Saturday, December 15, 2018

Hellgate 100k 2018 - Just an Average Weather Year

December 8

Last year’s Hellgate was exciting.  There was the pending article in Blue Ridge Outdoors that was going to document the 15 years of Hellgate finishes by me and four other guys.  There was the fact that it was going to be 15 years of straight finishes.  There was a couple of inches of snow during the race.  And, I finished under 17 hours for the first time since 2010!  How in the world would this year’s race ever measure up to the standard set last year?

Well, the race would be different that was for sure.  I was another year older, and at 49 years young, father time is starting to creep up on me.  Also, my son-in-law, Ben, was going to be crew for me solo for the first time.  He and Amy (my favorite daughter) were my crew the last two years.  Finally, while there was snow in the forecast, it wasn’t due to arrive until Sunday morning—long after the race was over.

Ben and I flew up to Roanoke on Friday morning avoiding any icing conditions.  The flight went quickly with a 30 knots tailwind.  We grabbed lunch, bought some groceries, and drove up to Camp Bethel.  There we napped in the car until the late afternoon.  I wandered around talking to some folks before the check-in and dinner.  I spoke with Jeff Garstecki quite a bit, and we ended up sitting next to each other at dinner.  I knew that we were about the same age, but learned that he is 10 days older than me.

Right before the 12:01am Start
At the race briefing, it was mostly normal Horton stuff, except he wasn’t making fun of too many people this year.  We were treated to a song by the Camp Bethel director, Barry, who sang, “It’s Hellgate Time at Camp Bethel.”  It was most excellent.  All of the runners without a crew were found a ride to the start with two of them riding with us.  Constantine and another guy were first year runners, and they had all sorts of questions for me.  I was able to answer all of their questions and concerns, detailing as much as they desired.

Midnight approached quickly, and before we knew it, we were making last minute preparations, checking in with Horton again, and walking over to the starting line.  We sang the National Anthem, O’ Holy Night (led by Ben), and finally happy birthday to Karl Meltzer at midnight just before starting at 12:01am.

Mile 3.5      45:43 (13:04 avg./mile) FSR 35

I try to make a concerted effort to move quickly through this section.  The start is always exciting and slightly terrifying at the same time.  With only 145 runners, the start is small with little jostling once we start running.  The dark, cold atmosphere is warmed by the cheering crews, but that only lasts a minute or so.  Try to wrap your mind around this—we are going to be running all night—seven hours in darkness.  I settle into a good rhythm and think this might be a little quicker than last year.  I make it through the stream crossing, getting my feet wet, and into the aid station.  It is always a bit farther than I remember from the stream crossing to the aid station.  I grab a cup of water, click my watch, and start walking uphill.  My time is actually within 10 seconds of my rolling five year average—so much for starting quicker than normal.

Mile 7.5      1:05:10 (16:17 avg./mile) Petites Gap
Changing shoes and socks

The trick on this section is just getting it done.  Four miles uphill on a dirt road to the next aid station is all that is to it.  I jog the less steep portions and walk the steeper sections.  I am keeping up with most of the people around me, but I am definitely not pushing it.  My non-pushing is rewarded by getting to the aid station in over an hour—not great.  However, Ben is waiting for me, and I sit down to pry off my frozen shoes and socks, changing into dry ones.  I think I am dressed about right with three technical shirts and one pair of tights.  I was getting warm on the first section, but as the course climbed, the temperature is cooler.  I get the shoes and socks changed, and then drink a good amount of chocolate milk and take a bagel with me, saying good night to Ben as I won’t see him until morning at Jennings Creek.

Mile 13.1    1:38:08 (17:31 avg./mile) Camping Gap

The warm up is over and now it is important to make good times through these next two sections.  I run down the rocky trail rather well and make the right turn that climbs and descends several times, crossing two small streams, before dumping out onto a dirt road.  This dirt road starts a climb that isn’t as long (less than three miles), but is steeper than the climb up to Petites Gap.  I power hike with purpose and pass a few people on the way up.  I get to Camping Gap feeling good, and my time is reasonable, but not great if I am going to break 17 hours again like last year.  I am currently almost 12 minutes behind last year’s pace.  I quickly grab a couple of sandwich quarters and hurry out of the aid station.

Mile 21.9    2:26:03 (16:36 avg./mile) Headforemost Mountain

Along the several miles of the grassy road section, I talk at times with various people.  One is a Brian, but I don’t know his last name.  Looking at the results, the last name could be Walters, Carr, or Lang.  It is always fun to me to start up a conversation, ask how many times they have run this race, and then have them ask me.  Even though Horton introduced all of the fearsome five at the pre-race briefing, it is hard to identify people all covered up in the dark.  There is some residual snow around on the shaded sides of the mountain.  It is nothing more than an inch or so, but it brightens up things.  After the grassy road section, I start moving quickly through the single-track trail that takes us up and over Onion Mountain and down to Overstreet Falls.  Brian and I move quickly past a few runners as we make the treacherous descent to Overstreet Falls.  When I get to the falls and another dirt road, Larry Huffman and I start the hike up to Headforemost Mountain sharing stories about David Snipes and past years.  This split is faster than last year, so now I am less than nine minutes behind last year’s pace.  At the aid station, I grab a cheese quesadilla and start the next section.

Eating breakfast at Jennings Creek
Mile 27.6    1:37:21 (17:05 avg./mile) Jennings Creek

As the course goes down the hill, I try to push the pace.  I pass a few runners, but overall just maintain my position with the other runners.  I see several I know on this section, including Brock Webb and Marlin Yoder.  The technical, rocky section before getting on the final stretch, which is a grassy road, seems to get rockier each year.  I manage not to twist my ankles too much on this section.  I glide into the aid station where Ben is waiting for me with a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.  It is delicious!  I change out shirts, in the process dropping to just two lighter weight shirts.  I also change my hat and gloves into lighter pairs.  It is now 7:30 or so, and the temperature should warm up a little.  I wash down the sandwich with a good bit of Conquest—yes, I still have a little powder left.  I lost four minutes on this section to last year’s pace, so now I am 12 minutes behind.

Mile 34.5    1:54:26 (16:35 avg./mile) Little Cove Mountain

Heading away from Jennings Creek
The climb out of Jennings Creek finds me back beside Brock Webb and another runner, who I meet on the next section.  There is also Makoto, who seems to be hiking uphill slightly faster than me.  I am hiking uphill faster than Brock, so I push on ahead, knowing he will likely catch me on the next downhill section.  I feel good, but I am not moving as quickly as I want to.  That being said, I know I can get under 17 hours if I stay focused on the task at hand.  I make it through the single track section in great shape and have a few good conversations on the dirt road up to the aid station.  This split time is again slower than last year—this time eight minutes slower.  So, now I am 20 minutes behind last year’s pace!  I decide to start a little caffeine by drinking a small cup of Mountain Dew.  I also eat some bacon along with another sandwich quarter.

Mile 42.5    2:17:43 (17:13 avg./mile) Bearwallow Gap

Coming into Bearwallow Gap

Changed and finishing lunch
Leaving the aid station, I figure if I can run this section in about 2:15 that will put me into Bearwallow at 11:45am, which would put me 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  Then all I have to do is make up another 15 minutes in the last 20 miles to slide in under 17 hours.  I explain this strategy to Joe, who is running beside me, and he thinks it is a great plan.  Joe and I proceed with me in the lead to catch and pass a couple of runners before we come upon Lanier.  As I slide by Lanier, who is from Athens, Alabama and who I ran many miles with last year during this race, I ask if he is aiming for 17 hours.  He responds in the affirmative, and he tags along with us as I lead a growing train of runners.  We also pass Brock Webb again before we make it to the infamous devil trail.  As we make the turn to join the devil trail, Joe, who is running this race for the first time, says he thought we were already on the devil trail.  Oh no, it gets more technical and more fun!  The good thing is that now we have less than 45 minutes until the aid station if we push it.  I am making good progress through the leaves and rocks, but Brock still catches and passes me as we make our way down the hill to a river crossing.  Joe has fallen a little behind on the devil trail, but I cannot wait for him if I am going to have a chance to meet my goal.  I roll into the aid station 42 minutes after turning on the devil trail—a very quick time through that section.  I decide that things are warming up, so I change out the tights to shorts, and change shirts again, ending with two shirts—one long sleeve and one short—and a hat and no gloves.  I eat the majority of a slightly charred ham and cheese sandwich that Ben made, washing it down with chocolate milk and a little Conquest.  The overall time in the race stands are 11:44.  I made up 12 minutes over last year’s time and am now less than eight minutes behind last year’s 16:54 pace.  As I prepare to leave the aid station, Joe makes his way into the aid station.  I grab a small cup of Coke to keep the caffeine level up in my body.

Mile 49.5    1:49:59 (15:43 avg./mile) Bobblets Gap

The climb out of Bearwallow Gap goes very well with a little caffeine in my body.  Last year, I didn’t start any caffeine until I was into this section.  I catch up to Janice at the top of the climb, and soon thereafter, Lanier catches up to me.  The three of us, plus Janice’s pacer leap frog through most of the rest of this section.  At some point, Joe catches back up, and when we drop down to the dirt road that will take us the last mile to the aid station, Joe decides to run up it.  I walk with Janice and her pacer talking about the beautiful, almost perfect weather.  I think it could be a little cooler, but Janice is all bundled up and says her hands and feet have been getting cold.  My hands are a little chilly, but then again I didn’t put on any gloves for this section.  When we get to the aid station, our crews are waiting for us.  Ben has cooked up some Ramen soup, although it is a little hot.  I carefully eat about a third of the soup.  I put back on my gloves while I drink some Coke.  My time on this section was seven minutes faster than last year, so now I am less than two minutes behind last year’s pace!  Now, all I have to do is apply the proper finishing effort to get under 17-hours and a Western States qualifier.  Additionally, Ben tells me that Jeff (another one of the fearsome five) is only seven or eight minutes ahead of me.
Eating soup at Bobblets Gap

Mile 56.1    2:08:56 (19:32 avg./mile) Day Creek

Brock and I leave the aid station together as we begin the 2.5 mile downhill dirt road section.  I pick up the pace and catch and pass Janice again, and then Joe.  Finally, I pass Lanier and another guy before exiting the dirt road for the “forever section.”  As I start the first climb, I have a bowel issue that I need to resolve.  And then there is Jeff ahead of me, but before I pass him, I decide to go squat behind a tree and take care of business.  When I am finished squatting behind the tree, Brock, Joe, and Janice have passed me and Jeff is nowhere in sight.  Lanier and I stay together the rest of this section just catching glimpses of Brock and Joe at times.  Janice and her pacer are moving well.  Right around the 15 hour mark, Sophie Speidel is hiking towards us announcing that it is 55 minutes to the aid station.  I respond that this is not acceptable as that would doom my sub 17-hour effort.  She responds that I need to run more and talk less, so that is what I do.  I trip and fall twice trying to push the pace, but I still manage to get into the Day Creek aid station around 15:43, which gives me an hour and 16 minutes to finish under 17 hours.  I drink the rest of the bottle of Coke that I started last aid station and grab a handful of pretzel sticks for this next section.  Last year, I ran this section in 1:12.  Can I do it again?  Ben says Jeff is only a couple of minutes ahead of me.
Starting the last section

Mile 62.4    1:14:14 (11:47 avg./mile) FINISH

Lanier started out of the aid station ahead of me and is moving well.  I take almost five minutes to catch up to him right before we both catch up to Jeff and Brock.  As we pass, Jeff is bent over dry heaving a little.  I wish him well and tell him that he can get this thing done.  He confirms this thought and tells me that Ryan Henry (another of the fearsome five) is not too far ahead.  Can it be that I finish before not one but two of the other fearsome five?  I have never finished ahead of any of the other four.  I hit the first gate in 15 minutes and think I am moving faster than last year.  As I near the parkway, I catch and pass Janice again.  Despite my determination, I reach the parkway in 41:30—30 seconds slower than last year.  Okay, it is now or never, I have to run 10-minute miles over the last 3.5 miles.  Fortunately, it is all downhill.  I passed four runners on the climb up, now starting down, I quickly pass one runner and then I pass Ryan.  He is running still, but clearly working hard.  I hit the gate—two miles from the parkway in 20:30—now I just have 1.5 miles.  I hit the mile to go mark at 16:49—I can make this as I run the last mile in less than 9 minutes.
16 starts, 16 finishes!

Official Finishing Time          16:57:43

97th out of 145 starters (124 finishers under 18 hours)

I finish and have to make the point to David Horton that I am third out of the fearsome five.  It is a good year:  first, I finished number 16; second, I qualified for the Western States lottery for the third year in a row with this sub 17-hour finish; and finally, I was NOT the slowest of the fearsome five this year.  I sit down after I finish waiting for my heart rate to slow down under 150 beats per minute.  I really had to push hard the last section, and I am not as speedy as I used to be.  It is now seven years that the streakers have remained at the fearsome five.  Are we getting slower as we age?  Yes, but the fastest of us this year was the oldest of us—Jerry Turk at the young age of 60.

Ben and I head to our hotel and crash before getting up at 5am in order to escape Roanoke before it becomes buried beneath an early season snowstorm.  There are about two inches of snow on the runway as we take-off, but we make it home uneventfully.  I think Roanoke ended up with at least a foot of snow.  Now, that would have really made things interesting if it had come a day earlier!

Never stop running,



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bull Mountain Epic 50k

October 5

Amy, Ben, and I are driving to North Georgia on this early fall evening.  The calendar might say fall, but we are still in the heat of summer down here in the Deep South.  The temperature today in Huntsville hit 90 degrees.  Fortunately, the forecast tomorrow in North Georgia is supposed to be in the mid-80s.  We are staying in a hiker’s hostel just north of Dahlonega.  The place is very nice, and we even have a TV with cable to watch the ending of the Red Sox-Yankees postseason game number 1, which the Red Sox won!

October 6

I sleep well, and I feel like I am fully ready for this race.  Ben and I are running the 50k, and Amy is running the half marathon.  We are all ready to go at 8:00am when the half marathoners start.  The 50k race begins at 8:05am with the temperature in the low-60s.

Mile 10       1:59 (11:54 avg./mile) End of Loop 1

Due to user error, my watch did not save the split times at the aid stations, but I remember my times for each loop.  This course is a three loop course, and there is an aid station somewhere on each loop.  Each loop is different, but the start and finish of each loop is at the same location.  Ben and I stick together for most of the first loop until near the end when I trip and fall skinning up my forearm and hip.  Ben makes sure I am okay before he pushes on ahead.  It takes me a little while to gather myself back together before I start really running again.  I get to the end of the first loop right at the time I wanted—just less than 2 hours.  My right forearm is dripping blood, but I cannot find a paper towel or anything else to wipe it off.  The one aid station volunteer is consumed with talking to what looks like the half marathon winner.  So, I leave it as is, top off my Camelbak, and grab some potato chips and a pickle before starting loop number 2.

Mile 21       2:30 (13:38 avg./mile) End of Loop 2

I start the second loop having mostly recovered from my fall.  I feel good, and the dripping blood has at least dried on my right forearm.  I am moving well, passing a few runners here and there.  About halfway through the loop, I catch up to Ben and another runner.  I move on past them and end up passing about eight runners on this loop.  When I get down to the aid station, which is about nine miles into the loop.  The helpful aid station volunteers offer various towels to clean up my arm, but at this point, I decline since the dried blood isn’t doing any harm now.  I grab a couple of sandwich quarters and a small stack of Pringles for the trail.  As I cross the stream after the aid station, I douse my head and arms with stream water.  Climbing up from the stream, I pass a couple of guys, who then pass me back once we finish climbing.  As I approach the start/finish area, I pass the two guys again.  I roll into the start/finish aid station feeling very good and moving even better.  The only issue is that it is now officially hot!  I grab a sandwich quarter and begin the third loop.  Amy has finished her half marathon, but I haven’t seen Ben in several miles.

Mile 31.5    2:35 (14:46 avg./mile) FINISH – End of Loop 3

I begin the third loop feeling very good, but running cautiously due to the heat.  As forecasted, it is climbing into the high 80s.  The heat isn’t too bad, but if it were cooler, I think I could lay the hammer down on these last 10 or so miles.  Instead, I run conservatively.  When I get to a large open area, I run all the way across it in order to minimize my time in the sun.  On the other side, I take a break from running as I try to cool myself.  There is a breeze at times, but it is still quite warm.  On this loop, I don’t see any other runners—I don’t pass any and no one passes me.  I have to maneuver my way around a few horses, but otherwise I don’t see anyone.  Generally, I keep things smooth and easy.  Like most ultras, this section seems like it will never end.  Finally, I get close after about an hour of thinking that it can’t be far now.

Official Finishing Time          7:04:28

10th out of 45 starters (5th of 12 M40-49)

When I finish, I am disappointed that I didn’t break seven hours.  However, I am happy that I was in the top 10.  Ben and Amy are waiting for me at the finish.  Ben started the third loop, felt like he was going to throw up, and decided to call it a day.  We hop in the car and drive the four hours back to Huntsville where I will watch game 2 of the ALDS series between the Red Sox and Yankees.

My next race is going to be Hellgate on December 8.  This will be number 16 at Hellgate.  All of the fearsome five are entered.  I would have liked to have gotten another race in before Hellgate, but my schedule and activities won’t allow it.

Never stop running,

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Kettle Moraine 100 MIler 2018

June 1

Martha is joining me for my trip to Wisconsin to run the Kettle Moraine 100 mile race tomorrow.  She hasn’t crewed for me in a 100 mile since 2009 and won’t really be crewing for me tomorrow.  She is planning to bring me chocolate milk and my drugs a couple of times during the day.  Drugs?  Yes, I am on antibiotics as I was diagnosed with an ear infection on Wednesday.  My ears have been stopped up for over a week now, but I am hoping that they will clear as the antibiotics do their job, and I get everything flowing tomorrow during the run.

Darin ready to run
We pick up my race packet and then grab dinner at a wonderfully nice Italian restaurant in downtown Whitewater.  I have some sausage stuffed ravioli, and Martha has some chicken dish.  I don’t eat many carbs these days, so this is a treat to carb-out!  I manage to clean my plate, but my stomach is definitely off a little bit with the drugs.  Well, I guess I will see how things progress tomorrow.

June 2

The weather forecast is almost perfect.  It is around 50 degrees this morning, but there is a chance for a passing storm late tonight.  It should be a quick mover, though, so hopefully we won’t be slogging through the rain for hours on end.  I start the race with ears completely clogged, a hacking cough from the drainage, and optimism that none of this will prevent me from finishing my 11th 100 mile race.  My 100 mile record stands at 10 finishes with eight DNFs.

The horde of runners and crews just before the start
Mile 3.3      35:43 (10:49 avg./mile) Tamarack

The crowd of runners, which includes 250 100 mile runners and many other 100k runners, moves out quickly over the rolling terrain.  I am a little quicker than desired on this first section, but I am definitely letting everyone go by me.  My hacking cough is only an inconvenience, and I am getting great snot removal.  Unfortunately, my body seems to keep producing plenty more.  I grab a handful of potato chips at the first aid station and press on forward.

Mile 6.0      33:11 (12:17 avg./mile) Bluff

I am settling down nicely to a good pace.  I want to average better than four miles per hour (15 minutes per mile) during the daylight today.  This will give me plenty of cushion on the 30-hour cut-off and may even allow me (if things go wonderful) to get the elusive sub-24-hour finish.  At this aid station, I grab some more potato chips as I really don’t feel like eating more than that.  On this section, I meet Mike Smith who lives in the area and is trying to run his first 100 miler.

Mile 11.1    1:07:04 (13:09 avg./mile) Horseriders

This race is mostly on rolling hills.  Up and down we go—up 30 feet and then down 30 feet.  Some climbs are possibly 100 feet of climb at one time.  It doesn’t sound hard, and relatively it isn’t.  The problem is that there is no such thing as an easy 100 mile race.  The good thing is that the entire course is on the trails except for the several road crossings.  My pace has settled a little more, but the trail is now single track and a bit congested.  This is an unmanned aid station so I move right on through.

Mile 14.2    42:35 (13:44 avg./mile) Emma Carlin

There are about 15 of us somewhat stuck behind a lady that insists on running a steady slow pace regardless of whether the course is going up or down.  At one point I passed her, but then when I walked up the next uphill, she passed me back.  Oh well, I just have to remain patient.  However, when we get to this large aid station, I grab two ham sandwich quarters and move out of the aid station before she does.  So, do a few other runners who were also “stuck” with me.

Mile 17.3    37:30 (12:06 avg./mile) Antique Lane

Now free to run and walk as I desire, my average pace actually picks up.  Of course, I also wanted to make sure you know who doesn’t pass me.  No fear as I don’t see her again until I am coming back from the turnaround at Scuppernong.  This aid station is another unmanned aid station with just water, sunscreen lotion, and bug spray.  Speaking of which, I put a little bug spray on this morning, but the mosquitos are definitely now in season.

Mile 19.6    25:45 (11:12 avg./mile) Wilton Road

These few sections are open prairie.  The quick ups and downs have subsided to gracefully long inclines or descents that are mostly flat.  My legs feel great, and my energy level is high.  My stomach is not 100 percent, and of course I have the clogged ears and drainage, but overall I think my race is going well.  Another unmanned aid station which I glide right on through.

Mile 23.0    43:42 (12:51 avg./mile) Highway 67

In the prairie section, I let Mike press on ahead.  Either he will slow down, or he will have an excellent first race.  I know though that I want to keep taking things really easy.  I am not chatting with many people as I have to concentrate really hard to hear what they are saying.  It is best to just run inside my own head listening to not much of anything.  At this aid station, I grab two more ham sandwich quarters.  Some of these seem to have mayo on them, and I like the taste.  I also refill my Camelbak at this aid station.

Mile 25.5    34:59 (14:00 avg./mile) County ZZ

I ease into this aid station, and Martha is here with some chocolate milk.  Unfortunately, the chocolate milk she bought is frozen!  She scoops a little in a cup, and I take a couple of swallows before handing the cup back to her.  She says, is that it?  Yep, I will see you across the way at Scuppernong.  The aid stations are within sight of each other so she only has to walk less than 100 yards, while I am running the 5 miles around the loop.

Mile 30.4    1:09:52 (14:16 avg./mile) Scuppernong

I find myself running most of this section with Tom.  He is a little older than me, but definitely has the same mindset for keeping a relaxed pace.  He also likes to roll quickly down the hills like I do, so we stick together easily.  I have plenty of pep in my legs for when I stop to take a leak, it is no problem at all to catch back up to Tom.  I roll into Scuppernong, and Martha has a full cup of mostly thawed out chocolate milk.  I drink the whole cup, and then grab two sandwich quarters to eat walking out of the aid station.

Mile 35.4    1:08:00 (13:36 avg./mile) County ZZ

Tom spent more time in the aid station than me, and I will not see him again in this race.  I believe it looks like he stopped at mile 54.  The chocolate milk has given me a bit more energy and the fact that I want to get this mentally challenging loop that gets you to where you began, finds me pushing the pace a little.  I am really hammering the downhills.  I arrive at the aid station with Martha holding another cup of chocolate milk.  I down that and grab two small sandwich wrap to eat on the run.  My pace is great, and I start to wonder how long I can maintain a sub-15 minutes per mile pace.l

Mile 37.9    35:00 (14:00 avg./mile) Highway 67

The chocolate milk and sandwich wraps settle in as I take it easy coming out of the Scuppernong loops.  I am going to just focus on trying to maintain sub-15-minute miles.  At this aid station, I only grab some potato chips.

Mile 41.3    44:04 (12:58 avg./mile) Wilton Road

Back on the prairie, I try to run smoothly.  There is one 100k runner that I keep leap frogging with.  He runs when I am walking and vice versa.  As the terrain is mostly flat, it is all about taking my time on mixing up running with some walking.  Another unmanned aid station that I roll right through.

Mile 43.6    32:10 (13:59 avg./mile) Antique Lane

The day has warmed up some, but it is still probably only 70 degrees out here.  There is a gentle breeze so far and most importantly, no sign of thunderstorms yet.  I manage to keep rolling along, generally keeping pace with the runners around me.  This is another unmanned aid station, but I take the opportunity to top off my Camelbak.  At least I am drinking plenty of water as a day like today when it isn’t very warm will still take the water out of you.

Mile 46.7    45:38 (14:43 avg./mile) Emma Carlin

Back at Emma Carlin, and it is only 10 hours and 15 minutes since I started.  I am expecting to see Martha again to get my antibiotics for the last time.  However, she is nowhere in view.  This aid station is quite crowded as there are crews for 50k, 100k, and 100 mile runners.  There is a remote parking spot and the race is bussing the crews into the aid station.  Anyway, I get some ginger ale to drink and then grab two ham sandwich quarters.  I am starting to walk out of the aid station when I hear Martha call for me and run up after getting off of the bus.  She says I am early—I am sorry I am running too fast!  Anyway, I take my antibiotics and drink a cup of chocolate milk before kissing her good-bye.  I tell her I will call her from the last aid station before the finish tomorrow morning.

Mile 49.8    49:52 (16:05 avg./mile) Horseriders

As the evening approaches, the mosquitoes are coming out in greater numbers.  At this unmanned aid station, I liberally spray bug repellent on my arms, legs, and back.  Hopefully, I won’t have too many more bites!  My pace is slightly off, but I don’t think it is anything to worry about.  I generally feel good, except for my ears.

Mile 54.8    1:17:52 (15:34 avg./mile) Bluff

This is a long 5 miles and with it comes some decent climbs.  As the name implies, we have to get up and over the bluff, which seems to be the highest part on the course.  The aid station is down the other side and not on top of the bluff, though.  I think about using the porta john, but elect to wait.  Instead I grab a couple more sandwich quarters and head out on the trail.

Mile 57.6    43:48 (15:39 avg./mile) Tamarack

At Emma Carlin, I had a headlamp in my drop bag, but as I was on pace (or even a little ahead) I elected not to take it with me.  I have to get back to Nordic before dark.  It isn’t as critical as it sounds as the trail from Bluff back to Nordic is double wide trail.  Early on this section, I catch back up to Mike Smith.  He says his IT band has flared up.  He has taken some Advil for it and hopes he can push through it.  At this aid station, I realize that we have to go the full 4.8 miles to Nordic, whereas this morning going out it was only 3.3 miles from Nordic to Tamarack.  It is only 7:06pm, so I have plenty of daylight to get into Nordic.

Mile 62.4    1:38:07 (20:26 avg./mile) Nordic

My stomach is definitely turning south.  It is uncomfortable to run very much, so I am trying to be content with mostly walking at this point.  The rain has started a little.  There was a few minutes of light sprinkles, but now it has stopped.  I get into the start/finish area and have a little difficulty locating my drop bag.  I don’t have shoes in this drop bag, but I do have socks, so I change them.  I also get my Camelbak topped off and put my jacket on as it starts to rain again before I leave the aid station.  Finally, I get my headlamp all setup.  It is dusk as I am leaving the aid station, so I turn on the headlamp and begin the trek through the long night.

Mile 67.2    1:34:21 (19:39 avg./mile) Tamarack

Within a mile of leaving the aid station, I catch back up with Mike Smith.  Company through the night would probably be a good thing, so I stick with Mike as we slog into the first aid station after dark.  I need to visit the porta john, but there are none here, and I am not desperate enough yet to go squat in the woods.  I grab a few potato chips and then continue on towards the next aid station.

Mile 69.9    1:07:06 (24:51 avg./mile) Bluff

Mike and I roll back into the Bluff aid station for the third time, and we both immediately enter separate porta johns.  This race is extremely well supported with about half of the aid stations having facilities.  I am quickly successful in the porta john, and then get some Vaseline to lube things back up.  I grab only a few more potato chips as my stomach is not very interested in eating much of anything.  So far, my energy level seems good.  This split is slower, but it included the pit stop.

Mile 72.5    52:38 (20:15 avg./mile) Duffin Road

Mike and I manage to keep up a decent pace mostly walking in the dark.  If I can maintain 20-minute miles through the night, that would be wonderful.  My legs still feel somewhat fresh, but as you know, my stomach is not happy.  It isn’t like I need to throw up; rather it is just a discomfort that really won’t let me push the pace or run much.  This is an unmanned aid station, so I just mark my time and keep moving.

Mile 77.0    2:01:40 (27:02 avg./mile) Highway 12

During this section, the rumbles of thunder begin off to the west.  At first the lightning in 25 seconds away, and then it is only a few seconds.  It quickly passes to the east and fades into the distance.  There was some rain along with it, but not very much.  We seem to have gotten lucky.  We stagger into this aid station, and I think Mike’s IT band has had enough.  Both of us feel like dropping and indicate so.  However, I sit down and a nice volunteer fetches my drop bag.  I drink a cup of Coke, and then change my shoes.  The nice volunteer brings me a cup of broth, and I manage to drink that as well.  Finally, he brings me a cup of broth with some potatoes in it.  I choke that down and decide to give the next section a try.

Mile 81.5    2:10:00 (28:53 avg./mile) Rice Lake

I start this section with fresh shoes and a long sleeve shirt on.  I am a little chilly, but quickly warm up to the point that I take the long sleeve shirt off.  30 minutes later, I am chilled again, so I put it back on.  At some point in this section, I am falling asleep on my feet so I sit down and take a quick cat nap, leaning up against a tree.  I am down for only four minutes and then up again with a little freshness.  Later, there is a park bench along the trail so I take the opportunity to sit a bit.  It isn’t long before runners coming back from the Rice Lake turnaround are coming towards me.  I get up and stagger forward.  I finally make it into Rice Lake at an extremely slow pace.  It is almost 4:30am, and I think I am done.  At this pace, I will not finish under the 30-hour cut-off.  If my stomach was better I would have popped a caffeine pill or two, but I am quite certain that it would not tolerate that.  I call Martha on an aid station workers cell phone, and she is coming to pick me up.

