Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Lookout Mountain 100k

After my performance at Tecumseh, I was pretty down on myself, so the best medicine for getting my mind off that was to enter another race ASAP! I needed to have a long, fat-burning run to kickoff my diet too and the Lookout Mountain 100k fit the bill. I thought briefly about entering HUFF 50k as I had not run that race either, but the idea of running my first 100k on a mountain had me excited & full of anticipation!

early signs

After I decided to enter the event though, there were indications that I had made the wrong choice and it took some extra determination to stay positive thru it all:

The 1st sign of things to come was the weather & it became the biggest influence on the event. When I registered online 5 days out, the forecast was for nice weather Friday & Saturday -- zero chance of precip. The actual weather was rain ALL DAY Friday, resulting in local flooding. Race day was windy with rain & snow in the evening.

I left early Friday for the drive to Chattanooga, TN, in hopes of sightseeing & getting a few pics. I set the GPS in my car for a motel off the Interstate in town. Where did I end up? The GPS never registered the exit off the Interstate and it eventually led me down a dead end road! When I eventually found the motel, the clerk informed me that I was not the only one to have found that dead end. Oh no, I thought, it was beginning to be one of those events that gets started on the wrong foot!

After checking in, I decided to scout the start/finish area atop Lookout Mtn and get a few pics, even though it was raining. Halfway up the mountain, I started into the clouds/fog & soon it turned really thick. At the top, it was said you could see 5 states on a clear day. Well, this day you were lucky to see 5 feet in front of the car! After much difficulty, I got turned around & headed back down into town to attend the prerace meeting. Suffice to say I was pretty disappointed I could not get any pictures.

Arriving at early packet pickup, I received a BIG surprise. Apparently an email with last minute changes was sent to everyone in the afternoon (after I had left home) & it seemed I was the only one not aware of it. The surprise: due to lack of parking (mud) at the start/finish & concerns over the safety of the runners with the cold weather Saturday night, the race was being changed to 50 miles! Associated with the distance drop were major changes in the course itself, changes to the aid stations, start/finish location & starting time -- Wo! All my race planning & course studying were out the window. A huge letdown on not running the 100k distance too, but I was still determined to complete my fat burning mission! And, I still wanted to have fun, of course. So onward!

Most of the prerace meeting was about preventing hypothermia as they had problems with a runner last year. The major changes were discussed, but no new maps or revisions were handed out. Trying to figure out the new course & a new strategy left me with my head spinning.

the race

The fog wasn't bad Saturday morning, but still made it a challenge to find the start/finish in the maze of roads atop the mountain. Temps up on top were 7 degrees lower than downtown Chattanooga. One thing I learned this day: Yes, you can have fog and have 20 mph winds -- guess I was confusing fog and frost!

The race began at the new late start time at the revised starting location. At first it was splishy-splashy with standing water & streams running down the middle of the trails, but no real muddy areas with the rocky base. I would have wet feet all day, but no blisters. There were numerous waterfalls off the rock cliffs which at times towered 200' above us -- really nice! There were occasional barrier cables at sheer cliff dropoffs -- not really functional, but served as an extra warning to watch your step. Along the way, we passed beneath the inclined railway -- it was nearly vertical -- no way would I ever get on one of those! There would have been super nice views had there been no low hanging clouds.

At the first aid station at about 8 miles I found that I had gotten confused with the new numbers of the aid stations & labeled my drop bags wrong. No problem though as I ended up depending on my bags very little this race.

There's one sinking feeling which I hate to have during a race -- that's when you see a runner who had been in front of you, come to a stop & start to come back towards you. You know he's going to ask if you'd seen any markers lately! There was one thing brand new to me for an ultra -- a new course marking technique. The course was marked by blocking off wrong turns with a small line of flags -- the right way to go had no flags blocking the trail. Seeing an intermediate or directional flag was rare. It was not uncommon to go a mile or two before seeing a flag. When the runner (Mike) said we could be off course, I told him I could not remember crossing any flags either. So we continued till we reached the highway going up the mountain -- obviously signaling we were way, way off course! Pretty disappointed here as I had been averaging 12 minute miles up to this point (15.4 miles) & had been feeling pretty good. So we sucked it up & backtracked till we ran into some runners -- never really found the exact point where we went off course, but I did measure it to be about 1.1 (x 2) miles additional. From what I heard from other runners, they could see aid station 2 & turned & headed toward it, rather than go straight in the wrong direction as we did. The extra out-and-back is to the top center of the pic above & lower right of the pic below:

Finally coming into aid station 2, I really felt drained (more mentally than physically) having done the extra miles & felt a little defeated in that all the runners who were 25 minutes or so behind me were now in front (yes, I do feel competitive at times even though I bring up the last third of the pack!). Some of those runners I had worked hard to get by, or keep ahead of -- now I was way behind . . .

What uplifted me though as I approached the 3rd aid station was I saw Mr. Ultra (Rob Apple) & several others fueling up. I was really surprised to be catching up & passing anyone as slow as I was going back up the mountain. So with renewed energy, I picked it up & started to pass some runners. This next section going to aid station 4 was on a newly constructed trail, so it was nice & muddy. One swift creek crossing & one windy powerline segment were included here. The leaders were now heading back on their final leg on this out & back section. I recognized a local runner, Troy Shellhamer in the top 7 moving pretty good -- Congrats Troy! I also recognized several runners who I ran with earlier in the race when I left the course -- they were now 30 minutes in front of me.

After the turnaround would be the most scenic section of the event. After using a rope to climb down a short steep muddy incline (shades of McNaughton), I could hear the roar of a waterfall. It became louder & louder . . . . until . . . WOW! A most impressive waterfall! Super rock formations! With all the rain, the creek was up & roaring down thru a narrow, winding channel & over a cliff. A place where I could sit for a week just taking it all in! An aid station was located right there -- those volunteers must've done something extra special to deserve that location!

That waterfall really made my day -- everything that had gone awry earlier was now distant history! From here as night fell, I cruised on at a steady pace, never having to walk any except the steeper hills. The rain which had been off & on, turned to snow & the 30 mph headwind on the return trip thru the powerline segment was pretty tough.

Only one small disappointment from there as I finished up in 11:49 : I had picked up my Moeben sleeves at the last drop bag station since there was so much emphasis by the RD at the prerace meeting about the cold front coming thru -- I should have known with my cold weather experience that it was nothing new. Anyway, I just didn't need the sleeves & I ended up dropping/losing one on the course. At the end of the race, I apologized for "littering" the course. With it being black, I don't think any runner or sweeper would see it in the dark unless they were looking for it specifically. No news yet on whether it's been found.

It's been guaranteed the course will be changed again next year. I would highly recommend this very scenic event, especially if the weather is better!


DIET time! Holding to the plan, it's crash diet time (a low carb/starvation/unhealthy diet) for 4 weeks or so -- just long enough that hopefully I can get in a good training run afterwards for Louisville's Lovin' the Hills on Feb 6.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2009 Tecumseh Marathon

Here I am scratching my head trying to figure out what happened at Tecumseh this past weekend. I entered this race fairly confident that I could improve on my slow time of last year (that I blamed on snow & ice), but I ended up struggling to finish this year. I wish I could say I had something to happen during the race to blame, but I can't. I felt good at the start with the cool temps & I had the leg turnover (that had abandoned me at the start of Pinhoti). My shoulder & back were never issues -- the shoulder had finally healed (95%) and my back was acting OK -- some chronic lower back pain, but nothing unusual.

