Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seashore Nature Trail 50K: December 15th, 2012

In April I finished my first 50K at Forget The PR in the Mohican State Forest and then in September I managed to complete a 50 miler at Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat, Colorado.  In October Jessica's brother Luke showed interest in running the Seashore Nature Trail 50K and asked me if I wanted to run it with him.  I thought it would be a great way to end the year by running my third ultra and helping Luke to complete his first ultra so I told Luke that I was in!  

My first 50K at Forget the PR had 4,500 feet of elevation gain.  The 50 miler at Run Rabbit Run had about 9,500 feet of elevation gain and almost the whole race was ran between 9,000 - 10,600 feet above sea level.  The Seashore Nature Trail 50K is very flat compared to the other two ultras I did and some of the race is actually below sea level!  Plenty of oxygen and I also knew the weather was more then likely going to be ideal.  I was thinking this ultra would be relatively easy and I did not train as hard as I did for the other two.  That mindset was completely idiotic because it really does not matter how flat, what elevation your at, or what the weather is going to do.  If it was easy they would not call it an ULTRA marathon!!

Time to RAWK!!
Fast forward to December, Jess and I fly to Virginia Beach the night before the race and after grabbing some food we get to Luke's place around 11:30 PM.  Luckily the start time of the 50K was not until 8:15 so we didn't have to get up super early.  After we woke up and got geared up Jess drove us to First Landing State Park which is only about 10 minutes away from Luke's place.  We arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare.  While waiting in line for the bathroom before the start I had a few people inquire about my shoes.  I decided to wear my Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails because I've been trail running in them since May and they got me through my 50 miler in the mountains.  These minimalist shoes are great because they are breathable and they have really nice traction lugs on the bottom of them.  A lot of the minimalist shoes on the market do not handle muddy, slushy, or slippery conditions to well due to a lack of traction.  I still have complete ground feel in them even with the traction lugs.  The temperature was in the low 40s to start and would climb into the mid 50s throughout the race.  As far as running weather goes, it does not get any better then that!  While waiting for the start of the race I also met Luke's friend Mel who is an experienced ultra runner and we exchanged our time goals etc..  His time goal was six hours and Luke and myself were looking to finish in less then seven hours.

The race director gave us the official GO! and off we went.  The first mile is on a paved road leading to the trails.  This is a smart move by the course planner because it gives the field a chance to spread out before entering the trails.  I have been in other trail races that bottle necked at the trail entry point and it caused runners to come to a complete stop right at the beginning, which is frustrating when the adrenaline is pumping and the legs are fresh!  The trails for this race wind through the swampy forest of First Landing State Park.  They were well maintained, wide, and soft..thanks to the help of pine needles and sand.  The roots a.k.a. "trip hazards" were often hidden but I am no stranger to that.  After taking a few nice spills on the trails here in Michigan I learned the value of treading carefully on any earthen trail.  We were going with the flow of the main pack for the first few miles.  I looked down at my watch and realized that we were moving at a pretty good clip.  A fatal mistake that I have made in my first two ultras is going out really fast at the start and having nothing left for the last half of the race.  I cannot believe that I did not learn a lesson from my past mistakes.  It is easy to ignore the actual distance you have to go when your feeling great and really killing it.  The mind is tricked into thinking that this is your day and you will be able to maintain this level of running for most of the race.

Kicking some ass.  All business!!
We even passed Mel at mile 3 and I knew his goal was six hours so that was uplifting.  In reality Mel was really smart by maintaining a comfortable steady pace so he could run the majority of the course without burning out to early.  As we were getting close to the first aid station the leading runner flew past us going the other way!  He was 8.5 miles in and we were only 5 miles in.  His name is Billy Edwards and he went on to win and finished the race in 3 hours and 35 minutes which is an amazing time for a 50K on trails.    Luke was keeping up with me and we were both feeling pretty good as we came into the first aid station (The 64th Street Aid Station).  Before I continue the story of our journey I want to say that the volunteers at the aid stations of this race were top notch!  They were friendly, ready to help in anyway possible, and had great setups to keep people moving through.  It is so great that people would volunteer their time to hang out all day feeding a bunch of crazy lunatics who enjoy running super long distances for fun!  I told Luke that we cannot hang out too long at any of the aid stations because that could really hurt our time over the course of the entire race.  We quickly ditched our long sleeve shirts, grabbed some munchies, refilled our water and off we went.

This wayyyyyy!!
The next section of trail is an out and back which provided some great views of the water.  It always helps the miles go by when you have nice scenery to look at.  We also came across a very enthusiastic runner that had a wild outfit on and she was extremely happy to be out running the trails.  She was actually doing really well and displayed true ultra running spirit!  We got back to the 64th street aid station and again we did not stay long.  We were both still feeling pretty darn strong at this point which was almost 8.5 miles into the race.  We began our journey back to the area where we first entered the trails.  It was almost 4 miles to the next aid station (The Bald Cypress Aid Station) and we kept a decent pace all the way there.  We slowed down a little bit but nothing to be concerned about at this point.  We were in and out of this aid station as we knew we would be back in 3.5 miles after completing the Bald Cypress loop.  This is where we started to slow down.  Luke's knee started bothering him and I felt a slight pain in the arch of my left foot.  Nothing to bad, but not something you want to feel when your only 13 miles into a 31 mile race.  We completed the loop, refueled at the aid station, and started walking.  We were half way done at this point and the wheels started to fall off.

We are doing a great job hiding our pain here at mile 20!!
Luke's knee pain was getting worse and my arch pain was slowly creeping on me.  We walked for a half mile or so and started a slow jog.  At this point Mel passed us while keeping his steady pace.  He looked strong and I was jealous.  That was the point in the race where I told myself that going forward I will never again make the mistake of not pacing myself at the start of an ultra.  So, we were basically at a "run a little and walk a little" routine that we repeated all the way back to the 64th street aid station.  We started the out part of the out and back section again and we were both hurting pretty bad.  I never thought about quitting in my other two ultras but I confess that the thought actually crossed my mind in this one.  That negative thought passed quickly though because that is not how we roll.  We are both hard working guys with strong work ethics and we were just going to have to roll up our sleeves, dig deep, and get this thing done.  In this section of the out and back we saw Mel going back the other way and wished him luck on meeting his six hour goal.  The tide had risen in a few areas of this section and the trail was flooded in two areas.  Wading through the ankle deep water actually felt refreshing and I always enjoy a good water crossing in a trail race.  We reached the far point of the race and turned around to head back on our death march to the finish.

