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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fortnight Summary: July 8 - July 22

7/8 -  10.6 miles.  3:07:25.  2650'v.  Lower Bear Creek Trail.  Easy with Richard.

7/9 -  Rest.

7/10 -  4.3 miles. :49:33.   Stagecoach.

7/11-  3.59 miles.  :36:17.  Stagecoach.

7/12 -  2.30 miles.  :26:42.  Stagecoach.

7/13 -  Rest.

7/14 -  Rest.  Travel to Leadville.  Set up camp, eat and relax.

7/15 - Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile. 47.5 miles.   9:49:56.  7,382'v.  

7/16 -  Rest.  Despite feeling completely thrashed after the race yesterday, I felt pretty good when I woke up the next morning.  My legs didn't start feeling sore until around noon the next day and then pretty rough in the afternoon.  Slept OK that night but could feel my legs.  Took an extra round of Juice Plus and drank alot of juice and berries for anti-oxidants.

7/17 -  Rest.  Pretty sore, primarily in the quadraceps but not so much anywhere else.  A little soreness on top of my left foot.  Slept like a champ.

7/18 -  3.42 miles. :39:08.  Stagecoach.  Easy road run felt awesome.  Legs really weren't sore today at all.  Just fatigued a bit but the run seemed to help shake out the cobwebs.

7/19 -  4.39 miles.  :45:05.  Stagecoach.  Ran a few easy miles after starting out a little quick.  Legs feel pretty good at the beginning of the run but after a while they felt a little dead.  Walked a little, too.

7/20 -  Rest.

7/21 - Spring Creek Memorial Trail Run.  9 miles.  1:17:24.   My third year running this race and I just love it.  This year, the field was much smaller and alot of fast people didn't show up so it was anybody's race up front.  Local Austrian-stud-speedster, Harald Niedl, who always seems to finish in the top five of whatever race he's in, finally scored a win in 1:11.  Followed by high school stand-out runner, Chris Zirkle.  I was feeling good and went out fast at the start, running in 4th, but knew the pace was too hot for me and even asked if anyone wanted to pass as we rolled down the first hill, across the first bridge and onto the gradually uphill rocky trail.  Several people passed me before we made the climb up to the actual Spring Creek trailhead.  I eased into a strong powerhike once we turned off the single track and started up Elevator Shaft, a steep drainage that course follows for a few hundred vertical feet.   I opted not to pass immediately and stayed behind a few people to keep my breathing and heart rate down and felt really good the entire climb through the ferns and aspens.  There were several trees downed along the course but even the tallest ones didn't really impede my ascent as I began to alternate running into my climb.  I passed about 4 runners on the climb and soon caught site of Walter McGill as we made a gradual descent through the trees on a somewhat rocky trail.  I could see Kelly Heany about 15 yards in front of Walter.  About a mile later, we all emerged from the forest together and turned on a dirt road to leave the Tatanka Ridge property.  We lamented running the dirt road up to Dry Lake as our least favorite part of the race.  Having done this race a couple of times now, I know that the 3/4 mile dirt road climb can be really tough.  It's a grind and there is one spot where you can't see around the corner but it looks like you are at the top and then you go a little farther and see the road just keeps going up.  By this time another runner had caught us, so the four of us relaxed a bit and we talked a little bit as we ran.  A few minutes later, we finally reached the Dry Lake parking lot and I sped up to be the first one on Spring Creek Trail.  I was feeling really good as we started the 4.5 mile descent to the finish and I love to run this trail downhill.  It's just a blast.  There are 13 bridges that you cross as the dirt trail snakes it's way through aspen and pine trees, rocks, logs, ferns and water.  There are a few small ascents along the way but overall the trail drops a couple thousand feet over those 4.5 miles.  It's sublime.  The rest of the way down the trail, I just tried to maintain a fast but in control cadence.  In last year's race, I ran the down hill too hard and the last mile or so really hurt.  I wanted to avoid that this year and be able to run strong at the end and enjoy the experience. Cruising over the final miles of the course, I just felt rock solid and kept wondering if I should push harder or maintain.  I found myself wishing someone was close enough behind me to scare me into running faster.  In the end, I'm amazed at how my legs have recovered from Silver Rush because I felt I could have run faster.   My legs just felt that solid.  In hindsight, I wish I had worn a watch for this race.  I ran by feel today and even when I was going hard I was pretty much in control.  If I had worn a watch, I would've set split-time goals for the ascent and descent and pushed harder to make those goals.   If I had pushed a little harder at any time during the race I'd be able to claim a PR for the course instead of finishing five seconds slower than last year!  Oh well, I finished sixth.  Top ten three years in a row!  Woo-hoo!      

7/22 - Rest.  Ahh.  Feels good to stay home and relax.

