OneAverageRunner Building A Better Middle-Age Endurance Athlete Sat, 14 Jul 2012 04:04:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tracking the Badwater 135 Fri, 13 Jul 2012 19:58:37 +0000 Doug Hardy

Categories: Live Race Tracking, Ultra-Marathons

Tags: ,

Above is a Google map of the entire Badwater 135 race course, unless you’re using a browser that can’t handle the code. Chrome and Safari work as far as we know, but Firefox did not show the map when we tested late Friday evening. And here is a downloadable PDF of the course as well. [...]

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Above is a Google map of the entire Badwater 135 race course, unless you’re using a browser that can’t handle the code. Chrome and Safari work as far as we know, but Firefox did not show the map when we tested late Friday evening. And here is a downloadable PDF of the course as well.

Once the race is under way our SPOT Connect GPS device should start providing location updates every 6-15 minutes or so on the map and, hopefully, in the Twitter feed to the right of this post. We’ll be able to send some information but we won’t be able to receive it much at all for a few days. So feel free to leave a comment of encouragement for the OneAverageRunner crew below or via Twitter @1AverageRunner. We’ll certainly try to catch up with all of you after the race.

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Follow Our Progress at Badwater With These Tools Fri, 13 Jul 2012 16:21:05 +0000 Doug Hardy

Categories: Race Reports, Ultra-Marathons


Hi all – I’m Tim’s brother, Doug, and will be on the support crew at Badwater with Greg Hardy and Dan Hartley to help keep Tim hydrated, fed, safe, and on a pace to finish next week. We’re going to be using some new tools to provide updates on our progress, but I’d be lying [...]

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Hi all – I’m Tim’s brother, Doug, and will be on the support crew at Badwater with Greg Hardy and Dan Hartley to help keep Tim hydrated, fed, safe, and on a pace to finish next week.

We’re going to be using some new tools to provide updates on our progress, but I’d be lying if I said I was sure about how this will work since there are no cellphone towers or wifi access in Death Valley. We have set up a new Twitter account – @1averagerunner – and hopefully will be sending some updates through a some satellite-based gadget called SPOT Connect.

So click on the button below to follow Tim on Twitter or, if you just want to watch his feed through your browser you can visit here. His Twitter feed should also update his Facebook page, so if you’re following Tim on Facebook you should be kept up to date. We’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to work but check back to see what we’ve posted here for info.


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Pre-Race Thoughts on the Badwater Ultra-Marathon Thu, 12 Jul 2012 23:30:54 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Streak Reports, Training, Ultra-Marathons

Tags: , , , , ,

The Badwater 135 ultra-marathon is now an immediate 25-meter target; traveling and logistics are all working as I type. This race started out first as a Dream Race rather than a goal after I ran four or five shorter ultras in 2007. Then, when I started really studying this sport, Badwater moved itself to my [...]

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Courtesy of Frank McKinney’s Facebook page

The Badwater 135 ultra-marathon is now an immediate 25-meter target; traveling and logistics are all working as I type. This race started out first as a Dream Race rather than a goal after I ran four or five shorter ultras in 2007. Then, when I started really studying this sport, Badwater moved itself to my “What if” category, and finally, “Why not” while I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.

During that deployment I was reading about the race on the Badwater website and discovered the Arrowhead 135. The two 135-mile events had an affiliation then based on their distance. I was fascinated by the distance these two events covered while traversing through extremely tough environmental conditions. Arrowhead’s deep winter conditions in northern Minnesota in the first week of February on the Arrowhead snowmobile trail, and then running across Death Valley, Calif. during mid-summer conditions starting at Badwater. My dream of someday completing Badwater developed almost immediately into a hard goal of completing the Arrowhead 135 and Badwater 135 in the same racing season.

Some travel, some logistics, and 135 miles of two-lane, Death Valley highway are all that stands between me and that goal. And . . . Heat.

Obviously, it is going to be hot. Yesterday was a high heat day at Furnace Creek – the temperature reached the outer 120s. Three significant mountain ranges to climb, including to the finish line at the Whitney Portal after 13 miles of climbing, but this is way too early to start thinking about that.

The things I am thinking about are closing out the logistics and equipment and am I trained enough?

And Heat. Thinking about Heat a lot. That searing Death Valley Heat is the one wild-card, the one real unknown for me in this great event.

That rhetorical question, “Am I trained enough?” is one I seem to have been asking myself for 20 years of Army service and in conjunction with the 50-something marathons and ultra-marathons I’ve run. Honestly though, that question doesn’t really manifest itself for non-100 mile events anymore. I’m a really average ultra-runner and I’m seldom even close to placing above the top third of any field of racers in any event. I enter a lot of races and run them as hard as I can and finish them as strongly as I can – I fight for every place I can reach in the finishing roster and my goal late in every race is to run down every runner ahead of me. I run every day and crossing the Finish Line is the reward. That’s really never a question unless I’m running in a 100-mile, or longer event these days.

Am I trained enough? I’m confident that I am, as confident as I was at Arrowhead in January. I always use races as my main training events and after notification I was accepted to run Badwater, I ran the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 (MMT) on 12-13 May and the Old Dominion 100 (OD) on 2-3 June as my Intensive Training Cycle. After running both these events last year I was sure they’d be the right ITC to prepare for Badwater . Both races went fairly well, although both took me a little bit longer than they did last year. They gave me the race venue to expend a massive effort in a compressed period of time. As I do run every day, counting the mileage from those races themselves, I had base mileage weeks around both of those events of 135+ miles per week, exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

MMT was touch and go until the aid station around Mile 77 just before daybreak 24 hours into the race. I had to take a second 20+ minute nap to keep moving – I was a dead man walking until I got into that aid station and rested for a while. I finished MMT moving forward much better than I did for last year’s race and OD100 was much the same. I moved through a tough patch between 55-65 miles and got behind on time a little during the toughest part of the course – traversing the Sherman’s Gap and Veech Gap climbs – and arrived at the Veech Gap aid station at Mile 87 thinking I might not finish the final 13 miles in time to finish OD under the 28-hour limit. I was able to run harder during that final 13 miles, running the final 7.5 in under 75:00 to a Dead Last Finish that I was pleased with. I was also certain I could have gone another 35 miles in the next 24 hours.

So I think I’m ready. I’ve trained hard, running every day, racing some longer events and feel recovered; I’ve heat trained, and done a lot of TRX Suspension Training as my cross-training staple. This has been a long process and a longer journey. I attempted the Arrowhead 135 for the first time in January 2010 but failed to get further than 102 miles where I dropped out around 40 hours into the race. (Lost Arrowhead is archived on my site). That effort would have been my 10th completed ultra and 18th major event counting 26.2 mile marathons. I was undertrained in 2010. I was running with a small measure of satisfaction when I passed Mile 102 on Arrowhead this winter.

After doing some website research on the Badwater, Arrowhead, and Mr. Gary Wang’s exemplary sites, I believe I’ll be the 15th ultra-runner to complete both Arrowhead and Badwater, and the 11th to do so in the same season. Mr. Zach Gingerich set the highest of standards by winning both events outright two years ago. I consider that one of the most amazing and under-rated accomplishments in recent American ultra-running.

Today will be the 1671st straight day of my running streak. I’ve run in at least 31 ultras and 5 marathons since my attempt at Arrowhead in January 2010, including six 100 or 100+ mile events since March 2011. We’ve got a terrific crew and a coalescing plan. I’m not pulling a sled loaded with forty-five pounds of survival and non-survival gear, nor is this event taking place in Frozen Head State Forest. So, I like my chances.

Have I mentioned the Heat?

One Average Ultra-Runner


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Mistakes Costly at the Barkley, Ultra-Running’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ Tue, 03 Apr 2012 15:20:24 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Humility, Race Reports, Ultra-Marathons

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I can’t speak for anyone else, but the Barkley Marathons 100 Mile Run sure reduced me to a coward in just over half a lap (12 mi in 08:30). This is a tough post, but if you write about the good events and the good races you’ve got to write about the bad ones, or [...]

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I can’t speak for anyone else, but the Barkley Marathons 100 Mile Run sure reduced me to a coward in just over half a lap (12 mi in 08:30). This is a tough post, but if you write about the good events and the good races you’ve got to write about the bad ones, or utter failures. I haven’t thought about too much else since I tapped out 1/4 of the way up the Lookout Tower climb late Saturday at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, Tenn.

I’d like to say I had a bad day, but the truth of it is I made a lot of mistakes stretching back through training, race planning, significantly in race planning and strategy, and was just plain under-trained for what Barkley requires of its contestants. My new goal in life (among several) is to re-enter Barkley, get another chance to run (even though I don’t deserve it) and at least finish a lap and still have the physical ability and mental fortitude left to fight through at least starting another lap.

Barkley is that hard.

I had the best event I’ve ever run 60 days prior, recovered, certainly didn’t over train, but thought I was still in good shape, and am. But not Barkley shape.

The course has just about 12,000 feet of climbing and descending per 20-mile lap, and not gradual. This is the first race I’ve run since Escarpment Trail in 2007 where I had to physically climb in spots; steep up, steep down, everywhere. It’s hard to describe the intensity of the required effort even though you’re averaging less than 2 miles per hour. Huge sections are downhill or uphill through trail-less, open woods, so you have to be able to execute map-driven land navigation rapidly.

When I finally located the steep route up to Lookout and started up, I had 2 kilometers to climb from 1,700 to 3,200-3,300 feet. That was also the next water point; I’d been out of water for over an hour (back to planning and mistakes), and I was sure I was probably the furthest back of whoever was left on the course at that point. I had a shooting pain in my interior right thigh I’d never experienced before and was barely moving. I figured it would take me more than 2 hours to reach the tower, and if I made it, I could re-tool on water, rest a while, climb all the way back down, at which point it would be well after dark and I’d already fell back behind the 2 Barkley vets to the point I’d never catch up. I was left with a certainty that I’d be wandering around in the dark for hours until I managed somehow to come in well after the 1 lap/13:20 time limit. Or worse, I’d wander around in the dark all night. That might not have been inaccurate either, as the harder parts of the course were still ahead.

So, I wussed out, retraced my steps down the climb and regained the only main road on this edge of the course with the intent to run the roads some 12-14 miles back around the outside of the park to the camp. Got picked up by one of the film documentary team members filming the race after a couple of miles.

Reduced to and ultra-running novice in 10 miles. What a race. I learned so much at Barkley though, and found it to be a great ultra community within the ultra community. Based on the experience, I’m re-tooling my whole training plan targeted at a measured level of success at Barkley. I virtually have no chance of ever getting to a point where I can finish the 5 lap, 100 mile course in 60 hours. I want to finish 2 laps, though. It’s hard to fathom, but I firmly believe if you can complete two 20 mile laps at Barkley under the 26:40 time limit, never mind under 24 or 25 hours, you can finish any other 100 miler in the U.S. under your own command without significant issue.

Most ultras, especially 100s, are designed to be very very difficult but to provide the measured support that will enable runners to tough it out and make the finish line. But the Barkley race director is a rare breed of cat. The couple of races he directs are designed to test the limits of human physical and mental endurance rather than to provide the type of situation where you’ll probably be successful. Just three runners completed the Barkley 100 this year, and that’s a record. Since 1985, only 12 runners have completed the 100 and less than 100 others have completed the 3 lap/60 mile fun run.

L.L./ G.C. uses ultras to explore the limits of the human spirit in much the same manner that Joseph Conrad used the written word; Barkley is ultra-running’s Heart of Darkness.

