2011 Xterra 21k Trail – Race Report

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Phew! I didn’t realize I could run that fast.

This was the first race I can remember where I told myself going in, “Go all out & see what happens.” Realistically, if I pushed myself too hard, I could’ve bonked, and had to walk it in. Basically, I was operating under the all-or-nothing principle.

The Start

I started in a lead group with about 10 others. Since there was no chip timing, I really wanted an even start with the best of the best. It would also be nice not to weave through people on the single track. And I figured I would push myself harder if I ran with the leaders.

The Lead Pack

A lead pack of about 12 started to develop. After 4 or 5 minutes, I quickly realized I couldn’t hang with their pace. I was probably doing low 7:00s, but these guys were easily in the 6:00s. And they had it on cruise control.

I tucked myself into the back of that front group, and found a pace I was comfortable with.

The Ruins… didn’t ruin anything

The infamous Myan Ruins came early on (I think to everyone’s liking). If they made us climb those things in the latter part of the race… well, that would just be wrong.

I usually take them very slow, careful not to waste too much energy. I crawled up them pretty quickly, staying in control. 5 seconds of walking was still needed at the top, to quickly regroup.

Buttermilk

I’m no stranger to this part of the course. I’ve run Buttermilk more times than I can count. Some days have gone well. Others… not so much. But I knew the trail, it’s baby hills, turns, roots, rocks, and short but steep descents. I ran hard. I ran well.

The Internal Conversation (aka: Forest Hill Park loops)

Being the first race I’ve ever gone all out, my mind kept playing tricks on me. An internal conversation ensued. Confidence vs. Self-doubt.

Slow down. You’re going too fast.

Keep pushing. You’re faster than you think.

Keep drinking. Don’t get dehydrated. It’s ridiculously humid out here (That last part is 100% true. No bones about it.).

You got this. Legs feel good. No cramping. Keep doing what you’re doing.

For 6 miles, I went back and forth. Luckily, Confidence prevailed.

10k Support

Through Forest Hill, we started to see some of the 10k runners who started 30 minutes after us. They were incredibly supportive. And quite mobile, making every effort to get out of the way so I could pass. Thanks guys.

Rock Hoppin’ River Crossing

I probably lost a little time jumping rocks across the river. I navigated it well, taking the shortest path possible, but I put on the brakes just slightly. I was running a near perfect race so far, and the last thing I needed was to bite it on a slippery rock, or twist an ankle.

I even waited patiently for two 10kers to climb the ladder onto Belle Isle. My old racing self would have climbed the wall, but I’m glad I waited. It provided a brief rest, and it was the gentleman thing to do.

Belle Isle

It’s really more like a small mountain in my opinion, but you can call it what you want. Pretty much a straight shot up to the top, a few hundred yards across, and switchbacks right back down.

As soon as we came down, I knew precisely how far until the finish. And for the first time in a while, I looked down at my watch. 6 minutes left to break 1:40.

It was time to see what I had left in the tank.

Tank. Full.

How, I have no idea. Well, I’m sure adrenaline had something to do with it. And I knew there were no more hills, so it was game on to the finish.

Up the ramp to the footbridge, blinker on, get in the left lane, pedal to the floor. At this point, my breathing sounded like a 200lbs wild animal of some kind. My form might also have mimicked that of a wild animal, although I was trying to keep it together. Sometimes I just get too excited.

Home Stretch

Down the footbridge, onto Tredegar St, pedal still on the floor. I might have eased up just a bit for 10 seconds. I needed to make sure I had something for a sprint finish.

Smiling on the Inside

I had a look of pure anguish on my face. I usually throw my tongue out at this point too. Arms pumping. Lungs working overtime. Eyes squinting. I looked like absolute hell, but I was smiling on the inside.

The Finish

I blasted through the finish in 1:39:29 (a 7:37 pace). On that course, with those hills, and that humidity… very respectable.

12th overall, and actually 3rd in my age group. They gave me a medal. That’s never happened before.

Post-race

I saw a guy I recognized from last week’s 50k. We talked for a while. Real nice guy. From Montana. Going to school in Winchester, VA. Nice to meet you, Rob. Thanks for the conversation.

We stuck around to watch a few more friends finish. I stuffed my face with muffins, and devoured a dozen orange slices. Misting tent. Porta-potty. And lots and lots of deep breaths. Phew! That was awesome.

The Takeaway

I sit here now, 60+ ounces of water later, an ice bath, self-massage, cold shower, protein shake, and just flat out laid down for 30 minutes. And I feel good. Real good.

