Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Massanutten Rocks! - 2010 Report

YES! Redemption is a sweet, sweet thing. I successfully finished the Massanutten 100 last weekend for the third time - avenging the DNF from last year. After the DNF last year, I have focused my training toward getting to write this report. While the result was what I hoped, I DID take longer and hurt more than I expected. Here's the story.

The race moved to a new venue this year, which was good for a variety if reasons including easier logistics for crews since the start/finish would now be in the "middle" of the course rather than on the north end. This cut the driving almost in half and no runner was ever more than a 30 or 40 minute drive from the start finish. This necessitated running the course in a different order and adding a new section. The majority of the course was the same but seemed very different. My friend Rich (of 2009 AT thru hiking fame) agreed to go along and crew me during the race. He has been having some knee pain so would not be able to pace so I got Jim Nagle from Maryland who was interested in running part of the MMT course.

The race started at 5:00 AM on Saturday and off we went up the 3 mile road section before tackling Short Mountain. I was looking forward to running Short Mountain in daytime. It was humid and the forecast called for temps in the upper 70s. I made great progress over Short Mountain and was having a ball running it. After checking in with Rich at Edinburgh Gap and switching to my two bottle belt, I was off to cover the section to Woodstock Tower - another section I had yet to run in the daytime. I cranked up the iPod and was making really good progress running along with Mark Radan. We ran some together back in 2008 and it was good to share the trail with him. He dropped me when I took a pit stop. I made a quick stop to refill at Woodstock Tower and then took off for Powells Fort - one of my favorite sections. I ran this section well and was feeling good, although I realized I might be pushing a little hard. When I got to Powells Fort, I really fueled up (the next section to Elizabeth Furnace is over 7 miles) and then walked most of the road to take it easy and enjoy the lyrics of Johnny Cash.

I made really good time on the climb up the trail and was ready to jam when the downhill came. I took a gel, popped an S-Cap and then let it rip. It felt good to stretch out the legs and was enjoying the run immensely. Then, disaster struck! Boom! Out of nowhere, I hit a rock and rolled my left ankle severely. A water bottle flew down the trail along with my sunglasses and half my dignity. I got up, spit a mouthful of dirt out of mouth and and pieced myself back together. Ouch! I walked a bit and the ankle felt a little better so I started to run. Abut 15 minutes later, BAM!, I rolled it again and this time did a really nice "Petey" slide. I started limping along and several runners asked if I was okay. I said I would be fine, just had to gather myself. I was a little worried because here I am at mile 30 and my ankle is already killing me and this is Massanutten - the rocks will be harder later. I made it into Elizabeth Furnace and surveyed things. Ankle hurt but not so bad that I couldn't continue. I ate some pretzels and grabbed two new bottles and took off. The climb is a doozy and I used to hate it because in prior MMT's you were only 5 miles from the finish and in much worse shape. I made it up okay and was able to run to Shawl Gap. The ankle was swelling up in my shoe but this was actually making it feel better.

I rested a bit at Shawl and drank and Ensure. I wouldn't see Rich again until Habron Gap (mile 53). Ed C. was here and reminded me to take it easy on the road that climbs to Veach Gap (about 3 miles away) since it kicked us in the rear last year. I did just that and was really feeling good when I got to Veach Gap (mile 40). I ate some fruit and drank some ginger ale. The next section was 9 miles without aid so I really fueled up well and drank a lot. It was definitely warm at this point. I really did not like this next section to the Indian Grave Trail head. It just went on and on and I was getting a little antsy. I couldn't really run the really technical downhill sections because I was worried about my ankle. Oh well, I made decent time and covered the section in about 3 hours. I fueled up again at Indian Grave and then headed out for the 4 mile road section to Habron Gap (mile 53). I despised this section on the road. Normally it hasn't bothered me but it really did this year. I ran in the sun and then walked the shady sections. This helped pass the time and soon I was there.

