Thursday, October 30, 2014

Big Pocono State Park Climb

I ran at Big Pocono State Park once, a couple years ago.  It was a fun run and had spectacular views from the top of the mountain.  The issue was that I had to start at the top.  I found that kind of uninteresting.

I often read a blog called Gone Hikin' and it is great because it has hikes all throughout the region.  I read the one at Big Pocono and discovered that you could park at the bottom and climb to the top.  That was more of my style.

I headed there for the run.  The weather was kind of chilly.  I wore short sleeves and shorts.  My hand also became very cold from holding the handheld water bottle.

The beginning of the run was quite nice.  It was on an old railroad bed.  It was slightly rocky, but not too bad.  The only frustrating thing was that the climb was super gradual.  It was great for warming up, but I was hoping for more elevation gain before hitting the true trail.

About a mile into the run, I got to a couple signs.  This was for the other side of the mountain.  I headed out farther along this old railroad bed.  Right after the signs, there was this cool path cut through the rocks.  Shortly after that, I came across and fellow trail runner and his dog coming down the mountain.  I didn't exactly expect anyone else to be running there.

The gradual climb continued to around mile 2.  It wasn't much more than 100 feet of elevation gain at that point.  I knew once I really started ascending, things would get tough.

Just after mile 2, I finally got to the turn for the North Trail.  I continued to run on the now steep part.  It was nice because it wasn't too rocky and it wasn't a straight up climb.  It flattened out at points too.  It was also nice and wide.

I only made it to about 300 or 400 feet of elevation gain and it became too much.  My breathing was labored and it was tough to push on.  I managed to push through to a flat part, but on the next climbing section, I had to walk. 

The hiking helped some, but it was hard to recover.  Breathing the cold air was still a struggle.  There was one crazy steep section.  Most of the rest of the ascent was challenging, but really it was more mental that physical.  Hopefully, eventually I be able to run up the whole thing.

It was a mix of running and hiking throughout the climb.  Before mile 4, I got to the top.  My elevation gain was now shown over 1,000 feet.  It has been an awesome workout.  I took some photos at a view.  I then decided to go back down and run the Indian Trail.  It is supposed to have a view as well.

This trail was super rocky and not much fun.  It was descending too, so after a bit, I turned and headed back up.  I had another couple hundred feet to go to the top.  At the road, I realized I wasn't completely at the top.  I had a short climb to get there.

The top is a parking lot with clear views to both the north and south.  That is spectacular.  I took many photos.  I noticed a helicopter flying around.  I realized it was probably the police searching for Eric Frein.  A family asked me about the chopper and I told them about the search.  It turns out that this was the day that they caught him.

It would've been nice if it was a sunnier day, but still I enjoyed the view.  I ran on the park road for a bit.  Then, I came to the South Trail.  I was over 5 miles into the run.  I was heading back along the South Trail.  There were some rocks and some small up and down parts, but overall, it was a nice singletrack.  My hand got cold at this point.  I was glad no one was on the trail, because I put it down my pants to keep warm.

This part seemed to go on for quite awhile.  Finally, I came to a crossroad with the Indian Trail.  At first I was confused because I wanted to descend, but it didn't look like the South Trail did that.  Then I looked at the sign closer and realized that it indeed did go down.

I was somewhere around mile 7 or 8 at this point.  I began to descend.  There were quite a few switchbacks to get down the steepest part.  There was a lot of flat sections too.  There were some rocks and I had to be cautious with all the leaves around.  I had no problems.  The only issue was at one point I stepped on a branch that cut my leg.

I also saw what looked like a tent surrounded by cammo.  I didn't think Frein would have a tent, but still it frightened me a little on this remote section of the trail.  As I got closer, I realized that it was just a huge boulder and some bright leaves.  That was  relief.

This section seemed to go on and on.  I got past mile 8 and close to mile 9.  I was starting to wonder if I was going the right way.  It seemed like I was heading in the correct direction.  Finally, I came to the old railroad trail.

Now, it was nice and easy and fast downhill.  I cruised along though.  My watch said 1299 feet of ascending, so I turned around and climbed to 1302 feet.  I guess you could say I'm pathetic.

I came across a woman mountain biking up the mountain with two dogs.  They were all in orange.  I didn't worry about hunting.  Near the end, I passed another guy walking his dog.  The dog wanted to run with me and was jumping too.  Finally, I got by it and to the end of the trail.

I was close to 10.5 miles, so I ran briefly to the road at that point.  It was an exhausting and tough climbing run for the second time of the week.  I'm very happy with that.  I will certainly be running here again and in fact very often.  It is the perfect challenge for me at this point.  Amazingly, my pace was only one second per mile different than the challenging Delaware Water Gap run two days ago.  This trail was a little easier, but I stopped more often for photos.

Tomorrow, will be a day on the bike and hopefully I can run big miles on Saturday and Sunday.  I would've been on the bike yesterday, but it was raining.  I don't mind running in the rain, but biking in it is another thing.

10.5 miles -  1:53:12 (10:47 pace)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

First Delaware Water Gap Run

I've been to the Delaware Water Gap to hike for a few times, including last week.  However, I've never run there.  When I hiked straight up Mt. Tammany, it was super steep and tough.  Hiking the AT portion seemed more reasonable.

I started at the Dunnefield Creek area.  It was somewhat fun at the start.  However, it was super hot.  I was struggling with my breathing.  This is a nice section of trail.  It climbs gradually along a ridge.  It goes up and up and up, but does so over several miles.

I managed to make it about a mile out and almost 500 elevation gain before it became too much.  I had to hike at that point.  The trail levels out every now and then, but it doesn't last long.  I had to hike some of the rocky sections.

It was a mix of hiking and running.  It did seem like I did a lot more running.  I actually climbed a few times and then walked the flats to recover.

Last week, it was rainy and almost no one was on the AT.  Today, it was busy.  A lot of people hike to Sunfish Pond.  I passed plenty of them.  One of them had two dogs, which I didn't think were allowed.  I startled some hikers too.

