Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 My Year in Review

2012 was a great racing season for me because I had my most successful racing season and was able to complete the LUS (Lynchburg Ultra Series) and Vermont 100 (my first attempt at a 100 miler).  I was able to really dedicate myself consistently to train all season which allowed me to have a few break out races.  As I move forward 2013 will be focused on completing the Beast Series and going to Leadville to run while breathing through a straw (at least that is how it has been described to me).  But the biggest challenge I am looking forward to is my son, yes it's a boy, being born in mid May.  How will I be able to train for any of these races?  That is something that time will only tell.  My first priority is to be a good father, then a good husband, and only then can I begin to think about training/racing.  I am a person who will find a way, but I know my resolve will be tested when I am forced to do an early morning training run on a few hours sleep.  If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it!!  

Here is what my 2013 schedule is looking like so far:

2/9 Holiday Lake 50k
3/2 Seneca Creek 50k or VHTRC MMT training run
3/16 B&A Marathon (maybe)
3/23 Terrapin Mt 50k
4/27 Promise Land 50k
5/18 MMT 100 volunteer & crew(maybe)
6/1 NFC DC 50M (double only, maybe)
6/2 NFC DC Half Marathon (double only, maybe)
7/27 Catoctin 50k
9/17 Leadville 100
10/4 Grindstone 100
11/2 MMTR 50
12/14 Hellgate 100k

Starts off easy gets damn tough towards the end.  I look forward to sharing some training miles with some of the Ultra-holics and other new friends I have made along the way.  Here is to 2013, kickin butt and takin' names :)

See ya on the trails,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Mile Race Report

This years MMTR 50 Miler had been on my mind since mid August and I had become consumed.  Emily and I even took a vacation down to Montebello just so I could train for the race and I volunteered at UROC this year so I could once again train for the race.  I had solid training runs with lots of double runs leading up to the race with plenty of vertical training as well, I was ready.  Emily was signed up for the race too, but we found out she is pregnant so she was unable to run.  I suppose that is a good excuse.  Friday afternoon I traveled down to Lynchburg with Emily and our friend Maria (AG winner last year), we arrived we went to dinner and then went to the race registration.  Since we went to dinner we missed the pre race briefing and crucial information about the cut off being extended by thirty minutes and about the new addition to the Loop section.  This was not only the thirty year anniversary of the race, but it was also the first time major chances were made to the race course.  The new race course now started at the Wildwood Campground (very close to the old start at James River Visitor Center) and incorporated local trails and completely removed the first seven road miles of the old course.  I was really excited about the new section of the course and I was shooting for an ambitious time, for me,  of 11:15 but with hurricane Sandy dumping snow at the upper elevations I wasn't sure how much time it would slow me down.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 4:15 and ate a light breakfast and gathered my gear before Maria and I made our way to the buses that would take us to the race start.  Emily was sleeping in so our plan was for her to meet me at Long Mt. Wayside AS and then meet me at the finish.  We arrived at the campgrounds at 5:45 and Maria and I sat on the bus, along with most of the other runners, as it was too cold to go outside and wait (30ish degrees).  At about 6:10 Maria and I made our way to the starting line, thank God the it was not windy.

Maria was just a lil' chilly at the start
 At 6:30 we started our fifty mile odyssey through the Blue Ridge Mts.  Maria and I settled right into a nice easy pace.  We were making our way through the trails and came onto a paved road when Maria saw some friends she had made down in Umstead this past year, Mrs. Popularity.  After she signed a few autographs, the course went back to trails and then we came across a rude awaking.  Two ice cold stream crossing and there was no side stepping these crossings.  This was the first race that I choose to wear my new Hoka One One shoes and I had no idea how they would do in water.  After plunging through the arctic water the sun started to make its way over the mountains and through the leafless trees.  After a few miles I found my Hokas to be fairly dry (much more dry then my Montrail Sabino Trail would have been).  Then came the first of many hills I would encounter during the race, MMTR boasts over 9K feet of climbing, and so began the power walk.  After walking a bit Maria and I came to the Peavine AS, first time, by this point I had turned off my headlamp.  The course had a nice downhill followed by a short uphill, that was runnable, before making its way around a mountain and back to Peavine AS for the second time. 
Maria making her way up towards the Peavine AS
I arrived at the Peavine AS in 1:57, I checked my pace charts and I was ten minutes behind my goal pace but I felt good and knew the race doesn't begin until Long Mt Wayside.

After exiting Peavine AS I noticed course merged with the old course and we would run the old course to the finish in Montebello (with the exception of a small but significant detour in the Loop section).
Little climbin' goin' on around here
I then was on a jeep road with some minor climbing and I was feeling really good but I had to keep telling myself that the "race" doesn't begin until Long Mt. Wayside.  I lost Maria when I went flying on the downhills, but knew it was only a matter of time until she caught back up to me.  I was chatting with a nice guy from Austin and we were swapping war stories and I was filling him in on what this course had in store for him.  As I am making my way into  Dancing Creek AS I saw some new friends I made this year volunteering at UROC, Carter and Suzie.  I gave them high fives and went directly to the AS table to have my water bottle filled.  I was sticking to my normal nutrition plan of 200 calories per hour (using EFS shots and Vitargo) and Vespa every 2.5 hours.  Carter and Suzie are awesome, they were at the AS to cheer Suzie's brother Jeff, but ended up helping the overwhelmed AS fill water bottles.  They are the main reason why I love running these races, the volunteers do an excellent job but if things get too crazy spectators step in and help out.  They set a great example of what the LUS races embody and set the bar by which other races are measured by. 

