Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mt. Cheaha 50k - A Sweltering Day in February

February 24

I spent the week in Colorado with temperatures ranging from -1 to 16 degrees.  When I ran on Wednesday morning, the temperature was -1.  Now, I am in Talladega, Alabama (or close to it) where the temperature at 7am is 65 degrees.  The race is going to start in 30 minutes, and the only question is whether I start with a shirt on or off.  My son-in-law, Ben is running this race as well, and Amy is crewing for us.  I asked Ben last night if he wanted to stick together, and he said it would probably be good for the first half, just like we did in October at the Paris Mountain 50k.  As this is Ben’s second ultra, this is a good idea.  Just before the start, we chat with Caitlin, who is a former roommate of Amy’s.  She says she is going to take things really easy today.  I also make the decision to take off the shirt as it doesn’t feel cool at all.

Mile 3.3      35:54 (10:53 avg./mile) Chandler Springs

Ben is in the lead right from the start as Caitlin and I follow behind.  Within a couple of miles, Ben has worked his way quickly around other runners, and Caitlin and I lose sight of him.  Surely, we will catch up to him soon enough as he settles into a good position.  When we get to this first aid station, Ben is nowhere to be seen.  Caitlin and I press on thinking that we will catch up to him at some point—sooner or later.  Despite the fact that Ben is well ahead of us, I have run a quick pace for this section.  My goal today, if it doesn’t get to hot, is to try to average between 12- and 13-minute miles.

Mile 8.5      1:05:34 (12:37 avg./mile) Clairmont Gap

I continue to lead as Caitlin is content to follow behind.  Another runner, who is running his first ultra, is also tagging along behind.  I manage to dial back the pace nicely, and I am happy with my pace given the conditions.  Speaking of which, it is already feeling warm.  I don’t know how warm, but when the breeze is not on me, it feels very warm.  At this aid station, we see Amy, and she says Ben is about 7-8 minutes ahead of us.  I drink some chocolate milk as well as some Conquest.

Mile 14.9    1:39:48 (15:36 avg./mile) Adams Gap

Caitlin and I along with a couple of other runners make it down and through the most technical trail portions in this race.  The rock gardens are such that walking is necessary at times to keep from injuring myself.  At one point I catch a toe and go down, but mostly unscathed, I pop back up and continue leading the small pack.  Then around 12 miles or so, I finish a downhill section and realize that I need to slow down.  There is no breeze in this valley, and I am roasting.  I let Caitlin and several others pass by me.  I watch them pull away, but know that if I am going to survive this warm weather, I need to slow down to keep from overheating.  At the aid station, Amy has already left since she needs to keep up with Ben.  The aid station workers are telling us runners that it is seven miles to the next aid station.  At first, I think I have missed an aid station or something.  So, I ask, “Isn’t this mile 14 aid station?”  Yes, it is, at which I reply then we only have four miles or less to the next aid station, not seven.

Mile 18.4    1:08:32 (19:35 avg./mile) Hubbard Creek

The wheels are coming off as I continue to slow my pace.  I think I feel okay, but it is just so warm that I know I cannot push the pace like I want to (or could in cooler weather).  Scores of runners have passed me by, but there are a couple of runners that are moving as slowly as I am.  At the aid station, Amy is here with more chocolate milk and Conquest.  I also take the opportunity to sit down.  Amy says that Ben is 27 minutes ahead of me, and Caitlin is about 10 minutes ahead of me at this point.  Earlier, I was thinking that mile 18 would be the point at which I picked up the pace to see if I could catch Ben, but now I know that unless he blows up, I will be finishing behind him today.  After drinking chocolate milk and Conquest, I grab a couple of PB&J sandwich quarters.

