2010 Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run results and splits

I received the full results and splits from Old Dominion in the mail yesterday.  And yes, that refers to snail mail.  Like I said in my race report, OD is old school.

In an effort to provide more OD data than what is currently available online to potential runners, I have scanned the 4 pages of splits and uploaded them below.  Click to enlarge.  Enjoy.

54 runners toed the line
23 runners finished under 24hrs (official finisher w/ buckle)
7 runners finished 24-28hrs (official finisher w/out buckle)
1 runner finished 28+ hrs (non-official finisher)

Runners #1 - 30, miles 0 - 47.7

Runners #1 - 30, miles 47.7 - 100.1

Runners #31 - 54, miles 0 - 47.7

Runners #31 - 54, miles 47.7 - 100.1

Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run

Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run
14,000 ft. elevation gain
Fort Valley, VA
Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run logo

“I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.” – Fight Club

——————

Nine months after suffering my first DNF at my first 100-miler attempt, I was finally toeing the line at what would hopefully be my redemption race.  I had stayed healthy since that fateful day, upped my cross-training and stretching routines, raced hard in a bunch of Spring 50k’s and even had a good R2R2R quad-trashing session all in preps for another shot at the coveted 100-mile belt buckle.

Old Dominion (OD) is a fairly old school race.  It is the second oldest 100-miler in the country next to Western States and at its peak had upwards of 150 entrants and was part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.  The race went on sabbatical in 2002 and, after starting back up in 2003, it has very slowly been picking back up its momentum.

The 60 or so runners gathered at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, and at 4:00am the gun went off.  We did a half-mile loop around the perimeter of the horse track then made our way through the town of Woodstock.

The Start

Leaving the Fairgrounds at the start

The glowing chem lights would have easily lit the way through these first miles, but we had the added bonus(?) of a police cruiser strobing his blue and reds to lead the way.  Note to any epileptic runners considering this race: don’t. I was running with Brad Hinton, my good friend who got second place last year in his 100-miler debut.  I had seen last year’s winner, Jason Lantz, at the pre-race briefing but didn’t see him in the lead pack.  Brad informed me that Jason was having achilles issues and decided not to start.  I was bummed to hear the news, but I immediately knew that it was going to be a fun day up at the front now that it was anyone’s game.

At 3 miles in we came to a cooler sitting on the back of a pickup truck that made up the Water Street aid station.  I don’t think anyone stopped.  Over the next 4 miles we climbed a switchbacked gravel road up to Woodstock Gap aid station that sat atop of the western ridge of the Massanuttens.  I was now 1 hour in.  Having pulled ahead on the climb, I was extremely surprised to find myself sitting in first place for the first time in my ultra career.  With downhills being my specialty (I’m a fast fatboy), the descent into Shenandoah Valley provided an additional lead on the others.

Knowing that temps were going to soar once the sun came out, I took full advantage of the cooler weather and ran a comfortable 6:45 minute mile pace on the rolling country roads as I came to the Boyer aid station, mile 10.2 in 1:20.  From Boyer we headed onto our first steps of trail, and surprisingly the first time throughout the race that I had to use my headlamp.  The sun was almost up but it was just dark enough that I needed the headlamp for about 10 minutes.  Not bad for a 4:00am start.  As I came back into Boyer 4.5 miles later, I saw Mike Bailey making his way into the loop.  This was a pleasant sight as it was one of the only times throughout the day I saw another runner.  Mike ended up running a solid 21:52.

Another 5 miles miles of fast cruising on country roads brought us to the first crew point of the day at 770/758 aid station, mile 19.6.  My crewmembers were my housemates, Brendan and Collin.  Both are great endurance athletes; Brendan a triathlete and Collin a Cat 1 cyclist.  For a crew that has never been to an ultra before, I was very impressed at their efficiency, getting me in and out in a matter of seconds.

Crews at 770/758 Aid Station (mile 19.6)

Crew cars at 770/758 (mile 19.6)

The next 13 miles were rather uneventful with more fast cruising on country roads.  I held the lead, but as the heat of the day appeared I started to feel its effects.  I came into Four Points aid station, mile 32.5, at 4:48 and feeling a little rough.  I knew it was time to start toning it down… though I probably should have toned it down a few miles earlier.

Running into Four Points #1

Running into Four Points #1 (mile 32.5)

I now entered what was the lowest point of my day.  In addition to the fast pace and the heat, my feet were killing me.  I was wearing my current favorite shoes, the New Balance MT100’s, but I had never run anything more than a 50k on them, and definitely not anything with this much road running.  The lack of padding under the foot pad was becoming painful, but I wouldn’t see my crew again to remedy the problem until I returned to Four Points for the second time, 15 miles later.

