Monday, February 28, 2011

Reverse Ring - Race Report!

During the early moments of running the Reverse Ring with course record-holder Keith Knipling (14:58, 2009) this past weekend, he asked me what my goal was for the day.  I explained that after my recent bout with Shingles, followed by an energy-sapping cold that forced me to take most of the week off leading up to the race, I didn't really have a goal. I summed it up with a simple, "Just plan on taking it as it comes."  A few moments later, when I asked Keith a question and he didn't respond, I looked back and saw he was no longer behind me. I figured he just paused for a bathroom break or something and would catch up soon enough; Such is usually the ebb and flow of these mountain races. As it turned out, when I crossed the finish line 70 miles later, he never did catch up. It was a struggle at times to entertain myself while running alone all day, but when I crossed the finish line in a new Course Record of 14:57:02, all that boredom turned out to be a pretty fair trade-off!

Backing up a bit, the first thing every runner needs to mention when talking about the Reverse Ring (and its Fall sister-race, The Ring) is the amazing efforts of co-RDs Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard, and their army of awesome volunteers. Particularly laudable for the Reverse Ring is the effort they make to "hike in" aid station supplies to key spots on the course whose access roads are closed to vehicles in the winter. More on that, and the answer to why I owe Dave Snipes a beer (or three), later.

After an insane amount of snow ruined last year's Reverse Ring, I was excited for the chance to finally run this counter-clockwise loop of the 71 mile Massanutten Trail in the George Washington National Forest. It seemed like a lifetime ago that I ran the clockwise Ring in the Fall of 2009, thereby earning the invitation to run this winter version of the race. As much as I hate waking up at 5am to run in sub-freezing temps, the promise of a snow-free course and a high of 45 degrees had me pretty happy as I dozed off in the back of the XTerra Inn the night before.
A few of us just before the start. Keith is on the right (with legs just a wee bit stronger than mine!), and my friend Kim (center, in red) came out from OH and proved she's tough-as-nails by finishing in 26:12. Way to go, Kimba!
Race morning came quickly, and with Mike Bur's instructions, "If anyone has any questions, the answer is: 'Orange...follow Orange.'" - referring to the fact that we would be running exclusively on the Orange-blazed Massanutten Trail for all 71 miles- we were off into the darkness. Keith, as always, started the race much faster than my standard "ease into it" race strategy. Within a few minutes he was out-of-sight on the trail ahead, and I was quickly on my own as the first switchback of the climb gave me a view of the line of bobbing headlamps from the rest of the pack about 2 minutes behind me.

I didn't make a conscious effort to speed up and catch Keith (I figured it might take 10 or 15 miles to reel him in, if I caught him at all), but my legs were feeling surprisingly light and I ended up pulling in behind him after just a mile or two. He let me take the lead (considering he's such an expert on these rocky trails, this was akin to Richard Petty flipping me the keys and saying "Why don't you drive in front of me for a while..."), and we chatted for a bit as I mentioned above. After realizing Keith was no longer behind me, I continued my comfortable rhythm on the rest of the climb to the Signal Knob overlook. Never one to disappoint, Mr. Sun was just starting to creep over the horizon when I reached the top, and I forced myself to pause for a few seconds to take in the spectacular view.
Not a sunrise photo, but you get the idea. It's pretty up there! (Jim Harris Photo)
The rising sun also revealed absolutely perfect trail conditions for the day. The 30-40mph winds from the night before certainly helped dry out the terrain from the rain earlier in the week. Of course the trade off for all that helpful wind (especially for me running up front) was having to clear approximately 90 million branches blocking the trail along the way. One of the lesser known issues of running up front in the morning of a trail race is having to run through dozens of spiderwebs on the course. I was safe from that annoyance in this winter race, but the downed branches more than picked up the slack in that department. After the particularly littered ridge of Short Mountain, I told the volunteers at the following aid station that I was going to send the National Parks Service a landscaping bill for all the work I had to do up there.
Can't complain about having to clear a few branches when the fine chainsaw work of trail crews took care of this section of blow-downs! (Zsuzsanna Carlson photo)
As the early part of the day evolved, I ran a relaxed and efficient pace, simply taking what the terrain would give. As I passed through the Edinburg Gap aid station, I left a message with the volunteers to tell Keith to "Hurry and catch up...I'm getting bored up here!". I left this same message at every aid station along the way, and even though the words came out of my mouth the same each time, the undertone became a progressively stronger, as in, "Seriously, catch up already. My brain is starting to fry and I need some human interaction up here!".  Not that I don't enjoy having the same song stuck in my head for 12 hours or anything...

