Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Tallest" mountain attempt

Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano is the worlds "tallest" mountain... not highest, but tallest. When measured from the base, Everest is 8848 meters, and Mauna Kea is over 10,000 meters... of course Mauna Kea is only 13,796' in actual altitude, while Everest is 29,035'. Because I was spending the week on Hawaii as part of a vacation with my wife, I decided to do a Sea-level to the "tallest" mountain's summit run (42 miles, and 13,796' in altitude gain) one of the days we were on the island. We randomly chose Tuesday the 24th of Sept as the date, as it fit in with all the other activities we were doing. The weather had been really nice since we arrived on Friday, so I figured there was no particular day that would be better than any other. Monday night, we drove the route and I placed "drop bags" in little stashes every 5 miles or so with water and snacks. I woke up Tuesday morning, suited up, and my wife dropped me at the beach pavilion in Hilo (probably 6' above sea-level), and I started my run.
The clock on my phone read 3:00 am, and I punched the 'start' button on my Garmin 405 as I departed. The town was quiet as I ran up the dimply lit roads to the first drop bag, where I refilled my hand bottle and Nathan pack and continued up. Despite it being uphill, I was averaging 12:00 min miles and feeling great.
At the 10 mile drop bag, I realized I was in need of some biological relief, and so as I left there I began looking for an opportune place to wander into the jungle. I found a nice, lower-growth area and stomped several yards into the growth. Continuing up the road, the sunlight began to filter through the clouds...
yes, clouds... this was not in the plan. The first droplets of water started hitting me at the 15 mile drop bag, and quickly became "insistent". I was soaked by 20 miles. At 20 miles I started searching for my drop bag, and after several minutes I realized that someone must have needed it more than I did, so I hunkered down and started heading for the next stop. I was starting to lose the "fun" part of my fun-run at this point, and at mile 25, the wind really started kicking in. I refilled and refueled, and started back running. At this point I was into the run 6 hours and 34 minutes, so not exactly speedy. As the temperature continued to decrease, I started kicking harder to generate heat. I was making good time heading into the next drop bag at mile 31, until the cold-cramps started. I'd slow down to accommodate the muscle cramp, and then the shaking would start... not ideal.
I reached the 31 mile mark in 7:38... and I was WORKED! At the 31 mile drop bag, as soon as I stopped to grab the bag, the shaking started and I realized movement would be the best medicine, as I was now only 3.8 miles from the "warmth" of the Mauna Kea visitor's center. I grabbed the PB&Honey sandwich and started moving again. This is where the climb gets REALLY steep, so moving fast became increasingly difficult, and I started cramping again which put into the infamous "Frankenstein walk". As cars of tourists passed me on their way up to the visitor's center (or back), I must have been a wonderful comic relief from their rainy drive. I slowed to a crawl, fighting the shakes and the cramps, while trying to continue forward momentum... I was actually starting to get concerned that I'd go into full hypothermia before getting to the visitor's center. The rain and wind became so heavy at this point that I could only see 100' or so in front of me, so as I heard a car approaching, I'd hobble to the guard-rail and wait for them to pass, then continue my awkward gait until I heard the next car. I finally dragged my sorry butt into the visitor's center at 11:58, almost exactly 9 hours after starting. The last 3.8 miles took me 1:22. Not my finest hour. As I entered the visitor's center, it was full of tourists, and I asked attendant at the front desk if she could retrieve the bag I'd left the day before... then I took my drop bag and sat in the back row of the mini-theater they'd set up to show the educational videos about the mountain. As soon as I sat down, what little heat I was generating from moving dissipated, and I started to shake uncontrollably... what I sight for the tourists! One of the workers at the center came over and asked if I'd like his coat, which I gladly accepted. Then he suggested some hot water, which I again accepted... oops... still shaking, I promptly spilled all over his coat, the floor, and myself. I set what was left down on the floor, and realized that the wet clothing I was wearing was not helping matters. I noted they were selling souvenir sweatshirts, so I quickly bought one, stripped off my shirt, and put it on... HEAVEN! The lack of moisture on my chest and back immediately started things moving the right direction. Two cups of hot water later, and a visit to the men's room "hand dryer" to minimize the moisture in my shorts, and I started to be able to sit without random convulsions.
