Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Indiana Trail 100: April 26th, 2014 "Buckle UP!" (long version)

Disclaimer, this is the really long version.  If you would rather just read about the actual race then you can click here to take you to the shorter version which is still long but not as long as the long version.

I would like to rewind the clock to last summer when I attempted Burning River 100 in late July and I came up short.  I was proud that I made it 74 miles but disappointed that a pain in my foot slowed me down and not making a cutoff prevented me from finishing, although the pain was so bad that even if I made the cutoff I probably would not of continued anyway.  The biggest reason for the disappointment is that I dedicated 6 months of my life to training for the event.  Countless hours driving to and running on the trails and also running around our neighborhood, all so I could achieve my newest life goal and get a 100 mile finisher buckle.  In the later miles of Burning River I kept thinking that maybe I am just not cut out for doing 100 miles but I was caught up in the moment.  Two days after my emotions settled down I was already plotting to find another 100 mile race to jump into.  I knew I needed a few months to rest and recover from Burning River so I thought I could begin training in late fall for a spring race.  Indiana Trail 100 is in late April and a relatively flat course with a little over 5,000 feet of elevation gain throughout the 100 miles so I thought it would be perfect.

I signed up for the race and I went out to one of the organized training runs in October last year to preview the course.  The course is at Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Albion, IN and is a 16.7 mile trail loop that you run around 6 times to complete the 100 miles.  The guys that put this race on (Mike Pfefferkorn, Jerry Diehl, Tom Landis, and Don Lindley along with several others) are extremely dedicated to the community, trail running, and the parks.  They donate most, if not all, of the proceeds from the event to Chain-O-Lakes State Park.  They are out there every weekend doing training runs, maintaining the existing trails and also helping to create new trails.  The Indiana Trail 100 facebook page shows evidence of how dedicated they really are.  They hold training runs every week throughout the year.  They offer advice and even set up aid stations at many of the training runs.  They do all of this for free out of their love of the sport and their community.  This is very refreshing to see because with the ever increasing popularity of ultrarunning there are many businesses trying to capitalize by putting on races for profit which completely goes against the community driven values of trail ultrarunning.  After running the trail, meeting these guys, and learning what they represent I was super excited that I signed up for this event. 

Going into my training I kept in mind the valuable lessons I learned from my attempt at Burning River and I planned on putting that knowledge to use for Indiana.  I changed my shoes in hopes that pain in the arch of my foot would not return in the later stages of the race.  I went a step up from my Altra Superiors to the Altra Lone Peak 1.5's.  I did this because the Lone Peaks have a bit more cushion which I thought would be valuable to preventing foot pain late in the race.  I know this goes against everything I have said about the benefits of minimalist shoes for the last four years but after a lot of experimenting I have found what works for me.  Minimalist shoes taught me proper form and are great for shorter distances but they do not provide the extra cushion I need for the longer distances of ultra marathons and Altra shoes are the best of both worlds.  They have a big toe box which lets the toes spread out rather then getting sandwiched in the front of the shoe.  Altra's are also zero drop which means they are flat from heel to toe.  This help to keep good form because it does not promote heel striking like a raised heel would.  So in a sense they are minimalist shoes with cushion.  Sounds weird but, hey, when in Rome.

Another lesson I learned is that I was over trained going into Burning River.  My plan for that race had me doing three hard weeks and then one rest week at lower mileage and this four week pattern was repeated all the way through the 26 weeks of training.  The hard weeks got harder as the training went on and I was pretty burnt out going into the race.  I wanted to try a new training plan and I found a 24 week plan from the book Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell.  The per week mileage goes up throughout the plan but you are not continually doing three hard weeks at a time.  The mileage varies from week to week and it spreads it out nicely.  I thought this would help me prevent burnout and also get a lot of miles in.  The week day runs of Bryon's plan were longer then the weekday runs of the 26 week plan from before.  The weekend runs were generally not as long which was the best part about it.  Anyway, the reason I switched my shoes and training plan is this: the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I was mentally happy about my changes and was optimistic they would provide me with positive results.

Winter training run
My training plan went into full swing around mid November.  I liked the idea of doing the heart of my training during the winter months.  I tend to feel better running in the cold and after the holidays we don't have a lot of weekend plans that would conflict with my long runs.  Trail running in the winter is great because the mountain bikers are mostly hibernating and there are no deer flies or mosquitoes.  For the most part us trail runners have the amusement park to ourselves in the winter.  It is cool when there are no leaves on the trees because with increased visibility you can see the scenic surrounding terrain in the woods. I was surprised at how cold it was during those late fall weeks when I began my training.  Little did I know we were headed into one of the harshest winters in recorded history.  I was able to do a hand full of long trail runs before the polar vortex took the rug out from underneath my plan.  As the winter went on the snow kept piling up and the temps kept dropping.  I tried to run my local Michigan trails a few times but they were virtually impassible due to the snow and ice being so deep and uneven.  I ended up with rolled ankles and it took super long to navigate the single track trails but it did teach me patience and how to mentally deal with tough conditions, which running 100 miles is a tough condition all of it's own.  In Ohio I was able to finish two fun trail races which proved to be extremely valuable to my training:  Run For Regis in February and the FPR Race Directors Race in March.

Most of my long training runs were on the snow covered roads of our neighborhood.  I don't think I seen the pavement all winter long on our residential streets.  Over 7 feet of snow had fallen and accumulated throughout winter.  I even had to join my local gym to run on the *gulp* dreadmill when the snow was too deep or the temps dropped below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  I don't have a problem running in 10 degree temps but the wind was usually blowing hard and lead to wind chill temps of 20 or 30 degrees below zero.  I was on a run one cold evening and the liquid in my eye balls froze which was my final push to join the gym.  I did not miss very many miles in my training plan and I did not feel the extreme burnout that I had with my previous 100 mile training even though the total mileage of both plans was similar.  I was once again in great shape and leaner then I have been since high school.  I put in the hard work and battled through an epic winter, now it was time to see if I have what it takes to finish a 100 mile endurance run.

My awesome parents really came through and brought their camper to the state park.  We were planning on tent camping but having an indoor place to lay out all my stuff and feel organized proved it's weight in gold.  After checking in we ate dinner in the camper then it was time to lay down and attempt to get some sleep.  I passed out around 11:00 PM but awoke with anxiety around 2:00 AM.  I knew I had a few hours before I had to be up but I could not go back to sleep.  I did doze off for about a half hour before my alarm started yelling at me.  So I had a little over three hours of sleep and I was about to be up for at least another 30 hours.  I was very amped for the race so I had no problem jumping out of bed and getting ready for my challenge ahead.  A few concerns before the race were lack of sleep and my stomach was sort of bothering me all week leading up to the race.  I thought my stomach problem may be a part of all the phantom pains that pop up in the two weeks leading up to a big event which are mostly mental. 

Ready to roll!
One thing I did not have to worry about was support because I had a great crew for this race.  Jessica (crew chief plus pacer for final loop), my parents, and my sister along with her husband were there to help me get this thing done.  My friend Nick was going to drive like a bat out of hell from Columbus to Albion after he got off work Saturday evening to get there in time to pace me through the 5th loop which goes through the middle of the night.  My friend Fletcher even made a surprise appearance getting to the park in the middle of the night!  I really am lucky that so many great people were coming together to help me out.  There was perfect spots for crew access at the starting area parking lot and also at the half way point of the 16.7 mile trail loop so I knew I would see my crew twice on each lap.  I had a lot of supplies that I would need in my car which was made it easy to grab and go.  The volunteers and aid stations at this event were top notch as well so I would not have to worry about needing anything during the event.   

8 miles in and ready to ditch the fleece
I quickly got ready and woke Jess up so she could give me a ride down to the start line.  All the runners were gathering in the cool morning and the anticipation was floating through the air.  Jess gave me some positive thoughts and I was calm in the starting shoot.  The race was under way before I knew it and hundreds of headlamp lights were bouncing toward the trail head.  The pace at the beginning was a little slow due to the trail congestion that always happens at the beginning of ultras.  It did not take long to settle into a nice easy pace.  I had to remind myself that I will be on my feet for 30 hours so I might as well relax and enjoy the day instead of going out strong and burning myself out early.  I was right around a 12 minute and 30 second pace per mile and the miles seemed like they were going by quickly,  It was great to see Jess at the half way point and she got me a drink of Gatorade and off I went.  The first loop was very steady as I kept the same pace all the way through.  I seen Jess again at the start and finish area at the end of the first loop.  I grabbed a pre made bag of snacks, including grapes and peanut butter filled pretzels, to eat on the go and another drink of Gatorade and I was off.  I was really trying to limit my time spent at the aid stations because that can really drain precious minutes in a 100 mile race.

