Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Here We Come!

Lizzy and I add the latest to our "Dan Preparing to Run while on Vacation" collection. This past week we were up at my parents' house on Cape Cod for Christmas festivities!

With the last strides of 2009 heading into the sunset, I'm anxiously awaiting the fun that the New Year will have in store! I learned a lot this past year in terms of dealing w/ a major injury and realizing that having fun out there is way more important to me than any results. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not going to shoot for some solid performances in just means I might also still spend a few minutes on the trail at mile 90 trying to catch a bunny rabbit w/ my bare hands (I totally would have had it too if I was, like, 1 second faster!).

 I'm looking forward to some hard work this winter/spring while I properly ramp up for the big race in France, and later on in the summer I'll be switching gears and getting back to the mountain trails for training while I gear up for my Vermont Long Trail record attempt. All in all, it should be a tremendously fun and adventurous year...I can't wait!

In the mean time, it's back to the training...we all know this scene (except for you runners in FL, CA, etc...we hate you!). Happy New Year to Everyone! See you all in 2010!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Early X-mas Gift - New Sponsor!

Looks like Christmas came a little early for me this year! I'm proud to announce the good folks at Hammer Nutrition have offered me a contract for 2010 which I've happily signed!  As those of you who read my blog know, I swear by Hammer Gel and Perpetuem as my sole fuel source in all my races. To be quite honest, if it came down to another fuel company offering me their products for free, I would still rather pay full price for Hammer fuel instead. How lucky for me that Hammer has a little faith in me as well!  I look forward to a great partnership in 2010 and beyond! Merry Christmas, indeed!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K Race Report!

OK, so maybe all 195 people signed up for the 14th Annual Christmas-themed 50K put on by the VHTRC weren't exactly there to "race", but it was a fun group run nevertheless...Here's my recap!

First off, it was COLD here on Saturday morning. So cold, in fact, that I had to run from my car to the check-in lodge to stay warm before the start...walking those couple-hundred feet was not an option. Sure, maybe I've grown soft since moving down to DC from Boston a few years back, but whatever the reason, I was not a happy camper out there before the start!

It looked like the cold convinced about 1/3 of the runners to stay home on this morning, but the rest of us were stupid enough to show up and pose for the group picture just before the 8am start. Here's the far right side of the group (with me in my holiday colors). More wore similarly festive garb, but at the start it was all buried under layers of coats and pants (Quatro Hubbard Photo):

 The crazy SOB in shorts w/ his hands on his knees is RD Joe Clapper. I honestly have no clue how he (and a couple other guys) ran in shorts at the start. I think if I tried to do that my legs would shatter like glass on the first downhill.

Once we started, my plan to just hang back with the masses was quickly replaced by the need to run a little quicker to stay warm. Once I got up to the front group, I settled in w/ a nice comfortable pace and eventually started generating some body heat after 3 or 4 miles.  The beauty of the MGM 50K is the course is not if you don't know the Bull Run Run 50 mile course (MGM is the southern 50K of that course), you need to stick with someone who does or risk ending up hopelessly lost in a maze of intersecting trails on the southern end. I personally have no clue how to follow the course on the infamous 3 mile "Do Loop" at the southern tip. Neither did the other 3 guys I was with at the front when we reached the start of the loop at about mile 13.  Did that stop us from just heading into the labyrinth and hoping for the best? Of course not.

I should mention the Aid Station prior to the loop had all this lovely fuel, and an extra little treat from Gary K. hung from a tree next to it (Q. Hubbard and Doug Sullivan photos):
Please note the level of that tasty bourbon prior to our Do-Loop adventure. 

Three of us were willing to hang back for a few minutes and wait for the group behind us (which we knew contained a certified Do-Loop Sherpa), but the other guy in our group decided to just head on out and take his chances w/ the loop. Not wanting to fall behind, the rest of us were convinced to be just as dumb and headed right behind our newly anointed Pseudo-Sherpa. The loop started off familiarly enough to me (I've run it once before when fully marked and recall a few sections)...we headed mostly downhill toward the water...then veered left-ish...and then, well, we had no clue where we were. Orange-Blazed trails intersected with Red and Blue and Yellow...our self-anointed Sherpa was completely lost, and when I ended up losing a shoe while trying to ford a muddy river, I couldn't help but yell "Hey Sherpa, you suck!". I sensed a mutiny coming very soon...

Once I dug my shoe out from the mud, dumped it out, and caught back up to the others, we noticed we lost one of our group. He must have turned around at the river and headed back to the Aid Station. He was a wise man. What followed for we 3 Stooges was a random bush-whack for about a 1/2 mile searching for...well, I'm not really sure. Our Sherpa seemed to just be walking aimlessly over the hills asking if we saw anything. I was about 30 seconds from turning around and heading back when we finally popped out on a marked trail. Sherpa seemed fairly confident that we should go right, so off we went. I was still pretty sure we were still lost, but a few minutes later we passed the happiest landmark ever: the old rusted-out Nash Rambler...I remembered that from Bull Run...we were miraculously back on course!

Shortly after that our Sherpa was released of his duties when we heard the chase pack just behind us and happily waited to join their group. Once we were guided safely back to the main drag leading back to the Aid Station, Will (who was part of the 3 Stooges w/ me and the Sherpa) and I took the lead again and made our way back to civilization. Will didn't bother stopping at the Aid Station when we got back there, but after that Do-Loop experience, I felt the need to take a little dose of the "medicine" to calm my nerves. You'll note the level of the bottle now...a lot of wise people took a shot even before heading into the Loop themselves:

With Will long gone at that point, I was happy to just cruise it on home. I always enjoy running the Bull Run trail quite a bit, so I took my time enjoying the bright sunny day (it was even in the high 30s at this point too!). A few miles down the trail a young guy caught up to me and we chatted for a bit. He was running with much more of a purpose than me, so I let him go and continued to enjoy my easy pace. With about 6 or 7 miles to go I ran into my friend Tammy heading down the trail toward me. She had gotten a late start on the race and was chasing down the rest of the group. She also just finished running a double marathon out in Vegas/Death Valley last weekend, but did that slow her down? Nah, she was happily jogging down the trail when I came upon her. She's one tough cookie!

