Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mohican 50 - 2012

Mohican 50 Mile Race – 2012

Two years ago I ran Mohican 50, my first 50 mile race, and did very well, finishing 9th/100 with a time of 9:57.  This gave me the inspiration to run Burning River 100.  So, this year I registered again for the 50 miler, as a training race for BR100.  Liz, in a moment of weakness, agreed to register for the Marathon.

Traditionally, Mohican is a 100 mile race and has been going on for 26 years now.  A couple of years ago the 50 miler was added.  Last year the Marathon was added.  Last year the course was redesigned to include on basic loop done once (Marathon), twice (50 miles) or 4 times (100 miles).  This year the participation was the highest ever with 200 runners running 100 miles, 200 running 50 miles, and 100 running the Marathon.

Considering that 2 weeks ago I had an injury, I approached this race with caution.  My plan was to treat it as a training run and even drop after the first loop if I had any issues with pain.  My official goal was to finish “around 11 hours”.

The week before the race I started feeling better.  My injured quad muscle healed quickly.  On Thursday before the race I got a pair of new shoes (NB 110) from Vertical Runner in Brecksville.  I have been running on NB Trail Minimus for over a year now.  The 110 felt very lightweight and comfortable, but with more protection in rough trails. I liked them instantly and tried them for 6 miles on trails on Thursday, my last run before Mohican.  I felt good, which increased my confidence for the race.

Friday morning we packed two cars and drove to Athens OH, to move Lea to her new apartment (she is starting Physical Therapy at Ohio University).  We (Liz and I) then drove from Athens to Mohican.  Knowing that the free food at the Mohican prerace meeting is not something we would want to eat, we stopped at an interesting Dinner and had dinner (hamburger for me, salad for Liz).

We arrived at the Mohican Lodge around 5:00 PM.  We got settled in and then went to the prerace meeting.  There we met with running friends, had some beer (beer was free for the entire weekend) and attended the prerace instructions, held outside. 

Then we headed back to the Lodge for another round of eating and drinking :)  We witnessed a nice sunset sitting outside the restaurant:

Saturday morning we got up at 4:00 AM. I had my trademark low-carb breakfast (eggs, nuts, cheese and olive oil, prepared from home), took a shower, got dressed and ready to run with my hand-held water bottle and my camera on my hands.  I did not have any drop bags, other than a bag at the start (and aid station at 26 miles).  We left at 4:30. Liz’s marathon did not start until 8 am, so she gave Kimberly and myself a ride and went back to take a nap.  We arrived at the start at 4:45, checked in and got ready to start.  The temperature was in the mid 60s.  The weather was expected sunny with a high temperature in the upper 80s. 

The way I understood the course, the first two miles were on open road on purpose, for the group to thin out before getting into the trails. I made the mistake (again!) not to bring a light, thinking that it will get lighter after 2 miles.  Big mistake! Since I was treating this as a training run, I decided to start with Kimberly and utilize her light to see where I was stepping.

Things did not work out very well.  We positioned ourselves at maybe the top 25%, but that’s 100 runners ahead of us.  First, we entered a short trail section almost right away.  Slower runners held the line back and dictated the pace.  It was impossible to pass in these narrow trails in the dark.  Then, we got into a road section for a while, and then back into the trails. I badly needed a light in these trails.  In addition, my Garmin watch indicated low battery right away (I know why this happened - never plug the watch on a hotel plug that shuts off when the main light switch is turned off :)).  I was carrying a table with distances to aid stations.  Without the GPS information, the table was useless.  Well, I managed to survive without the watch or the table.

Again, the pace in the trails was dictated by the slower runners and it was overall slow (~12 minute miles) with quite a bit of walking for the first 8 miles.  Then, around mile 8, a runner fell down in front of me.  I jumped around her and passed the two runners ahead.  Kimberly did not follow.  So now, for the first time, I found the trail in front of me open and I could finally run my own pace.

