Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Imogene Pass Run

This has to be one of my favorite runs in the state. How can it not be… it is run in the beautiful San Juan Mountains starting in downtown Ouray and running on old mining roads, modern jeep roads up and over Imogene pass and then down into Telluride.  At roughly 17 miles the run is long enough to need some major endurance and short enough that you can still enjoy the day when finished. You need both good uphill running coupled with solid downhill skills. This run offers the full package.

I drove over the night before and camped out in Ridgway, asleep within minutes. The next morning we line up and started. I went out with the main pack thinking we were running a tad fast. This would cost us all about 5 minutes later in the race. In addition we missed a turn and ran an extra 50 yards. Oh well, it cost us all. I settled in and settled back allowing the others to push the pace and soon found myself in 5th place with a cohort pushing the pace from behind. As we gained in altitude and miles I found my competitors slowing which slowly I caught one by one until I was in second with 1st place roughly 2 minutes in front. 

I ran hard, which ultimately was a snail pace as I crested the 13,114 foot Imogene pass in 1:46:25 with 3rd place just a minute behind. The views are some of the best in the state however I charged downhill trying to enjoy them while really focusing on difficult footing and trying to hold off 3rd. Kalib Wikinson from Flagstaff charged down after me and had the best downhill race of the day pulling off a second place to Daniel Nally. Meanwhile I ran down and settle for a solid 3rd place. I was quite pleased with this as I ran a decent and consistent race.

Once again I ran in the Hoka Stinson Lite which gave me solid footing coupled with great cushioning.

Race #2:  After the race I decided to race the busses back to Ouray. To do this I would engage in one of my favorite pastimes: Hitch hiking. Hitching went nearly flawlessly as I was picked up by 4 different parties only 1 of which had run the race. For each ride I had to wait no more than 4 minutes. Hitching is rarely this smooth.

Next up Javalina Jundred.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Leadville 100

An update on the Leadville 100 is needed so I thought I’d sit down and write about the Race Across the Sky. The night before the race I lay in bed counting off the minutes until I fell asleep. I tossed and turned but finally fell asleep for at least a semi-restful half night of sleep. I woke, ate some quiche, and left to race. The bank thermometer read 47 degrees at the start of the race. The day and the race would be perfect. The race started smooth enough and I found myself chatting with other runners. Our lead pack was unorganized as runners yo-yoed back and forth from the dark abyss facing us to the caterpillar of headlights meandering on the trail behind. I settled into a comfortable pace aiming to hit an 8 hour half. Once we got to Turquoise Lake, the lead pack slowed as the terrain footing was a tad trickier with numerous roots and rocks. Our lead pack consisted of Rob Krar, Michael Aish, Ian Sharman, Zeke Tiernan, and myself. No one wanted to push the pace… yet… so we chatted and commented how we were at the best place during a 100 mile race. We all felt good and we were all leading the race. This would soon end.

We ran through Mayqueen aid and regrouped going up the Colorado Trail to Hagerman Pass Road. In the early morning as we hit the Hagerman Pass Road the group disintegrated. It was if the group woke up and it was time to race. Krar and Aish took off with Tiernan following close, I was 4th and quickly losing ground which was fine with me. I had already decided not to race until mile 75… or so. Ian had stopped for a quick break and was somewhere right behind us. I race on. Tiernan dropped back once and we talked before he took off again down Sugarloaf. This would be my last company until Winfield. I ran on eating every 20-30 minutes and downing a bottle every 60-80 minutes. Nutrition was perfect.

I soon got to Outward Bound (Mile 24ish). I could still see Tiernan 1 minute up on me, but Aish and Krar were nowhere in sight. At Outward Bound there was a course change that went through a field rather than on the paved road. I found the change to be great. It was nice to be off of the busy paved road and instead on soft dirt and grass smelling the morning dew instead of exhaust. There were a few gopher holes to be avoided but the course change was great! The next 16 miles I jogged and enjoyed the views. I felt great, I ate great, I drank great. Sharman caught up near 2 mile prior to Twin Lakes and passed. I now sat in 5th place… the race unfolded and was underway.

