Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bucks Repeater....

As the fluctuations of 2015 continue, it is not all bad. Occasionally, there has been the upswing surprise. You could say this past weekend was one of them.

Not sure if the world has heard yet, but I repeated at champion at the Bucks County Marathon on Nov 15th that starts and finishes in Washington Crossing, PA. The skinny version is that I won in 2:39:00, slower than last year's record time of 2:31:53. To be honest, the 2:39 was a complete surprise.

Aside from one 20 miler in Sept when I was trying to push myself to be ready for Steamtown (we all know what happened or I should say didn't happen there), I had not done anything over 16 miles. Even then, they had only been the past two weekends prior. (1 @ 15miles, 1 @ 16miles) Part of trying to push was to gauge my ability to line up for Stone Mill 50 on the 14th which was a race I had been looking to. However, on many of my longer runs I've experienced tightness in my groin leading to a slowdown in the latter miles. Both of those long runs had this. What this resulted in was an email to the Stone Mill RD saying I would not be able to run it. I just did not feel I had 50 miles in me without something really bad happening. Call it my spider sense finally telling me to not do something stupid.

(In fact, the few weeks after the Steamtown decision, I have been focusing in on getting back to a good schedule of running right when I wake up. For too much of the year to circumstances, I had been trying to be flexible for sanity's sake. Since I've been pushing myself to get up and out 1st thing, I've been feeling better about many things. Sure, I may be tired but as I do it, my body will get back to where it was as the mind will be sharp.)

So what do I do? Something else potentially stupid. In talking with BCM RD, Pat McCloskey, I told him I was thinking of coming out but was not sure how I would do. He didn't care. I could have finished last. He just wanted me to come out and not be a wuss. Lets call that a swift kick in the pants. The type of kick I did need. I needed to really test myself without pressure. As those who know me, I have a good knack for applying lots of pressure on myself. It can be both good when there is confidence and bad when there is not. Thankfully, Pat's encouragement took the pressure off. Well with the exception of getting Bib #1.

One item, I've neglected to mention was that on the 14th, (day before), I signed up to run a 5K trail race put on by REI in Smithville, NJ. I wasn't going to do that hard just as a shake out run. More or less, it was a nice little run in a park I had not been. Went modest in terms of pace but helped me get loose for the next day.

Sunday morning, I got up and drove to the marathon. Pat mentioned a runner had put down 2:30 as a time. He didn't recall the name but I found it on the list and knew the guy was fully capable. Now where a bit of luck comes in....individual did not show. Hopefully, it was because he had found another race and not due to injury. I warmed up a tad as in to the bathroom and back before getting to the starting line. Before I knew it, we were off. And once we got 10 feet beyond the starting line, I was unchallenged. My first mile was sub 6! I felt comfy and told myself I was going to run comfortable and not look at my time every mile. In fact, I looked at my time at 10K, 10M and HM marks before looking again with 6 to go. Ok, so I did check one more time 3 minutes after the turnaround when I saw second to see how much of a lead I had. (6 minutes for those math majors at home.)

At the 20 mile mark, Pat asked how I felt. I may have uttered a verbal 'sucky' of sorts. I was holding together well but I felt my lack of distance and speed beginning to work against me. My last couple of miles into the finish were slower than 6:30. Amazingly, I held on to my pace pretty well. My second half was only 2 minutes slower than my 1:18:33 on the way out.

I'm very happy to have repeated as champ of this race. It seems like a good way to close out the fall.

May this be a sign that 2016 is going to be a good year. Some races are coming together......

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Abbreviating 2015 to leap ahead in 2016.

Three months.

Guess it has been a while since I've taken the time to write up anything here. You could say based on my year, it is a fitting. From a racing and training perspective, there have been patches that have been good and some that have been what we can say is not as good.

As I started writing this entry, my intentions was to do a play by play of those three months. However, with the way I am working to turn the page on the year and already look to 2016, I have opted to pop in for more of a reminder of 'Hey! I'm here!' To do a short summary, ES 100 was a DNF, SRT 74 Mile also a DNF and the SRT 20 Mile resulted in a big oops that added 1 1/2 hours worth of additional mileage. Steamtown Marathon resulted in a DNS decision on race morning. The last result there was made simply because knowing I could run 26.2 miles, my body and mind were not ready to RACE a marathon. Having tried to power through some of those other races (along with the other tough breaks from the year) I already knew what the reality was. Sure the timing was kind of poor and it likely cost me some payday, it was absolutely the right decision.

