Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mountain Masochist 2012

The 30th running of the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail run will forever be known as the "snow year". When reports were given during the pre-race that there was shin to knee deep snow in areas of the second half of the course, honestly, I didn't really believe it. Granted, here in WV we had anywhere from 2-5 feet and were in a state of emergency as I headed to VA. Heading down I-81 though, the mountain tops looked bare and there wasn't the slightest hint of the devastation we experienced on the west side of the Appalachians. I wasn't concerned with the prospect of snow, but I really hate running in any more than about 4" of snow and I had specifically trained to run fast –  I knew my strength may be suspect in the snow. I was hoping the reports to be exaggerated.
The race started as benignly as possible from the new starting location, Wildwood Campground (which I believe to be an improvement). The pace was pretty hot up front in the pre-dawn hour. I was not buying in. I knew I was in "decent" shape, but I planned to run the first half as conservatively as possible while keeping contact with my goal placing – top ten, but also the goal of sub-7:30. I knew by perusing the pre-race list of runners that it would take a very big effort to crack the top ten.

The Start: photo- Stewart Caldwell 

I ran most of the first half in to Long Mountain with my friend Clay Warner. We ran hard, but controlled. I came through mile 26.5 in 3:42 – right on my goal. I knew that I needed to up my effort from this point and I quickly moved up from 10th to 7th by the time I reached the top of Buck Mtn. Entering the Loop (mile 33), I was optimistic of moving up even further. I was moving fast and feeling great. The goal of sub 7:30 still appeared feasible.
The Loop proved to be my undoing. The predicted snow was there; as reported. I quickly started losing ground to other runners. The snow was so deep that I could do no more than walk most of the 5.5-miles which make up the infamous loop. It is very frustrating to be around runners who are handling the adversity of the snow better than you are. I wanted to get out of the loop fast, but I felt like I was trapped in the Twilight Zone. Finally, I heard the cheers of the folks from the aid-station and knew that my suffering was coming to an end – only 12 miles to go, but I was way off my goal time at this point and barely sitting in 8th place with a slew of runners breathing down my neck. I was going to have to put in some serious effort to stay in the top-10 over the final miles.
Courtesy of Steve Hinzman
I ran as hard as I could to Salt Log Gap and up the big climb to Forest Valley aid-station. Shortly after Forest Valley, I caught up to and passed a pained David Hryuniak (a 2:20-ish marathoner who is relatively new to ultras). I was now in 7th, but unfortunately back into some serious snow on the ridge. I was dreaming of getting away from the post-holing when Ty Draney came flying into view from behind. More frustration . . . How the heck is he moving so fast in this stuff, I thought. He said, "Come on man let's push and finish this thing." That was just the encouragement I needed and we barreled through the snow together and blasted through the last aid-station. One last look over the shoulder and we had four miles of less snow and all downhill to find the finish in Montebello. The miles went fast now and I enjoyed running with Ty. He hammered down the final steep pitch before the"1 Mile to Go" and put some distance on me. I was happy to run the final mile in the quiet contemplation of my own mind. In the end, I finished in 8:28 – good enough to earn 8th overall and a very fine Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket. Full results here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Catching Up

Since my last post in July, life has certainly changed.  Boy is that an understatement!  On August, 8 we welcomed Vernon Roy Casseday into our lives.

Life has changed for the good -- in so many ways. 
Finding time to train has been difficult and interesting to say the least.  I've gotten in many sleep deprived runs.  I decided to run Mountain Masochist in the spring as a means of staying motivated to train as a new father.  I'm really glad that I've had this goal because it could have been really easy to slip into a lazy mode of just playing with Vernon every chance I had.
So next weekend will be the litmus test of fatherhood.  I've done far less mileage than in the past, but I filled the gap with quality.  I think being a daddy made me faster . . .

