epilogue

Day 192 Old Glory Ultra

pet peeve. I just found out I mis-numbered my blog posts and so I went back to the last 20+ entries and corrected them. I screwed that up big time. It is my pet peeve if the number is not in sequence after discovery.

I just did the old glory (OGU) trail run (on Saturday) and it was just a long long weekend. I won’t able tell all about it. It was a 50K ish run. The actual miles were about 29. Still, I won’t complain about the missing two miles. It was intentional. The race director said it is a trail run and give or take couple miles is a norm. It was a tough course with 7,000 ft elevation change. However I enjoyed it tremendously.

It was almost a race I had to skip out. About twenty people did not show up. Only three of them wrote to the race director about it and requested deferral. The rest were no shows. About 30 of us finished. We and at least I was, had a lot of fun. It was my best racing experience I had. Trail running is a total different beast than road running.

My best friend who also my normal camping buddy, had a slight misunderstanding days leading up to the trip. I was going to go camping and then it was canceled and then I found it was still on. Luckily it was resolved peacefully early Thursday morning. My friend thought I dumped her for the race (well I kind of did), but she was mad at me for not telling her about the race. Whereas I was on the otherhand, thought she dumped me for going camping solo and that the stars had aligned perfectly for my race weekend. A chance in a million! We now found out it was one big misunderstanding. Still I have to make a peace offering once I get back.

Now about the race itself, I camped the night before and night after at the race site. The race took place at Kairos Resort in Glen Lyn, Virginia. It is about 6 hours south and west of DC. It was not any type of resorts that usually comes to to mind. There is no skiing. I don’t think it is a hunting ground. Sure there are bears and wild turkey. They do not have and probably won’t be building lodges. It is just a campground with many miles of dirt trails for bikes and ATVs. It is a remote place and normally runners don’t go there for running, but it was perfect for us for our race. The closest ‘real city’ is an hour away. I have heard some people got Airbnb from Princeton, WV, which is much closer. But I camped on site.

Why it is called a resort is we have a camp store (Ed’s place) and a Bathhouse. Those were two places that were heated, but because the temperature was so cold Friday night, the water pipe froze and there was no water to flush the toilet on the race morning or water to shower at the end of the race. It was kind of to be expected. They had couple of pottajohns. For guys going to the bathroom was not a problem, since we can just go behind a tree. I think the ladies too.

The temperature was below freezing. I went to bed early. My water jug was partially turned to ice. However the temperature went up on Saturday on the race day midway. We had a perfect running temperature. Oh, I had to make a real fire to cook because my gas canister for the jetboil was too cold to work.

This was the second year of the race. The race director think it will gain popularity. I like the aspect of camping out the night before the race. However, it was too cold for most friends and families and even runners. Most runners are not campers like me.

The trail was challenging. It was my first real technical trail race. There are rocks, stream crossings and mud. The race director warned us not to zone out. I did couple times and the first time, I rolled my ankle and the second time, I missed a turn. We were miles away from any easily accessible roads. They would to use ATV and 4×4 off road vehicle to even get to our aid stations. Man, I thought the race was done for me at the half way point and I was about to walk out to the nearest aid station. Pain went down and I continued to run the course.

I finished in 8 hours but the first guy finished in 4 and half. The last person finished at about 9 hours. We all finished before dark. The race director said the course is tough but it is not the toughest out there. I think it was very enjoyable. I viewed it as 30 miles of hiking (and I ran in hiking boots). I wish to do again either next year or the year after if schedule allows.

Oh, why I love ultras, all you get for the race was a bowl of chili and a trucker cap. I love my trucker hat. I ran with mine on. The finisher patch did not arrive on time and the Race Director apologized for that, we said, that was not why we run. We got a high five from the RD at the finish line.

Love the trucker cap. Me coming in strong for my chili bowl. I was the probably the only one wearing hiking boots because I don’t like muddy running shoes and wet feet. I know, got to work on that if I like running ultras.

MCM no. 44

Day 186 race report

I woke up the morning of the race at around 3 AM, having slept maybe 5 hours. Originally I set my alarm for 5 AM, but I felt I needed more time to prepare. The night before, I was too tired to pack my things after coming back from a hiking trip. It was the first time I woke up this early for a race. I know, with Ultras, there might be a day I will be at the course by 1 or 2AM in the morning.

I had my early breakfast. Cold breakfast because I was too lazy to cook. I had to have some food in me. Packed. We had to pack a second breakfast because by the time the race starts, I would be hungry again. I was out of the house by 5. I took the metro (light rail) to the starting line. Metro opens at 6 just for this event. I drove to a far away station in Springfield instead of taking a closer one, Vienna. The reason being, is to avoid making a transfer. I did this race back in 2017, and by the time waiting for transfer, I could barely made it to the race start, given that time, I missed the first train and had to wait for a second one that was like 15 minutes later. That 15 minutes was a big different. This time, no transferring and I made sure I was at the station 15 minutes prior the first train in order not to miss it. I barely made it on time for that due to not familiar with the station and the parking. The train moved out the station exactly on the dot. I got on my train. There were lot of runners like me. My race started at 7:30. I got to the race around 6:30. But there were a lot of people when I arrived, 30,000+ of them. It took us some time to leave the station and to get to the starting line. This time I came a little bit earlier and avoid the crowd like I did back in 2017. But there were still a lot of people. From the metro, we had to walk about a mile to the runners village. By the time I got to the village, and gone through security check, the starting time was near (only 30 minutes left). I walked up to the starting line and that was a long walk too (maybe quarter mile long). 50K has only 1700 runners and we felt many has dropped out due to the rain.

We had a tropical storm blowing from Texas. It hit us around 7-10 am. I have been watching this storm system since the beginning of the week. We were hoping it would skip us. There were a lot of water coming down from the sky. Bucketful of water. The race started on time. Luckily the storm did not last too long (maybe for couple hours). It came down early and then went out of the area, fast moving storm. We had sunshine for the rest of the race.

Having run the course before, this time I was well prepared. I did not go out too strong. Last time I tired myself out by mile 13. This time I am doing the Ultra 50k, which added about 4.8 miles more. The course still remained much the same. We did the extra 4.8 miles at mile 4.5, when we left the normal marathon race course and run a 2.4 miles out and back before rejoining the marathon course.

By mile 4, the elite runners already caught up with us. We ran about half a mile with them. Note we had a 25 minutes head start. We left the regular course at mile 4.5, and came back in. By the time we came back in the course many runners already ran passed. It was raining heavily at the time. Many runners were already walking. I assumed they were doing 16-18 mins per mile. We the 6:00 finishers were still going at 11:33 mins per mile. This was one of the greatest concern for the ultra runners. We would come in from behind and it would be a challenge to move pass the slower runners. While there were a lot of people, I was able to still pass them. Based on simulation, we would be passing 6000 people the first few miles. We passed a lot of people, but it was very hard to keep count. I was running between 10:30 a mile and 12:30 min a mile pace depending on the crowd. Experience definitely helped at this point. In the previous Marine Corps Marathon, I was expending too much energy weaving in and out of the crowds that by mile 13, I was completely exhausted. This time I was basically going with the flow and passing when I could. I know I would pass them, but I did not get frustrated if the person in front was a bit slow. I know they would a bit slow until the very end. Since they closed both sides of the street, I could run on the opposite side. Not many people did (they fear of being DQ I think for going off the course). I ran mostly on the opposite side (or on the median) to pass people. And it was great. I did not have to weave in and out the crowd too much.

Most people were respectful, they used hand signal to let people know they are stopping. There were not too many people running in big group this time. I could get by most of the time. There were just a lot of people. The course did not really spread out until their mile 13 as expected, our mile 18.

The rest of the race was mostly uneventful. Being an ultra runner, I brought my own water and food. I had more experience than the rest of the crowd. I did not slow down at many of the aid stations unless I ran out water. I got some oranges and gels from the aid stations later in the race, when I did not see that many people crowding there. I felt I was one of the few around me who could keep the energy up. I ate early in the race, before even the first official food station. I had real food (peanut butter sandwiches). I did not “hit-the-wall” until final two miles. Even then, the last minute gel got me through. One word about those gels, it almost turned my stomach inside out. I thought I was about to double over and throw up. Maybe I was drinking too much water by that time.

About pacing, I was with the 6:00 hour group. I was mostly in front of them. They were going maybe 30 seconds faster than the supposed pace in the beginning. We were running at 11 min pace until mile 5. Then the pacer decided to make a time correction by walking couple minutes. I had my 5:00 (hour) marathon pace band (I felt as long as I get to the 26.2 mile, I could finish the rest of the way). I arrived at the 26.2 mark exactly at 5:00 on the race clock. The last 4.8 miles took me an hour to get through.

I walked much more in the final few miles. I stopped for beer (from the crowd) and a picture. Bummer too the rain ruined my camera phone. A fellow marathon maniac ran up to me and we took a picture together with her phone at the final few miles. The final hill was hard. Having ran it before, I knew the hill was not long, so I pushed on. It was hard. Many other people flew by me. I crossed the finish line at 5:58:something on race clock time. I did not run a perfect even pace, but it was the first time, I arrived exactly at the time I wanted to arrive.

I think picking a 6:00 arrival time was arbitrary. I felt it was a bit too fast for me. I could have picked 6:15 or 6:20, then I would not have felt so rush. I did not want to push too hard, since I have one more race (a 50 miler) in three weeks, and that one I have been training on/off for over a year. I hope this race did not ruin my body for that one. I was not supposed to go all out on this race. I felt I was nearly there.

Baltimore Marathon

Day 183 / race report

First off, this is a good race to run. It was beyond my initial impression. Baltimore surprisingly is beautiful. I signed up for this race last year immediately the day after they held it. It was my plan/goal to do the king crab challenging, which was to run three races: the Frederick Half in May, the Baltimore 10 Miler in June, and the Baltimore Marathon (or Half Marathon) in October. It seemed an extremely difficult thing to do at the time and I have been worrying about for two years. But Ha, it was just like any race, the moment I stepped on the course and ran, before I knew it, I was at the finish line.

I have heard about the Baltimore Marathon the moment I started running and that was about two/three years ago. Baltimore is near where I live relatively speaking. I live in near the nation capital in Virginia, where two states meets. We informally call this area the DMV – DC, Maryland and Virginia. We are blessed with so many races here. The Baltimore Marathon is one of them.

Even though Baltimore is considered my neighborhood (by the census data) but it is on the other side of the river (on the Maryland side). For all my life, I have felt Maryland is in another country. I am sure the Maryland people felt the same about us Virginians. Baltimore is about an hour away from DC and this made it feels even farther from us. But I live about an hour from DC too in another direction. The race allowed me to be a bit more familiar with Maryland and Baltimore.

If any are doing destination marathon, Baltimore is not a bad choice. The race took place in downtown Baltimore at the Oreole Baseball Stadium (Camden Yard) and finished at the Harbor. I parked my car at M&T Bank Stadium (Ravens), which is just next to Camden Yard–they had free event parking for us. Surprised! I had to pay for parking if I run in DC or in Richmond. Hotels in the city are a bit pricy but there are plenty. I booked an hotel about 15 mins drive away, that is, outside of the city. It was not bad. Know that I was in Baltimore back in June to do 10 Miler and unfortunately at that time, I made a poor choice in staying a place that was kind of sketchy, just leaving it at that. Do your research of where you plan to stay. Any hotel that needs to have a bullet proof glass in front of the reception counter to protect the staff like in a bank, I would think it might not be a good location to stay at. My hotel was like that.

I read many things about Baltimore that is not very flatering, such as a city that can’t afford to pave its roads. It is known for potholes! We don’t even have to go into drug or crime or murder rate. Good thing is every block I ran, there are two or three police officers, so I felt completely safe the whole time. There was an incident where a car did not obey the police direction and almost ran me over, but that probably can happen any where. Of course, cars hate us runners. We blocked the downtown roads for 4-5 hours. We heard a lot of honking. I don’t think it was hey, congratulations but more like what is wrong with you guys running on the roads. There were angry long and loud honking errupting everywhere, because they closed the roads for us, and people were upset.

What I surprised about is how beautiful the city is. On a normal day, I wouldn’t walk around in Baltimore after hearing that people being beating to death is a normal thing in this city during the day, but on the race day as I ran through various neighborhoods, there are really nice people out there and who actually live there. People came out and cheered us. I was offered gummys, oranges, and water and beers. This was in addition to the official aid stations. The Baltimore Harbor, which was the half way point and the finish line is absolutely awesome.

How did I do? I was not running for a record (no PR). I signed up with the 5:15 pace group, which is kind of slow for me since my average is around 4:30-4:45 finish but in the last two marathons I ran kind of slow and finished at 5:30, and that was about a month ago. So, 5:15 expected time was reasonable for me. I stayed with the 5:15 group for half the race until pasting mile 13. Then I ran at my own pace and it felt great finally freed. At mile 20 I caught sight of the 5 hour pace group. I was hoping to pass them in the next three miles. I passed them. I was kind of hoping to pass the 4:45 group too. I crossed the finish line at 4:53, still it was a very good time.

It felt good to have strength for the last couple miles. I did not hit the wall at all. This was the first time running a marathon without being exhausted at the end.

The tireness came only after crossing the finish line and I went to bed early. Other than that, the race was very good!

Pics:

Camden Yard. I just love this stadium, because it is beautiful!

Starting line. The green shirt people are my pacers. They were awesome. You can see the 5 hour pace team in front of us.

Our pace strategy was to run slower the first few miles, but would pick up pace after we get going. We walked through all 15 aid stations.

Our pacers set goals for us! Our first goal is to get to the zoo next to Johns Hopkins Uni.

Johns Hopkins. Also a beautiful campus. A beautiful morning.

Next up. We headed into the city. Beautiful neighborhood.

The famous Penn Station. Hear a lot about this station. Seeing this means we are in the city.

We are near the half way point. This race, they had the half marathoners start at our half way. We got here after the half already started. They said they had the half marathoners run in their own lane so they wouldn’t block us who were passing by. I arrived at mile 15 in 3 hours, which was slow for me, since normally by 3 hours, I would have done 20 miles already.

I did not take pictures on the second half. I was too focus on running. People say there were a lot of hills. True but I ran in more hilly places (e.g. Morgantown). Hills here were too easy for me. Also there were a lot of people walking after the half. It felt good to able to catch up to the people who were running the half.

Another thing interesting about the race was the relay team event. There were three exchange points (6, 13, and 20 mile). We marathoners were slow and tired but the relay runners, they just blasted out their exchange chutes at full speed, was something I love seeing.

Finish line at the harbor. I had my lunch and enjoyed the view.

More sightseeing. An Old ship. Constellation.

The finish place was very festive! In most marathons I have done, usually, no one is around by the time I come in. This is because, the half marathoners usually finish before the full, and are long gone by the time those running the full finish.

Mountain boys

Day 172

I will try to make this short. My race report usually goes on and on. The past weekend, I went to West Virginia and did the Morgantown Marathon. Boy, was it hard. To compare to previous marathons I ran, this was an ultra level marathon. I was knock out by mile 19. I walked then for three miles and finally picked up running again but was going at 15 min mile, very very slow jog. By mile 25, I walked to the finish. I finished at 5:10; the orginal target goal was 4:40-45. So I might have gone out a little too fast in the beginning.

The course could have been tougher but I saw at many hills, the race path was diverted to an easier path. In my mind, I was thinking, thank God I don’t have to go up that hill. Though the course was made easier, it didn’t mean there was no hill. The whole course was hilly. We are in West Virginia, where there is not flat ground! There were hills that go up for a mile long. Mile 25-26 was like that. A whole mile of uphill. They had to put it at the end! Some people mention mile 20 as well, but I was walking at that point and do not remember if it was a hard climb.

One thing I noticed was even walking was tough. You would think if you couldn’t run, you would walk to catch your breath, but while walking, my muscles felt like they would not want to take another step. At that time, if the snag wagon came by, I would have taken it and gave up on the race. I never thought walking was hard before, but in this race, walking was hard for me.

The race organization was great. It started on time. They managed it like a 10,000 people race even though there were only 2500-2600 people registered and only about 250-260 people ran the full marathons. There were lot of food, water station, and after party. They have a pace vehicle! I thought I was running in the olympic. I couldn’t catch up to it though. There were many road crossings but they had crossing guards through out. We ran on closed roads for most of the race. There was one point though, I think one or two cars broke through a roadblock at an empty stretch. I know some people did not like us running on the road.We were in West Virginia, and to my mind, it is the wild wild west (their state slogan is ‘wild and wonderful’, indeed).

crowd support: It was not like other big races, but some neighbors came out. I am thankful for the frozen grapes at one of the houses. Unfortunately, no one offered me moonshine on the course. I was kind of hopeful to get some moonshine in WV.

Final word. They say run to conquere Morgantown, but I think the mountain boys conquered me.

Race #3: Eastern Divide 50k

Day 132 race report

I got down to Blacksburg a day before the race for package pick up. I like able to avoid the rush. The drive was not that long but it felt forever. I could run a 4 and 5 hour race but I can’t stand driving four hours. I was going crazy and was verge of delirium for wanting to close my eyes for a bit. I stopped for coffee after two hours at Harrisonburg. The rest of the way was uneventful. The coffee kicked in about an hour later when I was near.

I had about an hour and half to spare after arriving and I went up ti Mountain Lake (Pembroke, VA) where the race would end and nosed around on the state roads. I was not able to find the start line but I was driving around a bit on the mountain roads. The place is beautiful. I didn’t have a map with me so I didn’t want to wander too far. After an hour I got off the mountain and went back to town.

I went to race director’s briefing. Aftereard had dinner and hit the bed by eight. I had to be up by 4:30 for the race.

The race had about 10 miles of trail with a lot of running on the fire roads. I thought I would do well since it is really a road race. I finished in 7 hours. It was much slower than I anticipated. For some reason, I just didn’t have the energy to run. I ran maybe the first four miles and the last four and walked most of the way. I average about 4 miles and hour. It was a fast hike.

The Cascade Fall was beautiful. I didn’t spent too much time looking at it before making the climb up to Butt Mountain. Then we ran to mostly on the ridge line to Wind Mountain. We finished it at Mountain Lake.

I didn’t see the lake during my run. I was looking down and watching my footing the whole time.

I probably wouldn’t do it again. I felt the elevation was challenging but the race was mostly boring. Physically I was challenged. I wish I was in a better shape. In the end It felt like a one long hike.