Monday, December 29, 2014

Xmas in Shallotte

Got some solid mileage down in Shallotte over the Christmas holiday. Seven mile harder run late afternoon Christmas Eve after some torrential rains finally let up. Legs were pretty dead at the beginning of the run but I was determined for reasons somewhat unknown to push the pace harder.  At times I have to kind of wind my legs up like a coil... or pound thru the earlier miles when my legs feel sluggish and fatigued... to be able to get to where I can let it then unwind or uncoil pace wise and run faster like I want to.

Which did occur after a few miles and after I was forced due to a washed out road to detour my run. I think some days though... to return to said unknown reasons...I just need to feel the sensation of running faster and to work through the accompanying processes which correlate to and occur when running harder. IE changes in breathing, pulse, lactic acid build up. And mentally..  combatting or pushing through the VOICE that tells me to slow down, it hurts too much, you can't sustain this, etc, etc. Maybe I need to know that I can still do it.

Ran the five mile loop around the outer perimeter of Brierwood with my Dad Christmas morning. Told him at one point that I feel like through all the years of going to visit and running when there that I know almost every inch of this route. A car drove  by us later in the run and a woman rolled down her window and said "Merry Christmas" I asked my Dad if he knew who it was but he didn't.

The next day we did nine miles on a course that took us into the back country roads of southern Brunswick County. The miles rolled by smooth like the puffy white clouds drifting high up in the clear winter sky. Later I went down to Ocean Isle Beach and put down another six miles as the big orangey yellow sun fell towards the western horizon. Took a short walk onto the beach at low tide... soaking in the immense swath of ocean after another blessed day of some good ol runnin' 

Monday, December 22, 2014

December runs

Two a days again on Monday. Eight miles in the morning, mostly back in the CB State Park. Foggy, damp, chilly morning. Back in the woods the grey white of the sky is like a marshmellowy pillow lying gently atop the trees. At one point I lose myself to the cacophony from a large flock of birds that I cannot see. As I run I just listen to them and the gentle thwapping sound my shoes make on the pine needle and leaf covered trail. 

The miles glide by like friendly guests at a dinner party.  I may linger for a moment... but then its a seamless transition to the next.

Added some sprints in the grass by the CB Lake when I was done. Watched some shore birds first for a few moments.  I knocked out another four plus miles later in the day, ending the run in a light shower... but beating the rain for the most part. Legs felt loose and fluid.  I opened it up a little but not too much. No need to today. Last week I ran two a days twice and picked the pace up a good bit on the second, shorter runs. Pushed through some fatigue Friday.

Ran eight miles Saturday morning with my Dad in the western part of the city of Richmond. Followed a route that I had run the previous winter while up there and staying in the same hotel.  Which led us to Deer Creek Park...a forested oasis in the midst of urban America. Recalled certain parts of the course as we ran... the narrow bridge over I-64, a steep half mile or so hill on the way back, the barking dogs behind a local vet's office. The labyrinth of gravel and dirt trails in the park. My Dad was real happy with the run afterwards.

We also had the fortuitous chance to see a hawk fly across the road with a squirrel in its talons.

Fifty miles week last week which is right where I want to be. Enjoying the process. Finding bits of peace and serenity inside the runs. Feeling grateful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Ran a pretty good 5k race on Saturday. 18:38 chip time. Even paced miles; splits of 6:03, 6:03, 6:07. Last mile was back into a slight wind plus I had no one around me. But was able to push it pretty hard. Grade myself at about a B or B- for effort.

Feeling a stirring inside of me to get back more in tune with idea of a Vision Quest which I began last spring. Did culminate at least temporarily with the Iron Mountain fifty mile race

But now I'm longing to pick up her torch again and blaze forward into new adventures.  Of which I can't seem to be able to articulate into words. Maybe that's alright though. Its basis anyhow lies in the physical action of running. The mind and spirit will follow.

Of course time will tell. For now the plan is to base build and get the weekly/ monthly mileage totals built back up some more. Also staying diligent with and adding to the ancillary work. Free weights and upper body work with pushups. The core work doing sit ups and planks + the myrtle routine after runs. And adding back in some leg work like lunges and squats.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Night before

I like to listen and watch the ocean's waves rolling in the night before a race. Think about harnessing her brute power... storing it up and then unleashing it on race day.

The invisible energy between the moon and the water.

Feeling it inside of me.

Knowing that the pain will come. But not trying to dwell on it or think about it too much the night before. Visualizing hitting my marks... pacing, splits. Reminding myself again not to go out too fast. Perhaps seeing a quick flash of a clock time at the finish line. 18:XX  (5K)

Giving thanks. Giving thanks that I'm of sound mind and body and am blessed to be working off some nervous energy the night before a race. Never forgetting (even if not consciously thinking of) where I came from.

Seeking humility.

Feeling closer to God.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Blessed to be able to spend a few days back home and running in eastern Pennsylvania.

Cold runs. Dressed in long pants, layers, beanie, and gloves. But enjoying every mile of. Hitting the hills. Running parts of the old routes that I cut my teeth on twenty, thirty years ago. Yes Thomas Wolfe... in running you can go home again.

Ran a section of the D and L (Delaware and Lehigh) trail one of the days. Started at the Lehighton trailhead and ran south along the west bank of the Lehigh River. Was a grey, damp day with temps in the low to mid 30s. Those days where any color seems to be washed out by the vast grey sky which droops down amoeba like on all sides. But in its wake a certain type of beauty seems to emerge... if only one is looking for it in the right places.

The kind of day where when I pass the old railroad electric T like poles I think of my grandfather and how he fished and hunted all around here ... these were his woods, his river, and his streams. I feel proud to be carrying on in his name. The trail curves around the base of the Blue Mountain and a find myself running in some ethereal spot that I used to have disjointed dreams about years and years ago. I can see the hi way across the river up against the other side of the gap in the mountain. Its romantically outlandish to be running here.... as if a portal has been opened into another dimension. I try n make sense of some of the graffiti scrawled high up on the over hanging rock faces. Like we used to look at as kids riding by way across on the hi way

On the way back a train goes by on the other side of the river and on down thru the valley. I run to its low groaning rumbling hum and think of nothing but just listen to the noise until it fades and fades and fades...

I felt really alive


I did a late afternoon harder run on the towpath (in shorts, the only time) one of the days. Half mile or so in I wonder what is on the bottom of my right shoe.  I stop briefly to scrape the sole off on a bench and realize nothing is there its just that my foot is numb and just feels funny. I ran to the observation tower and up the two small flights of stairs ... and stopped for a brief second and gazed out at the cold running waters of the Lehigh snaking on down thru the woods and the valley. Back down and back up the towpath running hard, running strong thru the fading daylight closing the last 2 miles in 6;11 and 5:57 pace.

Other runs I hit all the hills I could. The hills where you lick your knees and shuffle one foot and front of the other ...til you think your lungs will pop. Hills that I've crested a million times

On and on and on it goes...and I shall return yet again.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Trail Racing

Ran the Carolina Beach State Park 4 mile trail race Saturday in a time of 24:38. Finished in 4th place overall out of 253 runners, and won top Masters. Nice morning spent with my Dad and some friends old and new in the running community. Picture perfect late fall day too, with clear skies, little wind, and temps in the 30s and 40s.

It was one of those days running and racing wise where things seemed to click. I felt alright on a easy 1.5 mile jog warm up with my Dad before we went back to the park... and also added some in and out sprints in the State Park ten to fifteen minutes before the 9am start. 

I knew the pace would probably be pretty fast the first half mile or so on the main park road before we filed onto the trails... since its much harder to pass and make up ground there. Which is counter to how I like to begin a shorter race at a more relaxed/ controlled harder pace before getting up to race speed closer to say the 1/2-  3/4 of a mile mark. Secretly I was hoping it wouldn't be too frenetic early...which in retrospect it wasn't too bad...and there was plenty of distance to shake the field out. But nonetheless I knew the sprints would help elevate my heart rate to be more prepared for the fast early tempo.

Was in about tenth place when I did hit the trails. Its kind of surreal racing on roads and trails that I run on all the time, mostly by myself. But it also served to motivate me to do better. And it also served to put a little pressure on myself to come up with a good performance on my home turf.

I fell in behind a guy who judging from his appearance I assumed (correctly, 46 years old) was also a Master's runner. During the next 2-3 miles we would each try surges in attempts to drop the other. It was fun in a physically and mentally taxing way to be really racing someone in the race. Was also a younger guy with us too whom I kept incorrectly assuming was going to fall off our pace. Though he did late.

When in such battles I listen to the other person's breathing to get a sense of how they are feeling. I also thought about the final race scene in Once a Runner where the hero notices the shoulders start to droop on the runner he's pursuing on the final lap... therefore gauging that he's beginning to fade and tire.

Knowing the course and layout was a big advantage to have. As the two of us caught up to another runner, I plotted to commence a longer kick coming off a sharp turn and entering a longer and wider straight away on the trails. So with about 600 meters left (and I like this distance as one for a long, extended kick) I made what I hoped to be my last move and took off. The guy I had been racing said something quick like "go get 'em" which I assumed meant he wasn't going with me. But I took no chances and kept the hammer down for a good 200-300 meters until the course turned onto the last single track trail section to the finish.  I kept thinking as I had for most of the latter half of the race Steve Prefontaine saying "you're going to have to bleed this out of me to beat me..."

