Sunday, December 30, 2012

Finally, A Good Run

If you’ve been following my blog, you’re aware that I’ve been having some knee issues for awhile.  It started with minor irritation just inside of my left knee cap, which only surfaces after running for several miles, then subsides after a mile or two.  Then, during the Stone Mill 50 Miler, I experienced some fairly string pain directly on the outside of the same knee.  Then, after a few weeks of relaxing, it immediately came back after a few minutes of running, the diagnosis, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). I’ve been seeing a physical therapist for a few weeks ago, and have been doing twice daily stretches, with little improvement in running, that is, until today.

I am two weeks out from the Disney World Marathon, and haven’t been able to really run in 6 weeks (SM50).  I was determined to get in a good distance, no matter if it was mostly walking or not.  I elected to stay around the house, just in case my knee acted up, and to go out very cautiously and just see what happened.  I told Jen I had no idea how long I was going for, I might be back quickly, or a few hours.  Thankfully, it ended up being the latter.

Typically, when I do a run/walk, I prefer to do a longer run interval, but with the nature of ITBS, I thought a short interval might be better, so I went with 1:00/1:00.  Also, I found my knee compression sleeve, that I haven’t run with since SM50.  I don’t know which did the trick, but I made it eight miles with my ITBS acting up only during the last quarter mile, and that was because I dropped the run/walk for straight running.  It only slightly acted up, at that.

The one drawback, the original minor irritation did surface about mile 4, but only lasted about half a mile before going away.  Other than that, and the fact it was FREEZING out, the run went quite well.  I went out at a conservative speed, and picked it up some the last half.  I ended up just shy of 13 minute miles.  Yeah, nowhere near what I’d like, but definitely good enough to finish Disney where I must maintain at least a 16 minute pace. 

Today was an encouraging run after nearly a month of disappointment.  I’m anxious to tell my physical therapist and see what she thinks it was, the stretches, the knee support, or the shorter intervals, probably a combination of all three. I’ll take it either way. 

Tonight, I picked up “The Stick” to give a try at loosening up my it band even more.  I have a foam roller, but it’s cumbersome to use.  I’ve heard good things about “The Stick” so we’ll see!

Lastly, to get an idea of how I was able to stay within half a mile of our house, while running eight miles, here’s my Runkeeper track of today’s run.  Just look at all those twists and turns! A good run to end the year, as I highly doubt I’ll be getting in another run tomorrow!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

State of Affairs

After taking three weeks off post 50 miler, I tried to ease back into running, hoping the knee pain I experienced during the race would be gone…it wasn’t.  That first run I made it about 1/2 a mile.  I had just started physical therapy, so the next session I discussed this with the therapist, and was diagnosed with IT band syndrome, along with the previous weak hip flexors and tight hamstrings. 

I’ve since been a stretching fool.  I’ve noticed quite a bit of progress on the hamstrings, at least with leg raises and touching my toes.  I’ve tried running a few more times. First, I made it almost a mile before noticing it, then at the 1.5 mile mark, I decided to stop.  It’s better than the 1/2 mile before, but far from recovered.  Next, I got KT taped at physical therapy, and was able to go 2 miles before it started bothering me, stopping at 2.25 miles.  More progress, but I was hoping the taping would give me far more relief.  I did notice the tape seemed to be too high up though. 

Today, the physical therapist said my it band is slowly loosening up.  Yay!  We tried some new exercises which I’ll be incorporating into my routine.  Balancing is something I really need to work on as well, so that’s also on the agenda.  I don’t intend to keep going to PT forever, but I’m thinking these stretches will become part of my routine exercises.

  I've been giving the Disney World Marathon a lot of thought lately.  As it stands, I'm doubting I'll be able to run the entire thing, unless my it band shows some great improvement over the next couple of weeks.  That being said, I've not run much since mid November.  Will I be able to handle that great of a distance with two months of little-to-no running, after coming off of a 50 miler?  Who knows.  Therefore, I've made a command decision. 

The race time limit is a 16 minute per mile pace.  If I speed walked it, I should be able to still finish the race even without running.  I’m hoping for the IT band to be better, but I can’t count on that, and without getting in much training, I wouldn’t want to push running too much on it.  Therefore, I’ve decided to kick into gear with speed walking.  My it band doesn’t bother me with walking, so I think I can get some decent speed walk distances in over the next few weeks, and come race day, does as much running as possible, with speed walking when/if the pain hits.  This certainly isn’t my ideal, but I’ll take it. After that, I’ve got four months to prep for the Blue Ridge Marathon.  That should be plenty of time for my IT band to fully heal, and train back up to run it strong.

Time to get my speed walking on!

Monday, December 10, 2012

And the Winners Are…

I’ve tallied up all the entrants and used random.org to pick the winners.  Here they are:

1.  Beth Dickhute-Mickens - Wins a free 8 oz bottle of Harmless Harvest Coconut Water.

2. Chicas On A Mission - Wins a free 8 oz bottle of Harmless Harvest Coconut Water. 

3. Kathy Kyle Ryan – Wins a free Harmless Harvest t-shirt.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all for entering!

To the winners, I’ll be contacting you shortly for an address to send the prizes!

Today’s run did not go well.  I opted for a short run on the treadmill at work.  After about 3 minutes of running, my outer left knee was in pain.  I stopped after about half a mile.  It was the same feeling I had towards the end of the Stone Mill 50 Miler.  At first, I was fearing the worst, a stress fracture.  My thinking was that how quickly it resurfaced after a 3 week break, it wasn’t likely to be muscle related, but after some further research, my original assumption from the race was plausible, IT Band syndrome. 

Coincidentally, tonight was my second PT appointment.  After telling the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), she checked out the area, and surmised that was likely the case.  My IT band was quite stiff she said, then proceeded to kneed and massage the area.  After that, it was additional stretches for IT band, then some TENS unit and cold therapy.  I sure hope that’s the issue, and it cooperates well with the therapy!  Boo!

It's Over

Technically, a couple of things are over.

First, Thank you to everyone that entered my Harmless Harvest Coconut Water Giveaway.  Tonight I'll be tallying everything up and announcing the winners.  To everyone new to my blog, welcome.  Pull up a chair, grab your favorite hot beverage, and enjoy.  I can't believe I'm almost three years into this blog.

Second, my self-imposed running sabbatical is over.  I took three weeks off of running as a rest after a whirlwind of racing this fall.  Over 90 miles of racing in one month!  Today I'll be heading out for an easy few miles.  I'm hoping my knee doesn't act up on me.  Since it hasn't given me troubles outside of running, it's difficult to tell.

Speaking of the knee.  On Friday I saw a physical therapist.   She thinks it has something to do with the vastus medialis muscle.  The irritation is right where this muscle attaches to the knee. Her evaluation of my overall body found very tight hamstrings and weak hip abductors.  I've got a list of stretches to do several times a day and see if that will help align me knees better.  I have an appointment this evening and will most likely be checking out my running form (I didn't have my normal running shoes on Friday).

On the running front, I've got five weeks before the Disney World Marathon.  I don't feel I need to hit training hard.  Heck, I just ran nearly double the distance three weeks ago, but I do need to get some decent long runs in between now and then. 

Mrs. Runner's Bug's recovery is going dead slow.  It's been nearly three weeks since her surgery, and she's still very sore and swollen.  I'm forcing her to stay off her feet as much as possible.  No easy task I tell you!  She will not be even attempting the race.  She's now become a member of the ChEAR Squad and will be spectating the race.  She enjoy's cheering me on, and I'm always appreciative of her taking the time.  By joining the squad, she'll at least gain some access to the parks.  Otherwise she'd be stuck having to pay full price admission. 

What's going on in your neck of the woods? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water Review and Giveaway!

Coconut water, I've been addicted to it for the last year. I've tried them all, some good, some bad, some with nothing but coconut water, and some loaded with sugar and artificial flavors.  What I love most about coconut water, is that it's a natural energy drink.  Forget Gatorade or PowerAde, go for natural stuff. 


My favorite brand by far is Harmless Harvest.  They're coconut water come from a single source, 100% raw, contains no additive; and instead of using heat pasteurization, they use a pressure system to render it microbiologically safe.  Plus, it just seems to taste fresher and lighter to me.


I've been in communication with Harmless Harvest for several months.  Back around July, I picked up a bottle, opened it up, and it tasted bad.  I contacted them to let them know, and they were quick to respond with some coupons and a logical explanation.  Since they're coconut water isn't heat sterilized, it must remain cold from production to consumption.  Apparently they've had some issues with distributers not knowing this, and I must have gotten one that was allowed to reach room temperature at some point.  They've since done a lot of work to ensure the consumer stream is kept cold.  If you've not had coconut water before, give it a try.  It's a wonderful post-run recovery drink as well as a great drink on the run, or anytime.  I highly recommend Harmless Harvest, even if it is more expensive than many that are out there.

Harmless Harvest would like to spread the word of their product, and has offered to give a few of my followers some free bottles to try out.  I’ve not received anything from them for this giveaway, I’m doing it because I genuinely enjoy their product and see it as a superior coconut water to what is found in most stores.  In addition, it’s great electrolyte profile make it a good product for runners!

Here's the deal,  you have four chances to win, two of which will give you a double chance. 

1)  leave a comment here, on my blog, telling me if you like coconut water and why.

2) Like my Facebook page, and leave a comment there telling me if you like coconut water and why.

3) for the double-whammy, post a link to either my blog or my Facebook page on your blog to help spread my pages, be sure to leave a link so I can see you’ve done it!

4) post on your Facebook page about my blog/FB page, and leave a comment so I know you've done it!

There you go, up to six chances to win!  You'll have until Sunday December 9th to enter. Good luck!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stone Mill 50 Miler 2012 Race Report.