This marks the point where the race started for me. I did not push hard, but running my own comfortable pace was enough to move me forward, passing runners ahead of me. Around mile 12 I caught up with Joshua Strzala, a nice guy whose goal for this race was 9:30 hours.  We ran together for a while, including the sections of the enchanted valley and the hand-over-hand climb, the most famous part of the course:

I had a nice chat with Joshua, but lost him after the Covered Bridge aid station.  A few miles later I caught up with another runner.  Chatting from behind, he told me that our pace was good for an under 9 hour finish.  “Are you sure?” I asked in disbelief.  I would be thrilled to just finish under 10 hours.  “Positively” he replied.  He was a strange guy, running in road shoes and carrying no water.  I lost him after the last aid station of loop (Hickory Ridge).

The section from Hickory Ridge to the finish is 5.8 miles and it was my favorite!  Mostly downhill, runable surfaces.  I was able to go fast and enjoy the ride.  With less than a mile to finishing the first loop, I caught up with Connie Gardner. I was very friendly but she had no clue who I was.  She did not remember me from the Wooster trail race earlier.  We chatted for a while and when I told her that I am originally from Greece, she asked if I knew Dimitris.  “Dimitris who?” I asked.  “Dimitris Kouros” she replied.  I believe she is talking about Yiannis Kouros, a Greek and one of the word’s best ultra-runners of all times and my personal idol ( ).  “He is not known in the USA” I replied.  “We’ve run many races together” Connie said.  Well, it is nice to run with celebrities like Connie Gardner.  At the time she was the leading Female 100 mile runner and she kept her placement and finished 4th overall.

I completed the first loop (26.3 miles) in about 4:50.  Back at the start I changed shirt and spent more time hydrating.  I then started the 2nd loop (23.6 miles).  There were a couple of difference in this loop. First, instead of a road section at the start, we entered into a trail, and it was a hard one!  Then, one loop was changed, known as the “short loop”.  The lady at the Fire Tower aid station told me that it is an easy 2.6 mile jog.  Well, I found this “short loop” to be very hard, at least the first part!

Around mile 30, I caught up with Bob Pokorny.  Bob told me at the start that he was going for an 8:30 finish, but it was clear that he was not doing well. “It is not my day” he said as I passed him.  At this point I started thinking about my overall placement.  Around mile 30 I caught up with Juan Vicente.   Juan is a strong runner, and finished ahead of me 2 years ago.  But he was having some issues with his toes and he was not doing as well as he had expected.  We chatted for a while and lost him at the Fire Tower aid station.  He told me that my placement at the time was 8th overall (it was actually 10th).

After the so-called short loop, I arrived at the Covered Bridge aid station.  I was hungry for some fat so I asked for ham and cheese.  They just got a supply and Kim Dawn Boner, who was a volunteer at the aid station, made a nice roll with turkey meat and cheese (no bread).  This felt very good.  I also drank a lot of water.  Because I was only carrying one water bottle, I had to make sure that I drank a bottle at the aid station and then carried a full bottle with me.  This was needed with aid stations 5-6 miles apart.  I was very careful with hydrating and eating well in this race.

The trail after Cover Bridge was terrible.  Constant uphills, lots of walking.  Also, Marathon runners were all over the course after this point.  Not a problem, they were all polite, stepping to the side when I was passing.

Overall, I’d say that this was a very challenging course.  The vast majority was narrow technical trails with lots of rocks, roots and other irregularities.  Even though I consider myself an experienced trail runner (I run in hard sections of the Buckeye Trail 2-3 times a week), I fell twice, stumbled numerous times, jammed my toes, and had a hard time running in parts of the trail.  I cannot imagine how less experienced runners could handle 12 or more hours in these hard trails!  But, there were also some very nice sections, like this one here:

I finally arrived at Hickory Ridge, the last aid station before the finish.  At this aid station I caught up and passed Steve Godale, so now I am in 9th place. Steve is an amazing runner and the fact that I am passing him gave me extra strength to run the last 5 miles to the finish very fast. That’s what I call racing!  With 3 miles to the finish, I caught a glimpse of another 50 mile runner (I could tell from the yellow bibs, vs. green for the marathon runners).  I ran fast and passed him very quickly in a section where he was walking, advancing to 8th place.

With one mile to the finish, I started feeling weak, as if I needed food (this is the first time I felt like that since eating low-carb).  I also started feeling the effects of the heat for the first time.  I ended up pouring water on my face and head. 

With half mile to the end, I caught sight of Liz. Finally, I caught up with her and asked if she had anything for me to eat. I really needed to eat something to continue running.  She gave me a half finished goo, and sucked as much as I could out of it.  That was enough to power my sprint to the finish.  I was so happy to see the finish line, knowing that this was the end of a great race!

I asked for my time:  8:47!  This is really unbelievable!  With an initial goal of 11 hours, I would have been thrilled with a time of 10 hours.  If someone had told me that I could do 9 hours, I would have not believed it.  And, here I am, finishing well under 9 hours! That’s an improvement of 1 hour and 10 minutes from what I thought was a great time two years ago.  How did that happen?  I have no idea!

Here it the list of the first 10 finishers in this race:

What I find interesting here is that I passed Steve Godale with only 5.8 miles left and I managed to build a difference of 13 minutes! I passed Court Lilly with less than 3 miles left and built a difference of 6 1/2 minutes.  This says a lot about how strong and fast I finished the race.  Here is another piece of information, my times from the last aid station to Mohican Adventures (start/finish) during the first and second loop:

HR to FIN, 1st
HR to FIN, 2nd

In the second loop, I covered the same distance at 10:20 pace vs. 10:51 in the first loop.  Not many runners are able to run the last 6 miles of a 50 mile race faster than the same distance in mid-race.

Upon finishing, I turned around and took a picture of Liz finishing, just a minute or two behind me.  I then went to eat. I was really hungry!  Eating and drinking inside the air-conditioned room, I missed a lot of my friends finishing at 9:30 hours. 

After the finish we took a shower and stayed around watching other runners finish, taking pictures, drinking beer and eating.  The marathon awards started and Liz went to take a shower and missed her name, called for age group winner.  She later confessed that she secretly hoped to get an award but thought it was impossible and did not want to be “cocky”.  Does that make sense to you? :)  I went to pick her award but the director said, it’s OK she can come later, which she did.

At the time I thought that my placement was 6th overall.  The top awards went 6 deep and there was money involved.  So we decided to stay for the awards.  The 50 mile awards started at 7:30 PM.  The director called the 6th place winner and it was not me!  It was a guy with 8:40 time.  So, I missed on some money (that would have been the first time I got money for running).  But he did call my name as an-age group winner and also 7th overall finisher (even though I am listed 8th in the final results), so I stood in line with the other fast runners, and had my picture taken by Liz:

Here is one last picture we had someone take, before we left to drive home.  This time we posed by the side of the banner that says “Finish”.  We are wearing our Mohican 100 visors, part of the award for our age group winning:

After the race, two questions were going though my mind:
  1. What would have happened if I had treated this as a race from the very beginning?
  2. What does this race tell me about possible BR100 time?
To answer to the first question, let's look at this table of times of arrival at aid stations:

First 2 Aid Stations
Rest for end of 1st loop
First Loop Data
Second Loop Data

My pace during the first 9 miles when this race was a training run was nearly 13 min/mile.  Once I started running faster, my pace increased to 9:30 for the remaining of the loop.  My pace in the second loop is actually faster than that of the first loop (negative split).

Had I positioned myself in the front and run these 9 miles at an average 10:30 pace, my time would be lower by 23 minutes!  Looking at the list of top winners, this would have made little difference in my placement, but, still, 23 minutes is quite an improvement in a 50 mile race.