Shortly after leaving Four Points (which interestingly enough is located just outside the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp, i.e. the new MMT headquarters) there is a steep climb up a jeep/ATV trail that has recently been widened.  This may sound nice in theory, but ultimately it gave extremely loose and rocky footing.  Thankfully this section ended quickly and gave way to another fast downhill section.  As I barreled down I noticed that the sound of my footsteps seemed off.  The offbeat rhythm became more distinct, and before I knew it David Ruttum blasted right past me, looking as fast and efficient as ever.  I tried to keep him close through conversation but only managed a brief exchange.  He commented that he changed out of his MT100’s since they were too little shoe for such heavy pounding, and up until that moment changing shoes hadn’t crossed my mind.  (What’s that, Bobby?  Your feet hurt?  Change shoes.  Duh.) I believe I yelled ahead that he was a genius, but before I knew it he disappeared around the next turn, so I doubt he heard me.

The downhill road was short lived and within a mile it was back to climbing another loose jeep/ATV road, the Duncan Hollow section of the MMT Trail.  With a storm having passed through the night before, there were plenty of mud pits (and Jeeps and ATV’s out enjoying said mud pits) to maneuver around.  Eventually, at mile 38.7, the Peach Orchard aid station appears out of nowhere in the middle of the climb.  Because it’s in the middle of nowhere, the entire aid station is carried up trail by a guy on a dirtbike.  It’s a tough job, but VERY appreciated at this point in the race.  Thankfully we had some cloud cover to protect us from this exposed section of trail, but it was hot and humid and I was never happier to see a guy on a dirtbike.  I downed two bottles of water, sat for a few minutes, then continued the climb.  David was now 15 or so minutes ahead.

A few more miles of slow climbing then a short descent down the Scothorn Gap Trail popped us out onto Crisman Hollow Rd, the next aid station.  I jumped on the scale for mandatory weigh-in #1 of 2 and noted that I was down 4 lbs (understandable considering the initial weight was from the day before, I was in different clothes and now using a different scale on uneven terrain – how’s that for reliable data?).  I was feeling like absolute crap but I knew that it was a 4.5 mile straight shot up the road to a fresh pair of shoes.  Onwards!

I came into Four Points #2, mile 47.7, after 7:40 on my feet.  I sat down at a crew point for the first time and changed my shoes and socks.  As much as I love the MT100’s, it was time for something beefier, so on went the trusty Brooks Cascadias.  I didn’t need a fresh pair of socks since Drymax keep my feet pristine in the worst of conditions, but I changed into a fresh pair just in case.  After sitting and freshening up the feet I started to feel significantly better.  (It also may have helped that my crew handed me 3D glasses and, I kid you not, a Playboy with a 3D centerfold.  If made for a good laugh that erected lifted my spirits.)  I put on the iPod for the first time of the day, cranked some metal, and chugged ahead with new vitality.

I was now running in the hottest part of the day, but having started to tone it down a few miles back I was able to maintain a comfortable pace up the gradual road climb to Mountain Top aid station (mile 50.9) and then up and down the road section of Short Mountain (haha MMT runners, how do you like that one?) to Edinburg Gap (mile 56.6).

I was carrying Keith Knipling’s splits from 2008, an extremely hot and challenging year where he ran a 19:48, hoping that I could come close to matching that time if all pieces fell into place perfectly.  Knowing that I had fallen apart a bit around miles 35-45ish, I didn’t think this was possible, but looking at the pace chart I was surprised to see that I was spot on.  Hmm, I guess blowing up is all part of the game.

Although I had cautioned my crew to not let me sit at the aid stations very long, sitting became the prize in my head for running through an entire section.  I had been taking minimal walking breaks during the day, only walking the significant ascents and running all the gradual ones, so giving myself a minute to lower the heart rate and compose myself seemed to work wonders.

Little Fort (mile 64.25)

Little Fort (mile 64.25)

On passing the 100k mark as I made my way into Little Fort aid station (mile 64.25), I realized I had run a new 100k PR of 10:38.  That boosted my spirits, as did the knowledge that I had run the remaining section of the course just a few weeks prior, so from here on out everything would be familiar and doable.  Little Fort is also the only point during the day that I ate solid food.  I had some mango slices from my crew and half a cup of thick soup.  Otherwise, throughout the day I got all my nutrition from Hammer Perpetuem (cafe latte flavor), ginger ale and S-Caps.  These appear to be the winning combination in my stomach to keep me going for a long haul; no need to tinker with other sources of calories unless absolutely necessary.

As I left Little Fort, the anterior tibilias tendon (I think) in my left foot started to irk me.  Oh dear god, please tell me this isn’t another 100-miler defeating injury! It was quite painful at first, but after running on it for a few minutes the pain seemed to subside.  When I hit Mudhole Gap (mile 69.5) I sat down, took off my shoe and tried to massage it out.  I was able to fashion some additional arch support by taping a few gauze pads under my insole, but this provided only marginal relief.  In addition to the rain that had just started sprinkling, Sabrina Moran, the top female runner, came through and looked like she wanted to get out of there in a hurry.  I quickly laced back up and followed suit right behind her.

