2008 Knickerbocker 60K Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 16 November 2008

I signed up for the 2008 Knickerbocker 60K on a somewhat thoughtful impulse. I had already run the 2008 Grindstone 100 and was about to run the 2008 Mountain Masochist 50+ Miler, but decided I should really try and run the ultras closer to home as opposed to driving to Virginia. I also let the existence of this race slip to my two gym running buddies who just finished their first marathon and were eager for more so I was pretty much forced to run. However, my expectations for my performance were pretty low since my toes are still numb from Grindstone and I've put quite a few race miles on my legs these last 6 weeks. I've also been battling a left groin strain that starts to hurt 30 minutes into all my runs, but doesn't really prevent me from running hard. My goals for the race were 1) to stay uninjured, 2) to run a sub-6 hour and 3) to hopefully beat my gym buddies (my competitive streak).

The Knickerbocker 60k is run in Central Park. There is a 1.46 mile "out and back" to start the race followed by 9 3.98 mile loops. There is a timing mat at the start/finish and 2 aid stations - one at the start of the loop and one on the other side of the park halfway through the loop. The race starts at the 90th street East side gate and the loops are run down to 72nd street, across the park, up to 102nd street, across the park and back to the start/finish.

As the race started, I was a little confused as to what pace I should run - should I try and run with my friends or just go off on my own. I decided about halfway through the out and back that I was going to just run my race and see what happens, but I probably lost a minute running the wrong pace to start. I settled in pretty well though and ripped off 3 pretty quick loops and finished the half marathon in ~1:44 which is much slower than I had been running in training, but pretty good considering the distance.

However, on the 4th full loop things started going horribly wrong. I never, ever have to go to the bathroom during runs of this distance and I found myself dangerously close to a Grete Weitz moment. I picked up the pace to the aid station and proceeded to lose about 6 minutes taking care of business. While the lost time is bad enough, the time spent crouching in the cold Port-a-Potty caused my legs to stiffen up very badly and I didn't find my stride again until the last loop of the race. The 5th loop was decent although I really fought my body through leg stiffness which I think caused some pretty bad stomach issues for full loops 6 through 8 in effect causing some pretty poor lap times. I was taking water, some Gatorade and S-Caps, but nothing was helping my stomach.

As I crossed the mat finishing Loop 8, I heard a volunteer ask if I wanted some soda. I knew right away that was the "missing piece" and took down two cups and decided to try and run a decent last lap. My last lap ended up being my 5th fastest lap so I definitely had plenty left in my legs and I wish I would have sorted out my stomach issues out sooner. After finishing in 5:44:55, I was pretty disappointed with my run mainly because both my buddies beat me, but also because I felt as if I left a lot in the tank and ran a pretty poor strategic race. To my surprise, I went to get my finisher award and was awarded with a 12th Overall Male trophy and I finished 17th overall with 110 runners signed up. Below are my split times by lap (remember, first lap is the short out and back) -

Lap # Lap Time Total Time
1: 11:45 11:45
2: 30:41 42:25
3: 31:15 1:13:40
4: 32:35 1:46:15
5: 40:30 2:26:45
6: 35:31 3:02:16
7: 38:37 3:40:52
8: 44:31 4:25:22
9: 42:13 5:07:35
10: 37:20 5:44:55

I will definitely run this race again next year and as long as my training is going well, I am going to shoot for a 5:15 finish. Excellent race - highly recommend running it if you are in the area.

2008 Grindstone 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 08 October 2008

My preparation leading up to the inaugural Grindstone 100 was the best I have had for an ultra in my short ultrarunning career. I finally made it through training without picking up an injury, I was able to run 70+ miles consistently per week, all of my miles were fast, quality miles and I was able to do more cross training/weight training than previously. I sincerely felt as if I had done as much as I had possibly could have in preparation for this epic run.

Starting my solo drive from Long Island, NY at 10:30pm after a short gym workout, I arrived at Camp Shenandoah a little after 4am Friday morning. Since it was pitch black out, I decided to forego setting up the tent and just crawled up in the backseat and passed out. I woke up just in time for the 1pm pre-race meeting where Race Director Clark Zealand and David Horton talked about the race, the logistics, the course and gave out what seemed like 30 raffle prizes (runners are automatically entered). David’s description of the course sufficiently scared me even though I was already expecting an extremely difficult course which definitely humbled my approach to the race. After the meeting ended, I went back to my car, packed my drop bag, got dressed and tried to sleep knowing I would be running into the second night even if my race went well. I woke up at 5:30pm, went to the starting line and 30 minutes later we were off.

