Sunday, December 4, 2011

Race # 18 - Frosty 5k

Frosty 5k
2:00 PM
Kernersville, NC
Time: 19:52
Placed 8th Overall; 1st place Age Group

Today I ran the inaugural Frosty 5k in Kernersville, NC. My sister, who works for the sponsor, Kernersville Medical Center, got me a free entry to the race so I was all about racing it! I haven't ran a 5k since March of this year so I was interested in seeing what 8 months of training for two ultras and a marathon would do for a 5k time.

The race included students from a local elementary school who all decided they had to line up at the front of the start line. Kind of aggravating but I think they were soon told maybe they needed to back up a little so they did. Glad I didn't have to weave and dodge them all. Somebody would have probably went down.

The air horn sounded and we were off. The first part was a slight downhill so I took off a lot faster than I should have. Oh well. The entire course was flat. Not like the beach flat or anything. Some slight ups and downs, but nothing major, so it was basically flat. I tried to settle in as quickly as possible and just pace myself knowing that I wanted to run at least 6:30 or less per mile, and hopefully beat 20 minutes, which was my ultimate goal. I would be satisfied to beat my March PR of 21:05 as well.

A young kid, maybe 10 years old, hung with me for a while. I was hoping that I would not get beat by a 10 year old. But you never know. I passed the one mile mark with the youngster in 6:16, a bit faster than I had planned but too late to change anything at that point.

As we rolled through the downtown area, a lot of people were lining the streets for the Christmas parade that would follow after the race. They were cheering us on and I kept hearing people say things like, "oh my gosh look at that guy", "oh wow that's hardcore", "dang that guy's running an pushing a stroller!". Yes, I was closely followed by a guy pushing a baby jogger. Not just any baby jogger, but a double baby jogger, with two kids in it! And these weren't small kids. Probably three and four years old maybe. I kept telling myself 'you'd better not get beat by a guy pushing a double baby jogger'.

As I neared the turn around, I saw the leaders. I had been in the top 10 for the first half of the race and was hoping I could hold that position and maybe pick a few people off in the last mile which was supposedly downhill according to the website. I kept on trucking and my senses sensed something I've never experienced in a race. With the parade waiting to start, and many civilians waiting on the sidewalks, there were food stands here and there. Cotton candy, funnel cakes, hot dogs, all kinds of food along the route. The smell. Oh the smell. Usually I love it. But not what you want to smell when you're going balls to the wall running as fast as you can for 20 minutes, lungs burning and your brain saying 'let's stop and eat'.

I powered through the main section and clocked my second mile at 6:27, which was perfectly in line with going sub 20 minutes. I just wanted to give it my all for this last mile, no matter how bad it hurt. And man did it hurt. I could see one guy in front of me and really wanted to catch him. As we neared the last half mile, I could tell I was gaining on him. I hit a slight downhill and turned on the jets. I passed this guy with ease as I came up on the last turn to head to the finish.

I was in a state that I rarely get in. I could tell I was giving it everything I had. I rounded a slight corner and saw the clock and the finish line. Clock said 19:40 and I knew I had done it. I crossed the line in 19:52. I was relieved that I was done, but more so that I had broken the 20 minute wall. I've always considered a sub 20 minute 5k to be 'pretty darn good', and I can't believe I actually did it myself. Overall, obviously very pleased with my time.

I finished in 8th place overall and took first in my age group.

Coming into the finish area

Post race with my age group award

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I saved a life today - A Thanksgiving Miracle

Today, Thanksgiving, 2011, I saved a life.

I went out for a run. Wanted to get in about 10 miles. I ran the roads I always do, nearby my house. Ran up through the local high school and saw the football team going through what I assume is a walk thru gearing up for tomorrow night's semifinal game for a chance to get to the state championship.

I was running down my last road before I made the turn for home and I noticed an old tobacco barn with it's tin metal siding bent in and the rear end of a white Chevy Impala. I said to myself 'well that's not normal'. Looked on the other side and the front end was smashed and had cracked through the other side. I thought someone probably was drunk driving and wrecked and fled the scene, or this literally just happened and I'm the first person on the scene.

I ran around to the back and said "Hello?". A woman responded. "Are you ok?" I said. She said she was paralyzed. However, she could move her hands and head. I asked if she had a phone and she said no. I didn't carry mine either. I heard a car coming. It was one of the high school football players. I flagged him down and luckily he had a cell. I called 911, gave them the situation and they sent emergency response. Luckily, the EMS station is right up the road, and across from my neighborhood. They were there in a few minutes.

She is a 58 year old female and she said she had been there since Tuesday (it's Thanksgiving day so that's 2 days!!) I later got to thinking about the last two days/nights. Tuesday night it was raining like crazy and wind blowing very hard. I guess luckily she was inside this barn. Wednesday night, it got down to 36* so it was very cold. Again, she was inside the barn which I would assume is better than outside, exposed to the cold. I'm so thankful I found her when I did.

Once local police showed up, I overheard them say she had been reported missing on Tuesday. I gave them my info and my wife pulled up about that time to pick me up (even though I'm less than a mile from the house). We left the scene and all I could say was I was thankful that I went out on that run this morning, and I bet that woman is thankful for me. Everything happens for a reason.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Race # 17 - NC Marathon

NC Marathon
8:00 AM
High Point, NC
Time: 3:28:38
Placed 34th Overall; 3rd place Age Group

Yesterday I ran my first road marathon. After running trails all year long, except for a road half marathon and a couple 5k's, I knew this was going to be a different race for me. I didn't know how to pace myself. I knew my half marathon time (1:38) and I knew that 3:30 would be a good goal for myself. However, the two weeks leading up to the race, and asking advice from other more experienced marathoner's, made me decide that maybe I should lower my goal. A few people said that running 3:30 is very hard for someone with my half time and that most people just fall apart toward the end. I changed my goal from sub-3:30 to 3:30-3:40. I would be happy with anything under 3:40, but really wanted to go sub-3:35 and would be ecstatic if I could beat 3:30 (yes I kept that goal in the back of my head).

So race day came. Summer and I headed out early into the cold 28* weather down to High Point. I picked up my packet and the found a place to park. Headed to the start and then did some warmup running. I wore shorts and a singlet, with my Pilot Mountain Payback arm warmers. Yes it was cold, but I knew I'd warm up fast. Plus, with the arm warmers, I had somewhere to keep a couple of gels. I knew I'd need these in the beginning as they didn't offer gels until the mile 12 aid station. We gathered at the start, listened to the national anthem, and soon thereafter, we were off!

I took off at the front of the pack, amongst a lot of half marathoners and what seemed like a few marathoners. HM's wore red bibs while marathoners had blue. All I was seeing was red. I really didn't know how many people were doing the full. Out of the gate, I started getting passed, but I didn't care as I knew most people were doing 13.1 and they would be going out faster than I. I tried to keep it slow, but the first 2 miles were either flat or downhill. Hard to go slow when you haven't ran much all week and your body has been loaded with carbs for a few days. Even though I knew to run a sub-3:30, I'd have to run 8 minute miles, I didn't want to do that in the beginning. But I did. The first and second miles clocked in at 8:01 and 7:45 respectively. At that point I just decided to go for it. Pretty stupid when you think about it to decide you're going to 'go for it' 2 mile in to a 26 mile race. Oh well. I just said to myself, try to stay around 8 minute miles and we'll decide where we are towards the end.

Another tough thing is what to do on the downhills at the beginning. Do I use gravity and the hill to go fast and make up time, potentially risking things later on in the race? Or do I just keep it slow, conserving for the entire race? Decisions, decisions! I decided to use the downhills to my advantage and run them fast, knowing there would probably be some uphills that I lost time on.

The first 6 miles were uneventful, grabbing some gatorade at the aid stations as I went, just to keep my mouth wet and get a few calories in. I decided to take gels every 45 minutes so I had my first at 47. Around mile 12, I realized I had to pee and really didn't want to deal with that thought the rest of the race. A guy I played leap frog with the first half of the race ducked off in the woods and I said that looks like a good idea. So I jumped in some woods just past him and had a nature break. I was coming up on the first place Summer was going to try and meet me. As I headed up the hill, I saw her. She snapped a few pics of me and I gave her a kiss and said thanks. I also informed her that I was feeling good, but in order to run sub-3:30, I'd have to run a negative split, meaning run the second half of the race faster than the first.

Soon after seeing Summer, I hit the halfway mark. They had a clock there and my time was 1:44:40. Perfect. But also meant I'd have to run almost the exact same time in the second half to beat 3:30. I got to talking to my 'nature break' buddy and asked him what he was shooting for. He said sub-4 and I said that'd be easy. He said maybe, but this was his 4th marathon in 5 weeks! Impressive! He also informed me that the second half was more hilly than the first. That got me thinking that maybe I couldn't run a negative split and filled my head with doubts. But I kept trucking.

Miles 16-18 were mostly downhill, so I used them to my advantage running 7:48, 7:48, and 7:46 respectively. The next two miles were mostly uphill so I ran those slower at 8:04 and 8:02. It was this point I could feel my legs fatiguing. Darn this dreaded wall people speak of! I was still eating gels, sometimes two at a time just before an aid station then washing them down with some water. Summer made a couple of surprise appearances to take some pics of me in the second half as I figured after seeing her the first time I wouldn't see her again until the finish.

I thought I could feel my left hamstring starting to cramp and I was just praying that it would hold off. I really think the gels and gatorade I was taking in kept that from becoming worse. Who knows. Mile 21 was again mostly downhill and I did it in 7:48. But followed it up with two miles of uphill at 8:08 and 8:11. These uphills were the difference maker. A lot of people were starting to fade. Most either running very slowly or walking. I kept running just trying to hold it together, passing people steadily.

At the 24.5 mile mark, the uphill started. It was long, and I could see it up ahead. It was all uphill. I had runners in my sight, and with 1.5 or so miles to go, I said to myself 'just keep running'. I had made up some time on the downhill miles that I also knew it'd be ok if I ran a couple 8:05 or 8:10 miles. So I ran. And I passed. One guy was close behind me and I could hear him trying to keep up with me. when I hit mile 26, I decided it was time to slowly increase pace. I decided I wanted to run a sub 8-minute 26th mile and then go all out for the last 0.2. It hurt. My legs hurt. But pain is only temporary and most say that it's just weakness leaving the body. So I ran. And ran. And ran. I passed all the runners I could with one person left in sight ahead of me. It'd be a stretch to catch him but I was going to try. The guy who was on my tail faded as I picked up my pace. I reached the last water stop and was told 'up the hill and half mile to go'.

This part was coming back in to downtown High Point. Flat. Finally. I picked it up. The 26th mile I did in 7:39. PERFECT! Now time to go! I started sprinting, or what I felt like was sprinting. My Garmin at one point said I was running 6:12 pace. The crowd was cheering me on and I was grimacing and giving it everything I had. I couldn't catch the runner in front of me, but I didn't care. I was going to BEAT 3:30, prove those people wrong who said I couldn't do it, and surpass my goal. I crossed the line in 3:28:38. I was so relieved and Summer was there to capture the moment.

Absolutely elated! I couldn't believe that I did it. My legs were hurting, but I didn't care. I. DID. IT. No it wasn't a Boston Qualifying time (have to shave off 24 minutes for that), but I completed my first road marathon and surpassed my 82 seconds!!! No that's not a lot of time, but in running, it is. What an amazing day, amazing race, and I just can't say enough how much I enjoyed it. And always remember, if you set your mind to it, you can do anything. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Just give it everything you've got and you may just surprise yourself!

Thanks, of course, to Summer who again gave up half her Saturday to come follow me around in the cold.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Race # 16 - Triple Lakes Trail Race 40 miler

Triple Lakes Trail Race 40 miler
8:00 AM
Greensboro, NC
Time: 7:48:20
Placed 20th Overall; 5th place Age Group

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

This Charles Dickens quote came to my mind Saturday during the Triple Lakes Trail Race 40 mile ultramarathon in Greensboro, NC. After my first ultra three weeks ago, I knew it'd probably be a while where I have another race where everything went that well. This one was no exception. This 40 mile ultra is on 99% trails according to their website, and I'd say that's a fair statement. I was looking forward to that aspect of this race.

About 45 minutes from my house, I was able to sleep in my own bed the night before, and Summer and I headed out early on Saturday morning. It was cool at the start, in the 40's I believe. The half marathon started first, followed by the marathon, 40 mile and 40 mile relay starting altogether. I had somehow came up with a sub-7 hour goal for this race, which would equal a 10:30 pace for the race. With no mountains or huge hills that I knew of, I figured that would be attainable for me. Boy was I wrong.

The first 1.4 miles were on roads and I was saying to myself "I thought I signed up for a trail race". Finally we made it to a greenway, and then onto some trail. Mentally I knew my goal, I knew what pace was needed to meet that goal, and I blatantly disregarded one of the top five rules of ultrarunning: GO. OUT. SLOW. This was the advice Ian Sharman gave me before my first race, and it worked like a champ. I did not heed this advice this time. With my goal in mind, I knew I didn't want to run TOO slow, so that I had a lot of time to make up in the second half of the race. So I tried to run 10:30-11:00 miles.

Somewhere around the 7 or 8 mile mark, I started having some pain in my left foot. A week after my first ultra, I did a 6.5 mile training run up and down my local mountain in my new Hoka trail shoes. Sometime after the run, it felt as though I bruised the ball of my left foot. This pain would come and go for the next week and the week before the race, I tapered enough that it went away. Well, it decided to make an appearance after those first 7 or 8 miles, forcing me to slow down. I knew at that point my goal was gone so mentally, I threw it out the window and said lets just try 8 hours. So I continued on. Even though I was not too far into the race, it seemed like I had been running for miles and miles and miles and I was 4-5 hours into the race, when in reality, I was nowhere near that. My legs just were not cooperating with me, and just hoped the tides would turn at some point.

The aid stations were not the greatest, so I relied on Summer (my crew) and my own supplies for majority of my nutrition. However, 'crew access' was not accessible at each aid station. The toughest stretch was an 8 mile section only the 40 milers ran, and it was an out and back. This section I really struggled on. It was here I started seeing the leaders come by in the opposite direction, already making the halfway point of the race and heading to the finish. Me on the other hand, I just wanted to get to that next aid station. Finally, I made it. The course markings said I was around 19-19.5 miles. My Garmin said 18.15. But with the tree cover, it could have been skewed. I do know I was 3h35m into the race, and not feeling good.

I sat down with Summer on a blanket and seriously debated on quitting. There was no way I could run another 20 miles with the pain in my foot, if it kept getting worse. But I knew I didn't want to quit. I ate a 1/4 PB&J, some shot bloks, and switched out of my Salomon's and into the Hokas, hoping that the cushioning they provide would help with the foot. Then I headed off, knowing the next 12 miles would be the turning point of the race, either for the good or bad. It was 12 miles until I'd see Summer again. I got about 10 yards into the trail and the light bulb came on. I'd try some ibuprofen. I had thought about that before I got there, and almost forgot as I left. So I turned around and went back and popped three of them.

Then I headed off. Immediately, I could tell a difference. Not from the ibuprofen, but maybe from the food or just the rest. The Hokas were amazing too. I see now what all the fuss is about. The cushioning in these shoes made me feel as though I was running on clouds. Seriously. Yeah the pain was still there in my foot, but it wasn't as noticeable. So I continued on. I felt better as I went, running quite a bit and not walking very much at all. I knew if I could get through these 12 miles, I'd have 9 left and if I kept feeling better as I went, then maybe I could pick up the pace and try to pick off some runners to improve my placement.

Solid foods didn't do it for me all day. I was eating gels, shot bloks, and drinking accelerade and would have an Ensure every 10 miles at roughly mile 10, 20, and 30. The liquid diet was in full effect.

I passed a few people on this second half of the out and back section. They were walking and I was feeling good and kept running. I made it to the next aid station, filled up with some water, ate a gel, then continued on the last four miles to the next crew access point. Passing people as I continued, I finally made it to the crew point. I told Summer I was feeling good and wasn't spending much time there. Downed an Ensure, grabbed some pretzels and kept on trucking.

Mentally, I was feeling better, but I really wanted to be finished. After the events of the day, I was exhausted in many different ways, but all I could think about was finishing. I had somewhere around nine miles to go, supposedly. I say supposedly because at the beginning of the race, we were told the 40 mile course would be somewhere around 39.5. My Garmin was off all day, but I figued it was due to tree cover. The last nine miles there were signs on trees saying 33/40 etc. so I just went by those, counting down to the finish. I came off one trail to a road and there was the final aid station. I filled up with water one last time and headed to the last trail section. I had passed a few more people on the previous section, but didn't see another person the rest of the race. My goal at that point was to not let anyone sneak up on me.

With three miles (or so) to go, I had about 29 minutes to beat 8 hours. I knew I couldn't run 9 minute miles due to my legs feeling so fatigued, and I had to walk occasionally, but still making sure no one was coming up on me. And here I was, with what I thought was a little over two miles to go. I hadn't been paying much attention to the mile markers, just watching for the yellow arrows to make sure I was still on course, as there are so many trails that branched off from the one I was on. Soon enough, I could hear a voice coming from some speakers so I figured I was getting close to the finish, but wasn't sure if the course just came close to the finish before wrapping another two miles in some other direction before coming back here. I then came off that trail and saw a man that said "Through the cones, around the pond, and to the finish." I was like...umm.....ok, sounds good to me! I picked it up almost to a sprint. Ended up passing a guy who was doing the marathon and he was walking. I told him good job and keep it up. I came to the finish, happy I was done, looking down and stopping my watch at 7 hours, 48 minutes, and 20 seconds. Good enough for 20th place overall and 5th in my age group. However, there must have been a screw up somewhere with the mile markers. My Garmin said 37.45 miles. As I said earlier, tree cover can skew the Garmin, but no way it did so by 2.5 miles. But at the end of the day, we all run the same race.

So I did it. I faced the mental and physical demons in this race. I battled them the first half of the race, but conquered them in the second half, and finished. Key word being FINISHED. I definitely learned a lot from this race, and I'm glad I did it. Of course I had aspirations of going longer, but I think I'll hold off for a while. I want to do a 50 miler, but that'll have to wait until at least late 2012. But hopefully I can continue to train, and get there someday.

Thanks again to Summer for giving up her entire day, and to our little girl who will soon see me race in person.

And we're off! Starting in the back of course.

1.5 miles in, finally hitting some trail.

One of the lakes we ran around.

Near the half way mark, not feeling good.

Feeling strong with 9 to go, sporting the Hokas.

The Hokas that saved me!

Finally finished!

Finisher's medal

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Race # 15 - Uber Rock 50k, Wintergreen Resort, VA

Uber Rock 50k
8:00 AM
Wintergreen Resort, VA
Time: 6:07:27
Placed 31st Overall; 11th place Age Group

Where do I even begin? If you read my previous post, you’ll know what I put in to getting to this day, and running my first ultramarathon. Now, the day has come and gone, but I have the memories to last me a lifetime.

First of all, I have to thank God for giving me the ability, talent, strength, courage, willpower, and everything else, in order to do what I did. I am so lucky to be able to go out and do things like this.Second, I have to thank my wonderful, loving wife, who sacrificed her Friday, and Saturday, to go to Virginia and follow me around to each aid station while I do what I love to do: run through the woods. She sacrificed her time to help me accomplish a goal I set out to do six months ago. I can’t thank her enough.I love you, Summer.

Next, I will say that today was one of the best days of running I have yet to experience. I did everything I’ve learned to do leading up to the race, and it paid off BIG TIME. My goal for the race, besides finishing, was to do it under 7 hours. With the last minute course changes, which knocked out about 1,200 feet of elevation, I set a secondary goal of 6:30. So those were my goals, and you’ll learn later whether I met them.

The day before the race, we met up with a couple of guys from RWOL I had talked to who were also racing. Bob was racing the 50k with me (on his home turf), and Chris was doing the 100k. We arrived in time to see a lot of the elite runners be interviewed by Bryon Powell from, one of the editors from Trail Runner magazine, and Andy Jones-Wilkins. It was very interesting to get their take on the race, hear about what they’ve been up to, and just be in the presence of some of the best ultrarunners in the world.

The night ended with a Q&A session where Andy Jones-Wilkins put each runner on the spot and asked a few questions, and then they offered it up to the crowd to ask something. Of course I had to asksomething. I told them I’d be running my first ultra, and if they could give a new ultrarunner one piece of advice, what would it be. Alison Bryant said “hydrate, and eat as much as you can”. Eric Buckley told me, no matter what, keep moving forward. He also said that as long as you keep moving, you’re getting closer to the finish. If you stop to sit down, the longer you sit, the more stiff you get, and the closer you get to stopping. Both were good pieces of advice.

When the panel discussion was over, we got up and were about to head out when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Ian Sharman. Apparently he wanted to say something but didn’t have the chance.He said to go out slow. I knew this. After reading Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell, I had heard all of what everyone told me. But I had a follow up question. When do you know when to pick it up and get out of the ‘slow’ mode? He said with about 10 miles to go. If you feel good, then pick it up. He said if you go out slow, you will get passed. But if you conserve, you will still have the opportunity to pass people in those last 10 miles as they may not have much left in the tank. I thought it was very kind of him to take the time to tell me that when he could have just called it a night and headed to his room. I really appreciated it. After that we headed back to the room and after about 45 minutes of lying awake sort of restless, I fell asleep and the next thing I knew, it was morning.

When I awoke, we packed up our stuff, I had my normal pre-long run breakfast (diet mtn. dew and a pop tart), and we checked out and headed down to the Start/Finish area. The elite runners were scheduled to go off at 7:00 with the rest of the 100k runners going off at 7:15 (not sure why they needed a 15 minute head start (kidding)). Then the 50k/half marathon runners were going off at 8:00. It was crazy again to just be at the same race as these guys (Roes, Mackey, Wardian, Sharman, Jonathan Basham the Barkley winner, etc.) Once they set them off, they made a lap around the parking lot and then came back through the S/F line a second time. I don’t know why. Apparently it was a ‘parade lap’. But I got to thinking, if they went across the timing mat one time, then came across a second time, wouldn’t it start, then stop the clock? Who knows? Not for me to worry about. And just like that, they were gone, only to be seen by me later in the day.

Now, for the good stuff. I had trained with Accelerade, so even though they had a multitude of Clif products, I decided to stick with what I know (don’t do anything new on race day!). I did partake in the Clif gels, and Shot Bloks (I ate the heck out of those things). Then as 8:00 rolled around, we got in position, and we were off. We headed through ‘Ridgley’s Fun Park’, a place where kids play during ski season, and then across a ski slope and onto the first trail. I was going slow, just as planned, and getting passed, just as planned. No big deal. We then get to the one mile mark, and I start to notice a guy in front of me swatting at the back of his legs. Then I thought I heard him say something about deer flies and I hate those things. But I hadn’t felt them yet. There was a lot of commotion amongst the runners in front of me and then I figured out what was going on. I felt a sting on the inside ankle bone of my right leg. I look down, and there was a yellow jacket stinging me through my Smartwool socks. I swatted him away and then kept on moving with the stinging sensation throbbing for the next few miles. The first thing that came to my mind was the ‘bees’ scene from the Tom Hanks movie, The Burbs. Turns out, someone had disturbed a nest, possibly in the ground, and a lot of people got stung, some multiple times including one girl who was 11 years old, running the half marathon. Not a fun way to start and I could only hope that was the worst thing that happened to me. Luckily, it was.

After this section, we continued down and ended up crossing over a very rocky section. With all the rain that moved through the area on Friday, everything was very slick. So I made sure to take it easy through this section because those rocks would’ve hurt had I fallen. We then got to the first uphill section of trail and spent the majority of it walking behind some folks, not in a hurry, trying to remember to keep it slow.We emerged from the woods and onto a paved road that went up to near the Wintergreen summit. I ran part of it but then walked and ate a gel, trying to remind myself to slow down!!! (Man that’s so hard!) The roads would be a battle all day. The race was never advertised as a ‘trail’ ultra, but I guess I just assumed it was given it was on a ski resort and in the mountains.

Coming up to the first aid station, I was thrown off. The website had shown it being at mile 5.5, but my watch said 4.6. I had hoped it would not be like this all day. I switched out my Accelerade bottle for a new one and grabbed two packs of Shot Bloks. I ate one on the next trail section, which led us back through the part of the resort close to the S/F line. Some volunteers directed us out onto the main drive that brings you to the top of the mountain. We were to take this road down a little ways and then pick up the trail on the left. Once I got there, I saw a girl coming up the road from the wrong direction. Apparently, she missed the trail and ended up going a mile out of the way and had to back track a mile to get back to the trail. Not sure how she ended up missing the orange flags marking the trail. I saw her later, after I finished, and she had dropped and said she got off course again at some point.

Once we hit this trail section, I got stuck in a line of traffic. There were about seven of us and a couple of girls in the front were just holding a conversation, and it seemed like we all had to keep the governor on so we didn’t run in to each other. Eventually they let us pass and myself and another girl were zooming through the single track. It was a nice piece of trail and the technicality of it was similar to what I had trained on, so I felt I really excelled on that part. I also felt like I got in my groove at this point, about six miles in. Then we hit the dreaded road (yes, the roads, again). Wintergreen Drive is the main road that takes you to the top. It’s about three miles long, but we only had to do about two miles of it going down.Not to fear, the entire three miles were waiting for us at the end, as we have to come back up it to get to the finish. More on that later.

Once we reached the bottom, there was a massive one-mile climb that included some 15% grade road.This was walked by almost everyone. Some brave souls ran parts of it, but not me. The next aid station, Reed’s Gap, was at the top of this hill and that served as the turn around point for the half marathon. So there were plenty of folks barreling down the steep road and I gave my usual “good job” or “good stuff” or “looking good” remarks to them all. Once I arrived at Reed’s Gap, I grabbed a couple of PB&J triangles, a potato, and a fun size snickers. I ate it all and headed off. My stomach did not seem to agree with all of that. I honestly think I had eaten too much in the first nine miles. I walked a little bit as Summer pulled up beside me to video a little bit. We were now on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), headed for the White Rock aid station.

The BRP section was about 4-5 miles of roads, slight inclines and declines, so nothing major. It was so foggy for most of the way though, it was better (for my legs and my safety), to get off the road when cars came by. Had it not been foggy, we would have had some spectacular views, not only on this section, but the entire day. Oh well. When we arrived at the White Rock aid station, it was nice to get off the roads. I knew we had trail leading down to Sharando Lake and I was looking forward to that!
This trail section was gradual downhill almost the entire way and a little rooty here and there. As I got about a mile into this section, I began to see other runners, both 100k and 50k, coming back in the opposite direction. The single track made it hard for all of us to pass each other so I generally tried to get out of their way, especially if they were 100k because they had a lot further to go than I did! As I reached the end of this trail, we ran through a grass field, I had my picture taken by one of the photographers, and down a steep bank via some manmade steps. Then we ran through the campground to the aid station.This aid station served as two. We entered, but then had to run about a mile around the lake, and then hit it again as we leave. This was around mile 18 or so and I was feeling good at this point. I ate some, switched out bottles, and headed off. I knew I had this uphill trail to get me back to the White Rock AS.Aside from a nature break, I ran almost the entire way, except for right at the end where I walked. I got to the aid station, had a picture taken with my wonderful crew (wife), ate a little and had some mtn. dew, and decided I was going to run the rest of the way to the finish. I was at mile 22, with 9 to go, and I was going to give it everything I had. Let it all hang out. Finish what I started!!!

As I left the AS, I was alone. I don’t mind being alone while running. I don’t have to talk to anyone and I can concentrate on running. I was back on the BRP and it was again, foggy. Eventually I saw a person ahead and noticed he was walking, and then would run a little. As I reeled him in, it was a guy and the girl doing all the talking on the trail section at the beginning that didn’t let people pass. I kept my stride and pace, and passed them. I kept trying to pick up my pace on the downhills but I could tell my legs were getting tired. I made it to the Reed’s Gap AS for the last time, made a quick stop and told Summer I was ready to kill it. Four miles left. Time to see what I’m made of.

Remember that mile long hill I walked up in the first half with the 15% grade? Well, it was now time to go down it. I didn’t go all out, but I ran pretty hard, and my legs took a beating. Let’s just say that when I got to the end, I was actually happy to be going uphill. And here’s where I dug deep, and figured out just what I had left.

Three miles. All uphill. Wintergreen Drive. I had trained on Pilot Mountain and a couple of times, have ran from the bottom to the top via the roads. That’s about 2.5 miles. So I just told myself, this is just like Pilot, but a little longer. No I hadn’t done that training on Pilot after doing 27+ miles, but I tried to just put myself in the zone and convince my mind to convince my legs to do it. So here I went. Running. Up a hill. On a road. For three miles.

The first guy I passed told me I looked strong and I just said great job, man. Then I passed another guy walking and he told me I was nuts for running. At one point I saw a guy on all fours with a friend tending to him. A car stopped and he asked if they could take him to the top. Not sure what happened with him. I probably passed a total of 7 or 8 people, most of them telling me I was crazy and wondering how I had anything left to do that. I just put my head down and ran. Did it hurt? Well yeah! Did I want to stop? I honestly only think there was one small instance where I thought about stopping.

But then, I started to feel what I thought may be cramps in both legs. I knew I was close. I was praying that I could just make it to the top, as the last ¼ mile was downhill. Finally, I reached the turn. No one in sight behind, or in front of me. I gave many thanks to the man above for getting me through this. And I almost came to tears, as I knew then I was going to beat my goal. I pounded the downhill, the muscles next to my shin bones screaming at me every step I took. I then took a right through one parking lot and was just hoping that Summer was ready for me (I was getting there earlier than I had planned). The fog was really thick so it was very hard to see any runners as they came through the chute. But when I got close enough, I could see her waiting to video my finish. I crossed the line in 6 hours, 7 minutes, and 27 seconds. Not only had I met both goals, I blew them out of the water.

For once, I was proud of myself for what I did. If you know me, you know I’m very hard on myself and I can always find something negative in everything. At this point, besides the yellow jacket stinging me, I could think of nothing that went wrong for me on this day. This was truly an event in which the stars aligned for me. I ate well. I hydrated well. I paced well. And I FINISHED STRONG. What more could you ask for? Well, I’ll tell you.

I grabbed some food and changed clothes and awaited the 100k winner. Geoff Roes made a slight comeback after Michael Wardian went off course for a total of 10k and ended up winning the Ultra Race of Champions. Michael took second and Matt Flaherty took third. Geoff and Michael were interviewed and the elite finishers all sat around talking about their race as us ‘citizens’ looked on. Dave Mackey and Scott Gall, both who had dropped at some point in the race, showed up as well and I was fortunate enough to get my picture with them and Geoff. I also thanked Ian for his advice and told him I put it to good use and came out with the race of my life. He didn’t mind posing for a picture either.

So that, my friends, is the story of my first ultramarathon. I couldn’t have scripted it any better. I can’t think of anything I would have done different. I may never have another race that goes as well as this one. But this was truly a day I’ll never forget. Thanks again to my loving wife Summer, who even drove us home and let me rest. And thanks for reading. Enjoy the pics!

Pre-race chatting with some new friends

About to start!

Coming in to the first aid station

Very foggy on the BRP coming in to White Rock AS

Second stop at the White Rock AS, posing with my wonderful crew!

Back on the parkway. Alternating between road and grass

I made it! I ran the last 8.5 miles, including the 3 miles up the final hill.

Video of me crossing the finish line.

Finisher's medal

Posing on the award platform

Geoff Roes being interviewed by the race director after his UROC win

Trail Runner magazine interviewing Geoff

Mike Warding coming across the finish in 2nd place (after going 10k off course)

Geoff and I after the race

Dave Mackey, myself, Geoff Roes, and Scott Gall after the race

Ian Sharman (4th), Matt Flaherty (3rd), and Geoff talking post-race

Mike Wardian talking post-race

Myself and Ian Sharman

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Uber Rock 50k Pre-Race Thoughts

This weekend I will be attempting my first ultramarathon. The Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) is a 100k race being held in Wintergreen, VA. Alongside the 100k race, there is a 50k and half marathon. I will be running the 50k in an attempt to test the waters in the ultramarathon scene and see how I fair.

I first found out about this race somewhere around February/March after finishing my first (trail) marathon, the Pilot Mountain Payback. What drew me to it was the fact that they were inviting as many 'elite' runners they could, in an effort to make this a race a true 'Ultra Race of Champions'. I wanted the opportunity to meet some of them and share some of the same trails as them, as I may not get this opportunity again. The prize money is another thing to help lure the runners in, with a $10,000 purse and $2,500 going to both the men's and women's winner. Geoff Roes, current course record holder at Western States, is among the runners and is also on the board/panel of folks who invited the other elites to join the race. I hope to potentially meet some of these great runners while there this weekend.

Once I decided I wanted to run this race, my training increased. I was going extra long on the weekends on the trails nearby my house. I ran up and down Pilot Mtn. on these runs numerous times. I ran eight long runs of 20+ miles since the last weekend in May. In June, I had long runs that were 23.2, 21.5, and 26.2 miles respectively, all in back to back to back weekends. In July, I ran long runs on back to back weekends of 28 and 26.2 miles. Due to vacation schedules and cut back weeks, my other weekend 'long runs' were somewhere in the range of 10-18 miles. My final long run came 5 weeks before this race and was truly an eye opener into the eyes of what ultra running seemed to be. After completing roughly 24 miles and returning to where my car was parked, I had a decision to make. Do I continue and do another loop as originally planned? Or do I bow out after a near fall and say, 'well I guess 24 miles is enough'? Without much hesitation, I took off up the mountain again. I ended up with my longest run to date, both time on feet, and mileage. 30.75 miles in 7 hours and 9 minutes. This was truly a breakthrough for me as I wanted to give up, but didn't. I will definitely use this to remind myself that it can be done.

My training for this race (and the 40-mile ultra I have also registered for, conveniently waiting for me 3 weeks out from UROC), also had me run some very high mileage weeks (for me). I ran anywhere from 40-80 miles per week, and one week where I hit 91 miles. Then came the tapering period. Not ever doing an ultra before, I didn't know how to taper. All I knew was to decrease mileage. So I stopped running doubles, and cut my long runs back to 14-17 miles, and only ran 40-50 mile weeks. The week of the race (now, as I write this), I've ran just a couple miles each day to keep my running streak alive. My legs feel so fresh. They feel like they haven't ran in forever! Which is kind of true given the aforementioned training I did. But I guess that's a good thing, because I'm ready to run.

My goals for this race are obviously, to finish, but I hope to finish in under 7 hours. With the last minute course change, I don't think it will be a problem. This change has decreased the elevation gain from 7,600 ft. to 6,400 ft., so that will be an advantage. And the five mile (potentially muddy) uphill ending is out of the picture and replaced by a three mile ending on pavement with a slight downhill at the end. I now mentally am making a secondary goal of 6 1/2 hours to complete the race. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

I hope to be writing a successful race report following this milestone race of my short, but hopefully to be long, running career. I've gone running!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Race # 14 - Battle of the Triad Half Marathon, Kernersville, NC

Battle of the Triad Half Marathon
7:00 AM
Kernersville, NC
Time: 1:38:05
Placed 12th Overall; 1st place Age Group

Today I ran the Battle of the Triad Half Marathon in Kernersville, NC. This was a half marathon & 5k sponsored by my sister's company's new hospital, Kernersville Medical Center. She was generous enough to get me an entry into the the half marathon for free, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

The race took place at the Kernersville YMCA on the weekend that Hurricane Irene was headed up the east coast, and the effects could be felt all the way in the triad. While no rain was expected, the wind was sure to play a role. I had not ran a race since my last 5k in March, and haven't ran a half marathon since my PR in December. I put in a lot of training throughout the months leading up, but training was for upcoming Ultramarathons. So I didn't know if I could hold a fast pace for that long and PR. My training had been mostly slow runs, and not a lot of speed work. I knew I wanted to run an average 7:30 pace per mile, and if I could hold, that would give me a new PR.

With a 7am start time (I assume due to the thought that it would be very hot), Summer and I headed out early to the race. (This was my first race our little baby, nestled in her tummy, would attend. And hopefully the first of many!) Supposedly a professional Kenyan runner was to race as well, but he never showed. And another professional triathlete did show up to compete with the Kenyan, but since he didn't show, this guy was the favorite. We all lined up for an on time start, heard one of the runners play the national anthem by trumpet, and then we were off!

Of course, started out what seemed fast, but I quickly decided that you know what, I'm going for it. Let's see how all this distance training pays off. Let's see if I can hold a fast pace for 13.1 miles. So I did. Mile 1 split was 7:14. We continued through the next 3 miles going through a neighborhood, up and down rolling hills, with the wind constantly in my face, so it seemed. Every turn I took I was waiting for the tailwind, but it just kept hitting me in the face. I kept telling myself, 'if you don't feel a headwind, it must be a tailwind, so pick up the pace a little and take advantage!'

We passed by the start/finish area and Summer was there with my water bottle with accelerade. She handed it off, I took a couple of swigs, threw it in the grass, and headed out on the open road with a 'lane' made of road cones for us runners. (Special thanks to Summer for being such a great wife and handing off/picking up my water bottle).

The next 5-6 miles we were running with a tailwind. I ended up passing a couple of folks who decided to stop at the water/gatorade aid stations while I elected to keep on truckin'. Once I hit the 10 mile mark, I was back on the road that gave me the generous tailwind earlier, this time though, it was the other way around. I knew the next 5k would be a tough go, legs would be hurting as I tried to keep my pace, in addition to catching the guy who's back I'd been staring at for like 7 miles. When we hit the last water station, the guy I almost was about to catch up to stopped. He stopped! I couldn't believe it, and I took advantage. I kept moving. The gap wasn't too big, but I was out in front, with only the cycling dude leading the course in front of me.

It was time for the home stretch. As I got down under 2 miles to go, the guy who I had recently passed was gaining on me, thanks to the wind. My legs were starting to burn, and then he was there. Right behind me. I yelled out, 'you got me!' But he didn't pass. He must be drafting off me, I thought. We were then within a mile left, and a gentle downhill was now under my feet. A row of trees lined the other side of the road which knocked down some of the wind. I tried to pick it up to put some space between he and I. It worked as I opened up about a 20 ft. lead in front of him. We took a left into the entrance of the YMCA and then another left to the finish line. I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 1:38:06.

Official race time had me at 1:38:05 finishing 12th overall out of 171, and 1st place in my age group. I was pleased overall as this was a PR by 100 seconds, and I did it with the windy conditions which we had. Summer and the baby were there to congratulate me and I have to thank her for getting up early and spending her morning coming out to watch me run. Below is a pic of the age group award.

Race # 13 - Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k, Winston Salem, NC

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k
8:00 AM
Winston Salem, NC
Time: 29:59

Today was my birthday race and I told Summer I would run this 5k with her and not 'race'. She told me she wanted to break 30 minutes so I decided to pace her. We met up with a group from our church and took our team picture, then headed to the start line.

After the national anthem, we took off, the first mile being a gentle uphill. Mile 1 was done in 10:23, a little off pace, but because of the hill. Mile 2 was mostly flat and I was just encouraging Summer to use the downhills to her advantage. She did and mile two split was 9:12.

As we started the final mile, I knew it would be close and we'd have to push the pace to make it under 30 minutes. On the third mile we saw Rudy, a race photographer who I work with. He snapped our photo as we passed by and we kept pushing. As we made the final turn and headed toward the finish line, the mile 3 split showed 8:58! Just a little further and we were almost done.

We hit the finish and my watch stopped at 29:59! It was an amazing run and I'm so proud of Summer for digging deep and meeting her goal. I'm so lucky to have an awesome wife!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Race # 12 - Owl's Roost Rumble Trail Half Marathon, Greensboro, NC

Owl's Roost Rumble Trail Half Marathon
8:00 AM
Greensboro, NC
Time: 1:44:10
Placed 28th Overall; 3rd place Age Group

Today I ran the Owl's Roost Rumble Trail Half Marathon in Greensboro, NC. This was my second trail race of the month and again, I did not know the course coming in to the race. I did read on the website that it had an uphill finish so I stuck that in the back of my mind for later.

This race had the 'elite' runners going off at 8:00. I don't know how you get to be an 'elite' runner, but whatever. I'll explain later why I don't think all of them were too 'elite'. The 'blue bibs' were next (all the men half marathoners). As we lined up, I was not warmed up and had only ran from the car to get my bib number, so needless to say I would be warming up for the first mile.

We took off at the air horn sound and the first half mile or so was on a paved road. Eventually we hit the trail and fell into single file moving at a good pace. First mile was 7:44. I knew the pace would slow once we hit the trail so I didn't worry too much about it. What a warm up though huh? As we continued through the single track trail, we got to mile two and I suddenly heard commotion toward the front of the pack. Someone busted and landed hard. He bounced right up and fell back in line a few spot in front of me.

Miles 2-5 were all at a faster pace than I thought I would run but honestly, I was just trying to stay with a group, any group, and see how long I could hold their pace. There were a couple of times I had to pass because I felt the pace was slowing and I wanted to run what felt good for me, knowing that I may regret it later. Right around mile 5, I had a double whammy. My left ankle, two consecutive steps, almost rolled. It was a close call but luckily, no harm done, for now.

I kept looking at my watch waiting for the halfway point but when I saw the first mileage sign of the race saying 7 miles, my Garmin said 6.4. So a little short but not too much. I've come to expect trail running to be a little off. By this point I've made a couple more passes and am running alone. This would be the case for the majority of the remainder of the race. I wanted to see if I could catch those guys in front of me, but more importantly, make sure no one caught me. Easier said than done, especially with what I mentioned at the beginning. More on that later.

Around mile 8, my right foot absolutely nailed a root and it felt like my right big toe was broke. That could have been really bad but luckily I held it together and didn't spill. I came out of the woods and onto a single track dirt trail through a field before hitting some pavement and then the final water stop heading back into the woods. I could see the group in front of me, but didn't know if I could catch them. As I passed the volunteers, I immediately hit a bad spot and almost rolled my ankle again. Thankfully, I was ok. The group in front of me though started to gain momentum and basically left me. I knew I couldn't catch them so I concentrated on finishing without being passed.

Give the mileage shortage, I knew the race would end somewhere around my Garmin saying 12.4 or so. I calculated this all out and tried to give it my all for the last 2.4 miles. Then it happened. There. In front of me, was the 'hill'. I've ran harder hills. Heck I did the Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon. Now THAT was a hill. But something about giving it my all for 12 miles, running a sub 8:30 pace for the majority of the race, on the trail, was too much. My mind was saying, 'Let's just walk this part'. My legs were agreeing, but something said KEEP PUSHING!!! I tried. But I gave in and ended up walking, seriously, like 8 seconds. But that was all it took. Behind me, I heard it. Footsteps. Ugh. I got passed. There was nothing I could do. The other runner offered encouragement saying 'Good stuff man' and I agreed and then started running again. This hill wasn't the steepest, but it was in the last place you'd want it during a race.

