Wednesday, December 31, 2008

family comes first

With serious health issues in the family this past week, training has been on hold.

May everyone have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 Otter Creek Marathon

Been busy X-mas shopping -- done!

A summary of my day at last Sunday's Otter Creek Marathon:

the prerace - a couple surprises:

I was surprised as I woke up to rain hitting the roof. In the forecast there was no mention of rain till the afternoon -- a 20 or 30% chance with a wind advisory. Fortunately, the rain stopped as I left the house for the 25 minute drive to Otter Creek & I only felt a sprinkle or two during the race. Another morning surprise was my Garmin 405 battery had a 0% charge! Apparently I had set it down, after fully charging it, next to my running gear (instead of my nightstand) which was close to the computer. The Garmin & computer are constantly monitoring for incoming data when they are within wireless range of each other, if so, they try to connect automatically, and that drains the battery. So no GPS pacing this race nor any mapping data. If I had a 12V/110V converter, I could have charged it enough to use it -- that's one item I need for Xmas! Since the park will be closing at the end of the month, I'm heading back to the course later this week to map it, just to satisfy my curiosity.

the race - a couple mistakes:

A bit brisk at the start with fairly constant 25 to 30 mph winds with occasional gusts. The temps were in the 40's and would reach the 50's -- nice. A much larger number of runners for this race compared to last year as I situated myself towards the front half of the pack. The race consists of a short loop, then 3 longer loops of about 8+ miles each. My strategy for the start was to take off at a good clip the 1st half mile to the big downhill & then rest as I walked up the hills on the return part of the loop. I didn't want to be caught up in a line of runners on the long downhill as that was easy running & the technical portions I knew very well. Unfortunately halfway out on the loop, the course made an abrupt turn to the right & headed back to start/finish line! This cut off the big hill completely!! I found out very soon that there were several changes to the course from last year, including 2 major changes. The other major change bypassed some technical sections & a hill on the big loop adding some length to course, thus requiring the shortening of the initial loop. So I burnt myself out on the 1st loop very quickly. What I should have done then was to go ahead & walk anyway, just as I had planned -- but this walking would be on flat ground. Since I'm hard-headed, I didn't rest & continued on (I would pay for this later, of course). Since the 1st loop was much shorter this year, the marathoners caught up to any slower paced 8 & 16 mile runners who started at the same time, but didn't do the short loop. I would say most of the marathoners passed the slower runners & walkers & hikers thruout the entire 1st 8+ mile loop. For the most part, they would yield -- took some extra effort to get around some people on the single track. As I pulled into the only aid station on the big loop besides the start/finish area, it was a traffic jam! I got my arm thru a gap & luckily found one small cup that was half full of water. The cooler lines were long so I just moved on -- my mistake -- this apparently caused me to run at a deficit all day as I never caught up. My 2nd time into this aid station on the next loop was no problem. The volunteer said Gatorade was on the left, water to the right. I drank the Gatorade, but instantly recognized it as Heed. Not my favorite, but I can get it down. I don't know if it was the Heed, but about 5 minutes later my stomach became really upset. This was my upper stomach -- not intestinal distress. I thought if this kept up, my race was over! What bothered me the most though, was I didn't know what caused it (I never had a reaction to Heed before). It didn't get to the point that I felt like throwing up, although that would have probably helped. So I walked & jogged the next couple miles till it finally subsided, whew! About that time, I was coming up to the start/finish area. The last lap was tough as my legs were gone, but I didn't resort to walking (except the hills) as it was easier to jog.

the finish

A bit disappointed with the 5:05 finish as I thought I could easily get under 5 hours. Plus with some hills removed from the loops, the course was much faster than previous years. My home course "advantage" was not much help this time. I would prefer the more technical & hilly trails of previous years, but the trend for Louisville parks has been to smooth & flatten out the trails & that includes Louisville's Lovin' the Hills course here in the Jefferson Memorial Forest.

the park

I don't see the City of Louisville re-opening Otter Creek Park in the foreseeable future with their continuing budget crisis. The park has always been a nice getaway tucked away along the Ohio River -- many in Louisville don't even know the park exists as it's 25 miles from downtown & in a different county. I once saw a bald eagle flying up the creek just 50 feet away several years ago -- what a sight! Many deer come here to escape the hunters on the Fort Knox Military Reservation that borders the park. Maybe access into the closed park can be set up by permit . . .

Link to the RD's thoughts of the race & the upcoming Louisville's Lovin' the Hills race:

Next up is Mountain Mist 50k, back down at Monte Santo in Alabama where I ran the Dizzy Fifties a month ago. I haven't ruled out HUFF 50k on Dec 27 completely -- a race I did not try before as it was too far away (but have since expanded my range). Weather & course conditions will be big factors in giving HUFF further consideration.

Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 Tecumseh Marathon

Once again, DINO put on a well organized event! I've enjoyed it so much each year that after every race I start looking foward to the next year -- this was my 6th straight running of this marathon.

the snow

When I look at the forecast for a race and it says at least a 30% chance of precipitation, that means 100% in my book. So when I heard the chance of snow was 40% on the morning of the Tecumseh Marathon, I fully expected it to snow -- it did. So much for my hopes to finish in less than 5 hours. The snow covered ground highlighted the topo of the area though -- it was very nice scenery for a run. The snow covered roads added 15 minutes for the bus ride to the start, but no motion sickness this time. Also, for this year only, I did not see any hunters!

the race

The main issue for me this race was traction. There were not very many times when I felt I could push off with full force without some small amount of slippage. Snow on dry leaves seemed the par for the course. Even on gravel roads it was a bit slick. The treacherous spots on the course were where the snow was packed down & glazed over at narrow points along the trail -- I could usually spot those areas by seeing the snow & leaves scattered everywhere -- evidence of someone having found it the hard way. So I just "plowed" along carefully at a slow but steady pace all day.

I had expected a larger crowd with 600 entries compared to 450+ runners last year, but I really didn't notice any difference. In trail ultras, I usually find myself running alone after the 1st few miles at most. For this race, I did seem to be situated in one line of runners or another much of the 1st half of the race (as last year) & I even ended up in a line of 15 runners at about mile 20 -- I hadn't had that happen before. We seemed to be all going at an ultra pace at the time, which was fine by me! My official finish time was 5:12:30.

A Google Earth pic of the finish line at Yellowwood Lake:

Well, the first half of my double is now complete. I didn't feel this race completely exhausted me as I felt like sprinting near the end (but didn't as the road was slick!), so hopefully I can improve at Otter Creek.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

no massanutten

With the deadline for entering the lottery for the May 16, 2009 Massanutten 100 coming up Monday, I debated whether to sign-up, but the same argument always wins out -- just too far away. It's the same with another race I'd like to try, the Arkansas Traveller 100 -- both of these races are an equal 560 miles east or west of here -- a long drive & I don't like to fly. Add the time of the drive & the time of the race and I'm looking at 4 long days -- just can't do that right now.

I'm looking forward to my annual marathon double: the Tecumseh (Dec 6) & Otter Creek (Dec 14) Marathons. I seem to have been fairly consistent with these 2 except when I had major issues. I ran with a cold last year & it showed:

..............Tecumseh.....Otter Creek
2003......... 4:36............... --
2004......... 4:39.............. 5:33
2005......... 4:27.............. 4:47
2006......... 4:48.............. 4:47
2007......... 5:29.............. 5:35
2008............?.................. ?

