Sunday, November 1, 2015

Trail Factor 50K: May 25th, 2015

One of things I love most about ultra running is traveling to an out of town location and running a race on trails I've never been on.  Jess and I decided to take a trip out to the Pacific Northwest to visit some good friends and it happened to coincide with the Trail Factor 50K in Portland.  Jess and I both signed up for the race and it was going to be Jess's first ultra marathon but unfortunately she was unable to recover in time from her IT band injury at the Trail Marathon Weekend Marathon.  On this journey we spent a few days with long time friend, Cory Garlick, along with his family in Seattle and also hung out in Portland with our good friend Michael Toth-Purcell (T-P) who ran the race with me.  We are so lucky to have such good friends that hosted us during our stay out in the lush green paradise of Oregon and Washington.  They really took good care of us and made sure we had an awesome time during our vacation.

Cannon Beach Triple Stones!
Goonies House

We flew into Portland and T-P picked us up in his Jeep.  We drove out to his house in Scappoose, Oregon just outside of Portland and not to far from Forest Park, which is where the Trail Factor 50K takes place.  I will discuss Forest Park more in depth when I talk about the race.  The next morning Jess and I got up and hit the road.  T-P is such a nice guy that he loaned us his Subaru for a few days to drive to Seattle!  On the way to Seattle we drove out to Oregon's North Coast which is really an awesome thing to see.  The beaches and the fog were representative of what I pictured the North Coast of Oregon to look like.  We were on the beach where they filmed some scenes from the Goonies and we even went to their house in Astoria.  In case you are wondering I did not do the truffle shuffle in the front yard!  We went up the 164 steps to the top of the Astoria Column to get a great view of the coast and all the waterways.  Then we made our way to Cory's house in Kirkland, Washington.  We enjoyed some drinks on his rooftop deck overlooking Lake Washington.  We did some epic hiking in Mount Rainier National Park and got to hang out in downtown Seattle at the famous Pikes Place Market and surrounding attractions.  We capped the Seattle portion of our trip off with going to a Seattle Sounders soccer match and it was a lot of fun!

Hiking in Mt. Rainier
Seattle Sounders Soccer!

All smiles before the race!
Then we road tripped back to Scappoose where we spent a nice relaxing evening with T-P.  We had chicken stir fry for dinner which was a perfect pre-race meal on the eve of our 50K.  T-P and I got up early and drove to Forest Park.  Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States and has over 70 miles of trails!  The vibrant and expansive scenery in the park is something that words cannot describe and I recommend exploring this park if you ever find yourself in the Portland area.  After parking the jeep and hiking a little ways to the start line we were ready to begin our adventure at the Trail Factor 50K.  After one of the race directors told us to go we did a little loop around the start area to spread the field out a little bit before hitting the trail since the first segment was a steep climb on single track trail.  We got to the top of the climb and I was able to view Forest Park in all it's splendor.  Around every turn of the trail was another awesome view of the vibrant lush green scenery.  I was trying to snap some pictures during the run but the pictures did not portray how cool the park was through my first hand visual account.

Race start..on to the trail!
Guy playing fiddle..he was rocking it out!
There was a lot of gradual rolling terrain that we traversed which lead to flying on the downhills and running the uphills which I am not accustom to.  We definitely started out to fast and that was my fault.  I told T-P before the race that I wanted to average a 14:00 minute mile and he was quite surprised when I was dropping 10:00 minutes miles for the first nine or ten miles of the race.  I felt pretty good since I had been training hard for a few months and the gradual downhills in the park were really kind to me.  Also, we had a big group that was running with us and I am not sure how this happened but I was leading the group!  I didn't want to let them down since they seemed to like the pace.  T-P and I backed off on our pace after the first aid station.  There was no way I could sustain that for an entire 50K and also T-P had a big 100K race coming up a few weeks after this one and neither one of us wanted to burn ourselves out.  There were some tough climbs but they were nicely spread out.  The aid stations were awesome and the volunteers kicked ass.  One aid station had a guy playing a fiddle.  About mile 20 T-P developed a problem with a muscle in his thigh.  I could tell he was in severe pain and it was concerning.  We walked for awhile until his issue seemed to work itself out.  After running a few more miles his issue popped back up and I got stung in the leg by a hornet or something.  We decided it would be best for both of us to take it easy the rest of the way to the finish.

