Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some things go according to plan.....others become a disaster

In this latest installment of my running life, you could say that we've entered the Twilight Zone. Last time, my 50K was spot on awesome. This past weekend it was awesome in the sense of it being a hot mess.

For a brief spell, I traveled down to Florida to participate in the Iron Horse Endurance Runs. In looking for a good 100K, I opted to make the pre-Valentine's trip down to Florahome, FL. Historically, it has had a lot of participants, was relatively cheap and easy to get to and the course has had some good times put up on it over the years. All key factors if I want to run a quick time at something other than a local race. (As you might have guessed, I'm still trying to get out of the immediate Philadelphia area some for ultra racing.) Furthermore, considering I had a good time down in Florida last year at the Swamp 50K in Palm Coast, I figured why not repeat things.

Aside from my nerves going through airport security and pre-race week jitters, I was feeling dialed in for a good performance. Sure, the 80 degree temps worried me. Saying otherwise would be foolish knowing I have a history of not performing well when it gets what my body deems too hot. (Also, one of the factors of why I do not have intentions on doing Western States.) Opting to fly down on Southwest, I was able to arrive in Orlando at 8pm. Now I had a two hour drive ahead of me so I had rented a car with Enterprise. To save a few bucks, I opted for the click and they pick. Sleeping plans were to crash in the rental unless it was too small. Sure I could have rented a mini-van straight away but that would have been 150 bucks more. Yet, to my surprise, I was able to get a mini-van for 88 bucks when I arrived. Everything upon arrival in the airport goes well until I leave the Enterprise area. The Kia Sedona I was driving, well I did not drive it so well (despite it being the same model I used last year) and scraped it on the bollard leaving. My heart sank. Of course this is happening to me at this moment. I was instructed to switch out the vehicle, yet in order to do that I needed to know my deductible. That meant calling home. Thankfully, Peg was able to be reached quickly and she found that out for me and confirm our policy covered rental cars. This was a relief. I knew it but when in a moment of crisis, it helps to be reaffirmed. Of course, I tell the lady at the counter who replaced the gent before and she tells me I need a claim number. So now I have to get on the phone and I'm barely holding it together. Actually I don't think I was holding it together much.  Still after a hugely stressful hour delay, I was in another mini-van and back on the road. I made a brief stop at Walmart for supplies since I knew they would be open.  Eventually I got into Florahome at around midnight. Later than I wanted but in a vehicle I could sleep in and at the start area so that allowed me to stay in as much as possible.

Well....except this was not a time of great sleep. For some reason I was not all that comfy. I was in and out of sleep but happy to be getting some rest. Thursday night had been a good night of sleep and I knew that was more important for the task at hand.

Around 5:45, I woke up and went to the bathroom nearby. Got changed into my gear and then headed over to the start/finish area to set up my chair with my bottles and everything else I might need. For the 100K, I was going to rely on the same gatorade/water mix as last race along with gummy bears. I also had ShotBlocs and Coke at the ready for consumption. I had extra socks, singlet, sunglasses. I was ready. Around 6:35 the race brief started and I sat down to do my best to rest a little more. It was at the brief that I saw fellow Trail Whippass'er Mary Harvey. She's the one who helped put Iron Horse in my ear as an option for my 100K. Around this time, I also saw Frank Alessandrini who I ran against and with at Swamp last year. He also was pulling sleep in a vehicle duty.

Around 7am, we're lined up and sent on our way down the paved multi-purpose trail for 1.75 miles to a turnaround. This was all feeling fine. We pass through the start/finish area and I grab some gummies and one of my Nathan Handhelds. for the remained of my first 25 mile loop. At a shade under 6 miles we get off the pavement and onto a sandy power-line easement trail. Things instantly become tougher on the sections with more loose sand. Eventually, we pass the primary during the loop aid station (which we hit 3 times per loop) and I feel good. And for the most part, I feel good for the first 15 miles. Then I start to get a feeling like I need to stop to urinate. This is always not a good feeling. I do to relieve the pressure and then continue running just fine. Except now I'm thinking of my body functions more. Usually, I have a series of actions before a race start that one did not occur this particular morning. Anyways, I can put it in the back of my mind and continue. I see Mary at the aid station for her second time as I'm hitting it for my third. At this point, we are back on the power line. Around here is when the wheels begin to come off. The power line is the sandiest portion of the whole course and it hates me. Behind my right knee, I start to get some discomfort. Not horrible but bad enough to give me pause. Well, for the remaining 4 miles of my 25 mile loop, I'm walking/running trying to work this discomfort out. Now while, I gave up the overall lead (to the 50M runner who had been behind me buy a few minutes), I still managed to hit 3:07 for 25 miles. A shade faster than I wanted but considering it was cool for most of this loop, I expected it to be quick. Yet, now I really was having problems. I was not shaking the discomfort in my knee. For the 1.75 segment, I was doing 98% walking. For the 3.5 miles back to the start/finish line, it took me 40 minutes. Ouch. Still I thought the walking would shake out the discomfort, so I began to run again. Well, that did not last more than 400 meters. My knee was not happy.

Instead of going out farther, I went back to my gear, put some Tiger Balm on the back of my right knee and set Peg a message making her aware of the situation. I then went to lay down in the mini-van for a spell thinking maybe that would help.....(right before this, I saw Frank and told him of my ills, he was now leading the 100K)

Nope.

Not my day.

So after 28.5 official miles, I called it a day. The race personnel tried to get me to head back out but it had been almost 90 minutes since I had finished 25 miles. If things hadn't got better in that span, I knew it was not worth continuing. What I needed to think about was the rest of my year. Merely finishing now had the potential to put me on the shelf. Now if it was going to be a world leading PR, I might have thought that a reasonable price to pay. However this was not about to be the same case here.

Peg suggested to me that I come home that night instead of the next morning. I checked flights on my fancy Google Fi phone I use during travel and was able to get Southwest for 115. I took it. I would now be home at 10pm. It was hardly noon yet so I still could hang around to see Mary. When I saw her a bit after the 5 hour mark, she too was having a rough day. When she came back after her 3.5 out and back, I joined her for some walk and talk. (Since that was her pace at the moment.) It enriched my day some. After walking out to the power line, I turned back for the lonely portion of the walk in the hot sun. During the out with Mary, we saw the 50 mile winner come in but at no other other point, did I see any other finisher. The heat was taking its told.

