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One Month – Two Races

The two races I ran in December and some friendly prodding have motivated me return to the blog. Since it has been a year since I last posted anything, the 2011 year in review post, this will serve as a year in review post as well.

The 2012 Tecumseh Trail Marathon was run on December 1st. This would be my fifth time to run this race. It would have been my sixth but last year I pulled my calf muscle two days before the race and couldn’t run it. The weather in December in Indiana can vary greatly from year to year or even from week to week as was the case this year. I’ve run Tecumseh in freezing cold and in more moderate temps. This year was by far the warmest ever. I believe the high in Bloomington that day was in the low 70’s. It wasn’t quite that warm in the morning. As I was waiting for the bus to take me to the start, I was shivering in my long sleeve shirt and gloves. At the start it was noticeably warmer but I was still wearing the gloves but they came off only a few miles into the run. Somewhere between 5 and 10 miles I couldn’t take the heat anymore and the shirt came off. It was a brand new shirt too. No way I was not going to discard it so I rolled it up and tied it around my waist.

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Around mile 12 of Tecumseh, still feeling great.

I was attempting a PR for Tecumseh and was doing fairly well with that goal until the aid station at 22-1/4 miles. That is when the excessive warmth had taken its toll. I was dehydrated and nauseous, sodium level too low. Those last few miles were a struggle but I think I ran more than I walked. Finally hit the finish line at 4:37:16. Not bad, but not a record. I missed by less than 5 minutes.

Fast forward to December 29th and the HUFF 50k. Here is the 2011 HUFF report. Just 28 days after the Tecumseh heat wave, the HUFF started with temps in the mid 20’s. Not sure what the high temp reached but guessing it was low 30’s, very low, like 31 or 32 maybe. The HUFF 50k consists of two laps of a 15.6 mile course. Unlike the 2011 HUFF, the 2012 HUFF had no high water and no mud. It did have about 6 inches of snow. The snow was partially packed down for the first lap and completely packed down for the second lap.

I probably ran the first lap too fast. Actually my time for the first lap was about right but unfortunately that time included a little excursion I made. Somewhere around 13 miles or so I missed a turn and wound up running an extra quarter mile or so. That doesn’t sound like much but once I got back on course I foolishly ran a little too fast thinking I was going to make up for the lost time. Dumb. Right after getting back on course I passed some of my friends. If I had just stayed behind them the whole time I would have reached that point sooner and been fresher. Dumb.

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HUFF 50k somewhere late in the race. You can tell from my “smile” that I am suffering just a little.

I felt ok until about five or six miles into the second loop. From then on it was a challenge. The thought of beating 6 hours was my only motivation. I almost gave up on that but kept pushing myself. This year they didn’t have the miles marked so I never knew where I was until around the 12 mile mark. I remembered that spot because that is where the really deep water was last year. I didn’t think I had enough time to beat 6 hours but did not give up on beating last year’s time so I kept pushing myself. From the last aid station you can see the finish. I didn’t think it was very far but I wasn’t moving very fast but didn’t stop at the aid station and I gave up walking, running all the way to the finish. Final time 5:56:04. Not quite as good as I had hoped but better than last year and under 6 hours.

Now for the year in review stuff. 2012 had some highs and some lows. I’ll start with a couple of the lows, two DNF’s. The first DNF was at the Planet Adventure Winter Marathon in January. It’s a night marathon so not only was it cold but it was also dark. Dark and muddy, wet sloppy mud. Anyway, the course was a 6.55 mile loop and after three trips through the mud and water I was finished. The temperature had dipped below freezing by this point and I had no desire to go through the mud and water again. This was the first and hopefully last time I ever DNF’ed a marathon. Just today I signed up for the 2013 event on January 26th. I plan to finish this year, mud and water or not. The other DNF was at the Planet Adventure Winona Lake 50 miler on April 14th. This was a 10 mile loop course. I ran the first three laps a little too fast. After a much slower fourth lap I lost the desire to go for another lap. Did I mention in was pouring rain for much of the first three laps. Anyway it was going to be dark soon and I was done. A DNF is never fun but rather than focus on not making it to the finish I will focus on the fact that I ran 40 miles in 8 hours 10 minutes.

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Greg with Angel’s Landing in the background.

Now for a couple of the highs. The first was the Howl at the Moon 8 hour run on August 11th in Illinois. For August it was relatively cool with low humidity so the conditions could not have been better. The course is a 3.29 mile loop. You run as many laps as you can in 8 hours. With 30 minutes to go you can switch to a .5 mile out and back course. I finished 12 laps (39.48 miles) with about 45 minutes to go, possible enough time to complete a full lap but was not willing to take the chance so I rested for 15 minutes. Then with 30 minutes to go I completed 5 of the short laps with just about 5 minutes left. In theory that was enough time for one more lap but I didn’t have another 5 minute half mile in me. Total distance in 8 hours 41.98 miles.

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Wall of Windows at Bryce Canyon.

The other high of 2012 was the trip out to Zion National Park the last weekend in October. The trip included a stop at the Hoover Dam, Bryce Canyon, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Coconino Overlook, North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon.

Coconino Overlook, North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon.

The plan for Zion was to run across the park, 48 miles. It was beautiful and much more challenging than I anticipated. We started at 5 am so it was dark for the first couple hours. I don’t think there was much to see in that initial section. It was light by the time we made the descent into the main canyon. What a beautiful place. God did some awesome work there. As the day wore on it got quite warm. I made the mistake of not filling my water bladder in the canyon. By the time I reached our stash of food and water I was already dehydrated. Plus I didn’t have the key to the car. The key was with Mike S. who was maybe 20 or 30 minutes behind me. Luckily for me Matt, from crewmyrun, was there and he gave me some food and a bottle of water. Matt is also the race director for the Zion 100

Moonrise, somewhere in southern Utah.

