Monday, November 26, 2012

The Generosity of a Runner (aka Dale is awesome, aka Logan Peak race report)

I’ve been a complete slacker in my blogging ever since Umstead in March.  Life has been busy- between a wife, 3 kids, another on the way, a mortgage, full-time job, running, and church, I haven’t had time to both run and write about running.  Not that there hasn’t been a lot to write about- pacing for 12 hours at Hardrock, DNS at Waldo, 3rd place finishes at Iron Mountain 50 and Shut In Ridge Run, and especially winning the StumpJump 50k where Max King was entered (not every day you can say that).  But, I haven’t wanted to write about any of those until I first told the story of Logan Peak Run.  But the story isn’t about the race itself; instead, it’s about something better- the goodness and generosity of people, especially runners.

Logan Peak Run in 2008 was my first ultramarathon, and I ran it 3 years in a row while I lived in Logan, winning twice.  It’s a great race on a beautiful course and is a wonderful opportunity to run hard with my friends, though I never expected to again run the race after moving to South Carolina in 2010.  But again, this story isn’t about the race.

Marci and the kids were flying to Idaho to see her family in early June, with me joining a few weeks later.  I soon realized that I would be flying into Salt Lake the day of the Logan Peak run.  I rearranged my schedule just so I could arrive a day earlier, enabling me to see my Logan friends (Cody, Joe, et al) and run the race.  It would be a grand homecoming reunion.

I awoke early that  Friday morning in South Carolina, eager to fly to Utah to see my family and friends.  However, I received a message from Southwest Airlines during my drive that my flight had been cancelled.  Knowing there were flights later in the day but finding that the Southwest 1-800 number had a 2 hour hold time (!), I continued to the airport.  I arrived to chaos.  Apparently a glitch at the Chicago airport the evening before had prevented almost 100 Southwest airplanes from taking off, including my flight.  I stood in line for 90 minutes to talk to an agent, who informed me that the earliest rebooking would see me arrive in Utah late Saturday night.  I was pretty bummed out that I would miss the race and not see my wife and kids for another day.  I even looked online for flights on other airlines, but found the last-minute tickets were well above my income bracket.  I consoled myself with breakfast at the Southern staple, Waffle House, and vented a bit on facebook and the Fast Running Blog before returning home.  I was already planning a monster trail run the next morning to pound out my aggression, disregarding the ALL-TIME record high temperatures in Greenville that day.

And then, it happened.  Unexpectedly, I received an email from Dale.  I have never met Dale, but he is a runner on the Fast Running Blog who lives near Seattle and is a friend of a friend, having run a Ragnar Relay with Cody a few years prior.  Dale’s email was brief, simply stating that he heard about my situation and wanted to help by donating some frequent flyer miles to get me to Utah that day.  I wrote a quick, “Thanks for the offer, but I really can’t” email, but he immediately reiterated his offer and sent me his phone number to talk.  He included a little snippet that he hated to see a runner miss a race, plus wanted someone to beat Cody.  Still hesitant, I called Dale and was overwhelmed by his insistence.  He had already confirmed that he had enough frequent flier miles to buy me the ticket and had even looked up what time the flight would arrive (11:47 pm) and it’s on-time arrival record.  I told him I would call my wife and let him know.

Marci was understandably shocked when I told her about Dale’s offer.  I still was very reticent to use his miles, but Marci told me that either I took Dale’s offer, arrived very late Friday night, would be able to run the race, and then we would make it to Idaho in time for her family reunion, or I would decline the offer, arrive very late Saturday night, and would miss both the race and family reunion.  I called Dale, expressed my gratitude multiple times, and gave him the info to buy my ticket.  30 minutes later, I was headed back to the airport, ticket in hand.  Good thing I didn’t unpack.  Before I left, I renamed my blog, “Dale is Awesome!!!”  He really is.

Dale Dale

I had Dale book me on an early flight from Greenville to Atlanta, giving me a 4 hour layover before the flight to Salt Lake City.  I was hoping seats on an earlier flight might open up.  As soon as I got to the gate in Greenville, I asked the attendant if there were any openings.  While she looked, I started recounting my adventure that day, including telling how my wife (with 3 kids in tow) was picking me up at the airport at midnight, 14 hours later than originally planned.  Although she first said there were no openings, the attendant humored me by putting me on standby for an earlier flight.  Then, she noticed that I was a medallion member (something I had fortuitously received earlier that very week as a perk from work).  I asked if that made a difference, and she said it certainly did.  5 minutes later, I found myself with a ticket in-hand for the earlier flight.  10 minutes after that, she replaced that ticket with an aisle seat on the earlier flight.  Things could not have worked out better.

