Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra

Date: December 3 & 4, 2011. 8AM Saturday to 8AM Sunday
Location: Waid Park Recreational area, Rocky Mount, VA. USATF Certified 0.95 mile loop.
Event: A 24 hour foot race. Entrant limit of 100.
Presented by: The Crooked Road Running Club
Event Website: HERE
Funds: After event costs are covered, extra money goes to support the Franklin Country High School Cross Country Team.

Other blogs:
Dena Harris
Mike Bailey
Bobby Aswell, Jr. at Davidson Running
Jimbo at So Far From Normal

Other info / news paper articles:
Very short story on 12-7 in the The Franklin News-Post
Since this was the first USATF certified 24 hour event Many of us running set STATE RECORDS!!!
Visit the Virginia State Records website... you'll see I am the record holder in my age group too!!! Along with many other runners from this date!

The short story
I didn't have a clear goal, but knew I wanted to match what I did at Hinson in September. My first 24 hour event. Read my blog HERE to get that story. I knew I wasn't as confident about my preparation for this event as I was for Hinson. I wanted to go 50k and then see what I was capable of afterward. I ended up with 55 miles there. this event was further challenged by the cold weather. I knew it had the potential to hold me back, so I didn't get too set on a certain distance. I ended up covering 100k = 62 miles. Lydia did a total of 50k.

A 24 Hour Run
It's not like any "normal" race. There is no planned measured distance. Each participant has their own goal. There are more smiles and conversation than at other races, as you keep seeing the same people over and over. The volunteers that count your laps often call you BY NAME, which makes you feel like a celebrity. There is plenty of food and drink awaiting you every lap, and they serve you meals too. The encouragement you get from volunteers and other participants is unlike any other. You find many walkers, and the majority develop a walk / run alternating rhythm. Either run a number of laps, and then walk a number. Or approach each lap with a walk / run pattern over intervals of minutes, or as I do over sections of the course. Some participants are there to complete their first 10k, some their first 10 miles, and other was to see what they are simply capable of. Some are family members or friends getting in laps while helping crew for a more serious runner. Everyone has a different agenda, they are as diverse as the runners themselves.
Lydia taking some laps.

Hinson and the stress
I stressed so much prior to Hinson Lake 24, I think I stressed enough for both that event, and this one! Of course, I stressed on this one, but it wasn't the same. For Hinson I was much worried about the logistics of the event. Where and how I'd set up my personal "camp" and sitting area. If it would be in a convenient location related to the lap start / aid station area and my car. Would the loop I would be running seem too short, or too long? Who would I share my time with there, and how would running this entire event alone effect my later miles? Those were similar thoughts. but for the Crooked Road 24, I had none of those concerns. I was most occupied with when I'd get to run vs. when my wife was running, and who had the kids when and how the kids were going to be provided for. How would the cold effect them etc.

I had a goal, of course. it was to run 50k. I'd would have liked to run 50miles if I had the opportunity. I wasn't confident that I'd be running through the night, it was all weather dependent. I had no idea i would reach 100k, but I knew I was capable of it. I think I was capable of it at Hinson, too, if I had spent more time on my feet. My primary goal outside of me covering 50k in a decent time, was to allow Lydia to cover her planned distances. I knew the nature of the 24 hour event and how it would allow her to reach some pretty cool goals. We decided it would be good for her to run 3 2-hour sections of time. where she would be able to go 8 miles each 2 hour section she ran, bringing her really close to a marathon. Then with an extra lap here and there, she would hit the marathon. Things changed.

Arrival and packet pick up
Our 2yo Pauly had a sleep over at Auntie Ruth's house and he had a lot of fun play time with his 4yo cousin, Nasir. This meant that we packed the car with us two and our 4 month old, Josie. I didn't plan the best with the directions, and figured I could do it like we used to 10 yrs ago, and just write them down. Well, that worked out like it used to. Still needed to stop and ask directions, to find I missed a turn, but we still arrived with plenty of time.

Arriving at the gate to the park were volunteers to hand you your race packet right at your car, and direct you to the parking lot you were assigned to.
Packet pick up at the gate.

2 parking lots

Arrival and familiar faces
It is true, that you want to go where everybody knows your name. It sure is nice to pull up to a race and see a familiar face. Ricky Scott one of the main Race Directors (as it was put on by the Crooked Road Running Club) was there handing me and Lydia out packets at our car, and ushering us to the assigned lot. I was excited to soon see Sarah Holbrook, Anita Finkle, Graham Zollman, all from the Roanoke area and Mountain Junkie events! Fellow Crooked Roaders Johnny Nolan, Pam and Tom Rickard were also other smiling faces, I was happy to see. Also Annette Bednosky was there, and I was glad to have a quick chance to meet her before the event began. She is a well accomplished runner currently recovering from an injury due to a car accident that has set back her running.

Ricky Scott and Pam Rickard appreciating Josie
Unpack and get ready to run!
We unpack and complete dressing according to the weather. I brought the tent and began to set it up, but really just spread it out on the grass, so I could tend to it later. It was arranged that Lydia would run for the first 2 hours, as I spent time with Josie, and then we would switch. Her goal in 2 hours was 8 miles.

Soon we were lined up
...and with a very anti-climactic "GO!" (which made Lydia laugh at it's simplicity) we were off! We waked our first lap together to feel out the weather, and our attire, and well, just cause there was absolutely no reason to be rushed at all!
Everyone ready to go.

The course
The course wiggles around the park, maintaining at least a 2 person wide path at all times. Alternating from cinders (most of the path) some paved areas, and a gravel road for a short part of it. Each lap started at the table where the volunteers were to count your laps. progressed to the only hill on course, which was more significant that Hinson, and though very runnable it was walked by most without question. The downhill on the backside of the hill, I thought was much worse than the up hill. Especially once my knees became weaker through the miles. It then encountered the "far side" of the large parking lot. Then looping around that lot, past a playground and crossing the road which we all drove in on, where the volunteers awaited the late comers and monitored traffic for runner safety. then the short gravel road back to the start and aid station where you cross through the smaller lot (and small pavilion). There is also another playground here and plenty of space to set up camp / tents etc.
One of 2 playgrounds along the course
Approaching the "small lot" and pavilion / picnic area
Small lot, just before the start / aid station

Lydia completed her first 8 miles and took Josie, then I began to run. About 2 and a half hours had elapsed by now.  I was well loosened up for walking around, and showing off the baby. The excitement level was up high and all who I spoke with asked why I wasn't running but soon understood.  Lydia kept walking. Ruth soon arrived with Pauly my 2yo and her son Nasir. They hung out at the playground most of the time and Ruth took Josie, who slept like a champ in the warming weather and comfort of the running stroller. I was surprised to see that Lydia was out running again. This wasn't the plan. She was supposed to have 3 2-hour sessions, spaced out, but she really hadn't stopped moving since her first 2 hour session.
Josie and I while Lydia ran

We are so thankful for Ruth to have entertained Pauly the evening before, and to watch him during the day allowing Lydia and myself to run.

