Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hellgate 2010 - WWHD

Robert Wehner's race report...

WWHD?  What Would Helen Do!  These four words became my mantra later in the day at Hellgate, and helped me get my mojo back.

Last year I was having a good race, but was starting to struggle in the second to last section (the infamous “forever” section).  Helen Lavin popped up behind me at that point, took the lead, and helped pull me through.  She was running very strong, including some of the uphills, and eventually pulled away, going on to win the women’s division.

Before the start this year I was joking with Helen about when she was going to catch me this time.  She laughed and indicated that she wasn’t expecting to do as well this year, that she would be further behind me.  My training had gone well, and I had hopes of bettering my time from last year, which was a PR for me on this course.

For the first half of the race everything seemed to be going well.  I was a little behind my splits from last year, but wasn’t worried.  Halfway between AS 5 & 6, just as daylight was beginning to filter in, things started to go down hill though.  I’m still not sure why, but I was in a funk, and my paced slowed quite a bit.  I didn’t feel like eating anything at AS 6, and just passed through it to start the hardest section of the course.

Being on a long, tough section didn’t help my spirits any, and so the funk just got deeper. I started to throw my own little pity party (it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to), questioning everything about myself as a runner.  Maybe I’m no good at ultras, why am I doing them, blah, blah, blah.

Approaching AS 7 helped a little, as the toughest part of the course was done.  Getting some food down there also seemed to help, and so I started the long climb out of that AS to reach the zig-zag part of the course.  This section cuts along the side of the mountains, curving in and out (over and over and over again) with some up and down.  If you can get yourself moving, it’s possible to get in a good rhythm and make some time up here.

On the big climb up to AS 8, Chris, who was crewing for Helen was walking down, and he indicated that Helen was close by.  Sure enough, as I neared the top of the climb, there was Helen just 50 yards behind me.  After some good natured jawing, I yelled down to her that she was going to have to run the rest of this hill if she was going to catch me, and I took off running it in to AS 8.

There is a long, rough downhill after this AS until you hit the “forever” section, and I was able to let gravity do it’s job here.  After turning back onto the single-track trail, I started thinking about how to get through this section.  I thought about how Helen attacked it last year, even though she was hurting.  I thought about how Helen wasn’t as prepared this year, but she was still working hard (and was the lead female runner!).  If she was struggling, she didn’t let it show.  Helen would just smile and keep laughing with that lovely Celtic lilt in her voice.

And so the mantra took shape: WWHD!  Every obstacle in this section, every rock, root, or hill was an opportunity to ask what would Helen do here.  She would run this hill, she would push this section, she would attack the trail.  I completed this section faster than ever before, and approached AS 9 feeling like the runner I wanted to be.

From AS 9 to the finish is simple: 3 miles up, then 3.5 miles down; grind it all the way up, and then hold on to your undies going down.  As I passed the 1-mile to go mark, another runner appeared ahead of me.  As I got closer, I saw it was David Ruttum, a friend and former Wisconsinite (and winner of this years Old Dominion 100).  So we fell in together and covered the last half-mile to the finish line, crossing in 13:48:28.  This was a little slower than last year, but covering the last third of the course faster than ever before made for a sweet finish.  Thanks Helen, and congrats on another win!

Bonus Feature
A staple of David Horton’s races is the “Best Blood” award.  Over the years he’s seen a lot of blood, but this years HG100 had the distinction of having the “Best Blood Ever”.  Dr. George Wortley put together a video of the race, and you can see the award winner near the end of his clip:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lost and Found - Pine Mt. 40 mile...

Marty Kanter-Cronin's Race Report...

Lost: My equilibrium, my car keys, and about 3 hours sleep. I have just awoken at 3:30 AM, remembering that I have a 2 hour drive from Atlanta to Pine Mountain GA in 30 minutes, so I can have the pleasure of running 40 miles. Ugh.

Found: Coffee and almond butter toast! And my car keys. Hit the road jack with a GPS and a rental car. At this time of morning the 6-lane highway is mine: Zoom Zoom!

Lost: Well, the GPS says the race is….right……. here….. Hmmm…

Found: FD Roosevelt State Park. The race that is. GPS’ are never perfect. Shut up GPS lady! I found it myself.

Lost: my ability to change in a back seat. I haven’t been that twisted and half dressed in a car since I was 16 on prom night. Compact car? Bad Idea. After that move I could join the circus as a contortionist. Yes, that was my left hand and right foot sticking out of the window.

Found: The start line, 7 AM. Lets get this party started! Its about 39 degrees, and slight overcast. The temp will rise only to about 45 today, and the wind is blowing in some of the open sections. Nothing too extreme, really nice running weather.

Lost: My passing ability. We are in the opening section, a flat 3 mile pine needle covered forest and I should take advantage here to pass a few slower people. I don’t. It’s a long day, no rush.

Found: The best view I have ever seen in a race. We are climbing a mountain switch back (one of many), elevation goes from 500 to 1300 ft. To my left is a rock wall, to my right is, well, nothing. Nothing but an emergency helicopter ride and major surgery if I step 6 inches THAT way. The sun is coming up, and I can see for miles and miles. We crest and run on the rocks, BIG rocks, like boulders. Hop hop hop hop hippity hop. AS1 comes up at 5.9 miles, and we are climbing climbing again. I torch the up hills; they are all gradual, but long. PEOPLE! These aren’t hills! They’re bunnies!

Lost: Left behind a whole bunch of runners at AS1. Running on more rocks, this time glacial trail sized. The well drained trail was leaf covered, but recent rains have matted them down. Most of the roots and rocks are visible, and sporadic enough to skip around. Dance monkey, dance! The trail was in such good shape later the course records would be shattered.

Found: The string in my left leg. Due to Marcel’s recommendation, I foam rollered the left leg ITB issue and it was good to go. Feeling good good.

Lost: the string in my RIGHT leg, suddenly. Ugh. I had done some work on both, but probably not enough. My right ITB was barking in my hip and knee starting at 10 miles just after AS2. From this point, I would once again run UP and walk DOWN. Crap. Running up and walking down is hardly a trade off. It’s a losing fight with gravity’s angels. I thought for a while if I should continue. 30 miles more to go like this?

Lost, then Found: my resolve to never quit. I have never DNF’d a race, and I didn’t want to start with the one that would set my new distance PR. Suck it up buttercup, your ITB won’t break. Running now on rolling forest trails with jutting granite rocks in places pine needles in others. Sharp as a razor, and soft as a prayer.

Found: The leaders. Coming back at me. This race is an out and back, with two loops in the middle. Like eyeglasses; we take the upper portion of the lenses on the way out, and the lower portion on the way back. The first three runners are headed back, and the winner would almost break 6 hours. Not quite, and a testament to the toughness of this course; the winner had 50 milers under his belt in 6:30. AS3 comes up.

Found: Water. Miles 21 to 23. A breath taking valley, with streams and water falls: Cascade Falls, Slippery Rock Falls, Big Rock Falls, and more. We cross fast running creeks and streams 13 times in 2 miles, periodically climbing up the mountain and just as quickly dropping back down in the valley. The most beautiful trail section I have ever run, I take nearly a full hour plus some minutes to complete a rugged 2.5 miles. Some of this trail section is also close to bush whacking. I have to duck my head in places to avoid the vegetation.

Found some more: Weezy. I am running with this guy, and he looks so familiar. I ask him a couple questions before finding out he is this guy: . Someone I had read about just a week ago. Small world. Weezy just finished Pinhoti, almost at the same time Kevin G finished. We run, and talk. We hit AS5 and this guy has GRILLED CHEESE! On a real GRILL! I tell him I am leaving him in my will. Seriously.

Lost: Weezy. It was fun running with him, but he was doing the smart thing and walking uphill and running down. We would yo-yo for a while, he catches and passes me down, I catch and pass him uphill. At some point, we must have had more up than down.

Found: My legs. I run from mile 25 to mile 33, and I am in good shape. A little behind schedule, now I want to finish in under 9 hours. I reach mile 28, at 6:30 figuring 2.5 hours for 12 miles should be easy. Right?

Really Lost: Mile 34. Sooner or later if you run far enough, or long enough you will lose your bearings and the will to go on. I’ve never run this far, and definitely never for this long (7.5 hours). All I want to do right at this moment is to stop. For the earth to open up and swallow me whole. Better still I want to be somewhere warm, like the finish line where there is food and a warm fire. I have seen this part of the course before, it’s the return portion of that stunning opening view. It takes me an hour and a half to cover 3 miles. Ugh. All I want to do right now is stay on the trail. Hello, Emergency services… Yes? I’ve fallen off the mountain and I can’t get up. Send the helicopter.

Found: The LAST aid station, at mile 37. I ask the nice lady what time it is, since I didn’t wear a watch today, on purpose. She says: “3:57”. 2.5 hours for the last 9 miles. Now, I have a flat pine covered 3 miles of trail to go, and 3 minutes to do it in to break 9 hours. Now I really need the helicopter.

Lost: Two places. I suck it up run run run hard picking up each wooden leg of shredded kindling step on toes of lead buck shots from a thirty aught six and no I ain’t walking no more and screw you guys who just passed me I don’t give a crap I catch you I’ll kick you in the shins dang it frikin’ hurts. (Cuss words have been modified to a PG rating.) Ran the last 3 miles in 26 minutes. UGH.

Found Found Found: The finish line, 72 out of 131. 40 miles, my new PR for distance. A new total running time, 9:23, almost 3 hours longer than any other.

Lost: my goodie bag in the rental car! I left it behind! Gack! Oh well, all I really wanted from that was the Moon Pie anyway.

Found: a real gem of a race.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Craig Swartwout's T-Bunk 200 Race Report...

We Ran 200 miles! 

202.18 miles, 27,000 feet of elevation change, 58 hours 52 minutes and 51 seconds. How does somebody that’s 52 years old do that? They don’t!

As Tom (Bunk) and I where heading down to the Nordic loop we were talking about every imaginable detail. What we needed. What we forgot. Who was gonna do what? But inside I was having a different conversation, “What was I thinking… 200 miles? What’s gonna keep me going? How am I gonna do this?”

I started my Garmin and ran off into the woods, leaving Tom, Robert (Wehner) and Jim (Blanchard) to get things set up while I ran the first loop. After about a quarter mile I was feeling overheated and noticed I still had my warm up pants on. I’d been so jacked up I’d forgotten to take ‘em off. “Oh well. If this is the worst problem I have”, I thought. “I’ll be in good shape.”

About 5 miles into that first loop my phone rang. “Are you done yet?” the caller mocked. It was Kevin Grabowski. If you know Kevin… you know that’s love. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about how many people were out there pulling for me. “I hope I don’t let ‘em down”, I thought.

As I look back, I think a defense mechanism kicked in. “Maybe”, I thought. “If everything’s going bad right from the start… it won’t be so bad if I don’t succeed.”

Poor Robert suffered the consequences of this subconscious malady for the next three loops. He got to listen to me whine, and I was drunk on whining. I whined about not feeling good, wanting to be left alone, how the weather had turned cold, how this hurt and that didn’t feel right. I whined through almost fifty miles before I finally decided I better put on some tunes and run by myself.

I sang with “Cheap Trick” at the top of my lungs trying to drive out the demons. When along came Christine (Crawford): bad timing, right person. I just wasn’t in the mood for company but Christine is probably one of the few people you can say that to, and she gets it. Thanks Christine! You’re a sweetheart for understanding.

I bellowed my way through a couple more loops until Todd (Egnarski) showed up.  I don’t remember much about running with Todd, but as he says, “What’s said on the trails, stays on the trails.” So I guess it’s appropriate that I can’t remember… except for that story about Cobbie and the Butterfingers and possibly a rules violation at the LFM… but you should ask Cobbie about that!

Why is Todd the leader of the LPTR? Well, because he’s the nicest guy in the group! He would’ve stayed with me ‘til hell froze over, but he didn’t want to be in the way. So when Parker showed up to crew the night shift, he bowed out.

Parker (Rios)… I want you to know something. All my life I’ve hated lawyers (it’s a long story). Then I spent some time with Timo (Yanachek), Larry (Hall) and you and I have to say… lawyers can be nice people!

Parker had to wait at the Nordic shelter as I finished a loop, and he must have gotten the story from Tom about my mother being concerned that I would be eaten by coyotes at night. During our loops that evening, the coyotes were particularly active and Parker would admonish me to “Keep up so the coyotes don’t eat you.” Coincidentally, it sounded like they actually hunted down a meal that evening.

What amazed me the most about running with Parker was he kept thanking me, “Because I was helping him train for Arrowhead”. Are you serious… the guys doing me a favor and thanking me! Who am I to have friends like this!

Unfortunately, during my first loop with Parker, I took a bad step on a rock. I didn’t know what the injury was, but I knew it wasn’t good! Each time my right foot hit the ground and again when I pushed off, I wondered, “How am I gonna keep going?” I had whined so much to my crew earlier, that it was like “chicken little and the sky is falling”. They gave me that “ya right” look and “encouraged” me to keep going.

What gets you through times like that? The group of friends and family that believe in you. The people that give up three days of their lives to help. They do it without even blinking an eye! They do it because they believe you can do it. “It’s your crew that gets you through”.

I kept thinking to myself, “You can’t let ‘em down”, but I knew at some point I wouldn’t be able to continue. As Robert and I hit the one-mile marker on a loop Friday morning, I had a thought. “Hey Robert. Give Tom a call and see if he’s got Dr. John’s number? If he does, have him ask John if he can come out and take a look at my foot.”

Long story short… Dr. John arrived as soon as he was done with his last patient. An exam revealed a dislocated meta-something-or-other in my foot. He put the bone back in place, did a quick acupuncture treatment to relive the pain and I was back on the trail. Who am I to have friends like this!

I left the shelter on that next loop with Deb (Vomhof) and Ron Bero. Deb is one of those people that lights up a room and fills your soul with hope. And Ron… well if you’ve never run with Ron at night it’s hard to explain. If you have you just laugh at the thought. The man carries about 25 flashlights but can’t get any of them to work! I can’t believe some of the wonderful combinations that I was being given… exactly what I needed when I needed it.

Deb and Ron got me through the next two loops and Robert pitched in another unplanned loop until Parker arrived for his second night shift. I have no words to adequately describe Robert. I have seen him demonstrate incredible compassion as a race director, friend and crewmember. If you don’t know this about Robert, then you don’t know Robert! He ended up putting in 110 miles over the three days!

I knew that second night was going to be tough. The forecast was for temperatures around 20 degrees with a wind chill in the teens. The frost was forming on the grass, sparkling in my headlight and making it particularly difficult to focus. Fortunately, Parker was in front. I put my light on his back and trusted he would lead the way.

It was a strange night. No moon, very dark, eyes staring back from the woods and things lurking just outside of our flashlight beams. At one point something very large sloshed through a pond. Parker remarked that, “It was heading in the other direction.” I didn’t remind him that the trail was going to take us to the other side of the pond shortly. But heading up that trail on the far side of the pond, Parker did a “face plant” and the conversation quickly changed.

“How many times have you fallen so far”, he inquired. I thought about this for a few moments and contemplated the “running gods” reaction based on my reply. “I’m not answering that question.” I responded.

“So you haven’t fallen?” he asked. “I’m not answering that question.” I replied and we left it at that.

“It’s your crew that gets you through”, but as I headed out for that last cold loop on the second night I cursed their names. Tom, Robert and Mitch were sleeping in that warm comfortable shelter and I was out on that cold dark trail!

Sometimes, what get’s you through is a little bit of loathing. If you have a good crew they understand that. They told me several weeks later they felt bad making me go back out for that loop and I believe them but I cursed their names just the same.

“I’m gonna throw that Robert off the bed when I finish this loop. Yes I am. I’m gonna take as long a nap as I want and I don’t care what anyone says!” I told Parker as we were finishing that last night loop.

Turned out I didn’t need that long of a nap. The Saturday morning TP runners started showing up before seven o’clock and as the sun came up I was up and got ready to go. Robert did another loop with me just to make sure all my parts were still in working order. By the time we finished that loop there were only three more to go. 

The sun had started to warm things up and the dynamic trio had arrived. Deb, Cobbie and Kathryn (Dunn)… are you serious! Can you imagine a more eclectic combination? There’s Kathryn “I can do the farmer nose blow and make it look dainty”. Deb “The nicest woman on the planet unless you’re racing her to the finish in the last 100 meters”. And Cobbie “I’m sorry, he’s just freakin nuts!” It was just what the doctor ordered and I laughed my way to two loops to go.

I think the beginning of that second to the last loop was my lowest point.  I was so close but not quite on the home stretch. As Cobbie and I reached the one-mile marker we passed four guys hiking and smoking a joint. “Hey maybe that would help” he suggested. I contemplated it. “No”, I thought. “I’m having a hard enough time figuring out where I’m going.

“What’ve you got in that backpack?” I asked. After a lengthy conversation we determined the only thing of value he had was a piece of gum. Great big huge back pack… tiny little piece of gum! Didn’t even have toilet paper in there. What good is he… good thing Robert came along with some supplies or I’d have been wiping my butt with Cobbie’s backpack!

Funny thing happened about four miles into that loop. I discovered the faster I ran the more Cobbie complained. This became a wonderful feedback mechanism that provided me with energy. Pretty soon I was running the hills and trying to beat Cobbie into the dust. Who am I to have friends like this?

As we were finishing that loop, Robert was explaining that they (the crew) had determined I didn’t need to do a full final loop to reach 200 miles. I could avoid the toughest part of the course by doing an out and back instead of a loop. Well, at that time I was running the toughest part and it certainly sounded like a good idea to not have to do it again, so I told him “Yes, let’s do that” and Robert went ahead to put that plan in motion. In the meantime, Deb had rejoined Cobbie and I to finish that loop.

As we came into the area by the shelter Tom was standing there waiting for us.
He politely asked Cobbie and Deb if they would give us a few moments and I knew I was gonna get the talk. I knew exactly what he was going to say and I needed to hear him say it.

“Here’s the thing”, he said. “What’d you come here to do? Did you come here to run 200 miles, or did you come here to do 22 loops? Because ya know, when you get up tomorrow morning, the worst thing in the world would be if you felt like you didn’t finish what you started… what you came here to do. Just think about that for a minute… because ya know… 22 loops… that would be special!”

I knew he was right. The name I’d come up with for this run was the tBunk 200+ because I knew if I did 22 loops it would be more than 200 miles. And, I had named it in honor of him. “You’re right.” I said about ten times as I made a quick stop to refuel and headed back out for the last loop.

Tom said he would meet me at Tamarac with warm clothes and a headlamp just-in-case I was going so slow that it would be getting dark. But I was flying… burning up miles like I hadn’t since the first day. Unfortunately I was also cramping up because I was getting real low on electrolytes. I had forgotten to replenish my supply for the last couple of loops and now I was paying the price.

I started to wonder if I could make it this far and still fail. Things were getting pretty weird. I had noticed several loops back I’d developed a couple of strange ticks… one physical and one mental. I was flicking my right thumb and index finger together, almost like snapping my fingers but with the wrong digits. And I had this line in my head from a Cheap Trick song “Dream Police” that just kept repeating… “The men inside my brain, are driving me insane”…  over and over and over again.

But I also had this beautiful crescendo of stories that had played out over the last few days. There were all these people that had come out to run with me. They told me how inspired they were by what I was doing. There was some mountain biker that I’d never met that stopped by each day to see how I was doing and told the crew what an inspiration I was. There was Tom, Robert and Mitch that had given up three days of their lives to help me realize a dream. My wife that was worried sick yet smiled every time I saw her. The list of contributors went on and on!

I was the one that was getting the inspiration from everyone else!

I ran down that long straight section of trail toward Tamarac and I could see Tom standing there by his truck. I really wanted to finish this for him.  I didn’t need a light. I didn’t need warm cloths. All I needed was an S Cap. But it was the one thing that even Tom hadn’t thought of.

I gave him a big hug and started up that hill with a little over four miles to go. My hamstrings were like piano wire when I crested that rise. About mid way through the bend at the top I looked down and saw one of my empty dose packets. A little plastic bag that I use to put various things in when I run. I must have dropped it on one of my previous loops. I was so cramped up I didn’t want to bend down to pick it up. “I’ve been picking up crap on this trail for three days.” I told myself trying to reason my way out of picking it up and I kept on running.

But this voice in my head said, “Turn around and pick it up.”

“No”, I thought.

“Pick it up”, the voice said.

“I’m not gonna run back there and pick it up” I thought. By this point I was a couple hundred yards past it.

“PICK IT UP”, the voice said.

“OK! OK! OK!” I ran back and picked up the packet… and inside what I thought was an empty packet was one S Cap.

There are moments in life that make you pause. Make you stop dead in your tracks. Make your hands tremble just a bit. I took that S Cap with love and gratitude for whomever was providing it. Who am I to have friends like this?

As I headed down the trail my hamstrings started to loosen up. I kicked ass the last three miles. It was probably the best three miles I ran the whole time!

There were eight people at the finish. Tom, my wife (Mary) and Daughter (Aimee) and her boyfriend (Mike), my business partner Mitch and his wife (Joan), Christine and Robert. But I know many others were there in spirit because I felt their inspiration!

202.18 miles, 27,000 feet of elevation change, 58 hours 52 minutes and 51 seconds. How does somebody that’s 52 years old do that? Not alone… it takes a whole bunch of really good friends and a little help from above! Who am I to have friends like this? The luckiest guy in the world!

As I approached the finish I had another Cheap Trick song in my head…

Whenever you need someone, to lay your heart and head upon.
Remember after the fire, after all the rain, I will be the flame.

Thank you all for being the flame! We did it together.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Road Trippin': Owen Putnam 50K

Marty's race report...                                

With a GPS on the dash I lit the map on fire, threw it out the window and scouted all the bootleg routes. Road trip! I packed up all my expectations, my running toys and some beer and headed off for Indiana. Six hours of back roads, small towns, and Midwestern landscaping, where you’ll see plastic pools in the front yard, bowling balls used as lawn edging, pumpkins impaled on dead trees, and welded Trojan horse statues of derelict farm implements.

This is my first road trip Ultra, and I’m headed for a tiny town called Spencer in the middle of western Indiana. In Owen and next to Putnam County, for which this race and its home park are named, this is where the state stops being flat and rolling hills, valleys, and bat caves abound. The bat caves are closed, signs tell me, because of some white nose disease. The DNR thinks is spreading via people, carrying it from cave to cave on shoes. No matter, let the bats have their long winter in peace. It was a little past leaf peeper season even this far south, so the trails are covered in gold, the trees and hotels mostly bare. And the bats are asleep.

This is where the fun starts. Adventure! The unknown, the first Ultra where I didn’t know the course, the fellow runners, nothing. I arrived the night before the race, to scout the run location, check into my hotel, get some food and good nights sleep. I am not nervous for all of this, and maybe it’s because I’ve run three 50K’s in four months. Some assurance of being able to finish was in my mind. The hotel was a gem; an old Sanatorium called the Canyon Inn located in another nearby state park. Yes, in the state park. The hotel desk clerk was a crab, the food excellent, the room absolutely tiny, but the bed soft. I highly recommend it. They have horse trails, and you can even rent horses there.

Nightime race prep: For once, I didn’t need a Sherpa to carry my gear; I took the road to simple. I took one hand held, stashed my S caps in my pocket, and intentionally underdressed 20 degrees! Brrr.

Of course I did everything I could to get ready for this race effectively except for one small detail: Don’t be FRIKIN’ late! GAH! I thought I left plenty of time. I had a short 8 mile drive, and 45 minutes to get there. I had driven out to the course the night before, and knew exactly where it was. 3.5 miles out, and then 4.5 miles down a narrow country lane road.

Yeah.  One and a HALF lane road.

Currently the narrow country road was occupied by someone obviously carrying nitro glycerin and not wanting to spill it. 12 miles per hour? Are you serious? No time to panic, and no where to pass. I do get to the start line, just in time for the race director to say: “OK, that’s the instructions, everyone got that? OK, GO!”

Yeah!. I mean, NO, what the heck? So roll with it, take the road. So off we go. It’s dark. And I mean dark the stars are out dark I can see the constellations dark. Indiana is on the western edge of the eastern time zone, it doesn’t get light until almost 8:30 on this, the last day of daylight savings time. I run with my Fenix light, and I’m a beacon, a freight train, a shining star amongst the puny fire fly head lamp wearers. I get several comments about headlamp envy. Mere mortals, I am the eye of Pegasus.