This story begins months ago.  Back in July, I ran the Golden Gate Trail Marathon.  It was a difficult race, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.  There I was, hours, if not minutes after completing the race, and a thought crossed my mind, “It’s over already?”  I recall thinking of this statement for much of the flight home, and over the next couple of weeks.  I’d completed my second marathon, first trail marathon, and now where should I go from there?  I stewed over this for several weeks, then, at the end of July, I made a trek out to Harpers Ferry where I ran into a couple of fellow trail runners.  In discussing it with them, I made the decision to go for a 50 miler.  I’d been thinking of a 50K, but I thought “What the hell, go for it!”  After I got home that evening, I began searching for 50 milers in the area.  I knew of JFK, but the entry system was daunting.  Then I came across the web page for the Stone Mill 50 Miler.  Within a couple of days, I was ready to go.  As soon as the registration opened up. I was in.  

Training for this race did not go quite as planned. I was doing well, but then a knee issue sidelined much of my training.  I continued to get in long runs, but for the last two months, I’ve not gotten in more than a couple of runs per week.  Still, I felt I was up to the challenge, especially after the Halloweeny Fat Ass 50K.  Needless to say, I was prepared, but only the bare minimum.

I woke up Friday morning with horrible allergies.  My eyes and nose were watering like crazy, and I didn’t feel too well.  It was my short day at work, and after work I had to drive about an hour to pick up the race packet, then another 1.5 hours home, stopping for dinner along the way.  I ended up having some Mexican food at a place I’ve been to a few times.  Good food, but not the traditional Olive Garden, the family and I typically have before a race.  Then it was home to bed.  I believe I was asleep before 8pm!

Ring-a-ling-a-ling.  The alarm went off at 3:45 am.  I was already dressed in my running clothes, and had everything packed and ready to go.  A couple of bananas and apples, and I was out the door.  It took me a little over an hour to get to the race, leaving almost an hour to spare.  I promptly set my alarm, and chilled for the next 20 minutes, trying to rest as much as possible before the long day began. 

After that alarm went off, I prepped my gear and got ready to go.  I headed to the bathroom with about 15 minutes to spare…. a long line out the men’s room!  Damn!  Oh wait, that was for the stalls, and I only needed to pee. Whew!  Disaster averted.  I returned to the car and was finalizing all my gear when Nick called, wondering where I was.  We found each other, I met his Dad, and we headed to the starting line.  A quick check in, a couple of words form the race director, and we were off!

Miles 1-4

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The first leg of this race started with a loop around the school, down a hill, and through the woods to grandmother’s house we…. wait, that’s not right. lol.  After entering the woods, we headed North for a short out and back. Dark as can be, we were all wearing lights to shine the way.  It was crowded, and slow going for awhile.  My feet were frozen solid, as was my hydration pack’s mouth piece.  Nick and I ran this section together.  I enjoyed the company, but knew it wouldn’t last.  Nick is quite a bit faster than I am, and I didn’t want to hold him back.  Very quickly, much quicker than I was anticipating, we came across the front runners on the return.  “Damn they much be flying!” I thought, and I kept on running. Then, shortly after the 2 mile mark, we hit the turn around.  Wait a minute, we were supposed to do a three mile out, not two.  I found out later that the course was cut short the night before to make it closer to 50 miles.  Before it was somewhere over 51 miles.  The return was cool, seeing all the runners lights that were behind me, but quicker than I expected, the sun arose and it was light enough to turn off our head gear.  At roughly mile 4, when we were back by the school, we hit the first aid station.  Nick grabbed something from his Dad, who was crewing for him the entire race, and I decided to stop for a walk and eat something. We parted ways at this point, and Nick took off. 

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Miles 4-12

After splitting with Nick, the course remained fairly crowded until the next aid station at about mile 8.  Nothing too memorable about this section, until after the aid station.  A quick refueling, and I was off again, passing underneath several busy roads/high ways, and through a moderately technical section with a stream passing that required some steady legs.  Soon, I was heading into the next aid station about mile 12, where the “Lollipop” split was.  I hit the aid station strong, more fueling (I’d been steadily eating in between aid stations as well), and off I went. 

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Miles 12-14 

This section was new to me. I’d not run it before, and the novelty of the course was refreshing.  This section took me through a narrow section between some residential areas, and there was a couple of crossings before we hit the main road.  I’d started running with a guy that I could tell was struggling already.  He was running with a friend that had been pushing him too hard, and his calves were getting to him.  We ran a good half mile, talking about our previous races and such, before we hit the main road.  Here was my first meeting with the family, in a parking lot, so I told him I’d probably see him later, then I headed towards the fam.  The kids stayed in the car, and I had a short conversation with them, before realizing my race tag came off my shoe, the plastic ties broke.  Thank goodness I saw that! I retied my shoelaces with the tag held in place, said my goodbyes, and headed down the road. 