Lap one done!  Only five more to go.
I started loop two and I was running with two girls who were wearing costumes just for the fun of it on that loop.  One was dressed as a skittle and the other was dressed as a nun and they were handing out little bags of skittles to runners on the trail.  I think they were offended in a joking manner when I turned down their offer, but I try to limit refined sugar during a race.  They were cool and provided me with some laughs which helped to keep me relaxed and enjoy the day on the trails.  When I got to the 25 mile mark my parents were there with Jess and it was a great to see them.  My legs still felt fresh and I was not tired at all but my fear of stomach issues had come true.  I was not sick but everything I ate just made me uncomfortable rather then making me feel better.  I was concerned about this because keeping down calories is key to having enough energy to finish a 100 miler.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich at that point and slowly ate is as I walked and it really didn't help but I was able to eat the whole thing.  The rest of loop two seemed to go by quickly and before I knew it I was done with 34 miles.  Throughout the whole race I met many other people and had great conversations about running and life in general.  That is a great thing about ultra marathons, you meet so many interesting and cool people who are all connected with a common bond.  Most of the conversation on the trails were about the terrible flooding and cold conditions of this race from a year ago.  This year the trail was dry and in great shape, there was nothing to slow us down.  The race organizers and other volunteers had the trail in pristine shape  My overall pace for loop two was almost the same as my pace on loop one and that was great news because I was still feeling good and was slightly ahead of my plan.

24 miles in and feeling good

I started to slow down a bit on loop three and that was partly because I could not find any food that would sit right with me.  When I got to the half way point in the loop, mile 42, I remembered that I had asked my mom to make me some mashed potatoes.  I thought it was worth a chance and when I tried some they went down great.  I felt the energy from the potatoes leech into my body and I think this easily digestible carb was what my body was craving.  I felt like a new man after smashing a bunch of those mashed potatoes, thanks Mom!  I also knew there was a bunch left over so I would have plenty to get me through the race.  The second half of loop three went pretty well with my new found energy and I was back at the start finish before I knew it.  The best part about coming in off loop three is that I was at mile 50, halfway there and still feeling pretty decent!  My rock star crew leader Jess had a chair ready for me and a change of socks and shoes were also there waiting.  After switching socks and shoes I quickly threw on a fresh t-shirt and also grabbed my light fleece as I knew the temps would eventually start to drop on loop four.


Coming into mile 50, half way done
Fresh Shoes, fresh socks, fresh shirt and my fleece, ready for the second half.
Mile 54, it was to warm for the fleece

Starting loop four I was definitely getting tired and was doing a walk run walk run routine.  I was way ahead of my plan so I could afford to do a decent amount of walking.  At the halfway point on loop four, mile 58, my sister Corrie and her husband Craig were there which was awesome to see.  The emotional boost of seeing family and friends during these runs is extremely valuable and I really appreciate everyone support.  Even on facebook I later seen there was a ton of people following my progress and cheering me on which is a testament to all the great people in my life.  Before leaving the aid station Jess told me that Nick had called her and he was breaking all kinds of traffic laws to get there in time to pace me for loop five.  That put a smile on my face knowing that my friend was excited for me to finish this race and was going all out to get there in time to help me.  She said it will be close if he will get there in time but I had faith that he would be there.  This news and the excitement of how well everything was falling into place really got my momentum going for the rest of loop four.  Darkness fell and I switched on my flashlight for the last few miles of this loop.  When I came in off loop four, mile 67, my whole crew was there and Jess told me that Nick just got into the park.  I was really pleased to hear this news.  I had plenty of time to spare and I was able to refill my water and get some food while Nick got ready.

Mile 58, still moving forward!
Nick was hurrying as fast as he could to get ready to pace me through the night.  He parked in the back and was changing his clothes right there in the parking lot.  Some guy was in the car next to him and looked over while Nick was standing there in his birthday suit!..haha..the guy just gave him an understanding nod.  It is awesome the ultra community can find humor and understanding in situations like that.  When Nick was ready he came running at me full speed and gave me a big bear hug.  He was super psyched up and this gave me new life.  I was really starting to feel like there was a great chance that I was going to finish.  We even started off the first few miles of loop five doing some slow running and power hiking.  Nick had me cracking up out there in the middle of the night.  He was also very encouraging and kept repeating how awesome I was doing.  The miles were just flying by and we got to the halfway point of loop five, mile 75, and Corrie and Craig were there waiting for us.  They were kind enough to stay up late crewing for me so Jess could get a few hours of sleep before pacing me on the last loop.  Corrie reminded me this was the furthest I have ever gone, which was another mental boost.  We had some snacks and chatted for a minute and then we were off!

The next 8 miles were the true test if I was going to be able to endure the rest of the race.  Several things happened which hurt my momentum but luckily Nick was there to help me through these issues.  Temperatures dropped quite a bit after leaving the aid station at mile 74 and since we were mostly hiking my body temperature dropped as well.  I began feeling cold, tired, and my right calf muscle was seizing up big time.  I kept having to stop every few minutes to rest and when my calf pain reached a maximum thresh hold I told Nick that it was killing me.  He knew exactly what to do.  He pulled a $40 tube of essential oil out of his running vest and let me put some of that on my calf.  It started heating up and then Nick dug his thumbs into the knot on my calf which shot the pain level up even more but that pressure plus the magic of the mineral oil actually took care of the problem!  The pain was gone and we were power hiking once again.  When we got to the mile 80 aid station I was super tired and exhausted.  The awesome volunteers got me some coffee and chicken broth which immediately gave me new life.  They also had a huge bonfire going which helped to take the chill out of my body and warm up my hands.  Nick called Jess to let her know we would be done with loop five in about an hour.  She didn't sleep much and was already getting ready to pace me through the last loop.

Fletch manning the crew vehicle, I am at mile 92 and tired!
We got done with loop five, mile 84, at around 4:15 am and to my surprise my good friend Fletcher was there!  He had family events going on all day and left at night when he could get away.  I was excited to see him and also excited to see Jess all suited up to pace me on the final loop.  I did proclaim that I was freezing and put on a heavy running sweatshirt and stocking hat.  Fletcher saved the day by telling me to go in the bathroom and run my hands under the hand dryer to warm them up.  I think I did about six cycles and then put my thin gloves back on.  Nick loaned me his thick gloves that I put over mine and it was enough to keep my hands warm.  Fletch agreed to take my car and meet us at the halfway point so Nick could get a few hours of sleep.  I couldn't believe how perfectly everything was coming together.  Now that I was all bundled up Jess and I set out to finish this thing up.  We were walking at a good pace and Jess was keeping me alert by pointing out any trip hazards and also psyching me up for the big finish.  We got to the aid station at mile 88 and I was starving.  We ate some breakfast sandwiches and I was still super cold so we waited a minute by an outdoor heater while the great volunteers were heating up some vegetable soup.

Jess leading me down the home stretch
Jess and I got a good laugh leaving this aid station because a volunteer was trying to convince a delirious runner to keep going.  I was not laughing at the runners misfortune rather that he was so delirious he was babbling on about some crazy stuff and it had everyone rolling.  I took my soup to go and back out into the cold air we went.  It seemed like we made it to the halfway point of loop 6 pretty quick.  I was 92 miles in at this point and hungry and tired.  Fletch had the car there waiting for us and it worked out well because I had some more mash potatoes and Gatorade.  I also downed a few breakfast sandwiches at the aid station.  I thanked the volunteers and we set out to complete the mission.  The sun was up at this point which gave me a sense of revival.  When I arrived at the mile 97 aid station I had a nice feeling of relief come over me because we only had 3 miles to go!  I had some coffee to keep me energized and I warmed up by the fire for a minute before we left.  Jess and I were kind of doing a shuffle as an attempt to run.  I was beat down but just wanted it to be over.  I felt like I could actually run but I had a really bad side ache and running made it worse.  I just decided to walk the rest of the way since I had plenty of time.  When I got to the path that led up to the parking lot of the start finish area we started running.  The adrenaline blocked out all of my pain and I seen everyone that was there crewing and supporting me all standing there cheering.  It was a great feeling.  Jess led me up to the finish chute and I ran through with my arms in the air.

Victory!!  Such a relief crossing that finish line.
Twenty-seven hours and forty-six minutes after I started it was very surreal to cross that finish line.  A volunteer asked me if I wanted to trade my timing chip leg strap for a 100 mile finisher buckle.  Ummm...yes please!  The race director Mike handed me the buckle and I was able to give all of my crew individual hugs of celebration and thanks.  They all played a super important part in helping me get through this life accomplishment and I was glad I could share my joy of finishing this goal.  I want to thank Jessica most of all for supporting me and putting up with all the long hours I am out on the trail or running around our neighborhood.  She really did a great job leading my crew and also pacing me for the last loop and leading me all the way to the finish.  All the hours and hard work I put into training had paid off and it was a great feeling.  Everyone keeps asking me if I will ever do this again and the answer is yes.  I am definitely hooked on ultrarunning and it has become part of my life.  It is awesome to be involved with this community of like minded crazy fools who love trail running for hours on end.  My next race is with Joe Gatton in Pagosa Springs, CO.  We are doing the Devil Mountain 50 miler.  I love the challenge of running in the mountains and can't wait for this next adventure.

The Buckle is finally mine!


My All-Star Crew, I am so grateful!

My man Nick! Thanks for everything

It's official


The hardware









Indiana Trail 100: April 26th, 2014 "Buckle UP!" (short version)

This is the short version of this race report.  If you would rather check out the long version and get the whole scoop then click here.

Ready to roll!
One thing I did not have to worry about was support because I had a great crew for this race.  Jessica (crew chief plus pacer for final loop), my parents, and my sister along with her husband were there to help me get this thing done.  My friend Nick was going to drive like a bat out of hell from Columbus to Albion after he got off work Saturday evening to get there in time to pace me through the 5th loop which goes through the middle of the night.  My friend Fletcher even made a surprise appearance getting to the park in the middle of the night!  I really am lucky that so many great people were coming together to help me out.  There was perfect spots for crew access at the starting area parking lot and also at the half way point of the 16.7 mile trail loop so I knew I would see my crew twice on each lap.  I had a lot of supplies that I would need in my car which was made it easy to grab and go.  The volunteers and aid stations at this event were top notch as well so I would not have to worry about needing anything during the event.   

8 miles in and ready to ditch the fleece
I quickly got ready and woke Jess up so she could give me a ride down to the start line.  All the runners were gathering in the cool morning and the anticipation was floating through the air.  Jess gave me some positive thoughts and I was calm in the starting shoot.  The race was under way before I knew it and hundreds of headlamp lights were bouncing toward the trail head.  The pace at the beginning was a little slow due to the trail congestion that always happens at the beginning of ultras.  It did not take long to settle into a nice easy pace.  I had to remind myself that I will be on my feet for 30 hours so I might as well relax and enjoy the day instead of going out strong and burning myself out early.  I was right around a 12 minute and 30 second pace per mile and the miles seemed like they were going by quickly,  It was great to see Jess at the half way point and she got me a drink of Gatorade and off I went.  The first loop was very steady as I kept the same pace all the way through.  I seen Jess again at the start and finish area at the end of the first loop.  I grabbed a pre made bag of snacks, including grapes and peanut butter filled pretzels, to eat on the go and another drink of Gatorade and I was off.  I was really trying to limit my time spent at the aid stations because that can really drain precious minutes in a 100 mile race.

Lap one done!  Only five more to go.
I started loop two and I was running with two girls who were wearing costumes just for the fun of it on that loop.  One was dressed as a skittle and the other was dressed as a nun and they were handing out little bags of skittles to runners on the trail.  I think they were offended in a joking manner when I turned down their offer, but I try to limit refined sugar during a race.  They were cool and provided me with some laughs which helped to keep me relaxed and enjoy the day on the trails.  When I got to the 25 mile mark my parents were there with Jess and it was a great to see them.  My legs still felt fresh and I was not tired at all but my fear of stomach issues had come true.  I was not sick but everything I ate just made me uncomfortable rather then making me feel better.  I was concerned about this because keeping down calories is key to having enough energy to finish a 100 miler.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich at that point and slowly ate is as I walked and it really didn't help but I was able to eat the whole thing.  The rest of loop two seemed to go by quickly and before I knew it I was done with 34 miles.  Throughout the whole race I met many other people and had great conversations about running and life in general.  That is a great thing about ultra marathons, you meet so many interesting and cool people who are all connected with a common bond.  Most of the conversation on the trails were about the terrible flooding and cold conditions of this race from a year ago.  This year the trail was dry and in great shape, there was nothing to slow us down.  The race organizers and other volunteers had the trail in pristine shape  My overall pace for loop two was almost the same as my pace on loop one and that was great news because I was still feeling good and was slightly ahead of my plan.

24 miles in and feeling good

I started to slow down a bit on loop three and that was partly because I could not find any food that would sit right with me.  When I got to the half way point in the loop, mile 42, I remembered that I had asked my mom to make me some mashed potatoes.  I thought it was worth a chance and when I tried some they went down great.  I felt the energy from the potatoes leech into my body and I think this easily digestible carb was what my body was craving.  I felt like a new man after smashing a bunch of those mashed potatoes, thanks Mom!  I also knew there was a bunch left over so I would have plenty to get me through the race.  The second half of loop three went pretty well with my new found energy and I was back at the start finish before I knew it.  The best part about coming in off loop three is that I was at mile 50, halfway there and still feeling pretty decent!  My rock star crew leader Jess had a chair ready for me and a change of socks and shoes were also there waiting.  After switching socks and shoes I quickly threw on a fresh t-shirt and also grabbed my light fleece as I knew the temps would eventually start to drop on loop four.


Coming into mile 50, half way done
Fresh Shoes, fresh socks, fresh shirt and my fleece, ready for the second half.
Mile 54, it was to warm for the fleece

Starting loop four I was definitely getting tired and was doing a walk run walk run routine.  I was way ahead of my plan so I could afford to do a decent amount of walking.  At the halfway point on loop four, mile 58, my sister Corrie and her husband Craig were there which was awesome to see.  The emotional boost of seeing family and friends during these runs is extremely valuable and I really appreciate everyone support.  Even on facebook I later seen there was a ton of people following my progress and cheering me on which is a testament to all the great people in my life.  Before leaving the aid station Jess told me that Nick had called her and he was breaking all kinds of traffic laws to get there in time to pace me for loop five.  That put a smile on my face knowing that my friend was excited for me to finish this race and was going all out to get there in time to help me.  She said it will be close if he will get there in time but I had faith that he would be there.  This news and the excitement of how well everything was falling into place really got my momentum going for the rest of loop four.  Darkness fell and I switched on my flashlight for the last few miles of this loop.  When I came in off loop four, mile 67, my whole crew was there and Jess told me that Nick just got into the park.  I was really pleased to hear this news.  I had plenty of time to spare and I was able to refill my water and get some food while Nick got ready.

Mile 58, still moving forward!
Nick was hurrying as fast as he could to get ready to pace me through the night.  He parked in the back and was changing his clothes right there in the parking lot.  Some guy was in the car next to him and looked over while Nick was standing there in his birthday suit!..haha..the guy just gave him an understanding nod.  It is awesome the ultra community can find humor and understanding in situations like that.  When Nick was ready he came running at me full speed and gave me a big bear hug.  He was super psyched up and this gave me new life.  I was really starting to feel like there was a great chance that I was going to finish.  We even started off the first few miles of loop five doing some slow running and power hiking.  Nick had me cracking up out there in the middle of the night.  He was also very encouraging and kept repeating how awesome I was doing.  The miles were just flying by and we got to the halfway point of loop five, mile 75, and Corrie and Craig were there waiting for us.  They were kind enough to stay up late crewing for me so Jess could get a few hours of sleep before pacing me on the last loop.  Corrie reminded me this was the furthest I have ever gone, which was another mental boost.  We had some snacks and chatted for a minute and then we were off!

