Friday, October 14, 2016

Eastern States 100 - August 15-16, 2015

ES100 – August 15-16, 2015
Eastern States 100 Mile Endurance Run, Waterville, Pennsylvania
John Rodrigue – HalfBomb – Race Report and it’s long.

Leading into ES100:
I had a year of going big with training for several 100 mile races. I had registered for the lottery for Massanutten100 mile endurance run which was being run on May 16-17, 2015. I had also registered for the lottery for ES100 as well with the thought that I could back out of Massanutten if I was accepted into ES. Well, it just worked out that I would take a running try at both. I ran Massanutten100 in May with a not so favorable result. I was pulled at mile 88 due to not making the cut-off, even though I felt great and could have continued. It was a huge blow to my mind and mental thoughts of running ES100 in August.

Needless to say I was moving forward in hopes that I could get myself back in a place and frame of mind to embrace my next adventure. My crew was chosen and after asking them to crew/pace and their acceptance to join the fun we had our Trail Monster team excited and looking to get things going.

I had taken some time off to recover my body but mostly my mind after what I thought was a failure on my part in VA to do the job. That recovery time proved to do well for me. Once my training officially got started for ES100, it was all business. I had run 3 100 mile events prior and come up short of a buckle. For some reason or another, I had missed the “Buckle” 3 times and I was wondering if it would ever happen. ES100 would be “The one”. The event to push myself, work hard, want it more than ever, the race to earn that buckle that has eluded me.

My training would lead me to many adventures with the most amazing friends and teammates a 51 year old ultra runner could have. I had joined my Trail Monster Running teammates at every training run I could possibly be at. The Bradbury, Blackstrap, White Mountain and any other adventure run that was being organized. I wanted to be the first one to reply “I’m In”. I was also fortunate enough to be involved in several crewing/pacing experiences for my teammates which allowed me to watch their incredible tenacity and badassness to get the job done.

The one major change and factor to my training was my nutrition. In past ultras, I had struggled with this. I was not able to eat or drink well and something had to change. I decided to give the Tailwind product a chance this time around. I trained on Tailwind since my race at Massanutten and it was working, it just needed fine tuning before ES100. This product may be the answer for me.

The other major factor that I was conscious about for this training is that I was getting rest. Rest between major training runs, getting to bed early, making sure I was not tired during my training and going into the race.

All of this was critical to my training, although, the one thing that has stood in my mind throughout this preparation for this event was the amazing support, advice and encouraging words I received from my friends and teammates. As they all knew, I am not one for thinking about myself or thinking highly of the running that I do. But that had to change for this event and they knew it!

They worked on my mind systematically, one by one, making statements like “There is no reason you should ever be last in any race you run”, “you need to focus on you”, “You are a great runner but need to believe in yourself”, “You need to get the job done and be selfish for yourself”. All of these statements would prove to be more helpful than anyone will ever know. It is my teammates and friends that I respect as they were bluntly honest and forthcoming with me and it was a major awakening.

I continued through my training until the time grew close to begin thinking about the details with my crew and pacers. Here is where things could have become difficult and stressful.

My Original Crew/Pacers:

Mindy Slovinsky (Squirrel), crew chief, pacer
Pete Slovinsky (Marms), crew, pacer
Tim Pruchnic, crew, possible pacer

A dream team of experienced crew and pacers that any ultra runner would love to have. I was extremely lucky to have them all agree to traveling to only the second running of the ES100 in PA knowing that the success rate from the first running was very low. For some reason, my team had faith in me and knew I could get this done.

The team was set, although, not unlike the ultra running world, not everything goes as planned. Unforeseen issues, life’s events or schedules can throw twists and turns into planning an ultra event. Tim was not able to attend due to unfortunate scheduling so we were going to get this adventure done with just Mindy and Pete. The pacing schedule would be the issue, but Mindy and Pete had worked it out. All was good until the week before the race. An unexpected and unfortunate illness took over Pete. An illness that needed his undivided attention and traveling to PA was not in the cards for him. Pete was very disappointed and sorry he had to back out, but I was not stressed or upset. As with Tim, Mindy or Pete, or any of my friends, their health and well-being is much more important than any event that I am registered for. Pete and I expressed our feelings and then we moved forward. Pete was to get healthy, I was to get back to getting the job done in regards to the race. At this point, I had decided that I would be running solo and Mindy would be my only crew member but I had concerns of this. Mindy would be driving in an unfamiliar place at all hours of the night chasing me from aid station to aid station. This potentially had a bad situation written all over it.

Incredibly enough, Mindy and Pete quickly jumped on the Trail Monster Website and asked for help in replacing Pete and Tim. It wasn’t long after the call went out that a response came back. George and Ann Alexion had stepped forward and said they would make the trip. I’m not entirely sure what Mindy and Pete said to get them to drop everything on such notice but I was ecstatic and relieved to know my crew/pacer team was back to full force, actually, beyond full force. As Mindy stated……..”We have a Squirrel, Jedi and a Princess”, all to assist a Halfbomb to his ultimate goal of earning a buckle”. I had more experience on my side that it was actually overwhelming that there would be no reason a finish wouldn’t happen. Not finishing was NOT an option.

The Final Crew/Pacers:

Mindy Slovinsky (Squirrel), crew chief, (Nazi pacer)
George Alexion (Jedi), crew, pacer (Bitch Slapper)
Ann Alexion (Princess), crew extraordinaire

I can’t express it enough, thank you, thank you, thank you for joining me on this incredible adventure.

A week prior to departing for PA, Mindy and I met at The Scarborough Grounds to discuss last minute things she had compiled in the “Binder”. Squirrel had gathered her nuts and stored them all in her binder. We discussed logistics as a crew chief would do, but I soon realized the real reason we met that day. See, our Squirrel is also a therapist and she was just wanting to make sure my head was right. She asked me questions and the answers I would give needed to be in the right place. This was “My” race, I needed to be selfish, communicate well, not care about anyone else, assess myself often during the run, release anything stressful we leave behind, and recite the “mantra”…..”Do your Job”…..and the one I kept within….”Buckle or die”, which could have actually happened out there, this mantra was compliments of Squatch.

We finished out lunch meeting and now we were ready to go.

Gear preparation:
I had been pulling gear together for about a week prior to the event. I had been placing it on my dining room table, because what else is a dining room table used for but to organize your race gear!!!! Once I was comfortable in what I needed and what I was bringing I then stepped back and asked “How do I make this easy for my crew and pacers?” It needed to be organized, readily accessible and kept dry. Everything made it into plastic bins that were labeled and then into a duffle bag that was easy to carry into the aid stations. The only thing that would be cumbersome would be the Tailwind nutrition mixture that I had premixed. When using Tailwind, it is so much easier as you don’t need to worry about solid food and having it ready for your crew. If you need solids, they can be found at the aid stations.

