Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pittsburgh Great Race - Race Preview

Pittsburgh Great Race - Race Preview

The last Sunday of September is a major day for Pittsburgh running.  This Sunday, September 30, 2012 is no different.  The Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race (“Great Race”) will be celebrating its 35th anniversary, with both 5 and 10k runs. The Great Race is the largest 10k race in Pennsylvania and 12th largest in the nation according to city officials. actually lists the race in its top 10 of 10k races in the United States.

Initially established in 1977 as a 10k “fun run” by the late Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, Richard S. Caliguiri, the Great Race has quickly evolved into a large race (there are 15,000 participants in year 2012) that accommodates both beginners and elite runners alike.  Some years later, the 5k race was added, so that additional runners could enjoy this great race. Both the 5 and 10k course have the same finish like, and the 5k course is the second half of the 10k course.  The races are very family friendly, and many families end up running the races together.

Lets take a look at both of the races.  The 10k race is fast but challenging race that encompasses several city neighborhoods and the many universities within the city. below is the 10k course map:

The 10k course starts right next to Frick Park.  Given this is a point-to-point run, buses from downtown Pittsburgh take runners to the start line.  Given the race is on a Sunday, there is ample parking in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate all runners.  The lines normally form on Fourth Avenue or Stanwix Street and buses leave periodically as they are full.  Its best to get to the bus lines as early as possible...and I will explain in more detail shortly.

The bus takes you right outside of Frick Park.  In order to get to the actual start line, you must get off the bus and then walk up a single sidewalk,  Fencing for the race as well as a wooded area doesn’t allow for access to the start line any other way, and this causes a bottleneck to the start area.  This is residential area, some residents are out of their homes making sure that you stay off their property, so walk on the sidewalk so you are respectful of their property and don’t have to deal with a angry property owner.  Additionally, if you have to use a porta potty, best to get there early, as there are a limited number of porta potties, and the lines tend to be long.

If you are a seeded runner, you can enter the course without having to go through the bottleneck.  Seeded runners do have their own set of porta potties.

After the starting line ceremonies take place (speech by a distinguished guest or politician), including the playing of the national anthem, the race is ready to begin.

The race begins on a slight downhill grade but then proceeds to go uphill very quickly.  The elevation of the race in total is a net uphill run despite the appearance from the elevation chart below:


Mile 1 offers a short steep hill, but after that you can really let go and run fast.

The tricky part of the 10k race is mile 5, and this mile begins right after you exit Oakland and you begin to run on Boulevard of the Allies. Its a sneaky uphill mile that slows most runners down and will break your pace from the downhill miles previously run.  After the end of mile 5 you can run as fast as you can to the finish line.  The race ends in Point State Park and there is a post race celebration, with bananas, water, bagels, and other treats at the finish line.

Similarly, the 5k race follows the same path as indicated by the map below:

As indicated by the maps of the 5 and 10k, race start times are 8am and 9:30am respectively.  

In order to pick up your race bib and race shirt (this is included with your registration fee), you need to go to the race expo. For the past several years, the expo has been held in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The directions to the Great Race expo can be found on the website - here!

The expo does offer something for everyone, and there are a number of vendors and local running stores at the expo selling discounted merchandise.  Provided you have no registration issues to address, my advice would be to go the expo closer to the end on Saturday as some vendors even discount their merchandise deeper.  I have gotten some great bargains for fall and winter training at this expo.

Importantly, at the expo is where you can purchase bus transportation tickets to the start line as they are not part of your registration fee. So have a couple of dollars in your pocket when you go to the expo for your ticket to the start line.

Weather for the run - average temperatures this time of year in Pittsburgh in the morning can range from the 40’s or into the 70’s, so its best to check the weather to make sure you have an idea of what kind of gear you should be planning to run in for race day.

There is also a Junior Great race, for children from who are young and can run up to age 12. The events are listed here!

The Great Race is a well run event.  There are water stops every mile for the 5 and 10k runs, as well as mile split timers, and there is ample crowd support, especially when you approach the finish line at Point State Park. The best thing to do is to register early, because the race sold out this year in record time.  There are some bibs for sale on craigslist and there are opportunities to transfer bibs at the expo.

