Streaks 

  

 “The Seagull Century has been cancelled due to the threat of hurricane Joaquin” was the message I received last week while preparing mentally and physically to tackle 100 miles on my bike. I was disappointed and frustrated that I put in so much time and effort preparing for this awesome event.

I was fine with the cancellation understanding that the event was about more than just riders. It also included lots of volunteers, police officers and emergency personnel as well as vendors and business owners. Weather can be unpredictable and as bikers, runners and individuals in general we need to understand that sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have to make other plans. We need to be flexible.

Not everyone was okay with the century being cancelled. Most were, but a few decided to take it upon themselves to conquer the century. I am all about running and biking in extreme conditions and in extreme locations and this post isn’t about people who put themselves at risk to accomplish a goal. Several groups of riders took to the streets and battled the 40mph winds to ride 100 miles and lay claim to another century ride…. And I am fine with that. However I did read a comment from a guy who said “I have to go out and ride. This will be my 18th year in a row and I don’t want to break my streak.” What I don’t understand and what has never impressed me are those who streak. Those who set a goal in running, biking, work, school, or any other endeavor that involves keeping a streak alive have always made me scratch my head and wonder. I know. I know. Many of the things I do make no sense and cause others to scratch their heads… But hear me out… 

Streaks are selfish. I read about runners who have run 100 or 200 or 1000+ days in a row. These are people who run on every holidays, on every day of vacation, when they are sick, when their family members are sick, the day of weddings, the day of funerals, and on other days they should probably push the sneakers to the side. They run when they are asked not to run. They run when they are begged not to run. They run when their doctors tell them not to run. 

This isn’t just about runners or bikers. It is the employee who will never take a day off. Who strives for perfect attendance for years. Where is the glory is that? When a sick person goes to work or school they get other people sick. Most jobs offer vacation days and/or personal days to enjoy life and spend time with family and friends. We need to use those days. I understand that some people don’t get sick. I have had a few years at work where I didn’t have to take a sick day, but there have been other years where I have had to take quite a few. Now that I have kids I know even more how important personal days are to see a play at school or spend time with family on a day kids have off of school. 

I speak from experience. I was a streaker in high school. I thought probably how many streakers think now. Really. There was a class I took I took in school that I never missed for three years straight. Was I ever sick those days? I don’t remember, but I am sure there were a few days I should have missed. 

You won’t be as missed as much as you think you will be at school, work, your running club, your biking crew, or your social activity. There is no glory in streaks. Your body, mind and spirit need a break at times. 

Injured runners who run with their injuries after being told repeatedly by doctors and friends not to run risk further injuring themselves. Bikers who bike when the conditions are unsuitable for their skill level just to keep a streak alive risk accidents and injuries. People who try to keep any streak alive just for the streak itself can lose the passion and the desire they have for doing the activity in the first place.

People assume I run everyday. I don’t. There are weeks I run five or six days of the week, but I always take a day off. I always have a day of rest. When it comes to anything in life… Work, school, church, sport etc we should remember what David O. McKay said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”, which is better than the guidance I saw on a bumper sticker that read: “If you are in a relationship you aren’t training hard enough”…. Family plans? Skip the run. Behind at work? Push back the bike ride. Your kid is singing in The Christmas Concert? Take a day off work. Be flexible. Wake up earlier and run. Run double days. Want a streak? Try a family streak of eating dinner together every night for a month. 

Train smart, train hard, and train often, but remember to have balance and priorities that don’t suck the life out of the rest of your life. If you miss a run you will care more than anyone running. 

Now wait..if you want streaks to be proud of here are a few: sober streaks, days a person has not smoked, days where one has practiced random kindness, and days reading inspirational books…. 

Now go run.

Forever strong. 

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Running across Delmarva

  
I jumped off the plane from Montreal and began walking down the terminal in Philadelpia. I knew I had three hours to kill. Three hours that I could have used at home preparing for the next day. I was just about to walk to the food court when I glanced up at the departure flights and noticed there was an earlier flight to Salisbury and that it left in forty-five minutes. What?!?! I could get home earlier! 

I had no real good excuse to change my flight. What was I going to tell the lady at customer service… “Uh I am running nearly sixty miles across Delmarva tomorrow, so could you change my flight and let me get in at 7:30pm instead of 9:30pm, so maybe I can get somewhat prepared and a few hours of sleep” – That might have worked. Instead I decided to just tell the truth. “Hi. I have no good reason to change my flight. I just want to get home earlier and see my dog and my yard needs mowing.” Change fee waived. Flight changed. Forget food. I bought the largest bottle of water available and I sat for thirty minutes waiting and calling to get a ride from the airport. 

Demone was waiting for me at the terminal. He and his son took the time to come out and pick me up, which was awesome and a lifesaver. My parents were coming into town but not until much later. Chris Demone’s son a big reason I am running this insane distance. He is a cancer survivor and half of the money raised for this charity run is going to John Hopkin’s pediatric oncology ward. We pulled into my driveway….

I had to do everything quick. Most of the preparation was completed before I left with my family to Vermont to visit my sister and to Montreal to visit my wife’s family, but there was still lots to do. The lawn was a mess. It was so bad my neighbor decided to mow the front of my yard. What a blessing that was since it shaved off half of the mowing time. As I mowed I reviewed the route across Delmarva in my head… Cove, Jester, muddy hole, whitehaven, nanticoke, pemberton, fitzwater, main…. And that was just the first twenty miles. I wanted to have the entire course memorized for my security, sanity, and confidence. 

Walmart run. I had to get water. Lots of water. I bought the huge three gallon container, a box of peanut butter and strawberry jelly crustables, bagels, soft cookies, hot tamales (candy), and Gatorade. Was there any food item missing? I wasn’t sure. This run was going to be 22 miles further than my longest run. I packed the the cooler when I arrived home with the food and a few small towels. I mixed the Gatorade and filled up my Orange Mud hydration vest water bottles. I then packed my backpack with an extra running kit and clothes for after then run as well as a few extra pairs of socks and an additional tech shirt. I also threw in Vaseline, medical tape, a handful of energy gels. By this time it was around 9:30pm and my parents along with my brother Travis were on their way from The Baltimore Airport. It was time to sleep.

I couldn’t sleep.

I have run five marathons, two ultras and countless other races and I never had trouble sleeping. I was nervous. I never get nervous. Never. I am constantly on the edge of exhaustion and so normally when I get in bed I am asleep within minutes. Not tonight. The pressure to run across the Delmarva was there whether I wanted to admit it or not. I rolled around from 10pm until midnight. At midnight my parents and Travis rolled into the driveway. Thinking I was sleeping they walked in the door and I scared them. They thought I was crazy for being up…. And I was. We went over final logistics and then I finally crashed. 

4am. After a little over three hours of sleep my alarm went off. I sprung out of bed like a mad man. My clothes were set out the night before. I was wearing an Athletes Serving Athletes tech shirt, grey shirts, and Saucony road shoes. It was rainy and in the low 70s, which was a blessing since the beginning of the week saw temperatures in the high 80s. The rain was a welcomed addiction. I had a threshold for heat for this run. I decided week before that if the temperature was forecasted to be over 85 I would reschedule the run. I was the only one that knew this and maybe that was so no one would worry or maybe it was so I wouldn’t have to follow my own counsel. “Get up Travis!” Actually Travis was pretty much up. We packed the car and then realized… “Where is Dad?” I forgot to wake him up. We quickly woke him up and he was ready within minutes. 

Our plan was to pick up Jose Luis at 4:30am, but that ended up being 4:40 and put us at The Cove at 5:10. We wasted no time once arriving. I quickly went to the water and touched it with my hand. The bay. One side of The Delmarva Peninsula. My Dad and Travis took pictures of us taking off. I don’t think we said much. We kind of took off right away. No sense in hanging out in the rain.

  
 “Jose…. No matter what don’t let me run faster than a ten minute per mile pace” – The entire run I relied on those running with me to keep my pace. The gaol was not a time but rather to complete the run before dark. I felt good about the goal and knew it was for a few good causes. I was pretty confident I could cross Delmarva before dark, but just in case I didn’t I packed my headlamp. This run had to be finished in a day. That was the fundraising message. I was prepared to run until 5:00am the next morning if I had to, but that wasn’t the plan. 

It was just Jose Luis and I. We had run hundreds of times before together but this was a little different. This time we knew that we could go as slow as we wanted. We talked a lot about the route and the blessing it was to get rained on for hours. What we didn’t expect or plan on were two pests that were about to torment us: dogs and greenhead flies. I get chased by dogs on occasion while running or biking. Today I was numb and when this huge dog came running across the street I just stared at it. I wasn’t quite awake yet. Jose Luis Luckily was wide awake. He quickly pulled out a water bottle and began spraying the dog… Then a smaller dog flew across the street. This one was smaller but was a pit bull. I kept running, not any faster but with increased focus. Jose Luis squirted the second dog and we were safe. Safe for maybe a mile. 

Why had I not thought of the flies?

  
The flies tormented us for the entire length of Muddy Hole Road Or about three miles. It was terrible and they were relentless. Wearing hats helped a little and we spend a lot of time swatting flies off each other’s backs. I laughed. What a great story I thought. We were thirty minutes into this run and we are getting eaten alive. Let me emphasize it was miserable. At the end of Muddy Hole Road Travis and Dad were waiting. We had planned to have them waiting about every five to six miles during the course. They had a little rental car with a hatch back that lifted right up for access to the cooler and the backpack. It was perfect. 

The night before I put a set of running clothes on the floor and running shoes out for Travis. He goes to the gym throughout the week, but I was hoping to make him a runner. As we slowed down for our first water break Travis ends up running the last part with us. He would continue to run parts of the transdelmarva run throughout the day. He and my parents were a sight for sore eyes quite a few times during the day. 

Twelve miles in and Jose and I were peeling off miles. It was awesome to run with Jose Luis. The furthest he had ever run before this day was thirteen miles and at around the 12th mile he says he going to do fifteen miles with me. I was super happy. I thought there would be a few miles where I’d be running solo before hooking up with Jim Chaney at Jeff’s house. I was wrong for several reasons. All of a sudden at around the half marathon mark Ivan drives by with his son Benny. Ivan and his family moved two hours west of us last year, but this morning he surprised me and said he came out to run with me. I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised. He also offered to relieve me of my hydration vest. I thought about disqualifying myself from my own run for taking help, but decided against it. From that movement on at around mile 15 until the end I never once carried my own hydration vest. Those running with me carried my water and fuel. I had Sherpas! And they were amazing. 

  
It kept raining and the rain kept it cool. Delmarva in July can be hot and very humid. We eliminated the extreme heat but the humidity was with us today. At mile 15 my parents took Jose Luis home and I continued  running with Ivan as Benny rode his bike along side us. Three miles later we pull up to Jeff Roger’s home where we picked up Jim Chaney. Jim was preparing for a ultra the following week and wanted to log some miles with me and so the four of us kept putting one foot in front of another down Pemberton a Drive towards downtown Salisbury. 

 I grew up in Salisbury. I was on the cross country team in high school… As the equipment manager. Yes you read that right I wasn’t Good enough to be a runner on the cross country team so I took care of their stuff. I ran with Ivan, Jim, and Benny through downtown Salisbury and actually had a few people come out to see me run like high school friend Christy, my new buddy Roy and his family, and Brian Perez and his kids. I told a group of runners that I would be arriving into the park at 10am and I was right in time (that wouldn’t happen the rest if the day…smiles). Running towards the park I could see a group of running waiting for me near the bridge and my family at the top of the park. It was an amazing feeling to have put twenty-three miles behind me. I felt great.

I thanked Ivan and Benny for the dozen plus miles they ran with me and the four plus hours they traveled round trip to be part of my journey. This day I would witness over and over the overwhelming expression of support, concern, and love from friends and family. 

The new support crew consisted of another Jim (Jim Veal), Michelle, Kelley, Jake and Jill. This group was all in some way connected to ASA and they were ready to put in some serious miles. The excitement could be seen on their faces. Jill’s kids would be following our progress in a van and supporting us along with my family. 

  

It was shaping up to be an amazing day to run…. Not because of the weather but because of those who came out to join me and support the cause. We ran past the park and the zoo and I have to say I was a little tempted to run on the trails around the zoo. I was now a marathon distance into the run and I realized that adding a little trail work in would not be a good idea. It was at this point that I exclaimed to my fellow runners “I just ran my slowest marathon ever…awesome”. Today was not about speed. It was about enduring the distance, the rain, the heat, and the day. A little before 11am we were running along Johnson Road when I told everyone I had a surprise for them and I turned down a small road. It was pool time. I set up three locations with kiddie pools along the route when I was expecting temperatures in the mid 80s, but with the lower temperatures and the rain I had canceled two of them. I forgot to notify The Bailey Family… So I took a dip. 

  
We were just about to continue our journey when the Bailey family arrived and showed me some motivational posters they had created for me. The Perez family had also created and displayed posters cheering me on and this gave me encouragement and motivation. There were now seven of us running together and before long Brian began running with us pushing his daughter with his son along side him riding his bike. We were an army of ten pushing towards the airport. We were close to thirty miles in and at this point the skies were starting to clear up and the rain was dying off. The sun wasn’t planning to come out, but we were happy to dry off a bit. I was beginning to cramp up a little at the top of both of my calves. Jim Chaney suggested I take Tums in case of cramps and luckily we had picked some up at The Bailey home. That would be the last time I felt cramps the entire run… But not the last of my suffering. The suffering was just beginning. Chaney is an experience ultra runner and so I was picking his brain as we ran. I was also catching up with the other running and getting to know Jake for the first time. I had met Jake briefly weeks ago when my friends Joey, Gabe and I came blazing out of a trail onto a road where Michelle and Jake were running. I think we may have scared him… Since that time he ran his first half marathon and today he was going to for more miles. 

We refueled at the airport and Brian said he would meet me at the end. Jim Chaney said he would come back if I needed him and headed running back. In the end Jim would log in over twenty four miles that day. 

  
Jill is one of the cofounders of the ASA chapter on the Eastern Shore and I have talked with her several times at The YMCA and participated in group classes there with her, but this was our first time running together. Her dedication and energy to ASA is inspiring and addictive. She was full of fun uplifting stories and helped keep my spirits high. Michelle is a running machine and wakes up several times a week to meet with other runners at five in the morning to put in often double digit runs. She is also a very kind encouraging person that pushes others to go further by her example. Kelley I met for the first time going to see the Iron Cowboy in Cambridge. He is full of life and seems to know something about everything we pass along on the road. He wouldn’t say there is a flower he would tell us the type, why it was there, and what was surrounding it. He is also always putting other needs before his own. He was a wealth of knowledge in this run. Jim Veal ran with us through Salisbury and through to Johnson road. He came to support us and his being with us meant so much because he had a family member in the hospital, but didn’t want to miss being a part of this experience. He is a very positive, focused individual that I look forward to running with more. I was honored to have so many people out supporting this run. 

Just south of the airport is Fook road that turns into a dirt road. My feet and knees were happy. The soft dirt below my shoes felt heavenly. I was tired of the constant pounding of the road beneath me. It was getting to a point that each time my foot landed I felt the impact throughout all my muscles. I should not have become to happy. The dirt road would only last three miles and the other runners around me were getting eaten by Mosquitos. At this point I was probably too stinky to attract any insects. They may have thought I was already dead. My wet shirt and shorts were beginning to cause problems.

Chaffing. Ouch.

I had to text my dad. I packed a few changes of clothes and now we were on Wango road and need of a change out of these wet clothes that were causing discomfort and making running difficult. My wingmen showed up quickly and I changed right there. Yes in the middle of the road. Good thing we have empty country roads out here. 

  
I was back in the business. Fresh, clean clothes and some cold Gatorade gave me renewed energy and determination. It was now nearly one in the afternoon and we were headed towards Powellville. We were able to get into a steady pace and moved forward talking about how every began to run and who or what influenced them. Everyone was relentlessly moving forward. It was then that I found out Jake and Jill both had distance personal records of thirteen miles. I knew at that moment that I wanted them to surpass that…. But did they? When I told them that if they ran to Powellville they would pass 15 miles of running that day they were eager to complete the challenge. They were strong and pushed toward the park in Powellville. The goal was to make it to Powellville by two in the afternoon and we arrived at 2:10pm. It felt great. We were met by my family and Cathy. Cathy was planning to run to Berlin with me or about ten miles. The plan was for the others to taper off, but Jake, Jill, and kelley wanted to go further. Jake and Jill would complete another mile before Jill’s kids picked them up. They bought were able to run a record 16 miles! Kelley continued with Cathy and I. Michelle would leave, but return a short time later. 

The sky was beautiful. It was warming up to the upper 70s. We saw deer racing across breathtaking fields. These roads barely saw any traffic. It was a very relaxing time of the day to be running. Kelley talked about his experience running The JFK 50 miler and his love for running. Cathy shared how her training for The Marine Corp marathon were going. It wasn’t long before Michelle met back up with us and Chris Demone began searching for us. We were on autopilot… If for a brief time. 

My legs were heavy and I was hungry. I stayed positive. I never thought about stopping, but I was craving pizza. Delicious cheese pizza with thick tomato sauce… My parents thought I was crazy. “I want some hot pizza and we can just eat it on the side of the road.” This was further than I had ever run in my life. We were at mile 43 and my parents hooked us up. The pizza came and although it was delicious I knew not to have more than one slice. We didn’t have the time and I would have jacked up my stomach…. I actually did a little bit afterward anyway. Pepperoni is a bad idea 🙂 A few miles later I felt that pizza juggling around in my belly. I laughed. 

  

Only seventeen miles left I thought to myself. Then I reminded myself that that is still a lot of miles and I was getting pretty darn tired. One foot in front of the other I kept thinking. Having new blood in Chris Demone helped. The conversation swayed into injuries and he thankfully changed the subject to what to wear on a run and how he wears dress socks when he runs. I had no clue. By this time I was quiet. I was getting depleted. The heat was bearing down. I kept drinking a ton of water. Everyone around me was so positive and understanding. I never stopped moving. I never sat down when I stopped to drink. I had to think forward and more forward. We crossed through Berlin just south of the center of town and Chris wanted us to go through the town to stop by and check my vitals at Rite Aid…. That wasn’t happening. Later I found out they wanted a medical professional on the run for my safety. That was probably a good idea. At this point I wanted to cross route 113 and get closer to Assateague. Chris and I have known each other since high school and we have run so many epic runs together including his first marathon and ultra. I was glad he was there. He is like a brother to me. I had lots of brothers and sisters today. 

I downed some Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. So good. And another crustable. My fueling and hydration seemed to be on target..minus the pizza. 

As we were almost all the way through Berlin with eight miles to go I saw someone running towards us. “Is that Melissa?!?” Or was I seeing things? Melissa was suppose to be running the hills of Patapsco. What is she doing? Talk about a sight for sore legs. It was her and she full of fire. She was spunky and ready to lead us to the end. Chris had to peel off with five miles to go to get to a gig he had to play at. So we now had Kelley, Michelle, Melissa and I. Melissa hand me handful of chomps for energy… I also gulped down a very sweet drink handed to me from Brian and pressed on. 

I was struggling. I was moving forward slowly. Wanting to finish. My dad was sending group texts to my family to let them know my status… Little did he know I was on that group text and was reading some of them as I ran… And at the second to last water stop I read a text from my mom:

“He seems to be doing ‘ok’. Sweating a lot and is very quiet. Still moving”

I guess I needed to motivate myself and so I took the ‘ok’ as a challenge. I felt better than ok. I felt awesome… As I was barely running. I was moving slowly at a now 13 plus minute pace, but I decided to run past the Last water/aid station.. Let’s see what they say now…

  
Dad: “Not even stopping!! 3-4 miles to go!!” 

I had Michelle, Melissa, Cathy and Kelley feeding me every word I needed to hear to push me along. They are all experienced runners and know how to keep me going. Friends were sending them messages to relay to me. My friend Martin said something to the effect of “this is what you trained for!”… I thought of that and kept going. 

My legs were on fire. Everything hurt. Even my shoulders! 

Blisters we forming on my little toes… 

I was exhausted. 

Depleted.

Spent. 

Earlier in the day I said “there is no ‘I’ in quit” after which someone responded “yes there is”… I quickly responded “Well there is no ‘u’ in quit” – “huh Trent  there is…we just won’t remind you of that”…. I kept thinking of that exchange of words at this point of the run and laughed to myself. I was probably talking to myself as well. I was pretty zoned out and zoned in on finishing. 

When I turned the corner and saw the Verrazano bridge I felt so fired up. I had no energy to put that fire to use, but I kept running. I ran past Jose and his family. I saw Brian and Santi join me going up the bridge.
One mile to go. 

One little mile. I hated that mile. I loved that mile. 

When we arrived at the Assateague State Park sign my Dad wanted a picture… I wanted to keep going but I knew this meant a lot to many people not just me.. My parent flew out to be a part of this experience. My father And brother woke up the same time I did and along with my mom navigated the roads of Delmarva to support me the entire day. They sacrificed time, money and lots of sleep to be a part of this special day and I love them for it.

 So I stopped… But not for long. 

  
This was a team effort and as we ran by friends and family members at the beach bath house I felt alive and so extremely happy. As I crossed the sand dunes I thought of the kids at ASA and the kids at John Hopkins. I went straight to the water. Shoes and everything. I handed my phone to Jose Luis and jumped in. It was over. 

I floated in the water. The Atlantic Ocean felt better than ever. 

In ran 59.7 miles from bay to beach 

13 friends ran with me totaling over 163 miles with me

I burned 11,600 calories

I showered and stumbled to a bonfire set up to celebrate. It was great to be with friends and family and know that I was done running for the day. 

My run ended a little after 8:30pm, but I will remember it forever. 

Maybe I really have gone from lazy to crazy. 

PRC! 

  
  

“Slay the dragon!” 

 
Three years ago I arrived in Ocean City to run my very first race of any kind, The Island to Island Ocean City Half Marathon… Yeah that is a mouthful to say. I was nervous and excited wondering what it would be like to cross the finish line of a half marathon. 

I didn’t conquer my first half alone. My friend John, who had run several Boston Marathons and has recently completed an Ironman, joined me and paced me. I remember vividly when I asked him how fast we were going he responded, “Are you going to win?”…. Oh course I responded “No.” He then said, “Are you going to finish?”…. Without hesitation I said, “yes!” and I sorta believe it. He then said something that has stuck with me ever since… “Then don’t worry about the time. Enjoy the race. It is your first.” He then proceed to distract me from the difficulty of running further than I had ever run at that point by telling stories, asking questions and keeping me laughing. It was amazing to log mile after mile. Running down streets and over bridges. I was conquering a goal set months before that seemed daunting and very difficult. My body was sore and wanted to stop, but my mind kept pushing forward and my friend was there to encourage, support and give me advice. 

We finished and I felt great. Ever since that day I thought that if I was going to return and do The Ocean City Half of better be something just as special as my first race. 

Fast forwarded three years. May 2015. A few months ago I was asked if I’d be interested in being a pacer for the Ocean City Half. “Of course!” I knew I could run steady at any pace over a two hour finish time. I was flexible and willing to run an pace. When the organizer of the pace groups sent me a message asking me to pace the 2:30 finish time I was ready. The goal of a pacer is to bring the group in within two minutes under the goal pace. This would mean I would be running a half marathon at roughly a 11’23” pace or nearly two and half minutes slower per mile than my normal pace for a 13.1 mile run, but this wasn’t about me. This was about helping others reach their time goals and for some finish their first half marathon. 

This was exciting. As I boarded the bus with the other pacers I could see people looking at my sign and wondering to themselves and sometimes out loud… “Should I run with him?” – I was more interested in sleeping since I had to get up at 4am to get to Ocean City and catch the 5:15am “run” bus to Assateague.

The race didn’t start until 7am so I had some time to walk up to the beach. The sun was just rising and so I was not alone in taking in the beautiful beach scene and take a few pictures. I also took the time to hydrate knowing that my plan was to not stop at water stops until I built up a nice cushion of time for the pace group. 

At 6:50ish we lined up. I was towards the back holding my “2:30” sign up high. I ended up having a crowded of about 10-12 people hanging around me. They were asking questions and one asked what my strategy was… “Run the exact same 11’20” mile over and over for 13.1 miles”. One lady came up and said she was debating between my group and the 2:40 pace group….. So I responded to her “If you go back to the 2:40 group you will never forgive yourself for breaking my heart right now.”

And suddenly we were off. 

I have run lots half marathons. Most of them for fun with friends around town and most often for my own goals… But today was different. Today my time didn’t matter. My goal was to get this group following me over the finish line before two hour and thirty minutes flashed on the clock. Ideally pacers should cross inside two minutes before their pace time – so in my case between 2:28 and 2:29:59. 

Distraction was my goal. If I distracted the people running with me they were less likely to worry about their pace, the mileage and most importantly how tired they are or how much pain they are feeling. So I told stories. I told jokes. And I asked questions.

“Where are you from and why are you running this…” was my favorite question. I then called the person by their city or something that stuck out. Around me I had Pittsburgh, pink, Massachusetts, Philly, and Ravens. I emphasized that they should talk too much so they could focus on breathing and saving energy… So I talked away. I shared stories of running with random dogs, beach runs, night halfs, and of course my experience at my first half and how john gave me a Milky Way at mile 10 to give me an extra boost.

“Hey you are going the wrong way!”, I yelled at a guy who was obviously running into the wood to relieve himself. “Stay with me Philly”… “Pittsburgh and girlfriend… Where are you?”. 

We lost Massachusetts at the second water stop around mile five or so. She was never seen again, but we picked up Baltimore. It was Baltimore’s first half. I said “stay on my left the entire time”… “But my Garmin says we are going too fast…” I just pointed to my sign and said “watches lie…. Have I have ever let you down? I’m a professional pacer”

Truth is it was a first time pacing. 

I was clueless. Sorta.

I figure it all out the night before. Elapsed time was the key. All I had to do was compared the elapsed time to the time on my pace band when each mile flag appeared. 

Man I was nervous.

Six miles in and we were two minutes under goal. The six people around me, counting on me were feeling good and looking strong. 

I constantly looked at my watch, the pace, the average pace, the elapsed time, and my running group. 

Mile 8. “Everyone! Be sure to get water. You need to hydrate and we are good on time. Grab a cup.” Baltimore was feeling the pain. Pink had stepped it up and was a quarter of a mile in front of us. Pittsburgh and his girlfriend were to my right and Philly was on my left. There were also a few people in front of us that kept looking back probably thinking “We can’t let 2:30 pass us”….. Ravens was one of those people now. 

Mile 10. “Do you ever drink during a run?” I was asked as we approached the water stop. I hadn’t noticed that I didn’t drink anything the entire first ten miles. It wasn’t too hot and I was focused on helping my group meet their time. It was more of a concern for Baltimore than it was for me. So at mile ten I became a social drinker and grabbed a Gatorade cup. There. I am hydrated. 

We crossed the bridge into Ocean City. I stressed the importance of breathing and not thinking of anything but moving those feet forward. I wasn’t leaving any of my core six runners now. Their eyes were focused foward. 

When I say “two” you say “30”… Yeah we yelled that.  

A mile to go. 

“Let’s go!!! Get up here! You paid to suffer! Get your money’s worth”

“Slay this dragon!”

“You wanted 2:30! Come get it”

That last mile I changed from a story-telling jokester to a boot camp instructor. I wanted everyone to finish strong. I wanted everyone to meet their goal. Ravens in front of me next to Pink. Philly and Baltimore to my left and Pittsburgh and his girlfriend a few yards behind us. It was happening. 

“Push through it”

“Tell your legs to shut up. Your heart is the boss today!”

We passed a lady who cursed pretty loudly at me… “What was that for” – I asked. “You weren’t suppose to pass me!”… “Then run with me and finish with us!” And she did! 

“Slay the dragon…. Now!”

“Get your bling!”

“Finish this!”

“Cross the finish”

“Kill it!” 

It was done. 

Clock time: 2:29:01 

Out of my six core runners two completed their first half marathon. Three others were able to get their best half marathon time and the sixth, Pittsburgh, was able to watch his girlfriend complete her first half….. And we all able to come in under the goal. 

It was amazing! 

We are all going to finish… Together.

  
This wasn’t how I wanted to finish as I plowed through the last aid station with 1.7 miles to go in The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k. Both of my calves were locked up and cramping to a point that I could barely walk let alone run. My shaking thighs were also cramping up at this point in the race and I was shocked and disheartened wondering how I was going to continue. I walked and ran as much as a could until about a mile to go. I looked at my watch and realized if I could finish this next mile in under twenty minutes I could have a personal best…

Did you say 20 minutes?!?! Yes, yes I did and at that point it did not seem possible. You see speed is relative. I can run a 5k at a sub eight minute mile. I can run a 10k at a little over eight minute mile. I can run a half marathon in under two hours or a sub nine minute pace…. But when you crank that up to 31+ miles for a 50k with hills, mud, heat and cramping moving forward is tough at any speed. With a mile go I thought I couldn’t run anymore. I was bummed. Broken. Months of training and I thought I may fall short of my goal by minutes.

This was my second 50k and the elevation profile looked difficult, but not impossible. The website for The North Face Endurance Challenge said there was a little over three thousand feet of elevation change. I was prepared for the hills and the dirt. What I wasn’t ready for was the mud and the heat.

The field of runners converged on the mud within the first mile. It was deep in parts and difficult to navigate. People were slipping in front of me and when the trail turned to single track it was tough to pass people, so we ran one behind another for what seemed to be miles. I felt like I was running my second Tough Mudder instead of my second ultra. My shoes were caked with mud within the first fifteen minutes of the run and they would stayed that way for the next few hours.

Miles clicked by and by the turn around point, mile 15, I was holding steady completing the first half of the race in three hours. Not fast by any means, but on pace to cut an hour off my previous 50k time. The tempurature was in the 60s at this point and I was running along side a young guy from Chicago. He mentioned how there were no hills where he is from and that I was lucky to live in Maryland where I could train on hills. He must have never crossed The Chesapeake Bay. Delmarva is flat as a pancake and the only way I train for hills is to visit the local parking garage and run around the outside and up and down the stairs. The only trails where I love are parks with 2-6 miles worth of sandy trails.

We ran along the Potomac River and were blessed to see some amazing views of the river and the hills on some pretty rocky technical terrain. There were aid stations every five to six miles and it was there I filled up my fuel belt and chowed down on some PB&J sandwiches and M&Ms… And gulped down some Coke and Mountain Dew… Yes they have all of that at the water stops on these ultra races.

I started the race with my good friend Chris and his cousin Eric. Chris was basically running on a broken foot and was taking on the same terrain and difficulties I was, but with foot that had been healing for the last three weeks. We ran the first few miles together and then we were separated by the field of runners and the mud. I kept hoping to see them on a turnaround point, but didn’t. I kept thinking of them. I knew no matter how much his leg was hurting that the mental toughness Chris has would carry him to the finish line.

At Mile 25 the true struggles began. The legs became tired of the climbing, the running, the pounding, and the heat. There was no transition period this year. I had not run in the heat since the fall. The tempurature slowly climbed until it settled in the low 80s and towards the end of the race I was sweating and becoming a little sunburned. It was sucking the life out of me. I ended up running for five minutes and walking for a minute… Yes, the Jeff Galloway way. The legs began to cramp up and at one point I tripped on a root causing my legs to give out from sudden cramping. I had to lean against a tree and stretch the cramp out. Runners passed me asking if I was okay and if they could help me… “I am fine, just cramping… Just need to stretch it out”. Passing the marathon point, 26.2 miles, gave me an extra boost of energy and I started running again… Until that last aid station. Again with 1.7 miles to go I hit another wall… I pressed forward and I ran and walked until that last mile.

I thought maybe I just needed to walk out this last final mile. I never let it enter my mind that I wouldn’t finish, but it did enter my mind “How will I finish? How can I finish?”

Then he showed up.

“You okay buddy?” – This guys asks me.

“Both of my calves and my thighs are cramping up. I can barely walk” – I said as I relentlessly moved forward.

“This is my friend and she is struggling to finish as well… I just met her this past mile” – he stated.

I then looked down at their bibs and realize that they were running the marathon relay or six miles each as part of a team. I looked over and saw this lady walking beside me pushing to finish. It then struck me. Clear as daylight. This lady and I needed each other and we needed the guy that had joined her.

“We are all going to finish…. Together. If he can run on cramped legs after thirty miles we can run beside him” – He said to the lady… and I believed him…. And so did she.

I somehow… Someway… Started to run again…. And so did she.

They both gave me the power and motivation I needed to pick up the pace and run that last mile. We encouraged each other.. “Come on!” “Let’s go!” “Let’s finish strong!”

We turn the corner and had 250 feet or so to the finish line. The final push. There were people cheering for my new friends. The guy running with us told everyone – “This is Trent! He is cramping bad and needs your help! Cheer him on!”

All of a sudden I had a fan club, but most importantly I had two instant friends that finished strong with me.

Dean Karnazes once said he would take motivation wherever he could find it. I lived that quote today. Sometimes it just takes looking around and accepting help, receiving inspiration, or reaching out to help another person to move forward… And sometimes it takes just pushing everything aside and plowing through, knowing that things may be difficult and dark… But they say the sky is always darkest before the sun rises. And the sun did rise.

I crossed the finish line and checked my time. I beat my 50k best time by six minutes. Would I have accomplished that personal best without the help of encouraging strangers? Doubtful. I know I would not have been running strong and pushing through to the end. Each time I stopped to stretch out my calves they cried for me to “keep running….”

A little while later I received a text. Chris and his cousin Eric had just crossed mile 30. I went back to the finish line and watched my friend of over 25 years complete his first ultramarathon. While strangers were pushing me along his cousin and good friend, Eric, was pushing Chris forward. The joy I felt watching a good friend reach such an amazing goal equaled or surpassed the joy I felt just moments earlier.

I believe any journey worth taking is worth taking with others. The ultra journey this past week taught me that at times we carry others and at times others carry us… But we always finish with the strength of others.