To answer the second question:

If I round my time to 9 hours, double it, and then add 2 extra hours for the 2nd half, I get a time of 20 hours.  This is a conservative estimate, considering that the BR100 course is a lot easier than the Mohican course.  So, based on my performance in Mohican, I think 20 hours at BR100 is a reasonable goal, assuming that everything goes well. But I prefer to stick with the 24 hours, which is also a great time for my first 100 miler.  Anything faster than 24 hours will just be a bonus!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

6 Weeks to BR100

6 Weeks to Burning River 100!

This is the first blog on my focus race this year, Burning River 100!  The way I see it, there are 4 distinct phases, to prepare for this race:

  1. Background:  Everything until the Cleveland Marathon, 10 weeks before BR100
  2. Intensive Training Phase 1:  Cleveland to Mohican 50, 4 weeks
  3. Intensive Training Phase 2:  Mohican 50 to BT50, 4 weeks
  4. Taper Phase:  BT50 to BR100, 2 weeks

In this blog, I will go through the background, discuss what I learned from the Intensive Training Phase 1 (ending now), give some ideas about Training Phase 2, and, finally, state my goal for this race. 

Maybe I am over-analyzing this, but, what the heck, it is my first 100 mile race!


I got the idea of running BR100 exactly two years ago, when I completed my first (and only so far) 50 mile race at Mohican.  The report is here:

I went to this race without any serious training and with no expectations, and did very well, finishing under 10 hours, in 9th place overall.  What’s more important, I did not struggle and I recovered very quickly.  

Given that 100K races are rare, the next logical step in my development as an ultrarunner was to attempt my first 100 miler and, being local, the Burning River 100 was the obvious choice. My ultimate goal is to run the Spartathlon one day (, from Athens to Sparta in Greece, 153 miles)

I signed up for BR100 last year (2011) right away, but suffered an ITB injury which took a while to resolve, so I was forced to cancel BR100 (also, my first Boston, and other good races).

I managed to resolve my ITB injury by switching to minimalist shoes!  With the injury out of the way, I started to increase my mileage in the summer.  Even though short races were OK, my long runs felt like a drag. I was hitting the wall often (I remember one day in particular, I went to run from home to the Rec Center in Brecksville, only 4.5 miles, and at mile 3 I called my wife to bring me food!!) 

By August my weigh hit an all time high of 172 lbs.  Normally, in the summer my weigh drops to 160-165 lbs and in the winter it goes up 5 lbs or more.  So now we are in the summer and it is high.  I was afraid to think of what would happen in the winter.

Low Carb Epiphany:

On August 11th while checking my email, I saw an interview with Gary Tubes, talking about how carbohydrates make you fat.  At this point, I had an “epiphany”, described in this blog:

I realized that the reason I am struggling with my weight (and my running) is that I am eating too many carbs!  It was a simple but profound realization, which changed my life.  I immediately and drastically changed the way I eat.  After a 2 week adjustment period, the positive results starting showing:  More energy, weight loss, better running endurance.

Fall Winter Running/Racing:

After this change in nutrition and weight loss, my Fall/Winter running went great.  Some highlights: Towpath marathon: 3:25, Run with Scissors Trail M 4:09 (6th overall), Badass 50K 5:10 (4th overall), Run for Regis 50K 5:19 (great time for a winter 50K! 7th overall).  In all the trail races I won the Grandmaster’s award and in some races I was even faster than any Masters runner!  

Things were going well (with the exception of a bad marathon in Miami at the end of January.)  I had a great race in Green Jewel 50K in March.  It looked like I had a head-start in BR100 training, and then, disaster hit, a back injury 10 days after GJ.  Maybe the fact that I ran 3 races in one week (50K, 5M, 15K) had something to do with it??!!

I took two weeks completely off running to get over this.  I was aqua-jogging and promised myself to continue aqua-jogging once or twice a week, and stretch more.  The back problem gradually disappeared. I returned to higher mileage and racing, and forgot about stretching and aqua-jogging! (In retrospect, not a good idea.)

I switched the Fools 50K to a 25K (April 1) and did OK, and ran the Forget the PR 50K with good results (April 15).  I was getting back in shape and ready to enter the intensive training phases for BR100!

BR Intensive Training – Phase 1 (Cleveland to Mohican)

The BR100 intensive training for me started with the Cleveland Marathon, 10 weeks before BR.  I am glad I did not race Cleveland, but treated it as a training run on hot day.

The week after Cleveland I ran the Dirty Bird 15K and finished 7th overall, a great placement, but in the process I injured the ball of my left foot by slamming my lightweight shoes in the ground in this twisted course.   The next day we had the first BR100 Training Run, covering the first 24 miles of the race.  That went well, running at a slow pace, no problems.

Two weeks after Cleveland I ran the Buckeye Buster 50K, with great results, finishing 4th overall with a 50K PR (5:04).  By all indications, I was reaching a peak and I was very happy.  I ran 80+ miles/week in these two weeks.  Thinks looked better and better for BR!

Then, disaster hit again!  The day after BB50K, while running an easy 17 mile BR100 Training Run #2, a muscle in my left quad started hurting, getting progressively worse and forcing me to stop and walk the last two miles.  I have never had anything like that happen!  It was a big blow!  It is amazing how a runner can go from the Zenith of his running to the Nadir in just one day!  

The next day the quad was hurting a lot!  I could not go up and down stairs without pain.  But the recovery was amazingly fast.  On Friday I did 3 miles without a problem and on Sunday I ran the first BT50K Training Run, 14.5  miles in 3 hours with no pain.

What worries me about this injury is that I have no idea what caused it or how it can be avoided.  Actually, I do have some ideas:  A few weeks ago I reached my lowest weight ever, 152 lbs. I then experienced a strange pain in my right calf that forced me to abort a 20 mile trail run at mile 10.  This also went away quickly.  I was sure that the weight loss and dehydration caused this, probably muscle cramping.  Now I suspect that dehydration and lack of sleep/rest might have something to do with the quad problem.  It is possible that the low-carb diet might is back-firing, and I need to be more carefully with hydration, replacement of lost minerals and vitamins, and rest.

Also, I end to race too often and too intensely. I participate in two race series, Hermes Road series, and Dirty Trail series, so I race every weekend and there have been times when I had two races in one weekend.  The problem with me and races is that I cannot take it easy, even if this is part of the plan. I tend to give 110% in every race.  The results are satisfying, but I am flirting with injury.  So, I have made a few decisions:

  1. Do not race from now until BR
  2. No running one or two days of the week (Monday and/or Friday)
  3. Aquajog at least twice a week (I feel that the pool helps me extend my range of motions and it is beneficial in many ways)
  4. Stretch and strengthen key muscles, at least once a day
  5. Hydrate and eat well. I am currently at 158 lbs. I’d rather arrive at BR100 a bit heavier and healthier than thinner and injured.
  6. Rest and sleep more (I have been having trouble sleeping more than 5 hours/night, so I need to take care of this.)

The Mohican 50 race on Saturday will be an interesting test. I am definitely not racing it, given the situation with my quad muscle.  I plan to take it easy, running at BR pace (~12 min/mile or slower) and finish at about 11-12 hours. I am also ready to abort the race after the first loop (25 miles) if things are not going well.  It a bit sad not to be able to improve my time from 2 years ago, but BR100 is taking precedence over everything else right now.

BR Intensive Training – Phase 2 (Mohican to BT50K)

There are 4 weeks between Mohican 50 and the next key race (Buckeye Trail 50K).

My general plan is to run 3 long runs during the week, at least 20 miles each, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (the “back-to-back” runs).  The weekend runs are mostly part of the BR and BT training runs.  On Wednesdays I am on my own.  Then run 12 miles every Tuesday and Thursday, back and forth to the Rec Center, where I take a fitness class.  I would like to hit 100 mostly easy miles per week in this phase.  By paying attention to the 6 previous points, I will hopefully arrive safe and sound (un-injured) at BR100.

Here is the summary, day by day:

  • Monday: 5 easy miles in the morning, or rest, aqua-jogging in the evening
  • Tuesday: Total of 12 miles in trails, plus Fitness Class
  • Wednesday:  Long run #1 of about 20 miles, mostly trails, followed by aqua-jogging
  • Thursday: Total of 12 miles in trails, plus Fitness Class
  • Friday: 5 easy miles in the morning, or rest, aqua-jogging in the evening
  • Saturday: Long run #2 with training groups, 20+ miles
  • Sunday: Long run #3 with training groups, 20+ miles

Some people do not think it is a good idea to run the Buckeye Trail 50K race, 2 weeks before BR100.  I love this race (coving technical trails that are also part of BR100) and I think that 2 weeks is plenty of time to recover, provided that I do not race this like mad, which is what I plan to do.

BR Tapering – Goals and Expectations

Generally, I do not like to taper before long trail races. I have found that I actually race better if I do not taper.  So, there are going to be a lot of miles during these last two weeks, but easy miles with lots of rest.

My expectations from my first 100 mile race:

I should be happy to just finish the race.  However, I would like to finish it under 24 hours. I think I am capable of doing this, provided that I remain injury-free.

As a matter of fact, I believe that I am capable of running this race under 20 hours one day.  I base this optimism on two factors:  1) I generally get better (compared to other runners) as the distance increases and I run well in the heat. 2) I see other runners with similar running abilities, finishing BR100 under 20 hours.  So, I think I can do this, not in this particular race (because it is my first 100 miler) but in a future one, provided that I continue to run strong and I stay away from injuries!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Buckeye Buster 50K, 2012

Buckeye Buster 50K – June 2, 2012

Summary:  Great race!  I finished 4th overall (highest placement in any race for me!) with a time of 5:04, a great time on a difficult course, and also a new trail PR for me. First over 40, I got the Grand Masters award.  Best part: No issues, perfectly even splits.


We arrived at the Salt Fork State Park OH Lodge with Liz on Friday. The room was very nice. We like the Ohio State Park Lodges...

The 50K course is a 10.4 mile loop, which we do 3 times. This is nearly identical to the course of the Bigfoot 50K that I did back in December (a small section of the road was replaced with grass, slowing the course down by 1-2 minutes/loop). I wrote a report for this race:

As it turns out, there was also a 10 mile race (running one loop) and Joe and I talked Liz into signing up for the 10 miler. Her longest trail race before this was 5 miles.  Here Liz is handing her credit card to Kate Koewler at the on-site registration.

Spending the night at the lodge, I had 2 beers and a glass of wine, and we ate at the Lodge restaurant. It was a low-carb dinner (steak for Liz, salad for me) without bread or fries, but we could not resist the Buckeye Pie that we split. So, almost low-carb (minus Beer and Pie! :))

Saturday morning I got up at 6 AM and had breakfast, which I brought from home: two boiled eggs chopped, with pieces of cheese, a few chopped pieces of carrots and lots of olive oil, plus sunflower seeds. It looked disgusting but tasted good. I estimate that because of the amount of oil, we are looking at ~1000 calories, and on a very small volume of space. Contrast that with carbohydrates which have 4/9 the calories of fat and tie water like crazy. I ate my breakfast at 6:30 AM, only half an hour before the race started. During the race I had nothing to eat! Only water and a few sips of Gatorade/Coke, which I could have easily skipped. I remember thinking that the fat-loading for breakfast was enough to keep me satisfied for the entire race, without giving me a belly ache. It is like I had not even eaten; I felt light but full.

Race Director, Vince Rucci, giving the last minute instructions:

Race timing was done by Jim Chaney:

Here is a group of fast runners:  Shaun Pope (1st overall, left) and Brian Polen (2nd overall, right), with Joe Jurczyk in the middle:

At the start line and ready to go!  I ran with my water bottle and my Panasonic Lumix 3D1 camera.

The 50K started at 7:00 (7:30 for the 10 miler), conveniently right outside the Lodge. The temperature was 50F, rising to 70F and it was sunny. It had rained hard the day before, but because of the dry Spring we are having, the ground was not too bad: soft with some patches of mud-- a lot drier than in December!  It really was perfect running weather!

The trails were well-marked with red blazers. Liz was nervous but I told her that it is almost impossible to get lost.  There was a variety of running surfaces, technical trails, some asphalt, lots of grass (the least favorite part for many runners). I enjoyed parts of the trail when it was running along the lake.  It reminded me of Greece. If I were not running a race, I would have stepped out of the trail to sit by the water and enjoy the view.

In this race, I ran an amazingly even pace! My time splits for each 10.4 loop are: 1:41, 1:41, 1:42! It cannot get any more even than that! (The one extra minute in loop #3 is due to spending more time at the aid stations...)  Compare this with the Bigfoot 50K in December (1:40, 1:50, 1:54) or with what other runners did.  A big difference!  Running the 3rd loop as fast as the 1st loop is not something you see often.  Compare my splits with the first 3 runners. My Lap 3 was faster than both #2 and #3 runners:

Place    Name                Age   Lap1     Lap2       Lap3      Finish      Pace  
===== ===== ===========================================
    1    Shaun Pope         23   1:19:24   1:28:30   1:35:21   4:23:15    8:27  
    2    Brian Polan          32   1:27:25   1:32:26   1:43:31   4:43:22    9:05  
    3    Micah Scott          22   1:28:07   1:34:21   1:55:01   4:57:29    9:33  
    4    George Themelis   52   1:41:22   1:41:04   1:42:26   5:04:52    9:47  

Except for the few short encounters when I passed other runners, I ran the entire race alone. I was thinking that this is the curse of leading runners... They run alone. I enjoy company, so running alone is not fun... :(  I did, however, run 5 miles with Kevin Martin.  Here I took a picture of Kevin, at the road stretch leading to the mid-course aid station:

Just before finishing the 1st loop I was in 11th place and gradually worked my way to 4th place, passing runner after runner. Early into the 2nd loop I caught up with runner no. 6, Ron. We chatted. He looked strong so I am surprised that I passed him. Right after I finished loop 2, I caught up with runner no. 5, chatted for a while, then I moved ahead.

Aid station volunteers were very helpful.  Pam Pickel is filling up my water bottle at the mid-course aid station, at about mile 15:

Finally at mile 23.5 I caught up with runner no. 4, again chatted, and pulled ahead. Looking at the results, if I had a few more miles, I would have caught runner no. 3 who had slowed down considerably.

So by mile 23.5 I knew I was in 4th place. That's when the race started for me :) I did not want to lose this placement so I started running faster, pushing myself harder.  As a result, I built a 10 minute difference from the runner behind me! Half a mile before the finish, I realized that I had a chance to PR! So now I was racing against the clock.

I finished in 5:04:52, which is only 7 seconds (!!) faster than my previous 50K best time (5:04:59, at the Buckeye Trail 50K in 2009). I was 4th overall, first over 40.

Complete results at:

After the race, I talked to Shaun Pope (1st place winner, 23 yo) who said that, for him, this course is 20 minutes slower than the Buckeye Trail 50K and he said that if I run BT50K that strong, I can finish at 4:45. My dream has always been to break 5 hours in the BT50K. I came close to this 3 years ago when I was heading for a 4:55 finish, but crashed and finished at 5:04 (the report for this race is here:
That was back when I was carbo-loading and I hit a terrible wall 3 miles before the end when my glycogen reserves were exhausted. This cannot happen today when my run is fueled mostly by fat.

Overall, I am very pleased with my performance. I ran strong with even pace, like a well-oiled machine :) I had no issues, and now I feel no pain.

[However, the next day I went for a 17 mile training run for Burning River and my quad on the left leg was hurting, forcing me to stop 2 miles before the end. I hope this goes away with no lingering problems.]

Next test: Mohican 50M race in two weeks.  If I continue to run strong and avoid injury, I am hopeful for a decent first 100 mile appearance.

Liz did well in her 10 mile race, under 2 hours (her goal), finished 5th overall woman, 1st over 50 (Grand Master award, just like mine :)) But it was a small field, only 38 runners :)  Results are at: