Sunday, July 31, 2011

Burning River 100 Mile...

Mary Gorski's Race Report...  

You know that weird sensation of thinking that you are about to drink one thing and as soon as the beverage hits your tongue, you realize that what you have is something entirely different?  Without looking, you grab a glass from the table, thinking it's orange juice, bring it to your lips while listening to Aunt Martha on the phone drone on about her latest malady, and then "Whoa! What's this milk doing in my mouth?!?"

That's the Burning River 100 mile running race for me.  Two years ago, reading that the race started in the Cleveland Metro Park System and used park trails from a variety of municipalities all the way down to Cuyahoga Falls, I thought that much of the course was primarily "urban green."  I had visions of running on bike trails past playgrounds and soccer fields, eventually joining a few scenic but sedate hiking paths in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  When I saw that there was an aid station at "Boston Store," I pictured a mall –– the sort of place where those of us in the upper Midwest and East Coast typically find the department store (for those not in the know, Boston Store is similar to a Macy's).  Imagine my surprise (and that of my husband who crewed for me) when I found out on race day that "Boston Store" was actually the historic "Boston Company Store," now converted into use as a park building in the tiny town of Boston Mills, Ohio.  The only clothing department found in the store was the tee shirt section, along with a few Tilley hat knock-offs.

Rugged single track?  River crossings? Shoe-sucking mud?  Somehow this part of the course description totally missed my radar.  And boy was I surprised –– pleasantly so –– at the beauty of Cleveland's park system, along with other municipalities to the south, and the Cuyahoga Valley.  Gorgeous.  It was nothing reminiscent of the oil and debris-induced 1969 Cuyahoga River fire (where the name "Burning River" comes from), a fire that brought national attention to the pollution of urban waters not only in Ohio but around the country.

I loved the Burning River 100 and talked it up to my friends.  This past spring, one of those friends, Beth Simpson Hall, contacted me and urged me to sign up.  She was going to do it and thought that it would be fun to encourage a few friends to join her.  I plunked my plastic down and registered.  In the weeks prior to the race, I answered Beth's questions about the course, telling her that much of the first half was on small town roads and then tame bridle and towpath trails.  It got rugged, but not until well into the race.  Mainly, I remembered, it was a fairly tame course with a few significantly challenging sections tossed in the last third of the race.  I told Beth as much.  And I must have said the same to our mutual friend Bill Thom, since he decided to sign up as well.  The former grand slammer was looking for a "nice little 100-miler" to toss into his summer schedule.  

The day before the Li'l Mister and I were to head to Ohio for the race I got an email from Beth.  Due to a vicious vacuuming injury (complete with photos of one of the nastiest housework related bruises that I had ever seen), Beth wouldn't be able to do the race.  

Yet another reason to avoid housework.  

So I toed the line with Bill and about 280 other runners.  Since it was the USATF National 100 Mile Championship, the line up included some of ultrarunning's top dogs.  

At 5 a.m. race director Joe Jurczyk sent us on our way into a thick, humid fog.  Temps actually weren't too bad compared to the 90s the area had during recent days  The fog stayed until mid-morning, keeping the rising sun off of the runners in the early hours. The first 10 miles were much as I remembered –– calm, pastoral roads through quiet townships.  We moved onto some easy bridle paths.  In my head I remembered that much of daylight would be spent on docile towpaths and the sort.  

But a few miles after the initial road section came the stream crossings and sharp descents.  This wasn't the race that I thought that I signed up for.  I caught up to Juli Aistars, who had also done the race in 2009.  "Do you remember the stream crossings from our first time here?"  

"Nope."  We decided that either the course had changed in the past two years, or we both had selective amnesia.  It turns out that it was a bit of both.  Juli and I each thought that we were grabbing a glass of orange juice and after the first swallow realized with surprise that we instead took a glass of milk.

Orange juice and milk; easy bike paths and tough single track hiking trails.  I love them all so retuned my head for a course much different than what I remembered.

The fog lifted and the sun came out to bake runners in near-90-degree temps.  Luckily, much of the course was in the shade. It was a pleasant part of the unexpected –– instead of open bike paths we were constantly in canopied forests. 

Many runners –– including me –– went out fast (relative description in my case).  It seemed to catch up with several of us in our guts.  At about the halfway mark my previously happy tummy was starting to rebel.  Several of those with whom I ran were experiencing similar rebellions.  C'est la vie –– a few tossed cookies doesn't necessarily end a race.  And so I tossed mine in hopes of finding another mix of cookies more to my belly's liking.

Problems always crop up in long events.  That's part of the appeal of doing them –– you're tossed a conflict and you figure out away to overcome it.  

Before the nausea, one of my first problems was shoe-related.  Like many runners, I have a closet filled with running shoes.  Imelda Marcos would be proud. I agonized over which foot ponies from the stable I would bring to the race.  I did test runs, starting with one pair and then switching to another. I thought that I had found the perfect combo.

Unfortunately, about two miles after changing into what I thought would be my primary shoes for the race I realized that all the planning in the world gets tossed out the window when things just don't work.  My favorite shoes were hurting my arches.  I thought that I was grabbing a glass of OJ and instead got castor oil.  Thankfully, I had a back-up plan and my "emergency shoes" did the trick.  

The next challenge was headlamps.  At dusk I grabbed what I considered to be my "prime" lamp.  The best and brightest in my illuminated arsenal.  HUGE battery life.  I'd be able to run all night with my recently replaced Duracells.  

About a mile out of the aid station I got the silly notion to turn on the light just to make sure everything was in working order before nightfall.  Click.  Nothing.  Click.  Nothing.  I repeated the process about a dozen times before realizing that the sun was quickly setting and I was quickly screwed with just a tiny thumb light as a backup.

But again, the race tosses you a conflict and you find a way to address it.  I saw a well-illuminated runner just ahead, caught up and asked if she'd mind if I stuck near her and sponged a bit of her light.  Susie from Annapolis couldn't have been more gracious.  She not only allowed me to sponge her beam, but offered me use of her handheld as well.  

You meet the gosh-darn nicest people in ultrarunning and I owe a big public thank you to Susie for not only her help, but her fantastic company.

I could have used her a few hours later when headlamp No. 2 bit the dust on one of the most challenging loops of the course, just after 70 miles.  As soon as I lost a shoe to  a vortex of knee-deep mud I was without a lamp to find it.  Out came the thumb light.  That little $1.99 green light, the size of my thumbnail, was the must dependable illumination in my four-light arsenal.  

Up and down mud-slicked trails.  High-knee stepping over intricately woven root systems.  Up and down staircases sized for no human gait pattern.  A four-foot-high river bank that was best descended on one's rear-end.  Part of the only out-and-back section of the trail, the ascent was a tougher move requiring me to throw my torso up on the bank and swing my legs up.  What's a little more mud when you are already covered head to toe in various shades of muck?  I always remind myself that many people pay good money for mud wraps.  Mine was included in my race entry.  

As I was navigating the river bank the top runners were already nearing the finish.  David James won with an incredible time of 15:57.  Connie Gardner took the women's top spot in just over 19 hours.  

Meanwhile, the bulk of the runners trudged on.  Many decided that they'd had enough trudging well before hitting the finish line in Cuyahoga Falls.  Just over 280 people are listed as having started the race.  Only 143 showed up on the finisher's list on the webcast.  It is not an official posting of the results but the nearly 50% drop rate reflected the challenge of the course and of the conditions.  It wasn't a brutal Wastch or Hardrock, but it wasn't a cake walk through a few city parks trails either.  

I'll admit that when things were going south, I wrestled with the DNF demon.  Always, that DNF is ready to lure you away to a seemingly better place.  "You're tired, you're sick, your lights refuse to stay lighted... can't you see the signs?  It's okay to call it a day.  You've run 100s.  You have nothing to prove.  Wouldn't it be nice to go back to the hotel, take a shower and sleep in a nice bed?  That discomfort you feel?  It might be a disabling injury in the making.  Bite it in the bud and stop.  Come with me, come with me, I'll take you to a better place."  The DNF sirens are so seducing.

But I muddled on.  After about 75 miles I didn't make much of an effort to muddle too quickly.  I walked and chatted with other race participants who were also doing their best to ignore the sirens' call.  Misery loves company and there was some wonderful company to be had even as people politely excused themselves now and then for a brief tummy hurl on the trail, 

Burning River 100 continues to be a fantastic event.  Perhaps the next time I sign up I'll remember that course a bit more thoroughly.  But if not, it just doesn't matter. Orange juice, milk... whatever.  I like them both.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Foolish Plunge FA 100-Mile Fun Run:

So... When Craig, Angela and Julie committed to travel cross-country to Vancouver for the Fat Dog 120 mile run, none of them could have predicted that there would be 7 feet of snow on parts of the course and that the race would be cancelled.  I could have predicted, however, that these LPTR veterans would not be shut out.  

The ultra-sized rescue came from Karl Jensen (Club FA -  He had his FA 100K run scheduled 3 hours away on the same weekend and generously offered to extend the run to 100 miles to allow his American friends the opportunity to get their ultra fix in on Canadian soil.

The trio met up with Karl and followed him to the starting line of the run.  With a few minutes to spare, they quickly set up an aid station (ie... they popped the trunk of a car!) and at 9AM… the crew of Karl, Angela, Julie, Craig, and four Canadian women, were off for an adventure.

The course consisted of a long uphill grind of about 6 miles with the most scenic sights you can imagine including majestic views of the snow-capped mountains, the waterfalls, the rushing streams, and glaciers.

At the halfway point of the loop, is the section knows as the lava flows… another uphill grind.  This section, although tough, also allowed the most beautiful overlook of the whole loop – a panoramic view of the mountain range.

At this point, the runners were rewarded with an extended downhill… However, this section was littered with rocks and roots, runnable on the first loop, but it got increasingly more difficult with each ensuing trip through. Craig, Angela and Julie became quite familiar with the many landmarks along this section of the course… the moss-covered trees and rocks, the greenest scenery you can imagine, bright white rocks, Angela’s car, Julie’s car.  All spots they looked forward to each loop to gauge how far was left in the section.

Then the fun started… the Powerhouse Plunge.  To the Wisconsinites, this section was VERY technical, since it consisted of numerous switchbacks, roots, rocks, wooden plank bridges, large steps…  But to Karl and the rest of the Canadians, this section was "somewhat technical".  I guess it helps to constantly train on this type of terrain?!

The plunge eventually dumps the runners off on a gravel road that winds back to the aid station.  The runners were surprised to see that Heather MacDonald (the RD of Fat Dog) and her friend, Don, had generously set up a manned aid station… filled with watermelon, blueberries, hot dogs, potato chips, lots of candy, anything you could possibly want.  They ended up battling mosquitoes and coolness for 7+ hours to keep the runners fueled up and energized.  Wow!!

Through the course of the run, the LPTR's were joined by 8 others who intended to run various distances.  It was just the LPTR contingent who intended to finish all 100 miles!

Karl, who spent the night in his van, greeted the LPTR's with a cheer and a smile and sent the runners off on a 1.3 mile out and back to make sure the run totaled a full 100 miles.  Once they returned, he was all dressed and ready to accompany them on their final loop – so they could all finish in style.  What kind of RD provides THAT kind of support?  (… Jeff???)

Thanks to Karl’s brilliant thinking, Craig, Angela and Julie were able to toast the completion of the FA 100 with ice cold beer… the international champagne of ultrarunners (much thanks to Karl!!).

What great fun to meet all the Canadians who came out to provide their company on the course, as well as their encouragement.  What a great group!  LPTR North!?!??
Way to go Craig, Angela and Julie - REPRESENT!!!!

Loop stats…

Loop    Split                 Aid      Running time
1          3:15                 :19       3:34
2          3:45                 :19       7:38
3          3:15                 :38       11:31
4          3:45                 :31       15:48
5          3:45                 :24       19:58
6+        4:22                 :20       24:42
7          4:15/3:01                     28:57(A)/27:43(C&J)

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Is that shirt COTTON?!

One of my favorite running quotes came from LPTR Dave Dehart who once said, “Runners that dress like super-heroes always have more to say than I’m willing to listen to. ” Keep in mind Dave represented the United States in Taiwan for the World 100k Championships in 2003 – A year in which he ran a 7:43 in the 100k at Ed Fitz.  He is probably the closet thing we have to an LPTR super-hero.   You wouldn’t know it by his gear though - Dave has shirts older than some of the newer LPTR’s.   He could also be one of the few people that have more running stuff from Farm and Fleet than any sports store.  You don’t have to be old to be Old School…Dehart is Old-School.

This article is for the rest of us.  The recent surge in the popularity of ultras has created record registrants for most races and booming markets for gear. I wish I was more like Dehart, but sadly I have plenty stuff and I am always ready to consider the latest, greatest thing.  I will say that when I do find something that really works, I stick with it - (And tell everyone else in ear-shot).   

Our LPTR group has followed the recent trajectory of ultra-running popularity as well.  It seems like we have new faces nearly every week and there’s always lots of questions about how to train, fuel, hydrate and of course – What gear to get!?

So here’s my 2 cents on my favorite gear from the ground up.  

Shoes:  Altra Instinct
Six months ago my choice would have been Vasque Blurs, which had been my go-to shoe for over two years.  But after three months off this late winter/early spring with chronic Achilles pain, I made the switch to a “Zero-Drop” shoe on the recommendation of our friends at Revolution Natural Running and Walking.  The pain was gone almost immediately.  The soreness I used to experience after long or up-tempo runs is gone as well.  I must admit I was really skeptical and I still HATE the way they look… But, it’s hard to argue with results.   The bottom line is they make my legs feel great and I can run without pain for the first time in awhile.   They also have another (better looking) version called the Lone Pine that has been out of stock for a few months.  Once those are in, I expect they will be my next favorites.  Read their website to learn more about the benefits of a zero-drop shoe and about their unique approach to the design of women’s shoes on a gender specific last.

Socks: Cool Mesh Qtr
I don’t even bother to try out new socks - These things are the BEST.  I have never gotten a blister with their thin double-layer design.  Any friction occurs between the sock layers instead of on your skin.  The only down-side is that they seem to wear out a little fast… But better the socks wear out then my feet!

Water-bottle:  Nathan Quick Draw  Elite
There are tons of hand-held bottles out there and you have to look close to see much difference.  The Nathan Quick Draw Elite gets my vote for the way the strap fits to your hand.  There is a Velcro closure at the bottom and a thumb-hole at the top.  Once you slide your hand in and snug the fit with the Velcro closure, you no longer have to “hold” the bottle.  You can fully extend your fingers and thumb without the bottle falling off.  No hand fatigue from keeping a death-grip on your bottle for an extended period of time.  Brilliant!

Hydration Pack:  Camelbak, 2011 Octane LR
Okay… This one is cheating a bit.  I don’t actually own this hydration pack… YET.  I have been looking at the new offerings and this one looks very promising.  I already own one Camelbak and its surprisingly comfortable, even with the 70oz. bladder full.  The important new feature on the Octane is the location of the reservoir.   Instead of a long bladder that is located down the center of your upper back, the Octane nestles the reservoir in the small of your back.  The back-pack style lets your shoulders off-set the weight instead of having to cinch a waist-belt tight to carry the load.  It does have a lumbar waist belt that acts a stabilizer and gives quick access to storage without removing the pack.  If anyone has this, I would love to hear if it works well… I think I may be investing in one before Sawtooth…

Shorts: Brooks Infiniti Notch II
I picked these up a couple of months ago and now have 3 pair!  The best feature is the integrated bicycle short style liner.  Great breathability, moisture-wicking properties, and support without creating “personal chaffing” issues.  Enough said…

Shirt: Wild wood Trail Short-sleeve Run Top, 3oz. - White
This shirt became my instant favorite last year when I was looking for a white shirt that was light, breathable and UV resistant for my pacing duties at Badwater.  Turns out it doesn’t have to be hot to love wearing this shirt.  The ultra light and thin material wicks sweat really fast with out getting heavy like the rest of my shirts.  It has also held up well with lots of use and washes.  Get this shirt… Actually, get two!!

Head Lamp: Fenix HP10
This was the easiest selection of the whole group – The Fenix HP10 has no equal.  While the LPTR’s are likely tired of hearing me GUSH about how much I love this head-lamp, I did notice that most everyone from the group has been getting one.  While it looks bulky, it actually fits quite comfortably and the variable light output lasts a long time on standard AA batteries.  The highest setting is like car head-lights  - BLINDING!  The second highest setting is super bright and lasts 6-8 hours before beginning to dim.  I invested in two sets of rechargeable batteries and won’t need to buy batteries for awhile. 