Once, I got back to the area, I had everything packed up and hit the road to the airport for a too early end of my trip. But it was wise to leave early. After the emotional night before, sleeping in my home felt wonderful. Everything on the way home was smooth. I passed out much of the flight on the plane. Quite possibly could have been a food coma from the Chipotle Sofritas Burrito I had at the airport. (Which by the way was the most affordable airport food I've ever encountered!)

Since the weekend, I've spent part of Monday feeling emotionally up and down because of the incident with the car coupled with a not so great performance. I've not run since Saturday but have biked into the office and back. With it being colder, I've been wearing compression pants but also adding a slip-on knee brace on my right knee. Sunday and Monday, the knee still felt off, it has gotten better the past two days but with a 50K Two weeks from this Saturday, I'm going to be smart and err on the side of caution. I'll resume running maybe over the holiday weekend. I'll focus on keeping fitness mainly.

What does this mean moving forward? Well, I had been considering a 100 miler in April but might decide to run a road 100K again (hated it the first time I attempted it) in a time goal. Either way, both of those will be close enough to drive 4-5 hours and not need to spend a huge amount of money on travel. I'd like to do one more travel race in the fall so to space it out I need to not spend all the money now.

Also, right now, I'm in a bit of limbo. Due to a transition at Montrail to Columbia Montrail, I am aware of my status with them. I've been honored to have represented them in 2015 and 2016. They believed in me and stuck by me in the rough 2015 year. I feel like I delivered well for them in 2016 and was excited to represent them in 2017. I was informed of a new contact who I reached out to on a number of occasions in the past couple of months with no reply. Maybe it is the email address I've been sending from. Maybe they have not been getting them. I'm not sure. Everything about the shoes, I still love. My primary reason for sharing this is because it feels bad to not know and not hear from anyone. And I really do not feel like it is right to be silent about it anymore. If part of my role as an athlete with a blog and presence (however minor that is) is to be honest with myself and you the reader, it deserves to be known.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Angela Ivory Memorial - 50K (It's all about the Fat Ass)


In the past couple of years, I kicked off racing in the form of running PHUNT down in Fair Hill, Maryland. Since I'm trying to spice things up a little for 2017, I opted to run a 50K Fat Ass down in Delaware called Angela Ivory Memorial. Previously, for the first two years, it was known as the Eugene Bruckert 50K, after one of the organizers.

(PHUNT was the week prior to this event. I went to Fair Hill on PHUNT Day and did a loop of the course before the racing there started. This also reminded me of my love/hate relationship with Fair Hill.)

While Fair Hill was only around an hour from my house, the location for this run was around an hour and forty five minutes from me. This was going to be my first time at Killens Pond State Park. A couple of years back I ran a 50K at Trap Pond State Park. Now, if someone can organize one at Lums Pond State Park, I can hit the trilogy.

Because the start was also earlier than PHUNT, I had to leave much earlier. I was out the door before 6am for the drive down. Thankfully, the drive was nice and smooth. Once I got off of I-95 which had a good amount of traffic, I was able to use the cruise control. When I arrived at the main entrance to the park around 7:30, there were about 6 vehicles waiting to get in. The gate was still locked! Nobody worried. We all hung out patiently waiting for it to be opened.

Originally slated for an 8:00am start, it got pushed back a tad. It didn't seem to bother anyone. After all this was a fat ass race. We all were gonna be recording our times on a sheet of paper and fueling ourselves. It is nice to have a loosely organized care free run now and again.

Weather wise, it was overcast, damp, foggy but ideal running temps.

For the course, we would be running multiple loops of the Nature Trail with an out and back spur that was the start/finish area. (Basically a lollipop loop that most of it was not the stick.) While the trail loop itself is 2.6 miles, this spur was long enough to bring the distance to 3.1 miles per loop. There were two distances people were running: 50K and 50M. I was there to do the 50K, I had 10 loops to do.

After some instructions, we were off going loopy. Knowing there were a few junctions to keep an eye out for, I kept conservative for the first lap as we were following just the parks own markings. And with doing multiple laps, I got to look around some in the sense I might notice something new each lap. I'd say it was due to the weather creating a nice what I like to call a Pacific Northwest feel, I loved running at Killens Pond. The loop was short enough that I felt it hard to get in a negative head space because if I ventured there, soon enough the loop would be over. In terms of a description, it was on the whole very flat but very forested, except for the short road shoulder section between the boat launch and Nature Center.

Since we were doing loops, I opted to take my splits. My method for each split was, I come in and get aid and start the next split when I leave the start/finish area. Due to each lap only be a 5K, I decided to start out with no handheld. My nutrition plan for this event was to go old school: Gatorade, Coke and Gummy Bears. I had set up a 20oz bottle of Coke, a bag of Haribo Gummy Bears, two handhelds and 20oz bottle all filled with diluted Gatorade.

While my plan was to pick up a handheld after the first lap, I decided to push myself and just took a swig of Gatorade from the 20oz along with a small handful of gummies that I jammed in my mouth. I kind of squirreled the gummies like I usually do with my ShotBlocs. Considering, I'll be doing some traveling for races, I feel like I should really try to use what is easy to acquire in places, so I can fly with less. This is what led me to the fueling plan used at Angela Ivory.

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I stuffed nearly a whole bag of these in my face during the 50K

In the end, I actually never did a single lap with a handheld. For the first 5 laps, I hit the 20oz bottle of Gatorade because I expected at some point I'd grab one of my Nathan bottles. Once it was clear, I was likely not going to do that for any loop, I drank out of the handhelds. I began to save time as I was not twisting a 20oz bottle cap. (It was a reused Coke bottle.) My slowdown became reaching into the gummy bear bag and grabbing the colorful squishy yummies. At no time, did I hit the Coke. Not fully surprising as historically I don't drink it during a race but last year during a few races notably Boulder Field and Brazos Bend, I took it from aid stations later in my run.