The last couple weeks have been pretty solid.  I had a nice taper going into Silver Rush and the legs felt good and delivered on race day.  I knew I was capable of posting a sub-10 finish and I ran a smart enough race to make it happen, even if I had a rough spot at the end.  I think my troubles really stemmed more from the nutrition end and not fitness because I still had leg strength but was just feeling lousy in my stomach and head.  Between the altitude and heat, I was lacking adequate electrolyte intake because I kept watering down my Gatorade over the last 2.5 hours.  The nausea was a real eye-opener though.  In a way, I'm glad I experienced that so that I know what will happen if I fall behind on fueling.   Lesson learned there.

Recovery after the 50 was also the best it's ever been.  I was feeling it Monday and Tuesday, after the race, but ran easy on Wednesday and Thursday, without any discomfort.  Friday off seemed like enough rest to run hard at Spring Creek and I'm just a little sore (mostly hamstrings) and fatigued today (Sunday).   With less than two months until Run Rabbit Run, I will keep up with my 3 scheduled maintenance runs during the week and long runs on the weekend.  I'm hoping to work out a 40-mile wilderness run with Richard Williams in mid-August, that will be my last long run before RRR.  The only race I might do in August is Continental Divide but as much as I like that race, I'm not 100% sure that will register. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Leadville Silver Rush 50

The Leadville Silver Rush 50 is a great race.  Sunday morning, around 300 (of nearly 600 registered) runners lined up at the Dutch Henri Hill starting line to tackle just short of 50 miles of mountainous jeep and foot trails at elevations from ten to 12,000'.  The starting area was already bursting with energy as music blared and the announcer counted down the time to the shotgun start.  At 6 A.M., a run in the mountains seemed like a good idea.

The weather was clear and cool in the morning after some light rain the night before.  The race begins with a short, steep climb up Dutch Henri Hill before entering a pine forest and beginning a slow, winding climb up to the first aid station around mile 6.  Going into the race, I knew that alot of the course was on jeep trails and wasn't expecting it to be as fun as my beloved single track but I was impressed early on with the trail's footing, varied technicality and overall runnabilty.  Once the intial pack stretched out a bit, I ran with a nice guy from the Denver area for a while, chatting it up about elite mountain runner Matt Carpenter's idea of "even-ness of effort" as we got warmed up.  I moved ahead after a few minutes and ran within myself for a while just getting into the groove.  What I found most impressive about the course were the incredible and expansive views of the very large mountains in the area around Leadville both initially and then, at the higher points of the course.  Around mile 3, the trail paralleled a wide valley, Iowa Gulch, with some relic mining structures from the abandoned Hellena Mine and massive tailing piles at the foot of several enormous, treeless peaks.  After Aid 1, the trail continued up the gulch on the rough jeep road through an open area with bushes and the occasional fir or spruce tree to the base of the Iowa Amphitheatre, watched over by Mount Sherman (14,036'), then met up with dirt County Road 6 for a 3 mile descent to the Printer Boy Aid Station (mile 13.5).  Here, I met up with Katy and Bronwyn, who had come down to crew for me and did so in smashing style, I might add.  As rolled in, I handed my water bottle to Bron, who immediately filled it and asked me what I needed and what I wanted to eat.  Katy got some sunscreen on me and refilled my running vest with a fresh supply of gels and trail mix.  I changed my shirt and was out of there in under two minutes. 

A short, fast descent through a pine forest on near-single track trail greeted me next and I was elated to be in the cool trees as the morning temperature began to climb a bit.  After about a mile descent, the course crossed a road and began a steady climb up a dirt road for the next mile or so before turning onto a double track that continued the climb back in the trees.   So far in the race, I had kept my pace conservative and my effort even.  Elevated, but even.  I was running easy on the downhills and flats and hiking very well on the climbs.   I was feeling really good and in control.  As the climb continued above treeline, I was affored an awesome view of the town of Leadville, Turquoise Lake and Mount Massive (14,421').  Spectacular!  Around here, I met Adam Whitehead, a native of Zimbabwe, living and working in Denver now, and we shared the climb.  I asked Adam what he did for work and when he replied that he was into wealth management, I commented that I did the exact opposite.  In addition to doing the 50, Adam was competing in the Leadman competition, which means he's a badass.  We talked it up and took in the impressive views as we climbed up to 12,000' on a rocky jeep road.  After cresting a false summit, the course descended a bit before climbing, again to 12,000' in prepartion for the descent to the race turnaround at Stumptown.  A little ways into the descent, I partnered up with a runner named Jason (Jay Baker), a Frontier Airlines pilot and triathlete from Denver.  We were both in the zone and chatted like a couple of old ladies about racing and life, all the while cheering on the front runners who were now passing us on their way out.  Because I was having so much fun talking to him, I was a little sad to part company at Stumptown as I handed off my vest to Bronwyn and frantically chewed on some food.  I continued on a convoluted loop climb up to the proper turnaround and met back up with Bronwyn to grab my refilled vest and water bottles.  At this time, I took on a second water bottle filled with Gatorade in anticipation of the afternoon heat and headed back on the course.   I hit the turnaround in under five hours.

