Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fun In The.... Sun??

Saturday, December 22, 2007
Hike: Mount Lafayette Elevation 5,260'
Distance: 8 Miles
Elapsed Time: 7 Hours
Who: Sherpa John and Sarah
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Winter began at 1:08 Am EST here in New Hampshire. And though the frosty landscape would have dictated otherwise over the last month and a half, the season has finally changed. Per the normal for myself and various of my hiking friends, the turn to winter is the official start of "The Game." Peak-bagging NH's 4,000 Foot Mountains in the Winter season. I've all ready completed the lust once and am well on my way to completing the list a second time. Today was a great day for us to begin this ears game on a good foot.

Sarah and I woke early and hit the road making it to the trailhead off of I-93 in Franconia Notch. The skies were overcast with the clouds hanging low. It was cold in the parking lot as we began our hike rather bundled up. The trails were packed out from the previous nights hikers (Thanks Drew and Crew!) so the going was as easy as it could be. Our snowshoes were al ready on and they helped us float on more than 4 feet of powder.

The higher we climbed on the ridge, the harder the wind blew. We were socked in the clouds and wondering if this was even worth it. As we meandered higher on the ridge and poked out into open areas such as "Lunch Rocks", the winds howled, we shivered and spoke of turning back after visiting the AMC's Greenleaf hut. At about 3,500', rime ice had formed on the trees, enhancing the frosty landscape. (See Below: Google Search RIME ICE)


As we reached the hut, we hunkered down in the back seeking shelter from the harsh elements. We grabbed a quick bite to eat before adding additional layers for the frigid journey ahead. We were still a mile from the summit with the most dangerous part of our hike left to go. Before we poked above tree-line, I gave Sarah my goggles and I would brave the sandblasting of snow upon my face from frigid winds. But the most extraordinary thing of the day was about to take place... we were to emerge ABOVE the clouds and view a sea of undercast below. This is a phenomenon we've been waiting to experience for many years. And despite harsh winds, cold temps and a below zero windchill,we enjoyed every breathtaking minute of it. As we reached the summit, we snapped some quick photos and turned back for the bottom.



Sarah and I then returned home to enjoy our Christmas together, exchanging gifts and the like. A very enjoyable day. I want to take this moment to thank all of you who continue to visit my little space on the web. Your support is very much heartfelt, and I appreciate it for all that it is worth. May you and your families enjoy the Holiday, whatever it is that you may celebrate. God Bless! And Now... a final clip from my all time favorite Christmas Movies. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RR: 2006 R.I. Nifty Fifty

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." ~Morrie Schwartz 

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude to me, is more important than facts. It is more important
than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than
failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is
more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or
break a company.....a church.....or home. The remarkable thing is, we
have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that
day. We cannot change our past....we cannot change the fact that people
will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only
thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our
attitude....I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you....we are in charge
of our attitudes." - Charles Swindoll 

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The Skinny

Length: 50 Miles
Location: Middletown, RI
Race: Nifty Fifty Ultra - New England Ultra-Running Championship
Time: 10 Hours 5 Minutes 44 Seconds
Place: 21st out of 27
Div: (M0-30) 3rd. However, age divisions were only recognized for those over the age of 40.  

I was the 2nd youngest finisher.. someone who was 24 finished right behind me.

And for those who like to read... the report.
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Decisions

A few months back I was focusing on how my running for the year would go. When would I race, how long is the race and how much time to train will I have. It was when I noticed that there was a 50 Miler in Rhode Island the day after my 25th birthday that I knew I HAD to run it. I assembled quite a challenging race schedule, three 50's and a marathon in 3 months. Experienced ultra-runners told me I was crazy. I knew better. It isn't about whats crazy or not, or what is impressive or not... it's about the challenge. The challenge of digging deep and discovering again, who it is that lives deep within my soul. Is there a better way to celebrate a 1/4 century of life, than redisovering who I am? Is there a better way to challenge myself for sheer reflection? I'm sure some have better ideas, but this is what I choose. To run in the 2006 Breakers Nifty Fifty Ultra-Marathon. The New England Ultra-Running Championship.
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Friday, October 20th

Today's my Birthday. Work was fun. My students decorated my room before I got in to school and some even brought me treats. I was careful with what I ate with the race tomorrow. But it was cute and fun none-the-less and I thanked them for their thoughtfulness.

At home Sarah and I ran soem errands before settling down for a pasta dinner. Spaghetti and bread. Typical pre-race carbo loading. There was no cake, no dessert.. just some "Deal or No Deal" before going to bed at 9pm. The celebrating would have to wait till tomorrow.
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Saturday, October 21st - Race Day

We left Dover at 3:30am headed for Rhode Island. It seemed as though we were the only cars on the road and honestly... we were. When we reached Rhode Island we went over various bridges and only the shining moonlight made the water glisten. We watched as shooting stars streamed across the night sky during these pre-dawn hours. We reached the high school where the race was being run from. Retrieved my bib number and proceeded to get ready for the run.

Weather is often a major factor in determining how your run will go. Today's weather was ceratainly going to be a challenge, especially for those of us without "extra padding." Race start was 44 degrees with a 15mph wind and gusts to 30mph. Winds for the race would stay the same and the temp would rise 10 degrees. Eitherway, I was suited up properly and ready to go.
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The Race

Just past 7am we recieved the command and off we went. I positioned myself at the rear of the pack so as to not leave the starting line in a "marathon rush" running the pace of much faster runners. After all, I had 50 miles to go and pacing myself is most important.

The course is a loop course. Runners run ONE 10 mile loop then 2 smaller loops for marathoners and 5 smaller loops for us 50 milers. The first 2 1/2 miles of the course meander it's way through quiet Middletown neighborhoods. We then circumnavigate the Norman Bird Sanctuary/Hanging Rocks along the Sachuest Bay area. The scenery out over the ocean was gorgeous. On the first BIG loop we headed out to the Sachuest Point Wildlife Refuge before returning back to the course of the smaller loops.

We ran past the local resevoir before climbing various small hills that wound us back into more expensive neighborhoods. At the 5K to go of each loop, the road ascended a large hill where a very large farm sat on top. We then headed through a llama farm, the towns soccer field, then up a smaller hill towards the school to complete the loop. It was uniquely scenic but quickly got boring. You saw it once... and I thought that that was enough... seeing it 5 more times got a bit monotonous.

The biggest challenges of the whole loop was the large hill and the painful pavement unrelenting pavement.
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One To Go!

As we finished the 2nd loop of the day, many of the marathoners were elated to know there was ONE lap to go. As I ran beside and past some, each said it with a smile "One To Go." At first I just smiled but then began responding with, "yup... and then I get to do 3 more." They seemed confused at first before remembering there was a 50 Mile run going on at the same time. But on this last loop of the marathon, I began to sink in and out of reality often times getting lost in another world. I started to walk every few miles and the pain in my knees from the constant pounding was finally starting to take its toll. I was in a LOT of pain but pushed on regardless.

Running most of the race within line of sight, either in front or behind, was a group of men in their 30's. From what info I got, they are used to doing Iron-Mans and hadn't run a marathon in almost 10 years. So here they were enjoying every minute of the race... dressed in various costumes. There was Elvis, a hippie, a football referee and an alcatraz prisoner who was celebrating his birthday. These men were running a comfortable marathon pace and I followed them into their finish.
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Challenge Yourself

And so now as I leave Sarah at the start, who was guarding my basket of supplies.. I took off down the road alone. With 23.8 miles to run, I would spend almost the entirety of these miles by myself. This is what I wanted, time to reflect on this life and lessons learned... and so it began. It was getting harder and harder to run, my knees were sreaming in pain, mainly where the IT band meets the knob just below my knee on the outside. I ran when I could and walked the hills. At the aid stations I kept eating what I had all day (Totals: 4 Banana's, 7 Chocolate Chip Cookies, 32 Gummi Bears, 5 small cups of soda, Almost a gallon of Gatorade Endurance and a half gallon of water.) When I saw Sarah after loop 4 I was in a nasty low and then again after loop 5. In fact at the end of loop 5 I was in so much pain all I wanted to do was get it over... I wanted to quit. I decided to not talk, fill the bottles and take off so as to not get talked into quitting.
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25 Years of Lessons

I've learned many lessons in 25 years of life. I often find myself looking back to times of old, trying to remember what it was like to be 4 or 5 years old again. But we all know, as we get older, we often times find ourselves forgetting about times gone by. But the one thing.. the BIG thing I remember from my life is the biggest lesson my parents taught me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO." So many times I hear folks who tell me they can't run a 5K or a mile.... they'll never run a marathon. But the truth is... YOU CAN you just don't WANT to. Desire is another poweful tool, used seldom in a world filled with "lazy" inventions. During yesterdays marathon, I observed as various runners of sex, age, race and disablility completed their 3 laps before I went on to complete 6. But it was ONE man in particular that forced me to shed tears from me eyes. Motivation is a smoke screen, DESIRE is the fire.

As I left to run my 5th lap, this man was starting his 3rd and final lap of the marathon. Sitting in a wheelchair with a form of cerebal paulsy, he sat backwards with his legs touching the pavement. 2 men went with him, one holding a string attached to the front of his chair to help steer him on the turns and control him on the hills. This man, to me.. is superman, and its his testament to life that will forever sit in my heart as a lesson. For 26.2 Miles, he used every ounce of energy in his body to PUSH WITH HIS FOOT. Each push launched him all of 1 to 2 feet... up hills and down, around turns and across the finish line after almost 10 Hours of relentless loops... HE DID IT and all because he knew deep down "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO." If there was EVER a lesson in life I learned... this would be #1 proved over and over again.

