Friday, November 13, 2015

Flagstaff: US Sky Running Championships: Sky Series

8:00 a.m. The gun went off and the race was underway. Although the field was relatively small the competition was high. Joe Gray, like myself, was there trying to get the Skyrunning Runner Of the Year, US mountain runner JP Donovan looking for a podium upset on his rivals, and Swiss Mountain Runner Marin Anthamatten was there to crash the American Championship.

Instantly JP sprinted out like the race was a 5k and not the 24 mile mountain race we all knew it to be. Joe and I sat back and watched almost in disbelief. Within 70 yards of the start JP and a handful of others had already gone off the trail, catapulting me into the lead. With Joe and Martin in close pursuit. Within a mile JP retook the lead and held it to the top of the first climb: Mt. Elden. On top I rounded a bend with Joe and Martin in a small pack when we heard JP let out a yelp from behind us. He had once again gone off trail.

From the top of Elden our mini-pack of 4 ran on at an ever quickening pace. With the first climb and introduction out of the way it was now time to race. Martin took the lead onto a single track that disappeared into the forest. Soon we were at the first aid station which was a blur as we raced through.

Single track can be extremely fun to run and exciting to race fast on. This was the goal. Martin and JP took turns leading our procession as we hammered along. We started a descent on the single track and they took off. Joe and I followed through the dust kicked up into the air, trying not to breath too much of it in, while simultaneously needing all the air we could get. It was a fantastic single track zigging down a mountain side with Aspen and Pine surrounding us. In places there were rocks to jump over with leaves and needles softly nestled on the ground. Our feet pounded down the hill on the volcanic soil, disturbing the tranquility. Both Martin and JP were trying to drop Joe and myself. This was early to be racing, but it was a national championship race. On our decent we yo-yoed back and forth but no one was dropped.

I sat in 4th place not wanting to race yet and feeling everyone else out. Joe looked calm and comfortable, sitting and waiting as well. JP looked solid but was wavering slightly… he would slow down. And Martin, well Martin looked to be on a mission: drop everyone and run like the wind. We soon came into another aid station. This time Joe and I stopped for a brief respite, once fueled we left. We looked up and saw Martin and JP run straight down a road, while the trail turned off to the left. We both yelled and they turned and ran back. Consequently, Joe and I were now in the lead. The new trail, a wide and rocky single track with a slight unrelenting uphill, meandered through forest and mountain meadow.

Joe was content to let me lead, later informing me that I was doing a good job route finding. Marin quickly caught up and stayed in third. JP attempted to catch up but was soon dropped. The race was down to us three. While we ran we passed a few dozen runners from the 55k race. Now and then 1 or 2 would tag on to our group for as long as they could.

I set my own pace and the other 2 seemed content to just sit and wait. We covered another 4 miles and passed through yet another aid station. Martin decided it was time and put in a surge. Joe went with him, while I stayed back sitting knowing I could not match the surge. I was dropped and now officially in a solid third. Within a mile the trail disappeared and the route headed straight up a steep hill. I power hiked but my pace was slowing. I could tell I was now sodium & potassium deficient and started cramping. The cramps got exponentially worse. I finally topped the hill with a runner coming up only 100 yards behind. I followed the trail and soon hit yet another hill, this time running straight up a ski slope. I hiked up in excruciating pain while my muscles fired and flexed in random tetanus. I topped the hill and puked 2 or 3 times, the runner caught up and gave me some salt pills and passed me. I could barely continue. I ran, or rather staggered forward and down the hill to the next aid station which was at the finish line.

Although it was at the finish I still had another 4 miles or so straight up a ski slope and back down. I refueled and sat for a minute trying to get the cramping under control I figured I was now in fourth and had to finish strong. I soon left the aid and started up the last climb. I followed the flags and ended following them in the wrong direct only adding on at least a ½ mile. I topped out on the ski slope and started running down towards the finish. What place was I now? I had no idea. I thought I was 4th… maybe 5th now. I could not tell with the added 55k racers around.

