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.