Sep 29, 2008

VT 50 race report

Vermont 50 bib added to my "wall of shame", finishes less than a marathon, and ultramarathon DNFs

This is going to be one of those race reports where I write out a bunch of disconnected concepts and then try to string them together in some sort of cohesive narrative. It's not going to be easy.

Let me first give the obligatory-and-necessary kudos to the race organization and race director. Everyone was very nice, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to organize this kind of race. Despite its history, Vermont 50 really is a mountain bike race first and a runner's race second. The mountain bike division has 5 times the competitors, and it fills up in 15 minutes when registration opens. I can see why, it would be an awesome race to do on a bike. The challenge of organizing such a complex event must be mind-boggling.

Unfortunately, probably because of the mountain bikers that would have to pass us, there is no early start available for 50-mile runners. The mountain bikers all leave in half-a-dozen waves before the runners even start. Perhaps a few of the faster runners will catch a few of the slower mountain bikers, but that is about the limit of what happens - and it's a good thing. With all that single-track, it would be a dangerous mess to have too many bikers and runners on the same trails at the same time. Especially in the conditions we had this weekend.

leading up to the event
Let me state up front, for those of you who don't read this blog, that I didn't expect to finish this event. My experience at the Grand Teton 50 was very enlightening - and I knew immediately that I'm way too slow to meet the aggressive cutoffs in Vermont. As a result, I started treating this race like a long training run, with aid and support. I wanted to get as far as I could without timing out, to make the run as beneficial as possible. I figured there was a remote possibility that I could finish, but I wasn't by any means counting on it.

For a couple of weeks, my plan had actually changed. I was going to drop to the 50K so I'd have a chance at finishing. Then, for some reason, while lying in bed awake one night, it occurred to me that I'd rather start the 50 miler and take a DNF, than start the 50K and finish.

Perhaps this quote, which I read several months earlier on an email discussion list, had something to do with that decision:
"i applaud you for the effort to reach your limits. i dont find aspirations to mediocrity inspiring. it really bugs me when people are coached, coaxed, and encouraged to settle for less than their capabilities." (GC aka LL)
Since I didn't expect to run 50 miles, I didn't adjust my training for it. That meant I didn't bother to taper. Last weekend I ran over 20 miles in central park with Rizzo, and even had a hard speed session during the week. So when I toed the line at Vermont, my legs were a little tight and had those minor bits of pain that is normal during hard training weeks. I've started many training runs feeling like this, but I don't recall ever starting a long race - it was a new experience.

rain and mud
Estimates vary depending on exact location, but in the days prior to the race somewhere between 1 inch and 6 inches of rain fell on the course. And on the day of the race, a tropical cyclone was within striking distance, all it would have taken was a slight course change to hit us. Needless to say, Sunday was supposed to be an unbearable shoe-sucking mud fest. I know at least two mountain bikers that decided to "hand in their man card" and bailed for the mud. No runner that I personally knew decided to bail because of this, but everyone involved definitely would have preferred a more solid trail. For my part, my mind had gone to the pooper - I was not looking forward to driving 300 miles, each way, schlepping my wife and son, just to DNF a race. If it was not for friends of mine who were attending the race, I would definitely have bailed and run long locally.

However, on the drive up, my spirits had changed. The foliage, which is barely starting here in the suburbs of NYC, was almost peaking in Vermont, especially at higher elevations. While driving, in a complete mind-lapse, I actually thought about how cool it would be to go for a hike right now - then I realized the whole reason for coming up here in the first place. We arrived at the race at 5pm, I grabbed my stuff, didn't see anyone I knew, and figured I'd just attempt to go to bed early. My pre-race meal was a beer and cheeseburger from some brewpub in Lebanon, NH - and we (tried to) go to sleep at 8pm right across the river in White River Junction, VT. Our hotel was 20-30 minutes from the race start.

I woke up at 3:30am and wasn't able to fall back asleep before my alarm went off at 4:15. I got dressed, packed everyone up, and was on the way to the race a few minutes before 5. We got there in time for the 5:30 race meeting, which actually started closer to 5:45. I ran into two TGR friends who both finished in around 10 hours at this point, but didn't see anyone else I knew the whole race. I took it really easy, watched the first couple of waves of mountain bikers take off in the twilight, and waited.

When the 50 milers were called to the starting line, I kissed my wife and son goodbye and walking down a 10-foot steep incline from our vantage point. I slipped on the wet grass and fell. Helluva way to start the race. My right quad felt a little pain.. great, I just pulled it. I did the one-legged flamingo quad stretch for the couple of minutes to try to work the pain out, and thankfully, it went away and never came back.

I lined up in the very back of the pack.

the start
6:40am, came, and immediately everyone took off. There was one straggler, a much older gentleman, and I tried to make small talk in the first quarter-mile. He didn't seem interested in talking, and tailed off. I was in second-to-last place, because an enormous group of people left me in the dust. By two miles into the race, I never saw anyone again, including the guy behind me. I think he either missed an early cutoff or had an early start for the 50k (which started at 8am).

My plan was to run the first half like a marathon, and survive the second half. I repeated this several times in the two weeks prior to the race, without ever thinking it through - What did run it like a marathon mean? In my mind, I was thinking I'd run the first half hard.. like a marathon - but the prolem is I've never run fast in a marathon in my life! Marathons are long enough that I go as slow as possible and save my energy! Run the first half like a marathon? WTF? it's pretty funny to me in retrospect.

Thankfully, I remembered that I'm a slow marathon runner, too - right away when I started running. My marathon PR is at about a 13:30 average pace, and I was cruising along at 11:30. In every other race I've ever done - ever - I've not been the slowest person in the race. There was always somebody - actually several people - behind me. In this race, however, everyone ran faster than me. I was literally alone in the back. It bothered me. In the first mile I knew I could easily keep up with at least someone in front of me, but I kept reminding myself that patience will pay off.

And so I ran alone.

And After a long and easy stretch for the first 2.5 miles, you turn left and start the first climb. about 2 miles of it are on typical vermont dirt roads, and I powerwalked it strong. After the first aid station, we turned onto our first bit of single-track and it gets pretty steep for a stretch. This was the first time I felt really tired, but thankfully it wasn't too steep for too long and soon flattened out at the edge of a meadow/farm with an early morning mist over the grass and the brightly-colored fall trees painting the background. It was incredible.

Now, I had just climbed 700 vertical feet in about two miles and the next mile I dropped .. and then regained 200. My average pace for the whole race had slowed to slower than 14:00 and I wasn't very happy about it. Soon, however, I came out onto a dirt road and a long downhill section where I dropped 500' in about 2 miles.. and increased my average pace to almost 13:00. It wouldn't last, however, and as soon as I bottomed out, I started up the next climb.

The next aid station was uneventful - it was on the side of a dirt road not long after the climb started, and I ate some turkey sandwiches and drank some heed. Left ten minutes ahead of the cutoff. It was a short distance to the next aid.

unexpected pain
At this point I started hurting. I wasn't tired, I wasn't achy - the problem was my shoes. My size 14 trail shoes were not long enough for my 15-narrow feet, and both of my big toes were taking a beating. The pain slowed me a lot.. and the steep trails didn't help. Going uphill was usually ok unless it got really steep (and it did at times), but going downhill, where I can pick up some time lost on uphills, was killing me! I couldn't do it quickly, and lost a ton of time as a result.

By the time I got to the next aid station I was in agony. Thankfully, it had handler access, and my wife was there waiting for me. I came in and went straight to the car and changed into my street running shoes, which were size 15. The pain I went through when I put those shoes on were intense, and my grimace served to worry my wife. After I confessed that I had been hoping to miss this cutoff (that's how bad the pain was), she tried to persuade me to go ahead and quit - but I was hearing none of that. After GTR, and the regrets I have there, I basically swore that it would take nothing short of a nuclear holocaust to have me quit a race voluntarily.

Believe me, you don't want to dwell on the "what ifs", even if you truly think there was no way at the time. the "what ifs" are worse than the pain and desire to quit.

However, changing shoes and making sure I got enough calories in me took time and I probably spent at least ten minutes in that aid station in a race where I was chasing cutoffs anyway. I had told my wife not to bother going to the next handler access point, I probably wouldn't make it before getting pulled.

steve's final 7 miles
The next part of the race is a very long and beautiful gradual uphill dirt road that goes by several farms and thus had open views of the countryside. This is the best time of year to drink those views, and I really really enjoyed this part of the race, even though it was a long lonely uphill powerwalk. You can't not enjoy it. It was incredible. And my feet were feeling 100% better, almost all the pain had gone. I was strong and having a good time. I soon returned to the singletrack and had been going at a respectable pace when I heard a radio and saw a biker above me on a switchback. Turns out he was the sweeper.

"I hear you're planning on dropping at the next aid station."
"No - I'd keep going if you'll let me, but I don't think I can make it in time."
"They'll cut you out of the race if you miss the cutoff"
"That's what I was talking about."

He didn't ride alongside of me, he usually rode ahead and let me catch up before continuing. We didn't talk much at all.. but it was nice.. I wasn't out there by myself any more. My spirits were raised even higher. Unfortunately, I was already way behind the cutoff pace, and the course would determine whether I'd be able to speed up or not.

There were a couple of miles of rolling hills where I actually ran enough to make some progress, but then we hit a road - and a 1.5 mile long section with about 400 feet of climbing to it, which became steep at the end when it turned onto a snowmobile trail. There was a short but steep downhill section after that, and then what felt to me like the steepest uphill of the course, where I climbed 200' in just over a quarter mile. It hurt. and slowed me down a lot.

the end of the line for steve
I eventually topped out and came onto a road, looked at my watch and saw that I already missed the cutoff with a half-mile to go. I knew it would happen, so I wasn't despondent or anything, but I would have liked to have made it to the marathon.

Here comes the sweep riding back down the road to me.

"I'm not going to make it, am I?"
"No, you've been removed from the race. I'll see if I can get someone to give you a ride to the aid, unless you get there first."
"It's only a half mile or so, right?"
"Tell them I'll be there in a minute. I want to run this."

He didn't say anything and rode off. Nobody came and after a couple of rolling hills I arrived at the station, just as the course cleaners did, about 12 minutes after the cutoff. There were two other runners who had timed out there (I wasn't as far back as I thought) and while I didn't talk to one, the other was clearly disappointed. It's safe to say that of the three, I was the least bothered by the cutoff, as I hammered down three bananas, lots of grapes, and heed, too.

color commentary
Now, at mile 20 when I was pulled from the race, I had climbed about 4000'. I felt good. In fact, I felt much better than I did at mile 14 at Grand Teton, after about the same amount of climbing. At GT, I ended up going 36 miles. In Vermont, I am pretty sure that I could have gone the whole 50 if not for the cutoffs. But that is neither here nor there. Cutoffs are a way of life, and that's the way it is.

There is a very simple solution to avoid being cutoff at this race: lose weight. Every time I do one of these races, and it doesn't matter if it's 5K or 50miles, I am reminded of how fat I am, and how slow I am as a result of the fat. And let me tell all you skinny people, I think I speak for fat people everywhere when I say it sucks. It's a really horrible feeling to be left behind by all the other runners who can finish faster and with less effort than you. And it's all the worse when you can't finish at all because of the fat. It's a motivating factor, that's for sure, but it's also something that'll just sit in your mind and eat away at your brain if you let it.

truck ride back
A race official gave two of us a ride back. The conversation was interesting, and I was trying to be light-hearted as I could, and did manage to make it feel a little less like a funeral in there. We picked up a couple more people who dropped at another aid station, and I volunteered to sit in the bed of the truck, which allowed me to stretch my legs out and avoid tightening up so much. It was a fun ride.

I ate some BBQ food and hung out at the finish line and watched people finish. There were no 50 milers finishing yet that I knew of, but a ton of mountain bikers and 50k runners were coming through. This is where I felt the sting of not finishing - I really wanted to come through that finish line. It would have been nice.

as of now, I ran 20 miles on two consecutive weekends. in two weeks is chicago.. but i won't be racing it. i'll be pacing a friend who's even slower than me. i'm tempted to go 20 miles next weekend cuz it'll be cool to say i went that far four weekends in a row.. but i'll probably just take it easy. we'll see. btw 3 weeks ago i ran 17 miles. 4 weeks ago i took off, but 5 weeks ago i went 36 miles. this is a pretty good streak..

I remember 24 months ago doing my first 6 mile run. It nearly killed me, and I was sore for a couple of days. I also remember my first 15 mile run, and describing it as "the most difficult thing I have ever done." These long runs that used to knock me out for a week are now routine for me, and I am actually finding them easy if I go slow enough. The DNFs are tough to take - and being fat sucks - but the progress I've made outweighs any DNF a million times over. I am capable of doing a 20 mile hike over very hilly terrain in less than half a day and then not have it kill me.. that's pretty friggin cool.

Here's the motionbased log:

Sep 27, 2008

pre vermont 50 post

(sorry, no photo this post)

it's 8pm at the super-8 in white river junction. i'm about to get a shower and try to get some sleep. this is just a quick post about my feelings.

first of all, i don't expect to finish. i won't quit, but race officials are going to pull me at some point during the race when i fall behind the pace required to finish before 13 hours. figured i'd make an honest effort, cut my losses and have a beer.

so i've been treating this race like a fun training run in the mud.. (yes it's been raining here)

to be honest, because of the cutoffs i really was regretting even registering for the race, and if it wasn't for friends also running tomorrow, i wouldn't have come. i wasn't looking forward to driving up here just to dnf a race with aggressive cutoffs.

when i got here, and especially at higher elevations (such as it is in vermont), the foliage is incredible, and i found myself thinking about how cool it would be to go hiking during this incredible season.

somehow, my thoughts weren't linking up in the previous moment because i immediately realized my whole reason for being here. my 'yeah it kinda sucks that i won't finish but i'm ok with it' attitude became more of a 'holy crap this is going to be awesome!' attitude and i'm finding myself very happy to be here.

so that's where i'm at for tomorrow. i still don't expect to finish in time, but who cares? i'll do my best and that's all i can ask of myself. strategy: run the first half like a marathon.. and hopefully get to the 30 mile aid station at under a 14:30 pace. after that, i'll just keep going until they pull me. perhaps i'll surprise myself and make it to 50.. otherwise, it'll be a great training run. mud can put a damper on this whole plan, and depending on how bad it is it may keep me from making it even to the marathon point. because i don't expect to finish, i've not been tapering - ran 20 miles last weekend and had a speed session this week - so my legs are feeling kind of worked..

eh. it's all good. it's going to be a beautiful day, especially towards the afternoon, and i'm really looking forward to having a great run through some of the prettiest countryside God has ever created.

look for a race report some time monday..

btw in two weeks i'll be doing the chicago marathon. pacing rizzo. that should be a really fun report to read.

off to the shower..


Sep 24, 2008

Same event, two different years, two different distances

The George Wodicka Hook Mountain Half Marathon and 5K

The left is from April 17, 2005. I ran the 5K that year.
The right is from April 13, 2008. I ran the Half-Marathon.

Both are pictures of me finishing the race, at the same event & the same place, but three years apart and 10 miles difference.

The half-marathon in 2008 was easier than the 5K in 2005.

I'm grimacing in 2005, smiling in 2008.

I'm ~350 lbs in 2005, ~300 lbs in 2008.

For some reason, putting these two photos together is fascinating to me.

Rocky Raccoon 100

It's September 24 and I still weigh ~295. On February 7, 2009, I want to be ~250lbs at most, preferably 225. Technically, even 225 is too much for my height at 6'6". But I have to do something. 100 miles will be a lot less forgiving than 13.1. getting to 250 would require losing 2.3 lbs per week. 225 would require 3.6 lbs. Definitely doable, but my discipline.. blech..

Sep 21, 2008

Pacing rizzo through a 20-miler in Central Park

Here's a picture of Rizzo offering water to a doe that was standing in a puddle.

If you happened upon Central Park today, you might have overheard me talking to rizzo. And if you listened closely, you might have heard me say,


I can tell, he's about to come over a hump in his young running career when things suddenly get a lot easier. Indeed, since I outweigh him by about 85 lbs, he'll probably be faster than me before I know it. So I had to get my jollies while I can.

"Dude, if you have to walk, at least have the common decency to walk on a uphill."

My motive was to try to keep his net pace under 15:00 per mile, which is about the pace you need to stay ahead of the road-reopenings in the chicago marathon. He finished the 20 mile run at a 15:15 pace.. so he has some work to do.

"Man, all these beautiful women running circles around us, and you're walking with your head down. you're embarrassing me!"

His long runs are done for Chicago, he's going to start tapering now. I'd like him to have a bit more speed, and he has a 4-miler early this week, so I prescribed that he go to a track, jog a mile, then do 10 100-meter sprints with 340-meter rests.. and then a half-mile cooldown. He's 4 weeks out from the big race, so it can't hurt. And he just might end up a little faster for it.


As for me, he was going a lot slower than what I was capable of, so it really felt like an easy workout. Not that I didn't have pain in the latter half, but nothing intolerable and generally speaking it's just amazing how easy it's becoming for me to spend that kind of time on my feet routinely. That said, I understand the benefits of going long in my training, so i know I got a ton of benefit today regardless of pace. But my intention today was to help rizzo. I'd really like him to enjoy the experience of the Chicago Marathon, both the training and the race. And yeah, I'll probably call him a wuss in the race, too.

"You want to kick my ass? Good! But you're going to have to catch me first!"

Here's the GPS log: 20.85 miles, 5 hrs 17 minutes

different subject... sort of..

An ultrarunning friend had an interesting comment for me. She said,

"Really focus on your power walk for these ultras, jack up the incline on the treadmill and crank it! i try to do 4mph. This is the key to ultras."

I hate treadmills but this seemed like a really good idea. I figured I would try it for an hour - and do it easily for 20 minutes, start working hard for the next 20, and have it completely kick my tush for the last 20. Boy was I wrong! 5 minutes in, I thought, 'holy crap this is hard!' I made it through the hour, but not without giving myself a couple of 0%/5.5mph running breaks during the workout.

I'm going to try adding this once a week to my workout routine. Hopefully I improve quickly.. and to the friend with the suggestion - THANKS!!! I can tell this is going to make a huge difference as you said.


Rizzo is going to get back at me. He'll be pacing me through the last 40 miles of the rocky raccoon 100.. when I'll probably be a pathetic mess and he's going to treat me like crap. perfect.

Sep 17, 2008

Vermont 50 cutoffs. A genuine challenge for me.

Thankfully, there aren't any hills quite this large at the Vermont 50.

After the GT 50 DNF, I was worried - next up on my calendar was yet another 50 mile trail ultra - and my experience in Wyoming told me a lot about what I'm capable of in these races. To be certain, my concern was not about whether or not I could finish it - I *know* I can finish it if I had enough time. My concern was the cutoffs. Vermont is pretty aggressive with them, and if you're halfway through the race and behind a pace required to finish in time, they'll pull you. I honestly don't think I can make those cutoffs.

For a week or two, I was thinking that I'd probably just drop to the 50k, which I'd have no problem finishing. My thought process was that there's no sense in starting a race I couldn't finish, right?

Don't ask me why, because I'm not so sure myself - but one night I was lying in bed and it occurred to me that I'd rather start the 50 miler and DNF than start the 50K and finish.

So as planned, I'm doing the 50-miler next weekend. Today, the race director sent final and official aid station cutoff times, and they'll be pretty aggressive:
Skunk Hollow12.310:10A3:3017.07
Roller Coaster19.411:30A4:5014.95
Smoke Rise25.91:00P6:2014.67

What this basically means is that I'll have to maintain a 14:30 minute/mile pace through the race. If I can do that for 30 miles and get through Dugdale's in time, I'll be able to slow to about 15 minutes per mile and not be timed out..

At the Lake Waramaug 50K this spring, my goal was just to finish as comfortably as possible - and I finished at about a 14:58 pace. I finished my fastest marathon at 13:30 pace. The problem is that both of those races were run on asphalt, and this race is a trail run with 8000' of climbing. I really have to be kicking in order to maintain a 14:30 pace.. it's not going to be easy. I was able to do it for about the first 15 miles at Grand Teton, and that included Fred's mountain. So I know I'll be able to last at least a little while, I just have no idea how long.

My weight this morning was 293 and perhaps I can lose a few lbs before next weekend. That'll definitely help. I have a 20-mile very slow long run scheduled on Sunday which should give me some last-minute time-on-my-feet training. I don't think there's a requirement to carry water bottles or bladders on this race, so that'll help too. And, if there was ever a time in my life (at least up until now) when I'm capable of doing it, it's now.

So the bottom line is that I'm going to do everything I possibly can to stay ahead of the cutoffs next weekend in Vermont. However, I completely expect them to catch up to me so I get pulled. I'm ok with that. It'll become yet another AWESOME training run for a 50-miler that I'll probably will finish, the JFK 50 on November 22.

It is definitely going to be a new experience for me. Racing against an invisible competitor.. the cutoff time.

Sep 13, 2008

My first honest 2aDay - a long-time 5K goal achieved, then a 14 mile LSD with Rizzo!

At mile 6 of our 14 miler!

2aDay part 1: The Dumont, NJ Run for Fun 5K
I can't tell you how long I've wanted to run a 5K in under 30 minutes. Maybe 10 years? maybe more? Whatever, it's been a long time.

Well, today I did it. Official time: 29:47.6. (Results link:

(By the way, if you're wondering why this relatively slow time is so special to me, that probably means you don't realize that I weigh 295 lbs.)

Indulge me for a minute while I go over my race details..
My official time was 29:47.6
I came in 177th place overall out of 225
My pace per mile was 09:36
I was the 8th male age 30-34 out of 10
I was the 128th male of any age out of 142

To be honest, I probably could have done this 18 months ago - and I have in fact run the distance in under 30 in my training a couple of times. but I don't run a lot of official 5K races - in fact, the only 5K i've done in the last two years was the Teterboro airport 5k this summer where I just had a bad race.

Hell, indulge me for another minute:
2008-09-13 Dumont NJ Run for Fun 29:47.6
2008-07-19 Teterboro Airport 5K 31:50 (I was very disappointed with this time - even though it actually was a PR)
2006-09-23 Jones Beach 5K 32:23
2006-07-15 Teterboro Airport 5K 35:58 (I ran that race as hard as I ran today's race. It was very hot..)
2005-04-17 Rockland Lake 5K 34:50 (which isn't bad considering I was 350lbs at the time.)

Ok Race report.
Getting to the race was a pain. I won't go into details but we thought we had more time than we did and ended up getting there at 8:45 - registration was supposed to have closed at 8:40. They let me sign up anyway, so I was cool - but Joe missed his kids race and I never saw a coworker who was supposed to be there - her event finished before I got there and I guess she went home. Oh well.

Race start
Man I was frazzled. Trying to sign up, find my wife, find my friend.. it was just a mess. And the race started a minute or two early, which actually turned out well. I did find my wife and handed her my stuff (there was no bagcheck at the race) so the practical affairs were all settled. I didn't have time to emotionally cool off and just zone before the race started, however, and that might have made a difference.

First Mile
I seemed to pass a LOT of people in the first quarter-mile. It concerned me a bit but my pace was OK so I got over it. I guess it's basically because started dead last.. so I guess I had to pass about 50 people since that's how many people finished after me.

I did start out just a tad quick but not by much. I think I was at a sub-9:30 net pace for a while. That's faster than what I needed for my goal, but I knew it wouldn't kill me so I just went with it. That quick pace evened out when we hit the first hill of consequence at about 3/4 of a mile in.

Yes, Dumont has some modest hills!

It actually wasn't a big deal for me. I've been hitting hills hard lately and especially after the GT50 I seem to be a bit of a hill warrior lately. That came in quite handy in this race, I wouldn't have had the sub-30 finish without it. Also of note is that I passed a lot of skinny people going uphill.

Mile 1
The guy calling out times confirmed that my GPS watch was accurate.. still going uphill, so I concentrated and skipped the aid station. I thought I was nearing the top of the hill as it started to level off, only to for it to get even nastier and steeper after a left turn. I was starting to get winded but hit it strong enough that I managed to pass a few more people here and basically settle into the spot that I'd be the rest of the race.. that is, there wasn't a lot of passing going on around me after mile 1.5. I was racing against myself.

The hill finally leveled off but there wasn't a downhill stretch for a couple hundred meters so I while it was nice not to be running uphill I didn't immediately get the vindication of a downhill stretch. Nor was any downhill as steep or as long as the uphill I just overcame. Since I was unfamiliar with the course, all I knew is that I'd have a net downhill over the next 1.5 miles, but I didn't know if that'd come as rolling hills, or as just long sustained easy running, such as it was. Turned out that it was a little bit of both, generally downhill with a couple of speedbumps. But not steep enough to make me want to run any faster.

I did notice, however, that those hills came with a price - not only was I pooped, my net time was pushing 9:40 - which is cutting it way too close. I was starting to hurt.

Mile 2
As RATM was motivating me to keep going for ten more minutes, I was really feeling hurt. My playlist was intentionally set up to allow for a couple of mental tricks at this point of the race. "I won't do what you tell me" became a metaphor for denying my body the rest it was screaming for - it was completely planned from the night before, and I like to think it worked in retrospect.

I don't remember much about the race itself at this point - I was completely focused on my running, my pace, and the mental tricks I was playing to keep going and not slow down. My watch was indicating the neighborhood of 9:35-9:37 net pace and I knew I didn't have enough leeway to compromise much.

There is a certain techno song (Sandstorm by Darude) that I have played many times in my interval workouts and it has almost always motivated me to go really strong at a certain point in my workouts. Its "energy" builds up, holds a maximum, then backs off, before building up again and holding the maximum for twice as long, then backing off again. I have run myself ragged to this pattern many times and owe so much to that song it's not funny. NAturally, I put it at the end of the race.

As the song started, mentally, I was thinking, "You've had this goal for ten years and you can get it NOW if you can just manage the next 5 minutes. 5 minutes. A stupid 5 minutes. Then your done and you can write long blog posts about it tonight. 5 minutes. That's all you need."

The energy was building and so was my speed despite exhaustion. And when it maxed, I went very hard, reducing my overall net pace for the entire race by a second or two. When it finished, I allowed myself a very brief break (there was a small hill there anyway) while the second crescendo started to build. I may have gone 15 seconds at an 11 minute pace, and it was the only time I backed off the entire race. As the music started to build, I gradually sped up and, while I wasn't going anywhere near a full sprint, I was definitely not going slow (for me) either. It's a good thing the song holds its second maximum twice as long, because I really needed that motivation. And just as it was about to finish, I could see the balloons of the finish line, still a decent distance away.

At this point I think I may have had someone pass me. I don't remember, and I didn't care. All I had on my mind was the intense concentration: I have to cover about two fast minutes of ground in about two minutes. the first minute was Sandstorm, it takes a minute to end. Then I put in more psychopath music, just to give me that one-minute warning - it wasn't needed however.

Even though I was completely exhausted, my motivation no longer came from my ipod, but instead from that finish line - and when the clock came into view, I knew I could make if it I just didn't slow down. I didn't have any energy to for a finishing kick, I just had to keep going at the pace I was already going at. It wasn't easy. I wanted to slow down so badly. And that last minute took it's sweet time going by, too.

The clock read 29:50 when I crossed, and the scoring company game me a 29:47 score.

Sat down on a curb and just gazed at the asphalt. I needed a whole 20 minutes to recover and my 4-year-old, excited because he knew I had reached this goal I talked so much about, wasn't getting much response from me. I gave the race 100% of me and did what I had to do, but after the race I was just dead.

It was hot outside, too. 100% humidity. I didn't notice the heat, however, until I was seated there.. and that is what finally got me up off that curb to seek shade, which was much cooler.

here's the GPS log of the 5K race:

I celebrated with pancakes at a local diner and met rizzo. That afternoon, we did a long run..

2aDay part 2: a long run with rizzo
The first part of the report was very long, so I'll keep this short.

We went to Rockland Lake. We went around twice. We then did the hill route, and opted to "buy some miles" by doing hook mountain - a steep decline down to the hudson river - which commits you to coming back up. After 2.5 beautiful miles on the hudson, we returned up hook mountain (It's a lot smaller than I remember, but it killed rizzo) and went back to the car. We had quite a bit of non-moving time (mostly adjusting shoes or getting pebbles out), but that's ok. Took about 4 hours to go 14 miles. Had a great time.

I could leave it at that, but that wouldn't do the circumstances justice..

This is one of the first times I've ever run with someone else. Because I'm so slow, I've never even bothered looking for a running partner. Since Rizzo is slower than even me, I eagerly took the opportunity to go with him and make some miles go by faster. I would do it anyway, but since I didn't have much left after such a hard effort at the 5K, I was even more glad to go nice and slow today. And we had fun! it was amazing.

The only thing I would change about today is.. I would use bodyglide. I mean, it was 100% humidity! What was I thinking?? stupid stupid stupid. and ouch. This is going to hurt for a couple of days.

had a great time..

here's the GPS log of the long run:

Sep 11, 2008

Officially registered: My first 100 mile endurance run

"Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run 100 miles."

to Steven Tursi
date Thu, Sep 11, 2008 at 8:22 PM
subject Runner Registration


You successfully entered the Rocky Raccoon Endurance Trail Run located at
Huntsville State Park located in Huntsville, Texas on February 7, 2009.

Here are the details of your transaction:

Entrant Name: Steven Tursi

Event: 100 mile race
Confirmation Number: 30

(credit card amount and approval code removed - but it's in the email. because i plopped that sucker down and registered.)

here's the web site:


Sep 10, 2008

State highpoints #29 and #30

With the additions of Nebraska and South Dakota, I've now been to the highest point of 30 states.

I completed two more state highpoints in the first two days of my recent vacation, and I just now updated my highpointing web site - which is a fun way to waste 2 minutes if you've never seen it before. Please click here to view it:

South Dakota, by the way, is breathtakingly beautiful. Really, just an amazing place. By far my favorite of the 30 highpoints I've done so far. I didn't expect it to be so nice.. definitely plan to check out the Black Hills area if you've never been.

Sep 6, 2008

Race report: Grand Teton 50-mile Ultra

Mile 30


I DNF'd at mile 36..

I really don't feel like writing this report. I definitely have contradicting emotions, a week later. One one hand.. 36 miles is my longest run ever. and holy crap, I climbed over 7000 feet. That is nothing to spit at. At the same time, I'm very disappointed that I didn't finish.

The reason I didn't finish? Pure exhaustion. Sure, I was blistered and in pain.. but I could have kept going despite that. The main issue for me is that I was just too pooped to continue.. I was at the bottom of a hill, looking at a very difficult climb, it was after 9pm, and I wasn't sure that I could have made it. And as the light faded, my enthusiasm to try faded with it. I just didn't want to make that risky step into a dark forest when I wasn't sure I could come out at top.

In other words, my motivation was completely sapped. And I really honestly felt like I had pushed myself to the limits of my ability.. I still feel that way. So of course I'm disappointed in not finishing, but not pissed at myself..

It is the first time in my life that I can honestly say I saw the limits of what I am capable of. I now know what it feels like, and I can confidently state that there are very few people in this world who have honestly done that. Literally pushed themselves to the actual limit of their physical endurance.

But then again, 36 miles w/7000 feet of climbing is what I am capable of at my current weight and level of fitness. Had I trained more OR lost more weight, I would have finished this sucker. So what bothers me in retrospect isn't what I did on that mountain in Wyoming, it's that I didn't properly prepare myself while I was here in New York.

So I can go into a diatribe about how that's going to change and how things will be different next year when I go back (yes I'll be back), but I'll spare you.

Race Report

Once again, I used the micro-blogging service twitter to send out short updates of my status from the trail, as the race was going on. The archive of those updates seem to be better than any race report I can write.. so I'll post them here, and add my comments when they seem appropriate. Timestamps provided are in eastern rather than mountain time zone, so if you're interested, you can subtract two hours from each:

07:33 AM August 30, 2008 - awake, getting getting ready. 50 mile run in wyoming today, fun. watch this feed for updates from the trail..

08:10 AM August 30, 2008 - The 100 mile runners just started. They'll finish early tomorrow morning, or as late as 6pm.

09:51 AM August 30, 2008 5 minutes into my 50 mile. Steep hill.

The race consists of two 25-mile laps, the first 2.8 miles of which is a climb up Fred's mountain, from the base of Grand Targhee Ski Area to the summit. It has about 1800' of elevation gain.

09:56 AM August 30, 2008 Top is in sight. Damn, the air is thin up here at 10000 feet.

10:36 AM August 30, 2008 Just slipped and fell running down the steep dusty hill ouch

Mountains here in the east tend to be very rocky. This mountain was dusty. I am not used to dust. The low impact nature of it was very welcomed.. the slickness on this hill wasn't - and on an unfortunate step, I fell on my ass. Another factor was that the dust was very fine and got into my shoes, making things kind of abrasive down there. I had some problems coming down the hill and when I came into the aid station at the bottom, I wanted to take my shoes off and shake out dust, but as soon as I mentioned that I was having some shoe troubles, to my surprise, Lisa Smith-Batchen race director and accomplished ultrarunner, sprang into action. She actually wouldn't let me remove my own shoes.. she did it for me, noticed that I was bleeding, taped it up, and took care of me - all the while I was feeling very weird. I definitely did not feel worthy of this kind of treatment from anyone, much less someone like her. Suffice it to say, I had a few more interactions with her as the day went on and I honestly have never been more impressed by a person in my life. No BS. Lisa is an amazing person. I'll leave it at that.

11:17 AM August 30, 2008 Pam reed, ultrarunner extraordinaire, just ran by. So cool

I was a little star-struck. (: I've read her book, and it was just neat to be running in the same race as her.

11:51 AM August 30, 2008 At 6000' time to head back uphill. Mile 11, 39 to go.

I was still feeling strong & confident at this point.

02:36 PM August 30, 2008 Holy crap these hills are hard.

Mill Creek, the unexpected hard part of the race. This is where I crashed. From here on out, the race had turned into a slog.

03:23 PM August 30, 2008 Mile 21 really slowing down on the uphill

05:11 PM August 30, 2008 Fred's mountain again.. Reascending to two miles in elevation. This is gonna suck.

Starting the second lap here

07:25 PM August 30, 2008 Halfway up freds and I'm really hurtin. Passed the marathon point already.

Based on conversations I had, and reports I read, most runners, when they're tired, take 1hr to about 1:15 to get to the top of Fred's. I took 2 hours on my second lap. It was really painful, and I was looking forward to getting to the top, believing promises of "your whole outlook is going to change when you get up there."

07:26 PM August 30, 2008 On my way down fred's. I'm in serious pain

Unfortunately, my outlook didn't change.

07:59 PM August 30, 2008 After 30.6 miles and 7000' of climbing, I officially feel like I'm going to die.

I was sure I was going to drop from the race at this point. I was about to come into the aid station and was finished. I remember thinking that it would take a miracle-worker to get me back out on that trail.. which leads me to:

09:04 PM August 30, 2008 I don't know how she did it but lisa smith batchen got me out of that aid station when I was sure I was going to quit

10:48 PM August 30, 2008 Mile 36, down at 6000 feet. This next climb is really intimidating to me.

All I could think about on my way down the hill was "how am I going to get back up this thing?" For the last 20 miles, I was thinking non-stop about how badly I crashed on the last lap when coming up this hill.

11:17 PM August 30, 2008 This aid station has a cot.. OMg it feels good

I would still be in that cot if I didn't feel like I was going to freeze my ass off. It got cold.

01:11 AM August 31, 2008 DNF. Went 36 miles and climbed over 7000 feet. More importantly, I honestly gave this everything I had. Nothing to be ashamed of.

10:30 AM August 31, 2008 Steve's normal resting heart rate: 53. This morning: 85.

Thanks to all the wonderful people I met, including Olga, Meredith, and Lora among many others. And - the volunteers - you were AMAZING!! Of all the races I've ever done, you were the best I've ever seen. Seriously. Thanks!!

Anyway, in a year I'll be back to finish this sucker. I have a whole year to think about how unfit I was and how much that affected me on a difficult course like this, and I refuse to let it happen again. It should be fun. Too bad it's a whole year away.

Motionbased log
I wore my forerunner for the first lap, and you can see details about the course here:

Official results

Click here: and select bib#515.