One of the tourists who was there when I walked in, came up and asked where I'd run from. I said Hilo, and his expression went blank... he asked how far that was, and I said "the longest 34 miles of my life". He asked several questions about the run, and ultra-marathons in general, and shaking his head, turned and left for his drive to the summit. I chose not to drive to the summit, but returned to our rental house, and its ocean-view hot-tub for some true recovery! Sadly, no Fastest Known Time for me this trip. However, I will be back to complete the run in a couple years... it's too good to let go. I've posted the attempt in http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/, and so we should see some "real" ultra folks hitting this soon. Happy Running!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Katchina Mosa 100K

This was my first Katchina, and from the start, it was in it's own special class... hard... 17,000' of climb, and 17,000' of descent hard... really hard. I left work on the evening of the 9th and drove to the pre-race meeting in Orem, UT where John Bozung, the RD, said the course should be well marked (but it has been known to be pulled by random folks), and then went on to call out several people in the group who, despite being experienced runners had made wrong turns in previous years and scored bonus miles... not entirely confidence-inspiring. After the meeting, I drove to Wally-world to get some supplies, and then drove up to the start of the race at Kelly Campground, and rolled out my sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep prior to my 2AM alarm, and the 3AM start. Sleep didn't come easy, but soon enough I passed out, and got a few hours sleep. I awoke to the alarm, and got up and started the preparation routine. This time I took the time to use masking tape in between my toes to reduce the friction there and hopefully avoid those gnarly between-the-toes blisters at the end of the event (and also added the obligatory "anti-monkey-butt"). Confused at that early hour, I walked over to the pavilion, set out my drop bags, and walked to the start line with everyone else while leaving my sleeping bag and pad laid out on the park lawn... fortunately a good Samaritan did me a big favor and set it on the railing next to my truck where I found it that night. John started us out at 3AM, and we started the first 1.5 mile-ish of pavement to where we turned North onto a dirt road that climbed for a few thousand feet to the first Aid Station. I had told myself I was going to start out slow on this run, and make sure I didn't blow up, so as people passed me I had to focus on not trying to "fall in" to their pace, particularly when it was folks I knew I should be finishing in front of ;) We continued the climb to the second aid station, after which we had the descent into the third aid station, and finally, departure from the dirt road and onto the single-track and my favorite terrain. I passed several runners on the way down, refueled at Aid 3, and followed a couple motorcycles up the single-track to lightning ridge. (yep, motorcycles... kinda funny to be hammering up a trail behind these guys, and then meet them on their way down near the top). As I climbed I caught up with Galen Garrison who I met when he ran Salt Flats 100 earlier in the year, we chatted for a bit, and then I fell back into my pace and headed on up the trail. I was then subsequently passed by Jarom Thurston
and a couple of his friends from Addict-to-Athlete who were running their first 100K, another quick chat, and they carried on ahead. I love the fact that this community is so tightly-knit, and we love to support each other during our respective experiences on the trail. As I turned to the final climb up to Lighting Pass, I was amazed at the distant view of Timpanogos Peak... it's amazing the views we get to experience through Ultras!
I continued up to Lightning Pass (the "high-point" of the race at 9,800') where I realized that this course was kicking my butt! However, again, the views were stunning!
Dropping down the other side, I saw the course flagging indicating to take the downhill fork and followed that trail... I wouldn't see another piece of course-flagging for the next several miles, and the further down the trail I ran I found myself coming up with various plans on how I would react when I came out at some trail-head in Provo Canyon, with no Aid Station and no clue how to get back on track. Fortunately, after a little less than an hour of descending from Lightning Ridge, I encountered some hikers, and asked them if they had seen any other runners... they laughed and told me the Aid Station was only about 1/4 mile away. Sure enough, I soon saw flagging, and then the aid station came into view. I had been experiencing some issues with my toes, and so I took a moment to look and see what damage had been done... as I was pulling off my shoes, Galen arrived and sat down next to me and immediately started photo-documenting my toe-trauma ;) I could tell that all my center toes (2, 3, and 4) would be losing their toenails... crap... so I re-adjusted the lacing on my shoes to release pressure there, and hopefully further hold-back my feet on these steep descents. I slammed a coke, a PB&J, and refilled my fuel bottle, and headed out again. Shortly after starting out, I passed a beautiful stream, and stopped to take a photo, and soak my cooling towel... which was very much appreciated for the rest of this section.
The climb to Windy Pass is exposed and steep, so anything to add some cooling to my neck and face is appreciated. A couple moments of indecision came shortly thereafter, as the trail itself doesn't match the description in the online course description that I'd printed out... turns out I was just expecting the "climb" to start sooner, and in short order I found myself on the familiar terrain of the trail to Windy Pass. I'd run down this section during the Squaw Peak 50 miler, so I knew that it was a serious climb... and it didn't disappoint. I fell in with John Maack for most of the climb. We passed Jarom who was feeling his heavy running schedule and was resting by the side of the trail... sadly, he wouldn't finish, but his AIA runners would! We continued up the trail, and on the last switch-back prior to the aid station, we came upon Moondoggy Dyatt! It was great to see him and we joked around, with him finally pushing me into a full sprint to the top... crazy guy! I took a few minutes to refuel and relax at the aid station, and then took off up to Windy Pass,
and the fun descent down into Big Springs Aid Station. I was feeling great and hammering it in a full run down the trail, just enjoying the speed and intensity when I suddenly hooked my toe on a root, and was airborne... Carl Tippets (who I caught up with shortly after this near-death-experience) calls this being "struck by lightning", because every muscle in your entire body seizes up to try to keep you from falling. In an instant, I reached out and grabbed hold of the branches hanging by the side of the trail, which stopped me from face-planting, and my feet whipped out in front of me, and then the branches slipped out of my hands, and I came to rest sitting on the trail... in near shock. I stood up, brushed off, and then walked slowly for a minute or two to work out all the kinks. I stopped and stretched out several times, and after 5 - 10 minutes, I managed to get back to running, but at a significantly slower pace as I suddenly felt very mortal. I caught up to Carl Tippets and Shay Johansen and stuck with them to the Water Trough. We all got some water, but I was completely dry, so I stayed there and drank an entire bottle, and then filled my bottle again. I caught and passed them about a mile from Big Springs, ran into Big Spring, dropped my pack and filled my hand bottle