I finished, glad to be done. I congratulated Joe and Martin. They reciprocated and told me I was 3rd. Really? I was in shock disbelief. Could this be true? After a minute I confirmed it was true. I was shocked. I was 3rd overall and therefore and had won the United States Skyrunning Series Championships. Crazy! But Awesome!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Run Rabbit Run 50 Miles

I drove over after work and made it to Steamboat Springs just after 6:00 pm. I got my bib, ate dinner, and found a great place to camp out. It was dark and quite; I slept like a baby. Race morning: I woke up at 4:50… just over an hour later I was on the starting line.

The air was brisk and people talked in hushed tones not willing to break the tranquil morning. The race started up the ski slope running on trails or roads. I maintained a quick pace and as expected no one was willing to stay with me. It was dark and beautiful, I even saw 2 sets of eerie ghastly green eyes staring at me. They turned out to be of a mama moose and her baby. As I gained ground it was as if I was coming out of the depths of the earth. 2,000 feet below I could see motionless fog stuck to the ground like patches of milk splattered by the farmer when milking. The air got colder as I ascended from 6,700 feet up to over 10,000 feet. I finally crested Mt. Warner and the ski slopes and ran into the first aid station at 1:07 into the race. I figured I had a respectable 3-4 minute lead on 2nd place.

At last the course changed from the continuously uphill steep dirt road to lightly angulating smooth single track. I ran along hoping to hit the half way in about 3:30. If felt comfortable and ran consistently with no sign of any other runners. I hoped I was increasing my lead. I ran into the last aid station. I was excited and ready to turn and retrace my steps, however I was informed I had to run 3 more miles uphill to Rabbit Ears before I could turn around. This was deflating. I was feeling ok but ready to turn. This was a disadvantage to not knowing the course. I ran up to the turnaround arriving at 3:58, and timed myself back to my competitors. I had a 4, 6, and 10 minute lead back to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places. Not very much, especially when I was 4 hours into the race and only halfway. I was feeling energy deprived and unsure what to do. I had been eating and drinking consistently… what was I lacking. At the next aid station I got some coke and this did the trick. I just needed some extra sugar.

With the elixir of life running through my veins, I was ready to race again. I kept my pace up and made it back to the top of Mt. Warner and raced down in 42 minutes winning in a total time of 7:43.

Notes: This marked my 1st 50 mile win (I’ve been 2nd 4 times).

8th win for the year. A new record for me. A week off and then the Flagstaff Sky running Championships. It will be fun!!! 

Imogene Pass Run

I was feeling good for this race and knew I wanted to run well. My goal was simple: nothing short of a winning the race. I drove over the night before and slept about 2 blocks from the start. Morning soon arrived. I felt refreshed and ready to race. Toeing the line I was ready to run hard. The gun went off and I quickly took the lead… not from speed but from a relaxed start by most other individuals. This was a surprise but it would not change my racing strategy which was simple: run hard and fast. I took advantage of the legal shortcut ¼ mile into the race and was soon running by myself… “Where is the competition?” I asked myself. In reply Jordan Jones came up and matched my cadence.

We ran together for the next 3 miles each trying to gain the advantage over the other but neither able to pull ahead. Then without warning Jones took off and gained 20 yards on me. I was surprised by the surge which came on a steep hill. I felt the surge was too fast and stayed back. He continued to push the pace but I knew I was going the right pace and patiently waited. My pace paid off and with 3 miles to the summit I caught back up to Jones and soon passed him. We yo-yoed for a ¼ mile but soon I was growing my lead.

I kept up a solid pace and by the pass I was over a minute ahead of him. I could see Andrew Benford closing fast behind and knew he was moving up. I raced down the backside but was no longer being pushed by runners. I had a lead and was no longer concerned about anyone coming up behind. I ran consistent and finished in 2:16:04 almost 6 minutes up and only 1 minute off my Imogene PR.
Thoughts: Wow! I ran a solid 2:16 and won my 3rd Imogene Pass Run
I might have almost 20 races for the year but I’m still fit.

Next week is Run Rabbit Run 50 Miler… I plan on winning. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon
This was to be a tough double and my 3rd for the year. As always I wanted to run well, my goals: run the Ascent as fast as I could and hopefully run a fast marathon time.
After a great night sleep I showed up in downtown Manitou ready to race. I went out hard with the leaders but soon realized it was probably too fast. I backed off of the pace and slowly lost ground. By 2 miles in I was in 8th place with a sizeable lead over anyone else. The 7 runners in front of me were hammering. There was the lead pack of 3 runners: Andy Wacker, Touru Miyahara, and Petro Mamo, followed by the chase pack of Simon Gutierrez, Peter Masksimow, Kyle O’Brien, and Brandon Birdsong. At first I hung with the chase pack, but knew I was working too hard. I slowed up and waited. Soon I was running alone. By mile 4, to my surprise, I caught and passed Petro Mamo who is a much better flat land marathoner. I was in 7th place and feeling better. At mile 6 I caught up with Brandon, and at mile 7.5 I passed Kyle. Now I was in 5th place with just over 5 miles to go. I could hear cheering spectators and knew I was only a 60-80 seconds back from Simon and Peter.
I rolled through Barr Camp. The day was hot and I was thankful for I had opted to carry a water bottle. As I ran gaining altitude and miles I felt better and continually increased the pace. I rounded a bend and there only 35 yards in front of me were Peter and Simon. Prior to A-Frame I passed them both and was in 3rd place. I ran through the aid station making sure to refuel my bottle… it was hot! Now above treeline, I looked for the two leaders but they were nowhere to be seen. I could see simon only 15 seconds behind me and rocking it! I kept pushing the pace to ensure I kept my lead. Gradually I built up my lead with a few more precious seconds but still felt like I was running so slow… perhaps the 13,000 + feet had something to do with that.
The last 3 minutes of running were tough. I was dehydrated and my electrolyte balance was also off from the heat. I kept feeling surges of cramps and weird twinges flow through my body. With only 200 yards to the finish I backed off the pace slightly. Normally I would not do this but with the cramping I had to. I finished in 3rd place in 2:23:52. For the race I wore the Huaka 

A perfect comfortable light weight shoe with stability.
One race down, one to go. I got home and ate, then had a hot shower, then ate again, then ate some more, then napped, and ate, drove to the awards, and back home, and of course ate some more.
In the morning I felt great. Maybe a tad sluggish but ready for round 2. The race started and I fell into decent controlled pace that I knew I could handle. I maintained the pace (mostly) to the summit arriving in about 2:43. In 7th place with several runners both right in front and right behind me. I ran down, rejuvenated by the summit. By mile 17 though I was feeling the grueling 2 days. I was passed by a few runners but maintained my composure. I had to finish. Pace was not the issue, I just had to be consistent and finish. I finally did just breaking 4:30. I was 10th overall in the Ascent and 1st for the Pikes Peak Double.
No more doubles this year. Next up is the Rut 25K… the 50k is out. I’m looking forward to some fast times at Big Sky!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tushar Mountain Marathon

“An easy marathon.” That was at least what I was telling myself. After racing who knows how many weeks in a row and travelling too many miles to count (rough estimate is 25,000 miles) I was looking forward to a nice race. 1 marathon, 1 day… and did I mention it was in the mountains with 7,400 feet of elevation gained and lost.

The race was the SkyRunning Tushar Mountain Marathon in south west Utah near Beaver in the super-secret Tushar Mountains. The Tushars are an Island in the desert with several peaks over 12,000 feet, including the high point of the range: Delano Peak at 12,169. Oops, did I just tell everyone about them. 

I flew back to Salt Lake City where I had left my car after Speedgoat and drove down to Eagle Point Ski Resort which sits at 10,000 feet. What an awesome spot. While the valley floor and Beaver was 90 degrees Eagle Point was a comfortable 65 degrees. Check out the race website with pictures half way down:

I camped out and slept soundly waking up on my own at 6am an hour prior to race start. The other runners and myself gathered around a smoldering campfire and waited for the start. We were called over to the start and off we went. I planned to settle into a comfortable pace. Running the first half of the race as a training run. The second half I could race hard. Within ½ mile into the race the lead group of runners consisted of Lars Kjerengtroen, Arthur Degraw, and myself. Arthur led our pack as we followed flagging. The majority of the course is on single track trail with only about 2 miles on dirt road. Many places the single track was overgrown and following the flagging, although not hard, was slow going. About 4 miles in I took over route finding duties and led our mini pack. Lars later informed me it was pointless to pass. I was finding the route and running consistently.

We hit the first of three aid stations at 1:12. This was mile 8ish… slow going but lots of angulating terrain. The three of us were at least 5 minutes ahead of any other competitors at this point. I had decided to run consistent and try and take the lead on our 3rd climb of the day going up Delano. At 2 hours in we started up Delano. The ascent was steep on an overgrown trail. It was tough hiking up this. I started a fast upbeat ascent, a crazy power hike, and by the summit I had gained a 40 second lead. The views were tremendous. I wanted to breath them in and sparred a glance around me. Not enough. I sprinted off down the grassy steep knoll, dropping 2,000 feet. From the bottom I hit a smooth dirt road and ran up it to the mile 16 aid station.

It is important to mention that we had been following the same course as the 58 mile racers that had started 2 hours before our race. For the past hour we had been passing a few of the runners. I ran into the 2nd aid station with an 80 second lead on Lars who by this time had a slight lead over Arthur. Upon seeing me the captain of the aid station informed me that I should not be there. Apparently she had only been told that the 58 mile racers would be coming through that aid station. I assured her I was supposed to be racing through the aid station and left. As leaving I read and followed the sign which clearly said “Marathon & 93k”. Unfortunately, the aid station debacle lost me over 60 seconds. Lars was back hot on my tale and caught me a little over a mile later.

We ran together down a beautiful single track, before finally tackling the 4th and final climb of the day. Once again I built up a 25 second lead and came to an open field. Where to proceed I knew not. Lars had the course GPSd into his watch. So I went back 15 yards and waited for him. He stopped looked at his watch for a few second and finally told me which direction to run. After 80 yards I found the course flaggings once again. Apparently either people or animals or weather had removed some of the flaggings. Once again I took off and tried to build a lead. This time it worked. I had 4 miles to the finish and I was ready to finish. I ran through the last aid station and tried to build my lead. It worked.

I finished the race and won in 4:11 about 5 minutes in front of Lars. Arthur finished 3rd about 20 minutes back. Results can be seen here:   

Next: Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. What Fun!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Speedgoat Triple Crown

Speedgoat Triple Crown Race Report:

Thursday, July 23:

I drove over to the Salt Lake Valley from Colorado. I had 3 days of racing in a row planned. It was extensive but should be fun.

The plan was simple: Friday would be the uphill Vertical Mile, with over 5,500 feet gained in just 6.5 miles. Saturday would be the Speedgoat 50K with about 11,000 vertical feet and Sunday would be the Quadbanger. It would lose 10,500 feet over the course of about 11-12 miles.  Goals were simple: Win the Vertical mile, top 10 in the 50k, and top 3 in the Quadbanger.

I found a great place to camp out and tried sleeping in.

Friday, July 24: In the morning I drove over to Snowbird. Nestled at about 8,000 feet Snowbird sits almost 4,000 feet above the valley. It was time for a great race. I got there a little early and with little else to do I napped, rested, and read prior to the race. Finally it was time, we started at 3:00 pm. 

Speedgoat Vertical Mile: The race runs uphill on a ski road for 2,600 feet, then you ride a chair lift down (yes, you read that right: halfway into the race you ride a chairlift back down to the base area) where you then proceed to run up 2,900 feet on mostly single track trail. I started with an up-tempo pace, one I could handle but I would have to stay focused. I thought the pace would be sufficient to gain the lead but to my surprise it was not. Local Salt Lake native Nathan Peters was beside me stride for stride exchanging the lead. Sometimes he would gain it by a few yards only to succumb to the uphill battle and then I would take the lead only to relinquish it again. 15 minutes in I marginally backed off on the pace… just ever so slightly but enough. Nathan took the lead and continued his pace. I decided that the second lap would be the lap to push harder… for now I needed to run consistent. Our lead over 3rd place was at least 1 minute and ever growing.  

Finally we topped off and Nathan jumped on the chairlift about 8-10 seconds in front of me. I followed and jumped on the next lift. We rode down stretching our legs and doing bicycles, with me (on the lift) ever chasing Nathan and of course never gaining or losing ground. At the bottom I jumped off the chair lift and started round 2.

I quickly caught up to Nathan on the single track and took the lead. I kept my up-tempo pace going and quickly built up a lead. The higher we went the better I felt. I fed off of the single track and quickly extended my lead. The last 400 vertical feet of the race is on a ridge that finally tops off at 11,000 feet. The ridge was steep… crazy steep... but I kept my legs moving knowing that this race would be over in a manner of minutes. And it was.
I crossed the finish line winning by about 4 minutes. Results are here:

Socializing, a tram ride to the base, and an hour later I found myself back at the start talking with Salt Lake resident Marge, one of the many volunteer workers for the race. As it turned out, she had an extra couch for me to sleep on that night… perfect…. Thank you Marge!

Saturday, July 25: Speedgoat 50K: After a good night's rest, I was ready for round 2. I knew I had to take it easy, at least for the first few hours of the race. The race started and I was surround and soon swallowed up by the mass of humanity. Slowly, consistently I ran forward and emerged about 15th place. Today, I needed to eat and hydrate and run consistently. I focused on these basic life needs and soon topped out at 11,000 feet on Hidden Peak. From here I ran down into Mineral Basin and up a short but steep climb where I passed several people. They had been near me for most of the race so I did not think too much of it, although I had started moving up. Then the long downhill began. I was at mile 12 or so and I was feeling… blah, with little speed. I kept drinking and was sure to take lots of salt tabs as it was getting hotter.  

All I could do was run consistently. I then started the second major climb of the day at mile 16. I felt sluggish as I alternated between running and walking. The pace was sluggish but, unbeknownst to me, I was gaining on my competition. By mile 23 I had caught 3 more people and had moved into 8th place. At least I thought it was 8th place. At one section the course runs through a 500 foot tunnel from one basin to another… very cool! Then came the last major ascent of the day back up Hidden Peak. At the base I caught one more runner and kept rolling. The last 4+ miles downhill I felt sluggish but pushed on feeling that I was losing more ground.

At last I finished in 6:20. I soon found out I did better than I had thought and finished in 5th place. The course was amazing, simply beautiful. If you ever run Speedgoat be prepared to power hike.

Sunday, July 26th:  Quadbanger: I felt at ease and relaxed the morning of the race. Sure it would be my 3rd race in as many days but it was going to be fun! The Quadbanger had 10,500 feet of descent over 11 miles. The course starts on top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet and descends about 2600 feet. Then the runners jump on a chair lift, ride it up, and run down again. This is repeated so the runner must descend a total of 4 times down the peak to the base area.

The race was small with 3 dozen participants, all ready for some fun. We started casual with one exception. A runner quickly took the lead and started hammering. Within 500 feet of starting he decided to mimic Superman. His toe caught a rock and he went flying. He jumped up looking chipper, said he was fine, and started sprinting again in the lead. 400 yards later his toe found another rock. He scampered up, this time not looking as spry. I, along with two other runners, passed him and took over the lead. I later found out he had dropped out. I tried to run controlled, upbeat, without letting the downhill control my pace. I made it down to the base with a  minor lead over 2nd and 3rd. Round 2 would have to be the same… maybe with just one or two surges thrown in for good measure. The 3 of us rode the lift up together chitchatting. Then once at the top the games began again. We slowly took off, getting used to running again after sitting on the chairlift for 16 minutes. I pushed the pace with a few short surges and slowly built up a 15 second lead by the base.

