Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why, Oh, Why, TGNY

Lets face it, we ultrarunners have problems. We do stupid things. Some of them are stupider than others. Of course, when we sign up for something we are most certain it is a fantastic idea. Until the point where we actually register. Then, we might be thinking inside, 'I immediately regret this decision!' (Please go back and read that last part in Ron Burgandy's voice if you did not initially. It's fine. I'll wait.)

Back at some point earlier this year, it might have been January, some chatter was going on amongst my friends about TGNY100 registration opening. It might have been Juliette who mentioned it that prompted me to go....'Oh, what the hell'. I signed up for it.

Now what did I sign up for?

I signed up for the wonderful idea of running 100 miles in New York City. (Let the record show, TGNY stands for The Great New York 100, which has both 100 mile and 100 kilometer options.) Except, I didn't exactly sign up because I got wait listed. Still, I had heard that people tend to move off the list around April and I turned out to be 7th in line so I anticipated joining the fray.

Still, even wait listed, I thought, 'what did I just do?' Despite, Karl Meltzer's saying '100 miles is not that far', it's far. Or maybe a more apt statement is that is a lot of miles to run on foot. In this case, on pavement in New York City nonetheless. Sure, I've done a fair number of ultras but the 100 mile distance still makes me nervous. On some level, I fear it. And I would say that is because of inexperience. Right now, 100 miles is still kind of an unknown. Yes, a couple of years back, I won Umstead in a solid time. Still, I my other attempts at the distance have been mixed (and I'll even say Umstead did not go according to plan) with a 10+ hour break after mile 90 in my debut, a DNF at Eastern States in my third and an event switch down to the 50 mile before Brazos Bend. In fact, it has been nearly two years since I toed the start line of a 100 mile. Running 100 miles was something I wanted to, needed to try again. It is part of my journey.

Anyways, after the initial signup regret, I seemed to put it in the back of my mind until April.

Turns out, movement on the list does occur and I was offered a chance to the dance. I took it. Now, I had another bout of  'questionable decision making'. Even more so because now I was indeed registered. A funny thing about the timing is that I moved off the waiting list prior to Bryan Court 100 (60K) where I would be seeing both RD's Phil McCarthy and Trishful Cherns. No escaping TGNY! Actually, it was helpful to see them at BC100 because it gave me a chance to talk with them. And I will say Trishful really drilled it home to me that being alert and having the directions accessible was important. In other words, if one does not pay attention, it is easy to get lost. TGNY is not multiple loops in Central Park, it is one big 100 mile loop through 4 of the boroughs. (Staten Island is omitted.)  So, yes, getting off course would suck. Last thing, I would want to do is end up in Yonkers or worse, New Jersey. (As a born and raised native of the Garden State, I can make that joke about NJ.)

With TGNY100 officially on the schedule, I thought, better get some longer races in. Luckily, I had plans to do just that with 100K at Jack Bristol. Except as you know that didn't happen. However, I got doubly lucky by managing to get into Dirty German 50 Mile a couple weeks later. Following that up with some redemption at Worlds End in the 50K, I was at least feeling good about my mental state running. So, I definitely was going into TGNY on a positive note.

In the weekend sandwiched between Worlds End and TGNY, I strategized and organized my gear. What I knew for certain that because of all the pavement, I would run in Hoka Clifton 2's and use my Nathan VaporKrar vest with soft flasks upfront. Fueling would be with Tailwind, water and Clif ShotBlocs. I had questions about keeping cool and how I should carry the mandatory cell phone. With the latter, I opted to use my Nathan Hipster. For the former, I decided to put the bladder in my pack not for water but ice so I could keep my core cool. Also, I tossed a hat into my gear for the put ice in the hat, hat on the head routine. All that much, I knew. However, a few things still needed to be figured out like transportation and lodging.

Initially, my thought was to get two nights in NYC (preferably Midtown East/Times Square area) and take the Megabus up. Now, the Megabus options were easy, affordable and plentiful. Hotels on the other hand....Holy Paycheck! No matter what, it was looking like two nights would be costing me around 400 bucks. I looked at that like 150 bucks too much to be spending when I wouldn't be spending much of that time in the room. Of all the things, I really wavered back and forth on regarding TGNY, it was the hotel. It was also here, I took the biggest gamble. Considering, in the final email instructions, it was noted 100 mile finishers would have a place to shower and quick nap, I opted to only book one hotel night and get a late night Megabus. Eventually using a Hotwire gamble, I got a decent price for Friday night that ended up being at the Sanctuary Hotel in the Times Square area. In fact, it was less than 500ft from the start, which meant, I could wake up at 4am and take my sweet time getting ready for check in and the 5am start. On the back end, I booked a Saturday night (really Sunday morning) bus departing near the Javits Center at 1:30am. For those doing math at home and adding a reasonable time buffer to get from Times Square to the bus, I had 19 - 19 1/2 hours to complete the 100 miles. No pressure. (Actually, it was only a little bit because since the bus is cheap enough I knew I could book a 6am bus if I missed the 1:30)

On top of all that, I still had to work on Friday! I'm lucky enough my office is near the Megabus stop in Philadelphia and I have the ability to do some work via remote. Knowing I would be able to be connected to the internet (either via mobile or Megabus internet) I would be able to work on the ride up to NYC and in my hotel room. So in essence, I spent a half day in the office and handled the rest of my business on the road.

Eventually, I made it up to NYC around 3:00 and got to my hotel around 3:30. My plan for the rest of the day was simple. Once in the hotel room while finishing up any work, lay out all the morning things I'll need like Tiger Balm, TrailToes and hairgel, get my VaporKrar dialed in, figure out how to carry my cell phone and determine which socks to wear with my shoes for the race. After doing that I could go eat. Being in NYC, I knew what dinner was going to consist of. Pizza. No brainer. If you know me, I am a pizza snob and it is really hard to get bad pizza in NYC. Now, I will say if you go to a chain like Dominos or Pizza Hut in NYC for pizza, you are missing out in life. In fact, it might be a life fail. Anyways, I walked up to one of the many variations of a Ray's Pizza and got three slices along with a lemon iced tea to go. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Third slice ended up being overkill. And in a case of my own life fail, I essentially wasted that last slice only getting a couple bites before maxing out. Under normal circumstances, I would have gorged. Having to run a 100 miles the next day is not a case of normal circumstances.

Clearly, you can see talking about pizza is more important to talk about first other than how I did get the pack, cell phone and socks in order. Priorities. Since, I'm sure you are curious, I'll go back. For the socks, I ended up opting for a pair of thin Smartwool Run with the Cliftons as that was the set up that felt the least constrictive at the time. With the pack, I went with ExoShot bottles up front. One loaded with Tailwind. The other with water. Considering it was going to be warm, in case I needed to wet myself (not in that way), I could use the water. One of the reasons, I went ExoShot instead of ExoDraw was because I got get them in and out of the pockets easier for refills/drinking. In the far front pockets, one was the directions and my own sheet of just the aid station locations while the other had the strap for an ExoDraw in the event I wanted/needed to change up on the fly. The back 'pass through pocket' I had extra baggies of Tailwind. In the bladder sleeve, I had the empty bladder. And in the other outer, I had an extra singlet. The upper front pockets had two sleeves of ShotBlocks each. One also contained some SaltCaps while the bonus in the other was a Metrocard, ATM Card, Cash, Insurance Card and ID in the event something happened. Now with the cell phone, I determined the Hipster was the way to go with that. Here, I was a bit savvy too. I used the sleeve from the ExoDraw to house the cell phone. In essence, it was some cushion. Also of note, wrapped in sandwich bags were the cell phone, cards and directions.

With dinner and gear in final order, it was time to chill with a shower and good book. Or was it? After getting back to my hotel room around 6pm, things were a little different. There was more lobby activity and when I got to the room itself, I could hear a low bass sound permeating. (At 5pm, when I left for grub, it was not there.) Oh, yeah that's right, I was on the 7th floor, the one right below the rooftop bar. It wasn't all that bad so I only gave it a little thought at the time as I settled in, showered and gave Peg a call. Following that, I made myself comfortable on the bed to start reading Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned by Joyce Butler. I was a bit scattered so I didn't read nearly as much as it as I wanted. Partially this was because the bass was getting louder. At one point around 7:30-8pm, I called down to the front desk to ask what time the music goes down. I was told around 10. Since, I was getting up at 4am, 10pm was fine by me that meant 6 solid hours of sleep. Honestly, had I been told 1am or something like that I would have asked to be moved. Granted it was the last thing I wanted to be doing since I was all laid out for the morning. I went back to reading a bit. I started to doze some and it was around 9:30 and the music seemed to be gone so I opted for sleep then and there.

