Saturday, December 26, 2009

Laurel Hiking Trail update

There was an article in the Post-Gazette this morning describing the bridge situation along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. If any of you have contact with your state representatives', now is the time to catch their ears.

Post Gazette article

If you have any questions or comments about the affect on the Laurel Race, please contact Tim, Loreen or myself.

See you all next week as we kick off the new year with the
Recover from the Holidays 50k fun run.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter training

Winter is in full swing in Western PA after a snow storm left us with about six inches of new snow. Many local ultra folks are out on their snowshoes and cross-country skis, enjoying a different type of workout. This is the time of year when I typically take a break from racing and use the time to build or re-build an aerobic base. The weather is never a hinderance, just another obstacle to overcome. After training in winter, inclement weather in a race later in the year is not an issue because it is something that I am accustomed to.

Last week, a few of us ran the Laurel Trail between miles eleven and nineteen. While freezing rain was shutting down Pittsburgh for a few hours in the morning, we were happily making our way along a snow covered trail. There was an icy crust just beneath the top layer of snow, but the rain soon softened up the ice and the run became even more enjoyable. The streams were running at a normal level with ice around the edges. The Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrens added a little color. It was picture postcard perfect.

My training for the Arrowhead 135 is going well. Although with the holidays approaching I am sure to have a few days where eating will trump going for a run. I tested out my new, smaller, lighter sled and it worked well. I also made a new set of light weight bindings for the Dion Snowshoes. They will get the first test today as we go out and decide on the final course for the Recover From the Holidays 50k. Don't forget, we are hosting the fun run on Jan. 2, 2010. Here is a link to the page if anyone wants to join us. USC 50k.

I received an e-mail from the Park Manager about the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. As most of you know, there is a bridge that carries the trail over the PA Turnpike at about the 37 mile mark. On this Thursday past, the state closed the bridge due to structural deficiencies. Is it unclear at this time what exactly is going to happen. The park service will keep me posted as more information is gathered. The bridge is used year round and gets heavy use from the local snowmobilers, so I am sure they will be asking a lot of questions also. If anyone has access to additional information please let me know. This could have a real impact on the Laurel Highlands Ultra if the bridge stays closed for an extended period. As most of you know, this type of expense is usually at the bottom of the list when it comes to getting state funds for repair. We have already discussed having to change the 70.5 mile course (the 50k will not be impacted), one of them being an out-and-back. It would add a new element, running miles 1 through 8 in reverse, especially in the dark. Let me know your thoughts when I see you on the trails.

Time to go strap on the snowshoes and enjoy the season.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deca Iron Race Report

Photo by Benoit Beauchamp, official photographer at the Deca-Iron race.

Here is Waynes' race report from the Deca-Iron race in Monterrey, Mexico:

Race Re-Cap 2009 DECA Iron Triathlon
November 9-19th

24 Miles swimming - 760 laps in the 25 meter pool
1112 miles biking – 930 laps on the bike loop
262 miles running – 220 loops on the run loop

Total time 141:28:26
5th Overall

Jan (wife and partial crew) and I arrived in Monterrey on Nov. 5th. There was a sense of anticipation and nervous energy as we met with all our friends, athletes, and crews from around the globe. It is a family atmosphere that makes these races so special. After the mandatory blood tests and final rule descriptions we all attended the grand opening ceremony hosted by the local media, (the BBC was filming as well) at a large hotel in Monterrey (downtown).

The opening ceremony included introduction of the athletes along with a huge buffet with mariachi bands. It was the last time for everyone to have fun and relax before the stress two days later with the beginning of the race.

The field was stacked, including Matej (Slovenia), Pascal (France), Ference (Hungary) and Kari (Sweden) all looking to do well and secure enough points for the World Cup points championship. My goals were to: 1. Finish the race 2. Run well (second part of each marathon) as I know many would go out too fast and consistency would be my key race strategy.

We spent the day Sunday (day before the race) buying more food and supplies from the grocery store so we had everything possible and not have to waste time later while the race was under way. I was nervous for sure, which is always a good sign for me.

Race Day!
We awoke to a nice sunny 65 degree morning and all the athletes met at the race transition area for body weight analysis and drop off urine samples. This process was completed every morning and after the race to provide a report for all athletes that illustrated the effect of fat loss, dehydration, and muscle mass and body weight. As a group we all rode to the University swimming pool. I felt like I had a rock in my stomach and tried to calm my nerves down! I was matched with Peter Cusick from London in my lane and it was finally game time as we all jumped in the water. Jorge gave us the signal to “go” and we were off on the start of this 10 day adventure.

As I expected, many racers went very hard on day one and I focused on holding back and staying within myself which was difficult, but in the end became the perfect strategy for me.

There were the normal up’s and down’s each day from day 2-7 including unbelievable heat (95 degrees and over 100 in the direct sun), brutal warm water in the pool which was 87 degrees (imagine how hot it was wearing a wetsuit – felt like being in a sauna and made you nauseous). Every day, I told myself to focus on never getting off the bike– no matter what and how tough it would be. This strategy was huge for me as many racers would stop and take some time off the saddle to eat, recover, etc. I have been racing 24 years but don’t remember many races with the heat we had for those couple days. My goal each day was to stay consistent for the day in all the sport disciplines. It became difficult to hold back, and then all of a sudden many athletes started dropping out, dropping way back on the run and then the injuries started for many athletes. I continued to push the last ½ of each marathon and was able to put significant time on many of the athletes and my confidence continued to grow each day. I was experiencing normal foot blisters and saddle sores, but nothing compares to some of the medical issues other’s were facing on a daily basis.

My second Super-Crew – Rick Freeman was instrumental in driving me to keep eating more and more food. My base food consisted of Hammer products and Perpeteum being the main fuel. However, throughout the bike, I ate pounds of Mexican beef, chicken, sandwiches, nutella and an assortment of “real” food for extra calories and taste. It worked to perfection and one item that became an ongoing joke between Rick and me was that on one loop I asked for Beef with Ice chips. As you can imagine, when he and all the crew heard that, there were plenty of “Did he say, beef with ice?” It was so hot and it tasted like heaven.

(editors note: this became know as "icy beef")

Day 8 – Day 9

These two days were especially tough mentally and physically as I had a fever, sweats, and bad cold. I did not get much sleep during these days as the fever occurred both evenings and felt horrible for the swim and bike disciplines. My goals changed and it was all about “holding it together” and get to Day 10 with the hope that I would feel better to finish strong on the run.

Day 10

It was hard to believe that we all (10 remaining athletes out of the 18 starters) were lining up for our last ride over to the pool. There was a ton of excitement in the air and we all discussed what it’s going to feel like when we would cross the finish line for the last time (but still had a full Ironman left!!). I took it steady all day and could not wait to get off the bike and onto the last discipline of running. I decided to run the whole marathon with no walking with the goal of finishing strong. I was still feeling under the weather, but the run went well and the final lap had arrived. Rick gave me the U.S.A. flag and of course a Pittsburgh Steelers terrible towel to wave as I came through the finish line. Rick had the song Renegade by Styx (huge Pgh. Steelers song) wired into the speakers and I saw the finish line. Emotionally, it was like no other race in my life. I sprinted (pulled my left hamstring at the finish line) and screamed all the way through the finish line. I was mobbed by all the other racers, crews, race volunteers, photographers, etc. and had beer squirted and poured over my head (of course it kept my tears hidden). I took a 16 oz can and chugged it in record time and it was amazing how wonderful it tasted at that point. Emotionally, I was exhausted and could not believe it was finally over. As everyone finished, it was the same emotions and joy and the family atmosphere was at its best.

We all waited at the finish line and partied with wine, rum, tequila, etc. to cheer on the remaining racers still on the marathon course. I will never forget the memories of the finish and celebrating with all the athletes. It was the race of my life and still pinch myself that I actually completed this massive race.

The best feeling occurred when several of the veteran DECA Ironman athletes told me that I was very mentally strong throughout the race and I am now “A DECA IRONMAN” and part of a very select group of athletes around the world. That’s when it sunk in!

I can’t thank all the support especially when I had a couple days between crew when Jan left and Rick arrived. Paetra (Kari’s wife) and Angela (Peter’s wife) were unbelievable and treated me like their own family – providing all the necessary food, supplies, etc.

A big congratulation to all the finishers and Ference for a tremendous race and overall IUTA Series winner!


Thursday, November 19, 2009


You can see results and pictures at the following websites:

Deca Iron results

Multisport website

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Deca Iron Final Day

Just a quick update from the race. Everyone took it easy in the swim, and all were glad that they will not be returning to the pool. One guy did not like the way his wetsuit was fitting, so he stopped and ripped the sleeves off it. The weather is just perfect. Temps in the low seventies, plenty of sun, and a slight breeze. You can feel the excitement in the air as the support crews go about their daily routines. A few have gone to the store to get supplies for a long night of celebration.

There should not be much movement in the overall standings. Wayne is in fifth place, with an eleven hour total lead over sixth place. I will update after the bike tonight.

Last Day

Sorry for the break, the internet connection was down last night. Wayne caught a cold and slowed a bit but his sprits are not dampened. He finished about an hour slower than the past few days. Similar to the Tour de France, the standing are pretty well set, and they should not change on the last day.

