Beast of Burden 100(Summer) ’18

Hearing that the Eastern States 100 miler on August 11th was cancelled left me feeling lost, confused, empty, and agitated. To me, the ES 100 miler was the cream of the crop, the toughest of the tough in our region. It was a race that many of us were looking forward to for at least a year. The big mountain climbs, the creek crossings, the woods! The unfortunate action of one person quiting on the race director and not being able to fill his important roll, was the reason for the cancellation.

A month ago I had come back from a run at the beach…frustrated and pissed. It was hot, it was flat, and it wasn’t the type of training run that I had been planning on. I was in a rut. When you are training for a 100 mile mountain race and it gets taken away from you a month and a half before the start, you toss everything else out the window. Everything. At least that was my thinking. But why did I feel this way? I simply wanted to shut everyone and everything off in regards to running.

Then I happened to see on Ultrasignup.com that the Beast of Burden 100 miler had a few spots still open. I was somewhat familiar with it to the point that it was on my radar last year, but I never signed up for it. It’s located in Lockport, NY and is run on 12.5 miles of th Erie Canal towpath, with an aid station in the middle around mile 7. It’s an out-and-back(25miles) route run 4 times. So I signed up…..and didn’t tell anyone, except my wife.

A complete 360 degree turn from the Eastern States course, BoB 100 is flat and open. It isn’t a single track trail course. It is on a gravel towpath, with a few miles on a paved path. It was perfect. I was already in a mental “running rut”. Why not consume myself in a 100 miler that I would normally not be a part of? For 3 weeks leading up to BoB100, I mentally prepared for the worst possible conditions. Hot. Flat. Boring. Monotonous. I also got in a few of those types of runs…long, flat, and boring. I eventually told my family about the race and also asked a close running friend for some positive words.

Race day came and I felt I was ready to at least finish the race. A man asked us for sunscreen lotion and noticed my bib #125. He said that was his lucky number for the Moab 240 mile race he did the year before. Yes, 240 miles. They are given 5? days to complete it and he was able to finish. I would see him throughout this race and would call him “Moab” each time I saw him. In return, he’d ask how my lucky # was treating me. Towards the end of this race in passing, he said he was going to quit at mile 93under our scrutiny. But when I looked at the results, he had finished and fought through!

A few people had given me info in the past about how to run long, flat races. It came down to a run/walk method so you don’t tire yourself out too fast. I decided a day or two before the race to use the 5 minute run, 5 minute walk method. This method would last maybe the first full 25 mile loop. The day was getting warm….the high temperature was to reach 87 degrees with a “real feel” of 92….

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This race started at 10am….a lot later than a normal race. They definitely tried to make this race as much as a burden as possible. During that first loop, I met a woman by the name of Louise. She was pleasant. We talked about how tough this race could be and how to go about running it smartly. She then told me this was her 8th BoB100! At one point I left her, but would see her multiple times in passing, giving her encouragement. It wasn’t until yesterday that I saw results and she was able to finish for the 8th time. But not only that. This was her 6th 100 miler this year…..and 94th 100 miler completed!! She started running them at age 40 and she is now 65. Here she is with me…..

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Around the end of the first 25 mile out and back, I started to use the 4 minute run, 6 minute walk method. Previous experiences with heat told me to slow down, even though I was already going slow. The miles continued on. Multiple bridges(maybe 7 or 8) would cross the canal path through the 12.5 span. Of course the difficult part would be that you could see these landmarks, but would seem like an eternity before you actually got to them.

My experienced crew chief, my wife Caryn, was always there when I needed her. I sweat so much during these summer races. In the middle of the second loop, I plopped down on a chair and she had everything I planned on having ready for me. All I really wanted for the most part was liquids. I’d reach to coke, then to gatorade, then pickle juice, then coconut water, then chocolate milk. It was almost humerous……until I threw it all up a half mile after I left her.

I was pleased with how the first 50 miles had gone. At some point Caryn informed me that the husband of the friend I told about this race was on his way up to pace me the last loop of 25 miles. I look up to both Jenn and Ryan. They are very experienced trail runners, with lots of knowledge. They are also very nice and caring. I was happy that Ryan(he’s run multiple 100 milers and now bikes across the country for fun) was on his way up, but I wasn’t that surprised. It was in their nature….

The day/night went on. A beautiful half crescent orange moon came up through the horizon around 10pm. I then basically got into a trance. Before I knew it, the 3rd loop was about ready to be completed at 5:00am?! I was crossing the bridge at mile 74 and approaching the last turn around.

I greeted Ryan with a handshake and a smile, sat for about 10 minutes at aid station mile 75, and then we went on our way for the last 25 miles. Ryan had driven more than 5 hours to meet me at the Buffalo suburb of Lockport just to make sure I would finish. That’s pretty fucking cool. What a guy! At this point, it was more of a run 1 minute, walk 3 minute venture. But it was all good. The conversation with him made the time fly by. Here we are at the mile 81 Caryn aid station….

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While running with Ryan, I was pointing out land markers that were basically mile markers..i.e. “here’s the group of weeping willow trees, which is 3 miles from the aid station” and “there’s the shed beyond the bridge right before the turn around”. Oh yeah!! It got to that point! Ridiculously monotonous. Caryn, Ryan, and I sat at the last aid station, mile 87.5, eating popsicles. The aid station was inside a building in the town of Middleport.

I wasn’t able to run much the last 12.5 miles. The sun was zapping me for the second day and I was sick of drinking and eating the same foods. I ended up walking most of those 12.5 miles and became some of the longest miles I’ve experienced during an event. However, I thought back to Eastern States. The race that I “couldn’t finish because of the heat and hills”. And then I felt relieved. Even though my feet were about ready to catch flames and my right hamstring was also on fire, I was alright. It wasn’t like any other race I’ve completed. I use adrenaline to get me to the finish. Not here. I was completely spent at this race. I ran the last 300 feet….here I am crossing the line…..

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Though smiling at Caryn in this picture, I remember feeling and seeing completely dazed and confused…..

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My best crew and aid station I’ve ever had……

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Completely spent…..

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The fight and the reward….

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Three things are certain after this race: 1) You can never get by in life without friends and loved ones. 2) My mental and physical limits have been pushed a little more. 3) My rut is no longer.

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Laurel Highlands 70 Miler- ’17- DNF

As I climbed a short, steep section just before the mile 19 AS Saturday on the Laurel Highlands Trail, I waved the white flag above my head. I’d had enough. Well, actually my legs had enough. The feet, ankles, and calves felt shredded. Perhaps it was the rock-ridden, quad crushing, jeep road descents of the Bel Monte 50 miler in Virginia in March. Or the calf and hamstring punishing The Georgia Death Race- ’17 in April. Or maybe it was the combination of the two last month, the MMT 100 Miler- ’17.

These types of blogs are not fun to write. When I sign up for a race, I expect to finish it, even on tired legs. And I’ve gone into multiple ultra races on tired legs and finished, see Tussey MOUnTaiNBACK 50 Miler- ’15  as one example. For me, what is disappointing the most about not finishing this race was the conditions. The trail was in good shape, the AS’s/volunteers were supportive, and the weather was ideal for this time of year. What more could you ask for in a trail event?

The initial 8 to 10 miles of this event are the toughest. This is well documented. A climb and decent, followed by another climb and decent, followed by a continuous mountain climb that eventually gets you on top of the highlands. I must say that when you have a 70 mile race equaling roughly 12,000 ft. of gain with the first 25 miles being half of that, the race is unique. See Laurel Highlands 50K- ’15 for my first experience and detailed feelings of it.

