Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last Chance 50k – A Novelty “training” run


This was the first Annual Last Chance 50k trail event on the Swamp Fox leg of the Palmetto Trail! The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012...which makes this your LAST CHANCE to run a 50k! This event started and finished at the Witherbee Ranger Station which is located in Cordesville, SC.
It was an out and back course and it was also a relay.

I first heard about this event a couple months ago and was on the fence about registering. I was not going to run another Ultra until the new year and had not really been training over the past month.

 Week                       T              W                 T               F             S              Sun          Total
18-Nov -- 3 4.5 3 24 0 5 39.5
26-Nov -- 4 6 3 -- 14 5 32
3-Dec -- 0 0 4 -- 15 3 22
10-Dec -- 0 2 4 -- 31 0 37
BUT!!! How could I pass up something that sounded so cool? I regoed at the last minute and looked at the list of runners seeing that there would not be anyone there to add any pressure for me to run hard. I saw my friend Ned was going and that was a big plus. The plan for me was to try and keep a steady pace to the turn around and then walk back if need be. My friend Jonathon then saw that I was registered and asked if I was really going. I told him that I might not once I found out there was no camping. His Ant was running this as her first 50k and he would be down pacing her the second half and was kind enough to let me crash with him and hooked it up with pizza and beer the night before.

This was a flat run with no real roots so I thought it would be a great tanning run. It ended up being supper technical on the way back. I started out just as planed taking it smooth and easy running behind some girls. I keep looking downish and thanks to that I ended up face down in some mud. After that I decided to pass them thinking I don’t need that distraction haha.

Got busted looking "down"
After a while a runner named Thijs yep that was his name how cool is that. Came up behind me and we ended up running most of the event together. He works at Tri Sports (one of the sponsors) and this was his first 50k and he did an amazing job. It was great to meet him and chat together for most of the run. As we hit the first aid station I was surprised how good my legs were feeling and I keep thinking of when they would break down on me and when I would start my walk to the finish. We hit the turn around and I started having the same thoughts, but I was feeling great. I started jumping up on some of the flood beams and running on them to add some excitement. At about mile 26ish I looked at my Garmin and thought well hell I’m still felling this good and hit it in under 4 hours maybe ill push it and see what happens. Going from a 9:10 avg pace to see if I could get it down to an 8:40 avg pace. I ran from mile 26 to 28 at a 7 minute pace feeling great just having fun on the trails.

Here is where it all went downhill but in a funny way not O GOD MY BODY SUCKS kind of way. At mile 28 we hit a section of trail that has a lot of pot holes everywhere. Now on really technical trails this is not a problem for me. The more technical the trail is ill keep my eyes focused 1 to 5 steps in front of me. On flat road type trails normally ill focus 8 to 15 steps in front of me. Well I was focusing further out and not seeing the pot holes. I went down so hard. If you took bricks and slammed them on the ground that would give you an idea of how hard I hit. I got back up and started walking cleaning myself off. Picked the pace back up to about an 8:20 min mile. Then bam hit the ground again. Walked, and then started running again this time about a 9:40 pace. Starting to see the trend? Then BAMMM!!!! Hit the ground again but this time the stuff that came out of my mouth shocked me (#**&^#>><)_&!@#$?:}{_++_**&^%) and there was a relay runner passing me at that time. (I looked for him after to say I was sorry but could not find him). This was all within 15 min or so. I walked for what seemed like forever after that just thinking how funny/painful it was. Then I looked at my Garmin and said hell I could still hit 5 hours as another runner came up from behind me I started running again and my finish time was 5:00:26 taking 12th place overall and 8th for men. Not bad for what was meant to be a training run. As I was sitting at the finish line I saw Ned blazing down the trail finishing in 5:01:36 a new PR for him and just an amazing run. The trail was marked so well and the Aid stations were great and the people were so nice and helpful. This is definitely a 50k to check out, but watch the pot holes.

