Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Energybits Are "It"



At the beginning of September I was on Twitter accepting new friends/followers. A company that I had never heard of followed me and asked me if I would like to try a "sample" of their product, "Energybits." Having no idea at the time on what that actually was, I jumped at the chance and said yes. The only thing they asked from me was to review their product and give my own personal feedback, whether good or bad, on my blog.

From that moment on, I wanted to find out everything I could about Energybits as a Company. And since I am a long distance runner who likes to run for hours at a time, I wanted to see how this product could help me. On the business end, I was very lucky to have corresponded with Jonathan Levitt. Jonathan is their Brand Manager for Pro Sports, and just so everyone knows, he is excellent with answering any and all questions you may have.

Energybits are 100% raw, 100% green, 100% nutrition from 100% spirulina algae. You just can't get any simpler than that. Unlike performance drinks, gels, and supplements, Energybits contain no artificial flavors or colors. Even better, they contain no caffeine or sugar. That means NO crash!! On their website they state that "Each tab is loaded with 40 vitamins and minerals but just ONE calorie so there are no unnecessary calories – just pure nutrition and protein." And they are right. Each little green tab (about the size of tic tac) is loaded with protein, 64%!!

I received my package last week and waited until this past Sunday to use them. I mapped out a open road run that consisted of flat roads, inclines, and rolling hills. The total distance would be 20.55 miles and would have my feet touch in three different States. I won't lie to you, when I opened the tin with roughly 50 tablets in there, it smelled like...poop. It reminded me of a back country road and the smell of cow poop. I do like how they let you know that is an "acquired taste." I am not man enough to chew 30 tablets up so I broke them down to 5 tabs a pop and downed them with water. You would think 30 tabs are a lot but it really wasn't bad at all. Plus there was no lingering aftertaste so I was stoked about that.



I really didn't have high hopes for this run for a few reasons. One being that I just didn't want to run that far. Two, the change with Fall brought my allergies back and I just felt worn out. The first 45 minutes I struggled with my allergies and my breathing. Luckily my lungs and nose opened and I could breathe again. I told myself that I would take it easy and "run on feel." I was worried because I ran a 27 miler a week or so prior to this long run and by 13 miles, I was spent. I took walk breaks and my mind was in all different directions. I just plain struggled to keep going. I really hated that run. I didn't want this run to be that way. I know training has a big part with long distance running, however, what you take helps as well. Seven miles into Sundays run and I was dropping sub 8:00 minute pace...and felt GREAT! I was loving life and my mind was where it needed to be, on the run. Ten miles in and I had to keep telling myself to slow down. The only time I walked was when I would take a drink of my water and snap a photo.



I just kept waiting to fall apart because, to tell you the truth, I was overly skeptical of this product. Even after all of the glowing reviews of spirulina algae and Energybits, I still couldn't believe it 100%. After logging 20.55 miles at an overall pace of 8:44 per mile, then feeling...NO...knowing I could nail another 10 to 15 miles easy, I am a firm believer in this product and what this company has to offer. Something I also realized was there was no fatigue in my muscles. The long run before this one I suffered for days. My legs hurt and I was cramping something awful. After I got done on Sunday I kept telling my wife how great I felt. I even shook my legs and smacked my quads to prove it to her. The next day I awoke to no stiffness and no cramping. I attribute this to Energybits.

I can't really think of any downsides to this product. The cost is a little steep but it is worth it. At one point you could only buy the bag of 1000 at $115.00. Now you can go to their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/energybits and order what they call, "Sampler packs." These tins are more affordable and yet still give you plenty of tabs. For example, you can buy a tin of 250 tablets for $35.00. That's roughly a little over 8 servings. Sounds a lot better than $115.00 for sure! While researching Energybits, I came across the same question over and over. That was, "Why do they cost so much, it's just algae?" I had read a reply from Jonathan on another blog which totally answered that question. His reply was: "The short answer is, similar to how there are different priced cuts of meat, there are different priced types of algae. Ours is the best of the best, and is 100% algae with no fillers. It’s grown in Taiwan, not China or Japan (where standards and contaminated water are unhealthy and unsafe issues). And our chlorella’s cell wall is cracked (necessary to make use of the nutrients) in a way that is safe. We use sound waves to crack the cell wall – many other companies tumble it with glass beads which lead to lead poisoning… so you need MORE chlorella to help remove the toxins from your body!"


I posted a photo above that shows you what you need to know, or what you may be wondering. I am in no way a science buff. I know nothing on how spirulina algae works or how Energybits work. I do love the fact the spirulina algae is a real food and not a supplement. I don't have to worry about what I am putting into my body before I run. That is great news because anyone who really knows me knows that I love junk food. Energybits is a great way for me to GET healthier. Plus it's something I can eat anytime I want. It's a great way to add energy, endurance, stamina, mental focus, and as mentioned earlier, high quality protein. Another great thing is that it can help with lowering your blood pressure...naturally! Simply put, I'm sold! So sold that I already purchased my container for my upcoming training for a 100 miler and 24 hour race in 2013.

I warned Jonathan that I stink at writing blogs prior to getting my sample pack. But at the same time, I wanted to show my appreciation for the countless emails that were sent to me to inform me on the great benefits of their product. As well as telling my "story" on how they helped. I am just one person so I can't say how they will work for you, or if they will. What I can say is that you SHOULD try them because they are worth it. If you need exact and precise information, you should contact them at: www.energybits.com They will help you with any questions that you may have. You can also find them at: www.twitter.com/ENERGYbits Thanks for listening and hope this small review helps someone out there.

I would like to add that this review was my own. I received no money, no product, and was not endorsed in any way possible by Energybits. For all of my running friends out there, stay away from the 5-Hour Energy shots, Monster Energy drink, and Red Bull. That's an artificial "high" that will bring you down hard. Try Energybits! Contact them to see about getting a single serving sampler. You will not regret it!

Thanks....and happy eating!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Donating Blood



I hope this blog and post meets all of you in good health and spirits. I wanted to take a moment out of my day to write a post about something that I was honored to be a part of on August, 30, 2012. That something was donating blood for the American Red Cross. For years now I have been thinking of "giving" blood, yet for some reason I always had a "reason" not to. This time there would be no excuse because people in need do not need excuses, they need blood.

Each person that donates blood is someone's hero, and each person that donates has a reason why. I really don't see myself as a hero at all. I see the people who are in the hospitals fighting for their lives as heroes. They are someone's family member, friend, and in most cases, a stranger who needs our help. This is my own personal reason as to why I took the time to donate. I have had to watch family members lie in hospital beds as they received blood. I wanted to give back because in the end, sad to say, they didn't have the chance. I wanted to also honor my friend, Brian Boyle, as he was once one of those who needed blood...and lots of it.





Brian, who is one of the kindest people I know, had sent me an email with some great information on how and where to donate in Maryland. It seemed like fate because that same day, while watching TV, my wife and I had seen a commercial about an upcoming blood drive at our local hospital just a few days later. Within 15 minutes I had my appointment set up. I was both anxious and nervous because I didn't know if I would actually be allowed to donate blood.

I arrived with my wife and daughter and signed in. We arrived 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork and get the nervous energy down. My name was called and the ball was now rolling. A great volunteer took down all of my information, checked my iron and pulse. Everything checked out great! As a distance runner and vegetarian, I was worried about my iron level. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. With all of that out of the way, on to the next step, the actual donation.

I have to admit, these volunteers were very friendly and informative. My nurse kept me at ease as she was prepping me. She told me that they were down to a day's supply nationwide. Now more than ever, I was glad to be there. She told me to lay down and within 15 minutes my bag was full and my first donation was over.




I sat up on the table and they made sure I was fine to walk over to the refreshment table. When we first walked in we watched a young lady faint after donating. If you have never given blood, like myself, seeing this prior to donating makes the nerves skyrocket. I was fortunate enough not to have this happen as I stood up. I took my time and had some cookies, juice, and crackers. Another nice volunteer let me know when they would be back and when I could donate next. The whole procedure and day went flawless, and for that I am grateful.

Writing this post really does no justice as to how I felt that day. Even one month later, I still feel very honored to be a part of something great. There's nothing like knowing you have saved a life. That is a feeling that will last as long as I do. I can't wait until December so I can donate once again. I hope this post will also encourage you to donate as well. It's easy to forget about those in need because I have done that myself. I made a promise to never do that again. I would like to thank the American Red Cross for having some of the best volunteers. I would also like to thank Brian Boyle for being a GREAT ambassador.

And I want to thank those who have been in my family and are no longer with us. I wanted to show you all that I love you and that your memory will live in my heart for as long as my heart is beating.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Catoctin 50k--What A Day!



I can think of many words when it comes to the Catoctin 50k Trail Run. But the one that sticks out the most? "Finished." I failed and bailed on this race last year at the halfway point, thus making it one finish and one major fail. I promised myself that this would be my last Catoctin race and I didn't want to go out on the losing end...again. There were many highs and some major lows for me during the race. I am not going to sit here and make excuses as to why this race didn't go as planned. Mainly because with this type of course, well, anything can AND will happen.


.....RACE MORNING.....


The weather had been calling for a low of around 70 and a high around 90 for the day. I never did check the actual high/low but it was hot and humid the entire day. But that is to be expected and something the Catoctin 50k is known for. It was nice because we arrived early to pick up our bibs and talk with friends that we had not seen for awhile. There was no rush to the start line wondering if we had everything we needed. The race was supposed to start at 8:00am on the dot but Kevin Sayers (RD) had to go over the race instructions and rules. And with a good deal of "new" Catoctin runners as well as first timers, we were about ten minutes behind schedule.


.....AND WE'RE OFF.....




Heading out on the single track



We started off doing a loop around the parking lot before heading out and down the trail. It gets super bunched up at the start and that can cause some chaos with the inexperienced people thinking it's a 5k and not a 50k. I had a bunch of people elbowing their way by without warning me, which tends to rub me the wrong way. No easier way to get injured than by other people doing it for you. Once it thinned out I fell into a groove and tried to maintain a smart pace. My longtime friend, "Milburn" was racing as well and was near me so that made the miles go by just a "little" faster. The first part of the race, known to the locals as "The Valleys" is just that. It consists of gnarly single track trail that leads you down for roughly 1 1/2 miles. On the other side and leading back up is a breath robbing, leg burning climb. It flattens out a bit but then you go right back into a descent and another ascent before heading into the first aid station, "Hamburg Road."


What we look forward to all day long



We have trained on this course multiple times so as we neared the Hamburg aid station we were straining our ears to hear the screaming of the volunteers, friends and family. They did not disappoint at all. This is classified as a low budget race but they have high dollar aid stations. They are yelling for your water bottles as soon as you come into view. They make sure you have whatever you need before leaving. These people rule!


Nearing the aid station with Milburn right behind me


Leaving the aid station I knew things would soon go downhill. I had only been able to take two gels in an hour and a half. For some reason I just can't stomach those things. Luckily the miles clicked by and Milburn caught back up to me. It would be a yo yo effect for most of the first half of the race. I would get a jump on him out of the aid stations and eventually he would catch back up. The sun was now above us and the heat started to rise. We made our way down the two mile descent to the turnaround at the "Manor." My feet were feeling heavy in my Hoka One One's so I decided to switch over to my NB 840's. Well, we all do stupid things in the heat of the moment. I would suffer later in the race for that decision.


.....NOW THE FUN BEGINS.....


Headed out for the second half and up the two mile climb


Like I said at the beginning when I started typing, "no excuses." I consider myself a road runner because that's what I run on. I suck at trails and suck even more climbing mountains. We were now around four hours strong in the race and Milburn caught back up to me on the climb up. At 16 miles in, this would be the last I would see of him until the finish. I threw my earphones in and tried to take my mind off of what I was doing. My legs still felt good but my stomach was far from feeling that way. Around 20 miles in I was stung by a huge bee in the back of the calf. I honestly can't recall the last time I was stung by a bee. Again, I won't lie...it stung! Two minutes or so later I had popped my earphones out to talk with a runner who was now walking. Lucky I did that or my race could have ended there. In an instant we were both jumping out of the way as we eyed this lovely little guy right under us. I was one step away from putting my foot on him.....


A Timber Rattle Snake


As I stopped to "play" with him and to warn oncoming runners, Todd Pearsall, the guy that was with me, hightailed it out for fear of being bitten. Later I found out that I was well within his "striking distance" of 4 to 5 feet. By the time I got him off the trail and to the side, he was coiled like a spring and super ticked off. Good times! My bee sting was bothering me so I took some benadryl at an aid station. Another awful mistake. I was not taking in much water so I was now dehydrated. The benadryl made me feel like the walking dead. At certain times I would actually find myself just nodding out as I walked-jogged-ran. I was contemplating dropping at the Hamburg aid station but that was still 5 miles from where I stood. When I got there, after what seemed like two days, Jenny (daughter of Milburn) told me to drink some Mountain Dew. I sat down for a few minutes and downed some Coke and S-Caps and then set out for the trip back into the "Valleys."

I started to feel a little better and started running. I got in a groove and picked some people off. I speed hiked the hills and ran the downs. I caught up to a really super nice guy, Larry Key, and his pacer on a climb up one of the ascents. I passed him and started my way back down the last big descent. His pacer, Kristin, a past winner of the Cat 50k, was pulling him down the descent at a sick pace! I dropped in behind them and we rolled. The last 1 1/2 miles is a steady climb back to the finish. With a little over a 1/2 mile left I pulled ahead of Larry and pushed as hard as could. I passed two more people and ran up the log steps, as well as the concrete steps. I was now with twenty yards from the finish.


Running up the steps


Finally.....THE FINISH!


I actually had fun with the finish and skipped in. I heard people saying, "He's skipping!" and that made it even funnier. I crossed the line in 8:58:53. Almost two hours and fifteen minutes slower than my last 50k earlier in the year. This was by far my worst ever 50k. To put it in prospective, three years ago I ran 50 miles in 9:09:45. That's how bad this race was. It was a hot, humid, brutal, ass kicking hell of a time. And how did I celebrate it?


Heaven is here..


Again, no excuses. I had my tail handed to me because I didn't train right. I slacked off on my miles the past month and paid for it. I know I need to figure out this fueling problem. I aim to talk with a kick butt Ultra runner simply known as "Sniper" in the next week. I am also going to speak with Peter at Vespa All Natural Amino Acid Supplement to see what he has to say. I had a great time even know my stomach went south and my time stunk. But I ran/speed hiked/walked every step and for that I am very proud! There was 177 Starters with 134 Finishers. Some made it all the way in but didn't make it in the "official" cut off time. That takes determination to do that and for that act alone, they have my admiration. Well done!

A quick thank you to my sponsor Injinji Footwear for making the best toe sock and compression sock on the market today. My calves and feet feel good if with the horrible beating they took on the trail. To Vespa All Natural Amino Acid Supplement. I promise to get this fueling thing down and then I will be ripping it up! To Jenny Milburn for taking all of the photos I used in this blog. I am now 2-3 with the Catoctin 50k and that is good enough for me. Maybe in a few years I will come back and do it to lower my time. But for now...no next year...haha.


This is what we get for 32+ miles of running-racing. I can dig it

Monday, July 16, 2012

Catoctin 50k Preview

(Overlook from the Tea Room--Start of the race)


The time is quickly approaching. Twelve days to be exact until we run-hike-race the Catoctin 50k. We'll be traveling down to the outskirts of Frederick Maryland to Gambrill State Park to tackle this beast of a race. And yes, it is a beast! Not only do we have to contend with the possibility of extreme heat and humidity, there have been bear sightings on the course as well as rattlesnakes. The elevation profile makes me cringe every time I look at it.



The race is an out and back and if not run correctly can be pure hell for the runner during the second half. This course, this trail, it just beats you up. There may be a "few" smooth sections but the majority of the race you find yourself trying not to trip over all of the rocks. It wouldn't be bad if they were spread out and smooth...but they're not. They're jagged and everywhere. Combined with the roots that appear to be snakes, it's mentally draining. Exaggerating you may ask yourself? See for yourself.....



(Here's another shot of the trail)
....



Don't get me wrong, some people thrive on this type of course. I am not one of those people. I am what people call a "road rat." I like flat pavement that bores most people into submission. But at the same time, this race is near our area and it's just sadistic so we have to run it. Added in that Kevin Sayers, the RD, charges a mere $25.00 for a well stocked race, you just can't beat it. The post race has everything a person wants. Meat eaters, vegetarians, fruit, drinks. It's the race you love to hate and hate to love. You have thousands of rocks, endless up and downs. The possibility of snake (copperhead and rattle) sightings. Maybe if you're lucky OR unlucky, a bear encounter. A two mile descent that tears your quads up. If you are fast enough to be ahead of schedule and the cut off, you can rest in the stream that you have to cross at the bottom. That's if it is high enough to sit in. One thing I won't have to worry about is blistering up. I'll be wearing my Injinji Toe Socks and my Hoka One One's for added protection. One thing I can count on is my feet feeling comfortable and blister free.



We were lucky enough to train the whole distance over the past few weeks. An out and back 12 two weeks ago through the "Valley" and 20 this past weekend from Hamburg to the Manor and back. Hydration and nutrition will play a big part throughout the day. Now we just play the waiting game and see how hot it will be on race day. Stay smart, keep smiling, and don't give up!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"New" CAT Recap

I have been debating on even writing a recap for the CAT 100 because my heart just isn't in to it. The race that was supposed to happen would consist of running the entire length of the Catoctin Trail. Twenty seven grueling miles of punishing trail that would beat our bodies to burger. We then would run the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. One section we would hit twice. Here and there would be a touch of roads and then some flat running on the C&O Canal. Somewhere near mile 93 or 94 we would hit a very brutal and steep section called Maryland Heights. We would then finish out by climbing up to the finish area. That was the game plan and that is what we trained for.

Four days before the race was to take place something drastic and heart wrenching happened. The race as we know it was cancelled. It wasn't the Race Directors fault, nor was it the runners. Our lovely Appalachian Trail Committee seems to really dislike trail runners. One individual, Pam Underhill, does not hide her dislike for trail runners. And in some cases, hikers as well. She deems us and hikers as "threats." How are people that love scenic views, being in the woods, and being a part of nature "threatening"? Maybe she should get off her butt and out of her office and come see what we love. OK, let me get off my soap box and back on the topic at hand. The Appalachian Trail Committee denied the CAT 100 permission to run a race on "their" land. And with that, our race was over. So thank you to Pam Underhill and the rest of the Appalachian Trail Committee for being snobs and turning your back on 25 trail loving people who wanted to enjoy a day on "your" land.
Jim Treece, the Race Director was now put in a position that he did not want to be in. He had to call the race, which he did. But Jim did something that we did not expect. Instead of just walking away, Jim dove headfirst in to putting the CAT 100 on. With only three days remaining before race day, Jim moved the CAT 100 to the C&0 Canal. Now some people would sit back and start slobbering at the idea of running 100 miles on a flat hard packed dirt surface. I did...at first. Two fifty miles "loops" can be very misleading. Especially when you are mentally and physically trained for 100 miles of rugged mountain terrain. Twenty Five people turned into fifteen with a few new runners now involved. Most of the original CAT roster stepped back from running on a surface they had not trained for. We "lined" up at 5am Saturday morning in hopes of having a great race.



Jim went through the preview of the race, told us about the aid stations and to have a good time and good race. It only took a few minutes and then we were off....



We made our way down a half a mile of trail and then onto the towpath. We turned right and watched the speedsters take off into the darkness. I was running with my friend Steve and we were a little fast at first. A really cool guy by the name of Franklin Woods came up beside us and joined in with our pace. My friend and eventual winner, Danny Mowers, was a little ahead of us. For the first and only time that day, I ran up beside him and then jumped ahead for ten seconds. I then backed off and eventually let Steve, Franklin, and a few others go ahead. We ran up to the first aid station, which was around 5 miles or so. We did a quick fill up and grabbed a few cookies and chips and were off to our next aid station. The miles went by slow and the terrain and scenery were boring to me. There are those who love the Canal and enjoy walking/running on it. However, I dislike the Canal. I live a mile from it and hardly ever step foot on it. I just find it boring and dull. I was again running with Milburn and we clicked the miles until we hit aid station number two, 9.7 miles in. The volunteers at each aid station were beyond great and I can't thank them enough for being out there for hours upon hours. They filled our bottles up and made sure we were getting enough to eat. With aid stations roughly ten miles apart, eating and hydrating were a must.



Somewhere between miles 13 and 15, Milburn and I separated. I stopped for a moment to make sure everything was ok and to fix my music. Milburn got ahead of me so I just took my time and grooved to some Beastie Boys and zoned out. I eventually caught another runner, Charlie, and we passed the time by complaining about how boring the Canal was. We ran a mile or so and chatted about the races we had been in and what races we had planned for the future. I then told Charlie good luck and I pressed ahead to aid station three, which was supposed to be 19.6 miles in but ran long. I had seen Milburn leaving the aid station and that gave me hope of catching him. I chatted with my wife real quick on the phone and with our friend, Steve Dobson, at the aid station and then I was off and running again.



At this moment in time I was getting bored of the Canal fast. I had to make a pit stop and Milburn was again out of my sight. Mile 30 (more like 31) came and I chatted with a group of really cool guys. I was making headway on those in front of me. Some of the speedsters from earlier were now slowing down. A few were doing awesome. Danny Mowers was clocking some great miles, as well as Rick Myers. Orla and Chris were right on their heels. Off and chasing, I was. About mile 35 I started to realize that I just didn't want to run 100 plus miles on this particular course. The weird thing is I felt GREAT! No cramping, I wasn't tired. Nothing. I was just bored. If we were on the "real" CAT course I would have been having brutal fun and I would have stayed the course the entire time. But we weren't and I was hating life. I came to the aid station at mile 40.4 and my heart melted. My almost three year old daughter and wife were there waiting on me. My daughter took off and started running towards me.


It was one of the proudest moments I have ever had as a Father. I went over to the aid station and sat for the only time during my race. I switched out my Hokas to my Brooks Pure Flow. I also switched to a lighter pair of Injinji's. My ankles were killing me on the flat terrain so putting on a lighter pair of shoes made a world of difference. I knocked out some fairly good miles and eventually was back at the start/halfway/finish area. Again my daughter was there and she charged down a hill to meet me. I reached the pavilion area and told Jim my day was done. He tried to talk me out of it but my mind was made up. The fact that it started raining as I got there was the nail in the coffin. Again, I felt great and wasn't cramping, I wasn't tired and I was defeated. I just couldn't take another 50 plus mile loop of the same thing I had just run. I could have walked the entire second half and would have made the cutoff. I was right on pace for what I aimed for. I just couldn't do it. Spending the evening with my daughter and wife sounded like a better plan so that's what I did.

We did come back and I met up with Milburn around mile 88 and paced-ran with him to the finish. There's no doubt that I could have finished this race and battled Milburn for 4th place overall. But that will happen at the next race. Out of 15 starters, there were 7 finishers. Most cited that they just couldn't do another loop of the Canal. Some just went home to spend time with their families. All good reasons to call it a day. I would like to take a quick moment to thank everyone that was a part of the "new" CAT 100, the volunteers, the Race Director and his kick butt awesome wife for all of the great food. A special thank you and a huge congrat's to Jim Treece for putting in some very long hours and for making this race happen. Jim, you are one of the most unselfish individuals I have ever met. I know I have complained about the Canal but it's all in good fun. You gave me the chance to run an ultra and with all of my heart, I thank you for that. To all of the runners who "went" for it. I want to thank my sponsor, Injinji Footwear for keeping my toes blister free once again. As well as keeping my calves feeling fresh all day long. VESPA All Natural Amino Acid Supplement for burning the "right" fat and for keeping me focused. I just want to say there were no failures in this race. Each of us put in a chunk of miles and showed that running is a great part of life. Here is the list of finishers:

1. Danny Mowers- 19:41
2. Orla Kastberg- 20:29
3. Chris Trimmer- 21:30
4. Steve Milburn- 25:51
5. Gil Gray- 26:38
6/7. Tammy Parsons and Jeff Gura- 30:26

Next year CAT 100, I am coming for YOU!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The CAT 100



Well it's official, I will now be running the CAT 100 (Catoctin 100 Ultra) on April 28th and 29th. I have been meaning to write a blog but with the passing of our friend, Mike Edenfield, and some other personal Family issues, my mind has been elsewhere over the past week. Ok, let's get going......

The Catoctin 100, or better known as the CAT 100. I think the photo above say's it all, "This Race Ain't For Pussies." That's a very true and realistic statement. The elevation gain is 16,796 with the loss being 17,598. Some would say that isn't so bad for 101.2 miles. However, when you add the type of terrain involved, it's a whole different ball game. The start begins on the Catoctin Trails Blue Trail. Right from the start it's an in your face challenge for 27 miles. The climbs are staggering at times. The rock's are more than your typical rocks. They are more like little boulders that are waiting to roll your ankle once you start getting a little lazy. The running is not that pretty West Coast fluffy cinder style trail that you could fall in love with. This is treacherous single to double track. You run through what look's like wash out's at times. Once you get to the "Manor", you then have to make a 1795 foot climb to Bob's Hill. There's some fairly good running for a few miles, then it's down down down. Then right back through another stream and up up up. We tried to run this section last week and failed. It was just to hard to run. From the downed tress to the rocks, it was too hard. And when we did find enough space to run, we were too tired. I really hate this trail. But I do it because it's there, begging to be hated.

Once you're off the Catoctin Trail it get's really bad for a while. There's some serious rock patches. At times it looks like they brought a dump truck in and just unloaded them right on the trail. It's pure hell.



I can't and won't even call this a true "race." I would call it "101.2 miles of surviving some of the toughest trail's there are." It wreaks havoc on your feet, turning them into hamburger. It beat's your ankle's, knees, hips and every other part of your body into submission. The Appalachian Trail is said to be the toughest trail, according to Elite Ultra Runner, Karl Meltzer. And we are going to do a good deal of it in the dark. It's hard enough to keep standing during the day with fresh legs. Add weak and beat up legs, sleep deprivation, and not being able to see that great into the mix and you have some really good stories to tell.


Milburn Showing The Rocks He's Not Afraid


From Pen Mar Park to the top of Wolfsville Road, to me, that may be one of the hardest section's and if I am not mistaken, will be done at night. We "ran" it during the day and I had to stop a few times to just catch my breath and stretch. Snapping photos was my reason for stopping. But the main reason was because I was getting my butt handed to me. You just look at the trail and see this.....



...and this is what you see for miles and miles...hours upon hours. There's no real break from this type of terrain. It will be more a mental test than a physical test for me. I think I could make it even if I had to just walk-run and maintain a 20 minutes pace per mile. But knowing what lies ahead of me and knowing I have to go there will really test me. I wouldn't have entered if I didn't think I could complete it. We have run-hiked-walked all of the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail. There are some really good sections. You just have to go through the bad and real bad to get to them. It will be "fun" because if Steve Milburn doesn't get in (still on the wait list) he will be pacing us through the night. Brian Boyle will be running it and we made a pact to beat this beast. He is younger, stronger, and more fit, so he may leave me in the dust. Steve Dobson will be miles out in front of me but knowing at anytime I could "maybe" catch up to him will me keep going. The Catoctin is my hated Trail...the Appalachian will be my survival Trail. Then we get to the C&O Canal. I believe that is 88 miles in.

From there we run three or so miles on the flat Canal towards Maryland Heights. We tackled this in training on fresh legs, having run about 15 miles that day. I was beat afterwards! I can't imagine what it will feel like after 90 some miles.


The Climb Up Up and UP!!



This Is Where We End Up Before Going Down Down DOWN!!


The Maryland Heights section is brutal as well. The footing is just like the Appalachian at times. The trail is hard to pick up. Then there's the fact that you had just put in 95 miles before you head back down to the Canal. You actually end up finishing somewhere upstream on the C&O Canal so that's a good thing. I just hope I can walk-run at that time. One thing that will help my legs, or at least I hope they will, are my new Hoka OneOne Stinson B Combo XT running shoes.


Hoka OneOne Stinson B Combo XT


They should be here in the coming days and I can't wait to test them out. They are supposed to absorb a great deal of impact from rocks and roots. They are also said to be awesome going down hills. I hope they help me beat the beast which is The Cat 100. This will be the most grueling thing I have ever done in my life. It will test my mental toughness as well as my physical. It will beat me until I beg to quit and then it will beat me some more. I welcome the challenge though. When I complete it I will have a thousand stories to tell and some really good photos. I will have the chance to run with friends and to see my friend, Brian. I have not seen him since the JFK 50 Mile Ultra a few year's ago. This will be his debut 100 and I hope to help him as much as he will help me. I will be out there running for Team Injinji and wearing the best toe sock on the market. I will have VESPA All Natural Amino Acid Supplement in my system. That will keep my mental clarity going when I want to quit. It will also help me burn my fat as fuel and keep my muscles burning on all the right levels. Most important to me, I will be running this for Mike Edenfield, our friend who unexpectedly passed away on Feb 29th at the age of 48. I know when I am in my most down times, he will be there helping me get through it. I can't wait.

I did want to add this real quick and say something about the RD, Jim Treece, and the many faithful and great volunteer's he will have along the course. For a mere $25.00, Jim will be putting on a class act race. He will be handing out Belt Buckles for the Finishers. He will be supplying food, drink, and whatever else he can muster up. For a small price you can even purchase a cool shirt. You can beat that!! There are races that are half that distance, and some marathon's that are over $200.00. Jim Treece loves and promotes this race, keeping the cost low and the spirits high. I am honored and proud to be a part of it. I want to thank Jim and the many volunteers who stay out there at all hour's to make us happy. You couldn't ask more from a race, an RD, or "His" crew. Thank You!

In short...Bring on the CAT 100 because I'm no Pussie...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Life Is Too Short At Times


Poem By: Mike Edenfield



As I sit here today at my computer watching my almost 3 year old daughter "play" Wii Tennis, I think about how we take for granted this life we live.

At the beginning of 2012 I set some goals for myself. Not really "resolutions", but actual sustainable goals. This was, and still could be, my best year of running. Even after 10 years of running, this was going to be my "year of firsts." The first time I run at least 200 miles per month. The first time I run new races. The first time I PR my 50k. You get the idea.

Last night, for the very first time ever, I ran on Leap Day. But not only did I run on it, I ran right through it. I waited for my wife Jerri to get home from work to lace my shoes up and hit the road. It was raining and somewhat chilly. But more than anything, it was quite foggy. She didn't want me to go but I had to get some miles in, and some night running under my belt. It didn't dawn on me while I was out there running, how easily a life could be taken. In the blink of an eye, you or a loved one could be gone. I know it sounds morbid to think like that but sometimes we should have that mindset. That would give us the motivation to enjoy our spouses, children, families, and friends.

As I was out there last night, I was having a lot of fun. It was dark and at times pretty creepy when the fog was almost too hard to see through. When there were no cars, I would shut off my headlamp and handheld and run in the pitch blackness of the night. I stayed even and didn't push any, and the miles just rolled by. As I was nearing my 8th mile I stopped briefly to pay respects to a young lady who was 5 months pregnant. They had been hit from the side as they were pulling out onto a sketchy section of road. I normally don't do this but my wife is expecting our 2nd child in October. I just felt it was the right thing to do. Stop for a moment at the spot, pay my respects and move along. I made my way home, logging 11.35 miles with an overall pace of 8:50 per mile. Nothing major by any means, but a good quality run in the books.

I was stoked to be able to get on today and tell a few people that my left foot had made it through the run without any pain. Anyone that is friends with me on Facebook or follows this blog (I don't think anyone does) knows about the problems I was having with possible plantar fasciitis. One person I really wanted to tell was Mike Edenfield. I had met Mike, his then wife, Mica, and a slew of other fast runners from Tennessee back in 2010 while running the Mountain Maryland Marathon. I ran the full and he ran the half. Mica ran a PR in the 5k. I believe she was on the mend from an injury. Ultra fast Tracy Brooks crushed the Womens record in 3:16 flat. Every single member of their Team was real, honest, and very nice.

I have stayed in contact with John, Tracy,and Mike, thankfully through Facebook. Mike was not only a runner, He was a P90X phenom. Just all around "Health and Fitness NUT"...And when I say NUT, I mean that in the best way possible. He believed in living life to the fullest and keeping your body in the best shape possible. Mike would post doing a "plank" to my page. 5 minutes of doing something I couldn't do for 45 seconds. And he did it AFTER working out for an hour and a half. His determination to be the healthiest he could be was infectious. He, like a lot of us, let his body "go" during some of his years. But instead of saying "the heck with it", He did something about it.

And while he transformed his body in to something we would like to achieve, his attitude was even better. His photos, always smiling. His comments, always positive and reassuring. This was a Man's man.

I logged in to Facebook this morning and went to comment to his page about how well last night went. Instead, I found COUNTLESS messages from many friends of his. All saying how sorry they were to hear of Mike's passing. ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME? WHAT? I must be reading this wrong. So I scroll on his then wife, Mica's page and find even more condolences. Beautiful heartfelt messages of love and grief. All saying how much Mike meant to them. What an inspiration he was. Again...ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME? I was in shock. Nothing like his family and dear friends, like Tracy, John, Jeremy Sexton, Douglas Dibb, Michael Morrell (the list goes on and on). But shock none the less.

From what I gather from a few emails to me, Mike had went to the gym last night to get his workout in. After he finished he went to relax in the sauna. Something happened during that time and Mike had passed away. There was nothing anybody could do to save him. Just like that, he was gone. I have went back to his page as well as Mica's today to read...and to hope I was wrong. I have caught myself just looking at his photos and wondering how long we really ever have. I am not much younger than Mike was, and he was in WAY better shape. It just puts life in to perspective. It would be different if it was drug related or self inflicted. But it wasn't. He was trying to be the best he could be for his then wife, his family, and for himself. That's what is so wrong with this passing. It just doesn't make sense.

I will end this by saying I will run any and all of my races this year for my friend. No matter how hard the struggle is I will find the strength and courage to reach that finish line. I will strive to be a better husband to my wife because she deserves that. To be a better Father to my daughter, Emily, and to my unborn child. To be there always and to never turn my back on any of them. And to be the kind of friend my friends deserve. I have attached a poem at the top that he wrote just a few days before his passing and a photo below of him. He was a good man and will be missed by more than one could count.

Good Race Mike Edenfield. You were top notch, buddy!!




"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:24,25). "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hashawha Hills 50k Recap



The Hashawha Hills 50k has come and gone. And with that, a lot of memories have been made. I had a great day, a bad day, a really bad day, all rolled in to one. It all started with a sleepless night of less than two hour's. I woke up at 3am to get everything ready and to grab a bite to eat. I didn't know it at the time but eating a microwave pizza at 3:30 in the morning was my first mistake of the day. Matt, Jamie and I left from Matt's house at a little after 5am to get down to the race in plenty of time. Being that I was feeling tired, I drank one of those 5 hour energy drinks. Second mistake of the day. We made it down there, found our way to the visitor's center, grabbed our bib number's and began to stretch out some before the race. By this time it was after 7 am so I took down my VESPA and ate a small waffle. Still didn't know it but eating that little waffle would be the third mistake. I should have just stayed with what work's, VESPA All-Natural Amino Acid.

At 7:30ish we were standing at the makeshift starting line. The wind had picked up quite a bit and was in our faces. It was cold but nothing bone chilling. The Race Director yelled, "Go", and we were off. A good amount took of like it was a 5k so I settled in with the pack and just went. Matt was already in 2nd place and pulling away with a pack of three. Jamie was right up in the top 10 leading onto the first road, and small hill. I was somewhere in the 20 range and just floated along the road section leading to the trail. We eventually hit the trail section after about ten minutes and started running on some nice little single track. It looped in and out and was fairly flat. I walked the first hill. It wasn't too steep but I knew if I wanted fresh leg's all day, I had to be smart and walk. We did the "out and back" section where the first little stream crossing was.



If your leg's were long enough you could almost jump this. I ended up getting one foot wet and felt the ice cold of the water freezing my foot. From there we made our way to the turn around. We had to grab a thick rubber band on the first loop to prove we actually ran this section. From there we turned back around and made our way back to the main part of the trail. We ran a few more mile's of trail before being dumped out on to the road for a mile or so.



I won't sugarcoat this at all. This race was pretty blah on the scenery. It may be a great view in the summertime or fall, however, in the winter months, not much to look at all. The road went back to trail and then back to road after a few miles. The first aid station was at 8.46. I topped my water off real quick and headed to the farm field's for a quick 2.3 mile section. By that time, the leader's were passing me. Matt was sitting on the shoulder of the leader and looked at ease. It would be nice to run with that kind of ease. We turned left and onto the trail. We climbed some hills, which eventually lead us to the farm field's.



The wind through this section was strong and cold! Out of all the section's we ran, I disliked this one the most. The footing was horrible and it was cold..cold..I can't stress that enough. It was cold!! I was so happy to be done this section, but dreaded the fact that I had to do it again. I went through the aid station at 10.76 miles. I knew the big stream crossing was soon to come. It came and was cold!!



I went through an area that was about knee deep. I wanted to just run through but the splashing made it worse. It felt like it took a few miles for my feet to thaw back out. The wind chill kept it at or near freezing all day so once you got wet, you stayed wet and cold. Luckily it was all trail's leading back to the start/finish area. The scenery was, to me, the best out of all the sections. I hit the halfway mark in 2:48, right where I needed to be. Leaving the aid station I knew I was in trouble. The leg's felt good but every time I ran I could feel my stomach yelling, "I quit." Going in to the race I knew that if I wanted to qualify for the JFK 50 mile Ultra, I would have to run a 5:45 to get in. I tried to make myself believe that I could do it, but in the back of my mind I knew it was a stretch. From the moment my stomach went against me, I aimed for just getting the finish and getting a trail PR.

The mud was much worse on the second loop and sucked your shoes at times. The bad thing was that the mud weighed heavy on your shoes and tired your leg's fast.





The miles came and went and so did the dreaded farm field section. I smiled as I hit the road heading to the final aid station. I took the time to stop and thank them. I grabbed a cookie and potato and headed for the stream. The second time I hit the big stream crossing I noticed 5 people walking across a tree that was wedged over the stream. I looked at the tree, looked at the water, and went for the tree. I am so glad I did.



It was a steady run/walk mix for the next several miles. Pretty uneventful. I was near mile 30 when I took my biggest fall of the day. Two previous times I had fallen but it was on the "butt slide" hill so it wasn't too bad. The fall at mile 30 was my biggest and hardest fall ever. I was going down hill and caught my right foot on something. I heard myself make a grunting noise and the next thing I know I was slamming my left shoulder and head in to the ground. I didn't even have time to try and brace myself. I went down that fast. I didn't want anyone seeing me on the ground and popped up too fast for my own good. I should have regrouped and checked myself out. I was dirty and sore and personally embarrassed for falling. Later I would come to find out I must have pulled a chest muscle because I couldn't use my upper body and couldn't sleep. A nice lady had caught up to me with a half mile to go. We chatted our way to the finish line. We both had just run a PR and were sore so we didn't take off to beat one another to the "line." The RD was there to shake our hand and give us a super great handmade mug as our finishing reward.



I am pleased that I beat my best time, but not pleased with how the second loop turned out. I need to work on fueling and what to eat prior to running long event's. I know I need more trail training. The CAT-100 is April 28th-29th. This was a good training run for that. It gives me an idea on what I need to do, and not do.

I had come to find out that during the event some runner's had "cut" the course. The trail and turn off section's were visibly marked, and marked well. The Hashahwa Hills crew did a great job marking the course. Everything about the race was great. Good food, good aid station's. Positive attitude. And even though this race is run like a "fat ass" event, it does make me mad to know that people ran what they felt like and placed better than I did. Call me competitive in that regard, or a stickler to the rules. But a 50k is what it is. It's not a 30k, 40k, or what ever you want to run. It's a 50k. Point blank. Real ultra runner's live by the creed of being true to the sport and being true to themselves. We honor that code and frown upon cheaters. If you know the best you ever ran was 9 hours and then you run a 5:15 to 6:15, there's something wrong. I strongly oppose cheating. DNF if that's what you need to do, but don't cheat other's by cheating yourself.

Thank's a million to my Sponsor, Injinji Footwear for keeping my toes blister free and calves feeling "good" all day. Thank you to VESPA All-Natural Amino Acid for keeping my head and mind clear. And thank you to the Hashawha Hills 50k for putting on a great event. Next year I will know how to run it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hashawha Hills 50k

February-25-2012 will mark my first race since my drop from the Catoctin 50k last August. It will take place in Westminster, Maryland. The race is called the Hashawha Hills 50k Trail Run. It's put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. They put on some great runs and their volunteers are 100 percent committed to making the event the best they can. This year 120 people (if everyone show's up) will toe the line and give it their absolute best. This brief description is taken from the Hashawha Hills website:

"The course has about two miles of asphalt, three miles of gravel road, and 26 miles of trail. The course is mostly single track trails along with some old woods roads and open fields. The entire course is runnable. There are no mountains, no rocks, and no roots, but there are a few stream crossings (you WILL get your feet wet) and never ending small hills to wear you down with a few bigger hills thrown in just for fun. The scenery changes from mostly woods to meadows and open fields with beautiful views of rolling farmland."

Sound's like a perfect way to spend a Saturday. With it being 9 day's out, I know the weather can change over and over by race day. But so far so good, sort of. They are calling for a low of 37 and high of 48 with rain and or snow shower's. To me, that is perfect temp's to be running. But if it does rain/snow it could make for a muddy and slippery course. Yes, we all want to be kid's and go play in the mud. However, I would rather not do it while running. This past week I have been dealing with what I believe is Plantar Fasciitis. With that said, I am hoping to have the "easiest" 50k I can have. I have taken the last few day's off to rest, ice, and do whatever else I can to make this pain subside as much as possible. At time's I can hardly stand on it. So if the course stay's dry and I don't have to plant and slip all day long, it may turn out to be a pretty good day.

Not saying I have a shot at being near the top. There's no chance at that. There are some work horses that will be down there clocking some good miles. Local area stud's and Mercury Endurance standout's Matt McDonald and Jamie Boward will be there. They should be at or near the top. On the Women's side. Sarah Boward (Jamie's wife) will be running as well. Alisa Springman will be there looking to podium. I went over the entry list last night and was amazed at all of the talent that will be down there running. It should really be exciting and I look forward to giving it my best. I have a goal in my head that I want to run, but will keep that to myself. If all else fail's, I will come out with a finish and a bunch of photo's. I know one thing for sure. VESPA will keep me going for the long haul and I will stay clear and motivated. I will burn the right fuel. While Injinji's awesome Compression Toe Sock's will keep my calves and feet feeling refreshed and blister free.

Some year's back I raced a small 5k down in Westminster and recall it being a pretty scenic area. Where we live in Williamsport, the farmland's are disappearing, giving way to development's. It's going to be so nice to go down there and enjoy some untouched area's. That's why I have been enjoying trail running lately. I am starting to realize that these "natural" area's will not be around forever. I want to absorb as much as I can before my leg's tell me, "no more." But for now...

...All I keep thinking is this will be a great place for my first race back. I have logged the long miles in training so I am not worried about "going the distance." They allow music so I can just zone out and run the trail's and enjoy a day of getting fitter and being outside. I'll be looking forward to seeing some people I haven't seen in a while. And some unknowingly lucky people will be getting some free Injinji Toe Socks. Yep....I can't wait!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

20 Miles on the Appalachian Trail



The Scenic Town of Harpers Ferry WV


Yesterday my buddy and I had the chance to enjoy a different section of the Appalachian Trail for the first time. We started at the base of Weaverton Cliffs in Maryland and made our way down the C&O Canal/Appalachian Trail for a little over 3 miles. As we made our way across the bridge and into Harpers Ferry WV, we enjoyed the nice little warm up before our initial climb. Lower Harpers Ferry is exactly that, lower. From that point on we started climbing. First, a bunch of stairs leading out of Harpers Ferry and onto the actual Appalachian Trail.


Milburn Hitting The First of Many Stairs


We made our way up toward's Jefferson Rock and stopped for a moment so I could snap a few photo's. This was my first time in the town of Harpers Ferry so I was being a tourist. From there it was a mixture of rolling and twisting trail, eventually dropping us out at the bridge crossing at the Shenandoah river. The ground was wet and muddy because of the light snow-rain mixture from the previous night. It was cold but nothing that would have you shivering. We crossed the bridge and got back onto the trail. Another flight of rock steps to climb. From that point on it was a continuous climb to Loudoun Heights. As we made our way up the 1.5 mile climb we made our way through rock's and root's. A constant twisting and turning leading us in to snow.


Milburn Leading The Way Up The Mountain


The ground became slick and the trail was hard to pick up. At time's the snow would stick to the tree's and make it hard to see the white blazes. We made it up the 901 foot climb without any problem's. We took a moment so Milburn could down a gel and we could get a quick breather before heading out towards Keys Gap.


Me Taking A Quick Shot Before We Start Running Again


Today (Feb 11th) was an all new adventure for us. We have completed the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail (42 miles) already and wanted to knock out some section's in West Virginia and Virginia. We chose to run just 20 miles today and see how the trail treated us. There are some hard section's with some serious rock patches but it's pretty tame compared to Maryland. After making our way through some rock garden's we were able to get in a nice steady groove of running. Our footprints were the only ones on top of the mountain so we enjoyed some nice quiet running. It was so nice to get out there and enjoy such a good day. The snow falling made me feel like a kid out playing. We eventually made our way over to Keys Gap, where we decided to run a bit further to hit the 10 mile mark.

The way back seemed to go without any problems and the trail seemed easier to run. We did pass two other runner's and a walker at the parking area near Keys Gap. Near the top of Loudoun Heights we passed two hikers. That's not bad at all. Seeing 5 people on the Trail is a good day.


A Little Of What We Enjoyed


Milburn was out in front of me as I enjoyed snapping photo's to later show my wife and daughter. I had to play catch up for a bit and caught him on the descent back down the trail towards Harpers Ferry. I messed up our combined streak of not falling while on the trail's. It would have been 43 miles at the end of our run but I slipped going down the mountain. Nothing major, a minor spill really, but it was a fall. As we crossed back the bridge of the Shenandoah I snapped a photo of part of the area where we just ran.


The Fog and Snow Covered Mountain


We sidetracked our way over to the Appalachian Trail Visitor's Ceneter before making our way back to Weaverton. The difference in temperature on top of the mountain to the basin was drastic. The snow had turned to light rain at times and the sun was shining now. The fog that had been there burnt off leading to a very pleasant day. The Lower Harpers Ferry area now had some people walking around checking the sight's out. It really is a nice area and has some major historical landmarks. A must see for sure. However, today was not the day for us. I snapped a few more photo's as Milburn continued running. I eventually made my way up to him and we enjoyed the flatness of the Canal leading back to where we were parked.


Milburn Crossing The Potomac Back Into Maryland. Maryland Heights Looming Above Him


Overall it was a good day of trail running. We enjoyed seeing some new trail's and knocking off some more of the Appalachian Trail. This capped off a 58 mile week for me. I dropped my mileage a bit for recovery this week but hope to bring it back this coming week. Get out there and enjoy your life!! Have a great week!