Not all has been bad. Some of the recent training has been nice. For the last week, it has been shorter (around an hour) runs on trails. Aside from a nasty spill, I took on Sunday it has been sheer joy just losing myself in the winding local trails a stone's throw from my house. Heck, some of the races have been fun. Winning the Alternative Half Marathon was a real joy. Especially since I got to run with my old friend Brian. Furthermore I got to see him PR! A victory at the Old School Trail Run was pretty awesome due to dropping the hammer on the first major downhill. I went all out like a madman moving from third to first with the move.There were a couple of other races but there is no need to rattle all of them off.

Sure more races are on the horizon. A few are scheduled but I'm not certain those are the races I will wind up doing. Why?

Following the decision to DNS at Steamtown, the biggest realization was that 2015 as a racing year aside from Umstead was a wash. Considering how life dealt a heck of a hand this year that definitely impacted my optimal training, packing away the expectations and just running for the rest of the year to establish a good base is the new objective. I'll do some races. I'd like to do some long trail races but at the same time, I want to keep the travel minimal. For the most part that is. I'm going to venture back up to Maine for some training before the calendar turns. Might even try another attempt up Mt Washington as long as it is not another day full of consistent 80 mile per hour wind.

All in all, from here on out it is about enjoyment. Being specific and sticking to a training plan is for the leap year. Right now, no need to take that leap right now. It is 2015, patience will shepard 2016 as it is meant to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ebb & Flow: Progession and Setbacks

Last year, in the midst of a very good year, I felt writing this blog was smooth. However, 2015 for the most part has been very different. It has been a struggle which is a good reflection of the running year in itself.

Aside from Umstead at the end of March, it has been incredibly tough going. And even that was considering I lost a month due to bronchitis in the winter. House hunting/buying/moving has consumed a large chunk of the last three months of focus. This has taken its toll and manifested in my conditioning (both mental and physical) and training. I've done a lot of running still but have had pockets where I had to completely scale back due to the stress causing anxiety that becomes exacerbated during running. Only for short spells it seems I have had good running periods. Around a month ago, I had a nice little period of good running as evidenced by how I felt at the Wissahickon Trail Classic. Since then, I did a few more races and learned I'm not out of the rut. Chasin for Chaflin resulted in a 3rd place finish that just felt sluggish. My climbing legs were gone despite having felt good about my ability coming in. Then, I had some good running up in Maine and NH finished off with a 50K upon my return in NJ.

I felt so good, I signed up for the Eastern States 100. Since then, I've been doing 80 miles weeks with the intention of putting one in this week as well and move into a taper being that ES is a month out. However, the past 5 days have been incredibly tough so this week might end up short. We have finally relocated into our new home. That has meant a lot of physical expenditure. I'm feeling it. Today, on a run-commute that normally is not much of a problem, I had to walk a few short spells. My body was telling me it was working too hard to manage all of its systems. It feels like a bad rut. Hopefully, it is short. I want to really get back to enjoying running. Being in a new home is wonderful but mentally and physically, I need to move beyond life being about the home process. It has now taken up more than 3 months of my year and cost me more than people realize. Not from a financial standpoint but from a standpoint of health which running plays an integral part of.

Let's put it this way, I NEED to move on. Sacrifice time is over.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Climbing Back - It's a Process

If you have been following lately, you might have figured I hit a bottoming out point around 3 weeks ago.

As a result, I made the decision a few weeks back to not race the recent Cayuga Trails 50. It was a race I was deeply looking forward to but I could not put myself in a situation that was likely to push me beyond the physical and mental capacities of the moment. In other words, it would have been too stressful.

So, I've been doing a little running, My mileage is maybe 30 a week. Basically, I am doing whatever I feel comfortable. As you may remember, I bottomed out by a lot of stress so for my health I scaled back massively. The month of May ended up being the lowest mileage month in over two years. Right now, June is on target to be less but that is okay by me. Why?

