Thursday, April 28, 2011

Promise Land 50K+ -- Big day for the CAT!

David Horton and the CAT gang (David, Sophie, Drew, and Joey)

As many of you know, a group of Charlottesville Area Trailrunners were among the 300 or so racers at last weekend's 2011 Promise Land 50K+, a David Horton race with about 34 miles of distance and 8,000 ft of climbing.

We had some big finishes, including a 15th place finsh for Drew Krueger and 20th for Joey Cohen (this was the first run of PL50K for both of them), and 1st Master's female for Sophie Speidel.

Congratulations to all racers!

Sophie's race report can be found on her blog here:

Here are reports by Drew and David:


In the aftermath of Mountain Masochist in November, I found I had done a number on my left IT band. I cut back my running quite a bit and, while rehabbing my leg, watched the pages of the calendar turn along with races I had hoped to run. It was tough to be missing several races I had really been looking forward to; however, I knew not rushing a return to higher mileage and racing was the right decision. I set a soft goal of toeing the line at the Promise Land 50k to mark my return to full health, and this past weekend, that goal came to fruition.

I had put in enough miles training that I felt confident I could have a good day at Promise Land. However, I also had a healthy dose of trepidation as the race approached-my last few long training runs were tough mental battles. Following these tough training runs I was left questioning whether I had over-trained or if, perhaps, I was having a tough time acclimating to running in the heat again. I was hoping for the latter. In either case, I took solace knowing that tough mental runs are small victories in and of themselves, and if I hadn’t overdone my training, these small victories would aid me during tough spots in a race.

Thursday night/Friday morning before the race, things started to go haywire. Our dog become very ill over night, which resulted in very little sleep that night, and a morning running to the vet’s office and various stores around town to fill prescriptions, etc. Our poor guy was in rough shape, and I was reluctant to leave him in the care of a stranger, given his condition, so we decided my wife would stay home with him instead of hanging out at an aid station during the race. I was starting to feel a bit panicky with the dog situation, all that had to be wrapped up before I could take off, and getting out the door to Promise Land! It was great to ride down to the race with David, as hanging out and talking helped to take my mind off everything else that was going on.

I usually feel a good bit of excitement/nervousness prior to a race, but before Promise Land, I strangely didn’t feel much of anything. I made a comment along these lines to David and Joey as we stood around the bonfire the night before the race, and thought to myself that I needed to start thinking about the race and get in the right mindset, and soon! However, as I laid in my tent that night trying to get mentally excited for the race, I felt like I was being steeped in a pool of negativity. Out of nowhere, I started feeling really negative about being at Promise Land, about running the race, and that I would have a really terrible run. I tried to invoke some positive self-talk, but before I knew it my alarm was going off and it was time to get ready.

Getting ready in the morning is fairly regimented for me. I tracked through my mental checklist and was wishing David and Joey good luck at the starting line in no time. As Horton counted down to the start of the race, I did a quick mental check-in. Instead of feeling giddy and ready to run, I felt a wet blanked of negativity wrapped tightly around me. 30 seconds! I took a deep breath, accepting that for whatever reason I was feeling negative and understanding that I was just going to have to utilize some positive self-talk to bring myself out of this funk and get through this race. 5,4,3,2,1, GO!!!!!

The beginning miles of the race climb fairly steadily, and I was a bit alarmed to find myself running side by side with some folks I knew to be very strong runners early in the race, so I backed off the intensity a bit, reminding myself I had a long day ahead of me. Physically, I felt good in the early miles- my legs felt strong and my HR was staying relatively low, despite the incline. After passing through the first aid station, the group I had been running with got spread out a bit, and from about aid station 2 to aid station 6 Keith Knipling, Sandi Nypaver and I played leap frog. I ran for long periods with both Keith and Sandi, and then there were periods where I was running by myself for a long time and I’d suddenly come through the heavy fog and find that Sandi was only 10 yards in front of me, or that Keith was right behind me.

