Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 Cotton Row 10km

2010 Cotton Row 10km

Official Race Results

In as few as seven days prior to Cotton Row I was totally unsure if I was going to be able to race, even the lower competition 5km, let alone the highly competitive 10km on Memorial Day. Then I had what I can only describe as a breakthrough week of training. I was coming off of the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run two and a half weeks earlier and a lackluster performance on dead legs at the Scenic City Half Marathon. I had no confidence whatsoever in the ability of my legs to turnover quickly enough to be more than an after thought at Cotton Row.

Here was my training week leading into the race.

Sunday May 23: Ran the Cotton Row 10km course twice at a very aggressive pace coming off the top of the hill on each loop.

Monday May 24: Busy day at work so was left to hit the elliptical at work during lunch which was actually a blessing as it gave my feet and joints a day off from the pounding.

Tuesday May 25: Track workout at Huntsville High School with 8x400 meters and 200-meter recovery. I was going to hit them at 80 seconds per, but after going 76 on the first one, I kept them all at that level or better. Repeats were at 76, 76, 76, 75, 75, 75, 75, and 71. The last four were at 4:58 pace and the temperature was in the upper 80's. Later that night I went home and was ill all night from going so hard.

Wednesday, May 26: Ran the Panorama 10 miler course, cutting it short because of the weather. I started out at 7:30 pace for the first mile, and then slowly picked up the pace, finishing at 6:30 pace for 7.25 miles. It was a great run, despite having some stomach and GI issues late in the run that forced a stop in the woods. I was not as ill as after Tuesday's run, but this is par for me; feeling ill after hard workouts when I am not in shape to be running that hard.

Thursday, May 27: Had to meet with WAAY 31 to film the news story on Cotton Row, so just ran while they filmed and then did a few hill repeats after in Jones Valley.

Friday, May 28: Met with Joey and Kathy at Fleet Feet at 6am and ran the Fanning Trail hybrid loop. This is a 1-mile warm up followed by a 0.87-mile straight hill climb on technical trails. I was out to run my best ever on the climb (previous was 11 something) and this morning I ran a personal best of 9:54. Then we proceeded to hit the rest of the Green Mountain trails and then roads back to Fleet Feet. The hill climb was a tremendous confidence booster as I ran it hard and was not totally wasted after the summit.

Saturday, May 29: Ran the 10km loop at Cotton Row at 6am, picking it up late and striding out at a fast pace. The last 2 miles were a test for the race and I was wearing my new Nike Lunar Racers +. It was the first run I have done in over 3 years where I did not wear inserts for my arches. It felt really good and I was confident that I could run in the Racers on race day.

Sunday, May 30: Basically a day off where Laura and I just jogged with the dogs.

Summary for the week: I have not had a week with as many quality runs as this in a long time. Based on the results and effort from this week, I am going to run at least the 10km at Cotton Row just like I was in top 10km shape.

The night before the race, I looked at my splits from the two previous years and developed a race plan that I thought could work. In my first two attempts at the 10km in 2008 and 2009 I was in great road shape and went out too hard in the first 2 miles and had nothing left in my legs at the top of the hill to bring it home. So this year I decided to go out conservatively and try to negative or even split the second half. My plan was to run a low 36 and beat my Cotton Row 10km personal best of 36:31.

Mile 1: 5:40
Mile 2: 5:45
Mile 3: 6:10
Mile 4: 6:10
Mile 5: 5:40
Mile 6: 5:45
Mile 0.214: 5:30 pace

This would get me to a 36:16.

It was so hard to not surge out at the start while watched a hundred of front liners sprint ahead. Other runners in my class like Kevin Betts, David Purinton, and Jon Elmore left me at the start like I was standing still. I even watched other runners who were slower than me run out front, but I knew from previous experience that running faster than the projected average for this race from the start was not productive for me. Still by the time we hit Lowe I was running even and starting to work my way ahead of those who had gone out too hard.

Mile 1 split: 5:42.19
Average pace: 5:42.19
Projected Finish Time:

In the second mile the pack started to thin out and I was hitting my stride and trying to maintain even breathing. I knew that the course would continue to climb slowly for this entire mile and that it would be about keeping an even effort up passed the cemetery at the 2-mile mark. Lapping my watch it looked like I was slightly off my projected pace but it was very humid and it seemed to be affecting everyone else as well.

Mile 2 split: 5:48.70
Average pace: 5:44.95
Projected Finish Time: 35:20

Making the turn onto Owens, I grabbed some water to moisten my throat and dump a little on the back of my neck. Approaching the split in the road, I had closed the gap on George and was now running stride for stride just a few meters behind him. We passed a few people through here before making the turn onto Mountainwood. We were running closely with Firaya Sult.-Zhdanova, the former Boston Marathon winner in 1992 and 1993. I had gotten to know here pretty well over the last three years while hosting the Elite Dinner and having talked with her. As George and I made the hard left and began to climb, we passed her by enroute to the top.

Mile 3 split 6:07.58
Average pace: 5:52.49
Projected Finish Time: 35:43

I was surprised at coming through the half way point so quickly and almost right where I had planned to be. I grabbed more water at the top of the hill and began my recovery pace, trying to get ready to drop the hammer coming down Bankhead. I felt a little sluggish but as George lead the way down the hill, my leg turnover picked up and the pace got fast. Just like in training over the past few weeks, I was able to speed up in the second half and today was no different. It wasn't the easiest mile, having to climb the second half of Mountainwood and then the short climb to Bankhead, but I was able to come in faster than my plan.

Mile 4 split 6:05.70
Average pace: 5:42.19
Projected Finish Time: 36:30

I love to run the 5th mile of Cotton Row, as it is such a fast mile, being slightly downhill the entire way. Plus I had friends at the intersection of Bankhead and Maysville with DJ Pauli G jamming out some tunes. I have no idea what song he was playing but I could hear it coming and as I approached Slade's house, I picked up the pace and gave high-fives to my friends. I think I got a little carried away as my pace had dropped to 4:30 for a few seconds and my heart was racing. I got it back under check within a couple of blocks and continued to chase George.

