Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Recap

Here we are in the final few hours of 2008. Wow what a year it's been! I didn't get as much skydiving in this year as I had hoped (roughly 100 jumps in '08 compared to 200 jumps in '07), but I did accomplish A LOT in terms of running. Let's see, where to begin?
  • December '07: First run more than 5 miles (ok so it's not 2008 but it's close)
  • March: First Half-Marathon (B&A Half - 1:39:57)
  • March: First Marathon (National Marathon - 3:48:20)
  • October: First 50k (PHT 50k - 5:18:37)
  • November: First 50-miler (JFK50 - 8:23:32)
I'm finishing off the year with roughly 1962 miles logged. If it wasn't for a few nagging injuries before and after JFK, that number would be 2000+. Oh well, just another goal to have for next year, though I'm sure 2000 will come easy with all the races I have planned! Speaking of '09 plans, here's a quick list off the top of my head. I'm not really good with making "resolutions", but here are some personal goals that I am currently working on that will come to fruition in the coming year:
  • First 100-miler (MMT on 5/16)
  • Complete the Beast Series
  • Eat healthier so as to be better prepared for above mentioned races
  • Become more flexible to prevent annoying little running injuries
  • Skydive more, or at least do more fun jumping (as opposed to work jumping)
  • Blog more often (because let's be honest, I'm an engineer not a writer, so it's hard to sit down and type willingly)
It's a short list but I feel that shorter lists allow you to focus on what's important. I started 2008 with one goal, to complete a marathon, and look where I am now! I'm sure 2009 will be a wild ride, so hold on tight kiddos and keep checking back for plenty of race reports and skydiving stories!

PS - Shout out to AlanaB for making my fresh new banner at the top of the page!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays everyone!

Before I head out for some quality time with loved ones for Christmas, I just wanted to wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and overall just a happy holiday season! Take a minute to reflect on everything that you are thankful for during this wonderful time of the year. For me, I'm grateful for my family and friends, my health, and all the new friends I've made over the past year during my first year in ultrarunning.

...and if you stumble upon a Grinch, just toss him from a plane!

No grinches were harmed in the making of this photo (Pic: SkydivingStills.com)

Monday, December 15, 2008

How could I forget?

Apparently my brain is also in rest-mode right now too because I somehow forgot to mention the AWESOME news from last week...


The number of applicants was way up from years past, so I got extremely lucky in being selected with this year's lottery system. Mark your calendars. May 16th I'll be running my first 100-miler! 5 months to train... it's on!

(currently seeking crew and/or a pacer. let me know if interested.)

MMT runners starting their journey (Photo: tomsperduto.com)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k

The VHTRC held it's December FatAss run this past Saturday, the Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k. It's a very fitting name seeing as how this is the time of year that we're all putting on the extra L-B's. I've definitely been working on my magnus gluteus maximus lately. I'm still recovering from what seems like a never-ending foot/shin injury, so less time running has equated to more nights going out with friends. Couple that with Thanksgiving and holiday party smorgasbords and you get one ultrarunner who is in dire need of some high-mileage weeks.

The run started at Hemlock Overlook Park, the same start as the club's annual Bull Run Run 50-miler, and headed south on a there-and-back route. My goal was to take it easy, run about half the distance and enjoy the comradery of my new friends. I went out 8 miles and turned around. Unfortunately around mile 9 my foot/shin pain came back and I was forced into taking way too frequent walk breaks. Slowing down also cooled me down, and with the day's cold temps I really wished I could've run the whole thing. At least there was plenty of pizza and beer at the finish line to warm me up!

Pre-run socializing

Gary Knipling awarding Phil Rosenstein a token of appreciation for his recently completed trans-American run

The VHTRC crew

Blurry running shot

Well aren't I the festive one?

Pizza and beer. The real reason ultrarunners do what we do!

Quattro's Yoohoo was looking a little off.

Me, Megan and Bryon - the puffy jacket crew

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What I've been up to lately

So it's been almost two weeks since JFK and it's been quiet around these parts. What have I been up to, you ask? Well... not much, but here goes anyways:

Recovery: After my first 50-miler, I obviously needed some time to recover. Hell, I could barely walk a few hours after finishing the race. I did well though, so some time off was definitely well-deserved. My original plan was to do a reverse-taper where I slowly build my mileage back up over a course of 3 weeks. Hmm, well that plan works great on paper, but it turned out to work horribly in real life (did someone say communism?). It failed because...

Peroneal Tendon issues: What is up with my friggin tendons?! This is the 3rd -itis I've had this year. This one, however, is not the result of overtraining like my achilles tendinitis and posterior tibial tendinitis were. This -itis most likely came from one bad step I had during the Appalachian Trail section of JFK. At the time I thought nothing of it, walked it off and kept going. It wasn't until the next day that I really felt the pain. The sore tendon in combination with stiff legs caused me to nearly fall down the steps Sunday morning. I rested, iced, compressioned, elevated, etc'ed until Thursday when it finally felt better. Bad idea to run that early. A short 5.5-miler re-injured it and I was back to hobbling. Lesson learned. This week I waited 3 more days after it felt "good" before running. I just got back from a 9.5-miler and I feel great. Foot is fine. Back to normal? *fingers crossed*

Finding a new challenge: Ok. I can run 50 miles. Mission accomplished. Obviously I'm going to run more of them in '09, I love trail running, but I'm always looking for a new challenge to see just what I'm capable of. So, it looks like my next adventure will possibly be the...