I heard news yesterday that the mayor of Louisville has proposed shutting down one city park starting December 14th as a part of various budget cuts -- and that park is
Otter Creek Park!! I hope they lock the gates after we're gone. Sure doesn't look good for a continuation of the marathon double next year . . . . .

Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 Dizzy Fifties

I had run a 7:16 at the Hocking Hills 60k 2 months ago, so in looking at the 40.65 miles (approx 65k) in the Dizzy Fifties in Huntsville, Alabama, I had expectations of finishing in less than 8 hours on this very fast course - wrong! Final time on my watch was around 8:40!! About 6:16 at 50k. I didn't have any issues or excuses so it has me scratching my head on exactly what happened.

the course:

Driving 3 miles straight up a hill right out of Huntsville, I arrived at the top & it became pretty flat -- a plateau of sorts. It was breezy on top & chilly till the sun rose a little higher. There were nice scenic overlooks along the outer edge of this plateau thruout the course. The race consisted of 3 loops run multiple times with a centralized aid station, similar to the Stone Steps 50k format in Cincinnati. The small loop of 2.2 miles was run once, the north loop of 4 miles was run 4 times (for 40 milers) and the south loop of 5.6 miles was also run 4 times (for 40 milers). The most difficult was the north loop the 1st time around when the trail was covered with several inches of new fallen leaves. With all the rocks & roots hidden beneath, you had to step gingerly & hope the ankles held out! I only had one tumble but many twists & turns of both ankles -- nothing serious though. With all the foot traffic, the leaves were kicked out of the way or matted down as the day progressed & it became much better. This north loop had the only hill on the course as you dipped off the plateau for a couple miles. The small loop & the south loop were flat with the leaves already matted down & with only a few rocks & roots -- fast & easy running trails.

the race:

I was just over a 11 minute pace for the 1st few loops & then quickly faded. High stepping in the leaves on the 1st trip around the north loop apparently took something out of me. By the halfway point of the race, I was already reduced to the "shuffle" mode (slow) as my legs were gone. I stumbled & stubbed more toes dragging my feet thru the leaves that way, but I wasn't going fast enough to fall! I did get passed by one 50 miler. He was someone I had known from Lovin' the Hills & Stone Steps -- Tom Possert -- a tall fellow with long muscular legs. As I was walking up the one hill on the course on the north loop at about mile 34, he passed by me & started walking -- so he was human after all! Of course he was on mile 44 and walked faster than I ran all day. I could tell it was unusual for him to walk this hill as he commented (without me asking) that he would be running this if he needed to. He sure didn't need to as he finished easily over the next competitor.

I did wear two (2) watches this race: one of my favorite toys -- a Garmin 405 and my regular Polar watch. The Garmin's battery is not very good -- it only works about 6 hours for me, so I came prepared. Here are some pics that I made from the Garmin data, the first 3 are from the Garmin Training Center program & the last is from the Google Earth program (I've exaggerated the vertical scale somewhat in this pic to highlight the topography of the area) -- Click on pics for a larger view:

1st loop run once:

north loop run 4 times:

south loop run 4 times:

sample google earth pic:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Pinhoti 100

I was really looking forward to this inaugural Pinhoti 100 as it promised a lot of single track & had an early starting time. I didn't think getting too sleepy, like at Grindstone, would be an issue -- and it wasn't. Unfortunately, my old nemesis, my back, like at Mohican, did me in once again = DNF. Maybe my body is trying to tell me something with 3 DNF's now in my last 3 100 milers! My Dr. prescribes muscle relaxers for my back, but they have no effect on me. My last resort is a chiropractor -- I've always kept away since I'm "double jointed" & have feared something may pop too far. My joints can pop out of place without help from someone else! I'm going to seriously think about it, but for the mean time, I'm cutting down the length of my races.


With the race being a point to point format, a long bus ride to the start was necessary unless you had made arrangements to move your car. I get motion sickness easily & the ride was OK till we reached the hilly & curvy gravel road 7 miles from the start. I felt nauseous & my stomach became upset, but not enough to throw up. The nausea went away once we started but my stomach remained upset.

I ran into Bob Engel & Robin Meagher, both from Cincinnati, at the start line -- both would do very well in this race! Congrats!

Miles 0 - 6.7 Aid Station 1

I wanted to go out slow so I kept to the back at the start. With about 90 starters funneled into a narrow single track right off, it was single file walking for about a half mile for the runners in the back. It was a rocky & rooty section that was slick from the rain the day before, so I didn't mind the walking. The trail remained narrow but everyone was able to find their own spacing by the 1st aid station.

Miles 6.7 - 13.27 Aid Station 2

Very nice runable single track thru this area. Whoever designed the Pinhoti Trail seemed to have a priority in mind: no trails along the top of any ridge! This was clearly evident thruout the entire course (of what I completed). All the trails went along the sides of hills with occasional sections along the bottom & only rare crossings of the top of any hill. The only exception I noted was about a half mile of ridge running coming up to highest point in the race at Mt. Cheaha. With this "side of hill" trail design and switchbacks, the course was fairly "level" considering the very hilly nature of the area.

My upset stomach turned into a need for an unscheduled pit stop. The chafing afterwards was pretty painful even though I did get some relief at the aid stations.

Miles 13.27 - 18.27 Aid Station 3

After the 2nd aid station at 13.27 miles, a detour was made onto a roadway to avoid a section that was heavily damaged by a tornado. This was mostly uphill & everyone was able to witness the incredible destruction along side the road. It looked like a clear-cut logging operation! After several miles of this, we finally got back onto single track. The fallen trees were not limited to that one detour area though. There were countless trees across the trail from start to finish on this course that you either jumped, climbed, crawled under or went around. The first hundred or two weren't too bad, after that it became taxing on my back. They were momentum killers for sure.

Miles 18.27 - 34.56 Aid Station 6

Other than the detour, the course was a single track lover's delight up to this point. I felt good as I was well within myself & making good time. With a pretty good breeze, leaves were falling like rain -- very nice!

Miles 34.56 - 40.94 Aid Station 7 Bald Rock

This was mostly an uphill section that turned rocky coming up to the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha. The best view on the mountain was at Bald Rock & it was crowded with visitors. I stood with them for a while to enjoy the view -- GREAT!

Miles 40.94 - 52.07 Aid Station 9

The steep rocky trail coming off Mt. Cheaha was called "Blue Hell" (this segment is run uphill in the Mt. Cheaha 50k). I would say it was called "blue" as there were blue blazes painted on the rocks. It was steep, but not as tough as I expected -- it would have been had it been dark or I had to climb up this hill.

It was about mile 50 when I had my first twinge of pain in my back -- it was not a welcome sign. It became dark & with every trip or stub of the toe, the pain would seem to go directly to the back. After another unscheduled pit stop I entered the aid station at 52.07 miles at about 13 hours 14 minutes. Great volunteers this stop & at every aid station!

Miles 52.07 to 55.34 Aid Station 10

From the aid station, it was slow going as the trail became pretty technical. The highly reflective tacks & tags on the flagging were excellent night-time markers. There were a couple creek crossings and the water was down. It was clearly evident that these creeks became raging torrents at times. Unfortunately, my back was getting worse by the mile & I was slowing down considerably thru this section. At the aid station at 55.34 miles, the thoughts of DNF were creeping in. Up to this point, all I thought about was that I was on schedule for a PR & felt pretty confident about it! I sat down on the ground as I went thru my drop bag & put on some warmer clothing & then pondered my situation. Had some hot soup & other goodies & started off to the next aid station slowly.