One of the great luxuries of this run was that the distance was short enough per loop, you were always coming across people. And since we were not restricted to one direction, it really allowed people to keep their running feeling fresh. I will point out that I kept in the same direction the whole time. I liked being able as I got later and later into the run to have markers of how I was doing comparatively to past loops and distance to the start/finish.

To avoid keeping you in suspense on how I did, below are my splits from the run

  • 21:46
  • 20:35 (42:21)
  • 20:36 (1:02:58)
  • 20:12 (1:23:11)
  • 19:40 (1:42:51)
  • 19:51 (2:02:43)
  • 19:15 (2:21:58)
  • 19:11 (2:41:10)
  • 19:18 (3:00:29)
  • 18:32 (3:19:01)
Yes, you see the final cumulative time correctly. 3:19:01 It is my second fastest 50K following my 3:18:32 at Rosaryville in my debut at the distance. I've run a handful in the 3:20's but not in the past two years (due to the specific races I ran and more other distances). 

Also, you'll notice that I got faster the later into the run I got. Once that pattern began to emerge after 5 laps, I went for negatively splitting it and trying to keep getting a little faster. Sure, it was a FA, I was running but once I saw I got possible dip under 3:20, I definitely pushed that final 5K.  

Amazingly, as I finished the organizers, Jeff and Gene, were in the midst of their own loop end/start. Talk about timing! They awarded me a Milestone Pod courtesy of Nancy Rowe and Milestone Sports. Nancy was also around then too and we had a small chat that only reveals the small world that is ultrarunning. 

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I know a few cool kids with this.

Due to the weather being a tad damp, I didn't stay around my beyond a half hour post finish before hoping in the truck for the trek home. However, one final notable conversation was with Ryan Goverts who partially blamed me for his ultrarunning. He had no plans on doing one and then attended the Philadelphia Runner Ultra Talk featuring Rebecca Barber, Iain Ridgway, Jim Blandford, Maggie Guterl and myself. Again, small world! And nice to know that our talk helped inspire someone.

If you are ever looking to get in miles in foggy damp weather, I highly recommend loops down at Killens Pond State Park in Delaware. And my Montrail FluidFlex II's did a wonderful job on all the surfaces be them woodchips, pavement, dirt, road or the wet wooden bridges. I managed to keep warm for the first five laps wearing an extra oops later of shorts and a tech tee. I shed the tech tee after lap 5 since I was beginning to get a little sweaty. All in all, the end, I geared it just right to get the time I did.

Now, before I end this post for the day, I would like to discuss something beyond the running world. If you do not wish to read something topical, you may want to stop. If you have an open mind, please continue on.

I'd like to take a moment to appreciate all the people (and especially the women) who participated in political activities over the weekend. You are bringing vital issues to the table (no matter the side) and hope that as a society that we all can come together to have conversations with lasting impacts that benefit all of us. It may be a painful process and get ugly at times but my belief in humanity leads me to hope in the end we'll all feel in it together. Struggles are real. While they take different shapes for different people, struggles are struggles. We must understand each other without degrading each other.

As Abraham Lincoln shared with us in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: "Be Excellent to Each Other"

Image result for be excellent to each other abraham lincoln

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Closing the chapter on 2016....it wasn't a dumpster fire of running.

As my finals days as a 36 year old come to a close, it is fitting to sit back and reflect on the past year running wise.

(Since my birthday is a mere few days before the end of year, I can get away with this as an end of age and year review.)

If you recall my views on my 2015 from a racing/running perspective, you’ll remember I thought it was sub-par. You’ll also remember that I felt I destroyed my confidence. As a result of those two aspects, my overarching objective for 2016 was to build myself back up as a runner. In some ways, it was like beginning all over. Each race was thought of in terms of ‘do I feel confident in performing well’ and ‘will this move the needle of my confidence in a positive direct’. For the most part, it was a good mentally healthy approach.

I’d say my approach worked well. I did not have a DNF in 2016. I did have 4 DNS (Seneca Creek Greenway, Worlds End 100K, Twisted Branch 100K, and Indian Creek Fifties) and three of those were due to questions of illness.

From a numbers perspective, (which will make this a lot shorter, call it my gift to you), I did the following this year:

  • Started 26 races ranging from 5K to 100K.
  • Won 23 of those races.
  • 14 races took place off road.
  • 9 – 5ks
  • 2 – 50M
  • 1 – 100K
  • 2 – Marathons (One trail/One ‘road’)
  • 5 – 50K
  • Won at least one race in each month of the year.
  • Dipped back under 16 minutes in a 5K. (Squeaked in with a 15:59)
  • Raced in 7 states.
  • Won the Bucks County Marathon for the third straight year (and now have won half of them.)
  • My biggest surprise was an unexpected sub 6 hour 50 Mile running 5:51 and change at Brazos Bend. (Especially since I was not chasing a sub 6 this year like I tried last year.)


All of these results, I believe have me pointed back on a good path going into 2017. One regret is not getting to run the 100 mile at Brazos Bend. However, without that question of a looming illness, I would have not changed to the 50 mile and set my PR. And to be honest, I was thinking of a road 50 mile to go for sub 6 in April that I no longer have to subject myself to. YAY!

Moving forward, I’ll shoot for 6-7 ultras. This year I had 7 and that seemed to work well for me. I don’t see a need to run one a month like I did in 2014. Plus, 7 spaced out allows me to enjoy other races that I can use as ultra speedwork. Plans are also to travel out of the Northeast for a race or two. Time-wise, I’ll take what is given to me. Overall, I’ll be happy if I can set at least one PR in the year.
Since nothing really is set in stone for my schedule, I’ve got nothing to share on that front. And you know what? That is fine by me right now. I’m going to enjoy the remaining days of 2016 with some light running.

Before I sign off, I do want to say that very little of what I accomplished this year would have not been possible if not for the support of Montrail and Nathan Sports products. Being dialed in on footwear and nutrition/hydration delivery made pre-race prep a snap.

