Day386 VDM

I did the real VDM – Vicky’s Death/*Delightful March, a run by the local Virginia Happy Trail People. What I mean by real is that I ran one like it back in October, almost two months ago (here), except this time I did the full loop instead of skipping Hawksbill Mnt. I know about Virginia Trail runners since I started running but somehow they never fit into my plan because I am mostly a road runner. They are really the old school trail runners – most of their events are free and self supported and you run and responsible for yourself out there. They are hardcore runners.

I am used to the paid 5K and 10K where people prepare everything for you and run and get a medal and pictures and everyone go home feeling good. There is none of this stuff with trail running. It is the adult version running. Today 25 miles is like road running 5K. There is no pat on the back of good job – because we are expect to be able to run miles, plus elevation, and not get lost. Totally hardcore running. I am happy to finally say I am there at that rank now. 25 miles on the mountain is easy for me. It was like stretching my legs.

Trail running was not for me until recently after doing ultras and most ultras are out in the woods. So I have been trying to connect to the trail community. This year has been quite good. I connected to people in PA/WV, that has been amazing. The stuff they did are just crazy. Of course PA hosts the Eastern States – which is like the Western States – one of the “majors” for trail running competitions. We don’t have any famed races here in VA. Old Dominion used to famous but now people get old and it does not have the same draw as PA. If I could join a running club I would join the PA one (Allegheny Trail Running).

Recently I connected also with the Montgomery County RR after doing their Stone Mill trail race. VA Trail racing club people are still pretty weird, though we are all together – the Virginia people helped out with the Maryland people – everyone knows everyone. My prejudice against the VA trail people is still pretty high. People in the DC area are weird and you just get use to it when you have live here long enough to know because we are super rich and we (many) have access to high level in the government and we can’t talk too much about our jobs. So people here are just too snobbish and standoffish. This shows on the trail too. That is why I could get along so well with trail runners outside of DC but not people here. That is fine though. I run my own race. (PA people can attest to what I say).

There were like 30-40 people showed up today on our run today. This is a great turn out, since it was an unfunded – free run for 25 miles with 7000 ft of climbing. Yes normal people would not come out to run this. It is just so demanding. Time wise etc. People rather run a real marathon than doing this kind of runs. So this is only for people who really like trail running. There is no prize either. We all started at 7:30 and everyone run their own pace and find their own way.

I was ‘stroke’ about this run for weeks. They traditionally hosts it the day after Thanksgiving (on Black Friday). This year, they moved it to Saturday. This just fits so well. I prepared for it like a real race. I went to bed by 9 ish. I had everything ready. Clothes, food, set alarm. I woke up bright and early. I was out the house by 5:55 and Got to the trail by 7:15.

We had warm weather – all relative. 42-45 wad warm for me. I ran in T shirt and shorts where normally this would be too cold for me. It is all relative.

This time I am determined to do the whole loop. Last time I skipped out a few miles – like around 5 by skipping Hawksbill.

This time, the group I was with was slower. Much slower. We walked like 80% of the time. They were really slow. It might be that I have gotten much faster and stronger. I just did a 50 miler two weeks ago, so my body is still relatively fit. So this run was super easy.

I was with my group the whole time. It was zero stress. I was only one who brought food with me. I ran with a footlong sandwich. It was too eye catching in our group. The sandwich really helped. I had enough calories and was happy. None of them brought food because they expected food at the halfway point at the visitor center. Unfortunately they did not have food. That was a bit a bummer for them.

I did quite well. Last time while climbing up on White Oak Canyon I almost faint. This time none what so ever. The climb did not affect me. Also I did not roll my ankle. So everything was good.

My body has finally is strong enough to do something like this and not get super tired. I have been doing a lot of hiking these past four years. I have been running marathons – probably more than 10 now. But in the past, I am half dead after finishing a big run. But now even doing a 50 miler does not affect me. I see a qualitative change. I am just happy about this. It means I can go on to the next phase of running a 100 miler.

What I want to say is it open a big area. Now I can do trail running. It is like freedom. Things that were impossible now is possible. Things that were hard are no longer.



closure maybe.

Being alive meaning having ambition and drive. I can do this and that. I have a trip this weekend and a race next week. I also have work to do before I leave. Work work. Company stuff. My mind immediately returned to reality after the burial of my grandmother. I took the day off but I could work too if I wanted to. That to me a different being alive and dead. We have our worries.

But for the last few days I have been lack of motivation to run. Not sure why. I am healthy and all. Just nothing there.

I was not there when grandmother’s passed on. I could have been there. I was only couple miles away. I had the feeling and prompting the night before. Anyway. What’s done is done. She has passed on. I have a kind of phobia for sickness and death.

We had a funeral yesterday. It was outdoor and we had two ministers with us. The rest who came were all family members. There were 25 of us. Plus a photographer/translator – a family’s friend. The service was conducted in chinese but translated to English for the youngers (us) who are not chinese proficient (plus a few of us or our spouses are not even chinese).

There is no profound truth about this whole death business as I spent the last week reflecting on it. We all will die one day. A good funeral is someone will remember you. My grandmother had a good and simple ceremony. There was not too emotional shown as we all know – she is indeed in a better place. She has been suffering with poor health for as long as I could remember 20+ years maybe? Death is a relief and she was shown mercy to have apparently a painless death.

We had the service. I am glad for Covid because we were restricted to only 25 people or else we would have the whole church there (200+). It was intimate. I hate crowd. But if I am dead, I won’t care what people say about me, whether good or bad. There was no eulogy given at my grandmother’s funeral — I think we were saving it for a memorial service that will take place at a later time due the covid pandemic happening now. Our service, everything included the burial was restricted to one hour. We stayed for two.

