Saturday, July 25, 2015

Burning River 100: July 25th, 2015 "Second Time is a Charm!"

In 2013 my attempt at Burning River 100 miler came up short.  A severe pain in the arch of my foot caused me to limp for 18+ miles and I ultimately timed out at mile 74.  I was really bummed out because I had put so much time and effort into training and a bunch of family and friends came out to support me.  After I dropped I was not sure if I would try Burning River again but when Joe Gatton read my blog post he decided that he wanted to run Burning River 100 in 2015.  I agreed to run with Joe in 2015 and get this monkey off my back!  I was definitely nervous about going into this race and the possibility of failing a second time.  It would certainly be a huge letdown if that happened.  Joe and I both had excellent months of training leading up to the race and our crew and pacer logistics came together nicely.

About three weeks before the race I was feeling burned out from all of the training miles.  I struggled making it through most of my short taper runs.  The weekend before the race I was up on my roof cleaning off some debris and I somehow strained my lower back,  The whole week it killed me to just get up from my chair at work.  I thought all of these things working against me were natures way of telling me I was doomed and not going to finish the race.  The day before the race Jess and I left work early and got to the hotel around 5:30 pm.  The race was going to start at 4:00 am the next day so by 6:30 pm I had all my race stuff organized and set out and we were already laying down to get some sleep.  Joe and Debra were arriving at the hotel later so we told them we would talk in the morning.  Of course I laid in bed for a good two or three hours before I actually fell asleep.  Then before I knew it a text came into my phone at 2:45 am.  It was Joe "hey Jamie, do you want to run 100 miles today?"  I got good laugh from that text and got out of bed while letting Jess sleep a little longer.  She did not need much time to get ready and she was going to have a long 30 hours crewing so I wanted to make sure she was rested.  I went over to Joe and Debra's room and Joe came out looking all oiled up like he was about to head to a body building competition.  He had applied a decent amount of Vaseline to himself in order to prevent chafing issues which was a great idea since it was going to be the hottest day we had all year.  Joe was super amped up and proclaimed he only had slept for a half hour, yikes!

Winter had extended well into April this year and we had a wet and cool summer right up until race day.  For the first time all summer temperatures were going to climb into the upper 80s and the sun was expected to be blazing along with high humidity.  An ultra runners nightmare!!  Oh well, one of the reasons we participate in this sport is to challenge ourselves to overcome adversity and the weather is just one of the many things we must conquer.  Joe and Debra followed Jess and myself to the race starting area at Squires Castle.  We had a GPS snafu and turned down the wrong road although we quickly realized what we had done and it did not cost us much time.  I spotted some familiar faces at the starting line including my friend Steve Pierce who was running his third 100 miler of the summer because he was trying to complete all four of the midwest 100 mile grand slam events.  I wished him luck and went over last minute crew plans with Jess and Debra.  Joe and I were getting psyched up and I kept having to remind myself to not start out too quickly like I did in 2013.  The key is when the race first starts to hang in the back of the big group so there is little pressure to go faster then what you plan on.

The gun went off and we settled into a nice pace toward the back of the 300 runners.  Cars were driving by us honking and cheering.  We stuck to the plan early on and did not go out fast.  We kept a steady pace with a few walk breaks leading up to the first aid station.  We flew through that aid station and kept the same pace to the next aid station.  Jess was there with our mobile aid station, her car, and that is where I introduced salt and vinegar Pringles as a race food to Joe.  He was pretty stoked about that because they really do hit the spot especially when it is hot outside.  We also heard that Joe's step-dad Larry had cooked 2 lbs of bacon for us and forgot it at his condo.  Not to worry though, he had already gone to the store and bought 3 more lbs and was at Jessica's sister Natalie's house cooking it up!  Then we got off the roads and onto the dirt trails which were a welcome site after running the first 10 miles on hard pavement.  On our way to the next aid station we were crossing a road and we were waiting for a car to pass.  I said it looked like Joe and Debra's car and oddly enough it was Debra driving by us!  We flew through the next aid station and then we were starting to get into some really scenic trails.  In fact, we were running along a cliff edge and it was a long way down to a river.  I told Joe to check out the view and when he looked over he tripped a root and almost launched over the edge.  I decided not to point out anymore awesome views to him!