We were both moving at a pretty slow pace along a flat but technical section with many stream crossings.  I was dealing with my anterior tib problem and she (I later learned) may have broken her foot, so not much was said during our shared miles.  As we emerged onto a fire road ascent I started to pull away a bit, mostly due to the fact that my anterior tib hurt the least when I ran on my toes, aka running fast and not the typical jog that might be expected 70 miles into a run.  It seemed contradictory, but that’s what worked so I went with it.  We then emerged onto an open fire road that had both significant climbs and descents as it led us into Elizabeth Furnace, mile 75 and the second weigh station of the day (my weight was fine).

I had gained a couple minutes on Sabrina coming into Elizabeth, arriving in 13:20, but with my foot issue I needed to address that for a few minutes.  I applied some Arctic Ice muscle relief spray to try to numb it away, massaged it out a bit, and then my brilliant self wiped my eyes with hands that were now covered in muscle relief liquid.  That felt interesting for a minute.  Oh well.  Knowing that I was getting low on fluids throughout the day (urine was getting dark) and I had a long section coming up, I swapped my waistpack for my Nathan Pack and took my Perpetuem mix in a handheld.  It was nice to free up the hips and switch to a higher center of gravity fluid source for the upcoming climbs.

I managed to leave Elizabeth before Sabrina (I know, a guy shouldn’t worry about getting “chicked”, but sadly we all do), but after heading off-trail to “scrape some leaves” as Gary Knipling says, she and her pacer were able to get a few minutes head start on the big climb up Sherman Gap.  I opted to not use a pacer since they were only allowed for this next 12 mile section and I would be doing it in the daylight, but I’m sure I would have been singing a much different tune had I been experiencing this section slower and in the dark.  The climb up Sherman is given a bad rap in my mind.  Yes, it’s gnarly, steep and could use some switchbacks, but after 75 miles of running on mostly gravel country roads, the slow climb is a welcomed change of pace and muscle groups.  I actually enjoyed it.

With every good climb comes a good descent.  Usually my specialty, the anterior tib wasn’t having this descent so I was only marginally able to bomb down with reckless abandon.  I did, however, end up stubbing a toe fairly badly after jumping over a blow down and landing incorrectly.  It felt like I had sheared off the skin from the front of the toe, but upon inspection at the next aid station (613T, mile 80.9) it turns out it was just a blood blister under the toenail.  Sabrina and her pacer were leaving the aid station just as I was coming in, and although I stopped for a few minutes to inspect the toe and refill the pack, I had once again caught back up right as she was leaving the next aid station (Veach East, mile 82.8).  Seeing this trend, I knew that my moving pace was faster than hers, she was just being more time efficient in the aid stations.  Despite my newly-found love for my crew’s camping chair, I knew I had to stop lollygagging in the aid stations if I was going to make any moves in these last 20 miles.

The climb up Veach was long and slow, but with the sun beginning to set it offered a nice view looking south onto the Shenandoah River.  I ran into my buddy Chad Kibler up near the top of the climb (he had been marking trail) and he walked with me for a minute, definitely a welcomed surprise.  We split when I reached the top and then it was a 2 mile technical descent into Veach West.  I passed Sabrina on the descent (btw, her pacer was wearing Vibram FiveFingers… very hardcore for the technicality of this section) and as I came into the aid station (mile 86.6 at 16:33), I knew I had to get out of there quick.

Crew working hard at Veach West (mile 86.6)

Crew working hard at Veach West (mile 86.6)

My mom showed up at this aid station, so even though I had intentions on moving through quickly, I sat down to see her for a moment then quickly got up and went back to business.  Temperatures were now fairly cooler with a light drizzle, and the sun had set just as I entered the aid station.  I would be seeing my crew at the next aid station so I minimalized and went to a single handheld.  I donned the headlamp and, knowing that running on my toes and for uninterrupted periods of time meant less pain, I started hammering out the miles again (or at least what seems like hammering out miles at mile 87).

My pace sheet called for the 4.4 mile section between Veach West and 770/758 to take an hour, but it only ended up taking 48 minutes  (which includes 2 minutes of standing at one intersection wondering which way to go).  I was feeling motivated as ever to get this day wrapped up, so after a brief stop at the 770/758 aid station (mile 91) to sit for a second and swap GPS that was low on battery, I once again put my head down, bottled up the pain and charged forward.  I noticed that stopping and starting back up again was making the anterior tib take a few minutes to warm back up, so I decided I was going to run as much as humanly possible of these last 9 miles… and I did.

I ran the entire way, albeit slowly, up to Woodstock Gap (mile 93.2, 17:58), and after stopping only long enough to fill a bottle I continued down the mountain, retracing my steps from the morning.  The anterior tib was not a fan of this descent, but with less than 7 miles to go I didn’t care how bad things hurt.  One foot in front of the other, as fast as I can manage (which really ended up being about 10 minute miles).

