Monday, December 26, 2011

New Years Resolution Rendezvous Run!

For all of you who were running the Winter Solstice Run last weekend and thought, "gee, these CATS are cool and fun, and I wanna run more trails with them in the new year" or "gee, that CAT Mike Stadnisky looks cool in the Santa gear and I wanna run like him" or even "I need to run more long miles in the mountains on trails in 2012" we have a run for you!

What: The second annual CAT Resolution Rendezvous Run with the CATS, the Harrisonburg Ridge Runners, Hash Runners, and generally cool runners from the Valley

When: Sunday, 1/1/12 at 9:00 SHARP for the C'Ville runners leaving from Sugar Hollow; and 9:30 SHARP for the H'burg/Valley runners leaving Madison Run Fire Road off Rte 340. If you arrive late, follow the trails to the Blackrock Summit of the AT. We will rendevous promptly at 10:50 am atop Blackrock Summit. Bring the map attached below!

Who: the CATs and H'burg/Valley crew (see above) and anyone who would like to try a low key but very fun mountain run

How far? This is a lollipop run with great flexibility of distances. Some folks may want to run to the Blackrock meeting point and then return home (about 14 miles round trip for the CVille folks, shorter for the H'burg folks). The whole Doyles River/Jones Run lollipop is 24 miles for the Cville runners, and about 21 miles for the Hburg crew. Of course, you can turn around whenever you want, but you will be having so much fun that it will be hard to leave the party!

What to bring: Enough water for 3+ hours for the 14 milers, and 4-5 hours for the 24 milers. Plus gels and food of your choice. In other words, bring your own stuff.

Map: PRINT these maps and bring them. We are running to Blackrock and then north towards Jones Run via the AT.

Happy Holidays from the CATS! 

Any questions? email Sophie at (C'Ville folks) or Jack Broaddus at (Valley folks)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hellgate 2011

My apologies for the lengthy post, but I wanted to include everybody and an additional  perspective (pacer & crew) rather than just a racer's report.

So quickly the scoop: Hellgate is another David Horton race but a special one. It has 66.6mi, 13800ft of elevation gain, a very tough course, unpredictable weather and it starts at 12:01am. Applicants are being deemed eligible by the RD.

Here the reports (in order of finishing times)

Mike Stadnisky’s Race Report:
Hellgate eyes are corneal e’
Run run run run run run run run run
Camping gap just before three,
Fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun

Handhelds, synthetic apparel
Br br br br br br br br br
Devil Trail Mr Hyde Forest Road Jekyll,
Fur fur fur fur fur fur fur further

See the blaze and lights below us
Run run run run run run run run run
Foreever section try not to cuss
Fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun

Bearwallow burger thing of pleasure,
Br br br br br br br br br
More than 62 by any measure,
Fur fur fur fur fur fur fur further

Shed your headlamp and your glasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Runners skinny with no @$$es,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Every CAT finished, now together
Run run run run run run run run run
No such thing as bad weather,
Done done done done done done done done done!

Entering the finish chute

Fo-real Report:   Ultrarunning is a team sport.

…was my conclusion upon finishing Hellgate 100K this weekend.  With preparation provided by the Skinny B runs; mentorship beforehand and first three hours pacing from Sophie; tireless support from Jamie, Drew, and Bob at the Aid Stations; critical pacing from 42.5 mi on from Drew; and finally, the sense of immense accomplishment that every CAT member finished the race. 

Getting down to brass tacks, I ran the first three hours easy with Sophie until I began moving a little quicker from 3a-5a following Camping Gap AS.  I felt pretty good coming into Headforemost AS, and executed a complete top layer and bottle change.  I hit my first real low minutes later, and in the quiet of the climb out of Headforemost came close to quitting – inexplicably, minutes later I blasted through the wall like a wrecking ball (Thank God and caffeine) and blasted into Jennings Creek AS and the race with myself was on.  The cheers from Bob and Drew here seriously lifted my spirits and with them the sun came up.  By Little Cove Mountain I realized that I wasn’t going to hit solid food until Bearwallow (BUMMER) but definitely provided the incentive to RUN. 

I hit Little Cove on or near my seed place (28th) at this point, and made a pact with myself to be careful on the Devil Trail and keep keep keep keep moving.  I rallied out of that aid station and rocked the next section of the course, and was pure focus coming into 42.5 miles where I knew I could finally get some real solid food (the expression on my face in one of Bob’s photos scares me with the intensity I’ve got).  Horton and I exchanged some banter about the course, and Drew and I headed out of there in a hurry (with hot meat in my hand and and ginger ale in my handheld!).

There are not enough expletives in the English language to describe how I felt about the "forever section," though I used every single one as Drew and I joked, talked, and then shut up power-hiked, running the downhills and flats where I could (I can still move?).  We hiked 3 miles up and ran the 3 miles downhill to the finish line at around 2p, during which I was nauseous from the pain in my ankles.  Luckily, I had nothing to vomit so I just told myself "KEEP RUNNING."  I shed my top layer so Drew and I could both brandish our CAT shirts because it was definitely time to REP MY CITY.
Horty tells Mike he should've run a bit harder to break 14 hours.
I finished in 14:03, 20th overall/2nd age group, and I was pretty emotional when I finally sat down – tears for each thought as I realized I completed my first 100K at Hellgate, thought about the hours of training with CAT + B’s, overwhelmed with the tremendous support throughout the race, and disoriented since I have found a new place in my head with new limits to push.
 Will I be back next year for it? 
It’s tempting.