with ice water for the "out and back" which assured us our "full 62 miles"... :) After the out and back, I changed socks, re-adjusted my shoes, and headed out again with Carl and Shay to what Carl called the "crux" of the race... it's a slow, grinding climb, fully exposed to the sun on a rocky dirt road. I hung with Carl up through the first "summit" of the climb, after which I used the downhills to make some time... at this point, I was done with the event... I simply wanted to be finished... and I knew the only way to get it over with was get back to my truck at the finish. My right Anterior Tibialis tendon was screaming again (a legacy from last year's injury), and so I alternated between running and walking to minimize the pain. I limped into the second-to-last aid station, and sat down for a few minutes... the last 10 miles were going to be interesting. I was not feeling great at this point, but the AS folks were super nice so I put on my best face, chatted with them as I ate melon and PB&J, refilled my fuel bottle, and headed out again. Now I was on the "mission to finish" portion of the run... four miles of gnarly, rocky, up and down through a stream-bed single-track, followed by 6 miles of pavement to the finish. More alternating running and walking to ease the pain, and cursing myself for my desire to run these silly things, and finally I saw the aid station appear. I slid in and asked if someone could just shoot me (got all of them laughing), and then pounded a red bull, had someone help me extract my headlamp (as it was closing in on dusk) and headed down the road... I was not in the mood to re-fuel, I just wanted to get to the finish. I checked my watch, and figured the 6 miles would take me just over an hour... I put the blinders on and just maintained as much of a run as I could... and amazingly, the pain in my right tendon lessened, and then disappeared altogether! I was so grateful it had abated, and I settled into my finish pace and watched the light fade, and started to see the camp-fires in the campgrounds off to the side of the stream on the south side of the road. Occasional cheers from cars driving up or down the canyon, and even from one or two of the camp-fires let me know I was getting close. Sure enough, I saw the lights of the pavilion, then the traffic cones with lights inside illuminating them in the night, and cheers and cowbells from the folks at the finish... finally! It was over, and as always, the smile came back to my face. Every finish is a release of all the pain and emotion of the run, and I ran through the finish line, got a hug from John Bozung, and sat down to have my chocolate milk recovery drink. Jade Mangus was there (having finished nearly two hours ahead of me), as were the Addict to Athlete folks from the Windy Pass Aid Station who had done such a great job of manning that station. It was an amazing experience, as are all tough races. I was definitely challenged throughout the run, many times questioning myself for even doing this stuff. And as always, the "salvation" of finishing relinquished those demons, and I once again loved ultra-running... funny thing these ultras!

Monday, July 29, 2013

SpeedGoat 50K Recap

This was my 5th year running Karl Meltzer's "nightmare" course, this year clocking in at about 32.2 miles. The course zig-zags it's way up the Snowbird Ski Resort to the summit of Hidden Peak at 11,000', and then descends into Mineral Basin, then up over a ridge and down to Pacific Mine in the Tibble Fork area at about 7000'. From there it returns to Mineral Basin up some very steep ATV trails, and then continues to the top of Mt Baldy (just over 11,000'). A quick descent through the "tunnel" into Peruvian Gulch, back to Hidden Peak via the Cirque Traverse, and then a fast 10K down to the base of the resort and the finish. Sounds simple, right? Driving up the canyon at 5AM, I had no idea of the weather forecast and so as I got out of the car in the dawn light, the warmth of the air made me a little apprehensive. The past couple years the heat has crushed me and I was not looking forward to a repeat. I had nothing to worry about, as I would only see the sun twice during the entire run. As usual, the event is highly organized and the volunteers are top-notch, directing the runners and helping answer questions. At 6:15-ish, Karl got on the PA system and went through the pre-race briefing, which included the mass-recitation of the phrases "I will not get into the water", and "I will not short-cut the switch-backs"... both legacies from previous races.
The start finally kicked off at about 6:35AM, and we started the long grind up to our first visit to hidden peak. The air temp was no warmer than when I stepped out of the car at 5AM and so I continued at a conservative pace enjoying the morning and chatting with the folks cruising at the same general pace. Many were surprised to hear this was my 5th Speedgoat, but I assured them it was only because of a significant mental deficiency. At about mile 6 I started feeling my stomach going south, and as a result I slowed a tad, and tried to make some attempt at getting more nutrition in... it didn't sit well, but I kept at it. By the time I got to Hidden Peak at 8.3 miles, I realized that a visit to the bathroom at the summit shack was necessary. Feeling a little better afterwards, I had a couple pieces of watermelon, and then headed down for the 2.5 miles to Larry's Hole aid station. As I descended, my stomach continued to whine, and by the time I arrived, I knew I needed to put some solid food down or it was going to be a long day. Friend and fellow runner Mike Place greeted me at Larry's Hole (he was volunteering at the Aid Station) and helped me get some solid food down, I quickly refilled my water and started for the 4 mile trek down into Tibble Fork and the Pacific Mine aid station. Sure enough, the solid food was the trick, and about a mile into the journey, I started feeling good again and started moving quickly, passing six or seven runners on the downhill. Downhill running, through the dry stream bed/avalanche path is often the worst part of a course for many runners, but I find the delicate dance of bouncing from rock to rock while in a full run incredibly fun and invigorating. I made great time and rolled into Pacific Mine feeling good, but ready for some food and popsicles... yes, every year, Pacific Mine is known for it's vast supply of popsicles. I indulged and ate two, plus some PB&J, and watermelon, washed down with a Red Bull and some ginger ale. I headed out for the brutal climb out of Pacific Mine, but amazingly, I was feeling great. As I started up the climb, I started passing folks (instead of the past two years where I was being passed the whole way up), and was actually enjoying the climb. This, I'm sure was in no small part to the fact that the cloud-cover had only broken for a total of 30 minutes or so the entire day. Either way, I was thrilled to find myself climbing well, and feeling good. I crested the pass and descended into Mineral Basin for my second visit to Larry's Hole. As I arrived at Larry's running strong, Mike Place again greeted me, but this time with "hey, you're looking strong!". He said I looked far better than when I'd arrived 9 miles earlier, and I assured him I was feeling a lot better than that first time as well. He made sure I ate well, and sent me off for the climb to the top of Baldy with a spare PB&J and a cookie. I munched on those as I worked my way up the long climb, again feeling better than I'd ever felt during that portion of the course. Arriving at the "trail" to the top of Baldy, I looked up and laughed. This time Karl basically set the flags so that it was a "straight up the mountainside", 1000' bushwhack to the 11,000' summit, in less than a 1/2 mile of distance... steep is an understatement.