The next 8 miles were the true test if I was going to be able to endure the rest of the race.  Several things happened which hurt my momentum but luckily Nick was there to help me through these issues.  Temperatures dropped quite a bit after leaving the aid station at mile 74 and since we were mostly hiking my body temperature dropped as well.  I began feeling cold, tired, and my right calf muscle was seizing up big time.  I kept having to stop every few minutes to rest and when my calf pain reached a maximum thresh hold I told Nick that it was killing me.  He knew exactly what to do.  He pulled a $40 tube of essential oil out of his running vest and let me put some of that on my calf.  It started heating up and then Nick dug his thumbs into the knot on my calf which shot the pain level up even more but that pressure plus the magic of the mineral oil actually took care of the problem!  The pain was gone and we were power hiking once again.  When we got to the mile 80 aid station I was super tired and exhausted.  The awesome volunteers got me some coffee and chicken broth which immediately gave me new life.  They also had a huge bonfire going which helped to take the chill out of my body and warm up my hands.  Nick called Jess to let her know we would be done with loop five in about an hour.  She didn't sleep much and was already getting ready to pace me through the last loop.

Fletch manning the crew vehicle, I am at mile 92 and tired!
We got done with loop five, mile 84, at around 4:15 am and to my surprise my good friend Fletcher was there!  He had family events going on all day and left at night when he could get away.  I was excited to see him and also excited to see Jess all suited up to pace me on the final loop.  I did proclaim that I was freezing and put on a heavy running sweatshirt and stocking hat.  Fletcher saved the day by telling me to go in the bathroom and run my hands under the hand dryer to warm them up.  I think I did about six cycles and then put my thin gloves back on.  Nick loaned me his thick gloves that I put over mine and it was enough to keep my hands warm.  Fletch agreed to take my car and meet us at the halfway point so Nick could get a few hours of sleep.  I couldn't believe how perfectly everything was coming together.  Now that I was all bundled up Jess and I set out to finish this thing up.  We were walking at a good pace and Jess was keeping me alert by pointing out any trip hazards and also psyching me up for the big finish.  We got to the aid station at mile 88 and I was starving.  We ate some breakfast sandwiches and I was still super cold so we waited a minute by an outdoor heater while the great volunteers were heating up some vegetable soup.

Jess leading me down the home stretch
Jess and I got a good laugh leaving this aid station because a volunteer was trying to convince a delirious runner to keep going.  I was not laughing at the runners misfortune rather that he was so delirious he was babbling on about some crazy stuff and it had everyone rolling.  I took my soup to go and back out into the cold air we went.  It seemed like we made it to the halfway point of loop 6 pretty quick.  I was 92 miles in at this point and hungry and tired.  Fletch had the car there waiting for us and it worked out well because I had some more mash potatoes and Gatorade.  I also downed a few breakfast sandwiches at the aid station.  I thanked the volunteers and we set out to complete the mission.  The sun was up at this point which gave me a sense of revival.  When I arrived at the mile 97 aid station I had a nice feeling of relief come over me because we only had 3 miles to go!  I had some coffee to keep me energized and I warmed up by the fire for a minute before we left.  Jess and I were kind of doing a shuffle as an attempt to run.  I was beat down but just wanted it to be over.  I felt like I could actually run but I had a really bad side ache and running made it worse.  I just decided to walk the rest of the way since I had plenty of time.  When I got to the path that led up to the parking lot of the start finish area we started running.  The adrenaline blocked out all of my pain and I seen everyone that was there crewing and supporting me all standing there cheering.  It was a great feeling.  Jess led me up to the finish chute and I ran through with my arms in the air.

Victory!!  Such a relief crossing that finish line.
Twenty-seven hours and forty-six minutes after I started it was very surreal to cross that finish line.  A volunteer asked me if I wanted to trade my timing chip leg strap for a 100 mile finisher buckle.  Ummm...yes please!  The race director Mike handed me the buckle and I was able to give all of my crew individual hugs of celebration and thanks.  They all played a super important part in helping me get through this life accomplishment and I was glad I could share my joy of finishing this goal.  I want to thank Jessica most of all for supporting me and putting up with all the long hours I am out on the trail or running around our neighborhood.  She really did a great job leading my crew and also pacing me for the last loop and leading me all the way to the finish.  All the hours and hard work I put into training had paid off and it was a great feeling.  Everyone keeps asking me if I will ever do this again and the answer is yes.  I am definitely hooked on ultrarunning and it has become part of my life.  It is awesome to be involved with this community of like minded crazy fools who love trail running for hours on end.  My next race is with Joe Gatton in Pagosa Springs, CO.  We are doing the Devil Mountain 50 miler.  I love the challenge of running in the mountains and can't wait for this next adventure.

The Buckle is finally mine!


My All-Star Crew, I am so grateful!


My man Nick! Thanks for everything

It's official


The hardware



















Saturday, June 14, 2014

Forget the PR Half Marathon: April 13th, 2014


A few months before Forget the PR 50K / 25K I learned that Rob was going to include more races over the weekend, including a 4 miler on Friday night and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  I was planning to squeeze in a few training runs that weekend in Mohican since the Indiana Trail 100 was only two weeks away.  So I decided it would work out well if I ran a 12 mile training run super early on Saturday morning before volunteering at South Park aid station and then run in the half marathon on Sunday.  This would give me my 25 miles for the weekend that my training plan called for.  I was planning on tent camping over the weekend as I always do for this event but I was worried this year as we still had super cold temps in April.  Luckily the forecast had zero percent chance of rain and low temps of 35 and high temps around 70. This was perfect camping weather!!

All set up at my favorite site 500
I arrived to Mohican Adventures on Friday evening and decided to get my camp set up and also prepare for my super early training run the next morning.  I wanted to make sure I got up early enough to get done before the 50K race started.  I didn't have to be at my volunteer post until 8:00 am on Saturday but did not want to get caught going against the grain of two hundred 50K runners on a single track trail.  After I got camp set up I had a quick beer and laid down in the tent. The air was cool and I was extremely tired which was perfect conditions for a great nights sleep.  The temps dropped down into the low 30s that night and when I woke up at 4:30 am I was super cozy in my sleeping bag and did not want to get out.  I knew I needed to do my training run though.  I also knew I did not want to wait until after volunteering to do the training run because I would want to drink some Lager Heads beer and hang out with my friends.  So once I got dressed and on the trail I was really glad I got up.  It was a cool and crisp morning for a dark run through the trails.  I seen a lot of stars for the first time in awhile.  The sun was starting to peek through the sky when I got to covered bridge and there was someone there sitting on a cooler and listening to music.  I thought it had to be a volunteer waiting for the race to start and I later learned it was someone I knew but I could not make out there face since it was still pretty dark out.

South Park Aid Station..ready for runners!
As I ran through the trails that morning I could tell there was a lot of mud but it was mostly frozen as I passed through.  I knew that once temps heated up during the race it would be a mud fest for the runners especially along the river heading back to Mohican Adventures after leaving the covered bridge. I got back to camp right when I heard the race starting. It was perfect timing and I was able to squeeze in a shower and head over to South Park aid station to get set up.  It was colder then I thought when we were setting up the aid station. I was hot from my run and only wore shorts and a t shirt but the temps were still in the 30s. It was not long before the temps climbed into the 60s and I think it even got to 70 for the first time all spring. The runners were all in good spirits as they came through the aid station.  They were talking about how they were not use to the heat after that frigid winter!  It was a lot better weather then the 2013 Forget the PR because last year we stood at our aid station in pouring down rain and low 50s temps for the whole miserable day.

Chad Heald and myself enjoying some Lager Heads Brew
After the course sweeper came through our aid station we got it all torn down and packed up.  We were back at the start and finish line by 1:30.  We were able to drink some of the beer that the Lager Heads Brewing Company provided and also hang out with some friends and cheer on runners that were coming across the finish line.  I even got to course marshal the kids half mile race around the Mohican Adventures lake.  Basically all I had to do was stand on the other side of the lake and make sure none of the kids fell into the water.  They had so much fun running around the half mile loop and it reminds me of how I feel like a kid when I am out running on the trails.  After the races were all done and the area was secure for the night I went with Rob, his wife Johna and some other volunteers down to Trails end pizza. It was nice just relaxing and talking about the day.  To my surprise Rob bought us all dinner!  It was an unexpected and very cool thing for him to do.  Afterwards I was heading back to camp when I seen Nick who just got there! I said hi and he gave me a ride up to camp.  He invited me to hang out with some of his friends but I took a rain check because I was getting up to run the half marathon in the morning. I sat by the fire and had a beer before I passed out for the night.

