Archives April 2019

DFL 24 Hour Ultra 2019

Dear DFL Runners,

Thank you so much for helping us send off DFL on such a positive note! It was a great pleasure meeting so many of you! I wish all that had registered could of made it to this event. Saturday, June 20th was a spectacular day to run for hours on end. A few days before the race I feared that the harsh weather coming the day before the race would wreak havoc on the trail course but thankfully, the damage was minimal.

This was the last year for this race. With a heavy heart we are bidding it farewell. In the future, we may bring back another 24 hour running format but more than likely it will be at another location and, at least, not for another two or three years. In any case, it will be by a different name as well.

I want to give a shout out to our wonderful volunteers that helped not just during the race but before it…a week before, – clearing the trail! Adam and Laura Gross and, son, Soren came out to help us clear a lot of dangerously leaning trees off of the course. Michael Shelly-Moody and Bill Bailey also came out and helped move trees off the trail and cut back the ever growing shrubs along the sides of the trail. Jen Smith and Rachel Reese were indespensable on race day. Thank you, all!

There were some amazing performances at this year’s DFL 24! We had several runners get distance PR’s. Here are just some of those incredible feats performed by the DFL runners…

Sally Libonati came to the race on a mission and, she succeeded! She ran 102 miles in 24 hours on a course that can be quite demanding on the body. She was relentless in her pursuit of her goal and, nothing short of inspiring! Watching her race down the clock was so impressive! She was the only 24 hour runner to buckle this year. And, she also gets a DFL 24 signet ring.

A close friend of mine, Luann Lucier, was chasing down her first 50 miler and, of course, she succeeded! Friends from all over town rallied behind her and helped her clinch her first 50 in the early hours of Sunday morning. It was quite moving to see her accomplish a goal she’s sought out for the past couple of years.

Brad Setzer went after his first ultra distance goal and ended up with 70 miles…mind you, his longest run to date had been 25 miles! This man dug deep and found the strength and perseverance to achieve an impressive milestone.

Speaking of milestones, there’s Lindsey Dowling’s impressive 52 mile finish for 24 hours after dedicating her race to helping Luann achieve her 50. This past January, Lindsey achieved her distance pr of 39.3 miles. She then went after her first 100 at the CGG 100 mile ultra. The race didn’t go as she had hoped but yet, she reached another distance pr by running 75 miles! Three weeks later, with an injured hip, she cranked out 52 miles at DFL. That is quite amazing! She is an extraordinary human being!

I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Mandy McNeese a couple of years ago at one of our other trail races (a Run thru the Woods). It was so awesome to see her get a distance PR of 52 miles and achieve it in 12 hours with a first place female award at DFL!

Adrienne Anderson made her ultra debut at DFL as a relay teammate on “None Fast, All Dubious”.  Her 24 hour relay team ran a respectable 150 miles with her solo run distance of 54 miles, earning her 3rd place 24 hour female.  

Mary Owen signed up for 12 hours and ran a distance PR of 38 miles!  And, she did so with a smile on her face the whole time!

Chris Varnadoe cranked out 60 miles in twelve hours! Is that not amazing?!

Chris Novakoski cranked out 38 miles in six hours!  On this winding course, that is quite extraordinary!

Sixteen year old Soren Southard ran his first ultra and in six hours finished with 30 miles!  That’s amazing!

Ace Brown signed up for the three hour race and ran 24 miles!  Again, this is not the fastest course and yet this young man made it look easy to run a lot of miles on it!

It was quite amazing to witness so many runners achieve PR’s or, just to witness these amazing athletes run!  It is truly quite touching that so many runners chose our race to pursue their running goals and, to have them achieve and even, exceed their goals was just extra sweet!   

I say this all of the time…you could of chosen from so many other races that are out there but, you chose ours as your race.  We are so grateful for that.  That’s why we work so hard and try to give you the best race we possibly can.  We want you to achieve your goals with no unnecessary obstructions in the way.

