Day381 reset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Day380 Stone Mill 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Day379 calc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big awful table

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

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

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

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

There you have it


Day378 zero

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

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

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

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

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

That would do it.

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


Day377 scribbles

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

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

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

Here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Day376 small run

I had one of the best runs last night. It was just 10k. Just nice distance. I ran too many long miles and those were slugfest. I like short and fast runs.

It felt fast to me though the time showed otherwise. I felt I ran the fastest ever. Zoom Zoom. Due to corona virus, there have not been any 5K or 10K in the area. I use 5K and 10K as a stress test, that is, to run my heart out. For some reason, I could not run fast if I feel it is a ‘training’ run.

Normally last couple weeks, I did not have the motivation to do night runs. Either I was hungry, tired, sleepy, cold, or just wanted to watch youtube videos. I was slacking. The fear of lack of training for my race could not move me out of the door.

Yet last night, I faced with all the same situation. I was cold after leaving work. I was wearing three or 4 layers and was still cold. I had not eaten dinner. The sun has set (we turned our clock back so now it gets dark after ,5:30). Funny story, I think the construction people in the area forgot about the early darkness, they were still doing road work in the dark! I thought that was funny! Oops.

Any way, we had the coldest night so far. I made up my night to suit up and stepped out. I did a loop around my house. Did not feel like I was doing it. Feet did not want to run. However, my body started to warm up. So I stopped at my house and delayered. I dropped my two jackets. Took off my long sleeves and only have a tee on. I wrapped a glow jacket around me and headed out the second time.

The cold evening air felt alive! I loved it. I stretched my legs and ran. It was cold but alive at the same time. Originally I wanted only to do 3 miles but it was not enough. Halfway through, I decided to stay out a bit longer.

People at a church gave me a chill for a different reason. I did not expect anybody therrle but then cars started pulling in. They had an evening prayer virgil for the election today. The place was dark and it was just spooky as I ran across it. I felt better once I made the connection that they had a special prayer night. My church also sent out similar announcement – to pray for our nation (I think mostly so that Prez Trump would win). There though kind of panic in our area of fear of rioting. Stores in DC were boarded up. Though Virginia is calm.

I turned around and ran back home.

Why I wrote about the run? I had a thought this morning while in the shower. (Oh my the way, I was freezing once I got back in the house. I had to put back on 4 layers of clothes and were shaking in my bed.) My thought was our life consists of tiny events like a run here and there. It is like those tiny gears in a mechanical watch. The tiny gears drive the bigger gears, and those drive even larger gears so forth.

I have been only blogged about ‘big events’ relating to my runs but forgot about the smaller yet boring daily runs. Maybe because I felt they were not as important.

I actually have something I wanted to write but did not get a chance. On Sunday, I got my act together and went out to the Seneca Trail to preview the course (part of it) for my race.

I glad I went because I spent about three hours looking for that one turn off that looked weird on the map. I traveled about 8 miles back and forth at that particular point searching it. Some people pointed me here and there. I actually got in my car and ‘case’ the neighborhood to find where the trail ends. Glad no one called the cops on me. Eventually I found something I thought that would be it and decided to go home. I ran into a local trail runner and I popped the question if she knew where the course turns. She said yes, she will be running in the race two and she knew exactly where I was talking about. She said she volunteered at that turn in a previous years and noted some people missed the turn. She offerred to lead me there. I went with her and indeed, it was sneaky because it was not a path and unmarked in any maps. The whole point of this narative is I felt a bit relieved, I resolved one suspicious turn for my race!

I might write why this is important in another blog post about the seneca run.

OK that is all today. Outtake: I am looking forward to a big race so I can write about. Sometimes though a small nightly run is a gem.


Day375 Signal Knob

update: A bit worn out from the hike and run yesterday at Signal knob. Not sure if I will run today. Bye bye seneca. I will just have to risk it on race day without checking out where the trail goes at certain spots. (I read Benrunsonbeer’s report on his race and it got me worry. I am experiencing about the same thing)

I expected a cold morning yesterday with the temperature fell to mid to high 30s for the first time in our area this Fall. There were ice forming on my windshield.

I was slow in getting myself ready in the morning. I had a breakfast and tossed a bunch of food into my lunch bag. Got a bunch of clothes too, by the time I left the house it was 8 o clock. The drive took an hour and I set the wrong location to the trailhead without realizing until I showed up at the wrong place. I realized when I pulled into skyline drive, that this was not it. I had to reset the GPS to the real place and so got to the trail by 9-ish. Originally I wanted to be out there around 7-ish am to do one loop first before the kids arrived.

Kids! They were my sister’s and family. We were going to do the day hike together and in the afternoon I would run some more. They showed up at 10.

I ran there last year. It was challenging but not as bad as Wild Oak. The loop is shorter between 9-11 miles depending on the trails you take. You have a choice. The elevation gain is maybe 1000-1500. Oh, it is 2200 ft. But Wild Oak is twice to three times as that. still a loop at signal knob took me about 4 hours. I am slow. My goal is to run it in 2 hours.

As a matter of fact, we came across a guy four times on the trail. He was there when I started and he finished at 4 pm while I was just about to start my second loop. Amazing. He was going very strong when he passed me on his final loop! 36 miles in what 7 hours? Crazy! Did he even stop for lunch? If only I could run like him 🙂 It was a training run for him because the way he was hitting the strides, he was not straining or putting in sweat, while I was like a wheel has fallen off.

I got my run in though. The last lap for me was iffy. The time was four pm and I was unsure whether to start the second loop because sunset is around 6:30 and I don’t want to be on the mountain after dark. I experienced that a few weeks ago. Nope not going to repeat that trying to descend from the mountain with a tiny candlelight flashlight.

I did start hoping I could finish it in about 2 hours. So I went for it. Then came the hill climbs. My feet were jack. I couldn’t run uphill. Yes I need to work more on the hill climb. I literally hiked up the mountain. I ended up getting caught in darkness.

My hope was to chase the kids as they literally were doing 40-45 mins a mile. They had about 6 miles to go when I left them. I was hoping by running I would caught up to them. Nope, I took the wrong turn and ended up doing the longer loop of 11 miles instead of the 9 miles. I arrived at the separation point at about 5:20. We were there having lunch at 2 pm when I said I would run and hope to catch up on my 2nd lap. I know I was 3 hours and 20 mins behind them and they had only 6 miles to go. I was hoping they would slow down to 1 mile an hour. I have about 1 hr ish to catch up. They texted me later that they finished. I thought so too that they should be finishing around 6:30. I knew I had an hour left and 6 miles to go. If it was on flat ground I could run 6 miles in an hour, but we were on the mountain here. Looking at the stat now, I was moving 3 mi an hour – yes very slow!

I got their message that they arrived back at the car around 7 o’clock with me having a mile-ish left, maybe 1.5 miles. It was good though because once I got their text message, I relaxed. No longer was I chasing them. I took a water break, got my gu gel in me, to restore my energy. They called this a reset – to reset your heart rate. The sun had completely set by then.

I could still make out a bit of the faint outline of the trail using my god given spider sense. Then I told myself let not break a leg and need to turn on the flash light. Flash light actually made it worse because now my night vision ability was gone. The faint outline of the trail was completely gone. The flashlight did not help in seeing the trail. I felt more blind with the light on than without the light, but it was too late to turn off the light now, a little light is better than none. All I could see is the immediate steps in front of my shoes! You don’t run by looking at your feet! You have to gaze ahead. Basically that was the end of running for me. I hiked the rest of the way out.

I had a flashlight on me but it was hard to see the trail. I went by feel and trusted my feet would find the path. The last two miles were in darkness. The final mile was iffy because I was not sure if I was on the trail or some other terrain (it felt like I was on a dry river bed). I could not see the blazes at all. There was that fear I might be lost in the forest with half a mile to go! I finished around 7:15 pm. The kids left me their birthday cakes (It was one of them birthday). They said so long by messaging and was long gone when I arrived at the parking lot. I hopped in my truck and out of there.

The reason that it was kind of scary was I was wearing a tee and shorts and temperature would drop to freezing point in the night. So I didn’t want to be stuck out there. I have layers put away in my hiker pack but still, the thought of spending night out in the woods is no fun.

So that was my exciting adventure of the week. (voting too could be up there as the most exciting thing for my week, but I don’t write about that. I did the early in-person voting the past Wednesday. Running in the dark though, you can’t beat that)


Day373 seneca run

I was training for Seneca 50 Mile run over the weekend. The good news is it will take place. The race organizer won the appeal and gathered all tge necessary permits.

I signed up last month when they posted they got the permission from a local school to stage their start and finish line on site.

It is kind of a late signup. Nornmally this race sold out quickly once announced. I was lucky maybe due to COVID uncertainty that throughout the summer the race was only accepting entries as wait-list only, meaning those who signed up are not charged until the race is definitely is going to be held. Not too many people jump on the wait-listed registration. Neither did I.

Remember I signed up their sister race in the spring and ran it the week COVID broke out in our area. At the time, we were on edge whether the race would be canceled. things were going downhill the whole week leading up to the race. But we held it and ran it. I don’t remember if there was any COVID mitigation plan at all. Did I even wear a mask?

With COVID dominating the news cycle running an in person race was pretty low on the list.

Then now, we kind of think we got this. We have this and that races started up again. I did the Gettysburg Marathon in PA. Seneca will be the first one here in the Washington DC area.

They say all the eyes will be on them to do this properly.

So yeah, I was excited when I felt we can do it.

We all joked around on the race Facebook page, that now we start to train for the race with about two weeks remaining before the race after hearing the news that the race will be on!

Me too. It finally sinks in of how am I going to run 50 miles. Given I have done it once and did it in 11.5 hours, this race should be easy right? But last year, I specifically was training to run it. This time around, I don’t have the confident. I have not been training that hard.

Over the summer I was running in Atlanta, all the paces I was calculating were off. My point is I don’t think I am that tough guy as last year. My pace sucks. If given enough time I could run 50 miles, but to run at a certain pace and finish by a certain time, I don’t think I can do it.

The race limits us to 13 hours. That seems plenty right? I checked previous year results. Some people took over 14 hours. I think there will be a lot who will not able to finish this year. 13 hours is tight for me. I have to run a perfect race, in my opinion. I hope to reach half way by 6 hours and use 7 hours for the last half. Of course if I could do it faster the better. There is no way I will get to mile 50 in 5 hours.

So last weekend both Saturday and Sunday I headed out on the race trail. It was good the race is local and I could use the trail as much as I want. It is kind of late to train, but any little bit helps. Saturday, I did 13 miles. It was hard. My body refused to run fast.

On Sunday, I did about 14 miles on a different segment. This was even harder because I kept getting lost. (Those who has access to my public Strava data can see I was walking back and forth trying to find the right trail. It was a good experience though. I rather getting lost in the practice than on the race day. I remember how painful that was getting lost in Atlanta, while my clock was ticking down. I don’t want a repeat here.

Why? even though it is a local trail, I have not been on it. It is in the Maryland side. As I mentioned before, we Virginian have very little association with the Marylanders. They are like a foreign country to us. Every time I go to Maryland, I get lost (exaggerating a bit), but normally, we stay out of Maryland.

I plan to go back out this weekend. There is one or two places I am not sure about. I checked the race course on Strava, and it looked fishy because the course shows it was going over people’s houses and backyards. I need boots on the ground to confirm.


Day372 – race schedule

Keeping with tradition, here are some races planned for next year. Most of them will be either a redo / or races that were deferred from this year.

For the rest of this year, there are possible one or two races left.

Some are fatass races or virtual races. I orginally signed up for Richmond Marathon, but then deferred to next year. Now my friend wants to go do it. This is a strange race. It is a virtual race but on a actual course. My friend wants to use the course because they have mile markers and water point specifically set up for the Richmond Marathon (plus real tracking/timing). However, my friend is just borrowing the course (since it is open for public) to do his MCM 50K marathon. I also signed up MCM 50K, but deferred it to next year as well. Here is the weird part, because my friend shown interest in traveling down to Richmond for his “virtual marathon”, I am thinking of heading down there too to run even though both of races (Richmond and MCM) were deferred!

Why is life so complicated?

11/7 – Possible virtual race in Richmond. More like cheering for a friend

11/14 – Stone Mill 50 miler.

12/5 – Devil Dog (lite) 50K

Due to COVID-19 restrictions still in effect the two real in-person races are iffy but I signed up on both of them. Stone Mill was original on track, but now there is permit a snag and we are still waiting for word if the race is a go. I am kind of disappointed even though I have been through so many of these cancelations this year.

Fingers crossed. Next year is no different. COVID-19 is here for the long haul, so everything is still day-to-day and week-to-week.

Dec. Rocky Fatass Philadephia run. Not likely. The “run” is officially canceled on its website, but still it is a fatass and any one can show up and do it on your own. I was kind of enthusiastic about this earlier, but now kind of eh, it is too much work. We will see.


For 2021:

(Jan) (doubtful) Cold TWOT is in January/February, one of those holidays (President Day/Martin Luther). This is another Fatass type of race. I didn’t sign up but I might show up and run a loop or two…

Feb. 6-7 – (reg’d) Rocky Raccoon 100. This is currently the race I am training for. But with COVID still raging, no one know if I can travel to Houston-Texas for it. It is just a pain in the rear dealing with what-ifs.

(Mar. 3): (ConsideringOne City Marathon, Newport News, Va (Feb/Mar). Originally a goal to run this, but there is zero sign if the race will be held. There is currently no sign-up being available. We might not know until next year.

-(April 17) (considering) Blue Ridge Marathon, double marathon maybe. Just maybe! I was supposed to run it this year, then I changed it to Virtual. So still kind of want to do it. Might have to defer it to 2022.

(May – 1st-2nd. ) (rescheduled/deferred) Grayson Highlands 50 Miler. 50% disc of $160. I registered and deferred to 2021. This race is a go. I will start training after Rocky Raccoon.

(Jun 2nd weekend) (deferred) Laurel Highlands 70.5 miles Ultra. Goal race! fingers-crossed. need to confirm the race date. This is a go too. I just reconfirmed I will attend this race. This was my goal race for 2020 but deferred to 2021 (Organizer did go ahead and held the race in 2020, so we are expected the same thing for 2021 – a very hard race)

July 4 Atlanta 100 mile race (virtual) (considering). Yup, Been trying this twice this year unsuccessfully, so really want to try it again.

(Jul 11) (consideringCatoctin Ultra (50k). reg opens on Jan 1 to Jun 1. Hot race to run. Was a race I signed up but did not do because I was just returning from Atlanta and was still under 2-week quarantine period. So maybe will do it in 2021.

(Sep 5) (considering/not regIron Mnt Ultra 50 – IMTR, labor day weekend. highly likely. Don’t miss reg Jun 1. It was canceled this year. It has been on my list since 2019. I already think I have a lot of races on my plate so this might be deferred to 2022.

(Sep 25) (considering) Pemberton 24x5K, Friday 7:00 pm – Sat 7:00pm. Reg open on April 28. I missed the registration opening in 2020, so aiming to do it 2021.

(Sep) (likely for 2021) Yeti 100. Abingdon, VA. fast, flat, race around 9/25/20. Really don’t know.

(Oct 4) (considering) Maine Marathon. Portland, ME. to replace the canceled May Marathon. Just Maybe.

(Oct 25) (deferred to 2021) MCM 50K, again! 6 hr is course limit. Need to re-reg in April. Yup, I deferred the race to 2021 so got to run and have it done!

(Nov 14) (Reg’d; deferred to 2021) Richmond Marathon. Also a deferred race. So likely going to run.

Nov 21 – JFK 50 miler. Possible. Or Stone Mill.

(Nov 22) (Considering) Philly Marathon. Already a full plate but this is a possibility.

-Dec: Rocky 50, been on the list year to year since 2019

(Dec) (Considering) Devil Dog 100, Triangle, VA. Ah the real Devil Dog. Debating between Yeti or this.

That is it! My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I won’t run all of them, but hopefully many of them. COVID-19 restrictions and various other complications make a lot of races being uncertain either from the race organizer’s point of view or me as a runner (like the decision to go to Texas or Georgia). It will be a hard decision to make with each race. Also even without COVID-19 just the training and recovery is hard to have all of them done.

So there! I hope to run the Rocky Raccoon, Laurel Highlands and Grayson’s Highlands. The rest eh, we take it as they come.

life running


I didn’t go camping. Instead I had a lazy saturday.

I injured my foot last weekend while running. I didn’t notice anything wrong at the time, but it probably was from over straining my right foot. You know the whole body hurts after running the marathon and my right foot was hurting. I didn’t pay much attention to it but through out the week, the top of my right foot continued to hurt. I stopped running by Wednesday to let it recover. By today, it still hurts.

I googled on foot pain. They had several reasons. I am scared of having foot fractured. They said it would take 4-6 weeks to recover. It means no running.

I can’t be sure unless I go see a doctor. They said even with the x-ray it might not show up. Only advice is to rest and use ice/heating pad. I don’t know. I massaged it every day and night. I hope it will be better soon.

So because my foot is bad, I was thinking to go camping to rest a bit from running. That though probably not a good idea either since I usually carry a heavy pack on me when I backpack.

In the end I didn’t go. It was not for my foot but because I was too slow in getting my things together on Friday night.

By noon on Saturday, I was still only partially packed, I decided to abandoned the trip but to go to a park to run instead. In a couple weeks I will be running a 50 mile race. I signed up on a spurt moment early October. There is finally a race being approved in my area. So I signed up. I have very little training for it. It finally sank in now I need to train.

So I went to Seneca Park – well not exactly there but an area south of it. My race will be the whole thing at the park and the surrounding region. I did a race there this spring and already know part of the trail. So today I went to explore the part I have not been to. The trail is called Muddy Branch, but luckily our fall is quite dry and I did not get muddy.

I did a six miles out and then back. Ended up with 13.1. I reached 13 miles when I got back to the car, but I wanted the extra .1 to say I did a half marathon today for a training run.

That’s all. Originally, I wanted to do my birthday run too, which means a lot of miles because I am now into my 4th decade. I backed out of that. I would not want to be out running the whole day. A short few hours of running was enough.