Saturday, December 5, 2009

Going to California!!!

As the year ends it's time to start to think about what next year may bring. I had not made any firm decisions as the results of my application to the Western States 100 had yet to be revealed.
The Western States 100 Endurance Run is one of the oldest ultra races and challenging to get into. A certain number of participants are "invited" by winning other endurance distance races and other slots are reserved for those who have managed aid stations in prior year races. After these commitments, 270 slots were left and over 1,500 from all over the world signed up for the race. A lottery is used to determine the remaining slots leaving me with a 17% chance of being selected.

Today ,in Auburn, CA, a lottery for the 270 available slots was held at noon. While eating lunch with the family I had mentioned to Amie that the lottery was being broadcast live through the website so she grabbed her laptop and pulled it up to find out that my name had not been chosen. When we realized that the lottery was only half over Amie continued to watch and listen with anticipation while I headed out to run an errand as I wasn't too optimistic of getting in since my chances at that point were reduced down to about 10%.

While at my friend Ken's, cutting trim to finish a bathroom remodeling project, Amie called and I immediately knew I had been selected as her screams of excitement rang through the phone. As you can tell by the odds not many get to experience the 100 miler from Squaw Valley through trails once used by gold miners that end up in Auburn, CA. This section of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is absolutely beautiful and I'm pumped to have the opportunity for this experience.

Wow..only six months away..time to start training.

California, here I come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shenipsit Trail - End to End

The Shenipsit trail, otherwise known as the blue trail, is a continuous route of trails with some connective roads that travel between Somers and East Hampton, CT. Saturday's plan was to complete the Shenipsit trail from one end to the other.

I met up with Art in East Hampton about 5:15 to drop my car at the southern end of the trail. I literally met Art for the first time at this point as he had recently learned of the day's excursion through a trail running club I just joined, The Shenipsit Striders. After a brief discussion of logistics, plans, and expectations Art was eager to join and we welcomed him in. We picked up Scott at the Bolton Notch area parking lot of the rail trail, grabbed Mark in Tolland, and headed to the northern end of the trail on County Rd.

With hydration packs loaded with fuel we started our journey shortly after sunrise. After a couple miles we found ourselves in familiar territory of Soapstone Mountain. Scott, Mark and I have done a fair amount of trail running at Soapstone Mountain, Shenipsit Lake area, Belding Wildlife area, the rail trail, and Case and Birch Mountains. We moved well early on and I was pleasantly surprised to learn of some of the pieces of the trail that connect these unique and special places.

Mark, Bruce, and Art

Heading Through Valley Falls

We could see and hear the impact of the high winds as trees, limbs, and branches were strewn thought the trail. However, we were fortunate to enjoy comfortable temperatures and sunshine on our journey.

The branch that missed Scott by a nanosecond

After heading through some steep and rocky terrain at Soapstone, flat and straight at Shenipsit Lake, comfortable pines at Belding, and the rail trail we arrived at Scott's car which doubled as our solo aid station. After a brief stop to refill hydration packs, enjoy some oranges courtesy of Scott, and some other goodies, we said our goodbyes to Scott and continued on our way.

Scott and Bruce

Art and Mark and Bolton Notch pond.

Our pace slowed as we continued on the ascent up to Birch and Case Mountains. Case Mountain was probably the area we experienced the most people enjoying the trail, which is no surprise as it's an absolutely beautiful track out and into the Meshomasic State Forest.

Throughout the day our only issues with navigation seemed to occur heading through the roads that connected the woods. Mark's internal compass proved trustworthy, but relied on his detailed maps when needed. We ended up off course a few times, but were able to get back on track without much of an issue.

Feeling the fatigue of the day, we were encouraged as we reached Rte 2, a landmark that we were looking forward to getting behind us. One of the busiest travel and traffic weekends of the year was kind to us as we had an opportunity to cross both lanes without much of a wait. Fortunately our crossing window was wide open as Art's leg cramped up as we made our way over the pavement.

Successful crossing of Rte 2

Falls in Easthampton

The sun made it's way lower as we made our way through the "Mesh". We dodged our way through and around the standing water on the jeep roads of the next few miles. We continued into East Hampton and saw the sunset, climbed our way up over a ridge and experienced another sunset. As it grew dark we neared the end and were treated with an impressive overlook of Great Hill Pond and the surrounding area.

Self photo at completion

Started just after sunrise, finished just after sunset, total of 46 miles. It was great to experience the Shenipsit trail from end to end.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

StoneCat 50 Miler

After reducing miles since the VT100 I decided to sign up for the StoneCat 50 mile trail race as a way of providing motivation to increase my training, maintain fitness, and get re-energized. After committing myself the end of September I started increasing my weekly miles and getting in a 20+ long run each week. Not the ideal training going into a 50 miler, but I was banking on the hopes that the 1,600 miles I've run this year, most in preparing for the VT100, would give me what I needed for StoneCat.