I couldn't hear anyone behind me foot step or breathing wise then. Looping down this last trail my legs really started to tie up and I dry heaved and nearly hurled. My friend Shawn was trail side taking photos and yelled encouragement and told me to pump my arms (which was much appreciated). I had spent my capital and was done but had opened up a big gap (I did look back) and was able to cruise it home on wobbly legs across the last elevated boardwalk section and under the clock and into the finishing chute. I love being able to see the clock at the end of good races... its such a magical thing to see it when we are running a satisfying time. (though on the flip side we may curse and rue it when we just miss a pr or some goal time).

As for my Dad he had an ok race... but was upbeat and vowed to put in a little more work for the next time. For me its a little rest then some mileage/ harder work outs before a 5k on Dec 13th. Then I hope some more base building over the winter.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hills. Thoughts. Atmosphere.

Hill repeats Saturday morning on Snow's Cut Bridge. Six of them at an average pace of 6:25- 6:30 per mile (at a length of about .35- .40 miles). Took the down parts easy this time. Trying mechanically to stay smooth and fluid... focused as well once the lactic acid starts to flood my legs about half way into each repeat. Running them all one at a time mentally. Breaking each one into sections... using the "lines" on the bridge partitions, or spray painted markings on the sidewalk.  Or metal attachments on the railings. Reminding myself each time to run thru the tape. Half way thru I started to recall something I had read in a magazine article... but just as quickly that train of thought evaporated.

During one of the latter reps I thought about the chocolate milk and cookies I consumed the night before... and nearly started to puke. So I mildly rebuked myself for lack of dietary control.

But sometimes it best not to think. And just run. Maybe that's why so many of us do this. There's enough thinking to be done in the other parts of our days.

Though there are runs where a particular situation lies in my mind in a certain fashion... but by the end of the run it has shifted noticeably to some other state. Usually for the better. Why...?

Monday and its warm, humid... quite breezy and almost tropical like for late fall. I headed back to state park woods after briefly debating running an 8 mile course down into Kure Beach. There's a bit of an electricity in the air... barely noticeable, but there. Those of us who are more in tune with mother nature tend to revel in such observations. Like later when I see my friend Jimmy at the beach watching the churned up ocean's waves... commenting on where it'll be best to surf. 

Run wise though I feel a little lethargic body wise... a bit heavy. So I discard the notion of running faster and instead settle into a comfortable mid eight minute mile pace. The woods are wet and some sections of the trails water logged. What a glorious day though to be out running.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cold November

More cold weather running the past week. Even put on long pants a few days. Which may have caused me to trip over a metal wire that crosses one of the off road entrance points I use to run back into the CB State Park. I guess I didn't properly adjust the height of my jump to compensate for the extra weight and pull of said track pants. (sometimes as I approach I do think of my steps and timing the same way a hurdler counts steps between hurdles or a basketball player does approaching the hoop for a dunk).  Nevertheless I ended up with a nice little bloody gash on my left shin. 

Patti came down to Chappelle Park to be trained in speed work. I didn't tell her about the gash. But I did break off two 400s. The first in sub 1:20, and then a 1:25 to show her how its done. Complete with explanations of the changes in my breathing, and lactic acid build up in my legs.  Later my hip area was a little sore I think from trying to run too fast in the damn pants.

The previous Sunday I ran a 3+ mile tempo on Snow's Cut Bridge. Four times...or two complete trips over and back. Pleasantly surprised I put down 3.07 miles in under 20 minutes. Closed in a hi 5 pace. Dry heaved a bit on the second trip across near the top of the bridge (going into the wind). Three runners passed on the other side of the bridge which I think was part of an unofficial 55 mile ultra going on that day. We exchanged waves.  My friend Bert yelled to me from his van.

Put down 1:47 in run time Thursday morning. Inner island trails and then back to the state park trails. Ran out of the state park again, down along the Cape Fear river on the trails that eventually lead to Kure Beach. Have enjoyed re-discovering this area, but also cognizant of the fact that technically I'm trespassing and therefore I remain a little more alert to my surroundings. Last week I did hear men out working up towards where the town has its maintenance facilities... but I didn't get close enough for anyone to see me. Then again I'm not sure if they'd care.

Went back out again in the late afternoon after a core workout of sit-ups and planks. Cut down 4 miler on the inner island trails, with the last mile on Lake Park Blvd. Closed in a 6:16 mile... controlled harder pace. Felt good... had a decent amount of pop in my legs.

Met Brandon back at the state park today for an hour long run. Enjoying some of fall foliage that we do get around here. Me telling him about how beautiful it is in Pennsylvania for a few weeks in October. Him telling me about Asheville. Took him down and out of the state park as well (disclaimer: I did mention there was a very slight chance we could be arrested). He stopped out there and took a leak while we were discussing Jason Avant being cut by the Panthers.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lost in the woods

Been starting to incorporate a longer run about once a week into my routine again.  Running by time and not by distance... extending it out by 5-10 minutes etc. per week. Wearing my ten dollar wrist watch on such runs as to not have any inclination to think about pace.

Such runs also serve a dual function in that they let me sort of escape for awhile from the vicissitudes of life. Which I choose to do so in the sanctuary of the woods. Today its on the inner island trails and the state park trails in Carolina Beach

I get lost in the variances of the trail, the changes in vegetation, the sounds of animals. A deer appears up ahead and then bounds off and away deeper into the forest and out of site. Later I come upon a gathering of black crows... chattering and noisy as usual, but not in an kind of bothersome way.  They take flight as I approach...

On parts of the trails down along the Cape Fear River towards Kure Beach I etch crosses in the sand at certain intersections... just a reminder if need be to turn on my way back. I think about occasionally coming across other markings, lines etc along trails and wonder who put them there and why. Many years ago someone had written out Merry Christmas (or maybe Happy Holidays) with pine cones on one of the trails. I was pleasantly surprised that it lasted there for many days.

Parts of the trail are narrow, deer like trails that I must duck around and under vegetation at times. The colors now are getting a bit duller, but still quite pretty in their simplicity. Before I almost know it, its time to head home, back onto the roads, back into civilization.

The machinery of it all may be exactly as I left it... but that's ok. I know where I can go again tomorrow and the next day, and the next... 

Monday, November 3, 2014


Colder weather running returned the past 2 days. Temps in the 30s and 40s. Had to put on a beanie and gloves for the first time since last spring. Always something ritualistic like though when coming upon that first run of the season where we  dress different... ie a knit hat/ gloves... or conversely that first shirt-less run. The passage of time can be measured, and the approach of new seasons can be gauged by the clothes donned to run.

Sunday morning and I take notice to how crystalline blue the sky looks... literally cloudless as well. Contrasted against the hues of green atop the pine trees in the woods. Internally I smile in the presence of Mother Nature's art work. I  recall some lines of Jim Morrison's poetry... give us an hour to let us perform our art and perfect our lives... or something to that effect. Steve Prefontaine once called races works of art that can effect people in more ways than they can comprehend.

I think about expectations. And striving with the help of a higher power to have less and less of. 'Peace is possible only when we let go of expectations" is a favorite quote of mine. And the wisdom passed on by running coach Joe Vigil to ask nothing from your running... and you'll get more than you ever imagined.

Out here some days all of this seems possible. Spiritually we are without limits. Growth occurs with every step forward, no matter the speed or the terrain. Monday as I lope along a well traveled part of one of the CB State Park trails,  I try to just listen to and be consciously aware of the gentle thwapping of my sneakers on the dirt and pine straw... and the rhythm of my breathing. There's a certain cadence to it, and its like one is keeping time for the other. This of course soon passes as thoughts inevitably pop into my head. But as I look up at the liquid clear blue sky... again almost cloudless... I give thanks for another precious hour spent doing what I love to do.

Monday, October 27, 2014

HappY Running

First 40 mile week in almost two months last week.

I ran along side a butterfly for little while today. A bright orange and black one. Saw a bald eagle and one large deer Saturday morning in the CB State Park. Colin and I bush wacked it trying to follow and catch a better site of both. In between conversations about quarter mile splits, mile repeats, lifting weights, ultras...

Nice for a change not to have any specific races I'm training for on the calendar. No 20 miler I cant miss or speed work to be endured on a cold, rainy day. I can sleep in... or run a harder six mile cut down run like I did Sunday morning... closing with a 6:18 last mile. Counting it off a tenth of a mile at a time the final half mile. Finish strong, run thru the tape...

Hatching ideas/ plans to run races up in PA in 2015. Finding and reading thru old race results on the internet. Texting Paul. Checking how friends did in the Marine Corp Marathon.

Getting excited. Falling in love again and again. Running is a gift that seems to have an inexhaustible supply of giving. Which can be as simple as feeling good on a winding trail in the woods. Just for the moment things are alright man. We'll keep stretching our wings... heading towards new horizons, dreaming new dreams. Filling up scrap books of memories... peppered with joy, sweat, and a little bit of pain.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pie. Motivation.

Ran 19:10 Saturday morning at the Son Run 5K in Wrightsville Beach. Not my best race but certainly not my worst.  Won top Masters, for which I got a pie and a bag of gifts that included a thermos and a pair of socks. 

Smaller field, only 115 or so runners. Saw a guy I know Steve from Jacksonville whom I correctly assumed would be my primary over 40 competition. Perhaps inspired (foolishly) by another Steve (Prefontaine) I made a tactical decision between a quarter and half mile in to front run on him and force him to try and go after me or chase me down. I figured also it wasn't the type of day...a bit breezy...that's conducive to running someone down. (preface: reading the sections of the book Bowerman and the Men of Oregon about Pre's years at the school. He was famous for his style of front running in races, and considered it some type of racing sin not to).

