The “Not so FATS FATS 50k” part 3: It’s on

I have to admit, I’ve been struggling a bit trying to get this race recap on “paper”.  The more I think about it, the LESS I remember.  We were out there for a LONG time, but I just remember bits and pieces……anyhow, this is how I remember it……..

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Race morning came early.  Jennifer and I were up at 5:30 am.  We had decided that we needed to leave the house by 6:15 or so to put us there in time to pick up our packets, but with not much time to spare standing around waiting for the start.  We were both nervous, but we handled it pretty well.  Trying to think of last minute things that we might have forgotten to pack.  The course change threw us for a bit of a loop with what we needed to bring.  We had been planning on bringing hydration packs loaded with fuel as well as several changes of socks.  Because it was now a short loop, we didn’t really need our packs, but I brought mine just in case.  I also packed a couple of extra pairs of socks and an extra shirt.

As we loaded into the car and started the trip to the race venue, we sat mostly in silence.  Anxiety filled my car.  What the fuck were we about to do??  We spoke a little about how excited we were and I kept saying that we were going to be running SLOW and walking up all hills.  We had talked about this before, but I kept reminding her.  SLOW.  I mean SLOW.  Like 13 minute mile slow.  Even on my short training runs, I was training to run slow.  I don’t know if you know this, but it’s kind of hard to run slower than you are used to….on purpose.  But that was the only way I could see us finishing.  We had to go slow, and we HAD to walk up all hills.

We managed to find the race venue after missing our turn only once.  There were glow sticks directing us where to turn, but somehow I missed those.  We turned around and found them coming back.  As we made our way down this road, the wooded area slowly opened into a huge open field.  The fog was thick….almost as thick as the anxiety in my car.  There were already a good number of people there, but some had been unable to make the changed course and only about 50 or so were going to be running.  We parked and made our way to the start/finish area to pick up our packets and then headed back to the car to get geared up.  I can’t really speak for Jennifer, but nerves turned to excitement.  My mood shifted from worry to calm.  I started seeing people I knew, and started to feel a little more comfortable.  Once we got geared up we headed back to the start/finish to find a spot to stash our gear and hung out until it was time to start running.

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This is where things start to get a little fuzzy.  I know we ran this 4 mile loop 8 times, but I can’t be sure what loop was what and what loop we were on when we changed gear.  I do know that we set several “mini” goals to help us along our way.  We felt pretty confident that we could run 4 loops without any issues.  We had both run half marathons fairly recently, so 3 loops (12 miles) would be ok, and then four more miles “ought” to be no problem.  So our first mini goal was 4 loops.  Four loops would put us at 16 miles, which would be Jennifer’s farthest run ever, and would tie my farthest run. (I ran 16 miles LAST YEAR).

One of my fondest memories of the race happened in the first 30 seconds.  We started at the very back of the pack as the race started.  We took off on a nice little trot, feeling the excitement of what we were about to do.  As we made our way around the first hard left turn we were met by a nice hill.  We laughed and said “sweet, we get to walk already!”.  It really did seem crazy that we would start walking after only 30 seconds into the race, but that was our plan and we were sticking to it.  Turns out, it’s pretty normal to walk up hills…..32 miles is a LONG way.  The first loop came and went with no issues at all.  It was mainly a feeling out loop, checking out the course and getting a feel for the turns and hills.  There were a few hills, but only two major ones……and these things were MAJOR hills.  They were almost back to back, and both were on the last two miles of the loop……..this would really mean something on those last few loops.  We crossed the start/finish on the first loop in high spirits and were surprised to find that we came in under an hour.  We stopped for a bit of food and drink and headed off again.

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Loops 2-4 went exactly as planned.  We chatted the whole way, choosing to enjoy each others company and saving the music for later when we may need it most.  Both of us were feeling great and we were excited about having completed 16 miles while still feeling pretty good.  This, however, is where everything get a little fuzzy.  We both stopped at the aid station for a change of socks.  I changed my shirt, and would continue to do so after every loop from here on in.  It was nice to have a “dry” shirt on.  We had been taking S Caps at every loop (i took 2 each time) and I ate my fill of potatoes with salt and grabbed several hammer gels each pass.   I can’t really recall everything I ate, but I can tell you that it took me a good mile to feel like I wasn’t going to throw everything back up.

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Up until this point, the weather was relatively nice.  Reasonably cool temps with a glorious fog that was so thick it stuck to your face.  By the time we started our 5th loop, however, the sun came out with a vengeance and burned away the fog and the temperature started to rise.  I put on my hydration pack this time–one bottle filled with gatorade and the other with water.  The water was for my head.  As it started to heat up, I ditched to gatorade in favor of two bottles of water.  These next 4 loops were not going to be as much fun as the first…….

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I don’t really recall the rest of the race.  Just bits and pieces.  It got SO hot, it seemed like even though there was plenty of water on the course, there was never enough water.  Some went in my belly, but most of it went on my head/face/neck.  We had a routine at the aid stations by now, and I’m pretty sure those S-Caps were saving my life.  I do remember at one point on what I think was our 6th lap, we passed a guy that I was SURE we had passed already and he said HE was on his 6th lap.  Jennifer and I both fell into a confused funk trying to figure out if we lost count, or where the hell that guy came from.  We finally decided to hell with it, it didn’t really matter.

We stopped talking at some point….having run out of things to say and/or fear of saying it was time to quit…..as we came to the water station at the 2 mile mark of our 7th loop, we stopped for a little longer than usual to “celebrate” running a marathon.  We had made it 26 miles!!!  As we congratulated each other on our accomplishment, two young ladies caught up to us and we chatted a bit and congratulated each other again.  This was their first ultra as well and we wished them luck and headed out to finish our 7th loop.

Our 8th and final loop is a total mystery.  I remember the excitement of realizing we might actually pull this off, but I also remember my legs were seriously trying to give out on me.  I started to cramp in my quads and my feet were fucking killing me.  Our mini goals turned into VERY mini goals.  We started picking out course flags to run to.  “Let’s just run to that flag” or “keep going to the pile of pinestraw”.  The last two hills were a nightmare.  I’m still not sure how we made it up the last one.  Doubt was slowly creeping in and it was all we could do to keep our feet going.  I had turned on my music at some point, but it really wasn’t helping.  Finally at the last mile, when we came out of the woods into the open pasture we realized the finish was in sight.  Then the best thing happened.  We saw our family.  And better yet, our oldest kids came down after us to “run” the rest of the way in.  We did it.   I’m still not sure how we managed to pull it off, but it was the best feeling.  We did it.

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The “Not so FATS FATS 50k” Part 2: Government Shutdown

As you know, last Monday, the Government shut down.  Now, you may be asking yourself what in the world does that have to do with this blog.  Well, last Monday when the “government” went into shutdown mode, I paid little attention.  It was little more than an irritant and just gave me more reason to curse them.  But by Wednesday, I had to pay A LOT more attention to it.  It turns out, because FATS (Forks Area Trail System) is part of the U.S. National Forest system, it was to be CLOSED.  Any activity on the trails could lead to fines and any race held on property could lead to fines, arrests, and all around bad news not only for the runners, but especially for the Race Director.  Running my first Ultra was now in jeapardy and I was pissed (and most certainly, I was not the only one).

Refusing to buckle under pressure and not willing to let the government cancel his first race as Director, David quickly secured a new venue, sent out emails to all registrants, and went to work relocating the race.  It was definitely not ideal, but as I quickly learned, the Ultra running community is special.  Of course we all signed up to race at FATS, but ultimately it’s about the run and the runners.  Everyone rallied and showed their support and new race names quickly filled up Facebook posts.  “Not so FATS FATS 50K” won out in the end and the focus was now on this new “mystery” site.  Very few people knew anything about it, other than it was on private property and it would now be a 4 mile loop that would be run a total of 8 times.

As if I wasn’t nervous enough already, now I was facing a new, total mystery of a race site.  And worst of all is was a short loop.  It’s the exact opposite of why I run.  I run in the woods and I HATE going round and round……and round……and round.  How in hell was I going to do this?  At least at FATS it would be hard to quit.  At just about any point on those trails you are miles from the trail head.  It you wanted to quit, you still had miles to go to get back….may as well try and keep going.  NOW, every 4th mile I could sneak to my car and get the hell outta there.  I was nervous.  Too many opportunities to jump ship and I didn’t trust myself.  On top of that…..what was this course like?  Was it wooded?  Was it hilly?  Was it even a trail?  No, no, no, no…..please don’t do this to me on my first try…….total freak out mode.  I kept asking David questions.  So many questions.  He knew I was nervous and did a great job assuring me that it would be fine.  It was a good route.  The 4 mile loop was a good thing, not a bad thing.  I didn’t have to carry all my gear.  I saw the aid station every 4 miles, plus a water drop at the two mile mark.  They had a port a potty.  I would be fine.  I could do this…….WE could do this.  My sister was in freak out mode as well, but we could do this………here we go……Image

The “Not so FATS FATS 50k” Part 1

Since it has been a little while since my last post (again), I have a TON of stuff to talk about.  It all has happened in the last two months, for the most part, but those last two months have been pretty hectic.  As you know, my family and I have moved back to Augusta, GA.  The move back has been great.  It’s good to be back to a place we can call home.  It’s good to be close to family.  It’s good for the kids because they have friends here and it’s familiar to them.  It’s good for my wife because she is starting her new career as a teacher in a place that has taken her in and made her a part of the teaching community.  It’s good for me as well, because this is the best place to run, with the most amazing runners.

At the beginning of this year, I volunteered to run “sweep” at the Harbison 50k in Columbia, SC.  Not more than a week later, I was hooked on the atmosphere that ultra runners bring to a race.  There is something—dare I say—magical about it.  Being a small part of that race at Harbison immediately had me convinced that I wanted to be a bigger part of it.  I signed up for the FATS 50k in North Augusta, SC.  At the time, I didn’t know we would be relocating there, but I had run FATS many times before when we lived there and it’s a great trail.  I also had a new friend that was now the Race Director for that race and thought it would be great to be a part of his “first” race as RD at FATS.

I started training, and it wasn’t long before I realized I was doing too much too soon…….if you have read my blog, you know I came down with a case of plantar fasciitis.  I started running in late 2009 and aside from a mild case of shin splints (same thing, too much too soon) I had been injury free the whole time.  I tried everything I could think of, every piece of advice, and every damn thing I read online to “cure” my PF.  It’s stubborn.  It just would not go away.  The point of this little digression is that I had a 50k to run and I couldn’t train for it.  What the hell was I going to do??  The longest run I had had all year was 13.1 miles when I ran the Harbison Half (also with no training) because i’m an idiot.  No person in their right mind would just go into a 50k with one 13 mile run and just a few 8-10 milers here and there and expect a positive result.  I was freaking out.  For the last six weeks, I ran at FATS as much as I could.  Each run was 6-8 miles with one or two 10 milers sprinkled in, and each run ended with a painful next morning.  This was NOT going to end well.

Somehow along the way, I had convinced my sister that it would be a good idea to run it with me.  I begged her, really.  I needed the support.  I needed her to be there to push me as far as I could go, and then be comforting when I had to quit…..and surely I would have to quit.  Of course, she had not been expecting this and was certainly not training for a 50k.  Except that she was not injured, she was in the same boat I was–her longest run was a half marathon earlier in the year, and smaller 3-6 mile runs were sporadic at best.  BUT…..there is some kind of crazy competitiveness in and between the both of us.  Maybe you could call it a sibling rivalry.  It’s very friendly, but it’s like we don’t want one of us to do something cool without the other one.  I knew that it would eat her up inside if I managed to pull this off without her.  She wanted it too, and maybe…just maybe….we could do it together.

A Little of This, a Little of That……..And So it Goes.

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I was going to apologize for the length of time between posts.  I’m not.  Shit happens.  In this case, it has just been life.  The family and I relocated to Augusta, GA and it took the majority of my time.  Moving is never fun, especially when it’s a “do it yourself with a U-Haul” kind of move.  On top of the move itself, the reason behind it is pretty stressful as well…..although in a mostly positive way.  My wife will be getting her degree in Elementary Education in November, and in order to complete that she needs to do 12 weeks of student teaching.  That means she needed to quit her job.  A little insight in to my private life—my wife has been the “bread winner” and I have been a stay at home dad taking care of our daughters for the past 4 years.  Sooooo, now we are all moved, all jobless (though technically she is still part time with her job) and scrambling to get back to work.  We are super excited about this new chapter in our lives, but the stress level is cranked up to high.  I have NO idea what I’m going to do for work.  I have been without a job for so long, I just don’t know what to do.  I will do just about anything, but right now my goal is to get back into the golf business.  I was a Club Pro “back in the day” so that’s what I know.  We’ll just have to see how it pans out.  I guess it goes without saying that my running has taken a bit of a backseat to “life”.

Some good news is I am finally able to meet up with some of the best running folks you could ask for.  There is a trail group here called the “Trailnuts” and I was just getting to know a few of them before we moved to Columbia, SC a couple of years ago.  Being back in town, I was already able to get two good runs in with this great bunch of trail junkies.  Even though some things in my life are changing, it’s great to know that my favorite trails are packed with some of the best folks around, and I can always get a run in with someone—day or night.

So, that’s what’s been happening in my little corner of the world.  I just wanted to get that out there.  I’ll be back with regular postings with some great reviews and some equally great posts about nothing.  Thanks for sticking around while I get my shit together!

So it goes……….

 

Xterra Harbison “Hot as Hell” Trail Half Marathon

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This is sooooo long overdue.  I’m not gonna lie– I have been busy packing for the move, but really, I just did NOT want to write about this race.  I have mixed emotions about it.  On one hand, I was coming off of an injury to my foot so I pretty much had NO training.  Because of this, it was not my best showing, but also because of this I was proud of myself for starting AND finishing.  On the other hand, it was TOUGH.  I set what I thought was a reachable goal to finish in 3 hours or less and I didn’t  reach that goal.  That pisses me off a little bit  lot.  I have run two road marathons and two trail marathons.  Both of the road races I finished in the 2:15-2:20 range.  And now both of my trail runs I have finished basically the same time of 3:19.  I guess my brain has a hard time differentiating between the two.  When I look at my times from the Xterra runs I cringe.  A FULL HOUR slower??  It hurts my pride a little.  At the same time, it is in July and it’s so hot/humid.  I know it’s hot just about everywhere, but running a trail race in July in South Carolina seems a bit absurd.  And then you do it and find out it IS absurd.

I started out with a great mindset.  I started at the back of the pack and let just about everyone go ahead of me.  If you get caught up in the crowd when the route starts to funnel onto the trail you are at the mercy of the crowds pace and it’s almost impossible to pass anyone.  I fell in the back of the pack and just took my sweet ass time.  I was nursing my foot and knew this was a hard route to run.  The Xterra race series prides itself on picking hard routes.  I was really in a groove for the first 6 miles or so.  No pain in my foot, nice easy pace and plenty of water/gatorade.   I was keeping a pretty steady 13 min/mile pace which I thought was perfect.  Then the race got really fun…..I shit you not, from about the 7 mile mark all the way until the 11 mile mark it’s almost all technical uphills.  This is pretty much where I lost it and walked what seemed like the entire 4 miles.  By this time it was already mid eighties and the humidity was almost unbearable.  As I got to the last aid station at mile “10ish” I took a little breather and chatted with the volunteers for a few minutes while refilling my water bottles and eating a couple of gels.  I knew the rest of the route was easy compared to what I had just been through.  I started of running again but it didn’t take long before the cramps started sneaking up on me.  Last year I got calf cramps so bad I could barely walk the last mile.  I looked like a zombie trying to run.  I tried to prepare for this, and even though I was hydrated properly, the heat/lack of training/time just caught up with me.  This time it was my groin and quads that wanted to cramp.  I stopped each time I felt one coming on and tried to stretch them out but they basically stayed with me to the finish.  As I got close to the finish, my daughter came to my side and ran across the line with me which was awesome.  But as I crossed the finish line I saw my time and immediately felt disappointed.  I grabbed my medal and just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Twice I have run this race and BOTH times I swore I would never do it again……..

The best thing I can say about this race isn’t about the race, but about my equipment and supplies.  My Orange Mud Double Barrel Hydraquiver was awesome.  It held all of my stuff and didn’t bother me the entire time.  I can not say enough positive things about this hydration pack.    I love my Altra shoes, and these new Lone Peak 1.5 did awesome.  I drank Achiva energy and my fuel was Huma chia gels and Achiva beans.  These things played a huge part in me being able to finish this race untrained.  That’s about all I have to say.  A little bittersweet, but another Half in the books.

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My GPS crapped out on me. Somehow, I lost an hour, but I didn’t realize it. I went the entire race thinking I was kicking ass! LOL.

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My sweet Andi finishing with me!

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Swag

 

XTERRA Harbison Half Marathon—Take Two

Soooooo, I have this Half Marathon coming this Sunday.  I’m not really sure what I was thinking signing up for this.  Last year I ran it and it was fucking miserable.  I mean, who the hell runs a Half Marathon in July—in South Carolina??  I don’t even remember how hot it was at 7am, but I was drenched with sweat just walking to the staging area from my car.  I wrote a post about it….if you’re interested you can go check it out.  THIS post is about why I’m such an idiot as to think I can run a 13 mile race with almost NO running in over a month—WITH a subsiding case of plantar fasciitis.  So, it’s a short post:  I’m just an idiot.

The bad news, of course, is that I haven’t been on any significant long runs in so long I can’t even remember.  It’s also been very wet here, so the runs I HAVE had have not been trail runs.  Oh, and plantar “go fuck yourself” fasciitis is still nagging about. Yay.

The good news is I have TWO new pair of trail shoes to choose from, a brand new Hydraquiver Double Barrel from Orange Mud, and a really kickass playlist that I spent all fucking day putting together.  I’m just gonna blast the music and put it on auto pilot.

Best case scenario–I finish in under 3 hours. (yes, 3 hours…it’s hot….and humid…..and….HOT)

Worst case scenario–I hang out at the aid station around mile 6 or so and show everyone my new shoes and hydration pack while singing to my kick ass playlist.

Anyhow, I’m gonna lace ’em up and give it my best shot.  I’ll be sure to let you know which scenario pans out!

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Looks like fun

 

I ate SO much and ran SO little

How many times do any of you sit down to write and find yourself hitting the backspace button over and over and over again?  It’s like I have a ton of stuff to say but I just don’t know how to say it.  Most of it is about my life, not necessarily about my running so i’m not that comfortable talking about it for fear it would bore you to death.  Let’s just keep it simple for now—I’ve been on my family’s annual Myrtle Beach vacation for the past week.  Finding time to run on vacation really isn’t that difficult, but finding excuses NOT to run is much easier.  Out of seven days of vacation, I only managed to run 3 times for a whopping grand total of 9 miles.  I did find out that I really just do NOT enjoy running on the beach.  Apparently I’m a weirdo but I just don’t like it.

My first run was late night on the beach with my wife, which was nice.  She is doing the Couch to 5k program and I love running with her when I get the chance.  It was a great two mile walk/run and any time I can run with her is a win/win.

My second run was the run I was looking forward to because it’s actually a trail run “on the beach”.  There is this little tiny park called Vereen Memorial Gardens that has about 2 miles of trails in this tiny little patch of trees on the beach.  About half a mile of that is along the coastal waterway and then it goes back into the trees.  It’s a great place to run and even though it’s a 15 minute drive from our hotel, it’s totally worth it.  My sister and I ran here last year and we were both looking forward to getting out there again.  We did two loops for a totall of 4 miles.

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Vereen Memorial Gardens trail

The third run was on the beach and it sucked.  Don’t get me wrong, the beach is a beautiful place to be—-just not running.  I was bitching and moaning about it when I finished and my mom and sister asked me why I hated it so much and this is what I told them: “I don’t know, it’s just flat, straight, boring, and loud.  On top of that, running one way is downwind and then when you turn to go back it’s upwind so it gets even LOUDER.”  They were stunned and called me a weirdo.  I mean…..loud?  What the hell?  I have this “thing” about noises.  They drive me crazy.  Coughing, sneezing, vacuum cleaners, traffic…..NOISE….you know?  And the ocean is noisy….like a nonstop deafening noise that never goes away.  Pair that with the wind noise blowing past my ears and the flat boring beach and it’s just the total opposite of relaxing for me.  So anyway, now that everyone reading this now thinks i’m a weirdo as well, we’ll just move on….Run total 3.35 miles.

 

I ate a LOT.  I’m not a huge fan of seafood though.  I’ve got my three favorites that I just want to eat—crab legs, big fat scallops and raw oysters.  I can’t even tell you how my pounds of crab legs I ate, let’s just say I got my moneys worth. We’ve been doing this vacation since I was born and I have mastered the art of crab legs.  I can tear through three or four clusters in a matter of minutes.  No scallops this time, but I finally made it to a raw bar with my dad on Friday for lunch and had a dozen of the tastiest oysters and a nice tall Guinness (love me some Guinness).

Aside from the eating and not much running, the rest of the vacation was great.  Lots of beach time and lots of family time.

I have a review post coming up in the next few days.  I returned those damn Newtons and Optimal Run sent my new shoes pronto.  I decided to get another pair of trail shoes and went with the new Merrell Ascend Glove.  I ran in them at Vereen while at the beach but wanted to get a few more runs in them before I did a review.  For now, I can at least tell you that i’m keeping these bad boys.

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The Ascend Glove

Until next time……