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kanawha Trace 50K

I had the pleasure of running the 2nd edition of the Kanawha Trace 50K on 7/28.  The KT trail is a unique trail made up of mostly single track from Fraziers Bottom to Ona, WV.  It is maintained by the Boy Scouts and finishes at camp Arrowhead -- which is a Boy Scout camp.

I came into the race with little expectation other than to give a solid effort and to have fun.  Yes, in the back of my mind I was hoping to win, but you just never know.  I never worry about going for the win because I feel that much of the overall result is out of my control.  All that I can control is how I run the race. 

The race started with about 1.5 miles of road before hitting the single track.  I decided to run at the top end of "comfortable" for this section to see how the field would respond.  I had a decent gap, but the speedsters behind me quickly reeled me in a few miles in.  One thing I've learned in the past few years of racing ultras is that the rule of "don't try to bank miles" is actually false.  When you're racing, it is actually ok to race.  I've started running the easy stuff as hard as I comfortably can instead of keeping an even slog throughout; a plan that most ultrarunners subscribe to.  Early on in a race when the miles are coming easy, I like to take more advantage of the freshness and "make hay while the sun is shining."

The Start (all photos taken by Dan Todd)

Over the first 10+ miles, there was a decent pack of about five or six guys.  We went through mile-10 around 1:20 I believe -- a pretty stout pace considering the terrain and humidity.  I was hoping that it would hurt them more than it would me over the second half.

Goofing around in the tunnel

By the half-way mark, I had earned a small gap from the pack.  The trail snakes around a deeply banked creek bed with several ladders over barbed-wire fences.  I tried to push this section to take away the "sighted-chase" from my competitors.

All alone in the lead now, my focus was on staying on course and not losing track of the white ribbons and flags in the ground.  Fortunately, the course was very well marked and I only lost track for about one five minute spell.  Just like all trail running, following the course is part of the fun.

I didn't look back until about mile 28 where I could see down the hill across a couple of switchbacks.  I was happy to see no one trailing closely.  The heat and the humidity were starting to wear on me, but I ultimately powered through in a time of 4:43 -- good enough to be the first finisher.

The idyllic finish beside the lake

Full results can be found HERE.

Kanawha Trace is a tremendous race.  Very interesting point-to-point course, great venue, economical price, and very nice finishers' awards.  RD Cory Richardson and his posse of volunteers have crafted a great event.  I expect this to be another sell-out race once the word gets out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Year Ago

It's hard to believe that it's been exactly a year since all these memories were made . . .


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Highlands Sky 2012: Redemption

I had not planned on running Highlands Sky this year.  I had had also not planned on dropping at the MMT 100.  After the disappointment of DNF-ing at MMT, I needed a new goal.  I needed redemption.  I have to be honest.  Deep down I was starting to wonder if I was washed-up past my prime as an ultrarunner.  The last good (or decent) race that I had run was in 2010.  It took longer than I hoped to be physically normal after the AT; and even longer mentally.  I feared that possibly I had lost my edge.  Running long, slow efforts requires a different mindset in comparison to true all-out racing.  The extreme efforts had been traded for more benign executions.  Had I forgotten how to suffer?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Anatomy of a "DNF"

Until yesterday, I had never dropped out of a race.  I admittedly took pride in this fact, but evidently not an immense amount judging by my end result.  No valid excuses.  It just wasn't my day, I wasn't having fun, and I quit.

From the beginning, I was "off".  A couple pit-stops on the side of the trail made the first couple sections about 10-minutes slower than what I planned, but my head just wasn't in it.  I tried every trick in the book to derail my apathy, but nothing seemed to be working.  By Edinburg Gap (mile-12), I was tired and not having fun.  This was uncharted territory since each of the other four 100's that I've done, the first 50K just flew by. 

A few good pukes and several miles lacking fluids put me at the 50K mark at Elizabeth Furnace well off my planned pace and in a depleted state.  I talked of pulling the plug there, but my crew would not hear of it.  I told them I'd run to Shawl, but that I didn't think I had 70 more miles in me that day.  I somewhat hesitantly regrouped at the aid-station (mainly to appease my crew) and got myself physically ready to go on.  To make what could be a long story short, my crew spurred me along since I was certainly mentally and physically fit to continue -- all the way to Camp Roosevelt, mile 63.9 (around 14hrs 30min).  That's where I ended the needless mental suffering of a race gone wrong.