Well, the limited running I have been doing has been extremely enjoyable. You could say I stopped training so I can just go running. I've not been worried about mileage or pace. I've mainly been on trails. I'd say 90% of the distance has been on trail. Last week, here in the Philadelphia area, it got a little Northwestern with moisture and I had some fantastic runs. The type of runs, I didn't want to end but since they have been in the morning, did have to come home so I could go to work.

This past Sunday I did an hour on the trails. On the day before, I did a 10K trail race (Wissahickon Trail Classic) and took 4th. Considering everything, it felt like a really good performance. Three young studs took it out from the gun and all finished within a 30 second span. I was 2 minutes behind 3rd. Still despite things, I managed my fastest time in the event. Early on, I was outside the top 10 so I ran smart too. Made me really happy with my effort. I enjoyed it, especially since I decided the morning of to do it. As I am running when I feel like it is not stressful and will be fun, I have to wait until the last minute to see how I feel and that is fine. Call it being footloose and fancy free.

Basically, right now, taking it one day at a time is serving me well. Since I am doing some running, I am not losing too much so as I progress I'll be just fine fitness wise.

With my upcoming trip to Maine, I am looking forward to some long slow stuff on mountainous trails.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dealing with the Runner's High...

Yesterday’s entry was initially meant to be a stand-alone entry, however, during the course of some reflection after having written it, I think there is another element as a runner, I want to discuss: Addiction.

Some people are wired to have addictive personalities. In other words, for those programmed that way we become addicts in one way or another. Addictions can take many forms and for those suffering from seriously destructive ones, it is a constant struggle. (As a pop cultural aside, I highly recommend Elementary on CBS as Sherlock Holmes struggle with addiction is a present theme throughout the show. This past season dealt with it in some intense ways.)

You would think as a straight-edge vegetarian, I would be lacking in addictions. That is not the case, as I too have addictions. Mine might not necessarily be as destructive. (Lets face it all addictions are destructive on some level based on the nature of negative consequences.) For me, one of the addictions, I struggle with is an addiction to soda. Growing up in a household that was only slightly above living paycheck to paycheck, we had a lot of the ‘nutrition’ available you would expect in that type of home. This included lots of soda. In and of itself, soda is not necessarily a bad thing. Other factors can influence the outcome….

My particular home was far from what one would call ideal.  Yes, we had cable. But I had a 6 x 7 room where my mattress was just directly on the floor (it made my space roomier). I did not get a computer until the fall of 1996 and it was a used 286. It did serve its purpose of being a word processor. (Before then, I had to use an old typewriter that became increasingly difficult to get ribbon for.) I mention all of this because we hear how poor households are likely places to have poor dietary habits and medical issues as a result. Despite where I am in life, you could say I am proof.

All of the content in the previous paragraph were components in a very stressful household. We made the best of things and I got a lot from my formative years. Yet, it was an environment that was not good for me. Once in 6th grade, I had a meltdown in the hallway regarding a group math assignment. My perception of it included feeling like I had to do extra work. Well you could imagine, in stressful environments, we search for comfort. Since soda felt like a real treat, it created a perfect avenue for addiction by way of a coping mechanism. That is just exactly what it became. Greater stress = more soda. When Code Red Mountain Dew came out… one point, I was downing 2 liters a day. I’ve struggled a lot with keeping this addiction in check. 6 years back, I decided to cut out coffee and soda at the same time. Doing both was helpful for a good while. I still haven’t had coffee since the day I stopped. However, soda came back after a few years. I do not drink nearly as much as I used to but recently I realized a huge correlation of stress with soda (and energy drink) consumption. Since then, I have begun to really push the urge to have a soda down. One of the ways I have done this is by having a tea in the morning instead of a large cold sugary drink. And I am not a fan of tea unless it is iced. My day began to have an association of starting with an energy drink. So in order to battle one addiction, I am replacing it with another routine.