The photo shows a line of tiny people working their way up the steep slope (and "experts only" run during the winter) but you have to look close 'cause they're tiny! After reaching the summit, a short 1 mile downhill (mostly) run brought me to the "Tunnel" aid station, and another popsicle! I love popsicles during these runs as they are basically pure sugar, and are COLD! I ate some more watermelon, refilled my fuel bottle and water pack, and headed through the tunnel to the descent into Peruvian Gulch. It was here I met up with Jim Milar of the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers who had just run the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 the weekend prior, and was here hammering out arguably the hardest 50K in the country. We chatted for a couple miles and then when the trail steepened he slowed down (I'm sure his legs had to be toast at that point). What a fun guy and incredibly experienced runner! I love the fact that we get to meet so many great folks while out on these adventures! I rolled into the bottom of Peruvian Gulch and started the switch-backs that led up to the Cirque Traverse trail, and the last visit to Hidden Peak. As I crested the switch-backs and looked east, I saw the clouds rolling up the canyon threatening to envelop the entire ridge.
Several minutes later, the only part of the mountain not covered in clouds was the trail we were on. I felt like I was on some Hobbit-sponsored trek looking for a ring with the power of the universe... or maybe I was just tired and almost delusional.
As we climbed closer and closer to the summit, the rain became harder and I started to wonder if perhaps bringing a plastic bag would have been smart... fortunately, as I pushed harder up the hill I realized I was at the summit, and could get out of the rain for a minute. I refilled my hand-bottle a couple times with ginger ale and mountain dew, folded up my trekking poles, and started the final run down the mountain. I was feeling good and was able to keep a very solid pace on the way down. I covered the 6 miles in about 50 minutes, and came through the finish in 10:49, a personal best for me at the SpeedGoat. Karl as always was there at the finish to give a high-five and hand out the unique goat-medals. I enjoy this race because of the extreme challenge it presents (for me, this is harder than many 50 mile races), the great environment and atmosphere that surrounds it. It truly is a mountain running party!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run (Race Director Recap)

The 2013 Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run is in the books, full of epic individual struggles, amazing experiences, and the joy of running in some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet! First and foremost, many thanks to EVERYONE who participated, volunteered, crewed, sponsored, or simply supported someone who was a part of this event! A successful 100 is the work of hundreds of people, and this was no exception! After packing the trailer with all the gear for the event the previous two days, my wife Chriss (who is also the Assistant RD in charge of Volunteers) and I drove from our home in Bluffdale, UT to the Bonneville Salt Flats, parked the trailer, and went to sleep knowing we had a LOT of work to get done. Wednesday morning came too soon and we were up and at it. After unloading, Sam Collier, fellow ultra-runner, friend, and part of the Idaho ultra community pulled up in his car and asked if there was anything he could do to help as he'd finished up work a couple days early and decided to come down and hang out before running the event. I took him up on the offer, and we rigged up and set out to flag the first 23 miles of the course. Heading out on the salt, we flagged all the way to the first aid station without issue, but only about a 1/2 mile beyond we started breaking through the salt crust and bogging down into the slimy mud underneath. Rather than make my truck a permanent feature of the salt flats, I decided a reverse-at-full-speed departure was the prudent option, and I'd flag the course via ATV or on foot from Aid 1 to Aid 2. I dropped Sam off at the Start/Finish, he agreed to run the back side of Crater the next morning to help flag it, and he headed off to get some rest. Chriss and I drove into Wendover to check in with the Fire Department, get some supplies, and drop off the deposit check for the community center. While there, I decided it would be a good idea to wash the several inches of salt-mud off the chassis of the truck that I managed to accumulate extracting us off the edge of the flats. The Squaw Peak 50 shirt I was wearing is now permanently "speckled" from all the salt spray... if you ever want that "spilled bleach" look on your running clothes, I now have the solution. After finally returning to the start/finish area, I set out to flag more of the course. After driving the long way out towards Aid 2, before I even arrived I realized something was really wrong with the Truck... start phase one of "operation fix the truck while still getting the race off successfully". The cooling fan clutch had failed, and my big 7.4 liter V8 was gasping for cooling air, and thus overheating very quickly. A long, temperature-balancing drive back to the Start/Finish put me there around midnight, and thus ended that day. The next day after Ray and Becky Smith arrived (Assistant RD), we dropped the truck off at the local repair shop in Wendover, and headed out to flag Crater Island with Sam. Ray and Becky dropped Sam and I off just past Sheep Camp Aid Station (6), and they flagged backwards towards Hastings Aid Station (5/7) while Sam and I headed forwards towards Hastings. Sam and I had a great run setting the course through the "moonscape" on the back of Crater, stopping to punch pin-flags into the pie-crust of baked mud. I always enjoy the novelty of running this section of course as it's been my favorite part of the course since the first time I ran it. Once finished flagging that section, we continued backwards from the Hastings, flagging through 4 all the way to 3. We then headed back to the finish to drop Sam off and start on the water and Honey Buckets. Ray and I continued placing water, Honey Buckets, and flagging through the evening and all the way till about 5 AM, when we headed back towards the finish so we could get the race started, and head back out to get the rest of the course setup. By the time we arrived at the Start/Finish, runners were already milling about, placing their drop-bags, and making their final preparations. I was able to get a few things organized, say hi to Jay Aldous (who had literally just arrived in Utah from Italy the night before), see a few other friends and then get everyone lined up for the start. At 0700, I kicked it off and 53 runners headed out onto the