I had a good 1.5 miles of pavement that I was not looking forward to.  I was in need of a bathroom, and my knee was starting to annoy me, every since hitting the pavement.  So… I ditched into a local McDonalds for a quick potty break.  Ah relief.  Other than another quick pee break or two on the trails, that was it for bathroom breaks.  Feeling refreshed, I hit the pavement again with about a mile to the turn off.  My knee was quietly telling me it did not like this harder surface, and to get back on the trail, I was anxious to return to the soft dirt as well.   Shortly after getting back on the trail, and I was at the next aid station.  I was starting to recognize some of my fellow runners that were on pace with me. 

Miles 14- 25

To be honest, I don’t recall much from the section of the course, other than some of the people I was running with.  I’d run with a person here, a group there, chatting as we felt like it. At some point, I came across the guy that was struggling earlier. My family and bathroom breaks let him get ahead, but not for long.  I asked how his legs were holding up, and he said they were feeling a bit better. We chatted a bit, then I pushed on.  Very soon, I could not see him anywhere. 

One thing about this section I didn’t care for was the lack of aid stations.  There was a minor station about mile 18, but it wasn’t fully stocked and felt more like just a water drop. Still another 6-7 miles to the next aid station.  Grr.  Around mile 24, I came across some people on horseback and had a few piles to dodge, but otherwise, it was strictly business.


I hit the last hill that let me know I was almost to Pennyfield Lock, where the family was waiting for me.  I crossed a small bridge and hit the pavement to the lock.  Quickly, I found Jen’s car, headed over to hit for a short visit, and some snack replenishing.  Always nice to see the family, it gives me a motivational boast and mental break.  After saying bye, I ran the 1/4 mile or so down the road to the next aid station.  Grilled cheese sandwiches!  Each aid station seemed to get better than the previous one!  This one had, of all things, chocolate covered bacon!!  I did not partake, but it sure sounded interesting!

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Miles 25-28

This section was 100% along the C&O Canal Tow Path, a flat, crushed-granite trail, very similar to the NCR Trail I used to run often.  I was not looking forward to the entirely flat section, as I knew it would aggravate my knee, and of course it did. 

After leaving the last aid station, I was running with a guy and found out he not only was running this race, but he started the night before and had already ran one loop.  That’s right, he was going for a 100 miler!  Man, did he seem crazy, interesting, but crazy!  We got about 1/4 mile down the trail, when I told him I needed to walk, the knee was starting to bark.  He decided to walk too.  We ended up walking the entire tow path left, about 3 1/4 miles.  Yeah, my times suffered somewhat, but really not that bad.  Since it was flat and straight, my walk time was much faster than walking on the trails.  Still, quite a few people passed us along the way.  I wanted to just go easy with the knee, and recover some energy before the long trek back up to the school, and I’m sure he was in desperate need of a rest as well. 

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Miles 28-35

Coming off the tow path, we hit the next aid station.  This was one of the big ones.  The drop bags were here.  I didn’t use a drop bag, but I did spend longer than I wanted here. After talking with Mike, the guy doing the 100 miles, I decided it was a good time to change my socks.  Man, that was one good suggestion.  A fresh pair of socks made my feet feel less achy and more refreshed, plus the new socks felt much more cushiony.  Also, this aid station had soup!  Yummy, hot soup!!  Yeah, I took too long at this station, but it was well worth it!

Leaving the aid station, we had roughly a 1/4 mile run along a road before hitting the trail.  I don’t recall my knee giving me any issues here, but there were quite a few runners I was chatting with, and may have just not noticed it. After what seemed like a half marathon, we were finally back in the soft trails.  I took off.  Passing quite a few people, and making some solid ground through one of the hillier sections of the course.  Coming out of the hilly section, I had a small stream to cross.  Nothing difficult, but my clumsy ass stepped right into the water with my left foot.  Dammit!  I’d only changed socks about 3-4 miles back!

At some point, I met back up with Mike, and a lady that had stepped on a nail earlier in the race. We did some more extended walking, as I was worn out from the hills, and headed into the next aid station, and my final visit from the family before the end of the race.  It was through this section when I realized, I’d now run further than I ever had before. In comparing it to the Halloweeny 50K, I was in much better shape.  Thanks to my heavier food intake, and mental preparedness, I’m sure.  Shortly before the aid station, there was a fairly flat section, which I could have used to make up some ground, but I decided not to.  I just kept a steady pace as I headed in.  Jen and the kids got out of the car, and I opted for more hot soup!  Plus another change of socks, This seemed a bit early, as I only had one pair left, but I didn’t want to risk running in wet feet any longer than I had to.  I spent far longer than I should here, but it was the last visit with the family, so worth the investment. 

Miles 35-43

One word can sum this section up.  Walking.  Very shortly after leaving the aid station, the outer side of my left knee started bothering me.  This is not the same part of the knee I’ve been dealing with for the last few months, nor earlier in the race.  This section is also probably the hilliest section of the race.  Lots of ups and downs, and plenty of stream crossings.  I hit the only dark spot, mentally, of the entire race here.  I was low on energy, still waiting for the aid station soup to kick in, and combined with the new knee issue, I was feeling down.  What did I do, I pulled out my handy-dandy laminated list of motivational quotes, and set about reading some.  It definitely helped my mentality.  The food started to kick in, and my mind was back to normal, but my knee kept me down to mostly walking.  I’d get in some running here and there, but not what I wanted, and the clock was quickly running up.  Still, I pushed on.  I was starting to worry about being timed out.  I knew there was a cut-off at one of the next two aid stations, but wasn’t exactly sure which one, and was getting conflicting answers from other runners. At mile 38 there was a small water station, and I asked the volunteer. Her answer was that we had to be to the next station, 5 miles away, by 6pm.  No problem!!  This gave me a boost of motivation.  I' got this!

