Monday, June 20, 2016

Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon

Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon race day. It is always nice getting to wake up at your own house, roll out of bed, and race in your backyard. I leisurely got up, debated which shoes to wear. I decided to go with the Hoka Speedgoats for their knobby grip and stability yet still lightweight. Eventually, I found my way to the start line. I love running this race. Plenty of great views, great people at both the aid stations and the general crowd, and of course there is the incredible competition. Mike Aish was to be my main competition. I won the marathon in 2014 and Mike was 2nd. Last year we switched positions with Mike taking top honors. 2016 would prove to be another solid race.

Picture by Leadville Race Series: At the start.

Josh Colley stood there in the middle of the street with his shotgun held high. He fired the blank, which is still pretty darn loud, and we were off. Both the Heavy Half (HH) and the Marathon runners start together. Both Mike and I ignored their pace; we were more concerned with each other. 3 HH runners shot out in the lead. Finally at mile 1 Mike and I left the road and no longer had to worry about the HH runners we were by ourselves.

Both of us had the same goal. Race up-tempo, pushing it hard and being sure to stay close (or ahead) of our competitor. Just over a mile in we ran up Iron Hill. Here I unexpectantly gained an edge on Mike.  It was not much only 10 yards… was I going too fast, or was he sitting and waiting, or was I just feeling great… whatever it was I spent no time meditating on it instead I focused on the next climb: California Gulch to Breece Hill. I ran up the rough “Burro Road”, as locals call it, a few weeks ago it still had 3-4 feet of snow up at the top.  However today the fluffy white stuff was missing.
Mike and I pushed on up the ever steepening and rocky road. Mike sat, just 2 or 3 yards right behind me. Finally half way up the road Mike slowed and power hiked the steepest and rockiest sections to conserve his energy, meanwhile I kept running. I topped out near the base of Ball Mountain and enjoyed some mountain views as a dropped into the Breece Hill aid station. By this time I had an 80 yard lead over Mike. I still had half a water bottle and decided to forgo the aid.

From here the trail, descends down a steep and rocky double track jeep road. I ran hard trying to maintain while also just trying to not catch a toe on some protruding rock. After a mile of the rough road finally I made it down to Adelaide Park. Here I took some salt tabs as the sun was heating up the day. Through the process I dropped my Honey Stinger Chews. Oh no I need those! I quickly stopped picked up the package and was off again. I only lost 2 seconds, but in a race it feels like an eternity. I quickly popped another 2 or 3 Chews in my mouth. They were amazing.

On a 90 degree corner in the center of Adelaide Park I could see Mike still about 80 yards back and hammering. From here I ran up the road (Lincoln Gulch) to the upper Stumptown aid station. Half way up the road Mike caught me. We were in a dead on race, tied again. At the aid station I dumped water on my head but ran through with no other bestowed luxuries. Mike stopped for a few seconds but soon caught me again. We ran through Stumptown, County Roads 38, and CR 3C, then part of CR 3 to the giant aid station at the base of the climb up Mosquito.  We were both tempoing hoping and trying to drop the other. Neither of us budged. At this point we had merged with the HH runners and were in ever increasing traffic. At the aid I stopped for only a few seconds, dumped more water on my head, and got more liquid in my hand-held, before I was off. Mike had a similar transition and so we were running together again.

Picture by Leadville Race Series: Lincoln Gulch, Near Stump Town Aid Station

I knew I had to start racing going up Mosquito. The road gets sloppy with rocks, rivulets of water, and racers. I put my head down and started racing. Here I was focused. Of course I felt sluggish but who doesn’t? I passed the upper Mosquito Aid and kept pushing determined to run almost anything. Twice I caught myself power hiking over a particular steep section. Each time I willed myself back to running. I had no idea where Mike was, I was only focused on going up. Finally, I topped out at the top of the Mosquito Pass in 1:59:40. I took the need 1.43 seconds to rejoice in breaking 2 hours and then started the decent. Once again I need to stay focused flying downhill at 6 min pace trying to dodge both people going in both directions, and rocks is not the easiest. Good thing… if it was it would be boring. I saw Mike on the way down… I had about a 3-4 minute total lead on him.

Back at the aid at the base of Mosquito I got more liquids both for drinking and pouring on my head, and then I was out. I finished off my Honey Stinger Chews ran through Stumptown and over to Adelaide Park. From here, the hardest part of the race (in my opinion) the climb back up to Breece Hill, lays waiting to catch anyone who dares venture up the road. Why is it so hard? Other than the steepness, and rocks you have to remember runners are at 20 miles, with direct sun, dehydrated, and delusional, and without bystanders. I pushed it up the climb trying to stay focused. The Breece Hill Aid beckons like a lighthouse for lost souls. As happy as I was to arrive I wasted no time, replenished, and quickly left. At this point I realized I was on track for a fast time and started pushing the pace. I cruised downhill and to the finish line in 3:33:39. Mike came in a solid 2nd in 3:40.


Picture by Leadville Race Series: Enjoying a win!  

Wow! It was an awesome race. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mount Evans Ascent

The Mount Evans Ascent: Now here was a race I’ve wanted to run for a while, but for some reason never got into it. Don’t know why not. It is one of the few races to run up to and over 14,000 feet. The others being the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon and the Hardrock 100. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out if there are any others but those are the only races I could think of. In the US that is.

The race starts at about 10,500 feet and runs 14.6 miles on the paved road all the way up to the parking lot at 14,130 feet just below the summit. I slept near the start in my trusty 4Runner.  I had no worries of parking or trying to get to the race in time. I woke up leisurely at about 6:00, rolled out of bed and got my bib. I was feeling ready… and hopefully fast. After a short warm up I toed the line and we were off. I wanted an honest race and took out the race at a good clip, but one I thought was doable and controlled. The first mile was a 6:20 followed by a 7:00 flat mile. I held the lead and knew I was gaining over most of the field but speedster Matt Daniels was on my heels. Near mile 3 he made his move around me. He dropped the hammer, which I managed to jump over but could not reciprocate. He was gaining on me but I knew to wait and be patient, hoping my patience was the right move.

Mile 6 total was about 42:50. It was hard to tell, but I figured Matt’s advantage over me was slowly decreasing. We were now at 12,000 + feet and I was starting to feel in my groove.  I picked up the pace determined to regain the 75 yard lead he had. I would run him down. I took incremental measurements to be sure I was gaining on him. At first they were minor, almost imperceptible, but soon it was obvious: I was making up ground.

Mile 7 came and I was at about 50 minutes. Matt was close now… only 20 yards in front. I found my own tool bag with hammers and started dropping them. It was time to race! Within the next minute I caught Matt who was going through a low point. I pushed on. The next mile near 13,000 feet at the lake is mostly flat, even downhill. I knew my lead was growing but I was also not comfortable with the lead. I wanted an honest race. I hit mile 10 in almost exactly 70 minutes. About 1 minute in front of Matt. Pretty good, but I needed to keep racing.

I felt the last 4 miles and 1000 feet… oh so this is what altitude feels like. It felt great… in a weird-sort-of- painful, but full-of-hard-work sort of way. I finished and won in 1:46:28, about 1 minute up on Matt. I finished and other than the pounding headache felt great. I did not feel too beat up from the road but knew getting back down to 12,000 feet or lower certainly help with the elephant that was squeezing my head. I jumped in a car with Matt, Phil (4th place), and Phil’s fiancĂ© and we descended enough to make the elephant leave. Results are here: http://racingunderground.racetecresults.com/results.aspx?CId=16436&RId=137

Overall a great race. I tried out the new Hoka Tracer. It is by far the lightest shoe I’ve worn in years. It provides a snug fit yet does not compromise on comfort or cushion. This road shoe was perfect for the race, or other road, track, even smooth trail race. The Tracer is designed with minimal tread to maximize running on road or smooth surface terrain. I would highly recommend this shoe for workouts, races, and 2 hour runs or less. It delivered. Next up is the Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon. I’ll be wearing the SpeedGoats there. They have a little more tread and support for the rocky uneven conditions there. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gunnison Sage Burner 25K

The 9th running of the Sage Burner 25/50k was over the weekend. I was not sure if I was going to make it. My wife Lynnette, was due any day to give birth and sure enough Wednesday morning 4 days prior to the race she gave birth to our 2nd daughter Annalise. We had just enough time to drive back to Leadville and settle in for a day prior to me leaving and driving over to Gunnison. I slept at the start: cozy, comfy, and far too short; the day arrived quickly. I got out of bed slowly waking up.

Before I knew it, it was time to race. I quickly took the lead with Josh Eberly and a handful of other runners. I knew Josh would be the greatest threat today. I wanted to stay close and try and wear him down. I kept an up-tempo pace but Josh was rearing to go and took the lead about 2-3 miles in. I hung on to his coattails trying not to be dropped but it was no use. By mile 6… I was dropped. Josh kept hammering. I sat back running hard. In the process, 3rd place, or anyone else, was nowhere to be seen.  I kept trying to get closer to Josh but pretty soon he too had disappeared.


I ran on pushing the pace and trying to finish in a good time. I knew I’d be close to the 2 hour mark so I hammered the last 2 miles, never seeing Josh in the process. I ended up finishing in 2:00:15. This was 7 seconds faster than last year. I’m quite pleased with the result. The course is a little harder on even years. The counter-clockwise direction has a little more climbing later in the race and you have to run an extra 200 yards. 

Solid day! Next up Mt Evans Ascent. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Collegiate Peaks Marathon & Black Canyon Ascent

The last 2 weeks have been fun: A trail marathon in Buena Vista followed up by a road 10k into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Collegiate Peaks Marathon
This race has been on my to-do list for the last 5 or 6 years but I’ve never seemed to be able to make it happen. This year was different. I drove over early ready for a warm perfect spring day of running on… wait for it… DIRT! I’ve not yet done any substantial running on dirt as the trails up here in Leadville are mostly still covered in snow. The race started and I leisurely took the front as the race funneled down to a single track. The racing had not yet began and we ran along warming up into the race. ¼ mile in, I was settling in when I saw a spider web. At least I thought it was a spider web, but it looked different. It floated across the trail waist high. I slowed up and then noticed it was not a spider web, it was fishing line. I instantly tried to stop yet my momentum carried me into the tautly tied heavy duty fishing line in the middle of the trail. 2nd and 3rd place runners ran into the back of me yet even with this much force the line still did not break.
We were all mad. Who sets a trap for runners running on a trail? We quickly warned the pursuing runners lifted up the line and took off. I later found out that one of these runners stopped long enough to take down the line entirely. Thank you!
Well we were all awake now. Our front pack was small. We hammered off a quick 2 flat miles and pretty soon it was just Joseph Demoor and myself. Earlier in the year, Joseph had given me a ride from my hotel to the start of the Red Hot 25k. Thanks again Joseph. A few miles into the race the course went onto some rolling ATV trail and dirt road. I kept an up-tempo pace and felt like I was finally pulling away.
But alas, Joseph is a beast and he kept charging. I made it up the first major sustained climb and had about a 15 second lead. I ran downhill through sandy glade until I reached the base of the 2nd climb. Still Joseph pursued unrelentingly. Until at the top of the 2nd climb, at mile 18 or so, he caught up. The trail took an abrupt single-track decent, I put the afterburners on. The single track put me back in my environment. I cruised downhill feeling decent and smooth. I rolled along for the next 3 miles to the old Colorado Midland Railroad bed. At this point I had built up over a minute lead. I cruised along winning the race with about a 2 minute lead over Joseph, who had kept up a hot pursuit.
For the race I wore the Hoka Speedgoats. What an awesome pair of shoes. Amazing traction, ventilation, and support.

Black Canyon Ascent 10K
The race was to start in 40 minutes. This meant I need a warm up. The notion seemed a little weird. I had not ran a warm up for a race in a few years, outside of jogging around for 5 minutes and maybe doing some striders prior to the race. This race was different though, it was a short road 10k… with about 1700 feet of elevation to be gained during the race. The race had a great field: Roadster and US Mountain Runner Josh Eberly, last year’s winner and US Mountain Runner Peter Maskimow, and perennial US Mountain Runner hardcore runner Simon Gutierrez. Promptly at 8 we were underway for the fast grind on the pavement up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We took it fast yet controlled and by ¼ mile in we had fallen into our respective positions. Josh was leading and looking dominant, on a mission. Peter followed looking strong, I tailed Peter trying to hold on. The gap between Peter and I slowly widened while Josh continuously grew his lead to over a quarter mile, easily winning. Peter withstood my last mile attempt to catch him. I was 3rd, 9 seconds back behind Peter, in 43:30.

This race I wore the Bondi, great shoe and perfect for a road marathon but for a shorter race like this, I think I would have preferred the new light-weight Hoka Tracer. 

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.