salt, for what I sincerely hoped would be an awesome experience for each one. Then it was time to get back to work. On a side note, we lost an Aid Station Crew late in the game, and so Aid Station 3 became our own and several folks, including a couple who were just there to crew their runner out to Aid 3. Ray and Becky's daughter Rachael saved the day there by teaching the adults how to setup the canopy, and then she took over recording the runners in/out times. Thanks to everyone who stepped in to make Aid 3 possible! Ray and I split up and went to work, he, Becky, and his son Parker took off to continue to drop water and Honey Buckets, and I jumped on one of a couple borrowed ATVs (THANK YOU Bastian Cowsert and Mark Pledger!)and headed out to keep the course flagging ahead of the racers. About 11:00 AM, I headed back to the Start/Finish to find out if my truck was ready to pick up at the shop, and it was! Ray was inbound, so as soon as he arrived, he and I headed into Wendover to get my Truck. Upon returning, Steve Gerritsen, friend and volunteer was at the finish so I grabbed him and we headed out to finish flagging from the "concrete bunker" through to 14. However, at the turn off of Ranch Road that starts the climb out to 13, the truck lost the cooling fan again... MURPHY! I called Ray, who had been diverted trying to assist a runner who had a stress fracture and had to be extracted back to the start, and he started heading our way. Then I called the repair shop, and as diplomatically as possible, told them that they were going to come out and pick up the truck, and fix it before they went home for the weekend (Steve volunteered to go with them so that as soon as it was done he could drive it back), and Ray, Rachael, Parker and I headed out to finish the flagging into 14. Upon reaching 14, we headed back to the finish to regroup, and there I received the call that Steve was on the way back with my (once more fixed) truck. I also learned that Jay was running at least an hour back from his expected pace, so I had a little more time to get the last 5 miles of the course flagged, and the finish setup. Steve and I finished up the flagging by 6:30PM, and the finish was setup by 7:30PM. Somehow, with all the challenges, we still managed to pull it off. (I would learn later, that with the truck breakdowns, and the runner extraction, we failed to get the unmanned water placed at mile 48... FAIL!). My new, checklist-based approach will ensure that we don't let unexpected issues let a water placement slip by again. All during the race, the aid stations were competing for votes by the runners for "best aid station" of the year. All of the aid stations stepped up and provided OUTSTANDING support to the runners. Many runners, including Traviss Willcox who has run 246 marathons and ultras, stated that this was the best supported race they had run! Aid 4 had an amazing setup, as did 12, and they ended up tied for 1st place. Close behind was Aid 13, who were lauded by all for their expertise in moving runners through with both encouragement and tough-love. The biggest win for me this year was that I was able to be at the finish for every runner who came through! It was an amazing experience being able to congratulate each finisher, and hand them their buckle personally. I recognized myself in many of them, having that mix of pain, euphoria, and just plain relief at having it over. It's an odd thing this ultra-running... particularly the 100 distance. Jay Aldous finished first, coming through at 17:59:30. His travel schedule and it's impact on his training was evident, but he was happy none-the-less for having the opportunity to finish another Salt Flats among friends. He is always a class-act, and it was fun to chat with him and Peter for a few minutes at the finish. As more and more runners finished through the night, I enjoyed seeing old friends and new friends crossing the finish line. My cousin Davy Crockett came through just after sunrise, finishing this 100 miler after completing a 104 miles the previous weekend. Next, good friend Sam Collier finished his first sub-24hr 100! He was obviously stoked on the great finish, and also pretty spent... a great accomplishment to be sure. Another great accomplishment is a runners first 100... as Galen Garrison approached the finish of his first 100, I could see the pride that only a 100 finish can give. This is definitely one of the coolest parts of being an RD, is seeing the emotion of completing a first 100... I know how cool it felt for me, and it's a genuine joy to see others do the same! As the morning worked towards day, I decided to sit down and rest for a minute, as I'd been up for nearly 50 hours at this point... and of course that turned into a 30 minute nap until the next runner was approaching the finish. Milko Mejia came through the finish, having completed his fourth 100 miler. This course is not the easiest 100 by any stretch. It's very doable, but not easy, and Milko stated that very plainly to me... he's a new convert to the unique challenge and pain that the Salt Flats provides, and yet another new friend. The remainder of the day was a repetition of amazing efforts by unique individuals, all of whom came to this race with amazing personal stories and challenges. I watched our oldest runner, Bob Mercil (72) finish, followed by our youngest runner, Kara John (25) . Both endured some amazing challenges just to get to the finish. Somewhere along the day, we had a most unique visitor... Neil Young, who arguably shaped much of my musical taste as a youth arrived in his 1959 Lincoln Continental (modified to be a Hybrid Electric). He chatted amicably with a couple of the runners and crews, and then drove off. Had my head been in the game, I'd have grabbed a shirt and handed it to him, but alas, as I was chasing 60 hours without anything but a 30 minute nap, I wasn't really all there. Overall, this was an amazingly successful event this year. We had phenomenal volunteers at the aid stations and with the organizing committee. We had outstanding support by the Elko County Sheriffs Department Search and Rescue, South Jordan City and South Jordan Police Department along with the Amateur Radio Public Service Events (www.arpse.org) which provided medical and communications support, as well as kept the website updated with real-time-ish results! Six Nutrition did an amazing job as title sponsor, and all the other sponsors stepped up and provided prizes and support which made a great impact on the runners! I felt privileged to host every one of them, as well as all the runners, their crews and supporters, and see them cross the finish of what I consider to be one of the most amazing courses on the planet. Thanks again to everyone, and I look forward to next year!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Catch up time!