Stone Mill 50 Mile 2012 - Photo by Ken Trombatore Stonemill50-374

A good five miles, and I would be golden to finish the race.  I pushed on.  Still unable to run as much as I wanted, I was walking stronger and faster than before. Those five miles, although similar to the last section, felt easier.  My mental toughness just jumped up a notch.  Coming into the mile 43 aid station, I’d completed the “Lollipop”, I’d  beaten the cut-off, and I was feeling good, minus the knee.  I didn’t spend very long here.  Downing some food, and grabbing some to go, it was time to turn on the head lamp.  Darkness had snuck up on us, and I still have 7 miles to go.  This was going to be fun.  Right before I headed out, I heard a biker say there were about 15 people between us and the sweeper.  The fight to not be timed out had begun, and I was head of the game. Time to bring it!

Miles 43-47

This section had some difficult terrain.  Not so hilly, but quite a bit rockier than the rest of the course.  Navigation at night was going to be tricky.  I’d been flip flopping with several different groups and solo runners since leaving the tow path at mile 28.  It was time to put them out to pasture and push on.  From this point on, I wasn’t passed by anyone, and I passed about 12 people.  My knee was still aching, but when I wasn’t able to run, I was power walking faster than Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle. I did meet up with one of the ladies I’d joked with on the race’s group forum about being the last to finish.  I could have sworn she was behind me.  She must have passed me while dealing with the family, or my McDonalds pit stop.  We can together for awhile, but eventually I pressed forward and with a mile or so left before the final aid station, I was getting my running back.  no, my knee wasn’t any better, but I was pushing it harder, knowing I didn’t have much further to go. 

It was getting exceedingly more difficult to see the trail. Sunlight was completely gone, and my puny little headlamp was not doing the job I needed it to do.  I had several times I got off path, but thankfully I realized it quickly and got back on track. I finally made it to the last overpass, signifying I was too the last aid station.  A short trek up hill, cross the guard rail, and a 100 yard jaunt along the highway and I’d made it to the last aid station.  I was worn out, but feeling the excitement.   Only about 3 miles to go!  I quickly took in some goodies, then set off down the path.  It was do or die time, and I was ready to be done!

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Miles 47-50

I had no idea how far behind me the next runner was.  Everyone I’d passed in the last few miles was steadily walking, from what I could tell, but I was giving it my all to run as much as possible.  The darkness through this section made navigation even more difficult.  It was dark, I was alone, and I was exhausted.  I pushed on.  I was frequently checking my phones GPS track to see how much I had left. Within roughly a mile to go, I sent word to the family.  It was go time.  Then I saw it, a headlamp in front of me.  Wait, make that two headlamps!  I was determined to catch them!  I pushed on.  My this point, both knees were bothering me.  The same place, on the outside of the knee, but I pushed it.  Soon, I passed the two guys.  I asked how they were holding up, but I didn’t let up.  I moved passed them fast, and before I knew it, I’d hit pavement.  The last section to go,and I had pavement, of all things, to run on.  I didn’t care by this point, all I wanted to do was make sure those two guy’s didn’t catch me.  I power-walked along the pavement until reaching the tree line where it was a straight shot up a big ass hill to the finish line.  I headed into the darkness, I could see the stadium above me, but somehow I got off course, again, and ended up adjacent to a baseball field, I think it was.  Doing a double take, I was even with the finish line, and the big ass hill was to my right. I was about to head back down and find the right path, but the few people remaining at the finish hollered for me to come on, so I ran.  I felt like I was flying, but I was probably running at a snails pace.  And finally, the finish line!!! I’d made it.  I’d survived my first 50 miler!  I was exhausted, but not nearly as much as I should have been. Damn knee!  Oh well, there’s always next year! 

After a few photos, I got my official time.  13:51:28! Quite a bit slower than I was hoping for but for a first time finish, I’m proud of that slow time!  With about 15 miles of knee pain, I’m just happy I finished.  I was starving for something hot.  The soup I’d had at several stations, was all the warm food I’d had all day, and with the sun going down, it was near freezing again, if not below freezing.  Thankfully, there was some pasta in the school cafeteria.  I had a couple of plates fool, as did Paige, then her and I hit the road home as Jen and Connor headed to the grocery store.  Paige was supposed to keep me awake, but she was out in 15 minutes, leaving me with about 1:15 drive home.  Thankfully, the adrenaline was there to keep me awake.  Making it home, I did a quick Facebook update, then went to bed.

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Thoughts on the run. 