I quickly made my way out of the AS and continued to make good time.  The next few miles went on uneventful as I was making my way along the jeep roads.  The course then had a nice downhill section from miles 17-22.  This is where I began to feel my legs become fatigued for the first time.  There were what seemed like an endless amount of runners that passed me as I was moving decently at a 10:15 pace, but I knew I needed to save myself for just a bit longer as we had some nice climbs coming up soon.  I arrived at Reservoir AS in 4:33 only nine minutes ahead of last year.  I saw Carter and Susie again and they made sure I carb loaded before I left the AS.
Reservoir AS
Let the climbing begin.  I started to implement a run walk strategy so that I could make decent time through this section of the course.  Maria caught up to me during this section and it was nice to catch up with her.  We chatted a bit before she seemed to magically levitate up the hills towards Long Mt Wayside and I couldn't keep up with up, so I just kept to my plan.  As the jeep roads climb for a few miles it then started to level out and I began to feel encouraged as my legs were up for the challenge and I was running my best miles thus far into the race.  I reached Long Mt Wayside AS in 5:38, which was twenty minutes faster then last year.  As I approached the AS Emily called out to me and she was reading a book and seemed to enjoy the fact that she slept in.  I am definitely a lucky dude because she always supports me through my races and helps me balance my hectic work schedule and always busy family schedule.  Emily and I chatted really briefly, she even commented on how much better I look compared to last year before I grabbed my new bottle of Vitargo and EFS shots.  I spent the most time with her at AS, close to two minutes, then I did the at any other AS (usually thirty seconds).  I gave her a quick kiss then I was off to tackle Buck Mt.

It was on!!!  I knew all the miles to the finish like the back of my hand, it was time to put up or shut up and validate all the training I had done on this course in the previous months leading up to the race.  I began to hike really well up to Buck Mt and I began to pass other runners and before I knew it I was running.  I ran about a third  of this section and walked the rest which isn't too bad considering this was 1300' climb.  As I continued up towards Buck Mt. I also noticed snow started to appear along the course.  It wasn't bad because the jeep roads were clear for the most part and the only remaining snow as along the trees.   As I neared the Buck Mt. AS I began to hear the famous Rocky theme music.  I made it to the AS and finally caught up to Maria.  I caught her grazing amongst the wonderful spread of food at the AS.
Buck Mt. AS
Maria and I chatted for a good bit and began to ponder what shape the trails would be in the Loop section of the course.  As we descended Buck Mt and made our way down to Wiggins Springs AS we were enjoying some nice downhills before climbed up to the Loop where we would climb some more.  We arrived at Wiggins AS in 7:01, which was twenty four minutes faster then my time last year.

I basically blew through the AS not even filling my water bottle because the next AS was in 1.5 miles.  This little section was again on jeep roads and was mostly uphill.  After the initial steep ascent I was able to run the gradual incline to the Loop AS.  I filled up water and knew the loop section has some nice little climbs and added a nice 700' climb up Mt. Pleasant Overlook.  I was so excited about this section and then I saw all the snow on the trail.
snow on the Loop Section
I knew all the time I had below the cutoff was certainly going to be needed for a twelve hour finish.  Moving along this section was slow due to snow and the inability to pass slower runners along this tough section of the race.  During the trail up to Mt Pleasant Overlook there were runners going both ways along the trail so everyone was constantly stepping aside to allow some runners to pass (think of a one lane bridge with oncoming traffic)  During last year the Loop section  is where I completely fell apart, but this year I was feeling decent.

Maria and I were making good time and we were enjoying talking to the other runners along the course about the snow.  I guess the front runners were doing some serious post holing considering there was 4-7" of snow along the course and some snow drifts were as high as ten inches.  This 5.75 miles section of the race starts out at 3500' and climbs to over 4000' several times.  It was much cooler at the higher elevation and the cold wet snow made it that much cooler.  I wore two long sleeve shirts and gloves and stayed warm all day long, but many people were wearing jackets and hats.  I was really glad I wore my sunglasses, even though it was partly cloudy, the sun reflecting off the snow was something that I didn't think about and it was nice not to have to squint.  This section was difficult, but far and away my favorite of the race, because it comes at a point when people are really starting blow up.  If you can make it out of this section, you are home free.  I summitted Mt. Pleasant Overlook  and took a minute to enjoy the views before bombing downhill back towards the Loop AS again.
Mt. Pleasant Overlook
The course then moved back onto jeep roads and I was putting down some good splits and was seven minutes faster during this three mile jaunt then last year.  I was starting to become obsessed with making to the finish line in under twelve hours.  I made it to Salt Log Gap AS in 9:44. 

I pushed out of the AS really hard trying to make up time along this section, but this has one last hill that was a bitch.  This was were a runner behind me told me about the thirty minute extension to the cut off, which was now 12:30.  What a relief!!!  I really enjoyed this tough climb and realized that I would make the cut off no problem.  I had difficulty with footing during the final climb and lost a few minutes, but I was almost home.

I came into the last AS which was Porters Ridge in 11:12 and filled my water bottle for the final time as I made my final push towards the finish line.  I was making decent time, slower then last year, and was looking over my shoulder for Maria to catch up to me.  During those last few miles I was thinking about the new lil' Peake that is coming this upcoming May and how cool it will be to cross the finish line with he/she there in future races.  As I pushed the last quarter mile on Rt. 56 towards Montebello Resort (finish line) I saw Emily there cheering me on, funny thing was that no one told her about the thirty minute cutoff extension.  Much to her relief and mine I crossed the finish line in 11:56:34.
I see you...

Emily and I only had to wait a few minutes before Maria crossed the finish and won her age group, again!!  Way to go Maria.  My time was a minute slower then last year, but considering the snowy conditions I would have run 11:15ish.  Overall I am very pleased with my race and what a great way to end to another racing season.  I am really eager now to get back to training and try to improve on this years result.  By finishing MMTR, also completing Holiday Lake, Terrapin Mt, and Promise Land, I completed the LUS (Lynchburg Ultra Series) and got a sweet Patagonia jacket.  Next year I am going for the Beast Series.  I am thinking of running at least three hundred milers next year (Grindstone, WS, Leadville, Vermont, MMT), but we will see how much training I will be able to get in considering my family focus will be significantly different next year. 
I am sure I will be doing a end of season post with 2013 scheduling possibilities so keep an eye out.

Here are my extra pictures from the race.

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Hoka One One Stinson Evo
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: 2 UltrAspire handheld bottles with UltrAspire Race vest
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo, XS shots
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Under Armour base, two long sleeve tech shirts, Mountain Hardware gloves

See ya on the trails,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Montebello Camping & Running Vacation

I had a great vacation in the Montebello and Lyndhurst VA a few weeks ago and I just wanted to let everyone who hasn't been down to either of these places in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia what they are missing.  Emily and I camped for three days at a cozy campground in Montebello, Crabtree Falls Campground.  This was a perfect location because we had plans of hiking/running the Priest & Three Ridges, Long Mountain Wayside, and Crabtree Falls.  All these adventures we planned were in close proximity to the campground.  After Montebello we went to Lyndhurst and stayed at Sherando Lake Campground for another three days of camping.  Our main focus at Sherando was to take tours of the local wineries and breweries.  Here is some information about my run/hikes I did in Motebello:

Crabtree Falls: 4 miles with 1300' of climbing
Three Ridges: 14.5 miles with 4500' of climbing
The Priest: (didn't get to it this time but here are my stats from last time) 8 miles with 3500' of climbing.

Long Mountain Wayside: my GPS ran out of battery but I ran an abbreviated version of the description below, 13 miles 3500'-4200' of climbing.

Start at the Long Mountain Wayside on highway 60 where the Appalachian Trail crosses, about 15 miles west of Amherst, Va. Head north on FS 520 to FS 48 and turn right on 48 taking it to the Henry Lanum Loop Trail. Do the five-mile loop counterclockwise, following FS 48 around the mountain to Salt Log Gap. Follow FS 1176 north for about a mile and turn right on the A.T. Follow the AT back south to Long Mountain Wayside going through Salt Log Gap. Go up and over Tar Jacket Ridge with great views. Descend to Hog Camp Gap at 3,500 feet and then ascend to the open fields of Cold Mountain. Descend to Cow Camp Gap and then ascend to the top of Bald Knob at over 4,000 feet.  Then descend 2,000 feet in three miles back to the start and Long Mt. Wayside.

Here is my information about my lone Sherando Lake run:

Torry Ridge: 6.5 miles with 1600' of climbing.

Here are some pics from our adventures:
Emily at 3 Ridges Summit

Another pic of 3 Ridges Summit
Cold Mt Summit

AT on Cold Mt
Kings Family Winery
Veritas Vineyards and Winery

Veritas Vineyards and Winery
Another great way to get out and explore the Blue Ridge Mts is to go one of the many well established wineries and breweries.  Can't wait to go back1!!

Here are some extra pictures.

See ya on the trails,

Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 Vermont 100 Race Report

Wow!  A 100 mile race is completely different from a 100k, 50M, or 50k, but I should have already known this!!  I knew mental toughness was going to be a huge part of the race, but I truly underestimated aid station efficiency, pace discipline, and being in tune with my body.  I will address each of these later on in the race report.

Emily and I flew into Manchester, NH on the Thursday before the race and drove to Mt. Ascutney State Park, which is only nine miles away from the start/finish (Silver Hill Meadow).  This park is beautiful and offered a decent amount of privacy (I am comparing this to Matthew's Arm & a KOA site in Central VA) with other amenities such as hiking and paragliding available.  We went to a local grocery store and bought some fresh vegetables to grill on Thursday night.  After a nice and relaxing night at Mt. Ascutney we made our way to Silver Hill Meadow around 11am on Friday to make sure we had our pick of tent space. Once we got settled in, we headed over to the main tent to get my race number and to perform the mandatory medical check-in (weigh in and take blood pressure).  We met up with Mary Lang, fellow Ultra-Holic, and her husband, Rob, who snagged the tent spot right next to us.  We and talked the evening away discussing strategy, training, and sharing all-to-familiar pre-race jitters.  We all made our way down to the pre-race meeting at 4pm and we were informed that the Taftsville Bridge at mile 15.4 that was washed out and that we would now have to run through Woodstock instead.  After the pre-race briefing Emily and I reviewed the spreadsheet I created for her listing what times she should expect me at each AS and what items I would need when I arrived.  I also created a pace chart for her that would serve as a backup plan in case I ran faster or slower then my predicted time of 26.5 hours.  I was sticking to my normal calorie plan of 200 calories per hour using Vitargo & EFS shots, and taking Vespa every three hours throughout race.  I would use two handheld bottles, one with Vitargo the other with water, and carry extra items in my UltrAsprie SPRY race vest.  Emily and I went to bed at 8:30, but I knew my pre-race nervousness would make it difficult to sleep and I eventually fell asleep at 10pm.
our camping spot looking towards the main race tent

I heard my alarm go off at 2:45am, wayyyyy too early.  Nevertheless, I began to wake up and get dressed.  The weather called for highs in the low 80s during the day and overnight lows in the low 50's.  The meteorologists earned their paychecks this time as they were spot on.  I wasn't nervous as I made my way over to the starting line, probably because I wasn't sure what to expect, my naivety helped keep my mind at ease.
Me right before the start being Fonzie (Pulp Fiction ref)
 The race started at 4am and that is when 324 other runners and I began our 100 mile odyssey.  I made sure not to get swept up in the starting pack and started well in the back.  The first couple of miles were uneventful as we made our way on a dirt road and then formed a single file line as we hit our first single track trail of the race.  I made sure to walk all the uphills even during the beginning miles of the race.  I hit the first unmanned AS and found there was hardly any water left for us back-of-the-packers, so I could only fill my water bottle halfway.  This worried me because I didn't want to play catch-up with fluids this early in the race.  I made it to the next AS with my bottle bone dry, but this time there was plenty of water to fill up my bottle.  I was making some nice casual conversation with some other runners when the horses (yes a horse race coincides with the 100 mile foot race!) finally caught up to me.  This made the race so cool.  To me, it embodied what the original 100 races started off as, horse races not as human foot races.
Here they come...
 So cool to see this original tradition live on.  Mary and I ran together up to this point, but as we came into Woodstock she took off.  There were no runners around me at this point and I encountered the first climb of the race which lead me into the first crew AS, Pretty House (22.5 miles).  I made it into Pretty House in 5:07, eight minutes ahead of my predicted time.  Emily had sunscreen, sunglasses, a bandana, and a fresh bottle of Vitargo for me at the AS and got everything ready while I took a pit stop because nature was calling.

