Monday, July 22, 2013

Unlucky 13

I've been so "on and off" with my running this year that it's been hard to sit down and write anything about it.  (I started a few times but just couldn't get anything to stick.)  But, I would like to keep my blog alive and make at least one post this year.   Besides, I've found that it is good for me to keep a journal of my running as I enjoy going back and reliving some very fond memories.

After Adrienne's birth, last November, I took a four month hiatus from running to just get used to the idea of being a father and gained a good 10 pounds in the process.  By mid-March, I wasn't snowboarding much either (but did get a couple superb powder days on the mountain and one, sick bluebird day on Buff Pass with the crew) so I really started to miss just getting out and getting the blood pumping on regular basis.   However, I didn't feel like I had the time in the day to really start up again and I remember sending a message to my high school friend, Matt Baldwin (who is also a new father and runner) and asking him how he was getting in his miles.  Watching him prepare for a marathon via Facebook really got me believing that I could be a dad AND find the time to run.   Finally, I decided it was time to get motivated so I started getting up at 4:00 a.m. and running a few miles before work, often in the most heinous weather imaginable (in the first 30 days, it was always dark and cold and snowed, sometimes ridiculously hard, about 20 of those days).  

The first two weeks, I started with slow 3-4 mile runs and added a longer 6 mile run  a few weeks later.  I was running 2 days in a row and then taking one day off.  In mid-April, I got sick for about a week (first time in about 3 years!) while my parents were visiting and missed a few days of running (it snowed almost every one of those days) but got rolling again after that and finished the month with some more intense workouts and really started focusing on running faster.  I registered to run the Spring Creek Memorial 9 miler, in July, and Continental Divide Trail Run, in August, my favorite trail races in the Running Series, with the goal of being the 1st Masters (over 40) in each race.

In May, I was feeling really good and laid down some good runs with a lot of low-7 minute/mile pace running (not fast but fast for me!).  I think I had a long run of around 8 miles in there at some point and I was really enjoying getting up early and running now that I was getting a sunrise and the weather was warmer.  My most memorable run that month was a strong climb and descent of Emerald Mountain from the horse stables to the summit.  I managed to climb to the summit in around 35 minutes and posted 6:33, 6:11, 7:02/mile pace for the descent.  I stuck with the 2 days on/1 day off schedule through the month and kept my distances between 3.5 and 8 miles. 

I expected to keep building on my effort and distance through June but got totally derailed the second week of the month (12th) by plantar faciitis.  In BOTH of my feet.  I tried a rather mellow 3.5 mile run on the 17th but the next morning my feet were in pain and I decided that I needed to quit running altogether until I could honestly say that my feet felt normal, pain free and ready to go again.  My only exercise since then has been walking my dogs a couple of times a day.

By June 29th, I felt good enough to give it a try and walked/ran 3 miles at an exceedingly casual pace.  My feet felt fine the entire time I ran.  The next morning, the pain had returned and lasted throughout the day.  I went and saw David Lieberman, D.C., on July 18th.  He was able to make an adjustment in my right foot from the numerous times I have sprained my ankle and he also made an adjustment to my left knee.  He also pointed out that my right arch is higher than my left, which is why the faciitis is more acute in my right foot.  We discussed making adjustments in my back but decided to wait.  We also discussed using acupuncture on my feet but decided to wait on that as well.  We opted to start by using some rolfing on my fascia and I received a good 20-30 minute session on my feet.  He also recommended that I start a yoga regimen and lose 10 pounds (my baby weight!) as well as continue with working out the fascia damage by rolling my foot on a hard surface to break up scar tissue.  Also, ice my feet a couple of times a day.    I could start running again but it would have to be a very gradual build up and I would have to keep treating my fasciitis agressively.

Afterwards, I felt alright but it was hard to tell if the rolfing did anything because my feet actually felt good going into the appointment (unless the precise area of injury was probed).  The next morning, however, the difference was remarkable.  I went for a run that afternoon and still felt good the rest of the evening.  The soreness returned the next morning but certainly to a lesser degree.  I felt that at least now I know that treatment will allow the injury to heal, I just need to give it time and be reasonable with my output.

Saturday morning, I lined up to run the Spring Creek Memorial Trail Run but moved down to the 5 kilometer distance.  I had already registered and couldn't resist showing up at this race even if I wasn't going to do the full 9 miler.  It's just such a fun time with lots of locals.  I kept telling myself to take it easy, maybe even just walk or hike and enjoy the morning.  Instead, I bolted off the start like an idiot and found myself running in first for about half a mile before I started fading, fading, fading.  I eventually dropped back to 7th by the 1.5 mile turnaround and I think the next person, about a half a minute behind me, was a 12-year old kid.  I hadn't run for a month, my cardio was suffering big time and I was just running on instinct hoping the downhill would pull me to a merciful finish.   I was feeling humbled.  At the finish, I was lifted by the sound of Katy's voice.   I looked over and saw her and my beautiful little Adrienne and remembered that there are more important things than myself.  I was happy to be finished but that felt like the toughest 3 miles I have run in a long time.

My feet were, of course, inflamed afterwards but, after a day, the pain calmed down and this morning I felt good (relatively pain-free) after 10 a.m.  I've decided to stop running regularly for a while and focus on rehabing my feet and doing alot of stretching and yoga to get stronger.  I will probably do some short hiking around the area to help me lose more of that baby weight.  I doubt very much that I will attempt the Continental Divide Trail Run in August and don't think I could get into shape to run any of the races that I'd be interested in doing in September or October.  Bummer.  Tough luck this year but, honestly, I'm more interested in staying home with Adrienne and watching her grow.  Guess I'll give it a few months and then start thinking about 2014.   Happy trails!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Run Rabbit Run 100 Race Report

The experience of trying to run 100 miles is hard to describe.  Of course, I say "trying" because I bowed out and took the DNF (did not finish) 21 hours and 55 minutes after I started my attempt to go distance.   Despite that,  it was every bit as tough, surreal, exhilirating, joyful, desparing, awe-inspiring, funny, wonderful, painful and humbling as it could have been.  I've heard before that running 100 miles is like a lifetime in a day in that you experience such a wide range of emotion and now I understand what that really means.  The only thing I didn't get to feel was the triumph.  But I don't think that is necessarily the point.  I think the real point may be the journey and what you can take away from it.  Overall, I had a good race, a great experience and, in the end, learned more from failing than I probably would've had I finished. 

About 100 runners started the Tortoise division race at 8:00 a.m. at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.  At the start, a few brave souls actually started running but I took it out at a steady hike with most of the runners.  Just a little ways up Headwall, I was already feeling the home town love as I saw JD standing outside the Bear Claw with a big "Go Randall" sign and an air horn.   We high-fived and I was pumped to be underway.  We climbed up a short dirt service road to the base of the Lower Valley View ski run, one of the steepest on lower mountain, and began bushwacking straight up.  No trail, just straight up.  It was laughable to start a 100 mile race this way but the absurdity actually made it enjoyable.  At the top, the course took the Why Not dirt road over to Snowmaking Control and then straight up the Heavenly Daze ski run.  Again, don't bother switchbacking, just go straight up.  By the time I reached the top of the Gondola, I had already climbed 2000' in a mile and half.  It's a good thing I enjoy this shit.  I got to do a little slow running as we got on another dirt road down to the Duster saddle.  I was running with Gwen Scott, from Seattle, following a clear race marker, onto Duster when we saw a pack of runners coming back towards us, saying that there were no more race markers ahead.  We turned around and I assured the other runners that we were now going the correct way to get to Storm Peak Challenge.  When we finally crested the top of Mount Werner we saw runners coming from the another direction but were reassured by race volunteers that our group had gone the correct way.   At the summit, I was feeling fresh and warmed up.  I re-loaded my vest with some food at the aid station and descended the summit to Mountain View Trail and started the second leg out to Long Lake.

I cruised the single track easily, running all the downhills and flats and hiking the hills.  The 6 mile run to the lake went well and I found a nice, easy groove.  Passing a few runners here and there, as well as getting passed, but ran this section through the woods at 10,000' mostly by myself.  The morning air was still cool and crisp and I was jazzed to actually be running my first 100-miler.  When I got to the junction with Fish Creek Falls Trail, the race marker indicated that I go left, so I did.  About a quarter mile down the trail, I see another runner coming from the opposite direction, telling me that we were supposed to go right to check in at the aid station.  So, wrong turn number two made, I turned around again and ran about a mile back to the Long Lake aid station.  At the aid station, I put on a visor and sunglasses and repacked my vest again.  I had already eaten a couple of gels and a Honey Stinger waffle with some almond butter on it.  I also was taking Vespa every four hours and sucking on LifeSavers as I ran.  I carried 50 oz. of water in my hydration vest.  I spent a few minutes at the aid station and, then, left ready to take Fish Creek Falls Trail back down into town and onto a short road section that would lead to the high school.

Fish Creek was beautiful in it's fall colors and I felt really good just ticking off the trail miles.  From the lake, the first 3 miles of trail are gently rolling, mostly downhill, as you pass a couple of meadows and some forested areas.  The second 3 miles are, at first, exposed and rocky trail past the 2nd water falls, then, still somewhat rocky, but forested and steeply descending single track down to the 1st falls  I got some encouragement from day hikers as I hiked the short uphill back to the Fish Creek parking lot.  From there, I got on the road and began the 2 mile paved section down to the high school.  I caught up with a runner from Boulder (Mike or Mark, I think.  Anyway, he went on to finish.  Great older guy.) and we chatted it up as we ran down the road.  About 20 minutes later we arrived at the Steamboat Springs High School aid station right around 1:30 P.M.

As I checked into the aid station, I was greeted by my friend, Tiana Buschmann and her daughter, Maile.  It was unexpected and I was so happy to see her but, in a way, it threw off my rhythm as I was trying to prep for the next leg.  Furthermore, I was going to stop and see my wife, Katy, right down the street where I would stop again and eat some food she had for me.  By the time I got to Katy, I felt kind of like I needed to rush and get over to Olympian Hall to start the next leg.  Also, when I saw Katy and her big, beautiful 7-month pregnant belly, I felt happy, but also, guilty for having her out there trying to help. In hindsight, I should have had her meet me right at the aid station, so I wouldn't have had to stop twice.  In the end, it probably only cost me a few extra minutes and wasn't really crucial.

After leaving Katy, I took 3rd Street to Lincoln Avenue where I had to wait for the traffic light to change.  While waiting, I saw my neighbor, Gallo, from Stagecoach with his year-old daughter and talked to him until the light changed.  It was so funny to be running a race under these circumstances but I guess that's just life in a small town, too.  I slowly jogged a mile on the Yampa River Core Trail to get over to Olympian Hall where I checked in and did my best to get hydrated for the slog over to Cow Creek.  By now, it was mid-afternoon and although it wasn't really hot, the sun was beating down and I knew it was going to be a tough 7 mile run over Emerald Mountain and across the sage brush covered ridges that go over to Cow Creek.   

This section started with an extremely steep 400' climb up the face of Howelsen Hill before getting on Blackmere Drive, a dirt road that climbs up Emerald.  Then, it's a half-mile climb up the Lane of Pain to the summit.  It was a steep, slow trudge to the top.   After the summit, there are a few steep descents and ascents before the trail starts to gradually roll downhill for 4+ miles.  I ran behind another runner before teaming up with one more for the long, sunny descent to Cow Creek.  We talked and joked and the miles passed well, but the heat was taking it's toll and we all were feeling a little drained by the time we finally reached the aid station.  It was a tough and warm two-hour run to get there and I was worried that I wouldn't be able  to carry enough water to last for the run back to Olympian.  I decided to drop my trekking poles at Cow Creek, as I wasn't really using them anymore and it would let me travel a little lighter.  In hindsight, although they helped on the steepest climbs it probably wasn't all that beneficial to have them.  I spent a few minutes at the aid station re-hydrating and eating as much as I could and putting on more sun block.  I could feel a blister developing on my right heel but it wasn't terrible so I just left it alone and headed back out on the course.