Rob showing us the course markers are on the right side! I stole this pic from Kimba

I got up the next morning and was pretty tired after such a long day on Saturday.  I got ready for the race and I had some extra time so I decided to tear down my camp so I didn't have to do it after the run.  I woke Nick up to see if he wanted to run the 1/2 marathon but he said his head was killing him and he was going to sit this one out.  I made my way down to the starting line and got signed in and attached my bib number etc... I was feeling good and ready to race even though I am suppose to be taking it easy since my hundred miler was less then two weeks away.  A lot of the people doing this half marathon were on the third leg of the Trifecta.  Rob offered a special award and T shirt for those who completed the four miler Friday night, the 25K or 50K on Saturday, and the 1/2 marathon on Sunday.   Those who were in this elite group were feeling very tired from the previous two days of racing which gave me sort of an advantage.  After Rob's pre-race speech we were off!  I came out of the gate way to fast but was feeling good so I just went with it.  I was surprising myself at how good of a pace I was keeping through the trails of Mohican.  We went up Big Ass Hill, down to the fire tower and then after covered bridge it was a complete mud fest.  There were areas that had knee deep water and ankle deep mud.  I went right through the middle of it.  I even passed a few people who were trying to maneuver around these areas.  In the last few miles of the race I passed a few people.  It was a good confidence booster even though I knew they were tired from running three races that weekend.

Up up and away!  Also stole this pic from facebook.
I had a strong finish and it was a good feeling to cross the finish line.  Especially knowing the next two weeks I would be tapering and planning for my hundred miler.  I later learned that I had a time of 2 hours and 46 minutes for the 1/2 marathon.  You might not think this is a good time but it is a really tough trail course and anyone that has run at Mohican would agree.  It was good enough that I finished 26th out of 83 runners.  I am proud of that because I am usually not competitive when it comes to trail running but every now and then I feel the urge to try and have a decent finishing time.  Once again the Forget the PR weekend was an absolute blast.  I had fun camping, volunteering, hanging with some good people and especially trail running in Mohican.  In two weeks I will really see what I am made of at the Indiana Trail 100.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Forget the PR Race Director 50K: March 9th, 2014


I am super far behind on my race blog.  I hope I can remember the details of this awesome day.  Every year I volunteer for Forget the PR 50K.  The awesome race director, Rob Powell, let's the volunteers come out a few weeks before the actual event and allows us to run the course and get our finisher buckles.  This is an amazing and unheard of thing for someone to do for the volunteers.  He also pays for pizza and beer after the volunteers are finished running.  There is limited but sufficient course markings and also a roaming aid station.  This year there were some amazing people that came out to set up not one, not two, but three aid stations for us volunteer racers!!  I can't thank them enough for giving up their Sunday afternoon to come out and wait for us slow pokes to come around the trail loop.

Pre-race instructions, Brrr..
So this year we had a horrible winter.  I was worried the trails at Mohican wood be just as unrunnable as the trails in Michigan.  The night before this run I was driving to Mohican when the temps dropped into the low 20s, it started storming, and a wintery mix blanketed the highway.  Great, I thought, more treacherous trails to fight.  I was glad I decided against camping and that I brought my icetrekkers (traction) as I found out there was still snow on the trails.  I woke up on the morning of the run and had to scrape a bunch of ice off my car and since it was still in the 20s with my hand completely frozen from scraping snow.  I arrived at the start / finish area in Mohican Adventures campground and said hello to a few familiar faces.  I ran into my new friends Scott and Amy Love.  I knew Scott had never done an ultra before but asked him if he was going to do the 25K or the 50K.  He said he will do the 25K and see how he feels before making a decision to do the full 50K.  Some volunteer runners were in shorts.  I know the weather was suppose to get into the mid to high 30s that day but I am glad I wore my underarmor heat gear pants because it was cold at the start.

Pre-race group photo, time to roll!
We learned the southern trails were closed due to the gas company killing more of the beautiful state forest. We also learned the Lyons Falls loop was a complete sheet of ice; therefore, too dangerous to go on and do the hand over fist root climb. This was a bummer because these are awesome parts of the FPR course but there was not much we could do about it.  Rob routed us up big ass hill, over to fire tower via the road, down to covered bridge, then along the river back toward campground A. Then we were to take the mountain bike trail back to Mohican Adventures and looped through the campground trails which is about 15.5 miles. We we're suppose to do this loop twice for our modified FPR course.  I thought that was cool since we could be back at the cars at the half way point if I needed to shed some layers and I actually knew where I was going for a change!  So we took off and of course I went out with the lead group and was going way faster then I should of.  I did this to try and get warm because it was just absolutely freezing out when we started.  It did not take long for my body temperature to rise since I was climbing the hills of Mohican! After big ass hill I eased up and let the lead group get a ways ahead of me as I settled into a nice pace.
Big Ass Hill with some snow!

I was in decent shape since I had been training all winter for IT 100 but I was not used to the hills yet.  I felt great for the first 5 miles and then got some Gatorade from the first mobile aid station at the fire tower.  Then I met Robb Gannon who is a local ultra runner and we ran pretty hard for the remaining portion of the first loop. Robb is a cool and funny guy and our good conversation made the miles fly by.  We got back to the start finish in about 3 hours and 15 minutes.  This was a great pace for me, especially on the hilly and still snowy / icy trails of Mohican.  The trails were starting to thaw during the course of our run.  I shed some upper layers even though it was still pretty cold out.  We grabbed some food and took off for loop number two. I felt great at the start of our second loop. We passed Amy and Scott coming in off their first loop and they were both looking strong.  I was wondering if Scott was gonna go for it and do the second loop, making this his first ultra ever.  When we got to about mile 20 I was starting to lose some steam on the hills. Robb jumped ahead of me and he was charging up hills and really kicking butt.  I stayed with him and fought through the being drained feeling.  I also tripped and fell twice!!  Luckily there was snow to cushion my fall.

Rob Powell giving me my 3rd FPR 50K buckle!
We got to the last aid station at mile 25 or so and we both ate some food and talked with the volunteers for a little while. Then we set out on the section along the river which had thawed out and was starting to get muddy.  Then when we hit the mountain bike trail we were both out of steam.  We did some walk run, walk run patterns.  I took my icetrekkers off since there was not much snow anymore. As we were running down one of the switchbacks on the mountain bike trail Robb slipped and his butt landed right on the pointy end of a rock.  I could tell he was in some serious pain but he got up and hobbled for a little while until he could run again. We only had a few miles to go but when you injure yourself and are tired it can be a rough combination.  So we were both a little beat up but having a blast as we finally got back to the finish line.  Robb and I both pushed each other and had a great run.  I was satisfied that I did so well after not getting much training in on the trails over the winter.  I felt it would really help me get ready for IT 100 in April.  We went down to Trails End Pizza for beer and food and it was nice seeing everyone there.  I learned that Scott went out for the second loop!  I waited around for awhile because I wanted to congratulate him on his first ultra. Unfortunately they did not make it back before I left. I had to work the next day and had a 3.25 hour drive home.  Once again Rob Powell has out done himself in showing us a great time on the trails of the Mohican State Forest.







Thursday, May 1, 2014

Run For Regis 50K: February 16th, 2014


The Run For Regis 50K and Half Marathon Trail Race takes me to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for my first ultra of 2014.  The proceeds of the event go toward the Regis Shivers Scholarship which is awarded to a graduating high school runner in honor of Regis Shivers.  The start and finish of this run are at the Ledges Shelter, which is the same place where mile 65 aid station was during the Burning River 100.  It was cool to see this area in the day light because it has awesome scenery and last summer during Burning River it was dark when I came through the trails.  The cool thing about this event is that it takes place in the dead of winter so it adds an extra challenge because you never know what the weather will be like.  They also make it clear that during bad weather you can consider yourself finished at whatever distance you are comfortable with and then you can collect your race jacket and dive into some vegan chili.  The race director, Tanya Cady, does a fantastic job of organizing this race and the aid stations were top notch.  I have been training since November for the Indiana Trail 100 which is April 26th and my training plan called for a 50K on this weekend so it worked out perfectly to sign up for this race.

Pre-race speech..everyone is straight frozen!
This winter has been the worse winter I can ever remember.  Arctic air streams moved down to the mid-west and brought many days of below zero temperatures and tons of snow.  Upwards of seven feet of snow dropped throughout the winter.  All the trails in Michigan have been completely overtaken with snow and uneven ice since December.  Most of my training miles this winter have been on neighborhood streets and *gulp* the treadmill at my local fitness 19.  I was concerned about the weather and trail conditions for the Run For Regis because I knew the Cleveland area has been hit with the same extreme winter as Southeast Michigan.  I was also wondering how I would perform because I have hardly had any hill or trail training for most of the winter.  I figured I would just take my time and enjoy whatever was thrown my way.  Jessica decided to run the half marathon and I was glad she was going to participate in this awesome event. We drove to Hudson, Ohio the night before the race and stayed with her sister Natalie who conveniently lives 15 minutes from Ledges Shelter.  I had been watching the forecast and was prepared for one thing..COLD!