Catching up for me means actually paying attention to my own running again! The overuse injury from last season kind of put me into a mindset where I focused on everything BUT my own running. I volunteered at the Ranch Aid Station for the Buffalo 100, and then spent a ton of energy working on organizing this year's Salt Flats 100 (report in the next blog post). That said, I'm plugging away again, putting miles in wherever I can squeeze them in. This last Saturday I joined Davy Crockett entering as solo runners in a local 50 mile relay race (patterned after the Ragnar Relays) that roughly followed the Denver/Rio Grande rail trail, Legacy Parkway trail, and Jordan River Parkway trail from Roy, UT, to West Jordan, UT. The two of us stood at the start rigged to pretty much self-support the entire 50 miles, surround by people in costumes, team shirts, and carrying a hand-bottle if anything at all. To say we were conspicuous would be an understatement. Davy has already had an amazing running year and it was only May 4th. I on the other hand had only had a few decent runs, and was mainly relying on short-ish lunch runs as my main training body. We queued up at the start and walked forward until the guy with the clock entered our bib number and yelled "Go!". Davy held back for the first mile and we chatted about the last couple of weeks (where he'd run a 104 mile 24hr race on the west coast, then run my Salt Flats 100, and was now running this 50 miler), but after realizing I was at an entirely different level of training, he excused himself and opened it up. He ended up beating about 1/2 of the relay teams. I on the other hand, plodded along slowly, hanging with the slowest of the relay teams, and pretty much enjoying the fact that I was on my first real long run. The first "exchange" for the relay at 6.5 miles had water right at the exchange (as expected), and I filled up all my bottles, pulled a PB&J slice out of my pack, and headed out again. They had volunteers posted at several key, and quite odd intersections/course deviations where we literally ran through some parking lots, up alley's behind manufacturing plants, and then joined the formal trail again. After another 6 miles or so, the next exchange appeared, but no water was in sight... I still had about half of my water, so I chose to head out for the next section. Of course this is when the morning coolness started to wane and I really started drinking. With still two or so miles to go, I was bone dry. By the time I hit the third exchange at about 20.5 miles, I was parched. I refilled there (thanks to Davy who had arrived there to no water, after passing through #2 like I did without filling up and pretty much demanded they get some water there) grabbed more food from my pack, and headed out again. I was pounding the water, and I'd finished my main bottle after only a mile and a half, so I started looking for options. I saw a soccer park with a pavilion off the side of the trail, so I ran to that and found a drinking fountain! I topped off and headed out again. By the 4th exchange at 27 miles, I was starting to feel hydrated again despite finishing all my water before arriving, but was also noticing that my legs were losing energy. After refilling and refueling, I set off for the next section which ran through the Rose Park section of Salt Lake City. This area has a reputation for being a not-so-nice area of town, and the ever increasing spray paint "art" seemed to be confirming that. The course had been marked with yellow spray-chalk up to this point, and as I ran the trail "ended" and became sidewalk with a couple direction options. No chalk marking here, so I chose the largest of the sidewalk options, and continued running that, passing over several roads, and then was spit out into a parking lot behind a trailer park. This seemed a bit odd, so I back tracked for a mile or so looking for where I'd missed the markings... but to no avail. I then decided to try another direction at the previous "large" intersection, but this simply spit me out into a neighborhood after less than a 1/2 mile. Back again, and tried the other direction, which ended on the far side of a baseball park and amidst the parking lot full of little-leaguers... nope. I retraced and again followed my original route to see if I'd somehow missed some markings, but after arriving again at the parking lot behind the trailer park without seeing any markings, I figured I must be thoroughly lost. I decided to follow the fence line on the other side of the parking lot as it looked like it had a gate... which sure enough had a chalk marking pointing the opposite direction I was going! Doh! At this point my GPS was showing 36.5 miles (I should have been at the next exchange by now). My legs were increasingly tightening up, and even my old injury was starting to make itself known, so I decided to call it a day. All in all, it was my first real long run of the year, and it definitely felt good for most of those miles, so I'll call it a successful Saturday run!