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100: 100 miles. Oh yeah. '08 was my freshman year in ultrarunning (heck, running any sorts of distance greater than 5 miles) and it's been a great year. '09 is going to be the ultimate test though. MMT has a lottery entry system so I don't know yet if I'm in or not. Registration opened on Monday and so far there are 292 applicants for a field of 180 runners. We'll see how things pan out on Tuesday. Once again... *fingers crossed*

That's about it for now. I'll be running the Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k next weekend, so stay tuned to hear how that goes. Until then, try not to overload yourself with Christmas carols and figgy pudding (seriously, does that stuff really exist?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A more detailed JFK50 report

As promised, here is a (much more) detailed account of the 46th annual JFK 50 held this past Saturday, November 22, 2008.

Course description (from JFK website):
“The first 2.5 miles are on a well-paved road that climbs up 500 feet to meet the Appalachian Trail. The next 13.0 miles basically (except for two miles of paved road between 3.5 and 5.5 miles) follow this rolling and sometimes very rocky section of the famous North-South footpath. At approximately 14.5 miles the course goes down a series of steep “switchbacks” that then crosses under Rt. 340 and connects with the C&O Canal towpath. The “Canal” section of the JFK 50 Mile is 26.3 miles (from 15.5-41.8 miles) of almost totally flat unpaved dirt surface that is free of all automotive traffic. The JFK 50 Mile route leaves the C&O Canal towpath at Dam #4 and proceeds to follow gently rolling paved country roads the last 8.4 miles to the finish.”

The night before the race I was pretty torn on what to wear. Temperatures were forecasted to start in the mid-20's and peak in the mid-30's. Since I hadn't yet run in tights this fall, I didn't really feel like trying something "new" for such a long run. Besides, I've got some meat on them bones so I figured the cold couldn't be too bad. Hmmm... remember that for later.

Pre-race briefing in the gym

I met up with the MCRRC crowd at Boonsboro High School for a group picture and then the pre-race briefing. After the briefing we made a short 5 minute walk to the start line just around the corner. It was 19 degrees out at 7am. The masses crowded together for some synergistic warmth and within a few minutes the gunshot went off and we were off running.

19 degrees? Say what now?

AND they're off!

Miles 0 - 2.5 (Boonsboro roads):
I ran most of the first few miles as the roads climbed towards the Appalachian Trail. Most others seemed to be doing the same. I also hesitated about the "walk every hill" mantra because I didn't want to get stuck behind any slowpokes on the trail. Keith Knipling had warned me about this since there are so many runners in JFK and many don't have vast experience running on trails. At a few points it got really steep and everyone seemed to wise up and slow to a walk. Do as the masses do, right? Well, if you're a newbie like myself you do.

Miles 2.5 - 15.5 (Appalachian Trail): Oh trails. How I love thee. As I stepped onto the AT I felt right at home. In the past few months I had heard horror stories from everyone about how bad and miserable the rocks were on the AT. Don't get me wrong, the rocks were everywhere. I mentioned to someone that they should rename one of the sections Detroit Rock City because the path was 95% jagged rock / 5% dirt. But there is something about technical terrain that gets me going. I like to focus my brain, forget any fears that may linger about falling and flow right over it. It's fun, it takes skill and it gets my adrenaline going. All in all, the AT was my favorite part of JFK. I only wish there were more miles on it's rugged terrain. We ended the AT with a series of downhill switchbacks that led us to crowds of cheering spectators, crews and volunteers at Weverton Cliffs. I stopped at the first of three MCRRC aide stations, filled my water bottle, had some salted boiled potatoes and wasted no time in getting back to running.

Rockin the AT

Miles 15.5 - 42 (C&O Canal towpath): I started the first few miles of the towpath running with Kari Brown, the 3rd overall female finisher. She was cool and definitely had a good pace going, but as the miles ticked away I decided it would probably be a smart idea to take 1-minute walking breaks after each aide station (about one station every 4 or 5 miles) and let her and the others pull ahead. With the Potomac River to my left and miles and miles of towpath to come, I chugged along keeping a 9:00 - 9:30 pace.

The wonderful C&O Canal

I really thought at some point I was going to warm up enough to ditch my Brooks running jacket, but the whole time on the towpath I was greeted with a nice chilly head/crosswind from across the river that was just unexpectedly cold given what was forecasted. Luckily I had a nice new pair of Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves that warm up with moisture. For looking like a pair of regular, cheapo, knit gloves they provided plenty of warmth. My legs on the other hand became more and more red as they got pounded by the blistering wind. About halfway through the towpath I realized that it wasn't going to warm up and shorts probably weren't the best choice for the day. Oh well. You live and you learn. I think for future reference my temperature cutoff for shorts will be around 30-35 degrees.

They only had frappucinos. Those are legit... right?

The second MCRRC aide station at mile 27 thought they would be funny and taunt us with signs with slogans such as "If this were a marathon you'd be home by now", "What kind of nut are you?", and my favorite "Free limousine service to Williamsport, courtesy of MCRRC (Sun-Fri only)". If nothing else the signs were something to laugh about in addition to the thoughts of "holy crap am I really running 50 miles?" and "when will this God forsaken towpath end?"