The StoneCat trail races are held at Willowdale State Forest in Ipswich, MA. The course is a 12.5 mile loop consisting of a mix of single and double track trails. Clint, Mark, and I woke about 4:20, arrived at the race a little after 5 a.m., and were ready to rock for the 6:15 start. After a quick pre-race briefing about 300 of us were off an running. Half the group would detour off of the main 12.5 mile loop to pick up 1.2 miles that would be added to their 2 loops for the marathon distance race. The 50 milers would run the 12.5 mile loop 4 times.

Uncharacteristic of me, I didn't head into the race with much of a game plan for pace and nutrition. As usual the high energy levels drove a quick pace early on. After a few miles Mark and I settled into a pace with a half dozen other guys. The single file train helped carry us and kept our pace honest. The trails were comfortable and enjoyable with slight rolling hills and changing scenery throughout. The trails were absent of rocks but plenty of roots and stumps existed among the fallen leaves.
The train continued to roll along pushing the high end of my pace tolerance. I decided to stay aboard and hang on for the ride.

A decent pace and bypassing the 2 aid stations on the course allowed us to finish lap 1 in about 1:48. We didn't spend much time at our drop bags either. After trading out empty water bottles with prepared ones it was time to head back out for lap 2. Wish I could have stayed longer as Keith was on site. He came by the race for a brief stop to lend some encouragement which was much appreciated.

Heading out into lap 2, the train was now gone, and Mark and I continued to cruise along without another runner in sight for a while. We came across, ran and chatted with Ian, of the Trail Monsters Running Club, and race director for the Pineland Farms 50 I ran on Memorial Day weekend. Over half way through lap 2, around 20 miles, it was time for me to ease off the pace and I ran solo for a while. It was clear that I was starting to fatigue as an invisible stump caught my foot threw me to the ground so fast I couldn't get my arms out, as I fortunately hit with my shoulder and rolled onto my back for a comfortable landing. Lap 2 took about 2 hours.

A couple miles into lap #3 my legs muscles started to tighten, and I experienced some cramping in my quads. Then it began, time and time again I'd catch my foot square into a root or stump hidden in the leaves, sending a surge of energy through my body causing muscles to tighten even more. As they tightened my steps were lower, and the cycle continued.

I stopped at my first aid station of the race and was greeted by a volunteer offering me all sorts of food and drinks. The look on his face was of great concern; did I look as cruddy as I was starting to feel?
There seemed to be absolutely nobody on the course with the exception of an occasional runner I'd pass that was clearly on their 2nd lap. I struggled with nausea and intense muscle tightness the remaining 10 miles of lap 3. I battled through mentally and physically, staying focused, reminding myself that ultras bring peaks and valleys, and was hopeful my situation would improve. Lap #3 took a little over 2.5 hours.

I was greeted by Clint at the end of the lap. As in the few other ultras I've run in, I was reminded that anything can happen. Clint ran into a fairly severe health issue and made the right, but tough decision, of backing off the 50 miler, and still gutting out the marathon distance. I won't go into details about Clint's issue as it would probably leave your stomach feeling like mine did during lap #3.

Magically, my stomach issues disappeared and my legs had loosened a bit. As I rolled into a celebratory atmosphere at the first aid station on lap #4 I was amazed how helpful, encouraging, and friendly the aid volunteers were....their level of service seemed to increase as the day went on. The race's main sponsor is the Mercury Brewing Company and I think being an aid station volunteer came with the perks of sampling some of the sponsor's fine products. Seems like a win-win for everyone.
I rambled along the course and came into the final aid station with the fatigue that 46 miles can bring. The first thing I saw on the table was a platter of recently grilled hot dogs. Hot dogs never looked so good in my life. As I cautiously considered demolishing one the volunteer says "I've got Manwich's also". Are you kidding, Manwiches during a race...that could tear you apart. I had not had a Manwich in 20+ years..., once I saw them it was like love at first sight. I grabbed one and started walking as I ate, I was in heaven. Even better, all of a sudden I had more energy and felt better than I had in about 25 miles. For future runs I gotta figure out how to get Manwich meat into gel packets. I cruised the last 4 miles and finished the last lap in about 2.5 hours for a total time of 8 hours and 57 minutes. At the finish I was rewarded with some applause and a really nice finisher's jacket.

Mark stayed solid all day and turned up the pace the last few miles to break 8 hours with a time of 7:57. He's a stud.

My hats off to Gil's Athletic Club for putting on a well organized and supported race.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Amie - Guest Blogger - Shares Half Marathon Experience

