Monthly Archives: August 2011

Clif Products Review

Disclaimer: I am NOT sponsored by Clif products, but I was sent these for free…after I wrote to their company and gave them feedback on the problems I had with their Clif Shot Gels. I don’t know if they appreciated my feedback or wanted to make amends or what, but I received this package of goodies and I promised them I would respond with my experience using them. So here goes.

The goods I was given to try.

First off, let me give you my history with Clif Products. When I went vegan back in ’94 (16+ years ago if you don’t want to do the math), things were MUCH different as far as vegan alternatives/options go. We geeked out over Soft Batch Cookies (no longer vegan), Twizzlers and kinds of other terrible junk foods that just happened to be vegan. There was basically 1 brand of soymilk (Edensoy…which didn’t taste so good) and not a lot of other vegan food options, so you can imagine how stoked we were to come across Clif Bars at our local health food store when they started carrying them. To us, these were candy bars. I was physically active at the time, but only through bike commuting and skateboarding, so I wasn’t eating these for their nutritional quality or energy giving properties. No, I was eating these because they were the closest thing in the market to a vegan candy bar. Hey, I could have done worse.

I was always stoked to see Clif Bar grow more and more and continue to expand their flavors and product lines, because no matter that I ate these for their sweet convenience alone, they were awesome snacks. Imagine my excitement when they even expanded into gas stations, supplying me and my friends with a legitimate option for vegan road trip food. Anyways, I continued on with the brand as I became more and more active because the products themselves are not only vegan, but also come out on top of every energy bar test I’ve come across. They are ethically sound, nutritionally superior and taste frickin great. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked to get a package to test….and let’s just get to that shall we?

Clif Shots

I was given the Lemon-lime Shot and the Chocolate Cherry +caffeine Turbo Shot. If you read my Great Goo Review a few posts back, you’ll know all about my thoughts on these offerings, so I won’t go too deep into them again. Basically, I think the packaging is too big and too stiff, which tends to cut the corners of my mouth as I try to suck out the precious sugary mess during my runs. I also think the goo is too thick for my liking. When I’m doing 3 or 4 hour runs, need energy IMMEDIATELY and frankly, have had more sugary energy gels than I care to admit already, the last thing I want is a thick lingering mess in my mouth. I want it in and down as quick as possible. Hmm…this sounds kinda dirty. Anyways, I just can’t see myself using Clif Shots in a race scenario due to these shortcomings. They may taste great compared to the other gels and have natural ingredients that are mostly organic, but when it comes to performance, Clif really needs to make some adjustments if they want to sit on the top of the energy gel pile. Hey Clif, I’d be glad to work with you on this.

Shot Bloks

When I wrote to Clif Products and told them about my problems with the Clif Shots, they suggested I try the Shot Bloks. At first I was adamantly resistant to the idea, because as the reasons I stated above, the last thing I want is a chewy gooey mess in my mouth as I try to suck in desperately needed oxygen during my strenuous runs. If I’m redlining it and have no option to back off, just the thought of putting something in my mouth to chew becomes downright dangerous. Surprisingly though, when I’ve been doing my 4 hour training runs, the Bloks tend to work pretty decently. Sure, I have to push 3 of them into the corner of my mouth like a chipmunk preparing for hibernation, but they actually chew up pretty easily and don’t impede my breathing too much if I take them in on a flat section of the trail. I’ve also noticed they stave off the mild hunger I start to experience on longer runs, where the gels tend to go down too quick, the Bloks take a little longer going down and leave me feeling a little less empty than the gels do. Now, if you do plan to take these on a run, I would suggest cutting the tops off the packaging. The Bloks are stuffed in tight enough that they won’t pop out and squeezing them into your mouth will be that much easier. I know of a mountain biker who takes them out of the package completely and sticks then under the lip of his cycling shorts for easy access. Yeah, that sounds pretty gross to me too and certainly wouldn’t work for runners for obvious reasons, but it’s an idea. The greatest drawback to Bloks are their size, of course. Unless you are carrying a waist pack, camelback or something else, they won’t work to well for you. Maybe Clif should start offering them as a smaller 3 pack?

