Sunday, March 23, 2014

Buffalo Run 100 race report

Taking on an early year 100 required a lot of cold weather training and dedication.  I felt like I had put in the time necessary to take this challenge on.  Training started in November and involved boot camp/sports conditioning classes, core strength work, spin classes, yoga and weekly running which built up and topped out at 78 miles per week.

One Mile In
Photo courtesy K. Agnew
...This is how I felt early in the race

The first 19 miles of this race were fairly uneventful and involved my training grounds.  I spent a lot of time running the White Rock, Elephant Head and Split Rock Trails over the course of the winter and was pretty much in cruise control.

My fuel strategy was simple, 405 calorie pre-made flasks of Perpetuem placed in drop bags.  I would always have a flask with me and made sure to consume one flask every 2-3 hours.  For the most part I stuck to this strategy and it allowed me to spend minimal time in aid stations.  S-Caps and plain water were also utilized.

Actually the race was very uneventful until around mile 28 when I was chased by an enraged bison not once but on TWO occasions.

I have spent a lot of time around bison and felt that I have always kept a respectful distance from these majestic creatures.  Today, however one surly bull did not want me or several other runners on or near his trail.  I ran away from the charge on both occasions safely.

...My reaction to getting chased by an ornery, territorial bison

I made my way to the ranch to refill my water, grabbed a flask and my headlamp and was on my way.  Upon arrival at Lower Frary aid station for the second time, I met up with my friend Misty.  She was rattled by a bison that had tried to take her out.  We decided to head out in the darkness toward the mile 50 aid station together.   Unfortunately, Misty tweaked her leg and could not continue after the 50 mile mark.

...Things like this were witnessed on the trek back to the 50 mile mark and start/finish

One of the most difficult things about this race is trying to convince yourself to head out for lap 2 of the 50 mile course.  Luckily, my first pacer, Camaraan was raring to go.  A quick change into a warmer coat and beanie and we were off to Elephant Head aid station.  Just before the ascent to Elephant head a wave of nausea came over me which was follow by hurling on the trail side.

Following, the bout of nausea I was able to ebb and flow between feeling good and bad.  Camaraan and I worked our way running/walking the second loop through Split Rock eventually ending up at mile 78 (Lower Frary Aid station).

I couldn't wait for the sun to come back up
After running through the dark and cold for several hours, I was looking forward to meeting my final pacer (Dan) and shedding my headlamp.  Dan and I walked/ran our way to the ranch and fatigue was beginning to set in.  Finally the sun came up and it was great to see many of the 50 milers coming through as I made my way to finish in 24 hours 54 minutes.  The last 3 miles were especially difficult due to fatigue and just wanting to be done.

It was a huge lift to be greeted by friends and family on my way to the finish line.

So, I guess that about wraps it up.  Buffalo run was well organized and the aid stations were plentiful.  It was great seeing so many friends take on new challenges, you all inspire me.  A special thanks goes out the helpful and friendly volunteer staff, we couldn't do it without you.  I would also like to thank the Happy Utah Mountain Runners (HUMR's), Smith Optics, Squeaky Cheeks and Pearl Izumi.

What I did do:
  •  Realized at mile 50 that my shoes were the same I had wore at Wasatch 100 and were shot, time for some new PI N2's.
  • Stuck to my fuel strategy with minor exceptions such as a warm egg burrito my pacer Dan brought me at mile 78.
  • Puked my guts out at mile 57 (also known as hitting the reset button)
  • Used Squeaky Cheeks exclusively to fend off chafing, it works!

What I didn't do:
  • Change my socks, shoes or shirt the entire race (if it's not broke don't fix it)
  • Sit down at an aid station (I prefer to keep moving) 
  • Continue running through fatigue (I need to work on that)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wasatch 100 2013 race report

This years Wasatch 100 lived up to the name of 100 Miles of Heaven and Hell.  312 participant toed the line @ 5am on Friday morning and 207 made it to the end.  Nearly 1/3 of the field ended up dropping due to extreme heat and the shear brutality of this very challenging course.  As for me, I made it but it wasn't pretty but I got it done. This is my story.
Pre Race Photo Credit: Lori Burlison

5am and 75 degrees is not how a cool early autumn morning is supposed to start.  But that's exactly what we had.  I knew I would need to stay on top of keeping hydrated and take measures to keep my core temperature down.  The first section to Francis Peak was pretty uneventful.  I had a good time chatting with the people around me and made it a point to keep moving at a methodical pace.

Upon arrival at the Francis Peak aid station I grabbed my drop bag, topped off my water, drank an Ensure, grabbed a fresh flask of Perpetuem and was on my way.  Many thanks to the great people at the aid station who had pulled my drop bag for me and handed it to me as I entered the aid station.

Things are good. I'm enjoying the scenery, listening to my iPod, walking the hills and running the flats/downhills.  I find myself entering an area that was very familiar to me and began to take pride in the section I did trail work on.  This section of trail is about 3 miles from the Bountiful B aid station and has been known historically for being overgrown with poor trail conditions.

Now this section is some pretty sweet single track trail which has been renamed Ryan's ridge due to my friend Ryan Lauck's countless man hours and coordination of trail work groups to improve this part of the course.  There are some pretty steep climbs through this area but all are relatively short and before I knew it I was being greeted by a lemon scented towel at the Bountiful B aid station.

I refilled my water, grabbed some ice for my bandanna, procured a popsicle and was on my way.  It was already beginning to get hot but keeping ice on the back of my neck was helping keep me cool and relatively comfortable.

