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!!