Luke at the marathon mark.  Still almost 5 joyous miles to go!
 We got to the 64th Street Aid Station and refueled.  Our pace had really fallen off at this point.  Just finishing is definitely the goal now.  We were walking for really long stretches and still had about 8 miles to go.  The winner Billy Edwards flew by us again going the other way!  It turns out he was running extra miles for charity and he looked as fresh as when he started, what a machine!  That was kind of a reality check for us but congrats to him.  During this stretch we were picking objects in the distance such as a tree or a rock and we would run to that point and then walk for awhile.  We would repeat that process all the way back to the Bald Cypress Aid Station.  Along this section we reached the 26.2 mile mark and it would be Luke's first ever marathon distance.  This was a milestone but I am pretty sure we were both thinking it would be nice if this was the end point in the race.  We pushed on and finally made it to the Bald Cypress Aid Station where we refueled and set off to do the Bald Cypress loop one more time before heading to the finish.  Starting this loop was very uplifting and Luke even made a comment that it was a good feeling.  This sense of the race being over quickly faded right after we started the loop.  There was a lot of people passing us through here and we both wished we were not in a super amount of pain so we could run and finish ahead of all these people.

We crossed the finish line!! Party time!!
After we got off the loop we only had one more mile to go.  We decided that we were not going to let anyone else pass us.  It was motivation to finish this thing is proper fashion.  We were on the paved section and with about a quarter mile to go we seen another "lurker" on the road behind us and we decided that we had to run the rest of the way to the finish.  Every step was extreme pain but this was kind of a good pain because we were almost finished which meant beer and pizza was in our very near future.  One of the best things about ultra running is that you burn so many calories that you can eat and drink as much as you want after a race and you don't have to worry about it.  As we got close to the finish area we seen Mel and some other people cheering us on.  Then we crossed the finish line and Jess was there to take our picture and congratulate us.  It was a great moment to be finished and I know Luke was super happy to have completed his first ultra marathon.  We finished in 7 hours and 24 minutes which was a personal best for myself and a great time for Luke considering it was his first ultra.  Mel was close to his goal of 6 hours but went a little longer which is still a great time for a 50K.  For the record, the beer and pizza went down really well that night at the great after party!! 

This race was very well organized and I was happy to be a part of it.  This was a great way to top off the great year I had.  I hope 2013 is another great year for my ultra running.  I plan on taking things to a new level.  Stay tuned!    



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Detroit Free Press Half: October 21, 2012

This time it was back to the D for the annual Free Press Half Marathon.  Jessica's brother Luke came into town from Virgina Beach to run the race with us.  I had not really prepared for this race due to my long recovery from the Run Rabbit Run 50 Miler.  In the weeks leading up to the half marathon Jess had mentioned that a guy from work was running in his first half marathon ever at the Free Press.  She had also said that he wanted to have a bet with her to see who could have a better time.  I never heard if the bet was finalized until the day before the race.  When I heard how much the bet was for I decided this was not going to be a light stroll through Detroit and Canada.  I was going to pace Jess to get her best time ever and beat her co-worker who was older and had a lot of injuries during he said.

The cold October morning woke us up!
Luke got into town on Saturday.  We went and picked up our race packets and then Jess's family came over to watch the Notre Dame football game.  We took it easy the rest of the day since we had to get up early.  This race starts at 7:00 AM which is super early but I guess they need to do that logistically.  Can't keep the streets of Detroit closed all day!  The alarm went off, I strapped on my VFF Trek Sports, and we got geared up before heading downtown.  We were trying to find a closer parking spot then we did the previous year but we ended up parking in the same exact spot!  It was not as long of a walk to the start line as we thought it was.  The weather was very cold in the morning and we couldn't wait for the race to start so we could warm up!  We picked a location to meet up after the race in case we could not find each other and then we worked our way into the huge group of people at the starting line.  About 25 minutes after the initial waves started we were finally under way.

There was a lot of congestion at the start and I noticed that our pace was not as good as I thought it should be.  We were struggling to pass people because of the sheer number of runners in the streets.  After about a mile things opened up and we were able to settle into a nice pace.  Jess was leading the way and I was pleased at how fast we were moving.  Then we hit the bridge to Canada, which was another point of congestion.  It was hard to pass people here and our pace slowed down again.  We also lost Luke here as he got stuck behind a big glob of slower runners.  On the way down off the bridge we were greeted by the Canadian customs guy with a microphone rattling off his usual cheesy but funny jokes.  While running next to the Detroit river in Canada there were some nice views of the Detroit skyline.  There was a ton of spectators who came out to support all the runners, which was nice to see.  As we went along the Windsor side we kept a very good pace.

A sea of runners waiting to start moving
Then we hit the hot and muggy tunnel back to Detroit.  It was another point of congestion and we also had a hard time passing people down there.  So we lost some time on our pace during the mile jaunt under the Detroit river.  As soon as we got out of the tunnel we were able to make up some time.  Jess and I were both starting to feel the burn of running as hard as we could for so long.  As the race went through Mexican town and Corktown our pace began to slow.  I told Jess we need to run hard and finish strong.  We pushed ourselves to the max and Jess did a great job maintaining her pace right through to the end.  As we were finishing, the first place marathoner was also coming into the finish...WOW!!...he just did double our distance and he started about 25 minutes before us so he was really cooking.  We ended up with a great time of 2 hours 5 minutes and 11 seconds.  Jess hit her PR and really did a great job.  I thought for sure that we had a good enough time to beat her co-worker.  After looking up his time we found out that we lost by 9 seconds!  We put forth 100% during the race and it was just a tough break.  We will definitely beat him next year!!