The last race of the season, a tough 66.6 mi through the mountains around Natural Bridge, VA , basically Hellgate was a trip. I must admit I was a little under-prepared, even though there are many race reports and excellent course descriptions out there I didn't educate myself much before (Sorry Horty, I'll usually do better.). It turns out the race itself is a very VERY good teacher. I enjoyed it a lot, it was painful but very rewarding.

Creek crossing at mile 3 or so
I felt a little off and not quite in the mood for a race but figured it's hanging out with friends in the mountains, so its gotta be fun. I did nurse a knee-injury (?!) from MMTR and inflamed my right foot (the ball, must have hit a rock wrong or something) with RICE and didn't put in much training mileage (20, 20, 30 mi per week) and no real long run. But I managed to get in some strength work and elliptical, which helped a lot I think.

It was kind of interesting as I didn't exactly know where I was during the race and if I had worse terrain ahead of me or not. I started at the end of the pack and a few hours later got my first lesson without realizing it. Of course when you start at midnight you are kind of tired already, so I figured I'll take gels and Perpetuem Solids with caffeine the first couple of hours. I realized that there was chance of crashing but thought it can't be that bad. Well it can be, I crashed after a couple of hours and got super tired.
Sleep-walking to Aid Station 4, mile 21
While walking the climbs I closed my eyes and imagined  how nice a warm bed would be.. - then a white bright light! a flash! A FLASH?? ..of a photographer at 3am in the morning on a steep climb woke me. I thought that's odd and went on, awake.

I kept going and got to chat with a couple of people: two were just talking about DNF's and "..that it's at all not that bad ... and if you don't feel like it just quit..." - that planted an idea in my head that I kept contemplating for the next hour or so but argued that I really wanted that finisher shirt (and don't disappoint myself nor the other CAT's who gave tireless support during the whole adventure), and it would mean I really have to come back next year to finish (which now of course I want to come back in 2012 regardless of the finish).

We had full moon that night which made it possible to run a lot without headlamp and that was amazingly beautiful. Wow! My knee and leg held up the entire race which was great and a good motivation boost. The balls of my feet were starting to hurt with every step. Walking made it feel less irritating, so I did that a lot. Every once in a while I found somebody that I could run with and made it a goal to keep up. Man, some of those downhills are really nice and fast. Love it! A motivation boost.

By the time of daylight I felt much better and the excitement of the race carried me. I was hoping to catch up to Sophie and even Mike which gave me goals to work for. I got passed by a guy (Gary) that I believed had a fun time blasting downhills at night and decided that I wouldn't loose him out of my sight. Then some kind of switch turned: "Accept the pain and stop suffering" became my mantra for the remainder of the race. In other words, don't think about the pain - just run. We kept a steady pace and ran as much as we could, even the Devil trail. I felt elevated by passing people and hearing from the CAT-Crew that I made up time. I heard that I was just 5min behind Sophie and so Gary and I decided to put it up a notch and a little while later passed her.Gary pulled me quite a bit and I am not sure if I had run that much in the end. In fact I stopped running in the forever section and let him go. The rest of the race I ran-walked and gave all I had on the last downhill to the finish. I was surprised to see my final time and just finishing 30mins after Mike. I was relieved to make it to the finish. A 100k was a new distance for me so finishing it was emotional and made me hungry for more. 

It was amazing to have Jamie (my wife) at every aid station for crewing and moral support as well as Bob and Drew who did a flawless job in getting me quickly through. Often times you just think about when you hit the next aid station rather than what you want to get at an aid station. Those guys always knew what I wanted and when I wanted. Perfect!

Lessons learned:
- Avoid caffeine overdose at beginning of a race
- Accept the pain and stop suffering
- Having friends at aid stations crewing you is crucial!
- Make little goals and work for it. 



Receiving my 5th time Hellgate finisher award and Beast award.  To the left is Clark Zealand and to the right is the legend Dr. David Horton, each direct 3 races in the Beast Series.

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all CAT members, especially Drew, Mike, Joey, Christian, Nick, Bob, Sophie and the husbands and wives of these great individuals.
Without all of you guys and the rest of the CAT group I don’t think I would have finished The Beast Series this year. 
CAT in general has made training so much easier, more enjoyable and the miles seem to fly by on the long runs.  The support from this group is amazing in such a short period of time!
I am excited for the new year, new trails and some hard training.  I have new goals for this year, but most of all I can’t wait to get back on the trails with all of you and have fun!!!!!

As for Hellgate, things went so so.  I was making pretty good time through aid station 5 then I slowed quite a bit.  Nothing really horrible just felt tired and run down.  I had been sick for the two weeks prior which may have had something to do with it but I was hoping to run faster.  The goal was sub 15 hours, and once I knew that was out of reach I just slowed down and enjoyed the day.  Still managed to get in right at 16 hours though.  The weather was perfect, I would say in the 20’s when we started at Midnight and maybe 45 during the day.  Rivers were full and flowing with all the rain we got.  All and all a pretty mild Hellgate, as far as Hellgate standards go.  Don’t get me wrong, cold or hot, snow or rain, the course is still one of the toughest around!


Bob (Crew report):

Drew and I went out to Hellgate to crew, and Drew would pace Mike in from mile 42.  I had a foot procedure done the day before and I wasn't even certain about making it out there, so I didn't want to commit to any specific crewing duties and then not show.  We decided to skip the first part of the race to get some sleep, and Drew picked me up at some ungodly hour so we could be at Jennings Creek just after 6am.  The race started at 12:01am.