It was a privilege to participate in this event (even though I got my -ss handed to me) and a true wake up call. Growing up, my heroes were all professional athletes. Now they’re mostly all soldiers, ultra runners, and any runner who’s had the guts to start lap 2 at Barkley.
Marietta, NY

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3,314 Minutes at the Arrowhead 135 Wed, 01 Feb 2012 16:59:41 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Race Reports, Ultra-Marathons

Tags: , , , , , ,

On my second attempt, I managed to complete the Arrowhead 135 Ultra. Below are my thoughts posted during the race, where I finished 16th overall among those running the frigid course. There were also competitors on bikes and skis. Originally posted at the DailyMile: Arrowhead Stage 1 – 73 mi – 27:30 – 22:36 pace [...]

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On my second attempt, I managed to complete the Arrowhead 135 Ultra. Below are my thoughts posted during the race, where I finished 16th overall among those running the frigid course. There were also competitors on bikes and skis.

Originally posted at the DailyMile:

Arrowhead Stage 1 – 73 mi – 27:30 – 22:36 pace
The first section went pretty well. I managed to average 3.5 mph, which isn’t fast but is what I wanted to do. Pretty warm out. I went to shorts and long sleeves around 23 miles. I was pretty cold by the time I made Gateway though, probably 17 degrees out by then. Section 1 is the easiest in terms of the course; 2 & 3 are all up and down.
Re-tooling & back out in 25.

International Falls to Melgorges Resort-checkpoint 2 – 73 miles – 27:45
Slept for 2.5 on the trail & that was a game changer. Got 60 to go, time’s still an ally. Big day in northern Minnesota. We’re racing today!

Arrowhead Stage 2 – 27 mi 12:00 26:40 pace
I’m just shotgun blasting these to get caught up. It felt great to get into and through CheckPoint 2 at Melgorges Resort after that long, long crossing from Gateway Store-CheckPoint 1 at 37 miles. The course really gets difficult in this traverse with short hill after short hill; repeatedly hauling 45 lbs of sled uphill, then pell-mell out-running “Bastard Sled” down the far side of the hill. I had the best cup of coffee, grilled cheese sandwich, and bean soup in my life at Melgorges, recharged, and got out and moving at about 12:30 p.m.

Arrowhead Stage 3 – 35 mi 16:14 27:49 pace
3rd and final section of the Arrowhead Ultra: miles 100 through 135.

73 to 100 miles was a tough 12 hours. I was still moving well from just after noon when I started right up to midnight when I knew I needed a second block of sleep to get some recuperation going, so I slept another 2-2.5 hours at the Shelter right at Mile 99/100. I found Lee Peyton and Steve Ansell in the shelter, but my snoring must have driven them out as they were gone when I awoke at 1:30 a.m.!

The miles leading up to 100 were tough, too; lots of up and down. Again, no monster climbs, just steep up and steep down-haul that sled . . . OUTRUN that sled . . . Lee and Steve were literally the first 2 people I saw since the access road to Melgorges at around 4 p.m. the afternoon prior, other than 2 civilian snowmobilers wheeling by at 6 p.m., and then Todd Gabrielson and his partner on the Snowbile rescue team with Arrowhead that stopped to check me out around 11:45 p.m.

Lot’s of quiet time in the great northern woods on the Arrowhead trail. A constant, really fine light snow. I saw coyote tracks running along the edge of the trail for about 2 miles, and also what I took to be wolf tracks crossing the trail around mile 90.

The coolest thing I saw the whole race, other than THE FINISH LINE, was the Lynx that ran right across the trail in front of me around mile 96. She (not tall, guessing female) bounded soundlessly across the trail from left to right not 18 feet ahead of me, well within my clear sphere of headlamp. A bright white ball of fur, huge pointed ears, big feet, glowing eyeballs. I’ve seen bobcats in the wild (had a really interesting experience in that regard in the woods on FT Polk in May 2008 – I digress), but this Lynx was maybe the coolest creature I’ve ever seen.

It was awesome to get out of the shelter and get rolling again. I felt better than I thought I had a right to feel, although I was cold and stiff from sleeping in the sleeping bag; it wasn’t cold by average Arrowhead standards, but still in the single digits and I was stiff. But I got going and pushed hard for Checkpoint 3 at Tepee at 111 miles. I ran hard every downhill, pushed hard on the flat and kept pulling hard on the uphills.

I noted and ran right past where I had dropped out and DNF’ed at Mile 102 in 2010 (STUPID, STUPID, STUPID) and kept rolling. I ended up catching and clearing 6-8 runners who must have passed me while I slept. I just felt very good and kept going as I knew that when I cleared 111 miles, the course had flattened and the hard, middle 65-70 miles of hills were over.

CheckPoint 111 had a couple of dudes, a clipboard, hot chocolate, and water. Drank the hot chocloate and moved. After Mile 111 there were another couple of miles of hills that culminated in the highest point of the trail at 112 on Wakemup Mountain/Hill. Pretty steep at that point. I was sure a 150-pound wolf must have been hitching a ride on my sled up that beast, but I didn’t see him when I kept looking back. Flowed down the hill to pass Crescent Bar and Grill at 114 miles – the last marked weigh point on the way to Fortune Bay. My Garmin was long past dead, so I could only try to figure points on the trail in distance against time to try to understand where I was on the trail. I ended up catching and passing Alyssa and Carles around 120, still traveling together. Alyssa would finish as first female around 56 hours in her third attempt at Arrowhead after coming up short in 2010 and 2011. That is guts. I wasn’t coming back if I didn’t make it this year.

The last 21 miles were a mindnumbing traverse through Taiga-type northern Minnesota woods for mile after mile after mile of scrub/scruff pine with really long sections where you could see way forward and way backward. This. Got. Long. I was pleased because I knew I would finish, but it was trying to turn into a trail of pity. I knew it would take me between 7-8 hours on this section, tried to stay strong and just kept trudging. I actually got a jolt of adrenalin and motivation when young Ben Clark (21, 3rd Arrowhead attempt) caught and passed me around Mile 117-118. He was trotting; I started trotting. It wasn’t simple as this tack was mostly upgrade. We kept passing each other for a few miles, and Ben finally dropped me like an old dog around 128. Great young man, remarkable. Told him so at Fortune Bay when I finally caught up to him in the finsh room.

Bonked hard at 129 but kept going and finally finished at 55:14, very relieved to see the finish line.
Arrowhead 135 Ultra

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215 Minutes at the Louisiana Marathon Sun, 15 Jan 2012 14:26:43 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Marathons, Race Reports

15 January 2012 I made a late decision to sign up for the Inaugural Louisiana Marathon (LAM) after working on Fort Polk for most of the week leading up to race weekend. I had visibility on the race after checking our race calendars the previous weekend and found the LA 26.2 on I’m [...]

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15 January 2012
I made a late decision to sign up for the Inaugural Louisiana Marathon (LAM) after working on Fort Polk for most of the week leading up to race weekend. I had visibility on the race after checking our race calendars the previous weekend and found the LA 26.2 on I’m glad for several reasons that I was able to register for this race Saturday and race on Sunday. It’s always a terrific experience to cross any 26.2 mile finish line and this was no exception in Baton Rouge. I like taking part in Inaugural races, and I got to run in a major event in Louisiana and “check” that block in my 50-state mission. I learned a lot in this race, and while this certainly was not a targeted race on even a weekend in the calendar as late as Christmas, in a lot of ways this was maybe the best race I have run to date.

Just the Facts. Running the LAW 26.2 was my 1492nd straight day of running, the 48th major event that I’ve completed, 35th major in the previous 24 months, and 2nd marathon or ultra-marathon I’ve completed in 2012, along with the Harbison 50K last Saturday in Columbia, S.C. My overall time of 3:35 was not a PR, as I ran 3:26 in October, but this was my 2nd best at the marathon distance. Counting the Richmond 26.2 in November, my last 3 marathons have produced my 3 fastest 26.2 times. I finished in 90th place overall and 4th in my age group again. I think I’ve placed 4th in my age group in 5 or 6 of the last events I’ve run in, including Harbison last weekend.

Weather and Race Logistics. The weather conditions were terrific throughout the race. It was chilly at the start, 33 degrees, but clear all day, and had warmed up to the mid-fifties around the time I finished. I ran in my TRX tank top, shorts, Injini socks and my new Hoka Bondi Bs. This was only about the 4th or 5th time I’ve run in the Bondis at all, and had not gone over 6 miles in them, and I was very pleased with them throughout the race. No foot issues whatsoever, nary a blister or tweaky toenail even though the Bondis seem a little narrow for me in the toe box. I also wore my Nathan Hydration 2.0 pack without the water blivet. I had my IPhone, Walkman, 2 vials of Oral IV and a pack of Cliff Bloks in it. I started the race wearing my Moeben Sleeves and a thin pair of gloves and removed those between the 5th and 6th miles on the course once I had warmed up somewhat. It was definitely chilly awaiting the start of the race.

I stayed overnight in a hotel about 4 blocks up the street from the race’s starting and finishing point in that was excellent in support of the race. I got into Baton Rouge pretty late and didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight, but having accommodations that close to the main race area really enhances and supports the race experience.

The Race. I had no real goal for LAM other than to run it to the best of my ability. I started pretty far in the back of the main crowd, and could see pace group signs well in front of me including the 4:15 goal. It took me a mile or two to get in the flow of the race and then another couple of miles to warm up; once I did, I did the same thing I do in most races and just concentrated on trying to run down everyone in front of me.

I really liked the layout of the LAM 26.2 course, After running through downtown Baton Rouge, we wended our way southeast around a chain of lakes to include incorporating a big loop through the LSU campus that swung directly around the massive football stadium. Both Half-Marathon and Marathon runners shared the course with the full marathon taking expanded loops through some really nice east Baton Rouge subdivisions before we’d loop back onto the lake perimeter and rejoined the Half-marathoners sticking to the lake’s perimeter.

I always get caught up in the moment early in a marathon flowing out with the crowd at the start, then ease up a bit for a couple of miles, and then pick up my pace again. And that’s exactly how Lam went for me. I was around 33-34 minutes at the 4-mile point after some gear adjustments, and unfortunate port-o-let stop, and downsizing my sleeves and head-gear. I felt great and just tried to dial my pace up from there; I’d target runners ahead of me, gain on them and do my best to pass them. I did my best to stop thinking and just Ran. And then Ran some more and just kept running. As I continued to move forward among groups of runners the pace picked up and I had to catch runners or groups and run at their pace for a while until I got comfortable and then I’d pick it up and try to pass them.

LAM 26.2, like most marathon courses, is a really flat course and flatter than most. There was an overpass at mile 1 or so that we came back over at mile 24.5 that was significant at the time but nothing dramatic.

Somewhere around 10 miles, the marathon route took a hard right to the east that turned into mostly an “out” for about 5 miles to the neighborhood loop at the far end. The route stepped around some suburban corners but also lent itself to the energy and sense of urgency you get when you’re still running the “out” and the runners ahead of you are running the “back.” I got an additional boost by sticking to my music plan of action. I didn’t turn on my Walkman until the 13.1 point of the race, and then it turned into a whole new race for the next 5-8 miles. I felt really good on most of this section but was starting to feel hollow inside by the time I came out of it and took the right and headed north for the last 3 miles in the course.