My story begins in 8th grade. I had been playing on the field hockey team, and my coach/P.E. teacher told me that I should really try out for the Cross Country team in High School the next year, since I was a really great runner. Reading between the lines, I realized that meant I was not good enough to make the Field Hockey team in High School! In any case, my 9th grade year I did, in fact, join the X-C team…….and LOVED it. I ran all four years, and was Captain my senior year. My coach, who was new the year I was a freshman, was a great runner himself. He competed in marathons, and I decided then that some day I, too, would run a marathon. Fast forward 25 years…….A few things happened. 1. My husband became an ultra-marathon runner, and indeed is quite an inspiration. 2. I read a book written by Dean Karnazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. Again, indeed quite an inspiration. 3. It was the week between Christmas and New Years 2008. My friend, Amy, convinced me that we should run the Hartford Marathon in Oct. 2009. Realizing that I could follow the 26 week beginner marathon training plan in the book I read (see #2), I agreed with Amy that we should run. I counted back 26 weeks from Oct. 10, 2009 and that brought me to the first week of April. I had three months (Jan.-Mar.) to work on getting in some sort regular exercise routine (3-4 days per week, no excuses). I had a tough time, but did fairly well and by the time April arrived, I was ready to hit the pavement. That training began slowly with a walk/run routine 4 days per week. It quickly progressed and after 5 weeks, I was no longer walking……just running. My long runs were increasing by about 1 mile per week, and by the end of June my long run was 9 miles (with Bruce) after which I developed shin splints. Those shin splints rendered me unable to run more than 4-5 miles (mostly on the rubberized track at Tolland High School) for about four weeks. By this time, to stick to my training plan I should have been reaching 13 miles for my long runs, and we were going on a 16 day vacation to all 5 Great Lakes. The shin splints were healing pretty well (with the help of a massage therapist and my chiropractor, a new pair of running shoes and LOTS of ice). I did run faithfully during our vacation, including another 9 mile run. However, at this point I really had to make a decision. If I really stepped up my already aggressive training plan, I could potentially get back on track to run the marathon. Or, I could not risk further injury (by now I was also faced with an aggravated IT band) and decide to proceed to train for the Hartford HALF marathon. I was disappointed, but realized that if I pushed it, I may not be able to run AT ALL in Hartford. I chose the half.

Well, today was the day. Bruce had made arrangements for our children to spend the night elsewhere since they had early morning soccer games. This way, I could focus on getting (or trying to get) a good night’s sleep and having the morning to just focus on race-prep and not kid-prep to boot. I had been so nervous in the weeks leading up to the event, that I was so relieved the day had arrived! Bruce had prepared a delicious pasta meal for me the night before, and I got to bed early. I had gotten everything ready, so I just had to eat my banana, get dressed and head out the door. We drove into East Hartford, parked there and walked over the bridge to Bushnell Park.

Heading into Hartford

The park was unbelievably crowded and we had a somewhat difficult time getting to the starting area, as there were huge barriers set up where the finish tunnel would be. I wanted to use the porta-potty, but the lines were impossibly long. We found my friend, Heather (who was running the first two legs of the marathon relay), in front of the capital building and I started stretching out. Bruce took some photos (funny how he quickly took on my typical role!), and we met a woman from Florida who, at age 47, was 4 states short of being a “50 stater”. Her goal was to finish all by the time she turns 50. Pretty cool. We soon saw my friend, Lisa, who would also be running the half.
Heather and Amie
Heather ran to benefit breast cancer awareness. Bruce liked her "Save The Boobies" shirt.

Amie and Lisa

I met a friend of Lisa’s whose group had T-shirts that read “Suffer now, Strut later”. I loved that! I felt like that pretty much summed it up! Although, I realize that much of the suffering took place during the preceding six months of training. It was now after 10am and the race was not starting. A few minutes later, a woman with a beautiful operatic voice sang The National Anthem. I am always moved by such a performance! It was now time to make our way past the many spectators who were between us and the start, and the race began! It was cool to see another friend, Tracy, as the race started. We moved slowly at first…really just a walk and eventually a jog. It was still really crowded all the way around Bushnell Park, and we were being carried by the crowd. Soon Heather plugged in her ear buds and was off to “be anti-social”. Lisa and I stuck together all the way over the Founder’s Bridge into E. Hartford when I made my first stop for a Porta-Potty. I quickly realized that there were 3 available, and with a line of 6 women in front of me….I was not willing to make that long of a stop. Before long, I caught back up with Lisa. I mentioned my need aloud, and another runner pointed out that up ahead there would be another set of Porta-Pottys down in the boat launch area that should still be set up…..though off the race course and down a hill, it seemed like my best option. I knew I would not be comfortable over the next 10 ½ miles without such a stop, so I went for it. Just as I did, I noticed several other people dashing down for the same purpose! UGH, I was too late and had to wait, but I was the first in line, so it was a relatively quick stop. I was back on track! Just around this time, though having taken care of my most pressing discomfort, I started to notice that a toe on my left foot was bothering me. I had also forgotten to start Bruce’s watch that I was borrowing, and already missed the one mile mark, tried to re-set it at the 2 mile mark, but messed up again! Already, I was making rookie mistakes that I had been warned about, but did anyway!! I decided to just watch for the next mile marker and totally re-set the watch. My big concern, and therefore my need for the watch, was to be sure that I was not being “carried” by the crowd to the point that I was running at too fast of a pace that I may not be able to maintain for the duration of the race. Before we headed back onto the Founder’s Bridge back into Hartford, I ran by my friend Mark. He was doing pretty well except that his knees were bothering him a bit. I told him of my frustration with the watch, and he told me we were at a 9:50 pace at that time, so that was good news, as I wanted to be between 9:40 and 10:00 pace. I decided at that point that I would just run, and not worry about the watch any more. I saw Bruce and our friend Carol for a third time in this loop just before I went on the on-ramp to go back over the bridge. With all of my problems and concerns “in check”, I felt like this was the time when I really entered the race. I was thrilled by all of the wonderful spectators out to support the runners. There were cowbells, signs, cheers and more! It truly was the best part of the race, along with the various music all along the race course. There were bands, DJs, bag-pipers, and drummers. I caught up with and ran with Lisa again for a short time as we headed down toward the Meadows, so that was great.

