Today was a great day. I spent the day doing something I love with the woman that I love.
My wife and I spent the day hiking around some of my favorite places. We took a lot of photographs. Our dog Brynn also came along for the adventure.
We enjoyed time at some of the best state parks you will ever find. We we hiked around and photographed starting at Taughannock Falls State Park, then we went over to Buttermilk Falls and started at the upper region of the park and hiked our way down the gorge a bit. We finished off our fun day by driving up to the upper gorge region of Robert H. Treman State Park and hiked down to Lucifer Falls and then back up to the top and our car.
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I have now run 7 half marathons but this last one I ran might just be the one that means the most to me. I ran my first 5k around 6 years ago and my foray into running dates to before that time. I never really thought I would have a chance to experience what I did in this last race and it was truly special to me.
When I started running my wife had no interest. As I began to run more and more she supported me but didn’t understand why I did what I did especially as I began to actually enjoy running and testing myself. Then a couple years ago my wife decided she wanted to run a 5k and then an 8k and she did both of those things. She never expressed any interest in running any event farther than that distance. She would scoff at the idea of running a half marathon. She loved watching me run and push myself at races but she said it was not for her.
Then at the 2018 Wineglass Half Marathon a friend of hers had decided she was going to run it. We were there to cheer on the runners as we had the past year. My wife was able to cheer on her friend and see her as she closed in on accomplishing her goal. My wife was so inspired by her friend that shortly after that day she decided she also wanted to run the Wineglass Half Marathon and that she would run it in 2019.
Once she had gotten the idea firmly in her mind that she wanted to do it she committed and registered for the race early on. The first step was done.
My wife would be the one to tell you she is not really a runner. She doesn’t really run and go on and on and equivocate about not being a real runner because she run walks and mostly walks and isn’t very fast. I have always tried to instill in her that if you do any amount of running at any pace and go any distance, YOU ARE A RUNNER.
I think that the “I am not a real runner” mindset is hard to break. I also think that this mindset makes other things even more challenging than they have to be.
When you first get the notion of running a race into your head, the idea of running the race seems fun and that is what you focus on. The hard part is committing to the training. This is especially hard early on in the process. It is even more challenging when you set an ambitious goal, but that goal is far way on the calendar. I think this is where my wife struggled. She wanted to do more running than she had at her previous races and fully recognized that she would need to train more in order to do that and to do it at a much longer distance than she had experienced, but there was just so much time between the present and that future race day that it was always easy to delay starting the training process.
Then when we finally did get the training process started there were all too frequent setbacks due to various injuries that would cause training to cease and then it was really a struggle to get back into training each time. So the process of training was really challenging.
As race day drew near we were able to finally find some consistency in my wife’s training. She was able to log miles using her run/walk strategy. We took a vacation and logged miles hiking and exploring, but then there was another injury. It was getting very frustrating for her with all the setbacks especially when she was finally finding her groove in training.
Then I was in the process of getting the in the final push for training for my 100 miler and trying to figure out how best to help her train. We decided on a strategy of focusing on her getting used to as much distance as she could. That meant mostly walking, but miles are miles. I would go out for my long runs on my training and my wife would go with me. I would run a mile then circle back to her and check in with her and we would go until I got as many miles as I needed and she would rack up miles all the while checking in with each other after each mile. This strategy worked out even better than I had hoped and it was so nice to be out there working towards our goals together.
In the last several weeks leading up to the race we tried to focus on race strategy and pace for her to execute at the race. My wife really wanted to be done in 3.5 hours. She felt that it was an attainable goal given how her training had went. So we had to devise a plan to get her there. We set out on various training runs trying out different walk run strategies and seeing how they felt. And then came more leg pains and setbacks to training. So much frustration in the training.
Finally we were able to settle on a plan of run for 30 seconds and walk for 1 minute that she tried out and felt pretty good. It allowed her to move at a pretty decent pace and run normally during the 30 seconds and then have time to recover before another burst of running and didn’t cause too much fatigue. It seemed like a plan that could be executed over 13.1 miles. Critically it also should get her in under her goal according to our estimates.
Then a week before the race I got sick, but I recovered in a few days. Then my wife got sick. Never a good sign. Colds have a tendency to kick her but. In a few days she was down and out. Leaving work early one day and then calling in sick the next. Not something my wife takes lightly she is kind of a workaholic in that way. So two days before her first half marathon my wife was so sick she missed work. Not ideal, obviously. We were both nervous. How would this impact her ability to run the race? Would she even be able to run the race? If she could go to the race would she be able to run at all or would it just be a long walk. Luckily by race day my wife was feeling much better and we took cold medicine to the race for her to use.
Emotionally at least, the days leading up to the race went smoothly and my wife, at least outwardly, seemed relatively relaxed despite what was approaching for her. She said she was nervous but really handled it well.
On race day we boarded the bus and got to the start line uneventfully, exactly what you want on race day, especially for ones first half marathon. We were there plenty early to stretch and get prepared. We talked about how to start the race. It would be very exciting and it would be fun to just run as much as possible at the beginning. But we discussed the importance of sticking to our plan. It will be hard to let people go by us as we execute our run/walk plan but it will benefit us in the end. We made a plan and now we need to execute it.
The race started and we crossed the start line. My wife was now running her first half marathon. Something I never thought would happen and something I bet she really never thought would happen. We executed our plan. We ran and we walked. Occasionally running or walking more or less as seemed appropriate. It was amazing. My wife was doing so well. Despite all the setbacks. The injuries, the nagging leg pains. The cold the week of the race. She was conquering it all. She was doing this. Not only was she doing it she was doing it well. She was executing the race plan exactly the way we had discussed. I checked in with her frequently to see how she felt and she felt good almost the entire race. No pain. Not much effects from the cold. We had packed my race vest full of tissues just in case, but we only ended up using a small handful of tissues over the course of the race.
I could not have been more happy for my wife at how this race was going for her. I knew she was nervous about it especially after getting sick. I know she had doubts about whether or not she could do it and do it the way she wanted to with a run/walk strategy. I always tried to reassure her. But I would be lying if I said I expected it to go as well for her as it did.
We went along at our intended pace and before you knew it 5k done. I told my wife think about this. You had so many setbacks this year, but you just ran a 5k and you feel fine. You feel better than you had on any of your other 5k races. You felt better than you did on your training runs. I tried to build her confidence by pointing out how well she was doing. It was just so great to see her out here feeling so well.
Then the next milestone hit before you knew it. We were approaching the 8k distance. I think that made us both a little nervous because we both knew what that meant. We were about you cross not uncharted territory. My wife had been able to walk longer distances, but she had never gone farther than an 8k at the pace we were going using this run/walk strategy. Still she felt strong. She was happy and in good spirits. We entered uncharted territory and continued to sail through it without so much of a hiccup.
It is kind of amazing to me to see someone running their first half marathon who is in as good of spirits as my wife was. She was happy and friendly. We talked a lot. She talked to everyone on the course she could. She thanked every single volunteer we crossed paths with.
Through mile ten she had barely a complaint. She felt fine. She was in good spirits. Our strategy was working. She was overcoming all the obstacles thst had been put in her path. After mile ten my wife started to waver. Her energy was starting to ebb. It was noticeable that she was slowing down. Then at just the right moment one of our friends who was volunteering at a water station. After we ran by, he road out onto the course to provide some levity and entertainment to lift us up and it really helped get us smiling though a tough stretch.
As we neared the end of the race my wife seemed to be in awe of what was happening. She was actually accomplishing this huge goal she never even thought she’d ever take on. In the last few miles she said multiple times “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I told her “It is amazing when you start to find out just what you are capable of.” My wife was getting tired but she still felt pretty good despite everything. She could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we got close to the end it really began to hit my wife. She was going to finish this race. She said, “I can’t believe I am actually going to finish.” She began t get emotional and tears began to well up in her eyes. She began to cry. I don’t know if she ever really truly believed that she would be able to do this. She wanted to and dreamed about it and hoped to be able to do it, but I don’t know if she ever believed she could. Now she was proving to herself that she could do it and she was doing it and she was going to finish. Seeing my wife so happy and so close to accomplishing her goal and her tears of joy and emotions overflowing almost ha me crying. I had to keep my emotions in check so she could focus on what she needed to do, but I was just so overwhelmingly happy for her.
We turned onto Market Street. We continued to execute our plan. We ran the section of Market Street that we had planned to run through to the finish line and we ran through the cheering crowd and crossed that finish line together. It was an amazing feeling. I hugged my wife. Meb would have to wait.
This was the most amazing experience for me. As much as it was for my wife. This is the kind of experience I have dreamed about having. I think anyone who runs has had these thoughts. Thoughts of how great it would be to be able to go out and run with your spouse or significant other. To be able to share in this thing you love. To go out and move your bodies and enjoy what running has to offer together. For a long time I never thought this would be something I would experience. As I dove deeper into running my wife seemed to become more resolute that she was not going to be a runner. Then she began to get interested in running. We have now run around six events together including this half marathon. Being able to share this with my wife is so special to me.
Experiencing this race with her. Seeing her run her first half marathon up close and personal. See her enjoy running. Watching her smile and and talk to people and thank every volunteer. To see her joy in running this race. It makes me so happy. It is a memory I will never forget.
My wife will probably continue to say she is not a runner despite my admonishments. We don’t run the same pace. But we can still get out and have fun running together. We make time to do some running with each other and it makes all the difference in the world to me. I think she thinks it is a sacrifice or me to slow down and run with her, but for me it is the biggest joy I can get. I get to be out here doing something I love with the woman I love. There could not be a bigger gift that she could give to me. She will tell you she is slow and that she doesn’t really run, but I can see a day in the future when I am asking her to slow down and run a race with me.
My wife talked about how much fun she had running the Wineglass Half Marathon and how it was better than she expected. She is already talking about running it again next year. If she could do it this year despite all the setbacks, how much better could she do next year if things went smoother for her?
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If you told me that my adventure would begin with a 6+ hr drive each way to meet two dogs and possibly, just possibly adopt them if all went well, I would never have believed you. But that was what we did and that is how Josie came into our lives. It was one of the best days of my life.
Josie fit right into our home, our heart, and our lives. It really could not have gone any better. Her story was almost like a fairy tale. She came from a sad situation and thanks to other kind souls who look out for dogs she made it into our lives. She quickly adapted and fit into our lives.
Josie was a bit shy and nervous when she first came into our lives and seemed to rely heavily on her sister Little Kira for cues as to how this new world she found herself in was supposed to work. If Kira was OK with the situation Josie would be ok with the situation. She generally hung back but would eventually relax and fit in. She wasn’t the kind of dog that would go running up to people to befriend them, but she loved people.
Josie quickly found comfort in our lifestyle that focused on taking our dogs with us as much as we could. She began to adapt and become more outgoing. There were even times she would much to our surprise really become interested in meeting new people and just want to go up to people she had never met and solicit attention from them. This is something that she did not do when she first came into our lives.
It is hard to quantify Josie’s personality. She is almost two different dogs. The one constant is that she is always just kind of living life on her own terms. She is the quintessential dog who lives life in the moment in their own world. She might be completely oblivious a lot of the time but that is part of what made her so lovable. Out in public Josie is shy and reserved, but calm. She never made a noise. I cannot recall a single time Josie barked in public. At home she is much more animated. She used to howl like a beagle. She gets excited by the goings on outside the house and the other dogs inside the house and will bark with excitement. Josie was our early morning rise and shine warning machine. When she first came to us she slept in a crate because if she didn’t she would wake up and literally trample us in our beds as soon as she woke up in the morning. As she calmed down living with us she was able to sleep without being in a kennel but she was still alerted strongly to our alarms and as soon as they went off she started running around and barking ready to go outside and start yet another amazing day of life. If we slept in too long she would wake us up with barking and pacing telling us, today is a beautiful day to live life, get up sleepy heads. It we tried to ignore her she would eventually get up in bed and give us a good full body massage walking on us and rolling herself all over us until we decided it was a good day to get up after all. It is crazy how that thing you wish you had been able to train your dog to stop doing is one of the things you miss the most once it is gone. I would give it all up to have that 80 lb dog jump up in bed and roll around on top of me with the reckless abandon she lived life especially when she was at home with us.
Unfortunately we lost Josie’s sister Kira early and we were very concerned how this would affect Josie being as shy as she was. After an initial adjustment period and lots of loving she became more confident even without her sister as her constant companion. She continued to be our companion on our various trips from small things like walks in the park, to visits to local breweries to see friends, to hiking at state parks. She did it all and was always so well mannered and easy going. Having Josie with us was one of the easiest dog experiences ever. She was almost no work at all to be with. She was not the type of dog that you had to constantly tell to stop it or anything like that. She was just completely chill and relaxed, willing to go along with whatever we had in mind with no complaints.
I will never get over the effect that our Berners have on people and Josie was no exception. Despite her very laid back personality and the fact she never went out of her way to get attention from people, people fell in love with her. She was always very welcoming of attention from others. People would approach and ask if they could pet her and we always said yes, but noted that she might not even pay attention to you. She doesn’t even sniff the hands of strangers when offered. She just stands there and does her thing. Sometimes she just seems oblivious to the world around her. But in a way that is what made her the perfect dog for our lifestyle. We liked to do things with our dogs and basically nothing fazed Josie, she just went about her business. Children loved Josie and that seemed to be even more apparent in recent months when we brought her to as many events as we could where she would just be around people we knew and loved and seeing the children at these events always wanting to say hi to Josie and pet her just makes you so happy to se the effect that she has on children.
We love to camp and have taken several of our dogs on camping trips, but we have never taken any of our Berners camping. This year we wanted to try to take Josie for a short camping trip to see how it would go. Then we got the devastating news that she had a mass growing on her spleen and a mass growing in her mouth. We were beside ourselves. We had no idea how much time we would end up having with her. We feared the worst. One of our amazing friends arranged for us to be able to take Josie on a camping trip some where local so we could make sure we got to have this experience with our dog that we wanted to have.
This last month we had with Josie was made even more special by all the time we spent taking her out to do things and many of those memories included time spent with our friends and their families. Our friends and family have always been a great source of support and strength in the toughest times and they continue to be now. Josie will live on with us forever in our hearts.
It was always Josie’s world; we were just living in it.
When I ran the Pine Creek Challenge 100 I knew that I had a great support team consisting of my wife and my closest running friends cheering me on and supporting me. What I did not realize is how many other peopl would be cheering me on and supporting me without me even knowing it that day.
My crew is awesome. I knew they would take photos of me throughout the day and they would have fun and post their adventures and fun to social media. I also knew my wife would likely be posting updates of how my race was going on her social media. What I did not know is how many people would be following along on social media and clicking the like button and posting messages of support while I was out there on the course. There was this whole invisible cheering section online. They were all sending me their good vibes and pushing me along the course.
After I got home and began the post race recovery process I eventually turned on my phone and got on social media. I don’t think I got on social media expecting to see anything from my race necessarily, but boy did I ever. There is so much positivity and good will flowing on social media it was amazing. It shows me what social media is really there for, building community and supporting your friends and family when you can’t be there in person.
I saw post after post after post about my day on the course. There were posts about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my race. I think just about every post was then followed by a trail of comments wishing me luck and congratulating me on being out there and spreading good will and positivity. To be perfectly honest it was all quite overwhelming as I lay in bed recovering and read post after post and comment after comment from all the friends and family I have out there supporting me. It became difficult to read all the posts as my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and then overflowed and tears ran down my face.
Seeing such an outpouring of support play out right before your eyes is something I never expect, but there it is. All the good, kind, supportive people that are a part of my life in one way or another are spending time letting me know that they are thinking of me. That is just so humbling of an experience.
Social media being what it is these days, even scrolling through my feed for long periods of time did not reveal all the posts about that weekend all at once. For several days after my race I would check into my social media account and in my feed would appear some post about my race that I had not seen before with a whole new string of likes and comments attached to it. Each time I encountered a new post with new comments to read I was overwhelmed anew with the emotions of that day and thankfulness for all the people I have in my life. My eyes did not remain dry seeing these new posts even days after my race. It means the world to me to have so much support out in the world.
I wanted to share this as a way to show my gratitude for everyone out there who took a moment to like or comment on a post from that weekend. You have no idea what it means to me. This post contains images and posts from that weekend shared by my crew and others while I was out there on the course including the likes and comments associated with each post. Thank you all for following me on this amazing journey. I look forward to the next adventure.
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This year has been the most challenging year of running for me yet. Not because I set big goals for myself, I mean yes because I set big goals for myself, but also because of other struggles. Going into this year, after running only two 50k’s I decided it was time to push myself farther and longer. First I decided that I would take on a 50 mil race. Later I decided that this would also be the year I took on a 100 mile race. This all before I even ran my 3rd official 50k. I didn’t even wait to see how a 50 mile race would feel before diving in head first into the 100 mile pool. I put it all on the table early on in the year.
It seemed so….. Simple? I would train like my previous year for my 50k in May. That 50k would be my longest training run for my 50 mile race about a month after. The 50 mile race would be my longest training run leading into my 100 mile race two months later. The 50 mile race would also give me some experience at a new distance so I would have an idea of what to expect through the half-way point of my 100 mile race and that seemed like important knowledge to have.
Then life happened and all the plans and “simplicity” melted away. Like many runners I got injured with what turned out to apparently be hip bursitis. I ended up injured before I even got to the point in my year where I would run my 50k. So I tried to rest and recover as best I could and went into my 50k feeling under trained and nervous if I would even be able to finish. Worlds End 50k was the most painful and grueling race I have suffered through to date. I was in so much pain I walked the last 10 miles and almost every step of those ten miles caused pain in my hip. But I finished. I learned that if I had to I could tough it out and endure the pain as long as needed to cross the finish line. Not what I wanted from that race but a valuable lesson that would pay dividends later.
I had a month to try to get right physically for my 50 mile race. I got as much treatment and rest as I could and maintain my fitness for my 50 mile race. Finger Lakes 50’s 50 miler did not go as well as Worlds End. I was not in as much pain from my hip but it was hampering me, slowing me down and probably causing me to expend unnecessary energy. In the end being out in the heat and humidity of a July summer day did me in. I couldn’t keep up with the time I needed to move on to the third and final loop of the 50 mile race. But I did finish a 50k. The heat punished me. I was dizzy and wobbly on my feet at times. Heat exhaustion was hitting me hard. Then the rains came and I bounced back allowing me to finish in a decent time and feeling ok instead of suffering through to the end. Even though I wasn’t able to finish the 50 miles and gain the experience of feeling what 50 miles felt like I learned that I could bounce back from a physical low and keep moving on.
Training between the 50 mile attempt and my 100 mile race was not ideal but it was better than I had gotten any time since April. I decided that in order to reduce the impact on my hip I would focus on making sure I got in my long runs and decrease all other mileage. I ran regular 3 mile runs during the week and then a long run on the weekends. I was able to get in more long ruins during this time frame than any time since April and it included two 20 mile runs in the same week which I feel like were crucial to my physical preparedness and my mental preparedness. I knew my hip was getting better. I thought it would probably be an issue but not cost me the race. I was actually becoming more concerned about my long standing right ankle pain that tends to flare up with long runs, which seemed to be getting worse.
As the week of the race approached I was getting more and more nervous about it. Would I really be able to do this thing? Anxiety and fear were closing in on me. Was my training good enough? Would I be prepared? Was a physically strong enough? Was I mentally strong enough? I took the whole week leading up to the race off from running. I focused entirely on recovery and being as healthy as I possibly could be going into the race. I included a massage from Soul Ease Massage to help ensure that my hips and legs were in as good shape as possible. I am not sure you can ever feel relaxed when you have a 100 mile race looming.
If there was one secret weapon I knew I had to get me through this race, it was my crew. I was going to have a great crew, of my wife and my friends, out there taking care of me at the race. They would not let me fail.
The night before the Pine Creek Challenge my wife and I met up with two of our friends to camp for the night at the race location. We hung out. We chatted. I tried to relax. One thing we talked about is what to do if things don’t go according to plan. I had planned for this race more than I had ever planned or prepared for any other race or maybe even event in my life. I was organized. I had everything labeled. I had times for when I hoped to be in and out of aid stations. I planned for the best case scenario, even though I knew that the race was unlikely to play out that way. I knew what I wanted to happen and what I had in mid as more reasonable though still quite lofty goal for a first 100 mile race. I wanted to finish in under 24 hours. I thought that I had a good chance at making that happen as long as the first half of the race went reasonably well. I knew that a sub 24 hour goal was very likely not going to happen but it was the goal and it was really hard to think about anything outside of that goal. But we talked about just thinking about what is going ot happen if plan A doesn’t work out and plan B doesn’t work out and so on and so on. What do you do? How do you proceed? I think it was good to go through that mental exercise to just think that there are so many different ways that this event could unfold, none of which could be anticipated maybe. This perhaps is where experience would be valuable. If you have done this before I think it is easier to have contingency plans or at east to know what to do to get you back on track.
I sometimes have trouble sleeping before a race, but not usually too bad. I am also not much of a dreamer while I sleep. Well the night before my first 100 mile race was going to be different. I slept OK until about 4 AM when I was awakened by a nightmare. In this nightmare I had a full blown panic attack and completely shut down and was curled up in the fetal position in the tent and could not even manage to put on my clothes for the race. So, that resulted in me staring at the ceiling of the tent for an hour before my alarm went off at 5 AM and I got up and started to get ready for the race. I was not as anxious getting up and getting ready for the day as I thought I would be. There were the normal pre-race jitters but not anything major. I managed to not forget anything significant before starting. It was surprising to me that for the 6 AM start I still was going to end up needing my headlamp as I set out. I was not expecting that. We got to the start line. I kissed my wife and hugged my friends and then I set off on an adventure.
The start was hard. Not physically hard but mentally hard. My strategy was to go out at a 12 minute per mile pace, running a mile then walking 1 minute, much slower than I would go at any other type of flat run. The first bunch of people pulled away from me. Then another group of people pulled away. Then more people caught up to me and passed me. I kept trying to go slow. Eventually I seemed to essentially be alone on the trail. As I was alone on the trail I struggled a bit to stay out of my head. I began to think about all the things that could go wrong during this journey. I had to tell myself out loud multiple times to get out of your head. As the sun rose I stopped to take some photos along the way and used my GoPro while running some. I saw an eagle fly low along a swampy area and land in a tree, so that was a nice way to start off the race. It was 5.6 miles to the first aid station and I tried to go as slow as I could, but when I arrived my crew reported to me that I was still 5 minutes ahead of my planned pace. It was nice to get that first section over and see my crew though. The course is a multi out and back course to complete the full 100 miles and I was already at the terminus of one end so it was time to turn around and run back the other way for along time.
My crew got me out of the aid station without wasted time and I headed back the way I came. I needed to go slower. I took the time to use my GoPro more and take other photos. Run slower, walk longer to slow my pace. I got back to the swampy area and saw a great blue heron and snapped a few photos. I saw a few people with their dog and a woman with her camera and she said this is one of her favorite places to come for photography, so I made a mental note of that. She wasn’t kidding though because that bald eagle was still up in its perch on the large tree in the swamp. I tried to capture a few more photos of it. I might be the only one able to tell there is an eagle in the photos though because it is so far away. Eventually, I started to see runners from the other races of different distances happening on the same trail coming towards me on the trail. That made things a little more interesting on this return trip. I eventually got back to the start line where the next aid station was. I got some fuel and some hydration. Then waited forever some non-runner who decided to occupy the portapotty at the aid station, despite all the others available for spectator use, so that I could finally pee. That was probably the biggest frustration of that sort for me the entire race though, so I will call that a win.
Next was a 3.4 mile jaunt to the next aid station. I arrived at the aid station felling pretty good. Still going at what felt like the right pace. On plan. My hip wasn’t giving me any serious problems. It felt tight and maybe a little uncomfortable but not painful. My ankle was a little sore but nothing major. My crew made sure I had what I needed and got me going through the aid station without wasting too much time which is the goal. The next section would start the portion of the trail that really went through the valley.
The next aid station was nearly 8 miles away but I wouldn’t see my crew again for 16 miles. This 16 miles between seeing my crew again is one of the places I struggled most mentally. I had done marathon to 50k distances 8 times over the last three years. I thought I knew what to expect from it. I thought that on a flat course going the relatively slow pace for me that I had planned to go and was sustaining that the first 30 miles would feel relatively easy or at least not too hard. Maybe that was just being naive especially considering how my training had went. But during this 16 miles to the next time I would see my crew I really felt like I was struggling mentally. I felt like I was going slower than I wanted to when I was running and that I was walking longer than I wanted to to rest after each mile of running. My legs felt tired and sluggish and sore already. I really began to think that maybe I had gotten in over my head. If I was already feeling like this and it hadn’t even been 30 miles yet, what on earth was the rest of the race going to feel like?
One things that was a cool uplift for me during this 16 miles alone was seeing something I had never seen before. As I ran down the trail eventually I came to this spot where I saw someone had scratched out in large letters in the gravel the world snake with an arrow pointing to the left. I was instantly curious. Was someone just fucking with runners or was there really a snake over there in the rocks along the side o the trail? I had never seen a rattle snake in the wild but I was well aware of all the reports of snakes along this trail and the potential to see one. So I walked over to the side of the trail cautiously and looked at the rocks. Sure enough there was a rather large snake with a baby toy attached to its tail slithering underneath some rocks. I called back to a runner I had recently passed and let him know that there was a snake over here so that he could be aware and take caution. I did not get close to the snake or even try to get a photo of the snake. Those who know me are probably surprised by this. It was cool to be out doing something entirely new to me and see something entirely new to me as well.
After being a bit down physically and mentally it was a great relief to finally see my crew waiting for me a the Blackwell aid station. The aid station is half a mile before the turn around so I ran out to the turn around first as I dropped off my pack for my crew to refill. My first pacer of the day accompanied out to the turn around and we talked about how the race was going. Then I came back to the aid station and ate some food and got some extra hydration. I also took some Tylenol for my hip and ankle and had some bio freeze applied to my ankle. The first 30 miles had been harder than I thought they would be. That much was clear.
My pacer would accompany me the next 26 miles. We headed out to start the next phase of this journey. At least for this trip through the valley I would have someone along for the ride. WE talked quite a bit through the first 8 miles or so. We talked a lot about nature. I think I complained about all my grievances. I am kinda surprised my pacer didn’t just run off ahead of me or at least stay far enough ahead or behind that they couldn’t hear me anymore. This section started off strong. We ran 3+ miles without stopping for a walk break. Which was OK at the time because I was feeling strong. I didn’t actually feel like I needed a break after every mile which is how I had been feeling during the previous 16 miles. This run of 26 miles with my first pacer went OK. Not as well as I had hopped, but not as bad as it could have after how I felt during the end of the first 30 miles. I could feel myself slowing down some eventually. At times running much slower than I would have liked and at times taking much longer walking breaks than I would have liked. I stopped at the aid stations for extra food and hydration along the way. I had more bio freeze applied to the painful areas which seemed to be getting a little worse with more time on my feet.
At one point early on during this 26 miles with my first pacer we saw a group of people gathered up blocking almost the entire trail and many of them were over along the edge of the trail near the rocks. As we approached I knew they were looking at or for a snake. They were so close. I told my friend to get his camera out because there was about to be a Kodak moment. I don’t wish people harm, but these people were being dumb and unsafe. They were way too close they were essentially standing in the rock pile and had their phones out trying to get photos. They very easily could have gotten bitten and who gets blamed for that, the snake. Those kind of things really get me riled up. As we passed by I could see that there was a more light colored rattle snake among the rocks. Then shortly thereafter I saw a large almost completely black rattle snake out in the open along the rocks. It was the first time I was able to see the entire body of a rattle snake. It was quite large. They are amazing creatures and I am thrilled to be able to share a trail with them and pay them the appropriate respect they deserve by keeping my distance. I may be one of the few people happy to see a rattle snake on the trail, but I was secretly hoping to see one during the race.
Eventually my pacer were arriving at the 50 mile turn around aid station. The people running this aid stations had it going right. There were lights along the trail lighting the way. There was a fire. The crowd there was cheering so loudly. It was really making me emotional. I was getting choked up at all the people there cheering and supporting the runners out here like me. It is truly a blessing to be part of a larger community of runners like this.
When we arrived I took more Tylenol at the mile 50 turn around aid station and got more bio freeze. I don’t really remember much about this aid station, because I was too overcome with emotion from all the support from my crew, which kept expanding as more and more of my friends showed up over the course of the day, and the people at running the aid station itself cheering and high fiving. I changed my shoes here because I thought half way through a 100 mile race would be a good time to put on shoes with more cushion. My crew got me in and out of this aid station in good time. At this aid station I was picking up a new pacer, my best friend was going to run the next 9 miles with me.
It was really nice to be able to run part of this race with my best friend. We haven’t been able to run together much since early in the year. She may be my friend but she had no sympathy for my foolishness of getting myself into this race. She was going to make sure I stuck to my plan of running and then walking. She was not going to let me take it easy. She pushed me to run as much as I could and then told me when it was time to rest. I think I almost begged for a little longer time to rest at one point. I think she allowed me 30 more seconds to walk. Talking and sharing miles despite the slave driving was nice. I think the sharing of miles with friends is something you can only understand if you are a runner. During our 5+ miles together my friend informed me that our other friend who had been injured for the last month or more and not running was feeling better and may be running with me from the next aid station.
I arrived at the next aid station and fueled up. Got what I needed and was ready to head out. Sure enough my friend was ready to run with me. We headed out for the next 3+ miles to the next aid station. This might be one of the few ways that deviating from your plan can be a good thing. It was so nice to be able to share miles with my two running friends whom I have shared more miles with than anyone. Picking up a new pacer, an unexpectedly new pacer can only be good when it is your friend who you know would have wanted to be your pacer anyway, but due to injury wasn’t able to plan for it. She had been cleared to run just the other day and wanted to share some miles with me on this journey and it doesn’t get much better than that. She was not quite as much a hard ass on this section. I ran as much as I could but I needed longer rests, or at least I took advantage of my friend to get longer rests.
I arrived at the mile 65 aid station feeling pretty good all things considered. I enjoyed running with my friend that I didn’t expect to be able to share any miles with. I was in good spirits. I was tired but doing OK. The plan was to resupply water and food in my pack, add a warmer layer of clothes as it was now getting dark and pick up my new pacer. Then it happened. It felt like someone just pulled the plug on me and the power went out. I went from feeling fine and ready to go to crashing hard. I started to feel light headed and then nauseous. I thought I might throw up. My crew tried to keep me standing and get me some food. Then I started to experience things I had never experienced. My arms started to go numb and get tingly. My mouth started to get tingly. I was losing control of my body. It was shutting down. I was losing it. My mouth got number and number. I couldn’t feel or move my mouth or tongue. My left hand curled up into a claw. My hand was clenched and I couldn’t move it. My crew mates were literally holding me up. They got me seated and just started to literally pour sugar into me. Cups of Coke went in. My crew literally holding cups to my inoperative mouth and pouring little bits in so I could swallow. It was like being a helpless child being fed by your family. I couldn’t even drink from the cup if they held it to my mouth they had to literally manage to pour it in my mouth so I could swallow. I don’t know if I literally thought about quitting, but if I was going to it would have been here in this moment. There is no way I could have made it through this without them. My chosen family, My wife and my friends. This is why they mean the world to me. They would not let me fail.
My wife told me later that she had to walk away because it was too hard for her to see me like that and she didn’t want me to see her upset. At one point I looked at my inoperative curled up left hand and said “It’s the claw” making a Friends joke that probably only my wife would get, but she said when she heard that she knew I was still in there and that I was going to be OK. I think that is also when I knew I was going to be OK too. I was able to keep my mind right even in this lowest moment of what felt like at the time there would be no coming back from. My crew kept working on me. Getting more calories in me, more Coke to drink. Then I could slowly feel it. My body started to respond. I started to get the feeling back in my arms and my hand. I could actually use my hand. At one point I was able to hold a cup and I thought drink on my own, but apparently my face was still numb and I just poured Coke down my face. But it was OK. I am pretty sure I laughed at that. Eventually as my body recovered my crew got me some warm clothes. I put on a light long sleeve shirt and a light jacket. I put on a pair of wind pants. I put on a dry hat and a buff to keep my ears warm. I eventually regrouped and headed out with a new pacer.
Just reflecting on this moment in time makes me emotional. This was one of the toughest moments I have ever endured and I owe it all to my crew for getting me thorough. Literally propped up on the shoulders of my friends. Fed and clothed by my friends. Taken care of by my family. I owe the next 35 miles to them. If I did not have them there my day would have ended at that aid station and I would never know anything else.
After arriving at the mile 65 aide station in such good shape, leaving that aid station was not the same. I felt like I was barely moving. I could move but just had no energy. The next 16 miles till I saw my crew was going to be a very slow walk in the dark. Thank god for pacers. I don’t know how people ran in the dark, alone and tired. Thankfully my pacers worked to keep me engaged. We talked about Star Wars. There was line dancing. I think the best I felt was when we actually listened to Christmas music, Straight No Chaser, I actually had the energy to sing along with the music. It really helped lift my spirits at a time where I was moving way slower than I had hoped to. I eventually just got exhausted during this 16 mile section. I don’t know if was the normal kind of exhaustion that one would expect or if I was suffering more because of my crash at mile 65. But, I was struggling to not just fall asleep while standing up. My eyes kept closing. I was essentially just staggering down the path. Often not in a straight line. I am pretty sure that if I were alone I would have fallen off the trail, into the ditch or into the water. Thank god for amazing friends willing to walk miles in the dark with you and play ping pong with your body bouncing you from one edge of the path to the other to keep you safe. I felt like I needed to be on a leash. I eventually hallucinated that there was a huge wagon wheel in the middle of the path. Then I saw or at least am pretty sure I actually saw my first every flying squirrel in the wild. I saw something fly across the trail from the trees on the right and land in a tree on the left then climb up the tree. Not a good look due to it being dark, but I could only imagine it was a flying squirrel or another hallucination. Another tough part about this 16 miles was that my feet began to hurt. I could tell I was getting blisters on my feet and that was not going to be good. I thought that the shoes I changed into had caused the problem. I decided that I was going to change back into the shoes that I started with at the mile 81 aid station when I saw my crew again. We also decided while walking that I was going to try and take a brief five to ten minute nap at the aid station because I was just staggering around so much that I was wasting too much time and energy and not making enough forward progress and I thought that if I could just close my eyes for a few minutes I would recover enough energy to make much more substantial progress in the next phase.
I got to the mile 81 aid station and began to do all the normal things. Refresh food and water. Change shoes. Reapply anti chafe. Then it hit me again. My body started to revolt for a second time. As I sat in a chair I got light headed and nauseous. I started to lose feeling again. Me team sprung into action immediately getting me what I needed. They started to load me up with Coke again. They responded to my needs immediately despite what had been a long and strenuous day for them as well. They were right there to take care of me and get me out of this funk. They pulled me out of it faster than last time and with less severe symptoms. Then while wrapped in a space blanket I tried to fall asleep. Somehow the exhaustion that was overcoming me on the trail would not grant me sleep that I felt I needed. I had expected that I would close my eyes and instantly pass out, but it didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was the shock of the crash and then recovery but now my eyes wouldn’t stay closed and I couldn’t slep. Finally, filled with frustration I stood up ready to set out on another 16 mile trek through the valley in the dark. I knew I would have a pacer for this section but I learned to my surprise that my best friend would accompany for this 16 mile section. She knew I was moving slow and had gone fewer miles than anyone else that could pace me at that point so she joined me.
I think it was reassuring, when I was so low, to have someone on the trail with me that I had shared a lot of miles with. Someone who knew me well and could keep me going. We started out on a slow pace. Shortly after we left we saw the only other runner that remained behind me. He needed to push to make the cut off time at the mile 81 aid station and we encouraged him as he went by. Not too long after we saw him this same runner who was struggling caught me from behind and passed me with a huge surge, he had gotten another wind and was moving well. I was now DFL. I could accept being DFL as long as I finished. For a while as we moved down the path I actually almost reveled in the idea of being DFL. Early on during this stretch I was moving slowly but I at least felt more awake than I had previously even though I didn’t sleep. I don’t remember much about those first half dozen miles. I know that we were a little concerned about making the cut off time at the mile 89 aid station so we tried to speed up and when we finally arrived there id din’t even stop. I just essentially walked on through.
At some point during this 16 mile stretch my pacer could tell I was feeling better and she started to encourage me to pick up the pace some. We eventually could see the person who had passed me to leave me in last place. My pacer was like, oooh we can catch him. She encouraged me to move faster. We added some more very slow running into the mix. Honestly I am not sure I even wanted to pass them. Something in my mind wanted to just stay in last. There seemed to be more honor in being DFL than to be second to last. Or maybe I was just afraid that I would over take him only to be passed again. Eventually the mix of running and walking allowed me to pass him. But then we ran out of water and despite being well hydrated I was too afraid to push it with still a while to go until the next aid station. There was at least 3 miles and I was afraid of another crash which I could not afford this late into the race. So we dropped back to a walk and stayed ahead of him although he gained on us. It always seemed like we were farther away from that last aid station than seemed possible. Seeing a sign post for 1.7 miles until the aid station area was almost soul crushing. My pacer was critical to getting me through this tough section She kept me entertained with singing and dancing to music she played from her phone. It was slow going and would have been easy to get demoralized but she kept me uplifted. We decided that at the last aid station I would drop off my pack and pick up a hand held for the last 3.4 miles. Dropping of my heavy pack at the last aid station was something that never occurred to me. This is one of the many reasons yo have pacers. They will think of things you will not.
We FINALLY arrived at the aid station. I dropped my pack and grabbed a hand held and a gel. FYI, I didn’t even have a hand held at the race, it was one of my previous pacers hand helds. Have I mentioned how awesome my crew was for me. As I stopped at the last aid station briefly and ate some food I was once again overtaken by the person we had passed earlier. I was back in last. But I headed out on that last 3.4 miles anyway.
My pacer insisted I was going to run this last 3.4 miles. I was not so sure. But she pushed me anyway. She somehow knew what I had left to give to this race. I don’t know how she knew, but she knew. I sure as hell didn’t know. So, guess what? I ran. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty but I averaged around a 13 minutes/mile over the last 4 miles. I hadn’t run a 13 minute mile since mile 35. I am not sure how this was possible. I ran and took walk breaks. Somehow feeling pretty good. Walking just enough to give me strength for another push. My pacer took charge. She told me when to run and she told me when I could walk. It was starting to get sunny and hot as the morning sun continued to rise in the sky so we tried to run through the shady areas and walk in the sunny places. I didn’t try to over think it. I just listened to my pacer and tried to do what she was encouraging me to do. She believed that I could do this and somehow I was doing it. My legs carried my better and felt stronger than they ha at any point over the last 30+ miles. I don’t know how it is possible. When I left the last aid station I was last. I quickly passed the guy who had passed me again to put me in last. Then as we ran down the trail we began to see other runners up ahead. My pacer told me we could catch them. I had my doubts. She encouraged me to keep moving. Run to that tree and then we will walk, she told me. Then run to that post and we can walk. This strategy was working. We caught and passed multiple runners. I passed 6 runners in the last 3.4 miles. I can’t even imagine that being possible at the end of a 100 mile journey especially considering how dead I felt just a shot time ago. The only person we saw that I did not catch was the person who turned out to be a pacer. But that guy looked like he was a runner. He kept looking back at us and then speeding up like he was trying to keep me from catching up to him, so my pacer was like lets catch him. So I chased someone down the trail who wasn’t even technically in the race. But I guess whatever keeps you motivated right. I got to the final turn off the trail and up the gravel road to the finish line and could not believe how good I felt. I heard my crew start cheering for me. My family was waiting for me. I started to run faster and a little faster. My wife was there waiting for me. I was so happy to see her. She started running with me. I ran as hard as I could. I basically sprinted through the finish line with my wife by my side. It was amazing to feel that alive and have that much juice left in my legs after such a long journey. The energy that my family was giving me was amazing. Having them there for me right up until the end was amazing. I crossed the finish line and hugged my wife so hard. I cried. I was just completely overcome with emotion. My whole crew came and congratulated me on finishing this journey. Hugs and handshakes all around. I am so thankful for the person who took the picture of me with my finisher awards and my crew by my side. That is a memory I will never forget.
Thank you to the Tyoga Running club and my supporters on Patreon for helping me to make this happen.
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Saturday I take on a challenge that not only did I never think I would take on I never even knew such a thing existed. Even when I started running I wasn’t aware of anything beyond a marathon. Discovering the world of trail running and ultra marathons has been a mind blowing experience. I have gained so much since this adventure began.
This year of training and running has been different in a lot of ways from my past several years of running. Training for and taking on new challenges. Fear, doubt, anxiety. Physical setbacks. All of that is in the rear view mirror now. Well, all of it except the anxiety, but it is mostly nervous and excited energy to just go do the thing.
The waiting and planning and organizing are hard for me. None of that is my strength. I can Do the training. I can go Do the race. I struggle with the effort involved in the planning phases. If someone would just put me on the start line and point me in the right direction and say go, that is all I really need. Taking on something like this requires a whole different level of effort on different planes.
Thankfully I have a great crew that will be down there supporting me and taking care of me. People I can talk through things with and that help my make sure I am prepared. They do things like send me packing lists to help me make sure I don’t forget anything.
I am as ready as I am ever going to be to get out there and take on this 100 mile adventure at the Pine Creek Challenge. Let’s go do this thing.
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My friends and I love to do hard things and have fun doing it. We are all runners of one variety or another and we like to run. Our running often leads us on adventures. We like our adventures best when we can go through it together. Those of us not running during a particular adventure can often be found supporting the others in the group who are running at that time. We all enjoy running and we all enjoy being outside and we all enjoy beer and any opportunity we have to enjoy some combination of those things we try to make it happen.
Over the past year the idea of heading up to New Hampshire to run the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains was raised by one friend who has been thinking about such an adventure for a long time. We decided this was an adventure we definitely wanted to have. We put it on the calendar and planned for doing it all year. Four of us would be running the trails through the mountains while two would be supporting and probably enjoying some beers while we ran. This adventure was supposed to have happened this past weekend.
Unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan. I have been battling a nagging injury and have a 100 miler in a couple weeks. Another of our crew was also trying to recover from an injury after two challenging races, a 50 miler I was unable to finish and then a mountain scramble in the Catskills, which caused her to miss a subsequent race she wanted to run. And a third member of our party was recovering after a hard 100k. We had never really talked about what happens if we were in no shape to take on the challenges of a Presidential Traverse, we always just assumed it would work out.
Luckily the topic was raised by the more level headed of our group and we eventually came to the difficult conclusion that the Presidential Traverse adventure would have to wait for at least a year. Thankfully, our planers in chief of our friends group took over and found us a nice spot in the Adirondacks to camp and planned a nice itinerary of things for us to do while we were there.
Instead of having a short vacation that included extreme physical exertion I think I had one of the more relaxing trips I’ve had. I didn’t have to plan anything because that was taken care of by our cruise director. Thank you for planning out our trip. I didn’t drive anywhere. Thank you friends for letting me ride in your cars both to and from camp and while we were in the Adirondacks. I did very little physical exertion compared to most trips I take, just two 3 mile runs so I didn’t totally fall off the wagon with my training. We even had our meals planned.
The day we left for camp, we stopped to eat at Druthers. I ate the most enormous skillet of mac and cheese and it was soooo good. Street Corn Mac and Cheese was so good. I felt like I was going to die but it was so worth it. I hate to waste food. After we arrived at camp at Luzerne campground we set up our tents and then explored the campground itself a little bit. It was a very well forested campground. Unlike some campgrounds where there are relatively few trees for a natural area this campground was heavily forested and blocked out the sun for the most part. The entire campground was in the shade except for a few areas. This is the kind of campground I like, but the downside is it makes it cooler when you are at camp because you have no sun shining on you to keep you warm and weather was milder than previous weeks for summer. It was a wear a hoodie around the campfire type of trip. After exploring the campground we went and played some mini golf at the place we saw on the way to the campground.
Our first full day of the trip we explored nearby Prospect Mountain. By explore I mean we drove up a road that leads to the summit and stopped at the lookout points, because as I previously mentioned none of us were really in any shape for a hike up a mountain. It was still fun and the views were really nice. After we were done at the mountain we ended up being two hours ahead of our expected itinerary. The next part of our itinerary called for heading down to Glens Falls and checking out the local breweries so by unanimous decision we decided to just start that process early and find some breweries that were not already on our list to go to. First we found one to eat some lunch at and have a beer, Davidson Brothers. The food and the beer at Davidson Brothers were both good. Then we moved on to a different location. So we got additional breweries into our schedule. I think we all wish it had only been one less additional brewery because at the second place we went to it had collectively probably the worst beer that any of us had ever had. This was the unfortunate experience at Coopers Cave. The place looked very nice but their beer was very bad. Three out of five of us did not even finish our beers, they were so bad. It was so funny, because we didn’t take any pictures at the first establishment we went to but we did take a group photo outside with the Cooper’s Cave sign before going in then after having the beer we had there we decided we needed a before and after version where in the after version we all had sad faces because of our disappointment in the beer. I think we all wish we had stayed longer one place and never ventured there at all. That’s what happens when you go off book.
Fortunately there were several places with much better beer to visit. We were now going to the places we had originally planned for and the hopes were high for some much better beer. The next place we visited was Common Roots Brewing Company because it was the first place to open. We also went to Mean Max Brew Works and Northway Brewing CO.
Our second day we were originally planning to go tubing down the river but the weather forecast made that seem like a less than completely enjoyable option as the high was for about 70 and that wasn’t even until 3pm. So instead we stayed in camp a little extra long after enjoying breakfast. Then at the time we were going to go river tubing we set off for an early start to what was our later part of the day that was brewery hoping in Lake George. So since we had extra time to spare we were able to just park and wander around Lake George and hit the local spots we wanted to visit by foot. We started at one location and ordered a bite to eat with our food, Adirondack Brewery. At this location I took a shot on a beer that sounded like it had potential to be something I would like because it was called “Eleanor” and was a sour beer and had lemon in it. I like sour beers. I thought this was a safe bet, but unfortunately the description of the beer also referenced leather. As I found out the hard way, never order a beer that references leather in the description. It was the only beer I did not finish the entire trip. It only got about 1/4 gone and that was only because I was able to convince a few of my friends to try this disgusting concoction. I think the consensus is that it tasted a little bit like Pine-sol.
Luckily the reward for visiting the first establishment was a free sampling at High Peaks Distilling where they had bourbon and whiskey. I am not a regular bourbon or whiskey drinker but I do enjoy them from time to time. The offerings at this establishment were phenomenal, especially the Sugar Moon Maple Whiskey Bourbon they had. The service and hospitality there was also great. Walking around Lake George and experience the town on foot and being able to pop in to the other establishments we wanted to visit while we were out and about worked out nicely. We also stopped in to Lake George Distilling Co. We each had a tasting there of a selection of 3 different spirits from their selection. I tried the Bullhead Bourbon, Apple Pie Moonshine, and the Adirondack Wildfire Whiskey and I enjoyed all of them.
We also stopped in at a winery a few hops went down to the waterfront and got ice-cream at Ben & Jerry’s. Sometimes it is really nice to just wander around town on foot with no real plan or intention. I do not like this experience when I am on my own but it was nice to do it with my friends especially since at least one of us actually knew where we were going. I think in general we all mostly enjoyed our experiences at all of the locations we visited.
After our visit to the Lake George Area we decided to go back to the place that was roundly hailed as the best stop of the trip, Common Roots, for a few more beers and eat some snacks we had with us that we thought we would eat while were tubing down a river.
On our way home we stopped at a brewery closer to home that I had never been to, Beer Tree Brew Co. We had lunch from Fox & Farmer and enjoyed a beer.
Camping with my friends was a very different experience than camping by myself for some very obvious reasons, but for some less obvious reasons as well. My friends do camping much different than I do. When I camp I generally am very simple/lazy when it comes to food. I generally do not cook much if at all and eat easy sandwiches or granola bars. My friends like to cook meals when camping and they did a great job doing it. We had a hot breakfast and a hot dinner every night prepared by a different member of our group and I am so thankful for each of my friends preparing meals for us. I enjoyed having cooked meals, but I am not sure I will do it when I am camping on my own.
This was not the trip any of us was planning for earlier this year and I think some of us were disappointed that this is how it went but none of us are sad in the least over the four days we had together. I think we all had a great time on this trip even though it was not the original plan. The main focus of the trip was to get together with friends and enjoy life. WE still did that. WE spent time in nature and we enjoyed beers together. Things we all like to do. It might have really been what we all needed the most an opportunity to rest, relax, and enjoy each other’s company without any other pressures looming. Sometimes things unexpectedly work out for the best in a way you wouldn’t imagine.
Be open to a different kind of adventure.
Even if you don’t get to have the adventure you had hoped for and things don’t go according to plans spending time with friends is about the best thing anyone can ask for.
I enjoyed spending a few days doing nothing but just hanging out with my friends.
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