After seeing Tammy I was pretty much on my own the rest of the way. I kept the pace easy aside for the rocky stretch along the river in the last 2 miles. I always love running this section as fast as possible to work on my "light feet" technique (it's really a jagged rock-strewn mess, so "fast" is a relative term here). I had a blast on this stretch, as always, and as I made my way up the final climb to the finish I caught up with the young guy who passed me 12 miles back. Just like my finish at Bull Run earlier this year, we brought it in together and crossed the line in a tie for 2nd at 5:02. Definitely the slowest 50K I've ever run, but with all the Do-Loop fun, I was more than happy to just be back at my car! Fellow Stooge Will ran a great second half and finished about 15 minutes ahead of us for the win. Big congrats go out to all the finishers who were brave enough to tough-out the weather at the start...and a big Thanks goes out to Joe Clapper and his gang of volunteers who helped make this race such a blast!

On a personal note: This race marked the official beginning of my training for 2010. The previous three weeks were just easy 50 mile maintenance weeks to give my legs a nice break, but now the regular long runs are coming back and the weekly mileage will double. I'm excited to put together a solid stretch of training this winter and emerge from the season ready to run with some real purpose in France!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Annual "Stuff I Like" List!

Yes indeedy, once again it's time to recap the Year in Gear.  Here's the stuff I used this year and feel confident recommending to everyone...and no, none of these companies are paying me to plug them...I just like their stuff!

After wearing mostly Brooks the past couple years, I ran a bunch of miles in some other brands this past year as well. With the world's supply of clearance Brooks Glycerin 6s in my size pretty much tapped out, I needed to move on from my 2008 shoe crush and find a new love. For my first new shoe date, I wore a pair of Vasque Aether Tech SSs during the Bull Run Run 50. They're not bad for 50 milers like this one on moderate trails, but I wouldn't recommend them for a 100 miler or anything with super gnarly terrain (The uppers tear easily and the boa lacing system pops itself out every now and again on rough stuff)....but for a 50-mile or less speedy trail race, they're actually quite an enjoyable (and light!) shoe to run in.

Later in the year I hopped back on the Saucony bandwagon after a few years away and ran 200+ trail miles in the original Xodus (newer version linked here) before the heel cup failed on me and ripped up my foot during The Ring. I liked this shoe a lot, and I assume my heel-cup issue was a freak thing. I'll probably pick up another pair for my 2010 trail races. Needing a new trail shoe with my Xoduses (Xodi?) out of commission, I picked up a cheap pair of the Saucony Grid Excursion 4s for $53 the week before my Horse-Shoe Trail adventure and they worked out pretty well. I know I complained about their friction heat on the roads, but I should probably realize they only started to bother me on the roads after 110 miles of running in that adventure. For anyone looking to run 100 or less on a course that demands a hybrid shoe, this is actually a great affordable option.

Finally, I'm happy to report I logged all of my road miles in the second half of the year (including my 139+ miles at the NorthCoast24) in the discontinued Saucony ProGrid Ride 1. I have a couple pairs left that I'll rack up a few hundred more miles on this winter before I need to find a replacement as my go-to road shoe. The ProGrid Ride 2 version is out now, and I figure by the time February rolls around and I run out of my stock of 1s, the 2s will be on clearance to make way for the 3rd generation. Not bad timing!

As always, no matter the shoe I'm running in, I always get them online at Holabird Sports. No, they don't pay me or give me any discounts (beyond what they offer everyone on their website), but shipping is always free over $65 (and I usually buy 2 or 3 pairs at a time, so that's not a problem), and they even offer discounts on brand-new shoes too. I highly recommend.

Drymax, that's all you need to know. I've been wearing them for about 18 months now and haven't had a single blister. I pretty much stick to the Maximum Protection versions (with the hot weather versions being great in the summer), and to give you an idea of how well they're made, it took about 1,500 miles per pair before they started to show any wear (and it was on the back of the ankle and not the bottoms!). Simply put, these socks kick ass and are made by Kick Ass people. I couldn't possibly recommend them more. *Disclaimer: They do give me free socks, but I would still pay for them if I had to.

Hydration Pack:
Here's the deal. Nathan's HPL20 pack itself fits great and pretty much has all the pockets and features you need to run a 100+ miles happy. The problem is, their hydration bladder is a total piece of crap. Mine started leaking within the first couple weeks of using it. When I checked for similar issues from others online, I found dozens of other who were dealt the same crappy hand by Nathan's shoddy work. To make things worse, they never bothered to respond to my requests for a replacement bladder online or by phone. Boo to you, Nathan. You're totally off my Christmas list.

I ended up replacing the defective bladder with a great 70oz Camelbak that fits and works great. I highly recommend all Camelbak bladders for their sturdiness and technological advancements (internal support structure, much more flexible hose, etc).

I tried out a lot of new stuff this year, and wouldn't you know I ended up right back where I started. This isn't a bad thing since I always run great on S-Caps and Hammer Gel and Perpetuem, but all sorts of fancy new products continually trick me into thinking there's something even better for me out there. You know what I realize after trying all of these "magic bullets" over the past couple years? What makes me a better runner is working harder (and smarter) in training, and running my races with a smart pacing plan. There are no short-cuts in ultra running. My S-Cap and Hammer combo plan keeps my stomach happy, so I'll stick with that in the future and trust in hard work to make me better.

Other Gear:
You know what else kicks ass? The Black Diamond Icon headlamp, Oxysox Compression socks for lower legs (cut off the feet and put your Drymax there!), BodyGlide, Ultragen and Endurox for recovery, Proline Sports Nutrition for great deals on supplements (look for promo code discounts), the Gregory Miwok pack for self-supported mountain trips!, POM juice (drink it straight up if you're tough, or check out their site for great recipies!), these Sennheiser headphones (awesome for running!), this awesome winter hat from Under Armour, CW-X Tights (love the 3/4s for cold days/night runs), and Dirty Girl gaiters!

I'm always looking for new stuff, so let me know if there's any gear you swear by too!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Congrats Chris Roman!

Just like 1300 or so other folks, the Western States 100 lottery didn't pan out for me today...but it's not all bad news as my friend Chris Roman was one of the lucky ones to get in!! Congrats buddy!!

Chris and his wife are truly special members of the ultra-running community as they have joined forces to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation through their running exploits. CAF was started by Jim MacLaren, an extremely talented runner and triathlete who I was lucky enough to meet in San Diego a couple years ago.  Jim suffered a horrible accident in the 1980s that left him as a double amputee, and even more tragically, a few years later while completing once again in the IronMan triathlon in Kona he was struck by a vehicle on the bike portion of the race and left paralyzed.  The CAF helps all levels of disadvantaged athletes achieve their goals in the sporting world by providing the necessary prosthetics, wheelchairs, etc to get them back in action. On December 20 Chris will be running a double Jacksonville marathon in his latest effort to support CAF. You can click here to support this worthy cause.