Fun along the course
I only stayed a couple laps ahead of Lydia as she was making her own laps too. Soon enough it was time for her to begin her second 2 hour block of running. Ruth still had all the children, and Lydia was feeling good, so she continued on. I was approaching 31 and Lydia was approaching 26 soon after! We arranged for Ruth to head home, and Lydia was going to finish a couple laps and be behind her about an hour. sure enough, Lydia and I timed our laps to that I hit 31miles (50k) and she hit 26.2 (marathon) upon completion of the same lap, an sure enough - Lydia had finished her first marathon!!!

Goal accomplished
With Lydia having had hit a marathon + and headed home, I knew she would arrive in the AM fresh and able to take a couple more laps, making her total mileage for the 24 hour event a 50k, and that became my goal for her. She didn't refuse!

Lydia and I just at dark, having completed our initial distance goals.

Time to run
At that point on, thought it was late, and darkness had arrived. The evening was still early, but I was left unattended with only one goal left... RUN. I kept telling myself, I had all ready covered more than 50k, but I wanted to run. I decided to take the night in 6 and 8 loop segments, and alternating between either 6 loops or 8 loops. on each segment of 6, I would run 2 and walk one. then run 2 and walk one. total would be six for that set. for my sets of 8 I would run 2 walk 1 and run another then repeat, which made me run 3 in a row in the middle of the set of 8. Methods like that I believe is part of what allow you to endure the distance, the run and walk pattern, but I also think the for myself setting up a set, an assignment perhaps, gives me a task to complete. and it takes a lot of mileage, and breaks it down into smaller bites, that I can sort of check off as the miles pass, and the hours pass too.

Me running Alongside Tracey Minnix, with Anita Finkle just behind us chatting with her husband Jay
It wasn't long before I hit 50 and though I knew that was another goal of mine. I knew I wanted more, so when I hit it I didn't feel that I'd "earned" a break at all I kept pushing through. When I did take breaks in between sets of 6 and 8 laps at a time, I tried to limit them to 15 or 20 mins at most. use that time to really hydrate and eat some. More than I would be in between each lap. As I often made sure I grabbed something from the aid station on each pass.

Time is running out
4:00 came early and I got a text message from Lydia that she was up and would be on her way soon. I started calculating how many miles I needed to do to get to 100k, and what time Lydia would arrive. I had to hustle. My plans for the sets of 6 and 8 just went out the window and I kept a run walk pattern, alternating through parts of the lap - and kept pressing on. I think that during the hours of 4 to 5 and maybe 5:30, I ran the hardest that I did for the entire event, and yet after all those miles too! I really wanted Lydia to complete a 50k for the 24 hours, and I knew that to do so , I wouldn't be able to run once she arrived and an hour and a half would be minimal for her to complete it, yet it all depended on how well she felt and how fast she could get there.

I knew she would have both kids with her. I knew I'd have to stop running once she arrived. I had always told myself that for this event, her goal would be more important than mine... but with being so close to 100k, I just HAD to get there. Lydia suggested that she arrive and cover a few laps then we do our last lap together with the kids completing her 50k, and my 100k... and that is exactly what we did!

Is this a problem?
Lydia got there and I covered 2 more laps, hustling to go as fast as I possibly could. The problem began here, in that I essentially stopped eating and drinking at the aid station. I should have known better. This is where having someone crew for you really comes into play. They would have made me drink at least. and I didn't think about it until after the 4th pass or so of the aid station. It hit me that I wasn't drinking. I don't think this had any real tangible negative effect, but once I realized it, I got concerned. I had gained focus on the task, but lost focus in other areas. I'd say that is expected when you've been up all night and running distances and times that you've never done before.

With all that serious aid station support, you wonder why anyone would pass it up!
Lydia got to running and I stayed in the warm car with the kids. I felt that we had plenty of time. Lydia covered 4 of her 5 laps and we had 30 mins left. We got the kids all bundled up and walked a final lap with them in our arms. it was sweet, but goodness my arms were barely able to carry my 25lb 2yo for a while mile! funny how it's my arms that were weak, when you'd think it should be my legs? While my legs were demanding all the nutrients my body could offer, when I asked my arms to pitch in for a while, they weren't ready at all.
After 100k and 50k, the Victory lap with the kids!
Stick lap
At Hinson it's called the banana lap. but at the Crooked Road they give you a popsicle stick and it has your number on it. You head out on the last lap and when the car alarm (horn) sounds across the park you drop your stick along the path and they then measure your final distance from the start.

Soon after we all gathered around for some post-event announcements and awards. Winners were announced, you can get to the results and some links to pics at the CR24 Results page. Some who remained in attendance got a free pair of Injinji toe socks. Lydia and myself got a pair, and we were glad to have! I have run in them before, but I prefer them after long runs, they feel good on my toes, when I've run so much that my toes are sore. I should try to run in them again for the second half of a long run, to minimize toe rubbing blisters. which is one of my main tangible injuries from this event.

Congrats to Glen Redpath and Anita Finkle for top male and female! They won awesome mini hand made banjos! Amy Surrette gave a solid, SOLID effort for her cause (raising money for a family in need, Brian and Elise Cakes, their TRIPLETS!!!)

During announcements I had though on a couple occasions that I came in the top 10 of men overall, but I was wrong, cause once the results were posted, I was 19th over all and 13th for men. with 62.72 total miles. Lydia was about 16th for women. When at one time we had thought we both were in top 10. but that was just the way they were doing results at the end of the event, based on who was still in attendance.

