Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Report: Vermont 50 2008


Bikers continued to line up on the access road to Ascutney Mountain Ski Resort, being called by class, and darting off into the darkness in large groups. As my buddy Pete lined his bike up in the Novice class, I gave Sarah some last minute instruction before walking down onto the pavement as well. I was looking at the starting line differently today. The last month has played out like an eternity. Questions asked.. answers given. A month ago this very weekend I had a hard time finishing a 17.5 mile race in New Hampshire Monadnock Region. Gasping for air, I leaned against trees searching for something.. anything. On that day I thought about folding my hand and taking my first DNF. Instead, I shuffled forward as I always do and saw myself to the finish line. When I went to the doctors and heard words like blood deficiency, cardia arrest and surgical proceedures.. it scared me. I nervously moved forward with my physical struggle.. my mental battle forever rages on. But on this day, this day beneath the clouds, under a canopy of color, mingling with friends.. I looked up at the word START stretched across the street and I knew today could hold something special. What? I did not know.. but I was determined to find out. You never know when its going to be your last race..

I stood on the starting line joking and chatting with Nate Sanel, Adam Wilcox, Leigh Schmidt, Jack Pilla, Todd Walker and Pat Hamel. Part of what I love about this sport is that over-all feeling of equality. Equality amongst men where we stand at the threshold of battle and find the time to joke, smile and enjoy each others company. Everyone wished each other well on the journey we were about to take. I glanced one last time at the word start as a precision based mental focus overcame my mind. Was this how today would be run? A mental race, where I truly race against myself, fueling an inner fire to succeed, to live, to strive, to survive... to prove? GO! We were off.

Nate, Adam and I hung together on the paved section before heading down the first dirt road. Nate quickly pulled away from us and it was just Adam and I not long after. Adam asked, "Where did Nate go?" I turned to look at Adam, smiled and told him we might see him again if he's going out that fast. I heard Zeke Zucker pull up behind us and I rather enjoy Zeke's pace early in a race. So we hung back with Zeke and his group and plodded along. But there was something different about this group.. a voice. I heard a female voice and as I turned my head there she was. Ultrarunning and New England Peak-bagging Legend Sue Johnston. "Hello John... you know you're getting a LOT better!" I was stunned. Sue and I share a rough history of mis-representation, rumors and jabs. And here we were, on this day running through the country roads of Vermont, having a civil and lovely conversation. I congratulated her on some of her latest adventures and we struck up conversation as we made our way up the first hill.

As the race wore on and we past our first aid station, Adam and I shared a conversation about life. Adam and I have been friends for a few years now and earlier this year I told him he could run this race in sub 10. He took the challenge and ran beside me for much of the day. I enjoyed his company immensely as we ran along. We came to a rather large mud puddle and we opted to dodge around it given the early nature of the race in an attempt to stay somewhat dry. We ran into the bushes around the puddle and as we came out the otherside... I noticed a cut on my knee and a stinging sensation on my legs. GREAT! Stinging Nettle! We ran in awkward positions as we itched and scratched until we found a puddle on the side of the trail. We stopped and washed our legs off to kill the sting before moving forward. As we ran into the first Handler Station I found Sarah. I ran over to her and she had all of my stuff sitting around a chair. I picked through my gear for what I wanted and set her off to fill my bottle with water. I looked up and saw Sue... "Adam! Lets go!" We were off. As we made our way out of Skunk Hollow I looked at Adam and told him, "I don;t know if I can do it... but I'd like to finish ahead of Sue."

The next section of the course is a long continuous up-hill which runs us along an immaculate rock wall bordering area hay fields. At the top of the hill is the sugaring shack and shed filled with fire-wood to fuel the operation. The past 2 years I've run this race, I felt terrible on this hill and walked... today Adam and I ran most of it and in recognizing I was doing so.. the gears in my head began to turn. I had three goals for this race. 1. is always to finish. 2.) Was Sub 10:06 which would be a course PR. And the Other was sub 9:47 which would have been a 50 mile PR. Goal 1 never changes. Goal 2 is something I think I have a good shot at achieving.. 3 is a far fetched goal where I typically set the bar too high. As we ran up this hill... Goal 1 was well within my sights.

As Adam and I climbed another hill around 20 miles we spotted Nate. Nate slowed down, walked backwards and waited for us. We did some of our usual jawing back and forth (yes I know I start it Nate). At one point Adam and Nate were behind me running together and I had a flashback to this years Vermont 100, "Gee guys... this is a familiar sight. You two behind me." I think Nate was getting pissed. I'm not used to seeing him without his glasses. He didn't look 100% to me and I thought about not giving him shit anymore until he fired back... "When I pass you later I'm not going to let you forget it. I'm going to give you so much shit! I'm going to burry you!" Nate then tried to slow me down as I was indeed running uphill and at a faster pace than I normally do... and then it happened... I said it. "Ya know guys... just once I want to leave it all out here. I want to run fast, get tired, hang on for dear life and crash into the finish line a total mental and physical mess." The replies echoed through my soul, "Then do it. Go for it!" The gears turned a little more as Adam and I moved ahead of Nate.

As Adam and I moved away from Nate and through the new "Rollercoaster" aid station, I looked back and Sue had caught us. We made small talk as we carried on. I tried my best to keep up with her.. the whole time thinking I was crazy to even try, afraid of burning myself out. Moments later it was just her and I with Adam a bit further back. "Sue... I owe you an apology." For a while now I've wanted to right and wrong and today seemed like the perfect day to do it. We exchanged apologies and cleared the air, making sure we were on the same page about what events transpired to bring us to our more embarrassing moments in dealing with each other. I was relieved and felt a huge weight lifting from my shoulders in knowing that a wrong was righted... and continued on. Adam, Sue and I ran into Smoke Rise together, picking from the aid station table. I started to linger as I sometimes do until I heard, "Come on John!" I looked up and Sue was waving for me to come catch her and continue on together. From foes to friends... we were helping each other.. her more-so helping me. As Sue and I made our way out of Smoke Rise I was feeling great and moving fine... Adam began to trail off and we suddenly lost him.

As Sue and I ran I told her I wanted to PR here today. We had just run the first 26 miles in 4:20. Sue told me, "If you keep up your current pace you can pass a lot of people. Just keep it up.. you're doing great!" I listened to her closely and started to think that I CAN DO THIS. I moved forward with purpose, thinking methodically about how I wanted the rest of this race to play out. A lot of thoughts crossed my mind. The start line.. the finish line. My scare with anemia. My life in general... and then motivation and inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. I had a vision. A pair of eyes started at me from the trail and lured me forward. I was focused.. fixed on a goal.. I ran on. I made my way into Dugdale's where Sarah had my chair waiting for me. I wanted my waist pack but it was up in the car.. she ran to get it. I sat in the chair and changed my shoes as quickly as I could. My Brooks Cascadia's were killing my feet due to their lack of arch support. I threw on my ASR 5's and felt instantly better. Sarah arrived with my pack... I only had one baggy of drink mix... "Where are the extra bags of mix?" They too were in the car. Thankful I got to change my shoes, Adam's dad filled my bottles for me. I needed an energy plan. I drank more of a boost than I normally would, loaded my pack up with gels.. and decided I'd conserve what drink mix I had in the bottle. I was disappointed but still determined. "How you doing John?" ... "I'm on a Mission... it's called 9:47"

I left Dugdale's and turned back to see Sue again. I stopped to answer Nature's call and as I ran back out onto the road we ran together along this section of the course that closely mirror's the final miles of the Vermont 100. Sue continued to encourage and push me to run run run. "You are doing great John... just keep it up." It seemed as though every time I put my head down today in a moment of underlying defeat, Sue Johnston picked me back up. "Come on Sherpa... you've got this." I carried on. As we made our way up the road and turned onto the next section of Single-track... I replayed what I said to Nate earlier in the race, "Ya know guys... just once I want to leave it all out here. I want to run fast, get tired, hang on for dear life and crash into the finish line a total mental and physical mess." Just once I want to leave it all out there... hang on for dear life... total mental mess..... At this point in the race I still feel great and I know full well that my pace thus far was MUCH faster than I had ever run this far into a 50 Miler before. I WAS laying it all out here... I WAS getting to the point of hanging on for dear life... and who knows what the finish line would bring.

As I ran ahead I caught up with Ian and Emma Parlin. Ian was hoping for a sub 9 hour finish but was feeling nauseam. As we made our way along the switchback sections of mile 35ish.. Emma and I seemed to be pushing and pulling each other a long now. I didn't know where Sue had gone.. and I was starting to tire. I heard cheering and applause up ahead but know there are no aid stations near-by. As we rounded the final switches leading up to the house on the hill, the owners were having a porch party cheering all of the competitors on. I ran up the hill clapping for them and thanked them for allowing us to use their land. Then I heard the magic word... BEER! "Where is the beer?!" "Around the corner in a cooler!" Say it aint so. I rounded the next turn and there was a sign with an arrow pointing at a chair resting on the hill with a cooler on top. I walked up to the cooler, openned it and found some Long Trail Blackberry Wheat... HEAVEN! I pulled one out of its plastic coffin, unscrewed the top, raised the bottle in the air and yelled "Cheers!" placed it upon my lips and chugged about 3/4 of the bottle of Beer. I placed the rest on the chair for the next thirsty runner and hurried along. Emma asked me, "Sherpa, did you just down a beer." "Why yes I did.. and it was AMAZING!"

Emma raced ahead with me in hot pursuit... I couldn't chase her long as she quickly disappeared but I carried on in my blistered pace. My legs began to go numb, my knees were starting to get sore, my brain was going a thousand miles a minute. I thought about a lot of things.. I thought about everything. I thought about people important to me. I thought about my life.. I thought about the impossible... which for those who don't know DOES NOT EXIST. And then I thought about what I try to preach to people I meet... Human Potential. Yeah.. that thought of Human Potential, what it is, where it is.. how do I tap into it? I ran up another road section I've always walked at the race before turning onto a long section of trail which leads into Goodman's Aid station at 39 Miles. As I turned onto the trail.. I found my human potential. I tapped into the unknown area of my soul which I discovered on this very day that I had merely glanced upon before. As my eyes locked on the course, I did some math in my head, "If I can only make it to Johnson's by 3:30pm.. I can break 9:47." My eyes fixed on the trail ,I sought motivation from an unsuspecting place. The most gorgeous pair of eyes I've ever seen appeared before me. Was this another hallucination? No.. it was something else. I stared ahead, left right repeat flying down the trail towards Goodman's. I popped out of the woods and onto another rd forging ahead leaving nothing but the mud and leaves in my wake.

I ran into Goodmans and saw Scott Deslongchamps "I'm hoping to break 10" he exclaimed. "You've got it in the bag Scott.. just keep going!" He at his watch and then looked at me. I stood there eating a grilled cheese. My legs shook from shock. My arms quivered. Sweat gushed down my face. I was soaked from head to toe.. feeling good... but I was doing what I wanted to do. Run fast and hang on for dear life. "Sherpa.. you are FLYIN!" Scott yelled... "I'm hangin on Scott... hangin on!" Another female runner offered some encouragement as we both took off down the trail. 40 Miles down... 10 to go.

These last 10 miles of the course are probably the worst. The section between Goodmans(39) and Johnsons (46) are the most technical and muddiest on the course. I continued to pass weary runners one by one as I felt myself beginning to fade. I had refilled my water bottles at Goodmans and was now pumping power-gels into my system at a disgusting rate. I was fighting off exhaustion and my body was begging for forgiveness. The pain in my legs is now screaming with torture.. I'm hanging on as tight as I can and pushing forward. I caught a few bikers and used them as a pacer, much like I had used horses in the Vermont 100. Up and down hills, through streams, across bridges.. over rock and root.. through deep piles of mud that splashed all over every inch of my body as I ran feverishly across the land. Sweat poured down my face and as I wiped it off, tiny shards of salt scraped against my skin. My legs felt like they were starting to cramp.. I downed some S-Caps to ward off the inevitable. I was truly leaving it all out here.. physically and mentally. I hopped off the trail around mile 45 and onto a dirt road. As I lifted my head I saw Mt. Ascutney... I started to lose control of my emotions. I got choked up, tears welled into my eyes and only one managed an escape. I talked myself into hanging on for just a little bit longer... "Just hang on John.. keep it together... we're not there yet." I put my head down and ran across some more fields and onto the next road where I found Emma. She had a good clip going. We crossed the bridged and rounded the turn onto 44. She looked back and saw me.. I was a complete mess. My face was beet red and on fire. My legs burned and screamed. My pace was slowing... but I had found my human potential. "Come on John... You're gonna get your PR... lets go!" She fired me up as I walked into Johnson's aid station. Sarah asked what I needed.. I opted for a few more gels and a refill of my bottles. Some more fruit from the aid table and I was off.


What used to be the final 3 miles of the course from Johnson's was now the final 4.6. And the longest 4.6 miles of my life. I had no idea where I was.. just that I needed to keep moving. I heard a few reports of what time it was along the way and a realization had popped into my head back before mile 35. I COULD potential shatter my VT50 PR.. and my 50 Mile PR and complete what I thought was impossible. Nate told me he wanted to break 9 hours at the Vermont 50 way back at the beginning of August, "Good luck Nate.. I'll never see that." Was my reply. And yet here today underneath the clouds.. under the canopy of color.. with my Human Potential placed brilliantly before me.. I all of a sudden found out what possible is. I pushed up the final miles, placing my hands on my hips and running every uphill that I could. I sucked down Gel after gel in an effort to get as much energy in my system as I could. I drank water and breathed deep. The hills had been saturated with water all day long. Mud covered every inch of the course.. but as I wrote in my blog only days before.. I am the Mud Master.

I was lost in a sea of switchbacks when I heard Emma again.. "Sherpa.. LETS GO!" I was talking to a biker about how the course had changed. I grumbled and continued on. My legs are done. My muscles are tightening with every step. As I ran along, I concentrated on how my body was actually feeling. This was indeed a special moment and I didn't want to forget it. I honed in on my muscles and suddenly I felt it. Every since fiber in my body was working together to achieve what I said was impossible., which from this point on does not exist. I forged ahead along the sides of Mount Ascutney in what has always been one of my favorite races of all time even before today. The leaves fell from the sky as the wind picked up. And I began to sing songs in my head. What is Human Potential? I once wrote, "Well you see, I believe that in every human being lies this untapped potential to achieve great things. Whether those things are physical, subjective or spiritual.. it doesn't matter....I want to be a part of the process where individuals can realize their Human Potential and tap into it... Drink from the waters of your soul and your heart will carry you to places of grandeur. No it won't be easy, it might hurt.. but IT CAN BE DONE. The human body is the most amazing instrument you will EVER own. Why don't you take it out for a spin and learn what your potential REALLY is. You'll be surprised.. I promise. Human Potential is UNLIMITED, so don't be afriad to get in line and take a drink from the waters of life."

Human potential is unlimited and in those final miles, I rode a wave of spirituality that sent my heart into a frenzy. I drank from the waters of life as the waters of my soul spilled from my pours. I ran as hard as I've ever run before, discovering what my own Human Potential is.. practicing what I preach. So many times in sport people tell us what is right and what is wrong. What you HAVE to do to accomplish certain goals. Sometimes its a matter of running fartleks and repeats. Sometimes its being told you need to eat right or you'll never be in shape enough. Sometimes you're told that a 6:31 50K two weeks before the Vermont 50 will never equal a sub 9 in the mountains of Vermont. But its the times when your human potential knows what is best. When that will power fuels your engine and gets your meat turbines turning over. Its the times when your HP politely raises that middle finger into the air for the naysayers to see... that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE and IMPOSSIBLE DOES NOT EXIST. And just as it says on my shirt.. "You say I can't, I'll Show you I can" I soldiered on. I rounded the last turn and across the ski slopes. The grass is muddy and soaked. I bear left and begin to run down the hill, I take a sharp left and look straight ahead at that next sign.... FINISH.

I run as fast as I possibly could. I thanked god for giving me strength, my grandfather for his courage and I thank those who've helped me today.. Sue, Emma and Nate. My legs flew everywhere as I ran down the final stretch.. clapping my hands in sheer excitement. I ran all out across the finish line fearing I would fall.


I crossed the line and stopped. My hamstrings and quads curled up into balls, into the tightest cramps I've ever felt. I couldn't move as tears streaked down my face. I'm drenched with sweat, my body is shaking and quivering. Shock begins to set in. My vision is blurred, I'm dizzy and can only hear one thing amidst the cheering supporters. I heard my own voice... the voice that keeps me going. The voice I listen to rather than an iPod.. the voice that at the finish line on this special day said, "8 Hours and 58 Minutes John... You did it man... You did it! You ran as fast as you could, left nothing out there, came crashing across the line... you are indeed a mess mentally and physically. You discovered your human potential.. its in you man... its in you." I placed my head into my hands, got on my knees.. and cried.

I stood up and was assisted by Eric. Eric usually does the time for the VT100 in a kilt. He picked me up and walked me over to get my medal. We walked into the nearby tent and shared 2 cups of Powerade Endurance drink. We clinked cups as he thanked me.. apparently I motivated him in the final miles to push for the finish. Great job Eric! I found Pete who had finished in a time of something over 6 hours coming in 2nd for his age group in the Novice Class of the Mountain Bike Race. I was so happy to know Pete came out today and discovered his own Human Potential in his first 50 mile Bike Race.

I watched as Nate crossed the line.. he spotted me and pointed at me, "YOU are a friggin mad man... good work man." Thanks Nate. I walked down to the food line and saw Sue Johnston. She congratulated me on my run and then asked.."John.. did you run that fast because I was here? Did you want to beat me?" I looked her dead in the eye and with a smile said, "Absolutely." She smiled and we had a picture together of us in our new found friendship. Thanks to Sue.

And Adam... Adam broke sub 10 hours as well... just as I knew he could. Good Job Adam.

And so I sit here writing this report. Unsure of what REALLY to say. I am still in a state of disbelief. I have no idea how in the world I did that even though I know my potential finally came to light. I've never been this tired.. this sore after a run. I know I left it all out there. I'm extremely satisfied. I'm humbled... and I'm ready to start a new year of adventure in running. You never know when your last race is going to be... so dig in, go for a ride.. and see where your soul will lead you. Over mountains, through the pastures and along the muddy shore. The roads of dirt, pavement hurts.. and it hurts forever more. The sun will shine, the rain will fall.. your heart will carry you through. But as the clock ticks by, and your brain lingers on.. the only thing which fuels you is YOU.

(Standings will come as they are available)
Happy Trails.
SJ

Sunday, September 28, 2008

UPDATE: Vermont 50 Result

I just got home from the Vermont 50 and will have a report up within the next few days. I'm totally wrecked as of now. And for good reason. Lets go back to my race preview post to see my goals for the race and I'll let you know how I did:

Goals:
1.) FINISH
2.) Sub 10 Hours (Third times a charm??)
3.) Sub 9:47 (A New PR)

1.) DONE
2.) DONE
3.) DONE

My OLD VT50 PR was 10 Hours 6 Minutes
My OLD 50 Mile PR was 9 Hours 47 Minutes at the 2006 JFK 50.

MY NEW VT50 PR and NEW 50 Mile PR is now

8 HOURS 58 MINUTES!


Report to come!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Race Preview: Vermont 50

September 2006: 10 Hours 32 Minutes

September 2007: 10 Hours 6 Minutes


On Sunday, September 28, 2008 I will place my toe to the starting line of the Vermont 50 Mile Endurance Run. Upon completion of the race, I will have finished my 20th official Ultra-marathon and my 3rd Vermont 50. I will have finished this race in particular more times than any other. There is something about the VT50 that attaches itself to my soul. Maybe its the spirit of the whole thing, or maybe that this race is an all out mountain race set amongst the hillsides of the Green Mountain of Vermont. The Green Mountains of Vermont where autumn is in full swing, the colors near peak, maple syrup flowing. A chilly foggy start, leaves cascading along the trail... it really doesn't get much better than this.

Or maybe its that the race is a time for me to reflect on what has come to be the conclusion of another year of running. I started running in September 2004.. oh the places I've been, people I've met, things I've seen and hell I've endured over these last 4 years. The Vermont 50 isn't really the END of a year.. its the START of another. Alot has happened since the last Vermont 50 (2007). I ran the Kancamagus Highway in winter... at night in below zero temps and snow. I tried my luck at 150 miles, only to come up short at a muddy 100. I survived the Might Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. I tamed Pittsfield Peaks with a PR of almost 4 hours. I completed another sub 24 hour run at the Vermont 100... and discovered I was anemic. Finding out I was anemic was one of the scariest process's I have ever been through. Seeing what a lack of blood does to your physical and mental status is humbling.

Its with all of these thoughts that I walk into the Vermont 50 with a head full of ambition, drive and honor. A month ago I ran the Wapack 17.5 Mile trail race at what I considered to be 35% of my normal level of fitness. I'll arrive Sunday at the Vermont 50 back at 95% and feeling better than I have since early in 2007. I'll arrive at the Vermont 50 with my usual ambitious time goal... and the mental focus to make it happen.

The Story:

At the finish line of last years Vermont 50, my good friend Pete Nelson nonchalantly, challenged me to a duel in the dirt. Pete was so inspired by the camaraderie of us racers that he spewed, "I could totally do this." I replied... "Yup, I'm certain you could Pete... and I'd still beat you." The challenge was on. Pete, a smoker and avid drink-smith, made a commitment. He bought himself a decent mountain bike and started training. He quit smoking, but not drinking (though he did tone it down a bit), and has spent the better part of the last year preparing for the duel. This Sunday, its time for us to settle the score. The bet was that I could beat Pete. The wager? A case of Long Trail Double Bag. Now.. I know there is NO way in hell that I'm going to beat Pete by running 50 miles while he rode his bike 50 Miles.. unless we were witness to the great equalizer. MUD! And just what the doctor ordered... 2-4 inches of rain will fall on the course leading into race morning, leave the course a muddy mess. Pete has his work cut out for him... I'm just going through the motions. Regardless... I'm bringing the Double Bag and we'll share some brews at the end. Whether he finishes or not.. I'll be proud of my friend for rising to the challenge. I just hope he has as much fun as I.

When: Sunday, September 28, 2008
Start: 6:35AM
Distance: 50 Miles
Terrain: 22 Miles of Dirt Road, 28 miles of single track trail - 100% Roller Coaster Mountains
Goals: 1.) FINISH
2.) Sub 10 Hours (Third times a charm??)
3.) Sub 9:47 (A New PR)

See you there!
SJ

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

VERMUD???

And so the story goes. This month every year is where I take a moment to reflect on my running career. It was after all the month of September in 2004 where I took my first steps towards internal freedom. I think back to when I decided that "I am going to be an ultra-marathon runner." I stepped out my front door that next day and couldn't run a mile without walking. Being as stubborn as I am, I placed one foot in front of the other... Left, Right, Repeat.. and started a journey with seemingly no end. Running has changed my life. Running has become my life. It defines me and it continues to help me evolve. I love what I do. I love the community I am a part of and I look forward to many more great times personally and with all those around me. Thank you friends!

From one mile to 100... to hopefully 124. And along the way I've had many adventures. From the mountains of Wyoming, to the rocky slopes of Virginia. From the Farms of Down-east Maine to the clay covered hills of Western Pennsylvania. From the historic Civil War paths of Maryland to the cobblestone streets of Downtown Disney. From The Green Mountains of Vermont to the sea-side of Rhode Island. From chilly trails in Ipswich Massachusetts to the daunting hills of New Hampshire. From the Northville-Placid trail of New York to the muddy slopes of McNaughton Park Illinois. Muddy slopes? You don't say. This has become a common theme for me... I've said it before and I'll say it again. I AM AN EXPERT MUD TECHNICIAN. Lets take a look.

I have run a total of 18 official Ultra-Marathons since my first in 2005. Of those 18 races, I have dodged rain drops or handled mud in all but 7. That means it has rained or its been terribly muddy in 61% of the ultra's I've ran. But lets take a closer look at this year. 5 Ultras and 5 ultras with rain and/or mud.

6.24.06: Rachel Carson Trails Challenge 35 Miles, Pittsburgh, PA

Steep and relentless hills in Western Pennsylvania just North of Pittsburgh. 2-3" of rain fell the day before the race leaving these clay covered hills with the likeness of an ice skating rink. I slid down every downhill and had a hell of a time on every up hill. This course was a quad buster to begin with, but the constant shifting of the earth under me as well as high humidity and inexperience caused severe cramping in my calves. I held on for deer life in my only top 10 finish.

7.22.06: Wakely Dam 50K - Piseco, NY

Four inches of rain in the last 4 hours of this race. As if no aid stations make it tough enough, thunder and lightning was what the higher power ordered. So soaked it was beyond ridiculous. At least I had some fun when I finally made it to the finish line with a PR on this course by almost a whole hour!

9.24.06: Vermont 50 Mile - Brownsville, VT

Warm and humid at race start with an eerie feel in the air. 33 miles in, a torrential thunderstorm unleashes hell on the course. The trails turn into slick mud as the runners catch up to and pass an unusual amount of mountain bikers who had to resort to carrying their bikes due to failure to ride in the slick mud. Amazing what a passing shower will do. Those who hung around to feel the chilly winds watched the course dry.. but not after the damage had been done.

4.14.07: McNaughton Park 100 Miler - Pekin, IL

and 4.11.08: McNaughton Park 150 Miler - Pekin, IL


The conditions the last two years at McNaughton Park have resulted in my greatest battles of mental and physical conditioning against mother earth. I've never seen this course in "good shape" and at this point I could give a crud. This last year was the worst. As the race went on the rain continued to fall even mixing with snow. Mud was all over the place as I slid all over the course even making a "mud angle" on one of the steeper downhills. Throw in the 2 creek crossings on each loop and you had me waving the white flag after 100 miles in my first 150 mile start. Words cannot describe the hell I went through at McNaughton Park. 2 years with ankle to shin deep mud the consistency of peanut butter. Experience is gained HERE.

5.17.08: Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 - Front Royal, VA

From being down and out after a cold front blows over Short Mountain while my pacer Paul Kearney and I negotiate horrendous rocks to a resurrection and a finish in the middle of a downpour. I survived my first Massanutten Mountain 100 during a year where the course was its wettest in history only to be made worse by 30mph winds and a driving rain on the courses most technical and tiring section in the middle of the night. After shaking the cob-webs out at Edinburgh Gap, I rose to my feet and walked it in to an amazing finish saying to Paul, "What would make it perfect is if it poured on my way into the finish." Ask and ye shall receive as the rain gods delivered!


7.19.08: Vermont 100 - Woodstock, VT

The night before the race, a brief downpour hits the Start/Finish area as a severe storm rumbles along in the distance. During the early miles of the race we realized how lucky we were to get away with just a downpour. A downburst wreaked havoc on the course in Taftsville laying tree after tree down across the roads we were to run down. Volunteers do their best to clear the way. And then... as I approach mile 55, another storm rolls in which kept local officials on their toes with a threat to close down the event as winds nearly topple the tent at the Start/Finish area. Rain and hail pound the course and we see every bit of it as the VT100 sees one of its lowest finishing rates in history. Me? Sub 24!

So as you can see there is some great history (I think) of rain and mud during these last few years and why stop what has become tradition now. As the Vermont 50 comes a little closer, I'll watch the weather a bit closer and hope to give you guys a quality pre-race look on Friday. Right now.. it looks like this:

"The Northeast has been put on alert for potential tropical trouble this weekend. The low churning over the Dominican Republic has the potential to trek northward, then curve into the Northeast early Saturday as a powerful hurricane."
Until Friday... I must continue training for whatever comes my way. But one thing is for sure... as is with every other race thus far: LEFT - RIGHT - REPEAT

Happy Trails
SJ

Monday, September 22, 2008

Turbulent Waters

I rose to my feet, gear stacked 'round my waist. Arm warmers, hat, food and drink. A credit card in my pocket, phone in hand and a flshlight to guide the way. There is no map, there is no compass.. that is if you look at these objectively. Searching for your soul is different than soul searching. I'm trying to do both... with no map and a broken compass. Will my flashlight lead the way? Will my light be bright enough? Or will I get lost over a sea of turbulent waters?

I step out the front door and march on my way. Like a drummer drums his own beat, I march with my feet. Left - right.... repeat. Life is one huge gray area these days. I don't know where to go, but I know where I've been. I'm happy, I'm sad; I'm content, I'm in turmoil. I pick up the phone and make a call. Hello friend... I miss you... thats all. Left - Right... repeat. I reach the end of the road and must choose the path. Where am I going? I have no idea. I choose left and a left and run for the coast.

Cars rush by at speeds so fast. If I get hit, its over... but I've had a blast. I keep marching on to the beat of my own drum if I get lost or run too far... I'll stick out a thumb. Run through the fields on the left and on the right.. past the wagon on the hill; I'm fighting a huge plight. The stench of the ocean refreshes my mind.. I pick up the phone and phone again.. Hello Friend.. wish you were here. Left - Right.. repeat.

Over a bridge as the waters fill the bay, swirling around and around. Frothy foam crashes on the shore; rocks galore. I hear a noise and look up high, an Osprey soars above... what a gorgeous sky. This bird was endangered not too long ago; but as with anything in this life... its not over till its over and resurrection is alive. I march along further, no end in sight.. where will I go, what fight will I fight. Left - Right... REPEAT.

The wind picks up, a hefty breeze. This prayer I've been praying is scraping my knees. Where are you now when I need you the most. Happy birthday my friend... I always see your ghost. I take out my phone to give you a call... but I can't, cause your gone and I miss you tonight. I step to the bridge, eat a muffin as I cross.. I'm feeling good, but hungry... still mourning your loss. As I crest over top and look to the west.. I think of your face, your friendship, your life. I stop for a moment and take a quick shot.. I miss you my friend... I miss you a lot. My phone in my pocket...Happy Birthday to you, I do carry on.. Left - Right.... REPEAT.


Over turbulent waters as I think to myself, where am I going.. man I need some help. A man with no castle, a sailor with no boat.. how am I ever going to stay afloat. I run across pavement where the elevation says thirty.. I long for the next time I get to be dirty. The phone rings.. Hello... I call you my friend. You crazy bastard, where do we begin? I miss climbing with you through the ice and snow.. maybe this winter we'll return to the days that were gold. You amazing old goat, how could you deny; that fact you're amazing for having two very old eyes. Your socks in my office are waiting for you, Darn Tough as they say and as you are and will always be. Good bye my friend until we meet again.. and then will we ask, How have you been?

Left, Right Repeat as the same old story goes. No fatigue just yet and still wearing my clothes. The winds picking up, the clouds moving in; soon I'll return to where I began. My phone in my pocket and an idea in my head.. I run to the store and think of my friend. Do you have a shark? A fish with big teeth? This one is perfect, I'll buy it. I head out the door and run right along, and just like in the movie I sing a song. Hats and sungalsses.. oh there you are.. how fitting my friend, I've looked for you all night. Like brother in Blues.. we do all right.

Back on my way, to home I should run; for having no plan this sure has been fun. I'm not the best poet, I'm rarely even in charge. But my mind wanders more... hey man, give me a light? The sun has set, I've said my good byes.. the cars continue to rush on by. I take out my flashlight and push it on.. where HAVE all the good times gone? I miss you more, your name's in my head.. I guess I'll just lie awake in my bed. Left, right repeat the beat marches on.. my flashlight is dim, my map is long gone. My compass leads home, still working I see.. I have no idea whats been happenning to me. I walk through the door, shower myself off. Eat some dinner, and rest.. 20 miles have just gone on.

As I sit and chew, I think of my run. I continue to march by an errant beating drum. Left right repeat as the old story goes.. over turbulent waters, my eyes they do flow. Where are we going? Where have we been? What happened to you my good old friend. I call one, I call two, I call three and then me. My mind is wandering.. whats happening to me. I lay on the couch, a smile on my face.. I know where I want to be.. and this could be the wrong place. No more phone calls tonight, but I miss you my friend. I cannot wait to see you and smile again.

The drummer keeps drumming, my legs they will move. The osprey soars, the sun sets west.. Happy Birthday my friend, you were my best. Hello my friend, where have you been? Hello my friend, when do we begin. Hello my friend, you're still climbing strong.. hello my friend.. where did we go wrong? Hello my friend.. what happened to you? Over turbulent waters, no map, no compass.. a dim light, some food enough water to drink.. all I ever seem to do is think. But as the story goes, left - right - repeat, the drummer marches on. To the beat of my drum.. I go back and think.. of ONE.

Turbulent waters...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Forrest Gump


Things are coming along greatly for the Run Across NH next month. Various business's and non-profits are coming together to help our cause in raising money for The Make-A-Wish Foundation of NH. While the run has turned into a fundraiser, I am most excited about the experience. I've always wanted to experience NH in a unique way, on foot, close to the land and its people. Its important to me. In any case; here is an update to fill everyone in as to what we're currently cooking up for the run.

We are working with "The Hawk" FM Radio Station and Eastern Mountain Sports to try to bring you guys a wonderful family experience the weekend of our run as Concord awaits our arrival. The EMS location in Concord is just past half way in our cross state adventure and we want to celebrate the halfway mark with all of you. So stay tuned as these things are finalized.

We will be finshing our run at The Seacoast Science Center in NH's very own Ordiorne Point State Park. Park admission on Sunday (10/19) is going to be FREE and the Seacoast Science Center is going to open its doors Free of Charge to Make-A-Wish Families. You can find out more info about the SSC by clicking HERE. It really is a gorgeous location and I can't wait to get there to end our run. We hope many of you will come help support the SSC and help us celebrate the first Cross State Run in NH History.

Training is going much better now that my Iron pills are kicking in to quell the effects of Anemia. Doctors appointments are not over but I feel much better and am hopeful. The Vermont 50 is next weekend (9/28) in Vermont and its one of my favorite races; one that I look forward too all year. 50 Miles in the mountains of Vermont is going to be a great last long run as we head into our 124 mile adventure.

For those who remember the movie Forrest Gump, I've decided to try my luck at growing a beard for this adventure. It's actually a pretty sad looking process and it definately is not what I am used to. But I also like not havign to shave. Every morning in the shower I reach for the razor only to leave it in place. So my plan is to hopefully make it to October 20th without shaving. October 20th is my 27th birthday and the first day after what I hope is one amazing journey. And I guess if I shave it off or not will depend on what I get out of this great adventure. I'm sure it won't get as long as Forrest's but it'll be funny none-the-less.

Below is a movie I like because it answers those same repetitive questions Nate and I hear a lot: "so what do you eat? What if you have to pee?" Forrest can answer for us nicely.

So.. I'm taking my peach-fuzz and going to continue to prepare for the Vermont 50, and this first continuous crossing of NH on foot. Hope to see you all out there!

Congrats to Paul Kearney and his wonderful bride Jill who are being wed this weekend in Burlington, VT. Can't wait to share the joy with you all.

Happy Trails!
SJ

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RR: Pisgah 50K - Resurrection

What: Pisgah 50K (31 Miles)
Where: Pisgah State Park Chesterfield, NH
When: September 14, 2008 8:45am
Time: 6:31:57
Place: 40 out of 68 (78 Starters)

For Photos I invite you to check out Pam Dolan's Report HERE

There are many things that attract us to this sport, those of us who have been here for a while now. And I'll be the first to admit that over time my faith, in what it is that has indeed attracted me to this sport, has waned. But it's times like what I experienced this past weekend at the Pisgah 50K that brings me back to earth. Its time like these that help me realize that Ultra-running has become a part of my every day life. It defines who I am and it has helped me define and reshape my very existence. I gained more then experience this weekend in Chesterfield, NH. I gained spirit, hope and motivation moving forward... and here is how.

It has been an amazing year thus far and September is typically a time each year where I stop and reflect on this wonderful road I've been down in running. It was in September 2004 that I challenged myself to run a mile without walking, and after 2 weeks of hard work, stubbornness and determination, I accomplished that goal. I'll reflect upon this various times moving forward towards the VT50. Four years later, I've run my legs into oblivion, transforming my body in a metronome like machine, and click miles off like they are nothing but routine. That was until I found out that I was anemic. I don't need to go into the details here because you can read about it in a previous blog post of mine. The effects of anemia sent shivers down my spine and caused quite a stir in my life. Learning that if my blood count was any lower I would have needed a transfusion, that during the Wapack Race a few weekends ago I could have gone into cardiac arrest.. are never wonderful things to hear. I honestly thought for a short time that my running days had ended, many dreams left to chase dashed away and my heart left to work in overdrive just to maintain basic homeostasis. Sure... I might have over-reacted then; but as I lived in the Now heading into Pisgah I had many questions to answer.

Will my treatments have affected me yet? Will I even be able to run half of this rather than the whole 50K? Am I going to simply embarrass myself? Should I have just stayed home? I was scared stupid on the car-ride over but as with any challenge in my life, I stepped up to the plate and prepared for battle. I'm one stubborn individual, and I was sure I'd get the answers to my questions quickly.

I ended up at a friends Birthday Party the night before the race and didn't get any sleep. Not only was I nervous, but the borrowed alarm clock died as did any near-by cell phones. I laid in bed all night waiting for civil twilight so I could rise and head over to meet Nate and Steve in Pembroke. As the sun began to rose to illuminate a brand new day, I turned my phone on to see the time.. I was running very late. We changed the plans for meeting time and location and I was quickly driving down the dirt backroads in Deerfield and Allenstown, NH on my way to Concord. Rain was falling heavily and fog encased the scene the whole way. Ah yes... another ultra.. another mud fest. I have quickly become the king of mud! Of the 19 ultras I have completed, I have been rain free in only 5 or 6. Thats only 25%.

Nate was ready to roll when I met him at the Park N Ride in Concord off of Route 89. Steve was stuffed in the back seat ready to go on what would become his very first ultra-adventure. Steve is a runner I met almost a year ago in the Eastern Mountain Sports I work at in Portsmouth. As he tried on trail running shoes, I spoke to him about my fun and fascinating exploits as an ultra-runner and dared him and his wife Allyson into researching the culture. Steve and I tried our best to run on a weekly/bi-weekly basis for a few months before Steve decided to explore the ultimate Step. Steve wanted to try an Ultra... a 50K.. and he wanted to go to a race together. I became Steve's coach and he became my first student. We worked through science, injury and motivation. I helped him plan a training routine which he followed as closely as possible and today in Pisgah... he would take his final exam. His first Ultra... a 50K. His longest run to date? A 17.5 mile race on the Wapack Trail just 2 weeks ago. I was praying for his sake and my own.

As we arrived at the fire station in Chesterfield, we meandered over to the porta-potties and then into race registration. Event staff was in a flurry to set everything up for us runners. Word was that the RD was hurting for money to put the event on. In doing the math and in seeing what had been assembled for us, I found it hard to imagine that he could be in debt. The race appears to be very bare bones in nature, and is New Hampshires ONLY official Ultra-Marathon. We squeezed into the tighly packed fire house to get our bib numbers and headed back to the car to get ready. The fog was thick and the air was 100% humid. The temp rose ever so slightly into the 70's as a chilling wind brushed across our faces. Nate and Steve quickly clothed themselves and sought out the shelter of the car in and attempt to stay dry. I opted to stay out in the sheets of pouring rain, getting soaked from head to toe before the race even started. What the hell right? I was going to be in it most of the day anyway, might as well adjust to my environment.

But what slowly began to happen next is what called to my heart and sang to my soul. I've met MANY people over the last 4 years of running in this sport, and what I experienced next is what sets our culture apart from that of your shorter distance trail runners and your road runners alike. As my fellow runners began to trickle in from their various locations, many saw me meandering about and made a point to come on over. I received warm hugs from a few, a few hands on my shoulder and a pat on the back and each runner expressed the same sentiment; "John... we're really glad you made it here today." I was moved deeply by all of this as pre-race preparations continued. Not only was I glad to be ok but my friends were as well. I think it was Jeff Waldron's sentiments that moved me most. He didn't say much but I could see it in his eyes. We've become great friends he and I and his pat on the shoulder and contagious smile re-lit the fire in my soul and super charged my legs for what lie ahead. I was ready to go! LETS DO IT!

Steve and I walked over to the starting area where Gary Montgomery gathered us around to shout out the last minute instructions. All I heard was to "turn left at the aid station for the loop for 50K runners!" I had no idea what he was talking about but I'm sure I'd find out. Nate settled in up in the front with aspirations of a 5:15 finish. Steve nervously waiting along side me and I cracked my usual pre-race jokes with a few fellow knuckle-heads. Then I turned right and saw a tall gentleman reach out his hand asking if I was John. I was of course and he introduced himself as Sean Hurley. Sean is a reporter from New Hampshire Public Radio. A few weeks ago I was randomly contacted by Sean about his interest in doing an article on Ultra-Running in NH. A runner himself, the story had potential. Through e-mail communication I fed him what info I could and invited him out to Pisgah for the states only official Ultra. It was great to see him here, though I was sorry I had forgotten he was coming. As Sean lined up beside me, he took a long microphone out of his pocket and began interviewing us right away. I called Nate and Steve over as I wanted as many of my friends to get in on this as possible. We are, after all, a community. Sean then went to the front to catch some of Gary's last minute pre-amble and then the whistle blew and we were off!

The pack began to sort out immediately. Steve and I ran at a comfy but good clip as we headed down the first hill. Sean found us in the mix and ran along side us continuing his interview. We were asked all of the typical questions. What do we carry? What do we wear? Why are we doing this? How long will it take? Whats the course like? etc etc. It was a LOT of fun. We walked ran quite a bit of the first hill and walked our fair share too. Sean did great in interviewing us as the rain continued to drive down and he even entered the woods with us running out to about the 3 mile mark on the course. This was remarkable to Steve and I because we both agreed later that carrying that damn microphone must have been a pain in the arse! The trails were saturated and submerged by the recent rains. Torrential rains on Friday night and Saturday Night left water ponding everywhere. The mud was early, deep and thick. Beaver activity was everywhere and their flooding caused quite a problem for us trying to keep our feet wet. I'm glad Sean saw some of this and can't wait to hear his story.

In the meantime, Steve and I had a race to run Steve's plan was to hang with me as long as he could and then take it from there. Knowing how individual we all are, I was unsure how his plan was going to play out but I decided to play along. After 3.5 miles of jumping puddles, the effort was worthless and energy consuming at best. I ran straight through a puddle, submerging my foot and encasing my ankles in mud. "Screw it Steve.. its going to be a long day. Get it over with and worry about it later." Our feet were soaked and our focus turned to post-race blister care. Oh well.. such is life.

As we made our way into the first aid station, we ran into two guys running together. I listened into their conversation and it was easy to pick up that this was their first Ultra. They had the right mind-set and I'm not sure if they finished but they had the right ideas. I wished them well as we refilled our bottles, took S-Caps and hurried on down the road. The rain began to pick up as did the wind and what I knew might be the last hurray of this for the day. I didn't mind so much, after all, I'm getting used to it. We continued to pick our way around puddles even after getting our feet wet, but as the miles wore on I began to trudge through more and more puddles as the day went on. Steve and I fell into a groove and slowly began to run like pac-men. We picked off runners as we slowly went along; we'd run until we saw someone and then we picked it up until we overcame them. This type of running is a fun way to pass the time and miles for me and it always feels good to pass another runner.

We hit our first manned aid station and I told Steve that 8 mile were all ready gone. We began a long climb up an old paved road where we caught Dave Delebec. Dave is from Vermont and a true gentleman. He is one of those guys who is both courteous and fun and knows how to liven things up when needed. Further up the trail I was walking a bit when Dave gave me an old "Drew-ism"... "hey... get the #%$%^& Lead out!" I groaned and started running as I mumbled under my breath. We laughed about it and bounded through the mud. We then found Josh and Rik Roberts on the trail as well as Movingon from Kickrunners. We all buddied up and chipped off quite a few miles together. We went up and over hills around bends, over bridges, around swamps, over dams.. all the while running on a soft bed of pine needles. Pisgah State park is the States Largest State Park and true hidden gem. CHECK IT OUT!

At Mile 17 we reached the reservoir aid station. We had lost Rik a few miles back and Josh was now opting to hang back for his old man. Dave came wandering in as Steve, Movingon and I prepared to head back out. We drank some soda and made sure we were set to go. I had Steve empty his trash and concentrate on his nutrition moving forward. He was starting to look tired as we approached his previous "longest mark" of 17.5 Miles. He claimed he was cramping up a bit, so we worked on his electrolyte plan as we walked down the course. We got back into a groove as we talked with Movingon. As we made our way up Mt. Pisgah I quickly realized that I felt pretty mint, getting back into a groove and ready to roll. Steve was slowing down and feeling tired. I was impressed he hung with me 18 miles but I knew now was his time to find himself in this event. I kicked it into gear leaving Steve behind, quietly, and hoping he would dig deep within his soul and find himself crossing that finish line.

I made my way to an aid station where I ran into Ryan Pretess' Dad. I'm not sure what race he was in but he looked beat. I realized he had no bottles, no gels no nothing. The guy was running with the aid from stations alone! WOWSERS! I said hi and headed t the right before being called back to the station by some grumpy volunteers. I thank them for being there but SHEESH! They told me this was the loop and I needed to go left. I wished the directors had made some decent signage for this aid station indicating so... but regardless, I headed off on the loop alone. The loop took us down and around a pond area. The fog remained thick and heavy as smells of my grandmothers old basement wafted from the molded earth. I was very much alone, and digging deep to keep on pace. I passed a couple and headed back to the aid table, took the right and headed on my way across the final 5 miles of the race.

The next mile was pristine pine forest, soft footing and wonderful sounds. I ran past more waterfalls and gorgeous landscapes. Pisgah is an amazing place and on this day resembled an enchanted forest or even the fire swamp from the Princess Bride. And then all hell broke loose. I turned right at an orange Backhoe where a lot of trail work had been done. The trail was an all out mud best. Ankle to shin deep all around. My foot slipped and slid all around, my legs began to burn, covered in slick mud and sore from the constant twisting actions. Water splashed up to my face with each step, mud splashed everywhere as I continued to push on and pick up my pace. I wanted to catch just one more runner. I pushed on. Compared to running over the last month, I was feeling great. My legs were full of energy, never short of breath, alone for the last 12 miles and picking up steam. I felt reborn, resurrected and hunted the finish line with each forward step.

I finally slid off the trails and onto a dirt road heading for home. Up ahead I spotted a runner and knew exactly who it was. It was Ryan's father again, walking slowly but in good spirits heading down the road. I ran along and caught up to him, lended support, offered a gel and got him to run a bit more. As he slowed back to a walk I continued on vowing to tell Ryan pops was ok. The road led adjacent to two massive fields/meadows as the clouds continued to swirl and the fog lifted. The sun tried to burn through to no avail and the wind blew lightly across my face. My eyes were wide open, my heart pounded proudly as blood flowed through my arteries and veins. I could feel the burn in my legs, pain in my feet and a journey in my soul. The end was near. A gray car came down the road, It was my friend Dan Myers, he had dropped and told me to "Run it in! It's right there!" I thanked him for his encouragement and picked up my step!

I headed down the final stretch of road, took the final right and saw the finish ahead. I made the sign of the cross, pounded the "moe" on my chest and pointed to the sky as I thanked god and my grandfather for the strength to carry on in this great adventure. I ran into the chute and sprinted as best I could before doing a baseball slide across the finish line on the saturated grass. I got up to my feet and proudly stood there offering a high five to Nate. A few weeks ago I wondered if I'd ever be able to run and compete again. Scared and alone, I faced my demons once more; rose to the occasion and ran to the promised land. You can do ANYTHING you put your mind too.. and I once again proved my point. I felt great in hearing my time of 6:31. I sat down, sore but satisfied. I left it all out there as I chomped down on a burger. Its great to be back, this is home. Nate and I talked and joked as we waited for Steve. Would he finish? Where was he? At 7:09 (race time) I watched as a runner sprinted to the end with a runner on his tail. I moved my position and noticed it was Steve racing to the finish line coming in strong. HE DID IT! From never running more than 17.5 miles; from doubting his own ability to complete the task; Steve dug deep and found his Human Potential and carried himself through thick and thin to finish his first 50K. I've never been as proud.

The Vermont 50 is in 2 weeks and I'll be ready; hoping to break 10 hours for the first time in one of my favorites. I hope to see you all there; my friends.

Happy Trails!
SJ

Friday, September 12, 2008

Busy Weekend!

THIS SATURDAY come on out to National Powersports Distributors on Route 106 in Pembroke, NH for their Open House to benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation of NH.

Nate Sanel is openning his doors to everyone and anyone. Please join us for an Open House on Saturday, September 13th to benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation of New Hampshire. We will have all kinds of fun events such as Benelli Demo test rides, free food by Einstein Bros., bike washing and detailing (by donation) and live radio broadcasts. For every bike they sell on that one day only they will be donating $100 to the NH Make-A-Wish foundation!

Joining us for the event is Frank FM 106.3, Einstein Bros. Bagels and the two of us crazy runners. We'd LOVE to see you there!

We were also interviewed by Frank's Place with Jim and Sarah this morning and if you want to head over and listen to the interview in its entirety head on over to the sister blog at www.runnh.blogspot.com where I've posted some instructions
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The Colonoscopy
I had my first Colonoscopy yesterday and the results were exactly as suspected.
First let me say that everyone I know that has had one of these procedures talked about how dreadful the whole thing was.. mainly the prep for it. In all honesty, I didn't find it to be bad at ALL. So I drank this magic potion that sent me to the bathroom more than anyone else cares to go there. But I'm currently reading DK's latest book so.. I got some reading done. That and I got to go to the bathroom without an exceptional points of effort. I guess maybe I'm just used to being hungry and uncomfortable from 100 Mile Races. Either way, they put me out for the procedure and when I woke up I had a neat little set of pictures of whats going on and causing the blood loss. So.. now I am off to a specialist to see about getting the issue removed and the problem solved.

Either way I am starting to feel a LOT better. I went for a 2 mile run on Tuesday night and it was the first time in ages that I "felt the burn" in my legs. This is good news because it means I have enough blood to carry Oxygen to the muscles and waste products away from the muscles.. something that was not happening a few short weeks ago.
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Pisgah 50K!

Wow... finally back to Ultra-Land and I am beyond excited. I haven't run an ultra or an ultra-distance anything since the Vermont 100. Racing season in New England has begun! This Sunday I'll be running in the Pisgah 50K out in Chesterfield, NH in Pisgah State Park. 50K on single track trails over rolling rocky and rooty terrain.. I'll love it. Ideally I'd like to break 5:30 for 50K but I think given recent conditions of my physical and mental self, I'll be treating this as a training run for the VT50 and RANH and focus on survival. I hope to see some of you peachy souls there! If not.. please read below:

Fred Ross Writes:
"Spoke with RD Gary Montgomery over the weekend. He had 91 registered so far and needs 125 to break even. He has been going into the park, over the last couple weeks, clearing downed trees, etc. He and his wife Chris do work, putting the race together, throughout the year. They are truly amazing(as are all RD's!!!)!

If any of you can't run but would like to help in some way you could call the Montgomery's at 603-363-8420. Sounded like he could use a couple more volunteers."

Happy Trails!
SJ

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The 2008 Run Across New Hampshire

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you all, the 2008 Run Across New Hampshire to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire!

AT A GLANCE:
WHO: Ultramarathon runners Nathan Sanel and “Sherpa” John Lacroix
WHAT: A 124 Mile Around the Clock Run from The Connecticut River to The Atlantic Ocean.
WHY: To benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire
WHEN: Saturday, October 18, 2008 – Sunday, October 19, 2008
WHERE: Route 9 Chesterfield, NH to Ordiorne State Park in Rye, NH.

Check out our special RANH BLOG! Visit our site to donate and try your luck at wining a 2007 Honda VT600VLX!!


What started out as an idea to discover New Hampshire’s autumn charm, has turned into an all out fundraiser for The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire. Myself and Nate Sanel are planning to run around the clock starting October 18th; 124 miles from New Hampshire’s Western-most point to the State’s easternmost point and do it all to make Wishes a reality for children battling life-threatening illnesses.

Nathan Sanel is the owner of National PowerSports Distributors (www.nationalpowersports.net) in Pembroke, NH; a NH based company that sells motorcycles world-wide. Every year, Sanel plans a run that benefits a charity along with an open house to kick-off fundraising efforts held at his business. Last year he raised over $10,000 dollars on behalf of the AT Childrens Project. Nate will be hosting an open house at his business on September 13th where he will donate $100 for every motorcycle sold that day. In addition, he will be raffling off a 2007 Honda VT600VLX and has planned a full day of fun events to benefit Make-A-Wish®. Sanel was having a hard time deciding on where he wanted to run; until I presented him with an idea to run across New Hampshire.

Myself... I am an ultramarathon runner from Newmarket, NH and full time student at the University of New Hampshire where I major in Outdoor Education. Previously I have raised over $20,000 on behalf of the American Diabetes Association Research Fund through a documentary film I made on hiking New Hampshire’s 4,000 Foot Peaks. I had a vision to run across New Hampshire for quite some time and was looking for the right engine to drive it. Together, myself and Nate will take to the roads of the Granite State and run on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire.

The Route
Our journey is 124 miles (200 Kilometers) in length and will be run Around The Clock, start to finish. We will start on the NH Route 9 Bridge connecting Brattleboro, VT with Chesterfield, NH over the Connecticut River. Our Run on Route 9 will take us through the towns of Chesterfield, Keene, Sullivan, Hillsborough, Henniker, Hopkinton, and Concord. We will then take US Route 4 through the towns of Chichester, Epsom, Northwood, Barrington, Lee, Madbury, Durham, Dover and Newington. We will then run through the streets of Portsmouth and New Castle before reaching our terminus at Ordiorne State Park in Rye, NH. They also plan short stints through downtown Hillsboro, Henniker, Concord, Durham and Portsmouth.

Why Make-A-Wish®
A Wish can teach a sick child that anything is possible… even the future. The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire does an amazing job at making the dreams of children a reality. Both Nate and I are big time dreamers, and we understand the power of dreams. It would be an honor to help the dreams of children in our state come true. We also want to inspire others to get outside and join us on our journey, even if for a few hundred yards.

How You Can Help
We encourage everyone to show support through donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire. We also invite everyone in the surrounding areas to come on out and run with us on our Around the Clock Journey across the state. Whether it be for 1 mile or 20 miles, we ask that you donate at least 1 dollar per mile you run beside us.

About Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire
Since 1986, more than 700 children battling life-threatening medical conditions across New Hampshire have experienced their dream come true. Your support helps the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of New Hampshire continue its mission of granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.

The true impact of a wish cannot be valued monetarily. Yet, the Make-A-Wish Foundation® is dependent on generous contributions of individuals and corporate sponsors to provide the funding and in-kind resources necessary to create a unique wish experience for every Wish Child. These contributions provide immense hope, strength, and joy for all Wish Children and their families.

To follow our training and the adventure Check out our special RANH BLOG!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview: Mike Silverman (VT50 RD)


As you all may or may not know, September marks the changing of season's here in New England. The days are getting shorter and the leaves are starting to display their magnificent colors. There really is no better time to run in this area, crisp mornings and cold evenings, cool days and beautiful views. This becomes a runner's mecca. But for those looking for a challenge, looking for a top notch race, there is none more stellar than the Vermont 50 held on September 28th.

I had the chance to talk with Race Director Mike Silverman about the event, and it is our hope that you'll sign up and take the challenge to join us at the end of September. Thanks for taking the time to join us Mike.

SJ: So, tell us a little bit about the Vermont 50; how many years has this race been
around?

MS: 18 years

SJ: Was it always a mountain bike race as well or was it originally strictly for runners?
MS: Originally it was just a running race, Lou Schmertz and Seth Warren (Then 15 years old) put together the Mt Bike addition

SJ: How many bikers will be on the course and when do they start?
MS: There will be 725, where 650 is our real agreement with the 70 landowners

SJ: Now the runners start a tad later; how many runners do you anticipate in the 50K and the 50 Mile options?
MS: The 50 mile runners and the 50 mile 3 person relay start 5 minutes behind the last bikers. I expect (250 50 mile runners) 1 .5 hrs later the 50 K runners will start and we have 150 of them.

SJ: Who does the race benefit?
MS: The benefactor is Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities. We promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational opportunities. You can discover more about VASS at
http://www.vermontadaptive.org

SJ: How much money is typically donated to VASS through this particular event?
MS: About $40,000

SJ: What should entrants expect?
MS: Well I think they should expect us to be their host from the time they leave home until the time they leave Brownsville VT.
They are all very special to the first timer, the repeat participant and us. We want them to feel safe and looked after.

SJ: Tell us about the course; Trails, roads, elevation change, etc?
MS: I feel what has made our course what it is, is not the 50-mile or the 50K distance. It is how it is strung together, there is a rhythm. We cross 70 private lands, and we offer very special Fall Vermont vistas with lots of aid stations with friendly volunteers and LOTS of food. We are still around 8900 vert for the 50 milers and 5600 vert for the 50K. We keep trying to get off the roads and adding more double and single-track trails. The hardest part is the last section on Ascutney, which was about 2.5 miles up and a .5-mile down to the finish. Surprisingly, we added 1.5 more to the Mountain with adding lots of Vert.

SJ: Have you ever run or ridden either of the race options?
MS: Yes, I have ridden the 50 many times before becoming RD. l always wanted to run the 50K, but never seem to find the time to run and organize as many do.

SJ: Compared to other ultramarathons, how do you think the Vermont 50 compares?
MS: Well, since I have taken the RD position 8 years ago, we have introduced the 50 K and the 50 mile 3 person relay. Last year we went from 200 runners to 400 and I am hoping to break 500 this year. The goal was to become more runner friendly, listen to their needs, reduce the concern of the bikers, and introduce more runners to the ultra world. I think the VT 50 does that with its "private" course, many well stocked aid stations, and its event/ party atmosphere. I feel we do offer more than most, and we continue to listen to the needs of our participants. Once we think we have it all, we will never improve. Ideas come from listening and the willingness to try new things.

SJ: Tell us your favorite story from Vermont 50's past.
MS: Well there are so many from proposals at the finish line (2 last year) to runners and bikers meeting in the parking lots and end up married and now bring their little ones with them. But the 2003 race was really the big story. It was called our "Mud fest." The trails and small streams became rivers. It was a very different event. It was not whether you would beat your time of last year, it was "will I finish." More than 1/2 the field took a DNF. There was a steady stream of bikers and runners coming down the paved road near the Resort. Someone said, "They are all off course!" No they have all decided to quit. All 450 of them. The truth be told, it was so amazing how the community came out and helped transport the wet and weary participants. They had cars and trucks willing to move whoever need their assistance.

SJ: How can folks sign up for the race and how much room is left for runners given that bikers are filled?
MS: The runners are unlimited. They can go to www.vermont50.com and they can also register Saturday September 27 that Ascutney Mountain Resort. 12- 8

Great Mike, thanks so much for your time and efforts in putting on a solid race in New England. I look forward to being there myself for my third Vermont 50; enjoying the views and powering up and down the many hills. "Challenge Yourself" is the race motto and quite the challenge indeed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

August Re-Cap & THE INJURY

August was a TOUGH month for me. After the completion of the Vermont 100, I sunk into repair mode and tried to slowly get back into running. A week long trip to Ohio and New York, allowed me some time to rest and relax and also plug in some pretty minimal numbers though I ran quite a bit. But something hasn't been right, and my physical status has been on a steady decline. This past week.. I made it to the doctor and started September off with new hope for whats been ailing me. More on that later, but first... the August Re-cap.

August Re-Cap:
Miles Run: 122.37 Miles (Lowest total since December '07)
# of Runs: 19
Avg Miles: 6.44
2008 Total Miles: 1,626.11

Month Starting Weight: 149 Lbs
Month Ending Weight: 151 Lbs.
Weight Change: +2

Race Results:
Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K: 26:40
Wapack 17.5 Mile Trail Race: 4:19
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Races Coming in September:
Pisgah 50K - September 14, 2008: A scenic, mostly single-track, moderately challenging trail race through New Hampshire's largest state park. Benefits the NH Special Olympics. Hoping to run a 5:30 50K here.

Vermont 50 - September 28, 2008 (BEAT PETE!): 50 Miles of roller coaster madness. If you're not running downhill, you MUST be walking up a hill. A CLASSIC race that EVERYONE should run. This year, the challenge was made between Pete and I. He's on a bike.. I'm on Foot. I'm aiming to break 10 hours!
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THE INJURY

For a few months now I have mad mention of not feeling right during certain races and on runs. Being as stubborn as I am, I pushed on thinking nothing of the issue. After all... when you run as much as I have this year; you're bound to feel a bit fatigued. My "injury" is directly related to a few things that have plagued my runs over the last year and I'll spell it out as best I can for you folks; without totally grossing you out or providing too much information. For the quick witted, you might be able to connect the dots and figure it our for yourself what is causing my injury. But please let me note... in all caps.. and BOLD... I AM NOT INJURED BECAUSE OF RUNNING.

Symptoms: Severe muscle fatigue, shortness of breath, elevated heart beat, nausea, dizziness, frequent headaches, bouts of confusion and general fatigue.

I explained my symptoms to a few concerned folks who had noticed a rathre unusual decline in my physical abilities to compete at my normal levels. Of course some folks think they are medical experts and fired away with their "See what running does to you" anecdotes. SILENCE I SAY! There are a few folks on this planet capable of diagnosing an injury and calculating the symptoms... and their names typically end in M.D. Lets leave the guessing and decision making to them eh? But as an aside to these thoughts, I have shared my very personal thoughts and problem with Nate Sanel, who properly guessed what the problem could be. How did he do this? He knew ALL of the facts and used careful consideration when pushing me to visit a doctor.

That being said... over the last month or so following the Vermont 100, I noticed a rather rapid decline in my physical and mental status. The symptoms above would indicate to anyone that something was not right. The red light was definitely loud and bright at the Cigna/Elliot 5K where I ran dismally and even managed to walk on 4 or 5 different occasion during the race, gasping for air and having no power whatsoever in my legs. Flash forward to my 8 day backpacking trip for class, where I wrote on a few occasions during the trip; I struggled to hike up hill lagging quite a ways back from the class on two occasions. Fast forward again to the Wapack trail race; where it took me 4:19 to run 17.5 miles. On each uphill I was gasping for air, leaning against trees and desperately trying to finish the race. This was the final red flag and off to the doctors I went.

I had blood work done on Thursday and by Friday I had my answer. I am severely Anemic. "Anemia is defined as a qualitative or quantitative deficiency of hemoglobin, a molecule found inside red blood cells (RBCs). Since hemoglobin normally carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, anemia leads to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in organs. Since all human cells depend on oxygen for survival, varying degrees of anemia can have a wide range of clinical consequences." (Wikipedia)

Hone in on this sentence: "Since hemoglobin normally carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, anemia leads to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in organs" Ahhh.... this makes sense now. Extreme fatigue in my muscles due to a lack of oxygen DUE to the lack of RBC's to carry said oxygen to the needed cells and organs.

I am now taking a multi-vitamin every day and an Iron Supplement 3x a day (325mg x 3). But thats now all...
"The three main classes of anemia include excessive blood loss (acutely such as a hemorrhage or chronically through low-volume loss), excessive blood cell destruction (hemolysis) or deficient red blood cell production (ineffective hematopoiesis)."
So which is it? I can tell you all ready; as it's a problem I've had for a few years, always ignored and has obviously finally caught up to me. I have excessive blood loss. I won't say from where but this is where you connect the dots and or stop reading if squeamish or simply don't want to know. I have a hereditary condition that causes excess blood loss AND is why I'll be the lucky recipient of a colonoscopy on Thursday AND it also has been the cause of my chaffing during ultra-events. Connect those dots yet? Ok.. now do some research on your own if interested.

Bottom line is this. I have a problem, I finally went to the doctor and we pinpointed the issue. I am seeing another doctor to get down to the very source of said problem and we'll fix that as well. And once all is said and done.. I'll be ready to run and at probably my most rested state in a long long time.

So... on with September. We're off on the right foot. I have a few exciting this coming up for you all.
An interview with Mike Silverman, RD of the Vermont 50.
An interview with Hieu Nguyen, who recently roller bladed across country
Some more race reviews, and a HUGE announcement regarding The Run Across New Hampshire in October.
Stay tuned!

SJ

Into The Wild - Part 3

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Day 6: Wauchipauka Pond to MRL

Today was my day to be Leader of the Day (LOD) with Tory. Last night when it was time to volunteer to be LOD, I was actually hoping it would be Tory who stepped up to the plate. She has a real leadership sense about her, probably from her days as a camp counselor. I just knew we'd make a great team, and rally our troops on what would be the longest and toughest day of our journey. We got together the night before to go over the trip plan for the next day. Everything is detailed from time of departure to time of arrivals at various locations. River crossings and potential places for water. Road walks, things to look out for.. and briefing the group on what to expect the next day in terms of these issues and what else we'll be doing. We discussed everything and had a great plan put together. When we woke up today, we sprung into action and got our group working and motivated to leave camp around 8am. We got up at 6 so this gave us two hours to eat, clean, tear everything down and hit the trail.

It was sad leaving Wauchipauka Pond. It was such a peaceful location, though I'll admit I won't miss the daddy long legs who crawled across my face while there every night. I ate my last of the Pop-tarts for breakfast while Spencer ate his last Nutri-grain bars. We noticed how slim our food bag was looking, but things were looking up. We were pretty hungry for sure, but we knew we would be treated to a hearty meal while at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge tonight. By 8am everyone was ready to go, so we rounded up the troops and hit the trail. We worked our way over to the very section of trail we helped repair the day before, where we got a chance to see our changes at work. BUt we also had to pick up various tools from our work day and walk them to the road. I got stuck with the most awkward thing available.. a beach pail filled with steel nails. Ugh! There was no easy way to carry it, I just knew I wanted to make it to the road. We boogied out of the woods and made it to Rte 25 where a tool stash had been established. We all stashed our tools and headed over to Town Line Trail, where we had another student lesson planned.
(Chris With some tools)

As we made our way to the river here, Spencer had his shot at teaching a lesson. Spencer's lesson was on River Crossings. He gathered his thoughts well and told us about the hazards of River crossings which included a variety of things I never even thought of or knew about. After his lesson, we all took our shoes off (I put on my crocs), loaded up our gear and headed for the river. Now even though there was an EXCELLENT place to cross established with rocks.. we were getting in. The water was freezing cold, and about waist deep at its deepest. With our straps unbuckled, we each went hand in hand, created a chain and slinked our way across he water, making sure to not cross our legs. It went perfectly. After our group went, the seond group of 4 went through. We then sat on the far bank and put our shoes back on. Chris wasn;t taking account for his gear, and as we took off he left his hiking pole behind. Robby picked it up and put it in his pack. By the time we got to the first uphill, Chris realized his mistake and began to ran back. We yelled for him to return to which he did.. and when he got back, we gave him his pole back and told him to practice better Leave No Trace. It was pretty funny. So.. a great lesson from Spencer and fun thanks to Chris and Robby, our group remained in good spirits.

We walked the Town Line Trail to a rd in Glencliff, took a right and then a left onto High St. We made our way to the Glencliff Trail Trailhead and ducked into the woods to where we took another break. We marveled at the barbed wire surrounding the fields lining the trail, and even evidence of an old stone bridge that spanned the small stream we rock hopped over. But while resting here, Kel and Robby put on quite a show with a skit. The skit was on Trail Etiquette and more-so about how to effectively speak to other hikers on the trail. The first skit they did was a skit in where Kel approached Robby who was acting as a fisherman. Kel yelled and screamed about how its "my river" and so on... and was really a jerk and real negative. The point of the skit was to display a negative way to effectively communicate with others in the woods, AND to show how this method is not a very good way to educate anyone. The second skit was a more proactive approach where each spoke calmly and collectively to each other. It showed a more respectful and easier way to effectively communicate and educate another about the wilderness. Man... I wish all those folks who told me I was "going to F%^&ing kill myself" while running Franconia Ridge could see this!

We continued on up the trail, taking a right onto the Hurricane Ridge Trail. The trail was created as a result from the great 1938 Hurricane that devastated portions of the great northern forest. My health has been a concern for the last few weeks... and it was here that it all finally became a true and blue concern of mine. As the class began to climb the slope towards the ridge and Hurricane Mountain, EVERYONE was WAY ahead of me while I lagged far behind and gasped for air. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest, my legs had no power and I was zonked. Was it because I hadn't eaten well? OR was it something else seeing as this has been going on for a few weeks now... more on this later. The group was forced to wait for me to catch up, which was an exercise in pride sucking on my behalf. I was hurt and wanted to crawl under a rock. The group allowed me to jump into the front instead of Sweeping.. and I led the group slowly and steadily up to the ridge. I was so depressed by this... but managed myself well. When we finally made it to the ridge, Chris took the big yellow tarp from my bag to lighten my load... it was perhaps one of the most concerning and humbling moments of my life. I felt terrible.

We all sat down and ate lunch. I was finally out of fruit snacks and fruit leathers, my trail mix was gone. For lunch I ate craisins, whatever gorp was offered, and the rest of the Marshmallows Kel had given me. As I concluded eating, I was asked to give the class a quick history lesson on Peak-Bagging. So away I went, talking about the history of peak-bagging in New Hampshire and New York; what lists exist and the different games to play. I really enjoyed doing this as it is something I am passionate about and I hoped others would be just AS passionate about the same. After my lesson, Robby gave us a lesson on what to do in the event of animal/Bear encounters. I am amazed at how many people don't know what to do in these instances so the information was good to get.

We packed everything up and headed down the other side of the ridge towards MRL. Along the way we stopped at the Carriage Rd where I briefly told everyone some history of the road. I find it neat to share these 2 facts. 1.) The first US Downhill Championship was skied here on the Carriage Rd and 2.) When the US Government was looking to a new ATV to have in the field during military operations.. the Jeep motor company won the competition with their First JEEP which was test driven for the government by driving the prototype up the Carriage Rd. Yes yes... more useless info.

We arrived at MRL with 2 hours to spare. We instructed the class to use their time as they see fit, and we all seemed to do the same thing. We made our way to the lodge where we showered for the first time since Friday. It was heavenly. The water was hot and the towels soft. It was nice to peel some grime off me and freshen up. We then went upstairs where I purchased a chocolate brownie and we all drank coffee or cocoa. I'm a cocoa drinker myself. I then went to the pay-phone where I got to call Sarah and let her know I was still alive.. though barely. Whatever is wrong with me whopped my butt on the ridge today, I'm starving and haven't really slept well all week. All of us returned to our bunkhouse where Robby gave us a crash course in stove assembly and repairs. He had our MSR Whisperlight stoves in various states of disassembly and explained possible problems with the stove and how to fix them. The lesson was rushed but valuable information. I am amazed at how much information Robby knows and was pretty grateful he was willing and able to share it all with us.

We then made our way to the Ravine Lodge for dinner. The menu... well... for those who know me, was not a list of things I eat.. EVER. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy.. ok well... a Chicken Tender and Grilled Cheese kind of guy really. BUt here is what I ate: Beet and Barley Soup with cabbage and mushrooms. Followed by Rice and Lentils in a mushroom cream sauce, green beans and walnut and raisin biscuits. Whatever biscuits remained on the table, Spencer and I put in our pockets for tomorrow. The Dartmouth staff came out and tried to entertain us for 5 minutes while dessert was prepared. All of the tables had to stand and participate in an activity called "The Knot." Each group had to join hands with two different people in your group. Then we try to untangle the knot and make one unified circle... WE LOST. The waiter said, "UNH you lose so no Dessert for you." I replied, "We did your trail work.. and showed Carl how to do it too... We WIN." He nodded approval and we got our dessert... which we were getting anyway. We then sat down and enjoyed pudding cups with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

We then return to the bunk house where I engaged the group in my activity. Skits and acting things out are an effective way to educate others. I took the opportunity to not only get my group thinking, but to engage them in some acting of their own. I asked them to answer a few questions first: 1.) Dick Clark said, "Music is the soundtrack of our lives." What is your theme song? 2.)If there is one movie that you think closely resembles your life.. what movie is it? and 3.) If your movie were to be remade, list the first 3 people that come to your mind.. then fill in actors names next to those names and one next to you. Who would play these parts? And who would play Kel? It was fun and neat to hear everyone's answers. Then I had everyone write some kind of scene on a piece of paper that they'd like to see played out. It was exactly like "Scenes From A Hat" on Whose Line Is It Anyway? It was a fun activity and we all had good laughs. My favorite was, "What Sherpa John says to Sarah after running 100 Miles." Interesting acting... sorry for me that the kid was DEAD ON with it. Hehe

After my activity we turned the lights off in the cabin and sat around as Kel read us Dr. Seuss's: The Lorax. Following his reading of the Lorax, he read aloud an article The Watermans Wrote titled,"Why The Lorax Lost." We then discussed our varying opinions on the Watermans piece and how we felt. It was a stunning reading and even better conversation. As a group we did a great job discussing the important issues effectively and being respectful to one another. In fact, previously in the day; Kel and Robby made mention of how amazed they were by the melding of our group of hikers. It was no Thursday and we had yet to have ANY kind of disagreement or negative interaction. So Chris and I wanted to play with this fact a little bit and tried staging our own little altercation. Chris's acting was good... TOO good. I worked wonders at getting under his skin, he was a great "annoyed" actor.. I couldn't stop laughing though and had to spill the beans of our plan. It was funny though. And no confrontation in our group continued... We also all sat down and had a debriefing session where everyone gave us feedback on how we did as LOD's. All of the feedback was positive and great, but we also learned of things we as a class should continue to build upon.

Before bed, we all do our own thing. Greg and Martha were planning and plotting the next day as it was their turn to be LOD. Tory worked with Robby on disassembling stoves and reassembling them. Chris, Spencer and I went to working on our knots knowing that tomorrow we would be tested on our knowledge of them and other things we learned. And Kel waited patiently for Robby to be done with Tory, at which point they went off to debrief one another of how they thought the day went. While they talked, the rest of us settled in. I skipped playing the Harmonica tonight, slid the earplugs in.. and quickly dozed off in my comfy cozy bunk bed. Ahhh... a mattress, and no bugs to crawl on me. It was a great night. My stomach was re-filled and I am finally comfortable for some sleep.

Day 7: MRL Over Moose to Mud Ponds
We woke up early on Friday morning to head back into MRL for some breakfast. While most of the other groups made what they had bought for breakfast... Spencer, Chris and I paid the $5 to get breakfast served to us by the crew. For the first time in my life I ate Oatmeal... something I swore to myself I'd never have. It wasn't half bad except terribly bland. I had to add a ton of Applesauce and Raisins to it for some flavor. After pigging out on that, the scrambled eggs and sausage came out followed by lemon scones. You guessed it, spencer pocketed some scones to eat along the way today. After breakfast we all packed it up and got ready to roll. Greg and Martha were our final LOD's of the week and had a hell of a day in front of them. They led us out of the main lodge area and onto the Gorge Brook Trail, a trail I've hiked many times before. Once in Spring, Once in Summer and Once in Fall with Winter Conditions. We were heading up Moosilauke which would be my 6th time summiting this peak.

We ambled our way steadily up the summit. Spencer and I had finally eaten some food, so our energy was rather high today, but I was till having trouble at times. I can't wait to get home to go see the doctor. We got to the first major outlook on the trail and here we had another lesson on map and compass. We used our skills to identify a few peaks off in the distance. I'm not sure what the second one was but I do know one of them was Kineo. I guess the Osceola's but was WAY off. Oh well! We continued up the trail stopping a little while later for snacks and something to drink. While we stopped on the trail, I had the opportunity to give the class a short lesson on Alpine Zone Etiquette. The alpine zone is a tough pace to grow, where the only place on earth that the environment here is replicated is the arctic tundra. I stressed the importance to stay on and keep everything on the trail to lower our impact here. We packed up and continued on, reaching tree-line and taking another shor break before we ran out of places to pee.

The weather on top of Moosilauke was almost as good as I've ever had it. Temps in the mid to upper 60's with a very light breeze. The clouds danced and whirled about. Now it was my time to give my lesson for the week on Mountain Weather. Everyone sat around eating their lunch while I cracked out some small diagrams and pictures I had prepared at home to talk to the class about mountain weather.. and more locally, the worlds worst weather. We talked about the Orographic Lift, lightning, clud types and how they form, New Hampshires unique weather, storm tracks and Rime Ice and the Alpine Zone. I had a great time teaching the class as they all remained engaged and asking questions. This is why I've chosen Outdoor Education.


After completing my weather lesson, we turned our attention to more map and compass. We all really enjoyed the number of these lessons we engaged in because its an area we all stated (pre-trip) that we wanted to hone our skills on. While on the summit of Moosilauke we perfected the skills of orientation, declination, triangulation and back-bearings. Everyone had a great time trying to name surrounding peaks and properly locate each one via compass. It was great. But soon we had to pack things up again and keep moving on another high mileage day. We bid farewell to a few thru-hikers and began hiking down towards the Benton Trail.

As we began to leave the summit, I noticed a couple I had recognized form somewhere. They asked if my name was John in front of the group and I replied, "Yes." Turns out these folks met me in 2005 at Bryant University in Rhode Island. They came and saw my film showing at that particular location. We shared smiles and pleasantries before taking off down the trail. About 200 yards further and I was stopped by another hiker, "Sherpa John?" It was GlennS. We talked about the last time we saw each other being a winter trip to Isolation. So nice to run into a familiar face. As we continued on down the trail, it was fun to see the reactions of my classmates. "Well excuuuuuseee us!" I had a huge smile from ear to ear. I love when people say hello.

We continued to the bottom of the Benton Trail where we stopped at a stream crossing to refill our water bottles and eat some snacks. We had a short road walk ahead of us and it would be warm on the road even though a layer of overcast was starting to filter in over-head. Would our rainless streak end? The Benton trail was one of two trails I had yet to travel on the Moose.. all that remains now is Snapper. I found the trail to be rather easy, pleasant and the outlook from a ledgy outcropping about 3/4 of the way down was exciting. We turned left onto the road and spread out. Robby and Chris ran ahead as a sort of race while the rest of us hung back and walked relaxed with our huge packs on our back. At the end of the road, we stopped and would embark on our 3rd solo hike of the trip. The plan was to leave in 1 minute increments and all meet up at our second river crossing on the Tunnel Brook Trail. We were on our way to Mud pond for the night.

Martha led and I fell in second. Spencer and I weren't too interested in a solo hike, so I waited on the trail for him to come behind. Once he caught up we continued our journey together, eating lemon scones and thinking of tonight's pot-luck dinner. At one point i looked up and realized we had caught Martha. We stopped to give her some room when behind us we heard Chris Catch up... we were now a party of three. After a short while we continued on, caught Martha again and had to wait... thats when Kel showed up... now a party of 4. We waited once more and spread back out... but some 00 yards down trail... we all met up again at what was our meeting place. I'm not sure anyone actually HAD a solo hike. From here we continued on together headed for our camping location for the night. The trail led us to a campsite and we soon found ourselves on what I recognized as a herd path to nowhere. We consulted the map and discovered the need to cross the stream. We crossed the stream and stopped on a small island. Our lod's devised a plan to spread out and try to find the actual trail and our campsite. Two people went one way, two the other, the rest hung out. In what could have been a stressful and sticky situation; we al held true and remained calm. Greg and Chris found the trail, Martha and Spencer returned.. and off we were once more... until we found a campsite along the ponds.

We all voted to set up camp quickly and then get right into our testing.. this was a class after-all. While setting up camp I over-heard Greg tell his cook partner Chris, "We need to find food for the pot-luck." And chris responded with some less than exciting words about that idea. Spencer and I damn near starved all week... and the whole time we had a box of Kraft, 4 cheese Mac N' Cheese in our pack that we saved just for pot-luck. We could have eaten it.. but we opted to save it for the group. Greg and Chris had a version of Shells and Cheese with Dried Tomatoes they opted to eat on Wednesday. This was supposed to be their pot-luck meal, but because they were hungry, they opted to eat it. They were now thinking of serving us PB&J on Bagels, leftover fig newtons, leftover cheese and Grasshopper pie they decided to name "Giardia." This pissed me off.. especially since Spencer and I saved our meal.. so I jokingly said something about them feeding us gorp and Chris replied with, "Shut up you ungrateful Prick!" Now... usually I would haul off and give the kid a piece of my mind. But this is a classroom where one of my goals was to be patient and the other was to be positive. After a few minutes passed, I waited for Chris and I to be alone and I told him, "Chris, I think you calling me ungrateful was uncalled for and a bit over the top. Its not that I am ungrateful, its that I think you are unthoughtful." And he apologized and we went about our business. The groups only confrontation and it was solved in less than 30 seconds. I wish some of the older hikers I know could be so mature.
(Spencer at Camp)

After we set up the tarps, Robby and Kel split up into two stations and the testing began. We were tested on our knots first. We each had to perform the clove-hitch, taught-line, truckers hitch, figure 8 with a bite and a bowline. After knots, we had to do Map and Compass where we oriented a map, took a bearing, and took a back bearing from and un-named peak on the map. We then moved on to stoves. Stove safety was first where we had to "teach" our instructors the proper way to safely set up a stove as well as to light and operate a stove safely.
(Mud Pond and I)

After testing completed it was time for the Pot-luck dinner. Spencer and I brought our Mac N' Cheese, Tory and Martha brought shells and cheese in some kind of sauce. Kel and Robby had tortellini's in pesto sauce with sun dried tomatoes, and of course Greg and Chris had their PB&J Bagels, Cheese, Fig Newtons and Grasshopper Pie. Spencer and I had munched on our biscuits all day and thank god we did. Everyone tried everyone else's meals, we all shared... but after everyone had firsts of our mac N' Cheese.. we asked if anyone wanted more. Everyone declined an I immediately yelled, "Get it!" Spencer and I shared the last bit like the scavengers we'd become. And it was DAMN good!

After dinner, the clouds continued to roll in. Tomorrow we planned to wake up at 5:15 for our walk to the bus. But tonight, a special reading from Kel about what we could learn from our trip. HERE IS A COPY of what Kel read. After he finished... camp was quiet and reflective... I broke the silence asking if I could read my journal entry from the night before. Everyone sat silently as I read aloud what I wrote during the reading of the Lorax. My journal is not handy as of the writing of this report... but know that I wrote about the exceptional group of individuals I had the pleasure of spending 8 days with. Seven strangers who helped re-inspire, re-motivate and reshape my life. I often times forget why I do the things I do... why I hike, why I run.. and on this trip I was reminded. Per my goals on the trip.. I learned to be patient, I learned to be humble and I learned how to spread knowledge. I learned that in the outdoors.. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG, even though most folks will do all they can to shove their own theories down your throat. As I ended my reading, I stopped and thanked them all for being so positive on our adventure. And then I paused and looked towards Robby...

Robby and I work at EMS together and we got off on the wrong foot. I wouldn't say that I didn't like Robby, but I didn't necessarily have a positive opinion of him either. And as we sat in the darkness, and as i tried to gather my words, I couldn't help but to sit there and cry a little.. I got choked up. All I could say was, "I don't know why I am crying.. this is no big deal and is kind of ridiculous." Camp remained quiet and for more than a minute, I tried to gather myself. I looked toward Robby finally and said, "So many times in my life, I was judged upon before anyone got to know me. I judged a book by its cover... and its wrong. Robby... I respect you and your knowledge... and while I may not have thought fondly of you previously.. I'm sorry."

Its amazing how the world turns. We show up on a trip expecting things to go a certain way, expecting to learn a pre-determined set of lessons. But I learned more than just lessons on this trip. I learned a lot about myself, and others. Robby is one amazing individual with greater knowledge than most of the experienced "peak-baggers" I know. But what was beautiful about our trip was our ability to bury the hatchet, and get off on the right foot. I gained a new sense of hope for the world in which I live and the people I know. I gained a level of skill and confidence that no one can take from me or my peers. It was amazing.
(The Clouds move in)

We then began our peer evaluations for the trip. We had to evaluate everyones performance from the trip including our own and proved effective feedback to them as well.It took quite awhile to fill these forms out properly, but it was part of the learning process. As soon as I was done with my evaluations, I broke out the harmonica for one last song.. only this time I played it louder and for longer. I played from my soul, and played a tune which to me was the song of the trip. As I finished it up, my classmates thanked me for playing and bringing the harmonica along. Our final night together in these great woods I call home. We nestled into our sleeping bags.. slid in the ear-plugs.. and nodded off one last time.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to a small downpour. Kel was sleeping under the stars. We woke him up and he ran for cover under our tarp. Poor guy.

Day 8: End Game
We woke up at 5:15 am and began taking down camp. The only food anyone had left was gorp or snacks for a quick snack. We had a 3 mile walk out to the fun bus locale. We strapped it all up and hit the trail. We walked briskly down the tunnel brook trail, all along the brook through a magical hardwood forest. Remnants of old and new remained in these woods and provided us with some wonderful last minute scenery. There wasn't much talking as we all walked like zombies. We cam out on the road and walked a short ways to our pick-up spot.... where there was no bus. After 20 minutes of waiting, Robby and I ran up High Street to see if it was at The Glencliff Trailhead on accident.. no dice. We ran back to the group. The plan was to have the group hike with our packs and poles down the road while Robby and I ran to 25C where that river crossing was 2 days ago. We ran down the Town Line Trail and sure enough... there was the bus. We hoped on board and directed our driver to head up High Street where we found the rest of the class. We loaded up and headed for home.

About 45 minutes later we turned off towards Rumney and stopped to eat at a local General Store that made immaculate breakfast sandwiches. I ordered a ham, egg and cheese on a white bagel... extra meat. And it was ike heaven. I drank 2 chocolate milks as well. So good. We continued to UNH where the Freshman were having their move-in day. We made our way to the Gray building for the de-issuing of gear. We made sure everything was clean and folded nicely to be stored away in our majors "supply closet." From here it was back to the Browne Center where we had a group de-brief about our trip which was filled with thank you's and farewells. We then each had a one on one debrief with Robby and Kel where our performance for the week was evaluated and we could also talk about what we want to work on moving forward. My meeting ended and I called Sarah. Her and our friend Bekah came to pick me up where I returned home to the land of stress and negativity. I all ready long to be back in the woods, living the simple life... but perhaps another time.. where I can learn more than originally planned once more.

Good to be home!