Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Night Food

Grass fed minute steak. White sweet potatoes with crisped cheddar cheese. Fresh snow peas.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Philly Insurance Tri Olympic

I'm not really a morning person, triathlon is forcing it upon me.  3AM and the alarm springs to life, I head downstairs for a bowl of cereal, oddly enough I feel hungry and wide awake.  Triathlons are a silly sport.

My wife and I head out the door a bit before 4am, the drive should take a bit over an hour, plus about a 10 minute walk after parking.  My bike is racked, transition is set, and I've gone to the bathroom all by about 5:40.  Nothing beats getting body marked the day before, and arriving early before the masses:
  • stress free bike racking
  • no lines for the porta-potty (plus they are still clean and full of paper products)
  • plenty of time to ask officials questions
  • find swim in, bike out, bike in, and run out areas and mentally complete each
  • look for visuals to mark your row
  • socialize a bit, it ease's stress
When setting transition, I keep things simple.  The helmet rests upside down with straps open on the aero-bars and the bike is set to an easy gearing.  Bike shoes are on the ground, open, with socks on top.  Waiting for their turn, my running shoes sit on top of my bag, with the race number belt.  That's it, simple clean efficient.  I could lose the socks, but I think they are worth it for comfort, plus my bike shoes would be a bit big without socks. 

So by 6AM I've milled around long enough, I exit transition and hop on the bus to the swim start, the swim is point to point and you start on the other side, hence the need for busing.  I now have an hour to kill before my wave starts.  I scan for familiar faces figuring there's bound to be someone, and, there is, the hour passes quickly discussing races, today's course, how we feel and what our wives are up to while the race is going on.  (Brandi is out on the bike course somewhere, at what turns out to be an exciting corner)

After about 5 minutes treading water (warm up i guess), we're off.  The swim is like a backwards seven and might be the easiest spotting swim course around.  You swim straight for the 2nd arch of a bridge about 3/4 of the way to the finish, upon going under the bridge you swim straight to a yellow buoy before making a right turn and heading for shore.  So simple and easy that most of the female pros were DQ'd because they swam right to shore after the bridge, cutting off a nice chunk.  Like I said in my last race report, the brain makes some strange decisions during a race.

Exiting T2 we set out for a two loop bike course which has 4 distinct hills, interspersed with flat road.  Its a fun course, the downhills are fast and a bit technical, if you're feeling good the flats make you feel fast, and the uphills provide a nice change of pace.  I spent the entire first lap on the see-saw with another rider in my age-group.  I felt good.  I would pass him on the flats, and he would pass me on the hills, little did I know, but this battle would not be resolved until the finish was in sight.  On the first climb of lap two I dropped my chain.  I was off the bike and the chain was back on in an instant, but the damage was done.  Realizing my run may suffer, I resolved to make the catch.  Stay aero, peddle, take a few downhill risks (I descend like a hot air balloon), push the flats, and scamper up the 3 remaining hills.  The pass happened with 1 or 2 miles to go in the bike, if anything I pushed harder at this point, I was glad to see him again, but I hoped this would be the last time.

I did nothing but make withdraws during the bike, as I feared, the banker demanded a deposit once I started running.  The first mile was slow, because the banker said so, I could only hope but to soon return to even and stay there for the duration.  During this point, I was passed once, but I was able to keep him within striking distance should the opportunity arise.  In fact, opportunity did arise with the return of my bike buddy.  This development allowed me to turn off the mind, the banker would have to be paid later, and that's just the way it was.  My new found rival and I proceeded to pick up the pace and run shoulder to shoulder.  Like wolves on the prowl we began to track down the other age-grouper.  By mile 3 we were a pack of 3, and it was clear things were going to stay that way.  There was no talking, no eye contact, just the patter of our feet, and the puff of our breathing.  Stride for stride we went, the pace never surged, nor did any gaps form.  At this point we were carried by the group, possibly doing more than any of us could do alone.  I tried to stay in the moment, the finish would be hard, I was confident in my speed, but the thought of the effort to come was too much, mentally, I must stay in the moment, in my pack, and simply carry onward. 