So Running. I’m usually careful, not to get caught up the first wave, but for whatever reason here I am with the front pack. Wait, where are they going? The lead pack veers off at mile 1.5, and someone behind me is yelling for me to go straight. I do. And find I am in the front, yelling back at whoever, to tell me when to turn. I’m LEADING. Holy crap.

This is unusual. But it doesn’t take long for the leaders to correct and pass by. We are running the first segment of the race, called the powerline loop. A 5 mile sort of precursor to the horse trail loop that follows, it gave everyone a chance to separate out on a wider trail into respective pace groups. This is a small race, with only about 50 people in the 50K and 50 mile races. This loop passes by in the darkness and if it weren’t for other runners I’m sure I would have gotten lost. We are running in the scrub below the giant, humming powerlines, with no discernable path except some orange flag tape tied to a few twigs here and there. Still we seem to be doing all right until we get to a spot just before the ‘butt slide’ hill. I look ahead and there are the leaders, a constellation of fireflies all conferring. They soon sort it out and off we go again. We finish this loop with a 2 mile run down a gravel road. 50 minutes for me, it’s still dark and now we head for the forest loop. I blow past the aid stations, a strategy I have employed in the last two races with good success. Stay only long enough to grab and go.

I start running my own race, my own road. I am pretty good about not getting caught up with someone else’s pace. Still, I have designs and goals for this race. Its small, and the winning time last year was 5:53.

5:53?  For a 50K? Huh.

I think I can do that. Or maybe at least break into the top three. I keep track of the leaders for a while, but realize that I am pushing my pace just to that edge. That bone edge where it hurts, just a little. That claw edge where it feels uncomfortable. That urgent edge where you are running like you stole something. And that’s where I settle in. The leaders are gone. The next segment is a 3 mile out to the forest loop and the horse trails. It’s still dark, but the sun will also rise and turn this into a beautiful but chilly day.

This segment I will see 4 times: the 8 mile forest loop is run twice, and this 3 mile out is also a 3 mile back to the start area. So out and back, out and back with the forest loop twice in between. This segment is the only somewhat flat area on the course. There still are hills along with 7 or 8 stream beds descents and climbs that are completely unrunnable, but climbable. Most of the stream beds are dry this time of year, but I have to hop skip a couple muddy ones. Navigation.

So I am running, and settle in with a pack. One guy picks up his pace and is moving ahead. I let him go. I run with a guy I call Cowboy Bob because he is wearing a blue foam cowboy hat. We lose the pack one by one. The horse trails are soft, forgiving, but the elevation is surprising. It looks a lot like the Kettle in places: basically no flats to speak of, and sprinkle in four significant climbs/descents. It’s beautiful, and the leaves are so fresh on the ground they are a yellow gold carpet and kick freely away from the trail.  I stay with Cowboy Bob until the next aid station, where he decides to drop due to a nasty gash on his thigh. Ouch. I didn’t see the fall but it must have been a doozy.

I am running alone in the forest loop now. And of course, I get lost. The RD is pretty good about markings, and he has a particular way of tying his flagging tape. I notice this later, after I follow a pink flag instead of an orange one. Pink and orange, by the way, look a lot alike when the rising sun shines from behind them. I am in a wide open clear cut area, and no flags. I back track; I only lose about 7 minutes, and I’m back on course.

I catch and pass that one guy I let go earlier, as I’m coming back to the start area and completing the first loop. This is the last time I will see another runner on the course. I run the out loop at a good pace again. I’m into the second lap of the forest loop and I reach an aid station at mile 25 in 4:30, faster than I had run Glacial. I figured I would easily beat my predicted goal of 6 hours, probably make it in 5:40.

Except for two things.

I had 8 miles to go, not 6. The course was 33 miles, not 31. OK, everyone runs the same course, so I could live with a 6 hour = 33 miler. No problem. But I had another problem. I had rolled my ankles in the soft trails so many times, and those rolls were affecting not my ankles but my IT bands at the sides of my knees. I have never had issues there before, but wow someone was stabbing an ice pick to me with every step. I left the middle aid station and was hobbling. Busted.

So the last 8 miles took me about 2 hours to run/walk. Stomach felt good, had energy, and I could actually run UP hills, just not down. I asked at one aid station about runners who had come through, and was told I was 20 minutes behind the next guy. I had no real chance of catching him in my state (unless he was worse off than me). So.

No regrets. I gave it my best shot, and shuffled it home. So I finished.

My time of 6:33 was good for 5th place overall. I had 20 minutes on the 6th place guy, and the 4th place guy was 25 minutes ahead of me. I had lots of room to run.

The race is very low key: no post-race stuff, no awards, not even for first place. Still, it was well run, well stocked, and well marked. Fired up the GPS and home we go. A road trip worth taking.

Friday, November 19, 2010

2010 so far...

So far in 2010, the 37 sticker-toting members of the Lapham Peak Trail Runners have collectively completed 174 ultra-marathon distance races or Fat-Ass events covering a current total of 7,921 miles!  And we still have December to go!  WOW!  I MapQuested a loop course so that next year we can just cover the distance as a relay and rest for the remainder of the year.  This loop is still a little short, so we will have to add 10 black-loops and 30 stair-repeats to finish up...

If everyone can just add 60 more ultra-race miles to their individual total next year, we can crack 10,000 miles! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lucky # 10 - Mountain Masochist 50(ish) Mile

Race Report by Julie Treder...
What started off as a way to escape my life at the time (and try out this ultra with a really cool name!), turned into a vacation destination (I had the opportunity to hike/bike around West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and DC my first four trips), turned into a way to road trip with great friends (Ralph, Todd, Jeff, Deb, Brian, Angela, Brad, Kevin, Tim, Kurt, and Joel came with over the years), turned into a mission (thanks to Ralph for planting the seed!)… the 10-year finisher jacket.  2010 was finally that year!

There was a great group traveling to represent Wisconsin this year… Angela, Brian, Jeff, Joel, Kurt, and I.  A mere 15 hours after leaving Wisconsin, with stories of killer owls and scary sounds in the woods, which turn out to be ones own footsteps, filling the time… we were at the Kirkley, host hotel of the MMTR.

Friday was spent tooling around Lynchburg… shop here, hike there, search out yard sales and antique stores in between.  We were able to meet one of Angela’s brothers who joined us for the day… unfortunately, no embarrassing childhood stories were revealed.  Before we knew it, it was time for the packet pickup/pre-race briefing.  After getting the low-down on the race and the great story of Jenn Pharr-Davis’ tale of her AT thru hike… we headed back to our rooms for a restless night of sleep.

The race starts at the James River Visitor Center in the middle of nowhere.  We run a couple miles out and back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You usually can’t get any groove going in this section, since everyone is clumped together and using the flashlights of the prepared runners.  It’s not until you pass by the Visitors Center when you can open it up and start running your own pace.  This section is tough because it’s roads (so you feel you have to run!)… but it’s hilly (so your brain is telling you to take it easy, but your legs are so hyped up with adrenaline and saying “Ah hell, keep it going!”).  The legs usually win out… and hopefully won’t pay for it as the race progresses.

The fun begins at mile 6… when you hit the singletrack trail and go up, up, up.  These races are so hard to keep pace with others, so I was running solo most of the trek… which worked out for me in finding my happy pace.  Huffing it up one of the climbs, the silence was broken by a runner behind me whose groans signaled some severe issues.  Rather than pull off to the side, this runner kept pace with me.  Weird… but whatever.  Do I dare check on this GI-distressed runner?  Ah, no… carry on.  After a few more grunts, this runner decides to pass me by.  Great!  This groaner turned out to be none other than prankster Joel.  Yes, Joel Lammers.  Back in my part of the pack.  After a few words, he was off to conquer the rest of the trail on his bum hamstring.

My goal over the past few years has been to run this full 4 mile uphill section around miles 13 and 17.  This section isn’t steep, but it grinds on forever.  Conquering it is like a competition within the race, which I like to challenge myself with.  Hey, whatever it takes to break up these races to get through them.  Goal… accomplished!

The second half of the race was a repeat of the first for me.  I was able to break the remaining miles into tolerable sections… up to Buck Mtn (mile 29), to the loop (mile 33), through the loop (mile 37), to the second to last aid station (mile 43), the final aid station (mile 47)… and home free!  Totally doable segments.  All I had to do was maintain my pace and not bonk!

I got to the loop in good shape yet.  All who have run Masochist before know how tough the loop can be.  Jumping boulders, scrambling down rocks, running down leaf-covered rocky trails… oh, it’s a beaut!  In past years, this section was always a struggle.  This year, I felt strong!  I was running sections I have barely walked in past years.  To keep me motivated, I came across a fellow runner who informed me that Brian was about 15 minutes in front of me.  I got the same drive I had out at Wild Duluth when Brad and I were runners on a mission… to catch some of the runners in front of us at the 100K.  This was now my mission!  Toward the end of the loop, I came upon Kurt.  He was wisely taking it east down the steep declines, with memories of a few broken ribs from a fall he took while running trails last year.  We stuck together to the end of the loop, where I just filled up my camelback with water and grabbed a handful of gummy bears before continuing on my chase.

My nemesis in this race has always been miles 43 through 47.  This section takes FOREVER!!  In prior years, this section has brought me to tears by the length of time this “4 mile” segment takes.  The climbs are tough, the trail is ankle-turning… it can be just plain demoralizing to a tired runner.  I don’t know if it was knowing this year’s Masochist was marking the end of my streak, or knowing this was my last race of the year (so there was no need to save anything), or just having a target (Brian) to catch before the finish… but this usual ungodly section seemed to fly by.  It wasn’t until mile 45 where I finally caught up with Brian.  From there, we worked together to cover the last 5 miles as quickly as our beat up legs would carry us.

I did not want to know what my time was until I crossed that finish line.  It felt like I was moving pretty well out there, but you never know what story that clock will tell.  Brian and I cruised down the last miles of rocky downhill and across the final road segment to the finish line… clocking in at 9:35 – an MMTR PR for myself and Brian too.  We were greeted by Horton and Clark Zealand… something I’ve always appreciated about this race – the personal congratulations from the RD.  What an experience!  What a race!  What a great way to end such a great ride!!

I can’t say enough about the crew that came along this year… to make this race so memorable.  Angela joined me despite all the going’s on in her life… which just meant a TON to me.  Jeff came along despite lots of hamstring and leg issues… and knowing that he was venturing on the down side for his 10-year jacket (#6!!).  Brian joined me despite hating the 50-mile distance and his puke-on-the-bus streak.  Kurt joined my despite his amazingly hectic schedule with family, church, and teaching.  And Joel came along even after pulling his hamstring at Glacial just a few weeks prior.  What an amazing crowd to be surrounded by for this very memorable race!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Sometimes there is so much to do you choose to do nothing.  This is the state of affairs when considering the multitude race reports that could be posted by LPTRunners over the past few weeks.  

Julie and Brad started the onslaught with their finishes at the Wild Duluth 100k on October 22nd.  The pair finished 4th and 5th respectively.  This is the second year for the event and Julie and Brad have competed both times. (Official Results)

Next up was the monster weekend in early November that had nearly all the LPTRs competing at one distance or another. 

The Bergkonig - or mountain-king 10k was held in our back-yard at Lapham Peak.  Several LPTRunners were represented with Todd getting top LPTR finisher honors in a 5th place finish overall.  (Official Results)

Marty Kanter-Cronin rolled through another ultra finish, logging a top-five finish at the Owen Putnam 50k held in Spencer, Indiana. (no results yet...)

A large contingency also attended the Mountain Masochist 50-mile in Virginia.  No need for map-quest on the way out as this was Julie Treder’s 10th time at the event!  Amazing for anyone, let alone someone in their mid-thirties!  Great performances all around including Joel Lammer’s leading LPTR finish of 9:15 on the 54-mile course (Horton miles are longer than real miles…).  (Official results)

On most weekends my 100-mile finish at Pinhoti in Sylacauga, Alabama would be the longest race (Official Results)… Or perhaps David Ruttam's finish at Ozark 100 (Official Results) ...HOWEVER… Craig Swartwout completed a 202 mile geosynchronous orbit around the Nordic trails from Thursday through Saturday.  Running loop after loop, he covered the total distance in under 60 hours with less than 3 hours of sleep the entire way.  Try watching movies on the sofa for 60 hours – It’s not easy… Running for 60 hours?!?!  Huh!??!  While he did have pacer help, it was a solo race effort so I guess he won the overall AND set the course record!!?  When asked why he ran 202 miles instead of the 200 miles that was planned, Craig dead-panned,  “Just in case someone wanted to come out and top 200 miles next weekend.”   Um… Craig… I think you are safe on that one…

Anyway – Sorry for such a quick over-view of the recent events.  Still hoping there may be some individual race reports out there.  In the end, it’s more fun to run than to write about it! 

As the year wraps up, the numbers geek in me was thinking it would be fun to add up the total the number of miles raced collectively by the group this year.  Please take a minute to list your total number of ultras raced in 2010 along with the cumulative distance.  Should be  a HUGE number just with Julie and Brad!!  I know there are more races to go and that the year isn’t over (Good Luck at Hellgate 100k Robert!!!) – but I can just add on as we wrap up 2010…  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One man, one weekend... 200 miles.

One man, one weekend…  200 miles.  No t-shirt.  No Awards. No results posted.  No fanfare.  No glory.  
Earlier this year, LPTR Craig Swartwout completed the Leadville 100.   In 2009 he joined a very small and select group of runners when he completed the McNaughton 150-mile event on the greasy trails of McNaughton park in Pekin, Illinois.  Beginning the morning of Thursday, November 4th, Craig will attempt to up the ante.  He plans to cover 200 miles on the trails of the Southern Kettle Moraine by Sunday.
It’s not a race.  It’s not an official event.  There isn’t a time to beat.  Just one man, one weekend …and 200 miles.
Why would anyone do that?
There is no bravado here.  He hasn’t published his intentions (I had to badger him to let me blog about it). There will be no media.  He hasn’t dedicated his attempt to some noble cause.  He could have signed up for the Vermont 200 and gotten a t-shirt and had the possibility of having his name published in the UltraRunner magazine results.  He could have waited for a time of year when the weather was milder.   Or waited for a time when the hours of daylight were longer.  But Craig wants to do it right now.  
So why would anyone do that?  Probably to see if he can. 
With planning and crewing help from ultra-legend Tom Bunk and a host of other friends (thanks Robert, Beth and Mitch!), Craig will spend a long weekend head-quartered at the Nordic Trail shelter best known as the starting point for the Ice-Age 50 and the Kettle 100.    
Many of the LPTR’s will be out of town (A large contingency is headed to Mountain Masochist) - but everyone will be rooting for Craig!   

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Glacial 50 from the back of the Pack
By Steve Poulter

As a newbie trail runner and recent recipient of my coveted LPTR sticker, I have no problem confessing or promoting the back of the pack crew.  I’m one of those that with the excitement of a little kid are found darting out with the lean, mean trail running machines and then fading on the first hill and settling into my own pace.  So it was once again last Sunday, with a little more trail experience under my belt, that I set off on the Glacial 50K with a large group of LPTR’s and others in Greenbush.

Flashback 1 hr….I got to the race a little early to watch the start of the 50 miler.  With headlamp ready to navigate the dark (and to make myself feel cool like the 50 milers) I watched as RD Robert sauntered to the start with the racers to a calm countdown of his watch to set off the first group.  The simplicity of the race and the start was exciting.  No timing mats, blow up arches to run through, huge clocks or DJ’s blaring music.  Just the raw nature of runners and gear and headlamps and a sunset soon to happen…and rock our worlds….created a buzz and excitement that grew in momentum as the 50K runners continued to gather in numbers for their start an hour later.

So after final preparations and a pre-race guide from Robert, the 50K crowd started off on the road south in the same simple fashion as the 50 milers.  I did my best to try to figure out where I would find myself….I knew Joel, Todd, and Marcel would be out in the front somewhere…and Marty had big plans on coming in under 6 hours…well, those are bigger than my goals of 6 hours.  My plan was a 5:1 run/walk, I had run a 5:05 marathon at the NFEC last month, and figured I could cover 5 more miles in an hour.  What I didn’t anticipate was the rugged North Kettle Moraine and the heat that would set in late in the race.

After a great chat with Jeff and Angela along the road south and onto the trails, I found myself settling in behind a first timer, a newbie Ultra runner.  I found myself doling out encouragement on a certain finish and advice to just keep moving.  It was cool to sense the uncertainty he held about the race, but an excitement about the day to come.  I settled into my pace and the group spread out, this course required plenty of line of sight to navigate the rocks.  However the solitude was a stark contrast to previous races…it was me and the trail and the strategy and mind games and mental calculations began in full force. 

Funny sidebar…how well do you do math while running?  My goal was to calculate what I thought I would have to run to ensure I made it to the finish before the first 50 milers….let’s see, assuming a 7 minute pace over 50 miles converting into hours minus the delta between my 15 mile turn and their 25 mile turn…when was my last S-cap….every 30 minutes and gels every five miles…where am I…did you see a yellow Ice Age trail blaze lately….what is moving over there…check out that cool view…where was I?   COOL!   Aid station #1!  

So was my day, mental distractions contrasted with severe concentration to dance over the rocks and navigate loose gravel on downhill’s, and trying to take in fluids and nutrition.   As I closed in on Aid station #2, I saw the first of the 50K runners on their way back home.  It was about 2:18 in when I started counting runners, looking for my LPTR holmeys.  I saw Joel in fifth place blazing and was excited to see a familiar face…a couple more LPTR’s were along this stretch as I descended the steps into the AS and Julie was there to fill up my bottle, Jill and Connie were there rooting on the runners and waiting for their guys to come back in, and many familiar faces were helping runners.  I was quick to start back off up the stairs.  

It was soon after I saw Todd looking strong…where’s Marcel I thought, figured they would hang together…guess it would be soon.  Then I saw Marcel, Jeff, Marty and others and started the serious mental calculations again on when I would hit the turn myself, how far were these guys were ahead of me based on the turn…oh well, it kept me busy.

I hit the turn at the bandanna tied to a stick in the ground (awesome…again simple) at 2:57….right on pace for a 6 hour run.  It was here that I started feeling the heat and my pace increase, but I ran pretty steady back into the aid station and it was time to hit the drop bag.  A cool wet washcloth to cool off the head, grabbed my hat our of the bag, and added my Nathan waist pack bottle to the hand held I had been using to double fluid carrying capability.  Restocked some gels, grabbed some food and was up the stairs again.

From here the heat continued to increase and I started finding it hard to drink fluids and intake anything.  I topped off all bottles at the last aid station at around mile 24 and headed back out with some oranges in my pocket…it was soon after the real trouble started.  As I ran my stomach seemed to move into my neck…not a good sign.  I would walk and it would settle, drawing me into a false sense of success, only to try to run and have the nausea come back.  I found a nicely cut stump on one uphill and sat down…head in hands…can I make it,  yes, but what would it take?  A couple guys passed me at a crawl of a walk, they were close to my condition and sympathized, I knew I wasn’t alone in the struggle.

This battle went on until mile 28, when the lead 50 mile runner came running up behind me.  I looked at him and he stopped, hands on knees shaking his head.  He was hurting, and looked like he was running from a band of hunters…adrenalin raised, this is exciting, was there a race on…who was behind him…how close?  Was it Kevin, Christine, who was on his tail?  I shouted some words of encouragement as he headed off ahead of me…and it was then that I was able to start running longer segments.

So on I pushed and the trail broke out into the open fields where I knew I would soon see the road again.  I saw the 1 mile to finish sign and was encouraged to get this thing done.  As I pushed out onto the road and around the first bend I saw nobody.   Just me and the finish line, but the sun was beating down and I zig zagged on the road to find any shade available.  As I was heading north to the final left turn to the finish, I looked back and someone was gaining on me.  My walk / run was pitiful and they were eating the gap.   It was the second place 50 mile runner, later I would learn her name to be Cassie, and gain great respect for her accomplishment of the day.  I always seem to find the energy to run the last leg to the finish and ran it in to a new PR of 6:45 (2 minutes faster that the Ice Age 50K).

I stumbled around the finish area and heard a roar of applause (or a few guys clapping ?!?!?) hey is that for me or Cassie?!?!

And there at the finish was my LPTR friends, soaking up the shade and ready to talk trail.  Overall, awesome day, awesome trails, awesome race, awesome race director, awesome volunteers, and awesome friends.  Can’t wait to return next year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Glacial 50k - Marcel Uttech's Race Report

Well I finally made it up to the northern Kettle to experience the Glacial 50k trail run. The weather was beautiful, a tad bit warm in the afternoon but that just made you want to finish all the more. The scenery was amazing, with leaves of bright yellow and gold all throughout the woods, and reds and oranges all over the prairie sections. This race was very well put together, Robert Wehner the race director does an awesome job making this race one you want to come back to year after year. I had the privilege this year of seeing Cassie (LPTR) come out from Colorado and smash the female course record by over 30 minutes, taking second overall! Go Cassie!
As far as my own race, well it was an experience. I started off well, setting a good pace and running with Todd Egnarski. At mile 4.5 I was flying down this hill and my left foot caught something and twisted my foot to the right, I actually heard a slight pop-pop noise and pain shot up my leg. I literally yelped (expletive) and while hopping quickly to keep from going down managed to stop myself and assess the damages. I was so worried that the race was already over for me... I started walking on it and it hurt but didn’t feel extremely bad so I tried running on it- seemed do able so I continued on, figuring I would just see how things went. Well for the next 11 miles I felt pretty good, back on pace and making good time. At around the turnaround point (15 miles or so) the pain started to gradually progress, of course the trails many rocks and roots didn’t help my situation, as I was continually stepping on things that made my ankle wince in pain. At about mile 24 I was reduced to a walk. Running was no longer an option. My ankle was trashed, and I felt like an idiot for trying to run practically the whole 50k on it anyway...I just couldn't bring myself to just give it up. I figured I would run/walk the rest, but my ankle just kept getting stiffer and more painful so I had to walk (more like a lethargic lurch) the last 4 miles or so out of the woods, just watching everyone I had passed throughout the race come on by while I just kept reminding my ego," you are injured, just finish and it’s done”...I felt like a dog straining against its leash to chase some cars…
It’s hard to let it go. It’s hard to finally listen to that voice that says “Hey, I’m hurt here and need some attention!” Our own goals get in the way, a fixation of sorts that throws all good natured caution to the wind. The mind of the trail runner…
Boy you really forget how long it takes to walk a few miles when you get used to running them! My Garmin would beep at a mile and inform me that I was on a 20 min/mile pace-ouch! Seemed like it took forever to get out of those woods! However, I stayed positive and used all my extra time to look around me and take in the beauty of fall there at Glacial that was on display. Big thank you to Jeff Mallach for the water, another hour would have been rough on empty! Once I made it to the road, I managed a slow jog (flat surface made me pretty unconcerned about twisting my ankle any further) and made it into the finish. 6:09. By no means a PR, but I made it. The volunteers were great, so many familiar faces! Had a great time socializing with friends and other runners afterwards, icing the ankle and forgetting about my last  20 min. miles...I would say all in all I had a good race. So glad I didn’t sign up for the 50 mile…I don’t know how you people do it! Congrats to all the finishers, that’s a tough course on the feet. I learned a lot about acceptance at this one, glad to hang my hat on it for the year. Be back next year.
Marcel Uttech

My two Left Feet: Glacial 50k

Race Report by Marty Kanter-Cronin:

So lately I’ve been thinking about feet. Not in a fetish way (Oh baby more big toe!) but in an athletic foundational strength sort of way.

This is a common theme with me, becoming interested in developed body areas of various athletic endeavors I take up. Kayaking? Shoulders and lats. I wanted to be a Cat 3-4 cyclist once (I stopped just past the training wheel phase; my thighs are the size of cue sticks), and I was noticing quads for a while.

So now that I’m a trail runner, I look at feet. As a road racer, I never saw other runners unshod, but for whatever reason trail folks just like having their shoes off. First thing they do after a race, just before trying to find a beer is let their toes out of hiding. I get to see lots of feet at races, and I’ll tell you, trail runners feet are tough and muscular.

Saturday night before the Glacial 50 races, I shared a room with three other runners doing the Glacial 50 miler; Kevin, Cassie and Brad. Apparently the need to go sans shoes doesn’t start with post race. Have you seen Kevin’s feet? TOUGH. If Kevin’s feet were a person, he would have tattoos on a 52 inch chest, wear a leather jacket, and occasionally eat glass. TOUGH. And then there were Cassie’s feet. Now, Cassie, being a girl has painted toe nails. But putting a dinner jacket on a bouncer doesn’t hide the hammers for arms. Refined, yes, but likes to pound nails in cement for fun. Several times I saw the muscles in Cassie’s feet trying to get out of each others way. Oh yeah, TOUGH. Then there was Brad. I didn’t see Brad’s feet much because he was too busy setting up a medieval torture device disguised as a sleeping cot. Brads feet remind me of that Bo Diddley song: 47 miles of barb wire, and a rattle snake for a neck tie. TOUGH.

Yeah. Trail runners and their feet are tough.

Then there’s my feet. Bird feet. Wimpy. The kindest description is they belong to a chicken. A small one. Seriously, if you strip what little foot flesh I have, spray paint my bones a pink tone, the before and after photos would show only slight differences. If my feet were a person he would be the skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face at the beach, and looking for some Charles Atlas dynamic tension to muscle up. But they are getting tougher. I have my pinky toes doing tiny little push ups. Really. They are up to 5 and a half.

So getting ready for this race, besides doing my pinky toe push ups, I gotta pick out what to wear and carry. I have an issue (ok lots of issues) with gear. I tend to over-pack for races, something that never happens when I am training. Example: Remember when Joel talked me out of my rain coat at North Face? What you didn’t know was what was in the raincoat. I had loaded up my  pockets with about 147 pounds of supplies. Really. I had three Clif bars, 12 gel paks, seven packs of Clif shots, a gallon of Gatorade powder, a first aid kit, a signal flare, and a bazooka. Ok, I exaggerate. I didn’t have the bazooka. I left it at home. With all that stuff, I just needed a Sherman tank to mount a serious attack on Normandy.

Speaking of tanks, I could have used a couple for shoes on the trail on Sunday. Races like Glacial 50K will either toughen your feet, or send them cowering for the nearest aid station calling MEDIC! Rooty? Rocky?  No, rocks don’t sound hard enough. To borrow some Van Morrison lyrics:

And it stoned me.

Seriously, there are 4 million eight hundred thousand two hundred and fourteen stones on the Glacial 50K course (I counted), and I stepped on all of them. And all but three with my right foot. Unconsciously, I ran much of this race leading with my right. Mashing, mashing. Stubbing, stubbing. Fortunately, no falls. But after a while (25 miles or so) my right foot had given enough, and it was barking at my left foot to take a turn. At that point, I could have used a substitution and gone with two left feet. I have composed a little Haiku to illustrate the footfall pattern from this point on:

Step Ow. Step ow. Step.
Ow Step ow.@#$% OW Step OOOooooow.
Step Step OW ow OW.

For this race, I got the nutritional thing pretty well worked. I only lost about 5 minutes for in-the-woods-jumping potty breaks. My Pre-race meal consisted of no fiber at all, and my night before didn’t have much either (to quote Kevin, fiber is like “a million little fingers in your colon trying to push the dukkie out”). I went with a powder called “Pro-Carb” and mixed it with my hand held drinking water bottle. No stomach issues, no need for a gel every 14 and half minutes.

Speaking of gels, have I ever told you about my issues with packaging? Gah. Before I segway into this, first let me preface it by saying, I am really a handy guy. Really. I re-wired my house, hung sheet rock, refinished wood like nobody’s business. I am good with my hands. I handle power tools like they are wired to my brain.

Yet packaging frustrates me: I have actually opened a cereal box with a table saw. Twice in my life I have been sent to a hospital for stitches from trying to open hermetically sealed plastic. So for me opening a gel pak is like putting on boxing gloves and trying to pick my nose. The job will sort of get done but not without cursing and self inflicted blood letting. When I have to take a gel pak my first thought is always: where’s a good table saw when you need one?

My summary, or long story much shorter: my race prediction was 5:40, and I would have nailed it were it not for the one poopy break. Final for me as 5:43 and change. Close enough and a 10 minute PR. Many thanks to Jeff Mallach for running with me for about half this race.

 Post Run! It’s the Christmas time of any race. Food, Beer, Cheer. Seeing Cassie and Kevin finish 2-3 in the 50 mile was great. All the LPTR’s kicked ass, including Bruce and Joel at the top of the 50K class. Robert did an outstanding job as RD, and those LPTR’s who weren’t running were there enforce as crew or volunteers. My many thanks and appreciation! (Especially Connie and Jill E, who demonstrated the very definition of grace by smiling and offering to take my stinky, sweaty shirt at mile 13. Thank you ladies!)

Lastly, I leave you with another definition: Gold:: The rising sun, shining though a million autumn leaves in the Northern Kettle Moraine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Grindstone 100 Mile - David Ruttum's Report

I am not invincible. I know most people realise this in their mid twenties when they return to their alma mater and try to replicate previous drinking practices only to awaken the next morning slathered in vomit and a raging headache. Clearly I am a slow learner in that it took until age 31 at Grindstone 2010 for me to recognise that I am not invincible. I guess I should drink. But wait, I have already gotten ahead of myself.
            In my original 2010 race plans, Grindstone 2010 was going to be a fun science experiment. I would have finished UTMB at the end of August and just a short four weeks later I would race another mountainous 100. Needless to say, my plans were changed by the extreme weather and subsequent cancelation of UTMB 2010. Instead, I had two hard weeks of back-to-back 4-7 hour days of running in the Alps. I came back to states more tired than had I just run UTMB. For the interim four weeks I slept and did only 10 hours of running a week.
Toeing the starting line at Grindstone, my rest had been judged successful in that I felt a swarm of energy coursing through my body looking for an outlet. I had my super brother Eric crewing for me and I had already spoken to fellow race participants Ty Dranney, Jason Lantz, and Chris Reed. Andiamo! (“Let’s Go” in Italian- a common encouragement shouted at UTMB). With that we were off and I was comfortably in the lead pack of ten guys. After a half-mile the singletrack running forced us into echelon. I was behind two people that scared me with poor foot placement reminiscent of someone just transitioning between road racing and trails. I decided to zoom around them and my judgement was confirmed within ten minutes when I heard each of them crash. What an arrogant fool I was. I identified that these two were moving too fast over the variable terrain for their safety, yet I, the experienced ultra runner would never fall victim to the same problem. What hubris! The mythological God’s alerted to an act of hubris by a mere mortal, decided to clip my Icarian wings about an hour later.
In the meantime, our lead group raged-up the first significant climb. By this time darkness reigned and I was reliant upon my main headlamp and ultra running Barbie headlamp around my waist. As an aside, at the prerace meeting, Clark announced that he was raffling a Black Diamond headlamp and shortly thereafter I was the winner. As Clark had four girly headlamps and one stout, manly headlamp, I saw him look at me, then look at the manly headlamp, and then award me the girly headlamp. Thanks Clark! Do you think I look good in pink? What a vote of confidence. I am a little girl. He should know, I think Clark has three little girls. Still, the ultra running Barbie headlamp was brighter than my intended second headlamp so it usurped pride-of-place around my waist.
 After a short descent from the summit, we started a technical descent over a slag heap. This slag heap consisted of rocks about 60cm in length, 30 in width, and 30 deep, arranged in a random heap and freely mobile over one another. Footing was precarious and the darkness magnified the danger. A cautious runner would have controlled his descent over the heap and then increased speed later. Not the invincible me! I seemed to float over the slag heap, like a winged Icarus flying toward the sun, and then they ended. I made it unscathed and I had gained five minutes on the lead pack behind me in just two or so miles. Wow. Descending is cool. I breezed into the first aid station a wellspring of energy. As Clark and Horton told me I was two minutes ahead of Karl’s pace last year, I should have read caution in the tea leaves- instead I said “Cool!” and reenergised rocketed-off.
Sensing hubris, the God’s did not immediately melt Icarus’ wings- no, they let him get farther and farther toward the sun and then let him hang his own noose. Me too. Emboldened by the praise of Clark and Horton, I kept-up an unsustainable descending pace. A mile or so after the aid station, on another technical descent, my hubris caught-up to me and I placed my foot underneath a rock only to keep moving forward. My foot severely plantar flexed and inverted (foot was pushed down and the ankle rotated inward) causing instant pain and a crash back to earth. While I did not literally crash to earth, I did have to walk for a minute or so and assess the situation. I sensed burning pain on the anterior and lateral surfaces of my right ankle, but I could still bear-weight on my ankle. My inner voice thought “Perhaps this was just a warning sign that I should be more cautious!? Why not continue running?” Great idea David. So, ever the optimist, I took off at a slower pace and waited for Brian Schmidt (eventual winner) and Ty Dranney to catch-me-up.
For the next hour or so, Brian, Ty, and I had a great time running together. We uttered encouragements and worked together to better motor along. Eventually my ankle could not take the pace and I slowed the pace again and waited for Chris Reed to catch-me-up. By this time, Chris and I about pulled into North River Gap. Beside my ankle, the body felt great. Chris and I tanked-up on fuel and off we went up the feared Grindstone mountain ascent. Chris was my tugboat in so far as my ankle was increasingly painful and he did all of the hard pulling. I gutted-the pain-out and stayed on his tail. Chris is a rock star! Unfortunately, by the time we pulled into Little Bald Knob at nearly 44miles, I could not cruise the flats as fast as superstar Chris. My ankle hurt too much. At this point, I lost contact with Chris and had to start running my own race. I do 100pc of my training alone, not necessarily out of choice, but I have yet to find other ultra runners in Pittsburgh. I am used to running alone, but running with superstars like Brian, Chris, and Ty makes ultra running far more enjoyable and fast. So it goes. Speed ahead to the Reddish-Gnashing-Reddish knobs sequence and Brian, Chris, Ty, and I were all within one minute of each other (me the lantern rouge).  Descending Gnashing knob I completed the thrashing of my ankle. Once again, I planted my right foot underneath a rock and continued to run forward. My right ankle was now totally buggered. I walked for a few minutes and assessed that I could run the flats and uphills, but had to walk the downhills.
Survival mode. Every ultra runner knows what this means. I entered survival mode about mile 52 in a mountainous 100. Not good. As I stated above, my survival mode involved running, read jogging, the flats and uphills and walking the downhills. This survival mode was mentally tougher than the survival mode entered secondary to energy problems. Energy problems are usually temporary problems- too little sugar, too little electrolytes, too hot, too cold, etc. Once solved you may continue on as if nothing had happened. Not so with a physical malady. This ankle was not going to heal by going slower. Damn! My mind was castigating myself for not slowing down while my inner demons were castigating me for not unleashing my pent-up energy and taking-off- “Too hell with your bloody ankle!” Later, these demons transitioned into the “You should just abandon now” crowd.
Situations like this teach us something about ourselves that could never be revealed without facing significant adversity. History gives us many examples of adverse situations bringing-out heroic characteristics, but in our current risk sanitised world, we see less and less of this. My current situation was reduced to ignoring my ankle and pushing-on to the finish. I did not let the adversity overwhelm me to the point of folding and losing track of my goal. Nothing else entered my mind. Job, bills, future plans, etc. had to wait. I was living entirely in the moment. I had achieved a tranquil sense of clarity. [I attain a similar state when working as an anaesthesiologist during a crisis, but this state is work related and therefore not pure. Outside of running, the capitalist machine has moulded me into a machine that can enter this type of state to achieve an economic end, but again this is not pure. This is simply economics. Sorry to be so cynical about health care, but once you finish training as a health care provider; all you see in the health care industry is a naked rush for dollars]. Running is pure in that nothing beyond my own personal satisfaction is at stake. Not money. Not power. Not sponsorship. I run for myself and nothing else. This allows me to take calculated risks and achieve a sense of adventure in my life that is otherwise filled with mitigating risk. In a previous lifetime I would have joined an expedition to a new world and taken adventurous risks, but sadly the capitalist machine has pounded this foolish risk taking out-of-me.  Now I must take risks and achieve adventure by paying money to enter events that the public views with disdain as senseless acts of self flagellation. How sad that western society has changed from glorifying risk taking and adventure to creating a nanny state of fear where children are not even allowed unaccompanied to play outside.
Back to the race. I was now running my own race and forgot about leaders and goal times. I was going to finish albeit not as I intended. Just when I thought I had my body under control, the God’s through another thunderbolt at me. Slowing down had decreased the temperature of my internal furnace and I was getting cold. When I get cold and experience heavy vibration, like on a run or the bike, my corneas become oedematous and my vision becomes cloudy. I know that my ophthalmologist father is cursing the day I underwent LASIK, but I experienced this while downhill skiing long before I had ever thought of having LASIK. Damn. Now I have cloudy vision and a buggered ankle and am running a rocky course in the dark. The internal demons were screaming “Time to stop. Now you have enough excuses.” Oh no. I continued on. In the next few hours I managed to fall five times, once even rolling about 5metres down a hillside, because I could not exactly see where I was going and my right ankle could not compensate for any missteps.
These shenanigans reached a comical peak in the North River Gap area where a balmy 2 degrees C made my corneal oedema even worse. Keith Knipling had passed me about two minutes outside of the North River Gap aid station. Unbeknownst to me, he collected his similarly attired, blue Virginia Happy Trails t-shirt wearing pacer, Sean, at this point. As I left the North River Gap station Keith turned into a blurry two Keith’s! Boy was I buggered. Was I bonking? Was I hallucinating after sleep deprivation? Was my corneal oedema blurring my vision that badly? Why were there two Keith’s bounding along the trail? I decided that I better not examine myself further for fear of deciding I was totally barmy! Why not just run after the two Keith’s! Perhaps you get extra places if you pass TWO Keith’s!? The mystery was solved about an hour later when the weather had warmed enough for my corneal oedema to regress and I could tell that there were not two Keith’s- no, Keith had a pacer! Duh! This realisation surely prevented years of pharmacotherapy and counselling to palliate my hallucinations!
Well, now that I could see again, old Peg-Leg could navigate the course without falling anymore. I kept on moving and told myself to be patient and stay in the moment. I would finish. These feelings kept me warm inside. In the mid 90’s, Jason Lantz blew me away. I was so happy for Jason to see him running the kind of race he wanted and is capable of running! I knew that Jason had been plagued by injuries for some time yet always had a positive, gracious attitude. Even though Jason could not contend for another victory in the Old Dominion 100, he came to the race and graciously cheered-me-on over the entire course. What a humble, outstanding person. It must have taken a huge amount of courage to deal with injury and then cheer-on your competitor! His courage was exemplary and taught me how to be a better person. I was ecstatic to see Jason achieving and killing the course. As he strode away from me, he embodied happiness, strength, and perseverance. His triumphal image carried me over the last few miles. Witnessing his joy has added to my love of ultra running and it’s special community.
At the finish, I was warmly embraced by my brother, Clark, and Bobby Gill. I had achieved personal satisfaction in that I was able to stay in survival mode for about 48miles and finish against significant adversity. Moreover, I still managed to finish 6th and 45min faster than last year in 22:18. Not bad for a Peg-Leg.
Now the part everyone is waiting for- what did my right ankle look like? Well, as I took-off my gaiters and shoes, my right ankle was slightly swollen. Within ten minutes of losing my shoes, my right ankle was the size of a grapefruit and I had the fattest foot and toes ever! My right foot looked like a dodgy farmer had injected a litre of saline into a pigs-foot to make it weigh more for sale. Fortunately, the rest of my body somehow avoided any damage (despite the multiple falls) and I could compensate for the bad ankle. As a stubborn doctor, I have not seen any of my colleagues, but have read extensively on ankle injuries. I think that I have a grade 2 tear of my anterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligaments. I am resting, icing, compressing, and elevating. Now two days later the oedema is subsiding and I can make limited range-of-motion exercises with the ankle. We shall see about Ozark Trail 100 on 6 November. Thanks to Bobby Gill, you too can see what my ankle looked like after the race. A special thanks to Bobby for calling it a cankle! Come-on Bobby, you know how sensitive I am about my fat legs! Laugh!
Chapeau Clark and his entire race crew [Chapeau is another term I learned at UTMB. French for “tip-of-the-hat”. A congratulatory compliment]. Chapeau Bobby Gill for exhaustively photographing the race weekend! Chapeau to my super brother for lovingly taking care of me and sharing in my joy! Racing would not be nearly as fun without sharing my joy and sorrows with him! He even forgave me for bear-arsing (see Will Ferrell in Old School) his cooler box at mile 51 when I needed to exchange running shorts for tights! What a brother! Eric. Mental note. Remember to clean the cooler box before bringing to future events. I do not think that was mud on the lid.