I had thought that once the descent off Woodstock was complete it would be smooth sailing to the finish.  Wrong.  New hills that I hadn’t seen on the way out were now riddled throughout the streets of Woodstock, taunting me with every little undulation.  After what seemed like forever, I finally saw the turn onto Water St out in the distance (mile 97.4 aid station, 18:41) and I could hear my crew cheering me on.  The excitement and realization of finishing my first 100-miler were finally starting to set in.  I didn’t even stop at the aid station, but rather had my crew swap bottles with me as I ran.

I handed off my iPod so that I could use these last 2.6 miles to think and reflect upon the events of the past day.  Honestly, I figured I was going to tear up and bawl, but the emotions didn’t seem to have that affect on me this time.  I felt more pumped than anything else.  The 2 miles back to the Fairgrounds seemed to take an eternity, but after meandering through the quiet streets of Woodstock and getting the occasional odd look from a resident, the Fairgrounds finally appeared as you crest over one last “climb” that I again don’t remember from the morning.

Entering the Fairgrounds (mile 99.5)

Entering the Fairgrounds (mile 99.5)

I entered the grounds, threw my bottle, and proceeded to run the longest half mile of my entire life.  I was giving every ounce of effort I had, and after rounding the final turn my body released one last burst of energy it had been saving especially for this moment.  I sprinted to the line, finishing my debut 100-miler in a time of 19:11, good for 2nd place overall.

I collapsed to the ground.  Immense pain and joy filled every ounce of my body.  Finally…  I ran 100 miles.

"Holy hell what just happened?"

"Holy hell what just happened?"

HouseSTRONG success

Couldn't have done it without these guys

Post-race thoughts

I had my setbacks during the journey to my debut 100-miler (injury, bad luck in lotteries, and more injury) but in the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better race.  The old school style of Old Dominion really shows the history behind it, and for someone new(er) to the sport like myself, it gives a glimpse of what 100-mile runs were like back in the day when it was just a bunch of crazed runners looking for something new to test their abilities – a no frills, no fancy technology, no big name sponsor (and still no big name sponsor) low-key event that awards you with the greatest thing you could ever ask for.  No, I’m not talking about being awarded the silver belt buckle (though it is pretty sweet), but being awarded with the sense of accomplishment that you pushed your body to it’s absolute limits… and then kept going, and going, and going.  With a course that requires so much actual running, whether you are fighting at the front of the pack or just barely making the cutoffs, you know that you are giving it your absolute all, not just for a few minutes, but for hours and hours on end.

David Ruttum ended up running the 5th fastest time in the 32 years Old Dominion has been run, a blazing fast 16:52.  I spent a good deal talking to him before and after the race and, aside from the obvious fact that he is an ultrarunning machine not to be reckoned with, he is also a genuinely nice guy who most definitely deserves the smashing race that he had this weekend.  Sabrina Moran ended up first female, third overall, finishing a few minutes under 20 hours.  The finishing rate was near 50%, as could be expected for a day with high humidity and temps near 90, and a good number of these finishers made it sub-24 and buckled.  If I can get my hands on additional race data I’ll make sure I post it since I know OD information is hard to come by online.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey to the 100-miler, especially my crew, Brendan and Collin, who did a superb job of taking care of me, keeping me (3D) motivated, and made sure I got across that finish in one piece.  I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Bling Bling

Bling

——————-

LINKS:
My OD pics, someone else’s OD pics, a third person’s OD pics
2010 Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run results and splits

100 Miler Redemption?

If you couldn’t already tell, I didn’t get in to MMT this year.  C’est la vie.  Instead, I’m off to the mountains right now, heading out to run the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Run tomorrow.  Let’s hope this 100 goes better than the last!  Stay tuned for a race report next week.

Old Dominion 100 trail marking

OD 100 trail markings

Grindstone: My first 100, My first DNF

Showing up to Camp Shenandoah on Thursday evening, everything was quiet and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It seemed as though I was the first runner to arrive and that gave plenty of time to scope out the best location for our campsite. After setting up, crewmember Derraugh and I wandered around camp and eventually found some folks working in the kitchen area. Not wanting to use the camp stove, they graciously let me heat up my dinner in the microwave (salmon and sweet potatoes). Camp and dinner plans were right on track, everything looking perfect for the following big race day. Shortly thereafter we ran into Clark Zealand, David Horton, Jeremy Ramsey and Rebekkah Trittipoe who had all been working hard to get the course marked. Rebekkah shared some knowledge of 4 bears she had spotted up near Dowell’s Draft earlier in the day, Jeremy praised Hellgate for all the good schwag, Clark discussed race logistics, and Horton was his usual troublemaking self. It was a good way to kick back before getting a good night’s sleep.