Miles 55.34 to 60.29 Aid Station 11

As I was walking, I started calculating the amount of time I had left to get under 30 hours and figured I had to do 20 minute miles the last 45 miles. But I thought, after the next aid station or two, the trail really took off from any roads or civilization & if I decided to stop then, there were no provisions for the volunteers to get me out of there. This weighed heavily on my decision to stop as I didn't want a repeat of Mohican, where I had to be packed out of the wilderness when my back went completely out. Better safe than sorry, so I made the decision to just walk it in to the next aid station where there was vehicle access & end it at 60 miles.

The End

I told the volunteers I was stopping & asked if I could get a ride back to the finish. They said there was a shuttle scheduled soon & to sit down & wait. I was reluctant to sit down as I knew if I stopped moving for very long I would start freezing. The volunteers said they had a space blanket & that the shuttle would be there any minute & convinced me to sit down. About 5-10 minutes later I started shivering. There was a breeze & the space blanket didn't cover every part of my body -- I felt the wind! My inside shirt was still soaked from sweat & that didn't help. I was soon shaking so much I told them this wasn't working & that I needed to get some place warmer. My back pain was no longer an issue at this point and I started to feel a little nauseous on top of all this! One of the volunteers brought up their car & cranked up the heat -- saved once again! Many Thanks to this volunteer! Soon after, Jamie Henderson (RD Todd Henderson's wife), with some heavy coaxing to get us moving, transferred me & another runner into her vehicle for a ride back to the finish. Jamie is one wonderful person!

As I reflect back on this race, I'm very disappointed once again, but happy that I took on the challenge. I felt really good most of the race & most everything was going well -- things can change quickly though, as I found out. The point to point format on a brand new course made for new scenery every step of the way -- it was a big change from loop ultras & the course was great! I would definitely like to take on this race again next year.

Next up is Dizzy Fifties, also in Alabama. The event offers a 50k, 40M & 50M options. I've opted to try the 40M.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

pure screamin' hell

Last night I volunteered at the Pure Screamin' Hell 7 miler in Waverly Park. It’s rare for a trail race within Louisville itself and even more rare, or even a first for a trail race at night. I was happy to contribute to the trail running scene here, a city so dominated by road races. I was curious to the turnout on this Halloween night & surprised that about 50-60 runners showed up. I scouted the course last week and thought about entering, but decided I didn’t need to be running at a 7 mile pace on a trail at night with my weak ankle & with a big race the next week. This primarily MTB course is rooty in some areas, but overall pretty smooth with no technical or rocky sections. The entire course is made up of small rolling hills. About 20 minutes after the last runner left the starting line, I swept the course & finished with a large bag of glow sticks, flagging, signs & trash – one thing I didn’t have to worry about were parts of gel packets, which are so common when cleaning up after ultras! I did end up “running” the course, but at a much slower pace.

The big race is now less than a week away. I’ve been reading about the Pinhoti Trail along the lower Appalachians and found there were several races in the area that use a part of it. One area they’ve described is called the “Blue Hell”, an extreme climb over rocks & boulders on the way to the top of Mt. Cheaha. Looking at the Pinhoti 100 course, it appears I’ll be going DOWN this section – hopefully before nightfall! Another thing I’ve read were the numerous stream crossings, some with ropes -- maybe with this dry season, there won’t be a need. I’m really looking forward to this upcoming challenge/adventure!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 Stone Steps 50k

This year’s version of Stone Steps saw many records broke due to the GREAT weather & GREAT course conditions. Not a speck of mud & Dave Corfman (RD) and Dave Krekeler had used leaf blowers to clear the entire trail!! Had it not been for this effort, I surely would not have finished – all those rocks & roots hidden underneath leaves would have translated into race ending sprained ankles.

The race started at 8:00 with nice & cool conditions. I wore a singlet & gloves but ditched both after the 1st lap. The gloves would have been handy a little later when I took my 1st fall . . . . I went airborne after tripping during a downhill section. It was like I was in slow motion – I had time to think how I was going to land – I threw out my hands & tucked my shoulder as I went into a roll. This worked OK as I only came out with a stiff shoulder & a couple sliced fingers from the rocks. In a 2nd fall later in the race, when I was bringing up my rear foot, it got snagged on a tree stub & down I went in a split second – no time to think about this one. My foot remained hooked & I went down hard onto my knees & hands & forearms. Fortunately, I wasn’t going too fast but managed to scrape up both knees pretty good. Both of these falls could have been a lot worse. After the race, I noticed that every runner I saw had some evidence of having gone down – I wasn’t even close for a “best blood” award here. Also, coming into the race with my ankles finally at 100%, I turned my right one, once again, on the 1st lap. It wasn’t serious & I was used to running with a sore ankle, so it wasn’t unusual to continue “as usual”.

The loop format was such that I didn’t have to carry anything – the longest loop at 5+ miles stretched it a little on the drink so I took extra time to catch up at the end of that loop each time. After completing the 5+ mile and the 3+ mile loops for the 1st time, my time was 1:32:16. This was close to my split time 2 years ago when I finished the race in 6:05. This split was a much better pace than when I took off too fast with a 1:24:43 in 2007, resulting in my 1st ever DNF & the only DNF of last year. By the 4th lap though, I began to feel my legs giving out & I dropped off the 6:05 pace considerably. Realizing that I could not beat my previous best for the course, I concentrated on just finishing the race – like no more falls! My official time was 6:27:38. The record for my age group was again lowered – this time to 5:35:40! Since I had no real excuses this race, this pretty much lets me know how I stand on my level of fitness – I have some work to do.

Next up is the inaugural running of the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama. I won’t have 38 hours (like Grindstone) to complete this race. With a 30 hour time limit, it’ll require everything to go smoothly. This will be my 1st point to point 100 miler – a brand new trail/experience every step of the way -- looking forward to it!

Some links to other Stone Steps race reports:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Grindstone 100

Maybe it was foresight, or maybe I just knew my limitations when I said a very big part of the challenge was sleep deprivation. I never thought that I could run while sleeping, but that’s what I was doing Saturday around noon. I was actually nodding off & catching myself doing it – the result was another DNF – this time at 60 miles.

Grindstone 100 profile:

Full story:

I drove 7 ½ hours to Staunton, VA Thursday & opted to stay in a motel instead of camping as I thought I would get better sleep there -- that didn’t happen. The non-smoking room was reeking of air “freshener” – it actually stunk & irritated my nose. I tried to get some good sleep but ending up waking about every hour. I probably got a total of 5 hours of the “dream” type sleep. The last time I woke up was at 5 a.m. & I couldn’t get back to sleep – so I just stayed in bed keeping off my feet & resting the best I could.

I arrived at Camp Shenandoah by noon, set up camp and went to the mandatory pre-race meeting. It lasted about an hour, including the handing out of some nice door prizes. Clark Zealand, RD & David Horton both did an excellent job on communicating the essentials of the race.

The weather was great – I could not have asked for better this time of year. Temps would range from the lower 40’s to upper 50’s the entire race – nice! Low humidity also. The course conditions were also great -- the ground was slightly damp, but not wet or slippery.

The Start

With anticipation building all day (and all week), the race finally started at 6 pm sharp. About 75 runners started & I settled in towards the back of the pack.