The human body is an incredible machine. If you treat it right… listen to it… give it what it tells you it needs, when it needs it… it’s capable of some pretty incredible things.

If you don’t believe me, please test it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.

Sloan Canyon trail hike

A beautiful, enlightening hike on the Sloan Canyon Trail near Las Vegas, NV. A few pictures of Sloan Canyon, and a short writeup I titled “The Proverbial Tree.”

While on my recent vacation in Vegas, I had an opportunity to locate a nearby trail and go for a hike. With a camera, 32oz of water, limited sunscreen, no map and a terrible sense of direction, I headed towards the mountains. Little did I know this combination would create such an incredible experience.

I wouldn’t return for almost 3 hours.

If you’ve never been out West, the desert/mountain combination is something you need to see for yourself. And the solitude that came with it on this hike was just what I needed.

In the pictures below, you’ll see what I labeled as “The Proverbial Tree.” Nothing better sums up my hike through Sloan Canyon than the short piece I wrote while on the trail, standing under this tree:

“Whether it was divine intervention or man’s creation, here stood this solitary tree. With a perfect view of the entire canyon, the wind swept through at a constant pace, providing my only break from the desert heat.

On the walk back, I thought I lost my way, but there stood that proverbial tree, once again providing the relief I craved…

Behind me stood the city that never sleeps, yet everything in front of me is so awake, so alive. And I am alive with it.”

Sloan Canyon Pictures

2010 Old Dominion 100 – Race Report

I set out to run 100 miles… and I didn’t even come close. This race marked my first ever DNF. I under-estimated the course & over-estimated my ability. I got completely dominated today. It was a humbling experience, and I gained an enormous about of respect for all the finishers.

If you’re interested in my pre-race interview, you can view it here.

Today I set out to run 100 miles… and I didn’t even come close. This race marked my first ever DNF.

I under-estimated the course & over-estimated my ability. I got completely dominated. It was a humbling experience, and I gained an enormous amount of respect for all the finishers.

Old Dominion Video Recap

Old Dominion Pictures

Update: Ryan finished in 22 hours, 20 minutes, and I waited until 2:30am to see him cross the finish line. Another buddy, Abe Moore, finally got a buckle in his third attempt, finishing in just over 20 hours. He was 4th overall. Great job guys.

Old Dominion 100 Pre-race Interview

A video interview with myself the day before my race at the Old Dominion 100-mile endurance run in Woodstock, VA. I feel anxious, prepared and ready to go.

Just before I head out the door to head up to Woodstock, VA for the Old Dominion 100 this weekend, I interviewed myself. Here is the result.

If you’re looking for the post-race recap, you can read my race report.

2009 JFK 50 Miler – Race Report

This was my 2nd attempt at 50 miles. My goal was under 12 hours because that would qualify me for the Old Dominion 100 in June. I knew I could run it in under 12, but I wasn’t expecting to finish in under 9:40. Photos, video & course description.

Here’s the race report for my 2009 JFK 50-miler experience. Includes a written report & photos.

Jump to: JFK Photos •  JFK Course

JFK 50 Written Report

This was my first official 50-miler. I attempted an unofficial 50-miler at The North Face Endurance Challenge in 2008 during Tropical Storm Hanna, but quit at 40 miles.

I ran much faster than I had planned. About a year ago, I ran 50 miles in the 12 Hours of Momentum race in Goochland, VA in 11:45. I finished JFK in 9:38, shaving over 2 hours off my previous 50-mile time.

Shout outs: My parents, for driving down from Jersey to be my support crew. They had no idea what they were getting into. My buddy Ryan, who ran JFK last year, helped me with the course, and we ran the first 2 miles together. Then he took off because he’s much faster than I am.

The JFK 50-miler Course

The first 4-5 miles of the JFK course were all on road. We were climbing the mountain to get to the trail head. I walked a good portion of this section to save energy for later in the race.

Then we ran along the Appalachian Trail from ~miles 5-9. Mile 9 was the first big aid station. Some random spectator was giving out free hugs. I gladly accepted.

The Appalachian Trail continued until ~mile 16. This is where the trail (and some of the fun) ended. I love trails, and from this point on, I would see no more.

At mile 16 we got on the C&O Canal Towpath — aka, the longest, straightest, most boring crushed gravel road on the East Coast.

There was a stray dog that ran at least 10 miles with us. No one knew who he belonged to, until finally a runner offered to put him on a leash and take him to the next aid station, where his owner was supposedly waiting for him. This dog would have won the race if no one had stopped him.

At mile 25 I met a guy named Sean. He’s in the Marine Corps. We ran, talked & walked the next 6-7 miles together. It was great timing. We both needed someone to talk to at this point in the race.