What I did different
The most obvious is the distance covered. This was also an event, that not only did I complete with Lydia, but we shared the event together. Another reason to like 24 hour events! I didn't consume and NUUN, or GU. I did drink Ensure as the most different thing I did. 2 during the event. I was concerned how the dairy-like substance would settle on my stomach. but I drank one before a walk lap. and I drank another during a walk/run lap while I was on my walk portions, and I took the full lap to drink it. Otherwise nothing really different. I washed my feet at 2 times through the 24 hours. I switched shoes after 50 miles. Switched socks one time in the middle of the 50. I was running with Patagonia running tights. that was new for me, this is my first event with them. I've only used thin polyester first layer items on my legs before in the cold, but this is my first pair of running pant / tights, They worked just fine and didn't cause any problems. I did sleep for one hour in a chair at the fire, but otherwise I stayed busy all night, taking rest breaks, but never fully stopping except for that nap and then I was back on the trail.

This picture really captures the fun that was had on that day.

How I felt after
This is an interesting one. Immediately after, once things slowed down and I was back in the car, Lydia driving me home. Nausea set it. We even had to stop somewhere to hit the bathroom, but no real production of the feelings I was having. I knew I had pushed myself too far, but didn't feel nauseous during the last 30 mins we were there, through the results etc. they did have pancakes for breakfast and I was enjoying them with no problem. Perhaps it was the car ride? that is my only guess. I've never had much nausea from running, I just don't push myself THAT hard, so I'm unsure how it feel to my body, but it could sure be related. as I was quite exhausted and I knew I slept most of the way home.

Thankfully What ached on my body was not chafing, not knee pain, and not even muscle pain. but I suffered one blister on my pinky toe, and my ankles felt over worked and sore.

What is next
This concludes my awesome 2011 running year! As of now, my ultra running adventures are lining up, with all but a signed application to the Lynchburg Ultra Series. which includes 3 50k events, and one 50 miler. That begins with Holiday Lake 50k++ in February, which I am all ready signed up for. but prior to that I've got the Frozen Toe 10k and then the Swinging Bridge 50k in January as well.
Look out! Cause here I come!
Look out! Cause here I come!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mountain Masochist Trail Run (sweeping the second half)

Mountain Masochist Trail Run - Saturday November 5th

This is an account of "working" the event. I was only covering the second half, picking up trash and taking down all course markings.

Read reports of people who actually ran it here:
Sophie @ Shining's Ultra blog
Jenn @ Freedom to Be

The Mountain Masochist Trail Run is a 50 mile, point A to point B (not a loop) course from the James River Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Mile Post 63.6) to Montebello, VA.

The event is put on by Eco-x. It is a part of the Lynchburg Ultra Series, and The Beast Series.

My experience here starts while I was at work one day checking my Facebook page. I notice am open request for someone needed to sweep the first half of the Mountain Masochist 50 miler! Immediately I send a response via FB, and another via email to the most likely address I have to get in touch with Dr. Clark Zealand, Race Director of the MMTR50. Soon he responds saying that someone beat me to it, believe it or not, but I could help with sweeping the second half with another person.

I thought the first half would be better than the last, for various reasons, but I was excited to be able to take part of this event in ANY way and I was glad to be a part of it.

For the next week or more emails were exchanged, I "met" Courtney the person whom I was to share the sweeping responsibilities with, and plane were being made.

So, this run goes where?
I spent a lot of time, and apparently Courtney did as well, studying maps. It was difficult using Google maps, Blue Ridge Parkway maps, the Eco-X website etc., to decipher where I would be. The most helpful information was a document that Dr. Zealand sent to she and I which detailed instructions for persons crewing for a runner. This gave instructions on how they could go from one aid station to another to support their runner with supplies or encouragement etc. most importantly is that this document had GPS coordinates! Because when told for example, a certain overlook or location (or down some random fire road) around the Parkway, I had to study some maps to locate it. I was thankful for the GPS coordinates it was very simple after that.

The plan
The plan which Courtney and I devised was to meet at the end of the race, leave one car there and take another to the mid-point of the race where we would start our trek. From the mid-point we would make a small attempt to find someone to drive our car back to the finish so it awaits us there. This all worked out perfectly.

I arrived at the finish just moments before her, and only moments after one of those working the race had started setting up the finish line. This race started at 6:30AM, I believe and it was 11:30 now. To think that 5 hours after the race starts you can comfortably begin to set up the finish should tell you that this is a long race!

Soon Courtney arrived, we exchanged hellos dressed, decided on what to bring and not bring, etc. Soon we were on the way to the Long Mountain Aid Station, the half-way point of the race. This AS closed at 12:35, and our goal was to arrive before then, which we did.

Long Mountain Aid Station
One item of concern here was to see if we could arrange a driver for my car back to the finish. Oddly enough it was quite simple. I started with race staff, to see if my Subaru wagon would be helpful in moving supplies, but of course arrangements were all ready in place. I decided to ask some hanging around who may have been crewing for another runner if they could drive it. The one person I approach is someone I was looking forward to meeting, and knew I could potentially meet this day. Craig Burns of e-Motion Constant Forward Motion blog, was there on a picnic table with friends, relishing in all the emotions of completing the first half of the race - cancer free I might add! (read his blogged race report on the MMTR once he writes it), and he was welcoming to help me out. I am quite thankful for his generosity, I am hoping that my timing wasn't bad.

At this time we acclimated ourselves to the event. Checked in with race officials. Gathered data on the last runner on course. Shook off and pre-race jitters of our own, and headed up the mountain. I knew we had a 5 mile 2000 vertical foot climb ahead of us to start so we loitered along, picking up course marking streamers and any trash we saw. We had checked with race officials and knew that the last runner was 20 mins ahead of us, and I thought for sure we'd catch up with them. Any other runners coming into the Long Mountain Aid Station at that point were pulled from the course and unable to continue, as the AS advertised it would close at 12:35. It wasn't long after this time that we hit the trail ourselves.

The climb was on a fire road, and we were even passed by a vehicle or two on this stretch. Once we got to the top, we realized we weren't at the top. The top was "marked" by the next AS (Wiggins Spring, I think) and thought the AS was closed by the time we arrived, there was evidence of cups and items from the AS, like an orange peel here and there. So I knew we got to the top of the climb, but it wasn't the top. It kept going on. More fire road.

Single Track
The trail was well marked with the streamers that we were taking down, but with so many cars which aligned the dirt / gravel road and "crew" members hustling to and from vehicles. I was building questions in my head. Yet I knew I was doing the task which was required of me, so I pressed on. Here we hit the first stretch of single track trail.

Soon I learned what all the attention was. Some cars remained as remnants of the AS that closed, while not far up ahead was an area where one could see their runner come by twice.

It was around this area that we finally got off forest road and onto single track. Courtney commented on how the changing of footing was nice, and I agreed. Intersections and areas where trails split proved to be time consuming. As the course was well marked, that meant there was a lot of markings to gather.

An aside about gathering the streamers
There is probably an essay that can be written about how to properly place and take down streamers for trail races. I'll try not to write that essay here, but there is something that can be said about it. Simple things which I learned quickly:
     How it's easier to remove a streamer when the knot is loose, rather than tied tightly.
     Branches with thorns should be avoided for placing streamers.
     Branches above head height (say 5ft) should be avoided.
     Tying streamers no more than one step off the trail (OK this was only done twice maybe).

I tried at first to untie all streamers, but soon I was breaking the branch to rip it off. If I were able, I'd grab the knot and pull, hoping to break the band around the branch. Perhaps this is essay enough about streamers, but it was proving to be rather time consuming stopping and playing with every single streamer. ...and then I eventually put on my gloves - that surely didn't help any. I can only imagine had I been doing this alone.

The loop
I think the 5 mile loop was a most interesting part of the course. A great 5 mile stretch of trail quite rocky with many roots, yet no significant climb that I recall. I really liked this portion of the trail. I was nicely set up with an AS as you enter the loop, and within 20 feet was the exit, with another AS. Kind of like "headquarters" a lot of crew, and a lot of staff. After being alone out there on the trail for a few miles, it would probably be refreshing to see all the commotion. I'll put in my vote for that being the nicest stretch of the trail. There is also an overlook just 0.5m off that loop... so tempting.

Here was encountered some day hikers as well, non race-affiliated humans, just out enjoying the day and much entertained by all the race festivities. "How far are they running?" they would ask, and I love being the one to tell them, "50 miles".

When we exited the 5 mile loop and the AS there was almost all cleaned up. the staff checked with us on our supplies, exchanged our full trash bag for an empty one etc. Courtney asked "You know what I'd like, is if you have a PB&J sandwich." We were presented with a jar of PB and a jar of jelly but a "I just don't have any bread"..... Oh! so close... yet here comes another race volunteer with 2 ziplocked wrapped PBJ sandwiches!!! He said it was what he packed for his lunch, but he never ate it, and he's headed home anyway. Beautiful timing, I needed that more than I knew and glad Courtney was in-tune with her body's needs enough to know and ask. It made a difference miles down the trail.

Getting slower by the AS
Much of the trail from this point on becomes a blur, as Courtney and I were soon learning that we were not gaining on the "last runner". Of course we considered that there were still runners dropping from the race at the aid stations. So the runner whom we thought we were closest to catching up with would drop, and then it was the person in front of them that we were then chasing. We learned by talking to race staff that at each AS we were becoming further behind the last runner.

We guessed that about 10-15 miles had passed and we had not run at all. Of course that climbing we started out with hindered running for us. When we started running we only were able to run in short bursts, as we had to stop for every streamer and other random items that didn't belong in nature, like someone's bottle of Advil. Random Cliff Shots, some opened, some not. Many gel pouch tops. (still need a better design for those things).

We developed a pattern of running while alternating who got the next streamer, and this worked until we came upon a group of streamers, then it was one after the other of gathering as much as we could.

Eventually the following aid stations were not only just closing, or just having closed but long closed and dust settled. I was thankful for the staff that hung around and made sure the sweepers were still coming through, checking to see if we needed anything, water food etc. Keep in mind we were carrying a trash bag this entire time that was progressively getting more full. Try running with a trash bag full of junk and beer cans/bottles sometime. (Of course I'm trying to cover all the excuses why we were moving so slow).

I love it when a plan comes together
Soon after heading back down the trail (fire road again) she commented on how awesome it was that 2 random runners planned to meet in a random location and it worked. Then we have to get to the mid-point AS and we easily find our way. Then I've got to find someone to drive my car back to the finish and I find someone, and we know each other, just hadn't met yet. Then when she's hoping she can get a PBJ out in the middle of the woods, she does... We started considering what we should ask for next.

The conversation
Topics in our conversation were quite varied. College and career. Diversity. Stupid people. Debt. Stereotypes. Training. Shoes. Charles Dickens and literary geniuses. Concerns of taking Ibuprofen when at risk of dehydration. Wildlife and bears. The important reasons of adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet. Our next race. Birth order and it's influence on your personality. Foot strike and shin splints. Running trails at night. Getting shaving cream in your eye. The list goes on.
This was taken early on in the second half

It was dark before you knew it.
Courtney confessed that she hadn't run trails at night with a head lamp before, but was excited and almost hoping today was the day. When we had that conversation I wasn't sure if we were going to be in the dark or not, but it ends up that our last 5 miles or so was all in the dark. To think that I wasn't going to bring gloves or a hat (Courtney convinced me otherwise). I probably should have put them on before now, but this is when we stopped for our lights, so I put on my hat and gloves here too.

I think we ran our fastest when it was totally dark. I believe the concern of all the smaller trash items became too difficult to track down with our head lamps and we focused on the streamers. I convinced myself that it was the last stretch of the race and it was less likely to have a lot of gel packs there.
It was cold enough that icicles were present 

We endured the long downhill and contemplated, as we did various times on the trail about how the runners would have felt at this point. I saw some chalk on the ground of the fire road which I believe would have been the message to runners stating that there is only one more mile to go. Once on the street again I knew it wasn't long. and we arrived at the finish in Montebello... No one awaiting us, but our cars. No person in sight, not even other vehicles, just us. It was kind of neat actually, in it's own little way.

It was dark and quiet
A lot of races and events are held with much fanfare. There are also many events that are simple and  have no frills. It was perfectly OK to not be welcomed or congratulated at the end of my day. I was pleased to have helped this year's classic event take place. I was happy to have helped the runners which I am looking up to and aspire to run with on a different year. I thought of the runners that started and didn't finish. I considered how they felt, the mix of emotions. I recall one runner saying "I just hate that I'll miss out on the finishers award" I reminded myself that my reward was this moment. Standing in the dark and quiet, knowing I was a part of something that didn't end until we were done. Our footsteps were the final foot steps on that trail. I was satisfied knowing that I assisted in leaving no trace. I sure hope that those trails are cleaner now than when the first runner ran through. It was a special opportunity to not only volunteer and share in part of the MMTR, but I also take some satisfaction in feeling like I went on a 25 mile cleaning spree through the woods. There were items that we removed from nature that didn't belong there and would have stayed if we didn't pick them up.

We took little to no time to wind down and soon realized just how cold it had become and made sure we had directions to get out of the middle of nowhere. (which is surely what it felt like) All I knew is that I was near the fish hatchery in Montebello, VA and I could point in the direction of Interstate 81.

Post race festivities were taking place an hour away in Lynchburg, VA. The excitement and stories of the day were being exchanged. I later learned that Eric Grossman came in first for his 3rd MMTR win. Sandi Nypaver Came in first for the women.

What I did and didn't do
First off, I underestimated many things. The time it would take to cover the course while removing course markings. The pace of the slowest runner vs my own. Those were the most obvious. Had I not been so relaxed about this journey, I would have diligently taken GU gels or Cliff Shots at certain intervals but I used none. I would have filled my hydrations pack's bladder completely and drank more diligently, but apparently 1.5L was more than enough. I would have carried and consumed electrolyte / salt caps, but I did not. I would have prepared food items to bring and carry, but I had none. I wasn't stressed with what I ate for breakfast and lunch before I hit the trail.  In fact, I decided as I pulled off I-81 that I should get lunch and got a fish sandwich and fries from Burger King. I would have never done that. Seeing that on the menu they have a veggie burger, I wish I had known that. So after the event... I got the veggie burger.

Overall I am excited and pleased with how I've felt afterward. I felt the most sore and tired that evening. I took one Salt Cap once I got home at Lydia's instruction, and I believe it helped. I've now put 25 more miles on my Montrail Masochist trail shoe. Which ironically shares the name of the race and some strong connections there. In the following days after I've felt great. Amazing what the body can do. Amazing what all those 250+ bodies that ran the MMTR did do!

There is a possibility that if my training goes well, I may be running this next year, and it will have helped greatly to have had this day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brush Mountain Breakdown 16 mile

Race date: Sat October 29, 2011
I've heard of this event for years, but never knew anyone that has run it and by looking at race results from previous years, I think I only recognized one name. I dont believe that this event is very well promoted, and I think it has the potential to be an amazing event. Well, it is an amazing event, jut not too many attend. There's about 45-60 runners each year for the 15 / 16 mile. I say 15 / 16, cause some places you'll see it listed as 15, and others as a 16. I think James from Run About Sports in Blacksburg, VA told me it's really 15.7. One flyer for 2011 had 15 on one side, and 16 on the other.

The events includes an 16 mile, 8 mile and 5k options. You can look up previous years results and find out how many enter each event. It isnt too many, this is a smaller event but the course is so good, and the shirt was a very nice!

James Demarco is the Race Director, and his shop Run About Sports (an awesome running store by the way!) is the main sponsor, or whatever.
The event is also credited to the Blacksburg Striders, but there are so many broken links on their site, (and I hate to say that but it's true) and has been for years.

Trying to prepare for the event
So, I ran into a lot of dead ends when searching for info about this event. But diligence pays off.
There was a blog that was helpful with getting some race info.
Cort the Sport has run the event 3 times. in 20082009 and in 2010.
See all of her blogged race reports there. I tried to message her to let her know I appreciated the info, and wanted to link her pages here, but I couldnt find a way to contact her, and trying to leave comments on her blog diddnt work either, it only allows me to make comments half the times that I try at blogger pages anyway. (Caught up with her via Facebook).

I just decided that I would call Run About Sports and ask questions about it when they occurred to me.

 There was other information online that I discovered but it was outdated. Again, I think this event has potential to bring many runners.
The Brush Mountain Breakdown takes place at the Pandapas Pond trails, which is in the Jefferson National Forest. I used to run at Pandapas Pond, when I lived in Christiansburg, VA during and just after being in College. I ran there very frequently. I was excited to be back on those trails, and to be hitting the trail system from the opposite end than I normally access them from.

During my time running those trails, which was around 2003-2005, I was never able to run the miles that I can today. So I was glad to be able to spend so much time out there.

Pandapas Pond trail map
There are links to the Pandapas Pond trail system map HERE.
Elevation profiles and maps can be found HERE.

 The course that the 16 mile race runs is shown below.

If you study the first maps, and compare the second map, you will see that the event starts at the "end" of the Poverty Creek trail, which ends on FR 708. You will drive on FR 708 on the way to the race start. See Pandapas Pond has a parking lot, and official access area, but the trails go off into teh woods about 8 miles deep, which FR 708 takes you to the end of the Poverty Creek trail, which is the longest trail in the system.

You can see this sign below from 460 as you drive to the race.but this isnt where you turn. Follow the directions carefully, as you dont really drive to Pandapas Pond's main area, but you are on that trail system.

Race registration form from the Blacksburg Striders had good directions. It is basically 460 to the FR 708 for 5 miles. It's a rocky / dirt road that takes a while to drive down, and then it opens up to a field where the race is held from.

Along the way
Along the drive down 460 from 81 into Blacksburg There was frost upon the tree tops.

Driving down the forest road, here is the view of the race set up. Simple.

Course and race start
The run began on the Forest Road, for about 0.3 miles, and the turned left into the woods where the Poverty Creek Trail began.
 There was a noticeable climb along that first mile of trail, but for the most part when along the Poverty Creek trail it was simple and rolling hills. Most of the entire course stays on Poverty Creek, crossing the forest road at one point, and then making a loop at the end of the course along Jacob's Ladder and Snake Root, then back to Poverty Creek and all the way back to the start.

The climb up Jacob's ladder was the largest climb for the course. the below image will help you with what to expect for that climb.

  After Jacob's Ladder. it's a nice refreshing downhill on Snake Root, then back on Poverty Creek which seemed to roll on for a good while.

My experience
Knowing this would be a smaller event, I diddnt expect a lot of familiar faces. I knew fellow Mountain Junkie Courtney Griffen would be there, and sure enough she was the only one I knew. I saw a couple other familiar faces and talked to a few others, but no one from recent races I've run.

The 5k runners started 30 mins before the 8 mile and 16 mile runners. With some simple quick announcements amidst the chilly wind of something under 35 degrees, we were off. I was thankful to get into the woods, as I knew it would block the wind, and it did. Things got heated up after around mile 2, as does most cold weather runs. I was wearing a thin polyester first layer over my legs, and running shorts over them. A thin long sleeve running shirt covered by a full zip micro-fleece jacket that has a lot of vents. I also wore gloves and a knit hat. I considered losing the hat, but was glad I kept it on.

Dressing properly was the biggest stressor for me prior to this event. As the weather forecast the night before the race said it was going to be almost 30 degrees with a mix of rain and snow. Thankfully in the morning the weather changed to light rain. The light rain was indeed light and there was no snow... Well not until I made the climb up Jacob's ladder. This is when I was glad I kept the hat on. The ground became more and more covered with ice and the wind blew the ice off the trees. I felt that I was in an ice storm or hail storm. Chunks of ice hitting me in the face and shoulders. It was pretty awesome actually.

I had caught up with Courtney a few miles in, but once we got to Jacob's Ladder she strongly proceeded up as I dropped to a walk / hike now and then. After catching up with her on the Snake Root downhill, she and I recollected how neat the ice was to run through. I'm curious what the temp difference was on that climb, it would be nice to know, as it was much colder on top of the mountain.

After getting back on Poverty Creek, I were soon returning to Aid Stations that I had seen once before.

Aid Stations
There was a total of 4 aid stations. They were stocked with water, Gatorade and various energy bars and power bars. Also there were cliff blocks, power bar gels and GU gels. I think it was the 3rd and 4th AS that I took and handful of either GU chomps, or Cliff shot blocks, and refilled my hand held bottle.

Speaking of my hand held bottle, I was surprised with how few runners I saw carrying any supplies. I noticed one runner with a vest / pack on, and a couple others with waist packs with bottles, but I could count them all on one hand who was carrying supplies. I thought that was odd, but I guessed that the cold weather may have influenced that. Regardless of what others were doing I knew what I was used to and stuck to it. Later in the race, when there was about 3 or 4 miles to go I took a GU gel of my own that I carried (I carried 3, only used 1) Lately, I prefer real food to "chemical" energy, but it's what was necessary for the race today.

I would have liked to see some chips and pretzels at the aid station, I would have consumed some.  On that note of nutrition and hydration I did take a few Salt Stick capsules. One before the run, one after and then one when I got home. The only reason I took one when I got home is because I recalled how I felt after the race that I ran when I took the Salt Stick caps previously, and my muscles were not very sore at all. I figured those electrolytes helped me recover faster, and therefore I took an extra when I got home. (so far it has helped, I do believe)

Comparatively speaking
The other 16 mile trail run I had recently completed in September was the Iron Mountain Trail Run. I recall how I felt on that race, which you can read about if you follow the link. Today I felt stronger, and I think I recovered quicker as well. I would believe that suggests I am getting stronger.

I am enjoying this distance. I think that the IMTR 16 in September, and the Conquer The Cove 25k in June, as well as this event are critical distances to get comfortable with when progressing in my miles.

Both events the BMB and IMTR were low-frills events. For example, check out the post-race display of food and nourishment.

But what you needed was there. Bananas, sugar, protein, water.

As I run more and more, I am building confidence that I'm passing the 13.1 (half-marathon) mark as the mileage that I enjoy the most and which I feel really presses me forward. I've run 9 half-marathons since 2004, 5 of them in recent years between 2010 and 2011. The 4 other events that I've run at or beyond the 16m / 25k distance, have all been this year. I look forward to where my future runs will take me.

What I've done differently this time
Not too much. I've not used Cliff shots, or GU chomps much, and I consumed them during this run. I took some salt caps, and I'm still getting used to them, but I'm 2 days post run now, and I'm surprised how well my muscles feel. I'm starting to be a real believer in them despite how much I hate the idea of taking "pills".  I'm still loving my Smart Wool socks. I they are truly "my sock" for running. I appreciate most the seamless toe. I've bought a few pairs of them now.
How the initial results were collected.

What is next
Support Lydia in covering her first half-marathon this November. The Star City Half Marathon.
There are still some runs I want to do. I want to run to Mcaffee's Knob and back again. Hopefully make a group run out of it.
I really want to hike / run the section on the AT from 311 before Mcaffee's Knob over Tinker Cliffs, past Hay Rock, and end at 220. I'm told that section is about 20 miles.
Next Sat I have the honor of sweeping the last half of the Mountain Masochist 50 miler! I'm excited, as I will get a preview of the course. There is a chance I will attempt this event next year, if my running continues to improve.
In 2012 I'm hoping to complete the 3 50k events that are a part of the Lynchburg Ultra Series (Holiday Lake, Terrapin, and Promise Land). The series ends with the MMTR 50 miler. We will see how the season progresses!

Thanks for reading. Please "follow" to keep up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anthem Into The Darkness 4 Mile Night Trail Run

Be sure to read what Phil and Doug said about this race also:
Cardioholics Anonymous
Doug Falls

Today (October 22, 2011)  was indeed a special day, being able to run 2 races in one day. To my knowledge I had only one chance to do that, and it was earlier this year but I was late learning about it and I even forget what the events were. They were shorter runs and both Local to Roanoke.

This was my second time running in the Anthem Into The Darkness.
I dont feel that this race report does justice to how amazing and fun this event is. I wish I had more pictures and different ways to communicate that to you. This event is like none other. It's not a race for the most part, it's just a fun run. It has a slight Halloween theme to it, but it is VERY family oriented.

It was another fine event put on my the Mountain Junkies, LLC. I'm proud to say I'm a Mountain Junkie! I love the adventurous events they put on. I cant wait to run more of these events for the second time.

This run takes place at NIGHT TIME, on TRAILS.
In case you diddnt get that from the title, or the nifty logo above. Funny thing, is that each year, I hear from at least one person in attendance that they have never run trails, and of course they never run at night. The Race Director makes it mandatory that each runner carry one light, and encouraged 2. using 2 lights helps cast different shadows allowing for better perception of the terrain.

420 runners braved the chilly air which was perfect for running.
Location was the Explore Park, which has some interesting history. I'd love to go into it here, but honestly do some Google searching if you are interested. Basically the park is closed, but the trail system remains open because of some awesome people (Mountain Junkies LLC) have made an agreement that if they keep the trails maintained, then they will stay open. This is one of 2 events that the Mountain Junkies host here. The other is the Explore Your Limits 5k and 10k. Read my report on that event from 2011 HERE.

My running friend Doug Falls has hosted a few group runs on these trails over the past year. So, I've been on the trails quite a bit since last year when I ran this race for the first time.

I am thankful for my Dad and Step Mom who came to watch the kids, so that Lydia and myself could run this evening.
Lydia and I were equipped with our head lamps and a hand held. We upgraded our lighting from last year. Last year we both had Energizer head lamps bought from a local hardware store, and a small hand help bought from Advance Auto. We had the headlamps from camping supplies, and I bought the hand helds as a cheap additional suppliment. Of course it was fine and sufficient for the race, as EVERYONE out there is carrying a light or two and you can see much better than you thing you may be able to. Seldom do you find yourself alone out there with over 400 runners on a 4 mile course.

Over the past year Lydia and I have been running at night a lot more lately. We  have both bought quality 60 lumen head lamps. I payed $55 for mine, Petzl Tikka XP2 (purchased from Roanoke's Outdoor Trails). She payed $15 for hers, Kelty brand, purchased from Target. Ironically they are both 60 lumens, cast a spot light for 60 meters, and take 3 AAA batteries. The Petzl has a nicer case and other light settings, but The Kelty is a sweet deal, but doesnt seem as durable.
The hand helds I bought are 120 lumen Mag-lite XL LEDs. So we were well equipped with light.

Petzl Tikka XP 2

I wanted to be sure she and I both have quality lights for this event, but mainly so when we run at night we remain VISIBLE. So incredibly important for night running, or early morning running.

So we arrive good and early at the event, so my folks can get oriented in the day light, and know what to expect.

Race Start
This year you could enter the event either as a racer, or as a runner. The runners started 10 mins after the racers. During the time of registration I diddnt really plan to race the event, and I was thinking that I diddnt want to be in the way of all the racers, fighting for position on the trail. So I registered as a runner.
I think this really served me well, as I was planning for my own time improvement from last year which was 39 mins, and I planned to do it in 36.

Starting in front of the pack with the runners, gave me a fairly clear trail ahead. The first mile or more is not single track and allows for passing quite easily. Beginning on road, then gravel, then grass and all downhill so far. A lot of spreading out of runners. You dont know it but you are running along side the Roanoke River at this moment. The trail transitions from grass to trail slowly and unknowingly. Eventually you are climbing up a hill that I bet most runners would never consider in the daylight, but it's a short one (0.11m). Then a left turn onto the Endurance Loop, Intermediate loop, and finishing the last mile on the Beginner loop. Additional details of the race course HERE.

I'm glad the race ends on the Beginner loop. The Explore Your Limits 10k finishes right after you get out of the woods from the Intermediate loop, and there's a bit of a climb in that last mile. So finishing with a more simple rolling mile is nice, as you can push your pace a little.

I think that my position starting at the front of the second group (the runner group) was fairly strategic, as no one passed me, and I was passing only those that slowed greatly after getting into the woods, or the few that were in the back of the racers group.

The entire course was well decorated with glow sticks, and random flashy things. Nothing scary but it was themed for Halloween. It kept the trail exciting and fun!

Crossing the line within my goal of under 36, my time 35:22, which earned me 4th place in the age group of 20 men ages 35-39. What a successful weekend!

The post-race goodies were consistent with all Mountain Junkie events... a FEAST! Mama Maria's in Salem, VA provided pasta, while the table was full of home baked Dru's cookies, and MJ signature chocolate chip pumpkin bread, Salazon chocolate and so much more. I really need to get more pictures of the food spread out for runners after these Mountain Junkie events. If you cant run, you might as well register just to eat!

Once I was completed running and cooled down a bit, I walked back on the trail a short way and ran with Lydia in to the finish line. She improved her own time by 8 minutes!

I'm excited for my running friends Phil and Pam who really connected with their daughters at the back of the pack. In a few years I'll be remembering you as I walk with my son!

Greenway Memory Miler 10 mile

Be sure to read these blogs on this same race:
Running Nicki
Cardioholics Anonymous

Today was planned to be a special day. I've finally found myself with an opportunity to run 2 races in one day, and I'm going to do it! The Greenway Memory Miler was put on as a benefit for the local Alzehimer's Associations to help increase awareness of Alzheimer's and also to benefit Virginia Amateur Sports. (who havent had funding since 2001). I believe the event was jointly organized by the Star City Striders and Virginia Amateur Sports.

Both events were a part of the Roanoke Outdoor Circus. October 21-23, 2011. Tons of stuff going on, and I couldnt do it all.

Event Date: Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
Location: 9AM Along the Roanoke Greenway, Starting at Wasena Park, Roanoke, VA
Distances: 10mile and a 4 mile

Weather said it would be about 45 degrees at the AM.

Excitement increased as the weekend approached. Temperatures were my biggest concern.

I arrived at the GMM, Glad it was a 9AM start. My wife actually got a parking spot for her and the kids in the Wasena parking lot, but there was another large sufficient lot very close by where most people parked. Tricky thing for out of towners is that Wiley Ave, which runs through this park is often one way and it's just best to drive the normal streets in town rather than try to drive through the park. There's a good opportunity to arrive late because of this challenge.

Where's the start?
I arrived at Wasena park, picked up my registration packet, as Lydia parked, and brought the kids to the playground, which was right there at the race registration and finish line. I asked where the start was and was told "down the greenway under the bridge at the skatepark" I headed that way, and founf no one, so I came back... Realizing it was around 15 mins until race start, I headed that way again, finding no one. I asked another runner, and he was wondering the same thing. Eventually other clueless runners all gathered and figured as long as we stuck together.... So, eventually a biker who claimed to be the lead bike, and then a truck with Barry from the Striders and a microphone. Relief. But a simple sign there would have been nice, but it all worked out.

