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Finger Lakes 50s – My First Ultra Win

I was up in the Finger Lakes two weeks prior to the 4th of July and ended up running in the Finger Lakes National Forest based on a recommendation from my friend and the Finger Lake’s 50s women’s current record holder, Laura Swift (see her race report from 2012).

At the time, I didn’t know the date of the race. However, upon arriving at the trails, I saw that they had red arrow markers up at all the turns, leading me to believe the race was likely sometime in the near future. I loved the part of the course that I had run on and decided to further investigate online. I saw that the race was scheduled to take place on Saturday July 5th and that it was already closed out, including the waitlist. I contacted the race director, Steve Shaum, and expressed my interest in running the race. He informed me the waitlist was closed but that he would keep me in mind if anyone canceled. With the race less than two weeks away, I figured I wouldn’t hear from him again. Steve ended up emailing me on Sunday night telling me that I would need to register within 24 hours if I was still interested in running. I signed up on Monday and was looking forward to the race that weekend.

Since running this race was such a last minute decision, I wouldn’t be running with the typical group of RVRR runners who are likely present at local ultras. I drove up to the Finger Lakes National Forest by myself on Friday afternoon. One great thing about this race right from the start, was the ability to camp at the Potomac Group Campground for free at the start/finish area.

Upon arrival, I checked in and asked about camping. It was first come first serve and there was plenty of grassy space to set up a tent. The camping area was shady and dry, despite receiving 2+ inches of rain on the Thursday before the race (but we’ll get to that later).

I decided to sign up for this race because I was looking for longer training runs in preparation for my goal race for the year, the Grindstone 100 in October. Therefore, I knew that I would run the 50 miler regardless of my place or how I felt.

The course is a 16.5-mile loop covering single-track trail (85%), grassy pastures (5%), and dirt/paved roads (10%) with 1292 feet of elevation gain per loop. Runners choose their distance: 1 loop for 25K, 2 loops for 50K, and 3 loops plus a half mile loop at the end for the 50 mile. All runners registered for the 50K and 50 miler are registered for both distances, meaning, everyone can decide to stop after the 2nd loop or continue on to the 3rd loop. This is an interesting setup, since you won’t know if anyone running is going to do the 50k or 50 miler until you get to the 2nd lap.

630 AM – 50k/50mile Start

The race starts with a gradual 1/4 mile downhill on a gravel road before turning onto single track trail. I stuck to my plan to go out quick so I wouldn’t get stuck behind a bunch of runners. Two guys took it out super-fast and I knew their pace wasn’t manageable for 50 miles for me, so I just stuck to my guns and locked in at my pace by feel. The weather this year was in my favor, cool in the morning (low 50s), no humidity, with a high in the mid to upper 70s with a breeze throughout the day.

I ended up running with a group of 4 or 5 guys from early on in the first loop. The pace was comfortable, but definitely not slow. I was worried it might be a bit fast, as I was the only runner out of the group who expressed they were definitely running the 50 miler. We chatted for a bit and it was nice to share the early miles with some people. I lead this pack for the majority of the first loop, all of them ensuring me they were content with the pace and running behind. Approaching the final Aid Station (AS) of the loop (~2.7 miles to the start/finish), they all pulled ahead on a flat trail and that would be the last I really ran with anybody for the rest of the race. I went into the race hoping to run between 2:30 and 2:45 per lap. I ended up running the entire first loop in 2:33:29 which felt quick, but comfortable.

Fairly early on (probably the first climb out of the first AS) I made the decision that I would try to run the entire race, to try and maximize benefit for my 100. I was able to stick to this, running every hill, and nearly every step of the entire race. I walked in and out of a few aid stations and short sections of the rutted muddy sections, but never more than a few steps. I definitely feel like this contributed to the overall success of my race and my legs never felt too bad. Perhaps having run the majority of my races over the last 6+ months in the Blue Ridge Mountains helped as well.

I was fairly consistent and took a hammer gel about every 45 minutes. I carried 2L of water in my Nathan pack and never stopped to refill it. I drank heed and water at aid stations, ate watermelon and bananas, a few PBJ squares (although I heard talk of peanut butter and M&M sandwiches at one of the aid stations!), and took some soda at aid stations late in the 3rd loop. I picked up some orange slices from my drop bag on the 2nd and 3rd loops (I love orange slices during long races) and I took ~1-2 S!Caps each loop.

