Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Recap

2100 miles for the year. Not too shabby, but nowhere near what I thought I'd be running. Last year I ran 1962, and it was my first year running, so clearly I thought I'd surpass 2000 with ease, possibly even hit 3 or 4. Looking back, here were my 2009 goals (and the resulting outcomes in bold):
  • First 100-miler (MMT on 5/16)  Fail.  DNS due to ITBS in the weeks leading up to the race
  • Complete the Beast Series  Fail.  DNF at Grindstone due to AT tendinitis
  • Eat healthier so as to be better prepared for above mentioned races Kinda held up this one, moreso towards the end of the year but not as much in the beginning
  • Become more flexible to prevent annoying little running injuries  Fail.  A visit to the PT recently suggested that THIS is what might be causing all my injuries.
  • Skydive more, or at least do more fun jumping (as opposed to work jumping)  Fail.  Did about 60 jumps (but no working jumps so I guess that's a plus?)
  • 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)  Fail again.
Well looks like I had a successful year, huh?  1/2 out of 6 ain't too bad!  In all seriousness, it was somewhat of a bummer year for accomplishing pre-specified goals, but I have to say I definitely had my good share of races.  I started the year off with a bang, running a 4:10 PR at Holiday Lake 50k.  That's when injury hit, but I recovered (not in time for MMT sadly) and had a good summer crewing at Badwater and running my first 100k out in Oregon at Where's Waldo.  Despite my DNF at Grindstone, I'm proud that I was able to hold 9th place and be on pace for a sub-24 difficult 100 miler with only 15 miles to go.  In the past month or so I've started doing more strength-training, cross-training, and I've started eating a paleolithic diet (which is anti-inflammatory among other things), all of which should greatly help my 2010 running.

So what does 2010 have in store?  Well, the exact same thing as 2009.  Just copy and paste those exact same 2009 goals (though the amount of skydiving will probably stay the same, but it's a nice thought).  I really think I can redeem myself this coming year.  2009 was my first full year of ultrarunning, and although I was able to get my run training up to snuff, I was lacking in the associated strength, flexibility and nutrition areas.  I think I've got it figured out now, but come back in a year and we'll see! 

Happy 2010 everyone.  Stay healthy!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k

Oops. Looks like I once again forgot to blog about an ultra. A few weeks ago was the VHTRC's Magnus Gluteus Maximus FatAss 50k. Great times were had by all. I ran 24 miles to be "conservative" while recovering from my Grindstone/Masochist tendinitis (which I am happy to say is long gone). Anyways, here are a few shots since I'm not going to get around to writing more about it. We ran. We drank. We were festive. THE END.

The rest of my pictures from the event can be found here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

MMTR 50 - I'm Still Broken Apparently

You may last recall reading about my case of anterior tibial tendinitis that forced me to drop at mile 86 of the Grindstone 100.  Sad, I know, but you shouldn't have had that much pity for me since I had planned in advance for a week of recovery in sunny Hawaii (Ironman World Championships were going on at the same time, coincidence?).  Lo and behold, three days post-DNF and I was back to walking and running like nothing had happened.  There must be some magical healing properties in those Hawaiian waters!

Being all healed up, I now had a chance to complete the Lynchburg Ultra Series (LUS), with it's final race being the Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 miler in Lynchburg, VA.  In the interim four weeks I did some light running and got up to a long run of a mere 14 miles (in comparison to the ~50k training runs that had been frequent in my schedule).  All was feeling good and I was ready to redeem my DNF, just had to make sure I took it easy and didn't hurt myself.

Fast dudes at the start line

Easier said than done.  The race consisted of many open jeep and fire roads with only marginal climbs, which of course leads to lots and lots of fast and hard running, sort of like those pesky road marathons that I keep hearing so much about.  Well, having run 86 miles only four weeks prior, my legs started to fatigue pretty early, probably around mile 20 or so.  But no worries, fatigue is tolerable and I know how to deal with that beast.

Chris Miller (Beast Series leader) and yours truly

The real problems came around mile 26 when the tendinitis from Grindstone started to come back ever so slowly.  Now this wasn't the excruciating pain that made me drop and left me unable to walk, but it was in the early early stages of its progression from what I could tell, so I paid careful attention to it.  After a couple miles the pain became more evident and I could clearly see that it wasn't going to go away.  Yes, I could have run on it for a few more hours and made it to the finish and gotten my LUS award (a sweet sweet Patagonia puffy jacket nonetheless), but forcing myself into greater injury and a longer and longer rehabilitation process during the winter months did not seem like the right decision for someone like myself who yearns for a long and fruitful ultra career.

So, at mile 35 I DNF'ed from my second race in a row.  It sucks, but I like to think that these DNF's are the result of a good head on my shoulders and I will prosper in future races from making the right calls in those of the past. There is always next year.

I had a good time hanging at the finish line, and this allowed me the chance to grab some pics of friends coming in to finish.  Oh, and there was a common saying that I heard from those who had just run Grindstone: "Ouch!" Oh yeah, looking forward to next year's pain already!

Me, Sophie, Jenny and Justine at the finish

Annette Bednosky showing off her entry in the Best Blood category

And there you have it, the less than stellar end to my less than stellar 2009 race season.  I have decided that even though the tendinitis pain has once again disappeared and I'm back to running like normal, running the Hellgate 100k in a few weeks would not be wise.  Instead, I'm going to cross-train and strength-train while keeping the mileage low for a bit.  2010 will be my redemption year!