Grindstone 100 Elevation Map
Camp Shenandoah
Right Before the Start of the 2008 Grindstone 100

The Race – The Beginning
The first challenging aspect to the Grindstone 100 is the somewhat odd 6pm starting time. About 75 runners left the campsite and started the run around the campsite and then out onto the trail. The terrain to the first aid station (Falls Hollow – mile 5.71) is some of the gentler, runnable trails you will find during the race. After crossing the double railroad tracks, I reached the first aid station and decided that with only another 15-20 minutes of usable daylight that I would forego picking up aid and continue right on the trail and would suggest this for most runners. The road to the second aid station is a long 9.53 mile section that starts with some easier trail, but then leads to an extremely steep climb up a loose gravel road. The terrain here is extremely poor, but somewhat better on the extreme right or left side so the climb here was slower than your normal steep incline. After the gravel road, you have to bypass a right onto the trail, which you will take later, and continue up the hill to get your first hole punch which was located on the fence. The road from here leads to a very rocky, steep decline and into the Dry Branch Gap aid station at mile 15.24. By this point, I had slowed down significantly due to the night time running and having the batteries in my headlamp fade and then die causing me to kick a few large rocks.

The next two sections, to Dowells Draft (mile 22.89) and Lookout Mountain (mile 31.24) were sections that I would consider your normal, technical trail running with some rocks, some roots, but only has one major climb that is shorter than the others in the race. I ran pretty consistent 15 minute miles through these night sections which I am happy with considering I probably needed to carry more light with me. My pace slowed some more with the climb to the North River Gap aid station (mile 36.69), but I was staying pretty well hydrated with no cramps and no pains outside of the rock kicking I did in the early miles. These last three sections were very non-descript for me as they were just nighttime trail running and I plodded along as best possible.

North River Gap (mile 36.69) to Little Bald Knob (mile 45.44)
However, the race started to take its first turn for the worse once I got to the North River Gap aid station. This is the only aid station in which your weight was measured and the scales said I was down 5 pounds which was basically impossible since I wasn’t sweating, I had consumed about 100-150oz. of water and was still eating peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares at every aid station. I checked my feet which were starting to fall apart, but I didn’t stay long enough to really take care of them as I was starting to get cold and tight. On the way out, I stood by the fire for a minute and then took off after 2 runners who were also leaving. Still under darkness, we almost missed a turn onto a very small “bridge” which then turned into a major uphill climb. This climb was extremely long and goes from a single, technical track trail that is moderately rocky to a more wide open trail that is easier to run, but still somewhat steep. During this climb my left ankle was starting to bother me and my pace slowed enough that I dropped to the lowest place I would all race long.

I walked into Little Bald Knob (mile 45.44) and thoughts of dropping started to creep into my mind due to the pain in my feet. This aid station and its volunteers saved my race … twice. I sat down by the fire and a volunteer, J.B. (who I owe my finish too), came over to check my feet. At the same time, the volunteer’s dog Diesel came over and licked my face and came and sat down right next to me and didn’t move as if he realized I was in pain. As a dog person, this little interaction really boosted my spirits and took my mind off the pain while J.B. wrapped my left ankle in an ACE bandage. I left the aid station after being down about 20-30 minutes, taking 4 250mg Ibuprofen and hobbled out of the aid station renewed, with my mp3 player for additional support and the sun now shining.

Diesel Dog at Little Bald Knob

Little Bald Knob and Back (mile 59.94)
As many ultrarunners know, the lows of a race are accompanied by highs as well. Miles 45 through 86 would be an extended high for me. I started to run out of Little Bald Knob with a pace I hadn’t had at any point during the race yet. I was able to run the flats and downhills very easily and aggressively walk the uphills. While I didn’t reel in many runners ahead of me, I definitely felt like I was making up time on the bottom half of the field so that my finish would at least be respectable. At Reddish Knob, I dropped my pack and proceeded up the paved road to the flagpole where, on a trailer, there was a second hole punch and some very good looking female James Madison University students. Inspiration comes in all forms and I suddenly found that good, upright running form as I trotted passed them. I took some photos with the photographer before heading down back to the aid station where I picked up my pack. Most of the way down to Briery Branch Gap (mile 51.99) is downhill paved road which I ran well and led me to the third and final hole punch. I headed back to Reddish Knob for the third time, took a picture of the aid station and headed out still running well, but not having caught any runners during this time. This part of the course, although paved road, was very enjoyable to me because of the quick intervals between hitting aid stations.

