Monday, July 23, 2007

I did it!



Photos Here:http://web.mac.com/gr8stnface/iWeb/SherpaJohn/VT100-1.html

And Here:http://web.mac.com/gr8stnface/iWeb/SherpaJohn/VT100-2.html

“Unless you test yourself, you stagnate. Unless you try to go way beyond what you’ve been able to do before, you won’t develop and grow. When you go for it 100%, when you don’t have the fear of “what if I fail,” that’s when you learn. That’s when you’re really living.” Mark Allen, world champion triathlete

“If humans could really walk on water, we’d run across the oceans. But then again, some humans enter the water up to their ankles, some to their knees, some their waist. I’m a dive in kinda guy.. and these 100 Mile races are my ocean. Amazed at how these green mountains of Vermont remind me of waves on the ocean.. I’ll just have to dive right in and let the tide take me to magical lands.” ~ “Sherpa” John Lacroix


God I love this sport… Thursday night Sarah and I had the opportunity to have dinner with Phil Rosenstein and Dave Yeakel. Friday’s pre race festivities were also a great joy as we had the opportunity to match faces with names, talk with old friends and even make a few new ones. The overall sense of community is part of what makes all of this so appealing. However, in terms of how I felt about the race at hand… I was in a fog. I was excited to be here for sure, but I made a point not to make it show. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself for sure. I mean 100 Miles is a long way!

My initial goal is to always finish. My training hadn’t gone as I had hoped since McNaughton in April. I was unsure if I had a sub 24 in me.. especially here. Back in May I asked the Ultra-List why I was running so sluggish… I got many responses… but this one was sticking out in my head the most, “"I'll never tell someone a goal is not achievable, but prior to your sluggish comments today, based on your previous performances, 24 hours at VT is not realistic. Going under 24 at ANY 100 miler that contains trails, hills, mountains, heat, humidity, etc. is no certainty. Given your McNaughton time (I understand conditions were very bad) 24 hours at VT is not
expected. You averaged 16:15/mile through the first 70 there. Even if conditions didn't deteriorate, you would normally slow down after 70 miles so conservatively, let's say you could average 16:45/mile through the remaining 30. That's another 8 hours and 20 minutes giving you a finish time of 27:20. Well VT is no cakewalk albeit not the toughest 100. Somewhere you'd need to find 200 minutes in order to give you 24 hours.
That's 2 min./mile - sound realistic?"

No.. it didn’t sound realistic.. but impossible is NOTHING. This sport is much much more than training. Its attitude, heart and desire. My parents ALWAYS taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. And so many times in the last 2 years.. I have come up short. Even one of my crew members was sure to mention that. But this time, as I ran for Diabetes Research… coming up short was not an option but more something very real. Could someone run 100 Miles In under 24 hours while still having a life at home? This I was also hoping to prove.

My crew consisted of my fiancé Sarah, brother-in-law Mike, my friend Paul from Burlington and my best friend Drew. I had assembled a blue 3 ring binder for them with a rough outline of what I would need at each handler station, what my max handler station arrival time should be and a way to keep track of my progress through the race. This binder became their bible and I think creating it and having them implement it so well is one of the things that would contribute to success.

After only 3 hours of good sleep, and 2 more hours of tossing and turning. I rolled out of the tent to gaze up at the star filled sky. One could easily identify the Milky Way up above and the stars were so bright it was like we could reach up and pluck one from the sky. I still think of my grandfather often during ultra’s, and so I reached up and grabbed whatever star he was on… gave a kiss and sent him back. I was still in a relaxed state, unsure of what was about to transpire.. but I felt great. It was race day.. lets get it done.

I ate breakfast and got dressed for the race. Having bib #100 was an omen in my book and I started to think that perhaps this sub 24 hour finish WAS realistic and at the very least… possible. I think many of us runners were caught off guard as the race start quickly approached. Many of us ran to the starting line as the RD counted down the seconds to start.. 3, 2, 1… GO! We were off…. The adventure that lay before us is very real and I intended to enjoy all of it.

It felt great to finally be running again and participating in the sport I have grown to love. Ryan Prentiss and I enjoyed some conversation as we meandered our way through the early morning silence. Not many runners were talking.. it was still peaceful. I kept it in my head for us to take it easy and try to hold back.. but I felt so good. I just went with it and hoped it would all come out in the wash later. As we reached Densmore Hill it was hard to believe we were all ready 7 minutes in. I caught up with Bob Dunfey and Jason Patch and enjoyed a few laughs with them. Both of them are class acts.

Soon I found myself still running with Ryan and now we had Phil Rosenstein with us. Phil is running the “last great race” and making his 3rd attempt at buckling here in Vermont. The last 2 years in a row he has received a plaque.. both with some kind of spelling error on them. So.. he vowed to buckle to avoid any mistakes. We all agreed that we were probably running way to fast as we arrived at the Taftsville Bridge Aid (15.3). I had run through all of the previous aid stations to this point since I didn’t need anything and at this one I made sure the stop was quick. I took some Heed (yuck) and mixed it with my Succeed! Clip 2 jus to ensure I had enough electrolyte.