Except.....

Sleep didn't work out quite as well as I planned. I dozed at a lull as the bass returned and bass is the one thing my ear plugs do not block out completely. At that point, I became unsettled. Noise and room temp started to send me down a rabbit hole of tossing and turning. By 10:15, the music was done completely but I had an incredibly difficult time regulating myself back to sleep. I didn't know if I wanted the air for the room on or off and if on....just constant on or the auto setting. Let's say, while the bed was super comfy, having nerves about running 100 miles did not make it easy to settle down. In the end, after spotty sleep, I finally settled down around 1:30am. That's right folks. Instead of a good 6, I was in for 100 miles on 2 1/2 hours. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about DNS due to the sleep. Yet, I will say, having laid all the gear out all set up and being so close to the start is probably what saved me because I could get as much rest as possible despite everything since getting to the Times Square TKTS booth was a whopping 4 minute trip.

Before I knew it, 4am arrived. While, I am a morning person, 4am still is tough as hell to get moving but moved I did. Got myself all presentable like and around 4:25 walked over to check-in for the race. At that point, check-out had not occurred. I purposely did not do that on the way to check-in because I wanted to be able to have bathroom access if needed. So after check-in and a few minutes, I went to take care of business. Following those final preparations, I officially ended my stay at the Sanctuary.

Apparently, in my plan for relief, I missed the group photo. A tad bummed about that but I did get back in time for instructions from Phil and Trishful. It was also here that I was really able to say hi to Otto and Jurgen. (I had already said hi to Eliot, Trishful and Phil). Things started to move quickly. Before I knew it, it was go time.

Start Line: TGNY
PC: Richard Chung

Off we went...a group of crazy ultrarunners planning on running either 100KM or 100 Miles. (Big difference is that the 100KM folks get to miss out on all the Brooklyn action on a day that just happened to include running on the boardwalk in Coney Island on the day of Mermaid Parade. Curious? Google it.)

PC: Richard Chung

Now let me say, NYC at 4-5 in the morning is such a quiet place even if the city never does truly sleep. It has a urban beauty that I admire in these periods.

As we strode up Broadway towards Central Park, two of us already kind of started to separate from the rest of the field. Clearly, I anticipated being one of those people but my companion was of no real surprise to me thanks to the age of internet runner stalking. Off all the people also signed up for the 100 mile, Matt Collins is the one person I knew capable of a good time. He's more experienced at 100's than I am not to mention a really good marathoner. It was really good to have the company. Any part of a 100 miles that you can easily run with somebody else makes time go by so much quicker. Yes, we as athletes want to be better than the people we are racing against but in the ultra community, it is not the same cutthroat mentality of the road running or track world. One way it was really helpful to have his presence as we got to begin navigating looking for the yellow arrows that would mark most of our route. Sadly, not long after Grants Tomb, Matt needed to use some local park facilities. I figured, he would make it quick and catch up pretty quickly so I kept going. It wasn't like we were going light speed. Still, it was a while before I would see him again. Matt caught up to and passed me in Van Cortlandt Park around 11.5 miles in. At this point, I stopped at a fountain to wet my head and get a drink of water. Not that I didn't have water on me because I did but way tap the bottle when I could kind of get it from the tap. I kept his distinctive orange singlet in view and caught up to him farther down the trail. For the next 10 miles or so, we would do some yo-yoing bits. I blew through the 15 mile aid station and he passed me at the 20 mile pit stop where I got some ice for my hat.

Another half mile beyond the aid station at mile 20, is when I would say the biggest change happened. We had an arrow to cross the street. Upon seeing it, I began to cross but saw Matt still had not. I began shouting to get his attention. It appears he went to cross farther up but because we running an urban ultra with traffic, timing could be tough and he looked to have been caught for a few prior to crossing. While this would not be the last point I would see Matt, it was the last point during the race we'd have any contact.

Maybe it is clear what the outcome is going to be from a result level but remember sometimes, it is not about the finish but how you got there. And at this point, my journey had close to 80 miles left. Some of those 80 miles were really nice and smooth. For example, the little lollipop stretch around Pelham Bay Park was good. One of things that I thought about through here is how Pelham Bay was just one of the sites I would be passing through that Peg worked on during her time working alongside the NYC Parks Dept and other contractors doing ecological restoration work. At mile 25, I almost missed my first turn. Thankfully, something didn't look right to me. We could call it my spider sense tingled. I pulled out my map and it appeared I was near a turn so I backtracked. To the other side of the street that is. I had missed the arrow on the sidewalk showing me to go right onto Middletown Rd. It was bound to happen but made me thankful that I really embraced Trishful re-enforcing paying attention and having the directions.

We had to follow/find these things.


At the other end of this stretch of street was another aid station, this one at mile 26. (This was the farthest stretch between aid in the whole run). I got some coke and water and was on my way. I had hoped for some ice but no such luck. Really up until this part of the race, most of our running was on NYC Greenways. Middletown itself was an outlier at that point. Our next mile would continue this trend of Greenway running. As the greenway was along one of the interstates through the side, I got to pass behind one of the Dunkin Donut/Gas Stations. For whatever reason, I thought it was kind of cool. Quite possibly, it was just another sign of being in a city but not all in the same moment. Part greenway, part expressway. Since there was some snaking on this patch, I tried to see if I could spot Matt. I couldn't. Not at that point anyways. That would come 7 miles (approx mile 33.22) and more than an aid station later when I....

Stopped at 7-11 for a Slurpee. Yes, you read that right. I stopped to get myself a Slurpee. This stop was not nearly as quick as I hoped. Or I should say, it felt like it should have gone quicker. Now, I could have been a glutton hitting the 44oz but I opted for conservation and only 22 oz. Normally, I also mix Cherry and Coke but Coke was my only option so Coke. I also bought a bottle of water and poured that over me. I was feeling warm and was making a point to keep my core temp down as much as possible. (At the 50K aid mark, I was able to get more ice too.) After the eternity of my quest, I was a little off my bearings. At the intersection, where the 7-11 was, I was actually to make a right and left, where I thought left and right. Since I didn't see a right near the turn I thought, again, I used the trusty TGNY directions to regain my bearings and set myself on course.

It kind of goes like this. Want a Slurpee, get a Slurpee


As I crossed the intersection over the Leggett Ave bridge, I was able to look down Garrison and see Matt's orange in the distance. Guess, I'm jogging with this slurpee. Unless, you are an expert do not try that at home. Slurpee runs are not for the unqualified. My specific Slurpee run ability goes back 20 years when I would do workouts that included stops to a specific 7-11 and get 44oz Slurpee's to run with for miles. So this was like riding a bicycle.

The Slurpee running was the easy part, the directions for the next mile had me off balance. I had to check directions a few times before getting on the Randall's Island pathway before saying farewell to the Bronx heading into Queens to check off the third of four boroughs where 40% of the run would take place. My highlights here included running along the World's Fair Marina promenade (would say this was my favorite waterside running stretch) and through Alley Pond Park. Alley Pond Park was also the host location of the 'half way' point aid station. I hit this junction in around 7:15. To me this was spot on pacing. I wasn't going too hard or too fast in my opinion. Throughout, I was making sure to keep a look out for any arrows and if I had a concern, take the time to pause (which I continued to do) and consult the directional sheet. Here, I got some more ice as the Marina aid station did not have any. Also, I lightened my load some ditching the baggies of Tailwind I had in my vest. I wasn't drinking it so much. I was primarily using water, gatorade and coke for fluid while I consumed Shot Blocs every 45 minutes.

PC: Richard Chung

In some ways, everything was going according to plan. And then not only did I need to consult the directions but the route map itself! Around 54, there is an expressway overpass crossing that following made me REALLY question if I was on the right track. The directions didn't work for me and I didn't feel like a backtrack. Thankfully, I had an offline GPX Viewer program where I previously loaded the route. It showed I was on the right course and got me in the proper direction. I get some GPS watches allow you to load routes to follow. I do not own such a watch (I do own a GPS watch just not that kind) and in fact was running with an old school Timex Ironman. Let it be known that this is the ONLY time, I had to consult anything other than the arrows and the direction sheet.

Here is also when the rains came. And come they did in buckets. As I got though the next aid station and entered Flushing Meadows towards the famous Unisphere, the ponding on the course was bonkers! At one point there was a spot that went up to my knee! It even had a little whirlpool!!!! Still, I was happy about the rain. It was refreshing and cooling. Considering ice was hit or miss, the wet was a welcome relief. As the soaking diminished, I popped up at the Forest Park combination aid station/finish where I surprised Trishful. I had reached 100KM in 8:58:10, right around where I wanted to be. Here I asked for anti-inflammatories and downed more soda shots. Now, TGNY allows for a dropdown finish which I could have taken here. Not this day. I told Trishful I was continuing on. The way I thought was I had 10 hours to finish before making my bus became an issue. Plus, with around only 60KM to go, I thought I could do 6 hours. Boy, was I wrong about that.