That is how, at 10 pm MDT that night, I found myself hoping into a car with my wife in Utah.  Thanks to some road construction, we arrived in Logan at 1 am, 22 hours after I woke up, where I managed to sleep for only a few hours before it was time for the race.

Needless to say, the race is almost an afterthought in this story.  After all, unexpected acts of charity and generosity are far more important that a bunch of skinny guys in short shorts running around a mountain.  But since this is a race report, I better include something.  Cody gave me a ride to the race, and it was great to see him and many other friends at the starting line.  I almost froze to death in the 50 deg temps waiting for the race to start, as I hadn’t experienced weather colder than 60 deg in at least 3 months and was used to 75 or 80 deg lows.  I felt tired and out of breath (gee, I wonder why) on the initial, 3500 ft climb, which allowed a couple packs to pull ahead of me.  I didn’t care- I was just happy to be there, enjoying a gorgeous day in my beloved former stomping grounds of Northern Utah mountains.  I found my lungs after an hour and caught the second group (including Joe and Cody) before aid 2.  We chatted some, then Joe and I slowly pulled away on the climb to Logan Peak, summiting together with only Seth Wold ahead of us. 

Approaching summit Eli Lucero HJ

summit 2


Joe and I approaching the summit of Logan Peak (pics from Eli Lucero, Herald Journal News)

Joe and I paused briefly to enjoy the amazing view of the Bear River Range and Cache Valley.  Then, game on- Joe pulled slowly away on the descent, leaving me in 3rd place.  I pushed hard over the next hour on the rolling North Syncline trail, straining for glimpses of Joe before finally catching him around mile 22, hiking through the mule ears.  Joe thwarted every passing attempt with (un)timely surges before leaving me in his dust at the last aid station.  My quads held up well going down Dry Canyon but I never saw Joe again.  Seth won in just over 4 hours, followed by Joe, me, and Cody, all under Cody’s old CR (though a new path to the summit took off a few minutes).  The food and fraternizing at the finish line were splendid, and I even told the local sports writer about Dale and the donated ticket, which he duly included in his write up.


Joe, Cody, and I after the race

Marci was eager to see her family, so we soon left and drove the Idaho.  I was riding high after a fun race and looking forward to a few good weeks of trail running and pacing at Hardrock.  But I will forever be mindful and grateful to Dale, who truly renewed my faith in humanity and did a good deed just to help someone else.  Dale, and runners everywhere, truly are awesome.  Dale, thank you again.  I’ll do my best to go and do likewise to my fellow men.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I’ve found my long-lost twin

Algerian ScreenShot009

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A few thoughts on Twitter, iRunFar, and Ultrasignup