Once climbing that short, steep section at mile 19 and waving the white flag, I heard loud cheering from the AS a few tenths of a mile away. This livened the spirits a little and had me realizing that I may be able to push through this. I got to the AS, talked to a few people I knew, gathered some food and drink, and continued on. For the next 3-4 miles, I was in better spirits. The trail became eye candy to me. I’ll explain. Back when I played basketball and was pretty good at it, sometimes the hoop felt massive. It seemed so easy for me to make shots. It’s called “being in the zone”. The hoop was eye candy. It just felt easy to me. Well the LHT felt easy to me for a short time.

Unfortunately, that good feeling switched back to a feeling of having heavy weights strapped to my ankles. It was not nutrition. I was fueling very well. It was simply exhaustion of the past few months. I managed to get through another AS at mile 26 before calling it a day at mile 32.

Am I disappointed? Of course I am. Writing a post like this makes me sick. Still not knowing the beauty of the LHT beyond mile 32 is enough to drive me crazy. Missing out on the experience one goes through during a 70 ultra race will irk me. Especially when you have friends and fellow LH 70 mile finishers who have said nothing but good things about it.

But I won’t second guess cutting out where I did. I have a strong fight in me and want to have that fight in the races I’ve signed up for moving forward this year. And I know that I’ll head back to the LH 70 miler and complete it another year.

Keep on keeping on!

 

MMT 100 Miler- ’17

I am not going to get into great detail on my individual race experience of my first MMT 100 miler. Instead, I am going to write more about the people who helped me cross the finish line after 32 hours and 37 minutes of running and hiking.

The race began at 4 a.m. Saturday morning at the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp square in the middle of the Massanutten Mtns. of the George Washington National Forest in VA. It’s a beautiful area and if you are familiar with the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mtns., the Massanutten runs parallel with them.

My wife, Caryn, would be crewing me and my friend, Anne, would be pacing me the last 25 miles of the race. Anne ran MMT last year, finishing at 36 hours and 20 minutes. The cut off of the race was 36 hours. She fell early on, banging up her finger and shoulder. Later on in the race, she would have major back pain….but she finished. Friends Gary B, Cassie, Mandy, Bob, and Mary would also help crew and give support. Here are Caryn and I and my crew at the start.

 

The first four miles were on a gravel road that gradually climbed out of the valley. The course then took us on a difficult stretch of single track trail, similar to the rockier sections of the A.T. here in PA.

It included another climb. The total gain of the first 5 miles was about 1,600 ft. Here is the run down of the course and elevation gain/loss through the entire race…..

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I recognized a runner by the name of Kelly M and ran with her for a mile or two. She is part of the Harrisburg River Runner’s group in PA. This would be her first 100 mile distance attempt. I would try to give her as much knowledge and encouragement in a span of a mile or two as I could. She would make it to the Gap Creek AS, mile 70, before race officials would cut her off. She still has running goals of completing her first 100 miler this year, and I wish her well.
Around mile 10, a runner behind me had commented on my New Balance Leadville v3 trail sneakers. He owned a pair of the v3’s, but had multiple pairs of the older version, v2’s. We both agreed that the sneakers we had on were both comfortable, sturdy, and reliable for the terrain we run and train on. He introduced himself as Michal. He had an accent and I believe it was Polish. We continued to talk and we found out that we both knew some of the same trails runners. He knew my friend Danny, who has run MMT a few times and recently broke the course record on the reverse Ring, a tough trail race of about 70 miles in the same mountains of this race. Michal also knew my friend Todd, who I’ve run with at World’s End 50K- ’15 and Oil Creek 100- ’16. As we approached the Edinburg Gap AS, he wished me luck and went on his way. I later saw that Michal finished 3 hours ahead of me!

The next several miles were tough to me. They use the terminology quote of “Massanutten ROCKS!”, and for good reason. During that stretch, I passed a local running legend by the name of Gary K. He has completed the MMT 100 eighteen times and is now 73 years old. His son, Keith, has completed MMT seventeen times….after the race, it would become 18 times. I had met Gary once before, but I know he had no clue who I was. As I passed Gary, I asked if he had any bourbon on him. He is known to be a lover of bourbon. He laughed and said that he did not, but would see what he could do.

A few miles later, Gary passed me and when he did, again said that he would see what he could do about the bourbon. A few miles after that, I passed him and another runner or two, admiring a beautiful view of the valley. I wouldn’t see him for another 28 hours.

At the next AS, I recognized a runner that my friends know, Bryan S. I follow him on Strava, a running app. His training includes a lot of climbing. That is tough to do in the central PA mountains. They aren’t the biggest mountains, you know. I introduced myself and continued on.

The miles went on, and I started to get into a grove. There were a stretch of a few miles that we could stretch our legs and get some good running in. Here I am around mile 27, one of the easiest sections of the course….

MMT 16

Just before the Elizabeth Furnace AS at mile 33, I came across another runner I knew, Brian C. Brian is a strong runner that I’ve run at a few local Fatass 50K races with. We ran and talked for about a mile. I asked him about the Cloudsplitter 100 Miler, which he had done last year. It is known for its elevation gain and beauty, totaling more than 28,000 ft of gain. Of course he recommended that I do it and of course I’ll probably accept the offer.

Here I am approaching the Elizabeth Furnace AS with Brian right behind me…

MMT 3

Leading up to this race, I knew it was going to be different from the other two 100 milers I have done….Mohican 100- ’16 and Oil Creek 100- ’16. MMT 100 is known to be tough, but fair. After the first 33 miles, I knew the “tough” parts would outnumber the “fair” parts. I had felt as though I had gone 50 miles already. I met Caryn, Anne, Gary, and Mandy right before the AS. They had my food and drink ready for me. I made sure to fuel up with Tailwind, gels, and other nutrition that I could carry with me. I would not see them until the mile 54 AS, Habron Gap. I gave Caryn a kiss in the rain and I was on my way.

After about 3 miles or so, I came across a runner in front of me. He resembled a runner I met at the Baker Challenge 50 Miler- ’15. I asked him if he was there in 2016, but he said he was not, but was familiar with the race. We ended up talking for a few miles. His name was Gary P, and like many other conversations during this race, we knew people in common. Gary remembered my pacer, Anne, from last year and the struggle she went through. Gary was easy to talk to. He talked about his bad-ass brother, who runs 3:15 marathons at age 55, and does crazy training runs. But after a 40 mile trail race, he had said it was the toughest thing he had done and would never get into trail running. We talked about races we have done and upcoming races. Gary is doing the Bigfoot 200 Miler this year. That’s not a typo…that’s 200 miles. His goal for MMT was to finish, but if he wasn’t doing well, or was hurting, he said he would cut out. He wanted to be ready for Bigfoot and being healthy for that was more important. At the next AS, he was changing his sneakers and I was ready to leave. I thanked him for the conversation and wished him luck would see him down the road. I did not see him again until he crossed the finish line at about the 34 hours mark. I’m glad he was able to finish his 3rd MMT!

At around mile 43, just after the Veach Gap AS, I came across two runners. One was relieving herself as I approached. Probably embarrassed, I assured her that the most important thing was that she was able to go before being disrupted by me. She confirmed that she was able to “go” and we got a good kick out of that. We started a conversation. The woman’s name was Adeline, and her friend was Lisa. Adeline said to call them “L.A.” Little did they know that they will always be known to me as L.A.

I told them my pacer, Anne, would be pacing me the last 25 miles and told them her experience from last year. Adeline remembered seeing her late in the race. She confronted Anne, saying she was a nurse, and that if there was anything she could do to help, she would. As the miles went on, I would see L.A. a few more times.

Approaching the Habron Gap AS at mile 54 on a road, there were two guys offering beer. I thought about it and before I knew it, I was taking few gulps of Budweiser. It tasted good. A few tenths of a mile later, I got to Habron Gap. Here I am talking with Anne and with Caryn…

My journey is also Caryn’s journey. She has always been there for me throughout the races. Her love and support makes my experiences in these races so much easier.