If feels great mentally to have finished the year with a strong time and an overall fun experience on the trails. I’m so thankful for how this came together.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Heartbreak Bench Marathon–empty feeling of victory.

     This self supported marathon begins in the Laurel Valley Parking Lot off HWY 178.  Head West on The Foothills Trail towards Lake Jocassee.  Around 13 miles in touch the bench on top of Heart Break Ridge at Lake Jocassee and return back to the parking lot.
Start and stop your timer on the first wooden step heading into Laurel Valley.

     You will know when you reach the turnaround!  About six series of steep steps will take you to the top of Heartbreak Ridge as you see beautiful Lake Jocassee off to your left.  Follow the trail about 100 yards down the stairs and you will see the bench on your right - touch it and retrace your steps back. 

There are no "bail out" points on this course such as roads or neighborhoods it is very isolated wilderness. 

     My goal was to break 4 hours this being a BIG goal but I was sure I could do it. I talked to my friend Bo about it earlier in the week, but he was the only one that knew my goal. There were other’s that knew what I was doing, but not what my planed time was.

     I say this is an empty victory not based on the fact that I did not break 4 hours. I did set the new CR (course record). This is an empty feeling because of other reasons. There are things that reflecting back on this run I am finding out about myself. For 4 hours and 5 minutes I was in pain, calculating every step I took, staring at my pace time. When I say every step I mean every step. The leaves covered the trail and there are over 1500 steps in this section that you go over twice. (there are in FACT 3,097 steps in the point to point LV section I took a clicker once and clicked everyone and I still have it). I did not get to take in all the beauty that this trail holds. I did not get to enjoy time with friends. It brought no joy when I was done. In fact it brought more frustration when I got home spending time trying to get my Garmin data to link thanks to using a new watch to track my time.

     I thought that going out there and doing what I did would bring me some satisfaction in the fact that I DNF the 77 miler I tried earlier in the year. Maybe that proving that I could go all out on this run I could prove something to myself. I have a real love hate mostly HATE when it comes to that place and this day was no different. It has to do with a lot more than just the DNF that I have. It is a lot deeper and WAY more personal that only few people know about. I have been looking at things in the wrong way. That maybe if I push some of these old goals that maybe I could put part of the past “In the past” but it has just brought me more pain.

     It is not arrogance that brings these feelings. I have sat on it for the past few days. It is the fact that I now know that yes I can run hard if need be BUT what is the need for it? A time? To some it is there goal. To me running is not a lone activity.  That is “the runner and how hard they can push their body” to me it is a gathering of like minded friends. Time that you can spend with one another enjoying nature and each other’s company. I can’t say that the little bit VERY LITTLE BIT of competitiveness that is in me will not come out again, but at what price? Is it better to have a fast time and miss out on the beauty that is there for you to enjoy or slow down a bit and take in what the world had to offer?

     I am truly happy that I was able to finish this run with such a good time. It is not all negativity that has come from it. I know that my body has recovered from what happened earlier in the year. I know that trying to “tare that trail up” is not going to put any old memories to rest. I know that to me running means more to me when I can spend it with friends.

     I am still relatively new to the sport of running and Ultra runs. I still have a lot to learn about what kind of runner I am and what I want to do with it. As a friend once said "when I learn how to run with my head and not just my body then I will truly find my place”. 

What tab?!?!?!?!?!
111/23/2012Joe Parker284:05:03     ***Course Record***
210/27/2012Jonathan Allen344:07:57    
36/2/2012Jonathan Allen334:13:29 
44/7/2012Justin Cole234:48
54/7/2012Jeff Dixon394:56
611/18/2012Merle Glick355:32
73/3/2012Lester Farmer595:39
84/7/2012Lester Farmer595:43
93/3/2012Joe Parker285:45
104/7/2012Viktor Trukov495:47
114/21/2012Brian Guzik405:59
1211/18/2012Bo Millwood476:13:53
134/21/2012Viktor Trukov496:16
144/7/2012Bo Millwood476:54
154/7/2012Jason Sullivan376:55
163/3/2012Scott Hodukavich486:57
173/3/2012Scott Chapman367:37
183/3/2012Chris Worl357:38
1911/18/2012Drew Walker537:44

