Sunday, October 29, 2017

Paris Mountain 2017 - Break in the Rookies

October 21

I ran this race three years ago as it fit well into my schedule.  I hadn’t run it since because it is two weeks earlier.  However, when Ben and Amy said they were ready to run an ultra, this race seemed perfect.  The course is challenging, but not too difficult, and we all could stay with our good friends, the Dunbars, before and after the race.  So, we all flew over from Huntsville to Greenville yesterday afternoon.  Enjoyed the evening with Bradun and Elise, and then got up this morning to be at the race start around 6:30am for the 7:30am start.

The temperature is a comfortable 50 degrees this morning, and we all start with just shorts and t-shirts.  The plan is for the three of us (Ben, Amy, and I) to stick together for the first half of the race.  The race director gives us some instructions and tells us that there are 37 runners starting the race today.  Okay, another top 20 finish is well within my reach!

Mile 4.5      57:03 (12:41 avg./mile) Aid Station #1

The first section loops around a lake before starting the toughest climb in the race.  Ben is ahead of me, but he is not going out too fast.  Amy and I are staying close behind so far.  At the aid station, I grab some potato chips as there is not a large selection—just some candy, potato chips, and pickles.  I guess the real food will be at the next one.

Mile 11.0    1:31:09 (14:01 avg./mile) Aid Station #2

Darin on the first loop
Leaving the first aid station, another runner, Paolo, joins up with us.  He is from Italy, but is here in SC for business.  This is his first ultra, so he wants to pace off of other runners that know what they are doing.  I am in the lead with Ben and Paolo close behind.  Amy is hanging back a little, but is still in contact with us.  When we start down the hill to the other lake in the park, Amy hangs back a little farther, but tells us she is okay.  When we start to circle the lake, I step to the side and let Ben and Paolo pass by.  I need to take a leak, and I also want to wait for Amy.  I don’t see her for a while, but then she finally comes along.  After circling the lake, we start the next climb back up the mountain.  It is not long before Amy and I catch Ben and Paolo, and the four of us come into the aid station together.  This aid station provides the same limited amount of food, and I grab a few potato chips before heading down the trail.

Mile 15.6    42:36 (9:16 avg./mile) Start/Finish area

Leaving aid station #2, the trail is all downhill until the original lake.  We take the loop around it and continue on back to the start/finish line.  On the downhill, Amy again hangs back.  Paolo, Ben, and I finish the first half together with Amy about a minute behind us.  Bradun, Elise, and Martha are all waiting on us here and cheering for us.  I request the chocolate milk, and Martha begins pouring cups of chocolate milk for us.  I switch out my Camelbak at this point and take off my shirt.  The weather has warmed up to about 70 degrees at this point, and it is still morning.  We finished the first loop in 3:10:48.  I tell Ben and Paolo that I am heading out and plan to push the pace a little.

Mile 20.1    1:01:26 (13:39 avg./mile) Aid Station #1

Back on the trail, I pass a couple of runners, but quickly realize two things:  it is getting hot quickly and I don’t have as much of a push as I thought I did.  On the climb, I spot two older hikers about 400 yards ahead of me.  It takes me a few minutes to catch them as they are hiking up the trail at a nice pace.  As I get closer, I am wondering how old they are.  Clearly they have gray hair, but their strides indicate they aren’t too old, I think.  When I catch them, I see their faces and immediately know they are at least in their 70s!  I mention what a beautiful day it is and then ask them if they have any great grandchildren (as I am sure they have grandchildren).  Their answer is that they are blessed with several great grandchildren.  I compliment them on their hiking skills and push hard so that I put some distance between them and me quickly.  At the aid station, I grab some potato chips and a couple of cookies.  This split is a little slower than the first time, but I figure I can do the next section faster than I did this morning.

Mile 26.6    1:44:09 (16:01 avg./mile) Aid Station #2

Darin on the second loop
If it was still cool, I may have had a chance to run this section faster than I did the first time, but now the mercury has climbed well into the 70s on its way to a high temperature of 80 degrees today.  I work the downhills hard, but the uphill sections are wearing me out with the heat.  I chase another runner ahead of me this whole section, but he is usually just out of sight.  I run out of water in my Camelbak a few minutes before getting to the aid station.  When I finally get to the aid station (13 minutes slower than this morning) I find the runner I have been chasing just getting ready to leave.  I also find that the water jug is nearly empty.  I have to tip it forward just to get about 10 ounces of water into my Camelbak—not as much as I wanted, but it should be enough.

Mile 31.2    47:09 (10:15 avg./mile) FINISH

I catch the runner (Scott Simon) ahead of me while we are going downhill.  His legs are cramping, and so are mine, but downhill running is one of my stronger suits.  As I near the lake, here is Bradun hiking up towards me.  He runs with me about a half mile back to the lake where he takes the shorter route around back to the finish line while I follow the course the long way around the lake.  I manage to keep Scott behind me as I finish by myself in a decent time.

Official Finishing Time          6:43:32

12th out of 37 starters (5th male)

I didn’t hear Scott at all after I passed him, and are therefore surprised when he finishes just 50 seconds after me.  Paolo finishes 13 minutes after me, and I start to think that Ben probably isn’t far behind.  Indeed just two minutes later (a mere 15 minutes after me), Ben crosses the finish line for his first ultra-finish in 6:58:35!  He says he hasn’t seen Amy at all on the second loop.  Bradun, Elise, Martha, Ben, and I enjoy relaxing near the finish line as we await Amy’s arrival.  She doesn’t disappoint, finishing in 7:46:27.

It is a great day, and Ben and Amy are no longer rookie ultra-runners.  I am satisfied with my time, and I can only imagine that it won’t be too long before either Ben or Amy dusts the old man (me).  I now have seven weeks until Hellgate.  I will try to get a couple of long training runs in between now and then, and I need to lock down who is going to crew for me.  It might be Ben and/or Amy again, but they also have a little event the weekend following Hellgate (they are getting married)!

Never stop running,

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Cumberland Trail 50k - Perfect Weather and Beauty

September 30

This is the third year in a row that I have run this race, but is the first year that the weather has been perfect.  The first year, there was a cold rain throughout the race.  Last year was better than the first year, but clouds and a little drizzle kept things from being ideal.  This race is a point-to-point race so the race management transports the runners from the finish to start in vans.  The temperature this morning is around 60 degrees, so I am wearing shorts and a light, short-sleeve t-shirt.

Mile 7         1:39:57 Lick Creek Mountain

I start conservatively to ensure I don’t get sucked out too fast by other runners.  For the first 20 minutes or so, there are two other guys following me as it is still relatively dark, and they haven’t run this race before.  However, after it is fully light, they pass me, and I wish them well.  I don’t see anyone else until I get to the aid station.  The guy checking off runners remembers my name (with the help of a short runner list) from last year.  I grab two PB&J sandwich quarters and start the loop.

Mile 10       42:48 Lick Creek Mountain

This split time is faster than my split on this section in either of the previous years.  It isn’t that much faster, but I don’t think I pushed it any harder this year.  Rather, I think my speed work this summer has paid off some.  I only saw a couple of runners on the lollipop portion of the loop.  Back at the aid station, I grab some potato chips and a small brownie.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t eat a brownie at this point in the race, but one of the race directors made them, and so I need to try them so I can tell her later how they tasted.

Mile 13       43:27 Norma Road

Leaving the last aid station, there is a runner close behind me.  We make our way down the hill, and then I let him pass me as he seems to want to run faster than I do.  This split is a minute and a half faster than I have done it before.  I am definitely moving efficiently.  At the aid station, one of the workers is playing cheerleader. She screams, jumps up and down—the whole nine yards.  I grab a few PB&J sandwich quarters, fill up the Camelbak, and start up the next climb.

Mile 18       1:33:08 Lower Elk Field

The climb goes fairly well, and I make excellent time.  I stayed disciplined and hiked the Upper Elk Field.  Last year, I twisted my ankle on this field in one of the many ruts.  Coming down the hill to the aid station, I got off track slightly, but was able to recover and get back on course.  The very nice couple working this aid station is enjoying the beautiful weather this year.  I eat a couple more PB&J sandwich quarters along with some potato chips.  This is another personal best split at this race—two minutes faster than last year and five minutes faster than two years ago!

Mile 24.5    1:48:39 Carroll Road

This section is the toughest section, I think.  It goes up and down for several miles before the final climb up Cross Mountain.  Susan Donnelly passes me about half way through this section, and I hang with her for about 10 minutes before she pulls away.  This will be the second and last time that I run with anyone today.  All but 30 minutes today I am totally by myself.  It is a beautiful day, and I am enjoying it to the fullest.  Before I get to the aid station, my Camelbak runs dry, but it is only another 20 minutes before I get to the aid station.  I refill my Camelbak, eat a couple of PB&J sandwich quarters, and drink a little Coke.

Mile 31.5    1:53:24 FINISH – Cove Lake

I make it up and over the remaining climb on Cross Mountain.  The downhill is steady and consistent.  My right ankle is holding up well, and I have my legs.  The only problem is that I have to stop and remove a painful little rock from my shoe.  I see no one on this section, and I finish comfortably.

Official Finishing Time          8:21:21

14th out of 27 entrants (Second M40-49)

This finish time is 20 minutes faster than my previous best at this race.  And, I felt like I was not pushing it too hard most of the race while racking up excellent split times.  This effort gives me tons of confidence for the rest of my races this fall.  I plan to run the Paris Mountain 50k in Greenville on October 21, and of course, I will return to Hellgate in December.  Until next time…

Never stop running,

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Indiana Trail 100 - Rain, Thunder, and Lightning

April 28

I flew my plane up this morning from Huntsville, Alabama, and my cousin, Andrea, picked me up at the Goshen airport.  After grabbing lunch, I drop her off at the high school where she teaches a class in the afternoon, and I drive out to Chain O' Lakes state park.  I get there around 2pm, but the packet pickup doesn’t begin until 3pm.  So, I have a little time to kill.  The weather is mostly overcast with rain in the forecast for tomorrow and Sunday.  The only question is whether the conditions will be better or worse than last year, when the rain began late morning and didn’t stop until early Sunday morning.  Packet pickup goes quickly, and I am soon on my way back to Goshen and Andrea’s house.

We eat dinner at a good restaurant in Warsaw.  I have some delicious lasagna with several pieces of bread.  This is about as extreme of carbo loading as I do these days.  We get back to the house, and my head hits the pillow around 9pm.  I am asleep almost instantly, and I don’t even think I rolled over before my alarm goes off at 3:15am.

April 29

I take care of my morning routine in quick order, and I am driving towards Chain O’ Lakes state park before 4am, arriving there about 4:30am.  I get an excellent parking space that is very close to the start/finish line and aid station tent.  I make my final preparations, which includes forming five ham and cheese sandwiches.  For my refreshments at the end of each 20-mile loop, I will have a ham and cheese sandwich and the option of chocolate milk and/or Conquest.  I also have cinnamon raisin bagels if I want them.  I start the race wearing shorts, thin long and short sleeve shirts, a buff on my head, and my Camelbak.  It is about 50 degrees, which is the temperature it will basically remain at, plus or minus two degrees for the whole race.  The good news is that it is not raining at the start.  The race director mentions the possible hazardous weather forecasted for the afternoon and evening, along with something about stopping the race if necessary.  Then we start the race on his simple voice command right at 6am.
At the Start before Dawn

Mile 3.0      35:33 (11:51 avg./mile) South Park

Although it is dark when the race begins, I do not start with a light.  For one, it will be daylight within 20 minutes, and nearly everyone else in the race has a light.  There are 170 runners starting the 100 mile race, and I do not have any trouble seeing where I am going.  In addition, the 50 mile runners are with us for the first two sections.  I try to relax and run as slow as I possibly can given that I am very excited to be running.  I chat some with Darcy Lallathin during these early miles.  She and I both say that we want to run this first loop no faster than four hours.  At the first aid station, I don’t even stop as it has only been three miles.

Mile 7.5      50:38 (11:15 avg./mile) School House East

Darin in Background - Gray shirt, red shorts
After South Park, I think Darcy is pushing the pace ever so slightly.  I decide to stick with my own pace, especially given the fact that Darcy is a much faster runner that I am—she won this race two years ago!  I am very content to run my own race at my own pace.  If anything, this section was a tad bit fast. At the aid station, I grab my first two grilled cheese sandwich quarters.  This race is phenomenal with the aid stations.  Every aid station has grilled cheese sandwich quarters along with soup.  The weather is overcast with temperatures near 50 degrees.  No rain so far, but we all know it will be coming at some point.

Mile 12.1    53:59 (11:44 avg./mile) Rally Campground

Over the different sections, I maintain my a little better than 12 minute per mile pace.  I feel really good, and these early miles are just floating by.  The rolling grassy trail is in good shape, and I have thoughts that maybe a sub 24-hour race is possible.  At the aid station, I eat a couple more grilled cheese sandwich quarters along with a few potato chips.

Mile 17.5    1:05:16 (12:05 avg./mile) School House West

I am back to the school house, but this time on the west side of the road.  The school house is actually on this side of the road.  This section is the longest stretch at this race.  At 5.4 miles, it isn’t long at all in the grand picture of ultra races.  That being said, it is still long enough, and I am glad to almost be done with the first loop.  I eat just a handful of potato chips as I know I have sandwiches at the car.

Mile 20.1    38:57 (14:59 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)

I record my time when I am leaving an aid station.  So, while I finished the first loop officially in 3:57:11, I don’t start my second loop until 4:04:23.  When I got to the car, I sat down, ate a ham and cheese sandwich, drank over a cup of chocolate milk, and changed my shoes and socks.  I hadn’t planned on changing shoes at this point, but I decide that these shoes are dry at this point so I can use them again later.  The pair of shoes that I take off is my newest pair of trail shoes.  I stay with the same clothing I started the race with—thin long and short sleeve shirts.  With the seven minutes here, I am right on the pace I wanted.  It also is good to get off my feet for a few minutes.

Mile 23.1    35:27 (11:49 avg./mile) South Park

Before I changed shoes, my right (chronic) ankle is hurting me.  After I change shoes, I don’t feel it at all the rest of the race.  Although the change of shoes may have helped, I think it is the few minutes I sat down that helped it the most.  I run this section six seconds faster than I did earlier.  My pace is holding very nicely, and the fresh shoes and socks feel good at this point.  I do stop briefly at this aid station to grab some potato chips and a couple of cookies before heading back onto the trail.

Mile 27.6    53:29 (11:53 avg./mile) School House East

Red Buds on the Trail
As can be seen, my time on this section is slightly slower than earlier, but I hitting the exact pace I want.  12-minute miles, if I was able to hold it would yield a 20 hour finish.  That obviously won’t happen, but my reach goal today would be a sub 24 hour finish.  I am holding a really nice pace for that given that I will slow down at some point, and things will be a little slower tonight.  Depending on how much it rains later, the muddy course will slow things down as well.  At this aid station, I go back to eating a few grilled cheese sandwich quarters.

Mile 32.2    58:41 (12:45 avg./mile) Rally Campground

Soon after leaving the last aid station, the rain begins.  It starts as a light rain, but this is very close to the same time that the rain began during the race last year.  It also started raining lightly last year.  The difference is that I am better prepared with about three times the number of shirts and jackets.  I have a jacket in my drop bag here at this aid station, but I will use that yet.  The trail starts to get a little muddy, but it is not yet sloppy.  I eat a few more grilled cheese sandwich quarters before heading back out in the rain.

Mile 37.6    1:13:06 (13:32 avg./mile) School House West

The rain continues; fortunately it is still only lightly raining.  The course is muddy and starting to get a little sloppy.  I am blaming my slower split on the rain.  Even with this slower split, I am still moving well.  With the quick first loop and a half, I just need to average 15-minute miles from here in to finish in less than 24 hours.  At this aid station, I grab another stack of potato chips and head for the finish of my second loop.

Mile 40.2    43:24 (16:42 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)

Somewhere during this section, the rain stops.  It even feels like it might stop for a while.  The forecast called for thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, so we haven’t gotten those yet.  The atmosphere seems to still be unstable as the wind is gusty, and the sky is overcast.  My race time after 40 miles is 8:20:08, but once again I will take some time at my vehicle before starting the third loop at 8:28:30.  This time, I eat another ham and cheese sandwich, drink some more chocolate milk, and change both of my shirts, as well as my buff.  I stick with the same shoes that I wore for the second loop.  They are not very wet, and I am not sure that they won’t get wetter.

Mile 43.2    42:11 (14:04 avg./mile) South Park

The muddy course is definitely slowing me down at this point.  This section of the course contains some brand new trail, and the rain really makes it sloppy quickly.  That being said, I am still setting a decent pace, but I don’t know how long I will be able to keep the pace at this rate given the muddy trail.  At the aid station, I grab a couple of cookies to eat on the course.

Mile 47.7    1:03:00 (14:00 avg./mile) School House East

As the rain has stopped for over an hour now, the course with the gusty winds is starting to firm up, even though the sky is still overcast.  I am pleased with my pace on this section, and maybe I can get through halfway before the storms start.  I am still moving well.  While the legs are starting to get a little tired, my energy levels remain solid.  I eat a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters at this aid station and also get a cup of soup.

Mile 52.3    1:08:15 (14:50 avg./mile) Rally Campground

The 50 mile runners shorted the first loop to 10 miles, so they are 10 miles behind me as I catch a few of them.  At one point on this section, I catch up to three guys who are running their first 50 mile race.  They are struggling, but will hang on and finish, I think.  One of the guys is having knee problems.  The other two guys are hanging with him.  The three of them (with their troubles) provide me some levity.  The course is still muddy in spots, and this only adds to these guys’ struggles.  At the aid station, I grab some more grilled cheese sandwich quarters, and then get back out on the course.  My elapsed time at this point is 11:21:56, so I am well ahead of 24-hour pace.

Mile 57.7    1:16:33 (14:11 avg./mile) School House West

Soon after leaving the last aid station, two guys (Pascal Becotte and Dan Milligan) come by me.  They seem to be setting a nice steady pace, so I latch onto them.  After a while we make introductions, and I learn that they are trying to get done with this third loop by 13 hours, which leave 11 hours to finish the last two loops.  Pascal and Dan have a great pace going.  The other thing I learn is that Pascal’s ultimate goal is a finish in order to qualify for the lottery for Western States next year.  These goals line up very closely with my own.  Just before we get to the school house, Dan says that Pascal and I should push on as he is hurting.  After trying to convince him to stick with us, Pascal and I push ahead.  When we get into the aid station, I sit down and eat a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters and drink a cup of soup.  As I am starting my soup, Pascal says he is going to start walking, and I tell him I will catch up soon.  Then Dan comes into the aid station, but again tells us not to wait on him.

Mile 60.3    45:41 (17:34 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)

I leave the school house a minute or so after Pascal, but I never catch him.  Our times at the end of loop 3 show he was three minutes ahead of me at that point.  My time is 13:14:33 into the aid station.  While I don’t have a full 11 hours for a sub 24-hour finish, I still have a legitimate chance to make it.  I eat another ham and cheese sandwich, drink more chocolate milk, change my shoes, and get my headlamp as it will be dark in a couple of hours.  I probably could have spent less time here getting everything ready, but I wanted to make sure I was ready for the next loop.  The shoes I put on are the ones I wore for the first loop, but now I have fresh socks.  I plan to wear this pair to the finish.

Mile 63.3    42:37 (14:12 avg./mile) South Park

I get going again and manage a decent first section for the start of my fourth loop.  There is a large train of runners that comes by me as we approach the aid station, and I hang with them for a bit, but then let them go.  I need to let the race come to me—namely run my own race depending on how my body is feeling.  At this aid station, I only grab a handful of potato chips as my stomach is still digesting the last food I ate.

Mile 67.8    1:10:45 (15:43 avg./mile) School House East

On the way to the school house, I am starting to resign myself to the fact that I might not have a sub 24-hour finish in me.  I am not sure why I felt this way, but there were several runners that came by me during this section.  In hindsight, it doesn’t look like I was moving too slow.  Michael Lewis is one of the runners that passed me, and I am able to hang with him as he is walking quite a bit.  As we are trudging along, the thunder and lightning starts to pick up.  At first it is very distant, and then it is off to the east.  We get into the aid station without getting wet.  I grab some more soup and a couple of grilled cheese sandwich quarters, but when I ask for coffee the nice aid station workers say that it is being replenished.  So, I set off without any coffee at this point, but instead I drink a small cup of Coke.

Mile 72.4    1:28:14 (19:11 avg./mile) Rally Campground

Mike and I press on as it is now dark.  My headlamp is working well, and we have plenty in common to talk about.  He is a school teacher in Ohio, and he coaches football.  Specifically, he is the defensive coordinator of the high school team.  We talk all manner of football strategy and how film has changed over the years.  I am very interested in how he manages to train enough while teaching and coaching.  The lightning and thunder continue at a safe distance—meaning we aren’t getting wet yet.  We aren’t moving fast, but we are making steady forward progress.  As we are about 100 yards from the aid station, the rain begins again.  We dash into the aid station and proceed to take our time in dry comfort of the aid station.  I eat some more grilled cheese sandwich quarters and start drinking coffee along with a cup of soup.  I change my shirts, putting on two long sleeve shirts.  One of the long sleeve shirts is really thick and warm.  I don’t usually wear it unless the temperature is much colder, but with the rain starting again, I want to ensure I don’t get chilled to the bone this year.  I also grab my Houdini jacket.  The rain stops within 10 minutes, and Mike and I head back out.  An aid station worker tells us that this was just a glancing blow and that the major line is coming in about 15 minutes.

Mile 77.8    2:28:59 (27:35 avg./mile) School House West

My time splits show that I spent almost 13 minutes in the last aid station, but if I can stay drier a little longer and keep myself fueled up, it is worth it.  Right on schedule, 15 minutes after we left the Rally Campground, the thunderstorm finally finds us.  I put on my jacket right as the deluge begins.  It is a gully washer.  Within minutes there are streams running down the trail beside us.  We trudge on through the darkness, the thunder and lightning, and the heavy rain.  For over an hour, we press through the rain before arriving at this aid station.  We duck into the aid station tent and there are a few runners taking cover from the storm.  Mike and I join them.  He is standing up next to a heater, while I am sitting a few feet away with a blanket over me.  I am wet and cold, shivering most of the time.  However, my inner layers are mostly dry.  It is just that my whole lower half of my body is wet and cold.  The storm rages on outside while I try to stay focused and not let thoughts of dropping enter my mind.  After about 30 minutes, Mike tells me he thinks he is done.  I am determined not to drop.  After being in the aid station about 45 minutes, the report comes from other runners that the storm is letting up.  Here is my chance.  It is now or never.  I need to get going!  Although there are about a dozen runners in the aid station at this point, I get no takers to join me right now.  So, I set out on my own.

Mile 80.4    50:37 (19:28 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)

Start/Finish Aid Station at Sand Beach
I make it to the start/finish area, and the aid station tent here is flooded!  I decide not to go to the car, but instead go into the aid station tent and grab some grilled cheese sandwich quarters and refill my Camelbak.  I also drink a cup of soup.  So far during the race, I have refilled my Camelbak only at the car.  It hasn’t been warm, and I only ran out of water in my Camelbak on two of loops during the last section.  I have only one more loop to go.  The time is now 2:05am, and I have until Noon to finish—plenty of time, but clearly I won’t finish by 6am for a sub 24-hour finish.

Mile 83.4    1:12:13 (24:04 avg./mile) South Park

On my way to this aid station, I decide that I need to use the outhouse.  My stomach is not feeling wonderful, and I think things might improve if I can have a successful sit in the outhouse.  The trail is nice and muddy, but the plus is that it isn’t raining.  When I get to the aid station, I visit the portable toilet, but I am mostly unsuccessful.  After several minutes of attempt, I give up, head back into the aid station, grab some coffee, and continue on the course.  Other than my stomach, I feel as good as could be expected given that I have been running for over 20 hours through rain, mud, and more rain.

Mile 87.9    1:46:41 (23:42 avg./mile) School House East

I am mostly by myself through this loop so far.  The fast runners have finished.  The mid-packer runners are spread out all around the course.  I am mostly walking now due to my stomach, but I am still making forward progress, and I am not overly tired.  It is a very dark night as it is still overcast.  The wind is still gusty and always blowing in some direction.  I get into the aid station, and eat more potato chips along with some Coke.  I need to find something that will turn my stomach around.

Mile 92.5    1:47:41 (23:25 avg./mile) Rally Campground

On this section, a runner and his pacer come by me.  They ask how I am doing.  When I tell them my stomach isn’t doing well, one of them offers me a ginger piece of candy.  I take it, and it is very spicy.  It is supposed to help with stomach issues, but I can’t tell.  I am peeing every 30-45 minutes.  I have taken in a lot of fluids with the water, coffee, soup, etc., and I haven’t been sweating since it is cold and wet.  It dawns on me that I might have too much water in me that my body cannot rid of quick enough.  The solution is simple—I need to stop drinking water.  I make my way into the aid station still managing to stay upright.  The mud is very sloppy, but at least it is below my shoe tops.  In the aid station, I eat another grilled cheese sandwich quarter, and then fall asleep in the aid station while sitting on a folding chair.  An aid station worker wakes me up and says I need to get going.  I couldn’t have been asleep even three minutes, and I am a bit perturbed at the worker for waking me up.  Regardless, I decide to head back out onto the trail.

Mile 97.9    2:06:24 (23:24 avg./mile) School House West

I plod along in the dark by mostly by myself.  At some point, there are two other guys that I manage to stay with for a couple of miles.  About a mile or so from the aid station, my efforts at letting my body regulate to the proper water level seem to have succeeded—my stomach is feeling enough better than I can run some.  I get into the aid station just as another rain shower is beginning.  It isn’t a hard rain; rather it is a nice soft rain.  The type of rain that one wakes up to and decides they should sleep in today.  I have no such luxury.  I am down to less than three miles to the finish.  At the aid station, I grab some potato chips, nothing to drink, and head onto the trail that will take me to the finish.

Mile 100.5 47:47 (18:23 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)

After leaving the aid station, I talk to Mike Ekbundit, who is feeling even better than I am.  He says that when the thunderstorm struck last night, he was really close to the start/finish.  So, he stripped off his wet clothes, climbed into his sleeping bag in his vehicle, and slept for 1.5 hours.  It seems to have worked well for him as he will finish over 10 minutes ahead of me.  I am running the downhill sections again, and it feels great.  Up until now, my legs haven’t bothered me at all.  As I start the last climb up a hill, my left knee feels kind of weird.  I let that work itself out as I proceed to the finish.  I run the last 200 yards down the hill to the finish!

Finishing Time    27:46:08

60th out of 170 starters (94 under 30-hour cut-off)

The Reward
I have just read on the Indiana Trail website that the 100 miler is moving to October to try to avoid the harsh weather.  Coming back from last year’s DNF after 67 miles required a lot of mental preparation.  I came this year ready to deal with whatever weather Mother Nature threw at me, and I have prevailed!  My training was excellent the past three months since I had the flu in January.  I had all of my logistics lined up, and it didn’t hurt that we did get a little less rain than last year.  I get my belt buckle from the race director immediately after finishing.  I quickly remove my shoes and socks, put on my crocs, and start driving back to Andrea’s house.  At her house, I eat some bacon and eggs before crashing for a couple of hours.  My body is in pretty good pain and sleeping consists of rolling over every 15 minutes.  I will fly home tomorrow in a 80+ knot headwind.

This is my only planned 100-mile race this year.  I have no other long races planned until the fall, although Amy and I are talking about doing a 50k together in July.  Until then…

Never stop running,

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mt. Cheaha 50k - Redemption Run

Ready to go at 7:30am

February 25

Four weeks ago, I attempted the Mountain Mist 50k in Huntsville.  I had a good case of the flu weeks one and two before the race, but I was already entered, felt like I was recovered enough, and it was only a 50k.  Unfortunately, I was not recovered enough and dropped out of a 50k for only the second time in my life at mile 20.  The other time was at Catawba in 2007, and it also involved coming back from an illness too soon.  I spent the week after Mountain Mist exhausted again, but otherwise felt okay.  My plan was to run a hard run two weeks after Mountain Mist (two weeks before this race) to ensure I was fully recovered before entering this race.  So, two weeks ago, I ran a 17-mile tempo run in a solid time and effort.  When I went to the website to sign up for this race, I found out it was filled.  Instead I entered and put my name on the waiting list.  Four days later, I was notified that I was in the race.  Now I had a week and a half to finish my preparation.

Crowd of runners is gathering

I spent Thursday and Friday this week assisting on the annual inspection of my airplane in LaFayette, Georgia.  Nathan picked me up from there at 5:00pm, and we drove down to Anniston, Alabama for dinner and a night in a Super 8 motel.  Dinner was at an Olive Garden, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals.  In the morning, it is just a short 30 minute drive to the start at Porter’s Gap on the Pinhoti Trail in the Talladega Forest.

The race is scheduled to start at 7:30am.  We arrive at the start around 6:30am, and I get my race number.  At 7:20am, I complete my final pre-race activities and am ready to run.  What I didn’t know was that the buses that take the majority of the runners to the start from the finish area are not here yet.  When I realize this, Nathan and I head back to his car to keep warm.  The buses finally arrive about 8:05, and the race director announces that the race will start at 8:30am.

To the top of Alabama

Mile 3.3      38:12 (11:35 avg./mile) Chandler Springs

The early pace is conservative for me as I really want to finish this race in good shape.  The trail is rather congested during the first two miles, but when we get to the aid station, things have spread out decently.  A few of the people that needed to pass during the first two miles are seen later on as they slow down, and I pass them back.  Nathan didn’t go to this aid station, and I don’t even pause.  I pass a couple of people as I continue on the course after the aid station.

Mile 8.5      1:01:53 (11:54 avg./mile) Clairmont Gap

I maintain a conservative pace so far with the difficult sections coming up next.  About a mile or so from the aid station, I meet Caitlin, who is my daughter’s house mate. Caitlin is graduating this spring from UAH with a degree in Chemical Engineering.  I stay ahead of her for now, and I privately decide to myself to finish ahead of her.  We knew of each other before now, but we had never talked.  We chat the last mile into the aid station.  At the aid station, I point Caitlin out to Nathan, who had met her at the Mountain Mist last month while I was struggling and dropping out of the race.  I drink some chocolate milk and a little bit of Conquest before taking half of a bagel to eat on the trail.  The weather is warming up quickly from the 50s it was at the start.  The high temperature today will reach 67 degrees.

Mile 14.9    1:26:39 (13:32 avg./mile) Adams Gap

This section is the place that this race course gets serious.  This 6.5 mile stretch includes some rather technical trail with plenty of rocks.  It is tiring and slow progressing through one rock garden after another.  My ankles hold up pretty well, but I test my right ankle once before I get to the aid station.  While my pace is slower than before, my effort is probably higher.  At the aid station, there is a short out and back, so I see that Caitlin is just a minute or so behind me.  At the aid station, I drink plenty of Conquest and grab another half of a bagel to eat on the trail.  We also switch out my Camelbak for a full one.

Mile 18.4    51:27 (14:42 avg./mile) Hubbard Creek

I continue to press the pass, hoping that each surge will leave Caitlin behind me for good.  However, each time I let up on the pace a little, it is not too much later that I see her coming up on me again.  At one point on this section, she passes me, but then as we get to the aid station, I am right behind her again.  I grab another quick drink of Conquest and push out of the aid station ahead of her.

Mile 25.3    1:26:35 (12:33 avg./mile) Silent Trail

During this section, I start passing a few runners. I also tweak my right ankle again—nothing too serious, but I definitely know I need to be careful.  One of the runners I pass is Michelle Belcher.  When I pass her, I thought she looked like she was fading, but then she decides to keep up with me.  This is good as I have another runner to keep pace with and hopefully keep me pushing.  We end up talking most of the second half of this section.  Although we are maintaining a good pace, Caitlin is never far beyond.  We cross two streams on this section that has a water level around mid-calf.  It is refreshing in some ways, but each time I hit the water my right hamstring starts cramping.  I pretty much ignore it and just let it work itself out.  The pain is solid.  I just need to ensure it doesn’t get worse.  Ordinarily I would have backed off the pace, but if I do that I will get passed by Caitlin.  When we finally pop out onto to a dirt road, the aid station is right there.  Nathan says I am making great time, and I tell him that it is killing me trying to stay ahead of Caitlin.  I drink some more Conquest as I am sweating profusely, and then I drink a cup of Coke for the kick to the finish.
Keeping pace with Michelle
into the last aid station

Mile 27.9    33:35 (12:55 avg./mile) Lake Cheaha

Michelle and I run this road section all of the way into the state park and to the aid station beside the lake.  We don’t see anything of Caitlin this whole section, so maybe she has finally slowed down.  While I am drinking another cup of Coke at the aid station, Nathan spots her coming into the park.  I take off for the final 3+ miles with Michelle with me.

Mile 31.1    46:35 (14:33 avg./mile) FINISH – Bald Rock

On the brutal final climb, Michelle and I pass a couple of guys.  I am committed to relentless forward progress.  My hamstring is cramping quite often, but at this point it is just mind over matter.  As we complete the final climb and start the remaining 1.5 miles on top of the mountain, Michelle takes off.  I don’t have much of an answer for her surge, and I am mainly focused staying in front of Caitlin.  I keep my eye on maintaining my momentum and when I think I am finally close to the finish, I take one more walk break.  In a few seconds, Caitlin is right behind me again and we only have a quarter of a mile left.  I say hello to her and then surge towards the finish.  The finish line is back on a paved road in front of a lodge.  There are vehicles trying to get in and leave.  I pay little attention to the vehicles.  Dodging cars and trucks, my only goal is to get across the line.