Here are the rest of my photos from the race on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RIP Scott Doyle

I know most of my content on here is ultra-related, but I just wanted to post a brief tribute to a good friend of mine who passed away today after battling a coma for six months.

Scott and Steph after their first antenna jump

I first met Scott Doyle (aka "Moose" or "Other Scott") at Bridge Day '07 where Scott and his lovely wife Steph were both enjoying the six hours of legal BASE jumping that happens every year at the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV. As it turned out, Scott was a fellow Marylander, so he was quickly indoctrinated into the MD BASE Crew (which I am not technically a member of because I do not BASE jump).

The day after Bridge Day, some folks headed out to a local less-than-legal antenna where Scott and Steph both did their first antenna jumps. I hung around and took pictures. Fast forward a couple months to the beginning of skydiving season '08 and who else is joining me in the ranks as staff members at Skydive Delmarva? None other than the safe, caring, and funny tag-team of Scott and Steph Doyle. Scott and I were both somewhat newly-licensed tandem instructors while Steph taught AFF students. Over the course of the year we had our share of fond memories - the overweight students, the puking students, the close call malfunctions and the late-night dropzone shenanigans. It was all good fun that we shared together, and as per usual in the sport, we grew closer as part of the Delmarva family.

Since ultrarunning has come into my life, I have spent a significantly less amount of time at the dropzone, but that didn't make it hurt any less when on May 10, 2009 I got a call saying that Scott had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and had gone into a coma while BASE jumping in Idaho with Steph. For six months he fought his hardest to wake up, at some points showing movement and responding to external stimuli, but today his body had enough of the fighting and decided it was time to move on to a more peaceful place.

It is with great sadness that I remove my "Wake up Scott" wristband that I have worn these past six months and add it to my desk alongside a picture of Bert Brooks, another good skydiving friend who lost his life while BASE jumping with his loved one. Scott wasn't the first skydiving/BASE friend to go, and unfortunately he won't be the last. BASE truly is an unforgiving sport.

As a tough-as-nails firefighter saving the lives of others and also as a skydiving instructor sharing the gift of flight with those looking to experience something new, Scott definitely earned his angel wings. Fly free my brother. I will miss you...


Here is the LINK to Steph Doyle's blog from the past 6 months.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grindstone: My first 100, My first DNF

Showing up to Camp Shenandoah on Thursday evening, everything was quiet and there wasn't a soul in sight. It seemed as though I was the first runner to arrive and that gave plenty of time to scope out the best location for our campsite. After setting up, crewmember Derraugh and I wandered around camp and eventually found some folks working in the kitchen area. Not wanting to use the camp stove, they graciously let me heat up my dinner in the microwave (salmon and sweet potatoes). Camp and dinner plans were right on track, everything looking perfect for the following big race day. Shortly thereafter we ran into Clark Zealand, David Horton, Jeremy Ramsey and Rebekkah Trittipoe who had all been working hard to get the course marked. Rebekkah shared some knowledge of 4 bears she had spotted up near Dowell's Draft earlier in the day, Jeremy praised Hellgate for all the good schwag, Clark discussed race logistics, and Horton was his usual troublemaking self. It was a good way to kick back before getting a good night's sleep.

Ten wonderful hours of sleep later, I woke to find that the empty camp had transformed overnight into a bustling community of ripped quads and drop bags. I joined in on bag-organizing fun, had some breakfast (2 hard-boiled eggs and a sweet potato since I know you were dying to know), and wandered around some more to share the anxiety with my 100-mile brethren. I checked in, lounged in the hammock, found the rest of my crew (Jen Jacobs, Kristine Davis and coach Mike Broderick), got dressed, applied liberal amounts of BodyGlide, and did whatever it took to kill time before the 6pm Friday start time.

Jen, Derraugh, Me, Kristine and Coach Mike

Clark wishing me luck before the start

With a couple minutes to go, we all gathered behind the start banner. The giant totem pole stood just ahead of us as if to say "come on, hug me... but please run 102 miles first." I was raring to go and the nerves were as strong as ever. With just a couple seconds before the gun, Karl Meltzer turned around to ask "Joe Clapper's not here, is he?". (Background: Joe Clapper has led every 100 miler he's ever run for at least some portion of the race... this usually consists of him sprinting ahead like a Kenyan for about 5 seconds, then dying back down to 100 mile pace. Bragging rights are bragging rights, yes?)

And then everything got real... 3, 2, 1, see ya!

And they're off!

We ran across the field and clockwise around the lake. Coach Mike had advised me to go out fast the first few miles so as to avoid any traffic congestion as we approached Elliott's Knob, the first and probably toughest climb of the day. Even with this advice, I was still surprised at just how fast folks were pushing it in the first couple miles. The terrain looked flat, but judging from the perceived effort and elevated heart rate, there was definitely some incline to be had. "Not so bad" I thought to myself. "This will make for an easy downhill to the finish." If only...

Not remembering the exact mileages from the training runs, I expected to hit the climb up Elliott's within a mile or two. Then we hit Aid Station 1 (AS1), Falls Hollow, at 5.18 miles in. My heart-rate had been up there since the get-go. Ok, so maybe pushing it until Elliott's wasn't the best idea after all. I topped off my pack with some water to prep for the 9.45 miles until the next aid and headed out. Talking to Jared Hesse for a bit, we both agreed that although the pace was easily runnable, it would not be sustainable for 24 or so hours. Time to slow it down a touch.