TGNY became a tale of two races here. A solid 100KM that I hit comfortably without breaking too much stride even when direction checking and a horrid suffer fest where I got caught at more crossings than earlier and really hit people country. Still, I managed the best I could, around 2 miles later, I hit a Speedway for their version of a Slurpee. This time, I went 32oz and the cherry and coke blend I so enjoy. For whatever reason, I allowed myself some walk break here and that set off a bad precedent on this stretch which included the longest continuous straight of the whole run...Cross Bay Blvd. On the Blvd, right before we go up and over the forever that is the Addabbo Bridge, is another aid station. Third in a row that I hit without ice. Thankfully, I was still hitting the slurpee and working on my core temp. I gave my number of 26 and moved on. Since this was an incline, I walked it as I had much of the inclines in the run. I was trying to save my body some. Eventually following a few more turns and another little bridge, I hit Rockaway Beach. (Of course, I had the Ramones song in my head then and even now as I type this portion of the epic you are reading.) Rockaway Beach also meant the mile 70 aid station right before hitting the boardwalk. Again, I asked about ice to be shut out. But I poured some water on me.

On the boardwalk, I hit the bathroom to make sure things were ok. I was doing absolutely fine in the hydration department according to my nature's call check. I managed to pick a good tempo on the boardwalk. It was helpful to have the streets intersecting being numbers I could count. Exiting the boardwalk, different story. I'd say the we were hitting my least favorite portion of housing stock on the route. It felt very alone and uninspiring. Ugh. I walked some here. I was feeling down. Thankfully, I dragged myself to the fine folks at the Jacob Riis aid station at mile 75! Plenty of chairs to beware of but they had ICE! I pulled out the hat from my pack so I could get some in it to plop on my cranium.

Three quarters done in around 11:30. Pace is suffering some but not horribly. Any sub 15 was not happening, not that I was planning on it at all. But I could do 4 1/2 hours for 25 miles, right? Not so fast whipper snapper. The next 5 miles were bad. I started walking more. It was more running/walking that felt alone. TGNY was become more about that thing between my two ears than my feet. Running along the Belt Parkway in a construction zone with gridlock traffic also was not making me feel as 'pep in my stepy' as the greenways were earlier. Emmons Ave gave me back a little bounce even if I was having to run around some people before I hit Aid Station 80 helmed by Trail Whippass' own Brandi! More nada on the ice but more coke to fuel the system as I shuffled off. Really sucking here but moving. It took me an hour the last stretch. But I would be bound to come back. (Bonus, I was now on the final sheet of directions!) I had the Coney Island boardwalk ahead. That breeze from the ocean. The spring of the boards. Yeah, right. Hitting the boardwalk did nothing at the onset. Something I initially was excited about....was not able to embrace it as much. After maybe a half mile, I did regain some running and that was good but I was hitting the crowded sections near the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, and Luna Park. Still, weaving gave me a groove to get into. Plus, I had a plan on hitting the Wendy's right before the 84 mile pit stop for a bathroom break and cold coke with ice. Since I was striking out more on the ice front, I wanted to take things into my own hands. And I will say half the plan at Wendy's worked, the bathroom half. The line for ordering was of the WTF variety. It was long. I opted to skip it and move on. I crossed the street and went around 100 yards to the Bensonhurst Park aid station. More coke, no ice. Popped two anti-inflammatories. Now you would think, having 4 miles along the water would be fantastic. I would think so too. However, I'd say 2 out of the next 4 miles, I walked. I didn't want to go farther. I wasn't about to quit but I was not enjoying life at all. I managed to pick up some steam towards the end of the stretch just in time for mile 90 and another aid station! I gave my number of 26. Plus, they had ice! I doubled up on the ice in the hat and now down my back.

Coming up was the second longest straight.....4th ave.

4th Ave started on an uphill trend so I walked it and my plan was to eventually run as I could use the clicking off of the street numbers to inspire me. I thought I'd walk maybe 5 blocks. I did about 20. Yeah, I was dragging. Following a way too long period, I got one foot moving in front of the other wish some semblance of a pace. With the dips on the sidewalk at the intersections, the narrowness of the sidewalk itself and having to semi-dodge people, this was a much more challenging stretch than I anticipated. On a positive note, turning off of 4th ave after 3.42 miles meant I had less than 7 to go. I was beginning to manage more running than walking again. Still not my best pace but alright. I was doing lots of checking behind me worried Matt would roll up on me any moment because of the long walk stretches I had recently. Maybe it was the people but I was in a better spot. President St around mile 94.2, gave us the chance to go through a block party. Now, dodging the kids running around playing tag on a busy sidewalk along Court St was the toughest dodging of the day. Seriously, not the best place to be playing that. Visions of being taken out by one of the children did dance in my head.

PC: Wade Lambert

Borough Hall brought with it a lot of excitement! Aid station folks were waving galore. I was now around mile 95. The sun was down and it felt cooler. All I had left to do was go up and over the Brooklyn Bridge and up through Manhattan back to Times Square. Sub 16 was out the window. I was hoping to now finish 17 hours in. Considering we'd be hitting a bridge uphill, I very much anticipated my body would want to walk. Not the case. I was running the uphill. The lights of the night and the energy of people about on the evening pumped me up. Sure I didn't want to swerve around any. Surprisingly for the most part, didn't have to as I stuck over to the bike side. And once I hit the downhill side into Manhattan, it felt like I was booking! There was another runner out for their stroll ahead. I made him my target. My pace felt like the fastest it had been since around 100KM!

Like that...I'm in Manhattan! 3 MORE MILES!!!!

I'm making the lights, clawing my way up to the middle of the island. I pass Canal. I pass St. Marks. There goes Union Square! Oh hello, Broadway! We meet again for 25 more blocks. Now that I'm done with all my turns, I can focus on the street numbers. Before I know it, I'm eight blocks away in Herald Square. 7 blocks. 6 blocks. I can really see Times Square now. 5 blocks. 4. Three. Two. 1.

And....I get stuck at the stop light literally across the street from the finish line. I can see Phil waving. A finish tape drawn. It is taking forever for this light cycle to pass.

Eventually it does and the final steps are filled with a sense of joy. I finished 100 miles through NYC without a crew (but with lots of help from the aid stations) and managed to win the darn thing.

PC: Eliot Lee

Final time.....16:19:19.

Not a PR but considering that TGNY is a very unique beast of a race, I am happy to have the third fastest time. And I needed to as Matt finished strong some 23 minutes back in 16:42 and change.

Admittedly, I missed Matt's finish. After making sure to call Peg as I sat on the ground in the middle of Times Square, I took full advantage of shower and hap time at the 100 mile finish bag hotel location. Of course, pictures with Phil presenting my buckle and award were had. Also, Nick, one of the great folks welcoming people at the finish, and Phil got me a Dr Pepper from the Walgreens behind us when asked if there was something I needed. Nick along with Eliot escorted me to the room.

PC: Ricardo Hijar

Let me say, it felt so good to take a shower and get clean clothes on. I laid down for some rest on the floor. Over the time of my relaxing in the room, I got to see Matt and congratulate him on his finish as well as third place finisher Camilo. Other folks were a blur but all welcome conversation. Eventually, around 12:50, I had to head out. I had a 1:30 am Megabus to catch. I walked over with my bags of stuff to the Jacob Javits Center for the long ride home. Unlike most trips on a bus, I could not comfy to sleep or even get in a comfy position. That was not the worst of it, Back home in Philly, I decided on the walk to the Megabus, I'd catch a cab from 30th St Station home. Apparently, none of those exists at 3:30 am. No way was I going to wake up Peg. Because I happened to ride my bike to work and the station on Friday, I had that as a means to get home. Let me tell you that 6 mile bike ride was some of the hardest peddling ever. And since I live uphill, I walked with the bicycle up the hill for the final 3/4 mile. Finally around 4:15-4:30 (time is but a blur at this point), I walk in the door. Amazingly, I don't disturb Falcon, our dog. Pawnee, our cat comes to greet me. After another 20 minutes or so, I just lay on the couch not really expecting to sleep and catch a few winks my TGNY journey done.

Jurgen and Otto - Because I love this photo
PC: Richard Chung







Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Worlds End Ultramarathon 50K: A Round of Redemption

To beat a horse that has already been dead, buried, dug up and reburied a few times on here, for the past couple of years I've been putting in a lot of work building myself back up mentally. In conjunction with that process, I've talked openly (or at least I feel I've tried to be open) about when I stumble and flat out struggle inside my head.