So, obviously it has to be in my training & preparation . . . . . other than not getting in enough miles, the one thing that glares at me has been my weight gain (Thanksgiving didn't help). Moving back to the "obese" category from "overweight" means I've gained back all the weight (15 lbs) since my hard fought diet during the summer of '08. Although after the diet I started to eat healthier foods, the biggest problem has been "quantity" -- I love to eat (who doesn't?). It's depressing to think about, so I need to get away from this (since it only makes me want to eat!) & move forward. Another diet is forthcoming, once I work myself up to it!
the race

The weather on race day was great! I recognized a dozen or so names from the entry list (700 runners!) but met only a few before the race start -- Brian K & Brian H, Barry, Jeffrey. Course conditions were much better this year with only a few slick spots where the mud was frozen. The streams were up a little more than usual, so having wet feet was a little different.

I settled into a comfortable pace for the first couple miles on the double track trail/road. Entering the single track, I figured I would be running in a "train" of runners -- I just wanted to get into a group going my pace. I didn't expect all the stopping at the stream crossings though -- at one place where the trail switched back several times, I could see at least 30 runners ahead who were just standing & waiting to cross a stream! By the next stream crossing though, runners were crossing 5 wide thru the water & off trail rather than wait in line.

Approaching the halfway point, I could feel my legs starting to tire (what gives?) even though I didn't feel like I was pushing it. I could also see that my split time was going to be the slowest ever for this event & slower than any training run that I've done on this section! So what had been a fun & most enjoyable run turned into a jog/walkfest & struggle the remainder of the way. End result -- my slowest time in the 7 years running this event, including 2007 when I entered the race half sick: 5:29:56.


I didn't realize it until getting a cramp in my leg when I got in my car that I had completely forgotten to take any Succeed tablets with me on the run -- don't think that was an issue though as I had taken gels -- supposedly fortified with extra electrolytes.

I left a large stack of Louisville's Lovin' the Hills applications at the packet pickup, but it had disappeared by the time I finished -- I did not see many people taking one while I was there in the morning, so I'm wondering what happened to them???


With Otter Creek Trail Marathon this weekend canceled, my marathon "double" that I've done the last 5 years will come to an end. It has really puzzled me that the city of Louisville will not entertain the prospect of earning $$ for granting a permit for running of the race at the park this year.

My future race plans? Diet plans? Got to get some motivation going here . . . . . . and soon!

Friday, November 13, 2009

2009 Pinhoti 100

It's been a tough 5 days in recovery since the race, but finally here's my account of my adventure & mis-adventures for the record:

short version

I had hoped my back would not flare up and allow me to finish, but I ended up battling it from before the start & I was unable to meet the cutoff time at 65 miles. I tried to enjoy myself as much as I could during the race, although this has to be the most painful event I've ever endured (yes, I paid to do this & still happy I did!).

How the race unfolded & how it was run was quite different from my attempt last year, even though the end result was the same. For the very long & extremely boring details, read on . . . . otherwise, thanks for checking by!

prerace issues

Five days before my trip to Sylacauga for the Pinhoti 100, I went out for a jog around the Red Trail that's part of the Louisville's Lovin' the Hills 50k course across from my house. I felt I needed to get one more short run in since I had only run once after Stone Steps 50k a couple weeks ago. My biggest concern was keeping from spraining my ankles on any rocks or roots hidden under the leaves. I did well on that, but didn't expect to slip down on the leaves on a steep downhill & catch my right wrist/arm on a small tree. Going quickly down onto my butt, my arm ended up extended backwards behind me in an awkward position as I slid by the tree. If I was not double-jointed, I probably would have dislocated my shoulder, but instead tore some muscles & ligaments & ?? I had sharp pains from behind my shoulder blade to the top corner of my arm/shoulder & was unable to lift my arm for anything for a couple days. By the time I left for the trip to Alabama, I only had sharp pains if I raised my arm above my shoulder. This would come back on me late in the race.

Getting a good night's sleep at a motel just a few minutes from where I needed to go in the morning is very rare. I went to bed very early & despite all the usual door slams & horn honking (from people locking their cars remotely), I got in a good long sleep. Unfortunately, when I woke, I had a crick in my neck -- actually it was centered on my backbone where the neck meets the shoulder & it was very sore. I could actually put my finger on the offending vertebrate -- painful! I could not turn my head to the left or right without wincing in pain so I took some Tylenol & it felt much better although the pain would return after the race start.

at the start

I arrived at the finish line early at 3:30 am for the ride to the start for this point to point race. Although the bus was scheduled to leave at 4, I wanted to be one of the first ones on the bus to get a good seat -- the closer I sit to the front, the less chance I will get motion sickness (as I had a little last year). However, the bus driver overslept & didn't arrive till 4:15. As I got ready to get on the bus, I noticed the driver checking the side of the bus . . . . a dead battery! Eventually we were able to get on the bus 15 minutes later -- the result of all this was the race began late & the feeling that the day was sure getting off to a bad start!

Getting situated at the start line, I talked & shook hands with a real vet, Dan Brenden (58) -- he was coming off a 100 miler just 6 days previous & finished well this race (26:20)! I also talked a little to Robin Meagher, who repeated her 1st place finish and with a super 21:48 this year -- Congrats! I gave well wishes to Tim Barnes, The Trail Store manager in Louisville & the only other Kentuckian in the race. He was running his first 100 -- finished 4th 20:51 -- Congrats! I also recognized a couple others I knew from reading about their exploits: Karl Meltzer (runner xtraordinaire & winner 17:12) & Christian Griffith (blogger & Lister)

race begins

Within the 1st few miles, I can usually tell how the day will go. Right off I could tell I did not have the leg turnover (just like at DWD earlier this year). My legs would just not respond! I'm guessing it was the Tylenol I had took for my neck -- I knew it could be a mistake but I really had no choice if I was to run at all. Also, having to make an unscheduled pitstop right after the start, I came to a stop to let everyone pass (dead last!) -- with the trail following a hillside, there was just no cover. Finishing my business, I took off the best I could, which according to my Garmin was a mere 13-14 minutes per mile -- I knew I was in trouble as last year I was doing 11-12 minute miles with no problem. I did catch up to "steady Freddy" (Fred Davis) and we had a chat as we brought up the rear. We talked about previous races we had together & he told me he had just done the 24 hour in Cleveland, finishing 104 miles! He said he was surprised he did not get an age group award (at age 61).

no detour

After the 2nd aid station last year, the course was re-routed onto the road to avoid the trails damaged by a tornado. This year, we went thru this area -- you can see the road & trail in this pic:
This was all new trail to me & the 1st thing I did was get off course! Places I usually get off course in a race is when the main trail or road goes straight & there's no marking directly in front of me when the course makes a 90 degree turn onto a lesser trail. This was the case here as the course switched back more than 90 degrees and there were no markings in front of me (they were to the left of course!). Only went about 800 feet before I realized I was not on the race trail & looped back to find where I went off course ( the loop in the top center of pic above). The RD & volunteers did a great job in removing the blow-downs from the trail that were hard to get by last year, mostly because there were so many. Really nice single track trails thru this Talledega National Forest!

more slow down

At aid station 3, about 18 miles into the race, I had already digressed to 15-16 minute miles. It was so puzzling & knew then it couldn't have been the Tylenol to blame. I tried to keep positive, thinking if I kept up this same pace, I could finish in 26 hours. Of course, reality was that I would continue to slow down -- soon walking much more than anything else. By the 6th aid station at about mile 35, I was at a continuous walk starting up Mt. Cheaha. I had already accepted the fact I was not going to finish & just wanted to make it to the top of the mountain where I had my drop bag & some warm clothes and I could end my race without freezing to death. Unfortunately, my drop bag had my lights too and with 5 miles to walk uphill with only an hour of daylight left, I was in a fix! I had totally not expected to be over 2 hours behind my time of last year at this point. I was saved though by one of the volunteers who gave up his personal flashlight so I could make it to the top -- Thanks Tim! I would not have been able to make it around the rocks & cliffs near the Bald Rock aid station without it.