We got to the next aid station at a park where Debra had some egg Mcmuffins for Joe.  He had been craving them the whole morning and took no time in smashing his breakfast.  I was still only drinking my endurance fuel Tailwind at this point.  Trying to hold off on solid foods as long as possible.  My digestive system does not like to function properly when all the blood is in my legs running these ultramarathons so liquid calories are very beneficial.  Tailwind gives me everything I need from electrolytes to calories and all in a dis solvable powder.  It was at this aid station about mile 24 where my back was hurting.  Jess put some deep blue essential oil on it along with some ice and it really helped me out.  It was also starting to get hot out and Jess and Debra began filling our water bottles with ice and water.  The miles were going by and we were having great conversations and Joe was loudly singing "The Gambler" from Kenny Rogers.  The inspiration behind the Gambler is that Joe and Debra were listening to books on tape during their 1,600 mile drive from Colorado to the starting line at Squires Castle.  The books were about how to play Texas Hold'em because they knew in the week after the race that we would be having a few poker games on our family camping trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The books must of really helped them because they each won when we ended up playing!  Anyway, they were also listening to the Gambler to get psyched up so it was stuck in Joe's head.

We ran into the land shark who is this guy that dresses in a full shark costume for every race he does.  It must of been boiling in that thing!  We also met a guy named Kevin who ran with us for a long time.  Joe was telling him some great stories which kept all three of us laughing out loud.  When the conversation would go silent Kevin would ask Joe to tell him another story!  It is important to keep a good sense of humor during miles 30 - 50 because you start getting tired but are a long way from the finish line.  We spent a few miles on a gravel path with no shade and the sun was blasting us in the hottest part of the day.  It was so hot during that stretch that we walked a lot of it.  If we got a moment of shade then we would resume a light run.  We were overheating but our rock star crew, Jess and Debra, were really great about putting ice in our bandannas and would tie them around our necks.  This would allow cold water to slowly trickle down and also keep the neck area cool.  This really was the key to surviving the heat.  I would not have made it through this if Jess was not there to lead the way with these tricks on staying cool.  We got to one aid station where the volunteers had buckets of cold water and sponges.  As I was filling my bandanna with ice I looked over and there was three girls practically giving Joe a sponge bath with that ice cold water.  I have never seen a bigger smile on his face than in that moment.  That kind of relief from the intense heat is pure gold.  We were laughing as we left that aid station, I think Joe called it heaven, because they really went all out for us runners.  All of the aid stations and volunteers at Burning river were top notch.  It really is a great course and a well structured race.

Half way point and morale is high!
We were at mile 48 and a getting pretty close to the halfway point in the race.  We both felt really good at that moment and we passed a lot of people on our way to the next aid station.  As we were going through a little town the cop directing traffic mentioned that we better hurry in order to beat a train so we sprinted as fast we could and barely made it through before the barricades came down.  We were pretty proud of ourselves for not getting held up by the train but it turned out to be a tiny little train of about 5 cars so it would not of mattered.  Joe was pretty psyched up because some of his family and friends had gathered at he next aid station to cheer him on.  Everyone was there when we arrived and as Joe was caught up in the excitement he missed the check in booth which was poorly located after the crew and supporter area.  After visiting with family and friends along with getting refreshed by the crew we were off once again!  About a mile later Joe realized he did not give his number to the check in person.  He was very concerned about that and as we were in deep conversation about what to do we missed a marked turn in the trail.  Two girls behind us yelled up to us that we had missed the turn.  I will chalk that up to both of us getting paid from our good Karma bank accounts.  We may have realized it at some point but the thought of running a few extra miles during a hundred miler is very defeating!

We got to the next aid station and Joe told them they might of missed his number at the previous aid station.  They told him not to worry about it and he is accounted for.  That was a big relief to Joe and I was happy to hear that it was all good.  Throughout the day he started to get a blister on his toe.  The next aid station we arrived at was the Ledges shelter where family and friends were waiting for us.  It was a good spot to change socks, get our bearings, eat some of Larry's bacon, and get ready for the darkness to set in.  This was at mile 65 or so and after we took care of our business we were off once again!  The next section is where the wheels started to fall off for Joe.  His blister was getting much worse and the light of day slipped away which caused fatigue to set in.  We took it easy in this section and were looking forward to seeing our crew and also our friend and pacer, none other than Frozen Ed Furtaw who is well known in the ultra marathon community.  Joe met Ed in Colorado and they became friends.  Ed was in Michigan taking care of a family member and was gracious enough to offer to drive down and pace us at night.  We hobbled into mile 71 and Ed immediately was surveying the nasty blister Joe had developed on his foot and toe.  He determined there was nothing they could do but lance the blister and tape it up because the major damage had already been done.