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Foothills 77 mile run – Pacing Laurel Valley


     This would be Doug’s 77 mile foothills run. He paced me in Laurel Valley back in March so in return I would be pacing him on his run. Coming into this I was not sure I was healthy enough to be able to make it through this section much less pace another runner. About 2 weeks before D-day I started feeling really good and the weekend before I paced another friend on his 100 mile event which brought back that love of running for me. I knew then I was ready to help my friend on his quest to complete this very mentally and physically demoralizing run.

     Friday we all got together at Table Rock State Park where we would get everything in order and finalize the plan. I drove with Andy to Sassarfas mountain at about 11pm this would be the 1st aid stop for Doug. At 12pm Doug and Dan started the run and it would not be until about 3:30am when Doug would reach us to get his aid for the next section.  Once he reached this point Andy and I were off to the entrance of Laurel Valley where I would start my job as pacer.

     As Doug reached Laurel Valley we got him and me ready for this long stretch. It is a 33ish mile that takes all day. This place seems like it goes on for days never ending never letting up. It was strange at points to be running here again thinking that the last time I was there was with Doug in my run. We started off great then hit a snag taking the wrong turn or better saying NOT taking the right turn. This would put us off pace by about 45 minutes. It was dark, cold we were tired and knowing how long this takes without getting lost was a mental crush. Once we got back on track it took Doug a good hour to get past the mental block of getting lost for that long, but he snapped out of it and was good to go. Again this was a long never ending section of trail. As we finally hit the 13 miles to Whitewater Falls sign we knew we were almost out of there. The only problem is that the last 13 miles takes just as long as the first 20. Thinking that all we had left was a staircase next to the big rock, that one flat section, the crap wooden bridge, the metal bridge, the last stare case and then we would be out. Breaking it down like this helps the only problem is you tend to forget how much stuff is really out there and how long those 13 miles takes. These being my 6th time through here I still forget crap. Well 3 bridges latter and over 2 hours we finally hit the short flat section where Lester was waiting on us. He was a joyful site for Doug and me. We knew there was not far to go after that. We kept asking where the hell it the Dad Creek sign????!!!??? Really where the fuck is it? That would let us know there was a little over 3 miles left. We finally get there and I tell Doug that I was going to push up so I could get there a little before him and let everyone know to get ready for him. That was my plan but Doug stayed on my heals the whole way. I looked back saying how the heck am I going to get there before you if I can’t get any distance? “run faster” he said. Yea right I was shot out NOT going to happen. About the last mile it has some flat parts and I was about to get maybe a 30 sec lead on him. As I pulled up to Whitewater Falls I see the rest of the crew I yelled “runner up” and told them what all Doug needed.  This would be the end of the day for me. I was planning on being there till the end but personal dealings came up and I talked to Doug about during the run and he was ok with me leaving saying that when we got out my job was done.  Doug went on to finishing and finished so strong taking the 6th fastest known time. Amazing!!!!!! I remember the 1st time I met him and our 1st race together. He is truly a testament of how hard work and training pays off. This run takes a lot out of a person and the last 26 or so miles you are constantly looking for reasons to drop. It is not the kind of run you can take lightly and you have to overcome a lot to get to the end. I am proud to have been a part of his journey to the finish.

     Here are the links to the finishes and another for the Foothills Trail 100 Mile Challenge which this being my 3rd run through LV this year I’m happy to say I got on that list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pinhoti 100-Mile Trail Race – Team Sully

     This was by far the most amazing experience I have ever had in running. I was a crew member and pacer for my friend Jason Sullivan. We started out Friday morning meeting at Bo’s house. Jason, Bo, Nick, Onyx (my dog), and myself all packed into my truck and started our adventure. We hit the hotel in Oxford and got some last minute items before we passed out for the early morning.

