Scrumpy Skedaddle Recap: The V.I.P. “Inside” Report

Last Sunday was the second annual Scrumpy Skedaddle at Almar Orchards. Hard to believe it’s been a year since the notorious happenings of 2014! But there I was, with a couple thousand of my best friends, lining up for a sprint through the orchard on a brisk fall day. Overcast and drizzly? Who cared? This was gonna be fun!

Scrumpy - 10K Run

The 10K takes over the orchard.

Last year’s Skedaddle, as has been related on this blog, had issues with long lines for the porta-potties and the cider and pancakes after the race. I’m happy to report there were big improvements this year, with shorter lines, a much better course layout, and the addition of the 10K and the two-race “Cider Slam” – which, of course, I just had to do. Along with Run Woodstock, the Skedaddle is becoming one of my favorite events – and you all know I’ve run a lot of events.

The 5K and 10K both started out on dirt roads, then into the orchard on wide grassy strips between rows of apple trees. It gave the run a feeling of intimacy, even of exclusiveness, despite the large number of runners. It had the best features of a trail run without the hazards of rocks and roots.

Scrumpy - Running in the Orchard 2

The Head Goat (orange jacket) directs traffic.

Randy of Running Fit Events (orange jacket), a.k.a. “The Head Goat”, directs traffic.

I ran the 5K hard – not my best time, but solid. And the top four age 50-59 runners (which included me) beat all but one of the 40-49 group. We rock! Then I ran the 10K easy, which is why you see these photos of the course. What a contrast! Instead of focusing on my breathing and pace, I could relax and take in the scene around me, just running for the fun of it.

2015 Scrumpy - Post-race Cider

I could have done this all afternoon.

Like last year, the post-race food was excellent. They moved the pancake production outside, with two lines, so everything flowed smoothly. The live band was a nice touch, too. And the hard cider on tap was amazing; not too sweet, with just a touch of tartness from the mild fermentation. Scrumpy in the bottle is good, but this is unbelievably good. And they do it just for this event.

Can I have one of these installed in my man cave, please?

Could I have one of these installed in my man cave, please?

And finally, what I know you’ve all been waiting for: what was the VIP potty like? Well, here you go!

The outside.

The outside.

The magic pass that got you in the short line!

The magic pass that got you in the short line!

Happy passholders. (And note the guy on the far right who'd like to know why he's in the LONG lines.

Happy passholders. (And note the guy on the far right who’s not too happy about being in the LONG lines. Hey, it’s all about who you know, fella!)

And as a special bonus, exclusively for my readers: the INSIDE VIEW!

VIP Potty - inside

Loaded with amenities.

Reading material!

Reading material!

Specially printed toilet paper!

Specially printed toilet paper!

Will I be back for 2016? You bet, VIP or not. And you all should come along. Even if you’re not a dedicated runner, you’ll have a good time. It’s a cider mill, after all. How could you not have a good time? See you there!

A V.I.P. What? You’re Sh**ting Me

IT ALL STARTED WHEN I broke one of my cardinal rules on race day. And now just look where it’s taken me. I suppose I should be honored to receive a V.I.P. of anything. But this? Well, read on and judge for yourself.

Scrumpy Bottle with Finishers MugThe Scrumpy Skeddadle is the final event of the Thirsty Three, a set of Running Fit Events races linked with certain beverages. “Scrumpy” is a Scottish term for hard cider, and Almar Orchards makes a brand of cider known as J. K. Scrumpy’s. The first-ever Skeddadle took place at the Almar Orchards cider mill in October, 2014, and there I took the fateful steps toward what is possibly a first-ever event in running.

The trigger was my decision to have a cup of coffee on race morning. I never do this because it has digestive consequences that would be very inconvenient during a run. But the Scrumpy began at 10:00 a.m. and I was up before 7:00, so I figured I was safe.

But as I drove to the orchard in Flushing (*) I began to feel the need, so to speak. By the time I parked, the need was becoming urgent. I went into the store and headed for the bathrooms. Locked. Due to the large crowds, I suppose, everyone had to use the porta-potties. And with over 2,200 people there, the lines were long.

This is from Hightail to Ale, but you get the idea.

This is from Hightail to Ale. Scrumpy’s lines were, shall we say, a bit longer.

You can read more about what happened here, in last year’s post on the subject. All I will say here is that I was not in my happy place, and I took it out on the poor longsuffering race staff. Turned out I was not the only one with this complaint (**) but perhaps I was the only one to hear about it later from the poor longsuffering race staff.

Determined to make amends, I delivered some flowers to them after the race with a vase of my own design:

Flowers in Porta Potty Vase

I wrote on the card, “The next time people give you sh**, you can put it in this.”

The RF Events folks had a good laugh and posted it on their Facebook page. I figured that was the end of it, so to speak, although someone made an off-the-cuff comment that they oughta create an official porta-potty for me at some future race.

Fast forward to Run Woodstock two weeks ago. I was standing around waiting for the 100K race to start when Mandy, one of the RF Events staff, came up to me.

“I have some exciting news for you,” she said. “Do you want to hear it now, or after the race?”

“Oh, tell me now,” I said, not knowing what condition I’d be in fourteen hours later.

And she told me. And here it is:

The RunBikeThrow VIP Porta-Potty

Yes, the off-the-cuff remark actually came to pass. And my lucky readers can be a part of it!

Anyone reading this post who’s going to the 2015 Scrumpy on October 4 can share with me the exclusive right to use my V.I.P. facility. Just sign up for the race (5K or 10K), then email me at jeff(at) and ask for a pass. I have a limited number, so it’s first come, first serve.

I ask nothing in return. However, if you do get a pass, I would love it if you would consider making a donation to any Humane Society.

Here are some other good reasons to run the Scrumpy Skeddadle:

Scrumpy Skeddale Bottle Opener Finishers Medal* You get a finisher’s mug and it will be filled with hard cider on draft. And if you buy some of their bottled cider, you can use your finisher’s medal to open it!

* You get a pancake breakfast catered by Chris Cakes of Michigan. They’re known for flipping the pancakes onto your plate from several feet away. Worth it for the entertainment alone!

* The energy and excitement of a morning at the cider mill.

* Fresh air and exercise, and a fun run through their orchard. You can run the 5K, 10K, or, if you’re feeling up to it, run both and get a “Cider Slam” award.

Hope to see you there! If not, fear not – I will take plenty of photos. (From the outside.)


(*) No, the irony was not lost on me.

(**) Pun intended, of course. They always are.

Run Woodstock Part Deux: Shutting the Brain Off

Ninety percent of this game is mental, and the other half is physical. – Yogi Berra

Training for my first marathon four years ago, I ran 16 miles along the back roads from Honor, Michigan to Beulah and Benzonia, then back. It was a pretty route, but by mile 13 I was sick and tired of running it. Not physically exhausted, but mentally.

Three miles still to go, the little voice in my head said. That’s practically forever.

There was no shortcut back to my car, so I had to stick it out. It helped that I’d strategically parked at an ice cream shop. But I was pretty discouraged. In two months I have to run this and ten more, the voice said. Given this run, how am I gonna do that?

Shirt-Running Sucks - 2

The answer was to do more long runs to get the mind used to that distance. And after making some basic adjustments, such as conceptually breaking up long runs into manageable segments, I had no more trouble with self-doubts.

First 2 miles in. Just 30 more of those to go!

First 2 miles in. Just 30 more of those to go!

With that level of mental discipline I got through my first marathon, first 50K ultra in 2012, and first 50-miler in 2013, so I figured I would be okay for the 100K in 2014. Instead, I hit several mental challenges that I was unable to overcome:

Empty Tank of PatienceDistance stretching. Four miles (the distances between aid stations at Woodstock) are short hops on the road, but on singletrack that same distance seems doubled. Distances also stretch out in the dark, so trail running at night called for a full tank of patience. Instead, it was one of the first things I ran short on.

The worst was the section leading to the second aid station. During my second loop it seemed like I would never get there. When I finally did, all I could think about was having to do it twice more. My attitude had soured, and I was no longer having fun – a bad sign on an ultra run.

I thought so!

I thought so!

Pain management. Sore feet and chafing got worse as the night wore on. By the third loop the Body Glide wasn’t working and I was constantly adjusting my shorts, without much relief. More pain came from tripping on roots and rocks, and from branches in the trail that stung my ankles. I dealt with this increasing discomfort by getting more and more frustrated.

Bonking. When inadequate hydration and electrolyte management caught up with me, I didn’t have the focus to work through the nausea and correct the imbalances, and allow myself to recover. Despite having plenty of time to rest and still finish the race, I dropped out at the 56K mark, done in by a combination of things, but above all, insufficient mental discipline.

Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

Yeah, those tabs pretty much covered it.

Over the subsequent year I fixed the bonking problem, but as Woodstock 2015 approached I still worried that I needed a way to handle the mental challenge of those loops in the dark. Help came from an unexpected and last-minute source.

The night before the race I went to a local runner’s clinic on handling long runs. Most of the advice I’d heard before, but one comment stood out: the need to shut the brain off.

Not completely, naturally; a trail run requires being alert to the course and your physical condition at all times. What needs shutting off is the mental chatter – the continuous stream of trivial thoughts, especially the negative self talk and worries. So I would work on getting into a “zone” – a disciplined, quiet mind, at peace with itself and living entirely in the moment. Here’s how I applied it.

One flag at a time.

How do you finish 100K? One flag at a time.

– I created a mantra for myself: Focus on the trail in front of you. The milestones will come. Every time I began to fret about how much distance I had left, I silently repeated this mantra and I would settle back into the zone.

– During the stretches when the aid station seemed light-years away, I would remind myself, It’s really not that far. It just seems longer. I even used it when I passed a runner on that interminable second segment. “Man, they must have moved the aid station,” he said. I assured him out loud what I’d been telling myself silently.

– When I tripped over roots or rocks I told myself firmly that it was over and in the past. Then I’d forget about it. If that didn’t work I would stop and walk until I returned to the zone. Running is a happy activity for me; I would not run angry.

– When pain came in my feet, legs, or shoulder, I did not fight it. I acknowledged it was there, embraced it as part of the experience, and let it go.

– Staying hydrated and salted kept me on an even keel. I had no nausea or swings of equilibrium to deal with. But just in case, I was prepared this time to deal with it. As I overheard one pacer telling his runner, “You’re not having a bad race. You’re having a bad moment. You will get through it.”


The results exceeded my highest expectations. I stayed in a steady, positive mental state throughout the race. And one week later I’m still on that high. Maybe I should do this more often?

Make More Mistakes

Woodstock 100K: The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of De Feet


I finished in the dark, so my starting line photo will have to do!

I finished in the dark, so my starting line photo will have to do!

Run Woodstock, “a weekend of peace, love, music and running,” has become my favorite annual event. Despite some brutal conditions over the years, including swamp-like trails, thunderstorms, and falling trees, it’s always a laid-back and joyful atmosphere. Out on the trails the runners encourage each other throughout, and the campers cheer on the runners as they finish each stage.

Approaching Finish Line 2

Woodstock 2013 - camp

The course is a roughly 16-mile loop through the Pinckney trails, with some dirt roads, and four aid stations. The 50K race is two loops, 50 miles three, 100K four, and 100 miles six. Severe chafing, 90+ degree heat, and dehydration did me in at the 56K mark last year, but with July’s success at the sweltering Voyageur Trail 50, I felt ready to stuff that DNF into the compost heap of history. (*)

This year the trails were nearly perfect, the temperature was in the sixties, and the threatened rain held off. We were off at 4 p.m. Friday. My main goal was just to finish, but I set a stretch goal of under 14 hours so I could watch the start of the 50K and 50 mile races at 6 a.m. Saturday. To give myself the best shot, I chose a strategy that went against a couple of the classic adages of ultrarunning:

Adage #1: Start out slow. If you think you’re starting out too slowly, slow down some more.

Pace too fast 2

Not this time. The loops in the dark would be slower anyway, so  I wanted to get in as much distance as I could before sunset in 4 hours. Also, starting in the back would stick me in a conga line on the singletrack for awhile. So I went to the front and got in those first few miles at my own pace. I finished the first 50K in 6 hours, giving me some cushion for the 14-hour goal.

Adage #2: Carry extra food and water. Also some extra gear if needed.

With a cool evening, and well-stocked aid stations only four miles apart, I eschewed (**) my backpack and relied on one handheld water bottle, with salt tablets in my belt pouch. I kept a Clif bar in my other hand for eating on the trail. I had a moment of regret when it started raining on loop 2 with my rain shell in the pack 12 miles away. But Nature was merciful and the rain lasted only 15 minutes.

On the other hand, I've been wet before!

On the other hand, I’ve been wet before!

Some critical rules I did NOT break:

Adage #3: When running in the dark, carry more than one light. I had a fully charged headlamp, but partway through my final loop it began to fail. I had another one at the aid station just 4 miles away, but getting there would take nearly an hour. So I switched to the small flashlight I carried with me and got there safely.

This is a trail at night with no headlamp. Good luck!

This is a trail at night with no headlamp. Good luck!

Adage #4: Stay on top of hydration, salt, and sugar. As at the Voyageur, I made sure I took in 600-800 mg of salt every hour. At first I relied on S-Caps, but as the temperature dropped I switched to chicken soup at the aid stations. Mmm-mm-good! For food, I carried Clif Bars and supplemented with bananas and grapes at the aid stations. I broke the “don’t try new foods during a race” rule slightly; the grilled cheese sandwiches looked too darn good. (And they were.)

The result was a finish in 13:46:27, winning my age group and finishing 9th overall!

This isn't me, but this was how I crossed the finish line!

This isn’t me, but this was how I crossed the finish line!

Physically, I felt much better than I could have expected. My legs stayed strong the entire race, allowing me to run smooth and steady. No stomach or other digestive issues, and no nausea or dizziness like last year. Not even any serious chafing – the tri shorts came through again!

Only one small disappointment to go with the big high of triumph. Sometime during the third loop I mashed some toes on my left foot from kicking a hidden rock. The pain subsided, but came back after the finish and was bad enough I went to urgent care for X rays. Nothing broken (yay!) but I won’t be jumping rope for a while.

And, finally, I know that some of you are asking the question: What about . . .?

Sign-Natural Run

Alas, not this year. In addition to my suffering toes, it was cold and damp out, making it unlikely I would enjoy even a short frolic through the woods in the altogether. Maybe next year!

Next up: Handling the “mental side” of the race was at least as important to finishing the race as the physical side, as negative self-talk, the tedium of long solo stretches in the dark, and nagging pain all contributed to last year’s DNF. I’ll describe how I dealt with those issues this year.


(*) As a more environmentally conscious Trotsky would have said.

(**) “Eschew” and “titillating” are two of my favorite words. Ain’t English grand?

Let Go of Expectations, Embrace the Adventure

THE BIG 100K is tomorrow! Training and tapering are over, and it’s time to do the deed. I’ve tested the course, my watch and headlamp are charged, and I’ve packed plenty of salted caramel Gu. No need to stress about anything; in fact, to stress about an event named “Run Woodstock” would be missing the point altogether.

So, naturally, I’m a little stressed.

Not about anything related to the course, the conditions, or anyone’s expectations of me. Instead, I’m fretting a little about living up to my own expectations. I expect to finish, and to have a decent finishing time, too. But what if, after all this time and preparation, I can’t do it after all?

No worries, man! Chill out and run!

No worries, man! Chill out and run!

As my (awesome) regular readers know, I came up short in my first 100K attempt last year. But I learned from it and made adjustments, and this year I feel much more prepared. And with a 28-hour window (we share the 100-miler clock) I can take my time and focus on finishing rather than hitting cutoff limits. Still, there’s that nagging self-wondering if I can really pull it off.

A couple of things have helped.

An article on the AirFareWatchdog site I read this week was very timely. It points out that when traveling, things often happen that are out of your control, and may affect where you go and when you get there. The article quotes author Anne Lamott, who said, Expectations are premeditated disappointments.

Gotta admit that’s profound, man. If we expect everything to go smoothly, or (heaven forbid) need everything to go smoothly, any deviation will be annoying at best. Even when we mentally prepare for changes or setbacks, we can get terribly frustrated when things don’t go our way.

