Sunday, July 29, 2012

Burning River 100 - The Where's Waldo Adventure

Well, this weekend was the Burning River 100 from Willoughby Hills, OH to Cuyahoga Fall, OH.   This was a race that I was really looking forward to.  This was my chance to get my second 100 mile buckle.  I know that one 100 mile buckle is a lot to ask for in a lifetime, but I had to try for my second.
We arrived in Cuyahoga Fall and picked up my race packet and then picked up Danny Mowers, my pacer from 54.6 to 100.   Packet pick up went great and then we made the venture north to Willoughby Hills to get into our hotel.  
Now at this point, this caravan in my car involves me, Rachelle, Morgan, Connor, and Danny.  Needless to say, two kids after 4 hours is quite the treat.   We arrived at the Motel 6 and things went south.  Turns out that the police are looking for a guy staying in the hotel.  Well, Rachelle heard the conversation at the counter, and passed the information on to me.  So, while we were in the pool, guess who started looking around???
I determine that this large group of white and black males that are there are the ones they are looking for.  A very large group of suspicious males.  So, later in the night, I run into a police officer at the BP while I am getting gas and pass all of the information on to him.  
In the morning, we get up ata 230am and get ready to race.   I do my morning ritual and we head to the start.  We are at Squires Castle by 350am.  I go check in and get ready to run.   At 450am, I get in line to race and at 5am we are off.  
We started out on the Bridal Trail.  This is a horse trail that is wide enough to drive a car down.   As we are running down the Bridal Trail, I hear from a runner behind me "Don't worry, we will be turning onto the single track soon."   Well, we turn onto the single track and I could drive an ATV down it.  What is wrong with these Ohio people.  I guess they have never run here. 
We finish out the initial 6.2 mile loop and never hit single track.  I finish this loop in 1:08:42 with a pace of 11:04 per mile.
From here, we go back down the bridal path to mile 9.2 which is an unmanned water station.   After the water station we start out on a road.  Yes, a road for a USATF 100 Mile Trail Championship.   We hit an aid station at 12.4 miles and I am in at 2:09 with a pace of 10:24 per mile.   From here, we run on more roads.  We finally hit another aid station at 17.2 miles and get off of the roads.  I am into this aid station at 3:00 with a pace of 10:35 per mile.  After this aid station at the polo fields, we go onto, yes you guessed it, more Bridal Trail.  We run to the next aid station at mile 23.  I come into this aid station at 4:20 with a pace of 11:18 per mile. 
Oh,  I forgot.  They forgot to tell us about the water crossing.  The water crossing was around mile 20.  That damn thing was up to my waist.  Needless to say, I did not want to get that wet this early in a 100 mile race, but it had to be.  
I left this aid station and proceeded on to the 26.2 mile aid station.  I was starting to feel pretty bad at this point and had not peeed since 7am.   I kept pushing on and finally made it to the aid station.   I came into this AS looking for lots of food.  All I got was my drop bag and some PB&J sandwiches.  These were the typical 1/4 sandwiches.  They also had some 1/2 bananas and lots of sweets.  I sat down, took off some clothes, drank a Vespa, and refilled my pack and left. I hit this aid station in 5:00 and had a pace of 11:32
I hit the 31 mile aid station and was not feeling too well.  They had a big bucket of ice, water, and sponges.  I dipped my head into the bucket and then sponged myself off.  WOW did that feel good.  I got to the food table and the food fare was still the same.  Damn It, I want a big old turkey sandwich.  All they had was little PBJ and some very little turkey slices.  I grabbed a handfull of turkey, ate it, got my refilled with water and left. 
During the 31 mile station and the 35.4 station, things went south.  Needless to say, we are still running Bridal Trails, blacktop bike paths, and roads.   What kind of trail race does this to a runner?  I was very frustrated with the course and the fact that we were not running single track.   Come on race director, help me out here.   I need some single track to take my mind off of things.
I finally stopped to pee around mile 32.  This was the first that I had peed since 7am.   This is almost 5 1/2 hours later.   My pee was dark brown and my kidneys hurt.   I ran into a woman that was racing as I came out of the trees and she was nice enough to walk with me for a few.  She told me I looked like shit.   I concurred with her.   I pushed my way to the next aid station at 34.5 miles.   I came into this AS at 7:50.   That put me at a 13:16 pace for the race.  I was well ahead of my 24 hour goal.
I walked into the aid station and the woman at the aid station confirmed that I looked like shit.  She made me sit down and start drinking water again.  After about 45 minutes, I drank 6 bottles of water and took 2 S-caps.   I went to pee and it was still dark.  I called Rachelle and Danny and told them that I was in bad shape.  They were at the 46 mile AS waiting for me so, they came to where I was.   Till they got there, I drank down 6 more bottles of water and had 4 more S-caps.   I peed pretty clear before they got there.  After some encouragement to let me go to the next aid station, they let me go on.   Of Course, this was after the doctor told me to drop because I was in risk of damaging my kidneys.   Well, us stubborn ultra runners just don't know when to quit.
With an hour to spare, I left the aid station and plugged on for 5 miles to the next aid station at 41 miles.  I was passed by the course sweepers for the 1st leg and they told me I had plenty of time to finish.  I knew that I still had over 18 hours to finish, but my body was not working.  I had severe pain in my left kidney area and was having a hard time breathing.   I ate more S-caps and drank more water, but I could not get things back to normal.   I arrived at the 41 mile aid station shortly there after and pulled the pin. 
The aid station workers tried to talk me into going on, but I told them that I sat at the last AS for 1:45 and was having a hard time peeing.  One AS worker said "Sometimes you are the bug, and sometimes you are the windshield.  Today you are the bug" And then I dropped.
We were able to get Danny to the 74 mile AS so he could pace the number 10 guy in.  Danny had a great 26 miles with him.   I wish those 26 miles could have been with me.  I also had Jon lined up to do the last 7 with us, and had to have him bail.  I felt bad about this also. 
Burning River is not a very trail runner oriented course.   From what I ran, the first 41 miles are either road, bridal trail, or some small sections of single track.  This is a very road runner geared course.  I had a hard time slowing myself down to keep my pace where I wanted it to be.  I would say that this is great for a first timer or someone who really likes to be on Rails to Trails type trail/roads.
I was very disappointed with the food fare at the aid stations.  The food selection sucked and from what I heard, didn't get better until around mile 80.  Rachelle and Danny also complained that it was very hard to find each aid station and that the volunteers couldn't give good directions to any aid station.  
I had hoped to go to Burning River and get my second buckle.  Don't get me wrong, there are some beautiful parts of this race course, but I think that the RD and his/her crew needs to do a better job to make it a little more user friendly and to make sure that the runners have the food that they need.   Get rid of the candy, cookies, and junk food and get some real food.   
All in all, it was another good learning experience.  I probably will never go back, but I would not deter any of you from doing it.   Sometimes we need to take a leap to learn more things.   Enjoy my friends and see you on the trails!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile Ultra - My Nemesis!!!

After a few hours of recovery, and a few large, well, slowly getting larger meals, I think it is time to drop my thoughts about the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile Ultra from June 9, 2012.   

John Weaver Jr, Danny Mowers, and I left Altoona to head to the packet pick up in Johnstown.  We were meeting Benjamin Mazur and the folks from Try Chips at the dinner.   As usual, we were late.  Nothing more interesting than walking into a dinner while the RD is wrapping up his speech to the large group of races.      We were able to get our packets, eat some food, and then head to our place to stay for the night.      

We got up on Saturday morning and got prepped to run.    John was dropping Danny and I off at the start of the 70.5 miler and then heading to the finish of the 50k so he could catch the bus to the start of the 50k.      We got to the start area around 430 am and were some of the first ones there.   We got checked in and then John took off to his race.    Danny and I mingled around and got ready to run.   

I had made a pre-game decision to run in my Saucony Peregrine trail shoes versus my Montrail Mountain Massochist trail shoes.    I decided to go with light and fast instead of heavier with more protection.    This is a choice that I will probably never make ever again.   I like the Peregrines, but I will have to stick with my heavier shoes with more protection in the future.  (More to come on this later).

At 530am, we were off.   We started in a parking area right next to the Ohiopyle Falls.    Beautiful place to start a race.   From here we ran about 1/2 mile to the trail head, and fortunately that train didn't block the road for us.     What is it about trains and ultras for me???

We hit the trail head and I made myself a promise that I would not run hard until we reached the top of the mountain.   I was able to run a nice easy pace and get up the top.   The trail here is very runnable and very nice.  There was a great view below us of the fog over the Yough River.    What a great site early on.     

I got in with a pack of about 12 runners that were planning on going under 18 hours for the run.   I was very happy with this and we had some great conversations on the trail.   We had some Canadians with us and they really kept us entertained.   

At the 6 mile mark, there is a nice new bridge that we crossed the stream on.   From here it is approximately 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain.   This is a very long and demanding climb.   We paced ourselves and got to the top.     Once at the top, the trail becomes runnable and faster.   I had the game plan to get into the 11.9 mile aid station around 3 hours.   I got to the aid station in 2 hours and 56 minutes.   Things were looking good and the game plan was working.    I hit the aid station, got refueled and got my water filled back up.    At this point, I had already drank 70 ounces of water and took 2 electrolyte pills.       Once I got it all topped off, I took off.    I hit the trail by myself and felt incredible.    This trail is scary fast.   I was running at a pretty good clip and was able to enjoy the woods and trails by myself for about an hour.   I ended up catching up with a guy named Jeff from the Virgina Happy Trails Running Club.   We ran together into the 19.6 mile aid station.   At this point, everything felt great and I knew that would be some good running ahead.   I fueled an filled up another 70 ounces of water.      After this was done, I took off again.   

We hit the trails and we were running good.   I was sweating pretty bad and everything on me was soaked.  I figured at this point that nutrition, electrolytes, and fueling were nailed down.   Wow would I be wrong in a few miles.  

We ran and got to the aid station at Seven Springs.   This is around 26 miles.   I was still feeling good.  Legs were not an issue and hydration and electrolytes were still good.   I refueled and tried to eat something, but my stomach did not like the food.   I had a few small pretzels and then took off.  

We came into Seven Springs and at the top of the mountain you exit the woods and run around a lake.  From here, it is down to the bottom of the mountain, and the majority of the time, you are in nothing but sun.   Very little shade and it was hot at this point.   It was right around 11am when I came through here.   I had my friend, Jon Wright, meeting me at the aid station at 32 miles and told him I would be there between 11am and noon.    Jon ended up meeting me at the crew support area around 28 miles.  I told Jon that my legs were feeling good, but I needed some ibuprofen for my swollen feet.   My feet were taking a beating in the Peregrines from all of the rocks.   I was wishing for my Montrails to appear out of no where so that I could change shoes.   Jon told me that he would get me some meds and meet me at the 32 mile aid station.  

Jon met me at 32 miles and I was having some serious stomach issues.   This was right around 1255pm.   Some nice ladies in the aid station area got me some ginger ale and let me use their chair.   I slowly sipped the ginger ale and took some advil.  I sat for about 10 minutes and everything seemed to be working itself out.   I got my pack filled back up and said goodbye to Jon and thanks to the ladies.    Off I went feeling really strong again.  Still no leg issues.    

Once out of the aid station, I hit the first climb shortly down the trail.    I started climbing and the stomach issues came back.   I tried to drink some water and put down and electrolyte cap, but my stomach didn't want to hear it.    I cracked open the cap and poured it into my mouth so I could get some much needed electrolytes.    Stomach still not cooperating.   I got to the point where I was running about 400 yards and then nearly throwing up.   I went to a run until I had to puke and the walk until I felt better mentality.   

I hit the 39 mile aid station and more friends were there.   Tim and Jackie from Try Chips, and Mary Kowalski, gave me a pep talk and got me some nutrition.    Mary got me some ICE COLD water to calm my stomach.   Tim gave me some ginger chews and a potato roll and cheese sandwich.   I was able to get these down and after about 10 minutes I hit the trail again.   I ran for about 2 miles and everything got really bad.     I was stopping and puking every several hundred yards.   Around the 44 mile mark I was sitting on a stump yacking my guts out when another runner came around the corner.  He stopped and turned the other way because he said that if he watched me puke, I was going to have company.    

I finished up my mission to empty everything out of my stomach and tried to run again.   I got a few hundred feet down the trail and the puking started again.     This continued until just between mile 45 and mile 46.   I knew that the aid station was only a few hundred yards away, so I plugged on to make it there.   

Upon making it to the aid station at 46.4, I handed my bib to the staff and told them I was done.   I was still 2 hours and 45 minutes ahead of the aid station closing.   The staff told me to take a break, calm down my stomach, and hit the trail again.   I told the staff that there was no way that I could go on.   I was starving and couldn't eat.  I was hot and couldn't cool down.   I could not even get any water into my body without puking it back out.     I told them I was done and dropped from the race.  

While sitting at the aid station, I learned that there were a lot of drops from my exact condition.  I thought that I had hydration and everything nailed down, but I guess I was wrong.    It was a huge learning experience.    It was also a learning experience to finally tell myself that I had to stop or go to the hospital or worse.   It took a lot for my stubborn ass to say that I was done.   But fortunately, I am doing this race report from home and not from a hospital bed.  

In regards to the course, Laurel Highlands is a difficult course.   There are numerous climbs and descents.   The trail is beautiful and there are some great views along the way.    The trail has a mix of everything from pine forest to ferns to 15 foot tall rocks that you run through.      I guess that the Laurel Highlands is now my new nemesis.    This was the first race that I have dropped from, but in the end it was a good choice to "Do Nothing Fatal."    

Laurel Highlands - I will be back next year.   I have some serious unfinished business with you!!!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hyner Trail Challenge 25k/50k 2012

Good morning all!!  Yes, those of us that traveled to the Hyner Trail Challenge 25k/50k are still alive.   Barely, but we are all still alive.
To start off, we had a beautiful morning for the race.   It was a combo of slightly sunny/cloudy and slightly humid.    As usual, there was a great turnout for the race.   I am going to take a guess and say that there were between 125 to 150 for the 50k and probably at least 850 for the 25k.   
At 8am, the 50k was off.   We started from a different location, well across the road, from where the 25k starts.   We had the entire course to ourselves from the start.   The 25k did not start until 9am.   
I met up with a few of my friends from eastern PA and we were off at the start.    My friend Jim Bahner and I started out together and planned on running the entire race together.  Jim and I ran the course in Decemeber.   
Once we got off of the blacktop and onto Cliffhanger, the trail was relatively empty.  The trail was in great condition, but very dry.   We pounded out to the start of Humble Hill.    I had said that before we started that I wanted to be to the top of the view in under an hour.  We crested the view in about 48 minutes.   Already 12 minutes ahead of schedule.   From the top of the view, Jim and I ran with another runner until the bottom of the Hyner Challenge Trail.   We caught up with Kelly Agnew at the bottom and on the start of the goat path trail.  The four of us ran together until we hit Sledgehammer.   We hit the base of Sledgehammer at the 7.5 mile mark in just over 1:20.  Jim and I pulled ahead on Sledgehammer, but I started to notice hot spots on the back of my heels climbing up the mile or so long hill.   Once at the top, we hit the aid station and fueled up.   The next 4 miles or so are fireroad and jeep trails.    This is some fast running.  We worked our way to the singletrack downhill into Ritchey Run.   Very dry and dusty conditions here as well.   Once we started to climb Ritchey, I was really feeling the hot spots and started to have some pain coming with them.   I knew at this point that I had severe blisters and things were not looking and feeling good on the climbs.   When we got to the top of Ritchey, I told Jim to go ahead because I was in a lot of pain from the blisters on the climbs.   Once out of Ritchey, we hit some more fireroads and I slogged along trying to get the blisters to pop.   
I hit the aid station at the Nature Conservancy camp, and refueled.  I was struggling a little bit here with nutrition because there was about an 8 mile gap between the aid stations.  I ate like I was at the Gourmet Buffet and felt much better.    Off for the next mile and a half to the top of Sledgehammer.  I pounded down Sledgehammer and back into Johnson Run.    Climbed up Johnson to the end and got onto some technical singletrack.  At somepoint, the blister on my left foot popped and relieved a lot of the pain in that foot.  Now if only the right foot would pop!!!
I made it to Post draft which is normally a pretty fast and technical/rocky singletrack downhill.   I was encountering a lot of the hikers/runners from the 25k and had to slow down to pass them.   The hikers/runners were very polite and moved right off of the trail for us.  Did get a chance to have some great conversations with the hikers/runners and laughed a lot.     At some point during the downhill, the blister on my right foot popped and it was back to running stronger again.    
I got to the bottom of Post Draft and started the climb up Cleveland.  This is a fireroad that leads to the switchbacks that take you to the SOB.    After pushing through this section, I climbed up SOB.   SOB is a straight up the pipe line climb.  This was very dry and very loose.  I pushed through this and got to the top to the fire roads.   Refueled again at the aid station and took off for the last 4.5 miles to the finish.   
On the fire roads, I ran with another 50k runner and we laughed and carried on.  We hit Huff Run and powered down the downhill.   I caught up with a hiker that only had one leg.  He was an older guy with a left prosthetic limb.   We talked for a few minutes and I told him that he totally impressed me for taking on the 25k.  He returned the favor and said that he didn't know how we could do the 50k.  It was a rather enlightening exchange.   Once at the bottom of Huff Run, I hit the blacktop and powered back to the Sportsman Association.   As I came out of the woods towards the finish, I could hear Adam yelling "Matt!"   Really made for a nice finish.    The crowd was incredible and as usualy, they were very supportive and cheering for everyone.    I claimed my 50k medal and grabbed some grub.   
I finished the 50k in 7 hours and 30 minutes.   I had planned to stay around 8 hours, but came in faster.   I knew that I wouldn't PR at Hyner, but I will definately take a 7:30 for that course, and 43rd overall.  
Adam finished in 3:32.   John Weaver finished in 3:27.  They both ran the 25k and did very well.  I believe that they both finished in the top 100.  The winning time for the 25k was 2:18.
Danny Mowers from Chambersburg rode up with John and I.    Danny crushed the 50k and took 7th overall with a time of 5:42.   The winning time for the 50k was 5 hours flat.  
Hyner is definately a challenge regardless of whether you do the 25k or the 50k.   I would have to say that the 50k is probably the hardest race that I have done.   The 31 miles were miles of pure pain, climbing, downhills, and sometimes Hell!!!
For those of you considering doing Hyner next year, get in early, and try the 25k first.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oil Creek 100 Mile Trail Race - October 8-9, 2011. Titusville, PA

I would have to say that the slogan for the Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs says it all.  "Gnarly, Historic, and Unforgiving."   The race definately meets all three of those words.
We got to the Titusville Middle School at around 4:15 am on Saturday, October 8, 2011.   I left the family in the car and got my Aid station drop bags delivered and then we all went into the cafeteria of the middle school.    At 4:45 am, the Race Director, Tom Jennings, gave us our pre race briefing and pep talk.   He once again emphasized that you will not receive a time or an award for finishing a lesser distance.  You only get credit for the distance that you signed up for.   "Strike Oil and move on!!!"
At 4:57am, we left the cafeteria and went to the start line.   This was a beautiful thing.  It was only about 45 degrees out. As soon as everyone for the 100 miler was outside, we were off at 5am. 
At 5am, in October, in Pennsylvania, it is rather cold and DARK.   The group of 100 milers set out on their journey looked like a freight train coming down the tracks.    From the school, it is 1.5 miles on a paved bike path to the Gerard Hiking Trail trailhead.   Once you hit the woods, it is single file up a very long climb.   Runners were bunched together and there wasn't much talking going on at this poing.    The trail is about 24 inches wide with a nice drop off to your left.  There were also a lot of slick rocks and roots along the trail.   Yes, this is where I took my first fall.    I stepped on one of the slick rocks and it was like trying to walk on ice on a ski slope.   Down I went, but got up injury free and kept on running.   This trail winds up and down through Oil Creek State Park until you come to Aid Station #1.   This aid station is located at Wolfkiel Run.   It is approximately 6.4 miles from the start to this aid station.    
As you come into AS #1, you start to see signs that look like they are stars from the walk of fame in Hollywood.    As I read later in the daylight, these signs are names of runners who have finished the different distances over the past three years.    After you follow these signs and the stream for awhile, you can see lights up ahead.  This is AS#1, or Hollywood.    The staff at this AS was great and very helpful.  Whatever you needed, they got for you.  Lots of good food and drink.  
After getting refueled and water filled up at AS #1, it is off to running again.    We are still in the dark at this point.    Immediately, you get to climb "sWITCHback Mountain."    This is a set of switchbacks that go from the stream to the top of the mountain.   A great chance to keep eating and keep moving.   Once at the top, there is of course, a downhill section several hundred yards away.   The race director advised that if you see an "Unforgiving" sign along the course, be careful, this is a tough section.   Well, the downhill switchbacks were tough and fast.    Good running through here.  
Over the next several miles, it is up and down and up and down.   The highlight of this section is "Ray Gerard's Neverending Climb."   And yes, it lives up to its name.   On this climb, you climb for awhile and then you get a section that looks like you can get in a good section of running.   Well, wrong.   After a few feet, it goes back up.   Climb, run, climb, run.   It was neverending.  
After finishing the climb, it is slowly down to AS #2 at Petroleum Center.    During this section, there are old oil pipe lines crossing the trail.   Yes, this was the birthplace of the oil industry.   The oil lines are painted yellow.  Nice and easy to pick out on a trail.  Well, then there was this old cable that was just sticking up enough to catch a toe on.   Guess who caught a toe on it and went down hard?  Yes, you were right, it was me.  I went down hard and got back up in pain, but didn't see any bones sticking out.   Good to go.  This fall would haunt me later.    
I brushed off my fall and got to AS #2.   This was "Funkytown."  The service was great and we had drop bags at this aid station.   As you checked into the AS, the staff got your drop bags and handed them to you.   We all ate and took off again.   
When you leave AS #2, there is another good climb.   Thisclimb is called "Heisman Trophy Hill."    If you weren't aware, John Heisman was born in Titusville, PA.    This is a good climb, but not too bad.  The sections after AS #2 is where the course gets tough.   As you continue through the woods and the single track you get to another climb called "Ida Turnbull's Wrath."  Not sure of the history behind this one yet.  The boy scouts of Troop 97 had an aid station during this section.  They had some very humorous signs hung on trees to lighten the mood.   One of the signs even said "Don't hang signs on the trees."  Eventually, you get to AS #3 which is at Miller Farm Road.    The theme here was pink flamingos.  This is also the aid station where the black bears liked to hang out.    Seems like everyone except me got to see a black bear.  
Once getting some more food and water at AS#3, it is off to the trails again and more climbing.   Immediately you get to go up "Death March Hill."   This climb is past an old cemetary.  How refreshing.  Will I be in this cemetary before tomorrow?  
The next major climb is "Rockefellers Revenge."   This is named after the oil tycoon Rockefeller.   This is a long and straight up climb.   After the climb, it is more and more single track to the Drake Well Museum.   This is a one mile loop around the Drake Well.   For 100 milers, you get to do this loop 3 times.    The 100k runners do it twice and the 50k runners do it once.   It is a great site, to see once. 
After completing the Drake Well loop, it is back to the middle school and more loops.   The bad part here, you are back on the asphalt bike path.   This bike path gets very gruelling after so many miles on it.  It seems like it is the longest 1.5 miles on the planet each time you have to run it.  
I completed my first 50k loop in 6 hours and 23 minutes.   This was a 14 minute PR for me for a trail 50K.   Things were going great.   
I started out for my second loop and still had almost 8 hours of daylight left.   This was a great feeling.  I was running about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.   This would definately benefit me in loop #3. 
I ran my second loop and finished 100k distance in 14 hours and 55 minutes.   I was very happy with this time, but......
With about 9 miles left in the second loop, I started to get very dizzy.    I made the mistake of grabbing and oatmeal cream pie and shoving it down.   Well, needless to say, I am hypoglycemic.   This oatmeal pie put me in a tailspin.    There were several sections with steep drop offs that I was really concerned about falling off of.   Stupid me for not thinking before eating.    
As I finished my last mile on the bike path, I ran into Rachelle and Morgan.  I told Rachelle what my issues were and she was concerned.  She knew that I didn't have a pacer for my first half of my third lap and she volunteered to pace me.   I love her enthusiasim to help, but I was concerned about the weather conditions, the darkness, and the difficulty of the trail for her.    Well, then we got a welcome blessing as we got back to the aid station at the middle school.   One of my pacers, Adam McGinnis, called and said he was there.   When he heard the news about me, he volunteered to pace me for the entire 50k loop.   Adam and I got ready and away we went.   We ran pretty good until we hit the trail head and then the climbing began.   On this climb, my right foot really started to bother me from the fall around mile 10.    Not a good sign.  We continued to run and hike the trails.    At some point between AS #1 and AS #2, I was running and falling asleep.   Adam had to keep checking on me to make sure that I was awake.   Pretty wild feeling of sleeping while running.   Guess it really does happen.  
We made it to AS #2 and were greeted by my parents.   Oh what a great sight.  I wanted coffee and a bench to take a nap on.   They had a heated car with blankets and pillows.   Even better yet.   Adam and I both crashed in the car for 30 minutes and then took off again.   Well, that was after eating a handfull of advil to take away the foot pain.   
We continued through the night and made it to AS #3.    During this time, we got to see 3 deer and 2 not so friendly porcupines.   At AS #3, I took my shoe off of my right foot and new I was in trouble.  There was some swelling, lots of tenderness, and stuff moving that isn't supposed to move.    I put my shoe back on, ate some Tylenol, and off we went.  
We finally made it back to the middle school after meeting up with my mom, Morgan, and my next pacer, Bill Harshman, about 1/2 mile out from the school on the bike path.   They talked to us and checked to make sure that I was doing good.    I had a renewed confidence and some smiles knowing that I was only about 8 miles from finishing my first 100 miler.    Plus, the sun was up again.   
At the school, I wrapped my right foot with some duct tape and Bill and I took off.   Well, not really.   The running was out of the question at this point.  I was in horrific pain and it became more of a fast death march.    Bill talked me through and we made it to the "Hill of Truth."   This is the last climb before finishing the 100 miler.   Only 100 milers get to do this climb.   From the top of the climb it is then 2.5 miles to the finish.   
Bill and I made it through the last 2.5 miles and I wanted to run through the finish line, but running was not possible at all.   When I ran, it sent even more pain up my leg and foot from the injured right foot.     I was able to cross the finish line with the kids and a big smile.   I proudly accepted my 100 mile finishers buckle and bumper sticker.   Got some photos taken and got a shower.   It was off for home.    The goal was met, but not as fast as I had hoped.  I wanted to finish in under 28 hours, but finished in 30 hours, 37 minutes, and 29 seconds.    But the big thing is, I was able to push through the pain and finish.   I am now a 100 mile finisher.  
THE DAY AFTER:  It is the day after and I am still overly excited and amazed about finishing a 100 mile race.   I don't know what to do next.  
Unfortunately, this morning led to an emergency room visit.   Remember that fall around mile 10?   I woke up with a severely bruised and swollen right foot.   Emergency room here I come.   Fortunately there was not a break, but I did tear a ligament/tendon in my foot and have a severe bone bruise.    It is not torn the whole way through, but I need to take a few weeks off.  Maybe 2.   The doctor advised me that if I would have stopped at 10 miles when I got hurt, I would not have the damage I have today.   She couldn't believe that I ran another 90 miles with this damage to my foot. 
I have plenty of more stories and fun things to tell about this adventure, their are the hallucinations, the trails, and the friends I made.      It is just too much to type and think about right now.  It is all still coming back to me.     
I do give the Oil Creek 100 Trail runs an A++++++.   Great organization, great staff, great aid stations, and great awards.   I highly recommend this to anyone looking to do a trail 50K, 100K, or 100 miler.   But remember, it lives up to its slogan "Gnarly, Historic, Unforgiving."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Philadelphia to Washington DC Memorial Run

I have made it home from the 2011 Philadelphia to Washington DC Law Enforcement Memorial Run.    This is an event for the ages and a roller coaster ride of emotions.     As a summary, this is a run that starts at the Naval Yards in Philadelphia, PA and ends at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC.
    On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, I arrived at the 30th Street Train Station in Philadelphia and was picked up by the run organizer, Jim Harrity, of the PA State FOP lodge.    Jim proceeded to take me from the train station to the Ramada Inn at the Airport.     Jim dropped me off and I got to start meeting runners and support crew from the east coast of the United States and Canada.     We had about an hour to get to know each other before heading to Jim's house for a welcome dinner.  I can say that the runners and support crew from PA, Prince George's County Maryland, and Canada were awesome.  They welcomed me with open arms and treated me as one of their own.  
    After enjoying an awesome welcome dinner at Jim's house, we made it back to the hotel to get ready to start the run in the morning.   One of the main focuses of this run is the Survivors.  Survivors are the family members of fallen police officers.    We were fortunate enough to have a Survivor with us from Canada.   
    On Thursday, May 12, 2011, we were greeted at the front of the hotel by about 20 marked police cars and multiple police motorcycles.  The officers in uniform had a detail set up to escort us from the hotel to the naval yards.    They also set up in front of the hotel to honor Erin from Canada.  Erin's husband was killed in 2010 while working for the Peel Regional Police Department in Canada.  As Erin walked out of the hotel, they saluted her and made sure that she was honored as a survivor.    
    After this sad but uplifting moment, we were off to the Naval Yards.    Now imagine this, we had approximately 20 marked police cars, at least 10 motorcycles, and 10 support vehicles flying down I95 at 8:30 in the morning.    This was a police escort like no other.  And this escort was to honor one survivor.   Lights and sirens the whole way into the naval yard.   What an awesome sight. 
    Once at the Naval Yard, we had a ceremony where we honored survivors from other families.   There were four awards given out to the families.   These awards/plaques are beautiful.   These awards are paid for by the runners.   
    After the ceremony, we were off.   There was a line of honor guards from several agencies that were lining the street as we left.   From this point, our goal for the day was to make it to the Maryland border by way of Delaware.  
    I spent a lot of the time running with Mike from Prince George's County in Maryland and the Canadian Runners.    Mike and I kept talking and I told Mike that I wasn't stopping until we hit the Delaware border.    During the course of this part of the run, it was around 80 degrees and wall to wall sunshine.   We were running on the blacktop and it felt like it was 100 degrees.  Fortunately, we had a support vehicle from Prince George's that played music for us and provided us with endless water, gatorade, and food.   This support vehicle would do this for us for the entire journey. 
    After we crossed over into Delaware, Mike and I were in between miles.    Mike and I made an agreement that we would stop at 18 miles, jump in the vans until Wilmington, and then start again so that we could get out of the sun and get some food.   
     We arrived in Wilmington after about an 6 mile ride in the vans.  During this ride, we passed a McDonalds outside of Wilmington.   The support crew was standing along side of the road handing bags of Cheeseburgers into each van.   McDonalds probably donated a total of about 200 burgers for the runners.  
    Once at Wilmington, we had another memorial service.   What a way to go from a runners high, to a really bad low.   
     We got done with the service, and we were off again.    I decided to run out of Wilmington until I hit marathon distance for the day.    At the 27 mile mark, I jumped back in the van with the Canadians. I thought that I was done at this point.  
     We got 3 miles from the Delaware/Maryland border and a cadet class from the Delaware State Police joined us.    They started running in formation and singing cadence, so I had to jump back out again.    I had only been in the van for about 2 miles, but running with the cadets needed to be done.    I finished up the day with 30 miles.     Day 1 was a great run.   I had the chance to run through 3 states.   
     We picked everyone up and headed to a Holiday Inn in Aberdeen, Maryland.    We were checked into our rooms and got fed like kings and queens at the Holiday Inn.  They had a great buffet for us and then we got some time to hang out and share stories. 
     Day 2 started at 830 am.   We started running and I planned on running to where they were stopping to jump us ahead in the vans due to time constraints.    We needed to be at the Holiday Inn in College Park, Maryland by 430 pm.    The goal of the run was to get into Baltimore, attend a service, and then run into Howard County, Maryland and pick up the runners by 2pm.   This would allow us to do the last 6 miles into College Park and finish by 430 pm.  
     We ran into Baltimore from Aberdeen which was an 8 mile leg.   We attended a short service and then we were off again.   As we got into Howard County, we were down to 5 runners on the road.  This was due to the very hilly and challenging course.    One of the support crew advised that we had one big hill left and then were were getting picked up to move ahead.   This hill was about a mile long with a steep grade.   What a way to end this leg.   At the top of the hill, I was nearing the 20 mile mark for the day.    Well, we kept going at the top.   We ended up running about 2-3 more miles to the pick up spot.    At this point, it was down to me and one other runner who started at the top of the hill.    When we finally got to the pick up point, I was somewhere between 20 and 23 miles for the day.   Time to throw in the towel and let the legs recover for the next day.  
     We jumped ahead in the vans and some of the other runners got out and finished up the leg for the day.  I had an enjoyable ride in the Canadian van and got to share some more time with them.  
     Once at the hotel, it was eat and go.  We had to pull out by 7pm to be at the Candlelight Vigil at the National Memorial.   We got on a bus from Prince George's County and away we went.   Lights and sirens right into downtown DC.   Everywhere we went, we had a police escort. 
     If you have never been to a candlelight vigil, you really need to go.   Whether you are law enforcement or not, it is a very moving service.   I can't say anything but WOW!.   I have never seen so many candles lit in one place.    I think by the end of this service I had cried enough for the week.   Well, I was wrong as I would find out on Saturday morning.    
     Day 3 began at 830 again.   We started running from the Holiday Inn in College Park to the memorial.   We only had a half marathon to go.  We had the graduating class of cadets join us from Prince George's.    They had to finish the run to DC or they don't graduate. 
     At about 1.5 miles out, one of our survivors from Prince George's was honored.   We ran past the place where her young husband of less than a year was killed during a car accident.    This young officer was killed responding to back up his Sergeant at a call.   The PG Police had 5 cruisers lined up with an honor guard saluting our survivor.    She saw this and almost fell to the ground.   I stood there with a lot of grown men and women and completely broke down.   
     After we gathered ourselves, we ran to a service in Hyattsville, Maryland for Prince George's county.     After the service, we had about 7 miles into DC.   This run was hilly, but not as bad as the day before.    We had one major hill just outside of DC.   We were up to a lot of runners at this point coming into the city. 
     We stopped about 500 yards before the memorial and picked up more survivors.   We were honoring 18 fallen officers with our run.   We walked into the memorial and were greeted by police officers and families from all over the world.  We ran a lap around the memorial and then walked a lap around the memorial.   We then had our last memorial service for the week.    
     I couldn't believe the emotions that were at the memorial.   It is an incredible sight.    I cried for 2 laps around the memorial.   It was an absolute roller coaster.   All in all, we ran for a total of 80 miles out of 150.
     After all was done, we all said our goodbyes and started planning for next year.     I made some great friends, some life long friends, and became an honorary Canadian.    I also ran a lot of miles to honor our fallen brothers and sisters.    The pain that I felt during some of my 63 miles pales in comparison to the pain that our survivors have and are feeling.    We ran to mourn for our survivors this year, but we will run to celebrate this year's survivors next year.   

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hyner View Trail Challenge - 4-16-2011

 I am home from the wet, muddy, windy, cold, and down right nasty Hyner Trail Challenge.  For all of you that aren't aware, Hyner is a 25K+ Trail Race.  The race is actually 16.3 miles long. 
    When we started this morning, it was cold, about 40 degrees and high winds.  It was also raining.  The race started about 15 minutes late because of the runners waiting to get their bibs.    When you arrive, you pick up your race packet at the parking area, but you pick up your bib at the start finish line.     It is about a 3/4 mile walk from the parking area to the start finish.  
    I arrived at around 7:40 and had plenty of time to pick up my race packet and walk over to the start/finish and then back to the car to get dressed.    Time management is a big thing at this race.  Some of the racers were smart and picked up packets and then took a drop bag to the start/finish area to have dry clothes to change into after the race.  This is a great idea.  I wish I would have done the same.   It was a long, cold run back to the car after finishing the race. 
    Anyways, on to the race.  The race starts out at the Western Clinton Sportsman's Association.  From here, you run about a 1/2 mile to route 120 and then make a left.  You run on route 120 for about 1/2 mile and then make a right onto another road.  You get to run on this road for about 3/4 of a mile.  At the end of the road, you enter a trail known as "Cliffhanger."   Yes, the trail lives up to its name.  This trail is a single track and immediately to your left is a drop off.  If you fall off of this trail where there isn't a fence, you have about a 100 to 150 foot fall to the railroad bed.    It is a nice rolling trail and very runnable.  
    Once you get to the end of "Cliffhanger", you get to meet "Humble Hill."  Yes, this hill lives up to its name.   This is an endless climb from the river to Hyner View.   There are some runnable sections, but while doing this, plan on holding the person in front of you.    This section of the trail is straight up and the person in front of you could sit on your hands.   
    At the very top is Hyner View.   First of all, I am afraid of heights.    The View is at 2000 feet.  The bottom of the trail is at 600 feet.    As you come around the wall at the view, you are on a singletrack that is about 12 inches wide with a wall to your right.   To your left, is a river.   1400 feet below.   If you fall, this will be the last view you ever see. It is a beautiful view for the 1/2 second that I looked.  
    From here, you get to run on the Hyner View Trail Challenge Trail.  This is a great downhill that takes you to Johnson Run.  Johnson run is a stream that you cross over approximately 20 times while running up the gorge.   The water was high and cold, but after about 6 crossings, you didn't even know that you had feet.   This is a very runnable section.  
    Once at the end of Johnson run, it is time for another climb.  This climb is long, but not very steep.  Good climb to make some passes and make up some time.   
    After this climb, it is back down again.  Another good section of running.  
    At the end of the trails at the bottom, it is time for the SOB.   And yes, this climb lives up to its name.   This is a very, very, very long and steep climb.   This is a slow going section of the course.    Once at the top, you get to run on some fire roads and work your way to the descent on Huff Run Trail.    Huff Run Trail is a very fast downhill.   It is not too steep, but very fast.    This trail takes you back to the road.  
    From here, you make a right and then head back to route 120.   You make a left and then take 120 to the entrance of the Sportsmans Association.   You don't run the road the whole way up though.  They throw in one more climb to the finish.
     After you finish, they have all kinds of food from pizza to pulled pork sandwiches, to cupcakes and cookies.   Oh yeah, they also have Bud Light, Yuengling, Miller Lite, and Troegs.    Not a bad deal for $50.    
     I successfully finished the Hyner Challenge in 3:31:20.   That was good enough fo 95 out of 1100.   A good finish for a run today and not a race.   I was very conservative for the first 10 miles running an easy pace.   I raced the last 10K and passed a good number of runners.
     I would have to say that this is my favorite trail race and course.   I will be doing this course 2 times for the Try-All-By-Fire in August hosted by Try Chips.    
     I highly recommend this race to everyone.   But do me a favor, if you are going to register for a trail race, please put forward an effort to finish.  Don't take a spot from someone else who can and will finish the race.   These races are tough and if you can't finish, please save the spot for someone else.  (Sorry, had to get that off my chest.)
     Cheers to all and see you on the roads or trails. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tiadaghton Trail Half Marathon - 3-26-2011

I am home from the 2011 Tiadaghton Trail Half.    This is another fine race put on by    The race is located at exit 199 (Mile Run) on Interstate 80.  
     Getting there this morning was easy as usual.  We left Altoona around 720 and arrived at the race site at around 850am.    Pulling into the lot I looked at the outside temp on my car and it read 18 degrees.  Oh fun.     Getting outside was even worse, it was windy.  Yuck.  
     Packet pick up was very easy.    They had everything very well coordinated and made things quick.  One of the people that went with me was not pre-registered and it only took him about 5 minutes to get registered.  
     The cool thing about this race was that I was able to spend some time this morning with my running friend Shelly Starkey from Oregon.  Shelly also brought her brother John to the race.   John has never run a race and this was going to be his first race ever.
     The race started right on time at 1000am.   The start is a nice run up a gravel/dirt road to the trailhead.   At the trailhead the cluster started.   It was a free for all to get across the stream and there were people falling in the stream and crossing anywhere they could find.  I actually walked about 100 yards up stream and crossed to avoid the headaches.   
     From here, the course varies from single track to jeep/fire roads.   The course is very well marked.  It would be really hard to get lost on this course.    
     The fun part was, there was snow everywhere.  But the course was in good condition.   
     There is only one MAJOR climb in the course that is pretty much not runnable.  This big climb is at about the 8.5 mile mark.  The course itself is very runnable with some rolling terrain and some climbs and good downhills.
     As you approach the end, the course winds to I80.   When you get to I80, you have to run through a culvert under the interstate.   Needless to say, a stream also runs through this culvert.   You can figure it out, the race was held in March, there was snow on the course, and the water was FREEZING cold.  But, being that it is at the end of the race, this FREEZING cold water felt really good on the feet.   
     Once you cross out of the culvert, it is approximately 3/10 of an uphill run to the finish.   
     This race does give a finishers medal to all finishers.   They also have hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, Sheetz sandwiches, and donuts at the end.    
     I listened to everyone and did not push myself during this race.  I made this a fun run and still finished at 2:52:34.   I found a great pace and the pace I ran today will be great for the Oil Creek 100.
     I highly recommend this race for anyone that wants to do a trail half.   Very well organized, good course (not too hard, but not too easy), a nice long sleeve shirt, good food, and good times had by all.
     See you on the trails or the roads. 
Matty L