Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Help! I Need a Pacer (& Crew?) for Leadville


I again find myself in a similar position as I was back in 2009.  The Leadville Trail 100 is a month away, and I am currently sans pacer.  A friend (and Colorado native) of mine had offered to pace, but only recently found out that she has to do field work that weekend.   This gives me less than four weeks to find someone.  I've already posted a note to facebook and joined the LT100 yahoo discussion group (where I will post a request).  I am also still waiting to hear back from another local friend of mine who had said he'd crew for me, but at the moment, it's looking like I might also be sans crew for the race.  I'm in no way worst case scenario is that I simply go solo.  It's not unheard of, but certainly not preferred.  

I'm hoping that this post brings me luck...much like in 2009.  After posting a similar message back then, I was so very fortunate to hear back from Kati (who read my blog)...a random ultra runner from California who wanted to run Leadville in 2010, but wanted to first "feel-out" the course.  Because Leadville is a 50-mile out-n-back, she was able to see the entire course by running the 2nd half w/me.  She was a life saver and helped get me to the finish.  I also had fantastic crewing for the race...the best you could get, from my friend Elizabeth.  (She will not be States-side this year during the race).   

So, long story short, if you are reading this and feel like helping a fellow runner out at Leadville here is me asking you:
  • Would you like to come to Leadville CO and run with me as my pacer from Mile 50 on?  You wouldn't have to run the entire 50 miles (from 50-100), but I would certainly enjoy the company and extra motivation for the entire 2nd half.  (There will be a lot of hiking)
  • The race is on Saturday and Sunday, August 20th - 21st. 
  • I may be able to help with some of your travel, but on a graduate student stipend salary, I can barely afford my own travel expenses
  • If you'd rather crew instead, or know someone who would, please also let me know!
  • If you have any questions about the race or pacer/crew expectations, please please please email me.  It really is A LOT of fun.
  • I am NOT a Leadville rookie.  I finished the race in 29 hours back in 2009 and am shooting to beat that time by at least an hour this year, hopefully 2 hours.  I am in much better shape this year, and I just ran the Vermont 100 in under 22 hours.
  • Please email if you are interested or know someone who might be!  My email is:  TROWER7 at GMAIL dot COM.  If you'd rather talk over the phone, email me and I'll send you my number.

So listen.  If you are sitting there and reading this thinking, "Yeah that sounds awesome, but I don't know this guy and it seems like a lot of logistics, and 50 miles is a long way to pace....etc etc"......Please, please, just email me.  It is absolutely so much fun at this race and I guarantee you'll have a blast.  I didn't know Kati in 2009, and we had a great time running together.  Why not do something a little crazy?  I never thought I'd be running Leadville once, let alone twice!  So if you think it sounds like fun, or even just intriguing...shoot me an email.   I need your help getting to the finish again!  

My 2009 finish

If you want a little extra motivation.  Here is my video 
from the 2009 race to give you a taste of what it's like 
(Elizabeth-crew is filming, and Kati-pacer is running at the end with me)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vermont 100 Local Newspaper Article

Local area runner and fellow Nittany Valley Running club member, Tara Murray, writes a monthly column for the local newspaper here in State College (The Centre Daily Times).  This is the same paper that featured the column about my PCT thru-hike last year.  Last week, she sent both Jeff Smucker (another local VT100 runner) and me some questions about our experience at the race and then wrote the following article that was posted today:

Congrats to Jeff who had a killer race (21hrs 8 mins)!

TWO additional medical followup notes:

- In an earlier posts I noted how elevated my liver numbers were when I had my blood work done for my Antarctica Physical Exam.  Both the doctor and I were a little worried, but had assumed these numbers were high because I had just run the Finger Lakes 50 mile ultra 4 days prior.  There are a slew of medical papers out there that document similar cases of endurance athletes having elevated liver enzymes post-race. Sure enough, I had my blood-work redone 5 days later, and all of my numbers are within normal values.  Woo hoo!  Big relief as I am certainly predisposed to potential liver issues.

- As far as my recent back troubles.  Both the doc and I are fairly convinced there is a single cause.  While my sitting posture is not perfect, and I do put a lot of strain on my back with all the running, we agree that the single culprit is in fact my mattress.  My mattress is well over 15 years old and it feels like it.  My back first started hurting a little right when I got back from Antarctica.  I also noticed that all the pain went away while I was in Colorado...sleeping on a firm hotel bed.  I thought back to what might have changed and remembered that I had rotated my mattress when I first changed my sheets after returning from the ice.  I have not rotated my bed since (and yes I've changed sheets).  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it may finally be time to suck it up, and buy a new mattress.  The past two nights I've literally slept on the floor. For now, I'm going to rotate it back and perhaps get some prices on new mattresses.  In a perfect world, I'd get one of those awesome tempur-pedic beds, but as a grad student, on grad student salary, that's just not an option.  The doctor today was singing the praises of those select-comfort beds, but after dealing with enough puncture repairs while camping, I'd prefer not to have a mattress that's filled with air.  At any rate, at least I don't have a herniated disc or something crazy like that.

I think I'm finally starting to feel my age a bit.   sigh.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leadville Trail 100 - Four Short Weeks Away

2009 Leadville Memories

With the Vermont 100 already a week behind me, I find that the good-run celebration, the good-day memories, and the post-run relaxation have all been quickly put away into my dusty filing cabinet of life experiences.  It's hard to believe that July is already on the way out and that we are over the mid-way hump of Summer.  The Leadville 100 is now only a mere four weeks away.  Less than a month.  Less than a month to try to squeeze in a proper post-Vermont recovery, a pre-Leadville build-up, and pre-Leadville taper.  The good news is that the foot/toe is nearly back to 100% and I am back to proper running form (whatever that is).  The slightly bad news now, is that I've been dealing with some on-and-off lower back pain recently.  Not sure what that is all about, but it is gone from the annoying stage, through the nagging stage, to the straight-out uncomfortable stage.  I have a followup doc visit Monday to finalize my Antarctica paperwork, so I may run this latest twist by him as well.  I probably just pulled something or pinched something...but it's making my sleeping rather erratic and the Advil isn't cutting it.

Anyway...I know, I probably sound like I'm whining again.  So, on to some details.  I pulled out my time sheets and various memorabilia from 2009.  It was honestly the first time I had looked at my buckle and award since the race.  I had forgotten just how much I put myself through to get that damn buckle, and all at once I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment and flooded with great memories from the '09 race.  My friend, fellow USAP'er, and crew person from '09, Elizabeth, had marked down all of my in/out aid station times from the race.  I also, found a site where split times were recorded according the the race officials here:  SPLIT TIMES.  Not sure who's watch was off, but the times are about 5 minutes different for each split.