Little North Mountain

The first climb was a 900 foot hill. At the crest, I could look way up & see Elliot Knob across the valley looming ahead – it looked awesome. Coming down Little North Mountain & into the shadow of Elliot Knob, it got dark quick. The drink at the aid station between the 2 hills was one I had never heard of – it did not go down well & I didn’t drink much of it. The next aid station would be almost 10 miles & I regretted it later for not refilling one of my bottles

Elliot Knob

This 2nd hill was a doozy. It was 4 miles of continuous climb – I remember a couple near level sections, but that was about all. I crossed a stream twice up the hill in the dark but I’m still not sure if the trail actually crossed it. If it was a part of the course, this stream would be the only location where you could possibly get your feet wet the entire race. The trail became a gravel road about a mile or so from the top. This was the steepest portion of the climb & it was tough! Looking back the way I came, I could see twinkling lights far down below in the valley – I thought, this steep gravel section sure will be as tough going down too. I was hoping to make up time going down the other side, but soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. It was a narrow, rocky, technical trail & it took every bit of concentration not to trip. Most other runners had 2 lights, I only carried a handheld. I WILL have 2 lights on my next night run on technical trail! The strain on my eyes to see the rocks & roots came back to haunt me. Twice I almost fell but caught myself at the last second – at the expense of my back muscles – which also came into play later. If I fell here, it wasn’t going to be a scrape or bruise – instead something would be broken. This was by far the rockiest trail section I had ever been on.

Crawford Mountain

The trail coming off Elliot Knob finally smoothed out a bit after a few miles & then came to the next aid station at the base of Crawford Mountain. I caught up on my fluids & felt I was on schedule despite the slow going. Immediately coming out of the aid station, it was up & up & up! About 200+ feet of steep climb, followed by a fairly level section – this went on & on for about 5 “steps”. One thing about the trails on this course – switchbacks were very few & those very few were so long that you could hardly call them switchbacks. So when you came to a steep climb, you could see what’s coming all in one glance – just look up! Besides these steps, the other thing that stood out on this hill was this large tree about 5 feet in diameter right on the trail – what a sight! Coming down the other side, the trail was pretty smooth – felt really good thru here.

Hankey Mountain

The climb up this hill was very long, but not steep. The trail became rolling & eventually spilled out onto a dirt road. There were some mud puddles on this section, but they were easily missed – no wet feet or mud on my shoes this race!

Lookout Mountain

The road off Hankey Mountain turned into a technical downhill section at Lookout Mountain. The downhill went for a couple miles & ended with a long wooden suspension bridge near North River Gap. I was above my start weight on the weigh-in at the aid station here.

Grindstone Mountain & Little Bald Knob

I put these 2 hills together as I couldn’t distinguish where one started & the other ended. All I remember was the very long climb – it was just never-ending! I started running into the lead runners on their way back thru here – they were all at full speed down the hill – most impressive!

Reddish Knob

This was the highlight of the course for me. The 360 degree view on top of the knob was SUPER!

Briery Branch Gap

It was all downhill on paved road from Reddish Knob to the "next" aid station at Briery Branch Gap. At this point I was becoming very sleepy. The sun had been up for a couple hours now & my eyelids were becoming heavy. I was hoping to fuel up with some caffeine gels at the Gap aid station. This Gap was the location of the turnaround & I had a drop bag there. I had been running for several miles down this hill when a fellow in a truck stopped, jumped out & started running back towards me. He was telling me I had missed the turnaround! How could that be? Where was the aid station? He said the drop bags were sent up to Reddish Knob. What? This was a bit deflating as I walked slowly back up the hill. At a sharp curve in the road I saw white chalk/flour on the left side (coming from the downhill direction) indicating a U-turn around a grassy island – unfortunately I was running on the right side of the road & being half asleep I never saw it – besides, I was looking for people & an aid station – there was neither!

Reddish Knob again

It was all uphill on the road back to the Reddish Knob aid station. I had not realized my drop bag was there. I downed Mountain Dew & caffeine gels & loaded up with what I could carry & headed off to the next aid station at Little Bald Knob. On the way though, I started to see things that weren’t what they seemed to be. I thought for sure I saw a turkey in the road, but it ended up being a branch with leaves in the road – I saw many other things . . . Soon after I realized I was falling asleep while running! I would swerve & catch myself & then “wake up”! This was not good. I NEVER felt sleepy at McNaughton or Mohican so this was a first for me.

Little Bald Knob again

I slowed to a walk trying to keep my wits together & the prospect of DNF seemed as real as the next aid station. My legs were in good shape, it was I just couldn’t keep my concentration – something that I really needed on technical trails. Coming into the Little Bald Knob station at 59.94 miles somewhere around 18 hours, I only had to walk an average of 30 minutes per mile the remaining 40 miles to be an official finisher! Easier said than done in my condition so I told the 2 volunteers I was going to need a ride back to the start, but I was not in any hurry to get back. I could see they were already in the process of breaking down the station & I really didn’t feel like imposing on them by asking to take a nap there. Just then as I bent over (with my back, not my legs -- STUPID) to get into my drop bag, I had a back spasm & it about took me to the ground. I knew then any hopes of taking a nap & changing my mind to try to finish were history.

Finish Line

After getting a ride from the aid station, I crashed in my tent at the Start/Finish line. I proceeded to sleep for 17 hours!! I woke to the sound of cheering – the runners who I had seen pass thru the aid station at Little Bald Knob 40 miles away 17+ hours ago were just now finishing! Maybe a good dose of NO DOZE would have worked for a little while, but seeing that I slept 17 hours meant I was really behind in my sleep – too far behind I think . . .

Of course I’m disappointed that I did not finish -- but I did enjoy most every aspect of this event. Great volunteers. A great breakfast. There was only a touch of fall colors, but the scenery was fantastic anyway. The trails were challenging & fun to experience. Would I come back? If the start time is changed to 6 am instead of pm, yes I would very much like to. If not, I will have to re-think my pre-race strategies & if I couldn’t find a confident answer, would probably opt for another race. If I ran again, changes during the race would have to include using 2 lights & starting caffeine supplements much earlier.

Next up is Stone Steps 50k in Cincinnati. I'm in recovery mode now -- pretty tired still. My ankle took a beating but now feels stronger than before. My back, well . . . that remains an unknown factor.

Monday, September 29, 2008

big challenge ahead

A very big part of my challenge at Grindstone 100 will be the sleep deprivation factor, especially with the late starting time. I’m sure there’s a good reason for the Friday 6 pm start – my guess is permit issues or it fit the RD’s schedule. If one woke up at 8 am Friday morning, that makes it 10 hours before the race start – that’s 10 hours added to one’s awake time – making it a potential 48 hours straight of no sleep! (38 hr time limit + 10 hrs pre-race) Also, you have to consider that one does not get much sleep the night before a big race. Say you’re up at 8 am Thursday and get a generous 6 hours of good sleep Thursday night. The numbers would be: 6 hours sleep in a 72 hour (3 day) period!

In comparison, at the 100 miler at McNaughton earlier this year, I had gotten in about 6 hours sleep in a 59 hour period (longest stretch was only 35 hrs with no sleep).

What can I do for such a late start? At 1st I thought a good idea would be modifying my sleep pattern coming up to the race so I’d wake up late in the day on race day, but I have other obligations and making such a change is not going to be possible – plus there’s a mandatory pre-race meeting at 1 pm, 5 hrs before the race start anyway. I did “save” 4 hours at McNaughton by finishing 4 hours under the cutoff – but that’s not something I can count on. I think my best plan is to try to steal a nap in the afternoon & stay off my feet as much as possible the entire day.

My schedule the next 4 days . . . REST!