Well, this past weekend, on the 2017 edition of National Trails Day (which is funny because to us trail runners, everyday is trails day), I took part in the 50K race at Worlds End Ultramarathons and got to work on myself. 

If you recall last year in the middle of May, I had been slated to run the 100K at Worlds End. I got up there only to suffer an anxiety attack that more or less resulted in a Did Not Start. It also was the time, that despite the downturn related to my racing, I had a wonderful weekend hiking around the park. So, when registration opened for the 2017 edition of the races, I opted to start out on a quest for redemption on a smaller scale by tackling the 50K. You could say that in some ways, 2017 is shaping up to be about continuing my personal reclamation project particularly when my Dirty German 50 Mile finish gets factored in. 

Two consecutive ultras that were 'setbacks' previously where I was seeking a bit of redemption. I don't want to call them failures because I've learned and grown from those experiences. (Plus, as I just said, last year I really had a wonderful weekend at Worlds End State Park. Kind of hard to call that a failure when I still had a good time.)

Anyways, enough of all the recap of recaps.....on with the show!

Unlike last year, when I stayed in one of the rustic cabins and we had the Nissan Versa, I had a campsite with plans to sleep in the back for the truck. Other differences were a later arrival and NOT picking up my packet the night before. Admittedly, I wanted to avoid too much socializing. Mainly, I wanted to relax by reading. Of course, I say this only to swerve you. How so? Well, turns out, my site randomly was across from where pals Angie and Heather were camping. Now, while we did a bit of chatting, it was not much as I did sit down to read quite a bit before settling in for a bedtime around 10pm. Since the 50K didn't start until 7am, I could treat it much like a normal night which keeps the nerves calm. Yet, I will say, I did largely expect to be woken up by the masses headed to the 100K start at 5am. Before I got to that point, around 12am, I was disturbed from my slumber by a camper pulling into the site next to mine. Mind you, I also had earplugs in. It took me an hour to go back to sleep. Maybe that is why I managed to end up sleeping through all the 100K people moving about. I woke up around 5:30 to the sounds of rain on the top of the truck cap. I quickly got myself ready and drove over to the Cliff Pavilion area of Worlds End to get my bib and relax some more.

While, I had a goal to be low-key before the start, I ran into Ryan Espulgar (who was crewing this year) and John Johnson (who came to watch the show). I will say seeing familiar faces is really nice. John was excited to be on the spectator end. (He is also the only person to have won both the 100K and 50K here.) 

With the weather being a bit spitty, I kept dry and warm in the back of the truck. I even laid down for a 20 minute nap. The weather also solidified my hydration choice....go with a single Nathan ExoDraw bottle. I had thought about also using an ExoShot which I could stuff in the waistband of my shorts. I would be snacking on ShotBlocs all day that I kept in my Nathan Hipster. Shoe-wise, I decided for more grip on the wet rock with a pair of LaSportiva Helios instead of my Montrail FKTs. More importantly, this time, I remembered SOCKS!!!! Granted, I was running one big 50K loop instead of 3 loops in a monsoon, this was still a memory victory. Being all prepped, I rolled over to the start area just in time for the pre-race brief (the point of the day we were reminded to be cautious of wildlife) where I saw Papa Trail himself, Dylan. As we lined up, I started to bounce the bounce. I was ready to roll. I knew what was coming at me from spending part of last year on the course and John letting me what I expect in stretches. Basically, telling me I can open it up in a fair number of spots. 

Like that...we were off.....

To help thin the field before hitting singletrack, Worlds End starts off with around 3/4 of a mile of pavement and maybe another 1/4 of dirt road. From the gun, I asserted myself on the rest of the field. (No, I did not sprint out like I was a child in a local 5K who thought it would be cool to become a moving roadblock.) This part of the course, is the one that I remember the most from hiking around last year so I knew it was going to be a climb and have good technical bits along with some beautiful scenery. 

Image result for butternut trail worlds end
Butternut Falls


Coming out of the Butternut Trail loop, the real fun starts as we turn onto the Loyalsock Trail segment that is also the High Rocks Trail where we got to go across High Rock Falls where a photographer was just setting up shop, meaning no cool photos of me here. But I can share one of my buddy Dylan!

Image may contain: outdoor, water and nature
This is Dylan crossing High Falls

By this point, I knew I was up by a minute. At the start of this trail stretch there had been a crowd of people making noise so as I passed, I glanced at my watch and waited to hear the next bit of noise to check again. Visually, it meant, I was alone for now. On a day like this, I was more than happy to be solo through here. It allowed me to enjoy the scramble up the rocky climbs so much more. Once I reached the top, I knew I could open it up some but not as much as I would have liked. With the weather having been damp in the state of Pennsylvania recently, the ground had not fully dried out before RD David Walker sent a couple hundred people out to run trails. Hello, mud! I have to say the mud was the most frustrating part of my day as I would get into a good running grove only to encounter a swath of mud that if I was not careful would suck my shoes off. So that meant my day was going to be a tad more challenging. Still, since John Johnson thought I could go sub 5 hours, I'd give it a go. However, by the time I made it to the second aid station where I refilled my bottle with Tailwind at 10.5 miles in 1:42, I knew it was not that likely. As a matter of fact, I mentioned to John that the course was running slow due to the mud as I was speeding out of the station like I was trying to out run a black bear. (Thankfully, no black bears were encountered by my eyes.) Later on, I would find out, I had a 5 minute lead at AS2. It could have been and should have been more since I did make a navigational error on a patch of trail that intersected a fireroad. (In short, I made a right instead of a left, figured that out quickly and then missed the trail in the other direction. Best part of this was I did not panic at the errors.) 

For the next stretch, the terrain aside from the mud was really runnable. John reminded me that it was so that was in my head! And I will say it was. Yet, I did need to stop a couple of times because I was having pain on the top of my left foot. The tongue on my shoe had slid over and was digging in to the point of discomfort. Eventually, I had to untie and re-tie my shoe to loosen. My overall pace was dropping and by the time I hit the Worlds End Aid Station 19.3, I had a shot at the sub 5. (Took time to do another Tailwind refill) That didn't last too long as the climbs between Worlds End and Canyon Vista were probably my slowest all day. However, one of the enjoyable aspects was I really begun catching 100K runners much more often. It just added a little spark each time. Plus, it is helpful to know that if I possibly fell down the side of the trail, someone may come along that could be of assistance. Once I topped out at Canyon Vista, I saw Ryan again who said the next aid station was being run by the Pagoda Pacers, who I know a number of because well we run a lot of the same races. I don't want to say that out of people that I had a home field advantage but things like that give me the allusion of one. (Which also adds a bit on the pressure scale.)

By now, I'm roughly 4 hours in with 9 miles to go. In my mind, that sub 5 is gone. Thinking also that the course record was 5:04:xx, I didn't think I would come close to it. Still, I kept going. My goal was to finish and win. I was clearly going to do the first unless something really tragic happens. People I were passing mentioned/asked that I was first in the 50K. I confirmed I was in the 50K but never felt comfortable saying I was first. After all, there is no real placing until the finish line. And in my head, I had no idea where second was, so I was not going to jinx myself. 

(For the life of me, I cannot recall if it was between AS 3 and 4 or AS 4 and 5, that I passed Heather and Jesse, who was doing his first 100K.)

Following a longer stretch than expected (my head had different thoughts about reality), I finally reached the party that was the Coal Mine aid station. Of course, the first person I see and hear is Mike Yoder! I grab more coke to chug. I got told to throw cups down and essentially just get out of there since I only had around 3.5 to go. Let the record show I handed the cups to someone before taking off. Also, it was either excitement or my stink that made them rush me out. I mention the stink because when I passed a couple of folks not longer prior to this aid station, I heard talking behind me that sounded like a conversation knowing that I was coming because of my smell. I certainly hope that was not the case but I will say I was very alert to any smell I might have been giving off. A smell, mind you, that I was definitely noseblind to if existed. So now, I'm slower and stinky running in the most sunny portion of the 50K for me all day. A very runnable section that took me a little longer than I should have to get hauling on. Eventually I did and it was glorious! I began to get excited for myself that I was going to finish. Not only was I going to start a race at Worlds End this year, I was going to finish! Time wise, sub 5 had passed which meant the CR had passed. As I was bombing the last downhill (that some 50K runners were starting to go up after I directed them the right way), I really began to feel this weight lift. I charged hard under the road, behind the snack shop and into the finish.