It was tough, very tough, but doable.  Mental preparedness and frequent eating was the right move.  I felt much better than after the Halloweeny Fat Ass 50K.  Socks, bring plenty of spares, and change them often.  Hot food at aid stations, a must!  One headlamp is not enough.  For next year, I strong knee training program is in order!  Will I do it again, you betcha! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stone Mill 50 Miler–Done

I competed the Stone Mill 50 Miler. Slower than I was hoping, but a nagging knee slowed me way down the last 15 miles.  Race Report to come!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

FYI, we made it through Hurricane Sandy unscathed.  I’m still somewhat stiff after Saturday’s race, but doing fine.  No knee issues either.  My right middle toe is bruised, I assume this might be my first toenail to fall off.  We’ll see.  No pain or anything, but bruised underneath.  I guess I should get used to that if I’m going to do more trail ultras.  Especially since I have “hand” feet.  The middle toe sticks out further than all the rest. As long as it’s not a pain concern, oh well! Just another “badge of honor”.  ha! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloweeny Fat Ass 50K Race Report

This race came about because of a tip from a fellow Stone Mill 50 Mile runner.  We’d chatted on a forum about training together, and she mentioned that she was planning to run this race for a final long run.  I looked it up.  A free race, tough terrain, and right when I was planning to get in another 30 miler.  I could do 30 miles before, on the NCR Trail, alone and unsupported, or I could run this and have aid stations and fellow runners.  What would you do?  I, of course, choose to run my first 50K three weeks before my first 50 miler.  Can you say nutso!

I, in turn, mentioned this race to another fellow SM50 runner, Nick,  who I ran with several weeks back.  He was interested, but on the fence due to other potential obligations.  As race day got closer, he decided to go for it, only to be told by the race director that they were over capacity.  He decided to run a similar route, on the same day, unassisted.  It’s not like the course was the sole property of the race directors right?  A smart move on his part, because quite a few runners didn’t show up, and many more did not run the full 50K. Being that it was a “Fat Ass”, that’s totally acceptable.  From what I can gather, a Fat Ass race is far from formal.  It’s kind of  a cross between a race and a fun run.  No official clocks, no medals, or t-shirts. Just strong support, a good group of runners, and a long day of grueling running ending typically with a cookout or such. 

Friday Night – Solo Camping

The original internet flyer for the race mentioned camping the night before, and I was interested, so I emailed the race director, but he was unaware of anyone else planning to camp.  I could NOT miss out on an opportunity to camp in the “Blair Witch woods”, this course takes place about 3 miles from Burkittsville, MD, where the three film makers entered the fictitious “Black Hills Woods”  Yeah, technically not the same woods, but who cares.  I chose to camp alone.

War Correspondent’s ArchDSC05307 The Appalachian TrailDSC05318

Was it particularly scary, no.  Nothing any different than camping somewhere else.  My biggest concern was having a state park employee come by and tell me I have to move because I wasn’t in a designated camping location.  It didn’t happen. In fact, the only thing of any significance was one two occasions, a car pulled into the parking area, and it looked like people were smoking something.  Maybe it’s a good place for teens to come smoke a joint.  Other than that, it was pretty cold and I woke up several times to pee and/or cover myself up more.

Barn RuinsBarn RuinsMy CampsiteMe!

Start to First Aid Station

I awoke the next morning and quickly packed up the camping gear, changed into my running clothes, and ate some breakfast.  Nick left a drop bag near the first aid station, then headed towards the start.  Since he wasn’t officially registered for the race, he held back from the race start and met up with my about a mile into the race, but before it started he came over and we chatted a bit.  Shortly before the start, I dropped my contributions to the aid stations, and checked in.  No bib, but we were tracked with a sharpie marked number.  The Race Director gathered us all around, made some announcements, and unceremoniously told us to “go”.

Costumes O' PlentyPre-race DSC05351The 2K finish (Joke from the Race Director's email)

We were off.  The race started with a short 1 mile loop North of the start, before heading south for about 5 miles along the Appalachian Trail on what is called South Mountain to Weverton Cliffs.  This first mile was decently hilly and I chatted along with a few people as we traversed the terrain.  Looping back through the start area, I met up with Nick and we took of towards Weverton Cliffs.  The trail was relatively flat, with some ups and downs, but the biggest concern were the wet leaves and hidden rocks.  We were moving along at a decent pace. I wasn’t wanting to go very fast, given that this was supposed to be only a training run.  Soon, we hit the Weverton Cliffs area.  There was a short descent to the overlook which had an outstanding view of the Potomac River.  A few minutes of picture taking, then we were descending the switchbacks to the first aid station.  I knew this section was going to come back and haunt me, little did I know just how much. 

Weverton CliffsWeverton CliffsWeverton CliffsMy Buddy and Me

It didn’t take too long to get down the cliffs, and we were back on flat ground.  Crossing a road, and short jaunt later, we made it to the first aid station (Mile 8.2).  There was plenty of food to be had. Gatorade, sodas, candy, PBJ, and more. I loaded up while Nick grabbed stuff from his drop bag.  Only a few minutes were spent here, then we hit the trail down towards the C&O Canal.