The net result of which was going out too fast in a 5:55 mile. The course though had to be altered that morning due to a water main break, and included a turn around.  Plus most of the last mile was back into the wind. Any kind of sustained wind makes it difficult for most runners I know to run faster, shorter races. Part of it I'm sure is psychological... but also its just physically harder to run faster into an impediment.

Anyhow it broke a streak of some pretty good races for me. Again wasn't a poor race by any means. But I didn't have that extra gear, nor the countenance to summon my very best. Nonetheless its healthy to not always race at ones peak. For one, its hard to sustain peak fitness levels. It can lead to burnout and/or injury. Second, it fuels me personally to kind of hit the drawing boards... realize again I don't have all the answers so to speak. And it motivates me to train harder to get back closer to those peak fitness and racing levels. Plus it makes me appreciate more when all the cosmic cylinders do click in to place during a race. (to paraphrase from the movie Field of Dreams.)

But for now I'll enjoy my pie. As I enjoyed the company on a nice fall morning with several friends and members of the Wilmington running community.

There are more runs and workouts on the horizon. And races.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Not vs giving in

Getting back into doing speed work and harder tempo runs as I'd like to concentrate on a few shorter fall races. Plus its nice to shift focus away from training for an ultra or longer races after some much needed rest and downtime.

Ran a set of 8 400s last Wednesday back on the grass of Chappelle Park.  Averaged about 1:23 thru the first seven reps on a short recovery cycle of 75 seconds. After the fifth rep I was starting to almost dry heave and would have to double over for a good 15-20 seconds before being able to slowly shuffle/ jog back to my starting line. The eight and final one again the lactic acid started tying my legs up already within a 100 meters or so... causing my breathing to falter and my chest to start to constrict and tie up ... or as described in the seminal classic The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner... it felt like I had a bag of nails in my chest.

Of course for those of us who labor in such endeavors this is nothing new, and is something we periodically encounter. But on the last rep I just couldn't seem to will my body, and perhaps more importantly my mind thru it. Subsequently my pace slackened and I finished in 1:28. Still a good work out, but that last rep would nag at me mostly because of how I reacted to it.

Some days we give in and succumb to the pain. We see the wall we must smash thru (and we know how to smash thru it from experience) but we stop short at its base. We flinch and back away, for reasons unknown.

Friday I set out on a tempo/ cut down run of 6-8 miles. Ran into a headwind up towards the north end of the island, but once I made the turn and headed back I attempted to drop the hammer down from the current pace of hi 6s the last 2 miles.  I heard a voice say I'll catch you if you fall at the end...a strange mystical whispering. I was cognizant of that last rep Wednesday too. I wanted to hold it close to full throttle all the way around the neighborhood that juts back into the far end of the canal. This time when it all rushed at me I kept it at bay and fought the last stop sign... 5:57 pace for .63 miles. Just for today, I had won.

Reading Bowerman and the Men of Oregon. Made some tweaks to my speed work approach Monday. In laymen's terms I shouldn't quite be keeling over on the back half of interval sets. The results of which were a set of 12 200s at :37 on 90 seconds rest on the inner island dirt roads. Felt fluid and hard but not killer.

There will be plenty more walls to try and smash thru...

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Spirits increase

Back in the CB State Park running on a rather warm and muggy early October morning. Taking notice of all the small yellow and light purple flowers which  pop up seemingly at their own whim. Their colors stir in me some primal urge to be forgiven...or maybe to not have to be reminded of  the natural, simple beauty that is all around us.

I feel like I've been taking more than I've been giving of late, especially in regards to other people. Sure I have not been feeling well the past several weeks; vertigo and headaches, and a head cold that effectively took away my voice the last few days. Still though I feel this is but a crutch to excuse poor behavior...and today while running in the woods, without having to express it thru conventional language, I felt as though the God I continue to strive to find understood this. And said without saying that it was all ok. You're human and fallible. I can and will forgive you.

Somewhere I read that a trick to life was getting the present moment right, mentally and spiritually. One of the best by products of running is the ability to often times do just that. By being present. By being aware of our internal mechanisms moment by moment, or by being acutely aware moment by moment of our surroundings. Like all spiritual insights into right living, it can be rare and fleeting...though seemingly at our finger tips. Which makes the taste oh so sweet when we do find ourselves in such a state of being.

On my way back out of the park I crested up and over Starvation Ridge as I've named it...and wound along one of my favorite sections of trail towards Walden Pond { named by me as well}. I saw an egret at the edge of the pond...its white plumage striking against the background of greens and browns. I thought about all the birds in the novel Chesapeake I just started to read, and how things may have appeared  hundreds of years ago in the wild. And what runners or travelers had passed through this very spot many many years ago... quietly enjoying their own revelries with the world about them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Went for a faster 5 mile run Sunday night. Down the main drag on the island to Kure Beach and back in the dark. Been fighting a head cold and sometimes the best response I can summon against it is sort of like one big bleep you... I'm going to strap on my shoes and go blast a few miles.

Was the first time I had run hard in a month since Iron Mountain. The old sensations return quick; the tightness in the chest, lactic acid in the legs... the visuals of things whizzing by a little quicker than normal. Even at night. Finished a little under 34 minutes. Passed a young lady twice out running near Kure Beach... could hear music from her ipod. The waves crashing onto the beach as I ran the boardwalk by downtown KB struck some undefined chord deep within. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. 

Easy 3.5 Tuesday enjoying the over grown vegetation of the inner island trails and the pleasant, gay warmth of the autumn sun. Thoughts of nothing in particular. Flowing.

7.5+ again by day on Wednesday, taking the inner island trails into housing developments that lead me down past Kure Beach towards Fort Fisher. Not letting a cold lay me up. Knocking out 8 minute miles with not a whole heck of a lot of effort, though fighting a bit a headwind on the way back.  5 in and out sprints by the CB Lake. First time doing since August. Gradually upping the mileage and incorporating speed. But trying not to be in a hurry with any of it.

Enjoying the basics.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting the itch back

Read a quote in a book I just got called Duel in the Sun, "No one made a cent from their strenuous efforts. The running life, like the spiritual life, was it's own reward." 

Ran 6.5 miles yesterday. Gray, overcast day. Cooler, in the 60s. Sometimes the dull beauty of such days is striking, especially as I ran thru the woods in the state park. The greyness stretches to all sides of the horizon; there is no hole to escape thru into the sunshine. So you embrace, and learn to appreciate. The moisture from the past few day's rains lingers in the air and on the leaves and branches. The aesthetics envelope me...I could seemingly run on forever.

Talking about upcoming races this fall with Brandon at work. He ran some fartleks Monday. I start to think about 400s and threshold runs... and lining up for autumn 5ks.

The legs are coming back around again after their epic 50 mile jaunt at Iron Mountain. I wear the t-shirt with pride. But I'm ready for what's next. Ready to get back at it full bore and with abandon. Ready for new challenges and new goals. Ready to learn more about myself and the world around me.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Iron Mountain part II

Saturday August 30th, 2014
Iron Mountain 50 miler
Damascus, VA

We drove most of the day Friday from the Wilmington, NC area and got into Abingdon in the late afternoon, checked into our hotel and then went to Cracker Barrel for a pre race meal. I had the lemon trout, which I hoped to be some sort of good luck food since trout are very abundant in the streams and rivers of my home state Pennsylvania. I salted my vegetables heavy, following the advice of an ultra running friend Stephanie from the day before. After our country style feast Aren and I drove to Damascus to pick up all of our packets (I got us a bit lost on back roads... he joked at one point it was like being in some kind of amity horror flick as it got dark and started to rain... while we wound around country roads passing old barns and abandoned buildings).

Next morning we rolled out a little before six a.m.and descended into the darkness back down to Damascus. None of us slept that much. But once we parked the car at the town park and got out in the fresh, cool and dewy air, any tiredness was supplanted by anticipation and adrenaline for the mammoth task at hand. After bathroom stops and a few quick pictures it was time to check in and attend the 50 mile pre race briefing. (they, Aren and Natasha were running the 30). I doubled and tripled checked the laces on my shoes, found a quieter spot and said a short prayer, and we were off and running at precisely 7am.

The first few miles heading out of Damascus and onto the Virginia Creeper Trail afford the opportunity to sort of wake up the legs, shake off any rust, and also stretch the out field of about 75 runners. It is a wider, fairly flat trail.  I wore a cheap wristwatch that was set to clock time, and didn't worry too much about pace. Mostly I tried to settle in and get comfortable while enjoying the scenery, especially on the several wooden bridges that cross over a small river. Quite picturesque, and a welcome distraction.

At the Straight Branch  aid station about 5 miles in, there was I'm guessing a high school cross country team that wished us runners well as we passed through and crossed a road to get onto the Beech Grove Trail. Which is a single track trail that climbs up a mountain side to intersect with the Iron Mountain Trail. This trail like most on the course can be quite rocky and root strewn, so footing is always at a premium and concentration can never waver much. I fell in with some other runners and we alternated walking the steeper sections with running the parts of the trail that weren't so vertical. At one point the sun had  crested up and over an adjacent ridge line as visible thru the trees...and I remarked that it looked as if we were running straight into the dawn. A beautiful site to behold.

