You are herePersonal


warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/hagrinad/public_html/modules/taxonomy/ on line 33.



By hagrin - Posted on 18 November 2010

Very rarely do I ever write opinion pieces on this site because I try to keep things informational, but every so often an issue gets brought to my attention and I have to speak out about it. Today on Slashdot, I watched the video of a University of Central Florida professor tell his class that about 1/3 of his students had cheated on his midterm. For those who don't have 15 minutes to spend watching the professor relay the circumstances, here's a brief synopsis -

  • After the exam, some basic statistics showed a bimodal grade distribution as opposed to a bell curve distribution that he had seen in past years of teaching the same material.
  • The test used a question bank based on the texts that the publishers had provided.
  • Someone "anonymously" let the teacher know that this question bank was circulating.
  • Professor states that within 95% certainty he has the names of the people who cheated, but instead of taking action he gives the class a deadline to turn themselves in with no punishment.
  • After the deadline, all data will be turned over to Academic Affairs and then it is out of his hands.
  • Around 200 students have turned themselves in at this point.
  • All students would be required to take a new midterm regardless if they cheated or not and they only have a 51 hour window to do so.

I don't even know where to begin with how screwed up this entire story is. Let's see what logical assumptions we can make from the video to help dissect this story. First, the teacher would be able to take the upper distribution, know from past test results how many students roughly should have scored this highly and come up with a rough estimation of exactly how many students successfully cheated on the exam. This severely shrinks the class into a subset that has a high likelihood of having cheated on the exam. However, this alone is not proof of anything.

Second, the "turn yourself in, no punishment, everyone retakes the test" outcome is a zero punishment outcome to those who cheated. When you watch the video, you can sense the anger/disappointment from the teacher in the situation. Therefore, to give cheaters a zero punishment outcome doesn't seem to correlate to the outrage. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to assume that the university opted for a less controversial outcome and that this may have not been the outcome desired by the professor. Therefore, while definitely only an opinion, I do not think that the professor was solely responsible for the resolution to this problem.

Third, it is unclear as to whether or not the question bank provided an answer key. If it did, then without some anomaly in the answers, there would be very little evidence in the answers given to specific questions unless there was some sort of pattern between test takers. One Slashdot poster stated that the teacher could look for tests where easy questions were answered incorrectly and hard questions were answered correctly as some indication of cheating. However, for numerous reasons, this line of thinking is dangerous to those student whom didn't cheat and any number of plausible explanations could explain this type of performance on a multiple choice exam. The conclusion to be made here is that without some unstated anomaly from the professor, making any inferences based on the answers given on an exam is no real proof of cheating and could be best described as inference. If no anomalies exist, then any conclusions drawn on this information is extremely flawed and dangerous to use.

Fourth, without direct testimony from people involved or a forensics trail (email, file sharing, etc.), the professor is probably left in a situation where he has a very good idea of who cheated, but couldn't say with 100% certainty. This is one of the obvious reasons for the "zero punishment" outcome. While I am sure universities can expel students simply for "suspicion of cheating", disciplining over 200 students would end up being costly to the university in several ways. One wonders if the professor had 100% certainty of who cheated if action would have been taken against such a large number of students.

So Why Do I Care?
This story infuriates me because the only people who get punished in this situation are the students who didn't cheat. Again, as always in life, the nice guy finishes last. This professor may have been forced to make a deal with the university so I don't blame him necessarily, but I do blame the university as a whole for not coming up with at least some form of punishment for suspected cheaters.

I'm also mad at those who didn't cheat on the exam? Huh? Why? Too often in life, I see the nice guy not speak up and get trampled on. Where is the outrage of these students who now have to sacrifice time needed to prepare for other classes to retake a test that they already completed ethically? These students probably put in more time studying than the unethical students did since memorizing a set of test questions is much easier. There is a finite number of hours that these students have to prepare for their other classes, why should they be punished again by possibly not performing as well as the possibly could have if they could have alloted the time to those classes? Where is the student protest protecting their rights as students? Why was a "deal" made behind their backs and without their consultation and why didn't they question this procedure? Speak up for yourselves people otherwise life will continue to trample you.

Finally, is this not more proof that the American education system is flawed? When I was in college, I could recite numerous instances of widespread cheating whether it was teaching assistants in the same fraternity/sorority as students and providing them with inside knowledge or answer sharing on large homework assignments or paying other students to write term papers. For a large number of students, college is only another platform to learn how to take shortcuts in life which is why GPAs should be meaningless when employers hire newly graduated students. The entire system needs changing and more tangible skills need to be formed in college so that employers can more accurately identify who will make good employees.

I hope there is more disclosure about situations like these so that change occurs because it's obvious to me that change is desperately needed in the entire education process.

Newton Stability Performance Racer Review

By hagrin - Posted on 05 September 2010

About 18 months ago, I first started to make a concerted effort to perfect my running form so I could run longer, run faster and stay away from nagging running related injuries. As an average ultrarunner, an above average marathoner and a pretty decent half marathoner, I could tell that a more efficient running form would help me translate my longer races into better results. When I found out about Newton Running Shoes, I was intrigued about using a shoe that was built for speed, yet also promoted proper running technique. I decided that I would purchase the Stability Racer model as my next road/training shoe.

First, let’s start off with some of the basics about the shoe. With a size 9 weighing 8.8 ounces, this shoe is light, but not so light as to offer no protection to the bottom of your feet. The shoe is very airy so if you sweat a lot or live in a really hot climate, these shoes allow your feet to breathe which helps eliminate foot moisture and the potential for blisters. Lastly, as with all Netwon running shoes, the Stability Racer comes with their “Action/Reaction Technology” which helps promote better running form, allows for a minimalistic shoe but still provides shock absorption to prevent foot bruising if you put in long runs and high mileage. For all the above, you’re probably going to pay anywhere from $130-$150 USD for your very own pair.

So, what about my personal experience? For me, the Newton Stability Racer is my favorite road/racing shoe around and I highly recommend it even with its somewhat steep price tag. I found that wearing a thin racing sock works best with these shoes as opposed to a regular white sock since a thinner sock allows your feet to stay cooler. The inside of the shoe is extremely comfortable, the lace holes are positioned well and the shoe is extremely light. I did find that when I first switched to the Stability Racer that my calves were sore after a normal 8+ mile run, but that was more from my gait changing/improving than the actual shoe. After only a few runs in these new shoes, my calves got used to the new form and the soreness went away. As for results, I have run personal bests in all distances while wearing Newtons and I do believe that the shoes themselves are a major component to my running successes.

Newton Stability Racer

What was truly great about the Newton Stability Racer was its incredible durability. I was able to put approximately 2300 miles on this single pair of shoes. You can see from the pictures above that the first part of the shoe to go was the outside walling which may be due more to the fact I have pretty wide feet than a defect in the shoe’s design. In fact, I was still able to run with the shoes in the condition shown in the pictures here, but I decided on a new pair of Newton’s more for aesthetic reasons and to make sure fellow runners didn’t think I was homeless. Even more incredible than the 2300 miles I was able to put on these shoes was the fact that the tread on the bottom still looked to be in great shape – such good shape that if I could fix the sidewall with duct tape (or something more sophisticated), I could probably still be running in these shoes.

Newton Stability Racer Bottom

So, while the Newtons are a higher priced brand, you clearly get your money’s worth as most pairs of shoes won’t hold up for as long and will need to be replaced more frequently. In addition to the value for your money, Newton’s will improve your running form and indirectly prevent running related injuries. I highly recommend Newton’s for the serious runner who wants to take their running to the next level and for the novice who wants to develop good running habits and reduce injury concerns.

2009 Long Island Marathon Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 04 May 2009

Yesterday, I ran a somewhat successful Long Island marathon as I completed the race in 3:35:12 which was good enough for a 95th place finish. Considering I had run 70 miles only 3 weeks ago at the McNaughton 150 and was battling some right foot problems, I am generally happy with how I ran and how my body held up.

Race Overview
The LI marathon is built to be a fast marathon - it's held right at the beginning of May before it gets too hot, has an 8am starting time, has very little elevation change, has fewer runners than most races and hasn't been very windy the years I have been out on the course. However, the LI marathon isn't without its faults having one of the more mind numbingly boring courses I have ever been on and the sheer lack of spectator enthusiasm when compared to other races. Personally, I despise running this race and its ~12 mile Wantagh Parkway section, but I do it because I have friends who run the race and I should definitely support my local races more.

Long Island Marathon Elevation Profile

Newton Running Shoes
After reading some interesting emails on the Ultra List and seeing Pam Reed where them at the 6 day race here in NY, I decided to purchase a pair of 2009 Newton Neutral Racer shoes. While these shoes are on the expensive side, I have to say that they are worth every penny. These shoes are lightweight and help to improve and force runners to foot strike with the correct part of the foot. There is a pronounced red "lug" that really helps runners to learn to midfoot strike as opposed to heel striking. These shoes really protected the bottoms of my feet as the bottoms of my feet tend to get very sore when road racing, but are still very lightweight at ~8.6 ounces. I have to say this is the perfect shoe once you get used to the different feel of the shoe's bottom and I definitely recommend this product to anyone looking to improve their foot striking and running technique.

Actual Race
Before the race I had decided that I couldn't run this race slowly as my right foot really couldn't take the extra pounding of going slower (somewhat counter intuitive, but that's how my foot felt in warm-ups) so I had told my running partner, Allegra, that I was going to go out at a much faster pace than she had planned on running (more on this later). My first 4 miles put me at sub 7 minute pace and I was definitely holding back as I could have definitely run that section much faster, but I was worried my foot wouldn't hold up. By the 10K mark, I was somewhere in the 7:15 range (maybe faster) and was generally feeling pretty well. I went through the half marathon at ~1:37 so I was definitely making pretty decent time considering I wasn't really trying to run at 100% effort (I had run a 1:35 first half in Miami in January where I was going out at 100%). By this point I was still feeling pretty good and the cool mist that had existed since the race start was starting to turn into a light drizzle.

This put me about 3 miles into the section of the course I dread - the Wantagh Parkway where there are basically no spectators, there are basically no turns and it's nothing but empty parkway. Being used to and in love with trail running, I can only describe this section as depressing. However, having run this race before, I was ready for it and just tried my best to zone out. By mile 18 I was starting to fall apart with the pre-race injury in my right foot really starting to act up. In addition, my running partner Allegra, who had planned on running 10 minute miles, zoomed right by me at mile 19 running 7:30 pace leaving me as if I was standing still (so much for running slow huh?). At that point I was pretty demoralized and decided to shut it down and save myself for the 50K I will most likely be running in 6 days. Between miles 20 and 24.5 I mailed it in just sort of plodding along, but with less than 2 miles left I decided to pick up the pace knowing I could still run sub 3:40. Unfortunately, the only runners in front of me were also kicking pretty hard so there was no one to pass in the last 1.5 miles and I crossed the finish line with the announcer yelling out someone else's name. Allegra ended up finishing in 3:21 and placing in the Women's Overall group while running a PR - not bad for someone who had planned on running "10 minute mile pace".

The normally festive post-race area was a little mellow this year due to the fact that it had turned pretty cold and the rain was coming down more heavily at race end. The race does a great post-race setup where you get your medal, protective heat wrap and goodie bag which I honestly haven't opened yet. I'll probably be back again next year with a goal of running a 3:30 or so depending on my ultrarunning schedule.

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.

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).

2008 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run - 30 Miles of Pacing Duty

By hagrin - Posted on 21 July 2008

Before the Pacing
With my Grindstone 100 service requirement looming over my head, I decided early on that I would volunteer at the Vermont 100 either as a volunteer and/or pacer. After emailing the pacing director, I was matched up with Andy N. from Massachusetts who was a two-time, ~20 hour finisher of this race. Initially, I was actually a little worried pacing someone of this caliber as I know I tend to be erratic with my mile times during longer races, but with a shortage of available pacers, I stayed with Andy. I arrived at the race site Friday afternoon just in time for the pre-race meeting which was highly informative. I’m not sure how I missed this fact over my last two years in the ultrarunning community, but the meeting director informed us that the Vermont 100 is the only race of its kind where humans race the same course as horses. Yes, I said horses.

The pre-race meeting ended and I went back to my car while the runners ate a wonderful pre-race feast (very worth the money if you’re wondering – pacers can get a meal ticket and eat free). I listened to the Yankees game on the radio (only station I could get) and fell asleep in my car (too lazy to break out the tent).

I was awoken by the sounds of heavy rain at 3:45am Saturday morning which was perfect timing because the race starts at 4am. Luckily, the rain did not last too long and the runners were off. I went back to bed so that I was rested for the 30 miles of running I would be doing later. I woke up at 10am and immediately I was bored and anxious. I started questioning “why didn’t I just sign up for this race?”, but tried to relax and slowly get ready. As I started walking around the camp, I could feel that the air wasn’t overly hot, but it was very thick and humid and wondered how many of the runners would hold up in the overbearing humidity. Eventually, I got dressed in my running gear, grabbed my water bottles and went to the main tents to wait for the shuttle to Camp 10 Bear. Camp 10 Bear does double aid station duty at the 47 and 70.1 mile marks. I got there around 2pm and decided to just hang around and take in the excitement of the runners coming in to 10 Bear.

Watching the runners come into 10 Bear was exciting and informative as well. Just by looking at the clothing of the runners, you could see a lot of runners were pummeled by the humidity and were moving slower than they had expected. Quite a few runners looked extremely dehydrated and I heard quite a few stomach related complaints. Seeing the conditions of the runners made me focus on hydrating while waiting even though I was in the Porta-Potty about 15 times. The heavens opened up and some gnarly lightning and thunder accompanied by rain drenched 10 Bear on and off for an hour or so.

The Pacing Begins - Mile 70.1 Camp 10 Bear Aid Station
An hour ahead of schedule, my runner came into 10 Bear at the 70.1 mile mark right at 5pm (13 hours in). He had obviously been running near the Top 20 runners, but as he shuffled into 10 Bear I could see that he was hurting, but definitely not near that red line … yet. However, he did mention in passing that he contemplated dropping thinking that he had gone out too fast, but I think I pressured him into going out. While he took care of his feet, I grabbed his drop bag and got him some M&Ms, cookies and HEED. We set out from 10 Bear at a decent walking pace in preparation of the trail uphill that was upcoming. We handled the trails at a slow, but easy pace and this pace was quick enough to have only 2 runners pass us while passing one ourselves. Andy and I strolled into Seabrook (74.7 miles) which is a small aid station along a gravel road and my runner was starting to get a little cranky; however, I still wasn’t concerned because we were moving at a decent enough pace and a 20 hour finish was still well within our grasp. However, once we left Seabrook, I realized my runner was in serious mental trouble.

When you’re pacing, I think you’re almost more conscious of the things you have learned from running and reading content from other ultrarunners than when you are actually running your own race. I could see that there was nothing medically wrong with my runner, but that he was hitting a major mental hurdle and it was only getting worse. Again, the talk of dropping at West Winds started especially as we encountered some steep, very muddy single track trail. As horse riders passed us saying how we looked good, his comments were all very negative and defeatist. For this section, my approach was to not be encouraging nor discouraging, but more mathematical and tell him that this is a common feeling and that once he was beyond West Winds he would leap the mental hurdle.

77 Miles Down - West Winds Aid Station
We arrived at West Winds and the situation didn’t improve as much as I thought it would. He was turning down water stating he couldn’t drink anymore water (not a good sign as this will lead to other medical problems later) although he was still eating. To his credit, he didn’t stay at West Winds for more than 5 minutes and was back out shuffling along. This ended up being the calm before the storm and we jogged a nice gravel road section passing a few 100K runners and we arrived at the unmanned Goodmans aid station. I was actually thinking we had a real chance of keeping a decent pace and still obtaining that 20 hour goal until we left Goodmans and night started to roll in.

It amazed me from the pacer’s perspective that you can actually watch a fellow runner deteriorate mentally right before your eyes. As dusk was setting in and it started to become darker, the incessant pleas to quit, DNF and just sleep started raining upon me. Again, I tried to be more analytical about the situation stating that “it’s a normal reaction to night rolling in and we’ve all been there”. Our conversation for the next 2.6 miles was straight out of a bad marriage with him saying what he wanted and not listening to a word I said and vice versa. It was an extremely long 2.6 miles for me because I continued to walk silently when all I wanted to do was squirt my water bottle at him. We finally arrived at Cow Shed and he immediately stated his intentions to lay down and he took two blankets and laid face down on the ground outside the tent. When he went down, I was starting to think that he wasn’t going to get over the mental hurdle. After staying down for 30 minutes, I caught a break when the Vermont bugs started biting his face causing him to be uncomfortable enough to want to keep going. I knew he was leaving not because he wanted to run, but because he wanted to leave so I was dreading the long 5 miles between Cow Shed and Bill’s, but slowly we left the great volunteers there.

It's important to note that it was so humid that the night time air was so foggy that our headlamps were rendered basically useless as you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you. This fact added to Andy's demoralized state as progress was difficult to discern.

The 5 Mile Road to Bill's & 88.6 Miles
I did all that I could to keep him upright those next 5 miles. He was wobbly. He couldn’t walk in a straight line and the slightest elevation change brought him close to toppling over. In this section I was completely silent because there was no piece of encouragement that would drive him further so I instead opted for focusing on nothing but our forward progress. It took almost a full 2 hours to get to Bill’s and there were several times I actually caught him to prevent him from falling over. We crashed into Bill’s (88.6 miles) and he immediately headed to a medical cot and I thought for sure our race was over. At this point it’s about 11:30pm and I know that any significant amount of downtime, with our current pace, might mean missing out on a sub-24 hour buckle finish. As he laid down in the cot, the determining struggle began.

Disaster Strikes
Heading into Bill’s, my runner kept stating how Bill’s had medical personnel and that he should be checked out and maybe they would pull him. Translation – he didn’t want to quit, but he didn’t want to run anymore and he wanted someone else to make that decision for him. Knowing this I decided I wouldn’t make it easy on him or medical personnel. As they questioned him how he felt, I interjected stating that medically he was fine and had urinated 3 times in the last 3 hours, he was still eating, but that he was just tired, needed to drink more fluids and was more of a mental issue. I, of course, said this loud enough for my down runner to hear. They took his blood pressure and monitored his oxygen level and they were both in excellent condition. We wrapped him up in a foil wrap and a blanket and the waiting game began. I watched him try and rest as other runners were coming in and most in much worse physical/medical shape than my partner. The minutes tick by and it’s 12:30am and we’re still down and I’ve given up all hope and I’m starting to make plans to pace another runner, Jeff, the rest of the way. A medical volunteer comes over and gives my runner a yellow Vitamin Water which he sips slowly and then pours the rest in his water bottle. Miraculously, he decided to try and get up and says we’re going to give it a go. We tie the foil wrap around him like a cape and out of Bill’s we go just before 1am with 3 hours and 11.4 miles left for a sub-24 hour finish.

After being down a total of 90 minutes, his decision to get up at the minute he did was an amazing feat of mental strength on his part and saved his race.

Don't Call it a Comeback
Out of Bill’s we moved very gingerly at first and I told him that this was normal after an extended period of downtime because your leg muscles will stiffen. I tried to encourage him to try and run some and what do you know – he could walk quickly/jog again. He became alive with excitement screaming out all types of jibberish and I was now motivated to switch gears and become the “pushy pacer”. I knew that I would have to take advantage of the energy burst now, get him close to the finish and hope that he could stay motivated enough to fight through the inevitable pain. Luckily, not only did his energy level dramatically increase, but so did his belief in my abilities to get him in under the 24 hour mark. Our pace quickened to around 12-15 minute mile pace depending on the terrain’s slope which was going to make it a very close finish.

My goals for the next three add stations, Keating’s, Polly’s and Sargent’s, was to have Andy give me his water bottle, I would fill it up as he got food and for him to continue out of the aid station in under a minute. I would then fill up my water bottles, grab some food if needed and then sprint to catch Andy a few hundred yards beyond the aid station. When we hit Keating’s (92 miles) our pace was solid and I now had him believing in a sub-24 and I turned into the encouraging “Great work/Good job/Looking strong” pacer. Instead of running side-by-side, I decided to run in front of him to call out terrain issues as well as to set the pace to push him a little more to stay with me. To his credit, very few times did I have to turn around and slow up as he did a tremendous job of powering through those tough, last 11.4 miles. Polly’s is a great, late race aid station (95.5 miles) and we arrived at 2:40am with only an hour and 20 minutes to get in. As a comparison, Andy informed me that the year prior, when he was feeling good, Polly’s to the end took him 1 hour and 8 minutes so we were living dangerously close to not finishing in time.

4.5 Miles to Go - Can We Pull Victory from the Claws of Defeat
Then, a disaster strikes as we make it to the end of road out of Polly’s to find a T intersection and no trail markings (plates or glow sticks). I sprint back up the small hill to find that we missed a left turn off and shout back down that we had, in fact, missed a turn off. We lost about 2 minutes and now I was really starting to worry that we weren’t going to make it. To his credit again, Andy didn’t let his motivation level slide and we took advantage of the non-trail terrain. The terrain between Polly’s and Sargent’s is nothing but gravel roads and our plan was to keep as fast a pace as possible since Andy informed me that the rest of the race after Sargent’s is single track trail. Andy and I arrived at Sargent’s (97.7 miles) with ~45 minutes left until 4am.

By this time, we had built up a nice little convoy of 3 runners and 2 pacers and I really believe we all fed off each other’s energy. One runner, Christopher Martin (who we passed earlier and said he “didn’t have the heart to get sub-24), was now right on our heels looking extremely strong and motivated (in fact, he stated that the year previous he finished in 26+ hours so this was a great finishing time for him). I, again, led the way helping the runners navigate the trail and when we hit the .5 mile mark to go with 17 minutes left, we all started to celebrate while keeping our pace up. With about a quarter mile left, we could hear cheering in the distance and we all started shouting back. After emerging from the woods, I left Chris and Andy to cross the finish line, arms raised together, in 23:49 with less than 11 minutes until the 24 hour buckle cutoff.

A Little About Me After 30 Miles
Interestingly enough, I was so worried about Andy finishing and keeping a good pace for the 3 runners to follow that I didn’t notice my own deterioration in the last 2.3 miles until after we finished. I wouldn’t dare stop and re-tie my shoe, which had become undone, so I developed 2 gnarly blisters on my right foot. While I wasn’t anywhere near tired, being in a rush and completely consumed with Andy’s condition would have put me in jeopardy if my pacing duties were extended as I would have had downtime to deal with the blisters and other irritations. My body responded extremely well and I had tons in the tank and still had the ability to change speeds when needed, but I learned that even at a short and slow 30 miles that a pacer needs to make sure to account for his needs as well so that he is still helpful to his runner. Pacing was an extremely rewarding experience and an adventure where I gained a lot of valuable insight into common runner problems and how to combat them. Hopefully, next year, I’ll be receiving my silver buckle with Andy who I am sure plans on running the Vermont 100 again.

2007 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report

By hagrin - Posted on 02 April 2007

Here's my humble recap of my first attempt at 100 miles.

I drove solo from Long Island, NY for 8 hours on early Friday morning to head towards Raleigh, North Carolina for my first attempt at a 100 miler. However, I had injured my ankle about a month ago which really limited my running to about 20 miles a week, but I continued to do 2-4 hours of elliptical work so I was in good cardio shape, just not good runner's shape. Needless to say, I was a little worried about how my ankle would hold up especially when dealing with the downhills which seemed to hurt the most during my training sessions. I didn't stay at the park (although I paid for a cabin) and decided to make the Comfort Suite on US-1 my home for the night (great hotel btw). When I come back next year, I plan on flying into the Raleigh Airport instead of driving to make things a little easier.

Actual Race
Loop #1
I met up with Jesse Leitner (who finished 11th in the 100 and PRd a 50 time too - congrats!) at the Comfort Suite and we headed over to the race site together. While it was cold the previous night and we were expecting temps in the 30s-40s when the race started, I was surprised to find myself perspiring while warming up in just a tee shirt and shorts (i.e. not a good sign - I'm 5'11", 185 - not exactly the prototypical long-distance runners body). We had heard in the pre-race meeting that most runners go without a flashlight at the beginning, but I decided I definitely needed one after trying to navigate back towards my car before the race (I highly recommend a light if you plan on running alone in that first hour). The race started and I went out at a very comfortable sub-10 minute pace and found myself in the top 25 or 30 I think. At around mile 3, I found myself running with one other runner - Jesse! (odd how I had never met him before and now I was running with him). We kept a very comfortable pace even talking a bit while running as we cruised into the first manned aid-station (right before the 7 mile marker). This was easily my favorite aid station in any race with all the volunteers being extremely helpful (more on that later), but it also signified the hardest part of the course was upcoming. For anyone running this race, miles 7-10 are the hardest in the loop with the steepest, longest hills on the course. Even though I felt good, I started to walk these uphills as everyone cautioned me to make sure to take the uphills easy so I was able to walk easily up the hills and most of the runners behind me followed suit. By mile 10, I started to purposefully slow myself down some as I was on sub 2 hour pace for the loop so a few runners including Jesse passed me. I entered the Start/Finish at around 2 hours exactly and felt great - no perspiring, no heavy breathing, heart rate low, no cramps, no blisters and my ankle feeling great (in fact, I hadn't thought about it once until Jesse actually asked how my ankle was doing).

Loop #2
This loop was pretty uneventful, but again I decided that since my goal was to just finish the 100 in any time (dream goal was sub 22 hours, realistic goal was 24 hours), I decided to slow myself down again and run an even slower pace - especially with how the heat was starting to turn itself up. I ran pretty much by myself the entire time, took my time at all the aid stations to drink plenty (I didn't carry water since this course has water every 2.5 miles and it seemed pointless to me, who didn't really care about my finishing time, to carry water unnecessarily). I ended up finishing this loop in about 2.5 hours - still really good pace, no complaints, no blisters, no cramps, ankle holding up well.

Loop #3
Here comes the heat. By this time, it's about 10:30 and I won't finish this loop until 13:40 or so and while the time is extremely unimpressive, it was more a personal decision to slow down as much as possible while not getting demoralized that runners were passing me (it's hard to go in with a goal of racing against the course and then not being affected by your competitiveness when runners pass you). Everything was working well for me, but by the time I got to the manned aid station at mile 32, a few volunteers noted to me that there were dried white sweat streaks down my face and my hat had a white ring around the top of it. I spent 5 minutes eating pretzels and one of the volunteers gave me a paper towel ice bag to put under my hat and on the back of my neck to cool off some. As I left this aid station, I decided to walk as much as possible because I sweat a lot and it would be smarter to save myself for the cooler hours and not fight a losing battle keeping myself hydrated and fueled properly. I finished this loop without incident, albeit very slowly and headed out for the 4th loop after calling home to let them know I was feeling great. In fact, I think I even said "I call you in about 7.5-8 hours after I finish another 3 loops". Yeah, oops.

Loop #4
Now, I believe the temps are up to 80 degrees and this is easily 30 degrees warmer than any temp I have run in for 7 months. Even still, I was feeling great - no cramps, no blisters and the heat was bad, but not to the point where I was sweating badly so I decided that when permitted I would continue to run to make sure I didn't get tight and to find shade as much as possible. In my effort to find shade, I would run on the edges of the trail where the trail is a little softer. At around mile 41, I stepped in a soft spot, twisted my ankle and it was all downhill from there. I came into the manned aid station slightly lipping and I took my time, ibuprofen and debated what I should do. I figured I would continue to move forward, hope that the aspirin would kick in and try and run the flats and slight upgrades (oddly, the downhills hurt my ankle a lot more so walking the downhills was my only option). The last 5.5 miles of this loop were sheer torture. I didn't see any runners during this time except who I assume was the female leader Jamie and when I saw her coming up from behind, I decided to try and run some which was a huge error on my part. I started to overcompensate for my ankle and the rest of my body didn't like that much at all. I ended up limping the last 2.5 miles into the Start/Finish and was faced with the following decision -

50 miles completed in 10:30ish.
Could I walk 50 miles in 19:30 hours?

I definitely could if I wasn't injured - heck, I could probably walk it in a lot less than 19 hours. However, faced with the tasks of having to drive home alone 8 hours and then recovering from an additional 50 hours on a bum ankle, I decided to drop at 50. Although I was so pissed I couldn't go on that I skipped the aid station and a volunteer actually chased me into the cabin to ask if I wanted anything (the volunteers were so amazing, I didn't know people that nice actually existed), in retrospect it was the right decision as 2 days later my right ankle is so tender I can barely touch it no less walk around.

I ended up finishing 33rd of 107 50 mile finishers in a time around 10:25ish - slower than I would have liked, but I was happy considering what I went through for the last 8 miles.

What I would do Differently?
Next year, when I come back I plan on -
1) Flying down to the Raleigh Airport - the driving was way too much to do solo.
2) Bring thicker shoes - I ran with North Face Arnuva 50s which kept my feet in great condition, but the miles directly in and out of the Start/Finish are ripe with rocks that bruised my feet through the thinner bottoms. I almost switched to my XCRs, but decided that they weren't broken in enough and that the risk of blisters was too great.
3) Basketball Taping the ankle - I play a lot of basketball and I should have taped the ankle in much the same way I do for basketball to prevent rolling it. I was worried that running 100 miles with it taped would be a bad idea, but maybe it would have slowed me down even more while offering me protection.

Thanks goes out to everyone involved in pulling off this race - it's highly organized, the trail is amazingly easy to follow (only in one spot did I see runners stop and get confused which was right by mile 4 or 5 where you could either correctly go left uphill or right downhill and there were pink signs down both directions), the aid stations were incredible and everyone was super friendly. I'll be back next year without a doubt.

The PayPal Security Key

By hagrin - Posted on 03 March 2007

Recently, when I heard that PayPal would be offering additional security through a keychain security key (or key fob), I immediately signed up that day even though I rarely use PayPal and Ebay. For me, I want to be an early adopter of two form authentication since most Internet users really should be protecting themselves in every available manner (from themselves in many cases). I applaud PayPal and Ebay for implementing this additional layer of security before any of my banks have and I hope that more institutions follow suit.

First, I paid $5 USD to get the security key. I ordered the security key over a month ago and was surprised when it came today in the mail. If you haven't seen an image of the key yet, I've included one below -

Activating your security key is extremely easy. All that you need to do is browse to PayPal's security key page, enter in the serial number on the back of your key fob, press the key's button to generate a 6 digit number, wait 30 seconds and then retrieve a second number. If successfully activated, your security key will be attached to your account. I logged out and logged back in to test the new system and loved the simplicity. After successfully entering in my email address and password, I was now presented with an additional screen asking for my 6 digit number instead of my normal Account status screen.

It's that simple.

With all of the talk of Ebay hackings and PayPal insecurity, any user that relies on either of these services would be foolish to not spend the 5 dollars to add yet another level of security. This security key provides protection against those phishing attempts that are lucky enough to catch you with your guard down since even if they sniff out your email and password, the 6 digit security code will prevent them from fully accessing your account. You'd have to say - PayPal is definitely on the right track and got "it" right this time.