Aid Station GoodiesMy Buddy and me, again

Aid Station One to Aid Station Two

This was a short section, mostly along the C&O Canal.  The was a short 1/2 mile section down to the C&O Canal tow path, and from there we had roughly 3.5 miles of flat, crushed granite before reaching the next aid station.  I was running fine. Just enjoying the day, no need to rush it.  I think Nick had other ideas though. Once we hit the tow path, he decided he wanted to kick it up a bit, and make up the mile he missed. He told me he was going to run down awhile, then backtrack, trying to make up that mile.  No problem, I didn’t want to hold him back at all.  So I hoofed it solo for a bit.  There were several other runners near me, and I hooked up with a nice older guy dressed as Batman.  Not the dark knight, Christian Bale version; but the campy Adam West version.  I held back with him for awhile, but eventually sped back up some.  Shortly after that, Nick met back up with me.  We compared distances, and were more or less equal now.  He must have been flying to catch up nearly a mile on me! 

The C&O Canal Tow Path Cheese!DSC05375Post-Convergence Potomac RiverMaryland Heights OverlookSecond Aid Station

With about 1/2 mile to go before the next aid station, we ran together.  This section had beautiful scenery of Harper’s Ferry,  the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and the cliffs of Maryland Heights, the next section of our race.  To get to the aid station, we had to pass the MD Heights trail head, and go an additional 1/4 mile to the aid station.  As before, there was plenty to be had.  The volunteers were awesome, refilling water packs and getting us anything we needed. 

Maryland Heights Trail

After leaving the second aid station we had to run back about 1/4 mile to the Maryland Heights Trailhead.  I”ve run Maryland Heights before (link), it’s one tough cookie!  The terrain is mostly better than the AT trail section from the beginning of the race, but the incline is a killer! We ascended 1200 feet in less than 2 miles. As we began ascending, we hooked up with several other people. It was tough going, especially for me.  The steep incline was getting my back.  I fell behind somewhat but was able to catch up with the group by the end of the ascension… except for Nick.  He was kicking butt and was nowhere to be found by the time the rest of the group reached the top.  While they took a break, I took a quick stop for a few pictures, the I hit the road. 

Half way up MD HeightsAlmost to the top!

Running along the top ridge was difficult. The terrain became very rocky for quite awhile, further slowing me down.  After a mile or so, I hit the short trail down to the Maryland Heights Overlook, and shortly ran into Nick, on his way back up from the overlook.  He was going strong, and said he was going to continue at that pace. It was the last I saw of him until I finished.  By the time I made it down to the Overlook and got some pictures, the rest of the group caught me and A few of us descended the rest of the trail together. I was a bit slower than them and ended up having some laughs because of it.  Two girls were dressed as "runaway brides”.  I heard quite a few comments about them getting married and running in their wedding “dresses”.  I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard it.  After the descent, we were to return to the second aid station before crossing the river to Harper’s Ferry.  I made it back feeling tired, but otherwise in good shape. Loading up on goodies and water, they were offering some pizza, but I declined having a piece for fear it might upset my stomach.  In hind sight, I wonder if I’d have faired better with that boast of carbs in my belly for the last part of the race.

At Maryland Heights OverlookAt Maryland Heights Overlook

Harper’s Ferry

I left the aid station shortly after “The Brides” and stayed about 100 yards behind them until the bridge across the Potomac River.  It was very crowded, and by the time I crossed, I’d lost them.  Alone again, I hit a restroom for a much needed potty break, then began the difficult task of following guided directions through town.  It was sort of like a scavenger hunt without scavenging anything.  Directions such as “Ascend the irregular 'Bloody Steps' - stone steps carved into the rock.” or “Turn left and follow the .2 mile blue-blazed AT side-trail along the wide brick, then concrete sidewalks.”  Yeah, it was a challenge.  I ascended those “Bloody Steps”, passed Jefferson’s Rock, and headed towards the cemetery.  I came across two fellow runners, separately, about 2 minutes apart.  Both got lost and were headed back to cross the bridge and return to the finish.  I kept going.  Soon, I entered the cemetery.   This would have been quite creepy, had it been at night, but in the bright light of day, it was unimpressive.  If I’d had time, I would have explored it some more.  I pushed on, running towards an old college, then searching for some old stone steps that lead me down to the AT Trail again.  There was some construction in the area, making the directions impassable.  Then…. off in the distance…. I saw a blue-blaze, which I was sure was the path I needed.  Between it and me, a small construction zone. I jumped the fence, passed through the construction area, and jumped the other side reaching my target. 

Train Tunnel Underneath the OverlookReenactment SoldiersThe CemeteryStorer College Entrance

Coming down these steps, I saw two fellow races about 100 feet ahead of me.  I pressed on, catching them just as we were to cross a road.  Then, as luck would have it, there were “The Brides”  coming from the wrong direction.  They must have left the AT in the wrong spot, turned the wrong way, and run a little while before turning around and crossing out paths. 