All finished!  Time for Starbucks!
After the race we found Luke who came in not to long after us.  We went to Starbucks and grabbed a coffee before heading home.  After getting cleaned up we went over to Jess's sister's house for some brunch and bloody mary's.  A nice way to celebrate after a hard fought battle.  Even though we came up just a little short the effort was awesome.  I am proud of Jess as she has come a long way in her running.  Next up for me is the Seashore Nature Trail 50K.  This is in Virginia Beach at First Landing State Park.  Luke decided he wanted to run his first ultra ever and I am looking for a nice way to cap off my best year of running.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile: September 15th, 2012

Rewind the clock 2 years ago to the fall of 2010.  Jessica's cousin Joe Gatton and his wife Debra who live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado volunteered for the Run Rabbit Run 50 mile race.  They said it was awesome and Joe said "this race is completely doable and we should run it in 2012."  There was some details about the difficulty of this race which they failed to mention at the time and I will explain them later.  I had not even attempted a marathon at that point but agreed that I would do the race in 2012 depending on how my running progressed over the next year.  Shortly after that "maybe" answer there was an email sent out to most of Jessica's family including extended relatives stating that we were going to run 50 miles in the mountains of Steamboat in Sept. 2012 and I believe that email ended with a "woohoo! Go Jamie!!".  From that point on it was decided that this thing was gonna happen.  Fast forward to summer 2011 I did my first trail marathon which went well.  Skip ahead to spring 2012 and Joe came to Mohican in April and we both did our first trail 50K (31.1 miles) at Forget the PR.  The 50K was very difficult and had about 4,500 feet of accumulated elevation gain throughout the course, but we hobbled across the finish line with big smiles on our faces.  Right around this time a fellow trail / ultra runner and great friend Lucas Hardbarger had also committed to doing the 50 mile with us in Colorado...AWESOME!!

So my training started in late May.  I bought some new minimalist trail shoes, the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails, which were great because they have some nice traction and complete ground feel.  I began to drop a bunch of weight by eating healthy and lost 30 + pounds since the beginning of the year.  Then July came and it was a hot and dry month.  So hot that training was not even close to where I wanted it to be.  Then August rolled around and temperatures actually cooled off a bit.  I was able to get some very good training runs in with my friend T-P, and Luc came up for a nice training run as well.  Joe was training on the actual 50 mile course doing sections of it at the time.  His very first description 2 years ago was "it's a big hill at the beginning then rolling terrain the rest of the way out and then at the half way point you turn around and run back...easy!"  After running a few of the sections he was now stating that "we may want rethink things and do the early start."  I started looking at the actual course description on the web site which states this run is not for the novice trail runner or a first time 50 miler etc..  If you are going to sign up you need to be sure you can complete the whole thing in under the time limit of 15 hours.  Turns out the hour early start was only an option for the age of 60 or older so that meant a normal start for us.  I love a good challenge and testing the limits of my human endurance so I said "BRING IT ON!!"  I know Luc and Joe were thinking the same thing.

Joe, Debra, and Jess ready to summit  Rabbit Ears Pass
Jess and I flew out to Colorado a few days before the race.  I don't want to go into detail about the vacation (which was fantastic!) as this post could turn into the size of a book really fast .  The first full day there we did a hike up to Rabbit Ears Pass which was the half way point of the race and one of the highest elevation points I would reach at 10,600 feet above sea level.  We did this to see the amazing views and also to acclimate to the altitude since I live at 700 feet above sea level.  The altitude adjustment was my biggest concern going into the 50 miler.  As we got up there I felt pretty good, no issues!  Then we met up with Luc and Jen who were staying with us at Joe and Debra's condo.  Party time!  So on Thursday Luc, Joe, Debra, and myself decided we needed more altitude acclimation so we drove a few hours South to Leadville and the trail that leads up to Hope Pass and I mean straight up.  We hiked to 11,000 feet above sea level, 1,500 feet short of Hope Pass and decided to turn around since we were wasting energy doing
Luc and I hiking up to Hope Pass
this super hard hike and the race was only 2 days away!!

Friday we went to check out both starts (tortoise and hares) of the 100 mile race.  A trail running friend from Michigan, Dusty, was doing this race and we wanted to cheer her on at the start.  Also, due to a large prize purse there was elite ultra runners and 2 Tarahumara Indians from the Copper Canyons of Mexico entered into the race.  It was awesome seeing them take off and proceed to climb up black diamond ski slopes to start!  Then we got our race packets and listened to the Race Director's speech and he said some words about not quitting that played an important role in my mental well being throughout the race.  Then on Friday night Joe and Debra's friends Scott and Susan came into town.  They were volunteering with Jess, Jen, and Debra at the first aid station in our race.  We ate a delicious carbo loading pasta dinner that Debra had prepared for us.  It was the perfect dinner to have on the eve of this epic race.  We all watched the documentary Unbreakable about the Western States 100 mile race from 2010 in order
Start of the 100 mile "Hares"
to get pumped up for the next day and then we hit the hay.  As I laid in bed a million things went through my head.  Was I trained good enough?  Was I over trained?  Can I finish within the 15 hour time limit?  Will the altitude affect me?  How well can I handle this 6.4 mile 3,600 foot climb up the mountain at the beginning of the race??...Afterall, I am a flatlander from the midwest....what was I thinking signing up for this??  Then I thought about how much fun I was going to have and how good I will feel if I complete one of the hardest challenges of my life.  Everything I worked for all summer was now just a few hours away.

Ready to Dominate!!
150 Headlamps Ready to Roll
4:30 AM came pretty quick.  I heard the bedroom door opening slowly and I looked up to see a light shining in Joe's face from his phone and the Rocky theme song playing.  It was nice to have such a great laugh so early in the morning.  We walked a mile to the starting line, we figured that we were going 50 miles so what is one more?  The race started at 6:00 AM so it was still dark and nice and cool at the start. As we lined up at the starting line we were in the front of the pack.  The countdown was over and we were off and running.  I was caught up in a big group of people at the beginning and was actually in a fast run for the first mile or so.  I did not want to start out at such a fast pace because I knew what kind of climb we had to do at the beginning and did not want to waste energy.  In the chaotic stampede of the start Joe had managed to stay right behind me but we lost Luc.  I think Luc had a wardrobe malfunction but I never got the details about it.  Looking forward to reading his blog.  So I kept up with the group for about a mile or so as we ran up a little single track from the base of the ski area to the mountain service road.  It was kind of a relief when we got to the service road because it was not crammed with all the runners like the single track.  We kept a good power hiking pace as we started our ascent up the mountain.  Joe must of been in a zone because he was out hiking me big time.  Off he went and I settled in to my own pace doing switch back after switch back up that road.  Climbing and climbing and climbing some more.  I met some awesome people during this 6.4 mile stretch up the mountain.  Still not sure how far back Luc was or how far ahead Joe was but  I figured it was probably a good thing that we all just run our own race.