I got out of the AS slower then I wanted, but I learned during this race that some AS would take a little longer then I was used to (took ~7 minutes).  I made my down some nice dirt roads before making a decent climb up to U-Turn AS.  There was an enthusiastic volunteer shouting words of encouragement, but he told me "Bro, looks like your the back of your arms are sizzled!"  I looked at them and found the one spot where I didn't apply the sunscreen, doh!!  The sun finally burned through the early morning fog by this point and the temperature started to climb.  As I was making my way to the next AS I came across a small black bear.
Fo' real???
  It was just a little lad so I started to yell at him and he took off into the woods, once I made sure mama bear wasn't around, I then made my way to the top of a vista that had some beautiful views of Vermont.
top of climb past U-Turn AS
I was making my way down some hills when my IT band really started to flare up.  If this kept up I wasn't sure I would be able to finish the race.  I met up with Emily at the Stage Rd. AS (30.5 miles) in 7:23, she had my lucky secret weapon, a trigger point massage therapy ball.  While Emily gave me a couple Vespas, EFS shots, and sunscreen, I was able to work out my spasms.  I took a few extra minutes to make sure I got everything because I wouldn't see her again until Camp 10 Bear (mile 47.6).  I looked at my pace card and saw that I was fifteen minutes over my projected split, but I didn't care because I was listening to my body and this was the pace I felt comfortable with.

My legs were feeling fatigued by this point and I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to finish.  I knew that I had to keep hydrated, keep taking on calories, and stay out of the sun when I could.  "Stay in the moment", I kept telling myself.  I didn't want to block the pain out, but simply wanted to accept that what I was going through at this point wasn't really pain, not yet.  Finally, foI started to feel my legs start to feel strong and I started to pass runners for the first time during the race.  I passed four runners as I came into the Lincoln Covered Bridge AS.
Lincoln Covered Bridge
I didn't care that I was twenty-four minutes behind my goal pace, because I was feeling solid and I wasn't running outside of how my body was feeling.  I was in tune with my body and my confidence started to build.  The miles passed, the hills were relentless and I was treated some some beautiful views of the Vermont countryside.  I was on top of the world as I made my through Lillian's AS.  I joked with the volunteers and even asked them for a beer (which I was denied).  I finally made my way into Camp 10 Bear (mile 47.6) in 11:57.  This was the first mandatory medical check and I had only lost two pounds.  This was confirmation that my fluid and calorie plan had been working well.  Emily gave me some Vitargo, Vespa, and EFS shots, before I even had to ask her which saved me time, and I was able to make it out of the AS in three minutes.   

As I made my way towards the next AS I saw the top finishing 100 mile runners making their way into Camp 10 Bear for the second time.  It was inspiring to see the top guys/gals run strong.  I continued up and down a few rolling hills before I came across an attention-catching sign. 
Say wha????
  I didn't really think much about the sign as the course became steeper. As I left a jeep road and came onto a even steeper single track trail my spirits were crushed.  During my climb I really started to struggle for the first time during the race, I even had to stop several times during the climb.  It took me several minutes before I could run again and as I came into Tracer Brook (mile 57.4), Emily even commented that I wasn't looking so hot.

I wanted to run quickly out of Tracer Brook, but there were many big rolling hills that forced me to walk.  Finally, I caught up to John Gee (a MD badass Ultra Runner) at the unmanned AS Prospect Hill.  We ran together for the next ten miles, it was awesome to talk to someone I actually knew (we had been emailing for several months before the race but never actually met until five minutes before the start).  John and I ran together into the Margaritaville AS and this is where I saw his badass crew.  These guys/gals were like a NASCAR pit crew.  Emily hooked me up with some more Vespa, EFS shots, headlamp, and Vitargo.  I decided to eat some soup broth at the AS and it made me feel great, so great that I tried to walk to wrong direction through the AS!
Vermont Parrot Heads
Once I got pointed in the right direction I walked a bit until John caught up to me and then we made our way towards the next aid station.  We both agreed that we would stick together until the Camp 10 Bear AS (second time).

Up to this point I have failed to discuss how my Garmin 310st GPS, which has twenty hours of battery life, would last 26+ hours.  I purchased a Duracell USB charger, which allowed me to charge the GPS via USB while I was running at various points throughout the day.

John and I made decent time over a few nice climbs and finally came into Camp 10 Bear in 18:27.  Emily was ready and waiting to pace me the last thirty miles.  Before we left I packed my Vespa, XS shot, EFS, and S!Caps she brought for me.  Camp 10 Bear was my second medical check-in and I weighed in at the same weight I did the first time at Camp 10 Bear (178).  I grabbed some hot Ramen noodles then Emily and I made our way out before John did, but he had his pacer and would be in good hands.   