....and hey, as Mr. Roman's selection into the Western States 100 proves, a little karma never hurts!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Exciting Saturday

Who says December is the "off-season" for ultra running? Tomorrow is quite the big day for many 50 mile speedsters and Western States hopefulls (not to mention the day Nebraska and Texas play for the Big 12 Championship - Go Big Red!!).  Even though the NorthFace 50 Mile Championship is 6 months apart and half the distance of the Western States 100 miler, they're two of the closest-linked ultra races in my mind.

The common bond between these two races, as I see it, is the Almighty $Dollar. Not a whole lot of prize money exists in the ultra world, so the NorthFace 50 miler series (now finishing up its 3rd year) really stands out as a big attraction for speedsters of that distance ($10,000 goes to the winner of the Championship held tomorrow in San Fransisco). As always there will be a deep and insanely talented field lining up tomorrow, and the race for the cash can be followed here.

Western States might not have any prize money, but considering it has the highest entry fee of any 100 miler (and tons of sponsorship connections), I consider it a big $$ race too. With it being the oldest (and most popular) 100 miler in the country, the desire to line up in Squaw Valley every year is shared by WAY more folks than can actually be accepted into the race. The big excitement tomorrow will be the live lottery to see which of the 1,500+ applicants get selected (about 1 in 5 will get in). Since I'm a guy who prefers to spend my money on things other than huge race fees, I've never had much interest in running Western States, but I figured what the hell this year and threw my name into the lottery for fun (at least that part is free!). The big reason for me throwing my name in the hat is that while I don't like all the fees, I do have a tremendous respect for Tradition. Having run Boston a couple times, I know first-hand what it feels like to run in the steps of so many legends, and I know doing the same at Western States one time will feel just as cool. Anyway, the lottery kicks off tomorrow at Noon EST and can be followed here.  I know I won't be the only one following along!

As for my personal running news, I very much enjoyed taking 10 days off following the Horse-Shoe Trail adventure and am back in the swing of things as I ramp up for an exciting first few months of 2010. I'll join up w/ about 200 fellow VHTRC-ers next Saturday for the annual holiday-themed 50K on the Bull Run course known as the Magnus Gluteus Maximus run. You don't have to be a Latin scholar to know this is a Big Fat Ass run! I'm looking forward to hanging back in the pack and enjoying an easy run w/ friends to help ring in the Holidays!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time to Give Thanks!

With Thanksgiving upon us this week, I figured it to be an appropriate time to look back at my races this year and give Thanks. While I'm obviously indebted to all volunteers and crew who work every race, I've picked one moment from each race that particularly made a difference for me that day. As we all know, sometimes it's the little things that help put a smile on your face and a spring back in your step during an ultra!

April 18 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler:  I went into this race under-trained w/ my shin injury and had every intention of taking it slow and easy all day. Stupidly enough, I caught the racing bug a few miles in and decided to push a little harder than planned. Naturally, this led me to feeling pretty run down way before the finish, and w/ about 5 miles to go I was starting to wilt in the heat. This is where I met Tammy Massie working at the Marina aid station. She was super-friendly and mentioned that she had ice for my camelback if I wanted it (YES!!). Definitely a life-saver for me at that point....and as luck would have it, I ended up being in VT a few months later to return the favor by helping to pace Tammy to a triumphant VT100 finish. I'm so thankful to be part of a small (if not somewhat crazy) community of people who have the opportunity and desire to help each other out like this!

August 8 - Viaduct Trail 100 Miler: Naturally I have to thank everyone involved in organizing/volunteering for a Fat Ass race like this one, but a special thanks goes out to fellow runner Gary Ferguson who I first met while chatting at the camping area the night before the race. We passed each other during the race a few times (it was an out-and-back course), and at one point he was within ear-shot to hear me use one of my "motivational techniques" I employ when feeling tired: Basically I just let out a primal scream to snap out of whatever funk I'm in and generate a little adrenaline flow to help get my legs moving. After hearing it the first time (and apparently getting a kick out of it), the next couple times he saw me coming toward him in the night he would say "Alright Dan, let me hear another scream!!!". Since I was wildly under-trained for this 100 miler, my wiped-out legs really benefited from the boost I got each time I saw Gary and he made his request. I definitely finished an hour or two faster because of him...Thanks, Gary!!

August  30 - Cheat Mountain 50 Miler: If you've read my race report for this one, you know I ran in the dark for a bunch of miles because my headlamp died about 13 miles into this run. The only reason I was able to finish the race is because of the Aid Station Angels at mile 23 (Bill Potts and another great guy whose name I didn't get) digging through their cars for AA batteries for me. I can't possibly thank these guys enough. But another just-as-important note of thanks goes out to a fellow runner (also didn't get his name) who was among the many who passed me on the trail when my light was fading fast. Here's the amazing thing about this guy: For a couple miles after he passed me, he would stop after running a particularly nasty section of trail and wait for me to catch up while shining his light back on the trail behind him so I could see. This great guy saved me from more than a couple falls and helped me get across a couple slippery river crossings unscathed. Once we were on safer terrain he went on with his race knowing I was OK. Talk about a great guy, Thank You!!!

September 5 - The Ring:  Again, another Fat Ass where I couldn't possibly thank all the VHTRC volunteers enough for all they did organizing this run. With my shoe ripping up my heel early on, I never would have made it passed mile 25 without the volunteers driving my drop bag to the aid stations w/ my change of shoes. After nearly passing out in the next section, the only reason I was able to continue past mile 35 was because the volunteers at Crisman Hollow had a tent to get me out of the hot sun and a chair for me to collapse in while I recovered. After 45 minutes there, I was a new man and finished the run in style. Without everyone helping out in this race, I would not have been able to get in all these great training miles for the NorthCoast 24, and I can't possibly thank everyone there enough for helping me get in proper shape for that race!!