MCRRC aide station #2. Runners weren't the only ones to brave the cold temps.

I really wish there was more to talk about from the towpath since it made up such a huge chunk of the race, but there isn't really. It's a full marathon with the river on your left, trees and a ditch on your right, and gravel forwards and behind as far as the eye can see.

Miles 42 - 50.3 (roads to the finish): If you read the course description at the beginning of this entry, you see that they mention "gently rolling" roads. No. After 42 miles, these roads were not "gentle" to my already beat up legs in the slightest. The first hill right as you exit the towpath is biggest of them all. Needless to say, I walked it. As I was walking up I saw a familiar silver van driving down. It was my Dad, a couple minutes ahead of schedule (as was I) hoping to find a parking spot to see me finish the towpath. Lucky for him I was right there, so he pulled up beside me, rolled down his window and started hootin' and hollerin' in typical Dad form. He asked how I felt. "I've been running all day. How do you think I feel? I feel like death. But I'm way ahead of schedule and kicking ass!" He yelled more encouragements, pulled away and met up with me at the next aide station. I did the usual water bottle refill, grabbed miscellaneous food and this time opted to take 2 aspirin since I was offered some and it previously hadn't crossed my mind. I just figured the pain was something that was now permanent for the remainder of the race. I was wrong about that one because the aspirin dulled the pain after a couple of minutes and I was able to slightly pick up my pace.

As I came to the second to last aid station at mile 46 one of the volunteers came out ahead, started running with me as I approached and asked what I needed. "I need the finish line! Nothing for me thanks!" I had plenty of water to last me the last few miles and I knew that stopping for aide now would mean going through the slow and difficult process of getting moving again. Full speed ahead to the finish! Well, maybe just regular speed. Either way, I passed through the final aide station, dodged a bike cop that nearly ran into me (I thought they were there for our safety?) and knew that there was nothing that could stop me now. As I approached the finish line at Williamsport Middle School I could hear the announcer calling my name from quite the distance back. I wondered how he knew who I was. Clearly he couldn't see my bib number from this distance. Then I squinted and saw Dad standing next to the announcer - he was cheating! Sweet. More glory for me! I jumped up and did a heel click as I approached the finish line (I've always wanted to do that) and finished my first 50-miler in 8:23:32.

So happy to be done I can't contain myself!

The final steps

Post-race: I wasn't overwhelmed with teary-eyed emotion like I was after my first marathon, but I was extremely happy to be finished and the sense of accomplishment from finishing my first 50-miler in such a great time still boggles my mind. I headed inside for some pizza, Endurox and a nice warm shower. Man that change of clothes felt good! During my post-race socializing in the gym I met up with Bryon who just finished pacing a friend 35 miles while wearing a 15 lb backpack (he's training for Marathon des Sables next year, bad-ass!). I also met up with Mike, a friend from the Reston Runners who I met at the PHT 50k. Now in case you were wondering how cold it was, check this. Mike had to drop at mile 34 because his CORNEAS FROZE OVER! Yeah. He started losing sight, wondered why the towpath was getting all foggy and had to pull over for a medical check. Let that be a lesson to all of those who don't use protection out there! (Eye protection, duh. Wear some sunglasses people, especially if it's cold and windy!)

All in all, I am extremely satisfied with how the day turned out. I sacrificed a lot to get to where I am today, and the sense of accomplishment of not only finishing a 50-miler, but finishing in 8:23 (well ahead of the 10:00 my coach told me to shoot for) goes to show that it was worth every sacrifice. I seem to have found a sport that I'm relatively good at, keeps me in great shape and I thoroughly enjoy. This is just the first of many more ultras in my future! Thank you to everyone who made this event and my involvement in it possible!

*Sigh* <-- the sound of satisfaction

The end.

(Photo credits:
Brightroom, MCRRCphotos.com, and my camera)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Race Report: JFK 50 Miler 11/22/08

46th Annual JFK 50 Mile
November 22, 2008
Boonsboro, MD

Finish time: 8:23:32 (10:02 min/mile pace)
Placement: 69th out of 1263 registered runners, 14th out of 62 for Males 20-29
My first real ultra.

8:23:32 - about 1.5 hrs faster than planned!

I believe there are two words emanating from the minds of everyone who ran JFK on Saturday.
  1. Oww.
  2. Brrr.
Oww obviously because it's a 50-mile run, and if you're like me and this is your first real ultra, after you finish running 50 miles you hurt. Everywhere. In every way imaginable. But it's that good kind of hurt that is well deserved, so the day after you enjoy every painful step and you laugh as you almost fall down the steps from not being able to hold yourself up. Scray? Yes. Painful? Absolutely. Worth it? 100% without a doubt!

Brr is because of the frigid temperatures we endured all day. As we walked from Boonsboro High School to the start line at 7am, the sign at Hagerstown Bank read 19 degrees F. I really wish I had a camera to get a picture of that. It seems like many did. (I really need a good small point-n-shoot by the way, I'll ask Santa so I can be a better visual blogger.) Yes you heard me correct. 19 degrees. Did I mention I wore shorts? Oh yeah. By the end of the race my red shoes matched my new red legs. That's about as fashionable as you'll ever see me.