Also thank you to all the people who read this blog, support me in racing and support me in life. My life is fuller because of it.  (Of course, one rises above the rest. I think we all know who she is at this point. J )

Originally when I sat down to do this post, I thought I’d find a way to be much wittier than this has been. For that I offer sincere apologies. 2017 will bring a return of ramblings. 


Until then….lets at least secure Betty White in bubble wrap. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Breaking at Brazos (Warning: Epic Read)

So my season finally culminated this past weekend at Brazos Bend in Texas. As you may be aware, originally, I was slated to charge hard after the 100 mile. Well, in the world of not everything goes according to plan, a few days (Wednesday) out I changed my distance down to the 50 mile. My primary reason for this was I serious thought I was coming down with some illness that would impede my ability to run what I am capable for 100 miles. To be honest, I even thought 50 miles might be a stretch. However, flights were booked and the last thing I wanted to do was end the year with not even bothering to show up to race an event I was looking forward to.

With that said, my goal at Brazos was to just run a good 50 mile time. If you were to ask me my goal, I would say sub 6 but in reality, I seriously thought that would be a big stretch. Hey, I wasn't feeling 100% but I knew inside that I could at least finish 50 miles.

Anyways....on with this tail....

Mid-afternoon on Thursday, I met up with ultra-badass Maggie Guterl, who was running the 100, (you may or may not know her as Maggatron) at the Philadelphia Airport for our travels down to the Houston, Texas area. (I won't bore you with details of our layover in ATL, rental car pick-up...etc.)

Eventually, we arrived in Antarctica, I mean Texas. It bares mentioning that somehow temperatures in the 30's followed us down South. Definitely a little shock to the system. Especially considering, Texans don't seem to know how to handle cold weather. Thankfully, neither Maggie or I were going to be stuck out in the cold as for the first night we stayed with Maggie's friend, Kehl, (it is pronounced like the superfood kale), and his wife Mariah.

On Friday, it was difficult to leave to leave the comfort of blankets and fireplace at Kehl & Mariah's. (Is this really a surprise? You should know by now my love for blankets and fireplaces. All that was missing was hours of reading, which I did not do nearly enough of this past weekend.) More or less, the bulk of Friday was getting settled at our hotel (30 minutes from Brazos Bend State Park) and packet-pick up. As part of going to pick-up, Maggie and I met up with Caroline Boller for a shakeout run. We all discussed our goals. All of them may or may not have been met continue to find out....

Originally, my plan was to fuel during the race with Tailwind and use ShotBlocs. Race Director supreme, Rob Goyen told me he would have some for me since I still feel weird about small bags of white powder going through airport security. Anyways, I was feeling a bit out of my comfort zone so I opted to fall back on a variation of my original fuel method.....Gatorade & Water. Something about this plan felt calming. In the past, I added pedialyte to my mix. This time, I opted against it. Using Lemon Lime Gatorade, I filled all my bottles with a 2/3 Gatorade, 1/3 Water mix.

This is as good a point as any to talk about gear. I went in with:

2 Nathan ExoDraw bottles with 3 Tropical Punch and 3 Orange ShotBlocs taped to the bottle.
Nathan Peak waistpack w/ two flasks should I need the extra fluids later.
Montrail FluidFlex.
Smartwool socks

Since there is nothing special about my shorts, singlet and underwear, I don't think you need to know those specs.

With throwing caution to the wind and still aiming to take a crack at sub 6, my plan was to wear my Garmin GPS watch. That way, I wouldn't do anything too stupid.

After a meal consisting of Panera's Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup, I did get in some reading of my giant 800 page Theodore Roosevelt book (Wilderness Warrior) that talks about TR as a conservationist and naturalist, (Loving it!), before some shut eye.

Race morning, Maggie and I drove over to Brazos Bend State Park. While I was starting at 7am, Maggie went off at 6am. Maggie was going to be under the good care of her friend Nicole. Once we arrived, we hauled our gear over to a canopy and table being shared by Jeff Miller. (I didn't get a chance to thank you for this! I know you were using it because it was yours but it was helpful to have a good visual place for stuff in the perfect location.) Maggie went off to finish her prep and I went back to the rental to lay down for 45 minutes. Hey, it was still cold out. Sure, I was going to warm up once I started running but I wasn't running yet.

Those 45 minutes went by way too quick! Around 30 minutes before the start, I changed into my race shoes and socks. (I had a pair of FluidFlex II's as a backup in case I needed a shoe swap or if the FluidFlex didn't feel right on race morning.) Upon grabbing my GPS and turning it on, I got a surprise: LOW BATTERY. Yep, it drained in travel. I had charged it prior to leaving Philadelphia because I didn't want to bring the bulky charger in my already overfilled bag. Trusty Timex Ironman it is! With 3 loops, I at least could do easy math in my head on a per lap basis. Additionally, I remembered Aid Station 1 was around 4.1 miles in and Aid Station 2 was 9.2. None of the other markers I had committed to head but what my brain could contain would do.

Nicole offered to help me out too with anything I would need which was great having a support system. Mainly, bottle refills.

Following a little musical pump up of In Flames and Tower, I was as ready as I was gonna be. About 2 minutes before the start, I went up to the start line next to Caroline. With it being still cool, I was wearing a tech shirt and gloves. As soon as the final countdown ended, we were off. I went out fresh and comfortable. It was kind of surprising considering how I felt earlier in the week. During the first little out and back section of the course, as I was coming back, to my right a pack of wild pigs was running. They even decided to make a hard left and cross the trail we were running! They did after I passed. No word was mentioned about anyone getting taken out so I figure no runners or pigs were harmed during the course of that encounter. Near misses, yes, but nothing more.

And to think, this way we were told to pay more attention to the alligators that may be along the trail. Yes, gators!

As I made my way into the first AS, I was under 7 minute pace and thinking to myself, SLOW DOWN! Too early for that. So while I was comfortable, I was trying to be wise and not tax myself too much this early on, especially since I didn't know what the course was like. It was my first time on much of the course, aside from the small portion from the prior day. Around 6 miles in, I shed my shirt tossing it to a gent after I asked if I could. I kept the gloves on.