It was a little after 6:00 PM and I was over halfway done (at least in mileage) but the real work was ahead. The next section to Camp Roosevelt was 9.5 miles without aid and was my undoing last year. I really wanted to run this well. I drank and Ensure and ate some food and hydrated well before leaving around 6:15. I left the iPod with Rich because the battery was dead. I really wanted it for this section but just put my head down and got to work on the climb. I made great time and caught Mario who was puking his guts out and having a tough day. He would normally be hours ahead of me but was feeling rough. He told me to keep going so I just motored on. When I topped out on the climb, all the calories kicked in and I felt the best I had in the whole race (except for the ankle). I tried to push, not too hard but wanted to take advantage of the good feeling and get as far along before nightfall. Eventually I caught up to Mark Radan who was having some serious cramping issues. We went the rest of the way to Camp Roosevelt and arrived around 9:00 PM! I ran this section faster than the Veach to Indian Grave section.

I felt good but my ankle was not very happy. I fueled up well, grabbed my "bigger" headlamp and picked up Jim as my pacer. We were off to Gap Creek and the first section really was awful. I had a hard time getting a rhythm with my ankle and the crappy footing I a trend that unfortunately would continue). Also, I noticed lots of rocks and grit in my shoe (particularly the left one) and would have to look at that when we got to Gap Creek (mile ~68). We lumbered along and finally got to the aid station. When I looked at my show, my ankle was HUGE! There was no way I could take off that shoe - I would never get it back on. So, blisters were surely in my future. I ate some soup and tater tots, and drank some Coke. Then we jetted out. I wanted to get Kerns Mountain over with.

We made good time up Jawbone but I was wiped so I sat on a log at the top and ate two gels. The leader and eventual winner came up shortly thereafter. He was on his way to the finish and was about 30 miles ahead of me! It was a little before midnight and we started over Kerns. This was waaaay worse than going over Short Mountain. First off, the footing is a lot worse and the flat sections are even hard to run. I got a little mental here and was frustrated because it was taking so long. I also knew that any time goals I had were gone. But, I was determined to finish this thing even if it was after the cutoff. Pretty soon the trail made that big sweeping left turn and I knew we were done with Kerns. Thanks goodness. We got some water at the unmanned water stop and started down the 2.5 mile road section to the Visitors Center aid station. I already had a big blister forming on my left foot. The trip over Kerns had trashed my feet. It would get worse.

It was uneventful going down the road section and soon we saw Rich at the Visitors Center aid station (mile ~77). I took a longish stop here and ate a grilled cheese, some soup and drank a Red Bull. I was getting sleepy which normally isn't a problem for me in races. It was starting to rain a bit so I grabbed some gloves and a jacket. I knew it would be chilly on Bird Knob especially if it was windy. We maintained a brisk 40 minute mile pace up to Bird Knob. I had to stop and rest a lot due to my foot and until the Red Bull kicked in some. We walked a lot, more than I should have but finally got to Bird Knob (mile 80). It was a little before 6:00 AM and I put the head lamp away, ate some corn chowder and took off for the next section. We ran every step to the purple trail turn and then made good time on the ~1/2 mile climb to the top. We ran pretty well down the purple trail but walked some too. The blister on my foot just wouldn't let me run for very long. I did my best to just put it out of my mind. We got to the pink trail turn and kept on motoring. I had to stop a couple of times to rest my foot. My ankle was really hurting now. I ran a good bit of the pink trail but had to mix in a lot of walking. I knew I would finish and well under the cutoff now. I was never really worried, but it is a nice feeling when you realize that your race won't be a total disaster. The last mile or so to the Picnic Area aid station (mile ~86) took forever. We finally made it in and I sat down to eat - I was starving. I ate about 7 pieces of bacon, no joke. Soon, we left and had about 1.5 miles to meet Rich at the crew access point at 211 East. Here I shed my night clothes, dropped my headlamp and took tow final Aleeve for my ankle. It was about 8:30 AM and I told Rich to head to the finish and get some sleep. I expected to be there by 1:00. Ha! That certainly didn't happen.