Monday, September 22, 2008

power aid & 2008 hocking hills indian run 60k

This past week without power was tough – I felt so frustrated & helpless as the hours, then days, passed. Unlike residents in Texas & Louisiana, this outage was totally unexpected. Had Louisville not sent a convoy of utility workers south for relief work when IKE made landfall, we would’ve gotten power back several days earlier. I did not have information about the Hocking Hills event which I had planned on checking online in the days before the race, so it was just a matter of using my memory on directions & race details. I ended up forgetting to bring several things too; everything seemed so out of synch coming up to this race.

The 60k got started about 7:15 am. There were other races to begin later at staggered times throughout the day, including a 5k, 10k, 20k & a 40k. About 35 runners toed the line for 3 laps of 20k over varied surfaces. I had low level pain in my ankle after the race last Saturday, so I didn’t run any all week in hopes of the pain going away (it didn’t).

It was cool at the start & the humidity was low all day. The 1st water stop ended up being at 7 miles as the one at 3.5 miles had not been set up yet (the water stops ended up being a sticking point for me this race). About 4-5 miles of each loop was pavement or gravel road. The traffic in the morning on OH 664 was ok -- the last loop it was downright dangerous as drivers were flying by just a couple feet from you. I think the speed limit was 55 (or at least the drivers thought so), but 35 on this hilly road full of blind curves seemed more appropriate to me. There was one good sized hill each lap. There were some scenic stretches along the gorge & running thru the pines was pretty enjoyable. The smooth rock outcroppings were so inviting, but I kept on the trail. With my sore ankle, I favored my left side slightly at first. Less than 1 mile of each lap is what I would call technical single track, which was down by the lake so I watched my footing closely – I didn’t need to do more damage. At just over 2 hours for the 1st loop, I knew the pace was too fast to keep up so I slowed considerably the 2nd time around. My ankle soreness went away (or it went numb) this loop. On this lap, quite a few new runners joined in on various parts of the course, 20k runners at first, then 5k & 10k runners on the last part. It’s always a bit deflating when you think you’re going along pretty good & then someone runs by you like you’re standing still. I’m sure it gives them a little boost, but wish we all had a different course.

Getting close to noon starting the last loop, it was getting pretty warm (hot for me). The shaded areas were fine -- it was just the sun beating down on my head on those long stretches of roadway with the only breeze (with fumes) coming from passing cars. The water stops on the course were just that – they were not what I would consider aid stations -- water was indeed provided & were as advertised. The only problem I had with that was the water got warmer & warmer till the water in the cups sitting out in the sun was hot! I usually came in thirsty & drinking warm/hot water wasn’t something I looked forward to. After seeing my displeasure at one stop, an aid worker got ice from her own cooler & put it in a couple cups of the water – all of it melted in about 30 seconds, but the water was cooled down – Thanks! One station used a garbage can filled with water – I could hardly stomach that when I saw him scooping from the can to fill my bottle, but then I realized I had drank water there the 1st 2 loops. All day, much of the water had a distinctive taste, like that from an outdoor faucet. The volunteers were friendly & very supportive so there were good times at the stops.

At the end of each loop, there is a half mile section on an uphill grade up to the lodge. Approaching the finish on this hill, the inside of my upper left leg started to cramp & seemed like it wanted to lock up. Maybe it was because I favored that leg so much the 1st lap trying to keep pressure off the right ankle, or more likely I was running a deficit on fluids. It was a real battle as I knew if it locked up, it would be extremely painful. All during this time, there was a lot of traffic leaving the lodge – one car slowed down & a guy started talking to me – I think he was trying to ask me a question. He was persistent, backing up to keep trying to talk to me – I never understood a single word he said – SORRY! Another vehicle slowed down & someone asked “Are you Ed?” I nodded & went on – I was beginning to wonder, are the race organizers worried about me on the course? Was I the last runner & they were waiting just for me? Later I discovered it was Cassie who had asked who I was & gave me encouragement on the hill – Thanks!

I finally dragged myself across the timing mat with an official time of 7:15:24. Surprisingly, although we had timing chips, they did not want us to go over the sensors at the end of each loop – I guess too much to keep up with. Along with chip timing, the small $25 entry fee got you a shirt & finishing token – not bad for an ultra.

Next up is Grindstone 100. My last long run is done & time to taper now. Although my ankle is still a concern, I had no trouble whatsoever with my back, which is great news.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

summer over?

I was just about to post this last Sunday (14th), but the power went off due to hurricane IKE. Electricity – like most things, you don’t realize or appreciate what you have till it’s gone. SIX days in the dark! No computer, TV, microwave, phone (no cell service either for 3 days) & all the other conveniences. Will be posting a race report on the Hocking Hills 60k later.

It finally dipped below 60 (59 degrees) last Wednesday for the 1st time since May here in Louisville. Unfortunately, I rolled my ankle Tuesday (not on the trail, in the yard!) and wasn’t able to take advantage of the cooler weather. So after nursing a sore ankle for several days & losing valuable training time, I decided not to test it on the trails, but a more even surface – a road event yesterday. The Lanesville 8M was on a rolling course on the backroads just south of this southern Indiana town. The ankle felt OK at the start although I knew that I was probably a couple more days from being 100%. Summer had saved one more hot one for me -- I was already sweating at the start (not a good sign) -- the dew point was very high at 70 degrees. Starting mid pack & going up a hill a half mile in, my first mile was a disappointing 9:04. I ended up walking on some of the hills and my ankle started hurting around mile 5. I don’t think the ankle played a big factor in my performance, although it was always on my mind. The humidity made it difficult for me to breath -- at times there was a slight breeze that just made it tolerable. Mostly though, I felt the leg turnover was just not there. Overall my pace was around 8:40/mile – slow! A good workout though, in preparation for the pavement I’ll encounter in the Hocking Hills 60k coming up this Saturday. My ankle is stiff & sore this morning so I’ll be taking it very easy this week in my taper.

More 50’s forecast later this week – yeah!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stone Steps training run

Went to the Stone Steps course in Cincinnati yesterday to try the 50k training run. As I figured, it would show I had lost quite a bit of endurance by dieting over the summer. I had not done a long run since June at Mohican. With temps expected to reach 90+ the rest of this week, it may be a while before I can get my next long run in.

About 10 to 15 runners showed up for the low key event – not everyone arrived at 7 am -- several joined in thruout the morning. No unofficial sign in or time sheet this go around. A brief rain Friday evening had cooled the temps somewhat, but raised the humidity – especially noticeable when the sun rose higher. The first 3 loops (2 loops of 5+ miles & 1 loop of 3+ miles) went well & the pace of my group was within a couple minutes per loop of what I’m hoping to run during the actual race. As it got warmer & I tired, the next 3 loops were progressively slower – much slower. Approaching 6 hrs of running & coming up to the 7th/ last loop (5+ miles), I was down to 1 cold drink – not enough to make it. I thought I had brought plenty, but drank more than I anticipated. All the other runners had run 2 to 5? loops & had already left as they had other commitments for the holiday weekend – so for the last couple loops I had no company, except for the crowd of people grilling out throughout the park. With the drink shortage, tired with no one to pull me along and with temps in the mid 80’s, I called it a day. So now I know where I stand endurance wise – a long way out!

I talked to several runners at the training run who had raced at Germantown in the high heat just last weekend (I made a wise decision to mark that race off the list early). Some of those same people are planning on running in the YUT-C 50k in Youngstown, OH on the same day as Hocking Hills. Each said I would like the event in Youngstown better because of the race organization & that the course had more trail & less road than Hocking Hills. A big difference to consider is: instead of a 4 – 4 ½ hr race morning drive, I would need to drive at least 6 hrs & find a place to stay the night as I don’t think I could handle running right after driving that long (actually 4 – 4 1/2 hrs is too long too – just before & after the race). I’m going to look at all these options again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Race Against ALS

I did my 1st post-diet race Saturday. For my kickoff event, it was the Race Against ALS 5k in downtown Louisville. Although most of it would be on flat, unyielding concrete pavement, I needed to start my training with something.

It was in the upper 70’s & sticky when the race finally started. With my 1st gels & Gatorade in 2 months, I was really hyper on my sugar high! At the start, I tried to keep up with everyone, but the legs wouldn’t cooperate – the turnover just wasn’t there – that missed speed work sure would have helped. I ran as fast as I could get my stubby legs to move. After working out on a soft treadmill the day before, it felt like I was running flat footed on the hard pavement. At the 1 mile marker, my time was 8:15. I thought, surely after all that sprinting I ran faster than an 8 minute mile?! That was a real downer. Did I lose muscle along with the fat over the summer? Maybe the marker was off so I got back to business & kept an eye out for the end of mile 2. It was 15 :15 at the 2 mile marker, a 7 minute split – not likely! So the 1 mile marker was off & possibly the 2nd too. For the final mile, I just tried to maintain an even pace.

I was very happy with my performance (avg pace of about 7:35/mile) -- much, much better than expected. The only concern after the race was some lower back pain after I had sat down for while – guess this is a chronic pain I’ll have to continue to deal with every race.

Next up is the Stone Steps 50k training run on Saturday. As long as it doesn’t get too hot too quick, it’ll let me know how I stand post-diet on the endurance end.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

mission accomplished

Having maintained 178 pounds (my goal) for a couple days, I’m now off my diet. I think the diet was just like a race – it took a while (about 5 weeks) before I got into a rhythm and everything went a lot smoother then. So ends my fourth diet over the years that once saw my weight pushing 230 pounds! I still have a tube of 3 or 4 inches of pure fat around my waist, so there’s plenty more to go – maybe next summer . . .

Yesterday I debated on whether to run in the morning or meet at the track in the evening with my local running club & do some intervals. I needed to have a speed work before attempting to jumpstart my post-diet training with a 5k or 10k this weekend. I wanted to try out the newly resurfaced rubberized track too so I opted to skip the morning workout. But when 6:30 pm rolled around, it was 89 degrees! It wasn’t that humid, but in the sun with no shade around -- it would be pretty hot. Having been inside with the A/C and on my feet all day, I just couldn’t get myself out there. I would much rather do workouts in the mornings when I have more energy. More 90+ temps this week so it looks like it’s back indoors at the gym.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stone Steps training run

For anyone interested, this is the email I received from Dave, the RD for the Stone Steps 50k:

I will host another training run on Saturday, August 30th on the Stone Steps 50k race course. We will start at 7:00, but will be swinging by The Oval an hour later if you can't make the early start time. Run as far as you want, and perhaps join the few of us who will run all 50k! This is a fat ass format - no fee, no shirt, no aid, no whining. Please bring a little snack to share with everybody. I'll set up a card table beside my familiar and aging white Hyundai Sonata.
Our favorite sponsors are back for the 6th edition of the Stone Steps 50k. Bob Roncker's Running Spot, The North Face and Marathon & Beyond magazine are our prime sponsors, and I ask you to visit the sponsors page on the website for their contributions as well as the other fine sponsors.
Just a reminder that the third race in the Southwest Ohio 50k Trail Race series is Germantown 50k, on Saturday, August 23rd. Sign up and race it, then return for the finale of the race series, the Stone Steps 50k. Register for SS50k before the entry fee increases on October 1.
If you ever want dropped from this mailing list, just let me know in a reply message. No feelings will be hurt on my part.
I hope to see everybody on Saturday, August 30th for a great training run!
Dave Corfman, RD

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

cool summer

I remember one morning in August last year when I was up at 6:30 & the temp was 85 degrees – the low temp for the day! August ‘07 was the hottest month ever in Louisville’s recorded weather history. Temps for the past week in the mornings have been in the low 60’s w/low humidity – a great running opportunity in the very middle of summer. I’ve been jogging in the early morning hours whenever I get the chance, but it’s been very difficult starting with an empty tank (w/my restricted carb diet). There’s just no energy and it takes quite a bit of will power just to take the 1st step – what gets me motivated though is knowing the body must burn fat if there are no carbs (I hope no muscle has been cannibalized!). The result has been good progress on the diet, down to 181 pounds now. If the weather cooperates & I can keep up the short runs, I should reach my goal within the next couple weeks.

Dave Corfman, RD for the Stone Steps 50K in Cincinnati on Oct 19, is having another training run on the course on Sat, Aug 30. As was the run on Memorial Day, it’s a FA format – very informal. I’m hoping to be off my diet & able to have a decent workout that day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

summer break continues

It’s been almost 4 weeks working on my summer goal of a 15 lb weight loss (starting weight 193 lbs). It’s been obvious the body has been getting amazingly efficient with the reduced food intake. At 185 lbs now, it’s going to take a renewed effort to make it.

I’ve been itching for a long run & I can’t help but to look ahead to the fall races. In fact, I’ve been thinking of attempting a 100 miler this fall. A couple brand new races have taken shape within a 7 HR drive of Louisville – the Grindstone 100 in Virginia in October and the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama in November. These 2 new races conflict with 2 events I had tentatively planned on starting though – the Iron Mountain 50M in October & the OPSF 50M in November. I’ll just have to wait & see how the body feels & see what kind of shape I’m in when off this diet & training resumes in cooler weather.

I’ve been continuing to work out in the heat on local trails – I can lose 5 pounds easily (even when drinking all the ice water I wish), but I eventually gain it all back when I finally get re-hydrated. This is out on the Siltstone Trail on the LLTH course:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

summer break

It feels odd now that I don’t have a scheduled event for a couple months when I’ve been used to running in an event every 2 weeks or so. But I do have a goal this summer & that’s to lose weight – so far 6 pounds in about 2 weeks on my way to 15 pounds. Right now I don’t see a problem with reaching the goal, although I can tell the body is adjusting quite rapidly to the different diet by becoming more efficient & changing the metabolic rate -- so the weight loss won’t be as easy & it will be at a slower rate as the summer progresses.

I’m having mixed feelings about the works I’ve started at the gym to help my back. I don’t know if what I’m doing is aggravating the condition or that I must first endure pain to help. I feel if the pain is muscle pain, I’m on the right track – if the pain is in the backbone itself, it means I’ve done something wrong or I’ve overdone it. It’s a very tough thing to get right.

I worked about a half a day yesterday on the Siltstone Trail in Jefferson Memorial Forest – very satisfying work knowing that I’ll be running on the very same trail during Louisville’s Lovin’ the Hills 50k next February. This new segment at Jefferson Hill is very close to opening up. Yesterday I concentrated on grubbing out small tree stumps & roots – a good workout for the back.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the experiment is over

I only made it to the 1st day of summer. I’ve not done as well in adapting to & surviving the heat as I had planned, so I’ve decided to change my approach to keeping fit during the hot season.

First of all, taking a cue from Mike, I’ve decided to go on a diet, a restricted carb type for a few months. My goal is 15 pounds -- I’m hoping the weight loss will be from fat, not muscle. Losing weight can help in so many running goals & help with problems like my back. This is now my top priority -- losing this weight, I would move from the “obese” to the “overweight” category, still 24 pounds above “normal”.

Running races is not in the plan on such a diet though. I will attempt to jog in the early morning hours this summer in hopes of retaining muscle tone & to help with the weight loss.

I’ve also resolved to head to the gym & work with the back/torso/ab machines in hopes of helping the back problem. I’ve always heard the saying, “once you mess up your back, it’s never the same” – I agree totally as I didn’t take the best of care of my back in my early years. I won’t be able to eliminate the problem, but it can only help.

I think starting back in the fall this year won’t be as difficult as in previous years as I did continue running more than a month later than usual this year. Plus, I think I feel I’m more determined this time. It will still require a lot of training to build the endurance side back, regardless.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mo life or death

Before I get into a very long description with some deep thoughts about my first Mohican 100 attempt, I first of all want to give the biggest THANK YOU (& then some) to Josh Dillingham for packing me out of the wilderness & back to civilization at about 2 or 3 am Sunday morning after I had become "immobilized”. The technical trail was narrow & it took a superhuman effort & a lot of heart. I cannot express how grateful I really am. Thanks also to Kim & Luc for sacrificing their time & effort to seek help. For real, had Josh, Kim & Luc not come along when they did, I would not be writing this today.

A real hero:

I decided Thursday night to enter my first Mohican race Saturday morning. I was gambling in trusting the weather forecast of upper 70’s for the high temps – it was going to be difficult enough to finish with those temps. So I packed my drop bags & left Friday for the 5 hour drive to Loudonville, OH. I made it in time for late sign-up & packet pickup, I may have been the last one to sign up – I was 137th on the list.

The start was in the dark at 5 am, so most people had lights. It was clear & cool (upper 50’s) – great running weather. Almost immediately though, I broke out in a sweat like a dripping faucet – I think my body had not fully gotten over my last race on Saturday that I ran to the point of (heat) exhaustion. Most of the 1st 10 miles was gravel or paved road that was very hilly. It was the most road running I had done in many years & it felt like I was doing a road marathon. I wanted to keep a steady, measured pace, but it was impossible to figure how fast I was going with all the hills. By the end of the 10 miles, I had of time of around 2:03. It was much faster than anticipated. Considering all the walking on the many uphills and considering that I ran under control & not fast at all downhill, I can’t figure out how I averaged about 12 minute miles – it just doesn’t add up. I was so glad to get off the hard surface & onto single track trail – it felt like a night & day difference.

The organizers had set up a drop bag delivery service for all the aid stations but 2 & it made it easy to make personal adjustments continually thru the race. The legs were anywhere from 3-7 miles, but each section was definitely not equal in ease/difficulty. This led to an old lesson (carry more fluids). After leaving the Covered Bridge, a top notch aid station, I headed for the 1st segment of the orange loop. This leg would turn out to be the most difficult for me the entire day. It had warmed up & I consumed all my drink quickly long before the next aid station (Hickory Ridge). No drop bags here & they did not have Gatorade (the only station that didn’t have it), so I drank Heed & Coke & water. The Coke tasted good at the time so I filled up with 20 oz of it & left on the 2nd segment of the orange trail. It continued to warm up & in a very short time I was out of drink again. I was thirsty & I had at least 5 miles to go. I was soon so thirsty that it consumed my every thought. I saw a camping area off in the distance with some people & I thought maybe there was water there. I also saw a port-o-let so I made up an excuse I needed a stop & made a detour over to the camping area keeping an eye out for a spigot – no luck. I backed out on asking someone for a drink. Making it back onto the trail, I could hear car traffic in the distance so I knew I was getting close to Highway 3 & the Grist Mill aid station. Coming out onto the highway, the course was out in the sun – this was tough. Dragging into the aid station I sat down at the 5 gallon cooler of Gatorade & emptied what was in it – for some reason they didn’t refill it while I was there. I wanted to eat, but everything was too dry & I couldn’t get it down. After about 15 minutes of drinking everything in sight, I realized I had drunk at least 60 oz! This was not good as my stomach was the size of a watermelon & my thirst was still not totally quenched. So I dragged myself back out of the station & into the sun again with 20 oz more in hand. Soon after, my stomach became less full & everything started sloshing around. This made for some cramping & I was reduced to walking holding my side. This was hard to take as a lot of the trail along the river was flat & easy & a good place to make up some time. After a mile or so the trail became technical & I didn’t feel so bad about walking. As the cramping subsided, I was back to drinking as I was still thirsty – small sips at first, but it was hot & I eventually drank all of it before making it back to the Covered Bridge.

Just before the aid station was the river crossing. I was looking forward to it as my feet were hot too & I knew I had dry socks & shoes waiting for me on the other side. It wasn’t easy though as the glare from the sun made it so you couldn’t see the large, very slick rocks beneath the water surface. The fellow in front of me tripped & almost went completely under.

At the Covered Bridge station, it looked like Grand Central. Josh, who was volunteering all day & was going to do some pacing at night, was zipping up & down the length of the large aid station tending to all the runners needs – in fact, all the volunteers running around made me tired just watching. The chairs at the aid station were really nice – the volunteers bringing your drop bag to your feet while you sat there was even nicer. I forced some food down this time to fill in my stomach as an anti-sloshing measure. The chairs were out in the sun though, so after drinking all I dared, I was eager to get back on the trail.

I headed out on the Purple loop for the 1st & only time. This trail started as curvy & twisting with a lot of roots & fallen trees & had a near vertical climb from a gorge area. I saw a trickle of water coming off the cliff there & I thought it might be Lyons Falls. Climbing out from the gorge, the trail led up to the dam & then about a half mile of paved road with a hot sun shining down. Getting back on an old forest road for a while, the trail suddenly dropped off into a steep gorge. At the bottom I could see a fellow sitting in a chair taking pictures of runners as they navigated the climb down the rocks. Also there was a small stream showering down off the cliff, so then I figured THIS must be the real Lyons Falls. I stood under the water – it was cold, but very nice on the hot head! It was also noticeably cooler in this scenic gorge – this area was the definite highlight of the course to me. Reality set in & I reluctantly headed back out of the gorge & back to the Covered Bridge.

With threatening skies above, I kept the stop short this time & headed out on the bike/horse (Red) trail. A couple miles in & it began to get real dark & the wind started ripping thru the trees. As the storm front went thru, the temp quickly dropped 10 degrees. Boy, did the rain & cool breeze feel great! I got a second wind & picked up my pace on the fairly easy trail. I was cruisin’ – this was fun -- I felt I was running the fastest of the entire race the last half of this leg. I even ran some uphills. This section had a couple creek crossings though & I was unable to get by them without getting my feet wet. For the most part, I had kept my feet dry at stream crossings up to then (river didn’t count as I had dry shoes waiting). I tend to get blisters easy when my feet get wet and this race day would not be an exception.

Coming back into the Rock Point aid station at 52.2 miles, it was still raining. I had not shaken the thirst problem so I drank about 30 oz. This seemed to quench my thirst finally. I was also feeling good that I was 1 hour 45 minutes below the cutoff time & that I had over 16 hours to complete the last half of the course. I thought finishing in less than 29 hours was a definite possibility the way I felt.

How things can change quickly – so many ups & downs – it’s a long race. After the Fire Tower aid station & coming back to the Covered Bridge at 63 miles, I started to feel blisters forming on my feet. The rain had stopped & it was getting dark. I felt some pain in my lower back (kidneys?). I wasn’t real tired, but it sure felt good to sit down anyway & to chat & enjoy the bustling Covered Bridge station in action.

Heading into the 1st part of the orange trail for the 2nd time, it was cool & dark & I was in better condition hydration-wise. As on the 1st time on this leg, I felt it was a difficult section. By the Hickory Ridge station at 68.8 miles, I was still over an hour ahead of the cutoff time but my feet were starting to hurt & I still had some lower back pain. I was not thirsty this time at all, so it led me to believe maybe the pain was kidney pain. As I sat in the chair, the volunteers started to quiz me -- I think mostly to see how I was doing & if I was giving coherent answers to their questions. I must’ve been looking pretty bad, but passed the test. A couple that I had seen off & on much of the race came in & left before I was able to get out of the chair. It was almost 7 miles to the next aid station at the Grist Mill -- it was mostly single track trail with a road section at the end. About a mile or so into the segment I passed the couple who I had seen at the aid station. I was making good progress, but then my lower back really started hurting – I didn’t know if I had went over a fallen tree the wrong way, my kidneys were failing or what it was, but I knew this was bad news. I had hurt my back last summer moving furniture & this seemed similar. But I do have a horseshoe kidney & based on where the pain was, that’s what I felt was giving me the problem. So I was reduced to walking & my thoughts of finishing the race were quickly fading. After a while the walking came to be a walk/stop cycle. A runner passed me & then the couple from before passed – these people I believed to be the last runners on the course since I was now probably getting close to the cutoff time. I continued to get slower & slower & each mile seemed to take forever. With all the time elapsed, my water bottle was empty. I had over a mile of trail left to the highway when I started to have flashes of extremely sharp pain that shot thru the body whenever I took a step over a few inches high. This definitely felt like a pinched nerve, similar to a volleyball injury to my back many years ago. So I was reduced to shuffling along with baby steps. I wanted to lie down & rest the back, but everything was wet & with the cool temps, I would be shivering in a few minutes. The shuffling seemed to work so I kept it up until I came to a fallen tree with long bike ramps – whoa! It was then I no longer worried about not finishing, I had serious doubts about getting out of the woods alive! My life was flashing before me – so this was primal fear & it was for real. This ignited what adrenaline I had left & with much difficulty, I crawled over the ramps/tree – it would not be the last one. I found then if I bent over that relieved some pressure, so my cycle became shuffle/stop/bend over with occasional crawls. This continued as I plotted my next move – at this point I was becoming desperate. From my last time on this segment, I thought there was going to be at least one big hill left, so something was going to have to change. I thought if I took a 90 degree turn from the glow in the sky & noise (of the highway/city) it would lead me to the river & a shorter, straight route out of the woods, but that first required trail blazing thru unknown forest. I also remembered the 1st time on this segment that there was a “short loop” sign nearing the end of the trail portion, probably cutting off most of the last mile – should I take that & risk getting off the race course, getting lost or not being found (IF someone came looking for me?). I thought seriously again about the risk of lying down & taking all pressure off my back – I would surely feel better, but what if I couldn’t get back up? What was my next cycle going to be – crawl/stop/crawl? And then? I was flooded by many, many other thoughts, as one could imagine.

To my surprise, appearing out of the blackness of the night, I saw 3 small bright lights off to my left & going down a hill. They were going pretty fast so I thought they were mountain bikers (in the early morning hours? Ha!). I yelled “HELP”, “HELP” & frantically waved my light, but there was no response & the moving lights quickly disappeared further off to my left. What a sinking feeling . . .

What a tremendous relief it was to see the lights popping up over a hill right behind me!! I could hardly believe someone else was still running on the course – a most pleasant & welcome surprise. And of all people, it was Josh, who I had talked to all day at the Covered Bridge aid station, and Kim & Luc. Josh then volunteered to stay behind with me & Kim & Luc continued on to the Grist Mill aid station to get some help. THANK YOU Kim & Luc! I am so sorry for disrupting everyone’s plans. Josh, with a great superhuman effort got me back to civilization. As I could hear sirens & see flashing lights as we neared the end of the trail, I saw Ryan, the RD, coming to assist also – THANK YOU Ryan!

I couldn’t believe all the people at the parking lot – the rescue squad & the ambulance crew & other people all waiting to help! All I wanted to do was to lie down. For some reason, the rescue squad put me on a carrying board (a little late, Josh had already rescued me) and strapped me down everywhere, head & all. As soon as they got done the people from the ambulance came over & said I needed to be on their stretcher! So I was unstrapped from everything & transferred over.

The ride to & from the hospital & the whole hospital experience is a story in itself. To keep it short, the blood tests showed my kidney(s) were OK, I was slightly dehydrated and my liver had some elevated enzymes. The ER doctor gave me fluids, surmised I had a pinched nerve & released me -- no X-rays were taken though. I also met & got to know Thomas who was also there from the race.

Right now my feet are still hurting from being swollen. I have the same looking large blister on both my feet – just to side of the ball of the foot extending to between the 1st & second toe – I’ve never had anything like it before. I still have some lower back pain if I happen to turn the wrong way. My back problem raises some doubt now as to finishing any race in the future – I really don’t know what brought it on.

More of my own Q&A’s:

Would I do this race again? Other than the usual concern over hi-temps this time of year, new concerns would be my back & figuring how to run long distances with wet feet over hilly technical trails without foot problems – maybe more shoe changes. Really it’s too soon to think about it.

Do I question my decision to run this race so soon after another race? No

Would I have run this race if I knew ahead of time what was going to happen? Of course not.

Did I have any fun? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery – one of the most beautiful forests I’ve seen & it also had an unusually large number of singing birds & many deer; the Lyons Falls area was very nice. The trails were both challenging & enjoyable. I had fun meeting & chatting with Josh Dillingham, Brian Gaines, Rosie Evans & Thomas.

Anything I’d like to be different in the race? An option for less gravel & paved road sections. Notes on the website stating that there will be a sweep of the course very early Sunday morning and that there is no taxi transport available from the hospital to Loudonville or vice versa, on weekends.

Things I liked best about the race? A well organized event, a very scenic area, challenging trails, nice chair arrangements with plenty of volunteers at the aid stations, a large number of runners that can share ultra experiences all gathered in one place.

What are my plans now? Let’s see, I have a DNS, a DFL and a DNF my last 3 races. How about a DNR next?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

silly thoughts?

Recovery from my wilting performance last Saturday has been slow – no workouts since. The cool temps this morning though, has me wishing Mohican Trail had this weather & that the event was scheduled for next week -- unfortunately the race starts this Saturday. For some reason, I can’t seem to get away from my thoughts of entering! As of today, normal weather is expected for the event with a forecast of upper 70's for Saturday. High temps/humidity is a main concern & always a deciding factor with my heat intolerance. Of course, being properly prepared is the other big concern. So I ask myself these questions:

Would I still have thoughts of starting if the expected high temps are changed to the low 80's? No, temps are already borderline.

Should I be concerned about the late entry fee? No, trail running is what I like to do and cost doesn’t determine whether I race or not at anytime.

Would I be "embarrassed" if I had a poor showing, like a DNF? No, my DFL last race didn’t hurt & I can handle it anyway, it's not like it hasn't happened before.

Wouldn’t it be better to wait till next year? Yes & no, I could train & taper properly next year, but then again I could be fully prepared at that time & find out in the last week that temps would be in the 80’s & then out of the question. The temps could be above normal the next several years -- who knows – I’m not that lucky anyway.

Should I consider pacing someone instead? Yes, I have looked into that option but I have no experience and I’m not familiar with the course or the race event area. According to the website, the pacing would have to start at night – I would have no idea where I was. I would like to try it one day, but I don’t think now is the time.

Would I benefit from running the course & gaining familiarity for future attempts? Yes, even though training runs would accomplish the same thing, I enjoy the race day experience.

Have I talked myself into starting? Maybe.