Forever Strong

Eric, Trent, and Chris 4/18/2015

Converted…

The roads gave birth to my running obsession. I started on the roads and the asphalt under my feet felt great. The car lights blazed by me each morning as I ran on the side of the road. I thought I knew what running was all about. I put in thousands of miles on the road, ran half marathons, marathons, and made numerous friends as we ran and connected. Only months after beginning my running journey I started The Pemberton Running Club and we created routes on the roads around Nanticoke road and Pemberton road. Our goals was to run as many roads as we could. We wanted to run every road in town and so I bought a map of the entire county and began highlighting every road we ran. Highway roads, country roads, and city roads. I was a running GPS. I knew every road in Salisbury, every road between the roads, and every road to get to other roads to avoid the dangerous roads or to get to the dangerous roads. We ran roads we shouldn’t have run. We ran roads because we loved them… Or…

Or we ran roads because we didn’t know anything different. Well sorta.. I should have listened more to Joey “trails” when he introduced me to the trails early in my running days tagging on a few miles in Pemberton Park after our normal five or six miles, but I was too focused on increasing miles and training for marathons. So I went back to the roads and kept running them almost exclusively. It wasn’t until last year when I ran the Patapsco 50k that I realized where my real true love of running was to be found. I needed to run in the trails… More. Much more.

The trails were different. There were roots, there were rocks, there were hills, there was mud, there was dirt, and there was danger. I felt alive as I ran Patapsco. Being outside in the woods running on dirt was closer to nature than I had ever felt. After Patapsco I began to add more trails to my training plans and although I continued to run on the roads and train for marathons I knew my days on the roads were limited. The trails were just more vibrant, more chaotic, more unpredictable, and more challenging. My pace decreased by almost two minutes a mile as I weaved around trees and down hills. The earth can be forgiving at times and in unforgiving at other times. When you hit a root and go flying smashing your knee or elbows or face against the ground you feel what trail running is all about.

I began to hunger for trails more and more. The training plans were thrown out the window. A few weeks ago my wife was out of town in Canada and I ended up running two half marathons in two days, one on the road and one on the trails. I can’t remember a minute of the road, but the trail run I remember every mile. The next day I ran four miles up and down a dirt hill and then a few hours later drove to Virginia to run eighteen miles of trails. It was then, during that week, that it realized….I was converted to the trails. The roads still hold a place in my running world, but that place is shrinking and the bulk of my running thoughts are now consumed by trails. Single track. Dirt. Technical. Trails.

In two days I am running my second official 50k on trails outside of Washington DC as part of The North Face Endurance Challenge. I look forward to dirt. I look for to the miles. I look forward to the tweaked addiction of running. Tweaked in that I want nothing more than to conquer more trails.

Goodbye roads.

What are elevators?

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This is a running blog and so when I am sick and unable to run it makes it difficult to write and update the blog. This week flu-like aches and pains as well as a gnarly cough have taken over my body. One of the best things a runner can do is listen to his or her body. Knowing when to rest and when to crank out the miles is very important in staying injury free and free from burnout. I have run over a hundred miles a month every month for three years, but I have also never kept a streak nor have I been crazy about logging a certain amount of miles regardless of how my body feels. Your body knows when it needs to rest…we just need to listen.

Since I picked up running there are a few non running habits I have picked up that have also changed my life. Some are health related, but some have little to do with health. I will share five here that have changed my life. I have no idea if these are good changes or not but they are all noteworthy.

1. Five a.m. Is now my normal wake up time six days of the week. I actually “sleep in” on Sundays until seven. Before I began running I would normally sleep until 6:30 in the morning. Now even on days when I am not running I am up early tackling the day. This could mean taking care of work business, going to the gym, and even occasionally even cleaning up the house. I couldn’t imagine sleeping in until nine or ten. Ever.

2. Weather. I check the weather constantly now and the weather apps on my phone are my best friends. I addition to knowing what the weather will be I am also better able to guess the weather when outside and know what to wear and not to wear. Surprisingly, because I am outside more often I believe my body has become better able to handle extreme cold and hot weather…. Either that or I don’t care as much anymore.

3. Distance. Having run the majority of the roads in my town and the towns around my town has made me more aware of distances. Actually it gets a little scary. When asked by a lady how far a doctors’ office was I told her “about 6.5 miles… Maybe 6.7” – I think that was a little too specific. I also have a better understanding of how to get from one place to another in town… An almost internal GPS. It is fun, unless someone else is driving and going all over the place when you know the back roads and the shortcuts.

4. Elevators. I never take them anymore. I take the stairs. I now work in a few larger cities (Annapolis and Wilmington) and have a lot of offices in large building with elevators. I avoid them, always. Next time you are in a building with elevators take the stairs…. Going up and down four a five stories a day can be a nice little cross training during the day.

5. Water. I hardly ever drank just water three or four years ago. Everything I drank was soda. Now I hydrate with water the entire day. Soda has been pretty much been faded out of my life (not all together since I like a nice cold coke with a football game) and my go to drink is water. This is huge, especially when in a restaurant when waiting for a meal. Just think of how much soda you drink in the twenty or thirty minutes you are waiting for your meal. I keep water in my car and it keeps me from drinking and eating too many calories.

Six Things I Never Do…



I run often. I run over a hundred miles a month and have been doing so for the past three years. So as a runner you would expect a number of things from me… And many of things you expect are true. I wake up early. I drink a lot of water. I buy quite a few shoes during the year. I sign up for races and follow running plans. However there are six running habits I do not follow. 

1. Stretch. I don’t stretch. When I start running, I just start running. I don’t jump up and down or stretch my muscles. I just lace up my shoes and go. Now over the year I have begun to implement slow warmup miles and slow cool down miles, but I have not used any time before or after a run to stretch. Okay… I am at times a social stretcher. I remember before a marathon all my friends were stretching so I faked stretched to fit in. 

2. Rotate shoes. I have used the same shoes Asics GT 2000s since I began running in December of 2011. Well to be fair the 2000s were upgraded about two years ago and replaced an older model of the same shoe. I don’t use different shoes for different runs. I use the same pair for streets, trails, sand, and track. I have not bought a different brand or style in over four thousand miles of running. Spoiler alert…. I am buying some Brooks Cascadias in a few months for my Dublin Marathon (Because they come in green in my size) – stay with what works, unless you are going to Ireland. 

3. Foam Roller. This is similar to stretching I suppose, but I wouldn’t know. I have never used a foam roller after a race. If my muscles are sore I normally just do a recovery run or throw in a rest day. I can’t see Kenyans using rollers, but they may. I’d love to have a foam roller fight. I do want the “This is How I Roll” shirt with a big foam roller on the front. 

4. Music. This probably surprises most people. Out of my five hundred plus runs I have listened to music three times. Many times I am running with other people, but there are hundreds of runs I have run solo with no music. I do like music and maybe because I drive for hours on end day after day for work I feel no need for music on my runs. The real reason though is I enjoy listening to the outdoors. I enjoy hearing the sounds of nature and the sounds of the city. I also enjoy focusing on my breathing and my pace. I bought some Yurbuds, but they seem to just sit in my car unused. The voices in my head keep my entertained. 

5. Naps. Naps and long runs seem to go hand in hand for many distance runners. I get up early to run (usually 5am), but I never nap in the afternoon after a long run. There are two reasons for this. First… a run in the morning actually fires me up for the rest of the day and I actually have more energy. Second… If I tried to sleep my wife and/or my three young kids would wake me up. Our Saturdays are usually full of activities, birthday parties, get togethers, and running errands. Now that is not to say I don’t fall asleep at times while watching a show or sitting down, but no napping. 

