Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nashville Ultra (50k)

Sometimes you just want a good long run.

This was, for the most part, my motivation for entering this race. Given my recent training, or, more accurately, lack thereof, I had no business entering an ultra; on the other hand, given my natural proclivity toward such silliness as "long" running, ill advised or otherwise, I had no business not entering an ultra. That being the case, when my alarm went off at 3:45 Saturday morning, at which point I knew I had to make a go/no go decision, my vocal choice was, "ah, what the heck..."

(I hope I didn't wake anyone upstairs...)

The two hour drive to Nashville went by rather pleasantly, and as I registered I went through the standard mental hoops of convincing myself that "it's not really thaaaaaat far..." (Truth be told, it isn't; I ran the 50-miler here last year and pansied out this year, opting to drop to the 50k distance...).

With between 5 and 10 minutes to the start, I stripped off my thermal layers, hoping that the 37 degree morning would warm up significantly, lest my shorts and t-shirt apparel prove unwise. Soon enough, though, the race director yelled "Go!" and off we went.

Within a few minutes, the pack had broken up, and I struck up a conversation with a couple of guys toward the front. Johannes and Arras (not sure of the names... I'll have to double-check when they post up results on the race website...) were from out of town, and Arras was competing in his first ultra. They were both in the 50-mile division, but we were flying through the first 10 or 12 miles, which was most likely fine by them; they both appeared to be pretty highly trained runners and mentioned that they had trained rather extensively for this race. I opted not to tell them that I was out there on a whim. As much as I enjoyed running with them, at around the 12 or 13 mile mark, a combination of their extensive training and my almost complete omission of such trivial issues as training convinced me that if I wanted the second half of this run to be anything more than a death march, I probably ought to slow down, so I eased off the throttle and watched them bound off into the distance to get the top two 50 mile spots.

The second half of the run was mostly just slogging through to finish. At one point, the course deviated from what it was last year; I thought this would be a nice portion of the run since it took us onto some trails, but given my current lack of trail-fitness, all the off-road accomplished was breaking up any rhythm I had, and try as I might, I never got it back.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the rest of the run, but I never got the speed back, so I just kind of jogged it out. Coming into the finish, I remembered my signature finish from last year, and entertained the finish line crew with a nice jump and heel-click to cross the finish line. The winner, who had shown up at the starting line bare-chested (in 37 degrees...) and had put a mile on Johannes, Arras, and me by the halfway mark, blew away the old course record, nailing a 3:3x, which is a solid 50k time. I spoke with him briefly afterward, and he informed me that he's looking to have a good showing at the JFK 50-miler in a few weeks. I would wager that, barring anything unforeseen, he should do well.

I hung around the finish area, chatting with other finishers as they arrived, before finally convincing myself to hop back in the truck for the 2 hour drive back. All in all, twas a good day. I got what I wanted out of the race - a nice long run and some time to just be "out there."

all for now... back to the real world... i guess...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gas Giant V

In most races in which I participate, I would consider myself a runner, maybe even a competitor, but in some races, I would more accurately consider myself a student. In several respects, this weekend's run would most certainly fall under the latter.

I tried my best to DNF. I really did.

The race itself was described by it's designer thusly: "gas giant runs lack the tight organization of a fat-ass event. no awards, no aid, no wimps. lots of fun. (sic)" Whereas this might sound like an odd race description, maybe even a cop-out for the "RD," he is no novice to creating keynote events. Gary Cantrell, also known as Lazarus Lake, is the race director for the fabled Barkley Marathons and Last Annual Vol State 500k, and is a frequent source of sometimes painfully straightforward, yet always insightful and intelligent opinions on the Ultralist. That being the case, when the announcement for this race came, along with the offer for free pre-race lodging at the Cantrell house, my wheels immediately began turning.

While deciding whether or not to run the Gas Giant, I informed Eric Gilbertson, a friend here in Auburn, of the event, to see if he was interested in a somewhat unique race experience (and heck, if he didn't want to pound the pavement, he could always crew...), and he opted to take on the race, which was intriguing to me, because the farther he goes, the better he seems to get.

The day before the race, Eric and I loaded up in my truck and headed northward into Tennessee. Once at Cantrell Manor, we were greeted by Gary/Laz himself, along with his wife and daughter, and the notorious Big Dog, of Ultralist fame (although, truth be told, I spent much more time petting Little Dog than Big). Also staying at Cantrell Manor were Dave Combs, administrator of the Ultralist, trying to complete his first ultra-distance event in several years, Jo DuBose, crewing for Gary and Dave, and John Price, training for his upcoming double Vol State this summer and trans-continental run next winter. Needless to say, we were in fairly illustrious company.

After chatting it up into the wee hours of the morning, reveille came at 5:45 or so Saturday, and everyone was scrambling to get ready to make the hour drive to the start, but not before we all got a chance to pet Big in the daylight, and rest assured, he lives up to his name; as Gary pointed out several times throughout the weekend, I'm fairly confident that my head would fit into Big's mouth, should he feel so inclined. Once we got on the road, and after following Gary and Jo through the backroads of Tennessee for an hour or so, we arrived at Columbia square, where we met a couple other runners, Mike Langille and Zane Smith, and shortly thereafter, we were off...

From the start, Eric and I were out front, and as we made our way out of Columbia, the sparsity that would develop over the course of miles became apparent. The first few miles went largely without incident, although in retrospect we clearly went out at a blistering pace, as we hit the first convenience store in Santa Fe (pronounced Santa Fee, as we were instructed so as not to sound ignorant) in right around 90 minutes for almost exactly 10 miles. Oh well, we were just running comfortably, and it might have even worked to our benefit to get some relatively quick miles behind us before the heat of the day set in.

After grabbing a bottle of gatorade and a payday bar at one gas station and heading to another to... well... take care of a little obligatory bowel business, Zane caught up and bought a bag of ice with which to fill out his water bottles, and he kindly let Eric and me do the same with our camelbacks. The added ice was glorious once we had bid Zane adieu and made our way back out of Santa Fe and onto the highway in the blazing sun.