What does this have to do at all with running? Well, running was another outlet to combat stress through high school. Having success and joy through running created another avenue to be addicted as a result of acting as a coping mechanism. Since running is known to help reduce stress this is great for most people. For me, this was also my real means of social interaction at the time. And if it was not for my stepdad, I would have never had this avenue. (Running has been very good to me.) So for addictive personalities, the sensation of happiness gets tied to a specific set of parameters.
So while running has given me goals to strive for those goals themselves have become a sensation to aim for. This is both constructive and destructive in addicts. To play out the statement “You are only as good as your last race”, if that race is not good, I want to immediately go find that good sensation. And even if it is good, I want to feel it again. I don’t think this is far off for many people for who running is an escape whether it is competitively or recreationally.

To tie this all into yesterday’s entry, while knowing I should not be running anything major that may act as a stressor, I want to get out and race. And that is because the addict in me says feeling that high will erase that stress. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Inconsistency 2015: Anxiety, Stress, Change and Stubborness Amongst the Miles

So the title of this post is a bit long winded much like this might be....strap yourself in as we delve into the mind of a thickheaded numb-skull. (If you haven't guessed, who that last part refers to, it is this guy. :::points to self despite you not being able to see it:::)

Since Umstead I have not written here with the exception of one entry that I have since deleted. It served its personal purpose but I felt it was not appropriate for sharing. Some of the same themes will be mentioned here so you will not have missed anything.

If you have been following my escapades this year, you know it has been a completely mixed back of results and training. Prior to Umstead, I had a second place at Phunt followed by a DNF at Batona followed by a month of bronchitis setting up a wonderful DNF at Black Canyon. I topped off that series with an epic 3rd place at Ugly Mudder losing in the last 100 meters because I lost some footing after having broke trail for the majority of the race. Not long after, I started righting the ship getting in weeks of good training and having some positive small local 5K results in the lead up to Umstead. 

Since Umstead, I've been running but doing it like a blockhead. Race wise, I've won two 10K's and the Mt Penn Mudfest 15K. However, the past two ultras have resulted in another pair of DNF's at Rock the Ridge and Dirty German Endurance Fest (both while being signed up for the 50M distance.) With Rock the Ridge, piriformis issues led to a drop at mile 23-ish. While feeling comfortable about the decision as a couple years back, I had to stop running for about a month as I pushed through a similar issue until I could not walk without a limp. Didn't want to go there this time. On the downside, it was a great course and for the most part of the day, the temps were perfect. I mention this because just yesterday at Dirty German, I dropped out after 34 miles. Primarily, the heat and my head did me in. DG is a 3 loop course run in Philadelphia's Pennypack Park. Most of the course is shaded which is a plus. However, with temps starting at 70 moving into the 80's with humidity near 100%, it made it a tough day. On my first lap, I did my best to run smoothly. I felt I was not overdoing it. I was even taking it easy on the short climbs by hiking them. However, really early into my second loop, I felt like I was redlining to keep any sort of pace. Going into such a spot so soon, mentally broke me with physically dismantled me...

For about two months now, my stress has been high due to things at work and home. Since the things are connected they have been compounding each other. Think of it as exponentially increasing stress. Factor in potential change and a tidalwave might as well hit. Each of us have our pluses and minuses. One of my minuses is reaction to change even small things like moved furniture and compounding stress. I've gotten better over the past 7 years with change. Stress is a different story. I am a compartmentalizer if you will. As a highly analytic person, I keep balance by placing each thing in tidy little boxes. Disruptions to the organization can be shocks to the system. Furthermore, being more introverted enhances the effects. It's self-analytical scrambling to put the pieces back. Now, this may make me sound rather frail. And in some ways when the weight becomes too much I am. But one of my positives is my capacity to endure. I do think that has to be a requirement to be an ultrarunner or any type of runner for that matter. 

Normally, the mere act of running would help reduce the stress. What makes this current stretch different is that my stress levels are the highest they have been since mid 2004. While running usually benefits, the timing, I believe has left me behind the eight-ball. The wise thing to have done after Umstead would be to take it easy on myself running. Yet, the presence of stress put me in a position that I needed to run. But the runs were not helping. All I would think about was the stress. Eventually, I would periodically experience some symptoms of anxiety during my runs in addition to 'daily-life'. 