I started up Hope Pass. A mile before the Hopeful Aid Station I ran out of water… not to worry I’d be there in 20 minutes. I got to the Hopeful Aid Station refueled and soon left. Above me I could see Tiernan and Sharman about 3 and 5 minutes ahead. Perfect. “I’m right where I want to be.” I soon crested Hope Pass and ran slowly downhill. Once again I ran out of water and within 5 minutes refueled at a natural spring coming out of the mountain side.

Winfield at last. The time was about 8 hours and 15 minutes into the race. I was still 5th place. Perfect! I started up Hope with Marco Peinado trying to eat a some ‘real’ food: solid burrito. However I could eat very little. I tried to eat some gels and then some other snacks however my stomach rejected everything. Then the downhill pounding ensued and I was unable to drink water. As I slowly jogged downhill I mentally sought a solution. The answer was get to Twin Lakes 60, refuel, and then race… hopefully hit the proverbial mental and stomach restart button.

At Twin I stopped and slowly refueled, watching runner after runner run by. “Patience.” I told myself. Finally after 20+ minutes of resting and refueling I left with Hope behind, hope ahead, and hopes held high. I walked up the hill from Twin with pacer and fellow Leadville teacher Jeff Spencer. I started running and eating however my stomach issues soon returned and I found myself keeled over at the side of the trail viewing the pine needles on my knees first hand. Unfortunately this tale was on repeat for the next 2 hours. Finally Jeff found the right combination of nutrition and water. I slowly cantered into Outward Bound (76) at sunset. I was in 19th place and finally feeling better. I picked up my next pacer Mark Steinbeck and was off. He kept me fueled with Coke and other snacks.

At the top of Sugarloaf we ran through Space Camp. Space Camp was an incredible makeshift aid station set up and run by local Leadville residents. I had heard about preparations for the camp however the energy and participation at the aid station was a huge surprise.  A special thanks to Leadville’s Shack Club and everyone who participated in Space Camp. With moral high we continued through the now thick dark shroud of waning summer night. We soon arrived at Mayqueen 87.

I sat in the warm tent for 5 minutes gobbling candied bacon. I was now hungry and ready to eat. The tent was warm and comfortable but as always, you can’t get too comfortable. My last pacer was Kristin Louderback who jumped in and kept me going with encouraging words and stories for the last few miles. At last I finished. 21 hours 58 minutes and 26th place.

Overall the race… was 100 miles. I had highs and lows, but I got through them. I raced in the incredible Hoka Stinson Lite. I can’t say enough about this shoe. I had incredible cushioning while still maintaining a sturdy and light base. I finished the race with the least damage to my feet I’ve ever had after a 100 mile race.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Leadville Silver Rush 50

Last week I ran the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile race. I knew going into the race that I had to run a smart non-taxing, or at least not too taxing, race. I wanted to treat the race as a longer training day. That being said I knew I would be a contender. I planned on seeing where the chips fell. The race started at the base of Dutch Henry Hill on the south side of Leadville at CMC. The gun went off and I started walking. Granted it was straight uphill for first 80 yards but it felt weird to walk so soon in a race. Others raced up the hill as there were 2 entries into the Leadville 100 to be earned by being first male or female up the hill. Without the pressure I walked up and started jogging, quickly passing out of breath individuals who had tried unsuccessfully in their bid to be first up the hill. I understand their goal and applaud them for it, I was just happy to be starting a nice 50 mile training run.

By mile 3 I had moved comfortably into 2nd place with 1st only 25 yards ahead. We ran along through the trees on jeep roads slowly gaining elevation as we ran up Iowa Gulch.  At mile 7 I caught up to Ethan Linck. We continued up Iowa gulch taking in the breathtaking beauty. What a climb! The trail continued up to nearly 12,000 feet before we gained the Iowa Gulch road and started our decent. The Iowa Gulch road ends at the base of 14er Mount Sherman. Ethan and ran comfortably down the road perhaps pushing the pace a little but I can usually use some downhill pounding. We continued rolling in a controlled manner up to Ball Mountain and around it. Both of us felt comfortable and neither of us tried to drop the other. We ran into the Stump Town aid station, the half way mark. Our time was 3:25. Not bad for a leisurely stroll of a training run.
We turned around ready to repeat our steps. We had about a 20 minute over third place and we both seemed confident yet patient of our running ability. That being said, I started to notice confidence rise in Ethan. It was his day and he was ready for a race. We continued to run as I started to look for crack in Ethan’s demeanor. I was content not to push the pace and just keep a steady pace. Meanwhile I stayed patient and hoped eventually to wear down my opponent. Alas, it was to be the other way around.
We sent back up Iowa Gulch matching each other step for step. At the top we turned back onto the rocky jeep trail and stared our fast pace decent. Within a few minutes I started to cramp up. Ethan must have seen my obvious straining because he instantly took off. We came to the last aid station with Ethan leading by a measly 10 seconds. He blew through the aid station and I stopped for some much needed ice, liquid, and substance. I was there for no more than a 1 minute before I took off again.
I figured I was only a minute back however I never saw Ethan again. He was running scarred and therefore quite fast. I followed the course feeling decent and half expecting Ethan to show up around the next bend. I kept up my pace and finished 2nd in a respectable 7:13:08. Results can be found here: http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-6402?lc=en
I was pleased with my run. It was a solid training day that boosted confidence and made me think of how short a 50 mile race really is. A mentally tough place to be, and right where I want to be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

48 hours in New England

Two weeks ago at the last minute I decided to go race the US Mountain Champs at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. I found a decent ticket, made reservations, and schemed. As with any trip I decided to make the most of it and figured I’d go climb Mt Mansfield, 4,395 feet, in Vermont after the race. I flew into Boston at 8:00 am, Saturday morning. The race was scheduled to start the following morning.

Saturday: I hopped on the subway and took it out to the east of town. I had a rental car reservation in which I had to pick it up east of Boston… not at Logan Airport. A little weird but it was a whole lot less expensive. I did not know where the rental was so all I had to do was go off of my directional instincts. When doing so I know that I am either right or wrong. It is kind of like playing the age old game in which you hide something  and have someone tell you if you are hot or cold. I had a ball park idea of where the rental station was and at least I knew a street number. I got off the subway where I hoped the rental station would be asked a cop for directions and he directed me 2 blocks to the station… Perfect!

I drove north to Lincoln, New Hampshire and Loon Mountain where I did a quick shake out run and then drove over the Kancamagus Highway ( http://www.kancamagushighway.com/  ) to where I stayed with Rich and Sharon near Conway, New Hampshire. Thank you Rich and Sharon! I had a great time!

Sunday: Race day. Woke, ate, drove, got packet, warmed up, ready, started. The race went out fast! I held back so as not to go too hard too soon. Within ½ mile of the start I found myself in 30th place… wow I felt a little slow. Finally 1 mile in I felt solid and passed several people. The race was on. There were 10 people all within 20 seconds in front of me.  This was a stacked National Championship Race! I ran over the challenging terrain continuing to push myself. Overall the race runs up Loon mountain including several sections of steep ski runs that you run straight up… well you TRY to run straight up. One mile prior to the finish is the false summit upon which you then drop 200 vertical feet and then ascend up a 40 degree black diamond ski run for 600 feet called Upper Walking Boss (befitting name) where you top out and finish the race.  I finished in just over 59 minutes. A solid effort but only enough to give me 28th place.

Sunday afternoon: I drove over to Mt. Mansfield in Vermont (my 40th state) and hiked up to the top where I was greeted with fantastic views of the Green Mountains to the south, the Whites to the east, and the Adirondacks to the west with Lake Champlain nestled at their eastern terminus. Instantly I thought I should drive over to them and hike up some of the Adirondacks… but alas time was not on my side. I drove back to Boston, a 4 hour drive, instead.

Next up Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile run…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Leadville Marathon 2014

The day of the Leadville Marathon had finally arrived. I felt like I was not fully ready, but I knew I would race well. Training over the last month had finally started to click and I felt like I was finally seeing the training dividends pay off. Earlier in the week I had been out for a solid near 4 hour run with Duncan Callahan and Marco Peinado. I often will gage my shape by my walking ability after a long run. If I can still walk normally and go out for a normal 1-2 hour run the next day then I know I’m starting to get into ultra shape. After the training run I felt great. I knew I could be top 3 in the Leadville Marathon. The question was: Who else would race and how I would feel?

Overall, a great race. I ran in the Hoka Mafate which provided ample cushioning for the cantaloupe boulders I had to avoid on the pass. Like clockwork the race got underway. The gun went off and I stepped across the starting line. Unlike clockwork I felt a twinge in my gluteus. Had I pulled something 1 inch into a race? Luckily no, but it would take the better part of 3 days for the knot to subside. With the glute knot not factoring into the race I was able to start rolling. I reminded myself the race is not won in the first 100 yards. By ¼ mile into the race I had slowly moved into 2nd place. Granted 1st was Megan Deakins the eventual winner of the Heavy Half Marathon. When I write I moved into 2nd I felt that I actually just did not slow down as others had.

My goal was to maintain the pace. By 2 miles in I had a hefty lead, it seems living at altitude helps these thin air races. I did not want to slack off and did not, but my mind kept telling me that I was jogging along. Around mile 4 I finally saw a competitor behind me. I had rounded a switchback and could see Mike Aish only a few seconds behind me and coming up strong. Had I been running slow? I continued my blistering pace and as we climbed I maintained a strong lead. At this point I knew I would place in the top 2 no one else was near.

I told myself to keep up the tempo regardless of all. I had to maintain. By the time we started up Mosquito Pass I had a marginal 15 second lead. I knew I had to run all the way up the pass. This was an uncompromising goal. I had to run it all. As I “ran” up the pass I passed dozens of Heavy Half Marathoners. We had caught up to them at last. They had taken a more direct approach as the marathoners had run more of a serpentine half loop to the pass. I ran and although it was over 12,000 feet, I felt solid. I topped out on the pass, ran around the check in, yelled out my number to an official and turned to repeat my steps down. I was focused. Several people including Mike commented after the race about my race intensity. I was intense and focused.

From this point I ran all the way down Mesquite and over to Adelaide Park. Then I had to take the Jeep road back up to Ball Mountain. On the way up I had to walk about 100 yards. Not because I felt bad, but simply because it was steep and I could walk as fast as I could run. Of course my mind told me I was going slow and that someone would catch me at any moment. Eventually I topped out again on the flanks of Ball Mountain and took off knowing I only had a few miles left to reach the finish.

Unsure of my lead I hammered down hill and used every opportunity to push the pace. I would not relinquish such a lead this late into the race. I hammered down averaging 5:30 miles or faster and crossed the finish line in 3:45:45. Results can be found here: http://www.leadvilleraceseries.com/results/trailmarathonheavyhalfrunresults/ The course was modified to avoid some snow on Ball Mountain consequentially there was a good deal of additional elevation be gained. Next year I’ll be shooting for the course record.

Read below for a short synopsis of the last two months.

April: After racing in Salida in March my season had at last begun. I kept training hard and even had a 140+ mile week mostly in Moab during Spring Break. I felt strong, albeit in need of some more speed. In mid April I raced the Dessert Rats 52 mile race in Fruita. I went out and ran consistent finding myself tied in 4th place with Duncan Callahan. It had been raining hard but was letting up and I felt like I was about have a great race. Unfortunately all the rain turned the clay prone tails to sticky clumpy mud that makes you rethink why you run. Of course the answer comes that I love this kind environment… just not that day. The mud slowed me down more than I would like. At times it was faster and more efficient to walk than to attempt to run only to slip and fall. I pushed on and ended up 5th in just over 9 hours; what a slug fest!

After fruita I went out to Cincinnati for their annual Flying Pig Marathon. It was not my day. A month prior I ran a PR for a marathon on a treadmill in 2:52 (not recommended). I figured I should be able to run about a 2:42 on the course. I felt sluggish from the first mile and only managed a 2:57. Oh well, it was a fun trip at least.

After the Flying Pig I was able train harder and focus on my bread and butter races: The Leadville Race Series.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Salida Run Through Time Marathon

Spring in in the air.
Outside it is beautiful and fair.

Snow is still on the ground here.
I will not worry or fear.

I will run hard and ever fast.
To try and be the opposite of last.

Yesterday I went down to Salida for their annual Run Through Time Marathon http://www.salidarec.com/ccrc/Run-Through-Time-Marathon-2014.htm . It was my 7th time running event. All week I had several people prodding me on for the race and asking how I’d do. I answer truthfully: I was unsure but was hoping for a sub 3:20 time. Little did I know I would miss this goal by 7 seconds.  During the last few weeks I had talked at length with training partner Marco about his goals for the race. We both knew he was fit and I was predicting a 3:18-3:21 finish for him. The race started promptly at 8:00 am. The temperature hovered just above freezing. The top group went out controlled just trying to warm their muscles up. While warming up we chit chatted. There were 4 previous winners in the race Josh Arthur, Nick Clark, Ryan Burch, and myself.
There seemed to be little pecking for position… we were letting it sort out on its own. By the time we got 2 miles in, heading up S Mountain, the positions in the race were falling into place. Nick led by 15 yards, I took it a little easy behind him, Josh was waiting to pounce right behind me.



Around mile 4 Josh passed me caught up to Nick and their race was off. I knew I had to run my own race. My speed was lacking as I’ve run, well actually jogged, on way too much ice this winter. It is only in the last 2 weeks that I’ve started incorporating speed back into my workouts. I stayed back running a controlled pace. Marco caught up to me in fourth at the aid station (near mile 8). I was feeling ok, not perfect but decided to start cranking up the long hill. Soon I realized that I had inadvertently dropped Marco. Periodically I could still see Nick and Josh running neck and neck about ¼ of a mile ahead. I knew that today my race was for 3rd. I kept rolling and was able to maintain a 30-40 second lead over Marco.

Overall, I felt decent but was running at a near tipping point threshold. It was a gamble… how long could I maintain the pace. Mile after mile clicked by 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, all the way to the mile 21 hill. I still felt decent and ran up at a slow controlled pace which I was convinced other runners could not exceed. At last I topped the hill with about 5 miles to go and it hit me… I had reached the tipping point. I started cramping and felt like I was near to passing out. I ran down the hill and onto the serpentine single track. I slowed my pace and drank some electrolyte mixture to try and regain my composure. Slowly over the next mile I started feeling a little better… not much better but enough that I could at least maintain my pace. At a long switch back I suddenly heard Marco call out to me. He was about 30 seconds back and running hard.

I maintained my pace ever trying to increase it. Yet, like in a nightmare, I felt like I only got slower. I got to the last aid station with 3 miles to go, all downhill. I still had enough liquid and felt like I could make it the last 3 miles. I rushed through the aid station and ran downhill. The downhill has many tight switchbacks on which I would look up and see Marco ever decreasing the gap between us. I poured on the coal running at my threshold as if on the edge of a knife. I was close to falling off. 400 yards left and I gave it my all. I ran and crossed the finish line taking 3rd by only 21 seconds. My final time was 3:20:07 Marco came through and I congratulated him. It was a great race for 3rd.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my run. My endurance was decent, while my speed could use some work. I’ll continue to improve and I’ll be ready for my 50+ mile race at Dessert RATs http://www.geminiadventures.com/running-events-2/festival/

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Future is Now: Running in Hoka One One

Well I've been busy in Leadville. Teaching is going well and so is running. It has been a snowy winter here. That is to be expected as I’m living at 10,000 feet.  In early February I ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race near Houston. For an early year race I was quite pleased with it. I ran 19:40. Can’t complain. This last week I signed with Hoka One One. They make some amazing shoes with maximum cushion and support. Personally, I need some support and I know my feet thank me into any long run.