Trails and Wall Balls

When we last left our infrequent blogger, he was ready to tackle crossfit. And for the past 6+ weeks he’s managed 2 workouts per week. But the legs never feel fresh. 

I’m only running 3-4 times a week so I’m not sure what it is other than maybe just the newness of the workouts. I like the strength workouts but gymnastics stuff is tough and burpees and wall ball leave me humbled and exhausted. But I enjoy the challenge. 
Other than that I’ve hit the trails – skiing, hiking and running this “winter.” It’s been a blast but I still need a goal race. I got a few things in mind. 

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What Now?

Shortly after completion of any event, that feeling of no longer having a goal sets in and can be troubling.  For some, it becomes a depression.  For real.  I’m not there yet but  I need a plan…a goal…something…anything.  It’s now almost 3 months since “The Run” was completed and I’ve been asked many times, “What’s next?”  I don’t know.  Yeah I have a list of potential races in a notepad on my desk at work…that’s normal for every year.  And I can plan a marathon or something like that but people have also asked how I will top the 210 miles over 7 days.  Do I have to?  Trust me, I’ve given it some thought.  It’s what I do.  But it won’t be this year.  This year I decided to focus on getting stronger and staying injury-free.   So I’m attempting CrossFit.  Yep, that intimidating strength stuff done in a “box” that some think is a cult.  I read Unbreakable Runner and though I could follow the training plans in the book, I figure I should learn proper techniques and such so I don’t end up worse.  I just completed 4 one-hour introduction sessions and will go to my first class next week.  I imagine I am going to be so damn sore but I am ready for the challenge.  I’ve got back to spin class and am ready to start up some bike trainer workouts – I missed those while focused solely on running.  And I’m ready for some trail runs…missed those too!  And maybe get in the pool, but it’s too damn cold today.

From the Unbreakable Runner website, here are some of the benefits of CrossFit Endurance:

  • Reducing injury risk by supplanting “junk” mileage—aka easy runs or recovery runs—with functional-fitness workouts that train the same energy systems.
  • Countering linear one-direction duty cycles (running in one direction for huge amounts of time) by incorporating exercise that includes additional planes of movement.
  • Increasing power and speed through strength and explosive power training.
  • Countering the damage distance running does to mobility and range of motion.

I’m sold and ready to give it a try.

change

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7 Days on the Run!

It’s been over a month since the conclusion of Zaching Across the Mountains; but hey, a long run requires a long report.

Sunday, October 2

On October 2, 2016 at 7:30 am I began the Zaching Across the Mountains 210 mile run leaving Mountaineer Field at West Virginia University with a goal of reaching the University of Maryland anytime on Saturday, October 8th.  John Lederer and I kicked it off with an interview by a local news channel and then filmed a brief video for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation Facebook page.  It was an overcast and gloomy morning but I had been itching to start this run for weeks and as I ran past Mountaineer Field I began singing “Country Roads.”  A bit odd since I wasn’t running to WV but rather leaving.  My plan was to adapt to the terrain with walk breaks, and when it allowed I would run for ¾ mile and then walk for ¼ mile.  At 2.3 miles I hit the first real hill and it was straight up for 0.6 miles so I walked.  And then down it went gradually and I reached the first planned meeting point expecting to see the RV and support crew (John, Felicia and Stacey my wife).

There was no site of the RV but I got a text saying they’d be there in a minute.  Even though it was early, I wanted to make sure I was good on fluids to get to the next stop – which was unknown at that point.  I topped off fluids and began climbing up Rte 7 (Kingwood Pike).  I quickly realized that there was more traffic on this Sunday morning than I hoped there would be given the rural road.  But as I would figure out, it was a major rural road. I texted the crew somewhere after 10-11 miles to find out where they were since I was running low on fluids.  I had expected to see “Bessie,” as the RV became known, pass me but it never did.  So then I got worried that it broke down but it turns out they took a different route.  As I approached mile 13, there was Bessie at a church.  George, a member of the parish, was kind enough to open up the fellowship hall for us to use the facilities.

I can’t recall if we met again before Kingwood, WV – around mile 22, but that was a fun stretch.  I cruised down a hill noting the increased traffic and signs for, “Kingwood – Home of the Buckwheat Festival.” The little town was hopping, but this wouldn’t be the day to stop for the festivities…just a sandwich and refueling at the RV.

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George Zaching with us

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Kingwood, WV – Home of the Buckwheat Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling hills and then the anticipated decline to the Cheat River; I had studied the route enough to know that the river represented the final flat point before 4 miles of hiking straight up a mountain.