I won’t bore you with the gear details other than this:

(This is what I used during the run)
Pack: Nathan HPL 020 Race Vest
2 red bandanas (kinda my signature thing but useful to dip into streams and pack ice in)
Trekking poles ($9 specials from Reny’s Dept. Store several years ago)
Inov8 Roclite 295 Trail Running Shoes, for the first 37 miles, more or less
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro Trail Running Shoes, for the remainder of the adventure
Multiple changes of TMR shirts
Many changes of socks, Dry Fit and Darn Tough….(I believe this was the key to my feet being as happy as they were.)

The travel to Waterville, PA:
The plan was to meet at Mindy and Pete’s home at 9:00am and to be in Waterville, PA at roughly 4pm. We would take two vehicles….Halfbombs and Squirrels. We would make several stops along the way and switch up drivers as needed and as we all brought food, there was no need to stop to eat, although, I noticed coffee was a necessity. Conversations were great along the way, many topics and many thoughts. It was great to get to know Jedi and Iron Joe even more as we rode together on this adventure for a good part of the way.

All was going well until running into the back end of some traffic building in CT. at this point I was getting messages from Zak, Beau and others traveling to the race that traffic build up was severe and if we could reroute we should consider doing that. We did manage to reroute but it took us out of the way and it added time to the travel so our arrival time would be later, much later than we had planned. Instead of 4pm we would be closer to 7pm then we would need to rush to the registration area as it closed at 8pm.

It was tough to see Pete waving goodbye as he was originally planned to come with us. It just wasn’t in the cards. Pete we missed you but you were in my thoughts many times while fighting the ultra demons out on that trail.

Arrival in Waterville, PA:
We arrived much later than expected. We were to meet Zak and his crew and family at the cabin for dinner but we were not on time. Zak and his family had graciously invited us all to stay in the cabin that was very near to the start. We had made plans to be there early enough to relax, enjoy the registration, have a great meal together and then get a solid night of sleep. This was not to happen due to the delay in travel. We were rushing to get to the registration before closing, get our information and check in so we were not going to have the relaxing evening as planned, but we made the best of it.

There didn’t seem to be many people at the registration tent as we walked down from the parking lot. We were directed to the registration tent and checked in, handed our incredible swag bags, which were new Osprey running packs filled with hats, socks, gear, food, and other amazing goodies.

Bibs were not handed out until the morning of the race. That seemed odd to me until I realized they were doing it as to assure everyone was to weigh in the morning of. They wrote the weight on the back of the bibs after we weighed in the morning of the race. I would not be utilizing drop bags.

We were checked in and now it was time to head to the cabin, apologize profusely, for being late for dinner. As we walked up the hill back to the cars I can remember the excitement I felt as I looked up at the mountains that surrounded the start area. The thought that ran through my mind was…”Now this is my kind of terrain, mountainous”, but little did I really know how mountainous or technical it would be!

As we got near the cars, I hear Mindy explain that taking your photo under the finish sign before a race is bad luck…..I decided not to have my picture under the sign whether it be a start or finish banner, I t wasn’t going to chance it, I wanted no reason for bad luck.

Our arrival at the cabin was quick and furious. We walked in carrying our gear and belongings, found a room, set up, then said hello to everyone, had dinner (yummy Lasagna that Zak’s mom had made and homemade pesto on bread that Joe brought), chatted for a short time, went over the gear situation again and then to bed for some rest.

It was hot and humid and getting a good nights sleep was difficult. The heat of the night just contributed to my nerves and I slept on and off, but enough hopefully to feel rested in the morning. I think Joe slept well as he never made a sound and thought I should check on him to make sure he was still breathing, man, he sleeps quietly.

We would be up at 4am.

Race Day:

Its 3:30am and I sit hear waiting for the alarm to go off. I decide to get up and try not to wake every one. I make my usual English muffins with peanut butter for breakfast and await for others to stir around. Everyone is up and getting ready as we plan to be at the start to collect our bibs, weigh in and await the start. I don’t usually get nervous before these running events, but this time I can sense the tension in the air. I’m sensing it is the unknown to come that creates the tension as Zak and Joe are accomplished ultra runners and have no reason to be nervous. The tension quickly changes to confidence and the look of men carrying their lunches and heading to work…’s time to get this job done.

The crews are checking and double checking to make sure we have everything and we are all set and feeling strong and ready. It is here I am feeling fortunate and thankful that I have my crew and friends to share this event. As we all walk out to the cars to drive to the start, I remember looking at everyone thinking….”Will I see Zak or Joe during the days to come”, “I hope my crew will be comfortable and I have gone over everything I needed to”, that would be the last time I would think any of those thoughts as it was time to put my game face on and think about myself.

We load the cars and drive to the start. The sight of all the other runners weighing in, mulling around, going through their own prep, discussing how they will run has settle my mind. I stayed away from it all and gathered my own thoughts and made mental notes of how I was feeling at that moment, how happy I was to be there and how ready the crew looked.

I walk up to the Registration tent and ask for my bib….”Name” they ask…..”Rodrigue”……I am handed number “142”…..I step to the side and then weigh in. I am at 176.3lbs, the heaviest I’ve ever been for any race as I’ve never weighed over 175lbs. No problem, I’m going to need that weight today. They write my weight on the back of my bib and I am directed to the start line. Ann looks at Joe and I and says….”Those are nice even numbers guys, you are going to do well today”. Not sure how she knew, but she did!

The RD made a few announcements but to be honest I never heard one of them as I was already getting myself in the zone. Most of what I was hearing around me sounded similar to the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon…..wahh wahh wahh, balah, blahh wahh, wwwwwahhhhh.

“10 minutes to start”, rings out in the air. I feel the calmness run through me as I had thoughts of not going out to fast. Joe and I had discussed his DNF from last year and he contributed it to going out to fast so I kept mindful of this.

We gather near the start, We see Carolyn, Corey, Laura and say hello and make introductions. Soon the call of “2 minutes to start” is heard. I check my gear one last time. Head lamp – check, trekking poles – check, hydration pack – check, mentally – check. The time is near, We hug and wish good luck. I will see the crew at mile 17.5 miles, which at the time seemed a long time away to see them again. The cheers begin and all of a sudden feel relaxed and calm. It was as though all had stood still for a split second. I'm already thinking about what I need to do before getting to the first aid station....I need to "Do my job".

5:00am…..5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, the cheers, the load whistles, off we go. We run down the gravel road for a short distance, but as we make the turn out of  the park I hear the cheers "Go Trail Monsters", that was perfect. I catch up to Joe and we run together for a bit but then lose him shortly before the camp ground. We then turn into the camp ground and then finally onto a knarly single track trail. Here is where it all began. Conga lines formed quickly, pace slowed to a walk or crawl at times. It was difficult to pass larger groups of runners but everyone was good with allowing faster runners to pass but one had to be careful not to get sucked into passing to quickly or nervously. This could be detrimental as the race went on so I really didn’t mind following for a bit.
My thoughts were clear. I thought about who of these runners I am passing would I see at the finish and who might drop! All I knew is this was "my day", my race and I was going to get my job done and I would keep telling myself that until I crossed that finish line.