I decided the best way to approach the race, was exactly how I approached Vermont.  I created a split-time spreadsheet, and will race against my 2009 self.  The nice thing is that with a finish time of 29hrs 13 mins, I can't really do much worse without dropping.  I'll be much more prepared and in better shape this year, so at least on paper, I should do better.  I put both the "official" times and Elizabeth's times on the sheet.  The nice thing is that Elizabeth recorded times for the Treeline handler area, and the "official" times record a split for Halfmoon.  This gives me some extra data to work with.  The only "gotcha" that I need to look out for is Halfmoon.  In 2009, the course was slightly modified between Treeline and Twin Lakes and the Halfmoon Station was replaced with the Box Canyon Station (due to the helicopter crash).  Not sure if this was an advantage or disadvantage at the time, but it will be different this year regardless.  Because of this, the split time may be much different.  First thing I notice that immediately jumps out at me with the split times is the first 13.5 miles.  I ran these miles a good a clip.  A 10:31 pace is a good clip for a 100 miler and this will be tough to duplicate.  Also, the climb up to Hope Pass absolutely killed me (as did the climb up Sugarloaf on the way back).  My pace going up to Hope Pass was 30 min/miles.  This is slow even for hiking.  The altitude surely played a part in this.

dorking out on stats

The plan for this year is mostly similar to '09.  I am flying out early Thursday (18th) and driving to Leadville where I again have a bunk at the Hostel.  I love staying at at the hostel as the owners are fantastic, and the meals are incredible.  Ever since staying there during my Colorado Trail thru-hike in '08, I've had the hostel on my list of favorite places to stay.  Friday morning is the mandatory pep-talk meeting as well as the medical check-in.  The biggest question mark for me is crew and pacing.  I have a few friends who've offered to help, but nothing is set in stone yet, so I simply don't know.  Until I get a solid confirmation, I have to plan for a solo run, just in case.  My hunch though is that I'll have at least a crew, and probably a pacer for a good portion of the 2nd half.   I completed my on-line medical check today on the Leadville Race website.  This check is just the 1st part...with the 2nd part being the in-person check the day before the race.  One sort-of interesting twist and side-note to this year's race is that it is on August late father's birthday.  So I will be out there not only running for me, but running for him.  At least I know, he'll be pacing me.

After the race, I am going to spend a few days playing around in Colorado again before heading back to the school, classes, and research.  I'm really looking forward to this it's my sort-of "road-trip" for the year.  Definitely going to visit some places I haven't seen yet.

My recovery week training has gone ok this week.  I eased into my runs slowly and managed a nice and smooth 15 miler yesterday without issue.  My legs were a bit sore/stiff, but that is to be expected.  I hope to ramp up for the next two weeks, peaking two weeks before the race, and then taper for the last two weeks.

That's about it for now.  Hopefully the issues with my back are nothing serious, and in less than a month I'll be standing out on Harrison Ave waiting for that gun to sound again...

A little early motivation for myself...
2009 Start

2009 Finish

On a completely random Attention-Deficit-Disorder side note, I finally have been getting some visitors at my bird feeder.  These guys popped in to say hi today,

...and yes, those are in fact tufted titmice.  
Seriously, who comes up with these names?

Also, on a school note, my paper (based on my Masters) has finally been published in the Journal of Glaciology:  Late-Holocene climate evolution at the WAIS Divide site, West Antarctica: bubble number-density estimates

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vermont 100 - Race Report

What an absolutely spectacular day I had up in Vermont.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about the race director and all of the people and volunteers involved with the race.  This was my 2nd running of the VT100, and as much as I loved my first stab at it, it was even better this time!  Now...on to some details:

After spending Thursday night getting all of my gear and supplies finalized, I promptly woke up at 3:45 am Friday and headed out at about 4:15.  I spent the next several hours driving along interstate highways as the sun rose up around me.  Normally, the drive does get a bit long after about 7 hrs, but this time I really enjoyed it.  I pulled in to Silver Hill Meadow at about 2 pm, and set up my tent in the designated camping area.  Eventually, I made my way down to the bigtop tent where I dropped off my race drop-bags, signed in, and picked up my number.  I also did my pre-race weigh-in and registered in at 149 lbs.  Lastly, I attended the mandatory race meeting that started at about 4:00 and listened to all of the instructions and course notes.  After the meeting I happily wolfed down an enormous dinner replete with pasta, bread, potatoes, and ice cream.  Yay for carbs.   My pacer Mark showed up around 8 or so and we met briefly over by the tent city to discuss logistics for the following day.  I told him to expect me at the 70 mile aid station some time between 6:30 and 7:30 pm and then I promptly headed to my tent to try to get the best night's sleep I could.  Thankfully nobody's car alarms or screaming children went off at 2:00 AM (like in 2009).

RACE Morning
At 3:00 the loudspeakers began booming the likes of "Chariots of Fire", "Eye of the Tiger", and "Born to Run".  I geared up, walked down to the tent, drank some coffee, ate a bagel, and mingled for a bit with other runners.  I saw quite a few familiar faces.  Chris Reynolds (Finger Lakes Fiftes Director) was there as was Susan Muhaw (the woman I paced at Oil Creek).  I also saw a lot of all-star favorites like Leigh Schmitt, Serena Wilcox, and a few others.  Promptly at 4:00 AM, after a 10 second countdown, the 300 of us runners began our quest to move 100 miles.

Some Race Notes
As I stated in my previous post, my overall goal for this race was to stay conservative much like I did in 2009, while also trying to bring up my total time.  In other words, I wanted to run faster throughout the entire race, but not too fast over any one leg.  I also didn't want to go out so fast, that I became one of those runners that gets passed in the last 5-10 miles.  I had stated in my last post that if I could simply improve my overall pace from ~14 min/miles to ~13/min miles, I would improve my total time by over an hour and a half.  Makes sense on paper anyway.  I carried with me for the entire race, a printout of my split times from 2009.  My goal was to try to improve on each leg, even if only by a minute or two.  I knew that over the course of the race, these several minutes could add up to a significant improvement.  It's hard to gauge how you're doing over the course of 100 miles, but having split times for ~5 mile legs helped me keep the goals down to a manageable sizes.  In addition, if I saw a long split time from 2009 on a short leg, I knew it probably had a lot of tough hills.  Likewise, if I saw a fast split time from 2009, I knew it was probably a very runable section.  I was very detailed-oriented in the logistics and with my approach to this race....and it paid off (as you will read).  Another strategy I told myself I was going to employ for this race was the quick-in/quick-out aid station strategy.  I decided I would take a break at the stations as needed, but would not lollygag.  Get in, get what I need, say "hi" and "thank you" to the volunteers, and start walking while eating.  The one exception to this rule was the Camp 10 Bear station where I had to get out head-lamps, sort through other drop bag items, and pick up my pacer.  I also had decided to talk with my pacer about running ahead of me during the night stations to get my water filled for me so that I could minimize time as well.