My favorite part about the JFK 50-miler

Mile 34. Aid Station. The North Pole. It was classic. High schoolers dressed up as Elves. Candy canes & gumdrops for fuel. And of course, Santa. I didn’t sit on his lap, but I did get a picture with him.

Nearing the end

Mile 46. I saw my parents for the last time before the finish. I had an outside shot at breaking 9:30, and I think I pushed a little too hard, too soon. I ended up walking a good portion of the last 2-3 miles… and it hurt.

But I found it in me to sprint — as I typically do — the last hundred yards or so.

After The Race

I drove to Baltimore later that night, met up with a friend for a Thanksgiving feast, and went rock climbing Sunday morning. On Monday, my forearms were more sore than my legs were.

JFK 50-miler Photos

My Results

9:38:51 – a PR
313/1013 – overall
43/93 – M20-29

JFK 50-miler Video Report

2009 Triple Lakes Marathon – Race Report

A small, trail marathon in Greensboro, NC, the Triple Lakes Trail Race has 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon & relay options. All distances come fully equipped with tree roots. Be prepared to bite it.

Be prepared to bite it

Get ready to do some root jumpin’. If you plan on running this race, you better watch your step. One quick glimpse at the lake and you’ll end up face first in the dirt. Trust me. I did… twice.

There are 186,394 roots. Precisely. I counted.

2 interesting guys at the start

For what it’s worth, I don’t like Greensboro’s road system. I can’t figure it out. So I consider myself lucky to have just made it to the start. I’m glad I did. I met 2 interesting guys before the race.

Abran saw my G.E.E.R. shirt from the 50k I ran last week. He was there too (he did the 100k). Today he was doing the 40-miler. This guy is a machine. He ran the first few miles of the Old Dominion 100 with a buddy of mine, Ryan Foster, who I paced during the very same race from mile 75-86. Abe is also quite fast. He finished in the top 5 or so of this race, and the race last weekend. I’m sure I’ll run into him again.

I also spoke with a man from Indiana. He’s trying to run a marathon in all 50 states. He’s currently at 22. I didn’t catch his name, but wished him luck.

The race began

I started slow, as usual. The first 2 miles were on road. As we approached the single track, I felt the need to speed up. I wanted to get in front of some of these folks so I didn’t feel held up by them once we were on the trail. I was probably running about an 8:45 pace. No way I would keep that up, but it felt good at the time, so I went with it.

I looked at my watch at mile 7… 1:00. OK. Wow. Not bad. Mile 10… 1:23. I’m really not this fast.

Some conversation

I ran with Susan from Charlotte and David the adventure racer for a mile or two. We talked running and adventure racing, mostly. Very nice people. I decided to continue my surprisingly quick pace, and ran ahead.

Miles 16 and 17 brought about a few more hills than the first half of the course. Not a good sign for my legs. At mile 18 I ate dirt for the 2nd time. This was my legs way of saying, “Dude, slow down. We’re tired.” Well, I didn’t listen, and hit mile 20 right at 3:00. I was on pace for a sub-4 marathon, and at that very moment, I made that my goal.

Hitting the wall

Seconds later, my legs got really upset, and turned into jello. 4 hours was going to be tough. The last 10k was a 50/50 mix of running & walking, but I pushed through as best I could. Just missed my goal: 4:01:31. Still 18 minutes better than my only other marathon (which was completely flat, and 100% on roads). This was a huge improvement.

Oh, and both Susan & David (whom I had passed earlier) went on to finish before me. Nice race, guys.

Description of the course

A moderate trail course, with many 20-30 ft. uphill/downhill spurts. No long ascents or descents. Much of the course is pretty flat. But there are roots everywhere. The roots are without a doubt the most challenging aspect of the course. Almost the entire course is covered by trees so the sun is not a factor. Aid stations are positioned well. People are friendly. And it’s a small race. 200-300 total people between the 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon and relay.

Looking forward

Next weekend I’m running the Baltimore Marathon (thanks to the generous hospitality of my friend Summer, who is putting me up for the weekend… for the 3rd year in a row). I wasn’t sure how my legs would handle the first 2 races of my 3 weekend stretch. But since they performed well, it’s only fitting to test them one last time.

My goal for Baltimore is 3:50. If I can run a trail marathon in 4:01, I should be able to do a road marathon in 3:50. Cut out the wrong turns, the falls, and the lengthy stops to refill at the aid stations, and I should be able to do it. That’s an 8:46/mi pace.

