Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bull Run Run 50

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

The Bull Run Run is a 50 mile endurance run that travels up and down the Bull Run-Occoquan River Trail in Clifton, VA. I was fortunate enough to be able to complete the run for the second year in a row on Saturday, 18 April. This is a good run for me for a couple of reasons; the start is only 10 minutes from my house and I am very familiar with the trails, which I think is a huge mental advantage in long races. The race is sponsored by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) and they do an incredible job. This race has some of the best volunteer and aid station support of any race I have competed in. Thanks to all of the volunteers for their time and effort.

On to the race – Looking at the weather forecast, I knew that the day was going to start out beautiful but get warm quickly, and it did, with a high hitting almost 80 degrees by early afternoon. I break this race down into 4 sections; the upstream (16.7 mi), downstream (11 mi), Do-Loop (10 mi), and the home stretch (12.5 mi). At 0630, 314
"Photo © http://www.oellaworks.com/ Geoffery S. Baker"
runners started out from Hemlock Overlook Park and began the 17th running of the Bull Run Run. After a quick, and I mean quick, .7 mile loop around the park to stretch out the field, we jumped on to single track trail and there we would stay for the remainder of the day and started on the upstream section.
This part of the trail leaves Hemlock and travels up the Bull Run Creek to Bull Run Park. The field was moving very fast, just as it did last year. My feeling was the faster I run now the less I will have to run in the heat, that thought process was flawed,
however it sounded good at the time and I was averaging about 9 minute miles into the first aid station (7 mi). Leaving the first aid station we continued upstream to the turn around point and then started heading back to Hemlock. This portion of the trail, being a pure out and back, gives you the opportunity to see the entire field of runners, everybody was still looking good at this early part of the race. I climbed the big hill into Hemlock and rolled into the aid station (16.7mi) at 2h:39m and was told that I was in 42nd place. After a quick refuel I was onto the downstream section.
Leaving Hemlock we went down the same trail to the river and this time took a left and headed towards Fountainhead Park. This is the toughest portion of the trail, no big mountains just continuous hills of 50 to 200 feet up and down for 11 miles. My aid station time was great during the race and I was able to efficiently get in and out all day, averaging just over a minute per aid station. The Marina aid station was at about 21 miles and provided for a good top off of my water and a couple of Succeed Caps (I took about 15 of these throughout the day). After a couple more big hills I was at the Wolf Shoals Run aid station (26 mi) at 4h 7m and feeling good, all systems were checking out great and I new that it was only 2 miles to Fountainhead and the beginning of the Do-Loop section.

I got into Fountainhead about 20 minutes later and started into the 10 mile Do-Loop section which is actually a couple of loops. The Do-Loop itself is a 3 mile loop on some nasty cross compartment trails, after about a 5 mile approach we got to the Do Loop aid station and entered into loop. For me this section is not as bad as it is for others, I actually enjoy this trail. The hills in this section are short but steep and the trails were still covered in leaves which forced me to concentrate more on foot placement and less on how tired I was getting. After about 30 minutes around the Do-Loop I came back to the aid station refilled and headed back to Fountainhead (38 mi).
I left Fountainhead at about 6h 20m and started the home stretch. A short 2 miles later I was running into Wolf Shoals aid station and then before I knew it I was back at the Marina with only 5 miles to go. The heat was definitely taking its toll and my legs had been on the verge of cramping but they never did. I knew that during this section there were only 2 big hills that would offer me an excuse to walk for a while and I was able to run the rest of the way. The last 2 miles of the course are along the river and they dragged on for a long time and I was happy to finally come up on the last big climb up to Hemlock and the finish. I crossed at 8h 41m 31s, in 32nd place, 10 minutes better than last years time (Results).
I felt exhausted at the end, which told me I had put in a good, hard effort. I think that the speed work I have been incorporating into my workouts has helped tremendously. The Lord continues to bless me and it is once again to Him I give the glory of completing this race. My next event is a mere 2 weeks away, the 24 hour Adventure Trail Run sponsored by Athletic Equations. This event is directed by Alex Papadopoulos and Scott Crabb, big supporters of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. A portion of the proceeds from this race are donated to the fund each year. These guys are a class act and I look forward to seeing them in a couple of weeks. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 13-19 April: Weekly Mi (63.0), Monthly Mi (134.2), Yearly Mi (697.1)
Mon: 5 mi - Crossramp
Wed: 8 mi – WO&D Trail AM Run Commute / ABs
Sat: 50 mi-Bull Run Run
Sun: Recovery

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Morning, Son Rise Run

“. . . Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28: 5, 6

Bull Run Battlefield has got to be one of my favorite running spots and this morning was no exception. I timed the run this morning so that I would be running in an open field heading east just about the time the sun rose above the treeline. It was a beautiful morning, cool and not a cloud in the sky and the sun rise could not have been brighter. It was a great way to start Easter. I was able to hammer out about 15 miles and get home by 0900, get cleaned up and off to church for the real celebration.

This has been a pretty good week of running even though the weather has been less than cooperative. The spring like temperatures of last week decided to give way to an arctic blast, hopefully we are done with that. I was able to get 40 miles in during the week and think that is about where I needed to be going into Bull Run 50 on Saturday. I will try and get a couple of short runs early this week and then rest up for a couple of days prior to the race.

This crazy journey into the world of ultramarathoning has resulted in some incredible revelations and discoveries over the past two years. However, I was really unprepared for the news that I received on Friday, when I was informed that I had been selected as the Henderson Hall Male Marine Athlete of the Year for 2008 (Henderson Hall is the Marine Corps Base that supports the National Capitol Region). I was aware that my name had been submitted but had no expectation of being selected. This award, although it had my name on it, was not presented to me solely for athletic accomplishments. The criteria for this award reached past athletics and into the USMC community at large. For over a year now I have been running to support the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and this effort was recognized as a significant factor. That being said, there is no way that I would have been able to receive this great honor without the support and generosity of all those that have contributed to the support of our wounded warriors, thank you for your continued support your contributions are making a difference in the lives of Marines and their families.

I have been blessed to be able to support such an incredible organization as the IMSFF. Their support and assistance for our wounded Marines is second to none and they continue to grow beyond expectations. If you have not had a chance to visit the IMSFF web site or have not visited recently, please take a look at http://semperfifund.org/ and see the good work that they are doing daily.

My name now gets submitted for competition as the Marine Corps Athlete of the Year and hopefully with that we can continue to raise awareness of the needs of our injured Marines. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 6-12 April: Weekly Mi (40.7), Monthly Mi (71.2), Yearly Mi (634.1)

Mon: Off
Tues: Off
Wed: 8 mi – WO&D Trail AM Run Commute / ABs
Fri: 8 mi – WO&D Trail AM Run Commute (Tempo)
Sat: 10 mi-Bull Run Do-Loop Trail
Sun: 14.7 mi-Bull Run Battlefield Trails

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bel Monte Endurance Run 50 Miler

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Psalms 18:2

Saturday, 28 March, I ran the BMER 50 Miler in the George Washington National Forest just west of Charlottesville, VA and continued my evolution of discovery in the sport of ultra running. This was the second year for the 50 mile event and I came into it knowing that it was going to be tough with a 13 hour cutoff time and 11,000+ feet of elevation gain and loss. I don’t think there are many tougher 50 mile courses in the country and the final finishing rate proved that to be true, 42% (43 finishers out of 103 starters). As with every race I was able to gain valuable experience and discover new things about how my body and mind cope with the stresses of endurance running.

The day could not have been better for running. We were blessed with temps in the mid 50s and overcast skies for the entire day, the rain held off until about 1600 and even then it was a welcome gentle rain. The race starts and finishes at Lake Sherando Park, which is in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. At 0630 a little over 300 runners were poised to head up the trail and start a long day of running. Three different length races were started at the same time, 25K, 50K, and the 50 Miler. I had it in my mind to start out conservative and feel that I did a pretty good job. The first section of the trail took us up to Slacks overlook (4.6 miles) over a great trail that climbed about 1000 feet, from there it was up to Camp Marty for the first of three stops.

The trail down the mountain from Camp Marty follows a jeep trail for about 2 miles and then heads down Kennedy Ridge, this is a great running trail and it was moving very fast (fast being a very relative term) for me on Saturday right up to the point when I turned my ankle on a rock. My ankles usually do pretty well on the trails but this time it was hurting pretty bad. I hobbled for about a quarter of a mile down to the aid station (13.1 miles) and had concerns about being able to continue. Knowing that the outcome of the race was beyond my control I relied on my Faith and looked to the Lord for His direction. Coal Mountain Rd offered 3 miles of even low stress running that was just what I needed to stretch out the ankle and run through the pain. By the time I reached aid station 4 (Turkey Pen 17.4 miles) the ankle pain was gone and I was doing as good as could be expected after running for almost 3 hours. The Lord will provide.

At Turkey Pen the 50 milers broke away from the 50Kers and went on a 5 mile out and back to the Torrey Furnace. This was great little trail that had a little over 500 feet of climb each way and got us back to Turkey Pen at 22.2 miles. The next section started out in a fairly gentle and runnable climb back up to Camp Marty until we got to the last mile and that was a very hard climb up multiple switchbacks (roughly 1500 feet). Some volunteers at the time were marking the aid station by ringing a cow bell, so I knew I was getting closer as the bell got louder. The conciliation of the climb was that at the top we would reverse course and run down the trail we had just come up. I reached Camp Marty for the second time (27.2 miles 5h:45m) drank an Ensure and started back down the trail towards Turkey Pen.

As with all of the races I have competed in, there are high and low points. Sometimes they are short and sometimes they last a little longer, this time it was a fairly long low point which started just before the Turkey Pen aid station and lasted for about 9 miles. My old nemesis, the stomach, started feeling sour again and that started to sap my strength and mess with my head. The run from Turkey Pen back to the Kennedy Ridge aid station, along Coal Mountain Rd was nothing less than a death run. Although I was able to keep running at a decent pace I was not feeling good at all, I was very much looking forward to the 2000 foot climb up Kennedy Ridge (that sounds kind of sick, I know). It took about 1h:45m to cover the 6 miles from Kennedy Ridge aid station back up to Camp Marty but along the way I was able (involuntarily) to purge my stomach contents and that seemed to be the change that I needed.

I rolled into Camp Marty for the third and final time of the day (42.9 miles 9h:30m) and was met by Race Director Russ Gill. He told me that a lot runners had missed the 27 mile cut off time and was anticipating a less than 50 % finishing rate and then he sent me off with an “it’s all downhill from here” comment. After more than 9 hours of running, downhill, uphill, it just doesn’t really matter. The rain had just started and was a motivator to keep running and get finished. The section of trail after Camp Marty is not the type of trail you want to be running on after 42 miles. The Torrey Ridge trail is extremely rocky and the rain on the rocks made it even more difficult. After about 5 miles on this trail we took a sharp right turn and went straight down the mountain to the final aid station (48.5 miles). I stopped here just long enough to get a quick drink and then it was off to the finish. The final 2 miles was a combination of asphalt park roads and trail that allowed me to move quickly (again speed is relative) over the final portion, averaging under 10 minute miles, not bad after 11 hours on the trail.

This was by far the toughest 50 mile run that I have competed in and I was completely satisfied with the outcome, placing 19th overall. Thanks to all of the great volunteers and to Frannie and Gill for Directing such a great race. The Lord continues to bless my running endeavors and through this blog I hope to be able to express my gratitude for His Grace and Strength. For those that might have a hard time understanding why someone would want to struggle through 11 plus hours running up and down mountains in the rain on a Saturday all I can say is that I find complete solace and peace during these runs and cherish the time that I can truly spend with God. The struggles that I face during the runs remind me of how weak I am alone but how strong I am with the help of the Lord. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8. Run Strong.

God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 23-29 Mar: Weekly Mi (70.5), Monthly Mi (201.7), Yearly Mi (557.9)

Mon: 6.6 mi / 60 mins - Crossramp
Tues: 8 mi – Potomac Heritage Trail
Wed: Off
Thurs: 5 mi / 40 mins - Crossramp
Fri: Off
Sat: 50.9 mi – Bel Monte Endurance Run 50 Miler
Sun: Off
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