One of the most touching moments was when I was cheered on by a woman on a corner, by herself in a wheelchair, clapping and shouting words of encouragement to the runners. How cool is that?!! Around another corner, and down toward the river I saw a woman with a sign that said “Run One with God”. I told her it was the best sign I’d seen all day. Running along the river in the “Riverfront Recapture” park area was really calming. It reminded me of all of the places I ran on vacation this summer near water……Niagra Falls, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior…….it was cool. I got to see Bruce and Carol again after going under the bridge. I was feeling pretty good and strong, except that by this time I realized that there was something more wrong with my toe than just a nail cutting a toe, and it really hurt a lot. Luckily, though, the endorphins were dulling the pain, and I was actually enjoying the run. The turn away from the river brought more cool signs, one pointing out “U R truly blessed”. Yes, indeed. Many other professionally printed signs had famous inspirational quotes and it was a needed boost, as I was starting to feel a bit tired (now just under 10 miles). We head out and around to the Park St. neighborhood. Boy, were there a lot of people hanging out on the streets looking out in amazement at the crazy people running down their street! There was another DJ there with a bunch of guys grooving to the music, one of whom was running enthusiastically in place. I shouted to him that he aught to be in the race! What a big smile I got in return! Soon I was joined by Bruce and Carol, who actually ran with me for several blocks. Bruce had our camera with him in a black case, and another runner asked him if he was carrying his lunch box! Funny! That was a great boost as they were checking in with me to make sure I was feeling good and strong and able to finish out the last 3+ miles. Once they left me, I realized it would be the hardest part of the race, as it was nearly impossible to ignore my throbbing toe and it was now the longest distance I had run in my life! I ran up behind a group of three men who were chanting out some military cadence, and it was just what I needed to pick me up again. I soon realized that I was heading in the direction of Bushnell Park, and the end was in sight. I asked some volunteers handing out water what mile we were at, and they said 11 ½! I thought, “this is the homestretch….I am so close!!”. There were so many more people once we came around to circle the last part of Bushnell Park, I saw Bruce and Carol again, and knew it was even closer! Once I ran by them, I would loop toward the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and it never looked so beautiful! The crowds were thick and things went into slow motion. I had a little bit of kick left in me, so I went for it and finished strongly. My official time was 2:10:45.

Check out my medal!

What a great feeling of accomplishment. After I got through the shoot having received a really cool medal and an ING “Finisher” water bottle, I connected with Bruce and Carol. It was so neat to feel what it is like on what has (up until today) been the flip side of the coin for Bruce. We made our way through the crowds and I had the opportunity to take off my shoe to see just what was up with me toe. My 2nd toenail (next to the big toe) was separated off of my toe and it was bleeding pretty nicely! Well, that explains the pain. The good news: sandal season is over! I had really hoped to finish the half before the first marathon runner came across the finish line, and having reached that goal, we went over to see the top finishers approaching. How amazing! We wound up seeing a few friends and enjoyed the end of race atmosphere. I was so thirsty, and couldn't wait to have some cold water. Once that task was accomplished, I got in line to get some food. My friend Mark found me, and we waited in the LONG line together. The food tent was awesome, and though I didn’t feel very hungry……I managed to eat just fine. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Six more months until a full marathon?!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vermont 100 Race Report

The Vermont 100 Endurance Challenge is an ultra marathon (and horse race at the same time on the same course) held in and around the Woodstock, VT area that includes over 14,000 feet of elevation gain on approximately 70 miles of dirt roads and 30 miles of trails. This course that contains incredibly beautiful views and picturesque farms would be the setting for my first attempt at a 100 miler.

Amie and the kids checked in at a local B&B while I checked in at the race with the medical staff who performed a mandatory pre-race check of my weight and blood pressure. Both were unusually high. There are three locations throughout the course were I'd be weighed, and allowed to go on as long as weight loss didn't exceed 7% of my pre-race number.

I met my pacer, Dave, and then caught up with Mark, Scott, and Mary who would be running the race and Clint who would be crewing and pacing Mark. After a good dinner in Woodstock and ice cream for the kids we headed back to Silver Hill Meadow to camp for the night while Amie, Amy, and the kids headed back to the B&B.

The forecast called for overnight rain that would continue through race day and diminish in intensity as the day continued. Sleep was intermittent as the sounds of the night included rain dancing on the tent, the cries of a baby, snores through the camping area, a relentless frog's croaking, and even a car alarm around midnight. While getting prepped in the tent after a 3am wake up we welcomed Keith who was sidelined from the race due to injury but made the surprise trip from Boston to support us...very cool. After making our way down to the starting area to check in my next surprise was seeing Amie wearing a huge smile of excitement, a welcomed sight indeed. The race folks honored my request to be re-weighed and the efforts were fruitful as my new pre-race weight that would be referenced through the day was 4 pounds less than previously recorded.

Mary, Scott, Bruce, Mark

At 4am the countdown from 10 ended at one and the race began with hooting and hollering as 249 individuals, with lights to shine the way, were on their way to tackling 100 miles. I carried a pace chart on me to track my progress towards a target of 22:15, which would give me almost a two hour buffer to hit 24 hours if needed. Mark, Scott, and I moved steadily along putting time in the bank as we comfortably moved ahead of pace. We engaged others in conversation and at one point were running in a group of about 8.

The course has 29 aid stations where runners have access to water and sports drink, and many also have a variety of foods including oranges, bananas, pb&j quarters, watermelon, soda, candy, etc...9 of the stations allowed handler access which allows runners access to items in drop bags and help from "crew" members. These handler stations are typically where spectators congregate, many waiting to assist their runners.

Mark moved slightly ahead prior to the first handler aid station at Pretty House, mile 21. As Scott and I came into Pretty House I felt like a rock star with all the cheering and support from those gathered around, simply incredible. Dave filled my bottles as I changed my shirt and reloaded my supply of gels and salt. I found going through the handler aid stations incredibly uplifting the entire day(s).

Scott and Bruce arriving at Stage Rd

At this point the clouds cleared, sun came out and I was about 30 minutes ahead of pace so Scott and I settled into a nice rhythm taking us down to the next handler station, Stage Rd at mile 31. Life was good. The crowd was large, loud, and impressive and once again, left me feeling like a rock star. Dave was right there filling my bottles and Clint and Keith were helpful in assisting with our drop bags. I had not realized that I was starting to fatigue until I left with incredible energy after seeing these guys and coming through the aid area. Shortly after this Scott and I parted and I was solo, but not for long.

I didn't expect to enjoy myself as much as I did during this race. The countryside was beautiful and the people were incredible. I had a great time joking with the aid station volunteers. I found myself with a heightened sense of gratitude the whole time. I met and became friends with Mark and Scott a couple years ago as they were starting their quest into ultra marathons. They've been a great help to me and you couldn't ask for better guys to train and enjoy these events with. Keith surprised us with a trip from Boston to help out and his encouragement along the way was priceless. Clint's been a great training partner as well and made some adjustments for the greater good. My wife, Amie, is simply awesome. She's been so enthusiastically supportive, I'm so fortunate. She surprised me at the start, and I saw her several times along the way, and of course at the finish, beaming with pride. My daughters even seemed to enjoy seeing daddy "looking so strong" (their words) as mom dragged them around to see dad. I was the recipient of several calls and texts from friends the day before the race wishing me well. The aid station volunteers gave their time, asserted their assistance, and were encouraging. Mark's family cheered and helped care for the kids. Dave, a stranger who agreed to pace me. Dani came over to the race to show her support as I came through Margaritaville. Seeing Shannon later in the race was refreshing. And of course, there's the other runners.

During this next section I had the pleasure of meeting Brian from San Diego, Brian from Oregon, and John from Virginia. They are amazing guys and it was great to hear of their past ultra adventures, future plans, and personal lives. Running and talking with these guys and others I would meet were a big factor in my enjoyment level throughout the day. At one point I was running alone and experienced delirium recognition #1 - the Christmas song "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" kept playing over and over in my mind.

The primary handler aid station, Camp 10 Bear, is used at mile 47 and 70. I came in with John 30 minutes ahead of schedule, feeling strong, and once again the crowd was uplifting. As the head physician pulled me aside I remembered Mark's words of advice "keep on your running pack and water bottles for extra weight". The conversation went something like this:

Physician - "We need to weigh you, can you please take off your running pack and water bottles".

Me - "Wow, you are good, you know all the tricks"

Physician - "What's your name?"

This is where delirium recognition #2 took place.

Me - "#81..(no, that's my number..I know this one, oh yeah)..Bruce"

Physician - "What did you weigh before the race?"

Me - (I know this one too, oh yeah) "164"

Physician - "And that's what you weigh right now. We're done with you"

I felt like I just aced a final exam. The attention I received at the handler station was impressive as Amie, the girls, Clint, Dave, and Keith helped with a change of shoes, socks, shirt, and band aids for my bloody nipples. We shared some laughs, I grabbed some food and kisses and off and running after a quick stop.

Just up the road, near the B&B I had the pleasure of being cheered on by Mark's family. Still strong, I was holding up fine with the exception of some skin irritations that I attended to with applications of Vaseline. Was alone a bit during the next 23 miles, but spent some time with John from Colorado, an experienced Leadville 100 runner (8 times) and Ramon who's competed in several Ironman triathlons. Our paces were similar and our finishing times were somewhat close. Delirium recognition #3 occurred during this section. I had finished applying lube, wiping my hand on my shorts, and headed into an aid station where I quickly grabbed a delicious half turkey sandwich and moved along. When I was done I realized I was eating with my lube hand, no mayo needed on that piece.

The rock star with his number 1 fan at Margaritaville

At mile 69 I came upon the B&B and was welcomed by Mark's parents, his wife Amy, and all of our kids who ran with me a bit. Another mile down the road I hit Camp 10 Bear and came in feeling surprisingly well and 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Amie helped with a change of socks, shoes, shirt and shorts. We made arrangements for my pacer, Dave, to meet me at mile 77. I grabbed some food and off I went to tackle the final 30 miles at about 6:30.

I was alone for the long and steep ascent out of Camp 10 Bear. The first thing I saw at the top of the climb was a runner vomiting and his pacer waiting with empathy. The next thing I saw was another runner vomiting on all fours, and his pacer waiting patiently. This was a reminder that even though the day had been going very well and I was 70% done, I still had 30 miles to go and anything could happen.

I made it to West Winds, mile 77 at about dusk, said hello to Shannon, Amie, the kids, had some laughs with the aid station folks, grabbed some food and pacer Dave and proceeded on the journey. We moved along well until we hit mile 84 and my pace slowed as my quads were suffering and we hit some steep ups and downs, giving up the extra 30 minutes I'd been carrying most of the day. It was dark now and we were treated to a beautiful star filled sky for the remainder of our race.

We came into Bill's at mile 88 and chatted with Shannon as I was weighed again (still at 164, sweet). A large contingency of runners had gathered and seemed to be taking their time before leaving as the atmosphere was celebratory with the scent of the finish line in the air. Had some chicken broth, other food, and moved on.

Even though our pace slowed we were moving strong and were able to pick up the pace a little at mile 95 as the terrain was flat. With a couple miles left you could hear the roars of the spectators at the finish line. This caused the pace to pick up and after some zig zagging through the woods, I could see a clearing up ahead and was asked by a stranger in the night, "What's your number?", "81", he announced "#81 coming in". I let out my victory yell as I entered the clearing then ran to the finish to the cheers of those gathered waiting for their runners. My official time was 22:57. As Amie and Clint congratulated me, Amie asked "How do you feel?", my response "DONE". After some food and a change of clothes is was back to the B&B for a couple hours sleep.


Clint and Mark at finish

Mark ran strong and finished just over 21 hours.

Scott was on pace for his 22 1/2 hour goal until mile 70 when he started having some major issues that ended up leading him on an amazing experience. He overcame much and persevered to finish in 27:20.

After a fantastic breakfast with Mark and his family we headed over to the awards ceremony, chatted with those we met during the journey to hear the rest of their stories, received our awards and headed home. What a weekend.

100 miles is a long way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vermont 100

I recently arrived home from the Vermont 100 and will work on a race report to share. It was a great experience and the enjoyment far exceeded my expectations. My goal was to finish in less than 24 hours and my official time was 22:57.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nipmuck Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Nipmuck marathon, which is considered the preeminent trail race in the area. It's been months since I've run single track trails, and running the Nipmuck race was a good welcome back.

After parking on the access road I was making my way to check in when I saw someone bent down and liberally applying lube to his inner thighs. "He should be well protected, he looks familiar, it's Mark." I checked in, dropped off my gallon of water (entrance requirement) and briefly looked for Dave who would be pacing in the VT100. I was looking for the opportunity to meet this stranger who will be guiding me 30 miles through the darkness of VT. The registration folks gave me his bib # with hopes of connecting later. As Mark and I finished prepping, Clint came through and it was time for the race director's pre-race instruction and warnings. Nipmuck Dave does not let the opportunity to entertain pass by, as this year he, and his back up singers, performed a parity of Michael Jackson's "Black and White" called "Fast or Slow".

Photos courtesy of Nipmuck Dave. Unexpectedly received via email. Thanks Dave.

The race starts with about 50 yards of pavement to spread the pack a bit before hitting the trails. Mark, Clint and I cruised the early section to avoid the impending bottleneck. We ran right along, my breathing heavier than expected, not sure if the pace was quicker than I realized or just some struggles. After a few miles we moved well at a comfortable pace and found ourselves behind the lead pack and in front of the remainder of the field, so not seeing others except for some time running with and sharing plans and experiences with Frank. We hit the 6 mile mark and first turn around at about 55 minutes and started retracing back, going the opposite direction of oncoming runners, which is fun stuff. We continued to cruise and I fell off the pack which was fine as there were still many miles ahead. I came through the start area at about 1:54, refueled and headed out the next out and back section of 7 miles. I moved along fairly well without others until about the 17 mile mark when the slight inclines seemed to a challenge to climb. My pace slowed and I started to see others now headed my direction so the next turn around could not be far. I made the turn and the course continued to slow my pace more than I thought it should. I continued to look for Pacer Dave by his bib #, which was 246. or was it 234, or 242? Mental capacity waning, I'd get passed every once in a while, but pressed on to the finish at a diminishing pace.

Nipmuck is a challenging and fun course. I came into the race feeling strong, expecting to shatter last year's time of 5:04, I left with a time of 4:54 wondering what happened....Regardless, it was Nipmuck, great to be back on the trails, running trail races, and having a great time. Mark finished at 4:01 and Clint at 4:50.

PS..Dave...Look forward to meeting you in VT. Thanks in advance..

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Training Run

I've been pleased with my recovery since Sunday's race. The slight soreness experienced going up and down stairs was gone by Wednesday. The rains kept me from running on Wednesday and I ignored the alarm clock and slept in on Thursday, forgoing my planned run. I can't remember the last time rain or the comfort of my bed successfully tempted me into avoiding a workout, but I didn't think twice this week. I ran a short trail run on Friday to test my ankle and legs and both held up fine.

Saturday's run had something for everyone. Mark looking to get in about 30 miles left home about 5am and ran the 7 plus miles to my house, in blazing time. We continued on the roads of Tolland to Shenipsit Lake Rd where we ran into Clint who joined in for the remainder of the run which took us on dirt and paved roads up and down some good hills through Ellington, Somers, by Soapstone Mtn, Crystal Lake and finished off at Mark's house. Refueled at a convenience store in Somers and bio break at Soapstone. Our pace was consistently strong throughout. The legs felt fatigued but held up well and actually felt better as the miles clicked away.

About 23 miles for me and a good training run for all.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pinleland Farms Trail Challenge

Last week I registered for the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50 miler in New Gloucester, ME, located about 15 miles north of Portland. Amie made arrangements for our family to stay in Freeport and make it a Memorial Day weekend getaway.

We made the 3 hour trip to Portland on Saturday and stopped by the Maine Running Company where I picked up my race number, race shirt and the kids were given rub on tattoos of the race logo. After lunch on Commercial St in Portland, checking in at our hotel in Freeport and a walk through LL Bean we met up with Clint who arrived from CT to run his first 50 mile ultra race.

We went to a local Italian eatery for dinner to carbo load and discuss the next day's plans. While talking about the race and my upcoming plans for a 100 miler this summer, my daughter Lora asked "Daddy, what if you die?" My response was "It'll cost less for the family to go out for dinner." I assured and promised her that I would not die while running ultra races, and I hope it's a commitment I can keep. Then my daughter Emma had a question for me that she was a little hesitant for other's to hear, but eventually let it out. "Can I run the race with you tomorrow?"

Clint and I checked our drop bags and made final preparations so that we could get out the door quickly in the morning. During this process I recalled that when Scott and I ran an aid station at the Northern Nipmuck trail race earlier this year we recognized that many of the front runners had "ink", and now it was my time. Lora, experienced at the art of press ons, skillfully applied the race logo tattoo on my bicep..perfect, now I was ready!

After a 4:45 wake up, stop at D&D, and short drive we had arrived at Pineland Farms. A quick pre race briefing by the race directors and we were off and running. I felt comfortable and strong heading into the race and focused on using it as training for the VT100 with plans to:

  • make stops at the aid stations as quick as possible
  • try eating a variety of foods from the aid stations to determine what's best for me
  • run a steady pace throughout and not go out too quick
  • complete without compromising my ankle/foot that has given me issues
  • use my Go-Lite double water bottle pack the whole time, even though unnecessary

The first 10 miles or so Clint and I talked with several of the other runners and learned that many were using the race as training for upcoming 100 milers...many for Vermont 100, one for Western States 100, and another for Cascade 100. We ran comfortably and finished the first loop, at 19 miles, and re-loaded with supplies from our drop bags and I grabbed some kisses from my "crew" of Amie, Lora, Katherine and Emma. Clint and I parted about the halfway point as our paces were starting to vary. A couple of miles later I had a pleasant surprise, I ran into Steve Nelson (finished 4th last year) who was there in support of another runner, we ran a bit, chatted, and moved on.


19 down and feeling good

To this point everything was falling in line. I was quick at the aid stations. I tried all foods offered including PB&J, oranges, watermelon, M&Ms, Skittles, boiled potato with salt, Coke, Mountain Dew, pretzels, etc...and didn't have issues with any of them but tended to favor oranges and PB&J. My ankle felt really good and my pace was steady.

As I finished my 2nd of 3 loops and came by the start/finish line my energy levels increased as I was greeted again by my crew who helped me re-load with salt and gels. After another round of kisses and being told that I smell, I moved on. 35 miles down and 15 to go.

At this point I had not seen another 50 miler in 10 miles so I decided to turn on my MP3 player and enjoy some freshly loaded tunes. I inserted the buds, turned on the player, enjoyed about 10 seconds of music, and it went dead. After fussing with it for too long I gave up on it. Oh well...I opened up my pack to take out a package of Accelerade to mix into my water and realized I didn't grab any out of my drop bag on the way through....Oh well, time to adjust, Gatorade and water to drink and PB&J for protein.

As delirium started setting in I heard dogs barking and some one yell "get em". As I turned I saw a couple of dogs back on the path flying towards me. I increased my pace as I thought I was an escapee on a prison break in an action thriller and was being hunted down by guards and their dogs. The dogs were harnessed to their masters almost pulling them along, and they cruised right by me. A second came by, then a third, etc..I learned that this was part of the 4K Canicross race happening the same time. Very interesting..

Now on my third lap through the rolling hills were becoming more of a challenge and my pace started to slow. At this point I still felt fairly good and pushed but my legs didn't seem to be moving as quickly as I had thought they should be. With a couple of miles left the rains stopped, clouds cleared, and it was sunny for the first time in the race. As I neared the area before the finish line my crew cheered for me and Lora, Katherine, and Emma ran with me.

Emma stayed with me right to the end as we held hands and ran to the finish line. She got what she wanted, to run the race with dad, and I couldn't have been happier.

Total time was 8 hours and 39 minutes.

85 runners started, 76 finished, I was 22nd.

Coming through the finisher's chute I (actually Emma) was handed a golden cowbell for finishing, as well as pint glass with the race logo and a very comfortable Innov 8 running hat. We enjoyed the post activities with some grub, live music, and a great time talking with others.

Clint came through at about 9:30 for the completion of his first 50 miler, great job.... We shared our experiences of the day, watched the awards ceremony, showered, and called it a day as Clint headed back to CT and we went out for a seafood dinner and then back to the hotel for some swimming with the kids and time in the hot tub.

Hats off to the race directors as the race was very well organized, the course was well marked, aid stations were well stocked, aid workers were enthusiastic and helpful, post race activities were right on, and the swag was exceptional.

Monday ended up being such a nice day we decided to head to Old Orchard Beach on the way home for a few hours of fun at the shore. All in all, a great weekend.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

50 Miler --- DNS

There are two well known acronym's in endurance races....DNF, Did Not Finish, for those who start and don't finish and DNS, Did Not Start, enough said. My list of DNS's is starting to grow more than I"d prefer. Yesterday was the North Face Endurance 50 Challenge at Bear Mtn in New York. Scott and Mark made the journey without me as I made the decision that it would be in my best interest to "DNS". I've had some issues with my right foot, that with attention has brought me from walking with a limp 4 weeks ago to being able to continue running on stable surfaces, including a 30 mile training run just yesterday. The North Face Endurance Challenge is a 50 mile race on single track trails over some good elevation changes and has a reputation as one of the more challenging races in the area. Last year 18 of the 86 starters finished the race. As my foot issues have improved I've gone from running slow on the flats only, to being able to run the hills at a quicker pace, but it's wasn't quite ready for 50 miles of single track. Keeping my eye on greater challenges planned for this year, it was in my best interest to "DNS" (not an easy decision, look at me mature).

I've been training about 50-60 miles per week and continue making progress. The Vermont 100 Endurance race is just over 2 months away and my weekly miles will continue to increase. I expect to run in a 50 miler in the near future and march on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What are your plans for 2009?

This question has been asked of me often over the past weeks.

I initially started this blog as a way to share some experiences with friends and family who've inquired about my races. Since I haven't posted in a while (since the VT50) many have wondered "What are your plans for 2009?" and "Are you still training/running/biking/swimming?".

I generally use this space to give race reports and since I have not actually started the last two races I've registered, I thought I'd give an update. I had plans to run the StoneCat 50 in November of 2008 and did not participate as I spent the day celebrating a life, at a memorial service. I then set my sights on the Hyannis Marathon using focused training to improve speed and see how much I could reduce my best marathon time. My training combined weekly long runs, intervals at the track, and some standard 5 to 8 mile maintenance runs. As my training progressed I was conscious of some discomforts and wrote them off to typical tweaks that I could run through. Well, discomfort turned to pain and after seeing an Orthepedic I landed in physical therapy to strengthen my hip and address issues with my IT band, which landed me out to the Hyannis Marathon in February. This was the best thing that could have happened. I became very diligent and disciplined in doing daily strengthening exercises and stretching, emerging much stronger from the experience, which will provide great benefits in nailing this year's plans.

In seeking a new challenge for 2009 I had my sights set on either an Ironman distance triathlon or ultra marathons. As I explored Ironman options my decision was made for me as these events are "sold out" a year in advance, which is amazing. Since volunteering at an Ironman event guarantees entry into the following year's race, I was planning to spend a July weekend helping out at this year's Lake Placid event which would enable me to register for 2010. Sounds like a good plan, right? I thought so too, until I found out last week that the volunteer slots have "filled" for this year...Are you kidding me? I have to plan 2 year's in advance to do an Ironman?

Ultra marathons it is. Which ones? Thoughts went something like this........I did a 50miler in September, maybe I'll tackle 5 or 6 50 milers this year. But I've already done a 50 miler, maybe it's time for a new challenge......The next real distance beyond 50 miles is a 100 miler.....It's hard to imagine it's possible......I like the idea of the challenge, just not the running part of it, as 100 miles will be painful.....100 miler it is.

I'm officially registered for the VT100 on July 18th and 19th. You know it's a long race when the date is expressed in days. In my opinion my athletic make up is average. I believe that with the proper preparations an "average" person can accomplish many things that most consider out of reach. My focus has been to keep myself injury free and improve my endurance level by making sure I get in a weekly long run.

I've hooked up with Scott and Mark the past several weekends for long runs as they are also training (their 2nd) for the VT100. Clint has also joined in as he considers a 100 miler this fall. The runs have been between 22-26 miles and will increase in distance. I've recovered well from the long runs which is a good sign. My plan is to hit peak training distance of 50 miles 2 months before the race which puts it in May. The timing coincides with some 50 mile ultra races, so I'm signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge50 at Bear Mountain in NY, which is my planned next race.

When posting I wonder if anyone reads these things. Don't hesitate to comment so I know this blog isn't just me talking to myself, which would make me question my mental well being...