I was definitely feeling tired when I got back on the dirt road to the Beall Trail and kept it at a steady hike for a few minutes until I felt good enough to run slowly for a little while.  While it wasn't really hot, it was warm enough and being in the sun too long was wearing on me.  I mostly just hiked the road and thought about conserving water and energy.  By the time I reached the trail head, I was with another runner but dropped him shortly after we got on the trail and I started to feel good enough to run again.  To my surprise, the trail entered a nice, cool pine forest and started to roll mostly downhill and I felt good enough to clip off a couple miles without too much hard effort.  But then, it just started to drag on and on.  This was the longest section of the race between aid stations, nearly 11 miles, and when the trail got back into the sage brush and it was warm again.  I did my best to conserve water but ran out with still a few more miles to go.  On top of that, the blister on my right heel was still hurting a bit, as was my left knee, at times. I was running with my phone on me and receiving text messages from Katy and my friend JD, so they would when to meet me.  It was cool because I was also getting text messages from other friends and family who were rooting me on and sending words of encouragement.  One of my texts to JD simply stated:  "I NEED a Mountain Dew with ice when I get there."  I was fading quite a bit just before I got back to the summit of Emerald but got lucky when I ran into a mountain biker who had pulled off to the side of the trail with his dog.  He wished me luck on the race and I asked him if he could spare any water.  He permitted me a nice, long drink from his Camelbak and I left telling him he probably saved my life.  It made the descent back down to Olympian Hall a little less worrisome.  My spirits were also lifted on the way down Blackmere Drive when I saw Jeff Good, peddling uphill on an evening mountain bike ride.  The sun was beginning to set and it was finally cooling off a little bit.  Jeff gave me an "Attaboy!" and it helped me forget my troubles for a while.  I was beginning to see runners in the Hare race going out to Cow Creek.  I recognized U.S. Mountain Running Team member Michelle Suszeck coming up the dirt road with another elite, attempting her first 100.  That was cool.  Then, I finally got back to the top of Howelsen Hill for the 400' drop down to Olympian Hall.   The extremely steep descent was murder on my knee so I just stepped slowly, which was mentally hard because all I wanted to do was get down!  My final 20 steps or so, I had to turn around and walk backwards so my knee wouldn't hurt.  I was feeling pretty low but was immediately lifted out of my funk when I was greeted by my wife, my dog, Benihana, and my friends, JD, BA and Melissa with Marvin and Biz Markie, and Rebecca and Tracey, all in front of Olympian Hall at around 8 P.M..  It was quite a lift. I was so jazzed!  It was such an incredible show of love and support and I'll never forget it. 

I checked into the aid station and Katy and JD helped me get sorted out at the aid with food and water.  I told them that the course had been measured short and it was taking longer to get to the aid stations because it was actually longer between them than advertised.  Not a big deal, at the time, but it was making my progress SEEM slower than it was.  (After the race, I learned that varying GPS measurements had the course at 108 to 113 miles.)  Once I was ready, we all walked the mile over to the high school on the Core Trail  together with my dog, who wanted to stop about 50 times.  At the high school, we saw Jonny Buschmann and Tiana and Maile, again.  The leader in the Hare race, Dave James, blew through the high school while I was there, shirtless.  "He's going to be cold by the time he gets up to Long Lake."  I thought.  (James later succumed to the cold and fell back to finish 5th.)  It was getting dark and cooler, so I put on a long sleeve shirt, a beanie and my headlamp.  As I was leaving, the 2nd place runner in the Hare race, Dylan Bowman, came through the aid station.  I felt really rejuvenated leaving the high school, ready to run all night long.  Seeing everybody had really pumped me up for the night section.  So, around 9 P.M. I said 'bye' to friends, kissed my wife and started running back up to Long Lake.

I was already running when I left the aid station and just kept a steady jog going on the two miles of road back up to the Fish Creek Falls trailhead.  On the road stretch, I was feeling alright but getting annoyed at the headlights from the few on-coming cars I encountered.  I even got heckled by some high school kids getting their Friday night kicks.  I thought that was just priceless.  About halfway to the trailhead, Karl Meltzer (ultrarunning legend and the eventual winner of the race and $11,000 in prize money) passed me and disappeared into the darkness ahead after just a few minutes.  Once I hit the rocky, single track I dropped down to a steady hike for the climb back up Fish Creek.  It was pretty exciting being on the trail in the dark.   At one point, I saw Karl's headlamp way ahead of me on some switchbacks.  I was feeling really good, glad to be out of the day's heat and on with some nice, cool night trekking.  I passed a runner and their pacer regrouping on the side of the trail before second falls and offered some encouragement.  I ran the flat section before the bridge and power hiked again after there all the way past the second falls.  During this part, Tim Olsen, winner of this year's Western States 100 (in 14:47!), passed me and I had to give him a "Go get 'em, Olsen!" after he passed.  It was really to cool to be running the same race as all these incredible elite athletes.  Once the trail levelled out, I found an easy, rhythm and ran the next 3 miles to Long Lake.  I passed several people on the trail, including a female runner who just sat on a rock trying to figure things out.   As the trail gained altitude it got colder and I put on a vest layer to stay ahead of the falling temperatures.  When I finally reached Long Lake, some time after 11:00 P.M.,  I actually felt really good and was positive everything would go well from here on out.  I was ready for a jacket, though.  As soon as I pulled into the aid station, I went straight to my drop bag and put on a short sleeve shirt and my fleece jacket and I was finally able to get some gloves on my hands, again and I felt nice and toasty warm.  I grabbed my I-Pod and then stopped at the aid station to eat some noodles and make sure I had plenty of food.   I checked out of the aid station and headed over to Divide Road for the next section, a 5+ mile, rolling dirt road over to Summit Lake.

I was stoked to finally have my I-Pod as I knew it would be a welcome distraction to the pains developing all over my body.  I, first, listened to an hour-long stand up routine by Dave Chappelle that did a great job keeping my spirits lifted.  I steadily hiked all the uphills and ran most of the downs and flats while the night pressed on.  It was on the road that I finally got a sense of how dark it was that night.  There was no moon and no ambient light for miles so outside of the ring of the headlamp was utter darkness.  Although it wasn't a problem, I did develop tunnel vision a few times during the night and would click my light off and back on to let my eyes readjust.  Every now and then, volunteers from the aid station would come driving down the dirt road and I got annoyed by their headlights and the dust their vehicles were kicking up.  After an hour of Chappelle, I switched to some music and was really feeling some nice, overall pain as I kept charging on down the dirt road in complete blackness.  When I arrived at Summit Lake, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I was relieved for a chance to sit down and regroup. 

There were three or four other runners at the aid station while I was there and no one was in a big hurry to leave.  I was still feeling pretty alert and was noticing how the other runners were looking.  A couple looked pretty good and comfortable in their surroundings, giving the impression that they were 100-mile race veterans.  A couple looked pretty beat up and fatigued.   Elite runner Duncan Callahan (past winner of the Leadville 100) came through and asked if anyone else was commenting on how 'long' the course was.  One of the volunteers confirmed that the course was indeed several miles longer than previously thought.  I sat for a few minutes and enjoyed more hot noodles and then went through my drop bag to see if I needed to refill anything I was carrying.  After about 15 minutes, I finally felt ready to tackle the 8 mile descent down Buffalo Pass Road to Dry Lake.

The slog down Buff Pass road would be tough and I knew it.  I've been on this road many times and could imagine most of it even though I ran it in the dark.  I just put in the earbuds and steadily pounded out the miles.  Fortunately, it's primarily downhill and I was able to get moving but I wasn't feeling good about it.  It was just mentally tough and I had fallen hours behind where I had planned on being because the course distances weren't what I previously thought them to be.  I texted Katy and my friend, Brian, while heading down the road and told them not to bother meeting me at the high school because I was still hours away from being there and I didn't want them waiting for me. At the time, I didn't think I'd get there until at least 5 A.M.  They assured me it was ok and I kept plugging away in the dark, mile after agonizing mile.  One uplifting moment came when the town lights of Steamboat came into view.  In the vast darkness, it provided a glimmer of hope.  Until, I thought about running all the way down there...

It seemed like an eternity before I finally reached Dry Lake but I was elated when I finally arrived there.  There was a buzz of activity as runners met up with crew members and friends and I got to see Bronwyn for the first time during the race.  Bron sat me down and I warmed up with some miso soup.  We talked for a while about the race and it was a real lift to be with a friend after such a rough patch.  By now, it was some time after 3:00 A.M. and I was coming around and ready to get going again.  I bid Bronwyn farewell and started hiking down Spring Creek Trail.

About five minutes down the trail, I started running again and was glad to be on this trail that I know so well.  I was feeling really rejuvenated from my aid station stop and started pushing the pace.  Everything seemed to click and I started running faster than I had all day.   The beats of the music pulsing in my ear helped me forget any discomfort in my body and I felt, well, amazing.  There were runners heading back up the trail, some doing well and others struggling.  At one point, I crossed paths with local runner, Sean Doran, and I was happy to seem him still out there crushing it.  Then, I felt my phone buzz and I read the message from BA saying that they had left the high school.  I felt bad that I was going to miss them after they had waited for me there.  Still, I was hoping to see my wife.  When I reached the gazebo, about a mile from the high school, I called Katy to tell her where I was and when she said "No!" I knew that she wouldn't be at the high school to meet me.  Katy had gone to get some sleep while I ran the night portion of the course.  She didn't expect me to arrive at the high school until near 5:30 A.M. but I ended up running the section down from Dry Lake almost an hour faster than I thought I would and she wasn't going to be ready to meet me.  Just like that, my mood dropped. 

When, I arrived at the high school aid station it was dark and cold.  There was no buzz of activity like Dry Lake and my emotional balloon completely deflated as I checked in.  I walked to the cooler to refill my water bottles but they were both nearly full.  I hardly drank a drop the last 6 miles.  I was feeling cold.  I waited for some noodles to finish cooking and then, tried to eat some but they were soggy and I began pacing, unsure of what to do.  First, I thought "I need to leave right now, if I'm going to make it."  Then, I thought about stopping.  The high school seemed like the logical place.  My motivation retreated deeper.  Damn.  I texted Katy:  I think I'm going to DNF.  She called me back and told me she was on her way.  Damn.  Can't leave now.  Don't want to leave now.  I asked a volunteer if I could sit in a car and warm up and one of them helped me immediately.  As I sat there, I sunk lower and my legs grew stiffer and I knew I wouldn't be able to continue without a great deal of suffering.  The wheels were falling off the cart.  I told myself:  "Just go back out and start walking.  The sun will come up in less than an hour and you will be re-energized."  It made sense and was probably true but I couldn't get myself to do it.  I shivered and sulked.  After 15 more minutes, Katy showed up and we discussed my options.   I ended up sitting in the car for another 15 minutes.  Despite my fatigue and pain, I was still lucid and told her I had made up my mind and wouldn't go back out on the course.   At that moment, I just didn't want the buckle bad enough.  I walked over to the aid station table and told them that Number 274 was out of the race.  

Looking back, of course I regret the decision but I can live with it because I gave it a solid attempt and I can always try again.  The experience I had while I participated was incredible.  I met some really great people and stretched the boundries of what I have done before.  I actually had a pretty good race up until that last leg and learned alot about the course and HOW to run a 100-miler.  My eating and drinking were mostly on the money, with the exception of running out of water on the Cow Creek Loop (Next time, I won't use poles at all and will carry and extra bottle to and from Cow Creek).   I will have a plan of attack to address blisters next time.  Most everything else went well, the low points were expected but never terrible and the fact that I wasn't even sore by Wednesday after the race tells me that physically, I should have been able to finish.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to do Run Rabbit Run next year because we're already planning to be in Maine next September but I will be lining up in 2014 for another, hopefully triumhant, shot at the buckle.   Meanwhile, I've got about 6 weeks until the birth of my daughter and then, it's time to raise a little girl!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pre-100 Mile Thoughts

During the summer of 2009, I decided that some day I wanted to run a 100-mile foot race.  At the time, I was reading alot of books about running and one of them, Extreme Running, was about all these incredible running races all over the world in some of the most amazing places.  I was immediately intrigued by these types of events and decided to start training and doing races that would eventually prepare me to attempt a 100-miler (although, not necessarily at an exotic locale) and have a decent chance of actually finishing.  A little more than 3 years later, I'm finally getting my chance to toe the line and find out what it's all about.  It might be the only time I ever try a race like this or it might just be the first time.  I have no idea how I will feel about the event after it's over.  I just hope to have fun, finish and collect my buckle. 

It feels as if all the running I've ever done in my life, from my youth, to my college days and all the mountain miles I've logged in the last 6 years, have led up to this race.  I often think about a winter day in 1984 when my family lived in Morehead, Kentucky.  We had just moved to the little mountain town in the foothills of the Appalachians and I was exploring a hillside behind my house, climbing to the top of a tree covered ridge.  I ran down the hillside through the trees with the deep leaves absorbing my foot falls.  I imagined myself descending an immense mountain slope.  I always remember that day for it's joyful simplicity.  It makes me realize that I loved the mountains before I even spent any time in them.  It's the sense of exploration, awe and wonder I get when I'm climbing up even the smallest hill and discovering new things at each vista.  I think about that day alot when I'm out on the trail, just running like a little kid and tapping into my primal urge to move through a natural environment and it makes me happy to think what simple pleasure I get from running trails.  But the flipside to the pleasure of running is the challenge.  The difficulty of running longer and further than a person ever thought they could.  To run from morning until night and then through the night until the sun rises again.  To run even when you don't want to anymore. To do something very simple and accomplish something extraordinary.  Like run 100 miles over mountains. 

Am I ready?  Sure.  Yeah, mostly.  I'm actually really anxious to get to the starting line.  I've gone running enough to know that once we get underway, everything will fall into place.  With the race only a few days away, there's no amount of running that will boost my fitness or assure me that I'm actually ready for the challenge of running 100 miles.  Lately, I've been thinking more about the race logistics, such as gear, clothing and food, and I came up with pacing schedules for finishing in 27.5 hours.  I could possibly finish faster but that's not a motivating factor.  There are alot of variables to consider for a 100 and that's what separates this type of racing from any other race distance I've tackled.  Sure, 50s come close but night time portion of a 100-miler is significant.  It's of the utmost importance that I get on and stay on a regular feeding schedule and that what I'm eating isn't fucking with my stomach.  I'll be carrying a few hundred calories and water between aid stations and replenishing my supply via drop bags and aid station supplies.  I'll be eating mostly food supplied by my crew or in my drop bag.  Clif gels and bars, cashews, clementines, almond and peanut butter, Honey Stinger waffles, berry newtons, watermelon, pineapple, miso soup, hot chocolate, zucchini bread with chocolate chips, walnuts and raisins, pumpkin bread with raisins, .   I'm also using Vespa (probably) and SaltSticks.  In my drop bags, I'll also have extra clothing to change into if the weather gets too hot/cold or snowy/rainy.  The forecast looks good though:  sunny and 70s in the afternoon and clear and high 30s at night.  At 10,000' it'll probably be right around 32F.    Additionally, I'll have a 120-lumen headlamp and a backup 40-lumen headlamp packed, as well as extra batteries.   For the night, I'll also be bumping tunes on the I-Pod to keep me company.  I also have an hour long stand-up routine from Dave Chappelle downloaded to pass the time.   The first half of the race, I'll be using trekking poles and taking it steady and easy.  I'm thinking 11-12 hours for the first half of the race but slower if necessary to save my legs.  I may even stop to soak my feet at certain spots along the course (Fish Creek, the Yampa, Spring Creek).  I really want to feel good enough to run (slowly) during the night and not just be zombie, death-marching through the darkness.  I'm going to keep my effort conservative, stay on top of my nutrition and water, enjoy the course and keep going until I'm finished.  Then, give me my buckle!

Here's my pace schedule, if you're near the course, come down and tell me how bad I look:
  1. Base of the ski area/Start  - 8 am
  2. Top of Mt. Werner - 10 am
  3. Long Lake (via Mountain View Trail) - 11:30 am
  4. High School (via Fish Creek Falls Trail) - 1:30 pm
  5. Olympian Hall - (via 3rd St./Core Trail) - 1:45 pm
  6. Cow Creek (via Emerald/Ridge Trail) - 3:45 pm
  7. Olympian Hall (via Beall Trail/Emerald) - 6:45 pm
  8. High School - (via Core Trail/3rd St.) - 7:00 pm
  9. Long Lake (via Fish Creek Falls Trail) - 9:15 pm (halfway)
  10. Summit Lake (via Uranium Mine Road) - 10:45 pm
  11. Dry Lake (via Buff Pass Road) - 12:15 am
  12. High School (via Spring Creek) - 1:30 am
  13. Dry Lake (via Spring Creek) - 3:30 am
  14. Summit Lake (via Buff Pass Road) - 5:30 am
  15. Long Lake (via Wyoming Trail to Fish Creek Falls Trail) - 7:30 am
  16. Top of Mt. Werner (via Mountain View Trail) - 9:30 am
  17. Base of the ski area/Finish - 11:30 am

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Continental Divide Trail Run

Sunday morning, it was clear and 40 degrees as I prepared to drive up the valley to Steamboat and partake in the annual running of Ski Haus' Continental Divide Trail Run, a trail race from the bottom of Fish Creek Falls to Long Lake and then up the backside of Mount Werner via the Mountain View trail and finishing at the top of the Gondola.  Roughly 100 people lined up at the start and, as the final race directions were given, the mood was fun yet focused.  My goals for the race were to run under 2 hours 20 minutes and/or be first Masters.  I wanted to run hard to gauge where my overall fitness was going into Run Rabbit Run in three weeks.  That said, I went out with the lead pack of runners and decided to try and run my race "from the front" instead of starting slower and gradually trying to build speed as the race went on.  Of course, that only lasted about 5 minutes into the race as the trail started climbing up the canyon for about 1000' in the first mile.  I managed to keep the speedy Harry Niedl in sight all the way to the top of the first climb but there was no way I was going to hang with the rabbits longer than that.  I felt good though and continued running all but the steepest uphill sections. 

The morning air was nice and cool and it felt really good to be running hard up the rocky canyon trail.  Flecks of gold leaves decorated the otherwise green canopy.  I reached the Second Falls in 30 minutes and felt like I was right on pace to make 2:20 but it wouldn't be easy to hold on.  Mercifully, the trail begins to even out and there aren't any steep climbs after the Second Falls.  A few, short tough ones but after conquering those, the trail opens up and a beautiful alpine meadow is revealed.  Even in a dry year like this one, there was still a little water to cross.  After that meadow, there was another short section in the trees before we crossed another meadow and began the gradual ascent to Long Lake and the junction with the next section of trail, Mountain View.   During this time, I talked a little with the runner behind me, Stephen Castle from Ft. Collins.  Stephen had been chasing me up the canyon and breathing HARD the whole climb.  I thought he was pushing too hard and was going to fade but he just kept crushing it.  He actually apologized for breathing so hard but it didn't bother me a bit.  I just told him he was killing it and doing a great job.  I gave him a brief synopsis of the rest of the course and he was really cool and gracious.  Just before the first aid station, I was able to pull away from him just a bit and I made the turn onto Mountain View ready for the next 6 mile grind.

At the aid station, I was down to half a bottle of water and had fallen 5 minutes behind where I thought I should've been.  I filled the rest of the bottle with Gatorade ate a little gummy, chewy looking thing and took off on Mountain View determined to run as much of it as I could.  I've run this trail many times now and it is almost never very forgiving.  In this direction, it is a gradual, 6-mile climb up to the back of Mt. Werner.  The trail is mostly smooth single track but there are just enough rocks to trip you up if aren't paying attention.  Not long after getting on the trail, I got passed by one runner (Paul Datsko) who seemed totally relaxed and in control of his effort.  He was just steady plugging and I gave him an 'attaboy' as he passed.  He commented that he had to take advantage of the ups because he wasn't a great downhiller.  I just called after him, "Maybe I'll catch you on the downhill.  Probably not."  (I didn't.  But I might have if the race had been another half mile or so.)  About a minute behind him, I heard Stephen closing on me and I could tell he was going to pass, too.  He was still breathing pretty hard but I could tell that he was getting used to this extra gear and was going to fly up Mountain View.  He passed, gracious as ever, and soon caught and passed Paul, too.  Killing it!  I hung behind for another mile or so but soon found myself running up the trail by myself.  I was moving pretty good through the pine forest, thanks to a couple of downhill and rolling sections that were smooth enough trail to get a good leg turnover going.   The trail just continued on and on through the forest.  Another runner, kindly passed me with a couple more miles left to go to the summit and I tried to hang onto him as we power hiked some of the last steep climbs.   The guy kind of looked like Leor Pantilat, so I imagined for a moment that I was racing one of the fastest ultrarunners in the country, and had a little laugh to myself about that.  Then, reminscent of Leor, he left me in the dust.   About 3 minutes after losing sight of "Leor", I made the last bit of ascent to the top of Mt. Werner.  My watch read about 2:10 and I didn't think I had two 5-minute miles in me but I was still super stoked and ready to slay some downhill.   In hindsight, my 1:05 split for Mountain View is the fastest I have ever run that trail in the uphill direction.

Next year, the race organizers are going to reroute the race so that runners descend to the Gondola via single track trails.  So on this running and, I guess for the last time, the course finished with a 2 mile run down Storm Peak Challenge, a dirt road with tons of "baby head" sized rocks.  My first few steps down the road were a little unsteady but I soon found a rhythm and started working gravity for all it was worth, running about as hard as I thought I could for two miles and 1000+ feet.  I checked the switchbacks ahead of me for someone to chase but didn't see anyone until the final 3/4 mile.  I tried hard to close the gap but couldn't reel him in more than a couple hundred yards before the last quarter mile climb up to the Gondy.  I pushed the last uphill and sprinted for the finish line under a bluebird, cloudless sky.   As it turned out, I did have two 6 minute miles left in my legs and I ran strong all the way to the finish and completed the course in 2:22:51. Not quite hitting my time goal but good enough for 9th place overall and 1st Masters.  I finished feeling good despite pushing hard the whole race and my legs felt surprisingly unaffected once I was done.  I jogged a cool down for a few minutes after I finished and I even considered running down to the base area. 

Fortunately, I wised up and decided it would be more fun to kick it at the finish and spent the rest of the morning talking it up with other runners and locals who had come up to cheer on their friends.  The post race food, drink and company was great and I got to meet a few other Steamboat runners that I didn't previously know.   Probably the most fun I had though was chatting it up with Stephen Castle after the race.  The hard-breathing, hard-charger from the Front Range delivered a 2:20:48 run despite being, by his own admission, woefully unprepared for the gnarly course.  (Stud.)  Unfortunately, we were both losers when it came to the post race raffle.  I may never win a race but by golly, I'm going to win a raffle prize one these days!

I'm very happy about how my race went and I think I proved to myself that I am fit enough to give the 100 a good effort.  I have no idea what kind of finishing time I could expect to run and coming up with a pace schedule feels a bit daunting.  Still, I'm ready to get it done.  Mostly because I am tired of waiting and, in many ways, tired of training.   Not that I really did a stellar job in my training.  I could've logged more miles.  Or maybe SHOULD have but I still feel good about the running I did do this year and how my prep races went.  I just started losing motivation to train as Katy's pregnancy progressed and I wanted to spend more time with her.  I kind of feel like I ended up doing kind of a half-assed job of both...well, I hope not but it's  hard to split what little time you have between all the things you want to do and the things you need to do. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weekly Summary: August 6 - August 12

8/6 - Rest.  Wanted to run but got shot down by the wife!  Ha!

8/7 - 6.0 miles.  1:00:xx.  1300'v.  Stagecoach Mountain - Stagecoach.  Hard effort climbing up to The Beach with trekking poles and back to the house.  Then, dropped them off at the house and ran another 3 miles down to the fire station and back on dirt trail.  Pushed the effort the whole way.

8/8 - 7.3 miles.  1:12:xx.  500'v.  Stagecoach.  Easy paced evening run from dusk til dark on the road down to the lake and a couple miles of trail. 

8/9 -  6.76 miles.  :52:45.  500'v.  Stagecoach.  Quick run down to Elk Run Trail and a few 7 minute miles on dirt before climbing back to the house. 

8/10 - Rest.

8/11 - 13.55 miles.  3:34:08.  2910'v.  Black Mountain Trail to East Fork Trail just nouth of Round Lake.  Woke up at 4 a.m. and got to the trail head at Sheriff Reservoir just before 6 a.m.  Looked like it might rain so I waited a few minutes in my truck before deciding to just go for it.  The run started out great and I felt great climbing up into the mountains at dawn.  It was a little bit cloudy but I really didn't think the rain would come.  I ran a couple hours up trail and found a nice spot next to a creek to eat some food (a clementine, some bread with Pocket Fuel peanut butter on it and a Salt Stick tablet).  I sat on a rock, admiring my surroundings and suddenly realized that I should just turn around and spend a little time at home with Katy.  I missed her very much.  I packed up and started back when I felt a drop or two of rain.  I looked northwest and saw rain and suddenly felt a little panicked to get back since I was now climbing back up to some exposed areas.  It eventually began raining steadily on me as I hiked up the rocky trail but it wasn't a complete deluge.  I got pretty wet but after a half hour or so it let up and I started back down towards Sheriff under clearing skies.  I had fun and made it back home by 11 a.m.  I walked around the neighborhood with Katy for about 45 minutes then spent a little while clearing some branches from a couple of trees we had cut down earlier in the week.  That afternoon, I drove up to Clark to meet up with Jonny B, Christian, Paul and Brady and a couple of other people, at a favorite camping spot out on Greenville Mine Road to watch a meteor shower that evening.  I ended up deciding to treat it all as a training day and stayed on my feet (and even did some late night hiking with the dogs) most of the night.   The sky was clear and we saw some really amazing meteors!  I fell asleep in my sleeping bag staring at the stars after a great 20-hour day.

8/12 - Rest.?

Uh-oh.  DNF'ed another training run!  I haven't quite mastered the long, wilderness training run but I'm still happy with the time I've been getting on my feet and the quality of my shorter runs.   It's just logistically difficult to run in the mountains for several hours and I just don't like spending that much time away from my wife during her pregnancy.   Anyway, it's almost taper time so my plan from here until September 14th is to run hard this week, finishing with the Continental Divide Trail Run next Sunday, August 19th (my sister Sommai's birthday!), where I'd like to got under 2 hours and 20 minutes.  After that, I will just put in 3 weeks of easy running and get plenty of rest leading up to race day.  Simple. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekly Summary: July 30 - August 5

7/30 - Rest.

7/31 -  6.17 miles.  1:05:33.   400'v.  Stagecoach.  An easy and much need run to decompress after a full day of moving equipment to the new shop.  Over the past 2 weeks Bob and I have been relocating the business, which is no small feat.  Today, in particular, was a hot day and we began moving the larger shop equipment.  This run felt like one of my longest this year as I was on my feet the entire work day.  Route was from the house, down to the lakeshore and about half a mile of trail before turning around and running back uphill to the house. 

8/1 - Rest.  Completely whooped after another day of moving.

8/2 - 6.27 miles.  :56:39.  400'v.  Stagecoach.  Almost the same route as Tuesday but with a little more pep in the legs.

8/3 -  4.41 miles.  :45:02.  400'v.  Stagecoach.  Waited until the sun went down so that I could run in the dark and practice running with the headlamp on.  I ran about 1.5 miles on the road and then cut through the sagebrush to get down to Elk Run Trail next to the lake.  My depth perception was playing tricks on me on the trails.  It's a strange feeling running on trails in the dark.  Even with a headlamp, your vision is so limited that you have to slow down and be careful of your footing, even on a wide trail like the one by the lake.  From past experience, it's even stranger in the woods, when the trail is rockier and every sound coming from the darkness is like something stalking you.  Funny thing this evening was that I didn't make a wrong turn until I got back on the roads.  I should do a few more night runs before RRR.

8/4 - 17.45 miles.  3:48:14.  2750'v.  Sarvis Creek Trail.  Attempted to run Sarvis Creek from end to end and back and failed miserably.  About 45 minutes before my run, I took a 2.7 fl.oz. dose of Vespa CV-25, an amino acid supplement that is supposed to help athletes metabolize body fat.   For fueling, I carried 1.8oz. packet of Pocket Fuel Almond Butter, a couple Clif Shot gels, three SaltStick capsules and a clementine.  I also carried a 20 oz. water bottle and a SteriPen  Adventurer to purify water that I would be refilling from creeks and streams.  There were several groups of hikers on the early portion of the trail, which was nice to see, and I hiked and ran the first 800' climb in the first couple miles.   I reached the wooden bridge crossing the creek (around 3 miles) in about a half-hour and felt really good as I continued another mile up trail on the portion I had run a couple months ago.  I noticed alot of cow piles on the trail (this area is Wilderness Area but apparently Open Range for ranchers, also) and it made me nervous about getting water from the creek but I figured that's why I have a water purifier.  Around the 6 mile mark, I had run through a couple of open meadows and it was getting close to noon and warming up pretty good.  I finally stopped at the creek for a few minutes to refill my bottle and then continued back on the trail.  About a mile later, I ran into 3 people who had come in on horseback from the Buffalo Park end of the trail and were having a little lunch.  I surprised them by coming down the trail solo and I stopped to talk for a couple minutes.  They were visitors from Arizona and said it had taken them 2 hours to ride to that point.  By now, I was sure that I wouldn't make it to Buffalo Park but I continued on, waded through Sarvis Creek and started a climb for another mile until I reached 9000' elevation before deciding to turn around.  Originally, I had thought the trail was about 8 miles end to end but I pulled out my map, determined my location and figured that it was actually 12-13 miles.  I definitely didn't have enough food to make the trip so I turned and ran the downhill through some pine trees until I hit a creek crossing where I stopped to refill my water bottle again.  Here, I saw the threesome again, this time on horses, and yeilded the trail to let them pass.  At the creek crossing, I filled my bottle up, yet again, and stopped to take a couple photos.   I ran the next 3 miles at an easy pace on some technical single track, mostly because I was feeling the heat and lacked energy, despite eating all my Pocket Fuel, the clementine, one gel and all my SaltSticks.  I passed a family I saw earlier with about 4 miles to go and looked forward to the bridge where I would dip into the creek again, refill and cool off.  In the last few miles, I was thankful to be in the trees and hiked the short climb from the bridge and ran the last 2 mile downhill portion feeling pretty drained.  Once I made it back to my truck, I pounded a warm Gatorade and ate a banana, and while tired, didn't feel exceptionally bad.  I drove about 15 minutes to get back home and shortly thereafter my stomach turned and I promptly vomitted before I could get in the shower.   Demoralized, I climbed into bed and napped for an hour or so before I finally felt a little better and was able to eat dinner.   

8/5 - 2 miles.  Walked with Katy.  Man, it's hot.  Legs felt a little stiff.

Weekly mileage:  36 miles.

Moving the shop was a real pain early in the week, rough on my back and made it tough to even want to run in the evening.  I decided to do the night run on Friday to 1) reaquaint myself with running in the dark and 2) run on somewhat tired legs before my Saturday long run.  I'm not sure what caused my problems on Saturday.  It could have been the heat, the Vespa (first time I've tried this product), accumulated fatigue,  contaminated water or any combination these things.  From my Wilderness First Responder training, I'm inclined to rule out water contamination since I did purify my water and it usually takes at least a few days for waterborne illness to show up.  It's also possible that I didn't stay hydrated enough for the weather as I held back on drinking early in the run.  I'll try the Vespa again on next week's long run to see what happens. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekly Summary: July 22 - July 29

7/22 - Rest.

7/23 - Rest.

7/24 - Rest.

7/25 - 1 mile.  Walking with Katy.

7/26 -  A couple miles.  Stagecoach.  No watch.  Just shaking things out a bit.

7/27 -  Rest.

7/28 - 10.66 miles.  1:59:19.  700'v.   Stagecoach.   Some trail and alot of dirt road for this casual morning run.  The weather was pretty clear but humid when I set out down the dirt road on my way to Sarvis Creek Trail.   After a 2 mile warm up on the road I was ready to run some single track but only made it about a half mile up Sarvis Creek before running into two, dog-sized bear cubs.  One bolted down the trail, FAST! and the smaller one tried to climb up an aspen tree.  I immediately turned around, afraid that I would frighten the two bears into losing each other.  It also crossed my mind that Mama Bear was probably within earshot of her cubs and wouldn't appreciate me bugging them.  No worries, they were there first.  I decided to run the road again for a while and saw a few guys fishing and three runners also enjoying the morning.  I hiked quite a few hills on the way back as my legs seemed to lack some pep. 

7/29 - 11.26 miles.  3:01:25.  Gilpin Lake Trail (1161) - Gold Creek Trail (1150).  Finally, I can check the famous "Zirkel Circle" off my list after wanting to do this route for over two years.  My first attempt, two summers ago with Katy, ended rather abruptly when a rogue tree branch nearly scalped my then-girlfriend.   This time I ran it with Richard Williams and we didn't run Mica Lake Trail, opting to do just the classic North Routt County mountain loop.  It looked like it might rain all morning but we didn't get wet until the final two miles and, by then, it was a pleasant, light rain that cooled us off.  The hike up was steady and relaxed for the first 3 miles and we didn't run a whole lot.  There were many, many people on the trail and even more sitting at Gilpin Lake when we finally arrived there.  I'm not used to sharing the trail with so many people (unless it's a race!) but I love seeing people getting out in the woods so it was cool to exchange greetings with them.   Gilpin Lake was incredible and I can really see why it is such a popular destination.  After leaving the lake, we climbed up and over a saddle and enjoyed 5 glorious miles of downhill all the way back to the trail head.  The single track trail was both runnable and fairly technical but we were feeling good on the return so we kept up a pretty brisk pace most of the way down.  Gorgeous track!

Two good runs on the weekend although I lacked a couple of maintenance runs during the week.  Overall, feeling very good and looking forward to a few more wilderness runs with Richard in August.  Right now, the only race I'm considering for next month is Continental Divide Trail Run on the 18th.  Richard and I are planning to do an out-and-back run on the entire Mad Creek (Swamp Park) Trail in mid-August as a final long run (44 miles) before the RRR100.  Next Sunday, I am planning on taking him to Sheriff Reservoir to check out the Black Mountain Trail.