October 3 - NorthCoast 24/National Championship: Obviously a million thanks go out to everyone who helped me in this race, but I remember one moment in particular giving me a big boost in the wee hours of the night when things were slowing down. Somewhere around 4am my iPod started playing Shakira's "She Wolf" as I made my way around the loop. It's a silly song w/ a good beat to run to (if you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about). When I passed Elizabeth the next time I sang out the line "There's a She Wolf in the closet", and without missing a beat she howled back "Ah-ooooh!!!". Not only did it give me a smile as I ran by, it also reminded me that even though some runners were feeling the pressure and yelling out demands to their crew as the race went on, the reason I enjoy running these things is to have fun. ...and the more I smile and enjoy myself during races, the better I run. So a big Thanks goes out to my beautiful wife, not only for her hard work in crewing, but for being just as silly as me even in "serious" race moments!

November 7 - Horse-Shoe Trail: Again, a huge thanks to Malia her family for making the last 15 miles so much fun. Also, a tip of the cap to my friends over at the Prezel Hut for their generous hospitality. The special moment I'm thankful for in this run, however, needs a little back-story first: My nightly running route here in DC includes a loop around Hains Point (a peninsula that sticks out into the Potomac). It is typically very quiet out there at night as I make my way around the 3+ mile peripheral road. The one bit of company I can usually count on comes from a family of foxes who live on the golf course in the middle of the peninsula. For the first couple years I would only see the same fox (I named her "Foxy Fox") just about every night as she made her way through hole in the golf course fence to search for dinner by the riverside. In the past year or so I've met "Mr. Fox" and a couple cubs as well. At this point Foxy Fox is pretty much bored with seeing me run by and occasionally doesn't even bother to sneak under the fence for "safety" as I pass...She'll just jog a across the road and give me a "Oh, it's you again" look before continuing her hunt for mice. Mr. Fox, on the other hand, is still pretty afraid of me and bolts into the golf-course whenever he sees me coming. One night this summer I had the pleasure of running past the cubs while they were playing on the other side of the fence. They were chasing each other around in circles and barking up a storm...I didn't even know foxes could bark (yes, it was adorable). Anyway, the point of this back-story is I like foxes and associate them closely w/ my running since they're out there every night with me during training.

Getting back to the Horse-Shoe Trail run, somewhere around midnight the trail brought me into a power-line clearing. I had a tough time finding the next blaze (didn't know if it went up the powerline trail or crossed over somewhere). After struggling for about 20 minutes to find the correct route, I yelled out a frustrated "C'mon!" as I was fresh out of ideas on where to go. Just as I yelled out, I heard some scurrying through the leaves on the opposite side of the power lines. I shined my light over just in time to see a pair of foxes disappear into the woods. As luck would have it, when I looked up from the spot where they entered the woods, I saw the next yellow blaze on the tree directly above where they ran! I guess I have some fox friends in PA too...Thanks for showing me the way, Foxes!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Horse-Shoe Trail - Speed Record Report

This past weekend I ran the 142 mile Horse-Shoe Trail across southeastern Pennsylvania with the intention of establishing an all-time speed record for completing the trail. I completed this run in Self-Supported fashion (carrying all my supplies in a 20-pound pack, but also stopping at two mini-marts and a restaurant along the way for some extra food). After all my research and investigating, I wasn't able to uncover any existing record of someone previously running the trail with the intention of doing it as quickly as possible. I don't doubt that many have covered the entire distance in the past (the trail is 74 years old, after all), but the only reports/stories I found involved people camping over a few nights along the way or running the trail in sections over the course of many weeks/months. I will readily admit I am not an expert on the history of the trail (heck, I didn't even know it existed until two weeks ago), so if anyone reading this knows of past attempts, I'd love to read about them and will properly honor their finishing time if it was faster than mine. That said, having just finished the trail under pretty ideal conditions, I feel my time of 32 hours, 43 minutes, 14 seconds is pretty solid time, even with a few navigational issues (and all the extra miles of running to correct them!). I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed a run over such a unique and beautiful trail, and I am happy to offer any advice to those attempting a run of their own on the trail in the future.

OK, with the official statements and disclaimers out of the way, let's get to the report!

The back-story behind this run is pretty short and simple: After the National Championships in Cleveland last month, I knew I wanted to do one more 100+ mile run this year, but the schedule of established races didn't leave a lot of options that worked for me. With my sights set on a Vermont Long Trail speed record attempt next year, I figure it would be smart to start the research now with a shorter trail run (VT is 273 miles) to iron out some of the details (gear, pacing, etc.) . My first instinct was to run the Mason-Dixon Trail since it's relatively close to DC and I could do it in a self-supported fashion. When I contacted Paul Meltzer, the current M-DT speed record holder, our conversation eventually led to him introducing me to the Horse-Shoe Trail.  With similar self-supporting capabilities on this trail (enough rivers for water and a couple passes through small towns for other supplies if needed), I decided to give it a go. With the weather getting colder in the Northeast, I figured I should plan my run as soon as just like that, two weeks later, I was headed up to PA to run the Horse-Shoe Trail!

Elizabeth and I drove up to Harrisburg, PA after work on Friday night. The hotel clerk at the Wyndham was nice enough to upgrade us to a suite for no reason at all. She was very nice, and if I didn't have a 4 a.m. wake-up call the next morning, I'm sure I would have appreciated it even more. After a short but satisfying night's sleep, we were up and on our way.

It was cold (about 30 degrees) and clear when we reached the Appalachian Trail head about  20 miles north of Harrisburg in Dauphin County just after 5 a.m.. After a quick photo at the trail head, I gave Lizzy a kiss and said I'd see her in Valley Forge!

Since the Horse-Shoe Trail starts at the top of a mountain, I had to first run up about 3.2 miles of the AT to get to the start. I had planned on just walking slowly up the AT to conserve my energy for the actual timed run on the H-S trail, but it was so cold I had to run right away to generate some body heat. As soon as I started running up the mountain I realized there would be two constants over my journey:

1) There would be a blanket of fallen leaves covering the trail the whole way.

2) Underneath those leaves would be 9 billion ankle-twisting rocks.

Oddly enough, possibly because I knew I had to focus on keeping my feet light when moving through the really rocky sections, I didn't fall a single time over the entire 142 miles. That might be what I'm most proud of from this entire adventure!

Once atop the mountain, I took my photo at the "End" marker of the Horse-Shoe Trail (I ran it West-to-East, but the course description is written for E-to-W). With a deep breath and a beep of my stopwatch, I then started down the backside of the mountain and was officially on my way.

The first 20 miles or so brought me through some remote stretches of land between (and over) ridges just northeast of Harrisburg. As I moved through the darkness, sloshing loudly through the sea of leaves, I startled quite a few deer along the trail...and let me tell you, these were some of the biggest deer I've ever seen. They looked more like Clydesdale horses wearing deer costumes for Halloween.

About 12 miles into the trail I came upon two hunters who I'm sure were not too happy to hear me bombing down the trail behind them. I felt bad about making so much noise, but the all the leaves made every step louder than Liberace's wardrobe...there wasn't much I could do but apologize and move through quickly.

 The sun rises as I march through the frosty grass on the first morning

After finishing this remote section and popping out on a road crossing, I had my first issue w/ trail markings. I ran a mile down the road in the direction I assumed was correct, but I didn't see any trail markings. So then I ran a mile back to where I came out of the woods and then ran another mile up the road in the other direction searching for the yellow blazes that mark the trail. Still no luck. I made my way back to the trail again (that's 4 extra miles run here, if you're keeping track). Finally I cracked out my compass and ran back in the direction I first went. The street I was looking for was about 1.5 miles down the road, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was back on track.

The reason for my confusion was one of the land owners in the area probably wasn't too happy w/ the trail passing through his backyard and blacked out some of the yellow blazes. I saw some of this in various sections over the course of the trail, but for the most part new yellow blazes have been put up to re-route the trail. Anyway, in this case I didn't see a blaze to turn left just before coming out of the woods, so I just stayed straight on the suddenly incorrect trail and hit the road a little early. Sure, it took 4+ miles to correct this tiny .1 mile error, but I was so happy to be back on track I got over it quickly.

**My advice to anyone planning on running this trail: While 95% of the trail is well-marked, the official maps are hand-drawn and wildly out-of-date in terms of re-routed sections and new road developments. They don't show any crossing trails (and trust me, there are many), and they list only a small percentage of cross streets. If you lose the trail at all, it can be tremendously difficult to find it again. You'll be OK if you carry a compass, the guide book (which has a trail update sheet included in it every year), and the creativity to invent hundreds of new curse words while you wander helplessly up and down the trails and country roads. That last part is very important for your sanity: If you just end up using the same swears over and over, you'll just bore yourself. Trust me, I speak from experience.

As I made my way over the next section of country roads, I quickly realized that the state of Pennsylvania has the most crowned streets I've ever seen. With no shoulder or sidewalk on most of the roads, I was forced to run on the ankle-bending slopes for way too many miles. I did my best to switch sides every so often to even out the damage, but my ankles took one heck of a beating no matter what I did. Right around mile 25 the dull-but-manageable pain that had slowly developed on the outside of my right ankle was accompanied by a sharp and wince-inducing pain on the inside as well. This pain was legit, and every 20 steps or so it would stab at me. I was almost certain I'd need to end my run and call for Elizabeth to pick me up about 117 miles early, but I figured I might as well continue to the next town which was about 3 miles ahead and see how things felt then.

This town also marked my first Mini-Mart stop, and between all of the excitement of buying some water and getting my supplies in order for the next 20 mile push, I completely forgot about my ankle pain. Shortly after the stop, I was back on the trails and everything felt fine. I would deal w/ my ankles off and on for the rest of the run, but only when I had to run on the roads.The good news for most of the overnight hours was the lack of cars on the road allowed me to run down the middle of the road where the surface was flatter. I also kept my shoes tied pretty loosely to allow a little more freedom for them to bend w/out taking my ankle with them.

This is probably a good time to mention that I'm pretty sure there's no one perfect shoe to wear on this course. I went with a road/trail hybrid (Saucony Excursion), and while they kept the debris out on the trails,  they were just horrible in the roads after a while. The heavy-friction soles generated so much heat that I had stray dogs barking at me from 2 towns over. On the long stretches of pavement, especially between miles 120-127, my feet hurt more than ever before in a run. Mercifully, every time I got back on the trails my feet immediately cooled down and felt 100% better. If anyone has had a positive experience w/ a hybrid shoe on really long runs like this, I'm all ears! 

With my ankle situation figured out, I relaxed a bit off the panic button and enjoyed a brilliantly beautiful fall day in the countryside. I passed this cool house (see below) somewhere around mile 30; it reminded me of a Buckminster Fuller Geodesic Dome (like the big Epcot Ball)...I think it was at about mile 35 when I finally stopped trying to figure out what their ceiling must look on the inside.

As I continued on toward mile 40, I realized that Nebraska isn't the only place with a serious amount of cornfields. I particularly enjoyed passing through this one that covered the side of a huge hill. I'm accustomed to seeing them on flat surfaces only, but it was quite a climb to the top here!

Happy to be at the top of Corn Mountain 

All that climbing really worked up my appetite!

The miles started flying by as I moved pretty quickly over the trails and I perfected the art of running in the middle of the road until I heard cars coming. The weight of my pack was definitely noticeable, but also completely manageable. Sure, its bouncing hurt my shoulders a bit when I ran fast, but I was able to minimize the damage: In my training runs w/ the pack I noticed that the friction between the top of the arm straps and my shoulders was potentially my biggest area for concern during the run. The Gregory Miwok pack straps have a great quick-dry mesh material on the inside surface, but that mesh is also a bit abrasive when bouncing/rubbing on shoulders for hours and hours on end. How did I solve this potential problem? Drymax Socks, of course. Knowing that these socks would add a nice layer of non-abrasive cushioning while also retaining the moisture-wicking properties of the shoulder straps, I cut the toes off a pair of trail versions and slid them into place before the run. I knew my Drymax Max Protection socks would keep my feet blister-free for 142+ miles (and they did!), but who knew the Trail socks would work so well in keeping my shoulders from being shredded too?! You can see my creation pretty well in this shot from the finish:

Even though I was running without any support, that didn't mean I was without friends on the trail. This filly ran along side me for a short stretch (which was really cool) before I stopped at the end of her gate to say goodbye and give her a quick rub between the ears.

...and this guy, well, I was more than happy to see his smiling face welcoming me to the "Sweetest Place on Earth" in Hershey, PA!  To show you the power of positive advertising: I stopped at two Mini-Marts after seeing that billboard, and yes, I bought a Hershey bar (w/ Almonds!) at both. Well done, Mr. Smiling Chocolate Kiss Man, well done.

As much fun as the first 60 miles were, I will admit I had one true focus and goal on my mind the whole time: Go fast enough to get to the Pretzel Hut by dinner time. Things worked out perfectly as I made the climb up to Eagle Rock (mile 58) just in time to see the sun set. From there it was a quick shot down the back of the hill to where the trail pops out in the parking lot of the Hut! It was such perfect timing.

I placed my order for a double California cheeseburger, a whoopie pie (special seasonal flavor: Pumpkin!), and a large Barq's rootbeer. Normally I couldn't even look at any food like this during a race, but with my pace being much more relaxed on this journey, I had quite an appetite and everything tasted so good!  I also used this time to change out of my wet shirt/hat/sleeves from the first part of the day and put on warmer clothes for the cold night ahead. The folks working at the restaurant couldn't have been nicer to a freaky-looking dude like me (they even filled my Camelback w/ fancy spring water for free so I didn't have to use the bathroom tap), thanks guys!!

For as fantastic as the Pretzel Hut experience was, my luck turned on me as soon as I stepped back outside. Simply put, I couldn't find the trail on the opposite side of the road. I'll spare you the necessary 100,000 word story to fully explain what happened, but I ran 3+ extra miles and wasted 45 minutes trying to find the trail. The problem this time was the map has the trail incorrectly placed in relation to a sub-divison street across from the Pretzel hut. Long story short, I was looking in the wrong place for looong time. I'm sure when heading in the other direction on the Trail it's easier to just pop out on the road and run toward the Pretzel Hut, but heading east under the cover of night (and with a bad map), I had a bit of a struggle finding the blaze.

When I finally did find the trail, I was more than happy to translate my anger into an absolutely blazing stretch of running. It was only 6:30 p.m., but with the sun long gone, I was able to take advantage of my favorite time to run (night) without the usual fatigue that I have on my legs when the sun sets during most races. I treated the next 15 miles of hilly trail like they were a 10k and put the hammer down for the first time in my adventure. By time I popped out of the trail at mile 75, I was feeling much better again and was pretty proud of the speedy effort I just put in (must have been a result of that whoopie pie fuel!).

Once I slowed down a bit I started getting cold, and right around midnight I put on my winter gloves and cracked open a couple chemical hand-warmers (total life-savers). I kept moving to generate heat, but right around 2:30 a.m., I was getting super sleepy and decided I should find a place to take a little nap. I was way ahead of schedule for my mile 127 rendezvous with my friend Malia (I told her I'd be there around Noon-ish, but even with my delays I was on pace for more like 8 a.m.), so I figured it would be doubly beneficial to grab a 30 minute nap...I didn't want to have to wake her up too early on a Sunday morning!

I covered a couple miles of trail trying to find a good spot to lay down (preferably off the ground for better warmth), and as luck would have it, the trail crossed through a gun range before too long. A picnic table next to the main building looked perfect (the building was blocking the wind too), so I curled up and started to drift off. Soon thereafter a couple nearby deer were a little too interested in my passed-out self and decided to come in for a closer look. When I heard them creeping up I yelled something with far too much respect for their ability to understand English like, "Hey Deer! What's your problem? I'm trying to sleep over here!" and they scurried off. About 30 minutes later my watch alarm woke me up, so I know I got some actual quality sleep out there regardless of my animal friends wanting to say hello.

The trade off for the sleep was about 20 minutes of shivering as I tried to warm back up again. Once I did, I was amazed at how great I felt after only such a short nap. I was wide awake and my legs felt light and fresh. I resumed my running up, over, and around all sorts of trails, fields, and roads for the next couple hours until I popped out at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic site (somewhere around mile 105).

Now, I don't have anything against Mr. Hopewell, his furnace, his family, friends, or any of the fine workers and scholars of this Historic site...but after searching for the trail for 1 hour and 9 minutes at this location, I will admit I might smile just a little bit if I heard a couple of the Earth's tectonic plates opened up and swallowed this place whole.

When I stopped seeing the yellow blazes upon arrival there, I was a bit concerned, but I knew it was only .3 miles to the street crossing ahead (I even heard a truck drive by so I knew it was close). The problem was, I found random yellow blazes and yellow-painted horseshoes all over the grounds of the Furnace, but they all ended up bringing me back around in a about frustrating! Every time I'd find a new blaze I'd say "Finally!" and start running that way only to lose the trail immediately. After the sun started coming up, I could see the general direction of where I needed to go to meet up with the road, and my frustration was enough that I decided to simply blaze my own path there. As most of you probably know, this is never a good idea. Especially w/ the questionable terrain between me and the's what that terrain looked like:

The first step was to hop over an electric fence, then run across a pasture which featured a quarter-mile mix of tall grass and mud, then bushwack through a 20-foot stretch of tangled thorns, then walk through a 6-foot stream, then a little more fun w/ the thorns before jumping over the other side of that still-very-electric fence next to the road. Before you question my decision to do this, just remember I'd been on the move for 24 hours at this point and refused to listen to any reasonable thoughts in my head after having been lost for the past hour and nine minutes.

So, how does one jump over an electric fence? That was the question my frozen brain was trying to figure out while wiping the frost off my brow. I was wearing thick winter gloves and rubber-soled shoes (obviously), so I figured if I moved quickly I might have enough protection to be OK. I'll fully admit at this point I have no clue how electric fences work, but I was willing to convince myself that if it didn't touch my skin and I moved quickly I'd survive.

Here's how it worked for me (don't try this at home, or on the farm, as it were): I was able to put a hand on the top of a wooden post and then quickly step on one of the wires next to where it was nailed into the post. This gave me enough leverage where I was able to jump up and over the fence while using my hand to support my weight. When I landed on the other side, the elation over my successful jump was quickly erased by my sudden recall of this famous sign next to a similar fence on the Vermont 100 miler course: 

...suddenly the idea of an 8 second crossing sounded really good to me! By time I reached the other side of the pasture, I was so happy to have made it that I didn't care about having to walk through the stream and the thorns to get to the road. I correctly picked the right direction (finally!) to head on the map and found the trail about .2 miles down the road. It was clearly marked for folks heading west, but I'll swear on the grave of the guy who tried to cross that pasture in 10 seconds that a crucial blaze (or two) is missing for folks coming from my direction.

With that .3 mile stretch taking over an hour, I was once again fueled by anger and took out my feelings on the next 10 miles or so. There were a couple big climbs in this stretch, but with the adrenaline rush from my bull-field crossing still fueling my legs, I was moving pretty darn quickly. When I reached Knauertown I was hoping for a resupply of water at the market, but they didn't open for another hour so I had to head out back to find the hose. Lucky for me, my hope that the water didn't taste like rubber was hilariously crushed when I saw the word "Goodyear" stamped on the hose. Seriously. Even I had to laugh at that. Who knew they made hoses? The good news was, after 120 miles everything tastes pretty bad anyway, so I just mixed in some Perpetuem and started the next 7 mile leg to reach Malia at Opperman's Corner.

If there was a physical low-point to the run, I guess this section would be it. My legs felt OK, but with so many road miles in this stretch, my feet were begging for mercy. I texted Malia when I was about an hour away so we could meet up at the same time. My arrival ended up being at about 10:45 a.m., which considering all of my navigational delays, wasn't too shabby at all. Malia's brother Dan was super nice to take time out of his Sunday and drive his sister to meet up with me. He also took my bag of left-over Perpetuem powder to the trash when I realized I wouldn't need it and there was no reason for me to carry it anymore...Every ounce off my shoulders meant a lot at that point, Thanks Dan!

As soon as Malia and I started running together my feet felt 100% better. Having gone so long alone, it was a great distraction to chat with someone as cool as Malia. To prove her family is totally awesome, her dad also met up with us at various points along the way to bring Malia Gatorade and leave little messages of support along the road. This is me laying down on the street next to one of the turns back onto the trails. Talk about awesome support!

The miles flew by as we ran by some beautiful mansions in the Valley Forge area, many of which were amazingly built by none other than Malia's awesome dad! No kidding! With a mile or two to go I could smell the finish and started to pick it up a bit. This last stretch is quite similar to the rocky Massanutten trails, so I felt right at home and decided to hit the gas to drop a 7 minute mile at the end (sure, it was downhill, but still!). My stopwatch read 32:43:14. Not too shabby on such terrain, even w/ my substantial delays (I figure I ran about 150 miles total).

Malia pulled up right behind me with a personal record of 14-15 miles covered herself (the course was re-routed in this section and added at least .5 miles to the listed distance of 14.2). She was originally planning on stopping after the first 6, but I think our easy pace and good conversation had the same beneficial affect on her as they did on me - It was too much fun to think about the pain! Congrats to you and Thanks for keeping me company, Malia!

Triumphantly posing at the end of the trail w/ Malia...I wish it was still only 121 miles long!

It was such a beautiful day in Valley Forge there was no reason but to smile and realize how lucky I am to be able to have crazy adventures like this (and have a wife who still loves me!!)

I'm pretty sure we set some kind of record on the ride home as well: Even though it's only 2.5 hours from Valley Forge to DC, we stopped at a McDonalds AND Cracker Barrel for meals in that stretch. I guess I was hungry!  Speaking of eating, with my trail-loving soul fed for a while, I can now focus on lots of road work in training for the World Championships in France next year. 2009 certainly started off on a bad foot (or shin, to be accurate), but what a fun rebound it has been over the past couple months. Thanks to everyone for their support along the way, I can't wait to see what great fun 2010 has in store for us!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time to Saddle Up!

Just a few days away from my unsupported 142 mile Horse-Shoe Trail run, and I'm getting excited!  I went for a test run w/ my full pack last night, and I must admit it felt really HEAVY. Since I'll need to carry all of my food from the start, it'll slowly get lighter as I eat along the way, but still, it's a big difference from running w/ just a Camelback. I'm sure my shoulders will be begging for mercy the whole time, and I'm already looking forward to that weight being lifted off them (quite literally) every time I stop for a break. 

For those of you interested, I'll be wearing the Gregory Miwok pack w/ a 70 oz. Camelback bladder. This is a nice test-run for this gear as I try to find exactly what I like best before my VT Long Trail run next summer. I'll be attempting that run w/ a different strategy than the previous record-setters on that trail, and with enough kinks ironed out beforehand, I think it will prove to be very successful. More details to follow on that plan in the coming months...but in the meantime, I'll toss in this random photo from about 10 years ago during a winter hiking trip in Maine. I was thinking about the 40lbs I used to haul around in my pack back then to try and make the weight on this trip (which will start at about 20lbs) not seem so bad! 

 Long-time trail partners Dan (Trooper) and Cousin Steve (Cap'm) joined by Charlie (he manned the old pot-belly stove in this abandoned ranger station while Steve and I ran up Mt. Abraham in ME).

Back to the Horse-Shoe Trail: My first 12 hours or so will be focused solely on getting to The Pretzel Hut before they close for the night. This place looks like a fantastic old-school diner, and I'm hoping to get there (about 60 miles into the run) right around dinner time. Nothing like a greasy burger and fries to keep me warm through the night! There are a few other cool places within a mile of the trail along the way, so depending on what time of day I pass through those areas, I'll be sure to take a detour or two to sample some of the local cuisine!

On the topic of weather, it should be picture perfect during the day (low 50s), and definitely cold at night (high 30s). I'll let the actual conditions dictate my plan for any nap time overnight, but if it's in the 30s I'll most likely march on through the night to keep generating body heat and then see how I feel when the sun comes back up. If I move well through the night, I should have plenty of time to nap in the sun if I'm feeling tired in the morning.

One other big highlight of my trip will be at mile 127. My friend Malia from LA just happens to 1) Randomly be from that area, and even more amazingly, 2) Will be in town visiting family there this weekend! She has offered to meet up with me at that point and run at least 7 miles w/ me to where her brother will be waiting w/ the car at the next road crossing. I'll try to convince her to stay on for the final 7 miles after that too, but either way, I'll be so happy for the company after running solo for so long!

I'll be starting on the trail at about 6am Saturday morning, and I'll do my best to post a few audio updates along the way when I pass by any cell towers. If those don't end up working out, I'll be sure to post something Sunday night when I get back! Giddy up!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Horse-Shoe Trail - Giddy Up!

So I've picked November 7-8 as my days to run the 142 mile Horse-Shoe Trail across southeastern PA. After combing over the trail description and maps, I've decided to start on the western end of the trail where it meets w/ the Appalachian Trail. I picked this direction for a couple reasons:

1) I won't have to hike an extra couple miles from the end of the Horse-Shoe Trail to the road when I'm done (I like to be DONE when I'm done...not have to still walk a couple miles to the car!). By ending the run in Valley Forge, I'll be right at the street when the trail ends.

2) The first 30+ miles on the western end of the trail are probably the most remote and challenging as far as terrain goes, so I'll happily glide over that on fresh legs in the beginning instead of shuffling like a zombie at the end.

3) The prevailing wind is generally W/NW this time of year in that area of PA (Hey, I do my research!), so I'll gladly opt to have it at my back more often than not as I head east to Valley Forge.