The second loop was fairly uneventful. I ran the majority of the loop by myself, aside from passing a few runners here and there. Some of the muddy sections improved having had all of the runners run over them. However, the most difficult muddy sections covered in ruts/holes from horses and cows got progressively worse and sloppier with each loop. I definitely felt my pace slow a bit, but still tried to keep an honest effort while knowingly trying to conserve a bit for the last loop. I didn’t see anyone ahead of me and wondered throughout most of the second loop if anyone ahead of me would be going out for a third loop. I ran the 2nd lap in 2:53:58. A bit slower than the first lap and a few minutes off from the 2:30-2:45 goal I’d had in mind, but I wasn’t too disappointed as I purposefully left some gas in the tank for the last lap.

Crossing the start/finish after the second lap, I asked if anyone ahead of me went out for their 3rd lap. The volunteers at the AS weren’t sure but one of the guys who took off at the beginning of the race was now finished and enjoying some post-race food and said that he believed I was the first one starting the 3rd lap. Perfect, just what I needed to hear!

I ate some watermelon, grabbed orange slices from my bag, and popped in my headphones. I planned to hold off on music until the start of the last lap so it gave me a boost when I needed it most later on in the race. The combination of my music and knowing, although still uncertain, that I was leading the 50 mile race was enough motivation to get me moving a bit quicker. I made sure to work each section of this last lap, specifically those which were runnable (not muddy). Surprisingly, this last loop flew by. Each time I got to then next aid station, I couldn’t believe I was already there. I started to push hard after the last aid station and crossing the last of the miserable mud. I rolled into the start/finish area, completing the 3rd loop in 2:49:51. I dropped my pack and took off on the 0.5 mile baby (victory) loop. I cranked this out as hard as I could with a 4:02 split and sprinted through the finish line first overall in 8:21:19.

Upon crossing the finish line, the RD handed me my finisher’s awards (camping chair and pint glass with the race logo!). I quickly drank a pint of water and then filled my glass from the keg of Southern Tier IPA they had at the finish. I also won a growler of Rooster Fish Pale Ale and an awesome chainsaw carved wooden cow!

Looking back at my splits I was right around that 2:45/loop average. Perhaps it would have been better had I went out a bit slower, but I didn’t run that hard of an effort the first loop and it was fun to share the trails with other runners early on. Overall I am happy with my race and obviously stoked about the final result. I’m looking forward to keep rolling with my training, perhaps get into a race or two this summer or early fall in preparation for Grindstone 100 the first weekend in October.

Below are some thoughts/opinions about the Finger Lakes 50s race & course

Great area/location
85% single track!
Loop course
17 aid stations (6 per loop)
Well marked
Great price
Free camping
Great swag & awards
Post-race bbq & craft beer
Well organized

Could be hot (It is July after all)
Sunny (in spots)
Flat (ish)
Loop Course (could be a pro for some, con for others)
Sells out quick (sold out in 32 hours this year)

Plan to camp. Seriously, you won’t have to worry about parking and you’ll wake up race morning a short walk to the starting line. I also recommend planning to hang around for the post-race BBQ and beer after the race and camping the second night as well.

If you’re camping, bring a cart on wheels or ask around for one at the campground to bring your gear to the site. Parking is up the road a bit and walking the ~1/4 mile or so back and forth carrying your gear can be a pain.

Running for a Cause Part II; 100 miles in 24hours

With only a little less than two weeks until my first 100 mile ultramarathon, the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, it’s difficult to summarize my thoughts and feelings. It seems like the last few weeks have gone by in a flash and there’s a ton of things swirling around my head. I am both terrified and ecstatic. It’s still a bit unfathomable to think about waking up at 4am and running for 24 hours straight. There are so many unknowns going into a race like this, such as the weather (high heat during the day, cold mountain tops, and thunderstorms), fueling (taking in enough calories, staying hydrated, not becoming nauseous and puking), the terrain (very technical with LOTS of rocks, not tripping and breaking any bones), and so much more.

These unknowns are also what make the race so alluring. While the unknown can be scary, it can also be exhilarating! I have no idea how my mind and my body will hold up over 100 rugged miles over 24 hours of running, but I’m excited to find out. Pushing oneself outside of their comfort zone is a fundamental way to experience growth. I’m fully anticipating experiencing extreme highs and lows during the race, but am looking forward to breaking through all the outer layers and possibly learning something new about myself.

