Thursday, January 31, 2008

RR: 2006 JFK 50 Miler


On November, 22, 1963, Our 35th President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a holiday parade in Texas. Earlier that year, JFK had faith in the American people, and challenged them to get in good enough shape to hike 50 Miles. That same year, a man by the name of “Buzz”, took JFK’s challenger seriously and started an event know as the JFK 50 Miler.

44 Years after JFK’s challenge and after Buzz’s vision, I had the honor of running the event known as “America’s Ultramarathon.” For the 3rd time in as many months, I was lacing up my running shoes to run a 50 mile distance. I would once again challenge my mind, body and soul in a great test of endurance. My goals have always been to finish in under the 12 hour cut-off. But with times of 10:32 (VT50) and 10:05 (Nifty 50), I made it a personal challenge to finish in under 10 Hours.

Many seasoned ultra veterans and runners alike, told me my 3x50 in 3 months was an insane idea and to do complete that challenge would be impressive. I KNEW then that it HAD to be done. After completing 2 out of 3 of those 50 milers, I have all ready learned why they spoke such as they had. The torture I place upon my body running the long and taxing distances, combined with 1 week recovery, 2 weeks training and 1 week taper… was indeed punishing and tough. But alas, here I stood on a cold morning in Boonsboro, MD; ready to finish my 2006 Ultra Running year in style.

How Long Of A Drive Is It?! 

Hans Bauer met Sarah and I on Friday morning at 5 AM, ready to go on a 9 hour drive to Maryland. We were all excited for the race. The drive down had some special meaning to me however, and it rounded out the year well. In June I crossed the Hudson river to run a race near Pittsburgh, PA known as the Rachel Carson Trails Challenge. On the way home from that race I stopped in Hawk Run, PA; which I know as my grandfathers childhood home. My grandfather, who passed away from Cancer in April. On our way to Maryland we drove through Boonton and Dover, NJ. My mothers’ childhood home, and the area in which my late grandmother called home. Also nearby was where my grandfather served as mayor and police chief of Victory Gardens, NJ. As we crossed the Hudson again, and through these towns, I thought fondly of times growing up and times with my grandfather as I always do before a race.

Upon reaching Hagerstown, MD; we checked into our hotel and headed down the road for the packet pick-up. At packet pick-up the place was mobbed with runners but we made our way in and out, souvenirs in tow without much trouble. Feeling great about the day to come, we headed to UNO’s for some pasta in typical pre-race carbo-loading fashion. Bib numbers, food, beer and in bed by 8pm… we got in a good nights sleep and hoped for the best.

Race Day!

Saturday, November 18, 2006
7am Start Time
44th Annual and 2006 JFK 50 Miler

Goal 1: Finish
Goal 2: Sub 10 Hours 

We arrived at the Boonsboro, MD Education Complex with enough time to stretch, take care of any last minute “to do’s,” and of course the lavish pre-race meeting. We entered the school and into the schools gym, where we sat down, spoke with various JFK Veterans on tips, and listened to Mike Spinnler and his pre-race pep talk to all the runners. At the completion of the meeting we left the gym and headed for the starting line about 1.5 miles away right in the middle of historic downtown Boonsboro.

Downtown Boonsboro is a quaint little town nestled at the base of Maryland “mountains.” It had a real “home” feeling to it with its various old school storefronts and people bustling about. We were appalled at some of our fellow runners who ducked into various stores, Laundromats and even the bushes of some of these residents home to relieve themselves. These towns’ people are kind enough to allow us to invade their town early on a Saturday morning and THIS is how some of us thank them. Ignorance.

Hans and I toed the starting line which was VERY cool for me. Hans is an amazing runner and I knew for sure he would do well here today. Him standing on the starting line is no big thing… but me being there is another story. I stood behind course record holder Eric Clifton. I stood with Pacific Crest Trail record holder and overall amazing human being Dr. David Horton and even stood with Ultra-GreatHal Koerner. I was star struck and in amazement. Hans took out his child safety scissors (which he runs with) and we acted like complete children ourselves by posing for pictures behind these amazing runners. It was a great time.

On Your Mark… Get Set….

A man yelled at the 1000 of us who were about to start to get ready. It was a chilly morning and I was shivering. Hans was jumping around. While on the starting line I stared up this rather long and rolling road with mountains off in the distance. I then thought to myself… “How the hell did I end up in Maryland.” Then again, I never thought I’d be running 50 Milers, or a 3rd in 3 months…. or even traveling for these things. But here I was… I was excited… and.. GO! We were off.

I knew I had started out too fast but for some reason I didn’t care. Hans was ahead.. all ready.. and turned back to find me. As I looked ahead, there he was running backwards, scissors in hand jumping in the air in a star fish like manner yelling “woo hoo!” Yes Hans… this IS indeed great! I told him to go for it and he was off. I on the other hand.. Started thinking strategy.

The Course

The course has a little of everything for everyone. We start by running 6 miles on rolling paved roads that wind their way through the Maryland countryside. Followed by 10 Miles on the Appalachian Trail. The AT section is said to be “ROCKY” and “Techinical” by most… but being from New Hampshire… I found it to be actually race incredible. In fact, as I sit here now I am still wondering where the heck the rocks were? The course then runs itself upstream beside the Potomac River all the while on the Chesapeake and Ohio Tow Path (C&O). Originally, the C&O Canal was a lifeline for communities and businesses along the Potomac River as coal, lumber, grain and other agricultural products floated down the canal to market. The C&O is 184 Miles long, we ran 26.2 Mile of it. For those who know New Hampshire hiking… just imagine running the Wilderness Trail for 26 Miles! After we get off the towpath, we run 8 miles to the finish through Williamsport, MD along paved farm roads with large hills.

My strategy would be to give it hell in the Mountains, duke it out on the tow path and go for broke on my way to town.

The Race:

As the road out of town became steeper, I noticed a lot of runners still running. I wondered how many of them were first timers. I decided to pace myself and walk these long hills and run if I felt good on it. I even took time to look back and see the long line of runners. The 5AM start saw 300 runners and the 7AM start (our start) saw 1000. 1,300+ runners were out here, a NEW American Ultra-Running Record! It was an amazing sight.

Which ascending the hill I spotted Dot Helling and a few of her girlfriends from Vermont. Their smiles were certainly pleasant and I enjoyed the talk and encouragement they shared with the other runners.

At the top of the hill we entered the woods and immediately began running downhill on the AT. This was cool because my background is hiking and here I was running on the AT in Maryland of all places. VERY exciting. As we topped out on South Mountain, I looked through the trees and was pleased at a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, rising up through the misty valleys on this chilly morning. It gave me shivers and I smiled… and kept running.

Soon the trail turned more “technical” and the long line of runners started to slow way down. Mountain running is what I am used to and they don’t call New Hampshire “The Granite State” for nothing. I took off down the trail with a series of “on your left” in a safe attempt to pass other runners. I briskly walked up the hills. Soon we entered Gaithland Gap where I saw Sarah and other crews cheering on runners and whopping it up. It was an amazing sight!

I stopped and gave Sarah my glasses and winter hat and took my red ball cap. I also refilled the bottles and an electrolyte capsule. I went to the aid table to search out some fruit but I couldn’t see any! GRRR! I smiled, thanked everyone for coming and took off.

Back out on the trails the line of runners was no much thinner. I was playing leap frog with the same 4 or 5 runners until we got off the AT. Some were good at running UP hill and taking their time down. I was good at running down and waling up. As soon as we made it near Weverton cliffs, I noticed we had caught the 5 AM starters. Many of them were limped all ready and looked tired, yet still wore amazing smiles. It was a warming sight and I made sure to say hello and lend some encouragements. In the woods were ruins of various Civil War trenches. I LOVE history and this was a cool sight as I thought of the many battles fought in the area.

Into the Weverton Aid station I saw Sarah and was in need of a pee break. I ran into the porta potty. Sarah asked if I wanted my watch. Not thinking clearly I said “no” even though the answer I wanted to say was “YES!” I asked her if they had Banana’s and she told me the station was down another hill. So I took off down the trail stuck behind the same line of runners I had just passed on the last downhill. Earlier I watched a guy come barrel assing down the trail, elbowing other runners out of the way. I took the traditional route of saying “on your left.” Well not sure if this one guy heard me or not, but he didn’t step aside.. so I ran in the weeds to his left. He took his eyes of the trail, looked at me and in turn he toed a rock and fell flat on his face. It sounded like it hurt. I felt bad, but this was after all a race and there was nothing I could do for him, so I kept running to the aid station. 16 Miles in at 2 Hours 44 Minutes!


The Tow Path (Highlights)

I grabbed fruit and crossed the tracks before stepping on the tow path. Now that I was finally on it, I looked up to get a feel of the surroundings. To my left, the Potomac River and across the river was Harpers Ferry, Virginia. To my right… a ditch which gave off various potent smells. And straight ahead…. Tow path and LOTS of it.

I was not feeling good. I was in a funk and couldn’t put my finger on what was causing it. I immediately started doing the run walk and was getting worried. This path was forever long and at this rate.. it was going to take that “forever” to complete. I kept running and walking and running and walking. I was getting frustrated. Soon I saw the Shenandoah River join the Potomac and now across the river was West Virginia. To the right, various farms as well as neat hills made of rock and in those rocks, caves.

All along the towpath, people were running and riding bikes headed the other way. Boy scouts, families, a dude smoking a cigar I choked on and MANY Reston Runners folks. Their club is huge.. and after awhile, though they WERE nice, I got sick of seeing them! Lol. Around Mile 20 I ran with a gentlemen who was “enjoying” his first 50 miler today. He asked me, “how the hell do you do it.” I gave him some pointers and it sounded as if he was going to finish. Though he did park a car at mile 25.

At Mile 28 I saw Sarah. She was in the handler station with a Peanut Butter and Fluff sandwhich. Since it was lunch time I took it. I carried on down the path at a slow pace. My hamstring had been bothering me right above my knee, I got so fed up with it I stopped, sat down, stretched it out and then got up. At this moment it was if the funk was gone. I had energy and I could run. I ran and ran and ran and made sure to walk only to relieve my muscles of the repetitious stress.

At Antietam Aqueduct I saw a possum roaming the leaves. I then smelt something nasty and saw a deer carcass in that nasty ditch. Oh this race had TONS of scenery. I enjoyed conversation with Kendra from Richmond, VA. She had a great pace going and looked strong. I on the other hand had just started moving and my legs were telling me they were tired.

Into Town

As I made it to Mile 42, we were handed orange safety vests due to the impending darkness. I asked someone the time and found out it was 3:15pm. DAMN! How was I could to run the last 8 miles of road in 1 Hour 45 Minutes. That’s 12-Minute Miles! I got off the blasted towpath and stepped onto the concrete. All I could think about at first was the math… how fast did I need to go. I was 15 minutes behind schedule. It felt like it was impossible to finish in under 10. Most people would have quit, I put my head down and got to work.

With 8 miles to go, this is what I live for. I walked briskly up hills, counted the miles to go as the signs went by and even counted the 56 runners I passed on my way to the finish. At mile 48 I saw Sarah who was standing there with the gear. I asked her the time, all the while still moving and yelled, CRAP! GOTTA GO! She yelled and jumped with excitement, it was now in reach.

The last 8 miles I did more running than I had at all in the last 4 hours. I felt great, I was even running up some of those hills. 2 to go… 1 Mile to go. The last mile!? YES!… YES! I was doing it. Through the tiny town, under the interstate, through the intersection and up ahead… a clock, screaming people… and the finish line. I ran until my legs wanted to cramp. I then stopped to walk just short of the finish line. Sarah yelled for me to get moving. I ran up the final hill, saw the clock… 9:47. I raised my hands to the air, punched to the sky and screamed wildly. YESS!!!!! I DID IT! SARAH!!! I DID IT!!!!

3 Months – 3 50 Milers – and one sub 10 hour finish!
After the race, Hans and I enjoyed Pizza and new friends. We spoke with course record holder Eric Clifton. I congratulated Dr. Horton and we even spoke with Buzz, the man who started it all in 1963. We had a GREAT time at JFK and found out exactly why it is called “America’s Ultra-Marathon.”

Unofficially, 1000 runners finished the race. This is a NEW record for most finishers in American Ultra-Running History.

I finished 340th out of 1000 with a time of 9:47:53.
Hans finished in an amazing 30th place with a time of 7:16:10
Full Results can be found HERE

I have pictures which can be found HERE

2006 is now over. Next up.. Disney’s Goofy Challenge – 1.7.07
I also wait patiently for the Western States Lottery on 12.2.06

I can't believe this! WOO HOO!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pacing At A 100 Miler

My first real exposure to the 100 Mile distance was back in July of 2006 at the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. I showed up to simply check it out and see what it was like in the aid stations so I could get a better handle on what I wanted my crew to do in future races. I ended up lacing up my running shoes and running through the night with the lovely Claire Gilles from Reno, NV pacing her to her first 100 Mile finish in 3 tries. What I experienced that night in Vermont changed my life forever, and helped me to realize what it was going to be that got me through this life. Below is my recount of that amazing adventure.

"Report from Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saturday Afternoon, Sarah and I fought traffic and headed for North Conway to book our reception locale for our wedding. We also visited a nearby church to get the info on having our ceremony there. I had nothing to eat all morning... juts a Luna Bar. So after parting ways with Sarah, I stopped at Burger King and got myself a burger before heading off to Vermont.

Now the plan was to drive 2 1/2 hours to Vermont.. to meet up with Drew in Woodstock, VT. From there we would make our way to one of the aid stations for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. Yes... people were running 100 Miles in Vermont and trying to do so in under 24 hours OR at most under 30. This is just ONE of 38 such events nationwide. It is a dream of mine to one day win a silver buckle.. which is what a runner receives for finishing the run in under 24 hours. I have 2 races on my mind.. Next years VT 100 and the Western States 100. So today was just a day for doing homework.

We made our way down into South Woodstock to the Camp 10 Bear aid station. Runners had all ready run through this station once at Mile 44.7 and then a SECOND time at mile 68.7 of their 100 Mile Run. We were looking for a Pittsfield, VT man named Joe Desena. We had been in shotty contact with Joe for the last week ro so trying to figure out if he needed a pacer and if so.. where he would need him. So we waited at Camp 10 Bear for Joe.. and we never saw him. Drew and I walked about the checkpoint and watched each runners crew go to work on them as they entered. Each runner would weigh in (to monitor weight Loss), see the doctor and then head over to a seat where their crew refilles their bottles and shoves food in their faces.

At about 7PM I overheard a woman talking to a race official. "My runner is #82 and she needs a pacer badly." The official looks over his clipboard and sees only ONE pacer available. He calls out his name and there is NO answer. So I jumped up and offered to pace the young lady, figuring i could do so for a while anyway. I figured on running maybe 18 to 20 miles with her. The race official starts asking me questions about my credentials and then he says, "OH... so you're going to run with her to the end?" And as I was in the middle of the " ahhh wa, bwuah.. ummm.." Drews answers for me with a "Sure... He's Sherpa John.. He's all over it!"
I looked like a Deer in headlights.. .. it is just after 7PM... and I'm about to pace a runner 32 Miles through the Vermont Countryside... AT NIGHT.

I went to my car and threw on my running gear much like Clark kent in a phone Both. (I'm no superman by any means). I put Drew to work filling my bottles and snagging me some food. Afterall... I was COMPLETEY unprepared for this. Running a 50K takes some prep.. usually TONS of carbs the day BEFORE and then the morning of... all I ate today was a Luna Bar and BK! UGH! what was I thinking! We were ready to go and walked back up to the aid station. Drew asked what runner it was and when I found her I pointed and hesitently said, " That woman there.. breast feeding her baby."

7:15PM. Claire and I introduced ourselves. She is 29 year's old and a mother of 2 from Reno, Nevada. She had NO clue how bad New Englands humidity could REALLY be and she was unaware that the terrain really is rolling hills forever and ever. This was her THIRD attempt at a 100 Mile Endurance run.. she did not finish the other two. I learned something else about Claire which you'll have to wait for till the end for... She gave me instructions on how she wanted to be paced. I had no clue WHAT I was doing.. I had never paced anyone before. But alas.. I went to work.

It was now Claire's 69th Mile and my 1st. For the rest of the night we would trudge along the countryside, her in unimaginable pain and I... in pain with no right to complain given the circumstance of my new running partner. Drew left in my car headed for the Aid station at Mile 76.7 (West Winds). I hoped to find him there and knowing he would be was great motivation. Drew would end up making an AWESOME Crew chief. In the meantime.. Claire struggled over a MASSIVE hill. She was in what is known as a "low" or "bonking." Pretty much.. she was exhausted not only physically... but mentally. I tried my best to talk to her and keep her mind off of the pain. But... it is difficult when you are both perfect strangers. We made it to an aid station at Mile 72... after she was certain it did not exist... and I made her sit down. Here she drank some broth and had a PB and J. I... ate whatever I could find... I was famished!

As we continued on towards West Winds.. we walk through a hillside pasture and watched the sun set to our west over the Green Mountains. We HAD to stop and take it in... it was an emotional moment, and simply breathtaking. We then put on our headlamps and continued on through the course except now.. it was night time and we still have 28 Miles to go. I had NEVER run ALL night before. But hey... homework is what I came for.. and Homework is what I was doing... to its highest extent.

The course zigged and zagged down logging and snowmobile trails all night long. If we were lucky we hit a dirt road and were able to get some good running in. Otherwise, we mostly powerwalked and shuffled. Claire and I made our way to West Winds where we found drew and a whole slew of crews waiting for runners. It was around 10PM (I think) and Claire took a seat. She was in rough shape indeed. The doctors couldn't get a strong pules out of her, she couldn't eat anymore, her speech was slurred and mumbled then suddenly she got up and yells "LETs GO JOHN!" What do ya know.. we were off. Drew followed us out of the aid station and then claire stopped to vomit. Drew was getting a full taste of insanity, unlike anything he had ever seen. I thought it was great... because I wanted someone else to witness it and here HE was. Drew gave us some motivation before heading for the car and the next Aid where he could meet us which was Bills at mile 89.2 Claire and I headed off into the night.

Now that it was night time the course was marked not by your typical painted blazes... but by glowstick hanging from trees. We used to to our advantage and renamed them "GOALsticks." We would run from one to the other then stop and walk to the next then run to the next then walk then run. Soon we would run 2 or 3 in a row and walk one or maybe two. We walked all the hills... briskly. Claire had her speech back, her spirits were again high and our sights set on that silver buckle. This girl is TOUGH. We ran and walked and walked and ran and ran somemore. Before we knew it we passed 2 through 2 more Aid.. and were on our way to Bills.

As we were running dirt roads we saw horses in the pastures and even some in trailers. We heard bears and owls in the distance and unfortunately the Birds had stopped their daily songs. But we however... carried on into the night ONE STEP AT A TIME. We saw a light cutting through the dense darkness... it was Bills.. and we ran in ready to go. We were in and out. Next stop... Pollys... 95.3 Miles

We were on great pace to finish this race in under 24 hours. I was totally confident we would do it.. until we found the hills once more. Claires quads felt as though they were about to explode off of her legs. Her calves screamed. The blisters on her feet the site of half dollars. She made a statement that says it all. "Ultra-Running prepared me for childbirth." Wow... the pain is WORSE the childbirth... think about that.

Our pace turned from a run to a shuffle... to a fast walk.. to a slower walk... and slower and slower. It only got later and later got EARLIER. But as the moon shone above I experienced something truly magical. Something I will NEVER forget. For the entire night we felt like we were running in a steam room. But an eery fog settled in the pastures and fields that slowly glided across the land. The mountains rose above this fog to be black shadowing figures in the distance, the moon caused the fogg to slow and enhance the effect of the mountains. And the stars... well the stars were what made dreams come true. We slowly progress together... just enjoying the moment. Heck... here it was... 3 AM. We arrive at Pollys to see Drew... And I'm pacing a runner on her 95th mile in the last DAY! I am in utter AWE.

We leave Pollys and Claire is completely DONE. She is spent. As we make ou way across muddy sections of trail, she throws tantrums as the blisters on her feet all burst and hurt. The uphills hurt.. the downhills hurt more and the flats.. well.. they hurt to. Me... I'm still in disbelief that its after 3am and I'm running 32 Miles on a BK STACKER!

We moved at a little.. LITTLE over 2 miles per hour for the last 5 Miles. It was rough going. The longer we were out there, the more emotional Claire got. I had no idea what to tell her.. I was a little scared for her but knew deep down she was well. This was just part of the game. She was winning. We saw the silver buckle go out of our sights as 24 hours came and went. But we knew.. Claire would finally finish her first 100 Miler. And like I told her 5 minutes after I met her... there is NO WAY IN HELL I'm going to let her quit.

Claire and I ran together for 10 Hours covering just over 32 Miles. She crossed the finish line with a time of 24 Hours and 59 Minutes. But what was SO special about this woman... and what will be held close to my heart for YEARS to come is what I found out after 5 minutes of running with Claire. She's a Type 1 diabetic.

I wrote this report, rewrote it... and I am truly unsatisfied. I cannot truly find the words to describe to all of you the experience I had last night. I'm truly blessed to have met Claire and helped her complete her Journey. She is beyond an inspiration. I cannot also describe to you the magic of what I saw and experienced in the fields of Vermont, I'm still in shock and humbled.

So... I did my homework and then some. I got my training run in for this weekend for sure and gained invaluable amounts of experience. I am also now finally a qualified All Night Runner after seeing the sun set and then rise as I reached the finish line. I cannot wait for the VT 50 this September and the 100 Miler Next July. As for Drew... I give the guy TONS of credit for staying up all night and driving around hunting us down. It was NOT easy finding the aid stations. I also thank he and his lovely wife for allowing me to catch 4 hours of Z's in their Pittsfield Home. Drew is going to be on my crew for future runs.. couldn't as for a better guy."

For those of you out there who are planning to run your first 100, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! If you cannot make it to another 100 between now and race day, read as much as you can about the experiences of others. Every little bit helps, and I hope this small piece has helped you.

Happy Trails!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Boston Prep x2 = Ouch

Sunday, January 27, 2008
Start time: 7am
Where: Derry, NH
Attendance: Sherpa John, Jeff Waldron, Nate Sanel, Thor Kerleis and Lee Dennis
Miles: 32+ (16 Mile Loop x2)
Race Website:
Course Map:
Saturday night was our friend Bekah's 28th Birthday Party. After a great time roller skating we decided to do some quality bar hopping around Portsmouth, NH. My original plan was to be good and drink one beer with dinner followed by water the rest of the evenning. one beer and three greatful dead's later, I knew my Sunday run would be interesting. After a sleepness night next to the better half who NEVER gets drunk herself but ended up rocking herself to sleep (ah, college life), I woke up to get ready for the days run. I peered out the front window to see snow falling. I remembered the forecast saying we could get some flurries if anything at all. I checked again and that was still indeed the forecast. However, this is New England and a surprise 4" had all ready fallen thanks to the Atlantic Ocean.

After typical hangover pleasantries and dusting off the car, I arrive in Derry a bit late but ready to run today's challenge. Our run today was in part of the Yours Truly 50K. This is an honour system fun run. You don't know who you are running against untill you read the results. You can run (or walk) anywhere as long as you use a pre-measured course and start and complete your run on one of the dates given. If you choose to run on both dates, both runs will be mentioned in the final results. Today being one of the two dates, we decided to make a go at it. Our course? The Boston Prep 16 Miler which is arguably the toughest road race in New England.

Just before we left the lot on our run the Race Director showed up and told us how "crazy" we were, yet also how much he admired us. Dave is a great guy. He took all of our names and promised to have our race packets ready for us upon our return to the start/finish. We thanked him kindly and started our watches as we took off on our journey. The course is a 16 Mile loop that consist's of many rolling/steep hills. It is indeed a tough course, but after running 50 and 100 mile races.. the hills seem much smaller now. We crusied up and down, walking if we felt the effort was wasting valuable energy for the actual race. It was STILL snowing on the day that was "supposed" to be Partly Cloudy and 38 degrees. Frigid winds and a temp of 28 kept us all pretty frosty. The course in Derry during our first loop was VERY slick and covered with about an inch of fresh powder. A few plows passed us during our run, all with the blades UP and throwing salt in the back.

We finished the first loop in 2:39 and change. We all made our way into the building to get our race packets. With our watches stopped, we answered natures call, refueled with gels and clif shots. Re-filled the water bottles. Those of us with dry clothes changed, those of us without (myself included) suffered chillingly. While inside I heard the 10am race start was now postponed until 10:15, which has become kind of the normal here at The BP given the amount of runners they shuttle in from area wide parking lots. We all headed back to the race start, shivvering the entire way. This was my third year running this race, and NEVER had I ever thought about running it twice. As we made our way to the start I reiterated how "this is stupid."

The race started before we even reached the starting line. We walked down the road it was on watching the see of some 600+ runners bobbing through the snow ahead. OPPS! We decided to start the watches and get moving. The cold air had made us rather stiff as we tried to get moving. Its now 10:15am and it is STILL SNOWING. Jeff gets a kick out of how much I hate winter, but for some reason today, as cold and wet as I was, as snowy as it was.. it made for a real challenge and it was pretty neat. Trying to grip the road with snow on it make ANY run tougher, nevermind 32 Miles of it. But on the second loop, the hundreds of runners ahead of us and the morning salt application, made the roads turns to a cold slush. Our feet were soaked from the get go. A few miles into the second loop, it appeared as though everyone was making it easy, running in a straight line and creating a lane of singletrack to follow in the snow. It look, just like an ultra!
Photo Courtesy Of RTravers

We were having WAY too much fun for being cold and wet on a snowy tough course. We laughed almost the entire way from start to finish. Jokes, songs, stories, thoughts, you name it. Up to race mile 12, our mile 20, we stayed together and enjoyed each others company pushing each other up each agnozing steep slope. And it was STILL SNOWING. Nate pulled away from Jeff and I for a time while Thor really took off. I'm nto sure where Lee ended up but I think we had passed him early. Each time we passed a mile marker, Nate would yell out our mileage and the time so that we knew. We were feeling tired, getting stiff, but awesome. Some of the "road runners" seemed to be a bit pissed off that we were enjoying our run so much. I guess they are choosing to miss out on how much FUN it supposed to be. I felt bad, for them, but I REALLY enjoyed those who laughed AT us and WITH us. We spotted a few more ultra-types on the course and sucked them into our foolishness for a few. It was great fun.

About a mile and a half from the finish, Jeff an I caught Nate off guard and caught up to him. We ran together as Nate started pushing the pace. Jeff was tired and started to fall back, while Nate and I were running 7:55 miles at one point, at our mile 31! I kept asking Nate to ease off but he didn't. So we pushed and pushed. Up ahead we saw a runner we had flustered a bit earlier with our "fooling around." Apparently, running today was VERY serious for her and we weren't allowed to laugh. We spotted her and chased her down, caught up, passed her and kicked in even harder to ensure she did not pass. God we're such morons. Nate really kicked it in during the last 100yards. I yelled, "Go Nate, Beat the young guy.. you got it! Go GO GO!" Nate kicked it in and as I fell silent, I sprinted as hard as I could in my attempt to beat the old guy. I stepped on the mat at the same time as him and we finished the 2nd 16 Miles in a time of 2:31 and change. We laughed as Nate's name is listed in the results 1st. Loser Oh.. and it was STILL SNOWING.

What an enjoyable day. We really miss the trails around here. Pavement HURTS! Very happy we got our 32.62 miles in today. Combined results below.
Just want to thank the guys for coming out and enjoying the course with me in the snow. We had a great time. I think for the February Edition our plan is to run across frozen Lake Winnipesaukee! EXCELLENT! Next time I'll try to do it without a hangover.

Results: 32.26 Miles
2,368 vertical feet of climbing, and 4,684 feet of elevation change
Thor Kerleis:L1: 2:39:10 L2: 2:25:22 Total: 5:04:32
Nate Sanel: L1: 2:39:10 L2: 2:31:58 Total: 5:10:08
John Lacroix: L1: 2:39:10 L2: 2:31:58 Total: 5:10:08
Jeff Waldron: L1: 2:39:10 L2: 2:32:22 Total: 5:12:30
Lee Dickey: L1: 2:39:10 L2: 2:52:09 Total: 5:32:09

Sunday, January 20, 2008


When: 1.19.08
What: Hike to Isolation
Miles: 14
Elevation Gain: Something over 4,000'
Who: Sherpa John, Drewski, Albee, James, Unforzencaveman, Youngblood, Melanie, Adamiata
Time: 7 Hours 24 Minutes
Another long hike and another day without my camera. Its hike like these that my energy needs to be expending moving my feet and laughing, rather than pushing down the button on a camera. Al, James and I carpooled to the trailhead where we met up with The rest of the gang. I have hiked with Adam a few other times this year and hadn't seen cave, mel and youngblood in a few good months. It was great to see everyone and this was one hell of a crew to be spending the day with in the Whites. Ahead of us was another group lef by Hiker Ed Hawkins. Ed is 11 peaks away from hiking the 48 four-thousand footers in New Hampshire for the 48th time and has completed hiking the 48 in all 12 months of the year. We relied on his crew to pack out the trail for us, that is until we disagreed with his route taking.

Before we left the lot we ran into two hikers who had enough gear on them to classify themselves as nomads. They were determined to get Isolation even if it meant spending a few nights in the frigid woods. If it did take them 3 days to complete the hike, they would have averaged 4 miles a day. (+/-) They asked if they could join us and I politely told them they could if they could "keep up." I felt really bad in answering in this way, but it was the only way I know how to convey to them that we were a VRY strong group of experienced hikers and it might be tough for them to go our speed. We'd see them later.

We took the Rocky Branch Trail from NH Route 16 to the height of land where we embarked on our version of the Engine Hill Bushwhack. Hiker Ed's crew took the whack WAY high to the top of a hardwood knoll. From the top of the knoll they banged hard left and walked through what Ed describes as completely open woods to its junction with the Isolation Trail. I have yet to take on Ed's route and perhaps will try it next time, for now, Albee led us on our own version of the EH whack, and we made it to the same exact spot as Ed's group without any problems involved thick softwoods and firs. From here we chugged our way up trail, clearing various blowdowns as we went. When we caught up with Ed's group finally, they were heading towards the Dry River Trail by staying on the actual Trail, while we embarked on the second major bushwhack of the day by climbing up a drainage. We reached the ridge well in advance of Ed's group and broke trail out the rest of the way to the Summit of Isolation.

On the summit, Drew challenged any of us to join the "Gone Wild" group. A tradition he started last winter during Tim Seaver and Cath Goodwin's winter peak-bagging record time of 9 days and change. During that hike, he climbed Isolation on an unseasonably warm March day with his shirt off. Today was anything but warm, temps in the upper teens with a calm westerly wind. I took out my camera phone for evidence and proceeded to de-shirt with Unfrozencaveman. James would join us as well moments later adding a few push-ups of his own. Ed's group eventually made the summit and we exchanged the usual pleasantries and hand-shakes before heading for home.

On the way out, Al and James bushwhacked to South Engine Hill to bag the peak which resides on another peak-bagging list. The rest of us headed for the cars. I hung back with Drew to keep him company and to hear more of his invaluable "life advice." On the way out we saw our two hikers we met in the lot carrying much lighter loads. Turns out they were members of a website we all belong to. After talking with them briefly, we proceeded to be a bit disappointed in the various Post holes they had left us for our return trip. VERY bad form! In all honesty, they weren't too bad and I could care less, but other members of my group had lots to say about it.

So.. this was my 6th peak of the 2007-2008 Winter Peak-bagging season. Aside from two short days enjoying the snow with Sarah, I enjoyed hiking two of the toughest hikes with Drew and Crew, The Bonds and Isolation. Before winter ends, I hope to enjoy the 18 mile journey to Owls Head, a "Carters and Cats" Traverse, a Presi-traverse and perhaps a one day Pemi-loop. If I can accomplish these peak-bagging missions I will have completed 27 of the 48 this winter alone. Which is more than double my total from last year. In March 2005 I completed hiking the NH 48 in Winter for the first time on top of Cannon Mountain. But for now, I have to ship my broken snowshoe away form replacement and spend some quality time with Sarah as well as running.

You can see my list by season and month HERE
You can find out what peak-bagging is by searching for its definition on Wikipedia. There are various lists that I am working on.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bonds and Back

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Hike: Bondcliff, Bond, West Bond
Out and Back from Lincoln Woods - 22 Miles
Time: 11 Hours
Who: Sherpa and Drew
For the past two winters, I have made it a small goal of mine to get out to the Bonds during the season. These mountains are the most remote mountains in the entire White Mountain National Forest. There are a few ways of getting here, all of them are tough hikes over 20 miles long. Many try each year to get here, many never make it. I know a few folks who have tried more than 5 times, failing on each trip. There is a trick to hiking in winter here in New Hampshire.. and the trick is all about picking your days. Today, Drew and I had a gorgeous day. Temps in the single digits in Lincoln, NH along the Kancamagus Highway, beautiful blue sky as we watched the glow of the rising sun. We knew we had a winner.

I woke up at 4:30am and drove 2 hours to the trailhead where I was late as usual. We were supposed to start at 7 but we ended up starting at 7:30. Drew gives me crap for it every time but I don't think he cares much.. so long as he gets the peak. Drew needed only West Bond for the Month of January as he works on hiking all 48 peaks in NH in each of the 12 months of the year, a goal which takes many years to complete. I needed all three peaks for January, as I slowly work on the list myself. We enjoyed hiking down the 5 mile's worth of old railroad bed from logging days of legend here in NH. On the way out the 5 miles of railroad bed isn't bad, but on the way back to the car its nothing less than torture.

We ran into a group of 5 coming out off the Bondcliff trail, they had sent 5 days winter backpacking in the area and looked not only refreshed with life but ready to be done as well. Only one other young hiker the rest of the day, he passed us on the way up and we saw him again on his return. The trails were all hard pack with a light dusting of snow on top. Footing was amazing as we bare booted the entire way to Bondcliff before needing to strap on traction to make our way across the ice. The views from Bondcliff, in any season, are simply amazing. If the mountains are your church, than this is the alter.. the cathedral, for sure.

Me on Bondcliff

From here we bundled up in single digit temps with a howling wind. No talking for awhile until a spot where things were a bit calmer. We reached the top of Bond, the summit I perched on during the September Flags on the 48 event. Things are much different up here today. The sun played with the clouds, giving us many different aura's of light. Snow flew all around in the wind, clouds submersed the other peaks. Mount Washington struggled to rise above to the North East. IT was simply amazing. It was cold, frigid, lonely... and beautiful. This is what its all about. We continued on, walked on top of some 5 to 6 feet of frozen hard packed snow, shaped by the weather. We dropped our packs on Bond and hiked the half out and back 1.2 miles to West Bond without them. West Bond... 11 Miles from the nearest Road. Just drew and I on the signature triangular peak... simply amazing.

The view of Bondcliff from West Bond

West Bond (R) and Bond (L) from Bondcliff

From here it was all down hill... back UP over Bond, Over Bondcliff, back to the railroad grade.. and the long 11 Mile walk back to the car. We started just after sunrise and returned after dark. Our last 3 miles of walking the railroad bed was done so under the moon. The snow around us glowed from the moons illumination and helped lead the way. Drew had his headlamp on, but turned it off to enjoy the beauty of it all. It was just us, the moon, the snow.. and the flowing Pemigewassett River, it was magical and well worth it. We were the last cars in the lot.. but thats ok.. we knew we had accomplished one of the hardest hikes in NH Winter. The Bonds.

The Bonds (The Ultimate Cathedral)

(Note: The pictures I have provided here are from our Bond hike in February 2007. I did not lug my camera this time (thank god) but the views from 2007 and the views from this hike... are almost entirely the same. The only difference is cloud cover and lighting. Please enjoy)

I cannot wait for summer again, so I can return to the Pemi, and run the traditional Pemi Loop. I always like to end on the Bonds and say a little prayer of thanks. Without my camera today, what I saw out there, what I saw in church... belongs to myself and Drew. I love sharing photos of my adventures, and I hope you get the idea from photos of my last journey here in Winter (2007), trust me... yesterday was no different... it was amazing. Three winters in a row now I have journeyed here.

Happy Trails!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blue Hills, Blue Temps, Blue Feelings

Saturday, January 12, 2008
Run: Blue Hills Skyline Traverse
Quincy, MA
20 Miles in 5:44
12,000' of elevation change

Another gorgeous day as the January thaw started to make its way out of New England. I met up with Jeff List and Greg Stone for an awesome long run in the Blues Hills Reservation south of Boston in Quincy, Ma. As temps rose into the mid to late 40's, I was glad to be able to wear a pair of shorts to run just one more time. Even though we have one of these thaws EVERY year, it's unusual to be able to wear shorts to run in January here in New England.

What I enjoyed most about the run was not only the company, but the opportunity to get my feet wet, mud on my legs, bleed a little and drag my rear end up and over the classic Blue Hill Climbs. Those who have run here before call this the PERFECT place to train for Massanutten as the terrain here is damn near identical. I loved the day running from Shea Rink with jeff and Greg out to Blue Hill, stopping at Gregs car for some aid.. then running back to the rink. We said bye to Jeff as Greg and I headed back to Blue Hill to round the workout to an end.

This 20 mile run took 5 hours and 44 minutes. We never stopped and ran hard when we could, walked hard otherwise and today.. I'm pretty sore! I love it! Of course.. no day would be complete for me without some kind of controversy. As we reached Blue Hill one last time, Greg opted to take the rocks down while I wanted to run the ski slope. As I got to the slope, I noticed it was in operation, Two runs were in operation as skiers swooshed their way down the hill. Just enough snow was left here (and ONLY here) to allow such activities. I decided to run down the ski slope but stayed all the way to the side in the ankle deep water, grass and mud. As I ran onto the ski hill, I ran past 5 ski patrol members and none of them said anything. As I reached the bottom, a woman walked out in front of me and held her hand up like a crossing guard as she yelled, "STOP!" She then proceeded to rudely explain to me that I was not allowed to run down the ski slope. I asked to see a sign that says that or to be handed some kind of documentation. An argument ensued with choice words where I was told that state law prohibits me to run down the ski slopes. I very much doubt that so I once again asked for documentation. She tells me the State Police will show me.. and I told her I'll elect to WAIT for the State Police then. On and on we went and she then changed her story from "its illegal" to.. "If you buy a pass to the ski hill, you can do it." So.. I ask you... IS IT ILLEGAL? or "DO I BUY A PASS?" Ridiculous. I told her to pretty much enjoy the gorgeous sunshine and have a nice day.
UPDATE: I contacted the local Ranger Station at Blue Hill and found out that during Ski Operations it is indeed illegal to travel on the ski slopes. However, there currently is no signage and this will be taken care of for future parties.

Greg and Jeff in the Blue Hills

So now the thaw has ended and winter slowly worked its frigid way back into the picture today. Temps hovered in the upper 30's lower 40's for highs as New Englanders got ready for the NEXT big storm. Here in Newmarket our snow pack is down to about 5-8" with almost all of the snowbanks still about 2-3 feet high. Tomorrow's Nor'Eastah is slated to dump anywhere from 1 to 2 feet of snow on us with winds in excess of 45mph at times. Yes... Blizzard Conditions. THIS... is New England at its best and I want out. As Robert Frost Once Said, "If you don't like the weather in New England... wait.. it'll change."

And Lastly... many of you are well aware that I help with the Pittsfield Peaks races held in Pittsfield, Vermont. We have our Snowshoe Marathon/Festival in March, Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge and Death Race in June, 6 Hour Mountain Bike Race in August and the New New England 200 and 100 Mile Ultra in November. I am merely a volunteer, passionate about enhancing the ultra-running community in New England by donating my time and effort to the success of these new and great races in Pittsfield, VT. I often promote these races through various internet sources.

There is only ONE race that I am solely responsible for and that is the New England 200/100. It is the ONLY race I am a race director of. The other 4 events I am simply on the race committed with a VERY limited role. My role is as follows: 1.) Help Promote the event, 2.) Mark the courses before race day 3.) Provide Feedback. That's it. While I acknowledge I stick my neck out for these races, I am very much passionate about their toughness. These races are the true test and the real deal. I will continue to promote them, play my part and direct my own race... as a VOLUNTEER. It NEVER seizes to amaze me the numerous negative and derogatory comments people will make towards volunteers and towards others who are obviously more passionate about the sport than they. This saddens me.

So... to check out our fine races of which I hope to see you at. And.. for a look at my race and... YOUR RACE in November.. please see

Week In Review:
Monday: 8 on Roads in 1:06:30 (8:19 pace)
Tuesday: 8 on roads in 1:07:10 (8:24 pace)
Wednesday: Run #1 = 12.21 on Roads in 1:46:11 (8:42 Pace)
Run #2 = Short run with Sarah at her pace. 1.46 Miles at 11:05 Pace
Thursday: 7.2 Miles - Hike.. 2,400' of gain and loss
Friday: 0
Saturday: 19.68 Miles in 5:44 down in Mass. South of Boston. Blue Hills Reservation.
12,000' of elevation change in 19 Miles. Tough going. Ran with Greg Stone and Jeff List. Felt great! Ran in shorts!
Sunday: 0

Week Total: 56.6 Miles

Happy Trails

Friday, January 11, 2008

Kearsarge South

Thursday, January 10, 2008
Mount Kearsarge (South)
Warner, NH
7.2 Mile Hike
4 Hours and change
Pete and I had been planning to hike off and on for some time now and we agreed to get together this week for a photo mission. So, we accepted our mission and planned to hike Mount Kearsarge. Mainly because the peak isn't WAY up north and we can be home at a reasonable time. But also because its a mountain I had never been to.

Pete Taking Photos

Kearsarge south is what is known as a "Monadnock." A monadnock or inselberg is an isolated hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain. Monadnock is an originally Native American term for an isolated hill or a lone mountain that has risen above the surrounding area, typically by surviving erosion. The name was taken from Mount Monadnock in southwestern New Hampshire (USA), in Jaffrey. The name is thought to derive from the Abenaki language, from either menonadenak ("smooth mountain") or menadena ("isolated mountain").

Kearsarge (South) Mountain, is situated in Merrimack County, New Hampshire, northwest of the town of Concord, seventy miles southwest of the White Mountains. Its height is 2943.5 feet about tide-water. It is believed that the Civil War Union's sloop-of War, Kearsarge, named after this mountain, sunk the Confederate gunboat, Alabama June 19, 1864. In the spring of 1819 a mass of earth and stones, of several tons' weight, became detached from the southern declivity of Kearsarge mountain, and was precipitated with great violence into the valley below, sweeping a path of forty rods in width.

Pete and I enjoyed a wonderful hike in our typical January Thaw temps of 40+ degrees. Skies were pleasantly Blue as we meandered our way up the mountain. I bare-booted the entire way never using my snowshoe or crampons even though I had them. Pete used his snowshoes but soon ditched them into a tree to be retrieved on the way down. While on the top, the winds whipped from the WNW at about 40 mph sustained. It was freezing cold up high but the views were unreal. We took many pictures of the surrounding landscape. We could se all the way to the whites, as far south and west as Mondanock and even the ocean if we looked close enough. A gorgeous day!

Me on The Summit of Kearsarge South

Today was a zero miles day. We received about 2 inches of rain here on the seacoast and some unusual January thunderstorms big and bad enough to rock the house. I ran some errands and what not and will enjoy tomorrows final day of warm temps by actually TRAIL RUNNING South of Boston in the Blue Hills Reservation with Greg Stone and Jeff List. I'm very excited as I haven't run on a trail since the beginning of December when we ran in the same Blue Hills with a slushly 2-3 inches of snow. Here on the seacoast we have about 5" of snow left on the ground.. Concord still has about 2 feet! It'll be nice to get out on the trails and hammer it hard over those rocks. Winter is planning to make a return on Sunday Night/Monday around here....and in a BIG way,. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mount Whiteface

Sarah enjoys the early parts of The Blueberry Ledge Trail.

Saturday January 5, 2008
Hiking: 8 Miles
Mount Whiteface
Winter Peak #2
8 Hour Hike

My plans for the day had been altered a bit. The original was to hike the 32 mile Pemi-Loop that I typically run in Summer in one winter day. But with fresh snow in the whites up towards a foot in places, and not knowing if certain hellacious trails had been broken out, I decided to bail on the idea. The 2nd idea of hiking the Presidential range was squashed with the forecast of increasing winds and the chance of snow squalls throughout the day. And the 3rd option of running in the GAC 50K down in Topsfield Mass went out the window when Sarah asked me to hike with her and her friend Tim who was on her amazing trip to New Zealand 2 summers ago.

So at 8:15am we arrived at the Ferncroft parking area in Wonnalancet, NH as we decided to journey into New Hampshire's Sandwich Range Wilderness. As you can see from the photo above, the trails were packed out by those who travelled ahead of us. Lots of snow as there was anywhere from 2 feet down low to 4 or 5 feet up high. Snow covered EVERYTHING and made for a gorgeous day in the whites.
Views to the East Along The Blueberry Ledge

As we reached the ledges on whiteface we ran into some of our hiking friends, Russ and Gary. Gary was hiking Whiteface for the first time and it would be his 40th peak of the 48 all season list after his return to the car. Gary isn't very fast but he hikes with something I wish more people did... heart. Lots of heart. I give this guy a whole lot of credit for his heart and courage and wish 90% of the people I've met in hiking displayed the same. He also doesn't have a mean bone in his body and is fair in his dealings with EVERYONE he meets. Russ, Russ is just a jokester or as I chose for the word of the day.. "Jackass." We had a great time hiking with these fools.
Scoutmaster Gary

Sarah Negotiates The Ledges

As we reached the summit we ran into some more friends of ours. Steve and Rick. We all had a great time taking photos and joking around on the Cliffs of Whiteface. The views were amazing as we caught glimpses of The Presidentials, Chocorua (believe to be the most photographed mountain in the world), Sandwich Dome, Passaconaway and NH's storied Lakes Region. It was a gorgeous day as we all left our packs and headed over to the main summit to count the peak on our respective lists. We contemplated hiking over to passaconaway to bag the extra peak, but it was getting late in the day and we were all cold. From here, we all headed down the same way we came up enjoying playing in the snow like little kids. Jumping into drifts, sliding down ledges and a few spots where I pulled Sarah around by her snowshoes. It was great fun. The snow began to fly a bit as we reached the bottom and said our goodbyes.. another great day of adventure in the whites!
Mt. Washington and the Southern Presi's

Sarah and I Enjoy the Views From the Top. Lakes Region Below

All Smiles despite being cold as hell.

Week Recap:
Monday: 0
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: 10.75 with Karl Meltzer
Thursday: 0
Friday: 10.75 (Frostbite on Belly)
Saturday: 8 Mile Hike
Sunday: 0 - GYM for S&C
Total: 29.5 Miles