As the miles tick away, staying in the moment becomes ever more difficult, soon I was beating back thoughts of surging.  It was too soon, time was no longer important, beating the other two was all that mattered.  Wait, be patient, just don't go to soon and blow up with the line in sight, I had the kick, I could feel it, I believed.  With the finish in sight and about 2/10ths to go, I took off, and that was it.  No counter surge, no response, just me, glancing over my shoulder to be sure, crossing the line. (stupid banker was there waiting, he wasn't happy)

That's why I like to race, getting out on the course, battling, pushing yourself in ways that can only be experienced during competition, surging and taking them at the line, what a blast!  Overall, I was 58th including pros, and 2nd my age group, I'll take it.  One more big week, then taper time, Lake Placid is coming into focus.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ancho Rubbed Pork Chops with a Sour Cherry Sauce

Ancho rubbed heritage pork chops served with a sour cherry sauce. Homemade pasta with goat cheese and garden fresh sugar peas. The pucker of the cherries mixed with the tangy hit of goat cheese  made this dish complete. Mmmmm. I love sour cherries. I ate two plates worth and could have eaten more except dessert was waiting. 
Don't forget dessert! Sour cherry buttermilk cake with whipped cream. The recipe should have called for a 10" cake pan as it overflowed in the oven and was almost a disaster. Aluminum foil saved the day and the cake was quite tasty.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hero2, Cherry Picking, and Western States

My wife surprised me with this sweet camera before she left for a 10 day tour of Venice, Florence, and Paris .

Since I don't have an Eiffel Tower or Venetian Canal in my backyard I thought a test run on the AT would be a good start. Good thing it was a test run. With the capacity for 2,800 photos I took around 2794 blurry shots of trees, rocks, roots, and the occasional bottle swinging through the air.

I hit the trail parking lot by 6:30am and thought I was ready. Garmin stuff, check. Hero stuff, check. Water bottles, check. Gel flask, check. Post run snacks and drinks in the cooler, check.  I clicked the camera to the default time lapse mode, and took off. The default time lapse mode for the Hero2 is a photo every :02" with a resolution of 11MP. I haven't the slightest clue what 11MP stands for but can tell you one thing: Running with a camera strapped to your chest taking pictures every two seconds set to 11 MP yields a lot of crappy photos.

Luckily a few shots captured the beauty of the morning.

After the run I detoured to Strites Orchard. Sour cherries! It was like taking candy from a baby as the laden cherry limbs drooped towards the ground heavy with fruit. 40+ pounds of cherries later my box was full and I was ready to rock the cherry pitter.

The 2012 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run is being held today. I can't fathom running a hundred. For what it's worth my picks for the win are Ryan Sandes/Ellie Greenwood.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The week that wasn't...or...

     Mistakes will be made during training, accept it, it will happen.  Just as recovery from a hard workout is as essential as the workout itself, recovery from a training mistake can quickly diffuse the problem or enhance the error.  Errors can be made in intensity; certainly, volume; of course, diet; yum milkshake. 
     Early this week I was feeling extremely sluggish.  I was enjoying a nice lactic acid burn while walking up the stairs, along with achy legs while sleeping, and the possibility of a leg cramp never seemed to far off. 
     Something was amiss, my previous week of training was good, but nothing extraordinarily hard, and no big jump in volume.  After an easy Sunday and Monday, I should have been ready to get the bit between the teeth, and get after it like kids to an ice cream truck.  Instead small rollers on the bike were met with disdain and discomfort, Monday's easy run with my wife had me questioning if she had been secretly training, and now was unleashing her new found speed.  This should not be.
     I consulted the training calendar, looking for clues, (if you keep a budget the way I keep a training log, your probably broke).  Anyway, I peared at my chicken scratch on the calendar handing from the fridge, 16 hours for the week ending June 10, followed by 19 hours for the week ending June 17.  Right in line with the 15-20 hours per week average I have maintained for sometime.  I looked a bit closer, and there appeared the problem.  The week of June 10th was back loaded with 9 hours on Saturday and Sunday, this 9 hour weekend was then followed by my 19 hour week.  Now we see the problem, I had 35 hours over two weeks, with 28 of those hours occurring over the previous 9 days.  Stupid, now I see why the legs were voting for 'recovery day' every time I laced the shoes or buckled the helmet.
     So what to do, I am racing the Philly Insurance Olympic Triathlon this Sunday the 24th, and I'd like to do well, so getting the legs back was essential.  I decided to keep the workouts easy and reduce volume, while keeping fequency consistant.  Monday was an easy 40 minute run, slightly under 5 miles.  Tuesday, 90 minute bike ride that was mostly spinning, 26 miles.  Also Tuesday, I swam 2,000 yards in 30 minutes (swimming is non impact and I don't kick that much).  Wednesday was another easy morning run of 30 minutes followed by an afternoon spin on the trainer for 45 minutes.  Thursday a swim of 1500 yards in 25 minutes.  Today will be another easy ride of 90 minutes to 2 hours.
     I am pleased to report that this morning the legs no longer burn on the stairs nor do they feel achy or slightly sore to the touch.  As much as I hate reducing volume and intensity this week, the alternative would have been to continue to dig the hole, the deeper it gets, the harder it is to crawl out of, by changing course with my head still above ground I was able to crawl back out after only 4 days.  As endurance athletes its important to remember training can be as much art as science, if you listen to your body and adjust expectations, according to the feedback you are receiving, issues such as over-training, illness, and injury can be minimized.  I threw the plan out the window this week, keeping the big picture in focus, I think that decision will prove wise this Sunday in Philly, and again on August 22nd in Lake Placid.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Training in the Heat: Fatigue, Dehydration, and How to Adapt

