In early October I ran the Megatransect with a bad ankle that dragged me down like an anchor. (Read my Megatransect race report). I gave myself an all too short rest period. Two weeks later, I ran an 18 mile run with friends on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. I felt a little sluggish and was cautious on the downhills. Then a week later I ran a 23 mile run with Joel at the Allegrippas Trails. The run went very well until about mile 19 I fell from not picking my feet up high enough when I got tired toward the end of the run. When I fell, I felt my right knee twist. I was able to run back to the car but mentioned to Joel that “it didn’t quite feel right”.

Pesky appendage.

A week later few friends and I planned a two-day run and camp along the Easter States 100 mile course. We have been been retracing the course in sections since August and now we planned to do 21 miles from Hyner Run to Slate Run then another 14 miles from Slate Run to Blackwell the next day. Hyner Run is at mile 42 of the course. We would climb out of the hallow a thousand feet in just two miles until we got to a rolling plateau before some serious descents and climbs for the last half of the run. I was concerned even before we started but figured if I ran conservatively, I should be in good shape.  Things were going well then about halfway through the run, my ankle started to flare up. What made me very nervous was that up ahead was a 11oo feet descent within a mile and a half.  It turned out not to be as bad as I thought – my ankle didn’t get worse. Next was steep 1000 foot climb and then 1250 drop – all within 5 miles. The uphill was fine but as I got to the top and the terrain flattened out, my ankle started to throb in pain. The downhill was pretty bad and near the beginning of the downhill, my right knee started to hurt. I figured what happened was that my knee was compensating for my ankle. I think I was stiffening my ankle and the forcing my knee to twist with the terrain.  After a slow and painful downhill, I came to a hard-packed dirt road. This, the last mile or so into Slate Run, was the worst. I was in a lot of pain with each agonizing step.

The next day as my friends took on the second 14-mile section as I opted to drive the pickup vehicle and took a drive into Wellsboro while my friends ran.

I was only two weeks out from Stone Mill.

The weekend before Stone Mill, our trailrunning group had our Sweat for Vets Powerclimb trail race. This allowed me the opportunity to be on my feet for most of the day without doing much running. After the race I ran to pick up the flags on the downhill section of the course and I felt okay.

The next week, I was wondering how things would work out. In fact, overall, I was feeling rather optimistic about my chances. I figured if I could run without twisting my ankle the wrong way, I should be okay. I even set up my game plan: run the first half of the race fast as I can so I have the remainder of the day to finish.

Still I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I packed with me and in my drop bags assorted PT tape and braces for my ankle and knee just in case the worse happens.

 

PRE-RACE

The irate man wasn’t happy with coffee service, either.

On Friday, November 14, I left work around lunchtime. I was driving with Elmo who was riding with me and Todd Lewis was caravanning it in his Jeep. During the drive down, with my right ankle working the gas pedal, it started to hurt. This was definitely a bad sign! I tried to use cruise control as much as possible but with traffic being what it was on our 2.5 hours drive on the interstate, I had little opportunity to use it.

The first stop was our hotel in Gaithersburg.  (paste from below) What transpired next was fifteen minutes of FUBAR. First I walked up to the front desk and the two desk clerks had name tags that had, instead of the hotel or their title, had “New Diehl, India” inscribed on them. In line was an irate man talking about how his key card doesn’t work and he had a teenage daughter that was waiting outside in the cold. While I waited in the queue for my turn, this guy would leave, then return to yell an obscenity or two, then walk out, only to return again.

“I don’t know what’s going on? He pops in. Yells. Pops out. I don’t understand,” said one of the clerks in a thick southern Asian accent to the woman in line front of me.

I check in and get my key. Elmo, Todd and I get our stuff out of the vehicles and walk up to the second floor to our room. I open the door to find the room untouched by housekeeping.

“Oh, lived in, eh? This is nice,” said Elmo.

“Umm, no. This is not right,” as I motioned Elmo to leave. “We need another room.”

I went downstairs to the front desk. I told the front desk clerk about what I saw.

“Well, it’s that fucking strange,” said the man that was locked out of his room, exaggerating his arm movements and expressions. “What kind of hell on Earth are you running here?!” he said to the clerks.

