Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Running Recap

Well, this year in running was a pretty big one for me.  While I didn't get the total miles in that I would have liked, I still had a lot of good races and good times.
The first thing that happened was a job change.  I left my Engineering position at ATK in January for a position as the Compliance Manager of Smith Optics.  So I went from 25 years in the defense and aerospace indutry to a job in the consumer sporting goods industry.  Quite a change, but so far I like it.  Much more relaxed (I wear shorts to work in the summer) plus there's some perks that you don't get when you work in defense.  I didn't have to move, my commute is the same distance, the money is about the same.  What's not to like.
2011 started off with an entry into the big dog of 100 milers, Western States.  I got picked in the lottery on my second try.  There are people that try for five years or more and don't get in.  With my entry into Western States, I figured that this might be my only opportunity to try for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.  I immediately signed up for the Leadville and Vermont 100's and threw my hat into the ring for the Wasatch 100 lottery.
Long story short, I managed to finish the four races, and actually feel pretty good.  Wasatch left me a little tired, but during none of the races was I ever at any point where I thought I would need to dnf.  By the time Leadville rolled around, I was getting a little on edge hoping I wouldn't get injured either during a race or during the time in between. 
What else did I do this year besides the slam?  Well, the year started off with the Moab Red Hot 55K.  I've never run this race, but had heard great things.  The race sells out in a matter of days, but I managed to score a spot on the starting line.  It was a tough race, 40mph winds the entire day didn't make things any easier either.  Still, I managed to finish (6:34) and the post race party is pretty good.  Karen went with me and we made a weekend of it. 
March rolled around and the 6th annual Antelope Island Buffalo Run.  This year I had 780 runners sign up and 705 actually show up.  Things went well, but they could have gone much better.  Part of it was the addition of a 100 mile distance this year.  Still, the experience has led me to impose entry limits for 2012.
Next up was my now annual pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon.  I went with the usual misfits I hang with here in Ogden.  None of them had done a R2R2R before, so I ended up being the defacto tour guide.  We had a great time and we're doing it again next year.
May saw me run the Red Mountain 50K down in St. George.  I've never spent any time in St. George, so that was a nice treat.  My time would have been much better had some asshole not altered the course markings and sent a bunch of us frontrunners off in the wrong direction.  I was on track for a 50K PR and hopefully a sub 5 hour race.  I ended up doing an extra four miles and still managed a 5:33.  Oh well, those things happen at times.
In June I did my first triathlon.  I did the Boise Half Ironman with Sally Shadle, a friend of mine.  She stomped my butt by about 20 minutes, but my time still wasn't too bad for a first time.  That lake water was so cold (1.2 miles, 53 degrees), and the 56 mile bike had to have been one of the most boring rides I've ever done.  The run (13.1 miles) was great though.  I managed a sub 2-hour half marathon after doing the swim and bike ride.  I had trained most of the winter riding a stationary bike, and getting back into my swimming.  I haven't done laps in years and once I got back into the groove, it was nice.  I think the cross training helped my running a lot.
June also saw me run Western States.  July saw me run Vermont in near 100 mile PR time (23:27) and the Speedgoat 50K.  Running Speedgoat was probably a mistake.  Two weeks after running Vermont and two weeks before Leadville?  Not a good idea.  I found out the hard way what a 15 mile bonk feels like.  I wanted to quit so many times, and probably should have, but I just couldn't bring myself to.  The result?  A 10+ hour 50K and a near the back finish.
August?  Leadville, I finished and did better than I thought I would.  I did miss running Waldo 100K this year, oh well, I'll be back there in 2012.
September?  Ah, lovely Wasatch.  I love this race.  It's kind of like a black hole, once you run it, it kinds of sucks you in year after year.  Had a good time there, but not a particularly good finish time.
In November I did a sprint tri at Weber State just as a lark.  5K run, 10K bike, and 300 yard swim.  It was good fun.  My 5K time kind of sucked, my bike time would have been better had I been able to clip into my pedals, but my swim was ok.  It was a nice cold day near Thanksgiving and the run from T2 to the pool was 100 yards while being pretty much naked.  My feet froze and the rest of me was pretty cold too.  I did manage a top 25% finish though and I'll probably do it again next year just for fun.
So, I haven't done any racing since the tri, although I have been keeping up with the running.  Next up in January is the Kahtoola Snowshoe 25K.  Should be a good time if we get some snow.
Since Wasatch, I've been keeping up a pretty good running schedule.  I did slack off a little in Sept/Oct, have picked up the mileage again in anticipation of 2012.  The goals are around 3000 miles for 2012, not quite as much racing, and more adventure runs.
By the numbers -
2011 total mileage - 2138
Miles racing - 502
Average miles per week - 41.00
Average miles per day - 5.86
Number of days running - 206
Average miles per running day - 10.38
Miles biked - 303
Miles swam - 25

Here's a few graphs (hey, I'm an Engineer, I love data and graphs).

Annual Mileage for the past six years

All in all, not too bad a year for a 53 year old grandfather.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week of December 25th

Sunday - Ah, Christmas Day.  Didn't do any running at all.  Instead we just did the usual Christmas Day thing.   Slept in, got up, then woke up Kevin, opened presents, ate breakfast, then started fixing dinner.  Found out that I'm now a part of the NUTS running club.  Secret handshake and all that.  Actually, we're just a few friends that do some training together, some races, and some adventure runs.  We have a good time.  We're trying to come up with a logo or shirt design.  Miles - 0

Monday - Went up to Wheeler Canyon and ran the Sardine loop with some friends.  Most of the trail was snow covered, but there was quite a bit that was still bare dirt.  Unusual at this time of year.  The day was nice, a little cold to start.  My ankle wanted to act up on the way back down.  With all of the divots and such in the snow, my ankle would get tweaked everytime I did the smallest misstep.  made for a slower run than normal.  I don't think I want to run that trail again until either more snow falls or it all melts.  Of course, carrying around the extra weight from all of the eating the day before didn't help either.  Miles - 15.3

Tuesday - Met the usual cast of misfits and we went north from Rainbow Garden.  Not a bad run.  I certainly felt better today than I did yesterday.  My running was much easier, the ankle didn't bother me at all and it was just a good time.  It did get chilly once the sun went down, but that's to be expected at this time of year.  Maybe I can get some decent running in this week.  Miles - 7.8