6. Ice Baths. The last thing I want to do after a long run is get in freezing water…. Unless it is a polar bear dip in the ocean. I ran the Tough Mudder and jumped in the Artic Enema obstacle and I was fine with that since it was part of the event… But I am not addin one post run. Get me a hot tub. 

Snow Run

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Every year I look forward to the forecast that calls for snow… lots of snow. Last week was already the middle of February and so I was thinking maybe we missed out this year. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to get in a snow run. I was bummed. 

The truth is I love cold weather running and I love nothing more than a nice early morning snow run. Last Monday night I was glued to the weather app on my phone and constantly checked the local TV station’s website. I was itching for lots of snow and they were calling for six to ten inches of snow, which is really quite unusual for The Eastern Shore of Maryland. My wife grew up in Montreal, Canada and has had a lot of experience in handling snow, so when she told me to get shoveling at 11pm with snow still falling and only three inches on the ground I did just that. I cleared the driveway and received a few odd looks from the neighbors… like “What the heck are you doing… it is still snowing”… 

I am glad I shoveled. Tuesday morning I woke up like a kid on Christmas and jumped to the window…. and there were an additional three or four inches on the ground. Any additional snow and I would have had some difficulty getting out of my driveway.  I could easily drive over three inches of snow and so I backed up and began driving towards the downtown park and zoo area of Salisbury. 

 The route to the zoo became an obstacle course as plows piled up snow blocking half the streets as they cleared the other half. A drive that normally takes me ten minutes took me over thirty minutes and when I finally arrived at the zoo I realized there was nowhere to park. The parking lot at the zoo was covered in six inches of snow. My friend, Brian, called and said he was stuck for a while in his driveway, but was on his way to run with me. My other friend, Melissa, was running from her house to the zoo. Brian and I agreed to meet about half a mile from the zoo in a shopping center was plowed out. 

 With watches fired up and my yaktraxs secured to my shoes we ventured off. The first part was a fairly easy run along the road toward the zoo. The snow was still fresh and fluffy and so to keep us moving along quickly we kept to the tracks made by the vehicles. When temperatures drop under around thirty degrees iPhones cease to operate, so both Brian and I left our phones in the cars… Which meant I had to message Melissa before we left. 

We passed the zoo and saw no sign of Melissa so we pass the south end of the park and made a loop around the zoo. Of course Melissa was making the same loop around the other side. Luckily for us her footprints and those of her dog Holly made them easy to track. Brain went around one end and I went along the other end and we both found her near the entrance to the zoo. 

 The three of us high stepped through the snow and kept our route nearly completely along the paths around the park. The snow was pure and untouched. We were the first to experience the beauty of the snow as it blanketed the park. The snow began to feel heavier as we logged mile after mile. Each step become a little more taxing and the cold began to make my hands cold and tingly. The snow had a very similar feel as the soft sand of the beach. As we ran, we pass several people shoveling their snow and giving us looks like…. “Are you all crazy?” We also saw a few cars braving the conditions, but luckily no accidents where we ran. The pace was slow, but the effort was intense. Towards the end of our run we decided to run the trails for about a mile. The snow on the trail was deeper and our feet sank with each step. It was awesome. Nothing beats a fresh snowfall to spice up a run.

Brian and I completed seven miles and Melissa finished with over ten miles as she helped push a few cars out of the snow on her way home. 

The snow run was a success…. But my workout was just beginning as I pulled in the driveway and stared shoveling… and shoveling…and shoveling. 

We need more snow. 

We may never get this chance again…

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Every run should have a goal. Our goal last Monday was get a cold weather personal best (PR) for Chris. Sunday night when we pulled up our trusty weather apps we saw what we were looking for… A cold day with a windchill of -6 planned.

It was President’s Day and so Chris had the day off and I decided to take the day off since my kids had off school and the opportunity to run the trails at Pemberton in very cold conditions could not be ignored. So we decided to start a little later for two reasons…. We could and it made better sense to run in the light due to the icy conditions and the rock hard trail conditions.

Four layers of clothing everywhere, except my hands and head. My head was covered with a hat and the hood from my running jacket, but my hands were only covered by my cold weather running gloves. Bad idea. The brutally cold tempurature (for a couple of guys from Maryland) ended up stinging my hands. So cold that I had to shake the cold away. I guess it didn’t help that my gloves after years of use had a few small holes in them. I need to revisit the gloves in future cold runs. Everywhere else I was sweating like a mobster in church.

Pemberton park has a beautiful set of trails that cover between five and six miles (depending on what you count as trails). Our goal was to run a 10k to help us prepare for our spring 50k outside of Washington DC. So we need to get in as many trails miles as possible…. But we had no clue what was to happen next…

Part of the trails pass by a few lookout areas over the Wicomico River. As we ran to the end of one of the lookouts we came up with a crazy, exciting idea…

Let’s run the riverbed!

Chris went down first as I snapped a first pictures. He then yell that I couldn’t miss the view of the opportunity. All I hear is – “We may never get this chance again” – so we ran it. We ran the Wicomico River. Having grown up on Delmarva Chris and I knew how the river normally is. It is normally muddy, slimy, and a mess. It is marshland that was a frozen “tundraland” last week and we captured the opportunity. The river was iced over and the mud was solid and very runnable. We ran a mile and half on the riverbed and were able to get amazing views as the river twisted around a curve and the sun came out over the frozen water. There was one step that was a bit sketchy… I took what might have been a little too forceful of a step and my right foot went completely through the ice, but it was so cold I just ended up with an icy, frozen muddy foot. No harm. No foul.

When you have a chance to run something epic. Do it.

We completed our cold run after 6.2 miles and Chris logged his coldest run ever. My coldest run was last year in White Plains, New York in a frigid -10 windchill and of course I hope that PR drops soon, but until that happens I hope to keep my hands warm and my eyes set on more epic runs….

Like a frozen Atlantic.

Enter Sandmen… Assateague 60k

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I was kinda joking when I posted the mapmyrun route on our running club group page. I didn’t really think anyone would jump on the idea of running the island of Assateague from top to bottom. The island is a national seashore and so there are no houses, buildings (besides a few ranger stations, bath houses, and a store open in the summer), stores, or in many parts roads.

Gabe took the bait. I should have known. Gabe is always looking for the next adventure and looking back if the run is epic enough and crazy enough he will probably join in the fun. He ran The Patapsco 50k with me in October as well as a few out-of-the ordinary runs at Blackwater Refuge and around Salisbury.

This was to be no ordinary run by any means. First off is the distance. It is almost exactly 60k from the northernmost part of the island to the southernmost point of the island. Yes for all you Americans that is 37.2ish miles. It is not just the distance that can be a challenge we were also planning the run during February so the cold and the wind were factors in our planning. In fact we had to push the run back a week due to low temperatures in the teens with windchill factors between 2 and -2 degrees. The sand was also an issue. The winter causes the sand to be more packed and somewhat easier to run on, but it is still sand and there is still constant stepping in and out of sand. The distance between points of safety was also a consideration when planning our trip. We had a distance of 22 miles that were basically no-man land. Meaning you could not access the beach without The use of an Over Sand Vehicle (OSV).