Thanks to the sights and sounds of the Massanuttens, however, it wasn't always a struggle to keep my brain occupied. There are many times when you're bombing down a trail like this and your focus on every rock and leaf you fly over is razor sharp...
(Zsuzsanna Carlson Photo)
 ...and then there are the more peaceful and serene moments when you glide by late-winter views like this along the ridge of Kerns Mountain...
(Jim Harris Photo)
 ...and then, of course, there were the mountain oasis Aid Stations, manned by the best volunteers around:

RD Quatro Hubbard makes sure Jim Harris has all the essential trans fats he needs at Edinburg Gap - Mile 22.4  (Mike Bur Photo)

Dave Snipes and Doug Sullivan help Tom Corris mix the precise amounts of chemical motivation into his Camelbak at Moreland Gap - Mile 30.4  (Mike Bur Photo)
Eventual 3rd place finisher Cam Baker wonders why his feet hurt so much at Moreland Gap. 'Forget it, Cam, it's Massanuttentown'. (Mike Bur, Photo)
Getting back to my race, the fun started right about mile 40 or so when I heard a not-too-distant rumble and realized it was my stomach telling me it was 100% empty. To that point I had been fueling with my usual Hammer Gel plan, but what I neglected to factor in was, compared to my more recent flat 24-hour races, the conditions of this race (cold, mountainous) demanded a much higher caloric burn-rate in my body. Knowing I needed to right this ship quickly, I downed the two "emergency" packs of Roctane (100 calories each) I had in my Camelbak pocket and hoped they would help get me to the Camp Roosevelt aid station 6 miles down the trail. The good news for me was just about all of those 6 miles were downhill, so while my wheels were loosening somewhat, they never reached the point of falling off completely before I pulled into sight of my calorie-filled drop bag at the Aid Station. Whew! Crisis averted.

I quickly mixed a 350 calorie recovery drink and chatted with RD Mike Bur who let me know Keith was about 20 mins back. While I spent no more than 2 or 3 minutes at any of the previous Aid Stations, I took my time here (about 15 mins) to prepare my supplies for the final 25 mile stretch to the finish without another formal aid station. Mike mentioned he was sending a volunteer to hike up the trail to Veach Gap (about 8 miles from the finish) to set up an emergency tent in case anyone needed to seek shelter in the overnight hours. He also mentioned there would be "some water and maybe some cookies" as well. This fact will become very important in just a bit...

After thanking Mike for all of his (and the volunteers') efforts, I headed up the climb to the eastern ridge of the course. I forced myself to walk the first 10 minutes to let my recently-chugged recovery drink settle in my stomach, and as soon as it was time to start running again, my legs felt refueled and ready for more fun. I was also encouraged by the fact that I still had a couple hours of daylight to work with on the ridge before needing to strap on the headlamp again. With beautiful views to both the west and east on the ridge, all was well in my mountain running world.

Right about the time the sun finally ducked behind the western ridge, I pulled my headlamp out of my pack and realized I made a stupid rookie mistake back at the Roosevelt Aid station: I forgot my extra gel flask. This meant I would soon be 500 calories behind my plan. By my calculations I had 6 or 7 more miles to go before the "emergency" tent at Veach Gap, and then another 8 miles to the finish from there. As my engine started to sputter on the way to Veach, echoes of Mike's casual comment about the emergency tent's possible contents, "...and maybe some cookies too...", repeated over and over in my head. Man, oh, Man did I need some of those precious cookie calories!

As my running form on the rocky ridge devolved from "efficient and smooth" to "all knees and elbows", visions of the big chocolate chip cookies they have at Costco flooded my mind. Granted, I knew the cookies in that tent wouldn't be of such high quality, but I would have been happy with even a stack of stale Hydrox at that point. I employed every trick in my bag to fend off the reality of my situation as I shuffled down the trail: I turned up the volume on my headphones to overpower my rumbling stomach. To no one in particular I yelled out, "...and where the hell is Keith already?! I bet he has an extra Snickers bar to share!". The wheels were hanging on by a single lug for a couple miles when, mercifully, I started the mile-long descent down to Veach Gap. Over that blessed mile I embodied the form of a kid heading home after the last day of school: Legs over-striding, arms flailing, empty lunch box (or Camelbak, in my case) flapping in the wind behind me...all with the promise of happy times ahead.