Wednesday - So I had big plans to put in some miles.  Instead, I went to the gun range with Kevin and did some father-son bonding over firearms.  Nothing like the smell of gunpowder and throwing some lead downrange.  I can put in some miles tomorrow.  He's not home all that often.  Miles - 0

Thursday - Went out from Rainbow Garden with a couple of friends.  We ended up doing the usual six miles or so.  I felt great.  I was able to power up all the climbs, no ankle or achilles issues.  It was wonderful.  Miles - 6.3

Friday - Took off from work a little early and hit the trail by myself starting at 22nd street.  Started out doing an 8.4 mile loop that I do once in awhile, but mixed it up some by coming down Strong's Canyon and back on the lower trail.  Felt pretty good once again.  Tried to push things a little, especially on the uphills.  The weather was unreal.  Close to 60 degrees but windy.  that ended up making the trails mudy in spots due to the melting snow.  Nothing like spring running at the end of December.  Miles - 8.5

Saturday - Nice easy few miles with Karen.  We went out in the morning from the North Ogden nature Center.  Fun to run with my wife.  Miles - 3.1

Total miles for the week - 41.0

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Week of December 18th

Sunday - Didn't do squat.  Kevin, my brother-in-law, and I all went to the Chino Planes of Fame Air Museum.  I hadn't been there in about 25 years so it was fun to see the changes.  They have the only flying Japanese Zero that still has the original engine.  Many of their planes are in flyable condition and they do fly them.  Very cool.  Miles - 0

Monday - Once again I sat on my butt for about 11 hours while we drove home from So Cal.  I'm getting fat from all this doing nothing . Sigh!  Miles - 0

Tuesday - Yep, you guessed it, didn't run again.  Had big plans to go to the gym at lunch, but ended up going to Striders and picking up some Christmas presents for Karen.  I'll be kind of glad when the holidays are over so I can get into a decent training rythmn.  On the other hand, I finally updated my 2012 race and epic run schedule here.  Miles - 0

Wednesday - Finally went running after work.  Managed to get out of work a little early and hit the trail with ARic.  We went from 22nd street south and back.  My ankle wasn't too bad.  Took a couple miles to get warmed up, but after that I was pretty much good to go.  Trail was pretty much snow covered the entire way but footing was good.  Saw a couple of hikers and runners, but that was about it.  Pretty quiet out there.  Miles - 8.4

Thursday - Another good trail run after work.  Rainbow north for a few miles then back.  The run was actually pretty much pain free in my ankles.  Kind of nice.  The ari was relatively clear as well.  Pretty good run.  Miles - 6.1

Friday - Went to the gym at lunch.  Since school is out, I managed to get a run on the track rather than the t-mill.  Couple miles of warm up, then 6 x .25 with about .1 walk in between.  I have no idea what pace I ran those at.  I did notice that my lungs seemed a little tight after each one, and I even took a hit off of my inhaler before I ran.  Hmmm, wonder what's going on, if anything.   Ankles felt pretty good.  For my afternoon run i started at 22nd street and just went to Strong's Canyon and came back on the low side.  Kind of quiet.  No bikes, very few hikers or runners.   Miles - 9.5

Saturday - Have big plans to hit the slopes, but Karen wasn't feeling well so we hung out around the house and did some cleaning.

Total miles for the week - 24.0

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week of Dec. 11

Sunday - Once again, didn't do squat.  Instead I took my lovely wife to go see Blue Man Group.  A much better use of my time than running, at least today.  Miles - 0

Monday - Did the speed work thing again at lunch.  Ran 6 x .50 at a 7:30 pace or faster.  0.10 mile rest in between.  Treadmill time.  Did three sets of pull ups as well.  The after work run was again at the aquatic center.  One mile warm up then four miles at roughly a tempo pace.  Miles - 9.0

Tuesday - Had big plans to go out at lunch and do a few miles.  Instead I ended up going to lunch with my wife.  Much better deal I think.  Then I had big plans to hit the trails after work for about six miles.  I made it about .25 miles before a pain in my ankle forced me to turn around.  Feels like the remanent of a sprained ankle, except I haven't sprained or rolled an ankle.  Hmmm.  Anyway, went home and hopped on the treadmill.  The pain didn't bother me there so I ended up doing five on the mill.  Not ideal but something.  Miles - 5.0

Wednesday - Hit the gym and treadmill again at lunch.  Four miles at an increasing pace.  Last two miles at 8:00 and faster.  Did a few pullups and situps as well.  The after work run was from Rainbow Garden going north.  Did almost 8 miles with Aric and Bj.  Lots of fun.  We pushed it a little, especially coming back.  I did get a little chilled but oh well.  I think I've run outside more so far this winter than I did all of last winter.  After looking at my mileage for the year, I might yet hit 2200.  We'll see.  Miles - 11.8

Thursday - Didn't get a chance to run at lunch since I needed to pick up Kevin from the airport.  Once I picked him up we went home, I dropped him off and went to run with a couple friends.  We met at Rainbow and did out usual six mile out and back.  I wasn't feeling the love for this run.  I lagged well behind the others on the out portion.  My right achilles was bothering me and my left ankle was bothering me.  Made for some slow limping running.  Going uphill was the issue, downhill and flat was fine.  I finally caught up at the turn around and headed back.  I did manage to do a better job of keeping up on the way back.  It did get a little chilly on the way back.  Even with the foot issues, it was still a good run.  Miles - 7.8

Friday - Didn't run at all.  Instead I spent the day sitting on my butt traveling to So Cal with Karen and Kevin.  Miles - 0

Saturday - Karen and I had big plans to go out for a few miles.  My ankle was bothering me so much that we turned around did a whopping 1 mile.  I would have gone further, but the cooler head of my wife prevailed and I decided to just take a rest.  Miles - 1.0

Total miles for the week - 34.6

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trying something new

I think I'm going to try posting something each week on my training.  I see other blogs that do it and maybe it will help to keep me on task as I'm easily distracted (oh look, something shiny!).  I've been thinking about doing something like this for awhile now, so here goes.

Week of December 4th

Sunday - Didn't do squat running wise.  Instead I spent a good part of the day building a kidding pen in our barn.  Karen raises goats and a couple of them are pregnant and will need a quiet place to give birth.  We also had the hair-brained idea that it would be a good place to put our buck goats during bad weather as they really don't have a place to get out of it other than their houses.  Bad idea, they tried to tear the place up.  So they're stuck outside.

