Sunday, October 2, 2016

Catching Up - October Edition. VT 50 and travel.

Not much Running and then the longest run of my life... The Vermont 50 ('51') Miler.

Morgan at Harts Turkey Farm... she colored on the placemat and didn't' eat. Typical restaurant trip. 

Post Reach the Beach I took basically the entire week off as my leg was pretty much smoked.  I ran on a hurt IT band/calf/hamstring leading up to the relay legs and I barely made it through... with the Vermont 50 looming, I decided to take the week off basically, and recover for the ultra.  As the week progressed, the leg felt slowly better and better.  By the time the week was over, I was still pretty tight and had stiffness on the right side but it was too late to do anything about it.  Had I run on it, it would have been worse for sure.

I packed up the family and we headed out on Friday to VT.  We hit up Harts Turkey Farm on the way for a nice lunch and then drove 2.5 hrs west to Cavendish, VT.  We rented a very nice condo (much too big for what we really needed but it was a good weekend away and the kids enjoyed having a ton of space to run around in).  I did manage to get a slow 3 mile run in on Friday afternoon (late) in VT on some quiet roads near the condo. I felt terrible as I suspected.  Things were just very stiff and sore.  I didn't run a step on Saturday.  We went over to pick up my bib and then we did a little shopping and got some lunch in the Okemo area.

Tabby and I getting some pizza in Ludlow, VT.

with Bob Dion and the now infamous photo of the 'Thrilla in Hollis'.

Sunday, it was up super early (we packed the night before).  We were out the door by 4:30ish as the race started at 6:30am and we were about 30 minutes away. I needed to get there, check in, listen to the pre-race instructions, and get prepared.  Little did I know, that would be the start of a VERY long next couple of days.  We got to the Ascutney Mountain resort a little early so we hit the small store just past the entrance, which is usually open very early on race morning.  I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and tried to chug down as much water and calories as I could before the race went off.

After checking in, I met up with Andy Drummond and down to the start we went. It was a very quick start as we were only down there a couple minutes and not really paying attention when the race director yelled 'Go!'.  6:30am had come and I was off for what I knew was going to be a lot of pain and suffering.

(Andy's video below)...he had a tougher day than I did...

I immediately settled into my imaginary '50 mile pace' which is in the 8-range and started chatting with Mark Larosa.  We would run together for 30+ miles collectively.   I tried to think about the advice I got from Dave Dunham previously where he said that at any point, 'if you feel like you are working, you are going too hard'.  Well, unfortunately after only 8 or so miles I felt like I was working.  Mark and I kept talking about the pace, who was up ahead, who was behind, and what we needed to do to finish.  In the back of my mind, I was terrified of not finishing.  It looms so large when you have 50 miles of very hilly trails ahead of you.  I was vastly underprepared for this beast and I knew it.  Something was preventing me from committing to this thing even after the race started. I wasn't drinking enough water. I wasn't taking ANYthing to eat (I had 2 gels the entire race).  I never came into an aid station with an empty water.  It was crazy.  I was basically doing everything wrong and I knew it...but somehow, in the back of my mind, I was still trying to believe I could finish.  It was just not going to plan.

Somewhere around 18 miles or so, I started to feel like sh*t.  Things were hurting WAY too much for the pace and distance we had run so far.  Don't get me wrong, there is A LOT of climbing in this race. 8,500 ft or so.  It feels like the entire race is mostly uphill.  That was the ongoing theme/joke of our run... 'is there ANY downhill in this race' we would occasionally say.  Well, the hills were killing me.  By 20 I was a  mess waiting to happen.  It's no surprise considering how my training was going this summer.  But I continued on.  Fully expecting maybe to bail at the 26.2 mile aid station or maybe the 50k aid station.  Those were the goals I set.  If I could make it to the first, maybe I could make it to the second.  Then, from there, who knows.

Mark and I at mile 14.2. 
It's hard to remember everything but there was just a TON of climbing, single track, snowmobile trail, old carriage road, dirt roads, beautiful farm fields, etc. A constant change in terrain was a welcome relief at times but it still was kicking my ass.  Mark and I had been in 3rd and 4th place since about mile 12. Up to that point, Brian Rusiecki was killing it (out of sight almost right away), someone we were unsure of at the time was in 2nd, and my SIX03 teammate Mike Arsenault was in 3rd.  We caught and passed Mike somewhere around 12ish I think.  At the 26.2 mile aid station, Mark and I stopped to refill our waters.  At this point, my former Inov-8 teammate Dane Mitchell caught us.  We were standing there filling waters and I looked over amongst the 50k people (who had pink numbers) and bikers to see a green number dude standing there.  He had snuck up on us very quickly and now we were 3.  We all left the aid station together and we talked for the next mile and a half or so.

On a decent somewhere near mile 28 I ate sh*t for the first time and there would be 11 more like it (I fell a full 12 times). I fell really hard on the way down a double-wide trail section and rolled over a bunch of rocks.  Dane was already taking off on us at this point and Mark stopped to help me up.  He told me to take it easy and he would stop with me but I told him just to go on ahead.  We had run together side by side for 28 hilly miles and now I knew it was his time to move on ahead. He's a much better distance guy than I am and he was well prepared, running up to 30 mile runs on the way into the race.  He started to pull away on the downhills and Dane was out of sight by the time I dusted myself off.

Approx. Mile 30.
It was a lonely next couple miles. The bikers weaved in and out of my way (as they do for 50 miles) and I continued to haul past 50k-ers who were now on the same course we were on (they start 90 min after us and join up to us for a couple of main sections of the course including the end).  I came down into the 50k (more like 30 miles) aid station and noticed Mark was not that far ahead.  He stopped at the aid station to get some food and water and I just ran on by him.  I had almost no illusions of finishing fast, let alone finishing. I even looked around a bit for cars to possibly get a ride back as I passed down into the aid station.  Everything was killing me at this point and I was beaten.  I passed Mark and moved back into 4th place with Dane still ahead and Brian and Colton Gale (2nd) way up ahead and out of reach.

It didn't take Mark too long to catch back up to me. There was a Godawful climb from there and he moved on by me and was gone again.  I just kept my head down and tried to run as much as I could but it was here that I took my first few walking steps on the steep climb.  I just couldn't keep up the rhythm on the steep parts any longer.  A few miles later, I started to actually see Dane again out in some field sections and knew I was somehow gaining on him.  I moved closer to him on some of the steep switchbacks back in the woods.  I even saw him take a tumble as I slowly made my way up to him.  When I caught him, we talked for a bit and he moved out in front of me and kept up a faster pace. I decided not to pass and just latched on.  He was cramping pretty good.  I stayed with him on the entire descent and then we climbed again a small section before hitting the next aid station.  Out of the aid station, there was another climb and this time, it was long enough that I moved around him and then slowly dropped him back.  I turned a few times and eventually saw he was occasionally walking. That would be the last time I saw him and I think he dropped as he wasn't in the final results.  It's funny how things play out in this race. I was hitting a horrible bad patch of running way slower than I was anticipating, feeling terrible, having everything basically go wrong, and yet I was gaining a place.  Sometimes no matter how bad things are going, someone else is having a rougher go at it.

I was now back in 4th and thinking of trying to hold the same spot I had gotten the time before (in 2014).  Somewhere near mile 38 or 39 I hit a long patch of downhill on a carriage road and I hit one of the low points for sure.  I continued to fall here and there and basically cramp everything from head to toe.  It was getting annoying. I bit the dust again on the descent and started moving so slow I was sure at this point, I'd be caught. I started to dread the 11-12 miles up ahead more so than ever.  I had caught a bunch of 50k people on the long uphill trail and road section and then they were actually starting to catch me back on the downhill. I just couldn't keep things moving on the downs.  I was surprisingly not having much problems on the climbs.  I felt great on the previous mile long road climb ('great' being a relative term) and then felt like complete death on the descent.  I got blown past by a relay guy at the bottom of the hill. I thought it was a 50 miler at first but then noticed his blue number and realized he was just a relay guy.  He confirmed it as he passed by and he was out of sight pretty quickly.

I eventually made my way down to the 40 mile aid station which was in a slightly different place this year.  I couldn't believe I was still moving but I was.  I was going very slow, but progressing towards the finish.  I started thinking about the long road stretch and climb up Mt. Ascutney that happens in the last few miles and started really getting nervous.  I had no one in sight (50 miler-wise) on the long lookbacks across the field at 40 miles, and started thinking that maybe I could hold it together for 4th place if I could just keep moving without stopping or walking.

As quickly as that dream of repeating 4th place came, it went.  Around mile 42, back in the woods on some single track, GBTC's Eric Wyler caught me and rolled on past me (he was 2nd last year in 7:02) like I was standing still.  I was now in 5th and my only hope now was to have someone further up ahead, come back to me. I wasn't going to pass Eric and couldn't stay with him. He was moving way too quick for this deep in the race.  He was also in pretty good spirits and way too happy for being 42 miles into the woods. I knew he was going to kill the last 8 miles and had to immediately let him go on alone.  He ran a crazy last 8 part of the race for eventual 3rd overall.

When I came out onto the road section one of my worst fears came true.  I started cramping in my calves and hamstrings.  Full on cramps.  I had to drop the pace way back and was actually starting to be caught by 50k people who I had already passed a long time back.  I didn't want to stop.  I held on to a running (barely) pace all the way into the Johnson aid station at 47 miles.  I was walking the fine line of cramping for a good 3 miles.  I felt surprisingly better once I refilled my bottles and took a couple S-Caps.  I had only had 2 gels and was surprisingly bonk-free.  But my legs were trashed.  I actually ran out of the aid station (something I didn't do back in 2014) and kept moving far better than I thought.  As the climbing started, I continued to 'run' and felt like I was definitely in better position hitting this part of the course than I was previously. It's a horrible 2+ mile climb before dropping down to the finish.  I kept running and didn't have to walk anything.  Just as I was mentioning that to a 50k-er I was passing, I ate sh*t again pretty hard. I was pissed.  I had fallen 7 or 8 times and it was getting harder and harder to clear rocks and roots as I continuously got more fatigued.

Once I got to what I thought was the top, the course was slightly different and a volunteer told me that it was a little different from previous years but would join back to the original course up ahead.  It seemed to take forever and the miles and minutes passed.  I had 47.4 miles on my Garmin last time (losing 2.6 miles over the course of 50 with the woods and single track shortage).  This time, 47 came and went.  The stretch near the top was way longer than I remembered and it started kicking my ass.  I started to trip all over the place and wiped out a few more times.  With about a mile to go, I took the worst spill of the day.  I stubbed my toe on a rock and fell right down hard on my right side.  When I hit the ground (ribs first), my entire body locked up.  It was like I was hit by lightning or electric shock... from head to toe I locked up into a stiff board.  I felt my entire abdomen across my ribcage and lower into my stomach go completely stiff. It was like my midsection cramped up.  I knew I had strained everything and possibly cracked my ribs. I couldn't move.  My hamstrings and calves both cramped completely as well as my lower back.  I had to roll slowly onto my side and try to get back on my feet. It probably took me a half a minute or so to stand up.  Once I got back up, I started shuffling to the exit of the woods and the beginning of the last descent to the finish. My legs felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to every inch.

The race was actually closer to 51 miles and my time from last year came and went. I was just in finish mode at this point and was so happy to see the signs indicting '1 mile to go' and '0.5 miles to go' , etc.  I was out in the sun again, on the slopes of Mt. Ascutney, and weaving in and out of 50k-ers and bikers again.  I was just trying to find the finish and did keep glancing back to make sure I was still ahead of any charging 50 mile guys... little did I know, there was one lingering.

1 mile to go... coming down Ascutney.
As I made my way around a switchback, I glanced back one more time and saw to my absolute shock, a GREEN bib coming right for me out of nowhere.  It was pinned to the shirt of 31 year old Liz Gleason of Waterbury Center, VT.  She was running with a pacer next to her (the pacer had a bib that said, cleverly enough, 'Pacer'). They were both grinning from ear to ear and actually may have been laughing.  I was doing anything but.  As I looked back repeatedly, she was definitely running me down.  Then, around a corner, I heard the pacer yell to her 'GO GET HIM!'.  I was like 'hell no' and I put my head down and forgot about everything that was going on in my legs and abdomen and took off as hard as I could for the bottom.  It was like that story about the woman who defied physics and was able to lift a car off her baby... Mind over matter... I went numb and I started hammering.  I was moving faster than at any point in the race.  I ran literally as hard as I could (like it was the decent of a USATF Mountain championship) for about 30 seconds and turned to look again and to my absolute shock, she was GAINING on me.  It felt like no matter what I was doing, I couldn't drop her.  I was blowing by bikes and runners and screaming at people to get out of my way.  Once I got off the single track across the slopes, it dumped out onto the dirt access road and I tried again to open up a lead.  She was right behind me.  Only on the last bit of grass downhill at the end of the race (the last 200 meters or so are lined with ropes, flagging, and the spectators) did I open up what would eventually be a 13 second lead.  Looking at the splits, she outran me by about 5 minutes from 40 miles to the finish.

I came across in 5th place and 10 minutes slower than last time around (although it was close to a mile longer according to not only my watch but also a bunch of people I talked to at the finish line). I talked to Liz a little bit at the finish and she indicated it was her PR for 50 miles by almost an HOUR! Wow. Great run for sure.  No wonder why she was smiling and laughing in the last half mile.

Full Results here.

I wasn't surprised that Brian cooked me by an hour and Mark out-bossed me by 7 minutes in the last 3-4 miles from Johnson aid station to the finish...  Those guys are great runners.  Brian knows his way around ultras and can run for literally days at a a man's pace.  He's one of the best ultra runners in the country and is a former winner of this race (as well as just about every other ultra in New England).  Mark is still a great distance guy and has really good strength. He's a 1:06 Mt. Wash guy on his first time out and has a 2:23ish marathon under his belt.  I figured he'd be in the hunt for the win or podium spot so his 4th place was a little surprising, but I feel partially to blame. He ran with me for 30+ miles. Had he gone out with Brian, he may have finished higher....who knows.  Eric ran strong again and showed me how it was done late in the race.  I was lucky to hold off everyone else.  It was really good running and talking with Mark for so long. I felt better with him there and may not have made it that far without his help for sure.  We helped each other out and teamed up for the first big chunk of the race before I let him loose :).

After I wiped the dirt, tears, shame, and despair off my face, I hobbled around for a bit before heading back to the car to find the family.  As I waited for the awards and chatted with Mark and some others (Dan Princic dropped down wisely to the 50k and tore it up.... Mark Hudson was also in the house)., I slowly started to feel the affects of my last fall. I couldn't take deep breaths without intense pain in my ribs and I couldn't sit or stand back up without feeling like I was tearing something.  I was a mess.  Eventually we hit the road and Kristin drove home thank God. 3 hours of torture later, I was home and in need of an ER visit. I couldn't do anything but stand still without intense pain in my ribs. I hit the ER in North Conway at the advice of Downtown Darin Brown, and had imaging done to make sure I didn't have cracked ribs or any other damage internally.  They gave me morphine to ease the pain and I was eventually discharged at 1am with bruised ribs and strained intercostal muscles.  I didn't get home until 1:30am or so and I had to pack for the airport as I had a 5:30am flight out of Portland.  Since I had to leave the house at no later than 3:30am for the ride to Portland, I didn't go to bed.  I just packed and got in the car and drove. I didn't take the pain meds they gave me as I had to drive.  So the drive there was rough.

Sore and tired...
Once I got to the airport, I took a pill and tried to sleep a bit on the first leg of the trip but I couldn't get comfortable in the airplane seat.  My first leg to NYC was quick so I didn't get to sleep at all.  Once I was in NY, I actually felt the need for coffee and some breakfast so I got something to eat and that basically sunk any chance of me getting some good rest on the way out in the next leg.  From NY it was on to Minneapolis and then from there, to San Jose.  No sleep.  Remained stiff as a board on the plane seat as to not scream in pain.  Once I got to SJ,  I went straight into the office and was there by about 2pm to meet up with my team. It was 100 degrees. Crazy.  I had been up for a day and a half and had run 51 miles and was banged up beyond belief.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I finally got to sleep on Monday night for the first time since my few hours I got on Saturday night.

The rest of the week was spent at the Adobe offices in SJ and SF.  We hit up a Sharks game (preseason) on Tuesday night (in the sweet company corp. box) and then a Giants game in SF on Thursday night.  Sprinkled in there was a lot of days of sitting in conference rooms, going over some new tools and apps, meeting with engineering and product management, and working with my team.  We get to do this about once a year and it's a great time.  I work all year with all these guys, but only on the phone and chat (as we are all remote employees). So it's great to get some facetime with all these guys and actually hang out for a few days.  But I was definitely smoked by the end of the week.  On Thursday night, I had to get a cab from San Fran after the Giants game, to San Jose. It's about an hour.  I didn't get back to the hotel until about 12:30am and our flight out was at 6:00am.  I got carsick on the ride and was a mess when I got back to the hotel.  I had to be up again and out the door by 4:30am so it was another night of only a few hours of horrible sleep.  I didn't get into Portland, Maine until 10:30pm. I got home at midnight.  By the time I got home, I was gladly up for a couple lazy days of nothing, a little bit of swingin' of course, and some daddy time with the little ladies. Oh yeah...and some sleep.

Sharks win...Sharks win...

Outside the SJ office at Adobe
It's official Dave Dunham!... It's 'COOLDOWN' not 'Warm Down'. Please see above for definitive proof.

SF Baseball Giants WIN! 
Good game on a brisk night in San Fran.

I got zero running in during the week as my ribs are still awful. They have been getting slightly better each day but it's going to be a bit.  The goal now is to recover, reset, and start focusing on the winter.  When I finished the race last weekend, I told Kristin I was done with ultras. I told her that was most likely it for sure.  Now a week has passed and I'm starting to rethink things. I'd like to try to actually conquer one of these things.  What that would mean is a sub 7 hour run somewhere...if not VT then somewhere.  We'll see. I have time to think about maybe something again next year.

As for swinging, I did manage to yank a 1735 King George II copper out of the ground before I left last week. It's my oldest coin by 1 year.  I had found a 1736 KG II in my yard earlier this year.  This beat that by one year.  I also found a few old colonial buttons (1700s) and some other doodads before I left and some this weekend when I was home again).  The good news with the KG II I found this past week was that the property has a huge field that has yet to be mowed this year.  The owner said he was going to mow it this past week (although it hasn't been done yet).  I found the coin at the entrance.  There has GOT to be more in the field.  When you find a 1730s copper, that pretty much means that ANY U.S. coin can be on the property (as U.S. coins started being minted in the late 1780s).

And some light digging this weekend in NH...


  1. Wow, nice work gutting out the VT50. Impressive! That whole ER > Flight > Work thing sounds like a much harder endurance deal than the race!

  2. Ha. Thanks Seth. I was more wiped by the end of the work week than I was the end of the VT 50... although it didn't quite beat up my body nearly as much! Had I drank more beers at the work dinners, I would have been hurting a lot more for sure! I refrained...I had no choice. I would have died.

  3. Nice race dude! Although I'm one of the few who never believe the double J statement of "I'm hurt or out of shape"