It was hear idle chit chat had begun for some runners, maybe to settle nerves!!!. I had decided prior to the race that I would NOT get caught up in any idle chit chat or especially any negative chit chat. As you all may know, this was going to be extremely difficult for me as I am a talker and enjoy meeting people but this race it just can’t happen. I began dropping those that were too talkative and possibly slowing me or making me pace faster. My focus was selfish and centered. Time to go to work John I said to myself…..

 Here are my recollections of the run in total……AS to AS

Start Little Pine State Park 0.0....the trail from here to AS1 was roughly 2 miles of gravel road where I didn't even need to turn on my headlamp as the light of others kept the road lit. We then got to the campground at the back side of the campground we found ourselves at the base of a narrow stairway then bumps similar to Bradbury type technical trails. This is where the bottle neck began. it was slow and tedious trying to pass others so I took several minutes to check my elevation chart and noticed we had a huge climb coming so I prepared my Wizard Sticks for the long haul. I was happy I took care of it there as I was ready for the 1100" climb ahead. The first of many grueling climbs. Soon the sun would be appearing and headlamps were turned off. The sunlight was a boost and seeing the trail beauty in the daylight was incredible.

AS1 Ramsey Road….5.6 from the start. I did not stop at this AS. I decided as I approached I had plenty of Tailwind and I was feeling good, comfortable and focused. I blew through this aid as well. The climb was fast and fun but I'm not getting too comfortable as my chart shows much more to come. the descent was the first to test my quads and how they were feeling from taking an entire week off from running prior to the race. I found myself feeling like a child descending and passed those that were being cautious. My quads felt great and ready for some punishment. The trails were nicely marked and visible , although, technical. Loose rock and shale, and very steep which would end up being the theme  this course. My first test of my normal compassion was tested. I found myself behind a woman wearing the Barefoot Ted Sandler and really struggling, falling 3-4 times and hurting herself. As Mindy and I had discussed, it was NOT my job to help them, so I asked if she was ok and then stepped to her side and ran past her. I never saw her again.

I think it was here that I was running with Joe for a bit and as we passed a female runner she calls out….”hey, are you John”….”Yes, I’m John”…..”I’m Suzanna, Signe’s friend, she will be pacing me later”…..”Oh geeez, hey Suzanna, very nice to meet you”…. I shook her hand and wished her well and continued on my way.

AS2 Ramsey 11 miles from the start. Again I was very mindful of how I was feeling and what I had for fluids and nutrition and felt like stopping here would be a waste, so I blew through this aid station. There was another major climb here after the aid station. It was steady and long and very technical. It was a tough and grueling climb so I took a few minutes once I crested the summit as there were a couple of runners that appeared from my right, which was off course and it confused me for a second, they were talking about the incredible view just off the trail so I decided to check it out. It was worth the few minutes as it was an incredible view of the valley and the roadway below. We then had a descent which followed a side ridge along the mountain that was kind of dicey. Mountain to one side, steep drops to the river on the other. It gave the sense of unbalance and need of good foot placement and concentration so that slipping and falling would not happen. The descent was fast and had some very steep sections that Joe had warned mw about. It was so steep that grabbing onto trees and using my wizard sticks was very useful. I was already beginning to feel the quad pounding but the climbs gave a bit of relief from the pounding. The first crew aid station is near. There was a short climb to the new building at the top of a paved road. I can hear the crew calling my name. I whistle and send out a call out. It was awesome to hear and see them as it seemed to be a long way to run before seeing them. They are ready for me. I can feel my excitement grow, I'm ready to see them and excited to tell them how good I feel. I had decided that ice in my bandanna, water, IBPro is what I needed. I don't want to stick around long so I concentrated on getting through the aid station quickly. The one thing I did notice at this aid station is Lenka, Sarah, Emma and Zak's parents are there. This could only mean one of two things.....they stuck around to see me into the aid station or Zak is not that far ahead which got me excited and concerned at the same time. Was I running too fast at the beginning or was Zak taking it easy? Either way I had to wipe that from my mind as this was about ME and MY race today and not anyone else’s or to get wrapped up in where others were on the course. I was in and out of the aid quickly and Mindy informed me of what was ahead for time, terrain and when I would see them next. It would be over 19 miles until I see them again and 6.5 miles to the next aid. We had discussed I didn't want to know of pace, placement, time....just wanted to know miles and terrain ahead. Well, time only if I was losing time and chasing cut-offs. I knew I was in way ahead of this cut-off and wanted to keep banking time, so it was time to get back to work.

AS3 Lower Pine Bottom 17.5 in (Crew Access)…. I walked out a few yards with George while saying thanks to Ann and Mindy and waving to the other crews and spectators. I was feeling absolutely great at this point and confident that this was getting done. As I was leaving the crew, Mindy told me that I had 3 major climbs before seeing them again and to stay steady and I was doing great. To hear those words gave me energy and confidence. It was at this point that I needed to listen to the crew and take their words close and dear as it would be what carries me through.

There were many streams along the way. I mention that because it was beginning to get very hot with the sun rising higher. Even though we were in the shade and wooded areas, the temps were beginning to concern runners. I could hear them chatting about how hot it was but did not engage in that negativity. I carry red bandana’s for several reasons. I always have one pulled through the loops of my vest loop and one in my vest pocket. The one on the loop serves as a flag so the crew knows it’s me and it flaps in the wind as I run and helps keep the insects away. The other is always wet as I stop at every stream crossing and ring it out and wipe myself down. I wipe my face, head, neck and arms. This always makes me feel so good and refreshed along with filling my hat with cool water and letting it soak my head. The climbs and descents out of AS3 were not as bad as I had expected. I was feeling good and managing my body well. I was drinking steadily and consistently and the Tailwind was working for me. I was taking sips every few minutes and at this point I have not eaten any solids or feel like having any.

There were some great very runnable sections in this section. There were a few fenced in areas, the 10-12’ tall fencing typically used to keep deer out of an area. I learned after the race that these areas are called Bigfoot Pens. Running alongside these fences was interesting as it gave the sense of what is being kept out or what might be kept IN. I was always being mindful of bears and rattle snakes as that could end your day quickly if encountered. These runnable areas were so amazingly beautiful. They were selectively harvested areas with tall trees with high canopy and 3-4’ tall ferns on the forest floor that seemed to extend for as far as the eye could see. Often I would see birds fly from one side of the trail to the other as I approached. It almost seemed heavenly. I am forgetting where Joe caught up to me as we played cat and mouse for a while. I think we may have met here prior to this AS. As I arrived at AS4 I grabbed water, checked my fluids, wiped down and off I went. Back to work.

