Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 - The Year that was . . .

2010 was definitely not the the best year on record for me . . . but I'm not complaining.

While this blog is a running blog, I do want to mention two non-running personal items . . .
No pictures of Michael actually studying!!!
  • Son, Michael, got his Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering from Clemson University.  But only one person in his class got a job by graduation . . . not Michael.  He moved in with me for a few months, but has now moved to Telluride, CO to work until he can find an Environmental Engineering job.  So net-net it's good, and bad, and good!

  • My daughter, Laurie, became the store manager for the new North Face store in Vail, CO.  So proud of her!  She moved to Vail just last year after graduating from College of Charleston.  Got a job as an assistant manager for the North Face store in Lionshead and when they decided to open a new store in Vail Village, Laurie was asked to open and manage the new store!  Wow!
Notice Laurie is wearing a Patagonia fleece!

    But this is a running blog and I need to stick to running here or I'll lose the ten's of readers I have!!

    For the third year in a row I've run at least a marathon a month (okay . . . 12 marathons or longer over the 12-month period).  Guess that is cause for some celebration.  Plus, I had two more runs that weren't 26.2 but they ran like marathons - Bays Mountain Trail 15 mile Race and the Uwharrie 20 miler.  I was a 'beat' after each of these as I was after any marathon.

    Anyway, running 12 marathons in 12 months really isn't much of an accomplishment.  The first year I set this as a goal, I thought it would be challenging.  But it really isn't all that hard.

    Compare my 12 marathons with some friends' accomplishments:
    • Daniel Lieb completed 52 marathons+ this year.  And he took some weekends off so, yes, there were several weekends where Daniel ran 2 marathons!  
    • Jim Plant ran over 2010 miles in 2010!  Finished at least two 100 miles (maybe more!)
    So, to the uninformed, 12 marathons may seem like a lot, but it really pales in comparison to many.

    Up to this year I had never had a DNF.  Now, for the uninformed, a DNF is not a good thing!  DNF stands for 'did not finish' and is something we runners all live in fear of.  The longer the distance the worse it is.  Failing to finish a 5k race is really no big deal.  We've run many, many runs and races way longer so deciding to not finish a 5k means nothing.  But that changes when you think about a marathon or longer.  Here, the distance itself is the challenge.  And all marathoners live in fear of failing to finish a race.

    But 2010 saw me with three separate DNFs . . .

    • My first DNF happened in April when I failed to finish running my first 100 mile attempt.  I stopped at 50 miles.  But somehow that failure didn't seem harsh.  
    • But my second DNF hurt a lot.  After finishing 20 miles of the Leadville Marathon I was forced to quit since I missed the time cut-off.  The hardest part was done.  I felt very positive when the RD met me and told me my race was over.  In hindsight I wish I had given him my race number and chip, but continued on by myself without support.  But I didn't.  This race is a real bugger.  I doubt if I'll try it again.

    • DNF #3 happened at the Medoc Trail Races Re-run.  I fell hard and hurt my wrist and the decision to stop at 20 miles was easy.  No regrets on this DNF!
    Also, the Friday after the Leadville Trail Marathon I had knee surgery.  Injury happened when I got on the floor to play with my dogs . . . not running!!  Surgery July 9th went super smoothly and on August 10 I ran 13 miles.  Did lose fitness, but the comeback was actually fairly easy.

      A few of this year's high points for me . . .

      #1 - Finishing the New River Trail 50k this October.  The distance wasn't the challenge but the time sure was!  I had to finish in 7 hours and I just made it!  I worked hard for this finish and it was quite rewarding.

      #2 - Finishing the Umstead Marathon and not being dead last!  The year before I had finished, but just barely made the time cut-off.  This year I was safe from the cut-off and had a good finish.

      #3 - Got a 'speeding ticket' for running too fast!  That's right folk! A frickin' TICKET!  Doesn't get much better then this.
      #4  Actually won an age group award in two races!!  Since I started running in about 1976 I had NEVER won an age group award in any race of any distance.  Even very small races!  But this year I broke through . . . well actually the 'ranks are getting thinner' each year.  So there is something to be said for just showing up!!

      So 2010 wasn't a bad year at all.  Thinking about it now, it maybe was a pretty good year!  But 2011 is going to be even better!!

      Monday, December 13, 2010

      61-year old runner - available for immediate adoption!

      If you live on Kiawah Island and have ever wanted a son, I am your man . . . er . . son! 

      The advantages of an older son are tremendous:
      • Think about the joys of having your son cut you grass, and do assorted odd jobs . . . the day he comes to your home!
      • I'm already potty-trained.  No diaper needed . . . at least for a few more years!
      • You don't have to worry about getting your house trashed with a wild party when you go out of town . . .neighbors won't complain about too much noise EVER!
      • This son won't sleep 'till noon every day, nor will he wake you in the middle of the night to be fed.
      • You don't have to worry about the costs of a college education etc, as that has all been paid.
      • Adolescence is over!  No raging hormones to deal with! And if you are considering the adoption of an older female, no worries about menopause at all!
      • No crazy legal papers to fill out.  Just ask me and I'm yours!  Just change your will to include me!
      My only really bad habit is a minor running addiction.

                         Just post a comment on this blog if you're interested!

      Now for a race report from the Kiawah Island Marathon this last weekend . . .

      I first met Dave Hinshaw and Brian Wilcox at about the 7 mile point of the 2007 Richmond Marathon.  Obviously, they aren't a very discerning pair and are not good judges of character, as the three of us struck up a friendship and have stayed in touch ever since.  Dave and I later ran the OBX marathon in 2009 and Brian and I met up at Boogie in 2010 where I get my annual dose of humble pie!. 

      The fourth member of the this year's crew was Dave's brother, John, who was doing his first marathon!

      Four friend, three goals and two successes!  And a really fun weekend!

      Let's get the bummers out of the way right off!
      • Brian Wilcox didn't qualify for Boston!  Missed it by a measly 32 seconds! and
      • Dave Hinshaw didn't get the PR he was hoping for.
      But the big deal was John completed his first marathon!!  Now, THAT is a big deal!

      Friday Afternoon -

      The four of us descended on John's Kiawah home Friday afternoon.  For me, finally getting there was quite a relief:  1) my brand new heat pump quite working the afternoon before I left and temps were in the 20s, 2) my daughter was having a kidney stone trying to pass and 3) I had car trouble on the way to Kiawah.

      Once there we went to pickup our packets and John drove us around the course.  Nice and flat!  There is nothing quite like the excitement of someone doing their first marathon!  John was actually pretty calm and cool about the coming race, but you could still sense his excitement . . . reading compulsively from some marathon guide book for last minute tips!  I loved hearing he and Dave talk about all the hints they had read!  I can't believe all the things I've been doing wrong!  :-)

      We decided to cook dinner at John's house and hit the bed early for a 5 am wake up to guarantee us good parking.

      Saturday -
      Up a five, showers, breakfast and we headed to the race!  Since John is a homeowner we had great access and parked about a two minute walk from the start!!  NICE!
      Brian, Dave and John Saturday AM before we started!

      Temperatures were in the high 40s and a light rain.  About 30 minutes before the race started, the rain intensity picked up to a steady rain . . . not heavy at first, but we were all drenched the first 13 miles.

      Kiawah is definitely an beautiful, upscale place.  hundreds and hundreds of beautify homes broken by picturesque salt marshes, lagoons and golf courses.  Sensory overload!  Nice course and one of the best organized races I've been to.  Everything was just 'easy.'  But a marathon is still a marathon.  None are easy.

      I should have worn gloves but I didn't think it was that cold!  But at about mile 4 I picked up a pair of gloves someone had thrown down!  Sweet!  They helped a lot, but I was cool all day long!

      At about mile 7 or so I met Jennifer Swain from Atlanta who was making Kiawah her first marathon.  Jennifer and I were back and forth all day and she ended up beating me by 1 second though our clock time was 30 seconds apart!

      The first loop was uneventful with all the 1/2 marathoners keeping us company.  Once we started the second lap things got sparse fairly quickly.  Just after the turn, I met Carolyn Smith, a neat young pharmacist from St. John's Island, SC doing her first marathon. So Carolyn joined me running 3 minutes and walking one, while Jennifer held her running 2 1/2 minutes and walking one. and the three of us wound our way through the island.

      Carolyn, Dave and John just havin' fun!

      Jenn, Me and Carolyn at 18

      At about mile 18 or so we caught up with Dave and John.  Had the take the expected pictures and we all continued on.  Carolyn and I soon decided to change two a 2/1 interval and we moved ahead somewhat.  By mile 22 Carolyn started suffering and fell back but Jenn and I pushed on.  Actually, Jenn pulled ahead quite far but I did manage to close the gap some by the end!

      A good day for me . . . 5:33.  Carolyn was just behind finishing her first marathon in 5:43.

      And just behind Carolyn came Dave and John . . . brother's staying together the whole way and holding hands crossing the finish line!  Very Cool!!
      John and Dave at the finish!!

      As I was coming to the finish, Brian joined me the the finish line and told me the news about missing Boston by 32 seconds.  I was soooooo disappointed for him but still a 13 minute PR is totally awesome!!
      Brian, John, Dave and I once the pain ended!!

      To celebrate, that night John took Dave, Brian and I to dinner at  'Cassique' . . . for one of the best meals I've ever had!  It is hard to imagine just how good mash potatoes can be!!  And short ribs . . . my goodness!So much fun with these three guys!

      More pictures

      Sunday, November 28, 2010

      2010 Medoc Trail Marathon Re-Run

      The weather was perfect!  Cold but not really uncomfortable . . . and not windy!  Probably 40 folks showed up to run.  The majority were planning to do the 10-milers but a few hardy souls were there for the full 26.2.

      Here is most everyone!  Like herding cats!!

       I got there early as set up our semi-aid station.  The big surprise was Margaret Bentley!  Though Margaret was injured and couldn't run, she had brought hot coffee, hot donuts and sausage biscuits . . . FOR EVERYONE!  Thank you so much Margaret!!

      We did the road out-and-back sections first so by the time we were on the trail everyone was spread out.  Russ Hensley was planning to do about 10 miles and decided to hang with me on my first lap (so he wouldn't get lost!!).  Really nice to have company!

      It quickly became clear just how many leaves were on the trail.  As we were going up the rocky section near the Dam site you couldn't even see the rocks!!  But they were still there!  All day long almost every step was an adventure!  If you've run Medoc before the leaves have dropped you really can't imagine just how hard it is in late November!  The added mental side makes the whole run way harder!

      Russ and I at the bridge.
      Russ and I stopped at the shelter at the ~5 mile point to re-supply and grab ANOTHER donut and sausage biscuit!  Down along the creek we saw Richard (from Greenville) coming the wrong way!  I still can't quite figure out how he got to where he was, but he was definitely turned around!  So he joined us for the next 2 miles back to the shelter.  Took spill #1 near the Bluff.  Nothing hurt but my pride!

      Once we got to the field, Russ and Richard turned to the picnic shelter, and I continued on.    Plugged in the IPod and enjoyed some music along the way.  Coming down the rocks near dam site, I took spill number 2.  This one scrambled my brain some, so I just sat there for a few minutes to clear the cob webs.

      Everything was fine as I continued on over the summit, down the fire road and back to the creek. Felt good and strong at this point.  I took several pictures and just was enjoying my time in the woods.

      But as I neared the bridge I tripped again.  No 'tuck and roll', no 'gentle slide'.  This was a thud!  And I knew wasn't so lucky this time.  Not only did it scramble my brain again, but this time I knew I had hurt my wrist / hand.  Finally got up and started running again, but now with every step I could feel the beat of my heart in my thumb!  Not good at all.

      Got back to the picnic shelter and saw Charles West there saying he was done . . . just not having a good day at all!  I talked Charles into doing the Bluff Loop with me.  By this time I was beat . . . mentally and even a little physically!  Charles and I called it a day at 17.5 miles.

      Just my second DNF . . . twice this year.  The first one bothered me a lot, but this one not so much.  Running just killed my wrist and I really didn't want to risk another fall.  So I'm fine with my decision to quit.

      I did enjoy seeing everyone finish their marathons!  Since I am usually one of the last finishers, this is a part I usually miss!  So much fun!

      Certainly, Medoc is no cakewalk.  It is a hard run.  But with the leaves like they were it just adds an additional mental challenge.

      Here are all the pictures I took.

      Thursday, November 25, 2010

      Happy Thanksgiving

      I have so much to be thankful for . . . don't we all??
      • To have families that love us . . . even with all our warts!  And who are healthy, wealthy and wise . . . well . . . maybe not all three!
      • To live in America!
      • To have Americans that make sure our freedoms remain our freedoms!
      • To have plenty . . . of everything really!
      • To just be alive and enjoy life.  Maybe in total health but maybe not 100%.  Either way, we are lucky to still be . . . 
      • To have friends that just make each day better 
      I'm sure I could go on and on, but those are the big one's for me this morning.

      Tuesday, November 9, 2010

      City of Oaks Marathon

      Bottomline:  I loved it!  Good day all around!

      Now, for those of you that simply don't have anything better to then read this boring blog, here is a little more detail.

      I only decided to run this one at the last minute.  After Ridge to Bridge last Saturday, the top of my big toe was sore and I hadn't run.  But I thought it was feeling somewhat better.  Late Friday afternoon, Michael Forrester asked it I wanted in and I said "Sure!" thinking it would be virtually impossible at such a late date.  But then he said, "Your race number 768!"  Oh . . . . well . . .  I guess I'm doing it!  A little 'shoe surgery' and I felt like I had a good chance (Turns out I may do a career change and become a 'shoe surgeon' full time!!  My toe really didn't bother me much at all!)

      The 'important business' lines!
      Sunday was a cold fall morning, so I found my way to the parking area before 6 am and then just stayed in my car with the heater going!  Nice!  About 6:25 I headed to the start area, took care of some important business and just had a few minutes until the race started.  Only RMEC member saw was Eric Seale!  But other were there.  Just before the start I saw Susan Dumar and her friend, Lindsey, who I had met at Medoc!  That was pretty much the only person that I knew until I saw Ben Dillion as I was entering Umstead!  Even at the finish I saw no one I knew, except the folks I had met during the day!

      Lindsey and Susan at the start

      A satisfied Heed Drinker!

      The City of Oaks marathon course is great!  No really spectacular scenery, but no ugly spots either!  Nice gently rolling course and the hills are fairly gentle.  Half marathoners miss the nicest sections, so next year you all need to step up to the full and see the whole course!

      And the race organization seems to have done an excellent job with every detail save one . . . I really hate their electrolyte replacement drink - Heed!  Nasty tasting stuff . . . but not as bad as some drink they had a Grandma's Marathon a few years ago!  And I learned I liked the Hammer Gels . . . especially 'apple pie!'

      I felt good from the very start of this race!  But I am now more convinced then ever that something very strange happened the week before at the Ridge to Bridge Marathon (R2BM)!  Ridge to Bridge is essentially an all down hill race from about mile 6 on.  How could I have gotten as tired as I was and finished with a 5:46 at R2BM?  Then, just one week later, run a 5:32 at City of Oaks and and felt like I could have turned around and run it again?  15 minutes lost at R2BM!!  No way!

      The answer is simple: something supernatural happened the week before, as the last part of the R2BM ran at the base of Brown Mountain, the home of the Brown Mountain Lights!. (see my previous post if you missed this!).  That is where the lost 15 minutes is!  Either that or I was abducted by aliens at R2B . . . but they obviously wanted none of me and sent me back!

      Monday, November 1, 2010

      I've been thinking about Ridge to Bridge . . .

      For the last two days, what happened to me at the Ridge to Bridge Marathon has haunted me.

      Okay, this isn't a Halloween post . . . this is serious.

      While I admit I made some strategic mistakes at the R2B (see my prior post!) I wasn't that bad!

        I had some issues around mile 7 that took a significant amount of time, so I tried to 'make up' time on the long down-hill section of the race.  But I felt like I did fairly well, passing the 13.1 mile point in about 2:27 and continued on to mile 15 at virtually the same pace.  Between 15 and 18 I slowed but pretty much held a 3 minute run and a 1 minute walk.  And from 18 on I just mixed running and walking as I could.

      I admit I was struggling after 18, but I did still keep some good running in the mix.

      When I was at about mile 17 I did some calculations and felt like I still was still going to be able to at least do a 5:25 marathon.  At mile 20 that estimation slipped to about a 5:30.  But when I finally finished the marathon, I crossed the line with a 5:47!!  And I don't believe I slowed up much at all after mile 20.

      So what happened to the extra 17 minutes?  Where did that time go?

      I've replayed this over and over in my mind and there was just no logical answer . . . until I remembered where it was we were running!

      We ran down Jonas Ridge to Wilson Creek . . . the same Wilson Creek that drains Brown Mountain!

      Maybe you have heard of the Brown Mountain lightsHere is another link.

      These strange lights have been seen for centuries.  Essentially on some nights, folks can look over to Brown Mountain and see lights moving along the mountain.  (Here is a link to a video).  There has been lots and lots of efforts to explain these lights but to date there has been no solid explanation.  The Brown Mountain lights a mystery!

      Now, as far as I know no one has linked the phenomenon of the Brown Mountain lights with any unusual or unexplained time warps.  Nor have there been any reports of the time / space continuum being distorted around Brown Mountain.  But these have never been either studied or investigated.  Who knows?  All we know for sure is that strange things happen on Brown Mountain!
      • Could I have been caught up in some freak, strange time warp that occurred Saturday afternoon?  
      • Was there some sort of cosmic disturbance that focused a strange energy for 17 minutes on Brown Mountain?

      Who knows.  All I know is I lost 17 minutes I can't account for.

      Sunday, October 31, 2010

      R2BM - Poor strategy . . . I never had a chance!

      2010 Ridge to Bridge Marathon pictures.

      Laura MacLean's Pictures

      I thought I had this one figured out!

      The Ridge to Bridge Marathon is a down-hill run ... probably 95%!  Amazing!  My strategy was really quite simple.  As I posted it on Facebook:
      I've got a strategy for RtoB tomorrow ... when the downhill starts at 7 or so, I'm going to 'ball up' and just roll down the hill to mile 14. Then, get up and run it in!! 2,700 foot net decline start to finish!

      Marcia . . . before she left me!!
      Well . . . I was perfect going into mile 6 or so.  Didn't even take too many pictures as I was focused on what was to come.  Enjoyed running several miles with Marcia Godwin, a fellow MTCer and certified nice lady!  Also met a nice young couple from Asheville running their first marathon.

      After 6 miles on rolling pavement, we finally hit the dirt, downhill road off Jonas Ridge.  The grade was just about what I was expecting.  But before I went into 'strategy implementation' I needed to take care of a little business.

      My only suggestion for this event is MORE FRICKIN' TOILETS at the start!  Think there were 4-5 porti-johns to be shared by 400 people who had just finished a bus ride to the mountain top and had 20 minutes till the race started!

      Given the lines I opted to handle the simple #1 problem behind a bush . . . but the #2 problem needed to wait for the 'proper' place.  Was hoping that would be in the first mile . . . but it actually needed to wait until about mile 7!  By the 4th mile folks were asking me if I was okay and why did I look so funny when I ran!

      Long story short, I finally found a 'nice' spot for an off-road adventure.  Damn those hills are steep!  While relief was sweet, I couldn't savor the moment!  I had some significant time to make up!

      But I had my strategy . . .

      OK, it was stupid.  Of course the road was curvy!  'Balling up and rolling' was just not going to work for me!  So I just had to run!

      Truth be known, I thought this marathon was going to be easy.  Virtually all down hill!  How hard can it be??  I'll never make this mistake again.  A marathon is hard.  Any marathon is hard!  Every marathon is hard!!!!  Remember that, fool!!

      On the race website, David Lee (the RD) gives some simple, time-tested suggestions for success:  During the steeper, upper sections of the downhill, run conservatively.  Don't go all out!  Wait until the road levels out some and then pick up the pace ... maybe starting at mile 16 or so.

      I was going to follow David's advice originally, but after my extended visit to the 'Jonas Ridge Comfort Station and Powder Room' I needed to make up some serious time!  I was thinking of David's suggestions as I was flying down the steep, upper section.  And it felt so easy!  I hit the 13.1 mile point in 2 hours and 27 minutes!  Maybe a 5 hour run today?  No .. it would flatten out at the bottom so it would probably take a little longer . . . maybe a 5:10 or so.  Silly me!!  Maybe that new, pumpkin-spice flavored GU has a little something extra in it to make you delusional!

      The road was spectacular and I had totally enjoyed running down this mountain, past a bunch of my favorite trout fishing spots like Lost Cove Creek!  And we ran by Mortimer where Michael and I camped on his very first trout fishing trip!  Leaves were probably 1 week + past peak, but still very enjoyable.

      About mile 15 I was thinking again about David's suggestions.  How did he know??  I needed to slow it down or I was going to totally 'bonk' at 20.  This was not going to be good!  My quads were definitely barking . . . no . . . they were howling at me.

      I tried to revert to my normal 3/1 interval and this worked for awhile.  But by mile 18 I changed to a 2/1.  And in just a little while, I just shut the watch off!  I would run when I could and walk when I had to!  I wasn't cramping . . . just tired.  Jonas Ridge had gotten it's revenge!!  For the record, I thought this course was a little easier then a normal marathon, but not MUCH easier!

      Miles clicked off slowly and I almost had to worry about the 6 hour race cutoff.  Finally I came to the Brown Mountain Beach Resort and the finish line on the right.  Of course, David Lee had one final little kick in the butt for us.  The course went past the finish line about 1/4 mile, turned into the resort and then made a long circle back to the finish.  Nice!!

      The 'Welcoming Crew!'
      Turning into the Resort I saw Laura MacLean there at the turn cheering all us 'back of the packers' ... camera in hand!

      I turned in and made the circle and Laura went to the finish line to get my picture.

      Laura and Daniel
      After the finish, I saw Daniel Lieb who had just set a PR!  Lot's of food and drinks at the finish, including  BBQ and pizza!!  And even 'Throwback Mountain Dew!' ... runners jet fuel!  Sweet!  (no pun intended!)  An amazing number of folks were just hanging around, obviously having fun talking with everyone and sharing experiences!
      Jean Evansmore

      Moma Jean came in a little later with the usual smile on her face and a third place finish in her age group.  Laura said she sort of crashed at about mile 23 I believe, but true to form, she still managed to get 2nd place in her age group!

      Me . . . will . . . I finished!  And I was smiling!

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      Medoc Trail Races - Done

      It is a labor of love!

      But there is a lot of labor involved.  Thank goodness there are four of us that share the load:  Ron Fleming, Scott Wingfield and Michael Forrester.  Each of us has our own parts that we are primarily responsible for but we all just share the decision-making so well.  Together we are so much better then we are individually.

      And the real magic comes from all the people who volunteer their day to make a runner's day wonderful.  Their spirit is clearly felt by the runners!  And we had some unbelievable great volunteers.  These are just good people who care and have such positive attitudes!

      I sure hope every single runner enjoyed themselves!  I believe they did!  And we've already started trying to determine what we did well that we must keep doing, and what we can definitely do better (we tend to focus a lot here!).

      Lot's of ideas for next year and we're reading and analyzing all the feedback we've gotten on 1), 2) Facebook and 3) the e-mails we've gotten.  Nothing is edited!  We love the positive comments but we learn so much from suggestions and criticisms.

      We're tired but invigorated!  Can't wait until next year ... year 4!

      Check out our race website and 'friend' Medoc Trail Races on Facebook for a lot of comments and links to pictures!

      PS  By the way, each year we have what we call the Medoc Re-Run . . . a repeat primarily for race volunteers.  No frills ... almost FA style.  Run free and get no shirt, medal or finisher's surprise.  Or we charge a little to get what you want!  Contact me if you're interested.  It will be November 27th this year.

      Sunday, October 10, 2010

      When a plan fails, but you succeed . . .

      For yesterday's New River 50k, my goal was to be an official finisher and beat the 7 hour race cut-off (I did!).  I knew this would be a real stretch for me -  this blog got it's name appropriately!  I am a plodder and more then a little hard headed.

      So I knew the 7 hour cutoff was going to be a very hard challenge for me (sad but true!).

      So I knew I needed a plan.  After consultation with running friends and a few beers,  my plan was done.  I was going to go out fairly hard (for me) and see just how long I could hold on!  Basically, I was going to run 3 minutes and walk one, then repeat.

      When I actually run, my pace isn't really all that bad for an overweight 60 year old!  Maybe a 10:30 to 11:00 pace usually.  And I was going to practice 'fast' walking.  My normal walking pace is hardly more then a stroll and I know I need to pick up the pace of my walking.

      So my plan was set.  And quite frankly I executed the plan perfectly!  But it was a BAD plan!  Very bad.

      The New River Trail 50k is an awesome event.  RD Annette Bodnosky, a top level ultra runner herself, put on a fabulous event!  And the volunteers!!  Wow!  That's all I can say!  This is probably the prettiest race course I've run.  A very easy course totally, on an old railroad bed.  Terrific running surface.  This course is made for running a 50k PR!

      But Annette set a 7 hour cut-off.  That's a pretty strict time limit - Even with an easy course, I knew the odds were against me making the cut-off.

      We had five RMEC runners at this race - Scott Wingfield, Ted and Liz Lord were here for their very first ultra and my buddy Ron Fleming.  This was going to be fun!

      The morning was perfect!  Low 40s and a beautiful fog along the river!  Saw so many of my running friends before the race!  Pre-race is almost always my favorite part!  Once the race started, I couldn't stop taking pictures along the way!  Check them out!!

      I felt absolutely GREAT!  I was thinking this was going to be my day- and in some ways it was.  I tried to stay mentally focused on my pace . . . especially my walking pace.  I really pressed hard through my walks and my runs were relaxed and strong.  I was encouraged!

      Early on I fell in with Jade Wei, the wife of my running friend Jim!  Jim had suggested that Jade and I might be going at a similar pace and I totally enjoyed getting to pass some trail miles with her!  But I was feeling strong and decided to pull ahead.

      Bad decision!  Also, ran a while with Donna Macguire, a awesome ultra runner.  Same thing.  I was feeling strong and pulled ahead - Same thing with Jim Plant and Connie Howe.

      What was I thinking???  I should know better.  But I had a PLAN!  And a cut-off time to beat!

      After about seven miles following the New River itself, we crossed a trestle over the river and started a slow easy grade up Chesnut Creek all the way to Galax, VA.  Very pretty with lots of things to see along the way and with the good footing of the trail, you could actually look around some!  Loved it!  But I stayed so focused on my goal.

      From mile 5 or so I met Amos and Abby from Washington, DC.  Amos was obviously a very experienced ultra runner and he was pacing Abby on her first ultra,  spent all day long going back and forth with these two fun folks!

      About half way up this leg the lead runner passed me and 10 seconds behind him #2!  Would love to be able to see how this one played out!  One more and then Jonathan Savage came by!  The the first female . . . flyin'!!  The one that really surprised me was my friend Rick Grey!  Rick had finished the Grindstone 100 the week before, but he was up there in the lead bunch!  I couldn't get my camera out quick enough . . . but did catch this shot!

      Rick even stopped and turned around!  Sorry Rick!
      Awesome Jenn!
      I really love looking ahead to see friends!  Soon Jennifer Nickols came hauling down the trail . . . but took time out for a quick hug!  Thanks Jenn!  That picked me up!

      Scott and Liz flying down the trail!
      Was looking for the RMEC crowd and soon Scott Wingfield and Liz Lord passed looking VERY strong.  Was surprised that Ron Fleming wasn't with them, but it turns out he had some knee issues and turned to walking.  Still beat me by a wide margin!  Saw Frank Macguire at the park about 1 mile from the turnaround. Then, Bill Keene came by with a 'high five' between us!

      At 15.9 miles we hit the turnaround aid station!  Fun group there.  Don't know what was wrong with me (or my eyes!) but Beth Minnick was there.  I talked with her but for some reason I didn't realize it was her!  Weird!

      Maybe the last mile to the turnaround I started to shorten my run and lengthen my walk some.  But not much.  I was thinking the return trip was going to be downhill and I would easily be able to hold a good pace.  Well, I did for maybe two more miles.  Then reality set it!  I bonked!  My 3/1 changed to a 2/1 and then changed to a 1/1 half way down Chesnut Creek to the New River!  Oh no!  Not good!  Not good at all!  Finally turned off my watch!  Just ran when I could and walked when I had to!

      I started getting passed.  Donna came, but continuing her solid running.  I would have been so smart to try and 'hang' with her the whole race.  She would still beat me, but I would learn a lot from her!

      As I approached the tunnel (guess I forgot to mention the cool tunnel we run through!) I got a cramp in my right ankle.  I had been popping s-Caps all day, but I just took two more right then and walked a little.  Once the cramp passed I started running again.  But within 30 feet, another cramp in my inside upper leg and ankle.  Again, walked through it and ran again.

      This continued all the way to the end.  There was no running through the cramps ... they would just get worse and worse until I just 'locked up' in pain.   All day I had been so focused on making the 7:00 cut-off and I could just feel it slipping away.  But I didn't know for sure.  There are no mile markers and I didn't have my Garmin with me, so I had no idea as to how far I was.  Got to the New River and found out I had 5.7 miles to go and my watch said 1 hour 10 minutes to cut-off.  I was crushed!  Given my cramping and degreed of bonking . . . this seemed impossible.  I was mentally giving up.

      Run 20 - 30 yards and the cramp.  This sucked!

      Then, Jim and Connie passed me!  But we did spend a few minutes together and Jim said, 'You've got this!  You can do it!' ,  then we talked about the distance left and the time to go.  Soon, Connie and Jim pulled ahead and I was left wondering if Jim was right.
      'One thing I figured out, running 'fast' didn't cause me to cramp any more than running slow, so when I ran, I ran fast (for me!)  maybe a 10:30 pace or so.  Some runs lasted almost a minute, and some only 30 seconds, but I kept giving every single ounce of effort I had in me.

      And then I was passed by the last place runner, Scott Giddions.  Scott and I hung together for quite a while.  We passed a point where someone said we had about a mile to go and my watch said we had 12 minutes.  I told him to not hang with me and to go for it!  Thank goodness he did!  Soon I heard a cheer in the distance and knew the finish line was near . . . but I couldn't tell how near.  My watch told me I had about six or seven minutes.

      I just kept on running and cramping.  Maybe 30 yards running . . . but then the cramping.  Damn!   I heard a car or truck behind me!  I was totally lost in my effort and my focus on the finish line.  But the cramping . . .

      Then . . . I saw the finish line . . . abnd I looked down at my watch and saw I had 5 minutes or so left to cutoff.  I TOTALLY knew I had made it!  I almost cried!

      Liz , Ted and family had come out to meet me and run me in - even Annette came out to encourage me!  And then, Jade (who had just finished!) came back to run me in!  How cool!  And I looked at the finish like and saw a ton of friends there cheering . . .  Rick Gray stood out, so encouraging and happy for me!  And Scott!  And Ron!

      So I did it!  I finished in maybe 6:56 or so.  Mission accomplished!

      But my plan sucked!  Pacing is so important.  I'm sure my cramping was  partly caused by pushing too hard, too quickly.

      But looking back I'm not sure I enjoyed my success as much as I thought I would.  For me, the fun is in the running, the friends and the experience.  But the cut-off pressure . . . not so much!  All day long I stayed so frickin' focused on time I didn't enjoy this beautiful run as much as I could have.  I just don't need or want this needless stress.

      "Hurry slowly . . . but Hurry" is a perfect theme for me.  I just don't want to hurry so much I miss the experience.  Success was great, but the joy of running for me was, to some degree, missed.

      But I know that for this race I gave almost 7 hours to total effort!  I left nothing out there.  I totally spent myself on the effort.  And I did achieve my goal!  Sweet!

      But the best moment of the day was just after I finished.... Amos (who with Abby had finished several minutes before me!) went down on one knee and proposed.  And she said yes!!!

      Sunday, September 26, 2010

      Hinson Lake 24-hour Run

      Mary Tillery ran 33 miles and her 'to-date' personal best run ... and first ultra!  Welcome to the dark side Mary!
      Susan on the left.

      Susan Dummar, though just recovering from an ankle injury, was determined to see what she could do.  She completed 50 miles, having to walk every step.

      • Saw a young girl ... I mean I'm talking young ...  maybe 8 years old!  She was struggling but she finished 9.12 miles.  Her longest by far.
      • Dan Lieb finished his first 50 run.  That after running TWO separate marathons the weekend before!
      • I saw two people at the starting line that were each probably 100 or more pounds overweight.  But they were out there to challenge themselves.  I don't think I could have been more impressed.  And they rocked it!!
      That's Paul on the right just before the start.  Also, Jim Plant of the left.

      Sharon and Ricky with Tommy Rakes behind.
      • My friend Paul Heckert was there.  Paul is a lot like me ... a slow runner.  But Paul has more drive and determination then anyone I know.  He just doesn't stop.  For anything!  Not sure how far Paul ended up going ... at least 50 miles I'm sure.  When I left, he was still moving forward with a big smile on his face!

        Ricky Scott joined his wife and the rest of the Rocky Mount, VA mafia for the event.  Ricky has been suffering through a serious bone spur in this heel.  Hoping it was better he came to run Hinson.  It wasn't better.  In fact it got worse and worse.  But Ricky had decided he was going to at least finish 20 miles.  Suffering ... he did.  Maybe foolish.  But certainly focused!

        These were just a few of the stories I know about.  Believe me there are plenty more.  The place was the Hinson Lake 24-hour Run.

        No other type event is as perfectly designed as a 24 hour run.  It is my new favorite format.  There are a few people that come out planning to run the full 24 hours.  But most don't.  No ... most folks come to see friends and and see what they can do. Most have a plan and a goal.  Some don't even have that.  They just come out to participate.

        Yesterday, Mike Walsh had a plan.  Run from the 8 am start and finish 20 miles.  Then stop, rest and 'cool it' during the heat of the day.  Then, when things cool off, pick it back up and see what happens.  50 miles happened for him!

        Got to spend some time with Amy Schimmel who I had first met at the Medoc Meltdown.  What a hoot!  So much fun . . . and a killer runner!  And Charles West!  Charles just kept me motivated all day!  I needed his help!

        This is a spectacular event.  You run a 1 1/2 mile trail loop as many times as you can.  The loop is basically pretty flat and few roots.  At about 1 mile in there is a small hill where you run up a VERY sandy stretch of trail . . . like running on the high side of the beach in just deep, soft, loose sand!  Pretty hard running and lots of dust!  Actually about 1/8 of the trail was this 'beach sand.'  Since the temperatures got to the mid 90° levels the duct mixed with sweat to cake on your legs, socks and shoes.  Very strange!

        You cross a cool wooden bridge with a gazebo at about the 1 mile point and then cross the dam when you finish your lap.

        My plan was not a very good one.  Start, run when I can, walk when I must and see how far that takes me.  Was planning on only doing 20 miles or so, but the event brings out the best in everyone.  I struggled through 31 miles and was happy.  But if I had played it a little smarter ... well ... who knows!  31 miles is what I did.

        As I finished my first lap, a guy ran by me just absolutely flying ... certainly a sub-7 pace!  I figured he was just a guy out to MAYBE do a marathon of so.  But all day he kept passing me!  And he didn't slow down.  I found out he was Mike Morton, a past winner of Western States!  He ended up completing ~153 miles over the 24 hour period!

        And my (and everyone else's!) friend  Jonathan Savage was a machine all day and night.  I heard Jonathan finished 132 or so!  The thing about Jonathan is he has something encouraging to say every time he passes you.  He's just a super nice guy with incredible running talent!

        Jonathan downing his 'Go Juice' before he starts his next lap

        And while the headlines belonged to these two super athletes, the other people I mentioned also won my heart!  Thanks for the inspiration my friends!

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        Littleton, North Carolina
        World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.