 I see a mountain at my gates
I see it more and more each day
What I give, it takes away
Whether I go or when I stay

After about a mile I got wise and grabbed two branches as makeshift hiking poles.  They most certainly helped climbing over 1300’ in those four miles. I knew it would be slow but I was feeling good since Day 1 would soon be complete.  I reached the top, or so we suspected, around mile 29 and urged the crew to drive on ahead and find another stopping point.  I needed “at least” 30 miles every day; the RV found a convenient pull off spot after another small hill at 30.75 miles.  Day 1 was complete and I felt pretty damn good.

Since we didn’t have a campground close by or another spot to park Bessie, we stayed at the Alpine Lake Resort in Terra Alta, WV.  It was a great location with delicious burgers.  The evening routine depended on where we stayed but it always involved some kind of ice to the legs, a shower and about 30-40 minutes in the compression recovery boots that I rented (one of the best decisions for this journey).  And usually one beer.

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The end of Day 1

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The Crew at Terra Alta, WV

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 3

The routine was in place.  Wake around 6:15 am, get the coffee brewing, eat half a bagel with peanut butter and honey, get dressed, gather nutrition, apply anti-chaffing cream and nip-guards…then drive to the start line.  On this day it meant driving back west about 5-7 miles.  The crew dropped me off and through the fog and clouds I began to run.  I estimated that it was about 7 miles to the Maryland state line and knew I would make it at least that far before needing support.  I ran past, and chatted with, cows, through Terra Alta, alternating sides of the road depending on the curves and then running on and off sidewalks.  With no welcoming sign, I crossed in to MD and turned left on Fingerboard Road per the instructions on my index card.  (Each night I would write turn by turn instructions and distances on an index card and use scotch tape to effectively laminate it).  At that point I crossed under a rail bridge and thought, “hmmm, I guess the RV is less than 11’5” – until I got further down the road, then it was, “hmmm, I wonder if the RV even made that turn? ”  Time to fire off a text message.  “Uh, no we missed that turn…be right there,” was the reply.  On I ran despite the request to stay put.  When they caught me, they had fresh bacon.  That made up for their miscue.  We made plans to meet in Oakland, MD and I would enjoy the next few miles of roads with little traffic.  I climbed a hill and looked down on Oakland.  Times like that I would stop to take a picture.  I had to remember Coach Karl Meltzer’s advice – Be patient.  I decided that stopping to snap pics was well worth any added time and was probably beneficial to the legs.

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I met the crew around 12 miles for the day and they had an Egg McMuffin and Diet Coke waiting for me.  Score!  About 5 miles later I met them again and they came running out of the Shawnee Trading Post in Deer Park, MD to meet me at the RV – surprised to see me, eh?  They were hoping for more time to shop.

Another bit of Coach’s advice was to drink a serving of Hammer Recoverite half way through the day in addition to the end of the day.  That time was now and then I was on my way with plans to meet again in 7-8 miles.  I crested a hill and could see Deep Creek Lake off in the distance to my left.  On I ran and walked, asking the crew how long the climb was near Swanton, MD.  “Have you reached the Post Office?”  “No.”  “Well after that, it’s straight up hill.”  I had already encountered one good climb so this was not welcomed news.  It was getting warm and my fluids were again getting low.  They asked if they needed to come back to me but I assured them I was fine.

I see a mountain at my gates
I see it more and more each day
I see a fire out by the lake
I’ll drive my car without the brakes

So I started hiking up another mountain.  Certain that the deep woods to the side of the road were home to bears and/or sasquatch.  After about 1.5 miles, I sent a text that I was tired and resting on a guardrail.  “You’re less than a half mile away” came the reply – we used the Find My Friends app on our phones to approximate distance.  I gathered myseld and continued on to the top where I needed to sit and get some food.  I was 26 miles in to day 2 and tired.

I knew at this point we were close to the big descent on MD Rte 135 and hoped it was about 5 more miles.  I could feel the beginning of a blister and my quads were crushed.  After the PB&J and Diet Coke, we parted ways with plans to meet at the bottom, or thereabouts since the RV was not going to be able to stop part way.  It didn’t take long to figure out that (A) it was more than 5 miles, and (B) it was going to be slow.  Once the grade increased it became hard to run as the steep decline caused my toes to jame to the front of my shoe and the developing blister was affected with each landing of the right foot.  I texted the crew that it would be a long time going down the hill.  At times I even turned around and walked backwards down the hill, glancing over my left shoulder to see if traffic was approaching.  The truck drivers that were slowing to stop at the mandatory pull off spots looked at me like, “WTF is this guy doing?” with one even motioning me to turn around.  Eventually the grade lessened and I could resume a slow run toward the bottom and the end of day 2.  34.1 miles in the bank (64.85 total).