I am beyond thankful to have a team of selfless and dedicated friends who are genuinely excited to crew and pace for me. Having crewed and paced others at several races varying in length, I know first hand how self-less an act this is. These people will spend an entire day driving around the back woods of Virginia meeting me at predetermined aid stations throughout the course to fuel me up, be there for anything I may need, and cheer me along. Then they will switch back and forth to run with me through sunset and into the night over the last 38 miles of the race.

To give some background of just how self-less crewing and pacing an ultramarathon are, check out this Runners World article detailing the many pros and many cons.

I would be infinitely more nervous if I didn’t know that I would have these friends there to keep me moving; one foot in front of the other. Knowing that I have the support of so many friends and family will definitely be something I draw upon when I lit low points during the race. In a wide range of ways, many of my friends and family have inspired and helped me throughout the years of running and are part of the reason I will tow the starting line at 4am on May 18th.

I’ve been signed up to run my first 100 miler since early December. I’ve thought about running a 100 miler for some time, and always intended on using my race as a means to raise money for a cause that is important to me. I had considered a number of charities but none had really clicked with me. Some time had gone by and with my race approaching, I figured I would just run the race for myself. Then I heard that a friend from high school had recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. It definitely hit home, having someone who was so young and had spent so much time growing up in the same environment and town as myself, diagnosed with cancer. Those who battle cancer know what it means to persevere and push on no matter what, because sometimes all you can do is keep moving forward; one step at a time, with your eyes set on the horizon.

Therefore, I will be running the MMT 100 to raise awareness and collect donations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of Brittany and all those who are unrelenting in their fight against cancer.

Please consider donating any amount here.

More information on Brittany and her fight against Leukemia can be found on Facebook.

One Boston

It’s been a little over two weeks since the bombings at the Boston marathon. I was incredulous when I first heard reports that two bombs exploded at the finish line of the marathon. I immediately thought of all my friends who were running and spectating at the marathon and began reaching out to fellow RVRR club members to try and see if everyone was unharmed and accounted for. It took some time, but we were able to confirm that all of our friends and fellow runners were safe. The whirlwind of events that transpired over the week following the bombings had me in sort of a funk. Driving home from work on marathon Monday, I kept thinking about how excited I was to run my first Boston three years prior and how accomplished I felt when I crossed the finish line, the same place that had now turned a day of joy and celebration to terror and sadness.

I did what most runners likely did that afternoon, I laced up my shoes, put on my blue Boston marathon tech shirt and went out for a run. My run helped clear my mind a bit, but I still had a feeling that this attack was somewhat personal. The assailants didn’t only attack innocent men, women and children, or an entire city– they attacked all runners.

The first woman to run the Boston Marathon, Katherine Switzer, is known for her famous quote, “If you’re losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”. I couldn’t agree with this statement more. It is very inspiring to watch a marathon; not only to observe the individual runners triumph over completing 26.2 miles, but also to observe the many spectators and runners who are complete strangers, cheer and celebrate each other along their journeys.

The tenacity and kindness of runners and marathon spectators alike couldn’t have been more evident after a horrific attack such as this. From the Marathoners who ran through the finish area straight to donate blood, to those who ran to the aid of the victims within seconds of the blasts. Along the marathon course, spectators offered blankets, water, and food for the thousands of marathoners corralled outside of the city.

Being runners, we will do one thing that runners do best; we will persevere. It’s this unwavering mentality to push on no matter lies in front of us, no matter how much it hurts, or how far we have left to go, that is one of the great qualities that runners are known for.

Hellgate 100k Race Recap

To Hell and Back Again…

Hellgate Elevation Profile - Photo by The Roanoke Times

There were only 139 runners brave crazy stupid enough to run this race. The Hellgate 100k is known as being a one of a kind race, as the race director, David Horton, created the event to inspire humility. Previous race winner, Eric Grossman described Hellgate as being the most representative race of what an ultra means to David Horton, with it’s “huge withering climbs, brilliant wide-open vistas, plenty of brutal technical terrain but also miles of free running.”

