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.