Clif Bars

These are the hands down best product Clif offers out of their entire line. Granted, they aren’t for taking while on the run (though I did try it towards the end of one of my runs this weekend…with unpleasant results), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a necessary complement to your performance. Clif Bars are dense chunks of great tasting nutritional awesomeness that offer the prescribed 4:1 carb to protein ratio (40+ carbs to 10g protein) in each bar. These are great for both pre or post workout fueling. They are made with natural ingredients and packed full of nutrients to aid in recovery and energy delivery. On a side note, I’ve found that Clif Bars are great snacks during the day if you don’t want to eat too heavy leading into a run. Despite their playing card size, they tend to fill me up sufficiently and stave off hunger for quite some time, helping me go into a workout fueled, but feeling light. I could go on and on about each flavor I was supplied with, but let me just say that Carrot Cake has been my long time favorite, although Black Cherry Almond is an amazing complement with a cup of coffee, and the brand new Coconut Chocolate Chip is also outstanding. You just really can’t go wrong with any of their flavors.

Clif has an even more extensive line of products, most vegan, some not, but they are all of high-quality and always geared toward active lifestyles. I’m stoked Clif Products continued to grow from their small start and give us vegans an awesome array of foods we can trust to be healthy and ethically produced (save the few non-vegan offerings). I would find it weird if you have never tried anything they make, but if you haven’t, don’t pass it up next time.

I feel so special! Any other companies want my supremely expert and unbiased review of your products....send them my way!!!

P.S. – I’m really not getting anything else from Clif Products (that I know of) and am not trying to sell you on anything. These are just thoughts on my experience using their products, both good and bad. Take them for what you will, but just know I’m not snake oiling you here.

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Eternal Treblinka // book review

Eternal Treblinka

My wife bought me Eternal Treblinka “Our treatment of animals and the holocaust”, as a Xmas present 3 years ago and I didn’t decide to read it until very recently. Call it annoyingly stubborn on my part, but I have an incredible self-imposed barrier on reading books suggested to me by others. I like to discover books on my own as I feel it adds to the experience of the knowledge gained and nearly sacred act of reading. I know, ridiculous. On a more legitimate basis, I also didn’t jump at reading this book because it’s subject matter, the comparison of killing millions of animals for food and millions of humans for racial purity, is most often an exaggerated, reactionary and lazy justification for veganism. PETA has done a splendid job of insulting both animals and humans by making the comparison without reservation. So, I was reluctant to begin reading a book that, from my past experience, I thought would be exaggeratedly sentimentalist and not offer much by way of a deeper consideration of the comparisons, though the discussion is well worth having.

In short, I was very wrong about this book…and I’m glad. Not only does Eternal Treblinka offer a grounded approach to the subject, but it makes its point by drawing a much larger picture of the social forces that create both animal suffering and human suffering. Eternal Treblinka could easily have made the tired comparison, that killing millions of animals is a current holocaust all the same that killing humans in the 40’s was a historical holocaust, but instead it goes much further to explain HOW these sorts of decisions are made. Eternal Treblinka avoids the simplistic comparisons based on numbers dead and instead details the comparisons of process that show how easy it becomes to kill without reservation. From there, the connections between the animal “holocaust” and the human holocaust are glaringly evident.

Interestingly, the book reads more of an indictment of the human holocaust, referencing the link to animals more as an explanation as to how humans could be killed in such numbers so easily, with the killers avoiding such a seemingly unbearable weight upon their conscience. The processes and the mentality of killing animals in such great numbers so easily lays the groundwork for the human holocaust to follow suit. Eternal Treblinka connects those historical dots to explain why both are so abhorrent.

Drawing on an easily traceable historical line, Eternal Treblinka connects the the first steps of small scale animal husbandry to the first factory farm, then leads us through Henry Ford’s awe at the efficiency of the slaughterhouses which he coopted for his automobile assembly lines, then makes the frightening connection between Hitler’s rise to power and his appreciation of Ford’s factory line processes (Ford was, by the way, incredibly supportive of Hitler’s anti-semitic perspectives), and onto the outcome that was the massive and efficient slaughtering of millions of humans in the name of racial purity. Yes, the ease with which humans were killed so efficiently and wantonly can be traced back to the machinations of animal slaughter. As this quote so succintly describes:

“…during the Holocaust, the infrastructure of destruction did not change, only the identity of the victims.”

 Of course, although the processes and functions were readily available (some Jews were housed in slaughterhouse holding pens at times), there is still the necessary steps it takes to divide one being from the other, which makes the killing both a necessity and desired outcome. This is essentially where Eternal Treblinka begins, citing early mentalities that deliberately sought to divide human animal from non-human animal, making all sorts of cruelties justifiable through a veil of superiority. And once the division was made that humans are above non-humans, a whole spiraling effect took place where we allowed ourselves to be as free as we desired to do with animals what served our purposes. All of which, continued to lead towards so many cruelties against our own species. Vilification, eugenics, industrialized slaughter, etc.

Eternal Treblinka’s strongest contribution to the discussion of animal cruelty is that it doesn’t simplify the comparison of millions of animals dead to millions of humans dead, as the INTENT between the two are nearly worlds apart, but instead shows how the mentality that humans harbor against animals and the machinations we have established to enact that divisive, superior mentality can so easily be turned upon ourselves. Don’t think, however, the purpose of the book is to simply use the comparison to avoid another human holocaust. Eternal Treblinka delivers a vivid and heart-wrenching depiction of the treatment of animals and just as equally as it addresses the human suffering of the holocaust uses that as an example as to why we need to alter our perception in our relationships to animals, for their sake.

Unfortunately, the book takes an awkward diversion towards the end where the author runs through a number of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories and plays fanboy for a number of pages and although the subject matter relates to animals and the holocaust to some degree, the pieces were more of an after thought instead of a continuation of the book’s linear dialogue.

More practical, however, is the section of thoughts by both survivors of the holocaust and those who had various parts in its continuation, whether directly or as a bystander, who have drawn from the experience to become activists for both humans and animals.

Although addressing an abysmal subject, Eternal Treblinka does so with intellect and compassion, but most importantly with an unwavering call to action. The book is written to detail how the holocaust came to be, but also how we can learn from it and move to a more compassionate existence for both humans and animals, hoping to never repeat a human holocaust ever again, but also hoping to eliminate the perspectives and killing we place upon non-human animals today.

http://www.amazon.com/Eternal-Treblinka-Treatment-Animals-Holocaust/dp/1930051999

Unleashed.

As my writing moves forward with this blog and if you continue reading you may start to notice a subtle change in focus. A while ago I was “that vegan kid”, you know, the loud, obnoxious one. The one that wore all the t-shirts, went to all the protests, carried themselves with an air of self-righteousness and basically channeled a lot of confusion and anger through the cause of animal liberation. Some of it was well-placed and well-deserved while more of it was, well, just childish. As I matured I began to shift focus with my tactics and found myself becoming quieter and quieter when the issue of animal abuse came up so as not to cause conflict or offense towards others, hoping that my life as an example was activism enough. I think it was a smart move, but over time I became more complacent with this non-confrontational, or at least non-vocal, approach towards addressing the issue. I think I got too comfortable.

Fortunately, I found an approach through my running (via this blog) that allowed me a little more leeway to approach the issue of animal liberation a little more openly and constructively, more mature even, which brought the issue a little more into the open and gave me a little more solace that I was doing “something” to affect the lives of animals. Still, if you have a deeper awareness of this subject, you know that it’s never enough….not until every cage is opened.

Until every life is free.

Recently, I finally read a book my wife bought for me a few years ago, Eternal Treblinka, which as you can deduce by the title is a comparison of the processes that brought about the holocaust and their links, both theoretical and physical, to the animal holocaust. For whatever reason, this book affected me as a number of books on the subject have in the past and I found my activism reignited, so to speak. The drive to do SOMETHING was as strong as ever, but what? Honestly, I don’t know, but I’m starting with this blog. I know what aspects of animal activism I DON’T want to do and which aspects I CAN’T do (anymore), but now I need to really figure out how I can apply a stronger amount of force to the proper social levers, without reverting to that obnoxious “vegan kid” I once was.

I wish I could tell you that every race I win I’ll donate half of the proceedings to an animal liberation organization, but unfortunately that would be quite an empty gesture as I very rarely win any money in races. So right now all I have is this blog, which I will use to bring the issues surrounding the treatment of animals out into the open a little more. I certainly won’t bail on my running posts (as I’m about to add in a second here), but I’m also going to bring the larger and more important issue of animal liberation to the front of this mediated discussion we tend to have here. Please, don’t take offense. There are larger, more important issues at hand.

Like I said though, I also won’t abandon my thoughts related to (vegan) running. Speaking of….the Vermont 50 is less than a month away. I haven’t discussed my training much since airing the decision to run my first ultramarathon, but part of that is because I’ve been training so much!

8900' of climbing. Bring it.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been training more than I think I ever have in the past. I have been hitting 100 mile weeks consistently and when the opportunities present themselves I’ve gotten up to a 115 miles, maybe more. But as any ultra runner will tell you, mileage is only part of the equation. Some people run ultras on 40 – 50 miles a week. Others do it on 125 -130 miles. The more important consideration is what KIND of miles one is doing.

Along those lines, my wife worked out a schedule for the week that factors in training time for both of us (myself on two feet, her on two wheels), even if that entails getting up at 4:30 am 3 times a week to get in 15 recovery miles before work. This, however, allows me to also have Tuesday and Thursday nights devoted to training, which happens to be the nights the Athletic Annex team gets together to throw down on our speed work, the key runs to our successes. Add in the weekend long run, which for me has become weekend long runS, and I’m feeling more and more confident for a successful race as the September date nears. I’m putting in big mileage weeks, complementing it with crucial speed work and topping it all off with big long runs on the weekends, most often in Brown County State Park on the beautiful and challenging trails. We have been heading to the hills every chance we can get.

Hesitation Point. BCSP. My training grounds.

This past weekend we had the fortune of spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday camping at a trailhead with like-minded friends, allowing for hours and hours of uninterrupted trail time. I was able to do 4 hours on the trails both Saturday and Sunday, totaling at LEAST 50 miles in two days, able to recover well and build a massive amount of confidence, and decent amount of fitness, all the same.

BCSP. But I run these trails, not use wheels.

Right now we have just under a month until the race. The butterflies are swarming. The legs and lungs are getting stronger. The mind is becoming focused. And I’m getting more and more psyched to unleash my building fitness on the Vermont 50 course, hoping to have a breakthrough race, while never forgetting that humble pie can be vegan too.

So friends, stay tuned. The blog will continue to expand and we’ll make something awesome happen one way or another.

No defensible reason otherwise.

Vegan For Life: Book Review

Full disclosure: Although I wasn’t given this book to review I did actually contribute a very small part to the book itself by supplying one of my favorite meals to eat in the “What Vegans Eat” section.

Available at most bookstores.

It seems like a new vegan book hits the bookshelves every week and I’m losing track they pop up so quickly. Most of these books are less political theory, which used to be the norm, and more just recipe compilations, but Vegan For Life: “Everything you need to know to be healthy and fit on a plant-based diet” enters the picture with a completely different approach, focused less on cooking and primarily on nutritional science while still resting on an ethical foundation. There is nothing “fad diet” or “raw revolution” about this book. It exists to give you concrete and up to date information about vegan nutrition so that you can either make the transition to the vegan diet with confidence and knowledge or fine tune your already established vegan diet, with the intent of making eating vegan practical and sustainable, eliminating the excuses to abandon the diet and therefore the animals. This approach is, although not jammed down your throat, about keeping the plight of animals at the forefront of your dietary choices. If Vegan For Life is about your health, it’s so you have the upper hand, or at least a level playing field, when discussing the value of the diet towards saving animals lives.

Written by highly respected Registered Dieticians, Jack Norris and Ginny Messina, with a slew of experience and credentials backing their knowledge, VFL solidly debunks so many of the myths unfairly associated with the vegan diet from the external naysayers (soy is bad for you, vegetable proteins are incomplete, raw-food diets are better than vegan diets), but maybe even more importantly, also takes on the myths perpetuated by vegan culture itself that, whether good-intentioned or not, propagates nutritional claims that are just plain untrue (B12 supplementation is not necessary, transitioning to veganism entails detoxing, vegans need less calcium than omnivores). Again, VFL is not about telling vegans what they want to hear to bolster their arguments, but rather supplying solid, research based evidence about nutrition that prevents us from acting on and disseminating misleading and dangerous dietary information.

Here is the good news about this approach. The vegan diet is healthy, duh, when approached properly, just like most diets, so there is no need to falsify or romanticize our eating habits. We can acknowledge the “shortcomings” (B12, Vitamin D, etc.) and not lose credibility with our arguments. Veganism is the same as any other eating habit in that no manner of eating is “complete” or fool proof. Most dietary habits involve plentiful nutrients along with more lacking nutrients that take a little more focus.

VFL is focused on nutritional science, but it is certainly not a boring read. The information is incredibly easy to understand and free of so much scientific jargon. It is a book that reads quickly and seems to be aimed more towards those transitioning into a vegan diet, but even the most well-read vegan will get both knowledge and perspective from VFL. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about vegan nutrition, but I continued to pick up little bits of information while reading through the book.

I think the ease of understanding the book is that everything is written as an introduction to a plethora of vegan nutrition subjects from nutritional science, transitioning to veganism, raising vegan children and teens, to vegan diets for people over fifty, managing disease, sports nutrition and so on. Nothing is overwhelming, but deliberately written to give you the basics complete with a slew of charts to make nutritional referencing ridiculously easy.

What did YOU have for dinner?

Before reading VFL I’ve been an avid reader of Ginny Messina’s blog – www.theveganrd.com – because she is an expert in the field of vegan nutrition, but more importantly, because she gives use useful information without pulling punches or exaggerating claims. She doesn’t deal in new-agey fads, give credence to dietary purity or any such nonsense, but rather always approaches her writings with the intent to make veganism practical and sustainable, to keep the lives of animals as the base of her motivations, and if that means letting people know that you can eat processed soy foods without experiencing doom and gloom (as some like to propose) then so be it. Ginny lets you know what healthy eating looks like, and recognizes that desserts and indulgences can not only NOT be detrimental to a healthy diet, but even a necessary component. It’s this sort of real world approach that her and Jack Norris carry over into VFL and offer a book that is both so encouraging and so incredibly necessary right now.

http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Life-Everything-Healthy-Plant-Based/dp/0738214930/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314235521&sr=8-1

If you are interested, but wary, about transitioning to a vegan diet or have been vegan for most of your life, VFL will offer you great information either way. I highly recommend this book to everyone and know it will become a necessary addition to the library of every animal liberation activist for years to come (until they write another edition with more current research!).

Animal Liberation.

Eagle Creek trail marathon – photos

That's running hair damnit.

Still standing, though severely cramping, with 100 yards to go.

In my head, those horns were much more legit and less half-assed.

That's pretty much how I felt.

Still trying to cool off.

Finally recovered enough to sit up and joke for the camera.

Gross.

My favorite shot of the day. Love those shoes.

Eagle Creek trail marathon – race report

I knew it was going to be brutal, in terms of the weather anyways, as the last few week’s temperatures around here have been holding steady in the 90’s and race day was going to be no different. I hit my coach up for advice on a tune up workout 2 days prior to the race, but he advised me to simply do minimal running and concentrate on hydration as, “this weather has an accumulative effect that you can break with rest and hydration”. With a couple laborious days of work on my schedule, I decided to do just that and took off the previous two days completely, carrying water bottles with me wherever I went. Hell, I did 115 miles the week before, so I figured I’d take it easy and put in a full effort for this race instead of just using it as a relatively easy training run. As the race neared I grew more confident with my decision as I could feel the strength come back to my legs.

Race morning was expectedly humid. It wasn’t excessively hot, but I’m sure the dew point was at debilitating levels and I knew as soon as that sun came out that it was going to cause the same problems it had in the past few weeks, which was a little unnerving as we stood next to the start chute at 7:30 as the race director went through an emmy awards long list of thank yous for the people who helped with the race, extending our time in the sun later on in the race that much longer. 20+ minutes longer actually. I’m appreciative of all the work the race director does, but that speech should have started earlier, for as we stood ON the start line, we waited, and waited, and waited…and waited. Apparently the 5k aid station wasn’t set up yet. So at around 7:52, my stomach full of pre-race butterflies, we were finally ready to run.

With an anti-climactic countdown, the director blew a tiny whistle and we jumped off the start line into an almost maze-like section of grass that twisted and turned us through a number of pine trees before sending us into a claustrophobically tight run of single track. I managed to get out ahead right away and attempted to gauge if I was STILL getting away as we entered the woods, but also told myself to concentrate on pace and just keep moving forward. Which wasn’t easy…moving forward that is. This section of trail was comprised of twists and turns that had us jumping logs and downed trees every 30 or 40 feet. It was more of a steeplechase than a trail run. We blasted down some hills and scrambled up the other side of others, some so steep that roots had to act as foot holds and stair steps just to make it to the top.

After traversing this first section of trail I popped out onto a paved access road and moved ahead, trying to be conscious of who might be behind me and just how far, but I had the feeling I was starting to run alone. I decided to put a little more effort into the section of open road and try to create an even bigger gap in case I would need it later in the race. The road pulled us back into the trail section that twisted, dove and climbed somewhat absurdly, just like the trail previous section.

Soon though, it popped back out to a dirt access road that allowed me to push again, this time having to nearly long jump wiped out sections of trail/road and drainage ditches. Such is trail running.

I could tell I was certainly alone now, but convinced myself to not ever look back and just focus on putting effort where I could find uninterrupted pathways to do so. Such an opportunity immediately sprang up as I ducked under a tunnel-like section of trees, climbed up a quick incline and hopped over a guard rail onto a  stretch of road that carried us over the reservoir. I was able to open up a little more and continue pushing on the flat stretch that would take us into the trails on the other side of the park. The sun was still hidden in cloud cover at this point and I felt strong and confident in my pace, hoping the clouds might hang around into the afternoon to keep things relatively cool.

I entered back into the trails on the East side of the park and was able to move even quicker than before as the trails are highly groomed, wide open and familiar to me as our team does long runs here every Saturday. I pushed on, concentrating on taking down my energy gels, taking in fluids at aid stations and via my handheld, and dumping copious amounts of cold water on my head to try and remain somewhat cooled off. I was pleased with how everything was going at this point and my lead continued to grow.

After pushing through an annoyingly long stretch of almost golf ball sized rocks that slipped under your footing I bounded out of the park and headed back towards the road, this time up against the long stream of runners entering the woods, most offering encouragement, with other notable exceptions almost causing disasterous, ipod initiated collisions. I continued to move quickly and felt strong as I ran back across the road, now realizing the sun had begun to show itself as the clouds moved away….things were about to heat up.

I jumped the guard rail again, ducked back into the woods and entered the lollipop section that would bring me back to the start for my second loop. Deceptively called a “lollipop”, though accurate in course, this part of the trail contained ridiculous drop offs into ravines that forced you to nearly scale them coming back up, some of them blocked by goliath-like trees. Ultimately, I made it out of the trails and across the timing mat in 1:35, an indicator of the difficulty of this course. (sidenote: a few GPS watches read the distance as 14.1 miles….eh, whatever).

Coming across the mat I passed the aid station table and bee-lined straight to my personal cooler full of water and ice, jammed my handheld deep within and came back up with a fresh supply of ice cold water to keep me going. Entering back into the woods I still felt strong in my legs and didn’t have any concerns of rolling my ankle on the root infested paths.

Going through the motions again, hopping trees, climbing hills, etc., I repeated the course back to the road that would bring me across the reservoir again. That’s when I noticed something. When the funnel of trees lay behind me and the open road stretched out, I felt slow. I could tell my pace had dropped when I had the true gauge of the pavement to measure against and I started to feel the fatigue that has become all to familiar in the past few weeks of heat. I wasn’t deterred yet though, and kept pressing across the pavement and back into the trail system. However, things weren’t getting better.

I ran through the easier trails, but could tell my breathing was more labored on the uphills and recovery time was extending far enough to get swallowed up by the next hill. My “thank yous” and “good jobs” to the other runners were getting more difficult, less enthusiastic and a little slurred. I told myself to just make it to 20 and then hopefully a mental effort will carry me the rest of the way.

I entered back onto the rocky stretch of “trail” that made footing so incredibly difficult and tried to push on the flats, but could tell I was only making intermittent progress at picking up pace. And when I came off that stretch and went up a winding hill, I felt incredibly defeated. Things were quickly going from bad to worse. Trudging through this portion of the course I made it around the lollipop and started working my way through the trails back to the reservoir road, and that’s when I saw the runner I thought might be second place. He was looking good and as I was climbing a hill…slowly…I know I looked like shit. However, I had a pretty significant lead at this point and it was going to take quite an effort to make up that distance. I hoped he was feeling as fatigued as I was.

That’s when I walked. I tried to fight it off, but I remembered how refreshed I could feel if I gave my legs just a bit of reprieve. I just hoped I could get going again. I took a few very short walks in the last East section of trail, loading up at aid stations, and then worked my way back onto the reservoir road for the last time. The sun was out, my breathing was labored and my lungs felt like they were filled with cotton. This all had the cumulative effect of sapping all the energy from my legs as my body worked to pull precious liquids to my skin to cool off.

Somehow though, I lost myself in my thoughts and managed to dreamily make my way across the bridge without walking or slowing down, knowing that once I got back in the woods I would have relief from the sun and the final encouraging stretch of trail to the finish. I refilled at every aid station I came across, hoping all the electrolytes and sugars might take me to the next one, but I think I was a lost cause at this point, just doing the marathon “survival shuffle”.

Actually, I was letting the trail dictate my pace, which meant trying to keep a strong pace on the downhills and…well….the uphills I walked. I would try to run as far as I could, but each uphill seemed to become more and more difficult. I was dying. But I was still making progress.

I passed a couple people on the access road stretch, which illicited some swear words from getting lapped followed by words of encouragement. Broken and defeated I just tried to keep pushing the last couple miles to make it to the finish line and misting tent….which seriously, is what kept me going. I walked the hills, pushed the flats and let the downhills take me where they may. I remained upright and didn’t roll my ankle (bonus!). Then I hit those damn logs again.

Now, as difficult as it was to duck and jump at this point, what made it worse was my legs began to cramp when I had to lift them over the logs. Now, I’ve never cramped in a race before in my life, so that should give you another indicator as to how hot, humid and draining it was out there. Still…I was having a blast, especially as the finish neared. I traversed each log as it came, but also noticed that each effort had me working to get the cramp back out after it started to come on. Coming through a couple of the final ravines I jumped one last log, felt my hamstring and calf tighten up and almost couldn’t run it out! Fortunately though, the trail popped out of the woods into the grass and I had a short stretch to the finish line. I saw Michelle, weakly threw her the devil horns (it felt stronger in my mind) and put in a final finishing kick across the timing mat, catching the announcer off guard.

Done. I composed myself, grabbed my “medal” (a piece of wood actually) and found my way directly to the misting tent to lay down and try to cool off.

In all, I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the race considering the conditions of both the weather and the trail. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I’ll admit I didn’t realize it was going to be THAT difficult, so I have to be pleased with how I came through it and kept pushing despite the deterioration. This also gives me one more notch of experience before next month’s 50 miler in Vermont, which is going to be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BEAST.

Onward!

Eagle Creek Marathon (or 28.2 miles?)
1st place
3:23 (don’t let the time fool you)