this stuff and looked forward to future races and 2) the people I met are some of the most down to earth folks I have encountered.

This race is very low key and well organized. I would say that it is a great race for a first ultra but definitely prepare for heat as my conditions were atypical. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to battle the heat this year but will have to eventually as I will definitely be back!