Throughout this period of aid 1 to aid 6 I felt good physically, although I was starting to get a bit hot as I approached aid station 6. Mentally, I was still having on/off bouts of negativity. The negativity was really just annoying. I didn’t feel like it was affecting my running at all, since I was feeling strong, but I would have to remind myself with each little bout of negativity of the mentally tough training runs I had completed and how I would come out of this funk if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

As I came into Aid Station 6 I was anxious for the spur to/from the aid station to see if anyone was just in front or close behind me. It turned out Sandi and another runner were about 1½ minutes ahead of me here and I was about 1½ minutes in front of Keith. While I was hoping to feel a surge of adrenaline, knowing that after the climb up Apple Orchards Falls it was all downhill, it just didn’t come. I think I had missed a few drinks of perpetuem, and I was feeling a little low on energy. I took off up Apple Orchard, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing Sandi again and that Keith would be closing on me shortly. As it turned out, Keith started catching up sooner than I had hoped due to some navigational issues on my part. A few minutes after starting the climb up Apple Orchard Falls I came to a diversion in the trail and didn’t see course markings in either direction. I stopped running to assess if I had overlooked any course markings. Again, I didn’t see any course markings, so I decided to keep running for about 30 seconds. If I didn’t see any course markings in that time I was going to make my way back to this point. I ran up the trail, didn’t see any markings, so in frustration I ran back to my original location to wait and ask Keith where the trail went. Just as I got back to the original spot I saw Keith approaching. Keith apparently noticed my confusion and yelled out that the trail kept going straight. Keith eventually caught me on the climb and I watched him speed ahead of me. The climb was getting me! I felt like I was overheating, so I stopped at several stream crossings and doused myself with the cold water. Also, my calves were cramping up a bit, so I popped an S Cap and continued plodding up the trail.

It was a huge relief when I saw Bob up the trail and realized the climb was over. I pulled into the aid station, took down a few cups of water and prepared for the fast downhill. I had little hope of catching back up with Keith in this section, but I still tried to run the first bit fairly fast. I hadn’t seen anyone coming from behind, so I wasn’t too worried about being caught from behind.

After a few miles of the downhill my abs and back were seriously revolting. It felt like my abs were about to burst they were so tired. I looked back up the road behind me and didn’t see anyone coming. Also, I hadn’t seen any signs of Keith ahead, so I felt I had my spot in the race fairly well sewn up. As such, I decided to back off the pace a bit and enjoy the last couple miles into the campground.

Despite the significant core pain, I was feeling pretty good. I appreciated the opportunity to relax the last bit of the race and reflect on running strongly despite an oddly negative mental day for me. It would have been easy to phone the race in and just run relaxed the whole day, but I was pleased that I had continued to run fairly aggressively all day. I started to see cars in the distance and knew the end was near.

It was great coming into the campground to a bunch of cheers and enjoying the last few yards. As I crossed in 5:38 Horton yelled out my name, and congratulated me. Perhaps the biggest highlight of my day came next when Horton looked down at my race number (#94) and yelled out, “Boy, I seeded you wrong!”

The post-race celebration, like the entire race event was a blast. It was great to meet so many runners and to cheer in the rest of the CAT runners as they came into the campground.
Congratulations to all the CAT runners on races well run. Again, the support of the club has been absolutely great throughout the build up to the event as well as during the event (thanks again for coming out to cheer us on, Bob!)


This was my second running of the PL50K and my fifth 50K since I began running ultras about 18 months ago. By far, this is my favorite. The natural beauty of the course, the tough uphills and long, gentle downhills, combined with a kick-butt atmosphere at the Promise Land Campground, makes for a great race experience.

Last year, I ran a very slow 8:22 but was still all jazzed up after finishing. My plan this year was to use a substantial buildup in training volume and speed work to make a significant improvement in my race time.

Things during training season didn't go quite as planned. After putting in very high quality training prior to Holiday Lake in February, my volume slacked off considerably because of heightened problems with my piriformis, and because of a busier work schedule during my teaching semester.

But I wasn't about to give up on running the PL50K given how much fun I had last year. And I was inspired in recent weeks to go for it, both by Bryon Powell's discussion on of enjoying races when not as well trained and by Bob Clouston's great effort this year to finish at Boston with an injured calf.

So we when Drew and I set off by car for the race Friday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good. The ride down was great, as were the camp atmospherics that night. It was fun joining up with Joey Cohen there and hanging out with him, great to see Marc Griffin, fun to see Sophie and meet her gang at the camper, and of course, very entertaining to watch David Horton in action during the "schwag" giveaways.

The race started promptly that morning at 5:30 am in light rain. At first, I was far from inspired as I trudged slowly up the first long hill, which seemed to go on forever and which I seemed to walk slower than everybody else in the race. But at AS 1, I knew from last year that the running would get more fun, so I perked up and started to pass folks. The run down the grassy jeep trail to AS 2 was as fun as I remember last year. It was here that I saw Quattro "Q" Hubbard for the first time and heard him giving race advice to others as he ran with them. Nothing was more inspiring then rolling into AS 3 in the fog and seeing Bob Clouston there. What a big spirit lift! Bob reported to me that Drew was running well, I grabbed some more water and eats, and was feeling now like this race was going to be a lot fun.

And the rest of the race WAS fun. I followed mentoring advice (mainly from Bob) and made constant progress forward, moving quickly through aid stations, and made sure I was popping Endurolytes and eating gel on a regular basis to stave off cramping and keep the energy up. I also let gravity be my friend as I could see that I could pass many on downhill sections --I guess my thick body provides the mass needed to gain momentum downhill while not giving up much in terms of energy. At the beginning of the race, I often got passed again on the way back up a hill, but by the second half of the race, once I passed someone on the downhill, I never saw them again until the finish -- a good feeling.

From Colon Hollow on, I met up and ran near a couple of newlyweds, Kelli and Craig, from Gainesville, FL. They were fun and great to chat with, both because I lived in Gainesville for two years when I taught at UF and because Kelli and I ran near each other in last year's PL50K and both wondered how we would finish in this year's race. Kelli and Craig were great too because they were a young couple that were just finishing up school and readying themselves with new careers and a life outside of Gainesville.

Anyway, as the three of us made our way up the Apple Orchard Falls trail -- shuffling and power walking but never needing to stop -- we decided to shoot for a sub 8-hour finish. By the time we got back to Sunset Overlook that meant booking down the last 4+ miles to the race finish in less than an hour. And that we did! My legs felt amazingly good during that last stretch as I continued to pass many faces familiar from the first half of the race.

By the time I reached the Horton last-mile marker (at 33+ miles), I was ready for the race to be over, but knew that sub-8 was in the bag. I finished in 7:52:29, or about 30 minutes faster than last year! (Kelli and Craig came in together right around the 7:50 mark).

For any of you that have not run this race, it is a challenging but very rewarding run, especially if you love the great mountain outdoors!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sweetwater 50K

Last weekend, Mike Stadnisky ran the Sweetwater 50K in Atlanta. Here is his report:

I was in Atlanta this past weekend visiting family and I ran the Sweetwater 50K. If you ever get a chance, I would grab your fiddle and follow the devil down to Georgia

- it is a killer race!

In the first 3 miles, I saw the sun rise over Sparks reservoir, slid down and rope-climbed out of a gulley running with water, and dunked into a hip-deep creek. Unfortunately, the river crossing was cut out of the course as we got torrential rains Friday night in Atlanta (which came up to Cville on Saturday and turned Riverview Park into a sand-dune). The river was flowing great, so well in fact, it inundated the riverside trail at several points.

The first half of the loop is wonderful, moderately technical singletrack following the eponymous creek, falls, and past ruins of an old mill. This part of the course is beautiful, and is best compared to a highlight reel of the best parts of the Potomac Heritage Trail and Great Falls trails.