All in all, I was very pleased with how well LAM went for me. Frankly, while I ran a faster time at Empire State in October, overall, LAM went better for me that any other marathon. At Empire State I got out quick, ran hard and got to 20 miles in 2:29, was out of energy and just toughed out the rest of the course painfully. I got to 20 miles in LAM at 2:40 but still felt very good and just kept forward; I actually felt very good right through 25 miles and that is a first for me in any event. I hit the 13.1 mile point in 1:46, and ran the 2nd 13.1 in 1:49 which is the most balanced split I’ve ever run in a 26.2. While I did hit the wall really hard somewhere right around 24.5- 24.75 miles and struggled in at a 10:00+ pace from there, I was encouraged overall.

Lessons Learned. I’ve improved at maintaining a 07:00-07:30 pace for long stretches of time over the past eight to twelve months. After finally breaking an age-group 3:30 overall time in Syracuse in 3:26+, I didn’t think I’d be able to duplicate that or improve on that until running LAM 26.2 on Sunday. I spent the week leading up doing a lot of work-related physical training on TRX coupled with getting to sleep late every night including the night prior. I also had a total of at least 10 “slow” minutes on the course to include bathroom stops and some real time-consuming screwing around with earphones and gear manipulation. While it might be very optimistic, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for me to target a late summer 26.2, continue to build a good training base with more hills, hard tempo and even speed-work involved, and then knock 15:00 of this 3:35 to help me get into Boston in 2013.

Tim Hardy
17 JAN 2012
Marietta, NY

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Training Points and Lessons Learned for Ultra-Marathons Wed, 11 Jan 2012 07:30:42 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Training

My intent with this document is to post some major points, ideas and lessons I’ve learned as an average Ultra-Marathoner. This is made up more of general training principles and ideas rather than hard and fast training doctrine and monthly, weekly and daily training schedules and guidance. There is a significant amount of literature available [...]

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My intent with this document is to post some major points, ideas and lessons I’ve learned as an average Ultra-Marathoner. This is made up more of general training principles and ideas rather than hard and fast training doctrine and monthly, weekly and daily training schedules and guidance.

There is a significant amount of literature available on this topic online, in hard cover, and in monthly magazine publications. For a couple of examples, I really got a lot out of Bryon Powell’s training book, Relentless Forward Progress, available on WWW.IRUNFAR.COM, as well as from an article written by Ian Torrance and published in JAN-FEB 2011 Running Times on marathoners training for and running 50Ks and 50 Mile ultras. I highly recommend those sources to anyone. Along this line, there is a lot of literature and online websites with a lot of ultra-marathon race and training information.

I’ve had the good fortune and opportunity to complete seventeen 26.2 mile marathon-distance events and 30 ultra-marathon distance races, and an arrayed combination of 31 majors in the past 24 months since February 2010. I am certain that any individual that does not have major health issues and has the fortitude to spend 10-15 hours of physical training time per week can complete a 50 mile Ultra-Marathon in 10 to 14 hours.

Training. Simply put, the training mileage you put in directly correlates to your ability to finish any ultra-marathon; the more mileage that you put in on your feet increases your endurance fitness, your mental toughness and your ability to complete ultras and complete them comfortably. I’ve found that no matter how hard I train or how much mileage I put in, I hit tough spots once I go over three to four hours in any event. I’ll struggle at, roughly, 22-24 miles, recover, stick again at 27-29 miles, recover, 33-35, and so on. Eventually I developed some training consistency and some training mileage beyond 25-35 miles per week and got consistent long runs into my schedule. Then, those tough spots, those “walls” weren’t as bad as they used to be. They were manageable. Ultimately, we’re all an experiment of one, but I’ve developed some major training points in the 4 seasons I’ve been running Ultra-Marathons.

1. Register. The idea of running a marathon or an ultra-marathon is a great idea and will result in a life-enhancing experience that you will never forget as you cross that finish line. I am addicted to crossing finish lines. The requisite hours and effort you put into training, the physical fitness and resiliency you develop along the journey, and your individual race experience are priceless, especially you’re first. So, Sign Up; identify a race and register. Until you do, it’s really easy to push that idea you have, that concept of running a 26.2 or an ultra, back another six months or another year until another reason develops to put that idea off. It’s isn’t a real goal until you’re signed up.

2. Training Mileage, Intensive Training Weeks (ITW), and Intensive Training Cycles (ITC). I think that if you want to complete an Ultra on your terms, where you’re still moving forward consistently towards the finish line, rather than being dominated by the terrain and finishing in a death march, you’ve got to build your weekly training to the point where you peak. I refer to this “peak” as an ITC or at least one Intensive Training Week where your training mileage either equals or exceeds the length of that target race.

In my estimation your ITC or ITW should span 5 weeks to at least 3 weeks from the race date. The difference between an ITC and an ITW is the Intensive Training Cycle consists of 2 to 3 Intensive Training Weeks of peak training and mileage incorporating long distance events.

For example, you’re scheduled to run the JFK50 on the 3rd weekend of November as JFK always is scheduled. You should execute your ITC from the last 2 weeks of October through the first week of November where you’re running at least 50 to 60 miles per week. If your target race is a 50K (31.1 miles) then you can adjust your ITC to 30-40 miles per week.

The more quality training you have in your weeks leading up to your event, the more endurance you will build. Tempo runs, hill training, maybe track/lap intervals, and most importantly, longer runs, should be part of your ITC schedule.

3. Long Runs. You’ve got to get long distance into your running schedule if you want to finish an ultra-marathon comfortably. Most coaches and trainers will design a schedule for their runners that include a long run once per weekend that increases exponentially as their schedule progresses. The longest “training” runs I have ever done have been 20 and 23 miles. I just don’t like to be out on the road on the weekend instead of with my wife and family more than 2 hours at a time.

Secondly, I get bored running long distance unless I’m in an event. So, I learned that I need to enter a lot of shorter races toward a target race of 100K or 100 miles. I’ll find and sign up for and run a local 50K trail race to help me develop towards a 50-Miler, 100K or 100 miler that’s 2-3 months down the line in the calendar. This way, I know I’ll get a long run in, and since it’s a race, I’ll push that run harder; the race turns completely into an uptempo event instead of some nondescript long training run I just worked my way through. This is the main reason I’ve run in 30 major races since February 2010. I use races as training events.

4. Training Distance. Collapsing the amount of rest time between your runs is also a facet of ultra-training. There are other means to get longer miles on your feet besides a standardized long run.

  • a. Doubles. You can build mileage, reduce rest time and develop resiliency by building two runs per day into your schedule. I commuted on foot to work no less than 4 days per week for most of AUG 2010 to AUG 2011. I ran to work and then ran home. It wasn’t that hard to build into my schedule as I was a geographical bachelor during the work week, so I took advantage of that. The morning run was almost always only 3-3.5 miles, but I’d expand my routes home to the point where I was averaging 8 to 12 total miles a day.
  • b. Back to back runs. Instead of running one long run on a Saturday or Sunday, try to incorporate a couple of fairly long runs on back to back days. Maybe that includes mileage from a double run on one day and a longish run on a second day.
  • c. Walking. Mileage counts, even mileage with walking built into it. Most runners will find themselves walking at points during an ultra of any distance, especially uphill, so building running-walking-and resuming running again into your workouts is good preparation.

5. Quality. The more high intensity mileage you have the better able you will be to Run Farther Faster (RFF) during your targeted race. You should work to get at least a couple of higher intensity workouts weekly.

  • a. Hills. Train on uphill and downhill grades weekly.
  • b. Tempo-uptempo. Once or twice a week pick up the pace during your run. We like to have hard-fast schedules so we know, for instance, that Tuesday night is our Tempo night-that night where I’m running 7-8 miles and the 5 miles in the middle are as hard as I can hold them. But, I don’t always feel like running hard on Tuesday night; so those nights were I feel good, I just pick up the pace. Listen to your body.
  • c. Intervals. Track intervals expand cardio capability and mental toughness.
  • d. Run Farther Faster. The more you insert the RFF principle into your training, the better you will perform and ultimately prevail in the second half of your race. In training for the JFK 50 in November and Hellgate in early December, I ran the Freedom Marathon and the Blue Swan Lake 50K on back-to-back days the first weekend in October 2010, as hard as I could run them both. Blue Swan Lake turned out to be a 50K PR for me at that time. I did struggle during the middle thirty to thirty-eight miles during JFK, but was able to run well the last 8 miles of that 50 miler for the first time ever.

6. Training surfaces. You should spend at least a significant amount of your time running and training on the same types of surfaces that you will be racing on. I spend time training on roads, trails, snowmobile trails, firebreak-dirt roads, anything.

7. Train as you Race. If you’re racing at night or early in the morning it will be tough for you during the race if you have not trained during those periods of the day or night. If your upcoming race has a lap course, like the five-lap Mendon Ponds 50K, you should incorporate laps into your training. The Strolling Jim 40 course is rolling hill course on asphalt roads; the hills and ridges in the eastern Finger Lakes are a perfect training ground for S.J.40.

8. Training Partners. I’m a lot more likely to get a good workout in when I meet someone for a run. I have seldom had a true training partner but in those periods where I have, my training has been high-quality physical fitness; good miles at a good pace and good conversation.

9. Man’s Best Friend. Canines also make excellent, highly dependable training partners.

10. Cross-Train. I recommend 2-4 workouts a week on upper and lower body strength and conditioning. I use TRX exclusively for this, but the intent is to develop your upper and lower body enough to fight the lactic acid pains you’ll be feeling towards the end of the race. The other side of cross training is that you continue to develop towards your fullest physical potential as you continue to increase your endurance through strength and core training.

11. Music. I never used to train or race with music and now the only time I don’t run with music is when I have my dogs running on the road with me; I want to hear the traffic. Besides just listening to music while running is nice. I use music to my training advantage. I’ve built Playlists by tempo to include long steady songs for long running and more uptempo for faster-paced running. I even have a “Let it Rip” playlist that I train with on all my fastest runs. I listen to steady music during the middle part of most races, and then when I start my kick in the last few miles of the race, I turn on Let it Rip and there’s a positive degree of response no matter how tired I am. I almost never start a race playing music either. I wait until I’m a couple hours into the race and then turn on the music and it’s always a whole new, refreshed race for at least a while.

12. Learn to run “tired.” Earlier I made the point that you should listen to your body and this contradicts that to a certain extent. I get tired in long races and it’s been important for me to learn to train through tiredness when I’m able, or at least to run when I do not feel like running. I cannot remember too many ultras or even marathons when I did not hit points where I did not want to run anymore. Being tired isn’t necessarily a reason not to train, rather to pay more attention while you are training.

13. Eating and re-sustainment. One of the bigger challenges in ultra-marathons is finding the food and fluid products that will work best for you in terms of re-sustaining yourself during a long event. And then learning to train with those fluids and foods. It is never a bad idea to review the race website information to see what the race will have available at aid stations and then get used to eating and drinking it. Or, have a solid drop bag plan.

14. Incorporate Family. Find ways to incorporate your family and significant others into your training and into your events if they want to participate. Running partners, crew members or just well-informed spouses or significant others are all helpful in your mission. I tie training runs to day-to-day errands. If we have to leave the house for some of life’s more mundane errands, I’ll set out running ahead of the errand schedule and the Spouse picks me up in route. These have often turned into pretty good Tempo runs where I try to get as much distance as I can before the Sherriff picks me up. It’s also somewhat interesting for her; she sees the effort and the improvement, or lack of it. Ultra-marathons are successful due to the efforts of the volunteers who almost always have family or friends running in the event.

15. Volunteer to work at an Ultra. You can learn a lot seeing how racers handle an event.

16. Time. We all have the same amount of hours and minutes in our days. You may work a lot and feel that impacts your training. If that is the case, then it is not a question of your time, but rather what you are doing to better organize your schedule so you can train enough to accomplish your Ultra goal(s).

17. Tapering. Tapers periods for the final one to two week period leading up to the race are for reducing your mileage but still maintaining training. Less and less mileage as you get closer to the race but also maintaining uptempo running and shorter -distance intensity levels.

18. Rest. Make it a point to get to sleep early every night during the week leading up to the race.

19. Recon. Recon the race course if you can. Walk or run the last few miles of it if at all possible.

20. The Race.

  • a. Enjoy the Experience. First and foremost, enjoy your event. It’s going to be challenging at points but that’s the part of the experience you will gain the most from in the long run. Run Your Race, enjoy your event.
  • b. Tactical Patience. What I mean here is do your level best not to start thinking about the finish line, or trying to figure out your finish time too early in the race. Assess your training, and go into the race with an honest, solid idea of what your finishing time & goal is, and then push that out of your mind for at least the first half of the race.
  • c. Falling. It is not rare or even unusual to fall running in a trail ultra-marathon, or even just during trail running.
  • d. Equipment. The only two points I am bringing up here are try not to overdress even if you have to be somewhat cold at the start. Once running, I find I warm up quickly and always need a lot less apparel than I originally thought. I had to learn to buy shoes a half size larger than I would ever wear; my feet (and most ultra-marathoners fall into this category) really swell in an event over 26.2 miles.
  • e. Aid station to aid station. This goes back to 16b. It’s easier on newer ultra-runners to mentally break the race down into aid station segments rather than thinking about big chunks of race course left out in front of you. That will mentally wear you out.
  • f. Motion. Keep moving forward; minimize aid station breaks.
  • g. Aid Station etiquette. I like to run into every aid station no matter how tired I am if at all possible. I do not want to give some volunteer the idea that he or she is wasting their time because I’m dragging myself up to their tent. Race workers are volunteering their time so you can enjoy this challenge.
  • h. The Challenge. Do not be afraid to challenge yourself during the race; while “finish the race” is often the most important aspect of most ultra-runner’s events, you are in a race.

21. Post Race. One of the best aspects of the Ultra-running community is all the terrific people; their stories, their families, and the always ongoing discussion about previous and upcoming events.

Get some pictures, you at the finish line, receiving your race award and there are usually pictures taken on the course.

Enjoy the fact that you’ve trained for an ultra-marathon and then went out and completed it. That is a rare achievement indeed.

Timothy L. Hardy
January 11, 2012
Posted to

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Streak Report 2011 Wed, 28 Dec 2011 02:55:05 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Streak Reports, Training

Streak Report 2011 - 13 DEC 2007 though 12 DEC 2011 Statistics. 1460 Days in a row; 8,354 miles run; averaged 5.72 miles per day; 2925 miles in 2011; 9:00 per mile average pace= 75,186 minutes, 1,253 hours, 52.2 days of running time; 270+ days with at least 2 runs; 396 days deployed to Afghanistan NOV [...]

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Streak Report 2011 - 13 DEC 2007 though 12 DEC 2011 Statistics.

1460 Days in a row; 8,354 miles run; averaged 5.72 miles per day; 2925 miles in 2011; 9:00 per mile average pace= 75,186 minutes, 1,253 hours, 52.2 days of running time; 270+ days with at least 2 runs; 396 days deployed to Afghanistan NOV ’08-DEC’09 with at least 1 run per day; 195lbs on 13 DEC 2007-175lbs today; 60 BPM resting heart rate 2007-37 BPM resting heart rate now; 12 major events (26.2 miles or longer) completed prior to 13 DEC 2007. 34 major events completed during this streak: nine – 26.2 marathons; 25 ultra-marathons:  eleven 50Ks; two 40 milers; four 50-milers; five 100Ks; three 100 milers; 1452 racing miles. Climate & weather: coldest temperature run in -28 degrees below zero; hottest temperature-115 degrees; 3 continents; 4 countries; 18 states; 6 different time zones

Some Lessons Learned:

  • Speaking as an average runner and a mid-pack finisher in major races, you can run every day and improve at racing. I’ve improved in finish positions and time personal bests at every distance from 26.2 to 100 miles in 2011
  • Running every day validated my long distance racing lifestyle and created wife and family “buy in.”
  • Running and training daily created more base mileage that translated directly to racing success at every distance.
  • You can run the day after a major event; it’s not easy but speeds up the recovery process.
  • It is easier to maintain a racing level training daily than to build to a major race, drop off after, build back up, repeat, repeat, repeat…
  • Missing 2-3 days of training here and there became harder and harder to re-coop progressively past 40 than to run daily.
  • You make great friends all across the running community.
  • Dogs are awesome running and training partners.
  • Simplify your running log process to what works best for you and stick to it.
  • If you’re a runner, find a life partner that’s a runner.
  • 2-4 upper & lower body TRX / TRX Rip Trainer workouts weekly enhance & improve my running and are critical for overall total fitness. I run and I do TRX for PT. Hike too
  • I’ve run during all 1440 minutes of the 24 hours in a calendar day in few 100 mile events.

It only takes between seven to twelve minutes for anyone to simply run a mile; seven minutes if you’re really moving, twelve if you’re really taking your time. So in the bigger scheme of things, we’re talking about an average of nine minutes per day to qualify a running streak with at least a mile on a daily basis. Nine minutes out of one thousand, four hundred and forty we are allocated in twenty-four hours each day. I also am acquainted with a couple other runners maintaining streaks that are sixteen and thirty years long. From that perspective my four year streak is not a really big deal when I consider what it takes to maintain it and the 1460 days reached in four consecutive years. However, I started my streak in an effort to develop more training discipline, to become a better, more physically fit runner, better able to complete marathon and ultra-marathon distance events. Maintaining my streak has facilitated these goals.

In 2007 I managed to finish four ultra-distance events even though I had an unfocused training plan that usually worked out to three or four days of running each week when I could fit it in. That accumulated about twenty to twenty-five miles a week. Sometimes I’d get in more miles, sometimes less, but I remember a 30-mile week as noteworthy prior to my streak. I re-discovered that I really enjoyed completing longer events, crossing finish lines in longer races as I had completed a total of eight marathons prior to the four ultras in 2007. But that December I failed to complete the Hellgate 100K race due to the simple fact that I was significantly under-trained in terms of what was required to complete that event.  My lack of overall training commitment in 2007 was also reflected by the fact that I was coming up well short of my annual goal to reach 1200 miles. Again.  After some re-assessment, I decided that I really did want to pursue ultra-marathons and determined to finish out 2007 as well as I could by running every day the rest of that month starting on 13th of December.

Running is now a Lifestyle. I’ve learned a lot about running during this streak and even more about myself. You can run every day and improve in terms of racing at every distance. Running has become my lifestyle and that has been rewarding on several levels. Prior to starting my streak, running was just something I tried to fit into me and my family’s life as best I could. I was lucky in one aspect in that I was in the Army when I started this endeavor, and physical training is a real daily requirement. But, in terms of the extra training required to achieve the marathon and ultra-distance goals I wanted to reach, I did not start to reach 40 to 50 mile training weeks until I started running every day. Even more importantly, my family recognized my commitment when they saw me running every day in all types of weather. Running and racing then developed into part of our family life even though I’m the only participant besides our dog pack. I’ve had the opportunity to run in almost every environment; woods, mountains, major urban venues, trails, beaches, roads, desert, deep winter and perfect spring and summer conditions.

At age 46 when I started I weighed right around 195lbs; my average resting heart rate was not terrible, right around 55-60 BPM. Last spring 3.5 years into my streak, my fitness stats had all improved when I underwent my Army retirement physical; 175lbs, and a resting heart rate of 37 beats per minute. My cholesterol was infinitesimal and reduced by over 20 per cent in that period according to the PA as well. I’ve never had a history of any illness and few injuries even prior to my running streak, but my health has significantly improved. I have maintained this streak through a couple of ankle sprains, a short bout of what I think was food poisoning, and the start of a couple of colds that dissipated. I always feel better physically and mentally after I run, and often do my best thinking while I’m running. I’ve gotten a lot tougher mentally and physically as a runner and racer over this streak and that shows in my racing results at the end of this document.

I learned to log my running online this year after trying several types of hard copy logs over the past decade. I currently use and and this has been by far the simplest and most comprehensive means to log my running efforts. My DailyMile log has also turned into a daily journal of sorts that I always meant to start over the years.

Running makes friends and builds friendships. One of the best side-effects, if not the best besides overall health, is all the friends I’ve made relating to running and physical fitness. I have only had a couple of friends you could define as true training partners for any extended periods of time but have spent time running with a lot of different people in racing and non-racing venues and still maintain most of those relationships. My dogs are my ultimate training partners though and have been throughout this streak; we run together every day that I’m home. Even though Jake and Maui passed 1 ½ and 2 years ago respectively, I’ve still run many more miles with Jake the Wonder-Dog than anyone else, although that will eventually change. I get Fletcher, Maggie, Daisy, Simon and Gibby out on the trail or on the road every day that I’m not traveling.

Running is training and training is running. Four years later I still do not have a hardened training plan; I just run every day and the mileage builds from there. On days where I feel really good, I expand routes to longer mileage given enough time to do so. Some days I don’t feel too much like running and those turn into shorter, rest-type, recovery days. I pick up the pace and run harder two or three days a week and take it easier the remaining days of the week.  I discovered that by maintaining as little as 30 to 35 miles per week, I can comfortably complete a marathon on any given weekend or day between 3:55 and 4:10 overall with little to no debilitative effects.  30-35 miles per week is a short week now, and there’s seldom a week where I don’t get in at least one 10-mile run. When I have a long, long race in my schedule I ramp my training mileage up so I equal that race’s mileage distance for a week or two’s worth of running within 3-4 weeks out from the race itself.  The main training point this streak has taught me is to “listen” to my body. Run further and faster when I feel up to it, and slower and easier when I don’t. I have had several highly experienced runners tell me that I’ll never have my best race or best event until I stop running every day, and develop a training plan focused on one major event that also incorporates rest by not running every day. I’ve even had one person volunteer to coach me for free if I agreed to quit my streak. But, I run every day, including the day after every major event as part of my recovery. Prior to starting this streak, the thought of running the day after a marathon, or even for 3 or 4 days, was incomprehensible.  Now, I run every day.  And since I started running every day, those daily 9 minute, 1 mile streak qualifiers continually built up into larger and larger numbers.  


1460 straight days with at least a 1 mile from 13 DEC 2007 to 12 DEC 2011. In that time I’ve run 8,354 miles, an average of 5.72 miles per day.

My most constant running pace over that period is 9:00 per mile and at that average that’s 75,186 minutes of running since December 13, 2007; 1,253 hours or 52.20 complete days of running. As near as I can tell, there have been 270 days in that period where I’ve run at least twice per day including SEP 2010-AUG 2011 where I commuted to and from work on foot an average of 4 days per week.

I’ve run in at least 18 different states, 4 countries, and 6 separate time zones.  -28 is the coldest temperature I’ve run in, at 0200 in the morning in Minnesota during my first shot at the Arrowhead Ultra in 2010. 115 is the hottest, June, mid-day in Ali-al Salim, Kuwait in June 2009.  

I ran every day for 396 days deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from NOV 08 to DEC 09. I was highly fortunate that I lived and worked on a Forward Operating Base big enough to run on. Otherwise, I would have been forced to adapt to a tread mill. Incidentally, I’ve run outdoors every day of my streak.