The first two miles were the steepest.  Mile 1 was a 10:36 and mile 2 was an 11:48.  I continued to climb and climb and climb.  Mile 3 was a 12:28. 

Near the top of the climb it is super rocky.  Some of them were flat and I flew through that section.  Then, it got even more ridiculous and I almost had to walk.  However, I was going uphill, so I ran slowly over these rocks.  They really hurt my feet.

Near mile 4, I was finally to Sunfish Pond.  I took a photo and continued on.  The plan was to loop around.  I took the Sunfish Pond Fire Road.  My feet hurt, so I hiked some more here.

It was kind of flat though by this point.  Therefore, I began to run again.  This road was supposed to go past Sunfish Pond and then turn into the Mt.  Tammany Fire Road.  After mile 5, I came to a reservoir.  I thought that was quite odd.  Mile 4 was a 10:38 and mile 5 was a 10:00.

The fire road went uphill.  Then, it was blocked by a fence around the reservoir.  I tried to walk around that, but not knowing how far it was, I headed back.  I would've turned around earlier in this muddy section, if I knew the trail would end.  I headed back at 5.5 miles.

I got to another trail and it was rocky and began to drop.  I thought it connected to the Mt. Tammany Fire Road and I was correct.  However, I didn't want to go down and back up.  It doesn't go down too much, so next time, I'll take it.

I couldn't believe how much I was hurting.  My feet and quads were sore and my back was surprisingly sore too.  After Sunfish Pond, it was mostly downhill.  Mile 6 was a 10:09 and mile 7 was a 10:12.

I cruised downhill.  The very rocky part was tough and kind of slow.  I was happy to not fall.  Mile 8 was a 10:00.  I passed a few more people going downhill.  Some of them were the same people I passed on the way up.

The run got faster as I got farther along.  It was smoother, although steeper.  Mile 9 was an 11:34.  The rocks had slowed me a bit in this part.  It was good to be nearing the end.

Mile 10 was a 10:39.  This worked out perfectly because I came to mile 11 right in the parking lot.  That mile was under 11 minutes too.  I was hot in the early going of this run, but felt better from that standpoint as the run went along. 

I enjoyed the run so much.  It was very challenging and taxing, but also very runnable.  I'll be back there again and again and again.  The fall colors just added to the awesome run.  I'm still amazed at how much it beat me up.  It was over 1600 feet of elevation gain.  This might be my new favorite place to run.

I don't know where I'm running next.  I think I might run tomorrow, but I also may ride my bike instead.  I need a good balance.

10.99 miles - 1:58:42 (10:48)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 Ghouls and Fools

I love trail racing and running at night.  Therefore, what better option than to head to Reading tonight for the Ghouls and Fools Trail race.  The race goes along Mount Penn for about 10k.  This was my first ever trail race back in 2011.  I haven't returned since, but have been meaning to.

I also went because Kristin and Russ were going.  We all drove down together.  I didn't run well that first night and thought I could do much better this time around.  I am much fitter and faster now.

I haven't run in over a week, so I was well rested.  My calf didn't bother me at all headed into the race and thankfully, it didn't bother me during or after the race either.  There were plenty of other issues though.

We warmed up a bit on the roads.  I didn't feel terrible, but I wasn't great either.  I seemed to be a little rusty.  We ran into another friend Heather and her boyfriend.  I met some other people including a woman, Maggie, who I have a bunch of mutual friends with.  She's a strong ultra runner.

I couldn't remember the course, but I knew from experience to go out fairly hard.  There is some road and then a flat grassy area before the singletrack section.  Once you get into the singletrack, it is hard to pass anyone.

I went out fast.  It wasn't really too fast though.  I positioned myself nicely.  I was somewhere around 10th.  My breathing was slightly labored, but not too bad.  I was moving good on the road, but we went through some grass uphill and I slowed a bit and was passed by a couple people.

We then got into the singletrack section.  I have a cheap headlamp and I'm not sure that the batteries were all that full.  The light was weak and I paid for it.  I'm fell early on in this singletrack section.  I tripped over a rock.  I am pretty sure that I was the first person in the front of the field to fall.  I lost about 2 spots.

I got up quickly and went on.  The fall actually wasn't too bad.  I knew with my weak headlamp, it was going to be a tough race.  Mile 1 was a speedy 7:24.

The second mile had several hundred feet of climbing.  It was by far the most challenging part of the race.  The climbs would not have been too bad for me going slow.  However, we weren't going slow at all.  We were pushing hard while ascending.  Once my breathing got too labored, I decided to walk.  I think I probably twisted my ankle in this part.  I could still run though.

There were plenty of big rocks and trees to see.  As I commented to someone, "it isn't the big rocks that I can see that are the problem.  It is the little ones that were bothering me.  Some people passed me on the uphills and I might have got by a few people too.

I felt better throughout the race as other runners fell too.  Once, a guy dressed as Spiderman fell.  That was funny and looked cool.  It's not something you see every day.  That is the fun of a costume race.

We got to a stone road section.  I tried to push the pace and didn't see a rut.  I twisted my ankle pretty bad this time.  I had to limp run for awhile.  Right after that, Maggie and her friend went by me.  That was a boost though as I had someone that I knew to follow.

I followed them and it was a nice and comfortable pace.  This part was uphill, but not as steep.  Mile 2 had been a slow 11:04.  I was almost starting to enjoy this run.  Then, it happened.  I twisted my ankle for what I think was the third time.  This one was far and away the worst one.

I had no choice but to walk it off.  I couldn't run.  I had to walk probably about 2 minutes.  Ron Horn, the race director, told us before the race that we had to run a loop at one point.  This is because a regular trail was overgrown.  This loop confused a ton of people.  This seemed to be about the only thing that I did correctly.

Chris was winning the race and already finished the loop before I got to the start of it.  It was frustrating when I had to walk.  It wasn't so much that I had to walk, but I lost contact with Maggie and the group ahead.  The group behind took a long time to catch up.  I was walking uphill alone.  It was very technical in this section and I could barely even walk on the rocks.  It was hard to find the trail too, but somehow I managed to find the markings.

It was good to be done with the loop, but also very confusing.  The people in the middle and back were coming into the loop and I didn't realize it.  That was good though because I saw Russ and Kristin.  It was tough to navigate with others as this section was singletrack.

I sort of had to lead the way of my group now.  Mile 3 had been a slow 11:54, thanks to the walking.  I was sure in for a battle the rest of the way.

A small group went by me at one point, including a little kid.  I certainly had not quit, but I was in survivor mode.  The rocks were killing my feet and I think I twisted my ankle again.  At least it wasn't hurting me too bad now.  Most of the group went by.

The kid was laying on the trail at one point.  I don't know if he was hurt or more in shock.  A bunch of people in the group stopped, so there was no point in me doing the same.  I continued on.

I kept struggling with the lighting.  I just couldn't see rocks.  There were some technical sections too.  This was especially true once we got past the fire tower.  I passed a guy on the flat part, but he went by again on the technical part.

I was thrilled to be at the fire tower.  I knew we were basically at the top of the mountain.  There was some slight technical downhill, but that was fun.  I tried to let a people pass, but then I realized that it was an entire group going by.  I didn't mind letting one or two people go, but I wasn't going to move over for everyone.

It was awesome to see the lights of Reading through the trees.  The pagoda at the top of the mountain was all lit up in red and could be seen in the distance too.  It was good to be getting close to there.  There was a fast section approaching that.  Mile 4 was a 10:17.

I knew that the course was pretty easy after the pagoda.  There was a lot of downhill and many of it on roads.  I followed two other guys and we cruised along.  I had energy and could've gone harder, but I was good with my effort.  I wasn't going to win an age group award anyway.  Mile 5 was a 10:30.

I cruised on the downhill.  I was prepared for what was left, even if I didn't quite know the route.  We did go through some singletrack too.  It had some good rocks as well.  Finally, we got this late section that I knew.  It was an open grassy section.

A woman passed two of us here.  I decided that I should just go with her.  I pushed hard and went away from the guy.  I knew we were almost done, so I gave a little more.  I didn't know the rocky uphill was the finish last time.  I was prepared this time and I pushed hard up this technical part.  I then ran fast up the hill to finish.  Mile 6 had been a fast 7:41.

Even with the fall and badly twisted ankle, I managed a 27th place finish.  I think the route from the other year was shorter than this route.  I ran about the same pace, according to my watch.  I could've run better and less cautious if I had a better headlamp and shoes that didn't twist my ankle so easily.  I think I overcompensated for the twisted left ankle and I hurt my right foot a lot.  I was limping after the race.  It was surprisingly humid.  At least I didn't get lost.  Maggie and her friend did and wound up behind me.

Post race was fun.  Kristin did well and had a blast.  I knew she would, since she's awesome.  That made me happy, even if I was limping around.  I love when others that are new to trail running really enjoy it.  It was great to chat with Heather and her boyfriend as well as Chris and another guy from the Lehigh Valley, Dean.  We hung out for awhile, before heading home.  The friendships are one of the best things about trail running.

I do need to improve a lot on trail races.  I just don't know how to really run them.  There's no consistency.  It's run fast when you can and slowly and recover on technical parts.  It's kind of like running repeats.  I'll get better at this, although I still prefer longer and slower stuff.  That is my future.  This was one of my toughest races ever, so I was proud to make it through.  I've never been quite this beat up.

I was hoping to help out at Hyner tomorrow.  They are clearing trails and then running.  I need to run there, so I'd love to do it.  However, I'm very, very doubtful.  I am simply too beat up.  I may try to do an easy trail run somewhere though.  As long as my ankle isn't an issue, I'll be able to run more this week.

6.26 miles - 1:01:17 (9:48 pace)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blasting Through Jacobsburg

I felt better than expected on Sunday and could've run that day.  I didn't have time before the Eagles game.  Then, yesterday it was rainy and wet.  I wanted to run at night, but I had enough rain during my 50k on Friday.  Finally, today I got to my first run after that race.

It is amazing how much stronger I've become in a year.  After that first 50k, I could barely run a mile by this time.  Now, I was feeling good and could've probably even pushed it to 20 miles again today.  I headed to Jacobsburg after the EPC XC Meet.

It was nearly 5 PM when I arrived.  I just wanted a fun and easy recovery run.  That didn't exactly happen, but I was thrilled with how the run turned out.

The temperature went back up and it was humid today.  It was also cloudy.  It wasn't great, but we've certainly had worse.  I wore a regular shirt.  Wearing less might've helped.

The fall colors were inspiring.  It was simply amazing to see the yellows, reds and oranges along the main trail at the start.  It made the run so pleasant.  I ran by a bunch of people in this area.

I then started slightly uphill and toward the road crossing.  I felt kind of crappy during this part.  My breathing was labored.  I thought I was running terrible.  Looking back though, I guess I was simply pushing it more than I thought I was.  Mile 1 ended up being a fairly quick 8:53.

I was just getting warmed up.  I kept at it.  I was planning on doing the main loop, plus adding the fun ridge section for another mile or more.  I flew through the technical sections.  I had to be careful to not trip too much on the hidden rocks.  Most of the leaves are still on the trees, but some have fallen and covered the rocks.

With some downhill, mile 2 was a 7:42.  I was shocked that it was that fast.  Really, I had no intention of going fast today.  I was just running and went with it.

I breezed through the technical gradual uphill section.  That had several road crossings.  I came up behind a mountain biker at one of them.  He took off after the crossing and flew well ahead of me.  He later stopped to fix his bike and I passed him.  I never saw him again.

I twisted my ankle in this section.  It hurt for quite a few steps, but I didn't slow.  I kept on at it.  A dog and mountain biker came the other way.  I stumbled there too.  Mile 3 was an 8:29.  I was still speedy.

Up next was the Sober's Run area.  I passed two older people running the other way.  The woman had a dog with her.  I cruised along the flat parts.  My breathing was a bit labored.  I slowed it down for the powerline climb.  I recovered slightly, but not a lot.  I did certainly struggle some.  I knew a downhill section was coming.

I was shocked that even with the climb, I still ran mile 4 at 8:01.  I was cruising.  I knew I'd blast downhill now.  I came across two cute young ladies walking.  I was flying.  The one downsize is that I was going so hard that I didn't really enjoy the beautiful scenery.  With the humidity, I was sweating a lot.

Mile 5 was a speedy 7:48.  I was nearly done with the loop and out to the road.  I completed both of those parts and headed back to the starting area.  I was really moving now.

I wanted to climb up to the ridge, but I decided that I would just finish up the loop.  It was a good practice, as I don't typically run trails fast.  Running 6 quality miles was tough.  The short uphills at the end were even a challenge at this pace.  The mountain biker with the dog blew by me again.  I was super impressed with that.  That dog was fast as hell.

I came out to the main parking lot.  I then ran over the bridge.  I was breathing very heavy and pushing it in the last mile.  I didn't think I'd run a sub 8 minute pace.  However, this last mile was super fast.  It was a 6:52.  I was very happy with the outcome.

I'm pretty sure that I've never run anything over 5 miles at a sub 8 minute pace on trails.  Jacobsburg is certainly where some of my fastest trail running has occurred, but I've never cruised quite like this.  It was amazing even to myself, especially because of the slow start and the fact that I actually didn't plan to run hard.

I might do a short night trail race in a couple weeks, so this was certainly good practice.  If I do run that, I want to be very competitive.  I need to start pushing myself to go faster on trails.  The only downside to it is that I don't enjoy the trails quite a much as I do at a slower pace.  Still, it was a fun run when all was said and done.

Tomorrow, I'm looking to run a bit longer.  I'm hoping to knock out 10 miles.  I think I'm going to go on the AT.  However, I'm going to run from Route 191.  That section seems more manageable, other than the rocks.  I need to start living on the AT.

 6 miles - 47:47 (7:58 pace)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 WV Trilogy 50k Race Report

I struggled to find an ultra to run this fall.  I'm always busy going to football games on weekends.  I searched and searched and eventually realized that the West Virginia Trilogy 50k was actually on a Friday.  Perfect, I thought, so I signed up for it.  The weekend consisted of a 50k on Friday, a 50M on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday.  Perhaps in the future, I'll be back to tackle all three.

In addition to the date, one of the other things I liked about the race was the community idea.  The race is held at an education center at the top of a mountain in a place called the Mountain Institute.  They allow you to camp on the property for free.  I packed up my tent and headed there on Thursday evening.

The drive in was beautiful.  Back here, I'm used to one single, long mountain.  Out there, it was mountain after mountain.  It was perfect timing as the leaves were right around their peak.  It was breathtaking on a beautiful sunny day.  Of course, I knew to enjoy the sun because it was supposed to rain on race day.

In addition to everything else, we received dinner the night before the race.  That was good to meet a few people with common interests.  In general, I'm terrible with talking to strangers, but as long as we have something in common, I do alright.  I met a lot of people from all over and have trouble remembering all of their names.

I slept off and on all night.  That was better than my usual no sleep in my tent.  It began to rain at 4 AM and I didn't get back to sleep after that.  The race started at 7 AM.  It was nice to be a short walk from the starting line.

I was surprised that it was still dark at the start.  I didn't plan on wearing my headlamp, but I did put it on.  We began with a short loop around the property.  That allowed things to thin out a bit.  I settled in somewhere around 10th to 15th place and followed a few people.

The first mile or so was through rolling fields.  I ran most of it, but walked some of the uphills when others did.  There was no reason to go crazy.  We came and ran right past my tent.  It was already warm and I took my jacket off.  It wasn't raining, so I nearly dropped it in the tent with my headlamp.  I elected to keep the jacket though.

I followed a few other guys on this downhill part.  I couldn't get my jacket tied right around my waste, so I nearly ran back to drop it at my tent.  I ended up holding it up for awhile.  After what transpired later on, I was sure glad to have it with me.

One guy up ahead was nice and helpful.  We almost ran the loop in the wrong way, but he had run it before, so he directed us correctly.  It was annoying though when we were following him.  He would walk up a short hill and then run the flat section for maybe like four seconds.  I wished he would've just ran or walked.  Finally, he let me and another guy go by him.

I followed the other guy and we chatted briefly.  We had some nice downhill and then we came to perhaps my least favorite section of the race.  It was a winding in and out section through tall grass and lots of hidden rocks.  The cold, wet grass was hitting my thighs and I was twisting my ankles on the rocks that I couldn't see.  I was already bitching.

The guy ahead stopped to go to the bathroom.  I continued on.  A guy went by me and then eventually the other guy passed me as well.  I stayed somewhat with him and we ran into the first aid station together (Big Run).  It was pouring rain.  We also passed someone camping in the woods with a barking dog at some point.  That dog must've barked a lot.

I grabbed a gel and refilled my water.  The aid stations weren't bad, but I was spoiled by my first two ultras.  Those both had a large assortment of real food.  I guess I was expecting too much.  These aid stations were certainly adequate.  I actually gave the workers the wrong number at first (217 instead of 271).

I was already soaked at this point and the race was young.  That was kind of frustrating, but I had to just keep going.  After the aid station, we ran along Big Run for a bit.  It was interesting because every section along streams was chilly and every section in the upper elevations was nice and warm.  This section near the streams, like most of those sections was muddy and wet in spots.  By now, my feet were soaked and I was covered in mud.

I wasn't looking at my watch too often, because it didn't matter.  I saw that I was making decent time.  Of course, all the climbs were still ahead.  I had thrown any potential time goal out the window anyway.

The second aid station, Bee Run, was at mile 11.  This whole first 11 miles of the course was very runnable.  There was a steep descent into Bee Run.  Some guy blew past me on it.  I was cautious and simply impressed that I didn't fall.  The insoles of my shoes curled up and I had to adjust them later, on a flat section.  I was glad that this wasn't a regular thing.

There was a bridge over the water after coming down.  I nearly slipped on it.  It was like it was icy.  I made a mental note and was very cautious on the remaining bridges.  There was a guy waiting for me to cross the bridge.  I thought that meant the aid station was nearby.  I had to run on the road a bit to get there.

This was the only planned drop bag location, so I stayed for a bit.  My shirt was soaked, so I decided to change it.  I also changed to a visior and headband.  I had some chafing issues and my Nip Guards kept falling off, but the situation got better with the change of a shirt. 

I grabbed a salty potato and some fruit.  A bunch of other runners came in around the same time, including one or two more guys named Brian.  The volunteers were very helpful.

I knew coming out of Bee Run was one of the major climbs.  It looked to be about 1,000 feet or so in a mile.  I ran a little bit of it, but I hiked most of it.  One guy ahead of me was running the beginning of it.  It was actually runnable at that point, but I wanted to be cautious this early on.

One thing I really need to improve on is my hiking.  I just don't go fast enough.  A guy blew by me hiking this part.  I also had to stop a couple times near the top.  It was so insanely steep and my back muscles were hurting.  I hoped that this problem wouldn't continue and luckily it didn't.  This was the steepest part of the whole run.  I bitched a lot, as it seemed to never end.

Even at the top, it was still a mix of running and hiking.  This was where I hit a low point.  A guy slowly passed me on this part and I followed him after chatting briefly.  The next part of the run was my favorite part.  It was a descent, but it was nice and long.  It was largely on woods roads.  Of course there were rocks, but it was very runnable.  I also ate GU Chomps for the first time and that revitalized me.  I don't think I ever ate enough during the race.

I flew down the hill, at least it felt like flying.  Then, we had to run along the water for awhile at the bottom.  My watch had been covered by my jacket.  I looked at it to see where I was at and I was thrilled.  It was around 16.75 miles.  I thought I was only at mile 14 or 15.  That was a huge boost at a tough spot in the race.

Not too long after looking at my watch, it was on to Judy Springs (aid station #3).  This would've be a great place for the drop bags, except these people working there had to hike everything into there.  They had a canopy and fire going.  As much as I wanted to stay and get warm, I had to just keep going.

Leaving Judy Springs is the next big climb.  Again, I hiked most of it.  It went up and up and up.  It didn't seem as steep as the first climb, but it sure wasn't easy either.  Eventually, I made it to the top.  A few turkeys scrambled around at the top.  That was all of the wildlife that I actually saw.  There was some nice ridge running for a bit at the top, but that didn't last.

After the last descent, I was looking forward to this one.  I thought at least I could get back to running.  Boy, was a wrong.  I started off this part running, but this was a narrow singletrack along the ridge.  It was super slippery with all the rocks and leaves.  I was thrilled to be at mile 20 and then mile 21, but this was such a slow go.  I did all I could to not fall off the mountain.  I could see way down below and it seemed like this part would never end.  There were finally switchbacks though.  I think I would've preferred them on the uphill parts.

Eventually I successfully made my way to the bottom without falling.  That was a big win.  Next, it was more stream running and a bunch of stream crossings.  There was this awesome waterfall.  I recall it from some other race reports.  I wish I had a camera on me at that point.  After the waterfall was a creek crossing.  I simply laughed as it was very deep and I didn't know how to get across it.  I went straight through it.

The crossings were freezing cold and we had to make several more of them in this area.  I didn't enjoy that at all.  Even though this part was relatively flat, I did a mixture of running and hiking.  It was a gradual uphill.  I took my first fall and my first race fall ever in this section.  I didn't even fall while running or crossing the creek.  Before crossing one part, I stepped on a wet rock outside of the creek and fell on my butt.  My hip nearly cramped at one point there too.  I wasn't sure how I would manage to climb over this one rocky part, but I managed. 

Eventually I made it back to Judy Springs again.  This was both aid stations 3 and 4.  This was easily the slowest part of the course.  Between the ascent, slow descent and creek crossings, it took forever.  I saw they had some Hammer caps, so I took a few of those at this aid station.  I also made sure to eat a little more.  I didn't realize that they had tea or quesadillas, so I took some of those too.

After this aid station was another ascending section.  This started off in the woods.  It was a pretty part.  Then, it came to maybe the best section of the race.  It was an open field with stunning views of the other mountain.  It was foggy, but still very pretty.  I remembered this from other race reports as well.

I kept climbing and climbing and climbing.  I constantly looked behind me.  Finally, I saw someone down below me.  I had been running alone for miles now.  Eventually, this climb was over.  I thought it was the last big climb, but not quite.

After this section was another section that I think I'll call "The Teaser."  I say that because it is relatively flat ridge running and it is a wide road.  However, there are so many hidden rocks.  They were just destroying my feet, causing me to twist my ankles and frustrating the heck out of me.  I was back to cursing and to think I didn't even hit marathon distance yet.  I kept wondering when the guy behind me was going to pass me, but he wasn't catching up.

I was hiking a lot and he finally did catch me while shuffling along.  It was now around mile 26 and I had not seen another runner since about mile 14.  That is a long time to run alone.  I ran behind him and we chatted a bit.

All of a sudden, we noticed a woman running in the other direction.  We were following the orange ribbons and so was she.  We stopped and were puzzled.  We both continued on.  Then, a short while later, we came to an older guy and another guy behind him.  It seemed clear that we were the ones heading in the wrong direction.  I still don't know how we got turned around.  It seemed like we repeated some of it.

The three of us ran together.  The older guy was very good technically.  What I lacked in that, I made up for with pure speed.  I couldn't run this part for very long without getting frustrated or hurting my feet.  Therefore,  I would hike a bit and they would get ahead.  Then, I'd push hard and catch back up.

I was kind of getting frustrated at the older guy.  I couldn't fault him for running his pace, but I didn't want to get lost again and I needed him to lead the way.  It was hard for me to keep up with him though.  I gave it everything I had and was running on pure adrenaline.  I couldn't afford to get lost again.  I had to just make it to the final aid station.

Eventually we came out to a stone road.  We were on our way to the Seneca Trailhead aid station (aid station # 5).  When I got on to the road, I blew right by both of the other guys.  I had a ton of energy, plus I'm a strong road runner.  The fact that I couldn't keep up on the technical stuff, but blew by them on the road shows how much improvement I need when it comes to trail running.  Even with getting lost, we still only added a mile or so to the run.  It could've been much worse.

I arrived at this aid station first, but I need to eat a bunch of stuff.  I had not had anything for awhile and was starving.  The older guy didn't stay long and he passed me.  I walked briefly while I ate.  I had even grabbed what I believe was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which I hate).  That is how hungry I was.

The beginning of this final 3 miles or so was very runnable.  I had the energy, so I ran.  I now had the finish in sight.  There were some wide woods road and also a tall grass section.  I took my second fall of the race in this field section.  I ran through the mud and didn't realize how much of it there was.  My left foot got stuck in it and wouldn't come out of the mud, so I fell.  I didn't trip over any rocks and fall the traditional way during this race.  Instead, I had two funky falls.

I was able to run a lot of this and knew the end of the race would be runnable.  However, I also knew that we had another climb left.  I was thrilled to see a sign that said there was only one mile remaining.  That was fool's gold though.  Right after that was another crazy ascent.  It was back to bitching.

After getting lost, I didn't think that I would break 7 hours.  Now, I had 20 minutes to go and only a mile left.  I thought that I better break 7 hours.  However, going up and up and up wasn't helping.  Finally, I was through a tent area that some of the kids from the education program were camping in.  That was the top of the climb.

At the top, it was an open field section.  This was very fast and runnable.  I realized that I would come in under 7 hours.  I saw the older guy up ahead.  I made up a ton of ground on him, but he was too far ahead.  I couldn't quite catch him.  I didn't mind, since he was big help when we got lost.  I came in at just under 7 hours and was thrilled to be done.

This race was such a mixed bag.  The course was awesome and the location was excellent and I enjoyed the community aspect of it.  I loved that there were some serious climbs, but also a lot of runnable sections in between.  The scenery was stunning and would've been even more amazing without the rain.  On the flip side, the rain made everything miserable.  I do love rain running, but not 7 straight hours of it.  I complained and complained and complained some more.  I guess the good thing is that I never even considered quitting, despite the terrible conditions.

I've become bored with road running and love ultras both for the beauty of the trails and the challenge of testing myself.  I definitely got a mix of both this weekend.  I know that if I can endure conditions like I encountered on that mountain, I can handle a lot more than I think that I am capable of.  I can deal with a lot, but I know I'm not as tough as some of my running friends and others in the ultra running community.  My strength is and will continue to be my insane desire to train, train, train and then train some more.  That said, I proved to myself this weekend that I'm capable of a lot of suffering.

I was happy with how I ran the race.  Maybe I was a little conservative, but I wasn't sure what was in store with the climbs and I was just trying to survive the awful conditions.  I worked hard, but didn't totally wipe myself out either.  My quads weren't sore, which was a huge plus as they are often a problem.  The inside of my calves had been a problem, but they were great.  My feet were sore, but at least there were no blisters.  I do think I need to buy better trail shoes.  I was slipping all over in these and my feet hurt a lot too by the end.  Maybe I'll try a venture into the Hoka world with my next pair. 

I will surely be back to this race again.  I will do the entire Trilogy one year.  I'm not sure if that will be next year or not.  I need to be much better trained before I attempt that.  This is now my third ultra and I want to be more experienced too before I jump into that.  I will be back at some point though.

I'm taking off on Saturday.  My body doesn't feel too bad.  I'm hoping to run on Sunday morning before heading to the Eagles game.  That will be a short recovery run.  Then, I want to get back into my routine.  I have no more races scheduled until Hyner in April, but I plan to run another ultra or two or three before then.

31 miles - 6:53:40 (18th of 65 runners)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Full Moon North-Bath Night Run

I was going to run in West Virginia tomorrow.  However, after being sore from the last run, I decided to get more rest going into my race.  I ran today instead.  I slept most of the afternoon, so I actually decided to run at night.

I went to the Nor-Bath Trail for the night run.  It was around 7:30 PM.  My plan was to run most of the trail.  It was nice and cool and fairly windy.  I wore a short sleeve shirt and a reflective vest over it.  I was sweating eventually, but it took awhile until that happened.

The first mile was a solid 8:30.  With the darkness of the run, I didn't even bother looking at my watch.  I really didn't care about the time.  My right calf was a bit sore early on, but eventually, I felt better.  Nothing else bothered me in the beginning.  Mile 2 was an 8:00.

I went by Bicentennial Park.  I was glad to see no cars there.  This section always makes me a little uncomfortable.  I once heard howling in the nearby fields and I often worry about the teenagers that hang out at the park.  I had no issues today.  I did see some green eyes moving around and then leave the trail.  It looked like a cat. 

I looked at my watch for the first time at 2.87 miles.  That was after a smooth road crossing.  My legs were feeling good at this point.  Mile 3 was a 7:43.  I crossed over the next road.  I came to a guy walking on the trail.  I think I startled him coming up from behind.  He was the only person I saw on the whole run.

I went through the neighborhood section.  That downhill was nice.  Then, I was on the other interesting part.  It is quite isolated.  Luckily, I know it is short and it goes into somewhat busy Northampton.  I looked at my watch for the 2nd time at the end of the trail.  I was at 4.7 miles.  Mile 4 had been 7:34.

I ran out into Northampton briefly.  The road has light traffic.  I came out to the Northampton Fire Department.  It was neat because all of their trucks were out.  I turned around at mile 5.  That mile was 7:33.

It was good to be turned around and heading back.  I was tiring a bit.  I also had some pavement to run and some uphill too.  I nearly stepped on a frog.  I was through the neighborhood section and over the next road crossing.  Mile 6 was a 7:41.

The next section was quite neat.  There isn't a lot of tree coverage.  There was a full moon out.  I decided to turn the headlamp off at times.  I ran by the moon light.  Mile 7 was a 7:29.  My left foot had been bothering me a little and my right kneecap too.  It was only minor though.

I crossed over another road and headed to Bicentennial Park.  I decided that I wouldn't look at my watch until I got to the far end park entrance.  I did that and it was 8.13 miles into the run.  It was good to be nearly done.  Mile 8 was a 7:34.

It seemed like forever to get to the Airport Road crossing.  I looked at my watch again before that.  It was around 9.15 miles at that point.  I was running pretty easy and happy with my pace.  Mile 9 was a 7:27.

I crossed over Airport Road.  I was nearly done and now looked at my watch more frequently.  I think a bat flew out in front of me.  I couldn't quite tell what it was.  Something else made a noise as I was finishing up.  It sounded like maybe and owl and it certainly startled me.  I guess I did push a little more at mile 10.  That mile was a 7:15.  I finished stronger than I started.

I felt pretty good on this nice and flat course.  It was good weather and a lovely night.  I'm as ready as I will be for the West Virginia race.  It should be nice and cool for the race.  The climbing will be a challenge.  Hopefully I can handle it fairly well.  I also hope it doesn't rain too much.  That will be my next run, on Friday morning.

10 miles - 1:16:48 (7:41 pace)

Monday, October 6, 2014

High Point State Park Fall Run

I wanted to run before a wedding in Baltimore on Saturday.  However, it was raining overnight and I didn't want to run on potentially muddy trails.  Therefore, I took off again.  I also didn't run on Sunday, so I had three days off.  I haven't been running much in the last week.

I needed to get out to run today.  It was a perfect, cool fall day.  It was a bit windy too.  I wore a regular short sleeve shirt.  That was good, other than some minor chafing issues.

Since the leaves are changing, I need to take advantage of it.  I headed north to High Point State Park in New Jersey.  It's about an hour and a half drive each way.  It is a bit east of the Delaware Water Gap.  It contains the highest point in the state of New Jersey at over 1,800 feet elevation.

I went to the Sawmill Lake area to start the run.  It seemed pretty straight forward to get to the highest point from there.  I was going to run to the High Point Monument.  It is a smaller version of the Washington Monument, but on the top of the mountain.  It looked to be about 2.5 miles away from where I started.

Sawmill Lake was nice and a good way to get started.  I ran around it briefly, then cut through a campsite.  I ran on the road to the Blue Dot Trail.  I saw what I thought was a snake on a metal box, but it was just a toy.

I got on to the Blue Dot Trail and the rocks began almost immediately.  I had to run cautious.  I don't know if I could say that it is Wind Gap AT rocky, but if not, it is very close to that.  It is quite difficult to run at times.

There was a steep climb near the end of the Blue Dot Trail.  It goes up to a rocky outcrop.  I was forced to hike fairly early, as it got steep and rocky.  I couldn't breathe correctly either.  I think that that was due to the fact that this was the first cool day of running for me.  I have to get used to it.  I haven't run much in the last week, but it had felt like I had not run for weeks.

At one point, it was hard to even scramble over the rocks.  The views were spectacular and definitely worth it.  At the end of the Blue Trail, I took a right and ran out briefly.  I thought I was still on the Blue Dot Trail, but then I saw the white blazed Appalachian Trail.  I knew I was heading the wrong way on that. 

I went back the other way and headed north on the AT.  I continued over the rocks for quite a bit.  It definitely wasn't an easy run.  I went down and back up again.  I had to hike some more of the uphills.  That was disappointing so early on.  My breathing was too labored though.

There was one awesome, smooth section of singletrack.  That was beautiful and only slightly rolling.  It didn't last long.  I was back to some more climbing.

I then came out to a road crossing and a park entrance area.  It was good to check the map and make sure that I was on the right track.  Indeed I was.

After the road crossing, it was uphill.  This was steep and rocky again.  Rocks, rocks and more rocks.  There were plenty of pointy ones too.  Eventually, I got to the top.  I was at the top of a peak of the mountain.  There were some brief views from time to time.

Then, I came to a viewing platform.  This was the first time that I saw any people.  It had an awesome 360 degree view, including a great shot of the High Point Monument.  I was really enjoying that.  I didn't stay long.  However, my times were slow, due to my stops for photos.

I was a little worried about getting to the monument.  It seemed to be at least half a mile away and I was already at mile 3.  It also looked like the mountain went down and back up to get there.  It did, but really it wasn't too bad.

I was on the AT for most of this run.  Near the monument, I switched out and followed the green blazed trail.  There were hikers near there.  Then, I climbed to the top.  I had to walk a little of that.  I was dead.  I didn't eat any lunch, so I was definitely weak from that too.

Finally, I arrived at the top.  The monument was cool and it had spectacular views of all the nearby mountain ridges.  I was right near the State of New York too.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I was able to look at 3 different states.  I took a bunch of photos and was getting cold.  I might've been able to climb to the top of the monument, but I was already wasting too much time and going too slow.

The fall colors were great on this run.  It should be even better in a few weeks.  I now headed back, knowing this would be much quicker.  I ended up climbing over 1,000 feet to get to the monument, so most of the way back was downhill.  That was much better.

I still had to be cautious though.  It was very rocky and there were some interesting technical downhills.  At one point, I was going fairly fast and almost hit a sideways rock the wrong way and felt.  I made it though.

I took a wrong turn onto the AT.  I realized this when I saw a log over the trail.  I didn't recall that.  I headed back the correct direction.  I was now going south and I was over 4 miles into the run.

I cruised along, focused on the rocky terrain.  That made the miles just breeze by.  I couldn't look around much, or I'd fall.  I've never been a huge fan of rocky terrain, but I'm starting to enjoy it more.  It is a challenge.  My feet were in such a world of hurt by this point.  I was getting tired too.  It is almost like I would expect after running 20 miles, not 5 miles or so.

I ran most of the way back.  I stopped briefly for a bathroom break.  I also stopped again for a few pictures.  I took much fewer ones this time though.

I was just hoping I wouldn't miss the Blue Dot Trail.  I figured that I would get to it around mile 6.5.  Much to my surprise, it came out just after mile 6.  I was thrilled to be headed the correct way. 

I had to walk down the steepest, rockiest part of this trail.  Then, I was able to run.  I missed a turn briefly.  I sputtered down the trail.  It was less rocky than the top, but still plenty rocky down below.  I couldn't wait to be done.

I came out to the camping area.  I followed the trail along the lake.  That was nice and peaceful.  I then got back to my car near mile 7.  It was a slow go, but I was nearly done.  I got to mile 7 and stopped.  This lake was nice and peaceful and there was no one around.  It was kind of weird.

I don't know why I didn't expect this run to be as rocky as it was.  I'll definitely be back again.  I probably won't go in the summertime though, because I would suspect that there are a lot of rattlesnakes in that area.  I was running to the highest point in New Jersey, but for some reason, I didn't anticipate so much climbing.  I thought I started off at a pretty high elevation and at over 1,200 feet, I guess I did.

I sure hope I feel better than this during my race on Friday.  I thought I'd feel fresh, but instead I felt like I had not run in a long time.  Maybe this run will help that.  I am concerned now about my breathing, if it is cooler on Friday.  However, I'll take cool over hot any day.

I think I'll run again on Thursday.  I'll be out in West Virginia for the race.  I'm hoping to put in about 5 or 6 miles on the course, to get a feel for it.  I can't wait, as it should an awesome two days and an amazing challenge too.

7 miles - 1:46:59 (15:17 pace)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Broad Mountain Foliage Run

It has been great resting most of the week.  I ran on Monday and took two more days off after that.  My body definitely needs it.  I was back out there to run today.  I had to get on trails.

Since the leaves are starting to change, I opted to head north a bit.  I went to Jim Thorpe for the trail run.  I decided to go past town and take Route 93 and run in the State Game Lands on Broad Mountain.  This was sort of a new adventure.  I had run this area last year with a group run, but it was the eastern side of the mountain. 

I parked in the State Game Lands Parking lot.  I got out of my car and heard several shots.  I thought, what's going on, it's not hunting season yet, let alone rifle season.  Then, I looked across the street and saw a sign for a rifle range.  I had planned to run in that direction at some point, but now that clearly wasn't going to happen.

I headed out east from the parking lot.  Much like when I ran other part of Jim Thorpe on the other side of the river, this was a wide woods road.  It was nice and open.  That made me a little more comfortable.  I wore an orange vest over my singlet, just to be safe.

This was easy going in the beginning.  Early on, I saw it was going to be rocky.  The frustrating thing was that it wasn't even natural rocks.  They had put down a bunch of rocks over the last few years.  The part I was on was ADA accessible, so perhaps that is why.

Sometimes, there were small stones.  More often, there were giant, annoying loose rocks under your feet.  That made it no fun.  In the beginning, I managed to run on the grass on the side of the trail.  That didn't last.

There was an early intersection.  I could go north or south or continued east on the path.  I elected to just keep going.  Although the rocks were very frustrating, there wasn't much elevation change and pretty orange, yellow and red leaves more than made up for it.

Other than the rocks, I found this run relaxing.  I had been worried about bears, but I wasn't seeing any animals at all.  There were eventually some rolling hills.  Nothing too bad though. 

After some time, I came to a stream with a bridge over it.  That was surprising.  There were some cool side trails that I decided not to explore.  I never could find much singletrack in this area.  It was mostly this wide woods road.

I kept going and the miles clicked on by.  The weather was pretty cool, so I was able to enjoy myself.  I went out and out.  I crossed another stream and a bridge.  I later looked at a map and it appears that this one was actually the one that turns into Glen Onoko Falls.  That's quite neat.

There was some slight up and down in this area.  I ran into a bobcat (the vehicle, not the animal), but it was just parked.  I was still alone with my thoughts.  I decided to keep going. 

I stopped to take pictures from time to time.  It was nice scenery, but I was hoping to get to some views.  I also thought maybe I would go out far enough to get to where we were last year.  Then, I could definitely find a few views.  The trail did turn and I was close to there, but I didn't quite go that far up.

I turned around at mile 3 and headed back in.  I figured that this would give me a solid 6 miles and I could go in a different direction at that intersection, for some additional distance.  I didn't want to run too long, especially on rocky terrain.

I was now on my way back.  I was glad to be doing a relatively short run.  My feet were just battered.  The stones were doing their damage.  On the plus side, my legs felt awesome.  They were much better than they had been.  The rest must've been a huge help.  I wasn't climbing as much either.

There was more climbing on the way back, but it was still moderate.  It's nothing like what I had been doing.  It was great to get to miles 4 and 5.  

Getting back to the intersection was a relief too.  That is because they didn't put stones in those areas.  I turned and headed south at the intersection.  This was a nice grassy woods road.  The grass seemed to be cut fairly regularly too.  The colors here were beautiful.

I got excited when I could see open space through the trees.  I was thinking that I was headed toward a view.  It turns out it was just a controlled burn area with dead trees.  There were even signs posted about that.  I had gone out about half a mile and came behind a groundhog.  I decided to turn around.  

It was mostly slight downhill back to the intersection.  I headed to the other unexplored side of the intersection.  That didn't last long, as I got to another stream.  I would've had to cross over it.  I decided not to.  It looked like nothing interesting over there. 

I headed back to the car to finish up.  This was a nice run, aside from the rocks.  I wish I could've found some singletrack too, but I won't complain.  The leaves made for a nice setting, although they haven't actually hit their peak yet.  Maybe I'll come back in the near future.

It turns out that I actually wanted to park farther up the road at the next lot.  I'll do that next time and explore more of the area.  Little by little, I am getting to know Jim Thorpe.  That is good because there are miles and miles of trails.  I don't want to get lost there.  At the same time, it would be challenging to get lost on such wide woods roads.  Finding singletrack and getting lost there would be more of an issue.

Tomorrow is another off day.  On Saturday, I'm going to a wedding in Baltimore.  I'm going to take advantage and trail run at a State Park down there.  That park has a 50k that I might do in the future.  I camped there once before.  I'll probably only run once or twice next week before my 50k.  I may try to make one of those the day before, on the race course.

7.12 miles - 1:04:30 (9:03 pace)