The emergency blister surgery on Joe's toe!

After Joe was fixed up and taped we set out on the trail with Ed.  Joe was struggling pretty bad at this point as he was limping and being very quiet which was a big sign to me that he was in major pain.  Joe was telling us that he was happy with what he has accomplished and was planning on dropping out at the next aid station.  I felt bad trying to convince him to keep going but I was hopeful he could pull out of the funk and finish.  Ed tried everything he could to get the pain off Joe's mind but with the lack of sleep and extreme discomfort from the blister it was probably better that he did not continue on after mile 75.  That is a huge accomplishment and I know it is something that Joe is proud of.  I wished Joe well as I headed out into the trails with Ed still by my side.  Miles 75 - 90 went by pretty quickly because Ed was keeping me entertained with his mental library of knowledge on ultra running and also hearing about all of his fantastic adventures and accomplishments.  It was really getting me psyched up in general.  We were power hiking all of the hills and sprinkling in a bit of slow running every now and then.  I called Jess at mile 87 to let her know we would be at the next crew point in a half hour or so.  I had developed some pain on top of my left foot where it meets the leg and it kept growing worse through the later miles.

I was happy when we reached mile 90 because it was pretty much a flat course from there until the finish and also the daylight was starting to come out.  I wished Ed a huge thanks for driving all the way down from Michigan and pacing me through some tough miles of the race.  His experience really shone through as he got me past my lowest points with ease.  The pain on my left foot was actually in my lower shin and had grown severe.  I hobbled down the towpath to the mile 95 aid station where my friend Mitch who was also doing the 100 had showed up.  He assessed my situation and was thinking it was a stress fracture which kind of made sense.  His wife Amy had some KT tape and she was kind enough to tape me up for the last 5 miles to the finish.  Jess was at this aid station and due to the situation with my foot she sprang into action and decided to pace me in the last 5 miles.  It was nice to have her by my side talking to me and keeping my mind off the pain.  In all actuality I should not have continued on but I was not going to be denied this buckle on my second attempt at Burning River.  I had enough time left to limp it the rest of the way in.  We were on the tow path about a mile and a half away from the finish and a huge limb on the street above us fell into a power line and it was on fire.  A crazy site to see at that delirious moment.  A kid on a bike said he was calling the fire department and I was glad I did not have to deal with doing that.  The last half mile goes through a residential section of Cuyahoga Falls and there were a lot of people out cheering as I ran by.  This was awesome motivation to finish this thing once and for all.

It felt great having Jess lead me right up to the finish line.  She did such an awesome job crewing for me all day and night.  I am so appreciative of her efforts.  She knew exactly what I needed at all times and she kept me going even though she was running on limited sleep.  I don't think I could of made it through this race without her.  As I crossed the finish line I was excited to finish what I started in 2013 and now two years later the buckle was mine.  As I crossed the finish line Rob Powell was there cheering me on.  It was unexpected but great to see him there as he's had a huge influence on me since I started ultra running in 2012 and his race Forget the PR 50K was the first ultra I finished and it was with Joe!  I understood Joe's decision to drop from Burning River and I am extremely proud of him for what he accomplished.  He crushed the first 70 miles on that course which is a huge deal and I know that he will be able to finish his next 100 miler with just a few minor adjustments to avoid one of those epic blisters. Joe is a great running companion and friend.  Our conversations literally made the made miles fly by and I am grateful to him for that.  We laughed a lot even though we were participating in a 100 mile race with high humidity and temps in the high 80s.  It is rare for two people to be able to start a 100 mile race together and stay together for that long.  We worked well as a team by staying positive through the difficult miles.

