Tuesday, October 23, 2012


 I wanted to quit because I was suffering.  That is not a good enough reason. 
-Ted Corbitt

 I'ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt, undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me, I'm tearing down your balcony

 Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

One day's exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.
-John Muir

When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it. 
-Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild

  It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


Saturday, October 13, 2012

2012 Oil Creek 100K

The finish seems so far away.  Each mile is taking 20 minutes.  I try to run a bit, but my knees are locked and sore.  I know I have more than enough time to finish under the 30 hour cutoff, but can I get my mind off the number of miles and climbs ahead of me.  The downhills are hurting worse than the uphills.  What other option do I have?  I've made it this far and dropping isn't really an option.  I'm past the last aid station with 8 miles or so left, so I press on.

The day started with a cold, clear morning.  The stars were plenty.  A sliver of a crescent moon was rising slowly in the sky.  The 100 mile group had already been sent off at 5AM into the pre-dawn darkness by race director Tom Jennings.  The 100K runners followed at 6 and the 50K bunch an hour later at 7.

Why did I sign up for this race?  Why didn't I just register for the 50K?  I can't believe how tiring this first loop is.  I've run 50Ks much faster than this first loop, but for some reason I feel like crap.  I could have been showered and at the Blue Canoe Brewery within half an hour eating food, drinking beer, but instead I'm still out on the trail, muscles aching, quads burning...

Starting out, I thought the course was enjoyable.  It's always nice to run a new trail and see new scenery.  There were a lot of rolling hills, but there were also plenty of long inclines that seemed to last forever.  One hill was called Death March Hill.

I have a headache.  Too much Gatorade, too many shot blocks....too much sugar!  I needed to start eating real food at the aid stations and get some calories back in me.  I had a few salt tablets, but I'm not too worried about cramping since the temperature is cool out. 

Brian was trying to complete the 100 mile distance for the 3rd year in a row.  During the first loop, I caught up to him, making up the hour difference in start time.  I was glad to see him and hiked/ran with him for awhile.  My quad or hip flexor was hurting me and I was telling him that I was thinking of stopping after one loop.  I've had problems in the past with a strained quad, so this was worrying me.  That type of injury is something that only gets worse the longer you're on it.

Should I risk getting injured and being on the sideline for weeks or months just to finish this race.  If I don't finish, I'll have to tell every person I see, who asks how I did, my list of excuses of why I didn't finish.  If I don't finish, I won't even give myself a chance to meet the MMT 100 qualification requirements to enter the lottery.  Am I thinking about quitting because I truly believe I'm getting injured or because I just don't like the uncomfortable feeling right now and would rather be laying in bed sleeping?

After I ran into Brian, I stuck with him for awhile.  When I felt better, I pushed ahead.  We met back up as I was taking a longer than usual break at the Miller Farm aid station.  At this point, I was feeling pretty lousy.  I was eating ramen noodles, grilled cheese and ho-ho's hoping something would bring me back to life.  We both left the aid station together and at some point I pushed ahead and got to the middle school about 20 minutes before him.  In my mind I thought "I'm doing the 100K and he's doing the 100 miler.  I should be going at a faster pace than him."  I used that as motivation to push me along.  I remember at one point it dawned on me that I had started an hour later and this lifted my spirits.

Well, I made it to the middle school and I still feel the ache in my leg I felt 15 miles ago.  It doesn't feel any worse though.  I can do this!  If I start the last loop I know I'll finish.

I took a decent break at the middle school, saw Brian for a bit, then reluctantly headed out with no second thoughts.  I took three Tylenols before I left.  I forget at what mile the Tylenol kicked in, but when it did I was flying.  My legs felt no pain or tightness.  I was booking it downhill and powering uphill.  I was passing people left and right.  Many I'm sure were in the 100M, but it still felt good passing them.  It crossed my mind whether I should be going this fast with 20 miles or so left or conserve my energy.  From my experience in the past, though, I knew I had better take advantage before my second wind was over.  I felt like I was running 8 minute miles, but in reality I was doing 15-16 minute miles.

One thing I liked about this year was the chip timing.  Many ultra runners out there will say "keep it as primitive as possible" and "chip timing should only be used in road races".  I'm all for the simplicity of ultras, but if there's a technology out there that will let me look deeper into my race performance (and let family and friends follow along online) without drastically changing the feel of the race then bring it on!  In this case, I was able to see that from Miller Farm 1 to Titusville Middle School 1, I had run an 18:48 pace per mile.  From TMS 1 to Wolfkill Run 2, I ran 16:21.  Then, from Wolfkill Run 2 to Petroleum Center 2 I ran 15:02 per mile.  No wonder I felt like I was flying!

I somehow knew this was coming, but didn't want to believe it would.  I feel bonked again.  The Tylenol wore off, I've been sitting at the Petroleum aid station 2 for too long and it was starting to get cooler out.  Allison Holko walked up and gave some words of encouragement.  She also gave me a couple generic Ibuprofen pills.  I hope these have the same magic the last ones did.

The last 17 miles was a struggle.  I was able to run off and on, but that quickly turned into a power hike or death march, pun intended.  I tried to stay with a guy running the 100K and his pacer ahead of me by just hiking.  They would pull away from me on the downhills, but I would reel them back in on the uphills.  This lasted for awhile until the downhills became more numerous than the uphills.  I remember getting to Miller Farm.  It was dark now and I had my handheld Maglite flashlight on.  The aid station was cheering loudly and had a fire going.  I got my third bowl of ramen noodles for the day, ate some pizza and potatoes, drank some pop and sat by the fire.  It took a lot of effort to get up and head back out on the trail, but I knew I had to leave.  As uplifting as the Miller Farm aid station had been, it was equally discomforting knowing I still had 8.4 miles left to go and that all of these miles would have to be walked.

At this point, quitting wasn't an option.  One way or another, I would get to Tom Jennings, shake his hand and take my 100K belt buckle.  With the generous 30 hour cut-off time, I had no excuses.

My brother had texted me and said he dropped out at around mile 45.  He was battling a lingering cold and had quite a bit of congestion.  My dad called me on the trail and we talked for a short bit.  I was trying to hold my handheld waterbottle under my arm, my phone in one hand and flashlight in the other while trying to stumble my way over rocks and roots.  I was not a happy camper and in no mood to talk haha.  He told me the rain would hit Titusville in about 2 hours.  I tried to calculate the miles and time left in my head and set this as my new goal...beat the rain!

I ran with people for most of the run.  During the first loop, I had a good time meeting and running with Hugh Patton and Jen Beaujon.  I ran with Kimb Boner and ran into Paul "The King" and Kirk Harrison.  At the beginning of my second loop, I ran with a guy from Virginia running the 100M.  We ran together until the Wolfkill Run aid station.  There were also many other people I enjoyed the trail with, but was too delirious to catch their name.  At this point in the race, however, I was mainly by myself and the few people I ran into were in the same sociable mood as me - don't talk to me.

I finally hit the pavement at the Drake Well Museum and had 2.2 miles left.  I did the math in my head and realized with walking the rest, I was going to break 17 hours.  However, I still walked a brisk pace and with a sense of urgency.  The sky had been spitting rain and I wanted to beat any downpours.

Unfortunately, I didn't beat the rain.  Halfway into the 1 mile loop at the museum, the rain came down hard.  At this point, I didn't care though.  It actually felt good and rinsed the sweat and salt off my face. 

With only a half mile left on the bike path, Shaun Pope passed me and was finishing his hundred and securing the victory.  Amazing.

I got to the final straightaway and finished the race in 16:30:34.  The pain and torture was over.  There were no more miles to be hiked, no more hills to be climbed.  I shook Tom's hand and he gave me my finisher's buckle.

Monday, October 08, 2012

What Lies Within Us

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In about 5 days, I'll be attempting to run 12 miles more than I have ever gone in one run.  I'll be doing the Oil Creek 100K (62 miles).  I'm looking forward to this challenge and feel both anxious and excited. 

Anxious because I haven't been getting in huge mileage the past few weeks.  Anxious because I haven't run this course before and don't really know what to expect.  Anxious because my achilles, which feels better now, was hurting on my right leg after running the Akron relay.

Excited because there's nothing quite like an ultra race.  Training runs are fun, but races bring together all the people you don't see as much as you'd like to throughout the year.  The ultra community is small relative to that of the marathon or 5K crowd, but that's what makes it such a tight-knit group of people.

As I countdown the days until the weekend, another feeling I feel is a feeling of calmness.  With each ultra I do, the feeling of anxiety gets delayed closer and closer to the starting line.  Whether the distance is 50K or 100K, the game-plan is the same.  Stay fueled, take salt, hydrate, pace yourself and keep moving forward.  It's amazing what tasks seem impossible in running and in life.  It's even more amazing when you finish an "impossible" task and realize all it takes is a belief that you can do it and taking it one step at a time.