Just like that I was done, with a beep of the timing mat. The finish area was pretty quiet. They didn't realize I was coming in. So, after I crossed the finish, I took my disgusting body over to the Loyalsock Creek to cool off some. I dipped my legs in the water and scooped some to pour on me. As I was taking it in, David came over. He got word that I finished and was near the creek. My finish burst his goal of him not missing anyone. However, he had more important matters to tend to like runner safety and overseeing the event. 

My watch time was 5:12:47. It was going to be the second fastest time on the course. I was happy about that. While a course record would have been nice, it actually was not a primary goal. My primary goal was to redeem myself for last year. This race was about my physical ability working with my mental ability. It was about the thing between my two ears, my brain. 

Still, with my mind telling me I stank, I drove the truck back over to the campground to take a shower. It was a glorious shower with surprisingly warm/hot water! Sadly, because I needed to clean off and took forever doing it, I missed Dylan finish in second. He also was gone by the time I got back! So, I apparently dragged my arse there. Bummed I didn't get to say goodbye. That said, I did get to witness lots of other finishes of the 50K. Some people I didn't know, some I did like Angie and Ben (Rock N the Knob RD). Saw Anthony and Joanne who called it a day at 19 miles. In essence, I was now hanging out. Eventually, it worked out for awards to be presented. It was during that point, I learned how wrong I was about the course record. Instead of thinking I missed it by 9 minutes, David mentioned I missed John's record by a minute (more like 1 min 20 sec). Oh well.....I still was happy.

With a drive home ahead of me, I called it a day an hour before the 100K beasts started to come in. I'm sorry I didn't get to congratulate them in person, especially those I knew running. (So let this be my formal public congratulations to all of you.)

Again, I left Worlds End with it etching itself as a special place to me. Last year, it was special for all the wonderful time I spent with Peg there. (I was telling Angie and Heather about the rock formation on the Canyon Vista trail. The one not called the Rock Garden!) This year, it is special for different reasons.

My hope is to return to run the 100K. I've been told that other 50K section is a lot worse. It is the type of physical challenge I like. Lets get the mental on the same page.









Tuesday, May 16, 2017

More like the Extra Dirty German....

Sometimes, I look forward to sharing my thoughts about my running and get ideas of what I want to say only to not write things up in time or forget the cool catchy yarn I want to spin.

We can call this a clear mix of the two. Since last time I threw up on this blog, I've added races of 60K, 5K and 50M all the while working to stay focused on running. I'll tell you it has been hard. Allergies finally hit. A planned race was not doable for issues with the truck. And work got super stressful! The latter which required some serious overtime. Most of these were grouped around the start of May. This has enabled me to dub May, not exactly my best month. A few years ago, I had three ultra DNF's which I followed up last year with super stress from having my whole routine thrown out the window by serving practically two weeks on a jury. This led to stress causing a late DNS at World's End. Yeah, May....

Anyways, I've been managing fairly well this year. My sleeping rhythms (whether a good night or bad night) have me up running before 6am (sometimes a shade after). With the early sun, I've been able to do these morning runs mainly on trails. Most of my training has been within the Wissahickon lately. While I do not usually do my 20+ milers through there on the upper trails, on the day of my aborted race, I spent 3 hours cranking out some enjoyable footfalls. You might say that right now the runs through there have been centering. Sure I do a little pavement here and there on my morning runs, but I find myself dipping onto the trails.

Of course, I do not expect y'all to come here merely to read how I train but want to know about some racing. As I mentioned above, I've done three notable runs. The first was the 3rd edition of Bryan Court 100. Prior to this year's April edition, it was last held in Dec 2015. It is 100 laps around a .38 mile double cul du sac street. The brainchild of my friends Jurgen and Otto, it is not so much a race despite official results with awards and finisher medals but a good time to do a long run with friends. I needed the mileage considering I had just been moved off the wait list for TGNY 100 in June. And one of the things I hate to do by myself all the time are super long runs. (Anything about 20 as a training run moves into that category.)  BC100 was exactly the experience I hoped for. Got in miles. Got to hang out with people. Great day!

Now originally, I was going to follow up BC with Lake Waramaug 100K. Mid-week, I started to get hit with stress at work and that turned into anxiety surrounding the race, Luckily since I had not signed up, I opted to do a different race, Ironmaster's Challenge. It was closer by an hour, on trail instead of road, and I could sleep in the truck for free the night before. Not to mention, they had race day registration. Unfortunately, I never made it out to the race. The afternoon prior to my departure, the truck started running really poorly. It's an old truck so we expect some tempermentalism from it. However, the difference was this time the Check Engine light was on. Still I departed around 7pm to head out to Pine Grove Furnace. Considering, I had some time for the truck to settle down (since sometimes warming up does the trick), I told myself if the truck was not running right by the time I would hop on the PA Turnpike, I wouldn't go. This ended up being the case and the truck ended up in the shop twice the following week to correct the issue.

Mentally, I pushed through and did my 3 hour run through the Wissahickon getting in 22 of the 31 miles I had planned. Having almost bagged the run before 5 miles, this was a boost and led into a solid week of training and a 5K.

Sure, it was Broad Street 10 Mile weekend but I was doing a 5K because I was not signed up for the 10 miler because I had ultras on my slate. (Hello, conflict!) So I dipped my toes into speed again and went back to the Alex Wake Memorial 5K held at the Baldwin School. For whatever reason, this year the race felt smaller than when I did it back in 2014. (At least I think it was 14 and not 15.) Last time, I had won a gift card to Bryn Mawr Running Company and was hoping to do the same again. And considering without any present shoe sponsor, I planned on building up some cash to get a new pair of shoes. In fact, I had not only my previous gift card from this race but a second gift card to the store. In the end, the race ended up being 7 seconds slower than my previous winning time. A bit of a bummer but I did get another BMRC GC which I promptly went to spend after the race. Again with TGNY in mind, I got a pair of Clifton 3. I would have got the Brooks Hyperion for a road flat too but they were out of my size. (Amazingly, I also found out one of the old GC that I thought was for 50 was for 100!)

Lets call this starting to feel good!

And feeling good I was. In the week leading up to Alex Wake, I got into the Dirty German 50 Miler. I was going back for two reasons. I needed the miles with not doing the end of April ultra and a bit of redemption for 2015 when it was one of my May DNF's. The forecast looked good. Cooler temps! (Unlike the sufferfest of heat last time.) However, as the race got closer cool temps became cool temps and a Nor'easter!

Thankfully, the RD, Stephan green lit the race to continue.

Now, while feeling guilty for the mud running that was likely to occur, I was pleased as punch to be running this race in the rain. It is a little more suited to my liking.

With the forecast, I elected to bring a tent to the race (held in Philadelphia's Pennypack Park) to stash my stuff so that I would have dry gear, shoes to change if need be, my hydration.....

Let me say right now, I was very happy with this decision. Once the tent was set up, I stayed not only dry but warm as I did the final moments of prep. Bottles filled. Check. Shoes laid out. Check. Glide applied. Check. Bib pinned. Check. Socks....socks. Where are my socks? Search through the bag. How is it, I have everything else but my socks? Deep breaths. Apparently, somehow the extra socks I tend to leave in my ultra gear bag for races were not there. Now, I had one pair of slightly damp socks I wore to the race. Troubleshooting in the spot. I needed to determine my best combination options. Best non-sock shoes in this weather? I immediately identified my Montrail FluidFlex as the best draining shoes and thus the best choice for no socks. Considering my FluidFlex II's looked too shiny, I figured no sense to use those. That left me with LaSportiva Vertical K and Helios. After working with what fits best with my Farm To Feet socks, I decided to go with the Vertical K. In fact, I opted to start the race with this combo and go to the Montrails if need be. The Helios were comfy enough to walk around in post race without socks and the best candidate to keep me warm after. Crisis adverted. At least for now.

Fueling wise the plan was simple. 3 laps. 3 bottles. For the first lap, I would go with my Nathan SpeedShot Plus followed by Nathan ExoDraws for each of the last two. I would keep Clif ShotBlocs in my Nathan Hipster throughout the race. I would say this worked out wonderfully. No issues with this plan.

A couple of minutes before the start, I popped out of the tent, scurried to do my business and make it to the start just as Stephan was giving instructions before we went off. (Following a countdown of course.)

Like that we were off as the first race of the race (50K started 30 minutes after us and 25K an additional 30 minutes later). I got a few words of encouragement from people I didn't see. (Quite possibly all my friends staying dry who were doing the shorter races.) This encouragement prompted the runner a few strides ahead of me to ask if I was...well who I am. I confirmed this. Turns out the runner, whose name is Jameson, had heard about me through Peg during his own training in the Wissahickon. Small world? Probably not in this case considering...same city.

Anyways, it appeared we would be running together for some time. (I'd say we opened up a good gap from the start never really thinking about anyone behind us.)

1st lap....check out lap 3 later (it is of the same section)
Photo: Christopher Mortensen

Now the benefit of being out front for the first race of the day is getting the best trail conditions possible for the day. And of course, all the surprises nobody else has experienced yet. The first of which was the initial Pennypack Creek crossing due to a bridge detour. That creek was angry and it was still early. The rain was only going to make it worse later. I uttered something about fearing it on later loops. Aside from that one stretch, the first loop was rather uneventful. Tried to stay away from any giant puddles, run the drier edges and not push the pace too much. Jameson and I were pretty inseparable for that lap until he made a pee stop (sorry to out you but it is the nature of these) near the finish. Not long after I left for my second loop, he caught up and were we back together. This time we both discovered the creek crossing had been rerouted over the bridge. (Stephan later said the creek was really high on the 25K runners. Clearly. adding to the need to reroute on the fly.)

Also, it was obvious, that the course was going to be muddier and slower this go round. (It would be on this loop that I would slip twice.)

Buttery Singletrack
Photo: Renne Farrington Wentz

Maybe it was the rain but I did mention that I thought we might have missed a section between aid stations 2 and 3. For some reason, I felt like we had not done part of the course that you run in both directions. Our time on the first lap felt fast at 2 hours. I mentioned if we did miss it, I would run it twice this lap to make up the difference. (Which would be three actually since it would be correct time, back out to do it again and do it again.) Thankfully, I was wrong. I apparently my brain did not process one straighter stretch as the section I thought we missed. (This is the stretch right after AS 1 and right before AS3.) And yet, on the first loop on the way into AS 3, a group of runners asked if they were going the right way which I assured them. Because I will say this, despite the rain, the ground trail markings help up really well!

Following the 'repeater section', Jameson started to become a little elastic in his contact. Still we were together. Talking a little less but still together enjoying the weather. At one point, Jameson blew by me on a stream crossing. I was taking them careful. We hooked back up and it was through here that I started to distance myself from him. To be honest, I enjoyed the initial company but I'd rather not talk about my running in the middle of a race. So I was happy to be left to my own devices. It wasn't like I was alone with other runners around.

Eventually heading back to AS1/AS3, I could see that the aid station moved a little as the creek was now creeping up over the banks onto the paved path. Thus, reminding me to be happy about not having to cross the creek like the first loop. The rest of the loop was uneventful aside from working to pass people on slippery muddy singletrack. Loop 2 was 13 minutes slower than Loop 1.

During my start/finish pit-stop, I saw Sean from the Wissahickon Wanderers who ran the 25K. I was focused on getting back out so I didn't say much other than it beginning to suck a little as I took an ibuprofen and switched bottles for the last time.

On this loop, I hit what really is AS1 but with it being so close to the Start/Finish, less than a 1/4 mile, I am not calling it that. Here, I grabbed a swig of Coke and for whatever reason a Keebler-esque Fudge Cookie. Boy did that taste yummy! Much yummier than the trails looked. Lets call it what it is....a mudrun at this point. Water is really ponding on the trails. Especially those closer to the creek. Anyways, I felt good enough. Yet, as I got close to AS1, I started to crave those cookies again. However, it had been moved again due to an ever increasing creek overflow and it would have required extra steps, so I skipped it. Now, I was feeling like I was running through water. Some stretches it was either take the mud slopes or the water stream. Usually, I went with the latter as it ran quicker from a terrain standpoint. When it was a river on the path, that was a different story. That sucked! It created loads more resistance. I would say out of everything with the race, that is what made it super slow the third loop. Honestly, I was amazed I still got traction running at all!

3rd Lap - Another paved section under water
Photo: Christopher Mortensen

For the first time all day, I hit up AS2 for Coke and I grabbed 3 of those fudge cookies. Delicious!

Someone caught me eating all the cookies....(actually AS1/3 guest host)
Photo: Jeff Landerkin

More running through mud and water......

Photo: Kevin Minteer

AS3......course reroute!

The creek is now flooded to the point we now had a manned road crossing. (Stephan along with the volunteers did a great job looking out for the safety of the runners and making changes on the fly.)

Of course, I did not realize this at first. The downhill into AS3 was clearly different but I thought that reroute was for safety of sliding into the aid station. But if you are moving the course closer to the snack table, you bet I was grabbing cookies and coke before attempting to ford the path. Yes, I was going to go through the creek. My biggest worry was a Canada Goose floating right in my pathway. That is until, the volunteers shouted to me that I had to go up now. OH!!!!

Photo: Melissa Lin

I will say the changes made for a much more exciting memorable race. I was enjoying it expected I was starting to feel a little tired and sore. Not to mention cold. For my first lap, I ran with a tech-shirt over my singlet but I shed that before the start of lap 2. My singlet felt warm for much of the race as I was not overheating. However, with getting a little tired, I was feeling like I needed to be out of the rain. I wanted to be done and dry.

While the end could not come soon enough, it did arrive. My last lap was around 2:39. I finished the 50 Mile in 1st place in 6:52. Considering the conditions, I can't say a bad word about the time. I had an enjoyable run. Thanks to the tent, I had a place to change into dry clothes and warm up. Warm felt so good! And the Helios did a good job warming my sockless feet up. While I got no blisters on my feet, despite adding some protection for groin chaffing, I got a little tenderness.

It would have been a blast to hang out longer post race but it was still raining. The hour I did spend was really pleasant. Luckily, I got to see Stephan one last time on the way out. He did an amazing job!


And he has already organized a trail maintenance day post race because of our impact on nature in those conditions! That is hugely considerate and respectful.


Ok..I've waffled long enough now. In the end, I was happy to have done well and get in a good 50 miles. I would take the Nor'easter conditions over 95 degrees with humidity any day of the week.

From here on out, I focus on quality training for Worlds End 50K in 2 1/2 weeks before TGNY 100 two weeks after that. It is a big stretch but one I am feeling up to the challenge. Much more so because I got to take part in the Dirty German this year.















Saturday, April 15, 2017

Searching for that sweetspot.....

It has been several weeks now since I DNF'd at HAT. In that time, I've been searching for balance, peace and consistency.

A few days following HAT, I took an excursion to Black Moshannon State Park (and Forest) for a couple of days of hiking, running being in the woods and relaxation. I had a completely refreshing experience and will look to work more local getaways like this into my life. To me what is spoken about nature being a recharger is true.

Initially, I was going to take it much easier following my DNF than the reality has been. Sure I took all of the days before Black Moshannon off but since then, I've been relentlessly pounding out the miles. This has been good and focused. Some days, it is a solo long run. Others it has been a medium morning run followed by a speed session on the treadmill during my lunch break at work. (I tend to eat at my desk so I am not running on empty. Even recently been treating myself to some Entemann's Pop'ems.)

What has been hardest is racing. For whatever reason, the early part of this year has been a little more empty of races. Like I said before, I'd done more in the past. Considering, I use small short races as speed work and a mental training session, this has weighed on me. Thankfully, racing season is picking up somewhat. Last weekend gave me plenty of options which I took advantage of doing 5Ks on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday became a must after what I felt was a subpar 17:15 at Kristin's Krusade. Sure, I ran 4 miles to the race from home with gear (and uphill to boot) but I was aiming more for a 16:45. Didn't feel gassed but more flat. (After I did run back home too.) Sunday went much better but was way harder. I ran a 16:25 at Healthy Trails (I drove to this one) and did a 3 1/2 mile warm-up. However, I eeked it out by 3 seconds over second. It pushed me to where I nearly threw up at the finish. Would have I felt that way had I not done so much the day prior? Hard to tell but I was feeling better about the faster effort.  In both efforts, I managed to come away with the victory.

Yes, I was pleased as punch to come off a weekend of positives with wins and fast efforts and holding off someone 17 years my junior. In wanting to keep the train going, I planned on racing again this weekend. With Easter being on Sunday, that meant only a handful of Saturday races. I wanted to be a little more low-key and zoned in on a race over in NJ at the Riverwinds complex.

In short, it did not go as hoped. But I should have seen the writing on the wall. I have been sleeping poorly as of late and last night was probably the worst of it. I was up essentially from 4:30 on with only minor cat-naps for the during of my slumber, Not exactly restful. And you ever get that vibe somewhere that hits your spidey sense? Something felt out of sorts.

Despite running faster than last week, I only was able to manage 2nd. Sure second is not a bad placing but the way it happened was something I was not physically or mentally prepared for. A mile into this race and I'm barely hanging on first and my body is lacking any other gear. Immediately my mind went to, not another week like this (referencing last week's narrow win), and while I was done. I was proceeded to be passed and mentally I had no response. (Winner did go sub 16...don't have the official times.) (This also brings me to 4 wins and 4 non-wins aka losses for the year. The latter matching the entire total for 2016.)

So instead of building some positive consistency with getting what I needed out of today's 5K, I didn't and that right now has a bit of a dark cloud lingering. Sure, time wise it has been good but each effort has not been a smooth affair creating a lack of steadiness that I am searching for. What this means for my plans in the next couple of weeks, I'm not entirely sure at this particular moment. All I do know is that I will get back on that horse and try again.


Monday, March 27, 2017

HAT's Off....

So it seems that my 2017 is at a crossroads.

To say, I'm completely surprised by this is me trying to fool even myself. The reality is, I'm not entirely shocked to have reached this point. Over the past couple of years, I'd like to think I've gotten a little more reflective about where my running performance/ability stands.

For those keeping score at home 2015 was a pretty rough year for me from an ultra standpoint. I also viewed that start of the year as a weaker out the gate. Through this point in 2015, I had 2 DNF's, 1-2nd, 1-3rd, 1-4th and 3-1st. However, I did manage to rebound and win Umstead around this time as well but I struggled the rest of the year on a number of levels. Basically, I was forcing things and feeling if I DNF'd that I could just find another race to push myself with.

2016 was a much better year (5 wins in 5 races) and not the point of comparison for this piece like 2015 is.

Right now through 2017, I have 2-DNF's, 2-1st's and 1-2nd. Not horrible but those DNF's are not exactly what I want to be compiling. Also, only one of those results is a 5K. Normally, I have at least one more. Plus, the one I do have was more of a cross country run in the snow than a road course I was hoping it to be. So really, relatively speaking, it is a mixed bag with only my 50K back in Jan being a really solid result that I felt good about. Now there are a few reasons for this. Part of it is that some of the races did not take place this year or I opted for other choices.

My latest choice was to not run Two Rivers Marathon and see if I could do HAT instead. My choice was made because I have been increasingly feeling exhausted from stress (and anxiety as for me the two have a link). The thought of getting up to leave the house at 5am for a 2 1/2 hour drive for a road marathon felt too much to handle. And considering my standard would be the demanding road marathon mindset, I just did not have it. So I felt maybe if I race on the trails instead I would be in a better place. (In addition, I opted to not travel to VA for an ultra next weekend.) Thankfully, I was able to get into the field and toe the line.

However, the best part of my HAT Run was my pre-race ritual on site. Not much else went well. I had surprisingly poor sleep and was incredibly loud in the morning. Then my sunglasses managed to get broken. All this before we started. Yet, while, I went to the front in a modest pace, once we hit a minor uphill and I mean minor, my legs were flat. I thought it might have been just not being loose and that running some more would get me going smoother. NOPE. I was never comfortable. My legs felt heavy and incapable of a fluid feeling stride. I was hardly into the race but I knew I was done. I kept going to see if it would change but the reality was my body was telling me that today was not the day. Still, I managed to get through 17.5 miles before calling it a day. While the day's result is not what I wanted, it provided me with some great information, namely, that I need to rest. That means no running right now. So, I'm taking it light for a few days possibly a couple of weeks.

Yet, the bigger piece of information is that, I need to rethink my priorities at the moment. (And I don't think if I had done the marathon, I would have gotten the same insight.) Back in 2015, my DNF would have likely had me running a race this weekend of comparable distance. Let's not forget I would have gone in with lofty goals as well not thinking the previous effort had any effect on me. This time around, I know that would be a knuckleheaded thing to repeat. It has me rethinking my attempt at a sub 7hr 100K. In fact, it has me rethinking even doing that race altogether. Right now, my main objective from a running standpoint is to get my legs back to feeling springy and being energized. Part of that requires recharging my own batteries too. As a result of that, I will be taking a small getaway to a more remote Western part of PA for a few nights in a cabin in the woods. Theodore Roosevelt typically used his trips to nature to do something similar. I'd never thought I would need the calm of the 'wilderness' like I do periodically. I'm seriously hoping it makes a big impact.

During this woodsy-time, I'll do some hiking and running but those activities will partially be to break up the day that I aim to spend good amounts of time reading. Objective: RELAXATION

Once I come back to civilization, I'll re-evaluate my running goals including the 100K and whether I should race it or not. I will say that on Saturday, my response was not to. But I've relaxed my stance because I've considered going to just set a PR under 8hrs. It seems a more reasonable goal but that is dependent on how I feel. And the reality is that I don't have to decide right when I come back or even get back up to the same running speed. I can take the time to rest and prioritize that. And the reality is that I need to. I understand, I'm pretty fragile, in a manner of speaking, beyond just running. Yes, an aspect of what I am trying to say is that this is bigger than just running. Seriously, I do not want to feel overwhelmed with stress and suffer a paralyzing 'fight or flight' episode. (While I can type words, I'm not entirely sure that these are the best words to describe things but I hope you as a reader get a sense of understanding.)

The biggest part of all this is that not only do I have to make sure my legs feel good to run BUT that my mind and body can handle doing it. This means thinking about whether it will stress me out to the point that I will undo everything I am trying to do to improve at the moment. If the answer is no, than that race is out. Aside from that, I will get back to some shorter local distance focus. I will be staying away from adding any ultra that I have not already signed up for or considered in express discussion with others. (Not all of them have been made public and really they are in the fall.)

I've got time to right this running ship but it does require me to really address my stress and anxiety first. Hopefully the wilderness will do that for me.

What I do know is that I seriously feel like I learned a big lesson from 2015 and that is not to push it. I'm more observant and conscious enough to recognize the potential for doing damage to myself. 2016 was a year to regain a lot, so I will be damned if I lose it again.




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Conquered by a Pebble (Foothills 50K Race Report)

Today, I bring you the story of how took a trip to Pickens, South Carolina so I could fall down a mountain.

Yes, I fell down a mountain. And in typical fashion it was not because I tripped on a super technical section of roots or rocks. I either caught a pebble or little nub of a cut tree.

Of course, that single event is bookended by so much more. Ultimately, this is that tale.....

As the calendar flipped from 2016 to 2017, I began to look for some reasonable races where I could travel and expand my horizons through new challenges. Last month's Iron Horse was another such example. In doing my research, I stumbled upon a race called Foothills 50K (aka Conquer the Rock) held at Table Rock State Park in (you guessed it), Pickens, SC. It looked like a challenging race with 18,000 ft of elevation change as we would run 3 loops up and down Pinnacle Mountain.



About Pinnacle Mountain: According to my sources at Wikipedia, they tell me, Pinnacle Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Other sources, including RD Matthew Hammersmith, inform me that there was a fire on the mountain late last year. As to the validity of the first, I cannot confirm or deny the accuracy but as to the second, my first hand experience there this past weekend does indeed confirm a fire took place on the mountain. (It's my job to sort through the facts so you can get to the bottom of things.)

Now what really made this a possible race destination was the daily emails I get from Frontier Airlines telling me of deals to Charlotte, North Carolina. We are talking reasonable prices if you are good flying with only a backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you. Thankfully, I excel at this! Using handy-dandy Google Maps, I was able to learn that Table Rock State Park was a two hour drive from Charlotte Douglass Airport. One of my travel criteria is that the race be no more than 2 1/2 hours from where I fly in. My reason for this emphasis is to make sure I do not tax myself with a longer than necessary drive. Of course, if I am not flying and staying regionally, that drive time number can rise.

Due to the airfare and distance, I put the race on my calendar for March 4th. That doesn't mean I registered right then and there for it. Unless there is a sell-out risk, I've taken the approach that I'd rather make sure I'm not wasting more money than need be. It is also why I opt to reserve cars through the rental companies themselves at the rate I can cancel. Same goes for hotels. And since I try to keep airfare down, I minimize loss. (Can you tell I obsess over the economics of logistics?) If I can manage to book Southwest at a comparable rate too, all the better.

To make things happen, I booked a flight out of PHL on Frontier on March 3rd that got me into Charlotte at 12pm. From there it was an Enterprise booking until 4am Sunday morning as I was flying Delta back to PHL via Detroit around 6am.

Lodging for the most part was left alone for a while. Now, this tale is not entirely a solo adventure as my friend from Trail Whippass (and a fellow local runner), Kiran was doing the same race! While we booked our flights separately, our travel was nearly identical! Her flight back was 15 minutes after mine but we ended up on the same Frontier flight down. What that meant....split expenses! YES! Cheaper traveling for the two of us. Of course, we waiting until the week before the race to handle lodging. (Which is the same week that I officially registered.) We had a game plan. Friday night, stay near the race. Saturday night, in Charlotte closer to the airport. Now the really awesome part was we managed to get a cabin in Table Rock State Park for 1 night. This took some finessing as they typically require a two night stay. More or less, you find a single night available that is bookended and take that.