There I am at the race start chatting with others who will soon be running. Marion Childress, Jerry Ballard and Phil Settle. I'm pumping up Phil to thinking he can take this small crowd and really place in the top 3! (Read his blog Cardioholics Anonymous) I really thought he had a great chance of doing that, and he gave a great run... read about his great effort on his blog report HERE. Doug Falls even showed up to cheer on his friends.

The Course
The race is a 10mile and 4 mile.
The Greenway is a paved path commonly used by runners, walkers and bikers.
From the start on the Greenway, we soon get off the greenway for a small loop (about 1/2 mile), and then back on the Greenway for the rest of the out and back course.
The Greenway: paved, wide, flat

I'm thinking I will likely race this rather than run it. I'll start this race a little faster than I normally run, as I've not run much at all this week. (in fact none since running 8m in the rain at the Cove with Doug falls the previous Thursday) so I had fresh legs. Each mile was very well marked. I asked Marion after mile 1 what our pace was, and he said about 7:30. Much faster than I usually run. I knew I'd be slowing down, but I was happy where I was at for the moment.

Not far into the run is the turn around for the 4-mile runners.
Soon before that turn around, I'm starting to follow another runner. I like the line she is taking through the mellow turns of the Greenway. Straightening out her run, saving steps. I like that approach. I'm thinking that I recognize her from Mountain Junkie events, or some other races. When she turns around at the 4-mile turn around. I think to myself. I would have thought she was running the 10, but oh well. She's 2nd female for the 4-mile, and give her a little shout of encouragement as I pass her in opposite directions.

Later in the race, I pass her again. I'm thinking she's getting in more miles after her 4-mile race. "Hey, did you finish 2nd female?" "*!@$%*, I turned around at the 4, and wanted to run the 10!".
I'm thinking of the numerous ways that could have been prevented. By runner, and by race director and by volunteers. but anyway, I can understand her frustration and I wished it werent so.

The course continued on almost to the sewage treatment plant. Passing an older gentleman near the 10 mile turn around who was enjoying the rippling sounds from the Roanoke River and doing what looked like Tai Chi. I bet all us runners, really messed up his whatever that morning. Sorry 'bout that.

I can tell as I am approaching the turn around because of the oncoming runners. I was counting down the leaders until I got to Phil Similar to the IMTR 16m run. He was in 5th at the time, with large gaps between all top 6.

As often happens, I find myself running along side someone and I am enjoying their pace. I found this happening at about mile 4 or 5. I forget his name, I'm sorry to say but he said he runs all the Mountain Junkie events too, so I'll see him again. I stuck with him until at least mile 6. At times I felt that he was keeping me running faster than I normally would be running. but then when I made small attempts to gain on him, I felt him step it up, and I questioned if I was pulling him, or if he was pulling me?

Somewhere about this time, after the turn around, I run past the inspiring Anita Finkle. I havent talked to her at work in weeks and I diddnt know she would be here today, so I looked forward to talking with her after the race from that moment on.

We run past an on coming runner and he tells us we were 19 and 20 overall. I start thinking how sweet a top 20 finish would be. not being a real fast runner, I dont get that chance to perform well overall, and even in age group rankings, really. This was a smaller event, and as I tell others, placing all depends on who shows up to run. 

Eventually what I recall around mile 7, I pulled away from him. The sounds of his feet getting more distant, and I'm getting focused on the next 2 runners ahead of me. From here to the start I slowly gain and eventually pass those 2 runners.

I was well pleased with the result of my efforts today. I ran a 1:19:05, which is a 7:55 / M pace. I never run that fast, and if so only for 2 or 4 miles at most. This shows me what I'm capable of on a flat course.

The only problem with running that fast, is that now all road races that I enter, I've set a standard of running sub-8 minute miles. Well We'll see about that!

 The last road race I entered was the Lynchburg half and I ran at a 8:47 pace and felt strong at the end. Yet this is still a far fetch from the pace I used to run at when running 5 and 6 times a week back around 2003 and doing my first half marathons. ...and just for the record my PR for a 10 mile was set in 2005 at the Blacksburg Classic 10m at 1:16:25, a pace of 7:39. Apparently I'm not too far off!

Another successful race, and strong performance. Small talk along the course with Marion (who has been running over for 30 years) I was reminded that each year, each month, each week, each day is another opportunity to PR. Yesterday isnt going to determine today. Only this very moment will do that. Thanks Marion. Seeing you at the races over the years and seeing you run strong has been a long lasting encouragement.

Post Race
Post race while waiting for results. I enjoyed having my family there with me. Crossing the line and being greeted with kisses from them all is just priceless. I've never seen cheese cake at a race before, but it was a change of pace, though I diddnt have any. some chocolate goodies and sweets were present amongst the bananas and apples. But Panera bagels seemed to be the biggest hit. I enjoyed a few of them myself.

Age Group placing!
It has been a long time since I placed in my age group. Today I took home 2nd place in my age group. There were only 60 runners for the 10 mile. and for such a small race, I thought I had a decent chance of doing well in my age group. As humor would have it, there was only 2 people in my age group. but I'll take that medal any way! The runner just ahead of me was first in my age group, less than one second ahead of me... wish I had known that!

All along the race, I'm picking out who may be in my age group, but since I was always slowly gaining on him, I never really payed attention to him.

Honestly had I known I would make 2nd in AG regardless how I would have run, I bet I wouldnt have run so hard, but I'm glad I did. I feel like I earned it.

What I learned the most
Run hard now and then, it's OK.
I heard not long ago from a trainer that you should first run for distance before you run for speed. Since I feel like I've earned a strong foundation for distance, apparently I can run for speed at shorter distances.
Though my real running goals are to run long distances, especially 50k trail events, it is nice to run on a flat course and surprise myself with my time.

I carried no resources. I used no gels or food. I took water at every water stop except the last one. I ran in my Nike Air Pegasus 28 Breathe and new favorite Smart Wool socks. I diddnt bring headphones, and diddnt miss them either.