Moonrise, somewhere in southern Utah.

which Mike S. had run. After a long rest at the 27 mile mark, six of the original 11 runners headed out for the 9 mile trek to the next water drop where Mike D’s wife was waiting in her car. Tom was not feeling very good so I stayed back with him. We walked much of the 9 miles. By the time we reached the car,12 hours and 35 miles after starting I was finished. It would be dark again before I could finish the full 48 miles. Probably a smart decision, as bad as I felt I’m not sure I could have finished the last 13 miles and there really was not other option but to finish if you started. Still a fun, challenging, and beautiful run. Weather was postcard perfect.

Overall 2012 was a pretty good year, praise God. I finished up with 1215 miles which was down from last year but still a good total for me. In 2013 my only goal is to stay healthy and finish my first 100 miler on April 21st.

2011 What An Awesome Year!

How Great is our God!

2011 was a spectacularly awesome year. As He always is, God was very good to me. I spent almost all of January in China so as far as running is concerned the year started out a little slow. In January I ran a total of only 30.5 miles. By year-end though my total mileage reached 1500 miles, the most ever in a year. I ran in 22 races including the Grand Canyon which wasn’t technically a race. I set five PR’s in five different distances, two on the road and three on the trails . Yes overall it was a great year. I was blessed beyond measure.

I hit the ground running in February. I ran two races in the same day on February 19th. I had never done that before. I wasn’t very fast but not as slow as I feared I might be after all the time spent in China.

In March I found some speed and ran my second fastest 5k at the Big Ten Hoops 5k. This was the day after running a 15k trail race at Eagle Creek.

In April I ran another 15k trail race and I also run the River to River Relay in Illinois. I ran very well at both races but apparently wasn’t motivated to write about either race.

I got my writing mojo back in May. I ran the Dances With Dirt 50k. I ran a good race but the real story wasn’t about a race.

June and July were relatively quiet. A couple of races but again nothing to write about.

Then in August after two years I finally made another attempt at a 50 miler. The Beast of Burden was a good race for me. It was a great experience and it convinced me that I need to attempt a 100 miler.

In September the big event was the Blue Ridge Relay. My heart is beating faster now just thinking about it!

October! Wow! In October I ran the Grand Canyon, Rim2Rim2Rim! I can’t even imagine how I will ever top that. I also ran the Bourbon Chase relay again. It was fun for sure but after Rim2Rim2Rim I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it.  After the Bourbon Chase I ran a PR for a trail half marathon at the Knobstone Mini which I did write about.

November was another good month with a couple more PR’s. One in the 4.5 mile Drumstick Dash and the other at the IMM.

December started off a little disappointing. I was primed to run a great race at the Tecumseh Trail Marathon but two days before the race I strained my calf and just couldn’t do it. Two weeks later I was ready to go for the HUFF 50k which was an epic event.

HUFF 50k

Last Saturday I ran the HUFF 50k at Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Albion, Indiana. Just two weeks earlier I had to skip running the Tecumseh Trail Marathon because of a strained calf. This time the day before the HUFF I had some serious sinus issues that threatened to sideline me again. Fortunately on race morning I was able to make it to the starting line.

I wasn’t expecting much and didn’t have any serious pre-race goal. I thought I would just take it easy and see what happened. Well, taking it easy didn’t last very long and by 10 miles into the race I was running at a pace to finish around 5 hours or so. That of course did not last. I started to slow down in the last 5 miles of the first loop and continued to slow in the second loop. I wound up running 2:44 for the first loop.

The conditions were not great. It was snowing at the start and continued to snow most of the day, nothing serious really just a few flakes in the air. The course was wet and muddy. For the second loop the mud was churned up and was much harder to run through. The video below shows the worst of the high water on the course. There were several other wet spots but none as bad as the one in the video.

 

My feet were completely numb each time after going through that. The second time through the ice cold water actually felt good on my sore legs.

The second loop was a struggle mentally. I was constantly fighting back thoughts of throwing in the towel but I kept going and after coming out of the water numb the second time around with only 3.6 miles to go I was re-energized a little thinking I might still beat 6 hours. Well that didn’t happen but still I feel good about my effort considering the conditions and my health at the time. My second loop time was 3:24 for a total time of 6:08:03.

Resting and recovering for a couple days then hitting it pretty hard. I’m still trying to hit 1500 miles for the year and need to run about 105 miles between now and December 31st.

Feeling Blessed and Thankful

Yeah, that's me, swift turkey.

In the past three weeks I’ve run three races and set three new personal records. On November 5th I set a new road marathon PR at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Then a week later I set a new PR for a DINO Series 15k at the Ft Harrison race. Finally on Thanksgiving Day I set a 4.5 mile PR at the Drumstick Dash. I feel especially fortunate for the last one because I had been fighting off a sinus infection and also my right calf had been pretty tight but everything worked out on race morning. The calf stayed loose and the sinus infection was almost completely cleared. And of course I couldn’t do any of this without the grace and mercy of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and also the love and support of family and friends.

Next Saturday I’m running the Tecumseh Trail Marathon for the 5th time and I’m really hoping to continue my streak and set a new PR there. The old PR of 4:32:55 dates back to the 2007 race. Physically and mentally I’m in much better condition than I was then but with a trail race that isn’t enough. The weather and trail conditions will be a big factor. So far the extended forecast is looking pretty good though. I have several friends who want to run with me during the race. That will be nice as long as we don’t get over excited and take off too fast. I’m cautiously optimistic about my chances of finishing between 4:00 and 4:15. We shall see. Whatever the outcome as always my prayer is that God would be glorified.

A Little Disappointment Amid Triumph

First let me make it clear that I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I have been and continue to be blessed in so many ways. I wake each morning and thank God for all He has done in my life. Most of all I just thank Him for being with me always.

Still I am human and sometimes can’t help but grumble just a little. I missed winning a singlet in the Dino series by ONE point. It was a major disappointment. I had my best year ever in the series. I ran in 6 of the 7 races placing first in my age group four times and second place two times. In Saturday’s race at Ft Harrison I finished 13th overall in 1:04:48, first in my age group beating my previous best time on this course by over a minute and lowering my trail 15k PR for the second time this year.  I started thinking that I wouldn’t run the series at all next year. I wasn’t mad at anyone or anything but was just discouraged by the whole situation.

This morning during my morning devotion time I quickly realized I needed to put an end to my personal pity party and adjust my attitude. I had made wanting that singlet into an idol. Was I running these races to get some silly singlet or was I running for pure pleasure? I run for pleasure not for rewards. I love the Dino series because it is fun not because I might win something. Yes, competing with other runners is part of the fun but whether I finish ahead of or behind some other runner isn’t important. When I run, especially on the dirt trails in the woods, I feel closer to God than in any other setting. Before every race I always pray that God would be glorified by my running that race. A healthy relationship with God, that is what matters most.

More Triumph!

Last weekend I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon for the third time. To make a long story short, I finished in 3:27:41. That was a new PR by almost 4 minutes and it was fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’m not really interested in actually running the Boston Marathon. I’m just not a fan of the big over hyped races. The way the registration works I’ll never get in any way because runners who beat their qualification time by 20 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 5 minutes get first crack at registration. I beat my qualification time by just a couple minutes so long before I am able to register the race will be sold out.

Knobstone Mini Marathon

After running the Grand Canyon and the Bourbon Chase relay on consecutive weekends I thought it might be a good idea to take some time to recover before running the Monumental Marathon on November 5th. Then after a weekend with no long run I started feeling good and figured I was primed to set a PR for a trail half marathon. So I decided to run the Knobstone Trail Mini Marathon this past Saturday. Recovery is overrated.

I had run this race twice. The first time was in 2005. I was a novice trail runner then and tripped and stumbled my way to a 2:12 finish time. I ran it again in 2007. I was a little more seasoned on the trails by then and ran a 1:56. Both physically and mentally I am in better shape now than I was in 2005 and 2007. My initial thoughts were that I could certainly do better than 1:50 and maybe if all conditions were perfect I might beat a 1:45. This is a fairly rugged trail with a few significant hills as well as an overabundance of roots and rocks patiently lying in wait to ruin your day. A couple of months ago one of my running buddies broke his hand while we were running on this trail. He hit a wet root just right and down he went. He was a trooper though and ran at least another 10 miles with a broken hand.

The weather Saturday morning was ideal; cool, clear, and calm. It seems like it had rained all week until Friday but the trail was pretty firm, virtually no mud and the creeks were low. In the first few miles on one of the downhill switchbacks there were lots of wet leaves on the trail so I was being a little cautious through that section. There was one other downhill switchback with wet leaves about 4 miles in, right before the trail crosses Low Gap Road. I used extra caution in this area as well. Other than those two sections the trail was in great shape.

I was determined to start strong and try to run hard all the way to the finish. As I was standing at the start line, I looked down and noticed the guy next to me wasn’t wearing any shoes. I said, hmm, no shoes. He said something about this being his first time on trails or this trail. Don’t remember exactly what he said. I could tell from the condition of his feet that he was used to running barefoot. I wished him luck. After a long speech by some member of the Hoosier Hikers Council we were off.

As planned I went out fast. Except for the tricky downhill sections with wet leaves I was running pretty hard most of the time. A couple times I would catch someone and then stay behind them for a time, catching my breath and waiting for a good spot to pass. I passed several people along the way. I caught up with Mr. Dino right where the Low Gap intersects with the Tecumseh course. At this point the Knobstone Mini is going the opposite direction along the initial gravel road section of the Tecumseh Trail Marathon. I’m guessing this was maybe 7 miles or so into the race. I still had a long way to go but was feeling good so I really hammered along this gravel road. There is a nice steep climb right after you cross back over Low Gap Road. I thought I might not have any gas left by the time I hit that hill but didn’t care. I was determined to push myself as hard as I could. If that meant burning out early then so be it. Turns out I had plenty of gas left as I powered my way up that hill and started to pick up the pace again as the hill started to level.

Eventually the course turns off the gravel road and back onto some single track. At this point there is around 4 miles to go and it’s in this section I started passing walkers and runners who were finishing up shorter distance races. Most of them were very polite and moved aside to allow easy passing. I was running behind two other guys doing the mini. I sort of wanted to run a little faster but took a few minutes to catch my breath. At about 10 miles the course leaves the Low Gap Trail and crosses over the road to the Mason Ridge trail. At this point I passed the two guys who were ahead of me. My watch said about 1:23 so I would have to run a final 5k (approximately) in about 22 minutes to beat 1:45. I felt good and though I could do it. I could smell the barn and adrenaline was taking over. When we do training runs we never run on Mason Ridge. I had forgotten how many roots there were and how technically challenging that section is. I rolled my right ankle so far around that I almost went down. The ankle felt fine but the jarring my left hip took worried me a little. There is a nice little hill on Mason Ridge and I really hammered it up the hill to work the kinks out of the left hip. As I reached the top of that hill I started to wonder if maybe that was a little too much hammering but by now I was close to crossing back over to the Low Gap Trail where I would retrace part of the trail I had already run over.

By now there were many runners to pass who were going through this section for the first time. Again most of them were very nice and allowed me to pass easily. At this point I was a man on a mission. I was determined to beat 1:45. As I was closing in on the finish I looked at my watch and saw a 1:43. I was still far from the finish and for a moment started to think beating 1:45 was out of the question. Just as quickly I started singing “Don’t Give Up”, a song by Shawn McDonald. I started pushing myself about as hard as I ever had at this point in a half marathon. There are about 4 steps to go up to get off the trail and onto the parking lot and road to the finish line. I groaned loudly as I pushed up those stairs. I could feel my calf starting to cramp. I hit the road and was pushing as hard as I could. I thought I might vomit. After 20 or 30 yards I could finally see the finish line and I thought no time to vomit, run faster. I crossed the line and hit the stop on my watch. I was breathing too hard to even look at my watch. After a few moment, still breathing hard I looked at my watch, it read 1:45:59. I just looked up at the sky, all choked up and silently said thank You, God. I did not beat 1:45 but I didn’t cross over into 1:46 and I beat my previous best time by 10 minutes. What a beautiful day to run through the woods.

Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim

On Friday morning we spent some time exploring the rim and doing some recon of the South Kaibab Trail

Native Americans called the area around the Grand Canyon, Kaibab which means mountain lying down. John Wesley Powell was the one-armed, Civil War veteran, geology professor, explorer who gave the Grand Canyon its current name.  Before Powell mapped the canyon, the few Americans who knew it existed referred to it as the Big Canyon or Great Canyon. I can imagine Powell thinking “Big” and “Great” did not do justice to the natural wonder. Grand doesn’t quite seem grand enough either but I suppose if we strung together all the appropriate adjectives, speaking the name might be as challenging as running the canyon from rim to rim to rim. South to north then back north to south is exactly what I and several of my friends did October 1st.

This wasn’t a race so I tried to tell myself there was no need to hurry, just take my time and enjoy it. Easier said than done. I was inspired and motivated. Once under way I could not quench the inner desire to see just how hard I could push myself. Our plan was to start out at 3am on the South Kaibab Trail. There were 13 runners in our group but Greg was planning to turn around at Phantom Ranch.  I was sharing a room at Maswik Lodge with Ray and Tom and we turned the lights out at 7:30. We had the alarm set for 2am. We had all our gear ready to go so we would just need to get up, get dressed, and drive to the trailhead. I woke up at 1am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I grabbed my cell phone to check my email. My daily devotional email was there so I read it. If you don’t think God speaks to us then you just aren’t paying attention. The devotion was based on Isaiah 40:31.

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

I was inspired before receiving this devotion but to get this verse on this morning was a huge boost.

Ray, Tom, and I were ready to go by 2:30. We were antsy so rather than sit in the room we drove to the trailhead and waited. The others showed up just before 3am. I was out of the car and ready to go. The few minutes the others took to get ready felt like hours. From where we parked it was nearly a mile to the trailhead. After a little more waiting at the trailhead we were finally on our way. Ray took the lead and I was right behind him. I didn’t think the pace was too fast but our group quickly spread out. We stopped after less than a mile at Ooh Aah Point to regroup. We stopped again at Cedar Ridge where there was a bathroom. Not really a “bathroom”, there was no running water but it was better than a port-a-potty. It was pitch black out and we had trouble finding the trail out of Cedar Ridge. Ray was in the lead again and once again the group was spreading out. After a short time both Ray and I stopped to pee again (third time in less than an hour). A few of the guys passed us and the pace slowed a little. We reached Black Bridge and crossed over the Colorado in about 2 hours.  Just a few minutes later we were at Phantom Ranch, 7.1 miles. We filled our water bladders and were waiting for the tail end of the group to catch up. After what seemed like an eternity, Ray and I couldn’t stand it anymore and we started up the trail toward Cottonwood Camp. Light was beginning to creep into the canyon so I stowed my headlamp and the handheld flashlight I was carrying.

L to R: Me, Ray, Tom, Rick

The trail between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Camp was all uphill but not very steep so we ran most of the way. After using the bathroom and loading up with water the rest of the group began to come in to Cottonwood Camp. Tom replenished his water supply and left with me and Ray. After Cottonwood Camp the trail was still not too steep so we continued to run most of the time. There was another bathroom and water source at Roaring Springs. This is where the trail starts to get a little steeper so the pace slowed as we were now walking more than running. At some point after leaving Roaring Springs we crossed paths with Rick and Bill, who were running from north to south. I think this is when Ray and I decided to unpack our trekking poles. Tom had started using his at Roaring Springs.

The sun was now shining brightly and it was beginning to warm up. There were plenty of places on the trail with shade and there was a cool breeze at times. The thermometer at Supai Tunnel said it was 80 degrees. From here there were only about 2 miles to the North Rim trailhead. The trail was very steep though this section. I was really pushing pretty hard taking full advantage of the trekking poles using my arms to take some of the work away from my legs. I started to pull away from Ray and Tom. I was carrying a prayer that a friend had written out for me (a copy, the original being too precious to risk losing). I found a nice shaded spot with a great view of the canyon below and stopped to read the prayer again.

…I pray Jeff will be captivated with all Your majestic beauty, he will see and be blanketed with Your love and peace…

The lyrics to Captivated, a song by Shawn McDonald were on the back of the paper so after reading the prayer I sang the song. Tom and Ray caught up to me and we continued our trek up to the rim. When I reached the trailhead I could not believe how good I felt. I have finished 20+ mile training runs and thought I might die. This was perhaps the most difficult 21 miles I had ever done and I felt great. Ray came in just a few minutes behind me and Tom was just a few minutes behind Ray. Several others from our group also arrived.

Some of the group at the North Rim trailhead

the trailhead for almost 30 minutes already. Ray was the only one ready to go so he and I hit the trail running. There were a few sections that were too steep to safely run down but much of the trail down to Phantom Ranch was very runable. Except for a couple stops for pictures and to replenish our water we ran all the way to Cottonwood. By now the lyrics to Captivated were running on a continuous loop through my mind where they remained until the finish. A couple of times I tried to switch to another song I enjoy singing while running, but my mind seemed to automatically switch back to Captivated. Shortly after leaving Cottonwood Ray said he wanted to walk a little. I was starting to wonder how much I had left in my tank so a little walking sounded good. After a brief break we again started running. A couple of miles from Phantom Ranch, Ray said he was wearing down and would need to walk some more but he encouraged me to keep going. I knew he was just tired and not in distress. There were many other hikers on the trails and the rest of our group would be coming through so I didn’t feel too bad leaving Ray.

This wasn’t the worst spot, but lots of wall hugging going on along the upper section of the North Kaibab Trail.

When I reached Phantom Ranch I was well-worn out myself. I sat there for several minutes drinking water and taking in some fuel, a Hammer Espresso Gel to be exact. Mmmm, good stuff. I had 7 miles to go; almost all of it uphill so after making sure I had a full load of water I left Phantom Ranch. I walked most of the short distance to Black Bridge. Once on the bridge I knew it would be my last piece of level trail until the finish so I ran across the bridge and through the tunnel on the other side. I again unpacked my trekking poles for the long hike up to the rim. About 40 minutes up the trail my legs and arms started shaking. I was feeling a little nauseous. I didn’t feel like eating but with two or three hours of hiking to go I knew I could not make it without taking in some fuel. I stopped for a minute or so and drank some water and took some electrolytes. I continued up for a few more steps and realized I was in immediate need of a toilet. Unfortunately I was at least two miles from the

You can bet I was hugging the wall here. Ray offered to take my picture if I would climb out on the rock sticking out. Uh, no thanks.

nearest toilet at Cedar Ridge. Lucky for me I was at a point where there were some bushes and dirt on one side of the trail where I could dig a little hole. By this time most of the day hikers were off the trail so I had a few moments of privacy. After filling the hole and completing the necessary paperwork I started to feel pretty good. I ate all the remaining Perpetuem tablets I had and soon afterward my legs and arms stopped shaking. I was not feeling great but just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I reached Skeleton Point and knew I only had about three miles to go. From Skeleton Point the trail didn’t seem as steep. Then up ahead I could see the bathroom at Cedar Ridge. Only 1.4 miles to go. I soon came to Ooh Aah Point, only .75 miles to go. Adrenaline is now completely taking over. I can see the switchbacks that lead to the trailhead. Then the rim, I am finished. Feeling a little choked up. The sun was about to set but I was too exhausted to give it any attention. Total time was 14 hour 47 minutes. Including the time I waited at the North Rim my trip across was 7 hours 52 minutes. The return trip was 6 hours 54 minutes. I wouldn’t say I was running any faster on the way back; I just didn’t spend as much time sitting still.

The bad news was that Ray, who had the car keys, was about an hour behind me. It was cooling off and starting to sprinkle. The good news was that I finished in time to catch the shuttle bus back to the lodge. After a hot shower I headed over to the pizza pub. Greg, who ran just past Phantom Ranch and back and Mike D who ran to Cottonwood and back were already there. I ordered a large supreme pizza and a 20 ounce Fat Tire Ale. While I was on my way to devouring half the pizza, Ray appeared in the pizza pub. Eventually Tom and all but two of the group made it back. After reaching the North Rim, Charles and Phil realized they would not be able to make the return trip and were lucky enough to hitch a ride back to the South Rim, a 210 mile trip by car.

Now for some technical runner geek stuff. I carried about 3700 calories worth of fuel including: 1800 calories of Hammer Gels, 400 calories of Perpetuem Solids (chewable tablets), 960 calories of Snickers Bars (comfort food, otherwise not a great fuel choice), and about 500-600 calories of peanut butter filled pretzels (both a comfort food and good run fuel). I also carried Enduralyte Capsules for electrolyte replenishment. When I finished the run I still had about 1100 calories of Hammer Gels and 320 calories of Snickers left over. So, I consumed approximately 150 calories per hour which is pretty typical for me in long runs but probably at the low end of the range where I should be. I don’t feel like I suffered from a lack of fuel but a few hundred more calories of gels consumed would not have hurt me. I don’t know how many Enduralyte Capsules I consumed but it seems to have been sufficient.

As I write it is now Tuesday and I am feeling pretty good. The only sore spots are my calves. Sore is perhaps an understatement. Yesterday I had a noticeable hitch in my step. Feeling much better today. At this point it is difficult for me to imagine how I could ever top this run.

Up next is the Bourbon Chase Relay. It starts this Friday. The race starts at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, KY and finishes in Lexington, KY. 12 runners, 200 miles. Each runner does three legs. My three legs add up to 18 miles. I think the calves will be ready.

Blue Ridge Relay

Team 1 wearing blue, team 2 wearing gray.

Oh my, where to begin? At the beginning seems appropriate. It was January and I was working in China when Bourbon Chase Cap’n Mike emailed a notice that the Blue Ridge Relay team he was on needed a few more runners. I knew the BRR would be a challenge and especially so because at the time I was working too many hours to do any decent training. I had been in China off and on (mostly on) since September. All the gains from the hard training I had done earlier in 2010 were slowly wasting away. I was tired of being alone though so I replied immediately, “I am too weak to resist an opportunity like this”. A couple more emails, a check sent, and presto, I was officially on the team.

I was back in the US by February and hit the ground running. By April I was back in decent shape. I ran very well in an 80 mile relay in Illinois. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I ran there on some pretty tough hills.

The logistics for getting to the BRR were beginning to look like a nightmare. It was discouraging and I came close to throwing in the towel. I decided to stick with it though and eventually had two hotel rooms booked, one in Boone for the night before the race and one in Asheville for the night after the race. I had also arranged to pick up team member Brian in Lexington so I wouldn’t have to drive all the way by myself and would have someone to share the cost of the hotel rooms. Brian reserved a one-way rental car to get us from Asheville to Boone where we would meet up with the rest of the team.

Carrie, Kelli, and Kelsey

As the race date approached the logistics were nailed down and more emails were exchanged. The level of excitement was building. One email asked each team member to choose the legs they wanted to run. The legs were rated according to difficulty as “easy”, “moderate”, “hard”, “very hard”, and “mountain goat hard”. I really wanted to run one of the two “mountain goat hard” legs but I also wanted to go for distance. My first choice was to be runner #5 with the longest total distance, 30.2 miles, in four legs. 1st leg, moderate, 5.2 miles, 2nd leg, very hard, 10 miles, 3rd leg, hard, 5.6 miles, 4th leg, very hard, 9.4 miles. My second choice was runner #4 which was only a total of 26.1 miles but included one of the “MGH” legs. My third choice was runner #2 which was 28.8 miles with three hard legs and one very hard leg. I guess no one else was dumb enough to volunteer to be runner #5 so that’s what I got.

After the running order was set for the team another email arrived containing a document with estimated run times for each runner on each leg. Holy cow! How on earth did they get the impression that I could run that fast? Sure I had submitted my time for a 10k, but did they not understand that Indiana is flat. North Carolina is not flat. I had been completely disappointed in my performance at Bourbon Chase last year and I didn’t want another poor performance this year at BRR.

Finally race day eve had arrived. I was at the hotel in Boone, NC where I would finally meet for the first time the 8 other members of the runningjustasfastaswecan team (RJAFAWC). In run order: Kelsey, Kelli, Melissa, Doug, Me, Angie, Dan, Carrie, and Meghan. We actually had two teams entered in the race. RJAFAWC Team 2 members were: Matt, Brian, Mark, Tristan, Ryan, Karen, Ben, Devin, and Mike. Friday morning we loaded up the vans and drove to the start at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Both our teams were starting at the same time 9:30am. The race would pass back through Boone later in the evening.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We could not have asked for better weather, sunny but not too warm and not too humid.

Leg #5

The race consisted of 36 legs. I was runner #5 so I would run legs 5, 14, 23, and 32. After nearly 3 hours riding around in the van it was finally my turn to pound some pavement. Leg 5 was moderate 5.2 miles. My projected time was 37:42 The start was down hill so I took the bracelet from Doug and sped off at a pretty fast pace. After about a mile the course starts going up and is mostly up hill to the finish. The grade wasn’t too severe though except for about a quarter mile at the 3.5 mile mark. I never really knew where I was on the course. The miles are not marked. Actually while running through a small town I was off course. I missed a turn and ran up a parallel street for a block or two. It didn’t shorten or lengthen the course any. When I hit the top of that last steep part I knew I only had about a mile to go. I knew I had been running pretty fast, but didn’t know for sure until the finish. 34:18, so I’m guessing the leg wasn’t quite 5.2 miles. I am capable of running 5.2 at that pace, but not so sure I did on this date. Either way I beat my projected time so it was a pretty good start for me.

Leg #14

Yeah, Grandpa kicked my a$$.

By now it was dark. On passing back through Boone we stopped at Chik-Fil-A where I bought two chicken sandwiches. I ate one (about an hour before my run) and saved the other for after this leg which was 10 miles, 866 feet of ascent and 177 ft of descent. Not the hardest climb I’ve ever done, but definitely no walk in the park. Projected time 1:15:00. The steepest part of the course was in the first two miles. I was pounding along pretty steady and starting to feel that chicken sandwich trying to fly back out. That bird didn’t fly but I won’t make that mistake again. Once the road leveled off a little I just kept plugging away, trying to increase my leg turnover. A few miles into the race I started seeing the mile markings for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon. This gave me a pretty good idea where I was on the course and I knew for sure each time I had clicked off a mile. At one point the team van passed me and someone yelled out yeah Jeff, your kicking Grandpa’s a$$. That inspired me to keep pushing hard and it also started a conversation in my head about how I would post that on facebook. The conversation with myself kept my mind off the fact that my legs were really starting to burn. With about two mile to go the course again became a little steeper and now the tables were turned. Grandpa was now kicking my a$$. Finally I saw a sign with my favorite two words “exchange zone”. Time 1:17:50, about 3 minutes off projected time. Not too shabby. And a cold Chik-Fil-A sandwich never tasted so good.

Leg #23

This leg kicked off sometime around 2:30am. A couple steep down hills followed by a steady up hill climb for the last 3 miles. My projected time 42:00. The first half mile was relatively flat on a paved road. Then there was about 1.5 miles of gravel followed by a steep paved down hill for a half mile or so. Running on the gravel in the dark was called for intense focus on the surface to keep ankle twisting to a minimum. The full moon at times helped a little and each time a van would pass me from behind I could see very well. The steady climb took its toll on me and for the last mile or so my legs were feeling like jello. Just keep the jello jiggling up the hill. The road at this point was straight so I could see the exchange zone up ahead. No time for crying, just keep pushing, almost finished. Time 44:20, just a little off projected. I gave it my best shot and I was pleased with my effort.

Leg #32

It’s 10:20am Saturday and by now I’m just plain tickled at the fact I’m still able to get in and out of the van unassisted. Also I’m glad I to be running down this mountain rather than up. 9.4 miles down all the way to the finish. Steep down in the first 5 or 6 miles. Total descent 2093 feet. My projected time 1:10:30. I knew that after the pounding my quads would take in the first 5 or 6 miles that the relatively level last 3 miles would be torture regardless of how fast or slow I ran the first part. So I ran the first part as fast as my legs would allow. I’m

These feet need some help.

guessing in some of the steeper spots I was hitting close to 6 minute miles. Oh, did I mention this was a gravel road? Yeah so in my state of sleep deprivation I intense focus on the surface was difficult at best and to make matters worse the cool morning air was making my eyes water. So in other words I was practically falling down a mountain with my eyes closed. About six miles into the run the road is paved and levels off a little. My legs are screaming by now but I’m trying to drown out their screams by singing the song “Put In Me”. I passed two or three runners in the steep gravel section. Now on this more straight, more level paved section I can see another runner up ahead. I’m gaining on her. I now use the thought of passing this runner to take my mind off the pain. It works, one more road kill. I’m now very close to the finish. I was told there would be a nice creek with cold water where I could soak my aching feet. Ahhhh, the exchange zone, the creek, happy feet. I am finished, time 1:05:24. Good fulfilling effort.

Kelli after a hard 6.3 mile run with a tough up hill finish.

As I write this it has now been five days since the race and I think I’m still experiencing the runner’s high. I can’t tell you when I’ve ever had more fun pushing myself this hard. I think there are at least a couple factors that inspired me to push myself to the limit. One is the support, encouragement, and example of the other members of the team. Everyone on the team always seemed to be giving 110% when they were running and when they weren’t running they were shouting encouragement to those who were running and not just to runners on our team but runners on every team. Finally and probably most inspiring was an email I received after my first leg from my friend Kim. In the email she wrote out a prayer for me. I re-read that prayer again before my third and fourth legs. That prayer really touched my heart and inspired me to push myself as far as I could.

Father, protect Jeff as he starts this day of dedication to what he has trained so hard to do. Be with him and give him the strength and endurance he will need to complete his goal. God, I pray that you will fill Jeff with your presence and that this physical journey is a time of worship for the two of you. Father, I pray that your surrounding beauty will envelop Jeff and he will be reminded and be in awe of how great You are. In your Son Jesus’ precious name, Amen

God did give me strength, I felt His presence, it was a time of worship, it was beautiful and I am totally in awe of how great God is, amen!

Summer Beast of Burden 50 Mile

That last time I attempted a 50 mile run was in September 2009. I had not properly trained for it and wound up throwing in the towel after 34 miles. Since then I have run three 50k races but had not felt the urge to take another bite of the 50 mile apple. Ok, that’s enough of the clichés for one post. Back in May I decided I wanted to run the Howl at the Moon 8 hour run in Illinois but by then registration had closed. What to do? I needed to run a race longer than a 50k to prepare for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run in October. Just my luck, the Summer Beast of Burden added a 50 mile option this year. Awesome! The start/finish area for BoB is at Widewater Marina in Lockport, NY just 10 miles from my brother’s house. Nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone. Sorry, I can’t help myself with the clichés. Visit family and run a race, awesome!

Bucky the Goat on his perch.

My brother’s in-laws have a dairy farm. The milking barn is maybe 100 yards from my brother’s house so the sound of cows bellowing is pretty much constant. They also have three pet goats. The goats were Amber’s senior project. Anyway, this is Bucky the Goat up on his perch. Bucky escaped on Friday afternoon. This led to some fun on the farm, goat herding edition. Think “City Slickers” except I didn’t pay for this fun and as far as I know no one died. Ok, enough fun on the farm, time to get back to the Beast.

Generous dose of Body Glide to the feet. Muy importante!

The BoB consists of three distances, 100 mile, 24 hour, and 50 mile. The race is run along the Erie Canal Towpath between Lockport and Middleport. It is 12.5 miles to Middleport so the 100 mile consists of 4 round trips and the 50 is 2 round trips. The race starts at Widewater Marina on the south side of the canal, goes west for about a mile on a paved path then crosses over to the north side on the Exchange Street lift bridge. On the north side the course turns east. On the north side the path is fine crushed gravel almost all the way to Middleport. There are just a few very short sections of pavement. In Middleport the course again crosses the canal on the Main Street lift bridge. Just over the bridge is a Moose Lodge or Masonic Temple (can’t remember which or perhaps something completely different). The aid station and timing matt are in the building. This is the turn-around. The course now follows the same route back to Widewater Marina. Besides the aid stations at the start and turn-around there is only one other aid station by the lift bridge in Gasport which is almost 7 miles from the start. On an 85 degree day that was too far for one hand-held bottle, but after the first pass they added an unmanned water stop at the Day Road bridge, about 3 miles from the start. Since the course is along the towpath of a man-made canal it’s pretty much flat as a pancake (buttermilk pancake at Cracker Barrel, yum). Somewhere I read that over the 100 mile distance there was 300 feet of elevation gain/loss. You’ll have to run on a track to get any flatter than that. In a few spots there were very slight inclines for a few steps, but at no point do you ever feel like you are running up a hill.

The Start.

The race started at 10am. I don’t know what the temperature was then but the sun was shining brightly. The high eventually reached 84 or 85. Humidity didn’t seem too bad. The course has virtually no shade though. There is a little shade on the north side but at least 90% of the time you are exposed to the sun. I used some Coppertone Sport 30 SPF spray on sun screen. This worked very well; I did not burn at all.

I started out at a nice slow pace, but after a few NY minutes I could no longer fight the urge to go faster. The first trip to Middleport seemed easy. I covered the 12.5 miles in about 2 hours. Easy except for the distances between aid stations being too long for one hand-held bottle in this heat. Next time I’ll carry two bottles. I was at least smart enough to make sure I drank several cups of water before leaving the aid stations. The aid stations were fairly well stocked; however, they didn’t have pretzels which are usually the only thing I eat. What they had didn’t look good to me, lots of sugary stuff. They did have Heed for my water bottle and except for the first stop in Middleport they had Hammer Gels so that is what I ate. The return to Lockport also seemed relatively easy; however, a few miles from Lockport my left calf started to cramp up so I stopped to massage it out and took another Enduralyte. The calf didn’t bother me the rest of the day. As I was about two steps from exiting the Exchange St lift bridge the lift warning bell started to ring. Scared the sheet out of me. I made it across before the bridge came up but there were a few runners behind me who were stopped by the bridge going up. Return time was about 2:18. Not as slow as it sounds because that included my time at the turn around aid station. At 4:18 the first lap was faster than I thought it would be so I beat my dad there. I told him it would be closer to 5 hours.

This picture was taken from near the finish line, but because I'm on the opposite side of the canal I'm about 2 miles into the race.

The second trip to Middleport didn’t seem so easy. I probably wasn’t taking in enough calories. I didn’t feel dehydrated though so I was getting enough fluid and I was taking Enduralyte capsules frequently. They had the unmanned water stop set up at Day Road by now. Still that wasn’t enough water. As I was running I was thinking I should have told my dad ahead of time to ask at the timing table if I had been through yet. Turns out he did just that. God blessed me this day because just as I was approaching the Canal Street Bridge I looked up and there was my dad just starting to cross. He beeped his horn and I waved. He then drove up to the Orangeport Road Bridge to wait for me. Earlier there had been several spectators there watching the race. As I was nearing I really needed some water so I decided I would just ask someone. Just as quickly I decided I wouldn’t ask because I didn’t want to impose on them. If every runner asked them for water they would need a several cases of water. I would just keep running since Gasport was just a mile ahead. Then I heard someone yell “hey Jeff, you want some water?” There was my dad with a bottle of cold water. Yes, thank you Jesus.

This time at the Gasport aid station they had sno-cones. I had a cherry flavor. That hit the spot. Even with the extra water from my dad and the sno-cone the remainder of the second trip to Middleport did not seem easy. I was trying to run for 10 minutes and walk for 2. That worked pretty well. I knew I was slowing down and wanted to get to Middleport in 7 hours. That would give me 3 hours to get back to Lockport and still beat 10 hours. This trip took about 2:38 so I beat7 hours by almost 4 minutes.

I had arranged to have a pacer run with me for the last leg from Middleport back to Lockport but I wasn’t 100% sure she would be there. Several weeks before the race I mentioned to my niece that she might like to do it as a training run if she would still be in NY at that time. She’s training for a half marathon. She wouldn’t be in town but she talked her friend Sara into doing it. I’d never had a pacer in a race so I didn’t know what to expect. When I crossed the Main Street bridge I saw Sara and her mom sitting there waiting for me. At that point just knowing I would have someone to run with was a pretty big adrenaline boost. After taking on some water and eating some watermelon Sara and I headed back to Lockport.

Sara and I nearing the finish.

Running with someone with fresh legs made me run for longer stretches than I had been on my own. Sara’s encouragement was very subtle but very effective. It was nice to have someone to talk to. The combination of shorter walk breaks and longer runs really did the trick. We made it back to Gasport in just over an hour. Now with just under 7 miles to go I was cautiously aware of the fact that if my wheels didn’t fall off I would easily beat 10 hours. Fortunately once again my dad was at the Orangeport Rd Bridge with water. We also had water at the Day Rd Bridge. Now just a couple of miles to go. My hamstrings were starting to cramp up so I had to stop to stretch and take more Enduralytes. Legs don’t fail me now. Now back across the Exchange St Bridge for the last time. Only a mile to go. I didn’t run all of that mile, but probably most of it. I was running strong the last couple hundred yards. Huge adrenaline rush will do that to you. Of course it always feels so good to stop. With the help of my talented pacer the last leg only took 2:29, nine minutes faster than the trip out. Total time 9:25:35, a PR for 50 miles and good enough for third place overall in the 50 mile race.

The Belt Buckle, nice.

Definitely enjoyed the BoB and would recommend it for anyone looking for a summer ultra challenge. I should also mention that they run the Beast in the winter too, brrrr! I’m already thinking about returning next summer for either the 100 mile or 24 hour. Next up, the DINO Trail Series resumes this Saturday at Town Run Park.

Dancing With Dirt, Gnaw Bone

A couple of weeks ago I ran the Dances With Dirt, Gnaw Bone 50k. The weather was picture perfect. Not too warm, not humid, not cold, a nice breeze at times. The course was very similar to the course I ran there two years ago. But this time the mud troughs were almost completely dried up and we ran the 20 mile loop in the opposite direction.

There was no bushwhacking in the first 18 miles so up to the North Tower aid station the going was relatively easy. I was feeling great and having visions of a sub 5:30 run. That’s when they finally hit us with the bushwhacking. Still the going wasn’t too difficult. Even up to around mile 23 I still had a shot at 5:30.

It was around mile 23 when they hit us with the “4-pointer” ridge climb. Straight up the ridge, hands and feet, about 200 feet or more. When I got to the top I was spent. I stopped thinking about a sub 5:30 and starting hoping I could still beat 6 hours. Shortly after the ridge climb there was a little confusion as to what trail to take after crossing the dam on Strahl Lake. I lost a few minutes there, but gained a little recovery. Also, Mark Linn, who was running the 50 mile, caught up to me and we ran together to the last aid station before he would turn to do another 20 mile loop and I would turn toward the last 5 mile stretch to finish. Mark helped keep me motivated and running even though my legs were screaming stop.

During the last 5 miles I was passing lots of people who were walking the half-marathon. That helped to keep me running. I did walk a few of the hills. When I would reach the top and want to keep walking I was telling myself that walkers don’t beat 6 hours. The last mile or so was a little different we crossed the river at least once and ran down the middle of it for a stretch. When I finished they asked me what age group I was. I said 45 to whatever. They told me I was first in my age group. Awesome! 5:57:38, over an hour faster than my time there two years ago. Sweet! As I turned around another runner finished. He had passed me back at the confusion spot. Turns out he got lost somewhere along the river in the last mile. He finished 2nd in our age group a minute behind me.

Ivan The Cheetah, 50 Meter Dash Champion

I had a pretty good day on the trails, but the real story isn’t about me or the race. The real story starts after the finish. For the first place age group finish they gave me one of those folding camp chairs and a hat. The one Ivan is modeling in the picture. The second place finisher got a chair but no hat. He was a little upset with himself for getting lost. I felt bad and almost gave him my hat. Almost, so glad I didn’t.

When I got home I posted this on Facebook:

“Danced with dirt, slopped in mud, ran through a river, total distance 31 miles. The river was in the last mile so it washed most of the mud off my shoes and the cold water felt great on my sore feet. Time was around 5:58, 12th place overall, 1st in my age group.”

My friend Janet replied with this:

“Impressive. That’s a great time. But….the best run of the day in this state came from one of my kids….Ivan got 1st place in the 50 meter dash at the Special Olympics…and it made my day! He told me he was “runnin like a cheetah!” Congrats to ya both.”

As I was reaching for the box of kleenex on my desk, I was so glad I kept the hat. I boxed it up and mailed it with a note that read:

Ivan,

Congratulations. Run Wild, like a cheetah!

Peace, Jeff

At times I can’t even fathom how truly blessed I am. I’m told Ivan loves the hat. Please pass the kleenex.

For my next race I’m heading back to Brown County for the DINO Series 15k. Run Wild, like a cheetah!