Accessory: Shoe Dryer:  Peet Boot Dryer
After any run where my shoes get muddy or wet, I drop them in the washing machine (Yes – you CAN wash your shoes in the machine!  I use the gentle cycle and I don’t pre-rinse or anything).  The downside is wet shoes… Unless you get a Peet Boot Dryer.  Put your shoes on the dryer overnight and they are dry in the morning.  If you have some real funk to exorcise, leave them on for an extra 12 hours or more after they are already dry.  Something about the extended heat and air-movement seems to kill the stink-nasty fungus that grows in wet shoes.  The life of my running shoes has been pro-longed extensively by getting the boot dryer. (Great for wet winter hats, gloves and mittens too!) Your family will thank you. 

So that's it!  All the gear you could need or want.  Don't let Dehart guilt you out of getting some... Not everything can be bought at Tractor and Supply.

Dehart rocking the all-season thermal
underwear top  from Farm and  Fleet

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where the Trail meets the Road [Runner]

Mike Guth's Timberline Trail Marathon Race Report...

[ Just an FYI, sorry about the length of this recap.  This is my attempt at writing a One-Flight book ]

As an accomplished marathoner (road marathoner that is) the thought of running on the trails seemed like the breath of fresh air that I needed.  After running almost 2000 road miles and 13 marathons in 2010, I seemed to have lost my competitive edge along the way.  I called my cousins from Oregon and Idaho and tried to drum up support for a family gathering at the base of Mt Hood, Oregon.  The reviews were favorable and it was close to the cabin my cousin bought a few years back.  Both were in.  Six short months later I was on my way to Oregon to run my first trail marathon on June 4th, 2011.  It was held at Timothy Lake, approximately 20 miles south of Government Camp, OR and Mount Hood, an inactive volcano.  (If any of you are classic movie buffs, about 3.6 miles down from the peak of Mount Hood is Timberline Lodge, where the movie “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson was filmed).  The Timberline Lodge is a product of the US government work project in the 1930’s and the official starting line of the famous 200-mile, 15,000 participant relay race, Hood to Coast.  As if that wasn’t cool enough, sitting atop Mt Hood is the Palmer Glacier.  Combine that with the high elevation and what do you get?...Skiing all year long…that’s right, the lodge and ski slopes are open ALL YEAR LONG!

On the Thursday before the marathon, my cousin and I drove up to the lodge for dinner.  I sat in the dining room enjoying fresh Mussels over local wild morel mushrooms and spaetzle.  Not the typical “week-before” dinner, but I didn’t see spaghetti with garlic bread on the menu.  I had to improvise.  I’m glad I did as it was all very succulent.

Pleasantly full, we pushed back from the table, paid the bill and took some pictures of the massive timbers of the lodge.  The three to four feet thick timbers were simply amazing.  The last stop before heading out to our car was the windows around the main gathering area that has a impressive multi-sided / multi-floor fireplace in the center.  The snow was all I could see…mainly because the depth of the snow outside the windows was higher than the window.  Did I happen to mention that I was on the second floor?  For all you numbers people, that’s about 25 feet deep at the lodge.  Deep enough to hide a ranch style house and all but cover a two story colonial.

We walked out the door and something was different.  The temperature dropped, sure…but it was a whiteout.  It’s one thing to walk around areas that still have snow in June…but to walk 150 yards to your car in June…in a blizzard.  How cool is that?!?!  I overheard a ski patrol talking to a snow boarder about fresh powder in the morning.  Sold!  I’m bringing my skis next time!

Race morning...I woke to 40 deg F and a mostly clear sky.  Government Camp, OR was going to get up to 65 deg F and windy that day (Milwaukee was in the middle of its first heat wave and was going to be 92 deg F and humid).  I dressed in my racing garb, second guessing my last minutes choices of apparel.  My cousin had coffee, oatmeal, bagels and fresh fruit waiting for me when I quietly strode down the stairs.  After a good dose of pre-race nutrition, I drove the 45 minutes to the starting line.  Leaving 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I had plenty of time to have a nice relaxing drive.  Then I saw it…a road construction sign that wasn’t there yesterday telling me that the road is closed at Government Camp.  Now what?  After a few moments of panic, I realized it was only for a block and I just had to detour through downtown.  It had the feel of all the great ski villages like Whistler, BC or Dillon, CO.  Back on the highway, my mind wandered to my expectations of this race.  The problem was that I really wasn't sure what to expect as far as time and how it was going to feel.  I just ran the Green Bay Marathon 3 weeks before so all I wanted to do was finish and not get injured for the above mentioned Ragnar Relay I was committed to the following weekend.  But I'd be lying if I didn't want to place in my age group.  Right around 3:35 should secure at least 3rd in my age group based on the previous years’ results.  That’s within reach.

I arrived and picked up my packet at the “Historic” ranger station.  My thought is that it’s ‘historic’ because of the really, REALLY old sign that says so.  It’s a really old sign.  Sunny, 48 deg F, low humidity and breezy.  I surveyed the competition and finish line.  I didn’t notice the sign above the refreshment area that read, ‘NO ALCOHOL.’  What the!?  Later, I found out that it was because this is a state park and one of the agreements with the race.  Other than that, the table was full of all the things a long distance runner could ever want at the end of a grueling race…or after a grueling long run…or any long run…or any run!  Heck, I run so I can eat, so I’m set any time my running shoes are on.