Summertime and the livin' is easy......except when the heat index is 103 degrees. It feels more like a blast furnace while riding on the sizzling blacktop and the thick, syrupy air makes for soaring heart rates and fumbling feet while trundling through the woods.

The local and national weathermen and newscasters are warning people to stay indoors and avoid the heat. Crank the AC, pour an ice cold glass of coke, pull the shades, stream a movie, and sit under the ceiling fan or else risk dehydration, heat stroke, heart failure, and death. 

It seems the general public is afraid of the uncomfortable. Yes, running on a hot humid day will cause sweat to drip down your brow and into your eyes. Yes, running in the heat will cause your heart to beat rapidly and you pace to slow. Yes, running in the heat will make your fingers fat, your mouth dry, and your mind focused on the cold coke waiting in the fridge. You did remember to put the Coke in the fridge? Sadly, I forgot.

Actually, my house has no air conditioning and after a few days of hot temps begins to feel something like this:

If you are smart enough to avoid the health warnings on a day like today and decide to risk life and limb by running you will inevitably be confronted with the sports drink dilemma. Most "research" done by sports drink manufacturer's is questionable at best. But that's a topic for another day. 

Three factors to consider when exercising in the heat.

1. Dehydration – Jonathan Dugas and Ross Tucker over at have written extensively on the topic of dehydration, fluid consumption, and exercise. They conclude, “should you choose to ignore your thirst, you will not collapse from “heat illness”, and nor will you die from heatstroke. However, you will be miserable and you will run slower than you would like.” Noakes, in the Lore of Running, recommends to “drink as your thirst dictates…..with fluids that contain the appropriate amount of sodium” and concludes that higher rates of forced ingestion of fluids is not beneficial. He does not mince words when referring to the ACSM position stand on fluid replacement “the scientists who developed these guidelines would be best advised to warn runners and cyclists that drinking too much can kill you, and that there is seldom, if ever, the need to drink more than 400-800ml per hour during exercise”.

2. Heatstroke – According to Dugas and Tucker, metabolic rate, not dehydration, is the best indicator of core temperature. In other words, the faster you run the greater the chance you have of overheating. This fact makes hot, shorter races more dangerous than hot, long races, provided one’s internal temperature controls work properly. Noakes says that if your body begins to overheat its internal regulatory system will usually cause you to slow down before reaching heatstroke levels. 

This brings us to the most important factor regarding exercising in the heat:

Adaptation – Noakes says that heat acclimatization can occur within 7-14 days after first exposure and can be retained for up to a week after returning to cooler climates.  Dr. Larry Kenny in “Exercise Physiology 5th edition” says that in football players the single most important predictor for heat illness is lack of acclimation to hot conditions. Major changes occur during the adaptation stage including: decreases in exercising heart rate, body temperature, salt sweat content, metabolic rate, blood lactate accumulation, and carbohydrate and muscle glycogen utilization.

Should you exercise in the heat? After reading that, I can only answer with a resounding YES!