     We woke up at 4am and got packed back into the truck to head to the starting line. We met up with Joe, Andy, Kelley, Marie-Ange, Scott, and some other runners and hit the road. It was nice seeing so many people heading to the start together. As we got to the start the runners checked in and they were off; as were we to get to the 1st Aid Station. All the runners came running past looking strong and moving well as the sun came up. This would be our day until it was time for each of us to pace Jason. He would come into the Aid Station and we would get the items he would need for the next 5 to 10 miles.
     At mile 26ish Jason would hit a low spot due to the high tempters reaching 87 when we were expecting high 50 to mid-60.  This was concerning to all of us because we would not see him again until mile 41. As we got to the mile 41 Aid Station we had plenty of time to get things together for him and this would also be where I would start my 20 mile run with him. As I watched the runners come into this AS I would see 1 out of every 4 drop all having problems with the heat. I started freaking a little bit and just got my head in a place where I knew the only job I needed to do when I picked him up was recovery from the heat. I would go down the board walk and run in with different runners to see if they needed anything as they pulled into the AS. At one point I saw Marie-Ange coming up and I could tell her head just was not in the run anymore. After talking with her; her head was never in it from the start. We all hit points where we just loose something with “the run”. I have been struggling with this myself. I talked her into running with Jason and I once he got there hoping this may help keep her going.

      As Jason come running up we got him, Marie-Ange, and myself ready for the next leg of the run. I knew they needed to get as much water into them as they could. That was my focus for the next 5 miles. Smooth jog and drink. Keep them moving and shoving water down there face. As we got to mile 45 they were doing a lot better with their water. We pulled in got our night gear and headed back out. This leg of the run (after all the rocks) I could see Jason picking up his step but still tried to keep him moving smooth and steady. I could see that Marie-Ange was just running at this point to hang out and was still planning on pulling out at some point, but was really happy to see her moving with us and giving Jason good advice about his gluten free diet and recipe tips. You could tell it was getting Jason’s head off the run for a bit. It was really her that was pacing him through this 5 mile section not me. I tried to just hold a pace and let them enjoy their conversation. As night fell on us we would really get in some great conversation and I could tell Jason was ready to pick up the pace, but with the single track that we were on it just was not going to get much faster. I think I tripped 15 times in this section. I knew when we got to the next AS Marie-Ange was going to call it a night, but was happy she decided to go that far with us. I have so much respect for this girl; going 55 miles when your heart is not in the run is something amazing and shows so much strength. As we hit the AS we left Marie-Ange in the hands of our crew as she would ride with us the rest of the night and Jason and I moved forward. When we left the AS Jason asked where she was and I just acted like I did not hear the question and started talking about something different. We started what would be the last section I would be running with him on an open fire road. Running the flats and downhill and walking the up hills. I say walking but when Jason power walks I have to jog next to him to keep up. If you have ever seen the Petagree commercials with the little dog running next to a big dog walking then you know what I’m talking about. He keeps getting stronger and faster as the temperature dropped. We finished this section and pulled into the AS where Bo was waiting to get his peace of the trail and keep Jason in a good place as the night went own. Bo is one of the best people anyone could ask for in a pacer and crew member. He was with me on the foothills and I knew Jason was happy to be picking him up for the next few sections of the trail.

     I would head back to the truck and continue my crewing duties. I say that lightly as I would spend most of the night in and out of a dream state trying to rest up so I could drive us back. Nick, Marie-Ange, and I drove around lost for a bit until we finally found the next AS. We pulled in and got some stuff set up for when Jason and Bo would come in and I climbed into the back seat and tried to get a little sleep wile Nick crewed. When we hit the point where Nick (another person I know Jason was happy to have. Nick crewed and paced him at WS) would pick up the job as pacer and Bo drove us to the AS where we would wait the next 5 hours until it was time for Bo to get back to running. This AS was mile 95 so we had time to get some sleep. As we all curled up in the truck I would go in and out of a dazed dream state where there were moments where I was not sure if I was dreaming or really awake. It was funny to me how Onyx was the best smelling of us all. We had been spraying each other with my cologne all night and cracking jokes about it. I woke up and helped Bo for a minute to get Jason’s aid down to the AS and went back to the truck and curled up in the back for some sleep. I was passed out when Nick came up and hoped back into the truck to drive us to the finish.

