Friday, December 28, 2012

Ironman NYC 2012

Ironman recap

Thanks to my wonderful training plan which consisted of not training for an Ironman triathlon, I was a lot more nervous going into this race then I thought I would be.  Now let me be clear.  By saying I did not train for the Ironman, I am not being honest.  I trained a lot, and I had intense and long training sessions.  However, I only swam two times (1:15 and 50 minutes) and did one true bike workout (~30 miles), and those three sessions came the two weeks prior to the race.  All of my training was related to running.  I’m curious to know how many people did a 100-mile race in training for an Ironman.  My guess would be more than you would think, but not a lot as far as the percent of Ironman participants go.  I really wanted to see if the endurance aspect I had as a result of my ultra-marathons would carry over into an Ironman.  Obviously, I was quite certain that the aerobic capacity was there, but I thought it would be another thing altogether to not do any cycling over 30-miles in probably four years and then all of a sudden go out for a 112 mile race and then have to run 26.2 miles after that.  It was always my belief that you should do a lot of BRicks (Bike to Run) training so that you can run fast right off the bike and not need a lot of time to adjust from the bike legs to your running legs.  There are always a large percent of participants who for some reason, can’t seem to adapt to that transition and their run times are much worse from the get-go than if they were to just go out and run a marathon.  So yes, I had some doubts.

My goal for this race was really to just finish and have fun.  Because of what I mentioned above, I couldn’t know how fast I could swim, bike, and then run this race.  I knew there was a possibility that I could go under 12 or 13 hours if everything fell into place.  But I was well prepared and would not have mind going over 13 hours since it would still be training for my next 100-mile race in September.  About a week before the race, I was fairly nervous about swimming.  I really did not want to spend ~90 minutes swimming.  I don’t like swimming.  I don’t like panic attacks in the water.  And if I didn’t mention it, I don’t like swimming.  Our swim however, was supposed to have a favorable current.  And the current was supposed to get stronger in our favor as the swim progressed.  For those elite athlete’s and age groupers that love being in the water first, well, they just don’t get the same advantage.  I also learned that the more terrible a swimmer you are, the more the current helps you out, because a good swimmer is practically on top of the water, while a bad swimmer (me) is usually heavy legged and therefore, the current pushes the legs and body faster than someone who is a more efficient swimmer.  Suckers!
So onto the recap of the day:

I started out with me waking up at 2:50AM.  For a local race, this is absolutely absurd.  But this local race (It’s called Ironman NYC) actually starts in New Jersey.  The transition area, where we set up our bikes and give in our drop bags are located at the Ross Dock, which is about ½ mile or more north of the George Washington Bridge, at the bottom of the cliffs of the Palisade’s Park in NJ.  How does one get there for the race?  Well, one has to catch a 3:45AM ferry from a Pier around 42nd street and the West Side highway.  So I had to catch a cab to get there.  The ride was very quick and I got there probably around 3:25.  It was a humid and warm morning and I waited outside the ferry terminal.  I bumped into Brooklyn TNT coach Joel Tse, who was going for his first Ironman.  We chatted a bit and then lost each other when it was finally time to enter the terminal and get in the line to board the ferries.  The ride took about 45 minutes.  I walk into transition and get my number markings (number on arms and age on calves).  Then I get to my bike and take all the rain covering (read – garbage bags) off of it.  Then it’s off to find a pump to inflate the tires.  The line was ridiculously long for the official pumps.  So I asked someone nearby using their own pump if I could borrow theirs.  It was an odd pump but it sort of did the trick.  I didn’t fill the tires up as much as I could have, and hoped it would be enough.  Oh yeah, I don’t like cycling that much either anymore.  Too much equipment to deal with.  Why do a race that I complain about 66% of the disciplines?  Good question! 

After pumping the tires, I made sure I had what I needed in my “bento boxes”, little containers that you can attach to your bike, including spare inner tube, CO2 cartridge to pump up said spare tube, and some Kind Bars.  From there, I kind of just wandered around, waiting for 5:30AM when I was to meet with a friend, John Tan, who was going for his first Ironman and was a bit nervous about pretty much everything, as should be expected with the first one.  I finally meet up with John and we wander on over to an area that is strangely less populated - the port-o-potties.  John tells me he’s going to take his third of what will be or six stops in that tiny box BEFORE the race starts.  So I go and sit down on the curb nearby.  As I’m sitting there, Joel (from above) wanders by and I call him over and he sits down and we chat again.   John comes back and is very confused because Joel is Asian and so is John, so John thought I found myself another Asian to be friends with for the race or thought I just got confused and thought Joel was John (it’s all a very easy sense of humor).

Anyway, we hung around that area for a while and about 3 minutes before we decided that a really long line was indeed forming to board the ferries that take us to the starting barge, I yell out my favorite quote for this race, courtesy of Frank Drebbin from the movie “The Naked Gun”, when he is shouting out his phrase “I love it” so that help could be sent to him as he is infiltrating the bad guy’s base.  Instead of recreating that here, just watch it on Youtube.
Someone overhears that, starts laughing and comes over to talk to me.  Turns out he is a reporter for the NY Times and asked me a few questions.  Basic stuff;  is this my first Ironman, am I concerned about the sewage spill – oh maybe now would be a good time to refresh your memory about a faulty pipe 50 miles or so north of where we were swimming which caused that facility to dump treated sewage into the Hudson a few days before the race.  After many tests and concerns, the EPA or DEP and probably other agencies deemed the water safe to swim in where we were going to be.  I haven’t found the article the guy wrote or if I was used in it.  If you can find it, I’d like to read it. 

So we board the ferry.  Oh, the second to last ferry.  John is already fully dressed in his wetsuit.  I only put mine on up to my waist.  I knew we had a 30 minute ferry to the start barge and didn’t want to overheat while waiting.   John was sweating the entire way from a combination of nerves, but mostly for being fully zipped up.  Experience counts.  So this race has time trial start where once your ferry arrives, you exit onto the barge, have a chance to use some more port-o-potties (John did), then you cross a timing mat and that is when your race time begins.  All athletes have 2 hours and 20 minutes to finish the swim from the time the last swimmer crosses the starting mat.  However, all athletes have only 17 hours from the time the first non-professional swimmer (pros go out 15 minutes earlier) crosses the mat.   To me this is not fair.   If you happen to be on one of the last ferries (like me) then you have 20 minutes less time to finish the race than someone who was lucky enough to be in line sooner and board the first ferry. 

John and I had a plan to start the race together.  But not just that, we planned to hold hands, shout “Care-Bear Stare!” (his idea – not mine) and jump in.  I don’t think he thought I would go through with that, but we did.  I think it helped calm him down a little.  I just wanted him to have a great race ahead of him.  I remember my first Ironman and I was incredibly nervous and was all alone in Panama City Beach, FL in an ocean swim.  Anything to help calm down for the swim is a good thing.  Well, what helped me calm down for this swim in NYC was knowing the current was going to be in our favor from the start, and only get stronger as the swim moved along.  Right after we jump in, I  look for John to see if he’s ok, he says he’s good and I tell him to have a great race and I’ll see him on the bike.  I have my usual panic attack in the water but it is very quick this time.  I get my breathing under control, tell myself that the current will be amazing and then get myself in a rhythm.

I feel like I’m moving well.  The buoys seem to be coming up fairly quickly.  But I’m not trying to break any records here.  Just swim straight and easy and soon enough, I hope to be done with my least favorite part of a triathlon.   I finally get to the big buoy that tells me I’m  half-way done.  I get there in 34 minutes!!!  Holy cow!!!  That puts me on pace for a 68 minute swim time but I know I may be faster because the current is only supposed to get stronger in my favor and I am not having any panic attack, even if it only was for one minute at the start. So now that I have a great feeling of invincibility I try to be a better swimmer the second half.  I’m not trying to swim harder, I’m just trying to be more efficient.  I’m trying to take one or two extra strokes per breath to minimize the drag I create when I breathe and/or sight.  Finally, the Ross Dock is almost there.  The river ground below is hitting my fingertips as I pull the water to propel myself.   And  then I think I can stand and I try and I almost vomit at the  feeling of the muck under my feat.  I wish I can truly describe it because it felt like stepping in filthy goo and that if I tried to stand, my leg would sink further into it.  Wow, it gives me chills and nausea just thinking of it now.  I should mention that from the start until about 200 meters to the finish, the water was much clearer than I expected.  I was able to see a little passed my outstretched hand.  Compared to the NYC Triathlon in 2005 which takes place closer to the Manhattan side and about 6-10 miles south of where we were for the Ironman, where I couldn’t see passed my shoulder.  Well that’s what it was like at around 200 meters to go and it eventually became pitch black.   Finally, someone gives me a hand out and up.   I proclaim that this stuff at the end is disgusting and the guy replies, “sorry, that was my fault” (another soul with a good sense of humor).  As I head up the few stairs I look at my watch and it says 58 minutes.  I am absolutely thrilled.  I can’t believe I just did a 2.4 mile swim in under one hour.  My previous best was 88 minutes.  This now got me thinking that I may be able to do this race faster than my previous best Ironman time of 11:54.  Hell, maybe even sub-11 is possible.  Since I took 30 minutes off the swim, and I’m a much better runner now than I was in 2008, maybe I can push a little on the bike and see what happens.  It’s all for training for the 100-miler and fun anyway.  By the way,  as fast I finished the swim, I  was 1931 out of 2142 starters, so basically, bottom 10%.  Quite possibly though still one of my best performances!

So I head into the changing tent, get all my bike stuff I need out, on, and ready, and then head out and grab my bike.  Because my bike was not completely fixed (I didn’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars on new pedals after spending one hundred on a tune-up and cleaning after four years of neglect), I had to carry my bike to the “Bike mount” line because one  of the pedals had my bike shoe attached, so wheeling it would cause the  shoe to hit the ground and cause other issues.  So I looked like a strongman carrying my bike while others wheeled their bikes out. 

So I’m out there on the bike, and trying to ignore what will be 6-7 hours (hoping for 6 or less but don’t care as long as I eventually finish) and taking each boring moment as training for running 24 hours or more in the 100-miler 45 days away.   I drink my UCAN  which I had as one of my bike bottles then toss the bottle at one  of the  drink exchange / aid stations and pick up a bottle of water.  The course is a double out and back on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.  Bike out of the Ross Dock and head up the long hills out of the Palisades Park and enter the Palisades Parkway  to start the double out and back, beginning at Exit 1 and going up 27 miles.  The turn around 27 miles and repeat, heading back down the palisades park to the Ross Dock.   Aside from seeing lots of people I knew cheering along some parts of the course, it was a very boring course as far as scenery goes.  I mean, we are just biking up and down a highway that is pretty well shaded by trees on both sides (although not in the shade of the trees unfortunately).  One thing about this course was the number of potholes and just overall bad pavement that we had to ride on.  Fortunately, some really bad spots had some cones placed near them or red chalk or spray paint to warn us but there were too many other bad spots that had me praying my bike didn’t fall apart.  At one point, I swear I heard something crash off on my bike when I hit a bad bumpy section.  I looked everywhere on my bike and nothing sounded or felt off so I continued.  A few weeks later, I realized that it was one of the bike reflectors that fell off the wheel. On my way back from the first turnaround, the bikes ahead began to slow down.  A few minutes later I realized why ass a cyclist was on the side, laying there with a few people and a medic.  There was a lot of blood and the person wasn’t moving.  No one ended up dying on the bike (one person from Hong Kong died during the swim) but I don’t know what happened to this individual who got into the bike accident.  I could make some good guesses on what caused it.  The road was so terrible, that everybody seemed to lose their water bottle from their bottle cages on their bikes.  These bottles were basically all over the course making it another hazard to watch out for.   I saw John on my way back and I figured he was about 20 minutes behind me.   I never saw him again during my race. 

I finished the first half of the bike in 3:03.  I tried pushing a little the first half and that may have hurt me for the second half as the course was a little harder than I expected and it was getting hot out there.  I was trying to stay hydrated and fueled.  I abandoned my strategy of UCAN lasting longer and started to eat my Kind Bar and then anything else offered on the bike course which was bananas, energy gels, and Bonk Breaker Bars (an energy bar).  To be honest, I was fairly miserable the second half.  I just wanted to be off the bike and running.  I kept trying to estimate when I  would be done biking but I kept slowing down and not maintaining a steady speed so when I though, only 90 more minutes to go, after about 10 minutes, it still somehow came out to 90 more minutes to go!  Maybe that’s due to trying to calculate pace and time and distance while being tired and miserable, but that’s what I was coming up with and that’s how it felt. 

Finally, I was about done with the bike.  I sailed down the hills that I knew later I would be running up.  Got to the bike dismount line and gladly got off my bike.  Finally! 6:31 was my bike time so a positive split by 25 minutes (which is bad).  I moved up 731 spots on the bike and now was 1193 overall.  But who cares? My event, the run is now up!  But so was the sun, heat, and the course!  It was a long way up the hill but I wanted to shake out my legs and I ran up it.  Hmmm.  Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.  I turn the corner to see another hill.  I decided to be smart and think about all the walking I would do up the hills in Ithaca at the 100-miler so decided to walk.   This portion of the run was hot and humid but thankfully it was shaded.  My stomach wasn’t in the right place though.   I had no desire to eat anything, at least anything they offered.  I knew I needed salt.  But I dropped my enduralyte salt pills somewhere.  When I got to the aid station at mile 4,  I asked if they had salt or salt pills and they only had potato chips.  Seriously?!!!  No table salt at an endurance event?   I tried a few chips but it made my stomach feel weird.  It wasn’t until about mile 13 that I started eating Gu Chomps.  The consistency was about what I wanted. It didn’t seem to upset my stomach (which was just feeling very full and sloshy), and it had some electrolytes which was helpful.   All along the double out and back course though the Palisades Park for about 14 miles were lots of great camaraderie with the athletes and spectators.  I knew so many people doing the race that it was great seeing them multiple times on this part of the run.  Sure, most of the time they would see me as I’m walking up a hill, but some got to see me fly down the hills too.  At the major intersection which was where you turn around for loop two or head south and out of the Palisades Park,  was a huge congregation of my old Team in Training Triathlon Teammates and they were awesome.  I stopped for a minute to chat with them.  I had all day to complete this race, so why not take some time to enjoy the support?   Then came the long hill up and out of the park.   Yeah, this course was pretty tough for an Ironman, even for road marathon it was tough.  But that’s what I like. When I go to the  steps to climb up (Oh yeah, there’s something like 80 steps to go up and down to cross over the north side of the George Washington Bridge to get us back into Manhattan) I run up the steps.  This is fun!  And I run down too.   I fly across the bridge and take in the views of Manhattan.  Then I start trying to pick up the pace as I know (or though t I knew) the rest of the race was flat. 

As I approach the first small hill where we turn into Riverside Park, I’m met with a huge cheering section led by Team in Training who had a ton of people volunteering at this aid station.  I acknowledge the support and head on my way to this really annoying section.   I guess it was annoying only because I did not plan ahead to see where the course takes us.   I just didn’t comprehend running 5-6 miles in this area, which is not that big.  So it was a bunch of long out and backs and then out and backs somewhere else and it just looked like there were runners everywhere running in one direction or the other.  Yet, I still had to get to where those runners were running.  And  I did forget the training we used to do there when I was on the Team in Training Tri Team.  There are lots of rolling hills in that park!  But again, I saw lots of spectators there and many people I knew that were great at cheering and getting me going, even though I didn’t care about my time at this point.  With all the walking and random chatting I did with other participants and spectators, my chance at hitting an Ironman PR went out the window long ago.  Or at least I told myself, I probably wouldn’t enjoy trying to crush the last 8-10 miles of the course just to get close to my best Ironman marathon time.  So I walked the uphills in this section too.  I could have run them, but I really had more fun walking up them and running fast on the downhills and flats. 

Finally, the course takes us back to that Team in Training aid station on the other side of it and I get all the cheering again.  This time though, I stop and talk to the people there.  I ask if anyone has heard about John and they said they hadn’t heard anything except he did make it off the bike in time, just barely!  And then people start trying to get me to stand still so we can get some pictures.  I was also pouring some water on my head because it was still hot out there.  So after chatting a bit more, I decide it is time to finish this race.  I take off and now am focused on finishing fast.  I know where I am now and can figure out about how far away the finish is so I set myself on a pace that steadily increases.  I make a quick left turn up one last hill and then see the finishers chute.  Now I really open up my stride and cruise into the finish.  I felt great!  I was happy to be done with my fifth and final Ironman.  I did the marathon in 3:58.  I had a nice negative split and averaged probably 9:30 minute miles the first half and 8:30 the second half.  Most importantly, I got the very long training I wanted for Virgil’s Crest 100 the next month and proved to myself that in just trying to finish these ultra-endurance events, one of the biggest strengths you need is the mental training and toughness to keep going.  Yes, you need some athleticism and aerobic fitness but if you have a weak mind, your body will be mush.  If you didn’t do enough training and your body and fitness are weaker than you would like it to be, well a strong mind can block out any pain and get you moving forward.  And the final time was 11:41:35, a 13 minute PR and I moved up 698 spots on the run to finish 495th overall, including professionals. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 - Virgil Crest 100

I’ll start this recap with what my expectations were for this race going into it.  My ultimate goal was to finish.  If someone were to ask me what time I would expect to finish – and that actually happened on bib pick-up the day before the race with the nice older lady behind the table asking me what time I expected to finish the race so she can write that down next to my name – I told her I have no idea, but if you need a number, put down 30 hours, because give or take 2 hours, that sounds about right.  The week leading up to the race I was looking at prior runner finish times and comparing those other ultramarathon finish times listed on  Looks like some people that had similar 100-mile or 50-mile finishes in races I did (Bear Mt. 50, Bull-Run Run 50, Vermont 100 and Old Dominion 100) would finish in 26 hours up to 34 hours.  I was telling people who asked me that question that if I broke 30-hours, that would be icing on the just finishing the race cake. 

To briefly describe the course, it’s 90% single track forest trails and 7% dirt/gravel road and 3% asphalt.  The course is a double out and back, with a 4-mile loop section in the middle.  So run out 10 miles, do a 4 mile loop up and down ski slopes and trails at the Greek Peak Mt., run out another 11 miles, and then turn around and do it all in reverse.  That gives you 50 miles.  Now do it all again.  The course is plenty hilly, with over 22,000 feet of elevation gain and the same amount of loss over the 100 miles.  The weather forecast for the race as of Friday morning was 70% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday, clearing up to a partly cloudy day on Sunday.  Knowing rain was in the forecast meant the course would get slick and muddy, depending on just how much it rained. 

I arrived in Ithaca on Friday around 3PM and first went to Wal-Mart to pick up some things for the race like batteries, and some things to bring home (why not get some cheap Shampoo and dryer sheets).  Then went to runner check-in followed by the pre-race dinner at the Virgil county Firehouse prepared by the firemen, and the pre-race briefing followed the meal.  After that, it was off to Hope Lake Park which was where the race starts.  I rented a minivan so that I could put the rear seats down and sleep in the van comfortably the night before the race so I can 1) save money by not staying in a hotel and 2) not have to commute to get to the start.  I like doing it this way because I noticed when I stay in a comfy room in a hotel/motel, when my alarm goes off, the last thing I want to do is get out of bed and prepare for a very, very long race.  It starts me off in a bad mood.  But when I wake up in a van, even if my sleep isn’t the best, I feel like I’m already outdoors and so much closer to being on the trails that it gives me that no frills, rugged, toughness mindset.  Just about as much as it would if I were camped out there in a tent like many other participants do.  Somehow, I was able to fall asleep around 8:30PM.  I woke up many times during the night but managed to get plenty of sleep overall and woke up when my alarm went off at 4:45AM, giving me 1:15 to do what I needed to do for the 6AM start time. 

The first thing I did was fill up my mix bottle with water and about 1.5 packets of Vanilla flavored Generation UCAN.  I won’t describe the product in detail.  I’ll just say that it basically, gives me about 4-5 hours of sustainable energy by having my body use fat as the main source of fuel.  This generally, let’s me wake up later, rather than having to get up and eat a more solid meal, which only lasts maybe 1-2 hours into the race before I would start to eat gels, solid food, etc.  After finishing the drink in 10 or so minutes and waking up more, I put body on body glide (lubed) up and got into my race clothes.  Then put in my contact lenses and then put on some warmer clothes before heading outside the van and into the big cabin where most people were gathered to eat the pre-race breakfast food of various breads and spreads and bananas.  I chatted with many people.  Some were doing the 50-miler, others the 100.  Then I checked in at the table because they have to make sure all runners that signed up, do indeed show up that morning to run the race and don’t have second thoughts and bail.  Then I went to the bathroom. 

I’m wearing from bottom to top:  Mizuno Cabrakan 3 trail shoes, Drymax socks, Zensah calf compression sleeves, my Suigoi Team in Training super short (for those that have seen them) tri-shorts, very light shorts over those, an Amphipod fanny pack that contained a ziplock bag of toilet paper and another ziplock bag of Tums and Enduralytes, a dri-fit white NYRR random race shirt, my 2006 Ironman Lake Placid hat – on backwards with my headlamp for the start being Black Diamond MM5990 spot headlamp.  In both hands I carried Nathan handheld bottles filled with water. 

The countdown begins and we head out with our headlamps on, looping around Hope Lake and into the woods.  By mile 4 and about 43 minutes into the race the pack thinned out and I could barely see anyone in front or behind me, depending on whether it was a straight enough stretch but still difficult because we’re in the woods.  My stomach wasn’t feeling great.  It wasn’t a nausea type feeling.  It just felt like the UCAN was sitting in my stomach or gut and not moving.  Maybe it had something to do with the humid feeling out there?  Next thing you know, two people pass me.  They saw my blue bib and asked if I was doing the 100.  I answered in the affirmative and one of the guys said “great pace!”.  After hearing him say this, I decided to slow down a bit and let them go well ahead of me.  I was thinking, in ultrarunning terminology, if someone says great pace, they are being sincere about it, but also giving a little warning to you, letting you know that you may be going at blow-up pace and really should be slowing down.  Less than ¼ mile before the aid station, I make a mini-mistake.  As I’m running down a slight decline on the trail, I see the cameraman ( – I have pictures #320, 321, and 528).  For some reason I thought he was standing on the place to make a turn and head up.  So I turn right at him, and I go about 20 yards and I wonder if this is the right way and I hear from behind me the cameraman is saying he thinks I was supposed to go straight a little more before making a right.  I’m not sure if I could have gotten back on the trail from where I went but I decided not to find out that answer.  I go back down, get back on the right track, and next thing you know I’m at the aid station. So I get to the aid station, drop my headlamp, and continue on since I was not needing any calories and bottles were good.   

Around the 10K mark on my watch, I noticed a burning sensation on my left calf.  I basically ignored it for 30 seconds.  But the burning continued and then I felt the need to scratch it.  I look down and see what looked like a lot of dust on my calf compression sleeves.  And then I see what is causing my burning.  There’s a yellow and black guy sticking out of my calf sleeve from his rear.  I was stung by a bee, or hornet, or something in that family.  Awesome!  First sting in over 20 years.  Well, at least this time I wasn’t crying.  And I still had 3.5 miles to go before the next aid station.  I really hoped I wasn’t all of a sudden allergic to anything or that it wouldn’t give me any other issues in the near future. 

At mile 9, we hit a downhill asphalt section, a little over a mile long.  My stomach was feeling much better and I wasn’t screaming down this hill.  There were some awesome views of Greek Peak and the mountain we were going to be climbing up and down next.  At the bottom, we make a sharp left turn then about 100 meters before turning into the entrance and another 1/3rd mile or so until we get to the aid station.  That aid station is called Lift House 5.  It is where I pick up my trekking poles and where the challenge really begins.  I dump the contents of my handhelds and then some additional water into my hydration pack and then drop my handhelds in my drop bag.   I feel cold water on my lower back and then realize that my hydration pack is leaking.  Looks like the new bladder I got was not as good as the old one and the tube that connects is loose and can’t truly get fully plugged in to the bladder.  I had this problem maybe 5 additional times at aid stations but nothing significant.  I would have preferred to not have to deal or worry about it.

At Lift House 5, we are doing the Alpine Loop.  What I read over and over again in the course description of this section was the following: “Elevation of Note: Gain of 600 ft in first .7 mi, has steepest portion of course mid-way at summit of ski slope glade rising 150 ft in .15 mi (21% grade), corresponding loss of 700 ft in final 1.5 mi”.  It also said that “some have found trekking poles to be helpful on this section”.  If it weren’t for that little blurb and reading a couple race reports from prior years that they have listed on their website, I would not have ever thought about using trekking poles.  Trekking poles saved me so many times on this course.  So up the hill we go.  There’s a few people with me.  I am the only one with poles.  I start figuring out how to use them and I’m climbing fairly well with not a lot of effort on my legs.  We go up, then up some more.  Then across a trail, then down.  Then we go back up.  Then across.  Then down.  Then up.  This just kept going on until we reach that final steep climb up the 21% grade that was already a little muddy.  Wow.  Forget hiking up, this section will be a pain to go down!  Finally, I hit the long downhill section and finish the first of what will be 4 of these Alpine loops over the course of 100 miles.  When I reach the bottom, I decided to keep my trekking poles because the next sections are supposed to be technical.  I’d rather carry them now and know I should have brought them rather than not carry them, and WISH I would have brought them.  Four hours into the race and mile 14, I take in my first calories.  About ¼ PB&J sandwich, 1/3 a banana, some enduralytes, and a Tums.  Now onto a 6.1 mile section that seemingly never ends.

Aside from this next section being the longest stretch between aid stations, it also has the biggest total elevation gain in the “out” direction of the out and back course.   This section crosses a couple creeks which were thankfully low and pretty dry at this point.  There’s also many gullies and fallen trees to hop over.  And of course, tons of trail with roots and rocks.  Using the trekking poles, I would look to launch myself over the downed trees and stabilize myself on the downhils.   A little stupidity on my part had me laughing.  At one point, we exit the woods and there is a street.  As I see the exit I see a guy sitting in a chair with what looks like a clipboard.  There were tons of cars and people visible so I start yelling out “#10” so they can take my bib down.  No one says anything back and when I jump down the little embankment, I realize this is not the aid station, it’s just people waiting to see their runners.  So I smile and joke with the people letting them know that I really thought they looked like they were interested in knowing what my bib # was.  And after saying that, I make a right up the road for about 15 feet before I understand what they are clapping and whistling and yelling at me about.  I was supposed to just head straight across the street and back into the woods.  I don’t know why, but I decided turning right and up the road would be the way to go.  I guess I still thought this was an aid station and I was looking for the food.  The folks there said the aid station is about 10 minutes away.  Nice, very close.  Although does that mean a 10 minute walk, or running a 10 minute mile. . . I never did really figure that out.   But I reach the Rock Pile aid station which is just under mile 20. 

I’m not sure where this picture is.  I think it’s on the way back from Rock Pile, so roughly mile 56.
I leave Rock Pile and head out to the turnaround point aid station (Daisy Hollow) which is 5.1 miles away. There wasn’t much happening here except realizing how amazingly accurate the course details listed on the website were.  They say “Stay straight to follow white blazed Finger Lakes Trail to Babcock Hollow Rd. at 1.0 mile. (Note: Dog may be barking here, you’ll hear it from ¾ mile in both directions…it sounds really really close but it’s chained up, so don’t mind that barking).”  Lo and behold, I hear a dog barking. I never saw the beast, but it didn’t sound like a Chihuahua and it sounded pissed off.  Now I was wondering if I would hear this dog when I was back here 50 miles later in the dark.  Do the owners not let the dog inside at all?  I wonder if they have any other dogs that just aren’t loud?  With about one mile to go before the turn around, about 11AM so 5 hours into the race, it begins to rain.  The rain sounded pretty hard, but well contained by the tree cover and my hat and general sweatiness took care of the rest.  I had seen a few runners coming back the other direction.  Mostly 50-mile racers.  I couldn’t remember how many of each kept crossing paths but I was really wondering what place I was in.  I don’t recall passing a lot of people and I didn’t know who were 100-milers vs 50-milers.  So what place was I in?  I caught up with a runner in front of me named Joe.  Joe is from Maine and had just started running ultras a little over two years ago (May 2010), similar to me and Vermont 100 in 2011 being his first 100 (just like me!).  Unlike me, he went on to run four other 100s before Virgil Crest to my one (Old Dominion).  One of the races was Western States!  He got lucky enough to be selected in the lottery his first try!  He went sub-24 this year there and ran Vermont again this year, taking an hour off of 2011 and finishing in 22:14.  He also did Grindstone 2011 in 29 hours (amazing time) and did some crazy 100 mile Appalachian adventure race in Maine that took over 40 hours.  Again, I’m a little concerned now that I am going way to fast if I’m running this guy’s pace.  But we talk about strategy and it sounds best that you do have to go out a little fast for the first half because even if you hold back, you will be going slow in the dark for 11 hours and if it keeps raining, the course will be slow to navigate as well.  Looking at the official race splits, we came into the aid station in 10th and 11th place.

He was quick with getting what he needed and leaving.  He asked if I was ready and I told him to go without me as I like to take my sweet a$$ time and make sure I get my fill of what I want to eat and have everything.  I told him I’d catch up.  Well I didn’t catch back up to him until after I hit the next aid station.  I passed him sometime on that 6.1 mile stretch where I was feeling good and using my poles to make good time.  I then stuck with someone the last two miles who seemed like he needed some help.  It was a younger guy doing the 50 miler, his first race really.  He was originally signed up for the 50K but decided to go for the 50-miler.  His quads were cramping up so I gave him a Tums and told him he’ll be ok.  We chatted and then he had to take a restroom break so I went on.  About ¼ mile before the aid station, he flies by me downhill saying thanks so much for the Tums.  It really helped with the cramping and he’s a good downhill runner (sprinter) so he was taking advantage of the terrain and his good mood. 

I get back to the Lift House aid station and have to now do the Alpine Loop in reverse.  Going up the other way was much more difficult because it was a harder surface.  So the trekking poles didn’t really provide any support.  So it was just power walking up.  At this point, around mile 36-37 I started to feel pretty tired.  It hit me all of a sudden.  It was about 2PM, so 8 hours into the race.  Nothing to do except slow down a little, take some enduralytes and a Tums, hydrate and wait for the tiredness to pass.  But before that happens, I hit the top of that steep decline (was an incline the first time we did it!).  I decided to take a video of myself going down.  After 3 seconds, CRASH.  The video looks great because you hear me falling down and the camera is flipping everywhere.  Then I’m just sitting on the ground and curse myself for doing something stupid.  The section was muddier now after more people went through it, combined with the rain.  I finally complete the loop and drop off my trekking poles.  I didn’t recall really needing it for the first 10 miles of the course so I decided I don’t need them on the 10 mile stretch back. 

At mile 43 – about 10 hours in I hit another down moment.  I realize the down moments are now coming on a little more frequently and lasting a bit longer.  I had 7 miles to go for the 50-mile turnaround at the start/finish and was hoping I could do it in under 2 hours which would put my halfway split at 12 hours or better.  I realized that it is an aggressive time overall.  But with that 12, my guess was I could do the second half in 14-16 hours and finish around 28 hours.  I would be thrilled with that!  Then I thought worse case, I take a long time and finish in 30 hours which was my guess originally.  But picturing running for another 18 hours seemed really tough.  Because I would have to be really slow for that to happen and at this point, I was feeling good, albeit with down moments.  But it wasn’t slowing me a lot.  At the aid station before the start called Gravel Pit, I kept reminding myself before reaching it that I had to take my headlamp that I dropped in my bag after we reached it many hours ago, because there was a chance it would be dark by the time I got back (about 9 miles later).  I leave Gravel Pit (mile 45) and get about 0.15 miles when I realize I forgot my headlamp.  I was going to continue on without it, thinking I could get back in time before the sun sets but then in popped a phrase I heard from my friend Mark in his blog, who has ran some of the tough 100s in Virginia including Grindstone and Massanutten (look them up).  It’s simple.  “Don’t be stupid”.  The saying came from (no, he didn’t create the saying – just in this context for ultras here) Dr. David Horton, a race director who puts together really tough courses (such as Grindstone, Hellgate, Mt. Masochist, etc.).  Basically, you’re running a hard race and you’re mind wanders and doesn’t think straight at times.  Still, when you think about taking a short cut or doing something that can backfire, don’t be stupid!  I immediately thought what it would be like in the complete darkness with a few miles to go before reaching the aid station with my headlamp.  Not only would I be blind to the ground and fall off a cliff and trip everywhere, but I wouldn’t be able to see the trail markings.  So I would definitely be lost in the woods all night, or at least, stuck waiting for someone behind me and tag along with their headlamp.  So I went back UP the 0.15 miles I came and waved off the clapping from the aid station and they recognized I was back WAY too soon.  I grabbed my headlamp and said hope to see you in a few hours now, not a few minutes again! 

I'm not sure where this was either!
On the way back to Hope Lake, with a couple miles to go I caught up to a 50-miler named Diana.  She had ran the Hallucination 100 two weeks earlier (as did my friend Mark) and only picked the 50-miler here because she had 3 marathons to pace in October because she is an official Clif Bar pacer on some major races like Marine Corps.  She’s run probably 50 ultras all told and something like 13 hundreds including HURT, which is an extremely challenging ultra in the rainforest of Hawaii (think heat, humidity, and running on tree roots, not dirt trails).  Once we get back onto the pavement that is the final little stretch around Hope Lake back to the start, she takes off from me as I do NOT want to push it right now, and especially on pavement.  So I get back into the little cabin where my bag was.  I eat some food get what I need and before I leave, they bring out a giant container of enormous pickles.  I ask for one and the woman asks if I want it because of cramping and I say no, I just think it looks absolutely delicious!  And it didn’t let me down.  So I finish it off, expecting to taste it for many hours.  I head right out and by the start banner, I ask a guy standing there what the weather forecast is with the rain.  He gets out his iPhone and says temps in the low 40s with rain by midnight.  Since the only jacket I had with a hood was in the in the cabin, I head back in to get it.  I tie it around my waist and I’m off, over the grass and back on that pavement around the lake.  Abut 1/3rd a mile after leaving, I remember that I forgot something I kept reminding myself not to forget.  My blackberry so I can listen to some music during the lonely dark hours of the race.  I really didn’t want to turn around and backtrack again to get it.  I thought about “don’t be stupid”, but I didn’t know if this would apply because I never usually run with music and wasn’t sure if it would be safe or the right time to do it in this race.  So I left it there. 

I made it back to the Gravel Pit aid station without needing my headlamp up to that point.  But I barely made it.  So I leave, and probably in 15-20 minutes I turn the headlamp on.  This wasn’t my really good headlamp which was waiting for me at the Lift House aid station.  But it worked.  I see many people coming back the opposite direction from me doing the 100 miler. I get back to the Gravel Pit aid station and grab my headlamp.  I head out and make it to the Lift House aid station, switch to my good head lamp, a Petzl MYO RXP (up to 205 Lumens!) and do the loop without any real issues.  I load up on some amazing homemade Apple bread, Blueberry bread, and Banana Bread.  It was fantastic.  I head out to take on the long 6.1 mile section to Rock Pile.  Ok, maybe the Alpine loop took something out of me.  After leaving it, it’s over 15 hours into the race and mile 65, I was at another down moment.  I just was tired and not having fun at that time.  It was raining hard, it was hard to see everything I wanted to see even with the good headlamp and so I was moving slowly because of the lack of visibility and a lot more mud than the first time around.  The cool thing was that some of the leaves on the ground really glowed like reflector tape when the headlamp would shine on it.  I don’t recall seeing anyone at all during this 6.1 mile section.  After such a long time, I reached the Rock Pile aid station.

I was feeling pretty bad here.  I got some hot food (chicken noodle soup) and some Gu Chomps, which I was tending to eat at each aid station because it was easy to handle digestively.  As usual, the amazing aid station volunteers ask if they can get anything for me, and right after I say, a new pair of legs I also spurt out, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that one. . . they nod but say they understand.  The guy at the aid station then tells me I’m in 9th place.  I was very shocked by this.  But I wave him off saying I really could care less.  I just want to finish and any place is fine with me.   It makes some sense though thinking about the few people I saw coming back at me when I was running miles 45-50.  But I wondered how far behind the 10th place runner was.  I asked the guy if he knew when the rain was supposed to stop but he had no idea.  Onward I go.

I leave the aid station and head out towards mile 75, the final turnaround point.  For the last 5 miles or so, I was having some quad pain in my left leg.  I would take some Tums and it seemed to work sometimes.  But my pace was really so slow and it wasn’t due as much to visibility and mud issues as I was exhausted and hurting.  This section I remembered had some really narrow tracks that were right next to the edge of a small opening.  Losing balance, slipping, tripping, or leaning the wrong way would not be a good thing to do.  So I really took care and used my trekking poles for support.  I couldn’t wait (sarcasm) to do it the other way back.  I get to the turnaround, and don’t stay there too long (that I remember) and head back the 5.1 miles to Rock Pile.  I do not remember seeing many people cross my path the way back to rock pile.  Where was everyone?!  It’s like there was a 2-hour difference between 8th place and 9th place (me) and 2-hours to 10th place.  I am really starting to feel terrible.  I’m very cold from the rain and temperature drop all night.  My legs are killing me, but really this spot below my knee and outside.  I’m not sure if it’s the bone or a tendon.  But it hurts going downhill or moving fast on flats.  Uphills are ok, but it’s not like I’m running them.  Finally, I make it back to Rock Pile for the last time. 

I get there and tell them I’m exhausted.  I don’t want to drop, but need a break.  So I sit down in a chair right next to a fire they have going to keep themselves warm at the aid station.  There is a saying “beware the chair”, but at this point, I’m more worried about hypothermia. So I get a warm cup of soup and try to warm up.  I look to the right of me and see a guy named Todd that I met 5 minutes before the race began.  He was wearing a pair of Hoka One’s (ultra people know what this is, if you don’t, look it up) which got us talking about it at the time.  I ask him how he’s doing now and he says he’s not good and that he’s dropping.  The problem with him dropping though is his crew or friend was going to meet him at Lift House.  But Todd wasn’t going to be heading to Lift House.   Todd didn’t know his friend’s cell number so they couldn’t call him.  So he asked if he had either the race director or a different person’s number to call.  Basically, we wanted to let the RD know that he was dropping and to immediately post that drop on the website and tracking so that his friend might hopefully see that he dropped and not go out and wait forever at an aid station where Todd won’t show up.  But before they made that call, the aid station captain tried to talk him into not dropping.  He said you know how it works.  Why don’t you go warm up and rest and sleep in the tent we have set up and decide later if you plan to drop. For him, it was 4AM roughly so he had 14 hours to do 30 miles.  It’s certainly doable!  It’s a 28 minute mile pace for 30 miles.  But sometimes it’s not and the risk is too great.  Todd has done many ultras before, including Badwater, a 135 mile race that goes through Death Valley and ends up at the top of Whitney Portal of Mt. Whitney.  This race is done in the most grueling and hot time of the year and temperatures usually exceed 110 degrees all during the day and sometimes drops very cold at night or stays in the 90s.  Todd ran Badwater three times!  His best time was just under 41 hours!  His slowest was in 2009 at just under 55 hours!  That to me is insane.  He must be in touch with himself too know that he is best served dropping the race.   So he rips his number off his shorts and hands it to the aid station captain and tells him to make the phone call.  I hang around a little longer and then make my decision to go. 

This next 6.1 mile stretch was the worst part of the race for me.  Hands down!  I knew I was going to hate it 50 miles earlier, and was dreading it at this point.  After probably half a mile or a mile, I thought I should turn around and drop.  I couldn’t do anything but walk slowly.  But I really didn’t want to go up the hill to the aid station and walk that mile back.  So I slogged on.  At mile 82, 4.5 miles from the next aid station, I thought the same thing.  I had my video camera and recorded this statement, “I feel absolutely terrible.  Felt like this last 10 miles.  If I were smart I would have dropped. Cold. Exhausted. Stepping weird.  Sleeping.  Legs are completely shot. Everything is shot.  How will I do the alpine loop?  If I don't drop, maybe I'll sleep for a bit.   I have know idea.  Not too good right now.”  Out of the blue, I also had to take my first pit-stop for #2.  Amazingly, squatting wasn’t so bad.  This was a rather uneventful deposit!  Adjusting for times I was stopped, which the Garmin does automatically, my times on my watch for this stretch of about 5 miles of death was in minute/mile pace rounded to the nearest minute, 29, 34, 32, 24, 25.   The first time around in that direction it was, 13, 14, 16, 11, 13.   Here is where my bag of motivation played in big time.  Lots of times throughout the race, I had pulled it, but here was a big part to keep moving, instead of just lying down on the spot.  As a coach for Team in Training, I always hear people give “mission moments”, which is when someone will come up and give their reason for joining Team in Training or what motivates them to keep running.  So I’ve heard so many stories of participants that have lost friends and relatives to cancer.  I’ve heard from people who had recently gone through treatments or have been in remission.  More recently, one of our walk coaches had relapsed.  She goes through Chemo every week but still comes out to our practices and when she can, she walks with her walkers.  Another friend of mine, not on Team in Training had found a tumor on his pancreas and one test came back negative, the other positive (malignant). So he is now going through Chemo.  Meanwhile, I volunteered myself to go through what I’m going through in this race.  They have no choice in going through the side effects of Chemo.  I’m lucky enough to not have to go through that myself.  Those people are the strong ones.  So if I could lend them strength, I would.  And there’s no way they would give up because it’s their lives at stake.  I can give up and be in a warm car.  But I don’t have to give up and I have a choice.  They don’t.  So I should stop whining and just keep walking. 

On I go.  I had to continually use more positive thinking because I continually thought about dropping once I reached the next aid station.  The reason I was ready to drop was aside from thinking I was hypothermic because I was so cold, but also because my legs were done.  My arms were tired from the trekking poles.  And I was having trouble walking straight.  How in the world could I navigate the Alpine loops?  Especially on the way down that steep and most likely unbelievably muddy section?  It would not be possible.  I’m done!  With about a mile to go before the aid station, I could see the sun was starting to make its appearance.  With about 10 minutes before the next aid station, it was nicely lighting the way and I didn’t need my headlamp.  But with the rising of the sun, so rose my spirits.  This is what happens in 100-milers.  You feel like garbage in the middle of the night, but the sun comes up and you feel refreshed.  A good dose of natural Vitamin D or Serotonin. So now I began to tell myself, let’s just see if the volunteers at the aid station can give me a blanket and hot food, warm me up, and maybe I can get back into this.  Here was my thinking.  When I reach the aid station, I had about 11 hours left to finish the race.  That’s 11 hours to do 14 miles. Or 47 minutes per mile. There should be no reason, except for not being able to crawl the course, for me to not be able to make the 36-hour cutoff.  But again, I felt terrible.  I really didn’t want to drop of DNF (Did Not Finish).  Why the hell would I put myself through the torture of the last 10 miles if I could have dropped earlier?!!!!   No f’n way will that terrible time out there be for nothing.  The amazing volunteers at the aid station found a nice purple kids blanket for me.  I changed into long tights, a new long sleeve shirt, a warmer jacket (instead of my current lightweight rain jacket).  They gave me some heavy gloves to wear, some soup to eat and they restarted the fire pit which was roaring at night.  I spent about 20 minutes warming up and getting ready here.  Just sitting in a chair by the fire. Discussing things with the amazing volunteers.  When I felt like I warmed up enough, I decided to eat some more of that awesome bread they had leftover and then got ready to go.  As I was leaving, I heard the cowbell ringing that another runner was making their way in.  Well hello 10th place I thought.  Now I have some motivation to move faster!

I somehow managed the Alpine loop in roughly a 20-21 minute/mile average pace.  Only about 5 minutes per mile slower than the first time doing it that direction.  I got back to the aid station but shortly after I heard the cowbell ringing and 10th place was coming down.  When I looked back on my way down, I didn’t see him.  But he was moving very well.  He ended up leaving the aid station before me and was running.  The aid station people clapped and told me I did really well getting through that tough spot and looked good and was good to go finish.  My legs were dying after the Alpine loop though.  So all I could do was walk.  That’s ok because after 1/3rd a mile or so began that long asphalt road over a mile long before getting back into the woods.  This is where I would now see the 50K runners whose day started at 8AM Sunday began.  They were all very friendly and said “great job” to me as they sped by.  Somehow, this 5-mile section took forever!  I was moving very slowly.  My paces were even slower than the Alpine loop!  I struggled and finally made it into Gravel Pit.  The race director was there and he congratulated me on sticking with it and that just 4.5 miles to go for the finish.  I asked him if I could put my dropbag in his truck so I didn’t have to wait until who knows when to get it back.  He said it was no problem.  I thanked them and went off. 

I could smell the finish now.  It was just a matter of time.  But I was so tired of running and being out here and NOT being able to really move fast that I just wanted to be done as fast as possible.  Or at least get to that pavement stretch that goes around the lake.  So I made it a point to use the poles and use my hips and try and race walk this section.  As a generally fast marathoner (at least compared to most people on Team in Training – my PR of 3:10 is nice, but I don’t consider myself super fast, even though I may be one of the faster runners in the group), I’ve taken it upon myself to understand run/walk and race walking.  They put a ton of effort into finishing their races and it doesn’t mean run/walking is slow.  I run/walked the Dublin marathon in 3:17.  And I have an enormous amount of respect for the people that run, walk or run/walk as fast as they can but it takes them 5, 6, or more hours to finish their marathon.  I understand how tough it is to be on your feet in a race for so many more hours than most people ever will be.  And they are giving it their all.  So I start trying to move faster.  I average roughly 17 minute miles this section!  Haha!  I was thrilled!!!!  As I get off the pavement onto the grass.  The last 100 meters or so of the race, I record the following “30 hours, 30 minutes.  Making the last turn to the finish.  Everything fu#king hurts!”.  Then I record myself running that final 20 meter stretch through the finish line.  The Race Director, Ian, is there and was going to take a picture of me and laughed that I was the one taking pictures.  So I crossed the line, they recorded down my time, and then he took a picture of me with my camera, and his iPhone. 

So because someone ahead of me had dropped at mile 86, I ended up finishing in 9th place overall.  Only 50% of the 64 runners that started the 100-miler finished the race.  The rain and cold weather really messed people up that went out unprepared.  I saw many people at night or before night without rain gear on.  They must have been freezing.  I also believe the trekking poles saved me out there.  Aside from balance and not gong off the side of a cliff or slipping and breaking something, it really took a ton of pressure off my legs on the downhills and made it possible to safely navigate on muddy and steep terrain.  For those that were able to do the race without using a trekking poles at all, wow!  But I’m sure not having trekking poles is another huge reason other people dropped.  This race was one tough SOB.  The motto of the race is “not for sissies”.  I completely agree. 


And here's the Garmin data on the race:


I really wasn’t sure what the pain below my knee and inside my leg was.  I figured, either a stress fracture or big time tendinitis.  So I made a doctor appointment to get it checked out.  He was pretty certain it was just tendinitis of the Pes tendons but to rule out a stress fracture, I got an MRI.  Still awaiting the results.  But it feels much better now, 5 days after finishing, that I’m sure it’s just the tendinitis.  

Both of my forearms about two inches above my wrist were killing me beginning Monday from using the trekking poles for over 20 hours to stabilize myself, and never using trekking poles for more than 20 minutes before. So it is a clear overuse injury.  5 days later, my left arm is good, but my right hurts just as bad as ever.  I’ve been taking Aleve and icing as the doctor recommended and now putting Arnica gel on it.  I can also feel a rubber band type stretching and grinding when I move my hand (thereby activating the forearm and tendons) which is just how irritated and inflamed the tendon is. 

I had a really nice chafe mark and now scab on my lower back from the hydration pack. My ankles were also chafed from rubbing on the shoe when I had to quickly save myself many times from slipping near the edge of a trail.  One toenail is about to come off. 

Aside from all that, everything is great.  I can’t run until I get the results of the MRI on Monday, just over a week after finishing the race. I don’t’ really feel the need to run though and am ok with that right now.  I am thinking of what to do next year.  I still have the NYC marathon to do and then maybe the Knickerbocker 60K a few weeks later to see if I can break 5 hours.  But for next year, I’ll put my name in for the Western States Lottery, but maybe I’ll also apply for UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc)  since I have enough points now (10 out of 7 needed) to qualify for it (4 from Old Dominion, 4 from Virgil Crest, and 2 from Bear Mt.).   Whatever I decide, I love trail running much more than road.  But, man, 50-milers, 100K’s or less sounds like so much more reasonable races to train for and race than 100s. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Old Dominion coming up

So in the weeks that followed Bear Mt. I never felt great.  I had two short races in Central Park the weekend after Bear Mt. on consecutive days.   Then the week after that, I did my overnight run (meaning I stay awake all day and night) and began my run at 4AM.  I timed it so I could then run over to Brooklyn for the start of the Brooklyn 1/2 marathon.  For whatever reason, maybe it was the 30 minute wait inside the corral.  When the race began, I was done.  My legs did not want to cooperate.  I not only felt slow (to me) I was slow (to me)!  I maybe averaged just under a 9 minute pace the first 3 miles.  Then got slower.  I walked the "big" hill in Prospect Park from halfway up and then stopped to talk to the Team in Training cheer section.  Letting them know I feel like s#it.  As I'm talking to them, two people I know pass and yell for me.  One is Mary, a former TNT participant from Brooklyn and another is my college friend Brendan.  So I run a little with Mary, we somehow passed Brendan and when Mary and I split apart after a couple miles, I ran a few with Brendan.  Talking to people while running really helped take my mind off of how bad I felt.  At mile 10, we split up and I managed to make a last push at around a 7:50 pace to the finish.  Giving me my slowest official 1/2 marathon time.  Technically it was my miles 15-28 but still.  I felt like I should have been able to run and 8-8:30 minute pace.  Not busting my a$$ and feeling terrible and coming away with a 1:55.  It is what it is and I'm happy I stuck through.  I thought I would have to walk most of it and finish in 3 hours at one point of the race.  Anyway, right after the race, I noticed my IT Band was bugging me.  First time in 5-6 years.  So since then, I've been doing some hip exercises (thanks once again Snipes!), stretching and rolling.  I took a week off of running and started again this past weekend and haven't felt any issue. 

So fingers crossed I don't run into any major problems at Old Dominion.  The goal this time is sub-24.  Obviously, I want to finish.  But I really, really, really want that Sterling Silver Buckle!  I feel like I should be able to do it.  There are many factors out of my control (weather) that can make it a very hard day.  I hope I can just stick with it and push forward and get there in one full day. 

Here we go!