I also learned a valuable lesson about growing. As the quote states above... We are in charge of our attitudes. Through this life, and more so through the last few years, I've learned that I am indeed in charge of my attitude. People will say what they will and do as they must, but in the end it's how I react to those circumstances, positive or not, that will forever dictate how I live each day. I can choose to dwell on the negative or learn from it. I can choose to life with the positive or die without it. Life is a quest, a magnificent journey and one that I am happy to be partaking in. It IS worth living and I CAN do anything and I WILL do at the very least... my best.
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The Final Lap

I left Sarah after a quick break at the middle school. I walked down the road as tunes blared into my ears. The sun was setting and at that angle that pierces your eyeballs. As I left the aid, an ultra-runner who had allready finished told me to "run a little, walk a little, run a little, walk a little." OH YEAH! I forgot thats how its done. With this small piece of advice, I began running from mailbox to mailbox, from telephone pole to telephone pole... anything I could fix my sights on up ahead. As I ran down hill into mile 3.. I looked back and thought I saw a runner. Are you kidding me?! There's someone else out here? I thought I was in last for god sakes. Seeing as this was afterall a "race" I wasn't about to let this guy pass me.

I ran into the aid station for a QUICK stop. I then carried on down the road... run, walk, run, walk, run etc. I began to check behind me and with each check this dude was getting closer and closer. By Mile 45 I turned back to see him all of 200 Yards behind me. After 9 Hours of running on this junk... how was he doing it?! I started to run wore than walk and at times... walking proved faster than running whatever it took... I kept him 200+ yards back. As we approached the largest and longest hill on the course I knew I had it made. This guy was walking as much as me, but my hiking typically gives me an advantage on the hills.

As I hit the hill... I remember a song playing on my iPod... and it was GREAT! (Forget the song now though) I motored up the hill as quickly as I could. At the top I ran into the next aid where the race volunteers had just arrived to take down. I asked how far back the guy behind me was and they told me, "It WAS about 100 yards but now its 1/4 Mile." I was pysched and I carried on down the road towards the finish. once again past the llama farm, passed the soccer fields and vineyard and up the last small hill. Then on the horizon was the schools American Flag... a huge smile on my face, the wind blowing strong (still) and it was onto the track.

After 2 1/2 laps on the school track... I finished 50 Miles for the second time with a time of 10:05. I crashed onto the field and Sarah presented me with an Apple Pie.. this is how I wanted to celebrate my B-day and it was so SWEET. Next Up: JFK 50 Miler - Maryland - 11.18.06

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Wonderland


I woke up early on Saturday after only accomplishing some 4 hours of sleep to get some training in. One of my weakness's is, believe it or not, power hiking uphill. There is no better way to get my hiking legs back than to go hiking. So.. Adamiata and I met up in the AM and headed north to hike in New Hampshire's Southern Presidential Range to do some peakbagging. Our peaks for the day were Jackson(4,052') and Pierce (4,310').

I was a mess today having forgotten one of my plastic boots at home... we found a fix though and I was good to go. Adam forgot his snowshoes and it was too damn cold at the car to keep my hand out of a glove long enough to pour water into my camelbak. So.. in a deshevelled mess, we saddled up and headed into the woods a barrel of laughs. Adam and I made our way up the snowy slope of Mount Jackson. Near the base we encountered 2 feet of snow which got deeper the higher up we got. Above 3,500' snow depths were around 3-4 feet with drifts of 5-6 feet. The picture above is a picture of me near the summit, posholing through some deep powder! And Below is a photo of my on the trail in this winter wonderland. The tree's looked like snow people!

As we reached the summit we mingled with some friends of ours we had ran into along the way. And we were greeted by guest appearances from some other friends, The Gray Jays. These birds are the "tree rats" of the mountains, following you along the trail, begging for food I won't get into specifics of how they survive the winter up here and what happens to them biologically.. but I was very happy to feed the guys. They land ON YOUR HAND (yes.. wild birds land on your hand) and eat from it. I fed them pieces of bread.

So.. from Jackson, shiverring in bitter winds (it was 5 below on the top with a 20mph wind.. windchill was COLD), we headed to Pierce where we ran into some other acquaintances at Mizpah Hut. Its always nice to run into old friends. Adam and I had a great time in the mountains, playing in the snow and enjoying each others company. We make a good team out there.
Here are some photos of us on the top.


After looking at these photos, its hard believe that those same mountains got ANOTHER 2 FEET OF SNOW in today's nasty Nor'Easter. I'm beginning to wonder when I'll ever get to run in the mountains again and as the saying in New England goes... "So much for that global warming huh?" We got burried here in Newmarket with a fresh foot of snow followed by sleet and freezing rain thats still falling outside. We got 8" on Thursday and all of this added to the 3 other storms we've had recently and we now have over 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground. Below is a picture of the snow bank at the end of the driveway I had to dig out to park Sarah's car.. and yes... that IS higher than the cars.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blue Hills - Skyline Traverse


Blue Hills Reservation
Braintree, MA
22.48 Miles
12,205' of elevation Change
6,153' Gain/6,053' Loss
8:31:50
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I met up with Dot Helling, Brenda Phillips, Kim Trainer, Greg Stone and Nate Sanel at the Shea Rink in Quincy, MA at 8:30am on Saturday. Our activity for the day was a training run in the Blue Hills just south of Boston, Ma. Kimmie and Dot are training for the HURT 100, so we organized this day to allow them to get in their last long runs on terrain which closely resembles Hawaii. Of course, Hawaii won't have a crust of freshly fallen snow, but the slick mud of the rain forests coupled with roots and rocks will create their own level of technical difficulties.

A fresh layer of snow laid silent across the landscape as we moved through the crisp morning air. Greg started 2 hours earlier out on Rte 138 and met us at the start. Per the norm in the Blue Hills, the group went slightly off track and it tooks us awhile to catch our mistake. Once we found the trail again, we moved along at a relaxed pace, sure to be careful of the slick rocks and very technical trail. On the top of each hill, we were awarded with GREAT views of Boston, the Ocean and points all around.

As the day wore on the temps rose enough to melt a good amount of snow. The trails stayed slick with slush, mud and running water. Our feet were soaked but warm so long as we kept moving. Later in the day, as the sun began to set, temps dropped back below freezing and the slush started to turn to crunchy ice. The skyline traverse is tough enough, nevermind the addition of snow and ice.

We ran/hiked the skyline trail from Shea Rink all the way across to Rte 138 in Braintree at the Blue Hills Ski Hill. The first trip there, we ran down the mountain, around the base then back up and headed back for Shea Rink. Back at the Rink, Nate, Kimmie, Greg and I reloaded and headed back for more as Dot and Brenda decided to call it a day. The four of us ran back to Braintree again, ariving at the base of the ski-hil just as the sun finally set and darkness encased the world. We wanted to run back but agreed that the mix of wet runners, increasing winds, dropping temps, and the risks of fidgetting with it all in the dark were not optimal. We ended our day here. Tired, cold and sore. So.. we completed the day by running the skyline traverse from Beginning to End to Beginning to End. ;)

I had an awesome time! Good luck to Kimmie and Dot in Hawaii!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey Times



Wednesday: I met up with Drew in Campton, NH at 9am. We rode together to the base of the Waterville Valley Ski Area. We laced up our boots and headed out on the sleet crusted trail and climbd 2.5 miles to the 4,003' summit of Mount Tecumseh. Aside from two other hikers who headed out ahead of us, we saw no one else on our journey to the top. The summit was encased in a blanket of clouds. We stood, chilled, in a sea of freezing fog. We then walked over to the ski area as the temps slowly rose to near 40 degrees. The wind was biting but not bitter. We enjoyed a wonderful walk down the ski slopes, even sitting to glissade a few times, to the base of the mountain. Drew gave me an early Christmas Gift, a custom made walking stick he made. I hope to give these same sticks to the finishers of the 200 Mile run in 2008.

From there I headed to Nashua where Sarah met me at my sister's house. I really enjoyed playing video games with my nephews and showing them who is STILL the best. ;) Its always nice to have some family time. My sister likes to keep the house cold at night, and as Sarah stole the blankets, I shivered for most of the night, getting little sleep.

Thursday: We woke up early Thursday to head to nashua South High School. St. Joseph's Hospital was holding its 3rd Annual Thanksgiving Day 5K Trail Run. The run took participants through the soft trails of Mines Falls Park. My nephews Kenny and Tmmy both ran in the kids 400 Meter Dash. Kenny (10) came in 4th Overall and 2 Male. My brother in law Mike (VT100 Crew) ran in the 5K and finished with a new PR time of 23:15! I ran with Sarah, who was participating in her first 5K race EVER. She had never even run this far before and she was determined to finish. With a time of 34:19, she did just that. A real thrill to run in the back of the pack with her and help her succeed at her latest goal.

We showered up and I headed to my mothers for a quick hello and to pick up some things. Then it was off to Sarah's families house for Thanksgiving Day. I enjoyed the usual quirkiness of her family, huddled around the days football games. The meal had all the fixings and desert was just as delicious. I ate WAY too much, but theres no better way to celebrate another year of activity. We played cards, Shanghai, and then off to bed. Sarah and I slept on the living room floor... another night of little or no sleep.

Friday: Woke up early and went to the old landscaping company to help rake leaves for 7 hours. Made some extra cash, headed home for a shower, then went back to EMS to work another 6 hours there. Long day.