Monday - Went to the gym and did some speedwork on the treadmill at lunch time.  12 x .25mile all at a 7:00 pace or faster.  0.10mile walk in between each one.  Not as bad as I thought.  I hate speed work.  I did find a series of speed workouts that I'm going to try.  Each one is different.  One a week will take me up to the Salt Flats 100 in April.  Would have run outside, but it's cold out there and I wimp out in the cold.  I've also started to do a little bit of upper body and core work.  Started doing situps last week and that was an eye opener.  A little sore from that.  The other exercise I started today was pull ups.  I figure between situps, pullups, and swimming a couple times a week, that should be adequate for upper body work.  We'll see.  The PM workout was another four miles at the gym on the track.  Just took it easy, although I'm always trying to catch other runners.  Miles - 8.0

Tuesday - Went running with a few friends on our usual Tuesday evening run.  Met at Rainbow Garden, then went north for 3 miles, turned around and came back.  Always a good time running one of my favorite local trails.  Needed headlamps on the way back.  Kind of chilly too.  Miles - 5.5

Wednesday - Hit the trail with Aric starting at 22nd street.  We went south about 4.2 miles on the BST, taking the high trail at the split, and coming back on the lower trail.  Nice sunset.  My headlamp crapped out and was super dim.  Good thing we've run that trail once or twice.  Plus we had a pretty bright moon to run by.  New batteries are the order of the day.  Temp. was in the 20's but no wind.  Miles - 8.4

Thursday - Did a couple of indoor runs.  Went to the aquatic center at lunch and ran four on the t-mill.  Did that at a fairly easy pace.  Went back after work and ran on the indoor track.  Five miles.  The competitive juices got going when another guy started running after I had completed a mile.  He had on his 5-fingers and was sounding like a duck walking, slapping his feet down.  Anyway, I caught up to him and passed him, but he must not have liked that much, because he passed me back almost immediately.  Then, every time I would gain on him and get within a few feet, he would speed up and put almost a half lap on me.  I bumped the pace just a bit and kept it steady.  We played this game for about three miles before he slowed and I went blazing past him.  He quit shortly after while I kept going.  Kind of fun to do something like that, gets the speed up, makes me work harder and it's nice to know that I can still hang with youngsters.  Miles - 9.0

Friday - Took off from work a little early so I could get a trail run in while it was still light out.  Managed to run my familiar route from Rainbow north three miles, then turn around.  Saw Tom Remkes while I was out and we chatted for a few.  Weather was fine, little chilly, but really not too bad.  Smog was another thing.  Pretty hazy with the inversion settling in.  Doesn't really seem to bother me much, but I'm sure it's not good for you to breathe that stuff.  Oh well, that's what we're stuck with until the middle of next week.  Miles - 6.0

Saturday - Took some friends (Aric, Meghan, Emily, Ann) on a run along part of the 50K/100K course.  Only one of them had been on it before.  Started at the White Rock Bay trailhead, ran to the top of the switchbacks on the Split Rock loop, then dropped over the saddle on to the west side of the island.  Typically this is offlimits to the general public, but I had gotten permission from the Park Manager to take a few friends on this trail.  Helps to be a volunteer out there.  Anyway, had a good time, the weather was a little cool, but in the sun wasn't bad.  Still a hazy mess though.  We ended up at the ranch after about 3.5 hours.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the trip and the chance to see part of the island that most people that visit don't get to see.  One highlight was hearing a pack of coyotes just howling away in the distance.  We just stopped and listened.  Very cool indeed.  Miles - 17.2

Total for the week - 54.1 miles

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post Grand Slam Thoughts

Well, now that my Grand Slam adventure is over, and I’ve had a few days to let it sink in, here’s some random thoughts on the experience.

I had already decided that if I made the Western States lottery cut, I would sign up for the slam.  So, once I knew for certain, I signed up for the remaining races as soon as I could.  Who knows when I would get another chance?

I’ve kind of had it in the back of my head that one day I would do the slam, especially if I could afford it and make the cut at Western.

I definitely spent some cash this summer doing this little adventure.  Four entry fees that weren’t cheap, a plane ticket to Boston, a rental car, hotels, food, gas for my car on the road trips, etc.  It added up pretty quick.  Couple all of that with the other races I did this year and this has been a pricey race year.  Was it worth it?  Some people would say no, the average person can’t afford it, some of the races are way overhyped, entry fees are too high, you shouldn’t race that much, etc.  Well, I’m happy to say that I’m not an average person, I could afford it, and who cares about the hype, whether I race too much, etc.  I had a great time.

Did I find running four 100's difficult?  Well, yes and no.  The actual races all went very well.  I ran within myself, knew what to do and just got the job done.  There was never really any point in any race where I had serious thoughts of dropping or giving up.  You always have those fleeting thoughts, but serious ones never really entered my head.  Did I have to "dig deep" to finish (or any other of those metaphors).  Nope, I just ran or walked until I got to the finish line.  I think my biggest concern was the possibility of getting injured, either by taking a good fall and breaking or spraining something, or just an overuse or over training type injury.  That kind of had me stressed, especially as Wasatch got closer.  But that didn't happen, and I finished injury free.  Indeed, I actually feel pretty good just a few days after Wasatch.  Goes to show just how amazing and adaptable our bodies really are.  You can train to recover quickly.

I was able to go do some races that maybe I would have never done without signing up for this adventure.  So here’s a little recap of my thoughts on each race.

Western States – The granddaddy of them all.  Lots of history, lots of extreme talent show every year.  Lots of hype.  I let myself get sucked in and enjoyed the event.  Phenomenal organization and attention paid to every runner.  I had a great time with Aric and Alicia.  Went in a little undertrained, but managed a respectable finish.  I wouldn’t mind doing WS again, but it gets pricier every year, plus you have the lottery to contend with.

Vermont – Another old school ultra.  I got to run with horses and that was a real treat.  Vermont is beautiful in the summer.  Running the back roads, topping out on hills with great views, past the farms.  I also had a great race, sub-24 hour and my fastest 100 in many years.  Larry was great at pacing me for the last 30 miles.  I would go do this one again.

Leadville – Now the largest 100 mile event in the country with 600+ this year.  Very scenic, not a tremendously difficult course other than the cutoff time of 30 hours and the altitude.  Corporate owned now, which makes for a different atmosphere and vibe.  Not sure I like it, but it is what it is.  Great organization, aid was spot on.  Once away from the headquarters, it was more like the typical ultra.  My lovely wife was able to crew for me for the first time, and Carolyn was another great pacer I had.  Fun.  I don’t think I would do this one again.  Running with that many people doesn’t interest me a whole lot.

Wasatch – What can I say?  It’s my home course and I love it.  Always a great event.  Intentionally kept low key and low cost.  It was also the cheapest 100 I ran.  The support is always superb.  One of the reasons I love this race is that so many of my running friends are running it or volunteering and it’s way too much fun to see them, socialize a little, cheer them on, etc.  My pacers were great, and I felt good for the most part.  Run it again?  Hell yes.

I’m not sure what I can do next year to top this year.  Maybe I should not race so much and do more adventure type runs.  That actually appeals to me quite a bit.  Still, I do have a few other races that I would love to do, so who knows what 2012 will bring running wise.

So, should you do the slam?  I would recommend it if you manage to get into Western States.  Doing one or two 100’s a year is an achievement that an extremely small portion of the population can or will do.  Doing four of them in less than three months is an achievement that very few ultrarunners will do.  Completing the slam certifies you as a truly badass runner, one not to be messed with at all.  At least that’s what my friends tell me.  I think they're just stroking my ego ;-)

Grand Slam Adventure Part 4, Wasatch 100

Wow, the last race of the series.  Finally.  It’s been a pretty grueling summer running wise, but one I wouldn’t trade away.
After Leadville, I had three weeks to rest up, do a little running, and anticipate running Wasatch for the 5th time.  I wasn’t apprehensive at all, I was excited.  I know this course, I’ve done it before several times, I know what to expect at every point.  Bring it on.
During the three weeks between Leadville and Wasatch I did very little running.  I took a complete week off after Leadville, then basically ran every other day until the week before, and took most of that week off.  I did manage to take Joel on a preview run of the course from Brighton to the finish, but we cheated and took the Sandy Baker cutoff, thus shortening our run by about eight miles.
I went to the prerace Thursday, saw lots of friends, met with my two pacers, then headed home.  My wife and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant for some carboloading, then home to bed.  This time I slept like a baby, relaxed, no worries, no being all keyed up.  It was nice to say the least.
I had huge plans for a sub-30 hour run and had made up a pace chart to reflect that.  I also told all sorts of people that I planned on going sub-30.  Best laid plans and all that.
The race started at 5am and we were off.  I took a nice relaxed pace for those first few miles before we started our climb up to Chinscraper.  The legs felt pretty good, not tired, my attitude was good.  I was excited to be out here and get this last race done.
Looking down from the top of Chinscraper

Little bit of snow left over from last winter
As I went up the climb to chinscraper, I chatted with Charlie Vincent.  He did the Slam a couple years ago and we had a good time running the miles away.  Once on the ridgeline, I got stuck in a conga line of about 10 runners.  There really wasn’t any good spot to pass, so I just went with it.  A few people stopped at Landis spring and I was able to get by them and make a little bit of time.  At about 11 miles, I saw something I’ve never seen while running Wasatch.  A nice big snow cornice left over from last winter.  It must have been 3-4 feet thick still.  We actually had to cross it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is still there when the snow flies in a month or so.  On past Grobben’s corner, past the radar towers (passed Joel here), and down the gravel road to the Maintenance Shed aid station.  Since Farmington Canyon road was closed, the race wasn’t allowing crew or spectators there.  It seemed really quiet and subdued with only a handful of cars and people.  Nice and quiet.  Not only that, but there weren’t any motorcycles or 4-wheelers to raise all sorts of dust.  Very nice.  The section between the maintenance shed and the Bountiful B aid is one of my least favorite sections, a couple of steep climbs, some almost bushwacking, just not fun.  However, I persevered and managed to keep on a sub-30 hour pace.  I felt pretty good to this point, but in a couple of miles after Bountiful, my attitude went south.  I felt ok, my stomach was fine, it’s just that my legs were tired, heavy, and so was my brain.  Once I left the Sessions aid, Karen called.  First, I was surprised that I got cell service there, second, she got really worried after hearing me complain.  At this point, it just wasn’t fun.  It continued to not be any fun all the way to the Swallow Rocks aid.  Here I got a couple of popsicles, some potatoes with salt and bolted.  The good thing was that I was still on a sub-30 pace.  A couple miles past Swallow Rocks something clicked.  It was instant, my attitude changed 180 degrees, I felt better, I took off for Big Mountain at a little quicker pace.

Descending to Alexander Ridge
At Big Mountain (39.4 miles) I met Britta, my first pacer.  She brought me a Coke Icee, and that hit the spot.  That, coupled with more potatoes and I felt like a new man.  We took off for Alexander Ridge and Lamb’s Canyon.  I have never run the section between Big Mountain and Lamb’s in under four hours.  We did it in 3.5 hours.

Lamb's Canyon for a few minutes
At Lamb’s I picked up Meghan, my next pacer.  Meghan has paced me for the last 47 miles before and we always have a good time, so I was looking forward to a few miles of interesting conversation.  We took off up Lamb’s Canyon at a dead……walk.  It’s uphill and just steep enough for me to not run when I’m tired.  Still, I managed a pretty good power hike up the road and up the trail to Bear Ass Pass.  My goal was to get there before dark.  Our headlamps were on when we got to the top of the pass, but Meghan pointed out that it was technically still light since you could still see the remains of sunset.  I’ll buy it.  Down Elbow Fork Trail and up Millcreek road to Upper Big Water we went. 
Upper Big Water is always a cold spot.  It sits in a bowl and collects cold air.  During my first attempt at Wasatch I dropped here due to the extreme cold and not being prepared.  My plan was to eat a couple of bowls of their spaghetti, put some dry warm clothes on and get out.  We were out in 15 minutes.  Going up to Dog Lake, and ultimately Desolation Lake I started to slow down.  I had no climbing legs left.  I could do the downhills and flats just fine, but if it was uphill, I was going slow.  I saw my hopes of a sub-30 finish slipping away and knew that I little chance of getting it back.  My uphill legs were gone.  I knew I would finish, but my time would be less than spectacular.
The Desolation Lake aid is always an interesting place.  Another cold spot at over 9000’, it’s easy to sit by their nice big campfire and warm up.  Since I’ve wasted time doing that before, we left after about three minutes.  By now, the moon was out and it was almost full.  At times along the ridge above Brighton we would turn off our headlamps and just run by the moonlight.  The shadows were bright and it was pretty cool.  Running by moonlight at 10,000’ is something that most people will never experience and one of the reasons I do these things.  Park City lights off to the left, Salt Lake City lights behind, Brighton lights off to the right.  Very cool in my book.
By the time we got to Brighton, I was slowing down even more.  I had been looking forward to Brighton for some time because I knew I could get some scrambled eggs with ketchup.  Scrambled eggs with ketchup at 3am after running 75 miles is some of the best tasting food there is.  I just wished they’d have had some Tabasco sauce.  That would have been awesome (next time in my drop bag!).  I decide to take a little break here and we stayed here for about 45 minutes.  I did manage a short nap before we took off a little after 4am.