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Again, we had nowhere to stay the night so we headed to Westernport, MD and settled on the American Legion.  All John had to do was tell the story of Zachary and the Foundation and we were all set to enjoy the parking lot – Pat the bartender even alerted the local authorities and MD State Police that we were given permission to park!  The support crew had a shift change Monday night with John and Stacey leaving with Chris (John’s wife and Zach’s mom) and Brian arriving to drive.  That night Chris told me that Zach would have thought this run was the coolest thing, and that stayed with me the rest of the week.  It wasn’t the best night of sleep with tractor-trailers descending on Westernport throughout the night or early morning and downshifting along Rte 36 but it was fine.

Tuesday, October 4

 In the morning, I took extra care to treat the blister but within a few miles I could tell that the moleskin I applied was slipping.  Today would be a glimpse of the challenging roads in the days ahead – lack of shoulders and traffic. Crossing the North Branch of the Potomac River in to Piedmont, WV I was greeted with a narrow road (Rte 46) and little shoulder.  Thankfully, there was also little traffic in the early morning.  Around mile 6 I reached the RV on the outskirts of Keyser, WV and we revised the bandaged foot.  After running through town there was approximately 1.5 miles at 7-9% grade to climb.

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The sign showing what I just came up!

It was here that three times I moved off the road, clinging to the mountain wall as traffic whizzed by me.  Thankfully, after a few more miles the route went rural.  But as I passed a school and reached a fork in the road I realized the roads were not marked.  That would happen a few times and I was glad to have cellular service to check my phone and Google maps.  On I ran through small town WV – just me, a few cars, and plenty of dogs barking at me.  Guess they don’t see many runners out there.  There was a part of the map that concerned me when previewing the route…and it was approaching.  A bridge and a “road” called Tony Cook.  Well the new bridge was built, good thing because Bessie wasn’t making it over the old one.  But then came the warning text, “OMG, Tony Cook Rd is gravel.”  At first it was fine and shaded.  But then it went up.  And up, and up some more.  I could only laugh at the absurdity of me winding my way up some gravel-dirt run in the middle of nowhere, WV – I was actually surprised the few cars that passed didn’t ask me what I was doing.

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Tony Cook “Road”

Finally, I crested the top and began the nice run down the other side.  Around that point I passed a campground that was designated as a potential stopping point for the night but I was 5 miles ahead after two days and not close to stopping.  We’d need to find a place to stay – the support crew was searching.  But it was refuel time, PBJ and a cold Diet Pepsi.

On I ran…up to Romney, WV, now on Rte 50.  It hit me as I walked up a hill around 25 miles for the day – I was TIRED!  The lack of consistent sleep (I would constantly wake and worry about the day ahead each night despite trying to get 9 hours of sleep) and 80+ miles were beginning to take a toll.  I was actually afraid of being so tired and tripping or stumbling near traffic.  Luckily the RV was just ahead and had coffee.  Renewed, I trudged on but now I had to contend with little shoulders, traffic and logging trucks that seem to know just one speed on downhills and flat roads – Fast!  I was hoping that it was because it was afternoon that traffic was heavy since I’d be on Rte 50 much of the next couple of days.  The RV drove ahead and found the South Branch Inn – a hotel…with a real shower!  I think it was around 28 or 29 miles for the day when I got there…but I couldn’t stop before 30.  I warned the crew that I was continuing and made my way down the hill.  At 30.4 miles I called it a day, in front of the Shanks, WV Post Office and Hampshire Meat Market.  Total – 95.25

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That night we made another crew change.  My brother Bob drove out to relieve Brian.  Bob worried me as he noted that there was little to no shoulder on Rte 50 all the way from Winchester, VA.  Great, more to worry about and affect the sleep.  But before that, there was an ice bath, shower, dinner and time spent in the recovery boots.  Sometime before eating, I started feeling really dizzy and weak.  I needed food!  Pasta was on the way and I devoured a plate so damn fast…and peaches, and cookies and whatever else we had.  I settled in to have my allotted beer and watch the Orioles take on the Blue Jays in the MLB Wildcard game.  I knew I couldn’t stay awake for the entire game…and good thing I didn’t even try since the O’s lost in extra innings.

