Monday, March 21, 2005


My first Ultra is complete. Did I say first? I meant to say my one and only.

This is a baby ultra. An ultra is technically anything over the marathon distance of 26.2; a 50K (31 miles) is the shortest ultra.

The Hat 50K has been evolving over the years and at the pasta dinner and at the start/midway/finish point they displayed a history of the event. It takes a great deal of effort to organize an event like this, especially one that went so smoothly.

I decided to ride down on Friday so I would be fresh for the run. It also gave me a chance to attend the Pasta dinner and talk to some of those who would be running the next day. I met a couple of other first timers as well as some experienced ultra runners.

We were blessed with perfect weather - maybe a tad warm. Despite a forecast of cloudy weather, we had brilliant, blue skies all day. Much of the trail runs along the Susquehanna River which was particularly beautiful- a cold, dark blue. I had a great
view of Port Deposit where my father-in-law was born. He would have been 102 this month.

The course is very varied: wooded trails of course, but also fields and a long portion on a wide cinder trail. Parts of the wooded sections were very rocky. There were beautiful white stones that someone told were quartz. The last lap I picked up a small piece as a souvenir and a charm. Several waters crossings but I never got wet, unlike many runners who chose to simply run across. I also saw a couple of spills by some less nimble runners. (The rock hopping necessary to avoid getting your feet wet wasn’t bad the first loop but by the second those hops were a lot more tricky.) I had one runner argue it wasn’t bad getting your feet wet but I worried that running wet would create blisters.

I ran 29 miles well but had some problems toward the end with cramping - I used Succeed but probably could have taken more. The aid stations were about five miles apart. They were well stocked with food (boiled potatoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels and chips) and drink; even ibuprofrin was available. Unlike marathon water stations where at the most runners slow to a walk, Ultras stopped, refilled water bottles and actually ate food.

I liked the laid back Ultra approach - walk the hills, enjoy the aid stations, lots of talking even late in the race. The first hour flew by and even the whole six hours seemed to past quickly. Although many were first timers like me, some runners were dedicated ultra runners; a woman I ran with was using this run as a training run for a fifty miler 9 April (Bull Run).

I finished in 6hr14minutes. I even took time at the mid-way point to change shoes and shirt.

I'll do better next time - wait a minute there WILL BE NO NEXT TIME!

Oh and I left one of my favorite shirts and my finishers hat at the finish pavilion. Wrote the race director. Not much chance for my shirt but maybe I can get another hat.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Spring Races

I would have blogged about the Northeast Roadrunners 10K earlier but I had trouble getting Hello to post the photos and never got around to posting an account. So here’s a delayed report of that race.

There are relatively few events schedule for February. I guess Race Directors are rightly concerned that February weather is just too iffy and runners just too likely to past an event if the weather is bad to justify holding a race.

Northeast Roadrunners kick off the spring race season with a low key 10K using the bike path on Kelly Drive.

Northeast Road Runners Posted by Hello

It’s an out and back. The race starts and ends at Lloyd Hall seen in the photo above and here (note the snow!)

Lloyd Hall Posted by Hello

They get a pretty good crowd. I was still in my Ultra training so I went out easy a couple of miles before the race. Ran a hard race but held enough in reserve to do an additional 10 after the race. I was satisfied to break 50 minutes. Iwanted to do 8 minute miles and I nailed it right on,

This is a common ritual at races when runners gather around the board where the finishers tags have been posted in finish order:

Checking Results Posted by Hello

and then do the river drives loop. I tried the walk run on the loop. Not sure about this method. It was nice to have the walk to look forward to and it wasn’t as hard to start running after walking as I feared. Still I think I became a little too dependent on the walking. Jury’s out on this but I no doubt will be doing a lot of walking in the Ultra.

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon

Caesar Rodney Posted by Hello

So what was I doing running a half-marathon one week before my Ultra. Well I figure for an Ultra a half marathon was a taper. Similar to last week my goal was to run hard but not so hard as to risk injury or prevent a quick recovery. In bad weather last year I ran a 1:49:xx so I wanted to at least match that pace. I amazed myself my coming in quite close to that mark. I will have to see the times when they are posted but I believe I about 1:49:30 chip time.

I have done CR a number of times and always enjoy it. Like the Icicle Run in January you get to use the YMCA’s facilities which makes it easier to get ready pre race and to have a nice hot shower before heading home. There’s a large parking lot across the street, so unlike a Philly downtown race, parking is easy.

The tough thing about this race is the elevation changes.

CR elevation Posted by Hello

You start in Caesar Rodney Square (that's Caesar Rodney's statue above) and do a loop that takes you down to the waterfront and then back to Rockford Park. Those four miles are rolling with some hills but the real climb is in the park. Two and half miles of steady climb going thru Brandywine, along Kentmere Parkway and into Rockford Park. There is a stretch along Rt 52 and the turn around is the MNBA building. You then have the pleasure of two plus miles of downhill back thru the parks before making a steep climb to the finish line. This is one of the steepest finishes I have seen and to hear comments from others one of the steepest anywhere.

This is the deceptively calm looking finish area just before the race:

Preparing the finish line Posted by Hello

A light week of running this week. Next Saturday the Ultra.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Thoughts From The List

I subscribe to a listserv (a discussion group on the internet). The group is the Dead Runners Society and while to topics vary, they almost always revolve around running. Here follows my reflections on three recent threads.

Two of the runners reflected on how the enthusiasm has gone out of their running. I responded with:

Among saints there are mystics who had ecstatic
experiences. It is said that they get a glimpse of
the divine and hence of heaven, but frequently these
same saints experience a dark night of the soul - a
"lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. In
the dark night you feel profoundly alone." The dark
night comes on for no readily explicable reason but
seems to be a necessary part of that experience.

It doesn't seem unlikely that highly competative runners
experience a similar phenomenon in their running
lives. The mystics are of course more likely to be
subject to the dark night because they have come so
close to the light. Plodders like me while not immune
are less likely - our peaks are lower but our valleys
are less deep.

I have almost always been mid pack and I run not for
the expectation of great results but for fear of what
will happen if I dare stop.

Good luck guys - hang in there. The great saints did
and were often rewarded with even deeper experiences.

Music and listening to it frequently comes up in list discussions. So favor it and some abhor it. This thread got started when someone asked about Ipods and skipping:

I have always favored listening to music while running
and often became impatient when Runners World would
lecture about not using headphones and their
insistentance on the dangers of headphones. That said
recently I have forgone music as often as I have
use it and ironically I have no mp3 player but
continue to use an old Panasonic cassette player. It
has taken quite a beating and keeps working - it uses
one double A battery that last for hours.

There are two programs I enjoy and will sometimes
schedule a run around:

A local stationhas a program on Sunday mornings that plays Elvis for
three hours. The disc jockey is a lot of fun and is full
of trivia about the King and his music. Makes a three
hour run fly.

On Saturdays Temple University's radio station plays
From the Top.
This is a show that spotlights young classical musicians.
It's only an hour but it is followed by opera from the Met.
I probably wouldn't sit and listen to either of these
shows so running allows me to enjoy some great music.
(For reasons beyond my comprehension Philadelphia has
no full time classical radio station - a few years
back when the WFLN the classical station went off air
Temple WRTI picked up classical music part time much
to the consternation of jazz fans who lost jazz air

The next thread began when someone posted about the animals one might see while on the run. My contribution follows:

I have written in the past about my fascination with
seeing wild animals on my runs. Admittedly, my life
list is quite a bit tamer then Sally's but I have
enjoyed my glimpses of deer, rabbits, groundhogs,
foxes, chipmunks, egrets, hawks, and vultures. Even
close to home, I have seen in early mornings raccoons
scurry into the sewer and possums sauntering along
barely aware of my presence. I have gotten to run thru
a zoo but I guess those sightings don't count. But
running on the beach I have seen all the various shore
birds, crabs and jellyfish, and even pods of dolphins
off in the surf. I have seen paths covered with wooly
caterpillers and fields full of wonderful butterflies.
I have seen hundreds of robins gathered together and
came home one morning to see my house surrounded by
mourning doves. All winter my wood has been populated
by bright red cardinals and in a couple of weeks will
fill with many other birds back from their winter
holidays. All this for a city boy like myself is
quite wonderful.