At this point, I'm 25 or so miles in and feeling good.  No fatigue, keeping hydrated, eating, no stomach issues, all is well.  I pull into Sessions Liftoff aid station and am greeted by my friend Kelly Agnew and his wife Jo.  Kelly immediately takes my pack and gets it refilled with water while I feast on watermelon and bananas.  A few thank yous's to the friendly aid station people and some friends I ran into and I was on my way.
Feeling pretty good at Sessions Aid Station
photo credit: Kelly Agnew

This next section is very exposed, the temps continue to rise and I start to enter my first low point of the race.  Nausea comes over me and I feel like everything was going to come up.  I slowed down a bit and about a mile out of the aid station was walking.  I made it a point to get some salt on board and keep drinking.  Dehydration was the last thing I wanted to deal with and would surely take me out of the race.  

I made it to Swallow Rocks, it was hot and I just wanted to get out of there.  My pack was refilled with water while I took advantage of some watermelon and ice water and I was out.  I seemed to get a second wind coming out of this aid station and was looking forward to getting to Big Mountain where I could pick up my first pacer.

I cruised along and was relieved to hear cowbells and cheering as I approached the top of the switchbacks that wind down to Big Mountain.  Upon arrival at Big Mountain my pacer Dan Frey had pulled my drop bag, took my pack, refilled my water, and re-stocked my food (rice bars, peanuts, Perpetuem).  I took advantage of this time by eating a turkey sandwich, drinking ice water and adding ice to my bandanna.

I was now just over 40 miles into the race and headed toward Alexander Ridge.  The heat was now beginning to peak and it was very evident that it was taking it's toll on the field.  There had been several drops at Big Mountain throughout the day and many who were staggering along in survival mode.  This section was largely exposed and about a mile out of the Alexander Ridge aid station I ran out of water.  I had consumed 70 ounces of water over the 5 mile section from Big Mountain to Alexander.
My Big Mountain to Lambs pacer - Dan Frey
My pacer Dan and I got our packs filled and headed out.  FINALLY, the sun began to go down, it cooled off a bit and we even got a few raindrops.  The section from Alexander to Lambs felt like we were heading up the canyon for seemingly ever.  I was wondering if we were going to pop out at Kimball Junction in Park City.  Finally, we made a right had turn and made our way over to Lamb's aid station.
Lambs Arrival
My three daughters Left, Mom and daughter top right, Daughter and her friend bottom right
A few family members who greeted me at Lambs
I was very surprised to see so many friends and family cheering me on as I entered the Lambs Canyon aid station.  My wife and 3 daughters were joined by my sister who had come in from Las Vegas with her husband and son, my brother, his wife, my mom, my brother in law...

Immediately upon arrival I was weighed (down 4 pounds) and sat down for some food and drink.  A special thank you to Britta Trepp and Nic Francis who helped put my bag together and get me converted into dry clean clothes.  Dan's duties were now complete and it was time to pick up pacer #2 Jeremy Achter.

Jeremy and I headed up the road toward the steep climb up over Lambs trail and down into Millcreek Canyon.  By now I had picked up a pair of poles and found them helpful in keeping up a methodical pace toward the summit.  Once we got to the top we jogged our way down the switchbacks to elbow fork and was greeted by my friends BJ Burlison & Lori Burlison.
Me, Jeremy & BJ at elbow fork
Photo Credit: Lori Burlison
Now Jeremy and I were on a 3 mile paved section that led to Upper Big Water aid station.  We arrived at the aid station and for the first time since the race started it actually felt chilly.  We're now 61 miles in. I filled up on water, ate a grilled cheese sandwich and headed out.  Next stop, desolation lake.  This is one of my favorite sections of the course when you can see it.  It was pitch black outside without even a hint of moonlight so on we trudged by light of headlamp.

Things were still going very well at this point.  I was tired and somewhat fatigued but overall feeling very good for being on my feet for 18 hours straight and 60 plus miles.  I had noticed what felt like gravel in my sock but didn't think much of it.  Small pebbles and debris getting in shoes is just part of the game.  We made it to Desolation Lake and ate soup.  I made a point to stay away from the fire as I didn't want to get lured into hanging out and wasting time.

We got out of Desolation Lake pretty quickly and began the climb up over Red Lovers ridge and headed toward Scott's Pass.  About 2 miles out of Scott's pass I decided to address what I thought was gravel in my right shoe.  I pulled off my shoe and sock and was confused when I could find any foreign objects in my shoe.  Upon closer inspection I noticed that what I had actually been feeling this whole time was a blister on the ball of my foot.

I had a Lidocaine patch in my pack that I though might help numb the pain a bit and work my way over to Scott's pass.  I arrived at the aid station and immediately asked if there was anyone who could treat a blister. We peeled off my shoe and sock and discovered the blister was far worse than I had originally thought.  It had grown to about the size of a silver dollar and cover pretty much the entire ball of my foot.

We began the process of trying to drain the blister by poking several pin holes in it and applying pressure.  I lost a lot of time in this aid station and finally decided to get put back together and hobble my way to Brighton.  About a mile out of Scotts Pass a kind lady who could clearly see I was struggling and in pain offered me a Percocet.  I gladly accepted the narcotic pain medication and within about 20 minutes the pain had subsided enough to allow Jeremy and I to trot our way down the pavement and make our way to Brighton.