This came to a head yesterday at Dirty German.....once I started having trouble, my inner-tyrant, took hold as I started to think about the non-running stressors. This brought me down enough mentally that it had a physical impact. Couple that with the heat and I was in trouble. What ended up happening was not pretty. I run my second lap at a pace 3 minutes slower per mile. I think it also was my worst 50K split. I began to worry about my ability to finish the race where I was mentally. As a result, I pulled the plug.

Now, the act of taking another DNF smarts too because it feeds a negativity the inner-tyrant can grab hold to. So right now, I have to resist the urge to cave to its whispering.

Upon arriving home from the venue, yesterday, I took a look at why I am having these results and it boils down to sheer stubborness. By putting my nose to the grindstone thinking running would magically make all of my stress manageable, I set myself up for failure. Or I should say a harsh lesson. As a result, I've come to a conclusion that right now, I need to adjust my running to alleviate stress. And that actually means reduce the running intensity at the moment. The biggest aspect of my schedule is knowing that I should not run Cayuga Trails 50 despite being signed up. (Viaduct is also possibly out.) It is a tough realization since I had to drop from injury last year. However, I do feel I could be on the border of Overtraining Syndrome if I keep going as how I have been. So my training for at least a few weeks is going to be next to nothing. Or simply when I feel like it will be enjoyable. This may mean small races or might mean no racing at all.

Take the step back to move forward.....

(And for the record, this entry is not about me making excuses but coming to a realization. I want to add that at the end of the day, I'm where I am in this because I made the decisions that led to this.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Umstead 100 - A long time....

As you may have guessed if you are one of the three people who semi-regularly check this blog (which is more than I even do and I write on it), things have been a little light in the britches lately. Well fear no more, I'm alive and ready to thrill you with a wonderful crafted or awful (you decide), entry about what might have turned out to be a journey for the mountaintop.

Since this has now turned into a vision quest, I might as well take you back in time for a moment. (Or a marathon, possibly an ultra if I get really long-winded.)

If you remember from the latter half of last year, I attempted my first 100 miler in July at Viaduct and that included an epic 10+ hour break at mile 90. You know when I hit 13 1/2 hours and sat down at a road cross because I did not think I could make it 3 miles to the aid station so I got a ride to the start/finish. And then around dawn with race director permission went back out for the finish. That was quite the experience because I succeeded but failed at the same time in a really tough way that I didn't really consider what I did finishing a 100 mile. However, what came out of that experience were friendships and connections that definitely bound to impact me.

After taking pride but struggling with Viaduct, I toyed a bit with the idea of finding another 100 on a fast flatter course. Eventually I shelved that idea until around the time of registration for the Umstead 100. It was not even on my radar as a thought. And this is where some of the connections from Viaduct started to kick in......

Following Viaduct, I joined up with a group you may have heard by now called Trail WhippAss through my friend Maggie along with Dylan and KenTom (both of whom helped me with the 100 mile finish at Viaduct without even knowing me). A fellow member of the group, Jacqueline started talking about the race and how it sells out so quickly and alerting everyone interested in registration. She started planting a seed since I had not considered Umstead. And in fact, general registration opened and closed before I moved towards signing up. Yet, you could say I was getting caught up in the joy of others registering that I explored if I had options. Amazingly, I did. The race offered extended registration for 10 competitive entry slots. Opting to roll the dice, I contacted the race director Rhonda Hampton asking them to take a chance on me. The folks at Umstead agreed to let me in as one of the competitive slots. At this just got real.

Unlike my previous 100 experience and actually for the first time in my ultra career, I was going to bring a crew. And I was going to bring the best crew possible which led to Maggie and KenTom. KenTom was Maggie's crew chief at Viaduct and highly experienced in steering ships. Maggie is a great friend and agreed to come aboard to not only crew but pace. Rounding out the team, eventually referred to as Team Peggatom was my partner, Peg. She literally was putting the Peg in Peggatom. In the 7+ years, we have been together, Peg has witnessed a lot of my running successes and failures. She knows me the best and could provide a level of knowledge that is crucial for KenTom and Maggie.

Everything was in place....I had an early 2015 schedule lining up with Phunt, Batona, Black Canyon and some other small races all primed to be progressive steps towards Umstead. And then the calendar rolled....