The first thing I noticed different from all my previous marathons was the start.  We went out one at a time with the faster runners going first, followed by a 15 seconds lag and so on.  After the first two guys started out, no one was eager to be the third.  I jumped up and started my watch and my first trail marathon began.  Less than a minute in and I had this guy on my heels.  The same guy I talked to an hour before...the same guy who's girlfriend mistakenly signed him up for the full marathon two months prior, instead of the half.  This will be his first marathon...actually his first race over 3.1 miles.  And he is right on my heals.  I digress.  We make about 5 turns and the first two runners are no where to be seen.  Are you kidding me?  I can see 150 yards of nothing...they dusted me in the first half mile.  Well this is going to be fun!  As we cross the first road, about three quarters of a mile into the race, I darted across the road and down the trail before I heard a voice behind me yelling it's the wrong trail!  What?  Sure enough, no green ribbons in the trees.  I might want to pay attention as I'm fairly certain I don't want to make this into an ultra.  And they have big cats that prey on third place runners because the first two guys are too freaky fast for them...and probably in the next county.  Must be Jimmy John's delivery guys.

So 25 miles to go and I already lost 3 spots and am now behind the virgin and two other guys, not to forget about the first two guys who are indeed, in the next county already.  I caught up to the good-Samaritan runner, Paul, and tucked in behind him to find my “happy pace.”  As we entered the lake loop, which we did twice, a series of switchbacks welcomed us, but didn't seem too bad except for a lot of technical areas with rocks and roots ready to jump up and grab our shoes.  None did, thank goodness.  According to the park ranger, this section of our race is part of the original Pacific Crest Trail.  The next five miles proved to be a great experience as I talked a bit to Paul and picked off one of the runners.   We ran through patches of snow, a few over a foot deep…in June.  That’s so AWESOME!  We reached the first water station and everyone ran through.  I walked, had a GU and some water and started back at it.  It took me about ten minutes to catch up to them again and by the time I met up with Paul, the marathon ‘first timer,’ was out of sight.  Crap, I was losing ground.  It was at this point that I realized I was losing to a first time marathoner, which is the same as losing to a mascot or anyone that is dressed in a ridiculous outfit…?

That question occupied my thoughts for the next few miles as we approached the second water stop.  Paul stopped to fill his water bottle and I ran through with thoughts of "The Duel in the Sun."  I began to speed up and almost missed the view of Mt Hood across the lake.  Breathtaking!  Okay, focus...Back to reeling in the mascot...which my mind had turned into the Brewers running Polish Sausage.  It wasn't long before I saw him up ahead.  How was he keeping that pace in that giant outfit?  The imagination is a powerful thing.  As I passed him, I could tell he wasn't going to put up a fight.  A lesson he will hopefully learn in going out too fast.  Been there.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the second place guy not far in front of him.  He gave a little more fight but still looked beaten as I ran past.  I'm sure Paul would catch them soon.

We ran through many campgrounds on this side of the lake.  There were now campers in kick boats and float boats on the lake trying to catch a fresh trout for breakfast.  The smell of campfires, coffee brewing and breakfast cooking....SUCKED!  That's worse than running country roads through smoke of some jack wagon’s burn pile after he thought it would be a good idea to burn an old tire.  But it wasn’t a foul smell…it was bacon, BACON…oh I wanted bacon so bad.  Again my mind wandered to the Beggin’ Strips dog treat commercial.  I chuckle to myself.   Maybe they'll have bacon at the next water stop...Oops, wrong turn.  Probably shouldn't be running through someone’s camp setup.  Pardon me, excuse me, ...there’s a ribbon, back on the trail.  Should have zigged when I zagged.  I'll remember it for the second loop.

Made it to the next water/aid station...I surveyed the table…water and gatorade.… bacon.  Humpf!

I thought I was about a mile from the start of the second lake loop.  It was at that point where I looked behind me.  With no one in sight I realized that if I wanted to stay in second place and hopefully reel in the first place guy, this was going to hurt.  As I used to say in high school cross country, "Pain is Good, Rest is Evil!"  I high stepped through one of the longest and deepest snow patches.  I asked myself, ‘are you willing to let this hurt to feel victory?’  I can't remember the last time I flat out won a race.  My college spring 5k probably.  I was willing to let it hurt...and told myself, with my outside the trail took a violet turn upwards and to the left into the unseen, "This is going to Hurt!" Again with a louder and bolder outside voice, I confirmed, "This IS going to Hurt!"  It was right at that moment when I crested the hill, only to be confronted by about ten or so half marathoners who started an hour and half after I did and were just starting their lake loop portion of the race.  They looked in my direction, either scared or laughing to themselves.  I’m sure I turned a few shades of red.  I could almost read the minds of a few of them, "What's going to hurt? When is it going to hurt? I didn't sign up for a lot of hurt?"  My thoughts turned to Kramer in a Seinfeld episode when he was blubbering something about being in a relationship, breaking up and begging forgiveness as in 10 seconds.  Anyways, I was at the start of that first series of switchbacks that, if you remember, didn't seem all that bad on the first lap.  But apparently with a couple of hundred runners trampling over them, the rocks and especially the roots, must have said, "ENOUGH!, let's get 'em!"  Never flat out falling but after a few good, hip-jarring, momentum killing stumbles, I was past the switch backs that proved to be much steeper and longer than I remembered my first trip through.  My legs were burning and I was gasping for air.  This was going to hurt...indeed.  I kept that thought to myself this time.

So now I was in the middle of the faster half marathoners.  As the miles melted away, the second lap seemed longer than the first.  There was a runner in front of me that I caught glimpses of every now and then.  He was wearing the same top as the first guy in the marathon.  He seemed like he was scrambling to keep in front of me as he was looking back each time I got within sight of him, I was convinced he would fold in the final five miles.  I heard footsteps behind me.  I stole a glimpse on one of the many switchbacks and each time I did, either the sun was full on him or his bib was covered by brush.  I couldn't tell if he was a half or a full marathoner.  Probably good I didn’t know.  I focused on the guy in front of me and tried to make up ground.  I knew I had a good kick but he was tall and the finish was flat.  I wasn't confident I could out kick him.  I would have to beat him by mile 24 or 25.

As I was imagining the footrace in the final miles, I forgot to zig.  I was a little too focused on making up ground because I zagged again.  Pardon me, excuse me, love your that bacon?…aaaaand back on the trail.

As we turned the corner off the lake and back to the start/finish line (we being myself and that pesky runner behind me) there in front of us was a mountain.  It was another series of switchbacks and two sections where the trailbreakers were just plain lazy and laid out the path straight up.  I didn't remember this at all.  How the heck did I run down this from the start without falling a** over teakettle.  This must be why my quads were screaming, hitting these sharp declines during mile 2.  Well now it's time to climb.  I looked back at my friend.  He was my friend at that moment because I wasn't sure if he had climbing ropes that I was sure we would need.  Looking back up the hill, I grabbed roots and was on hands and knees at a few spots to get up over the crest.  I allowed myself a second or two at the top to walk a few steps only to realize there were two more switchbacks in front of me.  Crap!  Really, I didn't remember this much downhill running the other way.  Since I didn't need him anymore, my "friend" turned back into the pesky runner I couldn't shake.  Except that I did shake him…he was beaten by the hill.  I turned and started running again.

The 25 mile mark...1+ mile to go…and no sight of the white shirt in front of me.  Crap!  I called myself a wimp for not pushing it harder.  “DIG! DIG!” my outside voice urged.  There was someone walking ahead but at that time, I didn’t care if anyone heard me talking to myself.  I finished the final mile in sub 7 minutes, flying over the hills with reckless abandon.  There he was, about a hundred feet in front of me with only two turns and about twice that distance between me and the finish line.  He wasn’t running as fast as I was and I had the element of surprise on my side.  My seamlessly impossible attack was on and I cut the distance in half only to have a root reach up and pulled me down to an almost full out crash.  I caught myself, turned upward and started toward the finish line again.  He glanced back.  My element of surprise was gone and he took off.  The stumble took too much energy out of me but I kept going and ran hard through the finish line.  I was content with my effort.  I was spent.  The finish line never looked so sweet!  My name was announced over the loud speaker as well as my hometown and unofficial place.  2nd...

When the dust settled the guy in front of me and directly behind me were half marathoners.  As far as the marathon finishers go, the winner came in whopping 25 minutes ahead of me.  I think he has already showered and was delivering Jimmy John subs…(maybe?  Yes, it’s my story.) …he indeed was freakishly fast.  Mmmmnnn, I’ll take mine with extra bacon.  My time ended up being 3:20:59...a BQing time and a trail marathon PR.  Not bad for having put in less than four miles of trail running before this.  The third place marathoner was only a minute behind me so it's a good thing my pesky half marathon friend pushed me.   Fourth and Fifth place finishers were close behind him.

I know a lot of you have hardware from your races but this is my first (non-age group) award for a single race in a long time.  Very exciting.  I didn't, however, bask in the glory as I ended up walking down the trail to cheer on my cousin and her friends who ran the half marathon.  Missed the awards ceremony but it was well worth it.  Plus if I didn't keep moving, I was afraid my body parts would stop moving all together.  That would make the next days hike to Ramona Falls a bit difficult.

I've attached some pictures of the race and the area.  If you want a destination trail marathon in a mountain setting, this one comes highly recommended.  I may even do it again next year, but I’ll be sure to bring my skis or snowboard.  One thing is for sure, I’m going to be running more trails now.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them in the past few weeks.

My trip back from the cabin was topped off with a sceinic drive along the Charles Riverway and a fresh crab dinner with my cousin and he r husband.  Crabs that the guy behind the counter confirmed were better than any I could catch in Wisconsin.  Phew!  Good to know.  And yes, they were.  Portland is known for food and good food at that.  What a great place for a long distance runner.  Oregon, you’ll see my shadow again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Dirt on DWD 2011...

Here's a collection of LPTR race reports from this year's Dances With Dirt - Devil's Lake  Edition...

Marty Kanter-Cronin's Race Report: A Year of Running Dangerously...

I am now a repeat offender. I couldn’t say that last year, last month, or even last week. At some point in every running event for the last year I would get the question: “You done this one before?” and I would always answer “nope, never have, I’m just a rookie”. Everything was new, every race for me “first time” until I came to this year’s version of Dances With Dirt- Devils Lake. Last year, DWD was my first 50K, so what better way to celebrate my first year ultra running anniversary, than to do my first 50 mile race at DWD? In some ways I’d been here before, but in other ways, never been here before.  

Before I get on to the DWD 50 mile, indulge me while I tally my personal past running year. OK, I can’t keep up with Brad and Julie, but it still looks like a lot to me.

1)    July 2010   DWD 50K (6:43)
2)    Sept 2010  North Face 50K (5:52)
3)    Oct 2010   Glacial 50K (5:43)
4)    Nov 2010  Owen Putnam 50K (6:34)
5)    Dec 2010  Pine Mountain 40 Mile (9:23)
6)    Mar 2011  Clinton Lake 30 (DNF)
7)    April 2011 Chippewa 50K (6:11)
8)    May 2011  Ice Age 50 (DNF)
9)    May 2011  Mary’s Most Excellent 50 mile ( Fat Ass, 27 miles)
10)  June 2011 Kettle 100 (Pacing Angela, 47 miles)
11)  June 2011 Keyes Peak 50K (6:10)
12)  July 2011 DWD 50 Mile (12:08)

So the DWD run. It’s a beautiful course at Devils Lake, with some significant climbs sprinkled throughout including a first/last loop at Devils Head Resort on the main ski hill. Both bluffs (east and west) are climbed twice as well. Total race elevation gain/loss is listed at around 16,000, with that first/last loop at almost 1000 feet of climb and 1000 feet of descent each time. And on.

Really, I could go on about the course, the hills the heat, the crossing paths with my running family from LPTR, but will you even remember it? Or like reading an article from a magazine, will you forget it right away?  I have the memory, the warmth of it in my hands, but I can’t transfer that feel to you, no matter how hard I try. Like a vacation snapshot of a landscape; you try to capture that feeling in it, but it’s just so two dimensional.

So the race: Many of you were there, so you know. For those of you who were not there, do this race, at least once. It’s well run, its fun, its hard, its hot, its hilly. It’s beautiful, simply.

The great thing about this race, and many of the races listed above too, was not my time, or place (I’m very average), but the fact that the experience was shared with so many LPTR folks. Running is a solitary sport, but paradoxically still a very shared experience.

Thanks so much to Hans, Jose, Melinda, Jodie, Julie, Sam, Ty, Krishna, Dave, Chris, Bruce, Annie, Mike, and especially Marcel for all his advice. It was so very cool to cross paths with so many of you 50/50 folks at that 2 mile down and back Burma Road section; It meant a LOT to me to see so many of you at the finish when I came in. And yes, I felt as good as I looked. It felt very very good.

 Up above, is a list of races I did in the past year. But, what’s missing there is an entry. Between the 1 and the 2, that’s when I joined LPTR and, was invited to Angela’s 50th Birthday party. The LPTR crew was running a Fat Ass 50K organized by Kevin (I only ran 20). Until that point, I didn’t really know what was possible, hadn’t even dreamt what the body and mind are capable of. A lot of folks here showed me that my mental limitation, my thoughts that two long races a year were all I could do, This was all wrong. I listened. I watched. I was amazed at how far people pushed themselves.

Pushing. Ultra running, it can be dangerous. It can push you to your edges, with a view to your own mettle. When you sit right down in the middle of yourself, you hardly ever have a comfortable chair. This. I am out there, looking for that exact thing, waiting for it. I’ve had it at every race I’ve done. At DWD, I had a two mile stretch at 40 miles where edema was setting into my hands, I was suffering in the prairie heat, my stomach was turning and I couldn’t eat or drink. I had to walk about a mile and a half. I know its dangerous, it’s the edge. Life is a fine balance that’s easily pushed one way - out there. As Kurt Vonnegut once said: “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.”

Oy. What a year.

And in one short year, I did a lot more than I thought possible, ran dangerously close to the edge, many times.  I also made it to 50 miles. Wow. So here’s to my first 50 miler, LPTR gang, I wouldn’t have done it without you. Cheers.

Report from Annie Weiss...

Lining the start at DWD was like any other ultra...totally laid back, not one runner with a split stance holding the 'start' button to his garmin, shaking with nerves about hydrating properly, sucking down gels, and negative splitting later on in the race. Ahhhh, such a crazy thing for the rookie trail runner. 

After the yelled 'START,'  Mike Guth and I began what I kept saying was an "adventure."  The first mile was quite choppy....there must have been a walker up ahead, so we dashed up and down the first small hills and into the shrubs to try to find a running rhythm. We went up and down the ski hill....felt great....onto the Ice Age trail. Took my first fall around mile 3 in the section of the course where there were flags tied on random branches....I made up my own path and tripped on something, maybe my own feet!  My right shoulder hit the ground and I slid into some scrubs and rocks.  I got up, noticing my left quad was slightly strained and said, "GARMIN IS A-OK, but will need to clean up my small hand gash at the first aide station." I passed the first overall female on my way to that aide station, where she passed me and stayed ahead, about 2 miles ahead through most of the course.  
Mike and I ran the first 34 miles together, entertained by the stories and insights from other runners we passed along the way. Once we hit the first set of bluffs....which are not easy when your only 5'1" - I have to use my legs AND hands to get up the rocks!! Definitely struggling at different points, having highs an lows through miles 25-30, but once mile 30 hit, it was all downhill. Only 20 to go...

Mile 34 came and Mike needed to change his shoes. No problem.  We both noticed the next female approaching, and he selflessly told me to continue....the competitive road runner inside me won and i took off like a bat otta hell.  back towards the mountain i went, leaving S-caps for mike at an aide station to ensure he would have some, eating oreo's along the way...taking in plenty of water and gatorade. Unfortunately my quad was worsening, which did become the biggest barrier for me to catch the first female. The gap widened, even though my mental toughness was all in.
I arrived at an aide station with what i thought was 8 miles to go before the finish (according to my beloved Garmin) .... the lady at the aide station told me (and i verified 3, yes 3 times) that i really only had 4.5 miles to go and i was done.  naturally, i believed her.  daaahhhh.  So i negative split the "last" 4.5 miles with minimal water to finish strong - letting my quad go thinking it was over soooo soon. I just thought my garmin was off, REALLY off, as it normally is on the trails. It was in this section of the run that i took my big fall - tripping on something going down a slight downhill and landing the top of my head, hitting my cheek bone, jaw, and right shoulder.  I have lovely bruising on my face, and after feeling my head shake in my skull,  i was checked for a concussion after the run.
I arrived at the REAL last aide station and was told, "yep, go up and down the ski hill for 4.5 miles and your done."  Oh my goodness.  I was mentally thrown right there for a couple miles.  I walked the hill and trotted the downhill.... seeing mike kranz in front of the hotel before heading to the finish line gave me a bolt of energy....i picked it up to the see the other LP runners at the finish line felt awesome!  Mike Guth came in two minutes after which was incredible! I knew I shoulda waited ;-)

So for my 3rd ultra - first 50 miler, I was 13th overall and 2nd overall female. When asked moments after finishing if I would do it again, I must admit I had a blank stare on my face...that  "deer in the headlights stare" - thinking to myself, 'REALLY, why would I want to do that again!?'  Continuing to think, 'well, my left side is okay.'  After two days of relaxing, amnesia set in, and im ready to tackle the entire dirt series and my first 100 miler :)

Troy Malinowski's Report: Dancing with Rock(s):

On a last minute whim Friday evening, I decided to run Dances with Dirt in Baraboo after checking that Race Day registration was available. My plan was to experience the course by doing the Half Marathon distance. So, after two hours of sleep, the car was headed down the road. 

Little traffic at night made for good drive time. Arriving just after the 50 mile start, registered and prepared for race as the other races departed in half hour increments. As I walk to start line, the bathroom urges were felt. I approached a fellow LPTR (won’t mention names, Mr. JJV) to get elite positioning in the long line, when he commented “Without a sticker, you are just the average Jose runner, the end of the line is back there”. 

So, after a twenty minute wait, I took my seat as the Half Marathon race began. I finished up and ran to the start. After crossing the start line, I found the perfect pace, good heart rate and steady stride. And suddenly, I came to a quick stop approx. 250 yards into race as the dirt road became a single track. After about a five minute wait, I found myself number 496 of the quintipede following the narrow trail that weaved up the hill. 

After about a half mile, an eighty year old woman pushed a couple of us aside and made a pass. As we came up to the first mile, the individual in front of me had a watch that announced, “You have completed one mile at a 17:47 pace. We ran up the hill, into mustard patches, up and down more hills and over logs and ROCKS. In fact at mile four, one of those rocks SOLIDLY found my right big toe.

As we came up on the aid station at mile six, we overlook Devil’s Lake. What a must see location! I continued to keep a steady pace, coming up on slower groups, being passed by quicker individuals. Over the next seven miles, I felt every jolt of the rocks on my toe, all twenty-two jolts, with two minor falls. The second fall at mile twelve, in which both legs cramped up against my arse and made it difficult to get back up. After working out the cramps, ran the remaining distance finishing in a well-earned 2:53:16.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I sat down to find a right toe black and blue and about twice the size. I showered in the field just beyond the finish line, hopped into car and headed to Milwaukee.
I was able to do some minor surgery on the toe (twice) before I walked up to the line for the Rock ‘N Sole Half Marathon at Summerfest. The hill training from the previous day was well spent as we ascended the Hoan Bridge. After cresting the apex, we all found that the devil also came to Milwaukee as he brought his HEAT and humidity. By Mile five, cups and water were gone. After a slow mile six, I was able to get a steady run/walk pattern finishing in 2:37:29.

Jodie Taylor's Race Report: It was the mountain lion on the Bluffs…

DWD Devils Lake was my 4th Ultra since May 14th…too many too soon? Maybe not, maybe so…I was definitely excited for this one. I always hear everyone talking about it and wearing t-shirts from the previous years, so of course I had to sign up for it.

3:00am wake up call and by 4:30 we were on our way to Devils Lake. I’m still amazed how early the sun rises in the summertime here in Wisconsin.  5:00am arrival, we all started preparing ourselves for the journey ahead of us. I discovered safety pinning my running belt to my shorts was such a great idea, till I had to use the restroom… Hahahaha!

I love how the start of the race is so casual, but after the bottleneck of people going up the ski hill, I now know why we should have edged to the front. But no matter, when you can make up lost time on the downhill. My legs felt great for the 1st 14 miles. Running in the woods was the best. I was extremely excited to be on new trails and in the woods, since the last race I did, was missing such trails. And…The Village People were cheering us on.  But I think I was a little too excited, thus I lost steam early in the race.  The way I felt at Mile 14 was usually the way I felt at Mile 18 and then I’d get a 2nd wind at mile 21-22 and be pumped the rest of the race. However, this did not happen, there was no second wind for me.

I then entered the bluffs…and out of nowhere this mountain lion started chasing me! I fought him off, but man was I tired after that and scratched up! Ok, Ok, no mountain lion…Devils Lake has left it’s mark on me, because I ran through a lot of prickers and my legs were beat after the bluffs, so I guess I need to hammer more hills and run more stair repeats. Ha!

Despite the tiresome climb of the bluffs, the view was amazing!

All I really wanted to do was jump in the lake. I kept hoping the pink flags would lead us into the water. They did at Gnaw Bone at the end of the race, which was extremely refreshing! But no…the pink flags were not in the lake.
Thus I found a little stream on the way back to the finish line and probably stood in it for a good 5 minutes.

The final 8 miles or so were a struggle for me. After passing through the Steinke Aid Station, Chris came sprinting up behind me, scaring the daylights out of me, but not as much as the mountain lion scared me.  He was still running strong and soon I started to experience the role reversal from the Fun Run at the beginning of June where I wouldn’t let him walk the “baby” hills, nor sit down at the aid stations.  Hahaha! Now it was his turn! It wasn’t long though till I really slowed down. I finally accepted that today wasn’t my race and to just enjoy the rest of the trails and not get stuck in my head.

Soon, I started hearing voices…did the sun bake my brain? Oh, silly, it’s the finish line!!! I was beat by the time I crossed it. Thank you Melinda for taking the “crazy” pictures of me, hahaha! Thanks to those of you who ran with me along different parts of the race, you truly helped me stay motivated when I felt like I was dragging:  Marcel, Spencer, Krishna, Chris.

I will not remember this race for my performance, because I struggled that day, but what I will remember are all of the people with whom I shared a great experience, whether it was before the race, during the race or after the race.  You know who you are LPTR! Congrats to everyone and especially the 1st time 50 milers, Marty, Annie and Mike!  And an ULTRA thanks to all of the Volunteers!

Catch Marty Burian's Report here at the Daily Mile...