Peak near Reddish Knob

The run back to Little Bald Knob signaled that I was starting to move back through the course to aid stations I had already visited. I got to Little Bald Knob and J.B. once again performed miracles on my feet by taking care of a bad blister on right heel and on the inside of one of my toes. Being an ultrarunner himself, his foot care expertise was invaluable to me and I wish I could thank him more. He patched up my right foot and I was out running again. The trip back to North River Gap proved to be the first part of the race where I would start to climb back up the standings. The road, in this direction, is much, much easier and enjoyable than the other direction earlier in the race. I was able to run the downhills, which aren’t very rocky, with some pretty good pace. I believe that the live tracking calculated these splits incorrectly as the mileage was changed due to aid station placement causing the distance between North River Gap and Little Bald Knob to be an additional 2 miles. While I did run out of water 30 minutes out from the aid station, I strolled into the station (mile 68.69) at the same weight as the last time I was weighed and in great shape having caught 4 runners.

North River Gap (mile 68.69) to Dry Branch Gap (mile 86.14)
However, out of the station, I didn’t see the turn back onto the trail which I probably should have, but was rightly confused. On the trail tree was a glow stick (it was still daylight) and the road marking, which was white, had been smudged into a streak and I ignored it taking a 5 minute detour up the road before coming back and seeing the glow stick finally. Outside of this one marking, the race was marked amazingly well with reflective strips, pink streamers, glow sticks and painted floor arrows. The slight detour didn’t slow me down though and I continued to run well through the Lookout Mtn. and Dowells Draft (mile 79.49) aid stations. On the road to Dowells, I was dreaming of a post-race hamburger and I was pleasantly greeted with a hamburger at this aid station – the tastiest hamburger I have ever eaten.

I left renewed yet again, but a few miles out found myself trekking uphill and starting to fade into a second darkness as Saturday, 7pm started to roll around. I took a picture of the second sunset fighting the mental hurdles of the approaching night. I drew on my experience pacing at the Vermont 100 this year and how I watched my runner wilt as the night sky approached even though he was physically fine. After a very long, steep climb, there is a rapid descent that seemed to go on forever until I reached the Dry Branch Gap aid station knowing I only had one more major climb in front of me. By this time, I had caught 13 runners since Little Bald Knob and was running in 42nd place. I was feeling great, but as most ultrarunners know, your race can change in an instant.

The Second Sunset at the Grindstone 100

Disaster Strikes 14 Miles from the Finish
The climb starts immediately out of the Dry Branch Gap aid station and is very steep. Only 100 yards out of the aid station, I felt a pop in my right ankle (front middle) and my ankle immediately started to swell. I figured I had turned it slightly and it didn’t hurt too bad – maybe a 2 on the 1-10 pain scale. I continued uphill, but as I started to encounter very rough, rocky sections the pain started to increase. Near the top of this climb, the terrain is extremely difficult as the rocks are plentiful and all different sizes. Unfortunately, the pain levels started to increase no matter how many Ibuprofen I shoved in my mouth. Eventually, I hobbled my way to the top of the hill, through the short, somewhat flat trail section and then was greeted with that lose gravel road I had climbed the night before. On a good day, I would have had trouble negotiating this decline as the footing can only be described as ridiculous and comical as many pre-race jokes about the “Best Blood” award coming from this section were mentioned. Unfortunately, my ankle barely allowed me to descend at all, no less quickly as I had to step almost perpendicularly to the road to limit the pressure on my ever swelling ankle. I finally negotiated the gravel road and made it to the easier trail section, but by this time I was in a full out death march. I was done.

I walked into the final aid station at Falls Hollow (mile 95.02) fully intending to drop. To me, I had nothing left to prove. I was 5+ miles out with over 7.5 hours to go so a finish was clearly possible, but the idea of death marching and possibly damaging my ankle further was destroying my desire to push forward. When I got to the aid station, I think the volunteers there thought I was crazy for wanting to drop and basically never even entertained my dropping ideas. Instead, a relocated NYC woman helped ice my ankle some and they sent me on my way after being down about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the ice didn’t help and the full out “limpfest” was on. Looking at the race results, my pace for this final section was a miserable 47 minutes/mile as I just couldn’t put any weight on the ankle. Nearing the finish, before the lake, I even had to sit down and slide down on my butt to negotiate even small, steep declines. Finally, the lake appeared and the lake mist started covering my body in a cold, wet precipitation that caused me to start shivering. I must have looked like a mess to Clark and the volunteers as I crossed the finish line just under 34 hours shivering and wanting nothing else than to have a doctor check out my ankle. Clark woke up a doctor for me who diagnosed the ankle as “ultrarunner’s ankle” which is a type of anterior tibial tendonitis caused by repetitive ankle bending and possibly tying your top shoelace too tight – something that the volunteer J.B. from Little Bald Knob had warned me about. It took me 7.5 hours to go those last 14 miles otherwise I probably would have finished 3-4 hours earlier.