I'll put it this way, much of 2015 has felt like a miserable sh*tshow. For what seemed reason after reason, the year was not going well for me. All the 2015 stuff through Black Canyon you have been able to read here. Following Black Canyon, I signed up for a local trail race called the Ugly Mudder which had several inches of snow fall on it a few nights beforehand. Despite leading most of the race, thus breaking trail for the giant single file, on the last hill I lost some traction and wound up in third place. It felt like a dagger in the heart. Then following, I had a 5K race that felt just horrible from organization and time perspectives. Other races were being canceled and scheduled. Not helpful when I needed something to right the ship. February and March in Philadelphia have been absolutely full of below average temps.

Around this time, I just needed to kind of go dark. I stopped talking about my racing and really Umstead at all. Basically, I put my nose to the grindstone. I cranked out mileage and increased intensity in late Feb and early March to bring my conditioning up. The bronchitis really took a huge toll on my base and legspeed.

However, ready or not, Umstead was coming. Two weeks prior, I crafted a long specific as I could make it email covering all sorts of needs to my crew. That was helpful in starting to put together the items necessary for race day. A week out from the race, I packed 98% of the items for Umstead. The missing components were the matzo ball soup and grits which I was going to make mid-week.

Come the day before the race, Peg and drove out to Maggie's house where we loaded up KenTom's Suburu for the long drive. Weather was not ideal on Friday so it took longer to get to Raleigh, NC than expected. So much so we almost missed bib pick-up on Friday. Thankfully, we did not and I was able to grab my bib before going to the Embassy Suites. Originally, the plan was to stay in some of the cabins but with how winter was I booked a hotel room just in case. And based on lows in the 30's for Friday/20's for Saturday and the moisture in the air, I'm happy to have had a good back-up plan.

Since I checked-in online, it was a breeze to get up to our room. At this point, I was left to my own devices as Peg, Maggie and KenTom went to meet Jacqueline at a local eatery for dinner. My meal for the evening was Saag Paneer with rice. Eating in the room, allowed me to not be out forcing me to rest a bit. Never a bad thing, I say. Eventually, the crew returned and I went over some or my bag organization before we all hit the hay until our 4am rise and shine. I was up a bit before 4 but I got a relatively good sleep not waking up to think about the race whereas with Black Canyon I did.

We rolled into Umstead State Park as part of a giant caravan of cars found our parking spot and proceeded to haul my gear up for a spot to set-up. I asked a volunteer were I could set up and was pointed over towards a spot near the bathroom along the start line. Perfect, I thought. Note: Thought. (You'll understand why in a few.) Hit the bathroom, prepped my first round of bottles filled with Tailwind and went over one final time specifics with the crew. As I also set up a chair, I told Maggie, don't let me sit in it. Since we had 20-30 minutes still, we all went inside the race HQs building where I sat next to the fire all nervous. Like really nervous. Despite having some serious time goals, the 100 mile distance scared me because of what happened at Viaduct. Was 100 going to be too much for my body to handle? I got pretty quiet. The competitors I knew of before the race were Mark Manz and Hal Koerner. A couple of minutes before 6am, everyone lined up for the start to go off in the darkness.

...And we went.

One runner took off like he was shot out of a cannon! I knew better than chase him especially so early on. I have no idea who he was but he had a bib of 10 which told me, he had been to this dance before. As we rolled through the hills of the park, the sun started to rise. Some conversation was shared but eventually for me turned into silence. In a park with lots of users and a couple of hundred people running a race, I was isolated. I'm used to it. Early on with energy it doesn't feel too bad. That energy lasted about 3 laps. However, prior to then something major happened. Apparently, I had not set up in a good spot. (This is why I mentioned 'thought' earlier.) My crew had to move my gear so when I came in to finish the first lap and start my second, I was thrown really off. I planned on hitting my bag. Instead I was in and out after nothing more than a bottle swap. One in which I did not realize I drank less than I thought.  I did manage to strip a shirt layer, headlamp and gloves on the u-turn and pass them off.