Mile 5 split 5:33.02
Average pace: 5:41.24
Projected Finish Time: 36:22

Having run the course a half dozen times in the month of May, I had trained the sixth mile by easing up slightly on the uphill of White Street and getting ready to stride out down Randolph Ave. To mimic my preparation, I slowed slightly and after hitting water one more time, I turned down Randolph and tried to pick up the pace. I felt like I was running at near top speed but not all out. Toward the bottom of the hill and just before climbing into downtown, I remember struggling slightly as I could see DeWayne Satterfield operating a sprinkler for cooling people down. Reaching the intersection of Randolph and Washington, I recalled describing this two-turn sequence to Lori Jandreau as to the last section of the Boston Marathon; a hard right and then a fast left down (Boylston) to the finish. I picked up the pace again, trying to run the tangents on the corners and letting the sound of the crow energize me. Toward the end of the mile I was giving it everything that I had.

Mile 6 split 5:50.38
Average pace: 5:51.10
Projected Finish Time: 36:21

The final two-tenths of a mile was a blur as somehow I had dug deeper than I thought possible and I was able to take the pace up another notch. I was pumping my arms hard and my turnover was faster than at any point in the race. Crossing under the starting banner and seeing the clock, I could tell that I was going to come in faster than my personal best and about where I thought I could be. I could hear the screams of the crowd and despite now realizing that they were cheering loud for all the runners, it felt like they were just yelling for me. I ran the last 0.214 miles at 5:10 pace.

Final Time: 36:15
Average pace: 5:50.02

Despite my splits being slightly off from my projections, I had come in right where my overall plan had me for time and I was able to cut 16 seconds off of my personal best for this course. Starting the race I was seeded as number 27 (of 2,100 runners) and I finished exactly in 27th place. I was fortunate enough to earn a 3rd place age group award, my first for the Cotton Row 10km.

This was a great race morning for me as I was able to run smart and have a great time knowing that I was not in the best road shape and conditions were far from ideal, though everyone had to compete in the same humidity. I hope to learn a lesson from this race about not starting out too fast.

Overall I think that I had such a good day (for me) because of the confidence builder runs that I had during the week leading into the race.  They have me the reassurance that I could do what my legs knew they were capable of doing.

2010 Cotton Row 5km

2010 Cotton Row 5km

Official Race Results

Every year I tell myself in the final miles of the Cotton Row 10km that if I can hold it together and post a fast time that I will not race the 5km. This is sort of like being hung over and thinking that you will never drink again, only to open that next drink hours later. In keeping tradition, after changing from the 2010 uniform to the one-of-a-kind Fleet Feet Racing uniform I had made for Strolling Jim last year, I jogged around a little to shake my legs out.

Standing at the starting line it was difficult to tell how quality the competition was, given that there were so many people and quite a few run both races and don't really race the 5km very hard. It took forever to get the announcements completed and it was 12 minutes after the hour before the race actually started.

Just as the 10km, I let most the runners go from the start, hoping to ease into a comfortable pace. I wanted to keep friend and team mate Marty Clarke in my sights, knowing that he was planning on going under 18 minutes. My previous personal best on the 5km coming off of the 10km was 18:05 in 2009. After the crowd thinned out, I was able to split the first mile at 5:40.47.

Marty was just ahead of me as we rounded Holmes and neared the 1-mile mark of the Marathon course. I passed a few people in this section, and for the most part had settled into my overall position for the race. I had guessed that I was somewhere in the top 20, not knowing how many people were still ahead of me. The pace had slowed down as I clocked a 6:01.47 in the second mile.

Coming down Randolph once again, I was able to close the gap on Marty and push passed him. I think that Marty was holding steady but I was catching my second wind and had started to pick it up and was making a final march toward the finish. Like a bad recurring nightmare I climbed up to Washington again and made the fast right and left, turning onto the final half-mile stretch.

I was pushing pretty hard, but not all out as I had been in the 10km race. I didn't have anyone immediately in front or behind me, but I didn't let it slow me down. I held 5:40 pace for the last 1.1 miles down to a finish time of 18:00. The clock and my watch read just under 18, but the official time was just over. I probably should have pushed a little harder in the last few meters to be safely under but regardless, it was still a personal best on the course. Later on I would find out that I was 8th overall and 1st in my age group of M30-34, which was a nice bonus. This is my 4th Cotton Row 5km and I have been able to place in my age group with overall finishing places of 8, 14, 7 and 8 and the first time that I have been able to double up on age group awards in both races.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run Day 3

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run Day 3

Waking up to the sound of rain at the America's Best Value Inn located in Heflin, Alabama might as well have been foreshadowing of the events that would soon unfold. It had rained most of the night and it continued steadily as we packed our last minute gear into each crew vehicle. We were fortunate enough to have a very short drive to the trail head at I-20, which meant that we were able to get a little extra sleep on this morning. That was welcome, as we had quite the contingent of people hanging out in our room the night prior while we watched 'Talladega Nights' and ate Mellow Mushroom Pizza. I was starting to run into sleep debt as I was now coming off of my third night of restless sleep not totaling more than a dozen hours since waking up Friday morning. For the record, it was now Monday, May 3rd.

In the first 37 hours since our start on Saturday morning we had covered 101 miles, marking my first 100 mile event completion. I was letting this accomplishment fuel some positive thinking as I sat in the back of Josh's (Kennedy) Xterra and listened to Matthew (Kennedy) talk to himself about the hotel not being much of a value without a pool or breakfast. He did have a point, but it was the best that Heflin had to offer.

In a small convoy we drove to the trailhead and after putting on our rain gear, Rob (Youngren) and I along with pacers David (Riddle) and Blake (Thompson) took to the first trail section. The sections of trail between road crossings where we would meet our crew were all relatively short during the morning and at less than 3 miles, the first jaunt in the woods was no exception. I lead the way with Rob and gang following closely. I realized very quickly that unlike the first two days where we were able to maintain dry feet all day, that the low lying areas and water sheds of this day were going to be different. The continued rain had the streams full and within minutes my shoes were saturated with water. Normally this would have been fine, but with my now fully developed blisters on each forefoot, running with wet feet all day was just going to exacerbate the problem.

It was not long after this that I also came to the realization that I was holding up Rob with my slow pace and walking of the downhills. As with the end of day 2 I was able to climb fine, but the forefoot pressure felt on the downslopes was intense. After crossing a barren section where a tornado had rolled through in the recent past, we came to the road crossing where we met our crew. I used this opportunity to take two Tylenol in hopes of numbing the pain. It was a quick stop as we just had another 3 miles to go before the next stop.