The next 24 miles were going to be tough and I knew it. A big climb of 1,600 ft. in two miles going out of the AS. Followed by a couple of rocky sections, and a couple other climbs, including the mountain climb/rocky section known as Jawbone. My game face came on. Cinderella Man is one of my favorite movies and it always gives me inspiration when stuff gets tough. If you haven’t seen it, watch it! Here’s Russell Crowe giving his best back against the ropes, bad ass, don’t give a fuck, delirious, crazy, kill that motherfucker, look in the movie. I felt the same way….

MMT 17

Soon after leaving Habron Gap, I heard a herd of runners approaching me from the back. It turned out to be one of the “crewers”, Bob, followed by my friend Gary B. They were both pacing people. And who were they pacing, you ask.?Well, Bob was pacing one of the two L.A.’s! Gary was pacing another runner, who happens to be from Florida. They all blew right past me, with much encouragement.

I did a lot of the tough miles by myself in the dark. I don’t remember much before the Camp Roosevelt AS, though I remember the 2-3 mile stretch right after it. The trail was a stream of water. The course was extremely wet due to hard rain a few days prior. Here’s a picture of part of that stretch of trail, nothing I’ve ever run through before….

MMT 18

and much the same with Gap Creek area around mile 69. It was midnight when I left Gap Creek. I’m pretty sure I went into stealth/survivor mode for that stretch.

Jawbone was a main focal point in the race for me. It’s a big mountain climb after Gap Creek, and at the top of the mountain, a sign directs you to a rockier ledged section. After another short scrambling section of climbs on rocks, the trail continued on, relentlessly.

After being on the trail for a long time, the course led me to a long, gradual decline on a road. Eventually it led to the Visitor’s Center AS, mile 78. Here I am with my trail pacing savior, Anne, and a grand picture of me trying to get as many calories down as possible….

The climb out of Visitor Center was another big one, equaling about 1,000ft. of gain in two miles.  It was nice to have Anne by my side. Sometimes we talked, other times not. But just having her along with me helped me so much. Last year, she explained, had been more of a daze to her. This time around, she was able to experience it pain-free. We came into the Bird Knob AS at mile 81 and I plopped down beside a heater. I glanced over at a table and saw a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 proof bourbon. To Anne’s surprise, I asked her to hand over the bottle and took a good sip.

The miles continued on with some laughs and some strains until we eventually got to the Picnic Area AS, mile 88. By that time, it was now light out. Here I am between Anne, Gary, Cassie, Mary, and Bob……

MMT 7

All of these friends have been through all the hurt, pain, and joy that comes with ultra running. Gary had paced someone the day before for 24 miles, and now he was getting ready to pace someone else for their final 15 miles. That someone else was Lisa, part of L.A.!

Pacing is a tough job. Job duties include: Making sure your runner is getting enough nutrition, they’re still functional, they’re in good spirits, and most importantly, making sure they can finish the race. Anne did her job well. But to me, the simple fact that her being out there with me, got me through to the end. The amount of suffering, drive, will, and inspiration that she showed last year at the race, would get me through this year.

The last AS was at mile 96, Gap Creek. I told Anne that I did not want to stop there at all and I told her that I wanted coke, any form of warm food and a banana. As we stopped, she gathered what I wanted and we continued on. The last climb was Jawbone again! But this time, once we got to the top, we went straight down the other side of the mountain, instead of running the tough 2-3 mile rocky section on top.

About halfway down the other side of the mountain, at about mile 98, we came across another rocky section. I guess it was only fitting to end this race with more ROCKS! Eventually, we came to a main dirt road. This road would lead us 4 miles to the finish. And as expected, it lasted an eternity for me.

Anne did a great job here. She brought up road running and marathons to me. Years ago, I started out road running, doing multiple marathons a year for several years before getting into trail running. Why not end the toughest 100 mile ultra trail race I’ve done with a conversation about where it all started for me.

We eventually approached the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp entrance. We took a hard left and hiked up the dirt road, made a right into a wooded area, and came down to the famous stream crossing bridges. Two days ago I took this picture and pondered how I would feel when I would cross it after going 103 miles….

MMT 21

Once crossing them, Caryn took this picture of Anne and I. It’s clear that I was happy, but tired….

MMT 20

After the bridges, it opened up to a big field where it all started for me some 32 hours earlier. Here I am approaching the finish line…

MMT 9

Once I crossed the finish line, the race director congratulated me and asked if I had a pacer and/or crew. I pointed over to my wife and pacer….

MMT 10

I then explained to him about who Anne was….the one who crossed the finish line last year 20 minutes after the cut off, who broke her pinky finger, who hurt her shoulder 10 miles into the race, who was on pace the entire race to make the cut off until the last section, who had a back problem the last 10-15 miles and labored through all the climbs, rocks, streams, and mental blocks that one has at the end of a trail race. Here is Anne last year(2016) finishing the race….

MMT 22

The race director then introduced himself again to Anne, acknowledging her accomplishment the year before and urging her to come back for redemption sometime soon…

MMT 11

Here is a picture of my much better half and I. She has always kept me going on the best routes possible…

MMT 12

As the runners kept coming in, I couldn’t help but think of all the love and camaraderie that trail running gives us. Such pain and despair can lead to such joy and appreciation. And that is what gets me through. Knowing that each person struggles, but in the end, it’s the accomplishment and bond that keeps all of us together….and happy!

Here is Brian C. finishing his race…

MMT 13

And here are Lisa and Adeline(L.A.) on the left, finishing with another finisher friend….

MMT 14

Remember Gary K, the one who has finished 18 MMT 100’s and the guy who likes bourbon. Well at the end he came up to me, with a smiling face as always, with a miniature Jim Beam bourbon. He said he promised he’d deliver and he did! I introduced myself to him again and took the shot of bourbon. This is Gary earlier in the race…

MMT 23

A legend he is. He asked if I would be back to MMT again. At that point I told him that more than likely I’d be back to pace or crew someone.

This race draws a fine line between sane and insane, good and bad, runnable and not runnable, fair and unfair. It was evident in my brain the entire time I was running it. So many highs and lows and ups and downs both mentally and physically. To me, there is a strong feeling of love and bonding that is internal in these types of races. Only after finishing it and on the drive home did I realize that, yes, I would be back and run this race. Next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Georgia Death Race- ’17

 

 

I remember making a pact with myself after running the Oil Creek 100 last October to run less races and run shorter distances. My glute was in terrible shape and my legs were toast. I basically took all of November off, running less than 100 miles in that month. December was much of the same, and my glute started feeling better.

Jump to this past Friday night. I’m laying in bed, the night before what I feel is going to be the toughest race I’ve ever done. And I thought back on that pact….and had to laugh. Once my legs started feeling better, I, of course, had to come up with a run schedule for 2017. I came up with: two 100 milers, one 74 miler, one 70 miler, two 50 milers, three 50k’s,  one 27 miler, and three marathons.

The Georgia Death Race is labeled as a “68 mile’ish” (it’s now 74 miles) race in the mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forrest in northern Georgia. The director, they call him the Run Bum, has added distance and elevation gain each year since it started 5 years ago. Considered one of the toughest races on the east coast, it has more than 18,000 feet of elevation gain and close to 40,000 total elevation change. Here is my crew for the race, my wife Caryn and friend Pat and I the day before the race….

GDR 1

Even though the forecast for Saturday was sunny and a high of 72 degrees, the mountains can get cold at night. We were required to carry the following with us at all times: 1 weatherproof jacket, 1 thermal long-sleeved shirt, 1 warm hat, 1 space blanket, 1 headlamp, 1 whistle, and….1 rusty old railroad spike(got me?!). They would have random gear checks at aid stations.

5 a.m. came very early Saturday morning. Here I am with the railroad spike, puzzled as to why we were required to carry this thing the whole 74 miles….