Grindstone 100 Finish #1
Grindstone 100 Finish #2

Overall, I was very happy with my race. My quads and calves were not sore at all meaning that my training was proper although unorthodox for most ultrarunners (all my running training is performed on treadmills). However, I definitely need to learn three lessons about the “art” of ultrarunning – night running, shoe tying and foot care if I plan on not letting my training go to waste. Grindstone is a great race and I will be back next year since I want that LUS Beast Series trophy which I’m going to miss out on due to a flat tire on the way to Holiday Lake (ugh). Clark Zealand put on a great race, the aid stations were well stocked and, more importantly, knowledgeable and the trail was marked very well and very fair although extremely difficult. If you don’t like night running, rocks or hills, you may want to pass on this race, but if you’re looking for one of the toughest 100 mile races on the East Coast, Grindstone is the race for you. Thank you to all the volunteers – I tried to remember to thank you on the way out of every aid station, but if I missed some of you thank you again – without you, there would be no race.

Installing mcrypt on a GoDaddy Linux Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS)

By hagrin - Posted on 15 August 2008

Recently, I was given a consulting project to develop an e-commerce site and I immediately thought of Magento - an open source e-commerce solution written in PHP. Magento is one of the better pieces of software that goes widely unknown by many since very few people develop e-commerce sites (as opposed to say Drupal where everyone and their kids are bloggers).

However, upon installation of Magento on my GoDaddy Linux Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS), the installation will stall on the mcrypt dependency. The mcrypt library stores several algorithms that help secure your e-commerce site's data. Unfortunately, by default, the GoDaddy VDS package does not have the mcrypt library installed. To install mcrypt, follow these steps -

  1. SSH into your VDS with your favorite SSH client or the SSH Java applet offered by GoDaddy.
  2. Login with your credentials.
  3. Su to the root user.
  4. Type "yum install mcrypt*". Say yes to the prompts.
  5. Type "yum install mhash*". Say yes to the prompts.
  6. Type "yum install php-mcrypt*". Say yes to the prompts.
  7. Type "yum install php-mhash*". Say yes to the prompts.
  8. Restart the server.

Once the server has restarted, you can re-run the Magento installation and you will be able to successfully complete the wizard.

How To: Fix "The report server database is an invalid version" Error

By hagrin - Posted on 04 August 2008

Recently, I decided to go through my work computer's event log to see if I was racking up any errors and found one error repeated quite frequently -

Source: Report Server Windows
Event ID: 117
Description: The report server database is an invalid version.

Now, I have Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 installed on my work machine for development purposes and the error seems to be directly related to the Reporting Services functionality. After looking at the help for this error in the Help files, Microsoft's web site and even a few search engine searches, I couldn't find the full answer anywhere. However, I finally fixed the error and here's how to do it.
Reporting Services Configuration Manager

  1. Open up the "Reporting Services Configuration Manager" by going to Start -> Programs ->Microsoft SQL Server 2005 -> Configuration Tools -> Reporting Services Configuration.
  2. On the left hand side, click on "Database Setup". (there should be a red "x" to the left of Database Setup.
  3. Choose the appropriate Server Name.
  4. For the Database Name, click "New" and do not use the default name "ReportServer" since it's possible a .MDF file was already created with this name. I used "ReportServer2".
  5. Make sure to choose the "Credentials Type" and enter the account information for a user who has create database permissions.
  6. Click "Upgrade". Make sure you get all green check marks (even a warning message means the process probably didn't complete properly).
  7. Click "Apply" at the bottom.

You should now be good to go and no longer receive this error in your Event Log.

Fixing Windows Update Failure - Error Code 0x643

By hagrin - Posted on 04 August 2008

Today, as I was patching my machine, I noticed that I still had not installed the Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 on my work development machine (a Windows Server 2003 R2 box). I loaded up Windows Update, selected the VS 2005 SP1 checkbox, let the update download and chose to install. After what seemed like 10 minutes of hanging and nothingness, the update installation failed. Huh? I went to "Review Your Update History" and clicked on the question mark next to the failure icon and the resulting pop-up simply stated Error Code: 0x643 and with 3 very useless links to find out more information.