By far away, these cabins were stellar. Now I could really go on about how awesome these are. All of them date back to the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)  and have been lovingly cared for. I felt fully relaxed. Full kitchens, heat (as in actual heater system) and to our surprise upon arrival...WIFI!!!!!!! The wifi was great because cell service was non-existent on my phone. Because I had a Google Fi phone, I could easily make a wifi call. Also, because we had a kitchen, on the way from the airport, we picked up food to cook. Better then trying to figure out where to eat in the middle of nowhere. The final touch were the plush blankets. Oh yeah. Ideal, sit and read environment that I usually can experience most when in Maine.

Anyways, since we arrived near 4pm and there was a packet pick-up in the park, we stopped at the cabin to drop off our stuff before heading over to get our bibs. That was a super quick process which enabled us to get back to relaxing and eating quicker before bedtime. (Yes, I'm cutting some of the boring out but I will tell you I did get a third of the way into Sarah Vowell's Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.)

With an 8am start time, it made Saturday morning so easy. No extra early rise and shine. We got to the race location around 7:15 - 7:20. Since the race was providing Tailwind, I loaded up my Nathan ExoDraws and my Nathan Peak with the good stuff. My fueling strategy was to use the Exo bottles for the first two loops and the Peak for the last. Now I was still going to run with the Peak the whole time in case I needed to tap into it since we got aid at the start/finish of every loop, so a ten mile stretch. As usual I had some ShotBlocs taped to the bottles. First loop would be with one bottle, the second with the other...and as stated before neither for the third loop. I also would be stuffing a handful of Gummy Bears in my face each time.

Since it was a little chilly, I went to the start line wearing black gloves and my Trail Racing Over Texas t-shirt. For the course, I opted to wear my Montrail FluidFlex FKTs. Now I did consider wearing a pair of LaSportiva Helios SR's due to the downhill as they have the extra grip in the heel but I felt they run a little too tight for a 50K. From the 'gun', it was clear that it was going to be a two person race between myself and last year's third place finisher, Eli White as we went out to the front very quickly for the road section that starts and finishes every loop. We chatted away and were in lock step all the way up the mountain. As we got closer to the top, we really noticed signs of where the mountain burned. Eli pointed out a wonderful view from Bald Knob around a mile from the summit. That last mile really kicks you in the unmentionables, especially the last 1/4 mile before the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. Once we cleared the summit, Eli asked to go around and moved by me on the downhill. He was like a rocket! With two more loops, I was not going to take too many risks at that point. So he opened a lead. My goal was to not let it get too large so I moved quick by cautious. Eventually coming down the Ridge Trail we blend into the popular Table Rock Trail which goes to the summit of the adjacent peak to Pinnacle. Here, all the runners we going to encounter hikers for much of the day. (The Pinnacle Mtn Trail had some as well but not nearly as many.) And it is in this stretch between the junction of trails and road, it happened.

I fell down the mountain.

I had just passed a group of hikers on a downhill slope and hit a slightly level patch where I could open some. As I was about to hit some gas, I caught my toe on something and felt hard. My right side took the brunt of the fall. Yet, I managed to do a number on my left knee too. Not only that, I nearly destroyed my handheld as I was leaking Tailwind all over the trail. Amazingly, I was able to put the bottle components together and all was well. I had some ShotBlocs that went flying. And while I did not discover this until after the race, I broke the little spring loaded do-hickey where I can put things and tighten them in place on my Nathan Peak.

I got up and started moving again. I had been banged up pretty hard. I looked down and saw blood from my knee and then noticed it from my right elbow. Negative thoughts began to swirl in my head. Quitting became an option. I had two miles to go in the loop. Already I was thinking the fall cost me the race. Yet, in a sign of mental strength, I told myself I did not want to DNF another race that I traveled to. Regardless, I wanted to finish. Still, if I felt I would do myself harm continuing only then I would stop. My spirits were boosted by seeing Eli just leaving the Start/Finish as I was coming in. He was about two minutes up on me. I ran into the 'Barn' and made the decision due to the fall I wanted both my hands free for the whole race. I ditched any ExoDraw bottles. Also, with being out of whack, I did a quick pee break. This all meant a little slower than usual but I felt it was appropriate.

My brain also told me that if I had any shot of winning it had to be because of going uphill. Once I got off the road and past the Nature Center (and the pretty waterfalls) it was time to climb. I told myself to push a little in the spots I paused a tad on the first lap. Make up time. Amazingly, when I got to Bald Knob, a hiker told me Eli was a minute up. Ok...I'm doing well. On a switchback portion, I caught a glimpse of Eli. A glimpse because he was nearly at the summit which meant he was flying down hill gaping me. This time, I had little choice but to push it a little more on the downhill. Quick and alert! No problems the second time down. Again, Eli was just leaving the Start/Finish when I came in. Only difference was he had a little more time up. It was still a close race. Yet, I was beginning to feel resigned to the fact I was going to be second. Still, I was not quitting but I felt the third climb a bit more so I was REALLY SURPRISED to hear from the same hiker farther down the mountain this time that Eli was only a minute up. Then before we ever reached Bald Knob, I caught him!!!! Thinking if I could strike anywhere, it was now so I made an effort to pass. This lasted a little bit until we hit the 1/4 mile Sh*tkicker before Pinnacle's summit. My body said no more. It's day was done. Eli took back the lead and once he hit the summit, I heard a shot of joy and down he went. My legs were toasted. As much as I wanted to run down, my pace was seemingly in what felt like neutral. I was only moving because I was going down. With it now being early afternoon, traffic on the trail was greater and that did nothing to help me do anything but stop when I hit groups usually on stone steps that I had to use the steps as groups flanked the sides that I utilized the first couple of loops. Despite giving it a fight, I knew I was not going to caught Eli and just focused on finishing in one piece.

As I was finishing my third loop, I saw Kiran go out for hers. She was in great spirits! (Plus, now I got a sense of how long it was taking her.)

So in the end, despite a good effort especially climbing, I got whipped on that downhill by 11 minutes. Both Eli and myself went under the course record (5:23:25 to 5:34:33) as did the next two finishers. (One of which was last year's winner, Darian Smith.)

Did I want to win? Absolutely. However, I am far from disappointed with my effort. I got hurt and fought back to reset the race with 5 miles to go. (Yes, I lost 11 minutes in 5 miles.) This was by far the toughest 50K I have ever done. It is a great challenge that I am only happy to have participated in. It reminds me that while I like to think of myself as a good downhill runner, I have room to improve there but it requires moving out of a comfort zone by taking risk. It also reaffirms that I can climb well on long steady climbs.

Following the race, I confirmed the campground bathrooms had showers (Thanks, Darian!) and bought a bar of Irish Spring from the state park's Country Store down the road. It helped to get clean of the blood. Plus, that allowed me to feel fresh while waiting for Kiran. I thought I would read some but that didn't happen as I poked around to the store some more again later and ended up buying a t-shirt. Not the one I really wanted which had a WPA era style graphic but still a nice long sleeve. In the process had a nice chat with the woman working the register. She told me that this was the first weekend of the season they were open. She also told me how she took a trip up to Allentown once and told me about tea ordering. In the south, it is just tea for iced tea. Her travel mates did not know this during said trip up north.

Anyways, I hung out back at the finish and got to see Kiran finish. She did awesome! And she also had the attitude of change and go. We took the scenic way out of the park and caught some views of what we ran. The drive to Charlotte was pretty uneventful which was nice.

Our room at the Residence Inn was a nice space to finish the day. We both ate leftovers from the prior night. Of course, I tried to venture out for food but Panera closed before I got to it and a diner effort was met without any attention to be seated. At that point eating at a place would take too long. Still I enjoyed the minor experience of walking around as it was a pleasant evening of no jacket required.

Eventually it was lights out and I did not sleep well. (I took the couch in both the cabin and the hotel. Both were sleeper sofas but much like I do at home, I just sleep couch style.) My scrapes from the day were angry with me which led to the lack of comfort. And since they were on both sides of my body, I could not side sleep. Still, I caught 3 hours total before getting up around 3:20.

To the airport, we went. We got to security just in time as the line ballooned behind us! I hung out with Kiran at her gate until it was time for me to board my flight (I left a little earlier).

And after a pair of flights and a 2 1/2 layover in Detroit where I grabbed breakfast, I was home.

Now that a few days have passed still a little banged up but I did my first real run today. 6 miles into the office.....

Of course, the result and physical impact has me rethinking some upcoming options of races. Thankfully, none of them require a full commitment right now so I can heal my wounds and get back out there to do the damage I want to than have it done to me.



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.