Mile 25.3    1:48:48 (15:46 avg./mile) Silent Trail

After the refreshments, I settle into a good groove.  This section has several stream crossings, and they are good for cooling off a bit.  It feels like I can push a little, but I know I need to save that for the end.  Instead, I methodically make steady forward progress.  Somewhere on this section, the race clock passes 6 hours.  The previous two times I ran this race, I finished in 6:40 and 6:44.  This is obviously going to be slower than 7 hours, but the question is how much slower than 7 hours?  At the aid station, Amy has again moved on before I get there.  I grab a couple more PB&J sandwich quarters and refill my empty Camelbak.  I also drink two cups of Coke.  It is time to see what I have left.

Mile 27.9    32:35 (12:32 avg./mile) Lake Cheaha

Leaving the last aid station, I feel ready to push it to the finish.  I run most of this section and pass a couple of runners.  It is now time to really kick things in and get this race done.  At the aid station, I grab another cup of Coke before heading towards blue hell.

Mile 31.1    1:04:12 (20:04 avg./mile) FINISH – Bald Rock

Blue hell is the name of the trail that climbs Mt. Cheaha.  The trail is marked by blue blazes, and climbs 1,500 feet in about a mile—hence the moniker.  I vow not to stop on the climb and manage to work my way around another couple of runners.  As I near the top of the blue hell climb, my leg muscles begin to rebel. First it is my right calf muscle.  I ignore that and keep pushing.  Then it is the left calf.  Finally, the upper legs start to cramp, both on the insides and backsides.  By the time I have finished the blue hell climb, my legs need a break, but there is still about a mile and a half to go to the finish.  All of the runners that I passed in the last few miles come back by me as I am still moving forward, but only in a technical sense that I am not actually standing still.  I stagger into the finish with Ben sitting there already showered and changed.

Official Finishing Time          7:55:23

112th out of 228 entrants (31st of M40-49)

It was a very ugly day for me today, but I guess I can take solace in the fact that I did persevere and finish no matter how slow it was.  Ben was 50 minutes ahead of me at the end.  My legs recover quickly once I allow my body temperature to come back down.  The heat cramps were intense, but I worked through them, deep within my pain room.

Ben and I are both entered into the Bull Run Run 50 miler on April 7.  This will be his first 50 mile race, and we will see how well he makes that transition.  Until then…

Never stop running,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Mountain Mist 50k 2018 - Beat the Rain

January 27

I am 49 years old today.  It is a great day to run in the woods and feel like I am young again.  The only problem is that it is raining lightly right now.  It is supposed to stop soon, but then start again sometime this afternoon.  When I left my house, the temperature was 53 degrees, so I decided I only would need a short-sleeve shirt.  As I drove up to Monte Sano, the temperature was lower.  I am sitting in my truck looking at 46 degrees.  That is a bit cool for only a short-sleeve shirt, but it is supposed to warm into the lower 50s.  Hopefully, I won’t be too cold before that happens.

Mile 6.7      1:10:54 (10:35 avg./mile) O’Shaughnessy Point

For the past month, I have been having nose bleeds every two days.  My last one was two days ago, so right on schedule, 15 minutes into the race, my nose starts dripping blood.  Fortunately, I am prepared with a Kleenex all ready to be stuffed into a stopper.  I do have to stop running, dig it out of my Camelbak, and jam it in.  During this time, 25 runners pass me, and I have lost about 5 minutes.  However, I am then able to run okay, and I meet up with Lanier, who I met at Hellgate last month.  When I get to this aid station, I throw away the nose plug, and everything with my nose seems fine.  I grab some potato chips to eat at this aid station before continuing.

Mile 11.9    1:02:37 (12:02 avg./mile) Aid Station #2

I am setting a comfortable pace at this point and am not worrying about my overall time—which is good.  My energy level is very good.  The only concern is that my lower legs have tired quickly, probably from the hard skating hockey game 5 days ago.  I don’t think it will be an issue though as other parts will begin to hurt more soon enough.  I don’t get much to eat here.

Mile 17.3    1:10:45 (13:36 avg./mile) Fearn Road

This aid station marks the halfway mark for the race—not in distance but in effort and typical times.  The race time is 3:24, which is slower than I wanted at this point.  My other finish at this race was 6:52, so if I can run even splits (first and second halves) then I should beat that time.  My daughter, Amy, has driven up to this aid station to meet me with some chocolate milk.  I drink the majority of the pint before thanking her and continuing the race.

Mile 21.0    51:51 (13:18 avg./mile) Old Railroad Bed

I am making steady progress and trying to maintain a good pace through the land trust section of the course.  I am getting passed by a runner every so often so it feels like I am slowing down, but I know that I want to save myself for the last two sections.  This part is very rocky and technical, and I just want to get through it without twisting my ankle.  I grab some PB&J sandwich quarters and some potato chips at this aid station.

Mile 25.1    1:08:57 (16:49 avg./mile) Hiker’s Parking Lot

This section is the most technical section in the race and ends with the climb up the waterline trail.  As I am climbing up the waterfalls on the waterline trail, I pass a handful of runners.  It is almost time to start the finishing kick, and I am warming to the task.  When I get to the aid station, Travis Satterfield is here, waiting on his wife to come through.  Travis plays drums in our church’s band, and it is great to see him.  He lies and says that I look great.  I stuff a couple of handfuls of potato chips into my mouth and wash it down with a cup of Coke.  Let’s see what kind of kick I can deliver today!

Mile 29.5    1:06:03 (15:01 avg./mile) High Bluff

I leave the hiker’s parking lot and for the first mile, just maintain the pace I had been keeping.  But then, as I know a technical downhill is coming up, I pick up the pace.  I pass a few people before the downhill section begins, and then pass a few more as we pick our way down, past the natural well.  When the trail bottoms out, I feel good, and continue to push the pace, passing several more runners before the last climb of the race begins.  On the climb, I am working hard, and manage to get around 4-5 more runners.  At the top of this climb is this aid station.  I grab another cup of Coke, and then start final section.

Mile 31.1    14:19 (8:57 avg./mile) FINISH – Lodge

My legs are starting to tire, but there are runners ahead of me who are clearly more tired than me.  I pass two runners, and then two more.  Then I see Lanier up ahead of me, and I pass him and another runner.  Lanier comments that I passed him on the last section at Hellgate as well.  After that, I spy Susan Donnelly in front of me.  She had passed me about 7 miles ago, but I quickly close the gap on her.  I pass her and another runner before finally crossing the finish line.

Official Finishing Time          6:45:26

134th out of 343 starters

A misty rain starts right as I am coming into the finish.  I talk with Lanier and Susan and a couple of other runners in the lodge after the race.  I consider waiting for Travis to get here, but then decide I am getting cold so I will get in my truck and drive home.  As I am leaving the lodge, I bump into Caitlin Milford.  She is one of Amy’s former roommates, who I was able to hold off and finish ahead of last year at Mt. Cheaha.  This time, she finished over 25 minutes ahead of me, and I never saw her.  Although Amy did tell me at mile 17 that she was about 15 minutes ahead of me.  Clearly, she had a great race today.  Maybe I can keep up with her again at Cheaha this year.  The Cheaha 50k will be my next race on February 24.

Never stop running,


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hellgate 100k 2017 - Perfect Hellgate Weather

December 9

I am another year older.  Am I slowing down when I run?  Sometimes.  I seem to no longer have a chance against Nathan in the shorter distances.  For the longer races, the ultras, the races that I train for and live for, I think I am almost as fast as ever.  My slower top end speed is usually not a factor in ultras, but it has been seven years since I have finished under 17 hours at this race.  Will I be able to break the 17-hour mark again?  I have trained hard this year.  I added weekly speed work over the summer and fall.  It didn’t help a bit in the latest 5k I ran, but it did seem to help on the 50k I ran in late September.  Will it help here?  It is almost time to find out.

Darin before the start
Amy and Ben are getting married next weekend, but they are still out here to crew for me again this year.  They are better prepared with sleeping bags and warmer clothing, although it is not forecasted to be as cold as last year.  It is supposed to stay in the 20s, but snow is forecasted to start sometime after midnight.  I will start the race with thin tights, two long-sleeve shirts, hat, and gloves.