Sunrise over the Wasatch, love it
The climb out of Brighton on race day is one that always gets to me.  Usually my asthma is acting up a little and it’s a long slow 2.5 mile climb to Sunset Pass.  This time it wasn’t too bad.  My lungs were fine and we made the climb to the pass in a little over an hour.  Once on the other side, it’s a very steep, loose and rocky trail into Ant Knoll’s aid.  Everyone is pretty timid here because of the possibility of a nasty fall.  I hammered it pretty good.  I had run this section two weeks earlier and knew what to expect.  Not only that, but my quads were still good to go as far as downhill running.  I was wearing my Hoka’s to absorb the pounding and away I went.  We made Ant Knoll’s by 6am, spent a couple minutes getting some sausage and took off.  The next climb up the Grunt wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and we made it to Pole Line Pass aid in a little over an hour.  I was so sleepy along this section that I decided to take a 10 minute nap here.  That did wonders for me, but I wish I would have just had some caffeine instead and saved a little time.  The next few miles to Rock Springs aid were uneventful except for the elk we saw up above us on the mountainside.  We were hoping they would just leave us alone.  All along this section we marveled at the sunrise over the Wasatch.  This section is one of the most scenic and I love running through here when the sun is coming up.  Beautiful.  We basically ran through the Rock Springs aid and kept going.  Next up was one of the toughest sections of the course, the dive, the plunge, the seven hills of Babylon.  Very steep and loose rocky downhills followed by short steep uphills.  Kind of demoralizing after 90 miles.  Still, it didn’t seem as bad as it has in years past.  Don’t know why, it just didn’t.
Eventually we made it to the last aid station, Pot Bottom.  From here it was a fairly easy climb, some long downhill miles followed by a short section of road.  Home free!
I did manage to run the last half mile or so to the finish.  The run across the lawn with everyone cheering is something that always is enjoyable, especially this year since I had just completed the Grand Slam.  A good portion of the Utah ultrarunning crowd knew I was attempting the Slam and I got all sorts of cheers, good jobs, etc.  It was pretty neat.
Crossing the finish line I always thank John, the race director for the abuse I’ve put myself through.  He just laughs. 

One tired, but happy little boy
Once again I had a pretty uneventful 100 miles.  No stomach issues at all, no chafing, and shock of all shocks, no blisters on my feet.  No blisters has never happened at a 100.  I finally managed to complete the section from Brighton to the finish in under 10 hours.  I have never been able to do that before either.  This time I did it in about 9:30.  Not too bad for tired legs.
Once again I did 1st Endurance EFS Liquid Shot as my main source of fuel for the first 75 miles.  After that the stuff just won't go down.  I switched to some energy bars that I found at the Outdoor Retailer show back in August.  They're called Journey Bars and they aren't sweet.  They have flavors like Mequite Bar-b-que, Wasabi ginger, Coconut curry.  What I did was nibble on one an hour and that got me 200 calories per hour.  Kept me fueled just fine.
So, I had some good sections, some not so good, but nothing terrible and horrible, just the usual ups and downs associated with something like this.
The 12 Grand Slam runners who made it
I think the main reason I couldn’t go under 30 hours this year was just the fact that I had run three 100-mile races in the past 11 weeks.  Maybe some tired legs?  Maybe I'm getting old?  I don’t know, just a thought.
The nifty eagle Grand Slam trophy
The awards ceremony was pretty neat.  When they were calling up the 12 of us who completed the slam, they announced me as the only Utah runner to complete it this year.  That got the loudest cheer.  I have to admit, I enjoyed the attention.  It’s something when all sorts of people  tell you they’ve been following your progress all summer.  I had all sorts of other runners during the race cheering me on.
I have to say thank you to my awesome pacers, Britta and Meghan.  Not only did I have the best looking pacers out there, they were great at keeping me on task, eating, drinking, moving.
My awesome pacers, Meghan (L), and Britta (R)

By the numbers
Time – 32:35
Place – 114th out of about 240 starters
Calories burned – the same 12,000
Calories taken in – roughly the same 6000 as usual
Time wasted at aid stations – roughly 1.5 hours
Shoes – La Sportiva Raptors for the first 53 miles, then the Hoka Mafate’s for the last 47.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Round #3, Leadville 100

Well, the Leadville 100 is done, I survived just fine.  My fears of failure were unfounded.
There was five weeks between the Vermont 100 and the Leadville 100.  This allowed me to take a week off completely, train hard for two weeks, then taper for the remaining two weeks.  My hard training consisted of a couple of 60+ miles weeks, including running the Speedgoat 50K race at Snowbird. 
My main concern at Leadville was the altitude.  The course itself isn’t particularly difficult, it’s just that it’s all above 9000’.  So my goal for training between Vermont and Leadville was to get up high as much as possible.  Thus my running of the Speedgoat 50K. At Speedgoat, I had all sorts of people calling me crazy for doing a race that difficult in between two key 100 mile races.  Yeah, I have to agree, it was kind of crazy.  I managed a finish, but it certainly wasn’t pretty.  I bonked pretty hard over the last ten miles.
Ken and Marilee doing the prerace pep talk
The Thursday before Leadville, Karen and I drove out to Frisco, CO, where we were staying.  After checking into our hotel, we drove over to Leadville to check in for the race and just look around.  The one thing we both noticed was a headache from the altitude.  I got a little worried, but knew it would probably disappear after a bit.  The Leadville area is beautiful.  The town kind of sits in a valley, but that valley is 10,000’ above sea level.  You really feel like you’re on top of the world.  We stayed in Leadville for the pre-race dinner, then headed back to our hotel.  After breakfast Friday morning, we drove back over to Leadville, finished the check in process (drop bags), stuck around for the prerace briefing (1200 people in a gym got pretty warm and stuffy), then drove part of the course so Karen could get familiar with where the aid stations were.  She was going to crew for part of the race with Carolyn Luckett, my pacer.  We met Carolyn that afternoon, discussed all of the logistics, concerns, etc., then headed back to our hotel for the evening.  I usually get a lousy night’s sleep the night before a race, and this was no exception.  It didn’t help that we had some noisy neighbors and I had to bang on the wall to get them to shut up.
Still sleepy at 3:45
2am came awful early, but that’s when we needed to get up in order to make the 4am start.  Why oh why can’t most 100 mile races start at a decent hour?  Say 6am at the earliest?  Or be like mine (the Buffalo Run) and start at noon.  Sleep in, nice leisurely breakfast, mosey over to the race start, then wait for the gun to go off.  Nope, we have to start at some ungodly hour when it’s still cold and dark out.
So anyway, the gun goes off at 4am and about 620 of us make our way across the starting line and into the dark. I was glad the first few miles were essentially downhill. It let me warm up without having to really exert myself. Especially since I didn’t know how well I could do at 9000’. 
Now, corporate owned, bigger and better?

By the time we made our way the 3-4 miles to Turquoise Lake, the pack had strung out some.  As we made our way along the trail beside the lake, you could look back and see a huge string of headlamps going back for over a mile.  It was actually a pretty cool sight.  There was some conga line action along this trail, but by the time I made it to the May Queen aid station (13.5 miles), crowd conditions were better.  In fact, after May Queen, there never really was a point where the runners bunched up.  After May Queen, we began the ascent to Sugarloaf Pass going up the powerline. 
The ascent up powerline to Sugarloaf Pass
This pass was just a hair over 11,000’ and would give me an early idea of how I would fare at higher elevations.  I was glad to find that I was doing just fine.  I really didn’t seem to notice the altitude at all during the race, even going over Hope Pass twice.
After Sugarloaf, we made a long decent into the Fish Hatchery aid station.  In and out.  Karen and Carolyn met me there, fueled me up with a dose of 1st Endurance Ultragen (320 calories) an kicked me out.  Then began a few miles of paved road, followed by a gradual climb up to the Half Pipe aid station.  Once again, in and out.  Next stop, Twin Lakes.  Karen and Carolyn met me here and fueled me up again.  I spent a few minutes talking, then left for the trek up to Hope Pass. 
Hope Pass off in the distance
River Crossing at Twin Lakes
You could see it in the distance and it was a little intimidating.  3400’ of climb up to 12,600’.  All over about 4 miles.  Not tremendously steep, but not a walk in the park either. It was along this section that I caught up to Tom Remkes and had Cory Johnson pass me.  These two are usually quite a bit in front of me, so I was a little surprised to see them so close to me after 40+ miles.  Nonetheless, they pulled ahead of me and I only saw them again on their way back up Hope Pass.   
Once I got to the treeline, there was the Hopeless aid station.
Hopeless aid station with Twin Lakes down below
This is a group that has been doing this aid almost since the beginning.  They pack everything in on llamas.  And they have quite the setup.  It was definitely a cool sight to see about two dozen llamas staked out in the meadow grazing, occasionally looking up to
see what was going on.  It was during the last ¼ mile to the top of the pass that the front runners started coming through on their way back.  This meant that they were about ten miles in front of me.  That sucks, but oh well, happens all the time to me.   
Once I got to the top of Hope Pass, my cell phone let me know that I had several messages.  Funny how down lower I didn’t have service, but up on some remote Rocky Mountain Pass, I did.  I spent a couple minutes sending a couple messages, enjoying the scenery and views, taking a few pictures, then headed down the other side to the Winfield aid station.  Going down the backside of Hope Pass was definitely more technical than the way up.  Steeper, rockier, although with less vertical. 
I have no idea what the couple was doing in the background.  Hypoxic yoga?
I finally made it into Winfield after 11:30 of running.  I still felt great, just a little tired.  I wasn’t going quite the speed I had hoped, but I knew that it was a more realistic time.  The key thing was, I felt great, no altitude issues at all. 
Heading down the other side into Winfield
I spent about ten minutes at Winfield, then took off for the return journey to the finish line.  Everyone complains that the trek back up Hope Pass is demoralizing, but I didn’t find it that way at all.  Steep, tiring, had to dodge out of the way of runners still coming down, but I knew that once I hit the top, the hardest part of the race would be over. 
Top of Hope Pass, yeah buddy!

One of my new buddies
Once again, at the top of Hope Pass, I had some texts to look at.  I answered them, then headed down.  I was in a good mood.  I felt good, I knew I had seven miles of downhill running ahead of me.  I spent a little more time at the Hopeless aid.  Took some pictures of the llamas, had my picture taken with one, then headed down.  This section of trail was a blast.  Nice easy running, not too technical.  You could get some speed up and make up some time.  This I did, passing several people on the way down.  I finally came out on the flats near the Twin Lakes river crossing and made my way into the aid station.  Karen and Carolyn were there, fueled me up again and I took off, this time with Carolyn to pace me the rest of the way.  Going out of Twin Lakes, I knew we had a 1200’ climb to greet us, but I also knew that after that was a long rolling descent.  We made the climb, then once we hit the descent, I felt really good and really picked up the pace.  I’m not sure I’ve run that fast at that point in a 100 before.  I think I was clocking right around 8 minute miles, and they felt easy.  By now it was dark, and we could see the runners in front of us and it became fun to try and pick them off one by one.  We must have passed well over 20 runners during this section.  But once we got into the Half Pipe aid station, my stomach was starting to bother me.  I always felt hungry, not to the point of wanting to throw up, but close at times.  I also was starting to have some lower GI issues and had to visit the woods a couple times.  In hindsight, I think it was the continuous use of Ultragen that did that.  Needless to say, after Half Pipe, my pace slowed considerably.  I was still able to run, just not at the same pace.  We still had a downhill run to the Fish Hatchery, so I tried to make the most of it and run as much as possible.  One cool sight on the way into Fish Hatchery was a badger that I caught in my headlamp.  He had a burrow in the bank alongside the road.  Kind of had a confused look on his face.  We didn’t get too close.  The Fish Hatchery had some wonderful potato soup.  That stuff hit the mark and I had a couple of cups.  I did sit here for about 20 minutes just to take a little break.  I also had some coffee here to try and keep me awake.  I don’t remember what time we came through, but it was in the middle of the night.  After Fish Hatchery, I knew that we had a pretty steep climb back up powerline and over Sugarloaf Pass.  It was a grind and I hated it.  What didn’t help any was that my lungs were getting weezy.  We were thinking it might be HAPE.  It also got a little cold up here, probably down in the upper 30’s and a little breezy at times, but not too bad.  We either passed or were passed by others grinding their way up as well.  At the top of the pass, we could see the May Queen aid station in the distance.  I still wasn’t moving too fast, but I trotted when I could.  I got into May Queen at about 24 hours.  They had pancakes!  I had couple of those with syrup and a cup of milk and that hit the spot.  I spent about 15-20 minutes there and when I got set to leave, I couldn’t find Carolyn.  Come to find out, she had taken off thinking I had taken off.  I ended up doing the last 13.5 miles sans pacer.  No big deal, but the trek up the “boulevard” was truly a drunken death march.  I was so tired and sleepy, I would walk up the road with my eyes closed.  By now the sun was up, and it was interesting to look at the stragglers making their way to the finish line.  As I got closer I could hear the cheers as each runner crossed the finish line.  Finally I made it to 6th street, the last half mile.  Karen and Carolyn met me about ¼ mile from the finish and jogged with me for part of that.  I found out the story behind my pacer mix up.  Anyway, I crossed the finish line in 28:20 and got the best hug from the lady that put my finisher medal around my neck.  I just stood there and enjoyed it for a minute.  
I was still pretty wheezy at the finish line, so I went over to the medical tent and asked them to evaluate me for HAPE.  They did a pulseox and listened to my lungs and pronounced me just fine.  My lungs were clear, pulseox was normal given the elevation.  In talking with them for a bit, we figured it was probably my asthma acting up.  Nothing that really slowed me down, but noticeable anyway.  Guess I should have remembered to bring my inhaler. 
Karen and I took off for the hotel to shower and get cleaned up a little.  After that we grabbed some breakfast and drove back over to Leadville for the awards ceremony.  We thought about hanging around for the post race BBQ, but the prospect of a nine hour drive home meant that we hit the road as soon as I got my buckle.
By the numbers
Time – 28:20:22
Placing – 193rd out of 622 starters, 22nd in my age group (50-59). 
Shoes – I wore my Hoka Mafate’s until the return through Twin Lakes.  After that I wore my La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0’s.  My feet survived just fine.  Just a couple of blisters of no consequence.
Calories burned – 12,500
Calories eaten – 6,000.  Maybe 6,000.  I forgot to bring all of my Liquid Shot and had to devise a backup.  Thank goodness I had the Ultragen in my drop bags.  I also ate more solid food than I usually do.
Next up, Wasatch 100 on September 9th.  I’m looking forward to this one for a few reasons.  First, it’s the last one of the slam, second, it’s on my turf, third, I have lots of friends either running it or pacing others.  Should be a good time if I feel good.  I’m hoping to finally go sub-30 hour this year.  Wish me luck.
Some Post Race Thoughts
A couple of weeks ago I happened to check on the ultralist and noticed a thread about corporate ownership of races, particularly Leadville, and what it means for our sport.  Ultrarunning has always been a small, little, grassroots sport that typically draws not only the hardcore athlete, but athletes who are generally eglitarian by nature.  Many believe that any race should donate all proceeds to some sort of charity, or should be non-profit.  As our sport grows (the number of participants has roughly doubled since 2000), it will draw the interest of companies looking to sell us stuff.  It will also draw compaines that see races as a profit center to be exploited.  Last year the Leadville Race Series was purchased by Lifetime Fitness.  Lifetime clearly saw an opportunity to enter the extreme sports genra and make some money.  Is this bad?  Some people would say yes it is.  It takes away from the sport's nature. 
Here's my take as I posted to the ultralist. 
"As an RD I have to weigh in on this a little bit.  If Lifetime Fitness wants to charge that much for a race, let them.  Why can't they make money doing this?  They are in the business of making money, fitness products are they means to that end.  That is the prime reason any business exists, including mine.  Whether I, or any other RD, chooses to donate all of the proceeds to charity or to their own pocket, is beside the point.  In order to donate or line your own pocket, the bottom line is that you still have to make a profit.  Since I am not independently wealthy, my family budget cannot and will not take a loss just so my race is cheaper (they're already pretty inexpensive even by Utah standards).  Lifetime is clearly charging what the market will bear.  More power to them.  If the market won't bear what they are charging, they will be forced by economics to lower their entry fee, it's that simple.  As it is always said on this list, if you don't like what's being charged by the organizers (including my events), find another event or start your own.  Free enterprise is one of the things that make this country great.
Oh, and I'm running Leadville this Saturday, yeah the entry fee was a little high, but I willingly chose to enter and pay it."

For Leadville, I don't think corporate ownership detracted from the race.  Yes, there was the usual corporate shilling going on during the pre-race, etc., but each aid station was still like the typical ultra aid station.  With well over 600 runners on the course, did that take away from the experience?  This was my main concern, the "crowds".  I don't think it did.  By the time I got past May Queen, the "crowd" had thinned out and it wasn't an issue.  Yes, I was generally always in sight of another runner, but so what?  Ah, but the key questions is, would I go back and run it again?  Probably not, it was beautiful, the organization was impeccable, but there's other races I want to run, and I do have something of an aversion to crowds.  I'd rather run smaller races, but that's just me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vermont 100, leg two of the Grand Slam

Probably about time I wrote this since the sharp memories are fading a little.

The Vermont 100 is the second leg of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.  This race started back in 1988 and is one of the oldest 100’s in the country.  The unique thing about this race is that you get to share the course with horses competing in their own 100 mile event.

Post Western States

I spent the three weeks in between Western and Vermont resting up, doing a little running, but that’s about it.  Oh, I did go swim some laps a couple of times.  I didn’t run at all after Western until the Thursday after the race.  This was intentional.  So Thursday I went out for a short few miles and felt pretty good.  I took Friday off and then did one of my favorite summer runs on Saturday, up Ben Lomond Peak.  I went with a bunch of friends and we couldn’t believe the amount of snow still on the mountain.  We crossed several snowfields, saw a good-sized rattlesnake (had to take pictures), and the rest of them made their way to the top.  Since it was nothing but a big snow cone for the last 1500’, I elected to not go up.  I could see myself falling and sliding all the way down, getting injured and not being able to complete the slam.  Instead, while they went up, I did a short out and back at 8500’ just to add a few miles.  All in all, a good time.  The next week I did three runs of around 8.5 miles with a day off in between.  The week before Vermont I shortened the distances further and didn’t run at all from Wednesday on.  By the time I got to Vermont, I felt pretty well rested and ready to go.  Knowing that this race would be a little easier and faster (hopefully) than Western, I made it my goal to try and go sub 24.  If I did, this would be my first sub 24 100 in a several years.


So three weeks after running Western States I found myself on a plane to Boston.  The plan was to fly there, rent a car and drive to White River, NH to my hotel.  The flight was uneventful, the drive was uneventful.  I checked into my hotel Thursday evening, checked into the race Friday morning, then went to play tourist for a bit.  I did a short little hike around the Quechee gorge and met another slammer (Tammie Massie) out doing the same thing.  I went back to the race for the dinner and met up with Larry Adams, the guy who would pace me for the last 30 miles.  Had a good dinner, went back to my hotel and went to bed.  As usual, not a good night’s sleep, but oh well.

Game on

So I get up at 2:30am on race day.  Vermont is one of those races that starts at a horrid time of day, 4am.  Why can’t they start at a decent time like 8am?  I managed to get out to the race HQ in plenty of time, mill around, then take off at 4am with almost 300 other runners.  Ugh!

The initial few miles were primarily downhill, so I was able to take it easy, warm us and get a rhythm going before anything hard came along.  These first few miles seemed to fly by.  I felt great, my pace was good, I had no issues at all.  By around the 10 mile point, we could hear the first of the horses coming down the road behind us.  As we were trotting along, theses three horses just seemed to float down the road.  I was amazed at these animals.  They were gorgeous and in superb shape.  You could tell that they wanted to be out there running.  They made my  horses look rather fat and out of shape.  All day long we had the opportunity to watch these awesome animals perform.

Most of the day was pretty uneventful.  The weather was pretty decent, it warmed up to around 80-83, with low humidity by northeast standards.  The aid stations were plentiful and well stocked.  The scenery was what you would expect running through rural Vermont, beautiful.  The views from the hills were gorgeous.

Short course description.  76 miles of gravel road, 22 miles of trail, 2 miles of pavement, none of it flat.  We were either going up or going down.  Very, very rolling.

My only issues during the day were a somewhat upset stomach between 50-60 miles.  For some reason I couldn’t get it to go away.  Still, I managed to hit the halfway point at 9:30, for one of my fastest 50 mile times, and hit the 100K point at about 12:15, one of my fastest times for that distance as well.  The legs felt good.  The first time I went through the Camp 10 Bear aid station (47.2 miles), my weight was down about 8-9 pounds (5%).  You get pulled from the race if your weight drops more than 7%.  This got me a warning to take a break and drink and eat.  I took off anyway, but it scared me enough to make sure that I drank plenty and ate plenty for the next 20 miles, knowing that they would weigh me again when I came back through at 70 miles.  When I got back to Camp 10 Bear at 70.1 miles, my weight had come back up and I was only down three pounds.  No problem now.  At Camp 10 Bear I picked up Larry Adams, my pacer for the rest of the night.  He lives out here in Utah but was back in NY on business and drove up just to pace me.  What a nice guy.  Anyway, by now I had started to chafe, and this always slows me down.  Still, Larry kept me on track and on a good pace through the night.  Night running is always kind of cool during a race, you’re in your own little world, occasionally see other runners or an aid station, but time seems to slow way down.  The night was just as uneventful as the day.  I was still on pace to break 24 hours as long as I stayed focused on the job at hand.  Larry kept me focused and before I knew it, we had passed the last aid station and only had 2.3 miles to go.  Home free.  For the last mile or so, we could hear the commotion at the finish line.  We weren’t getting closer just yet, but going kind of parallel to it.  Finally, over the last ridge, down through the woods, and there it was.  I finished.  My final time was 23:27:31.  I had gone under my goal of 24 hours.  It’s always a good thing if you can finish a 100 mile race before the sun comes up.


This race went pretty well.  I felt much stronger than I did going into Western States, even though I had run a 100 just three weeks prior.  I felt really good except for some very minor stomach issues and the chafing for the last 30 miles.  I’m convinced that had the chafing not been an issue, I could have finished under 23 hours, it slowed me down that much.  My race was uneventful, and that’s how I like it.  Afterwards, Larry and I went back to his hotel slept for a few hours, then went back out to the race HQ for the awards ceremony and BBQ.  I got my second belt buckle (you don’t get a buckle from Vermont unless you go under 24 hours) of the summer, and felt pretty good about the rest of the races coming up.

I was a little worried about the flight home.  Sitting in a cramped, pressurized aluminum pipe for four hours after running 100 miles I thought would be painful, but it wasn’t too bad.  I even managed to sleep for a couple hours.

By the numbers

Time – 23:27:31

Placing – 78th out of 297 starters, 10th in my age group (50-59).  Much better than my performance at Western.  There’s some fast old farts out there.

Shoes – I wore my Hoka Mafate’s the entire time.  With all of the packed gravel roads, these things saved my feet.  I didn’t need any technical trail shoes.

Calories burned – 12,500

Calories eaten – 6,000.  I got pretty tired of the 1st Endurance Liquid Shot after about 60 miles.  I still ate the stuff, but started eating more aid station fare, ramen noodles, chicken noodle soup, etc.

Next up, Leadville 100 on August 20th.  This one kind of worries me due to the altitude and the 30 hour time limit.