Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bryce 50 mile, talk about scenery overload

Prologue -

Last Saturday I ran my second ultra in as many weeks.  The previous week it was the Kettle Moraine 100K.  I did reasonably well at that one and was just looking to finish Bryce before dark and have some fun hanging out with fellow HUMR's, along with my wife and sister-in-law, for the weekend.  I was going to run the race last year, but a bout of surgery left me on the sidelines crewing and just hanging around.

Race -

RD Matt got us all started right on time at 6am.  The first 1-2 miles were on some dirt road.  This allowed the field to spread out before we got to the single track.
So, my stated goal for this race was to just go out and have a good time, enjoy the scenery, and finish in a reasonable time.  I was still a bit tired from the 100K a week before.  Secretly I had a time goal of somewhere around 12 hours.  I figured that if I felt good, I should be able to finish in that amount of time.
See all the runners?  Yeah, neither can I
Once we got on the single track, the scenery really started to unfold.  Around every corner was a Kodak moment waiting to be had.  The first several miles had us winding our way thru forest, twisty and turny single track, stunning views, etc.  I hung with Curtis and Steve for quite awhile, but eventually they pulled ahead and left me to run alone.  We ran across ridges, amongst hoodoos, saw amazing rock formations, and long range views across the valley below.  Eventually we descended to the base of those same cliffs and got to the first aid station (10 miles).  I was feeling pretty good, drinking plenty, eating a bit here and there.  I grabbed some coke and headed out for the next section.  Now we were going thru some forest and meadows that were equally as scenic.  I don't remember a lot of specifics about this section other than it was stunning.  As I ran down a small canyon along a creek bed, I could hear the next aid station coming up.  HUMR canopy up and some familiar faces to get me stuff.  Debbie came in just after I did and I told her that she'd better catch me.
I knew that Lane, Pam, Madi, and Gage would be there for the HUMR's and as I rolled in, there was a big cheer.  It was awesome to see the
The next section was another long stretch of nine miles.  This section had us doing some serious climbing.  A couple of short steeper sections, but nothing huge.
Happy to see my peeps
Just long gradual climbs, winding thru small canyons and drainages, eventually coming out on top of a ridge and running right along the edge of a cliff.  Very cool.  The aid station at 27 miles (Blubber Creek) was manned by the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, so once again a bunch of familiar faces were seen.  I asked about a few runners ahead of me and got the scoop on how they were doing.  I hung out for a bit here.  I figured that since I was taking my time, why not visit, eat, drink and enjoy the scenery.  The aid station was right on the edge of the cliff.
Time wise, I was doing fine and well on my target of a 12 hour finish.  When I left Blubber Creek, I felt the competitive side of me start to kick in a bit.  I've never won a race, or even come close, but I still like to try and run my best time given the conditions.  I felt good, the legs were doing fine.  I knew that I still had teh hardest part of the course coming up, but at least I was over half way done. So I picked it up a bit, tried to do more running on the uphills.
The next section from 27-35 miles seemed like a lot of dirt road and a fair amount of climbing.  At the time I was playing tag with a few other runners.  I'd pass, then they'd pass.  Stuff like that kind of bugs me, I don't know why.  I figure if you're going to pass, stay ahead, but on the other hand, I was unable to stay ahead when I would pass.
I ran into the aid station at 35 miles (Kanab Creek) still feeling pretty good.  This aid station was also on the edge of a cliff and had stunning views to enjoy.  I didn't spend a lot of time here, just a couple of minutes.  I knew that in another five miles, I would again see the HUMR crew.

About a mile or so out of the next aid station at 40 miles (Straight Canyon) I met up with a guy (Zach) from Alabama running his first 100.  We had a nice chat and about half a mile out of the aid station we saw Hal Koerner coming up the road.  Well, the guy I was running with had to get a photo with his running idol.  We chatted with Hal for a couple of minutes.  Turns out his wife was running and he was waiting for her.  He actually knew who I was once I introducd myself.  Kind of surprising actually.  Anyway, as we ran into the aid station, I told Zach to grab a beer from the HUMR people. He had never heard of drinking a beer during a race.  I assured him that it was like drinking the nectar of the gods.  Anyway, Lane got me half a PBR, got Zach half a PBR and I grabbed some stuff to eat from the aid station table and left.  I knew the longest climb would happen over the next five miles and I wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.  The first mile out of that aid station was a gradual climb on some single track along a creek.  Meadows, trees, sunshine, great trail, just all around awesomeness.  Zac Marion, was charging down the road and stopped to chat with me for a minute and give me a hug.  He looked great and was stoked to be running in first place.  A few minutes later, Leslie Howlett came running by.  She was looking strong as well.
See those white canyons in the distance?  Zion National Park
After that, it was about 3.5 miles of dirt road that just kept going up and up.  Nothing steep, but on tired legs, I couldn't run it.  I did manage to catch a few others along this stretch.  I'm not sure if they were 50 or 100 mile runners, but I still wanted to catch them.  Along this stretch I saw the first male and female runners for the 100 mile making the return journey.  One of the coolest runners I know,
A few minutes later I made it to the last aid station before the finish.  This aid station was on the highest point of the course and from 9500', I could see 30-40 miles south into Zion National Park.  As I was eating and drinking, a lady that ran with me across the Grand Canyon several years ago came in.  I hadn't seen Olga since that run almost six years earlier. 
Saw this good looking lady on the trail.  Olga King
We left the aid station together and had a nice chat for the next few miles.  Eventually I ran on ahead as I was looking to get this thing done.  The last five miles were pretty much all downhill and most of it was dirt road, but a couple of miles from the finish we were again directed on to some single track.  Zach, the guy from alabama caught up to me along here and thanked me for the beer back at 40 miles.  He said it hit the spot.  This part took us along the base of the pink cliffs, and they were indeed pink.  Along here I managed to put some distance between me and a couple of other runners that I had traded places with over the course of the day.  I also saw plenty of 100 mile runners out making the return trip, several that I knew.  I was glad I wasn't going to make that trip.  My legs were pretty well shot from two races in two weeks.  I managed to run strong the last 1/4 mile or so and crossed the finish line in 12:31.  Karen and her sister Kate were there waiting for me.  A bunch of the faster HUMR's were still hanging out as well. 
Aftermath -

So, overall, I had a pretty good race.  I did better than I thought I would.  I felt good the entire day, no stomach issues, no foot or leg issues.  Just a good time.
The race?  The course was incredible, phenomenal scenery at every turn.  The aid stations were well stocked and very helpful.  They had anything I needed.
Shoes - I ran in my old Altra Lone Peaks.  I think this is going to be my go-to shoe.  No foot issues at all.  No blisters, no trashed toenails.  I wish they had a bit more cush.  I need to get me a new pair though.
Drink - I think I drank about two gallons of water.  Although the day was kind of cool (upper 60's), it was breezy, very dry, and very sunny. 
Food - I didn't take my usual baby food for this race.  I figured that since it was only 50 miles, I could get my with stuff from the aid stations.  Nutella wraps are awesome, as is pickle juice.  A fair amount of Coke was consumed, one beer, and some Trader Joe's trail mix left over from the Buffalo Run.
Time - 12:33:01, 36th out of 109 finishers.  Good enough for 4th in my age group.  So, not too bad.
Here's some more random pics form the race and in the park the next day.
If you get a chance, go run this race.  Well organized, great, well stocked aid stations, well marked course, phenomenal scenery, tough course, but not overly so.  I think I'll be running this one again next year.
The pink cliffs near the finish

In the park with Karen and her sister Kate the next day

Random scenery pic

Added bonus, short restaurant review

We ate most of our meals at the Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant.  This place had great homemade food.  Seriously, I think virtually everything on the menu was homemade.  The bread was baked in house.  All of the pies were baked on site.  For my meals, I had the hot open faced turkey sandwich twice because it was so good.  Homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, all on homemade sourdough.  The pie?  Very tasty.  I had the lemon cream pie while Karen had the blueberry cream pie.  So, if you go down to Bryce, check this place out.  I think it has way better food than Ruby's, and it's cheaper as well.

Miscellaneous info -

UA Bryce50miProfile

UA Bryce50-100Map
Here's my Garmin info before the battery ran out.

Distance 45.3mi
Elapsed Time 11:21:40
Pace 15:03/mi
Elevation Gain 8,210ft
Mile Pace  Elev (ft)
1 10:54 77
2 10:43 173
3 11:20 3
4 10:19 -10
5 11:37 151
6 11:39 51
7 11:10 -161
8 11:17 -376
9 10:50 -259
10 11:38 35
11 14:32 -58
12 11:43 -26
13 13:31 101
14 12:41 65
15 13:00 -35
16 18:13 459
17 17:59 132
18 12:36 -357
19 18:45 192
20 15:31 394
21 15:23 238
22 14:08 -197
23 12:23 -484
24 18:53 340
25 20:03 310
26 17:01 187
27 19:18 170
28 28:03:00 170
29 16:43 71
30 11:10 -165
31 14:01 102
32 13:28 -166
33 16:23 101
34 15:33 8
35 14:56 -52
36 21:13 1
37 14:59 3
38 16:50 -306
39 11:36 -159
40 12:03 -137
41 19:58 -11
42 14:38 159
43 14:54 138
44 18:14 387
45 20:48 306
0.3 29:25:00 5

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kettle Moraine 100K, revisiting one of my first ultramarathons

I first ran this 100K way back in 2003.  I had come off a marathon PR and Boston qualifier just two weekes earlier and wasn't sure how I would feel.  At this point, I had run exactly one 50-miler ten years earlier, one 100-miler a year earlier, and a 50K.  I was still new to this ultrarunning stuff.  so anyway, I toed the line, took off at 6am and managed to finish in a respectable 11:45, good enough for a 6th place finish and 2nd in my age group (40-49, my first ever age group hardware!). 
I attempted to replicate the feat the next year (2004) and bonked really hard between miles 35-50.  I still managed a 12:10 finish and I think it was good enough for 9th overall.
Well, I've always wanted to go back and run Kettle again.  This year we went back to Illinois to visit our daughter and her family and I managed to time it so that we were there on race weekend.  Pretty sneaky if I do say so.  See family, have a good time, get a race in.
The Kettle Moraine is an area of south central Wisconsin.  The terrain is rolling remanents of the glacial moraines from the last ice age.  So there's lots of small rollers over the moraines and lots of dips into the "kettles".  The race takes place on sections of the Ice Age Trail and goes through the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit.  Some of the trail crosses private land.  The trail itself ranges from really wide cross country ski trail that is mowed to narrow single track winding through the thick forests, to trail that crosses several miles of northern prairie grasslands.  A little bit of everything.
At this time of year everything is lush and green (read humid).  Lots of flowers, birds, and biting insects abound.  At least the trail was dry.
I figured that since I don't live back here anymore, I wouldn't know anyone, but I did manage to meet up with fellow Wasatch Speedgoat Racing team members Larry and Beth Hall. 

Meeting up with fellow Speedgoats Larry and Beth Hall
 I've known them since I lived in Illinois, so catching up with them was fun.  They were both running the 100-mile.
So, about 75 of use started the 100K.  Those numbers are about the same as they were 10 years ago.  there were a lot more 100-mile runners than there used to be though.
The first few miles are rolling cross country ski trails.  About 30' wide and the state keeps them mowed during the summer.  The first thing I noticed is that everyone was walking the ups.  Now these ups are anywhere from 10' to 30' of gain and some were a bit steep, but I thought I'm from Utah, I run stuff like this all the time, so I did.  The first aid station is about 4.7 miles in and at the time you're running along a wide straight flat trail through a section of pine forest. 
Running through some pine forest
Pretty cool.  Once we got to the second aid station, we left the wide ski trails and began running on some nice single track.  Kind of rocky, ups and downs, traverses along hillsides, and a gradual climb to an overlook that gives a nice view of southern Wisconsin farmland. 
Southern Wisconsin farmland
This race is kind of interesting in that you can be running along and think that you're way out in the middle of the forest, and you'll hear a car going down a road just outside your view.  You realize that you're not so isolated after all, yet those in the cars probably don't realize that just a couple hundred feet away, there are crazy people running through the woods.
Meanwhile, at about mile 15, we began running through some southern Wisconsin prairie.  I never have been a fan of this section of the course.  Usually the grass is a bit taller, so harder to push through.  Also, it's a lot more exposed, and by now the sun is usually getting warm and the moisture given off by the grass can make the humidity pretty stifling.  Heat and humidity doesn't usually bother me unless I have the prevailing breeze at my back, making it feel like running through absolutely still air.  Thank goodness there was a breeze most of the time.  The prairie section is about seven miles of exposure that I tried to run all of just to get through.  I was glad to get back into the cool shade of the forest.
Prairie time
It was at about this point that I took my first fall.  Now I usually don't trip and fall at races, or during any runs, but it seems as though lately I've been tripping and falling a lot.  One fall a week earlier left me with some bruised ribs that made sneezing or coughing pretty painful.  At least I didn't land on those sore ribs.  I was also starting to go into a funk as well at about 25 miles.  I was doing ok, but not where I wanted to be time wise.  I was fueling and hydrating just fine, but just was having a down time.  So as I'm feeling sorry for myself and how badly I think I'm doing, I go down again.  This one really kind of pissed me off.  Why do I keep tripping? I rolled into the turnaround a couple of miles later feeling kind of down.  I figured that I would just keep going, but any thoughts of really pushing were out the window.  I was hoping to hit the 50k turn at between 5:00 and 5:30.  I came in right at 6 hours.  I took my time at the turnaround and left about 15 minutes later.  Since this was an out and back course, I got to see all of the runners in front of and behind me.  I always like that.  It gives you a chance to kind of see where you are in the pack and you can pick up some energy from the other runners. 

At about 35 miles I finally came out of my funk and noticed that I had plenty of energy and my mood was much better, so I picked up the pace a bit.  I knew I still wasn't going to hit my time goals, but at least I felt better.  From 35 to 50 miles I felt really good and managed to pick off some of the runners that had passed me earlier.  I had no idea if they were 100K, 100 mile, or relay runners, but it was nice to just have the energy to pass them.  Back through the prairie section I went, and it seemed to go by faster than I remembered from 10 years ago.  Back into the woods for the final 15 miles, just cruising along by myself, just how I like it.  No other runners to worry about, no conversations to have, just run through the forest.  My happy time.
When I hit the second to last aid station and got back on the ski trails, I started smelling the barn and tried to pick up the pace a bit more.  I blew through the last aid station and by now I was starting to see the lead 100 mile runners heading out again as well as the 38 mile fun run runners (yeah, they start at about 6pm and get to run through the night).  The one thing about running on the ski trails is that they are so convoluted that you can hear the cheering at the finish line and know that it's still four miles away.  The weather by now had gone overcast and windy and was threatening to rain.  It always rains on this race.  Every year, but it usually holds off until the evening.  Well, I was coming in later than I have in the past, so I did start getting rained on for about the last half mile.  I was good with that.  The air was still warm and the rain cooled things off a bit.
I finally crossed the finish line or a time of 13:55.  So way slower than ten years ago, but I think at my age I'm supposed to be slowing down a bit.  Anyway, it was good enough for 17th place overall out of 61 finishers, and, once again, 2nd in my age group.  I'm good with that.  Yeah, it was fun to go back and run this race again after so many years away.  100K is my favorite ultradistance to run.  Long enough to be epic, but usually you don't end up running through the night.  Jason and Timo have directed this race since its inception 19 years ago and it shows.  Everything runs well, the course is well marked, the aid stations are well manned and stocked.  If you're ever in southern Wisconsin the first weekend in June and looking for a great trail race, do this one.  Hopefully I can go back and run it again.

Senior Masters, just a nicer way of saying old fart

Added bonus - Beer review
While I was back east, my wife and I hit a local liqour store and went back to the beer section.  Holy cow!  We were like kids in a candy store.  All sorts of nifty beers and reasonable prices.  I could have spent a ton of money here, but leaving for home the next day meant that I couldn't.  Sigh!
One of the beers I did by was a vanilla stout called Buffalo Sweat brewed by the Tallgrass Brewery in Kansas.  Since I run with buffalo here in Utah, how could I pass that one up.
Good stuff indeed
For a stout, it was suprisingly lighter than I thought it would be.  Very malty as a stout should be with very little hop bitterness. Yet it wasn't too sweet.  My lovely wife said it had some wheat flavors but I couldn't pick them out because my nose was plugged from allergies.  It's brewed with vanilla beans and you would think that the vanilla might be overpowering, but it wasn't.  I've had some vanilla flavored beers that were overwhelmed with the vanilla flaor.  You could taste the vanilla, but it was just the right amount I thought.  5.0% ABV, so not heavy at all.  Not exactly a summer beer, but drinking one last night while sitting on my patio was very enjoyable.
And of course a picture of my completely awesome grandkids