If you are registered, have a great run. If you aren't, put this on your race calendar for 2013 and plan to register as soon as registration opens. Now go out and have a Great Race!

(this is a shared article of - coming soon!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Living in the moment

The past several weeks have been great.  I have a new sense of self-confidence that I haven't had in a while.  Its not that I wasn't confident at all, but, when you fail to reach goals that you set, there is an empty feeling that follows, and disappointment sets in shortly after. In hindsight though, actually that is how it was supposed to happen.  And that gets me to the thought of this post - living in the moment.

When I first set out to erase years of unhealthy living, I set some intermediate goals, of eating better, exercising more, and staying away from eating contests. I also started to surround myself with those who supported this change.  Not all were runners, matter a fact, some don't even exercise much at all, but they all were supportive and it gave me some drive to continue.  Of course, there has always been an inner drive to conquer goals, or sustain a lifestyle that would yield better physical results.

The transformation was slow....I started to bike, then that turned into running. And then marathons followed shortly thereafter.  I wanted something more, and that led to the goal of running ultramarathons.  Ambitious, you bet, impossible, no, but, there would be a good bit of training to get to that point.

In the transformation, there were lots of successes and just as many if not more failures.  Some successes - finishing the marathons, finishing my first FA50k, being dedicated to a training schedule through difficult times.  Some failures, sometimes missing a workout, running a workout and believing it wasn't a good one, or having a back workout, running slow at a race, and not sleeping enough. I could go on and on with successes and failures, but, what good is it to reflect on in indefinitely? While the successes and failures mean something, you really can dwell on the failures or live on your successes forever. Each day has its own new set of challenges that it presents, and it may force you to face a new experience.

Recently professional baseball player R.A. Dickey has made the news for his season so far. Very much a nontraditional player - he's a knuckleball pitcher.  He's had many failures in the past, and yes, some successes too. I didn't realize that he has a daredevil streak in him as well...having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise money for a charity. And he has also nearly drowned while trying to swim across the Missouri River.  More importantly, he isn't dwelling on his successes for failures of the past - he's just living pitch by pitch and enjoying the moment.  How is this working for him? Currently an 11 win, 1 lose season so far.  

This is how I approached Laurel this year - step by step, living in the moment.  Gracious for my supportive friends and family, and fellow runners, very much acknowledging their support, but not dwelling on any bad experiences, or getting too excited over some past successes.  This isn't to say that the successes and failures were not important.  Its those experiences that did get me back to the starting line this year, and the training was also an important part.  All prepared me to get to race day, but none of those got me through the day.
Sounds simple, and it is, but its just as easy to get caught up and dwell on everything else except the moment.  Each foot step was purposely made, and carefully placed, so that I could reach the goal.  

Next time you are looking for that something to overcome that challenge or goal you have set you are trying to conquer - try living in the moment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

70.5 mile Laurel Highlands Ultra 2012 - Race Report

My history with the Laurel Highlands Ultra has been one that has left me disappointed the past two years - in 2010 the run resulted in a DNF at 63.6 miles and in 2011 61 miles. Sure, both good efforts, 60 some miles nothing to be ashamed of, but, not a finish. So this year, I decided that I would run again. The decision to run was not born out of failure, but the need to succeed and overcome and break through new barriers...this is what this run has always been. It was my first ultra race in 2010. Well, the next 22 hours turned out to be an amazing day full of good times, bad times, laughter and fun, good people and a crew that stood by me to the end.

 A fellow endurance athlete from work who is a cyclist and his girlfriend offered to drive me down to the start from Pittsburgh. We got up around 3am and got on the road before 4am and made it to the start line in plenty of time. My original plan was to sleep in my car and take the race bus from the finish to the start. I am so glad I didn’t have to sleep in my car...the good decisions started early, even before the race. Thank you Jake and Kelly!

At the start, I got my race number and race shirt. There is a pre race meeting the night before in Johnstown, but I opted not to go. Its not that I don’t like the pre race, but this year I had so much going on in my family life (all good) I could not make it.