Overall, it was tough. The Appalachian Trail was awesome. I flew through it. The C&O Canal towpath was long and monotonous. I pushed through. The roads at the end were a welcome change of pace. In the end, I prevailed and I couldn't be happier.

In the spirit of me still reveling in my well-deserved laziness, I don't really feel like giving a step-by-step analysis of how the day went, so for now I will leave you with some finish line shots. I'll post the more detailed entry once the official race photos become available online. Until then... time to go defrost and get some rest. Goodnight!

Cold, sore and happy.

The mom.

Dancing at the finish line (clearly they didn't just run 50 miles).

Friday, November 21, 2008



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The calm before the storm

It's been slow around here lately. My bad. With my foot injury, I took a week and a half off from running (and skydiving) so there wasn't much to report. I guess an update on my foot is in order.

I've been going to physical therapy and she believes my injury is posterior tibial tendinitis, not anterior tibial tendinitis like I had originally guessed (I was close though!). Luckily she said it wasn't too severe and after a few sessions she had me back to my normal routine. After a week of running it has felt relatively fine, especially if I get a good warm-up in beforehand. I think that really is the key. Last night I ran 8mi and didn't give it a thorough warm-up. The first 3 or 4mi I could feel the slightest discomfort in the tendon, but after getting warmed up the discomfort subsided. This morning when I woke some of the pain had returned, the first time since being given the O-K to run a week ago. Hmm... JFK is 4 days away. Guess I better get serious about this whole "rest" thing. I'll do a few miles Thursday, but that'll be it between now and Saturday. Time for some R-I-C-E baby! (not the asian kind, the rest-ice-compression-elevation variety, duh)

...and then there's Saturday. Holy crap this thing is actually happening! I'm actually going to run my first 50-miler. Aside from the "oh my god what if my foot craps out on me" thought that is currently firing through my head, I think I'm pretty well off. At the peak of my training I did some 80 mile weeks. Most of my running has been on trails. My 50k went amazingly well. I guess now I should start packing some stuff into drop bags for the aide stations. Honestly though, I don't really think I'm going to need much. If anything, I'll need to drop stuff off at the aide stations (jacket, gloves, hat, etc) since it's looking to be 26 degrees at the start line. Then again, I've been so worried about my foot lately I haven't given much time to visualizing the race and what I might actually need when running for 9 or 10 hours. Looks like I've got something to keep my mind occupied the next few days! Stay tuned for a race report on Sunday or early next week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pre-race injuries - now a recurring theme


Sorry about that. Just letting out a little frustration over the fact that I haven't run in 5 days now and I am in serious trail withdrawal.

I woke up last Wednesday with a pain in the medial arch of my left foot. First thoughts from any runner would be a possible case of plantar fasciitis, but I'm not so sure that this is what's ailing me. The location of the pain is on the outside of the foot and slightly higher up, with the pain continuing towards the top of the foot. If I had to make a somewhat educated guess (I get called Dr. at work sometimes, so that's gotta count for some credentials, right?), I'd guess that I have tendinosis/tendinitis of the anterior tibial tendon (labeled tibialis anterior in the illustration below).

I'm less than 3 weeks out from my first 50-miler. I'd be decreasing my weekly mileage anyways, but nowhere near this much. Instead I hopped on the road bike and put a good number of hours in the saddle over the last 3 days to at least get some cardio in. It's not the same though. I don't feel like I can clear my head by going out on a long bike ride... and I'm not going to lie it hurts to sit on that thing for any extended period of time.

This is all too familiar for me. About 3 weeks out from my first marathon I got a bout of achilles tendinitis in the right ankle that sidelined me for a week or two before getting back into it. Unfortunately with that issue I reinjured the achilles during my marathon and then had to do a few weeks of physical therapy and start from square 1 with increasing my mileage. Lord knows I don't want to relive that experience! Luckily I think this current injury is much less severe, so hopefully all will be well by JFK and I'll be back into the swing of things soon.

Come on foot! Don't fail me now. Heal, baby, heal!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Next year's race schedule

With JFK and the end of the year quickly approaching, I now have to figure out what comes next in terms of training and racing. I'm really digging this ultra stuff, and I know that after finishing 50 miles the next logical step (in my mind at least) will be to do 100k then 100 miles. The question is, is 100 miles a realistic goal for the coming year? The way I see it, at the beginning of 2008 I was a pretty casual runner who had never logged anything longer than 5 miles, now I'm 30lbs lighter and looking to run a pretty strong 50-miler just 11 months later. If I continue training in the fashion I have been (and seek the guidance of a good ultra coach), I think 100 is totally doable sometime in the later half of next year.

So which 100 should I aim for? Vermont 100 is supposed be an easier 100, but I've also been looking at the Beast Series, a series of local ultras which features the new Grindstone 100, and if I'm going to be running the rest of those races why not just go for Grindstone and complete them all? I know I know, Grindstone is no joke as far as 100's go and it's got a killer elevation profile (caution: big .pdf file), but isn't the lure of ultrarunning how difficult it is to overcome these challenges? Hmmm, guess I've got some thinking to do, along with plenty of consulting with those "in the know" with these races.