Wednesday, October 5

A break from the morning routine with breakfast and coffee at the hotel then back to the room to bandage the foot.  Within the first two miles I turned left off Rte 50 and sent a text to the RV about the road being closed to through traffic…they had continued ahead to where I would return to Rte 50 but I didn’t expect the road to be closed to foot traffic as well!  A new bridge was being built and I surveyed the situation.  I could double back and add miles or figure out a way to cross the stream?  After some deliberation and attempts at building a bridge of rocks, I managed the crossing with only one foot getting wet.  I know those construction workers must have thought I lost my mind.  More rural roads and hills awaited.  Around mile 5.5 I met up with the crew and topped off the fluids and got right back on the road.  Now we would remain on Rte 50 for the rest of the day and leapfrogging me in the RV would be the easiest of the entire route for the crew.  But the running became difficult.  I texted Stacey that morning that I was nervous.  I wasn’t sure if it was more than the anticipation of the route and traffic or concern for the mounting miles.

A little later I had a text from my friend Marcie asking how I was doing.  I relayed the same message – nervous.  She told me she would make sure her Mom, who just passed away from cancer, would help me.  She said, look for purple.  Sure enough, weeds with purple flowers lined the edge of the road.  I glanced at them often and it buoyed my spirits.  It really was a difficult day – hills, lack of shoulder and traffic.  But I had to remember Coach Karl’s words too – be patient.  Through the towns of Hanging Rock and Capon Bridge, WV I passed.  I noticed that Capon Bridge is labeled “The Gateway to the Mountains,” so I figured, rather hoped, the hills were behind me.  Wrong!  But the RV was never too far ahead of me so that really helped. Struggling up one hill, I passed The Kettle Stop and saw they had soft serve ice cream.  I wished the RV was there and so tempted to stop on my own but continued my climb.  I think it was here that I reached the top of Cooper Mountain and roughly the halfway point in the journey to College Park.

Oh, gimme some time
Show me the foothold from which I can climb
Yeah, when I feel low
You show me a signpost for where I should go

I was pretty quick at the pit stops because I was spending more time dodging traffic and waiting for opportune times to run on the road.  I actually walked in the median at one point as it seemed the only safe place.  Later in the day, during one particularly tough stretch of road, I looked down and thought to myself, “Damn, where did the purple flowers go?”  Soon enough I passed a house and what do you know…purple flowers blooming in the front yard.  Thank you!  My mood brightened.  By mid-afternoon, traffic was building on Rte 50 headed west out of Winchester and it became even more difficult at times.  But I ran when I could and ducked off the road and waited when necessary.  Patience.  Run when you can.

Through lanes and stone rows
Black granite, wind blows
Fire lake and far flame
Go now but come again
Dark clouds gather ’round
Will I run or stand my ground?

As noted on Facebook, pretzel sticks and peanut M&M’s at the various RV stops were also a big help that day.  Relentless forward progress was the name of the game, ticking off the miles until I approached mile 30.  And there was the RV on a perfect pull off spot at 30.4.  Total – 125.7

Felicia (who swore she was finally finding a Dunkin Donuts but was denied) directed Bob and the RV to get to McDonald’s for shakes and fries…stat!  It hit the spot.  I downed the Hammer Nutrition recovery drink and iced the legs as well.  We were close to Winchester and decided to stay at the Candy Hill Campground which turned out to be a perfect spot, unfriendly staff aside.  Shift change again – John drove out with Bob’s truck and then Bob departed.  I had a wonderful shower, used the recovery boots and John grilled up burgers and potatoes.  Then we had a peaceful evening around a campfire.  And a lovely glass of red wine.

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Me and brother Bob at the start of Day 4

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Running along Rte 50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, October 6

Back to the routine – coffee, bagel with PB and honey, bandage the foot, check the weather and get dressed.  It was the first chilly morning so I opted for the arm warmers as we drove about 5 miles west back to the starting point.  I knew I had a few miles until Winchester and still had to contend with Rte 50 but I was hopeful things would improve this day.  Traffic wasn’t bad early and I waited to hear from the crew on the first meeting point.  They found a good parking spot at a Rite Aid just a few miles ahead.  Running through Winchester was great, there was a path and sidewalk.  But then it hit me, Code Brown!  Runners know what that means.  And luckily I made it to Rite Aid in time.  Quick break and back at it.

