Monday, September 20, 2010

Pisgah Mountain 50k - Race Report

"I feel so extraordinary /
Something's got a hold on me /
I get this feeling I'm in motion /
A sudden sense of liberty."
- New Order, "True Faith"

As I sit here typing this, I'm sore. Legs, back, arms. They're all sore. And, wow, I ran an ultramarathon yesterday. Me. It was hard. Very hard. I had a lot of support, and even when I was running alone, I wasn't alone. It was an amazing day. Hopefully, I can put it into words.

I left my house after lunch on Saturday for the drive to Chesterfield, NH. Until I looked into this race, I had no idea Chesterfield existed. After a stop to pick up a pizza for dinner, I set up my tent at the end of Horseshoe Road in Pisgah State Park. This "unofficial" campsite was actually right on the course, about 1.5 miles, so there were a few other runners there with me, including Kate and Julie from Maine and 75 year-old Gene from Illinois, who was hoping to convince the race director to let him start early. "I'm pretty slow," he said. The conversation flowed freely until the moon fully rose and it was time to get some rest.

Race day morning arrived cool and foggy. Perfect running weather. But, I wished I had been able to sleep in. I was too nervous to be up at 6:15am for an 8:45 race start. I took my time packing up my tent hoping to keep my mind off the day' activities, but I eventually headed down the road to the race start at about 7:00. On way down the road, I saw figure shuffling up the hill through the mist. It was Gene. He and his huge smile were on their way. I wished him well, and told him I would see him later. At registration, I joked with the volunteers that it was decision time. I slid to the right and picked my number from the pile labeled "50k." Yup, this was real.

This was not my first 50k. My first was at Pineland Farms in 2009. It was a disaster. From that disaster, I can say that I learned a lot, and it served me well on Sunday. Still, though, I was nervous, but I wasn't alone. I chatted with Jim Johnson a bit at the start, and it's good to see that even top guys get just as nervous. (They just beat me by 90 minutes.) I made one final call to D, or as Jim said, "Put the emergency contact on standby," and headed over to the start line.

It was still cool as the race started, and I was glad I had my brand spanking new Nathan running sleeves. I placed myself well back in the pack, since my plan was to go out slowly, very slowly. Luckily, the course lends itself to that plan because after a short downhill, the course climbs up and up and up the road to the actual park entrance. In fact, once the road turns from pavement to gravel one hill is so steep that most of the field, myself included, was walking. A mile into the race, and I'm already walking. Well, I wanted to go out slowly. At about this time, I started chatting with three guys, Jay, Nick and Chris, and a few minutes later Jay and I were swapping new parent horror stories. Diapers are a good way to not think about running 31 miles.

I had two major concerns going into the race: the downhills and my fueling. Well, just after we left the road, I was confronted with the first: a long, fairly steep downhill. I really focused on slowing myself down in order to save my quads for later. I was definitely afraid of the "too much, too fast, too soon" that can lead to disasters in ultras. I'd learned that the hard way last year. Easy, easy, easy. At the bottom of the hill was the last major of decision of the day: straight for 23k, left for 50k. I felt very comfortable turning left and had a sense that I would have a good day.

My time goal for the day was set off of my performance at Pineland last year. Knowing that I was in better shape and better prepared, I was confident that I could PR for the distance: sub 5:17. So, my goal pace was 10:00 per mile with hopes I could remain steady the entire way. After a mix of tricky singletrack and very mellow woods road running, Jay, Nick, Chris and I rolled through the aid station at 4.8 miles in 46:30ish. I was right on pace (OK, slightly ahead) and feeling very comfortable. A quick right, a quick left, and then, Oh my...this is Pisgah.

Turning onto the Dogwood Swamp Trail the real test began. I did not expect this. The trail went up. Steeply. I walked a lot. So much for right on pace. Even when the trail was runnable it was tricky. It became clear that anything that wasn't a woods road in the park received very little traffic. The treadway was uneven, leaf-covered (Is it fall already?), rocky and rooty. Don't get me wrong, it was good, clean, old-fashioned trail running goodness, but it was more than I was expecting. Somehow the difficulty of the course had eluded me in my pre-race research. That being said, all day I kept thinking, "Man, this course is hard," but I never got down about it. It was always more of an observation.

The Dogwood Swamp Trail led us to the aid station at 8.4 miles. I took a little extra time here to refill one of my bottles with HEED. I opted to wear my Nathan Elite 2V Plus (which is awesomely tremendous in every way) since the aid stations were frequent. Plus, the pockets on the front are like lunchboxes—plenty of room for my gels, blocks and bars. As I mentioned, I was very focused on my nutrition for this race. And, in many ways, I felt this race was going to come down to my nutrition. I worked on it a lot this summer and got some great advice from D: eat every 30 minutes. This is exactly what I did, and this plan worked flawlessly. My energy was great all day, and my stomach felt fine. I left the aid station at 1:27ish with 2 fig bars in hand, executing my plan a few minutes early. As it turned out, the timing was perfect because the next half mile or so is nothing but up—a steep, twisty, paved (must have made sense at the time) up. Since I can walk and chew at the same time, I downed the two fig bars and half of a Berries GoMega Odwalla Bar—not a super, hardcore energy bar, but it's all about taste and texture. These puppies are super tasty and easy to chew.

Snack gone, hill finished, it was time to run again, and I soon caught up to Nick and Chris (Jay was far ahead) who were now running (walking, really) with two women on a very rough singletrack section. One of the women (unfortunately, I never got her name) mentioned that she had helped clear this trail and was running the race for the eighth time. That's awesome! It was great to have her course insight for a little bit: "It gets really rugged through here," she yelled from behind. She wasn't lying. It was in this section that Chris pulled off with intestinal issues: "My stomach is doing loop-da-loops around my ass." Easily the quote of the day. I wished him well and set my sights on catching the other woman, Christine. We were moving downhill, and she was making it look easy. I hate people like that. A few moments later I saw a tall figure shuffling along. It was Gene! We greeted each other cordially, but it was the last time I would see Gene all day. Based on spirit alone I know he finished, but I had to hit the road before he crossed the line. At this point, it had taken him 3:45 to cover about 10 miles.

At 2:00, I downed a gel, as was the rule. I put the empty packet in my shorts. Two seconds later on a nondescript, fairly flat piece of trail I rolled my left ankle. Hard. I'd been feeling the urge to pee for a little while, so I took this as a sign to pull over. But, when I started running again, it wasn't pretty. My run was more of a limp, and I stumbled into the 12-mile aid station. I was very worried that my race might be over. All I could think of was my buddy Jamie's heartbreak at Western States in 2009 when one injury lead to another. I asked the aid station volunteers if they had any spare ankles. They did not. Instead, I went with a cup of Gatorade and headed up the trail, leaving the aid station at 2:04:00.

Luckily for me, the next section of trail, the Old Chesterfield Road, was the smoothest running of the whole race. Perfect to get the blood flowing to the ankle and the stride back to normal. Perhaps it would be OK. Nick had passed me while I was peeing, and he and Christine were running together. I soon caught them, and it was great to have some company to keep my mind off my ankle. It worked as I checked it each time the trail got rocky, but it felt fine. It wasn't issue for the rest of the race.

At 13.5 miles, the course takes a sharp left, and I got a bit ahead of Nick and Christine. I was feeling very good and had a notion to just run a bit faster. I was enjoying their company, but I had to run my race. Something inside just told me to get moving. I was alone on Reservoir Trail and enjoying running up the very runnable hills. The trail was still rugged, but I barely noticed. When the trail topped out, there was a terrific view of Mt. Monadnock off to the left. All I could think of was how lucky I was to be out there. It was a total runner's high moment. I was really enjoying this race, and that song was in my head: "I feel so extraordinary..." (It may have been out loud for a little bit, too. Good thing I was alone.)

My 2:30 snack break came, and I broke out some Clif Shot Bloks, Black Cherry. (YUM!) Normally, I'd eat half the package, but for some reason, I decided to down all 6 pieces. My stomach felt great, so I figured the extra calories wouldn't hurt. The trail was as rugged as ever, and I was alternating running and walking as the terrain dictated. I thought it was strange that I hadn't caught anyone and no one had caught me. It was in this stretch that I understood why people run with music of sort. Granted, I had New Order pounding in my head, which is completely awesome, but I could have gone with the real thing. With that in mind, I was pleased to have some human contact when I rolled into the aid station at 17 miles. "Where is everyone," I asked. It was also at this point that I realized that time goals were out the window. I arrived at the aid station in 3:00-flat when I had hoped to have already covered 20 miles in that time. But, with the terrain I'd been through, I still knew I was running well. No need to start sprinting with 14 miles to go. So, I lingered here enjoying the conversation, the Gatorade and the generic brand Cheez-its. I filled one bottle with Gatorade for variety, and obviously lingered quite a while as Christine and two other runners rolled in. Chomping on an Odwalla bar, I headed out alone only to be passed by one of those runners, Frank, a few moments later. He was moving very well, and I doubted I would see him again. I did not, but he was also the last runner to pass me all day.

The section of trail from mile 17 to mile 20 is the hardest of the entire course. The Pisgah Mountain Trail is serious. Seriously, PUD-filled. A PUD, or pointless up and down, is both physically and mentally demoralizing. "Oh good, I'm at the top of the ridge. Oh, I'm going down. Now, I'm going back up, and now down, and now up, and now down, and OHHHHH COME ON!!!!!" This was the Pisgah Mountain Trail. I did get another great view of Mt. Monadnock, and I laughed at how less grateful I was at this point. This put me in a better place, and I kept pushing. This was the hardest section of trail, and I was anxious to put it behind me. At the time, I didn't know it was the hardest section of trail, but I just knew that it couldn't get any worse. I kept waiting to see the Kilburn Loop enter from the left meaning that I would only have about a .5 mile to the aid station. Finally, that point came, and soon after I caught another runner.

"Dude, what was up with that section?"
"Don't worry, that's the hardest of the entire course."

That was all I needed to hear. My plan/hope going into the race was to feel good when I got to the 20-mile aid station, run the 5.5 mile Kilburn Pond Loop hard, then push as hard as possible/hang on the last 6 miles. When I asked, one of the aid station workers said I could skip the Kilburn Loop for $10, and I was wishing I had some cash. Instead, I headed off on the loop with 3:37 on the watch determined to stick with the plan. And I did. I felt great. The first part of the loop was mostly downhill, and I took full advantage. I passed one runner, and was extraordinary once again. At the bottom of the loop, the trail turns sharply left and begins the climb back out. This part was less fun. I downed a gel at 4:00 (of course), but I was feeling it. I was in a "bad patch." Another runner appeared in front of me, and I focused on trying to catch him. I'd get close, but then as if he could smell me (totally possible), he'd pull away. I did eventually pass him, and he said "I could play a tune on my IT-band right now." Bummer. I wished him well, and I thought, "My body feels great, why should I be down?" A couple minutes later I caught another runner. "Man, I'm looking forward to finishing," he said dourly. I was in a much better place than him. Keep pushing.

I arrived back at the aid station at 4:28. Fifty-one minutes for the Kilbrun Loop. Only 6 miles to go. Just one thing: that had hurt. I figured that water would be enough to get me to the finish, so I dumped the couple ounces of HEED I had remaining, grabbed a couple pretzels and headed out at exactly 4:30. One hour to break 5:30. This is really going to hurt.

My Lemon Lime Shot Bloks, another full package, as I ran out of the aid station were delicious. My stomach was still right there with me, but what was that twinge in my right hamstring? Hmmm... Just after the sharp right turn before Rt. 63, a turn that everyone said was easy to wasn't due to terrific marking, I passed another runner who was hurting. "It's just not my day," he said. I encouraged him to keep moving, hoping I could do the same myself. A couple moments later, they started. My left quad. My right hamstring. My groin. I was cramping. Badly. Cramps hurt. I wanted to punch a tree kind of hurt. I'd cramped before, but only at the end of runs. I wasn't entirely certain what to do, but in my exhaustion all I could think of was "electrolytes." I had another serving of HEED with me, and I dumped it in my bottle with the water. Somehow, I managed to do this without stopping, so it was a small victory. The cramps would come and go for the rest of the race, and each time I was afraid I'd end up dropping to the trail and waiting for the helicopter (or coroner). I'd like to avoid this in the future, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I was now on the Davis Hill Trail, if you could call it that. It was a trail in the sense that the large trees were removed, but the treadway was a mess. Nothing was even. I was no longer thankful to be out there. I was done. I felt far from extraordinary. Amazingly, however, I was still passing people. I caught one runner who was walking (on a flat section), and it encouraged me to know that I was still running. In fact, the cramps subsided when I was running. They'd crop back up when I was walking up the hills. So, 29 miles into the race, I was running up the hills. That hurt less. Ultramarathons are hard.

I spotted another runner up ahead, and it was clear he was really struggling on the downhills. It turned out to be Jay. I hadn't seen him since mile 8. More than 20 miles later, we were back together again. No talk of diapers this time as I moved past him just before the gate that dumped us out onto Winchester Road, aka the most painful downhill ever. I'd left the park and was on the homestretch, but the gravel road was absolutely quad crumbling. I just wanted it to level out. I knew the finish was close, but I really just wanted the road to be flat. I would have gone an extra mile on a flat road. I kept thinking about 5:30, too. If I kept pushing I could make it. I knew that if I walked, I may never start running again. That road was awful.

Then it got worse. Shortly after it turned to pavement, it also went uphill. That was cruel. Then it leveled, but then it went up again. That was twice as cruel. However, I could see the Stop sign. I knew that the race was basically over at the Stop sign. I was about to finish an ultramarathon. My main goal coming into the race was to finish strong, unlike Pineland in 2009. I was doing that. It was ugly, but I was running pretty well. I wasn't stumbling and shuffling. I was running. Then, I was done.

I crossed the line and lost it. I was a blubbering idiot. I was a little girl. The moment I hit the chute, I didn't have to focus, and all the emotions came pouring out. A volunteer took the tag from my number and asked 3 or 4 times if I was all right.

"I'm fine. I'm great. That was really hard. Really, though, I'm great." Then I cried some more. It took me about a minute to pull it together. Then I laughed. It was over.

I congratulated Jay as he crossed the line a couple minutes later. I chatted with other finishers. I called D and barely kept it together. I'm pretty sure all I said was "I'm alive. It was hard." over and over.

My time was 5:25:13. I finished in 27th place.
(Official results aren't posted yet.)

I changed. I ate soup and hamburgers and hot dogs. I watched other runners finish. Christine came in. The guys I'd passed in the final miles came in. Nick and Chris came in together. Kate finished. Julie finished. A lot of other people finished. As I looked around, I saw a lot of regular people. I was in the company of a lot of regular people who had done something extraordinary. These people would pass you on the street, and you wouldn't give them a second look. But, they all completed an ultramarathon. That's amazing. I was very proud to be among them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bradbury Bruiser - Race Report

This race report could be very short: I ran hard. It hurt. I was pleased with the result. That's pretty much how it went. It was another great day at Bradbury Mountain State Park, but, of course, I need to elaborate.

First, a bit of background. In 2007, D and I ran this race after first ruling it out, but then being "forced" to do it when two friends came to stay with us in order to run. I had only been running again for a couple months, and I really surprised myself that day. It all basically snowballed from there, and here I am just a couple days away from my second ultramarathon (more on that later). We missed the race in 2008 due to our vacation schedule, and last year was an utter disaster. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to racing this year, especially on the heels of my successful Scuffle and Breaker.

Race day arrived with the usual early start to get registration and the start/finish area ready to go. Perfect running weather for the race, and we had another strong turnout. Things were going very smoothly, so I had time for a short, 1/2 mile or so, warmup with D. Ian, our fearless leader, flawlessly rolled through the pre-race instructions, and we were off.

My strategy for the race was pretty simple: get out conservatively quick and relax through the Island trail, which is too technical to worry about pacing or place, and many people waste a lot of energy jostling for position and sprinting ahead in this first section. Mission accomplished. I let a number of people go by me in this section while I really used it as a warmup. No one would pass me for the remainder of the race. I felt very easy and comfortable when I exited the Island Trail, surprised to see my watch read just under 15:00—a couple minutes faster than expected.

Part two of the strategy was to use the less twisty sections over the next four or so miles to find my rhythm and start moving along. One of the drawbacks of my plan was that after going into the singletrack one step behind Jamie, he had put a good chunk of distance on me in those first 15 minutes. As I passed Ian shortly after exiting the Island Trail, I wished him well and said, "I need to go catch Jamie." I knew he was out there, but I wasn't sure where. I briefly pulled two guys along through Ginn, but my course knowledge and constant, but subtle, increasing of the pace left me alone by the time I crossed the Snowmobile Trail. I didn't see another runner until just before I reached the aid station. I decided to carry my handheld for the race, so I wouldn't need to rely on the aid stations. It was a good choice as I'd already downed a gel before the first aid station, and I was able to roll right through. Still no Jamie, though.

Shortly after the aid station, I focused on catching another runner, Dave, who was moving steadily. It took me some time to catch him, but my timing was perfect because I tucked in right behind him just after passing the Bat Cave. I figured I could relax a bit, after having done a lot of work while running alone, and let him pull me along. Admittedly, it was tough to maintain some discipline here because shortly before the Batcave Trail, I had caught a glimpse of Jamie up ahead. My watch told me he had about 25 seconds on me, and I really wanted to catch him. However, I wanted to stick to my strategy, which included a big surge once I turned right onto the Snowmobile Trail. That's exactly what I did.

As soon as Dave and I exited the Fox Trail, I moved around him a dropped the pace. I felt a little bad since I let him pull me along for a mile or so, but no friends on race day. Additionally, I knew that fellow Trail Monster Bob Porier was not far behind me and having never finished ahead of him in a race before, I liked the idea of trying to sneak away. I was moving very well (for me) up the Snowmobile Trail, when I finally saw Jamie just ahead of me. I was only a couple seconds behind him as I hit the aid station, and joked with Trail Monster Erik and the other volunteers to be quiet so Jamie wouldn't know I was there. He heard me, however, and the element of surprise was gone.

It still took me a little bit to fully catch him, but on the first bit of singletrack just after the Snowmobile Trail we were finally running together. In retrospect, I should have passed him immediately. Instead, I was content to sit behind him. First off, I was pretty beat from charging up the Snowmobile Trail and felt the need to regroup. Secondly, his blog totally psyched me out. Have you been reading that thing? DAMN. He has been doing some killer workouts of late. Workouts that I know I couldn't do. Granted, I got him in the Scuffle and Breaker, but, like I said, he's on fire right now. I said to myself, "Jamie's been crushing it lately, so just try to hang with him." So that's what I did. I sat behind him. Instead of trying to make the pass and go, I sat. Not exactly the most aggressive race tactic, but I hoped that I could hang a make a move just before the O Trail—the small intestine-like 2.4 miles of singeltrack that eats your soul at the end of the race. (In hindsight, even if I had passed him, I'm positive he would have stayed with me and gotten me anyway.) We chatted a bit, but then he'd open a small gap. I'd catch back up, then the gap would open again. Then he started offering every spectator and passer-by $10 to trip me. He must have had about $200 on the line.

As we ran the singletrack just after crossing the Link Trail, I suddenly found myself in a world of hurt. Jamie was slowly putting ground on me, and there was nothing I could do about it. Just past the final aid station, I decided to take another gel just to be safe, and, in hopes of having enough juice to catch him in the O Trail. I needed to regroup a bit. And, looking back, my chance to pass Jamie had already come and gone, but he was my carrot.

Coincidentally, chasing and hanging with Jamie had really fulfilled the next phase of my race strategy: go as hard as you can after the surge on the Snowmobile Trail and just try to hang on in the O Trail. My theory is that everyone runs slowly in the O Trail—it's far too twisty, turny and cruel—so even if you try to run it fast, you're not going to gain that much ground. I turned into the O Trail as my watch read 1:15:05. Now, I was chasing something else. "25 minutes to break 1:40," I kept chanting to myself.

The O Trail is the O Trail. I assume "O" is for oxymoron. It forces you to focus, yet you need to detach yourself from it or you'll go crazy trying to answer the question: "When will this end?" Even though it's at the end of the race, you can actually catch your breath because your forced to slow down, all the while, it destroys your legs. It will look smooth for a few seconds allowing you to run normally, then you'll stop short with a 180° turn over a rocky outcropping. It's physically and psychologically damaging. On top of that, I'm racing. I keep seeing Jamie somewhere in front of me, and Bob somewhere behind me. I must have seen Jamie 10 or 12 times in this section, but I had no real way to gauge how far ahead of me he was. I just kept pushing. I actually passed a couple guys as Jamie pulled me along. They didn't seem to be having much fun. After turning the calendar page, I saw the stone wall. Oh, the sweet, sweet stone wall. Only a few more yards until the end of the O Trail. I'd survived, and as a reward it was time to sprint to the finish.

I crossed the line in 24th place with a time of 1:38:23. Jamie ended up a full 50 seconds ahead of me. He crushed me in the O Trail, but I'll take it. There's no way I would have run that fast if he wasn't there. We congratulated each other at the finish, and the 2010 Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series was in the books. Well, almost, we still had to get our Bradbury Bad Ass hoodies!


A quick look at the numbers for the Bruiser is pretty crazy. Kevin Tilton, after I browbeat him into running, took the win in a course record time of 1:22:totallyridiculous, bettering the previous record by 7 minutes. The top 7 guys all beat the previous course record. My time from Sunday would have put me in 5th place in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, that time would have been good enough for the win. So, yeah, the race was stacked this year, and that's awesome! Personally, I PRed on the course by 11 minutes and simultaneously ran 27 minutes faster than last year. Not sure which of those is more impressive. Going into the race I had hoped to run 1:42, but would have been happy with 1:45. I figured if things went really well I could dip under 1:40, hence the chanting. So, obviously, I'm thrilled with the 1:38.

For the series, I finished 6th overall with a combined time for the three races of 3:40:59. That total would have placed me second overall the last two years, but I'm not complaining because at the beginning of the summer, I had silently set a goal of breaking 3:55 for the series. So, yeah, the summer went well.

Speaking of "going well," D was the 4th woman, winning her age group, in 1:47:42 on a bad leg with a "I just hope to break 2 hours" goal. She finished third overall in the series for the women, and we are going to petition Ian to have a "Fastest Household" prize next year. (Hopefully, I can hold up my end of the bargain.)


Now, the race wasn't all rainbows and candy. At some point while chasing Jamie, I could feel a hot spot on the ball of my right foot. In the O Trail, I hit a couple roots or rocks painfully twisting the bottom of my foot on consecutive steps. It was then that I knew I had something ugly on my foot. It turns out that I developed a pretty good sized blood blister. See...

I feel like I've recovered well from the race, and the blister seems to be a non-issue. All good news. I've done a couple very easy runs this week as I now truly taper for the Pisgah Mountain 50k on Sunday. I'm ready.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Training Week 8/29 - 9/4

This week marked the beginning of my sorta taper for the Pisgah 50k. I say "sorta" because I'm racing the Bradbury Bruiser the week before. I don't think you can consider it a taper when you race a hard 12 miles the weekend before the 50k. Time will tell if this is a good idea or not. If it's not, I'm going to have a fairly painful September 19. Wheeeeeee!!!

Onto the numbers...

8/29, Sunday: 17 - 2:54:15, Powerlines, Mt. Ararat, Cathance River Trails and a Suck Loop. My plan for this run was at least 20, but it wasn't meant to be. My legs never really woke up, and it was brutally hot and humid. I took two short sit down breaks by the river at 8 and 11 miles to eat and regroup (mentally and physically). After my second break, I decided that my best course of action was to head for home. The HEED in the bladder of my Nathan HPL 020 just wasn't working for me. Normally, I really like HEED, but today it felt like I was drinking syrup. YUK. I was home after 14 miles, and D offered me water, Gatorade and melon. The melon was amazing. I poured the Gatorade in my bladder and shuffled off for three more miles. So, all in all, it wasn't a very good run, but I pushed through it. The good news was that even in the heat, my stomach was good the whole way—no trouble with the gels, shot blocks or energy bars.

8/30, Monday: 3 - 23:42, Suck Loop. Much to my surprise I felt really good on this run. Cruised right along easily. With my struggles on Sunday, this was very encouraging. My negative feelings from Sunday's run were totally wiped away. In fact, I was encouraged that had I not been dealing with the heat, Sunday would have been totally different. And, it made me realize how much effort and subsequent success I put in and got out of Sunday's run.

8/31, Tuesday: Off

9/1, Wednesday: 3.25 - 29:00, Mt. Ararat Loop w/ D. It was already hazy, hot and humid when we snuck out for our run after D had dropped the Little Lady off at daycare. We had planned on doing the out and back on the powerlines, but that would have left us completely exposed to the sun. So, I suggested we run the twisty loop I devised through the Mt. Ararat trails a couple years ago. I probably hadn't run this run in over a year. The air quality was poor, and we could both feel it. Overall, though, it was a nice, easy jaunt.

9/2, Thursday: 7.75 total, Great Glen Trails Fall Trail Running Series, 3.4 miles - 25:50; 2.25 mile warm up, 2 mile warm down. Forced speedwork is back! Well, I didn't really open it up all the way, but still got in a good workout. It was hot again, but by the time I headed out for my warmup, it wasn't as brutal as I had anticipated. The course this season is excellent—lots of singletrack, especially in the final mile, which also features a stout climb. (I covered that mile in about 9:00, so that should give you an idea of how tough it is.) I ran relaxed but hard, even though I never went full tilt. All in all, a good, comfortable, hard effort. Bumped into Kevin Tilton as I was headed out on my cool down, which coincided with the warm up for his fartlek workout. I tried to kill him on some really tricky singletrack.

9/3, Friday: 3 - 24:52, Suck Loop. Uneventful, easy stroll.

9/4, Saturday: 3 - 24:42, Powerlines. Felt FAN-TAS-TIC. Just a great, fun run. There were a few puddles left behind by Hurricane Earl, which may have fueled my enthusiasm, but either way, my whole body just felt great. Maybe this is a taper?

Miles: 37
Trail: 31
Road: 6

Also notable this week is that I crossed over 1,000 miles for the year. That's not a big deal for a lot of folks out there, but this was the earliest I've hit that number. I barely got there in 2008; hitting the number in week 50. In 2009, it took me until week 47. Best of all, I'd say I'm feeling stronger than ever. In the last couple months (read: since the disaster at Pineland), my focus on strength and hills has really paid off. My notion of a hill is totally different. Hills that I run regularly are feeling smaller, shorter and flatter than ever. Don't worry, my arms are still pathetic.