Official Finishing Time          6:44:56

78th out of 276 entrants (20th of M40-49)

The final results show that I edged out Caitlin by only 29 seconds—less than one second per mile.  What a race!  This is a really fun, beautiful, point-to-point course.  I just wish it wasn’t so exhausting for my legs.  I guess my legs cramping was just a result of the hard effort and the warm weather.  The legs are mostly fine after I finish, though.  This time is four minutes slower than two years ago.  Then the weather was a little cooler, and we didn’t have the hour delay at the start.

I eat a couple of pieces of pizza and drink a beer while chatting with Nathan and Martha.  It is a beautiful day and now I have Martha, who drove down to meet me, to drive me home.  Since this race went well, I have entered the Indiana Trail 100 on April 30.  I have to redeem myself after last year’s monsoon DNF at 67 miles.  Until then…

Never stop running,

Return to Darin’s Running Page.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Mountain Mist 50k -- Perfect Weather

January 28

Chilly before the start
The weather today couldn’t be more perfect for this run.  The temperature at the start is right at the freezing mark, and it is expected to warm up into the 50s.  The weather the past several months has been dryer than normal.  Well, we have received normal precipitation the last couple of months, but we are still catching up from the drought last summer and fall.  Therefore, the trails that are typically quite messy this time of year are in very good shape for this run.  The only issue for me then is that I had the flu 1-2 weeks ago, and I am not sure I am fully recovered.  But, this is just a 50k so I should be fine.  Nathan is home for the weekend.  He helped us celebrate my birthday yesterday.  Today he is crewing for me on this race.

Mile 6.7      1:04:55 (9:41 avg./mile) O’Shaughnessy Point

Just before the start I see Rick and Tammy Gray.  We greet each other warmly, and then the race begins.  The Grays are from Tennessee, and I have run dozens of races with Rick over the years in Virginia.  I start quickly as the first two miles are on the roads before we get into some technical trail, which isn’t too technical until later in the race.  I have blitzed this first section rather fast, but I am feeling good and the weather is spectacular.  Somewhere before the first aid station, I drop a shirt off with Nathan as the day is warming up quickly.

Mile 11.9    1:01:05 (11:56 avg./mile) Aid Station #2

Around mile 8, Rick, who I lost sight of after the first mile, passes me.  He obviously had to stop for a pit stop.  We run together for about a half mile before he pulls away from me again.  At the aid station, Nathan informs me that Rick is only about 5 minutes ahead of me.  However, at this point I decide that I need to slow things down a little bit.  My early fast start needs to be reined in some.  All I need to do now is cruise through these next several miles until the real work begins after mile 20.  I drink some chocolate milk and take half of a bagel to eat on the trail.

Mile 17.3    1:07:41 (14:28 avg./mile) Fearn Road

Around 13 miles, I twist my right ankle for the first time today.  It hurts quite a bit, but the pain deadens out after several minutes.  I press on during this time, but know that I should be careful.  Besides that, I am feeling okay, but I have definitely started to slow down.  This slowdown was planned, but I am slowing down more than I should be at this point in the race.  Despite my careful running, I roll my ankle again around mile 15.  It isn’t the rolling of the ankle that is most concerning, it is how I feel.  My balance is mostly okay, but my proprioception is greatly reduced.  I get into the aid station and ask Nathan for the ankle tape.  He doesn’t have it with him and the truck is at least a quarter of a mile away.  We decide that I will tape my ankle at the next aid station.  I drink some Conquest and press forward for the second half of the race.

Mile 21.0    57:36 (17:33 avg./mile) Old Railroad Bed

Soon after leaving Fearn Road, I realize that my proprioception has been reduced to almost nothing.  This means that I am having a terribly tough time feeling where my body is in relation to my surroundings—most importantly the trail below my feet.  In addition, my energy level falls off the table.  Within two miles of leaving the Fearn Road aid station, I have determined it is time for me to stop.  However, on a trail race one cannot just stop anywhere.  I walk the last two miles into the aid station where Nathan is waiting, and I call it a day.  Fortunately, the truck is only a quarter of a mile away.

DNF = Did Not Finish = Do Nothing Fatal

While I don’t think I would have killed myself to slog through and finish this race, it would have taken a long time and may have allowed my flu to rebound.  The rest of the day on Saturday, I was completely spent.  My hockey game on Sunday was okay as we had three complete lines so I didn’t have to skate too much.  Even so, I was very spent after the game.  It will take me a full week before my energy completely recovers.

The next race I want to run is the Mt. Cheaha 50k on February 25.  However, I need to ensure I am completely recovered before entering.  My plan is to run a long tempo (17-18 miles) in two weeks and see how things go.

Never stop running,

Return to Darin’s Running Page.