Here are some fun stats regarding this year’s DFL 24.  

  • Sixteen 24 hour runners ran 886 miles.  That’s like an average of 55 miles per runner.
  • Thirteen 12 hour runners ran 502 miles. That’s like an average of 41.8 miles per runner.
  • Eleven 6 hour runners ran 266 miles.  That’s 24.1 miles per runner.
  • Thirteen 3 hour runners ran 200 miles. That’s 15.3 miles per runner
  • The total combined miles of all timed races was 1854 miles.  That’s an average of 34.98 miles per runner
  • DFL had a total of 53 runners toe the starting line.

These stats also show us that although, all four timed races (3hr, 6hr, 12hr, 24hr) were popular choices, the 24hr and 3 hr were the most popular.  That’s quite interesting, is it not?  I think we may start to see more 3 hour formats pop up at timed events.

Here are some more neat stats…

  • DFL in 2017 had 25 runners
  • DFL in 2018 had 30 runners
  • DFL in 2019 had 53 runners
  • When you look at the numbers of runners registering for the past three years for DFL you’ll see again that the 24 hour and 3 hour time slots are the most popular.

This was the third and final year for DFL 24 For those that have wondered what DFL stands for, it’s not, Dead Fucking Last. Instead, it stands for, Dairy Farm Love. I’ll admit that the acronym was a play at Dead F’n Last, – ultra slang for the very last runner of a race but, I assure you, that Dairy Farm Love is the real meaning behind it. The reason is simple. It is at the Roberd’s Dairy Farm that I found solace after losing two dogs to cancer and, the end of a heart wrenching relationship. It is at the dairy farm that I would go to commune with God and nature. It is where I would go to find peace and healing for my broken heart. Part of the healing process has been the making of the trail called “Gypsy’s Trail” which so happens to be part of the DFL 24 course. Gypsy was a middle aged Australian Shepherd I rescued. He was with me as I began to carve out the trail through the dairy farm woods. Halfway through with the 1 mile trail Gypy’s cancer finally caught up with him and I lost him as well. Again, the df was a place for my healing.

Bringing a 24 hour running format to Savannah was important to me. Savannah is a beautiful city with a very rich history and, that’s what attracts many people to it as a vacation destination. That is great! I also believe, though, that Savannah is a great running location and race destination. Our hot muggy summer environment makes a strong runner. Our mild winters allow outdoor training year round. And, our flat geography lends itself for fast flat courses for record breaking especially, with the mild winters we have. Some of my thinking with the 24 hour format in Savannah has been that runners can come down to Savannah run and then maybe later, explore unique Savannah. Or, while one member of the family is running the others can explore this beautiful city of ours. Or, even better, everyone hangs out at the 24 hour venue and makes it a big family running party!

Be assured, the 24 hour running format in Savannah is not over with the end of the DFL 24. We will come back to it. These long races are so demanding. We need a little break from it especially since DFL is just three weeks after the CGG 155 mile ultra where sleep deprivation is the name of the game. We were not fully recovered from CGG before jumping into DFL. When we bring back a 24 hour running format there will be more distance between it and CGG.

In summary, the DFL 24 has been very special to me. I know that its been very special for our other two race directors, Kerry Dulina and Jason Edenfield. Without those two I would not have been able to make these races work. Without you that chose to run with us there would not have been a three year running of DFL. Thank you all for bringing life to this race and, to all of the races we hold as Rough Runners!

I am so very grateful to all of you that have been our bedrock of support for the races we put on. With you all we’ve been able to collectively accomplish so much…from running milestones to fast pr’s to tens of thousands of dollars generated and donated to worthwhile charities -all, through these races! That’s quite extraordinary! Thank you, all!

Important links:

Until the next one…

all the best…much peace.

CGG 155 Mile 2019 Journey

How do I even begin to wrap my head around the 2019 Coastal Georgia Greenway 155 mile ultra this past weekend and, how epic it was?

