Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run Race Report

I found myself walking up another hill... mountain.  I've just passed the Wiggins Spring aid station (31.5 miles) where I had just switched into a new pair of shoes.  Whether I consciously blamed my 3 mm heel-to-toe drop Inov-8's for being the reason for my tight calves or not was beside the point - I did it because I convinced myself the only way I was staying in the race was if I changed shoes.  Must be a mental thing - I was hoping I could start a new race with 19 miles to go in the middle of 50.

As I climbed I kept peering up the gravel road, noticing the increase of snow.  Everyone had warned about the high volume of snow the second half of the course received via Tropical Superstorm Sandy.  1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, until I veered off onto The Loop (33 miles)  where the snow became a constant 6-8 inches deep with drifts coming up to my knees.  This trend continued until the final 2 miles of the course where we finally dropped below a certain elevation unknown to me.  Sun was bright in the mountain sky nonetheless.

I clumsily trudged my way up to Mt. Pleasant and punched my bib at the overlook.  I wanted to stay there and enjoy the snowy expanse of the surrounding slopes.  But it was cold and I had just been passed by two more runners making my position 15th place.  I was supposed to be racing!  I turned around taking one last glance at the view and continued my way, knowing I had nearly 15 more miles of snow.  While running off the summit I questioned my intent of being in the race; I knew I was going to finish, I had already overcome the temptation of dropping out 4 miles prior.  Now I debated whether to simply run in or actually try to pass people and improve my position.  Without much debate from the evil side, my competitive spirit told me to blitz the downhill and see what would happen.  After all, running on the soft snowy downhill warranted less risk of injury upon a fall.

The snow was great!  Never being a solid downhill runner, I was surprised when I started passing people on the downhill side of the loop.  Soon I realized I had passed 5 people and by the end of the loop I was back in 10th place.  I continued to push on the gravel downhill and passed another runner.  Suddenly I wasn't feeling as bad.  Maybe the change into more cushioned shoes made the difference for my legs.  With 10 miles remaining my spirits were lifted and I continued to have a solid race.  Running on the ridge, we all experienced great difficulty with footing in the snow and legs took a beating.  Although I was having a better time “racing” than the first half, I continued to push my legs to experience feelings they probably didn’t want to feel.  I learned to accept the uncomfortable feelings the remainder of the race having brief moments in 8th before finishing 9th overall.  Top 10 was an enticing finish considering the valued Patagonia Down Sweater awarded!

This was my lowest finishing place out of the 7 ultras I have run.  But, Mountain Masochist was my most satisfying ultra to date.  The vibe this race has and the place attachment the Blue Ridge Mountains have on me really made it an experience worthwhile.  I came into the race with little training and preparation to run 50 miles.  What I did do though was mentally prepare myself for what was to come and although I battled with the psyche all day, I was able to win the mind-game.  I am proud of that.

Clark Zealand has continued to make Mountain Masochist as special as it was when Dr. Horton started it in 1983 and directed for 20 some years.  The 30th annual of MMTR ended up being as eventful as ever.  The ultra-community in central Virginia is great and the people that go to all the Lynchburg area ultras are great people!  Mountain Masochist was also the first ultra my wife had been too, making it a more shared experience for me this time.


Monday, April 30, 2012

April 2012 in Review

April seemed to fly by.  The month also seemed to kick off the ultra-racing season - races have been popping up throughout the country that provides excitement around the ultra-community.  The early trend seems to be fast times and course records.  One can't help but to be impressed with Dakota's performance at Lake Sonoma, crushing the 'not-too-shabby-themselves' field and simply obliterating the previous course record.  Timothy Olson seems to be standing on a podium somewhere along the west coast every other day.  A couple more studs are engraving their names on the Western States entry list.  Perhaps the best performance of the month came at the Promise Land 50k++; Eric Grossman outsmarted a fast field and achieved his goal en route to take down a 10 year course record previously held by Clark Zealand.  I was glad to be able to witness the showdown in the Blue Ridges.

Speaking of fast races and Western States, I join a cast of fast runners in two weeks vying for the final few spots on the WS entry list at the Ice Age 50 Mile race.  If the trend continues, this could be a quick race in itself.  Fast dudes like Timothy Olson, Matt Flaherty (out), Zach Bitter, last year's winner Shaun Pope, and Karl Meltzer (out) are all going to be making it interesting in the Kettle Moraine woodlands.

Running for me has been more relaxed than it ever has been.  I decide what to run when I wake up in the morning and go do it.  Some days I decide I don't want to run so I don't; other days I decide to run a good bit so I do that.  This is probably the least amount of structure I've ever had in my training and what I am finding out is that I am appreciating almost every aspect of running.  Hopefully a fresh perspective brings a fresh race on May 12th.           

March 26-1:    64 miles (10:18:52)
April 2-8:        41 miles (4:55:20)
April 9-15:      70 miles (9:07:08)
April 16-22:    80 miles (11:44:35)
April 23-29:    90 miles (12:54:45)

Total for April:  313 miles (43:45:28)

January:  535 miles (69:34:15)
February:  476 miles (65:18:24)
March:  221 miles (30:52:32)

Total Year:  1,545 miles

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 in Review

2-3 weeks early.
As I mentioned in a previous post I have stopped logging my mileage online, and have moved solely to chicken scratch record-keeping with pen and paper.  I've continued to "keep track" of weekly mileage and time but it is particularly less formal and simply less to look at - so far I've enjoyed this psychological freedom from the heinous mileage wager I had been in.  Here is what I collected: 

Feb. 27-4:    33 miles (4:20:07)
March 5-11:    52 miles (6:42:01)
March 12-18:  41 miles (5:26:49)
March 19-25:  70 miles (10:49:10) – Terrapin Mtn. 50k

Total for March:  221 miles (30:52:32)

January:  535 miles (69:34:15)
February:  476 miles (65:18:24)
Total Year:  1,232 miles

As pictured, mileage has dropped substantially.  The beginning of the month was a time to rid myself of tight leg muscles and body fatigue that had built in January and February.  I have spent a lot more time daily (that is not shown in weekly time) stretching and performing drills to increase flexibility and movement.  Results are slow but noticeable to this point - in the long run I suspect it being beneficial.  The less miles and added mobility has given me a newfound pep in my stride over gnarly trails and hills.  Performance did not seem to decrease in the Terrapin Mtn. 50k either; if anything, it was beneficial to slash the mileage.
Menu Art
Happily Running.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Terrapin Mtn. 50k Race Report

An alluring feature of Central Virginia and the local Blue Ridge Mountain area - a prominent reason I pursued attending grad school at Liberty - is the trail running community, trail running opportunities, and also the races with these people and on these trails.  Saturday, I had the opportunity to run my first race in this area with the Terrapin Mtn. 50k.  Since moving to VA in January, I’ve had the opportunity to meet the local trail running guru’s and be shown around the trails in the Washington and Jefferson Nationals Forest.  After all this training in the mountains, on Beast Series courses and the Appalachian Trail, I was ready to get my first race underway.
Dr. David Horton: an inspiration to many.  Photo by Amanda Medlin
Registration for Terrapin filled and before too long a few top names surfaced on the entry list - Jake Reed, course record holder and previous year’s winner received the #1 seed; veteran ultra-runner and personal inspiration Eric Grossman (last year’s runner-up) was seeded #2;  Kalib Wilkinson, who won Holiday Lake the month before and holds a 2:19 marathon best, was seeded #3; I was at #4 and other local accomplished runners such as Jeremy Ramsey, Chris Reed, Sean Andrish, etc. were seeded in the top 10.  I was excited for the added competition compared to previous years and much talk in the weeks leading up to the race revolved on who had the best chance for the win and how the race would unfold. 

After a long Friday working registration I slid into my tent with the forecast calling for rain.  I slept well, even with the rain pounding on the tent roof – I woke up and it was still raining as I made my way to the starting pavilion.  I remember thinking how hectic everything seemed compared to the casual early morning long runs in the mountains the weeks before with only a few people.  Soon enough though, the race energy seeped into me as I sorted my gels, tied my shoes and filled my bottles.  It was go time…

I was shaking Kalib’s hand as the gong sounded signaling the start.  With surprise, we all took off and soon enough everyone but the top 4 seeds drifted back.  We entered the rocky climb up to Camping Gap aid station (4.2 miles).  Jake led up the hill, with a gap, there was Kalib, another gap, me, another gap, Grossman.  I looked down at my watch and we were sub-35… Jake was over a minute ahead of me already… I knew last year he went through this aid station at 39 minutes.  We were flying…
Looking at my watch going into Camping Gap at 4.2 miles.  Photo from Eco-X 
Grossman joined me as we headed down the long gravel downhill to Hunting Creek.  We both noted how we were surprised to be gaining on Jake and Kalib who were running together just up the road.  We figured the speedsters would be killing this section… soon enough all four of us were together.  Jake had to make a pit stop in the woods and we never saw him again.  The three of us kept pushing and Grossman stopped at the small aid station 2.2 miles before the Goff Mtn. aid station (9.2 miles).  Now, it was just Kalib and I clipping off quick downhill/flat miles leading to the only crew assessable station.  We covered those 2.2 miles in 13 minutes… 5:55 pace. 

Jonathan and Joni, who were really supportive coming from Ohio to visit for the weekend, were waiting with a full bottle.  I tossed my shirt and empty bottle on the ground as Jon threw the bottle too me; I caught it without breaking stride and headed up another gravel road.  With the quick exchange I had gapped Kalib by about 15-20 seconds and adrenaline flowed through my veins like fire.  Whenever taking a definite lead in a race, it is always tempting to keep pushing to widen the gap with hopes of never seeing the competitor again.  With it being so early though, I kept patient and Kalib caught up and led us into a slick singletrack trail that looped around to the gravel road that we had went down a few miles prior. 

This uphill section to Camping Gap #2 (16.4 miles) was probably my best section of the day.  I stayed super relaxed and seemed to be getting stronger as the hill continued to steepen.  At some point I caught and passed Kalib on the climb and was in the lead again going into the aid station.  While filling my bottle Kalib came in and got out before I could and was a few strides ahead of me as we began the White Oak Ridge Loop (WOR).  If you are keeping track that is 5 lead changes between Kalib and myself… unfortunately for me it would be the last lead change as Kalib pulled away going up to the highest point on the course.

Going into Camping Gap for the 3rd time (22.1 miles) Dr. Horton told me I was 1:30-2:00 behind Kalib.  It was nice receiving encouragement from the other runners I passed on the WOR loop (thanks Micah, Jared, and Kevin!).  I still wanted to try to make it a race.  I knew a lot could happen going up to Terrapin (the hardest single climb of the day) and I was confident in my uphill running strength.  I walked the majority of the way up to Terrapin and I constantly peered up the foggy trail hoping to see Kalib.  I punched my bib at the peak and meandered my way through Fat Mans Misery.  Still no sign of Kalib...            
Exiting Camping Gap with cheeks full of GU Chomps in pursuit of Kalib before the Terrapin Climb.  Photo from Eco-X 
A super technical section going down Terrapin called the “Rock Garden” was another challenge… footing was minimal at best and the quad crushing steepness was enough to question the reason for going up.  I was surprised when I made it through this section feeling peppy and without falling.  To get to the Terrapin Mtn. Lane aid station (25.6 miles) runners do a short out and back section before turning left onto a trail following the Forest boundary on the front of the mountain.  In this out and back section I passed Kalib making his way back up to the trail… I was only 1:30 behind him and I noticed he wasn’t looking particularly good.  Maybe I could go for him in the last 5.5 miles…

As soon as I turned around at the aid station I knew that would be a hard feat.  The crushing downhill off Terrapin had my legs reeling.  Even though the trail was somewhat flat on the side of the mountain, I had a hard time getting any rhythm and I imagined I was not making up any ground on Kalib.  I was right.  As I turned left off the trail and made my way to the finishing mile on the road there was no sign of Kalib and with a few minutes to go Dr. Horton told me Kalib had just finished.  I ran in with a finishing time of 4:06:04, 7:14 behind Kalib who set a new course record.  He must have run that last section fairly strong!
Kalib winning.  Photo by AM
Photo by AM
Photo from Eco-X
Here are the RESULTS   

Camping Gap 1 (4.1) - 34:00
Hunting Creek (9.1) - 1:05:00
Camping Gap 2 (16.4) - 1:58:00
Camping Gap 3 (22.1) - 2:43:00
Terrapin Lane (25.6) - 3:19:00
Finish (31.1) - 4:06:04
Photo by AM
Left to Right: Grossman, Reed, Wilkinson, myself.  Photo from Eric Grossman's Facebook
I couldn’t be more pleased with how this race went.  Kalib ran a really strong race and I am glad to have met him and be competitive with him.  It will be fun to race him more in the future.  Clark Zealand runs a pretty tight ship with his races and it was fun getting to help with marking the course, registration, and then actually getting to run it!  All the people were great and it’s always a pleasure hanging out after races talking with them.  Trying to play mind games and talking trash with ‘old man’ Eric Grossman might be the most enjoyable part though. :) :)

Next race: Ice Age 50, May 12
Photo by AM
Terrapin peaking through the clouds.  Photo by AM

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring is Here.....

"All endeavor calls for the ability
 to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, 
endure the last hours toil. 
The fight to the finish spirit is the one... 
characteristic we must posses 
if we are to face the future as finishers."
-Henry David Thoreau

From January 2007 to last week, I had recorded every mile I had ever run on an online site.  At the time, it was a way to keep motivated and disciplined... train through my last season of high school and into collegiate running.  Then, I became addicted.  This sounds juvenile to say - being addicted to logging runs?  In a very real sense it was.  The numbers owned me and too often than not, logging miles was the only reason I was running miles.

So, last week when I stopped logging on the site I frequented daily for the past 5 years, I felt relieved.  I was tangled in a mess of distances, times and graphs that did what for me?  Lead to burnout or injury?  Probably.  I am still logging my runs, on paper.  It's just nice to not be engulfed in everything the website showed.  Unlike running short races as I did for the first 5 years of my running career, successful ultra-running is a lifetime journey that cannot happen with short and quick training stints... it is eliminating the downs and consistently making forward progress in physical and mental understanding (but also happily enduring the struggles).

I am racing the Terrapin Mountain 50K this coming Saturday.  The miles in March have decreased nearly 70% compared to the first two months of 2012 - the downtime has me feeling peppy on the trail!  Plus, it's given me much more time to focus on important things in life.  So, with a talented and fast field, I'm excited to run my first local race since moving to Virginia.

Spring is here.....

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 2012 in Review

James River Footbridge - longest bridge along the AT.
Weekly mileage for the month of February:

Jan. 30-5:    130 miles (17:43:10)
Feb. 6-12:    137 miles (18:53:22)
Feb. 13-19:  110 miles (15:05:06)
Feb. 20-26:  123 miles (16:39:15)

Total for February:  476 miles (65:18:24)

January:   535 miles (69:34:15)
Total Year:  1,011 miles (134:52:39)

I'm going to call this the month of strange weather.  Since moving to Virginia, winter has been mild - I did experience 8 inches of snow one evening, only for it too reach 48 degrees the next day and be completely melted two days later.
This is only 5 days after...
This is what happens when 8 inches of snow meets 76 degrees.
February started out as a natural progression from January as I moved into the 130 mile week range.  Then I took a planned light week, but it ended up being a week where I struggled through left groin tightness and the recovery week turned into a slog.  I felt better for a brief period of time only for my entire upper left leg to get super tight at the end of a long mountain run last Saturday.  Now, I haven't ran for the last two days...

I posted this in my running log yesterday:

Didn't run today - don't plan on it. After a nice chat about listening to your body with Dr. Zealand and "being smart" I decided to listen. This quad/hip flexor or whatever muscle didn't get any better after yesterdays run. Spent an hour on the turf stretching, loosening, push ups, sit ups and such instead of running. 

I probably increased my mileage + hill running too quick when I moved here.

Sometimes it is hard to say if what I am doing is actually making me a better runner. In my purest form, I have some level of natural ability to run. By training, I should become a better runner. Sometimes the things I do in my training may cause my running ability to actually digress, even from my natural ability. I want to be a "happy" runner 5, 10, 15, 30 years from now. Maybe running 120 miles each week all year is not going to allow me to do that. It will be more beneficial, maybe, to run at a lower weekly mileage doing a variety of different types of workouts (WORKING ON MY WEAKNESSES for example), then doing a scheduled stint of 6 weeks or so prior to the "focus" race of high mileage.

I think the output of such type of training would be greater than running so high all year round. It's kind of like becoming immune to the training and sooner or later the outcome will not be as great as it was when you began doing that level of mileage. Like drinking coffee prior to a race to boost energy. If you start drinking coffee everyday, your level of energy will no longer be as high when drinking it before a race.....

My mindset is slowly changing. I am slowly becoming less stubborn with taking rest/days off. I want to enjoy the mountains, a slick singletrack trail. Maybe the time on the mountains shouldn't be what increases happiness. Maybe increased happiness is derived from a balance Mind, Body, Soul. Actually, I know that is what brings happiness. When I feel the best/happiest is when I am floating. That is not when I am injured/tired.

Running shouldn't be complicated. Competition makes it more complicated. Having some immature attitude to run 100 miles weeks all year long is complicated. Having a schedule planned to go to 200 miles in June is complicated. Being injured is complicated. I don't want complication.

Becoming my favorite dry trail shoes
So, I'm laying low for a while.  I normally don't like taking off days but I am learning.  Off days are really beneficial - I'm getting over this strange mindset that I have to run 120 mile weeks all year.  It's fun when you can run a lot of miles in the mountains but it is not fun when you can't run at all.  There really is no reason to run this much, this early in the year unless the "focus" race was in March, and it isn't.
James River AT Crossing

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sustainability of Mileage

The great debate in the ultra-sphere of how to train for ultra-races has seemed to level off over the past several months - partly because there are fewer big races this early in the year but mostly because people are realizing there is really no 100% correct way to train for an ultra (even more likely is because the topic was beaten to death).  There are simply too many people being successful in races who train in a different style.  Ultrarunning is completely subjective in that regard.  There are still questions that  I cannot answer about the sustainability of certain types of training...unfortunately it is impossible to sustain a high level of training for X amount of time and when many ultra runners are constantly on the edge in their training, it is important to discuss the limits of how far to go and for how long.

Many cases show runners training at a high level in terms of pure mileage and time.  Noticeably, and probably most recognizable, is Anton Krupicka's 2007 lead-up to the Leadville 100, when he ran over 1000 miles and 150 hours in a 5 week span - this is not even to mention what was sure to be an incredible amount of elevation gain.  This high level of training led to a 45 minute personal PR at Leadville and a margin of victory by over 3hours.  Was this sustainable?  Maybe for a couple month period it was... but from this post it seemed as if the sustainability ran out after he tried to resume his heavy training shortly after L100, as he had to be sidelined with an injury.  It should also be noted that the 5 weeks leading up to the 1000 miles in 5 weeks went like this: 0 mi., 63 mi., 32 mi., 29 mi., and 133 mi.

The Krupicka account is a micro-example of a very high level of training -really only over a 7 week period.  Another example of training at a high level, that I would love to learn more of, is Jim O'Brien's training for the1989 Angeles Crest 100.  O'Brien ran what is now considered one of the stoutest course records in ultra running, standing the test of time at17:35:48, over 50 minutes faster than any attempt thereafter.  This article lets us know a little about his AC journey.  So, this could be considered a macro-example of training at a high-level.  He focused his training on AC100 a year in advance and ran six weeks of peak mileage from 150-200 miles (I had previously heard he ran 200 miles a week for the 10 weeks leading up to AC, but this article proved otherwise).  We have good reason to believe that he built up to that 150-200 range in the previous months and weeks.

There are obviously many different types of training considered at a "high level" other than running high mileage alone(i.e. mountain running, speed work, etc.), but those types are not as demanding as spending the amount of time on ones feet (and the pounding in legs) that it requires to run 150-200 miles a week.  Every runner is unique and can innately handle different amounts of mileage for different amounts of time.  When someone tries to justifiably put a cap on people’s ability to handle a certain load, it can lead to lesser performance, so that is not the purpose here.  It should be more about people understanding that there is a certain limit, but smartly attempting to defy the odds of human expectations.

So then, what would be considered running too much?  How long can you sustain running higher mileage?  Through my experience, I have found that going over the 140 mile per week mark requires a lot more attention to detail then, say, running in the 100-115 range.  I am sure once you get over the 175 and into 200 mile range your body will react a lot differently than 150.  And also, it is one thing to reach a high mark, such as 175, but it is another thing to do it consecutive weeks and even to build upon it.  If you were able to build on 175, how much can you build and how long can you hold it that high until you are injured or simply start digressing?  Even I have experienced this invincibility that comes with being at a high amount of miles, where it feels like I am floating up steep hills and when 2 hours feels like 2 minutes.  In these times though, I know that I probably am on the complete edge of my fitness, very susceptible to an injury (fine china).  Krupicka said in this post“that those times in one's running when you feel most strong, most indestructible, invincible, are the times when you are probably most vulnerable to injury because the training required to get to that point is considerable.”  

There are certain values at being on the complete edge of one’s fitness. For one, it will give a lot of confidence and readiness for a 100 mile race.  It also just feels good to be fit and pushing the limits.  Maybe most importantly, it is intrinsically satisfying to travel long distances over relatively short period of times through nature.  With all that, there are apparent negative affects at being at such a high level as well.

Anton sums it up well here when it comes to sustainability: “In a moment of rare rationality today it occurred tome that I would be far more consistently mentally stable and physically sound if I lowered my mileage a touch--to a more sustainable level--that would allow me to amass week after month after year of solid training without getting hurt.”

So, it is ultimately your choice on how you train, and at what mileage you decide to reach.  The dedication and time involved to get at a high amount of miles is considerably taxing – then you have to weigh the odds of if you want to risk getting injured or not… there is always a risk though.  If your goal is to “go for broke,” you might want to push the edge a little further. If you are trying to be more sustainable, it might be best to scale back the miles so you can amass more miles over the course of an entire year, not just a short period of time to nail a race.     


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 2012 in Review

The new year is already one-twelve through - such a quick month, but a good one nonetheless.  Not just in running, but in life too, I've added new aspects to my daily schedule and the increase in tasks apparently make the mental time lapse warp along.  Moving to central Virginia has given me a new portal for trail running and my eagerness to explore the local land has sparked a steady increase in mileage.  I've gone from running trails once a week to everyday of the week and it is entirely refreshing!  Also, I have had the pleasure of meeting and running with a few other land-lovers in the local Blue Ridge Mountains, giving me a chance to gain some nice elevation.  I'm looking forward to exploring the land even more in the coming months.

Here is my weekly mileage for the month of January:                  

Dec. 26-1:  105 miles (12:52:27)
Jan. 2-8:     110 miles (14:19:22) - Frozen Sasquatch 50k
Jan. 9-15:   116 miles (14:41:59)
Jan. 16-22: 125 miles (16:39:34)
Jan. 23-29: 125 miles (16:11:51)

Total for January:   535 miles (69:34:15)

 Never too early to wake up for a race.
Typical week-day starting point.
Monday's at Moe's
 Here's a new addition to my recent training.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Change of Plans

As it turns out, I missed registration for the Angeles Crest 100, which was going to be my big focus race in the summer.  I had no idea how quick the slots would fill..  So, I decided to register for the Ice Age 50 in hopes of qualifying for Western States.  That is the goal now and I'm pumped for May 12th.  There have already been some good names on the registered list.

If I finish in the top 2 at this...
I get to run this...
I've updated my 2012 Race Schedule at the top of my blog - take a look!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Frozen Sasquatch 50k Race Report

After last years race, I wrote in my blog that "I would like to see what someone could run if the ground was dry for once.  Maybe next year?"  The 2012 version of Frozen Sasquatch lived up to my delineated idea, as the unusually warm January weather from the Ohio River Valley followed my 1hr 40min drive to the Kanawha State Forest.  My goal was to break the course record of 4:30:42, ran by Eric Grossman in 2010.
Clouds rolling back as RD Mike Dolin blows the train whistle.  Photo by Dan Todd

John Williams IV, a Chalahgawtha friend and fellow SSU alum, used Frozen Sasquatch as his ultra running debut and we had a gratifyingly communal and epic run together for the better part of 31 miles.  We started out in a pack of a half dozen runners, chit-chatting about the past year and year to come, and kept a relaxed and controlled pace for the first few miles.
After the first aid station, John and I kept rolling through and we separated ourselves from the rest of the runners - it would be a two man race that point onward.  We were having so much fun that our hard pace was seemingly unnoticeable and taking in the mossy foliage and slick outcroppings seemed to be the duty of our day.  At one point close to the end of the first 25k loop, John stopped to water the ground and I kept going - I wondered if I would see him again.

I came through the halfway point at a quick 2:02:11!  This time was faster than the my 25k course record from 2010 by over 5 minutes... I was shocked to see this time on my watch.  Shortly after heading up the beginning hill, I looked back and John was back with me.  We both remarked about how fast our first loop was and John hinted at the idea of going sub-4.  At that point for me, the thought of running another 15 miles under 2 hours was far fetched.

The onset of rain made for some slick downhill running and I obliged to let John slide in front of me.  John stopped to fill his bottle and I again took the solo lead - thinking this time there was no way John would catch back up.  This was his first ultra after all!  

After grinding up a long hill, I felt the serenity of the forest and the acute solitude I had in my personal boundary on the Kanawha ridge-line.  The sun was softly coming over the rainclouds and the ethereal feeling was putting a giddy feeling in my one-two step.  I traversed through the slick singletrack not looking at my watch.  When I came back into the present I looked over my shoulder and noticed John was in my sight.  He quickly caught up to me and with 3 miles to go, we were running together again, faster than any other point in the race.

This became a bit of intense trail running as neither of us let up on pushing hard.  With common respect, we both wanted to win.  Scurrying over roots and leaping off of rocks, we did not say much to each other.  I continued to lead and wanted to last until the finishing 800 meter downhill - I had been killing the downhills all day.  We approached the last hill and I took off as hard as I could and gapped John a little and finished with a 4:05:03 making the second lap 2:02:41, a near even split.  John finished a mere 40 seconds behind me in a very impressive first ultra.  
The overall day was so much fun.  I knew John had some incredible fitness built up but I never expected to be running sub-6 miles in the last 3 miles of a 50k!  If he wasn't pushing me, the time would of been a whole lot slower.  Be looking for John IV in the ultra-running elite crowd in the coming years!  

Running over 30 minutes faster than last years race was a huge confidence booster for the upcoming 2012 year.  I'm looking forward to continuing my fitness and more enjoyable races in the coming months.
 Race Director Mike Dolin, myself, and JohnIV.  Photo by Mike Dolin


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 (planned) Race Schedule

I find it quite futile to sit here and write a blog about a year race schedule.  Last year I planned on a schedule and it didn’t nearly shape up to how I envisioned – due to many changes throughout the year.  Trail-running is growing so rapidly that any given weekend one can find a race to run (especially in certain regions of the States.)  The elite runners are even seeing a growth in races offering prize money and that is sure to make some people reconsider the races they place on their schedule.  Then, there are the races with no prize money but with a deep and rich history that are perpetually appealing to any runner.

For me, since I am living in Virginia now, a whole new list of races will be readily available that weren’t last year.  So far, this is what I have on my list of races that I am fairly certain on running:

  • January 7:  Frozen Sasquatch 50k – Ran in this race the past two years and have always enjoyed the people and course.
  • June 2:  TNF EC Washington D.C. Regional 50 Mile – One of North Face's regional races that has seen some good competition the past few years.       
  • July 21:  Angeles Crest 100 Mile – Since I was not selected to Western States, I really wanted to find a 100 miler in the West and the more I read and learned about AC, the more I want to do this.  It has one of the stoutest course records around, set in 1989 (my birth year), and is said to be a spectacular course.
(Edited 1/11/2012 - Ok, so a few days after I wrote this post, I found out Angeles Crest has already closed registration - it is full already... I was a few days too late it seems.  Looking for a new summer 100 miler.)
  • September 29:  Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k – Really liked my experience at UROC this past year (even for being a DNF) and will look forward to going back to avenge last year’s performance.  Plus, it is only an hour from Lynchburg!
  • December 1:  TNF EC Championship in San Francisco – This is a really long time from now but everyone is doing this thing and I thoroughly enjoyed the race, course, and experience in 2010.

Those are races that I know I will be running or really plan on focusing throughout the year.  Here are some other races that I am considering:

February 11:  Holiday Lake 50k
March 24:  Terrapin Mountain 50k
April 28:  Promise Land 50k
May 5:  TNF EC New York Regional 50 Mile
May 12:  Ice Age 50 Mile (*If I for some reason decide to try and qualify for WS at the last second)
November 3:  Mountain Masochist 50 Mile