Panoramic view from Loudon Heights at the end of the 2015 QSQB.

Keith Knipling

2022 Quad State Quad Buster

by John Calabrese

Our reporter in his native garb and element.

I’ve never written a race report in my life. Usually I just move forward to the next race and don’t look back. Sometimes I mention stuff on the trails with friends like “deep down I love chasing cutoffs,” “It’s such a thrill,” and other madness.

The last 4 months have been wild for me. I have an 8 year old; I run ultras almost every weekend; and I have a tendency to get myself into some pretty dramatic situations.

The buildup to Quad State started on Friday night. I was sitting in Primanti Bros. in Hagerstown, MD, talking to my girlfriend when I start hearing pretty ominous sounds. I tell her “Something bad is about to go down here.” She’s like “what??” Then boom, chairs flying everywhere, people getting punched in the face - just madness. The weekend’s running started early — out the emergency exit, with about 10-15 people following us. We waited outside until it calmed down and all the mad men and women, including the lady with the taser, were removed. It was just a complete shit-show in there. I knew deep inside this was a terrible omen for the QSQB the next day. The bar had to close because of the mayhem, many skipped out on paying, and our poor waitress (who was 19 at most) was shaking. I felt so bad for her. She brought out our food to go and we left.

The course marking

I woke up the morning of the run feeling extremely tired. I ran Cloudsplitter 100 the week before but I didn’t run it extremely fast, mainly hung out with my buddy Robert Buecker. I slowly got ready and left Williamsport, heading to the Quad State meet-up spot. I got there with only a few minutes to go before we were leaving, so I jumped into Brian Schmidt’s truck and we were off.

Because this event was not a race I wore my trusty non GPS Casio that I use during the Barkley Fall Classic every year. In doing this, there of course would be no record, and I have the watch set up to remind me when to eat and be mindful of times.

I started the run with my good buddy Tony Taylor. Tony is a great dude. We have run the Ring, Reverse Ring, TWOT, Stone Mill and probably a lot more. Tony and I had a very chill attitude about this one. We were not going slow but we were not pushing it hard either.

Tony Taylor and John Calabrese - let the picture taking begin!

Like a complete jackass, showing Tony my BFC watch, I kept talking about beating cutoffs and how I finished BFC this year with 9 minutes to spare. This was a bad thing to discuss before this run. The clues were there. Things were going to unravel for us. We saw Bur as we were headed into aid station 1 and he said something like we should pick it up or a reference that I ran a 100 last weekend. I was just like yeah, yeah, but had no idea we were behind on anything.

Then the pictures came. Tony and I started taking pictures like we were on a vacation or something. I usually never bring my phone on races unless its required, which it was on this one, of course. We get into aid station 2 and everything is going great. Both of us feel fine. We were not going too fast or slow, but again taking time for pictures.

… and more picture taking … .

Aid station 3 things started to shift. We hear Mikala Shremshock yelling at us that we are going to miss the cutoff. Both Tony and I laughed and just were like “whatever,” and bullshitted with them. Mikala is fun to see at races but she gives me a ton of shit!

So we left there and start passing runners. As we pass them we keep hearing whispers like we’re going to get pulled. Not enough time. And so on. I was like “is this happening??” Tony and I were in trouble. We were going to have to haul ass to make the Weverton cutoff. Every runner Tony and I caught up to we warned that we were all in danger of missing cutoff. Some looked completely terrified and took off so fast.

Two runners from Montgomery County, MD — I can’t recall names — really helped Tony and me. We figured out a pacing strategy to make it and it actually became pretty enjoyable. We talked about Barry Hauptman, the Stone Mill RD; all the races we’ve done and hope to do, etc., to motivate each other.

… and still MORE picture taking … good thing that this isn’t a race …

We then got to the Weverton Cliffs and the other runners were like “we are going to take it easy from here, that last stretch took a lot out of us.” It hurt me too. Tony had a lot more energy than I had left but we made the cutoff!

We got to the Weverton AS, ate a lot of food and got fixed up. We headed right out. I found a hiker hat on a tree. I don’t know why but I put it on and ran with it. Tony said you better hope they don’t have lice. I didn’t care at that point — it was a funny hat and at this point I needed some comic relief.

The good news is we got on the C&O and we could run some! That lasted for like half a mile and I wanted to get off. Tony is a very cool guy but I started to worry he was going to not want to put up with my shit, and I wouldn’t have blamed him if he bailed.

John Calabrese crossing the Potomac and on into West Virginia

We crossed the Potomac River and headed into Harpers Ferry, and it was so cool. I had thoughts coming back here of my family, and times I came there with my Dad when I was younger. The happiness soon faded when Tony pointed to this mountain and said “we still got to go around that thing”. This was the beginning of the worst part of the race for me.

So once we got back on the trail from Harpers Ferry I began to unravel. I got slower and started tripping. When Tony and I got to the section with the dots on the trees as markers, I was a broken mess. I kept screaming to Tony “hey where the fk do we go?!?!?” Tony would just reply “follow the dots man” and I would just yell back “I don’t see the fking dots and I kept falling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Tony Taylor on THE Washington Monument

Tony is a saint to wait for me to come back to my sanity through that. We got to the gate and ran the road to the Exxon station (the Quad Station finish!), where we saw my good buddy Mikala steadily talking shit. It was funny banter.

When we got a ride back to Weverton there was hot chocolate, mini cheesecake and chowder waiting for us. Which was nice. Mikala also presented Tony’s sticker to him in a military awards ceremony manner, then was like and “here’s yours, John” and just tossed it at me. It was pretty hilarious.

I told Tony after I got to the gate this run felt like a DNF and its true. I don’t even really still know what to think about this one. I know it was definitely a good experience to toughen me up but it was very hard. I didn’t think I was going to have to run that hard between miles 26 to 36. Tony and I think we weren’t even going that fast, but we did have to speed up after going 26 miles, and some of the miles we ran hard on were up hill. Most people we came across on this stretch were either making the decision to quit already, had planned on stopping early, or were just totally bonking out.

Some of the views along the Quad State course are more scenic than others.

I believe we finished the full Quad State distance in 12 hours and 25 minutes. Marty Fox came in after us. I was shocked he never caught up to us; we were wondering all race where he was. Then the 2 guys from Montgomery County came in at 13 hours. All those guys are amazing runners, too.

If you choose to do this event, be very prepared, make sure you understand the cutoffs, and be ready to run. Take minimal pictures and don’t clown around too much, or you’ll be sorry!

Thank you to all the volunteers out there who kept me going and in good spirits throughout this run!

The volunteers and their aid stations were much appreciated oases along the route (Dan Aghdam being toasted for his efforts by John)

Last updated November 13, 2022