And then there is the second part of the course, which is a meat grinder. The website modestly states that the course includes "some area outside the park nicknamed Top of the World (TOTW) and Powerlines. These areas are where runners will find some of the more challenging terrain." The grades and relentlessness of the parabolic, pain-inducing powerline are truly fantastic. You simply *cannot* run up these hills - you climb and then you bomb down the other side, sip and repeat. It's worth it though, from TOTW, you can see the downtown Atlanta skyline and the course mercifully returns to singletrack, giving way to shag for the last 2 miles.

Then you do the loop again, mentally steeling yourself for the powerline section. The race was a blast, my race-day nutrition was finally in place, I (uncharacteristically) tapered - all adding up to taking third in my age group/28th overall with 5:57:49.77.

Get down there sometime and run it!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Congratulations Bob!

Despite injury Bob made it and finished the Boston Marathon in 4:35hrs. I am sure it was  a tough one. Go get some beer now Bob, you deserve it!

Appologies to post this road race result, but Bob assured us he will be back on the trails soon!

5k 10k 15k 20k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k
0:28:13 0:58:33 1:29:51 2:01:11 2:07:38 2:33:16 3:10:00 3:44:17 4:20:27
Finish: Start Offset Pace Proj. Time Offl. Time Overall Gender Division
00:07:10 0:10:30 4:35:01 17799 11019 2204

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bull Run Run 50 miler – Volunteer reports

Last weekend, Sophie, Drew, and my daughter, Ceci, and I all volunteered at VHTRC’s Bull Run Run 50 mile race. Sophie acted as a sweep on the north part of the course, Drew worked the Marina aid station, and Ceci and I worked the Wolf Run Shoals aid station. This is one of VHTRC’s signature events, so it was very exciting for me to take part and also to see what is like on the volunteer side of things at a big race.

Here are quick rundowns from Sophie, Drew and me on our experiences:

Sophie's report:

I have started BRR four times, finishing in 2005 (9:03) and 2006 (9:00) and dropping due toa calf injury in 2008 and heat issues in 2009. After these DNFs (my only DNFs in my nine years of running ultras), I realized that training for and racing a 50 miler in early April was not a good idea for me---there are too many work-related stressors at this time of year, and, coupled with the threat of the first hot day of the year and being a very poor heat runner, it made more sense for me to volunteer and give back to the event than run it.

Last year I swept the last 15 miles of the course and ended up missing the post-run party. The last runner finished thirty minutes after the race cut-off, and we arrived back to the finish to be greeted with a closed finish area and folks packing up. This year I wanted to help out but also experience the post-run festivities, so I was happy to sweep the first 15- mile section with my good friends Jill Quivey and Kirstin Corris.

I arrived at the start about thirty minutes after the race had begun, and ran down to the first creek crossing in time to see the middle of the pack attempt to cross one of the many creeks of the day. Some folks actually took the time to remove their shoes while most others were smart and ran straight through the water instead of waiting in a long line to cross the stone pylons. The next creek crossing was very dicey, as the pylons were all submerged in at least a foot under water, and the current was moving swiftly. One poor foot placement and you would be in the water! In fact, a runner did fall in and get fully submerged at a creek crossing upstream, but escaped (relatively) unscathed. Other runners were a muddy mess, having wiped out several times on the slick mud. Needless to say this was a "mud year" and perhaps the worst since 2006.

Sweeping is fun because you can see the entire race field, greet your friends as they run past, clean up the course markings, and then take a shower and cheer at the finish line. It was a perfect day, temperature-wise, for a 50 miler in the woods. I would strongly recommend Bull Run as a first 50 because of the impressive organization, course marking, great schwag, and post-run party...but mostly for the beautiful, runnable course that winds along historic Bull Run with the bluebells in all their glory.

Happy Trails!

Drew's report:

I had a great time volunteering at the Marina Aid station (miles 21 & 44.9). I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the runners come through the aid station, and it was especially neat to be able to see them come through twice. (Picture of Drew hard at work.)I was amazed at how positive the runners all were, especially the second time through. Some of my personal highlights for the day were the runner who came through into our aid station and unfurled a Ziploc baggie full of bacon-and chowed down on it, and the unfortunate runner who came through caked head to toe in mud. When asked what had happened he simply replied, “There was an incident….” Additionally, I think we sometimes get focused simply on the front runners of the race and, in a way, tend to overlook the stories and struggles of the rest of the runners. It was very cool to be among some VHTRC vets who pointed out the stories of runners as they came through the aid station and helping to urge on runners who were struggling towards the finish.

Aside from enjoying the runners coming through our station, it was great to hang out with all the fellow volunteers at Marina. While I was slightly envious I wasn’t among the runners out on the course, I certainly enjoyed spending the day with a great crew of individuals and helping some fellow runners to enjoy what appeared to be a wonderfully run event.

For anyone looking for a great 50 miler to run or volunteer at, I highly recommend Bull Run Run!

David's report:

Ceci and I worked at Wolf Run Shoals (WRS), which is the aid station for miles 26.1 and 39.9 in the race. WRS is a bit special because it has long been organized by a couple from Baltimore, Stan and Margie, who have taking to dressing up each year according to a theme. Themes are kept top secret until race day. This year’s theme was “Toy Story” and so I dressed up as Woody and Ceci was Bo Peep. Other characters present included Buzz Light Year, Mr. Potato Head, Jessie, Ham, and the slinky dog whose name escapes me (See here for a picture of the Toy Story crew). Dressing up made for lots of fun as the runners came through and my daughter had a great time with it too.

Personally, I liked having this great perspective that one misses as a race as a middle- to back-of-the-packer: I got to see all runners from the start to the back! It was enjoyable to see the leaders coming through, especially the impressive Matt Woods, who won the race, and Annette Bednosky, who I have heard a lot about and who seemed very pleasant. It was also wonderful to see all the happy, joking, and friendly folks that stop in for hydration and food. And, I also felt for those that struggled some. Overall, it was a great day. I look forward to volunteering in a race again soon!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rip Rap/Wildcat Loop 1.5 times

Yesterday, Rebecca and I got to enjoy the extremely nice weather on a tour of the Riprap/Wildcat trail loop that branches off the AT inside the Shenandoah National Park. The loop was Rebecca's idea. I had never done it before and couldn't believe how beautiful it turned out to be, especially the rocky ridge run that then descends down to the gorge, waterfall, and swimming hole.

Our goal was to do the loop twice for about 19 miles, but time constraints and some tired feet and butt (mine) gave Rebecca the idea to stop at the swimming hole on the second go-around, soak sore extremities/trunk, and then head back up the way we came.

So we ended up doing just under 16 miles with 3,788 feet in elevation gain.

By the way, haven't we seen pictures of this swimming hole before via Sophie? It is heaven!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Carter's Mountain and Secluded Farm Trails

A beautiful early spring morning greeted us as we explored the trails and woods surrounding Carter's Mountain and Monticello today. Blake, Drew, Joey, Rebecca, Christian, Quatro and I had a great run up the Saunders Trail boardwalk (the first two miles of the Montalto Challenge 5K), then we took a special trail for a little Promise Land 50K quad trashing preparation before hitting the awesome single track that climbs and descends Carter's Mountain. These trails are perfect for hill repeats as they have sustained climbs of 15 minutes and more, and they vary in technical-ity: some are so smooth they would be hard pressed to be described as "trails" and other sections are rocky and craggy like parts of the Massanuttens.

We ran for a total of two hours and put in about about ten miles at an easy pace, but we hammered the downs and tried to run the ups as much as possible. This is a perfect training ground for your next hilly trail race, or for just a relaxing run very close to downtown. In the fall, hike the main trail up to Carter's Mountain Orchard with some cash and a backpack and come back down with apples, pies, donuts and the satisfaction of not driving up there with the masses!

Thanks for joining me, everyone. Let's do it again soon!

Photos by Christian:

Map of these awesome trails