I had decided before the race the best approach mentally to running my first 50 miler was to break it down into several shorter runs from aid station to aid station. In my back pocket was a piece of paper with all the aid stations written down with their distances, and the cut off times runners had to be thru in order to not be pulled from the course. Based on the pace needed to finish in 12 hours or less. (I also wrote down some directions and an inspirational William Blake quote Scott Jurek uses, as well a trail running mantra used by Caballo Blanco in Born to Run "Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast")

I rolled into the FSR 90 aid station well ahead of schedule and feeling pretty good. Recalling the advice of my friend Michael to "eat eat eat," I ate a few small pbj sandwiches, drank some gatoraide, and had my 12oz water bottle filled by one of the many supportive and attentive volunteers on course. I pulled out my paper to confirm the next aid station was at Skulls Gap in 7 miles (mile 16) and headed back out onto the trails. Run to the next aid station, that's all, I told myself.

The next 7 miles were a lot of rolling single track thru dense woods. The sun was out and it started to warm up even under cover of the trees, and it would continue to get fairly warm throughout the day (into the 80s). I felt pretty good and on sections of flat trail and downhill my pace felt fairly frisky (perhaps a little too much as evidenced by my struggles later on in the day). Nonetheless I was enjoying myself and had really settled into the whole adventure aspect of it, and ended up coming into the Hurricane Gap aid station at mile 22 in a little over 4 hours, or a few minutes past 11am. Here I again ate some mini sandwiches, turkey and cheese, and also grabbed some nuts and made a baggie of trail mix that the young girls there suggested for me (including gummy bears as one of them told me I should have). ((( as an aside their enthusiasm was infectious and made me feel like some kind of running rock star both times I approached and heard their screams cascading thru the woods ))).

After leaving out I walked maybe a mile or so up a steeper fire service road until it crested, and I then ran again fairly fast down the back side until the course took a left turn and back onto single track. I estimated at some point I was half way done which pleased me; I was still feeling pretty good and foolishly (hindsight being 20-20) started thinking about what kind of time I could finish in (was low 9s now possible??).

But in the back half of the race the hills and climbs became much, much more arduous, and I started to get a taste of why this race is considered such a tough 50 miler ultra to finish. Over the next several miles my thought process shifted to lets just try and finish this thing... and not worry so much about time. I chided myself for my earlier bouts of naivety and perhaps foolishness pace wise in lieu of the total scope of the ultra. And really now internalizing that I was just running to the next aid station, nothing more, nothing less. The next aid stop was Rowland Creek Falls at mile 29.

Whereupon in addition to the usual fare of drinks and snacks (I was also drinking Mountain Dew, Coke, and Gatorade in addition to having my water bottle filled with water at stops) I was given a freeze pop. Perhaps by triggering some subconscious childhood memories, this freeze pop really buoyed my spirits as I plummeted back into the woods, and onto more uphill trail. The next section of single track trail I alternated running and walking. We crossed several shallow streams  the next few miles and hit some thick muddy type bogs that nearly sucked my shoes right off my feet. In one of the streams I paused to clean off my shoes to remove the weight of the mud.

It was only 3 miles to the next aid station, Hurricane Gap again, which thankfully went by fairly quick. However once leaving, the course started on a fire service road that wound seemingly forever up, up, and up to the highest points in elevation of the race. I walked almost all of this, in retrospect perhaps I should have run some... I don't know. I do know again this is where my thoughts shifted to more along the lines of lets just finish this and not worry about time per se, and also into a darker realm of can I actually finish this thing?... especially again later as I got to around the 40 mile mark.

But I was able to get back to running and once I would be running again my spirits would pick back up.  I'd get a little mojo back and perhaps even a small smile flashed across by fatigued face. I felt ok as I crossed a road and pulled up into the Skulls Gap aid station at mile 37. By now too the warmth of the day was taking a bit more of  a toll. I dumped water on my head and upper back which brought some temporary relief.  It always felt good to chat with the "sober minded" volunteers as well who can provide a good sense of feedback as to how I was holding up. Someone asked me if I wanted to sit down but I told them I may not get back up if I did so.

The next stretch to the FSR 90 aid station at mile 43 by far was the hardest for me, especially mentally. I had to really fight at times thoughts of wanting to give in, or just sit down trailside for a bit. Instinctively though I seemed to know that stopping, or sitting down would ultimately prove to be a poor decision... hence I would try as best as I could to arrest any negative thoughts while telling myself over and over to just keep moving forward, no matter how slow it may be. A couple of runners caught up to me and we ran/ walked together for awhile, and at one point sort of half panicked that we had gotten off course since we hadn't seen any pink streamers in a bit (I'm sure our perceptions were skewed as well...overall the course was very well marked.) And it also seemed like it was taking forever to get to the next aid station.

What a relief then it was to finally make it to that last aid station. I felt like once I made it there (and still had over 3 hours left per the cutoff) that I was going to actually finish the freakin' thing. I recalled from running the 30 mile race last year that there was still some work to be done, but also that there was a longer downhill section (albeit very technical due to rocks and the steep down grade).  And the last mile or so was flat in town back to the finish line. There were sponges in ice water that I and some of my fellow competitors used on the back of our heads and necks at FSR 90 that were a godsend. I wasn't eating that much by now; mainly just consuming fluids which would taste like heaven going down my throat.

Again I alternated walking all the uphill sections of single track and running the downhill ones, concentrating even more intently on every step. Miraculously I did not fall once in 50 miles, just tripped a few times. I stopped and chugged blue and red Gatorade at the last unmanned/ unofficial aid station, and kind of rejoiced almost religious like that these bottles were stashed here again (I kept looking for them for about a mile or two before I actually got to where they were. Several times I thought there was a small clearing up ahead, which from memory I knew where this "stop" would be located. Only to be disappointed once again that I was wrong, and it was just another small opening in the woods).

The final downhill section went by almost dream-like as I hopped and danced as best as I could on beat up legs from rock to trail to rock to root to trail. The wide trail crossed a few more streams nearer to the bottom. And at last I could see a road up ahead thru an opening in the forest. Down a hill and across two roads and back onto the Creeper trail, across two bridges, and I was once again running across the grassy field in the park and back to the start/ finish line ten and a half hours later. The applause of those who had already finished and / or were cheering for and supporting all of us out there was truly music to my ears, and made me almost weep with joy. I had done it. And it was one of the best feelings of accomplishment I've ever had in thirty years of running.

Hope to be back next year. Blessings to all,
Greg Zinner

Photo from Mary Shannon Johnstone

Monday, September 1, 2014

Iron Mountain part I

Paul, Natasha, and me

I just wanted to sit down along side of the trail and weep. Well not really cry... I wasn't sad or anything. And I'm not sure my body could have even produced any tears. Maybe I wanted to feel sorry for myself. Or give in. "These hills will never end!" my mind would scream. I kept telling it to shut up. Literally out loud I'd repeat "shut up mind".  You will have your say later but right now you are an impediment to the task at hand. I need my body and spirit to be unfettered by this negativity.

But I could cry tears of joy now when I think of all the wonderful, wonderful people who spent hours and hours of their day at the numerous aid stations on the course. God Bless you all. Especially the group of young girls I passed by twice who yelled and screamed and cheered like mad whenever one of us fatigued, thirsty, nauseous, battle weary runners approached thru the dense forest. When I started cramping bad later in that little dreamy mountain top meadow I ate some of the trail mix you helped me to make and as if by divine magic the pain backed off and I could run again...

I kept looking for nymphs and flute boys up ahead on the trails... (which secretly amused me)

For the young man puking his guts out in the middle of the woods I hope you made it back in one piece...

It can be a cruel sport. Minutes later I ate some more food stashed in a pocket and sipped on water as I could still hear his remonstrances back down the nettlesome trail. I never found that 2nd salt tablet in any of my three pockets. Despite looking several times. But am grateful for the one I did swallow. And for the best freeze pop I've ever had in my life.

I briefly feared being attacked by a swarm of bees somewhere along the never ending climb up a fire service road 30 some miles in. Never saw a bee but I sure heard them back up the mountain. One big strange, buzzing drone.

I'd like to remember how I thought about oh so many people I'm blessed to know in this world of ours... but truth be told I really didn't much during the race. Mostly I concentrated on the next step. Or when the trail was less rocky, rooty, and down right rugged I worked out math equations in my head... time elapsed and distance to the next aid station... in conjunction with the time to beat the cutoff to finish. Or shared encouraging exchanges with fellow runners I met on the course (and oh the joy when the foursome of us finally got to the FS 90 aid station at mile 43).  But you were all with me in my heart. This is the type of journey one cannot do alone.

Maybe the most valuable lesson learned out there was delivered by a voice deep inside of me that kept whispering "keep moving forward."  Even if its just inches at a time.

Fans of mine at Cedar Cove

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visions, dreams

Short hill repeats on Sugar Loaf Hill last week in the near suffocating heat and humidity. I think so this is how it is in the jungles of southeastern Asia?  Its almost hard to catch my breath after I crest the sandy hill each time and gaze out at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, forever nonplussed by any of this. My heart races bam bam bam bam bam bam bam as I turn to head back down. Today taking the narrow steeper stretch of hill fairly fast to get a bit of a feel for how I may run some parts of the terrain at Iron Mountain.

