Friday, July 30, 2010

Already So Many to Thank for Their Kindness & Generosity!

With my 273-mile Vermont Long Trail run still 3+ weeks away, I must say I'm already overwhelmed by all the support I've received in advance. First off, I need to thank the generous corporate donations made by Turning Mill Consultants, Pine State Trading Co., and Poland Spring Water. These fine companies (and hopefully a couple more!) really stepped up in tough economic times to donate to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and I couldn't be more grateful!

I'm also happy to report the good will is already flowing up there in the woods of Vermont too! When two of the places my parents are sleeping at along the way found out why they were coming, they decided to comp their fees so they they could be donated to DFCI instead!
Thank you Jay Village Inn, and Brewster River Campground!

 Fun Fact:  This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Long Trail!  I couldn't be more humbled for this opportunity to run in the footsteps of the hard-working and visionary men and women who first carved out this National Treasure a century ago!

The good news doesn't stop there either! So many of you kind readers have already clicked on the link on the right-hand side of this page to donate from your own pockets as well, and I haven't even started to earn it on out on the trail yet! Thank you all so much already! I know not everyone can give money to this cause, but there's an equally great way to help that's also free! Once the run starts, I'll be infinitely grateful to everyone who spreads the word about the run and directs their friends to this blog to follow along with my progress. Remember, I'm running on a Monday-Friday to keep you all entertained during an otherwise slow and boring week at your office!  I'll be posting every few hours whenever I can get a cell-phone signal to update everyone on my progress. It's going to be monumentally painful and beyond challenging for me to try and break this speed record, and every positive comment or $10 donation I see when checking the blog along the way will be the fuel that keeps me going. I'm excited to get it started right now, but three more weeks of hard work remain, so it's back to the training trails for me!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Catherine's Furnace 50K - Race Report

I couldn't find anyone named 'Catherine' at the pre-race gathering. This was quite disappointing since I really wanted to let her know she left her Furnace door wide open out there in the Massanutten mountains. Race day temps soared to a record 103 degrees with plenty of humidity to keep everyone looking like they were walking through a car wash all day. Of course we all knew these would be the conditions heading in, but did that dissuade us from running the super-challenging Catherine's Furnace 50K on Saturday? Nope!

 The crowd begins to gather at the start...and yes, the Sun was officially on the Entry List this year! (Bobby Gill photo)

Two lovely ladies pose for a photo that I do my best to ruin without even knowing it...That's it Dan, stick that finger in your ear... (Bobby Gill photo)

Before the race, RD Jeff Reed told us of some necessary course changes due to Aid Station road access issues, and he also relayed the good news of "there's definitely more climbing on this new course". This wasn't really bad news for me since I was there to test my climbing legs and see what work needed to be done in advance of my Vermont Long Trail run next month. With that, we were off on to the technical and challenging trails of the course.
RD Jeff Reed (blue shirt, white hat, back to camera) gives us some pre-race info...can you spot me hiding like Waldo? (Bobby Gill photo)

Early on I settled in with Keith Knipling and Brad Hinson, both excellent mountain runners with tons of experience on these trails. Their conversation included lines like "Boy, this trail looks a lot different in July than in March or November" and "Oh, I've never run this particular section of trail in the daylight before". Meanwhile I tagged along behind them having no clue where I was, just silently compiling a list of animals that could eat me for dinner should I get lost. If nothing else, I convinced myself that I should just stick with these guys as long as I could to stay on track and off any fauna menus.
 Keith leads Brad (with me hiding behind him) right from the start (Bobby Gill photo)

About half-way up the first BIG climb, we caught the sight of the two leaders at that point: Brian Schmidt and Harland Peele, two more mountain studs . By time we reached the first aid station at mile 8.1, the five of us were now in a pack as we started the second long climb of the day. With the heat really kicking in at this point, we operated under a 'leave no man behind' rule for the next few miles as we paused at an icy-cold stream crossing for a quick dousing and then again at the top of the Pitt Spring Overlook (which had a more-than-appreciated breeze).  It was great running in a pack of guys who definitely have more experience and skill in the mountains than me, and the conversations were a great distraction as the sun started shouting a little louder above our heads.

Without really noticing, Brian and I pulled away from the rest of the pack a little bit on the rest of the 2nd climb and the subsequent rocky and twisting downhill into the Aid Station at half-way point of the race. While waiting for the others to catch up, we enjoyed an extra minute or three of icing our Camelbaks and chugging more fluids than imaginable from the awesome selection the volunteers had delivered for us. Soon enough, Keith and Harland joined us and we all headed back up the rocky climb to start our return trip home.

Brad was the first casualty of our group as the heat turned his stomach and he was forced to drop. Shortly after we started the climb out of the aid station, Harland was running into some issues as well and stepped aside to let me pass. This kind of heat was nothing to play around with, and he knew he needed to slow it down a bit to be safe and healthy. After passing Harland I moved back up behind Brian and we worked together to finish the rest of the climb and then the long downhill to the mile 22 Aid Station (the last of the day). We had some good conversation to keep distracting each other from the heat, and soon enough we pulled into the aid station where we were greeted by a couple great volunteers who put ice-cold wash cloths over our heads and necks (without even asking, by the way...They just knew we needed them!).

Just as we were ready to start the final loooong climb of about 4 miles, we saw Keith pull into the aid station and head directly below the adjacent bridge to sit in the stream. "Man, he's smarter than we are...", I thought as our group was now officially whittled down to two.
Sophie Speidel enjoying the icy cold nice of the volunteers to build this feature into their Aid Station! (Bobby Gill photo)

Shortly after starting the climb, Brian showed his toughness by pulling away and quickly out-of-sight on the steadily steep terrain. I tried to keep pace for a couple hundred yards or so, but knew almost right away that he'd be opening up a big gap over the next few miles of climb. I moved the best I could while drinking lots (84 oz. in the final 7 miles!) and hitting the electrolytes hard (3300mg of sodium by the end of the race!). By time I crested the top and started the final 4 mile descent, I started feeling better and ran more than a little bit crazy on the rocky trails to try and catch back up with Brian. In the end it wasn't enough, however, as Brian earned a hard-fought and much-deserved victory. I pulled into the finish about 5 minutes behind him in something like 5:38 (if that doesn't tell you how hard this race was, consider I ran what I thought was a slow and snowy 50K back in Februrary in 4:25!).
Even though the camera couldn't keep up with me, Brian took me to school on the last climb! (Bobby Gill Photo)

After some recovery and the drive home, Elizabeth and I were off to dinner back in DC...and on the walk to the restaurant, the 7 p.m. temperature of 99 degrees felt cool and refreshing!

All in all, this race was a perfect tune-up to prove that both my heat-training and my mountain legs are coming along quite nicely. Another month of hard work before Vermont should have me ready to make a serious run at that record! Many more posts will follow to ramp up the excitement before that adventure. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Time for a Test Race!

Training for the Long Trail has been going very well since Mohican, and I am already noticing my ability to climb improving quite a bit. This weekend I'll be going on a little test run to see how my new legs hold up under a little pressure. As I've admitted many times before, I know I don't have 50K speed (relative to the folks who can simply fly over that distance), but it's always nice to race outside of your comfort zone! In this case, I put The Catherine's Furnace 50K on my training schedule because of its elevation profile:

 As you can see, it may only have 3 "hills", but they're sure big ones! This type of climb-and-descent terrain is exactly what I'll be dealing with over and over and over on the Long Trail, so it'll be nice to get a taste of it this weekend in a little trial run. True to form for most VHTRC races, the field will have lots of great talent, so I should be able to find a pack of solid runners to try and stick with the whole way. I always enjoy picking the brains of folks who seem to run effortlessly up long 1,000 ft. climbs. I've learned many training tips over the years by asking a lot of questions (in between huffing and puffing) on the way up a mountain!

On a side note, HUGE congratulations need to be sent out to a few friends for their tremendous results over the past couple weeks of races. First off, CO friend Nick Pedatella was one of the lucky/brave ones to get into The Hardrock 100 via this year's lottery, and he certainly didn't waste that opportunity: Nick stormed through all those mountains to finish in 5th place overall with a time of 30:18! Great job, Nick!  A couple days later, on a course a little flatter and a LOT hotter, Rock Star Jamie Donaldson smoked the 135 mile Badwater course across Death Valley to break her record by 35 minutes! Big congrats to her and her awesome crew for nailing every aspect of that race so perfectly...Amazing!!  Finally, I had a bunch of friends run the Vermont 100 miler this past weekend, but a special note of congrats goes out to Tammy Massie who broke her PR on that course by about TWO HOURS (...and yes, I paced her to that much slower time last year, so let's all silently agree that I'm obviously the world's worst pacer and simply move on)! Tammy accomplished this great feat in super hot and humid conditions, AND without her husband there as her usual crew and support. Where was he, you ask? Click on the link at Tammy's name up there and check out that Medivac Rescue Helicopter photo...That's Tristan on the stretcher!  Thankfully he's safe and back home recovering now, and hopefully the news of Tammy's great run helped him forget about the pain for a little while!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Heat is ON!

Holy frijoles has it been hot in DC lately!  This past week the highs were over 100 degrees just about every day, and even the nighttime lows were in the mid-80s. Not exactly the best running weather, but I am happy to report that I've built up my heat acclimation to almost creepy levels at this point. Between all the weeks of steady 90+ degree runs over the past month (and the 19+ hours of a hot Mohican 100), my body is cooling itself more efficiently than ever before in this steamy weather...which is great because I've been training my butt off out there lately!

Of course, I can't brag about my heat-training at all this week as the bad-ass Badwater runners will be showing everyone how it's done starting Monday morning out in Death Valley. They'll have 120 degree highs each day with nary a cloud in the sky. ...and in case you haven't noticed, there isn't a whole lot of shade along the 135 miles of road out there in the desert!   Jamie D. is lining up to try and run her winning streak to 3 consecutive years, Tony P. is headed back for a second time (and in great shape!) looking to chop a bunch of time off his PR, and U.S. teammate Phil McCarthy should be fighting for the top spot all day as he returns a little wiser in this, his second running of the race. Best of luck to all my friends running and crewing out there this year! If you're bored at work, everyone will be off and running at 10:00 a.m. PST on Monday (it's a wave start with the fastest group of runners starting last at 10am), and the webcast can be followed here!

All this talk about hot and sunny weather makes me think about my trusty old that I lost on the Mohican course a couple weeks ago. Sure, I have another hat...and I could probably find the exact same model of the one I lost online somewhere, but that beat-up old hat was on my head for every ultra I've ever run (when I didn't have a winter hat on, that is). Cue the emotional montage music as we take a trip down memory lane in honor of my hat!

Probably the best quality of this hat was its ability to let air flow up under the brim onto your head if you twisted it just a little to one side or the other. It wasn't an intentional design trait, but after running 20,000 miles or so with it on, I learned a few tricks!

This shot from Bull Run in 2009 shows how I wore the hat most of the time on hot days: pulled up on top for added ventilation.

The hat also served to help people figure out "which one" I was during the Viaduct 100 last year when coincidentally Greg Geerdes and I wore the same outfit!

...and of course it was there for a few triumphs, like when I finished the 142 mile Horse-Shoe trail...

...and when I survived the 192 miles of heat and sun during Run 192...

...The fact that you can't see my face here means it was doing its job!!

There were less-than-fun times too, like the 98 degree (with 90% humidity!) Old Dominion 100 in 2008. Can you see my hat saving me from heat stroke out there? was also there for the not-fun time when I had to drop from the Massanutten 100 w/ a quad injury.

...and who could forget the super crazy hills of UltraCentric later that year...

Not a fun time at all, but just under that hat my brain was learning a whole lot about how to run a 24 hour race, and in the next one I wore it for 139+ miles! matter the circumstances, that hat always kept me smiling out there!

 Here's the last known photo of my hat at the starting line just before Mohican (shown in rare reverse position - photo curators take note!). I hope someone found it on the trail, washed it (many, many times over) and is now putting it to good use again! Long may you run, my hat friend!!