Day347 Run review – full report (GSER 2)

They say don’t try anything new on race day that you haven’t tested in the training. This is a lesson I learned. It is more than about the shoes.

I have gotten cocky after so many runs and thought I got it. So after so many successful runs, I broke many of the runners’ ‘rules’. It was also the sense of trying to break as many rules as possible–as long as the body is ready, run however you like was my take.

Careless thoughts like these led to not being able to finish the run in Atlanta this time. The main problem still was the shoes. If I had the right pair, all these issues didn’t matter much. However, I glad, the shoes problem helped me to examine a deeper issue of being a bit too casual attitude toward my runs.

I went to Atlanta for my second attempt to run a 100 miles knowing I was not as well as prepared as I did compare to the first attempt. I actually expected to last maybe until 13 miles (that was my pre-run excessment and what I told a friend).

This race report will be a long one to examine various points comparing this run to the last run I did back on July 2nd (Day316). Both were unsuccessful attempts at running my first 100 miler.

The thought of doing a 100 miler again is just mind blowing. I was nervous. However, I signed up already and had been doing longer runs over the summer. 40-50 miles no longer seem as daunting to me. Also having attempted the same course two months ago gave a sense of confident that as long as I control the variables that caused me to fail the last time, I have a good chance of getting this one done.

The run though was still daunting, however, it can be broken down to smaller pieces. I rationalized before doing it. It goes: The pace for finishing is very reasonable. As long as I maintaining a 3 mi per hour average (fast walk) I should be able to finish within 34 hours (note 33 x 3 is 99), and I have an hour to do the last mile, or still maintaining a 20 mins per mile pace, and have 40 mins to spare. To me this is doable, since, I normally run at 4-5 miles per hour. Even with my lower aerobic performance at the present, I was not too worry in hitting the required pace, and thus finishing.

What also gave me the confident to try again was I knew what caused me to fail the first time. Armed with the information, I prepared for the second attempt.

Preparation. The fault of last time was due to lack of preparation time the week before in getting a lot of race day essentials done and I wrote I should have the week before the race off. This time around, I had most of the week off leading to the run. It was a very low stress week – I went camping even at the start of the week and put in some extra training runs.

Maps/turn sheets/pace sheet. I had those from the previous trip. I reviewed them a bit. Many concerns about break locations/food were moot. Most of the logistics that screwed me were fixed. My phone was working the whole time. I had batteries for the flashlight. I had plenty of ziplocks to waterproof the phone. Lotion/sunscreen, etc were adaquately prepared. Same with shirts. See further section on food.

Start time. was as important this time around as the last time. Last time was a night start. It had its benefits being a cooler run at night, however, I had difficult time finding my way due to poor visibility. This time around, I chose a late morning start (9AM), and it was almost perfect. this was an almost, except being, I didn’t anticipate of arriving at Stone Mnt (mile 60) in the middle of the night for a night time ascend, if I had gotten there. However, no trouble in finding my way.

A better start time would probably have been 11AM-12 PM, so I would ascend Stone Mnt with some early morning light. Any way, with the morning start, all the way finding was super easy.

One of my big concerns was entering the Snope National Park for the trail portion, but with day time, this section was easy. I almost stumbled on a root for going too fast, but that was better than stumbling in the dark when you didn’t see them like last time. I felt extremely please at my start time.

Heat control. I was very careful this time watching myself for being too exhaustive. Heat was a big factor. I kept cool well and slow down when I had to. It was still a hot day, but was nowhere near a meltdown as the last time.

The biggest thing that bothered me last time was heat exhaustion. I ran on a very hot day on my first attempt. I worn the wrong clothes for the weather. This time, I got it right. Splashed plenty water on me all the time, drank up and right kind of fluid (not sodas). Nutrition played a big role. Plus the weather was maybe 20 degree cooler due to an aftermath of a hurricane in the Gulf. I was lucky on both counts, that it missed Atlanta (no rain) but a very cool and cloudy on my starting day.

Pace control. Unlike last time when I was in a constant panic, this time I was as cool as a cool cucumber – physically and mentally. Mostly I know how far and fast I need to go. Last time, I complained the turnsheet being inaccurate. This time I used the same turnsheet. I know some portions the distances were a little off.

Last time this drove me nuts, e.g., if you expect the next turn to be 0.1 mile away (about a block) and it turned out say 1 mile away, you would start panicking when the turn didn’t show up. Also, you anticipate your running pace based on the distance done. And you ran say a mile (20 minutes, but the turnsheet said you only did 0.1, and you would panic because in your mind your have goofed at least 15 minutes to go a 0.1 mile. So last time I was constantly behind ‘pace’ through making the wrong turns, plus the turnsheet under-reporting the miles. The pyschological load was very heavy that time. Not this time around.

My strategy was not to look at the turn sheet for pacing. I had my own spreadsheet. With the distance from my watch and the spreadsheet, I knew my pace. As I mentioned it needed only 3 mi per hour to be on pace. I was on pace (ahead actually) the whole time, so never really in a panic mode. Most of all I didn’t get lost. My ETA was 4-6 hours early.

Wayfinding/Navigation. Last time I had a physical paper map, a google map on my phone, plus the strava map. None of them worked well. This was all very complicated to keep track (constantly searching where am I on the various tools) because electronic never works when you need them to. I had some signal problem that time, and the phone crapped out.

This time, I kept everything simple. Not touching the phone, I had a map, but it was in my pack, didn’t need to use it, and only was using the turnsheet. The sheet was spot on. All the visual cue/clues mentioned in the turnsheet, which I missed the last time, I found them all this time. Again might be due to day time start.

Night blindness. I had this problem last time, when my flashlight was either too dim or too bright and I was blinded by it. I said I should wear an eye patch on one eyes to keep my night vision. This time, I had on a sunshades, and they help! Yes at night, and I was not blinded. Though I had a hard time seeing my phone screen (too dark to see).

TIME MANAGEMENT/MINIMIZED MISTAKES. Sum it all up, I was making much better time than the last time because I didn’t get lost even though I was running at a lower pace. The time was managed better and I was ahead all the time until toward the evening. Each stop were done efficiently. I skipped some stops I didn’t need. I knew exactly what I want at each stop. This minimized wasted time and gave more time for running.

MILE Mental game. I had a better mind game this time. Things were snowballing in a good way. Last times everything went wrong, because one thing had gone wrong. This time, one right thing led to another and they snowballed positively!

FOOD/DRINKS. This was supposed to be my key to finishing this race. It is all about the food. Last time, I didn’t had enough and it got me to hit the ‘wall’ after 45/50 mile mark. Though I went minimal that time on purpose! However, if you checked that race report, it was a disaster. This time I got this covered.

As for food and drink: I started with six lunch bags in ziplocks. Each of them have 3 oreos, two tubes of SIS instance boost (much much less sugar than other brands), a tuna pack, two slices of bread with peanut butter, three poaches of Welch’s fruit gummies. The bag totaled to 850 calories. Multiply by six, I got the whole race covered. Plus I decided to go with protein shakes instead of sodas and they added 200-300 calories during breaks. (Race needs 10k-11kcal, food I got had 6-7kcal, but good enough)

Some choices could be improved on, but lacking calories would not be the reason for not finishing. The result showed. Yes, I was super tired the next day, but after a night rest, I recovered from the run. I think the calories were enough that I was not as exhausted after the event as some other races.

PACK. My pack was a way too heavy for runners due to all the food I was lugging along, but that was okay. This was the only down side. If the run had continued, this might be the thing that breaks a camel’s back. We don’t know. My plan was the pack would get lighter as we go since I would be eating the food. This was untested. I really wish to be able to find out. What I do know, the next day, after the run, my whole upper body felt like I have gone through an intense work-out. The good sore. However, if I had pushed another 60 plus miles, I might be telling a different thing. A hint of what wad to come was, all my upper body muscles were sored and stiffed, I didn’t leave my bed until 3 pm the following day.

It’s good to note: I never trained to run with such a heavy pack before. This could be a key reasons I failed. I have been thinking a lot on this point. More on it later. I hiked with a pack, but not run. The pack was great by the way! At the time I quit, I was still doing strong with the pack. However it can’t be overlooked, the pack was a liability.

I could try better to lighten the load next time. Also train on running with a 10-15 lb pack would have helped.

Note too: I was hungry most of the time (this is very different from the first attempt). Oreos were a bit too sweet and sugary. I didn’t enjoy the tuna much. I didn’t eat as much as I anticipated.

Now we are ready to go into what derailed the race. So far, the pack, a goofed too earlier a start time, me being hungry, those were bad signs. This post has already been long enough so I will try to wrap it up.

The Shoes. What happened? As I mentioned in previous blog entries, I stopped the run after I felt it was impossible to go on. I had blisters on both of my feet and they were not getting better but worse. It was caused by bad shoes.

I am not blaming the shoes company. I wore this brand all these years. I had different models before, and love the company and shoes. I had no complaints.

I mentioned being carefree on the shoes. In the past, what was limiting me is my body and not the shoes. I could wear any kind of shoes and still could run (except of being barefoot).