The first trick of crewing is to finding the aid stations.  They are often deep in the woods on back roads, even forest service roads.  They had directions for crew to follow the whole race, but we weren't coming from the previous aid station.  I found each of them on Google Maps before the race and drew myself a map and a turn sheet for all of them.  I would not rely on GPS as sometimes roads aren't even marked.  As long as you're on the right road, you'll see other cars and the lights from the aid station if it's still dark.  We had an estimated time for our first runner to appear, and estimated times for each section.  We also had the bib number for each of our runners, so we could check to see if they had already been through, or in case they dropped.

So we settled in for the wait.  Always dress for warmth because you will be waiting there for awhile.  A chair is a good thing too, especially if it's a drop bag station where you runner might need to sit down to change socks.  Christian's wife Jamie showed up, as she had been following him all race, so there was someone else to pass the time with.

Mike came in not long after we got there, looking very strong.  This was the "breakfast" aid station so we made sure he knew what was available and where, and refilled his water, and got him back on the course as quickly as possible.  Same with Sophie, who was running watch-free, and her first words were "I don't want to know the time!"  Christian came in next, looking a bit more tired, so we kept him in the aid station a bit longer trying to push food (fuel) on him.  Next was Jenny, who had JJ crewing for her, so I just gave her a few words of encouragement and stayed on the side to see if there was anything I could help with.  Then Marc ambled in.  I think he had been sick during the week and wasn't full strength, so he was just going for a finish and not too worried about time. 

The 5 of them were within 45 minutes of each other, so it was great that we got to see them all, and all were in good to great shape.  We moved on to the next aid station, Little Cove Mountain.  This was a narrow road that we had to turn around on, so Drew parked further down the road to make sure we could get out easily.  Mike was again first in our group, a bit worn from the climb.  We reminded him that this was the last section he'd have to do alone.  Sophie looked as strong as ever, and Christian seemed to perk up a bit now that the sun was up.  We got their headlamps since they wouldn't need them anymore.  We started walking to the car since Drew had to make certain to be at the next aid station to pace Mike, and as we got there we saw both Jenny and Marc cresting the hill, holding steady.

Bearwallow Gap was a drop bag aid station, so we found their bags so we wouldn't waste time on a search when they came in.  Both Mike and Sophie wanted burgers from the aid station grill, so about 15 minutes before they were due in we had them get them ready.  We started recognizing other runners and the order they were coming in, which helped us know when ours were due, if all was going well.  Mike was fired up as he came in, and he and Drew took off.  Runners took just a bit more time at this one to make sure they got what they needed from their bags and made any clothing changes as it was getting a bit warmer, but not much.  Still, I was impressed at the focus as they got in and out efficiently.  Nobody was dragging in, so our job was to expedite them through.

Off to Bobblets Gap.  The field was spreading out, so we had to hurry.  They were checking in runners at each aid station, and as we got there I saw Mike had already been through.  I was sad about this for a minute until I realized it was A Good Thing as it meant he was zipping along, moving up from 28th to 23rd.  Besides, he had Drew with him to help out, and they knew we might not make it in time.  I was glad we made it in time for Sophie though, as I had another bottle that she was counting on.  Christian was starting to close the gap and looked solid.  Jenny was struggling a bit but another friend called her husband as she came in so she got a pick up talking to him.  JJ offered to pace her in, and she took it.  Marc came in next, no worse than before.

The last aid station was way around a mountain and we knew we couldn't see everyone, and didn't want to miss the finish, so we skipped it.

The Hellgate finish line was odd.  There was a roped chute, a chalk line, and a clock, and absolutely no one there.  Everyone was inside the building 10 yards beyond, even the time keepers.  When someone came in, Horton would pop out and greet them.  We set up chairs outside and sat and watched and rang the cowbell for each runner.  I felt bad for one guy when Horton missed him, and he just stood there, and asked us if anyone was taking times, or what the deal was.  It's nice that everyone else stays warm inside, but the finish is a let down when you are used to people cheering you in.

We figured Mike had an outside shot at 14 hours, and he breezed in at 14:02.  We expected Sophie next, but recognized the guy Christian came into Bobblets with, and he said the two of them blasted the next section.  Sure enough, Christian was next.  He got stronger as the race went on.  Sophie was not too far behind, very happy with a big PR.  Runners had been trickling in every 2-5 minutes, then there was a huge gap of around 30-45 minutes.  Finally a couple more came in, then Marc.  We asked where he had passed Jenny, and he said "Huh?"  Uh-oh.  Another spectator said she saw Jenny at the last aid station so we knew she hadn't dropped.  After a few more anxious minutes, she came in, all smiles.  She had missed a turn and probably 15-20 minutes where Marc and a couple others passed her, but figured it out and got back on course.

All in all, a fun day.  It's a nice perspective to watch the race.  It's interesting to see how runners are doing at various points, and it's just amazing to see them sometimes getting stronger as they get deeper into a race.  I was really impressed that nobody seemed to get too low out there.  It may have been different at points between the aid stations, and that's a view that pacing can give you.  It's really not that hard of work to crew, you just need to be prepared, and immediately switch from down time to full speed to get your runner through.  And no runner wants to hear how cold or tired you are or any problems you had getting there, so you really have to keep in mind it's all about them.  CREW stands for Crabby Runner, Endless Waiting, but we were fortunate not to have any cranky runners that day.