GDR

The weather was calm and about 45 degrees at the start at Vogel State Park. We immediately started climbing once the race started. It was only a few hundred feet climb before we started heading back down again. The real first climb started after mile 3 and continued for almost 4 miles. As we continued to climb, it got foggier, windier, and wetter. By the time we crested the highest mountain on the course, the temperature was probably 35 degrees. Here is the elevation chart of the whole race, including the major climb at the beginning….

GDR 4

We didn’t last long on top. We pretty directly started heading down again until we got to the first aid station(AS). We got on the Duncan Ridge Trail, which is infamously known as the trail that the “Dragon’s Spine” is on. More on that in a minute. After a few more miles, I approached the next AS at mile 13 where I met Caryn and Pat. Caryn took these pictures of me approaching the station and at the station…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because the race course is so remote in the mountains, I would only see Caryn and Pat at mile 13 and mile 47. It would be too difficult for crew and spectators to see the runners. On their down time, they would meet up with a friend of a friend, Michelle, who lives in Georgia. They would go to 4 wineries all together and visit the A.T. terminus close by. It’s tough being a crewer. After a quick fill up and a bite to eat, I was off to tackle the toughest part of the race.

The “Dragon’s Spine”, as it is called, is a stretch of roughly 12 or so miles of continuous up and downs. The climbs averaged roughly 200-400 feet each. We would go up one, crest, and head back down into a gap. At that point, we would be looking right in front of us at another climb. This went on for a few hours. There would be 9 of them, from what I counted on the chart. At one point, when I got to the bottom of one, I did not see the next climb. That was because I had gotten through most of them, and I was approaching the Benton MacKaye Trail. If you don’t know, MacKaye was the originator of the Appalachian Trail. The southern terminus of the A.T. on Springer Mountain, was just a few short miles from where I was running. Here are Caryn , Michelle, and Pat at the southern most A.T. terminus…

GDR

Skeennah Gap was the next AS at mile 21. The decent for me seemed to take forever. We would get to the AS, and backtrack back up the mountain, so us runners would pass each other and say “nice work”, “good job”, or grunt, depending on how they felt. After visiting the AS and enjoying some bacon, the climb for me out of the gap was fine until I reached close to the top. I had a familiar feeling and before I knew it, I was vomiting. I do that sometimes. After that episode, I was good to go again.

After one more ascent and descent, we eventually descended down into the next AS, Point Bravo at mile 28. This was a drop location, which means I had a bag with clothing and food meeting me if I needed it. I kept the spare shirt in the bag, but took advantage of the gels and banana. From what I was told, the worst(or toughest) part of the course was over. That was good to hear, but I really didn’t care. I still had 46 miles to go.

The miles started to blend together. The sun was approaching the highest point in the sky for the day. It was beautiful outside. I remember being on a ridge between the mile 33 and 41 AS’s, and seeing rolling mountains on both sides of me. No towns or highways in sight. It was the most remote place I had ever ran I remember thinking.

After looking at my watch and it saying mile 35, I began to feel like crap. I knew I had some miles left to get to the next aid station, so I took a gel and had an extra sip of Tailwind energy drink. A couple of minutes later, I was starting to feel better. A minute after that, I saw a sign that said Long Creek AS was right ahead. I suddenly felt great! My watch/GPS  was way off in mileage due to the lack of signal in the mountains.

At the AS, I had more bacon. And it was great. The volunteers in this race were so good. At every AS, I had someone asking me what they could do for me. At this AS, I replied “a bed”. Unfortunately, there were other runners that were quitting at that AS due to stomach issues or just because they couldn’t continue. It was in the middle of the afternoon. Though tired, overall I was feeling fine. I think too many runners start off way to fast, and don’t consume enough calories early in these types of races.

Anyhow, the next AS was supposed to be 6 miles away, Winding Stair. It was where my crew was going to be. The next few miles were down hill on a dirt road. Eventually we ended up getting onto a forrest road and started to climb. I did some math on my watch and by the time the 6 miles came along, there was no AS in sight. Finally, after another mile of climbing, I reaching Winding Stair, and my wife, Pat, and Michelle. I was glad to see them…..

 

 

 

 

 

I fueled up. Caryn filled my water bottles, I had a banana, pickles/juice, applesauce, coke, and I forget what else. I also snatched up someone’s beer that they were drinking and took a few sips myself. It tasted so good. I toasted with Michelle, and within a few minutes, I was off. I kissed Caryn goodbye and said I would see them at the finish.

In general, the next several miles were either downhill or rolling terrain. It was the “easiest” part of the race. It also was the most beautiful. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the bright skylight started to change to orange, then to pink. The Chattahoochee National Forrest was showing itself off. I had to stop once or twice. Not because I was tired, but to soak in all the views of the mountains. This was a picture Caryn took near the A.T. terminus about the same time I was on mile 50.

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Jake Bull AS was at mile 54. I knew I had 9 miles, as advertised, until I got to the next AS….Nimblewill, at mile 63. I took a seat at Jake Bull for about 5 minutes. I made sure I had enough food and drink for the next several miles. Here’s a few pictures at the Jake Bull AS, including the signs on the way out…….

 

 

 

 

After being greeted and served by the great volunteers, I was on my way out. We continued on a single track trail for roughly a mile or two. We eventually got on a paved road. Little did I know what type of torcher I was in for ahead of me. I must not have researched the logistics of the route hard enough. I didn’t know paved roads were even included in this race. It was now dark and I had turned my headlamp on. For the next 2 ‘ish miles, I followed the limited pink and black poke-a-dotted ribbons that marked the course. Numerous times I had thought I missed a turn-off. I kept searching for a ribbon on either side of the road, but there wouldn’t be one. Eventually one would show up. On a branch or on the ground along side the road. I distinctly remember not seeing a ribbon alongside the road for a long time. I started to panic, but it changed to joy when I saw a big pile of vomit in the middle of the road. Yep, I was still on course!

Eventually the road turned into a service road. That service road never ended. Actually, I still think I am on it. The road was on a slight incline. Weaving its way up a mountain. It continued on and on. Each left turn then straitened out and eventually went to a right turn. On and on. Left and right. The turns then started to look-alike. At this point, there was no running going on. This was an all out hike. I ended up passing a few people. Some acknowledging in a functional way, others not so functional. There were some struggling people out there.

My Garmin watch had died at mile 57(actually at mile 61 due to loss of signal). I had a backup watch that I put on and eventually, after what I thought was 9 miles, I approached two men with headlamps. They told me that there was “only 1.5 miles left to the aid station and that it is gradually uphill and easier than what you just did”. He wasn’t aware of it, but this man just punched me in the face and gut. The others that I had passed earlier, were now there as well. We all couldn’t believe what we were hearing. The sound of going 1.5 more miles seemed like a very cruel joke.

I staggered on after that punch in the gut, until eventually, after what I think was 11 miles total, I got to the next AS(Nimblewill). The AS was the coolest I’ve ever seen. A string of red lights hanging on a limb 20 feet off the ground greeted us as we approached. At the gate, there was a Christmas tree and other lights. Here is a picture from earlier in the evening before it was dark….

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Exciting, isn’t it?! Well, to us, it was Christmas morning. All around the AS they had those currently popular dotted Christmas lights…you know, the ones that people have displayed all over their houses. These dotted lights were all over the trees surrounding the AS.

Yo dog, I was trippin.

The final 10 miles were kind of a blur. But in the middle of that haze, I knew this was what it was all about and I felt relaxed. It’s called the Georgia Death Race for a reason. It’s supposed to feel bad. I can honestly say that I was in my element. That feeling that you get when don’t have anything left to give. But surprisingly, your body continues. And you push on. You continue to move forward. Not physically anymore. It’s just you mentally saying “keep going” even though everything else entirely is saying “stop”.

I was not ready for the finish of this race. I was told that we finished by climbing the Amicalola Falls stairs. It included a 175 step climb, followed by a 475 step climb to finish at the top at the Amicalola Falls Lodge. I mentally prepared for that. I did not prepare for the actual finish:

With 4 miles to go we were descending. To my surprise, we passed the Lodge on our descent. We took a very rocky trail down to the very bottom of the mountain, which is where I thought the last AS was. There was only water there. I filled some water up and continued upward. Starting with a steep walkway, that eventually lead to the steps. I emptied out mostly all of my water to remove weight. I counted all of the steps on the way up. At the top, I was expecting the pink ribbons to direct us to the lodge entrance and finish.

I was wrong.

I followed the ribbons to the paved road, where it started to descend down off the mountain again. WHAT??!! I thought I was loosing it. I actually backtracked to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Nope. The Run Bum had us going right back down the same mountain we just climbed. Half way down, the ribbons directed us to a single track trail. The trail actually started to make its way up the mountain again. As I was passing a few runners, we all were cursing. Eventually, the trail made a right turn and continued down to the very bottom, with a very steep decline. There was a small bridge for us to cross at the end, but the Run Bum thought otherwise and had us cross the creek instead. Here I am crossing the creek….

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I finally had finished the GDR. Here I am talking to the Run Bum, Sean Blanton…

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Here is the bin that we threw our railroad spikes in at the end…

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And here is the spike that we got for running the race…

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I’ve told a few people that I wish the Georgia Death Race was closer to home. I would do it again. Over and over, this course tried to break me and others. Some people broke. I did not. And I loved the fight. Throughout most of the race, I actually kept saying “this is awesome”. And it was. But it’s time to move on. The Massanutten 100 miler is in 5 weeks. And I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oil Creek 100- ’16

If you want to hear about the Oil Creek 100 miler and not about my sorry excuses and baby talk of a summer of running, skip the first two paragraphs.

The last time I posted was a few days after my first 100 miler, the Mohican 100, back in June. Since then I’ve staggered through this summer in regards to running. After Mohican, I ran the remaining N.Y. AppalachianTrail(20 miles) and two-thirds of the C.T. Appalachian Trail (33 miles), I paced my friend Gary at the Eastern States 100, I ran a 35 miler on a rail trail, ran the Baker Challenge 50 miler(tough stuff, I baked on the roads), DNF’d at the Pine Creek Challenge 100k(glute, an excuse to finish Oil Creek), and ran the Boulder Beast 26 miler. Before the Mohican, I had 5 other marathon or more races I completed. I simply love the race atmosphere.

And each time I ran after the Mohican, my glute got worse. Wah and sniffles all around! But you see, I could still run, so I did so. Just like any other year. And like any other year for the past several years, I had no training plan, no set schedule for training for a particular race. I simply used a few long runs and a lot of races as training for the next race. And that leads me to what has become one of my favorite events, the Oil Creek 100.

I’ve run the 100k the past 2 years and I’ve loved it. It starts at the Titusville Middle School and takes the Gerard Hiking Trail around the Oil Creek State Park for 31 miles. Check out last year’s blog for more details….Oil Creek 100k ’15.

Saturday morning at 5 a.m. came very early for my wife, Caryn and I. Here we are at race start and finish headquarters in the Titusville Middle School…

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We walked outside to the starting line and somehow Caryn caught me smiling. I don’t recall smiling, but maybe it was just an instinct. I was going to be running/hiking for more than a day straight….sounds like fun to me!

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The first loop was what I like to call a feel loop. In my Mohican 100 post, which explains that the Mohican was also a looped course, I just wanted to get to know the trail. Feel it through. “Take my time. Hurry up. The choice is yours, don’t be late. As a friend. As a…” Alright, I’ll stop. Kurt Cobain, rest in peace.

The morning was rainy, foggy, and somewhat humid. At 7a.m. my shorts were sweaty and wet. That isn’t a good thing when you have 90 more miles to go. That was because of the humidity. Thankfully when the rain stopped, the humidity dropped. By mile 14 aid station, I was starting to get into a grove.

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It was between mile 14 and mile 31 that I realized my legs simply felt sore. Heavy. Not the way legs should feel in the first 20+ miles of a 100 mile race. I pondered that. But I didn’t have to ponder long. It was obvious and I knew it. I was a burned out runner. How can my legs go through a 100 miler if I don’t allow them to rest? I made a pact with myself that in 2017, I would sign up for less races and shorter distances overall.(I promise there isn’t much wining at all after this).

After the first loop, 31 miles, I was right on pace with where I thought I would be. This is Caryn and I searching for a toilet…

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My pacer, Gary, who paced me at Mohican, was once again going to pace the last 38 miles with me. I had met up with one of his trail running friends, Mandy, and we ran together for quite some time between in the second loop. It would be her first 100 mile finish. To me, it seemed like she had done it times before. She seemed unfazed. You would think the 100 mile distance would be intimidating to first timers. Mandy said “Fuck It”, and she did her own thing….and completed it with more than hours to spare.

In my mind, loop 2(mile 32 to 62) was going to be the test. I knew my pacer Gary would help me through the 3rd loop and the finish. Yes, that is how good Gary is as a pacer. I knew I was going to finish this race with the help of him. But the middle miles I still had to  run by myself. I had heavy legs to begin with, so I knew I had to conserve as much as possible. In marathons, I always cringe when I use the term “run/walk”. But in ultras, most times it’s a necessity. As frustrating as it was, I did the run/walk thing for another 8 hrs and 29 minutes to complete the second loop. My brain said go, my legs said no. I think if I would have proper training and rest, things would have been different.. It was still exactly where I expected to be in terms of time.

Loop 3 (mile 62 to mile 93) started at about 9 p.m. Saturday night. Gary and I seemed like old pro’s. He didn’t have to say much this time around. At the Mohican, he was consistent on making sure I had enough fuel and energy. This time around, we just moved forward….on a mission. At Mohican, I seemed to be wide awake the whole time. Let’s say it was consistent adrenaline. This time around, I became very tired. I blame it on the weather. It was hot as hell at Mohican. Here at Oil Creek, it dipped down into the low 40’s/ higher 30’s. I was very comfortable. I mentioned about falling asleep to Gary a few times, but he just laughed. And I came back to my senses. This is what it’s all about.

If you want to complete a 100 mile race, it’s not done during the day time. It’s done at night. It’s when your animal instinct should kick in. It’s when you show how much you want to finish it. It’s when the weak fall to the ground, and when the strong keep standing and moving. And that’s all I did. I kept moving.

At the 3rd aid station(about 84.5 miles in and at roughly 3 a.m.) of the last loop they had the following…. hot coffee, romen noodles, grilled cheese sandwiches, burritos, and other kinds of good food……and A HOT FIRE. After chowing down on a grilled cheese, I HAD to go over to the fire. Gary then joined me. I stood there almost within the fire itself. And at that time. At that specific moment for me. It was quit or keep moving. The fire was complete heaven. It felt so good and warm. My legs warmed up within seconds. But I wasn’t moving.

So I simply took a few steps away from the fire and kept moving. Gary eventually followed me. We continued up the trail and after 2 and a half more hours of moving, we finally approached the last aid station, mile 93. I got to see my wife Caryn and a few other ultra friends who would encourage me to get the job done.

The last 7 + miles were new to me. The 100K only followed the 50K loop. The last few miles I had not traveled. After the first 3 miles(mile 96), we crossed a bridge over Oil Creek, and continued up a switch back trail that never ended…finally getting to the top of the mountain. Thank goodness the adrenaline was pumping or else I may have been done for. It led to a familiar trail that led out the top and back down to the bottom of the mountain, and led to the familiar paved path. Here I am with Gary on that path 28 hours later…

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That path led to the finish at the middle school. I had finally finished my second 100 miler. Here I am crossing the line….

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Here’s another angle of me, giving a fist pump to one of my ultra running friends, Earth Girl….

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Here I am with probably the best race director I know, Tom….

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…and here I am with my awesome pacer, Gary, AKA Stonewall…..

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…and the buckle…

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Oil Creek has been a great experience for me the first 3 years. I can’t say enough about the race director, Tom, and all of the volunteers. So much work was put into the race. All the runners have to do is…run. And for that I am thankful.

I can’t wait until next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mohican 100- ’16

It has been 4 months since I last posted a running blog. A loss of a family member, a bad bout of depression from another, as well as other set backs with friends and family, left me with no interest in writing about my races. The runs and races themselves allowed me to cope and clear my mind when things were tough. To recap…

On March 26th, I ran the Tuscarora 50K. It’s a local Fatass run that I’ve run before. I enjoyed myself and hung out with friends later on. On April 24th, I ran the Ironmaster’s 50K. This was my first time doing it and I really enjoyed it. There were some nice climbs and some technical sections. The last 10 or so miles I limped to the finish due to an ankle I twisted at mile 8. On 5/21 I ran the World’s End 50K. This would be my favorite 50K. I paced well and ran strong at the end. I love the terrain there! On June 6th I ran the God’s Country Marathon. I ran this marathon back in 2010, but this time it wasn’t so kind. I had to stop multiple times running up the mountain around the 15-18 mile mark and struggled to finish. I still had fun.

Going into my first 100 miler, I felt pretty confident. I had those races I just mentioned and also had some great, long runs on the Appalachian Trail by my house. After a 51 mile solo run on the A.T., I felt I was ready for the 100.

The Mohican 100 is located in Loudonville, OH, northeast of Columbus. It is in between Millersburg, OH and Mansfield, OH and is run in the Mohican State Park. The race consists of two 27 mile loops and two 23 mile loops. My wife Caryn, and trail running friends Anne and Gary would make the trip out. Gary would end up pacing me for the final 43 miles.

The weekend was going to be warm. They said the temperature topped out at 91 degrees on Saturday. I was so anxious, excited, and nervous leading up to it, but as 5:00am approached, I felt rather calm. I knew this would be a long journey and was looking forward to it. I had a carefree mind going into it and I believe that really helped me out when the tough got going. Here is my wife and I at the start…

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The first hour was in the dark. Generally for me, the first loop was a “feel” loop. I wanted a good knowledge base as to what was in store the next 24 hours or so.  The terrain at Mohican includes very minimal rocks. The only section that rocks play a part is towards the last 5 miles or so of each loop, and that’s only a very small section. The trail has more roots than I was expecting. You are able to avoid most of them, but they are there pretty much throughout. The trail has a total of  12,500 feet of gain, give a few hundred feet. That is not a lot for a 100 miler. I will tell you, though, that these hills are steep. They aren’t real long, but if you are sore, tired, and cramping late in the race, you are going to have issues. Lastly, and overall, this trail is runnable. Runners that are used to climbing over boulders and scrambling, you will have none.

I met Caryn and Anne at the Fire Tower and Pleasant Hill Dam aid stations. Throughout the race, they would tend to me hand and foot. Normally I would plop down on a chair and they would fill my hydration pack with water and my bottle with Tailwind. They would stock my pack with applesauce packs, gels, or anything else I wanted to take along.  My go to foods and drinks throughout the race turned out to be the following: water, tailwind(sodium/electrolyte drink), Coke(I may have drunk 4 liters total!!), ginger ale, chocolate milk, gels, applesauce, pickles and juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salt and vinegar chips, bananas, and oranges. I drank early and often as much as my body would let me.

I felt good at the end of the first lap, but the temperature was rising. There is something in my brain early on in a race that triggers some kind of negative thinking. It almost always happens. Thoughts include: “It’s way early and I’m feeling like shit already” “I have ‘this’ amount of distance left, I don’t know if I can finish”, “It’s hot as hell, there’s no way I can finish”, “this snow is making me work extra hard, no way I can keep it up”, etc. And around mile 30 or so, I think I had that feeling. But like I said earlier, I did have, and kept, a carefree and  even playful, mentality during the whole race. By mile 35, I was a-okay again…even though this picture says not….

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The miles continued into the second lap. And the temperature kept rising. I made sure I wasn’t overdoing anything. I was hiking every hill and conserving energy as much as possible. And lets face it, I was conserving energy almost the entire freaking race. It’s the name of the game for me. Steady and patient…always.  I continued to load up on water, Tailwind, and Coke and tried to get as many other food calories in me as possible.

A few years back when all I had under my belt was a few 50k’s, I mentioned about a wall that I hit. Someone told me “people who run 100 milers hit 3 or 4 walls during their race”. Well, at the end of the second loop at mile 54(Mohican Adventure AS), I hit another wall. And I think that wall was the toughest for the whole weekend.

Now I was told that multiple people dropped from this race. I can see why. The final 2 miles of each loop consisted of a couple hundred feet climb up an open (sun soaking) stoned road, followed by an immediate short steep downhill, followed by an immediate short/steep uphill, then a flat portion down to the main road. At the main road, you take a very open and sun soaking paved trail(similar to Oil Creek) for a little less than a mile before heading into the woods again until you get to the aid station. I crashed.

Caryn and Anne were there and they assisted me as best they could. I didn’t really tell them how bad I felt. I knew I could get through it on my own. I also believe Anne, being an experienced runner who very recently went through a form of torcher at the MMT 100, sensed I was struggling. I knew others were struggling too. I looked around and saw people with heads between their legs, and others who were flat on their backs. I decided to switch up my sneakers, shorts and shirt and continued on. Gary was to meet me at the mile 63 aid station, but as I approached the 57 mile aid station, Gary was there waiting with a smile. I think he was told by my A-team crew that I wasn’t doing so good. Here we are at mile 57…

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It was incredible how fast my mood changed. Gary and I ran the next 20 miles with ease. We talked about life. I had him running ahead of me…about 20 or 30 yards. He would stop and hike when I did and would run would I would run. I ran a lot of it and had good energy during that time. This was also during the night. I’ve heard many stories that people dread when daylight turns to night. Your confidence goes down and it is harder to run and navigate the trail. Well, for my first 100 miler, it was the opposite. It felt great. We rattled off the miles. I was waiting for that hallucination that people have talked about and it never came. I was normal and aware. The only wildlife I remember seeing was probably around 2:30am when a bat swooped down close to my headlamp for a split second. Other than that I didn’t see anyth…..wait. I’m lying.

At one point Gary and I were approaching 3 runners with headlamps. When we came upon them, the woman in the back had on a string bikini, with bunny ears on and a bunny tail on her…”tail”. We greeted each other with a kind of snicker. I could not think of anything really to say, so as we passed I said “thank you very much and you folks have a pleasant evening”. We all laughed. So….Gary and I also saw a rabbit.

As we came into the Mohican Adventure AS for the third time at around 4:00am, we looked for Caryn and Anne but could not find the Jeep. I then pointed out to Gary that I thought that was the Jeep over there. Gary ran over and told them we had been at the AS waiting. When they approached, I apologized to them for waking them up and told them Gary and I were working on our night moves. They must have liked those comments. I was still feeling good and had one more 23 mile loop to go.

Gary and I continued on. Unfortunately throughout the race, crew were not permitted at aid stations 3 and 4. So when we saw Caryn and Anne at the Fire Tower AS with about 15 miles to go, it was the last we would see them. I gave a final kiss to Caryn and said I’d see her at the finish. Here we are at mile 85, still feeling somewhat good…..

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Between Fire Tower and the next AS, Covered Bridge, I hit another wall. I was trying to eat as much calories as I could, but it just wouldn’t happen. Gary was a champ of a pacer. He consistently asked if I was eating enough and what I needed before we got to an AS. I couldn’t have asked for a better pacer. Towards the end, I did not eat. I was too tired and really couldn’t get food down and I was out of Tailwind. The last 10 miles we basically hiked and was blurry and hazy for me. With about 4 miles left, we were hiking with 2 other men, one was a pacer for the other. I was keeping track of time and I wanted to finish under 31 hours, but was concerned we wouldn’t finish under it. I told Gary that I wanted to run and we took off. Of course I hiked the climbs that I explained earlier during the final 2 miles, but we ran the rest. Even when I thought I was completely exhausted, I still had enough to run to the finish. I saw Caryn with her camera ahead of me on the paved trail and as we passed by them, they cheered. Gary directed  me past, then under the bridge, crossed the stream, onto the lawn, along the side of the pavilion, and into the finish shoot. I had finished my first 100 miler. There is Gary in the background leaving my side….

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I had so much support behind me, including my wife and family. There was no way I was not going to finish this race. The Mohican 100 miler met all of my expectations.

It’s weird. I’ve thought about my feelings towards my first experience with a 100 miler. The only thing that comes to my mind is that it feels like it’s home to me.

 

Mid-Maryland 50K- ’16

The Mid-Maryland 50K was held on February 13th and was located southwest of Baltimore near Elkridge, Maryland. It now has been more than a month since I ran it that very cold day. Leading up to this race, I had done little long distance running since November. A lot of life events have happened in between November and now. They have been hard and tough to deal with. If there is pain, getting out and running seems to ease it, at least for a little while. This 50k did just that.

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The 50K was a 10K loop run five times through rolling woods and fields. It crosses over a few small streams. Luckily there were small bridges that allowed us to cross these streams. On this day, no one would want wet feet. With the windchill, the temperature was 0(zero) degrees or colder! And where the start, finish, and aid stations were situated, it felt colder than that. Each loop I did, I prepared myself for the open field that the pavilion aid station was located. The wind definitely didn’t make things easier.

The day or two before this race, my home town had about 5 inches of snow. I was not concerned, though. I really needed this race to clear my head. The morning of the race, the more south I drove, the less snow I saw on the ground. By the time I got to the start, there was no snow, just solid ground that was hard as a rock. Most of the loop consisted of this hard ground. Some spots were muddy, due to all of the snow that had been dumped on the northeast.

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There was one spot on the course, possibly 3 miles into the loop, where we circled around half a baseball field and then went up a small steep incline out beyond the outfield fence. Some sort of football team(reminded me of flag football), were practicing on the outfield. Here it was below zero degrees with the windchill, and these idiots were practicing flag football. I then thought about what I was currently doing and then thought better of the “idiot” comment.

The aid station at each loop was nice. They had the basics that all ultras have: chips, pretzels, gels, fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and drinks. It was that cold, however, that the stuff that could freeze, did! I really can’t say enough about the race director and the volunteers who helped put this event on. I could tell they had cleared multiple locations of the trail of snow and trimmed bush limbs. They also had to stand out in the cold while we continued to move. They were the winners of this 50K!

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Overall, I recommend this 50K to those who are just starting out in ultras, who enjoy a multi-looped course, and to those who just don’t give a care that it’s in the dead cold of winter.

Moruga Scorpion Dark Chocolate Porter

I was excited when my co-worker, Brent, mentioned to me about a moruga pepper beer he had seen online. I believe it was a type of ale. Brent is a pepper connoisseur. He has a passion about peppers like I have a passion for running.

I felt that a sweet porter style beer would go well with the hot peppers, so I went with a dark chocolate porter. If this beer turns out as good as it sounds, I will happily call it Moruga Madness Delight! Time will tell, though.

Brent was nice enough to order the pepper online. I promised I would hook him up with some fine beer in return. I started out by soaking .25 oz of the peppers in 150 proof everclear for 3 days in a mason jar….

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These are all the ingredients of the dark chocolate porter. I got it from the brand Briess. Sorry the picture is side ways…

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Here is a picture of all the ingredients. They all can be found at a local beer making shop….

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I added 3.5 gallons of water to a stainless steel pot and steeped 1 lb. of caramel malt 60L, 1 lb. of dark chocolate malt, and .25 lb. of carapils malt (all are grains) in a cheese cloth bag at 152-158 degrees for 30 minutes…

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After running hot water over the containers to make the extract easier to pure, I added the 7 lbs. of golden light LME…

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I then turned the heat up until it started boiling. This is where you really need to pay attention or else you’ll have a boil over and your stove will be a sticky mess…..and your wife will be a hot mess. 🙂

I started the clock for the 60 minute boil process. After 15 minutes, I added 2 oz of fuggles hops…

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After stirring once and a while and at the 45 minute mark of the boil, I added 1 tsp. of irish moss…

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At the end of the boil I added .50 lb. of cocoa powder.

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I stirred in the cocoa powder for roughly a minute before removing the pot from the stove. At that point, the goal is to try and get the wort down to 72 degrees as fast as possible. I had a sink full of ice, ice packs, and ice water and began the cooling down process….

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This time around it took about 40 minutes to get it down to about 80 degrees. At that point, I dumped the wort into the fermenting bucket and added almost 2 gallons of filtered water. This would bring the temperature down to near 70 degrees…

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Once at the 5 gallon mark, I filtered the scorpion pepper solution into another glass, removing any of the seeds or particles of the pepper….

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Normally there is a process to create extract from this solution. I decided I didn’t want to mess around with that, especially since I was dealing with one of the hottest peppers on earth! I decided to add the solution directly to the beer, about 3 oz. I don’t feel that is enough hard liquor to interfere with the 5 gallons of beer I’d be making…

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At that point, I oxygenated the beer by stirring it aggressively. I then added the premium bitter yeast to the bucket and stirred more….

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At this point I got the original gravity reading of 1.055. It was a little low from the 1.063 they called for, but that is because I added a little more water at the end.

I then capped the bucket, filled the airlock with everclear, and hopefully within a day the beer will be fermenting….

pepper porter 14

I will keep the beer in the fermenting bucket for a week. At that point, I will sample the taste. If I feel it needs more scorpion pepper hotness, I will add a little more of what I currently have soaking right now. I will then transfer the beer into a secondary bucket for 3 more days. This helps keep sediment and yeast down at the bottom of the bucket, making it a cleaner, tastier beer… supposedly. After those 3 days, I will transfer the beer to a bottling bucket and add the priming sugar. This carbonates the beer over time. The beer should be ready to drink roughly 7-10 days after bottling.

Other than my first batch of beer I ever made, I’ve yet to be as excited about a batch of beer as I am this one. Hopefully I can give it the Moruga Madness Delight name in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

Harrisburg Marathon- ’15

After running a 50k, a 100K, a 50 miler, and a half marathon in 27 days, a few people had told me it was a good idea to rest a bit. But knowing that the new and improved “hometown” Harrisburg marathon was on the horizon, I felt I could squeeze it in before the dark depths of winter settled in.

This year’s Harrisburg marathon featured a new course in and around the city. Instead of taking the runners through the scenic, but hilly Wildwood Nature Center hills and the infamous Industrial Road, they had the runners run on the “west shore” and north to Fort Hunter.

The weather was to be perfect with sunny skies and cool temperatures. My wife Caryn was also running the relay event. She would be running the first leg, which equaled just over 8 miles. This also meant that we would start out running together!

