Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coming along

I've started running again painlessly. It's a good thing too...considering the Hellgate 100k race is in two weeks. Needless to say, I'm a bit nervous about it but I'll give my best to the next two weeks. I'll train as hard as I possibly can for about 10 of those days and then make sure I'm well rested on Friday, December 9th at midnight when the race starts.

I'm mostly just relieved that I'm able to run with no problems now. This is due to an incredible amount of stretching, and no running. In all, I took 2 solid weeks with no running at all and that was the longest I've ever taken off.

On Thanksgiving, I ran the Turkey Trot in Fredericksburg. It was a 5k PR for me 17:56, which put me somewhere around 6th for my age group. The leaders were out there. Way out there and I didn't stand a chance.

As far as staying in shape during my no running time, I've been biking on a stationary bike and walking on a treadmill quite a bit. The treadmill was nice because i was able to find one that turned up to a 30% grade and so i was able to ascend a couple thousand feet in a relatively short, yet intense, period of time. Luckily, neither seemed to hurt my injury. And hopefully all that hiking will help me tackle the 13,500 ft of gain at Hellgate. Here's the elevation profile courtesy of
Keith Knipling.

We'll see how this goes...

-- Patrick

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Running injuries

Since I started running, I have to be grateful for the fact that I've been relatively injury-free. My miles to injury ratio has been very good. Unfortunately for me and every other runner out there; no matter what you do or how you run, sometimes you just get injured.

I started keeping a closer eye on my mileage and time spent running in recent months. Before, I did this solely to keep track of the mileage I put on each pair of socks I was testing for Smartwool. In the month of September, I took 19 days off. The vast majority of the mere handful of runs I did go on were far under an hour. And lasted fewer than 5 miles at a time. I can't remember taking that many days off since....ever.

Enough complaining. The good news is that I believe the break is good for me. You can't possibly improve all the time. Training and fitness rises and falls and this will probably give my body a good break so I can come back and train hard.

Who knows...maybe I'll run across some other country in the next couple of years.

Random picture of running in Moab last spring

-- Patrick

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back in action?

Since Grindstone, my running has been sporadic at best. I developed a bit of an IT band issue and it has caused me to take a few more days off than I would like. The good news is that cycling and weight lifting doesn't hurt and it doesn't seem to irritate it.

My brother introduced me to rolling my legs and IT band with a roller and it seems to work really well. Well enough to run a spur the moment 5k in Fairfax on Saturday and win. That was kind of cool. But unfortunately, the band hurt pretty badly afterward.

I have been in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the week for Smartwools sales meeting since Sunday.

They are releasing the socks that I tested during the cross country run next fall so they had me come out for the fun. It's been really cool out here. Plus, I've gotten a chance to see the new apparel coming out next year and it is crazy awesome. Smartwool definitely has athletes in mind when they are designing their clothes.

Plus PLUS, in my free time I've been able to run up the mountain of the ski resort since that's where all the meetings have been. I ran Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and all three days the IT band was pretty achy. I took Wednesday off but when I ran today I went faster and longer and there was no pain. Does this mean it's all healed? Probably not. But I do think it's a step in the right direction.

In other news, I got into the Hellgate 100k in December. It'll be interesting to train hard while keeping an eye on my IT band.

-- Patrick

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grindstone 2011

This was my year. Finally.

Driving out to Swoope, VA I was incredibly nervous for the start of the race. When I arrived, I set up my tent, just like I had done in past years. I relaxed and caught up with friends, just like I had in past years. As far as preparation goes, this year and last year were very similar. And I think that's what scared me most. The big difference is that this year, I watched what I ate all day and only ate things that I knew that I had eaten before running before.

As the c
lock approached 6 pm runners started gathering under the big "GRINDSTONE 100" banner. This banner would serve as our starting line as well as our finish line welcoming us back to the boy scout camp after adding 101.85 miles to our legs' odometers. At 5:50 everyone was making final preparations for their journeys. At 5:55, Clark Zealand, the race director welcomed us to the start and told us "Good luck." At 5:58, Dr. David Horton led us in a prayer. And at 6:00, we were running away from the banner.

The lead pack of about 6 guys took it pretty easy going around the lake and into the woods. Most of us knew each other, and we took the time to just relax and do a bit of catching up. Before we hit 3 miles, Neal Gorman had vanished from sight. Too far in the distance and too fast for anyone to think about catching up. The pack dispers

ed and everyone was running alone. I was very surprised to see that everyone was running their own race right from the beginning. Even though I made a sl
ight wrong turn very early in the race, I was only off course for about 5 minutes. Since it was still day light, I was easily able to turn around and find my way again.

Before 2 hours had passed, I turned my headlamp on and was climbing the unbearably steep Elliot Knob Road. The word "road" implies that it is paved and easily a
ccessible for cars. This "road" is one that I wouldn't feel comfortable driving a jeep on in four wheel drive. I would be afraid it would roll backwards all the way down the mountain. After punching my bib number at the top to prove I was there, I descended .3 miles to the trail head to run down the rocky trail to the 2nd aid station at mile 15...ish. I was running well and feeling good; until I rolled my ankle. It was frustrating, but it only hurt for a minute so I resumed running well. This section has lots of large loose rocks and large rocks held in place by other large rocks. All told, I rolle

d my ankle 4 more times in this section. Each hurting more than the last.

The good news is that it was slowing me down and making me more cautious. When I got to the aid station I believe I was in 8th or 9th. Passing through very quickly, Dr. Horton was there and said I looked to be running very wisely. With the added assurance from him, I was off down the trail to climb another mountain, run down another m
ountain and find the next aid station.

Until this year, I never realized how truly run-able the Grindstone course is. I was moving effortlessly down the trail only stopping for a brief minute every time I rolled my ankle. I did it more times in this section than the previous
and it was really starting to annoy me.

Reaching the 22 mile aid station, I located my drop bag and saw that Horton was again at this one. Upon seeing me, he announced to everyone there, "This is a TRANSCONTINENTAL RUNNER! He ran across the United States!" Since it was dark, and in the middle of the race, it was okay not to stop too long. I heard my friend Bobby
yell out, "Who did it faster?" For those of you who are unaware, Dr. Horton is a running legend and he took part in the 1995 Race Across the United States placing 3rd in 64 days...roughly half the time it took me. Let's just say that if his running resume was translated somehow into a political resume, he'd have been the president several times over. Just google him.

After stuffing my face with food, and stuffing my pockets with the Gu's from my drop bag, I was on my way to tackle yet another mountain. This section I remember from past years as my downfall. It feels like a flat section with a slight uphill grade that just keeps going up. I walked the entire thing last year and I remember how long that took. This year I decided to just relax and run. "Relax and run." That's what I told myself countless times in this race. "Just relax. Don't stress. Just run."

That long slight uphill section was soon over and I was running along the ridge toward the trail that would carry me down the mountain and to the next aid station at mile 30. I don't think I
've ever been so relaxed an
d worry free on a mountain trail alone at night. The moon was very bright and had I only been walking, the light from the moon would have been enough. I kept my headlamp on though because I was still moving swiftly dodging logs and rocks and rolling right along. Before too long, I reached the aid station at mile 30 and only stopped long enough to cram my face with food and a cup of soup. I was there for less than a minute.
I enjoyed getting through the aid stations quickly. This was the first race where I made a conscious effort not to spend much time there and it felt good to be constantly moving forward. Another 5 miles down the trail was the 35 mile aid station. North River Gap. This aid station held a certain amount of my anger because it was the aid station I dropped at 2 years ago. From here, it's only 15 miles or so to the turn around. I cruised into the camp, was weighed quickly. I was down 2 pounds which is pretty
standard for me, but is also good to know for my own nutritional knowledge. Packing my pockets with more Gu, I started down the trail so I could start the longest climb in the race. I wasn't wearing headphones this time in the race. I'm not sure why I decided against it but I'm glad I didn't because on the way up the climb I heard some interesting activity. Just to my right, there was a bush while I was hiking an especially steep part. And as I passed it, something huge rustled in the bush and took off down the mountain away from me. I still don't know what it was, but it was
enough to scare me.

Then, a little while later, I heard one coyote start howling in the distance and then more and more and more chimed in on both of
the surrounding ridges. That scared me enough to go a little faster and try to catch someone to hike/run with.

During this long, scared, hike I caught up with my friends Mario Raymond, Keith Knipling, and Jason Lantz. Unfortunately, Jason was having lots of stomach problems and ended up dropping
out later. I would run with or back and forth with Keith for the next 30 miles or so. We cruised through the aid stations until with made our way to the top of Reddish Knob.

Reddish Knob has a paved street that winds around it in a spiral until you reach the top. The very top of it has no trees but is a paved parking area an
d has very pretty views. Last year, I
reached the top of Reddish just as the sun was coming up. This year, it was still very dark but the outlines of the nearby mountains were prominent and interesting. The moon was dark yellow and setting and there were more stars than Keith or I could possibly count. We each touched the reflector that we had to touch at the top, pointed out the big and little dippers and then made our way back down the road.

Upon reaching the bottom of the paved road, there is crew access where my Dad had been waiting. I passed him the first time to go up the trail to check in with the aid station and hit the turn around point. When Keith and I returned to the crew area 3 miles after I saw my Dad the first time, I stopped but Keith kept going.

I was there for less than 2 minutes but in that time, my Dad changed the batteries in my headlamp, I packed my pockets with Gu, ate and brushed my teeth. (That much gu makes your mouth taste weird.) I thanked him and told him I'd see him soon.

From here, I would retrace my steps almost exactly back to the finish. During this retracing, I saw the entire field of runners in the race. They streamed back a very long way. I reached the Little Bald Mountain Aid station at mile 58 ish and some people I knew coming through on
their first time. We each exchanged pleasantries and I continued on.

It was still dark as I left the aid station and I was starting to get tired of the constant darkness. I just wanted it to be light again. People were still
on their way up the climb I was now flying down. They looked like they were in pain moving slowly and frustratingly up the mountain that I was now moving effortlessly down. We each gave each other encouragement as I passed them going the opposite way. I was about 3 miles away from the North River Gap Aid station when I was finally able to turn off my headlamp.

As I approached the aid station there was a younger guy also named Patrick in a green jacket cheering on Keith and I. He asked me if I was Patrick, and I told him I was. He was supposed to be my friend Matt's pacer an
d said that Matt had to drop out last night
at this aid station but he still wanted to run. I couldn't turn down the offer to have a pacer, so Patrick ran ahead to get
ready. It was bittersweet to have Patrick with me. I enjoyed him as a pacer, but it also meant that Matt had dropped out, and no one wants to see anyone else drop.

When I arrived at the aid station I quickly located my Dad and tossed him my headlamp. He gave me more Gu and I weighed myself once more. No change. After a ho
t cup of soup, several cookies and a potato substance, Patrick and I moved out of the aid station and didn't look back.
I was starting to get a little tired at this point and so I let him do most of the talking. It felt like we were running well and before too long we were at the next aid station cramming our faces and leaving before a minute was over.

The following aid station was one where my Dad was and Patrick had the option of stopping, but he wanted to keep going, and I welcomed the company.

Katie said she would come out for the last few aid stations of the day as well as the finish, but I wasn't anticipating moving as quickly as I was
, so I was starting to worry that she might drive all the way and miss it. Luckily, my Dad was on top of it, just like he always is, and got a hold of her.

Through the following section, I caught up with M
att Hart, who was hurting pretty bad from the looks of things. We had left Keith behind, and Mario had caught up and looked disgustingly strong for where we were in the race. We continued to battle back and forth for awhile but then he took off down Elliot Knob Road the second time and that was the last we saw of him. The trail following Elliot Knob Road is slightly technical and tripped Patrick pretty good. He just bounced up and kept going though. When I tripped and fell soon after though, I didn't bounce. I just wanted to continue lying there. Running into the last aid station I saw Katie standing and clapping for me
. It was very good to see her. 95 miles into the race, I was not feeling so great, definitely not smelling so great, and not feeling the most coherent I've ever been. But it sure was good to see her. I sat down for the first time in 95 miles and ate and drank. I only sat for about 2 or 3 minutes but it felt good. I had 6 more miles left in the race and I wanted to get it over with.

I left the aid station somewhat hobbling. My an
kle hurt so badly. After I was able to get myself running, I loosened up and felt good again. The course to the finish undulates over hills and paths until you enter the Boy Scout camp the same way you left. Though, it felt a lot longer than when I was on my way out. The trail winds it's way to a sign that says, "1 Mile." I booked it. My watch read, "21:20:03." and I really wanted to beat 21:30 for no special reason. I ran over the dam that crossed the lake and then took the left on the gravel road. A Honda Civic carrying An
dy Jones-Wilkins pulled up next to me and he yelled out the window, "Almost there!" He was supposed to be racing as well but he came up injured with plantar fasciitis.

I rounded the curve of trees and saw the finish line ahead of me.
Katie, my Dad, and the other 4 guys who had finished ahead of me were on the left of the finish shoot cheering. Clark Zealand was standing under the finish line welcoming me back from his tough race.

I finished in 21 hours 28 minute and 58 seconds. 5th place.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Well, tomorrow is Grindstone: The race that treats me like a mortal enemy who just insulted its mother's cooking and its sister's attire. I'm not sure I've ever been so nervous for a race in my life. I have no reason to be. What's the worst that could happen? Not finish?

While this is far from the "worst case scenario" of the 100 mile mountain race, my history with the race has me shaking in my boots.

Perhaps my biggest fear is going into a tough race with minimal crew and no pacer. My dad will be my one-man-crew as always, and he really does a great job. The guy always seems to have everything ready at all times. I had set up one , but due to a stress fracture, he had to cancel. Luckily, he gave ample notice for me to look for another. And I found one...until he came down injured as well on Wednesday. I can't blame either of them. And I can't possibly hold it against them with any kind of feeling other than hoping they recover quickly for their own gains. But without a pacer, I'll have to rely fully on my own mental capacity to start calling myself a wuss and get going faster even when I don't want to.

Having a pacer waiting for you is great. You look forward to getting to the aid station where they are allowed to start running. And when you get there, they are like a fresh batch of energy. It flows out of them and you can see them running effortlessly and in turn, it makes you feel better and energized. It's like starting a daily training run with an old friend. Both of you fresh and starting new.

At the Old Dominion 100 I ran without a pacer and it was very noticeable even to me in the differences in my running. In past races where I've had a pacer, the sections following where you pick up a pacer go quickly. And my mile times from the last aid station to the finish rival that of the beginning of the race. I've had pacers tell me they had a hard time keeping up in the last couple miles of a 100 miler. Though, I think they were just trying to be nice.

At Old Dominion, I realized this is a mentality issue. I was slow from the last aid station, I walked a lot, and my time showed that. The finish was very unexciting and even in the last mile I had no reason to "pour on the sauce." I couldn't get around the mental side of finishing strong. I just didn't care.

This race will be a test of mentality. I'm stronger...I think. And faster...I hope. All I need to do is figure out a way to just relax and just run. As long as I'm relaxed, and my head is clear, I run effortlessly. After all, it's just running in the mountains.

What's the worst that could happen...?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too long

It has been way too long since I last posted. Too much has gone on to name everything so I'll paraphrase and stick to the present and future.

Since I posted last I've run the Disney Half and Full on a Saturday and Sunday respectively. PR'd in the half, finished the full. Moved back to Virginia from Colorado. Ran the Boston Marathon and PR'd by about 10 minutes running a 3:00:37. Clearly, the time was bittersweet. I'll get 'em next year. (and I know this because I'm all signed up) Ran Promised Land 50k 6 days after and ran 5:20 something which was good enough for 8th place. I ran the Old Dominion 100 and placed 7th in a time of 21 hours or so. I forget. Cool Race. I am a tree climber now by profession. And I climb trees with chainsaws. No joke.

In other news, I'm writing a book. Yes, it's about the trip, and no it's not a "running book" in terms of miles per day, calories eaten, stats and such. I met too many cool and interesting people not to share the stories in the form of a book. It's all written, and my friend Mitch is helping me edit it. Hopefully it will be submitted for publishing soon, but I will keep everyone up to date...on here...because I'm going to start blogging more than once every 7 months.

Present. I still run as much as I can, and I can feel myself getting faster. I used to do this little exercise on the treadmill before my trip. I'd start at 6 mph on the treadmill and run a minute on that speed and then increase 1 mph every minute. A couple of years ago I'd have to hold my hand so that I could be ready to grab the bar in case I flew off the back of the treadmill by the time I got up to 10 mph. But yesterday I was up to 12 mph and it wasn't "comfortable" by any means but even going that fast I didn't feel out of control or like I was getting ready to become a human bullet flying off the back of the machine. I guess that's cool?

Future. I'm running Grindstone....again. In a week. It should be interesting this year, but I'm not sure why. I've got serious issues with this race. It hates my guts, and I hate its guts. So maybe this year I'll finish it without barfing constantly through the first 52 miles and I'll be able to properly part ways with that event.

I'm going to try to get into Badwater next year, so we'll see how that goes.....stoked to try to get in.

Maybe I'll try to make next post more interesting, I'm just getting back into the swing of writing a blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Vid of standard run

Making first tracks on a morning run after a snowstorm. Cold but incredibly enjoyable.

YouTube Video

-- Patrick

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding a groove

So far, my time in Aspen has been spent working, working, and more working. Due to high holiday traffic and under staffing we were incredibly busy. Unfortunately this left very little time to go out and see what this town is all about and little time for running.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion training team in Orlando for the Disney World half and full marathons. While they were both very fun as far as experiences and meeting people go, from a strictly running standpoint it was a but frustrating. The Goofy Challenge is where participants ran both the half and full marathons on back to back days. I chose to take it on thinking it wouldn't be a problem but realized after the half marathon that I am not in the same shape I was in a year ago. I had pushed pretty hard in the half and had set a new PR for myself by about 10 minutes but didn't feel like I normally do after a half marathon. That being said, the full marathon was difficult from the start and while it was still 15 minutes faster than my slowest marathon, it was hard. Mickey and all his pals were strategically staged along various points on the course and made the whole experience a lot of fun.

It took me nearly a week to fully recover but am back up and running more than before. I have found a trail up the side of a snow covered mountain that makes for not only a difficult and productive run but also some incredibly amazing views of all of the town of Snowmass, especially at night.I'm able to start from my apartment and run up for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the depth of the snow. The first half of the run is on a paved path that is covered in about 3-5 inches of packed snow and takes me up from my apartment to the trail head near Snowmass mall where Divide Rd splits off. The trail itself is well packed and about 8-12 inches wide. The tricky part is if you step or off the trail, you fall into hip deep powder which in turn, trips you face down in the snow with no hope of catching yourself because your arms just fall right through the snow as well. Climbing up the switchbacks the trail keeps ascending higher and higher until you reach a bench which is mostly covered in deep snow. The final couple yards the trail somewhat disappears and you have to slog your way through the hip deep powder in order to touch the bench. This last part isn't as pleasant as the rest of the run when I'm wearing shorts.

Coming down is quicker of course, but not by much on a good day. Sliding around is usually minimal thanks to a set of microspikes that fit right over my normal running shoes. Between this run and running home from work in the evening I should be able to train just fine for the Boston Marathon in April and any races following that once I figure out where life is taking me next.

This morning I took off early and found that it was snowing quite a bit. With 2-3 inches of fresh snow on the ground and new snow being added by the second I started my normal climb up the path that would take me to the trailhead. Everything was very quiet and soothing and even my footsteps were muffled by the new snow.

No one had been on the trail since the new snow and I was glad to beat everyone to it. I opened my mouth wide every couple of minutes to break up the ice that was forming in my beard. Upon reaching the top I looked down on the town of Snowmass and everything was peaceful, white and looked clean and fresh. I turned around and headed back down and noticed some blood in the snow. Since I hadn't seen any other living creatures today I figured it must be me. I didn't realize it was my own ankle that I had accidentally kicked open until I looked down at it. There wasn't anything I could do so I continued home only slipping off the trail twice. I really enjoy runs when they are especially difficult either because of weather or terrain and today was no different. I reached my front door with ice in my beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and caked around my legs and feet.

I'm not sure I'll get tired of running here.

-- Patrick

Monday, January 17, 2011

One year

It has been a busy year. That being said, I haven't kept up the blog anywhere near where I would've liked to. I get busy and sort of forget about it. Aspen in incredible. Living in the mountains is an experience like no other and I'm constantly questioning whether this is reality or not. Then I realize how much I've been working, and I snap back to reality pretty quickly. I work at Buttermilk Mountain in the ticket department and am fortunate enough to live in Snowmass Village in employee housing. If they didn't have employee housing there is no way a guy like me could afford this place. Even groceries are astronomically expensive here.

I am lucky enough to have found a good trail that is packed snow as well as living 6 1/2 miles from work. So there is no shortage of opportunity to run even if I do have to squeeze them in. It occurred to me earlier this month that last year at this time I was somewhere in the southwestern portion of this country with only one goal everyday. It seems like the trip across America was forever ago but one year just isn't that long. While I am happy I completed the run, and at times am still not sure if I am completely recovered from running 2,553 miles on pavement, I have decided that there is no way that that was my only long running trip. I'm not sure I miss the pavement, but I do miss the trip, being "on the road," and the simplicity of life when all you have to worry about is where your next meal is coming from. I would love to do a long trail at some point, and will probably just figure out when the time is right.

For now, I'll keep running, focusing on getting faster and stronger and try to figure out what direction to take my life.