The view during our climb up Mount Werner
About half way up the mountain the sun was rising and it opened up the horizon to some of the greatest views I have ever seen.  This was very mentally uplifting.  Near the top of the mountain I kept checking my Garmin watch to see what our elevation was.  I knew we had to get to 10,568 feet above sea level.  I was still amazed at how far we had climbed when I would look down the mountain to the base area.  So finally at the top of road I see a welcome site as Debra and Scott are cheering and ringing us in with a cow bell.  I made it, at least I thought, there was still a tenth of a mile climb up to the storm center which was where the aid station was located and it was steep!!  Finally I got to the top and seen Jess, Jen, and Susan who were very busy.  In fact they didn't even see me as I sat there munching on some grapes and oranges.  I didn't want to distract them so I said a quick hello as I filled up my water bottle.  Jess was very excited to see me.  I gave her a kiss and off I went.  On to Long Lake!

Long Lake
The decent off storm peak was awesome.  After 7 miles of uphill power hiking I was finally able to run!  I flew through the next few miles of single track that rolled across the top of the mountain.  I was able to get my average pace per mile down below 15 minutes.  I knew that I could never allow my pace to go above 18 minute miles because then I would not be able to finish within the time limit.  I was in awe of how pure the scenery was running across the rolling mountain top.  It completely took my mind off the fact that my back was hurting pretty bad and I was only about 10 miles into a 50 mile run.  We ran through some wooded areas and also some open fields, there was some runners that were taking pictures and it made me wish I had a camera.  Luckily Luc lugged a camera with him and was kind enough to send me copies of his pictures...Thanks bro!  As I got 13 miles into the race I came to a clearing and right there in front of me was Long Lake.  It was as majestic of view as you could ever imagine and the next aid station was only about a mile away!  As I came into Long Lake aid station I quickly ate some fruit and PB&J sandwiches.  I refilled my camelbak with water and off I went.  Since I am a back of the pack runner I knew I could not spend much time at the aid stations.

View of the open fields on top of the mountains
The next section of the course was very similar to the last section.  Rolling single track trails through open fields and wooded sections.  There was a lot of uphill climbing and also downhills which I could fly down.  We ran by some hunters who were probably not happy that a coupe hundred runners were stampeding through the area.  There was also some mountain bikers out.  At home in Michigan when I run the trails I am always stepping aside to let the mountain bikers pass but here I stepped aside and one of the mountain bikers pulled off the trail.  He said "go for it man, your the one running 50 miles today!"  That was a nice change of right-a-way but it also made some reality set in...I am going 50 miles on foot!  I started to feel some fatigue about 17 miles in and realizing how hard this course actually is.  Then about a mile later I came to the Base Camp aid station.  Food did not really seem appetizing at this point but I knew I had to keep a lot of calories in for energy so I powered through some more fruit and also some chips.  I did not stick around long and started the decent down to Dumont Lake Campground to the next aid station.

2 mile climb to Rabbit Ears!!
This was a nice section of trail.  It was only about 4 miles and mostly downhill which was nice at the time but in the back of my mind I knew we would have to climb up these hills on the way back.  As I came into Dumont lake campground around mile 23 I was greeted by a whole bunch of spectators who were clapping and cheering me on.  This is the only aid station where crew access was allowed so there was a lot of people there for support as they waited for their runners to come through.  The people at this aid station were doing a great job helping all the runners and they were drinking beer so they had a great sense of humor as well.  I was hoping to see Jess and the girls out here but they must not have been able to leave their post yet since they were not there.  No worries though, I still had to climb 2.5 miles / 1,200 feet up to Rabbit Ears Pass and then come back down so maybe they would be here when I got back.  At this point in the run I was feeling really drained.  Early in the morning when we started the temperatures were in the mid 30s.  Now it was high noon and the temps had climbed to 80 degrees and the sun was beating down.  I left Dumont aid station and followed the gradual uphill jeep road leading to Rabbit Ears.  I was at a point where I could not run any uphills so I was just power hiking this section.  As the ascent kept going up I was feeling more and more defeated.

Awesome view from Rabbit Ears
My mind started to shift to thoughts of "if I feel this bad now how am I going to make it all the way up to Rabbit Ears Pass and then turn around and do this whole course in reverse!"  I told myself just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I really don't have any other plans today so I might as well just relax and keep going.  During these negative thoughts something happened that gave me a big mental boost.  I seen Joe coming down the jeep road.  I was still a mile and half from the summit and he was cruising back down!  He was in pretty good shape.  He told me it is demoralizing getting to the top but once your there you get new a new wave of energy!!  I liked the sound of that.  One thing that concerned me was Joe's whole face was white with salt.  He said he has only been drinking flat coke the whole day so far.  Yikes!!  I advised him to consume some salty foods and drink water so that he does not bonk out.  We parted ways and I continued my death march.  With about a half mile to the top it got extremely steep.  The only way to the top was to climb about 10 steps and then rest for a second, rinse and repeat.  Finally I reached the summit and made it official by high fiving the guys on top checking us in.  26 miles in and half way done!!  Then I began my long journey back.

I had a pretty good pace going as I ran back down and I ran into Luc about the same place that I ran into Joe earlier.  Luc was doing good and enjoying the course and said Joe had told him about the "new energy" he will get as soon as he reaches Rabbit Ears Pass.  Luc told me the girls were down at Dumont aid station and I was excited to see them.  I came in and Jess, Jen, and Debra were there cheering me on.  Jess was awesome here as she took care of everything for me.  Making sure my camelbak got replenished with water and got me a bunch of food etc..  I said my goodbyes and told them I would be in VERY late as I still had about 22 miles to go and I was feeling worn out.  Here is Luc, myself, and Joe each at the Dumont Lake Campground aid station:

                                                        It was nice seeing Jess, Debra, and Jen and I walked away feeling mentally uplifted.  Running was getting difficult at this stage in the game.  I was running just a little at a time and then walking a lot.  I was losing a ton of salt and didn't realize it until I noticed my black hat had turned white!  At the Base Camp aid station I started putting salt on everything..oranges, PB&J, and I ate a ton of doritos and other chips.  I now have a new found appreciation for Doritos.  I also took some S caps for the first time and they helped.  On the way back to long lake I started getting a bad pain in the top of my foot, where the foot meets the leg.  Weird spot for a pain and I had never had one there before.  It actually got so bad that I could not run at all.