Since I'm doing this run unsupported, I'm plotting out my water supply points pretty carefully. There are a few streams/springs along the way that I've plotted, but finding others is proving to be pretty tough as the maps of this trail are printed in black and white (i.e. No blue rivers to easily pick out). I'll be fine either way, but the B&W maps are definitely proving to be a challenge in some regards.

Since I know I'll be running over some hills w/ cell towers and through a few small towns along the way, I'll be sure to send some audio posts to the blog as I make my way through the trail. Hopefully the Utterli site has ironed out some its issues of late and all my posts make to the blog in a reasonable time. Either way, I'll be sure to carry a camera with me and post a nice run report within a day or two when I get back home.

As far as a Speed Record goes, I have inquiries out all over the place right now to see if anyone knows of an existing record, but thus far one doesn't seem to exist. This is great news to me since I'll really be able to relax and take my time running w/ my semi-heavy pack (I'll post my complete list of gear/fuel before I take off next weekend).

One of the major reasons I'm doing this run is to practice how my Vermont Long Trail attempt will go next year, and I hope to gain some quality insight in terms of what gear to carry and how long I should stop for my quick snoozes on the trail. I know my Long Trail attempt is still a ways off, but I'm already excited to start ramp-up process for that big run!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Plans, They Are a' Changin'

Next year was going to be the "Year of the Trail" for me. I had designs on making three different Speed Record Attempts on various historic trails ranging from 140 to 370 miles. On top of that, I was going to kick off the spring by making a serious attempt at becoming the 9th person to finish Barkley. ....then the whole "World Championships in France" thing popped up in my schedule and forced me to re-think my 2010 plan. Obviously this is a good problem to have.

Since I'll need to focus lots of my training on flatter road-style terrain over the next 7 months, I'm scrapping Barkley and one of my trail attempts for the spring. The Race Director for the sold-out Umstead 100 was nice enough to let me into the race last week, so I'll have that as a suitable March warm-up for France. Running 100 miles on those park roads is just a wee bit more appropriate as training for France than the sawbriar mountains and 52,900 feet of elevation gain at Barkley.

Given that the France race also takes place on the same day as the Massanutten 100, I'll have to push my return to MMT back yet another year....which stinks, but isn't completely bad: I'll be able run on 71% of the course in February after earning my invitation to run the 71 mile "Reverse Ring" course by finishing "The Ring" last month. The extra experience and longer wait will only make my eventual return to MMT that much more successful, I'm sure.

Once I get back from France, I'll still have half the year to work in some of my trail plans, and the major focus will be on challenging the Vermont Long Trail record (271 miles in 4 days, 12 hours, 46 minutes). There are lots of reasons for me to make a serious run at this record, but I'll save those for a future post. As of right now I'm thinking I'll be ready to make the attempt in late August or early September of next year. Jonathan Basham broke the record this year w/ a September run, and I'll admit even before his record effort I also thought this was a good time to do the run for weather & bug reasons. I didn't spend the first 28 years of my life in the New England woods and not notice things like that. I'll talk more about the Long Trail as the time for that run draws closer.

As for the rest of 2009, I'm ready to focus on one more solid effort in the next couple months, but to be quite honest there isn't much to chose from on the race schedule! I would have loved to run the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama, but it happens to be one of those races that would randomly cost me about $3.2 million to get to. I think I'm better off saving my $$ for France this year. I'll save Pinhoti (which looks like a great point-to-point 100 miler) for another year when travel plans are easier to work out.

As an alternative I'll be pushing up one of my solo Trail runs from 2010 to next month. I still need to work out the logistics, but most likely I'll be heading out to run the 140 mile Horse-Shoe Trail in PA (Harrisburg to Valley Forge) in the middle of November. It'll be a little late to catch the foliage up there, but I'll still enjoy the countryside (and probably the company of a few horses too!) during my journey. Since this is a lesser known trail in the running world, I'm not sure an official "Speed Record" exists (still researching that), but for someone who is looking to take it a little easy on his run and appreciate nature a bit, I consider this is a good thing. Enjoying a little relaxing time on the trail before focusing seriously on France sounds like a perfect plan to me! Giddy-up!

Friday, October 9, 2009

More Photos from National Championship

In between his 3 million other duties, Crew Chief Jeff found the time to take a ton of photos during the NorthCoast24 last are a few to help show the various stages of the race (and how cool the venue was!), Enjoy!

Pre-race photo...let's see how long that smile lasts on my face.

Finding a nice easy groove early on. ...and if you're wondering what high-end fancy shirt I'm running in, it's an $8.99 Target special.

Did someone say this field was a little stacked? Here's Scott Jurek and Serge Arbona cruising around in the morning. Jenny (Scott's crew) is in the Brooks Jacket while Lizzy looks on in a pink hoodie, which I can only assume is another $8.99 Target special. We're big fans.

Jeff kept me perfectly in time with split updates on every lap. You can see the Tent City view of the Cleveland skyline here.

Speaking of Tent City, here's Lizzy posing in front of the last section if it. Quite a cool place to run through during the day/night. Someone's crew was always there to give you a smile or clap as you passed through.

Still smiling early on, must be when I realized the sun was coming out and we might not get drenched like everyone was predicting.

Jurek leading the way as we practice for the World 24 Hour Conga Line Championships.

Lizzy shows off the view of the skyline from the middle of the park...

...then hops right back to business to hand me a full bottle as I passed through.

It wasn't all work for her though...she got to frolic with me along the lake for a couple seconds here. She's not much interested in running, but as far as frolicking goes, she's world class.

Jeff and Lizzy perfect the art of the self-shot w/ Cleveland in the background. Please note neither of them are from Boston, but they both wore their Red Sox caps all day - Talk about full support for this Boston boy!

It was too early to hallucinate, but I still think this lady is actually a ghost that walked straight out of the lake and stood in that random spot as the sun went down.

As the sun (and lots of the other runners) started to fade, I started picking up the pace.

Sharing a moment w/ Women's 3rd place finisher, Team USA member, and expert curler, Deb Horn

My love for running at night really helped me reel in the leaders as I kept flying when the hours got small.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Zombie, Zombie, Zombie

As the sun came back up I put the glasses back on and did my best to not be embarrassed by wearing tights in public.

Hey look, even though I've just realized there are two guys right on my heels for 2nd and 3rd place, I'm still smiling!

...and yes, the smile can't be wiped off my face at the Award Ceremony as RD Dan Horvath announces my 139.28 miles and 3rd place finish!