Must Love Jogs: The Final Word

photo credit: Ben Kimball

I started this blog about five years ago to write about all things running. Since that time, I’ve had some great adventures, including a half marathon PR, two top-ten finishes at USATF 50-mile Championships and three 100-mile finishes, including Western States.

This is going to be my final post, and in about three weeks, Must Love Jogs is probably going to disappear.

I’m not sure exactly how to end this. I think I’ll start with some thoughts on running and I’ll end with some thoughts on life.

Since I started this blog, I’ve raced a lot of miles. Some of my favorite races are Cayuga Trails, Twisted Branch, Free to Run and Grindstone. I hope to run them all again at some point. My best race was probably Cayuga Trails in 2015, and my worst was probably Western States in 2017. Despite what Karl Meltzer says, 100 miles is really far.

Going forward, my goals are basically the same. I want to run a variety of distances and I want to run fast. I would still like to run a road marathon under 2:40, and I’d like to nail a 100-miler.

Over the last several years, I’ve managed to remain mostly injury-free. I continue to advocate a vegan diet, running hard workouts hard and running easy workouts easy. In the world of ultrarunning, my training is modest. At some points, I’ve averaged about 55 miles/week, and this year, I’ve averaged just 45 miles/week.

For 2019, I’m signed up for Cayuga Trails 50-miler and Twisted Branch 100k. I’ll likely add more races, and I’m keeping an eye on Many on the Genny, Grindstone and Can Lake 50.

photo credit: Clark Zealand

Running has been an amazing outlet for me. I’ve had depression most of my adult life, and at times, it feels like running is the only thing that I can manage. I think with running – and particularly with ultrarunning – most people are running toward something or away from something. For me, I think it’s both. I truly appreciate this community of misfits that I’ve become a part of, and I look forward to seeing all of you out on the trails.

As Ellen Degeneres (and the Bible, apparently) says, be kind to one another.

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Murphy’s Law and Grindstone 100

photo credit: Clark Zealand

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this story actually starts several months ago…

On June 13th, I got an email from Eastern States 100 – the race was cancelled. As I looked around for an alternative, I found out there weren’t any. Almost every race remaining on the calendar was full. Every race except Grindstone. For those who aren’t familiar with Grindstone, it’s a notoriously difficult east-coast race through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has become more popular over the years, in part because it is one of only two Hardrock qualifiers on the east coast.

I had lots of reasons not to do it. It started on my birthday. At night. Not my type of race. 500 miles away. So… I signed up.

My training actually went pretty well. Nothing crazy. I’m still averaging about 50 miles/week this year. But I’ve had some decent workouts and races. Most importantly, I’ve generally remained injury-free.

I decided to fly to Virginia. While a 7-hour drive to the race sounded manageable, I could not fathom a 7-hour drive home.

And this is where the story really starts.

I was sitting in Dulles airport on October 4th in the middle of a long layover. I was sipping a soy latte without a care in the world (it’s okay, I’m practically a millennial #basic). Then I remembered, I forgot to pack my hydration vest. Um, oops. It was on my list. It was at the top of my list. It just didn’t make the trip… I called some places in D.C., and I called some places in Staunton, and I decided I’d be able to wing it. After my next flight, I headed to Sole Focus Running in Staunton and I found a waist pack that would suffice.

The following day, Friday, was race day. However, Grindstone doesn’t start until 6:00pm. Lots of time to kill. I grabbed some breakfast. Then lunch. Then headed to the race site. I ran into my cousin who was also running (he finished his first hundred!). I also saw a few fellow New Yorkers, as well as my friend Samantha.

The race had some awesome swag including a hat and hoodie.

At 6:00pm, we were off! We had about an hour of daylight followed by a long night in the mountains. It was warm for early October. The high temp was close to 80. At night, it was in the 60s. It was humid, and it was really foggy!

Just four miles into the race, my stomach started hurting. A lot. I’ve run 23 ultras and I’ve never had any significant stomach issues. Happy birthday?

And then I threw up. For the first time in more than a decade. This wasn’t a huge problem in and of itself, except I wasn’t able to eat anything besides veggie broth. Next up: Calorie issues. Hydration issues. Really foul breath issues. I got sick a few more times over the next 40 miles of the race, and then my stomach finally felt a bit better. I don’t know if it was food poisoning or what. My new race mantra throughout this period: make it to daylight.

This would be a boring story if that was my only problem during the night. While stumbling through the wilderness in the middle of the night, my headlamp started to falter. And then it died. 6 hours in (footnote: this was a replacement headlamp from one that died during Twisted Branch in August – never again, Black Diamond). The good news is that I had a backup headlamp and it was adequate.

I hit the turnaround (51 miles) in 12 hours and 16 minutes and finally ate real food. I felt a bit better, and I ran my best stretch of the day starting there. If I were to guess, I’d say I was in about 30th place at the halfway point, and I moved up into the top 20, albeit briefly, around mile 70ish. I saw some familiar faces including Samantha, who was crushing it (she would go on to finish 3rd in her 100-mile debut!).

At some point, I don’t really remember when – maybe somewhere between mile 70 and mile 80 – things fell apart again. It was mostly my feet, but I was also really demoralized. The long night really beat me up. I wasn’t having the race I had hoped for, and I was on the cusp of a pity party. With that being said, I never really considered dropping. Sam’s husband gave me some batteries for my backup headlamp, and I mentally prepared for some more darkness. I was moving slowly – really slowly – but I was moving.

I was definitely hallucinating for the last couple of hours. Caterpillar the size of a cat? Saw it. Guy up an electrical pole in the middle of the wilderness? Saw it. And then self doubt. I know I’m following course markers, but am I going in the correct direction? Did I get spun around? 40+ hours of no-sleep and 100+ miles definitely messes with the brain! Finally, two miles out from the finish, you can hear it. People. The finish area. And then you’re done. 102ish miles and 24,000ish feet of climbing.

My time was 28:11:46 and I came in 59th out of 263 runners that started.

Running 100 miles is really hard. And frustrating. I’ve finished three hundreds now, and it isn’t getting any easier. If I am being honest here, I don’t think I even get the same satisfaction that I do when I run 50k, 50 miles or 100k well. But I would like to nail one. And I think I am capable of doing it. So we’ll see – maybe that will happen someday.

Full results of Grindstone are available here.

Excellent course. Excellent course markings (it would be very difficult to go off-course). Great aid stations. Great volunteers. Great town (Staunton, VA). Amazing swag. Big thanks to Clark for putting on an awesome race. Big thanks to Megan and Nancy for watching the tiny human while I was stumbling around Virginia.

See you on the trails!

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Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head: The Story of Twisted Branch 100k

The Twisted Branch 100k was on Saturday. Twisted Branch is a challenging, point-to-point trail race that begins in Naples, New York and ends in Hammondsport, New York. The race is officially 64 miles with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. The race starts at 4am and there is a 20-hour cutoff.

I got up at 1:45am on Saturday (ouch?!) and started to get ready for the race. It was early, but by 2:30am, people were milling about and thinking about the challenge ahead. Eventually, I meandered over to the start line, and I saw several familiar faces. I didn’t think the race would go out too fast because it was wet and slick.

I dropped into fourth place and ran comfortably near course record holder Jim Sweeney. However, around mile 4, I wasn’t climbing well, and I let the group (and some others) go. At some point, I linked up with Phil Nesbitt. I have raced with Phil before, and we ended up covering about 20 miles together at Twisted Branch.

Let me back up a moment. In the early miles, while I was running with Phil, it started to pour. Not a sprinkle. Not a shower. Biblical. The trails turned into streams and everything required that much more focus.

About three hours in, at the third aid station, I realized I was feeling pretty good! I started moving up a bit, and I was getting into a nice rhythm. The next section had some ankle deep water, as well as some legit creek crossings. Because of the rain, they were raging!

Fast forward to mile 40 – this is where things got really fun! At this point, I’m solidly in 4th place. 3rd place is 11 minutes in front of me and 5th place is 3 minutes behind me. The amazing #TrailsRoc crew is running the aid station, and they get me psyched for the next few miles. I’m ready to start picking things up!

