Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Devil Mountain 50: Aug.23rd, 2014 "When the going gets tough!"

Me, Ed, Charlie, and Joe Ready to Rock
The Devil Mountain 50 Miler takes place in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in the San Juan Mountains.  I found about this race through Jessica's cousin Joe and his wife Debra who live in Pagosa Springs.  Joe told me he was going to run a local 50 miler called Devil Mountain and said it would be awesome if we could make it out there for the race.  I love visiting Colorado so I instantly started searching for plane tickets after Joe told me about the event.  I found a great deal on round trip tickets and signed up for the 50 miler.  In addition to the 50 mile race they also offer a 50K along with races of other distances including a half marathon which Jessica signed up for.  The 50 mile course traverses over dirt service roads, dirt fire roads, open meadows, beautiful single track trails, and mountain ridges.  It is some of the toughest but most beautiful terrain I have ever seen with steep rocky climbs and sweeping views of the area.  The course was designed by an ultra running legend, Frozen Ed Furtaw, who has many years of experience running the Barkley Marathons which is one of, if not the, toughest foot race in America.  He even wrote a book "Tales From Out There" detailing the evolution of the Barkley over the years.  Devil Mountain brought me to a conclusion that Frozen Ed likes to make things challenging because he knows the mental reward for finishing is so much greater.

Me, Joe, and Debra before the start
This challenge was sort of an awakening for me in many ways which I will describe throughout this race report.  I had to start training for Devil Mountain in mid May after the dust settled from the excitement of my first 100 mile finish back in April.  I was riding on cloud nine from my accomplishment but had a tough and longer then expected recovery and my motivation to start training again was very low for most of the summer.  In the back of my mind I knew I should of been training really hard by doing a ton of hill work and strength training as well as getting in a lot of miles on the trail; however, I did very few back to back weekend long runs and pretty much just went through the motions.  About six weeks before the race I finally started to get some quality trail runs in and also some high mileage runs throughout the week.  This helped to boost my confidence for Devil Mountain but I had no idea of the adventure I was about to face.  In June Joe had mentioned to me that he started running with this guy named Ed Furtaw.  I read "Tales From Out There" awhile back and when I made the connection I was really excited to meet Ed.  It was going to be an honor to meet someone that brings new meaning to the word determination.  With his superior ultra running resume I knew I could talk to him for hours and barely scratch the surface with all the info I wanted to pick his brain about.  I also found out Ed was running the Devil Mountain 50 miler in preparation for a fall race on the Barkley course.  Also, we found out that Charlie, a friend of Jessica's cousin Therese in Indiana, was in Colorado and he was running the race as well. 

Frozen Ed Furtaw giving me words of wisdom
Jess and I arrived late on Thursday night before the race.  We stayed up late talking to Joe and Debra and it was really nice catching up with them.  Early Friday morning I woke up with a pretty severe ear ache.  I went back to sleep and it was mild when I woke up again.  I thought it might be from the pressure from flying as I had developed ear aches in the past from flying.  I was hoping it would go away before the race on the next day.  We toured Pagosa Springs and went to get supplies for Debra's aid station that she was in charge of for miles 32 and 37 of the 50 mile race.  While picking up supplies at the one of the race director's house we met Ed and his wife Gail.  They seemed like great people and I was looking forward to hanging out with them.  Then we went to pick up our race packets in the San Juan National Forest where the race starts and finishes.  After getting the race packets we went back to Joe and Debra's place for Debra's famous pre-race spaghetti.  We also met some of their friends from Pagosa Springs; Stephen and his wife Randi.  Stephen was looking forward to running Devil Mountain as his first 50 mile race but became sick a few weeks before the race and was still not well enough to do the run.  They were really fun and we had a good time eating dinner and getting to know them.

