55th Annual Domino’s Lexington to Buena Vista 10k

I couldn’t decide! Which should I run?

A fun, local 10k — the oldest road race in Virginia — my *first* race, ever, in 2010 — and Raymond thought I was completely nuts to register because I’d only been running for, like, two weeks. He and Aine came out to cheer me on, or so I thought, but he didn’t think I could finish and would need a ride home!


A twenty-mile training run on the Hellgate 100k++ course: AS #4, Floyd’s Field (part of Promise Land 50k) to AS #7, Bearwallow Gap. Hellgate is the final race in the Beast Series, only six weeks away.

I hadn’t been able to run the Lex-to-BV 10k because I always had another race elsewhere. I reasoned that at $20 (which would support the Rockbridge Area Recreational Organization), it was inexpensive, super low-key, close to home (literally), and I’d be back much earlier to still have Saturday to spend with the family.

Then again, the Horton-organized Hellgate training run costs nothing (duh) and would be the perfect opportunity to get time on feet on the trails since I wouldn’t be able to next week, when I’ll be in California for work. Oh, and, let’s not forget that I *barely* finished Hellgate last year, crawling in with less than fifteen minutes to spare, the second to last runner to finish under the 18 hour cut off. (It wasn’t a mechanical failure, but an emotional one; regardless; I really need to start training for Hellgate … even though I’m feeling, frankly, burned out, and ready to quit running ultras.)

I hadn’t run since Masochist last weekend. I’ve walked around the track with Aine before school and lifted weights twice, but hadn’t run a single step since crossing the finish line in Montebello.

So, maybe trying to “race” a road 10k on still-recovering Masochist legs isn’t a good idea. Annnnnnndddd for that matter, maybe I’m feeling burned from running because I don’t recover fully. Maybe I’m not up for a five-hour run in the mountains. Sleeping in *could* be kinda nice. Laying around the house might

Regardless, I had plans to run the Forever section — AS #8 Bobblet’s Gap to AS #9 Day Creek — on Sunday. So what should I run on Saturday???

I hemmed and hawed, asking everyone for their opinion, and based on their input, I changed my mind at least half a dozen times. *Finally* settled on the 10k and decided that I wanted to run it in ~48 minutes. Surely I could run a string of 8 minute miles on the gently rolling hills, couldn’t I?

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 7.07.03 PMSource: MapMyRun.com

10418256_969858433028446_4533259046546330749_nFour Rockbridge Runners (from L to R: Kim, Julie, Me, and Tammy) before the start. Photo: Tammy Cash

It was a brisk 35 degrees at the 8:30 am start. From the Rockbridge Regional Library, we took off down Main Street and quickly turned right onto Nelson Street/Rt. 60.  The Southern Virginia University cross country runner was already long gone. There was a nice downhill and I sped past Julie T. and Tammi H., momentarily taking the position of second female, behind the notoriously fast Jenny D. This would not last, of course.

I get passed by Julie and Tammi handily and also by a pack of three older gentlemen, then a lone male runner, and another guy friend. I feel no dismay at being passed. It’s just good to run, like actually, run and not just shuffle. (Did I really just run fifty miles last weekend?)

We pass Forge Road and I know there’s only one mile left to go. No one is closing in on me from behind and I can’t catch up to anyone in front of me, so I’m content where I am. As I approach the finish chute, the race clock says 48:10 … 11 … 12 … 13 … Oh!!! I’d almost forgotten that I wanted to finish in 48 minutes! Go! GO! GO!

And I do.

48:27 was good enough to place 12th overall, 4th female, and win the 30-39 age group. I was tickled pink most of all by the free pizza that Domino’s handed out! I took home a large cheese and had the entire rest of the day to eat pizza, watch football, and be lazy with my family. ūüôā

10710581_969858406361782_6267751956847190149_nAge group winners. Photo: Tammy Cash

Running Playlist Song of the Day: Take Me to Church


Such a raw, beautiful song … because who among us can ever claim that our actions *never* come in conflict with our beliefs causing a crisis in faith?

Take Me to Church

[free download]

My lover’s got humor
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshiped her soonerIf the heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week’We were born sick,’ you heard them say it

My Church offers no absolutes.
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you‚ÄĒ

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

If I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice

Drain the whole sea
Get something shiny
Something meaty for the main course
That’s a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable?
We’ve a lot of starving faithful

That looks tasty
That looks plenty
This is hungry work

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

No Masters or Kings
When the Ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin

In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am Human
Only then I am Clean
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Vesuvius Heritage Day 5K


Color me happy … I won something!

Since 2009, Vesuvius Baptist Church has hosted a 5K run/walk to benefit a local family with medical needs. This year, during Vesuvius Heritage Day, VBC is sponsoring Matthew Koogler, a sixteen-year-old senior at Riverheads High School, who was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or in the soft tissue around bones‚ÄĒoften the legs, pelvis, ribs, arms or spine.

Tricia L. and I ran this fun, low-key event last year and she surged in front of me to finish first; I was second. Tricia couldn’t come and run with me, so I decided I could gun for first female.

