Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Year in Review and 2010 Race Calendar

Last year at this time I was swimming, floating around, and splashing Erica in the Gulfo Dulce while on our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We decided to take our honeymoon before our wedding for a couple of reasons. 1) We knew we were moving to Portland, OR shortly after our June 20th wedding and 2) It is just brutally cold in Ithaca, NY! The warm, tropical weather down there made it difficult for me to NOT go looking for some epic trail runs, even though I said I was going to just take it easy. So, after a stellar 2008 race season and a short break, my training started in the jungles of Costa Rica for 2009.

I must say it is nice to be back in the states for this holiday season. It was a little weird sweating my butt off while kayaking on Christmas day last year. So now, as I sit here next to our little Christmas tree, I am able to reflect on all the amazing things that happened in my life over the last 365 days... and some things that I learned.

When I got back to central New York in mid January I could tell that 22 days in that climate really conditioned me physically and totally replenished my spirit. I kept on going and as cold as it was I continued to hammer the hills of Ithaca through snow, sleet, and sub-zero temps. One of my training partners Michael W. introduced Gunn Hill repeats to me and I really started noticing some high levels of fitness. In February I signed up for the H.M.R.C.C. winter marathon in Albany, NY. You can read the race report HERE. I decided to run it on no taper and part of a 104-mile week as an up-tempo long run. Well...I had a great race...ended up winning in 2:47...and left the race with a big ego. Lesson learned.

From that point on I continued to train like I was some super-human machine that didn't need any rest or recovery. I had all these great race plans for the year and, in hindsight, was unable to control my enthusiasm. After a couple hiccups in my training I was still able to make to the starting line for the H.A.T. 50K down in Maryland feeling pretty confident about my fitness. Again, I had a solid race and ended up finishing third place but toward the end felt some remnants of an old IT Band injury. Uh oh!

Things gradually got worse and I had to skip The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY. From that point on I struggled with thinking I was getting better and coming back too quickly and then subsequently re-injuring myself. I raced a few shorter distance trail runs and really worked hard to rehab my leg including barefoot workouts (before Born to Run came out!) and Active Release Therapy along with massage. I decided to set my scopes on The Finger Lakes Fifties scheduled for the fourth of July. In the mean time we had a beautiful wedding celebration at Stewart Park in Ithaca on June 20th, I finished up my term at SUNY Cortland, and started getting prepared for our big move across the country.

The fourth of July rolled around and I took off like a bandit on the course of my first-ever ultra a few years ago. About 38 miles into the 50-mile race I felt serious pain and tightness and was forced to swallow my first DNF at mile 40. Ouch! Time went on and, again, I started feeling better and incorporated many strengthening exercises. By late July I had run a 40-miler on my last day in Ithaca and wondered about my future race plans that I had already signed up for in advance.

We made the big move across the country and I made the big decision to give Where's Waldo 100k a go. I'm still perplexed about why and how I was able to finish this race pain free. This race gave me a nice intro to the beautiful state of Oregon and I was very satisfied with the outcome. I went into 100 in the Hood thinking that I was "cured" but after 50-miles found out that was not so. I was able to tough it out and ran the second half of the race on an injured leg. That would be my last race of the year and, even though I still finished in seventh place with a respectable time of 18:53, I know I have so much more in me.

So after finishing my first term at Portland State University and meeting so many great people here I have constructed a plan for the new year. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'm going to try and learn from some of my mistakes.

Here is my tentative 2010 race schedule:

*Badass 50k fun run (training run)
*Capitol Peaks 34-miler (training run)
*Orcas Island 50k
*Hagg Lake 50k (volunteer)
*Chuckanut 50k
*Peterson Ridge Rumble 30k or 60k
*Capitol Peaks 50-miler
*Forest Park 50k (training run)
*Bighorn 100
*White River 50-mile
*Where's Waldo 100k (volunteer)
*Virgil Crest Ultra 100 or Palm to Pine 100 (same day...haven't decided yet)
*Lithia Loop Trail Marathon
*The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler- San Fran.

Whew! that makes me tired just reading it ;o) Now...this is just a tentative list mind you. Naturally things come up, plans change, injury (hopefully not too many this year!) that will cause me to alter this list, but these are the races I have my sites on for 2010. I also want to say that I wouldn't be able to do half of this without such an awesome supportive wife! Thanks babe I love you much! :o)

So will I see you at any of these races?

I look forward to a great year and hope to see you along the way as we dance the trails in the great sport of ultra!

Happy New Year and Happy Trails!!! :o)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Visiting the Northeast

I'm just wrapping up a nine day visit to the northeast as I sit here in Syracuse airport updating my blog. This part of the trip could be compared to being at like mile 75 of a 100-miler. I'm almost home but still have a solid 6 or more hours of traveling to go. From here we head to Newark...hopefully we will not run into any weather causing delays or cancellations. Then it's across the expansive country to my new home of a little over four and a half months.

This trip gave me a relative break from the computer, Internet, blogs, facebook, school, etc., and my eyes needed a reprieve from staring at a screen. I can't say I was completely cut off...I mean I checked a few times at coffee shops and on my phone, etc. but for the most part I just enjoyed the company with family and friends. My last couple days of the fall term consisted of final exams wrapped with back to back 15-milers around them and a red-eye flight Thursday night after my last exam. I like to try and tire myself out for these long flights so I can try to get some shut-eye. It often works but I also have to get up and stretch out every once in a while.

Friday morning I landed in Syracuse and was picked up by John O. and we headed east on I-90 to southern Vermont. John and I both love to bowl so we started a tradition of bowling a few games every time we see each other. So in Utica, NY we stopped and I was almost able to get that elusive 200 game but had to settle for a 173. After that we enjoyed a nice lunch and then it was off to the B&B in Vermont. There we would prepare for a good friends surprise 40th birthday party. Our friend Doug F. thought he was just going for a romantic weekend with his fiancee at this bed and breakfast. Little did he know that 50 or so good friends and family bought out all the rooms and were hiding in the back den. When he entered....well....all I have to say is that it was classic! :0) We spent the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning was such a memorable weekend! My face hurt from laughing so much and it was great talking to and meeting everyone. Sunday afternoon we were off to Ithaca, unfortunately, in a freezing rain storm. I counted 11 accidents in our 3.5 hour commute!...but we made is safely. I must say...I don't miss that kind of weather!

The next six days I was staying with my brother and his family who live completely off the grid in central New York. Yep, solar panels, wood burning stove, gravity fed mountain spring flowing into a timber framed home that was built by my brother Jamal. It's always so relaxing and refreshing to recharge my batteries on Nobles Hill. I met my niece Amani who was born 11 days after I moved to Oregon and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my other two nieces Lydia and Makana and my sister-in-law Daura. It was also a treat to visit with the rest of the Nobles Hill gang that included Rob, Shena, Nimah, Alden, A.J., Nick, and Maggie. Tuesday I met up with some friends on the Finger Lakes Trail up around Connecticut Hill and got in about 10 miles with Nancy K. and Mark T. I took Wednesday and Thursday completely off and had to remind myself that it's OK to do that while on vacation. Friday I had a beautiful eight mile run as the sun set over to the location of the annual solstice party. There was a ceremony that kicked off the winter by lighting a huge bonfire and we danced the night away to some jammin' live music. My last morning in the Ithaca area I joined some Finger Lakes Runners Club members (Karen G., Shelly M., Jim M., Mark T., and John W.) for a 15-miler through downtown and Stewart Park (three loops of the 5 and 10 course). The final five mile loop Mark and I picked the pace up to about 7 min./mi. pace and it sent me on my way to the airport...again...fatigued. I feel so blessed to have such an awesome family and great friends. Well...the journey continues and we'll see you guys next time! :0)

I also was notified that I will be representing Team Inov-8 for the 2010 season and I'm super stoked about that. This is my second year on the team and I really think that Inov-8 has some great momentum going. The products are top notch and I'm excited to try out some new minimalist shoes and packs, etc. The 2010 team is posted HERE

I'm really excited to be home with my wife and I hope everyone has a love-filled holiday season.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jingle Bell Run

The jingle bell spirit is in the air and if you were down on Naito Parkway in Portland on Sunday you would have heard lots of jingles and people having fun running a 5k for arthritis. If you weren't running you probably would have froze your you know what off! (What's up with this cold...I thought it was supposed to rain here a lot? I'm ready for some rain...I've had enough of the cold from living in central New York!) You would have also seen most people dressed up like Rudolph, Santa, elves, or something in between... or just plain goofy Christmas apparel (like me).

It was first mentioned to me by my friend Chyle whose wife Jana has rheumatoid arthritis. I thought that this was a great way to give to a needy cause and have fun with some new found friends while doing one of the things I love most. In fact now that I think back I did my first ever marathon (Marine Corps Marathon) with Team in Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), and my first 100-mile run for Lupus awareness in honor of my sister in law Janna. Crazy coincidence with Janna and Jana! ;0) Anyway, I think doing charity events are important and very rewarding because it gets you outside of yourself a little bit and helps you appreciate things we may take for granted.

We had a crew of....geez...let's see if I can remember everyone...Chyle, Jana, Dale, Matt, Annie, Tom, Dan, Ken, Allie, Margaret, Carol, Andrea, Starlet, Darla, Leigh, and me. What a colorful bunch!...check out some of the pictures below :0)

I made sure that I wasn't going to race it hard on Sunday morning by going out Saturday evening and doing a decently hard track workout in my Vibram Five Fingers. I had a nice workout with some ladders of 400, 800, 1200 and then back down at like a 5:30/mi. pace. Enough to build up a little lactic acid in the calves and get the legs moving quickly. It's been a while since I've done a workout like that and my lungs were definitely burning! So Sunday morning I had no desire to run fast although I would be lying if I said that I didn't look at the starting line to see who was up there :0) Plus, I had too many clothes on to be running fast ;0) We had a fun time down there and enjoyed a nice breakfast/lunch afterwards. Good clean fun for a good cause!

Next up was checking on my training buddies that ran The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler down in San Francisco. I've got to give a shout out to Joe Grant who place 9th overall in an insanely tough field of runners. Joe smoked the tough course in 7:24. The funny thing is I told Joe on our last run together not to come home unless he was in the top ten! :0) Maybe it helped Joe, eh? Our other buddy Nick Triolo was attempting his first 50-miler and totally nailed it in just a hair over 9 hours! Congrats Nick!...all that training paid off...way to go bro :0) That has got to feel good for the both of them!

Well as many of you know and could have anticipated I didn't get into the
Western States 100 via the random lottery this year. I must say that I had a lot of fun with the suspenseful process. Cheers to everyone that did get selected and I know I'll get in there sooner or later. Now that obsession of Western States 2010 is over with (well...kind of...) I am getting closer to the final construction of an epic race calendar for the new year.

Time to go take three final exams this week and then fly to New York to visit family and friends. Hope this blog post finds you well...happy trails! :0)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Hope everyone had a nice holiday and was able to give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives. I spent a few days with my mom and sister, who flew in from Pittsburgh, and it was so refreshing to spend time with them and my wife. Erica cooked a beautiful, scrumptious meal for thanksgiving day and we played our traditional board game afterwards. We definitely enjoyed plenty of laughs with the game Cranium! I was also so grateful for the weather we had for their hardly rained at all! :0)

Sunday I was able to get in a solid 15-mile run in Forest Park. I ran the first six miles with Dale, Chyle, and Matt, and then went out on my own for an additional nine miles. Just after I took off solo I ended up bumping (almost literally) into my trail running buddy Jim B. We ended up running the next few miles together before I turned back for my car. He was on a 30-mile run from the other end of Forest Park and this wasn't the first time we ran into each other out of sheer luck (and I don't think it will be the last ;0). I must say that it feels so good to be running long again.

This coming weekend is big in a few different areas. 1) Good luck to all the runners heading down to San Francisco for The North Face Endurance Challenge. A couple of my training buddies Nick T. and Joe G. are heading down and they both have some good mileage and training under their belts and are rarin' to go! Tear it up guys! I'll be thinkin' of ya! :0)

The second and most exciting thing going on this weekend (in my opinion) is the Western States 100 lottery drawing. This takes place at 9:00 am pacific standard
time down in Placer, California and you can bet your booty that I'll be in front of my laptop awaiting my name being electronically pulled. As of right now I have like a 1 in 5 chance of being picked. These odds may go more in my favor as the next couple of weeks unravel. To find out more about this you can click HERE. Best wishes to everyone hoping for a spot in this epic race!

And the third most exciting thing this weekend is cramming for finals ;0) I can't believe it's December already!!! Let's make this last month of 2009 a good one!

Quote of the week: "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." ~W.T. Purkiser

Monday, November 23, 2009


This past weekend marked my first and only visit to the city of Eugene, Oregon a.k.a. "track town U.S.A." Erica had a meeting down that way so we decided to make a weekend out of it. Before going I contacted Where's Waldo race director and Western States 100 guru Craig Thornley. Since I am one of the 1,685 people entered in the lottery for this year's race I figured I could get some valuable information about the nature of the lottery, the race, and everything in between. I had a great time and really wish I could be down there today to witness AJW attempting a sub five minute mile on the Hayward Field track as part of a challenge/bet. I'll definitely head down again sometime soon though for some good trail running and good ultra running conversation.

Saturday Craig, Dan O., Larry and I headed up Spencer Butte and at the summit we could see the entire city and the snow-capped Sisters Mountains off in the distance. It was a beautiful run on a sunny November day with some good elevation change. Sunday Erica and I were planning on just hitting Pre's Trail before heading back to Portland. Craig contacted me just before and agreed to meet us down there. It was really nice to have a "tour guide" and we navigated the trails that Steve Prefontaine used to train on back in the 70's. We even climbed up to Pre's rock and stopped for a second to observe the site of his auto accident death.

Thanks for showing me the ropes Craig and great getting to know you guys better! I feel grateful to be representing the state of Oregon and would be absolutely ecstatic to be randomly picked in the Western States Lottery on December 5th. If not I may try to head down to help pace/volunteer/crew. After hearing about the awesome event it seems like a great place to be late June.
The summit of Spencer's Butte (top), Pre's rock (bottom)

Eugene was probably a little quiet this past weekend due to the fact that the huge college football town's team was in Arizona narrowly escaping a loss in overtime. Go Ducks! (uh oh...I'm not turning into a Ducks fan already am I?)...and does anyone know how they got the name Ducks?

After the drop back week in Eugene I am ready to start building my way back up and exploring some more epic places in this great state of Oregon!

Congratulations to all the racers at JFK 50-miler this past weekend.

Quote of the week: "You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement." ---Steve Prefontaine

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oregon is Gorges!

Just kidding...don't get your panties all in a bunch you Ithacans...we're not gonna steal your saying! ;0) The phrase is popular in Ithaca, NY and is often seen on t-shirts and bumper stickers because of the glacially formed gorges in the area. They really are gorgeous!

But we have an awesome gorge here in the Pacific Northwest called The Columbia River Gorge. I have a feeling that I'll be spending a lot of time exploring this area and am just scratching the surface with the few beautiful, challenging runs I've done in the last four months. It's about 30 minutes to an hour east of Portland depending on where you go. I spent a couple hours there today with Jim B. and Lanny G. running about 14 miles up Eagle Creek. What a great trail! There were some sketchy, rocky spots that we had to stop and walk for, and some steep cliffs just a foot off of the singletrack. At the beginning of the run 18-inch salmon were spawning upstream right next to us and we were greeted by many waterfalls. My favorite was Tunnel Falls because of the fact that we had to actually go through a carved out tunnel that was behind the waterfall. Sweeeeet! check out the picture below
School is keeping me really busy right now but we were able to escape to the gorge this past Wednesday as well for Erica's birthday. We found some hot springs and had a really nice stay out there on Veterans Day when P.S.U. was closed. We also climbed the infamous Multnomah Falls and were in awe of it's natural beauty. All these falls definitely reminds me of Ithaca!

I've also been getting some really good workouts in at a local gym called Recreate Fitness. If you're in the Portland area and want an alternative way of building strength and fitness check this place out. I'm sold on the philosophy and style and it's a great way to supplement my running and to meet new people. Even though the days are getting really short here I'm trying to stay positive. It's tough when it's getting dark at 4:30 pm though! I guess it's good training for running in the dark in 100-milers! Just like my momma taught me...there's an up-side to everything :0)

Quote of the week: “Running helps me stay on an even keel and in an optimistic frame of mind.”—Bill Clinton, former President of the United States

Monday, November 9, 2009


After some needed rest time for the body and mind it is safe to say that I am back! The last six weeks or so have been difficult as far as training goes. It wasn't that the training was was the "not training" part that got me! I am so accustomed to being super active on a daily basis, and life just does not seem normal without breaking a good sweat day in and day out.

At the beginning I tried swimming and biking a few times fearing that I would lose major amounts of fitness but, after reading about the benefits of complete rest, I decided to just surrender to all activity. I still walked to and from school everyday, which is a couple miles, but I didn't go out with the intention of getting in a workout. I had to keep reminding myself that even some of the best athletes in the world need to take time off to let the body regenerate. Easier said than done!

The last couple of weeks included about 30 miles/week give or take, and it felt really nice to be back out on the trails. The weather here in the Pacific Northwest is definitely changing but, after training through the harsh winters of Central New York the past five years, I think I can handle it ;0)

I've decided that I am not going to ramp my way up in my normal fashion this year. I mean running is still going to be my main thing but, at least for a couple months, I am going to try a consistent Cross-Fit-like program twice a week to supplement the slow build. Erica found a gym close to home and the group training focuses on core strength workouts that are different than your usual weight training. I think this will help me in building a solid base for the 2010 ultra marathon season. I'm really looking forward to a solid year and have been scoping out some epic races.

Not running for that amount of time really helped me to appreciate how much and why I love running! It's good to be back...and...more will be revealed :0)

Quote of the week: "Running turns any open place into my chapel. The hour I spend each day as an ascetic, short of water and feeling the slight discomfort of genuine effort, provides me with the strength to know that I can live with less than the world would have me believe."---Dean Outtati, The Runner and the Path

Monday, November 2, 2009

Run Like Hell

Halloween is in the air and has been for the last week or so, and I'm also realizing that people really take it seriously out here. We headed down to the Run Like Hell 1/2 Marathon in downtown Portland, OR to celebrate Halloween by doing one of the things we love most: Running! I was able to discipline myself to only leisurely run a total of a couple miles as I took on the unfamiliar role of spectator and crew person for my wife Erica, and friends visiting from New York, Kara and Eric. I got a little workout and turned a few heads as I navigated around the course in my Vibram Five Fingers after driving to different locations.

It was a beautiful morning for running with temperatures near 50 and no prediction of rain. I
dropped Erica off close to the starting line where she met up with Kara and Eric. I was really proud of Erica because this would be her first half-marathon race, and I could imagine the butterflies she had fluttering around inside. Also, I have seen her diligently build her mileage and prepare herself for this race eluding injury, which has troubled her in the past. There would be days when Erica would tough it out through the rain to finish her training run, and others when she tackled the inclines on Leif Erikson Trail to prepare for the rolling course she would face on race day. She was R E A D Y !

The first time I saw the crew was about mile 2 or 3...and they were all smiling as the sun came up over the river. I hung back after they passed and got a few great pictures of people in costume.

I gotta give this guy some props...Fred Flintstone here ran 13.1 miles barefoot on concrete with his two children in the rickshaw behind. I think he won some award at the end! :0)

Pee Wee Herman....hahaaaa!
My personal favorite: Run DMC! These guys were bumpin' old school rap out of boom box the whole race!
Superheroes in downtown Portland! ;0)

Up until now Erica, Kara, and Eric were making it look "too easy!" They already covered more than half of the race and most of the difficult sections were behind them. At around mile 8.5 I parked the car and ran up to meet them and was greeted by a kiss flying through the air!
I was even able to run about a half mile with my sweetie...and she only told me to stop talking so much like twice! ;0)
From here I ran ahead to get some GU Chomps out of the car to pass off to big man Eric. I made the hand off and wished them well on their final climb and then descent to the finish. When I jumped in the car and turned it on there was a great upbeat song on the radio, so I rolled down all the windows and cranked it as I rode past them yelling, "WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!"

I made it down to the finish area and waited patiently for the threesome to make it down. It wasn't long before I saw the 6'7'' Eric with his wife Kara and my wife Erica. What a cool thing to see...although I didn't capture the best finishing photo!
They were given their well deserved medals and we were really surprised to find out that they were pure gold!
Congratulations the three of you, you made coach proud, and to all the others that Ran Like Hell!
It was great to get a different perspective at the races and it definitely was inspiration!

After close to five weeks completely off from running crewing for these guys was my entry way back into training. My leg that took a beating in 100 in the Hood is showing no signs of discomfort, although the other one is not feeling completely right...go figure. I'm definitely easing my way back and it has been so nice to be back out on the trails. I was going a little stir-crazy there for a second.

Sorry for the little hiatus from the blog but I seem to be re-charged now and anxious to see what's around the corner :0)

Happy Running!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Decision: Down Time from Running

It's been two weeks since the 100-miler and my body has recovered for the most part, although a glance at my feet might imply otherwise. I have run very easily a few times and can still subtly feel some of the damage I caused by running on an injured leg for 50 miles, so I made a decision yesterday. Instead of stringing this injury along with me for god knows how long I've decided to enjoy some down time from running (as hard as it is!), do some yoga and swimming, and really, thoroughly rehab my leg for 2010. I only had one more race on the calendar anyway...The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon...which is serving as the U.S.A. Trail Marathon Championships down in Ashland, Oregon on November 7th. It is going to have some stiff competition and I was really looking forward to heading down there, but I just don't think it's in the cards this year. I have to keep reminding myself that despite the issues I've had this season I still performed relatively well. Today I am meeting with some experienced doctors who specialize in working with marathoners and I'm going to figure this thing out.

It's actually kind of exciting because out here in Oregon the race season starts so much earlier than central New York. This means that if I completely heal up over the next couple of months that I can start off the 2010 year with some solid running and racing. I have already been eyeing up some races here in Oregon, up in Washington, and down in California. Now I just need to discipline myself and work hard to get back out on the trails.

Another exciting thing that happened to me this past weekend came from a Montrail sponsored ultra-runner friend named Jill Perry. Jill lives just outside of Syracuse, NY and has exploded onto the ultra scene in the last year...(and I predicted it too ;0) Jill called me on the phone and told me that she is planning on competing in Badwater Ultramarathon in July of 2010 and that she needs some help with pacing/crewing. I was honored that she thought of me and I gladly accepted. Looks like I'm heading to Death Valley in the heat of the summer for an intense experience! I couldn't pass this one up! :0)

Enjoy the beautiful autumn season!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100 in da Hood Race Report

No I'm not speaking Ebonics. This is the name of the inaugural Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon 100-miler that took place this past weekend out by Mt. Hood in Oregon. As I'm thinking back on the race it still seems like a dream. Every once in a while I catch myself thinking..."did I really do that?"...but then the pain in my body reminds me of the reality ;0)

I have been scoping this race out for a long time...well before I even moved to Oregon and I thought since I did the inaugural Iroquois Trails 100 last year for my first 100 that I'd premiere this one too since it is so close to my new home. I knew this one would be bigger with more experienced and faster runners... some traveling from California due to the cancellation of Angeles Crest 100 this summer. I still thought that I could do really well and had a detailed plan of attack with my number one crew person (Erica) to help me along. (We missed the whole "Team Yassine" entourage that we had last year! ;0)

So Erica dropped me off at the starting line area at like 4:40 am on Saturday for our 5am start. The plan was that she was going to go back to Government Camp and try to sleep a couple more hours and then meet me at the 28-mile mark. I toed the line in my Inov-8 Roclite 320's which I thought would be a good choice given the terrain on this course. I also used the merino wool debris gaiters which worked out nicely. Olga (the race director) gave us some instruction and lined us up for the countdown....6...5....4....3.....2......1......GO! Mike Burke (co-RD) ran the first little bit with us shining some light and directing us to the entrance of the Pacific Crest Trail. I already new this whole section which was helpful even though it did look different in the dark.

The first couple of miles I settled in with Trevor H. from the Portland area. We chatted and got to know each other and we're surprised when an owl swooped down right in front of! Eventually I picked it up a little and found myself running alone. A couple of miles later I thought I heard some cow bells and I thought, "wow...someone out here dinging a bell this early...that's cool" reminded me of Joe Reynolds from Ithaca who never goes to a race without that bell. Well I came around a corner of trail and there 50 feet in front of me lying down right in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail were two 1500 pound cows...with bells around their necks! I stopped running and yelled at them to get up and get moving. While doing so I stepped on a rock and completely turned my ankle! Mile 4 and I already have a sprained ankle! The cows reluctantly moved into the forest, the pain in my ankle subsided, and I motored on into the darkness...laughing about how I wasn't expecting that!

I was really trying to contain myself and stay on top of hydration and calories even though it was a bit chilly outside. I knew I had a long day ahead of me. The sun eventually came up and what a beautiful place to be when it did get light. We were looking right up at Mt. Hood with the sun rising behind it. I could tell it was going to be a nice day. I hit the 14 mile turn-a-round just under two hours. Perfect...I told Erica I'd meet her at mile 28 at around 9am. Right on track. I continued eating and hydrating even though I didn't really feel hungry or thirsty. I just kept topping off the tank and I knew I'd be eating some solid food when I would see Erica.

When I finally made it to her I realized that it was about 3 hours 45 minutes instead of my anticipated 4 hours and I nestled right into our little pit stop area where she had my bowl of orzo salad ready for me to eat while she massaged my legs with Arnica oil. I stocked up...grabbed my waist belt/bottle holder...Ipod...gave Erica a kiss and I was off. The next time I planned to see her was at mile 55 which was Ollallie Lake campground aid station.

The next 10 miles I felt so great! The temperature rose a little, the sun was breaking through the forest, great tunes pumping into my ear drums, beautiful nature. Words don't really do it justice but I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about. This is one of the reasons we do this! I was running really well. I was even tackling some of the climbs with a power hike that may have been faster than a run. Some of these were getting tough as they were in the wide open and the sun was blazing down...but for the most part the trail was shaded and somewhat cool.

I hit an aid station somewhere around mile 40 according to my Garmin and I was still feeling awesome. I kept pushing on doing some calculations in my head about my time for the first 50-miles and what I thought I could do for the second 50 miles. As I kept meandering my way through the beautiful forests I kept thinking that I should be coming up on an aid station soon. At the 40 mile (or so) aid station I filled both of my 20 oz. bottles with with HEED. I had S-caps on me, gu's, block shots, etc. so I was prepared for anything. Well, anything happened. At around mile 49 I started feeling something in my leg. Oh felt like the same feeling that I had on the 4th of July in the Finger Lakes Fifties 50-miler. I looked at my Garmin and I was approaching mile 50 with a time of like 7:50. Just before then I was dreaming about a 16 hour and change 100-miler...oh how quickly things can change in these races.

I slowed down a bit but kept running. Then eventually at what I thought was about mile 52 the running turned into walking...painful walking. Ughhhhhh! I was so disgusted!...and confused. I just ran Where's Waldo 100k with no problems and now it's back. There wasn't much I could do and as pissed off as I was out there I calmed myself down and accepted the fact that I was going to have to drop out. By this time I was out of fluids and almost out of gels, etc. I figured I would just hobble to the mile 55 aid station where Erica was and DNF and we could just take off from there.

Then I see a man running towards me on the trail. It turns out to be Clem, who is a race director for McDonald Forest 50k, and he asked me about the last station I was at, my status, etc. I told him that I haven't been to an aid station in a long time. I also explained to him that there weren't any possible intersections to miss it as we were completely on the Pacific Crest Trail. He told me that he just ran up from the mile 58 aid station! I told him that I have been walking for a while and that I was going to have to drop out due to an injury. He was kind enough to give me some ice cold water and we walked and talked trying to figure out what went wrong. Honestly I really didn't care about the whole aid station thing...I was so pre-occupied with the fact that I had to drop out because of injury that I didn't even care. I was in disbelief and extremely bummed.

After about 20 minutes of walking with Clem we see a runner coming behind. It's Ray Sanchez and he comes up to meet us and he doesn't look good. He has salt crusted all over his face and lips and says that he is completely out of water in his camelback. Clem gives him a water bottle and I tell him to keep moving on...and to not worry about the mishap...just keep going. I told him that he is in first place now and that I have to quit. He told me that he hopes I get better soon and scurries out of sight. Then Tom Ederer (last year's winner of Cascade Crest 100) pulled up and we had a similar exchange. I encouraged him to not get caught up in the problem and to focus on the solution. Next, Trevor...who I ran with in the first couple of miles came up behind and he also was not feeling well. We walked together for a bit and he shared some water with me...thanks man! We just kept telling each other that we are going to be hitting the mile 58 aid station relatively soon and we'll be able to re-fuel there. I figured that I would just get a ride back to the mile 55 aid station where I could meet Erica and drop out (the 55 mile aid station was supposed to be marked for runners to go off of the PCT about 1/3 of a mile to the aid station but wasn't marked for the first 10 runners or so).

Next, something amazing happened. While I was walking with Trevor I felt the tightness and friction in my left knee area dissipate. I thought, "whoa...that's weird...let me try trotting a little". I started trotting a little and then it would come I was back to walking. Then I felt it loosen up again about 15 minutes later. I told Trevor, "let me get ahead of you and see if I can hold a sustained run". I started trotting slowly...then running! I kept going and couldn't believe this! I didn't even say anything to Trevor as I pulled away from him probably because I was in such shock. I ran the rest of the way to the mile 58 aid station. When I got there Clem was there and I told him that I was feeling better and that I think I am going to try and continue on.

Next aid station was Breitenbush Lake at mile 64 and I knew it was a relatively tough climb. I powered up the hill catching Tom E. moving back into 2nd place. I couldn't believe this! I'm not done yet I thought! Almost at the turn-a-round my toe was really bothering me and I had to quickly take off my shoe to see what was going on in there. I realized that my big toe was squished up against my other toe...the toenail was black...and there was a huge blister on the tip of it. I pushed it back into my shoe and tried to get back into the race. When I started moving again I realized that while I was bending over messing with my shoe and foot that my knee completely locked up again! UGHHHH! I started walking again and again accepted the fact that I was going to quit at the next possible time. Again, it eventually loosened up and I started running. I came across some campers and they told me that the first place "jogger" was only like 5 minutes ahead.

Finally, as I got close to the aid station Ray Sanchez was coming down the trail and he saw me and totally did a double take. "Are you OK?!!" he asked. "I'm back" I said as I made my way to the aid station. When I got there the leg was not completely reliable and 35 miles on a bum leg is a long way to go. I debated dropping again and a couple of the workers there encouraged me to not make any decisions right away. A woman named Liz Kellogg I believe was kind enough to offer me a Cho-Pat Strap for my knee and I graciously accepted. Just before that renowned ultra runner Justin Angle, who was pacing Tom E., gave me some words of encouragement but him and Tom disappeared out of the aid station quickly. I eventually caught up to them and we played "leap frog" a couple times. I was going through moments of running really well to moments of having to slow down and stop. The last time Justin and Tom passed me Justin, probably seeing it in my eyes or hearing it in my voice, bumped my fist with his fist and told me to just roll with it. That meant a lot to me because I realized that I wasn't in charge anymore. From that point on...I would take his advice and try to make the best of what was left of my race.

So I made it down to mile 71 or so in 3rd place behind Sanchez and Ederer. Next thing I know a couple more guys came barreling down into the station. Man...I was feeling it and these guys were working hard. Brian Krogmann, I believe from CA, and I walked for a bit as he was having some stomach problems. After he was ahead about 500 feet he yelled back if anyone had any ginger chews. Coincidentally, I had one in my pack and he came back to grab it. This kind of camaraderie that you get in ultras is another thing that I love so much about the sport.

Mile 75 eventually came and this is where I would finally see Erica...the first time since mile 28! As soon as I saw her I said..."I've been to hell and back...but I'm back"...then I think I just said a couple times repeatedly, "I've been to hell and back...oh what a day!" After the race she told me that she has never seen me like that in a race before. I looked so close to the point of throwing in the my eyes...and in my facial expression. The disappointment of being in 1st place by so much and now dropping way back and still having a marathon to go on a leg that basically has a mind of it's own. She pulled me aside away from everyone and reminded me of a few important things. She knows me so well and her words and support helped me dig deep to muster up that courage for the final night portion of the race. This is also where I picked up my pacer Ruben Galbraith. He was ready to go although I warned him that I am not running so well. This was his first time pacing in an ultra but you would have never known it. I asked him because he knows this section of trail from competing and taking 2nd in the PCT 50-miler earlier this summer. He did a perfect job of encouraging me to walk certain sections, slow down a bit on the downhills, and try and roll my foot outward to alleviate some pain in the knee (which was given by a chiropractor ultra runner at mile 75). Thanks again Ruben!

We both worked together one aid station at a time as Ruben did calculations based on approximate estimates and even busted out his map a few times that displayed the aid station mileage points. Between 75 and 85 I was not moving to
well and I got passed by Sander and his pacer and then again later by Shana and her pacer. They both were working really hard and I was impressed to see it! As we donned our headlamps the temperature definitely dropped big time and we knew we had that one big climb waiting for us around mile 90. Before that we hit the aid station where Craig Thornley and Curt Ringstad (race directors from Where's Waldo) were working and those guys were having a great time as usual and apologized for not being there earlier in the day.

As we approached the last climb I was doing some power hiking while pushing off of my legs with my hands. This part was classic. Ruben said, "It might be nice if you find some equal length walking sticks to use like trekking poles for this section." No two seconds after he said that I look over and see two identical size sticks lying right off of the trail like someone laid them down! I picked them up and they helped me up the rest of the way of the 2.5 mile climb. By now we were getting closer and I was really ready to finish. It was cold and seeing Mallory and Greg from Trail Factor at an aid station lifted my spirits a little and a nice hot cup of potato water warmed me up a little. (They were boiling potatoes and I just wanted something hot!)

The last five miles or so I worked harder than the previous 20. Ruben and I worked together and we really wanted to get under 19 hours. As hard as it was to run I pushed myself...partly because I wanted to be finished and partly because I was cold. The last few miles seemed never ending. Finally, we hear a voice and see some glow sticks way off in the distance. This is another thing I can't really explain... but you get this kind of energy within that says..."you're did're minutes away from campfire!" We came up to the road and a woman assured me that it was 600 feet around the corner to the finish line. I came running up the last little hill and couldn't really see anything but I could hear Erica say..."is it Yassine?!!!" I yell out, "number 30! Yassine!!!!" and everyone yells out wooohoooooo!!!!!! yeahhhhhhhhH!!!!!!!! Erica was jumping up and down and she ran out to me while Olga says "let him cross the finish line!" I finished 101 miles in 18:53...good for 7th place overall. I was so proud of myself for gutting this one out when I had every reason and plenty of opportunities to quit. In hindsight I think the fact that I missed a few aid stations actually allowed me to walk and for my leg to loosen up. If I would have come across the aid station I probably would have just quit then and there.

Click HERE for full results

This was a first year event and going into a race like this you have to expect mistakes. Overall, I had a wonderful time and met some locals, great people from out of state, and some ultra studs I have read about in the
blogosphere and in magazines, etc. Thank you so much Olga for all that you have done for this race to get it off the ground...probably a lot of it from 1,000 miles away. The volunteers
were so helpful and encouraging...Thank you all for your dedication and sacrifice. Excellent work to all the runners who finished and for those who didn't I hope you get back out there one day and finish the deal. I had a lot of things running through my mind this past weekend that I could draw energy from...I shared some of them with Ruben...but one thing sticks out that I heard my childhood hero Michael Jordan say in closing his Hall of Fame speech recently is that " fears...are often just an illusion".

Keep on keepin' on people!
Sitting around the fire...buckle in hand...with Ruben (far left) and Brian (3rd place finisher)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quick Update from 100 in the Hood

Well I finished...which at a couple points I didn't think was going to happen. Overall place was 7th in a time of 18:53. Race report will follow shortly. :0)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Race Preview and Race Re-Cap

OK...the weekend is over and a lot has happened...but there is much more to look forward to this coming weekend (in my world anyway) and I am getting a little case of the butterflies. I am officially resting for the next four days which means strictly no running, lots of healthy eating, and as much sleep as I can find time for...(basically, I'll be living like my cats for the next four days!) :0)

100 in the Hood- PCT Ultra will start on Saturday September 26, 2009 at 5:00 am Pacific Standard Time at the Clackamas Ranger Station off of HWY 42 in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon. We will head out in the dark running north on the Pacific Crest Trail for a 28 mile out and back. I have already run this part of the course and it seems to be pretty quick with some nice views of Mt. Hood and Timothy Lake. I think running in the dark will save me from starting out too fast in this section.

Once we head back to the start/finish area we start our journey down to Breitenbush Lake (south on the PCT). This is where the course gets a little more interesting. I've also run approximately 30 miles of this section including the climb that we will face at like mile 91. Like I'll be interesting;0) !

Olga V. and Mike B. are co-race directors and both of them bring a lot of ultra running experience to this inaugural year so I am really looking forward to another adventure in an awesome part of the country.

I feel that I am getting close to being ready for tackling the inaugural running of this race. Mentally I am there...especially after seeing what happened back at Iroquois this past weekend. I'd be lying if I said I was totally there physically. I feel that I have put in some very solid training before and after the confidence-boosting Where's Waldo 100k on August 22nd, but as of like two days ago I started feeling some "weirdness" in my leg...the same leg I've been having issues w/ all summer. It really is so minimal and I've still been running with absolutely no hindrance, but I'm just hoping that it's not something so small that it turns into something in the last 25 miles or so. I can't obsess about it and think negatively so I'm just going to hope that it goes away in the next four days and doesn't come back. It's really probably more in my brain anyway! Other than that I am just tying up loose end details and finalizing my plan of attack!

Last year in my first 100-miler at Iroquois my goals were a lot different. My number one goal was to finish, obviously, and to take home that sub-24 hour belt buckle. Competition was not as stiff and when I realized that my closest competitor Bryon Powell dropped at mile 55 I knew that as long as I had no major catastrophe I would achieve those goals. So I knocked it back a few notches and tried to enjoy the rest of the day and night casually pushing on through the tough course. I ended up finishing in 21:35 on a technical course of roughly 18,000 feet of elevation change. This weekend I will be facing a more mild course consisting of about 12,000 feet of change and not as technical as back east. So... I am thinking that with the combination of the course, the runners, and the fact that I've got that first one under my belt...that I'm really going to get a more accurate benchmark this weekend...if all goes as planned.

As for Iroquois Trails Ultras' second year I was amazed at what happened this past weekend. First of all...Ian Golden is building a great event here...nice work again really looks good and I missed being there. Oregonian ultra veteran Jeff Browning (who was the favorite) shredded the course and my record by like four hours. Actually the top three went under my last year's time on a course that was slightly changed probably making it just a wee bit slower! Nice work everyone! It was great to see Kelly Wilson go under 24 hours (which she narrowly missed last year) and retain the women's title. That must feel good...I know how hard she's been working for that one! Another impressive feat was from another ultra vet...Glen Redpath. He just came off another 100-mile win like ten days prior and was almost able to capture another victory finishing second overall. How does he do that? Also, fellow Inov-8 teammate Aliza Lapiere snagged the 50-mile win...glad you're back it Aliza!

I had many other friends running the 50-miler, 100, the relay, and volunteering their time. There are too many to name but I really missed being there and seeing you good work to all of you guys and I hope to be there next year! The race updates were top notch. I followed the race all day and night and it's really got me raring to go for Saturday! So rest up all you runners and enjoy some of the pictures from Iroquois captured by Steve Gallow (who took photos at our wedding). Click HERE for photos...and send me out some positive vibes on Saturday!

Run Happy!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taper Time and Iroquois Trails 100/50 Ultras

It's about that time...the point in training where you cut back the volume to allow your body to replenish in order to be in the best possible shape come race day. That race day for me is Saturday September 26...which is approaching rather quickly! I had a very strong week consisting of a 32-mile run on the Pacific Crest Trail (Hundred in the Hood course) on Thursday, and an unexpected tough 17-miler yesterday in the Columbia River Gorge (Mt. Defiance) where we climbed 4,500 feet over the course of 8.5 miles and totalled about 75 miles for the week.

I had a great time hooking up with some of the Trail Factor club members for this run and we enjoyed a big lunch afterward to calm our ravenous appetites. Check out some of the video below! (and I apologize in advance for the utter lack of videography skills...the Flip recorder is totally new to me and I have a lot to learn while taping out on the trails ;0)

I know some other folks are antsy and ready to run and hopefully are tapering well for Iroquois Trails 100 <---click here to track people online on race day)...coming up this weekend. This was my first 100-miler last year and it's a great race. I hope to return next year while I also visit family in the beautiful area which was recently named a top trail running town in Trail Runner Magazine. Best wishes to everyone taking part this weekend. I'll be tracking you guys and I am anxiously awaiting to see how it all goes down in it's second year. Favorites for the 100 are Oregonian Jeff Browning and last year's third place overall and 1st woman Kelly Wilson from Vermont. I know for a fact she's raring to go under 24 hours. It's also good to see ultra veteran Greg Loomis signed up...he and Ian thought up this whole thing! Go get em'!

For the 50-miler it looks like my buddy Tim Ingall is back at it and hopefully will stay on course this year. If he does I think he'll be up there along with Ed Housel from the Rochester area. What I am learning with ultramarathons is that it's really anyone's ball good luck everyone! This year RD Ian Golden added a relay which sounds really fun too...and the Young Burgermeisters of Enclave seem to have a pretty solid team.

So this weekend I'm just going to kick back and relax...keep an eye on Iroquois...and let my muscles, tendons, and joints heal so I can do it the following weekend. :0)

Happy Trails!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Inflammation

(picture of the Arnica flower)

Happy Labor Day! It's a good thing I'm not going to work or school today because the inside of my left knee area is hurtin'! It isn't anything major, thankfully, just some inflammation due to tendinitis that I have experienced before and it will go away with some R.I.C.E. I iced the area this morning and then rubbed some Arnica cream on it before wrapping the knee in an Ace bandage. I also took an anti-inflammatory called Naproxen (Aleve) which brings me to the next topic that has been talked about so much as of late. When or should endurance athletes take these over the counter medications?

I don't pretend to be an expert in this area but I have learned a lot about this topic in the last couple of weeks. There was an article in the New York Times yesterday that reveals some very surprising research and information about this very topic...check it out HERE...and after competing in Where's Waldo 100k with Erik Skaggs just a couple weeks ago, where he had a little brush with death, it really gave everyone a lesson to be learned.

I must admit that I bought into the idea of taking an anti-inflammatory before and during an ultra marathon of 50-miles or more and felt that by taking Naproxen I was saving my stomach, kidneys, etc. I have since learned that it is not completely true and can actually have an opposite effect causing more inflammation! However, I do know that my leg feels better right now from taking the medication. The articles and research suggest that these types of acute injuries are what it is intended for and not for delaying or eluding pain in an ultra. Point taken and I feel grateful I learned about this now and not the hard way like Skaggs.

Anyway, I have also done a little bit of research to find homeopathic ways of treating inflammation and it did not surprise me one bit to find out that our diet can be a major factor. HERE is a short article about some of the foods to include and ones to avoid regarding inflammation. Flax, legumes, ginger, soy, green leafy vegetables and loads of fruit, nuts/seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are a major part of my diet and in fact...I think I am going to go and make some fresh ginger tea right now :0) ! ! !

I have also learned about some Arnica tabs that you can dissolve on your tongue that seems to be a safe alternative given that it is a plant. I may try these in my upcoming 100-miler instead of Naproxen given the things I have read about. Sometimes I just wonder if a lot of this is just a placebo effect for many athletes and if so it seems that the homeopathic option will be a better choice. I already have the ointment and now that I think about it...last year at Iroquois 100 I had Erica massage my legs with Arnica oil as I came through a few of the aid stations!

Despite my little annoyance with the knee today this past week involved some quality workouts. I was able to get in around 60 miles on the trails including a beautiful night run with the head lamp last night. I got in a couple weight training workouts and am looking forward to another solid week coming up before my taper for 100 in the Hood. If all goes well this coming Thursday I will be heading out to Breitenbush Lake to run 30-miles of the course on the Pacific Crest Trail and then start my taper immediately after that run. I will also be doing some volunteer trail maintenance work so I can meet my required ten hours for entry into the race. I think that this is an excellent idea for race directors to require volunteer work on the trails and I am really looking forward to the work parties set up in Powell Butte and Forest Park.

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday!....Happy Trails :0) ! ! !

Quote of the week: "To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain---not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it."---Dr. George Sheehan