A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 - Quite A Year!

I don't really know how to start describing this year.


For one thing, it's been transformational. I am definitely leaving this year a different person than when I began it.

It began with a limited scope largely between two running clubs. One in NJ, and one in NY. It's ending with a huge family of like minded endurance athletes, ranging from a very talented group of ultrarunners and triathletes in New York City and those in NJ.

It's also seen some down times. The tragedy that has befallen my aunt this past fall is one. But it adds to the transformation; it reinforces the belief that I should approach every day like it's my last and live it to the fullest.

There are also other down moments, but all it did was steel my will and honed my focus in setting my goals and getting them done.

Of course, I cannot describe 2013 without mentioning the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. There are so many ways to fail in that quest, but I managed to find a way to succeed in capturing the prestigious Eagle Trophy.

Receiving my Eagle Trophy at Wasatch.


The Slam was the single most transformational event in 2013. I left the Slam a completely different person than coming in. Thinking about all I had to go through just to finish the Slam:

1) The 115 degree temperatures at Western States. The race is normally very hot, but it just happened to be the second hottest in Western States history.

2) The huge blister issue at the tail end of Western States. Basically going the last 28 miles in bleeding and bandaged feet.

3) The extreme humidity of Vermont.

4) The thin air at Leadville. The huge pain tolerance I had to undergo just to reach the finish line at Leadville (and the redemption of the DNF I had there two years ago).

5) The unusual extreme humidity and the ups and downs, literally and figuratively, and the final ecstatic moments at the finish at Wasatch, where I finally realized I was actually going to make it.

6) All the voices in my head telling me to stop in every one of the races I did.

7) The numerous tiresome pushes up mountains.

8) And finally, the moment of truth ascending Hope Pass for the second time and realizing that persistence does pay when I finally got to the top.

Just one failure at all the trials listed above, and I would have failed.

Anyway, it's given me the courage to go out and do other things without fearing failure. Starting a new triathlon and endurance club is one thing. More personal issues like dating is another. They are all "leap of faith" decisions with some risk that they might fail. And if they do fail, it's not the end of the world. Failure is just a good way to realize the mistakes you did, and start over again without making those mistakes. This year has given me the self-confidence I need to act on some tough decisions, and see where they lead.

I do leave 2013 on a very high note. The friends that I've gained in the larger area that share my interests is certainly a plus. There are several people I know that have won a slot in next year's Western States and are contemplating doing the Slam. I will definitely lend them any "words of wisdom" and my experience that I had in the Slam this year. There are also a number of us who are in the UTMB lottery for Europe next year along with me. I hope that we all get in so that we can have a blast together in France. All the local triathletes I know are aiming high next year, shooting for some lofty goals (half Ironman, full Ironman, first triathlon, etc.). I will definitely lend them a hand as they work hard to achieve those goals.

2013. Transformation indeed! I will definitely never forget this year; it's been quite the journey.

On to 2014!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Random Thoughts: Warm Day - Badwater Shutdown - Commitment

It's the first full day of winter, it's 70 degrees outside, and I ran the trails in shorts and a running shirt.

Maybe it's time to grab my wetsuit and go for an open water swim too!

Let's do this. ;-)


Anyway, I mentioned that free, informal Fat Ass events were going to be the future of recreational sports. I opined about this in this blog several times in the past.  Bascially I stated that the rising cost of permits and insurance would start to make formally organized races prohibitive and expensive.

Well, there's now another reason, one that I didn't predict. Government intrusion.

From the Inyo Register:

Death Valley suspends sporting events in park

Inyo residents are expressing fear and outrage in the wake of Death Valley National Park’s “moratorium” on permits for sporting events within the park.
The National Park Service said it is implementing the suspension to allow staff to evaluate the events and safety concerns, due to extreme conditions in the nation’s largest national park.
The fear among Southern Inyo residents is that the park’s move may be the death of events like that Badwater Ultra Marathon, which, according to the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, are responsible for contributing $1.2 million to local communities each year.
The Lone Pine Chamber is kicking off a letter-writing campaign urging DVNP to allow the events to continue while the safety evaluation is being conducted.

Not mentioned here is that the Badwater Ultramarathon has never had a death in its races, and that those who undertake this challenging event are very experienced, fit individuals who have prepared for the elements in this race.

Yes, there is a danger from heat, but athletes who tackle this race are much more fit than regular people who don't normally exercise and are better equipped to tackle the elements.

They did this briefly with the perversely named "government shutdown", in which the government actually had to pay its park rangers MORE to keep the park closed to the public. Does that actually make sense to you? No? You're not alone then.

If the government was truly shut down, then how come MORE people were payrolled to keep the public out?

But hey, I always say that the more government tries to control its people, the more they actually lose control of its people. The Badwater Ultra race was actually created from humble beginnings, when people used to solo their attempts on the course, mailed in their proof, and got an award to show for it. It looks like it will have to revert back to its Fat Ass format again. Forget the permits and let the government be damned, right?

A lot of the old-fashioned purist ultrarunners are pointing to its Fat Ass beginnings anyway; so be it.

Still, laws tend to make a precedent for things to come, and there are a lot of formalized ultras that run through national parks. Will they be denied permits too? I don't know, but organized events might actually be an endangered species at this point.

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I'm not a guy who takes excuses really well for someone's shortcomings. I have allowed a little bit of slack with excuses as a coach, but I think it's to everyone's detriment, really.

I don't like excuses. If I make up my mind to try for a certain goal, I make sure that I'm committed to it. If I know that I cannot commit to certain goals every year, I make sure not to waste the time and money for it.

The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning taught me about this commitment. Personally, I've suffered a couple of major setbacks the past couple of years. But when I committed to the Slam, I was not going to let anything detrimental get in my way. Ever.

The demands for my athletes should really be the same as the demands set for myself. That means setting a razor-sharp focus on your training, giving it 100% or more in effort, and having few excuses, if any, for not training for races.

Although I do understand that people have other aspects of their lives to worry about, but the choice to be fit should be a priority in their lives and should be set equal to work and family for the most part. I think it's very critical to have that fitness so that they have the ability and the confidence to tackle those other parts of their lives.

Anything less than 100% is not a good reflection on them, and not a good reflection on me.

My coaching is never really about money anyway. The money issue is a minor part of my life now; I don't need to take on "not so committed" athletes just for the money. As a matter of fact, I did stop coaching two people in the past two years because they weren't focused on the regimen I gave them.

And I limit the total number to about 5 people. That is it. People who are interested in getting coached by me have to show me that they are committed to it. Otherwise I do drop them after a while.

In principle, if you're going for a certain goal next season, commit to it first before you start putting in the time and money. Mediocrity might be the way a lot of people define their lives, but it shouldn't be around yours, and I definitely don't want to see it around me.

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If I don't blog again until Christmas, I do want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. And don't eat too much! The 2014 season is around the corner and you got work to do after the holidays.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Random Thoughts / I Still Feel Like an Ultra Imposter / Oh, no! Speed Again?

Today is the Winter Solstice. Hmmm, doesn't feel like it. As a matter of fact, it's supposed to go to 70 degrees tomorrow.

No complaints though. Running in shorts on the snowy/icy trails was a blast. Even with the snow and ice I ran a pretty fast 6.5 miles in 59 minutes. The snow and ice are definitely good for balance.

Maybe I should want all this snow and ice at the Watchung 50k next month, my first race of 2014.

As for the rest of 2014, I still do not have concrete plans. The UTMB lottery is September 15. The Tahoe 200 is a possibility. An Iron distance race in Atlantic City is a possibility. Maybe even a quintuple Ironman in the fall.  I don't know how this schedule is going to shake out.

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The Grand Slam finisher's photo made Ultrarunning Magazine:






And of course, my name appears in next year's Grand Slam application:


I'm a tiny mention in there, but I think you'll see it if you click on it.



To be honest, I still feel a bit in awe that I actually finished the Slam. Maybe the phrase, "you are your own worst critic" comes to mind here, but there are some days where I still feel like an outsider looking into the ultra world. Maybe even an imposter, especially sitting with what I think is the most talented and fittest group of athletes I've ever been involved with. I feel like I still have a lot to learn from this sport; I still have a lot of questions and most of those people sitting with me have the answers.

Yes, there is still a lot to learn in the ultra world, like trying to actually excel at the 100 mile distance. Not just finishing but moving up in the standings. What kind of training would it take to do that?

Well, I had a conversation with a friend in the Raritan Valley Road Runners the other day. When asked, "would I do the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning again?", I said sure, but I would definitely try to do better next time. When the topic moved to getting faster for the 100, I answered that I might actually have to go to the track after all and do some faster intervals.

If that is the case, I feel like I'll be going around full circle here. Yeah, track workouts make sense for 5ks, they make sense for half marathons, and even marathons, but 100 milers?

If I want to do well in 100 mile races, the answer is YES!

So now I'm actually contemplating adding track workouts to the routine. The workouts wouldn't involve 400 meter or 800 meter intervals, but longer sessions like the mile or 2 mile intervals. Or longer. Cruise intervals would be the norm here, but it would be definitely faster than the comfortable pace.

It's just interesting how speed creeps up on me, wherever I go. Even at the 100 mile distance, I cannot avoid it.

Maybe I'll finally get rid of the speed element at the 200 mile distance. No? I didn't think so. LOL!




Monday, December 16, 2013

Resolving Conflicts In Your Race Schedule

Like any other serious athlete, there are so many races to choose from for your upcoming season. A couple of new races have been added to the list as well (maybe the Challenge 140.6 in Atlantic City in June or the Princeton 70.3 Triathlon in September).

And now you are actually starting to place these races on your calendar. And you KNOW you cannot do all of them, so you place on your calendar the races you *really* want to do and put the others on a list as a possibility for the following season.

Don't mull over your race choices too much.


So you look at the resulting list, and you successfully narrowed your list down to...20 races.

Yikes!

I know people who do much more of that in a year. A lot of the Marathon Maniacs in this NY/NJ area have a schedule at least double that. And that's fine.

But if you're looking to really excel at some of the races, you'll need to narrow that list down to four or five "A" races so that you can structure your training plan towards those races.

Because you're not going to be 100% at your best at all 20 races in your schedule. I've yet to meet even a professional who can stay at the top of his or her game for the entire year.

And the races you don't list as "A" races? You can go ahead and do them, but it might be best to hold back a bit on most of them so that your training doesn't get disrupted too much in gearing for those "A" races. Holding back gives you a much quicker recovery.

So mull over your schedule, decide which of the races you're doing will be the ones you'll try to PR in, and then structure your training around those races.

This way you can have a year of quality along with your year of quantity next season.

Finishing high in selected "A" races is a good goal too.

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Conflicts, conflicts, conflicts! Way too many conflicts in organizing my 2014 schedule. And there is still uncertainty.

The uncertainty stems from two ultra lotteries that I will be putting in for next year.  UTMB and Massanutten.

Massanutten is there to re-qualify me for the Western States lottery at the end of next year. There are no conflicts there, win or lose.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is a different matter. On December 19, I will be putting in for UTMB (maybe along with two others from the Raritan Valley Road Runners' haven of equally deranged ultrarunners) in France on August 29. I have historically a 40% of winning a spot in the 2014 race. Which is a much better chance than the Western States and Hardrock lotteries I didn't make at the beginning of December. The actual lottery drawing for the race is January 15.

Beautiful Alps of Europe!


And on January 4, the registration opens up for the Tahoe 200. I would love to do this race, but the date is the concern. The race starts on September 5, 2014.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe! Oh, no, I can't do both!


So if I submit for the UTMB lottery on December 19,  then register for Tahoe 200 on January 4, what will happen if our names get drawn in the UTMB lottery on January 15?

Do one of the toughest 100 mile races in the world on August 29, then just 6 days later do a mountainous 200 mile race?

I don't know, but doing 300 really tough mountain miles in one week doesn't sound too smart at all. Not to mention the travel east to Europe, the west to Nevada. I mean it can be done, but as I stated above I would love to really do well in one of these races. That means I either do one or the other.

But what if I don't register for the Tahoe 200 and then don't make the UTMB lottery? Then I'm left with nothing.

The Tahoe 200 does have a refund policy in which I get almost all of my money back with the exception of the online processing fee. I might have to go that way with that. I don't really want to do that with the good folks putting on the Tahoe race, but it's the only way to guarantee myself in at least one of the two races.

So I will probably put in for Tahoe 200 on January 4...which leads to another conflict. A minor one, but something to address.

I would love to do the Watchung Winter 50k on January 4. It's a smallish race, but one I always like to do. I see a lot of friends in that race, and so I don't really want to miss it.

But the Tahoe 200 registration opens at 11AM Eastern Time, smack dab in the middle of the race.

Since the race is not one of my "A" races, I have a feeling I will be fumbling for my phone in the middle of the 50k and registering for the Tahoe 200 on the spot.

With only 200 spots in the race, and *a lot* of interest in the race, I have a feeling the field will close out quickly, so it's necessary to be applying as soon as it opens, at 11AM.

Now that would be interesting...registering for an ultra while doing an ultra. LOL. I just hope I don't trip on a rock while applying. Texting and running can be dangerous, especially on the trails. ;-)

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One last thing...I with all this ultra talk, I will have a triathlon season next year. Right now, the Challenge Atlantic City 140.6 is very high on my list of things to do in 2014 as well as the Jersey Shore races and the Staten Island Triathlon. :-)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

To East Coast Winners of the Western States 100 Lottery - So You Think You Can Slam? Some Questions To Ask

You checked the Western States lottery on Saturday December 7 and saw your name on the list. You got in!!! Congrats on winning a coveted spot in the Western States 100, the oldest 100 mile race in the world.

This is certainly on your "want" list in 2014. Should you gamble and go for the Grand Slam too?

Now of course, a question pops into your head...do you want to try for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning? I mean heck, you got into Western States, maybe after 4 or more years of trying. That is a very important question, and one that you have to mull over the next couple of weeks.

The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning involves running four races in 10 weeks. You start out with Western States in June, then Vermont in July, Leadville in August, and finishing with Wasatch in September. It's a long, tough haul, but like all ambitious ultrarunners, you dare think about taking that challenge.

I will give you the good and the bad of attempting the Grand Slam. Please understand that although I myself finished the Grand Slam in 2013, I am by no means an expert on it. I will though, give you my experience as an East Coaster and what decisions I had to make before I decided on the Slam. Your situation might be a little bit different, but the main issues are the same.

The issues:

1) High degree of failure - This is obvious. There is a substantial degree of failure in any one of these 100 mile races. You're doing four of these races, in about 10 weeks. The chance of failure is extremely great. You're going to have to take that leap of faith and hope that you can get to that finish line at Soldier Hollow at the end of Wasatch.

2) Financial Cost - You're an East Coaster. Three of the races are out west. That poses a bit of a financial burden. The entry fees for the four races are well north of $1200. Plus three flights out, hotels, maybe a rental car, meals, days off from work, etc. That adds up to a LOT of money. On something that you run the possibility of failing at. Think about it; if an unforseen circumstance causes you not to finish Western States, then the other three races don't count towards your main goal any more. Sure, you can still do those races, and have a great experience with them, but it would be definitely anticlimatic as you are not in the running for the Grand Slam anymore. That's a lot of money that has been spent for not achieving your goal.

3) Terrain - The last two of the races in the Grand Slam are high mountain races. These mountains you will never truly see in the East Coast. You still need to develop a pair of "mountain legs" for the Slam, otherwise, you're in big trouble. I cannot stress this enough, I'll repeat this in red caps...YOU NEED TO DEVELOP "MOUNTAIN LEGS" FOR THE SLAM!!! This is the biggest priority in getting prepped up for the Slam. Even with the lack of big mountains here in the East Coast, there are fortunately special ways of developing that critical pair of "mountain legs" designed to bounce up and down those high mountain peaks. Hill and mountain repeats are one possibility. Road and mountain cycling (which I did a lot of in the ramp up to the 2013 Grand Slam) is an excellent alternative as well, really blasting your quads to "larger than life" status, and well designed to bound up the mountain slopes. One other alternative that you can use is the tire drag. Some miles using this apparatus will put some serious work on your quads!

You don't have to use a tire this big; even a smaller tire will help develop your quads for the high mountains.


4) Altitude - A big tripping point for East Coasters in the Slam. Please DO NOT underestimate the difficulty of Leadville and its altitude. Leadville is pretty flat in places, but the altitude (10,000+ feet) gives every runner, especially low-landers, a huge penalty, one in which, coupled with the aggressive cut-off times of the race, combine to kick any unsuspecting East Coaster out of the Slam. The race is relentless; only those who are WELL PREPARED will get to the finish line. The only way to directly reduce that penalty is to get up to Leadville at least a week before the race. If you're cash strapped and cannot do that, you can indirectly reduce that penalty by being in the best shape of your life. If your body is extremely fit, it can definitely better handle the reduced oxygen and you will suffer less. This requires a well prepared training plan that puts you at the top of your game by the time you toe the line at Leadville.

5) Commitment - If you're putting all this money into the Slam, the least you can do is commit to it. It's really a common sense issue. Why spend your hard-earned money on something you're not committed to? Make a deal with yourself, "if I'm going to shell out thousands of dollars for the Slam, I had better make this the main focus for the year. I will put 110% of my effort into completing the Slam."

6) Friendships - This is one of the biggies! I cannot put into words the benefits of the friendships that were forged with the other Slammers in the group. Most of us leaned on each other at some point in these Grand Slam races to get to the finish line. I was in a lot of trouble in Leadville trying to get up over Hope Pass. Two other Slammers I was running with motivated me enough to get up over Hope Pass and over to the finish line with an hour to spare. In the Slam you gain friends for life!

7) Satisfaction - This is another biggie...if you complete the Slam, you join a very elite fraternity of people and a special spot in the sport of ultrarunning. You get a great trophy and recognition from other athletes in the sport that you have achieved something that few other people have done. Remember that only 288 people have completed the Slam from its beginnings (1986-2013). That's about 10% of the people who have been to the top of Mt. Everest!


The complete schwag associated with the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. The Eagle Trophy on the left, the four bib numbers and belt buckles in the shadow box, and the finishers medals/plaque in the foreground. And maybe some media attention too. :-)


What made the choice for me to decide on the Slam in 2013? I am not a very rich person, so cash was an issue for me. But when I won a spot in the 2013 Western States, I realized that I might not get another shot at the Slam in several years. Maybe never! So I decided to enter the Slam, and shell out the cash, with the promise that I will get into the best shape of my entire life and that if I do fail, I was not going to be removed from the Grand Slam without a fight! I've had my number of battles in the Grand Slam, but for each one, I've steeled my resolve and got myself to the finish line every time. I could have easily dropped out in a couple of them, but instead willed myself to the finish. That is what it's going to take to complete the Slam.

So make your decision accordingly. You're going to shell out a lot of money for it. Will you back it up by committing yourself totally to it? Only you can answer that question.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Enough with the "Is Running Bad For Your Health" Already

Enough already!

Just how many times do endurance runners have to prove the naysayers wrong all the time?

Here's another article, in Runners World, no less, asking if back-to-back mountain marathons are "bad for your health."


Et tu Runners World?

About 30 years ago, a lot of people were asking if marathons by themselves were "bad for your health."

Then someone has gone and run 100 miles with the horses. In mountains, no less.  And actually finished under 24 hours.

After several years and several 100 mile races later, the articles are now saying, "is running 100 miles bad for your health?"

Come on guys, this is stupid.

That's been proven wrong again and again.

So now endurance stage races like the Transrockies and Grand to Grand Ultra come to exist in recent years and start to flourish. Most of these stages are set in tough mountainous areas; usually each stage is about a marathon in length.

The start of one of the stages of the Grand to Grand Ultra


And of course these articles come out again, "is running back to back marathons in the mountains bad for your health?"

Um, let me answer that quite simply.

NO!

Let me give you a statistically longer answer to this. The risk is extraordinarily lower for a person to run than the health complications that develop when a person sits around, does nothing, and watches TV all day.

The few times that I've been in hospitals seeing relatives this year, I see a lot more patients with heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, coronary heart disease, and bypass surgeries than I do runners collapsing from races.

And yes, there have been few reports of runners collapsing from races, but if you compare it to the health complications from unfit people, the chances are essentially nil.

I have a friend that is currently working toward being a medical doctor. He was in the medical staff for both the Honolulu Marathon and the HURT 100 mile ultramarathon. What he said about the two races was amazing in one way, typical in the other.

With the Honolulu Marathon, he did have to treat some people for dehydration and exhaustion issues.

You would expect he'd be busy for a race as extreme as the HURT 100. I mean, 100 miles is a gruelling distance, right?

He sat there twiddling his thumbs the entire race.

Hmmm, maybe because runners who opt for that distance are more experienced to handle their health at that distance?

In any case, health problems are quite minimal at the 100 mile distance.

It's interesting too. I have never heard of a runner who died in an ultra. Not one story. If there was a death that happened, I would sure to hear about it. If it did happen, the news would spread around the running world very, very fast because it just doesn't happen very frequently.

So, back to this "is running a certain thing bad for your health?" garbage. It's not a story that should make the headlines at this point of time. You have a major obesity problem in this country, and most of the hospitalizations and deaths that occur happen to do with the complications of obesity (yes, cancer too; I firmly believe that the rates of cancer can be significantly reduced by boosting immunity through exercise and diet).

You can read an article here, stating that over 300,000 premature deaths happen each year due to the complications of obesity. And you hear about what, 5-6 deaths in marathons each year? Is marathon really a health issue then?

So let's stop targeting running and exercise in general as a health problem, OK? There are far larger issues concerning peoples' health than running.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 2014 Ultra Schedule, Raising the Bar on Western States and Wasatch, and Halloween Candy

Possibilities, possibilities!

A lot of "what ifs" on my schedule.

What if I make the UTMB lottery? What if I make the Hardrock or Western States lottery? Grand Slam of Ultrarunning again if I win the Western States lottery? Rocky Mountain Slam if I win the Hardrock lottery? What if I get shut out of all three lotteries? Do I go for the Midwest Slam? The Beast Series? And is there any room for me doing the Fat Dog 120 in British Columbia in Canada?

The Barkley?...shhh.

Let me lay out some things I DO know about for 2014...

I will be starting my structured training next week, establishing a base. This will put me on "standby" in case I do choose to do The Beast series. The first race of that series, Holiday Lake 50k, is the first weekend in February, so I have to be at least minimally prepared for that.

2008 Holiday Lake 50K ++. Photo by Andrew Wilds Photography

To help get ready minimally for the beginning of the year, I will be doing two early season races, the Watchung 50k run by the NJ Trail Series, and the Batona 50 mile Fat Ass on January 19. Both runs will be at a very leisurely pace. If I do choose to do The Beast and tackle Holiday Lake in February, those races should help me out a bit.

Going to tempt the Jersey Devil Again in January. Hope I don't get eaten by it. ;-)


Now here's the problem with The Beast. I would have to take six road trips to western Virginia and I don't want to do this be myself. I would only do The Beast if there was a good group going and can split drive times and travel expenses with. Eight hours of driving by myself is not something I look forward to. So I will be asking any area ultrarunners if they would be interested in doing The Beast.

For those who don't know what The Beast entails, it basically involves three 50k races in the spring, then the Grindstone 100 miler, the Mountain Masochist 50 miler, and Hellgate 100k in the fall. It's actually very convenient timing is it is out of the way of any summer races that I have my name in the lottery for.

Then there is the Midwest Slam. This involves four, maybe five 100 mile races if you do the Super Slam that start in the late spring and ends in late summer. The five races look very organized indeed, so it would be worth it to take a train ride to all of these races and camp out there. Again, it would be nice if there was a group doing this too, so I'll be asking around.

Trophy for a successful Midwest Slam.


Then there is Fat Dog 120. One of our Canadian Slammers, Iris P., first pointed toward this race as a great possibility if I strike out in all my lotteries. The course is plenty difficult. The men's course record is nearly 28 hours. 28 hours?!! Holy crap...what would I be getting into?

Not to mention The Barkley...so I'm not mentioning that. Shhh.

With everyone racing but me, I am absolutely chomping at the bit to race again. My promise not to race after the Grand Slam ends when 2013 ends, but I can at least start doing some training again to get myself in decent shape to run the early races.

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Disjointed Thoughts Section

My Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Shadowbox is complete.


Now I just need to find room to hang it.

The Western States has eliminated all 50 milers for qualification to its 2015 race. For the most part, a lot of people, including me, have agreed with that decision. So many people have been entering the race that they were forced to raise the bar on the lottery qualifications. Now it's only 100k and 100 milers.

The Hardrock 100 has also raised the bar on its lottery. They have already had a very short list of races that qualify for their lottery. Well, the list has grwon a lot shorter. I can definitely understand eliminating Leadville from the list, since Lifetime Fitness has taken the race and placed more than 1000 runners on the course each year. The resulting chaos on the trails and on the roads, especially near the turnaround at Winfield, made for a trying time. Since it went against some of the core philosophies of ultrarunning, they decided to take it off their list.

The other eliminations, however, were puzzling.

Tahoe Rim Trail eliminated? HURT 100 eliminated? Those two were really tough trail races. I'm surprised that they were eliminated?

Massanutten? Now there's a real surprise. I understand that big hills are difficult, but in my opinion, severe rockiness is even worse. As a matter of fact, a lot of the runners who do Massanutten that normally train in the Rockies found this course to be very very tough.

To the Hardrock committee...take a look at part of the Massanutten course here. Now imagine doing 100 miles of this. Because that is exactly what the course entails. Maybe you can now understand why I consider this race one of the toughest 100 milers in the US.


I truly believe that if you can finish Massanutten, you can finish anything.

But hey, it's their race; they can do what they want with it. Other than Leadville, I just hope that they can reconsider these other races for their qualification into their lottery.

Lastly, Halloween. And the idea of giving kids candy.

Sure, I've gone trick-or treating as a kid, and definitely looked forward to getting candy.

But I think today, we are really going overboard on this "giving candy" thing.

So I won't be contributing to that unhealthy tradition. Instead, I'll give them some change instead.

Yeah, you can call me a heel, but today, kids are perhaps in the worst shape I've ever seen them. Maybe it's due to the overall lower quality food kids eat nowadays compared to the past. Maybe it's the elimination of physical education programs in the schools. But the kids today are so obese, that I really do feel sorry for them.

Sadly, I've seen more and more kids look like this. I'm absolutely terrified of their future.


They are due for a bleak future.

Listen, what people give to the kids today for Halloween is their choice. I'm not into telling other people what to do with the trick-or-treaters today. If you want to give them candy, that is perfectly fine with me.

But for me personally, I would prefer to give them small change instead. Sure they can turn around and buy candy with the money. I definitely understand that. With with the amount of candy they would be getting today, I can easily argue that the last thing they do with money is to buy candy with it.

And even if they do buy candy with it, that would be THEIR choice, not mine. All I did was give them the option to buy something else instead of candy. So my conscience is clear.

Anyway, have a HEALTHY Halloween. And take your hand out of that Halloween candy!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts for Wednesday - SITEC, Pine Barrens Run, and Races

One thing about the recovery that I'm in is that I get to focus on other aspects that are important to me.

Like the new club that we're forming.

I love that there are people out there interested in longer events. There are a lot of short, 5k events out there, but it seems like a significant number of people are looking into exploring their limits in longer races.

That is where this club comes in. The club name? SITEC, or, the Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club. The focus is truly on longer races, starting at the half-marathon distance and up to 100 miles and beyond. Same with triathlons. We do focus on the sprint distances in tris, as well as the Olympic Distance, the half-Ironman Distance, and the full Ironman distance.

And beyond. There are races longer than the Ironman too. Just put in a search for "double Ironman or "triple Ironman, or even "triple deca Ironman" (30 x Ironman), and you'll get races.

 Anyone willing to do a race that is 30 times Ironman?

Oh, and the true focus of the club? Having fun while expanding the limits of human potential.

Training can be intense, but one cannot leave the fun behind. Fun is really the reason why we do these endurance events to begin with, right? That is what keeps us training, so it cannot be left out.

And that will be my contribution to the new club...keeping things fun. :-)

If you're interested in the club, you can sign up at our meetup group here: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Triathlon-and-Endurance/

You can also sign up in our new group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/351283305015928/

Hope to see you soon. :-)
-----------------------

When I decided on the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, I made a huge promise to myself that I was to stay away from big races for three or four months after the Grand Slam was over.

That means the rest of this year. For the most part, 2013 is pretty much in the books.

But I'm not through with exploring trails with people though. There are a number of Fat Ass runs that I'm looking forward to this fall.

The first one I just did this past weekend. It was called the Batty Fatty race, put on by director Angie C., who is herself an ultrarunner. The 15 miles was in Wharton State Forest, in the heart of the Pine Barrens in NJ. A lot of the trail runners from the Raritan Valley Road Runners were doing this race also.

How can I not do this race? :-)

Remember that "fun" thing that I said above? Well, exploring new places is part of that fun.

I don't get much time to travel to the Pine Barrens and run on the trails there, so this was a good opportunity.

None of the runners got eaten by this critter; we all made it back alive. :-)


And it turned out to be a great run too. I had a good conversation with Heather S. during the entire run, managed not to get lost...sort of, and enjoyed the beautiful environment of the Pine Barrens on a perfect day weatherwise (50s and sunny).

She along with 4 other people will be going to the Grand Canyon this weekend to attempt the "rim to rim to rim". For people who don't understand, this means going from one edge of the canyon (called the rim) to the other side, then run back to the original side. In all, the attempt is about 44 miles.

Ah yes, the infamous warning sign not to hike down to the river and back on the same day. But the sign doesn't apply to runs to the OTHER RIM and back, right?


Oh, and by the way, this is on my bucket list. The only reason I'm not going is because of that huge promise to rest that I mentioned above.

I'm totally jealous that they're going. But I wish them the best of luck.

As for the Pine Barrens Run, well, the race director of Batty Fatty is planning a 50 mile Fat Ass Run on the entire Batona Trail in January. And I'll be there for it. January is a new year, and that promise I made will be over. :-)

-------

SITEC has a weekly run scheduled for Saturday at the College of Staten Island. Parking lot#6 near the track is where we meet. It'll be a smallish run, since it is a day before the NYC Marathon. Oh, and about the marathon, if you're looking to see the race live, I'll be heading out on the ferry Sunday morning to get a vantage spot around First Ave. If you're interested, feel free to contact me if you want.

Also, some noted news...Brooklyn Triathlon has cancelled its race in November of this year (swim in November at Coney Island...brrr!). Instead, they will do the race on October 27 of next year (swim in late October at Coney Island...brrr!).

November 1-15 - 2014 NYC Triathlon lottery opens. Lottery fee is $10, $302.50 if selected.

November 1 at midnight (or Halloween night after the trick-or-treating ends), 2014 Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon registration begins. They will fill the first 100 slots, the rest will go into a lottery to determine the remaining slots. Lottery selection is $25 and will be applied to the race application if selected. Total fee for registration is $400. In the past 2 years, you must have either done a previous SOS race, completed a 70.3 tri in under 7 hours, or 140.6 tri in under 15 hours to qualify.

November 9-16 - Lottery for 2014 Western States 100 opens with the actual drawing on December 7. Must qualify with a listed 50 miler in 11 hours, 100k in 14 hours, or 100 miler in under the official cut-off time. No lottery fees, but registration fee will be due immediately if selected (fee will be listed when you sign up).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy - Reflection

One year ago, Sandy roared ashore onto Staten Island and into the history books.

None of us ever expected to see a storm this ferocious coming, but it did. Weather forecasters have stated that there was a chance that severe damage can happen to Staten Island and its surrounding areas if the conditions were right.

And they were right that day:

1)  The storm took an unusual path and took a left turn right into NJ. Staten Island was caught in the worst part of the storm.

2) We had a slow moving storm. The brunt of the storm spanned two high tides, which was bad. The first high tide couldn't drain off due to the winds driving them on shore. When the second high tide hit, it just built upon the water from the first high tide.

3) There was a full moon that night. Astronomical high tides happen during a new and full moon due to its alignment with the sun. The second high tide that built over the first one was when the full moon was high. As a result, the resulting storm surge was the crippling blow to Staten Island, the Rockaways, and the Jersey Shore.

My aunt, who recently passed away, and her husband were caught in their house as the flood waters filled the first floor of their home. They were rescued by the firefighters during the height of the storm.

The area afterwards was surreal. It looked like a bomb hit the area. I seriously thought that I was in a war zone. I had a good chance to look around while helping her clean up and couldn't believe what I saw.

Looking through the back yard of my aunt's house, two days after Sandy. There is a swimming pool under all that debris somewhere.


The block where my aunt resided on looked like a war zone.


As for me, I wasn't directly involved, but indirectly I suffered a huge hit. Most of the people I was coaching lived on the shore. I nearly lost my entire coaching business due to this storm. And it's understandable too. What I do is a luxury, not a necessity. People will not worry about their marathon times if their house is underwater. That is definitely understandable. But the resulting financial loss put me in a bit of a pinch, so much that I had to scramble for ideas on how to retain those people (I gave some of my services for free, just to give them a helping hand in a dire situation) and how to start everything back up from scratch again.

A couple of my ideas for drumming up business did generate a lot of friction between me and some of the people I know. It's really times like these that determine who are your real friends and who are not.

Although I wasn't directly affected by the storm, but I was still a victim to it.

Today, people are still feeling the effects of that storm. Although my coaching has picked up quite a bit from that fateful storm, I still know that people are still rebuilding from that horrible storm and I feel for them.

It also gave me a little foresight to prepare myself a little better financially in case a storm like this hits. And I think people in general are a bit more wary and won't be caught with their guard down the next time a calamity like this hits close to home.

I don't think all of us will be caught with our pants down next time.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Challenging the Dogma of the Government Sponsored Food Pyramid

Another day, another credible study debunking the "benefits" of the government sponsored "food pyramid".

Another research paper is suggesting that saturated fat isn't bad for you at all. Funny how all this was kept from the people after all these years...

The link is here, by the way: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-saturated-fat-20131022,0,2193813.story#axzz2ipyaTllV



Yet, we are STILL teaching the Food Pyramid to our kids in the schools as if that was a fact. As it turns out, it seems like the Food Pyramid "fact" is really dogma.

For al those who don't know what the term "dogma" is, here is a nice definition of it from Wikipedia:

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.[1] It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself. They can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.[2]
Dogma is basically teaching people that the established theories of a certain topic are really facts that cannot be challenged. But they aren't really facts at all. People were taught in the dark ages that the world was flat. That was a theory disguised as fact.

The problem with teaching these to students is that they will leave school with a closed mind. Any suggestion to the contrary of dogma is met with derision and laughter.

You still think the schools nowadays are teaching the right things to students? Or are they really programming our kids to accept some facts that aren't really facts at all? They still are today. And as a result, people are more resistant to change their minds on alternatives to dogma.

It took me literally decades before I had to "deprogram" myself from my high school teachings from when I was a kid to actually ACCEPT the fact that maybe the Pyramid Diet wasn't good for people. The fact that my athletic performance actually shot UP the past two years by going against the Food Pyramid Dogma just about clinches it for me.

Sometimes you have to wonder what else the schools teach our kids that aren't exactly true?

Let's compile a list of dogma in nutrition, shall we?


1) Salt in the diet is "bad for you."

Really? Turns out that you actually NEED the stuff to live. Oh, and it tends to LOWER heart disease, not raise it like we are commonly taught about in schools. Here is a link to a good article about that. The best salt to have is unrefined sea salt, as it has a balance of potassium and magnesium as well as sodium. All three electrolytes are needed for basic human function. Lowering this will only complicate that process.



2) Cholesterol is "bad for you."

Recent studies have actually shown that cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease. Oops! Wonder how "cholesterol = bad" became dogma? It could be that the pharmaceuticals might be making a financial killing off this dogma, but some of you might call me a "conspiracy theorist" on that one.

Again, here is a link about cholesterol really not being bad for you here.

If cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease, what does? Sinatra is among a growing number of physicians who point the finger at inflammation, which is caused by a number of things. Eating too much sugar is at the top of the list.

Oh gee. All those people taking those expensive statins for cholesterol might actually be contributing to their demise? How come I'm not surprised?


3) Grains are "good for you."

Yeah sure? Take a look at that Food Pyramid and you'll see grains on that fat bottom part of it. Basically we are told that grains should be the foundation of our diet to live healthy lives.

Basically, tell that to the cows that are forced fed the stuff so that they can fatten up quickly so that the meat that comes from them are "juicy and tender". Interesting how that works, huh? Think about it, if grains can fatten up cows very quickly, what do you think it does to us humans?

She'd rather have greens than grains. Maybe you should too.


Grains basically shock the system by dumping a whole lot of sugar into the blood stream. The body has to go into overdrive with insulin to sweep all those sugars out. It's basically converted to fat in the process. Oh, and frequent "sugar dumps" and the severe insulin response that follows can lead to type 2 diabetes when people get older.

After seeing that, grains can hardly be called healthy, can it?

Hey, but don't take it from me, take it from these people here who know better than me:

Grains - Don't Eat Them - http://paleosimplified.com/grains-eat-them-part-2/

Why Grains are Unhealthy - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/#axzz2iq7A7aXv

When it comes to diet, it's definitely right to justify the dogma of a high carb, high grain, low fat diet. There is a lot of research that is coming out that is countering that established norm. All people need to do is to keep an open mind to alternatives to that norm by listening and keeping an open mind to the alternatives when it comes to diet and exercise. Because those people might actually be more correct than what you were told in high school.


Friday, October 25, 2013

The New Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club!

I had a busy week, but it turned out to be a success.

First off, a lot of people I know on Staten Island needed a new club to express interest in endurance sports such as triathlon, marathons, and ultrarunning.

So we got together and started the foundations of a new club here on Staten Island.

The name we came up with? The Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club. Or, in short, SITEC!

Nice, eh? I figure so. 

A new club is born. Meet the charter members of the Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club!


There were just two other major clubs on Staten Island, and although both have very worthy goals to promote running, they didn't exactly focus on multisport or runs that take over two hours to do. There are a lot of Staten Islanders who share the same sentiment that aren't part of any of those two clubs.

We hope that we can relate to those people.

There is one thing I have to clarify though. I will definitely help facilitate the club and have a huge hand in getting it off the ground, especially when we officially sanction the club with USA Triathlon.

But I ultimately want the club to function on its own, with minimal help from me. Whether it will take a year or several years is anyone's guess, but to have the club functioning on its own would be one hell of an end result.

When that happens, there are just two things I absolutely want out of the club. They are small requests but very substantial ones.

First off, this club has to be a business friendly club. I consider us as a very healthy community, and a healthy community has people in it that use their talents and ply their trade to make that community stronger. It also strengthens our networking capabilities between each other and therefore gives us a stronger club in the process.

I'm not asking that people spam the club with endless amounts of emails. But I do want to promote a "business to business" directory on our future website that promotes each member's businesses and trades. That's not hard to do. And yes, if someone has something to promote, or services that they are discounting, there are several ways to communicating that to the club without inconveniencing those who are at that time not interested in those services.

And the last thing I want the club to do eventually when we get to a point is to enact reasonable term limits on everyone on the eventual Board, and maybe even the Chairs. That includes me too (I'll ultimately reside as a coach with the club, where I truly belong). Term limits on the Board is precisely what we have with the Raritan Valley Road Runners in NJ. That club, with the "new blood" pumping through it year after year, has been one of the strongest running clubs I've seen over the 20+ years I've known it. New members of the Board are always constantly engaged, and bring with them their own strengths and ideas that keep the club vital and strong. As a result, that club continually attracts new runners, a lot of them young runners, that help the club stay vital.

When I do visit that club, I'm one of the "old guys" there now! There are so many new faces on that club that they will continue to be strong.

That is how I want this club on Staten Island to be.

Just grant me those two things, and I'm yours. :-)

-----

The primary goals of the club is to promote overall fitness through sports, especially through, running, cycling, and swimming, among other things. The primary scope of how that is carried out is through multisport, runs that are preferably 13.1 miles and longer, and adventure runs. Right now, the meetup group is the active group for signing on with the club and can be reached here: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Triathlon-and-Endurance

The club will hold its ever official run next Saturday (November 2), the day before the NYC Marathon, at the Parking Lot #6 of the College of Staten Island. That is the parking lot next to the track near the Victory Blvd. entrance. The run starts at exactly 8AM. It will be a smallish road run in the beginning to accommodate those who are doing the marathon the next day (maybe 3-4 miles). Those who want to go longer can join me as we go onto the White Trail after the road run and get maybe another 3-4 miles in.

The run for the following weekend will be in the same parking lot, but on a Sunday (November 10). I will probably not be there (going to the Wagathon in the Catskills that day), but I'm hoping that someone can lead in my absence.

As for Marathon Day, if anyone wants to ferry over to NYC to cheer on the runners on First Ave or Central Park, let me know. We can get a good group together. Remember, there are numerous Irish pubs on First Ave, so we can cheer our member runners on while "getting into good spirits". Let me know.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Planning for Next Year!

I LOVE planning for 2014. Especially for other people.

To all of the non-runners out there, they think what we do (Ironman, 100 milers, etc.) is crazy. Maybe, but even the crazy ones need to have an overall plan to get themselves into "crazy" shape so that they can excel in their "crazy" races.

"That's crazy..."

"Utterly insane..."

"See, I told you so...why don't you enter a 5k instead?" ;-)


No matter how tame or crazy the schedule is, it is best to have an overall master plan to get yourself through the season without major injuries. The biggest part of planning is building in your rest, because that is often neglected in the heat of training and can bite you hard in the form of injuries...and at the worst time when your training is in high gear.

If you want to do this...


 ...you need to do enough of this. I can definitely show you how and when.

I do all of this, of course, to all my athletes looking to excel in their athletic performances next year. And to those I don't, I can easily give those a generalized plan so that they can fill it in on their own. The plan is quite cheap...around $25. Just come in with a schedule of your major races and we can hash it out together, usually within an hour.

A master plan is critical to success, and for ultra-endurance athletes, is critical to minimize major injuries during your training build-up. With a master plan, I basically got through the Grand Slam injury free because I knew when to rest and when to train hard. So should you.

-----

Keeping a promise to myself when I decided to undertake the Slam, I promised myself to not do any more formal races after I was done. I intend to keep that promise.

I know a large group of people going to do the Javelina Jundred at the end of this month. I was sorely tempted to go, but remembered that promise.

Plus, my legs still are reminding me subtle that they need rest. It's not soreness or pain that is reminding me, just the sense of heaviness and sluggishness coming out of them. They definitely need a couple of more months before I'm sure I can train seriously on them again.

These signals are very subtle; I've only gotten around to truly sensing the small signals after taking up ultrarunning. It's amazing how "in tune" most ultrarunners are with their own bodies. As compared to triathletes, they don't need heart rate monitors or GPS machines to determine their exertion or pace. They just "know".

And isn't that one of the reasons we get into shape in the first place, to get to know our bodies well?

-----

I love running races, but I also love watching other people finish as I cheer them on.

This fall, I'm not racing. I'm on the other side of the fence now, going to races and cheering everyone else on now. A PR here, a PR there and soon I'm celebrating with them as if I did the race. It's great seeing other people do their best .

Coaching. I can't think of another job that has rewards like that. :-)

-----

Will I do the Grand Slam again? Tough question. I would lean towards, "yes".

But not next year. If I actually do win the Western States lottery next year I would just focus on that race and try for the silver buckle (under 24 hours).

After next year? The Slam would be more of a "maybe". The planets have to align the right way though. :-)

I'll be up for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning again. Just not next year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wasatch Report 2013 - Heaven and Hell

So here I was, three races down, including Leadville, my nemesis for the last 2 years. 

With so much focused on completing the Leadville race, not much attention was trained on Wasatch until after finishing Leadville. I've heard conflicting reports about Wasatch.


1) Wasatch is the toughest race of all the Grand Slam races.

2) Wasatch gives you a more generous 36 hours to finish as opposed to the three other races (30 hours).

3) Wasatch has 26,000 ft. of elevation gain., about 10,000 feet more than the other three races.

4) Wasatch should a victory lap for the Grand Slammers after getting by Leadville.

So which is it? Heck, this was a mountain race, and a 100 miler to boot. I was  definitely not going to treat this one lightly.

Yes, Leadville was tough. With 95% of the race at 10,000 feet and above (climbing up to Hope Pass at 12,600 feet twice), I figure there will be a little easing with Wasatch having a 36 hour time limit instead of 30 hours.

I was wrong.

The Wasatch course is tough. Really tough. In fact, most people claim it's the second toughest 100 miler in the country behind Hardrock.

A "victory lap" for the Slammers? None could be further from the truth! It's a tough race and I found myself fighting all the way through to the last mile of this race to complete the Slam.

And on top of it, it seems like the hot and humid weather has followed us even to this normally semi-arid climate. Can you say "high 80s and humid as hell?"

Luckily, I spend a week up at 7000 feet of altitude with my extended family. Yep, my whole family came on down to see me complete the Slam, and I wasn't going to disappoint them. I would do everything in my power to get to that finish line.

Pre-race Morning - Friday September 6

At 4:30 in the morning, everyone gathered at East Mountain Wilderness Park for the start of this race. Of course, my strategy for this race is just like Leadville, having a Camelbak on with essential clothes just in case it gets cold in the mountains that night to make sure I don't freeze to death. And even though the morning before the race was quite hot (around 70 degrees F), we weren't really high up in the mountains at the start, where it can get cold.

Since it was quite warm, I had my normal running shirt and shorts on and was ready for the start.

I wished most of the other Slammers well in their race. We all reminded each other to drive toward the finish line, whatever it takes. The goal is to all make it 100%. No drops at all. If we had to lean on each other to do it, then do it.

No drops!

"5...4...3...2...1..GO!"

From the Starting Line to Grobbens Corner (13.82 miles)

In the darkness of the East Mountain Wilderness Park, the final countaown toward 5AM started, and I had the feeling of deja-vu. A countdown toward a long 100 mile race, in the dark, not knowing what was in store for me during the day. Or days.

I started very conservative.

Knowing that the first 10 miles was going to be a huge climb up into the mountains (about 5000 feet of climb), I started off at a very slow pace on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The first 4 miles were only slightly uphill, so it was easy to get the running and the walking into gear with the rest of the people.

Finally, about 4.5 miles later and after a bit of conversation with the people around me we finally made the right onto the Great Western Trail and started the largest climb of the course into the Wasatch Mountains. There were switchbacks galore as we climbed higher and higher. My mood was still quite jovial as my hill legs easily kicked into gear. Looking to our west we can see the lights of the city of Kaysville more prominently; it was quite a sight! I was in with a group of people that was slowing a bit as they climbed. In with this group was fellow Slammers Keith S. and Liza C.. All of us weren't satisfied with the pace, but Keith was the guy who made it known and told the people up front to let us through. Keith found a slight trail where he can pass and took the opportunity to fly out front. I quickly dashed in behind him to follow him to the front. We quickly put some space between us and the rest of the group as we climbed the latter half of the hill. As we climbed, the approaching daylight was starting to make its effect, and by the time we finally climbed to the foot of Chinscraper, the day was in full bloom.

Right before Chinscraper, a couple of hikers had put out some water and some treats for us, which was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much all the way up to mile 18, so I took advantage of the stop they provided and had some pretzels and water.

Then it was time to tackle Chinscraper.

Chinscraper was easy to spot in the distance. It was a ridge of mountains shaped like half of a bowl, and we had to climb up the right side of this bowl to get on top of it. As I approached it, a guy at the top yelled at us down below:

"Watch out! Rocks!"

I looked up to see a rock tumbling behind where I was, dislodged from a person climbing the last of Chinscraper.

Chinscraper. The last little bit is really, really steep.

OK, so it was steep. But aside from the occasional rocks tumbling down the climb was not so bad. It was only the last few yards in which Chinscraper gets its name. I had to scramble up on all fours to finally get to the top of the ridge. Thankfully, I didn't dislodge any rocks that might hit the runners below me.

Once up on the ridge, the trail meanders up and down, usually on one of those annoying sloped, crooked trails. Here I had to be careful with the footing since one missed step can have me tumble down the slope, which wasn't good at all.

Keith put a little space ahead of me, as I backed off a bit making sure that my footing was secure through that section. Keith was definitely easy to spot; he was the guy in the pink tutu, his standard running outfit for the Slam. So every so often, when we crested a ridge I would still see a flash of pink, I knew that Keith wasn't too far ahead of me.

As the heat of the day was approaching, we finally started to see the Francis Peak Radar Domes in the distance and know that Grobbens corner was coming up. Sure enough, after one more hill, we finally got up to the dirt road and the awaiting pick-up truck that had water in it.

At that point I was feeling great. I took off my Camelbak and replenished it with water for the next section; one that would get us to the first legitimate aid station of the day, the Francis Peak Aid Station.

Time at Grobbens corner: Around 3 hours 45 minutes.


From Grobbens Corner (13.82 miles) to Francis Peak Aid Station (18.40 miles)


The day was now promising a lot of heat and humidity. As an East Coaster, I was used to it, but apparently, to a lot of people in the race, it proved to be their boom. About 100 people eventually had to drop from this race.

For me, I really didn't feel it as much. I definitely worked it to my advantage.

This was a great downhill section on a smooth dirt road, perhaps the easiest section of the race. I caught back up to Keith, said a few kind words to him, and went ahead. There were a lot of people passing me on this hill. One person from NYC, Elizabeth A., wished me well as she passed me. Slammers Liza, Dennis A., and Iris P. were also passing me down the hill as we were approaching the next aid station. It was a nice section where people can get a good conversation before we start hitting the tougher sections of the course.

I approached Francis Peak, ready to eat a ton. I was not going to suffer problems with lack of nutrition as I did in Leadville, so I was going to pause a bit at this aid station to make sure I get in all the food and drink I need.

Time at Francis Peak Aid Station: 5 hours 5 minutes.


From Francis Peak Aid Station (18.40 miles) to Bountiful B Aid Station (23.40 miles) 

"Wow, this is easy. Where are the hills?"

I was my snarky self when I was talking to the volunteers at the aid station. A gentle downhill slope on a smooth dirt road will do that to me.

The reply? "Well, the honeymoon is over." I laughed and told the volunteer I knew what was ahead was was only joking. She understood. Well, let's see about this "eating" thing I have to do at the aid station.

Iris was also there doing the same thing, sitting down and eating a cup of noodles. She suffered a bit in Leadville so I know she was adopting the same strategy I was taking, which is eating a ton at every aid station. As for me, I ate bananas, lots of cantaloupe, and some Twizzlers as I replenished my Camelbak for the next section, which was 5 miles to Bountiful B.

Dennis had gone ahead and Iris left a few minutes before I left for Bountiful B.

This next section follows along a rocky trail going uphill, so the easy stuff was done and the hard stuff was about to begin. The conversation quickly ended, it's time for the real race to start. The trail was quite rocky, but was making my way very well along this section. Some ups, some downs, and soon I was pretty much alone. With a race of only 300 people, it was easy to quickly get some space on the nearest runners. We crossed a couple of streams, and then, with about 1 mile to go before the next aid station, the trail took a huge, pretty steep climb up the mountain. My climbing legs were still fine as I passed a couple of people on this hill.

At the top, we had to step through the fence before gaining the next aid station that was on the road.

Time at Bountiful B: 6 hours 43 minutes.


From Bountiful B Aid Station (23.40 miles) to Sessions "Lift Off" Aid Station (28.16 miles)

"That little hill is it? I thought there will be mountains here."

Joking again, as usual. Hey, it gets me through races, OK? :-)

Keith, Liza, and Iris were at the aid station as well as Elizabeth, so I was in good company. The aid station did have popsicles. That was DEFINITELY up my alley, so I took two, one for the aid station, and one for the road, as I was walking away from the aid station. The day was unnaturally hot and humid, so those popsicles cam in very handy.

Again Keith, Liza, and Iris took off ahead of me as we walked up a dirt road at the top of a ridge. I took my time as I was doing short work on my popsicle. The heat was definitely starting to make itself felt, and I see some of the runners starting to be affected by it. I passed several of them in this section. I was largely "bomb-proof" in the heat and humidity and I came into the Sessions "Lift Off" in pretty good shape.

Time at Sessions "Lift Off": 7 hours 49 minutes.


Sessions "Lift Off" Aid Station (28.16 miles) to Swallow Rocks (34.62 miles)

"Be forewarned! Make sure you have a lot of water for the next section because you're going to need all of it!"

One of the other runners at the aid station was warning everyone about the next section, and he was right. I'm glad I listened to his advice. I filled my Camelbak all the way to the top. I wound up drinking the entire 2 liters in the next section.

Iris, Keith, and Liza were at the aid station and took off ahead of me again. Heck, this station had popsicles too, and I needed to get my fill of them, as well as other food. One I was sure I was ready to traverse the next, long section, I started off.

After a small downhill, I went back onto the Great Western Trail where there was a really long and steep climb. Walking this, I started to make sure I stayed hydrated by drinking some of the water that I had in my Camelbak. After what seemed like forever, we finally emerged onto the tops of the Wasatch Mountains where the trail goes from ridge to ridge. It was a beautiful sight to behold, running along the ridge going from peak to peak, with beautiful scenery all around! It definitely took my breath away. Unfortuately, the tops of the mountains don't provide much shade and we were all exposed to the sun. The sun was plenty angry at this time of day baking the tops of mountains with intense heat.

The tops of the mountains were serious rugged, and seriously beautiful.


This was the first really tough section in the race, and a lot of runners were definitely feeling it. I passed several runners, including Keith at this point, and although the heat was affecting me too, I was handling it quite well. This section was quite long as well, amplifying the difficulty of this section. after running on the tops of the mountains from ridge to ridge, we finally started to see the aid station in the distance. We still had to run a couple of more ridges  to get to it, so it was pretty slow going before we were finally making it onto a dirt road that had the aid station on it.

I hit the dirt road that led to the aid station and found Dennis, Iris, and Liza here. All had some issues from the heat and sat down to recover a bit.I was actually feeling OK, but I took a couple of extra minutes to make sure I ate at this station. Dennis took off before I did. Liza and Iris remained a bit, but I wanted to tackle the next section, so I wished them well and took off for the next aid station, Big Mountain, where my family was going to be.

Time at Swallow Rocks: 9 hours, 51 minutes.


Swallow Rocks (34.62 miles) to Big Mountain (39.07 miles)

"4.5 miles to the next aid station, and it's a big one.", one of the volunteers said.

Oh, yeah. Big Mountain Aid Station, the first crew accessible aid station, one where I will see my family. That's incentive enough to run harder than usual. So off along the dirt road I went.

The road continues at the top of the hills for a while, climbing a couple of more ridges. My legs were getting a bit tired at this point, still feeling it from Leadville, but they were still doing OK. I made the last bit of climbs as the road turns back into trail. Once hitting the last peak, the trail finally started to go down hill back through the trees. Soon after, I finally saw the asphalt road to the right and knew that I was closing in on Big Mountain Aid Station. The last mile turns out to be a bunch of switchbacks as we descend to the very noisy aid station. As I made it across the road, my family was there to great me. After some hugs all around I told them I was doing great and proceeded to get some food down as quickly as possible.






Looking great at mile 39.




Here I saw Dennis and Keith and was talking to them a bit. Dennis was biding his time, making sure he plays it safe so that he can run faster at night when the heat dies down. For me, I was just generally playing it safe throughout the entire race; all I wanted was the finish and the Grand Slam.

I took a good bit of time at the aid station (about 10 minutes), but after a while, I hugged my family goodbye and started to tackle the next section of the course. This section turned out to be a really mean, tough mother I never expected.

At this point Keith took off ahead of me but I was off ahead of Dennis.

Time at Big Mountain: 11 hours 3 minutes.


Big Mountain (39.07 miles) to Alexander Ridge (46.90 miles)

"99 bottles of beer on the wall..."

Yeah, yeah, when you're alone, at mile 40 of a race in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, in close to 90 degree humid weather, I'm sure you'll be delirious also. And yes, beer was on my mind also...

After the aid station, the section started off with a nasty climb back to the tops of the mountains. I was really starting to feel a bit of heaviness in my legs at this point, but I was still going at a decent clip.  As we got back to the tops of the mountains and danced from ridge to ridge, the heat was really putting the stamp down on the day. We climbed over the ridge and found ourself overlooking a pretty big mountain lake in the distance (Little Dell Reservoir). The trail was a bit rough at points and the footing was questionable. I had to drink a lot of water in this section. As the course crests another ridge and goes by the eastern part of the lake, the long section finally took its toll and I finally ran out of water. At this point, I didn't want to chance it so I slowed down a bit to accommodate for the lack of water and allowed some people to take the lead on the trail. With about a mile ago, the trail decidedly took a steep jaunt downhill with very loose rocks. It was all I can not to slip and fall on my butt as I slid down the slope. I was starting to get very frustrated at this point, hoping that the aid station would finally arrive so that I can replenish my supplies and regroup before moving on.

Now is when things started to hurt. It was a bit troubling.

After what finally felt like forever, I crested one more ridge and finally found the tents of the next aid station waiting. I walked in, plunked myself down on a chair, and started to eat and drink generously.

Time at Alexander Ridge: 13 hours 33 minutes


Alexander Ridge (39.07 miles) to Lambs Canyon (52.48 miles)

"What is going on with the weather?"

I was looking out over the mountains and saw nothing, we were in this huge cloud obscuring everything. There was a salty taste to the air as the wind whipped up.

Dennis responds, "I have a friend who knows this weather. There's a cold front that goes over the Great Salt Lake that kicks up the salt everywhere.

Wow. A salt cloud over the Wasatch Mountain range. Now that is a weird sight. It does block out the sun a bit, so I guess it was a small advantage.

Keith made his way into the aid station ahead of me, but took off very quickly. At that point I thought I was not going to see him again; I would be staying at this aid station for a pretty long time.

Dennis came in and took a seat. He was a little down but was still biding his time for the night. He described the second half of the course to me after Lambs canyon and stated that it wasn't like the first half as the trails were a bit more runnable.

Encouraged, I finally took his leave and started to walk away from the trail down a pipeline road that was to serve for the course for the next 2 miles.

With the day starting to wane and the salt cloud in full effect, I generally walked at a pretty brisk pace as the slope generally went uphill out of the aid station. With the half-way point approaching, I was asking myself some questions on whether I still had some of the energy left for the second half of this race. There were a lot of hills left in this course, and my climbing legs were already a bit taxed, so I had to play this very smartly so that I can manage to get myself to the finish line.

After what seemed like forever on the pipeline, questioning whether I was still on course or not (the course markers were few and far between), I finally got to a point where the course veered off the pipeline road and onto a single track trail.

After a small but steep uphill on this trail, I finally heard it...the traffic from Interstate 80.

I-80 cleanly cuts through the Wasatch range right down the middle. Crossing it means that I would truly be in the second half of the race. The noise from the highway was a welcome relief. I knew the Lambs Canyon Aid Station was there at the highway, so I started to run for it.

After cresting a small ridge, I finally saw the highway in the distance. It was a welcome sight.

The course was a nice gentle downhill approaching Lambs Canyon, so I ran pretty fast through this section, passing about 2-3 other runners in the process. As the darkness started to fall, I finally got into the aid station would the need for a headlamp., sat down in the tent, and proceeded to have some pierogies that they were supplying. It definitely hit the spot!

With the next section very, very long, I sat there for about 10 minutes making sure I ate enough to make the next aid station. As I made my way out, headlamp on, I saw Dennis making his way in. Keith was still ahead of me somewhere.

Time at Lambs Canyon: 15 hours 10 minutes.
 

Lambs Canyon (52.48 miles) to Upper Big Water (60.95 miles)

"Asphalt. I hate asphalt." I mentioned to other runners, walking along a road one mile after the Lambs Canyon Aid Station. The other runners cracked up a bit.

Night running. I never thought I would look forward to it. But it went in perfectly with the next phase of the race, so any change is a welcome one. Still, it was about 9 miles to the next aid station, so I had to be prepared for this next long, tough section.

Leaving the aid station I crossed under the interstate and continued onto the asphalt road that led up into the southern Wasatch range. The road continued for about 1.5 miles. At that point, I hung a right onto the Lamb's Canyon Trail and started a hugely steep climb that taxed my legs even more. This hill basically sucked, and I struggled up it. At several points, it got so steep that I had to take baby steps just to pass those sections. My quads were screaming, but still, I actually wound up passing some people who were having an even harder time climbing the hill.

After what seemed like forever, I finally got to the top and proceeded my way down the extremely rough back side of the hill. With rocks strewn every so often, the downhill section was very rough. Again, I got very frustrated going down these hills as it just destroyed my quads. Finally, I got to the bottom of the trail and it ends at a trailhead; I was to run along this asphalt road for 3 more miles before we finally got to the aid station.

I actually caught up to Keith at this point and we walked along this road together, talking about his previous Grand Slam finishes and his Badwater finishes. Keith is quite the accomplished ultrarunner; this was his 3rd Grand Slam he was chasing and the conversation turned out to be quite interesting.

After a long, long time on this road in the black of night, we finally made our way to the next aid station at Upper Big Water. As I arrived, Keith thanked me for the company on that lonely stretch of road and we went about our business recharging ourselves at this aid station.

Time at Upper Big Water: 18 hours 11 minutes


Upper Big Water (60.95 miles) to Desolation Lake (66.02 miles)

"Wow, this aid station is, like, in the middle of nowhere, man.", I mentioned to a volunteer when he handed me some food and drink.

I sat down and had about 3 cups of noodles with chicken broth, The night was rapidly getting cold, so I pulled out my long sleeve jacket and hat to keep warm. I was starting to hurt pretty much all over, so if I was to ever do the last 39 miles of this course, I would have to do it smartly.

I got up out of the aid station after about 7-8 minutes and started toward the trail that was to bring me to the next aid station. Keith was still sitting down at this point. He was still OK though; I know he would come through soon.

The trail from Upper Big Water climbed a bit; after about 5 minutes of walking, I was warm enough to take the jacket and hat back off and place it into my Camelbak...after which I proceeded to climb the hill.

The trails here were smoother than everywhere else on the course, so I pretty much climbed up the hill at a rapid pace. After quite a few switchbacks, I finally got to the top of this hill and started to descend down the other side. Aside from a few rocky areas, this section wasn't really bad at all. The last downhill got me over to Desolation Lake Aid Station without much problem.

They did have a campfire going, so I decided to sit down, stay warm by the fire, and have a couple of cups of the chicken broth and some soda to keep hydrated. Worried that I was going to get too comfortable, I decided after just 5 minutes to get up and start the move toward the next aid station.

Time at Desolation Lake: 20 hours 12 minutes.


Desolation Lake (66.02 miles) to Scott's Pass (69.94 miles)

"Thanks for the campfire guys, but it's time for me to move along. The rest of the course is summoning me."

"Good luck!" came the response from the volunteers.

It it wasn't for the fact that it was night, I would say that this would have been quite the scenic part of the trail! After Desolation Lake, I managed a pretty strong climb back to the ridge of the Wasatch Mountains again. This time, it was the main spine of these mountains I was traversing. As I was going from peak to peak I there was a lit section way below me with buildings down toward my right. Looking closer, I thought I saw some runners approaching those buildings, but when the trail meandered away from that section, I thought it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I did manage to do some running in this section, and it was after a short while that I arrived at Scott's Peak, which is still at the main ridge of the mountains. I was a bit sleepy here, but nothing indicating that I was in a crisis.

I'm not sure what I ate there, but I wanted it to be done quickly. Brighton's was next, and that aid station is the gateway to the last part of the course. So, mentally, I was driven to get this last stretch done as quickly as possible.

Time at Scott's Pass: 21 hours 35 minutes.


Scott's Pass (69.94 miles) to Brighton's (74.63 miles)

"The warmth of Brighton's Lodge is next", one volunteer told me, "you just have to get down off these mountains onto the road."

"Thanks, I'm looking forward to it." I replied.

After leaving Scott's Peak, we were back up on the ridge again when I saw the same lit area with the building way down at the bottom off to my right. Again I thought I saw runners with headlamps approaching the building on the road there, but again, as the trail lead away from it, I thought I might have been imagining it again.

After a couple more peaks, the trail finally started to descend, a lot, down to a trailhead which lead to an asphalt road. Both my feet were in a bit of pain, so I wasn't really able to get a good pace on the road. The road did descend, so I was able to move it fast through there.

The road then did a switchback as it descended even more towards Brighton's. Running down the road, I approached a lit area with some buildings. Wonder of wonders! That's the same area that I saw up at the tops of the mountains. I wasn't hallucinating after all!

I looked up to my right to see where I have been, and sure enough, there were scattered lights all along the spine of the mountains! What a sight! All those lights were runners trying to make their way toward where I am now; it was such a surreal sight. I kept moving, always looking toward my right, looking at the little lights moving from one peak to another.

That is why I run these races. Sights like that will always be etched in my mind forever. It's such a great thing to see!

After finally turning away from the lights, I finally descended into a small hamlet where Brighton's Lodge was. I climbed the steps and into some welcome warmth as I checked into the aid station.

It was time to change things a bit. I changed my original short sleeve shirt to another, drier short sleeve shirt. I also changed the batteries in my primary headlamp to make sure that they shine all the way through to the dawn. And last, but not least, I changed my Leadville shoes to the Hola One Ones to relieve some of the pain I was getting on my feet. It turned out to be a great choice.

I also ate about two grill cheese sandwiches there, drank a lot of Rocktaine and coke, and refilled my Camelbak for the next section of the course. Knowing that the 10,000 foot Catherine Pass is next, I wanted to make sure I was fully ready for it.

One other thing...I encountered fellow Slammer Traci F. at Brighton. She is usually way ahead of me, so to see her meant that she was not having a good race, and she indicated as much. She was settling just to finish and complete the Slam, and knowing her, she would definitely make it.

I got back out into the cold, ready for the last 25 miles of the race. Little did I know that these last 25 miles were the most difficult and sinister of the course, and the entire Slam.

Time at Brighton's Lodge: 23 hours 9 minutes.


Brighton's (74.63 miles) to Ant Knolls (79.14 miles)

"You've got to be freaking kidding me. You've GOT to be FREAKING kidding me!"

The last 25 miles of the trails were pure insanity. I must have said the following, oh, maybe two hundred times. I've never seen trails turn so sinister before, especially in the last 25 miles of a 100 mile race.

Out of Brighton's I girded for a major climb. What I wasn't prepared for was how ROCKY the climb was going to be.  This turned out to be a hellish climb, with so many rocks that it actually started to resemble Massanutten's rocky course. Loose rocks, slippery rocks, stepping on the few holds to propel me up was a challenge. The climb lasted forever, or so it seemed. I was in with a small group of 3 people, but we never really talked as our attention was turned toward keeping ourselves upright while climbing this thing.

At the top, I was in for another shock...the steep downhill section was a hell-raising rocky section too.

The small group that I was in, was looking at each other at the top. Nobody wanted to go down the hill first.

I relented and was the first unwilling victim down the hill.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me."

I fell about three times down the hill. My increasingly sore butt is a constant reminder that I was not taking to this crazy downhill section well.

About half way down another runner came down and was so adept at getting down the hill that it made us look like we were standing still. Unbelievable! The hill flattened just a tad toward the bottom, making it slightly more bearable to descend. Still, in that section alone I must have fallen on my butt twice.

I finally made it to Ant Knolls at the bottom of the hill. I was battered, and so were the people I was with. At the aid station we were all talking about that person who descended fast and how he made us look silly. Well, some people are used to the mountains, and can descend very well.

At Ant Knolls, I asked the person when the next aid station is, and he told me only about 3 miles, one major climb up to the ridge, and 2 along the ridge. I thought, "hey, that doesn't sound so bad, let's do this."

Oops.

Time at Ant Knolls: 25 hours 21 minutes.


Ant Knolls (79.14 miles) to Pole Line Pass (82.31 miles)

I didn't know it at the time, but that major hill climb turned out to be The Grunt, perhaps the steepest climb of the course. My legs were tired, and when that trail just turned up, up, up, they were screaming! Looking ahead was this wall of a hill with no end. Each step was agony. I finally pulled myself to a switchback on that damned hill, and when I looked up the rest of the climb, it got even steeper! I stopped there just to catch my breath before tackling the rest of the bloody hill.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me!", under gasps of breath as I looked at the wall a hill that I had to tackle.

After a million more lung busting steps, I finally arrived at the top of The Grunt and the ridge. After a few more seconds to catch my breath, I was off again along the ridge trying to make it to the Pole Line Pass Aid Station. The trail still had its small steep sections, but I finally stumbled into the aid station looking to sit down and settle down.

The sun was up for the second day. And it promised more heat and humidity.

Little did I know that the trail was going to get even worse.

Time at Pole Line Pass: 26 hours 32 minutes.


Pole Line Pass (82.31 miles) to Pot Bottom (92.05 miles)

"Did I hear right? 9.7 miles to the next aid station? Holy $%^&"

Due to tough logistics, they took out an aid station between Pole Line Pass and Pot Bottom, leaving a huge, sadistic stretch of 9.7 miles between aid stations. From what I know of this stretch, there is a significant climb in the beginning, then a couple of really steep downhill sections called The Dive and The Plunge.

This is definitely going to hurt. Bad!

Reluctantly, I left Pole Line Pass Aid Station, hoping that I would be OK in this long stretch. I encountered some downhill sections that I was able to run in. After which that significant climb started in earnest.

Yeah, it sucked. My quads were burning all the way up to yet another ridge. I was get extremely tired. After infinity, I finally staggered up to the top of the pass.

At 4 miles, I encountered the spring where the old aid station used to be. I was at mile 87. Knowing that the Dive and Plunge were next (mile 88), I girded myself.

It wasn't enough.

The Dive and Plunge basically look like steep chutes with golf ball sized rocks thrown in for kicks.

"Are you freaking kidding me? Oh, $#%^!!!"

I've must have fallen on my butt 5-6 times, after which I had to stop along the way and take a deep breath. That is where Dennis went by me, as he slipped  and slid his way down the Plunge. It took me several tries, but I finally, FINALLY, got myself down to the bottom.

The insanity wasn't over yet.

Right after The Plunge were these huge, severe rollers, steep uphill sections that burned quads, to steep downhill sections resembling miniature Plunges and Dives.

"Are you freaking kidding me? I thought I was done with the steep uphills!"

I was out of water, and burning up in the heat of the day. This. Just. Sucked!!!

I was beaten like I've never been beaten, in any of the four races that I've done. And yet I still had a distance to go before getting to the aid station.  After 5 or 6 of these leg numbing rollers, the trail finally started a meaningful long, forgivingly gentle descent, into Pot Bottom.

3.5 hours on this stretch alone. Ouch.

I practically collapsed getting into Pot Bottom.

Time at Pot Bottom:  30 hours, 14 minutes


Pot Bottom (92.05 miles) to Staton Cutoff (94.76 miles)

"Hey are you alright?" the volunteer said.

"Did anyone see the license plate of that bus that just hit me?" I responded.

He lead me to an an empty chair in the shade and I sat down. Although I had only 7 miles to do and a very reassuring 5.5 hours to do it in, it felt like a million miles. I drank largely a liquid diet at this point, trying to keep cool. I was rubbing my legs trying to keep them loose. Just 7 more miles. Can I do it?

Sigh. I'm in agony.

After about 10 minutes, I finally got up and started to trudge towards the last aid station on the course, the Staton Cutoff.

Thankfully, the course leading out of Pot Bottom was a level road.  I did have a lot of time left to finish, so I decided to walk most of it. I was beaten and battered and I'm not sure the legs would have any more to run in. After crossing a couple of huge puddles on the road, I started to descend a little downhill, hoping that this downhill will finally take us out of the mountains and into the Midway area for the finish.

The difficulty of the course wasn't over yet...not by a longshot.

After largely walking a couple of miles along the road, I looked ahead and saw a road turn off and head up this steep hill again toward my left. "Nah, I wouldn't possibly go up this road again, right?"

Uh, yes, I do.

"Are you freaking kidding me?"

The guy at the Hairpin before the road pointed me toward the hill, and when I looked at him with this pleading look, he said, "yeah, I know. Sorry man."

Ugh.

Walking up yet another hill. Quads a-burning like crazy. Finally, I get to the top of the hill, and into the last aid station. I sat down for only 5 minutes, then I decided I've just about had it with the race and decided to make towards the finish line.

But, the race STILL isn't over yet...

Time at Staton Cutoff:  31 hours 8 minutes.


Staton Cutoff (94.76 miles) to Soldier Hollow Finish (100.00 miles)

"Less than 4 hours to go 5 miles. I know I got this, but do I actually have to do it?"

That comment produced some laughs from the volunteers.

The road finally goes downhill to the finish. Of course it wasn't an easy downhill. It was a steep, rocky downhill filled with all sorts of lovely rocks, the kind you can easily slip and fall on. The steepness of the downhill was also significant as well, and my back started to painfully lock into that position as I started to make my way downhill. The town of Midway was appearing below, to my right, so I knew I was finally making my way out of the mountains, so that was a small plus.

At this point Keith caught up to me. He was none too worse for wear also, but at least he still had some "run" left in him. After about 3 minutes of conversation, he decided to get out of the sun and decide to run it in.

I, on the other hand, found it very difficult to do.

As I finally got down towards the asphalt road and it finally levels out, I decided to try running. My quads were almost on the verse of collapse and my back was locked up; when I tried to bend forward a bit, it hurt like the dickens.

So I resorted to walking it in.

I knew I was going to get in under 33 hours, so my finish was without a doubt in the books. It took a bit more than a mile on the asphalt roads, but finally Soldier Hollow started to appear in front of me, and finally the end is in sight.

Towards the end, I locate my family, raised my fist into the air, and finally completed the race, and the Grand Slam.

I did it.

The whole plot was like the original Rocky movie. I was Rocky, the course was the prizefighter Apollo Creed, and the race was the boxing match. Although I didn't conquer the course, and although the course left me battered and bloody, somehow, I remained standing in the end.

Final few yards before the finish.

Last few yards! I've done it!


My time was 32 hours, 47 minutes, well below the 36 hours needed to finish.

After finishing. I was a mess!

Needed to sleep after showering up. It was brutal out there.


As I slowly showered up and got myself clean, I congratulated Keith and Dennis for their performances and started to cheer the rest of the Slammers coming in after me. Liza was a few minutes behind, but smiling as she crossed the finish line. Traci walked on in. She had a tough race, but she still remained standing also. Andre B. and Chihping F. as well as the other Slammers.



I'm one happy man. Getting my awards.

All the Slammers got to the finish line!

I was sitting with two of the 5 Lady Slammers right after the finish line. Stephany H. is the one on the left, Liza C. was the one on the right. They both look like they can do another 100! Both very tough women and great athletes.


We all did it. All 22 of us. All of us with our Eagle Trophies, patting each other on the back for a tough, but memorable Slam. All of us one big happy family, posing for a picture after the awards were over. All of us with willpower the size of Jupiter. We definitely needed it to complete the Slam this year, and I'm proud to be among such a great group of runners.

Official 2013 Grand Slam Photo (click for HD image).


Hopefully I can meet some of them again in the future.


The Eagle Trophy and the four belt buckles of each Grand Slam race. It's been a satisfying summer!