Andrew (Crew & Pacer report):

Crew report:

My alarm went off at 3:07 a.m. and shortly thereafter, I was parked at the Dripping Rock pull off on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The full moon illuminated a dusting of freshly fallen snow on exposed rock, and cast silhouettes from scraggy trees which faded into the dark of the forest.

I stood outside of my car, feeling the cold, and looked at the AT crossing the parkway. It was a beautiful night. A wave of jealousy came over me as I thought of my friends and 100+ other runners currently traversing the Hellgate 100k course.

I was snapped out of my day dream by a headlamp appearing through the trees, weaving up and down, flittering in and out as its wearer passed behind trees. Bob made his way down to the parkway, his shoulders hoisting bags full of food, blankets, and extra clothing. We piled in the car and the headlights of the car parted the early morning darkness as we made our way towards Jennings River Road.

We had planned on beginning to crew for our fellow CATs at aid station 5, Jennings Creek, at mile 30 (Horton mile 27). Our intentions seemed reasonable when we first calculated the estimated time of arrival for the CAT frontrunners. However, Hellgate maven Sophie informed us our estimated times were too late and that we would need to arrive at least 50 minutes earlier if we wanted to catch our runners. Having already made the decision to start crewing at aid station 5, we rolled back our alarm clocks to begin our morning 50 minutes earlier.  Therein lies an important lesson- if Sophie has a recommendation or opinion counter to your own regarding anything ultra related…she’s probably right! No more than 10 minutes after we arrived, our first CAT runner came descending off the mountain into Jennings Creek aid station.

I’d recently read that CREW was an acronym for Crabby Runner Endless Waiting. With its 12:01 a.m. start time, wet course and long stretches between aid stations, I figured today of all days, this acronym would prove accurate. However, Jennings Creek set the tone for the remaining aid stations I would be present at- mentally and physically strong runners, focused on the task at hand and eager to continue on with their races.

I won’t get overly verbose in the specifics of my day; instead, I want to quickly dispel the CREW acronym I was expecting to encounter:

Crabby Runner-First, plain and simple, no crabby CATs were encountered. I attribute this to well trained/prepared runners. The training specificity of opportunities available to CATs helped create familiarity with conditions they were going to encounter on the course. Joining up with the group to tackle training runs with endless climbs and descents on the Priest and Three Ridges as well as running through the dark on the rocky leaf-strewn trails of OHill prepared runners for what they were going to encounter during Hellgate. Further, utilizing the knowledge of Hellgate veterans Sophie and Marc, everyone knew what to expect going into the event.

Endless Waiting- If I had crewed at this event last year, the waiting may have been noticeable. However, through CAT, I have had the opportunity to meet many other runners in the Charlottesville area, as well as a huge network of runners throughout Virginia by participating in VHTRC events. When I go to events now, running or crewing, I am amazed at the number of runners I know by name. Instead of waiting on a lone runner to make it to the aid station, I am constantly checking on the needs of other runners I know as they come through the aid station. If anything, we struggled with not having enough time at each aid station!

If you haven’t crewed, you’re missing out on an integral slice of the ultra pie. Many of us rely heavily on our crews during a race. It’s good to turn the tables and see what your crew experiences while you’re out there running. As runners, we often have the same approach to our crew as we do to utilities like water or electricity- they’re simply there when we want them to be!  Of course there are behind the scenes logistics! See Bob’s take for more info on that.
Pacer report:
I joined up with Mike as he came through Bearwallow aid station, mile 46 (Horton mile 42.5).

Some of the highlights of our 20 miles together:

Along the beautiful traverse from Bearwallow to Bobblets Gap, we reached consensus about how great the course was and how funny it was that people let Horton play mind games with them.  We also disagreed about the benefit of answering certain calls of nature during a race (It's totally worth it!).

The first climb of the Forever section needs a hug after the verbal lashing Mike gave it (but it totally deserved it).

Somewhere in the forever section-

Mike: Audible Grunt

Me: Is that a grunt of pain or satisfaction?

Mike: (long reflective pause) I don’t know

On the last climb of the race leaving Day Creek aid station, French runner Olivier passes us in a serious power hike. I prod Mike to keep him in our sights so we can catch him on the descent. Mike’s response, “Dude’s got UTMB thighs, I’m cool letting him go!”

Climbing and descending the final section I pushed Mike pretty hard. He dug deep and stayed by my side, eager to close out the race.

Mike made my job easy. He never needed me to spur him on or reminders to take an s-cap or a sip of ginger ale. I got him to take some extra calories in a few times, but that was about it. For a debut 100k, Mike was really strong, running almost all of the climbs up to the Forever section and hitting the descents hard despite his ankle having taken a beating earlier in the race.

I had an absolute blast pacing. I hope to be back next year and cover the beginning 46 miles, plus the last 20!


Friday, November 18, 2011


While the CATs were up James River way

Running through the Blue Ridge

On a beautiful day

While Bob went delirious

And David got serious

Joey and Christian did impress

And Sophie clinched the L-U-S

Jenny coordinated with her mean green

Marc the Beast was a machine

While Drew sported his hipster hat

And Harry Landers chewed the fat

I ran the Lithia Loop

And that course deserves a trail “woop!”

Through the sleet and through the snow

A skinny b from the east

Gave it a go.

I had the opportunity to visit Ashland, Oregon for a job interview a couple of weeks ago and – sweet coincidence – the USA Track & Field Trail Marathon Championship was the Saturday after my interview. 