I pulled into Brighton with one thing on my mind...DROP.  The pain in my foot was horrible and I couldn't imagine taking on 25 of the toughest miles of the course in this condition.  I got into Brighton walked straight to the back room and asked for help.  I was immediately placed on a table and being cared for.  As luck would have it, Alicia a friend of mine who is also a nurse was in the back and began trying to drain this enormous blister.
The Blister...the entire ball of my foot
photo credit: Corey Vigil
After cleaning up my foot, draining the blister and getting it all bandaged up we decided it was time to head out.  I walked out the door took about three steps and immediately walked back in.  I couldn't apply pressure to my foot without considerable pain.  I was now convinced I was going to drop.  It just wasn't meant to be on my first attempt at the Wasatch 100.

I came back in and the work began again, this time Alicia had a wound care nurse look at it and work on it a bit also.  Additionally, we decided to elevate my foot for a while and while this was all happening my Pacer Corey Vigil and Alicia allowed mu to doze off for a few minutes.  In all, I had lost about 2 1/2 hours working on this blister and it was now past 6am.  If I was going to have any chance of finishing I needed to get moving.

Somehow I was pushed out the door of Brighton and heading toward Catherine's pass.  Alicia kept sharing stories of how she dropped from the race last year and it has haunted her all year.  I was assured by all the medical staff at Brighton that it would be very painful to keep going but no additional or permanent damage would be done to my foot.  With that bit of cheery news, I began to just take it step by painful step.

I don't recall much of the final 25 miles other than being completely miserable and just wishing this whole thing was over with.  My apologies go out to my pacer Corey Vigil.  I don't think I complained all that much but I also didn't talk and pretty much completely retreated to my iPod hoping the distraction of listening to music might ease the pain a bit.  I do recall feeling agonizing pain on every single step I took and probably did a lot of groaning.

With all that said I still took time to appreciate the view of Mt. Timpanogas, Catherine lake and other incredibly beautiful sections along the way.  I was moving slow but steady and was sending my pack ahead with my pacer when we got close to aid stations.  That way I could arrive at the aid station and immediately get right back out.  At this point I am still fueling with Perpetuem, dry roasted peanuts and chunks of rice bars that I had pre-packed into snack size baggies.

The 7 sisters of Babylon weren't to bad, the plunge and dive section was miserable and seemed like it would never end.  Finally we made it back to the junction and began our descent to Pot Bottom with a quick fill up at the spring.  I blew through Pot Bottom and could finally feel like this great run turned nightmare was about over.  One more dirt road hill to climb and the course was pretty much downhill from there.  About 3 miles from the finish it was fun to see my nephew Brady Guzman had hiked up the dirt road and greeted to for the trek to the finish line.

About a mile from the finish Luke Nelson (one of the top ranked ultra trail runners in the world) ran up the road to congratulate me and made a comment about being, "The grit of our sport."  I thought it was a nice gesture and later sent him a note thanking him.  The note went like this:

Me: Hey Luke, I just want to say Thank You.  You ran down the road as I was wrapping up my 1st Wasatch 100 and greeted me with a comment about being the grit of our sport (I finished 35:29).  It's people like you that make ultra trail running great.

Luke's response:  Hell yeah Curtis!  I am so very inspired and humble by YOU!  It's exciting to see runners go fast, but they have nothing on the runners who keep going regardless of how long or how hard it is.  Tough as nails!!!  So stoked you finished and thank you for being an inspiration to me! Next time we cross paths make sure we shake hands.

Thank you to my family who supported me throughout this event and all the preparation and training it took to prepare for this event.  Thanks to my pacers and thank you to all the aid station help you were all great!
Done! photo credit: Dan Frey

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Speedgoat 2013

Going into this year’s Speedgoat I felt well trained and ready to take on this beast of a course.  The final tally according to Strava was 11,318’ of elevation gain, 31.75 miles and just under 9:08 to complete.  My goal was to have a significantly improved finish time compared to last year which took me 10:08.  I am very happy to have trimmed a full hour off last year's effort.

Before the race with some great friends
photo courtesy Jo Weakly Agnew

The race started @ 6:30 am and included a field that was stacked with some of the greatest trail runners in the world.  The winner; Sage Canaday (on the right side with a big A on his shorts) , came in at an amazing 5:08 with Anton Krupicka (shirtless dude in the middle) finishing a close second.  Both of these runners beat the course record set last year.

photo courtesy Jo Weakly Agnew
 The race starts out with about an 8.5 mile climb to the hidden peak tram.  I got up there in a little over 2 1/2 hours and was feeling pretty good.  I said hello to some friends hit the aid station and descended down the other side toward Larry's Hole.  Along my way down the wildflower lined single track I kept thinking how ideal the conditions were.  Unlike last year which was HOT, this day was overcast and cool.  As a bonus we even got a few drizzles of rain throughout the day.

Coming into aid station 1 (Hidden Peak)

Getting into Larry's hole aid station, I decided to get my EFS liquid shot flask refilled ate some watermelon got my water bottle topped off and was on my way.  It was shortly after leaving Larry's hole and climbing the last portion before an extremely rocky descent to Pacific Mine that I saw a bolt of lightning.  Upon further examination it was actually the race leader and eventual winner Sage Canaday.  That dude was flying toward his second trip through Larry's Hole.

Witnessing one of the best trail runners in the world do his thing was pretty cool.  On the other hand, it was a stark reminder that I am an extremely average athlete in my sport of choice.  By my estimation, Sage was about 10 miles ahead of me already.  Oh well, I'm not here to win this thing so I just kept plodding along pretty uneventfully toward Pacific Mine aid station.

My goal throughout the day was to move in and out of aid stations quickly and eat what sounded good. On this day; Clif bars that I had brought along with me, along with fig newtons, orange slices and watermelon (from aid stations) would be all that I had to sustain myself.  For liquid I stuck with water and supplement electrolytes with S-Caps.

In theory, EFS liquid shot would have been the answer.  After all, we were all issued a 5 oz. flask and the knowledge that quart bottles would be available along the way for refills.  This sounded great to me until I had completed my first flask of mocha flavor and received a refill at Larry's Hole of raspberry.  This was still fine with me until I took my first swig.   IT WAS BAD, it tasted like it had fermented.  It was only a minor setback due to the fact that I had a back up plan with the Clif Bars and aid station food.

After heading out of Pacific Mine aid station I made the slow and steady climb toward Mt. Baldy.  I was feeling good so I kept plugging along.  I wasn't setting any land speed records and not much running was going on but I moved at a methodical and steady pace up the steep climb.

Then it happened, I was staring up at baldy.  No trail, just flags to follow up what I estimate to be a 78 degree slope.  I plodded my way up the 800' or so climb and found relief when I was able to start heading down toward the tunnel aid station.  I saw a few familiar faces, refilled my water bottles, chomped down some watermelon and got moving through the tunnel to descend another 1000' or so only to have to head right back up.

As I was heading downhill I remember thinking, "It feels good to feel good."  In many ultras I have done, fatigue kicks in and I don't feel like running.  Today was different, even though I knew I had a very punishing ridge line climb ahead of me I was running at a faster pace than any other point during the race.  Then it was one last grinder to the Hidden Peak aid station along the ridge line trail.

I kept my head down and just kept plodding along the seemingly endless ridge.  I enjoyed looking up once in a while to see silhouettes of people making progress toward the peak.  Upon arrival at the Hidden Peak aid station, Jim Skaggs informed me he had an ice cold PBR if I wanted it.  Without hesitation, I chugged about half the beer, thanked my friend and began heading toward the finish.

Tasted pretty good before the final 5 'ish miles of the course.

By now, I knew my day would soon be over.  All I had to do was get myself to the finish with the goal of a sub 9 hour finish.  I had about 51 minutes to make it.  About 1.5 miles out I realized that finishing under 9 hours was simply not going to happen but the possibility of shaving an hour off my time from last year was very doable.  I began to pick up the pace and passing a few people along the way.  Then the finish was in sight and I crossed the line at 9:07:50 vs my 2012 effort of 10:08.  Mission accomplished!

What I learned...
  • As much as like the convenience and access of wearing water bottles on the front of my vest, it simply doesn't work for me.  Forget about the annoying sloshing, I finished the race feeling like someone had been punching me in the chest for 9 hours straight.  My ribs ached after from the pounding dished out by front pocket bottles.
  • Never put things in pockets you never intend on getting into...As it turns out, I was carrying a quarter pound of jerky the entire day.  It would have been a tasty treat out there but it was in the back of my pack and I completely forgot about it.
  • Have a back-up plan...luckily I had some Clif Bars with me and made the best of the aid stations due to bad EFS liquid shot.
  • Keep moving...It is very easy to hang out in aid stations but it just adds extra time to the event.
What I listened ipod was going all day and I tend to listen to entire albums vs songs.  If you're (still) reading this, I'm sure you could care less.  This is just a reference for me when I look back at this a few years from now.
  • The Whole Love - Wilco
  • Sky Blue Sky - Wilco
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
  • A.M. - Wilco
  • Circuital - My Morning Jacket
  • At Dawn - My Morning Jacket
  • White Blood Cells - The White Stripes
  • Riot Act - Pearl Jam

I listened to the unedited version of this song 3 consecutive times heading to the finish
Save You - Pearl Jam

Ok, I guess that's about it for Speedgoat 2013 up next is a trip to beautiful Afton, WY.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pocatello 50, my 20 mile adventure.

It has been a challenging Spring in the area of training.  Directly after the Buffalo Run 50 miler I began having lower leg pain.  The pain was coming from an aggravated peroneous longus.  The only answer to getting back to running was physical therapy and some time off.  Then I caught a nasty cold that took me out of commission for 10 days.

I signed up for the Poacatello 50 in December and this race was going to be a building block in training for the Wasatch 100.  Unfortunately, losing about 7 weeks of training left me feeling unprepared to take on a very challenging 50 mile course.  I chose to opt out of the 50 mile event and take on the 20 miler.

If your keeping score, the 20 miler is leg 3 on the chart above and features 10 miles of relentless climbing and nearly 5000' of total elevation gain followed by some pretty extreme downhill.  The course proved to be a great challenge of endurance and quad strength.

This peak is a welcome sight and marks the end of a lot of climbing on leg 3

I completed the 50K (legs 2&3) last year and continue to be impressed by how well organized and beautiful this course is.  The weather was nearly perfect on race day.  Blue skies, cool breeze, wild flowers, well stocked and helpful aid stations all led to a great experience.

For fuel I used one 5oz flask of Strawberry Vanilla Perpetuem.  I like concentrating it into a pancake batter consistency and can cram 405 calories (3 scoops)  into one flask.  To hydrate I carried 1 liter of water in a bladder w/ straw and used S-Caps for electrolytes.

The race was very enjoyable and I decided going in that I was going to treat it like a training run.  I completed the course in 4:28 and had a great journey through some truly breath taking country.

And now I would like to share a story of why I would choose to surround myself in a community of trail runners vs any other group out there.  The community has proven to me time and again to be kind, generous & trustworthy.  Case in point, my friend Aric and I were walking toward the start line.  Aric was wondering if he should leave a change of shoes in the car rather than sitting them out near the start/finish line.

I quickly responded by saying that I feel like I could leave a wallet sitting out in plain site loaded with cash and it would either be turned in or simply left alone.  Smash cut to 10 minutes later while getting ready to start the race.  I had a gut feeling that I had left my password unprotected iPhone sitting on the trunk of my car.

Aric told me that was crazy and not to worry about it.  I debated running back up to the car to retrieve the phone and ease my mind but the race was about to start so I didn't.  After the race was over we hung out for post race activities which included loaded baked potatoes and mingling with other trail runners.

It was getting late so Aric and I decided to head back to the car for the 2 hour drive back to Utah.  Upon arriving at the car I made a point to look at the trunk first to confirm my suspicion that I had left my phone there.  It wasn't and I immediately became nervous.

As I walked around to the front of the car I noticed something on my windshield.  It was my phone!  When I went to pick it up it was stuck to the windshield.  Then Aric I stood in disbelief when we realized what had happened.  Not only had someone retrieved my phone off the back of my car but they had gone out of there way to find a piece of packing tape and taped it to my windshield.

By doing this it would ensure that there was no way that it wouldn't be noticed.  It would be directly in my line of sight if I tried to drive off.  The phone as mentioned earlier was not password protected and therefore would be easy to do all kinds of things with.  I'm happy to report that not one phone call had been made, no text messages sent and no pictures taken.

That's all for now, next up Soft Rock...A 3 day tour of the Hard Rock 100 course.  It features 67,000 feet of elevation change over 100.5 miles.  This will quite an adventure!

Hard Rock 100 course, OUCH!
And now, since I wrote this One Sunday morning I leave you with this incredible tune.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My fastest 50 far


2013 marks my 3rd consecutive year of running the 50 mile Buffalo Run event on Antelope Island west of Syracuse, UT.  Coming into this race I was feeling good and prepared.  I had just run Moab 55K four weeks prior and went out of my way to keep my mileage up in preparation for Buffalo Run.

Due to poor trail conditions after Moab, I was forced to get in some along runs along the pathways of Davis County.  As miserable as it was at the time, I feel it paid great dividends when it came to race day.  My goal was to do back to back weekend long runs until the week before the race.The first 15 miles of this race have 95% of the elevation gain of the entire 50 mile course.  This means almost 35 miles of relatively flat (road like) running.  

The race started at 6 am and the conditions were windy and very chilly.  I started out and remember being cold especially my hands, so cold I could not operate my iPod until mile 3.
  • For the record...I would like to offer a special shout out to my iPod.  I couldn't have done it without you buddy!
  • I tend to not listen to songs.  I prefer to listen to albums in there entirety when out on a run. Here's what I listened to (Hey, this is an archive.  It might be interesting to look back 10 years from now to see what I was listening to)  From mile 3 in this order (Artist/ Album)
    • Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid
    • Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
    • Spoon - Kill the Moonlight
    • Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
    • Spoon - Gimme Fiction
    • Spoon - Transference
    • Spoon - Kill the Moonlight (again)....hmmmm, why all the Spoon?
    • Rush - Hemispheres (the song La Villa Strangiato 3 times)
    • Rush - Clockwork Angels
    • Foo Fighters - One by One  (the song All My Life 5 times in a row)
    • Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God (parital, finished race)
Looking back now my music list seems a bit strange and eclectic.  All right, enough of that and back to the race.  My trek to elephant head aid station was uneventful and I ran a steady pace all the way to lone tree.  At this point there is a very steep but relatively short road up to elephant head.  

I walked most of this section until I reached the top.  As I approached elephant head aid station I noticed the volunteers were diverting traffic to the elephant head out and back.  I know it is an option to do split rock first and nobody was going that way.  I was well stocked on water and chose to blow through this aid station get the split rock out of the way.

While back doing split rock I was pretty much all alone until something went past me moving faster than I can imagine.  It was the race leader (at the time) and he was flying down split rock road.  This was somewhat deflating when I realized I was about 90 minutes into the race and was already about 5 miles behind the leader.

By the time I hit the switch backs, the eventual race winner Scott Jaime came hustling past me.  I gave him room to pass and wondered for a moment if I could hang with him.  The answer is a resounding NO.  I tried chasing him for about 30 seconds and decided I was WAY out of my league.  One thing about very talented runners is they make it look easy.  Oh well, back to my own pace and eventual arrival back at elephant head.

The highlight of this aid station was seeing Harrison Fluman passing through and heading toward Whiterock.  Congrats to Harry who ended up finishing 5th overall.  I still had elephant head to do so I dropped my pack, ate a GU (the only one I ate the entire day, more on that later) and knocked out one of my favorite trails on the island.

Upon arrival back to the aid station I grabbed a bottle of premixed perpetuem dropped my headlamp and headed out.  The trip back to Whitereock was fun and I enjoyed seeing the 50K runners coming through.  I remember seeing Shawn, Debbie, Jarrod, Corey, Brad, Alicia, Mike and many other familiar faces.  I made it back to Whiterock in about 3:15 and remember feeling strong with little or no fatigue.

BJ, who is affectionately known as Squeaver due to his awesome artistic abillity to animate squirrels that look like beavers greeted me at the Whiterock (HUMR) aid station.  I told him I was good and decided to just keep moving right on through. I was making my way up the fence line when I was greeted by super stud trail runner Kelly Agnew.

Kelly looked wiped out and slightly incoherent due to the fact that he had recently finished the hundred miler in 10th place with an incredible time of 20:24.  We chatted for a few moments and I was off again.  I made my way up the road another 1/2 mile or so and saw Aric & Jarod who (off and on) I ran the next 30 miles with.

The weather was still cold and windy but the wind was at our back all the way to the ranch which is just under 12 miles.  I ran the entire way to the Frary aid station and was feeling very good.  I am convinced that Hammer Nutrition's product called Perpetuem was key to my low levels of fatigue and sustained energy throughout the race.  Aside from the one GU I had at elephant head, I used perpetuem pre-mixed in 5 oz flasks (2.5 scoops per bottle which is about 338 calories).  I went through 5 of these flasks throughout the day supplemented by water in a handheld and S-Caps.

My goal for the day was to not linger in aid stations which is very easy to do.  I spent very little time at Frary aid station as was my plan for all the aid stations I visited throughout the day.  About a mile out of Frary I once again crossed paths with the eventual race winner Scott Jaime.  I also saw Harry, Ryan and Jon on my way to the ranch.

I made to the ranch just as Aric was coming out.  I went in filled my water bottle, grabbed my final two bottles of perpetuem from my drop bag and headed out.  The way back to the ranch was cold and we all faced headwinds all the way to the fence line where we headed up toward lakeside trail.

On my way back to Frary I saw many friends and familiar faces.  I saw Forrest (who I gave a big bear hug) and shortly thereafter saw first time 50 milers Randy, Matt, Misti & Dan (congratulations!).  The prior 2 times I have done this race, the wheels pretty much fell of at about mile 38.  This time was different.  I was feeling so good I didn't even stop at the Frary aid station.  By now I was starting to realize that I was going to beat my PR of 10 hours by a lot.

I'm still trying to explore in my head whether I have become more able to run through fatigue now or if I am experiencing less fatigue due to better hydration, nutrition & training.  Perhaps it's a combination of both.  Regardless, I started having visions of going sub 9 hours and kept chugging along and not giving into the HUGE temptation to walk.

By the time I made it back to the mountain view aid station, I once again had an Aric sighting.  I filled my water bottle ate some salt (ran out of S-Caps) and headed up the big hill and toward Lakeside.  Aric and I chatted for a while as we headed toward the bushwhack section and final aid station.  Aric stopped at the final aid station near Lakeside and I pressed on.

The end was now near and I was on my favorite trail on the island, Lakeside Trail.  I train on this 3 mile stretch regularly and it is very familiar to me.  Just as I was coming around the final bend of Lakeside I heard a whistle.  I turned around and there was Jared who I hadn't seen since the ranch.  Jared Clark is some kind of freak of nature who can go out and run a 50K or in this case 50 mile race with little or no training.

By this time I could see the finish line and it was nice to chat with a friend for that last painful mile or so.  We trotted along and ended up crossing the finish line at nearly the same time.

I ended up finishing the race at 9 hours 14 minutes.  This is 46 minutes quicker than my time last year and 66 minutes quicker than 2 years ago.  Ultimately I am very happy with the result.  I came up about 14 minutes short of my goal of 9 hours but am not disappointed.  I went out and gave it my all.

I experienced little or no foot fatigue throughout the day and had no blisters at the finish.  I wore Altra Lone Peak shoes with Smartwool socks.  My feet were feeling so good that I never did swap out my socks or shoes throughout the day.  The conditions were cold but bright and Smith Parallel glasses helped protect my eyes.  I wore the same Pearl Izumi shorts the entire race.  The shorts are made of a lightweight breathable material with built in compression shorts which remained comfortable with zero chafing after 9 plus hours.

The after race festivities involved greeting my family, mingling with some of the best people I have ever met, a few PBR's and some tasty stew.  It was truly inspiring to see so many friend take on new challenges (Dan Frey 50 miles, Randy Steinfeldt 50 miles, Matt Weeks 50 miles, Misty Alessandri 50 miles, Corey Vigil 50K, Jarrod Garr 50K) just to name a few.  Post race recovery has been fairly uneventful.  Aside from the usual quad soreness I'm ready to get back out on the trails.

A final shout out to Jim Skaggs the race director and all the wonderful volunteers who are coordinated by the super awesome Britta Trepp.  Thanks for making this race such a wonderful experience.  I'll be back for more next year.  Up next...The Pocatello 50 miler on June 1st.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moab Red Hot 55K race report

Moab Red Hot 55K Race Report

Well, ready or not the 2013 race season is upon us and Moab Red Hot 55K was a great way to kick things off.  The cool temperatures and sunny, cloudless skies were a welcome break from the toxic air and snow covered trails that I have attempted to train on over the past couple of months.  The red rock and dirt covered with just a skiff of snow was truly a sight to be seen.

A little about the course:  First off, I underestimated it.  For some reason the vision I had in my head of running along red dirt single track with a few rolling hills was nowhere near reality.  It was more like running a few jeep roads combined with running across, over, around, under a giant piece of rock all day long.  Much of the course was like playing a seemingly endless game of find the flag.  These flags were hanging in branches; laying under rocks and in some cases seemed to be hiding from me.

I started out with a comfortable pace that I felt I could maintain and pretty much stayed at this pace for most of the day.  The aid stations along the way were well stocked and helpful.  Overall, this race was fairly uneventful and enjoyable with the following exception.

I fell not once or twice but THREE times!  WTH is wrong with me?  I have gone out of my way in cross training to work on balance, core strength and flexibility.  I have even incorporated yoga into my regimen over the past few months.  I ran 33.5 miles and suffered no residual soreness other than a sprained wrist, scuffed up knee and bruised ego. ALL FROM FALLING!

One of the first things I learned when brewing beer is that you can never take your eye off the boil.  The problem is every time you turn your back on a boiling batch of water hops and barley it boils over.  Well, I have developed a new motto…Never take your eye off the trail!  My third and most embarrassing fall happened about 100 yards from the finish line when I looked up to acknowledge a few people cheering for me.  In a split second I went from elated I was about to finish to complete humiliation. 

My finish time was 6:58 and I’m fine with that.  This brings me to a point I have forced myself to explore over the past few days.  Why am I perfectly content being average when it comes to ultra running?  I hear people talking about how disappointed they were in their performance or beating themselves up that they didn’t hit a projected time.  I often wonder why I don’t feel this way.  Am I not a competitive person? Am I running these insane distances for the wrong reason?  Should I be pushing myself harder?

The conclusion I have come to is NO.  I may not be the fastest, most graceful or skilled but I run ultra’s for the exact reason I want to.  In fact, I am doing things now that I didn’t even realize were humanly possible 5 years ago.  For me, it’s all about the journey and finish times do not diminish my pride of accomplishment.

This may sound strange for someone who is lucky enough to be on a sponsored ultra team.  Aren’t sponsored athletes supposed to be up on the podium or at the very least running somewhere near the front of the pack?  Well, maybe I was just in the right place at the right time and a voice from the middle of the pack was given a chance.

I want to offer Aric Manning a big Thank You for pulling together the HUMR ultra team.  If you’re wondering, HUMR stands for Happy Utah Mountain Runners.  There are 10 athletes on our team and I sometimes wonder how I ever made the cut.  We have received gear and financial support from the following:
·         Pearl Izumi
·         Smith Optics
·         Petzl
·         Rooster’s restaurant & brewery
·         Bomber Athlete
·         Buffalo Run
·         Stuart Roofing
·         Arete
·         I hope I didn't forget anyone

Finally, just a few words on fueling strategy and gear, for carbs and calories I used strawberry Perpetuem that I pre-loaded into 5 oz flasks.  I supplemented the Perpetuem with whatever sounded good at aid stations.  Gear wise I used Altra Lone Peak shoes, smart wool socks and Adidas compression socks.  All of my clothing (shorts, shirt, jacket and beanie) were Pearl Izumi.  As it turns out, the beanie can be converted to a yamaka (it’s a long story).  The final piece that I was grateful to have was Smith Parallel sunglasses.  It was extremely bright out there!

Well, I guess that’s about it.  This has proven to be more of a self exploration than a trail report.  I’ll be checking back in a few weeks.  Next on the race schedule is The Buffalo 50 miler.  It will be my third year in a row running this race.  I finished in 10 hours flat last year and would like to shave an hour off that time this year.  If I don’t, oh well.   I’ll enjoy the adventure!  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you out on the trails.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bear 100 Race Report

Bear 100 race report
9/28 -29 2012

With several months of training under my belt, I approached 100-mile race with nervous confidence.  After all, I was going into unknown territory.  I had completed two 50-mile runs during this calendar year but that was just half of what I was about to take on.  Adding to my anxiety was the fact that my brother had suffered a brain stem stroke just one week prior to race day.  He has recovered remarkably and was able to re-gain strength in his right side and speak clearly after just 3 days in the hospital.
The fact my brother had experienced such a terrifying event at the young age of 42 made me even further realize that I’m very lucky to be able to take on such a monstrous challenge.  I also decided that it was going to take something pretty serious for me to drop out of this race.   In the big scope of things, we’re not talking about life or death with a race.  Sure, it’s painful and pushes a person to their absolute limits but it’s nothing compared to the challenges people don’t choose to take on.
On with the story, the first 36 miles to the Rt Hand Fork aid station were relatively uneventful.  I was cruising along at a moderate pace and was on my projected pace for the first few aid stations.  My approach was pretty simple; start out slow and steady, keep moving, hydrate well and avoid “sweet,” calories (sweet seems to turn my stomach after a few hours).  I stuck to this plan and pretty much drank straight water and used Perpetuem for energy.  In my drop bags I had an assortment of jerky, nuts, Payday candy bars and a few sweets in case I had a craving.
Not Leatham Hollow but a pretty cool picture from an area  nearby
I’ll never forget heading down the canyon to the Leatham Hollow aid station.  From the top looking down was one of the most incredible sights I had seen in my life.  I mentioned to several people that the view changed my life, which may be an exaggeration but the view was spectacular!  The canyon was lit up with yellows, green, pink, red, orange and the light was hitting it in such a way that the hillside seemed to glow.
At mile 36 I picked up Corey Vigil who was planning to pace me from Rt Hand Fork to Tony Grove.  All was going well and we kept a pretty good pace up through Temple Fork aid station.  Just past this aid station was the first time the Bear took a swing at me.  Nausea was starting to set in and we had about 2800’ of elevation gain over the next 5 miles staring back at us.  Suddenly, nausea turned to full on vomiting.  It started as just a little puking at first and we would press on.  A friend of mine who is a physician assistant caught up to me and gave me some Zofran (nausea medication) and advised me to place it under my tongue.  It was very bitter and led to very violent puking, which turned to dry heaving when everything available in my stomach had been purged.

Not feeling well here
After taking several breaks, I wondered if this is how my adventure would end.  I decided that the only way back was to get myself re-hydrated and start eating.  Slowly, it started to work.  I began to feel energy coming back and the nausea had left and never did return for the rest of the race.  After getting to Smithfield Canyon junction I was able to start running again, Corey and I cruised into Tony Grove aid station, which is about mile 51.

This aid station I was given the royal treatment.  I was both surprised and grateful to all the people attending to my needs.  Aric Manning had a chair out for me, Jim Skaggs was fetching me food from the aid station and Dan Frey was getting my gear ready for the next section.  An additional bonus at this aid station was my wife, 3 daughters and my mother had made their way to the aid station to greet me.
Happy Birthday Dano!
Dan Frey and I headed out of Tony Grove and into the dark.  It wasn’t as cold as I expected and I did my best to just keep moving.  At this point I was about 52 miles into the race and officially had passed into higher mileage than I had ever gone.  Dan was patient with me while trying to urge me to move a little quicker.  I was somewhat stubborn and just wanted to walk.  We were ascending White Pine Canyon Ridge when Dan asked me to stop for a second.  The next thing I new, he was jamming a noisemaker in my mouth and putting a birthday hat on my head.  It was his birthday and we celebrated right @ midnight.

We had a good laugh and I sang the happy birthday song to him and we were off again.  We both kept our hats on for the next couple of miles.  The next section had a lot of downhill in which we walked some ran some ultimately making it to the Franklin aid station.
These were great, I had them in all my drop bags
Franklin Aid Station

                 Dan and I got out of Franklin pretty quickly and began yet another long climb and I was getting tired.  I don’t even remember the last time I had stayed awake over 24 hours.  My body began revolting to this whole no sleep thing.  That’s when the yawning began and continued over the next couple of hours.  Into the darkness, we continued trudging along.  We made our way over to Logan River aid station.
This aid station turned out to be one of my most memorable.  They had a fire going, chairs set up and most importantly had grilled cheese sandwiches that were fresh off the grill!  For some reason they tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.  I had 2, warmed up by the fire a bit and we were off again.  The next section included about a 1000’ climb to Preston pass followed by a descent to Beaver Mountain where I picked up pacer #3.
Pacer number 3 was Aric Manning aka Manners.  His job was pretty much whipping boy.  I was in no mood for running and pretty much walked most of the last 25 miles to the finish.  I was fatigued and in the mood for this adventure to be over.  Aric was great at trying to keep me motivated.  These last 25 ‘ish miles are pretty blurry.  However, it was the first time during the race I had experienced hallucinations. 
Seeing things that weren't there

I’ve heard it can happen but have never actually experienced the bizarre phenomenon of sober hallucinations.  At one point I stopped Manners and was trying to point out the largest bull elk I had ever seen.  He played along for a moment and was really looking for this figment of my imagination.  I insistently kept pointing out what clearly wasn’t there.  As it turns out, I was actually looking at an old dead tree and my mind was filling in the gaps.  Hallucination number two happened around mile 90.  I stopped Manners and asked him why there was a car in the meadow ahead with a man out playing with his young child.  Again, he had a puzzled look on his face and urged me to consume more calories and keep myself hydrated.  I can’t even explain hallucination number two.  It seemed so real to me. 
At this point I am pretty much on a zombie death march.  The thought of quitting never even entered my mind.  The thought of finishing and being able to rest did cross my mind a lot.  Thanks to several chunks of grilled Italian sausage wrapped in pancakes at the Beaver Creek aid station, I was able to grind out the next few miles to the Ranger Dip aid station.  I was in and out of Ranger Dip pretty quickly and now heading up the steepest climb of the entire 100-mile excursion (Thanks for saving that for mile 93).
The climb out of Ranger was a grind.  I tried to keep moving.  However, fatigue was taking its toll.  I slowly ascended with intermittent stops along the way.  Relieved to see the top I knew the rest of this run was pretty much downhill.  There was just one problem, at this point my legs were so fatigued that it was all I could do to just try to trot once in a while.  I had heard that many people feel the end is near and find a new gear.  That was just the case with my friend Joel Hatch who came flying by me with such exuberance that he actually jumped and clicked his heels over a knoll just ahead of us.
I wanted to join Joel in his bolt to the finish but just couldn’t.  At this point I was beaten down.  I knew I was going to finish but just could muster up the ability to string together more that about 100 yards of running at a time.  So we mostly walked to the road where I began to trot.  This is where we ran into BJ aka “Squeaver.”  I was so happy to realize this journey was officially about over.  Manners and Squeaver got me to near the finish line and then peeled off to allow me to cross the line.  It was great seeing the crowds of people and all the HUMR’s cheering me on. 
I crossed the line, shook the race director’s hand and realized I DID IT!  My first 100-miler was in the books.  My wife and 3 daughters greeted me and were happy to see me finish this long journey safely.  I was escorted over to a chair where I was once again given great treatment.  My daughters pulled my shoes and socks of and helped clean me up and get changed into some clean clothes while others were getting me food and drinks and making sure I was comfortable.
Lounging and getting cleaned up

This was definitely an adventure I won’t soon forget.  The course was beautiful and the aid stations were friendly, helpful and well stocked.  Also, kudos to the Bear 100 organizers for one of the best post race meals ever.