The AirFareWatchdog article has this advice: Your experience has a higher likelihood of being one-of-a-kind and transformational if you let things happen. This is something Americans are often not very good at accepting but there’s a peace in letting go.

My great-uncle Albert shows us the value of this advice years ago. He traveled the world each summer, and in 1996 my wife and I were privileged to accompany him on a trip to England. He paid all expenses and we took care of his luggage and drove him around.

With no GPS back then, and the oddities of English roads, I naturally made some wrong turns. We always seemed to be heading toward South Wales, which became the joke of the trip. Albert waved off my apologies. “It’s all part of the adventure,” he said.

And then just earlier today, I dropped in at a talk on tips for running a marathon. Most of the advice I’d heard before, but one comment stood out – the need to “switch the brain off” when running a race. If there’s one thing that knocks a runner out of a race, or makes him fail to attain his goal, it’s the negative self-talk when things get tough.

There’s a physiological reason for this, we were told. The brain lives on glucose, and when supplies run low through hard physical effort, it attempts to slow the body down, long before the body is actually in danger of permanent damage. Elite athletes have learned to push past the pain and ignore the negative messages. I can run “on autopilot” for some time, but if I ever want to get to the holy grail – the 100 miler – I will have to improve here as well. So this race will be a good test.

Do I have to run this race? Nope. If I choose not to run it, or drop out partway, I will only be disappointing myself. In the end, any running race is a test of oneself. I can fret about what might happen, or I can let go of my expectations and just run. Which is what I plan to do. Part of the adventure!

Going Long, Going Dark, Going Easy

THE BIG EVENT at Run Woodstock is one week away, and I’m gearing up for it by gearing it down a little. Yes, it’s the hardest training period of any distance runner – taper time!

So I will be doing my very best to work out less, rest more, and eat more. I’ll get through it somehow. Actually, I’m looking forward to a little break from Body Specs. Today’s workout at 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity had me streaming sweat, leaving puddles on the mat at each station. But it’s been that kind of summer.

Stop doing this for a whole week? Oh, man!

Stop doing this for a whole week? Oh, man!

I’ve been wondering about a few things that happened to me this past week. Perhaps some of you could provide some insights or similar experiences.

  1. What’s going on with my bike rides? Last month I rode from Ann Arbor to the Crim race in Flint (see my previous post on that experience). Twice during that ride my quads were screaming so badly I pulled over to stretch and massage them. Last weekend I rode to White Lake. It was about the same distance, at the same time of day, but after running 17 miles on the trails in Pinckney, and I felt fine the entire way. Not complaining, but it seems kind of bass-ackward to me.
Maybe this was the difference?

Maybe this was the difference?

BTW, the I-275 Metro Trail from 5 Mile Road to Meadowbrook Road is a handy way to go north on a bike but I wouldn’t recommend it as a pleasure ride. As I was advised by another trail runner, it’s variable in pavement quality and the noise from the freeway is incredible. Perhaps it’s amplified by the retaining walls on the west side. The good news is that multi-purpose paths continue to head north for several more miles.

  1. On that same ride, I took one of several wrong turns and asked a gas station attendant for directions. He printed a map and showed me the road I wanted. I told him I was riding to White Lake.

“That’s a hell of a long way on a bike,” he said.

“Not really,” I said, reflexibly. My destination was about 7 miles away. As the entire ride was over 50 miles, I was pleased I only had that little bit left. But what makes a ride or run “long” depends on one’s point of view, after all. In track and field a 5K is considered a “middle distance” and 10K is “long distance.” By contrast, in the world of ultrarunning the “short run” is the 50K, and no one even talks about shorter races.

What is this "sub-marathon" distance you speak of.

What is this “marathon” distance you speak of.

It reminded me of my trip to Chicago in 2011, where the train station attendants said I might want to take a bus for the “long” 8-block trip to the convention center. When I told them I was there for the marathon, they agreed I “could walk it.” (BTW, the walk inside the convention center to get my race bib was longer than the walk to the center.)

  1. And on the same subject of perception: last night I went out for 6 miles at sunset to get used to running in the dark. The first half still had some daylight in it and passed uneventfully. I returned along the exact same route, but in darkness, and it felt longer – a lot longer. The road ahead of me just seemed to stretch on and on. I half expected Rod Serling to step into view: A man goes out for a run on a dark, deserted road…and ends up in…the Twilight Zone.

Trail - Saturday morning

Why does this happen? I’m guessing it’s due to the reduced field of view. When all you can see is what’s illuminated by your headlamp, even familiar territory can seem like the middle of nowhere. And the noises change, too, from the man-made to the animal. Between the near-total darkness, gnats in my eyes, and crickets and frogs echoing all around, it really did feel like a different world from the same path I’d taken just a half hour earlier.

And just think – a week from now, I get to run all night long. The race begins at 4:00 p.m. Friday, and with luck I will be finishing sometime around sunrise Saturday morning, just as the 50K and 50-milers toe the starting line. (Yeah, those “short distance” guys.)

Stay tuned – I’ll let you know after Labor Day how my weekend “training” went. (Isn’t that kind of ironic, that “Labor Day” is celebrated as a day off?)

Lessons from Half a Brick

ONE GREAT THING about my fitness activities are the things I learn while doing them. And the great thing about having a blog is that I can share what I learn, and pretend that someone out there might actually read it. (It’s a nice fantasy.)

Well, last weekend’s “brick” (bike ride and Crim race) provided several good lessons. So without further ado, here they are.

The first lesson about biking from Ann Arbor to Flint is: don’t bike from Ann Arbor to Flint. It didn’t take long after leaving home to realize that I am spoiled rotten.

Living in Ann Arbor, where new bike paths and complete streets are popping up everywhere, one can get the idea that they might also exist in the real world. (*) But in most of Michigan the roads remain the exclusive purview of motor vehicles, and lowlifes like cyclists are encouraged to stay the hell out of their way.

Google Maps - Linden Rd north of Linden

Guess I should have looked at Street View before the ride.

But Google Maps provided a bike route, and like a fool I trusted it. Whitmore Lake Road and old US-23? Yeah, they’re a bit dicey, but I hoped Linden Road would be like many other back roads I’ve biked on; decently paved with little traffic. Nope. When it wasn’t rutted dirt or beat-up pavement, it was 55 MPH with no shoulder, and every pickup truck in Michigan was taking it. I made it in one piece, but called off the return trip. I felt I’d pushed my luck enough.

The good news is that in Washtenaw County, work on the Border-to-Border Trail continues, including a new stretch on a busy road near my house. It includes a wood boardwalk over a wetland, with an observation cutout. It opened last week, and last night I ran on it for the first time. (I also watched a deer sacrifice itself to the SUV god, but I won’t go into details.)

Now this is more like it!

Now this is more like it!

Lesson 2: If you bike from Ann Arbor to Flint, and have a race the next morning, don’t stay at a budget hotel with uncomfortable pillows and noisy residents. I got about two hours of sleep. Technically it wasn’t the motel’s fault that outside my door was a popular conversation point, or that someone turned on a stereo full blast at 3:00 a.m. Bed and breakfast next time, somewhere in a nice boring suburb.

Michael and me after Crim 2015

Popsicles: my favorite post-race fruit!

Yet to my surprise, I ran a good race. The plan all along was to test my ability to run while fatigued, and I sure had a perfect setup. In the end I finished the 10 miles only two minutes off my PR. Not bad!

Lesson 3: I really do have readers! At the post-race party, one of my PR Fitness friends told me he enjoys reading my blog. Over the years (4+ to date) I continue to be pleasantly surprised by people mentioning this blog when I thought they didn’t even know I had one. So to all my readers – thanks again for reading. You keep me writing! (And you wouldn’t hurt my feelings by leaving the occasional comment.)

The big race at Run Woodstock is just over two weeks away! One final brick this weekend – a 16 mile tune-up run on the trails, followed by a bike ride to White Lake. This time, however, much of the route is actual bike trail. Sure would be a nice change to relax and enjoy the ride!

Downtown Linden

Bonus lesson: Don’t ask the locals. They didn’t know of a cafe/sandwich shop in Linden. Found out later there was one right in my sights! The black car is parked at the Bridge Cafe & Market.


(*) You may have heard this description of Ann Arbor: Six square miles surrounded by reality.