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Category: Trail Race

Old Dominion 100 and The Lost Boys

What went right:

I started with an empty backpack and one bottle in my vest for my water strategy and also wore arm sleeves for ice when it got hot. Temps were moderate that day. I kept the water bladder empty until the heat kicked in around 10:30, and then I filled it. I would empty it again once it cooled down around 8:30 – 9:00 PM and switched to a waist belt with just one bottle. As the sun went down and the heat and humidity decreased, my fluid demands also decreased.

Try to wipe this smile off my face in an ultra.

Using THIS strategy for my mental state worked incredibly well. I came across an article posted by a Reddit user in this thread that advised staying in the moment, and I kept reminding myself of that. I consistently found enjoyment throughout the race. After passing mud hole gap #17, I started pushing really hard with the pace, believing I still had a chance. Even when I went off course and fell behind the clock, I didn’t give up. I managed my expectations, initially aiming for 24 hours, and I persevered until Elizabeth’s furnace.

SHUT IT DOWN! You have no chance in hell!

It was at that point that I finally reached the last stage of acceptance, realizing that 24 hours was impossible and it was time to switch goals.

I had sandwich bags filled with food in each aid station bag that I would grab. These bags contained granola, double-nutter butter, and a bar. This allowed me to have more food than I needed, which I would consume slowly as I walked, rather than stuffing my face at the aid stations. It was convenient because I could load my pockets and go.

Meeting the “Lost Boys” was a nice addition to the race. We shared a lot of miles together, especially with Greg Smith, who had recently got married. He technically wasn’t a “Lost Boy” as he never went off course and I only found this out near the end. They pushed me along and when they surged I kept pushing to keep up. I was really sad/broken once I heard they wanted to drop. Rob and Brian both jointly dropped out at mile 56, Edinburg Gap.

What went wrong:

The first aid station at mile 7.18 should have offered more than just electrolytes. I used a tailwind from my pack to fill up on water.

Inconsistency with course markings led to my downfall in this event. I should have familiarized myself with the course and known where the big climbs were. The race staff mentioned that the orange tape could be on either the left or right side. I missed a turn to the right after aid station 3 (Boyer-In) because I wasn’t aware of the course details. It’s important to know the course and ask for directions at the aid stations. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide any information to the four of us as we left, but I could have asked! They also used “2 pieces of tape” to signify a turn vs 1. I think they should just stick to using arrows like the rest of the world, which were not always there like in the case of my mishap. I did see some of the later turns used an arrow vs “2 pieces of tape”. Mind you I wasn’t the only one that went off course, the entire pre-race meeting was filled with stories of people going off course. Doesn’t that tell you something? I think I was with at least 10 others that went off course once we doubled back to the climb on the trail.

My shoes were good until around miles 60-70, but then I started developing blisters between my toes from rubbing. Injini socks address this issue, but they take a lot of time to put on. Initially, I led the race with those socks, but when I switched to a bigger shoe and “Darn Tough” socks, I noticed more movement in the foot box of the shoe. Perhaps I didn’t tie them tightly enough? I might go back to using Injinis because the blister problem only started when I changed socks.

I thought I could do sub-24 which had my good headlamp waiting at Elizebeth’s Furnace. I only had my small backup. The backup lasted much longer than expected. Surprisingly, it performed better and lasted longer than anticipated for a $10 device. Shout out to Michelle Goldberg who originally recommended it to me.

At the mountaintop aid station, you couldn’t take more than one water bottle. They should come up with a method to supply more water there. I wasn’t the only one who complained about this limitation.

The unmanned aid station was out of the water, and the food there had flies on it.

What I would do differently:

During the race, I found myself running right behind my friend Mike Warren at the start. He eventually buckled but stayed on course. I had to make a decision: do I want to run his race or focus on my own? My initial plan was to start off super slow, so I held back and took the early miles easy. However, this caused me to miss my turn. In situations like this, I have a quote that I say to myself: “It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.” So, this is what my race was meant to be, even if it didn’t align with my expectations. Our ability as humans to think ahead, make predictions, and imagine the future sets us apart from other species. But more often than not, things don’t go according to our plans of how we envisioned the future. When reality clashes with our expectations, it can be devastating for some individuals because they struggle to see a happy future in the new reality. However, regardless of the outcome, I was okay with simply participating in the race. I focused on staying in the present moment with each mile. I didn’t let my mind wander to the future or the finish line, nor did I dwell on past mistakes. I stayed focused on the mile I was currently in because there was nothing more I could do.

Final Thoughts:

Throughout the entire race, I ran my own race without specific goals or objectives, except to keep moving fast enough to finish. I never experienced fear, depression, or unhappiness; I was simply grateful to be doing what I love.

Who’s having fun!?!?!? This guy!

During the race, I was running alongside two individuals who eventually dropped out. When I reached mile 56, I found them standing with the aid station captain. I grabbed some food and coke, intending to continue with them, but they announced their decision to drop out. One of them said, “I don’t have anything to prove.” These events aren’t about proving anything; they are about pushing past the perceived limits our minds create. It’s about embarking on something that we might fail at and surpassing our own perceived boundaries. The “pain cave” is a common experience for everyone at a certain point in the race, and it is meant to be challenging.

In racing, it is often advised to have an A, B, and C goal. The question is, when do you decide to give up on the A goal and shift to the B or C goals? I became fixated on my A goal for too long; I should have focused on just running sub 28 sooner. I didn’t stop fighting until mile 80. When I reached Elizabeth Furnace, and the trail became rockier, I knew it was dumb to keep up this effort. At the start of the race, my focus wasn’t on earning a buckle or achieving a 24-hour goal; it was more about savoring the moment (which I captured in the video) and enjoying the trip with my father, which I did. While the “lucky number 7” for hundreds wasn’t particularly lucky, I always feel fortunate to be able to participate in these races, and my mental state of happiness in racing never seems to waver. I like the new mental strategy I took to this race and I think it worked. Thank you Reddit user BigFootBoogie!

I was prepared for whatever challenges the day presented. I anticipated things going wrong and maintained a positive mental state. I never give up hope, and my focus wasn’t solely on achieving a buckle. Easy for the person to say who has 6 of them 😂. I aimed to stay fully present in each mile. This technique proved effective as it allowed me to redirect my attention to my breath, and my surroundings, and shift my focus away from the pain. It was only when I couldn’t break focus on reaching the finish line that the pain became overwhelming and I really started to notice it.

No buckle for you!

I enjoyed making this video, which is my longest to date. I really liked this camera setup and I can’t wait to use it at Leadville!

Hat camera: InstaGo2

360 Camera: Insta360 X3

TAMMANY 10:  HARDEST ULTRA UNDER 50M

It boasts 12,000 feet of climbing on the rockiest terrain you can imagine. This was the 2nd toughest race I had next Eastern States 100. It was the mix of the weather, rocks, and climbs that made for the perfect storm. I was only 2 minutes off from being pulled from the course. I would call myself a decent runner but was not prepared for what this race threw at me.

What went right:

  1. I changed my socks, lubed my feet, or changed shoes every loop (2-4-6-8) because of the wet conditions.  I still felt hot spots even with that much foot care.  I acted before it became an issue.  I know I sacrificed a ton of time, but this was my first time doing the event AND it was raining.  No PRs will happen in conditions like this and it is more important to just finish.   
  2. At the aid station, I would grab 2 snacks and fill my water, and use my waist belt.  It was more than enough food for the loops.  With the temps this low I barely needed more than 1 bottle of water per 2 loops.  
  3. I took Tylenol twice during the race when the pain was high.
  4. I didn’t give up, after a cold loop where I couldn’t feel my hands I got back to my car and got a change of clothes, and warmed up. I used one of my ponchos to prevent from getting soaked again. This was CRITICAL to saving my race.  If I had not gotten out of the wet clothes the race would have been over.  I was so cold and shivering/couldn’t feel my hands for so long that I had to do something.  The dollar poncho I used as a cover kept the rain off and I stayed dry.  
  5. I worked on mobility and foam rolling leading up to the race and it seemed to have fixed the tightness/pain in my foot.

What went wrong:

  1. The light running shell got soaked and I couldn’t feel my hands.  It was NOT a rain jacket, so make sure to carry a poncho!  I need to remember to carry it for future races.
  2. My feet got banged up, but using anti-friction powder helped.  I got a blister on my back heel which has never happened before.  It might have been from the new shoes I got.  I couldn’t run along the rocks, I couldn’t move my feet fast enough.  I am going to practice some drills going forward to increase my turnover rate.  I needed super fast turnover for running on an extremely rocky course like this.  
  3. I had a sore throat and didn’t get much sleep the night before. I wasn’t overly concerned as I have had races before where sleep is disrupted. (I have 3 kids.)

What would you do differently:

  1. Practice on a more technical section of my local trail.  Do drills to increase foot turnover.  You need fast feet!  Maybe do 100 ups more?  The more you lower contact time with the ground the more efficient you become and the less likely to trip.  
  2. Keep from getting wet before it happens!  Carry a dollar poncho with you.  Keeping rain off you has a 10X multiplier in well-being and energy expenditure from shivering.  This has to be remembered if rain is in the forecast, or maybe even if it is not. A poncho goes in the record books as a must-carry-on personal item. 

I asked him what does he do with all the people who drop. He said they are on the back of his van as the wall of shame.

Final Thoughts:

I BARELY finished. I prioritized foot care over all else to make sure I finished.  Taking the time to rest between loops, eating food, and getting warm was what needed to be done.  I was able to look at things clearly, put myself back together and finish.  2 minutes was the difference between failure and success!  2 minutes… I won’t forget this race for a long time.  In hindsight, I think an underestimation of the course was my fault, maybe I should have scouted it more and read more race reports.  I just thought I would power through it, what could they throw at me??  In the past, I had always started the year off with an “easier” race – HAT 50K.  I wanted to change things up, life is too short to be stuck in a grove.  We get into a grove that puts you in a place of comfort, monotony, and boredom.  The stories are HERE, where you go off script, you do a big challenge, or something different.  A few years ago I made the promise to myself to always do something that has a high chance of failure.  This checked that box.  What are you doing this year that has a 50/50 shot of success or failure?  Are you playing it safe again and are going to do the same old song and dance as last year? 

Ultrarunner Checklist Manifesto

Inspired by the book, The Checklist Manifesto, this checklist comes from my personal list after completing 6-100 milers and several 50/100K races. I reviewed my race reports to create this but wanted the input of the community. List items should be simple and self-explanatory so it’s quick to review leading up to your race.

Experience is king, so learn from the mistakes that I and others have made. If you think there is something I should add please let me know.

Click here or the link on the left to see the checklist.