Jim and I headed for Gap Creek (mile ~95) and I was excited to be done with this race. We made good time at first and then slowed to crawl in the really rocky sections. I did the best I could but every foot strike was excruciating. Several folks passed us including Larry Hall, a fellow WSGMRT teammate. Also, Rob Apple caught me right as we got to the junction of the Scothorn Gap Trail. We moved along ever so slowly. Once we got to the gravel road section it was still hard for me to run. I did my best and soon we were at Gap Creek. I told Jim that I was going to grab the gels and S!-Caps from my drop bag, refill bottles and then go. He stayed back to fuel up some but eventually caught up on the climb up Jawbone. It was weird, I could climb okay with the blister and ankle but descending was really tough. The section down to Moreland Gap was purely hellish. After the first couple of switchbacks it is hard to make any decent time on fresh feet. I must have looked ridiculous in my state. It took over an hour to get to the road! Pretty weak but it was all I had. At this point, I was totally spent.

We were now about 3.5 miles from the finish on mostly downhill road and then a short section on trail. We ran and walked some and were passed by lots of folks including Beth Hall (Larry's wife), also a fellow WSGMRT teammate. I didn't care. The running pace I could maintain was not much faster than walking. Soon we saw Rich at the trail turn and I felt good because the end was near. The trail was mostly a climb and I made decent time. Soon I crested the last rise and trotted in to the finish in 34:16. I was elated and in agony at the same time. The volunteers got me some ice for my ankle and I was amazed at how swollen it was.

This was the most rewarding MMT finish I have to date. The first one was a death march the entire second half of the race. The second was much faster and I felt good most of the race. This one though, tested me in a different way. I had to deal with the ankle and later blister issues and getting rid of them was not an option. I could only deal with it the best way I could. Battling through that gives me a different level of confidence. I love this race for the challenge, the beauty and the organization. Will I be back again? Absolutely. As long as I am able and have the opportunity, mid May means Massanutten to me.

Below are pictures of the damage:

And me getting it done, ever so slowly.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MMT Preview!

Well, IT is finally here - Massanutten. With out a date my favorite 100 mile race (actually it is the only one I have done). Still, it is a great race and one I have been looking forward to since last year's pathetic "effort". Anyways, I am in good shape physically and feel very confident. I have been running well and have been hitting the gym regularly this year. I have done lots of quality runs, tons of strength training, lots of core work and shed a few layers of padding. Also, getting humbled last year was probably a good thing for me. It was certainly a motivator during training this year. on my last long run with my buddy Mike, he remarked that my issues are not physical this year but watch out for the mental doldrums. I think I will be good here because of last year. The course will be run in a different direction this year which introduces an unknown element to the race. I "know" the course but not in this year's "order". Just will focus and keep one foot in front of the other. Run when I can and take it easy when I have to. Sounds so simple here but at 2:00 AM, it seems a bit harder!

I feel really good and have never been so excited to run. Heading up tomorrow with my friend Rich who is going to crew for me. Also, a VHTRC member named Jim is going to pace me. I am ready to go and hope to run a PR for the course but a finish will also be just fine. If all goes well, it should be a special day/night. Then again, if all doesn't go well it will still be a special time. I can't lose, right? There will be updates on the VHTRC website and I am bib number 16 if anyone wants to follow along. Wish me luck and hopefully I will have a joyous report to write next week. Good luck to everyone else who is racing this weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Honestly...I hate tapering. On the one hand, it IS nice to be able to "kick back" (at least relatively speaking) but I am also one that likes to be doing something (i.e., training, etc.). In the last month I have logged several back-to-back efforts as part of my training for Massanutten. I did a rugged 16-mile run on the AT and then about 40 miles on rugged trails where the Bel Monte races are run the next day. I have done an 18 mile run on trails (in 85 degree heat) followed up by 20 miles on roads the next day. I have also done a 12 mile run on greenway trails and then 27 the next day (a 14 mile road run followed by a 1:45 half marathon). The final piece of this was a rugged 42 mile run on trails (took about 8 hours with close to 6K of climb), then 12 miles on roads the next day, then 4 miles in heat the following day. This was capped by a beastly 16 mile run with about 5K of climb on TOUGH trails. Yeah, 75 miles in 4 days is a good volume for me. In fact, I only have done one run over 3 hours the last month that was not part of a back-to-back - a 20 mile trail run done mid-week.

I have done the hill repeats, the speed work and the tempo/recovery runs. I AM READY! I have done a lot more weight lifting this time so my weight is not as low as I would like. However, I have lost about 25 pounds of fat and put on 10 pounds of muscle. With my big frame, I think a stronger me is a better running me - at least for a mountain 100 mile. So, I am shutting it down and will do no runs longer than 8 miles from now until Massanutten - in 17 days! I feel good, in fact I would say I have never been stronger or fitter physically. A complete 180 degrees from a year ago. Mentally, I just need to stay confident and remember that I have done pretty much everything I could to prepare. Well, its time for one of those 6-8 mile runs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bel Monte 50 Mile Preview

The Bel Monte 50 Mile is this weekend - a big test of "where I am at" for Massanutten in May. I feel pretty good although Bel Monte can be tough if you are feeling great! Gill and Frannie do a great job with this and all the races they put on. Bel Monte fits perfectly into the training regimen for Massanutten so there is a lot of similarity between the entrants lists. I plan to use the run as a dress rehearsal for the second half of Massanutten so I am going into the race on tired legs. Frankly, I am a little bit beat up but that is okay because I will certainly be "a little bit beat up" halfway through Massanutten. The weather forecast calls for sunny skies with a high in the upper 50s - perfect! Also, reports from the trail indicate that the course is in great shape and all the snow and a good bit of the water has dissipated.

My plan for Bel Monte is pretty simple. Go out easy, eat, drink, run when I feel good , walk when I don't. Hopefully that will translate to a decent time or at least a fun time. The good news is that anything that is "broken" can be fixed in time for Massanutten. I am really looking forward to the run. With the Myrtle Beach marathon getting cancelled last month and the trail conditions in the NC mountains, I am a bit starved for both a hard effort and quality time in the mountains. Bel Monte will absolutely deliver on both. A number of friends are headed to the race also. From Charlotte, Mike Mason and Mo Idlibi are heading up. Don't tell Mason but I have him picked to win the sucker for the second time. Also, fellow Wasatch Speed Goat Mountain Racing teammates Steve and Deb Pero are trekking down from NH for the run. Talk about folks that will love the weather forecast.

Well, that's about it. Look for a report as well as reviews of Greenlayer (make our team uniforms) and Drymax socks in the next week or so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

LaSportiva Wildcat Review

LaSportiva has become one of the most dynamic running-related company's out there in recent years. They provide tremendous support to the trail running community through their Mountain Running site, sponsoring the LaSportiva Mountain Cup as well as providing support to a number of trail races throughout the United States. The company has done a lot in terms of product development to create some of the better trail running shoes out there. I started wearing LaSportiva two years ago with the discontinued "Raceblade", which was a great shoe for me on shorter (>50 mile), less rugged trail runs. Last year I began wearing the Fireblade , which quickly became my "go to" shoe. I liked the mix of good stability for rocky terrain combined with the lighter construction for better draining and less weight. I still really like the Fireblade a lot and continue to wear it. However, one of LaSportiva's newest shoes - the Wildcat has impressed me as well.

The Wildcat is similar to the Fireblade in terms of stability - in fact I think it may be a bit more stable. It also has a very grippy sole, which is great for wet and/or muddy surfaces. One big bonus is the additional cushion that the Wildcat boasts. It is one of the most cushioned trail shoes I have worn. Yet, it actually weighs less (about 1/2 oz. less) than the Fireblade. When comparing the two shoes, the Wildcat has more mesh construction which not only reduces weight but also promotes draining. I have worn the Wildcats in a variety of conditions: from a muddy trail half-marathon (actually wore them out of the box and set a PR!) to very rocky mountainous trails. I even took them for a spin on a 5 mile stretch of asphalt. In the mud, the shoe really gripped well and provided lots of stability on slick descents when others around me were "slip slidin' away". The shoe proves to be very versatile and performs well on all of these surfaces. I have yet to get a blister or even a hot spot in the Wildcats. My longest run to date in them is about 35 miles. However, I will be using them in a rugged 50 mile trail race this weekend. Like all LaSportiva's I have had, they are very well made and have held up very nicely after about 250 miles or so.

The only downside I can find is the sizing. I ordered the same size I usually get with Fireblades (corresponds to a US Men's 12.5) and they are a little snug. I wouldn't use the current pair for a 100 miler since there is less "give" in the toe box. I usually size up 1/2 a size for trail shoes but maybe size up a full size for the Wildcats. Pretty simple solution. Give the Wildcats a try. They are a great shoe from a terrific company. You can buy them at Backcountry at this link.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

YES, I am Alive!!

Just been incredibly busy. Training has been going really well. Have had several nice runs out at Crowder's the last couple of months. The Myrtle Beach Marathon got cancelled due to snow (4 inches at the beach was actually really cool). The amount of snow up near Asheville has made running up there pretty treacherous so Crowder's Mountain has been my playground. Got lots of awesome new gear through the Wasatch Speed Goat Mountain Racing Team that I can't wait to test out. Have a beast of a weekend coming up with a 4 hour training run followed by the Bel Monte Endurance Run (50 Mile) the next day. Weather is getting nicer and Massanutten is only two months away. I have several posts coming on various gear I have been using. More to come in the next week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, training in 2010 is going great so far! I have been running mostly roads (yuck) since I have a road marathon coming up in a few weeks. This past Saturday, I ran the Charlotte Running Company Trail Run (13 miles). I hoped to run roughly 9:00 per mile pace on the trails and have fun. I ended up running much faster and finished in 1:38. Pretty fast for me and good enough for 15th place overall. The race was at the National Whitewater Training Center outside of Charlotte and was a great event, especially for a first time event. I have been taking it pretty easy this week and will do one more big week before Myrtle Beach on Feb 13. Work is going well and the travel is starting to crank back up. Good news, I will get to run in some interesting places. Bad news, harder to get your butt in gear when you are out on the road. Speaking of which, I gotta motor to go catch a flight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


My buddy Mike Mason sent this picture to me as motivation for my 2010 running plans. The picture is of yours truly as I remove my number during Massanutten when I decided to drop out last year at mile 38. It will definitely be motivating to me. Whether I get the urge to slack off of training or want to grab the ice cream after dinner, a quick glance of this photo and I will get refocused on the task at hand. Everything training wise during the next five months will be geared towards Massanutten so this picture is very appropriate. It amazes me how a photo, quote or simple memory can get ones frame of mind in the right place. This photo will definitely serve me well over the coming months. I might even hang a copy on the bathroom mirror like Rocky Balboa did with the Drago picture in Rocky IV. Cheesy I know, but hey, whatever works.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy 2010!

I took a bit of time off around the holidays and to get refocused for this year. 2009 was a terrible year for me running wise, including my first DNF at Massanutten and several other races that I should have not run. However, it was a good learning experience and the new job has settled down to a more manageable schedule for me (or maybe I have just gotten used to it). Last year I only finished two ultras: Laurel Valley and Mountain Masochist. I did make it to 38 miles at Massanutten and got three marathon finishes (Black Mountain, Grandfather Mountain and Thunder Road). With the lack of training (my TOTAL mileage for 2009 was less than 800!), this is actually not too bad.

I have gotten some good momentum going the last several weeks and have a nice base built. For the first half of the year, I have three focus events. First is the Myrtle Beach Marathon on February 13 where I want to run a PR of 3:25. I ran this event back in 2007 and it really set the year in motion. Next is the Bel Monte 50 Mile on March 27. This is a beast of a trail run and is as close to a half-Massanutten as anything. I want to go sub 11 hours here. THE race for 2010 is Massanutten once again where I want to better my 2007 time of 31:34. I have some aggressive goals but am psyched about training with a purpose again. Oh yeah, I entered the Hardrock lottery and will enter that this summer if I get in. If not, I will likely be in Leadville in August. More to come and I promise, more frequent updates.