legs return

For some reason, just as confounding as my lack of leg turnover at the start, I got my legs to respond approaching Bald Rock at mile 40. I wish I could figure out how & why this happened & to can it & save it! Maybe because it was now dark & just felt like I was going faster -- nope, I started running uphills! I reached the Bald Rock overlook near the top of Mt. Cheaha. Last year it was crowded with visitors. This year there was nobody -- I had the entire overlook to myself -- what a beautiful sight of all the city lights below in the valley & beyond! It was pitch black & I had to watch my step past here as I carefully made my way on the bare rocks as the course went along the edge of the cliff -- no fence! Running into the aid station, I had every intention to end my race. After hearing so much encouragement from the volunteers though & hearing that I was 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff pace (18 minutes per mile), I started to reconsider. But what really made me change my mind to not stop here was that I did NOT have any clothes here like I thought! They were at the next drop bag location 16 miles away! So I picked up my lights & ran off into the nippy night with no shirt. Going along at night with little clothes on felt OK with me temperature wise -- as long as I didn't stop or got hurt along the way -- very risky!

faulty memory

Leaving the Bald Rock aid station on the paved park road, I felt GREAT! Nice & cool, I had my legs & the road was on a downward grade. I ran my fastest of the race thru here, felt like 11 minute miles. I was looking for the turnoff that went "down & to the right" off the main road as I cruised on down the road. I passed three entrances, but none that I recognized. Soon the hill got steeper & when I rounded a curve & shown my light way down the road, I could not see another entrance at all!! I stopped dead in my tracks! I did not recognize this steeper portion. I realized then I had missed the turnoff & started back up the hill -- what a bummer, what wasted energy! Passing the 1st entrance back up the hill, it was just a bare road heading off into the forest -- I did not recognize it whatsoever. Coming to the next entrance back up the hill, the road led to a large campground -- had I seen this before I thought? I went into the campground & at the1st bonfire I interrupted the partygoers: Does anyone know where I could find the "Blue Hell Trail"? I wondered what they thought, all standing around the fire with jackets on & here was this half naked crazy fool! One fellow stepped out of the crowd & apparently knew there was a race going on & directed me to go back out to the main road & up to the next entrance. So I went to the next entrance -- no flagging, but one red pie plate sign with a black arrow sitting in an island full of other signs -- still, the entrance did not look familiar in the dark.

So I ran down this side road which after a few minutes, was wondering if I was on course. A little later, a woman shouted out to me from a roadside campfire "Are you asleep?" I said "What?!" (she had said "Are you a sweep"). A fellow came up behind her & said the sweeps went thru here 10 minutes ago picking up flags & signs. Wo!! Thanks I said & asked where the course went from here . . . go to the next entrance that goes "down & to the right". So a little later I came up to the entrance that I thought was on the main road!!! So I scurried on down the road, knowing now there would be no markings for the course unless/until I caught up to the sweepers.

Heading down the road, I noticed a small white arrow on the pavement (thank goodness!) pointing down to the left onto the Rock Garden Trail (Blue Hell Trail). I quickly headed off onto this trail and soon found it to be nothing but rocks. I followed what seemed to be the forest trail markings on the trees until I lost track of them. There was no discernible trail among the rocks & boulders -- you easily could see why this was called a rock garden! I took the clearest path down the hill, but I came to a cliff. Wandering around & climbing the rocks & boulders was starting to wear me down & it was tough on the back & shoulders. I was about to give up when I saw a lone flag! I reached the flag, but then what? -- I could not make out a trail in ANY direction! Luckily, I chose a direction down the hill to the left & saw another flag -- whew, saved! I scampered over the rocks & soon I saw a blue blaze painted on a rock, then another flag & then I recognized a huge boulder -- about the size of a small house! I was able to make out a trail after that & I could see 3 lights below me!


I quickly, but carefully headed down the steep rocky hill trying to catch the 3 lights. I sure didn't want to have a fall here as it would be unforgiving, but just as I reached the 3 lights, I raised my light up to see their faces & stepped on some leaves on a slanted flat rock. Both of my feet went out from under me & I landed on my butt with my left hand smacking a rock. How embarrassing, but felt lucky I could jump right up & talk to the sweepers. The 1st thing one guy asks is what's that dripping off your hand, blood? WHAT?!!! I felt something very warm dripping off the fingers of my left hand -- I was afraid to look! Fortunately it was only my gel flask with a cracked top -- what a sticky mess. I told them thanks for leaving a few flags for me, but I could tell they sure didn't want to go back up the steep hill to get these flags that they missed! So there I was, caught up to the sweepers, my 30 minute cushion on the cutoff was gone -- wasted on extra excursions. But I still felt better than the morning, so I took off to the next aid station at best possible speed.

fall time

After reaching the next aid station, I didn't stay long as I knew I was last & they all wanted to go home. I had seen a runner leave the aid station when I arrived & I hoped to catch him. This next section was very tough on me last year & this year wouldn't be any different. I fell several times, mostly tripping on rocks beneath leaves, nothing serious but each fall hurt like the dickens! Using my arms to break my fall a couple times brought back the sharp pains from my injury earlier in the week. Also my knee caught a broken limb sticking out in the trail & it knocked me down. If I had hit my knee head on, it would have been very bad news. At several of the creeks, the water was up compared to last year & I made it across the boulders at the 1st one only. The water was chilly, but a good chance to wash the blood off my legs! Occasionally I would see the lone light of the runner in front of me, about a quarter mile or so ahead. But by the time I reached the aid station, he had not arrived yet! I learned later he was found safe.

no longer last

At the Adam's Gap aid station, I got some clothes on & the course became a hard packed gravel road. This would now allow me to shuffle my feet & not fall on my face! About 4.5 miles of the next 5 miles was uphill. Despite the gradual but steady climb, I did not walk much & I totally enjoyed being able to turn off my light & to run with nothing but a half moon lighting the way. So peaceful to be running along a high ridgetop . . . then, I passed one gal who was walking -- hey, no longer last! Reaching the Clairmont Gap aid station at mile 60, I had made it to the point where I stopped last year over concerns of my back going out. I had low level back pain with a few sharp stabs all day, but seemed OK at this point. The aid station volunteers were ready to close shop when I arrived, but I told them one more runner was behind me. I knew I was within minutes of cutoff, but the next section was mostly downhill.

sweeper vs pacer

So as I was leaving, 2 fellows started to run along beside me -- they said they were the "2nd shift" sweepers intending on cleaning up thru the next 3 or 4 aid sections. I've never had a pacer & this was a new experience. Right off, I realized I felt "cramped" by their presence although grateful they were going to accompany me. Here I was on my last legs & they were totally fresh. I knew they were well intentioned, but at night, I like to have a clear path at least 20 feet ahead so my light can show up the best path to take, especially on a washed out double track dirt road. They wanted to run right beside & in front of me, which was OK when we chatted, but made it more difficult to run in my weakened condition. With my feet dragging & my eyes getting tired, it was taking alot of mental concentration to just remain upright! I told them a couple times to go on ahead & look back & keep on eye on my light, but they insisted to stick very tight. I continually reminded myself, these are sweepers, not my pacers. When we finally got off the rough dirt road, the course became an uneven, winding single track on a downward grade for several miles. I sped up & took the lead as I wanted to see where I was going and they kept right up on my heals. I felt they were really breathing down my neck, stumbling to keep from running me over & I probably went alot faster than I should have. Soon my back started to give out big time. Very quickly things deteriorated from here. Although it was mostly downhill, I came to a walk as my back was hurting in 2 places -- I started to have a lean. It was reassuring to have company at this time & I thanked them. When we reached the aid station at Chandler Springs at 65 miles, we were already past the cutoff & the volunteers were in the process of dismantling the aid station. Race over.