Nine runners signed up for the 155 mile version of the CGG and one for the 100 mile version of it. At the end, eight crossed the finish line while two did not. The two that did not my heart goes out to them. I know how big of a deal this was to you both and I’m sorry that your race did not go as you had expected or hoped. Please be gentle with yourselves and come back when you’re ready.

The CGG 155 and 100 are beasts. Any point to point race is tough. The CGG 155 starts in Savannah and follows the coast of Georgia, ending in St. Mary’s, a city a stone’s throw from the Florida border. A run like this quickly begins to tear down runners mile upon mile with so many potentially dangerous obstacles thrown at them.

The CGG is a race that demands acute alertness and attention to detail. Runners have to navigate a tremendous amount of real estate. Throw in potentially sketchy sections of towns, road traffic and construction, narrow, to no road shoulders, -loose, unsupervised dogs and, an occasional feral hog and alligator along the way can add to the dangers of this long journey.

Runners that decide to take on the CGG 100 or 155 must have a plan and, a contingency plan because things will happen that will challenge you physically and, mentally along the way. Having a strong running endurance foundation will make this journey a better, less painful experience as 100 and 155 miles of running in 35 and 60 hours (the cutoffs for the 100 and 155) are a heck of a lot of miles to crank out in a short duration of time. Mental endurance, though, may be the strongest skill set you bring to the CGG ultras. 100 and 155 miles on open roads from point to point, with traffic thick and light scattered through-out, lack of sleep, pounding asphalt through out the day and night, dramatic shifts in temperatures and climate, will tax the strongest of us and try desperately to break us down.

And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, any runner choosing to run the CGG 100 and 155 should come with a crew on board and a finely tuned plan of execution. If there ever is a race where the success of a runner is pertinent to the quality of their crew it is this race.

Friday, March 29th, the 155 mile runners began their run on Hutchinson Island and wound their way south toward St. Mary’s as most of Savannah was still stirring in sleep at 5:00 am. By the time they reached Richmond Hill, almost thirty miles from the start, the Coastal Empire was fully awake and highway 17 (where most of this journey takes place) certainly let the runners know that with so much traffic on the road.

Leaving Richmond Hill behind them, the runners were given many opportunities to see and experience the southern comfort of rural, coastal Georgia. The runners ran through quaint towns, past farm land, over long stretches of marshland and rivers and, forests.

All of CGG runners had their crews with them, inching up several miles ahead and ready to support their runner. The runner’s crew serves at the pleasure of the runner. That’s how its done.

This year’s runners, ten in total, are the biggest group of runners we’ve had at this event. Managing a race with only ten runners with such a vast amount of geography proved a great challenge to Kerry, Jason and I (the RD trio of the CGG ultra) but we managed to pull it off especially because of the indispensable help we got from Scott Owenby. Having Scott join our team allowed us to spread out across the field and be at the locations we needed to be through out the race. Having great phone coverage also helped in communicating with everyone at all times during the race.

Bren Tompkins and his dream team crew: Scott Southwick, Karl Joseph, John Durant, Matt Lapaglia

The runner’s crews were amazing not just with their runners but with us, always keeping us abreast of where the runners were.

Bren dug deep and finished at 45 hrs, 25 minutes.

The line up of runners for this was quite diverse. There was our home town favorite, Bren Tompkins. He is such a genuinely good person. He works hard at everything he does. He is one of the most accomplished and fastest runners from Savannah. This run for him was very special. He was running in honor and remembrance of his older brother, Bo, who died last year of cancer around this same time. He was also raising money for a cancer cure, F*ck Cancer.

From the start, Bren ran like a champion, reaching the 100 mile mark in 19 hours, 19 minutes! That’s fast!

After those hundred miles the race turned sideways for him. Running these great distances in a short period of time seems to be inexplicable to our finite minds. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution cannot fathom why we purposely choose to run ultra marathon distances. So, the mind begins to break down as also the body does. Ultra running is not natural. Self-preservation is natural, though. And, I believe that is why the mind begins to betray our goals when we take on such big, difficult tasks. Those that can master their minds master their bodies and, go on and achieve these incredible ultra running goals. I’ve seen this same kind of mindset with mountain climbers. You set an incredibly difficult goal to achieve and you train for it physically and mentally….then, you go after inching your way up a mountain claiming little bits of real estate step by patient step until you reach the top. Every inch you claim is painful but you endure because to you, its worth it.

Bren resting on the side of the road as John Durant does whatever in the background

With the help of an outstanding crew and pacers, Bren won the battle of the mind and forced himself to finish what he set to do. It took him 26 hours to cover the remaining 55 miles but he did it! Bren’s finish time was 45 hrs, 25 minutes. There is a lot to be said about that! I am incredibly proud and in awe of him! His team, though, deserves a tremendous amount of applause as he would not have done the impossible without them!

Joe Fejes with wife, crew mate, nurse and, fellow ultra runner, Kelley Fejes.

At this year’s race we had the honor of having an ultra running living legend toe the starting line, Joe Fejes. Joe’s resume of races run is as long as an ultra. His running accomplishments would turn this blog into a novel if I were to write them all out. He is a current record holder for the 6 day mileage race (600 miles). At 53 years of age, Joe proved why he’s considered one of the greats of ultra running. After having a rough start he found his groove and machined his way to the lead, finishing at 37 hours, 51 minutes…setting the second fastest CGG 155 finish time to date.

Joe Fejes bringing it home

In all due honesty, I am always so very grateful for anyone that chooses to run one of our Rough Runners races. I mean, there are so many races to choose from out there…that you would choose one of ours for your running goals is quite a meaningful thing to me that fills me with great gratitude. To have Joe Fejes run the CGG 155 kind of took my breath away. Up until the day before the race I had not personally met him. I knew of his reputation of being an amazing athlete and human being but I had never met him. I nervously shook his hand last Thursday. By the end of the weekend, I had come to see what everyone else has said about this man, he is as awesome of a runner as he is a genuinely good man.

Nathan has a cup of coffee as he prepares to leave Darien

Speaking of a good man, Nathan Dewey, of Mount Pleasant was among the first to register for the 155 CGG ultra. I have come to know that Nathan executes races as does last year’s CGG 155 record holder, Steve Barber, -with a deliberate, well thought out plan of execution. He had studied the course and asked more questions than anyone else regarding the course. His race turned out pretty much as expected as he clinched second place overall with a finish time of 39 hours, 20 minutes. I remember Nathan arriving at the Darien checkin (mile 83) and saying that he could not hold anything down and had thrown up on his way to the third checkin. He then added, “that is to be expected..” After about ten minutes of small talk as he checked on his feet he gathered his stuff and, his pacer got him a cup of coffee and off they went…south, down highway 17, leaving Darien behind for good.

Nathan, after completing the CGG 155

Several hours after Nathan left the Darien checkin, ultra couple, Jesse and Paige Ausec arrived. The Ausec’s are one of the most wonderful folks I know. My gosh, I cannot tell you how much I love these two young folks. They are sweet and endearing. They are also tough as nails!

The Ausec’s are such a wonderful couple.

At the third checkin, which is at the Smallest Church in America (mile 58), they decided to renew their ultra vows. And, they asked me to officiate. Honestly, I was quite moved but at the same time wasn’t sure if they were joking. We entered the small church, -I stood behind the alter as Jesse asked two of their crew team to stand in as hand maids. He then took his lovely wife’s hand and asked me to say a few words. Not knowing what to say, I began rambling about these two and this moment and thanked God for them. Anyway, to make a long story long, Jesse gave me a look that to me, implied, enough! He then shared some words with Paige on how much he loves and appreciates her. They then kissed. Then, they hit the road together in the dark….with lots and lots of gnats chasing after them. It was magical moment that I will always remember.

The Ausec’s taking a much needed 10 minute break at Darien, 84 miles done.

The Ausec’s would go on to finish the run at 56 hours, 17 minutes with Paige taking first place female, also making her the second woman to finish the CGG 155. Paige, though, would not be the only woman to finish the CGG 155 this year. Maggie Seymour would join Paige hours later, making her the third woman ever to complete the CGG 155.

Maggie Seymour approaching checkin 2, Midway, mile 45

Maggie, a former marine badass crossed onto the small patch of grass in front of the amphitheatre that signifies the finish of the CGG 155 at Howard Gilman Memorial Park in 59 hours and 14 minutes. She lay in a fetal position on the grass and exclaimed with a bright smile at learning her finish time that she still had 44 minutes to nap. Everyone laughed. Maggie kept a sense of humor through out the race. Her light-heartedness through out the run made her beloved by all that came across her.

Maggie is also on a quest to run across every state in honor and for veterans and special needs athletes. Before the run she asked me of a charity that she could run for while doing the CGG and, I said, how about Georgia Conservancy? Well, she did just that and through her CGG run she raised over $600 for the Ga Conservancy! Maggie is such a joy to be around.

Shane Tucker finished the CGG 155

Shane Tucker, a friendly but quiet high school teacher from North Georgia joined our gang and crossed the finish line in 50 hrs, 17 minutes. His parents and life long friend crewed him for the race. The Tucker family and crew were such a delight to be around. After Shane finished the run Kerry and I met up with the Tuckers at Cedar Oak Cafe and got to know them a little more. Such a wonderful family.

Shane is a veteran runner and ultra runner. He has cranked out some big ultras and, the experience on taking on this beast, the CGG, proved it. Shane did not run very fast but his pace was constant and deliberate.

Tony Varney entering checkin 2 at Midway.

Rounding out the CGG 155 finishers was another local favorite, Tony Varney. Tony is such a kind-hearted man that everyone loves. He is also, tough as nails! A 155 mile race is never going to be easy and he knew that going in and, he battled with every inch of real estate he gained. Amid tears, Tony would find humor to help him out during this struggle and, to put a smile on everyone’s face. Tony is also a local race director holding two very popular ultra races (Madder Marsh and Badder Marsh) that give all of the proceeds to very worthy charities.

Just as Bren dug deep and tapped into a secret volume of strength from deep inside so did Tony. During this race, Tony reminded me of Rocky Balboa from the first Rocky movie. He just kept getting up and coming for more. I am so impressed at his determination and strength! Tony was my hero for this race.

In the end, I wish every runner had completed their race. The races Rough Runners hosts are tough but they are not designed to break runners. These races are challenges that we personally want to do and succeed at ourselves. I mean, I have two failed attempts at completing the CGG 155. Failure never feels good but it is a great teacher and, if you learn from her well you will get back on your feet and not let her keep you down for long. Failure at some point plays a crucial part in making success meaningful.

I hope Lindsey and Soleil bounce back quickly, -regroup, come up with a new plan and get back out there and go after their big goals again.

Having ten folks running the CGG which is better known as the East Coast Greenway brings attention to another goal we have and that is to have a greenway run through Georgia where runners, hikers and cyclists feel safe. The way to do that is to have a separate path off of the road as much as possible. Please support the East Coast Greenway.


As for CGG 155 2020, we hope it gets bigger and more competitive. The Georgia Greenway is an ambitious project that can do so much good for the communities that the trail goes through. It promotes healthy living. It also promotes ultra running to the world and, hopefully, also economic opportunities for all of the counties impacted by the greenway.

It’ll probably be a month before we open the 2020 race for registration. We’ll keep you all posted if interested.

Here are the results of this years race: CGG 155 2019