Monday, October 22, 2012

2012 Pony Express 100 Race Report

The Pony Express 100 Mile Endurance Run has been on my list since meeting Davy Crockett and this year was the year. My wife and I awoke at 3:00AM and loaded the truck with all the necessary gear (as this is a self-supported event), and we headed towards Faust Utah. We arrived just in time to see the early start group heading out of the start chute, and I walked to the sign-in tent, picked up my race-bag, and headed back to the warmth of the truck. At 0550, Davy called out for the runners to report to the start, and the handful of us starting at 0600 formed a gaggle at the start chute and Davy briefed us on the last minute details, and then counted down for the start.
As I left the start I locked into my pace and held it despite the easy grade and classic "group enthusiasm" at the beginning of a race. My epic fail at the Wasatch 100 was fresh in my mind so I disciplined myself to stay within my planned envelope. One runner named Darren (running his first 100) hung with me until Government Creek where he pulled ahead. I learned later he DNF'd on this one, but I'm sure he'll be back to try again. The morning air was cool, but I soon warmed up and had to peel off my windbreaker. I kept the gloves and hat on until Simpson Springs (16.4 miles) where I peeled off all my cool-weather gear and headed out for the looooong trip across the valley to the next mountain range and "Dugway Pass".
As I passed through mile 25 I began to notice a previous injury in my right foot surfacing again, and by mile 30 it was back in full swing. Every step shot a stabbing pain up through my right leg, so I figured from this point on it was going to be all about pain management. I adjusted my gate, pace, stance, and whatever else I could figure out to adjust to try to mitigate the pain. By the time I started the climb up to Dugway Pass (mile 37.5), I was already falling behind my planned pace, and a variety of muscles in my right leg and lower back were feeling the effects of my adjustments to compensate for the foot pain. I arrived at the pass, checked in and took a minute to sit on the tail-gate of the truck to eat and drink.
The long downhill after the pass proved quite painful, but at least I made better time than on the climb up so I felt more optimistic about things simply because of the progress. During this section, I leap-frogged with a runner named Suzanne who also was running her first 100. Her step-dad was crewing her and was easily stopping two to three times as often as I was. I couldn't help but wonder how far ahead of me she'd be if she only stopped as often as I did... The other thing that gave me some significant optimism during this portion of the course was that I'd had no stomach problems and had stayed pretty much perfect on my nutrition and hydration. I honestly felt great other than the leg pain... and as long as the pain was just pain (and not weakness, and the potential of injury), it was manageable.
I reached Blackrock station feeling a little hammered, but still mentally good so I took advantage of the facilities and the free grilled goodies (the chicken was super-good). I headed out again and within a half-mile, Suzanne had caught up with me. She asked if she could hang with me until her because her knee was starting to hurt. I talked her through the pain management concept, and told her to adjust her pace as needed to accommodate the pain. Her husband and a friend traded out crew duties with her step-dad, and so she had someone to hang with and I pulled ahead. As I got closer to Fish Springs (Mile 58.2), I was getting better at pulling inside my head and letting the pain just flow through so I started making decent time again. I left Fish Springs after a quick bite of food and started the return trip to Blackrock station. Suzanne was headed into Fish Springs as I headed out, but that was the last I saw of her, as she also DNF'd. Sad to see a first-timer DNF on a 100, but hopefully she'll be back to try again. I made good time on the return, and very much enjoyed the cooler air of the night. I rolled into Blackrock (mile 67.9), again availed myself of the facilities, ate some soup, and some Argentinian sausage and then changed socks. I headed out into the night, ready to finish of the last 50K of the course. I actually felt good (other than the pain), and so kept the pressure on to keep my pace within my original envelope. As the night wore on, I struggled to keep the pace up just due to fatigue, but fortunately this is precisely when my pacer, Dan Eastman arrived. Dan has paced me several times in the past, and has just the right amount of ridicule in his voice to make sure I don't wimp out. As soon as he arrived, my pace picked up and we made great time despite my body's protests. We crested Dugway Pass (mile 78.9) and headed down the other side to the return trip across the loooooong, straight, uphill road to the next mountain range. It was along this road that the magic of GI issues crept up. Fortunately, it was not the upper GI issues that trashed me at Wasatch, but it was the lower GI issues that made me extremely glad we'd brought along the "Porta-Loo". Yeah, Ultra-running is sooooo glamorous! Just prior to Dawn, my wife picked up my pacer and drove him back to his vehicle, and I was on my own to reel in the last nine miles. At this point, my right foot had become partially numb, but the ankle was now feeling the effects of nearly 70 miles of adjusted gait, and so it was on fire. Still, no "malfunction" was happening, so I kept pressing; running for 1/2 mile, walking for a 1/10 mile, and repeating over and over. By the time my wife met back up with me, I had just over two miles remaining. I started the 1.2 mile climb up the foothills with enthusiasm in running mode, and quickly reverted to survival mode and power hiked the steeper sections, only running when the grade lessened. As I approached the last 1/4 mile to the turn down to the finish, Ken Maughan, who had started at 5AM and just finished drove past me and cheered me on, so I decided I could somehow run the remainder. I ran to the turn-off to the corral, and looking down the rocky road I could see the finish so I sucked it up and ran hard.
