I am on my way to Michigan for the Ann Arbor Marathon.
This will be my 10th state.
I am excited. This is not one of the races that has been in planning for a long time. I only wanted to go to Ann Arbor recently maybe a couple months ago. I made it happened. Here I am.
For Michigan, if I did not know better, I would probably pick the Detroit Free Press Marathon, because I knew a friend who did it before the Pandemic. Not anything against that race, it’s just the timing was not right. I would certainly like to run across to Canada and back.
Ann Arbor Marathon is nothing like that. It is a two loop kind of run in Ann Arbor. It looks quite a small place on the map. I know I will have a lot of fun running it. I think the reason I picked this race was because it is cheap.
Gosh I am afraid of the cold. I think this weekend the temperature will drop to 36F in the morning. Brrr.
I have never been to Detroit before. This will be my first time. Minneapolis, where I went last time is quite big and bland. I wonder if Detroit is the same.
I only will be here for the weekend, just a little bit over 24 hours. Friday night, whole Saturday, and leave shortly after my marathon on Sunday afternoon.
I hope to spend some time exploring if I could. I kind of want to go to Toronto too but that is 4 hours away. We will see if I can squeeze it in my schedule.
Why I go here? I think things just worked out. As readers know, I tried to get to Tulsa, OK, but I ended up here in Ann Arbor. I might as well cross off Michigan.
My race won’t be until Sunday morning. I hope to keep safe until then.
PS, this morning I woke up and read about someone doing a race last weekend in Oakland University, and I thought that was Oakland, CA. It is instead here in Detroit. Go check out the blog MilesFlyBy on WordPress. She will be running in the Ann Arbor Half Marathon this weekend.
How do you run a 5K every hour for 24 hours? How do you even train for it?
At Pemberton 24, we were given the opportunity to run a 5K every hour for 24 hours this past weekend. A 5K race starts at every hour. The rule is unless you are at the starting line at the beginning of the hour or else you couldn’t run it. You have to finish before the hour ends or it doesn’t count. It was a novelty to me.
Running a 5K in an hour was not that hard, but how many I could do was a challenge. Exactly how should I approach this race? I tried to run it like an ultra, by starting very slow — basically walking it.
I figured this is a good way for me to test out some ideas on preparing for the Devil Dog 100.
First of all, I needed some practice time for night time running and second, I wanted to experience sleep deprivation. It seemed silly to beg for suffering, but my last two 100 races, night time was where I struggled.
My strategy was, to walk as many 5Ks as I could and hopefully to do all 24 of them.
The result was: I found early on, power walking is tough! I initially thought I could walk the whole thing and maybe at the end, run, but to me walking is actually harder than running! because it uses different muscles and I was not as fit in walking, to my surprise.
Even early on (like by 5 loops or so), I realized I couldn’t do all 24 laps of these by walking. I started feeling soreness on my feet and others those minor muscles, exactly like if I were at the end of a 100 mile run. It was a big “oh no” moment. My goal was at least then make it to daybreak, to get 12 hours in (we started at 7 pm).
Sleep deprivation was not as bad as I anticipated. By morning, 6 -7 am, I felt a bit of tiredness. Sleep would be nice but in theory, I think I could survive for another few hours. I did not test how much longer I could stay up.
I decided to tap out, since there was no need for me to claim the bragging for me of doing a 24 hour run. I came to test some theory and I got my results. I got my training time in. Beside, I was not really arrived ready to do all 24 laps. Having that done would be nice, but I was not going to kill myself over it. I also have a marathon the following week, so I need a quick recovery.
I mean I was prepared for the run but some last minute changes threw a wrench in my operation. I was working that Friday, when I should have taken the day off. I thought I could do both working and then leaving early for the race. I had things packed up and loaded up my car before the trip. However, I did not check the forecast the night before, and weather had turned colder than I was prepared for. I had long sleeves and pants but I did not bring a jacket. I did not realize it was that cold until I got to work (as I walked from the car to the building). The temperature was to drop to 45F (cold for me) that night and with the rain, it would be more than unpleasant without a thicker outer layer. I had to make a decision, to brave the cold for the night or to get the jacket, which would delay me from arriving at the race on time.
I chose on getting the jacket. Then I just sat in the traffic for the next five hours watching the clock eating my time away. Google map always say only two and half or 3 hours to get there. It never predicts the traffic correctly for me. I made it to the event just barely. I got right in to the event without changing from my work clothes and ran 12 hours of 5k (12 laps). I just put on my bib and got into the starting coral just in time. Luckily, I had my running shoes on. They were not trail shoes, but they were sufficient.
I knew no way would I try for another 12 hours without proper clothing and shoes, or else I would be miserable. My feet were beginning to have blisters. I felt hot in certain parts and I knew I need to take care of them.
I had exactly the same tiredness in pretty much the same places as I had at last year Devil Dog event. My lightbulb went on, aha, I realized what costed me that race must have been the power walking that stressed my different set of muscles, since when I train to do an ultra, we I do not train on the power “walking”. Hardly ever do I take a weekend out to power walk for 12 hours. Now my feet were tired because I power walked for 12 hours straight. I felt I was about to fall over. But if I run, I should be okay.l, I think.
I decided to take some rest and get some sleep first. I had not set up a tent yet, since I arrived late and I had not even unpacked. My personal aid station and all the things I needed were not available to me. They were there. I packed them but they were locked away in the car. At the end of the first couple loops, I tried running to the car and geting them out. Usually I only had a small window to do it. Because my car is so far away, I gave up getting all my things. I had my tent. So I set up the tent, unpacked, crawled inside and slept. Not sure if I did really sleep or not, but having my eyes closed for about an hour and half was good. Couple hours later, I got up, changed, rehydrated myself, and ready for some more laps. I fixed up my feet, etc. They were starting to go bad and I was glad I stopped just in time to fix them. Cleaned, then lubed and all. I changed shoes too. People around me joked about, wishing someone would massage their feet too. These, sleeping, unpacking, and cleaning took 3 hours off the clock. I missed the starting for the 9 AM run, so I waited for the 10 AM. I was now ready for round 2.
For the rest of the day, I decided to run instead of walking. True enough, my running muscles were unhampered. My legs were as fresh as they could be. I did another 8 laps easily (with one lap I sat out for lunch – I did not need to, but decided this was not a do-or-die race, and so I might just relax and enjoy the race’s local food from a food truck). I finished with a total of 20 5Ks done and that is 100k or 62 miles. Not bad for a weekend. And I did not feel as tired as if I truly ran a 62 mile race straight.
My run was not hard, since we had an hour to do each 5K, I took my time with the running. I only ran “hard” in the last few laps and still, it was not really tiring. I put in a lot of miles but it was not stressful at all.
There were many who completed all 24 5Ks. I did not stay around too long to celebrate with them because I was wet and cold. The race event allowed us to camp out for a second night. I did. I knew I could probably drive home, but just be safe, I decided to stay for the night. Glad I did, I had a foggy mind even by the next morning. Effects of sleep deprivation hit me much later even after a good night of sleep. I was all goggy the whole Sunday.
I liked the camping aspect. Many came for their friends. It was a festival. We had theme run every hour. I was not into dressing up, and so kind of forgot about that part. I think it was a lot of fun if I had come with friends and dressing up.
Take out – I might come back next year to get a true 24 hour 5k. I feel though this race gears toward the general public. There were some serious runners but many (non runners) joined us only for a few laps, which was not bad at all. I am not complaining. 4 laps is a half marathon and 7 laps a full marathon. I saw many were hook into doing 4 laps or more. Grandpas and kids and do it. It was like introducing the public to running and trail running no less. I think it was fun and well done.
As if readers haven’t realized, I am hitting my races in full strides this season. This one Rock-n-the Knob is one of the hardest marathons in Pennsylvania and might be the hardest on the east coast. Couple weeks ago I was at Virginia highest peak (Mt Rogers, not literally but was in the area of Skull Gap and Grayson Highlands, while running the Iron Mountain event) and this week, I had the chance of being on Pennsylvania 2nd highest peak (Blue Knob Mnt). This stuff doesn’t mean anything to me, but they are bragging points to show how badass my races were. This time I had 7000 ft in 26.5 miles with most of the elevation at the tail end. Backloading the run. I was looking for hard races for a reason to prepare myself for my December Devil Dog 100.
I enjoyed it for the challenge as well as the over all fun of running. I met old friends, made new ones, camped out. It was a lot of work but it was a beautiful weekend and well worth it. Thank you for all the food afterward too. Food was a bonus. My non-running friends asked me why I run so much, that’s why. I enjoy it.
This course ran like a 50k. The first place male finisher finished it just under 5 hours. Female first place was around 6:30. My time was 8 hours. My 50k normally takes around 6-7 hours. You can say this is harder than a 50k.
Coming in with the prior years experience, I learned to start slow, real slow. Last year I started still too fast and choked at halfway. This year was a lot easier for me to run. The climbs were still tough. I ended with sore ankles, quads, hip, and everywhere. Running hurts my shoulders too! I guess I ran while hunching over. They are the good pain mostly. Non runners were asking why!? Why put ourselves through the suffering. Somehow, they will prepare me for my next run. A lesson: no matter how hard I ran the week before, you only get a quality work out like this race, by doing hard runs. This was a hard run! A run I really need for — The Devil Dog.
We have a field of about 50 starters, and this was fewer than last year. A Small group. This year, I was the last person (third to last) by the time I got onto the trail. Everyone had left me, unlike previous years when everyone seemed to be in my way. (I think I said the same thing last year). I couldn’t believe I was slower or people were faster.
I ran for a long time by myself. It did not bother me. Oh, I found an iPhone, one of the newer ones (iPhone 13 or 14). A runner before me actually spotted it but she did not know what to do and was going leave it back on the trail. Someone called out to take it to the Aid Station, so I picked it up. Apparently it was dropped by one of the fast runners. He came back for it later on, like 15 minutes later. I was glad I did not have to lug the heavy phone for 6 miles to the first aid station. Not sure if he got on the podium later. He said, he would have dropped from the race if he couldn’t find it. I glad I did a good deed. I overheard him of being with the third place runner.
By the 3rd mile, I saw the first guy I could pass (Sean). He is a big guy but he was limble as well as powerful on his feet and he out ran me on downhills and such. To me, he look like three or four times my size, yet he was pushing up and flying on down hills. I always have the image of an (American) football player doing ballerina on the trail. What a sight. I was thinking how on earth he could move and moving so well. He passed me like a freight train. However, Over time though I reeled him in. I had no doubt I could pass him.
I caught up. He passed me back, but I waited till for another uphill and I was sure I could pass him for good. In front of him was a runner having bib 304. She was the last year last runner. She started walking on the flat portions. Soon I passed her too as my pace was still strong. I believe at this point in the race, you could walk to finish a 9-hr marathon, but you have to walk fast!
After her were two faster ladies. We pushed our way to the first Aid Station (AS) together. At the AS, I learned from my recent ultra races to be quick! I was in and out in no time. If you can’t beat a runner on the trail beat them at the AS transition. Be faster than them going out. I was out before the two women. They were still chatting from behind but they did not catch right up. One later did catch up to me, but she seemed to overly exerted herself. If you get a good head start, they might not able to catch back up.
Ahead of me were a couple. It seemed the guy was pacing the lady. I reeled them in slowly, gaining on them at every uphill over the next two miles. Soon I was close enough and they let me pass at one of the hills. Some asked why I did not pass them the moment I saw them?
One of the ladies from behind caught up and kind of ask why I did not pass the couple. My reasoning was, if they provide me a good pace, (pacing) why destroy that relationship or the pace. If it is not broken don’t fix it. If you follow someone long enough you will realize whether they could provide a steady pace or not. If they could, then use them. See, if I passed them too early, they would be strong enough to overtake me again. It would be a competition of passing one another. It wastes a lot of effort. I could end up draining myself. However, if they have relatively the same pace as me, then let them lead. Then I could follow and I could go at the pace I want without doubting if I were going fast enough for people from behind.
This couple though were able to stay on my heels till Quitter Row AS (final 10k). They were strong runners. Actually, I did not know they were behind me till we came into Quitter Row together. And that was at mile 20. They followed me for over 15 miles. Lesson: I thought I was smart in using people but people ended up using me right back!
After passing them, I came to Brian and a 65 year old guy. They are stronger runners than those I passed. Of course. I was now with seasoned runners. So I chased them for couple of miles and was not being able to pass easily. This portion had the first big uphill “Teal is Real”. Soon we came to the 2nd AS at Pavia. Dang, both of them were super quick with the transitioning too. I thought I was good but they bested me. It seemed they didn’t need much of anything. They beated me out the station. When you are competing with a 65 y.o., they are experts at reducing every wasted second on the clock. Brian was nice to say goodbye and said he will see me in a bit. He knew I could catch up.
It was on downhill but still took me a while to catch up to them. They were only a minute or two ahead, yet they were far enough. I was not able to pass them because they were strong runners. I learned Brian was the same guy I encountered last year at the creek (where I threw up, “I nettle do it again/Beaver Dam”) and he gave me the needed encouragement to get me back on track and to finish the race. Last year, he ended up not making the cut himself to finish the last 10k of the course. Memories from that race came in. Brian talked a lot.
On one hand, learning that he did not make the cutoff had me a bit worried since today I was running at his pace. However the 65 year old guy said he finished around 8 hours and that boosted my confident a bit that I was with the right crowd. This was their third time too. I felt likely, we were faster than last year at that point in time.
We arrived at Raven Rest (AS3) (not sure it it should be Raven Nest). After this, we had the hardest and longest climb in my opinion. I beated them on a climb and so arrived a little early and got out the AS before them this time around. I grabbed a bag of food-to-go I thought was a bag of chips and accidentally took all the station’s fish crackers with me. Sorry! Some might think that was a strat, but I did not mean to.
I have gained a couple minutes. I could hear them talking in the back. Brian found a snake. In my mind, good. Go check out the snake and let me get couple more minutes ahead of them. He did. I saw him stopping and peeking to the woods. I did not see them again till Quitter Row (AS 5).
By mile 15-17, we started to catch some half marathoners. This is always what I like to do. We are doing the full with an hour headstart but we ran 10k more by this time, by catching up to the half marathoners made me feel I was back on the course pace. The half marathons we passed were all walking, whether uphills or downhills.
Brian commented that the half marathon’s sweeper was here at this point in the race last year as they made this climb. So we were earlier than the sweeper this year as the sweeper was no where in sight (the sweeper is my friend Aaron, and he was sweeping again this year). We had two hours to get to the next station at Heavenly Hairpins. I pushed ahead. The climb was tough but it was not like last year when I was seeing spinning stars and blacking out and then throwing up from heat exhaustion. This year, I was only sweating profusely. I made sure I continued to drink and eat my fish crackers. I got the whole bag of them. I reached to the Heavenly Hairpins AS, with an hour to spare. There I caught up with more half marathoners and a couple of the marathoners. It made me happy, I felt I caught up to the bulk of the race by now and no longer in the tailend group. I was leading them. Being in the tailend had me worry about being cut. Now I was with the good crowd. We were only 2.5 miles away from Quitter Row and I was an hour well ahead of the final cutoff.
These two miles were probably the most fun in the entire race. We got to run down a ski slope and ran back up and then ran down a probably black diamond rated slope. It was too steep even to stand on, not sure how people ski down it. I remembered the first year, I had to slide down on my butt. Then we had to climb back up on the scrambling trail, which was not really a trail (I need a sherpa) but more like mountain climbing back up on your hands and knees. I was wearing road shoes that had the treads worn down, so it was super exciting trying to get a grip of the trail.
We reached the Quitter Row AS. This was the race “last” cutoff. I was still an hour ahead. It was named such because here is the place if you want to quit, you could because this was the start/finish for the race and it is tempting to do so. I came in with a runner, and he said he was feeling nauseated. We had him sat down. I told him, no need to rush out, but try resetting and when he is ready go out again for the final 10K, do it. I told him last year, I was there till the cutoff, and still had two hours to do a 10K and I finished the race. Finishing at this point is doable.
However, he was young and inexperienced. I asked if his crew/family is there, he said yes, I handed him off to his wife. However, she seemed to be unprepared to help him, only told him about don’t quit. They were standing around. I understood no crewing or pacing in this race, but I know the race rules could be bend a bit. If a runner needed help, go help!
In my mind, he should be given a chair, and wrap in a towel, get him warm up or cool down, freshen up, take care of his food/water/feet or whatever, then get him back out. He himself did not know what to ask either. I would ask for a gatorade. Get some fluid in him. Reset his system.
He ended up dropping. I had no time to evaluate his condition, so I did not encourage or wait on him to go back out, since I didn’t want him to stuck with 6 miles feeling miserable out there. He had to make that choice himself. If he was more direct (assertive) and committed, I would be more than willing to help him as I did last year with Jenn. Personally, I felt if he reset himself, and with a pacer, he would definitely finish it.
I had three hours to do the final portion so even if I walk, I would still be finishing the race. As I ran, I thought back on the last year race. Jenn and I were so strong here. We blasted out the station and then flying down hills on this portion last year. This time, I was by myself and I was taking my time. There was a group of 5-6 behind me but I was always leading them. They were within earshot but I couldn’t see them. I could hear them but they were usually a good distance away to pass me. I got to Throat Punch AS. I swallowed some chocolate covered coffee beans and off I went. Three time the volunteers cheered me as they thought I was about to set off and each time I ended staying some more for their food. I stayed a bit longer here because I knew a tough climb ahead. I did not set off until I heard the group pack being near and there were cheering in the back. Off I went with a bunch of coffee beans in my mouth.
I had maybe couple more miles to go and it was mostly an uphill climb back to Blue Knob where we would finish. The climb was much easier than I remembered. Granted this year, I was not cramping up like last year while scrambling up. I got through the Soul Sucker. I had cramps earlier while descending to Throat Punch, but now they were under control. Also I got plenty of energy from the AS to prep for the climb. I also did not have to wait for my partner like last year, when I waited 4-5 mins at every hill for Jenn. My only concern was to hold off the “wolf” pack that was chasing me. It was mostly for pride. I don’t mind if they beat me up the hill, but I hoped to do better than them.
The finish was anticlimatic. I got to the top with 15 minutes left on my target finish time. My closest competitor was maybe 5 minutes ahead, and I could not close in. There was maybe a mile of trail left. Soon I saw the road and I sprinted in, finishing before the 8 hour mark.
The rest of the afternoon was waiting for the rest of the pack to finish. I thought they were on my heels. The 65 y.o. guy came in like 10 minutes after me, which is still quite close. I couldn’t go to greet him because I had awful cramps in both legs for an hour or so. Finally a fellow runner helped me on my feet and my cramping then was gone. I felt much better, I could run and move again. I then was able to change into my clean clothes and had a good meal as well as join in the celebration with the rest of the runners.
The group that was chasing me came in spreading over the last hour. During the run, I felt they were on my heels. Some took my advice of not rushing the final 10k. I remember everyone I passed. It was good to cheer them as they came in.
Sean, the big guy showed up on the road with less than 2 minutes left on the clock. Seriously, I did not expect him to finish but he did. We saw him with the sweeper from far away. Everyone jumped up and rushed to the finishing chute cheering. We were hoping he would arrive before 5 pm, when the race would close. We were on edge whether he would he make it. Sean was splinting to the end with the sweeper right behind. He made it in as the final second on the clock expired. (They actually turned off the clock ahead of 5 pm, and so some were wondering if he made it in). He did. He earned it.
Take away – Why do I love running, going on trip, and doing these kinds of things every weekend? The full answer deserve a blog post, but the short version is, because I love it. It is exciting. It gives me a story to tell. To me, it is a good experience. I reread my last two year posts. Weird my memory has changed a bit even though I can remember a race for a long time and relive them. Even if I forget, I have it written down here. If it is not too boring, I might attempt to write a longer version.
It’s that time again, to pick what races will I be doing for next year. Scheduling is so hard. Since when I started running, I always wish I have an event coordinator because I hate making plans. I like planning (or having one), I just don’t like choices I need to make. I usually end up doing all! Have the cake and eat it too they say! I wish someone just give me a list of places of where to go next. Then I just wake up and go run.
It is not because there are no races to run, but I want to run races that fit my goal and mean something to me (yes, kind of hard to define). Last few years, my goal was to “step it up” to the next level of running. Each year has been “better” in some way. Going into trail running was definitely satisfying.
I am still searching for my goal for next year. A defining moment to make 2023 special, like MMT is for 2022.
I am sure I will still run plenty of trails next year. There are certainly many interesting (and hard) races to do. I am seeking something different.
I did Laurel Highland, Grayson Highland, MMT, Iron Mountain, Catoctin. Those were all my dream races. They are done and completed.
I am still progressing my 50 states plan/goal. My usual approach is pick couple states I haven’t done and plan around those. Yesterday, I looked at the airfare. By golly, a couple races I want to go, the price has doubled or nearly so. No way am I paying $700 when in the past I could fly across the country for much cheaper. What is wrong with the inflation! 9 and 10% every month!? Or is this an annual rate? I don’t know econ but it is hurting my pocket. Anyway, traveling to races has become too costly.
Air travel has gone up a lot. Maybe it is to a certain city at a certain time on a certain date.
I am scraping my trip to Tulsa this fall and likely for next year as well. I will wait till things get cheaper again. Oklahoma City near there is a bit cheaper. Maybe that is the direction to go. I don’t like having to transfer, but I think I might have to suck it up. Not many people want to go to Tulsa.
I am thinking not to run anywhere too far next year. There are plenty of local races or races I can drive myself to.
Over the weekend, someone asked if I ran the Tunnel Hill before. Hmm, that’s an idea I need to look into.
I have been thinking, instead of me picking races, I think they pick me. There are certain races, I just cannot get into, maybe it is my bad luck or something. And there were races that were not on my radar and then they popped in.
Tulsa has been one of my early targets maybe even back in 2017, but somehow I am unable to get there to do it for one reason or another. The invisible hand seems to steer me toward OKC or some other place.
Earlier in the year (summer) I tried to get into the race The Wild Oak Trail. I did not get accepted. I ran there on my own before, so no biggie that I did not get in. It is a race by invitation only. I could and might plan to do it on my own time.
Similarly, I couldn’t get time off for the midstate trail (PA) 100k fatass this summer, so that is something I really want to do next summer.
More bad lucks, Today, I received an email from a race I signed up just couple days ago. The race is canceled due to low demand. There were only 80 people signed up when they expected more than 400. It was also a race I have been wanting to do since the pandemic. It is rare to have a race canceled on me and it was not covid related. I am sad. I was so excited originally because it was going to fall on my blog anniversary weekend.
Unfortunately, it is just not meant to be. I was so close to going there last year too, I remembered I sat in my car that evening (maybe just couple weeks after my mom had her stroke, read my last Halloween), at the last minute, I canceled it, but I was really worn and burnt out. Just not meant to be.
Last night while at a bar after a happy hour run with my group, my friend David was telling me how he wanted to run the Las Vagas’ Rock n Roll. Me too! Please do it. Unfortunately, I can’t join him because I will have a race that weekend (Feb 25-26).
He was deciding between it and Austin. I told him, I looked into Austin and wanted to run a marathon there. If he is going to go to Austin, let me know, I will sign up and join him. I have Cowtown at Dallas-Fortworth the following weekend but that is fine too, I can do both races and go to Texas twice. I want to do a race with someone!
Another person, a work associate wrote me in reply to a work email, and in the signature block, the person snucked in a line about about the Army Ten Miler. Almost like psst, Army 10-Miler is coming up! He knows I run. I asked is he trying to get me to sign up! He said no, but he will be running it! I ran this when I was 18, eons ago. I want to go there to relive it now maybe 18 years later. Registration is still open! I really want to do it again. Psst, I signed up.
So where will I go next year? I have some ideas. For now I just sit tight. I will let the next few months to shake my schedule around, and hopefully, by or near the start of 2023, I will officially reveal my schedule.
My live schedule is always available in one of the pages here. For those who can’t wait, they can always visit the page. I think the page is race-schedule, but I am too lazy to look up the link.
TLDR – a 12h endurance run at Claytor Lake. My second year
Fall season is here and I can run as much as I want! This past weekend I went to Claytor Lake in Dublin, VA and ran a 12 hour event. They had a 6, 12, and 24 hour event. Last year I signed up for the 6 hour and while doing it, I didn’t want to stop and bumped it to the 12 hour event.
This year, I figured the 12 hour was just right event for me too. Indeed. I know I could do the 24 hour, but it would take a lot out of me – mental as well as physical toll. 12 hours were just fun. I was happy I chose it.
Those interested in reading about last year race can find my report (here) for comparison. It was fun both years.
Coming back for a second year, I knew what to expect. We ran on the same set of trails. For some reason the course felt shorter, but it was still 4 mile ish, maybe 4.2 miles. They mowed part of the trail and it took me like 5-6 loops to figure out what was changed. Because I remembered there was a part where the grass tickled my feet toward the end. There were none this year. Then it was an aha moment.
This time, I started in the day time, at 1 pm instead of 7 pm, so I became more familiar with the trail by nightfall and had every roots and rocks memorized. Last year, I only had one loop in before darkness and I kept hitting all the rocks and roots and I did not know how to avoid them, which was a fun challenge in a way. I remember how I chose running on one side and then another side, and then right in the middle, and yet I still stumbled. I tried to find which option had the least amount of rock kicking.
Not this year. There were no rocks. At least I did not trip on any. Maybe having done the MMT and fresh off the Iron Mountain, this course is childplay. This year was easy, I could partically run it without looking. I definitely grew more confident running on trails. Last year I was a dummy for wearing a headlamp that was not bright enough to see anything. I still wear the same one, but there was no need for me to see the trail this year. Really! I knew it by heart.
This was an advantage to me when it got dark, I could still keep up my pace as if it were day time. The last three laps toward the end, I could push my pace more aggressively and got my last loop in before the time expired for 48 miles. The race timing person, commented of how fast my last lap time was (47 minutes, might have been the fastest if not the second fastest lap) and I even got lost for couple minutes because I missed a turn and had to backtrack and retrace my steps.
When I was on my 7th lap, I was telling myself I would be fine if I reached 40 miles and called it a night. At that time, I was not having much fun, because of the rain and I was sick. Later, I saw I could make 48 if I do one more lap, and I had to try it with only 65 minutes left on the clock. And I did it. It was also thank to a guy/lady who was within earshot behind me, and I felt I was chased by this ghost. I did not get to see the person because I was afraid to turn around.
There were a couple “curved balls” thrown at me in this year race. Before we arrived, the RD (race director) sent us a last minute email, telling us to expect rain and lot of it. It started raining after our first loop. It got harder and a bit harder as time went on. I did not like it but soon got used to it. We had to deal with it. There were times when I was cold. The temperature stayed steady at 65 F, which generally is a good temperature for running, but when I stopped I felt cold quickly. Later the rain stopped. It remained such till we finished. I felt humid and hot without the rain during the night. The rain was both a blessing and a bane. Over all I was glad. Interesting how the temperature stayed the same but I went through both heat and cold.
The rain though made the trail wet, muddy, and slippery. I had to change socks, clothes shoes a couple times. I brought plenty sets of clothes to change. They came in handy. I kept my feet blister free. The RD (race director) commented how each lap runners kept changing clothes that it was funny to not being able to tell who is who. It was like we were playing a trick on the race director. We were bib/chip-timed so, recording our laps was not an issue.
The second difficulty I had was as I started into my secound lap, my stomach started hurting. Again, this is the third week in a row, while running I started to have diarrhea. By the third loop, I had to stop and use the bathroom, which took about 10 minutes off my clock. Luckily I reached the bathroom in time. By the fifth loop my pain came back, this time I couldn’t make it back to the bathroom. I was still couple miles away, and I prayed dear don’t make a mess. I couldn’t hold it and stuff started flowing out from the backside and flowing down my legs. Yucky. It mixed in with the rain and mud. Maybe my imagination, but that when it rained the hardest. It was a hot mess. my legs were covered with what looked just like mud, but I knew, they were not mud. Yuck indeed! On my last too runs two weeks ago, I prayed don’t let me encounter this situation out in the woods and here go, right in the middle of the race.
I had to use leaves to clean up and then ran as fast as I could to back to my car. I did not carry toilet paper on me this time. It wouldn’t have helped because of the rain. Luckily I had everything ready since I planned to camp out later. I brough extra sets of clothes and everything. We had a shower room so I rushed into the shower with my toiletry to clean everything up. This took about 20 minutes off the clock. I also hugged the toilet to get everything completely out of my system. I think the RD thought I was seriously ill (or throwing up the food he gave me earlier). I came out with new clothes, shorts, socks, shoes, jacket, completely new and fresh. All the poopy stuff I put them in a ziplock and a trash bag to take home to clean. Now I could race.
I had not figured out what keep giving me an upset stomach week after week. It doesn’t happen while I am at home. I had not narrowed down what is the common denominator. Was it my water bag, the gels I used? Something I touched? What was it? This time it came early in the run. The last two times were late into the run.
Other than that, the run was successful. I did as many loops as last year (48 miles in 12 hours). I had no more weird stuff happening to me. The rest of the run was quiet. It was peaceful and I was in the zone. I was not fast but I was steady with my pace. There were like only 15 of us out on the trail, but we hardly came across another runner. By 1:00 AM almost all of us were finished. Many left since they came from the local areas. I live the farthest, so I stayed. There were a few 24 hour runners still out on the trail. They later took couple hours to sleep too and some started at it again when the morning came. I was a bit too excited to sleep. I had my dinner and watched others coming through the aid station.
Tried as I might to sleep but my body was all spun up. I was restless until morning when a couple more people arrived to run.
We could camp near the start. In the morning, I did one loop on the trail, to honor a recent runner Eliza (from Tennessee) who was murdered while running. Many of my runner friends did a memorial run last Friday, but I couldn’t wake up early that day. I then packed up and waited couple runners to come in before heading home.
Looking ahead, I will be going to PA to do Rock n the Knob, a fun and hard trail marathon. I love the fall, because of racing. My schedule is packed with them. I am in the process of looking for more races to do for next year. Stay tune.
TLDR – I finished the IMTR 50 mile race in 12:23:00 unofficially. As to why or how read on. (or to read my last year race, IMTR (40) for comparison)
Part I: why I did this race
The exact finish time was not recorded because the race closed exactly at 12 hours. I came in 20 mins after. I had no regret that I did not reach my goal to finish it under the official closing time.
I felt I used every tricks I had to get this “fast” time. I was happy that it was not too late in the day but was light enough for me to continue on all the way to the actual finish. They were going to pull me off the trail.
My mom came along to accompany me on this trip. 12 hours was way too long for her to wait at the finish line, so she waited at the hotel for me.
The next day, I took her up to see part of the trails I ran on and to see some of the views I saw. Unless one walks on it, it is hard to convey the joy in me. We hiked a baby section, maybe a quarter or even an eighth of a mile around Skull Gap, which was a significant point in the race.
My point was not to impress her or anyone how difficult the trail was, but to show how much fun it was for me to it. At the end of the last blog, I mentioned about the sharing my glory. Walking on the trail I did, is like walking on a piece of history. Similarly, at the end of the race, I got to experience a friend’s making history (more on this below).
I think readers have similar questions as to why I did it in the first place, especially knowing likely I wouldn’t finish it. It was for the fun. Running is fun.
It is hard to justify my hobby as fun. To most people it seems like suffering.
The question usually comes why waste the time, money, risking my health for this sport. My mom thinks each time I run, my knees get worse, and my health declines, as well as many other dangers and that I shorten my lifespan. She likes to ask: for what? There are definitely some dangers and risks and it is not an easy thing to do (say to run a 50 mile), but I believe the risks are low enough and rewards are worth it.
Rewards for me are not a medal or even being counted as a finish. Those are good, but I prefer the friends I made, and the time I spent and experiences related to this trip. There might be one or two unexpected lessons along the way.
Sorry, I am preachy. For this trip, I like the challenge of doing something impossible. I like the aspect of planning it and then executing it. I did not quite get what I wanted, but I am pleased with my performance overall. They were within my expectation. It was a nice try. This is the report of what happened.
Timewise, for me, as I looked back at couple 50 mile races I did last year, my previous finishes were around this time of 12:20-ish, but they were either easier or shorter than this one (Grayson Highlands was I believe to be 5 miles short, and I think Stone Mill was much easier). So I felt I am quite good this time to run a full and hard 50 mile race, meaning I am either on par or better than before (by my own standard).
A few posts back, I mentioned I only was able to run a 50 miler under 12 hours once and that was at the JFK in 2019, three years ago (ancient history now). I knew going in, it would be hard to achieve this feat again. Plus lately, I realized I am a much slower runner for reasons still unexplained maybe other than aging.
I had to run it to know my true fitness level and as well how I am measuring up to my peers. Based on last year 40-mile pace, I should come in around 12:06, granted that I wouldn’t slow down the last 10 miles. Pace usually gets slower as the distance increases.
All my training runs leading up to the race, gave an estimated finishing time of over 14 hours.
My first and third training run on a 20 mile loop from Skull Gap out (don’t worry if the place doesn’t mean anything) took over 6 hours.
My second training run on the 30 mile loop, from Damascus to Skull Gap and back, was 8 hours long. Combining both runs would give the entire race course.
However, I hope usually on race day, I could find some super human effort or a miracle to push me to run faster, farther and help me to last longer. I usually do.
I secretly was hoping to get near 12:15:00 finish time, with maybe even get it under 12 hours, but everything had to be more than perfect to reach it. It is the unknown that drove me to sign up. Likely, this will motivate me to run it again.
Part II: The Race Plan
For me, there were only about four cut offs I needed to care about, Skull Gap, Hurricane Gap (two here) and FS90.
Skull Gap is geographically in the middle. Listing the cut offs/AS in order would be FS90, Skull Gap, and Huricane Gap, and for coming back I would encounter them in reverse.
There is the start/finish and Rowland Creek Trail at either end, but we don’t have to worry about that since no one could drop at those places. They didn’t want anyone to drop at all, since most of the stations are remote. This race basically you decided how far you want to go before turning around and make it back to the start in a reasonable time. We can turn around at any of those stations. The lesson is go only as far as you are able to.
My plan was to base my pace on the AS (Aid Station) cutoffs. This race was helpful by providing a very reasonable pace for each of the cut offs. The overall pace was 14:20 min per mile. I knew I needed to run faster in the beginning to bank on time at the end or else hold off the body from slowing down, by having plenty of calories. My strategy was built around keeping my body from slowing down by running an evenly pace.
Part III: The Race execution
I reached all those cut offs but the last one on the way back. However, I was able to continue running back to the finish even after missing the cut off.
The first half of the out-and-back trail is longer, which is about 15-16 miles (one way) and thus requires about 7 hours for the round trip. The second half is a 20 mile loop, and is estimated to take about 5 hours. For me, I did the second loop in the 5:05:00, almost perfect (with only 5 min over). Also the first half of the first loop, I did well. It took me 3:35:00, also almost perfect as well (with 5 mins over). The only part I did not do so well was the way back on the last 15 miles. I did it in 3:40:00 (a 10 min slow down). I lost about 20 mins from running as far as know. There were a few remaining mins unaccounted for, and they were probably due to aid station transitioning, likely at the last aid station.
In total, I was 22-23 minutes too slow. I need to improve my pace about 30 seconds faster per mile if I want to run it under the time next time (14:20 instead of 14:50).
This might sound boring to some because of a lot of numbers being thrown about, however, it is necessary for me for a next year attempt. I consider them as a note to self.
What the numbers tell me is I was probably very good at keeping a steady pace. What I need next time is to run a bit faster and work on better at running uphills (my report will show this).
IV. The race
Now onto the race, I felt great the morning of the race. Unlike on my training runs, I felt light on my feet. As the race started, I ran an easy pace on the Virginia Creeper Trail. It was a five mile stretch. This year unlike the previous year, I was not jostling for position with other runners. Maybe because there were less runners. We don’t really fight for position but you know, a lot of time I am competitive to keep pace with someone to the detriment of being out of breath and ruin my race.
I was wiser this year to run at my own pace. Pretty soon, many people left me. There were maybe 20 of us in the tail end bunch. I was not worried. Everyone had to focus on their own race. I knew I got this. Win/lose does not determined by this early segment.
We, the 50 mile runners started with the 40 mile runners. So it is not always obvious without checking the bib to know who is the 40 miler or 50 miler. I think there were 70-80 runners between the two groups.
The 50 mile runners could drop down to a shorter distance during the race such as 40 mile, 30 mile or 16 mile event. My point is, unlike in other races, you couldn’t rely on the runners around to judge if you are going too fast (or too slow) or use them to get the psychological push to run faster. This could be a problem for me who like to stay with someone because I might follow the wrong crowd who might end up going for the shorter distance. I had to run by feel regardless if those around me were running fast or slow.
Note I told myself to go light, by not carrying too much water. On training, I carried the full 2L and I drank it all within the first 9 miles. I only filled 1 L and I drank probably a quarter of that even before the start of the race. I wanted it to last me until FS90, 9 miles in. This strategy was working well to allow myself to run faster in the beginning. Note, I could have gone even lighter still. And note, I shouldn’t have refilled water at every single station.
After the 5 miles, we reached first aid station before Straight Branch climb. I stopped at the Aid Station for some liquid (sodas) and I took a gel as well, and ate a candy bar. The strategy was to get calories in me for the long climb.
This is a mile of serious climb of 1000+ ft. Last year, I did not feel good after the climb. This year, I made sure I had pretty of energy in me before the ascent and to go at a slower pace. The trail was clear before me, totally unlike last year, where runners were blocking my way and I was frustrated with the slower runners. I ate again (a candy bar).
I believed I made it up the hill in a short time. We reached the Iron Mountain trail. I passed couple ladies in front of me. They were strong while climbing up but now exhausted. I previously resolved myself not to pass anyone until halfway (mile 22) or at least till FS 90 (mile 9). The two ladies (also doing the 50 miler) were walking and I had to pass them. A 40 miler (her bib was 4010, Rene), caught up to me. She was going at a good pace and I tried to keep up. We passed a guy together. I was betting she would finish under 10 hours and she did (later I checked). I wanted to kept at her pace to get to Hurricane Gap, knowing that would put me in a good chance to finish on time. I chased after her.
She and I arrived at FS 90, I don’t remember my time but I felt great. This was the first full service aid station with food and all. I told myself I had no time to lose, meaning I had to priorize the tasks, water, snacks and things I needed under a short time. No waiting around doing nothing. I filled my water bag. Took a cup of Gatorade/soda and grabbed some fruits and sandwiches and headed back out. It had to be boom boom boom. Usually many runners waited around checking to see what food they like or not. I learn, if I don’t know what to get, grab something and go. Don’t stand and stare and be asked what do I need. As good as I was in going through the station this time, I know I still need to work on getting my time down to less than a minute.
I had to keep moving. Rene was still pretty fast and I did not catch up to her again until Skull Gap.
The next Aid Station, Skull Gap, was about 5 miles away. I had to get there by 10:30 AM (I told myself, and I think the soft cut off was also 10:30). I was a bit slower than my “plan” pace, but I reached it by 10:35. I told myself too I had to be quick. This aid station had our drop bags.
My plan was to grab my drop bag and took my snacks prepared in advance in a ziplock (with a bottle of milk). It was supposed to be a grab and go. I then went to the food and drink table. I filled my water bag. I did the same like the last Aid Station, got some fruits, sandwiches, soda. All in all, this only took 2 minutes. I headed out at 10:37. In my mind it was already kind of late (7 mins late that I have to make up for). Note, I should have checked what I grabbed, and not go to the Aid table.
I saw Rene in the distance up on a hill, and she was soon out of view.
I tried to check on my snack bag I brought. Oh to my surprise, it was not food but an extra pair of socks I put in a ziplock. I cursed myself for not checking of what I grabbed out of bag at the Aid Station. A mistake is a mistake, I had to continue on without my snack bag. Later on, this pair of sock turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Lesson to-self also, Keep a pair of socks on you.
In this race, every minute counts and I seemed to be losing them. I wanted to run back and swap out for the correct bag, but decided against it. I couldn’t lose more time.
Up next, we had another mile of climb but this time on a service road. I knew I should eat something, but I could not find the appetite. I stuffed myself with couple sandwich “quads” I took earlier at the station. I pretty much had enough of it. My stomach was about to turn. I drank some gatorade to hold it down.
Calorie-wise, I should be fine. as for my subway sandwich, I told myself, I had to get rid of it if I don’t eat it by the next station at Hurricane Gap. Looking back, I should have tossed my sandwich out earlier at Skull Gap. It was just an extra weight.
So far, everything was still kind of on track as I planned. Plan: Eat and Drink before a big climb. Get the energy to do it quicky. I did just that. The plan though was also to finish a footlong Subway I had in my runner vest but I just couldn’t make myself eat it. Maybe it was a day old and/or it did not have veggies and dressings, so it was hard to me to swallow. It was also more salty than what I like. I managed only eat a small piece. Normally, I love having a hoggie on the trail, which had been my signature – the guy with the footlong. Not this time.
After the mile service road climb, we got back onto the trail at the old 84. I was able to find energy to sprint down this trail (as planned). It was about 5 miles. I caught up to 4-5 40 milers, including Rene, and it was my last time seeing them. They all finished, later I checked the time sheet. They let me passed them. I caught up to a 50 miler, bib 521. He was the first 50 miler I caught up. However, he was walking. He seemed to be done. Indeed, later he dropped from the race, but I salute him for attempting. I am sure he has his story.
If I wanted, I could drop to the 40 mile distance, and be an official finisher. This would be my decision at the next aid station at Hurricane Gap. My hope was get to the station by 12:20 before the cut off.
I reached Hurricane Gap at 11:57, with 20 mins to spare. It was close but I knew whole race would be like that. Last year, I believe I was here around this time.
I told myself to be quick. Since I am ahead of the cut off, I decided to continue on and not drop down to the shorter distance.
There were sand in my right shoe. Sand seemed to be inside the sock. I had another decision to make, to replace the sock or kept it as is in order to save time. I decided to replace the sock since the next section had a long 7 miles on mostly running on a service road and sand would would destroy the feet. Changing one sock (just one, right foot) to get the sand out of that foot was a smart move. I had saved the other dry sock for later (and guess what for the same foot). I was not even had this plan in mind, and it was just lucky I did what I did. *Note, for future reference, no need to change both socks or shoes at the same time to save time. Treat them independently.
All in all, my time in the station even with a sock change was only 3 minutes. I was out by 12:00. I am proud of this – since being too long at the aid station was my downfall in a previous race (MMT). I learned to hustle.
There at the station also I met Eileen, a runner who marked the course the week before, and in this race she was unofficially my pacer for the rest of the race from here on. She is fast, and has my respect. I did not expect to catch up to her at all. She is at least couple minutes faster per mile pace than me. I had expected her to finish this race in 10 hours or so, but here she was. She had some kind of hip and knee pain issue. I don’t think she would give up, she seemed to determine to go on. Out we went together. I said I would pace her for now.
We caught up to a runner not long from the station. As usual, people we passed, were struggling. We left the person. I did not take time to note the bib, but I felt like we likely the last ones in this race (I called myself the unofficial sweeper position). We had to go fast to catch up with the bulk of runners, or else. I dare not think.
The plan here was to run as fast as possible down the service road. It was about a mile when we reached Barton Gap Trail. We had a nice pace going. We took the turn and that followed by a mile long climb and maybe a mile descend. It was slow going. I don’t know if I were by myself would I be able to do it any faster. I eased my pace a bit for Eileen. She was not slow per se, but was going at a gentler pace. I let her lead for a time until I felt she was too slow for me.
We had 5 more miles mile of downhill after Barton Gap. I know we had to run our heart out to Rowland Creek. I would not blame Eileen for holding me back here. As far as I know, I was moving faster with her than I did by myself during training. She also thanked me for helping her move at that pace. I know if she had been in 100% perfect condition, she would have left me in the dust. It was not a break neck pace this time, but was fast.
We got to Rowland Creek by 1:30. Note, I need to run this section even faster next time. This was half hour faster than on my training run. I believed I moved through the station fast, maybe again 2 minutes off the clock, just enough time to refill water and grab some food and a sport drink. Eileen took a popsicle.
I needed to reach back at Hurricane Gap by 2:45 pm. This 3 mile section was to me the hardest section in the entire race. If I am going pinpoint where my race plan fell apart, it was here. It is supposingly a 3 mile climb back up to the top at Hurricane Gap. A quick climb really. And this took me an hour when it should have been 40 mins or 45 mins, which though I think was faster than on my training, but still I used up too much time. To tell the truth I bonked badly here (being low in energy).
Eileen was leading. I am sorry for Eileen, if I had slowed her down and costed her the race here as well, since I promised to get her through to the end within the 12 hour (I was too bold). I believe, it might have been not enough calories in me and also not adaquately prepared for the long hill climb.
I had my subway footlong still in my pack but I was unable to bring myself to eat it like before. I don’t remember, but I might have eaten a snack bar here. I carried some from the start. I tried all ways to get calories in me to overcome my slowness.
Eileen started recovering well and she was moving well up this trail with ease, unlike earlier in the day. I was happy to have her accompany me – but looking back, I should have told her to leave me.
We reached Hurricane Gap by 2:30 PM, which is still a good news to me since we held off from losing more time, but it was less than ideal. I needed to bank on my time and I did not do so here. I knew the race would only get harder. I pushed the negative thoughts out my mind.
I finally trashed my subway sandwich. It was no longer useful to me. I hate to waste food but it had become a deadweight. I changed sock again for the same right foot. I believed I went through the station fast, maybe using up only 3 minutes.
The next part was to get back to Skull Gap by 3:45 PM. We had maybe 3 miles of service road. Eileen did better than me in the first couple miles. She decided not to hold herself back because of me. I don’t blame her. I told her, the goal is get to the station before the cut and I wanted her to succeed. I really didn’t know if I could make it.
I think I had some kind of stomach bug. I couldn’t eat, and felt like wanted to poop. I was still bonking and couldn’t run. Eileen was doing small steps, she looked like she was bonking too but she could at least bring herself to “run” (fake running). I was just walking. Pretty soon, she was out of sight. She actually said good bye to me before going. I understood, not to delay her.
I carried a Gatorade bottle on me that I refilled at the station, I drank the whole bottle. Maybe 15 minutes later, my strength returned. I sprinted downhill and caught up to Eileen. We made the turn together onto Iron Mountain Trail. It was two miles to Rt 600 Skull Gap. Eileen exploded away. Note, if I do this race again, I should run fast here like Eileen. It was exactly like on our training run. This trail was her stomping ground and she was in her element. We were so close now to it (“a pyschological finish” at Skull Gap). I did the best to keep her in sight but to no avail.
I stopped to pee. Through out these two miles I was by myself. I arrived at Skull Gap at 3:40. Five minutes left before the cut off. I went to my drop bag again, this time, I reached for the correct snack bag I packed, because it was only thing that was left there. Since I don’t need anything except for water, I was able to be out of the station in two minutes. Still it was not enough. We were playing with fire with the next cut off, I just knew.
The next cut off was 5:15 pm at FS90. We had 5 miles to go like in the last section except this time, we had two big hills to climb and all 5 miles were on trail and not like a nice downhill service road as our last segment, and we had to do this in the same amount of time as before. An hour and half to cover 5 miles, normally should be enough time, but I knew I was not able to do it. It was tough to ask my body to run.
These five miles were hard fought. I went through repeated cramps, my quads were hurting, and I had a stomach upset, and I pooped in my pants a bit (diarrhea), just like in my training run. Yet the race was still on, we had to try to reach the Aid Station before the cutoff. No matter what mess I was in, I had to get there. I held myself together. There were times when I could run, and I ran, but most of the time, I was walking. My pace was slow.
Eileen and I leap-frogged each other. I stopped talking to her and focused on my run. She was same. She was getting stronger by the minute. When 5:12 came around, she passed me one last time. I told her to hurrying up, even if I couldn’t make it to the station before the cut, but if she runs down the hill (I believed the station was just at the bottom of the hill) she might reach it within three minutes and not be cut. Ran indeed. She flew down to the Aid Station. Little did I know the Station was a mile away. I arrived at 5:33. I was cut.
Eileen was still there. There were some misunderstandings between her and the station captain. We both knew the Station Captain (who is the RD wife), who were at the training runs also, so there shouldn’t come to a point where we would be “grounded” so to speak and be banned from the race. We were told to call for our rides back to town. Both Eileen and I wanted to continue on and refused. Ann, the Station Captain said something that regardless, we were both dropped from the race. I pulled my bib off and handed it to her to show I understood her (as required in most races to hand in the bib to the station’s captain to indicate dropping from the race), but we wanted to continue on the trail instead of getting a ride back. The aid station’s captain relented.
There was another runner there, I think he was dropped as well. I did not interact with him, but busy myself prepping to go back out. He was handed a cell phone to make a phone call. Eileen and I left the station. I believed I might use up 3 mins at the station, I didn’t check or remember. They stocked me up with food and water (Eileen didn’t get anything, she was waiting for me). I took a bag of grapes since likely we were the last ones arriving there, and all the food would be tossed out. (I was surprised the sweepers had not caught up to us yet — later we learned the sweeper was carrying a cat found on the trail, and carried it for 10 miles, and she didn’t arrive to the finish until 8 PM).
We had 8 miles to go and 1.5 hours to do it. I knew the race was over for me. I wanted my 50 miles in regardless it being considered as a finish. I went easier now. The pressure was off. Eileen after a quick goodbye was gone. She said her ride was waiting for her back in town and they didn’t know what was going on if she didn’t show up. She had a reason to get there fast. Her pace was too fast for me to keep up. She was running up the hill. This section though is mostly on downhills for rest of the way. I went with a walk run pace that I was comfortable in.
By 6:15 PM I reached the split at Beech Grove Trail (or something), meaning it took me 45 mins to cover the last four miles, which was really good. There were only 4 miles remained. They (race org) left water and Gatorade at the intersection for us. I helped myself with some Gatorade. I probably lost couple minutes by drinking (not that I needed to drink). There was no doubt, I would be in town while it was still light. The setting sun ray shown through the trees. Beautiful. Cloud was gone. I no longer felt sorry for myself.
I continued to go at a pace I could manage. I had some more cramps in different places. but I walked it off each time. I saw on my watch when 7 PM arrived, and I was still in the woods. But soon I reached town. There were passerby cheering me as I crossed the road into town. A hero welcome! Cars stopped for me to cross the road. I had a mile left. I never felt happier. I made the turn onto the Virginia Creeper Trail. I knew there was maybe half mile to the end now. There wouldn’t be any finish line, but I hoped to run up the lawn in the Damascus City Park as my finish where the actual finish line had been.
Eileen’s two sons made a finish line for me by each standing on each side and with their hands out for me to run through. It was a thrilling finish. Note, I didn’t know Eileen or her family before this race, and hadn’t expect for her to wait for me. We ran together a week before but that was it. I collapsed (sat down) onto the steps of the town picnic area Gazebo. The race director called out my name and some of runners gathered in. I met them before in this race, they were cheering for me. Greg, my friend who ran this race 6 times, who probably finished at 4 pm was waiting for me to finish. He came up and as well as a few others to say some good words. Adrian too, a guy I met a month ago during training, he and I have similar running goals/projectory, he stayed with me for a long time and we talked, catching up on stuff.
Eileen told me she made it back under 12 hours (unofficially).
She just wanted to prove she could run 8 miles under 90 minutes, and finish it under 12 hours, when others said it was not possible. She did it, even after putting in a 42 miles earlier. She deserves all my praises, and it is the reason mentioning her in my blog. As for me, it was totally a “fun” run. I do not mind the “not finishing”. A run is a win in my book. I got my training time in. Note, I was sore for the whole next week.
Some had said, why this race does not open longer than 12 hours like other 50 milers. This is one of their requirements/conditions, we had to finish under 12. Naturally, some (and many) wouldn’t make it. When we signed up to run, and we had to abide by its rules (and/or quirks). My only choice is train to run faster. Actually, 12 hours are not fast, 10 hours is. I knew people who could do it in 10. I had no regrets nor complaints for a race being the way it was.
Timewise, my personal time was not bad when compares to previous 50 events. I made it in at 12:22, I rounded up to 12:23:00 and used that as my completion time for this race. I am happy. I might not be as fast as others in this IMTR, but when looking at my past races, it was not bad. To me, making it under 12 hours would be a dream comes true, but not doing it, was not a big lost. I felt lucky, and a miracle, to finish it way under 14 hours (a time my training runs seemed to indicate) and with that I felt very pleased.
So in conclusion, I did it as a challenge to myself to run faster. I believe I reached my challenge (not exactly under 12 hours), but who’s counting? In a handwaving way, I did it. It was fun. I had expected to be alone on the trail, but having a companion with me for most of the course was rare. It was like having a pacer. I couldn’t ask for more. Finally, toward the end, it was like being with celebrities, to witness Eileen put on a show, by sprinting to the finish. I did not get to accompany her to the finish, but I was only 20 mins (maybe 2 mile away), which is close enough. I can say I was there and shared the joy of her fast run. Probably only I in the whole field knew/experienced how hard for Eileen to accomplish that. I think she recognized that and waited for me in return. (This was parallel to my last year, IMTR finish, when I waited for my runner).
Bring all up to date, probably this is the conclusion of the IMTR training arc. We reached the race weekend. As normally, there is not much happening in the last week before the race.
As some already know, I wrote ahead and not really much in real time. I wrote this at the end of training week 7 and before begining of week 8. I won’t report on week 8, because I don’t want to hold off the race report for 2 weeks after the race. So I am skipping a week to bring everyone to real time. Tomorrow will be race day! Hopefully race report will follow soon after.
Supposingly, I should already reach my peak training a while back, maybe at week 5-6. However, I was not peaking then. Week 7 / 8 should have been the tampering period. But tapering doesn’t exist in my vocab. Which means, I am just a few weeks behind too. Ideally 10-12 weeks for training would have helped for this race. I have been pushing my training cycle shorter and shorter. This time I am in trouble for having an overly short training.
Main question is what must I do to get ready for the race day with the little time left. I think I have to focus on food a bit more. The strategy is to eat (sugar (gel) pack or something like that) just before the couple big hills. I need to put those in a drop bag at Skull Gap (mile 15-16). I need to prep some sandwiches. I need maybe leave a couple Gatorades. Races usually provide sport drinks but they usually either overly diluted and lack enough punch for me.
I probably need to eat something by the time I reach Hurricane Gap. When I come by Skull, pick up some food to carry along toward Hurricane Gap. Race day, pack light, maybe 1 L of water. Normally I carry 2 L. Don’t spend too much time at Aid Stations. Do Quick in-and-out.
These 8 weeks, I did three (on site) training runs (two of them were reported), one of them was a secret run I did last weekend, not sure if I will report on that. The first two training runs were productive. Not any particular reason that the third should remain a secret, but I don’t feel like writing about it since there are so much other things on my mind. Also Because I should have been tapering, I don’t want tell the world I went and did a double 25 mile run. It is like a last minute rush to put in as much as miles as I can. You all know the body doesn’t work like this. It is what it is.
Like what I wrote in the last post, I wish I started my training a bit earlier maybe in early June, I am a few weeks short for this race. In June, I was a little too discourage and tired after the MMT saga. I did a marathon but that was not much as a goal for the IMTR. The break before the marathon and after provided a nice change of pace in my 6 years of constant training.
My summer training did not really kick off into a higher gear like last year. I could blame it on the summer heat. We had some serious heat this year. It was a combination of things. The after effect from MMT was still lingering on me into the summer. I know I should get over it. Plus, my body generally was not what it used to be. I got exhausted easily. I did an ultra in July, Catoctin (8 hr for a 50k run). It was a good run for me, but timewise was not impressive. It could be maybe a sickness like lyme or covid (a long term effect of covid-19, though I don’t believe, I ever gotten it). It is frustrating to be constantly out of breath. I could not really kick into a hard run.
It made me wonder is it me? Is it of my lack of training? There is nothing to compare myself to. Do I compare to 6 years ago before I started running, or to last year? Or even 6 or 3 months ago? At the MMT I was considered stronger than now. I pulled a 50 mile then quite well whereas many around me were dropping off like flies. I don’t call myself to be strong now. Every season is new and this season hits me like a curve ball.
What was the Goal again? Reminding myself, I signed up IMTR to challenge myself to run faster. The Distance itself is not a problem for me. I can do a 50 mile today and any given weekend. However, I don’t usually have the ability to run it under 12 hours. This whole training was to step it up.
Evaluation. The true evaluation will be at the race itself. Honestly, my fitness level is pretty much at where I started 8 weeks ago. I might got a bit better. I talked of being easily exhausted, I think I improved a bit. It could have been worse. Honestly do I think I can run it under 12? I think I can do it in 12:15 as of today. Yes it is very close. 15 mins is all I need to make the cut. This is just a prediction.
I looked up my last year time. My pace was 14:28. For this race I need to run at 14:20. So I finishing in 12:15 is about right. Last year, the last guy came in around 12:12. I hope I won’t be the last guy, but even if I am, I need to beat 12:12. I am glad, the person was not DNF/DQ for coming in after 12 hrs. Some race is strict (e.g. Devil Dog), one second late would mean a DNF. There is hope for me.
A lot things will need to work right on race day. I do hope against hope, to get it down to 12 hours. Praying for a miracle. I felt I should be able to make all the cuts except the finish line.
I was hoping the whole deal of training would give me the confident to say, I could run it. However, honestly I can’t say that. Readers will have to wait till my race report to find out.
Looking ahead – IMTR isn’t the end all. I made a leap of faith to sign up for the Devil Dog 100, and it is hitting home. IMTR is kind of a prep for a later race. A small prep in getting me ready for DD100. A hundred mile is always a challenge especially the Devil Dog. I won’t go into much detail on it, except it requires the same type of speed I need for the IMTR. It is a nice lead into it.
Plus I added a couple races to my fall schedule. I will write about those coming up. I am so excited about them. (meta: I know the current theme broke my site, and links to my race schedule and other pages are gone, sad!, I will fix it soon) My schedule is still there for those who know how to find it.
I mentioned a secret training run. In my last post, I was on the fence of whether to go to West Virginia to run the Moonlight on the Fall Marathon or go for this secret run. In the end, I did not go to West Virginia, but instead went to Damascus (VA) to run once more on the IMTR trail. I know with so close to the race, no amount of training will help. I went because if I had stayed at home, I probably would skip out on any hard training, like I did the last couple weeks. Also, I miss seeing the mountains. So I went away quietly to do this run. Also I fear if I announced it, I would become stage fright and back out. It was a course preview. I did the same loop of the 1st training run on both days. I also helped mark part of the course. I felt good to contribute back to the race.
Lastly, I combined week 7 into 8 because there were not a lot to say. My week (7) has been pretty bad, in term training. There was always something needed to do. Did I mention I needed to trim the brushes? And that took over my whole weekend and it was frustrating chores kept getting in the way of my training! I was angry about that of how much time it took me and it is still not done to my liking. If I have the money, I would hire a gardener/ landscaper. I know, I’m just venting here.
I could write more about my secret training run, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There could be so much to say. I like the mountains, the alone time, the companion I had while marking the course. No bads…but this, I ate something bad the night before, and I had diarrhea in the middle of the run, and it was ugly. I didn’t have a stomach ache but fluid just decided to flow out where they not intended to flow and without warning. I literally pooped in my pants while running. No toilet paper was enough to contain the mess. I had to get off the mountain, and made a beeline to the hotel to clean up and then get back out on the trail. My car smelled like poop. Luckily I had a towel with me and that saved the seat. I almost thought my weekend training was toast!
For future posts, a thought came while driving to Damascus. And a long drive it was, I started hallucinating from sleeplessness the last 5 miles, but we won’t talk about that. I like to share my running experience because to let others see my “glory”. Maybe that is running high. I had a lot of thinking over the weekend. I want so much for others share in my joy. My runs are the best about me. It mean so much to share them. I had a nice thought on a passage in John. Don’t mind me if this doesn’t make any sense. It is for maybe a future post.
Six weeks went by already and I felt I just started. Usually, I only need about 10-12 weeks to train, this time I am in trouble. I might need 16+ weeks to get ready.
Like what I said in my last training, I slacked off too much this season. Not that I could not run a 50 mile distance but I am worried that I can’t do it in the time given. I am pretty sure I can do it in 13 hours. 12 hours is maybe out of reach for me, but let not jink it. I can’t run that fast any more on the trail.
I don’t know what to do. I know I need some HIIT – High intensity interval training, both to lose some fat and also increase my fitness level.
Last couple weeks, I have been stuck on some decisions. Yes they are about my races. I couldn’t make up my mind.
1. West Virginia Moonlight on the Falls this weekend. I couldn’t bring myself to sign up. I guess I am not going.
2. Ann Arbor Marathon. This one is on my calendar since last year. Again I couldn’t bring myself to sign up.
3. Atlantic City Marathon. A couple bloggers wrote about this race. At first I was not interested in it, but now I see it as an easy way to knock out one of my 50 states.
During middle of the week, I was looking for a sign, and guess what!? I think I received them. During my nightly run, one of the guys said he is moving back home, and his home is in Ann Arbor. Yup, one of the signs I should go there. Usually, I only do a race if I knew someone from the place. This meets that requirement!
Couple hours later, after I finished the run, I opened a Twich channel as I was going home, they were playing the song, Country Road. I felt that is a call for me to go to Weat Virginia.
Still I don’t feel comfortable (peaceful) to go the race in West Virginia this weekend. I struggled last year about runing that one (because the race is bpring to me, no offends to RD and others who are heading there now to run). It is a 6.5 mile looped course.
I know it is silly to ask for signs and then ignore them.
I guess my readers would want to know what I decided? I didn’t sign up for West Virginia race (I know it is still not too late) but I made up my mind. I’m not going. I am planning to go to Iron Mountain instead, for one more training run. My heart is actually torn between the two choices.
As for Ann Arbor, I signed up last night. I brought my plane ticket. It is an expensive trip. I still need to fimd a hotel and car rental. A whole lot of money just left my bank account. The airfare is twice as much as what I was seeing before. I could do a quick in quick out, fly in on Sat, run, and then leave on Sunday, but I decided to stay an extra night. Suck it up and pay. This will be next month.
As for the Atlantic City Marathon, I signed up too. This will the cheapest of the three races. I got a 15% from a fellow blogger (SheRunsBySeashore).
Oh, I forgot to mention my training. It is bad. I did not run at much in Week 6. Maybe at most 6 miles. Nothing to brag about.
meta – off topic, thank you for reading. Not sure why, but this week I got a higher amount of traffic to my blog. Not that I care if anyone looks at my stuff, but hey, not sure what people find anything interesting. It could be people want to know more about the IMTR… because the race date is approaching. 1 more week guys! Oh gosh, I would be embarrassed if they are using mine to plan their run. Please don’t base off your run strat on my last post. I’m nowhere near to be an expert.
I went to Damascus (VA) and had my second and last on-site training run for the IMTR (Iron Mountain Trail Run), a race I will be doing in a couple week.
This is similar to the trip I took about amont ago in July. Last time, we covered the second half of the course, from Skull Gap to Skull Gap (a loop, shaped like a p) which is from mile 15 to mile 35 on race day.
This time we covered the first half (mile 1-15 and mile 35 to mile 50) from the town of Damacus out to Skull Gap. It is almost an out and back, with the first 5 mile being a loop, and follow by a 10 mile of out-and-back, think of it being a like a lowercase letter d. The full course is like a q and a d stack together, connected by the handle, or think of it as an elongated figure 8, where the middle is stretch out really long.
My expectation was this first half (30 mile in total) is easier than the second half (which is on 20 miles). I don’t think I was wrong, but these 30 miles are just as hard too.
The first half is not a walk in the park as I first thought it would be.
A reason I might have the wrong impression was, we have 5 miles on the Virginia Creeper Trail and this is the easiest portion of the race, for being flat and on a bike trail. We ran this portion with fresh legs and so it felt fast. Then there is a mile of climb using Bleech Trail to get onto the Iron Mountain. This is hard stuff, probably the hardest part of the entire section, or the whole 50 mile course. After that, It is generally a roller coaster ride of ups and downs to Skull Gap, but I believe mostly up. Here my last year memory apparently blocked out all the ups. There were at least half of the 9 miles being climbing. And when it is not climbing, it is slightly on an upward incline. There are some descends too. The trail in this portion is not technical. However, I am probably out of shape as I couldn’t get into a good running stride for a long substainable time. I was exhausted at the turn around at Skull Gap. Of course, on race day, we would have to do the 20 mile loop out to Hurricane Gap (as we did on the first training run), plus a 13 mile back to the start.
About halfway to Skull Gap is FS 90, where on our race day will be one of our aid stations. During training run, this was a life-saver, because we had our water there. On race day, that will determine if I will get cut or not.
I was fortunate to be able to run with Greg (someone I met) on the return portion (about last 13 miles). Greg generally is a much faster runner than I. He was a mile ahead of me by the time I was near halfway. Because it was an out and back, I turned around and ran back to the start when I saw him. He has done the race 5 times and this year would be his 6th. He is well familiar with the trail and the race. He shared some of his race strategies. He said he normally allots 7 hours for the first half and 5 hours for the second half of the course (first half meaning from Damascus to Skull Gap and back to Damascus). Coming back is supposed to be easier than going out.
On our training, it took us 7:18 minutes to do the out and back. Greg considered that was decent for a training run. It might have taken me a bit longer because I skipped a mile. I imagine it should have taken me 7.5 hours, if I had run the full length as Greg.
The second portion took me about 6 hours during the last training run. The combined gives me an expected time finish time on race day of 13.5 hours. Note, the race only allows for 12 hours. I have to run faster meet the cutoff on race day.
I am in a serious trouble of not being able to finish on time on race day. If I must, I can drop down to a 40 mile option. However, I really want to flex that I can run a 50 mile in 12 hours.
I went back out on Sunday, doing the same loop, hoping I could shorten the time. On Sunday, I was actually slower. It took me 4 hours to descend from Skull Gap to Damascus and it took equally as long from Damascus back to Skull Gap, where I parked. It ended up 8 hours.
The time is not indicative of what it will be like on race day. I hope I will get faster. I know I run faster when it is an actual race than on a training run.
Even though I did not reach my target time, I enjoyed my training runs. The weather was generally much cooler. I haven’t been able to have a 70-75F day since the Catoctin Run. It has been 90+ everyday the last few weekends. So this weekend, we were lucky. Sunday, I ran in the rain during the afternoon. The rain felt refreshing. Not just the rain, but the sound of raindrops on leaves and the mist that came as the result was amazing. It was foggy. I like fog.
Originally, I thought I would have trouble with the logistics being that it was an out-and-back run. On the first day, we had a water drop at FS 90 (halfway point) and I ran out of water exactly by halfway (maybe 8 miles in). However, on Sunday, there was no water drop because I was by myself and I did not know the way to FS 90 where the trail crosses to leave myself water ahead of time. I was concern about where to get water for my run. Then the idea came to me to park my car at Skull Gap and run down into town. I could then go to a gas station to get water and then run back up to Skull Gap. I did just that. While I was in Damascus, I got myself lunch at a Subway. It also was a good practice to ser how fast I could get down from the mountain (no fast as I original had expected).
No big conclusion. I am fatter and heavier. I regained much of the weight I lost before the MMT event in May. I have been slacking in my training. It shows. I do want to be better. I have three weeks to get myself in shape. I was out of breath.
TLDR – a review of last quarter of my races and a reminder to myself that of some resolutions made at the beginning of the year
Briefly, this week training went well. We are still experiencing the heat wave but it is getting cooler. I finally got myself outside during day time. I started to adapt to the heat. I had a big long run (30 miles) on Sunday. I had a lot of joy, in just running and not care for time or where I was going. My training started to fall into a regular schedule, which is good. This coming weekend, I will be going on for another training run on the Iron Mountain Trail. Hopefully, I will give a report. I had a lot of fun last month when I went there for my training. This will be my last training for the IMTR.
As promised over the last few post, I said I need to pause to do a “quarterly” review. Yes, it has been more than a quarter, but a review is in order.
While pondering what to write for my review, a couple previous posts got my attention because someone recently read them and I got a notification from their likes. I usually don’t pay attention to WP notifications because likely they are bots that are scanning my posts, but I was wondering what those posts were about, and interestingly they kind of what on the topic of what I am seeking to do at this moment. They spoke to and reminded me of my purpose. I will reference them below.
I mentioned I need a time to review where I am heading or if I am achieving my start of the year resolutions. To be honest, I don’t remember what they were. And indeed, if I don’t know, it is a perfect time to pause to readjust my direction. Here from Day457, I resolved
- run more. Run first thing in the morning
- run faster. 4:15 marathon…is that faster than last year?
- run farther
- run longer
- be more organized (strategic) on my runs
Personally, I feel I am headed in a right way. Maybe it a stronghead trait of me, to never admit that I am lost. To be honest, I have not earnestly try to accomplish any of my resolves. I intentionally made them less precise at the beginning of the year. As to why, maybe for another day.
Day422 (Moonlight rambling) interestingly was on looking back and looking ahead in 2021. Nothing much have changed this year. I still am doing virtual races, the same ones such as running across Tennessee for the third year in a row and also I’m at the end of the second year of running around the world (CRAW), with two out twelve regions remain. I am still very busy. We will finish it by the end of thos year. In fact, I am busier because full blown in-person races are happening again and I signed up as many as I can afford. Last year was kind of a wait-and-see mode, this year, we are back in business boyz. The pandemic restriction is over. The issue noted in that entry of me not keeping a short note of each day/week/month of events, is still true. I haven’t started back logging my daily day to day journal. There were not enough time each day to do what I want. I know it never will. I still miss keeping those type of journaling. They are like mini prayers, and often show how I have changed over time. Journal for me kind of serve like a prayer book. They are my goals and wishes of things I wish to change or get done. (more on this at a later post, about city map, how people change). By not writing, I haven’t made much plans of the future either, other than my race schedule. In general, I know what I will be doing. I have spreadsheets, a bucket list, to-do lists and such, for long term planning. I shared many of my dreams here already, and they are no secret. Readers can read my previous two posts (e.g. Day488, Day489 and Day479). I am seeking thrills and sonething big enough to shake my world. Ever since I started blogging, I am on this mission of changing myself to do better and run farther. This is pretty much my resolution this year. I think, I was being less precise is to step back and see where things will lead. Basically if taken to the n-th degree, I am hoping running around the world…(a dream, but likely a reality maybe). I want to be in Awe.
In the post, I mentioned how easy to get distracted and wander away from the initial goal. In a way, I am getting sidetracked this year with social media especially with twitch.tv. I spent way too much time and money on it than being outside running. I spent in total so far about $3000 on running but I spent twice that amount on Twitch. It is insane, where $5 here and there goes. Their subscription fee is $5, per channel, but often time, I got pulled into giving other people a subscription in what they called subathon — marathon is my thing, and so I was into giving out subs. Bottom line is a lot money. Yep, follow the money and you know where my priority lies.
It is not that I have a problem with twitch.tv. It is interesting and all. Twitch does well in providing a sense of community and give me causes to rally around. I started out following a gamer and then couple musicians and now artists. Two illustrators, whose channels I am active in are lunariaa and wakalaka4eva. Shouting out to them. Please do give them a follow on Twitch and any their other social media platforms. They are indeed worthy of the support. As for me, I need to learn to “balanc” (waka’s community word), leaning back toward my objective, that is to run more, and devote more my time toward it. (seesaw analogy). Everything in moderation.
Day439, (Interlude) is another interesting post at a time when everything was about to go crazy around me because fall season were about to start and my mom’s illness at the time but me in a bind. That was almost my last review of the year (note, Day450 was the last review) and came quite timely, because I am definitely about to head back into that period this year, because I signed up similar races all over again. I am in an interlude at this moment. I can identify I am in similar position with all the races happened last spring and with many races to come in the fall. Now I am at a time when I don’t have any races until Fall.
Looking back, stuff (races) I did in 2021 were unique. It was a pop-off year for my running. I reached a level I couldn’t repeat this year. I tried, but this year was not the same. They were new, exciting, and creative! (artist word). This year, I am less creative. Maybe more about this in a future post, of how I see my running as art.
My races this year, though were hard but were not anything new except for MMT, which we don’t talk about it. First off, my very first race, the Seneca Greenway 50k race was canceled due to weather (rain). Oh ya, the WTF race was also canceled due to ice and snow. It kind of dampened the mood. This came after the Devil Dog, which we won’t talk about that either. I did not run the Grayson Highland this year. Last year, that was my first scary race. I felt I reached another level after finishing it. Nothing like that this year. Also, this year I did not run Laurel Highland race, another fearsome race I successfully ran last year. This year though, I ran the Catoctin 50k the full race, and this was a race I am proud of. Yet a 50k is nothing compare to a 50 mile or 70 mile run. Last year, I only did the short version of the Catoctin Run and this year I got to do the real thing and so I am proud.
The race that tested my mettle this year was the MMT (Massanutten 100). Indeed, it was hard and I did not finish it. I went in knowing it was hard, but as I ran, I was confident I could finish. Then a twist of fate, and I hit my limit near the very end. Definitely a story to tell. The report is available (MMT report, Day477).
Forward looking, I signed up for many same races for the fall as last year. Iron Mountain and Lake Ridge 12 hr run, both were races I did last year. Iron Mountain is my next project and then Devil Dog, both are hard. Plus many other smaller races, e.g., Moonlight marathon, which I haven’t signed up yet, but I might, and it also was a race I did last year. I had more fun out of it than expected.
Plus, I signed up the Devil Dog again, a redo because I did not get to finish it last year. This time I am running a longer distance. I will enter the fall and winter season in full speed. It might not be like last year when everything was new to me, this year, while challenging, they are things I have done before.
What were my resolutions again? I don’t know, but I have many races to do. (Kick myself, stop being lazy and go look up my resolutions, OK, I did). It is my fault to make my resolutions too vague, that I can’t remember them. Not knowing them means I am not actively working toward reaching them.
Note to self: Moonlight Marathon signup, Blue Ridge Marathon sign up, Tulsa Route 66 Marathon, maybe, and Ann Arbor Marathon, maybe.