The RV then found a pull off spot around mile 12 and sent instructions to stay to the right through the end of town and then cross back over once I reached Rte 7.  At that point it got really bad again – lack of shoulder and heavy traffic.  This was getting old.  I tried to remember that I had all day and to stay positive but it was a real struggle.  Only a few more miles to the RV and they said a reporter would be waiting to do an interview.  I told them I didn’t want to talk to anyone – they would have to handle it.  But by the time I reached the RV, I was in a better frame of mind.  A bandage repair, some ice to the knee, Hammer Recoverite and pizza all while doing an interview.  After that I would head to Business Rte 7 for a few miles and that was a relief from traffic.  But then back on to Rte 7 and the troubles.  I was iterally ducking down in to ditches at times, walking along a fence line, or crossing in to the median.  Wherever it was safe to move forward.

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Then another stop after crossing the Shenandoah River.  I could see the next climb but wasn’t sure how long it was.  After the PBJ it was time to move on and hike up the mountain – was this finally the LAST one?  The traffic was barreling down the hill though and this was stressful.  I stopped and sat on the guardrail at times, even climbing over at one point as I felt too close to traffic for comfort.  All told, the climb was about 3 miles and then a nice gradual decline with shoulder!  Woo hoo, let’s run!  Until the shoulder stopped abruptly on a curve.  I was a bit scared…couldn’t see around the bend.  So I backed up a bit…waited for no sound…and bolted to the median.  The road was divided again so I walked down the median and then over to the east bound lane where I would walk/run with traffic.  This stretch was about 3 miles and I would glance over my left shoulder, run when I could, or move way to the right and the guardrail if needed.  It was getting later in the day and I wanted to be done…or at least get off this damn road. The good news was that the last big hill really was in the rear view mirror.

Oh, when I come to climb
Show me the mountain so far behind
Yeah, it’s farther away
Its shadow gets smaller day after day

Finally, a left back on to Business Rte 7 and there was Bessie.  But I was around 28.5 miles and had to continue.  Would I make it to Purcellville?  A quick drink and on I went until I caught the RV again and was told that the road ahead was rough and that  I should call it a day at 30.8 miles, a couple miles shy of Purcellville, VA.  Total – 156.5

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We didn’t have a plan for the night until Stacey contacted a college friend who owns a music shop in Purcellville – we could park there and hook up to electricity.  Perfect.  But we had to wait until after 8:00 pm when everyone left.  Shift change again.  Stacey brought Chip out to the RV and he found us delicious milkshakes to go with more grilled burgers and potatoes.  Stacey and Felicia left but they planned to return the next day and drive our truck along the route with the RV.  We were closer to home now so it would be easier.

Two days left!  I was getting excited for sure.  I could start to think about the finish line after a few rough days battling traffic.

Friday, October 7

Decision point early in the morning.  Run with or against traffic on Rte 7 for about 8 miles?  I figured traffic would be heavier heading east and they would have to contend with a rising sun that may impact seeing us, so Chip and I began by running in the west-bound lane against traffic on my new friend, Rte 7.  With no major hills, we just ran along at my plan of running .75 miles and walking .25.  This worked perfect and clearly the mountains were indeed behind me!  We noticed the W&OD Trail that paralleled the side of Rte 7 and I knew I would be picking it up at some point but would later realize I made a mistake of not investigating it further.  That would have been a great stretch.  We met up with John after the 8 miles and refueled.  Time for some trail running!  And for the first time in the journey, I was able to just run and not think or worry about traffic.  It was a glorious stretch but too brief.  About 3 miles later we reached Leesburg.  John texted instructions and he found Starbuck’s and Dunkin Donuts.  Hot damn that sounded good!  Running through Leesburg, Chip spotted a woman with a coffee and asked if it was Starbuck’s.  It wasn’t and she informed us that ‘Bucks was kinda far away.  I told her I’d been running for 6 days, it couldn’t be too far.  It was a mile.  We got our coffee (and donut for me).  I sat by the RV and looked at my index card of directions – confused by the overpass of a major highway just ahead knowing that out turn was prior to that.  Google maps confirmed it.  Hmm, seems we should have made a left turn a mile back where we saw coffee lady.  So John drove us back to our missed turn on Business Rte 15 and we continued the journey.  No way we were adding more mileage to double back to that spot.

A few miles later we turned on to White’s Ferry Rd and headed to the boat ramp.  Stacey and Felicia would arrive just after Chip and I reached John and Bessie.  Then we pulled ‘ol Bessie on to the ferry and crossed the Potomac River, not without some serious concern of getting the RV stuck on the steep off-ramp.  But John hit the gas and will a loud screech from bottoming out, we safely reached Maryland!

