Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tussey Taken Down


On Sunday God gave me the strength and mental toughness to endure the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile in Boalsburg, PA. This was redemption for a previous DNF in 2008. The best part is that God far exceeded my expectations of what I thought I could finish in. My final time was 10:18:42, which is 53 minutes faster than my previous PR. Glory to God! He also provided a beautiful day just made for running and being outside in His creation. The race does take place in a gorgeous setting with many picturesque views to be seen all around the trail, especially this time of year in Pennsylvania with leaves changing.

I am happy to be done with Tussey. 1- Tussey hurts. It is entirely on paved roads or hard pack dirt and gravel roads. I love the trails, but there are none on this course. During and after the race I found myself wishing I had some of the Hoka One One shoes to take the sting out of all the descents. 2- I really really don't like all the relay team vehicles and support vehicles on the course. Fortunately this year the dust stayed down because of all the rain earlier in the week. When I am running I prefer a course that is completely or at least mostly closed to all vehicle traffic. 3- It takes place on a Sunday now. It used to be a Saturday race, but at some point since 2008 they changed it to Sunday. I prefer to be in church on Sunday morning and rest/relax with family or friends the rest of the day.

God has really blessed my running this year and this was my second PR in 2 weeks. The previous Saturday I PR'd for my half marathon time at Buffalo Creek. Redeeming a previous DNF here meant a lot to me. It also opened the door for me to attempt to redeem another DNF from 2007 at the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile in Lynchburg, VA next year. I know one of the big factors in Sunday's race is that I have grown and learned some lessons from all my other races to this point. I am now much more mentally stronger and I know how to dig deep and keep pushing when adversity hits. God is my strength and thankfully He is my healer too. The soreness in my knees is almost all gone now. Should be just fine for the Inland Trail Marathon in Elyria, OH in 2 weeks.

Run Like a Horse,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

100 Mile Gorilla


I know it is supposed to be the 1000 lb gorilla. In my case though the thousand pound gorilla on my back is a 100 mile one thousand pound gorilla.

It haunts me. I realize that I might be the only one that thinks having completed a 100 miler is expected of me, yet that is what I expect of myself. I have completed 37 ultras to date and I feel one of them should be a 100 mile finish. Unfortunately not one of them is a 100 mile finish.

I guess I personally view the 100 mile distance as the ultra runners' marathon. When you are a non ultra distance runner the question you get is "Have you run a marathon?" or "How many marathons have you done?" Though I don't expect other ultra runners to have completed a 100 miler, I do expect it of myself. I hate that whenever someone asks me that question my best reply is "No, but I have attempted 3."

3 attempts, no completions. If you know me then you know how bad that irks me. 1- I am a stats guy and I hate having negative stats. 2- I was brought up to finish what I start and those 3 hundred milers are forever unfinished. Let's look at my three unfinished 100 milers:

2008 Burning River
Burning River was my very first 100 mile attempt. It started out on road and I made the classic mistake of going out too fast. Burning River tends to live up to its name in that it is hot and the heat kills my performance. I had a horrible time on the trail terrain in the night as this was only my 2nd race where I ran in the night on trails. I fell behind the cut offs and by the time I made it to Covered Bridge the best pace I could manage was my old man walk. My day ended at 81.6 miles.

2009 Oil Creek
My race started poorly as I made 2 wrong turns within the first in the first few miles. Instead of turning left coming up off the bike trail several others ahead of and behind me turned right. Most of us didn't figure out where we should go until the 50 milers came through and set us straight. Later after leaving Petroleum Center I got caught up with a group of 50 Milers as they went off on their longest add on loop and I didn't realize my mistake until after I was halfway through the loop. I then made the mistake of running harder than I should have in an effort to make up lost time. Once again the heat on this warm day also got to me. I also had a tough time at night again as well, where I added to my difficulties by not accounting for how much the temperature drops up on the ridges after the sun sets and not dressing warm enough for the night. My day ended at the fire of the Miller Farm aid station on loop 2 at 53 miles officially, but 61 miles unofficially with my wrong turns.

2010 Rocky Raccoon
I had poor training going into Rocky. Part of that had to do with the time of the year and part of it had to do with having moved to Texas in the start of January. Most of the training I did get in was in colder weather than the 70s we had on race day. I was not ready for 70 degrees in February. I found out early on I was not having a good day. The course is a 20 mile loop that is shaped like a hair pin in places so you end with parts that are like an out and back letting you see a lot of the other runners. I didn't care for this since when I am having a bad day I do not want to see anyone else except aid station volunteers. My race ended after 2 loops at 40 miles.

I learned some lessons from my hundred miles attempts and other ultras I have run. 1- I need to start out slow knowing that doing so will benefit me later when I need it. 2- I need to fuel better through the lows. Sometimes when we hit a mental or physical low in the race it is low blood sugar. I know now that when I get to feeling cruddy in an ultra I need to get some food in me, especially something to bring my blood sugar up. I do know that the best way to manage lows is to fuel early and often the whole time to prevent crashes from coming on. 3- You can't make up for lost time. If you make a wrong turn stick with your pace. 4- Put clothes in drop bags or with crew members to dress for temperature changes like when the sun goes down.

5- The biggest lesson I have learned with the one hundred miler(but it can apply to any race) is that we have to believe 100% that we will finish the race(thank you, Rhonda). I had that going for me in my first 100 mile attempt, but I have to admit I had doubts heading into the 2nd and 3rd attempt. If we have any doubts they all too often become a self fulfilling prophecy.

The date is set for the next October at the Oil Creek 100s. I enter training fully confident and fully expecting to finish. This 100 mile thousand pound gorilla is heavy, but I am a workhorse with God as my strength and together We will carry this thousand pound gorilla to the finish line of the Oil Creek 100s next October.

Run Like a Horse,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finally Home Again: 2011 Oil Creek 50K


This year's Oil Creek 100s was different for me for a couple reasons. 1- It was the first year I was only doing one loop AKA the "fun run." 2- I got in several training runs this year especially on sections 2 & 3 and I finally felt like I knew the course. 3- The biggest and most important reason being I knew so many more of the runners and volunteers. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes having people you know out on the course.

The main reason I knew so many people this year is thanks in very large part to the Katie Peterson and the Warriors!! training group. I can't recall exactly when I was added to the group this year, but I do know I have Shannon Gallagher to thank for it. Thank you, thank you very much, Shannon! I came to find out that from doing Oil Creek the previous 2 years and from all the ultras I have done in the area I had probably seen and even talked to some of the other Warriors before, but now I know them and they are a part of my running family. I also met other running friends from outside the group through my Warrior friends.

To tell you a bit about myself and my training, I usually train alone and go to races by myself where I might run into some people(mostly Eric and Dannielle Ripper). I still mostly trained by myself, but occasionally I would actually make the 2nd 5 mile loop of the Warrior Wednesdays at Jersey Bridge and get some speed work in with Adam Peterson and Jeff Nelson. I am thinking I might have made only 2 of those nights and both times there was food after(cake once, cookies another) so that was added bonus to getting to know the other Warriors. Anyone who knows me knows I love to talk so hanging around afterwards and talking was one of my favorite parts. It was also nice to know I would see some of the Warriors at other races this year.

As we all know the biggest and best race of the year is the Oil Creek 100s. It is a running family reunion except you actually want to see these family members. I saw so many running friends at the dinner the night before. Roger Niethe(100M) gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received as a runner when he said, "Mick you look like you should be wearing a helmet and shoulder pads instead of running ultras." I have always said I would rather look like a football player who runs instead of a runner who played football. As an added bonus this year my wife, Vicki, came along with the kids so she could meet all these running friends I am always talking about from Facebook.

I got to the Middle School early enough to talk with some of my friends in the 100K, wish them luck, and see them off. I then did the same with my friends in the 50K while we waited for our turn. I had no idea what time goal to expect as I had never done only a single loop of the course in the race. I had DNF'd at Miller Farm on loop 2 in the 100 Miler in 2009 after some wrong turns and last year I ran 2 loops to complete the 100K in 17:44:24. My honest expectation was anywhere between 7 to 7.5 hours.

At 0700 we started. I followed my strategy and went out slow for the first half. I talked with Mike Gallagher while on the bike trail, but let him go on ahead while I walked the hill leading up to the trail. I eventually fell in behind a couple guys. We passed a few people, but more people passed us. I didn't care and I said to myself, "We will see most of you when I pass you on the second half." We stayed together to Wolfkiel and their Hollywood Stars aid station. There I saw Bill Masters and Dan Bowersox. It was early, but I ate some fig newtons and had some heed and trail mix before setting out.

I caught back up to the 2 guys after the switchbacks before meeting back up with Mike Gallagher. I stayed with Mike through the long climb, but he said his hamstring was still tight and to go on ahead. I cruised right on along and made my way into Petroleum Center around 2 hours 45 minutes to be greeted Tom Lane AKA the "mayor of Funkytown." I had taken it easy to this point and was excited to see what I could do on the second half.

On the hill out of PC I saw Katie Peterson(100K), who looked to be having a great day. We chatted briefly and then I was on my way, passing runners left and right. I liked the trail taking us to the scenic overlook this year. I was greeted by some great signs as I approached the Boy Scouts aid station. Their aid station was a pleasant surprise this year. In the previous two years this was just water and Endurolytes, but this year it was a full aid station. I hope they keep this cause I'll need it next year in my 100 Mile redemption.

Before leaving the aid station I caught my first glimpse of a group of about 4 runners that seemed to keep steadily gaining ground on me. The only thing that kept them from passing me was my downhill running and my fast hiking on the steeper uphills, but they seemed to gain on me pretty well during their runs on flats and slight uphills. In hindsight I guess this was good as it did help me keep pushing the pace. I passed Dannielle Ripper(100K) in this section on my way to Miller Farm and the Flamingo aid station. I was glad to see she looked good at this point and seemed to be in good spirits. There I was greeted by Amy McCracken. I also talked with Brian Newcomer(100K) and Scott McCray(100K) here. I fueled up and headed out. The best flamingo was the skeleton flamingo,which I am told glows in the dark, on the hill by the cemetery.

I passed Brent and Patty Henderson(50K) on that hill out of the aid station and got back to cruising. This section flew by for me and after the early hills I never saw the group of 4 again. At this point I looked at it like I was in the 400 meter dash, though considerably longer, and I had just rounded the the last turn into the straightaway. I passed Ken Zellars(50K) during this point. Having done the Warrior Wednesday's I really kicked it in after we passed the top of the "Hill of Truth." Oh and on the second half I am pretty sure I passed back most of the people who passed me in the first half. I know I didn't get passed by anyone the whole second half and I am really proud of that.

It had been getting hot during this section and I really felt it on the dike loop around the museum and the bike trail back to the middle school. Regularly drinking water and taking S-caps on the hour every hour helped keep the cramps at bay all day. On the bike trail Eric Ripper passed going the other direction on his second loop of the 100K and I passed Adam Peterson(100K) here too. I crossed the bridge, rounded the corner, and sprinted in to the finish line in a time of 6:16:08. Of course I was greeted by Tom Jennings at the finish and I saw Shannon Gallagher and Jeremy Johnson there too. Out of the 17 5oKs I have done this was my 3rd fastest 50K.

I far exceeded what I thought I might be capable of. To God be the glory! The downside of finishing well ahead of what I thought I would was that Vicki and the kids missed me finishing. They came soon after and would have seen me if things hadn't gone so well. Of course I ate some. I also kept going back and forth between the finish line and the aid station to see my friends come in and wish the ones heading back out well.

Finally I left and went home to shower, eat some more, and return to work the aid station and pace Dannielle in. Tiffany Hrach, who ran an awesome first 50K, picked me up and took me to the aid station 3 after a detour to AS2 to check on Dannielle. At the aid station it was a great to see all the runners, especially my running friends come in and to be able to help them out, give them any encouragement, and send them on their way to the finish. I got to pace Dannielle for several miles which was a good time. I learned some things from this first time pacing and I look forward to the chance to pace a friend again.

Knowing that I would be seeing my friends along the course and at the aid stations along the way made a huge difference this year. I kept looking forward to who I would see next and this would carry me along all day. Thank you friends and thank you Tom and all the volunteers for making Oil Creek the best event every year. I look forward to running with many of you throughout the year and I can't wait till next year's reunion at the the Oil Creek 100s! Thank you Warriors for finally giving me a running home again.

Run Like a Horse,

Monday, October 17, 2011

2008 Laurel Highlands: 2nd Chance Redemption

Originally written 17JUN2008.

14JUN2008 Johnstown, PA

The Laurel Highlands 70.5 Mile Run is a challenging race in the Johnstown, PA area that starts at one end of the Laurel Highlands Trail and takes you the entire 70.5 mile route to the other end. To do this race you will need a good pair of trail shoes with a toe guard. I personally recommend the Montrail Hardrock shoe for this course. There are an over abundance of rocks along this course and unless you want to feel everyone then you need the right shoes. Your toes and feet will thank you later. I wore a different pair of shoes last year and though they did have a toe guard as well, the Montrail Hardrocks were an improvement. The second major thing you will need is two water bottles or a hydration pack capable of carrying at least 32 oz. of fluids. The aid stations on this race tend to be at least 7 miles apart most of the way and by the race director's own admission this race is meant to be a bit challenging. In all fairness the aid stations are placed where they are because there are so few points to access the trail in between though. There are 8 official aid stations. Also try to remember your usual pre race nutrition and don't leave it sitting in the cupboard like I did this time. I managed with a breakfast drink and some oatmeal, but I wish I would have had my Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy mix.

The race begins about a half mile from the trail head at Ohio Pyle. It is a beautiful location as are many points along the way. There are some great overlooks around miles 2, 8, and 21 as well. Mile two's is always covered in fog still around the time you pass it at 6 AM. Mile eight's was awesome with a rainbow this year. Anyway the race starts at 5:30 AM and most of the first 8 miles are a long climb. The key to remember here is that it is way early in this race and you will only hurt your performance later if you push hard up these hills. Remember I have done this race twice and I know how pushing too hard on these early hills can cost you your race later. The cut off times are generous and manageable if you just take your time on the uphills and make up for it by running smart on the downhills. This year I got passed by a lot of runners on the longest climb of the course between miles 6-8. As I told them it looked like I was dieing by my pace, but I was really just conserving energy I knew I would need for later. It took me 2h10m to reach the 8 mile point.

Around mile 8, when we finally crested the big climb, I met up with Scott, Joe, and Kirstin. We all met at the awesome overlook with the rainbow. Kirstin, Scott, and I then chatted as we ran the next few miles to the first aid station at mile 11.6. As is my custom I ate well at the aid station just like I always do. Gotta love the potatoes. They are better source of potassium than bananas and a great way to get salt too. Also salt doesn't taste so well on bananas. Between this aid station and the next one I met up with Levi after we leapfrogged one another a good portion of the way. I climbed better than him, but he descended better. The thing about this course is that you are usually either climbing or descending. There are very few truly flat areas or at least none you really remember.

On the way up to mile 19 you face the steepest climb of the course. This is another place where you just take your time and conserve your strength and energy for when you will need it later and can actually make good use of it. Levi left me in the dust here. At mile 25 I was at 6h38m and at mile 26 I was at 6h54m. Starting right around mile 25 God decided to shower us with rain and blessings. It rained steady for the next 25 miles it seemed and off and on the rest of the way. The rain may have slowed me down some by making the course slick, footing more difficult, and by adding more weight to my clothes and shoes. It was also a blessing because it had the very positive effect of keeping the temperature down and my personal kryptonite at bay - the heat.

At 35 miles I found myself at 9h38m. I hadn't seen Kirstin since the mile 19 aid station, which she got to before me, but was still at when I left. Somewhere after this she came flying by and I just latched on an imaginary tether and went along for the ride. Somehow I would get ahead of her again after the aid station at mile 39 and once again she came by running strong and pulling me along. Unfortunately she decided to end her race at the aid station at 46.4 miles, but I thanked her for unknowingly pacing me and helping me find my stride on three separate occasions this day. She had also gotten me to the aid station where I was forced to quit last year after failing behind the cut off times. Cramps got me last year, but between prayer, the rain to keep me cool, a better hydration strategy, and using Hammer Nutrition's Endurolytes I had no such problems with cramps this year. I have to sadly report that somewhere around the half way point I had passed Levi. He was walking slowly and he informed me he had twisted his ankle and I would have to finish for him.

I got to mile 50 at 14h15m. This was also the last time I saw Scott and unfortunately I did not find his name listed among the finishers. It got dark around 9 PM, which found me somewhere around mile 54. That was the end of my running for the day so for the last 16 miles I walked as fast as I could using my headlamp. I wouldn't call it speed walking, but maybe fast hikingl. Upon leaving the last aid station at mile 62 I locked my focus in on the finish line and locked in a very quick stride all the way to the finish. The last few miles are a very brutal rocky and slow descent. Even in good shoes after 30 plus miles of rain and tons of rocks along the way, the rocks in the end just sting your feet. Your legs having to play shock absorber after having done 64 miles already doesn't feel so great either. Joe did find his way to the finish line. He is the last official finisher listed.

When I saw the lights of the finish line I threw in one last run till I crossed the finish line. I officially crossed the line at 20h5m04s. Rick Freeman, the race director greeted me with a, "Mick, redemption!" cheer. I sent Vicki a quick text letting her know "We" had done it. Then I got to doing what do best, which of course is eating. God is great! With His help and by His strength I had been redeemed.

Run Happy,

Running Retirement is OFF

Originally written 22DEC2007

Who needs it? I don't! Let me say "Congratulations" and "Yes, you told me so!" for all you who said I would never retire to half marathon distances and below after 2008. Maybe deep down I knew it too, though I honestly thought I might be able to retire someday. Originally I pushed it back to 2010, but I have now come to realize there will always be another race to run and challenging courses to be conquered. I'll save retirement for if/when I am disabled or when I don't enjoy it anymore, though I pray neither ever happens especially the latter.

There are too many great races, courses, and trails yet to be explored. It is mostly the trails part that is responsible for my change of heart. For me the trail running and the ultra running community is so much more friendly. People are less all about themselves and rushing through the race as fast as they can. Oh there are still some like that, but it is not near as prevalent as it is in road marathons. The smaller starting fields in ultras and trail races also seem to add a bit more personal care and touch to the experience.

To be honest though it is the trails themselves I really love. There are more obstacles on trails, but your body doesn't take near the pounding it does on asphalt or pavement. Trail runners have longer running careers than road runners. Trail races provide you with stunning and pristine landscapes, views, wildlife, and a bit of an escape from it all. Try one sometime, but be sure to take the time to breath in the fresh air, look around, and enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty they have to offer.

P.S. I love trails!

Run Happy,

2007 Country Music Marathon

Originally written 23MAY2007

28APR2007 Nashville, TN

"It is not about the destination. It's about the journey so Enjoy the Journey." I know you all have heard it before. It is easier said than done especially if you, like myself, have always been running against the clock chasing an ever elusive time goal. Meghan and Bill, I know you understand. This revelation came in part from listening to John "The Penguin" Bingham at the expo the day before the marathon. He told us that even the elite runners understand this concept better than us average runners and they won't usually give you a time goal. The elites will tell you that they have trained hard and prepared well, but they don't know what will happen the day of the race and that they can only do the best they possibly can that day. If that is the elites attitude than by all means I think I should fall in line as well. The other parts of the enjoy the journey revelation came to me during and after the marathon. The marathon took place on 28APR2007 in Nashville, TN.

The expo was good, but other than there not being at least a slight language barrier like most of my European marathons it was just OK. I did get a great Adidas sleeveless shirt for less than $20. OK now that sounded girlish didn't it? The best thing that came from the expo other than the shirt was hearing The Penguin's tips and advice.

I arrived at the race a few hours early on Saturday. Between getting on a shuttle to the start, checking in my gear bag, and waiting in line for the portajohns that time flew by. The marathon runners had red race bibs and the half marathoners were yellow. As with any marathon that has a half marathon, especially one in the US, the half marathoners outnumber the marathon runners by an almost 2 to 1 margin. And why not? The half marathoners get all the excitement and feel of the full marathon with only half the effort, time, and pain on race day. I will say that they only get half the reward and satisfaction that a full marathon finisher can claim though. This was my first stateside marathon. It combined two of my favorite things. That being running and country music. Though not all the bands on the course were country. Despite having almost 30,000 finishers between the half and full the start went smoothly thanks in part to there being 32, yes 32, different starting corrals spaced about 90 seconds apart.

My training leading up to this race went well and I even did a fair amount of speed work so once again I came in with a goal of running a sub 4 hour marathon. You would think I would get tired of beating my head against that brick wall by now. I think this was my 5th or 6th attempt at it. In the first half I ran comfortably and the miles came easy. There was adequate food cause you know that half marathoners need actual soluble food, but we full marathoners run solely on gels and liquids. I am sorry to be so negative about this. Insufficient food on the course is one of my constant gripes when it occurs. I must sound like a glutton and I am a glutton for punishment that is in that I continue to push my body to run ever increasing distances. The truth is that I am a big runner and without soluble food my performance lags.

The other negative for me this day came in the form of my ultimate personal kryptonite- the heat. The day started out overcast and cool. Perfect running weather. This gave way to sun and heat about 7 miles in. At halfway I was still on pace for a sub 4 with only a few minutes to spare.

The early going had been nice with rolling hills. At about the 11 Mile point things flattened out considerably. The worst and hottest part of the day for me started around Mile 15 during the long flat stretch along the Cumberland river causing me to have flash backs to running along the coast in last years Edinburgh marathon. Just like in Scotland the heat and lack of terrain change sapped me physically and mentally. I don't know maybe I am lacking mental toughness. I plan to be ready for the heat the next time. I need to be as I have 3 more marathon or longer distances coming this summer.

I must confess I walked a fair amount off and on after that point. I crossed the line in a rather unimpressive time for me of 4 hours 44 minutes. It is a finish I guess and that is what counts. The bands were pretty good and some provided a nice boost as you ran by. Nashville can be proud of the support their citizens gave though I do not personally draw much energy from the fans. Thankfully the finish line area had plenty of food. The medal was a good size. The best thing might have been the towel they handed out that had been soaked in ice water. That was truly refreshing. As with most races the volunteers and traffic control were outstanding. A big thanks goes out to all those involved in that.

The concert that evening was excellent and it was a great way to relax and wind down. Sara Evans is one of my favorite country artists. If I had to rate the marathon I suppose I would give it a 4 out of 5. It may be lacking in some areas, but the organizers try hard and Nashville is a great place to visit. I wouldn't repeat the marathon, but there are only a small few that I have done and would like to do more than once.

My plan for all future marathons and beyond is to prepare adequately, run comfortably, take what the day and the Lord give me, and enjoy the journey that God has given me the ability to take part in. I am going to forget about the clock and time goals and just let the race come to me while taking it all in. I encourage you all do do the same. To Him be all the glory and honor.

Up next will be God's Country Marathon in the first weekend of June followed by the Laurel Highlands Ultra 70 Mile race the second weekend of June. Pray for me. I think I will need it.

Run Happy,

50 is not enough(Laurel plans)

(This was an email written to friends on 14MAR2007 that I thought was worth sharing for perspective in my early ultra running. Funny how perspective changes, especially considering I have since attempted three 100 milers. Unfortunately they have all been DNFs so I will be attempting another one next October at Oil Creek.)

Just like the subject says, 50 is not enough. I have not only officially decided to do another 50 miler, but I have decided to step it up to a 70 miler as well. Part of the reason for this is because I have had enough time to forget the pain and soreness I had after finishing the JFK 50 Miler and another part of it is that I am just sick. I finish/complete something and I appreciate what I have accomplished for a while, but then I get the urge to take on the next challenge. In a way I say to myself, What's next? It is this type of attitude that leads many of you to feel I will never retire from running marathons and above and will eventually lead to me running an 100 miler, though I swear I have absolutely no intentions of running an 100 miler. The 70 miler was already a consideration before.

Another reason for me running it is because they give me a very generous 22 hours to complete it. Worst case scenario I can walk a marathon in under 7 hours(3x7=21 and it is seven miles less than 3 marathons) so regardless of terrain I will complete it. The final reason for me doing it is cause of the Jungfrau marathon. It is such a challenging and humbling marathon that just completing it gives you a huge confidence boost to your other physical endeavors. If you can run a regular marathon in 4.5 to 5 hours or faster, then go ahead and challenge yourself to try and complete the Jungfrau in 6.5 hours. It is not as easy as it sounds.

The 70 miler is the Laurel Highlands 70 Mile and the 50 miler I am looking at is the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler. If you missed out on the JFK 50 Miler with us last year or have a desire to get in on the madness this year please do and let me know. All are welcome. I'll even throw in a RW training program to show you just how easy it is. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.,7120,s6-238-244--7556-0,00.html I would love to see all or any of you again. Of course we are still hoping/planning to reunite at the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I pray to see you guys again before then, but if nothing else I pray to see you again in January 2008.

Current 2007 Plans

I do have some events scheduled on my 2007 calender. I plan to retire from running distances longer than half marathons after doing the 2008 Goofy Challenge so I am trying to finish up the marathons this year. My reason for retiring from them is so I can focus more on multi sport events. I would ideally like to crack the 4 hour mark for a marathon again, but my best shot is the Country Music Marathon as the other 2 are challenging.
28 APR Nashville, TN- Country Music Marathon
2 JUN Coudersport, PA- God's Country Marathon
9 JUN Johnstown, PA- Laurel Highlands 70 Mile
14 JUL Boone, NC- Grandfather Mountain Marathon
2 SEP Virginia Beach, VA- Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
8 SEP Punxsutawney, PA- Groundhog Fall 50K
3 NOV Lynchburg, VA- Mountain Masochist 50 Miler
12-13 JAN Walt Disney World- Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge

Run Happy,
Mick Quen

2006 JFK 50 Mile

Originally written 09DEC2006.

18NOV2006 Boonsboro, MD

50 Miles... Why does one run 50 miles? Insanity, peer pressure, boredom, lack of anything better to do, and/or just to see if they can. For me it was all of the above, but especially the insanity and having some great friends crazy enough to do it me and offer fellowship and support along the way. So goes the story of my adventures in the 44th JFK 50 Miler on 18NOV2006.

I will tell you that going on leave and then moving to a new location a couple months before the race is not recommended for training unless you are familiar with the area you are moving to and know of some good places to run. I was not so lucky, but if you know me then you know I was going to do the race whether I was properly trained or not. Shelley kept checking to see if I was going to back out, but there was no way I wasn't gonna go through with this. Shelley was in the same boat, though hers was due to injury, but the way Shelley and I saw it we were just coming into the race with well rested legs.

I met up with Shelley Caywood and Leaf Hales from HIMC before the start. The start was smooth. Not far from the start we came to the first hill, which we walked, as we did all hills later even the little ones. At the top of the hill we made a stop at the port-a-potties before hitting the first trail section. Lots of narrow sections so we got separated from Shelley here and again on the next trail section which had alot of rocky footing and roots. You had to pick your steps carefully and walk on many sections of the towpath. Shelley was just being cautious and saving herself for later, which was good cause she did fall though, thank God she was not seriously hurt.

It was about Mile 16 that we hit the long flat 26 miles of the race that trace the river. I hate this section and call it the marathon in the middle. Leaf was a Godsend here cause he helped keep me moving forward. Eventually we(probably just me) had to start doing 10 minutes running and 2 minutes walking. I wouldn't have had the discipline at that point to keep it up by myself. After awhile I had to send Leif on ahead as I could not keep up the 10-2 routine. I caught up with Leif at the next aid station and Shelley caught up with us here. I moved on before they left, but it wasn't long before they met up with me again as I was just doing 7 minutes running and 3 walking. I was pleasantly surprised that they joined me at this pace and it definitely made the miles go by easier. At about mile 38 while in the middle of 7 minutes running it was as if someone flicked the OFF switch on me and just cut off all my energy supply. I had to tell Shelley and Leaf to go on without me as I could only manage a slow walk, but fortunately the next aid station was only about half a mile away. I chowed down there. I had fruit, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, candy, GU, bagel pieces, soup, hot chocolate, and 3 glasses of Mountain Dew. Most of you probably would have been sick after all that, but it was exactly what I needed. It was the last I saw of Shelley and Leaf until the finish. I continued on at a fast walk as I could not run anymore right then.

About a mile after that I had just got done telling someone that I could not run anymore when a voice/thought ran through my head that said "Yes you can." I figured I better step out in faith so I said "OK Lord." Praise God he gave me my legs back and I was running again even if it was just a 5 minutes running and 5 minutes walking schedule. Shortly after mile 42 we were back on paved roads with the welcome sight of rolling hills. The terrain was back to dictating the running as I walked all uphills and ran the flats and downhills all the way to the finish. I passed 77 people from this point on and had only 3 passed me. I knew how passing people gives you a little boost, but I was also surprised to find that offering encouragement to each one of the people I passed in that last 8 miles gave me even more of a boost and hopefully helped them a little as well. Amazingly I even had a nice sprint to the finish after 50 miles. I ended up being about 10 minutes behind Shelley and Leaf at the finish. My time was 11 hours 34 minutes 05seconds.

I want to thank God for giving me the ability to run 50 miles without dieing, Shelley and Leaf for their encouragement, support, and fellowship in suffering, Shelley's brother, Jess, for driving Vicki to the different meeting points along the route, Leaf's wife, Tracy, for her help and support, the great race organizers and volunteers for all they did that day and leading up to it, and my beautiful wife, Vicki, for her love and support during the race and the next couple days while I stumbled around like an elderly crippled man.

All in all it was a great experience and fun. I would recommend it, but then again following my recommendations is probably not recommended. Walking around funny for the next couple days is worth it all.

As for how you run 50 miles.... You just keep putting one foot in front of the other as to be constantly moving forward the same way we go through life and other races.

Run Happy,

Jungfrau 2004 & 2006

Originally written 16DEC2006.

SEP2004 + 2006 Interlaken, Switzerland

Jungfrau. What is it? Is it a young woman? Though that is its translation in German, the truth is it is so much more than that. It is a beautiful mountain in Switzerland that happens to be the namesake for one of the toughest marathons in the world. This marathon is run in early September and it is beautiful, but it is much more than just a pretty "face". I want to say that if you never go to Interlaken, Switzerland to do the marathon, Interlaken is very beautiful and worth the trip in itself. I can't imagine a bad time of year to visit this picturesque city. For those that don't know, this is a very challenging marathon. It starts at 500 meters in elevation, peaks at 2200 meters, and finishes at about 2100 meters. If you ever get to thinking too highly of yourself and want a humbling marathon experience to bring you back down to earth, then by all means don't miss this marathon.

This is the retelling of my 2 attempts of doing the Jungfrau, the first being in 2004 and then again in 2006. A Runner's World article about the 2003 Jungfrau Marathon is responsible for first peaking my interest about this marathon. I signed up for this marathon in 2004 after taking off almost 3 years from my first marathon in 2001. I am the type of guy that signs up for something and does it whether I am properly prepared to do it or not. I was not ready for a marathon let alone the Jungfrau Marathon, but I foolishly figured that my casual hiking and biking had prepared me enough. I knew I could walk a marathon in a little more than 6 hours and they give you 6.5 hours to finish so figured I was ready since I was gonna be running most of it anyway or at least the first half. Do I need to tell you how wrong I was? That might fly for most marathons, but the Jungfrau is definitely not most marathons. In 2006 I was fortunate enough to be able to run this with 2 of my friends from HIMC(Heidelberg International Marathon Club), Doug Roberts and Shelley Caywood and we were accompanied by my wife, Vicki, and Shelley's husband, Garth. I came in well trained in 2006 and I thought I was prepared to finish in about 5.5 hours. We shall see.

The race starts in downtown Interlaken and does a loop around a park and some city blocks before bringing you back through where you started and on your way out of the city. The beautiful thing about this marathon is that you have tons of fans to cheer you along in the cities and villages, but you also have a beautiful and breathtaking country side to enjoy with your fellow runners as well. The marathon then brings you through some lovely little villages and countrysides before your arrival into Wilderswil and your first climb worth mentioning. Doug and I got separated from Shelley shortly before here and were wondering why she hadn't caught back up. We figured she was just playing it safe and taking it easy, which proved to be true. It is a nice little climb through some more little villages and along a stream up into Lauterbrunnen. The stream provides a refreshing cooling effect. All was good for Doug and I along this stretch in 2006, but 2 years before this I already found myself walking along this stretch and found myself telling the people of Lauterbrunnen I was kaput(broken). In Lauterbrunnen you are greeted with lots of cheers and support. In 2006 it was nice to see Vicki and Garth(Shelley's husband) here. From here you run out of Lauterbrunn past a few small waterfalls across the halfway point and then back along that same stream into the other side of Lauterbrunnen. At the halfway mark in 2004 my time was 2 hours 29 minutes and in 2006 our time was 2 hours 11 minutes. Shelley caught up to us on this stretch and we were all united again. We were well on pace to make my 5.5 hour finish. At kilometer 25(15 miles) the real race begins and you find everything up to this point was just a casual warm up.

It is here that you hit the longest steepest switchbacks most of us will ever encounter in our lives. These are brutal and the trademark part of the race. To add insult to injury the race organizers start marking ever quarter kilometer. The last thing you want to know is just how long it took you to crawl that last .25K. We all separated here. Shelley's conservative strategy paid off and she forged on ahead. Doug fell back from me and I settled into the middle. We were walking this approx 1.5k-2k climb because as they said in the RW article everyone walks here. In 2004 I had run my last step and this was where I fell behind the pace to make the 6.5 hour finish though I would continue on at a brisk walk. At least in 2006 I was not having to hold onto the rails to pull myself uphill and stop at almost every switchback landing as I did in 2004. In 2006 there was no more running for me from here until I got to Wengen where even then I was only running the flats and downhills. The clock read 3 hours 40 minutes as I passed it in Wengen. It was a relief to see Vicki and Garth here. I gave Vicki a kiss here hoping it might help get me through the last 10.5k to the finish where I would see her again.

In 2004 on the way to Wengen I met up with a guy named Jan from the Netherlands. We would tough it out the rest of the way together. I could have moved faster if I had continued on solo, but I opted for fellowship in suffering since I wasn't going to make the official finish. Jan had to keep stopping due to back pain, but was a great companion. We raided a supply stop that the organizers had closed down and left along the way to the finish. The people we encountered along the way were friendly and encouraged us to keep going though the organizers preferred that we just quit. We reached the finish around 8.5 hours though we had to ask someone where the finish was since it was already torn down. This was the first marathon that I had ever been offered Coke on the course by the organizers. The sugar and caffeine are great and you really don't notice the carbonation.

Back to 2006. I ran some more flats and downhills while walking the climb up and out of Wengen. I hit a point some time after that where I attempted to run a downhill and my hamstrings cramped up in addition to my quads and calves, which were already cramped up. About half a kilometer ahead was a massage area. Of course I stopped. They asked if I had prepared by running any mountains. I thought I had, but when I told them I ran in Heidelberg I was informed that we don't have mountains, only small hills in Heidelberg. In comparison I would have to say they were right. The massage worked out the cramps for about another half a kilometer before my quads and calves were back at, but I could handle them as long as my hamstrings didn't join in. I trudged along just fine until the last 2.5k, where you start about 2k of single track featuring a fairly steep drop off on both sides so you can't really pass. This part was agony for me because not being able to take my full stride brought back all the cramps in my legs.

Doug and I were getting close to not finishing on time and I had been worried about Doug making it since I hadn't seen him after the switchbacks. I got half the way up this stretch before all the muscles in my leg balled up on me forcing me to immediately sit down on the side of the trail. I looked at the fellow runners(everyone was a walker at this point) coming up the mountain and who did I see back a ways, but Doug. I got moving again, but it was probably only about 100-200 meters before I got froze up again and had to sit. I am just gonna say right now, "In case you didn't know, Doug is the Man!" A few minutes later he comes along and asks me what is wrong and if there is anything he can do. Doug tells me he is gonna have me put my arm around his shoulder and he is gonna get me to the massage tent about 200 meters ahead up the trail. Doug gets me there and they help relax the cramps and give us some Coke(pop of course). We get moving and finally put the last of the climbs behind us. Doug was feeling pretty good and asks how I am doing. I said I am fine and told him to go get a strong finish. He goes on ahead and I continue my brisk walk before finding my stride again at 42k. The only reason I found my stride again was because they placed a timing chip recorder right at the 42k mark. I crossed the finish line in 6h25m20s. I had succeeded and gotten my revenge on the Jungfrau. I may not have finished in my goal time of 5.5 hours, but after 2 attempts I have learned to HUMBLY accept an official finish at all in Jungfrau as being well rewarding enough. Shelley crushed us and finished in 5h41m01s and Doug was a couple minutes ahead of me at 6h23m30s.

All I wanted to do was see Vicki, give her kiss, get my finishers shirt and medal, and eat. After showering and eating some more we caught the long slow train ride down the mountain. I cramped up a lot and felt lightheaded and slightly ill. Nothing I could do about the cramps, but I knew the other problem was because I needed protein. The kiosk at the Interlaken West train station had exactly what I was looking for just as it had in 2004, a nice juicy hamburger. It was what I needed cause after eating it I felt better both years.

In 2004 I went back to race headquarters and argued that I still deserved a finishers medal and shirt because they were giving them to people that had gone the first 10k before quitting and turning in their chips at the next aid station. NOTE: they have since changed this policy. Was it do in part to me? Who knows? If I had quit and turned in my chip at the first check point after switchbacks I would have been given my finisher's shirt and medal. I persisted and eventually they gave in and took my name and address to send me the medal and shirt. The shirt they sent was only an event shirt and not a finisher's shirt, but I didn't complain anymore. Jan, his wife, and I then went out to an Italian restaurant before I hobbled back to my hotel and prayed that I would survive to morning. The following week I discovered the Heidelberg International Marathon Club and began to prepare for my second Dublin marathon.

In 2006 the problem was that I was hobbling around due to cramps and soreness and Vicki and I still had to go across town to Doug's room to get our bag before catching our train in about 30 minutes. Doug was the man yet again. He and Garth went to get our bag and with just minutes to spare here comes Doug RUNNING with our bag. He gets us on the train as the door almost closes on him before he can get off the train. DOUG IS THE MAN! The train was nice and relaxing all the way back. The next day I walked the marathon course of the annual Heidelberg International Wandering Club Volksmarch marathon distance. The day after that my 5.5 years of great running in Europe were over as I boarded a plan to the US and back home for leave before we reported to Fort Bragg, NC and the United States portion of my running adventures.

Run Happy,

Connemarathon 2006

Originally written 29MAR2006.

26MAR2006 Ireland
The Connemarathon takes place in the Connemara region of western Ireland.

Travel was a nightmare for me. My early troubles were self inflicted for mixing up flight times and not getting to the check in counter earlier. Let me just say that if you are flying Ryan Air I recommend you get to the check in counter at least one hour early. I had many difficulties including a missed check in time, a delayed flight, missed connections, and a cancelled flight. These all added up to about an extra 200 euros in travel expenses for me. That's enough about travel.

The Connemara region of western Ireland is beautiful and if you ever get a chance to visit western Ireland I recommend you take it. There are rolling hills speckled with farms of cattle or sheep here or there. The region I was in is called the Gaeltacht region. In this region the Irish(Gaelic) language is still spoken as a daily language and the locals can switch between Irish and English with ease. I learned that if there is only a light mist or sprinkles with a breeze that it constitutes as being a good day weather wise. There were maybe only 5 hours total that there wasn't some form of precipitation while I was outside during my 3.5 days there. It was truly an international marathon and I talked with people from all over the world. I was complimented twice when people mistook me to be a local Irishman myself. Once it was by a local so that really meant a lot to me.

There was approximately 80 runners for the ultra(39.3), 500 for the marathon, and 1500 for the half marathon. Each race had a separate start area all about 13.1 miles from each other. Race day started with some rain of course. This stopped though and other than some strong wind before the start it was ideal temperature wise at the starting line. That wind was a tail wind when we started running. The first few ultra runners came through before the marathon started. With only 500 runners at the start I was able to settle into my own stride quicker than any other marathon I have ever done or will probably do again.

My first mile was about 8:50 followed by a 8:35 and another 8:50. The first half of the marathon was over what seemed like rolling hills and you had a tail wind at points here and there allowing me to keep averaging about 9 minute miles. I was at 7 miles in 1h 1min and half way in about 2 hours flat. This gave me hopes of a possible sub 4 hour or at least a sub 4.5 hour marathon.

Then the second half hit starting with an approx 1.5 mile climb. This was the first of the real climbs. Adding to the difficulty of the second half was the head wind that started at mile 14 and stayed with you the rest of the race. I saw my split times falling, but with a strong wind in my face I was unable to salvage them. At about mile 17 I was greeted with a new foe in the form of a steadily rain that also stayed with you the rest of the race. The wind and the rain continued to batter me and my splits. I was so cold I was numb and so numb it hurt. It just shouldn't hurt when you are numb. At mile 22 I was at the bottom of what they call the Hell of the West. Yes they mean HELL especially with the elements. It is an approx 2.5 mile climb. After that it is supposedly a gradual descent to the finish. I never noticed any real descent though.

I was mentally beaten from the elements so I walked from 22 to 26. I tried to run once after getting up the hill, but my legs cramped up right above my knees so I walked until the 26 mile marker. I could see the finish from the 26 mile marker and that helped get me there. I sprinted from 26 onward because I always at least sprint the last .2. After finishing and picking up my shirt and medal I immediately got my clothes. Even after putting on my clothes and downing my soup I was still shivering strongly. I didn't completely warm up till I went to my hotel and soaked in the tub before getting under the blankets.

In summary the course was challenging, but not too difficult. The hardest part was the wind and the rain. I won't fault Ray(race director) for the weather though, especially not in Ireland. I believe it was actually the wind and the rain that claimed the life of one of the runners that day. I do think there should have been less automobile traffic on the course even though I realize you can't shut down all the county for the race, but still there was too much traffic on the course. The other problem was the lack of food on the course. Water points were good, but there needed to be more energy drinks and much more food on the course. Fortunately Dublin 2004 taught me to carry my own food, but runners shouldn't have to carry all their own food. I would do this marathon again and I would recommend it to others, but there is definitely room for improvement here too.


Blog Purpose

In this blog I will chronicle my running adventures. I ran my first marathon in Dublin, Ireland on October 29th, 2001. Before that I had not even ran a half marathon. To date I have run 57 marathons or longer(20 marathons, 37 ultras). I have also run 24 half marathon up to 25 mile distance races.

The first few posts will be past events that I shared with friends either through Facebook or email. I know I can be long winded, but I hope you still find my reports at least somewhat interesting and informing.

Thank you for reading.

Run Happy,