First 15.3 Miles (Start to Taftsville Bridge)
The first 15 miles of the race are without any full-service aid stations.  There are a couple of unmanned water stops, but that's it.  I guess they figure, you better damn well be able to at least make it 15 miles before you need any real help.  This is the longest single mental stretch of the course, but being so early, it goes by rather quickly.  It is so very tempting to go out at the start aggressively.  You are standing there in the dark, cold, full of coffee, having just tapered for a few weeks, and having not run for 2 or 3 days.  Add to that, the fact that it's race day...and the anticipation in the air is palpable.  Needless to say, you are amped to go.  I had to fight every instinct of my being that was trying to tell me that it'd be ok if I ran 8 minute miles for the first 10-15.  No No No.  Go easy John.  So, that's what I did.  I looked at my heart rate monitor and said to as fast as you can, but so that your heart rate never goes over 145, preferably not over 140 (Anything below 157 or so is in the fat-burning aerobic range, but the lower the better).  I fell into a very nice groove early and picked up a few good running partners.  One guy I ran with had apparently seen my old VT100 youtube video and recognized me.  He told me he watched the video 2 years ago when I posted it, and decided to attempt the race this brought an early race smile to my face.  We ran together for a good 5 miles.  After about 7 miles, it started getting light out and I switched off my little clip-on LEDs.  Somewhere in here the first of the horses started passed me as well.  It's hard to put into words just how awesome it is to be cheered on by someone as the trot past you on a horse.  Yet another reason why I love this course so much.  Seeing the horses absolutely makes my day.  I ended up seeing them on and off all the way to mile 80 later in the day.  Anyway...I burned through the two unmanned water stops without really thinking about it and focused on getting to that first "real" aid station.  This was also where I had my first recorded split time that I could compare.  After 15.3 miles, the course dumped me out in the small town of Taftsville, and I ran through the lovely Covered Bridge that was built in 1836 (one of the oldest in Vermont) that goes over the Ottauquechee River.  Right on the other side, I pulled into the aid station and checked my split.   My time was 2:38.  My time in 2009 was 3:08.  CRAP.  As much as I loved the fact that I shaved 30 minutes off of my first split, this concerned me greatly.  Sure, 30 minutes over 15 miles isn't that much, but it had me worried that I did in fact go out too fast.  I checked my average heart rate though and it told me that I was doing fine.  Could it be that I really was 30 minutes faster and doing ok?  I decided to believe the heart rate monitor, and not start second guessing myself and playing head games.  I knew I would have enough mental struggles later in the race to worry about whether or not my first 15 miles was too fast.  Besides, there was nothing I could do about it now, and if I started getting passed at the end of the race I'd know for sure.  So, I clicked "Lap 2" on my watch, grabbed a few snacks, and moved on.
-Race position at Mile 15.3: 103rd place

Miles 15.3 - 30.1 (Taftsville - Stage Rd)
After Taftsville, the course took on a mathematical approach for me.  The longest stretch between any following stations was 5 miles (including unmanned) and the longest split stretch (distance between full manned aid stations) was 9 miles.  I broke down the race into 26 small runs from here out.  This is how I dealt with it in 2009 as well.  I would walk out of an aid station and think, "time to knock out a 5k".  At the next aid station it was another 5k, or perhaps a 4.2 miler.  With 29 stations throughout the race, this strategy is really easy to work with.  It helps too, that as you get further into the race, the aid stations become closer and/or more frequent.  Going from 15.3 to 30.1, meant I ran through 4 aid stations (2 manned and 2 unmanned).  When I pulled into the "Pretty House" station at 21.1, after 5.8 miles, I checked my split again.  This time, I had improved a modest 4:41 over my previous time.  Much better.  This started a trend for the entire day.  I kept vigilant watch on my times and tried to anticipate my arrival times at aid stations.  If I felt I was a little behind, I perhaps pushed a little harder, even if it meant only gaining 5 seconds on the split.  At mile 26.2, I passed a small sign on the course congratulating me on my marathon.  I looked at my watch and it said 4hrs 59minutes.  I had to laugh thinking I had ran Pocono in 3:21 just two months earlier, yet a 5 hour marathon on this course was doing pretty darn well. Of course I also did the math and thought..."this means I should be able to run a 20-hour race right"?  As most ultra-runners know, it doesn't work like that (unless of course you are an elite runner that can run constant pace over 100 miles - which I am not).  At any rate, I came down to the "Stage Rd" station, a short paved part of the course, fueled up, checked my split (5 minute improvement again), and moved on. By this time the temps were starting to climb a bit.  My gear and clothing choices were working great to this point as well.  I had taken a gamble in wearing an old golite shirt that I had that is very light and breathes wonderfully.  I was going to wear the usual merino, but decided on the golite instead.  It was a great decision as it kept me cool all day.  As usual the Patagonia shorts did well, as did the socks.  So far up to this point, my foot wasn't causing me any sort of trouble or pain.  This was something I was very worried about going in to the race (in light of my Rothrock injury).  My feet in general felt good, and the sportslick/hydropel lube combo was keeping away hotspots and other general chafing.  I was in good shape and had settled in with a great group of other runners to keep me company.  I chatted for along time with another 2nd time runner and with a gentleman from Argentina.  I heard some great stories.
-Race position at Mile 30.1: 101st place