 AS4 Browns Run 24.7 miles….I don’t remember a lot of this next section other than the drainage ditches that had been cut across the trails to move water. These were roughly 1 ½’ – 2’ deep and appeared roughly every 150’+. It was on a descent and while you could run fairly fast it was cumbersome to run over these ditches…..

Joe and I ran together for some time. We had little chatting as we were climbing a lot. I do remember we were at an aid station at roughly the same time at this point. The aid stations, for the most part, were great. It was always awesome to see happy faces and cheers for the runners. It was at this aid station that I saw a gentleman that was there as medical staff. He was very attentive and asking lots of questions. I asked for duct tape and he tried to get me to use Mole Skin as he couldn’t find the duct tape, but it was duct tape for me and he seemed baffled by that!!!! I took a moment to look at my profile chart, it was a long steady, but not too steep of a climb from here for roughly 6 miles with seemingly no breaks so I got myself mentally prepared. I had mixed more Tailwind, had a full bladder, took in lots of water, trekking poles are good to go…..let’s get this bitch of a climb in the past.

I met up with Christopher along this stretch. I think I found someone that likes to talk more than I do while running. Christopher was a runner I met at Wapack and Back this year. He was helping out at an aid station. He is an accomplished runner but I just didn’t want to get wrapped up in conversations so I listened for a short time and moved on. I could feel him trying to keep with my pace, but that was exactly what I didn’t want to happen was to get wrapped up in that shit. I ran into him one other time but just kept moving quickly to drop him.

AS5 Happy Dutchman 30.5 miles….Wow, that was a hell of a long steady climb. Great trails, but holy shit. This was the first time asking myself if I could keep doing this all day. My minds thoughts had changed and I was thinking things like….”Did I leave enough food for the neighbor to feed the dog”…..”I wonder what the weather is like back home”… know, the stupid shit you think when you’re many hours into an ultra race, but I had to get that shit out of my head and get back to my job.

The one thing I remember is when I started seeing the trail markings in my peripheral vision. They were almost ghost like. Are they real or not real! I remember seeing the orange flags hanging from trees but not really looking at them, seeing the orange flags on the ground wondering if they had been knocked off the limbs and whether I should tie them back on the trees!!!! I did not stop to tie any back up, although, I did stop to pick up some trash that a runner ahead of me was throwing to the ground. It was really pissing me off. I picked up 4-6 GU wrappers and was planning to hand them back to him at the next aid station but I never caught up to him there. This section to the aid station had what seemed to be wider trails that may be used for ATV’s or Snowmobiles. It was good running and pretty steady. There were times where I would go into a run/power hike mode. Run between 2-3 flags, power hike between 2. This allowed me to cool off and regain some energy that the heat seemed to be taking away. I was close to the AS, YESSSSSS, I hear them calling my name, I give a hoot in excitement, so happy to see them right now. GAWD, I love my friends.

AS6 Ritchie Road 36.5 (Crew Accesss)….This aid station was awesome. The walk on clouds station. I had developed some issues with my right foot so as I approached the AS I had decided I needed to change my shoes. I felt like I barked at the crew that I wanted my New Balance shoes, change of socks, duct tape, new clean shirt, water and check my pack. I needed to get my feet squared away and felt it was urgent. The crew was amazing as they had everything ready to go. They helped me untie my shoes, take my socks off, had water with ice ready and packed my bandana with ice.

The Inov8’s did their job up to this point. They were great to get my feet under me and keep good footing through some tough technical areas, but it was time to get more cushioning and relief from the hard, jagged, constant foot pounding technical trails.

Mindy let me know that the next section is very runnable and partially on a powerline!!! Oh boy, it’s going to be exposed and hot is what I thought. OK, embrace it and get it done. I am told I will see the crew again in roughly 5 miles…..AWESOME.
A change of socks, shirt, bandana felt like a blessing. Just before I headed back on the trail, George poured a cold cup of water and ice down my back and it felt heavenly….at the same time Ann was walking with me and handed me another cold cup of water…..ahhhhhh. George asked if he should be ready at the next AS as I could pick up a pacer if needed at that point but I was feeling good and asked that he be ready and we could decide then.
Mindy directed me to the area I needed to go and walked with me and I remember the words “John, you’re kicking ass, keep doing your job, you’re doing great, we will see you again soon”. This gave me great comfort and I was feeling very fortunate to have her as my crew chief.

I walked a short distance and then broke into a run and realized it felt like I was running on clouds. The New Balance trail shoes felt so soft and wonderful. I sent out a huge “wahooooooo, these shoes are awesome and feel so good” I could hear the crew laugh and send back a hoot.

Well, this section was possibly one of the hottest sections as it was exposed in the powerline and had not much reprieve at all until we crossed to the opposite side and turned into the woods and then a descent into a hollow. It was difficult to run fast on these descents as the loose shale made the footing questionable but I ran as fast and often as I could. It seemed that the quad pounding had numbed my legs enough that it didn’t hurt as bad.
During this time, I had to be evaluating myself as George would be looking for an answer as to whether he would be needed to pace. I wanted to be clear and honest as I met the crew again.

This is one of my favorite photos of all time. It really expresses the bond between runner and crew.

AS7 Hyner Run 40.9 miles (Crew Access)….I arrive and see the crew again, that seemed to go fairly quickly as it was a descent to get to them. I was happy to see them and they had things ready to go. Mindy packed my Headlamp and it seemed the crew had made the decision for me that a pacer was not needed until we got to Mile 51.8 AS. I was perfectly good with that decision and happy they were accessing me and making that decision. I did feel bad as George was ready to go. Sorry George.

It will be 7+ miles to the next AS which is non-crew and it was a climb to start which has pretty much been the theme of this run. Meet the crew, then climb your ass off…..

I believe it was in this stretch that Joe and I met up again and we had some pretty good running sections but it was hot and some areas were exposed. This may have been the areas where we crossed the fenced in areas where the rangers had open the Man Gates in the fence for us to pass through. This area inside the fence was spectacular and beautiful. There were many yellow blazes on these trails but it is the orange we want to follow.

I believe this was the AS where the random two young ladies approached me and just stood there! I looked at them and asked….”Who are you?”….they responded “We are from such n such a college”… comment was “And what the hell does that mean to me”. I kind of feel bad for that now as I think they were there to help but they had no social adequate skills as to how to approach a tired, weiry and focused Ultra runner…..hahahahaha… was time to get my head back to my work. After the crew took great care of me, I was out of there, there was not hanging around and the crew nudged me on.

Again Lenka and Sarah were at this AS. I wanted to ask how Joe and Zak were doing but knew I couldn’t let my mind get into that. I had to focus and concentrate on myself, be selfish.

