Sunday, May 22, 2011

McNaughton 150 Mile Endurance Run. Pittsfield, VT May 6th-7th 2011

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.

-- D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run - Race Report

“100 mile races are crazy. To conceive of this reality in the moment is nearly too much to bear. So, you don’t. You push it out of your mind and focus on the next aid station. You struggle to stay in the moment. Racing 100 miles is all about meeting intermediate goals. The real running in a 100 miler comes in the last 40 miles.” Anton K.
Thought there was much pre-race excitement regards the temporary ban on iPods runners were out there with their Blackberry’s and just as well:
Live Feed on Racers; Feb 5, 2011 at 10:36PM; “Found runner down on trail. He passed out. Sat with my body on him to keep him warm. 35 min later help arrived. I was too crippled in left knee.  After 90 minutes on trail trying hoping pleading for it to loosen up it only got worse. It’s agonizing pain.”

This Good Samaritan, who happened to be a Nurse subsequently DNFed Unfortunately sitting so close to him for 35 min to help keep him warm caused me to pool lactic acid in my knee. It caused an injury that I could not work out over an 8 mile stretch to the next aid station. Alas I am glad to help and would do it again.”

This is the quintessential mark of our chosen sport; Selfless Sacrifice.

NASA Cow. Proof to all you nay sayers that NASA did in fact land a cow on the Moon
On the drive to the Hotel. I wonder if they're in for the 50 or 100? 

Frosty Palms ouside our Hotel
 Packet pick up. I had travelled from Detroit with Mark, Jim and Elaine. Jim was first to spot the elites in the hall at Sam Houston State Univ. I seized the moment and got my Bib autographed by Scott “Dig Deep” Jurek and Anton “Enjoy the Trails!” Krupicka. I felt like a teenager at a Rock Concert. It is great being able to participate in a race in which world class Ultra runners were also competing. My hope was that once I entered the inevitable “Dark Place” this would be sufficient mojo to keep me going.

RD final instructions

Scott "Dig Deep!" Jurek; Anton "Enjoy the trails!" Krupicka

Jim, Elaine, Me, Anton, Scott, Majic

Crush, I think

We were lucky even to get this far. Over the previous day numerous emails were flying around telling tales of woe of cancelled flights and treacherous driving conditions; “I made it from Red Oak to just south of Ennis on 45 before we called it quits!  We spun off the road 3 times.  Had to get pulled out on the second one by the Sheriff.  He said that there was a 50-60 mile stretch of road south of Corsicana that was a sheet of ice and no one out to help.  His advice was to turn around and go home.  As much as our hearts wanted to race, we had to make a decision with our brains and go back north.  Totally bummed.”

Race Morning. It was cold.
Mark "Majic" McCaslin; 50% Man, 50% Machine, 100% Ultra Runner

After the race I was to learn that Majic was a man on a mission. A mission that involved keeping me at arms, or should that be legs length. I had no idea he was that “worried” about me, but if my presence was his mojo to do well then it succeeded and he came in at 21:00 beating his 2010 finish time by 4hrs 27mins. Amazing!

Majic FM
I checked in at the race Start/Finish (Dog Wood) at around 5:30AM. Mark stayed in the car, resting up, back rest down. I wanted to take some photos. I couldn’t help but notice that the euphemistically named “Warming Tent” had icicles hanging down, on the inside. Yikes. If this is the warming tent how cold will the others be? Most runners still preferred to stay in the WT awaiting the 6:00AM start.

Icicles inside the "Warming Tent"
Keeping Warm-ish

Me, Majic
The race had attracted many world class runners: Scott Jurek, Anton Krupricka, Karl Meltzer, Zach Gingerich , Lisa Howard and of course my good friend Mark “Majic” McCaslin.
Scott, Anton

Karl, Scott

Final Hugs

Though the race is called Rocky Raccoon; #1 it is not rocky but there are lots of roots, and #2 I saw no Raccoons but did hear frogs, so in my mind this race should more aptly be called the “Rooty Frog 100” which I think has a certain ring to it.
Loop 1
6:00AM – 9:15AM
Completed in
Miles 0 – 20
Went well : )

My plan was to run the first loop at 10:00 pace and then slow down with subsequent loops at: 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and a final loop at 18:00’s. My goal being 23:20, a stab at that colorful Sub 24 belt buckle.  My friends Ken and Steve secured one of these last year so I had been given my goal. After taking photos of the front runners I found myself next to Zach Gingerich so decided to shake his hand and wish him well. In fact somehow I found myself behind all the top runners and was off at a brisk pace. It’s dark. Headlamp on, flash lamp in hand.

Around 7:15AM dawn broke. I stowed my lighting in my shirt pocket and snapped a few photos.

Day break over Lake Raven. Start of a beautiful day

Coming in to Dog Wood (Start/Finish) at end of Loop 1

Loop 2
9:15AM – 12:49PM
Completed in
Miles 20 – 40

At some point on the 2nd loop I became painfully aware that my quads were hurting like Billy-O. This took me by surprise. A first low point of the race and so soon. I got a bit depressed thinking how much more was ahead of me. Then starts the questioning: Have I over reached myself, Why am I doing this, Will I finish, Will I get that Buckle? I even momentarily entertained the notion of dropping and quitting Ultra Running forever and emailing Majic to say the “VT150 is off!" But then again I have been in this dark place before and knew it would pass, it was just a matter of when.
Arriving back at the Dam Road A/S I took my first Ensure of the day, a life saver. My idea now was as a treat I’d have one in that drop bag which meant I had to carry extras with me when I got back to the Start/Finish Dog Wood A/S. The 6 mile Dam Road aka DamNation loop is considered a motivational low spot in each loop; the lure of an Ensure at the end at each out and back was sufficient distraction to keep me focused.

"Liquid Mojo"
Since some of the later sections of the loop entertain two-way traffic I got to see the front runners: Anton, Hal, Scott, Karl, Lisa cruise past me on the loop which was a thrill. I raised my hand as Scott floated past and he “High Fived”. I haven’t washed it since. No just joking.
Loop 3
12:49PM – 4:46PM
Completed in
Miles 40 – 60
Feeling Better : )

At Dog Wood I drop off my jacket and can now run comfortably in shirt and shorts. I’m feeling alive again. The high point of the run. Having now perked up energy wise and with the sun out I’m feeling a lot better now. I’m able to appreciate the sights, the smells, and conversations with the other runners. In a way I wished I was just doing the 50. 50’s are sensible. You get to finish them in day light and enjoy a lot more of what’s around you. At some point after around 7 hours of running I fell for the first and luckily only time. I somehow turned during my fall and my right hip bashed against a large protruding root. A momentary sharp pain but nothing serious. A few minutes later a person I was running with also fell. Somehow he fell on his hydration pack, and pop, liquid is pouring out everywhere. Upon inspection the fill cap had popped off and he was able to fix it. Crisis averted.
Loop 4
4:46PM – 9:39PM
Completed in
Miles 60 – 80
Not too bad

Still feeling good, happy I’m ahead of target in fact ahead by 100 minutes. Life is still good what can possibly go wrong? The sun is setting and it’s already starting to feel cooler. Time to change out of my damp top into something dry, and prepare for the night. I retrieved my lights from my jacket at Dog Wood. I realized that when it got dark I’d naturally slow down to avoid falling as well as just be tired any ways.
Loop 5
9:39PM – 3:53AM
Completed in
Miles 80 – 100

Now the race starts. All before was simply a preamble to get me to this point. Bring on the Pain. This loop can best be summed up by the lyrics to REM's Mad World:
“All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places - worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere - going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression - no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow - no tomorrow”

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very Mad World”
I’m now going very slowly, doubt again creeps in, and it’s time to reevaluate those goals. Tough I had 100 minutes in the bank I was aware that they can be quickly spent, easily squandered. Shuffle, shuffle.  Majic had passed me on the last loop and he looked like he was doing well.

When it comes down to it it’s all about “How much do you want this?” I wanted it! This was why I was here. This is the test.
I’d gone into this race with some mild Planter Fasciitis. I am no medical expert but suspect running 100 miles is not an accepted cure, it was now starting to be not so mild.
Out of the last aid station, Park Road, with 4.4 miles to go I start attempting some mental arithmetic. 4.4 miles at an 18:00 pace would mean around 1 hr 20 mins to the finish. I felt with continued effort sub 24 was clearly within reach and I was on the cusp of sub 22. Now playing the numbers game became the Big Deal. What does it matter though if I do 23:59 or less it’s the same Buckle, but it DID matter. I then found myself focused on chasing a hoped for revised goal of Sub 22 at mile 96. "How much do you want this?"
Then at last I crossed a park road indicating around ½ mile to go. Soon I could see the Finish tent all lit up. I took a deep breath, managed to pass a runner or two and I was done. The clock said I’d Finished in 21:53. I was surprised when a helpful lady at the Finish gave me a hug. She handed me my Buckle and I got a second hug. I was in a daze and not too talkative, I said “Thank you”, quietly. I could see it had the colored enamel for Sub 24hrs. Strangely enough on that last loop I have no memory of “wishing” for a Sub 24 Buckle. Just to finish.

Feet after 100 Miles

I waited in the “Warming Tent” for Majic to find me. I’d gone out to the car and even though he was in there (so he says) I did not see him and went back to freeze my *** off in the WT. I had no dry clothes. They were all at the DamNation A/S drop bag or in Majic’s car.
During the race I made the decision not to sit down and stayed on my feet the whole race. "Beware the Chair."  I made the decision not to lollygag at the aid stations. Water, food, outta there. 3-5 minutes at each A/S can add up to a lost 2 hours.
Post race reflections. So what’s next: Vermont 150 in May – Yikes!

NASA Cow welcomes us back to Houston
So what can I say about my experiences out there. First off I am grateful and blessed to report that all 4 goals were met. I am more than happy, finishing in 21:53 and getting my Sub 24 hr buckle. I do not feel that I have been stretched to my limits.
Though it appears I can run, well at least cover 100 miles in one go, I still struggle with walking my dog around the block and can find excuses not to. I wonder if that makes me a bad person?

Though I tried but did not succeed in finding a pacer, upon reflection I can now see that a pacer was not necessary.
Some friends remarks:
“I dropped at 76 miles when my quads blew up and my body cooled.  Fatigue flooded into me and nausea had me sitting on a bridge vomiting and unable to get up in low 40s temps.” Which sounds to me like the words to a Country and Western Song.
Pain  – “I haven't even been able to check the website for stats of finishes. Still in bed on pain meds. My right knee is jacked up and I have blisters all over my feet. I have lost half the skin so I can't stand.”

Goal Achieved : )

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pre Rocky Raccoon 100 Musings

Let me begin by making a confession. “I do not like the Beatles!” There said it. Though I do like John Lennon; “Image” that. So “Rocky Raccoon” will not be on my iPod. One – Because I do not like the Beatles; did I mention that? and Two – I don’t  own an iPod. Problem solved.

In five days I will be running the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile trail run in Huntsville, TX with my good friend Mark "Majic" McCaslin
Game Plan.  “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. A quote either by Winston Churchill or Jedi Master Yoda, I’ll go with the later. So here goes:
1)      Finish before the 30 hr cutoff.
2)      Beat my 100 mile PR of 29:04.
3)      Go sub 24hrs.
4)      Beat the RUT Rocky Raccoon record of 23:29.
I like raccoons (but don’t think I could eat a whole one) some folk are less kind:

Some may even wish them ill?

Having said that I believe they don't really care what we think!

Sometimes shy, always cute

Weather reports are for lots of snow across the northern parts of the country. I hope not like this though. 

I was warned to watch out for raccoons at the aid stations. They'll swipe your Fig Newtons.

and are partial to other snacks as well.

So enough said and time to get my Rocky Game Face on:

Though cute a friend urged caution. They appear to have a mean steak! I hope this doesn’t happen to me, figuratively speaking that is : )

My hope come Sunday is that I can be like this raccoon and say...

See you on the other side.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rotary Park 5K – A Journey to the furry side

Suffering from a bit of writer’s block I decided to invite a guest writer to tell of their last race. Over to you then Barkley…”Good Boy”.

I was invited to guest write this Blog to capture my experiences at the inaugural  Rotary Park 5K, that’s 50K in dog K’s! event held in Novi, MI. This then was my first ultra. Here is my story.
Me in "RUT" Colors!

My best friend wished me well but I couldn’t get him to move from his “Comfy Spot”.

My race packet arrived in the post and I was very excited

Park in Bloom
Good to see. We had some out of state runners. I think these fine fellas were from Tennessee or Appalachia?
And some international runners from Germany who as expected were very disciplined.

The Race Director gave a compelling talk about the race much to the amazement of some runners

"Porta Jon"


And we’re off! Focus was important. Some of the younger runners were clearly too distracted.

Attack squirrels – Some were not willing to share the trail

We particularly had to stay clear of the Jedi Sqirrels

Contemplating my 1st Water Crossing

Water Crossing - Going for it!

Taking a Breather

The occasional hurdle to jump

Setting a Good Pace
An early covered walk way crossing
Establishing my bearings - Which Way?
The gravity defying runners were just plain weird

Competition amongst the Top-Dogs was fierce

Breaking through the Trail - Race Done!
Post Race
Though only a 5K some finishers were pretty messed up by the finish

My name is Barkley and I approve this Race Report