Miles 30.1 - 47.2 (Stage Rd - Camp 10 Bear)
Heading out of Stage Rd involved a short paved section.   Somewhere in here a couple of us mentally high-fived the fact that we'd just finished a 50K and had nearly 1/3 done.  I had to quickly force myself back into aid-station distance mode again and try not to think about the finish that was still so far away.  It didn't help that I was also thinking to myself that I was nearly half-way to seeing my pacer.   Camp 10 Bear was now on my radar a mere 17 miles away.  10 Bear is sort of the "master" aid station.  It is certainly the biggest, but because it's visited twice, and once at the pacer-pick-up mile 70, it acts as a major milestone aid station.  Getting to 10 Bear is a big check mark on the race "to-do" list.  It is also close enough to the half-way point on the first pass through that it more or less acts like the half way point.  Mentally, I think of the course as a three stage ultra.  Stage 1 being the start to 10 Bear, State 2 being 10 Bear back to 10 bear (mile 70) where I pick up the pacer, and Stage 3 being the last 30 miles to the finish.  The 2nd stage, 10 Bear to 10 Bear, is often considered the toughest stretch. It is the hottest part of the day, there are lots of climbs (including agony hill), some of the aid stations are 5 miles apart, and you just feel like you're doing a forced clover-leaf style loop.  It can be rough.  But...this was still a ways ahead for me...and for now, it was time to focus on the next 17.  I made quick work of the Route 12 Aid and Vondell Reservoir stations and came down into the town of Woodstock VT where I crossed through another covered bridge.  This time, the Lincoln covered bridge.  On the other side, I checked my split, and again, I had gained a few minutes.  By this point I was over 45 minutes improved on my 2009 time.  I was starting to think to myself that pending some disaster, I should be able to at least maintain to get another sub-24 hour buckle.  Although...I tried not to get too far ahead of myself, there was still over 60 miles to go.  Four miles and some pleasant conversation later, I made my way down the hill to the Lillian's Aid Station.  I vividly remember this station from 2009, as it was the station that I spent almost 15 minutes at....but not for the reasons you might think.  In 2009, I really had to use the porta-potty, but someone was having some trouble in it.  So I waited...and waited....and waited.  Finally I used it and got on my way, but not before dropping 12 places and 15 minutes.   This time I wasn't going to let that happen.  With that said, however, my body decided after 43 miles, that it again needed to go.  So here I was, at the same aid station, with the same problem.  I did have some TP/Wipes with me if I had to make an emergency trail-side situation out of it, but that was certainly not preferred.  When I pulled in to Lillian's, I quickly walked to the toilet, came around front and looked at the door....Dammit!  In-use.  AGAIN.  I was not going to wait 15 minutes this time.  I knocked and was told, "i'll be right out".  I've heard that before.  I went back to the table, ate some food and told myself I'd wait 3 minutes.  After 2, the toilet freed up, and I made quick about it.  Woo 15 minute pit stop this time.  I was back out on the course, only losing about 5 minutes this time.  I felt 100% better, so it was totally worth it.  A couple of miles down the course, I made my way up the hill to the unmanned Jenne Farm water stop and put some ice in my water bottle.  I remembered this stop from 2009 as one of my favorite of the course....just something about it.  Nice views.  Less than 2 more short miles, I was finally making my way into 10 Bear, and into the big crowds.  It was also my first official weigh in.  I knew I would take a few minutes here, but wanted to keep it as close to 5 minutes as I could.  One of the nice things about NOT having a crew, is that I don't spend much time at handler stations.  Every time I leave a big aid station where runners' crews are allowed, I end up gaining several places in the races as other runners lollygag and deal with their support team.  I just pop in, and pop out.  The downside is that I have to carry a little more and prepare drop bags if I need them.  Up to this point, I've left my drop bags alone.  I made the mistake of NOT chugging my water before coming into the aid station.  Every ultra runner knows that before a weigh in, chug water to bring the weight back up.  I forgot to do this and so when I weighed in, I had dropped 4 lbs down to 145.  They asked me how I was doing and told me they were going to keep a closer eye on me, but that I was free to continue.  I knew I'd be all right.  I quickly found my drop bag, chugged a warm ensure drink (yuck), chugged a warm gatorade (yuck), stopped to enjoy the fact that I was nearly half-way, and then started walking out.  I briefly looked for my pacer Mark who had told me he may be volunteering at the station by noon, but I didn't see him.  
-Race position at mile 47.2: 86th Place

Miles 47.2 - 70.1 (10 Bear to 10 Bear)
Leaving 10 Bear meant that Agony hill was just up ahead.  This is a brutal climb at the hottest part of the day.  To be honest, the 23 mile 10 bear loop was rather unremarkable.  I did a lot of head-down shuffling, while trying not to notice the heat.  Thankfully the humidity wasn't too bad, so the heat was bearable.  I had found a great running partner, Mark (from Mass), who kept me company for over 15 miles of the 23.  We just sort of plugged along, admiring the course through this section...thinking about how much closer our pacer pick-up was getting.  When I crossed the 50 mile mark, I checked my time:  10 hours exactly.  Perfect.  If I ran the same time for my 2nd fifty as I did in '09, I would finish in 22:15.  There were some highlights in this section for sure, like the Margaritaville aid Station, where they blast Jimmy Buffett music and grill burgers.  There was the hill top water stop perched on Prospect Hill, and the long 5 mile stretch back into 10 Bear at the end.  Coming in to the Tracer Brook Aid Station at mile 57 something rather unexpected happened.  I checked my split time, and had come in 2 minutes slower than in 2009.  I had noticed on the previous split (Birmingham) I had come in exactly on my split too.  I had felt like I was running well, but this had me a little concerned that I was beginning to fade.  It was the first time all day that I had lost time on a split. It was also a real kick in the pants to get back to focusing on the goal: Buckle and break 23:15.  After Margaritaville, I made an assertive effort to stay strong and gain back those precious minutes.  When I finally came down the hill back in to 10 Bear, I had gained back 5 minutes on the previous two splits and was feeling good about my race again.  As I pulled in, I looked at my watch and it was 6:25 pm. I was over an hour ahead of my 2009 pace at this point (I pulled in at 7:30 in 2009).  This was fantastic!  Mark was there waiting for me, we grabbed our headlamp gear for later in the night, he eagerly filled my water bottle, and I walked over to the scale.  This time I remembered to chug lots of water before my weigh in. I had also been eating a lot more at the stations and this time weighed in back at 147.  Perfect!  We said goodbye to Mark's wife and began the final leg of the race.
-Race position at mile 70.1: 68th Place

Miles 70.1 - 88.6 (10 Bear to Bill's)
The first thing that course does out of 10 Bear, after picking up your pacer, is climb.  It's a nasty one too. I remember feeling bad for my pacer in 2009 as well.  Here you are, mile 70, just picking up a fresh pacer, and you basically have to walk for over a mile.  I told Mark that I would speed-hike (16min/mile), but not run this nasty hill.  He was fine with that strategy.  Mark had a great pacing attitude...very different than Chris back in '09.  When I ran with Chris, I had a feeling as though he was passively pushing me to go harder.  I'm not sure what you call that, but it was certainly effective.  It was more of a coach-like feeling, and I felt compelled to run as I didn't want to disappoint him (in a sense).  With Mark, he was more about me running my own race, giving me more of a feeling that I was calling the shots, BUT, all the while giving me huge confidence boosters.  He was constantly telling me that I was doing great, or that he couldn't believe how strong I was doing, or that I should try to "pick off" the next runners.  It was great.  Running with Mark allowed me to truly believe in myself and my abilities.  He also helped me a lot at stations by not letting me dawdle around and by running ahead to fill my bottle before the station.  When we pulled into Seabrook at mile 74.7, I had gained 7 minutes on my split.  I was feeling very confident and strong....and it was still light out!  3/4 of the race done, and less than a marathon to go.  I kept thinking..."I got this!"  At West Winds, Mile 77, I had gained another minute and was still doing ok.  I spent a little too long waiting for a grilled cheese sandwich at this station though and was sluggish getting out.  I finally did get going, but a couple minutes later than I had wanted.  As we ran past the Goodmans unmanned water stop, the sun was finally setting and the headlamps were coming on.  We had been passing several runners, but also leapfrogging several others over the last 10 miles.  It was hard to tell if we were actually gaining any positions or not, but as long I was still running, I was content.  At the Cow Shed station at mile 83.6, I had lost almost 2 minutes on my split.  I wasn't too concerned this time though as no one had really passed me, and because I had spent at least 2 minutes too long at West Winds.  We did our thing and headed out for the last long split...a 5 mile stretch to Bill's.  Based on my '09 split time, I figured this stretch, while long, was very runable.  After some beautiful early evening shuffling along on some remote Vermont roads and trails, we pulled into Bill's at mile 88.6.  I looked at my split and began to panic.  I had lost almost 4 minutes.  Dammit.  I was losing it.  I calmly stopped for a minute, looked at Mark and said..."don't let me lose it now.  Keep me going".   I zipped into the barn, weighed in at 148lbs (good), and started looking over the food.  This late in the race, none of the food looks appetizing.  Mark said, "Grab something and let's go.  You're lollygagging!"   Yes....yes I was.  I was grateful that Mark made that comment.  I gritted my teeth, put on my mean face, and said, "bring it".  We were off.
-Race position at mile 88.6: 53th Place