 I got my bug spray on and got ready for the start. Decided not to use a headlamp at the beginning of the run figuring the sun would be up soon, and the sky was clear. The weather for the day was predicted to be in the low 80’s with low humidity. I was prepared for a warm day and got ready the last month of training before this run by often running in two shirts and a long sleeve shirt when it was warm out. Throughout the day, the weather was just as predicted - sun, some clouds, and somewhat warm, but relatively low humidity. The Race Director Rick Freeman announced that the race would be starting and to get ready and line up. At 5:30am..and at exactly 5:30am we were off!

My strategy in the start of the run was to be in the mid pack at the start so to not be too far behind when making the trek on to single track trail. To explain, the run starts off at Ohiopyle State Park and we run a half mile to the trailhead. The trailhead is a dirt road but then narrows down to a set of steps and then trail.

The first 11.6 miles of trail the contain the most amount of assent in the run, so my mini goal was to make steady progress, and surpass my times from years past. The climb was slow and steady, and I made great progress, keeping my heart rate a nice place, as I didn’t want to expend all my energy on the climbs. With ease I surpassed my past times by several minutes for each of the climbs for miles 3, 5, 7 and 8. In knowing that I did this alone, the stage was set for a good day. However, my general philosophy and methodology to approaching the day was just to live in the moment, and just concentrating on each foot step - knowing that each foot step would be one more closer to the finish. Sounds simple and it really worked (All credit for this goes to my crew mate Chris and another person at work that said a similar thing). Also, in the beginning of the run, I just wanted to run, and really didn’t get into much small talk. I’m far from anti-social, but I just wanted to remain focused on the moment. There really wasn’t too much small talk for me at this point in the run, so it fit into the plan.

 I arrived at the first aid station and my crew mate Chris was waiting for me....the aid station was wonderful. Got some food, Chris got my camelbak filled up and I was off and going. Another strategy was to not spend a large amount of time in the aid stations. As the RD said - “the aid station is the devil!” I felt a hot spot on my right foot but didn’t feel it was anything major. Time to get moving, so I did!

While relieved that most of the major climbing was over, I continued to concentrate on just the moment, and knew that there was plenty of trail left to conquer, and I was a long way from a finish. I felt a little better about engaging in some talk on the trail, and started to run with a group. Stories told of Laurel Ultra runs of the past, some ultra running friends I know, and some early calculations of finish times based upon current pace. While I of course, I wanted to finish, I didn’t yet want to get into finish times. I knew it was way early on in the run to start thinking about that and that a lot can happen on a long run, and he even mentioned this. And I am pretty sure the guy that was talking about the finish times, did not finish. We also talked about how tough it is to consume a PBJ while running. Seems that breathing gets in the way and that is what makes it difficult...anyways, we continued on running.

Making it to the 19.3 cut off with plenty of time to spare was also a mini success moment. the past two years I felt spent at this point...well not this year, plenty of energy and I felt good. I knew that I achieved a mini goal, but needed to continue to repeat to myself just to live in the moment. At this point, I needed to address a hot spot on my right foot...that hot spot was actually a huge blister on the ball of my right foot near my big toe. Chris was like “wow” to the blister...but it wasn't really bothering me too much, and simply needed addressed. Chris got out the moleskin and the blister was a non-issue after that...just replaced the moleskin every station thereafter. I also got some additional bodyglide on my feet, got some food, and some food for the road in a baggie to eat and got out of the aid station. I spent a little bit more time than I wanted to in the aid station, but the blister need to be fixed. Happily off I went!

The next cut off was at 32.2 miles. I felt well, and the miles just seem to click off at this point. I was a little slower because my left foot on the bottom began to hurt...not too sure what it was at this point, but it felt like a rock was coming through my shoes. I had gaiters on, and they worked well, but there was something else going on...I just had to ignore it and continue on. I also tripped on a rock at mile 24, and fell, not hurt at all, felt really stupid about it, but got up by myself since no one was around, brushed myself off and started running again, I was actually amazed that my mile split was still well below the finish pace for a mile that I fell on. There was also a large period of time in this section where it was just me and the trail. Finally, met some more fellow runners on the trail. At this point I felt more at ease about talking and we began to engage in some conversation. At this point is where I met Jen and her friend Katie.

Not sure we ran a lot together at this section, but we exchanged some conversation, and meeting them was another moment that was critical in finishing the run. I actually knew Jen and her boyfriend (he also ran and was ahead of us) from another run. Its nice to run into nice and familiar people during runs. Fun conversation and it made me relax. It was what was needed at the time. And this is the reason I like ultrarunning because there are so many stories to be told and how people get into running into these kinds of races and where they have run.

By this time, we are heading towards the highest elevation point of the course, up on the ski slopes of Seven Springs. The day was just wonderful and by the time we got to the high elevation point, a nice cool breeze was blowing, even though the sun was out, the breeze was wonderful. At this section I think Jen and Katie picked up some speed and I hung back a bit and I started talking to another runner Chris from the Baltimore area. We clicked off a few miles together. Meeting Chris was also critical in finishing the run. At this point, I felt well, knew that half the run was done, and I time wise I was in line for a finish.

All throughout this race, I hydrated very well, having to pee plenty of times, and although you might be reading this and perhaps not seeing this as a big deal, it was. I had not had a run like this in the past, where I really felt fully hydrated. I had some points of my stomach not feeling well, but, considering the heat of the day, I figured it was normal, at some points, running harder made it feel better.

At this point the pace dramatically slowed down. Kind of a tough little section from 32.3 to the next mini aid station. Crew Chris met up with me and told me I needed to get moving, of course in a nice fostering way. He asked me if I had a few minutes to talk about the run :). I seemed to have caught up to Jen and Katie at this point and the conversation picked up more with Jen and Katie, and actually Katie is a tweep (yes, a twitter person) that I started to follow when I wanted to see who else with social media footprints were running. Someone at some point called us the three amigos, very cute...I certainly wasn’t the cute one of us though. Seriously, that twitter follow, was so much more bigger than just social media. Turns out Katie is tough as nails, and picked up the pace. Similarly, while I had met Jen in the past, she too was tough as nails, and they both had run some very tough ultra runs. And it seems like we were all pushing each other to take one more step towards the finish line. It was also nice to share my knowledge of the course with Jen and Katie...because most were saying to them that after mile 19.3, most of the hills were over, which is so not true. There are plenty of challenging climbs remaining after that section, along with plenty of rocks. Both Jen and Katie had a crew, and they also offered me a few things along the way, which was very nice. Learned that Katie’s mate Joseph (Katie’s crew) is running Western States in a few weeks, and he is quite a runner himself and offered some aid to me if I needed it. Thank you Joseph, that was super nice of you!

We continued to enjoy a good bit of talk and it made me feel at ease that I was with some tough people who knew how to get through a run.

The next checkpoint was at mile 46.4. At this checkpoint you were allowed to have a pacer. Jen had her pacer (aka “The Cute Sailor”) ready to go and Katie didn’t and a huge mistake happened here - I forgot to put on my headlamp. A potential huge mistake! I was so excited with seeing my pacer (Jimbo) and his wife Kelli (they were there early so Jimbo could jump in at 57.1 mile aid station), along with Chris, it just slipped through my mind. And my crew missed it too!!

While Katie, Jen and the Cute Sailor left the aid station, I left shortly after, and they slowed their pace to allow me to catch up with them...I'm going to guess here but about a mile into this section, I realized I didn't have my headlamp, and it would be getting dark before the next checkpoint where my crew was (mile 57.1). They all told me not to go back and to stick with them, and we would all get through the section together.

From years past, I knew this section was short, but it was not “easy” by any means. Some hills both up and down, and at this point Jen’s tummy was bothering her. We all stuck together for a while and then Katie and I started to pull away at this point. Jen, we did think about about you and we were hoping you were ok, but it just seemed like your pace slowed. Katie told me she would share her light with me, and I agreed to simply follow her footsteps while she kept the light in front of her. I cannot thank Katie enough. There is little doubt in my mind that I would have not survived this section (in that I would have not made the next time cutoff at 57.1) without Katie. Similarly, Katie was a little uneasy about going through the dark woods alone, so it worked. The progress was slow, but diligent - some serious hardcore relentless forward progress, just non-stop for the next several miles. Not sure there was too much talk here, but I am so grateful for these miles - thank you Jen, the Cute Sailor, and Katie. We also had an animal encounter - we believe a porcupine - and some noise scared it away into the woods.

We finally made it to the 57.1 mile aid station (this was also a cutoff), and we were up against the time cutoff - we had 15 minutes to get out of the aid station to be allowed to continue on. Katie got out of there way quicker than I, and I joked with my crew that they were all fired, for not making sure that I had my headlamp! I was seriously kidding, but I thought it was funny! I wanted to get into my compression socks at this point, and make sure my feet were OK. I got a PBJ for the road. I kind of was upset a little at this point, as one of the guys at the checkpoint said that if I wanted to quit now, it was the time to do it..that fired me up a little, and I was like NO WAY, I’ve made it this far, I am going to finish! With about 10 minutes to go, I left the aid station with my pacer Jimbo - we were ready to rock and roll!

A few weeks before, Jimbo and I ran the final 13.4 miles together, as a practice run. We did it in the daytime when it was hot (we saw a rattlesnake here) and gently ran and hiked this section so we could learn as much about it as possible - this was a very good decision.

Jimbo and I exchanged some small talk and we talked about pace, and my need to go the bathroom, since I was so well hydrated. I didn’t want to stop though, so we decided to pick a point where I could stop and go...and that was about 4 miles away, it worked because I didn’t want to stop and at around mile 61, there is a gravel road for about a mile, and this was a place where we could make up some time if we stopped. 

After I took care of business, we continued down the gravel road, I remember at some point telling Jimbo I couldn’t talk, and I just wanted to concentrate on making forward progress, and told him to just be into the pace times...didn’t mean to be rude, I just couldn’t fully process what Jimbo was saying and I was super focused on making it to mile 62, the final aid station of the run...and the start of a downhill descent to the finish line. It seems like forever on the road, but we eventually made it to mile 62. I had the best grilled cheese sandwich here, and caught up with Katie at this point. There were also others coming down the road behind us, and that turned out to be Chris from Baltimore area that I talked to before, and a couple of other runners, that I hadn’t seen all day. Anyways, it would appear that we would be the final people finishing. I probably spent too much time at this aid station, but, the food was good...time to get moving!

The race was on at this point, us against the clock. We had a small group of us running and pretty much stuck together, not making fast progress, but progress...and we had another animal encounter, not sure what this was, but it was small, but didn’t want to leave right away, but it eventually did! We continued on until someone approached us fast...guess who...that's right, the sweeper for the final leg of the course. What a reality check! His words to us - YOU are not running fast enough to will not make the finish cut off, its every man for themselves at this point...don’t be afraid to he said this, we were approaching another runner ahead of us. I didn’t have the energy to pass her just yet, but the thought of not making the finish cut off by just a second entered my mind...all this training, and running today not to finish? Heck no, I am going to finish! Jimbo and I exchanged some small talk as to when it was time to pick up the pace...and 5 minutes later, I said, lets do this!

We passed the person in front of us and started to run much faster than miles before. We knew the course well, so we knew there would be some tricky spots, and a few slopes up, but it was all runnable (at least at a reasonable pace) and at a pace to finish.

The next 6 miles of the race were nothing short of amazing. I dug deep to a pace I never have gone before! I had to go the bathroom on the run and did so without going on myself or Jimbo...I can’t tell you how I did this, but I needed to do it because the need to go was distracting me from running.

Jimbo did an awesome job of keeping me going, reminding me to drink, and giving updates to time and pace. I was in the zone to finish...nothing was going to stop us! Jimbo did trip over a rock, but he quickly recovered, and we continued to roll on towards the finish line. At some point, we passed Katie and she said Go Mike!...I was just so pumped up at this point...I wanted to get to mile 68, because I knew at that point, mile 69 and 70 we could fly because the trail opened up a bit. Not sure when, but Chris from Baltimore passed us, and we finally made it mile this point, knew the finish was a real reality, just needed to stay focused, and not quit at all...I began to cry...and as I am writing this now, I am a little, because the past two years were painful not to finish...but I stayed focused on the finish. Jimbo was right behind me, giving me some super encouragement telling me I had this...and to go for it!

Before you know it, there was mile marker 70! We saw the lights of the parking lot and the finish line....and there it happened...the finish! Rick Freeman was there waiting with the finish mile marker in hand, and I had some serious tears of joy going on....Kelli and Crew Chris were there waiting and congratulated me and Jimbo was just super pumped...soon there after we saw Katie cross the finish line! We hugged and took a picture together and I also got a picture with the RD together. I gave Jimbo a huge hug and thanked him! 

And of course, I couldn’t have done this without Chris! At the finish line, we also saw Jen and her boyfriend, and the Cute Sailor. It would have been nice to see Jen finish, but she was happy that she got a nice training run in..and I sort of knew how she felt being a non-finisher the past two years. Joseph gave us some encouraging words and thanked me for hanging with Katie. Jen and Katie and the Cute Sailor - I cannot thank all of you enough!

I enjoyed a few bowls of chicken soup while Chris assisted me in getting some first aid for the blister and helping me get my mind back after the finish. Thank you all of the volunteers at the run. Well done and super support.  Jim Harris also congratulated me at the finish line - thank you Jim...and yes, I called you Bill by accident.

Chris, thank you, thank you thank you, you stuck by me for this third year to make this happen. Chris and I often run on the weekends, and knows how much this means to me and has been a listening post and a supporter of this goal for a while.

 Could not have done this with a lot of people, there is a huge list to thank, and if you are reading this report, you are likely one of those people. Thank you. I appreciate all of your help, words, encouragement, coaching, running, putting up with my goals, and really anything else that you did to help me get to the finish line.

Five years ago would I have never dreamt of writing this report. I was excessively overweight, and in a physical funk. I started off small, but always had some lofty goals - and I still do now.

I want to tell anyone who is reading this not to ever ever ever let go of a goal that you want to achieve, it might take some time, it might seem to be unreachable at times, and there will be roadblocks and barriers to overcome, but with a plan, dedication, good people surrounding you (both runners and non-runners alike) a little bit of good timing, great things can and will happen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Great Race 2011

Well, did this 10k for pure fun, and had a great time....

Here is a great blog post that describes my fun run at the Great Race!

Kudos to the crew at for putting this together - I had a blast!

Anyway, I ran (or at least tried to run) but still had a good bit of pain from the 50k, so it confirmed my feelings about taking time off.

Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 update and YUT-C 50k race report

This first part is not about the race itself but, it’s been a while since I have reflected upon running more than 140 characters on twitter. So...

Its been a year of injury. Mainly dealing with plantar fasciitis. While it has mostly subsided, it’s still here. It actually started the first week of January 2011 after running 20 miler on trails in the snow. While I ignored it and thought it would just go away, I was wrong, the day of the 20 miler I wanted to run a 50k for fun, but the pain was horrible...about a month or so later, during a late night session at a local college track, I did a speed workout, after the workout I had the most painful session of plantar fasciitis.

At that point I realized that if I were to run a marathon, or do anything else, I would need to get to a physical therapist. I did that. Did it help, yes, did I really stop running like they asked me to - no. So I don't believe I really have given this time to really subside like I should have.

So let’s fast forward to the YUT-C 50k. I had run the race last year and really enjoyed myself and the course and the race organizers. It’s the best run race I have run to date, and it’s a main stay on my race schedule. Given last years experience, and the enjoyment I got from the run, I decided last year to run the race no matter what.

I was confident enough since I knew the course, and, I had run it last year with ease, that this year I could improve on last year’s performance. I actually ran the course several weeks before, both 14-15 milers, and felt adequately ready to run. Three weeks before I got a 50k in a day on my feet too, so, well, I felt trained enough to give it a go.

Weather for the run - darn near perfect. Overcast and about 50. The high forecasted for the day was 65, not terribly warm. So great race conditions in my opinion.

How was I feeling, well, I got up a little late for the hour drive to the race, but that was not a problem, but, I was limping. Yes, the plantar fasciitis. I stretched, and it somewhat helped, but when I got out of the car from the drive, yes, the pain was there. I was there and I was going to run...there was no other choice at that point.

As I made my way down to the start line to get my number and race packet I saw a lot of familiar faces. We exchanged some hello’s and I got myself pinned up and ready to go. I wanted to make sure my feet could handle (without blisters or hot spots) the 50k distance, so I applied some bodyglide to my feet and made sure I had a bag at the start/finish line with some additional bodyglide and some extra socks.
At 8am sharp, we were all off and running….

The course consists of clockwise and counter-clockwise loops. The covered bridge is the aid station for both, and the start finish line is the aid station for the clockwise loops.

The course itself is not terribly demanding, yes, it hills, but it has a nice section of road and some very runnable trail sections. Rocks and roots, but not so much as you stop you from a normal stride to made decisions on where to place your foot.

The first part of the course in the clockwise loop includes a steep stair case, and that certainly is a bottleneck for all except the front runners. But despite that, I was right on my race plan, which was to run the course the first 25k and then turn it up a notch on the next 25k. I comfortably got into my pace, with minimal effort and felt good where I was at…the miles where going by and I did not feel horrible, although my foot was still bothering me, but it was not something that was going to stop me.

Things were going smoothly until around mile 11-12. I started to get cramps in my upper quads and, my foot began to really hurt. Ignoring the pain, I continued forward, but my pace began to slow. From that point onward it became a struggle against my body – could I continue on?

As I made it back to the start/finish line, one of my friends that was at the race asked if I needed anything and I said “no” and they thought I was done at that point, Thoughts of quitting did in fact enter my head, but, I have not ever quit a run or quit on anything in life, so why should I start now? I quickly got some food at the 25k point and began the clockwise laps. The clockwise laps have the most elevation gain, so I knew there would be some pain and determination involved in completing the run.

I was pretty much out on the course at this point in my own spot, with a runner or two head and behind me.

The first lap went slow, and I mean really slow, but I continued to make progress but in pain. There would be surges of energy, but I could not come over the cramps or the pain. What was I thinking about during moving forward, I was thinking about quitting and I was also thinking about making the course shorter but skipping the hills. Yes, no one was around, and I could have easily done it…but I continued on course.

Eventually I made it to the covered bridge, and that that point plenty of finishers were making the final 5k of the 50k a reality. At one section of the course, I nearly fell down a 100’+ hill getting out of the way of other runners, and several stopped to assist me back up to the trail…really, it was a dangerous area and I am lucky I did not break my leg.

As I continued on one runner who I knew said “3k to go and you are done” – and I looked at him and said not me – I have another lap to go!

So, back to the start/finish line I went. As I made my next to final stop there, they race directors asked me if I wanted to continue on and I said yes. They told me that they might not be there when I get back around – and that I was going at my own risk. I accepted that as sort of a challenge to keep moving and to finish, despite the pain and the cramps. I got some food and drink and went on my way. There was only one runner behind me, and I was determined to keep him from passing me.

As I started up the steep stair case the final time, I was happy. I would not have to do that again! Soon thereafter on the trails, I took a pretty good fall, a fall that was loud enough to get some kids attention in a parking lot close to the trails say “ did you hear that….” I actually thudded the ground pretty hard, and at that point I had thoughts of turning around to the finish line and calling it a day. I fell because I tripped over a root. I was sweating and not feeling well at all…but I continued on.

As I got closer to the hills, I thought about skipping them again, really, one turn, and I could have stayed right along the lake that we were circling and skipped them all!!! But I didn’t. Good thing too, a runner working out on the course, asked me as I approached the hills if I was still on course and he told me to keep going and he would also tell the guy at the covered bridge that I was on my way.

I made it to the covered bridge and knew my pain would be ending soon. I grabbed some sugar –in the form of some candy and got moving. The last 5k seemed to last forever, and each footstep was a struggle, but I kept moving. As I made the final decent down off the trail and onto the park road, I noticed that people were still at the start/finish line. As they saw me approach the finish line, they started to cheer for me….I tell you that felt so good, and reinforced ALL the reasons why I love the ultra running community.

Crossing the finish line was a huge relief. The race director told me that he told me that they might not be there, and to go at your own risk to give me some motivation to get moving…I laughed and told him it definitely worked.
I had some food and stuck at the finish line to cheer on the last runner of the race to finish. I knew what he was feeling for sure…but he also stuck it out and got a finish!

What did I learn during this run – that I can continue to move through pain and cramps, and not to quit, as there is an eventual end to the pain! Oh, and not to cut the course, no matter how crappy you feel!

What’s next as far as an ultra…most likely a fun run 50k the first week of January 2012! I’m taking a month off and will resume running once I am feeling a little better and I get some rest!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Hello..Happy New Year!

It has been several months since my last post. I've been running, busy with work and family and resting, and eating. Obviously, not blogging, but, I intend to change that right now! Thank goodness, no competitive eating, but, eating more than I should be given the level of my activity.

I'm training for a few events right now, the Pittsburgh Marathon (it will be a training run for Laurel Ultra), and Laurel Ultra, and I am considering a few events as training runs before both of these events (Pittsburgh is May 15 and Laurel is June 11)

I am training about an average of 9 hours a week and that amount of training will begin to gradually increase so that I am building up mileage towards running Laurel. Laurel is my A race for the year. Anything less than my goal of finishing will not be acceptable. I underestimated Laurel last year (yes I DNF'd at the final checkpoint - that was quite disappointing to say the least) and I am not going to let that happen again. I've set an aggressive goal to go after at Laurel. As for Pittsburgh, no goal set, but, I would like to have a nice injury free run.

I decided to run Pittsburgh for Team in Training. Inspired by many forces, I decided to make the leap. So far, it has been a very rewarding experience and while cancer does not directly affect my life, it does impact many others that you may or may not know. Unknown to me in the past, I recently learned that the funds raised by TNT assisted someone that I talk to at work on a fairly frequent basis - and those funds saved a life - literally through treatment that they received. They remain cancer free to date. While I realize that the economy might not be in the best of places, I would great appreciate your support if possible

I will be posting interesting life and running stories more often and I look forward to sharing a great running 2011 with you :)!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Running and rest

I started a run streak because I was looking for something different to do while I was in between resting and getting ready for another training cycle towards a an aggressive 2011 race schedule. I was two weeks removed from a great 50k run in the middle of September (Youngstown 50k) and ran a leisurely 10k for fun two weeks after that run. I've been intrigued with the run streak idea for awhile, and so I did some reading.

After the 10k, I decided to start the streak. A few miles here, a few miles there, a mile there, and here, and the streak was rolling, and rolling strong. I felt obligated to run every day. I felt great that I could run everyday. BUT, lurking still was a sore toe from something on the trail from the 50k and some sore ankles. My ankles are quite flexible. While other people might stop running from twisting or turning their ankles, mine, well they seem to twist and turn and keep going. I believe most people who run ultra trail events are accustom to this and and you become immune to it over time.

However, my left ankle seems to have twisted a few extra times, and its been bugging me. I was hoping it would go away. I figured the running would help, since I'm able to run through some pain. So I continued to run, hoping that it would go away.

Ten days of running - yes, my left ankle still was hurting. Twenty days of running, yes, I was still running everyday, but yes, my ankle was still hurting. Thirty days of running, yes, ankle still hurting. Not a good sign for my ankle.

At this point, I was scraping by day by day, mile by mile, sometimes 3 miles, but no real great runs. Day 40 came...and no run...I just decided to rest because my body told me to rest.

I feel accomplished that I was able to run 39 days straight, but, I am not sure its all that good for you, even just a mile a day, being injured (or not) or having some discomfort like I was having. REST is important, and I believe the run streak taught me that lesson.

Since I stopped the run streak, I've only run one time and I plan to rest a little longer (until this weekend) and then I will most likely resume a schedule that includes 5 days of running and 2 days of cross training, with some rest days mixed in here and there.