Thursday, September 22, 2016

Run Rabbit Run 50

Steamboat Springs: What better place to go run 50 miles in the back country? The Run Rabbit Run 50 started leisurely with no Rabbits taking the lead. Well only a Timmy Rabbit. I took the lead but kept the pace extremely slow and controlled. By mile 2 all runners were nowhere to be seen. My goal was to run the first half of the race based solely on feel. Trying to go way too slow was the game. I felt fantastic. Half way up Mount Werner I ate a Honey Stiner Waffle to supplement my breakfast. At long last I made it to the Mount Werner aid station in 1:07:30 almost identical to a year ago. Finally, I could start rolling along the high forested alpine terrain. I still held back not wanting to push the pace just yet.
I gobbled down a few Honey Stinger Chews and took off with a package of Grapefruit flavored chews. For the next many miles I methodically ate 1 to 2 chews every 20 minutes. I felt fluid and smooth as I glided over the rolling landscape focusing on enjoying hidden lakes, open glades, the vast views, and mostly trying to ignore the race. I ate and ran on. In a 50 mile race one has to stay focus yet also not expend too much energy early on. It is a fine razor edge balancing act. I kept rolling. Every aid station had a different flavor of Honey Stinger Chews: Orange, Pomegranate Passion Fruit, Cherry Blossom, Fruit Smoothie, and others.

Finally I reached the half way mark in 3:47 which was a solid 10 minute lead from last year. I left Rabbit Ears Peak and raced back down the trail I had arduously come up. I saw 2nd and 3rd place. I had about a 10 minute lead on them. I pushed on staying consistent with the goal of staying consistent and continued running. Last year I had not eaten enough and severely bonked in the second half. This year I was going to eat more and keep my energy up. I ran through the mile 28 aid station fueling up getting liquids, salty chips and more Stinger Chews.

I ran on even racing a pack of 4 mountain bikers that were out enjoying the day. I felt good but still did not push the pace. I had to maintain. I power hiked the steepest uphill sections, but overall kept a strong cadence and mushed on. I did feel solid, but one always wonders how close 2nd and 3rd place where.

Finally I bombed down Mount Werner to the finish line winning by over an hour in 7:26:59. I felt solid and had ran 16 minutes faster than last year. My energy stayed consistent with the constant supply of Honey Stinger Chews and my stomach felt great all day. After the race I realized I was 18 minutes away from the course record. Why had I not gone for it? Sometimes you have to run the time first to realize you can run it. This was one of my best 50 mile races, next time I’m running faster!


Imogene Pass Run: 4th Victory!

I pulled into Ouray. It was about 10:00 pm. Perfect. Bedtime. I crawled into my sleeping bag in the back of my car and was soon sawing logs. The morning came with standard bib check in and reading for the Imogene Pass Run. I knew I was ready to race, but still unsure just how ready? How fit?

Race morning question: There I was debating, which pair of shoes to ware? I decided to go with the medium cushion, high traction Hoka Challenger ATR. The shoe is light and with a relative low base and high traction. It would end up being perfect.

15 seconds to race start. Then some muffled noise interrupted the verbose crowd. It was the starting gun. It seemed a little off; somehow distant and muffled. Consequently, there was mass hesitation as we all wondered, “Should we start, was that the starting gun.” Slowly we all decided to go and we were off. I looked over at Jordan Jones (4th in 2015) and said, “Was that the starting gun?” He confirmed that the starting gun was a bit weird.

Jordan, Chris Gomez, and I took the lead with Jordan pushing the pace. I soon settled in watching Jordan and Chris push each other. I sat back and maintained a constant tempo. By mile 2 Chris had fallen back to 3rd place. He was looking strong yet running conservatively. He would be a force to reckon with later in the race. Jordan continued to push the pace. He was now 20-30 seconds up on me. I continued a solid tempo which I knew I could maintain. I quickly checked off miles 3-6 and then caught Jordan. He was pushing it but the early speed was taking its toll. I took the lead and continued at my pace.

I figured I was on pace for 2:16 to 2:20. It felt sluggish, but then again I was now over 11,000 feet. At a bend in the road I could see my lead was now substantially growing. I just had to maintain, but I kept pushing. Often I underestimated my lead and thereby pushing further… but oh well. I topped out on top of Imogene Pass at mile 10 and 13,114 above sea level in about 1:38. I had timed my lead and at this point estimated it to be between 2 minutes to 2.5 minutes.

I rushed down the Telluride side of the pass, trying to run a solid yet controlled pace. At this point I knew I would win, yet I still did not want to slack off. I ran to the finish in 2:15:44 my second fastest time on the course and my 4th victory at the Imogene Pass Run. 

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:

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.