Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Race Review: The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra

Name: Damn Wakely Dam Ultra
Distance(s): 32.6 Miles
Course Type: Point to Point on Single Track Trails
# of Aid Stations: 1 (The Finish)
Course Record: Ian Schouten - 4:54:09 / Courtney Smith - 5:59:24
Years In Operation: 8
SJ Years Run: 2005, 2006
SJ Best Place/Time: 18th / 7:02:42
Website Address: http://www.wakelydam.com

Description: The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra is a trail run through the Adirondack Park Wilderness of New York State along a remote and 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.

Thoughts: I've run the Wakely Dam ultra twice (2006, 2007). Race director Jim Houghtaling (RD Jim) takes special care to make this event a fun filled adventure through the wilderness of NY State. But his dedication doesn't end there. Along with his crack-up crew of helpers, Jim turns this event into an uproarious good time with clever website themes, short films, and humorous tones towards those who would rather see the run not take place at all.

The course is a gem run on 99% single track trails through remote sections of Upstate NY. The course is marked only by original trail markers indicating the following of the Northville Placid Trail. The Website is a tribute to the RD's dedication to the race and participants enjoyment. Entry into the race is first come first served to race veterans first, then open to the public after a pre-determined deadline. The field size is usually no more than 50. There is no pre-race breakfast and post race meal has recently been upgraded to include the following: fruits, chips, salsa, cookies, junk and hot chicken quesadillas. Shwag typically consists of a technical shirt and freebies courtesy of sponsors. Awards are unique picture frames with race finishers art inserted inside. The race has no aid stations and participants are expected to run unsupported through its entire length.

The Grade:
Website: *****
Affordability: *****
Pre/Post Race Food: ***
Shwag: ***
Awards: ****
Course: *****
Marking: *****
Aid: (N/A)

Total Score: 30 out of 35 - 86% = B+

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Someone once said to me that "What makes hiking so great, is that its something you'll always go back to." And I must say that there is no better way of getting back to something when you can combine it with your other love... trail running. I've been in a pretty big funk lately. I'm always tired, my legs are killing me.. and for the first time in awhile I have some tweaks and twinges in various places. I don't know what's up, I hate the doctor, and I am about as close as I have been in many years to calling him t schedule an appointment. I don;t know if the funk is mental or physical... but I knew today was going to be a day of rejuvenation. I needed to get that "spark" back.. that special something that re-energizes me. I needed a re-birth. There has always been one constant activity in my life that has been the trigger of baptisms. And that constant in motion in the White Mountains.

I had various plans materialize and fall apart for the day. I guess I'll just take you on the journey from start to finish and hope you enjoy the ride today was. I had been kicking ideas around for a while about what to do today. The first plan was to go to Pittsfield, VT and run part of the NE 200/100 course. But with the race falling apart (more on this later), I knew I had to switch my plans to save some sanity. Then I turned my attention to the White Mountains. The MMD 50K is taking place today and I thought about participating in that. But the thought of being out there for over 24 hours didn't intrigue me one bit given my current mental and physical status. So I turned my attention to "peak-bagging" and decided that I was going to try to bag Isolation and Owls Head in the same day. Something which to my knowledge had never been done. I went to bed last night thinking that this would be the plan.

I woke up before the alarm and felt that tightness and soreness in my legs I'd been feeling for awhile now. I was still very much tired and elected to stay in bed awhile longer and re-adjust my plan for the day. I woke up at 8, showered, ate and packed my fanny pack. I hopped in my car and headed north. But before I left I looked at my list of peaks that I need for the month of August. One stood out like a sore thumb and I hadn't been there since Memorial Day Weekend of 2006. I was going to hike Carrigain. I decided that I would climb the peak and head down the backside by way of the Desolation Trail. When I got to the Valley I would head to Still Water Junction, a place in the whites I had always wanted to go. Then I'd finish the run by running around the base of the mountain, through Carrigain Notch and back to the car. While driving up I passed many of my favorite swimming holes thinking about how great they'll feel upon the end of my run. I parked my car and left at 11am with a quick trot, and was quickly heading up the trail.

The Signal Ridge trail follows along the Sawyer river for most of its early stages, crossing over various old logging roads along the way. The legendary Timber Baron J.E. Henry used to log this area heavily.. so much so that the white mountains were nothing more than a barren wasteland. The trail head for this trail starts in the old abandoned and hard to find town of Livermore, where nothing more than a few chimneys remain decaying in the plush woods. The trail today was muddy and wet, as is everything else in the state of New Hampshire providing all the rain we've had. The sky was a gorgeous blue with only a few high puffy clouds milling about. Todays forecast called for the chance of Showers and Thunderstorms with highs in the upper 70's. It was perfect.

Not far up the trail I stopped "thinking" and took to listening and taking in the surroundings. I noticed that the cloud cover was now turning to almost an over cast yet the sun was still shining. What really stuck in my head was the lack of any movement. There was no wind.. and there were no birds. There was nothing.. just a deafening silence. I thought nothing of it and continued moving onward and upward. I crossed the few high river and stream crossings and breathed in deeply the musty smell the woods were giving off.

Its that same smell you may have took in in you grandmothers basement. For some reason I love this smell and I took in some deep deep breaths to enjoy. It was humid for sure!

As I finally really began to climb the switchbacks, the trail became rocky as is the normal here in New Hampshire. And once again I thought of those who live in or run in Virginia who talk about the rocks at Massanutten, these pictures are for you:

As I continued to climb I started hearing a rumble in the distance. It was a short rumble like what an airplane would give off and I figured it was the Green Mountain Boys doing their maneuvers in their expensive F-16's as they typically do in our area. I continued climbing and went past a single hiker, then later a young couple. It felt like it was raining a bit and as I looked up I noticed nothing more than the sun and some blue sky. I figured it was the humidity leaving dew on the trees and it falling off. But then I started thinking. 1.) The rumble came from the East and the GMB don't do maneuvers to the East. 2.) This mountain is notorious for making its own weather. 3.) It's still sprinkling 4.) There was that eerie silence earlier.... I knew exactly what was happening I just needed to get myself to a vantage point where I can look around. Finally, I came to the first outlook where I got a view to the south and east as well as UP. Here is what I shot:

As you can see from the view to the South and East, the shadows were pretty long and the clouds pretty numerous. In the second photo I had looked up and realized the unfortunate and inevitable. A thunderstorm was indeed brewing to the west. Being on the Eastern Slope of the mountain is blocking the sounds of the thunder except for what is echoing off peaks near-by. My plan was now changing. I convinced myself that my day was once again going to be cut short. There would be no Still Water Junction and no run around the base. The plan was now to keep pushing forward and hope to get to the summit so I can bag the peak. As I continued to climb, spurts of heavier rain fell intermittently and the rumbles finally started to come into ear shot. I looked back and saw the gray/black cloud circling around this mountain, but hoped it was far enough away that I could bag the peak.

A hiker was descending on his own and mentioned his buddies had gone on to the summit. He, on the other hand, decided it was a dangerous trip and was heading for the car. I hadn't REALLY seen or heard anything yet so I continued to push forward. My plan changed once again. I was now hoping to run into this guys buddies who I had hoped got a better view of the situation, and if not, I would simply make it to Signal Ridge where I would be above tree line, in the open, and could get a view for myself. As I started to climb I noticed the wind picking up. The leaves rustled and the rain became more constant. The thunder in the distance was becoming louder and louder and more constant. I pushed harder... so hard that I was losing my breath, my heart beating nearly out of my chest and I was gasping for life. I stopped to drink and take in a few gels. I was in the tight switchbacks now and I knew exactly where I was. Signal ridge was just 100 yards away and I was looking forward to seeing the view. The summit is all of .4 miles from there. As I stopped to drink, it happened. The FLASH BANG! But this time it was different. In that split second before the bang and after the flash, I felt a wave of energy thump against my chest. Lightning had struck so close that my ears rang, my chest hurt and I had a small accident in my running shorts. I immediately and Finally made the right decision to turn around and book it down the mountain. But first... a picture of the moment right after the lightning strike.

Its never easy being turned away from a summit, especially when you're all of a half a mile from it. Here are the views I missed for YOUR enjoyment:
(Signal Ridge looking to the summit)

(The view from the top)

I couldn't worry about not making it to the summit though. I had quite a challenge before me. I was 4,000+ feet up with a thunderstorm bearing down on this mountain. This mountain which happens to be a huge mound of earth, the highest in its vicinity. not to mention those rocks I showed you earlier... now were they not only moss and lichen covered by they were SOAKED and slick. It's times like these when I enjoy taking a test. I booked it.. and let me tell you... if downhill running was an Olympic Sport, today I would have won the Gold Medal and set a world record.

Very few times in my life have I run faster down a trail. My ankles twisted and turned. The thunder got closer, louder and more frequent. Now I had to run for my life to the car in the hopes of remaining safe. The rain came down in buckets and soon I was soaked. I came up on those hikers I saw earlier and scared them as I whizzed by.

I wanted to stop but I just kept running. I noticed it getting brighter, the rain let up and the sun was coming out. I slowed down to a fast walk to catch my breath before negotiating the stream crossings. I had a moment to reflect on the day thus far. Here I was, running alone, no rain gear, no long sleeve anything. Just me, my waist pack, some gels, drinks and a camera. I wondered if I could have just waited it out up high and gone for the summit. What if this was just an isolated storm? The wind picked up as chills ran down my spine.. I needed to keep moving. I'll reflect later. I picked up running again but took it easy along the river sections.

And then... it started to get dark. REALLY Dark... Night time dark. I was having a hard time focusing on the rocks. I was soaked, dripping wet, and it was getting darker. The wind gusted strongly and I heard rain coming in the distance. This is not good. And then... the storm REALLY HIT. Lightning flashed frequently, the rain came down in unthinkable ways. I took the camera and held it in front of me as I tried to concentrate on the rocks. I was amazed I got a picture off, but I think it tells the story of how things were going at this point: (Note: Its 1pm when I took this)

Finally, I reached the car and the skies just dumped the weight of the sky on the world. It was amazing. I asked a hiker packing up under his hatchback to take a picture of me. He asked, "Of what?!" I said, "Of rebirth."

I ran the 9 miles up and back in 2 Hours 15 Minutes. I got in my car and headed down the road to Route 302. It wasn't raining here yet by the sky told a story.

I stopped on my way to Conway, somewhere in Bartlett to take a photo of the storm I had negotiated.

I got back in and drove to Conway. As I got onto the back-roads around town I came across Diana's Baths. I had never been here before but knew it was a popular swimming hole. With the storm still moving in, I got out of my car and ran to the swimming hole some .6 miles in. The falls are beautiful for sure. But I was interested in soaking my legs. I was all ready wet, but its the flow of the river, the clean water, the essence of earth that my body needed. I got in the water and soaked before running back to the car. Total Miles Here: 1.2

I've made it "back" to the mountains twice these week and each adventure by itself was full of its own unique challenges. Challenges both physical, mental and environmental. But its time like today where I can put some "zing" back into my soul and understand once again why I'm out here doing what I do. I turned around on Carter Dome on Tuesday and I turned around on Carrigain today. Today was a day where I made some poor decision but continued to push the envelope to see what lies within. I realized that there is still a flame within thats burning bright. While in recent days its felt like the flicker on a wick, I know now that its more like a raging fire. Part of why I, why WE, do the things that we do in running and hiking is because of the risk of failure. Nobody wants to fail and its the action of challenging yourself to succeed, to push beyond what you think the limit is that drives us to success.

I have some great adventures lined up over the next few months. This morning I wasn't into these things as much as I want to be. But after todays journey. After challenging my mind, after pushing the limit and after washing my soul in the waters of earth, I'm ready to roll. The journey continues, the adventure is new. Life is good and I'm so glad you are all in it with me.

Happy Trails.

(Oh yeah... I made the right choice to turn around. Soon after leaving Diana's Baths, a massive hail storm rained down on the area. Vivid cloud to ground lightning was everywhere... I dodged a bullet today. I guess I better screw the cap on tighter because I tell you...after lightning hit up High.. I looked like this running (see below):

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K

16th Annual I believe.... either way, it was a less than stellar performance by yours truly. When my father asked me if I'd like to join the Velcro Team, I reluctantly said "sure" and asked if I could be a competitive runner this time around. Race rules state that competitive runners must be able to run 5K (3.105 Miles) in less than 23 Minutes, or so thats what I was told.. no problem right? Well, this ole' boy got a lesson in butt whoppin' tonight.

I took to the starting line to see one of my friends Eric Towle standing there in the same division. He asked me what my time goal was and I said "Sub 23 Minutes... but it 'aint gonna happen, I'll be happy with 25-26 minutes for 5K." Pretty quick the gun went off and all of the nearly 5,000 runners (yes... for a 5K) took off down Elm Street in Manchester, NH. The minute I took my first few steps, my body gave me the international symbol for "you're flippin crazy bud." I tried my best to get it in gear and amble down the road as fast as I could.... I ended up WALKING... TWICE in the first mile of the race while still posting an 8:42 mile. I turned the corner and made it to the first aid station where I walked again to sip some water. I picked up a light jog and headed down Commercial St. I made it to mile 2 at 17:10 which was good enough for a 2nd mile time of 8:28... I slowed to a walk again... I walked briskly before running the next down hill section. It was pretty clear by now that my body is NOT at all used to any of this. I want to run the downs and flats and walk the ups! Oh Wait... the entire course is flat and down except for the 50 yard hill near the finish... but I want to run FAST like the rest of the looney tunes! QUICK.. EVERYONE HURRY UP AND FINISH!!!

I picked it up again and tried running a little more... I ran another down hill and walked again. This time, a runner came by and gave me the symbol for "come on bud..." I looked at him and shrugged with a puzzled look... "Yeah whatever..." I was pissed. But I picked it up and tried running as hard as I could again. I got to mile 3 and the clock read 25:33... Mile 3 split was 8:23.. at least I'm still picking up steam! As I made it to the top of THE hill, I started running down the shute to the finish. I watched a guy wave to friends in the crowd and then I heard a sound. It sounded like he was pretending to puke... I looked back to laugh with him when it happened.. the puke sound again followed by a splash on my leg. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! This is a 5K! THREE MILES and this guy is PUKING! Why?!

You guessed it... he drank too much!

Time: 26:42
Division: 134/254 (Males 25-29)
Place: 1,171 out of 4,827

So I didn't break 23 minutes, and the performance overall was horrible. I walked a total of 5 times over the course of 3 miles. But my split times were consistently faster each mile and I still finish within what I knew I could achieve... but hey... time to go back to Endurance Land.. to hell with this speed stuff.. ICK! (The last official 5K I ran was on Thanksgiving in November 2007).
Dad ran a 32:23. In the 5 and a half minutes between us, over 1,400 runners crossed the line! And way to go to my Step Mom Helen who had a goal of breaking 40 Minutes... she banged out a 40:51!!
But lets talk about the puking guy! Yes.. its August. Yes.. it is important to drink. But consistently now I see races trying to tell runners to drink drink drink. When will races finally learn (Ultra's EXcluded) and try to educate runners about the dangers of too much water along side with the importance of drinking. Here is what the Race website says:
"Before the race, drink plenty of fluids. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests 13–17 fluid ounces 10 to 15 minutes before competition." Yes Yes... drink drink drink little fish. Its good for you... just wait till you read what else we're going to tell you...

"Drink plenty of fluids during the race and afterwards. Drink frequently during the race. Don’t hesitate to splash water on your body. This aids evaporation and cooling of the body." yes.. we now have Before, During and After... DRINK! Drink as much as you can and please... use a little to sprinkle on your sweaty heads. It feels nice!

"Try to keep your shoes dry; soggy shoes can lead to blisters." Yes... because Jebus wouldn't want us to have blisters from our little 3 mile run.. WHAT?!

"Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do not overexert yourself." Yes... since you'll be drinking a gallon of water over the next HOUR as we've instructed you to do BEFORE... DURING... and AFTER our 3 mile run... you might want to pay attention to your swollen hands where your fingers look like sausage. Notice your headache, the nausea and of course your need to PEE like a race horse. Hey... we only told you to drink... now that you have a problem from listenning to us... you're on your own.


(back to the trails...again)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wheres Karl??

Where IS Karl?
I just got home from my run on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire today. My goal was to run North from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and run into Karl on his way south. Let me just say that after spending the day running through the absolutely SOAKED forest, through ankle deep mud, submerged bog bridges.. only to have the sun FINALLY come out (1st time in 8 days)... then for the weather to turn back to rain and thunder... What Karl has accomplished thus far is in my book... BEYOND amazing.

Before I went to bed last night I noticed Karl's Spot Tracker on whereskarl.com had stopped tracking him in Grafton Notch Maine. I knew he had stopped for the night there... he HAD too. What lie south of his location is legendary as the AT's toughest miles. The Mahoosuc Notch Traverse. In here, one must negotiate rocks the size of cars. Take off your gear and push it under rocks, throw it over rocks, lower it down from rocks... and not to mention do the same to your body. At 7:15 last night, he stopped for the day, just short of heading into this little slice of heaven.

I left my house this morning in the middle of yet another driving rain storm. To put it into perspective for some of you not in the area. Since Karl started his run, he has had over 9 inches of rain fall upon him over the course of 8 days. But where the hell is he??!!

I headed north on the AT hoping to catch him. I encountered MANY north bounders who are all sick of the weather. Remember... New Hampshire IS known as The Home of the Worlds Worst Weather and the nickname is living up to its expectations. Its also home to the most rugged portion of the AT. I came across a woman who had broken her arm after slipped off of a bog bridge. Another AT thru hiker had used a book and athletic tape to create a splint. As I made it to Carter Notch Hut.. I walked inside to see a man with a rolled (if not broken ankle) from his decent of the Carter Dome area. The trail, and mother earth, is eating its young up here. Yet... where is Karl?!

As I made my own way up Carter Dome.. I looked west to the Presi range to see the next round of showers and storms rolling in.

Enough for me! I headed for the valley and ran the road to my car. I got in and drove down to Gorham where I found the wonderful Winebago!

I pulled up and rolled down the window to which I asked Karl's Dad "Where the Hell is Karl?!" Ahh... finally I found out where he is.. he was still trying to make his way through the Mahoosucs and Matt hart was with him. Good for them!

9+" of Rain. The most rugged terrain on the trail. The Most Remote terrain on the trail... and Karl will have covered 310 Miles in his first 9 Days. A few things are for sure... Karl's a bit behind but doing well... and he sure as hell SOAKED.


MAP of my Run

Monday, August 11, 2008

Home Again, Home Again...

What an amazing time we had on our vacation this past week and I still have today and tomorrow left! I'd LOVE to fill you all in on our adventure through New York and Ohio as well as introduce you to my extended family on my mothers side. Sarah and myself caravanned out and back with my sister, her husband and their two boys Kenny and Timmy. We had an awesome time filled with memories to last forever.
Tuesday, August 5: Nashua, NH to Auburn, NY
We left Nashua and headed for New York State, our "fun" destination of the day was Cooperstown, NY and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately on the way, we somehow missed the way to I-90 West and ended up on I-87 North. We made it to Glens Falls before realizing the mistake (Doh!) but quickly corrected ourselves, headed back to Albany and right back on track. We made it to Cooperstown and enjoyed seeing the birthplace of baseball as well as the hall of fame and all it's artifacts.

I have to tell you that I have a new appreciation for the game of Baseball and its place as our national past time. If you don't get it... then head over to Cooperstown to try and understand for yourself. I also grew another new sense of appreciation for the rivalry that is Red Sox/Yankees. Even at the HOF, Sox fans gave the Yankees fans crap and vice versa as they walked around the museum. It was both funny and sad. I'm a Red Sox fan and always will be, its all in good fun to give the Yankee Fans some crap. :)

We then made our way to Auburn, NY after no luck in finding a room in Weedsport. Apparently there was a farm show in the area and most of the hotels were booked solid. We were steered to Auburn where we all crammed into a room. On Wednesday, my brother and I woke up and enjoyed a short run through the streets of this wonderful little town before taking off on our next adventure.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008: Auburn, NY to Geneva, OH via Niagara Falls
We loaded up the vehicles and headed for Niagara Falls. I'd never been to the falls before and was unsure what to expect. When we finally got there I was all spun around. I thought the St. Lawrence waterway dumped into Lake Ontario and then Erie as opposed to the way it actually does work, with the Great Lakes draining into the St. Lawrence. We ate lunch under the tree's near where the falls were first discovered. We had a gorgeous weather day to be here with a light breeze and the temps in the 70's. We walked over to the American Falls to get a closer look.

Amazed at the power flowing over the rocky earth.. we knew exactly what we had to do next. So.. we bought tickets to the Maid of the Mist Boats!

The boast take you right up into the whirlpool areas where the falls are. It was simply amazing as the spray rained down on us. By far one of the most powerful and exhilarating experiences of my life.

Then we walked up to the side of the American Falls for a closer look. Simply amazing!

We walked over to the Canadian side for a view from over there. Did you know that you have to pay a .50 cent toll to come back to America!? Either way, the view was phenomenal. (Running out of Adjectives)

We loaded back in the cars and headed for Ohio, stopping in Geneva on the Lake. We stayed in a pretty shady Howard Johnson's hotel for the night. The sheets on our bed had cigarette burns in them. Nice huh?! Either way, we just wanted sleep. Mike and I woke up early again for another short run through a new town. We made our way through the quiet town of Geneva as a rainbow hung in the sky above and a light rain fell.
Thursday, August 7, 2008: Geneva, OH to Wooster, OH via Cleveland.
We made our way into downtown Cleveland where we finally got up close and personal with Lake Erie. We went to the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame which doesn't allow photography inside but we got a few shots from outside.

The Rock Hall was fun as they do a good job outlining Rock N' Rolls roots. You get a chance to see what musicians of old influenced the rockers of today. They have some great films, interactive exhibits and some pretty neat artifacts donated from artists themselves. What I think I enjoyed most were the Michael Jackson artifacts complete with outfits from Thriller and the "white glove."

The rest of the weekend was spent at my family reunion in Wooster, OH. 160+ of my relatives on my mothers side attended at some point during the weekend. We had our Friday Golf outing where my team was in a 3 way tie for first place at -5. We then had a pizza part and games Friday Night. Saturday we had a great lunch, games outside which consisted of Bean bags and Bocce Ball and it was followed up by the big party. We all got together for pictures. As well as pictures of our generations. I'm in the 2nd cousins. The party was top notch as we played flip cup, had 1,200 Jello shots (I had well over 30) and drank over 30 cases of Bud and Bud Light. Some of the fam enjoyed various bottles of wine. We got to hear about the history of our family. Celebrated those who had passed on and enjoyed the company of those of us who came. It was a great time and as always it was sad to leave.
(The Kobilarcsik's)

(2nd Cousin's - My Generation)

It's vacations like these that really help rejuvenate the soul. I'm a very lucky person. I have a loving (and huge) family who supports me in my adventures very much. I was shocked to learn how many of the family actually visits this blog regularly. While I have the opportunity. Cancer is a disease that largely affects my family. Some of our closest relatives are currently suffering with the affliction while others have succumbed to it. On the right of my page you'll see my Fundraising Thermometer for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the charity I have chosen to run on behalf of. If you have not yet, or even if you have previously.. consider donating to my cause. Myself and my entire family thanks you and will keep you and yours in our prayers.

So.. unpacked today and off to the White Mountains tomorrow to meet up with Karl Meltzer as planned. Karl is currently running the Appalachian Trail and it looks like I'll be cutting the fog for him tomorrow as we try to beat the severe weather. Stay tuned!