I catch site of yet another lizard that scurries like a hallucinated flash across the trail and think "the lizards are getting fat."  This amuses me, and makes me feel a bit more at peace with my surroundings. I always feel more of a communion with the animals and to some extent the vegetation when I'm running in adverse conditions such as heat, rain, snow, etc. The line that separates us becomes a bit more blurred. Life and death are essentially the same for them as it is for myself.

An easier run Sunday as the calendar tells me its less than a week until the big race. I mix in some sprints on the way back. Get in some pushups and weights later in the day. Natasha texts me that night  "what if I don't finish?"  I respond something to the extent that don't worry we will... but she reminds me of a friend, a good ultra runner who didn't finish 2 years ago. Which puts my ego a bit in check and gives me a moment of pause. Though I'd rather not think along those lines at all and instead occupy my mind with visions of running thru deep, dark woods on top of the ancient, rocky Appalachian Mountains... feeling perhaps a cool breeze tingle my skin as the late summer afternoon passes by like an ephemeral dream I had a thousand years I move forward like a flying ghost unbound by the 3d world.

Finished reading Dharma Bums again. Scenes of the boys hiking the magnificent golden, gnarly trails out west.

Me trying to get the spirituality as right as I can going into the event. Hoping the physical and mental parts have been honed and are ready for action. Storing up energy. Waiting for it all to uncoil like one mad spring let loose to wail on and on...up, down, and across the unforgiving, rugged miles and miles and miles

Rumbles in the belly. Starlit visions. Purple dawns await.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

11 days

Until the Iron Mountain 50 mile trail race. Looking at elevation profile maps and aid station lists on their website. Cut off times. Names that conjure a mythical, dark romantic lore about them... Skull's Gap... Hurricane Gap...Rowland Creek Falls.  Making hotel reservations and travel plans. Thinking about what I might put in my drop bag. Counting down the days.

Getting in a few more harder threshold runs. 5 on Sunday in 36 minutes and 10 on Sunday in a buck sixteen in oppressive heat and humidity down in Brunswick County. Ancillary work almost daily. Pushups, free weight. Sit ups, planks. Lunges.

Telling myself to finish the deal.

Tapering. Easy 4 mile run today. On the inner island dirt roads... somewhat overgrown late summer look of higher grass and overgrown weeds. Brief recollections of harder runs done here much earlier in the year. Today...smelling the roses. Soaking it in. Enjoying the act of running in its most basic simplicity. Being outdoors. Healthy (though I'm slightly concerned about some low level pain on the outside/ bottom of right foot- initially bruised on a rocky trail way up the Blue Mtn in PA).

Eating a lot. Fresh fruits. Reminding myself to get pistachios like Michael suggested. Conversations with those who wish me well.

Trying to silence any doubts. Enjoying the journey.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sickness, the Sun and Dragonflies

The liner notes to Jane's Addiction's album Ritual de lo Habitual contain a sentence that some 20 years later I have never forgotten. "Sometimes in order to realize you are well, someone or something has to come along and hurt you."  A quick invading stomach bug was the something that hurt me Tuesday... perhaps brought on by the exhaustion of running and travelling the past 2 weeks.

But later in the evening I was feeling a little better and was able to hold down solid food. Went over to the beach for a little bit and on the walk back home was captivated by the massive orange fuzzy ball of the sun setting to the west. My first thought was I have to go for a run

Just a short run, but a run nonetheless. Again captivated or almost mesmerized by the magnitude of this enormous orange circle that was kind of fuzzed over at the edges as seen thru the late day haze...slowly dropping into the tree tops and woods on the back side of the island.

And as I would move into vantage points that would obstruct more of the sun I noticed countless dragonflies filling the skies. They appeared to have come out of nowhere and were flying haphazardly all about. Fortunately they seemed to have no interest in humans. Maybe all the rain this summer has brought them all out?  Nonetheless it was such a curious and mystical site to see... and to be running through.

Run lasted 20 minutes and in that time space the sun safely slid below the tree lined horizon to the west. Was some of the best 20 minutes of running I've had in good while.

Monday, August 11, 2014

home in Pennsylvania

I told some guests I was sitting with at a party yesterday that I had run from Franklin Township to Nesquehoning and back (about a 30 mile round trip). Get a kick out of the incredulous looks, and answering the inevitable follow up questions like "how?", "why?", "are you nuts?"

Back home running last week in Pennsylvania. Running with ghosts from my past. Old courses I (we) ran during high school cross country and track practices. Or along routes I did when I lived back home after college and got back into running a lot. At times I can feel them loping along side of me. I can hear whispering lilting melodies that ride the gentle breezes. Its like time can condense and fold back in on itself creating a quasi duality where the present and the past are fused as one.

Got to the end of Born to Run again last night where the protagonist known as Caballo Blanco tells a spellbound audience just who exactly he is and perhaps why he does what he does. I got it, and get it today. All the running. But I cant really explain it or synthesize it into words. Suffice it to say this is where we need to be.

It was Emerson I think who said he "never trusted a sedentary thought."

Ukes run last Tuesday night with Paul. He was talking at the time so I had to cut him off and ask for a moment of silence as we passed Kathy Jo's old house. I tear up just thinking about. I'm not sure why. But its times like that I hope we truly can communicate with the deceased on some medium. Its dark til we get done. Saturday we do a similar run with his 12 year old son Alex. He guts out a 6 mile run admirably. Big hills. I make shadow puppets behind his head as we run.

Found trails the one morning that snake up and around the Blue Mountain. Single track, steep, rocky in places. I have to really pay attention to the red trail markings on trees and rocks on the upper trail as to not get lost. I think about ducks in Dharma Bums...Gary Snyder explaining to Jack Kerouac how fellow climbers use them to mark the easiest paths to take over rocks. I'm pretty thirsty on the way down as I open it up and fly like an animal on parts of the trails. Stop and drink with cupped hands out of a spring in the woods.

I come upon clearings in the trees and am blessed with 20,30+ mile views northward back beyond Jim Thorpe and into the Poconos, and southward down and across the Lehigh Valley. I think about all the times I looked at this mountain as a kid (could even see from the living room window of my old house) and how now I was almost on top of it. Running. For a moment I wished I had a camera... but perhaps views like this are only to be seen by climbing on up oneself. Purity.

Capped it Sunday with another run on the towpath to complete my first ever 100 mile week.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yeah man

Not leaving stones unturned. Getting back at the ancillary work. Sweating out planks on my living room floor. Gutting out push-ups. Short walks and reminders to stretch on work breaks. Sticking with the plan.

Which consists short term of a lot of miles in 5 days this week. 10 mile cut down/ pace run (marathon-ish) this morning. Legs a bit fatigued... mind a bit fatigued. Stifling quickly any thoughts of cutting it short. Running behind a state park maintenance truck pretending its the lead vehicle in this race I'm winning...."Greg Zinner, the hometown kid living in Carolina Beach in the lead with 3 miles to go... winding back through the camp ground loop that he's so familiar with ..."

So familiar in fact that I'm starting to recognize campers who've been there since Monday. The lady at the white van who apologized for her young kid cutting in front of me. The campsite on the bend by the trailhead. That girl who seemed to be fighting w/ a guy in the morning... then later in the afternoon rode by me on bike wearing a bikini and smiled.

Changes in weather patterns. By jove it was a lot more humid earlier in the week. They all know this too I imagine.

Blue Clay trails with Natasha and Amanda. Miles. Miles. Time on feet. Water with ice cubes dumped in tastes like nectar from the Gods. Stories about fawns following and deer crashing into store fronts. An admission of solitary laughter in the woods when thinking about (yeah we get it).  Feasts at KnW.

Vision quest. I'd give you a day # we're on but I've blissfully lost track.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mother Nature and more miles

Ran about 30 miles Monday. Put down 25-26 in the morning...on my feet for 4.5 hours in the CB State Park. Started the run a little past 7am as the sun crept up the eastern horizon back out over the ocean...threatening to turn everything in its wake into one sweltering steamy jungle-like cauldron. Fortunately I caught a break as it clouded over an hour or so into the run. Tried tying a hydration belt around my waist that I had bought at Walmart the night before, but quickly discarded due to discomfiture. Had a cooler in my car filled with power aide, clif bars. sports beans, and 2 turkey sandwiches.

Physically I was pleasantly surprised that my legs weren't too thrashed from Saturdays 4+ mile cross country race and 6 hours of driving on Sunday. The race pitted the Wilmington Road Runners against our brethren to the south the Grand Strand Road Runners, and was held at Indigo Farms. The course was muddy/ grassy rutted roads around produce fields and some wider trails thru the woods. I joked early on to some fellow competitors that there should be steeplechase hurdles to jump over the huge puddles. But was one of the most fun, challenging races I've done in a long time.. and I helped my club win back the trophy.

But despite that and the drive time in the car I got in what I set out to accomplish Monday. The sun did come back out in the last hour, and combined with the high humidity made conditions almost intolerable. Near the end on one of the trails I saw several turkey vultures...had to almost laugh out loud at my black thoughts that they were waiting for me to drop dead. I thought of Kipling when I had a minute left to go: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run-  Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it. And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!"

Later in the afternoon back in the state park for a few more miles as a thunderstorm brewed just to the west and south across the Cape Fear River. Was virtually an unbroken and eerily menacing rumble of thunder as I bound swiftly up and down the wooded trails. The breeze picked up and was almost cool to the touch on my skin... the rumbles and booms grew steadily louder and I knew my time was preciously waning...big rain drops started to fall from the purple grey sky. Then I could see the lightning as thunder cracked a few seconds later echoing like a thousand bass drums thru the woods which swayed back and forth to the whims of the storm's increasing winds.