This race was like no other I have ever run, starting from the very beginning. Zsuzsanna, Barry, and I met up around 8am Friday morning for the 6.5 – 7hr drive to the finish of the race. We arrived, spoke with David Horton, and the Grindstone 100 RD, Clark Zealand and picked out our bunk beds. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of sleeping in bunks in this cabin for the weekend, believing I would really want to have my own space and sleep in a real bed after missing a night’s sleep to run 60+ miles. However, finishing a race and being shuffling distance to clean, dry clothes, bathrooms and showers was beyond appreciated. After a great pre-race dinner, we headed back to the cabin to lay down for a bit before the pre-race meeting. David talked about the weather and course, highlighted some of the top runners and milestone runners (9 shooting for 10 Hellgate finishes) and tried to find rides to the start for all of the runners.

Then we had roughly 2 hours to kill before heading to the race start. All of the bunks quickly filled up with nervous runners trying to grab any amount of sleep possible before venturing into the woods for an all night run. As seems to happen all so often, it felt like I finally was able to fall asleep just as someone turned on the lights for a quick gear check before our 10:50pm departure. I quickly geared up and headed out front to meet up with my ride. Two of the other runners in the car have run the race a few times and were reminiscing about some of the previous years and how mild the weather was this year. I asked if they had any tips for a first timer and they replied to start out slow, hike the first few big climbs, and be diligent in keeping an eye out for course markings, as there are many turns that could be easily missed.

We arrived at the race start, a very nondescript parking lot in the dark woods. We checked in and lined up on the trail. With a few minutes before the 12:01 start, we sang the national anthem and David said a short prayer for the safety and well being of all the runners. A runner followed with a prayer of his own, asking for the well being of the race director, who was scheduled for open heart by-pass surgery on Monday morning.

Photo by Jack Anderson

12:01 am – Here Goes Nothing

Despite Barry and I settling into a solid pace for the first few miles, we were constantly being passed by other runners. We felt like we were running fairly quickly and agreed to maintain our pace and let everyone else go, as we wanted to be conservative for at least the first half of the race. After the first 3 miles or so we hit the first aid station and made a left onto a dirt road to begin our climb up to Aid Station (AS) 2 at Petites Gap.

1:00 am – Aid Station or Moon?

On the drive to the race start a few Hellgate veterans offered a few tips, one of which was to run out of AS 1 until you turn right and hit some of the steeper terrain. There it would be smarter to conserve energy and hike the rest of the way. Planning to run fairly conservatively for the first half, I took this to heart and planned to follow their suggestion. However, after running for quite some time after AS1 and traversing a few switch backs, I kept thinking to myself “where the heck is this going to get steeper?” The dirt/gravel road maintained its grade for the majority of the 2+ miles to the top, all the while zig-zagging back and forth offering views of all the bobbing headlamps below. About half-way up the climb, there was a bright, foggy light at what looked like the top of the climb. Barry and I questioned if it was the moon, or lights at the aid station. It wasn’t until a switch-back or two further where our perspective changed and we were able to confirm that it was indeed the moon and we unfortunately could not see the top of the mountain or any signs of the aid station.

3:00 am – Hide and Seek

We could see the aid station with a bonfire and Christmas lights for some time leading into AS3 Camping Gap but we zigzagged all over before finally arriving at this aid station. Honestly, I don’t remember too much about this section except that I was starting to get fairly sleepy. I was very happy to be running with Barry. I never got terribly sleepy, but I was yawning for a while and definitely voiced a few times how tired I was. I believe this was the section where we hit the fog. All of a sudden we just ended up in fog which made visibility very sketchy. The tiny water particulates essentially blinded you from the light from the headlamp. My handheld light did little to make it any better. As quick as we came into the fog, it was suddenly gone after a few miles.

Photo by Kristin Eddy

7:00 am – Where the Heck are You Sun?

Having recently run the Stone Mill 50 which starts in the dark at 6am, I anticipated that the sun would rise around the same time, and that I wouldn’t need my headlamp any longer come 630-645. However, the mountains of Virginia had different plans for me. 6am comes and goes and it’s still completely dark. 7am comes and goes and while the sky is getting a bit brighter, a headlamp/handheld is still needed on the wooded trails. I’m completely bewildered why the sun hasn’t really shined its light on us yet. It wasn’t until around 8am where it was bright enough for us to turn off our headlamps and run by the light of day. While mentioning this to apparent phenomena to Zsuzsanna after the race, she asked where we were in the race. Barry and I calculated that were likely about half way between AS5 and AS6. Zsuzsanna mentioned that the sun came up at the normal time around 645 and that we were on the West side of the mountain, thus the delay in sunlight getting to us. Whew, so I wasn’t going crazy out there!

8:00 am – Half Way There?

AS 6, Little Cove mountain, is where i first started understanding what everyone meant when they kept mentioning “Horton Miles”. Doing the math at this AS, I figured I had about 30 more miles to go and needed to run that in around 5 hours in order to hit 14 hours. This didn’t seem all that possible, yet I was fairly sure we were on pace for somewhere around a 14 hour finishing time. Therefore, we had to be further in the race than the advertised 34.5 miles. I didn’t let this get me down, as I knew I was making good time. So I pushed on, not knowing how far I truly was into the race or what time I was on pace to finish at. This was okay by me, just another small mental speed bump to get over wondering whether I had 20+ or 30+ more miles to run.

10:00 am – Hamburger & Body Glide

This section seemed to go on for quite some time and was actually the coldest time during the race. After the sun was up, we would run through some really chilly sections, cold enough that I needed to put my thin gloves back on a few times. This is another section I don’t recall much from, except from AS7, Bearwallow Gap, where we were able to access our drop bags for the second and final time. Rolling into the aid station, I was greeted by a very excited David Horton who checked us in. Then it was on to business; drop headlamp, empty garbage from pockets, restock with Hammer gels, and refill my hydration bladder. I jumped at the offering of some real food, the first of the race for me, and enjoyed 1/2 of a hamburger. I also burdened one of the aid station workers to apply a generous amount of Glide to the chafing on my back caused by my pack.

Photo by Kristin Eddy

12:00 pm – In the Zone

Barry and I rolled through AS 8 somewhere around noon. As was true with many other sections throughout the race, AS 7 to AS 8 seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t recall if that was know as the “forever section” or if the next section was. Going through the aid station, I stopped for a bit of electrolytes, ate 1/2 a quesedilla, and was informed by a volunteer that this next section of 7.6 miles was known as the forever section. I took two Ibuprofen as a preventative measure, and decided to put my headphones in and see what I had left in my legs. Barry and the other runners pulled ahead while I slowed to eat, and prep for the last ~13-16 miles. I rolled past Barry and suggested he also take an Ibuprofen, as he was struggling with his knee, and let him know I was going to see what I had left. I pulled ahead and wouldn’t see Barry again until the finish. I got into a nice groove running down this washed out dirt road section, getting an expected boost from my music. The course made a right onto single track trails which were primarily covered in leaves and rolling in terrain. I was able to keep a solid momentum, running the majority of everything and moving along at a solid clip. I started picking off a few runners and rolled into the final aid station feeling strong. I paused long enough just to take two swigs of mountain dew from the bottle and I was on the final section of the race. The next 3 miles were a continuous climb straight up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was focused and power hiked the entire club, mixing in short sections of running. This climb went on and on and on and around each bend, you were offered of a view of more climbing ahead. This also provided a great line of sight for any runners that were up ahead, and I was motivated to continue powering up the climb, passing 2 or so runners. I came to the top, crossed the road, passed the 2nd place female and her pacer, and prepared myself for 3 downhill miles to the finish.

1:30 pm – Alive

Think back to the last time you truly felt alive, I mean truly alive; blood pumping, heart beating, smile on your face, every emotion running through your body, yet you don’t really feel any single one in particular; you’re just completely in the moment, alive and happy to be, feeling a bit invincible. It’s not an emotion we are lucky enough to experience too frequently, perhaps for the better. Climbing 3 miles up the last mountain, I knew I had some juice left and that I would give everything I had once I reached the top, crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and began the final 3 down hill miles to the finish. I was racing to finish under 14 hours and try and catch as many people as I could, I was racing to run away from everything, and I was racing to go nowhere in particular. The last 3 miles were the perfect grade down, not too steep where you have to slow yourself down with your legs or risk having a ridiculous leg turnover. The trail was wide, packed, rocky fire road which was extremely runnable making it was easy to blast down the trail. I ended up running the final 3 miles in somewhere around 19 minutes and passed 4 runners. I popped out on the dirt road and knew it was only a short distance to the 1 mile mark, I was definitely moving at 6 minute or quicker pace at this point. I rounded the corner to the campground and only had a short uphill road section to the finish line outside our cabin.

1:48 pm – To Hell and Back Again

After finishing and thanking David for allowing me into the race, and saying how great the experience was, I shuffled inside to change my shirt and grab a towel and made it back outside just in time to see Barry finish strong in 13:58 and change. My final time was 13:48:47 and I placed 24th overall out of the 139 runners who started. I am more than happy with my race and finish time. Hellgate is truly a special race with everything from the communal lodging for the weekend to the course and terrain. Running this race has given me great confidence to run my first 100 miler.

Photo by Kristin Eddy

A few take aways I had from the race:

Food - Eat when you can. There were a few sections where I was focused/not feeling great or was exhausted and I wasn’t eating much. When I would “come to” I doubled up on Hammer Gels to help keep the calories up. This seemed to work well and I didn’t have any real stomach issues.

Run when you can, power hike when you can’t – The course was definitely not short of climbs. Some where very long (3+ miles) and gradual, others a bit shorter and steeper, there was really a mix of all types of climbing. I ended up running a good majority of these. However, when I needed a break I would power hike and try to keep at a solid and steady pace.

Hand held Flash Light – I was hesitant to bring a handheld flashlight, as I had just purchased a new, powerful headlamp, however i was fearful something would happen to it, or the batteries would go and I would be alone in the dark without any light to replace them. Ultimately the hand held was pain the butt, but was glad I had it in a few sections. After eating some food from my pack, I was able to tuck the light in up front when I wasn’t using it.

Volunteers Are an Underrated Race Component – I must mention that the volunteers were truly top notch. Coming into aid stations, everyone was helpful and provided tremendous support. They were quick to refill my hydration bladder at almost every stop and were even willing to rub glide on my back chafe from my pack. They were quick to find my drop bags and told me to get running when I was done and they would zip it up and put it where it needed to go. I can’t say enough great things about all the volunteers and how truly I appreciated them all!

Calories Consumed:
20-25 Hammer Gels
4-5 Clementines
1 package of Cliff Blocks
2.5 packages of Honey Stinger Chews
1 Honey Stinger Waffle
1/2 a hamburger
1/2 a quesadilla
1 cup broth & noodles
1 mint cookie
~10 orange slices
~2 handfuls of potatoes
2, 5 hour energy shots
A few cups of GU brew
4 ibuprofen

Clothing & Gear:
Brooks Shorts
North Face tech t-shirt
New Balance MT 110 shoes
Salomon Exo IV Calf Tight Sleeves
Drymax Lite Trail Socks
Nathan 1.5L Hydration Pack
Petzl Myo-Rxp 2 Head lamp
Running Warehouse Arm Warmers
Ascis Everyday Liner Gloves

Stone Mill 50 Recap and Hellgate 100k Look Ahead

50 mile Start - Photo by Woolheater

Two weekends ago I completed the Stone Mill 50 in Maryland, my third 50 mile trail race.

The weather for the 50 miler was kind to us, as It was a beautiful day for running with a low around 28F and high around 52F. The course was very runnable with a mix of single track and fire road, making the course very runnable. However, the cumulative stress from many flat miles was adding up and I found myself in a rough patch around the 28 mile mark after running a 3:30-3:35 for the first half of the race. While running on a towpath along the Potomac river, instead of suffering and thinking about how far I still had to go, or how tired/sore I was becoming, I thought back to my experience pacing Dan Brenden at the Vermont 100 and asked myself, “What would Dan do?” I reminded myself how happy Dan was to be out there running and seemed happy throughout 100 tough miles, so I put on a big smile and said good morning to every walker, cyclist, and jogger that I passed and kept my focus looking out, admiring the beauty of the river in the gorgeous morning weather.