I started ultrarunning in 2008, which is not that long ago. But even in that short time, I have seen some drastic changes in ultras, especially the non-running side of the sport. Today, I want to share a few thoughts about two things that, for me, have revolutionized ultrarunning- Twitter and ultrasignup.
twitter-logo1 As any gray beard ultrarunner will tell you, it used to be that you had to wait until Ultrarunning magazine arrived to find out recent race results, and “recent” was highly subjective since the results were often a few months old by that point. The advent of the internet obviously made results available much sooner post-race. But, it wasn’t until Twitter came along that we could regularly follow races as they happened. All of sudden, spectators along the course could tweet what was happening at each aid station, either updating followers on the race leaders or on a particular runner of interest. On top of starting THE ultrarunning website, Bryon Powell of iRunFar turned race tweeting into a finely tuned machine, travelling to big races across the globe and outfitting himself with satellite uplink, all in the name of informing curious minds with live race results no matter how remote the race. I saw Bryon in action at UROC last year, and his dedication and skill were evident. He even kindly passed along a message to my wife who had just given birth the week before, telling her I loved her and the kids. Just a few minutes later, she saw the message on our home computer. Not too shabby, supposing we were hundreds of miles apart and I was in the middle of a 9 hour race.
Tweet iRF 
Bryon’s message on my behalf…
Showing how big of an ultra-freak I am, I will admit to spending far too much time some weekends endlessly hitting refresh on twitter, yearning to know what is happening at some race in Utah, Virginia, Europe, Colorado, California, or any other number of locales. Bryon and many other faithful runners have kept me informed. I’ll admit that I’ve even called my neighbor, another runner, near the end of Western States:
“Are you watching this?” [I didn’t even need to tell him what this was] “Yeah- it’s amazing.” “What just happened with Killian? Is that a typo?” “I don’t know. And look at Geoff- he was 20 minutes behind Tony and now he’s only 8 back” “iRF said he’s got Mackey as a pacer, so that’s gotta help.” And so on…
Much to my wife’s chagrin, it seems there is a race almost every weekend that I want to hear about. This year, I think I’m going fastpacking in the Smokies during WS100 just so I won’t spend all day on twitter. Who am I kidding, though, I’ll just read all of it when I get home.
The other revolutionary item is Ultrasignup. On the surface, appears no different than any other race signup website like But, search for a race and you’ll soon encounter a slew of useful data- race results for previous years, the top 10 times ever, how full the race is for next year, etc. But what makes the site really standout is the runner ranking. For every race, each runner is given a ranking based on their finishing time, with the winner receiving a 100%, and someone running double the winning time earning a 50% score. Ultrasignup averages all your result percentages to end up with your Ultrasignup ranking. Any ultrarunner who doesn’t know what their score is (at least approximately) is either lying or living in the backwoods of Alaska.  Ok, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but still- I know running buddies who constantly tease each other about who has a higher score after their most recent race, and I’m sure some people have DNF-ed races just so a low placing won’t appear on their permanent ranking. And having the ability to look at the ultrasignup ranking for all the entrants in your upcoming race is yet another online death trap, resulting in far too much time spent looking at who your real competition is at the next race and who has a high score just by winning a local 50k that only had 6 entrants. Irregardless, the information available on races and especially runners on is awesome.
LPR The entrants at my next race
And so, I’d like to tip my hat and give a big thank you to Twitter, iRF, all the other ultrarunning tweeters out there, and Thanks, guys, for all you do to keep us informed about and during races. Though I suggest staying away from many ultrarunning widows, who may have a few choice words for making an already-time-consuming sport that much more time-consuming. See you at the next race!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Setting a bunch of PR’s- Umstead 100 race report

100 miles is a stinking long ways to run.  Every 100 miler is a lifetime of adventure- some good, some bad, always unpredictable.  Watching many runners throw down fast 100 mile times over the past few years, I decided to try to run a fast one myself.  Since most of my training is on rolling hills, not mountains, the nearby Umstead 100 seemed perfect.  A 12.5 mile, 8 lap course over crushed gravel paths with 8000 ft climbing, it has a reputation for being one of the fastest 100’s on the east coast.  My training went well and, other than a relative lack of long runs (Uwharrie 40 was my only run over 22 miles since Thanksgiving), I felt prepared.  That is, until I got sick a week before the race.  Hmm, not good- sick enough that a 3 mile run two days before the race wiped me out.  Being sick had already resulted in a poor Mountain Masochist and a DNS at Harbison, so I was thinking I might be snake bit.  I started feeling better the day before the race, fortunately.

My goal time was a pretty ambitious 14:40, and I knew there would be plenty of fast runners out there, including Mike Morton (13:18 100 mile in Jan and featured in this month’s Trail Runner magazine, which I read the night before- kinda cool), 4 time winner Serge Arbona, 2011 champ John Dennis, and fellow-UROC runner Troy Shellhamer.  My wife and kids came to cheer, stud-runner Justin Cole drove all the way from SC to crew and pace, and La Sportiva mountain goat Jason Bryant also generously volunteered to pace. 

I stayed in a cabin near the start, falling to bed early but waking up at 2 am.  I eventually warmed up and made my way to the start in the middle of a drizzle.  A handful of runners quickly pulled away at the gun while I found myself running easy and chatting with Troy for the first hour, a nice way to pass the time.  He decided to slow down in hopes of a faster finish (a wise plan in a 100), while I sped up and spent time with/near Darian Smith and David Ploskonka.  Lap 1 was 1:39, right on schedule.  I was glad the drizzle continued on Laps 2 (1:37- a tad fast) and 3 (1:46- a tad slow) to keep the temps down, while my body adjusted to the reality of what I was doing to it.  Justin and my family showed up during here and were great motivation, with Justin getting me in and out of the aid stations in record time.  My only issues were some very painful hips and a sore ankle (neither of which had been bothering me in training).  I also enjoyed lapping and talking to various runners while being amazed how far ahead Mike and a few others were.  Lap 4, however, was rather terrible.  I started to heat up as the sun emerged, and just felt generally crappy.  Deciding that I hated 100 mile races, I concluded that I didn’t want to feel like this for 50 more miles, especially as I trudged up some of the steeper-than-expected hills.  My sickness provided the perfect excuse to drop out at mile 50, but in reality I was just a wus (not to be confused with a WUS).  I had run in 4th/5th place all race but was now passed by a very strong looking Mark Manz and Jim Sweeney.  In addition, my stomach was not happy with something and I began visiting the bathroom every 3-5 miles.  Ugh.  Time to quit.  My 1:59 lap 4 was a full minute per mile slower than planned.  I had already set my 50k (4:06) and 50 mile (7:03) PR’s (due more to the difficulty of previous races than my speed at Umstead) and wanted to call it a day.


Green shorts are visible from a long ways away…



The kids taking my food and keeping busy in the mud

Unfortunately, as soon as I turned the corner at 50 miles towards my crew, Jason excitedly took off his warmups and started jumping around.  I just couldn’t bring myself to tell everyone I was quitting.  I stopped by the main aid station for some ultra-style “pick me ups” (Pepsi and chicken noodle soup), ran to my crew and said something to the effect of, “I’ve been planning to quit for 10 miles now, but I’m not.  I'm going to keep running.  Let’s go.”  With that, we were off.  I still felt terrible, but Jason did a great job of being patient and encouraging me while distracting me with innumerable great stories.  At a minimum, I figure I’d do one lap and set my 100k PR (which I did- 9:02).  Pacers can mule at Umstead, so he also carried my gu flask and refilled my water bottle so I could run through every aid station.  In theory.  In truth, it meant I could head straight for the bathroom.  Annoying.  The humid 80-deg temps weren’t helping, either.  Anyways, it’s amazing how much better you feel when you have someone to distract you from your misery, and Jason was great company.  Lap 5 and 6 were a disheartening 2:04 and 2:08 (still 12 minutes/lap slow), but I was still in 7th place, running most of the miles, and never again thought of quitting.  I even passed Chris Ramsey, which was a nice feeling.  Jason bowed out at mile 75 and Justin took over pacing.  Trying to shed weight, I somehow convinced him to carry my Nathan vest, then my sweaty shirt and hat, and eventually even my water bottle.  Pacers can’t be much more dedicated than that… and I’m not sure how his sense of smell survived the stench.



My crew/pacers of Jason and Alison Bryant, Justin Cole… and my helpful kids

My race finally turned for the better at mile 80.  I came out of the bathroom and was surprised to see Troy just yards away- he had made up a 3 mile gap.  Determined to give him a race, I took off running, appreciative for the falling temperatures and finally feeling energetic.  4 miles later, we passed a sick and struggling Serge at almost the same time that Mike Morton finally lapped me.  Mike ran a tough, impressive race- congrats to him.  We finished lap 7 in 2:01, and I gave Marci a kiss, telling her we were almost done.  Troy was only a mile behind, so we kept pushing hard as the sun set.  It’s a great feeling to know the end is approaching and that this is the last time you’ll see everything.  I kept reminiscing about my favorite and least favorite parts of the course to Justin.  Justin kept the pace honest while I counted down the miles and tenth of miles, enjoying myself while making sure no headlamps were gaining on us.  Lap 8 finished in 2:01 as I ran up the last hill and jumped to hit the Umstead sign for a 15:19:53 100 mile, a 4 hr PR.  Troy finished 8 min back, with Chris 8 min more behind.  I thought I had taken 5th place, but it turns out John Dennis’ DNF moved me into 4th.  I’ll take it.  After some food and chat, we headed to the hotel for a restless night of sleep.

I’m fairly satisfied with the race.  It was far from a perfect day, but I set 4 PR’s (plus a 5k PR and 1 mile post-collegiate PR earlier in the month), so can’t complain about that.  I mean, how often do you set 5 PR’s from 5k all the way to 100 mile in a 2 week period?  I would estimate my taper sickness and especially my ~20 pit stops cost me 30-60 minutes, so further improvement is possible.  If I do more 100’s, I think they will be more technical, singletrack, and slow.  But I’d really like to focus on 50k to 100k distances, which I enjoy more than the long 100 milers.  My goals of a 100 mile win and 14 hr time will have to wait a while- Logan Peak, Waldo 100k, and TNF San Fran 50 are next.

Overall, I’d highly recommend Umstead for beginners or as a fast 100- it’s well run, predictable, a nice running surface, and has lots of company on the trail.  I have to thank Marci and my kids for their support during my training and during the race (still not sure how Marci kept the kids busy all day), and also Justin and Jason for being the most awesome crew/pacers.  They really pulled me along during the rough patches and I owe the finish to them.  Just like in life, we runners could not finish with all the work of RD’s, volunteers, friends, and family.  Thanks, everyone.  Now go run!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Set your 5k PR with 100 miler training and Leprechaun power (Milliken 5k race report)

A funny thing happened on the way to the 100 mile race- I set my 5k PR (sort of). This is the second time this has happened. Last year, I set my 5k all-time PR running of 16:24 by myself on the track, 1 week into my taper for Old Dominion 100. And now, I set my road/cross country 5k PR of 16:30, 1 week into my taper for Umstead 100. Both times my speedwork was limited to marathon pace long tempo runs. World, I submit myself to you as proof that 90+% of running speed comes from base miles. If you want to set a 5k PR, run lots and lots of miles. Don’t worry about 200 or 400 m intervals or any Runner’s World 3-day-a-week training program. Just run base.

Anyways, today was the Milliken Earth Run 5k. It’s a very splendid cross-country race run on the gently rolling hills of the Milliken Arboretum in Spartanburg. It’s a natural grass course which they mow, meaning it’s rather lumpy and bumpy with a few trees and roots thrown in. The course is marked with some (very) faint white paint every 5-10 yards, which makes it exciting because you can’t tell which was the course will turn until you’re 20 yards away. I think it is the perfect location for a race. Weather was nice with a humid mid-60’s overcast day.

Last year, I ran 16:58 at RDT and 17:22 at Milliken. Based on my road PR 16:34 at RDT this year, I was thinking 17:00 was a good goal. But, there was one drastically different item this year- based on a strange confluence of the moon and stars, today’s Earth Run coincided with St. Patrick’s Day. Combine that with the power of my Green Shorts, and strange things were bound to happen. In addition, I found a small Leprechaun hat that my 3 year old wears. The elastic is tight when I wear it, but the hat stays neatly on top of my head. Green power x2 + St. Patricks day power.

Anyways, the usual suspects were at the start. Most people loved my festive hat, though I received some very funny looks from the high schoolers at the start line who I’m sure were thinking anyone wearing a holiday prop should not be at the front. The race began and I again started fast, settling into third between Mike (last name?) and Jim, my co-worker who soundly beats me at every 5k. The first mile was a speedy 5:03, just 4 seconds slower than my recent 1 mile race. A small surge took me past Mike and into the lead, Jim on my shoulder. We continued to push hard, with Jim retaking a 10 yard lead and Mike falling off pace. Mile 2 had a fair amount of uphill and was a slower 5:30. Just past 2 miles, I suddenly realized that I felt great- my breathing wasn’t as labored and my legs felt strong. Summoning the strength of the leprechaun, I pushed to catch up. A small surge at mile 2.5 saw me pass Jim, who held on for 30 seconds but then slowly faded back a bit. I gave it my all and stretched my legs on a long, gradual climb and then descent to the finish line. I smiled at the cheering crowd, pointing to the hat and yelling, “It’s the power of the leprechaun” (or something like that). Finished with 5:56 for the last 1.1, for a final time of 16:30. Jim was about 15 seconds behind, and Mike was just over 17:00 minutes. Had a good time at the finish, talking with lots of great people while they gave out tons of door prizes and winning two tiny cilantro potted plants.

If 5k races can predict 100 mile races, then I’d say I’m in the best shape of my life right now. My training over the past 4 months is the best ever (even higher mileage than before UROC), and I just set a road/off-road 5k PR on a lumpy course that includes 150 ft of climbing. But, I haven’t done many long runs, definitely my biggest weakness. And 5k races definitely cannot predict 100 mile races. So, let’s go race Umstead and see what happens.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mind Over Mountain 15k race report

The Mind Over Mountain 15k is the second of five races in the Carolina Mtn Goat series and is the first race ever at the beautiful Jones Gap State Park.  The original course was scrapped due to excessive trail erosion and a more mild course was selected.  However, monster thunderstorms Friday night (2 inches of rain in 12 hours plus dozens of tornados, including 2 within 40 miles of the park) threatened to cancel the race.  Fortunately, the rain let up early Sat morning and the race was on.

I picked up Aaron and Barry for the hour drive.  After a pre-race briefing and shuttle to the start, we were off.  I was pretty determined to win no matter who showed up, and was equally determined to not get chicked by Amber Moran, a national-class mtn runner who won the first race in the series by 7 minutes over the first male.  Game on.

Jones Gap trails are occasionally smooth but generally technical, with an overabundance of rocks.  Especially the green, moss-covered type which are particularly fun to step on when wet.  Keep your eyes on the trail and don’t trust your footing.  Ever.  Add in lots of low-hanging branches (it’s not a trail run if you aren’t jumping and ducking at the same time), water crossings of all sizes, mud, and puddles and we had a true trail race.  No buffed out singletrack here.  The race was a lollipop route advertised as a 15k, was wheeled at 10.5 miles (including mile markers- awesome!), and was garmin-ed at 10.02 miles. 


Average footing on the Jones Gap trail.  This was the easy part, and it wasn’t dry on race day.

Dave Workman started off quickly, followed by me and Amber.  We were working hard and breathing hard right from the start.  The well-marked Jones Gap trail climbs a steady 1200 ft in about 4.75 miles.  I trailed Dave the whole time, though he was never more than 15 seconds ahead, while Amber disappeared behind within 2 miles.  I generally felt good but both of us were definitely working hard- I’d call it harder than half-marathon effort.  We averaged about 8:20 miles up the technical trail.  The climb included a large log crossing of a river, aided by a rope the volunteers strung.  Turning onto the Tom Miller trail, Dave insisted on running up the real grunt of a climb (300 ft climb in under .25 mile) while I was content to mostly walk the steep steps to conserve energy.  He held a slight lead when we reached the only aid station at mile 5, but I caught up as my handheld allowed me to skip it.  We started the final ascent with Dave still ahead but breathing noticeably harder than I was.  He glanced back once with breathless words of encouragement, which I echoed to him.

Mind over matter 15k elevation profile

Not wanting the race to come down to the last mile on technical rocks and wary of the competition, I passed Dave just before the last summit and immediately kicked it up to 5k effort for as long as possible.  I wanted to get out of sight, so pushed down the terrain with abandon, slowed only by my watering eyes and the occasional deadfall tree.  Though pretty muddy, steep, and rocky, I was able really open it up and saw Dave slowly fall back (though still close enough that one small mistake would allow him back in).  The downhill was a blast, skipping over rocks (never trust the footing of green wet rocks… wait, all the rocks are green and wet), ducking branches, and splashing through multiple shin-deep creeks.  The trail finally moderated a bit in steepness (though not rocky-ness), allowing a brisk 6:23 for mile 9 (garmin instant pace said 4:30 pace for a while… don’t believe it).  Finished the 10 miles in 1:22:23 including 2200 ft climbing and descending.  Dave was 3 min back, Amber 1 min behind him, then a fairly steady flow of finishers. 

15k log bridge

The finish line was enjoyable, chatting with the volunteers and the runners as they came in while munching on some food.  I won a mug as the King of the Mountain (their words, not mine).  The drive home with Aaron and Barry included the normal recounting of tales and saw us home by lunch.  A very fun trail race over a good course in the mountains- can’t beat that.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 race report

Another East Coast classic, Uwharrie Mountain run is in its 21st year.  I was running primarily as a good workout for Umstead 100, but was hoping for a win and a finish around 6 hrs.  The race is run as an out-and-back along the white-paint hashed 20-mile Uwharrie Trail in NC.  The course was typical for East Coast runs- leaf strewn, lots of rocks and roots, water crossings, and mud.  The level of technicality ranged from somewhat to rather, which, for some reason, is more than I expected.  But, save a few steep hills, I found all of it runnable, despite what some people had told me pre-race.  The past two years were extremely rainy, but this year was better with low-40’s temps and intermittent rain (never enough to soak my shirt).