The long climb back up to 12,000' after Stumptown was the first time I really had to push the effort.  Between the altitude and the steepness of the trail, the effort to get back to the top of this climb was substantial.  Still, I stuck to my program of eating gels and real food (clementines and a trail mix I pre-made of cashews, dried blueberries and cherries and M&Ms) and drinking to ensure I was properly fueling my body for the effort.  The next descent and climb went well but I was definitely shakier than I was earlier in the race.  This was the section of the course that is above treeline so I distracted myself by looking far off into the surrounding mountains.  At the next aid station, I refilled my bottles and grabbed some pretzels but they turned to paste when I put them in my mouth so I didn't eat many.  As the trail descended again, the temperature began to rise but I felt steady again and I knew I was going to get to see Katy again at the Printer Boy Aid Station.  (I didn't get to see her at Stumptown because my lovely pregnant wife was getting some rest.)  There was one more climb before the aid but I still felt good the entire way, just hiking smooth and strong up through the pine trees.  I got pumped up by the crowd of people amassed on the road as I exited the forest and ran a little harder to give the spectators a good show, looking for my crew all the while.  Once spotted, they changed out my gear and I put on a fresh pair of socks.  I paused to take a picture with a cute puppy at the race and I kissed my wife and left again. 

Earlier in the race, I had been told by one of the other runners that the next section was the crux of the race and now I believe him.  A short descent on paved road takes you back to a 3 mile climb on dirt road back up to foot of Iowa Amphitheatre.  By now, the mid-day heat has arrived and you are completely exposed on that road as you climb achingly slow up, up and up.  I shuffled, hiked and walked.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat for one hour.  I reached the top around the seven hour mark and relished the idea of a mostly downhill finish.  Mostly.

I found myself grinding away the final miles of the race.  I had felt so good the first half, it was hard to believe that I was starting to fade and I just kept calculating the time-to-mile pace that would let me finish in my under-10 hour goal.  I hit the final aid station, still in pretty good spirits and chowed on some watermelon and had my water bottles refilled.  I had been diluting my Gatorade bottle with water and, in hindsight, I suffered on electrolytes toward the end because I had been doing that.  Particularly because it warm.  As a result, I just slowly faded over the last part of the race.  I could feel it coming and tried to keep taking on calories in the form of gels but I just continued to struggle as the miles wore on at the end.  I still managed a pace in the high 10 min/mile but it I could tell it wouldn't last as the wheels started falling off the wagon.  With only a few miles left in the race, I linked up with another runner (Sean Wetstine) who was still feeling good enough to talk to me and provide some encouragement.  We shuffled along and I couldn't believe it didn't feel like we were getting closer to the finish.  I checked my GPS and it just didn't tick off the distance quick enough for my liking.  Then, the nausea.  Whoa.  My stomach did a 180 and started messing with me.  I finally stopped dead in my tracks and coughed, heaved and cramped.  No vomit just pain.  Oh.  I'm in the hurt locker now.  I just turned and started up the trail.  Just move forward.  Finish.  I walked.  I hiked.  I shuffled.  I looked at my GPS and saw that we should be at the finish and all I saw on the course was a foot trail climbing up a hill, into the trees.  "Those fuckers.  They added a mile to the course."  I thought to myself and I was right.  I just kept moving and actually managed to run again.  I told myself to take advantage of the lie that my brain was telling my body and kept moving. 

Finally, I saw and heard people as I crested the top of Dutch Henri Hill and relief overwhelms me.  I ran hard down the trail to the finish line.  I saw Katy and Bronwyn and the red carpet finish and nothing mattered for a moment except the fact that I was finished and I did it under 10 hours.  9:49:56.  Then, I remembered to look for the runner who pulled me through those final miles so that I can thank him but he's lost in the crowd.  I am humbled.