I’ve had the opportunity to complete 34 major races over the course of my streak, defining major races as marathons or ultra-marathons. Nine 26.2 marathons including 4 trail 26.2s; Ultra-marathons: eleven 50Ks; two 40 milers; four 50-milers; five 100Ks; three 100 milers. I failed to finish my first three attempts at the 100 mile distance, but finished my last three. I’ve completed 29 majors since February 2010.  1452 racing miles during my streak. There are 1440 minutes in each day and due to the 100 mile races, I’ve run during every minute of the day, and each hour in its entirety. In my opinion, 0200 to 0500 are the toughest hours to run in. I’ve completed races in twelve states and two countries during my 1460 days. I had my fastest races in almost every distance in 2011 well after my 50th birthday including the 26.2, 50K, 100K and 100 mile distances, including a Boston marathon qualifying run at the Empire State Marathon in October this fall. These improvements are the results of two things; I was never really fast and my earlier race finish times reflect that, but I’ve also improved a lot as a runner and racer during my streak.  I’ve completed a total of 46 major events in all, 12 prior to starting my streak.

I’ve been very fortunate in every regard to this streak; I’ve been healthy and received a ton of support from my wife and family and those things have enabled me to pursue running and racing long distances, the exact things I wanted to pursue when I started my streak. While I still take a lot of pride in reaching the finish line in every distance from 26.2 to 100+ miles and developing those goals, maintaining my streak has evolved into my #1 personal fitness priority regardless of all other racing and running goals. I intend to maintain my streak as long as I am able.

Tim Hardy
Marietta, NY
27 December 2011
Day 1473

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227 Minutes at the 2011 Empire State Marathon Wed, 26 Oct 2011 04:32:40 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Marathons, Race Reports

Tags: ,

I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon with a net race time of 3:26:33 in the 50-54 age group at the Empire State Marathon. October 16th dawned crisp and clear, the most excellent running conditions runners could have hoped for but had no right to expect in mid-Fall in central New York. I was brimming [...]

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I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon with a net race time of 3:26:33 in the 50-54 age group at the Empire State Marathon.

October 16th dawned crisp and clear, the most excellent running conditions runners could have hoped for but had no right to expect in mid-Fall in central New York. I was brimming with energy as I headed across the Alliance Stadium parking lot at a trot and really felt I was as ready as I ever would be to run on the high side of my comfort zone for 26.2 miles.

I had identified the inaugural Empire State Marathon (ESM) as my 2011 road race target to qualify for the 2012 or 2013 Boston Marathon when I first heard about ESM last spring. Boston Qualification (BQ) has been a long-time goal of mine but had also fallen by the wayside for a couple of reasons. I had yet to come close to running sub BQ’ing in any of the marathons I’d previously run. My BQ age group time is and has been sub 3:30 for a long time and my 26.2 PR through last year was 3:47. That was one of the main reasons I started running ultramarathons. I assumed running races for longer distances would help me qualify for Boston and I was partially correct in that assumption. However, after I started running ultras, I became so enamored with that long distance venue and the myriad of ultra challenges, I lost focus on qualifying for Boston. I had become more obsessed with how far I could go rather than how fast I could run a 26.2 mile event. Of the ten marathon and longer races I’ve run in 2011, ESM was only the first road marathon I’ve run this year, and only the third of the twenty-five major events I’ve run in 2010 and 2011. Prior to ESM, I hadn’t run in a road 26.2 since the Marine Corps Marathon a year ago on Halloween.

Early this year I set my sites on finally qualifying for Boston as a major 2011 goal; I also realized I was going to have to upgrade my training plan. I’ve come to learn that I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of ultra-marathons the first season I ran 5 or 6 in 2007, but I’d adopted the very basic ultra-running concept that one has to learn to run at their comfort level for really long distances to make that finish line. My BQ issue there is that my comfort level is anywhere between a 7:45 to 9:00 pace and that is just below the threshold for a Boston Qualification pace in my age group. So I targeted ESM as my BQ goal race and ramped up my training running further, faster all spring and summer and had improved results in every distance event I ran in. I still approached ESM with a heightened sense of trepidation, basically intimidated by the level of effort I was going to have to maintain for the entire race. I just kept telling myself all last week and even while driving to the race it was only 26 miles.

My plan was really pretty simple and I stuck to it; go out as fast as I could and maintain that pace for as long as I could. Push hard on the down-hills and flat sections and climb hard. Stay out of aid stations until at least 10 miles and only hit aid stations on uphill climbs. I needed to hit 10 miles in 75:00 or better and 13.1 miles in under 100 minutes if I was going to breach that coveted 3:30 Boston qualifying firewall for my age group (Technically “Almost Ancient”).

I was a bit cold as I talked with a couple of soldiers at the starting line of the race. It was 48 degrees and the sun had only just broken the eastern horizon thirty minutes earlier as I stood about two-thirds of the way back in the masses running both the marathon and the half-marathon. I ran in ultra-light mode for ESM: t-shirt, shorts, Hoka Mafettes, Injinji socks, and my Walkman. The race started oddly without announcement of any sort, at least that I could hear back in the crowd. A starter pistol went off at about 0732, the racers cheered and we all moved forward.

I usually take three miles to really warm up in a race, but I felt great right from the start for this event; I edged to the left side of the side of the road and just flowed forward through most of the throng. I always enjoy that liberating focus at the start of any longer race-that simplified feeling that all I have to do is focus on the task at hand. All the training and effort leading up to the race is over, we’ve started running and there’s nothing else to do, think of, or focus on beyond that finish line.

I ran the first six miles of the course between a 7:00 to 7:20 pace, sometimes faster, but almost never slower than that, and studied the course and distance points on my Garmin as we headed out along the eastern edge of Onondaga Lake. I was pleased but several aspects; we were running into a slight headwind and it seemed like the first three miles or so was slightly upgrade. The course was broken up into nice sections all the way to where the bridge on River Road crossed over the Erie Canal right at six miles. I was optimistic that all these factors would aide us coming back for the last six miles of the race. By the time I was turning onto the lake recreation trail, it was far from crowded with a lot of spacing between the runners in the first third of the race.

I made conscious efforts not to think, but just to run, breathe, and run some more. I constantly checked my GPS to see what my pace was and studiously avoiding looking at the mileage at the same time. I know a lot of runners who can effortlessly maintain a 7:00 pace as their comfort zone, but I’m not one of them, so I kept checking my 305 to make sure I was running sub 7:30. But if I caught myself looking at distance or calculating time and pace against the total distance, I erased my mind, picked up the pace and concentrated on my form.

ESM has a terrific course layout, out and eventually back along Onondaga Lake with a big clockwise loop section that turns left and heads west once we all crossed over the Erie Canal. There was long downhill, downgrade section for the better part of miles 6-8 once we turned left and I ran that as hard as I could, between 5:45 on the real down-hills to 6:50ish most of this section. That paid off too because we started hitting our first really uphill sections around the 8 to 9 mile point as we bent to the north. There was a really long uphill section that started at the aid station at 9 miles and just kept climbing; it was not steep, just long and gradual and I stayed after it the whole way and kept my pace to around 8:30 or so. I was very happy that I’d spent so much of my training time running the hills around my house in the Finger Lakes, specifically up and down Oak Hill road in both directions. The hills on the ESM course continued from mile 10 off and on through mile 19; nothing inordinately steep, just a lot of gradual uphill that I kept working through and then made up time coming down the backside. Repetitive here, but I really was thankful through the hills in this middle part of the course that I spent so much training time running up and down ridges in the Finger Lakes. That eventually enabled me to clear the finish line barely under 3:30.

I hit 10 miles in 73:15; 13.1 miles in 1:27:00 (97:20); 20 miles in 2:29:00 (1:49). The last 6.2 miles of the race took me right around 57 minutes to complete.

The middle section of the course was real adventure and, in the end, made Empire State the second toughest road marathon I’ve ever run in terms of hills. Freedom’s Run has much steeper hills in the Antietam area, but no longer hills than Empire State. There was a long upgrade climb from mile 13 out of Baldwinsville on Route 31 up to about 14 miles. 14 to 15.5 was made up of a long vista you could see from a long ways off, from the crest above Baldwinsville that included another long upgrade climb from 14.5-15.5. Then the reward was a long downhill stretch around the turn onto River Road at mile 16. It was mostly uphill again along River Road from 17.75 to Mile 19. I just kept working the uphill climbs steadily and really rolling through the down-hills with as much endurance, speed and power as I could muster. Somewhere on the long climb on River Road, it seemed like the internal wiring to my reserves started to come apart and I felt like I didn’t have a lot of energy left. That’s when I remembered the slogan on a young lady’s t-shirt from the race Expo on Friday night; it read In It To Win It. I kept repeating that to myself periodically for the rest of my race.

I was confident when I hit the 20 mile point in 2:29 that I was going to finish under 3:30. I did not feel great but I was maintaining a sub 9 pace whenever I checked my GPS and I forced myself to trust that fact and just kept moving without thinking too hard about it. Miles 21 to 24 along the eastern edge of Onondaga Lake stretched out, but I just kept trotting at a steady 8:45 to 9:00 pace and picked it up as best I could when a new song played across my Let It Rip playlist. A significant amount of runners passed my between 22-25 miles; I ended up catching a couple back between 25-26 but I was basically too tired to maintain a crisp pace until the last half mile left in the race. I had a major cramp strike my right hamstring at mile 23 and had to play through that as fast as I could. That cramp felt like you could see it from across Onondaga Lake, but I just kept moving.
My pace in the last 6 miles of the race dropped to 8:15-8:30. I did have points where I ran a little faster, but I had slower points and also pulled water from aid stations at 19, 21 and 23 miles. I had a couple of points where I was running 7:50-8:00, but really just kept moving around 8:15+ and hung on for the last 6 miles. The Finish Line was a combination of exaltation and relief, exalted that I finally ran and BQ time in a marathon and relieved at the same time. I’d been hoping, thinking hard and “training” to reach Boston since 1999, and had really upgraded my training and racing for the past 2 years with a BQ time as one of my 2 main goals: “CHECK.”

Now it’s time to get to Badwater.