Wo! This is a super long report -- maybe in reading this account next year, it will help me on my next attempt!


I had signed up earlier for the Dizzy Fifties (40M) on the 21st, but at this point, I'm having my doubts as I'm still hurting (my shoulder especially). So I'm going to look at my progress each day before deciding what to do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009 Stone Steps 50k

I journeyed to Cincinnati for the Stone Steps 50k with hopes of breaking 7 hours and I was just able to do so. Although I had major stomach issues 10 miles into the race, the lack of training was by far the biggest factor for the day. I started slower than usual, to not get caught up in the pace, and then continued to slow down the rest of the way. It was a beautiful day though, with gorgeous weather and I was able to take all that extra time to enjoy the day & to take in the sights!

Colors were very bright on this sunny day with alot of yellow leaves still on the trees and ones on the ground really lighting up the trail -- which was especially noticeable at the start of the race when it's usually pretty dark when entering the woods for the first time. EVERYTHING under the forest canopy had a deep amber hue and when the sun peaked thru small breaks in the trees, the sunlight showed up on the ground as an "odd" bright white light! -- that was an amazing sight all day.

I apparently bumped my Garmin into something before reaching 11 miles that stopped the timer & mapping, so I have incomplete data on the race. The big loop + small loop measured 8.06 miles:

Note: Bimactive.com places Cincinnati in KY! Their site won't allow editing of info on this page other than the Notes.

There were more than the usual number of people out on race day enjoying the nice Fall colors on the trails, many with large dogs. This was the first time I did not see any deer at this park. I remember a couple years ago on a training run that they were so thick, you practically had to shoo them off the trail so you could get by! There was also another first: meeting a fellow on a horse on a narrow trail -- never knew horses were allowed here . . .

Next: This race was to boost my confidence for Pinhoti 100 in 2 weeks . . . . I believe I can do it now, yet I know everything must go right (no issues whatsoever) to finish. Checking last week with Todd Henderson, RD, he has said that they were in the middle of clearing the trails -- the countless downed trees (from a tornado) were a major stumbling block (DNF) for me last year with my bad back. So hopefully with some good luck I can improve on my performance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

back to running

A couple days ago, I was finally able to get rid of that deep rooted tired feeling that seemed to hang on forever after I got over the worst of the flu (it was so depressing to be so fatigued)! First thing I needed to do after that was to see if I could run -- a short jog on local trails showed I could but it left me very sore! What I've noticed more than anything else over the last 4 or 5 years is that when I take 2 weeks or more off from running, I lose muscle tone very quickly & the muscles get sore easily like they haven't been used in months! So although the muscle soreness was disappointing, it was expected. But, I was so happy that the fatigue feeling was not present while I was running. And, being overjoyed to be out in the forest, my mood quickly went positive!

So with running back in the picture, my thoughts returned to my once very ambitious Fall running schedule. With Stone Steps coming up in a week, I'm thinking it's much too soon to attempt a 50k right off, but then again, I really hate to miss one of my favorite events -- plus it's the 2nd closest trail ultra to Louisville at less than a 2 hour drive. With this in mind, I decided to go ahead & sign up for Stone Steps & proceed with training as much as possible, as long as the body cooperated . . .

And that means NO taper this week & entering a race this morning, the Outrunning Autism Family 5K Walk/Run. When I arrived at sign up in downtown Louisville, the only bibs they had left were the "WALKER" ones -- how fitting I thought! Surprisingly, I never had the urge to walk even though it sure was a struggle to keep up any kind of "running" pace. The city streets reminded me how much I do not like pavement -- among other things, it's so tough on the joints!

I've went ahead & turned in applications for all the races that I had originally planned on this Fall before getting sick. One thing though, while being in the funk with the flu, I missed out on signing up for the Mountain Mist 50k -- which WAS going to be my first race of 2010. The organizers had moved the application date back from November 1 last year to October 1 and the race quickly filled up (350 applicants) by October 12!! After I got lost in that race last time, I was planning on redeeming myself. I also thought it was the best & also just about the only ultra race within reasonable driving distance in all of January.

Next: A few years ago, I had a goal of breaking 6 hours at Stone Steps -- this year I'd be happy to: 1. finish the race; 2. break 7 hours. If I can reach that time goal, I plan on going ahead with the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama in November even though I won't/can't be in the shape I had hoped to be in before getting sick.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

H1N1 = NO Oil Creek = Sobbing! Cursing! Suffering!

I was a bit premature on my flu assessment in my last post. All I had to do was wait till it felt like I was run over by a truck 12 hours later! Fever, sweats & chills, extreme fatigue . . . . the whole nine yards.

I've just now been able to get myself unglued from the bed, so I'm feebly able to get to things that must be done, like cancel my motel reservation in Titusville, PA. Not attending Oil Creek 100 has to be the biggest letdown EVER when it comes to running. When 2 weeks before the race you have your race & course strategies memorized & your drop bags packed, you know the anticipation was very high . . . .

Next: well at present I'm not in any condition or mood to speculate on any future race plans. What was my most ambitious Fall plans ever are now history -- I have a clean slate at the moment.

Back to bed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

the flu blues

If you're in a car with someone who is coughing & who is later tested positive for type A influenza (Dr. said it was most likely the swine flu) later that morning, what are the chances of catching it? I figured with my luck that was probably 100%, so I canceled my training plans & went into near total rest mode after I was exposed Friday morning. Saturday afternoon I started to get a burning sensation & a little tightness in my chest & I reluctantly had to accept that it could only be the beginning. Today I have a minor sore throat with an achy feeling all over & my lymph nodes are slightly swollen. I got the regular flu vaccine over 3 weeks ago -- I'm thinking maybe that vaccine is slowing down the H1N1 virus, IF THAT'S WHAT I GOT. Maybe it's just an upper respiratory infection? It seems odd that I do not have any chest or head congestion & I'm not coughing nor do I have any major symptoms at this point. I'm not sure how this will progress so I'm going to wait till tomorrow before deciding whether to see a Dr. or not. Since there is no treatment for the H1N1 virus, not sure I want to go back to the Dr.'s office where the waiting room was full of sick people and all he will do is send me back home with some advice (which I already got the full dose directly from a Dr. there Friday).

Well, sure hope I haven't gotten into a rut here . . . . a cyst one week before my Youngstown jaunt and now this . . . . maybe I'll get lucky again - Ha! Oil Creek???? I haven't come to terms with the possibility of not running the race (yet)!

Monday, September 21, 2009

2009 Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic

I had not run this race before as I thought it a bit far to drive for a 50k. Well, I was right -- the toughest time was not the 7 hours completing the race, but the 7 hour drive to Youngstown, then the 7 hour drive back! Seemed like everyone on the road Friday afternoon was in a big hurry to get home or someplace for the weekend. With EVERY Interstate under construction this time of year and unfamiliar roads, it made for some hectic driving at times!