A good view of the start / finish area wave #1.  Snow snow snow!
I woke up very early so I could get all my gear on and make sure I found the Ledges Shelter in time to check in.  Jess's race was not starting until later then mine so Natalie was going to drop her off.  I scraped some frost off my car and even though I had gloves on my hands were freezing.  The temperature gauge in my car read 13 degrees.  I arrived to the shelter early and there was already a decent amount of people there.  I went into the shelter house and got checked in.  I ran into some good friends, Chad, Mark, and Tammy, that I have met through the Ohio trail running community.  We were all huddled around the fireplace in the shelter house where they had a roaring fire going.  It was so cold out that everyone wanted to get moving to get warmed up.  Tanya gave her pre-race speech and announced that we were going to start in waves of 15 to 20 runners.  Chad and I were in the fourth wave and we had to wait an additional 20 minutes to start.  Oh well, that's the rules of the permit for the race so there is nothing we could do about it.  I strapped on my icetrekkers for additional traction in the ice and snow and was ready for whatever the course was going to throw at me.  We started the race in snow that was about mid shin deep and it was so hard running through it that we were all laughing.  We had to go about a quarter mile through this tough footing to get to the trails and I was thinking the whole 50K was going to be like that.  

Camelbak is under the coat to keep water from freezing
Once we got to the trail we discovered the snow was nicely packed and even!  Chad had put screws in the bottom of his shoes and I had my traction chains on and we cruised through the first 5 miles.  Then we had to check in at the start finish area and had to run through that tough shin deep snow again..whew!  Then we set out on the 8 mile loop which entailed going back out through the deep uneven snow but once again when we arrived at the trail it was all good.  We had some good conversation and the miles went by quickly.  It was cold out and snowing as well.  Temps only reached the low 20s that day.  When we arrived at the aid station on the 8 mile loop I discovered they had hot grilled cheese and I cannot express how much that hit the spot.  After leaving the aid station we caught up to Mark Carroll and Scott Wolf.  If there was any guys who put the word fun in trail running it is them.  We were laughing about so many things for the next few miles.  I was the only one doing the 50K out of the group so I decided I had to get moving.  Chad stuck with me and before we knew it we were back at start finish.  We did the 5 mile loop again and then the 8 mile loop a second time as well.  This time on the 8 mile loop there was a bunch of people sledding at Pine Hollow which was awesome to see.  The last time I was at Pine Hollow was during Burning River 100 when I was at mile 71, my foot was destroyed, my motivation was low, and it was pitch dark out.  This was a much happier setting.

Almost to the finish line!
Chad and I were both getting tired heading back to start finish on that second 8 mile loop.  I had not had much trail training / hill training due to the brutal winter and this course has a lot of great hills!  We fought the deep snow again getting back to the start finish area and Chad was calling it a day at 26.2 miles.  He wanted to finish the 50K but had family obligations.  It was great to get to know him better and our awesome conversation made the first 26.2 miles fly by.  I headed back out to finish the last five miles and my body temp started to fall.  It was freezing out and I just wanted to be done and back at the start finish eating vegan chili and sitting by the roaring fire in the shelter house.  The five miles went by slowly but eventually the finish line came into sight.  I fought the really deep snow back to the finish one last time.  The chili and the roaring fire were everything I thought they would be.  It was so nice to be done.  Jess rocked out 8 miles of the course earlier that day without traction!  She was sliding down the most of the steep hills but she had a lot of fun, ran with a group, and did a great job.  I had a lot of fun at this race.  I was happy to get some trail running in and it was a nice training run for Indiana Trail 100 in late April. 

Check out this video, taken by participant Michael Semick, that captures how awesome the course was on that cold February day.  He did the half marathon so the video follows the 8 mile loop first and then the 5 mile loop:




Sunday, August 18, 2013

Burning River 100: July 27th, 2013 "Close but no cigar"

This is the story of my first attempt at a 100 mile race and also my first ever *gulp* DNF (did not finish).  The Burning River 100 mile endurance run is located east of Cleveland and west of Akron.  It is a point to point race which starts at Squires Castle in Willoughby Hills and finishes in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.  The course weaves through numerous metro parks along the Cuyahoga river and also follows parts of the Buckeye Trail.  Words cannot express how awesome this race course is.  It is so cool how they connected all of the parks and it just had a nice flow about it.  There was some really nice hills and climbs along the way.  The course covers every kind of terrain you can imagine including paved roads, crushed limestone tow paths, paved hiking and biking trails, service roads, single track dirt trails, wide dirt trails, bridal (horse) trails, grassy fields, and my favorite...plenty of creek crossings.


The aid stations and volunteers were all top notch and it made for a really fun day out on the trails.  I had the best crew a guy could ask for.  Jessica was my crew leader and she did such a great job of having everything ready for me and tending to my issues.  Also, without me knowing she organized a huge group of my family and friends to come out and cheer me on from different points in the course and I will go more in depth into that a little later into my report.  My friend Mel, who I met through my brother-in-law Luke in Virginia Beach, is also an avid ultra runner and he decided to fly up here and run Burning River as well.  It was his fourth 100 mile race this year.  He felt good going into the race but unfortunately his legs gave out on him and he had to drop at an early stage in the race.  I am thankful that he was there to assist Jess in crewing for me as he had a lot of good advice to offer since he is an experienced 100 mile racer.  Also, my brother from another mother Lucas Hardbarger came up Saturday evening and he was ready to pace me through the night from mile 65.7 to the finish.


I want to rewind the clock a little bit to January of this year.  I decided to take my ultra running to the next level and try out the 100 mile distance.  I have completed a few 50Ks and also a really tough 50 miler in Colorado and a tough 50 in Mohican all without a crew or drop bags.  When you dive into the 100 mile category there is a lot more logistics and planning involved then just going out and doing the run.  I kind of like the whole aspect of the planning and all the preparation that goes into it and in my opinion the completion of a 100 mile race within the time limit is the ultimate achievement in this sport.  I am not short selling any other ultra distance because by all means anything over 26.2 is very difficult and it is quite an accomplishment to be able to finish something like that.  I was ready to begin my training and found a 26 week training plan online.  I had never used a training plan but thought it would be a good idea for accomplishing my goal.  Next I had to choose a race and it was a toss up between the Mohican 100, Burning River 100, and the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100.  I ended up choosing Burning River because it fell perfectly into the time frame of my 26 week training plan.  

My decision was made and from that point on the next six months of my life revolved around training.  Every weekend was spent on my local single track trails busting out long runs on Saturdays and Sundays.  If we had plans or were going out of town then I would find a place to run or adjust my schedule accordingly to get my runs in.  Three nights a week I was putting in miles around my neighborhood streets.  I trained in every kind of weather imaginable, from freezing cold dark winter nights here in Michigan to sweltering hot days while on vacation in Virginia Beach.  I sprinkled in a couple 50K races and also a 50 mile race which all went well and I finished one of the 50K's in less then six hours which was a personal record so I knew my training was paying off and I was getting stronger.  Thankfully my family and friends, especially Jess, are very supportive and understanding.  I was not great company during the last six months because I was always thinking about my next run.  When it was all said and done I had run 1,260 miles in preparation for this 100 miler.  At certain times of my training I started to feel burned out and also had some heel pain but I was very determined to do whatever it took to complete this 100 miler within the 30 hour time limit and walk away wearing that finisher buckle with pride.  I felt like I could not of trained any harder then what I did and that I was well prepared going into the race.

Mel and I ready to Rock!
I will do my best to take you through the different stages of the event.  Some of the sections are a blur while others are very memorable for various reasons.  Friday night a lot of the runners stayed at hotels near the finish line and had an hour long bus ride on Saturday morning to the 5:00 AM start.  Jess was crewing for me and she had the car so we decided it would be a better idea to stay at a hotel near the start line and get an extra hour of sleep, although I am not sure the anxious, nervous, and excited feeling with eyes wide open while laying in bed the night before a big race can qualify as sleep.  After maybe four hours of “semi-sleep” my alarm was yelling at me to rise up for my big day.  Jess drove Mel and I to the starting line so we could get checked in and ready to go.  There was a ton of people there and it was all becoming extremely real, this was the moment I had envisioned multiple times over during all my training runs.  We got stretched and were about a minute away from starting when all of a sudden somebody was right in my face all excited.  I covered my headlamp so I could see who it was and it was my good friends Fletcher and Rachel!  I was shocked and super excited to see them there and it gave me a great motivational boost right from the start.
Fletchers and my lovely wife rooting us on at 5:00 AM!