It was roughly the halfway point for the day so I enjoyed a drink, used the restroom and was ready to head out on the C&O Canal Towpath.  What a wonderful, yet somewhat boring, stretch.  Nothing to do but zone out and run…and remember to incorporate the walk breaks.  About a mile in to the run, and without sound, our friend Phil was on our heels.  He drove over an hour to run a few miles with us and continued on to the next rest stop where Stacey and Felicia had driven while John and Bessie continued ahead looking for an “end of day” parking spot.  A little snack, some refueling and Chip and I were off on the path again.  Somewhere in that stretch I noticed my knee hurt when I would resume running after the walk breaks.  Another stop around mile 25 for the PBJ and Diet Coke and then Chip and I continued.  The next “lock” and parking area along the canal was about 5 miles…I secretly hoped to get in more than 30 miles so there would be closer to 20 miles left for the last day.  But between the developing knee pain and knowing the next spot after that was at least 5 more miles, we called it a day at Violettes Lock Road where the RV had been waiting much of the afternoon.  30.5 for Day 6, 187 total.  That meant just one day and roughly 24 miles left in the journey!  It was hard to believe so few miles were left.  And harder to believe I’d been at it for 6 days.

I was craving Ledo’s Pizza and Stacey found one only about 4 miles away in Darnestown.  So she went to pick it up while I iced and showered.  Some time spent in the recovery boots and feasting on grilled sausage and pizza sure hit the spot.  But my knee was really bothering me.  People started texting the crew asking what time we would arrive in College Park the next day but our updates kept it open-ended a bit, just in case I wasn’t feeling well in the morning.  We gave a “1-2 pm expected arrival time but will update about 90 minutes out” type of message.  After dinner, Stacey drove the hour or so back home and took Chip; she was all set to be back by 7 am and bring Marcie who was going to run the 7th day with me.  What a trooper to do all that driving!  John, Felicia and I sat around a campfire listening to music and then looking at the moon and stars along the canal and river…a very peaceful evening for sure.  John had some great music playing and I decided that two glasses of wine and one Natty Boh beer were well deserved. The best night of sleep during the week but I was still worried about the knee.

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Saturday, October 8

Same morning routine with Stacey arriving right on time but rain starting to fall.  I knew the forecast and hoped to get in a few miles of running before the rain.  Up to that point, I was blessed with great running weather.  But being the last day, nothing was going to affect me.  So I dressed in the light rain jacket and Marcie and I walked the 20 yards or so from the RV to the start line of Day 7 on the towpath.  The rain picked up a bit during the 5.5 miles on the path but then it stopped and I gave up the jacket at the first meeting spot.  Stacey and Felicia were in our truck while John returned “Bessie.”  Marcie and I climbed up Swains Lock Road to River Road in Potomac.  Now my route was taking me through the wealthiest area of MD, a stark contrast to earlier parts of the journey.  A nice path paralleled River Road so we didn’t have to contend with traffic.  After about 3 more miles we met Stacey and Felicia who had Dunkin coffee and Munchkins!  We continued on Democracy Blvd through parts of Bethesda to Beach Drive where we met our team again about mile 14.  At this point I was ecstatic and could almost sense the finish…just 10 more miles…rain be damned.  I asked Marcie if it was too soon to get excited.  I was yelling “Woo Hoo” each time we approached Stacey and Felicia and in between I was talking like Forest Gump – “they give me coffee, I run….then I run some more.”  I was fired up, knowing this was really gonna happen.  I was going to survive the 210 mile Zaching Across the Mountains challenge.

When I first dreamt up this run, I had no idea what it would feel like to cover 30 miles a day for 6-7 days or if I could actually do it.  It seemed reasonable in my mind but there is so much that could go wrong.  But yet it went so well.  I know there were others helping me.  Aside from the crew that was with me and constantly providing support and all of the social media posts and text messages of encouragement, there had to be other forces working in our favor as well.

16+ miles down and another quick stop.  Checking the index card…did we miss a turn…why are there so many rolling hills this late in the route…rain?…what rain?…20 miles…a quick bite to eat…back at it…estimated arrival time updated…I was moving much quicker than I expected…and the knee was holding up fine.

Mile 21 and the last real turn.  On to University Blvd which leads directly to the University of Maryland…dodging major traffic, pedestrians and puddles.  Any other day that stretch of run would have been miserable and it is not runner-friendly.  But on October 8, 2016, it didn’t matter.  Overcome with joy I ran on…last instructions were given to crew on where to stop so they could pick up Marcie and I could head to the finish line solo.  It was surreal.