Really though, I enjoyed the event & I'm glad now that I made the trip. Mill Creek Park is a real gem located in what seemed the very middle of Youngstown. Drive just one block out of the urban sprawl and you drop down into a valley and into a different world!
I was pretty tired after the trip, but fortunately got a good night's sleep at a new motel which was nice. In the morning, I arrived about an hour early at the start to sign in & to drive a drop bag over to the covered bridge aid station in the middle of the course that I would visit several times during the race. At sign-in at the log cabin, I ran into Bob Engel from Cincinnati. Bob has run in several races that I have, including Germantown just a few weeks ago. He was doing the early start at 7 am -- I believe just to be done early . . . which I wish I would have done as it was cooler and I wouldn't get caught up in the early pace as I did.
I arrived at the covered bridge aid station about 7:15 am. There was no one there yet, so I left my bag & I was glad to see it was still there when I arrived the 1st time.

Returning to the start, I ran into the only person, other than Bob, that I "knew" at the race: Mike Keller, who also had his daughter along. Actually I only knew Mike from reading his blog & entering his ONE . . . . MORE . . . . MILE and TEN . . . . . MORE . . . . . MILES challenges. Mike had entered the 25k & I had thought that would be the last time I saw him at the start . . . but at about the 21 mile mark, I made a wrong turn after following 2 runners blindly & I ended up on a road . . . and Mike just happened to be driving by just at that instant & got us straightened out!

Very nice & cool start next to the lake:
The course consisted of 2 loops, 7.75 mi & 4 mi, done multiple times but not one right after the other: 1/2 of the large loop (the hilliest portion of the course) was done first, then 2 laps of the smaller (fairly flat) loop, & finally 2 1/2 laps on the large loop again. Feeling pretty good at the start with the cool temps, I got caught up in the pace & ran up a few hills I shouldn't have the 1st few miles. With all the rocks & roots, I was tripping & stumbling along -- I almost fell headlong but caught myself at the last moment and in doing so I twisted my back slightly. It may have been better to just fall into a roll & not cause the shiver up the spine with the twist, but that's hindsight. Fortunately, I was only doing 50k -- any longer & it would have been a factor in the race.
About 90% of the race was within sight of the 3 lakes or the creek as the course wound it's way along the banks in this valley -- a pretty scenic course! Lots & lots of steps too -- steel, wood, stone & natural rock steps and one long boardwalk. The course also passed the 3 dams for the lakes, this is one of them:
After the initial 4 miles, I settled back down into an even pace & stumbled only once or twice afterwards. Then the 2 laps of the small loop were fairly easy & the only problem I had thru here was an unscheduled pit stop (& it wouldn't be the last). I was experimenting this race by trying a liquid (Ensure) diet the day before & it seemed to have the opposite effect I had hoped for.
The covered bridge aid station was also next to Lanterman's Mill & Falls. The volunteers here got to know the runners personally as the 50k runners passed thru here 5 times. They were a very friendly bunch!
I did get off course a couple times. For the most part, the trail was marked very well with streamers & lime dust. Only one 90 degree turn did not have any flagging & I heard from many runners, including veterans, who missed that turn. But with the course following a narrow strip of woods around 3 lakes in the middle of a city, it wasn't long at all before you realized you were off course!

At the halfway point, my time was about 3:13. I knew then breaking 6:30 would not be possible, so I shot for 7 hours & I was able to make that goal.

Next up in less than 3 weeks is the Oil Creek 100 in Titusville, PA. Time to rest up! It's going to be a long drive (9 hours?) & mostly over the same route up thru Ohio as this race. Did I learn something by going to Youngstown? Well IF at anyway possible, I'm going to leave on Thursday (& skip that madhouse Friday traffic) & get a day's rest in after the long drive too!

Friday, September 11, 2009

I've come to a boil!

I don't know why I'm so susceptible to these, but a boil/cyst appeared overnight in a sensitive area (to say the least) & it has put all activities on hold. Hopefully the pain & pressure will subside & it will come to a head soon. As for lancing a boil, I'm too chicken to do it myself! For some reason & for the first time, the Dr. put me on antibiotics & I have a return visit scheduled already. Walking is difficult, so running is out of the question for the near future. YUTC is looking doubtful at the moment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

2009 Iron Mountain Trail Run

In training for the upcoming Oil Creek 100 in October, I wanted to get in a good hill run & this IMTR 50 miler in Damascus, VA advertised to have about the same rate of elevation change per mile. I had only one previous race in the Appalachians, Grindstone 100 last year, and I wanted to get more experience with the same terrain. The ascents & descents at both these races go on for mile after mile at a time, but the hills in this race were not near as steep as those at Grindstone. I love new trails & this race fit my schedule just right too.

My biggest concerns coming into this event were the cutoff times & the heat. All week I watched the temps & humidity go up each day. I really hated to waste such unseasonably cool & comfortable summer weather in a taper! Fortunately, it remained dry all week & saved one more cool morning for the race start. The first 5 miles of the course was next to a creek and provided the soothing sound of rushing water -- very scenic thru here! The VA Creeper Trail:
The Creeper Trail portion was an old railway bed with at most a 1% uphill grade for the 5 miles to the 1st aid station. My plans were to take it easy & not get caught up in the pace on this flat section and shoot for no faster than 11 minutes a mile. Checking my GPS after the 1st 2 miles I saw I was running at less than 10 minutes per mile. At this point I was pretty disappointed in my lack of pace discipline even though I was almost at the very back of the pack! Looking back now, I don't feel that "quick" early pace was ultimately a negative factor -- really though, it probably gave me the slack time I had to have for the early cutoffs. Overall, I needed to average 14:24/mi to be an official finisher. As for being at the back, that's where I belonged as for the next 45 miles I didn't pass any 50 milers, other than one gal who I played leap frog with (& lost)!

Part of the course was on the old AT.

After the 1st 5 easy miles, the course went up & up & up for the next 5! I passed a half dozen 16 & 30 milers thru here.

This is the start of the Beech Grove Trail up to the 2nd aid station:
After about a mile or so out of the 2nd aid station, the trail went up on top of a ridge that ran at about 3500 to 4000 in elevation. Quite a few ups & downs thru here & probably the most technical section of the course. It was slow going until the trail dropped down a hill to Skull's Gap. Picture of Skull's Gap on 2nd pass thru:
Leaving the aid station at Skull's Gap, the course went back uphill onto the ridge via a short section of gravel road. After running along the ridgeline for a while, the course then made a big drop (about 1500 feet in about 10 miles) down to Rowlands Creek. I don't care too much for running on gravel roads and there was a long section thru here that just seemed to go on forever! After running downhill for so long though, I was feeling pretty good at the bottom at the Rowlands Creek aid station at about the 29 mile mark.

It had taken about 6 hours up to here & pace wise, I was in good shape --- EXCEPT that the next 4 miles back up to the top of the ridge again was uphill every step of the way! My Garmin 405 was giving me a low battery signal at that time & I continued up 3 of the 4 miles up the hill to the Hurricane Gap aid station -- it took over an hour to walk those 3 miles! I shut the Garmin off then as I didn't want to lose the data up to that time & I had never run the watch over 7 hours before.
The first mile or 2 up this 4 mile hill also went thru a gorge area that was full of large & very tall trees. There were several cascading waterfalls -- the highlight of the course to me. The only thing that detracted from the wonderful sights was that this was a very popular trail for horse riders. The trail was showing alot of wear & tear in areas. It was the first time I noticed any biting insects. There were several deep mudpits, a big change from the mostly rocky course, but since it had not rained for some time, there were still ways to bypass the mud. My feet never got wet this day -- with careful stepping across the streams.
By the time I reached the top of the ridge again, it was late afternoon & I got HOT. I really began to slow down & since it was taking longer to reach each aid station I was running out of drink before each refill. Fortunately, hydration was never a real problem as I learned a little from my last race. From the top of this ridge & thru the gaps in the trees, I could see hazy, "bluish" Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance -- neat!
One thing which put me on edge a couple times during this day was the course marking. With such a small 50 miler field (16 starters), once the 30 milers broke off, it was pretty sparse out there -- I did not see another runner for 4 hours! I was relying on the written course description as the website didn't have a course map posted and I was also relying heavily on the ribbons along the trails. There was always extra flagging at the turns, no problems there, and what I call "confidence" or intermediate ribbons were placed 1/4 mile (up to 1/2 mile?) or so apart -- that's where I had a little trouble as I wasn't used to that. I would be going along & suddenly think . . . it's been some time since I noticed a ribbon, am I still on course? Keeping an eye on the tricky footing while trying not to miss a single flag took a determined effort. So, when I got that "lost" feeling, I would then start looking in earnest for the next flag. Sometimes 5 minutes would pass, or 10 minutes with a little panic setting in. . . & think: I must've been daydreaming & missed a turnoff! Then I would see a most comforting flag! Whew!!!!

At the last aid station, I figured I had over 2 hours to run the last 7 miles to be an official finisher. Since most of the course was on a big downhill from here, my concern switched from finish time to remaining upright! I stumbled several times thru the day, but never fell -- if I do fall on any trail, it's almost always on a downhill. So I took care those last few miles, especially where the trail resembled a dried up or washed out creek bed. Back in Damascus, I made it under the 12 hour cutoff & was next-to-last of the 11 official finishers.

Overall, I'm happy with having reached my goal & glad to have made the trip & the effort -- it was very enjoyable! Maybe I've seen the last 80+ degree race weather this year too!

Next up is the Youngstown Ultra Trail - Classic (YUTC) 50k in Ohio. Last year at this time, I chose the 60k Hocking Hills Indian Run over YUTC mostly because the drive was 2 hours shorter. A big difference in these races is that the 60k race at Hocking Hills is an add-on to the primary races, the 5k, 10k & the 20k. Everything there was geared more to the shorter races, although I expected & prepared for that going in. Looking forward to Youngstown this year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 Germantown

After a 3 hour drive, I arrived in Germantown under cloudy skies and cool temps . . . 62 degrees and low humidity! I figured this would be my only chance to run this race without the normal heat & humidity this time of year. There was a good turnout, about twice as many runners as when I ran this race in the Fall of 2006 & 2007.

At the start, I heard 2 runners say "I'm freezing!" and some people were wearing jackets! Of course, I loved the temps (for August) and did not wear a shirt. Feeling so cool, I did not drink much thru the 1st 15 miles (shouldn't I know better by now?) and I would pay for this oversight later. The light breeze was keeping me mostly dry & I didn't realize I was sweating as much as I was. The sun did come out briefly a few times -- it was intense! I could tell by just those few minutes that I could not have finished this race if it was sunny, even with cool temps. There were many areas on this course that were exposed: paved roads & bike paths and what I call "XC type" trails (mowed paths thru overgrown fields). There were several hills of the 75 to 150 foot variety on this course, but for the most part, this was a flat course in comparison to other trail 50k's. The previous multi-lap course years back was hillier, but this race provided a much wider variety of scenery & trail surfaces which was nice.

I was running at an average of 11 minutes per mile (fast for me) for the 1st half, yet figured I was still in the back third of the pack as that's where I started & I wasn't passing very many runners. If someone wanted to set a PR for a trail 50k, this would be a good race to make that attempt -- as long as the weather cooperated like this day!

At about the 20 mile mark I began to get real thirsty -- this was not a good sign as that usually means I'm running a deficit of at least 60 oz. I also should have known there was a problem as I never really had to pee. Rather than try to quench my thirst all at one time & cause sloshing & side pains, I decided to drink what I normally should take in plus only a little extra amount. Getting very thirsty not long after finishing off my water bottle after each aid station did dampen some of the fun this day, but it did serve as a good kick in the pants (to remember next time)! I did end up drinking a half gallon right after the finish & more on the drive home before my bladder would respond! Which reminds me, Wes Fenton, RD & most of the time a fellow participating ultrarunner, had fresh pizza delivered at staggered times for the finishers -- very nice! However, I was bloated and nothing would have been appetizing to me . . .

Other than the hydration problem, I had one other thing happen that I brought onto myself which very easily could have been prevented: On the day before the race, I read Jeffro's race report of last year and it gave me insight to the event & the course. I read about his missed turn at the dam -- and I went right out & did the same thing on race day!! This turn is at the last aid station at about 26 miles that's located on the left side (inbound) of the spillway near the top of the dam. Leaving the aid station I continued on the wide spillway that banked into a curve off to the left & down to the base of the dam. The actual course dropped off the top RIGHT side of the spillway. Very easy to miss since the aid station was on the far left side in the 1st place & quenching my thirst was foremost on my mind! I immediately realized my mistake when I came to a trail junction & there were no markings. I had a good laugh as I walked back up the dam hill!

I'm beginning to look for another "toy" as my Garmin 405 has some shortfalls & it's not giving me everything I'd like to have during a race -- on non-race days it's been OK. The rechargeable battery life is advertised to be 8 hours. At 6 hours (or less), a low battery message comes up & obliterates most of the screen & on this past race day, it rendered the timer & reset buttons useless. Only after unlocking the bezel could I get the watch to stop. I don't like to unlock the bezel once a race has started as it's very sensitive to the touch (by anything!) and can change the modes to where it's difficult to get back to the timer screen. Since my finger coordination is not very good once I get tired, it's best (for me) not to try to change modes or make any adjustments to the watch using the bezel. Also, one time I did not lock the bezel and my sweaty arm shorted it out and the screens on the watch just went beserk.

Next up is the Iron Mountain Trail Run. This course was initially designed & race directed by Eric Grossman, who moved to VA from KY after he had designed & directed the 1st 2 Louisville's Lovin' the Hills. Although Germantown was not the best hill training course, it did give me a confidence boost in hopes of finishing 50 miles in Damascus, VA, within the 12 hour time limit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

last second change

I can't complain about the hot weather, like I usually do every summer. I'd say it's been the "coolest" (& wetest) summer that I can remember here in Louisville. With global warming upon us, I didn't think it would be possible! However, even with the mild summer, my mid summer plan of "short" races was "short-lived". I did get in a few speed works & a few more early morning trail runs than usual, but there always seemed to be other priorities to pop up when that planned short race came up each week. In fact, I ran only one of those 5k's since the Yost 10k July 11 and the 5k I was going to run in just yesterday evening happened to be the first one too hot to attempt (90 degree heat index). On a positive note, I was able to volunteer 51 hours as a Trail Ranger in July in the Jefferson Memorial Forest.

Looking ahead to the Iron Mountain Trail Run on Labor Day weekend, I get the feeling it's going to be a huge step up from my "summer vacation" --- right into a hilly 50 mile race right off the bat, plus I've never run such a long race in early September because of the lack of summer training. So I'm desperately in need of getting a long, good quality tempo run in this weekend . . . Lo & behold, the forecast for this weekend is for much cooler weather!! AND, just last night I remembered the Germantown 50k was this Saturday -- a race which I completely wrote off when they moved the race date up from October last year. Sooooo ...... why not use the race as a tuneup for IMTR 50M? I've decided to send in my entry today & am hoping the forecast holds true. Not sure what to expect as the course has been completely changed from the multi-lap course I ran 2 and 3 years ago in the Fall.