Ten wonderful hours of sleep later, I woke to find that the empty camp had transformed overnight into a bustling community of ripped quads and drop bags. I joined in on bag-organizing fun, had some breakfast (2 hard-boiled eggs and a sweet potato since I know you were dying to know), and wandered around some more to share the anxiety with my 100-mile brethren. I checked in, lounged in the hammock, found the rest of my crew (Jen Jacobs, Kristine Davis and coach Mike Broderick), got dressed, applied liberal amounts of BodyGlide, and did whatever it took to kill time before the 6pm Friday start time.

Jen, Derraugh, Me, Kristine and Coach Mike
Clark wishing me luck before the start

With a couple minutes to go, we all gathered behind the start banner. The giant totem pole stood just ahead of us as if to say “come on, hug me… but please run 102 miles first.” I was raring to go and the nerves were as strong as ever. With just a couple seconds before the gun, Karl Meltzer turned around to ask “Joe Clapper’s not here, is he?”. (Background: Joe Clapper has led every 100 miler he’s ever run for at least some portion of the race… this usually consists of him sprinting ahead like a Kenyan for about 5 seconds, then dying back down to 100 mile pace. Bragging rights are bragging rights, yes?)

And then everything got real… 3, 2, 1, see ya!

And they’re off!

We ran across the field and clockwise around the lake. Coach Mike had advised me to go out fast the first few miles so as to avoid any traffic congestion as we approached Elliott’s Knob, the first and probably toughest climb of the day. Even with this advice, I was still surprised at just how fast folks were pushing it in the first couple miles. The terrain looked flat, but judging from the perceived effort and elevated heart rate, there was definitely some incline to be had. “Not so bad” I thought to myself. “This will make for an easy downhill to the finish.” If only…

Not remembering the exact mileages from the training runs, I expected to hit the climb up Elliott’s within a mile or two. Then we hit Aid Station 1 (AS1), Falls Hollow, at 5.18 miles in. My heart-rate had been up there since the get-go. Ok, so maybe pushing it until Elliott’s wasn’t the best idea after all. I topped off my pack with some water to prep for the 9.45 miles until the next aid and headed out. Talking to Jared Hesse for a bit, we both agreed that although the pace was easily runnable, it would not be sustainable for 24 or so hours. Time to slow it down a touch.

The climb up Elliott’s was welcomed with open arms. Truth be told, my uphill running is lacking compared to those at my level, but where I lack in ups I compensate on the flats and downs. Such is the life of a 175-pound ultrarunner, taking advantage of gravity when the opportunity arises. Gotta play your cards how they are dealt. Making it through Dry Branch Gap, AS2, was rather uneventful, just trying to normalize the pace and heart-rate. Slowly but surely I was getting there.

Dowell’s Draft aid station, minus all the people
Coming into Dowell’s Draft, mile 22

Approaching Dowell’s Draft, As3 (mile 22.1), the trail finished with a short uphill climb into a sea of lights and spectators. Being the first opportunity for runners to meet with their crews, everyone and their mother was there, packed tight and still full of energy. Not wanting to waste time at aid stations and still being early in the race, I quickly found my crew, swapped my Nathan pack (water) and handheld bottle (Hammer Perpetuem for calories) for fresh ones and off I went. In and out without actually stopping, faster than them fancy schmancy Nascar drivers! Mike ran with me for 100 yards or so to check on how I was doing and offer advice. I relayed my heart-rate concerns but assurred him I was not getting into the groove. All was well.

And into the groove I got, so much that I honestly don’t remember Lookout Mountain, AS4. I do however, remember coming into the following aid station, North River Gap, or as those of us in the VHTRC affectionately know it – The TWOT Lot. Running down the brief section of road and into the aid station, I gave a holler so my crew knew it was me. Ok ok, I may have yelled out “I love TWOT!”, but who said you couldn’t have some fun at these things? Knowing that the long sections between aid stations were now over, I switched my Nathan pack and handheld for my 2-bottle GoLite waistpack. It was a nice relief on the shoulders. I declined the offer for the iPod and opted for the calmness of nighttime wildlife. Coach Mike ran ahead with me once again, this time warning of possible trail sabotage up on Little Bald. Although concerning, Little Bald was one of the few spots in the race I have run past on multiple occassions, so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost.

Refueling at TWOT
Switching to my waistpack at TWOT

The climb up Little Bald was steep but manageable. I made a conscious effort to “hike with a purpose”, pumping my arms as I made my way up. When I arrived at the top of Little Bald, just as expected the course took us off to the right. Ok, so the aid station should be right around here somewhere. My GPS says I’ve already covered the distance and I’ve only got a sip or 2 left from my allotted fluids. Sadly, the trail kept going and no aid station was appearing. Scenarios ran through my head. What if there was some funky turn to get you to the aid station and my assumed knowledge of the trail made me blow right past it? Should I backtrack? What if I re-ran that small section on my way back? Would I have enough fluids for the 4.5 miles to Reddish Knob?