The week after the race we hung out for a few days in Detroit with Joe and Debra and also went camping in the UP with most of Jessica's immediate and extended family.  It was a really great time and perfect way to cap off the post race week.  Well, 2015 was a great race season and I am excited for some good stuff coming up in 2016.  Joe was initially not going to attempt any more 100 milers but I think he has regained his senses and is already planning an epic 100 miler for us in Oregon for 2017!  The J&J express will be steam rolling through the Mountain Lakes 100 in September of 2017!  We are going to get Joe that much deserved 100 mile belt buckle!  Stay tuned for some of my 2016 races which will include the Mohican 100 in June,  It will be my toughest 100 mile challenge to date.
Disclaimer: I have a bunch more pictures to add to this blog post.  They are on a flash drive at Jessica's office but we will post them up as soon as possible.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20th, 2015: Mohican 50 Miler

Pre-Race Meeting
Since it was 5 weeks prior to Burning River 100 I figured the Mohican 50 miler would be a perfect training run.  Lucas was initially going to run in this race with me but he had some issues with knee pain leading up to the event and decided not to run.  He volunteered instead and is such a great friend that he ended up sticking around all day to cheer me on to the finish line.  This turned out to be an extremely memorable race due to the crazy weather.  Usually on summer solstice in Mohican you never know what to expect.  It might be hot and muggy or it could be cool and mild.  It might be wet and rainy or it could be dry and sunny.  I guess you could say this year was more on the "wet and rainy" end of the spectrum.  In fact, I have rarely witnessed this much rain falling in one day in my enitre life!  Just a side note, almost all the pictures in this blog post were taken by Lucas, I want to make sure he gets the proper photo credits!

Friday afternoon I got to Mohican and set up camp with Lucas.  Then we went over to the pre-race dinner and meeting where I ran into a lot of friends.  It was nice to catch up with everyone.  Lucas and I ran into our friend Ron whom we met volunteering at Forget the PR 50K a few months prior.  He is our age and a cool guy so we ended up hanging out with him at our campsite for a few hours after the pre race meeting.  He was using the Mohican 50 as a training run for Leadville, which is a super tough 100 miler in Colorado.  As we were sitting around the campfire I noticed he was putting away quite a few beers,  I can't drink at all the night before a race and I could not understand how he could drink like that with a 50 miler which started in about 7 hours!  He said it is his pre race ritual to drink 6 or 7 beers and smash a large pizza because it helps him relax and get a good night sleep.  I was surprised and impressed by his answer.  It has worked for him in other races, even 100 milers!  Hey, whatever works..right?!  The race started at 6:00 am and Ron offered to give me a ride down to the start line in the morning.  He was going to drive home after the race and decided he would get up super early to pack his things up before driving over to the race start which was almost a mile away.

I woke up pretty early because the forecast said we were going to see some rain during the day and I packed up everything except for my tent.  I figured I would keep my sleeping bag and clothes etc..dry for camping out on Saturday night after the race.  Ron said he would pick me up at 5:40 am but when that time rolled around he was nowhere to be seen.  His campsite was not to far from ours but I was not sure exactly where it was.  I started to get concerned about Ron and what his status was.  Wondering if he had too many beers and overslept?  Maybe he forgot about picking me up and was already at the start line?  By the time 5:45 rolled around I decided I could not wait any longer and started walking / jogging down the trail toward the starting area.  Nothing like a little warm-up before a tough 50 mile trail race!  I seen a few other groups of people walking alongside the nearby road so I figured I would not be late.  I got there with a few minutes to spare and Ron was nowhere to be seen.  Everyone was lining up to start the race and I thought for sure he had slept past his alarm but with 30 seconds to go he showed up!  He had hit snooze a few too many times and it took him longer than he thought to pack up camp.  He said sorry and figured that I had already left to go down to the start line when he did not see me.  Then Ron told me that he actually got a late start at the Mohican 100 in 2014, his first ever 100, and ended up finishing in a pretty decent time.  Ok, so we have established two things..Ron is a really laid back cool guy and he is also a very strong runner.

Nearing the end of loop 1
We started the race toward the back of the pack and we had to go at a fast pace to get ahead of the big group before the first major climb.  That first big climb up the switchbacks takes forever if you get stuck in the back of the pack.  About 10 minutes after the race started the rain began to fall.  It was a gentle rain for about a half hour and then it started pouring.  We were soaked but having fun and keeping a good pace while the trails were still in decent shape.  We were attacking the long steep hills and were both feeling strong.  Our good conversation made the miles go by very quickly.  The rain kept falling for the next few hours and it would continue to come down hard for the rest of the day and even into the night.  Ron and I were almost complete with the first 27 mile loop and I stopped to use a bathroom in the campground.  He said he would meet me at the start finish aid station.  When I arrived at the aid station I was looking around for Ron and he was nowhere to be seen.  I asked a few friendly faces if they have seen Ron but no one had.  I ate a little food and stood in the shelter out of the rain for a few minutes and he did not show up.  I figured Ron left out on his second loop and I was ok with that.  I decided to head out on my second and final loop.

The second loop is shorter than the first but it is not any easier!  In fact, since the rain had not stopped all day the trail was becoming very sloppy.  Everyone and everything was completely soaked and muddy.  It was kind of comical just thinking about how much rain had fallen.  I was going at a nice relaxed pace since this was really just a training run.  Taking on the tough climbs and descents were adventurous in the rain.  I ran into Amy Love who was doing the 100 miler and I could tell she was having a rough time due to the weather and conditions.  I chatted with her for a little bit and tried to lift her spirits.  After a mile or two I wished Amy luck and took off to finish my final loop.  About 7 or 8 miles into this loop I heard a voice from behind me yelling out "there you are!!"  I turned around and it was Ron!!  He missed me at the start finish aid station because he had to run out to the parking lot and charge his phone so he could give his wife an update on his status.  I was glad he caught up to me because we were pulling each other along and having some good conversations during the first loop.  We got a good laugh about how sloppy the trail conditions were.  A few spots were ankle deep mud and I was a little concerned about this race possibly causing some permanent damage to the trails in Mohican.  Ron wiped out a few times because the conditions were so crappy and I think his knee was really bothering him but he is a tough guy and would not admit it.

Almost Done!!
We both got tired of the conditions and just wanted to be finished with this race.  We did not hang out long at the next few aid stations.  After leaving the last aid station there were two guys walking down the trail carrying a crap load of camping gear.  They kept dropping stuff and had to stop every 20 yards or so to rest.  It was pouring down rain and was not letting up anytime soon.  We could not believe these blokes were actually hiking in to go camping in these conditions but then again..there we were running 50 miles in the same conditions so we didn't have much room to talk!!  The last 4 miles of the loop are a gradual downhill on the mountain bike trail so we were flying through this section fairly quickly.  We were almost out of the woods and only had about a mile to go when I thought to myself that I was so glad I made it through the race without falling.  Literally about 5 seconds later as we were flying down a gradual downhill I caught a root and it sent me flying.  When I landed I could not move for a second but then I slowly got up.  I had mud caked in my head, water bottles, and most of my right side.  I had a nice cut on my leg which was also filled with mud from the little mud pit I landed in.  Ron helped me wash the mud out from my cut and as soon as it was clean then blood started coming out quickly.  We only had a mile to go so I said screw it let's march on.  It was an epic finish with Ron banged up from his falls and me with mud in my head and blood running down my leg!!

Only a flesh wound!
The post race evaluation

We rounded the bend before the finish line and there was brother Lucas cheering us on.  It felt so good to be done with that race.  I could not imagine having to keep going through the night like most of the 100 milers were going to have to do.  The rain had briefly let up when we finished but it did not take long to start pouring again.  I was extremely surprised and happy to see that I finished in 12 hours and 45 minutes.  This was a 50 mile personal record for me and I am extra pleased in happened during these conditions and on the tough trails of Mohican.  It helped to have a strong runner like Ron leading the charge.  There was a high pressure water spout at the finish pavilion and I did the best I could to wash all the mud off my equipment and myself.  I hung out with Lucas and Ron for a little bit.  We had a beer or two which tasted excellent!  I decided there was no way I was going to camp in a tent on this night.  The rain was expected to keep falling and there was a damn lake inside my tent.  I ordered a large pizza at Trails End Pizza and Lucas gave me a ride up to the campsite where I put the wet tent away and took a nice hot shower.  Then I picked up my pizza as I was leaving town.  I was so hungry that I ate the whole large pizza as I was driving to my parents house a few hours from Mohican.  This was definitely a race I will never forget.  Next up is Burning River 100.  I am seeking redemption from my DNF there two years ago.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Trail Factor 50K: May 25th, 2015

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

Cannon Beach Triple Stones!
Goonies House

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

Hiking in Mt. Rainier
Seattle Sounders Soccer!

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

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

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

Pacific Crest Trail Sign

A great hike to cap off this epic vacation!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

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

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

Scott and Lucas on Big Ass Hill Round 1

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

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

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

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

Enjoying the day

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

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Resolution 4 hour Trail Run: January 17th, 2015

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

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

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