The week before the race I ran with Hal Koerner et. al. (Race RD) from his Rogue Valley Runners store, which is great store in the heart of town.  He is a nice laid-back guy, and frankly you would never guess he has a freak-of-nature, trail-eating, ultra-dominating beast within him that he releases for races – he just laid down a 13:47:46 @ Javelina.  We had a good size group for their weekly run, and picked up trails right out of the center of town - “where Ashland ends, the trails begin.”

The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon starts and finishes in Lithia Park, which connects to the center of town.  From the park, the course circumnavigates the Ashland watershed accumulating 9,200 feet of elevation change on dirt roads and trails with approximately 2 miles of asphalt.  At the race start, the temperature gauge on my rented minivan (oh yes), read 36 degrees and it was starting to rain.  I was wearing running shorts, gloves, a singlet, and a thin fleece.  Hm.  That’s when I noticed a shift in paradigm – instead of “What the heck and I thinking?” I thought “Good Hellgate preparation.” 

Being from the Beast Coast and reading “9200 elevation change,” I assumed that there would be some rollers, technical trail, and plenty of pine trees.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the elevation profile:

We kicked off the race with 8 miles of relentless climbing on gravel road, double track, and a smidge of single track.  Yes, 8 miles.  It appears that Oregonians are binge elevation runners.  Having learned that tidbit, I then learned the advantage of running a USATF Championship – the guy sporting a USATF tracksuit at the top of the climb who told me I was in 32nd place overall.  To which I replied, unfortunately audibly...
“Oh h$## no.”

So, I took stock of the situation – there was a half inch of snow on the ground, my thumbs were numb, and there was a mutant squad out front that there was no chance of catching up to (Max King won in 2:31:58 and the top ten finishers all went sub-3).  Maybe next year on the sub-3.

But this was a celebration of a fantastic week, and so it was time to hammer. I got my turnover up on the flat doubletrack which weaved its way through the watershed, admired the pines, and savored the special quiet of running in falling snow.  We then turned down for the final 8 miles which was so aggressive it had come banked turns and I channeled my inner Christian/Drew (who are too humble to tell you this, but are great downhillers) and ran hard.  My shoe came untied with 2 miles to go but I had people to pass and if Usain Bolt can break a world record with his shoe untied, I think I can muster 2 miles of downhill. 

I finished 24th overall with 3:19:18 and had a blast.  I’m sure that next time with the ...ahem… freedom afforded by the skinny b shorts, I’ll be even faster. 

For the aficionados, I also had the chance to visit Eugene while I was out there the weekend before and got to...

(1) run a sub 18 min 5K (still got it! see #9 below)

(2) get humbled by Pre’s training log

and (3) see Hayward Field.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CATs at Masochist

The CATs made a great showing at this year's running of the Mountain Masochist Trail Run (MMTR) 50-miler, held last Saturday starting at 6:30 am.  Counting David Snipes and recent CAT-shirt inductee, Jack Broaddus, we had 12 CAT runners start the race and 12 complete it (the others were Neal Church, Bob Clouston, Joey Cohen, Christian Dahlhausen, Marc Griffin, Brian Kelleher, Jenny Nichols, David Smith, Sophie Speidel, and Jen Ward).

Christian Dahlhausen, Sophie Speidel, Andrew Krueger, Neil Church, Bob Clouston, Joey Cohen, David Smith, Quattro Hubbard after the race
You could not ask for better race-day weather. Cloudless skies and temperatures starting in the low 30s and rising midday to the 50s made for a perfect autumn day in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The CATs performed well on this beautiful day, with two top-30 finishers (Joey, in his first Masochist, placed 22nd, and Christian, with a PR, came in 29th), the Lynchburg Ultra Series female winner (Sophie, also was 6th among the women racers and ran her PR), the Lynchburg Ultra Series female 3rd place (Jenny Nichols, who also PR'd with a 10th-place finish among the field of women), and an age-group winner (Jack Broaddus).  Completing Masochist meant Marc Griffin and David Snipes were that much closer to capping off their fourth consecutive completion of the Beast Series, and newcomer Jen Ward finished her first Masochist after running the Marine Corps Marathon the previous Sunday.  Overall, an impressive group!

The day could not have been the CAT success that it was without awesome crewing from Drew Krueger, Cristina Reitz-Krueger, Jamie Dahlhausen, Ann Rice, and Harry Landers!

Below are pictures from the race and individual summary race reports.  The race reports reflect both the highs and lows from the race, so read on!

This was my second MMTR which made the race not less beautiful (peak of fall foliage) but definitely easier knowing the course. Last year I ran into IT-Band issues after 2/3 of the distance, had to walk quite a bit and soothe the pain with Advil. This year I was a lot better prepared: many more quality mountain miles of training with CATs, a couple of VHTRC events, and last but not least, Skinny B's workouts. My goal was to beat my time (9:55) by an hour and run a sub 9hrs - I figured that I had to run 10:06min/mile's on average to make this reality.

I ran the first mile or two with David and after wishing him well at the turnaround, took off. Generally I stick to the general rule to go out slower the first half of a race and run faster the second half - but not this time. I remembered Horty saying "Don't be stupid" and thought that I am right now but justified running faster by telling myself that the first miles are the easy, flat ones and that there is plenty of walking uphill ahead of me where I could recoup some energy.

During the race I felt a lingering pain in my right knee, immediately I thought this was my IT Band yet again but stuck to my plan and hoped it would just disappear after a while. The pain aggravated a bit but I could keep running without pain relievers. I convinced myself that if I'd run faster, the race would be over faster, hence the suffering would be over sooner as well. (What a stupid thought).

I was happy, felt strong and remembered parts of the course being very hard to run last year and this year everything felt much more do-able. I got to chat with a couple of other runners which made the time pass a lot quicker.  At the half-way point, Long Mountain Wayside aid station, I could immediately spot the bright green CAT shirts - fantastic! The "Drew Crew" (Jamie, Cristina & Drew + Harry Landers) were a great team and provided everything what you could ask for (THANKS!!!), it felt like a quick pit stop in a Formula-1 race. A motivation boost.  Now the real race began. I lagged a little behind my anticipated time but figured I could be able to make it up on the downhills.

A long way up Buck mountain, Rocky music, perfect running weather made the second part go by quick again. I kept up with my nutrition (two gels diluted in 24oz water bottle and one Endurolyte capsule every hour, a couple of snacks at aid stations). I felt much stronger running uphills than last year which kept my motivation going. I made it through the loop in 57mins (1hr 20min in 2010) and still felt I had lots of energy left. Great!

The final miles I ran with Kevin Smith, who was hoping to finish sub-9 as well. Despite feeling strong and keeping up the pace I couldn't quite make it and finished in 9:13. Still, I am really happy with that and felt the difference the better training made. Thanks to all the CAT's, especially the Drew Crew for support and going the distance.



I came into the race well-trained, healthy, and the weather was ideally cool for running.  So why did this race suck so badly for me?

With my birthday 5 days away, this was my "50@50" race, to be enjoyed with plenty of friends running, and a few others crewing/cheering us on.   A few are more or less my speed, so I figured I'd have some company along the way, and would hopefully come in under 10 hours.

The race starts in the dark at the James River on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We run 1.5 miles north, then turn around and head back to 501.  I started with Jenny Nichols so we could keep each other in check early on.  She peeled off near 501 to drop some warm clothes off with her hubby, and then I was running with Rachel Corrigan, who would become the youngest woman finisher in the 29 year history of the race, at 17.  It was quite a sight to follow the string of lights on the loop off the parkway onto 501, and then see the string of lights from other runners following us.

3 miles or so on 501, and we hit the trail and our first climb as it got light.  Jenny caught back up, with Marlin Yoder, and then Sophie Speidel came by and took them with her.  They faded from view quickly, not to be seen again as they all had great races.   I was a bit surprised to lose them but I felt ok about my own running so I wasn't worried.

At 16.7 I was thinking we were 1/3 of the way, but remembered that the course is commonly accepted to be  54 miles.  It seemed to take an eternity to get to 18.  Rachel dropped me and I was on my own now.  More climbing, and things were starting to hurt.  My butt hurt.  My left ankle was stiff.  My back ached.  These are the same problems that used to bother me, and didn't last year because I did more flexibility and core exercises.  Guess what I didn't do much of this year?  I was also getting weaker.  I had been taking a gel every hour and grazing lightly at the aid stations, but wasn't getting enough so I used the next hill to down a power bar and some beef jerky, along with an Aleve.

The downward spiral continued.  Why am I doing this?  I've already run a 50, why do it again?  Do I even like running anymore?  The halfway point aid station is coming up, and I know I can just get my warm sweatshirt and catch a ride or take the bus to the finish.  The trail flattens, and I don't have much of a run in me.  Everyone is passing me.  A 19 minute mile clicks off.  I do some math and figure that I won't make the 12 hour cutoff at this rate.  It's simple math logic.  If I can't finish, why go on?  The course gets a lot tougher in the 2nd half, so there's obviously no way it'll get better.  On an easy gravel road, I catch my foot on something and would fall but I'm going so slowly that I have no momentum, so I stay verticlal.  Yeah, that does it, let's get to the Long Mountain aid station and bag it.  I'm not going to trip and fall for another marathon distance, and I don't want anyone to see what a lousy time I'd have even if I did finish.

Drew sees me and tries to guide me to the food.  No, I say, I need to go to my bag.  What do you need?  I dunno, doesn't matter, I can't make it anyway, everything hurts, might as well stop.  No way, says Drew.  He tears open my bag and tells me to get what I need, and to get moving.  No, you don't understand (I'm telling the guy who barfed his way to a top ten 100 mile finish a month ago), I can't make it.  Drew turns deaf and pushes back out on the trail, putting some food in my hands.  OK, I say, but if I still feel like this at the loop (7 miles after a big climb), that's it.

I start up the hill and hear a couple other people call out "Go Bob".  Great, I hope they didn't see how pathetic I look.  This is a long hard climb, and everyone is walking.  It dawns on me that I'll lose far more respect by quitting than registering any time, or at least trying.   OK, what the hell, I'll probably miss a cut-off, then it's out of my hands, until then I'll keep going.  Funny thing, on the toughest section of the course, I start to recover.  Things stop hurting.  The "Rocky" theme is blaring from the aid station at the top of the climb, and I take off my headphones to hear it.  I get passed by a few more people, but before I know it, I'm at the top, out of the aid station, and running some rollers.  The notion of quitting now seems absurd, and I'm kicking myself for nearly doing it, but I've got to forget about that.