So here's the lineup of upcoming races I'm currently considering:
* = race is part of the Beast Series

I think I need to find more 50 milers to add to this mix, the 50k's seem to dominate, but then again my thought process was I'd be using these 50k's as training runs so I wouldn't be putting in an all-out race effort. Any other good (preferrably within reasonable driving distance) races I should consider, or ones from this list that I should stop considering? Am I biting off more than I can chew? Recommendations always appreciated.

Friday, October 24, 2008

PHT 50k pictures and official results

As promised, here's the hula-hooping picture from this weekend PHT 50k. And as expected, yes I look like a fool.

This ultra stuff is serious bidness (Photo: Mike Bailey)

The official results are also in. Out of the 100 runners signed up, 51 completed the full 50k distance (although I can't say all 100 toed the line that morning). Here are the top 10 as listed on the VHTRC official site:

Runner Dist
in km
Bonus Time Total
Keith Knipling 50 5 4:32 4:27
Justin Faul 50 43 5:17 4:34
Bobby Gill 50 36 5:18 4:42
Justine Morrison 50 10 4:57 4:47
Andrew Simpson 50 23 5:18 4:55
Will Weidman 50 0 4:58 4:58
Laura DeWald 50 24 5:27 5:03
Ragan Petrie 50 5 5:27 5:22
Eric McGlinchey 50 15 5:40 5:25
John Shepard 50 32 6:16 5:44

Holy begeezus! 3rd place? I guess that's what happens when you don't think twice about ingesting spam, liquor and chocolate and mixing it all together for a few hours. Too bad JFK won't have these bonus points... oh well!

Additional pictures from the event can be found here and here.

Thanks again to Kerry (the RD) and everyone else at VHTRC for the great time!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Race Report: Potomac Heritage Trail 50k

It's official - I am now an ultramarathon runner! This past Sunday I competed in the VHTRC's Potomac Heritage Trail 50k. I ran it as a training run for my upcoming JFK50 race in November. As could be expected at ultra events, it was quite a low key event, starting and ending at someone's house in DC, no registration fees, no t-shirts or medals, no chip timing (honor system!) and a field of about 100 runners. Nice and simple - my type of event! Not really knowing what to expect with it being my first ultra, I was quite overwhelmed by the hospitality and friendliness of everyone even before the race started. I was quickly welcomed into this group of fellow nutjob ultra trail runners, and it was a breath of fresh air to meet folks who shared a passion for something that has thus far been mostly a solo journey for me into the ultra world.

We all gathered outside of Kerry's house in Woodley Park for a chilly pre-race briefing. This consisted of Kerry telling us not to get lost, and if we got lost we could call her but she'd just tell us to find a cab. There was also one unnamed individual already peeing in the bushes during this pre-briefing, but this unnamed individual went on to set a new course record of 4:32, so I guess he is excused.

We set off promptly at 8am down Woodley Rd., and to everyone's surprise we had a police escort for a few blocks. As it turns out there was a local 5k starting at 8:30am, so we just considered ourselves to be slow 5k'ers that got off to an early start. After a quarter-mile or so we hit the trails of DC and were on our way. For more details see the course map below, taken from my Garmin.

It was really quite amazing how quickly you go from a somewhat busy DC neighborhood to quiet trails that could easily be mistaken for being in the middle of nowhere. As we neared the end of the DC trails (not sure if they have a name, sorry), we emerged, literally, through a tunnel and over a guard rail onto the C&O Canal towpath at Fletcher's Boathouse. From there we proceeded south on the towpath for about 2 miles, then crossed the Key Bridge into Virginia and down a quick turn onto the Potomac Heritage Trail. I've run the roads here on my XMP training runs and had no idea there was trail running so close. Next time I'll know better! Trails >> Roads.

View of Chain Bridge from the Potomac Heritage Trail (Photo: RnR)

Now at this point I had heard that the 10 miles of the Potomac Heritage Trail we were going to cover was going to be technical at sections, but wow did I receive a wake-up call! The trails I run apparently aren't all that technical. I loved it though, running on technical trails requires mental focus, the kind I'm used to using when setting myself up for a good swoop when skydiving. Maybe that's why I like trail running so much? (Side note: Bryon at iRunFar had a good blog post about these similarities.)

Stream Crossing (Photo: RnR)

As we ran through each aide station there were opportunities to earn time deductions off your final clock time. Aide station #1 offered 1min off for eating a donut, 2mins for an anchovy (ummm... no thanks), and 5mins off for spam. Yes, spam. Honestly I don't know what I was thinking and I jumped at the opportunity to down a small piece of spam for 5 minutes off my total time. Anything to win, right? I thought to myself "Hey, at least it's not scrapple", washed it down with a quick swig of water and was on my way. Aide station #2 offered a game of wits, or at least a test of 3rd grade geography skills, where we had to correctly identify as many countries as possible from a globe in 45 seconds. I got 10, thus getting another 10 minutes off my time. "I am so smart! S-M-R-T!"

Heading northwest on the Potomac Heritage Trail, we spent most of our time with a nice view of the Potomac River to our right.

Potomac River (Photo: RnR)

Aide station #3 offered 5mins off for hula-hooping for 5 seconds (too easy) and an additional 5 mins off for each liquor-filled piece of chocolate we ate. I was nervous about this one, not knowing how my stomach would like the liquor/chocolate combo, but did one for the sake of being a good sport. The guy next to me had two - what a brave soul. I was fine, but later on I heard this guy's stomach had started giving him problems. Guess you gotta learn when to say when!

As I headed out of Aide #3 I realized I was no longer following anyone and some point around here the trail markings were going to change, but I didn't know what they were changing to (white chalk, blue chalk, purple chalk, and blue blazes were all part of the course). I passed a hiker and asked if he had seen other runners. "Yeah but it was a while ago, looks like you're in second place!" Hmm, that wasn't very reassuring. I then found myself running practically on the shoulder of the George Washington Parkway... again, not reassuring.

G/W Parkway - this can't be right (Photo: RnR)

I hadn't seen anyone for about 20 minutes, I was following permanent trail markings and hadn't seen any chalk that I was previously following, and I was possibly getting myself much further off course. I swallowed my pride, stopped, and turned around. Bummer, guess I'm not so smart after all. After maybe a quarter-mile of backtracking I ran into another runner from the race who knew where she was going. Woohoo! I was on the right path! I lost some time by stopping and turning around, but what's a little extra mileage, right?

Natural stairs with some man-made assistance (Photo: RnR)

Further down the trail I came to these natural "steps" with a not-so-natural handrail to assist with the climb. My quads were starting to hurt, so I admit I used the handrail. I then came across Aide station #4 at Turkey Run Park that had a ring toss game. I failed miserably at it, but hey I tried. As it turns out, Justine Morrison, previous course record holder, was the only person to make a ring and earn some time off, but with her speed she didn't need it!

American Legion Bridge turnaround (Photo: VHTRC.org)

Ok, so I admit the photo above isn't from this year's event (last year's maybe?), but it's the only one I could find that shows the true beauty of the natural features we saw on our route. The turnaround point for the race was the American Legion Bridge, aka the Beltway. With all the time I spend sitting on that parking lot of a highway, I have to say this was the most pleasant experience I've ever had with it... because I was on foot and there was no traffic! I don't recall hearing much traffic above me as I passed under it, but it's entirely possible traffic was at a standstill at 11am on a Sunday morning (can you tell I'm not a fan of the Beltway?).

The turnaround point is nice on this race because usually a turnaround indicates you are halfway done. On this race the American Legion Bridge is mile 18 of 31, so you are well on your way to being home. Shortly after the turnaround, I was running with a guy named Andrew when out of nowhere, in a not-so technical section, Andrew BIT IT on a root and went flying, somehow sliding to a stop on his back! I helped him up, luckily he was uninjured and just laughing at what just happened, and we continued on our way. He thinks he got too into "the zone" as if he were in a road race, thus not paying attention to footing. Lesson learned - stay alert!

Flat trails - yay! (Photo: RnR)

For the remainder of the run Andrew and I ran together, mostly to have another person to look for purple chalk (we learned purple chalk marked the way home, so we sounded like two idiots running around yelling "purple purple purple!" whenever we found some). We headed back to Aide Station #4 at Turkey Run, which was now #5, I failed again at the ring toss, had some Dr. Pepper and some M&M's (man I love ultra food!) and quickly got back to the running.

Another stream crossing (Photo: RnR)

Headed back into Aide #3 (now #6 and the final aide station), did some hula-hooping for another 5 minute deduction and skipped the shot this time around (they may have all been gone but I didn't check). As I earned my 5 minute deduction someone grabbed a picture of me and I heard "You know gyrating like that was illegal back in the 50's!" Hmm, let's hope that picture doesn't resurface anytime soon.

We crossed over the guardrail into the tunnel and back onto the DC trails for the final leg. For being 20-some miles into it, I was feeling pretty well. My legs were sore as could be expected, but I had been walking all the hills and went out at an easy pace so I knew I had it in me to finish strong. Andrew and I chugged along, mustering the word "purple" every couple of seconds it seemed. Also commonly heard was "ugghhhh, more hills!" We eventually found ourselves back on the neighborhood streets of DC. We thought we lost the chalk markings leading us back to the finish, slowed down to a walk, looked around, then realized "oh hey, that house we just passed was the finish, we're done!"

We walked back into Kerry's house and there she was with a sheet of paper with everyone's names. She looked at her watch and marked both of us down finishing with a time of 5:18 (not including time deductions, those haven't been calculated yet). She wasn't sure of the exact standings but said we were probably the 6th or 7th ones in! What? Holy hell! This was my first ultramarathon! I guess I can attribute it to beginner's luck? Let's hope this luck carries on to my first 50-miler next month!

After a nice warm shower, I grabbed some food and a beer from the BBQ going on in the backyard and plopped my feet up on a nice comfy couch. You can't ask for a better finish line than that! Big thanks to the VHTRC and all the volunteers that put on this year's Potomac Heritage Trail 50k. I had an absolute blast, and sorry to say it guys, but you'll probably be seeing a lot more of me. I think I've found a new group of people to run with!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I don't mean to inject politics into my blog

...but this is just too funny not to post.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Skydiving pics from the weekend

Just stopping by real quick to post some pics I took in the sky this weekend. I apologize for the millions of pics of Ahmed under canopy, but I'm still working on my camera skills so I shoot tons and hope one turns out alright.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Highest Mileage Yet

This past week I logged 77.6 miles. My long run Saturday morning was my longest run yet, 27.6 miles (am I officially an ultrarunner now since I broke the 26.2 mark?) It was a good run with the XMP group, starting at Grosvenor Station in Bethesda and heading down through Rock Creek Park. A lot of the group is now tapering for their fall marathons, so our group of 10 or so dwindled down to 3 by the time we finished at Union Station. The route map is below.

I'm very surprised my legs have been holding up so well through all of this intense training. Earlier in the year when I trained by myself for my first marathon, by the time I got to my 20-mile runs I was dying and I could barely walk for the remainder of the day. This past Saturday I ran almost 8 more than that and my legs felt relatively well throughout the rest of the day. So what do I attribute this to? Well, first and foremost, my training with the XMP group has forced me to slow down my runs to a proper training pace. That has payed off BIG TIME. Speaking of, we got our group shirts this weekend (pic below). I think they turned out well, although the logo on mine appears to be slightly off-center.

I think another big factor in my improved running is how much attention I've been paying to proper recovery. I try to focus on proper nutrition after my long/hard runs (Endurox within 30 minutes of my run) and I've sacrificed a decent amount of skydiving to let myself rest. If I head to the dropzone right after a long run I end up running around, packing parachutes, carrying 200 lb tadem passengers (it's actually a lot of fun, I swear!), but I pay the price and usually feel like death, mentally and physically, come Monday morning. By sacrificing some jumping on certain weekends I have the opportunity to chill (read: nap) and let my body rest and get into recovery mode, rebuilding everything that was destroyed over the previous 20-some miles.

So proper training, nutrition and rest have all done wonders to my dear and beloved legs, but what is the one thing that has made the biggest difference in my training?

CAUTION: Ice baths may cause shrinkage (Photo: Flickr)

ICE BATHS! Now I know the judges are out on this one and there has not been solid evidence that an ice bath, aka cryotherapy, helps in physiological recovery for athletes, but I can personally attest that sitting in a bathtub of ice water for 10-15 minutes has worked WONDERS for my muscle recovery. My legs usually hurt a bit before going in for that first dip, but once you get out of the cold water it's a whole new world. The ice reduces/prevents any post-run swelling and you can feel the blood rush back through your legs, kicking the circulatory and lymphatic systems into gear as they carry away all the damaged debris and build your muscles to a newer, stronger state. It's not the easiest of things to sit idly in 40 degree water for 15 minutes, but I usually get a nice hot bowl of oatmeal and pass the time by jamming to some loud music. (I guess that means the new Metallica album is a beneficial recovery tool as well. Individual results may vary.)

So there you have it. Drinking Endurox, less skydiving, napping and ice baths. That's how I've become a stronger runner these past couple of months. The back of the XMP shirt says it all!

Running Strong since 2008!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interactive 360 Degree Skydiving Picture

Nothing new or exciting to report in the world of BGill, but I found a 360 degree, fully interactive, picture of a skydiving exit. I have no idea what kind of camera was used, but I sure do like the end product! Check it out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This just in - I'm an idiot

Just found these pics of me racing Doug, sprinting to the finish, and having way too much fun at the Park's Half two weekends ago. Yup, I'm an idiot...

Photos: Brightroom

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

They grow up so fast

10-way formation for Alexis' 100th

I've been a tandem skydiving instructor for about a year and a half now. This past weekend, one of my former tandem students, Alexis, did her 100th jump. When I took her on her tandem jump early last year, she seemed eager to learn so I taught her a bit more than the usual "arch, legs back, I'll take care of the rest." Together we did turns, forward motion, pulled the ripcord, and went over some canopy flight basics. Apparently those little bits of knowledge were enough to give her the skydiving bug, now here we are a year later jumping together and having a blast. She's my first student to follow through with the sport after getting that first taste of adrenaline, and I'm very proud of the progress she's made over the past year. Congratulations, Alexis!

The gang (from L-R: Dave, Bruce, Ahmed, Mike, Me, Dana, Larry, Chrissy, Alexis)

Photos: Lance Lippencott

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Race Report: Parks Half-Marathon 9/14/08

This past weekend the Montgomery County Road Runner's Club put on their 3rd annual Parks Half-Marathon. The route took approximately 2500 runners from the Rockville Metro Station, south through the Rock Creek Stream Valley, onto the Capital Crescent Trail and ending in the heart of downtown Bethesda.

I see the Parks Half as the beginning of the local fall race season. Mid-September usually offers cooler mornings that allow for good race times for all involved. This year, mother nature decided to mix things up and thought that we should race on a morning that was as hot and humid as any mid-summer run. Humidity was near 90% and temps hovered around 78 F during the race and steadily climbed to the mid-90s later in the day. Needless to say, this type of weather surprised many people and left many runners unprepared and in over their heads.

On days like this, it is good for runners to pace themselves so they don't go out too hard too soon. That's where I come in. I had the pleasure of pacing those runners looking to run 8:00 - 8:15 minute miles. I've never had the pleasure of running as a pacer before - heck, I've only raced one half-marathon and one marathon before this! Thanks to the XMP Group I train with (many of whom were pacers for this race), I have become a much stronger runner and I've learned how to pace myself very well, so I was more than happy to volunteer my services so that others could run a smart race.

The masses make their way down Veirs Mill Rd (Photo: Some guy on Flickr)

On to the race itself. The first 2 miles were all downhill, fast, and crowded. Once the course flattened out the pack started to thin. Around this point there wasn't a big pack in front of me, but turning around I saw a large pack of runners and probably had a couple dozen hoping to follow my pace. At my side were some of my fellow XMP'ers, so we all chit-chatted and, as we always do, made fun of Doug for trying to pull the group faster than we're supposed to be running. Nothing too significant occurred during the middle miles, just lots of running and sweating (seriously, everyone was drenched head to toe from the humidity).

Mid-way? (Photo: Dan DiFonzo)

Later on, maybe around mile 9, I looked back again to see how the pack was doing and noticed that it had dwindled down significantly. The heat and humidity was taking its toll. As we were passing the Mormon Temple I was having a conversation with a fine young lady about the smell of stinky fish and how it compares to that of Chinese Restaurant dumpsters at 6am (gotta make the time pass somehow). I don't know if it was the thought of stinky fish, the brutal humidity, or a combination of both but she admitted she was pushing harder than she should, so she was going to wisen up for the last few miles and slow her pace. Was I running too fast? Checked my Garmin. Nope, right on pace. Such is the life of a pacer. I was a moving target people used to gauge their own race, and while she had made it this far staying with me she knew continuing on would lead to trouble over the last few miles.

The last 2 miles were pretty lonely. It seems most people got slowed down as we got closer to 13.1 and my pack was now a few scattered runners who were just trying to keep me in sight. These last 2 miles also had a slight but noticeable incline. Determined to stick to my assigned pace, I found myself passing a good number of runners, many of whom now resorted to a combination of running and walking. The last 1/4 mile of the race runs through an enclosed tunnel on the Capital Crescent Trail. As I entered the tunnel I could begin hearing echoes of the crowd near the finish line. Exiting the tunnel puts you right in downtown Bethesda with only a block or two to go.

Me exiting the tunnel near the finish line (Photo: Edward Johnson)

Doug picked up his pace and passed me with a smirk, as if to say "haha pacer, I can sprint to the end." I've kept to my pace this whole time, my responsibilites of a pacer are now over and the finish line is in sight... full steam ahead! I sprinted past Doug, beating him by 1 second and finishing in 1:46:30. That averages to 8:08 minute miles, smack dab in the middle of my assigned pace range! Looks like I'm not so bad at this pacing gig after all.

The post race celebration featured the usual bagels, bananas, oranges, gatorade, etc., but also included pizza and pasta from Mamma Lucia's! Gotta love good pasta right after a run. I ran into Damon and Erica, two fellow skydivers I've known for years. Damon was actually one of my instructors when I first started learning to jump, so it's always funny to see him outside of the dropzone. Metro cards were handed out to all racers and we all packed into the Metro cars and made our way back to the Rockville station. What a hot, sweaty mess that was! I feel bad for anyone that had to ride in those cars once we got off. Oh well! Parks Half-Marathon completed, and my first time as a pacer was a success.

More pictures from the race can be found here. If I find ones from elsewhere on the course I'll post them too.

UPDATE: Pictures available on the MCRRC photo site.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Running in Cali

Sun setting at "The Dish"

I ended up at Stanford University for a conference late last week. Work paying me to take a trip out to Cali? Sure thing! I did some research, and not wanting to drive to my runs I found a local spot called "The Dish" that is apparently a big running spot for those in the Palo Alto area. I found a route on mapmyrun.com that started near my hotel and made its way through the Dish, uploaded it to my Garmin 305, and was on my way.

...or so I thought. When I went out for my 12-miler Thursday evening, things just didn't seem to be working out. First off, I couldn't figure out how to work the navigation function on my Garmin. It was my first time attempting to use this feature and I really should have played with it on routes I know back at home, I just didn't have time to do so before my trip, so I ended up winging it with my directions. Luckily I had studied the map a little bit and carried a map with me. As I plodded along I soon realized I had eaten too much and too recently due to the big late lunch we got at the conference. (My bad, that would be my inner fat kid coming out). This led me to feel full and heavy with every footstep - not a comfortable feeling. Add that feeling to the 95 degree heat with bone dry air (I'm used to running with a bit of moisture in the air), and I wasn't feeling too hot (no pun intended).

...then I got lost. I thought I studied the map and knew where I was going?! Apparently not, so out comes the map and I figure out where I made the wrong turn. I eventually make it to the Dish and think "ok finally I'm not fighting with the traffic of cars, just other runners". Then I hit the hills. Holy hell! ~500' of elevation gain over a mile... doesn't sound like too much, does it? Well, it was tough. Really tough. One section had a 18% elevation gain, needless to say I walked that section. In the end, I survived. Barely, but in one piece.

The awesome hills (note sarcasm)

Friday's 7-miler was better. I drove to the Dish and ran 2 loops. Not as full of a stomach either, but it was still hot and dry.

Rolling hills

Saturday was the best of the Stanford runs. Got out early before the heat hit (in the 60s and 70s most of the run) and ran from the hotel out to the Dish, did 3 loops and headed back for a total of 16.2 miles (10 shy of a marathon - darn so close). I even got to see the sun rise over the mountains, what a sight!

So long Cali. Thanks for the hill-work!