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.