During the course of today's hot, humid 3.0 hour run/ride I drank 1,600ml of water and had a few swigs of my homemade energy gel mix as needed.

Comparison of today's technical trail run on the white rocks/Appalachian Trail versus the same course last week:
                    Temp: 92+     Temp: low 80's
10.00 mi
10.13 mi
Avg Speed
5.0 mph
5.3 mph
Avg Pace
12:06 min/mi
11:23 min/mi
Heart Rate

My pace was :43 seconds per mile slower while my heart rate was on average 11bpm higher. Were this a race, I would have suffered greatly. But it's this type of training that will provide the stimulus to acclimate my body for the sure to be hot and humid Catoctin 50k at the end of July.

Recovery meal of beef, chorizo, salsa, avocado, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, on crispy corn tortillas

Too bad I didn't have a cool mountain stream to dip my toes into while eating my tasty dinner

Instead the largest 1-day street fair on the east coast, Jubilee Day, is going on outside my front door. The live bands are blasting, the sweaty people are eating funnel cakes, drinking blue raspberry slushies, and participating in their own version of acclimating to the heat and humidity.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Warrior Sprint Tri race report

     I have a love - hate relationship with sprint triathlons.  I love to race and its fun to just give everything you have, but sprints hurt! 
     This past Saturday was the PA Warrior tri, which was a small sprint race at Memorial Lake State Park.  I awoke to a beautiful cool morning perfect for racing.  The race distances were approximately 700-800 yard swim, just under a 12 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.  The first good news of the day occurred when I realized all males were starting in the same wave.  This makes it easy to determine your position once the race has started.  If someone is in front of you, that means they are beating you, no need to look at ages on calves and then try to compute wave start times.  This makes the race much more fun, in my opinion, I race for the competition against people.  Times can provide some useful post race information but for the most part I'm not concerned with time, I'm worried about the person breathing down my neck or the carrot just up the road.
     Once in the water we had ample time to enjoy the squishy bottom while waiting for the start.  I quickly settled into a nice pace just off the feet of the leaders, which is where I stayed.  Fortunately no one was able to create a gap.  The swim was pretty non-eventful except for when competitors around me suddenly began to stand and run or dolphin dive while still a long way from shore.  I ended up doing two dolphin dives, then questioning the legality of such a move during the middle of the swim.  As I watched the competitor beside me run through the water, I visualized being yanked from the race at the swim exit, so I stayed in the water.  I'm always amazed at how little mental capacity I have, during a race, based on the crazy decisions that I sometimes make.  Running is clearly legal, some races start with a run into the water, and almost all races conclude with running or dolphin diving.
     The wetsuit came off in a flash in T1, moving me into third to start the bike.  I was quickly passed twice, while also catching and passing a rider myself, putting me into 4th.  Unfortunately for me, the top 3 were able to pull away, leaving me in no man's land.  It can be frustrating watching your competition pull away while you are giving your best effort, my goal at smaller local races is always top 3.
     Into T2 I rolled, hoping to make a catch on the run, but knowing that without visual contact, I was fighting long odds. T2 was a bit of a struggle today, which briefly dropped me to 5th, I snatched back my 4th place position rather quickly, while simultaneously turning my attention to gaining a visual on 3rd place.  Alas, today I was in for a solo run with no visuals in front or behind.  Due to my isolated nature, I was pleased with my run, but I was disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to make a chase for 3rd place. 
     Overall, I was pleased with my effort, the legs were a bit heavy, but Lake Placid is the goal, and this race was to be a fun way to mix in some intensity.  Mission accomplished.  The day was capped off with a casual ride home to get in some miles. 

I'm on the right.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Terrian choices

Pace, distance, time, intensity; few of us would begin a workout without knowing exactly how these terms should impact our day.  Prior to today’s run, I put some serious thought into terrain, an extremely important and possibly overlooked variable.  Each Thursday I alternate between my long run, and a long tempo run.  This week called for the long tempo.  I knew the legs were a bit tired so I wanted to keep things on the flatter side.  Hills can be a great resource for developing strength and speed and should be included in any serious training program  today however, a hilly course would have destroyed my objective; spending an hour at tempo pace (slightly under threshold).  With tired legs, the hills would have quickly forced me above threshold simply because the strength wasn’t there, so today’s course was relatively flat with some small rollers.  By making a wise terrain decision before stepping out the door, I was able to maintain an even tempo and meet the run’s objective.  When incorporated wisely, terrain choices can enhance our workouts allowing us to develop the strength and speed needed to be successful.

Leaving the house, today’s objective was to run for 1 hour and 45 minutes with 1 hour at tempo pace.  I ran an easy 15 min. warm up, followed by 45 minutes of tempo.  At this point, the tired legs that I mentioned earlier started to kick in; I decided to run a nice flat section easy which took about 7 minutes.  After that bit of recovery, I finished with another 8 minutes of tempo followed by just under 30 minutes easy back to the house.  Totals for the run: distance 14 miles, time 1:44:30 with 53 minutes of tempo.    

 Tomorrow will be an easy ride, followed by the PA Warrior Sprint triathlon on Saturday.      by Ashley

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rainy ride by guest Ashley Sollenberger

The rain came down, the cranks churned; water dripped, sprayed, and stung, road grit stuck.  Ah, the joys of riding in the rain.  Today’s workout called for two to three hours on the bike with a few efforts, a couple on the flats working on keeping the cadence high, and a few good hard climbs to generate some power.  The weatherman attempted to put a damper on the day by forecasting rain and thunderstorms all day.  The rain turned out to be an added training bonus.  Once you get over the fact that it’s raining, you realize that it’s really just water; during a triathlon I am always wet when I start the bike portion, so why should a little rain get in the way.

Today was a day that not only strengthened the legs, but the mind was sharpened as well.  

My “A” race this season, Ironman Lake Placid, will occur rain or shine, so my training must reflect that reality.  Getting outside in nasty weather can be a great confidence booster, come race day, I can handle anything the course or Mother Nature is willing to serve up.  The way I see it, nasty weather will only move me further up the results page.  I’ve trained in all sorts of weather, come race day weather will be the least of my concerns. 

  So from time to time, get out in the rain, wind, snow, or in the middle of the hot summer day, you’ll learn to make pace adjustments based on conditions, and you will be able to match expectations to your current environment, this provides invaluable confidence come race day.

I rolled up to my back porch after a wet 2 hours and 45 minutes; I seemed to be lacking some power on the flats as I’m still apparently recovering from a big weekend.  I felt better on the climbs, which were back to back to back for a total of about 20 minutes.  I tried to stay seated, keep the cadence high, and the speed up.  I then cruised home while enjoying a near perfect tail wind, hosed myself and the bike off, and enjoyed some lunch.  

The sun will be out tomorrow, and so will I, the race will be rain or shine.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Banana Creme Pie Gone Bad

The bunch of banana's on the counter were mottled and starting to smell a bit too ripe. As the fruit flies hovered I was planning on making a gluten free banana bread. Then I thought, "why not a banana cream pie?" After all it's only three times the work!

First I mixed a gluten free nut crust. This crust is always good. I'll have to post the recipe sometime.

Rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and brown sugar.

Mix in 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts and 1/3 cup butter. Pat into pan and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.

Seven minutes would have been better.

All the recipes for banana cream pie that I looked up called for vanilla pasty cream with slices of banana mixed in. But that makes for a chunky cream pie. Cream pies are smooth and luscious. Not chunky. I didn't want bits of banana floating around in my cream pie. A quick blend and the banana's were pulverized to a soupy paste.

Then it was time to make a batch of homemade pastry cream and mix that into the soupy banana's. After at least an hour in the fridge the mixture hadn't set. Either I didn't use enough corn starch or the soupy banana's were reacting in some way with the corn starch that I did use. So back to the burner. I added more corn starch and some xanthan gum for good measure.

 It seemed to thicken. When cool it had a good texture as I poured it into the pie crust.

Topped with whipped cream and some caramelized banana slices.

Looks good, right? The real truth is that a squishy banana is always gross. Mixing a pulverized banana with vanilla pastry cream does not elevate the banana. Rather it brings down the pastry cream. Sure, it is creamy, smooth, and luscious; but the squashed banana smell lingers as you swallow your first bite. You have to wonder, "do i really want another?"

Lesson learned: Pastry cream should be vanilla or chocolate but never banana!