The terrain changed when we crossed the road as it turned into a lush rain forest with green foliage and more water crossings. Rob was now setting the pace and despite David wanting to run behind me (to keep me with the group) I asked him to run ahead as I was hurting and I was starting to alternate running with walking which did not hurt nearly as bad. As we approached the 6 mile mark, we had a long downhill with a short powerline crossing that lead down to the crew vehicles. Kathy, Sarah and Blake were planning on heading back into Heflin to get breakfast sandwiches from Hardees and I was looking forward to some solid food as I was too nervous at the start of the day with the rain to eat. As we popped out of the woods, the rain began to subside so we could stand and eat with the gang without having to huddle up under the back hatch of the Xterra. The food really hit the spot and helped to calm my nerves.

I was ready to roll before the others were and I started to walk down the hill hoping to get back into the grove before the others caught up. I was doing my best to manage my pain but it was starting to exceed the threshold of what I could tolerate for any period of time. Within a few minutes we were together as a group and jogging along. We approached a section where there was a downhill that I could not attack with the same intensity as Rob was prepared for, and I stepped aside to let them run through. Of course not feeling as strong as Rob this early in the day was a little emotionally tough, but I tried to stay head strong. I kept up as well as I could for the next few miles but the constant flexing of my forefoot with every step was aggravating my blisters to the point where I knew that I needed to take immediate action. I decided on the approach to one of the hill climbs that I would sprint ahead and have Josh work on my feet in hopes that we could perform some miracles quickly and I would be able to minimize the impact on Rob.

So I locked in a very fast pace for the next mile, powering up the hills climbs and flying on the downhills, fighting through the pain of each foot fall. David caught up with me toward the latter half of the mile as we came to the road where Josh waited. I immediately grabbed the folding chair and sat down so he could inspect the problem. I had him focus on my right foot, which was much worse than the left, being a right side dominate runner. He drained the blister and did some other informal medical work as I bit down on my hat to avoid screaming out like a little girl. I had never experienced anything like this before in my limited distance ultra-running endeavors before. Josh did not seem to be in a hurry and I could tell that Rob was getting a little frustrated as we had a very long day ahead of us with the last 18 miles up and over Dugger Mountain. He bandaged me up and I put my shoes back on after about 10 minutes.

I gave it my very best effort to keep up the pace but before too long it was David and I walking together as Rob and Blake slowly pulled away. This would be the last time I would see Rob all day.  David seemed to know precisely what I needed; to walk in silence.  He knew that I was agonizing in pain and that I was going on pure guts at that point as I refused to give up.  He asked once about the pain and I said that it was in every step that I took, but that walking was not as painful.  I thanked him for sticking with me and we talked for a little while.  I really appreciated his company as without him I probably would have sat down on the side of the trail and quit all together.

After quite some time, we popped out at the trail head.  Josh, Blake, Kathy and Sarah were all there.  Josh immediately advised David to go out and get Rob; he had left just minutes prior.

Rob and I had this painful discussion a week prior where we talked about the inevitable; what would we do if either runner started to fall back.  We decided that our immediate protocol would be to slow down for a few miles and see if the other would recover.  After that, it was to move on and separate, hoping that by the end of the day, the other runner would make up the distance so we could start together again on the following day.

So as I got to the crew vehicle I immediately went for my phone.  I needed some advice from my wife Laura, who I knew would speak from her heart.  This was in no way a sign of weakness or of a meltdown; the others around me could see what was happening and I needed an unbiased opinion from Laura.  I have never called her on anything like this before, but at this critical point in the adventure I thought it was very appropriate.  I explained my current situation and the pain that I was under.  I shared with her the facts and what I was feeling.  She said that I could quit for the day and just join back in later.  I explained to her that if I quit now, the adventure was over for me.  It was an end-to-end thru-hike not a jump in the car anytime it hurts run.  To be honest I am not sure how the rest of the conversation went, but she instilled the notion in my head that I would deeply regret it later if I stopped now.

So on that note, I refilled my bottles and with Blake in-tow, I headed out on the next section with a refusal to quit.  I just needed a reality check and someone from home to talk to me.

The next 4 and a half miles were probably the best 4 and a half miles of the entire week in regard to scenery.  The course was rolling terrain with easy footing and with the best stream and river crossings I have ever seen.  Several times we were nearly waist deep and it felt so good on my feet and aching joints.  Blake made a few attempts at small talk and tried to get me to run, but it wasn't working and I was honest with him that I appreciated his trials but I just needed the company to keep me moving.  As we approached the far end, we came across Sarah and Kathy who were waiting for us.

This was the most pivotal point of the entire run for me.  I was utterly convinced that my adventure was over.  I had my mind made up.  I sat down on the ground and took my shoes off.  I was done.

It is hard to tell from these pictures, but the blister on the bottom of my right forefoot caused my gait to change which gave me a large blister on the back of my left heel.

Kathy then started a conversation with me that I will never forget.  She said that she had talked to Dink (Taylor) and to (David) Horton.  I am not sure who said what, but here are the phrases she told me...

"What did you expect?" (As in, did you think it was going to be easy?)
"It almost always never gets any worse" (As in, it has to get better)

I kept telling Kathy that I was thinking clearly and that I had been contemplating the decision to quit for the last four hours.  I told her that I was completely fine with my choice.  She responded with:

"Pull your head out of your ass and get going" (As in, harden the fuck up douche bag)

And with that, I changed my shoes and socks and got going.  I will never forget her helping me to get my head on straight and suck it up.

So for the next 3 miles or so, I was paced my Sarah Bowden.  Sarah had a much different approach to pacing than Blake or David.  She refused to stay quiet or let me wallow in my own self-pity.  She sang for awhile, talked about non-running things, asked me questions about my favorite color, etc.  It was very entertaining and helped to keep my mind off of the pain.  In no time at all, we had covered the section from FS 531 to FSR 500.

I was entertained mightily here by David Riddle sporting his McKay Hollow trucker cap which clearly did not fit his head.  I thought it looked ridiculous which was probably the look he was going for to keep my spirits up.  I took some time at this aid stop to sit down and rest.  I stayed there for about 5 minutes in heat of the mid-day sun before getting my act together and preparing for the next section.  Kathy offered to go with me but I was ready to tackle a few sections alone, so I set off sans pacer this time.

The next few sections walking alone were a combination of a pity-party along with some true soul searching.  At times I would stop and lay on a bridge for a few minutes trying to get some time off my feet and at times I would attempt to shuffle briskly and make up the time I spent vertical on the bridge.  Yet all in all, I was moving forward.

On each section, the crew would jump ahead and then hike back in to find me.  Before Choccolocco Creek Lake, Blake hiked back in along with David and carried my into the crew spot.  When we got there, Kathy and Sarah were lying out on the "beach" trying to catch some rays.  Apparently the beer drinking had already started; I was jealous that I could not partake.

After Kathy put out my inflatable sleep pad, I proceeded to lie down and rest for a few more minutes.  This excessive time at each stop was going to severely limit the distance that I would log for the day but at this point I was just thinking about making forward progress.  Finally I decided it was time to move on and as I slammed my Boost and ate my string cheese, I decided that it was time for me to enlist the help of my new Black Diamond Spire Elliptical Trekking Poles.  I picked these up a few weeks before the adventure, though I had not used them yet.  They are the same model that Karl Meltzer uses.

As soon as I left the crew, I immediately encounter a section of trail that was totally under water.  Wanting to keep my feet dry after they had been re-bandaged, I hiked upstream until I could find a place to cross.  it took a considerable amount of time, but keeping my feet dry was the number one priority.  The poles proved to be helpful right away as I used them to stabilize my jump across the stream and then hike up the hill. 

Toward the end of the section I came across yet another stream crossing.  I decided this time to take off my shoes and socks and ford it barefoot.  There was a shelter (Laurel?) on the other side with a picnic table.  After crossing the water, I sat on the picnic table and sent out a Spot Messenger message and snapped this picture with my cell phone.  This image truly captures how I was feeling; a picture says a 1000 words.  I was dazed, spaced, out of it, etc.  I just knew that I had to keep on pushing forward, one foot in front of the other.  Toward the end, Kathy and Sarah had hiked back in to find me.  Luckily I was not lying on a bridge when they got there, but actually moving fairly quickly with aid of my new best friends - my trekking poles.

Finally I could see that the crew was now expanded to include Eric Fritz.  He was coming off of an impressive performance at Strolling Jim two days earlier where he shaved nearly an hour off of his best time.  Eric would be crew for the next two days and then be running with us toward the end of the week. 

I took the opportunity to adjust my poles by tightening the lower portion so I could place more weight on them pushing down without them collapsing.  These two pictures show me with the screw driver then consuming more Boost and string cheese.

It was just a very short section from there and it was aided by my next newest best friend which was my iPod.  I fiddled with it for a few minutes at the trail head as I walked away, trying to cue up something inspirational.  I settled on a little Hannah Montana with "The Climb"; a song that I would continue to listen to for the next couple of hours. 

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

At times I found myself just belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I was catching my second wind and the pace was picking up.  It may sound totally corny, but it was this damn song that lifted my spirts on this day.  It turned out to be a good thing because at FSR 500, I would finally see crew chief Josh again and have to face the music on my plans for the next few days.  I decided to do most of the talking, telling him how I felt and my plans to keep going.  At this point I was still committed to trying to complete the entire 335 miles but had the 'B' goal of just making it the state line and completing the Alabama Pinhoti as a back up plan.  He slapped me on the ass (figuratively) and told me to get going.  David Riddle was leaving to head back to Huntsville so I took a quick moment to thank him for all he had done; it was well appreciated.

The next to last section was a short 1.9 mile stretch across some barren land that was wide open from a recent controlled burn.  The ground still stunk of ash and cinder.  I was jamming out to Miley and actually was in a running motion for 30 seconds at a time.  This built until I was running for 1 minute, then 2 minutes in between breaks.  I was starting to realize that I had just one more long stretch after this one and I would be done for the day, albeit 10-15 miles behind Rob.  With about a half-mile to go and facing a slight climb, I cranked up the volume and ran it all the way in.  It was a tremendous feeling to have Blake, Sarah, Eric and Kathy see me running when I got to the crew vehicle.  I ran 1.9 miles in under 36 minutes; pretty blazing fast considering my previous mile splits were in the 20 minute range.

The last section was about 10km so I got together my pack and filled it with fluids and food.  This could take 3 hours based on the terrain.  I was ready and actually looking forward to going it alone, but Blake was elected to pace with me; probably to keep me going as we neared darkness.  As with each aid stop from the rest of the day, I had asked for, and been denied to have a cigarette.  I haven't had one in years, but I kept asking for them, seriously.  I didn't really want one but I thought it was funny to be in the middle of something that required so much stamina and physical ability and want a smoke at the same time.

Blake and left out together, lightly jogging on the decent into the watershed.  There were some great waterfalls as we hiked along a river for the next three miles.  It was at the bottom of a deep valley and the notion of keeping dry feet was impossible.  It was like "slush-mile" from Mckay Hollow (Monte Sano, Huntsville) times 10.  The puddles were up to my mid shins and that was along the good parts of the trail.  Blake lead the way and we actually made pretty good time.

With about 2 miles to go, we crossed an earthen dam and that is where I stated to hit the wall again.  I had been going for 11+ hours and I was at a very low point, emotionally and physically.  Blake started to pull ahead and I started to drop back, creating some seperation.  I could tell that he was ready to be done.  On the last summit, (which turned out to be the last summit before the last summit before the last summit) I had to stop and lean up against a tree.  I was out of fluids and just ate the last of my food.  I was ready just to lie down in the middle of the trail, as I had done earlier in the day.  It was getting dark now in the woods so I knew that I had to pick it up a little to not have to use the head lamp, but my body was not responding. 

The last 2 miles would take me about 45 minutes to cover. 

Upon reaching the road, Blake told me that they were parked down at a trailhead, but that I had to hike down to get there. Here I am coming out of the woods and stopping my watch after a having "run" from 6:04:05 am for 13 hours, 6 minutes and 32 seconds until 7:10:37 pm, covering 35.1 miles at an average pace of 17:41 minute-miles.  This put my three day total at 136.1 miles.

And then proceeding to collapse.

The completion of the first day of the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run was made possible through extensive training. Day two of PTAR was all about pain management.  Day three of PTAR was all about my pacers and the support of my crew.  I am eternally grateful to you.

Start Time: 6:04:05
End Time: 19:10:37
Total Time Running: 13 hours 6 minutes 32 seconds

Total Distance: 35.1 miles

Elevation Change: 4,043' of elevation climb and 4,190' of elevation drop for 8,233' of elevation change.
PTAR Day 2 part 1 (GPS A): 3,164' of elevation climb and 3,010 of elevation drop
PTAR Day 2 part 1 (GPS B): 879' of elevation climb and 1,180' of elevation drop

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run Day 2

The completion of the first day of the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run was made possible through extensive training. Day two of PTAR was all about pain management.

Sitting on the curb like school children waiting for the bus, Rob (Youngren) and I sat outside of the Super 8 in Sylacauga awaiting Josh’s (Kennedy) arrival. We were all packed up and ready to roll in the pre-dawn hours, ready to get back at it after a less than restful 6 hours of sleep. Finally Josh rolled in and we split our gear between his Xterra and Rob’s Mercedes, which would arrive later in the day when Kathy (Youngren), Blake (Thompson) and Sarah (Bowden) would assume the role of the second crew.

After an endless drive back to Porter’s Gap, we began to gear up for the first section of the run. At less than three miles to the first aid point, I grabbed just a hand bottle and shoved an oatmeal creme pie down as pre-run fuel. I dawned the rest of my running gear, including my inov-8 roclite 305’s and two Pro-Tec Athletics Patellar Tendon Straps to ease the pain of my runner’s knee.

The first 15 miles of running on this day is the same as the first half of the Mount Cheaha 50km that I had run just two months prior. Then the following 12 miles to Mount Cheaha State Park continued to climb to the top of Alabama near 2.400' of elevation.  The day after the 50km in February, Eric Fritz and I had run the 12 mile section, so I was fully aware of the difficulty that this day would present.

As hastily as I had packed my gear, I realized within the first few minutes of running that I had forgotten to take any Tylenol. Luckily Rob had some packed with him so I took two right away. Not a good sign of things to come. We continued to run a decent pace through the first 2.7 miles where we reached Skyline Drive and walked down the gravel road across the river and rail road tracks where we met up with Josh and our good friend and day 2 pacer John Nevels.

From there, we had about a 7 mile section to Clairmont Gap where we would see Josh again. This section of trail was fairly uneventful and slow. John brought us up to speed on what was going on in the world of running with Chris Solinky's 10km record and the fast times at Miwok 100km. Being on the trail all day and preparing for the following day all night leave little time to catch up on newsworthy events that we would otherwise see on Facebook or Twitter.

Here we are coming out of the woods at Clairmont Gap in a photo taken by Josh.

Leaving Clairmont Gap, we had a 6 mile section to Adams Gap in which we would parallel the Talledega Scenic Highway, which is actually no more than an impassable jeep road. We were still just on hand bottles and wouldn't need the packs until later in the day. The trail immediately climbs up a steep hill that had us walking, just as I had done in the 50km race. After that, the 'Rock Garden' and slope of the trail from right to left meant much, much more walking. Honestly we were never really able to string together much of a running rhythm through the following miles based on the terrain.  My knees where bothering me and I was ready for some more pain relief so when we rolled into Adams Gap at mile 15, I was ready to sit down. When I say sit down, I actually mean lay down. After I assembled my pack and slammed a Boost, I laid down on the pavement of Adams Gap Road and took off my shoes. I was beginning to get hot spots on the middle of my forefoot of each foot and I sensed that blisters would soon form under my callouses.  Here we are seen just coming into Adams Gap at the Silent Trail crossing.

If we were wearing our 'suck-o-meter' shirts, the needle would be pegged on 'sucks-worse' during the next few hours until we made it to the State Park.  The climb up Stairway to Heaven was just as I remembered it; nothing short of a bitch - a winding trail that switch-backed up 900' over 4 miles crossing large rocks covered in moss that didn't even closely resemble a trail.  We hiked our way up to the 2000' mark where there was the first decent overlook of the day.  We all sat down and when I say sat down, I really mean collapsed.  I think that we were all pretty low on fuel, having not consumed enough today compared to the energy required to make this climb.  I don't remember taking or having this picture taken, but it sums up how I was feeling at the 20 mile mark.

Continuing on along after a 5 minute rest where we re-fueled with string cheese and Boost, we climbed another 200' before reaching the top of the ridge line.  We would remain along the ridge for another few miles actually making pretty good time.  We still had not seen a single person along the trail which was very surprising given that it was a Sunday.  The winds atop the ridge seemed to cut down on the humidity.  The forecast had called for rain for two consecutive days now but we had not seen a single drop of rain.

We had one more significant stop along the way where we took off our packs and and sat down to eat. John entertained us by declaring the world's highest urine drop as he 'went' over the edge of the cliff. He joked that he was done 'going' before it ever reached the bottom. This seemed to lift our spirits as we strapped on the packs and moved forward.

One of the things I remember about the entire trip was that often times there would be a perfectly passable gravel or jeep road for us to run on, but the trail would only cross it, many times and run adjacent in the woods. Near the 23 mile mark, we would veer off of the road and onto a narrow and rocky trail. I couldn't remember the purpose of this side jaunt, until we reached the summit. At the overlook was a large Pinhoti Trail sign that marked the mileage along the way, including points at the Benton MacKaye Trail head and along the entire Appalachian Trail. We stopped for just a minute for a photo opportunity.

The next major memory from the first 27 mile section on this day was trying to remember where I had placed the 'heart-rock' on my previous visit with Eric Fritz.  For those of you who don't know me, I have a long history of trying to find a heart shaped rock and then writing the location and date on it for my wife Laura.  She has rocks from all over the country in a collection she has been building from me since 1998.  Typically these rocks are very small and weigh less than an ounce.  The rock that I found in February was about 12" across. 2" deep and weighed about 10 pounds.  I had told Eric Fritz, then Rob and John that each time I visited the trail, I would carry the rock a little bit further and eventually it would reach the road where I could pick it up with the car and give it to Laura.  Well after sprinting ahead up a steep climb to allow myself enough time to look around, I found it within seconds.  So I proceeded to pick it up and carry it on our run.  we had about 2 miles to go before the road crossing and for some reason I was determined to carry it all the way our and to not let is slow our progress.  So I carried it with two hands in front of me, under one arm, then the other and a variety of ways that seemed to amuse Rob.  It was just the comic relief that we needed.  Upon meeting our crew at the trail head (who were surprisingly joined by friend David Riddle), I was carrying it in front of me with two hands and it looked like my heart... they knew right away what it meant and laughed.

The first 27 miles on this day took us about 8 hours to complete and our plan for the day was 48 miles so we had another 21 miles to cover with just 5 or so hours of daylight to go.  When describing this day to Eric Fritz later on, I told him the distance and the time and followed it up by saying, "and then the trail got harder." It didn't get technically harder, but after the grueling morning, a walk in the park would have been challenging.

After strapping on the packs at the road crossing, we were ready to roll out on the next section of the trail.  David Riddle, wearing his road shoes, decided that the best way to keep his 3 1/2 year running streak (averaging 11 miles a day) in tact was to run with us.  The three of us left before he was ready, joking about how we were going to drop him... yeah right!  He caught up within a matter of minutes.  Together, Rob lead us out on the trail in a running pace.  Luckily he was not moving too quickly, so David and I were able to use our long legs as an advantage and just walk briskly to keep up.  David would often sprint ahead with the camera and then wait for us to pass by to snap some pictures.  This one was my absolute favorite, as David stood on a 4' tall tree stump to capture shots as we ran by.

The next few miles we actually picked up the pace as Rob and David started to stride out a little faster on some very nice and non-technical trail.  I remember that John and I would fall back (or I would fall back and John would stay with me) and then I would charge on the up hills to close the gap.  My feet were really hurting me now and running downhill made it even worse.  This was a very long 8-10 mile stretch that was very taxing on me.  I was having trouble with my pain management and struggling to keep up.  When we finally made it to the Hillabee Creek I took off my shoes and soaked my whole body in the icy creek, as did Rob.  I could have stayed there all afternoon, but we had many more miles to go on this day.

Not long before our crew met us at Cleburn County Road 24, we came across the infamous rusted-out van in the woods that most ultra-runners of the area know about.  We stopped for a picture which brought a smile to my face for a little while.  I managed to climb up on top which was sort of scary as the rust of the beams was about to break apart, but it made the picture all the more memorable.  Here I am saying, "look, no hands!"

From CR 24 to US-431, Rob was a man on a mission.  He set the pace and it was very aggressive. For awhile we were running under 9 minute-mile pace, which was twice as fast as we had run all day. Rob was thinking ahead, knowing that we were running out of daylight and still had another 10 miles to cover from CR to I-20 and we did not want to fall off our daily schedule, nor did we want to run for too long in the dark. Rob's crazy pace paid off as we hit 431 at about 7:00 pm with only 5 miles to go.

At US-431 John had to call it quits for the day so he could get back to Auburn.  We were very thankful to have him for the 40 miles he joined us on, especially through the Stairway to Heaven section.  Rob, David and I grabbed our headlamps and set back out for the last section to I-20.  Rob and I are experienced night/trail runners and quickly our eyes adapted to the onset of darkness.  David had never run with a headlamp before, or at night, so I gave him mine and I carried Rob's back up, which was very, very dim.  Yet we delayed turning them on until the last possible shred of light had left the dense forest.  The ironic part was that with just a couple of miles left, I stopped and said that I heard something in the woods, so Rob and David stopped too.  I could not figure out what it was, so we took a few steps forward and with a stroke of luck, Rob was able to spot a fairly large rat snake.  He gently moved it off of the trail and then we joked about the Indiana Jones line from Raiders of the Lost Ark when he says, "Snakes... why did it have to be snakes!"  After that, we turned on the headlamps and kept moving.

Finally locating a glimmer of light at the top of a hill climb, we realized that we were emerging from the woods and it was Matthew with a headlamp, waiting to direct us to the north and over I-20 to our final stop for the day.  Just as we finished and started to de-robe and pack up the gear on the side of the road, it began to rain steadily.  We moved fast and packed into the Xterra and headed into Hefflin, AL where we would spend the night.

What I will remember most about day 2 was how difficult the first 27 miles were and how all day long I was focusing on managing the pain I felt in my knees and my now blistered feet.  There were plenty of smiles and plenty of grimaces but I stayed with it, completing my first 100 miler in under 38 hours.

I will remember being witness to the first time that David Riddle had run for longer than 4 hours (in training or in a race), having completed several 50km races in less time than that.  But most of all, I will remember the friendships that had been forged long ago that were strengthened on this day between four ultra runners suffering through the pain together.

End Time: 20:09:31
Total Time Running: 14 hours 11 minutes 47 seconds
Total Distance: 48.7 miles
Elevation Change: 7,854' of elevation climb and 7,791' of elevation drop for 15,645' of elevation change.

PTAR Day 2 part 1 (GPS A):  6,404' of elevation climb and 6,651' of elevation drop

PTAR Day 2 part 2 (GPS B): 1,450' of elevation climb and 1,140' of elevation drop

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run Day 1

A few days before the start of the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run, I attended a Cotton Row Run volunteer meeting. While there, Craig Armstrong wished me well on the impending adventure and we had a quiet conversation while Fleet Feet owner Suzanne Taylor was at the front of the room leading the meeting. During the brief chat, I mentioned that the first day of the run would be all about the training that we had put in over the previous few months. I had known all along that while it would not be easy, the double marathon on the first day would be familiar territory for me as I had run that far at MMTR in November and at Delano Park in March. The pace at these races was much faster than our projected time on day 1, but at least I knew how it would feel after that many miles on my feet. It would be the miles of the days to ensue that would be unfamiliar territory for me.

Rob Youngren has captured many of the turn by turn details on his day 1 blog and they very accurately capture the finer points. Instead of repeating this in my words, I thought that I would take you through the personal highs and lows that I experienced during the day.

High Point #1

Pressing start on my GPS watch atop Flagg Mountain at 6:00 am sharp was a great feeling. All of the training and preparation that we had put forth in the past year toward this effort was finally coming to fruition. We were taking the first steps of a long voyage that would culminate 335 miles and 7 days later. Departing Flagg Mountain was a pretty intense high.

Low Point #1

After the first few miles on the gravel road, we had been on the road section and had already met our crew 7 times in the first 14 miles. This meant frequent stops that broke up our 10 minute pace average. Somewhere after crossing Highway 231, we began to incorporate regular walk breaks into our running schedule. My knees and joints were starting to ache a little as I really had been logging most of my miles on the trails with just a single 25 mile run from Rob's to Mooresville on the morning of the 10 miler (race) in which I struggled. Running on the road over long distances has never been my forte and it is possible that this first low was more mental than anything else, but I was starting to hurt a little and we were a few hours into the run. We would rotate running for 8 to 10 minutes followed by a two minute walk and we were religious on this rotation through 20 miles.

Low Point #2

After nearly missing an unmarked turn, we spotted Josh's truck along County Road 511. I ate my first solid food of the day which was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had made the previous night and rolled into a small snack sized sandwich bag. We were about 3 and a half hours into the run. From the training runs that we did, I knew that it was about this point where I would struggle, but had built confidence that it was just a temporary low and when I pushed through it, I would emerge stronger on the other side. We walked the entire hill climb which dropped our average from 10:15 pace down to about 11 minute miles. After starting to run again on the top of the hill, we made it down to the bottom where there was stream crossing under the highway. I had Rob go on, and I made my way down to the stream where I could soak my knees. Three weeks prior, I had developed severe left knee pain while on a long run with Joey Butler out at Sipsey Wilderness. That day I was icing my knee in the streams every mile for the last 8 miles and it a half dozen physical therapy sessions would follow to ease the pain of runner's knee. Having to ice my knee after the first 20 miles was very concerning and the second low point for the day.

High Point #2

Finally turning off of the paved road and onto the gravel at County Road 231 was a nice change of pace, but it was taking off my road shoes at mile 22 and putting on my inov-8 roclite 295's to begin the Rebecca Mountain trail session was a very good feeling. We had made great time to this point but there was something emotionally uplifting about grabbing my new Ultimate Hydration pack and setting foot into the woods. We had a very long section ahead of us on a brand new trail that was blazed but barely traveled ahead of us, but the relaxed pace was welcome.

High Point #3

After just a few miles of bushwhacking along the new blazed Pinhoti trail on Rebecca Mountain, we were welcomed to a nice surprise. Josh had somehow made his way into the woods up a barely passable forest service road and was waiting for us with a bag of freshly sliced oranges. I thus coined him as our soccer mom while later conversing with Rob. Regardless, breaking up this long section where we thought that we were running un-aided was a great emotional lift that lifted our spirits.

Low Point #3

Atop Rebecca Mountain we were following along with Josh's notes from his exploration of this section a few weeks prior. He mentioned two communication towers that we would pass by. The lead in to the second tower was the steepest road I have ever climbed. My GPS maxed out at 45% grade, which meant that for every foot forward, we were facing a foot up. This climb was at the 31 mark and I commented on how this would be a cruel finish to a 50km race.

Low Point #4

For quite some time after a short rest on the concrete road entrance to the climb from hell, we ran on a rocky trail that paralleled a jeep road. Being nearly 7 hours into the run, we complained to deaf ears about those who would build a technical trail in the woods just feet from a perfectly fine road. Our pace was slowing as the trail winded to and fro while the road ran straight along splitting the forest. Any other day we would be complaining to have to run on a two-rut road, but the fun factor on our adventure for the day was starting to go down.

High Point #4

In what seemed like a never ending death march on Horn Mountain, we could begin to hear some music in the distance. Knowing that we had not seen a single human being along the trail thus far, we realized that Josh must have made his way into the woods along the forest service road. We were indeed correct and Josh was waiting for us! We were able to shed our heavy packs and back to hand bottles which made for much easier running. We were also able to refuel with some Boost, string cheese and oatmeal creme pies, a staple that would fuel me for the days to follow. Seeing Josh in the middle of this otherwise long and unsupported section was almost like an oasis that came true.

Low Point #5

At the top of the Pinnacles (GUTS fried-egg sandwich aid station at Pinhoti 100) we surprised Josh and his son Matthew by covering the previous section so quickly. They emerged from the top of a rock bluff shirtless. I later joked with Rob how it was very 'Lord of the Flies-esque'. While this was funny, the 24 switch backs to the bottom was not fun whatsoever. It was bothering my knees to run downhill and having to pound away was not fun. Plus the bugs were starting to come out and I was convinced that my Honey Stinger gel was attracting them. I wasn't able to make very good time through here despite the elevation drop and I felt like I was holing Rob back slightly.

High Point #5

I was really starting to hurt late in the day and my feet were barking very loudly. Josh had mentioned that there was a stream in a few miles that we could soak in and clean up before reaching Porter's gap. I made it my mission to stay strong and focused until that point where I could get into the water and ice my joints. When we got there, we took off our shoes and got into the water above the peter-line. It was so refreshing that I didn't want to dry off and put my shoes back on! But it would be getting dark soon and we still had another 4 miles to go before the end of day 1.

Low Point #6

Just past the 50 mile and 12 hour mark, Rob made the comment that the fun-factor had dropped down again as we were tired and ready to be done. I was focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and walking it in, but Rob pushed forward and had us at a jogging pace. I agreed that the 'suck-o-meter' had gone from 'sucks not so bad' to 'totally sucks' very quickly. Despite being a low point, we did joke that we should have t-shirts made later on with an adjustable dial for the degree of how much the current run sucked; it would be a great seller with ultrarunners.

High Point #6

Coming out of the forest and seeing Josh at Porter's Gap was a great feeling. After 12 hours and 48 minutes of running, walking, trekking and just moving forward we had finally arrived. We had covered just over 52 miles on our first day and it didn't hurt too bad.

What I will remember most about the day was that I had some early pain in my knees but I fought through it. I will remember how Rob was crazy nervous for the first few hours. I will remember that I only had to take 6 Tylenol to ward off my pains. I will remember how seeing our crew at unknown times was a pleasant surprise. I will remember the smile on my face at Porter's Gap as we had completed the first day of our journey.

I will remember that throughout the course of a half-day of running that there were many highs and lows, making it a roller-coaster of a day.

End Time: 6:49:12
Total Time Running: 12 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds
Total Distance: 52.3 miles
Elevation Change: 5,313' of elevation climb and 5,440' of elevation drop for 10,753' of elevation change.

PTAR Day 1 part 1 (GPS A):  3,123' of elevation climb and 3,047' of elevation drop

PTAR Day 1 part 2 (GPS B):  2,190' of elevation climb and 2,393' of elevation drop

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run Day 0

In the summer of 2009 I was privy to a conversation at would alter my life forever.

Either luckily, or to my demise, I had forgotten my wallet at a hotel in Rutland, Vermont while on a business trip.  I had driven all the way to Albany, New York before realizing this which meant I had to drive the rental car two hours back through rush hour and in the rain.  I coasted into town on fumes, and after picking up my wallet, Chinese take-out and filling the tank, I began the trek back to New York.  Due to the unfortunate situation, I would miss my flight home on Friday night and had to take the first flight home to Huntsville on Saturday morning.  The purpose of disclosing this story is that I chose an early morning flight that had me back at home by 9am so that I could meet my friends at Wheeler Refuge, where they were in the middle of a 8 hour training run in preparation for ultra marathons a few weeks later.  It was during this run that we first talked about running the Pinhoti Trail.  Had I taken a later flight that morning, I would have missed out on the conversation and the amazing adventure that would ensue a year later.

After hearing about Rob's dream to run the Pinhoti Trail, I was first filled with internal skeptism.  I had run several 50km trail races but aside from Strolling Jim, had never even run more than 42 miles at a single time.  How could I possibly expect to run several hundred miles when I have not even run a single 50 mile race?  Yet I decide to jump into this endeavour head first and approach it with the same zeal that I have for other crazy running adventures and verbally commit to the run.  My first mistake is believing that the Pinhoti Trail is completely contained within the state of Alabama.  When I initially push the idea with Rob, I thought that it would be a 4 to 5 day adventure of less than 200 miles.  When he informs me that it is actually extends into Georgia and is well over 300 miles long, I remain committed, but am less confident than previously.

Throughout the planning and preparation process, my nervousness builds and even as we work through the back to back to back long runs in early April, I can't think about the impending effort for more than a few minutes without feeling sick to my stomach.  I lack both the experience and mental tenacity of my team mate Rob in this adventure run.  Not only have I not run for more than 42 miles, I have only twice run longer than 6 hours, both of which came in May when we went on long runs at Sewanee and on the Appalachian Trail from Clingman's Dome to Fontana Dam.  Rob has run well more than a hundred ultra marathons and many 100 milers lasting up to 40 hours of continuous running.  Despite being over matched, my mind tells me that it is possibly this lack of experience that will help me along the way; not knowing what I am truly getting myself into might actually be better than knowing what the looming future has to bring along the way.  I am always trying to test my limits and have a tremendous amount heart.   This combined with a stubborness and refusal to admit failure might be just the recipe for success.  This is not a race with Rob, but I feel that I need to give it my best effort each day to stay with him.

Fast forward to the drive down to Sylacauga on April 30th, where Rob and I have plans to meet with Josh for dinner before getting some rest before the first day of running.  We talk nearly the entire duration of the two hours of travel, yet I am more quiet than normal.  The utter enormity of the run has finally gotten to my nerves, though I refuse to show any signs of weakness.  I am both excited and scared to death at the same time.  The only way I can contain my emotions is to be slightly numb to the situation.  To the on-looker I may seem to be taking a nonchalant approach, but it is the only way I can remain calm in the face of danger.

I have the following words memorized, and after a dinner at a local Italian restaurant and packing up supplies for the next morning, I recite the words over and over in my head.  I am trained to the best of my ability and now I must work toward being more head strong than I have ever been.  In several hours I will begin an adventure that will change my life forever, just as the conversation at Wheeler had done a year ago.

"A warrior prepares fully and purposely for war.  He focuses on the impending battle and trains his body, mind and soul to act with strength and cunning.  He lives a spartan existence, denying luxuries that would sap his resolve.  He has the desire, motivation, discipline, belief, self-esteem, confidence, courage and mental toughness to win in battle.  He prepares a wise strategy, dwells on it, and executes it while staying calm in battle and fending off pain and fatigue.  The warrior prepares to fight the ultimate fight and face the ultimate defeat." - Warrior Attitude

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Alabama Pinhoti Trail FKT Stats

Here are the final statistics for my attempt to set the Fastest Known Time on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. Ultimately I notched the second fastest time on the Alabama section, behind Robert Youngren, whom I started the adventure run with on May 1. Rob set the fastest time on the previous day and went on to set the fastest time for the entire trail.  My final time was 4 days 5 hours 39 minutes and 25 seconds for the 171.2 mile trail from Flagg Mountain to the Alabama/Georgia State Line.

Date Start
Start Time Stop
Stop Time Day Duration Day Miles Total Miles Ave Pace
5/1/10 Flagg
6:00:00 Porters
18:49:12 12h
52.3 52.3 14:42
5/2/10 Porters
5:57:44 I-20 20:09:31 14h
48.7 101 16:03
5/3/10 I-20 6:04:05 Burns Trailhead 19:10:37 13h
35.1 136.1 17:41
5/4/10 Burns Trailhead 6:24:09 High Point Trailhead 18:41:06 12h
25.0 161.1 19:31
5/5/10 High Point Trailhead 7:51:13 AL/GA
State Line
11:39:25 3h
10.1 171.2 19:42

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Alabama Pinhoti Trail FKT

This week was historic as the FKT (Fastest Known Time) was set on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. This 325 mile trail is comprised of a 175 mile section in Alabama from Flagg Mountain to the AL/GA state line and another 150 miles in Georgia from the border to the Benton MacKaye Trail, which is a connector to the Appalachian Trail.

Hampered by blistered and bruised feet, I was not able to achieve my 'A' goal of the entire trail, but did nail my 'B' goal which was a fast time on the Alabama Pinhoti Trail. In the end, I covered the distance in 4 days 5 hours 39 minutes and 12 seconds. This is the 2nd fastest time on this trail section ever recorded, behind Rob Youngren whom I started the adventure with and had set the fastest time the day before.

Overall it was a great experienced and I am very proud of my effort as I stuck with it over the last 2 days when I could barely stand up at the start of each morning. I had a great crew and my pacers helped push me well beyond my limits. I have to keep remembering that I ran my first 50 miler last November at MMTR and my first hundred miler came in the initial 38 hours of this adventure run.

I am already looking for my next BHAG ultra-distance adventure run while my feet heal up. Thanks to inov-8 and Fleet Feet Sports Huntsville for encouraging me to chase my dreams, even if they seem just out of reach.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Day 3

Today was the most difficult thing I have ever done in running. I started off the day with 100 miles in two days with Rob and had another 48+ miles planned going on 10 hours rest. The very first steps I took in the morning were painful and by mile 8 I was down to pure walking. The pain in my right forefoot was so intense that I could not put any pressure on it. I altered my gate and that gave me a horrific blister on my right outer heal. Luckily I had David Riddle, Kathy Yougren, Blake Thompson and Sarah Bowden there to keep me going. I walked with pacers for 6-8 more miles before going it solo with crew support. I had some resurgence in the late afternoon when I was able to medicate enough to take the edge off, but that faded toward the end. All day long my mind was mostly strong, I stayed hydrated, properly fueled and aware of the magnitude of each step as I gutted out 37 of the planned 48 miles.

Our crew chief Josh Kennedy worked on my feet tonight after icing. I have forefoot blisters over callouses over blisters on both feet and a few other bad spots.  As of right now, I can not apply any pressure on them while standing. But this is too important for me to give up, despite being several hours behind Rob. Eric Fritz and I will start out on Dugger Mountain in the morning and see how my feet respond.