Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Slugfest: Booty Rumble 50K race report

Let the madness begin...the start of the Team Slug Booty Rumble 50K around Killens Pond in Delaware. Derek Hills (dual citizenship with Team Slug and the Rise Up Runners) leads the charge wth RUR's Lori Callahan and Mike Valliant in the mix. Photo courtesy of Team Slug.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...this contest will be for ten rounds with each round lasting 3.1 miles of runnable singletrack. The heat will climb to around 88 degrees and the humidity will make it seem worse. If it any time you become unconscious or your corner throws in the towel, you will probably be offered a beer, but you will not have completed the Booty Rumble 50K.

ROUNDS 1 through 5

Bob and weave...the first loop around Killens Pond we get our bearings, learn the course, as first Derek Hills leads the way, then relinquishes the lead after a re-routed trail stymies him. Beautiful course, open trail, some roots, some wooden bridges through muddy spots, running by some cabins, then by a boat ramp and a 1/4 mile of road before looping back to the check-in and aid station.

The Delaware Slugs are great people--ultra runners and ultra running enthusiasts, who have battle scars and stories from various races, and are friendly, gracious, and encouraging on the trail and at the picnic tables.

Pace seems easy, speeding up at times, and finishing each 5K loop in under 30 minutes. 10K in 55 minutes or so. Runners are spread out, but there are still a few of us running around each other. I start thinking greedy and say to Lori, "You know, if we keep this pace, we might finish in under 5 hours..."

Lori is more reasonable (and right), "And if we don't, that's okay too..."

Of the Easton/Rise Up Runner contingency, Derek has moved ahead a bit, and Lori and I zig-zag through the first three loops or so, with her quicker through the aid station, and me catching up to her on the trail. We're in the aid station at the same time after three, and I run four at a good clip to catch up, but wind up catching up to Derek, who says his legs feel like bags of cement. I'm feeling good, so I move on ahead. Turns out Lori had lingered a bit longer at the aid station to adjust gear. Finish loop 4 (20K) in under two hours. As I am leaving the aid station to start loop 5, I see her heading in.

Loop 5, still feeling strong, coming in under 2:30 for 25K. Half-way there. The shoes I am testing for Trail Runner mag have been rubbing funny, so I switch to a more trusty pair of Inov-8s I have at the aid station and my feet feel lighter. Legs feel good, stomach is intact, in the back of my mind, the 5 hour 50K is still whispering.

ROUNDS 6 & 7

Loop 6 is more of the same, though my mind begins to feel like it's in the rinse cycle--lap-happy and on auto-pilot, but still functioning and not screaming at me. Finish 30K in under 3 hours.

Loop 7 has me a little dizzy. Still running, but not strong. Man, it must be getting hot or something! Got some Shot Bloks down, but stomach isn't happy any more. Shuffle in for 35K, fallen off the pace of the previous six loops, but, hey, it's another loop in the books!



How'd I end up on the mat? The Killens Pond's Pondside Trail doesn't pack a wallop. It doesn't have a knockout punch. More of a glancing blow. What's going on?

Tank is empty. Stomach is on strike. Legs are not cramping, but the mind/body no longer wants to make them run. So I walk...most of the loop. I expect Lori will be coming by me this loop, and she does. She's fairing a bit better, steady, working with a 10:1 run/walk cadence. She's got momentum and pushes on ahead.


Dizzier. No desire for food, stomach won't allow any. It's a casual race. Most folks were doing a few loops, or the 25K. 40K is all I've got in me today. It's a fun run...and I am relegated to walking. I'll just walk the rest of this loop and call it a day. Drink some water, chill on the picnic table, wait for my stomach to feel better. Is it really a DNF on a fun run? I'm okay with a it's hot...I'm done. I'll just get around the loop. Pick it up to a shuffle.

I pull in to the aid station and I'm done. No will to keep moving. I sit on the picnic table, grab some ice for the back of my neck and sit down. I drink a little water.

Fella comes over who'd run a few loops. Just ran the Skyline 40 miler the weekend before. Had to powerhike the last section because of stomach issues. Had thrown up for 35 miles at the Massanutten 100-miler before dropping. Didn't want two DNFs in a row, so made himself finish Skyline. Before that had ran well at the Umsted 100, but hadn't been able to get his stomach right since.

"Just two more loops," he says. "You can just walk 'em to bring it home if you have to."


I'm up. Sitting helped. The ice helped. Water for the last loop has calmed my stomach. I take an S-Cap and drop a NUUN tablet and ice in the water bottle, to make sure cramping doesn't become a factor. At some point while sitting, my legs found there way back. I'm running again leaving the aid station.

ROUNDS 9 & 10

For the second five loops walkers, campers, fishing folks have been laughing, shaking their heads seeing me go by again. Must be a sight! My legs are working again and I'm able to run. For less than another 10K now, I know my stomach will cut me some slack. A little trail weary, but passable. I finish loop 9 and tell the good folks at base camp I better do a "cool down" loop.

As I'm leaving the aid station, I see Derek coming in. "Last lap?" he asks. "Last lap." "Alright!"

Loop 10 is like 9--running, not fast, but running most of it. The road around the pond, past the public ramp is a welcome landmark, knowing it's pretty well finished. I find enough foot speed to make myself look like a runner again down the stretch to finish. Some cheers and a whole lotta smiles. 50K (31 miles) finished in 5:48. Lori is in already (and much quicker to recover), clocking in at 5:40, and not five minutes after I sat down, the cheers picked up as Derek came across the proverbial line in 5:52.


A little unorthodox for a race report, but I'm not sure what is orthodox about running 31 miles in the middle of June :) Team Slug, Delaware welcomed us with open arms and gave us everything we needed to gitterdun' on a hot day. An exceptional (and exceptionally funny and kooky in a good, ultra running way) group of folks, who know how to have a good time.

They've got a more holistic race report, and a bunch of pictures that sum up the day in images over on the Booty Rumble 50K race page. There's also a quick shout-out of thanks and congratulations to Lori and Derek on our Rise Up Runners blog.

Mentally, the Rumble was one of the more difficult runs I've done, not for the difficulty of the course, but for the ease of stopping at the end of every loop once you get tired! For me, point-to-point, out-and-back, and even a bigger loop, make for an easier race, even with tougher terrain.

Having said that, the experience was great. The people were fantastic. And I've stretched out the soul again to see what's in some of the corners that don't get used until/unless you push yourself past where you are comfortable.

That said, when ultra running and I cross paths, I think I prefer it to be in the spring, fall, or winter. Isn't summer supposed to be for vacations? ;)

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Mixed Bag

Illumination courtesy of Tuckahoe State Park and the keen eye and lens of Joel Shilliday.

Tuckahoe State Park is closed until further notice. At least that's what I think the black flies were buzzing as they circled and dive-bombed us yesterday as we cruised the seven-mile version of our loop there.

Katherine Binder, Lori Callahan, Mike Keene, and I rolled out from the Coffee East/Diving Dog parking lot at 6:30 a.m., knowing that running conditions (i.e. ticks, poison ivy, black flies, heat) might be at a low point for the year. I have to say, thanks to the black flies primarily, Sunday was as miserable as I have seen it in three-or-so years running there. Keene correctly pointed out that the flies will soon be gone, which I do recall from a late July run last year, which is slight consolation.

Having said that, it was still a blast, and a great way to start Father's Day, for me. Our Tuckahoe Sunday was the start of a taper-ish week for me, with the Team Slug 50K Fun Run coming up this Saturday, June 21. Five or six miles Tuesday and four-ish miles Thursday is the recipe for final "Slugfest" preparation.

This past week saw some solid training runs--7.25-ish miles on Monday, 13.1 miles Wednesday, for a more detailed account of that run, check the Rise Up Runners blog, and then I set out for a faster/tempo workout on Friday, where I ran a 7-mile out-and-back route in 52:29--averaging 7:30 miles for the run. Friday's tempo run felt (and was) a faster pace starting out than my normal, longer runs, and when I would start to drift into an easier pace, I would stride into it to pick it up. I had some left in the tank, but was reasonably spent at the end, after a good push up Rails to Trails on my final two miles. At one point, I felt the automatic legs--a la Landy Cook's trail horse analogy on the home stretch and had to smile.

So the next big thing for me is to try to tackle 31 miles in the summer heat on a flat 5K trail loop in Delaware. The loop provides ample opportunities to resupply, fill water bottles, grab a few more Clif Shot Blocks, and shuffle back around. Hopefully 10 laps won't make me too dizzy :) Stay tuned for how it all goes.

And on the bigger trail and ultra running scene, we are just shy of two weeks out from the granddaddy of the 100 mile trail races: the Western States 100. If you follow trail ultras, you may already realize that the field in this year's race is phenomenal. The odds makers seem to favor Wunderkid Anton Krupicka, whose footspeed and hundred mile tenacity seem unmatched at the moment. Defending champion Hal Koerner is back in the house, perennial top 10 runner Andy Jones-Wilkins, and the blazing speed of 2007 JFK winner Michael Wardian could be factors, not to mention Karl Meltzer and a number of others. Last year, I checked in periodically during the webcast/stats of the race to see what was going on.

So there's a mixed bag of recent runs, upcoming races, and a peek at one of the big national races. Anything else to add?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Iron Frog

Mike "Wood Frog" Keene leaving the Choptank River during his transition from the swim to the bike leg of the Eagleman 70.3 triathlon.

I am not used to being a spectator at an endurance event. And to be honest, I don't much care for it--it makes me feel too much like a poseur ;) But I wouldn't have missed Mike Keene's 70.3 mile attempt in Cambridge. The Eagleman takes its participants through a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and then a 13.1 mile run, for a grand total of 70.3. They used to call that distance a half-Ironman race.

If covering that distance wasn't hard enough, Keene decided to do it on the hottest day of the year thus far. Anyone living on the Eastern Shore knows that temperatures topped 95 degrees today. People aren't even supposed to be outside mowing the lawn in that stuff!

I arrived in Cambridge later than I hoped, a little after 7 a.m., and had to park several blocks from the start--causing me to run with a backpack to make Keene's start. I got there to find his red-capped cohorts all in the water, and listened to the announcer extolling the accomplishments of race founder Fletcher Hanks (a cousin of mine), who founded the race in Oxford. As a kid, I can remember riding our bikes down to Batchelor's Point to watch the start of the swim, and then being in town to watch everyone finish.

Keene looked great coming out of the water--like he had actually trained for this race :) and I trucked from the water over to the chute where the cyclists came out on their bikes to yell at him some more.

This race is a big deal. From hundreds of volunteers, to traffic control, to vendors, to spectators, to triathlete clubs, to the athletes themselves--the scene is a whir of activity and energy.

Time went quickly (though damn hot standing around!) and the race leaders were coming in off their bikes and getting out on the run. Keene came through upbeat, hollering and smiling, and I kept my vantage point to see him come back out on the run.

That guy looks much too happy to have just swum 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles in insane heat and humidity!

After Mike took off on the run, I macked down a burger and fries and shortly, RUR official photographer Joel Shilliday was on the scene, sporting an action-hero straw hat, and we caught up and began to the countdown to Keene. In the meantime, I saw a runner in the chute, with 20 yards to go, puke neon green Gatorade onto the road, his shirt, and down his chin; we saw a couple runners reduced to almost a crawl from the heat; we saw a 77-year-old man bring it home strong; and we saw countless stoked athletes and families as they were instants away from finishing the race!

We caught Keene's hopping legs and snazzy tri-duds approaching the chute and leaned out to yell at him in the chute, and when he saw us and heard his name, his smile again went large, and he picked up the pace to bring the race home. "Wood" Frog has now been upgraded to "Iron Frog!"

Keene and Cambrige Multi-sport cohort Jim Crowley pose for posterity after finishing the Eagle Man.

I haven't been able to find an official or otherwise list of finisher times, but I can bet that Wood Frog will have a detailed posting soon on his blog. But I can tell you a couple things: 1) it was hot, 2) the scene was inspiring as was Keen's perseverance to finish, and 3) it was hot!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Summer of the Long Distance Trail

Ultra runner David Horton (foreground) during his record setting Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. His journey was chronicled in the film "The Runner" by Journey Films (photo from Journey Films website).

This summer two legendary ultra runners will attempt to set new speed records for two of the three long trails in the United States. And further, you can follow each of them through their adventures with daily postings on websites and blogs.

David Horton is no stranger to extreme running feats. At one time he held the record for fastest thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. A couple years ago, he set the speed record for the Pacific Crest Trail, which he still holds. He has also run across the country as part of the Transcontinental Race; won the first two Hardrock 100 mile races; and has directed several races as part of the Lynchurg Ultra Series, including the Mountain Masochist 50 miler, which turned 25 in 2007. Horton has written a book about his adventures on the AT and running across the country and was the subject of the documentary film, "The Runner," which followed his PCT run.

Horton will be calling in frequently to Clark Zealand, who is already posting reports on his blog for his race-directing company, Eco-X. If successful, Horton will have held the speed record on each of the nation's three noted long trails: the AT, PCT, and CDT. To make it all work, he has to cover roughly 2,959 miles in just over 69 days. Ouch!

Meanwhile, starting in early August, on this side of the country, Utah uber ultra runner Karl Meltzer will take a shot at the Appalachian Trail speed record. Meltzer currently sits atop the trail ultra world--winning 6 and 5 100-mile races in the past two years. The AT record has been broken/lowered twice since Horton held it and is currently held by speed hiker Andrew Thompson.

Meltzer has a number of stalwart sponsors (as does Horton), who are helping him with logistics, etc. for the trip. One of Karl's primary sponsors is, who have outfitted an RV to follow the route and serve as bunk and base of operations. They have set up a website, , that will track his progress along the trail, each day. The site currently has training videos, current news, etc.

Each of these guys are big names in the sport, with extraordinary accomplishments to their names. I dig that neither are content to sit back, or to simply run races. They are each thinking creatively and pushing their bodies in new ways. And in both cases, they are organizing ultra races for others, bringing us out to the trails they themselves run, to push ourselves and experience that self-transendence that can come with that kind of effort.

So follow along if you are interested and either way, a tip of the hat and best of luck to David and Karl as they spend all or part of their summers on the long trail.