Miles 88.6 - 100 (Bill's to Finish)
Leaving Bill's I was on a mission.  I would not lose any more time.  I was still an hour ahead of my 2009 pace and a small hint of a thought began creeping into my head.  That thought was, could I possibly break 22 hours?  For the next 3.4 miles, I pushed hard.  I had the thought of that damn 4 minute loss nagging at me.  I was pissed off and motivated.  I had finally began drinking the coke and mountain dew at the aid stations and so had some caffeine in me too.  I had been forcing myself to avoid it all day, so that I could pound it over the last 12 miles and get a nice boost.  It was working.  After muscling it out to the Keating station at mile 92, and passing 4 people in the process, I checked my split again.  I had gained 8 minutes!  8 damn minutes!  Hell yeah.  I was back, and now with only 8 miles to go.  8 miles...that's a one-block loop around State College.  Mark and I methodically picked off 4 more runners on our way to Polly's at mile 95.5, the last full service aid station.  Somewhere along this stretch is also where I think there was a lovely mile long meadow run that was so intimately lit up with green glow sticks.  It was probably my favorite stretch of the entire course this year.  Having a full moon overhead made it even more spectacular.  I actually stopped at one point in this field just to take in where I was, what I had just done, and how close I was to finishing.  It was one of the magical moments that come so rarely, but when they do, can touch right down to your soul.  When we pulled into Polly's, I had gained another 2 minutes and knew that I was going to finish well under 23.  But...could I break 22?  It was going to be close.  If I ran my split from 2009, I would finish somewhere around 21:58.  Somewhere before the last water stop at mile 97.7, I made the decision that I was going to give it everything for the last 4 miles and break 22, with authority.  None of this 21:59 crap.  We picked up the pace.  Surprisingly, it didn't hurt.  I had energy.  I felt good.  It almost made me wonder, could I have run harder all day?  I shouldn't have this much energy at the end of 100 miles.  Well, I could ponder these thoughts forever, but at the moment I had one goal: break 22 hrs, and break it substantially.  We got to Sargent's water stop at 97.7, one of my favorites, and I topped off my bottle.  I knew I had just over 2 miles of nice trail left to go.  I was going to do it.  I was going to buckle again, I was going to PR, and I was looking to break 22.  Then I took off, and I mean I took off.  I ran, and I ran hard.  Mark kept asking me how the hell I had energy to run so hard at mile 98.  All I could say was that I could taste that finish.  I saw the sign indicating "1 mile to go" and didn't even stop to admire.  I just ran right past it.  By this point I was actually gaining distance on Mark.  He yelled up ahead and said, "Man, you're working me hard!  Where are you finding this energy!  Well, whatever it is....keep doing it and don't wait for me! Go Go Go!"  The afterburners turned on and I was gone.  On Friday night before the race I had walked up from the finish line a half-mile just to admire that last bit of course.  Now, as I passed the "1/2 mile to go" sign, I recognized the trail from the previous night and knew exactly how far it was to the end.  I kept checking behind me to make sure no one was coming up to pass me.  In 2009, someone passed me in the last 1/2 mile.  It was a bit aggravating and deflating.  So far, I had only been passed by one person since mile 92, and I didn't see anyone behind me besides Mark.  I knew I was golden.

I made the last turn and saw the 1 gallon glowing water jugs and knew I was coming down the final chute.  That little annoying finish line dizziness was starting to creep in but I fought it away.  Mark had sprinted to catch back up and we ran down the last bit of trail together.   At the final turn I told him that I was sprinting all out, turned and sprinted towards the finish line up ahead and crossed under the glowing neon sign that read "Finish Line"

I had done it again.  I finished the Vermont 100.  This time, no intense foot pain, no passing out at the end, no oxygen jammed in my face, no medical tent.  Just me, standing on the grass staring at my watch not believing that I gained 10 minutes on my last split and finished in 21 hrs, 48 minutes, 16 seconds.

I shook Mark's hand, thanked him immensely for the great pacing, made my way to the food tent, ate some hot ramen, drank a coke, and sat in the grass.  It was awesome.  I was ecstatic.  What an absolutely perfect and wonderful day.  When doubt crept in earlier as I was losing split times, I fought back and won.  I know that I will have some bad races, and probably even some DNF's at some point....but not this day.  This day, I had the race I'd been hoping for.
-Race Position at Finish: 46th Place

Official Results:
Time: 21:48:16 (A new 100-mile PR by over 1hr 25 mins)
Place: 46/197
Age Group (30-39): 22/50

Thanks to the race director for putting on such a great race, the volunteers for all of their smiling faces, motivational cheers, and hard work, and to Mark for being such a great pacer and running partner.  Also, thanks to Chris and Joe for the great company both pre- and post-race...and for that celebratory beer.  Mmmmmmm.

Some Stats:
After compiling my stats, I learned a couple of things.  First off, I maintained or gained my position throughout the entire race (except a 2 person loss due to the porta-potty).  This was very satisfying to know that I was not one of the people that gets passed by everyone at the end.  Also, for the split that I lost the most time, I also had the lowest heart rate (111 bpm).  This tells me that I simply got a little lazy over that stretch.  I absolutely could have pushed myself harder, but was simply tired and needed a little motivation.  Overall, I actually feel that I could have run the race harder and finished a little faster, but I am not going to think about the what-ifs.  I'm thrilled to have done as well as I did, and have a fantastic new 100 mile PR.  I gained 87 minutes over my previous time.  My goal was to improve my overall race page by 1 minute.  My race pace in 2009 was right about 14min/mile.  My race pace this year was 13:04, so I did exactly what I set out to do.  I finished the first 50 in 10hrs, the 2nd 50 in 11hrs 48mins (as compared to my 2009 times of, 11hrs and 12hrs 15mins).  Two days later, I actually feel great.  My legs are working fine, my foot is ok, my post-ultra nausea is ok, and my kidneys are normal.  I may even go for a short run today!

some race stats

What's Next John?:
So the real big question.  Looking at my "race schedule" in my sidebar, it seems pretty open until September when I'll return for my 3rd VT50.  I have been very quiet on this blog about my post VT100 Summer plans.  It turns out that I've actually had something planned for a long while, but haven't really talked about it.  Without dancing around the point, I'll just come out with it.  I am registered for, and will be running again, the Leadville Trail 100.  That's right, in five weeks, I'll again be making my way towards another 1/2 Grand Slam.  I had such a blast the last time in Leadville, that when I got back from Antarctica in February, I quickly signed up for it again before it filled.  I haven't talked about it because I honestly wasn't sure I was going to do it.  Not only have I decided to definitively do it again and go for another buckle there (and try to break my time of 29 hrs 11 minutes), but I will be making a very little vacation out of it.  I can't wait to spend a few days playing in Colorado again and I'll have some good company coming with me to boot.  YAY!  So...Leadville......Here I come, again.   Bring IT!

Some More VT100 Details:
Gear/Hydration Setup:
Shoes - Brooks Cascadia 5's
Shirt - Golite Ultralight C-thru shirt
Shorts - Patagonia Nine Trails
Socks - Vermont Darn Tough Merino Cush 1/4 Socks
Hat - Headsweats Cap
Nathan Mutation X-Trainer belt (1 bottle) with modified added extra pocket for gear
(Extra Merino Shirt in Drop Bag)
(Extra Socks in Drop Bag)

Carried Supplies (Or in Drop Bags)
Aid Station List and Split Times with various calculations
Small sportslick balm jar
Extra nip-guards
2 bandaids
small roll of sports tape
some ibuprofin 
small amount of TP
some ginger chews
Hammer Endurolytes
2 Clip-on Photon Micro Lights (Morning Dark Running and backup for night running)
Petzyl Myo Headlamp (Night-time Running)
Extra batteries

Food Carried/Drop Bags
Honey Stinger and Hammer Gels
Nathan's PB Packets
Ensure Drinks (Chocolate)

Food Eaten at Stations
PB and J sandwiches
Salty Chips
Gummy bears
Lots of Fruit
Heed Drink
Milky Way Candies
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Ramen Soup

Heart-Rate Info
Total Calories: ~12,500
Avg Heart Rate: ~130 bpm
Max Heart Rate: ~158 bpm
Highest AVG Heart Rate Split: ~139 bpm
Lowest AVG Heart Rate Split: ~111 bpm

Some Pics
My lonely tent in tent-city

One of the "other" 100-milers

The event tent

The weigh in

The Starting Line

Awesome Pasta Dinner

Hanging out at the finish line cheering on the last of the finishers.
Not quite sure how I was even able to stand at this point

1 Official Race Photo

More "Official" Race Photos Coming Soon...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vermont 100 Quick Result Update - 21hrs 48 mins

As was made famous by the movie "Princess Bride" - lets go for the short-short version:

-I'm alive.

-The event was a huge success: great people, great staff, awesome volunteers.

-I finished my second running of the VT100 in 21 hrs 48 mins, beating my old time by an hour and a half. I don't know any stats yet.

-The race went well major issues or blowouts.

-Full report to follow in a day or so

-I'm quite literally falling asleep at a highway rest-stop somewhere in ny.....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vermont 100 Final Prep and Packing

Getting gear ready for both running and camping

It's game time.   I'm done running for the week, my body is happily resting, and my focus has shifted to logistics.  Running a hundred miler is a different type of beast altogether when compared to other distances (even 50 milers), and presents all sorts of new challenges.  Lots of things can change over the course of 100 miles, but you obviously don't want to carry everything.  Pacers are not allowed to mule for runners in Vermont, so anything I want....I have to carry.  Luckily, there are drop bags allowed at various points throughout the race.   This is where good logistics planning comes in.  It turns out that one particular station in this race, "Camp 10 Bear", is visited twice:  Once at mile 47, and once at mile 70.  This means if I send a full bag of spare clothes, shoes, hydration options, and a headlamp...I will be able to potentially swap out gear two different times.  This is an enormous burden off of my back.  In a sense, I can prepare for a 50 miler, and send a big bag of extras to 10 Bear.  In 2009, this strategy actually kept me from dropping out of the race.  After about mile 25, my left foot started hurting very badly as the shoes I was wearing were causing me some problems.  I had sent more supportive shoes to 10 Bear and swapped them out at mile 47.  My foot felt much better for the rest of the race...and I was able to finish.  The drop bags also mean that I can send my favourite bars, gels, and goodies up ahead and only need to carry enough to cover me for 10-15 miles.

Another added twist to all of this is the camping, and the 8 hour road-trip.  I have to remember little things like air mats, jugs of water, baby wipes, camp soap, etc.  I just spent the past two hours or so making sure everything is in order.  Now, I get to patiently wait until Friday when I'll be en route up to VT for another fun race.  I've also picked up some more local Otto's brew for my pacer.  Hopefully we will be toasting at the finish line!

Some Drop Bags

Can't wait till this weekend!  They are predicting temps in the mid-80's, so it's going to be hot, muggy, and a wild time.  Woo we go.

On a completely random side note,

I received an email from the Columbia Sportswear Field Testing division.  They found me through this blog and asked if I'd be willing to field test (and keep) a piece of their gear under the agreement that I'd then give it an honest review and write-up both on a survey form and on this blog.  I said...Sure!  Why not?!  The gear they sent me is the Titanium Omni-Dry Peak Jacket.  It's a really nice breathable, waterproof shell that is supposed to perform well in all kinds of conditions.  I haven't had a chance to truly test it yet (I got it after I got back from Colorado), but hope to get it out a lot later this summer, and in Antarctica.  You can read about the features here:

Peak 2 Peak Jacket from Columbia

The new jacket

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vermont 100 Short Race Preview

The Finish Line

Race Week is here....the real race week....the one I've been really working up towards.  All of these other races and long runs from the past 4 months have really been leading up to this.  My new marathon PR of 3:21, my new 50k PR of 5:54, and my new 50mile PR of 9:20...all, in a sense, training runs.  This coming Saturday, I will again stand in the dark at 4:00 am and begin a quest to complete 100 continuous miles under my own power at the Vermont 100.  Two years ago when I stood at the start, it seemed like an impossible distance.  It was my first attempt at a 100 miler, and I was terrified.  I had no idea if I had trained enough or correctly, and if I would even make it to mile 51.  All I told myself was that I was going to try to have fun and that I really wanted to finish.  In the end, I turned out having a great day and finished with a final time of 23:15...securing me my first belt buckle (which I still wear every day).

Whether or not I was truly ready and in peak shape for the VT100 in 2009 could be debated ad nauseum.  I obviously was in decent shape to have finished sub-24, but the honest truth was that I just didn't get to the training mileage I had wanted.  This year I have improved my fitness and preparedness on many levels.  My diet has been greatly improved, my weight is where it should be, and my training has been stepped up.  The only snag has been the past couple of weeks.  While I was able to get in the 50 miler last weekend, my mid-week training the past few weeks has been lower than I would have liked because of a nagging toe injury.  Last week I didn't run at all and instead focused on strength.  When compared to my 2009 pre-race week, I'm still ok, but I can't help be a little bummed at my lower-than-desired totals for the past couple of weeks.  With all of this said, however, I still feel I'm ready to attack the VT100 this year, and put down a good time.

My strategy this year is to again stay conservative.  My confidence level has been much higher this year...and it shows with my recent spell of new PRs.  I CANNOT let this affect my strategy this weekend though.  It will be so tempting to go out a lot harder this year than I did in '09 thinking I can "handle it"....when in reality it will only bite me in the end.  Being conservative in '09 really did work.  When I look at my split times, at every single aid station I moved up in placement (except when I had to wait to use a porta-bathroom and I fell 12 spots).  I averaged a 14min/mile pace over the entire race and my fastest stretch was 11 minute miles - so not very fast.  I remember, while tired, I was still able to run a lot of the course in the last 20 miles.  

If you look at my times and paces, I maintained a slow and conservative pace all day.  Could I have run faster than 12-13 minute miles for the first 20 miles?  Certainly.  But then would I have passed 14 people between mile 95 and mile 100?  By the time I crossed the finish line, I had moved up 105 positions from where I was at mile 15.  I need to remember how well this strategy worked, and try to duplicate it.

With this all said and understood, I do feel that I am in better shape this year and can shave a little off of what I consider to be "conservative".  If I average 13 min/miles over the entire race instead of 14...this would greatly improve my time and would not require me running much faster.   Needless to say, I have lots to think about, but I will maintain my conservative approach regardless.

As far as Race Goals (in order of importance):
  • Cross the Finish Line in the time limit and enjoy a celebration beer with my Pacer Mark
  • Win another Belt Buckle (sub 24hr)
  • Beat my time (and PR) from 2009 - 23hrs 15mins
  • Finish Sub 23hrs
  • Finish Sub 22hrs

Everything is just about in order.  My pacer Mark has contacted me and we are all set.  
Some To Dos:
  • Organize, Sort, and Finalize gear
  • Make Cheat-Sheet, Time, and Profile Printouts
  • Buy last minute supplies
  • Organize drop bags
  • Organize camping gear
  • Pack
  • have fun and run!

Let's hope this time around, I don't pass out at the finish line....

2009 finish

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vermont 100 Update, a Happy Toe, and Liver Enzymes?

Mile ~75 at the 2009 VT100

Well I'm enjoying a nice easy week of low-mileage running and resting following a fantastic 50-mile race up in the Finger Lakes last weekend.  I have lots of school work to catch up on, but decided to spend most of this week dealing with doctor/dentist visits instead.   I am again deploying to Antarctica this upcoming Winter and decided to knock out my medical exams early (As long as they are done within 6 months, they can be used).   This was also the perfect chance to finally get my dreaded foot x-rayed.  I am very happy to report that both the doctor here in town, and the radiologist in Hershey have said there is no fracture and that I simply bruised the toe something nasty.  I got to see all the x-rays as well, and they looked ok to me.  I never really gave my toe a chance to heal until last week when I went an entire week without running.  It still hurts a little, but has definitely gotten better.  Finally.

As far as the VT100 next weekend.  It is ON.  The volunteer group has again placed me with a great pacer, Mark, (who I've already spoken with and who sounds like a great running partner!).   The plan is to take it very easy over the next 7-10 days and be nicely rested for the race.  I head up on Friday morning and will pitch my tent just like in '09.   I will be doing a more official race preview sometime in the next day or two where I will spell out my race strategy and look at my split times form '09.....but for now, I can simply say that I am shooting to get another buckle (sub 24hr).

Some bloodwork notes:
I have quite a genetic predisposition to heart disease, cholesterol, and liver issues.  Over the past few years I've gotten bi-annual bloodwork exams to check numbers.  I've changed my diet, gone (and left) vegetarian, tried various supplements, modified my running, and altered certain other lifestyle habits....only to see my various bloodwork numbers bounce around all over the place.  They never really all change in the right direction though.   Sometimes my cholesterol numbers go down, but my liver enyzmes go up....and vice versa.   The doctor put me on a very low-dose statin for my cholesterol, which seemed to help, but which I've also been less than vigilant about taking.  With this all said though, my results today were a bit different than normal.   Since getting back from Antarctica, I've changed my lifestyle a fair amount.  While the running has been more than before, I have also tried to simply "be healthier".  I switched a lot of my food intake to fruits and unprocessed foods.  I haven't been crazy about it, I've just made an effort. Since this change, I've lost nearly 20 lbs and have dropped from 168lbs to just under 150lbs.   This is the first time in a long time where I'm very content with my weight and physical fitness level.   My cholesterol numbers have dropped significantly (and I haven't been taking the statin regularly).  It seems whether it be by drugs or by diet, I can have an impact on my numbers.   

My problem always seems to come in with the liver enzymes.   Part of the problem is that I always end up getting bloodwork done right after I've run some ridiculous race.  There is a lot of evidence out there that ultrarunning elevates liver enzymes as your body takes several days to clean itself out after the stress you put it under following a race.   With my family history though, every time my doc sees high enyzmes, he gets a little worried (as do I).  

(Here is one published paper on Liver Enzymes and Ultrarunning: HERE)

So I decided to ask all of you....fellow ultrarunners:
Have any of you fellow ultra-athletes ever had bloodwork done soon after (the following week) running in or competing in an ultra event?  What did your Liver AST/ALT numbers look like?  Were they elevated significantly?

I am getting retested next week to see if those numbers come back down to normal, but if not, who knows what's next.  The doctor started spouting off terms like "fatty-liver" and "hyperlipideamea", "ultrasounds", blah blah....but I'm pretty sure this is all just because I ran an ultra last weekend.  Guess we'll see.


Definitely looking forward to spending a long weekend in Vermont.  I had originally planned on hiking the Long Trail while there as well, but don't want to push the foot.  Also, I've decided instead to take a small vacation in August (more on that in a later post).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finger Lakes Fifties Race Report (& Watkins Glen Fun)

Finishing Lap 1 yeah, The foot, it is pretty goddam pissed-off at me today.  Yeah I know, I'm an idiot.  I thought long and hard about my decision to run Finger Lakes, knowing it could very well take me out of the Vermont 100.  It has been 4 weeks since I injured my foot at Rothrock and it hasn't completely healed.  I have not had it x-rayed yet as I've been away and my insurance would not have covered it fully.  I have been thinking more and more that there may be a fracture....but have tried to stay positive.  All this past week I stayed off my foot.  I didn't run for a full week and focussed instead on strength training and resting.  I had told myself over and over again that it was Vermont 100 that mattered most, but there's something that I really like about the Finger Lakes race that had me deciding to give it a go.  I love the friendly atmosphere, the pre-race night campfire, the camaraderie, the's all fantastic.  The option to drop down mid-run to the 50k (and even a single 25k loop), gave me some added peace of mind too.  I also though that even if I had skipped finger lakes and rested for an additional 2 weeks, that I'd be incredibly out of shape for Vermont anyway...even if I had moved to cycling to keep up my fitness.

The Race:
The Finger Lakes course was a bit different than it was when I ran it back in 2009.  Apparently they had changed it last year, but I missed it as I was slogging through snow somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the PCT.  First impressions....the new course is better.  I really liked the new layout, and the fact that the loops were a mile longer.  Back in '09, in order to run the 50 miler, you had to run three loops, and THEN a 4 mile add-on baby-loop.   This year, since the loops were a mile longer, the final baby loop was only 1/2 a mile.   Of course this also meant that the 50K was actually 33 miles and not 31 (and the 25k, 16.5 miles).  The course was really fun and seemed less hilly.  The overall times on the new course seem faster (as are the course records).  I was really hoping to break that mythical barrier of 10 hrs this time around, but was content really just having fun.  Overall, I had a good day despite the fact that the temps were pushing 90.  Just getting back from very dry Colorado and running in the humid sticky-fest that is upstate New York was a bit rough...but thankfully, most of the course was shaded.  The few open-field highlights of the old course were still part of the new course and the aid stations plentiful.  There is one somewhat confusing section of the course where runners actually share about a tenth of a mile in both directions.  I passed some folks going the other way and they were genuinely confused.

Lap 1 was my best and a bit too fast.  I truly believe had I been a little more conservative on this lap, I would have run my 3rd lap faster.  Regardless, I am thrilled with my outcome.  Lap 1 went smoothly and I ran over 90% of it.  The new course has less climbs and no longer features the dreaded mile-long uphill pavement section.  Being early in the morning, the temps were still cool.  I had to retrain my body to eat aid station snacks during a long race.  For the Laurel Highlands 50k, I ate mostly gels and my own food.  For this race, I had some Ensure drinks at waiting for me at the end of every loop, several date-filled Larabars, and other snacks in addition to the aid station goodies.  I came into the finish chute of Lap 1 in a brisk 2hrs 41mins.   I was shooting for 3hrs and knew I had gone too fast.  I spent a good 8-10 minutes sitting and resting after the first loop.  When I headed out for Lap 2, I was seriously considering making it my last...and settling for the 50k, but figured I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.

Lap 2 was fairly unremarkable.  I trotted through it slower remembering various parts of the course from my first lap and trying to really enjoy the beautiful day.  It started getting pretty hot during this lap, but was still manageable.  I noticed I after 25 miles I still hadn't had to go to the bathroom yet, and was a bit worried.  After noticing the wonderful salt crust forming on my head, I started drinking a lot more water. Eventually, everything worked itself out...but I was definitely not drinking enough up to that point.  In all honesty, lap 2 was probably my best, even though it was slower.  I ran it at the right pace, and walked about 10-15 percent of it.   It was how I should have run the first lap.  I crossed the finish line exactly 3hrs after I had left it and was sitting on a time of 5hrs 41 minutes for a 50k.  Not only was this time 13 minutes faster than my Laurel Highlands 50k PR of a few weeks ago, but the Finger Lakes 50k was actually 33 miles (2 miles longer).  I sat down in a comfortable chair, began to wind down, and was ready to call it a day.  After over 10 minutes went by I was suddenly overcome by a feeling to continue.  Not sure why, but I changed into a cooler singlet, and was off.....for a very hot lap 3.

Lap 3 was tough.  Hot and sluggish.  I did my best to run when I could, but suddenly the very gradual inclines became ridiculous hills.  I walked probably 30 percent of lap 3.  Had I been able to keep a decent pace, I may have broken 9 hours total, but I was just too spent from a hard/fast first two laps.  I slowly but surely made my way around the course with a smile of contentment on my face.  I was happy that I had decided to push on.  The temptation to quit after 50k is so strong.  You are there, at the finish....the volunteers are grilling burgers, people are resting, all you want to do is lay down in the shade and eat cold fruit and sip ice-cold sodas.   Yet somehow in my insane and twisted brain, I voluntarily decided to torture myself for another 3+ hours.  Every step of trail I passed I knew would be the last time I would see it.  I didn't have to think to myself, "when I see this turn on the next lap....".  Everyone running with and around me at this point was struggling hard.  People that I had partnered up with were having all sorts of muscle issues, cramps, stomach problems, etc.  Of course there was me with my foot.  When I came into the finish chute, it read 9hrs 15 minutes.  I took me a full 30 minutes longer to run lap 3.  All I wanted to do was collapse....but alas, it wasn't over.  I had my "baby loop" left.

The Baby Loop was more of a victory lap.  Unlike '09's 4 mile baby loop, the new course featured a wonderful little 1/2 mile loop around the parking lot.  I didn't even stop after my 3rd lap.  I figured with 49.5 miles under me, I could push another 0.5 out before stopping.  I gleefully ran around the loop smiling at everyone.  Spectators that saw me knew I was less than 5 minutes from finishing and so I got a lot of "congrats".  I came around the corner and finally went through the finish chute for the 4th and final time with an overall race and course time of 9:20:05.  I broke my 50 mile PR by 1 hr and 14 minutes....and with a wonky foot.  

Final Time:  9:20:05
Final Place:  7th (6th Men)
Official Results:  RESULTS

Some thoughts:
This race was the first time that I had some major stomach issues.  Most ultra runners at some point deal with nausea and/or stomach issues.  This was the first time where I had some major problems.  About midway through lap 2 I came very near vomiting several times.  Not sure if it was the heat, the food, or the Ensure drinks.  Several times, I considered trying to force the issue....but instead decided to first try my luck at ginger.  I always carry a ginger chew (or two), but always end up giving them to other runners.  This time, It was me that needed them....and they really worked.  I sucked on those things, one after another, and my stomach issues gradually subsided.  Had it not worked, I'm not sure what my next move would have been, but I most certainly would have quit after 50k.

In the next day or two, once the adrenaline wears off and I begin licking my race wounds, I'm sure I'll get a good idea how bad my toe suffered.  During the race, it was completely painless.  I never felt a pang of any kind.  I taped it up really well beforehand, and it really did the trick.  At some point this week, I will also probably suck it up, and finally get the dreaded x-ray.

Overall Comment about the Race and Race Director
I want to personally thank Chris Reynolds for again putting on such a fantastic event.  This race was great in '09, and was even better this year.  I can't say enough about just how much this type of event epitomizes what trail running and the trail running community represent.  The volunteers were amazing, the aid stations, well-stocked, and the post-race festivities spectacular.  So.....thank you Chris, and hopefully I'll see you in Vermont in 2 weeks!

On a side note, I spent some time gawking at the wonderful geology in and around the Watkins Glen area of NY.  The Watkins Glen State Park hike along the gorge is fantastic....I highly recommend it.

Here are some more pics:
After Loop 1, taking a break, mouthful of food

Coming in after Lap 2

Coming in to finish!

Done!  Getting my timing chip removed

The Start

Somewhere early on in Lap 1

Coming down the 2 mile dirt road section (Lap 1)

Waktins Glen Gorge

More from Waktins Glen State Park

Awesome Waterfall alongside Seneca Lake