We had a busy day on Tuesday, helping with a few problems. We had to readjust peters cycling cleats a couple of times. Then he got his ipod stolen, so I lent him mine. He actually liked my musci selection. Gregor had a shoe problem, so we cut away some of the material so all of his toes would fit. Seems everyone had a small issue or two, but everyone worked through them to finish. Beant wanted to win yesterday and finished teh bike only 3 minutes behind Ferenc. He began the run well, then his knee gave out and he was reduced to walking to the finish.

Check in later.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Almost Home

Monday ended up a tough day for many of the competitors. The weather was perfect for racing, but the fatigue showed on the faces of most. Ferenc finished in a amazing time of 11:20, with Benat about ten minutes behind. Pascal was over an hour back today, due to a slower bike ride.

Today began rainy and cool. Greger was again first out of the pool, followed by Benat. Benat has been sneaking up on the leaders and may be able to shake up the standings with a good race today. The support area was quiet, as crews struggled to keep things dry and warm. It is about 1:45 p.m. and the sun has just come out, so the remainder of the day should be good. Like a baseball pitcher who is throwing a no-hitter, no one wants to talk much about today or tomorrow, lest we jinx the athlete`s. Greger continues to amaze, as he is strong in the swim and on the bike, then walking an eight hour marathon each day. He refuses to be discouraged.

We thought everyone would be excited about this being the next to the last day, with the end in sight. Perhaps this afternoon, the moods will lighten, as it warms up.

I had to modify Peter Cusicks cycling shoes, as his achilles continued to tighten up. He had a spasm while riding to the swim start, and was worried about it locking up later in the day. We moved his cleat back to transfer the power more to his quads and less to his calves. So far, he has said that it is working.

The strategy today is to make sure Wayne eats more than enough, so he will stay strong for two more days. He is having no real problems, other than a little tired during the run. I am sure that his legs are aching, but he has not told me so. With the cooler weather, it is no problem staying hydrated. His feet were swollen a bit this morning, but seemed better after the swim, hopefully he will not have to wear the bigger shoes. I should be able to check in later this evening.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It`s a Great Day for Triathlon

Monday evening and all is going better than expected. The cooler temps have restored good moods to most of the athlete`s. The bike times are very close, with Benat, from Spain, having an excellent ride. Ferenc is leading by a comfortable margin, with Pascal second. Greger was second off the bike, but lost time again while in the medical tent getting his ankle tended to. Ferenc, Pascal and Benat are all running fast, which should make for an exciting finish tonight. Wayne rode conservatively, and will hopefully nail down a good run. Peter had a better ride today and will certainly put more time on Wayne in the run, as he is very fast. All of the support crews are bundling up for a cold night.

Deca Iron Day 8

Sunday was a tough day for all of the racers. The temperatures were near ninety degrees with very little wind throuhgout the day. Ferenc still managed to do 11:37 on the day. Wayne said that the bike ride was very hard and decided to take it easy on the run so he would not be too tired for the following days. We thought that he may have been able to gain a little time on Peter, but Peter had a great run and gained almost teh entire advantage that Wayne had built during the bike ride. I dropped in on Peter and his wife while the medical folks were working on his toe. The Dr. said that he was to stop back to the tent every one and one-half hours so they could check his toe. At one point they stated that they may have to pull him from the race if it got too bad. The word spread fast the the medical tent was to be avoided at all costs, as they obviously have not seen such a determined bunch of athlete`s. No one will drop if they can still walk. Gregor is the amazing one, he is usually first out of the water and first off the bike. He then tapes a few bags of ice to his shin and ankle and proceeds to walk/limp through the marathon. There is never any talk of quitting.

Today it is much cooler, with partially cloudy skies and a stiff breeze. Good for the runners, a little cool for the support crews. Wayne is feeling good, and staying well fueled. Gotta go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 7 at the Deca Iron

The sixth day had a few twists, but it looks as though everyone is still doing well. Pascal and Ferenc are battling for the top spot, and both are running extremly well. Gregor has had good swims and bikes, but continues to be plauged by a sore ankle. He does look a bit better today, though. He has had to walk the marathon for the past two days, grimacing through each lap. Peter, from England is having trouble with a blister under one of his toes. It is causing him much pain, and the medical staff has refused to drain it. They will tend to it once it drains naturally. In an effort to help Peter on the bike, we modified one of his cycling shoes by cutting away part of the toebox, this seems to be helping. Wayne is eating and drinking beyond expectations and it is paying off with more consistency. His times vary little each day and he still has energy left. He will decide later in the race if he has to turn it up a notch. He has a fairly good lead over Keri, and is still a few hours behind Peter in the overall standings. With his consistent finishes, he may be able to move up if anyone falters. I have trouble getting on the computer, as there are many kids here that sit and play games on them all day. I hate to be the bully and tell them to stop. The weather is still hot, but Monday may be a little cooler. We are hoping for a little cloud cover.
Will check in later.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hola! from sunny Monterrey

It will probably take me a day to get organized, but here is the current scoop. More racers abandoned in the last two days. I think we are down to ten, who are still in the running. A few who have abandoned are still competing on their own schedules. Suraya and Arthur are racing every other day. Yves is out, but did try to continue. He was in the pool today when he began having trouble breathing. Not sure what may have happened, but the doctors had him out of the pool and were checking him. The early leader, Matej is also out, leaving Pascal as the current leader. The mood was somewhat somber before the start today, as everyone expected a great race between Matej and Pascal. Wayne is still very consistent and continues to move up the leader board. I am sure that the arrival of the Terrible Towel will help during the next few days. Wayne`s times continue to be just under fourteen hours for each race. The weather today is very hot, expected to get into the high eighties during the day. There is a slight breeze, which helps the support folks, but I am not sure how it effects the athletes. The race venue has been repaved, providing a smooth ride for the cycling portion of the race. I will check in later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Deca Iron day 4

Ho..Hum, another consistent race for Wayne on day four. He finished in 13:53 and is steadily moving up the leader board. I will get the cumulative totals on Saturday so you can all see where is overall. The top men are also putting in consistent efforts and show no signs of slowing. I talked with Wayne's wife Jan, as she is back home, and Wayne was in good spirits, which is the key to the race. There are many folks there that will help him until backup arrives tonight.

If you look at the results page, you will notice other races going on at the same time. Marcel, who won the deca last year, is doing fifty (50) olympic distance triathlons in ten days. Silvia Andonie, the race directors wife, is doing ten (10) half-ironman races in ten days. Silvia is unbelievable, she once did a double deca-iron race. That's right, twenty iron races in a row. Arthur Puckin, 72 years young, from England, is doing an iron race every other day, so he will have five in at the end. Giselle Andonie, the race directors daughter, is doing an olympic distance race every day. I am not sure what Suraya is going to complete, and it looks like Michael Gaertner is back on the course. I will try to get the scoop this weekend.

I will next be reporting live from sunny Monterrey.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deca Day Three

Wayne had another solid day of racing, finishing in 13:47. Knocking out one Iron distance race in under 14 hours is tough enough, doing it for three straight days is incredible. This also allows him to get much needed rest each day. Jan had to leave so Wayne is on his own today and most of Friday. The race at the top has not changed much, Matej is still burning up the course each day. Ferenc seems to have found a groove early, Benat I do not know, but appears to be someone to watch. Keri has slowed a bit on the run, but that may have been a one day hitch. Yves, from Canada had a real good race on Wednesday, he may have just been warming up the first two days. Yves' brother Ben is there as the race photographer. If you go to the Multisport.MX website, you can see many of Ben's pictures online. I had to find a set of pedals to take to one of the racers, and Jan is having electrolytes and Hammer Fuel overnighted so I can take it with me. We are pretty lucky to have all this stuff so readily available to us here in the United States. I will not get any first hand reports Thursday or Friday, so the next post may not be until Saturday. Hasta Manana.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Iron Update

Wayne had another good day on Tuesday, he finished in 13:43. There are no problems to report yet, let's hope it stays that way. The weather was overcast and a bit cooler.

Matej is still leading and is the odds on favorite to win. However, there is word that his father, who is crewing for him, is ill. Not sure what will happen, but the support crews are very important to each athlete (had to get a shameless plug in).

Suraya Oliver, the lone female in the race, has abandoned. She did not get in the water on Tuesday, finishing the first day at 4:45 Tuesday morning, which only left her a few hours of rest.

Karoly Breurer-Orban of Hungary has also abandoned, due to stomach illness.

Michael Gaertner of Germany, walked the entire marathon on Tuesday. This usually happens later in the race. He is one tough competitor and I am sure he will rally. He has won this race in the past, so he knows what it takes to stay the course. Many racers tell stories of having at least one "blow-up" day during the event. Perhaps Michael is getting his blow-up day out of the way early.

Just a reminder, the race format this year requires one to finish an iron distance race each day. If you do not finish before the next day's start, you are DQ'd. In the continuous format, which is used in alternate years, each racer decides when to rest, and there is no penalty, other than the clock keeps ticking. The continuous format allows you to take an entire day off if you want. In the daily format, this is not the case. Things will surely get interesting as the week wears on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deca Iron Day 2

Wayne was able to get about six good hours of rest last night. He raced a little too fast on the first day, but I guess everyone is like that as they get a feel for the pace. He hopes to slow by about one hour in today's event. Jan will be returning home tomorrow, leaving Wayne to his own devices for a couple of days. Keri's wife and son will help, along with a local triathlete that is there to lend neutral support to many of the athlete's. Keri seems to be having some bike problems and has had to have the local mechanic look at his rear wheel, he is really tough on his equipment. Once you see him race, you know why, that guy can hammer the bike.

It turns out that the cause of Beat's accident was a collision with a duck. There are many ducks in the park and sometimes they wander out into the road. I remember last year, Jorje, the race director, warned everyone that the ducks had the right of way. What a terrible way to have your race end.

Jan was able to get to a local market and picked up peanut butter, and ham/cheese for Wayne. Tonight she is getting pizza delivered. For the most part, the pizza in Mexico is the same as the pizza we get at home, except they like to put ketchup on it. Go figure, at least they use Heinz ketchup.

I have learned a little more Spanish this year, but I think I will try to get them to speak Pittsburgh-ese instead. What do yinz guys think?

It is about 5:20 in Monterrey as I post this report, and Wayne is just beginning today's marathon. I trust that he will keep it nice and steady, saving a little energy for the days to come.

Injury update

Jan did get back to me last night, but I was busy watching the Steeler game. She said that Beat K. did indeed break his collarbone. What an unfortunate turn of events for Beat, as he had to abandon the race. Wayne had a good day, and will get a fair amount of rest before today's start. Don't forget to check the race website for updates throughout each day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deca Iron Begins

The Deca Iron race in Monterrey, Mexico began this morning a little after 9:00 a.m. They are in the central time zone, so they are one hour behind us. Jan reported in that everyone was doing fine until the early leader (his name is Beat Knechtle) from Switzerland fell and broke his shoulder. The medical team is working on him, but a broken shoulder will probably make continuing a tough task. I will let you know as soon as I hear anything.

The race has a webpage where you can view the progress of each of the participants, you can find it here:
Multisport mx

Eric G. sent me the link to the article about Wayne, the address is:
North Hills News

Wayne is racing at a conservative pace so he can make it through the ten days. Jan says the food is good and has sampled many of the local items available. There is a concession type building on the course, and local folks take turns cooking home made Mexican cuisine. I am looking forward to eating great during my stay later in the race.

If you have Google Earth the coordinates for the start finish line are 25 42 52.07N and 100 18 53.18W you will see the start line pavilion and you can see the road that circles the park. The athlete's circle that road many times as it is just 1.9 kilometers around. The swim venue is a few kilometers away and they ride to the park with an escort after exiting the pool each day.

I heard that Ben from Canada is there taking pictures, I will try to get his website address so you can view his pictures.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deca Iron Tri

It is Sunday evening and I am just as excited as Wayne for the Deca Iron race in Monterrey, Mexico. I heard from Wayne and Jan today and they both have pre-race nervous energy. I will post race results as they are forwarded to me, until later in the week, when I get to the race. I am looking forward to an exciting 10 days.

There was an article about Wayne in the North Hills edition of the Trib on Thursday, but I can't seem to find it online. If anyone has the address, please let me know and I will put up a link to it.

Cindy Sanchas did the Stone Steps 50k in Cincy last week. This was her first race since having knee surgery in June. Four months from surgery to a 50k, I wish we could all heal that fast.

This is probably the last weekend of long runs for those of you doing the JFK50 in a couple of weeks. Don't forget to let me know how you all did, and send me your race reports.

Lastly, you can all make plans for our fun runs in 2010. The dates have been set for the first two. The info can be found at:

I will be posting reminders every week or so. The usc50 will be on the first Saturday of the new year.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Winter race update

Since I will not be doing the Alaska Ultra Sport in 2010 I was looking for a target race during the winter. I decided to run the Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota. I talked with Eric Johnson about the race (he won the foot division last year) and he had many positive things to say about it. This will give me a race to focus on during the coming winter months.

We had a sled building party at the Hewitt's on Halloween. Chuck, Loreen, Tim and Rick B. all fabricated new sleds for the Alaska race. I still like the sled that I made last year, but after seeing the finished products, I may have to tweak my design a little. There is something cool about doing one of the toughest races there is and pulling all of your survival gear on a sled that you made yourself. Here are a couple of pictures of the sleds. You may notice there were plenty of adult beverages on hand to make the process more difficult. That is Chuck and Tim in the picture above. No doubt Tim was telling one of his Iditarod stories to Chuck. You would not believe some of the things he has experienced along the trail. It will be tough watching the race next year from the sidelines, it truly is a race that can not be described. Tim's sled, named "Cookie", is the one in the middle of the picture below. It has pieces of black velcro on it to hold the cover. It is tradition to name your sled. Sometime when any of you have a chance to run with me, you can ask me about the trail into Skwentna, it is an amusing story about "Cookie". We used it as a template for the other sleds, but made a few small changes.

Only a week to go before Wayne Kurtz gets started at the Deca Iron race in Mexico. Waynes' wife Jan will be there to crew for him the first few days. I will arrive on Friday the 13th to crew for him through the finish. Look for an article about him in the Trib North later this week. I post a link to it, when I find it. I am getting excited about the Deca, even though I am not racing it. Make sure you wish Wayne well if you see him this week. I will be posting reports from beautiful downtown Monterrey once I arrive on site.

As always, let me know what races you folks are doing and I will be sure to get your reports on the blog.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jeff Gleason's Oil Creek 100 Race Report

This past weekend I ran the inaugural Oil Creek 100 mile trail run (better known as the Andy Karnavas “let’s sign up for this one it looks easy” trail run). First note to self, never listen to Andy’s pre-race analysis. Oil Creek is in Oil City Pa about 1 ½ hours north of Pittsburgh. Just for you history buffs, this part of the country was booming during the early years of oil production. They pumped oil into drums which then were loaded onto barges and pulled down the creek by horses. So much oil leaked into the creek that it became known as Oil Creek. Apparently the oil mixed with mud and created a paste that stuck to the horses’ legs causing all the hair to eventually fall out. I found that hard to believe but as I sit here writing my report and staring at my very smooth hairless legs, I figured they aren’t lying.

The weekend started out great. On Friday night, I had the opportunity to talk to the cross country team that Stacey helps coach. (What a great bunch of kids.) I showed some pictures from Badwater and talked about what it was like running across the desert. It is easy to convince a bunch of innocent 5th-8th graders that you are a good runner. Little did I know that not much more than 24 hours later, I would be laying in mud whimpering to myself about how I want to quit and go home and I will never run trails again.

The 100 mile race started at 5 am so we all gathered in the school cafeteria about 4:30. It was good to see all of the South Park runners and several other ultra guys I see at many of the races. Everyone wanted to talk to me and ask me the same question…..”Where is Val?” Once I explained that Val was running the 50 miler so she wouldn’t start until 6, none of them were interested in talking to me anymore. One little rumor about Val running with you and all of a sudden you are popular for at least a couple of minutes.

I will summarize my race for you folks that have attention disorder problems and can’t read long emails: I ran, I fell on my ass; I ran some more, I fell on my ass; I ran further, I fell on my ass. After a very long time I stopped running and falling on my ass. That is about it.

For those of you who have nothing better to do than read race reports, here is a little more detail:

The race course was a 31 mile loop that you ran three times and then you did a final 7 mile loop to get the 100 miles in. The course information claimed 17,000 feet of climb and I kept thinking that can’t be right. It still seems a bit high but my quads tell me there definitely was a lot of climbing. Most of the trail was single path and pretty technical; lots of rocks and roots. There were a few sections that were cross country ski paths so they were pretty runnable. Fortunately the weather cleared up Friday night but after a week of rain the course was muddy. It got worse with each loop. All three distances (50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile) ran the same course so by the third loop it was nothing but slop.

I learned very quickly that the wooden bridges get real slippery when wet. Early in the race when we were still a bit bunched up, everyone would yell out cautions when we came up on a bridge. The first time I crossed one I made a mental note to walk all the wet bridges. My mental notes don’t stick around too long. About mile 23, I was coming down this little slope and I see this little wooden bridge, one step on it and I can just catapult myself across the gap. The next thing I noticed was that I could see my mud covered shoes and the tops of all the pretty trees at the same time, without looking in different directions. My butt hit the bridge so hard, everything rattled. I really thought I did some serious damage because I felt all kinds of weird feelings that your body shouldn’t feel. I am glad I was running by myself because I let loose with the expletives that no one else should have to hear. After lying on the bridge for several minutes, I decided I better get up and see if anything would fall off my body…..nothing did so I had to continue. From that point on, I crawled across all the wooden bridges. I really thought I was going have a problem for the rest of the run because for the next several miles my lower back and hip ached with every step. Thanks to the aide stations and handfuls of ibuprofen the pain went away (or maybe other pain just over shadowed it).

After my bridge encounter, I did pretty well in the falling category. The trail was littered with rocks, roots, and guys’ broken hearts and crushed dreams (an obvious sign that Val had been through this part of the trail already). During the daylight, I think I had a few slips in the mud where I ended up on my butt but nothing real serious. Once the night came and I was on my third and fourth lap it got to be really slow going. The trails were beat up from all the runners on previous laps and it got very dark. The mud and rocks were not distinguishable in the light from the headlamp so I was constantly expecting mud and I would hit rock or vice versa. As you went up and down over the different mountains, you ran through areas of fog. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of running in fog, at night, in the mud, on a rocky trail, while you are crying, you just can’t appreciate how much fun it really is. The light just reflects off the fog and makes visibility almost nothing. I will say that the trails were marked extremely well, even when it was very dark, the reflective flags always seemed to be where you needed them. (I guess maybe Val would argue that the finish line wasn’t marked very well but that is one thing I don’t have any trouble finding when I am that close. I mean, after 50 miles, how do you run PAST the finish line??)

I could do another one of my Romper Room look through the magic wand and name all the people I saw out there (Andrew, Jason, Rich, and Dave), but once we hit the trails, I was pretty much on my own. I did hook up with Kent from North Carolina and we ran together for about 20 miles. A real nice guy who has run a bunch of 100 milers but they were for the most part different than the ones I have run. With his NC accent, he actually talked slower than I was running. Based on my pace, I didn’t think that was possible. When we headed out after the aide station at mile 62 he dropped off and I didn’t see him anymore but based on the posted time, he did finish pretty strong. I did see Val and Rick at the middle school, mile 62. I was sitting on a chair taking off a shoe to check a blister when they came out of the school. They both had already showered and looked like they had just cruised through a 10K; how did they just run 50 miles on those trails and look that good? Val said something like “you look good” and then gave Rick a look like “does he really think he has a chance or running another 40 miles?” As I headed out, I kept thinking why didn’t I sign up for the 50; I could be headed home instead of out into the mud again.

During the night, the temperatures dropped off pretty quickly. Fortunately I had heavier shirts, vests, and gloves stuffed in my drop bags. As I mentioned earlier, the footing was very tough at night. I think I fell more in the last lap and a half than I have in any other 100 miler. (I am sure some of that is due to tired feet in addition to the mud, rocks, and roots.) My handheld water bottle got covered with mud, funny how HEED tastes when it is mixed with mud. The final section was a 7 mile loop that had some incredibly steep climbs; when I finally got back to the last section of bike path my quads were just completely shot. I had a hard time running up the slight incline toward the school. The race director (Tom Jennings) was at the finish line to meet all the runners. His first comment was “how did you like the climbs on the last loop?” If I could have lifted my foot I would have kicked him. I finished in 24:57 which is the slowest time I have had in years. I was surprised when they said I was in 12th place and they think I won masters. Looking at the final results, 88 people started the 100 mile race, 48 finished and 28 of those were under the official 30 hour time limit. It was a challenging but really fun course.

Will I run it again? Only if Andy runs it with me and shows me the easy parts. Seriously, as much as I whine and complain, it was really a fun event.

For an inaugural race it was really well done. Very good aide stations, well marked trails, and good accommodations at the finish line. It is a great event if you are looking for a technical trail run close by.

Congratulations to all the finishers.

See you at the park. (I will be schuffling around it this weekend.)

Eric Grol's Race Report - His 1st hundred

Last weekend I ran my first hundred at the inaugural Oil Creek Trail Runs. Completing a hundred miler has been a goal of mine for some time now, and I figured I could really leverage my training I did for Laurel Highlands this past summer. Logistically, it would work well since Titusville was so close by, and once I saw the pictures of the autumn leaves on the race website, I was in. I'm a sucker for those fall colors.

The hundred consisted basically of three 50k loops and a little extra tacked on at the end to complete the 100 mile distance. My plan was to go out really slow on the first loop to learn the course, then listen to my Ipod on the second loop (I had my entire Parliament Funkadelic collection loaded and ready to go). As odd as it sounds, I was really kind of looking forward to doing the third loop in the dark. I had done night runs before, but never after already having run 62 miles, and never from dusk to dawn. So I was looking forward to experiencing something new.

The first loop for me was pretty uneventful from what I can remember. I just tried to go slow and enjoy the scenery. I had to laugh at that one rocky section with a sign that said "Welcome to Pioneer Trail -- The Birthplace of Rocks." There were some really pretty waterfalls along the way as well. I also got quite a kick out of one runner's musing on the use of the "bear bells" that some people wore: How do you tell the difference between black bear scat and grizzly bear scat? Black bear has berries in it, grizzly scat smells like pepper spray and has little bells in it.

From my perspective, the trail from the school to the first aid station at Wolfkill Run was pretty manageable. Even from the Wolfkill Run aid station to Egbert Farm (the turnaround point) wasn't all that bad. There were some pretty steep switchbacks right before and right after Wolfkill Run, but they were fairly short. For me, that 9.7 mile stretch from Egbert Farm to the aid station at Miller Farm Road bridge was tough. I don't know what it was about that section. Perhaps as I studied the course prior to the race, that was not a stretch that I had identified as presenting a significant challenge in terms of difficult climbs. I guess sometimes those elevation profiles you find on the race website can be deceiving. I was still feeling pretty good on this lap but the distance was becoming noticeable in my legs. I noticed that the climbs, while difficult, were not giving me any problems. The downhills were becoming increasingly hard for me to keep a steady pace on. By the time I finished the second loop it was dark, and as I got off the trail and began to cross the train tracks, I looked up and saw about a million stars. I turned off my headlamp for a few minutes and just stood there staring at the sky, admiring all the stars. I didn't care if it cost me time. That image of a million stars in the sky is forever etched in my brain and I will always have that memory of my first hundred.

The final loop in the dark was quite an experience for me. Your entire world is reduced to the little bit of trail illuminated in front of you by your headlamp. I found it very taxing to have to be so alert in the middle of the night, when I would otherwise be sleeping. However the penalty for taking your eyes off the trail even for a second could mean slipping on one of the wet rocks or tree roots and taking a nasty spill. Another revelation I had at night was that humans are social animals. By this point the 50k and 50 mile runners were done (except for a couple of 50 mile hikers) and the hundred miler pack had become very stretched out along the trail. I ran for hours without seeing another person and found myself kind of longing to see another soul out there on the trail. Hearing that faint generator sound off in the distance was the most comforting thing in the world to me because it meant there was an aid station somewhere ahead of me. I knew I might not hit it for an hour or more, but that sound meant there were people out there. Seeing the sun start to come back out on my final loop was a nice boost for a tired runner who was about to bonk, hard.

I still don't have the calorie intake thing down to a science yet like I would hope. Perhaps my body is still taking time to adjust from the 16 years of powerlifting I did before I decided I wanted to try running 2 and a half years ago. I seem to have to eat a lot more food, more frequently, than what the literature prescribes. For whatever reason, I must have gotten behind on my calories, because I was feeling horrible as I finished my third loop, and went out to complete the "Headed Home" portion of the course. That was the worst I ever felt in my life, and I recently had 4 wisdom teeth removed (two impacted). Even though I had nothing left, I did the math and knew I could still walk it in and finish under the cutoff. Somehow I made it through that last section of trail, and was joined on the pavement section by my two favorite girls, my wife Melissa and my dog Sophie. Crew member extroardinaire and new friend Danielle also joined in on this section. I managed to muster a run across the finish line, say some words I can't remember to the race director, and just like that, it was over. It was the fastest 30 hours, 23 minutes, and 13 seconds of my life.

I can honestly say I get a high from running ultras. Our bodies were designed to cover great distances on foot in search of food and safety, and ultramarathons are a great way to get back in touch with that. With all the conveniences modern life has to offer, it is important to me that I remind myself what we are really capable of. Now that I have completed my first hundred, I just want to do more (much to the chagrin of my wife). The group of runners in Western PA are some of the nicest people I've met and are always willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Val 's Oil Creek 50 Pre-Race and Race report

This past weekend I ran the Oil Creek 50 mile Trail Run in Titusville Pennsylvania. As you will see from both my pre-race and race reports – it sure was an interesting journey!

First of all, what was I thinking signing up for 50 mile trail run when I don’t even own trail shoes- let alone run trails! News Flash - Montour trail is not a real trail run! Anyway, dollar by dollar, mile by mile I proceeded to prepare for the OC 50 mile trail run on Saturday October 10th.

10/1/2009 THURSDAY (One week prior to Race Day)

Why did I have to check the weather? Yikes – 10 day forecast is not only “Wet” but “Very Wet”! Send email to Tom Jennings OC Race Director – Do you think I should buy these for the race $69.99??Product Details Meanwhile you know he is just shaking his head thinking “Who would sign up for a trail run and not want to get wet and muddy”?

10/5/2009 MONDAY (5 days til Race Day)

Begin Packing – lay out everything on my bedroom floor. Yikes! Family is concerned. I think it might be harder going to a race with drop bags – one pile for drop bag #1, another pile for drop bag #2, race day pile, hair net, rain machine and fluffy slippers pile, post race shower pile, drive home/hospital/casket pile- piles everywhere!

It is also Pine Richland homecoming weekend and my son and daughter will both be going to the PR homecoming dance as their crazy mother runs 50 miles. (I did not know that when I signed up for the race - lots of guilt.)

Note to Husband: Thank you Tom!

10/6/2009 TUESDAY (4 days til Race Day)

Started to review the course and prepare for the race. Send another email to race director – confused about add -on section for the 50 mile run. Race director replies nicely but puts a * by my name (loony bin – high maintenance!) More concerns reading the race website – elevation, bear sighting, porcupines and a last place finisher award – Yikes! This really caught my attention.

§ A helicopter and ambulance will be on hand as well as a rope rescue team, ATV "mules" for transporting injured runners, and an EMS worker at each staffed aid station in the park will be provided to assist you in an emergency. However, these are very remote locations that are difficult to get aid to in a short amount of time so please read the waiver on the race registration website very carefully.

Note to Self: Paint Toenails Hot Pink – Critical for rescue. Casted/casket legs look better with painted toenails!

10/8/2009 THURSDAY (2 days to Race Day)

Note to Self: Do Not- I repeat- Do Not send another email to the race director – relax, breathe and start getting excited. Add more items to drop bags.

10/9/2009 FRIDAY (1 day to Race Day)

Time to put on my game face and get the car packed. What to wear to packet pick-up? Hmmm “stilettos” were really not cool for Boston packet pick up. Yikes all my extra tennis shoes are in the drop bags! Better go with the low heal loafers and anything camouflaged -try to look like you are a real trail runner??

Note to Self: Wear sunglasses at packet pickup. Introduce yourself to race director as Jeff Gleason.

10/9/2009 FRIDAY (Packet Pick-up)

Arrive in Titusville. Attend pre-race dinner/meeting. Win an Ultra Fuel pack door prize! Say hello to Rick Freeman. He is running the 50 mile run. Get lost finding the Comfort Inn hotel. Stop at gas station and follow two local runners to hotel. They laugh because they are from Titusville and can’t see how anyone would get lost in Titusville! Check-in and obsessively begin watching the weather channel. Race outfit dilemma – should I wear shorts or long pants?

Race Outfit #1: Pants – safety pin race number on pants.

Note to Self: No rain machine tonight – plenty of rain outside already!

Finish laying out race items and early to bed!

10/10/2009 SATURDAY (Race Day!) 6 am Start Time

Wake up call 3:30 am. Turn on the weather channel. 47 degrees!

Race Outfit Change #2: Shorts – un- safety pin race number from pants and re-safety pin on shorts.

Get dressed and take 8 of 16 suitcases to the car. Walk out of the hotel- Yikes! It is cold, raining and dark, very dark! Get coffee and head back to the room.

Race Outfit Change #3: Pants - un- safety pin race number from shorts and re-safety pin on pants.

Take 8 more suitcases to the car and head over to the middle school (race start). Walk in and 100 milers run off into the dark. Check-in and drop off drop bags. Two women in the locker room ask – “are you wearing pants today? (5:30 am) Head to car for shorts. See Rick Freeman and he just smiles and says you have plenty of time. Out to the car, dig through 16 bags, find shorts.

Race Outfit Change #4: Shorts - un- safety pin race number from pants and re-safety pin on shorts.

(5:45 am) Pre- race meeting. Don’t really care what the race director thinks. Go right up to him with my laminated race map and ask him about the 50 mile course add-on section.

(5:55 am) Exhausted from changing outfits. Walk to the start line. Click on flashlight 20 times to make sure it is working.

(6:00 am) – Race Begins!

Race Start (Darkness 6:00 am – 7:23 am)

The OC 50 mile run starts on a bike path and I think to myself this is not too bad, I can do this. Then I see a line of runners and a set of wooden steps heading up into the trails. I click my light but it is already on (did I mention it was dark). One by one into the darkness and straight up we go. I have never run trails in the dark but I quickly learned to stay with the group because it is even darker without the group. My feet quickly became coated in mud and there were roots and rocks everywhere. However as I slowly became acclimated to the trail I realized the darkness was a blessing because it made me appreciate the trails in the daylight and I set my first race goal. Finish in the daylight!

Desert Hero Jeff

It was not until the sun came up did I realize that the blazes on the trees marking the trail were no longer yellow but were blazing red! Wow – then I saw the trail was lined with cheering people. Who was that masked man? Desert Hero Jeff was here an hour or two ago -blazing the trail. I never saw him on my run but when I touched the ground it was still warm from his footsteps! Jeff ran the OC 100 and finished first place masters and 12th overall.

Drop Bag #1 Egbert Farm 13 Miles

As time went on I got into my own rhythm and pace. I met and talked with many runners. Everyone was so friendly. The course was so well marked and the aid stations were wonderful. Even though I was wearing shorts, I was soaked from the rain, sweat and mud so I was so excited to have a drop bag with dry cloths. I quickly changed and regrouped then headed back to the trails.

50 Mile Add-On Section

This section was a little cumbersome but was marked very well. I had my laminated map just in case. As I was starting the add-on section – Rick Freeman was finishing! He ended up finishing 5th overall for the OC 50 mile run.

Drop Bage #2 Titusville Middle School 36 Miles

Nothing like coming into the finish line knowing you are not done! I was getting tired but grabbed some things from my second drop bag and decided not to take the head lamp. I was going to finish before dark if it killed me. I met a nice group of South Park runners and we all headed out with the same goal. Of course they knew Lou D Angelo so I was quickly included in the group.

The Finish Line !!

Finally I am near the finish line. Somehow I thought the finish was at Aid Station #4.” Isn’t this the finish? No – It is around the corner.”

Remember I was the one that got lost in Titusville. My watch time was 11:03. I still don’t know my official finish time.

As you can see from the bottom line – all the money I spent getting ready for this trail run…there is not a price for describing how I felt when I crossed the finish line. However more importantly my son and daughter made it to the PR Homecoming dance and had a wonderful time – now that is surely Priceless!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bob Fargo's Oil Creek Race Report

Well, the weather decided to cooperate just in time and, with the exception of a few minor details, the organizers put on a pretty nice event. I have to admit, leading up to the race and even while running, I just couldn’t figure out where they got 8,600’+ of elevation gain and loss for the 50-mile course. Sunday morning, my quads were starting to realize that there really might have been that much!

Even though I haven’t seen any results posted yet, I can say that Sarah and Dan both ran a fantastic 50k, the second for both of them, and both getting in under 8 hours. (And, I heard through the grapevine that Sarah has been offered a recording contract by an Oil City record label for her performance Friday night!)

Rick was methodical, his stride looking exactly the same at the end as it did at the start. He smoked me over the last 15 miles of the 50M to keep it under 10 hours (by 40 seconds).

As promised, Chuck kept it casual all day. If he had been doing the 100, he certainly would have been near the top by the end. As he often does, he was getting progressively stronger as the miles passed.

I got passed by the three top women in the last four miles. They had been running within just a few minutes of each other all day. I did manage to real in the third women on the bike path leading into town and ran with her up the school driveway, but then did the gallant thing and stopped before the finish so that she and her two competitors could finish in succession, the way they had run all day.

Jason and David appeared to be in good spirits at the end of their first loop of the 100M. David, did you keep that pulled pork sandwich down?

Peter looked strong heading out the bike path at the start of loop #2, and I never did come across Bob. Maybe he took a detour back to the brew pub.

Regardless of your individual outcome, congratulations on having what it takes to get to the starting line and at least enjoying what turned out to be a very nice fall weekend in the Penn’s Woods.

Oil Creek 50 Mile Race

So I am walking up the steep switchback after crossing a wooden bridge in the middle of the woods and I look back over the trail I had just traversed and catch a splash of yellow moving fast through the trees. With about five miles left to go I decide that I need to rally now if I am to hold this guy off. I stay ahead for another mile or so and finally hear him behind me. What a relief to find out it is Richard Cook, the leader of the one hundred mile race. I don’t know if relief is the correct word, as I am getting lapped by someone who has already run almost sixty miles, still has forty to go and is going by like I am standing still.

The wheels fell off a few miles back when I was catching up to Rich Vrboncic and another hundred miler on the descent to aid station #1. I still had my downhill legs and was moving well when I came upon them. As I leaped off a rock to go around them, my right calf decided to cramp upon impact. It was one of the most painful that I have had and it stopped me in my tracks. As I am trying to bend over and grab my toe, yelling in agony, Rich is telling me to walk it off. I like Rich, but if he was close enough to grab, I would have choked him, I was in that much pain.

The concern began back at the Middle School aid station at thirty-five miles. I cruised in feeling good, but beginning to feel the calf tightening up. After refueling my camelback I decided that I needed an extra bit of salt. The elixir of choice was chicken broth, but it was too hot to gulp down, and I did not want to waste too much time at the aid station, so I grabbed the closest cold item to cool it with. That cold item happened to be a cup of strawberry HEED. Strawberry HEED mixed with chicken broth, sounds like something they make you drink on one of those reality shows. But it worked. Too bad I did not have more of it midway through the last lap.

Overall, my race strategy worked well. As I had explained to no one in particular, I had run a few long training runs without eating, in order to force a bonk and work through it. I find this type of training works well. If I begin to feel lousy during a race, I know that I can work through it, even rally. I carried everything I needed for the race in my camelback, and did not stop at any of the aid stations for more than a few seconds, running straight through most of them. While I had a little extra weight to carry, I feel that I more than made up for it by not stopping.

I had the fifth place finisher in sight right before I cramped up, and he put too much trail between us by the time I was able to run again. When Richard came by, I decided to turn it up a notch, and to my surprise, did so without any cramping. So I got back on track and finished strong, coming in just a few seconds under the ten hour mark, but still four minutes behind the fifth place finisher. When I talked with him after the race, he stated that he had a similar predicament, as he was not able to run downhill. After he saw me approaching, a miracle occurred, and he was able to run downhill again. I guess I have that effect on people.

My sixth place finish was very rewarding. The course, race management, aid stations (even though I did not use them) and post race were all first rate. The free massage was especially good. The weather even cooperated, staying cool all day, with cloud cover for most of the day. The trail was beautiful, as the leaves were beginning to change color. If the race were held any later in the month, the leaves on the trail might be an issue.

There were many finishers from the Pittsburgh area in all three distances, 50k, 50 miles and 100 miles. Check out the Oil Creek 100 website to see a list of the finishers. Everyone I talked with had a great time, I think this race will be on many runners’ calendars next year, and no doubt it will fill up again.

Richard Cook ended up winning the 100 mile race. Check out the other finishers and drop them a note to congratulate them for a great effort. If any of you have a race report, please send it along, and let me know if you want me to post it on the blog.

See you on the trails,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

YUT-C Race

I traveled across the border to Youngstown, Ohio to check out the YUT-C 50k on Saturday. Bob Combs and company put on a fine event in the heart of the city. Who would have thought that you could get a 50k on trails in the middle of an urban area. Well done guys! When I finished, they had a cold beer and hot food in my hands within minutes.

The race was well attended by Pittsburgh area runners. Michelle E. from the North Hills was first woman overall. Other finishers were Stacy K., Eric D., Kevin R., Kat B. and Todd E. Sarah Micklo and her sister Marcia also competed, both completing their first ultra's. Sarahs' husband Dave showed up at the finish line sporting his four Grand Slam belt buckles.

Rich V. was at the race, but spent the day working one of the aid stations. I can't thank the volunteers enough, as they are the soul of every race. Without them, the races just would not happen.

Next up will be the Oil Creek races in October. The YUT-C was a good training run for the Oil Creek race. There will be many Pittsburgh folks running there, I hope I can remember them all.

Let me know if you have any ultra's between now and October 10th.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mission Accomplished

The Wasatch Front 100 was the final race in Dave Micklos' attempt at the ultrarunning "Grand Slam" and I imagine he was excited to finish. When I talked with Dave after the Leadville race, he was ready to get it over with. I will talk to him when he returns to get his thoughts on becoming the first Pennsylvanian to complete the "Slam". For those who are not familiar with it, the ultrarunning Grand Slam consists of four of the longest running 100 mile races in the United States. They are the Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch Front one hundred mile races. Each year a few dozen folks set out to complete the series, and only a select few actually complete the four races. Congratulations Dave on a job well done. Now take it easy for a few weeks.

The "Greek Run" was held at the end of August and seventeen local runners came out to enjoy the six hour fun run hosted by Wayne and Jan Kurtz. The day was perfect for running. A challenging loop course, overcast skies, a little rain, and great food capped a fun day in the woods. The hit of the day was the extensive buffet that Jan had ready for the runners at the completion of the run. A few runners even left the course a bit early in order to get a head start on the food. Don Smith was the winner, running a total of eight laps, with most of the other runners completing seven laps. Wayne has already agreed to host the run next year, with both a six hour and twelve hour event.

Our local fun run schedule now boasts four long runs that provide an opportunity for runners to get a long run in without the time and costs associated with traveling to races. I will post the schedule for 2010 when I confirm the dates with the hosts. We may even be able to add a fifth run to the series, so that the local ultrarunners can get their endorphin fix.

The Punxsy 50k was run on Sept. 12th. I do not have any information on the race yet, but I hope to get a couple of race reports that I can pass along.

Next up is the YUT-C 50k in Youngstown, Ohio. This will be my first time running the event, but I have heard great reviews. There will be many local runners participating.

The Oil Creek races are scheduled early in October, and there are a lot of local runners entered in one of the three distances offered. There are 50k, 50 mile and 100 mile races on the docket. I remember a few years ago, you could count the number of Pittsburgh area ultrarunners on two hands. Now there are too many to count, and I keep running into more at the races I attend. It is good to see that ultrarunning is going strong in Western Pannsylvania.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Local update

Summer is beginning to wind down and the fall marathon and ultra season will be heating up. Dave M. and Bob F. toughed it out at Leadville last week, both finishing under the thirty hour time limit to earn their coveted silver buckles. Dave now has only one more 100 miler (wasatch) to do to complete the ultrarunning Grand Slam. Bob's finish was well earned, as he had unfinished business there from a few years ago. I can't wait to hear the stories.

While Dave and Bob were in Colorado, Scott F. was in South Dakota, running the Lean Horse 100. While not as hilly, it certainly was a tough day as both the temperatures and humidity were high.

Don't forget about the Greek Fun Run this Saturday. What a way to end the summer and get a long run in with many of the best local ultrarunners. Jeff G. will be there to wow us with Badwater stories, Dave M. will stop by and tell us about the quest for the grand slam. And of course, Wayne will be hosting the run, and he has some great ultra-triathlon stories - those guys are unbelievable.

While not an ultra, the Gatorade Steelers 5k is on Sunday, I will be helping out with the course duties that day. It is a cool race, and the runners get to finish inside Heinz Field, although they still don't let you on the grass.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Grand Slam update

Hello all,

I asked Dave Micklo to write a few words about his current attempt at the ultrarunning "Grand Slam". Here are his words to me:

"Hey Guys,

Just putting together a quick note about my summer so far. As some of you may know, I'm attempting The Grand Slam of Ultra Running this year. It consists of the four oldest 100 mile trail runs, all within 11 weeks starting with the Western States 100 in California and on to the Vermont 100. Next two will be the Leadville 100 in Colorado and ending with the Wasatch Front 100 in Utah. What got me interested in The Slam was that I noticed that there has never been a PA finisher! I've heard we had someone "from" PA, but they registered from another state perhaps. So... I'm hoping I can be the first!

So far Western States and Vermont are complete. And let me tell you, no matter how many times you do these things, they always surprise you! I was shooting to do States in under 24 hours. You're allotted 30 hrs, but I'm a decent downhill runner and it is primarily a downhill course with approximately 18,000 feet of gain and 23,000 feet of loss. Now I know 24 hrs is a very lofty goal, but hey I've trained hard right? Prior to the race I had put in 1012 miles this year and since my training started last Oct I had logged 1425.5 miles! Well, I guess the training wasn't hard enough... The high temps absolutely killed me. I knew it would be hot, but it was absolutely Africa hot! When I crossed the finish line at 10:05 am on Sunday it was 105 degrees in Auburn! Definitely putting the "burn" in Auburn! I experienced problems during this race that I've never experienced before; blisters, vomiting and the most concerning, side pains in the kidney region. These pains hit me hard coming out of Devil's Thumb and I was quite worried. I actually ask to speak to one of the medical guys. He assured me I was fine, to drink, rest a bit and keep peeing! I thought, "Wow, even the damn medical guys are lying to me!" But what could I do, my pacer, Steve Miller, and my crew (wife) Sarah wouldn't listen to a damn word I was saying. Instead they dutifully pushed me out of Michigan Bluff, down the road to my demise. But hey, it worked, I finished just a few short miles and a couple hours later. Yeah it was 46 miles and 14 hours later, but that's irrelevant right? So could I have finished in under 24 on a cooler day? Some of my friends say I could. But me... I don't know. There are some amazing runners out there! I just don't think I'm in that league yet.

Next up was Vermont just three short weeks after States. My buddy Jason DeChicchis was running it as well. Now here was a race I HAD to do in under 24 hours! You see, at Vermont if you take longer than 24 hours you only get a plaque instead of the obligatory runner's "BUCKLE". You still get 30 hours to finish, but if I was shooting for The Slam, I wanted to see 4 "BUCKLES" up on the "I LOVE ME WALL"!!! Not 3 and a plaque. So healed up and ready my plan was to make hay while there was daylight, and run like hell early, and that I did. But my big concern all throughout those beautiful, rolling country hills was that I would burn myself out too quickly and fade before those 100 trail miles rolled under my feet. However, I had a secret weapon that I yet to find out about. You see my problem was that not only were headphones not allowed at Vermont i.e. NO MUSIC, but I didn't have a pacer either and I was really worried about HOW I was going to get to the end. I was doing really good passing 50+ miles, but I was starting to really fade between 60 and 70. Then my secret weapon was revealed to me. My wife Sarah had decided to run the final 23 miles with me! What an absolute life saver! I really owe my sub 24 hour finish to her! I would have definitely gave up on it. Somewhere after mile 90 or so, I really started to crumple. My ankles were hard to bend and the muscles on the front of my shins really hurt. Again, ailments I haven't before encountered. But Sarah was ruthless and pushed me hard. I have to send out a huge apology for some of the things I said to her. She knew I was really hurting, but she also knew I had built up enough time and a sub 24 hour could happen. So 23 hours and 45 minutes later, after starting off at 4am on a rainy Vermont Saturday morning, I crossed the finish line... absolutely crushed.

So here I am, 3 weeks after Vermont and just 2 weeks prior to Leadville. What now? I know Leadville allows 30 hours to finish and has less gain and loss than both States and Vermont did. However, it's a high altitude ultra where the lowest elevation is 9,200 feet. It is a 50 mile out and back course where you simply turn around half way through and run the course in reverse. The problem with that is a mile 44 it crosses Hope Pass at 12,600 feet! Yep, you gotta do it twice! Yikes. This time my buddy Bob Fargo is going to run the course as well and my plan will be to try and stick with him for the front half. Bob not only has experience on the course he is also really fast and if I can stick with him, I can bank enough time to almost walk back! I hope I can do it.

My last race will be Wasatch, 3 weeks after Leadville. I did this race in 2007 in just under the cut-off of 36 hours! I finished in 35:32:37, just another 16 seconds per mile and I would have timed out! Yeah I did it once, but this race has 26,882 feet of gain and 26,131 feet of loss and it definitely is NOT easy. But first things first, I've got the beautiful mountains of Colorado on my thoughts and I need to get through that. Wish me luck."

Maj David W. Micklo 147th ARS

Thanks Dave, we are all pulling for the first PA "Grand Slam" finisher.

If you see Dave or Bob Fargo this week or next, wish them luck at Leadville. BTW, Bob turns 50 in a few days so don't forget to give him a little grief.

I have decided to do the Oil Creek 50 miler in October. This will be the first year for this race, offering 50k, 50 mile and 100 mile options. There are a lot of folks from the Pittsburgh area doing one of the three races.

Don't forget about the Greek Fun Run later this month, it will be a great tune-up for the fall ultras and marathons. It will be our last fun run of the year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ultra running update

The Burning River 100 near Cleveland just finished and we had a respectable showing of runners from the Pittsburgh area. Congratulations to Brian Ottinger for completing his first one hundred mile foot race. Also finishing were Wayne Kurtz, Marie Bartoletti and Philip Westlake. The course may not be as tough as many trail runs, but the weather certainly had an effect on all of the runners. It looked to be warm and humid for most of the day. I will try to get a report from one of the runners.

I talked with Dave Micklo yesterday, and he will send a report on the first two races of the ultrarunning "Grand Slam". If you run into Dave, wish him luck at Leadville later this month and at Wasatch in early September.

Now that it is August, many runners are training for their fall races. If you get a minute, let me know what you are running so we can keep track of you. Don't forget about the Greek Fun Run in North Park later this month. It will be our last fun run this year, and will be a great tune-up for your fall races. It is a six-hour run, but you don't have to do all six hours. If you want to do less, just come later and enjoy the post race picnic. It will be a great time to share your running stories with like minded people. The webpage is:Greek Fun Run

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Longest Day

Here is a picture of Barry and Casey at one of the many stops along the way.

Thursday at the RAGBRAI was the day that one could add an extra loop to get a 100 mile ride in. Casey, Barry and Austin each completed the "century" ride and got the coveted patch. For each, it was their first century ride. The day ended up being warm and sunny with rain int he afternoon. Casey, Tom and Mike all finished before the afternoon rain, Barry and Austin both got caught in it.

We are staying at the home of Ed and Kathy Wilson in Ottumwa and it is wonderful. I am sitting in the kitchen writing this and half of the neighborhood is here enjoying the evening.

Tomorrow is another 70+ mile day for the riders and then an easy finish on Saturday.

Over the hump

Today will be the longest ride of the week, 77 miles with an added loop to give the riders a 100 mile option. The folks who add the loop get a special patch, so I have been encouraging everyone to do the hundred. After all, that's what they came here to do.

An intense thunderstorm rolled through this morning, beginning around 0400. It cleared by 0600 and everyone began preparing for the days ride. The route will be a little more crowded, as no one left early, as had been the case on previous days. The temps are a little warmer, and the humidity will be up.

The church we stayed at Wednesday night was the best site yet, they were very accommodating, letting us fill our water tanks and empty the others. The town is similar to all the others, a town square with a courthouse in the middle. The main activities center around this area, with food vendors and bike vendors around the perimeter. The shuttles from the outlying campsites are usually school buses. Indianola had the best shuttles, large John Deere tractors pulling wagons like those used in a parade.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It is Tuesday morning and I have arrived at the stopover town of Indianola, IA. This is the third town we have stopped in along the route across the state. So far, everyone we have met has been very hospitable. All the folks welcome us to their town and ask what they can do to help us. I had to stop at the hardware store in Red Oak to get an adapter for the RV. The manager there stated that he had just sold the part that I needed. I left him my cell phone number in case one was returned. He called me less than twenty minutes later to say he had the part and would hold it for me until I could run back for it. (it is easier to run around these small towns than it is to drive, and I get some miles in.) The guys are all riding well and have had no mechanical problems yet. The weather was perfect on Sunday, rained for half the day on Monday and has been overcast so far today. But the temps have been great for riding. I am not able to take the vehicle to the intermediate towns, but the guys say that they are all a great time. Near one town the Miller Light folks set up a beer garden in the middle of a field where you can stop and get an adult beverage. The bars in each town are packed at night, as you can imagine when 10,000 plus riders converge on them. The entertainment is good and gets a little crazy at times. Each town has a main stage for a feature group, but they charge admission, so we just go to the bars for entertainment. There are food vendors and bike shops that move along the route and set up each night in the host town. You can get some pretty good food, but you have to be early, as they run out later in the evening. There always seems to be enough beer though. There are many "teams" that ride together and they have old school buses that are rigged for rider support. You would not believe how many there are! Casy has taken most of the pictures, so when he gets in this afternoon, I will try to post a few.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Friday night and I am getting ready for the bike ride next week. Tomorrow is Annie's run, a six hour run here in the South Hills. I plan on doing about four hours before catching a ride to Omaha for the start of RAGBRAI on Sunday. I should be able to post a few reports from the route.

Jason D., Dave M., Donny K. and Sue W. are in Vermont for the 100 miler which begins Saturday morning. Word is that the trail is muddy, but I am sure they will all do well. Wayne and Jan K. will be at the mile 76 aid station helping out. Always cool to see folks helping out at races.

Jeff Gleason had a great run at the Badwater 135, I can't wait to get a report from him. There were two other somewhat local runners at Badwater, Alicia S. from Pa, and Elizabeth C. from Jersey both had excellent runs in the desert. They both finished Laurel last month so I was rooting for them.

I will check in from Iowa next.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Dog Days are here...

... and the running is hotter than ever. The spring and early summer saw many local runners doing extraordinary races. There was the Bull Run Run 50 and MMT100 in Virginia. The Laurel Highlands Ultras in PA, the Highlands Sky 40 in WV, Mohican 100 in OH and of course Western States and Hardrock out west.

There were a bunch of local runners who completed the Bull Run Run 50 in April to kick off the season. All of them did well, and there were a few humorous stories as well.

Dave Micklo did well at Western States 100, the first leg of the ultrarunnng grand slam. Up next for him is the Vermont 100. Perhaps I can get him to write a few words about Western States.

Bob Combs, our good friend from nearby Youngstown, OH is set to finish the Hardrock 100 as I write this. The HR100 is considered by many to be the toughest 100 mile run you can do (except perhaps the Barkley, but that is a different discussion).

Ron Ross from Cleveland finished the Mohican 100 in Ohio for the what seems like the umpteenth time.

Jeff Gleason should be in Death Valley right now, acclimating for the Badwater 135 which begins on Monday. If you get a chance, check the Post Gazette, as there are a couple of articles about Jeff running Badwater. He should do well, and has a great crew with him.

Wayne Kurtz returned from Hungary where he raced a double iron triathlon. He told me the race was held in a small town there, and all of the residents treated them like stars. They were asking the athletes for autographs. If you know Wayne, he is not into the publicity thing, but I am sure he enjoyed a moment in the spotlight. His training for the deca-iron in November is going well. I will be there reporting for the latter part of the race this year.

Next month, Bob Fargo and Dave Micklo will be traveling to Leadville for the 100 trail run there. I know Bob has some unfinished business there and will be ready to rumble. Bob has been putting in some monster miles on the Laurel Trail.

The Laurel Races went well this year, and the weather was perfect. If you always wanted to run a good time, in good conditions at Laurel, this was the year. For those of you that have not experienced this beautiful trail, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You don't have to wait for the race, as you can hike or run it any time of the year.

Next up, Anne's run on July 18th. It is a six hour run at the Gilfillen Trail in Upper St. Clair. The trial is a 1.25 mile loop on a wood chip surface. The race honors Sam Bertenthals' late wife Anne whom we sadly lost this past year. The race starts at 0600. Check the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners website for more information.

Don't forget the Greek Fun Run at Wayne's house at the end of August. It will be a great training run for those of you getting ready for fall races. The info is here:

I will try to check in next week before I leave for RAGBRAI, where I will be touring the great state of Iowa for a week.

Keep running well,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Iditarod Trail Invitational - Part 1

Okay, here is the beginning report that you have all been waiting for, the Alaska Ultra Sport 350.

Chuck and I began the 350 mile race on March 1st, along with Tim Hewitt and Tom Jarding who were doing the 1100 mile race. We met James Leavesley at the Minneapolis airport, he was going to attempt the 1100 mile race on a snow bike. Our flight from Pittsburgh was delayed so we did not arrive in Anchorage until Friday evening. We spent the evening hanging out with other races at a local bike shop which hosted a pizza and beer party for everyone.

It snowed all day on Saturday and we debated how the foot or so of new snow would affect the trail when we began on Sunday. The race organizers do a great job of transporting everyone to the start and the bus picked us up promptly at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday for the ride to the start at Knik Lake. The Knik bar was not aware of our impending arrival and had a little trouble keeping up with food orders prior to the start because they did not have enough staff. It was cool to spend some time with others racers. Eric Johnston, who we met last year was at the bar getting some last minute calories. Here is a picture of us at the start, that is a cheeseburger in my hand.

The weather was pleasant, with sun, and temps in the twenties. The trail was well packed and the start was picture perfect. In the small world category, Doug, who sat next to me on the flight to Anchorage was at the start taking pictures. He was from Denver and was in town visiting another photographer friend who dragged him to the start.

Our sleds performed well and we quickly settled into a comfortable pace. Our first goal was to get to the sign for Nome before dark, so that we could get a few pictures of the sign with the Kennywood arrow. The temps began dropping and the wind picked up so when we got to the sign, it was time to add another layer of clothing and get prepared for a long cold night on the lakes, swamps and rivers before arriving at the first checkpoint. When participating in a race that lasts a week or more, it is hard to get into the proper mindset in the early hours of the race. With this in mind, we continued on into the night, heading toward Flathorn Lake, the Great Dismal Swamp and the Big Susitna River.

This is when we encountered our first obstacle.....

Spring in Pittsburgh

It has been a few weeks since my last post and I decided it was time to get going again. I spent the last week getting caught up after returning from the Alaska Ultra Sport race. Here is a quick recap of what has been going on in the area. I will post my race report separately. I did get to put the Kennywood sign up but did not have time to get a Terrible Towel to the bar in McGrath.

Saturday, March 21st was spent helping out at the J.C. Stone 50k race here in North Park. This was the second year for the race. Lou D. and the Rotary volunteers are doing an excellent job of improving the race. There were 47 runners who started, and a lot of fast times.

Dave Micklo sent me the list of runners who ran a Mingo last month, I will have them on the website shortly.

The Pittsburgh Marathon and Half-Marathon has sold out, pretty impressive for a race that is getting back on it's feet. I will be part of the NUGO pace team, leading the 3:50 group. If you want to hear a few stories about Alaska, join me in running 3:50 at the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Jeff Gleason was accepted to run in the Badwater 135 this year, we spent some time while volunteering at the 50k race talking about what is involved in doing the BW135. Many of you will recall that Wayne and I crewed for Mary K. a few years ago, so I had some ideas about how to make things a little smoother for Jeff's crew. Jeff and Scott F. are heading down to North Carolina for the Umstead 100 in two weeks. I told them to look up Peter Lefferts from Naples, Fl while there. Peter was very entertaining when I met him at the Deca Iron in Mexico last year.

Friday, February 27, 2009

It is time to go

It is Friday morning and we are ready to get the show on the road. I received an e-mail from Bill Merchant stating that Mt. Redoubt is steaming again, after being quiet for a while. The volcano is not too much of a threat to the race, but we will take dust masks with us just in case. Bill also said that on the bright side, if there is ash in the air, the sunsets get even more spectacular.

Thanks to everyone who has called or e-mailed to wish us luck during the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I learned a lot last year, and hope to learn even more this time around. You never know what the trail has in store, and this year should be no exception. Of course, Chuck and I will take as many pictures as possible.

I will talk to everyone in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Racing season begins soon.

I have a lot of ground to cover in this report. The first annual Mingo Mingle was held on February 14th. Dave Micklo hosted the run at Mingo Creek county Park. Approximately 35 runners showed up on a cold and cloudy morning to run a couple of loops on the trails in the park. Dave's wife Sarah and John Buckwalter staffed the aid station at the start finish area. The support was excellent, it was set up just like an actual aid station, with many food choices. John even entertained us with magic tricks, balloon animals and unicycling. I will post the runners names and the distances they ran when Dave gets it all deciphered. I got a chance to talk with many of the runners, asking what their racing plans are for the upcoming season. Dave has an interesting decision to make. He was accepted into the Hardrock 100, considered by many to be the toughest 100 miler there is. He also plans on completing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of the Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100, and Wasatch Front 100. Hardrock would be sandwiched in between two of those races, which are plenty tough already. He is going to have a busy summer. The picture above is of one of the creek crossings at Mingo. The temps where in the middle 20's most of the day, there was plenty of ice in the creek, and the trail was crunchy. A perfect day for a run.

Don't forget about the J.C. Stone 50k in a few weeks. The race will be held in North Park and is entirely on roads, those of you looking for a fast 50k should check this race out. The website is The course is fast and the aid stations are first rate.

I heard from Jeff Gleason earlier this week, he is going to do the Badwater 135 this summer. I will try to keep you posted on his training as the event approaches. I will talk with him while volunteering at the JC Stone race, and will update you on his plans.

Jason D. will be competing in the MMT 100 in May, that is one tough race. It is presented by the VHTRC and is probably the toughest 100 mile race east of the Mississippi River.

Only one week to go before Chuck, Tim, Tom and I get started at the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I completed my sled and can not wait to get underway. Here is a picture of the blank sheet of plastic, and the finished product. Pretty cool, eh. I can take out the fasteners, roll it up and put in my duffle bag for the plane ride. The airlines are getting pretty tough on the size of items you check. Chuck had an article about the race in the Post Gazette this week. Tim and I were interviewed by the Tribune Review. You can find either article by going to the website for each paper and entering Iditarod in the search bar.

We leave on Friday and the race begins on March 1st. It is the only race I have been to where everyone is eating right up until the start. We will be in the Knik bar having a burger and fries before the race. I will tray to post one last report before leaving.

Lastly, Wayne has informed me that he will be hosting a 6 hour fun run at his house in August. It will be a trail loop format with an aid station at his house. His wife Jan has promised a tasty feast afterwards for all of the runners. Also, I have heard that Steve Miller may be putting together a fun run at North Park, I will let you know when I get official word.

Take care and run strong. Spring will be here soon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Six more weeks of winter

It's Groundhog Day and Phil determined that there will be six more weeks of winter. That is great news! Our training for the Iditarod is going well, and the more cold weather we have, the better. A couple of weeks ago, Chuck, Tim, Loreen, Rick B. and myself did a training run in the Laurel Highlands. The snow machine trails were in great shape and we were able to pull our sleds for about five hours that night. Afterwards, we camped out in the woods, where night-time temps dropped well below zero. It was really good training for Alaska. Chuck mentioned that he learned a lot on that trip. The next day we traveled to the Cleveland area for the Buckeye Trail 50k. They had a lot of new snow, which made the trail fairly slippery the entire day. We chalked it up as a good training run.

We got a good run in at Mingo Park on Sunday in preparation for the fun run coming up in a couple of weeks. The trails were snow covered and tough to run on. The weather is going to warm up for a few days, so the trails should be better by the end of the week. At least they are not muddy, which is the case much of the year. Don't forget to join us for the Mingo Mingle on February 14th. You can view details on the webpage, which can be found here:
I added links to a couple of images of the trail that Bob Fargo sent to me.

Steeler nation is fired up, as our favorite team won it's Sixth Super Bowl last night. What a game, as the lead changed hands three times in the final minutes. Many of the South Hills area ultra-runners watched the game at Don's house.

I am still waiting for the new plastic to arrive so that I can complete work on my sled. I am guessing that the bad weather across the country slowed the delivery, and hope that it arrives this week. I will put a couple of pictures up when I get it finished. I also plan on switching from a synthetic sleeping bag to a down bag so that I can shed a few pounds on my sled. We will be sending our food drops to Alaska shortly, which the race will take by plane to the two drop points along the Iditarod course. I am beginning to get excited again, and can not wait to get started.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter has Arrived

I began the new year with the annual Recover From the Holidays 50k fun run, sponsored by Don Smith. This was our sixth year for the run, and over seventy folks showed up to run with us. It was a good thing that we moved the start area, as the old one would not have comfortably accommodated all of those runners. The weather was great, and the food that people brought was even better. Joe Bertini and Cindy Sanchas each brought hot food that everyone enjoyed. We had a generator to supply electricity and a gas stove to heat up soup. You can view a recap of the run here:

Next month there is another fun run at Mingo Creek County Park, Dave Micklo and friends are sponsoring it. I have added some information on another webpage that you can view here:

Many of those who ran with us last week have e-mailed to say that they will be at the Mingo run. For those of you who have not run in Mingo Park before, this is a great way to learn some of the trails. It is a very good park for trail running. Check out the webpage, and e-mail Dave M. or myself if you have any questions. Otherwise, I will see you all on February 14th. Don't worry, you will be done early enough to take your significant other out to dinner.

We are finally getting some cold winter weather along with a little snow. Chuck and I can get some much needed training, pulling our sleds, and camping in the cold. We were going to spend last weekend at Laurel, but the rain put a damper on those plans. We are probably the only two people in Pittsburgh who are looking forward to the cold snap that is bearing down on the area. We will spend the first part of the weekend in the mountains, and then head up to Cleveland early Sunday morning for the Buckeye Trail 50k. The BT50k has become somewhat of a ritual for us, as this will be the fourth year in a row we have gone. We make a day of it, running the race, eating at a local pub, and visiting with our friend Vince at Vertical Runner in Hudson. Last year I picked up a Smartwool shirt that worked perfectly during my Alaska expedition.

I finished my sled prototype and took it out for a spin tonight. It worked wonderfully. I had trouble last year with my sled tipping over on the Iditarod Trail, so I tried to tip the new one, and could not do it. I still have a few tweaks to make before building the final version that I will take to Alaska. I am real excited that my design is working so well.

Stay warm, and keep up the base training. These are the kind of days that make us tough later in the year.