At the next aid station, Mile 46, I’m only 9 minutes back of 3rd place. At mile 50, I’m still 9 minutes back. Time to make a move. The next section is right in my wheelhouse. Perfect singletrack through beautiful forests that you can really open up on. At mile 55, I’m 6 minutes back of 3rd. Meanwhile, I’m 8 minutes in front of 5th.

I loaded up at the aid station hoping I wouldn’t need to stop at the final one. I hammered this section, and at mile 58, I was less than a minute out of 3rd. For the first time in hours, I saw Eric Kosek right in front of me.

At this point in the race, there are 6 miles left. Long story short, you run up 1,000 feet of vertical and then you wind down switchbacks for the last few miles. And then you’re done.

Unfortunately, this is where the exciting part of the story ends. After spending hours (literally) trying to catch Eric, he broke me in about one minute on the final climb. My legs were jelly, and it was a tedious climb to the top. I turned in my slowest mile of the day by over five minutes (21:31). With that being said, the race wasn’t over yet. I got my butt moving again, and recovered well for the descent.

I finished 4th overall in 12:13:05.

Full results are available here. Big shoutout to Jim Sweeney who took the win and ran even faster this year than in ’17. Another shoutout to Emeline Lagache who took first in the women’s race.

I’m incredibly happy with my run. I’ve only averaged 49 miles/week this year, so a course like Twisted Branch is no joke. The race was extremely well organized. The volunteers were amazing (mind you, some of them were standing in the rain for hours!). I really can’t say enough good things about the race. Finally, what a stunning section of trail!!

Next race: TBD

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Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica: The Story of Cayuga Trails 50

Cayuga Trails 50 was on Saturday. It was my fourth time running the 50-miler, and it’s been one of my favorite races over the years. Once again, it was serving as U.S. 50-Mile Trail Championships.

For purposes of this recap, I’m going to break the race down into four parts:

The Start to Mile 13

My plan for the first 13 miles was simple – find a group to run with and do not go out too fast. Mission accomplished. I found myself running with Daven Oskvig, Zach Bennett, Colin Sauter, Jim Mollosky and a few others. The pace was smooth but not particularly fast. I fell on my face at mile 10 but no harm no foul.

Mile 13 through Mile 26

The earlier group thinned out a bit. I ended up with Colin and Daven, and I heard I was in 13th place. It was warming up a bit, and I was taking in lots of fluids and gels. My strategy was to make up for my lack of training with a smart approach, and it was working.

Mile 26 through Mile 38

I headed back out for the second half with Sabrina Little who was in the process of crushing the course record (Sabrina finished 5th overall).

I was running alone for most of this stretch, but I was moving well. At mile 36 or so, I ran into my friend Rich Heffron. He was directing traffic on the course, and he got me fired up for the descent into Buttermilk. As I cruised by, he let me know I was in 8th place.

Unfortunately, this was my low point of the day. My stomach was turning against me, and I had to walk for a little bit and regroup. I was able to run the descent, and the good folks from #TrailsRoc got me excited to bring it home!

Mile 38 to the finish

The climb out of Buttermilk was relentless. Steps, steps and more steps. Also, people, people and more people. The parks in Ithaca are gorgeous/gorges and there was lots of trail traffic to contend with.

I was still in eighth at this point, and I felt like I could probably hold that spot. I stopped for a minute at the water crossing and cooled off as best I could. By this point in the race, it was pretty warm. I was overheating on the climbs, and I had one decent one to go.

I made it to the Underpass Aid Station with about 7 miles to go and I saw Jim Mollosky catching his breath. I grabbed my bottles and took off, temporarily moving into 7th place. I held that spot for several miles until I finally ran out of steam on the crowded trails leading to the finish. Jim passed me back with a mile or two to go and I held on for 8th place (6th place USATF and 9th place overall).

My official time was 8:29:06. I’m happy with both my time and place. My training this year has been light (48 miles/week and 3000ft of climbing per week). When “they” say this sport is 90% mental, they aren’t kidding.

My next race is either the Jug End 6-Hour on Saturday or Twisted Branch 100k in August. To be determined.

Thank you to Ian for once again putting on a great race. Thank you to Rich, Kelley, Eric, Laura, Ron, Shannon, Dan, Nancy, Norah, Susie and Megan (and all of the many other people I’m forgetting) for providing support out on the course. You’re amazing and your efforts don’t go unnoticed.

Top Three Women

1) Sabrina Little

2) Sarah Keyes

3) Ellie Pell

Top Three Men

1) Seth Marcaccio

2) Tyler Sigl

3) Patrick Caron

Full results of the Cayuga Trails 50 (and marathon) are available here.

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Cayuga Trails 50: Elite Preview

Cayuga Trails 50 is rapidly approaching. This year, the race will be held on July 21st. Once again, the race will play host to USATF 50-Mile Trail Championships.

Past years have included Sage, Magda, Vargo, Matt Flaherty, Tyler Sigl, Mario Mendoza, Jared Burdick, Amanda Basham, Corrine Malcolm, Sabrina Little, Laura Kline, Krissy Moehl and many others. This year, the field is shaping up a bit differently. The date change coupled with a plethora of other races has thinned things out a bit at the top. With that being said, there are many fantastic runners (including the male course record holder and the fifth fastest female), and it should be another great race. Here are a few names to watch in the field:

The Women’s Elite Field

Sabrina Little

Sabrina is a Cayuga veteran. She was 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2017. This year, she won Rocky Raccoon with an impressive time of 15:23. If she’s still that fit, she will be tough to beat on a course that she knows well.

Ellie Pell

Ellie is a local speedster. Last year, she took 2nd at the Cayuga Marathon. This year, she has won the Naked Prussian 50 and Many on the Genny (40 miles). If she races well, she will certainly be near the front.

Sarah Keyes

Sarah is a bit of a wildcard. I don’t think Cayuga necessarily plays into her strengths. With that being said, she’s having a great year. Sarah was 2nd at UROC in May and she finished 8th at the Broken Arrow Skyrace in June. I’d be surprised if she didn’t finish top 3.

Kelsey Allen

Kelsey was 4th at Cayuga last year. Since that time, she has racked up some legit results including 5th at Hellgate and 2nd at Massanutten. She’s definitely top 5 material if she still has something left in her legs.

Shandra Moore

Shandra is coming to Ithaca all the way from Texas (as is Sabrina). She had some solid results in 2017 including 7th at Bandera and 2nd at Rocky Raccoon. She’s run under 8 hours for 50 miles, and she will likely find herself in the top 10.

Jonnah Perkins

Jonnah is coming from Wisconsin to represent the Midwest. She has only raced one ultra this year, second place at Ice Age. Jonnah has also run under 8 hours for 50 miles, and she should also find herself somewhere in the top 10.

Anna Piskorska

Anna was 13th at Cayuga in 2015 and 8th at Cayuga in 2017. Her results are consistent and solid. I think she can improve on that 8th place finish from last year.

The Men’s Elite Field

Tyler Sigl

Tyler won Cayuga in 2016 in an unbelievable course record time of 6:44. He was also 3rd in 2015 in 7:08. Earlier this year, he won UROC. If he is healthy, he will be nearly impossible to beat.

Michael Bailey

As far as I can tell, Michael has only run two ultras. However, he put up a quick 50k and a quick 50-miler so I suspect he has top-10 potential.

Kyle O’Brien

Kyle is interesting – he has some really impressive results at the Pikes Peak Marathon including a 4:24 just last year. However, it hasn’t quite translated to Cayuga where he has run 9:28 and 9:24, respectively. If he can bring some of that Pikes Peak magic to Cayuga, he’ll improve his time considerably.

Josh Finger

Josh is a speedy northeast guy that you’re just as likely to bump into on the track as the trail. This year, he was second at Naked Prussian. I think he’ll probably crack the top ten, and he may be the top Master’s finisher.

Jason Mintz (that’s me!)

It’s my blog, I can do whatever I want! I’ve run the 50-miler at Cayuga three times, placing 16th, 13th and 15th amongst the fellas. In this year’s field, I can probably crack the top 10 with a decent race. After a rocky start to the year, my last two races have been solid.

Zach Bennett

Zach is fairly new to ultrarunning but he’s quick. This is his first 50-miler, but I think he’s probably top-10 material.

Predictions

I’m going to boldly pick the top three women and men – because who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like me?!

1) Sabrina Little

2) Sarah Keyes

3) Ellie Pell

————————–

1) Tyler Sigl

2) Josh Finger

3) Me 🙂

The full entrant list is available here.

Keep your eye out for late entrants – looking at you Brian Rusiecki and Ben Nephew.

The weather could be a factor. It’s going to be sunny and in the 80s. That could be good or it could be bad depending upon the humidity.

Finally, here is a quick shoutout to Robert Seltzer – he has run (and finished) the race every single year, and he will be going for another finish this year.

Who did I miss in the preview?

Any predictions of your own?

————————————-

Update

The men’s field has added a couple of studs:

Patrick Caron

Patrick is only 21 years old, but don’t be fooled, he’s got some fantastic experience. Last fall, he went 13:50 for 100 miles. Patrick will give Tyler Sigl some company up front, and he adds a bit of depth to the men’s field that was previously lacking. Last fall, Patrick was on URP, and you can check it out here.

Daven Oskvig

What can you really say about Daven? Mr. Consistent. About a month ago, Daven was third at the Mohican 100. Will his legs be 100%? Maybe. If they are, I think he’ll find his way onto the podium. If not, he’s still a likely top-ten finisher.

Clock is ticking – anyone else want to throw down on Saturday?

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Vegan Power 50k Race Report: The Fastest Loser

The Vegan Power 50k was yesterday (check out my preview here). It was a great day for a race! At the start, the temp was in the high 40s, and it climbed into the 70s later in the day. The trail conditions were dry and fast.

The race started promptly at 7:00am, and a new-to-me runner took off up the first climb. I let him go pretty quickly, as his pace was a bit uncomfortable for me. Within minutes, he was out of sight.

I dropped into a comfortable pace and cruised through the first few miles. Around mile 4, my toe caught a little stump, and before I knew it, I was on the ground. Ouch! I got back on my feet and finished the first loop (out of six) in about forty minutes.

Long story short(er), I ran the second, third and fourth loops in about 40 minutes each as well. First place was out of sight, but I was still on pace to run right around four hours. I started to run out of steam on my fifth loop, and it took me about 43 minutes. I was toast on my final loop, and it took me about 47 minutes.

My final time was 4:10:29, which was good for second overall. It was the third fastest time ever on the course, and it was the fastest losing time ever 🤷🏻‍♂️

Tyler Wolfe took the win for the fellas in an incredible 3:58:29.

Michelle Pratt took the win for the ladies in 5:12:57 (second fastest time ever on the course).

Full results are available here.

For coming in second, I received a cow. The winners got pigs!

The SHVP crew was out in force!

My next race is Cayuga Trails 50 on July 21st.

When is your next race?

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Race Preview: Vegan Power 50k

The Vegan Power 50k is Saturday. This is one of my all-time favorite races. Great people. Great course.

Let me set the stage – the course is a 5ish-mile loop in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) that you repeat six times (there is a 25k running concurrently that is three loops). There is roughly one hill per loop so it looks like a fast course – but it’s not! The course is riddled with twists, turns, roots and more roots! Everybody falls – it’s like a rite of passage on this course.

I’ve run the race twice before – 4:19:41 in 2015 and a sizzling (if I do say so myself) 4:08:49 in 2016. The latter was nearly a perfect race for me, and I’m pretty convinced that I can’t break four hours on this course…

But that doesn’t mean I won’t try! I have much less mileage in the bank than in other years. My high week for the year is only 60 miles. I’m also super light on long runs – I’ve only run more than 15 miles twice this year. And I’m slowly getting over bronchitis. Enough with the Debbie Downer! In general, I’m pretty fit. I’ve gotten some decent speedwork in this year, and I had a pretty respectable run at the Mountain Goat 10-Miler.

So my plan is to do my best! I’m using this as a building block for Cayuga Trails in July and Eastern States in August. I’ll be running in the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra – one of my all-time favorite trail shoes, and it is perfect for this course. It’s going to be sunny with a high around 80 degrees. I’ll be throwing back Tailwind and Huma Gels every now and again. I’m looking forward to catching up with the awesome BURCS crew, as well as my friends with Strong Hearts Vegan Power.

Check back next week for a full report!

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