We started on the Market St. bridge and headed west. Both Caryn and I fell into a comfortable pace. Caryn had her normal headphones in, but when I did mention something, she was able to hear me. Thanks for keeping the music low, hun 🙂 . As we ran up along the west shore in the first mile, I took time to appreciate my surroundings. Here we were in the capital city of our state, on a gorgeous morning, running 26.2 miles just because we love it. Better yet, my wife was by my side…

HBG marathon

We crossed back over the Harvey Taylor bridge and headed south. Aid stations were separated every 2 or so miles, so we would get a cup of Gatorade or water. By about mile 5 or so, both Caryn and I had shared that each one of us did not want to hold the other up and to go ahead. A little past mile 6, she had said the sun was getting warmer and she wished she would have dressed with less gear. I gradually went a head of her. The next time I would see her would be about 20 yards from the finish, screaming her lungs out as normal. She is my best supporter and my #1!

As we left the PennDot area, I realized the next 10 miles or so I would be heading north, mostly along the Susquehanna River. The great part of running a hometown race is that you see a lot of your running friends either in the race, or cheering along the course. The support was great. I felt comfortable the entire time and the fan support had a lot to do with it.

At the halfway mark at mile 13, I was shocked on how fast this race was going. I don’t mean how fast I was running it physically. I mean how fast mentally. I have been used to going 6+ hours at each event this past summer. This picture was around mile 14, I believe…

HBG marathon 2

Approaching the turn around at Fort Hunter around mile 17, runners ahead of me were passing me heading the other way. It was another opportunity to see fellow runner friends and cheer them on and give them support as they went by.

I was pleased with the way my legs held up, but by around mile 21 or so, they were getting a bit heavy. This is a normal feeling. I had no sharp pains or anything of the sort.

The last few miles I stopped to walk a few times. It’s not what I wanted to do. My brain said go, but my legs said no. At any rate, the finish was in downtown Harrisburg. The race director and volunteers had the finish line set up to be a “party” atmosphere. As I turned the corner for the last tenth of a mile, I heard my wife’s voice cheering me on. I glanced off to my left and sure enough, there she was. Here I am crossing the finish line….

HBG marathon 3

I was pleased with the way I ran. After completing it, I did a little math and figured out that I ran a negative split. I ran the second half of the marathon faster than the first half. I love that feeling!

Caryn’s relay came in 5th place in the mixed division. We celebrated in town with good friends, good beer, and good food. Another great day of exercise in the books!

Tussey MOUnTaiNBACK 50 Miler- ’15

After the Oil Creek 100K, I was looking forward to a little break from ultras. That was until my wife Caryn came home and told me she had a talk with one of my trail running friends. Donald had told her he was running in the Tussey mOUTaiNBACK 50 mile race the up coming weekend.

The Tussey mOUTaiNBACK 50 Miler was the first ultra I had ever heard of. In 2010, I was in the middle of running a lot of marathons and was interested in going further than the 26.2 miles they called for. When I searched ultras on the computer, Tussey was the first ultra that came up in my area. I read up on it, but in the end I chickened out. It was 50 miles and had multiple mountain climbs.

Fast forward to 2015 and I did not hesitate to sign up. At first I thought I was too late in signing up. Their website said sign up closed on Oct. 10th and it was Oct. 20th. The race was 5 days later, Oct. 25th. I went through the motions on their website anyways and sure enough, it allowed me to sign up!

The entire 50 miles is on gravel roads(about 75%) and regular roads(about 25%). I knew this was going to be tough for me. My legs were still recouping from Oil Creek and Tussey called for a lot of running.

That morning I met up with Donald and his friend Alicia, who would finish her first 50 miler that day. It was Donald’s 9th Tussey 50 miler. Just another walk in the park for him. Here’s Alicia and I right before the start….

Tussey Mtn 50m

I also saw Danny, who ran the Oil Creek 100 miler, and was at Tussey cheering on his friend Kate.

The weather was to be nice. Cool and a chance of rain in the morning, clearing and sun in the afternoon. It down poured 10 minutes before the start and did not rain again. It stopped right before the official “go”. Here is the start at 7:00am….

Tussey Mtn 50m 3

The first 4 miles were a gradual incline. I settled into a slow jog heading up. I knew the more energy I wasted early, the less energy I would have late. Those first 4 miles, I think I stopped to hike once. I got to the first aid station(AS) at the top and did not stop. We quickly started the decline back down the mountain. I got into a nice running grove and before I knew it, I was at AS2. I stopped to munch on a couple pretzels and exchanged pleasantries with the volunteers.

The next 12 miles or so were rolling and very easy to run if your legs were fresh. I can normally tell how my day is going to go, in any type of race, during the first 10 miles or so. For me, Tussey was going to be a fight to the finish that day. Here’s the elevation profile…

Tussey Mtn 50m 5

The Tussey event is not only an individual 50 mile challenge, but also includes a relay. I’m not sure what the rules were, but I believe you could choose how many runners would be in your relay, ranging from 2 to 6. Again, not sure if that’s right or not. What I am sure of is that throughout the entire race, relay runners would wiz by me at top-notch speed. But not only runners, but also cars that were following along. No, Tussey is not like any other trail run I found out. There was no more than 10 minutes of “alone time” until a group of cars or runners would dart by me. They would give friendly comments as they went by. It turns out, the individual 50 mile runners were called “ultra”. “Good job ultra” and “looking strong ultra” and “way to go ultra” were the common gestures throughout the day. That was so much appreciated.

At mile 20, the famous “stairway to the stars” climb started. It was a 1,300 ft. climb in 3 miles, with a steep hill to start it off. It was described before the start as never-ending. You would make one turn thinking you were at the top, then you would climb again….

Tussey Mtn 50m 2

It did seem like it would never end. At one point near the top, I remember the sky getting much darker and the air getting much cooler. I am used to shorter, switch back type climbs on sign track, not the never-ending type.

I finally got to the top and AS6 around mile 25. There were 11 AS’s throughout the race, which was plenty. I also met up with Danny. His plan was to get some miles in the Rothrock State Park and also follow his friend Kate while doing so. He caught up with me for a few miles. We talked about the normal stuff ultra runners talk about: trail running apparel, other races, and beer.

After descending the mountain and around mile 30, I assessed the way I felt. It wasn’t that good. My legs were tired and my energy was blah. I thought of the reasons why I was out there in the first place…for the enjoyment, for the challenge, for the exercise, for the camaraderie with other runners. I was experiencing all of them at the same time. I continued on. Throughout the day, I would see branch off single track trails that I would have gladly taken to mix things up a bit. The area was new to me, and the sights were great, especially during peak fall foliage season. I remember looking off to my right climbing up a hill and seeing nothing but a sea of yellow.

Danny met up with me for another mile or two, which helped me along. After another gradual incline, this one about 800 feet in 3 miles, and another descent, I approached AS10 roughly 40 miles in. This stretch was also along a paved road….

Tussey Mtn 50m 4

Earlier I commented that my experience that day could end up being a fight to the finish. I did not disappoint. The fight was definitely with my legs. The ultras I had done in the past month or so were finally catching up with me. Heavy, sore, achy, twitchy. You name it, my legs felt it. But hey, this was a 50 mile race. And I signed up for it. I accepted the fight with the legs as just another challenge and it was just what I wanted.

I got to the top of the last climb at mile 45 and felt relieved. Maybe it was because I knew I was going to complete it. Normally I would relish in a downhill finish, but I knew these last 5 miles were going to be painful. I thought of all that I had accomplished in the past few months and I was proud of myself. I ended up running/hiking the descent. Once at the bottom, I was able to run the last mile and a half to complete the race, about an hour slower than what I wanted.

As the wise man said, a great time is not always measured with a watch. I agree with that man. I’ve learned that over 10 + years of running and that’s one thing I’m most proud of knowing. I’m competitive. But sheer enjoyment reigns supreme over anything else. If I would measure my running happiness simply on how fast I ran an event, I would’ve given up on running long ago and would have taken up Nascar driving or something of the sort.

Run on, friends!