And then there were five of us.  We somehow found our way back to Harper’s Ferry proper, and headed across the bridge. All we had left was to follow the C&O Canal back to the first aid station, ascend South Mountain at Weverton Cliffs, and run the five miles back to the finish.  No big deal right?  Wrong!

Running with this group was quite fun.  We were joking around, enjoying the run.  Shortly after getting onto the C&O we came to a family, and a little girl handed one of “The Brides” a bouquet of flowers she had been collecting.  It was clear, the family thought “The Brides” had actually gotten married, and the little girl was so happy to give them the flowers, so we ran with it.  After a few pictures and thank you’s, we were off again.  The impending climb began to weigh on my mind, and I ended up stopping to walk…Big mistake. 

The Brides and their Bouquet Givers

The four of them soon left me in the dust, and it was solo going the rest of the race.  About a mile left on the C&O and my mind hit a bad place.  I had intended to get some walking in to build my energy back up for the climb, but instead, I became disheartened and struggled to make it to the aid station.  Hopeful that some refreshments would, well, refresh me, I pushed on just in time to see the four leaving the aid station as I approached it.  I learned that I was the final runner to come through, loaded up, and began the my ascent of South Mountain. 

South Mountain to the Finish

1,000 feet over the next two miles, that’s what I was facing.  Then after that a roughly 4.75 mile trek along the ridge to the finish.  This section did not go well.  About 100 yards after the last aid station and I was headed up the mountain.  Slow… dead slow.  My back was getting to me again, similar to Maryland Heights.  The big difference, this was rocky switchbacks, not a slow steady fire road.  Not to mention, about 11 miles later too, and I was solo this time.  Needless to say, I was struggling big time.  “If only I can make it to the top, the rest will be cake.”, I kept telling myself.  It was slow going, quite a few stops to catch my breath, and I finally made the top ridge. 

I was dead in the water.  My legs felt good, surprisingly, but I had ZERO energy to run.  Even walking was tasking me.  I really needed some motivation, so I broke out the music.  I’m not much for listening to music, but “It's times like these you learn to live again”.  This helped… some.  At some point, I felt like my stomach was getting upset, maybe something at the last aid station didn’t agree with me.  It must have been that green tea ginger ale.  Typically, if my stomach bothers me, I’ll feel much better if I puke, knowing this, I stopped, leaned over and induced vomiting. 

Sure enough, after catching my composure, drinking some water, and nibbling on a granola bar, I was feeing better. Good enough to break out some running.  I was going fairly well, for about 1/2 mile.  Then my energy waned again and I was back to struggling.  This continued on until I was about 1/2 a mile out.  The end was in sight, almost literally, and I pushed through. I was determined to not only finish, but finish running and not dejectedly walking to the finish.  I pulled out every reserve but of energy I had and finished that last 1/2 a mile at a relatively speedy 14 minute pace!  As I approached the pavilion where the post-race cookout was, I heard a lot of people cheering me on. It wasn’t like a standing ovation or anything, but it felt great to have a handful of people I’d only met 10 hours before, congratulating me on the finish.  I didn’t catch the exact time, so I’m rounding it to the minute, making my first ultramarathon completion in 9 hours 33 minutes flat. Slow yes, but who cares! I completed my first ultramarathon. 

Cookout, and Reflection

After stopping, I was ravenous.  I grabbed a big plate of goodies, including a burger and a few hot dogs.  I’m not much of a meat eater, but boy did they taste good!  I met up with Nick, and found out that he not only finished strong, but decided to tack on nearly 5 more miles after he finished!!  Overachiever!  J/K.  A big congrats to him for having an awesome day.  I sat around chatting with several people, all of them reassuring me that Stone Mill 50 Miler would be easy compared to the hills today.  Yeah, it’s 20 miles longer, but on much tamer terrain and elevation.  Soon, we packed up, and I made the trek home.  Ending a very challenging, but very rewarding day, only to come home to Hurricane Sandy…

Reflecting back on this race, a number of things contributed to my paltry finish.  One, I ate at aid stations, but didn’t gorge myself, and between aid stations, I didn’t do a great job of fueling up.  Two, my hydration was fine, but I was drinking only water.  I tried to eat lots of salty items at the aid stations, but I should rethink adding some electrolytes to my hydration.  Maybe I should carry a handheld bottle for an electrolyte mix.   Three, I really need to work on my mental toughness.  I fully expect to hit that mental low point again at Stone Mill 50. Until race day, my biggest goal is to focus on ways to beat the mental games my mind uses against me.  I’m physically ready, but mentally, I need work.  Four, my knee really did not give me any trouble at all.  A couple of minor twinges in the first half, but the second half, there was nothing.  Not a peep out of my knee.  I wouldn’t say it’s recovered, but if it can take the physical abuse of those hills, and not give me any trouble or soreness the next day, it’s time I quite worrying about it so much! 

Stone Mill 50…. you’re next…. bring it!!!