I rode the lift up again for round 3. Once again I tried to run consistently and throw in the few downhill surges. They effectively worked as I had an estimated 60 second lead at the base. I rode the lift up for the last time. I just had to run consistently and I would win. I got to the top and did just that: consistent running. I finished in 1st in 1:10 about 3 minutes ahead of 2nd place. Results are here:

The weekend went as good as I could have hoped for. I won 2 races and was 5th in the other. Special thanks to Karl Meltzer for an awesome race series weekend. Thank you to all the volunteers: your presence, cheering, and aid where amazing. Thank you Marge for a place to crash on your couch and regroup. Thank you to Hoka One One for your amazing shoes! I raced in the Huakas for both the Vertical Mile and the Speedgoat 50k, and the Mafate for the Quadbanger. Thanks to amazing shoes, hot showers, and a couch to sleep on I was able to race, feeling great every day!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kendall Mountain Run & Aspen Power of Four 50K

2 races, 2 days, over 15,000 feet gained and lost in about 44 miles. It was time for some serious racing: Kendall Mountain Run & Aspen Power of Four 50K

Kendall Mountain Run.

I’ve wanted to run this race for a long time. After running it, I’m not sure why I’ve never run it. An amazing course running from the town of Silverton at 9300 feet up 6 miles to Kendall Mountain at 13,000 feet. The run starts in town and quickly gets on a jeep road that takes you up to 12,700 feet. Then the last 300 feet of Kendall must be scrambled up.

My main competition was fellow Hoka teammate Sage Canaday and Flagstaff’s Andrew Benford.
Right away Sage used his road speed and led from the gun. I redlined it trying to balance the fast speed and not overdo it. Four minutes in we hit the unrelenting uphill. At last my type of terrain. Sage had the lead by about 40 yards, while a handful of us followed. Andrew and I sat in 3rd and 4th. We kept the tempo high but controlled. The jeep road got steeper and all slowed.  This was my chance to keep pushing it. I was in my element: steep uphill’s at altitude. By mile 2 I had moved into 2nd and could see Sage was no longer gaining; instead, I knew I could catch him.
Incrementally I slowly moved up trying to catch him. We gained altitude and by the time we were at 12,000 feet, Sage was just 25 yards in front of me. But Andrew had not given up; he was only 15 yards behind me. Finally we hit the last 300 foot capstone of Kendall Mountain. We left the jeep road and started our scramble. Now I felt at home. We scampered up and Sage tagged the summit. I was now only a few yards behind. I tagged the summit and started the retreat back to Silverton.
As we bombed down Sage showed his off his marathon speed and I could not catch him. We ran back into town setting a blistering pace. Sage finished in 1:38:53, while I finished in second in 1:41:23. A fantastic race, well worth running.

Aspen Power of Four 50K
By early afternoon I found myself on the road… again. I was driving over to Aspen for the Power of Four 50k. The race gains over 12,000 feet as it ascends all four Aspen Ski Mountains.

I camped near the start in the National Forest and was ready for round 2. The race starts straight up Aspen Mountain gaining over 3,500 feet in the first 3 miles. Oh boy! The race was underway. Although there was not a huge field the race was highly competitive. We ran and power hiked straight up the steep ski runs. About a ¼ mile from the top the rest of the field slowed down (due to the altitude?) I kept the pace consistent and soon found myself leading at the summit.

I descended down the backside and soon had moved to 5th place as the others bombed down. Then the 2nd climb began. Once again I ran up and had moved into 2nd place by the summit. And once again was passed going downhill. The race was 60% over, we had 2 more climbs neither quite as hard as the first 2. I had been eating well but could tell the race the day before was slowing me up. I was now in 3rd and Josh Arthur was closing in behind me. I power hiked up the 3rd climb and once again started my decent. Josh soon passed me. He had a great race going on to finish in 2nd. I still felt strong, just depleted from the long 2 days of racing.

I then ended up following an arrow and accidentally took a wrong turn. I quickly realized my mistake and backtracked losing about 4-5 minutes in the process. I started the 4th and last climb of the day. I was now in 7th place and was cramping from the steep terrain. It was only 6 miles to the finish; I had to stay consistent. I kept going what seemed to be a terribly slow jaunt, getting passed by 2 more individuals. I finished in 9th place in 5:49:30.

A solid 2 day effort.