Sun setting on the horizon
Great I thought, I can't run at all and I am about 17 to 18 miles away from the finish.  I decided to power hike the rest of the way because I was going to finish at all cost.  There was a few back of the packers who I had conversations with as we hiked and it made time go by quick.  It seemed like the climb from Long Lake back to the top of Storm Peak on Mount Werner took forever.  The pain kept growing worse as I went.  I kept checking my watch to make sure I would be able to keep pace to finish in under 15 hours.  When we finally seen Storm Peak it was such a welcome site.  One runner yelled "F$%K YEAH...THERE IT IS!!!" and this made me laugh because I knew exactly what he was feeling.  I thought I would be able to fly during the 6.4 mile jaunt down the mountain.  Up at the aid station I filled up my water bottle and filled a whole sandwich bag of doritos and then began my decent.  Home free I thought.  It got dark and a lot of people were passing me as they ran down the mountain.  I had a strong desire to run with them but my foot was in really bad pain.  About 3 miles from the finish I met a guy named Pat.  He was in his early 60s and he did the hour early start.  He walked with me and our great conversation had really helped me to keep moving forward.  It seemed like forever until we arrived at the base of the ski area and the finish line.  Finally it came into sight and Jess, Jen, Scott, and Susan were there rooting me and Pat through the finish area.  We ran the last tenth of a mile across the finish line.  14 hours and 29 minutes on my feet and I FINISHED!!!  It was such a great feeling of relief.  I was so worn down that I could not express my emotions but I was very excited. 

Finally Finished!! Time for Beer!!
I learned that Joe had an excellent run and he had a dominating time of less the 13 hours!!  As I finally sat down Jess brought me some pizza and beer.  All I can say is that pizza, beer, and sitting down were the greatest things on earth at that moment.  Then a little bit later Luc came running in to the finish line and I was right down there to greet him and tell him I was glad he made it back safely.  We both agreed that was a very tough course but was super rewarding to finish it.  On the walk back to the car I got treated to another famous Luc ultra puke right in the main resort area!  Jen and Jess were so funny as they told people walking by that "Don't worry, he is ok!" and "he is not drunk, he is a runner!"  The rest of our vacation consisted of drinking, eating, and relaxing.  Definitely an epic journey that I will never forget.  What is my next big adventure?  Stay tuned!! 

Pre Race Carbo Loading with Barley and Hops!!

Midwestern "flatlanders" showing the mountains who is boss.  Well, the mountains are still in charge..but we gave em hell!!  Us with our finisher mugs.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Run Woodstock Hippie Half Marathon: Sept. 8, 2012:

This race takes me back to Woodstock for the third year in a row.  I was pretty excited about this for a few reasons.  First of all, some of my friends that came from Iowa and Minnesota last year were talking about coming again this year.  Secondly, Jessica showed great interest in doing the trail half marathon and I was happy about that (a win in my secret quest to prove to her that trail running is really fun!).  Last but certainly not least, my good friend Nick was doing the 100K and it was his comeback ultra after shattering his foot / leg only a year ago after falling off a waterfall while trail running in Mohican.   One regret I have from this event is that I did not really get any pictures.  So this blog will be mostly reading without any visual effects except for a picture of the landshark!  You are probably asking what the landshark is, so keep reading and you will find out.

Nick had talked about upgrading to the 100 miler and I told him I was going to pace him on the last lap which would of been about 12 miles.  When he told me he was going to stick to his original plan of doing the 100K I decided that I would just run the half marathon with Jess and kind of take it easy since it was the weekend before my 50 miler in Colorado.  I also learned that 10 time Mohican 100 mile finisher Mark Carroll was coming to Woodstock to pace Nick in the 100K so that made me glad that someone would be with him.  So, plans kind of changed a few weeks before the event.  I learned that my friends from out of town could not make it and when signing up for the half marathon I discovered that the camping at Hell Creek Ranch (where all races start and end, also, all activities take place here) was SOLD OUT!!  Woodstock was pretty low key two years ago when I did my first half marathon.  Then last year the popularity had really grown.  Now it is a full fledged rocking race weekend.  They are fully organized and I am just amazed at how many people are now involved with the event.

So Jess and I got a camp site at Bruin Lake which was a fifteen minute drive from Woodstock.  Earlier on Friday (the day the 100K and 100 mile races started) Nick texted me and said he had forgotten one of his water bottles.  He asked if I could bring one that he had loaned me earlier in the year when I paced Lucas in the Mohican 100.  Luckily I already planned on returning it to him and had it packed in my bag.  I told him I would drop it off at the aid station which was being run by one of my new trail running friends..T-P (T-P works at the corporate office of the company I work for and we met out on the trails one day).  Jess and I checked in at the campground and the headed over to T-P's aid station.  I said hello and was hanging out for a minute when all of a sudden Nick showed up!  He was on his second loop of the ultra course and it was great timing as I filled the water bottle I had brought to return to him and he said a quick hello / thanks and took off.  We then learned that Nick and some other runners had been stung by a group of ground hornets,  Nick had a bump on his head that got huge but it went down throughout the run,  Jess and I talked to T-P for a minute longer but didn't stay to long since he was extremely busy running his aid station.

As we were getting ready to leave there was a runner who came into the aid station wearing a shark costume.  Turns out he was running the 100 miler in that thing!!  Nick later told me that during the night portion of the run the landshark came up behind him and said he needed to follow because he lost his head lamp but then took off without one in the dark.  Nick said it was freaky when the eyes of the shark costume were staring at him (since they were in the back of the costume) as he ran by.  We also laughed at how heavy that costume must of gotten in the rain when it got soaked.  Turns out the landshark has been running in that costume for 10 years.    He did finish the 100 and here is a picture of him after his finish:

Jess and I went back to our campsite and as soon as we got settled in our tent to go to bed it started raining.  If you read my blog from last year you know the night before the race it poured all night and turned the course into a mud fest.  Whoever said history repeats itself is certainly correct because it poured down rain all night again this year.  As we woke up early the next morning I had some concerns..was doing a half marathon the week before my 50 miler to much?  Was I risking injury by going out on a slippery muddy trail?  If I got injured I would be devistated since I put in so much training for the biggest running event of my life which was only a week away in Colorado.  Then I decided that I love trail running and that I was going to strap on my VFF Trek Sports and go out there with Jess and have a great time on the trails.  That is exactly what happened.  We just enjoyed the entire course and we ran the whole thing with big smiles on our least I think Jess was smiling!  The course was not as muddy as the previous year since it did not rain all week, only the night before.  Nothing to interesting happened during our 13 miles on the bridal trails of the Pinckney Rec Area.

