Run report

Day 228

Last week was low mileage for me with a total about 9 miles. Lowest so far after having 50+ for last three consecutive weeks, but I figure I needed the low mileage rest.

As usual, Monday was a rest day. After three weeks of running, I was grateful for Monday

Tuesday: 4. Easy run with group. The weather is getting warmer. Legs were heavy.

Wednesday: 2nd rest day

Thursday: 5 miles. Also was a group run. Legs were still heavy but a bit better than Tuesday.

Friday: 0. traveling

Saturday-Sunday: *3-4ish. I would like to say it was supposed to be a run but turned out more a backpacking hike. Saturday, hiked 24 miles and Sunday 12. I won’t count them running though my body was sored from the activity.

~~~~Long version~~~~

The highlight was I went to Laurel Highlands to check on the trail, which I will be racing on it in June. The trail was not extremely hard, definitely runable in most section (‘groomed’ trail some say), but it is considerably a step up from my last ultra due to hilly terrains. It was not the most technical terrain I have seen, but I will be killed by a thousand cuts. It is flat on the elevation profile but it is anything but flat. 70-mile is not an impossibility but it won’t be a cake walk. People said to train for it as if it is a 100 mile race. One suggestion was to do 10k ft of hill climb per week. I intend to do just that.

Due to the trail being a point to point (not a loop), it was difficult to plan the training run logistically. I decided to ‘play it safe’ because of the cold weather and I camped at the race to-be checkpoint #1 (Mile 18) and intended to study the trail from mile 18 to 0. I was very tempted to run the whole thing in a day, knowing my ability I can do 18 miles any given day, however because of the remoteness and ‘what-ifs’, I decided to backpack by hiking it instead. It was definitely a wise decision.

I was much weaker than I anticipated. Even with just the hike, it exhausted me. If the previous weekend running in the woods an indicator, this weekend’s message was loud and clear: I was in no condition to ‘trail run’ it. I might call it running, but if I couldn’t put up 3 miles an hour, it was anything but running. On race day, doing 3 miles an hour will not get me to the finish line under 22 hours. I am not alarmed, given I have about 12-14 weeks left, I could train up for it.

The first night there was just straight camping. I hiked around for an hour looking for camp but that was just my stupidity of not studying the map before hand. I figured the camp was only about half mile at most from the parking area and I could bump into it. You can only go north or south on the trail, how hard can it be in finding the camp? I walked first north the back south and turned around went back north (I was so near then before turning around!) and explored some of the side trails, while really needed to use the bathroom! Yes and it costed me an hour wandering around in the middle of the night. The camp was really half mile away (South). It was 2AM by the time I close my eyes. My hiking leader would be laughing at me if she knew (she didn’t go; well if she had gone, I wouldn’t be in a jam).

Camped in the snow on the first night; happy to arrived

The next day, bright and early, I decided to take my pack to camp#2 (at Mile 6), which is about 12 mile hike. Trust my plan, I kept saying to myself. Luckily, the snow on the ground was not much and they were fresh, about quarter to half an inch of snow on the ground. It didn’t make running impossible but the cold was a big factor for me to play it safe and decided to hike it with my pack instead of dropping the pack at where I parked and running the thing. Indeed, the ground was icy in part and I took too many falls to the ground myself. I left my trekking poles at home when the time I needed them the most was now; I had micro spikes in my pack but I was too stubborn to put them on — again my hike leader would shake her head if she saw me, like for all these years of camping and I still haven’t learned.

Tiny shelters (huts) down in the valley. I had the whole campground to myself at my second day camp site

I arrived at the second camp by noon, exhausted, and also not haven’t eaten breakfast. I dropped my pack, set camp, ate and by 2 PM then proceeded to hike/run the remaining six miles (to Mile 0) on an out and back.

reached mile marker 0

They say these six miles would be hardest in the race in term of elevation gain. It is probably a joke to those on the west coast that we complain about a thousand or two ft of elevation gain over couple miles, but to us here it is hard running! Everything is relative.

Indeed, I could hardly run it. I came across many runners on the trail in this last (first) section and one of them has ran the Laurel Ultra a few years back. He said, he knew of no one who would run up it, specifically on Spring Hill.

Next morning, woke up with body pretty much in a bad shape (bad meaning I didn’t want to run). I felt I couldn’t walk another mile. I asked myself, do I want to repeat to run to mile 0 and back, since it would be a perfect day for running it. It was much warmer and snow had melted. It would make great numbers for my runner log.

I pretty much knew the answer. I can’t find any resolve to beat my body any more but to hike (crawl) back to the car. I could definitely do it if I had to, but it would be pushing myself beyond uncomfortable. I knew it was not happening. It was really pointless to stay another night if I am not running it. Also I only had carried one day of food with me on my pack and I ate them the day before…unless I go back to the car. I always had more food in the car. But if I go to the car, why not just go home. The hike back was literally a crawl for me. That’s a wrap for the weekend.

someone’s snow graffiti
hunting parking lot – it advises runners/hikers to wear bright orange color clothing. PA has a lot of public hunting grounds. Larel highlands trail runs through some.
around mile 13-14

course preview

Day 188 JFK prep

There are a lot things to say. The most important was I was out on the trail running again. I haven’t run that much due to various reasons. Weather, scheduling conflict, and probably plain laziness.

I ran on Tuesday. Didn’t do it on Wednesday because of church. Thursday was because of the weather and I had to fix my car (it had a recall for defective airbag). I finally took it in to have it serviced. Friday was my nephew’s birthday. Normally I do my long run on Friday!!! And skipping it really hurts. Yet it was for my nephew. Also I am just lazy trying to find excuses to skip out on my long run.

So today, I had my run. It was out of this world awesome. I woke up at 3 again 3 in the morning to make it clear. I left the house a little before 6 and drove to Harper Ferry, a place north and west of where I live and where Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland meet.

It is a beautiful place and has historical significant, just don’t ask me what it is. It was mentioned in my history book.

I got there just in time before my shuttle leaved. I was there because a volunteer has offered to shuttle us to Boonsboro about 30 minutes from Harper Ferry, where we would run the first portion of the course for the JFK 50 mile race later this month. We would run from Boonsboro to Harper Ferry on the AT (Appalachian Trail).

I love trail running and just not doing it enough because mountains are so far away. I know I only live about an hour away and I am complaining that it is far.

I am awesome on the trail compare to many city runners because I go backpacking and hiking frequently. My feet just know where they are supposed to land and I don’t have to look at the ground. I run on uneven surfaces as if I am on the road. And I am strong on hill running. I can run miles now up steep hills because I am an ultra runner! It is like I am in my element when a race takes place on a mountain. Best of all I don’t easily get lost.

I am bragging of course. But most runners because they are coming from road running, are very careful about where they are stepping and so would miss the trail or get off to a wrong trail (because they don’t look at where they are going). This is no lie. At the very first mile onto the AT, there is a side trail leading to a camping shelter for backpackers. Many runners would inadvertently ended up at the shelter because they were too focused looking down. The JFK has been around for years, and so over the year, the path to the shelter were widen by lost runners! I can’t help but laughed when I saw the situation. Our driver has warned us not to end up at the shelter.

In fact the whole AT trail in Maryland are widen (and eroded) by us runners. What can we say? We even made the AT feels very flat in Maryland.

Though I think I will do well in the JFK 50. I will run conservatively. On the trail portion, I will walk (keeping a 16-18 min mile). Then on the Canal portion, it will be a normal marathon. I hope to run it in 5:30 (5 and half hours). The final 10K, I will just have to endure through. The whole race will probably take me 11 hours. People are telling me to break the race down with a 2 mile warm up, a half marathon on the trail, then a normal marathon gravel, and a final 10K on road, and a 2 miles cooldown walk/run.

It was so beautiful this morning. I crossed into Harper Ferry before the sun was up but as we ran, it was just gorgeous. The trail were filled with laughter and people. Look the leaves are turning!

Where is this? It was maybe 3 or 4 miles into my run. It was so cold. I was freezing. Temp was around 32 or 33 (yup freezing). Luckily there were no wind. I ran in two layers until the sun was up and I got rid of my outer layer. After the run, It took me 6 hours to warm back up. Yup, I crawled in my bed after a nice long and warm shower and stayed in bed after. But I love the cold so much. Yup, up since 3 AM.

I met Kathy, Wendy, and Amy on the trail. Kathy though didn’t finish. She might have gone off the wrong trail. I waited for her for an hour at the end but she didn’t come out. I then left after Wendy and rest arrived.

Sunday reflection

Day 118

I like to spent Sunday to reflect on and review what the past weekend has been. It has been a normal weekend. There were weekends when I had a plan like a race or a backpacking trip. This weekend started with a plan and as the day approached, the plan kind of unraveled. It was not a bad weekend but it could have been even better.

Originally, it was going be a hike on Saturday with a group of people. It was another hike for noobies. I was looking forward to it. Then the hike was placed on my shoulder and one by one people dropped out. It is typical that people drop from an event, speaking from experience. I don’t think it was just because I was leading it that people were dropping out. In the end it was me and another dude. I was counting on him not showing up because over the week he never reached out about ride and where to meet.

I ended up doing the hike by myself. It didn’t bother me a bit. It was better that way because I could hike faster by myself. When I got to the trail parking lot, it was full, so I did some exploring driving a bit farther down the road and found another lot. There was no cell signal to contact the other guy about a last minute change of location. The other lot was secluded. There were only two cars there. I checked one of the cars out and it had an ultra trail running sticker on and I know there must be probably a trail around and the driver was probably running on it.

I pulled out my map of the area and saw the trail connects to the AT (Appalachian Trail). I had all my running gear with me and I was planning to run on the trail any way if no one showed up. I put on my Nathan 7L camelpak (don’t know the real name/ it was quite big, it holds 2L of water, I don’t use the water pack though). I packed my lunch and snacks and water. Put on my trail running shoes – Salomon 3. The trailhead was around the bend on the other side of the road. As I started, a hiker just finished his and I asked how long it is and he told me 4 miles to the AT. It was much less than that (I think about about 2).

I started running. The trail was kind of nice to run on. The uphill portion was gradual. I ran and walked. Actually, I am quite out of shape for uphill. I could only run a few minutes before I was out of breath.

At the top at the Pass Mnt Hut, I came across a thru hiker (one who attempts to hike the whole AT, about 2000 miles), Lost-n-Found. He started two weeks ago from Harper Ferry doing Flip-Flop, now SOBO (South Bound). He did part of the north bound portion last year. We talked. At the time, I didn’t recall his YouTube channel, but afterward, I think I saw some of his videos before. It was very cool to chat with him in real life.

I got to Mary’s Rock and stopped there for lunch. I only had a sandwich and I was rushing to start that I didn’t put any spread.

Mary’s Rock was kind of cool. I was there maybe two winters ago but that day was very cold and I didn’t go out to the outcrop, and I didn’t know how beautiful it is. I took some pictures. It was foggy but I love the rock formation.

The original hike was calling for 6 miles and Mary’s Rock would be the turn around point. I felt it was still early, around 11AM and I could put in more mileage. I decided to do my ‘weekly’ long run. I checked my map, if I want to get to the original parking lot – BuckHollow (one that was full), and come back, it would add 15 miles. Currently I had done about 5 miles up to Mary’s Rock. Twenty miles would be the total. Sorry if my math doesn’t seem to add up.

Surprisingly, I got to the BuckHollow parking lot at 1pm. I ran out of water by then, but I had with me a Sawyer water filter. I replenished my water by the stream. I love drinking from the stream! I took a different route back, using Buck Ridge instead of BuckHollow. Boy that hill was tough. It is two miles straight up. The photo doesn’t do justice how steep it is.

I forgot how hard it is to run up this hill. It was maybe a 2000 ft change in elevation. It was tough. I gave up running up that thing after maybe five minutes. Even walking up on it, was tough. I calculated that with my current pace I wouldn’t be back to my car until 7 pm. K and I in our previous hikes here, saw runners running up and down this as if it was flat!

The hill goes on forever. My friend K, named this hill the Heaven Hill because you will see heaven once you get to the top. I got back to Mary’s Rock, sometimes after 2. I stayed at the Rock a bit, having my fruit cup. It was beautiful. I was very hungry then. The two slices of bread I had earlier did not provide enough calories. Rain started. As I got off Mary’s Rock, I ran into lost&found, the thru-hiker I met earlier. We chatted some more. He told me he got some trail magic from someone.

Rain was on and off with some drizzling. I picked up my pace.

Running downhill, I came across many people. I rolled my ankle several times, mostly on my right ankle (the stronger one) this time. It didn’t hurt but it put the fear in me to not run too fast when I’m tired. Doing downhill was easy, but every time when I came to uphill, I was too tired to run.

I got back to the car by 4:30, way ahead of my expected time. It was my longest trail run practice thus far, totalling 20 miles and took eight hours to complete. Not spectacular. If it were my 50k race, I would get a DNS (did not finish within the specified time).

The trail is not smooth and it is rocky on some parts. It is worse than running on concrete, but it was very beautiful. Wild flowers were all around.

I enjoyed running on the trails a lot. It was very peaceful. It wasn’t easy. Mentally, it was very satisfying. I don’t remember what went through my mind, however, I felt it was a time well spent with God. All my problems from life disappeared at the moment (escape mentality), though I think I can deal with real life now because of the run.