Sunrise - Photo by Trombatore

This was just the first of many times I brought my thoughts back to my time spent with Dan in VT and was able to put on a big smile and just try to truly enjoy where I was at that very moment. Experiencing lows and being able to “enjoy” them with a smile on your face, reminds you that perspective and mental toughness is truly one of the most important variables, and obstacles, in any ultra distance. I had some pain and tightness in my hamstring, knee, and foot all on my left side around the same time. I was run/walking a bit from the 28 mile mark to around mile 34 when I was able to take two Ibuprofen. 20 minutes later I was back in business, as my stride returned to normal and the pain was dulled. I popped in my headphones and cranked out the last 16 miles, passing more than a handful of runners over that time. I was able to push harder and run faster the closer I got, knowing I was chasing a sub 8hr finish and a new 50 mile PR. I was trying to hold my place and possibly catch anyone else in front of me, and ultimately just be done running! I finished the race in 7th place overall with a new 50 mile PR of 7:52; just 42 seconds behind 6th place who had passed me during my run/walk low around mile 30. Overall I am very happy with the race and my result. I set a new PR with little specific training, and really enjoyed much of my time out on the trails, especially the first ~25 miles spent running with my buddy Jayson.

The following morning, we woke up early to drive into Philadelphia to cheer for many RVRR teammates in the full and half marathons. I am happy we decided to make the trip into Philly and hobble around cheering for everyone. It was great seeing the faces and the joy and gratitude for everyone we cheered for, especially those running their first marathons. This weekend marked four years since I ran my first marathon back in 2008 and my mom was quick to remind me that when asked if I was going to do another marathon after I finished four years ago, I responded, “No way” and now I competed in a race nearly double the distance and almost 4 years to the day. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when no one tells you that you can’t and when you have the support of so many amazing friends and family.

Hellgate Elevation Profile - Photo by The Roanoke Times

Looking ahead, I have been recovering/tapering for the last two weeks since Stone Mill, as I am signed up for my first 100k on December 8th. I am running David Horton’s Hellgate 100k in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I’m definitely a bit nervous about this race, as it will be the longest distance and likely continuous hours I will have run at one time. Plus the race starts at 12:01 AM on Saturday morning and has many big climbs and descents with around 24,000 feet of elevation change and plenty of technical trails. Reading previous race reports and course reviews, it’s easy to conclude that this race is unlike many others, is extremely difficult and in return is very rewarding and “special”. I can’t say that I feel fully prepared for the race, but I have done some great training over the last 6+ months. I don’t also feel 100% recovered from the Stone Mill 50 but am fully committed to giving 100% and finishing this race one way or another. It’s going to hurt for sure, but isn’t that what I signed myself up for? Either way, I am looking forward to the challenge and opening a new page in my ultra running book.


Mt. Hood

Noun: An extended period of running, especially one spent away from home or while traveling.

My recent trip to Portland, Oregon was the latest in my series of runcations. Previously, I have traveled to Colorado (Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins) as well as California (Lake Tahoe/Squall Valley, Yosemite and San Francisco) with plans to explore these . . . → Read More: Runcation

You Always Remember Your First

Finish - Photo courtesy of Sally H.

RVRR Crew pre-race – Photo courtesy of Sally H.

Having run 11 Ultras (nine 50ks and two 50milers) as well as countless training runs all across the country, I’ve had the honor of experiencing many amazing trails and races. However, NJ Trail Series Mountain Madness 50K holds a special place in my heart, as it was . . . → Read More: You Always Remember Your First

Ultra-marathon Pacing – The Vermont 100

Dan, Hugette, and I at the Finish of the VT 100 - Photo: Chip Tilden

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir

Dan, Hugette, and I at the Finish of the VT 100 – Photo: Chip Tilden

The president of RVRR and I decided to head up to Vermont to crew and pace for some of her teammates from Mountain Peak Fitness. I planned to . . . → Read More: Ultra-marathon Pacing – The Vermont 100

Running For a Cause

Hat Run

Tomorrow I am racing in the HAT 50k in Havre de Grace Maryland. I had the pleasure of running this race last year for the first time and am excited to be returning this year. In addition to trying to put forth a solid effort and better my time, I will be running in honor of . . . → Read More: Running For a Cause

26.2 Brew

26.2 Brew

Samuel Adams Boston Lager was first launched on Patriots day, which coincides with the Boston Marathon, 27 years ago in 1985. In celebration of The Boston Beer Companies 28th Anniversary release of Boston Lager, they teamed up with the Boston Athletic Association to produce Samuel Adams Boston 26.2 Brew.

This beer is going to be a special . . . → Read More: 26.2 Brew