At this point, the day was really beginning to warm up, and I was starting to fall off the pace. Eric was kind enough to hold back with me for the next several miles to the Fly convenience store, which served as our next aid station. Again, we went inside to grab some fluids and talk with the proprietor for a few minutes while we cooled down a bit. He informed us that the next store was five miles down the road, followed by an eight mile traverse to the Highway 100 crossing, which had several gas stations for re-supply (the Hwy 100 crossing also served as the finish line for the 30-mile division of the race).

All too soon, we thanked him and were off. Again, I was very much slowing down, and Eric waited with me for a while, even walking up one of the steeper hills with me, before settling into his own rhythm and putting an easy 200 or 300 yards on me by the next store, which I was oh-so grateful to see.

This stop was one of the more amusing ones of the run. As I walked up the gravel lot to the store, I saw Eric sitting on a bench, half out of the sun, amidst a decently sized biker gang. Fortunately, as I soon found out, they were all utterly intrigued with the two of us. I got the usual bottle of gatorade and ate some Shot Blocks while sitting down to cool off in the shade. Before leaving this particular store, Eric bought a bag of ice, and we each bought two bottles of water to refill the camelbacks, and left the remainder of the ice for any of the other runners who might stop by later (namely we were thinking of Zane and John Price, who started without crews, as we had). The cashier was even kind enough to let us put the ice back in the freezer and let any future runners know it was there; she was as curious about us as the bikers...

Yet again, we set out for the next long gap to a store, and yet again, Eric was clearly feeling much stronger than me, and before long, he was out of sight, cruising along just like any old day at the office. I, on the other hand, was beginning to struggle. Trying to keep running up the hills that never seemed to end (one was literally 6 miles long), I burned through my water supply relatively quickly. Before too long, I was reduced to walking up all the hills, as ultrarunners of often wont to do. On a brighter note, I think this was the point on the course where we got our one bit of shade for the day (but it might have been the previous traverse, I'm not entirely sure). All along TN Hwy 7, we were utterly exposed to the scorching sun, but somewhere along here, we passed underneath an overpass of the Natchez Trace, so we got 30 feet of relief from the sun. Awesome.

Believe it or not, that 30 feet went by relatively quickly, and we were back out in the sun. Baffling, I know...

At the top of one of the last hills (the actual top, not a false summit like we had seen all day...), I had been reduced to trudging along, and found that even running flats and down hills was becoming rather difficult. I think I was focusing on the running as a way to keep myself from noticing the slighly lightheaded feeling I was beginning to develop. Fortunately, right around this time, Mike Langille and crew arrived. Mike had dropped after passing out and he along with his crew were driving ahead to check on the rest of the runners. In any case, they pulled over a little ways ahead of me, and I walked over to the car. This is where I made my critical mistake: I sat down on the bumper of the car. Almost as soon as I had taken a load off, my head was utterly swimming, and I couldn't stand up straight, not that this particularly mattered, because within a few seconds I was doubled over on the side of the road, regurgitating around a liter and a half of pure water through painful heaves. This is what prompted me to drop.

28 miles: DNF (or so I thought...)

Mike and his crew (aka, my guardian angels of the day), drove me the two miles to the next gas station, where Eric was awaiting my arrival. I went inside to tell him that I had dropped (had to lay down for a minute while telling him, because I couldn't stand up for the 5 minutes it took to let him know what was going on without getting lightheaded and nauseous...). Eric pressed on like a trooper, and Mike, crew, and I started back toward Columbia, 30 miles away, to drop me off at my truck so I could try to come crew Eric for the last few miles. Along the way, we stopped to check on all the runners, and in telling Gary and Dave that I was dropping, I was utterly convinced that I had made the right decision, because I noticed something that has never happened to me before: for a few minutes, I was unable to make my eyes focus on the same thing... weird...

Once they dropped me off at my truck, I thanked them and spent a few minutes making sure I was in a condition to safely drive. I had had almost an hour in a car with air conditioning on full blast to cool me off, and I was back to feeling better (and able to see straight...), but I still walked around the Columbia square for a few minutes just to make sure.

Reassured of my capacity for at least marginal lucidity, I hopped into my truck and drove the 40 miles back to Dickson, where I caught up with Eric making his way through a very highly trafficked part of town, just a couple miles and one turn away from his finish. After checking to make sure he didn't need anything, I drove on to the intersection of College St. and Main St. to try and decipher the finish line riddle posed by Laz. Soon enough, Eric trotted the final stretch to the finish and "touched Fayetteville," as the riddle had instructed (which, by the way, was not quite as straightforward as I had initially assumed... the faded mural map was, shall we say, not quite what I had thought it would be, but given my slightly-more-than-nothing knowledge of Tennessee geography, we figured it out and made sure to have photographic evidence...)

Eric and I waited a few minutes, grabbed some less-nasty clothing (I had yet to change out of any of my running stuff), and within 45 minutes or so, Zane Smith came strolling into town, much to the delight of his crew comprised of his wife and two kids. We all stood around and chatted for a while before Zane and family headed back home, and Eric and I headed to Wendy's to get the first bits of "real" food since starting that morning (fries and frosties count as real food, right...?)

Thus concludes the "race" part of the story.

Thus begins the real part of the story.

Temporarily sated, we piled back in the truck to head back down the road to find the other runners. John Price looked to be in alright shape, so we pressed on to find Dave and Gary as they hammered down the road. I'm not entirely sure where we found them, but it was somewhere between the last store I to which I survived (biker gang store), and the one before that (Fly convenience store).

When I spotted them strolling down the highway, I pulled off the road around 300 yards ahead of them, flipped on the flashers, got out and headed toward them to see if either needed anything. They both appeared to be in decent shape, although I did notice that as soon as I turned my back on them, one or the other would bend down, hands on his knees in apparent discomfort/pain. After walking with them for a ways, I jogged back to the truck to leap frog them, park, and repeat the process.

One or two iterations into the procedure, I met up with Jo DuBose again, crewing for them, to get a feel for how they had been doing. While talking with Jo, the two race horses (Gary and Dave) arrived and stopped for a sit. At this point, their "aid station" antics were on display, as they both took care of whatever needed some care and talked themselves into another mile or so (I know this procedure well, but seeing others do it was simply somewhat gratifying).

During this stop, we also realized that we needed to go pick up John Price, who had called it a day at the 30-mile finish line and needed a ride back to Columbia. That being the case, Eric decided to walk a little ways with Dave and Gary while I drove to pick up John, drive him back to Columbia, and come back to find the two remaining stallions.

By the time I got back, Eric was beginning to get a wee bit tired (I can't figure out why... it's not like he did anything earlier in the day...), so I started walking with Gary and Dave while he would follow Jo in the truck and get little naps between aid stops.

At this point it was thoroughly dark (maybe 10pm?), so I can only imagine what any passers by thought when they saw us meandering down the road. Several times Gary made the statement that it was only a matter of time before the law showed up.

By now, the apparent modus opperandi was to have Jo meet us every mile, but with the marathon mark approaching, she skipped the 26-mile mark to go to the first convenient spot after the marathon point. This convenient spot happened to be at the top of a pretty long, steep hill. As hard as it is to imagine, Gary and Dave were not thrilled to be trudging up the hill at this point, and I learned a few explitive combinations heretofore unknown to me. Things like *****-**** ; yep, that's right *****-****. In any case, we eventually made it up the hill to find that Jo had parked around the 26.3 mile mark, technically giving Gary his 35th consecutive year with an ultra-distance event and Dave his first in a while. But this apparently wasn't good enough for Laz.

Talking it over, they decided to press on to 27.3, and though I'm sure he's glad they kept going now, at the time, Dave was pissed. Gary got up and started meandering back along the highway while Dave talked himself into doing the same. When Dave and I got back out on the road, I beheld a scene that could very well be the stuff of nightmares and horror films for ultrarunners, especially Barkley veterans: as we first got on the road, maybe 50 or 100 yards behind, a car came toward us, creating the incredibly eerie scene of a hulking Lazarus Lake walking down the road in a slight fog and in what had developed by this point into an almost Frankenstein-esque gait, bent on getting to his final destination. I wish I had a camera at the time, but the image might be too much for some readers, so I couldn't have posted it up in good conscience, anyway.

Dave was moving pretty well, so in a few minutes we had caught up with Gary, and sticking to my plan of hanging with whoever was in the back, I struck up more conversation with the ever-intriguing Gary Cantrell. If you have never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Laz, you are truly missing out, for several reasons that you'll just have to meet him to find out.


So it's been a year and a half since I began composing this report.  The memories of the event that was the Gas Giant V are still kept in a fond place within my mind.

Whereas the details might not be to the level recorded in the previously written section, I figured that it would be worth bringing closure to such a story.

Over the next several miles, Dave put on a Herculean surge, gapping Gary and myself by quite a bit.  Cantrell and I continued our relentless trek toward the intersection that marked the finish line for the two true Gas Giants of the race.  Sometime around 1am, Lazarus Lake finished the run that would keep a 35 year streak alive.

We sat around on a traffic island on the outskirts of Dixon at 0100 for a while, Gary rewarding himself with a cigarette and joining the rest of us telling lies and war stories from runs gone by.  True to form, before long a member of the local gendarmerie stopped by to see what a bunch of ragged, noisy, aromatic people were doing at such an odd place at such an odd time of night.  After we informed him of our day's events, he somewhat warily let us be...

All too soon, we began to feel the time, and opting not to drive all the way back to Cantrell Manor, we looked around for a hotel, and after being turned away at one (I can't say I blame them... I might have turned us away, too...), we were rented a couple rooms for the night at a little motel that had been downgraded from a Knight's Inn (that's right...).  The next day we went our separate ways, Eric and I back to Auburn, Gary back home, Dave back to CA, and the rest back to their respective homes.  I must say that this was one of the more unique events in which I've been lucky enough to participate.  Long distance journey runs on the road are such an intriguing concept.... it may or may not have played a part in an event that would come to bear a year or so later...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

24 For My 24th

from what i understand, most folks my age like to sleep in, especially on saturdays

moreover, on their birthdays, they... well, i don't really know what most folks my age like to do on their birthdays (but i have a good idea)

today, i woke up before my alarm at 4:45 and ran for 3 hours, logging 24 miles for my 24th birthday

they were run with friends, and they were run easy

while most of my friends "indulge" themselves by sleeping in, i'm out doing what we, as a bit of a microcosm of the world, do to truly indulge ourselves

some people might claim that this is a type of addiction or even masochism

but in light of what we know to be true about the miles we run, i ask

who's really the ascetic?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cotton Row 10k

I wasn't planning on making this a race report, but seeing as how I just set off a couple of computer models that will probably take another hour or so to finish, I might as well do something productive...

The Cotton Row Run is a staple of the Southeastern road racing circuit. Having been run thirty-one times, it has quite a following, and given its impeccable management, it is a fantastic event in which to participate.

I, along with my Inimitable Mother, Darling Little Sister, and Cool Little Brother, have made it to the last 10 runnings of Cotton Row, and it seems to get more and more fun each year (for me, at least). This year I actually went into it with a somewhat decent base of mileage, so I was hoping to set a PR for the course. My previous best time on this particular race was a 37:02, run a couple of years ago, and I was shooting for around a 36:30, maybe 36:00 today. The reason for the somewhat modest time goal for the race is the layout of the course. The two miles are mostly flat and easy to set a fairly aggressive pace, but after a turn shortly into the third mile, a gradual uphilll starts to chip away at the leg strength, and then the course kicks you in the face when it turns onto the hill. The three-mile mark is on a relatively short (200 meters, maybe?), but incredibly steep hill that has even been graded to prevent vehicular traffic from slipping. This particular hill has reduced me to a modest trot every year and seems to just take any speed out of my legs, which is unfortunate, because shortly after cresting the hill, a sharp turn leads to a long downhill mile, then simply through downtown Huntsville to the finish.