“Maybe your friends were there already,” said one of the clerks at the front desk. I was almost aghast at that ridiculous statement. I asked for one of the clerks to take a look  for himself and then give us a different room. While I requested this, a local police officer walked in. I didn’t want to know what was going on with that.

After several minutes, the clerk returned, apologized and gave me a new room. During this time, Elmo and Todd waited on the balcony outside the first room. They asked me what was the deal with the irate man pacing around and with the police officer. I could not give them any answers. We walked to the new room, tossed our stuff  in and then left to our next destination.

“What about the gloves?”

The next stop was the Comfort Inn at Gaithersburg where we had to pick up the race packet. I am not sure if it was pre-race nerves or Todd and Elmo were cranky from the drive but each reacted bluntly at two different moments. First, Elmo couldn’t find his name in the list of registrants posted on the wall in which the one of the race officials said “Are you sure you’re registered?”  Elmo acted like it was the most ridiculous question he ever heard and he almost panicked until I pointed out his name on the next page. Next Todd was aghast when, finding the pair of gloves in his goodie bag, the same race volunteer said ” I don’t want to see those laying on the trail.” Todd took this a personal attack. “Do I look like an asshole?” he admitted thinking when he was told this.

After the Comfort Inn, I turned to Urbanspoon for a place to eat. It turned out that the closest place was a Macaroni Grill at Washingtonian Place which I remembered when visiting my good friend Pam when she lived near by. Even though it was a packed house, we quickly got a booth by the bar even though we seemed to disappear from the waitstaff soon afterward. Still, we spent dinner going over our plans for the race and what we had in mind for next year.

We woke up just after 3am and it was bitterly cold for November in the Piedmont, 25 degrees with a wind chill in the teens. After doing our typical preparation and rituals, we drove to the start, I in my car and Todd in his Jeep. This year the race would start in a new location. Instead of starting at Watkins Mill High School where we ran around the building once and then immediately dropped down into the woods and the trail, this year we would be starting at an elementary school up the road from the trail. Getting there, we parked in the lot which turned out to be a long 200 yards walk through a field of ankle high grass to the entrance of the school and the starting line. Once we got to the entrance of the building, I saw runners placing their drop bags beside the entrance doors.

“I’m on a mission from God… and that’s to get my drop bag.”

“Shit, piss, fuck!” I screamed inside my head. I forgot my drop bags at the hotel! Weighing my options and looking at my watch, I immediately came to a conclusion. “I got to go back!” I told Elmo and Todd. I ran through the field back to my car and laid rubber as I left the lot. I had only 25 minutes to get back to the hotel, get the bags and return. I knew I had little time to spare. Luckily, I remembered where the speed enforcement cameras were placed. I got back onto the Rockville Pike and flew south toward Gaithersburg. After about a few blocks, I realized I overshot my turn and had to do an illegal U-turn to get back on track. Lucky for me it was 4:45 in the morning on a Saturday. I got to the hotel, ran in and out, and returned to the same parking lot and the same spot where I was parked before. I then ran across the field and into the school and met up with Todd and Elmo, shaking from adrenaline and breathing heavily from my sprint.  I had less than 5 minutes to spare. During the entire trip to and from the hotel, I couldn’t help to think that this race was cursed from the beginning.

Not too long after I returned, we were corralled to the start. There were actually a few familiar faces despite being far from home. One was Matt Iberman from Brooklyn and participated in our Rock N’ The Knob Trail Race back in September and another was Erin Schumacher from Ohio that ran our Dirty Kiln Race. After some well wishing and other pleasantries of good luck, the horn sounded and we were on our way. First up was a mile of paved road with rolling hills before we past the high school from last year and dropped down to the trail head. Though it was just a mile, I didn’t expect this much of pavement and wondered how much of a son-of-a-bitch this will be at mile 49.

Once on the singletrack, we turned north toward the turnaround. Not even five minutes into the run, I tripped. I don’t think I ever ran this race without tripping in the first couple of miles even though it is much less technical than anything I ran at home! The first mile or so was a little bit rolling but soon dropped near the stream near the creek and flattened out along the flood plain. As I approached the turnaround at Brink Road at mile 2.5, the morning sky began to brighten as the fastest runners approached toward me since they had already reached the turnaround. “Heads up, leaders ahead,” I yelled to the runners behind me. Not too long, I saw Elmo, who seemed like he had a sour look on his face. Then Todd passed not too far before I too reached the turnaround.

Beginning of the Race from the school to the turnaround and back toward I-270

Beginning of the Race from the school to the turnaround and back toward I-270

After the turnaround we ran back towards Watkins Road, I started to set my groove and get into a comfortable pace. I had set my GPS to shout out my running sats during the run. One negative of doing this is that it can become distracting to other runners. But a big advantage was that I can compare this run to the previous Stone Mill races. So far I was slower this year. From Brink Road to I-270, I was five minutes slower than last year. Even though going into the run my plan was to run the first half as fast as I could then let “what come, what may” at the last half, I settled into a pace that I felt was manageable. So far my foot felt good. As I set a pace, I would myself behind a woman in a blue Team RWB jersey. Okay, I’d be the first to admit that she had a wonderful ass – and as a runner, she had a perfect stride and cadence and was always on point. It turned out she would be within my sights for the next twenty miles.

Speaking of cadence, something I noticed with my own cadence: my iSmoothrun was telling me that my cadence is at or above 100 steps per minute, higher than my usual 85-90 steps, if not shorter when I race. Why was my cadence so high? Was I making shorter steps? (2.5 feet). What did this all mean? In hindsight, perhaps my ankle was less mobile and I was increasing my turn rate to compensate.

We passed Watkins Mill Road, the point where we entered the trail and made our way toward the south. Even after the turnaround, I noticed that no one wanted to talk. Everyone was all business. Last year, it was very easy to start cracking jokes or strike up a conversation. This year – not a peep. Was it because it was cold? Or was it because I was farther ahead of the pack than I thought. Running adage: “Business in the front, party in the back.”  Perhaps I was in a group of competitive runners.

Rolling into the first aid station.

Rolling into the first aid station.

Near mile 7 was came to the first aid station. I filled up and refueled. When I left the aid station, there was a short fifty yard section of concrete along the Rockville Pike before darting back onto the trail and underneath the highway. Here I begin to feel a mild discomfort in my foot. It wasn’t so much a pain, per say, but more of my foot telling me that something was “off”. I continued on.  After going under Rockville Pike, I made careful mental notes as to how many overpasses I had ran under. First was Rockville Pike, then I-270, then the railroad line, Clopper Road, and Great Seneca Highway. During that four mile stretch, it seemed like I was in a zero sum game.  For every two people I passed I was passed by two others.

Between I-270 and the railroad, I saw a large rock outcropping. Starved for attention, I said like a hyperactive child, “Oh cool! Look at the big rock! Someone take a picture of me with the big rock. Hey! We are passing the rock. Why aren’t we stopping at the rock? You know what! You all suck!” I said. The lack of chatter from fellow runners was killing me.

Middle section

Middle section

We reached Riffle Ford aid station where I had some fig newtons and refilled my bottles. I have been pretty disciplined with my consumption, taking in about 20 ounces of fluids an hour and nibbling a little at each aid station.

Elmo is not enjoying himself.

Elmo is not enjoying himself.

After Riffle Ford, the course makes a turn toward the southeast out of the Seneca Valley and toward Orchard Park. The houses started closing in as the hallow narrowed. My sense was that I charged up this section faster than last year, the first time I felt like I was improving over last years performance (by 2 minutes). In the air, obscenities from Elmo’s cursing still hung in the air. Elmo wasn’t having a good race and at this section he was pissing so much from the gallons of water he had drank in the last 12 hours. To Elmo, it felt like he was pissing in people’s backyards, an unsettling feeling for him. This and everything about this race, he felt was stupid. “Running is stupid. This race is stupid,” he’d later recant.

Suddenly, though not unexpected, I literally popped onto the sidewalk along a busy highway near the corner of Darnestown Road and Quince Orchard Road amid the suburban sprawl of Starbucks, Pizza Hut and condos. It took me about a quarter of a mile to get accustomed to running on the sidewalk. Here was less than a two mile stretch of concrete over an “urban land pass” from Seneca Creek to Muddy Run. Even though I been here twice before, I seemed to have forgot how miserable this section was. Most of it was uphill and the concrete seemed… really hard. I failed to recall any of this from previous runs. I spent most of my time having my internal voice telling me to push forward. I don’t remember having this much of an internal battle with myself last year.

Out of the tunnel at Darnestown

Out of the tunnel at Darnestown

At the end of the sidewalk, we dropped down to the left as we approached Muddy Branch and underneath Darnestown Road and to the Darnestown East aid station. From here it was a quick 10 mile trail run to the Potomac River. Leaving the aid station, just after mile 15, my ankle went a step up from “annoyance”. Perhaps I was rationalizing or maybe bargaining with myself, but considering that I was at mile 15, I convinced myself that I wasn’t in bad shape. In the moment, finishing sounded reasonable.

Near mile 17, I and a few other runners glided over a rise and onto a small footbridge across a small tributary and turned east. After 5 minutes, I and about fifteen other runners came to a stop as we all realized something was amiss. The woods had narrowed and we came to a section where the woods yielded to grass and the trail had become asphalt.

“Whoa. This is not right,” I said. The five or so runners in front of me had come to the same conclusion at that same moment. “We messed up. We need to go back,” I urged the others.

Retracing our route, we picked up probably twenty other runners on the way back. Soon we approached a tiny footbridge and the small hill beyond it. On the hill, traveling in the opposite direction we did, I saw a man on a mountain bike being pulled by a team of sled dogs. It was kind of surreal to see this until I realized that he was on the trail we should have taken. We later learned that someone in the early morning decided to  remove the trail flags, preventing the runners to make the critical turn we all missed. I wasn’t too phased by the detour but it really played mind games with some including Todd and Elmo. For Todd, he said he was having a good race until that point and that it really messed up his psyche. For Elmo, it was another reason why this race sucked.

Back to the correct trail, I recalled thinking to myself and I was feeling rather good and I actually convinced that I was going to have a fair race.  Then suddenly, as if the trail gods heard my internal dialogue and decided to answer back with a resounding “Oh, yeah? Let’s see about that, puny mortal!”  My knee started to hurt with a vengeance. I can manage one thing going wrong. Prior to this my ankle was a bit cranky but now both my right ankle and knee was giving me problems. I was having flashbacks to the Eastern States course run a few weeks prior when my ankle and knee melted down between Halfway House and Slate Run. The scenario was going down the same way: first ankle pain and then knee pain after a few more miles.  In front of me was a trail running friend Perry Ligon from the Harrisburg area. “Bad things are starting to happen,” I said to Perry. I think at the time, he thought I was talking about getting off course.

Looking a little "frumpy" with knee brace in hand between Quince Orchard and Pennylocks.

Looking a little “frumpy” with knee brace in hand between Quince Orchard and Pennylocks.

At Quince Orchard Road Aid Station (mile 19) I took out a knee brace from my pack. This was a Hail Mary pass. How will a brace affect my mobility? Will it make things worse? After a mile or two, it seemed like it wasn’t making my knee feel any worse which was an improvement. It felt like my knee was twisting excessively to counter the lack of mobility in my ankle. The brace helped keep it in check.  But after a couple more miles, the brace started to slide off my knee. That day I was wearing compression tights and the brace kept sliding around atop the lyrca and polyester. A few times I tried to strap it back into place but the lack of finding a good place to sit down and the tights make it impossible. I ended taking it off and holding in my hand for the last few miles heading into Pennylock Aid Station at mile 25. Even though I was somewhat positive at the get go of the race, now that both my ankle and knee was acting up, and how quickly things had melted down, the thought of DNFing crossed my mind. But being 22 or so miles in, I didn’t want to think about it quiting. It was still morning and I had the entire day ahead of me. I decided that I would run from aid station to aid station and give myself an assessment at each stop. From Darnestown Road to Pennylock, I had lost 11 minutes over last year.

Into Pennylock, I took off my tights and changed into shorts and hoped the brace would hold better now. But soon after leaving the aid station, it turned out to be more annoying so I took it off but hoping that the C&O Canal towpath would not have the rocks and other terrain to cause my knee to flex. Perry, who was now ahead of me by a couple of minutes, passed Todd who I didn’t know was too far ahead. If I knew at the time, I would have made a push to catch up with him so we could suffer through this together. Todd was also having a low time. He had twisted his knee pretty bad at Oil Creek a month before forcing him to DNF. Today his knee was giving him loads of grief.

map-lastpartPlodding along the towpath with the Potomac River to my left, I was debating what to do. My knee was killing me. Looking at my watch, it was late morning. I estimated that I was slower than last year but not by much. I continued up the towpath as my pace dramatically slowed and I began to weigh my options. Do I roll into Stone Mill Aid Station at mile 29 and call it quits there or do I press onward? Stone Mill Aid Station was a major stop and with a drop bag pickup located there, I knew I could DNF here and get a ride back to the finish. I also had the advantage of knowing what was ahead. Though there were some rollers and small hills, the overall terrain between Stone Mill and Darnestown West aid station at mile 35 had a lot of flat and non-technical sections.

At Stone Mill I took a moment to sit down and decided what to do. I think I would have quit if it wasn’t for the two aid station volunteers that came to my aid after seeing me literally limp into the station. They offered to wrap up my knee and see how it goes. They said if it was too bad on the onset, I could turn back.

It was slow going from Stone Mill to Darnestown. I had a very obvious hobble and limp and everyone I met on the trail had noticed and asked if I was okay. I had no uphill running ability. Any sort of a climb more than two steps high was a great challenge since could not send any power to my right leg. It was very frustrating. I had tons of strength and had plenty of fuel in the tank but my right leg didn’t want anything to do with it! I swear if I had a pair of crutches, I could fly up this trail.

Constantly looking a my watch, time was slipping away and my right knee and ankle kept getting progressively worse. About two miles before I reached Darnestown, I knew I had reached my “safe” limit.

Limping into Darnestown

Limping into Darnestown

I limped into Darnestown West and immediately asked for a chair to sit down. Everyone at aid station, especially the women, wore knitted beards and called themselves the “Beard-o-sexuals”.

At first, denying that this was it for me and with plenty of energy on hand, I was tempted to go on. “I only had 15 miles to go,” I rationalized. But as I looked at my watch, estimating how long it took me to get here, and knowing the course will be getting more hilly and I had no climbing ability whatsoever, I started to change my mind. I got to my feet and tried to walk around. I could barely do that! I sat back down and sighed. I was done. I asked one of the volunteers if there was another chair to prop up my right leg.

A volunteer propping my leg at the aid station.

A volunteer propping my leg at the aid station.

At first the aid station volunteers encouraged me to go but as soon as they saw that I couldn’t fully extend my leg and had about 10 degrees of motion in my knee, they too had come to the same conclusion. They summoned the photographer, who was also a physician at a local hospital, to take a look at my knee. Feeling around my knee, his eyes widened when he found a nickle-sized knot on my tendon just below and slight toward the inside of my right kneecap. “Well, that’s your problem,” he said.

The volunteers kind of left me alone for a few minutes before the aid station captain came over. Even though I had already decided not to go on, the aid station captain asked a series of questions to gauge what my intentions. I told him I wasn’t going to go on. He then stated that he totally agreed with my decision and was concerned if I went any further, I would risk damaging my knee. He even asked if I knew an orthopedist to take a look at this when I got home. He told me that there will be other races ahead and that I was making the right call.

He gave me some Tylenol, ice and left me alone for a few minutes before one of the the other volunteers appeared with a pair of scissors. Even though I accepted the fact that I was dropping out, I could not help but wince when she finally cut off the timing chip from my shoe. She thought I winced from pain and not from swallowing a bitter pill by calling it quits. It was 2:00pm.

Volunteer snipping off the chip on my left shoe.

Volunteer snipping off the chip on my left shoe.

I think I was at the station for about 45 minutes or so before I dropped out. What I didn’t know was I was so close from the cut-off at 2:45. Knowing this kind of gave me some comfort – knowing that despite begin early-afternoon, I was far behind last years pace. Most likely if I continued, I would have been swept up by the sweeper between here and the finish. I sat quietly, thinking to myself alone, as the late straglers came and went, before the aid station was torn down and I hitched a ride to the finish.

One of the girls at the aid station gave me a ride. Despite being in defeat, I was rather talkative on the ride back. It turned out the woman who drove me back had some impressive ultramarathon experience and a long 100 mile race resume. She was originally from out west, Utah, I think, came east for college, and now she was trying to find some ultras here on the Right Coast. We talked about the different races she mentioned and which ones were “on the bucket list”. At no point did I ever say “I am never doing any ultras ever again”. It was a good sign that I was still positive so soon after this mess.

As we drove to the finish, I mentioned to the girl about Elmo and Todd. I said that Elmo had probably finished two hours ago while Todd should be finishing around 5pm. As we drove on the one-mile section of road at the beginning of the race, I see Elmo up ahead running on the sidewalk.

"Hey, Elmo! Good race, man! I'll cathca later!"

“Hey, Elmo! Good race, man! I’ll catcha later!”

I rolled down the window, popped my head out and yelled “Hey, Elmo! Wooooo!” He barely turned his head to acknowledge me, looking sunken and a little pissed off.

I sat back into the car and looked over at my driver. “That’s all little weird. Something is wrong.” I looked at my watch. “He should have finished hours ago.”

We actually passed the turn toward the elementary and drove to the high school where we started last year. I realized when we got to the high school that we had missed the turn. My driver ran the race last year and didn’t realize the course change. When she woke up this morning, she immediately went to the aid station and not the start. We got ourselves turned about and drove quickly to the finish. It was several minutes after 3:30PM.

Elmo was a little distraught. “I hate this race. Everything about this! Running is stupid!” Elmo constantly complained about everything. He moaned over the course. He moaned about having the need to piss all the time and not having anywhere that wasn’t in public view. We complained about the weather. He complained about the dirt. He complained about the sun in the sky and the oxygen in the air. He complained about everything you could imagine. Yet, he admitted that his negativism greatly affected his performance.

There was still a quite a bit of time before Todd was expected to roll in. Elmo and I would relive the “low-lights” of our day, talked to some of the runners we met in the past few years of ultrarunning, made some new friends, got some food inside the gymnasium, and went back and forth from waiting for runners outside in the cold to hanging out in the gymnasium to get warm.

Around 4pm, we went outside with greater frequency, expecting Todd’s arrival. Todd had estimated to finish at or slightly ahead of his race time last year. In 2013, Todd had finished five minutes past 5pm.  As it got closer to 5pm, I began to feel anxious for Todd’s sake, constantly looking at my watch.

As it came close to 5pm, Perry Ligon finished. I was running either with him or we were leapfrogging each other from mile 12 to 23. He told me that he saw Todd not too far ahead of me after Perry left the Pennylock Aid Station at 23 and Todd wasn’t having a good day.

5:05pm came and went. We immediately knew Todd would be disappointed.

We tried to stand as long outside as long as we could but after awhile, we had to venture inside for warmth. Low and behold, when we went inside, Todd came through the gates at 5:30pm.

#disappointed

Disappointed to say the least, he quickly summarized his struggle throughout the day. Todd had twisted his knee several weeks about around mile 55 or so during the Oil Creek 100 and DNF’ed by the time he reached mile 62. Though fine at the start, his knee started to act up and he suffered through the entire race. I can’t tell you if he was experiencing more or less pain than I did and for how long, but you gotta give kudos to a guy that decided to tough it out to the end.

We sat inside for a few minutes recounting our miserable day as Todd got some food. Pasta and bitter pills was on the menu. It wasn’t too long before we decided to leave. I think it was probably one of the most sorry looking sights as we all walked around the school, down a steep hill and through a field of about 200 yards to our vehicles.  Elmo was pissed off at the world. I was limping like a peg-legged pirate with phantom limbs aching in distress. The worst off was Todd – wearing a silver emergency space blanket – he was shaking like someone crushing an empty potato chip bag into a ball over and over.

“Sorry, I know you are all suffering but this is the most ridiculous thing ever,” said Elmo, bemused.