Typical trail and white hash denoting the path [all photos from Scott Lynch’s blog and thanks!]

The race started 20 min late due to shuttle/parking issues, but we were soon off and running.  I found myself in second headed up the rocky conga line climb in the first mile, which we would have to joy of descending 39 miles later on tired legs.  The lead group moved at a brisk pace along the mountain trails with some normal conversation as I got to know local vets Ronnie Weed and Mike Mason.  After an hour, I felt good so passed into first and increased the pace.  Unfortunately, I somehow found myself on the wrong side of a stream, losing a minute until Ronnie came by and set me straight.  Around 2 hrs, my stomach started acting up and my body did not feel good- probably a combination of a fast start and residual fatigue.  I was pretty miserable and just tried to keep moving forward, not particularly enjoying myself.  Ronnie passed me and was 6 minutes ahead at the 20 mile turnaround.  I reached it in 3:01:30, about 5 minutes behind schedule (which wasn’t too bad considering how I felt for the last hour) 

Uwharrie climb

The first climb, and the last descent, as seen by Scott

Right after the turnaround, I caught a toe and did a superman dive into some lovely mud, leaving my entire right side coated and my leg/knee with a sweet blood streak down them for the remainder of the race.  As I slowly picked myself and my ego up, Mike Mason flew by, looking extremely strong.  Still moving slowly, I soon found the myself having the share the singletrack with the outbound 20 and 40 mile runners, though almost all of them yielded to allow me past.  Almost puking numerous times, I hardly had the energy to do more than wave to their enthusiastic greetings while navigating the most technical part of the course amidst an increasing rain.


Uwharrie mud, found throughout the course- it makes for a soft landing


Leaf-strewn rocks to run over- fun fun

I was not alone in my despondency, though, as I passed Ronnie 30 minutes later as he slowly walked down a hill.  Reaching the 23 mile aid station, I downed 2 glasses of coke, which seemed to hit the spot- my stomach started feeling much better and my energy level soon returned, aided by many more glasses of coke the rest of the way.  By 4 hrs, I felt my normal self and pushed forward, giving my best to catch Mike who was between 2-8 minutes ahead, depending on whom you asked.  Feet soaked, I splashed through all the streams and mud bogs that I had gingerly picked my way through 2 hrs previous.  Running was fun again.  I inquired the gap at each aid station, and did not seem to be gaining.  Then, a pit stop, a 2.5 minute detour (again to the wrong side of a creek chasing some deer trail), and another pit stop seemed to close the window.  The strong-running Mike never appeared ahead.


Water crossing- can’t keep your feet dry here


Can you spot the trail?

Nearing the end, I heard cheers as Mike crossed the finish line, victorious.  I finished less than 90 seconds later in 6:33:15, ~30 minutes and 1 place slower than hoped (climbing was somewhere between 6000-7500 ft, depending on garmin program).  Uwharrie definitely got the better of me this day.  Mike was elated to win, saying that this race had been his first ultra 9 years prior and he had unsuccessfully tried to win it 4 times.  He ran strong and it’s nice to see hard work pay off.  Shivering in the rain, we sipped some welcome chicken noodle soup provided by some of the many enthusiastic volunteers.  We were treated 20 minutes later to a photo-finish for 3rd/4th, with only a last second wipeout around the muddy final turn separating the two runners.


As for me, I enjoyed the race overall- it was good weather (for Feb), an awesome trail with plenty of challenges, good aid stations (that I generally skipped), and well-organized.  And it was a good workout for Umstead.  I didn’t run smart, though, going out too fast, and didn’t feel great.  It wasn’t the performance I wanted.  Fun race, but I’d give my personal performance a solid “Meh”.  I may be back- knowing the course would definitely be advantageous on this one and it was a race worth repeating, as the many 10+ year runners will tell you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Run Downtown 5k

The RDT 5k last year was my first road race in over a year and first 5k in 18 months, and I was happy with my 16:58 time. This year, I was just hoping to beat that time. I had a great December, with almost 400 miles, though almost no speedwork (only 54 miles total speedwork since the start of October). But January was rough, with some niggles and a nasty cold. I felt recovered for the race, and wanted to try hard. It has been rainy the past few days, and this morning was no exception. 30 min before the race, it was pouring. Fortunately the rain stopped shortly before the start and the weather ended up perfect- cool 45 deg, slight breeze. It’s a big race with 3000 runners on a moderately hilly course (about 200 ft climbing). I arrived only 15 min ahead of time, ran a few strides, nodded to a few of my GE co-workers, and waited for the start.

I normally start too slow and finish with gas in the tank at 5k’s. I changed it up this time, sprinting hard from the start. I was in about 8th place after a minute. After the long gradual uphill to mile 1 (5:21), I was in about 16th place, 5 second back from a pack of 10. Mile 2 is predominately downhill and I passed a few people (5:20). The last mile has a steep uphill, then some flat and a gradual down to the finish. I passed someone at mile 2 but he hung with me and I could never ditch him- he ended up sprinting past me at the end. Last 1.1 mile was 5:52, with a total time of 16:34. This is a road PR for me by 1 second, and only 10 seconds off my all-time PR, so I was very happy with the results. The GE team did great, too, with 5 runners breaking 17 min, a new record (most previous was 2?).

I think today is good proof that trail runners can still run well in short road races, even with minimal speedwork. I think mileage base is far more important to 5k speed than anything else. Now, that’s not to discount speedwork- race predictor calculators say I should be able to break 16 min for a 5k based on my half marathon speed, and I’m sure I could do that if I trained and tapered specifically for a 5k. But, that’s not my priority, so I’ll just have fun at these short races and do the best I can while focusing on trail ultras. Either way, this was a good start to the year, though it still makes me wonder what kind of time I would have run at Harbison 50k if I weren’t sick. Hopefully I can find out next year. Regardless, this is a great race that is competitive, well organized, and fun. One final note- my 16:58 from last year would have gotten me about 23rd place. So I improved my time by 24 seconds but only 1 spot. And of the 14 who beat me, only 2 were over age 30. Bunch of young bucks!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 Year In Review / 2012 Preview

I figured I should quickly wrap up last year and set some goals for 2012.  First, the year in review:

The Good:

  • UROC- One of my best races ever at the highest profile race of my life, earning the last podium spot
  • 14 races (most since HS or college?), 10 trail races, 6 ultras, 4 wins (SweetH20 was highlight), 2 CR
  • Set World Record as part of 100x5k GTC team.  Not often you can say you own a WR!  Also set my 5k PR at that event, as well as setting 3 other PR’s during the year
  • Ran 3769 miles (72 mpw), highest ever by a large margin and meeting my 3000 mile goal
  • Completing Foothills Trail on first attempt, in the second fastest time ever

The Bad:

  • DNF at Old Dominion 100.  Not much to say here, other than that I learned a lot about mental toughness and the importance of goals.  Part of that learning was reflected in my later MMTR 50 finish, which I wouldn’t have finished without OD100 experience.  I’m proud of toughing out that MMTR.
  • Didn’t reach my goal of finishing 100 mile race (see item above)

The Random:

  • I think I own 20 pairs of active running shoes
  • Pace per mile of races: fastest of 5:10, slowest of 14:09
  • Had a great time running new East Coast trail races and meeting new people.

Looking ahead to 2012:

Goals- run at least 3300 miles, set 2 PR’s, win 2 races, top 5 finish at competitive West Coast race

Race schedule:

Spring- Harbison 50k (oops- DNS due to sickness), Uwharrie 40, and Jones Gap 15k as lead up to Umstead 100, with goal of sub-15 hrs

After that?  Who knows- have 47 race possibilities on my schedule. Looking at Logan Peak, White River 50 or Waldo 100k in the summer, and Steamboat 100 or Georgia Jewel 100 or UROC 100k or Stump Jump 50k in the fall. Finishing with TNF 50EC Championship in San Fran at end of year.  I’m really debating between White River or Waldo- I’m planning to head west for one of them.  Both are known for being beautiful singletrack races.  Biggest difference is WR fits better in the schedule, but top 2 places at Waldo earns a spot at Western States.  Guess I’ll have to decide soon.