It was mainly for us who are living to reflect on the meaning of life and to go through the grieving process when the person you love is no more with you. It is an emptiness. My mom was saying even their dog senses grandma was no longer with them. The dog is moody.

2. It costs money. Our family through this had made arrangement on their own burial. It was a pratical decision and nothing morbid about it. I think we have like 6-8 burial plots. Those who are 60 and older did it. I don’t have my plot of land yet. They do not want to place much burden on their children.

3. I was thinking I have a lot of things and loose ends so to speak. If I die like suddenly or even if I have a week or two of advance notice like my grandmother did, still it is not enough time to get my crap together. No clue what it means to get ready for death. My grandmother did not have much but they have spent days going over her medications (now can be safely discarded) and her tons of papers and documents. They have been managing her affair but still, she has left behind tons of those.

Sad, when I heard of how my grandmother passed away. It was cheerful but sad. She was surrounded by family (night before and also at the moment of). Always someone was with her. However, the last two weeks, we could see she was growing weaker and her life was epping away. She slept and was not able to wake up. She was fully conscious probably to the moment of. Her breath became shallower and then stopped. We already arranged for hopice care so there wouldn’t be resusciatation. Her eyes were wet when family called her. We were almost certain she was gone. It could be just the brain auto-function when processing the sound. Yes, we did call the doctor who came and pronounced her dead. There was no struggle with her. They had everything ready though if need be – morphine and all kind of pain/muscle relaxant medications. She did not need any, except for one that clear the phlegm in her throat. She died peacefully. I wouldn’t able to stand watch the last moment struggle. Yet it was still sad to see that the life flowed out of a body.

4. Memorial. Death is laying down toils and suffering of this life and (hopefully) we go on to a better place. I guess this is the same message at all memorial services. We will be reunited with her there.

We sang traditional Amazing Grace. Not so much the words by the familar melody was comforting. I couldn’t even aware of what I was singing. I tried but the words did not register to brain. It was just blah, blah, blah. The next song In the Land By and By was more meaningful. There is a land where sorrow is no more when we wake up. Same the third song for closing was Because He Lives and empty grave is there to prove pretty much echoing the same message.

How to close this entry? We think of legacy. Will. Transfer of assets and heritage. Our family does not have much tangible items. What my grandmother left behind was her love, her strength, characters, and her faith. She has lived 87 years. It begs the question, what do we leave behind for others. Currently we (or me, really) don’t really care and do not think a lot about. The sad truth is I have nothing much. Maybe this blog. Sorry if this puts a damper to your day. Need content. clout. subscribe. 🙂


Day 384

I am back to my usual of trying to scape together enough content for a post.

I finished the 48 hours run. It was not much to say except for the lack of sleep – but I cheated a little with an hour extra sleep one night during the graveyard shift. I think running a marathon is harder than doing this 48 hour of running. Actually it is only 44-45 hours because you don’t run at the final 48th hour. Because I was able to catch some snooze, I was not too overly tired.

I think for me, what would be the right level of challenge if it was running a 10K every 4 hours for 24 hours straight or 24 hours of 5K at every hour (Pembleton — I really want to try that next year).

Anyway, since I finished the 48 hour challenge, every 4 hours there is the residual urge to go out and run. I woke up at every 3 hours thinking, oh, did I miss a run and told myself no, go back to sleep.

Not feeling any particularly tired today. Yet I told myself, better be safe than sorry. Even though I could run today, I decided to stay put and rest up. Monday is my normal rest day. So I have to force myself to rest.

Nothing particularly insightful gleaned during my run. Time just went by quickly. Run, then changed, clean up, record the run, eat. do laundry and rest about couple hours and then start the cycle over. So I remember was Run, Eat, and Sleep. Time went by so fast.

It was a run I always want to do. It was like a mini camp for running. I read about people (two highschool runners – forgot their names) went to Kenya and ran with the elites there. They wrote about everyday was running. I was jealous of them to have such an opportunity. So the past weekend was like that for 48 hours totally gear toward running. I had a total 13 sessions. It was great. It was 13 sessions of tempo run. It was like a dream comes true.

Though I ran 50+ miles over the weekend, I was not exhausted. That I found fastinating.


Day383 training cont

I started this fad training since Friday that has been a circulated the running community this spring called 4 by 4 by 48 (4x4x48) run. David Goggins, a famous ultra runner, (he did many other notable things too) came up with the idea of running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. Rumors had it that he himself used it for his ultra trainings.

I was training for my 100 miler and I thought why just as well to try it. The run itself was too easy for me since I am now am able to run a 50 miler without dying. This 4x4x48 basically spreading a 50 miler over two days. So this is too easy.

What I found challenging was waking up in the middle of the night to do the midnight and the 4 am run. I started the run at 4. So all my runs occur at the 4, 8, 12 interval. The first night I already was struggling with the 12 am and 4 am. The second night I totally blew the midnight and 4 am run. I set alarms for them but over slept the 12 am by an hour. As for the 4 AM one, I heard the alarm but couldn’t will myself to get up. It was a battle of will. Finally after half hour of self talk and struggle, I convinced myself to get up and got out to run it. It was not bad once I started running.

Lucky that the second night the temperature was much milder. I hate cold. The temperature was around 50F instead of 42. So once I was out the door, I was not freezing to death. It was quite comfortable to run.

Another thing I found about the graveyard shift runs was I was hungry most of the time. But when I got back inside, I was too tired to eat anything but went straight back to bed. I slept on the second night. The first night I couldn’t sleep but second night, I needed all the sleep I could get. Constantly feeling that sleep deprivation.

I don’t know if I will do it again. Night runs are fun but they are too brutal. This kind of thing is not for me. I rather run in the day time than to miss sleep to do night training.

So my sleep dep training did not work out as I would expect because I went to bed. As for the 100 miler, I am not too worry because just losing sleep one night is not too bad. I can pull it through. But for 200 miler, not sleeping on the second night will mess me up.

Just few more runs today and I am finished with this 4x4x48. The hard part is already over.


Day382 training

I have not been training specifically for the Rocky Raccoon 100. I like the name. I have been calling it the Raccoon Race. I wanted to have a plan for training this race. I downloaded one from the internet but have not followed it.

I know I am much behind on many runs. We when training have certain miles and goal to reach for each week. It supposes to build up your fitness and endurance over the course.

I know I am not in too bad a shape since I have been running on and off. I did a marathon not long ago in October. I just did a 50 miler. It gave me a sense of where I am. The 50 miler was supposed to be a limit test. I was hoping to see how it compares to my strategy of doing the first 25 miles in 5 hours and the next 25 miles in 6 hours. Total of 11 hours.

My 50 miler was great I finished in 12.5 hours. Not great in term of my strat for the Raccoon but it is where I am right now. During the 50, the two guys in front of me were blocking me the whole way, especially near the end, so I did not really able to go full out. However, I do not regret about it. We should not go full out unless it is the one race (which Rocky Raccoon will be). Reason being is I am still in training. The Stone Mill Ultra was part of that training. They say don’t go full blast or else it takes a long time to recover. Those two guys helped me to perserve my strength for the Rocky Raccoon.

This weekend I am doing the Goggins 4x4x48. I miswrote in my previous blog saying it is 48×48. 48 miles in 48 hours. Same thing. 4 miles every 4 hours for the next 48 miles.

I started early at 4 pm. I already did 3 runs. The next run is in the middle of the night at 4 am (an hour away). I can’t fall asleep so I might as well blog.

First run went well. It was cold initially. I think 62 deg was cold, but it got warm as I started running. I did four miles no problem. It was nice doing it before the sun set.

My second run was after I got home from work. 8 pm. Again, I felt cold. The temp had dropped 10 deg to 52. I warmed up in no time and had to shed my layers. I finished it a bit faster. It took a bit more time though because of traffic lights.

My third was at midnight. I really did not want to do it. I had gone to bed early. By 10 ish I usually am sleepy. So I slept till 11:30 and forced myself up. I was cold again. The temp had dropped another 10 degs, now at 42 and will stay steady through out the night. I went out reluctantly. Once I got going it was not too bad. There was no wind and night was calm and brisky. I quicky warmed up and had to ditched two layers. I was down to a Tee and it felt good. I love the cold. I finished it a bit slower pace at 12 min mi. Not bad.

And have been waiting for my 4 am run since. I tried to catch some close eyes but not happening.

I started to feel the fatique in my muscles. There is still long way to go (2 more days – Sat and Sun) before finishing.

4x4x48 really tested the sleep deprivation and how the body adjusting to the reset.

That’s it for now. If I have time, I will update on my progress


Day381 reset

After a big race, I need some time to reset. A bunch of thoughts colliding inside or still fermenting that are not ready to put into words yet.

Life for me is hopping from one high point to another. Now it is like I’m in a peaceful valley.

My mind is still pretty much being still in the race. It was one of the best race I had. I say this almost for every one of them I did. I rarely had a bad rotten race. They were all great.

Racing for me – running in general, brings so much joy and goodness. I think of it as a feast. I was anticipating it months ahead. First the idea of doing something I never have done before. There is the unknown. I was wondering whether I can do it. A lot of them, the first thought is no I cannot do it. I am not there yet. Not even not there yet but it is impossible. Thinking back three years ago if you would say I will be running a 50 miler, it is just incomprehensible. It does not matter how many miles I could train for it. It just cannot be done. Even last year after having done it, to do it again in a year, you got to be crazy. That was pretty much how I felt this spring.

In my Bible Study class, the leader said imagine what heaven is like a feast. I couldn’t really grasp it at the time. I ate good meal before, but nothing bring me more joy than being outside and run, esp run in a race. It is not so much about the competition but just knowing it is preformance time, just kick things to the highest level! I wish if heaven can be anything, I like to run and hike/camp all the time forever.

For me, racing is testing the limit. Yet there is the idea of let try it. It is hard but let overcome that fear. I did not say that just to prove myself. No it more like it is going to fun. I signed up somehow. The excitement only built up. By then I knew my ability that I could run it but whether I could do it within ‘spec’ that is within the required time for the course, that is a whole other issue. I did not know that even on that day I stepped on the course. Too many factors in play. I mentioned before that to finish within the 13 hours I needed to run near perfect race. Meaning, having good race condition, not tripping over roots as I am frequently do, healthy, and not getting lost. They all came together perfectly.

I know my body. I know my speed. I did many test runs beforehand. Usually it is not as good as I wanted. I was having the feeling of not able to do it for weeks leading up to the race. You feel the body just does not want to run. Also it has become colder and night comes earlier. The week before my race, my right hip was causing trouble and my right knee was also showing sign of weakness – I had hard time climbing stairs. Not good for going into a race with a lot of hill climbs. But all these problems evaporated on race day. I ran my strongest ever. I was amazed how strong the body was. I could run up hills while people around me were dying/walking up. Even toward the end I was still full of energy. At no point I was out of breath. I did hit the wall around mile 34-35, but it was quickly passed. It is amazing because usually my wall comes very early like mile 15-16. Quick is a relative word. It took me an hour to chase down people who were around my pace. There were only few low points. My finish was strong. And I am ready to do again.

I love running races. Thinking back to couple months ago, I was debating between running the JFK 50 versus the Seneca/Stone Mill 50. In the end I chose Stone Mill. It was not a wrong choice. I don’t regret it.

Someone suggested that I should do both. At the time I said no way. No way I would be recover back to peak condition within a week. Stone Mill was a big enough project. I am not tackling two of it. But guess what. A few days before running Stone Mill , I was itching to do the JFK as well. I said I will decide once Stone Mill is over. The last few days I have been agonizing over it. This time it is not so much whether I have the ability to do it. I feel ready for it! My body almost completely has recovered by now. This would be a first – to do a 50 miler back to back!

In the end (well I could still sign up for it) after a good night sleep, I decided not to run the JFK. It was more due to worry over COVID spreading in our area. The race will have over a thousand people, probably around 2000! This includes volunteers and crowd there even though spectators are not supposed to come – yet people will going to show up anyway. Events having 200 people such as at Stone Mill are already nerve shaking, JFK is 10x bigger. Of course there will be mitigation measures such as social distancing and wearing masks, but I really don’t know how to gauge the risk of attending to such large crowded event. This is all with Thanksgiving being so close too. If I come down with Covid attending the race, I would be bring Covid home too. So in the end, I did not pull the trigger.

It does not mean there won’t be running for me this weekend. I am going to try a new training run call 48×48. No it is not a piece of wood. It is to run 48 miles in 48 hours (two days). The twist is we only do a run of 4 miles every 4 hours. This means little to no sleep. My friend told me this is a good training for the 100 miler. Because it testing the body ability to reset.

That is so true. I am good with long run. I could run 50 miles withput pause. But if you ask me to run 4 miles and then 4 hours later to do it again, yike! So 48×48 means doing it 12 times. (I am thinking of adding 13th to it to make it over 50 miles, to compensate missing the JFK.)

My goal is to start on Friday night after work, with my first run probably at 5/6 PM. The graveyard shift will be tough. I will try to catch some snooze between the runs. Saturday-Sunday night probably the worse. I have to do it till Sunday 5-6 pm for my last run. Oh this starts tomorrow!

Hopefully I have some time to tell you guys how it was next week.

Other things on my mind I hope to jot down in the future because with post being too long already, is the news of my grandmother’s passing during my Stone Mill run how that effected me and my thoughts on death. It is a lot to think about. Still too much to wrao my head to it. My brother in law said death is like a race, actually life is and death is the finish of it. I see it too, I like that, because death is not sad, but a celebration of life. My greatest joy in a race is when I finish it – the moment stepping over and celebration that follows. I am still festive.

But I know this weekend, there won’t be time for much thinking. 48×48 is a tough one.


Day380 Stone Mill 50

I ran the Stone Mill 50. There are reports out on the internet about this race, so I won’t go too much into it. Yes there were swamp pits and stream crossings. Most trails are dry and runable (smooth). It is enjoyable if you like trail. Not for clean road runner people though.

This year is their 10 or 11 years. There are couple runners who did every single race. The race course at least has changed couple times. The rough year was 2016/17 when they added the lake segment. Due to lack of volunteers or lack of flags, some runners got lost or miss a turn. We this year, as I can tell, benefitted from prior years oopses, and it was near perfection. There is usually a volunteer or two at each major turn. I spent the last few weekends learning the trail, so almost everything went off without problem. I don’t think this is necessary to run this race but always good to know where to go beforehand.

I had couple lucky breaks through even with ample of flags and volunteers. There is this hardly noticeable connector trail between Long Draught Trail and the road (about one to two miles ish) and I have wandered around few weeks before looking for it. I thought I got it when a local resident who had ran this race showed it to me. Unknown to me the trail splitted in half, and there is a place to cross to the other side of the stream. There is no path showing to cross at that section (because no one uses this connector trail). Luckily a runner behind me called out saying we have to run on the other side. That saved us from deviating from the course. We did not see a course flag or ribbon telling us to cross over. The runner behind us probably had done the race before and knew.

I have done couple trail races out in the country side. I am good with trail finding trail and following the blazes and reading map since I have been hiking in the wild. I usually don’t get lost. You kind of develop that 6th sense. I have done hiking without light (not recommended) and your feet can tell where trail is by feeling. I ran at Signal Knob without flashlight couple weekend ago!

I got to say though the blazes for this race was good but they could improve some more. I have seen RDs in other races have a system in flagging the course. This race though seemed to flag thing haphazardly (as mentioned in other’s people reports). The flag only was there to confirm you are on the right path and often times, it lacked indicator if you should turn or not. Here how I see other RDs have done it. They should only flag at one side, say on the right side. As long as you have the flag on the right, you are on course and heading in the right direction. Also They should use double ribbons to indicate a turn. There would be a third flag to indicate/confirm you have made the correct turn. Somehow this race they don’t make it obvious that a turn is coming and you should pay attention.

This year Stone Mill 50 usually had sufficient flags/ribbons. However, their flags gave mixed-signal. They flagged everywhere and they mixed it all together. What I mean is sometimes their flags were on the left and sometimes they were on the right. You had to pay attention to both sides. They also had small flags on the ground and ribbons on trees but they all were used for the same thing. So sometimes you had to pay attention to trees or posts and sometimes the ground. Sometimes you see flags and sometimes you see ribbons, so you got to look out for both. It was just annoying. Flags are small but have reflectors, which is good for night time. Ribbons/streamers are good during the day time, because they are long and easy to spot. One thing that bothered me is there was no turn indicator. They just put a single ribbon and you never know if you should turn or go straight because it means the same thing! I found this super annoying. I was familar with the trail so even if they did not have any flag or ribbon I would know where to turn at most places. For example, there was a three way split (like a Y intersection) and our course ran one branch of the Y the first part of the day and the second branch on the later part when we looped back. I was familar with this intersection so I know where to go, but the two runners before me were from out of town and they were clueless since the course is flagged on all three sides, which is insane! I helped them of course. These kind of tricky intersections should be mentioned in the director’s briefing. How do you know which way to turn at such intersection? Lucky though usually there is a volunteer nearby or a runner nearby who knows the way. Usually there is another flag within a tenth of a mile so you can get a confirmation. Their flag system lack turn indicator.

That was a mouthful. I did not get too lost in the race. The course had about 4 trails (Greenway, Seneca Clopper Lake area, Muddy Branch (not muddy at all), C&O, and Greenway again, and Seneca Ridge). They are all public trails and are blazed by the county so just follow them if needed if flags/ribbons are not available. My race prep helped. Another thing the race director could have done is give out a turn direction sheet and trail/mileage ahead of time (most races I did have a turn by turn sheet except for this race). They provided us a low resolution course map but that was not very helpful. They also provided a Strava link. Strava was good for most part except there were certain places I don’t think was correct because it was not actually real Strava data, but hand drawn in. Unless you are local residents, you might be in trouble (there was no trail there). The race is not friendly to out-of-area runners.

In most races there would be a pre race briefing that the director would point out some gotchas and things like that. We did not have one due to Covid measures. I doubt in previous years RD would brief runners on problemtic sections of the trail (otherwise the RD would have some kind of announcement on the website for this). One Gothas was you have to run in through a building (Stone Mill ruins). I wish the RD would have pointed this out. It was just a cute thing to do to run through it. I missed it and went back for it when the volunteers mentioned. Not a big deal. I lost maybe a tenth of a mile to walk back and run through the ruins. Yes it was flagged but again I thought the flag was to indicate going straight instead of a turn… When you saw the flag and the aid station in a tenth of a mile, who thought it was a turn away from the Aid Station? Things like that are just annoying.

I don’t mean to hammer the RD too much. Flags might not have been done by the same person, so you get all kind of crazy stuffs. They are probably done by volunteers. I still give it a 9/10. They were usually not an issue, just a few places I mis-interpreted the flag meaning and went farther than I should.

The course is probably exactly 50 miles as measured by a GPS device. I added 2 extra miles to my pace chart before the race thinking the course will be long. It was good thing I did. The final miles from my Garmin was 51.5 miles (understand that my GPS might not be accurate either – none ever is). Those extra 1.5 miles were on me though. Some were from walking around at the Aid Stations. Some extra miles were from not making the right turns.

A big oops for me was looking (or fail to look) for Seneca Greenway from the C&O portion. It was not hard. But a volunteer told me there would be someone there telling me where to turn. So I was not paying attention much to the flagging. They were flagged every quarter mile anyway. So I missed the last flag on the Rd. We were running on the road at that time. It was hard to pay attention to both sides of the road. I was running on the right side. The correct turn was on the left and they flagged the left side. I was only paying attention to the right because I saw the county trail blazes on the right. So I went probably quarter mile off course till reaching the end of the road and was wondering where were the flags. So I went back and saw the course ribbon and also other runners. I say that was my lucky break. I pulled up maps and stuffs and a passerby pointed to some other directions. My six sense was telling me something else too. Lucky, out of pure luck I ignored all those false leads, and decided to head back to look for the last flag. That was a lucky break. I only lost at most half an hour! That was the only place that could easily have gotten me 1 hr or two off course and I would have DNF. I take that 30 mins lost time happily.

Now I got that off my chest. I knew always what can mess me up in a race is wayfinding after learning my hard lesson in Atlanta over the summer. For this race I paid unusual extra attention to map studying and when I couldn’t do it from the map, I went to the course in person (being tipped off from other people’s reports). The place where I got lost, was one I did not do a map study or have gone in person (It was the week, I went to Signal Knob instead of to the course, else I could have caught it). I also felt that section was a low priority since I probably has ran it during Spring when I did the Seneca Greekway 50K. Nope it was not the same section. So I made my mistake.

Let start back from the top. I love this race. I first learned of it last year in 2019 when they made a call for volunteers for their spring 50k. I volunteered. I never done trail races before then. Well I did a 5K/10K the previous October (2018). I have fallen in love with it since. There was also my ultra at First Landing in December 2018, but that was not a serious trail race (not as challenging as this one). This one was a real in the woods trail and a long one. So This year, I ran the Seneca Greenway 50K in the spring just at the time Coronavirus broke out in our region. We got the race done before the shutdown. This time again for Stone Mill, we got the race done, just as a second wave is breaking out, and a possible shutdown in our area in near future.

Earlier in the year, I did not intend to do the Fall edition of the MCRRC races, Stone Mill 50, reason being it is too cold to run in November. I read about the freezing stream crossing. No way for me. I hate being wet and cold. 50 miles are lot of miles. People said this year we had one of the best weather in the race history. I would run it anyway.

So how come I ended up running it? Cabin fever I’m telling you. Being stuck inside since spring due to the corona and with all races canceled, when I first learned there is a live person racing (as oppose to virtual racing), I signed up. Remember about a month ago I snucked out to PA to run the Gettysburg Marathon, even though it was cold that day 32F. And before that in July/August I did Rocking the Knob in PA and Camp Anderson (was a virtual race but we ended up meeting unofficially in person with a bunch of people). It was also very cold for this weekend. The wooden bridges we crossed during the race were iced over.

Yet I was all thrilled. In person racing! Yay! I signed up a month ago after they posted online that they got the permit from the county to host the race. Since then, they were fighting with the State Transportation department to get the road permit. They got it about couple weeks ago on an appeal! This week, just two days before the race, Governor Hogan went on a press conference – talking about measures due to the spike of corona cases in our region (a second shutdown is likely). We caught a lucky break that our permits were not revoke. So the race was on.

I scrambled to buy my race day food. I needed a new watch. I wish I got a new pair of shoes but it was too near to the race to try new thing. I ordered socks from Amazon. I tried out those toes socks, ended up did not wear them. Got a new headlamp. Kind of OK. Not a big fan of the model I got, but it was functional, and helped me through the race.

I packed on Thursday night. Repacked again on Friday …because I was debating whether to get a hotel near the race site to reduce the travel time on race morning, otherwise I would have to be up by 3 AM to get ready. I wanted to be on the course by 5 (first wave started at 5 – we had wave start, which was every 5 mins with 10-20 people would start). Looking back, I should have gotten the hotel.

With all the planning, I ended sleeping at home. I got home late on Friday after going to MD to pick up my bib after work. I knew it too, to fight against traffic coming back to Virginia. It was 8pm by the time I reached home. I had to do some last minutes shopping for race day food. After that was done…still I have not really eaten dinner. It was 10. I knew I had to be in bed by 8 to have 8 hr of sleep. Couldn’t really fall asleep at all, maybe I was too excited and maybe was not used to going to bed this early. I overslept of course. I set alarm for 3:30 but I snoozed it till 4. Then o Sh*t I need to be out the house by 4. I knew but still wanted that extra mins of eye closed. Staying at the hotel might have been a wiser choice from racing perspective (but I was not willing to spend money, and also covid concern, and the hotel I wanted was sold out).

I got up. Repacked again for the third time. We were given two dropbags. I hadn’t planned what to put in them. One would be returned to us and the other would not. By now I just tossed things into my car, what ever I saw I grabbed and tossed them in. My truck was full of clothes – it was like a closet. Three pairs of shoes. A pair of sandals. Probably 10 pairs of shirts – long sleeves, short sleeves, shirts for changing mid way, shirts for the end. couple jackets. A bunch of supplies, med/emergency kits. Bandaids and wraps. sissors. tapes. pens. Just tons of stuffs. Some are in their poaches some not. Two – three flashlights. Tons of food, water, drinks. I had my breakfast, left over from dinner the night before. I was not very efficient or organized. I got to the course around 5:15. It was cold. I had two layers on. a shorts and a long pants. I had two jackets (both were fleece). I spent maybe half hour at the course organizing, repacking for the fourth time. This time for real. The goal was to lighten my race bag.

Funny story. I decided to take my phone charger with me to charge my watch midway through. My watch usually dies around 10 hours. So I need a charger if I want to keep my watch alive. This charger is big and heavy. I thought of getting those lipstick charger but forgot to order. So in order to carry the charger, I had leave behind my med kit. Guess what! The med kit was needed about an hour into the race. The guy in front of me rolled his ankle and it was a bad roll. We think he later dropped from the race. I really wished I had my kit with me. Later on, another runner came by, she had hers and so helped the dude out. She was probably worked in medical field. She asked the guy a series of questions, like a doctor. If he has taken this or that med, if he is allergic to this or that med. She was extremely careful. She mentioned a dozen of different medicines, some generic versions and she would say so. I think she is a pharmacist. Not that she wouldn’t share her meds but she really cares about the dude as a pharmacist or one of those health professionals. For me and friends when we go camping and hurt, we just say you want Aleve? Here take it and that would be all. It is up to the patient to know what to take or not. So a lesson learned – Don’t go into the woods without a first aid kit!

The race started on time for me. Rumors were flying that not all showed up for the early waves. We had 250 signed up but only 119 finished. Not sure how many no-shows or DQ/DNF or dropped. 119 included many who went over the 13 hr limit. They were not DQ. I am proud that I ended with 12:37. That was my goal to finish under 13. I felt I needed 14 hours.

The race started strong for me. We were in our group of 7 for the first few miles. Then they all left me except the dude who rolled his ankle. I had trouble of seeing. My glasses fogged up. They were bouncing around too much anyway. I had to take them off. I am literally blind without them. I got through the first four miles without problem though. Night training without flashlight helped but I don’t recommend this for everyone. The dude in front of me was kind enough to call out branches and stumps for me so I could avoid them. Ironically he was the one got hurt from a tree root not long later. I felt very sorry for him. It was his first time running a 50. He told me to leave him. I waited until another runner passed by who helped him. I probably lost 5-10 mins there.

With the sun up, it was easier to wayfind. I had no more incident for the rest of the race. I was stronger than I anticipated. Even though people of my wavestart left me, they went out way too strong, and the later I was able to catch 5 out of 6 (I’m the 7th person). A few people in groups (only two groups) behind me caught up, I was not fazed. I do know I needed to get away from people in my group and those after me because by way we are seeded, it is not likely they would be able to finish based on last year stats. I checked the names, not many of the last group finished (three in my group and 3 in the last group – that is like 70% failure rate, note this included those who finished beyond 13 hr limit, if not including 13 hr limit I think the failure rate is at 90% or higher). I didn’t want to ended up with them, knowing they wouldn’t have much a chance in finishing. At the time, I did not know how strict the RD would in enforcing the 13 hr limit. The RD was all barks but no bite. We only know this after the fact. Still even if we know, we never would test and RD patience.

So I need to run faster than my group to assure that I would finish within the time limit. Those who caught up to me were either seeded further up but arrived late and so started late or misseeded (some registered late). You can tell whether they are a strong runner or not. Strong runners don’t breathe heavily. They don’t get tired and they run efficiently and effortlessly – like a gazelle. And they are fast! But most slow runners are the opposite. Their form is ugly and graceless. They run like a wheel falling off. You know when you watch. When they passed me, I know, they don’t belong in our waves. They should be in two or three or more waves ahead.

So a few passed me (one actually, the pharmacist) but I ran at my own pace. Because of the wave start, there were not a lot of exchanging place in the race since we were artificially spreaded out. Everyone were spreaded along the course. By the time I started, the first runner was probably 5-6 miles away and the distance only lengthened as race progressed. There were not much as hope of catching anyone unless they were mis-seeded by the RD (RD attempted to put the fast people to start first and slow people in the rear based on prior race results). So those few that passed me, I did not see them again. Of the 6 other people in my wave, one was injured so probably dropped. another slowed down after a mile – she did not want me to follow her and she never caught back up. I finished with two other army people. We had a good time. Of the leading two runners in my wave, I caught the lady about five miles in. Her pacer who started with her though was no where in sight. In all I think I did pretty well.

About the two army guys, I did not catch them until near 20-ish miles. They were fast but not what you think as fast. They did weird 30 sec run and 30 sec walk. It was extremely annoying. But their 30 secs run was super fast. I couldn’t catch them. For me I needed a long time to ramp up speed. So they were always ‘blocking’ me. Most people would step away and let you pass. They seemed to oblivious to people behind. Usually by the time I caught up to them I am out of breath. Any way, I always ended up behind them. A few times they let me passed but at the aid station they caught back up and they were so quick at the aid station and off they went while I was still readjusting my pack and eating. They were super efficient. It took me like 10 mins to get my headlamp out but for them, they had them in their pockets and only took them a second to have them on. So I lost to them in efficiency. We finished together. My hiker buddy would say, Antin, you need to put essential things in easily accessible place.

In the final 8 miles, I did not bother to pass them again. We were leapfrogging throughout the race. I was pretty tired by then. The lead guy was pacing. He has been doing so the whole race. They were just chitchating nonestop. Never had I seen a guy talk so much and they were not telling any story, they just went back and forth with nonconsequential stuffs — like women, sorry ladies. To me was meaningless chattering. I guess they are good friends. They were really into their conversation – and I was behind them for hours but I was ignored until near the end of the race. There was no break with their back and forth. It was like a slow jog around the neighborhood, and the two dudes just enjoying a nice walk. Yet I learned their pace was spot on at 15 min per mile with no diviation all while doing 20-30 sec walk/run. Amazing. They were not tired. I discovered it was like a pace for running a 100 mile and not 50 mile. The lead guy has done this race 7-8 times. I think this was his 9th. He was experienced. The other guy was his first 50. Last 8 miles, I learned to be patience with them and tried to immitate their pace (not mastered it, but at least I saw it in action and know it might help me with my 100 miler if I spend time to work on it). The pacer was a natural! He ran without a watch. He probably could run the course so much faster, but he was pacing his friend. From this dude, I learned about being efficient at aid station, and being efficient in pacing. Don’t rush but always swift (isn’t it opposite of each other?) Just amazing to watch. A few times I snoozed just a bit and fell so far beind them and it would take me 30 mins to an hour to catch back up – that is how fast they were moving. It is because they walked a lot, that I could catch them up. I can ramp up my speed but only over a long distance and I suck at stop and go.

Me and these two army dudes, we did not run fast but we caught ‘a lot’ of those who started strong but faltered later. I think we passed about 20 people through out this race (noted we had wave start, so in theory, we should not able to catch anyone). We ended skipping 4 waves ahead (maybe caught up to the 5:30-5:35 starting wave group), we were the 5:50 wave group.

That is pretty much the outtake. Be efficient. I enjoyed the race tremendously. Previous reports about this race were spot on. People were not that friendly. Most of them I think have defense backgroup – a lot grunts so they are not that welcoming to strangers. I think pretty much reflect the DC area. It was a no-nonsense approach to running. Everyone kept to themselves. There is not much of a runner community atmosphere. You only catch the running excitement at a large running events when a lot of out of towners mixed in. Or smaller races like 5k types then you can feel the energy. Still a race is a race.

A final word, always Aid stations and volunteers are the best. We had good aid stations – even ones that were previously announced as water only, had full aid station things, meaning food and all kinds of drinks. I think volunteers supplied them on their own accord. I like fruits at many of the stations. I had a beer! Love the soups. I didn’t expect real food due to Covid measures. Best to have them on a cold day. My heart was warm.


Day379 calc

This might be boring for most of you. Probably to me too. I spent some time to hammer out my pace chart for this weekend race. I meant to do this a while back, and finally sat down to do it.

I did a simple one with pen and paper last weekend? This time, I use the power of technology to expand my chart. It can autocalculate!

You know I like to just run and not think about the math. The math itself is not hard, they are just tedious. You just have to do many of them and do them fast. Often time I do them on the fly during a run. But for long races, all the math get jumbo up in my head, especially you have to keep track of many numbers. They tend to blend together.

We usually just estimate if we are running. You kind of know in the ballpark how fast you are going and when you will finish. Two things you need are Time and Distance. With those two data, you get your pace. With your pace you can project the finishing time (or a time to a particular place, e.g., an aid station), which is what every runner care about. Those who are good at this can get a bunch of points and their time calculated.

But they do get overwhelming especially after a while. The thing is you have to continuously run the numbers because your pace change all the time! There are unexpected things happening, like someone might talk to you or you might stay a bit longer at a station, or your body might crap out on you. There are always so many variables that can affect your performance ay each moment in time. That is the hard part.

What I wish is, while I run, someone would keep track of my data. Many apps do that. I actually was thinking to write an app myself for this! I looked into so many running apps, but none of them was up to what I wanted! surprise surprise. Most only track the history but they are bad at forecasting during the run.

This is the kind of data I want. It is messy. And there are a lot of numbers.

Big awful table

Ya I might have gone a little overboard. I wish though I could call a friend or someone during the race to tell them where I was, and they will fill in the chart for me. Cool eh? I did not have a chart for every mile, but only at 11 key locations (aid station).

I did a similar table last year for my first race too. For that one I was right on target. This year I don’t know if I will be on target.

I stalked various forums. Several people who I think have similar performance as me, said it took them 14 hours to finish this race. So with me aiming a 13 hour finish is tough.

PS. If I have an app, I could measure heart rate, elevation, power output, etc. Then I can see my power curve. If you put in water consumption vs sweat, calories and temperature, gawly, you have quite a thing.

There you have it


Day378 zero

I picked up a Gatorade Zero while shopping for food for tonight dinner and also preparing for my Saturday run. Today is only Tuesday and I have two more nights to do shopping before the big day. I try not to run around too much on Friday the night of. That night I will need to hit the bed early since I plan to be up by 4 in the morning.

So I picked up so cucumbers. I hate eating them by the way but I saw some runners commented that they have ton of water and it prevents clamps. I need those cucumbers.

Then I saw the Gatorade. This might be disgusting so skip this if you are fetish. The race director sent out the announcement that there won’t be any potty johns available at the starting line because we can’t have people crowding at the bathrooms. Also the school building will be locked. We won’t have access to the facility. This is all for Covid mitigation. So do all our business at home. There won’t be any restaurant open at that hour either. You guess it…We need a plan B. I know I will be at the course early because I live far away. I don’t take chances. Better get to the course early. This runs counter to what the Race Director is telling us, don’t come early. We can’t hang out at the starting line. Everyone can only have 5-10 mins at the start. We only go to start when it is our time to go. We all have a personalized start time. So I know I will need to go to the bathroom…with all the waiting. There is the bottle and a blanket for covering 🙂

Any way, I laughed when I saw the Gatorade Zero. It reminded me of my 100 miler run where I only drink zero calories stuff and ended up being so depleted. I was thinking not again.

It has 0 calories, 7% sodium, 0 carb, 0 sugar, 0, protein, and 0% (50mg) potassium.

That would do it.

That’s all for now. I am still thinking up my meal plan for the race. It will be challenging due to covid mitigation plan, meaning I will be mostly self supported.


Day377 scribbles

Nothing got to do with most of you unless you will be running the seneca run with me next weekend and at my starting wave. There are 20 people in my wave, so it is possible you are one of them. Sad that I am seeded to start at the last three waves. I spoke with a lady who will be starting at the the top three (each wave is 5 mins apart). She commented that I start at the traditional time whereas she will be start at an hour early. She meant I could sleep in. I said I rather have that extra hour because I think I will need all 14 hours assuming the course closes at 7 pm. I looked at last year finishes and there were a bunch finishing over 13 hours. This year we are only given 13 hours due to permit requirements. I am afraid that I will be part of the Did-not-finish group.

Any way, I have looked at the cutoffs at various Aid stations over the week and kind of stumped by the time because the math seems too hard. I used to be good with numbers but now I just don’t want to think about them.

I waited to this morning and sat down with a pen and paper and calculated various paces required to reach each station. Now I can say I got it. At least the calculation part.

Here goes:

The race is about 50 miles. 50.6 I found somewhere posted it as. Usually a race is longer than the posted miles especially with trail racing/running. You go up and down and gps tracker is not good as tracking the vertical miles. Think of a triangle and you are running up the slope, the gps watch track only the base (straight line) instead the slope. The slope (hypotenuse in trig) is slightly longer. I think most of our climbs is 1% grade so won’t be much different, still it is a bit longer. Plus trail meander left and right and you gain extra miles that often time the course only is measured as a straight line and not the zig-zags. I expect maybe the race might end up being 52-53 miles. I won’t know until I run it. Luckily none of previous reports said anything about the course being long. So that is good. Sometimes trail runners don’t complained about long course as marathon runners often do. So I read them with a grain of salt. However, I think because the course is in urban area and the race director likely measured the course like a road marathon, I think we get very close to 50 miles. I kind of see that with all the .1 mile to such and such aid station.

It’s 50 miles and we have 13 hours. The math to make things easier are calculated by mins. It means I have 780 mins. My start time is 5:50. I have until 6:50 pm to finish. My required pace is 15:25 mm:ss. This depends if the course is measured exactly. If the course is 52 miles, then my required pace is exactly 15 mins mile. I will try to run at that pace. I kind know most long dist races have 4 mi and hour pace.

1. The first aid station cutoff at Pennyfield is 12:30, which is at mile 24. This time is very liberal. However, if I run at the course minimun pace, I need to reach and be out of there by 12:00 noon to be safe. Of course the earlier the better.

2. The next cutoff is at Stone Mill at 1:25 pm, which is at mile 27. I calculate I need to reach this and be out of it by 12:45 pm.

3. The third cutoff is at Route 28 by 3:10 pm, which is at mile 33.6. I will need to be out of there by 2:25 pm.

4. The fourth cutoff is at Riffleford Rd by 5:10, which is at mile 41.6. I will need to be out of that aid station by 4:30 pm.

Sun now sets at 5 pm so it is good any way to reach the last cut off before sunset. Scary to have sweepers right behind you. ( I volunteered at one of their previous races, man, couple runners did not respect the cut off time! I was part of the sweeper team. A runner came into the station 45-50 mins late. RD didn’t DQ him. Of course the runner wanted to continue. My head sweeper did not want to pull the last guy off the course. I was both motivated by runner not willing to give up yet frustrated at the same time. The guy was holding all voluneers hostage to keep the course open for him)

As you may have noticed, the Aid Station cutoff times are far too generous. It is about 30-40 mins later than the required pace to reach them. Unless the runner has a final burst in the end (some do – negative split pacing), it is deceptive to use the Aid Station cut off as my minimal pace. However, for those who can’t keep the minimal pace, it is good that they will stay open 30-40 late to scoop up the late runners!

I use to be able to calculate this stuff in my head while in the middle of the run. But for longer runs, it gets too hard to keep all the numbers in my head and so I have write them down now.

…I need now to create a pace band to wear on my wrist on race day.