The climb up Elliott's was welcomed with open arms. Truth be told, my uphill running is lacking compared to those at my level, but where I lack in ups I compensate on the flats and downs. Such is the life of a 175-pound ultrarunner, taking advantage of gravity when the opportunity arises. Gotta play your cards how they are dealt. Making it through Dry Branch Gap, AS2, was rather uneventful, just trying to normalize the pace and heart-rate. Slowly but surely I was getting there.

Dowell's Draft aid station, minus all the people

Coming into Dowell's Draft, mile 22

Approaching Dowell's Draft, As3 (mile 22.1), the trail finished with a short uphill climb into a sea of lights and spectators. Being the first opportunity for runners to meet with their crews, everyone and their mother was there, packed tight and still full of energy. Not wanting to waste time at aid stations and still being early in the race, I quickly found my crew, swapped my Nathan pack (water) and handheld bottle (Hammer Perpetuem for calories) for fresh ones and off I went. In and out without actually stopping, faster than them fancy schmancy Nascar drivers! Mike ran with me for 100 yards or so to check on how I was doing and offer advice. I relayed my heart-rate concerns but assurred him I was not getting into the groove. All was well.

And into the groove I got, so much that I honestly don't remember Lookout Mountain, AS4. I do however, remember coming into the following aid station, North River Gap, or as those of us in the VHTRC affectionately know it - The TWOT Lot. Running down the brief section of road and into the aid station, I gave a holler so my crew knew it was me. Ok ok, I may have yelled out "I love TWOT!", but who said you couldn't have some fun at these things? Knowing that the long sections between aid stations were now over, I switched my Nathan pack and handheld for my 2-bottle GoLite waistpack. It was a nice relief on the shoulders. I declined the offer for the iPod and opted for the calmness of nighttime wildlife. Coach Mike ran ahead with me once again, this time warning of possible trail sabotage up on Little Bald. Although concerning, Little Bald was one of the few spots in the race I have run past on multiple occassions, so I wasn't too worried about getting lost.

Refueling at TWOT

Switching to my waistpack at TWOT

The climb up Little Bald was steep but manageable. I made a conscious effort to "hike with a purpose", pumping my arms as I made my way up. When I arrived at the top of Little Bald, just as expected the course took us off to the right. Ok, so the aid station should be right around here somewhere. My GPS says I've already covered the distance and I've only got a sip or 2 left from my allotted fluids. Sadly, the trail kept going and no aid station was appearing. Scenarios ran through my head. What if there was some funky turn to get you to the aid station and my assumed knowledge of the trail made me blow right past it? Should I backtrack? What if I re-ran that small section on my way back? Would I have enough fluids for the 4.5 miles to Reddish Knob?

And then, like an oasis in the desert, an aid station appeared in the middle of the trail, nowhere I thought it would be. Coming in I had no idea if it was Little Bald aid station or Reddish Knob, all I knew is that it was fluid and calories. It was in fact Little Bald and I hadn't missed a step. Definitely a relief! I grabbed my dropbag, refilled the Perpetuem and downed 2 cups of Mountain Dew to get a different flavor in the mouth (plus some caffeine even though I was feeling perfectly energized).

Adam Casseday, the #2 seed, was leaving the aid station as I was coming in. I knew something was up. He shouldn't be this far back. After a couple minutes I caught up and he explained that he was having trouble keeping things down and he was just going to make it to the next aid station and drop there. He hadn't taken in any calories in 20 miles and he was well on his way to a serious bonk. I offered some ginger root capsules to help settle his stomach, and he reluctantly accepted. With the ginger caps also came some words of encouragement and a plea to not drop, at least to give the ginger some time to work its magic. It was, in fact, a little less than halfway into a 100-miler and things could still make a full 180. Rest assured, Adam went on to finish 9th place overall and under 24 hours! Talk about a comeback. [Remember that one the next time you're feeling like crap early in a race!]

I let Adam do his thing and he encouraged me to go on ahead. After a little more downhill came the paved road section of the course. I'm not normally "against" running on roads, but wow did this pavement hurt. Every step was a painful thud reminding me why I love trail running so much, and also reminding me that I had run a very difficult 40-something miles thus far. I had expected Karl to pass way earlier, but to my surprise I didn't see him until mile 46.5, about 10 hours in. Thinking about it now, that timing makes perfect sense as he was continually gaining his lead time on the rest of the pack. Either way, Karl was looking strong as could be expected. In the #2 position was my good buddy Mike Mason, and as I passed him yelled out the same words of encouragement I did at MMT: "Mike Mason I want to have your babies!" Don't ask why, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and he laughs when I say it.

The Reddish Knob aid station was a glorious sight, not only because it signified the near-end of the pavement, but it was also an opportunity for me to stop and get out the pesky debris that was rubbing on the bottom of my right foot. Despite this sitting down, I blew on through and made it up the summit of Reddish Knob. Horton happened to be there at the time, standing at the ledge of the parking lot and looking out at the beautiful harvest moon. I ran up behind him and gave him a big, sweaty, man hug - his favorite! (That was the running gag for the weekend, by the way, so feel free to give Horton man-hugs anytime you see him!)

I headed back down to the Reddish aid station, didn't stop this time since it had only been 5 minutes since I last past, and within 2 miles I met my crew at Briery Branch Gap. This was not an aid station, but crews were allowed to access runners here since it was the closest they could get to the turnaround. Briery Branch was last year's turnaround, but it had now been extended 1.4 miles out to Gnashing Knob due to recalculation of distances... or maybe Clark just felt like he needed to add in some Horton miles. Either way, it was more climbing and more miles. Fun! I dropped my waistpack, picked up a single handheld bottle and made it quickly up to Gnashing Knob. Halfway done and 11:13 in!

My first time through Briery was quick, but the second time through I took my time, for no other reason then to spend some quality time with the folks who were going through a sleepless night just for me. I did some stretching, ate some mango slices (my new favorite aid station food of all time, so delicious!) and of course had to listen to some heckling from Q who had now joined the late-night crew party (who invited that guy?)

Stretching and eating at Briery Branch

Sadly, the return to Briery meant the return to additional pavement on the way back to Little Bald (now mile 58.7). It was, however, great seeing all the familiar faces on the way back, cheering everyone on and getting encouragement in return. This was also an opportunity to gauge how far back and how strong those were looking behind me. If I was seriously competing (which I wasn't, #1 goal was to just finish), this would have been great logistical intel to plan out the second half of the game.

I made it back to the Little Bald aid station right as the sun was starting to light up the sky. Perfect timing because I had planted my sunglasses and hat in my Little Bald drop bag! Not knowing if I was to be running when night fell again, I kept my headlamp and flashlight in posession so I could hand them off to the crew when I next saw them at the TWOT Lot. It was a bit awkward running with sunglasses, a hat and a headlamp but I managed. Also awkward at Little Bald was me trying to force down a breakfast burrito. I knew it would be questionable to try and stomach such substantial food, but let's be honest I'm a fat kid at heart so I couldn't say no. It made it's way down, and so did I (down the trail that is).

About a mile outside of Little Bald I passed Gary Knipling, one of the most fun and genuinely nice and caring people in the sport. Gary is the true essence of ultrarunning. 65-years-young and going for his 22nd 100-mile finish with the biggest smile on his face. If that doesn't make you love life then I don't know what will. He cheered me on, I did the same for him, and off we went in our separate directions.

Life was good, I was in 9th place overall on my first 100-miler, feeling great in terms of nutrition, energy and fatigue levels, and on pace for a sub-24 hour finish at possibly the hardest 100 on the east coast.

And then it hit me, pain in my left anterior tibialis tendon.

Effin A. I sat on my feet to stretch out the tendon, and while it seemed to help a touch, it didn't put out the fire. Then came the extremely steep descent down Little Bald. 8 miles of anterior tibilias tendon pounding. No bueno. No bueno at all. Again, effin A! (I did, however, notice that I shaved 10 minutes off my 100k PR as I made my way down the mountain.)

I came into the TWOT Lot aid station (now mile 66.5) and instantly knew the game was changing. I was still in 9th place, I was still on track for a sub-24 hour finish, but there was now a big honkin' wrench thrown in my spokes and it would be questionable if I could remove said wrench over the next 35 miles. I immediately sat down, explained to the crew my concerns and tried to massage out the pain... to no avail. Oh well. I knew that finishing my first 100 was going to require some serious toughness, so here comes the time to grit and bare it. I knew that this would possibly mean throwing out hopes of maintaing my top-10 position, but the #1 goal was to finish and I was determined to finish, even if it took me the entire 38 hours. Coach Mike appeared, ready to start pacing, and off we went, not knowing what to expect.

Coach Mike taking care of me while I apply duct tape on a nip

Pain, that's what I should have expected. As soon as we headed out of TWOT the pain got increasingly worse. I was, however, able to run through the pain without significantly slowing down my pace. So far so good. Still in 9th, still moving forward. As they say, If the bone's not showing, keep going... right?

Well, as we trekked the 5.45 miles to the Lookout Mountain aid station (now mile 72), it was painfully obvious (no pun intended) that ice was going to be necessary. "Nope, our ice guy just left to go get something so we don't have any right now." NOOOOO!!!!! "Oh wait, yes we do, nevermind." Phew, close one. We put some ice in a baggie, then a trash bag around it, then loads of duct tape. The cold seemed to numb the pain a bit, but clearly I was still facing a huge dilemma. Hopefully the ice would be enough to last the 8.35 miles to the next aid at Dowell's Draft.

I knew the last 3.5 miles of trail before Dowell's were smooth rolling singletrack, but those 5 or so prior just kept throwing endless amounts of small but relentless hills that I was having one hell of a hard time negotiating. " Nonetheless, we pushed forward, albeit slower and slower with every step. Mike gave me his iPod, cranked some Grateful Dead, and I was able to get into a groove that resulted in a solid 40 or so minutes of strong running down into Dowell's Draft aid station.

Dowell's was also the first time during the race that I was able to see my mom, dad and sister who made the long trek to come cheer me on. My sister proudly displayed a sign that said "we love #7" and I was greeted with the loudest cheering section of the race thus far. If only I could have greeted them with the same enthusiasm I had carried up until my descent off Little Bald. Instead, I sat down and begged for more ice. Lots and lots of ice (ooh, and some mangoes too).

My momma loves me, awwwww

The gimped foot

I seriously considered dropping right then and there, but what kind of ultrarunner would I be if I once again had to ditch my 100 miler goals for the year (the first time being MMT, dropped 3 weeks prior due to ITB injury), and to top it off, ditching my goal of finishing the 2009 Beast Series. Well, the answer to that question is "a smart ultrarunner". Moving ahead exacerbated the anterior tibialis pain beyond belief.

It was 7.5 miles to the Dry Branch Gap aid station. I was able to swing another good 30 minutes of hard running, surprisingly still in 9th place and only slightly slower than 24-hour pace. Perhaps my injury wasn't as bad as I had imagined? No, definitely not. The ice melted and I was now able to feel how intense the pain actually was. It was clear that every step I took, although closer to the finish line, was also another step towards a longer recovery once this whole fiasco was over. The climb up Crawford Mountain put me at a snails pace, literally planning each and every step.

Running (for the last time) up Crawford Mountain

Folks behind me finally started catching up and passing as Mike and I slowly walked up Crawford. Adam Casseday blew by, running at a ridiculously fast uphill pace! I was so proud to see that after the condition I had last seen him 10 hours prior.

When we reached the top of Crawford it was 2.8 to the aid station. Ok, we can do this. Mike decided that the name of the game was now "get to the aid station, rest, ice, elevate, immobilize the foot and reassess my capabilities". Sounded easy enough, but it wasn't.

Descending Crawford was possibly the most painful movement I have ever experienced. I was unable to plant my left foot on the downward slope. I tried walking sideways, but that was only marginally less excruciating. I tried walking backwards (yes, honestly) and the pain was still just too unbareable. I tried butt-sliding, but that only got me a few feet. Mike then found me a big walking stick that I could use like a crutch. Still, only marginally less excruciating.

Me and my stick, coming down Crawford

An hour after starting our descent down Crawford and we still had 1.7 miles to the aid station and 15 until the finish. Mike and I both knew what the right call was. I had given my absolute 100% best and pushed through the pain. Injury is the only thing that should ever stop you in a 100-miler, and I was now faced with the option of maybe finishing Grindstone and maybe being able to run again, ever, or call it quits at mile 85 and live to see my 100-mile dream come true another day.

"If I go ahead and get outside assistance that disqualifies you."

"Go ahead, Mike. I'll try to make forward progress in the meantime."

And just like Mike disappeared into the distance, so did my dream that I had worked so hard for all year long...

C'est la vie. Not every race is perfect, and everyone has to DNF at some point. For me, I guess I got my DNF out of the way early, and in this case it didn't just stand for Did Not Finish, it also stood for Did Nothing Fatal (to my running career). You live and you learn. I learned that even though I didn't do it on this attempt, I have what it takes to conquer a 100-miler, and I have the ability to do it fast and strong. I have tasted the 100-miler and I absolutely cannot wait to taste it again. My injury will heal, I'll crosstrain, do extra strength training and stretching, and I will be back...

...I will be back with a vengeance.

Useful race links:
My race splits
Photos from my crew (Flickr)
Photos from Wendy Marszalek on the course (Flickr)
Photos from Coach Mike (Facebook)

And of course, a huge thank you to my extremely supportive, helpful and understanding crew: Jen Jacobs, Kristine Davis, Derraugh Ewchuk and Mike Broderick. Without you guys I would not have made it as far as I did as fast as I did. I am eternally grateful to each one of you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grindstone 100 preview

It's t-minus 1 day until go-time for my first ever 100-miler, the Grindstone 100. I've been scrambling to get things prepared, and as of last night at 11pm I think I have everything packed and ready to go. I'll be ducking out of work early today and heading down to the race start to set up camp, then hopefully sleeping as much as I can before the 1pm pre-race briefing. After the pre-race briefing my crew will start arriving, I'll hand off my bags, and at 6:00pm EST the show starts.

"Beginning at Camp Shenandoah, this out-n-back course ascends and descends Little North Mtn before climbing over 2400ft in 4 miles to the summit of Elliot Knob. The course then proceeds north following the ridgeline of Great North Mtn crossing over to and following the Wild Oak National Recreation Trail before continuing north to the summit of Reddish Knob. Runners continue north to Briery Branch Gap before retracing their steps (without summiting Elliott & Reddish) back along the course to Camp Shenandoah."

Aside from MMT, Grindstone is dubbed "the hardest 100-miler east of the 100th Meridian." It's 100.73 miles and 23,200 feet of net elevation gain and pure mountain-climbing, quad-busting fun. Actually, using the pace sheet given out by Clark (the Race Director), adding up distances between aid stations totals 101.85 miles. I would guess that these discrepancies are due to remeasuring and the fact that the course has been extended roughly 1.4 miles at the turnaround, adding extra mileage and extra climbing. Hoorah!

Am I prepared? I sure as hell hope so. I've been seeded with lucky bib #7, so if that isn't motivation to kick some ass, I don't know what is. Training went very well, as shown with a strong run at Where's Waldo 100k and a quick recovery thereafter, and now that temperatures have cooled down a bit with the arrival of fall, running feels much much easier.

Here is a rough plan of my gear and nutrition for the race:
- Nathan HPL 020 pack with Camelbak bladder for carrying water
- Ultimate Direction handheld bottle filled with Hammer Perpetuem (cafe latte flavor) for calories
- S-caps every hour or 2 to balance electrolytes
- Brooks Cascadia 4 shoes with blue Superfeet insoles
- Drymax socks (these will be a blessing for when the rain comes)
- GoLite packable windbreaker for rain protection
- Moeben sleeves in case it gets chilly at night
- Brooks Element shorts
- Brooks running hat
- Tifosi sunglasses
- Garmin Forerunner 310XT (19.5hr battery) and 305 (14hr battery) for heart-rate, time and mileage
- Petzl MyoXP headlamp and Fenix L2D flashlight
- and of course, my blue VHTRC shirt. gotta represent!