Overall Marathon winners and personal individual facts:

1 Nick Bedbury 22 2:43:07 Syracuse NY
2 Ryan McTague 19 2:49:40 Niskayuna NY
3 Brian Stevens 21 2:50:04 Rome NY

1 Emily Piza-Taylor 34 3:10:22 Binghamton NY
2 Carissa Swilley 30 3:11:00 Syracuse NY
3 Tracie Rall 33 3:20:14 Clay NY

- 706 total finishers
- 1st inaugural running of this Empire State Marathon
- I came in 62nd overall
- 11th in my age group; 3rd place male in my 50-54 DIV (ouch) was right at 3:11. That is fast and powerful. 1st place in the male 55—58 DIV was 3:32. The implied task here is to keep getting better but at least hold what I’ve got.
- 11th major event I’ve run in in 2011
- 25th major event I’ve raced in since FEB 2010
- 39th total marathon or ultra-marathon finished
- 1402nd straight days of running on race day, 16 OCT
- 21 days between my last race at the UROC 100K on 25 SEP and ESM on 16 OCT
- 14 days between ESM and my next scheduled race-Fire on the Mountain 50K on 30 OCT
- 593 total miles raced in 11 different events so far in 2011

Training points and lessons learned:
- My average mileage per week for 2011 has been between 55-65 miles per week.
- I run 8-10 weeks this year with mileage between 80-105 miles
- I run every day; this has helped improve my running a lot more than hindered me no matter what the experts or more experienced, better runners tell me.
- I run hills no less than (NLT) 2 to 3 times per week. Fortunate, there were a lot more hills on this course than I thought there would be in a USTFA marathon.
- Cross training, all-around body work 2 to 3 times per week with TRX for the past twelve months paid big dividends in this race. Lighter, more muscle tone, less body soreness in every event this year. I thought it was critical to get down to around 172 from my average wieght of 185 for the past 10 years. I weighed 171 on race day and that made a huge difference.
- I ran a lot more tempo runs faster than my comfort zone between AUG 2010-AUG 2011 than I ever did before.
- I ran two-a-days 3 to 4 times per week from SEP 2010 through AUG 2011.
- I did not do or run one track interval workout although I kept telling myself I needed to.
- I found and ran with a running partner from JUN through AUG almost daily
- Music. Running to music has made me faster. I built a playlist specifically for fast up-tempo workouts; during a marathon or longer I play my “Run Steady” playlist for most of the race and then change to my “Let it Rip” really fast playlist to really kick my way to the finish line. This has really worked; I like running fast to these songs and at this point my inner tempo pace really responds to them even when I’m tired or beyond tired.
- A real training base enables you to run beyond your comfort zone for a long time. But, you need the training base.
- There’s no substitute for up-hill climbs at tough points in the race better than running a lot of hills in training or other races.
- Racing more has made me a much better distance runner. I’m going to start incorporating a lot more 10K and 10Mile races into my schedule.

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2050 Minutes at the 2011 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Race Thu, 26 May 2011 11:00:28 +0000 Tim Hardy

Categories: Race Reports, Ultra-Marathons

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One Average Runner’s Adventure 4 AM Saturday 14 May to 2:10 PM Sunday 15 May 2011 The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club planned and executed a tremendous ultra-marathon under Race Director Kevin Sayers’ leadership this past weekend. I found the Massanutten Mountain Trails (MMT) 100 to be an incredibly challenging yet richly rewarding experience from [...]

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One Average Runner’s Adventure
4 AM Saturday 14 May to 2:10 PM Sunday 15 May 2011

The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club planned and executed a tremendous ultra-marathon under Race Director Kevin Sayers’ leadership this past weekend. I found the Massanutten Mountain Trails (MMT) 100 to be an incredibly challenging yet richly rewarding experience from my perspective as one average runner and this race report reflects only my participation and limitations in that epic trail race. Any omissions or mistakes in this report reflect shortcomings of the author and not the event or people that were part of it.

Runners had 36 hours to negotiation the 101.6 mile MMT course, starting from 4AM Saturday with the official course closed to finishers by 4PM Sunday. Here are the top finishers:


Name                        Age                Time                                                    

KARL MELTZER  (1)     43           18:18:28

NEAL GORMAN              34           19:40:11

DAVID FRAZIER             25           21:25:08


EVA PASTELKOVA            35           22:30:43* (6thoverall)

SHERYL WHEELER   (2)     48           25:53:36 (18th overall)

KATHLEEN CUSICK           36           27:00:30 (23rd overall)

-Ms. Pastelkova’s time is a new MMT female course record.

-Karl Meltzer’s time is the fastest since the overall change in the MMT course 2-3 years ago.

-Ms. Wheeler also placed 2nd at the Hellgate 100K this past December.


JEREMY PADE                    29           22:45:19 (7th)

JUSTIN FAUL                      30           23:05:40 (8th)

CAM BAKER                        34           25:11:25 (14th)


SUSAN DONNELLY           48           31:13:04* (69th overall) 

-Ms. Donnelly was the only female competitor in the Solo Division


101.6 total miles in this event;
195 Runners started the race at 0400 AM;
132 Official finishers (68%); last finisher crossed the line at 35:56:46 with 136 seconds to spare!
1360 Total number of historical MMT 100 finishers of 2151 starters since event inception;
115 Male finishers – 87%;
17 Female finishers – 13%;
49 Approximate temperature at 4 AM;
87 Approximate temperature at 2 PM;
16,200 Total elevation in feet climbed and descended according to event website;
15 Total number of aid stations;
9.5 Largest mileage total between aid stations;
3.1 Smallest distance in miles between aid stations;
6.3 About the average mileage between aid stations;
67 Age of Gary Knipling, oldest finisher, in 34:22:12;
49 Age Marsha Latimer, oldest female finisher, in 30:35:47;
25 Age of David Frazier, youngest male finisher, in 21:25:08 (3rdoverall);
33 Age of Kristina Folick, youngest female finisher in 29:29:27;
45 Number of male finishers between 40-49, the largest group;
28 Number of male finishers between 30-39;
Number of male finishers between 20-29;
23 Number of male finishers from  50-59;
6 Number of finishers  from 60-69(67); Dan Lehman (60) in 28:42:15-35thoverall!;
Number of female finishers from 30-39;
Number of female finishers from 40-49;
Number of female finishers 50 and older;
Number of female finishers under 30;
26 Number of States represented at the finish line. (VA-26, MD-23);
Countries represented; USA & Japan;
9,900 longest miles by Google distance traveled by any runner; Tetsuro Ogata, Takamatsu, Japan (Google also mentioned that the route between Takamatsu Japan and Fort Valley VA, has tolls. Mr. Ogata traveled 10,000 miles, all told, to complete this event);
14 Gary Knipling extended his record number of MMT finishes to 14; his son Keith Knipling extended his to 12, giving the Knipling family a seemingly insurmountable combined 26 MMT finishes;
10 Susan Donnelly extended her female record of finishes to 10.


MMT was my 5th ultra-marathon or marathon event in 2011;
19 MMT was my 19th ultra-marathon or marathon distance since FEB 2010;
2nd 100 completed in 2011 including the GRR on 5-6 March;
40% I am 2 for 5 in 100 & 100+ mile lifetime events, but 2 in a row;
37 Total number of ultra-marathon or marathon events completed by author;
1248 Number of consecutive running streak days run from 13 DEC 2007 through 15 May 2011;
57 Number of days from last major event (Instant Classic Trail Marathon on 19 March);
34:10:16 Massanutten finish time (2050:16 minutes);
1st attempt at the MMT 100;
111 My overall finish place of the 132 finishers (bottom 16th percentile);
91 My overall finish place among all males;
Females finished ahead of me;
72 My finishing place among males 40-67; 40 of 40-49, 18 of 50-59, 4 60-67 aged males finished ahead of me;
Unknown Where I finished among active duty or reserve military participants;
6+ Blisters.  “Life is harder. It gets harder when you do stupid things.”     Paraphrasing John Wayne;
Toenails lost;
I ran “solo,” no crew. Hard to claim “solo” with so much outstanding aid station support;
53+ The mileage on my Forerunner 305 when it died prior to Habron Gap A.S.;
20:09 My average overall pace per mile for the duration of the event. Boy…


I entered the MMT 100 lottery when a couple of really good friends verified that they were giving the MMT lottery a shot. Tom N. and Bill M. are both from upstate New York and are terrific long distance runners. I was qualified to enter after finishing the Hellgate 100K in early December, and based on finishing Hellgate, had some confidence that I could make the MMT finish line. I also figured with close to 600 lottery entrants, the odds were slim we’d all get picked up; but Tom and I were 1st picks based on MMT lottery-NY stock exchange selection, and Bill got in on the wait list. I entered in the “Solo” division, meaning I was running without crew or pacer support or any assistance of any nature from anyone on the course other than the aid stations. This also included Walkman-MP3 players; solo runners are required to run MMT without music-related assistance as well.

I ramped my training up with MMT as the obvious target race on my schedule. I continued to run every day and increased my weekly mileage to an average of about 60 miles a week, but incorporated surge weeks reaching up to 80 and beyond depending whether or not I had a race on a weekend.  My biggest week was 130 miles that included running the GRR 100 on 5-6 March. I like to employ races as my major training events.

I worked total body training using TRX as my main staple at least 3 days per week through April.  I completed 4 major races as training events leading up to MMT; two 50Ks, one trail 26.2 and the Guts Reactor Run 100 mile trail race.  The GRR was my 1st 100 mile finish and, coupled with training months of 246, 310, and 200 miles in February, March, and April, I had good confidence that I could knock MMT out successfully when I arrived at the Pre-Race check in on 13 May.  I linked up with Tom, Bill, and another real ultra stud Ryan O’Dell, as we shared a cabin right at the start in Caroline Furnace. I’d met Ryan briefly at Hellgate where he finished that mighty event in the top 10 in less than 13 hours.

Having a berth in the Cabin ¼ mile from the starting line was a terrific boost and a great idea. I’d recommend that for any major race event as it just made the logistics so much easier and more relaxed. Sleep still came with difficulty in the cabin Friday night.


These excellent course graphics are available on the MMT website.

The course included 15 aid stations, and the start and finish line at Caroline Furnace. The proverbial 100-mile loop course. According to the MMT website almost 82 miles of the course are trail with the remaining 20 to be mostly dirt road and a few miles of asphalt. The elevation chart depicts 14 major climbs and descents anchored to leaving and approaching the aid stations, and that was exactly accurate.

I hoped to be in position to finish the race in 28 hours and certainly hoped to cross the finish line under 30. As I approached the race area Friday afternoon from Route 66 West in northern Virginia and then traveling south on Route 81, I had to admit that I felt a sense of trepidation and was more than a little intimidated by the thought that  I would be traveling that mountain range dominating the highway in less than 12 hours. I was also infected with a sense of realism and the thought that getting to the finish line was the clearest objective, time notwithstanding.

My personal race plan broke the course into 3 sections. I would find my first main drop bag at Shawl Gap Aid Station at mile 37. My 2nd drop bag went to Gap Creek A.S. at Mile 68. I intended to push and reach Shawl Gap by 1230 to 1PM, Habron Gap at Mile 53 by 6PM and Gap Creek the first time by 8PM. The route looped south and then back to the north and through Gap Creek a 2nd time at Mile 95. I ended up consistently about 2 hours behind each of those marks.


Section 1. Start to Shawl Gap Aid Station 6 Mile 37+

I always find several aspects of race morning intriguing and Massanutten was no exception. Time always seems to move quicker than normal; we were up by 0245 in the cabin and it seemed like 0355 instantly. We were surrounded by 195 runners and an indeterminate amount of crew, family and friends under the circus tent at the starting line. The MMT crowd seemed a lot larger than a couple hundred people, largely due to the amount of energy in the air, I think. I always seem to have a sense of relief embedded in that purity of effort and focus that comes with race morning. All the training was over and the long processes leading up to MMT. My only mission for the next day-and-a-half was to get to the MMT finish line. It is truly a rare occasion in this day and age where one finds oneself with only one major task needing their only focus for 24 to 36 straight hours and major ultra events are the exception to that modern standard of multi-tasking and multi-purpose.  The runners in front started fast, those in the rear started slowly, and the headlamps all spread out in the darkness.

The first 20 miles or so of the race are mostly indistinct in my memory already, other than it was good to be underway; I had a real sense of giddy and lucky anticipation as one of the racers in an event such as Massanutten. Massanutten!  A lot of runners were spread out immediately on the asphalt road leading the 1st couple of miles up to the trailhead, mostly on a gradual uphill. It was very dark save the runner’s lights and the pace and chatter between the runners was mostly methodical . I felt very good at the outset, like I had a lot of built-up energy and reserves, and continued to feel that way for the next 20-24 hours.

The Moreland Gap Aid Station (AS) materialized a little ways ahead on the road, and that was the last time I would pull into an AS tied to a main road for a long time. Moreland was a short-term fix, a vehicle with a single gentleman helping runners fill water bottles by lamplight for anyone needing water after the first 3.5 miles in the race. I filed past with several others onto the actual MMT trailhead and started the dark climb up Short Mountain.

Insert “Dark Trail” shot

Short Mountain was a big climb, one of the two or three larger up-the-mountain movements on the entire course; it was nice to knock that out early in the event under the current and recent course organization. Anyone familiar with MMT race history has read and heard stories of how challenging Short Mountain was for racers when that obstacle loomed at the 70% point in the race course. We were still climbing Short in the dark but at a fresh point early in the race. The first twelve miles from the race start to A.S. 2 at Edinburg Gap really answered a lot of inner questions and summarized how the rest of the MMT course would unfold.  I’d heard and read story after story about the degree of rocky difficulty that is the actual Massanutten Trail, and nothing does justice to that until you’re on the MMT. I’d spent 100s of miles on trails on 3 continents and Massanutten is the rockiest rail I’ve been on to date. It was slow going uphill, through the flatter 5-mile ridgeline traverse before heading downhill towards Edinburg, and pretty slow heading downhill as well. Based on my own experience, I’m dumbfounded by the ability of a guy like Karl Maltzer to cover the entire course in 18+ hours due to the degree of technical trail difficulty. I think Sim Kae Duk’s MMT course record of 17:40:45 is a little under-rated in the ultra world.

I did my best to spend as little time as possible in the first five aid stations but was again amazed at the type of support ultra runners receive in every event. MMT aid stations were exceptional even in that in regard. Volunteers bent over backwards to provide water refills, food, soda, and information on the next leg of the course including exact distance to the next aid station, climbs confronting runners, and known weather information.

Daylight’s early gray arrival coincided with the point where I crested the climb on Short and started along the 5-mile portion of the ridgeline trail. I’d been curious as to what traveling along the ridgelines on the MMT course would be like and I was not disappointed.  Racers spend between 35-40% of the entire race traveling ridgelines, and there would have points throughout the event where I was moving along the top of the narrow mountain ridgeline with views off the each side through gaps in the trees and the foliage. I had a small drop bag waiting at Edinburg Gap and dropped my head lamp there.

The first third of the course traveled north to northeast up and down the western wall of the Shenadoahs and George Washington National Forest.  Several runners moved through at an increased pace but I also became acquainted with several runners I would be traveling among and adjacent to for most of the first 24 hours of the race. One of my race goals was to meet the legendary Gary Knipling at some point, and that occurred Check in the night prior. He had walked right up to me and introduced himself and asked me who I was.  I ended up sharing a big portion of the trail with him up to Elizabeth Furnace and a great group of guys, Jeff Pense, Jeff Heasley, Doug Berlin and Jim Ashworth to name a view, and miss several names too. It was terrific moving along with these runners; Gary would go on to finish his record 14th MMT 100; I bounded back and forth with Jim and Doug all day and well into the next morning when they finally pulled away from me beyond Gap Creek at Mile 70. I also met Toni Aurilio for the first time in person after trading a lot of email with her on the Ultra-list; that’s just another facet of this sport I really enjoy-the Ultra-list and meeting Ultra-list members at events. Toni knew my number and was at Edinburg Gap already yelling encouragement to me when I rolled in. She was crewing with several others, Bob, Sara and Marge, for Rob Colenso, and it was just a great way to meet someone. I would end up seeing Team Colenso in almost every aid station throughout the race.

John Wayne is often quoted with something to the effect that: “Life is tough; it’s a lot tougher when you’re stupid.” I don’t know how accurate that is pertaining to the Duke, but 100 milers are tough, and they’re a lot tougher when you do stupid things.  I made a couple of mistakes that would manifest themselves by Shawl Gap and make the rest of the event more challenging than it needed to be. I recently acquired some New Balance Minimus Trails and really love those running shoes, particularly their light weight. They’re just a great, ultra-light trail shoe. But wearing those at MMT was absolutely the worst choice I could have made and frankly the last big mistake I anticipate making of this magnitude in a 100 mile race again.  No matter how much I tried to avoid rocks and the impact they were having on my feet through those thin vibram soles, both my feet were really bruised from dozens of big, small, flat, and pointed rock impacts by the time I got to my drop bag at Mile 37 (Shawl Gap) and changed to my Asolo Predators. I had the start of several blisters as well due to all the shifting through the rocks working to avoid the impacts. Basically, by mile 30 my feet hurt due to blisters and bruising for almost every step for the remainder of the race.

I also tried a different idea for hydration. I wore my Nathan Hydration pack without the blivet so I could carry Clif Blocks, S-Caps, my camera and support of that nature, and then carried a 20-ounce hand-held bottle. My intent was to carry the han- held as much as possible and keep it in the back pack to split the load. I’d trained like this but really didn’t care for this arrangement after the 20 mile point in the race. I’ve really just developed into a back-pack water blivet user and will just stay in that mode from here on out. The hand-held helps lighten the load, but I found that I needed both hands for balance a lot of the time and ended up carrying the bottle in my pack most of the way. I also would have liked to have had more than 20 ounces of water during some of the longer eight and nine mile movements between aid stations.

Section 2. Shawl Gap A.S. to Gap Creek A.S. 10 at Mile 68

You’ve got 9 big Massanutten miles to the Indian Grave Aid Station.” This was my favorite quote of the entire race, from the Captain of the Veach Gap A.S. at mile 40.9. This really sums up the MMT 100. Massanutten miles are big miles, with climbs, descents, switchbacks, boulders to move over and rocks to thread through.  I never felt that any leg between aid stations was understated in terms of distance or required effort either.

The race was almost entirely positive for me right through the first two-thirds of the event, feet notwithstanding. Miles 37 to 68 went very well, a lot of good things happened. I changed out my shoes at Shawl Gap into my old-reliable Asolos with over 1000 miles and 15 events on them. Kerry Owens was checking runners into Veach Gap A.S. and I told her it was good to see her again. We’d met at Hellgate in December, Kerry’s a stud-ette of an ultrarunner. She asked if I’d ever run MMT and after I replied in the negative, told me it was just a whole lot more of the same as leading up to Veach Gap, and to just keep moving. Sound advice. There was also the psychological boost of negotiating the northern end of the MMT range and then heading south.

As I was finally trotting up the trail to A.S. 8 at Indian Gap, there was a big, tall, white guy yelling “Tim Hardy, get up here into my aid station.” That was Chris Perrault, and we’d never met in person but had traded a bunch of traffic on the Ultra-list too. It was great to meet Chris in person at the half-way point in the race.  Doug and Jim were already there, some other guy was sitting in a chair off to the side and just happened to bend over and vomit as I walked past.  Things were just happening in Indian Grave. I was behind where I’d hoped to be in terms of time but that time differential was holding fast and not extending. I also felt great considering the fact that I was 50 miles into the race and I think a part of that was that the course forces a slower, steady pace due to the technical degree of difficulty.  Indian Grave to Habron Gap at Mile 53 was 3.5 miles of pure country road and that came at the right time and place. I ran most of that and eyed the imposing ridgeline paralleling the road’s western edge. We had to climb that out of Habron.

There was quite a crowd at Habron Gap when I rolled in just before 6PM. This was a big aid L-shaped station right on the left side of the road, and I eye-balled the trailhead that climbed away up and to the southwest as I passed it 100 feet before entering the A.S. Habron was no exception, just another great crew, with a lot of food and drink. A.S. Captain John Prohira told me that there was just the one really big climb, “maybe the biggest left on the course,” headed directly out of the aid station.  Aid Station mavens everywhere are well-developed in terms of telling runners that they “look great,” “terrific,” “strong,” and I heard a lot of that at Habron Gap. I had been ingesting S-Caps hourly all day, consuming Clif Blocks in clusters, hydrating, eating and drinking in each station; I felt very good and took those remarks at face value.  A couple of key race dynamics had already changed at Habron though. It would be dark by the time I made the 9.5 mile traverse to Camp Roosevelt and that really stretches a pace.  The other factor, and this was my 2nd stupid mistake in this race, was that my Garmin Forerunner 305 was officially dead just before Habron.  No GPS that I know of will last for a 100 miler, but I had 2 USB chargers positioned in drop bags on the course, but had overlooked packing my little 305 base to actually charge my 305 with the USB devices. That just plainly pissed me off when I had discovered that back at Shawl Gap. Stuuuupid! I had to negotiate the second fifty miles based on time estimation.

The climb up First Mountain out of Habron was indeed pretty long, but I remember it as more graduated and full of switchbacks rather than very steep.  I moved steadily upward with a purpose as the shadows lengthened and darkened on the eastern side of the ridgeline.  It was still very rocky but Short Mountain and the first third of the course still seemed like it had been the most technical part of the trip thus far. The bugs started coming out as night approached. I passed a couple of runners on the way up that I had not seen before and was passed by another stranger early on the climb. He was moving rapidly and disappeared up the trail.

The three-plus miles along the ridgeline atop First Mountain were terrific. It was a narrow ridge, with intermittent western and eastern views, and it was fairly exhilarating to be moving along the trail in a mighty stretch of Washington National Forest trying to beat nightfall into Camp Roosevelt. I prefer to move without a light even at night on the trail where possible and I had it in my head to make A.S. 10 without the aid of my headlamp.  I managed quite a bit of running while just concentrating on good trail form in this ten mile section; the trail rocks weren’t overly inundating at least until the downhill piece on the western side of the ridgeline. Susan Donnelly caught and passed me working down the ridge. She was alone as the only solo female runner in the event and mentioned in passing that she was not feeling too great, and then continued on at what seemed a pretty rapid pace as I wended my way downhill through the rocks. It occurred to me that Ms. Donnelly may be the most graceful trail runner I’ve ever seen, there in the gathering darkness at MMT, and I have no reason to think otherwise now.  Susan went on to finish her 10th MMT in about 31 hours.

The trail once off the top of ridge into Roosevelt went on and on; I’d really thought and planned on being there by 830PM at the latest, but that came and went as I ran through left-entered and right-exited switchback after switchback after switchback. There was a whole small troop of us headed west; I could see them through the woods behind me as they all went to lamps while I kept moving without mine until it was completely dark. The entire event caught up with me and I was tired but not discouraged when I entered and left Camp Roosevelt around 915PM.

The leg from Roosevelt to Gap Creek was a long 6.5 miles in the dark starting again with another climb out of Roosevelt. I remember this as shorter but steeper than climbing out of Habron while I was limited to that little spherical world contained within my headlamp. Once up on the ridge, I’d turn the light off for a while and keep moving just for the fun of it. I tried to continue to limit my thinking to just the next aid station but it was tough. Gap Creek was a clear line in the sand in my plan for success and I knew if I got there by midnight, I still had plenty of time to finish the race; after midnight and time clearly wouldn’t be an ally. I’d done a good job throughout the day of keeping my mind focused only on the next one or two aid stations. MMT is just too big a course for my little mind to be out wandering alone by its self without returning completely daunted and tainted by the enormity of the project at hand.  Whenever I found myself thinking about the whole race, I’d try to reign that back in and focus on my running form. I did that a lot during this leg.

I was not ecstatic but was very happy to trot into Gap Creek for the first time right at 1135PM. I had 68 tough miles and about 12,000 feet of climb and descent behind me; I had a solid sixteen hours to complete the next 34 miles negotiating the southern figure-8 portion of the course. This included the four remaining aid stations including Gap Creek (also the final aid station on the course) for a second time at the end of the 27 mile loop and 4 major climbs left.

Section 3. Gap Creek A.S. 10, Mile 68 to the Finish at Caroline Furnace at Mile 101.6

I felt very good about my chances leaving Gap Creek 1 right around midnight. In fact, I felt like there was nothing that would keep me from the finish line when I entered Gap Creek at a trot. I did make another mistake while at the A.S. by changing my shoes again. I had my Hi-Techs in a drop bag there and the bruises on my feet were killing me. The Hi-Techs have a thick, durable sole and I wanted that between my feet and the trail. The Hi-Techs eventually just served to accentuate and inflame the blister situation a few miles later and didn’t really help the bruises at any point.  Just more good logistical thinking.

There was one more interesting race dynamic that developed at Gap Creek. Tom Nesterick was sitting in one of the chairs resting as I came in and reported that he was pretty worn out. I was sure he must have been because Tom and I had run up to ten different ultras together and I’d never been at the same point with him in any race save the start.  We made the obvious decision to move to Visitor Center A.S. at Mile 77 in a tandem crossing, with the hopes that he would recovery a little and my feet would improve.  I was still hitting S-Caps hourly with Ibuprofen mixed in on occasion and Clif Blocks.

The 8.4 mile trip to Visitor Center was long and a lot of life’s realities had impacts along the way. It took over 3-and-a-half hours to cross this leg and the lowest point of the race for me was the last couple miles prior to the Visitor Center including the first few minutes there. 1AM to 4AM is the toughest time period of any race for me, (much like most other runners) and this leg covered the climb, traverse and descent of Kerns Mountain. It was a big 8.4 “Massanutten Miles.” I liked the psychology of having less aid stations left than more but every movement was a long one on the southern figure-8 loop.  We moved slowly and there was no clear sky in view moving along the ridge once we finished climbing. Then it started raining intermittently about an hour from the aid station to full rain for the last 30 minutes.

I was soaked and very cold when we pulled up under the tarp at Visitors Center in only a soaked t-shirt and shorts. Our early intent was to move rapidly through Visitors but the rain increased as we approached and thunder and lightning started erupting. We decided to see if we could warm up a bit while we rested for a few minutes waiting out the storm.

We decided to get moving around 35 minutes after hitting Visitors. The volunteers had given me a towel for a blanket and Tom wrapped up in his poncho. After 25 minutes of rest and 3 minutes of sleep, we struck forth again headed for Bird Knob. I was wearing a large garbage-bag poncho against the ongoing rain, and the lightning had moved through and disappeared to the east. I was tired but getting moving was a blessing in disguise as the only significant discouragement I endured during the race dissipated and broke up on the rocks moving up Bird Knob.

Karl Meltzer reported in his MMT Blog that Bird Knob was a smaller, not very difficult climb. It didn’t seem that way to me but Tom and I were encouraged in anticipation of the fact that we’d pick up a dirt road above the Knob and follow that a long ways to Picnic Area at Mile 86.5. After a steep climb for 45 minutes, the terrain leveled off at the same time night started giving way to gray beginning morning nautical twilight (BMNT).  We’d come in contact with Dave Yeakel working towards his seventh MMT finish, and it’s always nice to have that type of trail experience on hand. We reached the summit  and then eventually a firebreak trail and followed that for a couple of miles until we hit the Bird Knob aid station at the junction of the firebreak and actual dirt road.  There was a conjunction of about 8 of us there with a tight little group of aid station workers who reported we had another 6.4 miles to Picnic Area.

Daylight brought new optimism as we traversed that long 10K into A.S. 14.  Three of the runners from Bird Knob moved ahead for good and we spent the rest of the trip into Picnic bounding back and forth with Rob Colenso and his pacer Bob once we re-entered the trail section. The climb down from the road to Picnic Area took about 4 miles after a steep, sharp climb and was loaded with switchback after switchback. I ended up running most of this downhill section because I just wanted to get to the aid station and lance the blisters now manifested on both my feet. Running was as easy as walking in terms of pain, maybe easier and once I got going I felt like I could have run most of the last eighteen miles to the finish. I figured I’d get to AS 14 ahead of Tom, work on my feet and be ready to go once he arrived and that was about what happened.

Picnic Area A. S. was pretty motivational. It was daylight, the volunteers, friends, and crew there were incredibly positive, and they had bacon. Tom came through while I was working my feet, had some sustenance and moved out ahead of me while I finished with my feet. It was 830AM when I moved out, and I was solidly into Day 2, and I was up and moving. The rain was gone and I felt like I was within striking distance of the finish line, albeit it distant striking distance. There was one remaining aid station, one major climb, and sixteen remaining miles. Tom and I actually got a back-brief on the remaining part of the course from none other than the original MMT Race Director, Mr. Ed Demoney, that included distance references from his 3-ring binder; how squared away was that?

Picnic Area to Gap Creek 2 was an odd leg. There were a couple of downhill miles until the crossing at RTE 678, followed by a long gradual uphill movement along a firebreak until I re-acquired the trailhead and began the long 3.5 mile climb to the ridge. Ed had reported an hour early that this climb would seem never-ending; the climbed was followed by a never-ending downhill that eventually emptied onto a right turn on the dirt road back to Gap Creek a couple miles hence. Ed was exactly right. That uphill trail was pretty cool though, particularly the portion that wended with and then meshed and ran up a creek bed, up, up and up some more. I was lucky again in that Dave Yeakel had caught up right then and said, right up the creek bed. I could have turned that into a major misrouting by myself. Sometimes it’s lucky to be slower than good.

The climb took over an hour closer to 90 minutes and then the trail eventually peeled into a gravel firebreak, down, down, down through the gravel. My feet were too sore to move fast as were my quads. Ron Colenso passed me on this downhill, paced now by Bob and Toni and they all looked great. I’d moved as fast as I could for a while to hold them off, to no avail.  Rob and Bob were trotting out of Gap Creek Aid Station looking marvelous by the time I even got there.

Tom was waiting at Gap Creek when I got there; it was 3 minutes and out. Toni Aurilio was still there and asked me how my feet were and I reported they’d get me to the finish line. We climbed Jawbone ridge a second time, but instead of heading south as we had 28 miles earlier the night prior, we headed up and over the ridgeline, and downhill towards the finish line six miles away. We stopped to take pictures at the cross-trail directional sign, and I think this was the high point of the entire event for me. The last of fourteen major climbs was done, and it was all downhill to the finish line with plenty of time. That was a key because Tom and I were all but done –in after 97 miles. I was at least and that held Tom up at that point.

The trail was pretty steep for the next mile-and-a-half, full of switchbacks and still rocks, and then more rocks. Blisters, bruises, quadriceps all hurt in unison or in separate tinctures and finally the down-slope flattened out into a curving single track. We followed that another mile and then the road was in sight. As I moved over and around, literally, the last pile of Massanutten Trail Rocks I’d see, right around Mile 99, I found a horseshoe sitting atop that last big rock. I kept it for luck and its going up in my wife’s stable.

Tom and I power-hiked the last 3 miles downhill into Camp Lutheran at Caroline Furnace with a little trotting mixed in. I had lit a cigar on the firebreak that I had been carrying for quite a while, more as black fly repellent than it being the right moment-the bugs had been chewing me up since Gap Creek.  The smoke repelled the flies and I passed the last couple of miles a little happier. Three different runners passed us in the last quarter mile to the finish line but I did not care at that point. Tom and I crossed together at 34:10:16, 110th and 111th of 195 starters and 132 finishers.

Finishers continued to roll in until two minutes ahead of the 4PM, 36-hour deadline.  Gary Knipling came in 12 minutes behind Tom and I; he had left Visitor Center almost 2 hours behind us, Bird Knob an hour back and Picnic Area 45 minutes back and kept gaining, emblematic of a strong ultra finisher.


People I met

As reported, meeting people in the ultra community is one of my favorite aspects to this sport and the MMT 100 was above and beyond in that regard. The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club is a tremendous organization and MMT was the first event I had the good fortune to participate in under VHTRC. I really liked meeting Kevin Sayers and told him his site,, was the first ultra site I’d ever researched on and recommended it to everyone  I knew. I met a lot runners I consider new friends:  Chris Perralt, Gary Knipling, Jeff Pense, Jeff Heasley, Doug Berlin, Jim Ashworth, Dave Yeakel, Toni Aruilio, Marge, Susan Donnelly, Rob Colenso, Bob, Sara, and time spent with older friends. Ryan O’Dell smoked MMT in 25 hours and Bill McGovern finished in 28; both were waiting at the finish line. It was a great event for all of us.

Lessons Learned

The first 24 hours or so after finishing the race were pretty much a mental blur, albeit a satisfactory one. I awoke at some point very early Tuesday morning with the clear thought that I could have finished a lot faster at MMT by eliminating some simply stupid mistakes and that I would probably have to go back at some point for another round at MMT because of this.  The other major realization that I already knew was that completing Massanutten meant nothing was off the table in terms of Ultra events for me now. MMT 100 is not the toughest 100 in the United States but is recognized as one of them and substantiates any race application.  That’s a happy situation that I intend to employ.

I’ve reported pretty stringently on my logistical faux pas and their impacts on the event.  Something as simple as not having the right trail shoes broken-in and ready to go on my feet really impacted my entire event. I believe that cost me up to 4 hours. I should have listened to my instinct and had a significant drop bag at Mile 53 with my lights instead of Shawl Gap. Clif Blocks and S-caps worked great, but a liter of water in a back pack set-up is the best way I move as opposed to hand held bottles.  Real food in aid stations was a strong key. I do not function well without my GPS and 95% is not a solution in that regard. Better off to start without the 305 than to start and lose it through logistics. As always, real technical trail running takes a really good training base or you’re slow. Not thinking past the next aid station kept getting me to aid stations with a fresh mental outlook. Better planned and more drop bags overall; shorts and a t-shirt are not the best solution at 0300AM in the pouring rain.

How to Train for MMT 100

I traded some email with Susan Donnelly after MMT and she said: “There are easy 100 milers and MMT is not one of them.” I’ve yet to run a 100 that I thought was easy, but the point here is that MMT is really tough even among 100 mile races. You cannot have too much technical trail running base underlying your training at MMT, to include up and down mountain running.  I upped my mileage significantly for the previous 3 months, averaging about 225 miles per month to include 2 big weeks of mileage per month and I was never in trouble at MMT. I like using races to train for the next race and I’d highly recommend running the Hellgate 100 a good, comprehensive taste of what MMT holds for runners.  Hellgate’s a great event too. Lots of up and downhill trail events help MMT runners. VHTRC even offers scheduled training runs on the MMT Ring in the months leading up to the 100 and if you want to actually be competitive in the event, getting that taste of it would really help.


It is easy to recommend the MMT 100 to anyone serious about ultra-running that wants to run a well-organized, really challenging 100-mile trail event. MMT’s cited as one of the toughest 100s on the east coast, if not the toughest, and several really experienced runners have told me that they think the highly technical trail makes it the toughest US 100 in some regard. The VHTRC’s organization and command and control of this event is just outstanding given the scope and degree of difficulty of the course; the volunteers were completely selfless and did everything they could to encourage, support, and sustain every runner. I think these are the main things that bring runner after runner back to MMT for multiple races at this epic event. It was an honor and a privilege to run the MMT 100.

My split times.

These splits show some real exponential pace decay; I really encompass the old mantra of “Start slow and taper off” looking at these.

And this is how the 2011 MMT went for this average runner.

Tim Hardy
Arlington, VA

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