For this race, I was not being cheap either. I used a new (newer) pairs. The previous run, I was using the oldest/most beat up pairs. That was frustrating. Now the lesson is: Wear what is tested. That was a big lesson.

The new pairs were not comfortable. I had it for a time already but had not used them much. The reason, now looking back they don’t fit my style of running. A lesson here too, we all run very differently. A shoes might fit someone well, but not me. That was my biggest undeclared assumption. Shoes can change the way you run.

You can’t force your feet to fit your shoes. It should have been the other way. Yes, I found out now, shoes need time to mold to your feet. No wonder old pairs did wonder on my first attempt, while this new pairs did not. This also goes into preparation, Wear your race pairs during training. It was obvious to me now.

As I said, I ran with a ruck (backpack) on this second attempt. I didn’t wear one in the first or on any training run. This also is my hubris, thinking, hey, you could sling anything on the back, as long as you have the strength, it is no problem. I’m strong. This couldn’t be farther than the truth. The Ruck changed my running form (gait). The shoes didn’t compensate for this shift, because I was not trained with a ruck. My shoes were not designed for this half/runninghalf hiking form (a pair boots would have done better). Also my foot tissues/muscles did not get strengthened to carry on the extra weight. No wonder I got blisters. When the weight came down, it just torn the tissue between my layers of skin (not immediately but over 10,000 steps). Water/fluid would build up.

Now you see, the shoes and lack of training with the added weight, as well as my attidude led to a disaster.

What did I do? I realized things were not right even on the eve of the start. I brought two pairs. Pair A and Pair B. I already really wanted to use Pair A, but it was uncomfortable. Pair B, is also uncomfortable in a different way (a bit too tight). A thought was to bring both, however, due to weight, I left Pair B behind. It might have saved my race if I wore Pair B or brought that along to switch out!

Funny story. I was at Buckhead, almost to the 50K mark and sitting on the side of the road to dress my feet because of the blisters. A ‘homeless’ guy came by and asked if I want to buy some performance shorts for a very cheap price. He knew I was excercising, and maybe my pairs were not ‘sports’. I really wanted to ask him if he has shoes for me to buy, or if he could trade his pairs for mine. (I think the guy was a drug dealer and shorts were a code word). Yet, the thought crossed my mind to ask him for his shoes.

Another funny story, I almost thought of running barefoot because the shoes were so uncomfortable. If I had a knife or scissors, I would cut open my shoes to relieve the pressure.

At first, I thought I could stand it. Then by mile 18 ish, after the Braves Stadium, my feet were getting hot. I stopped and changed socks. They were signs that blisters were forming. Mile 30 were when they got bad. They formed and I had to pop them. I was hopping, I only need to stop every 10-20 miles to adjust.

Mile 40, It grew worse. My speed was hampered by this now. Unless I took care of it, my race was in trouble. No solution other than to pop them and changed socks. By 45, nothing helped. I couldn’t walk due to the pain. I already stopped tooany times. I could force it, but my speed dropped below 2 now. There are 60+ more miles. I need to keep my pace at 3 to finish. Blisters grew worse. I was walking on a layer of liquid under my feet and this was painful. I felt every step. I popped them as frequently as I could but they continued to pool water. I was out of ideas. I did applied all kind of first aid lotions I had. I know, unless the root cause is solved, the race couldn’t continue. I was out of ideas.

Future solution would be: Have medical tapes to tape blister. Have a pair of scissors. Tape the feet. I had tape with me, but they wouldn’t do, because they were too short. I need long strips of medical tape.

I might also misused my shoes. I think mine was for trail running. The run I did in Atlanta was on road/concrete sidewalk. Boots and trail shoes have a stiffer bottom and usually known to cause blisters when running on road-like surfaces. I know hubris, I have been running with trail shoes on road all the time. However, what worked in the past might not work for ‘all’ trail shoes! This again is back to training. If I have done a shake down run with the shoes on training, the problem would have been caught.

Finally back to the shoes, I am not saying anything bad about this brand or this model. It could be I got the wrong size. I felt now my feet has grown half a size larger. Also this is true, long runs make the feet swell due to liquid pooling.

I hope this report provided a good post-mortem. With failure, there are a lot of second guesses and what-ifs. I should take the main points, and learn from them.

What so heart breaking for me is of all the reasons I anticipated for not finishing, it didn’t occur to me shoes would be the main culprit. Looking back, hindsight is always 20-20, with the fog of war lifted. Running besides the body’s ability is the shoes. Yet shoes were never a big concern to me. It was the body that always my limiting factor. This attempt was an eye-openner.

I have seen people running with blisters worse than I had. It is basically turning your mind off the pain…and be numbed by it. But it was very hard thing to do, when you still feel the pain at every step.

What caught me off guard was I never dealt with blisters like this before. I ran 50 miler before and even last time, I put in 70 miles, no blister. There were small ones, but not one that covered half of my foot and both feet. This experience I could use. I read about it and now finally experienced it and should be better prepared against it.

CONCLUSION. I really enjoyed the second run this time around. Mentally, I didn’t have the pressure of last time. That is the good thing about running. It supposes to take your mind off things. I was out there for 15 hours and the time went by fast. I didn’t feel tired or exhaused, but energetic. For a run, usually I settle into a groove and my mind would wander and I would be in the most wonderful place. Yet 15 hours felt so short and I was still expecting to settle in and enjoy. My mind did not wander away at all. I was on task the entire time, yet was not stressed out. This was totally different from the first attempt where I was not able to focus, and was stressed out. I felt I had not even shown my stuff – truly running!

I wish I could have gone a bit farther like 20/25 or even 40 more miles more if not for the feet. At least that what I expected that I would die out from being physical worned rather than something lame (pun).


Day345 The run

Just in case some of you wonder if I finish the 100 mile run, no, I stopped after 15 hours into it. I was stuck at mile 45 for an hour and the prospect to go any further was impossible.

The blisters on my feet were getting worse. This was not from the poison ivy. Those blisters were pretty much healed. They were the new blisters formed from wearing a bad pair of shoes that I couldn’t break in.

Shoes I realized need a break in period…This pair were not that comfortable… I ran maybe 50 miles on them last week, and I thought that would do.

Why do I wear them? Inexperience. In all my 4 years of running, I never had a bad pair. I became so good with just wearing any pair that I started to buy them online. This is the first pair that I didn’t really like and racing in them were that. Every mile was uncomfortable.

I might have gotten the sizing wrong. Or it was just the wrong kind of shoes. It says neutral support for running. Normally, I need bit of arch support. These shoes are almost completely flat and hard. It was like running on a pair of wooden sandals. The shoes wouldn’t bend with me. It was driving me nut.

10:30 pm – Where I stopped to dress my feet for the hundred times (maybe the 3rd time). This is on Piedmont, couple blocks from Georgia’s Parlement house/State house whatever they call it. I was able to run a few more miles before ultimately decided to give up by midnight (I wasn’t moving fast, basically limping). The city was very quiet.

Not sure I am ready for a proper review on the run. I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I felt I got things right this time except for the shoes…I didn’t mind them, till they gave me blisters…I ran with blisters before…Any way, I will save it (like what did to fix the issue) for a full report.

health running

Day344 A second attempt – about to start

I am a few hours away from starting the run. As of right now I just woke up and still am very comfortable on my bed in the hotel near the airport. By the way, after having been of other city airport hotels, this is one of the best! It is comfortable and inexpensive and you don’t hear the take offs and landing or airplane flying over. How do they do it? I found out they originally were a Motel 6, but they renovated it and upgraded all around. It is on the level of Comfort Suites. It is part of the Quality Inn chain, but the quality I am getting is way higher than all the Quality Inns I stayed at. I just love the hotel and want to sleep in. I paid for four nights, but tonight I won’t be there!

Ideally I should have started the run yesterday because it was cooler and the chance of encountering rain storms during the run was lower (30% chance only), but today and tomorrow, my chance of running into a storm is around 50%. They are leftovers from Cat 4 Laura that made landfall in the Texas/Lousiana region couple nights ago.

However, I was not ready yesterday. I had not reviewed the map then and had not decided on the starting time. Since the starting time would determine the ending time, it needed to be chosen carefully.

Last time, I started in the evening at 6 pm and was aiming to finish at 4 am two days later. I thought of doing so again and maybe moving up the starting time by a few hours.

I woke up late and had company’s work to do. It was my day off but I didn’t finish those stuff on the day before my trip (computer issue kept me from doing them – it decided to run an update when I tried to do my work before my flight! My frustration level was through the roof). So I spent the morning doing my work. I was not done until 2 pm. I then went for lunch. I knew the run was not happening because I had not packed yet! I got everything laid out, but still did not have my runner pack in a final ready to go condition. 100 mile requires careful consideration of what to take a long.

Then I decided to go to Walmart to get a watch (you know the cheap one that have a stop watch feature?) but as I got there, I forgot all about getting a watch but instead got a lot of stuff for dinner and food for the run and food to eat after the run! I brought $30 worth of junk food. I probably wouldn’t finish them all – 7 cans of spagetti, lot of fruit cups, oreo cookies, packs of juicy fruit candies, instant cup noodles, package tunas and more. The watch would let me calculate the interval (time of a shorter distance, say 10 or 20 miles) during the run because I don’t want to mess with my main watch since that will track the overall 100 mile distance. Not having a spare watch is not a problem. I could still do it in my head and with paper and pen, it just a lot burdensome.

When I got back to the hotel, I separated the food that I will take along into 6 ziplock bags. The goal is to eat a bag for every 6 hours (6 bags for 36 hours). I counted up each bag to have around 850 calories. I have six of these. This is much better than my last attempt. Last time, the whole run I only carried about one bag calories of food and ended up only eating about 10% and the rest of my calories came from sugarly drinks and I felt it affected my performance. First not enough, so I was dying halfway. I remembered my heart was racing crazy from the energy drink yet I didn’t have the power to run, and I was drained. I was so scared that I didn’t want another Powerade. It was not fun when your heart was about to explode and the lung was collapsing. Breathing hurt that time. I hope to avoid that mistake.

Because I will be carrying so much food (6 meals), I am bringing my big bookbag. They won’t all fit in the smaller pack. It is a daypack from my hiking trip. It is heavy. Very heavy. I don’t like running with such a heavy pack! But I need the food, unless I have someone to carry them for me. This is why I wish I have local support crew (aid stations). Otherwise, I could leave all the food/drinks with my crew and they just have to show up at a given interval and give me the food. Last time I was hoping the stores along the way would be my aid station. However, drinks were easy to come by but not food! They had candies but no real food. Real food were out of the way and I didn’t want to take a detour.

I think the food I am bringing along will be enough. It still is less than what my body will consume though. Every 6 hours my body will be burning 2000 calories and I am giving back only at most 1000. I plan to buy muscle milk and yogurt along the way, they will add couple hundred of calories. No more sodas this time around. They have to be high caloric drinks. I know I will still shutdown after halfway, but at least I hope it will give me enough to press on.

I checked the map afterward packing. I am not too worry. I wish still I had memorized the turns. We do what we have to do.

As for start time. I’m moving it up real early to 9/9:30 AM with the aim of finishing at 7:30 pm on Sat night.

That was the main reason I couldn’t set off yesterday. I was already behind the start time once I figured I wanted a morning start instead of an afternoon/evening start.

Having an extra day, physically was a good thing. My poison ivy infection is getting better. My left leg is almost completely healed of the ivy reaction. My right leg started to get worse on my flight to Atlanta and yesterday the bumps (30+) started weeping/oozing, that is good, it means they will be healing soon. It was what I was concerned about that the blisters from the ivy will break during my run and the friction from repetitive foot moment will agitate the wounds and they would get infected. Now they broke while I am still at the hotel. I washed and cleaned them with the poison ivy specialty soap. I should be ready for the run. I believe they will dry out during the run.

Only last concern is my cardio aerobic performance. It degraded a lot compare to last time. Those who have been following my blog know I was struggling with my runs. My feeling is I can only do 13 miles at most and probably drag it out to 26. I don’t know if I will even reach 50, much less get to 100. That is a realistic assessment. I know it is bad luck to envision failure even before starting.

I do want to get to the 100. It is a long shot. Even when I was in my peak, that was very hard (in the realm of impossible) thing. Now I am four times worse. Only way to find out is go out and try. I am very nervous.

food: My main secret to get through the run
life running

Day343 Atlanta here I come

Ready or not here I come!

I am not ready, but I am going. About 7 weeks ago (July 1/2), I was in Atlanta to run the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER). I was only able to do it halfway and vowed I will be back to finish it.

Here goes, this weekend I will be there to redo the run. However, I feel totally under-prepared.

I am not as frantic as the last trip there. I don’t know why. I am even less prepared than the last time. I reread my blog of my trip last time…and I said I will do better in term of preparation, like taking the week off before the trip…change my sleep time to adjust for overnight running, pack the stuff I need for the runs (last time was last minute packing and I forgot certain things like lipbalm, sunblock lotion), get a better map and turnsheet, laminate the turnsheet, and many other things.

I have done none of that. I am just showing up to wing it! I told my friend I probably give up at the 13th mile this time around.

Any way, I will be flying out soon in couple hours. My run will probably be tomorrow. I could start at any time (it is a virtual race), but once it is started, I have to stay to finish. I am picking for the best day to start…Thursday or Friday? I am also thinking for a day time start instead of a night time.

I want to lean toward a Friday start. I will check the weather tomorrow and then decide.

It is sad to see an empty airport here at Dulles International! Just like last time. I bet though Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International will be crowded.

Worries? I have a lot. Mainly it is the D*** poison ivy. I am much better. The blisters have stopped oozing. I am using a type of soap that basically said take 2 days to heal. I am on the 2nd day. They still itch but much less (90% less). The itch drove me crazy before the medication. But still, yesterday, a whole bunch of blisters/boils popped up on my other foot. I applied the medication. They have not started oozing yet. It might take two more days for this foot to heal. However, I will be in the middle of the run by then…so the blisters might get infected during the run. Right now they are about to pop, so I am very nervous to run with a bunch of those. It is very uncomfortable. I would take a picture, but it will gross you out! That is my worry.

I had a history of bad allergic reaction to poison ivy. This time the overcounter medication seems to be able to suppress it. However, I hope it won’t break out while I am in Atlanta…ya, the last couple times I had poison ivy, I had to go see my family doctor for antibiotic to stop it. I won’t able to do that while in Atlanta.

Coronavirus: Virginia number is half of that of Atlanta (Georgia). It has come down a bit but the number is like last time when I went to Atlanta (on July 1). Riskwise should be the same as last time.

How do I feel? Not stressed. I felt I have to do it, like an obligation. So I will face all kind of ‘adversities’ and get worked up, and interfere with many other people (coworkers) to have this trip done. The truth is its not. This is a pleasure trip.

On a happy note…for me at least, is when I get back I will start the next wild thing. We will run across the world! (virtually). I am really looking forward to that. For a week (3 weeks actually) I thought no one would want to run with me, but I found 9 random people yesterday (well not me, they found me) and we are doing it! We are running as a team, and we need 10 people because that was a requirement. They are from all over the places, some from Texas, Florida, England, etc. I couldn’t keep track of all their names.


Day322 A run in Atlanta inside perspective

[long read] It has been a week since my 100 mile attempt. It is like a dream now that it is over.

Through out the process I have been asking myself how I feel. I felt excited and anxious during the planning and still is and am very much respecting this distance. I did not finish but was not disappointed. I wrote up the report how I can do it better so that I would be able to finish next time. There were not a lot of thoughts going through my head during the run, unfortunately. The main reason I like doing long runs is to take my mind off things. It is very relaxing to me. This race was anything but that. I for few times I zoned out and I suffered (by getting lost). Most of the time during my run, I had to be on tip top attention focusing on navigation and time management. Two areas I did poorly and resulted in not being able to finish. However, I feel relieved and a sense of achievement from doing the run.

I started the year training for the 70.5 mile Laurel Highland race, but due to Covid19 and it was canceled/postponed. Running a 100 mile was on my mind but it was set either for end of the year or later in 2021. It was only after doing the GVRAT, I felt I was ready to tackle GSER, which pushed up the time table quite a bit. I found out about the race quite late, mid May I think, and same for the race director. She threw out the idea of the race around late April. I checked it out and felt I had a high chance in running it and it would serve a good preparation to a tougher (real) 100 mile race. GSER being a virtual made it easier, the pressure to succeed is less than in a real race.

The final couple weeks before the race – I was in a funky mood, some kind of depression, maybe because I had just finished the 1000k of the Tennessee run, and there was not much else to do. I took the two weeks easy. Really easy. No running. Just only slept and ate. Not only that, I was lazy and procastinated in preparing for the 100 miler. If anything I think that led to me being underprepared, such as running in the heat.

As those of you who have been following my blog, you knew the last few days before the GSER event were hectic for me. I was scrambling studying the maps, getting my stuffs ready, my pack, my maps, and choosing the start time. There were tons of things to do and I was stressed out, when I realized I wouldn’t able to handle everything. Life and work didn’t make things easy. I should have taken a whole week off work beforehand. I felt I was couldn’t get the basic things ready as I like. I was going crazy and angry. I was not sleeping well. I didn’t adjust my sleep time for a night time start. Even the trip to the airport was stressful.

Thursday 8:00pm. Atlanta. Landed in Atlanta and was going through final packing. One thing I did well was I arrived at Atlanta a night before. By utilizing the 7/4 weekend holiday, I flew in on Thursday night.

I had the Friday off, and originally, I wanted to run early Friday around 5/6 AM. However, after hearing people say, that it is hard to reach Stone Mountain by closing time, indeed, 13/14+ hours, I figured I needed either 2/3 AM start, for extra buffer time. But I was flying out Sunday, noon, so 2/3 AM start on Saturday was out of the question. Techinically 2/3 AM start on Friday is doable but I would miss the sleep the first night in Atlanta. Hence I decided to settle for a Friday evening start. It was a wise choice.

Friday 6:30 pm. I arrived up at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain. Uber dropped me off (they wouldn’t let cars go up). In my race preparation I know to expect hiking up to the top for the start. It was about a half hour hike.

I was still adjusting the start time and originally set at 6:00pm, but I felt I might be running too fast and would get to Stone Mountain too early in the morning before they were open, they open at 10. So I moved it an hour later to 7:00 pm, timing to be just right that I would reach Stone Mountain at 10/11 AM the moment they are open to ascend the mountain there. In reality, I did not reach Stone Mountain until 4/5 pm. I was off on my planning.

The afternoon was hot. I was sweating bucket of water. The 2 L of water along with an 8-12 oz flask, were quickly gone. It was supposed to last me for the whole night, but I think it only lasted couple hours. My pack was full with food (mostly granola bars). By the way I carried most of those back with me, and did not eat them. I stuffed some bars in my shorts too. I was fully loaded. I had other stuffs like flashlights ready though darkness was still couple hours away.

Kennesaw trailhead was easy to find. I crossed the parking lot, got to the sign and took some pictures. There were people around. The parking lot was full. I think there were about 50-75 cars. I followed some other people and began to walk up on the Kennesaw Mountain Trail.

I didn’t run yet, trying to conserve as much strength as possible because I knew I would have a long night plus the whole day tomorrow. My expected finishing time was 30 hours. I hope to get as many miles as possible during the first 12 hours. I was secretly hoping to get near the 50 mile mark by morning. 13-14 hours, that was the original plan. As you read on, things quickly didn’t go my way.

The climb was about 1 mile long. I knew this since having studied this part closely beforehand and the trail map/sign indicated that as such, confirming my knowledge. I was smuck about my hiking skills. This was child play in my mind. It is a popular trail for local people. I saw all kinds of people. Families, couples, lovers, some carried their cat in a basket/or strap to their chest (like it was their infant), dogs were not allowed on the trail unfortunately. There were some who were really not fit to hike. I passed them as quickly as possible when they had to stop to take a breather. Some were wearing masks, many didn’t. I had my face covering on. I pushed on. Sweat was dripping down. It was not easy to breath. I got to give it to the heat.

I reached the upper parking lot. No car was allowed up there but those of the park police. There was a good overlook and you could see Atlanta in the distance. Wow That was like 10-15 miles away. Knowing I should be there by morning, kind of imagining the path in my head (my run would take 35 miles to get to Atlanta, to the inner city). I followed the next set of trails to reach the summit. I stoped to take some pictures. Giddily excited. This would be it, my starting point for my first 100 Mile attempt. Everyone’s starting point, not just mine.

6:56 pm. Started my watch at about 6:56 pm. I was using both the Strava and Garmin to record. Off I went. I didn’t really run down hill, but I was kind of slowly jogging, back down using the same trail. Once I reached the upper parking lot, I followed the road down as according to the turnsheet, instead of on the trail I hiked up. The sheet was very accurate at this point and I was praising it in my heart. All the turns were spot on. I had a great outlook. It was hot, but all system were go. Little did I know that heat was one factor that would derail my whole operation.

The first marathon (25-27 miles) had many turns. There is a new direction every quarter miles. The guidance was very detailed. It told you which side of the road you should run on, traffic and how to prepare for the next turn. There were a lot of reading to do while running. Yet I had those down pretty much. I read them many times already, on the plane and in my spare time. In truth, now having run it, next time all those bit of information can be ignored. There was really only one road, Kennesaw and Roswell, for the next 5-6 miles. I wasted a lot of time trying to follow exactly everything and it slowed me down tremendously. Who care when I pass the Big Chicken or the OK Cafe? This was a preview of the whole run.

Still I was taking things slowly. Better get the turns right than missing them and getting lost as I told myself. I had no problem leaving the Kennesaw Mountain. I was running to Marrietta on Kennesaw rd. It started to sprinkle somewhat by the 2nd mile and I had to put away my phone since it was not waterproof. I kept my map and turnsheet safe too, each inside a ziplock bag.

Running to Marietta was not a problem. I realized my pace has been much slower than normal. My breathing was not that good. It was only about say 3-4 miles. So I need time to “warm up” even though it was 90+ degree that night, a joke of warming up. I made my way across Marietta Park. Saw a man proposing to a woman and we all clapped when the woman accepted. I continued on. I drew strength from people’s clapping.

This part was very easy. It was just one road Rosswell st. By 6 miles, my first 10K, I checked my distance and time. My distance already differed from the turnsheet by 10%. So either my watch was wrong or the turnsheet was wrong. However, this kind of situation is to be expected because we know in a race unless one run a perfect path (they called a tangent), you are going have more distance than the official course. Also our GPS watch is not a “scientific” grade instrument – they are wildly inaccurate due to many factors (many people didn’t know). More of this to come. It was kind of a foreshadow that extra miles are not good, but I quickly suppressed my doubt. Indeed throughout the night I added as many as 10 extra miles as you will see.

8:00 pm. Sun was starting to set, but the heat was oppressive. Past 8 actually. I know I was doing a much slower pace than expected but I kept telling myself, that is normal because I wanted to save energy. You want to run very slow in the beginning so have the energy to push at the end. I got my experience from running a lot marathons. I know 100 miler is nothing like a marathon, but principle should be the same. I was not too worry about my pace. The slower the better as long as I am ahead of the curve.

I was doing mental math on the distance/time. I know as long as I keep a 3 mile pace I would be able to finish. 3*33 hrs = 99 miles. 3 mile pace is like 20 minutes per mile. I was not too worry about that because I was doing around 4-5 miles per hours at the time and banking the extra mile. So I saw my speed as a graph in my head and comparing that to the minimum/maximum time allowed for the race. I was planning to bank a lot of extra miles. All this though was wishful thinking, soon throughout the night I was constantly battling with just barely staying ahead the curve and that was a serious problem.

9:00 pm. I reached the first neighborhood and turning off the from the main street. I think in a real race there would be a race station there. This course previously was used in a real race. I tried to drink conservatively. Yet the night was hot. I was hot and sweating. I finished all the water in my flask. This neighborhood has a local runner who knew our race director well, since it was mentioned in the turn direction. The turnsheet was telling people to wave to the guy and pee in his lawn and steal his moonshine etc. I like that. Well I didn’t know the guy and didn’t feel comfortable of stopping by his place drink his stuff and relieve myself. There was no need I still have plenty of water, or so I thought.

9:30-10:00 pm. Now it was completely dark. The moon was up. A full moon or close to it but I didn’t have enough light to see. I was already suffering from night blindness from my flashlight and from the constantly checking the turnsheet. This section took me into a trail system. There was one car left in the park parking lot – they shined their light at me – newbies, you don’t do that to people because you blind them. They were mounting their bikes on the back of the car. I was really exhausted. This trail system had been my nightmare during my preparation because the only instruction on the turnsheet was to find the semetary and use the GPS map. I couldn’t use the GPS map. There were ton of trails and side branches. The sign at the gate said park close at dark! I never break any law / local ordinances before. But I had to do this. We are going to YOLO this, I was telling myself.

I was already very tired by then. There was a picnic table. I sat down. Restudied the map and gps map. Luckily the trail has their own map too and signage. They numbered the various points, which made it easy, I just had to go from one numbered point to the next, like in frisbee golf. This was a new map I didn’t have before the race and I wish I did. But studying the new map I had an idea how the race path would take. So after eating some fruit gummies, I started off. In my head it seemed just few minutes break but I probably stayed for 20-30 mintutes or even more. It was way too long to check the direction. However, I said I have to take this slow because I don’t want to get lost in the park. This was the kind of pace for my whole race. None of this usually happened in my other races. I was both panicking internally yet at the same time was telling myself, I am still ahead of the game.

There were a lot of turns in the park. But each turn there was a park sign with a map. Each turn was only about few hundred feet/yards away, very short distance. I did not run. I just hiked. It was slow going but I told myself it is dark, and I was on a trail I never been on before. There are some technical stuffs, rocks, branches, hill climbs and downhill, all the elements that can disable me. Once you are hurt, the 100 mile run would be over. I was only maybe 10% of 100 miles done and there was still a long way to go. I do love trail. I love night run because it is intense. At any other time, this would have been my joy. Yet I had to control myself not to run it. It was not my turf. I wish I had a trail buddy there.

10:00 pm. I found the semetary. I heard noises there and thought people were partying up there. However once I reached it there was no one there. I know those were noises from real people. Ghosts and supernatural stuff does not scare me. At least not that night. In my mind I got to do this 100 miler, no matter what. I checked my watch and know I was way behind schedule. I wanted to reach the Braves Stadium by 10 pm and now it was 10 pm I was still stuck in the trail system.

Luckily the crazy trail section ended shortly after and I was on a wide bike path, which was very runnable. I ran on many bike paths before. I felt I finally could do some speed work then. There was one biker passing me from the opposite direction. I was not alone. The moon was higher and brighter.

11:00 pm. Sometime later I reached Acker Mill Ln/Rd. Hallelujah. I saw my first convenience store. I think the time was close to 11. All my water was out by then. I went in. Refilled. Got some soft drink. I don’t remember what. Could have been mountain dew since that is my favorite. During the whole run, I tried many different drinks as many as possible! Heavenly for me to drink sodas. The break was much longer than I wanted. But got to push on.

Things got a little hazy from there. I was still optimistic. So far I hadn’t made any wrong turn, just the park and direction was slowing me. Then the trail splitted. I saw the direction and I know I had to leave the bike trail at some point to get on the road. But when I did, I arrived at a street crossing not mentioned in the turnsheet. I checked the GPS, GPS showed I was off track. Looking back it now I was just a little bit off, maybe like a few dozen yards. I was actually in the right place. In my mind though I thought I was half mile off, the scale on the google map always confused me. I thought I have to follow the trail a little bit more (the turnsheet distance might be off here too), So I went back on the bike trail. This was my first mistake of the night.

I was in my best mood. My body finally “warmed up”. This was where I could really run for hours and run fast. I felt strength and I love night run on an empty trail and so I pushed on. It was uphill too and I love hill work, that my strong suit. So I poured my strength out and turned off my mind. I was in zone so to speak. You know it. I was running blindly into the wrong trail.

Maybe for a mile or even two, my spider sense told me to stop. I then realized then there was no more right turn. Either the turn sheet is screwy or I am off track. I pulled out my phone quickly checked the map and the route track (at that time my phone still worked and it had the race route showing). OMG I was completely off. Miles off. I really hated myself then, knowing in my heart, I was probably at the right place in the beginning and blindly ran these extra miles. Nothing worse than having to turn around and run those miles again (I think I was now 1.5 miles away from the turn off). No matter, it is a 100 mile run. I had built enough buffer for stupid mistake like this.

It brought to mind of my recent made running friend, who did the Black Forest Ultra in PA earlier in the year. He told me his story of getting lost early in the race and later couldn’t finish the race due to being out of time. He was the fastest dude I met running mountain trails. I had a sinking feeling, this could be me, though I could run fast, but as long as I keep making silly wrong turns, I would be done for.

12:00 am. I headed back to the turn off point, much more slowly. I believe I was walking back instead of running. Got off the trail finally at the right place. Checked the turnsheet and GPS. It did mention about Highway Interstate N some point at where I was confused. The turn direction was to follow the yellow line (and I found it). No matter. I crossed road. I was so close to the Braves Stadium at the time and I understood the geography of the place, having studied this part in my race preparation, so even without the turnsheet I could navigate this part. Sometimes your own instinct is better than the directions given. It was past midnight by then. Took some pictures of the stadium. A lot of people were hanging out at the the Battery. I guess it was a hip place to hangout. They have bars and stuffs. The turnsheet instructions were very detailed here. It was like a scarvenger hunt. Look for the Big Baseball. Run under it. Look for such and such Hall, which I didn’t know it was a drafthouse. But I found it after wandering around the place. Look for set of four stairs, didn’t find those. I went down a different stair and crossed a wrong street.

My spider sense said I was lost. Headed back to my last known location. Forget about the set of stairs, moving on to the next instructions, it said look for the parking lot. There were like 6-7 lots there. They all have color code. I wish the RD would say, enter the Orange Lot or the Red Lot. I lost so much time at the Braves stadium. Those were all useless instructions. The key was to find the predestrian pathway to cross over the interstate outside the stadium. The most simply instruction for myself if I am going to redo this is just follow the private road (battery rd) around the standium, maybe take 10-15 minutes and get out of there. No need to play scravenger hunt in the ball park, looking for this and that landmark, which was completely waste of time. I think I lost 30-60 minutes there looking for this and that clues. The predestrian skywalk was easy to find. Jeeze. That was only thing needed.

1:00 am. Bye bye stadium. I guess it was 1 am by now. I was still pretty fresh. My blood was flowing. I had some setbacks but again night was still early. I had maybe 5 hours more of darkness and I could do another 20-30 miles before day break. I got to make a lot miles now the night is a bit cooler. I was still sweating bucket but the temperature was around 80 degree. I was wearing long sleeves and felt like 90-100 inside.

My next point was to reach 26 miles/marathon. At the stadium my watch was reading 19-20 miles. In my mind I have less than 10 miles to do. 26 mile point did not seem that far. 6 hours for 20 miles. 6×5, 30 hours for 100 miles. I was still in the game. By Golly that was not true. 26 mile point was at a street called Tuxedo. I don’t know what happened next but this 6 miles took me forever to get there. Really literally the almost the whole night to get there.

Things are very vagued here, maybe because it was deep in the night. Might be my sleeplessness is causing memory lapse. Well I had to go back onto the trail. I didn’t mind. I think it was pretty easy. I got off the trail again, didn’t know where or when. The next neighborhood was pretty confusing. I had to make a turn into an unmarked street called green river something. The turn sheet instruction was clear about looking for the house address on the brickwall, but I must have fallen asleep at this point. I was in my rhythm again and I just wanted to run for a long time. I didn’t like to pause and check the turnsheet every two-three minutes.

As such I passed the turn and also continued for half mile or more again uphill I think. Again hated myself for running the extra mile as I headed back. I found the turn now I was awake. The whole neighborhood was pretty confusing. It was small like a parking lot, or square, with a lot of small houses. It was a music school or something but no one was around. I knew this during my preparation. You have to go behind a big parking deck etc. I got lost many times there and had to stop each time, checked my map, checked my turnsheet, checked map, double checked. There were many turns. This maze was worse than the Stadium. I cursed at the turnsheet. At least at the Stadium, there were signage and things were big and massive (and logical). Here most roads don’t have signs because they are private roads. They even used chain link to block off some of them. I found the church parking lot the turnsheet mentioned. It was a humongous church. I felt confident of being back on track.

2:00 am. Tuxedo Rd was where I had to turn but it was still no where in sight. I passed through the pacer community. That was the road name. West Pace something. At this point I really wanted to use the restroom. But we were in a residential. I wouldn’t pee in people lawns. The thought did pass my mind a coupple times. Just go behind a tree. No one sees you, but who know I am in a rich neighborhood. They sure will have all kind of sensors and night vision camera. There are a lot of nice houses. Massive mansions. Yet no sidewalk. What happened next was the pacer road measurement was conpletely wrong! I think on the turnsheet the distance was like .4 mile but in actuality that stretch was like 3-4 miles long. A big different. I don’t remember how I handled my pee problem. I think I held it in until morning at a potty station.

3:00 am. I made it to 26.2. By that point my watch was showing 30/32 miles – 50K. I was way way behind. 50k now according to my watch but on the turnsheet, I had only ran a marathon. I was streaming both internally and externally. 8 hours for marathon was insanely slow. I got to do 3 more. (8×4, means my ETA is now 32 hours to finish the race). I was still in the game, but my speed advantage was dwindling. My next target was to make it to mile 50k mark per turnsheet, not by my watch mile. That is only about a 10K, no a 8K. It shouldn’t be that long. However. The Tuxedo community is also massive. Also a very rich community. Yet no sidewalk. Some of the distances were also off. So I was running blind most of the time. I missed every single of my turns. Most costly was the last turn. I think I was another half mile or mile passed the turn had to come back. This on the turnsheet was correct. It was a real 0.1 mile, but I ran 1 mile more. Purely was my mistake here. I think every street there was called Tuxedo. It was a Tuxedo nightmare. And people there didn’t sleep either. Where all these cars going in the middle of the night 4 AM for God’s sake? There was no sidewalk, but I constantly had to get off the road to let cars pass by.

I said I must push on. I still got this. I was still maybe an hour ahead of the buzzard. Worse outcome would be I just on pace and would have to battle the pressure of the cutoff the whole way. The battle of attrition I call it.

5:00 am. Long story short. It was like 4/5 am I got to 50K. I was very upset by this time. All my advantage was now gone. I was barely making the cutoff if there was one. Soon it would be dawn. The sun would be up and a hot day expected. My goal to run to 50 mile during the night failed. Epic Fail, because I only did 30 miles in the last 10 hours. My night time advantage was gone. I didn’t and couldn’t accept that the turnsheet was wrong. I felt I was just running too slow. Indeed I was too slow. I was beating the air. I was not sleepy but frustrated. There were many people on the road. I passed by what I thought was a strip club. People were all standing outside making out and stuff. Laughing and making noises.

6:00 am. The rest of the night was uneventful. I got to Beltline, another bike path/ trail to rail exactly at the cutoff, maybe 10 minutes after the cutoff. I was afraid I couldn’t find it. This was one of the longer segment in the first half. Straight into downtown Atlanta. The morning had dawn. People were out now. I looked at joggers and jealous at their speed because they were fresh. I used to run like they do. Fast. Now I was slowly plodding along one step at a time. Even the slowest person was passing me. I had ran the whole night more than 12/13 hours now into the race. I was not sorry because I knew I had another 20+ hours to go. I felt my heart was exploding and legs were heavy. My next goal is to reach 50 miles. I was hoping to get there by a certain time, I was thinking noon-ish. I felt I could still make it. I was hoping to rewach Stone Mountain by 1/2 pm. If I do, I am still in the game. Even if 3 Pm I would still be OK.

7:00 am. Every step was hard. My strategy was to do 1/3 2/3. Run one mile walk two. I had no problem at the Beltline. I sensed my pace increased. Didn’t feel good but I was catching up all the lost minutes. After that I got into the city of Atlanta. My progress was slow but enjoyed all the sights the city had to offer. The city needs a lot of fixings. I got to the Olympic part. The environment was not welcoming. The neighborhood was scketchy. I was disappointed but also kind of expected it from the rumors I have heard. Atlanta there was no paradise. It is not a shiny city as seen from afar.

10:00 am. It was very slow going. Hours ticked by. Orginally I wanted to get to Stone Mnt by 10. 10 AM went by. I was still in the middle of downtown Atlanta. My next goal was to get to mile 50. Stone mountain was at mile 62. However mile 50 seemed so far away. Of course I had done 10 extra miles already from getting lost. That was like 2-3 hours lost time. At this point the turn ditections had become easier. There were only a few streets. No more scravenger hunting. There were still a couple weird comments from the RD, like heading to L5A, something like that. The clue was completely over my head, and I just ignored it. I understood, the race was tailored to the local runners, because they would recognized the references.

12:00 pm. Each Road was like like 5 miles long. I no longer cared about if the turnsheet was wrong or not. The longest segment was Josiah L William Rd. It was forever. I only used the paper map by now since my phone was acting up. I lost internet so along with everything. However, my map does not correspond to reality. The street names were changed. My map showed the older names. It was frustrating. (No one makes paper map any more, hence map being outdated). I knew I was on the right track but there is no way to be certain exactly where I was or which street I just passed. No matter because there was no turn, just one straight road.

1:00 pm. I got to mile 50 around 1-2 pm. I was joyous. It was very hot by then. I made countless stops to stores and got water and sodas. I stopped a bit maybe 30 minutes for lunch at a lake. Tuna – I had those tuna for salad/sandwich, that was probably the best I had in the whole race. I was definitely behind on my calories count. I felt it in every step/but didn’t realized it at the time. I thought I was just low on sodium. I know I was very behind schedule too. I still had 10 more miles to go to get to stone mnt. In my mind I could do it. It wouldn’t be too late. I felt if I can still get to Stone Mountain by 5 I would still be in the game. I could still finish this race. 50 miles mark was a good point because you could fold it in half to get you expected finish time. I guess I got there in 17 hours. So my finishing time would be 34 hours. The race gave 34 hours. I knew I had about 1 hour to spare. I knew I wouldn’t make any wrong turn any more, So the last 50 miles would be faster/ taking less time. Yes a reverse split! I was still cheerful as I sent in my progress to the Facebook page. I had my internet back, but I could no longer bring the map track back up. I stopped using the phone. My watch was already showing mile 57 something, might have been mile 60. I was happily chatting away! I got my strength back to run.

As I was thinking, how crazy it would be to do a reverse split on a 100 miler. People will laugh at me. Only I knew the truth because of the extra miles I had been putting in and it is possible to do a reverse split.

Afternoon: Hours ticked by. I saw the looming dark clouds. I read the forecast that there would be 30% chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. It was both welcoming as well as fearsome. I need a cool off. A rain would do me good. Yet I don’t like getting wet. I did not pack a rain jacket, lack of room. I got to ascend the mountain before the storm. It would not be good to be up there during it or after it. It is an exposed place of granite rock, and very slipery when wet, like standing or wet marble at an incline. I couldn’t able to ascend if ground is wet. I was walking now most of the time. No more 1/3 – 2/3 thing. It was very hot. Rain didn’t come.

I expected this. I wouldn’t mind walking because when evening comes I could run again. Walking is fine as long as I could make close to 3 miles an hour, I wouldn’t be that far behind. I saw I was making around 2.8-3.0 pace. So I was good. I was three hours away from the Mountain. I was keeping track of all the miles/minutes gains and losses. I still had an hour to spare according to my mind clock. I still had hope! I could do this. I had about 14-15 hours left in the race, surely I could do it, as long as I don’t get lost. The second should be easier than the first half. There were only two major roads, El La Ponza something and Peachtree. I will be doing 40 miles on those.

Late afternoon. I got to Stone Mountain around 4:30. It was longer than I thought. I was exhausted. I got to a bench. I didn’t want to tackle the mountain yet. Sun was blazing. I sat. Fixed my feet. I had blisters. Cleaned those up. Wiped myself down with a wet wipe. Cooled down. my water was out but I know I can get them after the mountain part. There is a gas station immediately at the bottom. I was at the bench maybe 45-60 minutes. It was an unwise decision. I don’t know why I did it, but it was too hot at the time. I wanted to lay down and sleep. However I was not sleepy. The advice someone gave me before the race is you have to constantly make forward progress. Once you stop, you are pretty much done. I had a sense as I laid on the bench, this is Waterloo. I might not make it pass this point. Such thoughts scared me. I gathered my strength and got up. Up to the Mountain I went.

5:30 pm. what I didn’t realize is how hot the afternoon was and how hard the trail up the Stone Mountain could be. As expected I was completely exposed on the bare rock. The reflected heat was hot. It is also about a mile up. Yet unlike Kennesaw, this was a technical climb. It is boulder scrambling. Running was out of my mind. If I am fresh, yes, it would be a great run, but not in my current condition. I labored up. Some parts, I had to get on my hands and feet. I used the railing but it was burning hot. If I slip I would be rolling off the mountain. I think it took more than an hour to reach the summit. Near the summit there was a tree and sat down on a boulder under the tree. Dude, someone pooped there, nasty. All the toilet paper and poops. Dude. they supposed to carry their poops down the mountain.

Anyway, I had a bit more to go. I didn’t want to come back down. I explored a bit hoping there would be a shop or restaurant up there. There was a building in the distance. When I got there. Nope. It was closed.

6:00 pm. I slowly made my way down. I think by then it was six PM. The turn sheet said used the path or the service road. I chose the service road thinking it would be easier. It was longer. I got lost too and went down on a side trail. But I descended. Just kept going down till you get to the bottom. I thought I was still on the right track. I got to Robert Lee Rd. The turnsheet said follow Robert Lee Rd to the parking lot. Here I didn’t check the map. It might have been my phone was quarky or my head was from heat exhausion, but I made the worse decision in the whole race. I thought either way Robert Rd would take you to the parking lot. I took the right but it should have been the left. I think I walked 2-3 miles before realizing I wouldn’t get to the main parking lot. Holy guacamoly. Only way of course was to backtrack. I was fuming.

7:00 pm. I knew it. Race was over. There is no recourse. I did do the calculation in my head. That turn was the last straw that broke this camel’s back. All hope was lost. I told myself I could not afford any mistake and here I was. I cried. I got back there to the main parking lot, still not at mile 62.2 yet, but my watch already showed 70+ miles done. The park was closed by now. I was still using the turnsheet (I think it did say take a left on Robert Lee). Somehow, I overshot the turn off. I went to what I thought was another exit but the gate for that was closed. I couldn’t get out. It was anticlimatic. I no longer cared how long it would take to get me out the park. The parking lot was empty now. I was pretty sure before my ascend I read, park close at dusk. Now was only 7. We had one to two more hours till sundown, why is the park closed? Later, I read it was because of July 4th celebration, and earlier they had a protest, that might have led to closing the park early. I didn’t know any of this until the next day. The protest made it on the evening news – about armed men parading around at the site.

The South revered their Civil War Heritage but in the current climate that is seen as racist. I grew up in the South and the Confederacy was always seen as pleasing to me. I did not know I was indoctrinated and came to accept a lot of Southern symbolism and values. What were passed as honor and glory was truly a veil to cover the dark history that was rarely mentioned, supression/slavery/Jim Crows. Off topic, I know, though I grew up in the South, no one would consider me their southern boy, because I look Chinese! Silly for me to claim the Southern Heritage. My great-great-great Grandfather didn’t fought in it. In the end, the thing what matters is you have to treat people with respect and dignity. Those things, like Stonewall statues, was an era past. They fought for the wrong causes and lost (South kept saying state rights) and it is time to move on. Systemic racism is real both in the South and in the North. Blacks are being treated as second class citizens and I believe as an immigrant I fare much better. Any way. enough ranting. It is a hard topic.

Well the first thing is I need to get myself out of the park. I could climb the fence, but I was too tired. I didn’t want to break anything (bones). I didn’t have the comfident that I could do it safely. Luckily a park officer showed up. He pointed me and this other guy who was also stucked inside how to get out. We had to walk maybe quarter mile – half mile to the other gate. Surely that gate was open for exit and I totally missed it the first time I passed by. There was an officer there. I guess I was afraid getting near the officer the first time so totally discounted it to be a way out.

I sent in my fairwell on the race Facebook group page. Finishing the 100 miler was no longer within my reach. I know I still have 10 hours left to do about 40+ miles. Technically in good time, 4 miles an hour is easy peacy, but not today. I could barely get two miles an hour. I had hope once darkness falls my faster pace would return. I wrote to them that I was quitting. They were very supportive saying in this kind of heat and for me to put in 100K is no easy feat. I love them. O you could make friends anywhere you go in the running community.

In the back of my mind, I remembered one of my race director (for the OGU) said, at some point in an ultra you would come to a time you want to quit. He said, he always tell his runners to sit a bit, cool down, and maybe half hour later, you would find the strength to do it, so don’t quit too soon.

After I posted the message on the race Facebook group, I felt a sense of relieve. No longer was I worry about finishing or clock management. I walked on. I really wanted to call an uber right there and then and get off the mountain, but I said, I should pause a bit even though I pretty sure I wanted to quit. I continued using the turnsheet and got to Main St. This next few directions were all easy. I knew them by heart. There was the gas station before a new bike trail start. I went in. Watered up. Got soda. Got batteries for my headlamp, even though I already decided to quit, one part of me wanted to continue on, and I would need strong light once darkness falls. I brought my dinner. I didn’t remember what I ate. I wanted noodle soup but they didn’t have it. I think I ate a can of peaches and emptied a bottle of muscle milk. I felt great. But dinner costed me another hour I believe. Yet I didn’t care because I was no longer in the race.

8:00 pm. It has been 25 hours since I started. I traveled a bit more, maybe one or two more miles and got to the next gas station. Speedway. The sun was setting and I can see that. My decision was if I press on, it would be dark soon. But now I was really sure I wanted to quit. My pace did not return. My rash burn was bothering me all over. I could apply gel and lotion to fix them, but since I am already quitting, and where I was still kind of a remote place. I rather getting pickup during the daylight hours than in the dark. I was telling myself, is there any value to push on until midnight or even 10 o’clock? I already reached my goal to make it to mile 62 on the turnsheet. The answer was yes, I got to put in my miles for the other virtual race, Tennessee GVRAT, however, that is so silly. I got two months to do that one. So I should make the speedway gas station as my final (finishing) point. I smelled awful. Even I couldn’t stand my own stench. Only after you stop you started to notice all kinds of things. I went in to the Speedway and brough the Axe deoderant and sprayed myself plenty. Still didn’t smell good. The Uber took quite a while to get to me. There was no where to go but to wait for the Uber.

8:30 pm. My garmin indicated 77 miles done. I took one more look and reluctantly pressed the stop button. 25:35 (25 hours and 35 minutes). I think 25 minutes was waiting for the uber. My race was officially over. Race mile though was 62-63 miles.

The rest of the adventure was just that. I was fell asleep the moment I got in the uber. No longer could I stay awake. The night was cool. The driver had his window down – maybe I was too stinky or maybe due to fear of coronavirus. He was young, in his twenty or even late teens. He was the first Uber guy with his mask on the whole time. The price was very reasonable I think $25 and not $90. My first Uber guy did not wear a mask! But the first guy picked me up in a BMW. I think the second one was a toyota. I respected what this guy did though. I had my own mask on too. The ride was long too, maybe an hour or more to the hotel near the airport where I stayed for the night and flew back in the morning.

I did not regret the decision to quit. There is no if, like I could finish or not. Not going to play Monday Quarterbacking. What’s done was done. I did not feel badly that I did not tough it out. I felt I gave enough to the race. It was not my all, but enough at the right point. I knew I still had some left in the tank, meaning I had not reach my limit. At least I felt I still have about 20 miles and might able to squeeze 30 miles. But to go for that emptying the tank point, I felt I would hurt my foundation and the risk was very high I might not reach the finish point even if I gave my all (100% sure I wouldn’t able to do it). It was no longer fun. I was cutting my loss early.

I hated getting lost. I hated hours wasted at various places. Yet I knew I could still come back and do again. I had great confident I definitely can redo this race and finish it. I felt I already won it – a weird feeling in what seemingly a failure, but I felt I really achieved my objective, that is to reach 100K. 100 miler is just that, you have to come up solution for the unexpected during the race, being flexible and to be able to push on. The last 40 miles were an insurmountable problem for me at the time.

I am not making light the 40+ miles left to do and those would not be easy miles. I am not comparing myself to those who did the remaining 40 miles and toughened it out. I respect greatly those who finished. 100 miles is no joke.


Day318 recovery

I have gone over the turnsheet today. It was really messed up. I am not feeling regretful or angry about it, because there is no one to blame but myself of not double checking it before my run. It played a role in me not finishing the 100 Miler but it was not a significant role.

My getting lost was not due to the turnsheet being wrong.

The one major flaw of the turnsheet was the distances on it were inaccurate. This either let me to pause too frequently to check on it.

So I finally get myself together and fix the turnsheet while my mind was still fresh.

I don’t think the race director is intentionally messing with my mind though, but I felt like that at the time while I was out running it.

Now I have perfected the sheet, I have to run it again.

Not having a reliable direction was a newbie mistake. The Old school way is to have those down cold. Since now a day most people have a pretty good cellphone, turnsheet and map are things of the past. This race was testing the old ability because my phone was not available.

I fixed all those errors I found. There was a place even missing a turn. Just a minor mistake. I remembered making that wrong turn in the middle of the night on my run and saw the warning sign posted – do not enter – on the fenced gate that blocked the entry, I knew I was at the wrong place.

I was able to study the map in depth now and located some of the restaurants and food stores. Babylon, one of the places that peaked my interest is not a stripped club, but they do open from 5 pm to 5 am. I was telling myself I was going to stop by and getting some food regardless if it is rated R. It is a Hookah bar (smoke bar), or are they playing with words?

I found the locations of some of the Whole Foods stores and Kroggers. I think there is one Trader’s Joe too. All good stuffs. I was whinning that there is no good store in Atlanta. Now I found them. They were at a part of race I didn’t get to last time. It seems similar to Northern Virginia. I am going to get a hotel in that place. I found a couple asian restaurants, and a thai as well. I have a high hope of getting tom yum soup at the end of my run.

life running

Day317 Second take

I already made plan to try again at the end of August to run the same 100 miles again. After looking at what went wrong, I think I can get over the huddles. August can’t be hotter than now.

Any way, once the time comes I will prepare better.

Going to sleep on it for now. Hotel and flights are cheaper now than when I got them before. Maybe because of the coronavirus has become more severe, or maybe this time I am booking farther in advance.

Body-wise, A bit sore all over. It was not as bad as my first half marathon/marathon. I remember back then, I couldn’t walk after finishing. I feel it when go up and down the stairs. I haven’t felt like this for a long time. And kind of happy about it – like old friend! Seriously, last time I was like this…I can’t recall, maybe two years ago in Delaware.

I studied the strava/garmin data. I did slow down a lot. It was a downward trend. Yes, was a very bad news. In my mind, I thought I was staying steady, but data is showing otherwise.

Going share some pictures of the run.


Day316 100 mile review

There were a lot of things went well and I also made a lot of newbie mistakes. In the end I did not finish. The 100 mile run is not easy.

They say running a 100 miles is to overcome issues that crop up along the way. To finish you have to overcome those. Some can be anticipated ahead of time, but some only pop up as you run. I found you can’t prepare for every contigency.

What went well for me? The start time was better than expected. It was one of big concern – because I couldn’t start too early or too late since I have to make it to Stone Mountain during time when it is open (from 10-8). Also I would have to pay attention to the finish time, you don’t want to finish too late, or else can’t find a ride home. It is best to finish during day time. I chose to start at 7 pm on Friday night. It was hot. But actually that time, already became cooler. Most of the run, I had some cloud covering. It could have been hotter still. The first few miles, I had some sprinkling of rain. Luckily no thunderstorm, though it was forecasted. I am so thankful, because there is no way for me to get up on the Stone Mountain when wet (it is very slipery).

It was really really hot. Even after sun down as I ran throughout the night I was sweating crazy. My body kind of adjusted the next day but was not enough. I knew I was dehydrated because I couldn’t pee. I tried to drink as much as possible and was water logged. I was glad there were gas stations that were open. They were on the way. Some though were not open. I had tough time finding any that were open at 3 am in the morning (They say they were open but door was locked – it could be the employee was sleeping in the back).

The route was nicely planned. I went through the safest part of Atlanta during the night. The run started on Kennesaw mountain. It was way out of Atlanta, and costed me an arm and leg to go out there. People at Marietta, the town just nearest to the mountain, were very friendly and they live up to my expectation of southern charm. I come from DC area, no one in DC would give you a second look or say hi or smile, that is the culture in the DC area – and it is normal. But here in the suburb of Atlanta, people are quite charming.

So I made my way throughout the night in the Atlanta Suburb. I arrived at downtown Atlanta in the morning. Oh by the way, some neighborhood in Atlanta is 24-7, people were still standing outside at 4am in the morning. Not good people I know. Luckily they didn’t bother me. By the look, I think they were pimps and prostitutes. I don’t remember the name of the locale, but the bar/or whatever it is, Babylon was interesting. I never met any real hookers in real life, and so it was sort of an eye opener for me. Well they didn’t bother me and I passed by.

Inner Atlanta was ya, unexpected and also expected. It was around 6 ish, when I arrived. I passed by a very poor neighborhood. It was definitely scary. I lived in poor neighborhood when I grew up, but it couldn’t prepare me for this. The people didn’t bother me; it was just a different feel. They are people of color. That is a mark of Atlanta, a huge population of African American.

I came across many different parts. Saw wall paintings. You can say they are part of the culture or part of a dysfunction society. I have seen more black people in Atlanta than my whole entire life, so was kind of an experience. I came across a small BLM protest on my run, (Black Lives Matter) organized by mostly by white people, you can tell to see who marched in it, while I was sitting by the side of the road outside the gas station/convenience store with couple back people around — and it was almost a joke or insult. You have a serious economic inequality here and all the social programs of the past half century didn’t make a dent and people parading around saying BLM. It is a bigger issue – I have visited Indian reservation (Navajo), and pouring money and food assistance didn’t get people out of proverty but instead highlight something seriously wrong with our nation.

People open your eyes to see the condition of black people. I know BLM is about anti police violence on black people…but look at the bigger picture. I came across several police officers and they are white. I also saw an older black man asking direction from a police … my heart skipped a beat and I think the black gentlemen too (long story: we were locked in a park at Stone Mountain, they closed the gate early due to the 4th July celebration, and we couldn’t exit the park). However, I didn’t get to interact with many blacks except for one of my uber driver. Racial tension definitely is more pronounce in Atlanta than in DC. Here in DC we are like one happy family.

An observation, and I read about this too, when a community is poor, there is hardly any ‘good’ grocery store. As I was running, only place I can get food was at a gas station, and their choices were all junk food. I was so used to running in my own neighborhood in Northern Virginia where I have Giant Food, Whole Food, Safeway, Walmart. There are array of good stuffs here in Northern Virginia. Not so in Atlanta. There is no 7 Eleven in Atlanta either. I came across of a lot of Fried chicken places. No wonder we are so rich up north. It it is quite a different feel down in Atlanta. On the side note, I miss asian stores/restaurants — because I couldn’t have Tom Yum soup on the run. High salty soup is very beneficial for long run.

OK let discuss what didn’t go well. My pack was too heavy. There were many reasons that let me to not finishing the run. But one of the contributors is a heavy pack. I repacked it three or 4 times. In the previous post, I mentioned of taking the larger 18L pack instead of my smaller 6-8L. However before my run start, I swapped back to the smaller pack, and cut out half the stuffs. It was a wise decision, however, it was not enough. The weight though was still heavy. The reason being was I carried the full load of water, close to 3L and food, more on that later, because I didn’t expect any store to be open until day time. The weight issue really kill me. I carried the electronic gear, flashlights, phone, battery charger, wires, stuffs I normally won’t have on me on my usual runs. I also had a first kit, and a lot of food – way too much. More on this later.

Second, dress. I was debating wearing short sleeves versus long sleeves. I chose long because I wanted to avoid sun burn and I didn’t want to carry sunblock. Sunblock is heavy, even with the travel size. I could have put a dab of cream in a ziplock. Initially I had a bunch of ziplock bags, however, when I packed my suitcase, I tossed them out at the last minute and came to regret that decision. I was over heating the whole time in my long sleeve. It was made with breathable material, however, the heat sapped my strength. About mile 30 in I was done running. I walked until mile 77 ish. However, the chance that I could finish on time was out of my grasp. The race was pretty lenient, because if you run 1/3 of the way and walk 2/3 you can finish within the time limit. I was cutting close.

Cooling. I didn’t implement active cooling strategy. I should have pour water on me. I should have soaked my towel and cap with water, that would have helped a lot. I did this for other races but forgot to do it on this race until after I already decided to quit. If I implement this earlier during the day, I think I would have gotten farther in the race and might have finished. I was concern of ‘wasting’ the limited water I had.

Third issue, was food. 100M requires / expends a lot of energy. It was one issue I kind of knew but didn’t pay enough attention. I estimated of expending about 4000-5000 calories. By the time I stopped, I already used 8,000 plus of calories and that was only about 60% into the race. I should have prepared or know I would burn 12,000 of calories. I was vastly undestimated my needs. I understand it was impossible to reload myself that amount of calories within the race time, but my failing was not having any in my body other than fruit juice and other sugary drinks cut into my performance. I believe what killed me was by the 24th hour, I was out of energy. I could still walk but running was impossible. Understand that if I don’t put in energy, my body would start burning the muscles to fuel the expenditure and that was very bad indeed because muscles take a long time to regrow and be redeveloped.

What about the 2400 calories I packed? Since swithing to a smaller pack, I had to take 1200 calories out. The other 1200, I ate maybe 200 -400. They were granola, and it was very dry. They say, don’t try anything new on race day!! I didn’t take that advice. So I carry those heavy bars on me and did not really eat that much and took them back home. I should have jettisoned them a quarter way in when I felt I am not going to use them so to lighten my load.

The core of the matter of why I couldn’t finish is I got lost too many times. I can’t blame the turnsheet. There were definitely some errors on there, but some of the parts I caught them in my preparation. I marked them by hand on the print out, however, I didn’t use thst print out. I reprinted a new turnsheet on double side and the new turn sheet didn’t have the marking. I lost about 10-12 miles of keep making the wrong turn. My map was outdated too, and a lot of street names were changed. I wished I had memorized or more familiarized with the route. This was the first time I was running a race using turn sheet and map. I spent maybe 12 hours learning before I came up a system how to do it efficiently. Those first 12 hours were costly. Also I probably was sleep deprived. How I kept missing the turns was I kept zoning out in my run. It was horrible and frustrating. I was so used to running by zoning out because in all my races, there were either someone in front of me or the trail is blazed and those were easy to follow. But this race was like a scavenger hunt. You have to be on your toes. I was not used to it.

What new way I found? One is to keep your turnsheet and map out at all time! My phone gps died on me on some portion. That was the worse thing that can happen. Also the route on the phone kept disappearing. I had a lot of problem with it. Only by morning, I started to use exclusively a map and turnsheet and I became better at it. What I originally did was I kept my map in my pack, and every so often I would pull it out. It wasted too much time. It required stopping midrun to check the map and turnsheet. So in the end I found a way to fold the map showing only the next few sets of turns. It helped a lot. This is from hiking skill – but I was dumb and didn’t translate the skill learned in hiking to my running.

Night run was also worse in that I kept getting night blindness. The flash light was too bright. Every time I checked the turnsheet and then looked back up, I was blind. My vision took too long to recover. I did use a red filter lamp, but there were times I forgot and blinded by my own light. Those were reflected light too. I felt next time, I should wear an eye patch on one eye like a prirate!

What else I didn’t talk about? Flashlight/batteries. My headlamp was dying and I didn’t get batteries for it until at mile 62. By then I had already decided to quit, but I did buy batteries for the headlamp at a gas station 🙂 The whole week leading to this run, I was telling myself to buy batteries. Batteries was one of the concerns and I couldn’t make time to get them before my trip. It was a shot in the foot. During the race, I used a handheld bike light. It was heavy. I did have a very light handheld one, but it lacked batteries. So it was like a consolation at my last pit stop I brought new batteries, though too late.

My biggest concern going into the race was pain and sleep deprivation. Noted that I didn’t sleep on Thursday, because I was trying to reset my sleep to the morning but wasn’t successful. During the race slept deprivation was not that big a deal. I was full of adrenaline the whole time. I didn’t fall asleep until I was in the uber, heading back to my hotel. However, there were still 40 plus miles, if I tried to finish the 40 miles, I bet sleep derivation would play a big part whether I would finish or not.

As for pain, I didn’t feel too great a discomfort at mile 77. There were still 40 plus miles so I don’t know if I could have survive the pain. As some people say, the race just only get started at mile 80. The first 80 miles were just warm up. The fun stuff, and I missed that experience.

The pain I got at mile 77 was chafing. I believed my butt was bleeding from the chafe. I applied vaseline before the run but wasn’t enough. Also my underarms were chafed. I properly could have endured the pain for the next 20-40 miles, but it was definitely no fun. I wish I had kept some vaseline in a ziplock bag so I can reapply halfway in the race.

Blisters started to form at mile 75. They were not too bad. I took off my shoes. Popped the tiny blister on one of the toes. Put some body glide on my feet. Changed to new socks. I believed it would have last for the next 20-40 miles. This was the first time I do blister care in mid race and I was so proud of myself. The aid kit came in handy! They even have the safety pins for popping blisters! I was so impressed.

My “planned chaos” really killed my race. In my hubris I was hoping to pull through even with many mistakes I made. It was a series of small mistakes building up and finally I couldn’t handle it any more.

Conclusion. There were a lot of what-ifs. The race was only about 2/3 in. Who know what other problems the remainder would bring. However, I could have done a lot better in the first 2/3 by carrying lighter stuff, packing better food and eat them, study, really study my run (map and turnsheet), keeping the body cool, wearing better clothes, managing or minimize chafing issues, sleeping better on the day before the race. All these would have made a difference.