At this point in the race everything was working perfectly. I had been eating and drinking properly. I was keeping up with my electrolytes, no major issues with cramps or kinks.. Everything was going good.. almost too good and I was beginning to fear the worst as time went on.. SOMETHING… ANYTHING had to go wrong at some point. As we ran along, we climbed some steep sections of trail can come out into a mountain top meadow. As I ran across the top, I remember being with Kevin Sayers and a buddy of his.. we all gazed out at the view. The wind blew lightly and we could see for what seemed like forever. The mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, the valleys and towns below.. how could I be so lucky to witness and marvel at this. A serious appreciation for life came over me and I took a deep breath as we ran off the meadow and down towards our First Handler station.
At Pretty House my crew was ready for me. As I ran down the chute of other crews and spectators, I really enjoyed the cheers and bells ringing. So many times in ultra’s you get to aid stations where its quiet and all business. I felt like this race was a big party and I was so happy to be apart of it. I grabbed some grapes at the aid table and got to my crew. They refilled my bottles quick and I informed them I was going way too fast! It was only 7:57AM, I was an hour ahead of schedule running 11:30 min miles and 21 miles in. I wanted to ease off.. but still felt good. I went with it. Ryan’s crew was late and he needed new socks, I was so glad my crew reached out to him and helped him with whatever he needed. New socks, gels.. whatever… we’re all in this together and my crew helped accordingly. I ran out with a smile.

Out at U-turn I saw Phil Rosenstein for the last time and I also saw Ryan shortly after.. he yelled, “What do you think this is?? A RACE?!” Hell yeah! I kept moving forward and felt good. I had soon caught up to Kate Pallordy from Illinois. We ran together for a little bit and she told me she had a knee injury from Wakeboarding that was starting to hurt. We kept positive and ran into Stage Road. I reached Stage Rd. Handler station and was a bit stressed out. “Too fast, too fast!” I told my crew… “this is way too fast, I gotta find a way to hold back!” They relaxed me as we re-loaded and ate. I was drinking Boost at all handler stations as well as sucking down 2 power gels and an E-cap while my crew refilled bottles. Things were like clockwork in stations and I was in and out in 3 minutes at best each time. I couldn’t believe how well things were going still… way ahead… 30 Miles in at 9:40am.. that’s a 5:40 run time and only 5 minutes faster than my 50K PR! I was now an hour 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Right after leaving Stage Rd the course goes UP UP and UP a hill. I now had no choice but to slow down. Somewhere before Camp 10 Bear the first time, I saw Laura Bleakley.. she wasn’t looking so good and was complaining about Stomach Problems. As I ran up behind her she said, “You’re awfully speedy today.” I wished her well and carried on my way. Kate Pallardy was still around and I watched as she ran downhill backwards. She had fallen and taken a digger, palm all bloody. Her knee was very sore and couldn’t carry weight so well. She mentioned dropping at Mile 70, she also had missed her crew at Stage Rd… she was doing OK and I wished her well.

At 10 Bear I ran in with a smile and weighed in. My left pinky tow was feeling sore and smashed but knew I could go on it still. I was hurting pretty good but still laughing and cracking jokes with my crew. They fed me PB and J, a slice of Pepperoni Pizza, Banana’s and orange, gels, water and I got a massage on my sore legs. I weighed in at 152lbs which was what I weighed in at during pre-race. I was 47.2 miles in at this point with a run time of 9:10. After taking off from 10 Bear I ran as good as I could out to Pinky’s. I finally started having stomach issues. I ate too much of the wrong stuff at 10 bears and I was vurping a good deal. At Pinky’s they ushered me in but I just kept running.

Arriving at Tracer Brook (57 Mi), I was finally starting to feel the effects of the run. I was wobbly but struggling against fatigue. My energy was low but my body hanging in there. I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the station but my crew took care of me. For the first time during this race, I was tired. Still almost 2 hours ahead of sub-24 pace I was in good spirits. As I got up to walk out of the station, my brother-in-law Mike walked a bit with me. He was so excited, “Do you know how far you’ve just ran?! This is amazing!” I’m glad he was enjoying the experience as he thanked me for inviting him to crew. It’s been important to me to have someone… ANYONE.. in my family come to a race to see what it is I do. And Mike was all in. It was hot though. They had to cool me down at Tracer with a cloth and not far up the road I was over-heating again. I saw an old woman on the left side of the road wearing a straw hat, holding a hiking stick and waving to us runners… I was alone as I had been pretty much since Mile 47. As I reached the woman I started to laugh in thinking how nice she was. Why? Because it was a yellow plate on a fence post.. I was hallucinating. I chuckled and headed up to Prospect Hill.

I did the next 5.1 Miles to Margaritaville at a 14.5 min mil pace. I ate watermelon and cliff blocks. Mentally I was crumbling a bit, tired from running alone. I couldn’t wait to have some company. I wasn’t sure what was going to work for me here so I just rested. My energy was fading but my body was still holding up well. 62 Miles done in 12:50. I knew from here to Browns School house had its mix of ups and downs, but from there it was mostly downhill into Camp 10 Bear the 2nd time. I took it easy to Browns, stopped quickly and then continued on.. alone. I wondered where everyone was. At handler stations the crowds were getting smaller. No other runners were in sight ahead of or behind me. I was starting to go crazy with myself.

The worst part of the race from Miles 47 to Mile 70 was that I had to go to the bathroom. No.. not peeing as I had been doing that every 3 miles or so. But.. I had to poo. Yeah I know.. too much info. But everytime I planned on doing it, my crew would put Vaseline in my face, I smear it on and then go “DAMN!” I forgot to ___! I climbed the final hill into 10 Bears and saw the race volunteer with the radio. He radioed in, “#100!” I told him, “100! Tell me its Sherpa John!” He radioed back as I ran down the hill hooting and hollering. I did some Clubber Lang “I want you Balboa.. I want you!” I felt great. I weighed in at 153 lbs and FINALLY got to use the rest room. When I got out, my crew washed my feet which had ZERO blisters. I put on a new pair of Injinji toe socked which I noticed were a bit worn. I thought it’d be fine and was ready to go. I was solid – no longer weary and felt competitive. Charles Dona was my pacer, a hiking friend of mine from New Hampshire. After napping himself he was good to go as we took off for West Winds.

It was great to finally have a pacer with me. I had someone to talk to since I had run the last 24 Miles alone. I had pretty much the rest of the course memorized from pacing last year. I was describing things to Charles as we went. Some of the hills on the way to Seabrook were so steep I had to walk them. My quads were turning to trash and running was getting harder. Charles had great jokes, and great hiking stories. We watched the sun slowly set and we didn’t need our headlamps yet though we had them. This section was probably one of the best for me and it helped out immensely with my comfort level. When we got to West Winds (77 Mi), I was weary yet cogent and determined to finish this thing. I reached West Winds before sun down.. and this I knew meant that sub –24 was now very much realistic. I was still an hour up and I hoped the night would be good to me.
The hills between West Winds and Bills Barn are brutal. I was really tired of walking up hill and tired all together. The distance and the sleep deprivation were finally catching up to me. I tried to stay in good spirits and Charles noticed I was getting quiet. Concentrating on the task at hand was tough. Trying to process what folks were saying to me was getting harder. I want nothing more than to go to bed. Just before Bills we saw Red Glow sticks in the trees, we followed them to a Vet check for horses.. we had gone off course by about a quarter mile. I had a blister on my inside left heel and on the backs of my heels. I was going down hill fast but glad it took 88.6 miles to do so. As I ran into Bills, a crowd cheered and it hurt my ears. My crew rushed me and asked what I needed.. I had to stop them. I put my hands up and said “Stop!” Sorry guys… sensory over load.. I need to weigh in and get out of here. I weighed in at 152 lbs. 88.6 Miles done in 19 Hours 45 Minutes.

Charles had traded off pacing duties to Paul who really wanted to try it out. I felt bad as Paul talked because I had nothing to say back to him. I tried to crack jokes and not be rude. But I was grumpy and tired, running hurt.. walking hurt… everything hurt. But it was to be expected. We ran into Polly’s (95.5) and my crew let me sit in a chair. I was ready to be done.. so I didn’t sit long. We continued on down the trail and I was amazed at how all day long I didn’t do any math, I kept my hopes down and all I did was run. I ran with comfort and ease. I didn’t push it. I just went with what felt good. I had a great nutrition plan and the best crew out there. I had zero problems aside from getting tired and my legs giving up… as I rounded the final hill with Pauk we saw head lights behind us. I tried to speed up so to not let the runner pass me.. but with less than a mile to go he did. It was Norm Shepard. Someone said later, “How dare he pass with you less than a mile to go.. that’s not cool.” Hey… it’s a freakin race and he was doing a lot better than I at the end.. GOOD FOR NORM!

Finally we came upon some water jugs with glow sticks floating inside. I started singing to myself.. “Amazing Grace.” I thought of my grandfather once more.. I thought of Sarah whom I had just run 100 Miles for to raise money towards diabetes research. I thought about my nephews who I hope will be inspired to engage in their own adventures as life goes on… and then I heard Drew, “100 Yards Buddy! Don’t get all emotional on me now!” I was all ready crying… I couldn’t hold it in.. I ran down the final hill and sprinted across the finish line with tears flowing down my face, my arms raised “WE DID IT!” I fell into Sarah’s arms and just cried as I told her I loved her.

They sat me in a chair and I got my time: 23:19. I started to shiver and go into shock so they got me to my tent quickly. What a long day but amazing experience… Realistic?? No.. it was real. I’m glad I proved to myself that one can train to run a sub-24 hour 100 Miler while still having a life. These races really are more heart than training… certainly training has something to do with it but in my opinion.. not as much as some put out to be.

A HUGE thanks to my crew and pacers as well as my fellow runners who all helped inspire me to run the PERFECT race. The weather was great and everything came together. Congrats to all other finishers and to those who even dared to try! Next up.. GRAND TETONS 100 Miler – Labor Day Weekend!

Time: 23:19
Place: 52nd out of 142 finishers
6th in my Class

Saturday, July 14, 2007

5K Magic



Its so important to NOT get sick during your taper pre-race.. but if I were to get sick.. I'd rather it be the week before than the week OF the race. I landed a Sinus Infection on Monday and it has drawn down into an all out cold as of today... it sucks.. but it'll pass.

Congrats to Scott Jurek on his record time at the Hardrock 100 this weekend. Again, this simply amazing runner has shown the running world what he is made of. Amazing! A record by 27 minutes.

Last night I drove to Hillsborough, NH to run in this years Balloon Festival 5K. I ran this race last year and sported a 22:06 5K time.. which then was a 2nd best all time 5K mark for me. I've been training for 100 Milers and my pace has gotten slower over the last year.. or so I thought. I lined up at the starting line and gave it all I had for the next 23 minutes and 14 seconds, which is good enough to make my 4th best 5K time ever out of 8 5K races. Good to know I've got some power in these legs. I ran a solid race, never waivering from my pace. Stayed even the entire way until the end where I kicked it in.

And for the second year in a row at this race, as I sprinted to the finish... another young runner felt the need to accept the challenge of beating me to the line. When he sped up, I sped up and as we crossed the finish line... for the second year in a row... said runner gave out a huge scream at the end to make a statement. I commended the guy for pushing me and himself to the finish... but I thank the race volunteers for stopping him in the chute to get me back in front of him.. I crossed 1st. It was fun.. I saw him an hour later and shook his hand and appluaded his effort. I love when folks push each other like that... even if it is in a 5K.

Results:
5K in 23:14 7:29/min miles
38th out of 132 Runners
8th of 13 in my Division M2029
The Top 4 runners were all in my Div.

No clue where this effort came from. I guess I'm ready for Vermont!
Great t run into Josh at ANOTHER race!

So the taper continues. I'll run 8 today and then take it REAL easy the rest of this week! VERMONT.. I'M READY! SHOW ME THE BUCKLE BABY!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Isolated and Wet 7/7/7



Date: July 7, 2007
Peaks: N. Isolation and Isolation
Distance: 15.3 Miles
Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
TrailWrights 72 Peaks Bagged: 64
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I slept in a little bit to try and catch up on sleep. Preparing for a 100 Mile run is hell on my body. I've topped out on weekly miles and have begun tapering. I'm now in a tailspin of crakiness (withdrawl from Endorphines), always tired and ALWAYS hungry. I woke up, threw my gear together and headed North. I wanted to do some running around Mount Adams, but the higher summits forecast was similar to that of the weekend of the Pemi-Challenge... so I opted out of that idea and convinced myself to decide along the way.

At Glen Junction my car headed towards Pinkham Notch, I still could get a TW72 peak in and get some miles in, so N. Isolation it was going to be. As I pulled into the Rocky Branch parking lot on Rte. 16, I surprised to see as many cars there as I did. Which got me thinking, a few weeks ago Albee saw 20-30 people heading too or from Owls Head... and who knows how many I'd see today by peaking backing is ever increasing. It was 10:45 and I was JUST starting my hike... gotta love a late start.

I put my headphones on and let the music flow quietly... the volume low enough that I could still hear the birds chirping and wind russtling the leaves. It wasn't overly warm, but it was humid. The first section of the Rocky branch trail from the lot to the ski trail is eroding more and more every year, its sad to see.. either from skiers or from folks walking up from the lot and not making it too far because past the ski trail... the trail is excessively overgrown. Tall grasses lined the sides of what single track I could see. Branches reached out into the trail whipping faces and becoming quite a hindrance for much fo the way from here on up.

As I ran along I ran into quite a few hikers.. as I reached the Engine Hill Bushwhack location (a little TOO noticeable now)... The trail turned into its sually rocky, rooty and saturated Mess. I took my time carefuly placing my feet as I ran toards the 1st river crossing, there I met a group of 13 people hiking in... though they obviously exceeded the group limit for Wilderness Areas, the were very careful in adhereing to Leave No Trace ethics... they were also a very nice group..

I then scurried along as fast I could on these sections from here to Davis Path. The river crossings were low and easy, I saw many more hikers along the way.. including a group of 4 teenagers with adults (perhaps boy scouts?). As I was running towards them.. we met in an over grown area and I had to jump into a bush to let them by... not sure who had the right of way here... perhaps them because they were coming slightly downhill so it's my bad for not making way.

At the area of the campsites where its easy to get confused... they now have a camping sign with arrows... I'm ever so discouraged by the hypocracy of the Forest Service... they knock down cairns, strip paint from trees, then place signs up everywhere telling us to not maintain trails or where to camp. Whatever though... It was now easier to find the way through. At Davis Path I headed right towards Glen boulder on my way to bag N. Isolation.

Just past the Dry RIver Trail Junction came the first bump. I bushwhacked to the top only to look north and see another higher bump. After a quick chuckle for all the work.. I headed back to the trail and continued running to the next bump. Here I moved along easy to follow herd paths to the a few places I thought was the high point. I bushwhacked off and around to well... the same spot each time. I looked for a canister... couldn't find one, but after an exhaustive effort, I determined I had made it to the top. So I headed back for Isolation. On the way over I met a group of 3 who were on Moosilauke when Sarah finished her 48! They asked how she was.. very nice.

On Isolation I sat with the large group I passed along the way. A very friendly groupw who may have been hiking as part of an AMC group. Their leader was a young fellow, strict about how long their break took. We all sat there and discussed running shoes, The Trailwrights list, the 48, the weather.. and life. They really were a joy to have met.

We all left at the same time as I started to bound down the trail. There was no spectacular views today of Washington, Ike or Monroe.. but we could see the Carters and places West... Pierce, Jackson and places South and East. As I ran back down trail.. I started to feel some spotted rain drops and thought nothing of it. Byt the time I got pver the second stream crossing.. the rain started to come down a little harder. I didn't seem to be getting too wet so I carried on.

As the rain stopped... and I stopped to start walking I started to get a little cold. I noticed that I was drenched from head to tow from the water that had collected on leaves and tall grass. It had stopped raining and the wind picked up and seemed to be a bit warmer. So I kept rolling along. As I crossed the last river crossing it started to rain... and even harder than before. I started to climb out of the water shed.. the rocks now slick and slimey. Going was definately slow.. I was getting angry... at myself because I had my rain jacket and paints... yet never put them on. Dummy..

As I reached the Engine Hill Bushwhack, the rained stopped again and I moved as quickly as possible along the way out. I soon ran into some adults I had recognized as being with that group of kids from earlier.. not far down the trail, I ran into the kids.. I ran upon them and started coughing, whistling.. but to no avail they would not make way. I then asked, "Hey guys, mind if I squeek by?" No response... so.. as the oportunity arose, I jumped into the trees and quickly dashed with one arm up to protect my face until I made it to the other side and around them. They stopped and made some comment.. but I didn't hear it.. it was starting to pour again.. no harder than ever and I was tired of being soaked... so.. I just kept running until I got to the parking lot. A Great hike and I enjoyed myself alot. Another TW72 done and slowly getting to the end!

As I was driving home, my cell rang and it was Kira. Kira lives in New York and is a 23 year old aspiring Tri-athlete. Her fortay is road biking. She was in NH and had just rode almost 100 Miles on her bike in this weather. I decided to meet up with her and grab some dinner and ice cream. It's always nice to finally meet a member of Team Sherpa Ultra-Running... and I hope she finds her way to the Whites from the Finger Lakes Region more often.. she seems to like it out this way as she trains for the Ironman Michigan.. Good luck Kira!!

So... now I'm off to Pawtuckaway for one last day of hard running and then I cut-back until the race. The Vermont 100 Mile Endurance run starts on Saturday, July 21st at 4am.. if you're still thinking of supporting my run, I ask you consider donating to my 100 Mile For Research by visiting www.firstgiving.com/teamsherpa

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Sherpa John + Adamiata
Mt. Washington
via. Old Jackson Rd, Great Gulf and Tucks
Miles: 13.4
Time: 7 Hours

Adamiata picked me up at 5am and we carpooled to Pinkham Notch. From here our adventure began on a rather crisp July Morning with a temp of 43 degrees. We were both packing light and wearing trail runners, pretty stoked about the day to come. But the most important thing we had was strapped to my pack as it has been for the last 15 years during the 4th of July Weekend... it was Old Glory waiting to be unfurlled.

We walked along the Old Jackson Road at a moderate pace, stopping to enjoy any view as well as any random flora and fauna. We crossed many paths along our way including the auto road. We found ourselves on the Madison Gulf trail and began to wonder if our crampons would be needed. :wink: Once off Madison Gulf Trail we made it onto The Great Gulf Trail and finally started the real climbing.

The Great Gulf is a magical place. Adam and I have both been wanting to get in here for a long time and today was the perfect day for it. Aside from one lone hiker.. we saw no one and had the Gulf to ourselves. We sat on the rocks at Spaulding Lake and listenned to the stillness that was. A few birds sang, the water babbled by and not another sound was to be heard.

We left spaulding and started to climb the final .8 of the Gulf which ascends 1600.' We scrambled along rock slides and ledge, picking our way carefully making sure to be sure footed. Soon we could see what looking like the ridge on fire... however.. it was just a TON of smoke from two cog trains both heading to the top. Every once in awhile we had to stop to enjoy the views looking out down the gulf into the valley below. Words cannot describe the word here and pictures do it no justice. This is truly a wild place. We scrambled more before emmerging over the top of the headwall and onto the rock garden. I took the flag off my pack and carried it overhead as we walked our final mileage to the summit.

Two cog trains went by and people waved excitedly to see the flag. Up above, a crowd of people had gathered at the edge of the Obs Deck, many taking pictures of us working our way through the rocks.. we had an audience. As we reached the summit, I held the flag high and let it wave in the wind. Happy Birthday America! Adam and I stopped for pictures as many others took pictures of us.. it was kinda weirding us out so we headed inside for some snacks.

While inside, a woman approached me and asked if I was the "48 guy." We had great conversation about hiking in the whites, the Pemi and how her family has taken up peak-bagging. A wonderful woman and great to have met her!

Adam and I headed outside past the bikini top... :D and headed quickly down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Finally we began to see hikers coming from below. We hurried along at a good clip, stopped to admire the snow left in the ravine and then ran from Hermit Lake Shelters to Pinkhams. It took us an hour and a half to descend from the top of Washington.

Another great day in the whites with great company. We had an awesome time skirtting the east side of the mountain before heading up.. definately a long but enjoyable approach! And the run down was exhilarating.

Happy 4th everyone.. please remember.. Freedom isn't free!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

RR: 2006 Wakely Dam 50K

~~~~~~Flashback~~~July 23, 2005~~~~~~~

Of 45 competitors.. I finished 26th. The winner finished in 5:15:?? I finished in 7:57:48. It was an hour slower than my predicted finish time and goal I had set for myself.. but I didn't care. Because in the end I overcame my fears, I overcame myself, my mind, my body and my soul. I was beat up, battered bruised.. and a defeated man.. who was able to resurrect myself to carry on. This is something I'll do time and time again in the future..
Specs: 32.6 MILES 3,903' Elevation Gain 3,478' Elevation Descent
26 of 45 in 7 Hours 57 Minutes and 48 Seconds

~~~~~~Return to Present~~~July 22, 2006~~~~~

The alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Pretty darn early as it ALWAYS does on race morning. I got an "ok" nights sleep after finally putting earplugs in to drown out the noise from a loaded Little Sand Point campground on the shores of Piseco Lake, NY. The only other thing that woke me all night was the Racoon on our picnic table that was going after my Diet Mug RootBeer. I rolled out of bed and made breakfast for Sarah and I, and began my pre-race preparations. These mostly consist of getting dressed, filling my bottles with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula and "lubing" any spots vulnerable to chaffing.

After we ate breakfast, we got in the car and headed for the starting line just past the small airport. The Wakely Dam Ultra is a 32.6 Mile race that runs point to point along the Northville Placid Trail from Piseco to Wakely Dam. Tim Seaver is the current course record holder with a time of 5:05:50. Tim also holds the record for running the entire 133 Mile NPT in 37 Hours (A trail that requires an average of 19 Days to Hike). The race website states: "The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra is an extreme trail run through the vast Adirondack Park Wilderness of New York along an uninterrupted section of the Northville Placid Trial between Piseco Lake and Wakely Dam. There are no cross roads. There are no aid stations. Runners must be prepared to complete the entire 32.6 miles (52.5K) of rugged technical trail unassisted. It's just you, the trail and the company of like-minded runners."

So here I was for the second year in a row. The determining factor that got me to the starting line this year is that this race last year, was my first official Ultra EVER. It's been a VERY long year since then and its time like these that you get to weigh yourself against your own progression. I set 3 goals for the day. 1.) Try and Finish in the top 10 (Be happy with 16th or less). 2.) Finish in under 7 Hours (this would take an astronomical 1 hour off of my time from last year) 3.) If all else fails JUST FINISH and HAVE FUN. As I stood in the parking lot and drank the last of a gatorade to complete my carbo load and hyper-hydration... I took to stretching and mingling with the other runners present.

Pat Hamel, the 2003 winner and runner up in 2005 had arrived and we began talking about some folks we knew, Tim Seaver and Bird and Head. As we were talking Pat said he'd like to break Tim's record if it was at all possible. Sounded like a daunting task but knew Pat had a GREAT chance to accomplish this. I told him I wanted to knock an hour off my time from last year and with a chuckle he said "An hour?? Is THAT all?? Thats quite a chunk of time." As Sarah laughed with him I told him how last year I crashed hard and sat on the trail for about a half hour. He responded with "well at least we know you've got a half hour right there if you don't crash again." ~~~Flashback-2005~~~ "I gathered my belongings put them on my back.. and after wasting a half hour in the wilderness of an area I knew nothing of.. I had gathered every ounce of courage in my body. Its true that this type of sport drains every bit of everything in your mind body and soul. All of your pains sink to your lower back, your equilibrium is thrown off and your emotions take control over your every move.." ~~~~~Present-2006~~~ Hmmm... it does sound like a daunting task... an HOUR off of my time from last year??

I mingled some more and ended up talking to Katie Lotterhos. She had run the race in either 2002 or 2003. She had returned for more punishment. As we were talking I told her how I had just paced a runner in the Vermont 100 last Sunday and that I had run the last 32 Miles with her. Then this girls mom starts laughing, "And you think you're going to finish here today?! How often do you run these things?!" Well... I guess it takes all kinds, including crazy ole' me. I had my goals and pre-race laughter or not, I was going to get out there and see what I was made of. (Note: I later found out that one runner had actually RUN the entire VT 100 last weekend! Now THAT is amazing!!)

Per the norm at Wakely, the race begins with a litanny of picture taking. The 49 of us who were running, huddled together for a big group picture and flashbulbs went off like something you'd see at a Patriots Game. Its a GREAT way to enjoy pre-race because we all knew what lay before us. We made our way to the trailhead where RD Jim humored us with his infinite wisdom and enjoyable sense of humor, "Now the Forest Service wants me to tell everyone that we are to have no more than 15 runners together at any given time. So... if you find your running with 15 other runners at once... spread out." However, we were all getting ansy and wanted to start. And just as it had in the past... get your fingers on the button on your watches an "GO!"

Greg Stone, a man whom I had met various times while training on the Pemi-Loop managed to squeak into the race. He had ran the 31 Mile Pemi Loop just this past Wednesday... I was amazed he was out here and ready to go. We both watched in astonishment as Pat Hamel took off "like he was in a local 10K!" For the first 3 miles I felt tired and was finding it hard to find my pace. My legs felt like rubber and I was all ready wondering how the REST of this day would turn out. It was VERY humid out here, the mosquitos were blood thirsty and the horseflies were ready for the kill. As I carried on I thought of the days forecast.. Mostly cloudy and cool with highs in the mid 70's... but I thought, "Man I could use a little rain to get rid of these bugs and cool the muggy's." I would Pay for this shortly.

I soon found myself hunkered down behind a young man named Jim Lampman. Jim was tall and tone with curly blond hair up in a pony-tail. He had a relaxing pace and I was comfy behind him. So I settled in and decided to enjoy the race for awhile behind him. I had my iPod shuffle going and put my head down to trudge on. We were soon enough flying down the trail at a great cruising pace and then we came to a gate where 2 trucks were parked and then we ran along a dirt road.... "wait a minute... I don't remember a dirt road from last year. Oh well... this kid seems to know where he is going. Hmm... no blue circles on the trees anymore either.. well there WAS 2 runners behind us.. maybe I'll walk slowly and hope they catch up." Well.. NO LUCK and soon Jim, whom I had been following, made his way back up hill towards me. He asked, "Hey.. it says after Jessup river there's a sharp left we need to be careful of... is that it over there (as he pointed at a fork in the dirt road)" "Jim... I think we are WAY off course. I don't remember ANY of this from last year and there are no more trail markers." So.. we turned around and went back up this daunting hill of a dirt road until we found another blue circle. Yup... Missed the sharp left. Jim then got behind me and followed me to Spruce Lake (mile 7.6). I gave the nickname of Jim "GD Rookie" Lampman, he seemed to like it.

Along the way to the Lake I asked Jim if he had ever done any tracking. "Whats that?" I then showed him how to identify foot prints in the mud, sand or wet marks on rocks, then how to see which way the person was going. I figured at least he'll have the knowledge for future reference. At Spruce lake, Jim headed out in front of me again. Soon he came to a junction, our blue blazed trail went right and an arrow pointed left with a sign that said "Lean-To." Jim began to head Left towards the lean-to, then he stopped in his tracks and looked at me. I went right and said, "This Way, Jim." We had taken a 1.5 Mile detour all ready.. I wasn't about to make this race ANY longer. I was getting discouraged.. So much for Goal #1.. and Who Knows about Goal #2... lets just get Goal #3.

I put my headphones back on and prayed for good tunes and thankfully... good tunes played in my ears as I took off down the trail. I was feeling great, found my stride and just ran as hard as I could... until I heard a sound... I put the iPod on pause and listenned... "hmmm... sounds like rain. That wasn't in the forecast." Well... I asked for it... and it came... it started to pour and it would do so for the next 25 Miles of my day... RAIN BUCKETS... HUGE BUCKETS and all I had was the clothes on my back. UGH! Surprisingly.. it felt good. The bugs went away and so did the muggy air.

I continued on down the trail, soon coming to a river crossing that I remembered from last year. Except this year the bridge was out and runners had to rock hop across the stream. Many runners had stopped to fill water bottles but HEY!.. THIS IS A RACE! I took the chance to try and sneak by them.. only to fall into the river while trying to cross... now I'm drenched from head to toe, covered in mud... I'm a mess. I always wondered if I could finish an ultra in the rain... I guess today I'd find out.. because at Wakely.. YOU HAVE TO FINISH!

From here on the miles seemed to whiz on by, so much so that the race is now merely a blur. I remember feeling great. I was well hydrated with my bottles and had no unexplainable pains. But then again..it IS a LONG race... and chances are if you feel good... that'll change. I ran past where I had crashed last year and it felt like true redemption knowing I was running great at this point this year. In fact, I had caught another runner and he told me I looked strong. My confidence was boosted and I was chomping at the bit. But then.. I got hungry. My banana had smooshed in my waist pack and I sucked it out of the peel some 72 minutes ago. I didn't want to hastle with the PB+J in my pack... I'll just keep running.. because I had a plan.

My calves began to cramp, my right quad cramped, my hamstrings were tender and I felt some pain circulating in my hips. If I only had some salt! The one thing I forgot! Then I ran into Gary. A runner from Pennsylvania. He ran in the Massanutten 100 this past year and was looking great! He had a great pace as well and we actually fed off each other for the next 8 Miles until we came to the sign which read "Cedar River Hdqts - 9 Miles" ONLY 9 MILES TO GO! We stopped to look at each other and fired off sinister grins. It was go time. Much of the trail was an overgrown mess. Many times we could not even push the growth aside to see the trail below. We ran blindly hoping to not slip on anything. I had all ready scraped my knee open on a rock.

We continued to feed off each other until I noticed Gary had much more gas in his tank than I. So I slowed off a bit and tried to find my own pace to get myself to the aid drop. I ran past a forest ranger. He is out there every year making sure the race has the maximum of 49 runners and NO MORE and that the runners are all following the forest code. Now.. here in NH we have some pretty strict forest/wilderness regulations... but sending a ranger out to count! COME ON!

I carried on down the trail. I was, however, soaking wet and cramping badly. As a light wind picked up through the valley, I felt myself shiver and knew I was fading into a low fast. I smiled though... instead of being worried of how I would climb over the wall... I smiled because it came MUCH later than it ever had and I was ready to rock and roll with my soul. Lets do it demons! I ran when I could and walked otherwise. I NEVER stopped moving. A group of 3 runners passed me trying to cheer me on, "Reel it in buddy, lets go!" I shuffled my feet. I was on the dirt road... a LONG dirt road that led 3 miles to the finish. A HELL of a time to crash... but I was insanely loving it. Soon.. I started thinking of my grandfather, who some of you know passed away this past April to Cancer. He was my best friend.. and I miss him dearly. As I thought of him and welled up inside... I saw a huge chunk of white fungi from a decaying tree sitting on the trail. Mt. Drew is known for fungi writing... and on it said "GO John GO! ANDY AND SARAH 1:00pm" I looked at my watch.. it was 1:21.. I could catch them!

I found myself smiling and feeling great again. I was overcoming the low.. climbing the wall and ready to go. Drew and Sarah had once again lifted my spirits and raised me from the dead. The trail was now a raging river, mud was knee deep in MANY spots, raspberry bush thorns had cut me legs to smitherines and I looked like Passion of the Christ out here. And soon.. up ahead.. there they were. "Come on kid! GET THE LEAD OUT!" It was Sarah and Drew. As I reached them Drew asked... "you gonna make 7 hours or what?!" I looked down at my watch.. "Holy Crap! I've got 9 Minutes!" I ran as hard as I ever have at such distance towards the finish line. As I entered the camping area on the near side of the damn, I looked back and saw a runner behind me. No way was someone else going to pass me. I headed for the dam and ran hard across.

As I crossed the dam I was overjoyed. I had done it again, defeated Wakely. I did the sign of the cross and prayed to my grandfather and god for the strength. I pumped my fist in the air.. I was pyshed.. and as I made it to the other side, I spotted a deep puddle... and reared back, jumped up and dove in.. SPLASH!

Goal #1: Finish top 10 be happy with 16th (this would be 10 less than last year).. I finished in 18th, I LOVE IT!

Goal #2: Finish in Sub 7 Hours. I finished in 7:02:48. Exactly 56 Minutes faster than last year AFTER the extra 1.5 Miles Detour. I'll take it! (Actual Distance with detour 34.1 Miles.. DOH!)

Goal #3: I finished and I had a BLAST! The rain felt great, the people were awesome and I was all smiles.

Pat Hamel ended up winning the race for his second time. And despite the rain and mud... unimpressive conditions.. he beat out Tim Seavers Course record by 50 Seconds with a time of 5:05:00. Great Job Pat!

I hung around the finish line to chat with some other runners and watch some others cross before taking off. Special thanks to RD Jim for another great year at Wakely.. he and his run staff do an amazing job! And thanks also to Mt. Drew and Sarah, for lifting me up and shaping new goals for me. Now lets see if we can knock another hour off next year!

www.wakelydam.com 
The site is updated constantly until complete post race.