Lap 2 felt almost identical to the first lap. I was hitting pace, feeling good. Only difference was the sun was out and I was one layer lighter. I did pause this loop to pee. Color was like lemonade so all was good. Or so I thought. I still was not drinking enough as I would be told over and over. Motto of the day became 'You need to drink more. You need to eat more.' I did manage to eat this time on the transition of lap 2 to lap 3. Last time, I was so thrown off I did not grab the PB&J I required opting to not stop and turn back. But this time it was ready and so was I. I thought to myself, at least I got that right this time.

Lap 3 is really were my race changed. It was here that my pee break was darker. Like coke with water. I knew something was going to need to change or my day would be done. This woke me up to drinking more and more. It became finish more of my bottle. Heck, try to finish all of the bottle. My crew was reinforcing that increasingly as the day went on. But what really broke me was the sight of people walking up hills in groups. It was not bad they were. Heck, I probably should have done that earlier and even now. But the Umstead course is far from flat. It is constantly rolling so I did not want to sacrifice at that point. So I started to think and mentally crack a little. I was not beginning to enjoy this much. In fact, a clear sign was when my crew asked me as I was about to head out for lap 4, how I was feeling. My reply: 'This sucks'. In fact, I think it might have been on this lap, I cursed how much I did not like things and apologized to some other people cheering.

It was on lap 4, Hal strode up aside me and asked if I knew who the first person was. I told him I had no idea but said 'Maybe he is just doing 50'. And like that Hal cruised away as I could not go. I had to walk. I had been broken. This lap was filled with lots of little walk breaks. Despite being on target pace for the first 3 laps, I knew the plan was now, get through 50 and take it from there. Towards the end of the fourth lap, I told myself if the leader and Hal went out, I was going to drop and just accept a 50 mile time. This too went out the window as on the way in, a terrific older man who was so supportive even using Mike, told me that John dropped at 50. My only thought: F*ck.

During the transition, I told my crew, do not expect anymore sub 2 hour laps. My last one in fact had been over 2 hours. Now, in addition to the PB&J's, I was consuming Matzo Balls and Veggie Broth. But here on out, my crew was stepping up big time. Maggie told me the plan was now to meet me at AS2 since I could now pick up pacers. She was going to pace me the back half of the loop. What this did was make me want to not let down my crew and have them waiting for me. I moved as best I did. It was this single aspect that likely saved my entire race. Eventually, I got to the aid station where they were waiting. I told Maggie it was going to be slower than we originally discussed. I was going to be walking some of the hills. I did tell her my pee was back to lemonade. Because this is one of those things you discuss. Her company was helpful and got me through the lap. On the repeated portion of the course, I didn't see Hal so I figured he was well up on me at the 100K mark. He's incredibly experienced and this is in only my second go at this distance. And then this happened.....

After dropping Maggie off, eating more food and starting the climb out of the spectatory start/finish area, I got news I had moved into first. Hal apparently had come in only 10 minutes before me with some issues and not gone out yet. But this was Hal and I was suffering. More or less, I did not believe it. Yet, it gave me a little jolt...

In fact, my 6th lap was my 4th fastest of the day. This was in due part to getting an extra pacer for about 4.5 - 5 miles. Oddly enough, a runner strode up near me and asked if I could use the company. I did. Turns out it was a small world experience. His name was Mike too. Also attended Rutgers, is from NJ and lived in Philly! Furthermore, he was at the race to pace Hal. Sadly, this meant Hal's day was done. Now with my position confirmed, it was now, wanting to finish this lap in the lead. Mike's presence really helped. We motored and chatted away. Our pace was quick enough KenTom had to help Maggie strip quickly for the transition. Thankfully, Peg being able to see me coming down the hill to announce it helped move that along. Having them there really was pushing me through. At this point, I thanked Mike for the help. KenTom tried to offer me a bottle swap which I declined. I knew if I stayed with the same bottle that I knew what I was drinking. My aim was to finish a bottle a lap. The back half with Maggie was much of the same as our last lap. But it was steady as she goes and we were going. I told her, I wanted to finish this lap at least in the lead. That goal was done but now I was going to be alone for a full lap.

