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had never heard of Slade, Kentucky. A place were over 40,000 people migrate to each year from around the world to test their strength and ability as athletes. To utilize the natural landscape given by this area to either make or break them in there sport. Most of them carrying ropes,carabiners, and chalk bags. But this weekend is not for the climbers, this weekend is for the four Ultra runners from Rochester Ny. This weekend is for us!
I traveled solo to Kentucky Thursday morning the 6th of June. Meeting Mike and Natalie there that evening and picking up Laura Friday afternoon. That’s it, my crew of three, and three very respectable individuals in the ultra running community back home. I was in good hands for my first attempt at a 100 mile distance.
I slept great Friday night, not sure if the nervousness would overcome me. My crew and I went over the final logistic of how the next days events would unfold. Weather for the whole weekend included rain, rain, and more rain. Another obstacle I figured I would have to counterbalance. Race start time was 6am and we arrived about 30 minutes early.
26 of us showed up at Natural Bridge State Park to run the 2nd War Hammer 100. Each and every one of us for different reasons why, as we pinned the bib to ourselves. We all counted down the last ten second like a church choir and I slowly began to move forward.
I have begun a journey that will either make or break me. I had no time schedule, no aid station layout, didn’t really know when the major climbs were. I did load pre race, a GPX map of the course on my phone incase flags were tampered with or I got lost and could find my way again. This was highly recommended by the RD. But in all I just wanted to be me, with only one goal. Finish my first 100 mile run.
I felt good, my body responding well to the rhythm of my feet and arm movements. With not even a mile in my feet were soaked, having to trek through my first stream crossing. That of many throughout this course. I broke out nice and slow as I wanted to stay in the middle of the group as we hit the first sections of roads that met with our first area of single track.
We hit a few small hills and I was able to squeeze by some runners. I was now with the lead pack. There were five of us running at a pretty good pace. This is how it stayed for the first 20+ miles and we did it due to course markings were hard to find or non existent. I had to keep pulling my phone out to make sure the group was on track and going the right way. It felt good running together, like we were old friends just going out for a long run. I helped clear whatever nervousness I had. I knew in my heart this would last for long. I would be running alone till mile 55 when I could get my first pacer.
We made distance on one other. I moved through the thick vegetation almost bushwhacking at times. Running smoothly following the pink and white striped ribbon to the best of my ability. I think I’m in third place and holding strong. But I could see anyone in front of me or behind.
By this time I have traversed though some of the most scenicforests I had ever seen. The forest in Kentucky are rich in green and filled with old growth wood. I am alone to start to take it all in. But I say clam and collected through every hill, water crossing, road section, and mud pits. Wait I could see runners.Yes I was not alone anymore, I could at least focus on something in the distance rather than my own thoughts of how I was feeling. I would catch up and make small talk with them, but quickly reduce my pace to make sure I didn’t burn out. This was something that kept crossing my mind because my longest run as of now was 65 miles. It was good because it they brought me through most of the first half of the race. Thank you Zane and Thomas!
I again lost sight of them at the long road section. They were moving so much faster than I was. Damn alone again but now I noticed my feet starting to bother me. My shoe selection didn’t like the road. I knew my feet were swollen and my shoes were tightening. The trail lugs just dug into the bottoms of my feet from the hard pavement not giving in. I couldn’t wait to get them off at the next aid station in about 10ish miles. That’s were I would see my crew and get my first pacer.
I eventually caught back up to Thomas and we chatted for a bit. I knew we were so close to aid. We both made it in together and I could see Zane still recharging from the first 55 miles of the beautiful Kentucky country side. The last 8 miles felt like forever and my crew was ready for me.
I decided to do a shoe and change into dry cloths. My feet were water logged, wrinkly, and almost a fake white color. They almost looked dead. It felt good sliding them into dry socks and shoes. It felt fabulous to have room to move my toes and my socks felt warm. Laura and Natalie were amazing getting everything I needed as Mike was ready to go, ready to help me tackle this course. We ran the next 17 miles together. I was power walking the hills now and running the rest. Headlamps now illuminating the ground beneath us. I felt alive again, it felt good to hear words of encouragement from Mike. We past Zane about an hour ago. Shit I was leading for my first time ever in a race. I was in first place in my first ever 100 mile race! I remember asking, “Is this a good pace, am I doing ok? Mike’s response was ” I’m watching you painting a masterpiece just be patient.” I ran free in the trails of Kentucky’s single track.
We made aid stations transition only five minutes. Quick pb&j’s, pickles, and Sword sports drink. This became my ideal station food and continued all the way to the next crew point.
15 minutes at crew aid stations now became our thing. I could relax a little and take it all in. Still leading and seeing no one other runners in sight. My pack was quickly replenished and set beside me. Mike took Natalie to filled her in on my progress, pace pre mile, aid station food just all of it. I did another change of clothes to be dry again. Laura by my side with anything I needed.
I was up out of the chair a moving again forward. I had a 9ish mile stretch with Natalie. I took each section of trail mile by mile. I already started the count down in my head. Natalie reminding me that I was doing great. How it was inspirational to still see me running into later miles and beyond.
I felt focused now on what I need to do to complete this race and stay on top. At some point in time it was the first time I recognized I could actually win this thing.
We made our way into the final crew aid. It was Laura’s turn and I quickly ask for my final shoe change. I’m crew made fast work in getting my pack filled, food in my belly, and my ass up and headed words the final 18ish miles.
I was now at the end of my ropes. My body giving me troubles after almost 90 miles. Why now I thought after so many mile. I was walking a lot more now but kept moving along. Hearing a soft voice letting me know it was ok to walk. At one point I thought someone threw garbage bags all over the side of the road. It was only a downed tree and I was seeing the glare of the backs of the leave off my headlamp. We laughed about what I thought I seen.
That was it, I needed a break. I made my way to the road intersection and laid down. I could have just slept right there. It felt amazing as my body sank into the warm pavement. Laura lifting my legs and just telling my I was doing great.
I eventually rose to my beat up feet beginning the old man shuffle forwards to the finish. Laura giving me running/walking timed intervals. I could deal with that, it felt better than just slowly moving. It kept me running for at least a bit. Eventually I hear, ” you have two hours and seven miles left, you have a chance to get under 24 hours.” “You came this far why not try.” That’s all I needed
We move into the last aid station and I wanted to just recharge before I charged after the last 3.4 mile. I think it was a 10 minute stop with the first 5 with me laying down and my feet up on a chair. I tried my normal PB&J but that was now hard to swallow. Chips, pickles, and sword was it.
Time for the final push which consisted of all roads. I ran and walked fast. Laura said I had 20 minutes and I really started to run. The last quarter mile was completely up hill and so muddy. Laura was finding it difficult to get grip from her shoes. I moved forward losing sight of her and yelling back the directions to turn.
I was again running up the step muddy hills of Kentucky. Knowing the finish could be around any corner now. I hit the paved road and I started hearing the cheering. With a final sprint I was there, I just crossed the finish line of the War Hammer 100. I just completed my first 100 mile race. Wait…..I just won my first 100 mile race.
Thank you to…
My crew Laura, Natalie, and Mike no word can explain how grateful I was to have such amazing people by my side al weekend.
To Mike and Brandy for a incredible race that I will definitely be returning to next year to the wild trails of Kentucky.
To all the volunteers that made this race possible. That kept the aid stations running. That made me smile and laugh. You were all so incredible.
To all of my new running friends that I meet throughout the race. You are all so bad ass, only 26 of us attempted to run this crazy race. And you were one of them, that says a lot.
To all my trail friends in Upstate NY. You all were a big part of this. The likes, the compliments, the , the times we have shared together on trails, the races we run together, the group runs, the trail maintenance, just getting together and hanging out. I am so proud to belong to such and amazing community of trail runner and more. #trailsroc
This report is directly from the runner – #TrailsRoc has not altered, any of the writing and we are not affiliated with the writer in any way outside of sport of trail running. Originally posted at https://myultraadventures.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/war-hammer-100/
We think Spring is finally here. It was a long wet winter for our local trail systems and they are in pretty rough shape in some places. We urge you to all take consideration with where you run and what the conditions are like. If you are leaving footprints, it’s a good idea to find a drier place to run. This is also a good time to remind everyone to stay on approved trails when out and about.
Locally, at least 3 places have recently lost trail space.
The Doc Lilac Trail in the Crescent Trail system is no longer public access. We have removed it from our app and there will be signs placed to let runners know where the private property begins. Much of the Crescent and Seneca trails are on private land that needs property owner permission. In this case, they decided to revoke the permit for the trail on their land.
The backside of a route in Ellison Park known as the “Coyote 4X4”. The section of trail that was used for this route was never on public land and the new land owner is very serious about runners and hikers not trespassing on the land. Signs and even barriers have been in place on this route educating us as to where public lands end. Please respect the land owner and stay only on public lands on actual trails when at Ellison Park.
The Finger Lakes Trail Letchworth branch south from Access K-Closed due changing conditions, with major portions of the hillside slumping toward the gorge It has become too dangerous. Explorations are proceeding, but for now we have no trail route down to access L at the river bridge in Portageville.
To reach trail south of the park, from Access K walk uphill on the paved road to NY 436; turn right onto 436 and drop down to river level to use the bridge, which has NO SHOULDERS. On the south end of the bridge, continue straight past the immediate intersection, then very soon veer left onto the old railbed/towpath and the Genesee Valley Greenway. This is roughly 1.5 miles.
This section of the Letchworth Trail also appears on map M7.
These are all great reminders that we must be good stewards of the lands that we run and race on. If we abuse, ignore rules, liter, and in general disrespect the lands, it is likely we will continue to lose them.
#TrailsRoc is more than just trail running though, we are also a trail advocacy organization. When we can, we work to keep lands open and available to the public. It is important that we respect rules and boundaries if we want to save, or even grow our available outdoor spaces. We really, truly, need your help.
With that in mind – Consider joining us for some trail work days this season! We have at least 5 projects planned for this work season that can all be seen here https://trailsroc.org/trail-stewardship/
Thanks for listening, and we will see you out on the trails!
Photographs are courtesy of Ron Heerkens Jr and Goat Factory Media. Thank you for such beautiful camera work. You can find more of his photography of local theater and trail races at his website.
A little preface before I dive into my most recent adventure. A little over a year ago I ran my first mountain race. Cats Tail was a beautiful marathon that took place in the Catskills, traversing 4 high peaks and 7 mountains total.
Having just set an FKT and finishing the Rochester Marathon in a time faster than I could have imagined, my confidence was high. Everything was going great for the first half, it was harder than I thought but I was holding tight onto 4th female and was moving at my goal pace. As I started to climb the third peak of the day I started to feel it, that deep burn in your legs that let’s you know they are getting tired. Looking down at my watch I was only about 13 miles in. I started to slow significantly and was passed by several people.
Frustrated I pushed harder up the last high peak, as I descended my legs were visibly shaking with exhaustion. Strength training wasn’t my thing, I hated it, I’m a trail runner, I want to run, not lift. It was at this moment I realized why strength work is so important, my legs were gone. Every other step it seemed my feet would jam into a rock as my heavy, useless legs dragged on. It took me an hour to go 3 miles and I was furious but I kept trying to run.
With 5 miles left I tripped AGAIN and my exhausted body didn’t even reach a hand out try and catch the fall. My left hip hit the ground first and collided into a large rock. Pain radiated through my body and I yelled out, laying on the trail, I tried to catch my breath. Little did I know I had just torn my labrum.
Any other race I would have dropped, this race however had one option for out and it was up. Self paid medivac was the only way to get out and we signed off on this when we registered. I was not about to dish out $1000+ just because I didn’t want to walk 5 miles….so I did. I hobbled out and finished.
I continued to train and race for another 3 weeks following Cats Tail. I managed to complete my first ultra at Mendon 50K before the pain in my hip prevented me from even being able to walk comfortably.
A month later I was diagnosed with a labral tear and a stress fracture in the same hip. I was initially told I would never run another ultra without surgery to fix the tear. Luckily I sought out a second opinion which, after 2 months of rest to allow the fracture to heal, landed me in the helpful hands of a physical therapist who helped me with the muscle imbalance that was causing the pain from my labral tear.
During the time before my diagnosis I was granted the generous gift of a sponsorship from TrailsRoc for my first 50 mile race which I planned to complete in March. The reality of having to give this up was overwhelmingly sad. Even though I was working towards running, I knew it would be months before I would even be able to run an hour. With recommendation of my coach, Chris Dunn and the help of Laura Howard, we picked a new race in the fall of 2018, The Bad Thing 50K. This goal helped me look forward, instead of wallowing in the tedious PT and minimal running I was allowed.
I spent months working my endurance up and doing something I had never done before, strength work! Before I knew it October was here and I was back, stronger than ever. Chris and I came up with a bullet proof plan for race day, nutrition, pacing, gear, everything was ready. The day before the race Mort and I drove the 4 1/2 hours up to Ontario, Canada, through beautiful country sides and dozens of farm to the tiny Town of Auburn. I ate the perfect pre race meal of potatoes, quinoa, kale and beets. I hydrated well, felt calm and retired to bed early.
Everything was going perfectly, until my brain turned on as the lights turned out. I lay awake, starring at the ceiling thinking about the race. I stressed about what women would show up, how fast would they be, what if my stomach was off or I wasn’t as ready as I thought. These thoughts raced in and out of my mind for hours, I had officially lost control of my calm. I drifted of for short periods of time only to be awakened by a new variation of the same worries.
By the time the alarm went off at 4:30 AM, I felt like I hadn’t slept at all. I was silent as I ate breakfast and I knew Mort was starting to worry. I visited the bathroom at least 5 times before we left as my entire body was now in full fledged panic and my stomach was revolting. I tried my best to calm myself. “This is only a race, you do this for fun” and my frantic mind would immediately answer “This is your comeback race, it HAS to be great”.
We arrived at headquarters in the pitch black, it was cold and rain had just started to fall. I picked up my bib and my hands were shaking so badly that I struggled to pin it onto my capris. The race was a point to point and headquarters were at the finish line, so the next step was a 20 min bus ride with my fellow 50kers to the mystery start line.
The start was at the end of a pier on Lake Huron. It was brutally cold. The wind was relentless and icy spray from the lake was hitting us as we lined up. I was grateful for my Houdini, gloves, hat and arm sleeves at that point. The RD shouted a few last minute instructions which seemed to get lost in the wind and we were off. For the first 500 ft we followed a race volunteer to the start of the Maitland Trail, which is where the entire race took place.
In the woods and out of the wind I immediately started to overheat. I checked my watch and realized I was running an 8:30 pace which was 2 mins faster than the agreed upon pace. I had agreed upon an all day pace, knowing that would comfortably get me to the finish line within my goal time of 6 hours. Last years overall female winner had a time of 6:07 and I felt that would be safe. I looked around and realized I was just about middle of the pack with at least 5 women in front of me. How could I be running significantly faster than my goal time and still be so far back. Frustrated, I kept my pace.
I met a few Canadian guys who were quite chatty and funny. One of them knew of Rochester and had ran Many on the Genny this year. The brief chatter about mutual acquaintances distracted me for a moment from the competition.
After 1 1/2ish miles on the trail, which was beautiful and technical, we emerged into a neighborhood. I was clearly able to see the women ahead of me now and they were booking it. Again, I ran faster than the agreed upon time and ditched my gloves to Mort, as he and Ron Heerkins were planning to meet me wherever they could. My body craved a gel but the agreed upon schedule for eating was 45 mins, I looked at my watch, 20 mins until gel time, you can wait. Mistake number one.
3 miles on the road, through neighborhoods and deserted highways, was aid station one. I gave Mort my headlamp and responded to his “you’re doing great” with “they are running so fast up front”. My mind was overwhelmed with fatigue and discouragement. I became obsessed with thinking over and over again “how will I ever catch them”.
The next section of trail was BEAUTIFUL. It was what I came there for, it was gnarly, steep and the views were incredible. I caught up to a group of 2 men and 2 women, I passed them but stayed close. I overheard one of the women talking about how a tornado had gone through this area 7 years ago. The damage was unbelievable, trees were snapped in half and many looked as though they had been ripped from the ground and tossed. I had never seen anything like it before.
Shortly after tornado damage area, the trail intersected with a service road, I looked to the left and saw a runner, so I went left and the group followed. Not too long after, the runner came back towards me, he hadn’t seen any flags and looking back down the hill we had just climbed, we could see other runners going straight where we just turned. I booked it back down the hill but still managed to get stuck behind a group of people and the thick brush on either side of the trail made passing the group impossible. It was this moment where I lost all motivation.
I immediately started walking and stopped caring about the race. An intense fatigue overtook me and all I allowed myself to focus on was how badly I wanted to lay down on the trail and close my eyes. I saw Mort around mile 9 and by that point I was a miserable mess. He encouraged me to eat but between my stubbornness and self sabotaging, I refused. My focus was on being tired and how much further I had to go. The fun trail section turned into flat, grass covered service road. It was sometime around this point that I became consumed by my perfect comeback race being ruined, I threw my hands up into the sky and yelled “why is this happening!”. Like some how the God I wasn’t even sure I believed in was going to rescue me from the pathetic state I had dug myself into. By mile 10 we came back out onto the road and I lost it. I walked the next 2 miles until we went back into the woods.
Right before the next trail section, I told Mort I was done, it wasn’t my day and I was dropping at 30K, which was the next aid station where I would see him and Ron. “I’m like in last place so it doesn’t even matter anymore” I whined. He assured me I was 12th woman but understood if I was done.
Something clicked. Well if I pass the woman who is right in front of me, I’ll be in 11th. I passed that woman, wished her luck and made a pact with myself. I decided that if I was dropping at mile 18 I would go out fighting and that I wouldn’t walk for those 6 miles. I then started repeating to myself over and over again “You are stronger than this”. I said this over 100 times, sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head but I just kept repeating it. I spent zero energy worrying about what the women upfront were doing and just focused on me. In focusing on me I was finally able to recognize that I was hungry so I started eating outside of the strict schedule I had made for myself. I would later find out that I set the Strava course record for this section.
I came flying out of the woods at mile 18, charging towards the aid station. As I ran I unclipped my UD vest and threw it at Mort “I’m staying and I need water!” I yelled. I was in and out of aid in a matter of minutes, passing a group of women who were still there. I caught up to two more women within 10 mins and realized I was probably around 6th place. This section of trail turned out to be my favorite. It was steep, mountain technical and covered in mud. I tackled the obstacles with a giant grin on my face even though it had started to sleet.
My favorite section eventually came out onto the road, AGAIN. This road was the hardest for me physically. It was mostly flat. I could see other runners in the distance who looked miles away and it was a mental battle as I dug in as my brain started protesting ‘but look how far you still have to go, they are all the way up there and you’re all the way back here’. I was at 40K at this point and my cardio system felt strained. I wasn’t used to so much flat road running and my joints were feeling the sting as well. Luckily I could see Mort and Ron at the section where I’d be leaving dirt road hell and wandering back into the woods for the last time and that was enough of a boost to get me through.
Some how I had paused my watch while fiddling with my arm sleeves so I would ask other racers as I passed them what they had for distance and then would clumsily try to convert kilometers to miles in my partially functioning ultra brain. Coming up to the final water stop I came up on the runner who I had mistakenly followed off course many miles before. I asked him where we were at, 42K, shit how many miles is 8K, well I won’t ask because then I’ll look like a dumb American it has to be about 5. I spent several more minutes negotiating this in my mushy mind as lost boy Julien and I struck up conversation. This was his first race over a half marathon and he was trying to finish because his brother had been the 25k winner many years in a row but had never completed an ultra.
Julien and I seemed to pick up the pace as one would get slightly ahead, the other would speed up a bit to catch up and we ran like this until the end, pushing each other for every last ounce of energy. With less than 2K left we came upon the 5th place woman. I passed her easily and celebrated silently, it was that point in the race where everyone is suffering and you can’t help but admire everyone’s grit.
With 1k left we reached the highly talked about river crossing and knew it was almost over. I tore through it as happy as could be and narrowly missed a giant dead fish that was laying in the rocks. I had been most concerned about this section and was surprised at how easy it was to cross.
Leaving the refreshing water I realized I had to be really close to 6 hours. The motivation to come in under that fueled my finish line sprint as I breathlessly continued to mutter to Julien “almost there, final push”, it was as much for myself as anything.
I crossed the finish line at 6:00:15 in 5th place.
All in all there were about 13 miles of road. I had spent my time training at OCP and High Tor and this clearly didn’t serve me here. By the time I finished my legs were still there but my lungs were shot. That much constant, flat running was not what I had anticipated. Even though I feel they were more than fair in the description, I misinterpreted it.
I don’t feel I ever need to go back. It was a beautiful, well organized race with amazing people and too much road running for my taste. I learned so much from this experience and the downfall of obsessing over competition. I was finally able to pull out of my funk when I decided to focus on running my race and what I could do in that moment instead of focusing on what everyone else was doing. I am forever grateful for this experience and how it will aid me in times to come.
This report is directly from the runner – #TrailsRoc has not altered, any of the writing and we are not affiliated with the writer in any way outside of sport of trail running
For the past five years, #TrailsRoc has offered a sponsorship/scholarship (now the chance to be a #TrailsRoc ambassador) to Rochester area runners so that they can run a goal race. I had been hesitant to apply for the sponsorship in prior years for many reasons – didn’t have a “goal” race, didn’t want the added pressure and so on.
When #TrailsRoc posted about the sponsorship in 2017, I considered applying but I had the same apprehensions about applying for the sponsorship that I had in prior years. With a little encouraging, I put some additional thought into applying and what race or type of race I would want to run if I applied. I hadn’t run many destination races so that sounded like a fun idea. My favorite time of year to run is in the fall. Considering my ideal fall running weather mostly occurs in the Northeast, this became the general area in which I looked at potential races. I had a general location, now I needed a distance. After running Many on the Genny in 2017, I wanted to take an extended break from ultra-marathons. It’s hard for me to justify travelling too far for anything shorter than a half marathon. With my narrowed criteria, I searched online for potential races.
Eventually, I found the Trapp Lodge Mountain Marathon – a mountain marathon in Vermont in October. The combination of these elements sounded perfect. I had only run one previous marathon (Ontario Summit Trail Marathon) despite having run 3 ultras, but I went into that race with the approach of it being a training run for Many on the Genny. I’ve enjoyed previous mountain races I’ve run, and I appreciate the challenge of some elevation. I had been to Vermont once before and I really enjoyed the Stowe and Waterbury areas. I was also familiar with some of the terrain from having hiked Mount Mansfield and other areas during my prior visit. Lastly, if I had to pick a favorite month for running it would be October. The air is becoming crisp but not yet harsh, and the scenery just pulls you in and makes long runs seem all too short.
I ended up applying for the sponsorship. I still wasn’t sure I would be picked from amongst the other applicants. Luckily, I was selected and I am glad I was given this opportunity.
When I signed up for the race, I had visions of a perfect training schedule that would get me in peak condition for running a trail marathon. In reality, there were both physical and mental hurdles along the way that forced me to keep changing my plans.
My training plan included building my base mileage through the winter so that I could work on both speed and distance as the spring and summer rolled around. My winter running and snowshoeing went as planned, and my early spring running continued that trend.
As luck would have it, Ironwood Adventure Works (the racing company behind the Trapp Lodge Mountain Marathon) was putting on a first year race at the Cummings Nature Center in Naples, NY in early June. I had a chance to check out how Will Robens and crew put on a race without having to make a long haul. The Frost Town Trail Fest 25k was just as challenging and fun as I hoped it would be. It felt like my running was on the right track, and I felt even better about my decision of what race to run in the fall.
However, once the warmer weather came around my training seemed to hit a wall. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I kept making excuses for why I wasn’t going to run on some days. By the time dense, humid mornings became a daily summer occurrence, it was the only excuse I needed to put off long runs. If there’s one thing that I especially dislike when running, it is when the air is thick and steamy. I tried to fight it, even waiting until mid-mornings some weekends before starting my runs so that the humidity could at least drop below 90% – I didn’t think that was asking for too much. I started to feel a little better after running 0 SPF. I didn’t have a great finishing time but considering it was my least favorite running weather and I didn’t feel well for the last few miles, I came away from the race feeling like I wasn’t too far from making some more positive strides. I still had 3 full months before my race. I just needed to push myself and hope the weather would cooperate just a little bit.
I had pushed myself through some of the mental challenges, when a physical challenge presented itself in a much unexpected way. During a game of laser tag in mid-July, I caught my toe going down a ramp just enough to take a spill onto the cement floor below. The worst part about the fall was that I landed directly on my right knee. This is the same knee that has kept me out of running for periods of time over the last decade due to overuse/ strength issues. At first I tried to walk it off, but it eventually ballooned to about 3 times the normal size. I hoped it was just swelling and I would be back to running in a week or less. Unfortunately, it kept me from running more than a few miles for close to a month.
In mid to late August, I was able to test my knee a bit more as my wife and I spent time hiking in Yosemite with a couple of our friends. To my relief, my knee was starting to feel much better. To my disbelief, I only had 7 weeks until I would run up and down a mountain twice on the two-loop Trapp Lodge Mountain Marathon course. The first few thoughts in my mind were whether I should drop the race or drop down to the half marathon. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and I felt like either of those options would disappoint those who were sponsoring me and those that made plans to cheer for me. I didn’t even know how to express these thoughts to anyone. I simply told my wife that I didn’t know how I would get ready for this challenge in such a short period of time. She first gave me words of encouragement then told me she was making me write out a training plan for the remaining weeks I had – I needed that.
My plan started with 5 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays that would be increased up to 6 to 8 mile runs. This allowed me to get some speed and hill workouts in during the week – and get the natural push of running with others at the #TrailsRoc Tuesday Trail Workouts. One of these weekday runs included running up one side and down the other and back on Chair Hill for 5 miles (with the #TrailsRoc orange Adirondack chair both greeting and taunting me each time).
Additionally, my plan included weekends filled with back-to-back double digit mileage days. The first weekend began with running the Webster Trail Classic. While I was not as fast as prior years, I felt good until poor nutrition caught up with me in the final miles. This was very encouraging to me. My legs felt really good and I could fix the nutrition issue quickly. The next day brought about my first time in months running double digit miles on back-to-back days. The ten mile run went well and my legs didn’t feel much fatigue. The following weekends went according to plan and I was even able to add a little extra mileage to my original plan each week. This allowed me to lessen my miles the final weekend before the race. It provided some amount of tapering and gave my knees any rest they might need.
The last element of my training plan was cross-training. I knew that running alone would not get me to marathon condition in such a short period of time, but I also usually avoid cross-training like the plague. Fortunately, there’s one type of cross-training I don’t mind so much. This comes in the form of the Beach Body 21 Day Fix workout videos. I had done these videos, often begrudgingly, with my wife previously and actually came to appreciate them. I decided to include these half-hour workouts into my daily morning routine for the first 4 weeks of my training plan. I was especially appreciative of the yoga workout I would do between my two long runs on the weekends.
At the end of my training, I felt like I put in the best effort I could have in the short period of time I had after my knee injury.
I’ve never been good at tapering (maybe because I’m also not good at training). However, life delivered a distraction to keep my mind from racing while my legs were given some rest. The week of the race started out with the passing of my grandmother. It was expected but anytime someone you love passes, it makes you stop and do some reflection on the time you had with that person. She was a very resilient yet humorous woman. I like to think I acquired some amount of those traits from her and they’ve come in handy when running some of the tougher races I’ve done. I hoped they would serve me well during my upcoming endeavor.
The forecast for race day during the week showed chilly air with little to no precipitation. I was looking forward to such conditions but was prepared for less favorable weather if it occurred. While the conditions were different from the forecast, I was glad that it wasn’t towards warmer temperatures. Instead, there was a light drizzle in the air and the threat of more precipitation as we arrived at the yurt for packet pickup. The scenery and weather screamed fall – just what I signed up for!
About 70 marathon runners slowly gathered near the starting area. In typical trail running fashion, no one made their way to the front of the start area until the last second. At exactly 8 a.m., we started our tour of the Von Trapp property to the cheers of our on-looking friends and family. The race started with about two miles of gentle downhills, and the occasionally little uphill, so as to lull you into a sense of having signed up for a leisurely fall stroll through the woods. At least they provided some gentle uphill in the next couple miles before the real fun began.
The first aid station was at approximately 4.5 miles. Aside from the start/ finish/halfway point, this was the most spectator friendly spot on the course. My family was there to cheer me and the other runners through before we made our 600 foot climb to the next aid station 5 miles away. I didn’t stop at this aid station, but thanked the volunteers for their encouragement as I passed through.
Typically, I find myself caught in large gaps for most of the longer races I’ve run. I was pleased to find that I had company for my first climb towards the highest point in the course – the peak of Round Top Mountain. Along the way I chatted with a college student who was running her first marathon. It helped pass the time during the brisk hike.
Before I knew it I was at the next aid station. I passed through and thanked the volunteers without stopping to take anything. I had been drinking and eating along the course (although kept lagging behind my original mile marks for taking nutrition). On the final 300 foot climb to the peak, I chatted with a gentleman whose first goal for the race was to beat his wife’s half marathon time from the prior year during his first loop (he did). The climb was a slog as the continued rain/ sleet made the steep ascent a bit slick. Once at the top of the mountain, I was able to take in the beautiful view of …… snow. Although it wasn’t the scenery I was hoping for, the snow was quite enjoyable.
I thought the final climb to the peak was a slog but I found that the next half mile was much more daunting. It was much of the same terrain as the final ascent, but now going down. Running down slick, technical trails definitely is not my forte. I took this section slow knowing that I could pick up speed in the final 3ish miles of the loop since it was about 1,000 feet of decent over that distance. This section was very enjoyable with its combination of switchbacks and steeper descents – all of which was very runnable.
I made it to the halfway point in about 2:36. I was still feeling good and only stopped to grab a couple energy bars from my drop bag. The second loop started uneventfully as the downhill running continued for another 2 miles and I ate some of the mini pierogis I packed. It was around the 15 mile mark that the approximately 5 miles of mostly consistent descent started to wear on my right knee. Momentum was still guiding me until I hit the start of the gentle incline to the next aid station. I started to feel a weakness in my knee and I wasn’t sure if it would pass or if I needed to be more concerned about continuing. By the time I made it to the aid station, I had been walking for about a half mile and started to get slightly cold from the rain and the slower pace. My personal cheering squad was there doing a great job encouraging me and the runners around me, but I was in my own head and didn’t feel much like being cheered up. My wife asked if there was anything she could do to help and I only thought to say wait for me longer at the finish line. I grabbed some Gatorade from the aid station and took my time. It was probably only 30-45 seconds, but a long time for me. I started to look for reasons not to continue, but a voice in my head kept pushing me to move forward even if I had to walk the remaining 8 to 9 miles.
I left the aid station walking but forced myself to try to run about 100 yards later. I’m glad I did. Whatever pain/ weakness I had in my knee seemed to be gone and I was able to run until I made it back to the hiking section of the course. I wasn’t moving as quickly as I typically do on these sorts of climbs but I was moving forward. Thankfully, I had company again for part of the climb. I briefly chatted with a couple – the woman was running the marathon and her partner was running the half but acting as her support for the second half of the race. They picked up speed (or I was losing it) as we marched toward the next aid station. They left the aid station as I arrived. He said, “see you on the other side” as they went on their way. I stopped again to drink some Gatorade and grab a wedge of peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go. It wasn’t until I started up the last scramble to the top that I processed what he said and the line triggered my recollection of the exact same line in the Hamilton musical. I began to sing the songs in my head as the lyrics were fresh in my mind from having listened to the soundtrack over two dozen times in the last year.
Between the musical interlude in my head and the exchanging of encouragement with two of the half marathon runners I had passed, the final climb to the peak passed quickly. This time I was greeted with a much different perspective from the top. The rain and clouds cleared enough that I could see the bright red and orange colors on the trees in the distance. I stopped for a second to appreciate the view.
The next half mile down was the worst part of the race. The section that was already slick on the first loop felt like a slip and slide the second time through. At this point, most of the 200 half marathon runners had come through in addition to half the marathon runners making their second pass. I was actually moving slower down this section than I was walking uphill at any point. Toward the end of this segment, I tried to pick up speed as it seemed like the trail conditions were improving from the earlier section. This was a mistake. My foot slid and got caught on a root. I went down fast. I landed right knee first. I panicked for a second only because of my previous issues with my right knee. I realized just as quickly that I wasn’t in pain and got back up. As I walked the final bit of the single track, I assessed that I didn’t have any cuts or major bumps. The only damage was a sizeable tear in my left sneaker, but nothing that would keep me from continuing on.
When I made it back to the wider trail, I knew I only had about 3 miles to the finish and it was all downhill. My plan was to let momentum carry me until I got to the finish. The majority of the final stretch went by quickly as I twisted and turned through the switchbacks and let gravity take hold on the open hills. With about half a mile left, I realized that the course leveled off more than I remembered. I now had to put in more effort to get one foot in front of the other. I spent a few minutes walking until I saw my wife. She started cheering when she first saw me in the distance. I continued to walk a little bit until I got closer to her. She snapped a few final pictures as I started running toward the finish in the open field just beyond the wooded path that guided most of my journey.
I crossed the finish line to the cheers of my family, the race organizers and fellow runners. I completed my second marathon in a time of 5:25. In what I know believe to be typical Ironwood Adventure Works fashion, there was beer waiting at the finish line to be served in a glass that served as our finisher medals. I couldn’t think of a more delicious way to celebrate having completed such a race. We hung around the finish line a little longer to cheer on runners as they completed their adventures, until my body started to realize just how cold it was.
After I got a much needed warm shower, we celebrated further by going to the Von Trapp Brewery (based on the crowd, it appears many had the same idea) and a couple other local establishments.
Thank you to my extremely supportive wife, Annie, who not only joined me on this adventure but has encouraged me to believe in and push myself throughout our relationship.
Thank you for my sister, Lee, and brother-in-law, Rob, for joining us on the trip to Vermont. It meant a lot to have you there cheering for me and the other runners. And just importantly, it was great to have you there to celebrate with afterward.
Last but certainly not least, I want to thank the #TrailsRoc board members. I am very appreciative of the support you provided me for this particular endeavor. I am even more thankful for the support that you provide me and other runners on a regular basis through the runs and events you create and coordinate, and the great community that you’ve formed and fostered.
This report is directly from the runner – #TrailsRoc has not altered, any of the writing and we are not affiliated with the writer in any way outside of sport of trail running
Every winter we award scholarships to runners to tackle the race of their choosing. We support them financially, training, and with encouragement and energy. In return they wear our shirt, and write us a post race recap. Join us as we trace Jen
Wait, patience, trust.
These three words helped me conquer my first 50K, and it was what my mind dwelt upon during each lap.
Lap 2: Wait
Lap 3: Patience
Lap 5: Trust
WAIT: To stay in a place of expectation.
~Expect a slow start, expect to get tired, expect to finish!
PATIENCE: Remaining steadfast despite opposition.
~Patient with self if struggling, patient in each and every mile. “Run the mile you are in.”
TRUST: Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of something or someone.
~Trust in the training I had completed up to this point, and trust in The Lord to help me through!
The Mendon Trail Run was perfect for me because it was close to home. I had pondered other races but in the end a loop style race seemed a great way to enter the 50K playing field. I was able to train there often and really knew and appreciated the course.
I had so many unanswered questions going on in my head all the way up to race day. Would I try to go out at a steady slow pace and remain there the entire race? Should I try to run hard the first three laps and then do whatever I could to get through the last two? Well, the gun went off and I just ran. I was comfortable and found my rhythm pretty early on. Just over an hour later I was finishing my first lap. That flew by! My husband and daughter were my amazing team and I loved seeing them. Took a sip of Gatorade and off I went. I believe it was somewhere towards the end of lap two that my stomach started growling. I did have snacks and fuel on me but hadn’t consumed much yet. I also carried orange salt tabs and chewed one every 6 miles. After lap 2 Jeff and Laura were checking in with my needs and Laura told me how much food I really needed to be eating! Thankful for pb & j sandwiches, pickles, and gummy bears!!
The weather was incredible. Temps hung in there right around 35 degrees all day. Lap 3 was the toughest for me mentally. I thought I would see more people on the course now that the 10, 20, and 30k were underway but it was still pretty quiet out there. About a half mile into lap 4 the outside of my right knee started hurting. It through me for a loop because I had been feeling so strong! I had to slow my pace to a steady walk/Run. I started running up the hills and walking the downhills since running downhill put more strain on my knee pain. I texted my love and told him about the pain. Upon finishing this lap he held out some Motrin for me and I swallowed those up. They went to work pretty quickly and I was now in my final lap! I kept thinking how fast the race had gone by and I wanted to get this last loop in the books. I was still walking some but I was determined to finish strong and trust my training.
Ta da! The last few miles were delightfully easy (or so my mind tells me that now!) and I was headed across Douglas Road, to the finish line! I was so satisfied with my finishing time and boy was I on a runner’s high!
Isaiah 40:31 “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
This report is directly from the runner – #TrailsRoc has not altered, any of the writing and we are not affiliated with the writer in any way outside of sport of trail running
Every winter we award scholarships to runners to tackle the race of their choosing. We support them financially, training, and with encouragement and energy. In return they wear our shirt, and write us a post race recap. Join us as we trace Dylan Jenning’s report.
Jundo SPF by Dylan Jennings
Spoiler Alert: I injured myself training for this hundred mile race and I did not toe the line. I ended up volunteering at the race and I made a memorable vacation out of it.
I would like to give a huge shout out to TrailsRoc, its founders and its board members past, present and future and to the trail runner, the reader. The sponsorship program which I have taken advantage of is a core feature of TrailsRoc. When I speak of TrailsRoc to people unfamiliar, the sponsorship program is one of the first things I describe. It pretty much sums up the group’s philosophy to work together and give back.
0 SPF is also a core feature of TrailRroc, the flagship race and one of my favorites. I consider the Crescent Trail to be home field. My time spent in the desert would require something a bit stronger. 100 SPF sounds about right for a 100 miler. The Javelina Jundred (which happens to be a four point UTMB qualifier as well as a Western States Endurance Run qualifier) is a grueling 20-ish mile loop, run five times. When you finish a loop, you run the next loop in the opposite direction. They call this washer machine style. The Javelina Jundred takes place mostly on the Pemberton trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Fountain Hills, AZ. Think dusty desert trails and tall saguaro. The We Ko Pa resort and casino hosted package pickup as well as the out of town guests. We Ko Pa translates to four peaks or something along those lines. There is a beautiful ridge with four peaks right next door. It is located just a quick drive from the Javelina Jedquarters, which includes the start/finish line, a tent city, aid station, medical tent, DJ, food vendors and crowds. The group rate with the race at the hosting hotel can save a traveler a lot of money. In this case, I saved over 65% of the regular price of a room. An expensive room out of my price range was about the price of a regular room I would have normally stayed in. I would definitely urge a traveling trail runner to contact the race director to see if a hotel is offering race discounts, or check the race website. Regrettably, the casino did not have a sic bo table nor did it have a craps table. Worse, the roulette wheel was automated (but still kind of fun).
I would like to encourage everyone that reads this to submit an application for sponsorship. I heard a rumor once and I am not sure if it is true. I know it is just a rumor but I want to believe it is true. You should too! I heard that the TrailsRoc board has a very difficult time denying a sponsorship application. They have such a hard time denying an application that they have not yet done so. I don’t know if that is true or not, but the reader should go to trailsroc.org and find the link where one can submit an application. This is quite an opportunity. How do you say free money?
Knock Knock. Who’s there? Opportunity. She is presenting herself to you.
I would also like to thank the runner. The everyday person that likes to run trails is a core feature of TrailsRoc. We hit each other up on whatever social media, plan some runs, preview runs, pay race fees, enjoy fat asses, donate money and buy merchandise. We volunteer at races, supplying aid and support. Most ultrarunners would not be able to finish nor stay alive for long without it. The aid stations look like a kid was set free in a convenience store with a jundred dollar bill. I like how tough these races are and that means a lot of training. I like how tough these training runs are. I meet a lot of people that I otherwise would not meet.
My time spent in the desert went like this. I invited my folks along and we went to the Grand Canyon! We hiked some trails and saw some sights and ate lots of food and saw more sights. My father and I hiked the Bright Angel trail for a few miles. We hiked at Bell Rock. We also climbed Camel Back Mountain near Phoenix. I hiked the first few miles of the race once the 100k started. I hiked some other trails whose names escape me. We had a blast! Eventually race day arrived. My parents also volunteered. They did packet pickup as well as a shift at Javelina Jedquarters. I did a shift on the overnight since I am up all night anyway. It is nice to see the sunrise and I had the opportunity to see it two days in a row. I also helped my parents during their shift while taking frequent breaks. I spoke with an older man during one of these breaks. He is a grizzled veteran ultrarunner. He had been injured many times. He fell off a bike and shattered a hip. A car jumped the curb and landed on his back. Doctors told him he would not walk again. He liked to respond, “see you at the finish line”. He described more gnarly injuries but those two stuck out. My plantar fasciitis seemed like a stubbed toe in comparison.
The Javelina Jundred kicked off before sunrise. I was shaking an antique cow bell. It was loud and annoying. The runners were impressive! This race is a Halloween celebration and racers are encouraged to dress up. There is a best costume award. There is also a best ass award. You have to show the RD your butt if you want to win. I would like to be on that judging panel and unfortunately I did not witness that show. Besides costumes, runners were decked out in a wide variety of gear. I was most curious to see the hats. There were trucker caps, buffs, visors, straw hats, white sun hats with flaps that covered the neck. Some runners carried very little, others had loads of accessories.
The Javelina 100k started an hour later (the 100k is also a four point UTMB qualifier). This is when I saw the legendary runner featured in the book Born To Run. The mystical running tribe, the Tarahumara, can run all day and not tire while nourishing themselves on what seems to be starvation diet. This is the tribe that Caballo Blanco disappeared in the copper canyons of Mexico trying to find. And he did find them. He spent plenty of time running with them. He organized a race with the best ultrarunners in the world against the best runner this tribe had produced. And Scott Jurek, legendary winner of seven consecutive Western States was bested by this man! I saw that runner and his friends and family. They were posing for pics with star struck fans and doing the usual pre-race nervous chit chat baloney. It was rad! They were also selling stuff, I bought a hand stitched leather wallet from them for 20 bucks later in the day. I’ll show it to you if you ask me.
Volunteering consisted mainly of filling five gallon jugs of water and bringing them to the aid station for hours. It was about a jundred meters away. I realized after making a few trips that a cart was available. It was hot! Runners need a lot of water. A LOT! I heard a rumor that five runners needed to be airlifted out of the desert. I saw helicopters circling above constantly so I don’t doubt it. I had fun pouring drinks for confused runners. It was fun watching runners go by as I was filling jugs. The water hose was located right near the trail so I got to watch runners. I could tell they liked to see me filling jugs. The overnight shift was more relaxed. There was only one trip to the water hose. The other volunteers were awesome! I made a point to go around and talk to each volunteer one on one for a few minutes. Two of them looked like they were going to hook up after the shift. The DJ came over and asked for requests. I asked him to play anything by the Gorillaz. He said no. Another volunteer was like, c’mon play the Gorillaz!
The absolute worst thing about this trip was the fact that I was injured. I had trained hard and my body was in prime shape, excluding the sharp pain with every step from my left foot. I was ok to walk five miles before it started getting bad. I took advantage of that and squeezed in some nice five mile hikes. I figured I might as well. I came all the way to Arizona. My body was itching to hit the trail hardcore. Patience, I would tell myself. Just spend the winter hibernating, drinking beer, roasting coffee beans and eating cheese. Heal up and see what happens come spring time. (I shaved 23 minutes off my trail marathon time come spring time.)
Let us consider healing. Running is hard and it hurts. It feels great, it’s fun and it makes me happy. But it hurts the body, rips and tears flesh and doesn’t make one stronger. It actually weakens the body. If Hans and Franz saw me post ultra, they would most likely call me a weak girlie man. That flesh needs to heal. It heals and becomes stronger as a result. That is why I like to sleep in, eat all the good food and just be lazy. That wear and tear on the body can be described as abuse. There are other bad things that can happen to the body that can also be described as abuse. A key aspect of abuse is the victim. Victims display specific behavior patterns. There is an inability to make eye contact, guilt and depression. There is a loss of confidence and sense of self-worth. Depressed people have a hard time getting out of bed. Feeling pain makes people depressed. The body doesn’t know the difference between being beaten up by a large assailant or beating the ground all day. The abuse of an ultramarathon has a similar effect on the body and its mental state as being the victim of an assault. A very nasty assault. I learned in martial arts that the hardest thing to hit an opponent with is the ground. Have you heard of PUD? It stands for post ultramarathon depression. A friend of mine told me about it and it is the reason she quit running ultras.
The ground hits the runner’s body at about three times body weight per step. Target cadence is 180 steps per minute, but let us be realistic. I only take 150 steps per minute during a long run. How long a run? The cutoff for Javelina is 30 hours. 150 steps per minute times 60 minutes per hour times 30 hours yields 270,000 steps. That is a lot of impacts on the body. Imagine being a bully’s punching bag for 270,000 straight punches and each punch has about three times the force of your body weight. OUCH!
A key reason I applied for this sponsorship was to find the limits of my body. I figured there is no better way to do that than to run 100 miles. I do not have a death wish, but I would like to know my limits. There is so much that seems limitless about the human body that I sometimes wonder just where they lie. Go walk the tightrope and find out. I imagine running great distances as walking the tightrope. There are just a few places where balance must be maintained and anything is possible. A little bit of food, salt, sugar, easy breathing, water, happy thoughts, and pretty much nothing can stop you. There is also the will, one must want to do it or one won’t do it. And do not forget to train and to rest.
People should prioritize the happy thoughts part of it. It doesn’t matter if you are stuck in traffic, talking with your boss or any old stupid idiot, or if you are at mile 37. Just keep to the happy thoughts and you’ll make it.
I found some of the limits of my body. I also found out how long I need to recover and I can keep pushing the distance after I have recovered. I found that my favorite trail distance is the half marathon. I can run hard and not tire for about 15 miles before I am toast. I found the marathon distance is fun but it tears the crap out of my body. I can go 37.5 miles in one day, that is the most I have measured. It was in less than 12 hours but I was totally shot. My body was good for the drive home and a shower and not much else for a day. I have pushed myself for an entire day. I can sleep before and after, eat well and push hard for about 24 hours. These are some of my limits.
I like to go places in my imagination while my body is in pure agony. I pretend Wolverine and Lobo are doing shots with me at the bar. The bikini ladies squeal and bounce as I run by. I pretend a house is being built and I create it as I explore it. One time the Karate Kid and I took on a plane full of terrorists (my mind did this while my body attempted Twisted Branch). I think it is just a function of the brain, to create a model of the surrounding environment in real time. That requires a vast playing field for things that do not happen, false models, simulations, or the imagination. I find it funny that the brain would work so hard to create an accurate as necessary model of the world and willingly put itself in a life and death situation, only to escape all this by creating a false model of the world which is much more pleasant. I guess it doesn’t matter how or why the dopamine is released, as long as it gets released.
I did not attempt the Javelina Jundred. Right now I know my body is not ready to do it. Maybe it will be in the future. I don’t know. We’ll see. Aravaipa Running puts on a wide variety of races year round, not just the Javelina Jundred. The Javelina Jangover looks like a lot of fun. It’s a night race in September and has options for 25k, 50k, and 75k. I am more comfortable with a jangover than I am with a jundred. There is a whole series of night runs in the desert. That is so cool!
Once again I would like to thank TrailsRoc and the trail runner. Thank you so much. Now go submit an application for the sponsorship program if you haven’t already. Hop to it.
Every winter we award scholarships to runners to tackle the race of their choosing. We support them financially, training, and with encouragement and energy. In return they wear our shirt, and write us a post race recap. Join us as we traverse Laura Howard’s report.