A few minutes later my light revealed the glorious sight of the emergency tent. I plopped myself down on all fours and eagerly prepared for the feast my brain had convinced myself would be waiting as I looked inside...


No cookies!?!


It was like coming home and seeing a note on the counter from your parents that says Summer School starts on Monday. I stretched my legs out on the dirt in front of the tent let out the most sincerely disappointed "Argghhhh!" any man has ever uttered, pirates included.

The news wasn't all bad, however, as awesome volunteer Dave Snipes did haul up some food/liquid with the tent. The complete inventory: two bananas, potato chips, water, Pepsi, and a bottle of Gatorade. Not what I was envisioning, but before I even had time to think about my next move, I noticed I had already shoved a four-inch stack of Pringles into my mouth. Actually, rather than Pringles, they were the Lays' brand of "tubed potato chips". I mention this only because I scratched both sides of my hand on the lip of the tube while pulling out the chips too fast, sort of like a lame, junk-food version of an Aesop Fable. Chip connoisseurs such as myself know the smart folks at Pringles keep the rim of their packaging rounded to spare some of its more ravenous customers, such as myself, from any collateral damage. ...and yes, these are the things one has time to reflect upon when running alone all day in the mountains.

After washing down the chips with some solid sugar calories from the Pepsi, I ate one of the bananas in 2.5 seconds, and added a little Gatorade to my Camelbak for a few extra calories as well. Shortly after this tornado of eating, I paused for the first time all day and thought about what my finishing time might be. I had about 2 hours to go roughly 8 miles to the finish line and break the course record. Sure, anyone can cover 4 miles an hour, but when you mix in 90 million rocks on a dark and twisting mountain trail, it's no guarantee at all...especially since it would take a mile or two before my body processed those emergency calories and started to wake up again.

Thankfully the combination of the food and my iPod worked to get the gears spinning one last time before too long, and I knew I had the energy to make a final push at the record. When I passed a trail sign that said I had 3 miles to the road (plus about 1/4 of a mile after that to the actual finish line), I knew it was after-burner time. I had 28 minutes to cover those 3+ miles, and with the way I was moving, I figured I'd have it beat by 4 or 5 minutes. Not a bad finish to a crazy final 20 miles or so...

Then, as if the Massanutten rocks were conspiring to protect their own, my path to the finish suddenly became riddled with obstacles. See, Keith and his dad Gary Knipling have a combined twenty-four finishes at the Massanutten 100 miler, not to mention dozens of other races on these trails such as the Ring. Simply put, they are the Massanutten mountains...and I don't think those mountains were too happy with a flat-lander 24-hour runner like me invading their turf!  First and foremost amongst the obstacles was the sudden appearance of approximately 300 trail crossings, some of which were questionably marked, and down seemingly all of which I ran 50 to 200 yards in the the wrong direction before realizing my mistake and turning around. With the first couple, I thought "Oh well, I still have a cushion of time", but after a few seconds of confusion in the last mile near the Pig Iron trail intersection, I looked at my watch and realized it was going to be a photo finish.

After finally reaching the parking lot across the street from the finish line, I knew I just had the annoying 1/4 mile loop up-over-and-around the Signal Knob parking lot to get back to the official finish line on the northern side of the lot. Mind you, during this section of the trail you can basically see and hear the activity from the finish line parking lot, but you have to follow the trail all the way around it before officially finishing. When I started this final stretch, I saw I had regained a little buffer on my time and figured I'd finish with 3 or 4 minutes to spare. ....and then I tripped (first time all day!) and whacked both of my knees. Ouch! Undeterred, I stood back up and started hobbling/shuffling and pretending like Phil Mickelson didn't just take a swing at my kneecaps with a 5-wood.  Then, less than a minute later, I tripped again. Come on! This was too much. With finish line about 100 yards away, I saw I had 90 seconds to go and let the panicked rush of adrenaline mask my knee pain enough to cruise across the line in 14:57:02 - one minute under the old course record. Woohoo!  The craziness of those final few miles really made this one extra-enjoyable.
Boy am I glad I didn't spend an extra 58 seconds eating potato chips!
The volunteers at the finish line were quick to make me a pancake with Nutella, and as I basically swallowed it whole, I thought about how I would have paid someone $1,000 for it just 8 miles earlier in the Veach Tent. I'll keep that mental note for next year when I come back to set up a full concession stand out there to support the Future Rose Children College Fund.

Keith came rumbling out of the woods like a pro just 15 minutes later in another stellar finish time of 15:12, and Dave Snipes was there for me to properly laud for his volunteering exploits all day long, most specifically for dragging the tent and food up to Veach. You the man, Dave!!

After the 90 minute drive back home to DC, my legs had enough time to stiffen up quite nicely. ...and just to give the running gods one more chance to laugh at my expense, when I gingerly waddled my way out of the car, I noticed a shiny quarter laying on the ground at my feet.  All I could do was look down, say "Nope!", and go inside to find the shower. Twenty-five cents can't buy any Costco cookies anyway.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time to Put a Ring on it!

My chance to run the Reverse Ring again is finally here this weekend. Some of you may recall last year's failed attempt by all of the RR entrants to run this 71 mile mountain loop in knee-deep snow. It did not end well. No one came remotely close to finishing. DC hasn't been dumped on with 65 feet of snow as we were last year, so we should be in much better shape this weekend. I'm predicting at least someone will finish this year...hopefully all of us.

For those of you who don't know about the Reverse Ring: It's essentially all the MMT100 single-track fun without any of the road sections (or the southern Bird Knob loop) mixed in. Having previously run the 71 mile, orange-blazed "Massanutten Trail" in clock-wise fashion to qualify for this run (the regular 'Ring' is run on Labor Day weekend), now we get to run the thing backwards in the cold. Lucky us!  If you're not familiar with the terrain in the Massanuttens, I think I can sum it up by saying this race is a 71-miler that runs like a 100-miler. Always nice for an early season tune-up!

In other news, I know everyone was watching the Westminster Dog Show in New York last week, right? Well, I bring it up because one of my all-time running inspirations won the whole thing! Some of you may list Olympians like Ryan Hall or legends like Steve Prefontaine as your running role models, but I get all the inspiration and 'coaching' I need from none other than the Scottish Deerhound. Seriously!
Sure, at fist glance they look like a raggedy old man in need of a good shave, but man-oh-man are they fluid and graceful when they move! I've kept the image of a Deerhound gliding weightlessly over the ground fresh in my mind ever since I first saw one live a couple years ago. We all have tricks we use to get our exhausted legs moving again after 75 or 100 miles of running, and what usually works for me is envisioning that smooth effortless motion of the Deerhound's long legs as I move down the trail. It usually doesn't take long before I've convinced my weary legs to "keep up" with the fluid stride of the imaginary dog next to me. I think it helps that the Deerhound's scraggly appearance pretty much captures how I feel after 20 hours of running too, so when I can see one gliding so effortlessly over the ground in my head, I think "Shoot, if that old dog can move so well, I can too!".

I'm sure all of you have your own secret mental tricks you play to keep moving when your body is sputtering like an old Yugo, but if you haven't run with a ghost-dog pacer late in a race yet, I highly recommend. I guarantee my early-season exhaustion will have me conjuring up a pack of them to run with this weekend during the final (un-aided!) 26 miles of the Reverse Ring course!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saucony Peregrine Review

A couple years back I picked up a pair of Saucony Xodus trail shoes when they first hit the market. I had run thousands of miles in Saucony road shoes over the years, and at that point was confident enough in their product that I figured it wasn't much of a risk to drop $75 on the brand new Xodus even though I couldn't find a good review of them online. After taking them for a spin or two down the trails, I liked them very much, and I figured I'd help out some other running folks who were considering an Xodus purchase by writing a review on this blog. Twenty minutes later, the quick post was done and I went on with my day without thinking much of it. Little did I know that I had just created the most popular post I had ever written (and probably ever will).

Even now, with the Xodus shoe in its 4th version and some of my review now invalid (due to composition changes in the shoe), that two year-old post of mine still gets about 500 hits a month from around the world, and has received a stupefying 12,000 hits in total since May of 2009. To compare, the post that ranks in 2nd place all-time on this blog only has about 2,500 total hits. Shoot, if you Google "Saucony Xodus Review", my post is the #1 result, which is just ridiculous. Of course, this popularity has nothing to do with me or my writing, it's 100% a result of the fact that until much more recently no one else bothered to write a real review of this great shoe!  With the same intention of spreading the word on a great new trail shoe, I present to you my second-ever full shoe review: This one for the 2011 Saucony Peregrine. Keep in mind I have no affiliation with Saucony on any level. I'm just trying to help out any other trail runners who may be curious about this shoe.
The Saucony Peregrine
Saucony has just released their new Peregrine shoe as an option for trail runners who want a lighter shoe, but don't necessarily drink the ultra-minimalist Kool-Aid. I picked up a pair last week and headed out on a 5 hour test-drive on the trails of the Bull Run 50 mile course this past Saturday. While the terrain of Bull Run isn't as rocky or technical as a course like the Massanutten 100 it is a great place to test out shoes with sections that mix rocks, roots, hills, flats, mud, and grassy fields. Saturday turned out to be a great day to test out the Peregrine as the frozen/icy morning trails gave way to sticky/slippery mud in the mid-day sun.

Before talking about how the shoes felt on the trails, let's look at the composition of the shoe:

First off the overall package comes in at less than 10oz. per shoe. They claim 9.1oz. on the Saucony website, but since an "official" weight like that is usually based on a shoe smaller than my size 12s, I think mine tip the scales closer to 10oz. each. Regardless of where your shoe falls in the 9-10oz. window, running in the Peregrines nicely reminds you you're not in a 13oz+ trail shoe with every stride. *This is probably a good time to mention that you should order this shoe 1/2 size larger than you normally do (even if you're always an 11.5 in Sauconys, you'll need a 12 in this shoe - I'm glad I heeded that advice before buying mine).

When you pick up the Peregrine, you quickly realize just about every one of its ounces is located in the outsole. The lugs are packed in tight and vary in shape/size/angle like shards of glass from a broken beer bottle. ...and you know how tough it is to pick up pieces of broken glass without one of the random edges cutting into your skin? Well, these aggressive lugs do the same thing to the terrain below your feet on every step. No matter if you're stepping on a root, a rock, or a slick stretch of mud, there will be a sharp and sticky lug (or ten) perfectly positioned to allow your foot to dig in solidly. Even more impressive than the smartly shaped and angled lugs is the tremendously grippy rubber they used. It's worth noting that, unlike the Xodus/Razor line of Saucony trail shoes from the past couple years, they didn't outsource the outsole of the Peregrine to Vibram. One way or another this probably means they're committing a bit more to their own investment in the trail running world, which can only means good things for future product development.
The proud "Saucony" stamp replaces the Vibram logo from the recent past. You can see how the lugs on the left edge of the shoe vary in size, angle, and depth to grab onto anything you come across on a trail.
Moving up from the outsole, you find a mid-sole with enough cushioning to keep your feet happy but limited enough to post a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. In current industry buzz-word lingo, Saucony references this stat and advertises the Peregrine as a "minimalist" shoe. For those of you who started running before Born to Run came out, you can just consider this a lighter version of a regular ol' trail shoe. It's not nearly as "minimalized" as a shoe like the New Balance MT101s, but I understand Saucony is trying to sell shoes, and current market research has proven the trendy masses are buying up anything labeled "minimalist" these days. Whatever. The shoe weighs about 10 oz...or about twice as much as the ones I wore during high school cross country in 1994. I didn't realize I was part of an "official minimalist movement" back then, I was just racing in a light-weight shoe because I could go faster in them. Wearing the Peregrine feels absolutely nothing like running in a "barely there" shoe like an X-C flat or the NB101. Here's a side shot so you can see there's actually some mid-sole EVA in there to cushion your stride from heel to toe:
Plenty of mid-sole padding between you and the ground - not a "cushy" ride, but one that protects much more than a shoe like the NB MT101 while still allowing for a responsive, "connected" feel to the trail.

Where the term "minimalist" can definitely be applied is when checking out the shoe's upper. The royal blue layer of closed mesh makes up the main body of the upper, with thin black overlays added in for mid-foot support. There's a solid heel-cup to keep your foot in place, but no other major rigid elements like notable a toe bumper or the Saucony "arch-lock" reinforcement.

Since my feet are apparently composed of random bone ridges and bumps that no other member of the human race has, I usually need to grab a knife and cut out some portion of a shoe's ankle-collar to fit me just right. With the Peregrine, that meant slicing out a 1/2 inch piece on the top of my right shoe. This is a notable point because cutting into the shoe there allowed me to take this photo and show how thin the upper of this shoe actually is. As you can see, this is the upper at its "thickest" point (with added overlay for lace attach-point and a tiny bit of padding in the ankle collar). The rest of the shoe is mostly just as thin as the blue layer yeah, it's super thin.
While the blue layer is beyond-thin, it also kept 100% of the debris out of my shoes, so it's a worthy weave indeed.
To explain the inspiration for lightly supportive black webbed pattern that covers the majority of the upper, one needs to look no further than the name of this shoe. The Peregrine falcon is known as the "fastest animal" on the planet with its ability to reach diving speeds of 240 mph...which would give this bird a 100 mile PR of about 20 minutes, and thus a slight advantage over me in a race. To honor this magnificent creature, check out the comparison of its feather pattern to that of the overlay on the shoe and appreciate how the Saucony folks married form and function in this design...I love it!

That highly flexible black-mesh "feather" overlay provides all of the support in the upper (which isn't a whole lot!)
As for how it actually ran on the trails, I came away from my 5 hour test-drive quite impressed. The lugs, as I mentioned, are simply the best I've ever experienced in terms of grip and grab on the rocks, roots, and mud. Couple that with the relatively low-to-the-ground ride of the shoe, and you feel tremendously confident bombing down the trails at speed. I'm not sure I would wear the Peregrine for a 100 miler with lots of rocks (due to the lack of a rock-plate in the forefoot), but the outsole is rigid enough to take on any 50 miler you can think of without worrying about destroying your feet. I'll definitely be wearing these babies for my trail marathon in March and the BR50 in April...They're a perfect balance of support and speed for moderate trails.  At the risk of rambling on too much, I'll wrap things up, but feel free to ask any questions about issues I didn't address here. I'm happy to help all 12,000 of you (or, more likely, just my grandma clicking on the site 12,000 times to make me feel special)!

***100 Mile Update*** 3/15/2011

Ok, now that I've put 100 trail miles in on my Peregrines, and I'd like to add a few comments: First, on technical and rocky trails, you'll notice that the lack of reinforcements in the upper (which were left out to reduce weight and keep the shoe "minimal") allow your foot to move around a little too much for my liking when pushing off rocks in a side-to-side fashion. Not much you can do about it (tying laces tighter helps a bit, but at the cost of being uncomfortable on the top of your foot), and every time I hit a rough patch of trail that has my foot sliding around, I can't help but think an built-in sock/sleeve on future versions would help a bit.  Also, the tread continues to impress on all surfaces (I basically walked 50 feet straight up and down a smooth and dusty 60-degree red-rock in Sedona last week and didn't slip one inch), but the lack of a rock-plate becomes readily apparent on longer rock trail runs. After 30 miles of rock-hopping that same day in AZ, my feet were pretty tenderized.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hardrock Shmardrock...

Ok, so I didn't get into Hardrock yesterday. As it turned out, I had a 9.8% chance of being selected in the lottery, but as Lt. Frank Drebin would have said, there was really a 0% chance of that. With the surge of applicants this year, I knew my odds would be slim to grab one of the 140 entry slots, but I didn't realize that 39 of those spots would be guaranteed entry for 5-year veterans of the race. When I learned that fact prior to the lottery, it was easy to not even bother getting my hopes up for the drawing itself. Oh well. The bright side is now I can enjoy pacing many more miles at Badwater (which is held 2 days after Hardrock). I'll be a much more useful crew member for my buddy Chris without having to shuffle around on destroyed legs the whole time.

Even with the lottery loss, the weekend wasn't bad at all: I was able to enjoy another year of running my age on my birthday on Saturday. Well, "enjoy" might not be the best term for running 34 miles in rainy 37-degree weather, but I got it done, and that felt great. ...which isn't to say I didn't repeat the phrase "stupid tradition" a few dozen times when the rain and wind picked up. Also, I've decided I need to petition the government to have my birthday officially changed to June 5 from now on.

Another positive result from the HR100 lottery is I can now search all over for a new 100 miler to fill in my schedule between MMT in May and (hopefully) the Spartathlon in September. That's a pretty big gap with some great races to consider. One that caught my eye in particular is the Black Hills 100. They have a great website which tells you all you need to know about this first-year race, and I've always wanted to get up to that area of South Dakota to explore the Black Hills, Badlands, Deadwood, etc.. The problem I'm discovering, however, is that this appears to be one of those spots in the country that is pretty much impossible to travel to from DC. I'll have to work on exploring my options for this one to see if it can be done without having to take out a second mortgage.  If anyone out there has any suggestions for another race in the June-July-August window, please let me know. I'm looking for something fun to cruise in between the hard work of MMT and Greece. Thanks!