See originally, the goal was to have a pacer lap 6 and 8. Maggie was going to be the closer since she too has a huge race coming up. Something little like being a member of Team USA at the 24 hour World Championships. I tried to get a local pacer for lap 6 and that did not work out as hoped. So I was going to be alone for lap 7 all along. Yet, I did plan to be headed into the lap a little earlier and feeling better. Neither being the actuality.

Lap 7 was hard. I was going to see everyone at AS2 but I was doing this solo. At least knowing they were there made me do my best to get to them which kept me from not walking. I also knew I had to move as the same older gent from before told me Dan, who was in second with the most fabulous beard ever (sorry Rob Krar), was a good closer. I did not want to find that out the hard way. One of the most memorable things about the race occurred going into AS2. On the approach there is a chair, which at times had someone present. This was one of those times. And the woman sitting informed me 'my fan club was waiting for me'. I did do an extra bottle swap this time but I did turn down a Veggie Burger from KenTom. My thought was, 'Is he crazy?'. Instead I took more Matzo Ball and broth. As I moved onto my nemesis. Being on the back half of the course, which I hated and I am sure hated me alone was not as bad for this lap. I moved on some of the hills a little better than my walk the prior few laps. Lap 7 was in the bag.

Leading the race now moved from, I am leading this to, I might win this damn thing. Picking up Maggie, I consumed my last bit of Matzo and veggie broth.  KenTom and Peg were ready to leave for AS2 but I stopped them. I said they would not see my finish if they did that. I was going to finish after 8pm when the gate only is open for 15 minutes on the hour. They had forgotten that. Yet, somehow I managed to.

For the start of the final loop, it was still light out but darkness was approaching. With darkness meant cold, which told me to finish this damn thing. On the Airport Spur, I was on the lookout for Dan. If I saw him before I the 2 mile marker, I was going to be really worried. However, that was not the case. I had what I estimated around 20 minutes up on him. (In reality it may have been more but when you are told someone is a good closer, you crap your pants and think about the smallest gap possible.)  The lead made me think I had a shot but not to let up. Maggie and I went as hard as I could doing my best to put more damage in. After the 3 mile point, I did mention that it was now officially the farthest I went without stopping referencing the Viaduct experience. Maggie also was now going to see the other part of the course since she was pacing me all of eight. In my head, I was going mile by mile trying to hit each one under 10. After that horrible 4th lap, despite telling the team expect no laps under 2 again, all of them had been. Yet, now, I was just holding on. My tank was empty and I was running on guts really beginning to want the win. We got through 9.5 mile of the loop before it got truly dark. But it also meant we got through the hardest part. And in my head I am thinking, hold 10's and you win this. While it felt like I may have been moving faster I wasn't. My body really was out of gas. Eventually, we hit the last major hill on the course (all the hills were major at this point but this was the longest one.) I had Maggie turn back to see if the headlamp behind us was catching up thinking it was possibly Dan. She said no. Whew. I really thought it was. You could say I was thinking how I lost Ugly Mudder at the last moment 100ft from the finish. Not the case this time.

I came up that final stretch to the finish full of emotion. I really was about to win a major 100 mile race in a pretty good time. Not my intended time but a good enough one.

As I approached the line, I was asked for my number and I said 'your winner, 89'. And like that I crossed screamed in excitement (it was either that or I cry) victorious at the 2015 Umstead 100.

Two days later and I am still in disbelief about the turnout of the race.

As a funny note, because of the time I finished, my crew grabbed my gear so we could catch the 9pm gate opening. I would have loved to stay but I needed a hot tub at the hotel before it closed. (Only knock on the room was it had a shower only.) Thankfully, I got to spend 10 minutes or so before leaving.

My success at Umstead would not have been accomplished without a lot of support. In addition to all my friends that constantly have my back, there are a few that need some extra love today. First on that list is Peg for who words can do no amount of justice. Maggie for her belief in me and being just a great friend. KenTom, you are the crew chief of all crew chiefs. Jacqueline for planting the seed. Carl & Dave from Viaduct, you two started me on this ultra path by allowing me into the 50 mile back in 2012 and for having a 100 mile that I learned so much from. Trail WhippAss for being one big crazy family. And lastly the organizers at Umstead for their willingness to give me one of the competitive slots. I hope I did you all proud.