The course is an out-and-back on South River Road, a sweet, long stretch of super flat-flat-flat road. A total of 70 runners and walkers toed the line. The air was cool and crisp and I remembered how I felt the same exact surge of warmth and happiness, looking around at the mountains, fall foliage, nervous laughter, and people around me, one year ago.

A prayer was said and Matthew (with bib #1) said “Go!”

I went out entirely too hard last year and, as a result, suffered greatly/slowed down significantly, allowing Tricia to pass me — which, honestly, I really didn’t mind, because she’s my good friend and has some good speed to her. [And I made the *same* damn mistake at my 3×1600 track workout on Wednesday! Ran 1200 in 5:04 (6:19 min/mi pace) and could not continue — surprise, surprise — so I took the next 400 at a recovery pace (2:19). The next 1600 was slogged out in 10:04. I was so annoyed with myself that I quit and went to run on the Woods Creek Trail instead.]

I told myself to *not* make the same tactical error and was pleasantly surprised to find myself running fairly easily with the lead pack. I tried to stay in the moment and not think about my pace or place (though from what I could tell, there were no other women near me.) Mostly, I was thinking about my friend Mike, a decorated paratrooper and career military officer with three combat tours of duty under his belt who was killed in Afghanistan last week. Many other running friends were at the Virginia Ten Miler in Lynchburg, running in his honor that morning, and my heart/mind was equal parts full (It’s so beautiful out! I love autumn! I’m so lucky to be able to run!) and heavy (I cannot believe Mike is gone! I can’t imagine how Sherri and the kids must feel! I miss you, Mike!).

The first three front runners sped through the turnaround and I high-fived them. As I cleared the orange cone marking the turn-around, the sheriff told me to catch the boys in front of me. Ha! More importantly, I saw that I was not being chased by any other woman. I admit, I was getting a *wee* bit tired and knew that slowing down ever-so-slightly would not cost me anything. I almost caught up to the runner in front of me, but, lacking the kill instinct, I didn’t feel any desire/need to chick him.

So 22:17 isn’t that fast, but it’s respectable enough. I won’t run any 7 minute miles next weekend for sure! I ran at ~75% effort, at a pace I could maintain, and I was pleased. First female and 7th or 8th (?) overall.

I am ready for Grindstone. T minus five days.

Last Long Run before Grindstone 100: The Ring


miles covered: 56.9 (Woodstock) of 70.8 mi
time elapsed: 22:05
overall pace: 23:12
2014 results: http://www.vhtrc.org/results/2014/TheRing.htm

Last summer, I went into The Ring with no qualms whatsoever about dropping at any point. It would, of course, be nice to finish, but joining the Fellowship was not my primary goal. I was more concerned with getting good time on feet for my last long run before Grindstone.

I decided I wanted to *at least* make it to the Edinburg Gap aid station (48.7 miles), which I couldn’t *find* and ended up ultimately missing the 1:30 am cutoff in 2013, but figured 56.9 miles/Woodstock would be an appropriately good, hard distance to cover on fairly rough, technical trail. As Weather.com insisted that Saturday would be a decidedly hot and humid day, I morosely re-adjusted my goal to just make it to Milford Gap (13.3 miles). Any miles beyond that would be gravy.

And — I really don’t know why — I had an incredible sense of dread and fear leading up race day. Perhaps I was still traumatized from last year — the relentless gnats whilst going up Duncan Hollow; the particularly cruel ascent up Waterfall — so¬†I, more or less, generated a self-fulfilling prophecy in which it was gonna be a major sufferfest. There would be no¬†floating over the rocky Massanutten Trail¬†and¬†the miles would not fly quickly by in a blaze of orange.



[Ring Pocket Chart by: Keith Knipling]

Start to Milford Gap: 13.3 miles, 3:30. Arrived @ 10:30 am.
Started off trotting along happily, chatting with Katie Keier — who is also doing Grindstone — and Shelly Cable — with whom I’d shared a hotel room in Strasburg the night before. Both were deftly using hiking poles, which made me wish that I had started the day with wizard sticks rather than leave them in my drop bag for use after Camp Roos, but I’d opted instead to carry an additional handheld to stay hydrated.

Ended up running with my “trail husband”, Larry Huffman, and the miles passed by fast. Thanks to Larry, I was pleasantly surprised to make it to the first aid station at 10:30 am, an hour faster than I’d planned.


Milford Gap to Camp Roosevelt: 11.6 miles, 3:30. Arrived @ 1:52 pm. 
Got my pack and handheld refilled (both were nearly empty!) — many thanks to the volunteers who had to hike the aid up to Milford Gap — and Larry and I were complemented for being the quickest ones through, which we both found odd.

Lost Larry on an uphill climb and ran solo for a good stretch until two runners came up from behind. One asked if I had lost a bracelet and when I looked at my wrist, I realized that I had. They didn’t pass me, so I tagged along and we talked and shuffled together.

The temps were steadily rising, as did my my desire to consume the Salted Watermelon and Peanut Butter gels I had on me. I was most definitely no longer feeling as agile as I was earlier. I couldn’t bomb a lovely¬†downhill section and knew I was slowing down, as it took about the same amount of time to cover less terrain. Regardless, I was happy to get to Camp Roos and hopeful there would be wet washcloths — pleasepleaseplease — so I could cool off.


Camp Roosevelt to Crisman Hollow Road: 9.5 miles, 3:47. Arrived @ 5:41 pm.
Alas, there were no wet washcloths, but there were POPSICLES! Big fat coolers stuffed full of wonderful, slushy, cold, and delicious popsicles! And yummy pierogies! And lots of good pals, like Sniper (who had dropped), Sara, Bob, and Carter, all eager to attend to my needs.

The attention is¬†overwhelming, honestly, and I’m feeling disoriented, so I try to stay on task and address the need to take in calories. I’m famished and excited to eat *real* food¬†—¬†and retrieve what I need for the next section, which Sniper warns¬†is “a long ten miles.” Ditched the Camelbak handheld (which I’d stupidly asked to be filled though I’d not intended to take it with me), put on a baseball cap, picked up¬†my Black Diamond Distance Z-Poles, iPod, bug net, and a random assortment of gels/portable apple sauce/almond butter. Reflecting back now, I don’t know why I took¬†more GU, as I never touched a single one the rest of the day/night. Left Camp Roos around 2 pm, feeling much, much better emotionally.

I thought about the last time I’d been¬†through here¬†(pacing Larry at MMT 100 in May) and how noticeably dry¬†the course is¬†in comparison — most definitely a¬†good thing! Not having to deal with wet feet is awesome. As I try to take inventory of ¬†what’s going right, I notice that I’m not running and I really *should* be. At first, I blame feeling inhibited by the hiking poles, then realize that I’m probably still¬†overheated, thus, unable to force myself to do anything more than walk.

The long climb up Duncan Hollow always blows, but, thankfully, the eyeball-attacking bugs aren’t¬†nearly as prevalent as last year. Still, I wear¬†my goofy-looking, permethrin-laced net, only stopping to remove it just before my¬†head feels as if it’s going to explode from the stifling heat of wearing a hat. (Over-dramatic? Oh yes, for suuuuuure.)

I get¬†passed by several folks. We exchange greetings, briefly commiserate, then they continue to trot on, effortlessly. I don’t even *try* to pick up the pace. It becomes painfully clear that the death-march has begun. I decide I will death march until I get pulled.

As I’m stomping along, I eventually catch up with Larry, who left Camp Roos before I did, and he is *not* doing well. As we are talking, the poor guy leans over to puke right in front of me. Carolyn Wilson, who I ran with at Capacon, approaches and declares that it’s¬†heat exhaustion. She promises to get to Crisman Hollow ASAP and let them know that Larry needs to be picked up tout suite and she takes¬†off. Amazingly, I had cell service, so I call Bur and Q and continue to hike with Larry. He thanks me for sticking with him, and¬†worries that he is¬†somehow slowing me down — which was silly; I am¬†barely moving myself.

Another runner comes¬†up on us, Ginn, who was someone else’s pacer. He overhears me leaving Bur and Q voicemails alerting them about Larry’s condition and offers¬†to keep Larry company so I can¬†go on. Truthfully, I kinda don’t want to continue and had been thinking that it wouldn’t be sooooo awful to drop alongside with Larry. He stops hiking once he finds¬†a sit/lean-friendly log and¬†I hug him goodbye.

Somehow, seeing how horrible Larry is¬†feeling/doing, I magically feel¬†better. And I can¬†run again! Wheeeeeeeeee! (But only because it’s a downhill.)

And then it is¬†time to climb again. Waterfall is¬†unbelievably, mind-blowingly¬†vile. I’d been sweating like a whore in church all day, but, for whatever reason, I am¬†perspiring like *crazy* on the ascent. I must stop every few minutes to catch my breath. It take¬†28 minutes to go six tenths of a¬†mile.

At the ridge, I *still* can’t muster a shuffle. I hobble pitifully¬†across the road.


Crisman Hollow Road to Moreland Gap: 6.3 miles, 2:50 (?). Arrived @ 8:30 pm (?). 9:30 PM cutoff.
I make a beeline for Kari Brown, the AS captain, to tell her Larry is done and that he’s decided to continue on the trail to the aid station, rather than take the shorter route directly to Crisman Hollow Road. Carolyn is still at the AS and says she sent Tom Corris to pick Larry up on Crisman Hollow Road. I shrug and tell her¬†that when I left Larry with Ginn, he’d said he thought he’d have a better chance of catching a ride at the AS. I try to¬†call¬†Larry, but have no service.

Kari asks if I want¬†turkey/swiss cheese rolls. I say yes, yes, yes, yes, I will eat EVERYTHING in sight. Her two daughters tend to me as I dig into my drop bag for¬†my¬†headlamps and my iPod (which I mistakenly thought I’d already taken¬†earlier). Several other runners are sitting down and I’m not sure if they’re resting or have dropped. I’m afraid to ask. (Both options are more¬†appealing than continuing on.)

I’ve already spent too much time than I should’ve and I’m sad to go. I feel like a new woman and sprint away. (This lasts for about thirty seconds.)

Back to a miserable zombie stumble … Oy, why hadn’t I remembered to pull the¬†Suunto from¬†my drop bag??? It’s positively maddening to not have any idea of how far I’ve gone/how far I have to go to the next aid station. I berate myself for forgetting to put it on. Well, at¬†least I have music to dull the increasingly negative voices in my head.

After trekking alone for what feels like a verrrrrry lonnnnng time, I hear women’s’ voices behind me: it’s xxxxxx¬†+ yyyyyy¬†+ zzzzzz.

And though company usually begets an uplift of spirits, I’m sour and terribly anti-social. xxxxxx’s¬†bubbly positivity¬†—¬†which normally is quite endearing¬†—¬†is in stark contrast to my bitchy darkness.¬†I try, honestly, I do, but I don’t contribute much to the conversation and, though it’s incredibly rude, I stuff earbuds in and¬†turn up the volume.


Moreland Gap to Edinburg Gap: 8 miles, 5:00. Arrived @ 12:20 am, Sunday. 1:30 am cutoff.
At Moreland Gap, I eat pierogies, ramen noodles, and drink several cups of ginger ale.¬†I stuff my¬†nasty Run Like Toofy shirt in my drop bag in exchange for¬†a dry shirt. And Larry’s there!!!!! He’s dropped, but looking much better and I’m relieved that he’s okay.

I don’t wait for xxxxxx, yyyyyy, and zzzzzz¬†because I know I’m moving slower than them and¬†they will catch up soon enough. Within a few minutes, my clean shirt is already getting unclean, so I go shirtless. It just will NOT cool off, dammit!

Again, I forget my Suunto. Ugh!

AND I FORGOT TO REFILL MY PACK! WTF! It’s still hot as balls and I’m f****** low on water and the sound of xxxxxx’s voice is driving me¬†INSANE and all I want is get to this final aid station so I can call it quits and *not* stab xxxxxx to death.

I make the mistake of voicing my intentions aloud. xxxxxx *insists* that we can FINISH THE RING ALL TOGETHER!





(At this point, I want to¬†stab *myself* with a twig. Anything to make xxxxxx’s voice go away!!!!)

FINALLY! FINALLY! FINALLY! It’s the gravel road!!!!¬†The¬†change of terrain¬†means we are nearing the AS,¬†but I don’t pick up my pace. Why bother? I’m DONE.


Edinburg Gap to Woodstock: 8.2 miles, 5 hours. Arrived @ 5:05 am, Sunday. 6:30 am cutoff.
So *this* is the aid station I couldn’t find last year. Hmmphhh!

I announce that I’m dropping and ask if I can get a ride back to Signal Knob when the aid station closes. I sit down (ahhhhhhh!), eat some¬†chicken noodle soup, and happily wave goodbye to xxxxx, yyyyyy, and zzzzzz.

Somehow, for some reason, inexplicably, I decide I’ll knock out one more section. Eight more miles. Alone.¬†In the middle of the night. After all, if I feel this sh**** at Grindstone, I’m going to have to rally and keep going, no? OKAY! So that’s what I’ll do. To prove that I can keep going even when I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY don’t want to.

With every step I take, I think about turning around.

This is incredibly stupid.

Why am I doing this?

What is the point of getting to the next aid station?

Why do I feel like I *have* to keep going?

I am hating myself for allowing myself to be bullied into continuing on. I traverse a mile, perhaps a mile and a half. Suddenly very, very tired, I¬†plop¬†down in the middle of the trail. I turn off my headlamp and shut my eyes. I’m asleep for two or three minutes and when¬†I awaken, I realize it’s too late for me to turn around to Edinburg Gap. I *have* to get to Woodstock.

Oh, and, yeah, I forgot to take the GPS watch¬†*again*. I don’t remember anything else except that these are longest, shittiest eight miles/five hours of my life. Never been so happy to drop.


And that’s all she wrote, folks. I *would* like to finish the Ring some day, but I *have* to treat it as a race/event/beast in of itself¬†and¬†not frame it as¬†“just” a training run for Grindstone.

Running Playlist Song of the Day: Everything is Awesome!


the-lego-movie-awesome-e1392309318427Ideal for those super-super low moments when you’re hating everyyyyything!

Everything is Awesome!

Tegan and Sara (featuring The Lonely Island)
[free download]

Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.

Everything is better when we stick together
Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let’s party forever
We’re the same, I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re all working in harmony

Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.

3, 2, 1. Go!

Have you heard the news?¬†Everyone’s talking!
Life is good ’cause everything’s awesome!
Lost my job, it’s a new opportunity!
More free time for my awesome community!

I feel more awesome than an awesome possum!
Dip my body in chocolate frostin’!
Three years later, wash off the frostin’!
Smellin’ like a blossom, everything is awesome!
Stepped in mud, got new brown shoes!
It’s awesome to win, and it’s awesome to lose!

Everything is better when we stick together!
Side by side, you and I, gonna win forever, let’s party forever!
We’re the same, I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re all working in harmony!

Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.

Blue skies, bouncy springs!
We just named two awesome things!
A Nobel prize, a piece of string.
You know what’s awesome? EVERYTHING!

Dogs with fleas, allergies,
A book of Greek antiquities!
Brand new pants, a very old vest,
Awesome items are the best!

Trees, frogs, clogs …
They’re awesome!
Rocks, clocks, and socks …
They’re awesome!
Figs, and jigs, and twigs …
That’s awesome!
Everything you see, or think, or say
Is awesome!

Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.

Jarmans Invitational Marathon (JIM)

Jarmans Invitational Marathon (JIM)
@ intersection of Jarmans Gap Road & Greenwood Road, Crozet, VA
Race directors: John Andersen & Dan “DANton” Spearin — both of whom also ran along with the runners, which was pretty neat.

By the numbers:

  • Saturday, August 2, 2014 @ 12:01pm
  • 30 miles on gravel road: 2.9 miles up and 2.9 miles down, five times
  • ~7,500 ft. total elevation gain & ~7,500 ft. elevation loss
  • Fastest ascent: 27:10, Nick DiPirro. 33:56, Sophie Speidel
  • Fastest descent: 16:19, Matt Bugin. 23:49, Sophie Speidel
  • 55 entrants, 41 starters, 33 finishers
  • 2014 results — 1st place: Nick DiPirro, 4:21:10 (!!!) & Rachel Kelley, 5:05:25.
  • 6:03:20, 12:05 min/mi overall pace
  • 22 of 33 overall, 5 of 8 women
  • high of 78¬įF, low of 62¬įF = unseasonably cool weather for August (*not* a complaint)
  • 2 bear sightings on the course, plus a train ran through the course at 1:16pm and stopped runners

The (not so) short of it:

Coming from a poor and, thus, highly discouraging showing at Catoctin last weekend, I was rather dreading JIM.

All week, I’d been fretting over how training is going. Is aiming for quality over quantity the wrong approach? Am I going about it all wrong? Shouldn’t the long runs be getting easier? I should be fit enough to be able to pull off a 50k and I *barely* got it done. Other friends also training for Grindstone are putting in 50-60 miles per week and, in comparison, I only logged ~150 miles in July.

Miles. More miles. Crikey, I need more miles!

Plus, the JIM entrant list — talking about the ladies here — was the star-studded Who’s Who of top female runners in the surrounding area. I’d like to think that after a good Spring, I’ve graduated from the back to the middle of the pack, but in this lineup, I was relegated back to the back. Waaaaaaaaay back. Sigh.

Friday morning — going on three sleepless nights, fraught with, no joke, frightful nightmares about Grindstone — I suddenly got the brilliant idea that maybe I could/should attempt a *double* JIM, a.k.a. start at midnight, run up and down Jarmans Gap five times, finish by 9 am, sleep for two hours, and then run it all over again, with fifty-five other crazy people training for Grindstone and Masochist.

Yes! Yesss … why not? Double the miles, double the fun, right? This is a perfectly sane idea.


Sniper said he’d let me know later in the day, after work, if he could meet me.

Packed clothing to wear (rain jacket? It’d been steadily raining all day), fresh gear to change into (for the second round), food and drink (super deeeee-licious burritos from Mano Taqueria — since the nighttime JIM would be unsupported), charged my Petzl NAO headlamp¬† and waited. Decided to power nap at 7 o’clock and woke up to a text from Sniper at 9 pm. The double JIM wasn’t meant to be; he had a headache and wasn’t up to it. Boo! But I admit it; I was secretly relieved.

Fast forward to Saturday — so odd to *not* have to be up at 4 am for a typical race that starts in the wee hours of morning — and got a ride with Andria Jensen, a fellow Rockbridge Runner, for whom this would be her first ultra, although I didn’t learn this until later on.¬† She wanted to do JIM to see how her training was going for Mountain Masochist 50, her first 50 miler, in November. I didn’t even know if I wanted to do more than one lap.

Luckily for all of us, the weather was *incredibly* kind — some joked that they wanted a refund because we were promised that “The weather is going to suck. The race starts at 12:01pm, maximizing heat and sun exposure. There may be afternoon thunderstorms.” — and the whole deal was looking pretty legit for a fat ass event (i.e. no entry fee, no significant awards, no whining allowed).

1530391_273349886185673_914591331857125357_nPre-race meeting. Photo: Jarmans Invitational Marathon

10537869_273350076185654_3924076241960958443_nPre-race meeting. Photo: Jarmans Invitational Marathon

I was *super* happy to see my good friend/mentor/Holiday Lake & Promise Land & Hellgate RD/ultrarunning legend/all-around goofball David Horton, whom I’d not seen in three months. He’s among the people for whom I pray for every night; I pray that he will be able to run/train/race again without pain. Running is his passion and his calling and he has touched so many through his incredible adventures (like Barkley, the Appalachian Trail speed record, Pacific Crest Trail speed record, and third fastest transcontinental run) and everyday life as a Exercise Science professor at Liberty University.

10337692_10152026582472687_8616787723572269619_n(DHo really *did* bring his bike on his trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.)

Horty had total knee placement surgery in May. True to form, four weeks later, he was back on his mountain bike. He gleefully showed off an ornately framed photo of fatty/bloody/gross remnants of his knee taken during his surgery. <shudder>

David was there to heckle runners from the start/finish/bottom of Jarmans; Andy Jones-Wilkins was supposed to be at the top, taunting us. But AJW was a no-show! How disappointing. But at least he left us a handwritten note explaining his failure to be there:

10288768_273460422841286_3220755025170666191_nAJW’s note to runners at the aid station at the top of Jarmans Gap. Photo: Jarmans Invitational Marathon

The ever lovely Jen L. was in charge of timing, which was *extremely* high-tech and official.

10271148_10202086156590271_6983929826041358491_oListed by UltraSignup.com ranking. Photo: Buddy Johnson

Lap #1 (1:07:52 — ascent: 42:57, descent 24:55)

On paper [well, laptop screen], elevation-wise, overall, Jarmans Gap Road looks a lot like Robinson Gap Road. Robinson Gap — which I first discovered at the Hill of a Climb bike race — is a steady, 4-5 mile climb on¬†asphalt and hard packed dirt with gravel to the top, then you turn around and fly downhill. Wheeeeeeeeee! It’s among the very few road routes that I will run.

The first mile up Jarmans is runnable, rolling hills. But the second mile … HOLY HELL! It was waaaaaaay steeper than any stretch of Robinson Gap. Crikey! Everyone was reduced to walking. The third mile was still pretty crazy, but slightly more runnable. After Bucks Elbow Mountain Road, you’ve made it to the top and can refill your bottle/pack or sit down in a camping chair for a quick breather — all whilst listening to crappy country music blaring from the boombox — at the unmanned aid station.

Fact: I always enjoy downhills much more than the ascent. Though I’d been passed/left behind while climbing, I attacked the descent — Ooof! I could already feel my quads quivering — and caught up to the fast kids. At the bottom, I ditched my shirt, ate a Lemonade GU Roctane (new flavor!) and downed a SaltStick cap.

Lap #2¬† (1:11:49 — ascent: 45:17, descent 26:32)
This isn’t *so* bad.

This next lap was a little easier: I knew what to expect, terrain-wise, and now it was time to do work. John had estimated that “fast people will probably average just under one hour per loop, while a back-of-the-packer might expect to average around 1:30-1:45 per lap“, so I was surprised to have clocked the first lap in a little over an hour. No doubt that each lap would take longer than the previous — I won’t be running no negative splits today, thankyouverymuch — but perhaps I should dial back on the downhill a bit in order to survive today.

As I began the climb, after eating a Root beer GU (another new flavor — which is pretty exciting prospect if you’re a runner who eats/trains with gels) my legs were shaky/unsteady, feeling as if I’d just done 300 squats. My counter-measure? Pop an Aleve.

Lap #3 (1:11:57 — ascent: 45:26, descent 26:31)
Okaaaaaay, it kinda hurts now.

By now, we were fairly spread out, but because it was an out-and-back, you wouldn’t go for long stretches without seeing another runner. The front runners — like Rachel Kelley and Bethany Patterson battling it out for first among the women and Nicholas DiPirro, Michael Dubovsky (running his FIRST ever ultra!), and Chris McIntosh among the men — cruising by on the downhills were looking completely unfazed. The runners I see when I’m descending are beginning to look a little worse for wear (myself included).

Shockingly, I flew by Jenny Nichols, who is *considerably* faster/stronger than me, on this descent (!!!) I assumed she was having a rough go of it at the moment. The prospect of finishing one lap faster than her was, truth be told, thrilling. I didn’t want stop to refill my water bottle and lose my teensy-weeny gap, so I headed out again.

Lap #4 (1:13:46 — ascent: 49:35, descent 24:11)
Yup, this sorta … no, this MOST DEFINITELY and TOTALLY … SUCKS.

At this point, I *barely* run the flats and can only walk the entire second mile. Since I can count the number of women in front of me and I’m highly motivated to stay in the middle-ish of the female pack, I keep trying to move with purpose. Once I’m at the top, I can blast the downhill and hopefully maintain my position — which is rising, but only because the sweet and speedy Annie Stanley, who would’ve been second or third, was struggling to breathe and had to stop after the third lap and Sophie Speidel, who also would’ve vied for top five, very wisely decided that four laps was plenty of quad thrashing for one day.

At the AS at the bottom of Jarmans, I dart in and out, scared that Jenny’s going to sneak up from behind and catch me. Horton yells at me that I need to eat and he’s right — no time to bonk. I grab a pack of Clif Bloks and trot away … just one more ascent and I’ll never have to crawl up this demented road again.

Lap #5¬† (1:17:18 — ascent 50:24, descent 26:54)

I’m tirrrrrrred of death marching and my quads feel like they’re gonna implode.¬†I am so not having fun anymore and I very much just wanna finish this up already. I’m being melodramatic and I know it, and nursing this negative sentiment uphill wreaks its havoc, because I then do something I’m not proud of.

At the top, I don’t go all the way to the aid station. I’m past Bucks Elbow Road and I can see the tent and hear the radio. I’m more or less out of water, but I really don’t want to refill my bottle. What I want is to be DONE, so I whirl around and take off.

Arghhh! As soon as I’d turned around and start to run away, I’m screaming internally at myself, turn around! Go back! But I don’t.

I’m thinking,

What am I going to do? If I tell John at the end, he may disqualify me — and he’d be right to, wouldn’t he?

Oh, what’s the big deal. It’s *only* a fat ass event, not a full-blown race.

BUT I feel awful, so I know I’ve erred.

Turn around! It’s getting further and further away now! UGH!

If I go back now, I’m going to get passed! But if I don’t, then I wouldn’t have earned my spot anyway because they’d have run the full distance, but I cut it short! I should turn around and just go to the damn AS so then I don’t have to say anything to anyone.

What if I don’t tell? No one has to know!

No, no.

I *have* to tell John. I will HATE myself if I don’t and question ever fiber of my being. I’ve never purposely cut a race short before, why would I start now??

I approach the finish and runners and spectators started cheering. I run right up to John and tell him I’d skipped a tenth of mile because I chose to not run all the way to the aid station and I want to make up for it. He looks surprised and says it’s fine. I insist that I feel terrible-terrible-terrible for cheating and need to do this.

Folks are looking confused as I turn around and someone asks if I’m going for one more. I say, “No! I skipped out on, like, a tenth of a mile and I wanna make it up.”

I run up until my watch beeps at me, indicating thirty miles, and I turn around.

NOW, I’m finally done.


At the end of the day …

Sooo … I *suppose* I did a little better than expected. I think the take-aways are:

    • I’m a poor climber. By the fourth lap, I was almost entirely walking the second and third mile; I could not even manage a shuffle. 50:24 to get to the top in the 5th lap, my slowest of the day.
    • I’m good on downhills. The only time I passed anyone was on the downhills.

10533114_273349146185747_4042932137195191794_nNicholas DiPirro & Rachel Kelley, with their super classy awards. Photo: Jarmans Invitational Marathon

Final thoughts

  • So I’m a good downhill runner — whoop-dee-frigging-doo. What is that *good* for?? In what way are slow climbs and fast descents a winning combination for Grindstone??
  • Many many thanks to John and Dan for organizing an awesome event with good friends and plenty of Bud Light. It really didn’t suck at all, gentlemen, sorry.
  • Super proud of Buddy Johnson and Andria Jensen for also completing the JIM. Hopefully this is validation to both that they’re doing the right things, training-wise. Buddy’s next race will be Iron Mountain and Andria’s next is Odyssey Trail Running Rampage 40 Miler, with MMTR 50 being her goal race for the year.
  • I’m so glad Sniper couldn’t do the JIM Friday night. There was NO way I could’ve pulled off two JIMs.
  • HOLY DOMS! My legs hurt post-race and Sunday as well (though I managed to do five very slow miles on the elliptical), but the soreness *really* set it on Monday and I hobbled around feebly until Wednesday.
  • Two weeks until Grindstone training weekend¬† — two consecutive days of 22+ mile runs on the Grindstone course — and three weeks until I attempt to join the Fellowship of The Ring.

Catoctin 50K Trail Run

19th Annual Catoctin 50K Trail Run

Gambrill State Park, Frederick, MD
Race director: Kevin Sayers

By the numbers

  • 8:00 am start, Saturday, July 26, 2014
  • 32ish miles
  • somewhere between 5,000-6,000k ft. gain
  • 161 starters/144 finishers
  • 8:49:18/9:15 time limit
  • 16:32 mi/min overall pace
  • 127 of 144 overall — bottom 10%!
  • 28 of 34 women — bottom 10%!
  • 2014 Results — first male: John Andersen, 5:24:36; first female: Bethany Patterson

About Catoctin

It’s an out-and-back on very rocky, technical, slow, difficult and demanding (but yet runnable) trail. Starting at the Tea Room in Gambrill State Park in Fredericks, MD, runners take the Blue Trail through the Frederick Watershed and into Cunningham State Park to the turn around at the Manor Area (mile 16).


(elevation profile by Mark Zimmerman)

There are three aid stations along the course, making for a total of six aid opportunities during the race, not including the start/finish area.

Since “it‚Äôs only a 50K”, there are absolutely no sympathy and no frills. Whining will not be tolerated. There are no awards, but finishers do receive the legendary Cat Card, a “unique and elegantly designed card has been laminated with the finest synthetic plastic and is the envy of the ultra community.”


This was, from what I understood, such a low-key event that I was surprised to get a shirt and CAT 50K sticker at check in. (I am not complaining. I can do without race t-shirts. I have so many that go unworn and end up at Goodwill. If it helps to keep the cost of an event down, I’m fine going without.)¬†For only $40, you are getting your money’s worth of suffering.

As the clock ticked towards eight o’clock — as dumb as it sounds — I was also surprised to see so many runners. Everyone that I knew who was running this was also treating this as a Grindstone training run and not a race in of itself, so I’d forgotten that other people would be running purely to race.

The Good

“Race day will be hot, the rubber on the bottom of your shoes gets really gooey hot, melt synthetic clothing hot, sweat buckets of H2O hot.”
Catoctin is feared for being in the oppressive heat and humidity of July — a factor in which the RD takes delight — but the weather was surprisingly gentle at the start, with even a few droplets of rain. The tree cover makes for excellent shade, but, for most of the day, the sun was not in full force and the occasional breeze was a treat. Don’t get me wrong. It got hot, for sure, but it was not as brutal as in years past, much to Kevin’s dismay.

The Catoctin course itself
Despite how technical/uneven/*incredibly* rocky it was and how sluggish I felt, I actually rather enjoyed the terrain. Or rather, I didn’t mind/hate/curse it. Early on, when I was running with Larry H., he said it reminded him of MMT. He’s right.

Matthew P. puts it beautifully, “Big dry boulders to hop across. Wet slippery boulders in the stream crossings. ¬†Little pebbly rocks that move around underfoot, usually in unexpected directions. Football-sized immovable rocks that do not not move, that crowd together and keep you constantly off-balance, that seek out and bruise any unprotected area of the foot.¬† An infinite variety of rock types.

I don’t recall any particularly pretty views¬†—¬†I may have run through a field of wild unicorns and giant Redwood trees and not’ve noticed — but only¬†because my attention was intensely focused on foot placement. More than a few¬†runners had bloody knees/shins from taking nasty falls. (How I managed to go unscathed is totally beyond me.)

And I’m an admittedly lazy runner. I want to climb early, on fresh legs, and descend to the finish. Catoctin is an out-and-back single, track mountain trail that drops in elevation to the turnaround point before climbing back to the finish, which doesn’t play to my strengths (or laziness). You start out already thinking/worrying about just how awful it’s going to be when you return!

Great after party
I mean, duh. Why else do we run these races except to commiserate together en masse over food and booze and plan our next sufferfest?

The Bad

Not eating enough.
*Such* a rookie mistake to not take in enough calories. When it’s hot, I tend to lose my appetite. Typically, breakfast (for this particular morning, an everything bagel with jalape√Īo cream cheese, a packet of Buddy Fruit coconut milk + fruit blend, and coffee) will carry me through the first hour, so I don’t need to start nibbling until the second hour of a race.

At the first AS, Hamburg Road (mile 6), I took two peanut butter and jelly squares and refilled one handheld with Gatorade instead of water, thinking I could get some calories that way. But for whatever reason, I was particularly hungry and downright ravenous every time I made it to the next aid station. I’d arrive and look for something appealing, but nothing looked particularly outstanding, so other than chatting with friends/volunteers, I’d leave as soon as my bottles were refilled.

The result of not eating was moving *extremely* poorly because I was feeling listless. My effort was intended to be at 100 mile pace, i.e. nice and easy, but between the second AS @ Delauter Rd. (mile 9) and the turnaround, I knew I was walking entirely too much, too early. I ran more in the second half than I did in the first.

My friend Daniel summed it up well: the *less* you want to eat, the *more* likely you need to eat. Lesson learned.

Going in blind.
At the opposite end of over-thinking a race, I was decidedly under-prepared. I’d not read race reports or looked for an elevation profile or even read the cut-off times at the aid stations or considered how long it would take me to complete the 32 miles. Going into it, all I’d thought about was “get good time on feet for Grindstone.” I knew there was a big descent from the get-go, which meant a cruel ascent at the very end, and the potential for rattlesnakes and other slithery creatures, but that was about it.

I didn’t know how many aid stations there were or how far apart they were. I didn’t bother to wear my Ambit2, so I didn’t know how many miles I’d run or how many were left to go.

Probably most pitiful of all was not knowing the overall amount of time allowed to finish until the very end, when I was death marching up the final hill, thinking I only had minutes to spare. I was so painfully hungry and my inner thigh was so chafed that I didn’t even want to walk. I’d barely slipped by each cut off since the turnaround, but if I’d made it this far, I’d better get my Cat card. Another runner, a pharmacist from Baltimore who was running his first ultra, who was miserably hiking with me said to not worry because we had thirty+ minutes to crawl uphill to the finish. I was shocked because I truly thought we only had until 5:00 pm, not 5:15 pm!

Races as training runs
Both Catoctin and Capacon 12 Hour Challenge were meant to be supported long runs, not races. That mentality takes away so much pressure. That said … I kind of miss “racing”.

The Odd

I’m vegetarian in that I generally go meatless and prefer to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, but I will order fish tacos at Don Tequila’s or heat up leftover beef stew for dinner if there’s no tofu in the fridge to make a curry. But lately, I have, very oddly, been craving and eagerly consuming meat after a long run/race.

After I’d happily crossed the finish line, I was handed my Cat card and a hand towel deliciously soaked in ice water. Ahhhhhhh!!! Larry H. and Chris M. walked over to congratulate me and asked what I thought of the course. The festivities were quite lively and someone handed me a beer and I instantly forgot how hungry I was. After downing one of my own Patron margarita Jell-o shots, I remembered that I should eat and made a beeline for the Tea Room. There was an AMAZING buffet of salad, roasted corn on the cob, barbeque ribs, tortilla chips and salsa, mashed potatoes with bacon and green onions, baked sweet potatoes, berries, roasted chicken, kimchee, OH MY! I went straight for charred animal flesh.

I sought validation online in the VHTRC Facebook page; apparently, other vegetarian runners have also experienced the same intense desire for protein/iron post-run, especially a grueling one.

At the end of the day …

  • I underestimated the difficulty of Catoctin!
  • Feeling a wee bit discouraged/unsure about how training is going.
  • Grindstone is nine weeks away. Nine. Nine!