Saturday: Pete met me at home and we drove to Gorham, NH where we began our hike for the day. We hiked Mount Adams in the Northern Presidentials. The 5,774 foot peak is New Hampshire's 2nd highest. We walked on snow from beginning to end. Ice was the name of the game on the Valley Way trail. Above the hut we picked our way slowly through the rock field to the summit as we negotiated a few snow drifts and rime ice (see photo above) latching onto everything. The summit temperature was 5 degrees with a windchill of 30 Below on the top. We looked like moon men all bundled up, wearing goggles to protect our faces from frost bite. Despite the sub-arctic cold, it was a picture perfect day up high and another great day for hiking. Blue skies and fair weather clouds, blowing snow and snotcicles... 9.8 miles total with over 9,000' of elevation change.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hiking The Hancocks


11.17.07: Hancocks
Adamiata and Sherpa Jihad
9.8 Miles in 4:38
Barebooted the whole way
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I woke up at 5:20am and got ready for the day. Adam was meeting me here in Newmarket so we could carpool north. The plan was to meet Drew at the Zealandd Road trailhead for a walk out over Hale to Zealand and maybe a few of the Bonds. A long day planned ahead and a long day we had. As we drove north on Rte 16, we enjoyed great conversation as we typically do while catching up with each other. My car... is a POS. But lately it had been making a kind of whirring sound that I thought was a leaf stuck in a fan or belt. Turns out it wasn't. Sarah is in Ohio and I thought about taking her car just in case... and I paid the price.

As we reached the first big hill in North Wakefield, NH we heard something hit the hood of my car. SJ: "What was that? I hope it wasn't under my hood." Adam: "Well, I see something black bouncing down the road behind us." (DING! Battery Light On) SJ: "Well... I guess it WAS under my hood. Hope we can make it to Conway and fix the problem." (DING! Temp Light on.. Needle rockets to Red) SJ: "Or not." I pull over and shut the car off. We sit on the very top of the Wakefield Hill, looking at Chocorua and the rest of the whites. My car is done! Adam uses AAA an we call a tow truck and start planning for the rest of the day.

We discovered the problem was that the pulley for my belt tensioner wore out and broke off. This caused the serpentine belt to stop moving so the alternator stopped generating power and the water pump shut off. We got towed alllll the way back to Newmarket. We got in Sarah's car and drove to Exeter to buy the parts. $80 later we headed back to Newmarket where as I went to go get my tools in the apartment realized I had locked myself out. I remembered a few arguments with Sarah about locking the windows because it would be easy to break in. Well... low and behold she's still not listenning and I broke in. Got the tools and we started the repair. An hour later (damn near a miracle when it involves the S Belt).. we were hopping BACK in the car and driving north on 16.
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We made it to the Hancock trailhead at about 12:30pm, laced up the boots and headed out in a fast paced hike in our attempt to beat the sunset. The trails out here are covered with about 2-4 inches of snow at most. Its a fine white powder great for kicking around. Plenty of flowing water in spots make it a slushy mess and even a few mud pits deep enough to sink your boot into. The water at the water crossings is flowing and a tad high but crossing without getting wet is no problem at all. The only REAK problem on this hike was the fresh snow covering the various slippery roots on the Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook trails.

It was a busy day on this trail as we passed quite afew folks heading out. Just before we hit the junction where you can choose to hit North or South, a lady who was hiking with her 3 daughters asked us, "You guys heading up?" "Yeah." We choose to do South First for a change and I think it was a great choice given the time of day. The toughest part of going up South peak was trying to maneuver through the glissading path. It made things a bit slick and some touch ice was evident beneath the snow. Even still, to glissade this early in the year must have been painful!

We took some photos of us in the rime up top and then carried on to the north peak. When we arrived there we stepped out onto the outlook to see the sun setting just above the Franconia Ridge. The bright orange glow illuminated the snow showers around and the white hills.. it was really amazing. We took it in before heading down the North side trail... which was kind of difficult in spots and I still... to this day... thing North to South is the safer, easier way to go.

We scurried out of there as fast as we could as the sun set and the world grew dark. We saw a couple speed hiking in as we were heading out. Adam and I stopped to comment at how much our perspective has changed... 2 years ago I would have stopped them and had a flurry of questions for them like, "You guys know its getting dark?" "Its dangerous once the sun sets, you plan on spendng the night somewhere?" Yadda yadd... Hey.. everyone hikes at different times and there are no "beasts" at night. We smiled at them and wished them well on their own adventure.

At one point Adam thought he heard voices, I was seeing headlamps in the woods... we saw or heard neither. Time to get to the car I suppose so we picked up the pace. We made it back to the kanc JUST as it was getting too dark to see without a headlamp.. we still hadn't taken ours out. We piled back into the now working car... and headed for home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

History In The Belknap Range?


Belknap Range Peak-Bagging Mission
Monday, November 12, 2007
Alspal "Dave Dunham", Kevin Tilton, Albee, Sherpa John
23 Miles in 8 or so hours.
Peaks bagged.. All 12 on the list.

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According to Trails.com the Belknap Range Traverse is described as: A strenuous peak-bagger’s adventure that visits nine peaks in the Belknap Range. The Belknap Range is an L-shaped string of small peaks that rise 1,800 feet to the west from the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. At the eastern end of the range, Mount Major, with its excellent 360-degree views, is one of the most climbed mountains in southern New Hampshire. At 2,380 feet, Belknap Mountain is the tallest peak in the range, which consists of fifteen named summits above 1,500 feet. This hike is a strenuous traverse from northwest to southeast, climbing over the summits of Mount Rowe, Gunstock Mountain, Belknap Mountain, Mount Klem, Rand Mountain, West and East Quarry Mountains, Straightback Mountain, and Mount Major. The hike involves substantial elevation gain and requires good route-finding skills, because there are many trail intersections on this route, some unmarked. It is also a one-way trip, requiring the spotting of a car at either end of the range.

Don Watson is the gentleman in charge of distributing the patches for individuals who complete hiking THE LIST of peaks on their compiled list. After what we accomplished on Monday, I won't argue the ranges silent difficulty. But had anyone ever hiked the list in ONE DAY? Dave made contact with JR Stockwell, a lesser known peakbagging "legend" in New Hampshire, who we thought would have been the guy to have done it if he had. But.. he hadn't and also expressed no interest in doing so. We made a few more e-mails to folks we know had some knowledge of area peak-bagging and turned up no results either. To their knowledge and our knowledge, NO ONE had ever hiked all 12 of these peaks in one day and it was our goal to be the first. IF someone has, it is not documented anywhere online (afterall.. EVERYTHING is on the internet) and those who hold the Belknap Range near and dear to them, offer no evidence as well. We do belive it COULD have been done previously, but it is highly unlikely given the ranges low profile as opposed to the 4K's to their north.

We spotted Dave's car somewhere along Belknap Mountain Rd and then carpooled in Al's car to Gunstock Ski Area. I had just run 50 miles on Saturday and in no way shape or form and I even remotely recovered or rested from the adventure. Yet here I am, sitting in a car with some of New Englands most decorated mountain runners, about to take on a traverse that is by no means "easy." I was worried and wondered if I should have just stayed home and let these boys do their thing. But hell.. it's time on my feet. Great mental training and time moving on tired legs. I was up for the challenge.

Kevin and Dave ran most of the way up the access road to the top of Rowe while Albee hung back and teased me along the mountains slopes. I was moving slowly, hemming and hawing, in tons of pain and barely able to climb. I thought about just turning back to the car but I don't know how to drive a stick (this make me less of a man?). My usual plethora of indiginities spurted from my mouth in comical displeasure as we climbed to and reach the top of Rowe. The views were amazing as Washington stuck out like cotton on the top of a Q-tip. We could see the snow covered twins, moosilauke, Franconia Ridge and all the ones in between. It was an aamzingly gorgeous, CRISP!, morning and we were in for a hell of a day.

We went from Rowe to Gunstock, maneuvering our way through the myriad of trails. Hiking in this range proved to be difficult mostly through the need of decent navigational skills. Trail markers often change color from white to yellow to red to pink to purple to blue to blue and red to... well you get the idea. And at times, ever finding a marker or following what "appears" to be a trail became quite a challenge.

We huffed over Gunstock and carried on to Belknap where Albee and Kevin climbed into the fire tower. They enjoyed views while I tried to move ahead given my slow progress. I could run the downhills great, muster my way through the flats with a walk/run scheme, and slowly and painfully crawled up and over every downhill. We came down upon a gorgeous spot called Round Pond. This is one of the prettiest places I have been in New Hampshire and enjoyed the shores immensly. We threw rocks into the pond, hearing it penetrate the ice and scatter like broken glass. Yeah.. it was COLD for sure!

From here we made our way over Klem at 2001', then West and East Quarry, two small humps that are a jumble of rocks and home to an old.. well, Quarry. (Go figure). The tops of these humps have been logged viciously by whome-ever, yet they had done well in trying to maintain the character of the trail. We appreciated this as we ran by and enjoyed the views from various tiny outlooks. From here, we ran over to North Straightback, taking the turn and heading for Mount Major. Mount Major was full of activity as its the most popular of the mountains in this range. We played, "Name the Peaks," with folks on the summit, pointing out various mountains off in the northern horizon. Dave reminised about how it had been 30 years since he was on Mount Major... his first mountain climb ever.

On Sunday, Dave had a huge party at his house where he ran his 100,000th mile of his running career which began in 1978. Thats 10 miles a day for almost 30 years. He holds the second fastest time for any American in the history of the Mount Washington Auto Road Race. He has competed in the Mt Washington Road Race 16 times between 1988 and 2005. He won three times including a one-second victory in 1989 over seven-time champion and teammate Bob Hodge. Dunham represented the U.S. in the World Mountain running championships from 1992 to 2000 and earned a silver medal in 1993. And Mount Major is where it all started. I really felt honored to be mountain running with a man of his caliber.

We left Major after some grub around Noon, and headed back to Straightback where we went over the South peak. From here we enjoyed some of the best running of the day on leave and pine covered single track that wove over and around Mounts Anna and Mack. We came out on a snowmobile trail that led us back past Round Pond where headed headed back towards Belknap, took a left and headed for Piper. The trail from here was horrible at times. The leaves covered the many loose and sharp rocks and roots that lay along the way. The single track was narrow and ice covered the rock slabs from time to time. As we made our way up the slopes of Piper, I was spent. Al asked me what my pain level was earlier on a scale of 1-10.. I told him 7. On Piper, I made it to 8 and even had to sit down. The guys were getting further and further ahead of me and I felt horrible for slowing them down, yet... I hung as tough as I could choosing to sing songs about my frontal lobe.

Piper was by far my favorite peak of the day. The views from and geology of this mountain were exceptional. I loved it and it was a great place for a short rest. We heard voices from the tp of Belknap and we hooted their way listenning for the response. Al and I headed off towards Whiteface while Dave and Kevin argued over the map (leave it to a surveyor and an orienteer to do that). The run down piper was steep and long along various rock slabs. In the col below Whiteface, Al spotted a porcupine and decided to play with him. We took a photo of the bugger and then climbed to the top of Whiteface. I struggled bad climbing this last pitch. My legs felt like lead as I dragged them along the ridge line. I was spent, yet glad this was the last peak of the day.

I quietly came out on the summit, too focused on the concentration required to keep moving forward. Great training indeed and in a sick way I loved it. From here, we took off down into the woods, bushwhacking down the side of Whiteface towards where we parked our car. We came out near a sand pit and logging operation about .3 from where we had parked. Our trip had been perfect on one hell of a perfect day.

HUGE thanks to Dave for his maps and route finding skills. In my opinion it really did take a good plan to accomlish the task at hand. In just under/over 8 hours, we had made history in becoming the first 4 people to ever hike all 12 peaks on this list in one day (unofficially). If anyone else has ever done it, I'd love to hear of their adventure as well. But until then, I can't wait to get my new patch AND... also get my Fire Tower patch as I also completed the 5 needed on that list as well. But for now, my legs are turning against me and much needed rest is in order.

Daves Pics: http://s153.photobucket.com/albums/s209/davedunham/2007%20Beklnap%20traverse/

Monday, November 12, 2007

RR: Stonecat Ale 50 Miler


Saturday, November 10, 2007
Stone Cat Ale 50 Miler
Ipswich, MA

Challenge: Something that by its nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc. About a month ago I accepted a challenge within, a calling onto myself, which asked if it was possible. Possible to set a personal best time at the marathon distance, and then set a personal best in the 50 mile distance, just six days later. I knew the task wasn’t going to be easy. After all, how dull would my life be if I didn’t set out to challenge myself beyond what seems attainable?

Six days before this race, I ran in the Manchester City Marathon. There, I set a personal best time of 3 hours 37 Minutes and 27 Seconds (Formerly 3:40:33). The course was amazingly challenging with many tough hills and a stiff westerly wind. This, I thought, would be the tougher of the two races to PR at, and I gave it my all in the historic Queen City. As I found out today at the Stonecat Races, I might have given too much.

All the racers lined up in one huge mass in the “starting area” ready to go. We all wanted to get moving with the hopes that it would warm us up. The temperature at the race start was a balmy 32 degrees and a light breeze blowing across the elementary schools ball fields. Runners wore tights, hats, gloves, and some even wore shorts. Whatever it was that you wore, the mission was quite simple. Marathoners were to compete 2 loops of the 12.25 mile course, and 50 milers completed 4 loops. I had many friends running in both races, and some working aid stations. There was tons of a moral support to go around and for this I was grateful. The race hadn’t even started yet and I was having a great time hanging out with everyone.

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Loop 1: Miles 0 – 12.50

The first loop of any loop course should be spent “scouting.” Trying to figure the course out so that a plan can be devised on how to run the course. Sometimes, runners will arrive to the course a day or two early to run a loop to see it before hand, but many of us were seeing t for the first time right then and there. It wasn’t long after the race started that runners were still running like a bat out of hell. I watched 50 milers run up every hill before them. I was blown away, until I noticed that I wasn’t far off, running many of the same hills.

I was pushing myself and pushing hard. All I could think about was moving quickly. I wanted the PR so bad that it was all that I thought about. No real race strategy, just run as fast as I can. I tried running with some friends, but I felt like they were pushing me beyond a comfortable level. I ran with my good friend Paul into the first aid station (Al Cats Lounge) and I made sure I stopped long enough to gain some separation… and to have my hand held filled with beer… Thanks Al! Paul is a strong runner and knows his stuff in running ultra’s, even though this was his 3rd ultra. Unfortunately, he was moving much too fast for me and I knew I needed to find my own groove and run my own race.

I left Al’s on my own with the plan to settle into my own race. Ryan Prentiss was running the marathon and he had caught up with me. We ran an easy pace for a bit before he took off on a blistering pace as well. People began passing me left and right, I was pooped all ready. I had started out WAY too fast for fifty miles and was sucked into paces other than my own. I committed a HUGE mistake but wondered how it would even out in the end. And then… Nate and Jeff caught up to me and we ran together for a bit as well. Once again, I was sucked into a pace other than my own. The only good thing is, the folks that I had been running with are all great folks. I love their conversations, we all make each other laugh and I was having a great time.

We arrived at Fast Fred’s CafĂ© and I let Nate and Jeff run ahead. I kept forgetting that the last 3 people I ran with were running a race half the distance of what I was going to cover today. I finally settled into my own race for good and was amazed to see just how much of the last 4 miles of the loop one could run. The entire course is a mixture of single track and dirt roads. The trails are technical in that roots and rocks hang up on the course yet are covered by slimy fallen leaves. I rolled my ankle a few times but was good enough to keep moving forward at a good clip. Soon, I re-emerged out into the school’s athletic fields to complete loop 1. And I’m not too happy, the clock reads 2:10 and I knew that this was too fast by about 20 minutes.

Loop 1 Time: 2:10
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Loop 2: Miles 12.50 – 25

After knowing I finished loop 1 a little too fast, I knew I needed to reel myself in, and figure out what the plan would be. From the start to Al’s is where most of the walking should take place, from Al’s to Fred’s is a good mixture of both, and from Fred’s to the finish is an extremely run-able section. If I could only hang on to this plan for the loop, I’d do just fine. As I ran out of the start/finish area, I began to “bread & butter” the other runners who were just coming in. It was neat to see who was on my heels all day… especially later when they all passed me. Everyone looked strong, including Ian Parlin and Eric Boucher who were both running their first 50. Eric had whipped himself up into some amazing shape and I was really rooting for him.

I continued onto the first section of single track and the first major hill, slowly walking and then running when I could. I noticed a guy had driven his pick up into the woods and he was cutting down what seemed to be every hardwood he could find in this softwood forest. Chainsaw in hand he went to work and I must say, in the time I took me to run 2 loops, this dude had amassed quite a pile of wood. I made it to Al’s and was feeling good again. I drank some chicken noodle soup, some soda and chatted it up with aid station workers again. Bob Dunfey is always a great source for a good laugh and another gentleman told me he reads my blog and enjoy’s it. That’s always a good pick me up.

I headed off to Fred’s. I was running mostly alone out here, but what else is new. Most times in these races its what I do. The only problem was, without company, it was much harder to keep my mind off of “natures calling.” But then again, I was able to run my own race and keep things simple. I got back on track, and ran into Fred’s where I saw Jason Patch. Jason was great in keeping me motivated throughout the day, just another one of the great personalities of the race staff.

I ran what of the final 4 miles I could, and as I ran towards the start/finish again, I watched Paul head back out and even noticed some girls from the high school my HS rivaled with. I had to jaw at them, it was fun back then and still is now. Turns out they know my uncle. My time for this lap was more like it, but probably should have been about 20 minutes slower. I knew I was in trouble seeing as my race strategy was non-existent. Plenty of mistakes here in the first half, and the cold was really doing a number on my all ready tight legs. It was time to dig deep

Loop 2 Time: 2:24
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Loop 3: Miles 25 – 37.5

I took off on loop three feeing tired still but confident. Nature was certainly calling and two miles into the loop, I finally decided to answer its call. Off into the woods I went and when I returned to the course, I knew that some 6 to 9 runners had moved ahead of me. I felt rejuvenated now that I had finally “got the lead out” and decided to munch my way back up in the ranks. I passed a few of them by Al’s and a few more shortly after. On my way to Fred’s I was in a groove and feeling good.

I ran a long downhill section before noticing that course markings were scant… and I saw what appeared to be remnants of where markings had once hung. So I kept going forward until I came up to a long strand of orange tape across my path. I stopped, looked up and saw a runner in front of me whom I remembered as being WAY ahead of me on the course. He uttered, “Ha! I see you did the same thing I did.” I asked him how far back it was and he uttered not a single word, turned and left without an answer. “Ok FINE! I’ll find out for myself!…. ::grumble::” I turned around and hurriedly ran up hill and back on to the course seeing the turn I missed. And when I came upon the first runner that was ahead of me, I realized I had lost all of my positions again.

I was still feeling good. I stopped at Fred’s to talk to Jason again and a few others, included some guys who knew me from a hiking website I used to belong to. I was sure to issue a short but honest opinion before hurrying off. I ran as much as I could the last 4 in on the loop, walked briskly at times and felt great about my time. This HAD to be my fastest loop and I’m on track still!… Ian Parlin caught me and we ran together for a bit talking about the New England racing scene. He and Eric Boucher put on some GREAT races in Maine as they try to create some type of trail running scene in New Englands Largest state. I enjoyed my time with Ian, excited about the run, still feeling tired, we ran into the finish area. I looked up at the clock.. and it read a dismal 7:37. I now had 2 hours and 10 minutes left in order to PR at the 50 Mile Distance. The wind was let out of my sails but I was still running with all that I had, PR or not.

Loop 3 Time: 3:03
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Loop 4: Miles 37.5 – 50

Loop 3 felt like my fastest loop when it was actually my slowest. My race had slowly fallen apart and I was an army of one. Per the normal at Ultra’s I was running alone now, enjoying my time and thinking of many wonderful things. I was moving much slower now. As I had run in to finish loop3 I saw Paul running out. Surprised that I was still close to him, I was quick to leave and try to catch up. As I ran through the first trail section, a guy came from the other direction and said, “You Sherpa? Paul said to hurry up.” I smiled and got moving.

I eventually caught Paul and once again we were running together with some of the other runners in our area. We ran into Al’s where I told a few jokes, ate some more soup and grabbed an Oatmeal Raisin cookie. I thanked the volunteers for their time and effort and was on my way. As I entered the woods, I saw Paul crest the small hill and never saw him again until the finish. I spent the last miles of the race trying to catch him and as many runners as I could along the way, only to be passed myself with never passing anyone at all.

Somewhere out on the course, before or after Fred’s, the trail sections get rocky and narrow. I had rolled my ankles MANY times today and stubbed my toes enough to wish they didn’t even exist. Each hill came and each hill was walked slower. I tried to run the down hills and did just fine, but running the flats was now a chore. I was running from ribbon to ribbon and tree to tree, whatever it took.

Soon, some of the runners who were behind me came flying up and passed me with ease as their pacers led them away. I was once again discouraged and demoralized and wishing that pacers were NOT allowed in 50 Milers. But it is what it is and each race is different for everyone. Today, was definitely not my day and I knew it. So.. I trudged along as the life was ever so slowly sucked out of me.

About a mile from the finish a man came running up the trail and asked me if I was ok. I told him I was very tired and very much disappointed as I held back tears. He told me Paul sent him to find me to make sure I was ok, and then asked what I was disappointed about, “you just ran 50 miles! Do you know how many people can’t or won’t ever do that? Be proud man.” I held back tears and took a few deeps breaths. In my mind I thought about what he said. I thought about Jeff Washburn, the race director, who suffered a stroke back in September. I wish Jeff had been there but alas he wasn’t and I realized that this stranger was right. Sometimes, even as runners, we take things for granted.

So finally I had a pacer and we moved briskly along the final miles of the course. I knew this was my slowest lap… or was it?

Loop 4 Time: 2:57
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I finished the race with a time of 10:34, about one hour longer than I had hoped. Even though I felt very much disappointed by my time at the end of the race, I was very much happy that I got to PR at the marathon 6 days before and even have the ability to run 50 miles today. I cherish this race finish as much as I do any others because hey… 50 miles is 50 miles (well… 50.5 right?). At the finish line I hugged Sarah and told her I felt like I had just run 100 Miles. It had been a long time since I was THAT tired; perhaps I was just relieved that it was over. I’m very much glad I tried the double PR as it sparked great life into my running.

Supposedly 139 people started the 50 Miler and only 81 finishers. I came in 49th.

A HUGE thanks to the folks at Gil’s Athletic Club (G.A.C.). They put on one hell of a race. The aid stations were top notch, friendly and supportive volunteers and one tough hombre of a course. My feet and legs were killing me! I loved it! I got a tech shirt for entering and a new jacket for finishing that says “50 Mile Finisher.” Special thanks to all those runners who I got to yuck it up with out there. You guys are a great family and I had a blast. It’s the reason I really look forward to the races.

So… a marathon PR, 50 miles 6 days later.. time to rest right? NOPE! Two days later I ran 23 miles over 12 peaks in New Hampshire’s Belknap Mountain Range… but you’ll have to hear all about that later

Pictures Here: http://good-times.webshots.com/album/561423065zltGMu

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Manchester City Miracle



There has not been a full marathon in Manchester since the old New England Marathon of Manchester in the 1930’s drawing all the big names, including Clarence DeMar, Tarzan Brown, Jock Semple, and Fred Brown. For nearly a decade, the old race was considered one of the premier events in New England distance running. Highlights of that race included Tarzan Brown challenging “Mr. Marathon” DeMar, falling just short at the very end. Brown won subsequent back-to-back marathons—in New York on Saturday and Manchester the following day--after a whirlwind overnight train ride. Thousands lined the highways for a glimpse of these legends.

The city is also where my grandparents on my father’s side came to work in the city’s legendary mills. It’s also where my grandfather on my mother’s side came to work at the International Paper company. What made the race so intriguing for me is that it takes place in my city of birth, and where I grew up. I signed up for the race expecting to take a trip down memory lane, and that’s exactly what I got. But I also had other things in mind as well. Seemingly there was no better place for me to set a new Personal Best Time for the Marathon distance than in Manchester. So far in 2007, I have set PR’s at the 50K and 100 Mile distances. I tried to set a marathon pr in Disney but came up 13 minutes long on Florida’s flat course. And then I thought, “Man, if I could only PR in Manchester and then PR at the 50 Mile distance 5 days later in Mass.” As typical for me, it’s a lofty goal and I had my serious doubts. I’m pretty confident I can run a sub 9:47 at the Stone Cat 50, but sub 3:40 in Manchester?? That’s a little much to chew on.

The course in Manchester is 26.2 miles of the biggest and longest hills the city has to offer. The night before the race my father told me he thought it to be extremely difficult for anyone to PR given the courses difficulty. But hill running is essentially all I have done. The marathon distance to me, is tougher than running 100 Miles. The sheer level of fitness one must possess in order to run 26.2 miles is testament itself to the level of commitment. I’ve spent the last year training to run 50 and 100 Mile races, a pace which is exponentially slower than a 3:40 Marathon. To do this, I was going to need a miracle for sure. I spent the last 2 weeks heading into the race focused on picked up the pace in some 10 Mile runs, scared that it was too little too late. There was only one way to find out.
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Race Day
http://www.cityofmanchestermarathon.com/Files/mcm-map.pdf

I met Hans on the corner of Elm and Merrimack Streets in Manchester’s downtown. He tried to fool me by wearing a Viking hat with horns, a grey beard and an eye patch. However, Hans is the only guy I know, besides myself, who would wear such an outfit to a race. We walked over to his brother’s vehicle where we did our last minute preparations. We took off for a 2 mile warm up stroll and tried to loosen up for the race. We then got down to our shorts on what would be a crisp 45 degree Manchester Morning. We headed to the starting line where we were almost late for the race start. We stood on the line as the mayor gave his speech and then Joan Benoit Samuelsson started us off. Hans and I were both wearing watches so we could closely monitor our progress.

The race wound its way into the city’s historic Mill yard first. We passed in front of the Waumbek Mill where my father worked at the young age of 12. I knew we had started off much too fast and tried our best to settle into a comfortable groove without blowing up. We passed the state armory and then ran past the Youth Detention Center and near The Derryfield School. We ran down the high priced houses of Union Street and then pushed ourselves up Webster Street and Smyth Rd Hills. These two hills are the toughest on the course. Thankfully, I spotted Sarah and my mom cheering from the side lines. I also ran past my dad and step mother Helen, who opted to be race volunteers and offered a hearty high five on our way by.

Hans and I were having a great time, mostly from the entertainment his Viking hat was attracting. Yeah, he took the beard and eye patch off, but kept the Viking helmet on. We heard it all along the way: “Nice Viking hat, nice costume, hey Lars, hey thor, hey Leif, hey Viking boy, go Vikings, Vikings rule, go mad bull, nice outfit, etc, etc, etc.” Hans made sure to acknowledge them all as we carried along. It must have felt nice knowing he made so many smiles on such a gorgeous day. And I’ll also admit that after awhile, it started to get old. Lol. We started running past places that jogged my memory. “This is where I used to go sledding, here is where I played on the swings, my dad and grandfather were club members here, this is where my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary,” and on and on. Hans was in disbelief that I remembered the city so well. But then again, it was knowing the city so well that helped me keep in mind what was to come. I was in constant running motion, thinking of the next turn in the road and what accompanied it. As we ran down Hanover Street towards downtown, the half marathon runners began to pick up the pace and I was mindful to not get caught in their trap and pushing too hard.

As we entered down town the wind finally picked up. Anyone who has lived in New England knows that the day after a Nor’easter is usually a day of high westerly winds. This was not good news. I felt fine after the first 13 miles assortment of Hills, but I knew the west side of town tended to be windier as the wind rushed down the Merrimack River Valley. The hills on the west side are longer too, and I started to become ever more doubtful of attaining my goal. As we crossed the Merrimack, we saw Sarah and Mom again, this time ringing cow bells. The death of my grandfather still rests heavy in my heart, and ringing cowbells at weddings is something he was best known for. While his passing lies heavily, it is also a source of great inspiration. Hans and I goofed off quite a bit in the first half of this race, and I felt like a PR was slowly drifting away. But in the moment I heard those cowbells.. I knew I had some work to do.

Hans and I got to work running our way up hill through the west side. We crossed the Kelly St. Bridge into Goffstown and started heading away from the city even further. We ran down Mast Road into a headwind that seemed to suck the life right out of our sails. Things were not looking good. At mile 20 I saw Crazy Judy who offered some support. I told Hans I needed to stop for a pee break. For the first time all race, I stopped. Hans continued slowly up the road and looked at his watch. As I caught up he gave me an update, “Ok.. We’re about 1/4 mile behind our goal… we’re going to have to start to dig in here.” That’s all I needed to hear.
We worked our way up the courses longest hill, a drawn out hill that leads to St. Anselm’s College. Around St. A’s I saw Sarah and Mom and again, took the last swigs of my handheld bottles and dropped them at their feet to take. Time to Push… we continued on, wound our way down hill and started running right past the graveyard my grandparents lay in. Immediately something came over me, and I was in the zone. As we began to near the inner city again, Hans mentioned, “John… this is unreal. We were ¼ mile back and now we’re getting ahead.. Relax.” I slowed it down and decided to rest for the next series of hills.

As we turned onto Main and McGregor Streets, I started to feel a bit sluggish. We ran across the river again and back onto the East side. We headed north on Elm, away from the finish and it wasn’t much fun. I needed to find some energy. Hans wrote in a post race e-mail, “You were more than a 1/4 mile behind pace when you took that leak, and I thought you looked heavy. I was concerned. But you freshened up really good all the way to 23 miles. Then that long gradual uphill and out of town was a bit demoralizing. We fell off a 1/4 mile in the last 2 miles. But you put on a real sprint to the line, and I was not expecting that ” I told myself on Elm that if I just took my time and kept moving forward to the top of this last hill, I could take the turn back towards the finish and take it home. I looked at my watch and knew it was going to be close… we were behind and I was ready to throw in the towel, but the answer to that was quickly no!

The biggest thing I have learned over the last few years is that there is something inside us far more powerful than science, conventional wisdom and training, something within our hearts that tugs at our souls and puts us into a call to action. “If you think you can, you can. Impossible is nothing. GET THE LEAD OUT.” These thoughts raced through my mind as we ran down Chestnut Street, I saw my dad, clapped my hands and gave him a high five. Two block later I saw Helen and repeated the high five and added, “I’m gonna make it!” Hans glanced at his watch as I kicked in, “Holy Cow John! You’re running 8 min miles, 7:30’s, 7, WOW!” We ran down the last few blocks and turned onto Hanover Street as Hans Yelled out, “Sherpa John’s gonna do it, LOOK OUT!” I sprinted onto Elm and eyed the finish line. I kicked my legs high and sprinted towards the end. I brushed my hands together as if to wipe them clean, I wiped my brow, threw the sweat and thought to myself, “piece of cake!” At no point during the race did I push myself to hard, I never breathed heavy and mostly through my nose, but here in the chute.. I was kicking hard. I crossed the finish line… simply shocked, shocked at what I had just accomplished.

The Manchester City Marathon is where I completed what I now call The Manchester City Miracle. I ran 26.2 Miles, through the wind, over the city’s toughest hills, in a time of 3 Hours 37 Minutes and 27 Seconds. My old PR of 3:40 is now a distant memory. I’m still not the fastest one out there, but am glad I can still be challenged by a marathon and pleased with the event at the same time. There’s only one part of this goal left and it will be settled on Saturday in Ipswich, Ma.. as I try to run 50 Miles in less than 9:47. People told me I couldn’t run 100 Miles, this year I ran the distance 3 times. People told me I was too slow to run 3:40 in the marathon again, I ran it faster. People told me it would be damn near impossible to PR at the marathon and the 50 miles in the same week.. I’m one step closer.

26.2 Miles in 3:37:27 (New PR!)
101st place out of 517 finishers
13 out of 28 in my div (M25-29)

HUGE thanks to my support crew. Sarah and Mom for being out on the course ringing those bells, Dad and Helen and the countless other volunteers on the course. Nate and Kathryn for joining me on weekly training runs and continuing to push me beyond my limits. Paul in Burlington, Jeff in Ark and Dave in Kansas for your continued moral support and inspiration. Moe, for teaching my at a young age to dig deep and find that fire within. Hans for his patience, foolery and guidance. And to the many runners who STILL wore their headphones after they were told not too, You missed a great day in New Hampshire’s Queen City.

STONE CAT – HERE I COME!

Monday, October 29, 2007

RR: 2007 McNaughton Park 100

“The secret to success is often in the ability to accept how long it may take
to be successful.” ~Richard Schick

“To complete a marathon, runners must traverse 26 miles; battle mental and physical fatigue and sometimes-extreme weather conditions, and probably be in the best shape of their lives. Are you exhausted yet? No? Then try running two marathons, or three, four and five, nonstop. Now add freezing temperatures, blustery winds and a course full of mud, fallen tree branches and whatever else Mother Nature can conjure up.” ~ Local Pekin, IL paper.
 

Hans Bauer and I flew into Peoria, IL together where we met up with race volunteer Mike Halovatch. Mike brought us to McNaughton Park on Thursday night where we met up with Race Director and good friend Andy Weinberg. We all went out to eat before Hans and I tented out at the Start/Finish to keep watch over the race equipment all ready present. As Friday came, many runners began showing up and setting up their tents, campers and tarps for the weekend. It finally began to sink it what I was about to take part in. 

The McNaughton Park Trail Runs is a series of runs of varying distance that all take place on the same 10-mile loop in McNaughton Park in proud and gorgeous Pekin, Il. 150 Mile runners were to begin running at 6pm on Friday evening while the 50 and 100-mile runners were to begin Saturday morning at 6am. A few 100-mile runners began Friday night in order to give themselves some extra time to finish the race that officially ended at 6pm on Sunday night. Each 10 Mile loop sported 1,600’ of elevation change per loop with hills of varying distance and difficulty (mostly short and steep). Each loop also had two 20-yard creek crossings. One crossing was knee deep the other was shin deep. Ten ten-mile loops adds up to 16,000’ of elevation change in all the hills you can handle plus 20 cold creek crossings. 

As we all gathered around for the pre-race meeting, the 150 milers began their final preparations and took to the starting line. I had the opportunity to meet many of them over pasta dinner and pre-race festivities. Brad Compton is a runner who looks like Jesus and we’ve both run to Wakely Dam in New York. David Goggins came in 5th place in the 2006 Badwater Ultra-Marathon, this supremely chiseled man appeared to be a completely impenetrable machine. Phil Rosenstein, Jeff Heasley, Ryan Dexter, Uli Kamm and many more. The cast of characters in the 150-mile was not only impressive but intimidating, to be in their company and share the same trails as them was a privilege and an honor. 

These runners have accomplished great things as individuals. In the crowd of 150 milers was a 48-hour champion at Across The Yearswho ran 177 miles. A mother who ran 270 miles across the frozen tundra of Alaska. Runners who have run across the Gobi Desert and recovering addicts. Everyday people, who have jobs and families yet had pushed themselves to the limits of LIVING and accomplished great things. They now toe the start/finish line of the longest continuous distance race in the entire western hemisphere. What a thrill it was to be a part of something as great as this single event. 

Just before the start of their race, all of us present from Team Sherpa Ultra-Running gathered around for a group photo. Hans had flown with me from New Hampshire and was ready to go on his 150 mile adventure. Chrissy Weiss from Los Angeles flew in to run the 150 also. Jeff Genova drove up from Arkansas to run the 100 with me and as we stood arm in arm at the start line, we smiled gleefully in thinking of the journey we were to take. 

A surreal electric feeling was in the air as the meeting ended. People cheered and whistled. We clapped and jumped around as the start was given and these warriors were off on their personal journey to persevere. As they bounded down the first hill, the crowded shifted to an adjacent field where we cheered the runners on at mile 1.38 of the loop. As they ran through the grass they gave high fives to spectators and small children. Everyone had a smile on his or her face and a few “faster runners” had a look of extreme seriousness. God bless them as they disappeared into the woods. 

Back at the start/finish, Jeff and I met up with Karl Meltzer. I had been e-mailing with Karl in the weeks before the race seeking advice. As we stood and spoke Friday night, we talked about race strategy, nutrition, and life in general. He was by far the coolest guy and a real class act. But even more surreal was the fact that here I was talking to the “Tiger Woods” of Ultra-Running, it was a moment in my journey that I will never forget and I take his advice to heart. I even got to speak to 2nd place finisher of the 2006 Badwater race, Akos Konya and he too was one cool and funny guy. As the day came to a close, Jeff and I had prepared 
for race morning as the 150 milers went round and round and round. 

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Saturday, April 14, 2007 – 6 AM
McNaughton Park
100 Miles
 

I woke up and finished my pre-race prep. Socks, shoes, gaiters, band aids in trouble areas, body glide, bundle up, and watch the snow flurries fall in the pre-race air. It was a crisp morning with fresh first on the course. 150 Milers were coming in after a few loops on the course and looking good. But as we prepared for the run, snow flurries quickly turned to light rain showers. We were warned about what rain would do to the course, we would now simply pray for the best. 

It all happened so quickly. I hardly even noticed I was about to run in a race. I continued to mingle with friends new and old, joking, laughing and having a great time. After another quick pre-race meeting and glancing over the 50 Mile runners, we all huddled behind the starting line and the signal to GO! Was given. “Oh my god… I’m going to run… HOW FREAKIN FAR?!” 

Loop 1 : Miles 0 – 10: 
We bounded down the first hill of the course which was a mess of slick mud and an area of washout. It emptied us out in a large field of what we did not know, but we did know we had to run around the circumference of the field. Back into the woods and up a short steep hill, we come out into a grassy area where a bag piper played. His song was enough to choke me up as many spectators and crews cheered us on, it finally sank in. Sank in that I was going to be running a distance that not too long ago, I never knew humans considered running. We continued to feel out the course as mile 1.5 through 3 led us through a myriad of steep ups and downs. This section of the course ended up being the toughest in my mind with very few run able areas. And at mile 3 was the totem pole Aid station 1. Special thanks to these volunteers for putting on their smiles for 2 days straight and supplying us with a great aid station. 

From here we headed out down trail towards the first river crossing. Course markings led us over a 2 foot embankment jumping into 3 feet of water, which rumor has it was what Karl Meltzer did. The rest of us took a 20-foot side path to an area of knee-deep water to cross in. No matter what I tried, my feet got drenched here and I was thankful to have caked Vaseline on them to try and protect them from damage. The water was cold, but if you kept moving on the other side, they were quick to warm up. After some flat run able sections, we come to the “rope hill.” This short steep “hill” was equipped with a rope for runners to grab while climbing. I saw it and giggled a little at how silly it was. After all the hiking I’d done in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I thought of all the trails could use this rope. But I decided to make a personal challenge to myself. See how many loops I could do without grabbing the rope. Up I went and across to the ridge, we then ran along another section of steep ups and downs. 

We then got dumped out into more fields of what… we still did not know. The tight grooming and row placement made it evident that it was a farm of some kind. After running down hill and past the cemetery that Jeff mentioned he’d be in later… we arrived at Heavens Gate aid station. These folks were super. Fellow Ultra-Runner Tracy Thomas did an awesome job of keeping me in the game and making me feel strong. I loved her support as it kept me fueled. From here we did a quick 1 mile loop in the woods along the creek, head back out through the farms, back into the woods for some more hills, back out into the farms… one more ankle deep stream crossing about 20 feet wide, followed by more hills and back to the start finish. The course had been checked out and was soon to be memorized. 

Loop 2 : Miles 10 – 20: 
The second loop got interested. After the first mile and a half was ran into David Goggins and Ryan Dexter who were on their 5th or 6th loop. These guys were running the 150 and were in rough shape. The trail had turned into a horrendous and torturous mud slick. It was in rough shape… nothing I had ever seen. Those who were short could navigate the mud just fine.. but those who were 6’6” like Goggins couldn’t lower his center of gravity enough. In effect he began slipped all around the place. The man that is a machine.. was now being revealed as human. But he still very much had machine qualities in him as he plodded along in mud caked shoes. Ryan Dexter teased him as they went along by saying, “Come on Dave, we have to run when we can.” No Ryan… there was no running right now… just sliding all over the place. We ran into Chrissy later who, like many others, was now dropping from the 150 to the 100 given the new course conditions. 

Jeff started to get frustrated. When we could run we got too warm and when we walked too cold. The mud messed him all up as he had a tender ankle he hadn’t fully healed. He told me to screw my 22-hour finish goal and my 24-hour as well. I wasn’t happy with that but knew either way I had to just keep going. We entered totem pole and got some food, we left together then he stopped to pee… I never saw him again for quite some time. Karl Meltzer lapped me and we gave each other a quick nod as he went by. Very cool. 

Loop 3 : Miles 20 – 30: 
The trail was now all out Armageddon. The massive influx of runners from only forty 150 milers to now over 200 runners on the trail with light showers caused the trail to turn into pure mud the entire way. Runners had to get off the single track and run in the moss and wild flowers to get ANY traction. Mud in most places was anywhere from 8 to 12 inches deep. Runners were losing shoes. ON the hills, every 5 steps up equaled sliding 3 steps back in the mud. I saw Akos Konya as he breezed by me. Bundled up and muddy I asked him, “Akos, how ya doin!?” His reply was funny, “I no like, very cold, too much mud, hilly.” Akos is a very funny guy and I hope to see him again. 

I ran the first 2 loops in 2:20 but this loop had turned into a 3 hour nightmare. As I pulled into the start finish at mile 30, I stopped to re-grease my feet and change my socks. They were pruned and not looking good. 
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Loop 4 : Miles 30 – 40: 
There aren’t many folks my age running these ultra-events these days. And even fewer as young as 18 years old Steve Halstead. Steve was the youngest entrant in the 100 miler and I knew at last check that if he dropped I’d be the youngest out there. But as I rounded a corner before Heavens Gate, I saw him bent over on the side of the trail. He started the night before, and after 14 hours of running I asked him how far he’d run… 45 miles he said. One hell of an effort. I asked if he was ok and he told me he was done and waiting for a ride. I shook his hand and tapped his shoulder. After a hell of an effort I couldn’t believe he was dropping. I told him to keep going if he could, or go lay down and come back out… word had it he went home, hopped in bed and couldn’t move. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his guts and determination to have run through the night. 

We noticed that quite a few folks had dropped out of the race after 2 or 3 loops and by loop 4 it was rather lonely out there. The masses were now gone and unfortunate for them, fortunate for us, the trails conditions started to improve. The mud was now no longer slick in many places but sticky. Getting down some steeper slopes still proved to be a trick yet, easier than before. But please don’t be fooled… we still have sections of 8-20 inch deep mud that would stay until the very end. 

Loop 5 : Miles 40 – 50: 
Back at the start finish, every time runners would come in, they’d get our number and our name would be announced over the loud speaker. Andy would yell, “Sherpa John, From New Hampshire, 40 miles and still going.” We would later begin referring to the start/finish as “The Game Show.” It was great to run in and get a huge hug from Andy, high five and some smiles. He was such an inspiration to me. His energy is contagious. 

Back out on the course I ran into many of the 150 Milers. Chrissy Weiss was still hell bent on going only 100 miles but after the last time I saw her, rumor had it she dropped at 90. Phil Rosenstein was still going strong and he told me Hans was a lap ahead of him. At totem I ate some twizzlers and ran off angry. A fellow runner asked me what was wrong and I explained how I was pissed to have to chew my food… too much energy is wasted in chewing. I was grumpy yet laughed after listening to myself go nuts. 

Then I ran into Corey from the Adirondaks of New York state. He knew who I was yet I had no clue who he was. We talked, “So your training for the 48 record has brought you here, very cool Sherpa.” I had no idea how he knew about my ambition to break a record in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but in talking to him, I learned how he had similar ambitions to break Cave Dogs record in New York. We had great conversation about hiking places in the Northeast and even giggled over the Illinois “hills.” It was great to have his company for a time as I began to feel like I was at home. As I made it back to “The Game Show” it echoed through the woods, “Sherpa John, halfway done his 1st 100 miler.” Andy stuck the microphone in my face, “How does it feel to be doing your first 100?” and I replied, “Awesome!” 

Loop 6 : Miles 50 – 60: 
I continued to run around the loop and wondered where Jeff was. Would I lap him or see him at all? Where the hell is Hans? The sun will set soon and I should have stayed with Jeff since it’s going to get mighty lonely out here. A small bout of depression began to fall over me and I prayed to god. It was now that I finally started to dig deep down inside me, to find what it is that I’m made of. I’ve never run more than 60 miles before. Before I set out on this loop I received a call fro my friend from home “Mt. Drew” who called as I changed my socks. At home my hiking friends were receiving their awards for hiking all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 Footers. I was missing the celebration and them. I have many fond memories of them all and wished I could be there. Instead I was in Illinois, alone, wet, muddy and searching for inner hope.. and then, I was taught a lesson from above. 

Before the rope hill I saw a German couple squabbling in German. It was Uli Kamm. His wife had joined him for a loop. As they talked he video taped the course with his camera explaining he was here for the gorgeous wildflowers. (they were not out yet). They let me pass and as I went up rope hill (still no rope use), he said, “you should have washed your legs to make them look better!” I had a good chuckle. 

As I kept running I ran into a young man wearing a pair of brooks and a white bandana. He was walking with a group of friends when I heard him say, “Gee, I thought I was the youngest out here, what the F$^!” I turned back to look at him and he said, “Hey, how old are you?” I told him I was 25 and I thought according to the registration page am the youngest out here in the 100 since the 18 year old dropped. “No.. I’m 21, I’m the youngest,” he barked. I was taken a back by his tone. Of course in various races I have taken some pride in being the youngest to finish the given race. Though I’m sure it wasn’t his intent, his tone came off as boastful and in a rather attacking manner. I responded with, “Oh.. ok.. well.. hey, good luck man.” 

Shortly after, he ditched his friends and caught up with me. He told me, “this is my first 100. I’ve never run more than 9.8 miles in a training run. I ran 33 here last year as a pacer and thought I was going to die. I’ve yet to change my socks shoes or shorts for that matter.” He went on and on about his greatness of the day and I simply listened. And then he came out with, “my first lap was a 1:20!” WOAH! I responded, “Karl Meltzer didn’t even run a 1:20 for his first lap. What are you thinking? You’re going to blow up!” “Well, I had a crappy pacer and one of my other loops was 4 hours because of him. I was pissed.” Now I was truly puzzled by this guy and I said again, “You’re going to blow up.” “Well… if I was gonna blow up I’d have done it by now I’ll be fine.” I ran ahead of him and began to think to myself if this was a hallucination. I saw no bib number on him and he was running fresher after 50 miles than anyone else on the course. Was god trying to teach me a lesson in humility, boastfulness and humbleness?? I chalked it all up as yes and this young man didn’t exist. A simple hallucination and a lesson from above. I felt terrible and finally learned what so many had been trying to teach me. I left him by saying, “Good luck kiddo, I think you should have done your homework though, it’s a long race and strange things happen at night.” 

Shortly before the sun set I found Hans! We ran together into Heavens Gate and continued on to the finish area. Hans said, “I hope we see some more wildlife!” I replied with, “Yeah… I’ve seen 5 deer so far.” Hans – “Really?! I Saw a giraffe!” I was now well aware that Hans was way beyond the realms of sanity. As we reached the start/finish area, we found Jeff in the tent laying down feeling like crap. We all gathered our stuff, and headed out for another lap. 

Loop 7 : Miles 60 – 70: 
My feet had been growing progressively sorer since about mile 30. As they wrinkled they started to form chasms near the ball of my feet that felt as if they were splitting open. I could feel some huge blisters on the bottom of my big toes. My pinky toes sore as hell.. things were going down hill fast. We all headed out for loop 7 which quickly turned into a death march. As we walked together through the night, Hans ran ahead with a fellow 150 runner he knew. Jeff and I suffered behind. I finally used the rope on the rope hill. My feet progressively worse, running turned into a shuffle. My shins hurt and my hips. I was tired, spent, and emotional and even shed a few tears. I started getting tunnel vision and felt like the darkness of the world was crashing down around me. Even though I was with Jeff and Hans up ahead, I was very alone. I was broken. At Havens Gate.. Tracy was gone as I looked for her motivation. I sat in a chair around their fire and drank chicken soup. I felt reenergized and we tried to run.. but Jeff hurt now and was feeling terrible. I carried on down the trail and started hallucinating. I saw a bush baby on the trail… and they are NOT native to Illinois. Things got very cloudy, I forgot where we just were and had no clue where we were now. I just kept moving. Took a few wrong turns and then Jeff started to vomit.…When we got back to the start finish I felt as if we’d been walking for 6 hours on the last loop… and it was really only 3 1/2. It was 1 am… I had gone 70 Miles in 19 Hours. The only part of my body that hurt was my shins and feet. I took my shoes and socks off and remained in agony. I had never felt so much pain in my life. 

Jeff laid on his bed and fell asleep in less than 2 minutes. Hans told me to lay down and re-stock myself and head out again later. He’d be back. I hobbled around to the fire, dried my feet, put new socks on and crawled into my sleeping back with all of my clothes and 2 jackets on… I fell asleep. 

When Hans returned it had been 3 hours. I told him to tell Andy I was done.. he went to find Andy and told him to get my ass out on the course. Andy came over to talk and asked what was wrong. I told him my feet killed and I could barely walk on them they hurt so bad. I cried… he left.. and came back with a pair of Injinji Toe Socks. 

At sun up I woke up and I put them on with my old running shoes. As I walked around the start/finish area, I saw what looked like a battlefield. Runners had dropped all through the night. Many others had slept, many had packed up and gone home. Larry the chef cooked me an awesome ham and cheese sandwich. I walked over to the time clock and saw the buckles…. There was no doubt what I was going to do now. 

I had been broken down to the absolute lowest point of humility and sanity. I was going crazy, scared, cold, tired… and I woke to a new day, a new rising. I told Jeff… “Hey… 3 more laps… lets go.” And this, is when I learned who I was.. and what it is to persevere. 5 miles across the course Hans was still running when he heard echo through McNaughton Park, “Sherpa John, 70 Miles, heading back out to finish his first 100 Miler!” Hans told me later how excited he got ad he kept running. We were off… for 3 more laps.. the clock still rolling.

Loop 8 : Miles 70 – 80: 
It felt so great to be back out running on the course. The toe socks worked great and my feet felt fine. Jeff and I ran together laughing and cracking jokes all around the park. “Have you been to McNaughton Park??” Yeah.. and we’ve seen ALL of it and then some. More mud please, more hills please. I hadn’t had enough. I felt so alive and I choked up thinking of finishing this damn race. As we neared the start/finish we heard “The Game Show” and knew we were the next contestants. We ran this lap in 2:40 

Loop 9 : Miles 80 – 90: 
Before we head out I see two young guys standing together looking at me with their arms crossed. I was having a hard time seeing but as I leaned forward and focused in on one of them I asked, “Hey… weren’t you the 21 year old I saw last night!?” He was wearing jeans and looking rather clean. “Yeah, I dropped at mile 72.” I stood up and smiled… and asked, “So you blew up?” “Well basically what it came down to is I started too fast.” I commend this young man and if he ever reads this report, I hope he will take some time to learn about this sport and what its about. I commend hi for his courage and his ability to have run as well as he did for 70 Miles. He should have finished the race as he had plenty of time. Perhaps he will return and try again. But now I knew… I was aiming at being the youngest finisher of the 100 miler. 

As we left the start we saw David Goggins down in the first field. The man who I envisioned as a machine was now a walking mess. As he shuffled along the course with Mike Halovatch as his pacer, he looked like hell. I looked up to Goggins for his amazing abilities as a runner and because he is indeed a machine, but he inspires me more now than ever since I have seen that he is indeed every bit as much a human and a man of courage. As he shuffled along, I thought for sure I may have seen some drool. 

We saw Ryan Dexter out at Heavens Gate.. another 150 miler who was delirious and on cloud nine. Bundled up wearing a balaclava I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug. His encouragement is a large part of why I continued to run. Thanks Ryan, I owe you big time. We saw Phil Rosenstein and judging by his slurred speech, we were glad his race was almost over as well. We ran a short distance with him before pulling away. We began to slow a bit near the end, yet still made it back to, yup, “The Game Show.” And all we heard was, “Sherpa John… he was down and out last night… 90 Miles! ONE LAP TO GO! Jeff and I refueled and got ready to go out for the last lap in McNaughton Park. Running around in circles, through all that mud that was STILL there and after 18 creek crossings… it was all ready way beyond a bad nightmare… just one more time. 

Loop 10 : Miles 90 to 100: 
Jeff and I stripped off some layers as the sun had begun to warm up the course. Many places were now dry but soft and there were still some huge mud pits around. But it was as we were preparing to leave the start finish for the last time that I began to feel at peace. Andy Weinberg came up to me and said over the loud speaker, “Sherpa John… I’ve got two words!” He leaned over and whispered them into my ear. No.. they weren’t expletives, but what he said lit a fire under my ass like no other… It was time to go. As Jeff and I smiled at each other, we headed out to cheers and applause, and then.. we saw Karl Meltzer. Karl won the race, he ran 100 Miles in 17 Hours and change setting a new course record by more than an hour. Karl had risen to his feet as he clapped us and he yelled, “Come on, lets go! GO GET EM!” Man… we were dumb founded. What a class act. He finished the race, went home, showered, slept.. and instead of golfing the next day, he returned to the course to cheer everyone on. It was a proud moment for Ultra-running to see this display of sportsman ship and this single gesture.. Is why I love this sport so much. Karl is one of my heros, and he was cheering me on. An awesome moment in time. 

Jeff and I ran out onto the course pumped up and way too fast. We quickly blew up. I couldn’t run anymore. My shins and hips hurt bad. My feet sore once more, we opted to power walk the last 10 as fast as we could. It didn’t matter, it was almost over. We enjoyed the last loop on the course. There was no one left at the 1st aid station. The guys at Heavens Gate were all but packed up. We waived and yelled for Phil Rosenstein, who was on his last lap of the 150, to finish! We stood in the creek crossings to cool our burning feet down. The trail was starting to spin again, tunnel vision slowly returning, I was glad to be finishing. Jeff and I talked about how proud we were of each other. 

Across the last creek crossing, through the mud, up the last hills and into the home stretch. I broke off into an all out sprint. Adrenaline took over and I could run again. I wanted to cry but couldn’t get the tears out. Andy Weinberg over the loud speaker at The Game Show, “Sherpa John, 100 Mile Finisher! HERE HE COMES! IS HE FOR REAL NOW SJ?! Youngest finisher!” I crossed the finish line and hugged Andy. A HUGE hug followed by my first Belt buckle. I lifted it high and smiled proudly. Jeff and I hugged… we did it. 34 Hours and 15 Minutes later. 

There was no “places” in this race. Karl and Akos came in first and Second, but the rest of us simply survived. The course was a mess, a horrible nightmare of mud and cold. I personally learned a lot about the science behind energy during the races. I need to look into this more so I can better fuel myself during the race. Also, how to care better for my feet. 

But the biggest lesson was what I learned about perseverance. “Perseverance is the ability to rise again after all is lost and realizing that in the end, you can do anything.” Hans said it best with, “You are the ultra until the ultra is over.” I still cannot believe I ran 100 Miles. And despite all of the torture, the pain, the mud, the cold, the wet… I cannot wait to do it again in Vermont in July. Which reminds me that this journey is hardly about me.. its more about the 7,000 people who were diagnosed with diabetes during the time it took me to finish McNaughton Park. 

So now I rest my swollen feet and try to re-collect myself from within. I learned a lot about myself and truly believe that I was changed this weekend, forever. Life is good, but of course, many will never learn how good, until they have died. 

One year ago to the day my grandfather died from cancer. He was my best friend and the most influential man of my life. He lived the last 14 years of his life in a wheel chair. I live my life for him. Thanks Moe… the buckles for you. 

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Notes: 
- A little over 40 people started the 150 mile event, 9 finished. 
- Over 70 peopler started the 100 mile event, 21 of us finished. For one of the lowest finishing rates in ultra-running history. 
I'll post the exact numbers as they come available. 
-Thanks to RD Andy Weinberg and his army of volunteers for an amazing race. 
-Words cannot really describe this experience, I left a lot out I know. It was the best adventure of my life. Disappointed I slept for so long, wished I had finished quicker. But overall pleased. 

Remember guys... YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!