Another 10 miles Tuesday morning. Met a guy on bike from Pittsburgh who was vacationing here. Rode a few miles with me as I ran the trails. We chatted pleasantly about the area and things back home in PA.

We all just keep on moving. Pursuing our crafts. Enjoying the ride.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New frontiers

Total mileage from last week was 80 miles. Most ever in my life. Capped the week Sunday with some hard bouts of running in Shallotte. Didn't get out until about noon, which placed me in the teeth of the heat/ humidity which has returned with a vengeance the past few days.

3 mile warm up then found a new spot to do speed work up behind the local elementary school (I had run striders on the grass in the front before). Mapped out a 1/4 mile "track" which went around and thru 2 somewhat neglected baseball/ softball fields and included a brief but holy 30 meters in the shade along the back woods line. Ran 4 400s at about 1:19-1:20 on a 75 second rest cycle which was enough to whip me pretty good short term. Was struggling the first slow mile or so back on the cool down run to regain a sense of composure.

Later ran a 5 mile loop which included about 10+ minutes of hard running in the low 6s pace wise. Felt like I had some good pop in my legs. But as with the afternoon work out I didn't want to completely drain the tank. Enjoyed the last easy mile thinking about how this was making it an even 80 for the week and a new mileage p.r.

Slept 10+ hours Sunday night, even though I had planned to get up early and try to get a long run in Monday am. Body really needed the rest. By the time I did get out after 11am conditions were nearly intolerable... the heat index in the mid to upper 90s. Gutted out 11 miles running interspersed with some walking. Wigged out a little on village point road at all the traffic blazing by. Literally yelled out loud "where is all this g$d d%$m F%$#*ng traffic coming from". A Fed -Ex truck stopped just down the road from me I initially thought to check on my condition

Training for an ultra is a slog and is not easy. There will be days like today. Part of the experience....we stumble, we grow. We get stronger mentally and physically.  But I've learned also its best not to force it on said days. Take what you can take and go home. Stick your head in the slop sink under a torrent of cold water and slug down your gatoraide.  Take off your squishy shoes and socks and get indoors to cool down.  There's miles to go before we sleep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I question some days if in fact I'm crazy. More miles to run... specifically today its the 'ol 4.5 mile tempo on Snow's Cut Bridge. Which goes quite well despite my quads feeling like they are in a vise. Hi 31s, sub 7:10 pace in a hot sun and strong breeze. Repeating to myself over and over "keep churning keep churning keep churning"

On the last trip back across the bridge I look down at the gently flowing waters of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and think how quick it would all change if I jumped........ instead I spit in the wind and it flies out and off the bridge and downward and I wonder if it could hit someone down below in a boat or if it would just evaporate anyway by that point and how the lack of humidity versus a day with higher humidity would make a difference in all this...... 

But its a lot more than mathematical equations out here. I sense the math, the numbers of all of it... or the overall scope of this thing cant necessarily be quantified. And that's sorta of what perhaps I'm searching for?

Then I laugh with the thought that nothing really matters anyway.  Buddhist wisdom from those who sat under trees for years right? 

I'm merely scratching the surface.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pushing thru

Ran the Tri- Span 10k last Saturday morning in 40:44. Not an eye popping time nor a p.r.... but nonetheless was pleased with the outcome.  Enjoyed the total experience; time spent with my Dad (who ran a 24:44 5k as a 70 yr. old), friends old and new, and the camaraderie of competing in a tougher race. Its one of those races where you get a mile or two into this dog gone thing and ask yourself why in the hell did I decide to do this again ??

But I suspect the answer lies in the challenge to overcome obstacles and push thru doubts and limitations not only internally...but those imposed upon us by the three dimensional world. High humidity... long gradual uphill climbs onto bridges.  Out here you cant hide, you're exposed.  Moments of weakness turn into minutes and minutes and minutes of a slow suffocation of the will to compete, and the will do to one's best in the face of daunting adversity.  I know. I know because last year this race defeated me... I hit the mat and laid there thru the 10 count. Not this year I told myself.

Its what we all talk about afterwards. Man this course is one son of a .................

Went to the Blue Clay Park trails for the first time on Monday. Got there at 7am in a somewhat ill fated and doomed attempt to beat the heat.  Followed the intermediate trail and immediately fell in love.  Its twists and turns and sharp ups and downs thru the woods eventually trashed out my legs in a good healthy way.  The juxtaposition with the short stretches of single track thru grassy, flower dotted meadows was striking (and very hot in the sun). Saw a snake I had never seen before lazing on the edge of the trail.

Had myself prepared for the running apocalypse with a cooler filled with power aide and water bottles, cliff bars, and turkey sandwiches. Setting the goal as time on my feet again, not miles. Did a little under 4 hours. Put down another 6.5 miles then later in the day at the CB State Park. Trials of miles... miles of trials.

11 miler Wed am in the CB. Cloudy and cooler, felt like a mid summer oasis. Hellos and nods from some runners and bikers I passed.  The kinship of the road. Brothers and sisters. You don't get this kind of a connection unless you're out here in the elements. Pushing on. Pushing forward. Pushing thru.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A little r and r

Taking a few days of rest to recover from the last 2+ weeks and to squeeze in a bit of a taper before the Tri-Span 10K 7am Saturday morning. Or as I referred to the race Monday to 2 running friends "Hell- Span".  Last year it was my own personal hell; as can be the case with a personal hell it was somewhat self manufactured. In this instance mostly by not adjusting to the jungle like humidity that encases the Cape Fear River basin like some sinister invasive guest most summer mornings. And god forbid if the sun decides to break thru this dense foggy haze ....

Used the concept of "Time on my feet" Monday. Ran, walked, stood some for about 3 hours and 50 minutes in the CB State Park. Warm, muggy morning/  early afternoon. Reading on-line about 50 mile race training plans; most of which stress the importance of extending out the time period upwards to 5 hours of being upright... since the actual event itself will require one to be out there for say 10+ hours. 

Watching some short homemade videos from previous Iron Mountain Trail races.  Boy does that get the adrenaline flowing...

One step at a time.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The weeks are measured by numbers. Running vernacular. 60/ 60/ 64/ 49/ 22/ 74/ 61(and counting). Interruptions in sleep patterns and mood swings. Thirst and hunger. Occasional doubts as to "Why?"

Bridge tempo on Wednesday. It was already furnace like hot at 8am. 3.5  mile warm up. Then 6 times up and over Snow's Cut Bridge which totaled 4.5 miles, in hi 33 minutes (7:20 pace).  Mentally playing with (and liking) this new concept of moving away from where I just was. That's all it is... moving away from where you are. Picked that up from a book excerpt in Running Times from an author named Mark Slouka.

Next day its a run thru the onset of an approaching hurricane. Back in the state park I observe how the sky turns more milky white and purply gray as it lowers and lowers til its not much higher then the tree tops. There are rumbles of thunder moaning ominously to the south. Then I hear a low rustle which quickly intensifies and moves toward me like a thousand little trains coming thru the woods... then the white is on me as the rains come pouring out of the sky like one big waterfall. As I run on the trails I think about the animals and how I feel more connected to them at such times. We endure.

12x 200m at Chappelle Park to celebrate the 4th. Its hot again. Its summer. Its mileage. Its a vision quest. Its where I want to be. Its where I need to be.

Happy 4th of July. God Bless the USA. Freedom.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Late -night Running

3 hours and 27 minutes. Started the run at 1:30am. Headed up Canal Drive to the north end of Pleasure Island. Under the fishing pier then on to the sand. Nothing but the rhythmic sound of the surf rolling in and out, beating its own ancient time. A solitary light of a fishing boat out in the murky black colossal nothingness... which stretches to infinity and beyond.  A flashback to a night run last year with Natasha on Airlie Road... rounding a bend and seeing Gatsby's green light across the sound.

Out here on the perimeter... where tonite the sky is filled with hundreds of twinkling stars...  we is stoned immaculate.

Out here life seems like its suspended in a parallel galaxy. The lights of Wrightsville Beach appear in a slightly blurred haze several miles up the coastline. I can tell you they were there and I saw them but by the next day you or I may begin to have doubts about any or all of this ...

Its Cliff bars on the go and 3am cravings for a cold can of Coke.

Its total silence on the road save for the whap whap of shoes hitting the macadam.

Its when you start to catch a glimpse that God is inside of us and has been all along.

Its the lights of the Kure Beach pier stretching out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean... as I lope on the sand and fidget mentally about how long it takes for 3 hours to elapse.

Taking stock and making calculations.

Not giving in

Feeling acutely alive and thoroughly exhausted.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No Title

Sometimes I wonder what the end game is here. Not only in running but in life. Sure we're told its the journey not the destination right? 

Can we truly be without limits, to borrow the name of a local training group (which derives from a movie about Steve Prefontaine... who certainly did not subscribe to any notion of limits)

Ran an 18:24 5K this past Saturday, my fastest 5K time in close to 4 years. I'd like to think its a by-product of the past few months of training; the entire spectrum of running, ancillary work like strength/ core, better recovery habits, diet, ambition, spiritual seeking....

Not so secretly I'd love to quit my job and just run and write about running full time. Follow the "running waves" like a surfer follows the ocean's waves. I've already got 1 offer for an indefinite stay above a friend's garage in PA, in exchange for money to pay for air conditioning.  Also a friend's place in Colorado to use as training grounds for Iron Mountain.

25 miles yesterday. 20 early in the morning; first 10+ on the roads of Carolina Beach, followed by the trails of the CB State Park. Almost stepped on a baby copperhead. Stopped and watched it for a few moments.  Had a more of a burnt orange hue behind its head than the usual copper like color. I should have told it I was sorry... but I didn't see it in the dirt and sand of the trail until the last second.  Averaged hi 8s pace, legs held up. Mind held up.

Quicker 5 in the early evening on the grass around the CB Lake. Thoughts about all the time I spent out there in the dark and cold last December and January training for Gator Trail 50K. How nice the Christmas lights looked. Counting off laps (.67 around lake). What determination looks, feels, and tastes like.


Travelled to Omaha, Nebraska last week. Its always a welcome challenge to find places to run when visiting somewhere new. Discovered a network of single track trails just over a mile or so from the hotel we were staying at. Went out running the first afternoon in town and came to a park called Tranquility Park, which looked like it was nothing more than several soccer fields with macadam pathways that went around and between the playing fields. But saw a large power line adjacent to a gravel parking lot and decided to see if could follow (I've always been fascinated by power lines, those large ones that look like big green Ts with lines attached to both sides.... and the notion of wanting to see how far I can follow them).

So bypassed a metal gate and followed a dirt road aside of the lines until discovering a narrow single track trail cutting thru the meadows of high prairie grass interspersed sporadically with purple and yellow flowers that grew atop thorny type weeds (quite a pretty sight). Found a single track trail no more than 8-10 inches wide that was part of a  network of trails that covered probably a good 12-15 miles weaving back and forth parallel to a bigger road that headed to the north and out of the city. Trails had numerous small hills and twisted in and out of prairie lands as well as wooded areas. Reminded me of some of the trails that I've run in Colorado. Saw a wild turkey and its young twice (the first day the mother turkey even tried to attack me as it may have perceived me to be a threat to her chicks).

Did a solid hill work out/ tempo run one morning on the roads. 8 miles, which primarily constituted 4 repetitions of 2 long hills on 2 boulevards that intersected.

Got in more miles than I had planned but was pleasantly surprised by how good and challenging the running was out there (didn't expect the hills. ).  Also some good running with my Dad and time spent on the roads and trails of the Midwest.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

200s and a little zen

Ran 4 x 200m, 2x 400m, 4x 200m at Chappelle Park this morning.  Ok workout; legs are still kind of beat up from heavier work load and mileage past 7-10 days. Plus the heat and humidity was up there again. Used my familiar "track" which is mostly grass and some dirt on the outside perimeter of a soccer/ softball field.

Clocked 43, 44 seconds on the first 2 reps thinking that I was running a little faster than I apparently was. Got them down around 40 seconds from then on, though I was thinking that the last time I ran 200s I was closer to the 35 second range. Ran both 400s pretty strong in the low 1:20s. About a 150 meter slow jog rest cycle.

On one of those recovery or rest intervals I was thinking about how not to think... just look at the dirt and the grass and let the mind go blank. Rejoice in the silence. Meditation seeks those empty spots. And its of little benefit to be thinking about the next one... it will  come and be there and you'll be in the breach again soon enough.

Sometimes running can strip things down so bare like that; or its sort of a conduit for being totally present in the now. Its a almost a mystical place where just about everything vanishes... except one's heartbeat, breath... and the feel of muscles propelling the body forward.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Thought about this when I was out running on Sunday. How hungry am I as well as what motivates hunger. It seems like the less that I perceive myself to have (which admittedly is a skewed and somewhat false perception), the hungrier I become in my running.  Hungry people will lay it all out there to get fed. An empty belly... (or an existential craving) fuels a person to push beyond the normal limitations imposed by time and space. Remembered back to being in college at Penn State when I had the re-occurring thoughts that running was the only thing that mattered to me.  During a period of situational depression, I had several weeks and months of solid runs. And I can still recall how good it felt.

This is not to say that a "well fed" person cannot be highly motivated in his or her athletic endeavors.  But I do think a "real hungry" person has a certain edge in how they approach their daily running tolls. The thing in itself has a higher weighted importance in the totality of their being in those stages in life.

Yesterday ran 24.5 miles. An 18 miler in the morning, hi-lighted by several miles running thru a tropical like monsoon in the state park. Early in the run I could see a bank of greyish purple clouds building to the south and west...  was sunny and noticeably warm and humid at 7:30 as I ran thru the center of Carolina Beach on the roads. Was actually hoping it would rain to cool me off. And 30-40 minutes later the first drops started to fall as I approached the state park. Really opened it up like the sky had been sliced in two back on the trails... which in no time became water logged and splishy splashy as I galloped along enjoying every minute of it. There's something some days about the rain and being out in it that is almost indescribably beautiful. The sounds, smells...

Late afternoon run in the sun was a harder 10k on the inner island roads/ trails...ended at the beach. Hi 45s, good, solid effort. Last 2 miles well under sub 7 minute pace. The last .2 in a hi 5s pace. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

5 June 2014

The miles are adding up. I like to do the math while I'm actually out there running. 46+ this week, 107 the last 10 days... Ran hill repeats on Snow's Cut Bridge again this morning. Didn't get out there until after 11am. Was already about 80 degrees and quite sticky humidity wise. Plus a 10-20 mph breeze thrown in I suspect just for an added encumbrance to the day's proceedings.

It's also at points like this that the whole mental countenance of the little project I'm undertaking can get challenged. Weak spots can become exposed. Resolve can and will get tested. And words are just that; whether they be words written on the paper or words spoken by the mouth. Words don't get one over that damn bridge a 5th time.

I saw some pretty yellow flowers near the end of Monday's long run. Seeing them, acknowledging internally their beauty, grace, etc. helped get me to end of a 14.5 miler in the early summer sun.

Watched a large hawk one morning last week in the state park. Perhaps a red tailed hawk. It saw me and flew sort of parallel to the path I was on, then landed and perched on a tree branch.... and intently watched me as I slowly ran by and underneath. I could see the size of its beak. And thought man he could thrash me pretty good if he wanted to.

Some young man hollered "run Forrest run" by the CB Lake as I was doing my in and out sprints. A group of "tourists" asked for directions in the State Park... then saw me later on another trail (in which my immediate thought was you all didn't follow my directions or you wouldn't be here), whereupon one lady said to another lady "there's that runner again."

I suspect had one seen me later a small smile would have been etched across my weary sun beaten face.

Monday, June 2, 2014

2 June 2014

Registered for the Iron Mountain 50 mile trail race in Virginia yesterday. So now its official... and I officially have felt also a few pangs of doubt wondering if I can actually finish this dang thing.  But my doubts are allayed somewhat by the running and training over the past few days and weeks. And doubt can be a healthy motivator especially when paired with vigorous ambition.

Got in another 60 mile week last week (a little over 61 miles to be exact).  Running down in Brunswick County in and around where my parents live. Been doing a 9 mile loop that takes me past a horse farm, where in the past I would watch them graze as I ran by. No horses though as I went by this past Friday though I was reminded of the scene in Once a Runner when Cassaday and Bruce Denton run by a group of horses which start running parallel to them... and in perfect pace with them. They talk about rider-less mounts in the minds of the horses. Or something like that.

Ran a 3 mile tempo last Thursday up and over Snow's Cut Bridge four times. Trying to incorporate some hill work into the routine. Or as much hill work as one can do here in the flat lands. Cruised it in 20:35; felt rather strong. What a strange site it must be to the casual observer; seeing someone run back and forth up and over a bridge.

Did speed work again on Saturday. 8 x 400m at the West Brunswick High School track. Felt good on a 4+ mile warm up run to the track, and debated about just doing a 10 mile progression run instead. But was nice to be able to feel the hard spongy surface under my feet and blaze by the familiar lane markings of an oval track again. Averaged about 1:21 per quarter on a 60 second rest cycle; last 2 or 3 reps got really hard and I found myself doubled over on the infield grass gasping for air at their hallowed conclusion. Lactic acid would come on steady and start to tie my legs up a little about 100-150 meters into each 400. I kept telling myself "you can at any point always make it around a track one more time." 

I find things out here that I cant find anywhere else... and I'm not even sure what per se it is that I even find. I guess its something that nothing else ever seems to fill. Maybe its all horse shit anyway, I don't know. But as long as there's an open road to run down, a trail to follow, or a track to circle... I'll carry on. Perhaps somewhere inside that very notion is a piece of what I'm searching for anyhow. More I suspect, will be revealed...

Monday, May 26, 2014

26 May 2014

Ran 5.5miles with my Dad the morning of Memorial Day. For a 70 year old he’s in remarkably good shape; however the sands of time have slowed his pace noticeably the past few years. Nonetheless he still has the competitive fire, and is perhaps the toughest runner I’ve ever met… as measured by the amount of effort he’s able to summon  when he lines up for race. Today for us it’s a pleasant 10:30+ pace, which also serves as an easy day for me.  

Looking forward to some days off and downtime from work to be able to really let it wail down in the verdant countryside of Brunswick County.   So far mentally and physically I’m where I want to be… spiritually a few paces behind where I’d like to be. Though that tends to be the toughest element to quantify… yet the most rewarding when we do experience those seemingly fleeting moments of ecstasy and bliss. 

It may be too much to dream about the nights ablaze with fire... as by day we diligently pursue our excellence.  God tends to be in the details, like clicking off miles in a tempo run at threshold pace. Sometimes it’s the aahh of wonder after we do what we previously thought we could not do.  Or some new insight we gain into ourselves or the world around us. An angelic whisper in our hearts.

Maybe it’s like the girl Jen said in Born to Run …that she hoped running more would eventually make her a better person.

Onward… one step at a time.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

25 May 2014

60 mile week in the books, highest weekly mileage total since last fall. Thursday did speed work in Chappelle Park. 8 x 400m on the grass, on about a 75 second rest cycle. Averaged about 1:24 per rep. Felt fairly strong and consistent throughout. Pretty warm, humid out as well (11-12 am). Met Natasha later that afternoon in Wrightsville Beach and ran/ walked another 7 miles. Part of which was done while pushing her baby in a jogger stroller. Which after awhile turns into a bit of an upper body work out on the arms, shoulders, and neck (especially when running into any kind of breeze). Drank a fair amount of water (by then it was close to 90 ). Was pretty wiped by the last time we went around the 2+ mile loop. Had run to the south end and back... which always reminds me of when I first moved to the Wilmington area.

10 miler on Friday, again in the heat. Even at an easier pace of close to 9 minutes per mile its a bit of a slog at times. Ran mostly off road on the inner island connector roads and the CB State Park trails. Took off Saturday. Late night at work on the Iron Mountain website looking at past results plus going thru pictures posted from last year's race and reading some of the race reports from fellow runners (links into their personal blogs). Interesting reading the experiences of those who attempted the 50 miler, which I plan to try myself Aug30. Stoked for the challenge.

Sunday did 9+ in Shallotte. Looped out to the West Brunswick HS, put down a lap on the track in 1:32. Ran a bit of a friskier pace throughout, averaging 7:35 mile. Closed on my parents' road at about a 6:15 pace the last 3,4 tenths of a mile. Thoughts early in the run of the road and how I can spit, curse, cry, wail, rejoice, etc. and it doesn't care. It repels it all without a response, as it has in the past, and will so in the future. In some sense its my best friend, because no matter what, its always there.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

20 May 2014

25 miles in the last 2 days. My legs are coming back to life. Struggled a bit last week still in the wake of May 4th's half marathon. Was also aided by a drastic reduction in humidity and cooler temps the past few days, though that won't last for long.

Did my first 2 a day in awhile yesterday (Monday). Like to do for obvious time reasons on days that I have off from work. The first run of the day I set out mid morning and put down 12 miles. Mostly off road on the inner island dirt/grassy roads, and then back onto the CB State Park trails. Averaged an 8:30- 8:40 pace while just sort of cruising the miles off, and savoring the tranquility of the outdoors.

The second run of the day went back out about 5:30pm after doing an upper body workout which consisted off several sets of push ups and lifting free weights (while listening to Suicidal Tendencies). My legs seemed game so I opened her up some as I got into the 2nd mile of the 5.5+ mile inner island trail loop. Ran the last 2.5 miles at a sub 7 minute/ mile pace, ending on the beach at a 6:30s pace.

Plan short term is to get close to 60 mile a week, jumping up from the 50 a week that I averaged for a month before tapering/ recovering from the half. Thought of a Charles Bukowski quote again the other night which I feel is harmonious with what I'm seeking perhaps to do....

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

12 May 2014

Legs are slowly recovering from last weekend's half marathon  Ran an easier 5.5 miles on Sunday, and 7.5 miles today. As I've gotten a little older and perhaps a little wiser, I pay attention more to the art of recovery. What I eat, drink post runs (especially longer runs), to trying to get enough sleep, as well as taking the necessary days off and easier runs that are essential to allow my body and to some extent my mind to heal and rebuild.

One of the best runs from an instructional standpoint I've ever had was 3 or 4 years ago with my friend Colin in Wilmington. We ran if memory serves about 5 or 6 miles at a pace slower than ten minutes per mile. And discussed the importance of incorporating slow runs into one's routine. The legendary Frank Shorter... who incidentally served as the guest starter for this year's Quintiles marathon... is quoted as having said to the effect "when you're going to run fast run fast; when you're going to run slow run slow".  Furthermore adding that there weren't many runners who could run fast enough to keep up, nor many who would want to run slow enough on his slow days.

Want to also recover to be ready to start ramping up again... eyeing for one thing the Iron Mountain 50 miler the end of August. But I also want to ramp up and run more for the sake of running more... continuing a journey I've dubbed my own vision quest. Being loosely defined as an attempt to find what is currently beyond reach. A search for an undefinable something that may lie on mystical plains yet traversed. I don't know, I may just be a little nuts, or bored with the status quo. But I am eager for the pilgrimage... like some wide eyed religious enthusiast heeding an inner voice... whispering to them to keep on seeking.

Friday, May 9, 2014

9 May 2014

Ran the inaugural Plantation Builder's half marathon Sunday morning. Set a PR with a time of 1:26:57... however the course may have been short. My garmin had the distance at 12.85 miles, though one of the fellow runners said their watch was losing satellite connection on the course sections in the woods. So perhaps I have an asterisk, or an adjusted PR of about 1:28:30+... which is still a minute below my previous best ran at Quintiles in 2010 of 1:29:35. Either way I'll take it.

I drove down to Leland and Brunswick Forrest at 6am, just before sunrise. Even on less than two hours sleep I still acutely felt a healthy dose of pre -race adrenaline. Race mornings (and to a bit of lesser extent race evenings the night before) are magical times when I feel most alive... a heightened sense of awareness... mixed with butterfly like anticipation of the race itself. When I arrived and met my Dad down from the start/ finish area it was a bit cool out (mid/ upper 50s), with no wind... near ideal race conditions as I told him. But once the sun came up the air warmed rapidly, accompanied by a bit of a warm breeze.

169 athletes finished the half marathon, so it wasn't that big of a crowd at the start line. Nonetheless those are the super magical butterfly in the stomach damn its great to be alive moments. I remember at track meets in high school, especially the bigger ones like the league and district meets... thinking just fire the gun. Lets go. The hardest part was that last few agonizing, drawn out moments waiting for the race to start. Standing just behind a white line... leaning slightly forward. Fire the gun man. Perhaps its not quite as harrowing most road races don't begin with someone firing a starter's pistol. But I've learned to cherish those fleeting moments.

We were off after I think the bellow of a horn blow... and as usual the overall pace went out too fast. Normally I guard a little better against this...but I found myself 1/4- 1/2 mile in running in the 6:50s. Wanted to run the first mile closer to mid 7s. I seem to do better when I lay up a little early in longer races. When I ran my only sub 1:30 1/2 in 2010 I went thru 4 miles in about 30 minutes. So I dialed my pace back a little... noting how there were a few dozen runners still in front of me... and also thinking I would likely pass most of them at some point. A little competitive ego in racing is not necessarily an amoral character trait.

The course snaked on roads throughout the community planned neigbborhoods, and around a small lake (where it felt like you were constantly turning). There was also a small section of an elevated boardwalk which curled thru the woods. I brought my pace down into the 6:40s/ 6:50s range miles 3 through 6... at which point I felt pretty good... though cognizant that I was working a fair amount to maintain. Plus the aforementioned warmth of the sun was becoming a detriment. Stayed about 100-200 meters behind a man and woman who I knew were good runners... was sort of gauging progress based on the gap. Which started to narrow considerably near mile 6 approaching the race turnaround point (pretty much a double loop). Decided to pass them early into the second loop, and to go by at a decent clip ... resulting in a 6:29 7th mile.

Ran the next 2 miles in the mid 6:30s before the late race bear started becoming a bit heavier on my back. At this point it became somewhat of a guts race... me mentally reminding myself to be strong... click it off a tenth off mile at a time. (Started a countdown at 9 miles, or 41 tenths to go). Knowing I was in PR range and solidly in the top 10 of the field... while simultaneously telling myself I hadn't don't shit yet. (invented this mental contraption a few months ago... essentially blocking or cutting off pre mature self congratulatory thoughts before the final task is completed.. i.e all 5 mile repeats have been run, or all 31 miles in the 50k have been completed).

Caught up to a guy back on the boardwalk in the blessed, cool woods just before mile 12. Exchanged a few mutual words of encouragement before the last straight shot on the warm asphalt and concrete (could also run on the sidewalks) to the finish. Several times I could here the whack whack thump thump of someone right behind me. This is a point where a runner either has the you're going to have to bleed it out of me to beat me mentality or doesn't... there is no middle ground. This is hell... make no mistake, as far as the physical toll one's body is enduring. The mind either cooperates and obviates the discomfort, or it crumbles. Its also that netherworld where one speaks about the running gods smiling on them... or abandoning them.

The last few tenths of a mile became an elongated death sprint... finally the sounds of voices, cheers etc... and the end suddenly is not quite so far away. I really kicked it in on the last stretch up the sidewalk... and was fairly certain the sound of footsteps from behind had abated... but left nothing to chance when I was within site of the finish chute and clock. Finished harder than I normally do in a longer race... someone draped a medal around my neck ...  after which I fell onto the grass and dry heaved... one very happy runner. Not every race, not every run can I or we as runners summon that extra gear, or that extra ability to withstand the torment...and push thru... which makes it all the more sweeter when we do. Talked afterwards to my fellow runner who finished just four seconds behind me in 6th place. He thanked me for pushing him at the end. Said thanks to him as well for pushing me. Helped me to my first  Masters win.

 Today the running Gods smiled.