Joe and Doug bombing the downhill
We were up early the next morning and Debra gave Joe and I a ride to the starting line since Jess's race didn't start until later.  It was chilly out and many of the runners were hanging out around the big fire they had going.  Joe and I were able to meet Charlie and also hang out for a little bit with Ed before the race started.  There was only about 45 - 50 people that started the 50 miler which gave this race a nice family like atmosphere.  The race started at 8,000 feet above sea level and we ran down a relatively flat gravel road for a mile or so before we turned into the woods.  Joe was pointing out the mountains we would be climbing during the race and we were discussing which climbs in the nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain would be the toughest.  We had a nice gradual 800 foot climb up Chris Mountain from miles 2 to 5.  One thing I noticed is that my heart was beating pretty fast on this ascent.  I knew it was due to the altitude and I had not acclimatized at all for this race.  I didn't have issues at Run Rabbit Run in 2012 which was a similar elevation profile so I just assumed that I would not have problems at this race in the altitude.  After reaching the top of the first climb the next 5 miles were all downhill, 1,700 feet of descent on a nice wide service road with awesome views.  The first aid station was at the beginning of this downhill section and we were in and out quickly.  We thanked the volunteers and then bombed down this section at a fast clip and our pace was a lot faster then I thought it would be at this point in the race.  It turned out to be a good thing we had a swift pace here because what I was about to face was going to kill that awesome start.   

The air is thin but Joe is dominating the climb
On the downhill Joe and I met a guy named Doug from Denver.  He was in the Navy and was running his first 50 miler.  It was nice to chat with him on the 5 mile sprint down to Devil Creek.  Once we got to the bottom Joe told us we were beginning the biggest climb of the race but when we got to the top then we would see spectacular views from the ridge of Horse Mountain at 10,000 feet above sea level.  We stuck together for the first mile of the 7 mile 3,000 climb.  Joe had a great amount of energy at this point and he was telling everyone we passed that his wife Debra was working the aid station before Sally Overlook and that she will play whatever music they want!  My heart was racing like crazy and my ear was starting to bother me and Doug's heart was beating so hard he could feel it in his ears.  Joe was really dominating this climb and I was glad that he pushed on ahead as I didn't want to hold him back since he was feeling so good.  Doug also pushed on ahead of me as I decided to take it slow because I didn't want to burn myself out with so much race left.  All 7 miles and 3,000 feet of that climb up Horse Mountain were on steep single track trail.  There was one aid station on this climb and I refilled my water, thanked the volunteers, and kept climbing.  It seemed as though this climb went on forever.  My heart was racing faster and faster the higher in elevation I got.  I was relieved when I reached the summit and I was able to see the amazing views from the ridge that Joe was telling us about.  That moment in time was so mentally rewarding as the views were the ultimate payoff from that tough ascent to the top of the mountain.

video

View from the 10,000 foot ridge
While traversing across the ridge I came across another runner who seemed like he was in rough shape.  I offered him an electrolyte pill and he gladly accepted.  Then I flew down the steep and rocky 2 mile and 900 foot ascent to the third aid station at mile 19 where Ed's wife Gail was working.  It was nice to see her and I ate my share of their delicious peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches.  I was not doing too good at this point because my stomach had some familiar pains that I had during the IT 100 and my ears were still bothering me.  I was also feeling pretty tired since I was a bit jet lagged and was running on about 5 hours of sleep.  I decided to try drinking a little coca cola which is new for me. I don't drink pop in normal everyday life and I had never tried any during a race until now.  It turned out to be a life savor as it gave me a caffeine boost and seemed to ease the pain in my stomach.  After thanking the volunteers I marched up Middle Mountain on a fire road for about 3 miles and 500 feet of rocky ascent and then back down a steep 600 foot descent in the span of about a mile to the next aid station at mile 24.  It was at this point I realized the course was very tough and I was wondering if my sea level training in the Midwest was going to be sufficient enough to get me through this race.  

Pic from Pagosa Trails FB page
Coming into mile 24.  Pic from Pagosa Trails FB page
When I came into the aid station at mile 24 I was greeted by a gentleman who told me the next 21 miles are going to be the toughest miles of the course and he wants to make sure I feel good enough physically to continue.  He said the course has a steep 1,200 foot drop down Corral Mountain to the Piedra River and then we had to climb up to the next aid station and then come all the way back.  He said I could decide at this juncture to drop down to the 50K and head 6 miles back to the finish line.  What?!  The next half of the course is going to be harder then the first half?!  I was feeling decent at this point but mentally I started to get worried about what he said.  It didn't take me long to decide to stick with the 50 miler because I came all this way to do the 50 mile race and I wanted to experience the whole course.  I figured I would rather go on and drop out of the 50 miler then decide to do the 50K and be mentally disappointed in myself for not seeing if I had what it took to finish the race I signed up for.  I saw Randi there taking pictures and she said that Joe came through that aid station a half hour before me and he was doing good.  I was happy to hear that Joe was having a great race.  I knew it was 8 hard miles to the next aid station so I made sure I filled my water bladder in my camelbak and after eating some food and thanking the volunteers I set off on the next section.  When I left that aid station I saw Doug coming back the other way and he said he decided to drop to the 50K because he couldn't handle 21 extra miles of rocks, roots, and hills.  He went right past me and I didn't even have a chance to try and talk him into continuing on.

Bridge over Piedra River
I started not feeling well over the next few miles because everything I had working against me all came boiling to a head including some severe upper back and neck pain that had been slowly cropping up throughout the race and a pounding headache.  The course drops down a few hundred feet over a mile or so and then went through some rolling meadows.  Then the 1,200 foot drop to the river started and it was almost straight down as it only covered about a mile.  It was really rocky, steep, and technical which was bringing my mental and physical state to record lows for the day.  I was thinking to myself "if I feel this bad right now going down this mountain then how the hell am I going to make it back up this thing several miles later???"  This was dangerous ground for me mentally because the negative thoughts were going in the direction of wanting to drop out when I got to Debra's aid station at mile 32.  I convinced myself that it was not my day and I did good considering the circumstances but it would be wise to drop out rather then attempt to climb back up this section of the course.  I even told myself that I was not going to feel bad for dropping out and I was ok with it.  When I got to the bottom of the mountain and popped out of the woods I seen one of the most majestic views of my lifetime.  I was in a valley by the Piedra River and crossed this really cool bridge with views of mountains all around me.  Words can not describe how awesome this area really is and at that moment all of my bad feelings just vanished into thin air.  After I crossed the bridge I followed the trail along the other side of the river.

Piedra River
At this point the first place runner passed me going back the other way.  I was surprised this did not happen sooner and my good feelings turned to dread as I figured I had a tough climb up to the next aid station.  I also seen a runner who was wearing Luna Sandals and coming from a minimalist footwear background I could appreciate that and was extremely impressed this guy was dominating in them.  I also saw Charlie along this stretch on his way back and he was very focused and doing great.  Then the course turned off the trail along the river and went straight up a steep hill to anther trail.  When I got to the top of that hill I looked back down toward the river and saw Ed with another runner and they were closing in on me.  Then I followed a narrow rocky trail along a steep drop off and I thought to myself that one slip here could be deadly so I took my time.  I kept pushing on through some more climbing and rolling terrain and one last big climb up to Debra's aid station.  It was nice to see her when I got there.  She told me that Jess did really good in her half marathon and it was awesome to hear that.  I told Debra I was not feeling good and today was not my day.  There was a younger guy named Mark sitting in a chair with a little teddy bear strapped to his camelbak and he told me that we are all hurting.  I thought to myself that I should at least go 2.5 miles out to Sally Overlook and see the views and then go 2.5 miles back to Debra's aid station where I would call it quits at mile 37.  Ed came in and he was excited to see me still in the race.  He was in great spirits and it boosted me up a bit.  When I left the aid station I saw Joe on his way back from Sally Overlook.  He was excited to see me still in the race and I told him he was doing great.  We both agreed that the beer and pizza at the finish line sounded pretty damn good at that moment in time.  I didn't have the heart to tell him I was plotting to drop out of the race because I was just feeling so terrible and didn't think I could survive the climb back up Corral Mountain on the other side of the river.

Sally Overlook.  Pointing down to Piedra River
I walked most of the flat 2.5 miles to Sally Overlook and saw Ed coming back from the overlook as I was getting there.  When I got out on the cliff edge of the overlook I seen the absolute best view I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.  It was a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the valley which the Piedra River ran through  We had to take a page from a book that was placed at the overlook to prove we went all the way out there.  That was a nice little touch from the Barkley which I am glad was incorporated into the race.  I took the page out of the book then snapped one picture from the overlook and my phone died so I stood there for a minute to enjoy the view.  Mark, the younger guy with the teddy bear strapped to his camelbak, was also out there and we were discussing how we could see the river so far down there and that was where we came from.  We left the overlook together and I told him that I was going to drop out and he told me not to.  I told him that if I stay in the race I would be walking all the way back to the finish line.  He told me he would walk the rest of the race too.  I decided to at least wait and decided when we got back to mile 37.  We came into the aid station and I told Debra I was thinking about dropping but was unsure.  She told me I was an hour ahead of the cutoff and I came all this way and I should finish this thing up.  That got me pumped up and I was able to eat a decent amount of food and drink some more coke which really helped me feel better while giving me a caffeine boost.
 
Mark and I left Debra's aid station and began the descent down to the Piedra River.  I magically found some energy and we both began running through this section.  In fact, we were running pretty aggressively and I let Mark push on ahead.  It was nice to meet Mark and learn how he moved to Colorado from the Midwest so he could train for his dream race the Hardrock 100.  I later figured out the teddy bear he had symbolized his next race, the Big Bear 100 which was a Hardrock qualifier.  I caught up to Mark again after crossing the Piedra River and we began the one mile 1,200 foot technical climb up Corral Mountain that I was horribly dreading.  Mark was really climbing well and he once again pushed on ahead of me.  My heart was still pounding hard from the ascent in the higher altitude although I was feeling a lot better then I thought I would.  I developed a nice routine in which I watched the elevation on my Garmin 310 XT watch and I would climb 100 feet in elevation at a time and then stop to let my heart rate settle down.  I kept repeating this procedure and before I knew it I was at the top of that intense climb where some of the local horse riders were on their horses sweeping the course and offering runners water.  The camaraderie among humans can be astonishing at times and I especially notice it during ultra marathons which is one of the reasons I am so hooked on the culture of these races.                 

Rolling Meadows
Over the next few miles I did a slow shuffle across the rolling meadows and forest trails.  I was surprised that my headache and back / neck pain had pretty much disappeared!  I passed two girls and mentioned the climb back up Corral Mountain was not as bad as I thought it would be and they told me in a joking manner to speak for myself.  I eventually reached the last aid station at mile 45 (same one as mile 24) and when I came in Ed was sitting there in a chair and he proclaimed "Jamie! you caught me! *brief hesitation* but not for long!" as he got up to leave the aid station.  I grabbed my fleece and my headlamp out of my drop bag along with filling up my water to get me through the last 6 miles of the race.  I was in good spirits here because Joe told me the last section of the course is mostly downhill; although, after leaving this aid station and dropping down to 7,300 feet above sea level over the next two miles down a semi-technical trail I knew we had some climbing to do since the race started at 8,000 feet and that was where it finished.  Then I came to the gravel service road which meant I was a few miles to the finish and it was about dark so I switched on my head lamp.  The road was a gradual climb for a mile or two and at this time I was thrilled I would be able to finish the race but was just ready to be done.  A few cars drove by telling me good job and I am almost done but the road just seemed to go on forever.  I finally heard a bunch of party noises in the distance and also started to hear a cow bell ringing and a guy yelling stuff over a loud speaker.  I knew this was it and I ran the rest of the way to the finish line but I slowed up crossing into the yard where the finish line was because I did not want to trip and fall in front of the big crowd cheering me to the end.

Joe, Debra, Jess, and myself on day after race
After I crossed the finish line I was greeted by my awesome wife, all of my friends, and some really drunk girl who was overly happy for my accomplishment.  Jess helped me escape the drunk girl's persistence for continual high fives and we went over to the pizza stash and grabbed a few slices.  It felt great to eat some hearty warm food and sit down.  I was so spent that I could not even drink a beer.  I was mentally very happy that I pushed on and finished this thing.  I would of been very disappointed in myself if I dropped out even though half way through the race I figured it would not bother me if I quit.  This was one of the toughest races I have done due to the physical makeup of the course and also my mental break down.  It was one of the most rewarding finishes of my ultra running career because I overcame some huge obstacles to succeed in my goal.  It is not easy for us Midwest flatlanders to run the mountain courses out west but it is zen being on the amazing trails.  The day following the race Joe, Debra, Jessica, and myself had lunch by the Piedra river and we took Jess to see the view from Sally Overlook. Then we met up with Ed, Gail, Charlie, and his wife Sara at the Pagosa Brewery for dinner and had an after party at Ed and Gail's house.  Then Jess and I went to Albuquerque for a few days of much needed rest, recovery, and relaxation at Jessica's Aunt Terri and Uncle Brian's house.  With their help I held up my end of getting called out for the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.  Along with Brian dumping an ice cold bucket of water on me I donated money to ALS and also the PKD Foundation.  It was definitely a great trip and I did want it to end but reality was calling us back. 

Dinner at Pagosa Brewery with some great people
video                                                           

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Indiana Trail 100: April 26th, 2014 "Buckle UP!"

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









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: