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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

2011 Lt. J.C. Stone 50K Ultramarathon - Pittsburgh, PA

 I am home from the 2011 running of the LT J.C. Stone 50K at North Park, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa.    Let me tell you, it was one hell of a weekend. 
      We left Altoona on Friday, March 18, 2011 after me getting a few hours of shut eye from a long night at work.   I crawled into bed around 830am and was back up at 11am to get ready to go to Pittsburgh.  I got the car packed up and away we went after picking the kids up at school.   
      So we are just outside of Murraysville, and it dawns on me that I left my hydration pack and S-caps (electrolyte tabs) sitting on a chair at the house.   Well, too late to go back home, gotta get to race packet pick up. 
      As usual, we got to Lou D'Angelo's Office (Race Director) and had a nice talk with Lou.    Once again, for $50 you get a long sleeve and a short sleeve tech shirt along with a fully stocked aid station, a water and gatorade station, door prizes, and the fun time of running 50K.    I expressed my concerns to Lou about my hydration pack and S-caps.    Lou sent me to Second Sole in Cranberry.    Very small, but great running store.   They put on a lot of races in the Pittsburgh Area.   I was able to purchase the LAST Nathan Hydration pack that they had in stock and a bottle of Hammer Nutrition Endurolyte tabs.   Unfortunately, I dont use Hammer, so this was going to be an adventure.  
      After getting this stuff picked up, and adding an unexpected expense to the trip, we got checked in to the hotel.   From there I had my typical pre race dinner of a medium rare steak, potatoes, and brocoli.  Yummy.  
      We got back to the hotel and I got everything ready for the morning.   We all crawled into bed around 8pm.    Well, wasn't it just my luck.   There was 4 bus loads of elderly folks staying in the hotel.   Well, none of them could hear and I think all of them needed to do walker races around our floor at 10pm.   Yeah, so much for sleep.
      We got up at 440am and got ready for the race.   The weather was saying that it was 40 degrees out, and was to hit mid 50's by the middle of the day.   I opted to wear a short sleeve tech shirt, shorts, arm warmers, and leg compression sleeves.  
      We got to the park and I got out of the car to get my timing chip.   I was definately warm enough at that time.    Then, I stood outside for a few minutes and started freezing.  The thermometer in the car read 33.   Ooops, bad choice Matty.   
      So I went to the race briefing at 715am and we were all off at 730am.     The start of this race includes a 1.1 mile loop and then an additional 6 five mile loops.     I was feeling good and rocking through the course.  I came through the first 6.1 miles in just over 43 minutes.   My second 5 mile loop was just over 37 minutes.   The third loop was just over 37 minutes.   I came through the 16.1 mile mark in just over 1:58.   I was so excited.   Gonna go under 4 hours for a 50k which would have put me around 3:15 for my marathon time.   Then tragedy struck.
      I came around the turn around the 18.5 to 19 mile mark and started powering up the hill.   Well, it felt like someone was jamming a dagger into my right quad when I would push off on hill climbs.     The pain was radiating from the bottom of my right quad up into my groin.   Yeah, not as much fun as it sounds.    I ended up finishing this loop in just over 45 minutes.     The next two loops were just painful.   The good news was, the pain wasn't getting better, but the pain wasn't getting worse.   When I came through marathon distance in around 3:43, I decided to power through the pain for the last 5 miles and get my medal.   I told Rachelle that I would see her in about an hour.   I was able to hold right around 10 minute miles for the last 5 and finish in 4:34.   
      This year was 13 minutes slower than last year, but sometimes an injury will do that to you. 
      I was able to see a Doctor that was on site after I finished and he used some kinesio tape to tape my right quad.    Within about 10 minutes, the pain was gone.   The way he taped it was just awesome and it really took care of the pressure and the pain.   
      By the way, it was only 44 degrees at the finish with pretty good winds.  So much for mid 50's.  
      I was happy with my first half of the race, but not so happy with the second half.   This happens, and we have to learn from each race.   
      I will go back and do J.C. Stone again next year.   I really believe that I can go under 4 hours for this race and maybe make the top 100 fastest 50K times in UltraRunner Magazine.   
      By the way, the winning time this year was 3:22.    The course record was broken by over 20 minutes.   And I was really disappointed with being passed by Ultra running elite coming into the 20 mile mark.  I was leading one of the top women in Ultra Running for 20 miles.  
      This is a great race to run and is well worth the fun/pain.  And yes, they have a generous cut off time of 8 hours.
      Run strong and See you on the roads or trails very soon!!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Frozen Sasquatch 50K Trail Race - Charleston, WV