And then, like an oasis in the desert, an aid station appeared in the middle of the trail, nowhere I thought it would be. Coming in I had no idea if it was Little Bald aid station or Reddish Knob, all I knew is that it was fluid and calories. It was in fact Little Bald and I hadn’t missed a step. Definitely a relief! I grabbed my dropbag, refilled the Perpetuem and downed 2 cups of Mountain Dew to get a different flavor in the mouth (plus some caffeine even though I was feeling perfectly energized).

Adam Casseday, the #2 seed, was leaving the aid station as I was coming in. I knew something was up. He shouldn’t be this far back. After a couple minutes I caught up and he explained that he was having trouble keeping things down and he was just going to make it to the next aid station and drop there. He hadn’t taken in any calories in 20 miles and he was well on his way to a serious bonk. I offered some ginger root capsules to help settle his stomach, and he reluctantly accepted. With the ginger caps also came some words of encouragement and a plea to not drop, at least to give the ginger some time to work its magic. It was, in fact, a little less than halfway into a 100-miler and things could still make a full 180. Rest assured, Adam went on to finish 9th place overall and under 24 hours! Talk about a comeback. [Remember that one the next time you're feeling like crap early in a race!]

I let Adam do his thing and he encouraged me to go on ahead. After a little more downhill came the paved road section of the course. I’m not normally “against” running on roads, but wow did this pavement hurt. Every step was a painful thud reminding me why I love trail running so much, and also reminding me that I had run a very difficult 40-something miles thus far. I had expected Karl to pass way earlier, but to my surprise I didn’t see him until mile 46.5, about 10 hours in. Thinking about it now, that timing makes perfect sense as he was continually gaining his lead time on the rest of the pack. Either way, Karl was looking strong as could be expected. In the #2 position was my good buddy Mike Mason, and as I passed him yelled out the same words of encouragement I did at MMT: “Mike Mason I want to have your babies!” Don’t ask why, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and he laughs when I say it.

The Reddish Knob aid station was a glorious sight, not only because it signified the near-end of the pavement, but it was also an opportunity for me to stop and get out the pesky debris that was rubbing on the bottom of my right foot. Despite this sitting down, I blew on through and made it up the summit of Reddish Knob. Horton happened to be there at the time, standing at the ledge of the parking lot and looking out at the beautiful harvest moon. I ran up behind him and gave him a big, sweaty, man hug – his favorite! (That was the running gag for the weekend, by the way, so feel free to give Horton man-hugs anytime you see him!)

I headed back down to the Reddish aid station, didn’t stop this time since it had only been 5 minutes since I last past, and within 2 miles I met my crew at Briery Branch Gap. This was not an aid station, but crews were allowed to access runners here since it was the closest they could get to the turnaround. Briery Branch was last year’s turnaround, but it had now been extended 1.4 miles out to Gnashing Knob due to recalculation of distances… or maybe Clark just felt like he needed to add in some Horton miles. Either way, it was more climbing and more miles. Fun! I dropped my waistpack, picked up a single handheld bottle and made it quickly up to Gnashing Knob. Halfway done and 11:13 in!

My first time through Briery was quick, but the second time through I took my time, for no other reason then to spend some quality time with the folks who were going through a sleepless night just for me. I did some stretching, ate some mango slices (my new favorite aid station food of all time, so delicious!) and of course had to listen to some heckling from Q who had now joined the late-night crew party (who invited that guy?)

Stretching and eating at Briery Branch

Sadly, the return to Briery meant the return to additional pavement on the way back to Little Bald (now mile 58.7). It was, however, great seeing all the familiar faces on the way back, cheering everyone on and getting encouragement in return. This was also an opportunity to gauge how far back and how strong those were looking behind me. If I was seriously competing (which I wasn’t, #1 goal was to just finish), this would have been great logistical intel to plan out the second half of the game.

I made it back to the Little Bald aid station right as the sun was starting to light up the sky. Perfect timing because I had planted my sunglasses and hat in my Little Bald drop bag! Not knowing if I was to be running when night fell again, I kept my headlamp and flashlight in posession so I could hand them off to the crew when I next saw them at the TWOT Lot. It was a bit awkward running with sunglasses, a hat and a headlamp but I managed. Also awkward at Little Bald was me trying to force down a breakfast burrito. I knew it would be questionable to try and stomach such substantial food, but let’s be honest I’m a fat kid at heart so I couldn’t say no. It made it’s way down, and so did I (down the trail that is).

About a mile outside of Little Bald I passed Gary Knipling, one of the most fun and genuinely nice and caring people in the sport. Gary is the true essence of ultrarunning. 65-years-young and going for his 22nd 100-mile finish with the biggest smile on his face. If that doesn’t make you love life then I don’t know what will. He cheered me on, I did the same for him, and off we went in our separate directions.

Life was good, I was in 9th place overall on my first 100-miler, feeling great in terms of nutrition, energy and fatigue levels, and on pace for a sub-24 hour finish at possibly the hardest 100 on the east coast.

And then it hit me, pain in my left anterior tibialis tendon.

Effin A. I sat on my feet to stretch out the tendon, and while it seemed to help a touch, it didn’t put out the fire. Then came the extremely steep descent down Little Bald. 8 miles of anterior tibilias tendon pounding. No bueno. No bueno at all. Again, effin A! (I did, however, notice that I shaved 10 minutes off my 100k PR as I made my way down the mountain.)

I came into the TWOT Lot aid station (now mile 66.5) and instantly knew the game was changing. I was still in 9th place, I was still on track for a sub-24 hour finish, but there was now a big honkin’ wrench thrown in my spokes and it would be questionable if I could remove said wrench over the next 35 miles. I immediately sat down, explained to the crew my concerns and tried to massage out the pain… to no avail. Oh well. I knew that finishing my first 100 was going to require some serious toughness, so here comes the time to grit and bare it. I knew that this would possibly mean throwing out hopes of maintaing my top-10 position, but the #1 goal was to finish and I was determined to finish, even if it took me the entire 38 hours. Coach Mike appeared, ready to start pacing, and off we went, not knowing what to expect.

Coach Mike taking care of me while I apply duct tape on a nip

Pain, that’s what I should have expected. As soon as we headed out of TWOT the pain got increasingly worse. I was, however, able to run through the pain without significantly slowing down my pace. So far so good. Still in 9th, still moving forward. As they say, If the bone’s not showing, keep going… right?

Well, as we trekked the 5.45 miles to the Lookout Mountain aid station (now mile 72), it was painfully obvious (no pun intended) that ice was going to be necessary. “Nope, our ice guy just left to go get something so we don’t have any right now.” NOOOOO!!!!! “Oh wait, yes we do, nevermind.” Phew, close one. We put some ice in a baggie, then a trash bag around it, then loads of duct tape. The cold seemed to numb the pain a bit, but clearly I was still facing a huge dilemma. Hopefully the ice would be enough to last the 8.35 miles to the next aid at Dowell’s Draft.

I knew the last 3.5 miles of trail before Dowell’s were smooth rolling singletrack, but those 5 or so prior just kept throwing endless amounts of small but relentless hills that I was having one hell of a hard time negotiating. ” Nonetheless, we pushed forward, albeit slower and slower with every step. Mike gave me his iPod, cranked some Grateful Dead, and I was able to get into a groove that resulted in a solid 40 or so minutes of strong running down into Dowell’s Draft aid station.

Dowell’s was also the first time during the race that I was able to see my mom, dad and sister who made the long trek to come cheer me on. My sister proudly displayed a sign that said “we love #7″ and I was greeted with the loudest cheering section of the race thus far. If only I could have greeted them with the same enthusiasm I had carried up until my descent off Little Bald. Instead, I sat down and begged for more ice. Lots and lots of ice (ooh, and some mangoes too).

My momma loves me, awwwww
The gimped foot

I seriously considered dropping right then and there, but what kind of ultrarunner would I be if I once again had to ditch my 100 miler goals for the year (the first time being MMT, dropped 3 weeks prior due to ITB injury), and to top it off, ditching my goal of finishing the 2009 Beast Series. Well, the answer to that question is “a smart ultrarunner”. Moving ahead exacerbated the anterior tibialis pain beyond belief.

It was 7.5 miles to the Dry Branch Gap aid station. I was able to swing another good 30 minutes of hard running, surprisingly still in 9th place and only slightly slower than 24-hour pace. Perhaps my injury wasn’t as bad as I had imagined? No, definitely not. The ice melted and I was now able to feel how intense the pain actually was. It was clear that every step I took, although closer to the finish line, was also another step towards a longer recovery once this whole fiasco was over. The climb up Crawford Mountain put me at a snails pace, literally planning each and every step.

Running (for the last time) up Crawford Mountain

Folks behind me finally started catching up and passing as Mike and I slowly walked up Crawford. Adam Casseday blew by, running at a ridiculously fast uphill pace! I was so proud to see that after the condition I had last seen him 10 hours prior.

When we reached the top of Crawford it was 2.8 to the aid station. Ok, we can do this. Mike decided that the name of the game was now “get to the aid station, rest, ice, elevate, immobilize the foot and reassess my capabilities”. Sounded easy enough, but it wasn’t.

Descending Crawford was possibly the most painful movement I have ever experienced. I was unable to plant my left foot on the downward slope. I tried walking sideways, but that was only marginally less excruciating. I tried walking backwards (yes, honestly) and the pain was still just too unbareable. I tried butt-sliding, but that only got me a few feet. Mike then found me a big walking stick that I could use like a crutch. Still, only marginally less excruciating.