Once I got to the top, the passer was too far ahead for me to even try and catch. I just pulled together all I had left and went for the finish. I heard the crowd and emerged from the woods stopping my watch at 1:44:08. Good enough for 28th place overall and 3rd in my age group. I was beat. I was upset that I got passed but I really gave it my all. I knew that I left it all out there and the runner that passed me deserved to finish ahead of me. Granted he later told me that he ran those trails often and he knew what was coming, which I believe is always an advantage.

Overall, a great race. Compared to my only other trail half, this one had about half the elevation gain, and was about .2 miles short of the other, and I finished 9 minutes better. Still, I was impressed with myself holding the pace I did, overall pace for the race being 7:57. I always enjoy running trails, and this was no exception. Most importantly, I had fun!



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Race # 11 - ASC Greenway Trail Half Marathon, Fort Mill, SC

Anne Springs Close Greenway Trail Half Marathon
8:30 AM
Fort Mill, SC
Time: 1:53:38
Placed 6th Overall; 2nd place Age Group

I decided to jump in on this half marathon in Fort Mill after finding out about it and it's $17 registration fee.  Way less than the $45 I paid for the upcoming Owl's Roost Trail half marathon in Greensboro at the end of the month.  So I rose early and headed south about 2 hours for this race.

It was very low key, with an 8k in addition to the half.  I checked in, received my bib, and tote bag, and got warmed up.  We were told the course was marked with orange flags and ribbons and there would be multiple stream crossings and swinging bridges that we would have to walk over to avoid being bucked off.  Temps were in the low 40's to start.  At the start, we all headed off with the first stream crossing coming in the first 0.3 miles.  There was a swinging bridge here as an option if you didn't want to run through the foot deep creek.  Only one girl too advantage of the bridge as myself and the group in front of me took to the water.

We settled in and the lead group took off.  I let them go as they were probably running 7mm pace and I was doing good to hold on to an 8mm pace.  Myself and one other guy ran together for a couple of miles, me following him, and then I decided to pass.  He stayed with me as I tried to hold a 9mm pace.  We were told it would be muddy but the first 6 miles wasn't very messy at all.  That would soon change.

My Garmin kept measuring a little short of each mile marker, and after 6 miles, I pointed this out to my drafter behind me.  We began to chit chat a little and he mentioned this was his first half.  i congratulated him on hanging at such a fast pace, as I didn't know how long I could hold that pace, and I know in my first half, I wouldn't be able to do that.  We conserved our energy, and just kept running, no talking. 

We reached the bridle trail portion of the race and here came the mud.  With the rain in the past week, the second half of the race was full of mushy spots.  Around mile 8, we ended up catching up with a local girl who is part of the Rock Hill Striders (the local running club putting the race on).  We ran single file, the three of us, for a mile or so.  I then motioned for the pass and took off.  It was then that I decided to see if I could put my distance between myself and these two.

The last 3 miles were tough, with what seemed to be the most uphill parts of the whole race.  Maybe it was just my legs telling me they were getting tired.  I kept trucking though.  Passing a few people who were in the 8k race going on simultaneously.  Mile 11 went around a lake and mile 12 actually passed by the finish area where snacks were located.  But at the last second, the route cut back into the woods for the last 3/4 mile.  I only had to stop and walk once on the uphill, which I was content with given the pace I surprising to myself, held for the race.  

I saw the finish line and crossed in 1:53:38.  Good enough for 6th place overall, the 5th overall male, and 2nd in my age group of 25-34.  My Garmin actually showed it being 12.55 miles but not too surprised as most trail races are not exact.  I stuck around for a bit and enjoyed some food and got my AG prize (a frisbee), and then headed home.  

Overall, a great low key race on some great trails.  I enjoyed it and would keep this on my list to do in the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Race # 10 - Feed Stokes 5k, King, NC

Feed Stokes 5k
9:00 AM
King, NC
Time: 21:04
Placed 7th Overall

Today was my first 5k race since the Trinity Center 5k back in October. After 4 months of marathon training and running that first marathon, I figured I would be able to beat my PR of 22:05 from that October race. This was also the first race I had even ran in my hometown. So I 'knew the course' since it was on all local roads. I knew where the hills were and where I'd be able to kick it up a notch so I felt good going in to this race.

As the name shows, the 'Feed Stokes' 5k was to benefit our county outreach ministry so we were all asked to bring at least 3 cans of food to donate to the local shelter that provides for the needy. After arriving, I dropped off my food, picked up my packet, and headed to warm up. Summer was again there to cheer me on. My parents also showed up to as I noticed when I ran by the area where we'd eventually finished.

All runners gathered at the starting line and I made my way to the front as I hoped to place well amongst the group. Our local high school track team had a few people there as well so I knew they would be good competition and I probably wouldn't beat some of them. We started off and I took off. A motorcycle pacer led the way and the one who eventually proved to be the winner, was right on his tale. I settled in with a couple of other guys. My first mile was 6:45 according to my Garmin. At the end of the first mile, I was passed by a man pushing a double baby jogger with 2 kids in it. I was hoping I would not get beat by him in the end.

The second mile had some uphill in it so I really started feeling it as I tried to keep my pace up. We entered central park and made a lap around it. It was here that I passed the baby jogger as he had to stop due to one of his kids wanting some water at the only water stop. I grabbed a small cup on my way out of the park, and threw some in my mouth just to get it wet as it was sort of dry from my breathing. Then we headed up the road to downtown King. This part was mostly flat and my Garmin beeped for mile two at 7:00 flat. I was feeling good and knew it was easy from here on out.

I made a pass on a guy I had ran behind for a while and never saw him again. We entered a neighborhood that was slightly downhill and I picked it up a little knowing I had two more small uphills remaining. I kept my pace up the first small hill and headed for the finish. I started sprinting and made it up the hill as people cheered me on. I was all alone not being passed, but too far behind the guy in front of me to pass. At this point I just wanted to finish strong. I ran through the finish line and stopped my watch at 21:04, a full 61 seconds faster than my previous PR.

I finished 7th overall and 1st in my Age Group! A new PR and the motivation to crack 21 minutes for the next one! Thanks to Summer for taking the pictures and being supportive of me once again.

Lining up at the start. I'm in the blue shirt with the black arm warmers looking down at my watch.

And we're off! #14

After the finish. Loving the arm warmers from the marathon I ran.

1st place in my age group!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Race # 9 - Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon, Pilot Mountain, NC

Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon
9:00 AM
Pilot Mountain, NC
Time: 4:43:51
Elevation Gain: 4,080 ft.
Placed 27th out of 84

This was my first marathon. I remember back in September reading about this and thinking 'How cool would it be for that to be my first full marathon?' I was also considering the Myrtle Beach marathon (held on the same day to be my first. But give the travel and cost requirements for it, and the convenience of the Pilot Mountain Payback (PMPB). Plus, I could easily train on the race course as I live about 10 minutes from the trails. So in October, I decided I would take this adventure and make it my first marathon.

I was super excited the week leading up to the race. The morning of, I had the typical nervous feelings in my stomach. I was ready to just get out there and run. We made our way to the race located at Yadkin Island Park. To get to the start line, you have to drive through 2 creeks. Parking was full near the start line so we only crossed one creek before parking. That meant we had to cross by foot, the second (and deeper of the two creeks). Everyone was having to do this. Some people (including Summer) accidentally slipped into the water. Those racing just brushed it off saying they had to get wet at some point.

We were met at the start by Summer's parents and my mom and sister. They all came along to wish me good luck. Summer had planned to go to every road crossing and take pictures and encourage me. Little did I know that everyone would do this. I am so lucky to have Summer to be so supportive of me and doing crazy things like this. And my family and hers too as they all encouraged me and were my support crew the entire day. I even had other runners commenting on my fans. Thank you to everyone for making my day so special!

As I went to retrieve my bib number and goody bag, I was looking for the previous year's winner, Jason Bryant. He's a local guy (from Elkin, NC) and is on the La Sportiva running team. I've been reading about him for the past month or so and his ultramarathon races. It was surprising to me that he is from close by where I live as this area doesn't necessarily produce a lot of ultrarunners. As I was standing in line, I noticed a guy in front of me wearing La Sportiva shoes, gloves, jacket, and pants. He looked to the right and I saw his face. I knew it had to be him. So I just asked 'Hey are you Jason Bryant?'. It was. So I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes before the race. That was a great start. I knew I probably wouldn't see him again as he finished first last year in a time of 3:15.

Now to the race. The marathon included 84 people and the half was overstocked with 132 (original limits were 100 per race). We all gathered at the start and the RD said GO! Immediately, we all had to cross a creek. I wasn't worried because I was wearing my SealSkinz (waterproof socks I received for Christmas). After the creek we had to climb a massive hill up a dirt road. I knew this was coming and most people didn't. I had an advantage all day knowing what was coming as I trained on the course while some people came from all around to run either the half or full. So I paced myself up the hill as a lot of folks passed me. I tried to pace myself most of the day and save enough for the end. While running up this hill, there was a guy running with his dog. Yes his dog. The dog had covers on his front paws. Halfway up the hill, the dog popped a squat and laid a fresh one for everyone's viewing pleasure. I made a couple of remarks like 'Dude we just started!' and 'It must have been the nerves'.

At the top of the hill we hit the trail and went back downhill. Once we reached the bottom, we were at the parking area. My family cheered me on as I crossed creek number 2. We ran out a dirt road, crossed creek number 3 and I settled in. Yes, that was 3 creeks we ran through in the first 1.5 miles. After that, we crossed the first road and hit the Corridor Trail. This trail is roughly 6.2 miles long and is up and down the entire way. The end of it served as the turn around point for the half marathoners. There were 3 more creek crossings on this section of the course. I knew that I had to conserve as this would be my route back to the finish line. There were also 3 roads we had to cross throughout this trail, 2 of them having aid stations.

I reached the first aid station, crew cheering me on, had a banana and a handful of M&M's. I continued on, feeling good, pacing myself. When I reached the next road crossing (no aid station at this one), I saw Summer and could tell something was wrong. I asked what happened and she pointed up the road. Apparently cars were coming down a hill and around a curve and saw the spectators and stopped as runners crossed. There was a motorcycle coming down this way as well and rounded the curve and could not stop in time. He slammed on his brakes skidding, bike front tire wobbling, and eventually laid it down. Luckily Summer's mom is a nurse and she quickly rushed to the scene. She thought he had a broken collar bone but he was more upset about the bike. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital. I hope he's ok!

The next segment of the trail was the last before the turn around point for the half marathoners. I saw the first group of them coming towards me and they were flying. They had to have been running sub 6:30 pace which was impressive to me. I was nowhere near that but I had a long ways to go. I passed the guy with the dog. They were in the top 20. So a lot of people can say they got beat by a dog today. I kept trading places with one guy who would run up a hill, then walk, and I'd pass. Then he'd run back and catch up and pass me, then walk. Obviously he wasn't concerned about his pace.

About 7 miles in, my right knee started hurting the same as it did on my last long run when I was running down one section of the mountain that is a bunch of 'man placed' rock steps. I knew if this kept up, I would be in a world of trouble once I got to the top of the mountain. So at the half marathon turn around point, I ate another piece of banana and another handful of M&M's. I then asked for some Advil. Summer didn't have any, but had Aleve instead. She did not know the dose recommendation and I didn't either. But apparently you're only supposed to take 1 every 8 hours. She handed me 3 and I downed them. The pain subsided soon thereafter.

I started my ascent up the Mountain Trail which leads up to the top of the mountain. This part was quite technical in places. I quickly passed the aforementioned guy who couldn't control his pace. Never saw him again. I did a lot of walking on this section as it was mostly uphill. Once I reached the end of it, I had one more section that I hate. It's uphill, and it's man-made stairs. I walked up them conserving my energy. This led to the summit. I reached the summit which is also the checkpoint so you have to make it here in order to get credit. I wanted to make it to this point in 2 1/2 hours and I was early. 2:15. So I took my time eating and drinking and posing for pictures. The RD was also there and I overheard him tell the lady checking peoples' numbers that they were down to 73. So 11 people had already dropped out. I then started my descent.

The next section goes around the knob of Pilot Mountain and then down the back side. Another woman and I ran together through the downhill section. After the treacherous rock steps, we headed down a pebble path. I ended up passing 2 guys who were going the wrong way. I hope they figured it out. The downhill was just that, and I was feeling good. I ended up seeing 6 deer running through the woods about 20 yards from me as I came to the end of the middle section of the course. After reaching the half marathon turn around point for the last time, I knew I had 7 miles remaining. I ate some chips and had some water and continued on.

At mile 18, I could feel the wall coming. My legs were tired. My upper body was tired. And my mind was telling me to stop. But I couldn't. I'd come this far. Each road crossing, my family was there cheering me on. And that kept me going. My mind kept telling me to stop, and I would stop and walk, but then it would tell me to run. This was repeated so many times. I did a lot more walking than I wanted on the last 7 miles, but it was what I had to do. As I came off the Corridor Trail, there was an unmanned water cooler and one other runner. I stopped with him and we talked. We both said 'I'm so ready for this to be over'. He asked how far we had left and I said I don't think it's but a mile.

I continued on in front of him. The last trail segment was the same we started on, mostly just the dirt road we drove in on. People were leaving in their cars, cheering me on as I was by myself. I ran through the final 2 creeks and Summer was there to meet me and run with me across the finish line. Before getting to the finish line, I saw Jason leaving, carrying his first place plaque. He had finished in 3:05. I kept my eye on the prize though. Everyone was cheering for me and that made me want to sprint. So I did, left quad cramping and everything. I finished in 4:43:51. I completed it under 5 hours which was my goal. I was also told I finished in 27th place (out of 84 registered runners). I don't know how many DNF'd but that will be posted on the website in the coming days.

We were awarded as finishers with a PMPB either large coffee cup or small soup bowl. Not sure what it'll be. Probably just a dust collector somewhere around the house.

Overall, a success. I am so lucky to have a supportive wife and family that spent their day cheering me on. Thanks to them to making my day one I'll never forget. Pictures below for your viewing pleasure.

Pilot Mountain

Me at one of the road crossings.

The half marathon dog.

At the summit. Beautiful day for a marathon!

The infamous Pilot Mountain knob.

Me coming through the final creek.

My lovely wife Summer and I after the race.