To save everyone time, the fix can be found here and this link will ask you to download a patch that fixes the insufficient contiguous virtual memory problem that prevents you from installing certain .msi or .msp files. Run the executable after it has finished downloading and then return to Windows Update to finish patching your software. Good luck!

Create a Word 2003 Document Using VB.Net

By hagrin - Posted on 04 August 2008

The following code will help you create a very basic Word 2003 document using VB.Net. In addition to the code below, you will need to make sure that Office is installed on the host running the application for the document to be created.

Dim word As New Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word.Application
Dim doc As Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word.Document
doc = word.Documents.Add()
Dim range As Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word.Range = doc.Range(Start:=0, End:=0)
range.Text = "Put your document's text here."
doc.SaveAs("Path and File Name")

Create an Excel 2003 Workbook Using VB.Net

By hagrin - Posted on 04 August 2008

The following contains code on "How to Create an Excel 2003 Workbook Using VB.Net". Remember, you will need to add the "Import Microsoft.Office.Interop" reference at the top of your code. In addition, you will need sufficient rights to create files in your desired save location as well as Office installed on the machine hosting the application.

Dim MyEx As New Excel.Application
Dim MyBook As Excel.Workbook
Dim MySheet As Excel.Worksheet
MyEx.DisplayAlerts = False
MyBook = MyEx.Workbooks.Add
MySheet = MyBook.Sheets.Add
MySheet.Name = "Worksheet Name"

'Entering static values into cells as headers
MySheet.Cells(1, 1) = "Header 1"
MySheet.Cells(1, 2) = "Header 2"
MySheet.Cells(1, 3) = "Header 3"
MySheet.Cells(1, 4) = "Header 4"
MySheet.Cells(1, 5) = "Header 5"
MySheet.Cells(1, 6) = "Header 6"

'Reading through a data set to fill in the rest of the worksheet
For i = 0 To DataSet.Tables(0).Rows.Count - 1
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 1) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(0)
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 2) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(1)
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 3) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(2)
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 4) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(3)
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 5) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(4)
   MySheet.Cells(i + 2, 6) = DataSet.Tables(0).Rows(i).Item(5)

MyBook.SaveAs("FileName.csv", FileFormat:=Excel.XlFileFormat.xlCSV)
MySheet = Nothing
MyBook = Nothing
MyEx = Nothing

Conditional Breakpoints in Visual Studio 2005

By hagrin - Posted on 04 August 2008

Sometimes when you are self-taught, you may know how to do something, but you do it the hard way. Therefore, sometimes even the smallest little feature you didn't know about can really make your day and improve your coding efficiency. Today, I stumbled over the addition of conditional breakpoints in Visual Studio 2005. Now, I'm sure any serious coder probably already stumbled over this feature, but I had not until today. A conditional breakpoint is exactly what it sounds like - it is a breakpoint that will be triggered during the debugging process only when a condition you specify is met.

Conditional Breakpoints in Visual Studio 2005

Using Visual Studio 2005, you can set a conditional breakpoint by placing a breakpoint on a desired line much like you have in the past (click the gray area to the left of the desired line). A red dot will appear representing the breakpoint. When a user right clicks on the breakpoint, you will be presented with a list of options that include:

  • Delete Breakpoint
  • Disable Breakpoint
  • Location
  • Condition
  • Hit Count
  • Filter
  • When Hit

Anyone who used Visual Studio 2003 as their primary development environment would be surprised to see all these new options in the 2005 version. If you choose the "Condition" option, you will be presented with a dialog box that asks you to input a condition and to choose whether the condition "Is True" or "Has Changed".

Conditional breakpoints are extremely important for debugging problems that exist in WHILE loops, FOR ... NEXT loops, etc. especially when dealing with extremely large loops. Say you have a single record bombing out in a huge loop and you are being emailed the CATCH exception. Instead of setting a breakpoint and continually hitting F5 to eventually get to the record that your application is bombing out on, you can now just set a conditional breakpoint, run your application and have the debugger stop the process right as you get to the problem record.

I'm excited to have "discovered" (yeah, I know, I'm late to the dance on this one) this feature as it should drastically improve my debugging and shorten troubleshooting time. Hopefully, if you weren't already aware of this feature, you are now and will help you in your .Net development.

2008 Terrapin Mountain Marathon Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 01 August 2008

The title of this post is a little misleading. The title may say marathon, but the 1st annual Terrapin Mountain Marathon was more like a 27 mile adventure race with some running mixed in. In short, I knew that the elevation changes would be difficult for this Long Islander who has trouble simulating such drastic elevation changes while running around flat Long Island, but the race was highly rewarding and finishing my first true mountain race is a highlight in my early ultrarunning career.

Yet again, for my second Horton run, transportation proved to be difficult. Having to work until 3:30pm on Friday afternoon, I headed immediately down to Big Island, Virginia and the drive was brutal. Nine hours later, I was pulling into the parking lot at the Sedalia Center at 12:30am only 6.5 hours until race start. I got out of the car and walked around some to familiarize myself with the Center's surroundings and to stretch my legs and then went to sleep in the reclined front seat of my tiny Corolla. No sooner did I close my eyes, I started to hear sounds of car doors being shut and checked my phone - 5:45am. I quickly got dressed, checked in and no sooner than I could wipe the crust out of my eyes, Race Director Clark Zealand was on his microphone giving us the pre-race speech. One tidbit during this meeting that I wasn't aware of (maybe I should have read more about the race before driving down) was that you would need to obtain a page from 2 separate books - the first one being at the "Summit" and another one later in the race. Silly New Yorker that I am, I assumed the Summit would be the top of the first large climb we finished (not the case). Before I came to the realization that I should get some more information on the course, 7am rolled around and we were off running. Notice, I haven't eaten breakfast - huge oversight and mistake.

2008 Terrapin Mountain Marathon Elevation Map

First ~5 Miles
For this inexperienced mountain runner, this section of the race, especially right at the start, was brutal and demoralizing. My goal for this race was to power walk the inclines, run the downhills that were runnable as fast as I could and blast through any flat sections. However, it seemed as if I was the weakest hill climber in the entire group and almost immediately found myself at the very back of the pack. At one point, there was a runner without a race number behind me and I asked him if he was sweeping thinking I was dead last. He laughed and stated that there were "plenty of runners behind us" which was an outright lie. My Achilles heels were both burning whenever I tried to pick up the pace and ended up settling for just trying to power through this section knowing that the course gets a little easier later on. By the time I hit the 4.9 mile aid station, I had to have been near dead last - a position I had never been in before and was quite an issue to process in my head. I ate a little something still not remembering I forgot breakfast and continued out.

Miles ~5 - ~9
I get about 1000 yards and stop dead in my tracks. Was that the Summit? Did I need to get a page from a book? I let two runners catch up to me to ask them if I needed to get a book page there and they looked at me as if I was clueless (which I was) and said no. So, back to running. The course gets much easier during this section and I really used this section to mainly recover mentally and to try and readjust my entire outlook on this race. I went in wanting to run a 6 hour race and now I just wanted to finish as far away from the bottom as possible. This section of the course is very runnable although I was still recovering from the previous section. Nothing very notable in this section to be honest.

Miles ~9 - ~13 (The Turnaround)
This is where the race got very interesting for me. There were some good flats and some downhills and I was able to pass a few runners during this section. The first part of the section is a wonderful grass wide trail that felt so perfect to run on that I really enjoyed this section. However, right around the 11.5 mile mark, you enter a very narrow single track dirt trail with a very steep incline. Here, I lost all the ground I made on the back of the pack in about a mile and everything that could go wrong went very wrong. I suddenly started to get extremely hungry and realized I hadn't eaten anything. I then had to go to the bathroom - the complicated end. Then, I realized "where did the pink trail markings go?". All in all, I lost about 10-15 minutes in stops and turnarounds and finally made it into the last aid station where the volunteers there (who doubled as the sweeps) stated "these are the runners we'll be following".

That's right - they announced me dead last. (although I think I was actually third to last and the sweep was wrong).

Miles ~13 - ~17
Metaphorically, this was my "turnaround". I finally came to accept my dead last position and set my sights on catching as many people as possible. I started out the turnaround aid station trailing the runner in front of me by only a few steps. I kept pace with her until a slight water crossing where she stepped around and I plowed right through the water and mud - yet another metaphor which boosted my spirits. As quickly as I passed the last female, I took my first "ultra" fall tripping over a grass covered rock. Luckily, it wasn't too bad and no one was around to laugh (the only good thing about being almost last) and quickly set out to finish getting up the steep uphill single track and then hopefully to catch some runners on the flats and downhills. Once I got out to the wide grass covered trail, I was able to cruise the downhills and pass another 3 runners, but they were able to keep up pretty close through this entire section and up until the aid station. During the last part of this section, I started to cramp badly in my right leg when I tried to run the downhills hard so I knew I needed more salt which I got in the form of a salt covered potato. At the aid station they pointed up a huge hill we hadn't run before and let me know that up yonder was where I was headed.

Miles ~17 - ~21
I'm not even too sure about where in the course I was at this point mileage wise. Right out of the aid station, you run/walk up a very steep single track up to the "Summit". Here, I found myself completely alone and I basically would stay like this after I reached the Summit book location (where there were no more pages and I got a rip of the front cover) until the out and back to the last aid station 4 miles later. After the Summit, you arrive at "Fat Man's Misery" - a rock formation that requires you to carefully slide down about 6-8 feet through a narrow crevice and duck underneath a low hanging rock followed by climbing through another rock formation making this more of an adventure race than a "run". From here, the course becomes a downhill run with a nice gentle single track at first which is pretty runnable, but then turns into rock hell which was too technical for me to make any type of decent time down and I assume better trail runners would cruise through this section. Eventually, the single track opens up and you run your way down to the aid station which is a slight out and back where I finally saw a handful of runners walking up the trail after having just left the aid station. I figured I was a good 10-15 minutes behind them.

Miles ~21 - The End
As I was leaving the aid station, I was surprised to see all the runners I thought I had distanced myself from right behind me coming into the aid station as I was just leaving. This was slightly disheartening as I knew there was at least one more big climb left and I assumed all of these runners would catch and pass me. I did my best to power walk the inclines and no sooner did I finish the climbs, I was presented with a lot of gentle zig-zagging downhills which I made sure to take advantage of and I ended up running this section, again, completely by myself never seeing another runner (so the last 9 miles I only saw other runners for a few brief moments). I wanted to make sure there was no way any of the runners behind me could pass me so I took advantage of the downhills. As I finally made my way out the seemingly endless wilderness onto the roads where we started the race, I cruised into the finish line running a very slow 7:34. My only solace was that after the last aid station I was able to put 11-15 minutes between myself and the runners that I saw at the last aid station and I was able to basically keep pace with the runners who finished ahead of me. All in all, a successful race as I'll take the humility the mountains gave me and the lessons of running near dead last with me to my training.

How to Prepare for this Race
I always want to give readers of my race reports the details on how to prepare for a race so here's some things to do to successfully run the Terrapin Mountain Marathon.

* You must carry water with you on this race. Some courses are forgiving enough that you can run naked and just use the aid stations, but this is not one of them. I carried one 12oz. water bottle and was very nearly near empty by the time I rolled into each aid station.
* Shoe Choice - I wore North Face Anuva 50s which I love because I have lace issues almost every race (my big feet like to step on my own laces constantly or my feet swell and the laces get too tight). These shoes faired well on this course; however, I would suggest making sure you wear a padded/thicker shoe for the jagged rocky sections of this race. While my feet don't hurt too badly now, I was definitely slowed down by the bruising on the bottoms of my feet.
* Make sure you bring your own breakfast - there may have been food there in the morning, but I didn't see any so make sure you bring your own breakfast.
* No headlamp needed - it's bright enough around the Center that you don't need any lighting really.
* Clark mentions that you need to wear a left handed glove for Fat Man's Misery. I say there's no chance for the Best Blood award if you do.

2008 Holiday Lake 50K++ Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 01 August 2008

The Short Version
Great race, well organized, Dr. Horton is a very personable RD and I would definitely run the race again, but I had to DNF at the halfway point due to everything but the run and the trail. Entirely frustrating experience.

The Long Version
From the minute go, this trip was destined to fail. I decided to run Holiday Lake and the entire LUS Beast series and haven't been this excited about anything else running wise ... ever. My plan was to leave early Friday morning, make the ~7 hour drive from Long Island, go to the pre-race meeting and get a good night's rest at a nearby hotel.

Well, none of that happened and these factors (and not the trail's difficulty) was my ultimate demise in deciding to drop after ~17 miles. Work kept me in NY much longer than I expected and I didn't leave until early evening. The trip was going very well until I passed into Virginia and my GPS unit told me to get off near Culpepper, VA. I got off and started driving down the back roads of Virginia when I entered the town of Louisa. All of the sudden, over the sounds of my CDs and "Jill", the Garmin voice I have come to loathe, I hear the sickening sound of a flat tire rotating over and over. Great. It's about 12:30am and I have a flat where there are no lights on some back road and I haven't seen another car in about an hour. As I get out of the car, I notice that 1) my left rear tire is shot and 2) I can't see much else. Luckily, since the race starts under the cover of night, I strap on my headlamp and go and get the spare. Almost immediately, I am rushed at by a lone deer that obviously hasn't seen the movie Bambi. After hiding in my car (yeah, I hid, you would too), the deer became disinterested and wandered away. Thinking all was safe, I ventured back outside to start jacking up the car and entered my own version of Wrong Turn as a couple of cars slowly passed by, decided to stop and realized I had a car jack in my hand and decided I wouldn't be an easy target. Maybe it was the NY plates, who knows. Finally, a volunteer firefighter stops to assist me and gets me some directions, avoiding the highways, to the state park from state troopers. I finally get moving again ... at no more than 30 MPH and about 2.5 hours away still.

Needless to say, the state trooper's directions seemed wrong and didn't match the directions on the 4-H Holiday Lake website. I improvised and good thing I did since I made the right choice. It was now 4:15am as I entered the park and was able to park - 2 hours and 15 minutes until start time. I got dressed, organized my belongings, tried to get my bearings and before you knew it 5am approached. I walked over to the main house and waited outside for someone to show up. It wasn't long before Dr. Horton was the first face I would see and he let me in. I grabbed a bagel, sipped some Smart Water and tried to grab some sleep, but was unable to as other runners started coming through the door. So, 6:30am comes along and I have the following to deal with -

* I've been awake for 25.5 hours straight.
* I have a spare tire on my car and no idea where to get it fixed and need to be home by Saturday night
* I still have to run a 50K++ with some Horton miles

Pretty daunting task if you ask me. I was actually in good spirits as the race started since I saw a lot of people shivering near me and I was quite comfy in my shorts and Under Armor long sleeve shirt. The race starts and I had been warned about getting caught up behind the pack when everyone slows down on the single track trail. I was somewhere near the first 50 runners or so and was able to maneuver through the slow single track stuff very quickly. Normally, this would have been a perfect strategy for me, but by mile 1 I was already fighting sleepiness. By being in that lead group, the fear of slowing down the runners behind you makes you run as fast as the runner in front of you allows and this probably wasn't the smartest strategy after being awake for so long already. However, before the race even started, I was resigned to the fact that I had to run this race as fast as possible to give myself enough time to get out of the park and find a still open automotive store with a replacement tire (a task that didn't seem pretty easy due to where the race was located). By Mile 3 or so I knew I had no chance of doing anything useful. I wasn't going to be able to finish in my projected 5-6 hours and if I took any longer I would run out of time trying to find a new tire.

The trail is very soft in almost all areas (sans road section and a couple hundred feet of rocks) and you could probably wear road shoes for this race and be fine. You will need a light for the beginning of the race to navigate early, root filled sections (you should label your light with your name so you can drop it off at the first aid station which I didn't). The beginning of the race was soft with some roots with few leaves, nothing too awful. After the single track trail, it opens up into a vehicle trail I believe which was soft, but not too muddy. There is a short, short stretch of road which goes back to a trail that opens up into a large field. After that huge open field is your first water crossing which wasn't too cold, but was just cold enough to sap the last bit of energy I had. I think I was just too tired from not sleeping to have my body fight for warmth that I lost the desire to stay awake. I really don't remember anything outside of another, larger water crossing which I just plowed through even though there was probably a dry way around and a lot of single track back to the camp grounds. I would say 99% of the course is runnable with very few places where you have to slow down either due to single track congestion or "steep" elevation change.

I hit the turnaround in right around 3 hours and dropped. I think I muttered something about my knee hurting, but in all actuality I was worried about running out of time to get my tire fixed and get home that night. The timekeeper almost seemed shocked that I was dropping because I'm sure I looked strong enough to finish. In hindsight, I made the right choice as it took four hours to find a tire place with a tire close enough to get me home. If I had continued on and finished between 6.5 and 7 hours (disappointing, but respectable considering the conditions I was running in), I would gotten to the tire place I eventually bought the tire at after they closed and could have been stranded. I actually ran 10 miles today at 8 minute pace without any soreness so my muscles had plenty in the tank even if the rest of my body may have been tired from not sleeping.

Overall, it was an extremely frustrating experience although I found the running, while awake enough to take my surroundings in, very enjoyable and "easy". The course is excellent for a rookie ultrarunner with enough aid stations that you could almost run the course without carrying water, etc. The only negative I encountered with the race was the electrolyte drink they served (Clifshot?) which definitely made my stomach pretty angry with me and will know to avoid in future races. I'll be back next year to redeem myself, but I can't say I would change much other than having a full spare with me the next time I drive to an ultra. Congrats to all the finishers - most of whom were very encouraging as they passed and to all the volunteers (especially the one young lady who recognized I was so tired and disoriented that I couldn't even unscrew my water bottle).