As this is the 15th year, David Horton has made a huge deal about the five of us who have finished all 14 so far.  We have been dubbed, “The Fearsome Five,” and Blue Ridge Outdoor magazine is writing an article about us for the February issue.  Before the start, Horton has us back out in front to get one last picture.  We sing the National Anthem, Horton says a prayer, and the race begins.

Mile 3.5      45:21 (12:57 avg./mile) FSR 35

The air is crisp and nicely cool.  The snow has yet to begin.  Maybe the weatherman will be wrong.  Maybe there won’t be any snow today.  I cover the early miles, settling into a comfortable pace.  Rick Gray comes by me around mile 2.  He had to stop and squat in the woods.  I arrive at the stream crossing to see that the water is very low.  I have never successfully rock hopped this first stream crossing and most years I don’t even consider trying.  However with the water so low, I give it a try and am successful!  I navigate a small rock garden before arriving at the first aid station right on my average pace for this section.  I drink a cup of water before starting up the dirt road.

Mile 7.5      57:34 (14:23 avg./mile) Petites Gap

Early on this section I find myself all alone.  This doesn’t last long as soon I catch a couple of people ahead of me, and a couple of people behind me catch up to me.  I attempt to run all of the not too steep sections as the road continues to go up and up.  It is cold as forecasted, but there is very little wind.  It is a beautiful, crisp winter night in the mountains.  I arrive at the aid station and find Amy and Ben.  They are ready for me with shoes and socks, but my shoes are still dry.  I drink about half a pint of chocolate milk and take a bagel with me.  I hadn’t run this fast on this section since 2010.

Mile 13.1    1:34:51 (16:56 avg./mile) Camping Gap

The goal during the night at Hellgate is to survive.  Leaving Petites Gap, there is a rocky technical downhill section that lasts about a mile or so.  One aspect of surviving is not missing a turn.  Near the bottom of the downhill, the course turns off to the right.  There are a handful of runners coming back up the hill after they missed this turn.  Soon thereafter, I link up with Michelle, who is a friend of the Grays.  She is a great climber, and I decide to try and stay with her through the rest of this section.  We navigate the single-track trail portion, crossing the two streams that are basically dry—not their usual condition this time of year.  Then we start the climb up the dirt road to the next aid station.  During the climb, Michelle pulls ahead of me, but I keep her in sight.  I have made excellent time, and it is only 3:17am.  I hadn’t run this fast on this section since 2010.  (There might be a theme developing with split times.)  I grab a quesadilla and half of a grilled cheese sandwich.  I also take a minute to remove a rock from my right shoe.

Mile 21.9    2:28:46 (16:54 avg./mile) Headforemost Mountain

Leaving Camping Gap, I am not very motivated.  I need to focus, though, as this section is the hardest during the night.  I try to walk with purpose on the uphill portions, and run with abandon on the downhill parts.  After a couple of miles, a few runners start hanging with me once they realize I am one of the Fearsome Five.  I can tell other runners exactly how far we are to the next aid station and what is coming up next.  I point out the false turns to the left (there are a couple of them) before the actual left turn off of the grassy road section.  We make our way up to Apple Orchard and then start the tricky downhill to Overstreet Falls.  At some point the snow begins to fall.  It is a soft snow fall, and it takes a while for any to start to stick on the trail.  I feel fortunate to get through this technical section without having the additional challenge of slick snow.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed due to the threat of snow, so the aid station has been moved to Overstreet Falls.  I get here is excellent time, but I don’t click my watch until the top of the mountain where the aid station was the first several years.  My time is very quick as I haven’t done this section in less than 2.5 hours in several years.  The clock shows 5:46am, which means I am 44 minutes ahead of the cut-offs.  I hadn’t run this fast on this section since 2011.

Mile 27.6    1:33:56 (16:29 avg./mile) Jennings Creek

Darin leaving Jennings Creek aid station
There are two guys that have been around me the last two sections.  One of them is Grant Muller.  I talk with them a bit, but as the downhill really gets going on this section, I push the pace.  I am feeling good, the snow is soft, and I feel like I might have a little speed left in my legs as if my interval training is paying off.  I pass a couple of runners, but then a couple of runners pass me as well.  Even so, I am thrilled with my time on this section.  I hadn’t run this section this fast since 2009.  When I get to the aid station, I cannot find Amy and Ben.  I walk up the road one direction looking for our car—no luck.  I walk the other direction and then find them starting to setup.  I am ahead of schedule, and they mention the fact that we didn’t buy any propane.  Therefore, they don’t have an egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich ready for me.  However, Ben runs over to the aid station and grabs a sausage and cheese sandwich, which tastes awesome!  Meanwhile, I decide to change my shoes as they have gotten wet in the snow, and my feet are cold.  So, after a 10 minute pit stop, it is still only 7:20am when I depart.  I have a full Camelbak that I hope will last until I see my crew again.

Mile 34.5    1:46:13 (15:24 avg./mile) Little Cove Mountain

On the initial climb, I meet up with two guys from Athens, Alabama that Amy and Ben had met over dinner last night.  They are nice guys, and it is their first time running this race.  We chat about the ultras we have run in Alabama and soon we have finished the climb and start the downhill.  I push ahead with the pace again, maximizing the benefit of gravity.  I catch up to AJ Johnson, and he and I are surprised when we get to the aid station as we are talking away.  AJ is trying to finish his 5th time and then he swears he isn’t going to run this special race again!  At the aid station, I eat half of a grilled cheese sandwich, and drink a cup of water.  In hindsight, I should have eaten more.  The temperature is holding in the high 20s, but with the snow falling on me it is taking more energy to stay warm.  It is 9:06am when I leave the aid station.  With luck and focused running, I have a good chance to get into Bearwallow Gap before 11:30am, which would be an hour ahead of the cut-offs.

Mile 42.5    2:29:12 (18:39 avg./mile) Bearwallow Gap

Darin coming into Bearwallow Gap
The bear hunters are out today as usual, and they have their dogs with them.  Leaving Little Cove Mountain, a few of the hunting dogs want to follow us runners instead of their masters.  After a while the dogs decide they need to go back to their masters, and I am glad.  They weren’t in the way, but they were a distraction to the mission at hand.  I push my tired legs to run almost all of the grassy road section.  It is rolling, but I know that this is where time needs to be made on this section.  Along the way, I find myself running with Jeremiah Clark.  He is running his second Hellgate.  He is a Liberty University graduate who now works as a personal trainer in Lynchburg.  When we get to the devil trail portion, I announce that we are making good time and have 45 minutes to the aid station.  I hear another runner behind me chuckle and turn to see that AJ is back up with me.  He ran with me last year and confirmed that my 45 minute prediction is spot on to the minute.  I survive the rocks and leaves of the devil trail once again, hop across the stream, and then run the last mile to the aid station.  Amy and Ben are setup and ready for me with a beautifully grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  I am famished, so I sit down and vow to eat the whole sandwich before leaving the aid station.  I wash the sandwich down first with chocolate milk, and then with some Conquest.  My Camelbak ran dry about 30 minutes ago, but otherwise, I have made great time, and I arrived at this aid station before 11:30am.  I spend nine minutes eating and drinking and preparing myself mentally for the last third of the race.  I am in great shape to finish under 17 hours,
Darin eating at Bearwallow Gap aid station
but will my mind and body hold up?  Let’s go find out!

Mile 49.5    1:57:03 (16:43 avg./mile) Bobblets Gap

The climb out of Bearwallow Gap is difficult.  I do okay with it, and AJ is back with me.  After we reach the top of the climb, he pushes on ahead of me.  After a couple more runners pass me, it is obvious I am not keeping the pace I want.  So, I make the decision to start the caffeine.  I pop a caffeine pill and within 10 minutes, I am running well.  My legs are no longer so tired, and I begin to re-pass the runners that had passed me earlier.  I quickly pass AJ, and power my way into the aid station with my eye on the clock.  I grab another half of a grilled cheese sandwich and wash it down with a cup of Pepsi.  With the parkway closed, crews cannot get to this aid station so I have to drink what is provided by the dedicated volunteers that man the aid stations.  As most know, I prefer Coke over Pepsi.  It not only tastes better to me, but the performance benefit late in a race is better as well.  I leave the aid station at 1:32pm.  I have 3 hours and 28 minutes left before 17 hours.  Of course the race cut-off is 18 hours, so I am in great shape for finishing number 15, but whether it will be under 17 hours is going to be close!

Mile 56.1    2:08:47 (19:31 avg./mile) Day Creek

Potato chips & Coke at the last aid station
I run down the hill on the dirt road for 2.5 miles completing it in 29 minutes.  The road was smoothed out last year, and it is easier to make good time down it than before when it was one rut after another.  I link back up with the guys from Athens, and we push each other through most of the section.  When I stop to take a leak with a mile or so to go, they go on ahead of me and make it to the aid station a few minutes before me.  Completing this forever section with 13 small creek crossings is the last tough mental portion of this adventure.  At the aid station, Amy and Ben are ready with a bottle of Coke and a bagel in hand.  I drink about two-thirds of the Coke while stuffing potato chips from the aid station into my mouth.  The clock reads 3:41pm.  I will have to run this section faster than I have in years.  Can I still recreate the speed I had when I was younger and before I had my ACL reconstructed?  Can I pull one last rabbit out of my bag of tricks?  I think I am ready mentally, now the question is will my body allow it?

Mile 62.4    1:12:12 (11:28 avg./mile) FINISH

Crossing the finish line!
Amy paces me for this last section.  I breathe as hard as my 48-year old lungs will allow while power hiking as fast as my legs will move.  We make it up the climb and cross the parkway one last time in 41 minutes—not bad.  My fastest ever was 35 minutes seven years ago.  I was hoping for 40 minutes, 41 flat will have to do.  Now the moment of truth, how much speed is left in my legs?  We start down the grassy road, avoiding the loose rocks.  I passed one runner on the climb and now start passing other runners in bunches.  I am moving very well.  I avoid any missteps, and we hit the gate with 1.5 miles to go (2 miles since crossing the parkway) in 18 minutes.  That leaves me almost 20 minutes to reach my goal.  The mile to go line feels like it takes us a long time to reach.  Meanwhile, we pass Robert Wehner, who is going to finish his 12thI mark my watch as I start the last mile.  The sun is setting, and I try to see if there is another runner I can catch before the finish.  Seeing no other runners in front of me and knowing I have my goal made, I let off the accelerator just a tad to ensure I have something left in the tank to look good crossing the finish line.  I may be the slowest of the Fearsome Five, but I am still one of them.  15 in a row!

Official Finishing Time          16:53:55

92nd out of 140 starters (111 finishers under 18 hours)

As you can see I ended up over six minutes under the 17-hour goal I had set.  It has been seven years (since 2010) that I have run this fast at Hellgate.  And, this then counts as a qualifier for Western States in 2019.  I was not lucky in the lottery this year for Western States for 2018, so I will have two tickets in the lottery next year.

When I finish, Horton again gets the five of us up in front for more pictures and recognition.  All I want to do is sit down.  First we take a picture with our finisher pullovers, which are very comfy.  Then we have to take those off and put on the embroidered golf shirts for another picture (below).  Finally, I get to sit down.  I start my recovery with a Coke over ice (thanks to Amy), and then think about a shower.  I learn from Ben that Rick Gray finished only 46 seconds ahead of me.  That would have been nice, but I guess will have to wait for another year.
The Fearsome Five
My next race will likely be the Mountain Mist 50k in Huntsville on my birthday, January 27.  Then Amy and Ben are talking about running Mt. Cheaha 50k with me in February.  Stay tuned, the fun is just beginning.  How many more years will I run Hellgate?  I don’t know, but I plan to be back next year.

Never stop running,
* All photos courtesy of Ben Shea--thank you!

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,