Welcome


Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.


Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How I Did It

Introduction
Over the last five years, I’ve been asked many times about the secret to my weight loss success. Occasionally, the questions come from the casually curious, but most often the one asking is looking for some answers to their own weight loss struggles. They’ve tried many different things to varying degrees of success and they’re understandably frustrated. So, the question is usually more about “how can I do it?” instead of “how did you do it?” After having this conversation countless times, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts. Hopefully, you’ll find this helpful.

First, I’ll offer some advice that will only apply to a small group of people living in the Fort Wayne area. If you qualify as an applicant for Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner (FWSW), then please apply. It is the real deal and it will transform your entire life. FWSW is where I learned to embrace a healthy lifestyle, and everything I share in this article flows from my FWSW experiences. Visit the official FWSW website at www.fortwaynessmallestwinner.com for more information about this amazing program.

Even if you live in the area, it is difficult to get into FWSW. There's no guarantee you'll be selected. The application process is rigorous and each year there are far more applicants than openings. So ... what can you do if you can't do FWSW?

Recognize There Are No Shortcuts
Start with this basic nugget of truth: There are no shortcuts.

This is the key to understanding everything else I will tell you. There are no shortcuts, gimmicks, loopholes, backdoors, etc. It’s going to be hard, difficult and time-consuming. You’re going to struggle. You’re going to stumble. It takes more hard work than you can imagine.

But don't be discouraged! Take a fresh look at the “no shortcuts” rule and you can find some encouraging reassurances. Do you know the one term many people think should be included when describing a fitness journey, yet I have intentionally left it out? The word “impossible.”

Hard? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Time-consuming? Yes. A struggle? Yes. Impossible? No.

You can do this, but you must fully embrace the fact you’re attempting to do something that is exceptionally tough. Too often people attempt to lose weight by cutting corners and resorting to gimmicks. They might find some temporary success, but nothing that “sticks.” If you want a short-term gimmick, then I’m the not the right person to help you.

When it comes to gimmicks, there’s a ton of them out there. Pills that make you lose weight while you eat whatever want… sounds too good to be true? It is. Fad diets or workouts that promise certain results within a short time frame? Some of them might kinda work, but are they safe and sustainable? No, they're not. You know what they say about things that sound to good to be true ...

The kindest thing I could say about weight loss gimmicks is that they might be harmless placebos. Unfortunately, many of them are far worse than harmless, and can be downright unhealthy and dangerous. I could name some of these fraudulent programs, but I won't get into that at this time.

Simply put, there are no shortcuts when it comes to winning your health. You won’t find the answer in a shake, a pill, a wrap, etc. You’re going to have to work for it.

I know some people set weight loss goals to coincide with an upcoming event, such as a wedding, vacation or class reunion. Don’t think like that, because not only are there no shortcuts, there is no finish line. You need to embark on a life-changing fitness journey. I'm talking about a lifetime commitment of living and thinking differently. You don't need a short-term program, but a lifelong lifestyle.

If you’re asking how I did it, my success starts with the conviction that I will never go back to my old way of living. It was my old mindset that caused me to become severely obese. It was my old mindset that endangered my life. It was my old mindset that had to go.

Exercise Responsibly
This is where a lot of people think they need to start. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to exercise like crazy. Right?

Ish.

Exercise is important, but a lot of people approach it the wrong way. I want you to embrace an active lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. The quality of your life will improve as a result.

However, just waltzing into a gym without a plan is a recipe for disaster. You need to know what to do and how to do it safely. If you don’t know what to do, there is a high risk of injury, which can set you back in many demoralizing ways. It’s not uncommon for someone to fully intend to lose a lot of weight though intense workouts, but they get hurt in the first few weeks, and then they’re derailed before they ever got started. Don’t let that be you.

So, how do you get started exercising in a responsible manner?

You could pay for a gym membership, but if you do, find a place with certified instructors and trainers. Take group classes, and make sure the instructor knows you are new. They'll work with you and give you guidelines on how to participate safely.

I strongly suggest that you NOT get advice from people you know that like to work out. They’ll push their favorite types of workouts or programs, and that might not be what you need. You need guidance from qualified professionals before beginning a rigorous exercise program.

Regarding fitness DVDs: I’m not a big fan of using a video to work out by yourself at home, especially if you’re just getting started. You could do something the wrong way, which you will only discover after you’ve injured yourself.

The key is to get professional guidance when you get started. It can be expensive. It can be difficult to find time. I understand a lot of factors are at play, and trainers and/or gym memberships are not always financially feasible. If that’s your situation, don’t sweat it. Literally. Intense exercise is not required for successful weight loss. Don’t get me wrong … it helps, but it is not required.

If you’re on a tight budget, I’d recommend embracing the walk. Walking is relatively inexpensive and you already know how to do it.

It is important to get fitted for the right shoes, so go to a local running specialty store that offers gait analysis. They’ll work with you individually to determine what kind of shoe you need. The wrong shoes can lead to discomfort and/or injury. If they suggest a pair of “running shoes” don’t fret. Good running shoes are also good walking shoes. Shopping at a specialty store will cost more than a department store, but think of it as an investment. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It really is worth it.

How much walking should you do? I’d recommend a mile a day for a few weeks. Resist the urge to go further than that. It’s easy to go too far, particularly when you’re just starting out. Seven miles in a week is a great start. Don’t overdo it.

Keep a journal so you know how many miles you’re doing each week, and do not add more than 10% to a following week when you begin increasing your distance. This means that if you do 7.0 miles in week one, then you can go up to 7.7 miles in week two.

After a while, you’ll be hungry for bigger challenges. That’s awesome! The staff at your local running store should also be able to help you find a run/jog/walk group in your area. You can download free apps to guide you from “couch to 5k." Just keep this in mind: don’t try something new without a qualified professional giving you some initial guidance.

Finally, when it comes to exercise it is important to find something that you can sustain. If you know me, you know that running is my jam. I love to run! But that doesn’t mean that you must also become a crazy long distance runner. The principle is finding something you enjoy, otherwise it will not be sustainable.

If you hate running, then find something you enjoy. It could be swimming, biking, ballroom dancing, doing martial arts, playing basketball, etc. If you dread a specific workout, then you will eventually stop doing it, so keep trying different things until you find something that you genuinely enjoy.

Eating Cleanly
Is responsible exercise important? Yes, but your diet is at least five times more important than your level of physical activity. If you’re working out like a crazed maniac, but not eating correctly, then you’ll never successfully manage your weight.

How do you start eating correctly? The same truths apply: no shortcuts and get qualified professional help.

Stay away from fad diets. As with exercise, I advise against getting advice from people you know that do not have legitimate credentials. Stick with a pro.

If you can afford it, hire a personal dietitian. I know it can be expensive, but it is a tremendous investment. If you can’t afford one, then look for nutrition classes at your local library, community college or church. See if your employer has any resources available through a corporate wellness program.

The key is for you to learn the basics of sound nutrition. What is a carb? What is protein? What are macro-nutrients? How do you plan meals? How do you read a food label? Etc.

There are several pre-packaged plans out there that will prepare meals for you. I'd stay away from those. It's important to learn what makes a good, clean meal rather have someone make it for you. It's like the old saying: give a man a fish and he eats for day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. You don't need a fish, you need to learn to fish.

If you must choose between paying for nutrition help or exercise help, go with the dietitian. They're a significantly better bang for your buck. A dietitian can be far more helpful than a personal trainer to someone who is just starting out on this journey.

Practice Accountability
The last piece of advice I'll give to you is to seek accountability. Don't try to do this alone. You need someone (preferably multiple someones) to help you stay on the straight and narrow path to success.

The easiest type of accountability is obeying and trusting your dietitian and/or trainer. Some people pay for professional help and then fail to follow the instructions they are given. Even worse, they might lie about their failures so they don't get berated. You can't pull those kind of shenanigans if you want to be successful. If you mess up, fess up.

I know people who try to lose weight, but are unexpectedly sabotaged by people who should know better: family, friends and co-workers. It's okay to lose a little weight, and most people will generally support you … to a point. Yet, if you refuse to go out to eat with some friends because you feel uncomfortable with the restaurant’s menu, then you might face some adversity. Some family members might feel like you're judging them if you don't want to eat what they're eating. You might run into a few people who are downright hostile to your goals. I'm not trying to scare you, but you need to know you might face opposition.

Personally, I was extremely fortunate in this regard. Not only were my coworkers genuinely supportive, but my wife was with me every step of the way. She too lost a lot of weight and is an amazing success story. I wouldn't have been successful without her.

Where can you find a suitable accountability relationship? If you went to the running store and found a run/jog/walk group, you probably met a few folks who are in the same boat you are in. Maybe you have a friend, family member or coworker who would be thrilled to join you in your journey. If you look for this kind of help, you will find it. I am sure of that.

One great way to enhance accountability relationships: keep a meticulously accurate nutrition/activity journal. Not only can this information help others help you, but eventually you'll learn how to use the journal to help yourself.

There is a great app called MyFitnessPal (MFP) It's free and works on all platforms (go to www.myfitnesspal.com). You can use it to easily track what you eat and to record your exercise.

At first, record everything you eat and do. Religiously. Don't omit a single detail. Record it as you consume/do it throughout the day rather than waiting until the evening or weekend to do a batch entry.

You could use MFP for a couple of weeks before meeting a dietitian. He or she could look over what you ate and offer a handful of quick suggestions in that first meeting. But even if you don’t have someone review your nutrition journal, you’ll start to see obvious changes you can make. For instance, you enter a meal of a Big Mac, large fries and a large milkshake … that’s almost 1500 calories. If you replace the milkshake with a glass of water, you can almost halve the calories for the whole meal.

Incidentally, I was taught in FWSW that those who keep the most accurate nutrition journals have the most success in the program. If you’re real serious about wanting to lose weight, then get real serious with tracking your food. Let MFP help.

Final Thoughts
For most folks, their weight loss success is hindered by two things: motivation and/or ignorance. If you’re asking for help, you’ve got at least some of the motivation you need… enough to get started ... which is great! What you need to do next is work on your ignorance.

Ignorance is not a dirty word. It simply means “don’t know.” People who struggle to lose weight don’t know how to work out, what to eat, etc. You can fix ignorance if you apply yourself. You need to be able to say “I don’t know” and “I need help” … and that’s not easy for many people to say either of those things. Master those two sentences, and you're going to find success.

Your level of motivation will vary. That’s okay. The trick is making sure you do what you’re supposed to do, especially on the days you don’t feel like doing it. String together a few small victories and you’ll gain valuable momentum. Those small victories will eventually become a pattern, which will eventually become a lifestyle.

So ... good thing I kept it short, right? There's more to say, but this is enough for now. If you have any questions, let me know. I genuinely cherish opportunities to return the investments that others have made in my life. I was taught that I am stronger than I knew I was. You too are stronger than you think you are. I was taught that I could win back my health. I know that you too can win back your health. You. Got. This.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Run=Win 00: Disclaimer

Here we go!

This is the beginning of a series of blog entries that pulls life lessons from the experiences of training for a long distance race.

I'm only three sentences into this series, and you might already have an important question: why should you listen to me? That's a very legitimate question. After all, if you're going to invest the time to follow this series, shouldn't the author be credible? Who wants to learn life lessons and training practices from someone who isn't an expert?

So, let's get this out of the way right up front: I am not an expert. I am not an expert when it comes to running or living. I've certainly suffered my fair share of setbacks, and committed far more than my fair share of mistakes. Don't read this series because you trust that I've got it all figured out.

When it comes to running, I am fairly new to it and am far from an elite competitor. I often finish near the back of the pack, including several DFLs (which stands for Dead ___ Last). My performance is usually hampered by my ignorance and inexperience. And don't even get me started on the many different ways I've screwed up outside of running. I'll repeat it because I want to be very clear: I am not an expert.

What I will do is simply and transparently share my experiences with you: the bad and the good. And while I've failed a lot, there are also plenty of good experiences to share with you ... far more good ones than bad ones. It's been a wild and enjoyable ride! I find the running life to be extremely rewarding, and if you don't already know what I mean by that, then I hope you will discover it before this series is finished.

So, here we go... buckle up for what I hope to be a grand adventure!

---

For what it's worth, I would like to share a brief "runner's resume" of what I've done over the last five years. While I am not an expert, I am pleased with what I've been blessed to do.
  • RRCA-certified running coach (2016-)
  • Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner (contestant, alumni mentor and running coach, 2013-)
  • Pace team leader (several different half and full marathons, 2015-)
  • Indiana Run For The Fallen (Core Team, 2015-)
  • Fort Wayne Running Club (board member, 2017-)

 2013 
 2014 
 2015 
 2016 
 2017 
< half marathon     
8
17
30
14
32
Half marathon
1
3
5
6
6
Full marathon
3
2
3
3
50k
3
1
6
50 mile
1
1
12 hour
1
24 hour
1
Total Miles
        532
     1,469
     2,111
     2,376
     *2,700
*estimated

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017 UA Community Gift Guide

Back in April 2017, my weight loss story was featured in the "Stories of Inspiration" blog on MyFitnessPal.com (http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/frank-dropped-88-pounds-found-actually-loved-running). I was really pleased with how well the article turned out, and am grateful that I had the opportunity. I enjoyed my "fifteen minutes of fame" and life returned to normal. Or so I thought ...

A few months ago, a representative from Under Armor (the parent company of MyFitnessPal) called. She explained they were putting together 2017 Christmas Guide and would like to get product recommendations from people they'd featured in their Stories of Inspiration. That sounded like another great opportunity, so I gladly jumped on it.

They've just released the 2017 "UA Community" Christmas gift guide in a slide show format, and my product endorsement is slide #4!

How cool is that?

Check out my review of the UA Charged Bandit 3 at http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/top-gift-picks-community-members.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It's Not An Event Report!

So, this year almost all of my blogs have been event reports. I came into 2017 focused on a slew of interesting objectives, and I’ve been both fortunate and blessed to accomplish almost all of them. It’s been an incredible year, and I’ve learned a lot. I promise to share a *brief* end-of-year recap later, but I’d really like to move away from writing event reports and take my writing into a slightly new direction. I want to get back to my blogging roots and address a veritable gallimaufry of topics (yes, that’s a real word … feel free to drop it casual conversation).

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor illustrated his sermon by comparing marathon training to successful living. That got me to thinking and over the course of a few long runs, I’ve mentally outlined a (hopefully) coherent series of blog entries where I’ll build upon that idea. I'm tentatively calling it "Run=Win" ... but the title could change (suggestions welcome).

In semi-related news … I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2018 Mercy Health Glass City Marathon (April 22, 2018 in Toledo, OH). Woo! Cool, eh?

I ran their full marathon in 2015 and set a PR (to date, this is my only sub 4:00 marathon). It’s a beautiful, flat, fast course and I’m very honored to be chosen to represent them. If you’re looking for a spring distance race, give GCM a look. In addition to the full marathon, there’s a half and a full relay. The swag is impressive, and the experience is unforgettable. The price goes on December 31, 2017, so there’s still time to get the lowest possible rate.

So... my intent is to write this series while training for the Glass City Marathon. Heck, if you live close enough to me, perhaps we can run together every now and then. I’ll try to release at least one blog entry each weekend leading up to the race. I hope you’ll find the journey to be interesting, entertaining and helpful.

Note: You can access all entries in this series by clicking the "run=win" label in the Categories section to the right side of the main blog page.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Event Report: 2017 St Pat's 24 Hour

Event Report: 2017 St Pat's 24 Hour
St Patrick’s County Park (South Bend, IN)
10/21-22/2017
http://www.stpats24hour.com/

This report is written in two parts: a review and my personal reflections. If you’re considering this race and just want basic facts, feel free to reading just part one.


* * * Race Report * * *


About the Race
The race is organized by two wonderful ladies as a fundraiser for a friend of theirs with ALS. I believe this was the tenth year for the event, and it is held in high regard by many I know who have ran the race.

There are three events to choose from: 6 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour, all of which start at the same time: 8 am.

When I arrived to pick up my packet, one of the directors warmly addressed me by name! I’d never met her before, but because I’d posed a question on the Facebook page, she recognized me from my profile photo. She made a very good first impression. Overall, the staff does an amazing job, and treats the runners like family.

Pre-Race
The park which hosts the race is open prior to packet pickup, and on-site camping is permitted (free with your registration). You can begin setting up your space (first come, first served) before packet pickup begins at 6 pm. You have the option to pitch a tent on the grounds or set up an area inside the barn (a large building at the start/finish area). Be forewarned: if you choose to spend the night onsite, it might difficult to sleep due to all of the activity in the main staging area.

Along with pickup, there’s a catered pasta dinner. It was good, quality food.

The Course
The course is a 3.1 mile loop. It’s fairly flat and wide. It’s also very well maintained, with no fallen trees or other unnecessary obstacles. About two-thirds of the course is a packed trail surface that winds through the woods. While you need to be alert for roots and walnuts, you can generally move at a nice clip through these portions of the course.

Most of the remaining course is wide and grassy with a small paved portion near the start/finish. There is only one hill of consequence, but it’s not obnoxiously steep. There are plenty of loose rocks on the ascent, so it’s always prudent to walk up the hill.

The course is very well marked. One nice touch was the use of glow sticks as course markers as it got dark. I’d never seen this in a race before, and I really, really, really appreciated it. It made the course so much easier to navigate in the dark.

As you cross the finish line, a timing computer is set up near the aid station where you can check your lap count. Laps count as 3.1 miles, even though my Garmin routinely showed a slightly shorter distance. Make of that what you will.

They set up a quarter mile out-and-back track you can run repeatedly over the last half hour of each race. This is a nice bonus as many other timed races do not offer such an option.

Weather
I’ve certainly ran my fair share of foul weather races this year. This was not one of them, as the weather was simply gorgeous. It climbed into the low 70’s at the highest temperature and into the 50’s at the lowest. It was mostly cloudless with a light breeze. I suspect the course would have been significantly more difficult if there had been rain (especially the hill).

Aid Station
The is one full service aid station at the start/finish line and an unmanned water-only station about two-thirds of the way through the loop.

The main aid station has to be seen to be believed. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was well stocked with the standard fare (chips, fruit, gummies, PB&J, etc), and some higher-end not-so-standard fare (sandwich wraps, jelly/rice balls, etc). The complementary energy drink was Heed, which I’d never tried before, so I stuck with Tailwind. As it got later into the day, a variety of warm soups were available as well. If you’ve seen it at an ultra, it was probably available at this aid station. Additionally, it was always adequately staffed by eager and helpful volunteers who refilled water bottles, etc.

While the variety was appreciated, what made the aid station so unusual was that virtually everything was served in individual containers. For example, oatmeal/PB balls came in little cups with lids, and PB&J segments were wrapped in foil. This made it easy to take it with you since you could cleanly stash it in a pocket/vest/etc. There are plenty of trash cans along the course, so you never have to carry trash with you for very long.

I would give this aid station a rating of four … as in “The Four Seasons of Ultra Aid Stations.”

Swag
Your pre-race packet has all the race swag you’re going to get, which includes a long sleeve cotton t-shirt, a branded beer mug, a branded pair of knit gloves, a can of beer, and a bottle of maple water. As swag goes, it’s on the light side. There are no finisher medals.

At packet pickup, items from previous year’s races, including dri-fit shirts, hats and more, were available for purchase. I suspect swag varies a little each year, so it’s a good idea to check the site’s event info before the race if you want to know ahead of time what you’re going to get.

Personally, I’m fine without a medal. The race was a good value without it. I knew the race was a fundraiser, and adding things to the swag bag increases the cost of the race.

Awards are presented to the top two male/female finishers in the six hour event and the top three male/female finishers in other two events. I’m not quite sure what the awards are, but it included a large bottle of some sort of alcohol. If you don’t drink alcohol then the alcohol-centric swag/awards will be less appealing to you.

Review Summary
If swag is really important to you (ie, you’re a bling whore), then this might not be for you; however, if you’re looking for an ideal racing experience, rest assured that the race directors do not skimp on the race experience itself (ie, the course markings and aid station fare are top notch). I confidently state that this is a well-organized race with awesome volunteers on a beautiful course. I was challenged and I found the entire experience to be thoroughly rewarding.

I highly recommend this event.


* * * Personal Reflections * * *

Goals
One of my goals for 2017 was to run twelve races of marathon or longer. Prior to St Pats, I had completed ten (marathon = 3, 50k = 5, 50mi = 1, 12hr = 1) and had another 50k on my calendar. I still needed one more race.

I was also hoping to set a distance PR. In 2013, I ran my first half. In 2014, my first full. In 2015, my first 50k. In 2016, my first 50mi. In 2017, I wanted to notch my first 100k. With the year coming to a close, I was running out of nearby 100k options. I chose to run St Pats as if it were a 100k with a 24 hour cutoff, yet my time goal was to be under 18 hours (which is a fairly common cutoff for a 100k).

Another factor in choosing St Pats is that several Ignite and 3RUR teammates would also be running St Pats. I knew I could count on these teammates to encourage and support me, but I had no idea how strongly they would come through in this way.

I was fortunate to carpool with Brad Compton again. We’ve done this before, and it is always such a blessing to spend time with Brad. He has run at St Pats multiple times and is a wealth of knowledge (not just in general, but also specific to this course). He is a wonderfully pleasant person, and one of the reasons I had such a successful weekend.

The Team Concept
I’ve ran most of my races solo. Even when I know people who are also doing the event, I tend to be pretty solitary. I’m not complaining. I’m kind of wired that way and I enjoy the solitude. This race would be different because about 30 people were there from the Ignite Ultra Team and the Three Rivers Ultra Running (3RUR) Team. I a fortunate to be a part of both groups.

I thought I’d see them on the course (ie, get passed by them), chat briefly if we met at the aid station, and perhaps I’d even share a few random miles with someone every so often. I was wholly unprepared for the different experience it is to truly be part of a team.

First, several team members were there in a support capacity. They came with a specific objective, but were generally available to do whatever they could to help. For example, Jason Richardson and Jared Newhard were there to crew for Suzi Swineheart. While Suzi was their primary concern, whenever I came through the aid station they were always there to help. One would grab my water bottle and fill it, while the other talked me through my last loop and offered a suggestion or two. They’re both experienced ultra athletes and could tell better than I when I needed a salt tab or other things like that. There were several other teammates I saw throughout the event that similarly helped me out.

As great as these teammates were, Tiffany Kravec was on a completely different level. She was there to crew for Mike Else, but always had time to help me out. She really took good care of me and her kindness caused my eyes to water more than once. She monitored my food intake and made several “suggestions” throughout the race that kept me going. She taped up blistered feet several times, and that right there is amazing. I mean … who does that? This required removing dirty, sweaty, smelly shoes and socks, cleaning my feet and then applying the appropriate bandages in the right places. I think it says a lot about a person’s character when they’re willing to clean another person’s feet. Tiffany drew upon her own experience and knowledge in just the right way each time I needed it. Sometimes, it was in the form of a gentle question, and other times it was a stern “now go!” Either way, she did a fantastic job helping me amidst her many other duties.

And then, there was Pat Quinn. I’m going to struggle to put all this into words, but I am so incredibly thankful for what he did for me. He was there to crew/pace for someone else, and due to unforeseen circumstances, he wouldn’t be needed to do that. As I completed my 16th lap, he asked if I had a pacer and that he was available and interested in helping me out. I had never ran with a pacer before, so I didn’t really know what it was like. I was also a wee bit intimidated, because Pat is an accomplished runner far beyond my own ability. I tenuously agreed to run with him starting on my 18th lap (mile 52.7).

I can say that as nervous and intimidated as I was by the thought of Pat joining me, it was a completely silly way for me to feel. He did absolutely nothing to heighten my insecurity, but it’s easy to let weird thoughts get into your head. I am so grateful for his patience and kindness.

Pat is not only an experienced ultra runner, but he is also an experienced pacer. He talked to me, made several very helpful suggestions, refilled water bottles, fetched appropriate food from the aid station, carried extra food for me onto the course, and so much more.

Prior to Pat joining me, my pace had slowed to about an hour per lap. For the first three loops he ran with me, my pace improved over five minutes per lap. He pulled something out of me than I did not know I had. He was aware of my goal (100k in 18 hours), and he got me to that point at 16:44! I did not even dare to think I could complete my goal distance in that time.

Once I hit that goal, Pat encouraged me to keep going. After all, I still had seven hours left! I was very happy with my accomplishment at that point, and I felt like a burden had been lifted. I was willing to continue, but I was also quite content to shuffle along at a much more sedate pace. I managed to complete three “bonus” laps.

On my last lap, I was definitely moving quite slowly, and Pat was worried enough about me to walk the course in reverse to find me, which he did a little less than a mile from the start/finish line. I was uninjured, but completely exhausted. I can admit that seeing Pat caused a few more happy tears (seriously … I had never bawled during a race before, but this one brought out so much emotion). Pat walked me in and I shut it down at 71.3 miles. I had been moving for over 21 hours.

Another cool component to running a “short looped” race with a team is that I saw teammates often. It was neat to see Mike, Brad, Suzi, Brenda and others so many times. They always had a kind word when they passed me. As they’d disappear ahead of me, I’d think, “Dang, how cool is that I’m on the same team as those awesome runners!” It was a bona fide boost throughout the entire event.

I’ve already said a lot about the value of team on this race, and I could keep going on and on about it. Suffice it to say, this was my first real team experience, and it was incredible.

My Performance
Overall, I think this was the finest race I’ve ever run. It was a good, strong race.

Initially, my plan was to run/walk using time intervals, but after a couple of loops, I decided to switched to using landmarks to make a switch. For example, I would walk from the start/finish area to the first turn, and then run/jog to the first lengthy stretch of grass, then walk until the trail ducked back into the woods, then walk until … you get the idea. With such a short loop, it was easy to remember the course and make “on the fly” plans for my intervals.

Through the first nine laps, I was averaging about 40 minutes/lap. Over the next nine laps, my pace dropped to about 60 minutes/lap. Some of this slower pace was intentional because it was a hotter part of the day, and I didn’t want to wear myself out in the heat and have nothing left in the tank for the night. Tiffany had also insisted that I slow it down, and she can be very persuasive.

When Pat started pacing me, my pace dropped below 55 minutes/lap for three laps. My last three laps were at a pretty sedate 90 minutes/lap. All that’s to say this: I started a little fast, but I never really felt labored. Pat was a miracle worker who get me moving a little faster, and then I just barely zombie walked the last bit.

When the last half hour started, I resumed my zombie shuffle for three of the quarter miles loops, which was enough to push my final total to 72.05 miles ... a distance PR by over 20 miles!

My 50k time was 6:48. My 50mi time was 12:54. My 100k time was 16:44. That was very close to a PR for both 50k and 50mi.

In the “Completely Random” category: several times throughout the race, the word “analgesic” popped into my head. For whatever reason, I think it’s just a fun to say word. Go ahead and say it out loud right now while you’re reading this, and you’ll probably chuckle. It’s just that kind of word.

Nutrition
Overall, this worked out really well, in large part due to the expert care provide by my team. I had very little experience with salt tabs, but think they made a significant difference.

Around 18 hours, most foods did not sound palatable. It just didn’t sound good. Maybe I could have ate it, but the thought of even trying did not sound like it would go well. Soup was about all that I wanted to eat at the point, and it went down easily.

Lessons Learned
The value of team cannot be overstated. Having never really experienced it before, I am in awe of how much better the experience is when a group of people are pulling together. I am so appreciative of the many kindnesses shown to me over the weekend. I’ve mentioned several names, but many more could be mentioned. I’m so thankful, and I look forward to working as a crew/pacer for some of them in the near future.

Because I was unfamiliar with the course, I took four different pairs of shoes (three trail, one road). I ran the first 15 miles in a basic trail shoe before switching to road shoes (Under Armor Bandit 3). It's lightweight with a lot of cushion (similar to minimally cushioned Hokas). I wound up running about 50 miles in these shoes before switching back to trail shoes. While I love my Salomon, they're heavier that the Bandits, and I think wearing lighter shoes helped I know I couldn't have done this if the weather weren't so cooperative, but in this situation it worked out perfectly. Before making the switch to road shoes, I talked with some of the ultra vets who confirmed that it was a worthwhile idea.

I have never treated blisters or chaffing in the middle of a run. I probably wouldn’t have done it on this race either if I had been by myself. Tiffany, Pat, Erin, Jason, and the others were always asking questions, and by treating these type of problems early enough in the race, they were not a major problem later in the race. I escaped from the weekend relatively unscathed: simply exhausted, but injury free. I was very fortunate.

One of the many insights Pat shared with me was the value of using this race as a litmus test for a 100 mile race. I’ve entertained the thought of attempting a 100 miler, but have doubted whether or not I had the ability to do it. Continuing to run past the 62 mile mark gave me valuable experience that I couldn't simulate with training runs. I am now more confident of my ability to complete a 100 miler than I was before St Pats.

Something interesting from the experience: Pat pointed out to me that I seemed like I was moving with determination and grit prior to 62 miles, but once I crossed that threshold, I had given up that edge. This was not to denigrate my performance, but to point out that as long as I had an objective in front of me, I was capable of more. Once I passed the threshold, I lost a powerful motivator. Pat pointed out that if my goal had been “run for 24 hours” then I would have been able to attack those last several hours with more strength. This is really insightful and I immediately realized the truth of his analysis.

Overall, I am so pleased with this race. The course, the volunteers, the weather, the friends … everything lined up perfectly. I couldn’t have scripted a better experience, and I was privileged to have so many blessings in such short succession. While I signed up for a 24 hour race, I came away with a lifetime of cherished memories.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Event Report Summary: No Way 200k Series

The following links are my event reports for each race in the ORRRC's 2017 "No Way 200k" Ultra Series.

#1 - Tie Dye 50k
#2 - Another Dam 50k
#3 - Dawg Gone Long Run 50k
#4 - Germantown 50k (includes additional thoughts on the series as a whole)

Additional information on the series can be found here:
http://orrrc.org/club-events-and-series/200k-no-way-trail-series

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k
Germantown MetroPark (Germantown, OH)
9/23/2017
http://orrrc.org/event/germantown-50k-2/

This is the fourth event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) "No Way 200k" ultramarathon series. This report is not just a report on the Germantown 50k, but also a brief review of the series.

Information about the entire series can be found at:
http://orrrc.org/club-events-and-series/200k-no-way-trail-series.

Special notes about the “No Way” series: At one point, you had to complete a specific slate of four 50k races to complete the 200k challenge. Now, there are five 50k races, and you can run any four of the  five. It is a little confusing because some of the literature still refers to the series as four events. 200k finishers receive a special award, which varies year to year (in 2017, it will be a jacket). There is an additional award for those who complete all five events, but I have no idea what it is.

ORRRC
After completing all four races, I feel like part of the ORRRC family. The volunteers are top-notch and the Dayton running community is full of wonderful people. Each race presented unique challenges, and I enjoyed each event in it’s own way. It has been a rewarding summer-long experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend future ORRRC events.

Pre-Race
The registration fee was $40, which is a great value. 50k was the only distance option for this event, so you don’t have to share the course with runners doing other races. It is a laid back atmosphere. There were only 64 runners to start the race, which I think was the smallest field of the series to date.

Travel Plans
I have seen Fort Wayne area runners at each of the other events. I enjoy seeing friendly faces at out-of-town events. But this race was a little different because Brad Compton and I traveled together. We left on Friday evening, stayed at a nearby hotel, ran the race on Saturday then drove home.

What a wonderful experience! Brad is an accomplished ultra runner and a fine, fine person. I really enjoyed our conversation. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk that much about running. I feel like I started this journey with an acquaintance, but finished it with a friend.

Having a travel buddy makes things so much more manageable. Brad ran a great race (winning his age group!) and finished about 90 minutes ahead of me. That gave him plenty of time to chat with friends and get cleaned up. He was also feeling far better than I felt, so he drove home. Brad was an answer to prayers that I hadn’t even thought to pray, and I am thankful for his company, encouragement and assistance.

Course
The course is a 7.75 mile loop, which you run four times. There is no “finish by” cut-off time, but if you do not begin the fourth loop by 2:45 pm (6:45 of race time), then you were not permitted to continue.

Most of the course is a wide trail with some short paved sections. It is shaded most of the time, which was nice because the temperature reached the mid 90s. Fully-stocked aid stations are available at approximately mile 3.7, 5.2 and the start/finish.

I would divide the loop into three sections:

Section 1 (to mile 3.7) Prior to the first aid station, there are a few minor hills, but nothing too severe. There are several long stretches where you can build up some momentum and enjoy the slightly rolling terrain. The path is generally clear of roots and other obstacles. It’s very nice.

Section 2 (the middle 2.3 miles): After the first aid station there is a short dam crossing, and then the trail becomes more technical, narrower, and greater variety in elevation. The second aid station is in the middle of this section.

Section 3 (the remaining 1.75 miles): Here the course flattens out a bit as you complete the loop and return to the start/finish. I suspect this area would have been quite muddy (and more difficult to traverse) had there been some rain prior to or during the race. Of particular interest is a long wooden boardwalk. While it was not a problem on race day, it could be a different story if it were wet.

There is about 900 feet of accumulated elevation per loop (good for about 3600-ish for the whole course). There were no water crossings (at least not on race day).

My overall impression of the course? It was easily my favorite course of the No Way series. It reminded me of Chain O’ Lakes more than any of the other courses. Interestingly, what reminded me of home was not the scenery, elevation profile, etc. It was how well the trail was cared for. This was easily the most well maintained course of the series. I think it says something about the COL community that, at least to me, the chief trademark of the COL course is how carefully and lovingly maintained it is.

Aid Stations
Each of the previous events had a mix of unmanned/manned aid stations, but this race had full service at each stop. I know that is extra work for the volunteers, and I really appreciated their efforts.

I usually arrived at an aid station by myself, so I got the undivided attention of the volunteers. I felt like a NASCAR driver coming in for a pit stop … one guy would refill my water bottle, another guy would chop up fresh apple slices, etc. They were very proactive and encouraging. It was obvious that several of the volunteers were veteran ultra runners by the way they knew how to take care of us.

Fare included apples, bananas, oranges, pretzels, chips, PB&J quarters, pickles, cookies, Twizzlers, and more. Everything was available at each of the three stations. Drink options included water, gatorade and stale soda.

I know course layout dictates aid station placement. Having said that, it would have been nice if aid stations were more evenly spread out. It felt like it took a while to get to the first aid station, and then the second one was close to it. Again, there’s not much that can be done about where the pavilions are located. Still, it’s helpful to know that you have to run half of the loop before you hit the first aid station.

Weather
The race started at 8:00 a.m., which (in my humble opinion) is a little late for a 50k start. The metropark likely dictates the start time, but if we could have started earlier, it would have been helpful. I would prefer running with a headlamp in the morning if it meant running few hours in the heat.

Initially, humidity was high (over 85%) and temperature was in the mid  60s. As the race progressed, the humidity dropped while the temperature climbed. There was virtually no cloud cover throughout the day, and very little breeze. By the end of the day, the temperature on the course had hit 94 degrees. It was definitely a hot one!

My Performance
I wish I could tell you that I absolutely crushed it. My first lap went really well, and I felt good about my second lap as well. I was able to share a few miles with different folks, which was very pleasant.

By the time I started the third lap, the heat had climbed up enough to impact my performance. I was also by myself most of the final two laps, which is not unusual for me in a long race.

I knew the final lap would be difficult, but I was ahead of the cut-off by about 30 minutes, which meant I was okay. I changed shoes, removed my shirt and added a handheld water bottle (I had been using a water belt with a single 16 oz bottle). I think each of these things helped, and this is a fine example of implementing lessons learned from previous races. I’m finally starting to feel like a veteran!

Prior to beginning the last loop, I asked the race director where I was in the standings, and she estimated that about a dozen runners were still behind me. Knowing I wasn’t the last person took some pressure off of my shoulders.

I wound up walking most of that last lap. I just didn’t have much left in my tank. I had started struggling to put fuel into that tank as I was having a hard time eating. Over the last few hours of the race, I was reduced to eating apple slices almost exclusively. It wasn’t that I was struggling to keep food down (no nausea), but I would put something in my mouth and then have a hard time swallowing it. I can’t remember ever experiencing this kind of phenomenon before.

I do think I did an acceptable job of hydrating. I took a pee a few times during the race, and color/odor was never a cause for alarm. Having a second water bottle allowed me to “spritz” myself liberally, which felt really, really good.

When I made it the first aid station on the last loop, a volunteer told me just a few people were behind me as the field was thinning out. Eventually, two guys caught up to me … the dreaded course sweepers. I knew sweepers existed, but I had never seen them in action before. This is when I learned that I was officially the last person still on the course.

The sweepers never directly engaged me in conversation. I could overhear their conversation (most of which involved ultra horror stories). While they did their job, I feel like it was a missed opportunity. I imagine that if I were a sweeper, I’d try to use the opportunity to be an active encourager. As it turned out, even though they were behind me, I was still pretty much on my own. I simply pressed on and stayed in front of them all the way to the finish line.

After each loop, I had to adjust my estimated finish time. After loop 1, I thought 7:30 was possible. After loop 2, I thought 8:00 was realistic. By the end of loop 3, I thought 8:40 was likely. I didn’t hit any of those estimates. I wound up finishing with my slowest ever 50k finish time. I was this year’s official DFL.


Lap 1 > 1:45 (1:45 elapsed)
Lap 2 > 1:55 (3:40 elapsed)
Lap 3 > 2:32 (6:12 elapsed)
Lap 4 > 2:52 (9:04 elapsed)

For the record, I am completely cool with finishing last because I finished. Out of 64 people who started the race, I was #45. That means that, for whatever reason, almost one-third of the field did not finish. By the grace of God, I was not a DNF. I’m grateful that I was able to finish, and while I was completely spent, I was also quite satisfied. Despite the difficult conditions, this was my favorite race of the series.

Swag
You get a nice shirt at packet pickup. The finisher award is a beanie with an LED light in it. It’s a nice cap, but it’s not suitable for running. I sweat a lot when running in the cold, and this would be a pain to wash, so it has limited usefulness. There were no finisher medals, and the age group awards were inexpensive water bottles. Having said this, you know when you register that it is a low cost event.

I appreciate that the race directors found creative ways to reward finishers. The beanie is the first item of it’s kind I’ve ever got at a race, so kudos for thinking outside of the box. I suspect that next year they’ll find something else to offer.

Series swag (by event): #1 = very nice tech shirt at registration, ceramic vase for finishing, #2 = a cotton shirt at reg and a tech shirt at finish, #3 = buff at reg and a medal at finish, #4 = shirt at reg and a beanie at finish. (Based on what I've overheard at races, swag items vary a little each year.)

Series Final Thoughts
Each race gave me a gift:

#1 (Tie Dye) was incredibly difficult due to heavy flooding. I had never encountered such conditions, but I was able to persevere and finish. When I hear other runners share extreme “war stories” of difficult races, I can now contribute one of my own.

#2 (Another Dam) was my best effort, but unfortunately, I was heavily fatigued going into it. I have ran a lot of races this year, and Another Dam was so close to other events that I didn’t have a proper recovery/taper. I learned valuable lessons by running tired. I am pleased that I tackled this race with less than ideal conditioning and was still able to put forth a solid effort.

#3 (Dog Gone) was frustrating at first. There was so much mud! The first (of two) loop had me questioning my sanity. It was the closest I ever came to dropping a race simply because it sucked. I was not injured or ill. I was just upset. Fortunately, it dried out and I was able to enjoy the second loop. If I had quit, I would have failed to learn a valuable lesson in perseverance. This was the most mentally challenging race of the series.

#4 (Germantown) was my celebration race. The finish line was not just for a 50k, but for the 200k series as well. I had worked hard for months to complete a big goal, and it was cool to know what the finish line really meant. It didn’t hurt that the course was enjoyable and the company I kept was awesome. The heat took a lot out of me, but it didn’t diminish my determination to finish.

So … that’s the story of how I ran the No Way 200k series. Hopefully, you were able to finish reading my race reports in less time than it took me to run them.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Anchor Down Ultra

Event Report: 2017 Anchor Down Ultra - 12 Hour Colt State Park, Narragansett Bay (Bristol, RI) 8/18-19/2017 https://www.anchordownultra.com/ Pre-Race I work for a company that sent me to a week long conference in Boston. When presented with such an opportunity, I try to find a nearby race before or after the work-related stuff. I found the Anchor Down Ultra, a 6/12/24 hour event in Rhode Island. I like new challenges, and this certainly qualified. I’d never done a timed race.I’d never flown to an ultra. I’d never done a race alongside the ocean. Lots of first on my horizon! Packing was difficult, as I had to prepare for the conference and the race. If this were the IT, I would have prepared multiple drop bags, each with a pair of fresh shoes/clothes, etc. In this case, I had to pack lighter than I preferred. Yes, I made a few mistakes, but at least I am now better equipped to do this in the future. One of the biggest challenges was trying to navigate a taper week while at a conference. I couldn’t eat the foods I normally eat, and sleeping in a hotel isn’t always restful. I’m a guy that likes to stick to a routine, and I was often out of my comfort zone. It worked out, but was a source of anxiety. The conference ended at 3 pm on Friday. I drove down to Rhode Island from the conference and got to Bristol by 5 pm. All three events started at 7 pm, so I had plenty of time to change and get acclimated before the race. I would have liked a little more “down time” so I could take a nap. I didn’t get a nap, and (spoiler alert) I think that would contribute to my lack of late-race oomph. The weather report all week predicted thunderstorms during the race. The weather report turned out to be (another spoiler alert) spot on. There was a ton of rain, especially early on. Check-In Swag-bag: The bibs are nice and specific to the event. The event shirt is a really nice tech shirt, and really nice cotton shirts were also available for an extra purchase (I got one of those too). Sponsors included North Face, Gu, and Hot Shot. What struck me as particularly cool was how the company reps worked the event as volunteers. They weren’t just selling stuff, but were actively staffing aid stations, etc. I can’t recall ever seeing an event where the sponsors were so involved in the event. This was really cool. I assumed there would be a place for drop bags at the start/finish. Pre-race communications mentioned that we’d have access to our gear, but I didn’t fully understand the logistics until I got there. There’s a designated “runner’s village” where you can set up a tent. There was not a generic tent for runners like myself that brought a simple drop bag. My plight was exacerbated by the rain, because I couldn’t just find a spot on the ground to leave my fabric drop bag. Fortunately, I met some very nice people from CT Trail Mixers, a local running club. They’d set up a large tent and welcomed me as an honorary member for the weekend. This was a tremendous blessing! They were very kind, supportive and generous. I would have had a far different experience without their hospitality, and I am in their debt. They are a perfect example of how cool the running community can be. There is a pacer policy (12 hour runners can have one after 6 hours, and 24 hour runners can pick up a pacer after 12 hours), but I did not have anyone to pace me. The Weather Poopy. There was a lot of rain for a lot of the race. They made sure to brief everyone on weather delay/cancellation policy, and fortunately, it never came to that. During the national anthem, it started a strong, steady downpour that lasted for a few hours. It let up for a little while, and then rained off/on throughout the night. By dawn, it had pretty much stopped raining. This was one of those events where you are soaked to bone before you even cross the first timing mat. The Course It’s a 2.45 mile loop. That little 0.05 kinda bugged me. Apparently, the first year of the event, it was announced as a 2.5 mile loop, but people complained it was short, so, they adjusted the distance for accuracy’s sake. Personally, I would have preferred lengthening the course. It’s a small thing, but when running a long distance, parts of my brain just shut down. Doing mental math on multiples of 2.45 got harder as the laps accumulated. About 1 mile of the loop is on (mostly) single-track trail and the rest is asphalt. Thus, about 60% of the race is paved. You can run on the grass next to the pavement at times, but that is not always an option. The asphalt/trail mix complicated selecting the right shoes. I knew the course was mostly paved, so I brought road-friendly trail shoes (Salomon Sense Pro Max) and road shoes (Saucony Ride 9). I planned to start in trail shoes and switch if conditions permitted. For what it’s worth, most of the runners wore road shoes. If I could have packed more gear, I would have included more shoes. As it turns out, the rain made the trail section quite difficult. In some places, it was ankle deep mud. For this, the Salomon’s were perfect, and they even worked out well on the paved portions … at least for the first few hours. As the race wore on, the soles of my feet started heating up. I would have liked to change shoes, but the road shoes were not suitable in for the mud, so I didn’t have a choice. Overall, the course is relatively flat. The trail portion has a fair amount of roots, but it’s otherwise free of obstacles. The paved portions are right next to the ocean. Even though it was dark for most of the race, it was serene and beautiful, even throughout the storms. The park is really well maintained, and the locals are justifiably proud of the course. If you run the 24 hour option, you’ll have even better views during the day, but beware because most of the paved sections are in the open (i.e., unshaded). If you’re wanting a trail ultra, the significant amount of road is probably going be a deal breaker for you. The Skunk Around 10pm, I caught up with a group of runners going real slow and oddly bunched up together. A skunk had entered the race (apparently as a bandit, because I didn’t see a bib). Eventually, the path widened out a bit and we were able to safely pass. The skunk didn’t let ‘er rip, so we lucked out, but he sure made it real interesting for a quarter mile. Aid Stations There are two stations: the main one at the start/finish, and the other one is about half way through the loop. An aid station is always less than 1.25 miles away. Initially, the halfway station was water only, but after a few hours they began serving hot Ramen noodles (one of my ultra favorites). The main station is full service, with a great spread of all the stuff you’d expect: PB&J, M&Ms, chips, pretzels, fruit, pizza, etc.The volunteers are great, and since you see them so often, they do a good job of remembering you. It’s cool to pull in and hear someone call out your name, especially when you’re 850 miles from home. Gu provided a Tailwind-like hydration drink, and I really liked it. I probably shouldn’t have tried it for the first time during a race, but it worked out. Over the course of the race, I think I nailed the nutrition. I never felt hungry or nauseous. I would eventually run out of steam, but it was not a fueling issue. The Race My “gold standard” goal was surpassing 50 miles (21 loops for 51.45 miles). I had finished the first two loops in less than an hour, at a comfortable effort level. The weather made it interesting, but I was moving well. I still felt good as I finished six loops in about three hours. But I could tell that I was getting tired, and I began to slow down. By the six hour mark, I was at 26 miles, and I knew that 50 miles was unlikely. The biggest problem of the night was my headlamp. I’d had problems with a cheap lamp during the 2016 Woodstock 100k, so I invested in a posh Petzl lamp with a sensor that adjusts brightness depending on the environment. This feature turned out to be a real big pain in the butt. When I was on the trail portion of the loop, my headlamp would automatically dim. I could turn it off and on to reset it, and it would work for a while, but then it would go dim again. There was a lot of mist and fog in the woods, and I think it caused my lamp to malfunction. I thought it might be damaged or a low battery, but whenever I got out of the woods, it worked correctly … until I went back into the woods, and then it would act up again. If I was next to someone with a powerful lamp, my lamp would stay on. It was when I was alone that it would do it’s weird dimming trick. This odd behavior became more pronounced as the night progressed. I was really blessed to fall in step with a young lady (also doing the 12 hour). She had decided to walk the trail portion and jog/run the paved sections until the sun came up. I shared almost three full loops with her, and without her strong headlamp and encouragement, I would have been in a jam. Again, I’m in debt to strangers within the running community. If I had brought my full drop bag kit, I would have had an extra headlamp, but I wound up leaving the extra lamp at home to save space. This wasn’t the smartest racing decision I’ve ever made. It’s amazing how a few hours of fidgeting with a stupid headlamp can drain you. I was already tired, but this sucked so much out of me. I wound up walking a lot more than I should have … or needed to. The Finish While this is a timed race, you don’t get a medal unless you cross a certain threshold (8 laps for 6 hour, 16 laps for 12 hour, 20 laps for 24 hour). For me, I began to think of it as a regular race with a cutoff. After I realized 50 miles was not going to happen, I kept making downwards adjustments to my goal. Eventually, I settled on completing the minimum number of laps to get that medal. I wound up completing my 16th lap at 10:41 (gun time) with 1:19 remaining. I could have done at least one more lap, but I was spent and sore. I was also dealing with the unpleasant reality that I had substantial chafing issues. It was perhaps the worst chafing I’ve ever experienced. I still had to drive back to Boston, so I chose to pull the plug and collect my medal. It is one of the nicest race medals I’ve ever got. It’s large, steel and has a unique design etched onto each side. It’s gorgeous. They did not have showers on site, so I wound up cleaning up as best as I could in the parking lot using a bottle of drinking water. I put on fresh clothes, shoved my muddy gear into plastic bags, and made it to the airport with some time to spare (I did stop twice to take a little nap). I didn't get a shower until I got back to Fort Wayne late that evening. What Did I Learn? If I do another event that I have to fly to, I’ll have a much better idea of what to pack. A spare headlamp is not a luxury, but a necessity. Don’t leave home without it. The running community is awesome. When using 2toms (for anti-chafing), if you’re already a little damp from rain and sweat, it’s important to dry off thoroughly before applying. Even the waterproof stuff doesn’t go on real well if it’s not applied under the right conditions. Would I recommend this event? I can say that I’d do it again if the opportunity presents itself. It’s a nice event with great folks on a beautiful course. If you’re a road runner looking to dip your toe into ultra events, this is a great place to start. However, if you’re a die-hard trail runner, you might not appreciate the amount of paved surfaces.