Yeah, gimme my way
Gimme my love
Gimme my choice
You keep me coming around
Gimme my fate
Gimme my lungs
Gimme my voice
You keep me coming around

 “Mountain at My Gates” – Foals

I couldn’t believe it.  Standing in the rain just off campus from the University of Maryland, looking at the Byrd Stadium lights and the last stretch that stood between me and the finish.  I left Stacey drive ahead so they could be waiting and then I continued, soaking it all in…5 months of training, so many “way-too-humid” runs, so many early morning alarms, planning meetings, and now the realization that yes, yes the body could in fact hold up – both physically and mentally – to the challenge.

In to the parking lot I turned, glancing to the Zaching Against Cancer tents and the designated finish area.  I’m feeling the emotions…then…beep beep.  What the…it’s Stacey and crew…they had to backtrack after being blocked by a bus.  And now I am forced to stop, a momentary pause to this wonderful moment…my mind snaps out of the emotions and I let them get to the finish ahead of me.  It’s all good.  I wait a minute and begin the final steps.  And then one more turn…heading to the crowd of friends and family that gathered in the rain to welcome me to the completion of the journey.  What a wonderful outpouring of support to come out in the miserable weather.  I gave a Zaching pose, turned left and broke the finish line ribbon held by my parents.  We really did it!  By my watch, 211.2 miles.

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It’s been over a month…I still can’t find the right words to explain how I felt or feel.  I put a post on Facebook once during training that this run was not about me but something bigger and that helped me get out the door some days.  I have no doubt that positive thinking and belief during the months prior to the run surely helped.  I visualized that finish while out on training runs.  I tried to quell any negative thoughts.  I reminded myself, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, and crawl if you must.”  It may have started as an individual challenge I set years ago but it was a group accomplishment for sure – from my wife and kids that put up with my crazy idea and training to the tireless crew that took care of me and helped cover the miles in Bessie to my friends who ran countless miles with me in training.  But most importantly, all of those that donated to the cause helped us raise a lot of money that will allow the ZACF to do wonderful things for people that are facing real challenges.

The End (of this chapter)

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Garmin Stats

Day 1: 30.74 miles, 7:19:22 moving time = 14:17 avg pace, 4,531 ft of elevation gain

Day 2: 34.1 miles, 8:13:45 moving time = 14:29 avg pace, 2,277 ft of elevation gain, 3,888 feet of elevation loss

Day 3: 30.4 miles, 7:21:24 moving time = 14:31 avg pace, 2,664 ft of elevation gain

Day 4: 30.4 miles, 7:33:44 moving time = 14:56 avg pace, 2,523 ft of elevation gain

Day 5: 30.8 miles, 7:42:53 moving time = 15:02 avg pace, 1,568 ft of elevation gain

Day 6 7: 30.5 miles, 6:46:11 moving time = 13:18 avg pace, 594 ft of elevation gain

LAST DAY: 24.2 5:02:30 moving time = 12:31 avg pace, 1,234 ft of elevation gain

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So Stoked to Start!

After 910.9 miles of running since May 10 (the final 4 miler was this morning), I am ready to get this adventure party started.  While I work in the world of federal budgeting and this is a very busy week, how can I concentrate with so much going on for the run?!?!

Wednesday night was supply shopping.  This morning was an interview with WMAR Channel 2 in Baltimore.  This afternoon it’s a newspaper in Morgantown, WV.  And this article was just posted on line: Baltimore Sun Article!

We leave in the RV tomorrow morning and the big challenge will be for my crew to keep me from partying at the Mountaineer football game.  Then on sunrise Sunday morning I will take my first steps toward 210 miles.

#Livingthedream #Zaching #RunRustyRun #ZachingAcrosstheMountains

Updates during the week will be officially posted on the Zaching Against Cancer Facebook page.

Let’s do this!

 

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It’s Race Week!

Wait a minute, dude!  Every time someone asks about your “race” you immediately clarify that it is NOT a race.  That’s true.  But the taper madness I’ve been experiencing sure makes it feel like one of the biggest races I’ve ever run.  I’ve been to PT the last 3 weeks for knee and calf pain and then a visit to the ortho after developing pain on the top of my right foot during the last long run.  There’s good news and bad news.  Good news – neither injury appears to be serious.  Bad news – they both have to be managed since they still bother me after runs of even 8 miles.  So doing 30 miles a day will certainly be a challenge.  As will navigating some of the winding, climbing roads – in the past two weeks, I’ve scoured Google Maps and Google street views to the extent possible for the planned route and annotated the potential problem areas.  I’ve noted rest areas, camping areas, fueling areas…you name it.  To the point that I expect some of these roads that I’ve never traveled before in my life to look familiar.

The training is done, save for a few 4-5 mile runs this week.  And we exceeded our initial fundraising goal of $5,000!  