     As the sun was coming up over the mountains and the event was almost over it was a surreal moment for me. We all ran out to meet Jason as he came running into the school. We ran a bit with him then watch him cross the finish line. As we crossed into the school Jason let out a yell that I’m sure could have been heard the 100 miles back at the starting line. The Joy on his face was something you cannot describe in words. Jason finished strong passing many runners the last 50 miles and finished 59 out of a total of 230 registered runners in a time of 27:14:20.  

     This adventure, seeing so many friends, making many new ones, the time running on the trail with Jason and Marie-Ange, time spent with Bo, Nick, Marie-Ange crewing, seeing Marie- Ange going that far with so much strength, seeing Jason and others cross the finish line, and some of the conversations and time spent renewed me as a runner. Epic’s back baby. As Marie-Ange so gracefully said after this weekend’s experience the burnout is OFFICIALLY over and we’re off the bench. I cannot express the gratitude that I have for Jason for letting me be a part of this and him trusting me to help with his run. These are not just running friends we have become a type of family through running these Ultras. A type of family I am proud to be a part of.

Here is a link to Jason's race report. I think it is only fitting to add it in.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ultra running - Good or Evil

Has running become an “addiction?”

These are some signs of drug addiction that I changed “drug” to “running” just to see if it fits. BOY did it ever. I’ll let you read over and then I’ll go on.

  • You’re neglecting your responsibilities 
  • You’re using running under dangerous conditions or taking risks while running
  • Your running is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.
  • You’ve built up a running tolerance. You need to run more or longer to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You’ve lost control over your running. You often run more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t.
  • Your life revolves around running. You spend a lot of time thinking about running, figuring out how to get a run in, and recovering from the effects of running.
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies and socializing, because of your running.
  • You continue to run, despite knowing it’s hurting you. 
  • Isolation when previous nature was more outgoing, social – or vice versa.
  • Running activities without attention to rules, potential dangers, norms, laws
  • You are certain you can quit anytime (but, well, you can’t)
  • You hide it from others

     The highlighted sections are ones I am guilty of in one way or another and ones I have seen/heard the most about from other Ultra runners. I have seen many relationships get crushed from running including one of my own. (she ran and I was not “aloud to”) and it took its toll on our bond. I have seen/heard of many marriages, engagements, and just “dating” get broken apart because of running.  

     Now in saying that I need to say this to; I have see/heard of many relationships being formed because of running.

     I have been saying for months that my body needs a break (and it did) but I just keep going. I found one excuse or another to keep the miles high. I love running and love what it has done for me and over the past 2 weeks found that “old love” for running that I seem to have lost at some point, but in that hard time I had a lot of questions that I was looking into.

  • Do I really want to “be ULTRA” (as in keep running ultras)
  • Is running like this really healthy for me (after ending up in the ER)
  • Do I want to stop and start seeking out a relationship (being single for the past 17 months)
  • Has it become an “addiction” (as listed above)

     I do believe that it has become an addiction but knowing that now will help me make better decisions on what events I do and don’t want to participate in. These half cocked no aid for 20 miles in dangerous conditions no longer appeal to me. I would like to run a 100 miler next year but will take time off after or will this addiction get stronger and just keep going?

     I’m not trying to say that it is something bad to be “addicted” to running, but it can be if you let it take over your life and make poor decisions. Not spending the time you should with family and friends, doing dangerous things “in the name of running,” not letting your body heal after an event are all things I and many other runners need to look at.

     I have only been openly running Ultras sense January 7th 2011. I say openly because I ran a few Ultra distance runs and  events with very few people knowing. I still have a lot to learn and every time someone is willing to give me advice I try to soak it in and think on it for a while and see how it affects me personally.  I have gotten back to a place of “running for fun” and really don’t give a crap about times anymore. Truth be told I placed a lot better when I had no clue what a good time was or how I “should” be training and just went out and ran what I felt like doing.

     I have no more events of my own (planed) this year only pacing for friends and that will not be any easier but it is a different mental state when you are running as a pacer.  I enjoy it so much and it will help even more to bring be back to a place of the fun run.

     I do these blogs for my own benefit to look back on and maybe even have a story to pass on if for some reason I end up in another relationship wanting to have a child. I have noticed that there are a lot of people reading this blog for one reason or another. I do hope that you find them fun to read and maybe even learn take something away from it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

F.A.T.S 50k - Profound Thought

Andy and I before the run
     Running F.A.T.S was an eye opener for me. I used to be such a care free runner. Half cocked training and just doing what felt good. No real training plan just went out and did it. “Nutrition” what the hell is that? How many miles do you run a week? Hummm 20 maybe. What was your last 50k time? 4:54 or something like that. Have you ever read born to run? No I really don’t read about running I just do it.

     After FHT (Foothills Trail 77) I started rethinking how I should train, run, and eat, and so on. Everything I did or tried just messed me up more. I just like to run and do my thing and today it hit me I CAN’T run like people “expect” me to run. Yes I need to look at my water and food intake so I don’t crash, but turning it into my life or trying to do what others expect is just too much pressure. Being an RD and others expectations of how “good “I should do in an event has just turned running into something that is more than it should be for me.

     Going into F.A.T.S as a “training run” to see how my recovery has come along was the best thing I have ever done. I just ran with friends leading up to it. Did not stress about it or have some pre-run ritual. I just showed up and ran like I used to and guess what. I felt great and was running strong. I still don’t have the speed I once did but my body felt amazing. I “DNF” it but truthfully I just stopped at mile 26 feeling great in 4th 5th (ish) place. (You can never tell out there what place your really in because people will sometimes take the GW trail backwards I did it last year). I just stopped and ran to the finish turned my bib in and played with my puppy for a bit. I just stopped. I did not feel like running any more. 
One Day He Just Stopped

     Doug F. talked to me a bit before the run and his words of wisdom rang throughout my head the whole time. I am out there for the fun of it. I am out there just to run. I never cared before what place I was in or what my pace was or how many miles I had left. I was just out for a run. Once I ran 36 miles on a Saturday when I was planning to run 5. I just went out for a run and thought well never been down that road, never been up that hill, I wonder what is over there. I want to get back to that. I need to get back to that for my own good.

     Now a bit about the run and not so much my thoughts during the run. 5 minuets before the start time I had to go poo. So I started 4 minutes after everyone and another pulse to what happened today. I knew I would not be able to get 1st because of that all the pressure was off. Just ran with one pack then passed and ran with another pack. After about 8 miles I was running with another run just talking and enjoying the day. He told me how he had to take a break from Ultras for a bit but did not go into why. I’m glad I was running with him. He knew the trails so there was less of a chance for me to get lost. After mile 18ish when I knew I was good on my own I eased off and watched him run off. I was happy to get to meet him and hoping to maybe meet someone new when they ran up. No one ever came up so I hit the last aid station and sat around and talked with people for a bit. The trails were in great condition and the bike moguls really do a number on your legs.

     My thoughts in this are get back to the fun I once had. One Epic Run will be my last event as an RD. I do have so much fun doing it but again added stress. I don’t have any events of my own to run the rest of the year and it’s going to stay that way. I will pace Jason and Doug R. in there events and that will be it.

     I talked with Tim and Doug R. after the run and the things that told me just backed up how I have been feeling and I know without a doubt I am doing what’s best for me. Back to “fun”, back to running a 50k and doing a back hand spring across the finish. Back to Joe Running. 

Having Fun at Aid Station 3