Swiss Chard in a Cream Sauce

Fried macaroni with fresh swiss chard cooked in a combination of heavy cream, beef a jus, and chicken stock.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Minute Steak with Tangy Goat Cheese

Want a simple low carbohydrate meal? Look no further than minute steaks and goat cheese.

Make sure your plate is at the ready as these thinly sliced steaks really only take a minute to cook. Crumble some goat cheese on top and you have yourself a simple low carbohydrate meal.

5oz of steak = 280 calories. 50g protein. 5g fat. 0g carbohydrate.
1oz goat cheese = 100 calories. 6g protein. 8g fat. 1g carbohydrate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sous Vide Cocoa Rubbed Pork Sirloin Roast

My cooking has been in a slump. I was due for a breakout dish. Cocoa on pork? Sounds fantastic. If you do not have a sous vide cooker I politely insist that you buy one. Now. It is my go-to method for large cuts of meat. Why? Because the texture is unbeatable. 

Rub the 3 pound pork sirloin roast with cumin, coriander, and a touch of nutmeg and cloves.

 Place in a plastic bag and sous vide for 24 hours at 145 degrees. Remove from sous vide and pat dry. Rub 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder onto the roast.

Brush on coconut oil and blast with a butane torch.

Serve with ancho honey lime sweet potatoes.

Or serve with gluten free goat cheese pasta.

Delicious. Fork tender yet juicy.  The only thing missing is a flavorful pan gravy made from the drippings in the sous vide bag. Alas, I lost focus and completely forgot the wonderful flavors left behind from the sous vide process.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rothrock Trail Challenge 2012

I have learned one thing in the handful of trail races that I have participated in.......if you don't relish the thought of throwing caution into the wind and flinging yourself downhill on wet rocks, dry rocks, leaf covered rocks, and the combination of rocks and squishy mud; then you will not have much fun.

The night before the Rothrock Challenge my wife asked me if I was nervous. I "raced' bicycles for two years at the category 4 level. These races are chock full of type "A" personalities who want to be fast, who think they are fast, but who usually cause carnage while trying to ride faster than their skill level allows. The sound of carbon and aluminum sliding sickeningly on the sweltering blacktop makes me nervous. The silence before a body catapults over the handlebars and thuds into the pavement makes me nervous. The groans of a racer writhing in pain on the tarmac make me nervous. Trail running is a joy compared to the hair-raising category 4 criterium bike race.

I arrived at Tussey Mountain around 7am and did the normal pre-race stuff: As i made my way to the porta-johns I saw Bryon Powell of emerge from a red Ford. If Bryon is on the prowl it can only mean that some legit runners were ready to test their legs on the rocks of central PA.

Naturally the start/finish area was full of people milling about in an attempt to burn nervous energy and trying to determine where to line up. I bumped into Ian, who hasn't finished a few minutes ahead of me at the two previous "trail dogs" races. He was doing what I was doing......walking in circles and trying to find a good spot at the start line without appearing overeager. I noticed Bryon talking to a La Sportiva runner and thought, "here's my chance......I can say hi without looking like a gushing emo teen at a Saves the Day concert". I casually asked which direction the race headed and then added "I like the blog by the way". That was followed by some gravel kicking and looking at the ground. Luckily the race director hopped on the microphone and let us know that some of the race course was underwater due to the 3 inches of rain from the night. Bring on the mud!

I casually lined up in the second row, not wanting to displace the big dogs. As the race began and we headed out the gravel drive and onto the paved road. After about half of a mile, as Ian passed me, I commented "is this a road race?" He assured me that the start of the trail was just around the bend. I entered the woods in about 15th position.  My plan was to hike the first hill. I wanted to avoid a late race blow-out. As soon as I entered the woods it seem that everyone behind me turned on the afterburners. Apparently the first hill wasn't as steep as anticipated and was runnable. I was passed on the right and on the left. The first female roared by. I could only hope she would fade later. She didn't. A handful of guys who I didn't think should be passing me, scampered past. The La Sportiva chic galloped by breathing in staccato blasts. I base my finish time goal off of the top female. So far it has worked. Today that seemed unlikely. Finally, when a large, shirtless man lumbered past; I gave up on my plan of starting slow and joined the crowd intent in thrashing their legs in the first mile.

I pulled back a few runners as the trail kicked towards the top and readied my legs for the first descent. The  Kettle trail was steep and technical. A guy bit the rocks to my left. The La Sportiva racer was digging her heels in, clearly uncomfortable with the terrain. I was ready to let my legs fly.  I bounced by her like a goat (not so much like a speedgoat that for sure) and quickly disappeared down the trail.

The stretch between mile 2.25-5.0 was pretty much flat and rocky. A flat trail after a three inch downpour can mean only one thing: water runoff. And lots of it. The trail became more stream than trail. Crossing a creek during a run is a novelty. On a hot day the water feels great. Running through 3-6" inches of water is fun for about :10 seconds.

At some point we hit a nice rocky field and 6 of us clumped together. It was back and forth for a bit until we hit a fast descent and then things started to spread out. As I huffed up to the Sand Spring Trail out of aid station two I pulled my course elevation profile out of my pocket and noticed that Charcoal Flats was around the corner and consisted of three miles of mostly flat terrain. I hate the flats. I mentally prepared and swilled down my second Carb Boom.

Charcoal Flats was sopping wet. The rhododendrons crowded the trail their waxy leaves slicing at my arms. Water flowed freely up, over, down and across the trail.  I felt like I was scampering around in a scene from the Lord of The Rings; certain a hairy hobbit was watching in amusement.The mud gripped my shoes and threatened to pull them off.   At first I was getting annoyed with my pace but tried to be positive: I'm slow on the flats, (did I mention I hate them?) but everyone is slow when slogging through the muck, so perhaps the sodden landscape was to my advantage.

The descent to Aid 3 was insane. Beautiful hemlocks towered overhead and the trail beneath them was cushy smooth. Smooth, that is,  if you could get your legs up over the giant boulders scattered about the descent. When I saw a purple rope on the trail I thought it was to keep me to the left. Perhaps they were protecting a lichen that only lives in this patch of forest? As I almost head planted into a rock bigger than my car I realized the rope was to keep me from tumbling arse-over-teakettle into the aid station. Clearly my blood sugar needed a boost.

As I left Aid 3 I had lost contact with the two runners who I had kept with 25 yards for a good two miles. The speed hike up to Bald Knob was fun until my hip flexors started to twinge. With 5.5 miles to go this was clearly a bad sign. I looked back down the trail and thought I saw a white shirt making its way towards me. Blah.  There is nothing worse than getting passed by fresh legs and watching hopelessly as they disappear down the trail. I downed another gel and put my head down and soldiered on.

As I headed towards Aid 4 I was thinking keep it steady and smooth as it's almost all downhill to the finish. A spectator informed me that I was in 11th place. Determined to keep my position I tried to stay steady and focused.  Just before Aid 4  I caught site of 2 runners bobbing and weaving in the woods. One kept peaking back giving me hope that he was struggling more than I. As I arrived at the final aid station one of the runners was cramping. I took a quick drink and fell in behind runner number 9 and was happy to see runner 8 just up the trail.

Unfortunately my legs were officially blown-out. I kept them in site until we hit the final descent. But as the trail dropped towards the finish both  my calves began cramped simultaneously. I started to walk and the cramps relaxed. But when I ran, whammo,  my calves balled up into knots. I drained another gel with the hopes of tricking my brain and tried to shuffle down the trail sideways. Luckily, no one was within view as i'm sure I looked even more ridiculous than I felt. Thankfully the gradient changed and the cramps abated. Whew! The thought of doing the final 2.5 miles with balls of pain on every step was incomprehensible.

As I descended cautiously, carefully picking my way through the rocks running on tenderhooks I could hear shouts. At first I thought we were near the finish. Then I realized the runner ahead was cursing his bockety ankle. Whatever it takes to get one down the hill! On the last stretch of road I passed the 9th place runner only to have him blow by me on the slight decline to the finish. As his hat flew off his head I slowed; not wanting to be the center of a cramping spectacle 10 feet short of the finish line.

After a quick clean up and free massage I took to the food tent. I kept it gluten free with 2 heaping plates of bbq pork and chicken, 2 banana smoothies, 3 pepsi's, and a bottle of water.

On the course I consumed 4 gels, three cups of gatorade, and most of my hand-held.

The course was a blast. The variety of challenges presented on the ascents/descents more than made up for the soggy, water inundated valleys. The Rothrock Trail Challenge is definitely a race to put on your schedule.