But it's only 6.2 miles, so it should be a piece of cake, right...

We got to the race site about an hour early, and after making an obligatory trip to the port-o-potties, I set about a fairly short warmup along the last mile of the course and back before making one last "download." The I changed into my racing attire that was a hit amongst most of my running buddies that saw it: my old high school XC/track uniform. Some of my ultrarunning buddies were pretty amused, one even quipping "I've never seen you in a singlet before!" Even some of the guys currently on my old high school's team got a kick out of seeing the old uniform (none of them have ever worn this particular style; they've always had the fancy technical fabrics and cool designs, as opposed to my simple nylon uniform... I felt "retro"...)

Clothed in my "old school" Austin High School Black Bears black and orange nylon uniform, I made my way to the starting line, and after the various Memorial Day recognitions, we were off. The first mile of the race winds through downtown Huntsville and is mostly a blur due to the fact that it is spent almost entirely jockeying for a good position. I settled in right behind a friend who is currently a pretty speedy high schooler (has all of my 5k and under PR's blown out of the water), hoping I could pace off of him. I caught up with him right at the mile marker, which came entirely too early, hitting a 5:31. We both knew immediately that this was probably a wee bit ambitious, but I thought, "well, I can't undo it, so I might as well roll with it," and I pressed on. Matt, my high schooler friend (whose sister, by the way, was this year's ACC steeplechase champ...), backed off the pace a bit, being a little less experienced at the 10k distance, and so I was on my own.

Over the next mile, I managed to get into a decent rhythm and held a fairly constant distance behind the next guy, just trying not to slow down any while conserving a little energy for the looming hill. My pacing efforts paid off, as I managed to hit a 5:44 for the second mile still feeling pretty comfortable, which was a nice confidence boost.

After making the left turn onto the residential road leading to the hill, I noticed someone coming up behind me. For a few minutes, I assumed it was one of the Russian women, but as it turned out, it was Alissa McKaig, who wound up in second place overall for the ladies (first was Janet Cherobon, who was well ahead of me the entire race). In any case, Alissa pulled up beside me just as the hill was coming into view, and we exchanged a couple of humorous/nervous/oh crap/let's-work-it remarks about it before embarking up it. Mid-hill, I hit the third mile in 6:06, which is, more or less, where I anticipated being, considering the remarkable slowdown that inevitably accompanies the incline. As always, I simply trotted up it, but for some reason, I felt a bit stronger and more focused on holding the pace than in previous years (as opposed to only being able to think about how much this hill sucks...I didn't really even notice all of the people that are there every year, sitting on the hill, playing the Rocky theme music, and enjoying observing many a runner's misery...), which allowed me to more quickly settle back into a rhythm once we got to the top. This added strength, although it did keep me in front of Ms. McKaig whilst summitting the hill, did not keep me ahead of her once we got to the top; she slipped right around me right at the top of the hill and got a few yards ahead of me to the turn that marked the beginning of the downhill portion. Aha... I had a rabbit to chase...

Down the hill we went, picking up the pace quite a bit, and much to my surprise, I felt fine with the increased tempo, hitting mile 4 in 6:01 (not too impressive, I know, but we still had about two-thirds of the hill during mile 4), and nailing mile 5 in 5:23. Somewhere right around the 5-mile mark, as we were heading back toward downtown, I realized that I felt pretty good, almost comfortable, and definitely better than I had 1, 2, or even 3 miles prior, so I took the surge of energy and slipped back around Alissa. I knew that she probably had a better kick than I do (believe it or not, we ultrarunners don't often focus on a finishing sprint...), so I figured that I needed to put some distance on her before the home stretch (I guess my inner 5-year-old still doesn't want to be out kicked by a girl...).

Into town and back to the home stretch, which is actually around a half mile (maybe more) long straightaway, we made our way to the finish. I was still very surprised at how smooth and relaxed I felt. Make no mistake, I was putting forth a fair amount of effort, but it seemed to click today, which made for a rather enjoyable race. In any case, after hitting the sixth mile in 5:33, I went the extra two tenths, finishing in 35:32, and edging out my race companion by four seconds.

I was pleased with the race and felt fine at the finish (dang... I should have pushed harder; maybe I could have PR'd, which is very difficult to do on this course). I was also pretty surprised that I beat my seed. Going into the race, my final seed was 28th, and I managed to wind up 22nd, which I guess isn't too shabby out of 2048 finishers.

The rest of the Nevels clan did well. Cool Little Bro managed a 52:23 just chillin, Darling Little Sister blazed through it 54:49, which I think is a 10k PR for her (good job Lynn!), and yes, Inimitable Mother trucked through it to snag a 1:06:21. Of the four of us, naturally, Inimitable Mother had the best finish, as I went back somewhere around three quarters or a mile back to find her, ran her in, and somewhere along the last straightaway, both Cool Little Bro and Darling Little Sister joined up with us, so the Inimitable Mother had her Entourage to the finish, as she ought to.

Now to figure out what's next...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run - Pacer's Perspective

A few weeks ago, a couple friends of mine, Rob Youngren and Eric Charette embarked upon an epic task: attempting to set the speed record for the entire 335 mile Pinhoti Trail. Having run both editions of the Pinihoti 100 Trail Run and the Mt. Cheaha 50k for the past two years, both of which cover portions of the Pinhoti Trail, I was somewhat interested in their journey, and whereas logistics precluded my attempting the full trail with them, I could certainly help in whatever capacity they might need for a day or so, and I was lucky enough to be utilized as a pacer for day two.

So bright and early on May 2, I met them, along with their capable crew chief Josh Kennedy, and after shuttling vehicles around, we met Rob and Eric at Chandler Springs, and I set out with them along the trail. Long story short, I ran a hair over 40 miles, and rather than steal Rob and Eric's thunder, I'll simply refer any readers to their blogs at (Rob's) and (Eric's), or the site for the run itself .

In an effort to help document the run (and just for kicks and giggles...), Eric was snapping pictures throughout the run, so here are some from day 2. Enjoy...

Refueling and swapping out water bottles for packs

Somewhere on Mt. Cheaha after the so-called "Stairway to Heaven"

I'll let you figure this one out...

At one of several road crossings with Rob

It's a train!

Many more pictures and much more thorough play-by-plays of the full adventure on the aforementioned websites and blogs. (I was only a small part of a much larger journey)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rest In Peace, Buddy

Elliott Schotz passed away this morning after battling Tay Sachs Disease for the last year and a half.

The best way I know to look at this is the way my Inimitable Mother said it when we first learned that he was nearing the end of his fight a few days ago. She said, "At least we'll know that now he'll be running around, playing, and eating ice cream, which he never got the joy of doing here."

Rest in peace, buddy. Rest in peace.

The obituary, as is found at is as follows:

Elliott Beebe Schotz, age 2, of Decatur, Alabama, died on 5/9/2010 of Tay-Sachs disease. He was born in Decatur on November 20, 2007.

In his two years, Elliott taught those around him to embrace each day and brought many people together for greater good. Elliott inspired a Run Across Alabama in July 2009, completion of a friend's first marathon in February 2010, and a continuous 100-mile run by another friend at Delano Park in March 2010.

Elliott’s interests included: sunshine, the beach, pacifiers, shiny balloons, wind, cuddling, animals, Ember (his bedside companion), going for walks, kicking in his bouncy seat, and his sister, Fiona.

Survivors include his mother and father, Eliza and Eric Schotz, and his beloved sister, Fiona Schotz, all of Decatur. Surviving grand parents include Sara and Donald Beebe of Kennesaw, GA, and Herbert and Louise Schotz of Irma, WI. He also is survived by aunts and uncles, Rebecca and John Morehous of Guntersville and Michelle and Chris Schotz of Gleason, WI, and his cousins Sara and Emily Morehous and Jordan and Riley Schotz.

A memorial service and celebration may be scheduled at a later date.

The Schotz Family wants to extend heartfelt gratitude to all who helped and supported throughout Elliott’s illness. The family requests that all memorial expressions be offered in the form of a card or a donation in Elliott’s name to one of the following organizations: 1) National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association ( and/or 2) Hospice of the Valley (

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

World Catfish Festival 5k

I just got a few pictures from the Catfish Festival 5k a few weeks ago. I think they're kind of funny, because I almost look like a real runner in them.

I got to the starting line a solid 30 seconds before the gun...

And we're off...

Cruising into the finish

Talking with Amanda and Clark, who were kind enough to drive me all the way to Belzoni for the World Catfish Festival and even rousted themselves early to come see the finish...

Talking with Armando, who had a solid second place performance at age 52

A post-race picture with Granny

Yeah, I was shamelessly promoting Fleet Feet, but I figured that every now and then, it's fun to at least look fast...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Week On the Run...

A bit of a summary of my training for April 25 - May 1, 2010:

Sun 4/25
5.5 (37:25)

Mon 4/26
AM: 5 (34:13)
After only managing to get around 30 minutes of sleep last night, I felt the urge to escape after class, whilst transferring massive quantities of binary output data. Physically, probably not the best thing I could have done, but mentally it saved my day.
PM: 6.6 (44:03)
Met Heather at the track for a relatively gentle workout that actually did a good job of helping me to decompress a little after a somewhat stressful couple of days. After the warmup to the track, did a progression run, with two at Heather's marathon pace, then one a little slower than tempo, then one with whatever we had left. I stayed with her during the first three miles, but told her I might stretch out a bit for the last one, so I managed to hit something to the tune of 6:58, 6:37, 6:24, 5:16.

Tues 4/27
Running is silly, anyway...

Wed 4/28
11.7 (1:20:06)
Ran over to the high school to run with the AORTA group, which was just planning on doing their standard 10k loop. I ran with Eric, and, as so often turns out to be the case, we ended up tacking on a mile or so to the loop and doing something of a progression-type run, but nothing too quick. After a lazy day off, it felt good to stretch the legs out a bit.

Thur 4/29
5 (35:29)
I wasn't planning on running today, but I got a call from my Inimitable Mother, telling me that Elliott Schotz is not doing so well, and given that I've done a considerable amount of running over the last year in an all-too-frustratingly-feeble attempt to help support him, his family, and research on his vile ailment, going out for a run seemed like a strangely appropriate response.

Fri 4/30
Figured it might be worth a rest day for the long weekend ahead. (and it never ceases to amaze me how much extra time you immediately have on days you don't devote hours to running...)

Sat 5/1
16.3 (2:34:07)
Ran roughly the first half (the out-and-back portion) of the Tuskegee Fat Ass 50k, running the Pleasant Hill Trail and Bartram Trail with Marcus, then waiting for the entire race field to pass by us at the Bartram trailhead, before Marcus followed them up the Bold Destiny Horse Trail to assume sweeping duties, while I simply ran back to the start. Twas a nice, relatively easy run that served as a good precursor to tomorrow's little jaunt along the Pinhoti Trail with Rob and Eric...

Total: 50.1 (6:25:23)

My approach to training this week was somewhat strange; I was trying to both use the long weekend (F.A. 50k section on Saturday and PTAR pacing on Sunday) as a solid training weekend, but I also wanted to be somewhat intelligent so as not to be a burden on the already fatigued/swamped PTAR runners and crew chief. In any case, it came together, one way or another. One more week in the books...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Week On The Run...

I feel fairly confident that I'm the only one interested in the progression of my training, particularly due to the fact that I'm not really training for any specific race or toward any discrete end at the moment. However, if nothing else, my posting up slightly more detailed accounts of my daily runs than at my daily training blog (which, ironically enough, doesn't necessarily feel like the most appropriate venue for posting the nitty gritty details of my typically ambiguous, jack of all trades type training) can serve as a decent backup to the spiral-bound notebook in which they are currently contained, and it could also afford a point to which I can refer others, should they ever be curious as to the somewhat monotonous nature of my training, on the off-chance that anyone would ever develop such a curiosity.