Emily and I pressed out and started in a nice rhythm, until came across a big climb (800' in 1.5 miles) that nearly killed me.  Once we reached the apex I had my first/only melt down of the race.  We walked the next mile and it took us twenty minutes on a flat road !  I sat down on a private landowner's rock fence and took an XS shot and collected my thoughts for a minute.  After a few minutes I started to feel rejuvenated.  I got off the wall and began to run fast, something I hadn't done since the first ten miles.  The next few miles went along uneventfully and Emily and I made good time, mainly because we were running on dirt roads and we could focus on running and not really have to worry about technical trails.
Spirit of  76 AS

I finally reached the Spirit of 76 AS at 12:46am (20:46).  I now had just under a marathon left to the finish.  My goal now was to fight back the urge to sleep.  In each of my remaining drop bags I had packed one XS shot.  These shots really helped give me the right amount of caffeine I needed to stay awake.  The next ten miles played out the way I thought they would, they would be the toughest.  The longer you run, 20+ hours, the harder it is to stay awake and focused.  Emily and I finally caught up to Mary, who had been forty five minutes ahead of me for the majority of the day.  Mary was having trouble with her back, but like to the true badass she is, she continued to fight through what I could only imagine was serve pain.  I wished her well and Emily and I forged on.  The course continued to have rolling hills, but overall Emily and I made good time as we came into Bill's AS.

This was my final medical weigh in for the race.  I stepped on the scale and actually gained 1.5 pounds from Camp 10 Bear, but I was down half a pound from my original weight.  The medical staff was asking me questions (how did I feel, do you have a pacer, how many miles into the race are you) that made me believe either I looked bad or other runners ahead of me were in bad shape which caused concern for everyone behind them.  This was my last drop bag, so I picked up my XS and EFS, then made a bathroom stop before we headed out.
Sunrise on Sunday morning

These next miles were nice as we continued on dirt roads before coming across a nice grassy field.  My energy started to pick up as the sun started to come up, I was told that this would happen so I wasn't surprised but it felt good.  Emily and I passed 8-10 runners along this section.  Emily did an awesome job of talking when I needed conversation and being quiet when I didn't.  I dictated when we would run and when we would walk, which was still consistent even after 20+ (walk the hills and run the down & flats).  We arrived at Polly's AS (final crew AS) to cheers from John's crew.  I immediately asked how John was doing and I was informed that he was still fighting and looked to make it in ahead of the thirty hour cut off.

I knew I had a sub thirty hour finish in the bag, but I didn’t want to walk or slow up so I continued to give it everything I had.  The last few miles I was overwhelmed with different emotions.  I was thinking about not only the sacrifices I made but more importantly the sacrifices that my family made for me.  None of this would be possible without the love and support of Emily.  Then, I began to think about how lucky I am that I am physically able to get out and run, it is something I take for granted on a daily basis.  Emily and I came into the Sargent’s AS and we each grabbed some soda.  We were so damn close!!  We made our way back onto some single track trail and we started to see people on the trail and that could only mean one thing, the finish line was right around the corner.  We continued to run and even passed another 6-8 runners during this section.  Then we saw a half mile to go sign and Emily and I didn’t say a word to each other instead we increased our pace.  Even at 8:15 in the morning people were still at the finish line to cheer Emily and I as we finished hand-in-hand.  28:15, not what I was shooting for but I will take it!!!
This picture isn't blurry, I was just running that fast :)

It was glorious to finish and sitting down knowing I was done was even better.  I gave Emily a big hug and asked her “which 100 are we doing next?” Emily and I then waited until we saw John come across the finish line, way to go John!!  All of us sat there and reflected on what we all had accomplished.

Nothing is guaranteed during 100 mile races, even the top guys like Karl Meltzer will tell you that (well Karl might tell you 100 miles isn't that far).  I feel a great sense of accomplishment for completing Vermont, but I know I can do better.  It is just in my nature to try improve and learn from my mistakes.  

I did quick statistics of twelve runners that finished ahead of me, only two had faster second half splits then I did.  And of the six fishers before the 24 hour cut off, two had faster second half splits faster then I did.  This gives me a great deal of confidence that my training for my first 100 miler was pretty good.  Now the question is which 100s am I gonna do next year (Leadville, Grindstone, MMT)...... 

Here are some extra pictures I took from the race.

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: 2 UltrAspire handheld bottles with UltrAspire Race vest
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo, XS shots
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Zoot tri top, Moeben arm sleeves (early morning & at night)
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  

I am pretty sure the elevation was wayyyyyy off on my Garmin, not sure why but there was approximately 15,500 feet of incline and decline.

See ya on the trails,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vermont or bust

I am really excite about Vermont 100 this weekend.  I can't wait to get out there and enjoy the experience.  I will update everyone with a race report next week, promise.  Till then, cheers.

See ya on the trails,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2012 Capon Valley 50k Race Report

Capon Valley 50k has become a yearly pilgrimage for me to Yellow Spring, WV for a great low key ultra. This ultra is different then the other ultras I have run on the account that this ultra is directed and volunteered by a locals that are not ultra runners. It funny going through the aid stations and I would thank the volunteers for coming out to help out and they would thank me for coming out to the race. The extra money that is raised goes right back into the local community and the locals are appreciative. The course is primary on private land before it enters the Northern most part of George Washington National Forest (GWNF). 

Emily and I made our way out to WV which took us through Harper's Ferry, while this may not be the most direct route, it's scenic beauty is part of the reason why I enjoy coming to this race. Emily and I arrived early, only two other campers were onsite at the start/finish where the camping grounds were located, so we set up our tent and air mattress (I bought a new power inverter so we didn't have any issues) and chilled out under the shade of a tree and enjoyed the beautiful day. We even brought our propane grill and cooked up some awesome chicken shish-kabobs and grilled some veggies too. We chatted with a few friends that were also running the race then we each had a beer and peaceful nights sleep ensued.

Sad Panda, DNS
Emily had been having hip pain and when she woke in the morning the pain had dramatically increased making her a DNS.  I was disappointed she wasn't going to run the race, but she made the smart decision.  The race started at 7am and my plan for the day was to run everything, if I ran a reasonable pace and ran all the hills I knew I would be able to break 6 hours.  I also tried running the race with minimal gear, I used two UltrAspire handheld water bottles and their SPRY race vest.  I wanted to travel light and run quick (turned out to be great running without my Nathan 1.5 liter hydration pack because I wasn't lugging around all that extra weight).  I started out towards the back of the pack as the race left the Ruritan and made its way through some back yards before finally hitting some trails.  One I hit the trails there were a few small hills to navigate over before making way to the first aid station.  I came into the aid station in 0:37 and I finally felt warmed up by this point.  After quickly filling my hand bottle, the course continued on single track trails and moved onto some gravel roads with some decent little climbs.  I climbed up the first couple hills and my legs felt strong, I got a few looks from people that were power walking thinking there were too many miles left in the race to be running up the hills.

Lil' Climbs
I soon caught up to Kevin and was chatting with him about his 2012 season and what races he had lined up for the fall.  I really enjoyed running with him, not only was I enjoying the conversation but I was keeping a decent pace and was doing it causally.  I eventually came down the trail to Cacapon River to an unmanned AS that only had water, so I topped off my water bottle and got back onto the trail.  Soon I came upon my favorite section of the course, the power lines.  I enjoy this section because of the steep decent and the
Power Line Section
panoramic views of the West Virginia mountains.   I came into AS 3 and my bottle was bone dry and I was starting to feel the heat.  I packed myself a Vito Coco coconut water and drank half of it while my water bottle was being filled.

My energy level was feeling good and I was keeping up with my usual 200 calories per hour using a mix of Virtargo and EFS shots.  Upon exiting AS 3 I came upon a few stream crossings, inside joke this race has approximately 30 stream crossings, before making my up the only real significant climb of the race.  Everything was still going well so I kept my plan of running the climbs.  Once I made my to the top I was really starting to feel tired and was struggling to run the downhill at a decent pace.

I made a brief stop at AS 4 and made down the trail and into GWNF section of the race.  This section had the usual stream crossings and was mostly downhill.  At this point my legs were starting to tighten up so I had to stop on the trail and take a few S!Caps.  Up until that point I had been taking a S!Cap every hour, so I had to increase my intake to once every thirty minutes.  This section was the toughest for me because I really started to slow down  as the temperature neared 80 degrees. 
Downhill towards AS 5
AS 5 came just in the nick of time, I needed to refill my water bottle and drink the rest of Vita Coco coconut water.  I took my time at the aid station and grabbed my Vespa and some extra water and walked out of the aid station.  I continued walking for the next 2-3 minutes trying to cool down and gather my thoughts.  I knew that I was basically on the home stretch and I just needed to keep it together for the next six miles.  This section has short but steep climbs to navigate through as I made my way back through the power lines  and eventually down to barn which was the first/last AS.  This section was the only section during the entire race that I ran a slower split then my 2011 race.  I knew that it would be close if I wanted to finish in sub six hours, so I grabbed a coke and didn't even bother to fill my water bottle at AS 6.
Making my way to the finish

The last few miles didn't really hurt the way I thought they would, I knew my limit and how fast I could go.  As I came over the bridge and through the backyards near the Ruritan I knew I was going to barely sneak in under six hours so I just enjoyed the last half mile.  I strolled into the finish in 5:56:03, which was twenty minutes faster then 2011, and set a new 50k PR.  After the race we had a few cold beverages and cheered on the other finishers. 
Taken by Potomac Highland Distance Club
Overall this is great race and one I look forward to running again next year, as long at I don't run MMT 100 instead.

Here are some extra pictures from the race.

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: 2 UltrAspire handheld bottles with UltrAspire Race vest
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo, Vita Coco Coconut water
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Zoot tri top
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  

See ya on the trails,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Promise Land 50k Race Report

Third race in the LUS is the Promise Land 50k, my favorite of all the races.  Emily and I arrived at 5pm at the start/finish which is located at the Promise Land youth camp, only a few miles south from where Terrapin Mt 50k took place, and setup our tent.  Everything was going well until we realized the power inverter I bought was not powerful enough to inflate our Aero bed, doh!!  Good thing there was plenty of grass on the ground to provide somewhat of a soft surface for us to lie down on.  We both ended up sleeping well, so we lucked out with the Aero mishap.

We awoke at 4:30 to Dr. Horton's siren letting all the campers know that it was getting close to game time.  I grabbed a quick bite to eat and started to get my gear out.  Weather was supposed to be in the high 60's with a 10% chance of rain, curse you weather man/woman for being absolutely dead wrong.  More on that later on.

The race started right on que at 5:30 as 372 runners began the race which has become a spring time right of passage on the East Coast.  Dr. Horton also informed us at the pre race briefing that this was the largest ultra held in Virginia.  The race begins with a constant 1300' climb along a gravel road up to AS 1 Overstreet Falls.  I have been really training hard on improving my climbing by doing hill workouts twice a week and sometimes even incorporating hill repeats on a biweekly basis and my training is starting to pay off as I came into AS 1 in 0:42:56 which was 2:30 faster then last year.  Still not blazing speed, but a definite improvement.

I topped off my Nathan 1.5 liter hydration pack while Emily waited for me and we turned onto Glenwood Horse Trail and made the rest of the climb up Onion Mountain.  I was moving along a decent pace and was very happy to finally reach the to top of Onion Mountain and finally start running some down hill.  This part was nice soft grass fire road and it was very easy to go too fast early on during this tough thirty five mile race.  At the eight mile mark is where we began our second climb.  During this climb is where we came into AS 2, Reed Creek, after fueling up with bananas and water we proceeded to leave the AS and Glenwood Horse Trail to continue our trek up Apple Orchard Mountain (first of two climbs up Apple Orchard Mountain).
Glenwood Horse Trail
We made good time because we were running all the up hills except for steep parts and once we made it to the top my legs were starting to show some fatigue.  Emily and I came into AS 3 Sunset Fields in 3:02.
Emily coming out of Sunset Field AS (1st time) about to descend down the trail
We took a little bit more time at this AS, maybe 1:30ish, before we made our way down some sweet technical single track.  I love this section of the course!!  This section is so enjoyable to run because it's technical and downhill, but you have to cautious because there are many roots and rocks that could easily catch your foot and make for a nasty tumble.  Up to this point in the race the weather had been overcast, but the sun finally decided to come out, albeit briefly.  This section also has a few stream crossings and you have no choice but to get your feet wet.  I didn't run as quickly as I would have like to during this section and my split to Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS (first time) was 3:15 slower then 2011.

This is where the wheels came off.  I was really struggling during the section with my nutrition and hydration, so I decided to take a few extra S!Caps and drank a few GU electrolyte drinks.  Shortly after coming out of the aid station I had to take my only walking break of the race, I just needed some time to gain my composure and take in some extra calories.  I was sticking to my usual plan of taking 200 calories per hour and one S!Cap every forty five minutes.  After that low period I began to feel better and my pace started to pick back up.  We came into Colon Hollow AS slower then I anticipated, but we began to pick up the pace.

After leaving Colon Hollow AS the course turns back onto some grassy rolling fire road.  This section seemed to go on and on because I kept thinking that I would remember when were coming up on Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS.  During this time of the race the weather decided to make the race even more difficult for the runners still out on the course.  It began to lightly rain, then sky really opened up and started to dump some serious rain on us.  The temps started to drop and I was becoming increasingly colder with every passing minute, so I put my Moeben sleeves back on to help keep me warm.  As we came into the Cornelius Creek Trail Junction AS, for the second time, it began to thunder and lighting.  We would see the lighting and hear the thunder no more then four to five seconds later.  Emily looked at me and asked "what should we do?" in which I quickly responded "run faster".

We filled up our hydration packs and left the AS, which had a tent that lots of runners were seeking shelter from the driving rain and to help warm themselves up a bit.  The climb up Apple Orchard Falls is where my race fell apart last year and I was committed to not letting that happen again.  A group of four to five people joined Emily and I as we climbed.  We ran everything that was runnable and passed everyone that was in our group at the beginning of the climb.  We reached the waterfall, which was beautiful, and then we started up the wooden steps and my legs felt dead!  At this point I really had to dig deep to keep pushing.  Last year I thought the wood steps were closer to the summit, but I was incorrect and the suffering continued until we finally reached the Sunset Fields AS (for the second time).

Emily and I briefly admired the view as we topped off our hydration packs and after passed another five to six people at the aid station trying to get warm.  I would show pictures of the waterfall but my iPhone case was wet and the pictures came out terribly.  I knew at this point in the race the course was basically downhill from Sunset Fields to the finish.  My legs didn't want to run so I let them cool down a bit after the huge climb and eventually I was able to shuffle.  We then got back onto Glenwood Horse Trail and headed down the switch backs towards the Overstreet Falls AS.  I told Emily before the race to make sure she topped off her hydration pack at Sunset Fields so that she would be able to save herself some time by skipping Overstreet Falls AS.

Emily and I hadn't planned on running the race together, but both were running the same pace and both felt like we were pushing ourselves.  As we ran through Overstreet AS without stopping Emily decided that she was going to push it to the finish and was able to open a thirty to forty second gap on me as we closed in on 1.5 miles to the finish.  We were both cruising along and probably passed six to seven runners along the way, while only being passed by one runner.  I saw the one mile to go spray painted on the group and I looked up and Emily had pulled a minute ahead of me, so I did what any husband would do... take off after her.  With a half mile to go my legs were begging me to stop but pride was telling me to go harder.  As we came into the Promise Land youth camp I closed the gap to twenty seconds, but inevitably I ran out of time and she beat me by seventeen seconds.  Dr.Horton then told everyone that a couple had just finished, followed by, she beat him which was then followed by a whisper "smart man".  Trust me that is not how I wanted that to work out.  My last two miles I ran 8:41 & 8:13!!!  I finished in 7:57:43 which was 5:45 improvement from last year.  I didn't need to peak for this race, but this is a good boost as I close in on Vermont 100 in July.  Congrats Emily and running a good race, I will get ya' next time.
I absolutely love the running community in Virginia!!!  The volunteers that braved the less than ideal conditions, I am in debt to you and hopefully I will be volunteering a race soon and will be able to give you the same smile and encouraging words that you gave me.  The real question is to Grindstone or not to Grindstone........

Pictures from the Race (didn't turn out very good because of the moisture on my iPhone case)

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack and Amphipod handheld 
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt with Moeben Sleeves 
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  

See ya on the trails,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 Terrapin Mt 50k Race Report

Race number two in the LUS is the Terrapin Mountain 50k, this race is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains down in Virginia.  This was the only race in LUS that I didn't run last season, so I read numerous blogs to try to gain an understanding of the terrain and elevation.  I knew this race was going to have some nice elevation gain throughout the race, but what I under estimated was the amount unrunable terrain there was on the course.

Emily and I arrived at 5:30pm at the Sedalia Center and quickly setup our tent in the grassy field that surrounds the center.  After we set everything up we went to the pavilion and got our race numbers and a few slices of pizza, which was cooked by a mobile Domino's pizza trailer all while a Bluegrass band was playing.  We decided to retire early so we could get a good nights sleep.  It turns out I though I packed everything we needed but I forgot the sleeping bags.  Doh!!  We were lucky that the temperature only fell into the low fifties.  Our alarm went off at 5:45am and we began getting our gear ready for the 7am start.  Emily and I agreed that we would each run our own race as we had separate race goals, I was shooting for 6:50 and Emily was going to run based on how she felt.  We ran Holiday Lake 50k together and truth be told I could have gone a bit quicker as Emily was still in her base training phase and struggled in the later miles.  Right before we went to the starting line we bumped into our bunk mates from Holiday Lake David & Joanna, we traded some race stories and I am sure we will see them again at Promise Land 50k in April.
All smiles before the start
The forecast was calling for temperatures in the low 70's for a high with scattered showers all day long.  When the gong went off to start the race there was a steady rain but the temperature was manageable (somewhere is the mid 50's).  The course started with a nice half mile warm up on a paved road before it turned off onto a jeep road and this is where the climbing began.  This was the first of three major climbs on the course.  Emily and I started the climb together but quickly my right hip began to hurt, I couldn't push off with my right leg and it was causing me to lip.  I couldn't believe this, not two miles into the race and I was in serious trouble, people were passing me left and right.  Emily went ahead of me and I ascended the first climb which was approximately 3.5  miles long and had approximately 1800' of clime.  I finally reached the Camping Gap aid station (first of three stops through this aid station) in 1:06.

steam crossing before Camping Gap AS
After blowing through the Camping Gap aid station I knew there was some nice down hill running for the next few miles and I was hoping my hip was now loosened up and I could make up for some lost ground, but it was not to be.  I had to stop five to eight times along the side of the jeep road and stretched my hip, but it wasn't getting any better.  I made decent time coming into the Hunting Creek aid station in 1:24.  I filled up my hydration backpack and was off.

My nutrition game plan was to take in 200 per hour, in which I would switch between EFS shots & Vitargo every thirty minutes and taking one S!Cap every hour.  I have recently been experimenting during my training runs with Vitargo and found that this product, which moves through your GI track very quickly and reduces bloating, helps me increase my caloric intake without having to eat fifteen to twenty GUs throughout a race.  I mixed six scoops of Vitargo into a twenty ounce bottle, which came out to 840 calories, and carried my two EFS shots (each have 400 calories). 

More downhill running ensued until I came into the Goff Mt Road aid station, there a volunteer came up to me and asked if I was alright as I was limping into the aid station.  After Goff Mt Road aid station I started the second climb of the day, probably the easiest, making my way up to the Hunting Creek aid station (for the second time).  During this section I started to feel better and my legs were getting stronger as the miles passed, but it was short lived as I left the aid station and began to hardest climb of the day, my hip pain became worse.  I knew then that I would just have to grind out this race.

The climb up to Camping Gap aid station (for the second time) was not particularly difficult, it was a nice jeep road and I could get great traction, but I still couldn't push off very well with my right leg.  In this section I implemented a run/walk strategy but I wasn't making very quick progress and I came into the Camping Gap aid station in 3:55.

Next I made my way through the WOR (White Orchard Ridge) loop which was this cool jeep road that turned into a nice double track trail that lead to the top of the ridge, this is where I punched my first orienteering punch (to make sure everyone made the trek all the way to the top).  Then it was back down to the Camping Gap aid station for the third and final time.
Climb up to Terrapin Mt
After exiting Camping Gap aid station was a nice climb up to Terrapin Mt, which was by far the toughest section of the course, where many people's race falls apart.  This was a 590' climb in .8 of a mile, it was brutal but well worth it when I punched two orienteering punches at the peak and Fat Man's Misery and was treated to some spectacular views!  After I made my way through Fat Man's Misery I was plunged down the Terrapin Mt into the "rock garden" section of the race.  It was difficult to make good time on this section as the descents were steep and the trail was especially muddy.
Terrapin Mt.
Fat Man's Misery
As I came to the final aid station, Terrapin Mt Road aid station, the clouds started to clear out and the sun made it's first presence of the day.  I took my time at the aid station and filled my Nathan hydration backpack and drank a few Mountain Dews.  My spirits weren't too high at this point, because of my poor performance, but the volunteers were joking with me and made me realize that I should be counting the things I do have instead of harping about what I didn't have.  As I made my way through this last section I began to reflect on the race and also the looming post race razzing I would get from Emily.  I guess I was just disappointed that I didn't do better, but ultras will keep you humble.  My day finally came to an end as I crossed the finish line in 7:57.   Congrats to Emily for "wifing" (instead of chicking) me at the race, but she better watch her back because I am going to go all out at Promise Land.

Thanks to Clark Zealand and all the wonderful volunteers that makes this race a must do!!!


My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack and Amphipod handheld 
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt, UA Heat Gear long sleeve shirt, and light rain jacket 
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  
Watch:  Garmin GPS 310xt 

Extra Pictures from the race

See ya on the trails,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 Review and 2012 Outlook

Now that the holidays are over I have had some time to reflect on my 2011 season.  All and all I am pleased with the strides I made during the 2011 season as I settled some scores from last season, DNF at UROC 100k & MMTR 50, and ran PRs in both 50k and 50M.  I ran ten ultras last season and gained some much needed experience.  Just having all those races posed new and different challenges: nutrition, elevation, trying out new gear, and weather.  Moving forward I believe these experiences will soot me well considering my goals for the 2012 season, which includes me attempting my first 24 hour timed event (I did a 12 hour race last season) and my first 100 miler.  Along with these two big challenges I am also competing in the Lynchburg Ultra Series, LUS, which should get me ready for Vermont 100.  I will probably do a few more races during the season that I enjoy, such as Capon Valley 50k and possibly UROC 100k again, but I feel as if my schedule has a good mix of new challenges and good ol' familiar races. 

I decided to take much of December off to rest my mind more so then my legs, I realized at Stone Mill that I was mentally drained from all the races.  Now it's time to start my training again and I am really looking forward to improving my speed, or lack there of, and climbing.  I have begun running 15% hill repeats on a treadmill once a week and am concentrating on more track workouts too.  Hopefully mixing more speed workouts along with higher weekly mileage will improve my times in 2012.  Above all I want to race in 2012 and not just run, I am a competitive person and believe I can do better and now I am going to see what I can do.  Hope everyone had a good season last year and wish everyone best of luck in 2012.

See ya on the trails,