Another climb and then it flattens as I approach the loop.  I knew exactly what Drew would do, he wouldn't even ask how I'm doing, he'd just ask what I needed to get me in and out, and I play along.  Harry is there too, he says I'm looking good, and I call him a liar.  But I am doing better.  The 5 mile loop starts easy and then gets tough, but now I'm the one starting to pass people or at least hang with others.   The dynamics are different back here where cutoffs are in play.  Someone asks me what I think about making it in 12 hours, and I say that if it's really 54 miles, we have to average 16 minute pace, and with these hills, that means it can't be walked in.   A bit later, the trail seems to peter out.  There's someone behind me, and I ask if we're on trail.  Yep.  So I go on.  Campsite.  We're off trail.  Don't be stupid, Horton said before the race.  If you stop seeing the course markers, you're off course, don't keep going.  We double back and find the turn we missed, only a minute or so lost. 

Out of the loop and I see Drew and his wife again.  I want to ask how others are doing but I don't want to hear if anyone else has dropped or missed cutoffs, so I don't ask.  I really have to just focus on my own race.  Going downhill now, and every step I'm taking at 8 or 9 minute/mile pace is putting me in safer territory to finish.  I see Jack from Harrisonburg, who was at my dinner table the night before, and we chat a bit and then he picks it up to try to break 11 hours, which he does.  Up, down and around we go.  I thought there were going to be 3 climbs after the loop, but a 4th one comes, and even though it's not long, it's steep.  I never, ever, completely stop on in a race just to rest, but I take 5-10 seconds here, and then take it.  I ask someone if there is just one aid station left, or two.  Just one.  We get there and they tell us it's 3.8 miles, downhill.  I'm at 10:22, so if it's really 3.8 miles, and I can do 10 minute pace, I'll break 11 hours.  Whopee!

The next mile or so goes ok, and then everything starts hurting again, especially my feet, and my knee feels like it's about to give out.  I decide 11 hours isn't a meaningful goal, so I go to a run/walk, then a walk/run, then a walk.  I don't care, I just want to finish.  I hear 2 girls coming behind me, I think one is pacing the other in, leading her runner in army marching songs and generally screeching her home, probably being the best pacer ever, but I can't stay with them.  Finally the road comes, and I catch a glimpse of cars at the finish, and jog it in.  My running buds spot my orange jacket and cap and cheer me on, and I'm in, at 11:11.  I've got 51.4 miles on my Garmin, which SportsTracks later corrects to 52.01.  The 54 mile course is a myth.  I wonder what that would've done to my outlook mid-race, since the math probably would've worked out to finish.  Next time I'll know, but the course will be changing anyway.

Post-race I'm a bit down about my time, but happy that all of the CATs runners finished, with a few PRs.  As a day or two go by I feel much better about finishing on a bad day, and more grateful that I had the help to go on, and I get overwhelming support from my friends.  I'm also feeling pretty good physically, since I ran it more at training run pace than race pace.

- Come in stronger with a "don't quit" attitude, and if a race starts going back, forget all about time and just concentrate on finishing.
- Have a crew that will push you onward unless you are truly injured or ill
- Slacking on my flexibility exercises bit me, badly.  I think I also didn't do enough mid-week medium long runs.
Next up, Three Bridges Marathon on Sugar Hollow Road near the Charlottesville reservoir, Dec 4.

I entered race day pretty nervous, as this was my first 50-miler.   I knew too that my normal pace on a good day would put me not-too-far ahead of the race cutoff of 12 hours (which meant averaging sub 14-minute miles over the 52-mile course and 9,200 feet of elevation gain).  I had trained for the race steadily since the summer, so I wanted to believe that my training would payoff.  Indeed, I started to feel like I could even maybe pull a sub 11-hour finish!

I don't want to bore you guys with a blow-by-blow of the day, much of the run was a blur.  What I will say is this:  It was a very hard race, with both low and high points.  I finished 20 minutes short of the twelve hour cutoff, in 11 hours, 40 minutes. Now I can't wait to try the race again and improve on my time.  I need to turn the race blur into something more coherent to analyze because I think with some tweaks here and there, and continued quality speed and hill work, I could achieve my sub 11-hour goal next year.  And I loved, loved, loved the race.  Especially after I was finished!

Here are the high points for me:  Great undulating course, with nothing too technical and lots of beautiful mountain scenery; seeing Drew, Cristina, and Jamie at the halfway point at Long Mountain Wayside -- Oh how I had looked forward to that point through the first half of the race; getting to the Loop and being helped again by the "Drew Crew," with the added surprise of having Harry Landers escort me on my run through the Loop -- great time and conversation with Harry; and finally, the hammering, quad-busting run down the last two miles to the finish.  What a blast!

I will also talk a bit about one of my lowest points during the race. It came during the last 1/4 of the race, when I wasn't sure how the last "Horton miles" translated to actual remaining mileage on the course. Horton miles are longer on average than real miles, and can vary in their accuracy from station to station.  I began to fear that because the actual remaining miles were probably much higher than the Horton remaining miles, I wouldn't make AS cut-offs, and even if I did, I would still end up not finishing under 12 hours.  This was especially true through the second-to-last AS (with 7 Horton miles remaining), where I inquired about the actual remaining mileage. I got a shrug from the AS volunteers -- after all they were about ready to pack up -- and an answer along the lines of, "the next four miles are tough, then it is all downhill."  Well, I knew that meant 4 rough Horton miles and then 3 Horton miles downhill.  But what I remembered from earlier conversations and advice from Marc Griffin was that the last 6 miles were downhill.  So I said to myself, "Geez, assuming the next four miles is actually four miles (they could be longer), I still got 6 actual miles of downhill after that."  Doing the math in my mind, I calculated that there was no way I would make it down in time for the 12 hour cutoff.  And yet. . .I had hit all aid stations with 10-15 minutes on the cutoffs, so I didn't get it.  Was this some master Zealand/Horton trick, to take you all the way to the last AS with OK cutoff times, only to shut you out at the bottom??  I spent a lot of time pondering this and hating the run of "four miles" to the next aid station.

Then, as I continued to run/walk this section, hating life and hating running, I realized something  . . the downhill sections seemed to be staying with earnest, and I could even see that there was really no way to go BUT down now, towards the valley!  OK, so the last six miles of downhill begin BEFORE the last aid station.  . .I love you Marc, it all makes sense now!  In no time, I was at the last AS, it was 5:32 pm, and the volunteers there informed me that we had only 3.8 actual miles straight down to the finish.  And that was the end of my lowest, low point!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CAT Road Trip November 19, 2011


Clark Zealand’s Aid Station running store is opening on November 19th with a 5K, and we’re going on a road trip!

What: The Aid Station 5K (link)
Start Time: 10:00 AM
Where: The Aid Station (1035 Avalon Drive, Forest, VA 24551 | Map)
Entry Fee: FREE

Please note that while it is free, you must register!

We’d like to get in more than 3 miles that day, so our plan is to get another 13 in on Terrapin Mountain, site of the eponymous 50k.  So here’s the schedule for the day…

7:30a Meetup @ Greenberry's
7:45a Depart Greenberry's
9:15a Arrive Aid Station/shop/hang out
10:00a Race
10:45 Depart for Sedalia
11:15a Start running up Terrapin Mountain (13 miles total)
2:00p Stop running
3:30p return Greenberry’s

…if you plan on joining us, please let me know!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Run Around the Gorge: One Skinny B in Double-U Vee

Photo credit: Matthew Eluk (thanks Matt!)

My wife and I headed over several mountains and deep into the heart of (former) coal country this weekend to celebrate our anniversary by doing the second annual Run Around the Gorge.

I’ll put the punchline first here: Do it next year.

Mark Lattanzi, an accomplished adventure racer and unbelievable host, has set a course in and around the New River Gorge that is an awesome mixture of rail to trail, shag trail, contouring rollers, uphill, downhill, and country roads (total breakdown is 46 k of trails and 16k of country roads).   The weekend is more “running retreat” than race, depending on what your mentality is.  It is 100% the most beautiful course I’ve run to date and is a fantastic bridge weekend for those looking to move to longer distance (ask my wife Heather who had a blast this weekend) and a killer training weekend for those of us who love to go real long. 

The weekend centers around the opossum creek resort, which *you run back to each day* after starting at two different trailheads.  The resort is quiet and the accommodations are beautiful  and nestled privately in the woods (our cabin had its own hot tub, yes, you read that correctly).  

Heading in:
This weekend was the apex of my high mileage week, and it was a test to see if I could maintain a steady, quick pace after the several months of much higher turnover workouts (including the potentially infamous Skinny B workouts).   I also wanted to check in with myself mentally before I toe the starting line at the Lithia Loop trail marathon in two weeks which sees some serious trailblazing (2:40 was Max King’s winning time last year).   In other words,  I had set myself to run fast and see how it would last.

The Weekend:
Friday night kicks off with a pizza party, friendly outgoing runners, beer, wine, and a very laid back race brief (the best kind).   We headed out the trailhead Saturday for a 24 mile run, beginning with some flat rail trail spiced with a dash of technical downhill.  Yes, please, I’ll have seconds.  We then climbed up a country road into old mining territory and along contouring trails with a full sweeping vista of the gorge as we ran through miles of shag.   We then dumped back onto an impossibly switch-backed country road leading up a wall of pavement too steep to be believed.  The last quarter mile was a rip-roaring trail back to the cabins.  I ran out in front after the first couple of miles and very narrowly edged out two awesome (and very fast) adventure racers & ultra runners Kristin Eddy and Scott Pleban.   Day 1, 24 miles, 3:05.  Recovery included a massage from a therapist on site, hot tub, and smores.  Yes, indeed.

Sunday was a little colder at the start, and it was staged so that the last runner from Saturday started first.  It was awesome to see everyone  over the first several miles of the course and kiss my wife on the way down into the gorge and then the steady hard climb up Beauty Mountain.    It was a technical climb at points, but steady, and I was ready to turn it on so I blasted it up the mountain and out onto a connector gravel road.   The second half of Sunday presents a runner with a choice of the “adventure trail” which has bouldering and ladders, or I guess what could be called the “bobsled run” a very fast, spectacular trail along the rim of the gorge and plunging through rhododendron on your way back to the cabins. Day 2, 16 miles, 2:14.

Photo credit: Kristin Eddy (awesome running!)

The Skinny:
This run is a blast, and a HUGE value when you add up all meals, aid, marked course, transport to start, accommodation  (refer to hot tubs above) , beer, wine, sodas, water, fleece, finisher medal, prizes…it is really amazing.   Add that to the camaraderie of a small group of runners, running back to your cabin site, and the fall colors it is an awesome experience.  There is a ton to do in the area with mountain biking & hiking galore, and most everyone was there with their spouse (though we were the only couple that both ran).

Interested?  Mark your calendar now!
Next year's race will be 26-28 October 2012. Saturday will be a full marathon and Sunday will be 12-13 miles.  Check the website for results and info for next year will be posted in several months time…