As for race goals, it's my first 100 miler so priority #1 is just to finish. Aside from that, I'm shooting to run somewhere in the 26 hour range. I've been seeded as bib #7, and last year runner #7 ran a 23:11... yeah I don't know about that one! But honestly, it's a honor to be seeded at such a high placement and I don't expect to finish that far up front. Then again, I tend to have pretty conservative estimates on my race times, so you never know what might happen. Just need to make sure there's fuel left in the tank for Masochist and Hellgate so I can finish up the Beast Series!

Welp, here goes nothing...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My First 100k - Where's Waldo

Where's Waldo 100k
Willamette Pass, OR
August 22, 2009

Actually 62.5mi. Very surprised the GPS battery lasted 14 hrs.

A few months back I had learned that a couple VHTRC friends were heading out to Oregon to race the Where's Waldo 100k. Having never been out to Oregon, hearing wonderful things about Oregon and the race, and with the race being 6 weeks out from my first 100 miler, this was looking to be the perfect chance for me to get in some good time-on-feet, shock the endocrine system a bit, and experience what it's like to run for more than 50 miles before I go ahead and double it. Fast forward to 2 weeks before the race and I still hadn't booked my tickets, rental car, hotel, etc. Yikes. Luckily I work well under pressure and the logistics problem was solved in no time.

Mitchell and I spent Thursday in Portland (PS - my new favorite city), then drove 3 hours to the race start on Friday afternoon. There we met up with Amy and the Leesburg Mafia guys, all of whom were looking to dominate and show the Oregonians that they're not the only ones that can run fast. Myself and Mitchell, well we were just out to have a good time and get our bang for our buck while exploring Oregon's glorious trails.

After an extremely frigid night camping next to Waldo Lake (oops, I didn't realize Oregon could get cold in the summer), the gang all gathered in the Willamette Pass Ski Lodge. There we ran into former-Virginian and ultra-badass Jenn Shelton. Amy had disappeared for some last minute getting ready, but we took a picture of all the VHTRC members (past and present) anyways.

Mitchell, Sean, Schmidty, Me, Zach(?), and Jenn

Just prior to the gun

We headed outside, all of us slightly shivering from the surprisingly cold weather (40F), and at 5:00am we were off. The first 2 miles greeted us with a 1000 foot climb, a perfect opportunity to spread out the field while forcing me to take it slow which was the name of the game for me today. This was by no means a focus race for me, just a training run. I knew I'd be tempted to hammer it out, but with a soleus muscle that had just returned to 100% after too much barefoot running too soon, taking it easy was what I had to do if Grindstone is the real goal.

Just prior to the race start I realized that my headlamp was giving the low battery signal, so I piggybacked off of other runners' lights during the climb. After we crested the top and the pace picked up, I turned on my light and started getting into my own flow. In no time the sun came up and off went the headlamp. Nothing totally eventful for the next couple miles, just soaking up the sights of the gorgeous tall ponderosa pines and the feeling of the lovely soft bed of pine needles that made up the trail. At a few points during this stretch I got conflicted with how to deal with the temperature, but after a few games of longsleeve-on longsleeve-off, I finally opted for longsleeve-only-on-one-arm. Hey, whatever works, right?

Leaving aid station #1 (AS1), we started the 2000 ft climb up Mt Fuji. (By the way, "we" at this point is the collective "we", not "me and the other VHTRC'ers". They were elsewhere.) The front runners started appearing on the trail, bombing back down the mountain right at us. In the lead was Eric Skaggs (who went on to break the course record by almost an hour in 9:11), followed close behind by Sean and Schmidty, and not too far behind them was Amy. They all looked good, fast and happy, and this was the last I'd see of them all race. And then, after seeing a bunch of Virginians and just when I was forgetting which state I was in, I saw this guy and instantly remembered I was in Oregon...

Trevor biked 70 miles through the mountains to the race start

I hit AS2, stripped off the longsleeve, headlamp and handheld bottle, put on my Nathan hydration pack, and continued up to the summit. In a little over a mile I reached the top, stopped for a quick photo-op (it's a training run after all) then started back down.

Summit of Mt Fuji

Coming down from Fuji I ducked off the trail to "scrape some leaves" as Gary would say, then got back at it and picked up the pace to make up for any lost time. Much to my surprise, I came across Mitchell. He was apparently right behind me and passed when I was off-trail. We ran together for about a mile or so, but still being early in the race, I wanted to get into my own groove so I went ahead.

After another 10 or so miles, I started seeing signs that read "Head Bangers Ahead". What in the hell? And then I saw it, a heavy metal themed aid station. Sweet! A busty woman wearing leather and carrying a whip came to my assistance (I can live with that), refilled my bottles and gave me some snackies. This happened to be an aid station we hit twice, so I went off on my way knowing that I'd be back for more in about 20 miles.

We started a loop around the second of three mountains during the race, The Twins. A bit more climbing out of the aid station, then a good portion of downhill to open up the legs. At this point my quads were already feeling pretty trashed. In all honesty, they started feeling it around mile 12, most likely because they were still recovering from the beating they got two weeks earlier at the back-to-back long training runs on the Grindstone course. I accepted the pain though, because after all, it's not often that I get to beat up my legs with any sort of real elevation profiles.

After 5 more miles I came to AS5, Charlton Lake. Here they had mango slices for us, and let me tell you that these were hands down the greatest thing I've ever eaten during an ultra. I probably ate 10 pieces of sweet juicy mango, and although my stomach wasn't too happy with that decision, but my tastebuds surely were.

Charlton Lake aid station, gorgeous and delicious

I was now halfway through my first 100k, and aside from some serious leg fatigue, I was feeling pretty good. Earlier in the day I had been running thoughts of "is 50 miles good enough for a training run?" through my head. The mind tries every excuse in the book when it knows you are pushing it through some serious stuff, but I am glad that I successfully quelled these thoughts and kept pounding out the miles.

I took a long walking break on a flat section to regroup for the second portion of the race, and as I was sitting down fixing some shoe issues at AS6, Mitchell once again caught up with me. We were obviously running very similar paces, and we had both traveled across the country to run this race, so I made the decision right then and there that I was going to run the rest of the race with my buddy Mitchell. He actually ran with me for a good portion of my very first ultra, the Potomac Heritage 50k, so in some strange way it was actually fitting.

Mitchell running through some fine fine trails

Me running through some fine fine trails

Mitchell and I ran together with another guy whose name I never got, but he had been running ultras for nearly 20 years and he looked rather young. Mitchell actually commented to the guy "What did you start running ultras when you were 8?". No, but I guess there's hope out there that running ultras will be my fountain of youth down the road. We then reached the closest point to the top of The Twins that we would get all day, but sadly it was not the summit. The race used to summit, but the race was 64 miles back then, so they cut off the summit and made it a legit 62 mile 100k.

Shortly after the Twins pseudo-summit we descended back into the heavy metal aid station, now AS7 and mile 45, where we each grabbed a popsicle (so awesome and refreshing) and a peanut-butter-topped pancake (also awesome and delicious). We took it slow out of the aid station to digest a bit, then continued to open it up and run the downhill before our final climb of the day, the killer Maiden Peak.

I had no idea what I was in for with Maiden. We climbed almost 2500 feet in a little over 3 miles. I guess that didn't sound too bad to me before the race, but once I experienced it on trashed legs I was singing a different tune. Mitchell, myself and our new friend Larissa made the slow painful climb up. Lord knows how long that took, probably something embarrassingly slow, but it definitely involved me taking a break about 3/4 of the way up. They didn't sit, knowing that if they did there wouldn't be any getting up.

Slowly heading up Maiden Peak. Very very slowly.

Seeing a group of volunteers up ahead, we thought we were hitting the summit, but for some sick and twisted reason they were just there to point us in the right direction... up. Luckily, this time the summit was only a couple hundred yards ahead, and within a few minutes we were there. From the top of Maiden Peak you could see everywhere we had been through the previous 53 miles, including breathtaking views of various bright blue lakes that we couldn't really see from the trail.

Larissa, me, and Mitchell - finally at the top of Maiden Peak

Larissa didn't stay to enjoy the summit views as long as we had, but within a few minutes we too made our way back down. Having now bagged the final climb of the day, running 9 miles downhill to the finish shouldn't be that bad, right? WRONG. The first mile or so coming down Maiden was full of small loose rocks and was such a steep decline that it was impossible to run. Instead, we shuffled down until the grade flattened out a bit. When designing this course, I think they added this part to make sure that, in the rare event that your legs were feeling good at mile 53, they definitely were not going to be feeling good for long.

Shuffle, ouch, shuffle, ouch

After a bit of downhill jostling, we came into AS9, the last aid station of the day. My original plan was to get in and out quickly so we'd be done with the race, but once we arrived we were treated like royalty. "Would you like a wet wipe to wash off your face? How about a neck rub?" Ummm, hell yeah!

Getting the royal treatment at AS9

After a few minutes of pampering, we forced ourselves to keep going. The pampering was nice while it lasted, but the thought of being able to sit down and be done was muuuuch more appealing. We continued to run as best as we could, and even though this was all downhill, we still had to take the occasional walking break. No worries though, we were running 100k so these things are expected. Perpetual forward motion was all that mattered.

The final miles of the race

The last couple of miles were mostly flat with a slight decline here and there, perfect for finishing off a race. The last 3 or 4 miles we ran without taking any more walking breaks, and then once the trail opened up to show us the gorgeous finish line across the field, Mitchell and I ran full speed ahead, happy as can be, hands together to the finish line. Amy was standing at the finish line cheerig us in, so that was a very pleasant welcome to see a familiar face. I had now finished my first 100k, and Mitchell got himself a new 100k PR. 14:02!

I guess it was dirty out there? No blisters though. Thanks, Drymax Socks!

It was a tremendous feeling to be done, but since I came into the race with a "training run" mindset, the accomplishment of running my longest run to date didn't seem as grand and I wasn't overwhelmed with emotion as I had been at my first marathon and 50-miler. My previous longest run was 50 miles and 8:32 (a very fast course), while this was 62 miles and 14:02 (on a tough course with already-trashed legs). Oh well, it still felt awesome to run through such gorgeous trails and I was extremely grateful that I didn't drop earlier when I was considering it.

I went to go shower, only to discover that there were none. Not wanting to live in filth, I awkwardly bathed in a sink. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done!

Mitchell, me, and Amy after getting cleaned up (in a sink)

Mitchell, Amy, myself, and some of Amy's Peace Corps friends all camped out at Lake Waldo again. I was much more comfortable this time around (I wore more layers to bed), and in the morning we sat around the campsite eating delicious food and lounging.

Our home for the weekend

Later in the day someone brought out a (very small) kayak, so we each took it out for a spin on the lake. I won't get into the story about how I rolled it and had to search the lake floor for my sunglasses for a half hour, but needless to say it was a fun day out on the lake, and the forced swimming even got me to move my legs around a bit!

Fat man in a little boat...

My first 100k was a success. Oregon was absolutely wonderful. I think I'm ready for Grindstone. Bring it on!

To see the rest of my Waldo pictures click HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

4 posts in 1 because I'm lazy!

Yikes! Where has the summer gone? For those religiously following this blog (ha, yeah right), it probably appears that I've dropped off the face of the Earth since Badwater. Quite the contrary, I've been pretty busy and once again have been slacking on the blogging. To catch up, here's a quick summary of four recent events: Catherine's FatAss 50k, Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon pictures, Coach Mike's Impromptu 50k, and Grindstone Training Runs Weekend.

Catherine's FatAss 50k
July 18, 2009

Having been back from Badwater for only a day, I made my way out to the usual spot (Massanutten Trails) with the usual suspects (VHTRC crew) for some more pounding on the legs. What better way to kick off my 100 miler training than 30ish miles pacing at Badwater, 22 miles on Mt Whitney and a 50k, all in one week?

Michelle, Sophie, myself and Marc on Bird Knob overlook

The weather was beautiful, although a tad too humid for my liking having just been in Death Valley. I ran with Sophie for most of the day and we chit-chatted about training, Badwater, and people who need people. At one aide station we came across a strange looking creature that I've never seen in the woods. It moved slowly, had an odd looking white head, and seemed keen to eat whatever was in sight. Oh wait, nevermind that was just Alisa Springman wearing her Badwater sun hood while she worked the aid station!

Alisa, post-Badwater, trying to cool me down for a change

All in all, it was a sweaty good day of running (no joke, probably the most I've ever sweated in my life... thanks heat acclimation training!) that ended with a phenomenal BBQ and party at the finish line. Thanks to Tommy and Kirstin for manning the grill, and Jeff for organizing the whole event and providing the grub and tasty adult beverages. This is really what summer is all about!

Finish line BBQ and party... great times!

See the rest of my CFA pics HERE.

Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon pictures
July 26, 2009

I once-again pretended to be a photographer while spectating at the Riley's Rumble Half-Marathon in Gaithersburg, MD. It started pouring right after the start, but luckily the camera survived and I was able to get some cool shots once the skies opened back up. Check out all the pictures HERE.

Kelly Hunsecker finishing Riley's Rumble Half

Ominous Mark Zimmerman before race start

Coach Mike's Impromptu Monday Morning 50k
July 27, 2009

My coach, Mike Broderick, has been slowly but surely planting the ultra seed into a few road runners that he coaches. Most gullible... errr... willing to partake our wonderful sport were Renee Bates and Eve Mills. Mike asked if I wanted to partake in the fun, and not having any pressing deadlines at work, I took the day off and went for a nice 31 mile jaunt on the Seneca Greenway trails. We started at the crack of dawn from Mike's driveway, headed a block to the trailhead, and off we went, passing various aid drops that Mike had made the night before.

Can you hear me now? Good!

Renee and Eve seemed to enjoy themselves on the trails. As road runners, I think it was the walking breaks that they seemed to enjoy the most! Ahh the joys of ultrarunning.

Eve leading Renee through some nice open Seneca Greenway trails

Back-to-Back Grindstone Training Weekend
August 8-9, 2009

Clark Zealand, RD for the Grindstone 100, put together a nice little training weekend for those of us who needed to familiarize themselves with the race course. With the race being 50 miles out and 50 miles back, we were able to see every step of the race course while only running half the course.

We camped at the Shenandoah Boy Scout Camp, the race's start/finish, and carpooled to our starting location each morning. Saturday morning we started at the race's turnaround, which has been extended a tad from last year's course after recalculating distances. Day 1 consisted of 30 miles, ending at Dowell's Draft and taking us through miles 50-80 of the course.

Day 1 at the (yet to be named) turnaround point

Jeremy Ramsey, Jared Hesse, Clark Zealand and myself held down the front of the pack all of Saturday, marking the course as we went. David Horton was with us for the first mile or so, but he was still recovering from his Colorado Trail Speed Attempt so he made the smart move and dropped off. Running with these guys was tough at times, but being able to keep up all day was a huge boost of confidence, showing how much endurance/speed I gained back after all my time off from the ITB injury.

Day 2 started where we finished the day before, Dowell's Draft, and took us all the way to the finish at Camp Shenandoah. Instead of hammering it out with the Lynchburg boys again, I took the conservative route and as per usual found myself running with Sophie (she's good entertainment and we have the same comfortable pace... a win-win situation). And no, the matching VHTRC gear was not intentional, we just have club pride!

Sophie and I at the end of Day 2

The combined 50+ miles for the weekend left my quads thoroughly trashed, the perfect training for me since the flat stuff I run on around home doesn't cut it in terms of any mountable elevation gain. Seeing the course (and getting the GPS readings) was a huge confidence boost as well, so come race day I should at least have some familiarity with where I am and what is to come. Let the logistics planning begin!

About midway through Saturday, my left calf/soleus started to feel tight. The tightness continued all day so I stretched and massaged the crap out of it post-run. Sunday started out fine, but for a few miles mid-way through the day the soleus tightness came back. What was up? Apparently my 3 mile barefoot run on the Thursday prior, combined with a 50 mile weekend, was too much stress on the soleus too soon. Lesson learned, ease slower into the barefoot running! No worries though, the tightness went away after a recovery week with low mileage.

See the rest of my Gstone Training Weekend pics HERE.