I had run across Joe’s path again somewhere in this stretch. We had done a few miles together. I came up on Joe as he was moving fairly slowly on the climbs. I hiked behind him for a bit and then felt I needed to keep pressing on so I moved ahead and cruised up the next climb. By the time I reached the top he was nowhere in my sights.

I wished him well in my mind and sent out strong vibes his way and put my head down and started working again. Knowing Iron Joe, I had in my mind that I would see him again after he got his second wind.

Feeling good here, getting info from the crew and getting my day of work in.

AS8 Dry Run 48.3 miles….Leaving this AS it was out of a camp ground, I think. It’s all getting a bit fuzzy as to what I remember. What I remember is a gravel road for a very short time and then getting back on the technical single track areas. 3.5 miles to the next Crew AS. It seems so short compared to what we’ve had already between crew access points. There were lots of blazes on the trails along with the orange flags and arrows that were placed along the way. The orange flagging was consistent but the signs were sometimes of different size and color…..some only 7”x7” black on green arrows, others larger 1.5’x8” red on white arrows. The blazes were of all colors, white, blue, orange but I remember what the RD stated. Follow the arrows and orange flagging and don’t panic if you don’t always see an orange flag ahead, some are spaced out. Turns were marked with 2 flags or arrows, very easy to follow in the day time hours.

I was ready for night fall and darkness after leaving the last AS, just in case I slow up. But I didn’t really want to start running through the night without George by my side. I really wanted to get in to mile 51.8 before darkness to see George. I was getting tired and needed him as it would give me the boost I needed. New conversation, new life.

AS9 Halfway House 51.8 miles (Crew Access) (Picked up George as Pacer)…. It’s odd, I have a very hard time remembering this AS and what was happening here. I don’t recall time, happenings or time here. I realize that this may have been the time I began getting tired. Not sure.

I want to remember as I know Ann and Mindy had taken great care of me and got George ready to go, it pains me to think I don’t remember this AS stop.

All I know is George was ready. I do remember having great conversation with him. I explained what I had resorted to in the areas where it was good running. I had decided that it was too early to run constantly and I had been doing an alternating run/power hike between flags and it was working well but I wanted to run as much as I could. After seeing Jamie at Vermont and his comment of being able to run in the entire distance, it was my goal to do the same.

George had joined in for the next 26.4 miles, yup George and I ran a trail marathon together and he was a rock. Well, of course he did a little bitch slapping to get me back to earth and getting my job done.

It was 9.1 miles to the next fully stocked and manned AS, crew AS

AS10 Callahan Run 56.5 miles (just water and Gatorade here)….we did not stop for long here.

We had had 2 good descents on the rough technical trails with sounds of streams, waterfalls and rivers in the air but we couldn’t see them due to the pitch black darkness. Once and awhile we were close enough to see the waterfalls without headlamps but it was limited. I kept thinking how beautiful the streams and waterfalls must be, but had to focus so much on my footing as the shale and rocks were rugged and loose. I remember George falling backwards a few times and catching himself after slipping on the shale.

There were sections of steep hollows that were very rocky and technical. We ran on what seemed to be very narrow, maybe 1’ wide trails that were on the side of the mountain. They were pitched downhill and gave a sense of uneasy footing and if you faltered you would plummet to the bottom on the slope and due to the darkness, we had no idea how deep a drop it actually was. There were lots of blown down trees in this section that had be cut out of the trail where it was like passing through a doorway as it was only the width of the trail they were cut out!

This 9.1 stretch was by far the longest stretch in my mind. It seemed like it took us forever to get to the next AS. I remember asking George several times if we were close. He always seemed to know what to say. He never really ever gave me a straight answer, instead, he gave me words of encouragement and advice as to what to do to keep myself focused. He continually asked me to give him what I could, to run the runnable parts. I tried to do what he asked of me but realized there were times I just needed to power hike. He went along with that but would press the hiking as well.

Some of George’s statements….

“John, this is nothing, just a walk in the park”
“Come on John, we are just power hiking, let’s go”
“Stop your complaining or I will have to bitch slap you”
“oops, watch your footing”
“John, do you realize how incredible it is we have not been passed once since we have been out here together”

We discussed our next events and George was dead set on me doing something with more climbing. He is a firm believer that if you do a 100 with 20,000’ of vert. the next one should be much more. At the time I wasn’t convinced, well, and maybe I’m still not convinced.

Unfortunately I had begun having some issues with dry heaving after picking up George. No, it wasn’t due to George….hahahaha. He and I discussed what might have changed and the only thing we could come up with is the fact that we had switched over to the caffeinated Tailwind!!! We had to figure it out as I was heaving pretty good as I felt I had something hanging in the back of my throat and it was making me gag and heave. We decided to go with just water for a bit so we knew I needed to carry water from here on out and we had Mindy and Ann change out my current pack with straight, Naked, Tailwind. In the meantime, until we saw the crew again,  I would take the caffeinated blend in and chase it with water, that seemed to work better. The heaving was minimal at that point. The caffeinated blend was different, it had a different taste and feeling to it. We gave up on it and decided that I would need to supplement with anything I could get my hands on at the AS with caffeine in it. I also found that I needed some solid food, not much but something. I supplemented the Tailwind with hot soup and noodles that tasted sooooo good. I even had a few slices of quesadilla. I had some food with me but I wasn’t ready or wanting to eat Honey Stinger Waffles or a peanut butter cup or take any gels. It was going to have to be AS food that was available and looked good.

AS11 Slate Run 60.9 miles (Crew Access)….This AS was very busy. So many people. I couldn’t figure out if it was due to many crews being there waiting for their runners or because their runners had dropped and were just hanging out. There was a building nearby and Sarah mentioned that the bar had just closed and those inside came out to watch the runners. When she said “Bar”, I wanted to drink a beer so badly I could almost taste it. It would have been great to drink something other than Tailwind at that moment…..oh wait…..Ahhhh yes, this is the Coffee AS. This would be the first time I have EVER tried to drink coffee. George knew I was tired and needed caffeine so he grabbed a full cup of black coffee. I tried it and it was the most disgusting thing I have ever drank in my life. Lenka and Sarah were at this AS along with the crew and they all had to hear me ask…..”How the hell do you people drink this shit, it’s putrid”.

I sat here to change my socks, check my duct tape and reapply if needed and get a new shirt. I asked Ann to rinse my bandana with new clean water as I had done so many times before. She came back with a clean bandana and many cups of fresh cold water. I was impressed as to how she was reading my mind now, it was like clockwork. I remember thinking her trail name is “Princess” but it really should be “Angel” as she was appearing to me as angel from heaven in the way she just knew what I needed or wanted. While I was rushing to get my shit together and get the hell out of there, Sarah and Lenka were also helping and offering help. I said if I wasn’t so smelly and sweaty I would give them a kiss and a hug. Well, to my surprise, Sarah leaned towards me and puckered her lips as to just touch mine and not get all sweaty. Thanks for the encouragement kiss Sarah.

George and Mindy were all over it at this aid station, I could feel that they knew I couldn’t sit there for very long and I knew it too. George looks at me and says….”Guzzle that coffee and let’s get out of here”….down it went and off into the darkness we headed. The crowd erupted as though other had come into the aid station but never made it out…..”Go runner”…..”You’re my hero” are the things I heard.

Even though we were in the darkness of night and the sun had fallen below the horizon, it was still fairly hot and humid, but so much more bearable and tolerant. I was still looking forward to every stream or river to rinse that bandana as to have a cool wet wipe to wash the sweat and salt off my face neck and arms. It was amazing how awesome it felt every time I did that.

I don’t think George knew, but I kept looking at my elevation profile chart to check as to where we were and what we had ahead…..

Now somewhere in this section, George and I discussed how far until the next AS we had. This is where I kind of lost it and George had to do some getting me back down to earth. He mentioned that there should be an AS in 6 +/- miles, but I knew we had run farther than that. I was getting pissed and asking ….”Where the Fuck is that Aid Station George”. I think he realized that there wasn’t one. I think he did the best thing he could do and said….”John, forget the aid station and stop your complaining, let’s do some running”. I got a bit pissy again and told him I was looking forward to that aid station. He said “Let’s do some running”….I responded….”George, I went into a bad place after realizing that aid station isn’t going to happen, I need to just power hike for a bit and get my mind back in a good place, just give me a bit”. He was great, I felt him go into a power hike, but I could feel he was pushing the pace to keep me moving swiftly. After a short time he asked again….”John, do you want to do some running”…..I responded simply with and “Ok”. This would happen from time to time. I would tell George I need to power hike a bit, he would do it but keep the pace at a fast power hike, at times gaining distance between us that made me feel I needed to move faster to catch him. I’m not sure that was his intention, but it worked.

There were lots of stream crossings along the way in this section. Many side sloped areas that wore on the feet, lots of technical areas with loose rock and shale. What was difficult was there were areas that would appear we could do some running for a good stretch but only to realize the stretch was only 100’ or less. That’s one bad thing about running in the dark. You just can’t see far enough ahead to see what is coming.

Somewhere in this section, George and I were descending into a hollow and running on some unstable ground but when we approached the bottom there seemed to be this massive wall ahead of us on the trail. I asked George what it was, he responded….”A big rock”. He wasn’t kidding. It was literally the only somewhat smooth boulder in the entire run. Most everything else was shale ledge that was 1-2” thick shale pieces on top of each other forming ledge areas, but this “Rock” was actually the size of a small ship. It was roughly 20’ tall and 100’ + in length and in the dark was a massive darkness on the trail. We ran beside it for a short ways and then turned off, but it was impressive and totally seemingly out of place.

AS12 Algerines 66.7 miles…. I’m not sure how long I have been awake but I was still sleepy and this was no place to be sleepy. I told George that I was getting tired and felt like I was running while sleeping. I think he sensed the urgency as he stopped and offered me a chocolate treat he had picked up at the previous aid station. The chocolate treat was called a “Wake”. It was supposed to have caffeine that equaled a half a cup of coffee. Since I love chocolate, this was truly a heavenly treat. I ate it like it was my last meal. That treat seemed to work well, within ½ hour I felt an energy I hadn’t felt in a while, how long would it last and did it really matter. Well, eventually it wore off and I got tired again. George knew what to do. He pulled this tall coffee flavored energy drink that he had in his pack!. First things first, what the hell was he doing carrying a large heavy energy drink with him out in this dark, dangerous, lonely wilderness???? Seriously, what the hell! He popped it open and it made me laugh as it sounded just like a PBR being opened around a campfire, seriously, this was perfect if you know George.

Needless to say, I drank and gulped as much as I could only because he told me to. Again, this drink was very disgusting. I realized shortly after that George felt the same as he was pouring it out and said …. “You’re right this shit is awful”…..he then crushed the can like a redemption center worker, shoved it in his pack and never missed a stride.

The long rocky hollow descents through this area were brutal for this late in a run. I kept thinking come on John, suck it up. Your quads are going to be toast no matter how fast or slow you run. This was also another of Georges famous quotes as we ran….”It doesn’t matter how fast or slow we run it has the same effect on your quads so you may as well run”….he was right. It was here I wondered if he was starting to feel the effects of these steep rocky fast hollow descents, these downs were utterly brutal, just brutal and never seemed to end. They went on forever. I always figured the reward at the bottom of the hollow would be a stream to refresh in, and it was always there.

AS13 Long Branch 73.2 miles…. I never discussed this with George and this will be the first he hears of this, but I was holding back a bit as I wanted to be strong and be able to do some running with Mindy in the last 22 miles. I know it may not have been the best idea at the time but it was what I had in my mind. I wanted to show Mindy I was not totally wasted and had to power hike it to the finish. I had done this to Jamie when he paced me at Vermont and I wasn’t going to do it to Mindy.

I was finding that light running the downs gave me a reprieve and I was stronger for the climbs. George was a rock, positive, encouraging and consistent in letting me know what he thought I could and couldn’t do. I was really appreciating his timing as to when to talk and when not to. We had many discussions along the way. We had one more major climb , which was pretty gradual and then another drop into a rocky hollow. Man those drops were brutally unforgiving.

You will all get a kick out of this because it is my MO. We got a bit confused a few times. The trail was not exactly marked clearly. It was a bit foggy and misty for a good part of this stretch with George. We had to stop and check the trail to make sure we were good. Just a couple of minor Oops.

There was another time when I started to complain about the mist in the air and not being able to see shit. George quickly headed that off by threatening to drop me. Hahahaha.

There was also a point in this time with George that I can’t remember what mile we were at that George was ahead of me and must have run right over a rattle snake because as I approached where he was I almost stepped on the rattle snake. I did a quick studder step and jumped to the side of the trail and yelled…”Holy Shit”. George says….”Are you all right”….”Jesus George, it’s a rattle snake, I think you ran right over it”….”Ahhh, they won’t hurt you”…..Holy shit George, the hair on my arms is standing straight up, that scared the shit out of me, it hissed and rattled at me”…..”well, it’s no big deal let’s keep running”…..

We got down the trail another mile or so and my heart rate finally came down so I asked George this questions….”What would you have done if I got bit by that snake”…..he responded very seriously…..”I would have buried you deep”…..then later said he would not have carried me out…..hahahahaha, got to love your pacers honesty. We did not see any other snakes.

We had reached the trail that descended to the next aid station where I will picking up Mindy. This trail was tough. It was on the side of the mountain and had a side slope and was very similar to other mountain side trails except this one was steeper and had more shale to deal with. At this point every step sent and angering and nagging shot of vibration through my quads…..OMG, is George feeling this too?, he’s not saying anything. Well, if he’s ok, then I should be ok…..just focus on getting to the crew I told myself. Just stop thinking bad shit and get to that aid station.

We arrived in the darkness. We came out of the woods onto a gravel road and heard a guy holler ahead …..”Runner”, the clapping began, but it was not very many people. Then I heard Mindy and Ann….”Here they are, it’s this way, let’s get you what you need and get you out as fast as we can”. I’m having a hard time remembering everything that happened here. I think I changed my shirt, new socks, checked the duct tape. I wanted to make sure I was good to go to the end. We have 22 miles to go and the sun would be coming up.
I gave George as much of a hug as he would allow and gave Ann a huge hug and thanked her for her help and we were directed to the AS tent where I got a bit of solid food and coke to drink for the caffeine and then we were back to work.

I took some mental time for a few minutes to recite the mantra….”Do you job”….”Buckle or die”…..

Ok Mindy let’s get this shit done……

AS14 Blackwell 78.2 miles (Crew)(Picked up Mindy as Pacer)….Ok, Mindy, here we go. I’m happy to see you and ready for your energy. I could tell Mindy was ready to get some running in and do her part as pacer so I didn’t want to disappoint her. I reached deep down to muster up everything I had. We have 22 miles of terrain to battle so let’s focus. It’s 4.4 miles to the next aid station. I feel surprisingly good at the moment.

We left the AS and were directed to a metal bridge that was kind of funky, you couldn’t see below due to the darkness and the metal was spread apart enough that it made you feel unstable. I asked Mindy to run ahead as her headlamp was so much brighter than mine and it caused a shadow in my path while running. Once she moved ahead all was good.and I could actually see what was coming and could be ready for it.

We had some good steady climbs in this stretch. I had discussed with Mindy that I want to run as much of the runnable areas as possible but the climbs were going to be a fast power hike at a speed I could maintain without crashing. She agreed to go with that.

The climbs and descents here did not seem as brutal of rocky, but came along with their own difficulties. We had a few good streams and water crossings. Mindy was being mindful of how tired I might be and warned me of loose footing, slippery areas, wet crossings and any hazards.

I remember lots of orange blazes on this section, but Mindy was on it and following the flagging. Mindy and I began our small chats, fun stuff, anything to keep my mind off the time or hurt. It was working, time seemed to move along. It was still dark and I was growing tired again and mentioned to Mindy I will need more caffeine at the next aid station and if they had any of those “Wake” chocolate treats to pick up a few treats for me. She kept telling me to be patient ….”The sun would be coming up soon and it will be like a breath of fresh air and give you energy”

We reach the AS with little trouble. Mindy is on a mission as we will not see the crew until the end now. She is on a mission to get me in and out of the aid stations. We discuss what I want or need prior to getting there and we quickly get what we need and get the hell out of there. I feel badly at times that these great people have volunteered and have been there all hours just waiting for runners to appear and we just blow right through. I compromise and make sure I say my, thank you’s, as I head through.

This next stretch is a long one. We won’t see and AS for a long time.

AS15 SkyTop 82.6 miles….The sun had risen and new life had come as Mindy promised. We had waited for the first birds to sing as that would be a sign of the morning and we finally heard them and it was the ultra music any runner loves to hear.  My legs felt energized and it was great to be able to see without the headlamps. It was great to see the colors in the distance and the smells of the morning sunrise. This section was amazing. Both Mindy and I were impressed at the beauty of the wide well maintained grassy road. The woods were majestic and had vast areas of fern growth that were incredible. It was a long steady climb but it was good running when we were running. I was running as much as I could before feeling like I was tacking myself and had to power hike to maintain energy to run again.

This road was amazing, it went on forever. It was here that while we were running we were chatting on occasion and we both heard some grunting and it wasn’t coming from either of us. This road was very remote, almost scary remote. The grunting we heard was Deep and hollowing. We realized that it was a bear sounding out and letting us know we were in their territory. We heard it several times but just kept doing our thing. What Mindy didn’t realize is I was looking over my shoulder every so often making sure we weren’t being followed or hunted. We joked for a bit and were talking to the bears and telling them that we were ultra runners and had no meat on our bones and we were very thin, sweaty and dirty and we wouldn’t make a good meal at all. This may have been our way to fight off the fear that we were being watched.

Mindy did well to encourage my efforts, although, I felt I needed to apologize for how slow I was moving at times. She was always positive to say….”Hey, this is your race John, you’re doing awesome, just keep it up”. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how much running I was doing or not doing. I just know when she mentioned there was a runnable part I tried to run as much as possible. There were a few climbs and descents but I just tried to block the downs out, just get through them, we are almost home and we can rest. There was a moment in this section where Mindy and I had a special moment to curse my recent Massanutten100 non-finish. I had asked Mindy to let me know when we got to mile 88, exactly. It was mile 88 I was pulled at Massanutten due to not making the cut-off time for mile 88 aid station at the picinic area. My thought was to stop and give a celebratory F-U to my Massanutten failure and keep moving to the ES finish line. It really was a burst of energy. Not that Massanutten was due to my own failures in that race, but it felt good to know I was not going to be pulled due to time. I was not going to make my same errors twice.

Barrens AS finally arrived. We did not sit or waste time, got water, some solid food like noodles, coke and then pressed on. I can’t remember if it was this AS or the next where we got into the tent area and the volunteers immediately offered me to sit down and pointed out a chair. Mindy was very quick to say….”Nope, he is NOT going to sit down”. The volunteers seemed surprised. Then they witnessed her forcing me to take noddles, drink and food……This is where she earned the title….”Nazi Pacer”. I told the volunteers they had no idea. 


We soon got the hell out of there before they offered me a beer and to sit at the fire going. Mindy says….”Ok, down that and let’s go”

AS16 Barrens 91 miles….I can feel it now, I feel good, I feel the finish but trying not to get too excited as its still just under 10 miles to go. This stretch was very beautiful as well. Nice roads and what seemed to be either ATV, snowmobile or an old railroad trail. These are very gradual ups and downs compared to what we had in the beginning. But my legs are weiry and tired so regardless of the terrain it was tough. One more aid station Mindy tells me. From the last aid station we only have 3.8 miles to the finish and it is downhill.

It was going to be just getting to that AS and get what we need and bring this empty hay cart home. As we are approaching the aid station I can hear voices but can’t tell where it’s coming from. “Mindy I hear voices, are we near the aid station”….”I heard then too, but I don’t think we are that close to hear voices”. Well, the voices came from behind us and these two runners were cruising. I was totally amazed as to how fast they were moving. “Mindy, how the hell can they be moving that fast so late in the race”….”They must have found their second wind”. Well, I didn’t say it to her, but I wanted some of that second wind.

I put my head down and told myself that this is my race and just keep moving and do what Mindy tells you to do. She was encouraging me to run as much as possible and just keep moving forward. There was one point where Mindy stopped and told me to go ahead as she had to pee and would catch up to me. I kept moving as fast as I could. It seemed like it took a while and I was beginning to worry a bit until I heard her footsteps behind me. She laughed and said holy shit you are cruising, it was hard for me to catch you! That really gave me a boost in the fact that I wasn’t moving as slow as I thought I was.

We can hear voices again, a guys voice yelling in the distance, but hard to make out what he’s saying. As we get closer we realize it is the aid station and there is someone just yelling random things. I wish I could remember what he was yelling. I think it was stuff like….”We love you Runners”….or just “Runners”. Well, when we got into the AS the guy was a big guy and wearing a kilt and from what Mindy said reeked of alcohol and obviously was hammered. Hahahahaha,but having a good time. He was very helpful and great to see so close to the finish. Needless to say once we got there they volunteers were very happy and excited to see us. We grabbed what we needed, said our thanks and goodbyes and headed to the arch that obviously was lit up during the night.

3.7 miles to go, that’s just a 5k right? Mindy, yes it’s just a 5k.

AS17 Hacketts 97.1 miles….Goodbye Hacketts, it’s been nice but you are the last Aid station.

There’s just a little climb from here then its downhill according to the profile. A lot of this drop was rocky and some areas of slow careful descending as it was a very steep and appeared to be a well-traveled hiking path. There was a good area to run as well where Mindy was pushing me to run. Mindy mentioned that she thought if I could get to the finish within an hour I could come in at a really great time. Normally that is not anything I care about. I am not usually competitive in this way but if I was working hard I may as well work a little harder. I will say that it raised a fire under my ass. I picked up my Wizard Sticks and told Mindy I’m going to try and run the entire way in, let’s get this shit done

Mindy was awesome through this section, she would turn and say “John, you are killing it, keep it up, your looking great”. There were a few times she would disappear ahead of me, but it drove me to try and catch her. I would have to power hike at times but I tried to move fast and not shit myself in the process.

I was smelling the finish. We were descending on some rocky unrunable stuff and met a few hikers. A woman told us we were only a mile away, which we both thought was a crock, and it was.

Mindy and I had some debate over where we were in miles. I felt we were close, but she said we still have the 0.8 miles beyond the 100 to go. We were seeing the signs for the Little Pine Creek Road and Camp ground, holy crap, we ARE going to get this done, we are so close.

Mindy hears gun shots over the ridge we are on, it’s pretty technical running. She says it is the RD shooting those that drop. I had never heard this before. All I could imagine was a firing squad, the RD lining up those that dropped and shooting them, I thought to myself, I am NOT going to be one of them. This day I am not going to be shot as a drop. I’m not going to be handed a black rose and be pulled. I’m not going to be last. I have run as planned and had the best crew for this race. I want to feel the weight of that belt buckle in my hand. I have waited a long time for this moments, go get it.
As we get near Mindy say “John, I can hear the finish”. We both start hooting and hollering, calling out “heahhhhh”. I yell out….”Yeahhhh, I’m going to get this done, You brought it and I took it”

I can see Mindy just ahead of me as we get to the finish area. We get to the gravel parking lot and it’s a right turn onto the grass headed to the finish shoot…..I see the big red finish balloon, Mindy and I begin to yell again as I hear my name and all those there spectating cheering. “Mindy we got this done, thank you so much”…..Bring it in John, this was all you”…..

I’m not sure she saw the tears, but I was happy with tears, this was a long time coming and i finally earned that buckle.

I see Mindy peel off just before the finish, I see George, Ann, Zak, Sarah, Zak’s Parents, Carolyn, all my crew and friends and I’m totally in heaven and so proud of us all to have this adventure together.

A women at the finish congratulates me, hands me my buckle at the finish and then hands me a finishers jacket and directs me to the food area, but I need to celebrate with my TMR family and friends as it was them that got me hear from training to stepping across that line. 31:15:22…….official time. My feet were surprisingly intact, sore and beaten up but intact, no blisters, cuts, abnormal swelling. My efforts to maintain good care of my feet during the run seemed to have worked.

I am so happy and excited still today. This will be the race I will always remember as my first ultra where I earned that BUCKLE. This was an incredible and rewarding experience. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to have had Squirrel, Jedi and Princess as my crew and pacers. Gathering with Zak and Joe and having them out on the trail and knowing they were out there fighting the fight alongside me. Seeing Zak’s crew along the way, meeting up with Joe on the trail a few times was perfect. It all happened at the most convenient times for me.

I always feel the same after these events. How can I possibly thank those that helped make this happen? What could I possibly do to show my deepest thanks? What I can do is be there to stand by their side whenever they need me. No matter what they need, no matter what capacity they need me for. I WILL be there. This Trail Monster Family has changed my life forever. Thanks for being my unconditional friends.

It’s been several days now since race days and I am still trying to catch up on sleep. Nights have been restless as when I lay down my body stiffens and my feet throb. My feet took the brunt of this course. The courses rocky, rooty, slate ridden long ascents and descents were brutal. Most everything else was feeling great even within a few hours of finishing. I did feel a few muscle pulls in my chest area the next day after the finish as I thought it may have happened when falling and trying to brace myself on a few descents. I mentioned it to Mindy and she offered it may be due to my dry heaving for so long, I think she hit it on the head. Dry heaving is the pits.

I am feeling good and thinking of my first recovery run possibly happening this weekend following the race. It will be slow and light, but I really want to see my friends to thank them all for their help with training, sending good vibes and following the race from back home…..

Oh, my weight by the way at the end of the race was 168.7, that was a total loss of 7.6lbs. Not bad.
Here’s to recovery, what’s next????

A special thanks to Craig Fleming, race RD, all the volunteers, trail maintenance folks, aid station volunteers and local support for this well organized event. I really wish I remembered more about the aid stations and those that manned them, but honestly, I wasnt at them long enough to remember much. so, thanks for keeping all of us crazy runners fed, watered, happy and safe.

Finish Little Pines 100.8….ES100 completed 31:15:22

Trail Monster Running team of Princess, Jedi, HalfBomb and Squirrel

Very heartfelt thanks to these amazing and wonderful friends, teammates and Ultra runners for taking time away from their own lives to get a HalfBomb through the remote Pennsylvania Wilderness. Your compassion, tenacity, expertise and drive are what got me to that finish. I will ALWAYS be there for you.

John Rodrigue - 142

Current Status
100.8 miles
Finish - Little Pine
Elasped Time:
Time In:
Time Out:
Next Station::
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Start Time:
Brunswick, ME United States

Time In
Time Out
Pace for Section
Ramsey Road
Lower Pine Bottom
Browns Run
Happy Dutchman
Ritchie Road
Hyner Run
Dry Run
Halfway House
Callahan Run
Slate Run
Long Branch
Finish - Little Pine

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