At aid station, two, much of the same mentally about pace. Too quick. Yet, now I was beginning to think, just accept it. Now, I was also making a note mentally how long it was taking me to get from the second aid station to the longer Sawmill section out and back. It was going to be the only way later on that I could be able to gauge my pace through the section.

With our canopy station, right before the lap finish, I swapped my first ExoDraw for the second, making sure to take one of the remaining ShotBlocs from the first bottle to consume immediately. My first lap split was around 1:53. HOLY MOLY!!! Might have been a hair too fast. In fact, MINUTES faster than my goal. I was aiming for closer to 2:00. Still I felt good. (And it was here the gloves literally came off.)

On the short out and back, no pigs happened upon me. However, I got to see Caroline was also crushing the course not far behind me. Oddly enough, the second lap was much like the first! Was feeling a smidgen harder but I was not feeling like I was red-lining. And my splits were fairly consistent with the first loop. (Maybe a tad faster.) It is worth noting that on the second out and back to Sawmill, I got the best surprise of the WHOLE weekend. My friend Laura was running in the Half Marathon race. It has been years since I saw her. She lives in Denton which is hours away from Brazos. Seriously, it put a pep in my step. (Rob, your race is bringing long lost friends back together! Okay, not lost but you get the point.)

Finishing up the second lap, I made the pit stop. I didn't swap bottles, I topped off. Why I didn't grab the second? My brain told me it was going to not be comfortable. I had a comfortable grip. (Yes, it sounds stupid but that is where my brain was.) Really, what I should have done is just grab the second along for the ride. In retrospect that might have been the wiser thing to do. And while I had the Peak available, I was past the point of wanting to dead stop to put it on. I did feel some cramping coming on in my quads making me fumble through my bag trying to find the baggie with my Advil. Thankfully, Nicole and Jeff's crew dug up some quick out for me.

3:46

Now, I was 14 minutes under 6 hour pace. I was feeling pumped from passing the start/finish. Yet, no longer after that I started to begin sway. At the turnaround point, it was like a dead stop feel that my legs really did not want to move again. That right there was my oh-no point. Signs were now clearly beginning to point downward spiral. Still, I kept moving. Maybe not as fast. And certainly not much ahead of Caroline who was in the midst of a race for the ages. Around a mile after the turnaround, I had to walk. We had a slight minor headwind (or that is at least how my body was reading it) and I was feeling light headed. My body needed a breather. This went on for a minute or two. I downed most of my ExoDraw. I'd say, I don't think I would have been able to recover from the spiral if not for that decision to walk and drink. Sure it meant, I had to stop and take aid at 4.2. It was easy to decide because I knew I would be able to get Gatorade. My split here was 3-4 minutes slower than my prior two trips. 1/4 of the way through the loop and survival is in effect.

At the same 6 mile mark where I earlier tossed my shirt, I got the second coolest surprise of the weekend, Fran, the dinosaur! Laura brought her prehistoric friend with her. Luckily, I still had enough in my legs to not be eaten. Fran did look a little hungry. Still a small child would have been a more sizable meal than my skin and bones.

Fran is looking hungry. PC: Trail Racing Over Texas


Caroline was now on my heels. In fact, around 40 miles, she passed me. She was obliterating the course. Did I try to keep her in sight? Yeah. Did I? For a little bit. Caroline is an amazing runner who knows how to close. Throughout the rest of the race, she increased her lead. So yes, she won. (More on that later because after all this is about my race at the moment.)

At the 9.2 mile aid station, I was if math served me correctly, 7 minutes slower than the prior two loops. I couldn't afford to give back any more time to God of the Clocks if I wanted sub 6. With such a time in sight, I wanted it. I moved as fast as I could. Yes, I hit the 9.2 mile and Sawmill aid stations for coke shots on the way out. I needed the jolt. I was on fumes. Sure it was costing me time but doing otherwise would likely have put me further in energy debt (as I'm calling it.)

 Once that finish line was in sight, I knew I was going to do it. With time to spare! Crossing the line, I stopped my watch at 5:51:26. A 15 1/2 minute PR off my previous 6:07 best. (Might be one of the top 50 mile times in the country this year. Have to wait and see on that.)

Going into 2016 after the struggles I had last year, I honestly never would have expected this performance. Can I improve on it? Time will tell. At least, I don't have to race a road 50 mile to go under anymore. (This will make 2017 much more fun since a possible race just got dropped.)

Now about Caroline's result. It was an American Record for 50 miles on trail. She ran 5:48:01 winning the race outright!!!! In our conversation the day before she shared she wanted sub 6. Did she ever get it! It is a privilege to have witnessed so much of it. (After all, I didn't get to the finish in time for that. I was busy at that moment.)

High Five with the American Record Holder!    PC: Trail Racing Over Texas

Her time shattered the previous best from back in 1994! Plus, it was Caroline's 42nd Birthday! Talk about giving yourself a big 'ol present!

Also, her time bested the previous overall course record men or women at Brazos Bend by 9 seconds! Fastest ever!

I'm biased by that is the Ultra Performance of the Year for Women in my eyes.

Of course, Brazos Bend still had a little 100 miler going on. You know, Maggie's race.

Well, I was a horrible friend for a little bit as an hour after my race, I went to the hotel for a shower, check in back home, clean clothes and a little rest not in the back of a SUV.

Three hours later I was back and got news Maggie was on pace for the women's American trail record of 14:22 in the 100 mile! HOLY! Instantly, I'm the edge of my seat wanting to witness more history. Also, Nicole told me that Maggie was now leading the whole 100 miler! Wow, this was exciting. It was dark now but the air was definitely electric. Everyone was routing for her.

She finished her 5th of 6th laps with around 2:20 to go 16.67 miles. It was doable but gonna be close. Her Trail Racing Over Texas teammates Jeff Ball and Katie Graff were going to split pacing duties. Every single moment she was out there we all wanted to know where and how much time she had. The suspense!

Eventually, we got word that she was having some problems of the puking variety. Still she was going to PR and run a huge time that was going to put her on the all time list. While the fastest two times came and passed, Maggie turned in the 3rd fastest 100 mile on trail and 7th fastest overall regardless of surface with her 14:47:02 (it was 6th at the time but bumped to 7th after a WR later that day.).

As if that was not enough, like Caroline, Maggie now owns the fastest time ever by anyone in the 100 mile at Brazos Bend.

I wish I could say that the day after was nearly as exciting but lets face it, it was a struggle. Maggie and I definitely were rocking the sore runners shuffle. We did go back to watch the finish of the races for a fitting end to the race related portion of the weekend.

You can imagine what traveling back home was like. I'll leave that to your imagination because I've written a lot and want to do some thanks.

Total thanks first and foremost has to go to Peg. She is my biggest supporter and I don't do this without her.

Rob, Rachel and the rest of the Trail Racing Over Texas folks! You made me feel welcome all weekend long.

Second thanks for Rob to believing in me to think I could run a fast time at Brazos. Sorry it just wasn't in the 100. Next time.

Maggie who is just too awesome a friend and without her this PR never happens. Thanks for introducing me to Rob after Viaduct. PA Power!

I would be remiss to not thank Nathan Sports and Montrail for making products that work for me.


Ok....signing off now. And....spent.




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bucking Batona.......BB round 1

As November comes to a close, my mileage is going into a nice taper, a taper made smooth due to the hard work put in earlier this month with a pair of races: Batona 50 and Bucks County Marathon.

Originally, the Batona 50 was not on my schedule for this year until as I mentioned in my last entry. I suffered from altitude sickness causing me to bow out of the Indian Creek Fifties. Thankfully, I was able to join the biggest field in the history of the event (in part to the move from a January date to one the first weekend of November). A quick primer on the event, the Batona 50 is a pair of races run in the Pine Barrens in NJ along the event's namesake, Batona Trail. It contains a 53.4 mile and a 50K distance. The former runs the entire length of the pink blazed trail and the 50K stops at Bataso Village. As the current FKT holder of the trail, it also was a chance for me to try shaving off some time. With the ideal weather, I wanted to run by feel and hopefully go under 7 hours. Now, one aspect the winter helps with is the sandy trails which are more solid. On this day, the warmer temps had the sand a little more 'sandy', which impacted me later in the day. 

Peg was kind enough to join me for the event and be my crew. We were able to bring Falcon so he could enjoy the Pine Barrens. In the lead up, I prepared a chart of aid stations she'd meet me at and a time line giving travel times so she could possibly enjoy the day some. She told me after that getting from location to location was a bit tougher not giving her all the 'downtime' I anticipated.

Arriving in the pitch black dark, I checked in with RD Angie, saw Denis and right before the start saw David Stango, who had a great race at Eastern States this August. (His write-up of the event was even featured in Ultrarunning Magazine.) With it being so dark, I started with my Nathan Halo Fire headlamp. By the first aid station, I didn't need it but still wore it since I was dropping it off with Peg at the second official aid station. In the early going, I was moving well. Since I was trying to do better than my 2014 time, I had my Garmin GPS on me. For the first half of the run, I was amazing. I blitzed through the first 21.5 miles. However, it was the 12 mile section following that I began to hurt some. I'd say on the whole trail, this portion was my worst. The trail felt so overgrown in spots and started my slowdown. Sadly, once I hit that slowdown, I had trouble getting moving the same way. Also, it started to get a tad warmer and on this stretch I ran out of Tailwind 2 miles out from the aid station. During that stretch, I ended up doing a walk break clocking a horrid 13 minute mile. It might have been my slowest mile of the day. 

Just before the AS, David Allara came up behind me. He was volunteering on the day and getting some run in. I really enjoyed the company for this stretch and put some pep in my step. Unfortunately, it was short lived until the AS. I refilled my ExoDraw and swigged some of my jug of Tailwind. This next stretch was not as long but I was still slowing. I was barely holding on to the chance of a sub 7 hour time. It was in this stretch that I missed my first turn. I caught it quickly but lost probably a minute or two. And then, when I hit the road, despite knowing where I was going from the past, I still questioned a marking because it seemed to me that the route was being re-routed. It was not the case as I eventually heard shouts from the aid station. Another minute or two gone. Looking back, I took way too long at the station. Partially, my not jogging the distance to the truck bed where my fluids and ShotBlocs were. However, I did get some shots of Coke to drink in addition to Tailwind. Sub 7 was hanging by a thread and was lost not long in the home stretch as I missed another turn losing a minute. Any boost I got from the fabulous support at the aid station, I lost. Also, I was encountering more sandy conditions or at least felt like it to me. Still, I pushed on sections I felt I could move really well on. Thanks to new mile markers along the trail, I knew how much I had left. When I had a mile to go, I pushed and harder when I had 1/2 a mile to the finish with Angie, Peg, Denis and Falcon. In the end, I lowered my time to around 7:11. I was a bit spent. Denis hooked me up with a Gatorade. 

Due to Peg and I going to see Lewis Black later that night, after 20 minutes, we began our trek back to Philadelphia. While I know I left some meat on the bone, I am happy to know I was still able to take 7 minutes off my previous time. I managed to split around 6:45 for 50 miles. Not insanely fast but a nice modest split.

Now 8 days later, I had another long race on my schedule, the 2016 Bucks County Marathon. The previous two years, I had won the event, so with a chance for a three-peat in a marathon, I had to be in. After all, how many times in life, will I be able to say I have a shot to three-peat at a marathon? How many people ever get that chance? Not that going for three was not pressure enough, the RD Pat McCloskey put an image of me during my initial win on the bib (along with a magnet). So here I was at the start in my RunBucks singlet, with #1 and my image on my front. Weird? Just a bit. Cool but weird.

My goal was simple. Win. Sure, I would like a good time around the 2:39, I ran last year. With a bigger goal race on the horizon, I had to be smart. This led me to be more conservative at the gun. 6 minute pace was my objective. And pretty much through 21 miles, I was on it. At the turnaround, I had my watch clocking in 1:18:45. (An evenly run race would be 2:37:30) The last 5 miles, I began to tighten up and slow down. Eventually, I crossed the line in 2:41:47, a couple minutes slower than last year's winning time. And 4 minutes slower than my first half. So basically, in the last 5 miles, my pace got really close to 7 minutes. Ugh. At least I can say, I've won half of the Bucks County Marathons. Surprisingly, I did not feel good after. Probably the worst after a race in a long time. Not sure if I had a illness bug lingering and not know it but my GI was not my friend. Matter of fact, before leaving Washington Crossing to go home, I threw up in a PA DNCR bathroom toilet. Lovely. Better after than the race and awards, I guess. Not sure why it happened. I did feel a little better after but wise to have not hung around. 

Since both of those races in the first half of the month, I trekked up to Maine for some Thanksgiving vacationing. Got a bit of a recharge with reading a few books, including the Ryan Sandes Trail Blazer book. (Highly recommended.) Also, went for a few hikes and some lovely runs. Only managed one run up Pleasant Mountain (and on the Cell Tower Trail at that) due to some cold slick conditions. Probably for the best as it forced me to not pound myself with each run. I explored some snowmobile trail and fire roads a bit more. Of course, with it being hunting season, blaze orange looked good on me. 

Sadly, all good things come to an end and I've returned to Philadelphia. For the next couple of weeks, I'm in taper for my final big race of the year. Until that write-up......

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fallout: Coming Down to Earth

With a title including Fallout, you might think I'd be talking about the post-apocalyptic video game series. If you did, you'd be wrong because the apocalypse has not happened...yet. However, it is about a 'post' event chronicling.

Let me take you back in time to just after Boulder Field. Around that time, I decided to do some schedule shifting. I opted on the weekend of November 5-6 to do a 50K called Fire on the Mountain in MD as opposed to traveling to Nashville for one that same weekend. I had done the last FOTM and loved it. This year it is coming back as an out and back as opposed to a point to point. I'd say this year's version is going to be a beast. As a result, of this decision, I still wanted a 50 miler before FOTM as part of my Brazos Bend prep.

Following some internet searches, airfare checks and all around logistically number crunching, I decided to fly out to Colorado and run the 50M distance at Indian Creek Fifties. My trip was going to be a 4 day weekend with the race on the 2nd day followed by camping/hiking the remainder of the time. To say I was excited was an understatement. I was very much looking forward to racing in the mountains and hiking. Not to mention, sitting at a campground reading.

All was going smoothly until the day before my traveling began. In fact, it started right not long after I had officially registered. I had waited in the event work threw me a curveball causing me to not go. Apparently, I was naive to think one wasn't coming. Around an hour before my workday ended, one plunked me in the head. Pretty much, a get it done ASAP situation. Considering, I was going to be remote as I traveled it made the work project tough. It set me into full on anxiety attack. Before it swallowed me whole, I left the office telling myself, I'll somehow get it done as I traveled. Still, it freaked me out and on my ride home, my head was thinking of the ways, I can make traveling easier. I opted to just get home and finish it remotely. At home, I can use two screens which really was needed to complete my task. Despite getting it done timely, I was having a tough time calming myself from the anxiety. In fact, it lasted into my attempts of trying to sleep before I had to wake up at 4am to be driven to the airport.

On the plus side, I had my bag packed a week in advance!

Traveling out to Denver was easy. And the first 4-5 hours was good after landing. However, to cut to the chase, I ended up getting altitude sickness. I had not expected it considering I'd been around and above the elevation before. To spare you, I ended up having to bail on the race and came home the next day.

In short, it was a wasted trip. My options were limited. I could have stuck it out with possibly a headache the whole trip (as I still had one on the day of my return). That was something, I didn't want to risk. How much fun would be to just camp and not hike? To me, not much. I was not looking to spend the time in a movie theater. In looking at flights, I couldn't try an extra day because no Sunday flights were available.

Did it stink to not get the trip, I wanted? Absolutely. That said, I do aim to go back out there. I will just add extra time to the beginning in case, it happens again.

On the plus side, I had a wonderful Sunday hiking in the morning with Peg in the Wissahickon and exploring Tyler State Park in the afternoon. Plus, on Monday, we saved a couple of hundred dollars on paint for the house because I was home!

Still, my schedule was now out of balance. I saw the 50 miler as an important distance to complete. I knew I had the option to race Stone Mill on Nov 12th. However, I felt that would be a little too close to Brazos Bend. Thankfully, the race directors of the Batona Trail 50 allowed me to join the new 'Fall' date on Nov 5th. Unfortunately, that knocks out FOTM. In an attempt to have cake and eat it too, I looked for a 50K this past weekend (Oct 22-23). All those close ones were full. However, a little out of my usual range was the High Bridge Ultra down in Pamplin, VA. Being able to register day of, helped keep it in mind. However, the 5 1/2 hour drive did not appeal. Especially since I would have needed to finish and drive straight home after the 50K. For some reason, I thought it was doable.

Reality set in Friday that it was not a wise choice for me due to the timing. It was going to push my limits driving. Wiser heads prevailed and I abandoned the idea. However, I let myself approach the idea of racing the 50K through the week. So for the second week in a row, I was not doing something I initially told myself I was. Granted we are talking two different sets of circumstances. Still, this was enough to get me really off balance. I immediately lost motivation to do a long run. I really did not want to run a long run solo in the area I always run. Factor in the 24 degree temp drop from Friday to Saturday and it just stacked up. More or less, I was becoming my own worst enemy. I wanted to do something but nothing appealed to my need of being long.

Denver Fallout was coming to a head!

Being so far down the rabbit hole, I didn't want to even socialize and missed the street block party.

Later in the evening, I took a look at Sunday's area events and noticed one that was a longer race that was cheap. Hotfoot 8.8. It had a 5K, 8.8K and 8.8M. I told myself I could get 12 in easily if I did the 8.8M. At that point, anything over ten felt uninspiring solo. Likely because it was running in my head within the framework of my usual local runs. Then, before bed after I decided to give it a shot, I realized if I did the 8.8 a second time I'd get 17.6 right there. Add my warmup and tack on a hair more, I could hit 20 miles. Mentally that would be a step in the right direction.

Sunday morning, I managed to get myself together and get out the door to the race. After registering, I went for my warm-up and got hit with some nasty wind. It was enough to make me question being able to run fast during the race.  Luckily, during the race, I was able to keep it together. I managed a modest pace considering the trouble with the wind. (5:44 avg) It was the fastest pace in any of the distances. Upon finishing, I quickly threw on a shirt and regular shorts (over my racing shorts) to head out for a second loop. Wind wasn't as bad during the second loop but the hills did suck a second time. (Oh, I neglected to mention this course was hilly. It was hillier than some trail ultras.)

In the end, I got my 20 miles in. Whew. I would not have been able to do it without the existence of the Hotfoot 8.8 race. On top, of the race serving as an avenue to get my 20 miles in, it is a top notch event. There was a beer garden and hot food. Amazingly, there was still eggs after my second loop! I missed awards but it was worth it. I got to get a few glasses of PA Dutch Birch Beer too. I didn't quite tap the keg of it. In some ways, the event because it was hosted by the Fort Washington Fire Dept 88, reminded me of the Jimmy D 5K. It was such a good feeling to have and doesn't let me forget how much the Jimmy D race meant to me.

These 20 miles while not the 50K (or even the 50M) I had expected to race, I feel much better going into Batona that I would have without them. And ultimately, I feel this keeps me on track for a good showing at Brazos Bend.




Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tragedy of Errors

Sure, most people like to say Comedy of Errors but I'm not here.

Around a month ago, I had begun looking at racing a 50 miler in Colorado around an hour from Denver. It was called the Indian Creek Fifties and seemed like a perfect fit for me. Elevation, climbing and a new challenge. Coming off of Boulder Field 100K, I felt this would be a great race for me to do. I started to make arrangements with hotel, camping, rental car and flights.

Plan was fly out early October 14th and return home late on October 17th giving me around 4 days in the area. Day one would be working remotely in a hotel. Day two would be the 50 mile race followed by camping. Day three would be hiking in the Front Range and camping. Day four would be downtown Denver.

Everything was in place except registration in case work threw me a curve ball. Both my managers were out so I had to work remotely meaning anything I couldn't get done on the 13th had to be done. Well, an hour after I register on the 13th, slammed with work that I need two monitors for. This sent me into an anxiety attack. It was 4:30 and I NEEDED to make changes in our system ASAP. I left the office in a panicked state. On my bike ride home, I began to think about how best to make it all work and begun to settle down. However, damage was done, I was having an anxiety attack I could not quell physically. My body was racing. Even hours after I managed to make the changes at the home office. Sleep became hard. Not good for a 4am trip to the airport.

At least I got right through security at the airport on the 14th.

Now while waiting for the flight I got to check some emails and saw I received 3 emails from the RD of the race. Most notably, a course change and the removal of one major aid station. Oh noes. I didn't plan on carrying fluids for 13 miles between aid stations. Even though I had a pack with me had I needed it. Looks like I was going to. All of this information was not on the website and nor FB page.

Flight ended up being delayed by 20 minutes but arrived on time. Early in fact but the gate was occupied so we had to wait on the runway.

Light rail travel was easy to Stapleton. Car pick-up went as smooth as possible. In fact, best rental car experience ever. From there, I headed to Walmart to get some camping supplies like tent, sleeping bag and a chair. I was using my Rest in Peace 5K winnings for that stuff. I also bought some provisions. Why not do it at once? Then before going to the hotel, I stopped at Boulder Running Company for Tailwind and Blocs. From there it was easy check in at the hotel around 11:30.

My room at the Courtyard Tech Center was smooth and it had a real lovely courtyard that the room opened up to. I unpacked and got my gear together for race morning. Mixed up Tailwind. Split up Shot Blocs. All set....

Then....a headache. I didn't think much of it at first but after an hour it wasn't going away. I was losing my appetite. Then, I got nauseous. It hit me slowly but surely...altitude sickness. Advil didn't help with the headache. Ugh. I was hoping a few hours would make it pass since I was surprised by it considering I had spent time at 5000 and 6000 before, Quick trip to Target for Nyquil and Pepto Bismol. It is now 4pm local time. I took both and then more or less slept for the remainder of the evening. The nausea settled and the headache improved some. It was good to not feel like death considering I was coughing up bad stuff prior to the Pepto. Still the headache lingered. Later half of the night I was a bit unsettled.

Still had time to pass before my 4am wake up for the 50 mile. As it got closer, my head still was out of it. Yeah, I think I'm done. But I opt to go run around the hotel for a few laps. See how that would feel. Didn't feel good so I knew racing was out. Especially since the race was to climb up 3000ft in elevation. Now I had to figure out, do I stay until Monday with things or go home. I checked Sunday flights on Southwest in the event I could use one day to check it out. No Sunday flights. It was all or nothing. I was leaning towards cutting my losses and going home.

I did a check of any park nearby and found one. I drove to Cherry Creek State Park. Parked and went running. It felt nice to physically do something but I wasn't all that right. I got about 2 miles in total and during that effort my headache started to come back. That sealed it. Home.

If I couldn't do anything physical like hike or run, the trip was not going mean anything other than sitting at a campsite by myself. Sure camping solo was part of the plan but when not feeling good and not able to do the things I planned. Yeah, it makes sense to not be there. Luckily, I was able to reschedule my Monday departure and pay only 27 more. I got 24 of that back from cancelling camping.

I drove the rental car back to the place expecting to pay the original cost or close to it. Amazingly, they did only charge me for the one of 3 days I reserved the rental. That was good. Oh, before that I returned all the camping gear. Not losing as much as possible. Flight was a wash and Rental was 2/3 cheaper. Making the race the only lousy waste of cash here.

Since dropping off the car, I also had the pleasure of just missing the light rail to the airport. Fine because the next was only 15 minutes later. However, once I got through security, I got a message saying my flight was delayed until 3:35. It was 11:15am. Ugh.

For the record, I still feel a tad out of it. Nausea is gone and I've eaten a little but I feel exhausted with a headache.

So in the end, I spent some cash for a memorable experience that was not the happy one I wanted. And in fact, cut short by more than two days.

Oddly enough, I think if the work had hit before I registered, it all might have been different.

Luck of the draw. Or not.

I'll be back to this area. While I didn't get to what I wanted, I know I still want to experience it. Some places have to be treated differently.