Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Me and Loops

"What is it with your husband and loops??"

My wife was asked the question by a coworker right before I ran the Mt. Tammany 10 - ten circuits of a four-mile loop course up and down Mt. Tammany in western New Jersey (I only made nine). Of course the reason for the question involved more than that. It was not the first time Karen had informed coworkers that she would be taking time off to watch and assist while I ran around in circles. Four miles was actually a bigger circle than usual.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


After the long uphill drive from the Jamesville Reservoir I pass through the little cluster of buildings known as Pompey (if you live in the area, by the way, you know that's pronounced "POMP-ee"). I cross Route 20 and start down the other side of Pompey Hill, toward Fabius. The land sweeps down and away ahead of me and I can see for perhaps five or six miles across farm fields and woodlots, and into the first of the big wooded hills, and I am reminded again just how little is out here. "Not what most people outside of New York picture when you mention New York," I thought (not for the first time - and as a non-native New Yorker, I know this is true).

Today though, underneath my usual inner dialog, there is something else lurking in my mind - something deeper, wordless and primitive... fear. I feel it strongly as I drive down the hill from Pompey.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ARFTA - A Race for the Ages 2

"Mama says, 'Stupid is as stupid does.'" - Forrest Gump

Grinding it out again under the Tennessee sun.
(Photo credit - John Price)
I was pleased when Laz chose to sit down with me as I was finishing up my breakfast coffee on Sunday morning at ARFTA. He's a popular guy and everyone wants to be able to spend some personal time with him. We chatted a little about this and that. It doesn't matter how much more tired he may be than you are, he's always got a gleam in his eye and something witty and interesting to say.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016 CandleLight12 at EquiCenter

A brand new race in Honeoye Falls, NY (near Rochester), CandleLight12 at EquiCenter (CL12) was a 12-hour night race benefiting (and taking place on the grounds of) a horse farm operated by a non-profit organization providing therapeutic equestrian programs to people with disabilities, at-risk youth, veterans, and their families.

When Egils "Gil" Robs, RD of both Mind the Ducks 12-hour and the CanLake 50s, announced this new race he was putting on I thought it fit perfectly into my plan for this year. Totally focused on trails and mountains through first half of the year for my 'A-race' at Laurel Highlands in June, it would then immediately be time to switch focus onto 'A-race' number two: A Race for the Ages (ARFTA) - a fixed-time, short-loop ultra on Labor Day weekend in which I will have 55 hours to complete as many laps of a one-mile (paved) course as I can.

When Gil announced CL12 - boom! - I had a set-piece long training run for ARFTA! I believe I was the fifth runner to sign up on the day registration opened.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Laurel Highlands Ultra

Journey's End

The northern end of Laurel Ridge, as seen from Scalp Ave. in Johnstown, PA.
The Conemaugh Gap is visible on the right.
The Conemaugh Gap.
(Photo credit - Google Maps)
It was just as I'd always pictured it. I mean exactly as I'd always pictured it. So rarely do you spend years imagining a thing, visualizing it, daydreaming it, and then have the reality turn out so much like what the mind's eye had been able to conjure.

I had known it was coming for at least two miles. The sound of a long train slowly wending its way through the deep, narrow chasm known as the Conemaugh Gap carries far at night through still, humid, early-summer air - and there are two rail lines through there, one on each side of the river, terraced into the steep flanks of the gorge, along with (on the north side) Cramer Pike and (on the south side) Haws Pike, carrying car traffic.

For at least two miles I had heard the low rumble off and on and had told myself excitedly, "That must be train traffic going through the Gap!" Soon I would be there. Soon I would see.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Enjoying the Journey - 2016 (part 2)

Pennsylvania's state flower - and the source of Laurel Ridge's name.
Seven years.

I've not been writing "Enjoying the Journey" posts that long, but I've been on the journey that long. It was seven years ago (maybe even this month) that I devoured "Born to Run" while on vacation at my parents' home near Johnstown, PA. I was enthralled by the idea of running unheard-of distances on rugged trails in beautiful places! I'd been working on my health and fitness for a couple of years and I was looking for something to serve as a challenge and a source of goals and motivation, and I knew immediately that I had found it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Thom Bugliosi Trail Runs 52K

The Thom Bugliosi Trail Runs (the "Thom B") is the first trail race I ever entered. Way back in 2010, just less than a year after I learned of ultramarathons and decided I wanted to do them, I thought I was ready to start trying some shorter trail races as training for 'the big one' I had in mind later that summer. I found two promising options that May: The Highland Forest 1-2-3 toward the end of the month, where I could try twenty miles, and a few weeks before that, the Thom B - offering 13K and 26K options. I think I signed up for the 26K that year.

Then I rolled my ankle pretty badly on a training run in April. I had to skip the Thom B, but was able to slog my way through Highland Forest wearing an ankle brace. 'The big one' didn't happen that year either. I was still an awful long way from ready for an ultra at that point, but that's a whole other story.

For various reasons Thom B never made it back into my plans after that. I stayed aware of the race and noticed with interest that they added a 52K option in 2014. There always seems to be other things I'd rather do in May though. That changed this year when I cleared the deck to focus on preparation for a serious attempt at Laurel Highlands in June and then started thinking about races to put on the calendar that fit with that focus. Suddenly Thom B made perfect sense and I happily registered.