Monday, July 13, 2009

a mid summer plan

My recovery from the leg injury at Mohican took longer than expected & taxed my patience! I missed out on some unseasonably cool weather -- just my luck! Finally getting back into training on the trails after the cool spell though, it seemed I kept that same very slow pace of my last few races. So I went to the track to do some intervals. I wasn't surprised -- I was shocked at how slow I was! I had been neglecting speed works for too long & it showed in my race performances the last few months. So I've got a plan for this hot summer: no BR100 and shorter trail runs with regular track workouts (or 5k - 10k's). And it so happened that Jim Ball with The Trail Store had a 10k trail race set up for Saturday. I had not run a trail race this short before, so it sounded like a good challenge & a quick start to my plan:

Yost 10k

I arrived at the start (less than 5 minutes from the house!) at about 7:40 a.m. It was warmer than forecast (naturally) and very humid. The course consisted of the Yost (Yellow) loop of the Jefferson Memorial Forest plus a short piece on the road added at the start to space out the runners. This is the same loop as the trail portion of the 2nd section of the Louisville's Lovin' the Hills (LLTH) 50K/15M that's in February, but this race is run clockwise around the loop instead. I guess the direction was changed to keep the race from starting with the biggest hill on the course. Running in this direction, the last half mile to the finish is downhill & it sure was nice to look forward to!

At the starting line, after a show of hands, it appeared about 20% had not run a trail race before. I started midpack among the 50 or so runners who toed the line. Apparently that's where I belonged as only 3 runners passed me that I wouldn't pass back the entire race and I passed very few. The course was very familiar, yet so different running in this direction for the 1st time. I had run this loop many a time in the other direction training for & running the LLTH 50k each year. During LLTH, I run (jog) up most of the hills this loop, but not during this 10k race -- of course temps were about 30 to 60 degrees warmer than at any LLTH & I was certainly not in the same shape! My legs were up to the task this race, my breathing was not as I was gasping to catch my breath. Which only confirmed this is where I need to do more training!!

I finally took the time to upload my GPS data to BIMactive.com (Bones In Motion website). It was recommended as a site to obtain a more accurate representation of the elevation data obtained from Garmin's GPS watches. After looking at the graph, I totally agree! The graph looks very much like what I remember the course to be -- absolutely nothing like the graph I get directly from the watch. Plus the watch says 2437' of elevation gain . . . the bimactive.com graph shows 1627' which I believe is much more representative. One thing, however, which is not changed when uploading to the bimactive.com site is the distance measurement. It uses the watch measurements -- which I found my Garmin 405 to be inaccurate on hilly, forested courses. I wheeled the Yost loop last winter & it measured 5.85 miles. With the added road segment at the start, this race should be close to 6.00 miles, not the 5.56 miles shown by the watch (& on bimactive.com).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 Mohican

Short version: DNF @ 75 miles (0 for 2 for this event)

Very long version:

Although the forecast changed daily the week of the Mohican 100, it appeared it would not be so hot as to keep me from my second attempt at finishing the race, so I packed my bags with much anticipation. However, there were a couple events during this week that gave me bad vibes -- which I really hate coming into a big race:

1st bad vibe: was a last second message from the RD stating that ZipLoc bags would have to be used as your drop bags!!!!! I look forward to packing my small "cooler" drop bags with what I think I need to finish the race -- I have no crew & I rely on them very heavily. I had noted earlier that since last year the RD had cut the number of aid stations where you could have drop bags, so I was prepared for that -- not for this last second bag change. I also wanted to bring a couple more pairs of shoes this year since I had problems with the wet feet & blisters last year.

However, after the outcry from runners after his initial announcement, the RD had a change of heart -- now saying it was actually a "request" and not a "requirement"!! So I packed my usual bags as lightly as possible knowing one of the reasons the ZipLoc bags were requested was that they were not as heavy for the volunteers to move around. I did NOT pack that extra pair of shoes in the drop bag at the Covered Bridge (CB) aid station as I had originally planned -- this may have indirectly caused my DNF, but I'll never know for sure & I'll just have to live with it -- Grrrrrr . . . . .

2nd bad vibe: a severe thunderstorm rumbled thru Louisville Thursday, knocking out my electric. One of the pitfalls of living in a heavily forested area is that all the trees love to fall on the powerlines with ANY kind of storm. I had power knocked out just before a couple other races in the last 9 months & they were both a (bad) sign of things to come race wise. So with the power out, my pre-race routine was totally disrupted again (my meal & sleep plans especially). I really dislike to leave on a trip not knowing when power would be restored to the house either.

I arrived in Loudonville, OH, Friday afternoon. It was only 80 degrees at the time, but the dew point had to be in the 70's as it was difficult to breathe! I thought if the race had conditions like this, I might as well turn around! Fortunately, a rain storm (hail & all) came thru and cleared the air somewhat later in the evening. Although the rain would make for a muddy course, I was better prepared for that than heat & high humidity. At packet pickup, I ran into a few familiar faces: Brad C., Ellen E., Dave C., Al E., Rosie E., Kyle F. & Kenneth S. are ones that I can remember. Always great to catch up with how everyone's doing!

Race day:

5 a.m. race morning was damp & misty with temps in the 70's. As pre-race instructions were being given out, I began to prep my Garmin 405. For some reason, maybe the humidity and/or low elevation, but the GPS watch could not get a fix on enough satellites to work! The watch finally was able to pick up satellites after leaving the Mohican River Valley. The battery started to go dead though after about 5 1/2 hours, right on schedule.

The humidity was up, but once we reached the top of the 1st big hill from the start, there was a breeze which lasted all day. That was a savior as much as I sweat -- my shorts remained soaked the entire day anyway. I had a hydration problem last year & I came prepared with an extra water bottle this time & it worked out just right.

Time at the RP aid station at 10 miles was about 2:06, a little slower than last year, but I was happy as I felt OK. I saw Roy Heger in front of me -- maybe I'm going out too fast? Roy would end up finishing in 24 hrs & change. As I continued behind him, everything was fine & dandy till halfway to the next aid station. My legs started to feel like they were full of lactic acid. The back of my right leg was hurting too. What in the world is going on I thought? If I felt this way now, there would be no way I could even finish 20 miles, let alone 100. I started to walk continuously as I tried to figure out what I did & hopefully get my legs back. Maybe I was having a reaction to the insect patches I put on -- 1st time I have ever used them (they didn't work). I did think I strained a muscle in my right leg from trying to jump over the 1st stream to keep my feet from getting wet (because I didn't have that extra change of shoes waiting!!) I did regain some of my legs back by the Fire Tower aid station, but my right leg continued to hurt. I could just tolerate the pain, so I decided to continue with the race but at a much reduced pace.