3am. My alarm goes off only once. I spring out of bed. This was a morning I was looking forward to for weeks. February 7th, 2015 was the day we finally set to conquer the island. I threw on three layers of clothing knowing that the temperature would be around 28 degrees when we landed on the island. I ate a bowl of oatmeal and downed a pouch of applesauce. I also grabbed a huge bottle of water and walked out to my front porch. Gabe picked me up at 3:30 and we drove to Denny’s where we met up with Ken. Ken had a trailer on the back of his truck with a canoe. This is where the adventure really started to pick up. We jumped in the truck and headed to West Ocean City arriving at 4:30am. We lowered the canoe to the water and realized that only one of us could man the canoe until it was further out in the water. So ken paddled over to the dock and Gabe and I jumped on a random boat to get closer to the canoe. Ken brought the canoe right up to the boat and we slowly entered the canoe. Our combined weight nearly sunk the canoe. We were four or five inches from the water and if there were any movement at all in the water we would have gone under. We were blessed that the water was calm and glassy. A perfect night to cross the water and the distance was probably that of two football fields, but it was scary nonetheless. We made it safely onshore at the time was 4:45am.

We said goodbye to Ken and started up my Nike GPS watch at 4:50am. This was now officially my earliest run ever as we started around the top of Assateague under and nearly full moon. The first twenty minutes or so we eerily quiet and we began to freak ourselves out. We even mentioned how terrifying it would be to see people on the beach at this time at night. It was then that I saw what I thought was four huge guys crossing over the sand dune. “Gabe! Check out those four huge dudes!”… “Trent, those are horses” – the wild horses on Assateague are very common and often walk on the beaches especially at night. We thought it would be fun to chase them down and get a better look, but evenwith fresh legs they were able to outrun us and we were back on the edge of the water heading south. The sand was packed and the moon was light enough that we could turn off our headlamps and enjoy the beauty of the night. I enjoyed the night until Gabe told a story of a couple that drove their Hummer on the beach and flipped it over into the crashing waves. The guy in the Hummer died at the scene and the girl tried to walk to Ocean City and died of exposure. She would have never made it to Ocean City since she would have arrived at the beach we landed on and would have had to swim to Ocean City. The story made the night a little less inviting until the red glow of the sun began to rise above the oil-like darkness of the ocean. It was beautiful. The transition from night to day fueled us to run faster. It was slowing getting lighter around 6:30am and we were nearing our first aid station at mile ten. 

The few miles before the aid station were run on the trails leading from the ranger station to the start of the Over Sand Vehicle area. Grant and his young daughter were there waiting for us. Gabe had dropped off our drop bags to him the night before, so when we arrived we were greeted with Gatorade, M&M’s, Cliff bars, dried pineapples, and yes RedBulls. It was now at 40 degrees and we dropped out headlamps and hats.

There is debate on whether RedBulls should or should not be used in ultra running. I don’t drink caffeinated drinks normally, but this wasn’t a normal day. We split an 8oz can and thanked Grant. We then ran over the dunes and back to the beach. Ten miles were behind us and 27 were still ahead of us. I am not sure if we were crazy before or if the Redbull went to our heads but we ended up talking about some insane things on the run like half-man half-horse beasts. Around mile 15 or 16 we found a tennis ball on the beach and started to kick it to one another for the next mile and a half. It was a fun way to pass the miles and created a nice fartlek workout for us.

9:45 we arrived at mile 22.75 or the second aid station at the border of Maryland and Virginia. The beach actually has a fence that separates the two states and it is not to keep Marylanders from crossing into Virginia, but rather to keep the horses from cross the borders. Andy and Michael were manning this aide station and drove Gabe’s truck onto the beach to meet us. Gabe filled his truck with wood and fire starting materials along with a note asking them to start a fire and set up the beach chairs.

It was awesome. A nice halftime treat. We had the chairs set up around the campfire and were able to stretch our legs and down some more food. We had the same food and drinks as the first aid station, although this time we were a little more liberal with the RedBulls. We also took the time to charge up the watch and put IcyHot on the legs. The guys were very helpful and brought us everything we needed. We filled up the fuel belts and left aid station two and entered into Maryland.

My legs were heavy, but we relentlessly moved forward. When we hit the magical marathon number of 26.2 miles we stopped and took a picture. We then focused on trying to find even ground to run on. The beach had a greater slant to it than it did a few miles before and we could feel it in our legs. After five plus hours of talk Gabe decided we needed some tunes. So we jammed to some custom Pandora stations and tried to avoid getting our feet wet from the waves. Our feet never touched the water the entire run… Except to save the tennis ball.

As we ventured south our buddy Chris was heading north. He started about the time we left water station 2. We began to see a speck of him at mile 27 or 28. As mile 29 approached we raised our arms in excitement as we knew Chris was close. He ran up with a baseball cap on and a backpack. “What is that for?” I asked pointing to his backpack… “Water and shells. The shells are awesome. Just wait”. He was right. In the five miles we ran south with Chris we all picked up four or five big concha shells. Shells can get heavy when you are running so I looked forward to seeing my wife and kids and unloading the shells. It was so awesome to see Chris and run with him. He lives for epic runs and so to have him be a part of this was icing on the cake… Plus he brought fresh legs and an added excitement to our run.

Mile 34. I was wasted tired. My legs were numb. I felt like I was lifting my legs with blocks of concrete on them. My arms tingled from the constant lifting and lowering with the shells. We had plenty of water but we couldn’t drink because our hands were full of shells. So we kept running and it was tough. The sand seemed to get deeper although it was the same. I never disliked the run but I did look forward to the end and at the toughest moment I saw Denise, my dog, and the kids on the sand. There was another couple a few yards ahead of them and those two groups were the only people we saw on the beach all day. I hugged the family and downed a cliff bar and then told them we had a few miles to go. They were a sight for a tired, sweaty, stinky, weary man. I love my family.

The last push. Gabe said something as we started the last few miles that amazed me… “I think I want to open it up a bit to see what I have left in the tank”… Then he took off like a bat out of hell. He was flying. It was then that Chris and I knew we were running with a machine. He ran… Or rather floated over the sand.

My running became somewhat of a shuffle after leaving Denise, but when Gabe took off it gave Chris and I some life as well and we picked up the pace. We felt alive. One with nature. Born to run on the beach. Gabe drew a line in the sand and cheered us to finish… However it was not the end. Chris said, “Guys keep going. Look at the map we aren’t at the complete bottom”. Chris had the map pulled up on his phone and he was right. We would have been short by half a mile and more importantly we would not have run the entire length of Assateague.

This time Chris ran ahead and drew a line and Gabe and I joyfully crossed over the line and fell to the sand. We had conquered Assategaue. We had run 37.5 miles from one end to the other and we didn’t want to run another step.

So we collected more shells – one for each member of our family – and the hitchhiked back on the OSV road to the parking lot where my family was waiting.

It was an epic running adventure I will never forget. We could have never completed it without the support of family and friends. Sometimes in life all it takes is a crazy idea and a crazy friend to make epic happen.

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