Hopefully I can treat myself to a marathon PR, and then 5 weeks off before the 50-miler at JFK.

The result

4:01:31
27/110 – overall
6/19 – M20-29

2009 Bad to the Bone 50k – Race Report

The Bad to the Bone 50k has 8,800 ft. of elevation gain through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It’s a challenging course, but offers some pristine views of the moutainside. One of the most enjoyable races I’ve done so far.

A true ultra

Right from the beginning, this felt like a true ultra. I spent the night in a friend’s condo at Wintergreen Resort (thanks to the Cushnie’s). I woke up at 4:15am to buckets’o’fog. Visibility was zero. A chilly morning, in the low 50s, but great running weather. Overcast. Forecast called for rain later in the day.

Going vertical right from the start

I arrived at check-in, got everything ready to go, and last minute decided to ditch the jacket. I was hoping I’d warm up as soon as I started running. After a 1-mile warmup on the entrance road, we climbed a 2-mile section, straight up, on fairly rough terrain. The 8,800 ft. of elevation gain this race advertised… it was no joke. And it started right away.

Road runner turned trail runner

A half hour in, I witnessed a conversion: road runner to trail runner. I heard a man behind me say, “Wow! This is beautiful. I’m never running another road race again.” Sir, welcome to the club. We’re thrilled to have you.

Ridiculous up-and-down

About 10 miles in, we descended this dirt mountain road… for 4.5 miles. At the bottom, we turned around and ran straight back up. Correction: we walked back up. No hill work can prepare you for something like this. It was ridiculously awesome. I must have passed at least a dozen people with my patented power hike.

We ran along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a mile or two before heading back onto the trails. Stopped at a few more aid stations. I met a nice couple from Illinois. We ascended Bald Mountain, reached 3,500 ft., and I turned around and ran straight back down toward the finish. I ran almost the entire last 5 miles (which is unusual for me), but that’s just how fresh I felt. It just started to rain too, but at that point, it wasn’t a factor.

One of my favorites

This was one of the best races I’ve done, in terms of both performance & fun. I’m looking forward to doing more trail ultras, especially difficult ones with technical terrain & lots of ups and downs.

Course description

It’s challenging. Compared to other 50ks out there, the 8,800 ft. of elevation gain is amongst the most I’ve seen. There are a few 1-2 mile stretches of pretty technical terrain, most of which are on ascents & descents. A majority of the race is on dirt single track, with 5-6 miles on paved road, and ~9 miles on dirt road. There are several beautiful views from the mountainside (if the fog dies down).

What I Learned

  • 8,800 ft. of elevation gain in a 50k is no joke. It’s also a lot of fun.
  • I’ll always get passed on the flat, road sections.
  • I’m slow. And will probably always be slow. (see previous bullet)
  • I love uphills & downhills, basically all the more difficult sections. They’re just more fun.
  • Running downhill on rocky terrain is awesome. Short, quick steps, almost hopping from rock to rock, hips turned one way, then the other, focusing on every step, letting gravity do the work. Ah, it’s paradise.
  • The longer the race, the better I place.
  • Mountains are a) beautiful  b) humbling  c) a bit scary at times  d) my second home

The result

6:24:35
23/82 – overall

2009 Xterra Xduro 21k – Race Report

A challenging course around the James River in Richmond, VA. This race has a few unique elements: stairs, storm drains and the Mayan Ruins. Not to mention some ridiculous humidity. It’s a fun race, but for me, it was a relaxing 13 miles in preparation for 8 more later in the day.

Xterra hosts a series of off-road events all over the country. They come to Richmond once or twice a year to host a few trail runs on Saturday, followed by off-road triathlons on Sunday.

Course description

This is not your ordinary 21k (~13 miles). You run up and down 30+ stairs 3 times. You climb the Mayan Ruins. You run through a sewer drain… twice. And you have to navigate the extremely hilly, confusingly curvy switchbacks of Forrest Hill Park. This course is sure to challenge even the most conditioned endurance trail runner.

My approach

This was the first race I could remember where I didn’t push myself to compete. I didn’t care who I beat or where I finished. My goal was to get the mileage in, keep my heart rate low, and be smart up and down the hills. A year from now I’ll be running a 100 miler through much more severe elevation, so I better start practicing now.

Back of the pack

I really enjoyed running in the back of the pack. I talked with a few nice people along the way, and even went out of my way to pick up a beer bottle on the ground and throw it out.

I’d say my strategy worked well. By far my worst finish all year in any race… but I had enough gas to run another 8 tonight… and I felt great.

21 total miles for the day.

The result

2:22:04
148/177 – overall
22/24 – age group