After a quick stop for a drink refill only at the CB aid station at 18.6 miles, I headed out on the 4 mile Purple Loop. A change from last year was this segment was done before the Orange Loop -- meaning the road section on this loop, mostly a big hill, would be done in the morning shadows instead of the afternoon sun -- that would be an improvement. With the heavy rainstorm the evening before however, these trails that were marked with lime dust were no longer marked!!! Also, the runners I was with had not run the course before (I had, but apparently didn't pay enough attention to the numerous trail junctions and turn offs). We found some lime "after" the 1st trail junction in question, but the second unmarked junction that came to a T really threw us. 2 of us went one way & 2 the other and we were to shout back if we saw a marker or some other convincing evidence. Everyone returned to the junction with no success & now there were 8, then 10, then 12 runners all stacked up wondering what to do!! There seemed to be a few more foot prints to the left so most decided to go that way -- some went to the right. I went left because the Purple Loop went counterclockwise & if you continued to make nothing but left (CC) turns, you would eventually hit the trail you came in on at the least . . . . or go in a circle if you didn't watch it! Well, anyway, there were several more unmarked trail junctions encountered as our group wandered thru the forest. Eventually we ran into familiar territory -- yeah -- got my cold "shower" at Lyons Falls afterall. Somewhere in that maze, we ran into Lucas Hardbarger -- one of the runners who helped me last year -- he said he had done the Purple Loop twice!

Back at the CB aid station, I drank 20 oz and carried 40 oz for the next 5 mile leg -- I would do this for the next 3 aid stations as it was in the heat of the day & I needed every bit of it! As I was starting the Orange trail, I ran into 2 lost runners who apparently went "right" instead of "left" at the dam on the Purple loop & had been completely off course for the last 2 miles and ended up on the wrong side of the river!

From the CB aid station I continued my shuffle at a 16 to 20 minute pace. That's pretty much what I had on my mind for the next 40 miles -- I only had to average 18-20 minute miles to finish within the 30 hour time limit.

I tried to enjoy the run as much as possible, taking in what I could -- noting the wildlife & scenery. I always love to see deer, as long as they didn't jump out & scare me! Running wise, it was pretty much uneventful from here on till the end -- most of the remaining trails I knew from last year -- the only things different were that it was muddy on a few trails & the horse/deer flies were much worse than last year. Since I ran without a shirt and moving so slow, I was an easy target -- other runners who passed me said they didn't notice ANY flies!!!! The bike trails were nice, the horse trails -- not so nice. The aid stations came up periodically -- I motored on . . . 40 . . . 50 . . . 60 miles, very slow but steady. It became dark at the Fire Tower aid station & I picked up 2 lights. At the HR aid station at 68.8 miles, I was still almost an hour ahead of the cutoff pace (18 minute miles). I had over 10 hours to do the last 50k -- I really felt I was going to finish!! This 6.7 mile segment of the Orange Trail coming up next to the GM aid station is where my back gave way last year -- @ 73 miles, 2 miles short of the aid station. I don't know what it is about this segment (I think it's mostly downhill thru here), but my legs started to give out & my right leg pain was beginning to be intolerable near the 73 mile mark!! I went to the continuous walk mode again. By the time I got to the Grist Mill aid station at 75 miles, my legs had not improved & my right one was hurting as much as when I walked as when I ran. So I sat down at the aid station -- I knew it was a mistake, but at that point I was beginning not to care. I only had 25 miles to go, the last 10 of those on gravel/paved (but hilly) roads. The longer I sat, the more I felt I could not mentally tough it out the remaining hours nor risk more chances that my body/legs could completely shut down. And I knew from experience, on the trail alone in the middle of the night was not the place to be in that condition -- so the decision was to DNF.

I didn't realize it till I after I decided to DNF, but I felt the back of my right leg & there was a knot there about half the size of my fist (just above the knee on the back of my leg)! Some ice got most of the swelling down, but it's still red & a little painful after 3 days. I've strained leg muscles before, but never ran 60+ miles afterward!

I'm very disappointed with my race of course, but mostly puzzled at how tired my legs felt after only 12 or 13 miles -- I had not gone out too fast as I've done training runs farther & faster than that. So my running plans for this summer are on hold, if not canceled at this point.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 Run Under the Stars

Well, my venture into the unknown at Run Under the Stars turned out to be enjoyable. This was a totally new experience running on a flat horse track for 10 hours at night. I had opted to run this instead of the SweetH2O 50k and I believe I made the right choice. I wanted to get a good long run in and that's what I got.

Steve Durbin -- RD & really nice fellow:

When I arrived at the start, I ran into several people I knew -- Steve, John, Mike, Cassie & Ellen -- all of which I would see all night in this multi-lap event and would encourage me every step of the way (THANKS!!!!). Seeing people at night was in itself different from any ultra I've run before -- I would not be running all by myself, even though most every runner was in the process of passing/lapping me! I probably chatted more during this race than any other -- many times with runners I didn't know. One person I talked to, Gary Cantrell (Laz, of Barkley fame) walked most of the night & always had something to say. He even SMOKED about a half pack of cigarettes!!!! Carol Westerman, at age 71, who I've seen at numerous events, looked so strong & I had to commend her (she did 37 miles!). I also got in a few words to the many others who lapped me so many times it made my head spin!

The one & only aid station:

As for my race: With the flat, fast track, I took off at what I thought was a comfortable pace. After lap 1, I was soaked with sweat & I would continue to sweat a great deal all night. Looking back, I did go out too fast as I ended up walking some as early as 15 miles, with much more walking as the night wore on. Although 10-11 minute miles are not fast, apparently I was not in the shape I thought I was in. With the half mile loops, it was easy to stop at my drop bag to drink up -- which I did even though I didn't get thirsty. I was concerned that I was not drinking enough as I didn't have to pee. Finally, at about mile 21, I had a small urge to do so and I kept with this continual drinking pattern till morning. After 88 laps, I had about 3 minutes to get in another half mile lap -- nope! I'm happy with 44 miles, even though I thought if I had paced myself differently at the start & it had been about 10 (preferably 40) degrees cooler (as forecast), I had a chance to push 50 miles.

As for my "issues" this race, I had a couple and they were totally of my own doing:

My first issue was my lack of proper running gear! I had hoped to use my trail shoes as I thought I would need traction on the loose track. After arriving at Carson Downs though, I quickly realized after I walked on the track that road shoes were needed! The base material was what I call "manufactured sand" -- small limestone fragments that tend to deteriorate/weather after time -- along with dirt. The size of the fragments was much, much smaller than I expected. The dirt & limestone was a bit loose at first & had been mechanically raked. There were some divots made by horses, but not too many. When everything got packed down by all the runners after a few miles, the track was like a hard dirt trail. It was a bit uneven surface with the rake lines & divots showing thru, but nothing you could trip on. I did bring my only useable road shoes (about 7 years old) that I had used in road races up to 10 miles, but had never run in them more than that at one time. They were rather loose fitting so I knew blisters would be a problem & they were after about 30 miles. I used some extra lube, an extra pair of socks & tightened the laces the best I could without cutting off circulation. The shoes were so worn though that my feet were still loose within the shoes, but I was able to finish with the extra measures I took.

My 2nd issue was all in my head! The forecasters led me to believe that it would go down to the low 60's with winds from the north after midnight -- why do I keep listening to them? I (foolishly) had expectations that it would cool down as forecast & I waited & waited & it never happened. It felt like it stayed in the 70's all night with dew points in the 60's (humid for me). With a non-existent wind after the 1st few hours, I sweat up a storm all night. I brought 2 gallons of water & gatorade & I went thru every bit of it -- I never expected to use it all. I peed all of 3 ounces back out. It was tough mentally to block out the cool weather thoughts/hopes during the run, but this should have never been an issue if I had any sense.


WINNER: Congrats Ellen!

With this experience with the "minor heat" in this race, it really makes me question my desire to return to Mohican this year. Had it not been for a cooling thunderstorm late afternoon last year, my run at Mohican would have ended 20 miles earlier. I'm going to continue to prepare for the 100 miler anyway and hope I get lucky with the weather. I sure hate to make a decision on whether to run or not based on unreliable forecasts though, but a decision will have to be made!