In any case, I don't know if this will be a regular installment or a one-time post, but, for what it's worth, here's how my week of running went for April 18 - April 24, 2010...

Sun 4/18
9.9 miles (1:13:12)
Felt Good. Perfect Weather.

Mon 4/19
PM: 15.4 (1:53:13)
All over residential Auburn. Felt good to do a semi-long run and tire the legs out a bit.

Tues 4/20
AM: 11 (1:20:44)
Warmed up to Woodfield, around IM fields, and met Heather for 2 x 1.5 mile tempo with 1/4 mile jog recovery. Hit 8:33 (~5:40 pace) and 8:11 (~5:20 pace). Good effort. A bit of a hitch in my upper right hamstring/IT band/glute; I think it's from yesterday's hills.
PM: 7.4 (57:36)
Felt a little sluggish toward the end. Solid day.

Wed 4/21
PM: 13.4 (1:42:48)
Heather's to Kiesel, 1.5 laps, and back. Felt good.

Thurs 4/22
Inimitable Mother and Darling Little Sister in town, so I spent the day showing them around. Twas a good day.

Fri 4/23
PM: 11.8 (1:28:16)
Campus loop, out Donahue, down University, residential Auburn. Cruisin

Sat 4/24
PM: 9.3 (1:08:51)
Around Auburn, about half in a light rain.
Celebrating the gift of the ability.

Total: 78.2 (9:44:46)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Delano Day 100

WARNING: This report is entirely too long, too boring, and too incoherent to be of any interest, but, if you have the urge to delve into it (along with a decent amount of free time and an appreciation of eccentric activities), here it is for your perusal:

A few months ago, I had an idea. I have run the Delano Park 12 Hour Run, twice as an individual and once as a relay team member, but this year I wanted to make it something more, both in terms of running and as something a bit more worth while. I was going to start running twelve hours before the official start of the race, thereby making it a 24 hour run, and to make such silliness worth the while, I took pledges from donors who wanted to sponsor me on a per mile basis to raise money for NTSAD, the same organization for which a group ran across the state of Alabama this past summer. The race directors for the Delano 12 both ran the full way across AL, and one of the directors, Eric Schotz, has a son, Elliott, who is afflicted with Tay Sachs Disease. Having such a worthwhile cause provided some much needed motivation throughout the late night/early morning hours of solo running, the latter miles of painful slogging, and many miles of pounding in training. A few miles into my run, Eliza Schotz, Eric’s wife, brought Elliott out for a few minutes, and seeing the reason for the run drove the point home that it was time to get down to business.

I arrived at Delano Park about 15 minutes before I needed to start, got my aid station ready (consisting of a table, a couple water bottles, bananas, and pb&j), and nervously chatted with the small crowd that had assembled to watch me start. Promptly at 6pm (by the RD’s watch), the Delano Day was underway with me anticlimactically trotting away from the start/finish line.

1 mile: 8:55

The first mile or two went by relatively uneventfully, albeit far too quickly, and slowly, the little group that came out to watch the start thinned out (some had to go to a prerace dinner and packet pickup before getting a good night’s sleep before their own race – the Delano 12 – in the morning). Soon, we were down to just a couple people at the park with me, which was great to have, as I had expected to be alone for quite a bit of the night.

As the daylight faded into night, Fred Trouse, a good friend from Auburn who served as a pacer for me during both runnings of the Pinhoti 100, began running with me. Fred is always a pleasure to have along for a run, given his rather wide range of past experiences that have left him knowledgeable in so many areas. This, coupled with the fact that he is an overly kind, intuitive, and selfless pacer, makes him a sublime pacer. In any case, Fred and I circled the 1-mile loop time and time again.

Since this event was in my hometown of Decatur, AL, my family could come to watch the madness. My Illustrious Father, Darling Little Sister, and, of course, Inimitable Mother, were all on hand for the start, and took different shifts to hang out at the park. Whereas my Illustrious Father has been to both successful 100’s and the one failed attempt to watch the carnage, Darling Little Sister and Inimitable Mother haven’t had the joy of observing such stunts. That being the case, my Inimitable Mother took the first shift and watched Fred and me plug away the first few miles.

As I settled into my natural pace, several people came by the park to say hi and see how everything was going, often stopping by after picking up their race packets and eating the prerace pasta supper. One such visitor, Spurgeon Hendrick, a fellow Pinhoti veteran and all around good guy, happens to be sponsored by the Moon Pie company, and when he stopped by to check on me, he left a few moon pies along with some new flavored versions of the moon pie. I know; I was spoiled.

At one point, Fred and I were treated with a couple of kids running with us. Mrs. Burgreen, my high school freshman history teacher, came out for an hour or so to help cheer me on and brought along her children. It’s not often that I feel old during these events, as I’m often one of the youngest participants, but seeing Mrs. Burgreen’s three kids, all of whom ran a little, and two of whom ran a couple laps as fast or faster than me, almost made me feel like an adult, because Mrs. Burgreen was pregnant with the first one when I was in her class a decade ago. Regardless, it was nice to see Mrs. Burgreen; she always seems to have a smile on her face and encouraging words on her lips, and I’m glad she and her progeny came out.

Marathon: 4:11

At some point, another local bunch of ultrarunners, the Fagerman’s, came out for a few laps. They were some of the lucky participants of the Run From the Ranger 50k last December, and it was nice to have the company while Fred took a little break.

50k: 5:09

Late in the evening, yet another Pinhoti alumnus, Philip Sustar, showed up with his family and another runner or two and set up their tent for the race the next morning. I initially assumed that they were simply going to set up the tent and then go find a hotel for the night. I was incorrect. Philip ran quite a few miles with me throughout the night, made sure I always had what I needed, offered up his tent and supplies to me, and even helped me change my shoes and socks after 62 miles. Because of helping me, I don’t think Philip even got 3 hours of sleep Friday night, and he still managed to get up and run 52 miles during the race Saturday morning (all the while checking on me whenever we crossed paths).