Me and my stick, coming down Crawford

An hour after starting our descent down Crawford and we still had 1.7 miles to the aid station and 15 until the finish. Mike and I both knew what the right call was. I had given my absolute 100% best and pushed through the pain. Injury is the only thing that should ever stop you in a 100-miler, and I was now faced with the option of maybe finishing Grindstone and maybe being able to run again, ever, or call it quits at mile 85 and live to see my 100-mile dream come true another day.

“If I go ahead and get outside assistance that disqualifies you.”

“Go ahead, Mike. I’ll try to make forward progress in the meantime.”

And just like Mike disappeared into the distance, so did my dream that I had worked so hard for all year long…

C’est la vie. Not every race is perfect, and everyone has to DNF at some point. For me, I guess I got my DNF out of the way early, and in this case it didn’t just stand for Did Not Finish, it also stood for Did Nothing Fatal (to my running career). You live and you learn. I learned that even though I didn’t do it on this attempt, I have what it takes to conquer a 100-miler, and I have the ability to do it fast and strong. I have tasted the 100-miler and I absolutely cannot wait to taste it again. My injury will heal, I’ll crosstrain, do extra strength training and stretching, and I will be back…

…I will be back with a vengeance.

Useful race links:
My race splits
Photos from my crew (Flickr)
Photos from Wendy Marszalek on the course (Flickr)
Photos from Coach Mike (Facebook)

And of course, a huge thank you to my extremely supportive, helpful and understanding crew: Jen Jacobs, Kristine Davis, Derraugh Ewchuk and Mike Broderick. Without you guys I would not have made it as far as I did as fast as I did. I am eternally grateful to each one of you!

Grindstone 100 preview


It’s t-minus 1 day until go-time for my first ever 100-miler, the Grindstone 100. I’ve been scrambling to get things prepared, and as of last night at 11pm I think I have everything packed and ready to go. I’ll be ducking out of work early today and heading down to the race start to set up camp, then hopefully sleeping as much as I can before the 1pm pre-race briefing. After the pre-race briefing my crew will start arriving, I’ll hand off my bags, and at 6:00pm EST the show starts.

“Beginning at Camp Shenandoah, this out-n-back course ascends and descends Little North Mtn before climbing over 2400ft in 4 miles to the summit of Elliot Knob. The course then proceeds north following the ridgeline of Great North Mtn crossing over to and following the Wild Oak National Recreation Trail before continuing north to the summit of Reddish Knob. Runners continue north to Briery Branch Gap before retracing their steps (without summiting Elliott & Reddish) back along the course to Camp Shenandoah.”

Aside from MMT, Grindstone is dubbed “the hardest 100-miler east of the 100th Meridian.” It’s 100.73 miles and 23,200 feet of net elevation gain and pure mountain-climbing, quad-busting fun. Actually, using the pace sheet given out by Clark (the Race Director), adding up distances between aid stations totals 101.85 miles. I would guess that these discrepancies are due to remeasuring and the fact that the course has been extended roughly 1.4 miles at the turnaround, adding extra mileage and extra climbing. Hoorah!

Am I prepared? I sure as hell hope so. I’ve been seeded with lucky bib #7, so if that isn’t motivation to kick some ass, I don’t know what is. Training went very well, as shown with a strong run at Where’s Waldo 100k and a quick recovery thereafter, and now that temperatures have cooled down a bit with the arrival of fall, running feels much much easier.

Here is a rough plan of my gear and nutrition for the race:
– Nathan HPL 020 pack with Camelbak bladder for carrying water
– Ultimate Direction handheld bottle filled with Hammer Perpetuem (cafe latte flavor) for calories
– S-caps every hour or 2 to balance electrolytes
– Brooks Cascadia 4 shoes with blue Superfeet insoles
– Drymax socks (these will be a blessing for when the rain comes)
– GoLite packable windbreaker for rain protection
– Moeben sleeves in case it gets chilly at night
– Brooks Element shorts
– Brooks running hat
– Tifosi sunglasses
– Garmin Forerunner 310XT (19.5hr battery) and 305 (14hr battery) for heart-rate, time and mileage
– Petzl MyoXP headlamp and Fenix L2D flashlight
– and of course, my blue VHTRC shirt. gotta represent!

As for race goals, it’s my first 100 miler so priority #1 is just to finish. Aside from that, I’m shooting to run somewhere in the 26 hour range. I’ve been seeded as bib #7, and last year runner #7 ran a 23:11… yeah I don’t know about that one! But honestly, it’s a honor to be seeded at such a high placement and I don’t expect to finish that far up front. Then again, I tend to have pretty conservative estimates on my race times, so you never know what might happen. Just need to make sure there’s fuel left in the tank for Masochist and Hellgate so I can finish up the Beast Series!

Welp, here goes nothing…

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