“Shut up, Elmo,” I said trying to talk over the crinkling of foil.

Crinkle crinkle crinkle!

At our vehicles, we waited for Todd to slowly hoist himself into his jeep like a large refrigerator-sized block of sandstone being lifted atop the Great Pyramid of Giza. Slowly he composed himself and went on his way. I felt bad and a bit worried for him. He opted to make the 180-minute drive back home to Altoona despite the ordeal he had. I was worried he would either cramp up or fall asleep from exhaustion. (He did take a short nap at a rest stop after crossing into PA.)

Elmo and I went back to the hotel, cleaned up and then made our way to the Dogfish Brewery Brewpub just a block away.  This is why I booked this awful hotel. The restaurant was packed to capacity but just by luck Elmo and I got a seat at the bar. Even though the pub was extremely crowded, the staff was on top of everything.  Our beers, food, (not just us but everyone we could see) was extremely fast and attentive. If a restaurant was this busy in Altoona or State College, the staff would have a complete meltdown.

As we had our meals and drank our beers, we went over what happened and what went wrong today. I went through a play-by-play of my day and Elmo, bitter, talked about his. While we were there most of the evening, we noticed a lot of familiar faces that we seen earlier on the trails including Team RWB girl. We talked to the bartender who, overhearing our conversation, was truly impressed with our effort today and also mentioned he too have overhead a lot of people talking about the race. Ultrarunners love their microbrews.

To the right of Elmo, a guy was watching the Washington Wizards basketball game. At every point scored, he would raise his glass and say “Yes!” He said it like he was an extra for a bad corporate training video on how to make outbound sales calls. “Yes! I made a sale!” he said with his arms stiff and obviously forced. At one point I had to make a trip the restroom.  When I did, the guy leaned over to Elmo and said, “The owner must have opened up his checkbook this season,” as he nudged Elmo. He might as well had given Elmo the ingredients to Nazi rocket fuel for V2 rockets. Elmo has no interest in sports. His “go-to-mantra” when he is at a sports bar is yelling, “Yay sports! Go home team!”

As I returned, the bartender injected himself into the conversation between the Wizards fan and Elmo. “Did you know these guys were in a 50 mile race this afternoon?” he said

“Biking?” asked the sports fan.

“No, running,” replied Elmo.

“Running? You guys ran 50 miles?”

“Well, some of us,” I admitted.

“When did you start?”

“6am.”

“And you ran 50 miles today?”

“We started Watkins Mills, down to the Potomac, and back along Seneca Creek” I said.

“Wow!”

elmodestryoer“Yes, a few weeks ago, I finished a hundred mile trail race,” said Elmo

“You did? How is that possible? How long did it take you?”

“22 hours.”

“Oh my god! (long pause) You guys are incredible! That’s amazing.”

Then Elmo said, “Well, I sure you have done something amazing in your life.”

Immediately a curtain of silence fell over him as his life flashed over his eyes. After a few agonizing seconds, he got up on his feet and walked away without saying a word.

Elmo turned to me. “With any luck, I ruined life forever.”

Minutes later another guy, who was one chair over from the guy who left, moves one bar stool down next to Elmo. Again the bartender interjected himself into the scene. “One of the waitresses working upstairs said that there were four people who each ran 50 miles today and told her I had two other guys at the bar who also did the same race.”

The guy beside Elmo overhears everything and orders a beer. “It took me six hours to complete my expense report today,” he said boastfully.

“Oh! Well, you deserve this,” said the bartender handing the guy his beer.

 

POST-RACE

As the days and weeks went by, I made the right decision in DNFing. After forcing myself to take some time off after the race, I was able to run again several days later.  Meanwhile, Todd, who also had knee problems, toughed it out. Even though it was admirable he did, the tradeoff was that he wasn’t able to run for more than a month and a half after Stone Mill. Elmo decided that evening, despite this disappointing race, promised to himself to return again in 2015 and take the race more seriously.

As the months turned into December and January, I noticed my mileage was more than last year. I hope that gives me a solid base for 2015. Up ahead is Hyner Challenge 50k, which I hope to repeat the good race I had last year.