I finished MMT in 21:37 in '08 and 22:39 in '09.  I am proud of those finishes, but I know that I can run much faster.  I came into the race this year with the plan to run at least faster than I ever had.  I had no plan-B in place though.  When things went bad early on, I think I checked out mentally.  Actually, I know I checked out mentally.  End of story, but a lesson learned . . . the anatomy and physiology of a Did Not Finish -- it was all between my ears.  I just didn't want it enough.

I am absolutely fine with my decision to drop -- which somewhat dumbfounds me.  I am embarrassed by my failure and egotism exhibited by quitting because "I'm not having fun and not running a good race." I feel that what could be taken as a depressingly negative result though, will only be fuel for the fire next go round.

Thanks to my friends Clay and Caitlin Warner for giving their time and effort to help me and of course my wife Kadra who is always there for me.  I'm sorry that I didn't come through for the three of you.  I owe you a mega-effort next time!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

MMT 100

It's time for my third crack at the MMT 100 in Virginia this weekend.  I ran 21:37 in '08 and 22:39 in '09 so after a three year hiatus, I'm interested to see what I'm capable of.  Just like every runner, I'm hoping for a huge PR.  Anything less than 21:37 will admittedly be a bit of a disappointment.  Regardless of the outcome, I'm looking forward to the single-minded focus of simply running for a day on Saturday and Sunday -- a joy that I certainly do not take for granted.

Time to get my head screwed-on right . . . the most important aspect of running 100-miles (in my opinion, of course).

Enjoy some pictures from my first 100-mile experience in 2008.

The invaluable crew at Edinburgh Gap

 Mongold on pacing duty

 More crew -- the embarrassingly selfish part of trying to run 100-miles fast

Mongold will have pacing duties over the last 16-miles again this year (My friend Clay is also kind enough to spur me along for some miles)

 Gap Creek blister service

My AWESOME wife; who will be crewing this year 6-mths pregnant (she's tough)

 Paul giving info: "speed up!"

 great shot by Aaron Schwartzbard

A Happy Finish: What will the clock read in '12? . . . I hope at least an hour faster
Race Report from MMT '08

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shoe Overload

Hello my name is Adam and I am an addict.  I can't quit buying shoes.

Well . . . it's actually not entirely my fault (spoken like a true addict).  My feet grew a full size over the past year and (cue feminine lisp) nothing in my closet would fit me.

For the past few years I have run trails in the Mizuno Wave Ascend with much success at distances from 50K to 100 Miles.  After a couple of updates that I wasn't crazy about, the shoe slowly fell out of my best graces.  As as was gearing up for the AT last year, I tried to get used to something a bit more substantial to handle the stresses of long days on a rugged trail -- a "tank" per se -- quite contrary to the minimalist trend.  I found that in the Montrail Sabino Trail and happily destroyed nearly six pair of them last summer.  Even though most folks didn't like the Sabino (evidenced by Montrail discontinuing the shoe), the shoe worked great for my needs on the AT.  Once I got back home and back to normal training, it was obvious that the Sabino was far too stiff and bulky for the kind of running I was accustomed to (read: actually trying to run fast again).  So it was back to the drawing board.  Here are my cursory impressions of some of the shoes I've recently purchased and tried. 

Shoe #1: Montrail Mountain Masochist (original model):
My first impression was pretty good, but something just didn't feel "right".  Regardless, I put in quite a bit of mileage on two different pairs.  I have pretty high arches with a slight supinating foot-strike and this shoe didn't feel like it gave me the support that I needed for longer runs.  I can always tell when a shoe is insufficient in this support when my right arch starts giving me grief during a long run.  To fix this, I got a pair of the Montrail Enduro Insoles.  This helped immensely, but I ended up getting some pretty bad blisters in the last 20-miles of the 50-mile day at 3 Days of Syllamo.  My philosophy is that if a shoe causes you any problems at shorter distances, that it is a definite "no-go" for 100-milers.  Impression: Good shoe -- just not THE shoe for me.  The Masochist certainly has a place in my arsenal though.  Very light-weight and versatile.

Shoe #2: Montrail Bajada:
I was super excited to try this shoe after I read the preliminary review at  Montrail is certainly on to something here -- a minimal/mesh upper on a neutral base with a substantial rock plate.  Even though the Bajada is still a very good shoe, there are a few things that Montrail got very wrong.  My biggest problem is that they did not gusset the tongue.  I knew this was going to be a problem for me on the first run.  For some reason on my left shoe, the tongue slides way over and exposes the sock, leaving plenty of room for debris to get in.  This problem is exacerbated by the placing of the second lace eyelet being too far back, leaving yet another gap for debris.  Oddly enough, with all the issues getting stuff in, I found the shoe to drain very poorly -- go figure?  I partially fixed this problem by sewing a loop to attach the tongue through one of the upper eyelets.  This has helped, but the shoes are far too pricey to justify the need to augment them at home.  Hopefully when Montrail updates this shoe they'll wise-up and gusset the tongue.

Shoe #3: Montrail Badrock:
Sticking with the Montrail line -- which I believe to be one of the best they have ever offered -- I next tried the Badrock.  On paper, the Badrock looked like it might be perfect for 100-mile shoe for me.  Mesh upper, minimal toe-bumper, ample protection, medially posted (which I prefer in a shoe for 100-miles), and a wide toe box.  The Badrock is all these things, but something wasn't "right" for me in the heel.  I've been dealing with a nagging achilles issue on my left heel for the last year (probably secondary to a mild Haglund's deformity) and the heel just didn't fit me well.  All things considered, a good shoe but just not for me.  The Badrock is a great shoe to tackle the gnarliest of courses.

Shoe #4: Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 3:
Finally, this was the shoe I had been looking for -- right back to my first love (actually second love after the Montrail Leona Divide).  The Cabrakan sports ample underfoot protection (great for a rugged race like the upcoming MMT 100), yet is flexible with a fairly minimally overlaid upper.  It's far more shoe than the Wave Ascend that I was accustomed to.  The arch is probably a little higher than normal and thus well-suited to me.  In the past, I've worn after-market insoles to give myself enough support in shoes lacking a solid arch, but I really want to get away from this since it's just one more avenue of encouraging blisters.  I seem to be able to get by without the insoles in these.  One negative is that this shoe is a bit heavier than I would like and retains water a bit much, but hey, MMT is in 2-weeks and I better get my stuff together right?  I really like the gusseted elasticity of the tongue, the soft toe-bumper, and how the shoe eats up technical trail.  The shoe is by no means "perfect, no shoe is, but hopefully I've found at least a temporary winner.

So there you have it.  I hope someone finds this info helpful in their own search.  I've got to work extra hard now to make money to cover my habit!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

3 Days of Syllamo - Race Report

I was fortunate enough to revisit one of my favorite races, 3 Days of Syllamo, and enjoy the trip to AR with my friend Dan Lehmann.  This is a great race and a beautiful area.  I was really looking forward to it, the break from work, and seeing all the great friends that I had made the last time at 3 Days in '09.
Dan and I rolled into Blanchard Springs Campground on Thursday afternoon and quickly set our tents up in the light drizzle of what was promising to be a soaking rain.  The prospect of extra suffering looked great as we heard some pretty dismal reports of constant rain on the horizon.  Luckily, the clouds and rain avoided us and we had some great running weather for the races.

In '09 I was fortunate enough to win this race.  The course was re-routed that year due to an ice storm that had decimated the trails.  Even though we repeated much of the trails and had quite a bit of dirt FS roads in the 50-mile day, I loved every minute of it.  I was looking forward to seeing the "real" course this year, even though I knew it would be far more challenging.

I had no preconceived notions of grandeur for this year.  I knew Nick Lewis, the previous year's winner, was in the race and it was his to lose.  I just really wanted to test my fitness and to see where I stood in the 8-weeks preceding Masasnutten. My pre-race goal was to run conservatively for the entire 50K, run easy for the first 50K of the 50-mile day, then try to run as hard as possible for the last 20-miles.  I figured that this would be some of the best simulation for 100-mile training that you can get.  I didn't even think about the 20K on Day 3 . . . that may have proved to be oversight.

This race really is more about camaraderie and fellowship, than competition.  But . . . there was still some racing going on and here's how it shook out for me.

Day 1: 50K
Immediately the pace went out faster than I wanted to go.  I knew the distance would be no problem, but if I ran too hard the first day I knew I would pay dearly on Day 2.  In a wise move, I quickly decided to just run my own race -- just as I planned, but I've been known to be persuaded.  Although my fitness has greatly improved over the last 3-4 months, I still have not yet regained my pre-AT speed; not that I ever was a super speed demon, but I've historically had much better turnover than I do now.  It will come (it will most likely require more effort than what I've been giving it), but on this day I knew well enough to pay heed to some restraint.  Ashley Nordell and I fell into a comfortable pace together very early on and we simply stuck together until the end.  It was great catching up with Ashley and I was amazed at how well she was running after giving birth just 9-months ago.  She is tough as nails and ultimately ran her way to yet another unanimous victory at 3 Days.  Ashley and I crossed the line in 4:55.  A solid time and legs "well"-preserved.

Day 2: 50M

As race director Steve Kirk says, "This is where the fun begins!"  His words proved true as he sent us out at daylight to tackle the unrelenting hills of the out-and-back single track course he had prepared for us intrepid runners.  I ended up running with Travis Liles to the turn around and had a good time getting to know him better -- yet another awesome person that I've been lucky enough to meet in the sport of ultrarunning.  At the 30-mile mark, I moved through the aid-station a little quicker than the group I was running with and slowly picked up the pace to try to catch up with Darin Schneidewind -- a very strong runner from KS.  I eventually caught up and Darin and I ran together for quite a while and enjoyed the boost of conversation and shared pace.  From there it was nothing exciting, just putting my head down and making sure I did the work to find the finish line.  I finished in 9:29 and felt no worse for the wear after the arduous day of running aside from some nasty heel blisters from the insoles in my shoes.  Back to the drawing board there I suppose . . .

Day 3: 20K
"2 out of 3 ain't bad."  Dan and I both decided to not start the 20K.  My left achilles was pretty sore when I arose from the tent the next morning and I had no desire to push the issue and jeopardize my training or ultimately my race at MMT.  Dan had some tendinitis in his shin and wisely decided to abstain as well -- for the same reason.  Regardless, the 20K wisely didn't happen for me.  We enjoyed an earlier than planned start to the trip home and the comfort of knowing that we might actually be becoming smarter with age.  I'm glad I decided not to run since I recovered in just a day or two and was back to running my normal load this week (until I got the inevitable horrible cold that comes with with post-race immune system depression and working in the health care profession).

Full race results HERE.

3 Days of Syllamo is an awesome race.  I highly recommend it.  This race was the impetus behind Dan and myself starting the WV Trilogy.  Multi-day races provide a unique challenge and are a very rewarding experience.  If you've not yet entered this realm of running, I suggest you give it a try.

Don't just take my word for it, check out this video tht Dave Wakefield put together.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Run For WWP

On March 26, Jamie Summerlin (Morgantown, WV) will embark on a 100-day journey across the U.S.A. -- covering over 3,300 miles.  He is running in part as a fundraiser to support the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and other Veteran's organizations.  Check out his website:  

Please consider donating to his cause, helping with connections across the country, or sharing some miles along the way.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Highlands Trail Foundation

I am excited to announce the formation of a "new" trail maintenance/advocacy group in the WV Highlands.  The Highlands Trail Foundation (a non-profit organization) has been around for quite a while with its main focus being the completion of the Allegheny Highlands Trail -- a rails-to-trails path following the original route of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway traveling from Elkins to Thomas.  Now that the route is nearly complete, save the final mile in to the Elkins Train Depot, the group is initiating a new committee to focus on other trail maintenance and advocacy in the surrounding areas of the AHT.

If you're a Facebook user, be sure to check out the newly created page HERE.  As spring approaches, we plan to hit the ground running with a concerted effort of improving and maintaining local trails.  One of our goals as a committee is to establish a network of trails in or very near the city of Elkins.  If joining or helping with such activities interests you and you're from the area, please feel free to join us! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frozen Sasquatch 50K

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of running the 3rd Annual Frozen Sasquatch 50K (yes, this is a quite belated race report).  This is one of my favorite races for several reasons.  First, it's directed by my good friend Mike Dolin, secondly it's a great race to start the year on the buttery single track of Kanawha State Forest outside of Charleston, WV.  The first two years were indicative of the namesake -- Frozen -- this year it felt more like spring.  Here are my race reports from the previous two year for proof: 2010   2011.

The year 2011 was all about the AT-Journey for me.  Although I ran this race in 2011, I didn't really "race" it or any other races for the entire year as I prepared for and recovered from such a big effort.  To say that I've missed racing over the past year would be a vast understatement.  I was very excited for this return to racing, but I had reasonable expectations.  Although I had been running fairly well for about two months prior, I knew that I wouldn't have the speed to keep up with the guys at the very front.  Did I mention that I was super excited to be running a race?

Photo: Dan Todd

The race started out benignly enough and I was ushered along as the first man to hit the tight single track.  I led the way for the speedy peleton behind me up the first climb and onto the double track around mile-2.  I knew that they were going to leave me in their dust, but I enjoyed the few minutes of glory.  The lead pack stuck together for a bit -- chatting goals, making introductions, and enjoying the company on a beautiful day in the woods.  Before too many miles passed by, Michael Owen and his friend John Williams (in his first ultra) took the opportunity to break the race wide-open.  I was correct in my thinking that they were gone for good -- ultimately en route to smashing Eric Grossman's course record by 25-minutes (with the aid of the more generous condtions).  Very impressive times for sure.

I was running a "Ryan Hall race".  Not so much the new RH that obviously has honed his racing prowess (ie. Boston '11 and the recent OT's), but RH circa 2010 that was known more for running his own race and almost "time-trialing" the marathon.  A friend of mine was kind enough to give me a Garmin 405 that he was not getting any use out of.  This is not something that I thought I ever wanted, but after messing around with it some in the previous weeks, I thought it could be useful for at least being cognizant of my pacing.  I set the little trainer dude at 8:42 pace/mile which equated to a 4:30 finish and thought I'd see how close I could stay to that pace.  I looked at it a time or two during the first lap, but was definitely surprised to come through the first half in 2:08/2:09.  This was probably way too fast for my current fitness (considering the CR for the 25K was 2:07), but I thought I could do another lap in 2:11-2:15 without much difficulty.  This is where I was mistaken.  I didn't blow-up or consciously slow down, but lap two became an even-split nightmare.  What I forgot from not racing for a full year was that as the race progresses, you must increase the effort (read: pain) to keep the pace even close to even!  I kept the effort even and what I got was a big floppin' 2:26.  You can check out the fancy tech. watch info HERE.

Rounding the corner to the finish.  Photo: Dan Todd

So there it was, 4:35 and 4th place, but pure bliss to be back out on the trails RACING again.  It's fun to go your own pace for a while, but there's nothing like the race day magic to get the competitive juices flowing and to pull the best out of yourself.  I've missed the camaraderie of the sport and just being around "my people".  It's good to be back and I count myself privileged to be part of this great sport and community.