So what else is left to do this week besides go crazy?  How about shop for food and supplies and pack!  How does one even pack for running 7 straight days.  The dining room table has become a holding area for all the crap valuable supplies and such that I’ve ordered the past couple of weeks.  Seems every other day my wife says, you got another package.  I’m still waiting on Hammer Nutrition to deliver another!  And I probably need one more pair of the awesome Brooks 2-in-1 running shorts with the compression liner that really help with chaffing.  Wait, what about socks?  Do I need more?

As I slowly go crazy this week, I will try to get ample rest – until I wake at 3 am freaking out about what I need or the next “What if…” scenario plays out in my head.

But I remind myself of this:

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North vs South

When I first contemplated Zaching Across the Mountains (well before it even had a name) I entered start and finish points in to google maps. Bam. Two options for covering the distance by foot. I assumed the northern route would be best due to its proximity to interstates. So a week ago we set out to drive the course. A 3-hour drive out to Morgantown was great. The 6.5 hour drive home gave me a headache. The hills were bigger than I imagined and many of the roads were winding with no shoulder. Uh oh. John was concerned but I acted like it would be fine. The next day John said he thought we should explore the southern route. We talked about driving it – but I knew the upcoming weekend held the last two long runs and felt that was an  important test since I had to cut the prior weekend runs a bit short due to the knee pain.  The other option?  Use google maps and mapmyrun.com to get a closer look. The appeal of the southern route is that there is 7000 feet less of elevation gain. But the route was more remote and it would be harder to have crew meet up during the week. So over the weekend I must have spent over 5 hours of gazing at roads to inspect shoulders and potential rest spots. It was tiring.

But I did run too. Hit the 3 weekday runs as planned and felt pretty good. Had a 2nd visit to PT and was feeling positive. On Saturday I ran 16.2 miles and probably should have incorporated more and longer walking breaks. Things tightened up Saturday afternoon during the drive up to and back from having lunch with Ryan at UD. But I didn’t go out at all this weekend – intent to be ready for this last tough weekend. On Sunday I was pleased to run 15.2 miles and convinced Marcie that walking .2 of every mile was a good thing. During the run I imagined what it would be like to close in on mile 210 on a few weeks. Things were going well. And that weird feeling on top of my right foot was just a nuisance. Sunday afternoon brought more icing. It’d be fine on Monday. But it wasn’t. And as I type this Monday evening – I bounce between worry and positive self-talk. I don’t want to fail. I’m determined. And stubborn. But I’m also lost – what do I do?  Rest? Test it?  See a doc?  This taper will be a challenge itself.

The Southern Route

The Northern Route

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Anxiety Mounts

It’s been another two weeks without a post. As I ended the last, I mentioned the knee. Week 17 arrived and I made a change in shoes – having rotated 3 pair throughout the training I went exclusively with the Brooks Ravenna. The logic being the Hoka may have had my feet and thus legs less stable and caused the issues with my knee. That was the logic.   After an off day Monday, I decided to test the knee on the treadmill Tuesday morning – 6 miles no problem. 7 miles the next day – again fine but I was tired and slow. 8 miles on Thursday and I felt pretty good. Another scheduled off day Friday before a tough weekend. On Saturday I was out the door at 5:50 AM with the headlamp, intent on 14-16 miles. It was cool cloudy and breezy and the 15.1 went well and we headed to U of MD for a football game and to catch up with son, Casey. 

U of MD tailgate

Daybreak. on the run

So a long day at MD and then visiting our friends for sitting shiva – which translated to drinking wine. Sunday’s run was a struggle. From dragging to get out the door, to tightness behind the knee during the run and I walked a bit in the last few of the 15.3 miles.  So I napped and rested. And despite knowing I probably should have taken the scheduled day off on Labor Day, I decided to rearrange the schedule and run. Those 7.2 miles were just okay. But Tuesday was a different story. I got in 5.1 miles before work but I was dogged tired. Like wanting to nap all day. And every time I got up from my desk the back of my k we was super tight. That’s when I decided to schedule a PT session. Two off days and a trip to PT on Thursday quelled my fears a bit. And at the PTs suggestion, I cut back the plan for Friday and Saturday. Instead of 12 & 18, I managed 6 & 13 pain-free. The humidity returned in a big way this am and it resulted in some first class chaffing but I was pleased with the run. 

the lake and the heron


That brings us to this afternoon. The knee has been a bit tight and achy but nothing like earlier in the week. Things are looking better than a few days ago for sure. 

And tomorrow we head to WVU so we can drive the planned 210 mile route. 3 weeks to go. 

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