I had the opportunity to run the Frozen Sasquatch 50K at the Kanawha State Forest, on Saturday, January 8, 2011.  . I survived and got a friend of mine through his first 50K Ultra.
I left Altoona on Friday afternoon around lunch, picked up Jeff in
Cumberland, and then headed to Charleston, WV. The drive to Charleston is
rather fast, 4 1/2 hours, but at one point I needed to stop and get gas. I
should have listened to Dusty and not stopped on I79 for gas. You know it is
going to be bad when the guy at the gas station says "Yup, Just had the last of
my teeth pulled this morning" as he talks to a 10 year old kid that is spitting
chew in a cup. Anyways ...... we got gas and left.
We got to Charleston and checked in at the Holiday Inn Express and headed to
the State Forest to pick up our race packets. It was about a 20 minute drive,
but wow did the scenery change. Typical backwoods WV by the park.
We got there and met Mike Dolin(RD) and Dan (head of WV Trail Runners) and
had a nice talk about the race. The packet pick up was very simple and easy.
Lots of free SWAG. Mike and Dan said that there was about a 1/2 inch of snow
on the trails and they were only expecting a dusting over night. We were good
with that and went to get dinner and back to the hotel.
At about 3:40 am, I was rudley woken up by snow plows. I chose not to look
out the window. Then the alarm went off at 530am. I looked out the window
and there was about 4 inches on the ground. So I did my morning routine,
loaded up the car, and told Jeff that it wasnt that cold out. It was 23
We arrived at the race site at about 720 and there was snow everywhere. So
much for a dusting. We got ready to run and the race was off at about 810.
There were some late racers so they postponed the race a few. The late races
crashed their cars on the mountain road headed into the race site.
The race starts out with a 1/4 mile run up a paved/snow covered road and
then makes a sharp right onto a 1/2 mile single track climb. Needless to say,
it became bottlenecked and it was a long, slow climb. Once at the top, there
was a lot of rolling trails and fire roads. Really nice running. Then you
make a sharp left and go straight down the mountain on single track. This
downhill was a blast. There were switchbacks and drop offs and the turns were
slick, but it was fast. Once at the bottom was the first aid station. They
had the usual stuff at the aid station for ultras, but no PB&J. (but I packed my
From there, you go through some pines and several stream crossings on some
nice singletrack. This section was a little more technical and somewhat slow
going. Then you hit another climb.
On this climb, there is a awesome cave system. I was planning on taking a
picture, but my camera died from the cold.
At the top of this climb is more fireroads and single track that winds down
to some campgrounds. This downhill was pretty nasty, rocky, and slick. Once
in the campgrounds, you get to run on a fire road for about 2 miles, turn onto
the hard road and run on it for about a 1/4 mile. Then there was aid station
2. This was in a pavillioin with a big fire, hot chicken noodle soup, and lots
of food. But no PB&J (but I packed my own.) From here starts the longest
climb of the course. This climb is about 1.25 miles long and is winding trails
up about 800 feet of gain. Once at the top, it is more single track and fire
roads into aid station 3. From AS3, you are back on single track to the
transition area. But, there is a 1/2 mile section of switchbacks that come
from the top of the mountain back to the start finish area. This was steep and
very technical.
We hit the start finish area in 2:55. We went to the cars, filled up on
water, changed clothes and headed back out again.
We started running again and I lost all feeling in my thumb, pointer, and
middle finger on both hands. I couldn't move my right fingers at all and hand
warmers were not cutting it. I told Jeff that if I couldn't feel my fingers by
the first Aid Station, I was dropping. During this section, there was an older
guy that had his dog with him for this section of the run. The dog was running
with us and really took my mind off of my hands. Great inspiration and a lot of
Miraculously, about 1/4 mile from the AS, I got all of my feeling back in my
fingers, and it was on again.
We headed out and were holding a pretty good pace. Jeff was actually
getting a little frustrated with the pace and was starting to feel the effects
of the distance. Then the really bad happened.
As we headed down the switchbacks to AS2, I hit a rock and rolled my left
ankle completely over. I think I felt my tib and fib in the left let hit the
ground next to my ankle. I stopped, yelled a few choice words, and continued
on. The more I ran, the more it hurt and I could feel something moving in my
While we were on the road through the campgrounds at a slow pace, the
winning female came up on us. She asked if we were alright (she heard me
yelling) and I told here what happened. She gave me some happy pills and I
hobbled into AS2. When I checked in, I sat down and worked my ankle and things
were really loose and sore and I could feel tendons and stuff slipping. The
girl at the AS asked if I was going to drop, I said - "NO- I am 7.5 miles from
the finish and this is his first Ultra."
I struggled up the last climb and then started to zone out. I focused all
of the pain away and picked up the pace again.
We hit the finish line slower than we had hoped, but we still finished. I
finished 21st overall, and Jeff was 22nd. Our times were 6:36 and 6:38. Not
sure on exact times yet.
Now, at the start, it was 23 degrees. At the finish it was around 15
degress with high winds.
The Frozen Sasquatch lives up to its name. It is Frozen. The course was
very well marked, very well organized, and beautiful trails.
The cool thing is, you get an original finishers award. It is a slice of a
log with the race name, date, and a sasquatch on it.
The drive home took over 7 hours due to some pretty bad snow storms in WV.
I would definately recommend this race to anyone. They have a 25k or a 50K
option. Each lap is 15.8 miles, so it is a little longer than a 25k or 50k. WV
trail runners does an entire race series throughout the year of all different
lengths. I may be going back to WV for more.
So now, I am sitting at home, nursing an ankle, and debating on going for a
run. Legs feel great, and I am ready for more.
See all of you on the trails or roads, and hope everyone had a happy new
year. I know mine started out the right way. And congrats to my racing
partner, Jeff Gunter - MD, for finishing his first ultra.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2010 - A Year in Review

2010 was a pretty good year for me.  2010 was my first year entering the world as an ultra runner and increasing my mileage.   I would have to say that going into my first ultra, I was very nervous.   I enjoy running, but the distance (only a 50K) really scared me the night before.   Fortunately, I was able to get up the next morning and have a great run.

The first ultra and race of the year was the LT J.C. Stone 50K at North Park just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.  This is a great road course, but it is 6 loops of a 5 mile course.  I was concerned that this would be a horrible day.  I felt great, made some new friends, and really surpassed my hope of finishing under 5 hours.    I finished this race in 4:21:05.   What a great start to the year and what a great first ultra finish.  And by the way, this ultra boasts the biggest medal in the ultra world and two tech shirts.  

I continued the year pounding out miles on the roads and the trails.  I hit up some awesome trail races and really got comfortable running 20+ miles every Saturday.   

Here is a review of the races for 2010:
1.  3-20-2010: Lt. JC Stone 50K- 4:21:05
2.  5-2-2010: Pittsburgh Marathon - 3:45:14 (not a bad run although had a really bad sinus infection)
3.  5-23-2010: Blair County Family Services 10k - 43:24
4.  6-5-2010:  Rothrock Trail Challenge 30K - 4:36 - This group puts on one hell of a nasty series of runs!!!!
5.  6-27-2010: Tussey Teaser #5 - 10.6 miles - 1:38:13 - Great prep for the Tussey Mountainback 50 mile Ultra
6.  7-4-2010: Hollidaysburg YMCA July 4th 15K - 1:08:52 (nice hot and humid morning in Central PA)
7.  7-25-2010: Run with the Deer Flies 25K Trail Race - 2:57:44 - This is a great race, but the race doesn't start until the last 10k.  And yes, you will get eaten by Deer Flies.  OUCH!!!
8.  8-21-2010: Central PA Run For the Fallen: 20 miles in 2:40:35 - Great run to log miles for the fallen soldiers.
9.  9-11-2010: Curwensville Dam Scramble 30K Trail Race - This ended up being 21 miles total - just a tad longer than advertised, but a great race - 3:57:00 - 3rd Overall
10.  9-19-2010: Dam Full Trail Marathon - 5:06 - Awesome trail race at R.B. Winter State Park near Lock Haven, Pa.
11.  10-2-2010: Bald Eagle Megatransect - 26.4 miles of incredible trails - 5:47.  This is a must do race for any trail runner.  This is one of the hardest courses I have ever done.  Great boulder field scramble, great trails, and great friends.
12.  10-16-2010: Tussey Mountainback 50 mile Ultra - 8:31:49.   Great course, minus the relay teams.

All in all, 2010 was a great year of racing.    I will have to say that I am really happy with my finish at Tussey.  I finished 16th overall in the USATF 50 mile championships.  I surely can't complain about that for my first year of running ultras.    I also did a bunch of local races in distances from 5k to 15k.  I finished pretty well all year long.   I am hoping that 2011 turns out to be an even better year.    As of right now, I have already completed the 2011 Frozen Sasquatch 50K in Charleston, WV and the JC Stone 50K is approaching quickly.