Silver Rush was another great experience and full of surprises.  The course is definitely tough, scenic and worthy of the effort.   Towards the end of my race, the clouds started moving in and it rained and hailed for a while a few minutes after I finished.  I immediately thought of the 200 or so runners still out on the course dealing with the mountain weather and how we are just visitors to those high peaks that we spent the day running through, up and down.    Despite feeling low at the end of the race, the overall experience was exceptional and I got to run with some really amazing people.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekly Summary: July 4 - July 8

7/4 - 9.06 miles.  2:04:15.  1800'v.  Black Mountain Trail.  Headed up to Sheriff Reservoir just outside of Phippsburg to check out a new trail and was blown away by the scenery.  Once I located the trail (after a few minutes of bushwacking around the res) I found a nice, runnable track on a gradual ascent that traversed a hillside packed with skunk cabbage and wildflowers that went on for nearly a MILE.  It was incredible.  Once I hit the ridgeline, the trail continued to snake uphill along a massive cliff line with an expansive view of the Flat Tops to my right.   The trail continued into the trees for a little while before cresting the mountain and offering panoramic views of more mountains, including Pyramid Peak, and a few big alpine meadows.   I found an old trail marker for Baldy Trail (FS 1200, which doesn't appear on any of the maps I own) and ran from cairn to cairn for about a half mile through a meadow until I picked up the trail again and found a tiny pond.  If I weren't tapering for my next race, I would've loved to continue exploring.  The return trip offered up the same spectacular views and I had to pause for a while to take it all in.  Although I only ventured a couple of miles on the trail,  I can't wait to go back and explore it further. 

7/5 - 3.51 miles.  :34:22.  Stagecoach.  Easy effort from the house down the trail to the fire station and back.

7/6 - 7.51 miles.  1:24:49.  Emerald Mountain.  From JDs house downtown, I cruised over to Howelsen Hill and jumped on the Emerald Mountain Loop.  From there, I climbed up to Lupine, then Larry's, MGM and Blair Witch before descending on Blackmere Drive to Lupine to Blackmere and down to Howelsen Lodge to refill my water bottle.   Wicked single track!

7/7 - Rest.

7/8 - 10.61 miles.  3:07:25.  2650'v.  Lower Bear Creek Trail.  Hooked up with running buddy Richard for an easy effort 10 miler on this trail by the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.  I had never been on this trail and rarely run with other people so I was stoked to get on the trail with Rich.  We maintained a fairly even pace on the ascent, hiking most of the uphills.  The trail started out nice and smooth and easy to run for the first 3 miles before it got rockier on the last 2 up to Summit Park.  There were some nice views from the top so we scrambled around on the rocky high point for a few minutes before the return trip.   The return trip went by quickly and I felt great when we wrapped it up. 

Weekly mileage:  30.69 miles.
In tapering mode for the Silver Rush 50 (which is only 46 miles) so I'm easing up on how hard I run while still getting in some quality runs.  Got to go out for over 2 hours on the Fourth and go in 3 hours today.  I'll rest tomorrow and run very lightly the middle of the week before taking a couple days off before the race.   Overall, I'm feeling really good and with a week of rest on my legs, I think I can finish the race in under 10 hours.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

11 day Summary: June 23 - July 3

6/23 - ~12 miles.  Alameda, Ca.  Ran from Alameda over to Bay Farm Island and back to Sommai's house.  Just a nice, slow, long run along the bay shorline.  Felt incredible to run long at sea level and I would have been up to keep going and going if not for aggravating the sore spot on my right forefoot, again.  I was wearing the La Sportiva Vertical Ks and decided to not wear them any more after that run.  The lack of a rock plate in the sole just doesn't work for me.  Sick run, anyway.  The highlight was running by the rasta who asked, "How far is it?"  I just replied, "I don't even know."

6/24 - Off.  Flew back to Colorado

6/25 - Off.

6/26 - Off.

6/27 - Off.

6/28 -  3.59 miles. :41:25.

6/29 -  6 miles. 

6/30 -  Rest.

7/1 - 12 miles.  2,540'v.  2:47:12.  Mandall Pass Trail.  An awesome high-altitude ascent/descent on somewhat techy single track up to Mandall Pass in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.  1:27:04 on the run up to the pass and :59:45 for the descent (2:26:49 round trip).  The trail was dry but there were numerous water crossings and lingering snow near the pass summit at just over 11,000'.  At the top of the pass, I hiked higher up onto the Flat Tops and checked out the vistas for a few minutes before beginning the return trip.  I carried two 21 oz. water bottles and several gels, a couple clementines, a banana and a cashews/dried blueberries, anticipating a longer run (it was my first time on this trail and I didn't know the exact mileage.) but did the run on 3 gels and both water bottles.  I also carried a SteriPen to treat my water if I was going to drink from streams.  Overall, a fantastic run and, as far as I know,  a Fastest Known Time for ascending and descending the trail.

7/2 - 4 miles.  Stagecoach.  Relaxed run down to the fire house and up to the dirt road to South Shore before turning around and running some trail back to the house.  Broke in the new Montrail Rogue Racers and they are crazy comfortable. 

7/3 -  6 or 7 miles.  Spring Creek Trail.  Nice after work run from JDs house to the trail and out a couple miles on a lollipop loop.  Added the "Elevator Shaft" ascent into the run for a steep hike.  Legs felt great on this run and so did the Rogue Racers.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the shoes perform in Leadville in a couple weeks.

Last 11 days mileage:  ~44 miles.

It took a few days after returning from California to get back into the swing of things.  I gained quite a few extra pounds while I was in vacation/wedding mode but I've already forgiven myself for all the delicious food I ate while we there.  Now that I've gotten a few miles in my legs, I'm starting to feel my form returning and I'm getting a little hungrier to race again.  Which is good considering I haven't really been thinking about this race much in the last month and fell off my running schedule for several weeks.  The idea for the next week is to just keep the running light and taper a bit leading up to the Leadville Silver Rush 50 on July 15th.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekly Summary: Jun 9 - Jun 17

6/9 - 3.76 miles.  1:13:34.  Stagecoach Mountain.  Up to The Beach and back.

6/10 - Off.

6/11 - 5.46 miles.  :49:33.  Stagecoach.

6/12 - 5.29 miles. :46:38.  Stagecoach.

6/13 - Off.

6/14- 7.37 miles.  1:01:28.  Stagecoach.  My best run in the last couple of weeks since stepping on that damn rock in my La Sportiva Vertical Ks, which have no rock plate.  I wore my heavy ass Salomon XAs since they are like light hikers with a ton of underfoot protection.  I ran from the house down to Elk Run Trail by the lake and ran the south shore for a few miles.  The highlight was watching a bald eagle launch from the sage brush just 50 feet from me and glide out over the lake.  Just beautiful.

6/15 - 3.61 miles.  :38:39.  Mad Creek Trail.  Easy running out to the barn and back.

6/16 - 20.54 miles.  4:30:59.  3500'++.  Thunderhead Hiking Trail - Chisolm Trail - Storm Peak Challenge  - Mountain View Trail - Fish Creek Falls Trail - Fish Creek Falls Blvd.  I ran the hellaciously tough first 20 miles of the Run Rabbit Run 100 course this morning.  Five gnarly miles to the top of Storm Peak had me regretting not bringing my trekking poles and deciding that I will absolutely be starting the race with them.  My split to Storm Summit was a humbling 1:33:14 for 5.28 miles!  After a five minute break to eat, I started down Mountain View Trail where I found a few downed trees, another trail runner and a sweet, painful blister on the top of my left foot.  That slowed me down a bit so my split time to the Fish Creek Falls Trail junction was 1:16 for 6.38 miles.  Another quick break to eat again and adjust my shoes and I was off for the 3000', 5.5 mile descent on Fish Creek.  I started seeing people hiking the trail when I hit the second falls and by the time I got to the first falls I determined that I had seen about 30 people.  That leg took 1:06.  By the time I hit the trail head, I drank all the water in my hydration bladder and my water bottle so I filled up the water bottle for the last 3 miles on the road back to downtown.  It was really warming up by then and it only took those 3 miles to drain the whole bottle. 

6/17 - Off.

Last week, I took more time off to let my foot heal since the point tenderness in my forefoot was still lingering.  Fortunately, it's been feeling better and my motivation returned so I was able to ramp the mileage back up this week and get in what will probably be my last long run before next month's Leadville Silver Rush 50.  And a challenging long run it was:  4 and half hours to do 20 miles!  So much more technical trail than I remembered from those trails in the past.  Run Rabbit Run is going to be no joke.  However, focusing on the immediate future, we're leaving for the Bay Area on Monday and I'm looking forward to spending the next week at sea level for some mellow runs and a great time with family as Katy and I have our wedding at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekly Summary: May 29 - June 3

5/29 - Rest.

5/30 - Rest.  Took another day off after a couple of punishing runs at the end of last week. 

5/31 - 7 miles.  400'.  Stagecoach.  Down to the lake and onto Elk Run Trail for about 4 miles before running on the road shoulder for a couple miles on the way back home.  

6/1 - 7 miles.  700'.  Spring Creek Trail.   Easy recovery run on Spring Creek.  Stepped on a rock that really tenderized my right forefoot. 

6/2 - Off.  Drove all the way out to Stillwater to run up to the Devil's Causeway and then do a sick 10-mile loop twice just to get denied by the weather and my foot.  I arrived at the Causeway trail head just as the wind picked up, the clouds began to roll in and the temperature drop into the 30s.  I was still game enough to get my gear together and try a Causeway summit but as I hiked down the trail it became evident that my foot was still way too tender to run anywhere.  Much less in a spring blizzard.  I hung out long enough to know the weather was going to get nasty and then drove home.  The wind and rain chased me all the way back home.  Denied!

6/3 - Rest.  Volunteer to work half-marathon aid station at Steamboat Marathon.  Katy and I had a great time working the aid station at the marathon halfway point with the crew from The Lodge (G. Hill, Clyde, Becky and Riley, Clara, Sean, Rick).  Next year, we're bringing costumes, better food and turning up the volume a little bit.  Soon, people will be running the marathon just to stop at our sweet aid station.  We're on the rise up...believe it.

Weekly total:  14 miles.  1100'.

Put up some pretty weak numbers this go-around but, whatever.  You can't control the weather or fortune so just roll with it.  Lately, I've been thinking alot more about becoming a father than running anyway.  Sure, I'm still jazzed about doing some races and running in mountains this summer, but it's all taken a serious back seat to what I've got on the horizon.   It's all pretty exciting, to say the least.  Next weekend, I'm camping out with some of the fellas outside of Clark so I'm trying to figure out a cool way to either run there or run from there.   There are some great, mid-Zirkel Wilderness Area trails that are accesible from that camp site. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekly Summary: May 21 - May 28

5/21 - Rest.

5/22 - 6 miles.  1000'.  Steamboat Ski Area.  Ran 10 minutes to warm up from The Lodge thru the base area and up Right of Way to Thunderhead.  From there, I did 5-minute hill intervals on Why Not Road up to Vagabond saddle (where the tepee is in the winter) before turning around and continuing intervals all the back to The Lodge.  Pretty hard effort both uphill and down for my first "speed work" session of the year.  My aerobic base is in good order after a solid winter/early spring of gradual build ups so I figure it is time to start adding some anerobic workouts. 

5/23 - 7 miles.  700'.  Spring Creek Trail.  Nice and easy steady state recovery run in some cool, wet weather on Spring Creek.  Kept the effort on the flats and downhills at 8 min/mile and did all the climbs without any hard breathing.   

5/24 - 7 miles.  400'.  Stagecoach.  A couple downhill miles warming up at 8:30 min/mile, then 3 miles steady at 7:00 min/mile on Elk Run Trail next to the lake.  Uphill back to the house at 8-9:30 min/mile.  Solid effort.

5/25 - Rest.

5/26 - 2.5 hours. 3000'.   Howelsen Hill, Emerald Mountain - Larry's - Quarry Mountain Trail - Ridge Trail (out) - Ridge Trail - Lane of Pain -Little Moab-Blackmere Drive-Howlesen Base area -roads (in).  Tough, hilly run from downtown over Emerald Mountain on several trails and out towards Cow Creek on the Ridge Trail.  Many, many healthy climbs this day, starting with Howelsen Hill face.  Ridiculous climbing at some points. Ran some good wooded single track on the ascent up Emerald with a couple of open meadows on the way.  Once on top of Emerald there are several brutally steep climbs afterward before finally hitting a couple miles of meandering downhill on the way out to Cow Creek.  It was warm and I went through a lot of water.  Long, long downhill from the top of Emerald via Lane of Pain, Little Moab and Blackmere Drive. 

5/27 - 6 miles.  Stagecoach.  Route County Road 18. - Easy effort across the dam and down the road for a few miles.  Super windy day and a little chilly.

5/28 - 12 miles.  1980'v.  "Mad Creek" (Swamp Park) Trail.  Six miles of gradual uphill on Mad Creek until I reached it's junction with Red Dirt.  Along the way, I crossed the creek a couple of times, spotted a deer and power hiked most of the ascent with trekking poles.  About 1:15 to the turnaround 6.2 miles up trail.  I ran just about every step downhill except for the most technical footing parts.  The trail is almost entirely in the woods with only a few small meadows and follows the creek the whole way and, aside from about a dozen really technical sections, is really smooth track.  Very easy to run on. 

8 day total:  50 miles.  6080'v.

A decent amount of miles and vertical this week made for some good running.  Almost all of it on trails, which makes me even happier.  Just more or less trying to mix it up and make sure my runs are fun and challenging with a little rest and easy recovery runs thrown in.   

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekly Summary: May 13 - May 20

5/13 - Rest.

5/14 - Rest.

5/15 - Walk/jog a couple miles. Stagecoach. 

5/16 - 2-3 miles.  Stagecoach.  Some very light running on trails around the area.  Still a little sore on the downhills but recovery is going well.

5/17 - 4ish miles.  1100'.  Stagecoach Mountain.  Power hiked up to The Beach from the house and then ran the downhill at a moderate tempo.  Still feeling it in the quads a bit but not much.

5/18 - Rest.

5/19 - 12 miles.  1200'.  Spring Creek Trail.  Felt very good and did a fun, uptempo run on the smoothest single track in Steamboat.  Steady uphill from town up to Dry Lake and then some fairly good turnover on the downhill back to the trailhead, with a .7 mile cool down. 

5/20 - 4 miles.  780'.  Morrison Divide Trail.  Run/hike with Benihana was abruptly halted in the first .5 mile by a black bear that was easily 500 lbs.  Fortunately, I saw the bear before the dog and turned us around long enough for the bear to run up the trail and for me to leash the dog.  After giving the animal a few minutes of breathing room, we hiked back up the trail for a couple of miles before turning around.  I was hoping I might catch another glimpse of the bear but didn't.  I did, however, see a really nice fawn and lose my sunglasses somewhere on the trail.  So, not an uneventful outing. 

I was definitely sore in the quads for the first couple of days this week but fairly impressed with how fast I was able to recover from last weekend's 50-miler.  I have to credit eating plenty of good food, taking Juice Plus+ regularly, gradually building up my activity and the right amount of rest to getting back on track so quickly.  The focus for the next couple of months will be to continue with 3 hour-long maintenance runs during the week and getting out in the mountains on the weekends for 2-4 hour runs.  More importantly, I'm looking forward to getting out to San Francisco in a month for my wedding.  And maybe a little running, too.  :)  It'll be a sweet little vacation and I can't wait to see some family and take in some of the sights down at sea level.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quad Rock 50 Race Reort

I caught up with Bronwyn Rittner in her motorhome at a gas station in Walden after leaving work at lunch on Friday afternoon.  She was going to be providing me with a warm shelter on wheels as well as race day crew support as I attempted my fourth trail ultra in Ft. Collins the following morning.   Some veteran runners might think that being crewed at a 50-miler is unecessary but Bron's aid proved to be indespensible at Quad Rock, especially as rain fell and temperatures dropped into the 30s the evening before the race.  She had secured a campsite within 20 minutes of the start area and after dinner and last minute preparations, we retired early in anticipation of the 5 a.m. start time.

The bright sunlight, casino-like location and multitude of people should have been a clue that things were not as they seemed, but I still panicked as I frantically looked for my race gear.  Nothing was where it was supposed to be!  I panciked more.  Who is this person laying down where I laid my gear just hours before?  Why is my dog here?  I couldn't answer the questions.  Why is there now a child wearing a leash where my dog once was?  Now, I see the motorhome driving off in the distance and I run to catch it but soon lose it in the crowds of people that have materialized.  I panic more.  I'm going to miss the start!  Damn!  What is happening?  ...and suddenly, I wake up.  It is dark.  My alarm then goes off and I realize I have been dreaming and it is now 3 a.m. race day morning.  Relief strikes me and I quietly laugh to myself.  I already miss my now-pregnant wife-to-be and want to call her and tell her about my dream but it's too early.  It's going to be an interesting day.

Bron prepares breakfast and I drink some coffee.  Outside, the rain has stopped and the ground is wet and it is very cool so I dress appropriately for my run.   We arrive at the start area a little after 4:30 a.m. and as I pick up my race number I notice elite ultrarunner Krissy Moehl is working the registration tent.  I think to myself how cool it is that ultrarunning is still so small and intimate that it isn't uncommon to see the best in sport volunteering at a race (I later saw Krissy working an aid station and, again, running back to the start area).   Without any fanfare, the race begins and about 200 runners head off into the morning darkness to complete a 25 mile loop through Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park, at least once.

Only minutes into the race, we turn onto single track trail, headlamps guiding our way, and I get the feeling that I will be pulling over into the bushes before anyone else.  After less than 2 miles of running, the notion turns into a certainty and I find a quiet spot, turn off my light and descreetly let nature run it's own course.   By the time I rejoin the race, I've fallen back to near the end of the pack but it doesn't bother me in the least as I am determined to run my own conservative race and know that I have, literally, all day to see where I stack up.  As the sun begins to come up, I find myself working my way up past a couple of groups, never working too hard, but still able to make some progress with regards to my overall position.  Still under 4 miles into the race, the climbing begins on single track, so I patiently fall into line behind about 20 people and find a hiking groove.  The morning light reveals beautiful pine trees and rocky trails that snake steeply up the mountainside but any views into the distance are obscured by thick fog.   As we climb higher, frost and a little snow cover the plants and rocks.  After a while, we hit the wide trail up to the Towers so I surge past the group and then return to a steady hike, climbing up into the cold cloud layer.  Nearing the top, I strike up a short conversation with a Ft. Collins runner who tells me he is going to his son's soccer game after he finishes his 25 mile loop.  It makes me think about my own future child and fills me with happiness as I press upwards.  At the aid station, I don't linger too long but I make sure to have my water bottle topped off and grab a handful of food to eat.  I've started eating a gel packet every 45 minutes to help keep my energy up.  After Towers, we begin the first descent and I manage to pass a few more runners as the field stretches out.  Again, I maintain a steady, even pace.  It's much colder than I expected it to be but not quite as wet.  I hope that it will warm up as the day progress, though, so when I reach the next aid station, Horsetooth, I decide to drop off my gaiters, change shoes and, optimistically, change into a short sleeve shirt, grab new gloves and eat some food and chat it up with Bronwyn a little bit.  I easily spent several minutes in the aid station before leaving feeling refreshed.

The next leg was another climb back up to Towers via a different trail.  The climb was another steep one and I'm sure I hiked almost every step to conserve energy.  On the way up, I catch a few people and one of them is Steamboat runner, Mike Hlavecek, who has finished several ultras including last years Leadville Trail 100 in just over 22 hours.  I have the utmost respect for Mike's endurance and know that if I pass him, I'm probably going too fast.  We strike up a conversation and we run the next downhill leg together until we arrive at the Arthur's Rock aid station at mile 17.6.  Again, I take my time and I see Mike take off.  It occurs to me that I should be meeting Bronwyn here but when I don't see her, I assume it was the next aid station or something.  So, off I go on a long 7.4 mile leg back to the start/finish area at Soldier Canyon.  (Later, she tells me that I had beat her to Arthur's by five minutes.)  I'm still carrying a couple of gels but it also occurs to me that I was supposed to pick up a little more food from her (and, maybe, a long sleeve shirt).  I still managed a good pace on the leg but as I made it back to Soldier Canyon, I begin to feel my energy fading.  Before I hit the aid station, though, I am lifted by the comic scene of a fellow runner going outbound on the course again and proceeding to vomit just 20 feet in front of me.  His moment of  abject misery dwarfs mine and I laugh to myself and I run into Soldier Canyon.

Once at Soldier Canyon, I spend a good 10 minutes there getting readjusted, eating some potato chips and sweets and refilling my running vest with gels, beef jerky and some Clif Bloks.  I empty my shoes of rocks and really feel refreshed and ready to tackle the second lap as I head back out.

On the climb out, I maintain a steady hike, rarely running, and catch several runners, including the "vomitter", another guy moaning in pain and limping, as well as few people doing well but just moving slower than me.  It's another 7.4 miles back to Arthur's, a climb and descent, but it goes super well for me.  Hiking up, I eat the entire packet of Clif Bloks and the beef jerky.  On the descent, I run through the woods on a cool, rocky trail and have moments of pure bliss, engulfed by the joy of running smoothly through a clouded, frosty wonderland.  It is a pure runner's high.  As I arrive back at Arthur's, I'm stoked to see Bronwyn there and she relays the story of her getting there after me.  Again, I take my time, drink some miso soup and refill all my bottles with water and Gatorade.  I change my shoes, again, although it wasn't really necessary and leave after a few minutes, ready for another 1600' climb back up to Towers. 
At the beginning of this leg, my feet hurt a little and I'm afraid that my shoe change was a big mistake.  It also feels even colder as I hike upward into the clouds again but my forward motion is enough to keep me warm and my feet start to feel better by the time I reach Towers.  Again, I top off the water bottles, grab a couple cookies and shove them into my pockets and eat a handful of gummy bears and I'm off, down the mountain another 1600' to Horsetooth.  The downhill treats me good again but I decide to change my shoes, yet again, once I hit the aid station.

At Horsetooth, I lingered a full 10 to 12 minutes, drinking more miso soup and eating a turkey and rice burrito that I had prepared for the race.  I change up my footwear one last time and chat it up with the aid station personnel, one who even suggests a cool name for the baby.  Clearly, I'm just having a great time at the event and not even thinking about racing for a fast time or place.  Leaving, I'm amazed at how good I feel so late into the race so I just stick to the plan and power hike all the way back up to Towers for the fourth time of the day. 

After going up to Towers, I met a couple of hikers on the way back down.  They ask how far we are running and when I tell them 50 miles they are both amazed.  I look at my GPS and tell them that I am at mile 45 and I've been going for 9 hours and 55 minutes.  As I move on, I realize that if I hammer the last 5 miles, I might be able to break my own personal best time for 50 miles so I finally let myself go and begin to run hard for the first time all day.  I reel in a couple more runners and really can't believe how fast I'm able to run so late in the race.  I press and press my effort the final two miles, trying to catch two more people in the distance before the finish but can't close the gap before the race ends.  I cross the finish in 10:42:57, a new 50 mile PR by 10 minutes.  I can't help but think that if I hadn't spent so much time in the aid stations I could have finished nearly a half hour faster than I did.

Overall, it was a great training run and learning experience.  The race volunteers were awesome, the course was well-marked and ridiculously hard.   Bronwyn's help was top notch and much appreciated and I can't wait to team up with her again in July for the Leadville Silver Rush 50, where I think I will push hard for a sub-10 hour finish.