Aerial Shot!
     At mile 29 we had one last big climb and then a big descent into the finish.  The finish
All done!  Time for burgers and beer!
line was a welcome site for both of us.  The burgers and beers they had waiting for us might of been a better sight then the finish line and they were both delicious!  Nothing better then a cold tasty IPA after running a trail ultra marathon.  We hung around the beer tent for awhile and met a few people from all over the world.  Then we drove back to T-P's house to meet up with Jess.  During the day she went shopping and then for a run in a different section of Forest Park from where our race was.  I was glad she was able to see some of the park because I felt bad that her injury prevented her from running the race with us.  We were able to get some quality leg soaking in T-P's hot tub before going out for dinner and a few drinks at one of the famous McMenamin establishments.  If you are ever in Oregon I would suggest finding one of their places to go for dinner or a drink because they certainly have a top notch product!  The next day we went hiking at Mount Hood and hung out at Timberline lodge for awhile.  Then we stopped in downtown Portland for an awesome dinner and some voodoo doughnuts!  It was a perfect last day in Portland and it capped off a vacation to remember.  I definitely did not want this one to end but reality was calling.    

Pacific Crest Trail Sign

A great hike to cap off this epic vacation!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trail Marathon Weekend "No Wimps Challenge": April 25th and 26th, 2015

Greg, Tyler, and myself ready to rock the half!
These races take place at Pinckney Rec Area near Ann Arbor.  I spend a lot of time training out there and I have never ran at this trail event.  The no wimps challenge consists of running the 1/2 marathon on Saturday and the 50K on Sunday.  I was going to do these distances for my training runs that weekend so I thought it would be a great way to train with some aid stations.  Jessica signed up for the marathon and I was super excited for her as it would be her first.  My friend Tyler signed up for the 1/2 marathon which would be his first.  Tyler recently started doing cross fit and lost a bunch of weight and decided to try out a trail race.  Lucas was coming on Sunday because he signed up for the 50K and the stage was set for the weekend.

1 mile to go!
He did it!!
Tyler and his friend Greg came up to our house on Friday night.  We got to bed pretty early and made it out to Pinckney for the 1/2 marathon.  It was pretty cold out in the morning with temps in the low 30s.  We stood around in our long sleeve T-shirts and shorts shivering until the gun went off.  Tyler, Greg, and myself settled into a nice pace.  I wanted to make sure Tyler didn't go out to fast with all of his adrenaline going.  We cruised through the first two aid stations and then we got separated from Greg.  Tyler was looking very strong and we passed a lady who Tyler thought was falling and he reached out to save her and ended up punching her in the gut!  He was very sorry and she said she was ok but it was one of those crazy things that happen in a trail race.  We got a pretty good laugh after all of that.  About mile 11 Tyler started to feel the burn of going further then he ever has.  He kept a strong run walk run walk pace.  We were at mile 13 in no time.  Then when Tyler seen the finish line he took off sprinting faster then anyone I have ever seen run to the finish line!  Greg finished not long after us.  Tyler has a lot to be proud of.  Finishing this race is just a stepping stone in his overall transformation.

Ready for leg two of the no wimps challenge!
Saturday night Jess came home from being out of town.  We got to bed at a decent time again because I had the 50K and Jess had the marathon to run.  We were up early on Sunday and drove back out to Pinckney for our races.  Lucas met us out there as he had to drive in from out of town late the night before.  The weather was to be perfect.  It was mid to high 30s to start and would climb to the mid 50s during the day and the trails were mostly dry.  It does not get much better then that for a trail race.  The gun went off and we settled into a slow but steady pace.  The first 13.1 mile loop went by pretty quickly and all three of us were feeling good.  We set out on the second loop and settled back into our pace.  I had been training pretty hard for my July 100 mile race in the months leading up to this race so I was itching to take off and finish the 50K strong.  I knew it was too early to push myself hard.  Jess was also feeling really good and she was doing awesome.  Lucas's knee was really hurting him and we hung back with him for awhile.  About mile 20 I was fearing the cutoffs and not completing the no wimps challenge.

Jess charging up the hill!
Luc and I doing what we do!
A good spot for a pic!
I made sure Lucas was cool with me taking off.  I also made sure Jess was cool with me leaving her side during her first marathon ever.  I was disappointed that I would not see her finish but she was looking really strong and I had no doubt she was going to complete her marathon.  So with her confirmation I took off and passed a bunch of people.  There were definitely some confused runners as I bombed by people like the race had just started.  I came through the start finish area and had one more 5 mile loop to go.  I started feeling pretty burned out and tired for this last leg of the race.  This 5 mile loop had a lot of hills to climb and I just wanted to be done.  As the finish line came into sight I seen Jess with her finisher medal around her neck and I got a burst of excitement.  I finished up the no wimps challenge and proceeded to give Jess major props for dominating her very first marathon!  She kicked some major ass on the trails.  The last two miles were tough for her because she had a bad IT band flare up and could not run on it.  I have gone through that issue multiple times and I know how much it sucks.  Lucas had a really bad problem with his knee and ended up stopping at the 26.2 mark.  He got a finisher medal for the marathon.  It was really nice that he made the drive out to run this race.  He did his first marathon ever on this course so it was cool for him to come back years later and run the race again.

All done.  Ready for rest and relaxation!
This was definitely a weekend of firsts.  Morale was at an all time high.  This race gave me some good confidence and momentum for my Burning River training.  Next stop will be the Trail Factor 50K in Portland where I will be running with my good friend T-P!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Forget The PR 1/2 Marathon: April 13th, 2015

Luc and I after our 4:30 am run
This is one of my favorite weekends because I get to see a few hundred trail runners enjoy the Forget The PR 50K and 25K.  It is nice to give back once in awhile and that is why I make it a point to volunteer at this race every year.  The fact is that I have just as much fun volunteering as I do running the races.  I also like to get a few runs in since I am in Mohican for the weekend!  Last year I did a run at 4:30 am on the race day and was done before the 50K started.  Lucas was camping and volunteering with me and when I suggested doing an early morning run before our volunteering duties this year he was completely on board.  Both of us also signed up for the half marathon which was on Sunday morning.

50K runners ready to roll
I got to Mohican Adventures in the late afternoon on Friday and was able to assist with loading the boxes of aid station supplies into the trailer.  My friend Steve Pierce was also there and we put out the parking sign and did some other odds and ends.  We both went down to Trails End Pizza for some dinner after helping out.  I went back to the camp site and set up my tent along with getting ready for our early run the next day.  Lucas showed up around 10:30 and we got his tent set up and talked until around 11:30.  It was a cold night and I did not get much sleep but when 4:30 rolled around I was ready to go!  Lucas and I set out into the dark trails and completed 10 miles in the cool morning.  The showers where we were camping had no hot water and taking a cold shower when the air temp is 40 degrees is not an ideal situation.  We decided to go down and say hi to all our friends that were racing before the 50K started.  Then we were able to get showers down at the conference center where there was hot water.  After that we went down to our aid station at the start finish area and helped Cheryl and Amy set up although they almost had it all done by the time we got there!  It was non stop action as Luc and I were refilling everyone's water bottles and I think we became camelbak experts.  It is not easy filling the water bladders and they come in all shapes and sizes.  Cheryl and Amy along with a few others were making sure the runners were getting enough food.  Along with being a great aid station captain Cheryl is a PB & J making machine!

Relaxing at site 500!
We had a good time volunteering and were exhausted from getting up so early.  We left the race as people were finishing and went to Trails End Pizza for some food.  After eating we just went back to the camp site and sat by the fire talking for awhile.  I think we both went to our tents around 8:30 to go to sleep.  We got up the next day and packed all our stuff up so we could both take off after the half marathon.  Luc and I ran with Amy during the half marathon and she had already done 5 miles or so before it started because she needed extra miles for her training run.  It was nice to catch up with her and hear about her training for the Mohican 100 miler in June.  Lucas did well in the half marathon and did not have any stomach issues when using Tailwind Nutrition that I turned him on to.  I have been using Tailwind nutrition for running and it literally is everything you need to keep fueled during a run.  After the half marathon we hung out and talked for a little bit and then started the long drive home.  I left with a big smile on my face as I always do after the Forget the PR weekend.  It was great to see all of my Ohio ultra friends and hang out with my bro Lucas.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Forget The PR Race Director 50K: March 28th, 2015

Ready to rock!  Mohican hills behind me calling my name.
Finally back to the trail running paradise of The Mohican State Forest!  You may remember from the last few years I volunteer at Rob Powell's trail race Forget The PR 50K and 25K.  Rob graciously invites all of the volunteers to come to Mohican and run the course a few weeks prior to the actual event.  Rob is such a great race director and friend that he not only let's the volunteers run the course he also gives us the same schwag and 50K buckle received by the runners of the actual event. Another cool thing is that he treats us to beer and pizza after our volunteer run.  Before I get into the details of the actual run I want to say a few things about how Forget The PR was the event that gave me the final nudge to get me into running ultra marathons.  After high school I did very little running until the fall of 2009 when I started getting back into shape.  I did my first trail half marathon in 2010.  Then in the spring of 2011 my great friend Lucas Hardbarger, who had been around the trail ultra scene for a few years, introduced the me to the scene by inviting me to come down to Mohican and volunteer with him at Forget The PR.  I really liked trail running and decided to come down and see what an ultra is all about.  Lucas seemed to have a lot of fun running the crazy distances and these ultimate tests of human endurance just seemed like an adventurous and fun thing to do.

Scott and Lucas on Big Ass Hill Round 1

In April of 2010 I met Rob along with the other volunteers and I could already sense an awesome vibe surrounding this event and ultra running in general.  They were full of passion about this race and also pulling out all stops to ensure the runners were going to have a safe and fun time.  They also discussed how almost all of the proceeds were going back to the park and the groups who maintain the trails.  Then on race day I could see how much fun the runners were having and how grateful they were to have us out there for support which gave me a big rush of excitement.  I met so many awesome people that weekend and I could see why Lucas was hooked.  I knew right then and there that this was something I wanted to do.  A year later I completed Forget The PR 50K with Joe Gatton and since then I have never looked back.  This is not only a fun trail race but also a tough trail race.  There are over 4,500 feet of ascent / climbing, a section where you have to literally climb up roots, and 5 river crossings for the 50K, which is pretty serious for the midwest!  I love this event and was really excited to go down there this year to see all of my trail friends and get my fourth year Forget The PR 50K buckle!  A cool thing about Forget The PR race director 50K is that it is kind of the official kick off to the trail race season.  It is in late March and the weather has usually shown a little sign of improvement from the cold winter.  The final epic thing about this years event is that Lucas had taken the last year and a half off from ultra running and over the winter he started training again and now he is back!

 The crew looking happy before climbing the Dam Wall
I arrived at the starting point, Mohican Adventures Campground. around 7:30 am for an 8:00 am start.  I said hello to many friends that I have made over the last few years and was happy to see them all.  Then Rob came running into the campground and we found out that he and Don Baun had started running around 4:30 am to mark the trail course turns for us!  How cool are these guys to get out that early for our benefit?!  Rob informed us that we would have to run the 25K route twice because the rivers were way to high for us to cross in the southern sections of the course.  I kind of liked that because we would be able to stop at our car around the half way point.  Rob also informed us that he added in some more hills for us and we would have about 5,600 feet of climbing which is 1,100 feet of bonus elevation gain!  My quads are still thanking him for this new punishment errr...I mean challenge.  Lucas, Scott Love, Amanda Mowery, and myself ran together for almost the entire 50K.  We had a great time exchanging stories and politely cursing Rob for sending us up North Rim Trail four times and also Big Ass Hill twice!  There were two different roving aid stations for us and it was so nice of them to give up their day to give us food and water.  We took our time and enjoyed the nice weather and each others company.  Finishing was great because I had been thinking about the beer and pizza for the last two hours of the run!  The weather turned out to be perfect.  It was in the high 20s for the morning start but got up into the low 50s and it was sunny.  One of the first nice days of the year, thanks mother nature!!  The course was pretty dry overall which was surprising since the winter thaw had just happened and it rained two days before the run.  There were three different spots on the course that we were not sure which way we were suppose to go but we guessed right every time!  If you want to see a video of this years course then click this link.  That video was taken on the day of the actual event.

Climbing the roots
Running into Rob at covered bridge
Big Ass Hill Round 2!!

I was proud of Lucas because this was his first ultra in awhile and it was a tough one!  He was struggling in the second half of the race but he kept pushing on.  He toughed it out and finished strong.  At our post run pizza feast we discovered that Lucas and I both got our 4 year buckles so that means next year we will be going for our 5 year buckles!  We had a great time at our post race dinner as we listened to Rob Gannon tell us the story of his son pulling a seabiscuit move and winning state in the 3,000 meter.  Rob Powell called us up individually to give us our buckles and he had some really nice things to say about each of us.  I can't explain in words how awesome this community of trail runners is.  After a beer or two and a bunch of pizza it was time to make the long drive back to Detroit but the drive is a small price to pay for the amount of fun I had on this day.

Enjoying the day

It's official, the 4th year FPR 50K buckle!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Resolution 4 hour Trail Run: January 17th, 2015

The group Photo!
I heard of this race through RUT which is a local trail running group.  It is another Fat Ass type of event but this FA was very well organized with course markings and finisher prizes etc..  It was a 2.5 mile trail loop in the snow at Cass Benton Park off Hines Drive in Northville, MI.  Participants could choose from the following time limits: 1 hour, 2 hour, 3 hour, and 4 hours.  Which ever time you chose was how long you had to complete as many laps as you could.  I went into the event knowing I wanted to do four hours.  Jess decided to come with me and she wanted to run the one hour event.  Through facebook I found out that Steve "Trail Runner" Pierce was coming up from Toledo to run this event as well.  I was surprised at how many people showed up especially since the temps were pretty cold and we just had a few inches of snow fall the night before.  We took a group photo before the run started.  Somehow Jess, Steve, and myself happened to be standing right in the front of the group when they announced it was picture time.  I tried to duck out of the way since I felt like I was blocking most of the group standing behind me!

Lap One!
The run started and we were stuck in a slow moving group which was fine for me.  I was not looking to kill this run or anything like that.  Running in the snow is a little tougher then a dry trail and I was just there to have fun.  Jess was also ok with the slower pace at the beginning.  Steve had too much energy so he darted around most of the group so he could resume his normal faster pace.  We settled into a group that had a perfect pace for us.  The landscape was really neat looking with all the fresh snow that had fallen. Footing was not too bad for me and there was not really any ice which was a good thing.  The traction on Jess's shoes was not that great and she had trouble with footing.  After she was done with her one hour run she said goodbye and I kept at it.  I wanted to see how many miles I could complete in four hours.  Slogging through the snow really starts to wear me out after a few hours and the day was getting tougher.  I met a lot of cool people during the remainder of my four hour run.  It is good that I was able to meet some local Michigan ultra runners.  Most of my ultra running friends live in Ohio.  I do not really have anyone up here in Michigan to run with.

When I finished my seventh lap I still had ten or fifteen minutes until my four hours was up.  I
decided to call it good at 17.5 miles total.  I was ready to be done and go find some hot coffee.  I got to meet the two guys that put this event on; Keith and Paul, and they are both really cool down to earth kind of guys.  I hung out and talked with Steve and his friend Jessica for awhile.  It was a top notch event for being a FA.  The guys really went all out to make this a cool event.  I would highly recommend it to any of my running friends for 2016.  It's a great way to start out the year!

Detroit Turkey Trot 10K: Nov. 27th, 2014

Jessica and I have wanted to do the Detroit Turkey Trot for a few years now but we are usually in Toledo for family events on Thanksgiving day.  This year it worked out that we didn't have anything going on until later in the afternoon so we decided to head out with 25,000 Detroit area runners to trot along the Thanksgiving Day Parade route.  We did not really know how big of an event this was until the week of the race. People were telling us to get downtown at least three hours early.  What?!  I am not getting out of bed at 4:00 am on thanksgiving morning.  We took our chances and left about an hour before the start of the race.  Luckily Jess has a parking pass for one of the garages at the Renaissance Center so we were able to bypass the huge slug of traffic waiting to find parking.  We actually found parking right away and were early to the starting line!

We ran into one of Jessica's co-workers who is originally from Ireland.  Her parents were in town visiting and her Dad was there to walk the Turkey trot with her.  It was cool meeting them and then we went out into the cold weather to get lined up to run.  Then we were finally off and running.  There were thousands of people running which is always a cool atmosphere to be around.  We were not going for any speed records, rather just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of downtown Detroit on parade day.  It was very lively throughout the whole course.  People were lining the streets to cheer runners on as they were getting ready to watch the parade which followed the run.  There were also a ton of Lions fans out tailgating before the traditional Lions Thanksgiving Day football game.  I must admit that I was starting to get hungry smelling all the food they were grilling.  Halfway into the run I noticed we had a pretty good pace going.  We kept it up for the rest of the run and it was over before we knew it.  We went to a bar in the Renaissance Center to have a bloody mary which turned into two bloody marys.  We did not know they were going to be the most expensive bloody marys we ever had!

Everything throughout the day went really smooth until we tried to leave the parking garage.  It was a traffic jam getting out of there.  We must of sat in the same spot for about a half hour.  Then we moved little by little and finally we were able to get on our way home for a nap before our Thanksgiving feast back in Ohio.  This was a really neat event and I cannot believe how many people are downtown for the race, parade, and football game.  Must be like 50,000 people total!  It is quite a tribute to how awesome the people of Detroit and metro Detroit are when it comes to getting together for a big celebration.  I think we will definitely do this race again if we are in the area on Thanksgiving morning.

Fall FA Oak Openings 25K: November 22, 2014

My friend from Perrysberg, OH, Steve "Trail Runner" Pierce, invited me to this fat ass race in Oak Openings Metro Park.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with a fat ass race it is basically a run that is not an official race.  It is kind of a word of mouth type thing where a bunch of runners just get together and run a certain course usually without course markings.  These are becoming more and more popular as most trail events get sold out quickly these days.  Anyway, this FA trail run was being put on by the Toledo Road Runners Club.  My plan was to get up early and make the hour and a half drive down to the park for the 8:00 am start.  I was excited to do a run in Oak Openings since I grew up in that area and this was technically my "home trail."  The weather called for freezing rain on the Saturday morning of the race which concerned me a little bit.

I left my house with plenty of time in case the weather turned bad on my way down there.  As soon as I left my driveway the freezing rain had started.  The expressways were not too bad at first so I decided to keep going.  When I got about half way there the roads were becoming a sheet of ice.  I slowed way down and took my time.  I finally reached the park after a crazy drive and as I was pulling into the entrance I noticed a lot of cars in the parking lot.  I thought a lot of people would of just stayed home due to the freezing rain but runners are usually a determined group so of course everyone made it out.  I was happy to see the crowd and also excited that I made it there without crashing and only a few minutes late.  Then I hit a patch of ice and my car started sliding towards an embankment.  It stopped right before sliding down the embankment.  Nothing like getting your heart pumping before the run even starts!  When I got there some groups were starting and I noticed Steve was in the lead group so I hurried up and sprinted to catch up to him.  He was surprised I made it considering the weather.

The trail we were running on is a 16 mile dirt trail around the perimeter of the park.  It is well maintained by local boy scouts and therefore it is called the Scout Trail.  Every time we are back in that area visiting family I usually try to go there to run a lap on that trail so I know the course pretty well. We were off to a pretty good pace at the beginning with a group of four or five runners.  I kept up with them because I was chatting with Steve about..well..trail running..of course.  Steve is a much faster runner then me and he and the lead group were really pushing me to my limit.  After 9 or 10 miles me and another guy had to tell Steve we were slowing down.  He said he was just out there for a slow fun run anyway and no problem he would go at our pace.  The weather actually turned nice into the upper 30s during the run.  There was a little layer of snow on the trail for some added cushion.  We kept up a pretty good pace for the next 6 miles to the finish.  I was very exhausted.  I am not use to pushing that hard on trail runs but it really paid off.  When we finished at the shelter I noticed there was a huge spread of food.  Looks like almost everyone brought something and it was all really good stuff.  There was also a fire going in the fireplace inside the shelter which was awesome.  This was a really cool event.  I am glad I decided to go and it was nice to meet some Toledo area trail runners.