Thursday, October 31, 2013

2 Nails

And so it ends...October 2013. Thankful for this day and will wake tomorrow not looking back.

Nail One: I am not obsessed by my running log, weekly mileage, monthly mileage, nor annual mileage. Some are wrapped around the axle about their stats and get a bit OCD about them. Yes, I'll run around my cul-de-sac to make it an even 8.0 miles vs. 7.92 miles but as for the weekly numbers...I once cared but do not any longer. Still, I log my miles for two reasons: 1) to track my shoe mileage > this lets me know how long a particular pair of shoes lasts and when it's time to order my next pair of Brooks. For example, I have exactly 251 miles on my 4th pair of Brooks Pure Flow 2s. I get about 400 miles out of a pair and pair #5 is already in my basement, ready for their maiden voyage. 2) to keep me accountable and call myself times like these > If I'm slackin'...I want to know it. No one else cares except for me so someone needs to call me out...or someTHING does. My running log does that. Case in point: October 2013.

I logged 186 miles in October 2013. Of those miles, 88.8 were run on three different days. 2 were in the mountains of West Virginia at the Trilogy and the last day was this past Saturday when I ran an impromptu 24 just because. So out of 31 days in October, I ran 47.74% of my mileage in 3 days. That's a sad testament for the other 28 days. In full disclosure, my log is below. You'll see lots of zeroes before and after the Trilogy. That doesn't help. Do I regret it? No...not really...but I'm ashamed of it. Running doesn't direct my life, it is not my (g)od, but it does play a supporting role in it. It is my escape many days and it does spill into my overall happ(y)ness. No doubt about it. As a general statement, I'm very much a loner so getting away to run is very important to me. I can "tell" I didn't run as I should this past month...not in my waistline but mentally, I'd say.

For the year, I stand at 1,674.60 miles. That leaves 325.40 to reach 2,000 miles for 2013. I haven't hit 2000 in several years and it was an unofficial goal at the beginning of this year. I would only have to average 162.70 for November and December this year to hit it which is very doable. So Nail #1...October is over. Glad it is. I learned a lot this month in running, mostly in the mountains of WV. One big 'ol piece of humble pie was ingested that I believe will only make me stronger going forward. I also can draw a distinct parallel between how I "feel" morning, day, and night when I run frequently vs. sporadically. May November be more of the former and less of the latter.

Nail Two: Speaking only for me, closing out October 2013 lets me bury October 2011 a little bit deeper. This last week, I've involuntarily been re-living the emotions of a few years ago and my deployment blog has let me be real with it all. Today...2 years ago...I was one plane ride away from home on Day 205 of 208. Below is a screen-shot of my blog on October 31, 2011.

I told my bride just a few days ago on her birthday: "We are not defined by what happened yesterday, last month, last year, two years ago, or 20 years ago. We are defined by the choices we make today. The past is the past. Today happens now and we can choose to live in that or live in yesterday." We choose to serve others, give us much of ourselves as we can, love our kids and lead them, and love each other sacrificially.  To October 2013, see ya. You are but one more nail in the coffin of the past and a springboard to tomorrow.

Have a great day, Friends. Every moment is a choice...make sure they're the right ones.

Monday, October 28, 2013

M-Cubed for 10.28.2013

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for October Twenty-Eighth, Two Thousand Thirteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Well hello Fall. Sun setting around dinner time, sun rising on the way to work, and color fading quickly in the trees. It's a gorgeous time of year, no doubt. If we could just can this time of year and stretch it to April...that would be perfect. Let's just skip the snow, plow trucks, pot holes caused by salt, and sunsets at 5pm and enjoy this crispy weather for the next 6 months. Deal? Deal.

- Saturday was one of those days where I set out to run with no agenda, no route...and no fuel. Before I knew it, I was many miles from home just running and losing my thoughts to a plethora of things. I had zero desire to stop and turn around, zero desire to go home, and honestly, the cool air, bright sun, and colors around me were a bit intoxicating to my innermost being. Lots of time to think, pray, and in all honesty...worship. I did have one target eventually...that being to get into a small trail system in the nearby town. I connected to it via a new bike and hike trail system (pictured here) and after going through it, the reality of how far I was from home hit me and how I had no cash and no fuel of any kind. I hit the roads from that park and took the most direct route home, playing Human-Frogger with the cars as Saturday was very much alive on the roads, and ended up with 24 solo miles. That pretty much wiped me out until early evening. It wasn't that it was difficult, but taking in zero nutrients or electrolytes zapped me. 49mi for the week.

- This week will mark one year since we adopted our dog, Bristol. She's a rescue out of Tuscarawas County. She is a great runner, very strong and powerful, but has a huge heart and just loves our kids. While the chase still starts when she spots one of our two cats roaming free, she's a pleasure to have as part of our family. We're guessing she is around 2 years old now.

- So do you have shoes accumulating in the garage, basement, or closets? I am halfway through my 4th pair of Brooks Pure Flow 2s and have a bunch of shoes that are beyond their running life but otherwise are decent pairs of shoes. I save a few for casual wear but no way do I need all of those. So, I'm doing my best to get out the word out about Soles4Souls. There are drop off locations all over the country (locally at Vertical Runner locations) and here is how it works. They are gathered and then either 1) donated to those in need here in the USA or in countries around the world or 2) sold via a micro-enterprising system. For example, Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere with an average ANNUAL income of $500. Used shoes are sold in markets and roadside there. Soles4Souls will wholesale donated shoes very cheaply to them so they can in-turn sell them to the local population. It's a very cool process that from what I've read, works really well. Here is the website so you can get involved, too, and gives your shoes a second life.

- Landmarks are a great thing. For me, this week marks a big one for me. Two years ago today, I was halfway home from Afghanistan and would be home soon. I read my blog post (screen shot below) from two years ago today. I remember that day well...I still remember gagging on that cigar and meeting with the Navy Chaplain. I remember listening to "Chap's" talk about reintegration and returning home and thinking "I've got this thing together. I'm good." I was so wrong. I had no clue what the next week and months would hold. But today, I choose to be defined by where I am, that I'm alive, that I stand side-by-side with my wife as one team, one force to be reckoned with, walking step for step together. The past is the past. Unchangeable. Today, that I can have something to do with.
- Being late in the year, many runners are registering for 2014 races and building their racing calendar. I am, too, as you can see on the right sidebar. It's a love/hate relationship for me. For one, I'm very picky about what events I participate in. There are SO many options out there. Whether you are a 5K runner or 100 mile runner, you have lots of choices. For me, I've now been racing for 16+ years and it means different things to me as compared to before. I really care who is putting on the race now...where the money goes...where it's run....the support given to runners....the community impact...and so on. Greed has made it's way into the running scene nationwide and since we are a people of free choice, I choose to support events that do more "giving back" then "taking in" for themselves. You'll see that reflected in my races of choice and mainstays from prior years no longer appear. I also struggle internally with family time vs. racing time....or taking a Sunday at church to run a race on a Sunday morning. Give and take, lots of discussion and for those distant races, a real effort to make it a fun trip for the family instead of just a road trip so "Dad can run a race." Bottom Line: races are for me. Just me. They don't benefit anyone else and let's be one else really cares. I am really trying to cut down on the "impulse buying" of race registrations...more thinking "why" instead of just "because I want to." Deep thoughts...

Have a great week, friends. Make it count...not just for you but for those you come in contact with.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

3 Weeks in the Cradle of Naval Aviation

Back before I went down to West Virginia for the WV Trilogy, I had a pretty big lapse in blogging activity. Considering a news release yesterday, I thought I'd go back and fill in those blanks today as to the "why" no blogging back then.

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels made a much-anticipated announcement that they'll be flying again in 2014. Because of the government's financial woes, they were grounded in 2013. Well, for 3 weeks in September, I was in the "Cradle of Naval Aviation" as it's called in Pensacola, Florida. I was attending a school there. Pensacola Naval Air Station is the base where all who wish to be a part of Naval Aviation go first for training. It's also the home to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels! As in the past, I go pretty dark when I travel from home in order to protect my family but now that the trip is far in the rear view mirror, I thought I'd talk about it. As always, I took a lot of photos while down there. Besides the boring (to you!) classes I was in during the day, my running took a big fat hit while down there. You see, I don't do well in heat and humidity and often at 10pm down there, it was still 80-85 degrees and humid. I'd go on a 7 mile run and you'd think I'd jumped in the ocean by the looks of me. It totally zonked my running for 3 weeks and the longest run I did was 11 miles. I did, however, discover much of the base and ran by the Blue Angels more than once and the Naval Aviation Museum. On the second weekend, I traveled several hours east to Gainesville, Florida for my first college football game. Good friends of ours live in Gainesville and are big Florida Gators fans. They got me a seat 5 rows up in the end zone of the Gators/Tennessee game. I think I went deaf during that game. That was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I'm a band fan so I did love the dueling Florida vs. Tennessee bands from the corners of the stadium. I had also never seen tailgating like that in my life. We even grilled out in a parking lot several blocks away before the game. I had gone to a Browns' pre-season game a few months back so this was a good comparison...NO COMPARISON! football is where it's at! Besides the football game, my trip was fairly uneventful. Below are photos from the trip with some captions to explain. I will was pretty cool to get my hair cut at the Blue Angels' barber shop then eat lunch outside at a food truck while to my right through the pines were the Angels and their support C-130, "Fat Albert." It's good to be a sailor! Enjoy the photos!
Where Navy Recruiting begins :-)
This retired Angel sits in front of the Mustin Officers Club
A common running route while there.

Large "Arlington-like" cemetery on base
Behind the Museum...old relics of Naval Aviation
Can you say "Top Gun"?!?! Oh yea! F-14 Tomcat!
Iron Sailor meet bright orange running sailor 
Photo-bombing the Blue Angels road sign. :-)
No doubt...the Marines have the best dress uniforms. Walking through the uniform shop, I just thought this was a cool photo. Future Marines are waiting...
I had one of my best dinners here in downtown Pensacola. Have you seen "The Help"? This place seemed to jump off the pages of that time in history. I started with Fried Green Tomatoes. Sooo good but I wish my bride had been there to share.

Another daily passing-by on a run
Oh yes...the sunset nearly every night
Mr. Moon beckoning me on an early morning run while I hear the young Sailors and Marines chanting cadence in the distance
En route to the Gators/Vols game
Pretty great end-zone seats. Time for the National Anthem.
Before leaving Gainesville, my friends here took me to a 15,000 year old sinkhole north of town. We're in the bottom of it here.

Fat Albert while I eat lunch one day
These are freshly painted buoys that go in the bay near Pensacola, FL. I saw the opportunity for a cool "Hulk-like" photo and couldn't pass it up. Strong, aren't I?!
Graduation Day...ready to recruit the Navy's finest future officers
Run Happy, friends!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Impromptu Colorful 12

Fall sure is an awesome time of the year, especially if you're a runner...not a dreamill runner...a runner who breathes fresh air when they run. The colors of fall, the smell of those leaves, the cool crisp morning just beckons us/you/me out there. We're not far from the leaves all hitting the ground so I didn't want to miss running today. I could've gotten up early to run with a full Mr. Moon before he set but I waited until after sunrise so I'd get the full sensory overload. I didn't plan the route, I never looked at my distance until I got to the end, and I ran on roads in my hometown that I've never set foot on in my life...running wherever I thought it would be hilly and beautiful. It even included a run through my town's very own winery. I like to take a quick loop through their vineyard as I pass by whenever I choose that off-the-beaten-path route.

This morning, I was also thinking about how running creates a buffer between me and so many societal influences. I feel invincible out no one can touch or harm me. Personal attacks, unnecessary influences, social media, and even the attacks from the spiritual realm...I feel insulated and protected. Today as I "designed" my route as I ran, whether I was ready to return home or not determined my turns and how long I'd be out. Often, I didn't want to go back and wanted to stay within my bubble. "They can't touch me out here...they can't hurt me out here...they don't even know where I am...heck, they don't even know WHO I am." I am so thankful for the ability to run. I don't know what I'd do without it.

SO...without further ado, here's my pictorial 12 miler through the country from this morning. I hope you enjoy them.

At the local vineyard

At the local vineyard

Run Happy, friends!

Friday, October 18, 2013

"You made it over half way!"

The ultimate test and confirmation of "it's did your best" comes from the mouth of innocence...the mouth of someone so authentic she doesn't know any way else to be. "Dad, you made it over half way!"

This morning, I woke up at a dark and early time of 3:45am to let the dog out but seeing the full moon in the sky, decided I'd stay up, get some work done, and run under its light. Heading out under the still-dark sky at 6am, I had time on my side so decided to run my favorite rolling country 10-mile route. Since returning from West Virginia last Sunday, I'd only run once for 7 miles. The rest of the week has been rest. Temperatures in the mid-50s, stars in the sky, and a full moon not too far from setting called me out today. It was a fantastic run. I felt in complete control, full of power, and those "hills" were more like bumps in the road. On the second half of the run, I was facing east instead of west like the first 5 miles and watched everything from First Light to the sunrise. It was a PERFECT run. Physically, I feel like my right quad is in knots. Both quads are rock hard and feel no different but I certainly feel a tightness over it needs to release. Still, the run was painless and powerful. I couldn't ask for more.

Post-run, my oldest daughter got up first and remembered that I had offered to her to read my race report from last weekend's Trilogy. She LOVES to read and started reading my race reports this past year. If you've read them, you know they are raw and this past report was unlike the others in that I didn't cross the 50 Mile finish line. So, she got reading and according to her, could imagine being out there on the trails via my story. She loved the photos..."There's so much color!" Yea...I got to run in the that...for hours. Her questions began with the falling twice and passing out but in the end after seeing I got up and kept running, thought that the passing out caused me to be cut as I got into the aid station at mile 33.6 thirteen minutes too late. "Nope..I was only out for about 30 seconds. I was just too slow to make the cutoff at that point of the race," I told her. "But made it over halfway!" "Yep!" I replied...and left it at that. That's how she saw it...she didn't see it as a failure. She was happy that 1) I was ok, and 2) I went as far as I did. That was the end of it except for gazing at the colorful photos. For me...confirmation of my effort and permission to seal that chapter and move on to the next.

I needed that. "Thanks, Kat G."

We can always use a little Rocky motivation, can't we?! Time to get my shoes laced up and keep moving forward.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and get out there and enjoy the incredible fall foliage!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Post-Weekend Musings

Lots and lots of emotion bubbling to the top this morning after a weekend that started Thursday night as we marched south into West Virginia. As we traveled back yesterday afternoon, we craved a good, juicy burger...namely one from Red Robin, their steak fries, and maybe even some of their yummy onions via their "Onion Stack." Heck, I earned it, right?! Not a Trilogy finisher but I burnt a couple of calories over those few days.

Sitting in Red Robin just south of Pittsburgh in Washington, PA, scores of patrons and employees wore Steelers' jerseys and every HD flatscreen had the game on (which they won, by the way). I looked over at my wife and said: "This is information/sensory overload compared to where we just left. We went from being in the mountains sans cell signal/cable/commercialization to BAM! ... it's all back." I do like the conveniences of home, I like a good HD picture when I'm watching a show, and I do love my own bed vs. air mattress and drip, drip, drip all night as dew slowly accumulates over my head in the tent. But, I wouldn't trade the experience this past weekend.

While I was picking up my dog this morning from the boarder and waiting for the staff to come up front, a commercial was playing on the tiny 13" TV from Time Warner Cable, touting how you can now watch FOUR "live" TV shows at once from within the same household. In other words, you can now separate your family amongst 4 devices in a house, whether they be the HDTV, an iPad, iPhone, or other viewing device while having no interaction, no socializing, no sharing, no quality time while everyone glues themselves to the screen. I can see get off the bus, head straight to their rooms and that's pretty much it until the next morning. It's really sad. I have ZERO regrets for cutting the cable over a year ago. Our $40 HDTV antenna picks up plenty and the few shows we watch a a family...are plenty. After that commercial ended, it was time to pick up Bristol and head home. Here she is...eager to get home and stretch her legs:

A few other things I loved about the experience this past weekend:

  • After every meal, we washed our own dishes on the outside deck. Sanitized and all. Community...working together.
  • Every food scrap was collected and used as feed for the pigs. Yep, pigs were in the woods behind our tents. A big 'ol muddy pig pen with two resident pigs. Oink. (quite the stink in the early hours, too!)
  • Profit was clearly not a goal for the event. There wasn't a shred of commercialization or greed-hungry folks present. Instead, an event to test endurance in a place largely untouched by civilization yet incredibly beautiful. The purity of the event went hand-in-hand with where it was held, who organized it, and the home we all adopted for the weekend, The Mountain Institute.
  • Take away all of the stuff of life and when you hit rock bottom physically or emotionally, not much matters except for the ones you hold closest. After that 2nd fall and passing out then getting cut from the race, I only wanted my bride. NOTHING else mattered. As we creep up on 21 years together, I thank God for her every day and the miracle He has worked in us and through us. I'm thankful for her relentless support while I pursue these goals of mine.
  • Volunteering is contagious! Yea...go figure! I already see a nudge to run more WVMTR events so SHE can volunteer! Talk about flipping things around! Alrighty, then...if you insist!
  • Hold the ones you love closer, support things/events/places/businesses/causes you believe in...REALLY support them, and be you. Know who YOU are first!
  • When you invite God in...really invite Him in, He won't leave you. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that in nearly 18 hours on those trails, I was never bored. Worship song after worship song after worship song played in my head. From Skillet to Chris Tomlin to Steven Curtis Chapman...they just kept going. Combine that with the artistry surrounding me in color, it was beyond breathtaking and so awe-inspiring. 
I'll be enjoying the day off today...federal holiday. It was a restless sleep last night as I never got comfy and the quads continued to scream at me. Some rest, a new garage door opener getting installed, and lotsa water. Sunny and mid-60s, too. I'll take it.

Have a great week, friends.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Race Report: West Virginia Trilogy

Back in June 2013, I ran my first race in the mountains of West Virginia, the Highland Sky 40 Mile Trail Run. The first 19.7 miles were mostly uphill and the vistas that followed were truly amazing. Combine that and a phenomenal running community/club in the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners and I was sold…that couldn’t be my last trek south into West Virginia. Nowhere around NE Ohio or anywhere in reach do places like that exist. Enter the West Virginia Trilogy…

The West Virginia Trilogy is held within the Monongahela National Forest on the eastern side of WV and a bit south. Seneca Rocks then Elkins would be the closest towns. The event itself consists of Friday’s 50K, Saturday’s 50 miler, and Sunday’s half marathon. Finish them all to be a Trilogy finisher. I’ve never even heard of such an event, much less attempted one but after my experience at Highland Sky, I solicited the support of my wife and signed up. We left NE Ohio for the 6hr drive south this past Thursday.

Upon getting within an hour of The Mountain Institute (TMI), race headquarters, we first lost all cell reception then were on gravel roads as we climbed in. I discovered today that if I had simply followed the race director’s guidance, all of that gravel road was unnecessary but instead, I made up a Google Map and followed those. Lesson learned! The funny part was at one point, a bunch of black cows blocked the road…just staring at us. Not until we honked the horn did they scoot out of the way and we finished our drive in.

Arriving at TMI, it’s truly in the middle of nowhere…but amongst incredible beauty. Untouched West Virginia Back Country is everywhere and “yurts”…circular buildings make up TMI plus a bathhouse with men’s and women’s restrooms. We set up our tent (our first camping experience in nearly 21 years of marriage) in the misty rain then headed up to the main yurt to check in. As soon as I walked in, Adam Casseday stood there saying “Welcome Nick!” I had never met Adam before and only recently became “Facebook friends” so yea, that was a great way to be greeted to the Trilogy. Dan Lehman, the 2nd of 3 race directors was nearby and I said hello to him…he is the race director of Highland Sky. I heard about the fantastic meals prepared at TMI and at no point this weekend did they disappoint. All fresh, all homemade, and nut-free. Yep, they asked everyone to please keep nuts and peanut butter away! (Don’t they know that just to sign up for the Trilogy, you gotta be some kind of nut?!) The pre-race meeting at 7pm and volunteer meeting thereafter for my wife were knocked out and back to the tent we went…heads uphill as we made the rookie mistake of staking our tent on a slight downhill section.

Trilogy 50K (over 4500' of elevation gain)

I had not the knowledge of what the day would hold. I have no issue climbing the “hills” of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in NE Ohio. Those aren’t in the mountains, though. The time limit is set at a very liberal 10 ½ hours in the attempt to encourage runners to take it easy since 50 miles followed the next day. I did that but eventually, I would be moving slow because I was beat. My goal was simply to run smart, not get hurt, and save my quads. With big climbs, there are going to be fast, rocky downhills that can wreak havoc on my quads that is unrecoverable in one overnight sleep. I distinctly recall 3 slaps in the face: upon saying goodbye to my wife who was working aid station #2, we hit a long, long steep climb. That same thing happened at the next two aid stations as well. Good grief! That’s where the true mountain hill climbers shined (e.g. not me!). I was amazed at how some of them climbed and made it look effortless. A good, safe pace turned into a crawl at times, for sure.

As for technicality, there are rocks and lots and lots of them. With Fall in full force, leaves..wet leaves covered everything so fast downhills were tricky. There were also lots of water crossings and one even went above my knees (which meant I got to wash all of the mud off and soak for a minute in the ice water.) With the ongoing mist and rain, there were also plenty of shoe-sucking mud baths to run through. What made it all ok was the beautiful splendor that surrounded me. Absolutely stunning.

I also remember well arriving at mile 27.7, the final aid station of the day and where my wife was waiting. One thing had been wearing on me mentally for miles leading to her….that being my pace and the cutoffs on Saturday during the 50 miler. I expressed that as soon as I saw her but true to form, she assured me I could do it and to keep charging on…only 3.5 miles to the 50K finish. One more hill waited, dubbed “cardiac hill” before a run around the cow pasture and down a nice grassy hill to the finish line where Adam and Dan were waiting. 7hrs, 55min, 6sec. The hardest 50K I’d ever run…period…and my 25th ultra marathon finish.

The evening was a night eating right, hydrating as best I could, and taking two servings of Hammer’s Recoverite to help me recover as best I could after the 50K beat down. My left foot definitely felt a bit raw. In all of my races, I have never had a foot issue or a blister. However, I had to re-tie my left shoe 7 times and took it off to re-lube it twice because I felt the heat that precedes a blister. Luckily, I didn’t see a bubble forming those two times or I would’ve been in trouble.  Dinner was awesome and the 50 mile pre-race meeting took place, especially for those registered only for the 50 miler. Afterwards, they had a giveaway where my wife scored a $149 Patagonia backpack and then we watched a new documentary about Anton Krupicka called “In the High Country” by filmmaker Joel Wolpert who is good friends with Adam and Dan.  Bedtime…

I remember walking back to the tent from the bathhouse on Friday night saying “I’ve never been so afraid of failing.” The way I felt beat up and Adam’s comment to me at the 50K finish after I mentioned the hills “You haven’t seen anything yet” certainly was wearing on me. Raised to pursue perfection is some kind of stigma that has never left me. I don’t embrace it and honestly, I often struggle to just “let things go.” But, that pursuit to always achieve, never give up, love on those entrusted me to the death is always there…and I always believe that isn’t quite good enough. So, staring down the 6am start on Saturday morning…well, if we’re all being honest here, I was a bit scared. Still, though, I would give it 100% and run my race…”there is no other way.”

Trilogy 50 Miler (over 8000' of elevation gain)

Alarm at 4:15am and I made my way after lubing up and getting 50-mile-ready up to the bathhouse to brew my espresso again with my travel espresso pot. I didn’t want to change a thing. A hearty breakfast followed and I woke up my wife at 5:45am to let her know it was time. The mist continued to fall and I was hopeful I might see the sun for the first time today. Headlamps on, we walked 100 yards to the start/finish area where the sight was nothing but headlamps in the foggy mist. Seconds before the start, Adam said a quick prayer (so appreciated!), I gave a kiss to my bride, and we were off and running.

About 2 miles in, we were already climbing up to the ridge where we’d run until the first aid station about 6 miles in. I heard that in past years, the sunrise was second to none up here but on this date…fog. This run along the ridge was asphalt that was a first for the Trilogy thus far. Dropping my headlamp at AS1, I entered the trail and the rocks began…just like Highland Sky which is like boulder running. I felt great, honestly, and ran smart and steady as advised by others who had run the course before. Aid stations on the 50 mile day are far apart. The next AS, in fact, was 9.2 miles off and the rest varied in the 8 mile range…a long way. Along that stretch on a gentle decline, single track, and a steep drop off to my right, I must have taken a step wrong on a few slippery leaves above some mud because before I knew it, my feet swung right and I landed off the trail, on that slope and landed on my right hip while the back right of my skull created a nice “thud” sound against a boulder…and my right calf cramped up on impact…which hurt more than anything! To say my calf looked like a baseball would not be an understatement. I’d feel the effect of that cramp for miles, too. A fellow runner was passing by and gave me a hand up the slope and I was off and running and very thankful my head hit flat against that rock and not on a jagged edge or corner.

Arriving at AS2, mile 16.1, Judy Springs, I felt pretty good but hadn’t really hit a climb yet…not like yesterday, at least. I fueled up, had a quesadilla piece, and headed to Horton’s Trail. Ahead, the few deep water crossings awaited and then a climb UP Horton. We came down it yesterday. It’s a very narrow, rocky, muddy, rooty trail. This is the point where reality hit me. I felt like I hadn’t rested a bit from the 50K’s climbs. I wasn’t even 20 yards into it and my wishes for fresh hill legs were not heard. I bet I was passed by 6 runners on that segment. At the top, we take a 90 degree right turn and head to Whites Run aid station…mile 24.9…an out-n-back section about 5 ½ miles each way. This section is far less technical but is downhill after downhill after downhill.  This is when I first looked at the clock, knowing that this aid station had a cutoff of 12:50pm. I was not concerned with the cutoff at all…I was good. However, I knew how the hills were killing me and with every downhill I went down, I grew more worried. At the turn at 24.9, I had 35min ahead of the cutoff. I quickly grabbed a few bites and began the climb, grabbing a few branches I made into walking sticks to help with the steep hills. I still moved slow and things just started hurting more and eating anything, including the Hammer Gels I had been taking sounded horrible…even drinking anything but water made me nauseous. Again…passed by more runners and I knew at that point, I was at the back of the remainder of the 50 mile pack. There was maybe one runner left. Getting to the top of Whites Run, I looked at my clock and it was 3pm. The next cut was at 3:30pm…about 2 ½ miles away…down a slippery-loose-rocky descent. I moved as expeditiously as I could in this section and about a mile out, fall #2 took place. Legs flew out to the right again and I landed right across the trail. One rock was stabbing my left hip while a pointed one (I can still picture that mutha!) jabbed my right elbow. To make it a complete trifecta, my left quad cramped. Given my little-known condition of vasovagal syncope, that was enough to turn my lights out momentarily. Yep, passed out across Horton’s Trail.  I woke up and was looking up at a fern then sat up but immediately felt nauseous (the common side effect after waking up) so I laid back down just for a moment to let the episode subside. As I got up, one solo runner was hauling down the hill trying his hardest to make it to the cut. I encouraged him on and told him to go for it and then the trail “sweeper” got me. He’s the one who cuts down streamers and collects trail markings after the last runner has passed. That would be the first time a sweeper has gotten me! Thanks to his walkie-talkie, I was fully aware when the 3:30pm cut took place as I heard it back behind me from the next aid station. I kept running and arrived at 3:43…13 minutes late. Race over. Trilogy failed.  I had some soup broth that hit THE spot and bummed a ride back. On the way, we stopped at aid station 6 (3.8 miles to the finish) where my wife was working to let her know what happened and not to be looking for me. BIG ‘ol hug for sure…all I could think to say was “I’m sorry. I gave it everything and left it all out there.” Then the nurse part of her started triaging me for hmmm…..the two falls, hitting my head, passing out, etc., etc., etc. J

After a shower and waiting for her to get back, we had dinner, met some new friends, congratulated many, and headed back to our “home” away from home. I felt awful…not just mentally but physically. It all hurt. Until I could find a spot to lay that wouldn’t make me feel nauseous, I couldn’t fall asleep. Somewhere around 10:30pm, we both woke up and took a dark, misty walk to the bathrooms and got some water then called it a night.

Today, Sunday, was the morning of the half marathon. All along, we were slated to run it together as she is a big lover of half marathon and it would complete my trilogy. Given my drop at mile 33.6 the day prior, it didn’t matter to me if we did it or not but I was 100% in for her. Waking up this morning, we deliberated over it for nearly an hour and jointly decided we just pack up and head home a bit early. I wouldn’t say I’m sad or happy about that decision. It just “is”. Watching them take off and all of the orange wristbands (trilogy runners were wearing them) head back to the trail definitely was a punch in the gut. However, looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. I ran textbook, in my opinion. I had a plan and executed it. Simply put,

I’d really like to pay respects to those who came up with this event. Adam, Dan, and Kat…you guys are the best! My wife who volunteered the first two days couldn’t stop talking about the community of runners and organizers and how much fun she had. This raw, human, take-care-of-each-other kind of event is diminishing these days in the world of ultra-running so it’s a breath of fresh air to be a part of your events. It was because of the same experience at Highland Sky that I chose the Trilogy and I’m so glad I did. The location was one-of-a-kind, too.

It truly is West Virginia’s “Back Country” and beyond beautiful. It is such the perfect location that matches the surroundings with the event and its underpinnings so well.

THANK YOU…from the both of us.

Some photos of our weekend. Feel free to click on any photo to load the high resolution version and save to your computer. Enjoy!

The view of the start/finish and tent setup when we arrived (TMI far right)

Pre-Race Meeting (Kat, Dan, Adam...left to right)

Our breakfast each day

Pre-50K start

Recent camp site...and CHAIRS!

I could've stayed here all day long. So peaceful and beautiful.

50K finish. Stage 1 complete and my 25th ultra.

2 of my 3 pairs of Brooks worn...

AS2 of the 50K with my wife