As I ran through the finish
I was welcomed by my awesome wife who'd stayed awake to crew me, as well as Dennis Ahern
(he'd finished about 40 minutes earlier and stayed around to welcome me in), and of course Davy Crockett was there to hand me my official belt buckle!
Every 100 is a tough challenge, each with it’s own character and appeal. I loved the stark landscapes, the contrasts between alkali desert and waterfowl refuge, and the cool fall weather. The Pony Express 100 is definitely a classic, and will remain on my list of repeaters.

Wasatch 100 Epic Fail

Well, at some point in running 100s it is inevitable (at least I'm hoping it's not just me) to have that epic fail, where it wasn't even close, where the mileage was scarcely an approximation of the intended goal. Where the body and mind both conspired for failure and the race was over before it even got into the meat. So it was with my first attempt at the Wasatch 100. It took me three years to draw out for this one, and somehow I managed only to get 53 miles in before complete self-destruction occurred. In reality, the self-destruction occurred around mile 45, and the last 8 miles were a simple matter of putting the last nails in the coffin. It didn't have to be this way. Looking back, I had several opportunities to salvage this event and pull out a finish. But by mile 53 I'd linked enough bad decisions to make it impossible. Here's how it came down: First off, let me say that I married off both of my daughters in the 36 days prior to the Wasatch, so needless to say neither my nutrition, nor my training had been optimal. On race day, I arrived at the start feeling reasonable, and as we headed down the funnel onto the increasingly narrow trail that runs the foothills of Layton, UT, I fell in with a few guys in what felt like a comfortable pace. Not once did I look at my GPS and determine what pace I was really running (turns out it was 2 minutes per mile faster than what I'd planned). By the time I reached the part of the course where it turned uphill, I was already feeling a little fatigued. Had I listened to my body at that point, I'd have slowed WAY down, walked very slowly up the steep climb letting lots of other runners pass me while I focused on mellowing out and eating some carbs to replenish my early-burn. Instead I set my sights on the group ahead of me and started making slow gains on them. When I reached the turn back south, I managed to pass that group, and then I focused on putting distance between them and me. I did manage to put down half a Cliff bar and a few Shot Bloks, but it was not even close to what I should have been consuming at that pace and distance. The brutal climb up Chin-Scraper likewise prompted an unreasonable desire to "hammer" it, and I put everything I had into the climb.
Topping out, I was breathing like a sprinter, not an ultra-runner, and I still pressed as I moved out along the ridge-line to head up towards the radar domes. Oddly, I still wasn't feeling the full impact of my impetuous approach to one of the hardest 100s in the country. Once I arrived at the Francis Peak aid station at mile 18.7, I was starting to realize my stomach had shut down.
I came in feeling really wobbly, and had a sharp pain in my stomach. I grabbed my drop bag, drank an Ensure, packed up my supplies, and as I walked past the table grabbed a couple bites of melon and a cookie. I tried to eat the cookie as I walked away from the aid station, but by this time my body was complaining loudly enough that I had to listen. From this point until about mile 35, I felt terrible. I literally forced myself to keep moving, and the sights of every upcoming climb made me want to lie down and sleep. Obviously, I could have stopped at Francis Peak, stayed there relaxing until my stomach came back, refueled and rehydrated, and then moved on at a more moderate pace. I even could have stopped and laid down like my body was screaming for as I approached Swallow Rocks aid station at 34.9 miles. However, at Swallow Rocks, I actually did sit down, and ate a Popsicle. Then I ate another. I drank some Coke on ice. I started to feel significantly better. I enjoyed the shade of the canopy there for about 15 minutes, and then got up and started off again. The short downhill after the aid station helped as well, and I actually thought I was back in business. What I actually was, was in a position to WALK all the way to Big Mountain, and take an even longer break there.
What I did do, was start running again. I came into Big Mountain having gained back a significant amount of lost time, and apparently was delusional enough to do a quick stop to make my planned sock change, eat a small amount of a boiled potato, and start off again running at a hard pace. That lasted for about a mile. Then it started deteriorating, and doing so quickly. I puked at mile 41, and then never got it back. Nausea continued to Alexander Springs aid station at mile 47.4, where I tried a piece of cantaloupe, which promptly tried to come right back up. I forced it to stay down, and headed off at a snail’s pace hoping not to lose that little bit of nutrition. The steep ups and downs of the climb up the canyon proved mind-bending, and with the darkness settling in, and only my backup headlamp with me (I'd planned on being at Lambs Canyon long before dark), I started stumbling in the dark. I somehow found the turn into the scrub-oak forest that would take me up over a ridge and into Parleys Canyon for my descent down to Lambs Canyon aid station, but as I headed up the single-track, my mental state began to match my physical state. I saw spiders on the trail (and I don't like spiders), so I tried to run which only made me trip and fall onto the trail where the spiders were (not sure if these were even real, but it was real to me at that time). I fell several times during the descent to Lambs Aid station at mile 53, and by mile 51 I was walking sideways to keep moving in a straight line. I was a mess. After the amazing medical folks there squared me away to where I was coherent and speaking full sentences, I tried to stand up. Nothing left there. It was over physically, and honestly I didn't have any fight left in me emotionally either. Despite still having 45 minutes before the cutoff, I withdrew and DNF'd. Disappointing? Yes. But surprisingly, I'm ok with it. I made those decisions, and I'll live with their consequences. But that said, I certainly don't have to make those same decisions again.