Around midnight, Darling Little Sister arrived to run with me for an hour or so. Unfortunately, she showed up right as I hit my one and only real crash of the run. She arrived just as I was completing 35 miles, ready to run, and the only thing I could do at the time was rest my head on the aid table, sit down, and ask for warm clothes and my first round of caffeine in a week (Mt. Dew is a lifesaver at times like these). So after around 10 minutes of recouping, I got back up and set out with Darling Little Sister for around four miles. She is always an utter joy to run alongside, and considering the somewhat unusual circumstances, it was all the more enjoyable. All too soon, though, her running shift was over, and she went home to get a well-earned good night’s sleep and roust my Inimitable Mother for her running shift. In the interim, of course, Philip and Fred filled in running with me.

Within 30 or 45 minutes, the Inimitable Mother showed up, and we plugged away a few more miles. I thoroughly enjoyed my hour with her; the best way I know to describe it is that I like running with my Mama. Before I knew it, her shift had come to an end, and she went home to roust my Illustrious Father to come out for moral support. Around the time he showed up to check in (being the experienced crew chief from my previous 100-miler excursions), Jon Elmore, one of the race directors showed up to get his mileage in for the day. Jon ran around 5 before taking up the responsibilities of co-race director as other runners began arriving for the race.

100k: 11:46

Around 15 minutes before the official start of the Delano 12, I hit the 100k mark and decided to take the opportunity to get off of my feet for a few minutes, warm up, and change socks (which proved to be a gloriously wise decision). As the race began, so did the rain. The weather throughout the night had been perfect. Upper 40’s with a slight breeze, but the Delano 12 has a reputation of bad weather to uphold, so there was an obligatory soaking rain, wind, and (later in the day) a bout of sleet/hail. Regardless, I donned a light rain shell, and managed to remain pretty comfortable for most of the day.

The first couple hours of the “official” race passed rather quickly for me, since I had the company of John Bolding, a senior runner from the Austin High School XC team. He’s picked up a bit of an interest in ultrarunning and claims that he wants to try one out after he graduates, so I gave him a little introduction to the oddity that generally accompanies this small niche of running.

Quick picture with Eliza and Elliott during a break in the rain

During the day, the miles came and went. Having all of the other racers around was nice, and since it was a loop course, we were constantly seeing each other to offer encouragement, support, and jokes. Even so, or perhaps because of this, the miles seemed to blend together throughout the day.

It was nice to see a bunch of my friends out running the race. Almost everyone I talked to had a good day of running, and I only wish I could thank everyone I saw for the unending encouragement they offered me throughout the day. I think Fred, who continued to plug away at the miles with me throughout the day, PR’d for the total distance that he covered in a day. I’m not entirely sure of his total mileage, but it had to be approaching 50 (especially considering he kept on plugging away even after I had finished, even though he wasn’t officially entered in the race; he just enjoys being out there).

In any case, after the final few miles (it seemed like the last 15 took forever), my Inimitable Mother and Darling Little Sister joined me for my last lap. With a few meters to go, we even got the privilege of pushing Elliott across the finish line.

100 Miles: 19:42:53

Chatting with Elliott at the finish

For what it’s worth, this is a 100 mile PR by 7:55:27. I suspect I’ll have a hard time PR’ing by over 7 hours again in just about any event.

Shortly after I got done, I headed into Philip and Co.’s tent to warm up, and the combination of the fact that I couldn’t move my legs and the sudden onset of sideways sleet convinced me that I was done for the day. In retrospect, maybe I should have gotten out and walked a few more miles. Oh well; call me lazy…

While I was warming (and stiffening) up, I was giving a bit of a recap to Tony Bolan. Tony is a friend from church who happens to be a local magistrate. When he heard about my little overnight adventure, he sent word to the officer in charge of patrols from the police department to concentrate patrols around Delano Park throughout the night. It was a welcome sight to see cop cars cruise by checking on things. Tony had come out during the first couple of hours to watch, he showed up around 4am to check, and then he came out again to watch me finish. I cannot reiterate enough how much all of the support I got from friends meant as I circled that loop time after time after time.

This run was perhaps the most thorough mental effort and surreal running experience I’ve ever had. The very nature of running through the night and over this many miles causes you to cover the full spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional states, and coupling that with the knowledge that I was running for a cause served to heighten the experience.

Afterwards, I got to enjoy some time with a bunch of running buddies, sitting around and cutting up, well pleased with the effort. A bunch of folks managed to go farther than they ever had before, which certainly an accomplishment.

Eric Gilbertson was 2nd in the 12-hour, racking up 74 miles

Most of Huntsville crowd, who did a great job as cheerleaders for me all day

I haven’t managed to total up all of the donations and pledges, but I think that somewhere around $1000 was raised for NTSAD through the run, and I’ll gladly repeat the effort if it can in any way help facilitate research or support for families and those afflicted with Tay Sachs.

A day later, muscularly, I’m not too sore, but the joints are screaming at me. Totally worth it.

Well, yet again, I warned you that it was long and boring, but somehow you’ve made it to the finish. I am fairly certain that I’ve left out or forgotten quite a bit of what happened, but such is the nature of the beast. My apologies if it was a bit long, winding, and incoherent, but that’s how the run was, too. (and I’ll post up pictures as I get them…)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mount Cheaha 50k

Short version: Fun race; I kind of used it as a training run for my Delano Day in a couple of weeks, so I didn't really push it too hard...

Not as short version:

So I went into this race with the mindset of keeping it a training run. Last year, I started the race running alongside a friend of mine, Dink Taylor, at a pretty aggressive pace, then proceeded to slow down for the entire second half. This year, with the Delano Day , my "goal event," two weeks away, I decided to treat Cheaha as a good final training run, and I therefore intentionally ran the whole race at a decidedly more comfortable, conservative pace.

The race starts in a small gravel parking lot for a trailhead, and runners are immediately funneled into a singletrack trail, so to avoid getting stuck in a conga line at the start of the race that can potentially take around 2 or 3 miles to thin out, an ambitious runner must sprint out to the front few, which I did last year. This year, in my effort to force myself to take it easy, I started in the middle of the pack and eased into the race.

The section before the first aid station has some considerable hills, which can quickly take "it" out of your legs, and quite a bit of passing occurs during this first, shall we say, introduction to the race...

The majority of the course is run along narrow, rocky, rooty, singletrack trails, which can be an adventure to traverse. The ankles take a beating as runners traverse numerous rock gardens, often with the entire trail on a slant due to its location on the side of a mountain. This, along with the fact that there probably aren't a cumulative 3 miles of flat running on the entire course, makes this race a relatively tough, slow 50k. I love it.

This year was considerably drier than last year's edition; not nearly as much mud and running water along the course. If someone wanted to keep his or her feet dry, he or she could do so, although in one or two spots, some substantial thinking (and rock jumping) might be required. I, on the other hand, think that the main stream crossing of the race, somewhere around mile 20, feels great, and plowed right through the frigid water. I was not disappointed, as the cool rush provided a nice bit of relief to my rock-beaten feet.

Whereas most of the course is along singletrack, a few miles are along some gravel and paved roads. When, a few miles after the creek crossing, we got spit out of the trail onto the gravel road that leads to the paved road, I licked my chops. Given my road racing, XC, and track background, whenever the technicality is taken out of a run and I can simply dial in a pace to hold, I can generally make up some time on most of the purely trail runners. This came in handy with the almost constant incline that the roads held, during which, it is incredibly tempting to take walking breaks periodically, especially when you take a turn, and up above the trees, you see Mount Cheaha, which you are well aware that you must climb very shortly. It's somewhat intimidating, realizing that you're legs are already trashed from running farther than a marathon and that you're taking more out of them now by running up a hill just to get to the trailhead to take you up the mountain, and then seeing the mountain and thinking "I've got to run up that?" Again, I love this sport.

Once I got past the last aid station, I began my ascent of Mt. Cheaha, and it went relatively uneventfully. Yes, it was steep. Yes, it was somewhat difficult. Yes, I was very glad to be at the top. But I expected all of those, so it was, in a strange way, kind of easy to get through.

Once I got to the top, just a few more minutes padding around the top of the mountain, and I was done. 5:38~ish (completed, of course, with the requisite flying heel click at the finish line...). Another 50k in the books. The funny part is that, even though I played around with this race and ran it with a much more relaxed attitude, I ran 10 minutes faster than last year. Funny how all that works...

I managed to put in 14 today (Sunday), and soreness is about how you would expect. 2- weeks until the big one; on to Delano....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Delano Day

Some might have heard about the Run Across Alabama for Elliott ( this past summer, raising money for NTSAD, the National Tay Sachs and Allied Diseases Association (, where I joined Eric Schotz, Jon Elmore, and Eric Charette for a part of their trek across the state. That effort ended up raising over $20,000 for NTSAD. I'm just trying to add a little to the total...

I have wanted to try a 24-hour event for a while, and with the Delano 12 ( being a known and relativley convenient venue, doubling seemed to be a feasible idea. Now, as much as I like running stunts for the shear sake of running stunts, I figure that I might as well do someone some good with this eccentric pastime that is ultrarunning, so I thought I'd make my run into a fundraiser benefitting NTSAD, since Eric Schotz and Jon Elmore are the RD's.

I'm trying to get people to sponsor me on a per-mile basis for the 24 hours; the farther I go, the more money we can get going toward Tay Sachs research. For example, if someone were to pledge $0.25 per mile, and I go out and run 100 miles, it would end up as a $25 donation. I anticipate running somewhere between 100 and 110 miles (but the farther the better, right...)

If anyone has any questions or would like to get involved, feel free to shoot me an email at , and I'll be sure to get you in on the loop.

As a sidenote, if anyone wants to keep up with my daily training, I keep a running blog at

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Day

Today was supposed to be my day off...

As rare as snow is in the South, a conundrum always presents itself whenever we are graced with the wintry precipitation, however light or brief. How should I most effectively go about enjoying an event of such rarity? On my trek into my office for a brief check on some research, I noticed that quite a few people were out and about making snowmen, having little snowball fights, and generally frolicking around in our all too fleeting winter wonderland. It was nice to see everyone enjoying the day, but I had already hatched something of an eccentric plan...

I had called Marcus Farris, a sophomore here at Auburn and running buddy of mine, and posed the question, "Are you up for doing something stupid?" Without hesitation, he indicated that he was ready and willing to try something out, so I posed to him the idea of going for a little run in the still-falling snow. In shorts and shoes.

Marcus wholeheartedly agreed to come along, so a couple of hours later, when the snow had actually accumulated a little and picked up in intensity, we set out in the least amount of clothing with which we could legally get away.

Our route was relatively short; it consisted of a lap around campus and back to my apartment, which amounted to approximately 3 miles. Within a couple of minutes of departing, we had been captured on both digital cameras and video, which seemed to be a recurring theme of the run. Whenever a new group of people saw us, they immediately began cheering us on and taking pictures, and with the excitement of the snow, quite a few people were out to observe the oddity of two mostly-naked guys running through the streets.

When we had made most of the campus circuit, Marcus and I turned down College Street to make a pass in front of Samford Hall, where many students, enjoying their snow day off from classes, had come to enjoy the scenery and take part in the aforementioned frolicking. That being the case, before long, we were having to dodge people, often catching them by surprise, and weave through the crowds in front of the campus landmark. After dodging a few snowballs thrown our way (and getting pegged by one or two...), we turned back home, and in short order were back in my nicely heated apartment.

I think Marcus summed it up best in the subject line of the email he sent with a couple of pictures we took, simply saying "The most epic 3 miles in a while."

It was supposed to be my day off, but sometimes you've just got to go out and play in the snow...

Me enjoying the snow...

Marcus in his Vibrams