2018 was a great year and really set me up for 2019! Having recently switched my blog to this new website, I decided to merge all of my 2018 races into a single post and make it easier on readers. I hope you enjoy the recap!
Naked Prussian 50 mile
I used this race as a test for the year. I had just left my job with Nathan and was going through a bit of a transition in my life with work, my personal life and with running. I was optimistic I could have a nice day and break the Course record of 7:14 held by Brian Ruseicki. I traveled with my father and our two dogs to the race, just a mere 2 hours away from Princeton, NJ. The weather was looking promising with temps around 35 degrees and warming up to mid 50’s by the time I would finish the event. In preparation for the Ultra Race of Champions, I wanted to challenge myself to go out hard and see how I could respond from a fast start, like what I would expect to see on UROC race-day.
The course is a great, runnable trail with about 5k of elevation gain throughout the 50 miles that is split amongst two 25 mile laps. The course runs around a lake near Reading, PA and has many consistent ups and downs with a few steep climbs near the ski section later in the lap.
I took out to the front and asserted my pace. I really enjoyed the early morning flow of the course and with the temps still, near freezing, it allowed for the muddy single-track trail to be rock solid and excellent footing for the time being. I ran around 7 minute mile average for the entirety of the first loop. It felt good to push. I split around 3:11 through the marathon and felt that I could maintain this pace. Around mile 18, I noticed a slight muscle cramp deep in my left calf that I knew would be an issue throughout the remainder of the race.
I dug deep, focused on taking in more fluids and salts and messaged the calf every 5 miles or so during aid to see if I could take control of the situation. This condition persisted the entire remainder of the race! After my first loop, the weather was nice and balmy but the trail had turned to sticky mud which made the effort much harder than in the first lap. I took this as a lesson on patience and resilience, both qualities I would need for UROC. I slowed slightly but still managed about a 7:10 mile average up until about 6 miles to go. At this point, my calf was so tight that the rest of my body looked to over compensate and I entered the dreaded shuffle into the finish. The last trail section of the race is a bunch of short and steep rolly-polly sections that felt like mini-mountains. I managed 8 minute miles through here and creeped into the finish with a 6:50 overall time, 1st place and a new CR. The race had a fun Bavarian theme with beer mugs as awards and a polka band at the start, mid-way, and at the finish. It was a fun and chill event with a great course and fantastic volunteers.
Ultra Race of Champions (UROC)
UROC is deemed as an event that brings in some of the best ultra runners in the country and the world to compete, on a varied trail running ultra that tests runner’s abilities to the whole level of the athlete. I was excited to test my fitness after a great race at the Naked Prussian and was exited to toe the line with top athletes such as Michael Wardian, Anthony Kunkel, Jim Sweeney, Tyler Sigil, Amanda Basham and the list goes on.
From the pre-race meeting out on Skylark, over-looking the Blue Ridge valleys, this event is pretty cool and fits the bill as a “BIG-Time” event. I was hoping this could be a break-out race for me; it instead was another set-back.
With myself , my amazing wife, Ashlee and our two dogs, we were able to get settled into the Virginia experience. The weather was going to be really hot and really humid and coming from a late winter, most of the field was not properly acclimated to such conditions. We settled in and prepared for race morning.
Race morning came quickly, and I felt ready for the adventure ahead. I had all of my Mcdavid cooling towels which I had in my pack to help instant cool myself and thought I was ready to ROCK IT! The race went out and I settled in with a nice pack of runners and had the chance to chat some with Michael Wardian and Amanda Basham.
For what I saw of the course, I loved every second of it. It started with nice gravel and paved road sections as we gradually climbed up to the trailhead above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once we hit the trail, I had connected with Michael Wardian again and Nebraska trail running star: Cory Logsdon. I was in about 5th at this point as Tyler Sigil and Jeff Colt quickly set the tempo. The trail would meander up along the ridgeline for about 13 miles until a quick turn-around section and then back straight up the mountain.
Already only 7 miles into the race, the humidity and the rising heat was starting to take a toll on me. I was sweating buckets and the race felt like we were running somewhere in the Amazon. I ran with Cory Logsdon through this section as we pushed the ups and the downs of the course. We talked about our running past in Oklahoma and Nebraska and about the heat and the wind! Man, I could had gone for that weather over what we were running in on the day.
You would expect the ridge-line to be encased with trees, but no, it was wide-open vistas. The morning sun was just baking us. This is where my race started taking a downward spiral. I maintained contact with Cory, maybe just being 30 seconds behind him into the aid station. I refueled on tailwind, chugged some water, and soaked my cooling towel. The towel felt amazing for the first few minutes but due to the humidity, it lost its cooling within the first mile of using it. We were catching the guys up ahead and I hammered the long 1,500 foot climb gaining on 5th and 4th place. By the time I hit the crest, I was gassed. I slowed to a walk for 1 minute, timed on my watch, to get some needed fluids in me and to lower the heart-rate.
Cory had separated from me at this point. My body began to revolt. I started shivering and getting really cold and clammy. I puked once, then again, then again, and then one more time. Not one of my finer moments. I started walking, but this was engaging my gag reflex. I started drinking more from my handheld and bottles in my pack and then more puking. I tried to remain calm and composed but it was hard given how I was feeling. Then I had to duck into the woods and “take care of business”. This happened over the next three miles. I was then soon passed by Wardian and Basham.
I was feeling extremely dizzy and out of it. Just get to the next aid station—which was about 6 more miles away. I attempted to run/walk but the running kept making matters worse. By the time I had exhausted my fluids, I did a death-march of 3 miles back to the aid station. I was probably in 15th place at this point. I crawled into the aid and immediately sat down. The race doctor checked my vitals and I had a weak pulse and cautioned me from continuing. I was not going to risk it. I felt terrible and the amount of fluid I lost in this stretch was the equivalent of a week’s worth of water for me. Just too much to overcome. I dropped out of the event at 50k. It was a bummer as I had high hopes for the race, but learned that I needed to take things easier and pushing that climb was my undoing.
Kudos to all the finishers of UROC. The race conditions were brutal and just getting to the finish line on the day was a true testament of your grit and tenacity.
Thank you to Gil the RD and to the UROC race staff and volunteers. I will most certainly be back there again.
- 361 race singlet
- Janji 5 inch India shorts
- 2 Mcdavid Cooling towels
- Nathan Vaporkrar 4L with 2 12 oz exo bottles and Nathan Speedraw Plus Insulated Handheld
- 2 pairs of quarter Fits Socks
- 1 pair of CEP compression Sleeves
- 1 Nathan Trail Emoji hat
- 16 Boom Gels (Raspberry all the way)
- Lots of Tailwind
- 361 degrees Ortega 2
Catskill 100k: Going for a USA National Team Qualifier
My hope or intention of running this race was to test myself and see if I was capable of running a sub 7hr and 20min qualifying time that would place me in for having an automatic time qualifier for the USA 100k team which has been a major goal of mine ever since I got into ultra running 8 years ago.
This race was one of the few USATF certified road 100k courses around in the East Coast and I wanted to try and do it at a course that might be a little harder than a traditional 100k road course might be. The Catskill Mountain 100k started as a road relay and just in the last couple of years, created a “SOLO” division where runners could run the whole course themselves. There are no aid stations on the course- you must always have a support vehicle ride with you to provide the aid that you need. I like that format because it makes having to coordinate with your support team another element to your success or failure in the event.
Let me start by saying that this course is not flat. It has only about 3k of elevation gain throughout the 100k, but the course is constantly climbing or descending minus about 2 miles at the end and a 4-5 mile stretch past 50k by the YMCA, that is it. The race being in August is suspect for having hot and humid conditions which can make the race even harder. Also factor in that the road is open to traffic and for me on the day, there was a decent amount of car traffic going to the various parks which means you have to duck off of the narrow road into the drainage ditch to avoid being hit. I was almost hit too many times to count. Be careful out there people! With all that aside, with a 4 am solo start and most of the early morning into lunch time being extremely quiet and more rural, you will not have to worry about dodging cars until much later into the event.
The race website does a nice job of explaining the elevation of each 10k segment of the course…
I traveled with my father and our 2 dogs to the event on a very rainy day. The rain was so intense, it was hard to even see what was ahead. By the time we arrived at our little motel, It was near 7pm and I was exhausted. I felt pretty down on myself to even go out and run this event. I was thinking how could I push myself to this type of time, I haven’t trained the way I had hoped and the drive really took it out of me. I had the biggest amount of self-doubt I have ever faced in my running career.
3am comes and we are out of the motel to the race start. We get situated and the race day is forecast for rain later in the day but temps near 65. By 4am, I am off running into the darkness and all of a sudden, the stress and worry dissolves away. I am going to go for the time today and if I do not get there, that is okay as I am going to get the most out of myself today.
The first 10k is an out and back where you gradually climb then descend on the way back. I kept looking around the fog to see if I could see a black bear or any monsters that might lurk in the darkness of the Catskill woods. I did not catch any strange animals except for a few deer, a similar sight to running in New Jersey.
I split the first 10k just under 7 minute mile average – could this be my day?
I continue the section through the town running with a fellow athlete as we get to chatting. He eventually drops back sighting back pain around mile 12. The race course went by our motel and I stopped for a brief bathroom break and then was back on my way.
From this moment onward, I would run through the humid, foggy backroads of the Catskills, going up and down the rolling hills as well as a big ascent one of the high peaks all while maintaining a 7 minute mile average like I was some robot. I could not believe how consistent I was. The course meanders through ski mountains, little villages, gorgeous creeks and wild terrain. Most of the race is a blur and followed the same pattern until about mile 45. I would grab a Nathan Exodraw bottle from my father every 10k, drink the bottle down and take one gel. He would drive up ahead 5k, check on me then drive the next 5k to do the bottle exchange.
The diversity of the course is pretty amazing and I felt incredible up to mile 42 where the oppressive humidity and the time on my legs was starting to take a toll. It never rained while I raced. But it was so humid, the air felt like any second, the heavens would dump nice fresh rain, but nothing. Instead, the air was thick, wet, heavy. The air didn’t bother me much early on but as the race continued, it soon became a problem, like breathing through a cocktail straw.
I kept trying to remain focused and relaxed. From 30 to mile 42, the car traffic increased and the repetition of having to side-step off the road was making my hips start to lock-up.
I was soon losing my pace. By mile 45, I needed to stop for a minute or two to eat some bananas and refuel as I was cramping a little. I chatted with the RD and quickly went on my way. I clocked 50 miles in 6:05 which meant I was close to 7:20 if I could pick things up. I soon started thinking—this race is wayyy harder than I thought, maybe 7:30 or 7:40 would be my finish time which would equate to 7:20 or under on a flat course. I kept pushing through the pain and fatigue. This section through a recreation area had tons of cars and traffic. I just did not want to deal with dodging cars at this point. As I hit the final long descent, my body was shot—I grimaced in pain and hobbled. Only 5 miles from the finish and I was spent. I could hardly breathe as the thick air made it difficult to breathe. I hit the final two miles that were relative to being flat and somehow found a hidden gear and started running 7:15 minute miles. I held that into the finish in 8:16. I was done! I was away from my goal time, but had broken the course record by over an hour. I think 7:30-7:40 is doable on this course but it would take a perfect weather day to do it.
Overall, it was an incredible tour through the back-roads of the Catskill mountains. This region is beautiful, lush and wild; what a great way to experience the area without having to hike on some of their gnarly trails.
Thank you to my sponsors: 361 degrees, Nathan, Janji, Fits Socks, Boom Nutrition, Team MPF/RNR, Dion Snowshoes, Confluence Running.
JFK is one of the most historic races in the country. I had run the event in 2014 running 6:11 in 5th place. 4 years removed from the event, I was hopeful to improve on my time and place.
The race this year had some wild weather with a snowstorm to dump 5-6 inches on the course the couple of days before. My training had improved and I felt ready to line it up. It was a cold day come race day and a long list of elites were at the event with top runners such as Eric Senseman, Jared Hazen, Zach Miller and Tyler Sigil to name a few.
My plan was to run relaxed through the AT and then on the tow path, run 6:40 mile average until I could not anymore. The hope would be to run a smart effort and go under 6 hours which is a great accomplishment for this race and would put you in the Top 50 of all-time.
The race went out hard and I remained relaxed in around 8-12 place. We hit the AT and it was snowy slush. It was hard to keep perfect traction and with the recent snow melt, competitors would be running through puddles of freezing cold water. I linked up with local Albany runner Jim Sweeney and we ran through the AT together. I pushed a little too hard given the conditions in this section. By the time we came of the AT, off of the famous Weverton Cliffs, I had moved up into around 6th place. We had a mini pack of guys who were running as we went right to 6:40 miles. As the miles went on, guys started dropping back until it was just myself and Sweeney.
Everything was going well but I did feel some tightness in my hips. By the time mile 35 came around, I told Jim Sweeney to keep going and I had to recover a little, so I started running 7-minute miles. Then two 7:20 miles. It was after the towpath where I was caught by Ford from Texas. We ran together for a little bit then he pulled ahead. Those last road miles of JFK always feel like an eternity. I was losing steam and ended up being passed by a few more guys leading into the finish. My body seized up on me to where I felt like I was a tin man running. I crossed the line 9th place in 6:22. This was a time far off of what I had hoped but I was happy for my effort given pushing too hard through the snow earlier on in the race. In one of the deepest fields in JFK history, it was a solid effort. I will be back!