I heard someone yelling GO! and we were off!  I lost Mel right away in the sea of 275 headlamps bouncing across the yard at squires castle heading to the trail which would be our first 6 mile section.  This was a nice wide dirt trail which had some decent climbs and was a nice warm up to the day.  There was a couple muddy pits at various spots on the trail and I even lost my shoe at mile 3.  I generally prefer to keep my shoes loose while distance running and when my shoe got stuck in the mud my foot came right out of it, doH!  Luckily a nice guy behind me picked it up and handed it to me so I didn't have to walk back through the mud with my sock on to grab it.  The weather was cool at the start which was nice because it is usually very hot this time of year.  The forecast had rain and a high in the mid 70s and that is actually way better then 90 and sunny.  I finished that 6 mile loop at a 12 minute and 30 second per mile pace which was not to bad.  I seen Jess, Fletch, and Rachel when I got back to the castle, this first aid station was really busy and I didn't need anything so I just kept going.  The next 5 miles was pretty flat and there was a decent road section in which the groupings of runners started to really spread out.  Ahhh, some elbow room, just the way I like it.  In this section I ran for awhile with a couple guys from Illinois who were quoting the movie Dumb and Dumber and this had me laughing all the way until the next aid station.

Joe and I coming into mile 17.6 and I was happy to see my family!!
Then after the mile 12 aid station there was another big road section.  It is hard to pace yourself on these road sections because they are flat and fast.  I actually got my pace down to 12 minute and 15 second miles here which in hindsight was probably to fast early on in a 100 mile race.  I met a guy named Joe in this section and I told him it was my first 100 miler.  He then told me not to feel bad because he has never run more then a half marathon before!  What?!  He said that he had signed up for Burning River on a dare.  He is an avid short distance road runner and figured he didn't have anything to lose.  He looked like he was doing pretty good when I met him at mile 12.5 and he said he wanted to stick with me because it seemed like I knew what I was doing.  I told him.."ummm...no, this is my first 100 miler and I have no clue what I am doing but your welcome to run with me as long as you want."  We told each other our life stories and talked about everything and anything.  The conversation actually helped the miles go by pretty quick.  It had started raining in this section as well but it didn't bother me at all.  We were at mile 17.6 aid station before I knew it.  I told him that Jess was there crewing for me and when we got there I seen Jess, the Fletchers, and now my parents, my sister and her fiance along with his two daughters.  Wow!  What a surprise, I was not expecting them to be there and was really happy to see them.  It definitely got me pumped up.  Mel was also there as he had some issues with his legs early on and could not continue so now he was helping Jess crew for me. I could not socialize very long as the clock was ticking and I had to get moving!  I grabbed some supplies from Jess and I met Joe at the food tables, grabbed some munchies, and we were off.

Coming into mile 26.2 and happy to see more supporters!
We flew through the next sections which were some wide and flat grass and dirt trails.  Usually in these ultra races you see certain runners over and over as you pass them and they pass you etc..  In this section we kept seeing a guy who was wearing an Oil Creek 100 shirt and when he passed us I told Joe that I heard Oil Creek was a really tough 100 miler.  The guy overheard me say that and he said "It's not that bad! I am the race director!"  Wow, what a coincidence, I was surprised to hear that and it was nice to meet him.  I could not wait to tell Lucas about that because he ran and completed the Oil Creek 100K which is one of his proudest accomplishments.  The next crew point was at the 26.2 mile aid station.  I knew I now had my family following my progress and when we got to this crew point I was surprised to see some more of my friends there as well!  What?! I couldn't believe it!  I was kind of in shock that all these people had taken a Saturday to come out and support me.  Jess had arranged for all these people to come and it really meant a lot to see them.  Now I was a full marathon into this thing and feeling great for being a quarter of the way done.  Joe and I both left this aid station with a lot of optimism.  He had just done his first marathon and we were actually right on target of what my time goal was coming into the race. I think we were at a 13 minute and 15 second pace at this point.  I wanted to be at a 15 minute per mile pace at the half way point so it seemed as everything was coming together.  I congratulated Joe on finishing his first marathon and we were off.
Support crew at mile 26.2! 

The next section was still pretty flat with some small rolling hills and some little climbs.  I could tell the terrain was starting to change and the flat parts would soon be turning into some of the 8,000 - 9,000 feet of elevation gain this course has to offer.  We did a pretty good job weaving through this section and reached the 31 mile aid station still maintaining a great pace.  We thanked the volunteers and I told Joe he has just completed his first ultra now that we were at the 50K point.  As we left this aid station we finally got onto some good dirt trails in the woods.  I was feeling very good at this point and the excitement of dirt single track had me flying through the trails.  Joe was behind me and I could tell something was off for him.  When I inquired as to what was wrong he said the outside of his knee was starting to hurt really bad.  Oh crap, that's the IT band and once it starts acting up it can make for a long day, especially on the down hills.  We were walking quite a bit here and I was ready to move on.  He insisted I go on without him for awhile.  I finally told him to not give up and it was great meeting him and running the last 20 or so miles together.  I reached the mile 36 aid station and after refueling I seen Joe coming in as I was leaving but did not see him anymore after that.

Coming into mile 41.7 to a lot of cheering!!!
Mile 41.7 support crew.  I sure am a lucky guy.
I was pumped to knock out the next 5 miles because my crew and supporters would be at the next aid station which was at mile 41.7.  I started out feeling good in this section but after a couple miles things slowed down a bit.  I started feeling a very slight pain just above the arch on the inside of my left foot and I could also feel some pain in my left IT band which could be devastating if that got bad.  None of the pain was bad at that point so I just tackled the uphills and downhills on this section of single track trail which was also part of the Buckeye trail.  As we started to get into the hilly sections I noticed the terrain was starting to get a bit muddy and slippery especially on the really narrow trails.  There had been a steady light rain for most of the day and that along with a bunch of runners really started to take its toll on the trails.  I was walking a lot more in this section but was able to reach the aid station and was still on pace.  I decided to run across the yard to the aid station and as I got into view I could see a whole bunch of people going crazy and cheering me on.  This was getting so surreal!  I could not believe how many of my friends and family had shown up at this one!  I was extremely overwhelmed by the support and I owe it all to Jess for organizing that.  I don't think anyone else running that day had as big of a fan club as me.  I ate some food, thanked everyone for coming out, and as much as I wanted to stay and visit the clock was ticking so I had to move on.  When I left that aid station I was feeling extremely lucky to have so many great people in my life.  I am not just referring to the people that showed up to support me at the event but also a bunch of others who could not make it but sent me messages, well wishes, and support.
My brother Dan providing some much needed laughs

After the emotions of seeing everyone started to fade I realized I have some work to do as I was not even half way yet and I would not see my crew again until mile 65.7.  Things seemed to be moving nicely although I could feel my pains start to get a little worse.  There was some more climbing in the next section and my IT band / knee started feeling bad.  I was reduced to a run a little walk a little pattern which was fine.  I met two guys Jody and Cody on this section.  Really nice guys and one of them was also having a bit of IT band pain as well.  One of the guys had run the course before and he said the next section is super muddy even on dry days so it was probably going to be really bad today.  We reached mile 46.4 aid station in no time.  The miles really fly by when your having good conversation.  I was at this aid station for a little while and ate quite a bit of food as I wanted to make sure I was keeping calories down.  I had been drinking tons of water and taking a salt pill every hour so I was definitely hydrated.  An aid station worker warned me as I was leaving that the next four miles were in really bad shape.  I was not worried but then again I had no idea it was going to be much worse then I could of ever imagined.

This section was mostly dirt trails a little wider then single track with plenty of roots, mosquitoes, steep uphills, steep downhills, and MUD.  It was so hard just making it up the hills because it was like trying to climb up ice.  Then going downhills I was hanging on trees to lower myself down without falling.  There was no way around the mud because it was nothing but heavy brush and more mud bogs next to the trail.  The flat sections were all ankle deep mud so there was absolutely no running going on here.  Usually I can have fun and appreciate scenarios like this when I am racing but not so much in my first 100 miler!  The only good thing about this section was about every half mile it seemed like there was a stream crossing which was nice to wash off the five pounds of mud that had accumulated on both shoes!  The only problem was that it was difficult to get up the other side of the river banks because they were so damn slippery.  Oh well, it was all part of the adventure and I knew that it was part of the course and I need to look at it as an exciting challenge and just power through it.  At times I was just laughing out loud to myself at how crazy it was and how slow I was going.  I was doing about 30 - 35 minute miles  through this section and it was one hell of a workout.  When I finally reached the aid station at mile 50.4 I was happy to learn I had completed half the course in 13 hours.  Only a half hour behind my goal I had set before the race.  I now had 17 hours to finish the course and felt good about that.

When I left that aid station and climbed some more hills I realized the last 4 mile section took more out of me then the entire 46.4 miles before it.  My IT band pain seem to diminish but the pain above my arch was starting to hurt more then before.  I was still able to do a little bit of my run a little walk a little routine through the beginning of the next section but every time I ran the pain grew worse.  I reached the next aid station at mile 55.5 and was pretty much just straight limping at this point.  Every step was causing bad pain above my left arch.  I hobbled out of that aid station and climbed the hill next to the Ohio turnpike and then turned into the woods for a pretty big downhill section.  I limped through this section of trails and the pain was still getting worse.  I finally reached the next aid station at mile 59.4.  There was people there that looked like they were in a lot worse shape then me.  I ate some mac and cheese, thanked the volunteers, flipped on my head lamp and got the heck out of there.  Since I was only limping with no chance of running I didn't really have any time to spare.  The darkness along with more climbing and descending had really slowed my pace.  There was a little bit of trail and uphill climbing at the beginning of this section and then we were spit out onto a deserted road.  There were a couple markers that suggested we head down the road.  Another guy came running back toward a group I was in and he was nervous that we were not on the right path because he did not see any markers ahead.  I knew we had to trust the first directional markers where we got on the road but after limping down the road for a mile or so with bats swooping in and flying right past my head along with not seeing any markers I started to freak out a bit.  Then all of a sudden I see an arrow on the road pointing in the direction I was going.  On the right path, phew!!  I passed this one girl and her pacer on the road section.  She was having an issue with her knee and I knew it must be bad if my limping ass was able to pass her. 

Not one of my finer moments at mile 65.7. Notice a little mud on my shoes.
After following this section of road we were led onto a bike and hike paved path for a mile or so before making our way to a parking lot and then across a grass field where there was some sort of hall with a wedding reception in full blast.  So after about 16 or 17 hours of being on my feet and feeling like pig pen from Charlie Brown it was kind of weird hearing a bunch of drunk people in suits singing along to Sweet Caroline (Bah Bah Bah!).  I did kind of laugh about the difference in situations between them and myself.  After that it seemed like I was climbing a bunch of big steps on a trail and I finally reached my next crew access point at mile 65.7.  I came in to a few remaining die hard supporters cheering me on and I told them thanks for being there because I know that being a spectator at an ultra is less exciting then watching paint dry or grass grow. I also ran into my friend Cheryl who was working at the aid station and that was awesome to see her there.  Lucas Hardbarger had met up with me here as well and was ready to pace me the rest of the way.  I was about an hour ahead of the cutoff at this point so I was still feeling like there was a chance.  I texted Jess before getting to that aid station and said if possible please get me a Chipotle burrito and she came through!!  My mom wrapped my arch for me and I changed socks along with putting on a fresh shirt.  Getting ready to leave this aid station I noticed that girl I had passed on the road come limping in and someone yelled "clear a table!" and that was kind of the scene around that aid station.  It looked like a war zone with injured and tired runners everywhere.  I think quite a few people dropped at this point.  Lucas and I left the aid station and I smashed that burrito as we were walking and it was so nice to get some real food of substance in my stomach.  Rice is an easily digestible carb and is great for distance running fuel.  I was still in a great amount of pain though and we moved through the beginning of this section extremely slow.

We were following a couple groups of people and talking and then all of a sudden we came to a fork in the trail and there was no direction markers.  Crap!  We all made the decision to go one way and then some course officials that were near the next aid station seen our headlamps coming across the field toward the aid station.  The problem is that we still had about three miles to go before we got to that aid station which was really close to us all of a sudden.  One of the guys came over to tell us we missed a turn and was going to lead us back to the trail but another official had said that we must go back the way we came and could not take a short cut back to the trail or we would be disqualified.  As for me, I was kind of upset because anything more then 5 feet extra with the pain in my foot was really mentally defeating.  Now I had gone a half mile out of the way and had to go back. I was not happy but accepted my fate!  All of a sudden I seen the girl who had the bummed knee and she had gone the wrong way too and she was yelling at the guy who said we had to go back the way we came.  She really let the poor guy have it and was saying the turn was not marked and he was messing with her cutoff times.  Then she turned in an upset manner and sprinted back up a hill that we had all come down.  I couldn't believe it.  After all her problems with her knee and running 68 miles she still had the energy to sprint up a hill, wow, some serious adrenaline!  She recently posted her race report on the Burning River facebook group and did not mention that whole scene but she did go on to finish the race.  One of her crew had done some chiropractor voodoo on her knee and I guess it fixed it.  Also, when we were led back the way we came we discovered the missed turn was mark VERY clearly and we were all eating a big steamy plate of crow with all the fixins.

The next three miles of trail had some more ascents and descents which I was transversing very slow.  Lucas was doing a great job pumping me up mentally to stay in the race and assured me that things would turn around very soon.  As much as I wanted to believe that, I could tell this damn foot pain was getting worse and I could hardly walk so it was going to be a very long 30 miles to the finish. Also, I was almost behind the time cutoffs at this point.  I got to the aid station at mile 71 and told my remaining crew and supporters that I was really thinking my day was over.  I was so depressed at that thought.  I did have a pair of more cushioned zero drop road running shoes in the car and as a last ditch effort I changed into them.  I walked around a bit and it felt pretty good!  New life!!  I might not be able to run but I could walk at a good clip so I thought there might be a chance.  Luc and I left the aid station and I was only 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff time.  It was going to be tough going to stay ahead of the cutoffs but it is possible I thought.  Felt good for about a half mile and then after being forced to run down a steep grass hill the arch pain had returned in full force.  I was back to moving at a very slow pace and no matter how hard I tried to move faster it was excruciating and could not do it.  After two miles into this three mile section I phoned Jess to come and pick me up at the mile 74 aid station because I was not going to make the cutoff and even if I did have time I had no clue how I was going to do another marathon being in that kind of pain.  It was not your normal quad or calf pain soreness, it was more of an injury type pain and it felt like I was doing a lot more damage with every step.  With a half mile to go to mile 74 the three guys sweeping the course came up behind me and that really signaled the end for me.

Luc and I at mile 74.
I got to mile 74 about 3:03 AM which was 12 minutes past the cutoff and Jess was there waiting for us.  I had been on my feet playing in the mud for 22 straight hours and was pretty ripe, I felt bad for Lucas and Jessica having to smell me in the car on the way back to Jess's sisters house.  Not finishing this race was and still is a pretty emotional thing for me.  I am very proud of what I achieved but it is the first ultra that I started and did not complete.  The one thing that leaves me with an empty feeling is that I devoted so much of my life over the last 6 months to training and thought I did everything right but still came up short.  On some positive notes, it was an extremely rewarding experience from the start of my training in January all the way up until race day.  I learned a lot about myself in the whole process.  The race itself was a blast and I give a ton of credit to those who did such a great job putting this thing on.  Also, I can't say it enough, the volunteers who gave up their weekend to come out and work the event were so awesome.  To my family and friends who supported me in person or in thoughts, that means more then you will ever know.  Jess was the best crew a guy could ask for.  Lucas was an awesome pacer and would of no doubt got me to the finish if I was not injured.  Some would think that after an experience like that one would not want to try another 100 miler.  I, on the other hand, only 2 days after this race was looking for another 100 miler for next year.  This is something that I really want to achieve in my life.  I think I am going to attempt the Indiana Trail 100 in late April next year to hopefully score a finisher buckle and build some confidence.  Then in 2015 I am heading back to Burning River for some redemption and I will be running along side my good friend Joe Gatton (we pulled each other through our first 50Ks in 2012) who has committed to doing his first 100 miler....Alright Joe!!!!!  Let's do this!!!!!