We have to go back to Highway 12 to get my drop bag from there, and then we go to Nordic where my other two drop bags are now.  After collecting these up, we head to the hotel room.  I am able to shower before collapsing into bed.  I sleep a few hours, and then Martha goes out to get a couple of omelets from us.  I manage to eat my very slowly.

I mostly lay around napping off and on until it is time to meet the Feigleys for dinner.  Jim Feigley is a retired Marine General for whom I was aide-to-camp in 1998-1999.  They live not too far from here near Watertown.  We have a wonderful prime rib dinner at a local supper club.  It is great to catch up with them as I haven’t seen them in eight years.

In hindsight, I am afraid I made the right decision to drop when I did.  I am also proud that I gave it a go in less than top health and made it as far as I did.  On Monday, I get stronger antibiotics from the doctor as my ears have made no progress on improving.  A week later, and things are finally starting to clear out.  It is unfortunate that this ear infection came on.  I think I was very well trained and well rested coming into this race.  With the perfect weather, I could have run a really good time.  The good news is that I have my Western States qualifier already this year, so I will be able to enter the lottery in December for WS in 2019.

My next ultra-race likely won’t be until September, and it will probably be the Cumberland Trail 50k.

Never stop running,

Return to Darin’s Running Page.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bull Run Run 2018 -- Good Weather?

April 6 

It has been four years since I have run this race.  I am running this race again because my son-in-law, Ben, is moving up to the 50 mile distance having run a couple of 50k races.  My daughter, Amy, is also coming with us to crew for both of us.  This was the plan at our last race in February, but Ben ran so much faster than me, and Amy wasn’t able to support us both late in the race.  We fly up to Virginia this morning with a fair bit of turbulence.  We grab lunch at Five Guys, check into the race, and then eat dinner at Carrabba’s.  There is a fun little team competition, so Ben and I team up with Gary and Keith Knipling.  It is mostly for fun with the fastest team getting some piece of swag of some sort.

April 7 

Waiting for the Start of the Race
The weather has been the main topic for this race for the past few days.  The
forecast has varied from heavy rain turning to snow to now it seems there might not be any precipitation.  When I get up, the temperature is 48 degrees, but an hour later as the race is about to begin, the temperature has dropped to 43 degrees.  I start the race with short and long sleeve shirts, shorts, and a buff on my head.  There was no rain overnight.  It is overcast and blustery as the race begins.

Mile 7.2      1:17:10 (10:43 avg./mile) Centreville Road (1st time)

At the start, Ben is out in front of me and as we enter the single track trail, there are a dozen or so runners between us.  I am running with Sophie Speidel, and the miles pass quickly as Sophie and I catch up with each other.  About 3-4 miles into the race, Sophie and I move past Ben.  Sophie has a definite goal time today, and so far, I am able to keep up with her.  At the aid station, Amy is ready with chocolate milk and a bagel.  I grab half of a bagel and drink a small cup of chocolate milk.  Ben is less than a minute behind me.

Mile 11.6    51:03 (11:36 avg./mile) Centreville Road (2nd time)

The course has been modified some to ensure the full 50 miles is run today.  The turnaround is now a lollipop loop.  The problem is that there is no one at the junction of the lollipop and some of the people run it clock-wise and most of us run it counter-clock-wise.  On the loop, I let Sophie go on ahead as I am deciding to run a little bit more conservatively.  As I approach the junction on the loop again, Ben comes up behind me and joins me.  We run together back to the aid station where Amy is patiently waiting.  I drink some Conquest and take half of a bagel with me.  With the new lollipop loop, the race might be a little bit longer, but it is less than an additional half mile at most.

Mile 16.6    1:01:32 (12:18 avg./mile) Hemlock Overlook

I leave the aid station a little ahead of Ben, but then he catches up to me quickly.  However, on the way back to Hemlock, I open up a little gap on him.  I am working the downhills hard, utilizing my speed.  The weather is remaining basically the same.  The temperature has settled around 40 degrees with blustery winds and occasionally, there is a stray flake of snow that floats down.  I come into the aid station a couple of minutes before Ben.  I grab some potato chips at the aid station along with drinking more chocolate milk.

Mile 21.1    54:26 (12:06 avg./mile) Bull Run Marina

Leaving Hemlock, Michele Harmon catches up to me.  I am surprised that she was behind me, but she says she is at peace with her conservative pace.  We catch up for a mile or so, and then she presses on ahead.  Soon thereafter, Ben catches back up to me, and we run together into the aid station.  I grab some Pringles and drink more chocolate milk.  I am moving well and feel fine.  This isn’t going to be my fastest time, but is there the opportunity to get under 10 hours?

Mile 26.1    59:18 (11:52 avg./mile) Wolf Run Shoals

Ben and I continue on together for this section.  We are making good time.  We have been playing leap frog with Mike Campbell.  It won’t be the last time we see him.  This aid station does not allow crews to visit, so I grab a couple of PB&J sandwich quarters along with some water and more Pringles.  Alex is the aid station captain, and he informs me that the next section is longer than it has been.  The trail has been re-cut and now is longer.  I think he said it was about 0.7 miles further and that the veterans were complaining about it.

Mile 28.1    42:53 (21:27 avg./mile) Fountainhead

In the past, I have run this section in 25-30 minutes.  Clearly, this section is now longer as Alex indicated, but the question is how much longer is it?  It appears that it could be as much as a mile further.  Thus, I am calling this an extra Quattro mile or Q-mile for short in honor of the race director.  At the aid station, Amy is ready for us as Ben and I come in together.  I drink some more chocolate milk while stuffing my face with potato chips.

Mile 32.5    1:01:10 (13:54 avg./mile) Do Loop (start)

Going out to the do loop, we get to do the white loop in addition to the trail that goes straight to the do loop.  This goes by very quickly as Ben and I are talking away about some of my experiences in the Marine Corps as a General’s Aide.  Before long we are heading straight to the do loop.  We meet Keith Knipling heading the other way and then Sophie Speidel a little later.  Finally, we make the left turn that takes us up to the do loop aid station.  Dave Yeakel, Jr. is here with the aid station workers.  I grab a couple of sandwich quarters, and then Ben and I begin the do loop.

Mile 35.5    41:59 (14:00 avg./mile) Do Loop (end)

The do loop is actually a lollipop loop from the aid station and back to the aid station.  Ben has heard it is a rough little piece of trail so after the first half mile he says that this isn’t that bad.  Of course, this is the easy part and then when we get down to the water, we have to make our way back up with many ups and downs along the way.  At the Nash Rambler there is a full-size picture of Gary Knipling.  Both Ben and I take the opportunity to water the Rambler.  Early on the do loop, Mike Campbell came back past us as he seems to be doing better with his ailing knee.  When we arrive back at the aid station, Gary is just getting there.  This good for two reasons:  we are comfortably ahead of Gary, but more importantly it means that all of our teammates are likely to finish.

Mile 37.9    34:59 (14:35 avg./mile) Fountainhead

Ben leads the way after the do loop, and I think he has picked up the pace.  We are moving along nicely, and I start to do some figuring in my head of when we might be able to finish.  The numbers seem to suggest that we could finish in about 10.5 hours.  But for now we will continue to press on.  At the aid station, Amy looks happy to see us, and one of the aid station workers tries to put a lei around our necks.  I decline the offer as I have no intent to wear the thing for the next dozen miles.  I grab some food while Ben checks his blood sugar level.

Mile 39.9    41:42 (20:51 avg./mile) Wolf Run Shoals

Ben’s blood sugar level was a little low so he is now running with a bottle of honey.  He squirts some in his mouth every so often and washes it down with water.  Not long after the aid station, two ladies pass us saying they aren’t in a hurry, they are just cruising.  So, Ben and I from then on refer to them as the cruisers.  This section is still overly long with the obvious extra Q-mile.  At the aid station, I talk with Alex again while stuffing my face with potato chips.  I also grab two small cups of Coke.  It is time to start the push to the finish.  With his extra Q-mile, it is now obvious that we will finish over 10.5 hours, but do we still have margin to finish under 11 hours?

Mile 44.9    1:03:13 (12:39 avg./mile) Bull Run Marina

At some point, we got ahead of the cruisers, so after leaving the aid station, they cruise back by us.  Ben and I are hanging on, but I am calculating miles and pace.  Up and down we go; hiking the uphills and trying to run quickly on the downhills.  As we get about a mile and a half from the Marina, we pass Mike Campbell again.  His knee is really giving him problems now.  With a mile to go until the aid station, I pop a caffeine pill as I want to start my final surge before I get to the aid station.  Ben says he probably needs a bathroom break at the aid station, so I walk on through without stopping.

Mile 50.4    1:08:02 (12:22 avg./mile) FINISH!

My final surge is gutsy, but not overly fast.  Andrew Sullivan rides on my coat tails the last three miles.  I try to shake him, think he is going to pass me, and eventually we end up finishing together.  It was a good push at the end, but I don’t have the speed that I want.  Is it a problem of getting older?  I hope not.
Darin and Andrew finishing!

Official Finishing Time          10:57:27

109th out of 272 starters (231 finishers)

Ben comes across only seven minutes after me.  He ran a great race for his first 50 mile finish.  It was awesome running with him for most of the day.  The weather ends up to not be a factor with almost ideal weather for running hard.  The precipitation never arrives, and the trail is drier than I think I have ever seen at this race.

Ben and I quickly shower and change, and then we wait for our fourth teammate to finish.  It is a cold, blustery, raw day, which was good for running, but not so much for spectating.  We are pretty thoroughly chilled when Gary finishes with Zeke Zucker—two 74 year olds, who finish in 12:39.  Quite a race for some seasoned citizens.  I am thinking about running the Kettle Moraine 100 miler in June.  Until then…

Never stop running,