When we crossed the finish line we grabbed a few snacks and then decided to try and find out where Nick was camping.  I thought he might be finished but was unsure.  After walking around the campground we finally found his camp spot and I seen his running vest and water bottles.  At this point I knew he was finished but still curious as to how he did.  Then I seen the First in age group trophy (toy VW van) sitting in the dash of his car.  We walked up to the main area and he was up there drinking some of his delicious home made brew that he put together specially for Woodstock.  When we finally said our hello's I could tell he was really pumped up and he did confirm that he got first in his age group for the 100K!! Congrats to Nick!!  What an amazing accomplishment.  I came back later in the evening and hung out with him for a few hours at the campground.  I am really impressed by what he has accomplished and it gave me some good motivation for what laid ahead for me in one week.

It was another exciting year at Woodstock and looking forward to many more.  Stay tuned for my next blog which will be coming right up....see if I am able to survive 50 miles in the mountains at Run Rabbit Run 50 miler!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Capital City Half Marathon: May 5, 2012

This race takes us to buckeye country or better known as Columbus Ohio for the Capital City Half Marathon.  I had just completed my first ultra three weeks prior so I did not have any time goals in mind.  Just wanted to go out there and have fun.  I also wanted to really embrace the one thing that has allowed me to get back into running and that is minimal footwear.  I decided to run this race in my Luna sandals.  This is the company started by Barefoot Ted and if you have read Born To Run then you are very familiar with who he is.  As the race date approached we noticed the weather was going to be in the 80s which is pretty hot for a road race, especially since it was in early May.  We stayed at our friends Seth and Tania's house the night before and we got up early on race day and they drove us right to the start line which was awesome.  Usually for big road races we are walking a couple miles from where we parked to get to the race start.  Here is a pic of me in my Luna Sandals right next to a barefoot runner that was starting near us:

Jess and I had plenty of time until the race started so we kind of just hung out in our starting area.  I was already getting some weird looks as I was standing there is my sandals.  I didn't really know what to expect from peoples reactions.  I figured with the whole Vibram Five Finger movement that people were pretty use to the minimalist footwear scene.  However, I think there was a big shock value to many seeing someone toe the starting line in barefoot style sandals.  One guy I met named John asked me when I was going to change into my running shoes and seemed concerned when I told him that what I had on are my running shoes.  I told him I have been running in minimalist footwear for two and a half years and the reason I first started doing it was that I had bad shin splints which disappeared with barefoot style running.  We talked for awhile and he turned out to be a really nice guy.  Then the barefoot guy from the pic above struck up some conversation.  I think he was even getting more weird looks then me.  So after some final instructions and the national anthem the race was underway!  Here is a pic of me waiting to start my minimalist fun run:

When we started I settled into a nice pace with Jess as we ran together for the first 5 miles or so.  There was bands playing along the course which was a nice touch.  I got a few more comments and a lot more stares when we were running.  Someone even made a statement that they did not want to lose to a guy in flip flops.  After awhile we caught up with my new friend John that I met at the starting line.  We were talking for awhile and he was telling me about these Buddist Monks that run for hundreds of miles.  I think I heard about them before but did not know details.  Jess was overheating and dumping water on her head at every aid station.  One time she thought her gatoraid was water and dumped that on her head....oops!  So about mile 6 we approached the famous horseshoe where the buckeyes go to battle every fall.  It really got me pumped up to see the stadium.  Jess was going to slow her pace down due to the heat and requested that I go on without her.  I took off at a fast pace as I was feeling awesome.  Here is a pic of me running in my Luna Sandals.  I would like to purchase this digital image but they want $30 for it...jeesh!

I kept going at a good pace and passed a bunch of people.  Apparently there was a lot of other runners who were being affected by the heat because there was people at every medical stop that were in bad shape.  Some were even getting ambulance rides!  About mile 10 I ran into the barefoot runner that I was talking to at the start line.  His feet were hurting as he told me he wished he had my sandals on.  I stayed with him for a mile or so and he said he had to walk so I went on without him.  About mile 11.5 I seen Seth and Tania cheering me on.  I didn't have my phone with me so I told them I would walk back to where they were when I was done with the race.  I was unsure of Jess's status so I thought it would be best just to meet everyone back where Seth and Tania were.  I finished strong with a time of two hours and eight minutes.  I was pretty surprised that I was only five minutes off my PR.  Started thinking that if I ran this race at full potential I probably could of broke two hours in my Luna Sandals!

Actually, my feet felt better after this race then any previous race I have been in!  I was also worried that the knots under my sandals were going to break and I had put duct tape on them earlier in the week which helped keep them in tact.  So after I finished I started walking back along the course to go to where Seth and Tania were when all of a sudden I see Jess!  She was running strong with a half mile to go.  I sprinted back to the finish line so we didn't lose each other but I could not see her amongst the sea of runners finishing.  It took us awhile to find each other but we finally did.  Phew!!  I was really happy that I decided to run in the Luna Sandals.  They made me appreciate everything that I have accomplished in the last two and a half years.  I am going to Colorado in Sept. for my next big run which is going to be a bear or maybe I should say a rabbit.  Really looking forward to running 50 miles in the mountains with Lucas Hardbarger and Joe Gatton.  I leave you with a pic of me and Jess after finishing the half marathon:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forget The PR 50K: April 15, 2012

This is an exciting race to blog about for so many reasons.  The best reason is that it's the story of my first ultramarathon (any distance greater then 26.2 miles is considered an ultramarathon and 50K is 31.1 miles, although this race may have been closer to 32 miles..really got our money worth!).  Forget The PR 50K and 25K is an amazing event in the Mohican State Forest located near Loudonville, OH and is put on by Rob Powell.  He designed the course to be tough so runners can feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line.  This years event included 5 river crossing, a root climb, and about 4,500 feet of elevation gain.  I picked this race to be my first ultra because it is a such a great atmosphere and a stellar course.  It came full circle for me because I volunteered at this event a year ago and it really inspired me to train and run an ultramarathon so it is fitting that Forget The PR would be my first.  I had an excellent winter of training and was certainly pumped for this race.  Jess said she would come along and volunteer at this year's race which made me happy because she could experience the great vibe that surrounds this event.  Jessica's cousin Joe and his wife Debra also heard me talking about this event and they decided to come all the way from Colorado to run.  Joe did the 50K with me and Debra did the 25K. 

Jess and I rented a small bunk cabin at Mohican Adventures where the race starts and ends.  I am kind of glad we did that instead of tent camping, because when we got there Saturday afternoon it was pouring down rain.  The temps were cooler and the rain kept going all day and into the night.  Tent camping in those conditions would have been a little uncomfortable.  Upon our arrival we went over the main conference center where all the race activity was taking place.  Some of the volunteers had gathered over there about the same time and we were going to help pack supplies for the aid stations.  I got to catch up with some people I had met last year and also met a few new friends in the process.  That is the coolest thing about this event, Rob likes to make it a family atmosphere and everyone is always in great spirits and very easy going.  The excitement was really setting in as I realized I was about 15 hours away from starting my first ultramarathon on the great trails of Mohican.  Here is a pic of me watching new running friend Jay Smithberger engineer the covered bridge aid station supplies to make them all fit:

After We finished packing up the aid station supplies Jess and I went for a drive so she could locate the spot where her aid station was going to be the following morning.  Then we went back to the cabin and just kind of relaxed the rest of the evening.  Joe and Debra showed up to the campground about 8:30 and we hung out with them for an hour or two before calling it a night.  I was really tired so I thought I would be able to get a good night sleep, but who was I kidding?  The night before my first ultra had my mind racing and around 3:00 AM I woke up and was up for the rest of the night.  Some concerns before the race were an upper back pain and some stomach issues.  Finally morning came and after registering I strapped on my Merrell Trail Gloves (my minimalist trail shoe of choice for spring, summer, and fall) and was ready to roll!  The weather was already getting warm and a record high temperature for April 15th was on its way.

Rob gave some final instructions and then Kim provided some race information before yelling "start!" So it was official my first ultra was under way!  The first two miles flew by as we were chatting with some runners from Indiana and then we hit the famous "Big Ass Hill" which was nice that we were able to tackle it early in the race.  After big ass hill we hit the service roads that led us to the the first aid station at the fire tower.  Since this was just 5 miles into the race we didn't really need much aid at that point so we got our water bottles topped off, thanked the volunteers and set out on the southern loop of the course.  This was some really nice scenic trail running with some long gradual ascents and decents.  There some pretty muddy parts as we got down to the lower elevations and two river crossings which were extremely refreshing!  On this part of the course I was thinking about ultrarunner Micah True, nickname: Caballo Blano (White Horse), who had died a week earlier when all of a sudden I seen someone riding a white horse, he was there in his "run free" spirit!  Here is a pic of us coming into the fire tower aid station early in the race:

Joe was getting over a flu that he had for about two weeks and he was having trouble finding a groove in the first half of the race but I felt good and kept pushing us along.  At one point on this section of the race we had just crossed a river and once back on the trail about 3 deer crossed the trail right in front of us.  It was a  really awesome sight as they were hauling ass downhill!  We finally made it the rock point aid station around mile 13 and it was a welcome sight.  We had gone about 7 miles since the last aid station and were almost out of water and needed some fuel.  We got our water bottles filled up and grabbed some munchies.  I seen the energy jelly belly's sitting on the table and grabbed a pack of them.  They were the perfect snack and I think Joe fell in love with them as he never tried them before..they are good!  After thanking the volunteers we headed off into the trail and were on our way to South Park aid station which was where Jess was working.  There was a pretty big uphill section in this part of the course.  There are actually many tough climbs throughout the entire course, which really makes it fun and challenging.  As we got closer to the South Park aid station I noticed my back was really starting to bother me which was my biggest concern going into the race.  Here is a ground hogs view of Big Ass Hill:

 We finally reached South Park aid station which was the half way point of the race.  Mohican trails are a lot tougher then the trails here in Michigan where I train so I was definitely feeling the challenge of this course at this point.  It was nice to see Jess and she was having a good time volunteering which was great to see.  I told her my upper back was starting to hurt and she gave me a quick massage..what a great wife!!  We grabbed some cookies, pb and j sandwiches, and refilled our water bottles.  After thanking the volunteers we were headed back to fire tower to complete the southern loop of the course.  This section was when the heat really started hitting us.  It was getting into the upper 70s / low 80s.  Joe had a long sleeve cold gear shirt on and he was struggling with the heat.  After he shed the shirt he instantly started feeling better and I was inspired to do the same.  So we charged on to fire tower.  When we got up there it was nice to see Kim (Another ultra running friend I met last year at this event) and the rest of the crew.  I really wanted to try her famous vegan soup but it was way to hot for soup.  I was getting sick of energy drink at this point so I dumped it all out and just asked for regular water.  A volunteer asked me if I wanted ice and that was perfect!  I also thought about climbing the fire tower but also decided against that.  Joe and I figured that just finishing our first ultra would be accomplishment enough for the day.  I want to take time to congratulate Debra for doing really well in the 25K race.  Here is a pic of her on the trail:

We set off to run a couple more miles to the covered bridge aid station.  Along this part of the course we ran by some boy scouts who were out hiking and they were giving us high fives and cheering us on..that was really cool!  We reached covered bridge and got some more ice water along with a few munchies, thanked the volunteers and were off to run the famous purple loop.  This is a four mile section that goes back to lyons falls.  This is where the famous root climb is and we had fun getting back there.  At one point I climbed over a log and ended up throwing my left shoulder out which added to my back pain, but it didn't matter I was just gonna fight through the pain and complete this thing.  This is a really cool part of the course and we were really enjoying the scenery and keeping good conversation.  I think Joe actually started feeling good at this point and his new found energy and rhythm was carrying me!  On our way back to covered bridge aid station we noticed some runners were setting out on the purple loop and that was a good sign for me and Joe..we were not in last place!!  Although, I don't feel that trail ultra running is about competition against others..more so against one's self and everyone who finishes is truly a winner.  Also, around this time I noticed that I still had my circle band aids on my nipples (to prevent chaffing) and I had been running shirtless like that for quite some time.  I wondered why I was getting weird looks from hikers not associated with the

So we got back to covered bridge and Joe joined me in getting our water bottles filled with ice water.  We also ate a bunch of snacks including salted potatoes and a bunch of fruit.  Joe loved the oranges and I was digging the grapes.  We had the debate for the next few miles over which fruit was better and were laughing about it for awhile.  I loved running with Joe because he kept me laughing the whole day.  So we left covered bridge and crossed the Mohican river which was about knee deep and really refreshing!  The next few miles was a flat section along the Mohican river which is a really nice and scenic part of the course.  We were doing a lot of walking and a little running at this point as I was hurtin!  I couldn't believe how fast of a pace we had in the first half of the race but in the second half reality had really smacked me in the face.  Pretty wiped out and back pain was at an all time high.  Joe was actually feeling good late in the race but he held back and stayed with me as I hobbled along.  One foot in front of the other, relentless forward progress is a great way to put it.  I didn't think we had any more steep ascents for the rest of the race but I forgot about the North Rim Trail.  This was the last couple miles of the race and it has a really steep long incline and also some steep decents.  This late in the race the downhills were just as hard as the uphills and we were judging the downhills as either "not to bad" or "it's a quad burner!."  We finally made it back to the campground and ran the last half mile to the finish line. My legs and back were so shot that this was a long half mile!!  As we seen Jess and Debra cheering us on it all became so real.  Then Rob was in sight and we ran to the finish line with him greeting us and handing us our first ultra buckles!!!  Wooohoooo!!!!!  Here is a pick of us hobbling into the finish line:

I can honestly say this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and could not of had a better race to do it at!  The other runners were awesome as we met so many cool people out there.  For a complete profile of our 50K run you can check out the stats from my Garmin

My First Ultra Buckle!!
The volunteers were amazing and were just as excited about the race as we were.  They were quick to fill our water bottles and get us whatever we needed.  There was also some great food and drink at the finish line.  The family atmosphere that Rob has mentioned is truly a real thing at Forget The PR.  Here is a parting shot of Joe, Debra, and myself at the finish line area.

For more links to pics and information about Forget The PR you can visit the facebook page.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shamrock Half Marathon: March 18, 2012

This race takes us to Virginia Beach. We had been planning a trip to go see Jess's brother Luke who lives there and we decided to make it another running vacation. Not many people would use precious vacation time to go run but I guess runners are a different Anyway when we had mentioned this to Luke around December last year he decided to train for and run the half marathon with us. It was to be his first half marathon ever. We were excited that he was going to do this race with us and it turned out to be quite an event. This half marathon had at least ten to fifteen thousand people and it raised a couple hundred thousand dollars for charity so we were glad to be a part of that.

We got to Luke's apartment on Friday night and discovered that he lives right on the beach! So a cocktail by the ocean seemed like the right thing to do at that point. We took it easy on Saturday because we knew that we had to run Sunday morning. We registered for the race and went to get our bags at the airport since they didn't make it there the night before. Then out to a nice seafood dinner at a local restaurant by Luke's house. So we got up early Sunday morning and headed down to the area where the race was starting. We ended up parking pretty far away and had to run about a mile to get to the start on time. A nice little warm up..hehe. I was feeling pretty good about this race because I have been training so hard for my upcoming ultramarathons this year. I was anxious to see if I could break two hours which would be an awesome time for myself. Here is us before the race start:

The weather was cool at race start and I had a long sleeve shirt on which quickly proved to be too much. The race began and we were kind of in the back of the pack so we were passing quite a few people at the beginning. I lost Luke and Jess about a mile into the race. There was so many people that it was hard to stick together. So I settled into a pretty nice pace. In fact, I hit the five mile mark in about forty-five minutes so I was right on pace to break two hours. I was feeling really good. We turned off a main road and headed into a military base. It was really cool seeing some of the military member cheering us on. Around mile seven or eight I had to go to the bathroom really bad. I had to wait a minute for a porta potty and I lost about three minutes total. Although there was no way to avoid the situation. Right after leaving the bathroom I heard my cell phone ringing in my spi belt. Normally I would not answer my phone during a race but I knew my brother and his fiance were going to have a baby at any minute.

Thinking it was news about the new baby I answered the phone. Turned out to be a dispatcher from a trucking company we use at work. DoH!! He told me that I called his phone and he heard static. I must have butt dialed him while running. I told him I was running a half marathon and I couldn't really talk. I also apologized for waking him up so early on a Sunday morning..oops! So I turned my phone off after that mishap. I probably lost a minute or so during that and kind of felt like an idiot talking on my phone while running in a half marathon. Anyway, I was still pushing on at a good pace when I started to feel my energy level dying out around mile 11. I knew I had to be close to my goal but when we got to mile twelve I was at one hour and fifty-three minutes. I knew that running a seven minute mile at this point would be impossible so I just maintained a steady pace to the finish line. The last half mile took us right down the road next to the ocean and it was an awesome site watching the waves roll in. Here is us at the finish on the beach:

So I didn't finish in two hours but I did set a PR at 2 hours and 3 minutes. Luke had a very impressive time of two hours and nine minutes for his first half marathon. Jess also PR'd at two hours and sixteen minutes. So a very impressive race from all three of us. They gave us free sweatshirts at the end of the race which proved to be clutch since the weather was chilly. Then we proceeded to the beer tent where we claimed our 4 FREE beers and watched some bands play. It was a very impressive after party. We kept it going at a local bar with several bloody marys. Here is us at the after party (about 10:30 AM):

Let's just say it was a very fun St. Patty's day (even though it was the day after I still think it counts). The next day we hung out on the beach and got a little R and R before having to come back to the D on Tuesday. An excellent vacation and a great race..could not ask for anything better. As I write this blog I am one week away from my first ever Ultra Marathon. The Forget the PR 50K in the Mohican State Forest, which I am very excited about. Here is a parting shot of Jess and I at the beach in Virginia: