Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trash Cache

It must be Halloween week because things are just getting creepy out there. A few days ago I ran on the trail and the fog was perfect weather for zombies. Plus the ghost cowboy I heard behind me (complete with hooves, spurs, and heavy breathing) made things extra creepy. Well today I headed in the other direction thankful that the fog was barely there. Only to find a bizarre stash of Gatorade bottles and duct tape. I mean, seriously? Did you have a victim in the woods and they got away? And what's up with the drinks?

Anyway, I carried on and got my run done. I won't be going out there for a few days just in the hopes that the spirits move along to find some other haint. Aside from the creepy tape, the run was fairly boring. No interesting encounters. Made it all the way to the bridge and back plus a little extra to edge me a little closer to the hour and a half mark. Still didn't quite get there but I could have if I didn't care about being too late to work.

Temps were about 45F to 50F. No wind. Sky was overcast and humidity was 100%. Had a few rain drops here and there but nothing too heavy.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the run I had half an iced coffee and a mini-coffee cake bar. During the run I had a bottle of plain water that I didn't quite finish and an applesauce pouch at the halfway point. Recovery was bacon, eggs, waffles, yogurt, and coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Got a wee bruise on the ball of my right foot from stepping on too many pointy rocks. They like to hide under the leaves. Also had a bit of a sour stomach over the last mile but nothing too terrible (likely caused by poor choices for lunch and dinner last night).

Wore a headlamp for the first mile or two then stashed it. Wore my Buff, gloves, thermal shirt, shorts, and pants. Also wore a short sleeve t-shirt. Carried my knife since I was in coyote country.

Heart Rate:
Really happy with my heart rate today. Managed to stay out of Zone 3 until the last few miles when I really just wanted to speed up and get back home. First few miles I was in Zone 1, not really by design but just because that was the pace I was moving at. It felt comfortable so I stuck with it. I'm sure the cold weather helped. Finished with a roughly 2 minute push at the end to round out my 6 miles.

Decided to do half mile splits today just to get a better judge of pace and zones. Not that stopping to pick up trash helped things but hey, it's the thought that counts.

Start - 4:43 (AVG HR 116)
Mile 0.5 - 5:37 (AVG HR 133)
Mile 1.0 - 6:29 (AVG HR 138)
Mile 1.5 - 8:01 (AVG HR 132)
Mile 2.0 - 7:32 (AVG HR 137)
Mile 2.5 - 10:47 (AVG HR 132) (includes trash detail)
Mile 3.0 - 9:27 (AVG HR 125) (includes trash detail)
Mile 3.5 - 6:59 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 4.0 - 6:13 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 4.5 - 6:40 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 5.0 - 6:01 (AVG HR 139)
Mile 5.5 - 6:26 (AVG HR 145)
End - 1:58 (AVG HR 163)
Finish - 1:27:00
MIN HR - 89
AVG HR - 136
MAX HR - 174

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Zombie Weather

Dragged my ass out of bed and into my running clothes. The weekend is always nice but sometimes you need a nice, quiet day at work to recover from your weekend. Pretty much just stuck to my plan to run an hour and a half today. Thought about starting at Mile 4 on the trail but changed my mind and started at Mile 8. Ran down to Mile 5.5 and back, doing my best to run the only hill on the trail without blowing past my heart rate zone. Yep, didn't last long, but I tried.

Thankfully I managed to get my pooping done at home before leaving. That seemed to help move me along on my run. The first half was really sluggish and I felt like a zombie. No regular cadence, no normal stride, just a bunch of shuffling and stumbling. Glad there were no brains on the trail or I may have stopped to eat them.

After the turn around I managed to have a good mile or so before starting to run above my heart rate zone. Which then prompted more walking breaks than I wanted which made me mad which sent me back to a downward spiral of self doubt. But I tried to put it behind me, think about my great run from last week, and move on. It sort of worked.

Other notable points from the run include scaring a deer, picking up a plastic bag, and blocking what was likely an illegal access point. And that was pretty much it.

The weather was spooky out. Surprised I didn't see any zombies.

Temps were about 40F to 45F. Sun was out but I barely saw it do to the fog. Fog was mild for the most part but would occasionally be very thick in some spots. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the run I had half an iced coffee. During the run I had a bottle of plain water that I ran out of with half a mile to go. I also had an applesauce pouch around the half hour mark. Recovery was two waffles, two eggs, yogurt, and more iced coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really hurt or bothered me.

Wore gloves, winter hat, thermal shirt, shorts, and pants. Also wore a long sleeve top.

Heart Rate:
Plan was to stay in Zone 2 and I managed to stay in Zone 1 and low Zone 2 for the first half or so. The second half started out great but then I started creeping into Zone 3. Finished the last couple of minutes with a Zone 3 or higher push.

Mile 1 - 15:47 (AVG HR 137)
Mile 2 - 17:05 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 3 - 16:10 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 4 - 16:11 (AVG HR 142)
Mile 5 - 15:21 (AVG HR 139)
2 Minute Push - AVG HR 162
Finish - 1:25:06
MIN HR - 87
AVG HR - 140
MAX HR - 174

Monday, October 28, 2013

Podcast - Mile 71 - Avoidance

As I traipse along the trails at Lake Anna State Park, I do my best to avoid injury, an elevated heart rate, and horse shit. I was hurt a couple of years ago at the ICY-8 because I slipped and pulled something in my back.* It hurt like hell and lingered for awhile. I also try to avoid Zone 3 in my run because, well, because that's what my coach tells me to do. I don't always understand why he tells me to do certain things but I need to learn to have faith in him and his knowledge. And of course, I get to avoid giant piles of horse shit. The park is home to many trails that are open to horses and horses, like all things that eat, poop. Thankfully I avoided everything I could see.

Aside from that, the rest of the episode is my usual rambling. And then I get lost. Yup, I got lost. But just a little bit. Maybe a quarter of a mile. Maybe less.

You can avoid the horse pies here on SoundCloud. Seems that Podbean still lets me publish stuff so you can check it out over there too.

* Upon further research, it was actually my hamstring. My back hurt during and after the race, but the injury was to my hamstring.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Worst. Aid Station. Ever.

Had quite the run today. After yesterday's lousy strength training workout where I reached physical exhaustion after starting my second set, I felt a little depressed. But I moved on. This morning started out a little lousy too but again, I moved on. This time, out the door.

I shuffled down the road, keeping an eye on my heart rate, and did my best not to freeze my nose off. The sun wasn't up yet so I made sure I was wearing bright colors and had a headlamp on to flash the drivers coming my direction. And I'm glad I did because you could tell when they saw me. Sometimes living in the country is a good thing. As I moved my fat ass down the road, I kept looking at my watch, making sure I was in the right zone. And kept looking. And kept running. When I reached the area of the one mile mark, I was shocked that I was able to keep my heart rate down so far. But I kept running. And kept watching. After three miles I needed to pee and my super-awesome run streak was over. That's the first time in at least 2 or 3 years that I've been able to run that far without stopping to take a walking break.

From there, I moved into the second leg of my route and my heart rate would steadily rise. The road was super busy, there was barely a shoulder to run on, and nearly all of it was uphill. But I did my best and carried on.

By the third leg of the route, I was able to get things back to where they needed to be. For about 5 minutes then I needed to take a dump. I'll spare you the details because things turned out to be too gross for me which means it's too gross to share with you. Let's just leave it at that.

After my stomach expelled the demons, I felt better and was able to keep things under control and finished out the run. The last 3 or 4 minutes I pushed the pace a bit still felt okay by the end.

Over an hour into the run, the sun was finally peeking through the trees.

This was the worst aid station ever.

Temps were about 30F to 35F. Things were warmer in the sun and on hills. Sun wasn't up at the start but was up by the end. Sky was clear. Little to no wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was a yogurt and half an iced coffee. During the run I had a bottle of Hammer Fizz and a bottle of plain water. At the halfway point I had a small packet of applesauce. Recovery was the rest of my coffee, Hammer Recoverite, and a small piece coffee cake.

Aches and Pains:
Right knee was hurting a little bit towards the end but nothing horrible. Ass started to chafe a bit since frozen leaves make poor toilet paper. Everything else was fine.

Wore shorts under pants. Wore gloves and a winter hat. Wore thermal top with a cycle jersey over it. Wore my headlamp and kept the light on for the first 5 miles.

Heart Rate:
Kept myself in Zone 2 for the first three miles. Danced into Zone three several times for the next few miles. Finished the last few miles in Zone 2 with a good surge for the final 3 or 4 minutes.

Leg 1 (about 3 miles) - 38:18 (AVG HR 143)
Leg 2 (about 2 miles) - 26:48 (AVG HR 149)
Leg 3 (about 3 miles) - 38:46 (AVG HR 139) (includes poop break)
Finish - 1:43:53
MIN HR - 104
AVG HR - 143
MAX HR - 169

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

MIA on the DRHT

Wow. Chilly this morning. Once I got going though, I was able to warm up a bit. And then when I stopped to swap memory cards on one of the trail cameras, I stopped for too long and got chilly again. But not to worry, I warmed up soon enough. Guess you know winter is coming when your stream generates a small steam cloud.

The run was full of excitement. Well, not really, but there were a few tipping points. The cold air helped keep my heart rate within the desired zone for a good 2 or 3 miles before I had to keep a close eye on it. Spooked about six turkeys. They took off through the trees and I swear they looked so clumsy I was waiting for one to fly headlong into a tree. Dropped my knife after I cut a briar but managed to find it on the way back. Was pretty pissed for a few miles. One of my trail cameras will likely need new batteries. Damn thing wouldn't work when I swapped the memory card. May need to move it to a sunnier spot.


My view this morning.

Temps were about 40F when I started and warmed to maybe 45F or 50F by the finish. Sun was out but was low in the sky when I started. Eventually rose high enough to be annoying. No humidity and no wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was half an iced coffee and a small cinnamon coffee bar. During the run I had just plain water. Recovery was an iced latte and oatmeal.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really hurt. Dirt bike knocked some rocks loose which made some of the trail annoying but other than stepping on a few rocks, things were good.

Wore some new gaiters but I think I wore them backwards. Wore shorts and pants and a long sleeve shirt. Wore winter hat and gloves. Took my Nathan hydration pack.

Heart Rate:
Goal was 90 minutes in Zone 2 with a 3 minute push at the end. Managed to stay where I needed to be for most of the run. Ran out of Zone 2 a few times and even managed to catch myself before I even looked at the watch. Did a good 5 or 6 minute push at the end. Since I'm so stuck on running mile post to mile post, I stretched out the run a bit at the end.

Splits got jacked up since I forgot a few.
Finish - 1:33:37
MIN HR - 70
AVG HR - 139
MAX HR - 171

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lake Anna Litmus Test

Thought I'd use my time wisely and go for a test run at Lake Anna State Park. It'll be the site of my next scheduled race and it'll be my main race leading into my A race for next year. And based on how things went today, I'm a bit depressed. I was hoping to do a long loop in less than 2 hours but I still clocked in at 2:15. Coming in under 2 hours for a long loop would give me the pace I need to run 4 long loops (32 miles) within the 8 hour race time limit. So even though I piddled around, got a little lost, and generally didn't stress out about things, I'm a bit stressed now knowing that I'll need to continue to push the envelope a bit to get that 50k mark by February. If memory serves, I haven't run sub-8 for a 50k since last year. Not good. But progress needs time and so do I. So I'll continue to train as best as I can.

Outside of the slow pace, I didn't do too much on this run. Had to dodge two cyclists that snuck up on me while I was daydreaming about some conspiracy theory as to why a pontoon boat was sitting in the lake looking abandoned. It wasn't but I let my imagination get the better of me while I was making my way through the woods. Along the way, I dodged plenty of horse shit and quite a few mud puddles. I had forgotten how poorly the course drains and how many damn roots there are out there. Thankfully the rocks aren't too bad and I only rolled an ankle once.

The elevation was damn near a joke coming off of Oil Creek. The start has a decent incline and the hills on the power line section were tough. There were a few rollers in two sections but generally speaking, this is an easily runnable course. I just need to keep that fresh in my mind when I do it.

What was left of a barn's foundation.

This was the little pond near the start.

This was a pretty cool view on the trail. Hard to see but giant drops of rain were falling through the sun.

Temps were about 65F to 75F. Humidity was moderate to high with a few sprinkles of rain here and there. Sky was mostly overcast with a few rays from the sun.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was two waffles, two eggs, yogurt, and iced coffee. During the run I had about 30 ounces of plain water (I somehow managed to pay attention to that), most of a bottle of Hammer Fizz, and an apple sauce pack. Recovery was the rest of my Hammer Fizz followed by a lunch of a Caesar salad, black bean soup, baguette, iced tea, and iced coffee.

Aches and Pains:
I rolled my ankle early on a rock buried in the leaves but it didn't bother me. My problem toes (one on each foot) bugged me towards the end so I lopped off what I could after my shower. Outside of that, things felt fine.

Wore my Nathan hydration pack and stashed my Amphipod bottle inside. Brought along my phone, map, and a few other essentials. No gaiters so I got rocks and twigs in my shoes. Shoes started to bug me towards the end of the race so I may need to go with my Superiors instead of my Lone Peaks.

Heart Rate:
I tried, really tried, to keep it under the 149 mark to stay in Zone 2. It just didn't happen. So I tried to keep it as low in Zone 3 as I could but I'd often find myself struggling just to keep it under 155. As I neared the end, I said screw it and just ran it back in since it was mostly downhill. I think I averaged 165 to 170 over the last 5 minutes.

Finish - 2:14:50
MIN HR - 82 (at the start)
AVG HR - 148 (wow, I guess I did make it on the average)
MAX HR - 183 (probably when I ran face first into a spider web just as I thought I saw a snake)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Podcast - Mile 70 - Mindless Eating

mmmmrmrmrmrrr fooooodd mmmmmmememmrrmrm

Yep, I'm a zombie eater. Or maybe I'm a Pavlovian eater. Either way, I eat without thinking about it when I sit in front of the TV. I know it but I don't know it. There are times where I catch myself halfway through a second bowl of chips without remembering the first bowl. Kind of like driving to work where you suddenly realize you're at work without remembering that second stop light.

Anyway, lots of reasons for this but I think it boils down to nurture and nature conspiring against me. Okay, maybe not conspiring against me but it sure feels that way. I'd like to think I have control of this but I don't. Some days are better than others. Here's to hoping today will be a good day.

You can download this episode into your snack bowl here or gnaw on it directly here. And if you're on the go, you can listen to it here with a side of fries.

Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 Oil Creek 100k Race Report

This race died on race day morning. That's right, my third DNF ever and my third DNF this year. But this is probably the one I feel the most comfortable with and the most worried about all at the same time. Conflicting, I know, but keep reading and it may make sense. Assuming you can stay awake for that long. And, just in case you don't already know, yes, this will be a long post. And yes, there will be graphic details revealed as well as adult language used. You've been warned!

So, leading up to the race, my summer was pretty rough. I didn't train as much as I needed to and I paid the price for that over and over again. It's a common excuse for runners everywhere and it's mine as well. I knew I wasn't at the level I wanted to be but I still gave it my best. I knew the time limit for this race made finishing feasible, even on my low level of training. Anyway, it was a bad summer. Aside from the low miles, I was pretty burned out. My last "good" performance was my Father's Day Fat Ass 50k and even that wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I made the mistake of attempting a 50k the next weekend and it quickly became my second DNF. Things went downhill from there and it sucked.

The good news from my bad summer was I finally got my thumb out of my ass and hired a coach. He's not only holding me accountable for completing my training, he's also scheduling my training. I needed it then and still need it now to have that structure. So far, the results have been good but it's still too soon to see anything solid enough to make me a convert and drink the Kool-Aid. We, meaning the coach and I, both knew that this 100k would be too soon in the training plan to have a good showing so we're looking at my 2014 races for a solid go of things. This was going to be a suffer-fest and just a question of how much walking I'd be doing.

So there's the background of the days and months leading up to the race. I opted this year to skip the timed event the weekend after in Erie and to cut my trip short to just a few days instead of a solid week. I drove up on my birthday (yay for old age!) and had a bit of a Sheetz Marathon along the way. I live close to one, I go there often, and they're always good to me (both as individual employees and also as a company). So I wanted to pay them back a bit by stopping at many stores on the way. I'd end up doing the same thing on the way back, mostly for walking breaks but also to do a bit of a repeat for a Sheetz Ultramarathon. Maybe it should be considered a Sheetz Marathon Maniac instead? Either way, it wasn't out of my way and if I can get them to sponsor me ::hint hint :: , all the better.

Getting my iced latte on.

Once I got to mom's house, I unloaded, chilled out, and had a tasty dinner. Oh, did I mention that I got off to a supremely late start? I didn't pack in advance so I just started tossing stuff on the bed to pack. Then I had breakfast with my dad. Then I had to run errands in town. The list went on. But I high-tailed it and made it in time for dinner.

Pre-Race Packet Pickup
I went up to Titusville a little early to preview the second aid station and remind myself where stuff was up there. I got out in a few places and looked at the trail and generally just tried to visualize the route and where things were. I didn't visualize myself finishing so that may have been a factor in the DNF. For packet pickup, I got to the school early enough to see teachers leaving but stayed in the car listening to Game of Thrones. People were already setting up tents in the empty field next to the parking lot and there was some rain sprinkling here and there. Nothing major but just enough to notice.

Once I saw people coming out with their race bags, I decided to go inside. The only benefit I saw in going in before the official 5pm time given was you get a better choice in picking your door prize. The prizes weren't great but weren't horrible either so showing up late isn't that big of a deal. Winning was easy. Show your bib, win a prize. I opted for the Oil Creek hat. It looked cool and I didn't see much else that interested me. Next time I think I'll go for the Hammer towel and use it in my drop bags in the future.

In the swag bag there was some Sport Wash, Hammer Recoverite, and some other ads. This year's race shirt was dark green, not quite as "pretty" as the blue from last year. Once I checked in and got my swag, I went to the cafeteria to give it the eye and waited for dinner. I saw who I thought was a runner I knew but being the anti-social person I am, I never went up to ask. Thankfully he wasn't anti-social and came over to introduce himself. I met JD and his wife Heather online through their blog and Facebook. And I think Dailymile too.

Anyway, the three of us chatted for a bit before another guy walks up and knows both of us. I didn't know Ron and only vaguely remembered his website. This would be the first of several instances where I was known and I didn't really know the person that knew me. It's flattering, embarrassing, and a wee bit scary all at the same time. I'm awestruck that people know who I am. I don't know what makes me so memorable and I don't know how someone can remember me after a year, but they can and do remember. It makes me feel all sorts of special inside. But at the same time I'm petrified because I don't know this person. So having a complete stranger know your name is a bit startling. And then it's embarrassing because I feel like I should know this person. They know me, why shouldn't I know them? Well, unless I've run with you or spoken to you a few times at races or something, I probably won't remember you. I'm horrible with names and only slightly better with faces. But I'm ashamed to say I just don't know many people (see the anti-social part above).

So, we all chatted a bit and then dinner was served. I ate a salad, pasta, a roll, a cookie, and lemonade. Pretty much all they had to offer and it was all good. I vaguely recall there being more sauce options last year (vegan maybe?) but either way, it was all good. No nuts in my cookie and no chicken or turkey in my meatballs so I was happy.

While I was there, I also picked up a jacket and browsed some of the other merchandise. Nothing too exciting so I eventually left early and went back to my mom's to make sure all my stuff was stowed and ready to go. Things were looking good. Like the calm before the storm.

Race Day Morning
So on race day morning I got up at the crack of dawn, took a quick shower, killed a small bug in the bathroom, got dressed, and headed out the door. I swiped a banana which would be helpful and painful in the end. Bananas are a sure fire way for me to take a dump but I still eat them before races for some reason. I think from this point forward I will completely avoid them. Unless I need to take a shit, then I'll have one. Or I forget what they do to me and screw up all over again. As I headed down the road, I was barely 200 feet into the trip and I run over a possum. Damn thing just kept coming across the road and even though I tried to slow down, I just wasn't fast enough. And he was too slow. The rest of my drive was safer for the wildlife but I did nearly smash a deer. The 6 point buck decided to leave the safety of the ditch, run across my lane, run down the other lane, cross in front of me again, then go into the woods. He's pretty dumb so I doubt he'll survive the winter. The red fox I saw was fast enough to make it across the road but I have no idea what he said. Tons of fog meant driving slow but I made it safely.

I made a mad dash to the bathroom, got my chip, checked in, and dropped my drop bags. This year they didn't rearrange the ones at the school (AS #4) so I could easily find it when I got there. Not that I needed it, but it was nice to not waste time searching. I saw JD wished him luck, then quickly camped out at the back of the crowd.

The view from Saturday. These were the 100 milers but my view was similar.

Loop 1 - Section 1 - Start to Aid Station #1
(aka Wolfkiel Run, aka Wolfkill Run, aka Halloween) - 7.1 Miles
For a bit, I was the last person but I quickly passed a handful of walkers, maybe 8, before heading into the woods. I felt pretty good but I was quickly feeling the heat and humidity. I tried fiddling with my intervals by setting my watch but it just didn't feel right so I just tried to listen to my body and do what it said. Maybe I should have taken my heart rate monitor. I made it off the bike path and into the woods without any issues. Climbing up the hill I forgot how many damn rocks there were. And that was really the story of the trail surface for the day. Damn these fucking rocks. Sharp rocks, pointy rocks, round rocks, big rocks, small rocks, slippery rocks, rocks rocks rocks. I think the only rock that wasn't there was Dwayne Johnson.

Anyway, through the first section, the elevation gain wasn't too painful. I knew it was easy here and had it marked as such on my cheat sheet. I passed the Coming Home Loop spur where I expected an unmanned water table to be like last year but I never saw it. Maybe I missed it, maybe it wasn't there, either way, it wasn't a big deal. I was on track with my hydration and I felt okay. I kept going. And then I tweaked something. My right heel felt horrible when I flexed my foot too much. It would eventually go away but the pain nagged me for a few miles. I was worried about it until the pain eventually left by the time I got to the first aid station.

Coming into the first aid station I felt good. In this section last year I was being passed by quite a few of the faster 50k runners. I knew they were coming but I managed to hold them off until just before the aid station. In fact, only two of them passed me by the time I got to the aid station itself. That made me feel pretty damn good. In the aid station, one of the volunteers addressed me as "The Lumberjack" and yet again, I was a bit shell-shocked. He said he remembered me from last year, said he was the guy in the tutu, and then it all clicked. I remembered he was one of those fast 50k runners last year that passed right before the aid station.

While I was here, I snagged a Hammer Gel, refilled my bottles with water, and ate two Fig Newtons.

Loop 1 - Section 2 - Aid Station #1 to Aid Station #2
(aka Petroleum Center, aka Half) - 6.8 Miles
Coming out of the aid station, I knew there was a massive hill. I hated it all over again. I still say Cemetery Hill and Rockefeller's Revenge are the worst, but this one is clearly second. Steep, switchbacks, and way too early in the race. Plus it's right after an aid station where you fill your belly with goodies. Turns out I finally realized this year that that's a theme for the course. Every single massive hill on the course comes right after an aid station.

Anyway, I climbed out of there with two other runners from Syracuse. They were both nice, we swapped some tales, and they were on their way. I'd eventually pass them somewhere but they'd return the favor later. This held true throughout the day as I'd slowly pass people and they'd come back to pass me later in the race.

I was happy that coming into the midway point, I was prepared. Running it blind last year sucked. This year I had a cheat sheet with mileage and I knew I'd have about 3.4 miles to the unmanned water station. So climbing through the course, I knew I was close when I hit the water tables. I refilled and continued on. From there I knew I was close to the big derricks and sure enough, I was suddenly dumped out into the clearing. From here I was maybe a mile from the aid station, although it felt longer. The heat was getting to me and I was all out of fluids. I kept creeping along slowly knowing that I was almost there.

After the derricks, you cross a road and then a boardwalk before coming out onto a gravel road. This seemed to take forever. And worst of all, I slipped on the damn boardwalk. I knew it was slick but had a momentary lapse in my attention span, slipped, and banged my toenail pretty hard. Thankfully it stayed on and the pain went away. I eventually made it into the shelter and grabbed my drop bag. I swapped shirts, ditched some gear, grabbed some gear, and had some fluids and fuel. I was feeling a bit sluggish here but felt good knowing I was halfway through my first loop.

This is the trail crossing the road before coming to the boardwalk.

This is the train station you pass at the end of the gravel road.

And this is the grassy section leading into Aid Station #2.

Loop 1 - Section 3 - Aid Station #2 to Aid Station #3
(aka Miller Farm, aka HELL) - 8.8 Miles
This is where things were slowly falling apart. Coming out of the aid station is yet another climb but I knew that so I just plodded away. My pace was slowing and I was behind on my splits but not so much to worry about it. That would eventually change as my hydration and electrolytes would tank. As it stood in this section, I just had a slow leak developing and couldn't quite stem the flow.

I did have my GoPro for this section and took some pictures. They turned out okay but not great. The humidity wreaked havoc on keeping a clean lens. In other words, I was sweating so much, I was just dripping all over everything. Anyway, the trail eventually turns into a cross-country skiing trail. This means it's wider than normal and the hills are more gradual. You travel for a bit before coming to an unmanned water table. I refilled since I knew this section was a bit longer and I was drinking more.

The overlook shows you the oil derricks from the previous section across the valley. Hard to see in the fog.

This was a shelter for the skiers that was close to the water table.

Somewhere in here I started walking. Well, more like death marching, but I wasn't quite dead yet. My fingers were swelling more than normal so I took my wedding ring off and attached it to my watch. This was one of many signs that I was headed in the wrong direction with the heat and humidity. More signs were coming.

It was in this section I believe that I ran into another runner that knew me. The conversation went something like this: "Excuse me, Mr. uh, The Lumberjack, but, uh, do you have a blog and write about races?" "Yep, that's me." "Well I'm carrying your race report from last year and I wanted to tell you it was great. Everyone else wrote that their family came and they had a good time but you actually wrote about each section." So yet again, I was known by a complete stranger but this time I was completely flattered by the feedback on the race report.

What the trail looked like.

Once I saw the signs for the Boy Scouts, I was happy. I knew this was another check point with water and the signs kept me distracted. I was still moving slowly but I was still moving. The negative thoughts were creeping into my head and every five minutes brought a change in my mind from dropping out to continuing on. I got more water at the Scout camp and carried on. And on. And on. I ran out of water again and knew I wasn't quite there even though I could see the train tracks. Those damn train tracks fool you. When you see them, know you've still got a long road ahead before you get to the road. Once I finally got to the road, I was whipped.

The tricky train tracks.

 The sign reads "PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS SIGN!" So I closed my eyes.

I took my time at this aid station in an attempt to recuperate a bit before slogging up the hill. I also knew by now that I needed solid food and I needed to balance my fluids and electrolytes. I had a slice of pizza, some Coke, two Hammer Enduralytes, and chilled in a chair for a bit. I also had the volunteers fill each bottle with ice and water. This helped but damn did that ice melt fast.

Loop 1 - Section 4 - Aid Station #3 to Aid Station #4
(aka Titusville Middle School, aka TMS, aka Start/Finish) - 8.4 Miles
Coming out of Hell, I knew the first climb was only 10 minutes. I made it in 7. The second hill came shortly after but the bridge in between freaked me out. Last year I was fine going across the first time and nervous the second time in the dark. This year I was a bit more freaked out and I don't know why. I think my brain was fried by then and I had a touch of vertigo or something. Anyway, I made it up both hills in about 20 minutes which made me feel pretty good. I didn't expect to see the end of the hills so soon but there I was. I made it to the last unmanned water table, refilled, and felt good knowing that I was only a few miles from the Drake Well Museum where you get dumped off the trail and onto flat ground. In other words, from that water table to the school was easy. Or at least it should have been.

Cemetery Hill is hard. Be prepared.

I was still suffering. And by now I had decided I was going to drop. The warning signs were all over the place now and clearly visible. My wrists and arms were swelling enough that I needed to loosen my watch. I've never had that happen before. My fingers will swell eventually but they triggered early. My wrists never swell. My face was crusted in salt but that was normal. Having salt on my arms was not normal. The first half of the race my shirt was soaked with sweat. I expected that but not to have a dry shirt in the second half. I had the chills which is a normal warning sign for me to slow down and cool off. But not the chills were coming every 20 minutes or so and I stopped walked long ago. I had no ice available to me and there wasn't much of a breeze. I had no way to cool off beyond slowing down even more. I wasn't really dizzy or nauseous but as soon as I tried to go faster to get the pain over with, both of those triggered and I had to slow to a crawl. The bottom line was I was red-lining my body in the heat and it wouldn't take too much more. I was worried that I was seeing signs I had never seen before and I was worried that if I did continue, that I would eventually be pulled by the medical personal at the next aid station. Or worse.

On top of all this, I had some serious chafing. Serious enough that I'd end up peeling the next day. Kind of like a sun burn or a tattoo. Kind of like that Steven Seagal movie, Fire Down Below. It was bad enough that my quads, calves, and soles of my feet didn't hurt anymore. Bad enough that I would shove anything down there to alleviate the pain but nothing worked.

I think this face says it all. I give up.

Just a mile or so past the unmanned water table, I dropped my camera. As I was working to clear the error it showed by reloading the memory card, I heard a rustle to my left. Figuring it was another chipmunk, there were millions of them out there, I glanced up and went back to my camera. Well, my double-take revealed it was a black bear. A small one. I was so caught off guard I nearly turned into stone. I continued to fumble with fixing my camera because I knew nobody would believe me if I didn't have a picture. As I did so I looked around for the mother because I knew the one I saw was a bit too small to be an adult. I quickly spotted the mother to my right. If I had continued down the trail I would have been in between them so I was happy I stopped to fix my camera when I did.

The medium-sized cub I saw ran towards the mother and I thought I was clear until I saw one on the left up in a tree. It tumbled down to the ground and then a third cub came boiling out of the tree too. These two stragglers ran to the trail, stopped, looked around, then continued on. I snapped as many pictures as I could but alas, they aren't as clear as I'd like them to be. The GoPro doesn't have a zoom so I just did the best I could. Other than the millions of birds and chipmunks and one tiny snake, the four bears were the only wildlife I saw on the trail.


I'd eventually run out of water yet again before I reached the museum. As I came off the trail I thought about cutting the course and going across the bridge to drop but toughed it out and made my way around the Drake Well Museum in my painful waddle. The women's winner came flying by at this time and I saw a Ferrari drive by. She was moving faster than the car. I was sad when I went by the museum and instead of seeing the cables and well heads moving, they only had the sound effects blasting through speakers. The magic of a working museum was tarnished a bit but by then I didn't care too much. I continued to waddle on to the school where I officially dropped. My mom and Steve were there and I told my mom I was done. She put her arm on me to see if I needed anything and I promptly told her that probably wasn't a good idea. I knew I smelled bad because the flies wouldn't leave me alone and I could smell myself.

The Ferrari. What? You expected me to take a picture of a woman's ass instead?

Once I had something to drink, made sure I had dropped and turned in my chip, I grabbed my drop bag and headed to my car. I didn't even go into the school. At the time I didn't think much about it but I think I wanted to keep it in my mind as more of a sacred place for finishers and not quitters. Not that I felt like a quitter but I think I was subconsciously thinking that way.

Post Race
After I dropped, I told them I was going back for my other drop bag, so please don't bring it back. I then went to McDonald's, drowned my sorrows in two Happy Meals, and went for my bag. I hobbled out of my car, got my bag, saw a guy with a medical crew swarming him because of his busted ankle, and loaded up for my trip home. Once back at my mom's, I had a shower, another dinner, and generally tried to chill out.

I really should have put on my compression socks and stretched but I was just hurting too much to do it. The best recovery was my massage a few days later. Beyond that, it's just been slow and steady getting back into the grind.

Miscellaneous Notes
The mileage on the sections above appears to be a bit different this year. The mileage I posted here is what I have from last year. But according to this photo, it changed a bit. Not really enough worth noticing but I noticed.

Somewhere in the first section, I realized that I wasn't feeling bugs on my arms, but instead I was feeling water condense on my arm hairs and drip down every step I took. There were bugs eventually on the course but they weren't too bad. None of them bit.

Last year I saw a porcupine. This year I saw four black bears. I'm not sure if I need to add a bear tattoo or not. Right now I'm thinking no because I didn't finish the race. I did eventually think clearly enough to blow my whistle at the bears but by then they were already running away. But it makes me feel good knowing that they didn't seem to like it.

The trail was in better condition this year than last year. Partly because it didn't rain that much this year but mostly because you could see various sections had been improved with logs and what-not to prevent erosion.

This was the worst year for trash. I was completely appalled to see so much trash on the trail. It was bad enough that I stopped to pick up everything I found. Then continued to be so bad I couldn't pick up anymore without a trash bag and adding hours to my time. It reminded me of my Asheville Marathon experience but was far more shocking. I mean, this is a trail run and an ultra. Both of those groups of runners pride themselves on keeping the trail clean. It was disgusting, shocking, and baffling all at once.

Having wet wipes in my car was great. It meant I could evacuate like I normally do but keep things clean enough to lube up before the race. Aren't you glad you read that?

Even though I couldn't keep them cold like I wanted to, the small applesauce packets/pouches worked great. They could easily go with me on the trail, the trash was minimal, and they weren't messy. Plus they tasted better and went down easier than gels.

I may joke about it, but my wife would have killed me if I had died out there on the course. This was yet another reason to drop out. I knew things were bad but they were quickly going into uncharted territory. I think Lauren and her experiences helped me a bit too by reminding me not to overdo things in the heat. Firefighter might be cute, but I don't want to call them for help.

Note - All times are in HH:MM:SS format just to keep it easier to read. I've also added my average pace, approximate distance, and tried to space them out to make them easier to read.


Start to Coming Home Split (about 3.5 miles) - 00:54:42 [15:37 pace]
Coming Home Split to AS #1 (about 3.6 miles) - 01:02:18 [17:18 pace]

AS #1 - 00:02:03

AS #1 to Unmanned Water Station (about 3.4 miles) - 01:03:17 [18:36 pace]
Unmanned Water Station to AS #2 (about 3.4 miles) - 01:01:16 [18:01 pace]

AS #2 - 00:05:07

AS #2 to Unmanned Water Station (about 2.0 miles) - 01:12:37 [36:19 pace]
Unmanned Water Station to Scout Camp Water Station (about 2.9 miles) - 00:38:04 [13:07 pace]
Scout Camp Water Station to AS #3 (about 3.8 miles) - 01:29:31 [23:33 pace]

AS #3 - 00:05:05

AS #3 to Unmanned Water Station (about 2.5 miles) - 01:14:23 [29:45 pace]
Unmanned Water Station to AS #4 (about 5.9 miles) - 02:22:28 [24:08 pace]

DNF at 50k - 11:10:56 [21:36 pace]

Number Crunchery
2012 Loop 1 vs. 2013 Loop 1
Section 1 - 01:49 vs. 01:57 - 8 minutes slower
Section 2 - 01:50 vs. 02:05 - 15 minutes slower
Section 3 - 02:38 vs. 03:20 - 42 minutes slower
Section 4 - 02:52 vs. 03:37 - 45 minutes slower

2012 Loop 2 vs. 2013 Loop 1
Section 1 - 02:39 vs. 01:57 - 42 minutes faster
Section 2 - 02:51 vs. 02:05 - 46 minutes faster
Section 3 - 03:32 vs. 03:20 - 12 minutes faster
Section 4 - 03:48 vs. 03:37 - 11 minutes faster

Thursday, October 10, 2013

No Mistakes

Despite the rain, despite the chill, despite the strong desire to crawl into bed for a warm nap, I dragged my ass out the door and went for a run like a good little boy. The rain was fairly cooperative until the last 5 minutes or so when it went from a fine mist to large drops and heavier winds.

Along the way, I saw a VDOT guy inspecting trees. My guess is they'll be cutting some down. Not surprised since I call them the "no mistake" trees. If you drive by and make a mistake in hitting them, it'll be your last. I also saw a new dog on the route. He barked, scared the crap out of me, jogged after me for a few feet then just watched me. Thankfully I was already in Zone 3 because my heart rate spiked. Also had to deal with some opposing traffic by jumping the ditch and running on the berm for a bit. Again, I was lucky and was already in Zone 3 so the extra effort just added to the workout.

And speaking of Zones, I set my watch to give me 8 minutes in Zone 2 and 2 minutes in Zone 3. I nailed the first interval then had to take a few walk breaks in the rest. I'm able to keep my heart rate at 142 if I keep things really slow but I can also bring it back down fairly quickly by walking a bit. Assuming I catch it soon enough. There were times where I wanted to go faster but I knew I needed to stay slow so I just kept at a meandering tempo.

Temps were about 55F. Light rain and light winds until the last few minutes where the rain and winds picked up.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was two waffles, two eggs, yogurt and iced coffee. I had a second iced coffee, water, and a sip of Ginger Ale the rest of the morning. Right before the run I had a packet of applesauce. During the run I had a bottle of plain water. Recovery was Hammer Recoverite mixed with water and chocolate ZICO and some cheese and chips.

Aches and Pains:
Calves were hurting a bit. I think this was because of the reduced speed and slightly altered gait. Outside of that, things felt fine.

Wore my warm North Face ball cap, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and two pairs of shorts. Was pretty cozy until the very end when a sudden wind caught me and I got cold for a few seconds. I also forgot to change socks so I wore my old ratty ones by mistake.

Outbound - 24:49 (AVG HR 146)
Inbound - 25:09 (AVG HR 151)
Finish - 49:58
MIN HR - 89
AVG HR - 149
MAX HR - 185

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Review - Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Leatherwood Mountains Ultra Run 50k. While it would turn out to be the toughest 50k I've ever done, it would also be one of the more fun races I've done too. I went down early to help one of the race directors mark the course and got a bit of a sneak peak of the trails and the weather. Heavy rain made the course extremely muddy but that was part of what made it so much fun. The constant elevation change made it hard as hell.

During the pre-race dinner, the organizers had Jennifer Pharr Davis speak about her adventures on the Appalachian Trial (AT) as a thru-hiker, as a Fastest Known Time (FKT) record holder, and as a wife and mother. Through all of her words, the message that came through the strongest for me was about trail magic and about how she was just a normal person.

All too often we idolize our heros and put them on pedestals and worship the ground they walk on. I'm just as guilty of doing this as anybody else. Long ago I was a constant fan of the author R. A. Salvatore. I followed every move he made and hung on his every word. When I met him and had drinks with him (in a group, not just the two of us), the magic he had over me diminished. I came to realize that he was just a normal guy that wrote books. Books that a lot of people loved, sure, but still, he put his underwear on just like everyone else.

Meeting Jenn Pharr Davis wasn't quite the same. As she gave her speech and hung around taking pictures and signing books, I realized she was just a normal everyday person. It was more in what she did and how she acted that gave it away. But for some reason it wasn't a big shock to me. I felt comfortable around her. Well, as comfortable as I can be around attractive women, but you get the idea. She felt like a friend that I'd known but never met. Almost like a second-hand shirt. It feels like you've worn it forever even though it's your first time. So even though she's a hero of sorts in the hiking and running community, she came across as just a normal person.

She spoke a little about trail magic during our dinner but it didn't really stick. It wasn't until she signed my book and I had time to read it that I realized her message was more than just words. There was something ethereal about trail magic that you couldn't really put your hands on. Something that was there but not seen. As I got most of the way through her book, I realized that when she saw God or had something "magical" happen, that to me, that was why I "chased the dragon" by doing ultras.

In a sense, you get this high from doing these extreme events and for her, she described it as trail magic. Although sometimes trail magic simply meant that somebody left a stash of food or goodies for thru-hikers, in the end, it was this magical moment where strangers helped you accomplish your dream. For me, those strangers are the aid station workers at races. They help me reach that dream of finishing my race and somewhere in between the aid stations, I hope to find that other type of trail magic where I feel in touch with myself and nature.

That's a lot of blabber about my feelings toward the author and her book, so I'll move into the content itself. At first glance you may mistake this book as an account of Jenn's FKT on the AT. It isn't. It's about one of her many thru-hikes on the AT and the adventures she has along the way. Some were good, some were bad, but in the end, she emerged from the other end of the AT as a new person. The trail had transformed her as it does many others. Her language is great and she's clearly educated. She uses normal words you'd encounter in any conversation and doesn't treat you like a dummy or like a genius.

There are no pictures but each chapter starts with a map of the route she's taking. Each chapter is also dedicated to a particular section of the trail and she moves from south to north toward her ultimate finish line. She takes a few breaks here and there which I found educational because I just assumed thru-hikers never left the trail until they finished. Jenn talks about her relationship with herself, with others, with nature, and with God. But she doesn't get "preachy" when she talks about God. She does make it clear that she's a Christian but she doesn't rub it in your face or make you feel bad for not going to church.

In the end, Jenn Pharr Davis reaches the end of the trail. She writes well enough that you feel like a piece of you made the entire journey with her. It's a great story for anyone interested in the Appalachian Trail, thru-hiking, hiking, ultra running, or what it's like to be a woman alone in the woods. Educational, entertaining, and well worth the time to read it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Riding vs. Running


My history of running and riding bikes is rooted deeply in my childhood. Like all children, I enjoyed playing. As I've gotten older, I still have that love of playing but the games I play differ now. Instead of chasing lightning bugs around my back yard, I play chicken with cars on the road. I know we can never go back to those wonderful memories of childhood, but we can certainly reminisce about how innocent we all were.

Learning to Ride

My first bike accident occurred when I was in elementary school. I'm not sure how old I was exactly but I know I was old enough to know how to ride a bike but not quite experienced enough to ride with only one hand on the handlebar. I was practicing that "expert" skill in my neighborhood, going down a gradual hill. With a curve. As a novice one-handed rider, I wasn't aware that curves would pose a problem. I became acutely aware of this fact when I steered too hard and flipped over the front of my bike. After I regained consciousness, the story my dad tells me is that he heard me scream at our house. I was only a tenth of a mile away, so that's feasible. But he also says he was cutting the grass when he heard me. I'm not sure I screamed loud enough for him to hear me over the lawn mower, but I have to take his word for it. I don't really remember much. I remember the bike sitting on top of me. I remember my legs were tangled in the peddles and the frame. I remember my head hurt. I remember my dad was there in what felt like an instant. I remember my dad taking me home and worrying over me while trying to finish the yard work. I remember him checking on me repeatedly to make sure I didn't fall asleep.

My last bike accident was about eight years ago. I had gotten my bike out of storage and began riding it around my front yard. My daughter, still an infant, was in her playpen while my wife was doing something outside. I was riding around like a hot shot, attempted to a high-speed slide, hit the front brakes instead, and nearly flipped myself into the playpen with my daughter. Thankfully only my ego got bruised that day. I only have mild flare-ups when my wife reminds me not to be an idiot on my bike.

I've had other run-ins in the past on my bike. Many are too boring or too vague to recount in any detail. One that does stick out is the time I was nearly run over when I was racing my dad in his car. I was racing my dad back to his mother's house in a tiny town in central Nebraska when I crossed through an intersection. I was so excited that I beat my dad until I got a serious scolding about stopping at stop signs and that I was nearly run over by a car going through the intersection. He told me if he hadn't run the stop sign, I wouldn't have made it.

Despite these harrowing tales of my misadventures on two wheels, I've also had some wonderful ones. My favorites are exploring new areas as if I were some sort of modern version of Lewis or Clark. When I was old enough I could ride to other neighborhoods. Or ride around the Boy Scout Jamboree. Or, my favorite, ride down the road, trespass, and discover an abandoned cabin in the woods. A cabin I would love to go back to some day but I now fear it's used by local meth dealers or pot farmers. Or maybe a serial killer. But most likely it's home to my arch-enemy, the snake. Clearly I won't be going back soon.

Loving to Run

When it comes to running, I don't really remember my first fall. Or my second. I'm not even sure I can remember my last fall. I've had quite a few "good" falls since I've picked up trail running as an adult, but again, none that are really worth mentioning. They usually involve me tripping, falling, and looking like a complete doofus. Thankfully I've never been hurt too badly to require my father to hover over me like a nurse. Although, now that I think about it, as a toddler I did nearly lose my earlobe to a sharp corner shelf. I guess even as a baby I was prone to accidents.

My running "career" has recently been reborn. Like all things in life, I'm discovering that life really can be a circle. My first foray into moving quickly over a distance further than the nearest bathroom was again in elementary school. I played basketball for the local recreation department and, other than one single play, hated it. I moved to soccer which I enjoyed for years. I was never talented enough to be the best but I was capable at keeping up with the other average players. My love of soccer ebbed and flowed like all things do with a kid but I stuck with it until high school. I played for a year and hated it. Everyone on the team was much better than I was and they were also older. Factor in my social awkwardness and a strong dislike for my coach and I was done after my freshman year.

Thankfully I had a math teacher that was, well, a dwarf. Seriously, he was. Think of a dwarf from Lord of the Rings, make him a little taller, a little thinner, and with a shorter beard. That was my math teacher. Turns out he was also the cross country coach for the high school. And thus began my love of running. My serious love of running. A love that would ebb and flow like my desire to play soccer, but take note. I never loved soccer. In fact, I've never really loved any sport except for cross country. It is truly unique in that you run for yourself as well as your team. It is both an individual sport and a team sport.

Like most athletic endeavors I attempted, I was an average runner in high school. Our school ran a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) course about once a week and I'd typically place in the middle of our small team. We had a few runners that would place under 18 minutes and even a few girls that would place under 20 minutes. I never went below 21 minutes. But I enjoyed myself. Our team was an eclectic group of popular kids, head bangers, and snobby girls. Some of us were fast, some were slow, but most were average.

It would take me decades to realize that despite how average I was, I was unique on that team. We all came with our own problems, our own demons and running helped us deal with and defeat them. So even though I was teased because I got lost on our home course just because I was following a cute exchange student, I was still treated like family. Years later, after suffering through new demons and new baggage, I would eventually take up running again.

At first I was doing it for the free therapy. But after a few trips to various doctors, it quickly became a way to stay healthy while I cleared my head. In 2008 I entered my first race after getting back into my shoes and placed in my age group. I got a trophy. I was hooked. After a few years of making a fool of myself, I began to take running a little more seriously. I studied the sport, I found ways to improve my times and myself, and best of all, I fell in love with the ultramarathon.

I completed my first ultra on a wing and a prayer. Or spit and bailing twine. I somehow survived the punishing course and my innermost demons and came out the other side a better person. That same process would occur over and over again. Like an expert blacksmith or sword maker, I'd continue to put myself in the fire of an ultra, get hammered, and become stronger and sharper.

Beginning To Rant

You may be wondering right about now what in the world the point of this history lesson may be. Well, it's a bit of a rant on how runners and riders (or cyclists if you prefer) are treated on the road. As I've taken up more running, I've also taken up more riding. Specifically, I bought a new bike and didn't want to waste the money replacing my old one so I decided to save gas money and ride my bike for a coffee. Plus it made me feel better about getting a calorie-laden iced latte with caramel-vanilla flavor and skim milk. The bottom line is, I'm on the road more on two wheels this year than I have been in the past ten. Maybe twenty.

What I've noticed is that most drivers are completely oblivious to you, regardless of you being on two feet or two wheels. I learned years ago as I took up running again that the brighter the clothes were, the less likely you were to get run over. And while people, including fellow runners, typically chuckle at my outfits, I think the joke is on them. I may look like a roll of Lifesavers on crack but I'll be damned if the asshole that runs me over is going to have a valid excuse for not seeing me. My general rule of thumb is, if you can't see me, then you're blind and shouldn't be driving.

I've carried that same rule into my riding habits this year but they've done little to help. No, I haven't been run over or hit, but the close calls are incredibly more common. As a runner, I typically move at about a 12 minute per mile pace. That's roughly five miles per hour (5 mph). As a rider, I move at about twelve miles per hour (12 mph). Regardless of how I move, I'm always going to go slower than the slowest car on the road. This means that any impact is going to hurt. And if I'm lucky, I'll feel that pain. If I'm not lucky, my life will end before my brain registers that it went through a glass windshield.

As a runner, I feel directly connected to the road I'm running on. It doesn't matter if it's paved or gravel, I feel like I'm one with the environment around me. I don't run with headphones in anymore and when I do listen to music, it's on my phone and through the speakers, not headphones. I want to hear that car coming in front or behind before I see it. When I ride, I don't feel as connected with the world around me and I don't listen to any music. I've tried. But it just doesn't work. Turns out that when you go above a certain speed, the wind makes too much noise going through the hair in your ears. So I have to compensate my loss of hearing with my sight. This means I'm spending half my time looking in the tiny, dentist-like mirror attached to my helmet to see what's behind me. My eyes get tired and I frequently cringe, but it has helped.

The road I live on now had no yellow line until this year. It still has no white line on the edges and still barely holds two cars going by in opposite directions. The speed limit is 45 mph and it connects two major roads in the county. Those roads have all the lines they need and the speed limit is 55 mph. Not to mention the increase in traffic seen by major roads. I've run and ridden on all of these roads, plus the ones in between. Paved and gravel, slow and fast, busy and deserted, I've done it all. They're all the same in how they treat runners and riders.

Maybe a Conclusion

As with any unscientific analysis, there's a large margin for error. Plus there's always an exception. So what I have to say can't really be considered scientific or even objective. It's simply my opinion based on the patterns I've seen in my experiences running and riding in the area I live in.


What I've learned is that when you run on the road, roughly 60% to 80% of drivers will wave to you. The more rural the road and the slower the speed limit, the greater the percentage of waving. When the speed limit is 55 mph, I get 10% of drivers to wave. When the speed limit is 25 mph, I get nearly 100% of drivers to wave. School bus drivers wave 95% of the time, regardless of the speed limit. The biggest exception to this percentage I noticed was after the Boston Marathon bombings when everyone waved at me when I ran for the next two weeks. It felt nice but it also felt like they were fair-weather friends.

When I ride, roughly 10% to 20% of drivers wave to you. As with running, the more rural or the slower the speed limit the higher the percentage. Same goes for bus drivers. I think I know why the percentages are so skewed but you'll need to wait a bit for that.


As I've already said, I wear bright colors when I run and when I ride. I'm also constantly looking for a place to bail out should the need arise. Even when I run, I've hopped into the ditch, or even over it, to remove myself from what could or would be a dangerous scenario. This could mean I'm directly in danger or it could mean that I would be placing the drivers in danger. Usually this happens when I'm running and two cars approach in both directions and based on their trajectory would pass each other right where I happen to be. By removing myself from the road and the general area, they no longer need to worry about me and can simply go on their way. I'm also hesitant and extra cautious around blind curves. I generally use my ears to listen for cars but sometimes look for headlights if I'm running at night. If I do run at night, I wear a headlamp and enough flashing lights to look like a low flying airplane attached to a helicopter.

I do not ride at night. Mostly because my bike does not have a headlight or taillight as required by law. I do follow the same general rules for safety though but take things a bit to the extreme as well. When crossing lanes of traffic I look about eight times instead of the usual three or four. I also wear a helmet, though not required by law. I have a brain and I choose to use it. Not wearing a helmet is just plain stupid. As stated before, I do have a rear view mirror on my helmet to help me see the traffic coming behind me. As with running, I'll follow my instincts and leave the roadway if I feel I am in danger or if the drivers around me would be in danger.


The legal rules for runners, or pedestrians if you like, and cyclists differ by country, state, and even locality. For me, the rules of Virginia and common sense apply. When I run, I stay on the left side of the road. As in, I run against traffic. There are times when I run on the right side of the road or even on a sidewalk, but generally I stick to the left side of the road.

When I ride, I ride as far right as I can. This usually means that thin ribbon of pavement that's between the white line and the grass but sometimes it means I'm taking up half a lane of traffic because the road is so narrow. As required by common sense and the Commonwealth of Virginia, I follow all traffic rules as if I were a motorized vehicle. This means I stop at stop signs, wait to cross through traffic, and signal my turns. Okay, I'm not always signalling my turn but I don't always signal when I drive either. At least I'm trying to follow the rules.


This is where things get tough. I'm a driver. Have been since I was 15 and 8 months. My first experience driving was in my driveway and an empty parking lot. My first real taste of driving though was in the middle of Texas on Interstate 10. I've learned a lot and do my best to not be a dumb ass, an asshole, or just plain stupid. Like most people, it took time for me to get there.

What makes this hard is that I've learned that when I run, most drivers are pretty nice. Even when I'm running without a shirt and my chest hair is matted, my ass smells like, well, ass, and my shorts are so tight you can see how I've shrunk from prunes to grapes. Even when I'm looking like death warmed over, drivers treat me quite well. I've had a few odd encounters where people slow down and stare at me funny, but looks don't really bother me anymore. They used to, but once I decided I was brave enough to run shirtless, they funny looks slide right off my hairy back.

I know that didn't sound like it was hard but it is. Because when I ride, most drivers are complete assholes. Why not dicks? Because while many of them are dicks, nearly all are assholes with dicks inside. Yes, there are exceptions. There are drivers that actually follow the laws and wait until it's safe to pass me. There are drivers that wave to me or, even better, give me a friendly honk. Sounds funny, but I do believe I can tell the difference between a "have a nice day" honk and a "go fuck yourself" honk. The bottom line is, as a cyclist, I have to treat every single car out there like it's going to run me over and not even care.

As a driver, and this is harder still, I've learned that I'm one of those assholes. All too often I find myself flying down some back country road and I suddenly need to stand on the brake to avoid a cyclist. I've become more aware of this since I've started riding but it's still a work in progress. I don't want to be an asshole. I'm not sure I could face my peers, be they runners or riders, if I hit somebody riding a bike. Oddly enough, I don't really worry about hitting a runner.

The End, Really

So where does this leave me? Educated. Like growing up with allergies and having kids with allergies, an education can save a life. My daughter recently showed her classmates her new talking Epi-Pen. Many of them, even though they're all nearly ten, were afraid of it. Seriously afraid of it. But I was so proud of her for sharing with them a vital part of her life. She was the brave one to get up and tell them that if she has nuts, she could die without this shot. She's not even ten and she's changing lives.

I hope I can change your life by giving you this essay as an education. I won't presume to be brave in sharing my story. If I feel brave about anything, it's sharing the road with drivers that shouldn't really be out there. Drivers that are assholes. Drivers that aren't assholes. Drivers like you and I that may be listening to the radio, talking to their kid, or daydreaming about winning the lottery. As a driver myself, I have to constantly force myself to think like a runner and a rider to keep from making a fatal mistake. It's a constant battle that I don't win very often. As a runner and a rider, I have to constantly think that the next car that passes me could be my last. A simple sneeze or bump in the road and I could be gone.

We're all people out there. Think about your parents, siblings, or children. Friends, family, or co-workers. Surely you know of one that runs. Or one that rides a bike. Take a moment or two and ask them what it's really like out there on the road. Ask them what they've seen, heard, or experienced themselves. Ask them if I'm wrong. Sadly, I bet I'm not.

Further Reading:
Virginia State Bike Laws -
Cyclists Reflect on Sharing Spaces with Drivers -