Monday, December 27, 2010

12 Days til Bandera...

It's taper time....and I need it!  I went out for a 15 miler on Sunday and was dragging myself along.  Today was a rest day and then it's all mellow running and rest days from here on out.  I need to allow all my aches and pains to heal up so I hit the start line refreshed and ready to roll.

I'm thinking about a goal time and I'm settling somewhere in the 11:15-11:45 range.  I chatted with Nick Clark, who set the course record (9:16:57) there last January, and he agreed that a sub-12 would be a realistic goal for me.  My plan is to run as much of this as I can.  I will let the rocks dictate when I walk, but I have not trained for hiking at all, so I know running will be more comfortable.  My hope will be to get through the first 50K loop unscathed before the real race begins during the second.

For fueling, it's no surprise that I've settled on an EFS liquid shot plan.  One 6 oz. shot (400 calories) mixed with water in my 20 oz. handheld.  I will plan to drink one bottle every 1.25-1.5 hours.  I also stumbled upon these cola flavored PowerBar Gel Blasts.  If you haven't tried them yet, you need to.  All that Coke goodness packed into a portable treat.  There are nine chews in a pack and each one provides about 21 calories.  I plan to eat 1-2 every 30 minutes starting on my second loop.
Energy Gel Blasts

Monday, December 20, 2010

3 weeks

Bandera is less than three weeks away.  I'm entertaining thoughts about my taper, but feel I need one last week of higher volume before I kick that into gear.  Last week was all about getting in long runs.  I don't have any scientific reason for what I did, but just felt like I wanted to get in a series of 10+ mile runs with a 30 mile run in the mix.

On Saturday, I went out  for the 30 miler on the local trails.  James joined me for the miles 4-10.  You know someone is an incredible friend when they go for a flashlight run with you at 5:30 in the morning with the temperature no higher than 14 degrees.  Around mile 10, we parted ways and I kept cruising while wishing the sun would rise and start to warm me up.  When it did, the sun lit up every branch and blade of grass that was covered in ice crystals.  Sure wish I brought my camera.

On Sunday, Tanya & I took advantage of the almost 60 degree day and went for a 5.75 mile trail run together.  I was moving slow from the previous day's run, but she was cookin'.  I was working hard just to keep up with her.  Fortunately, by mile 4 she started to get tired and slowed down to a more comfortable pace!  I continued on for another few miles after she made her way home.

On a different note, the Tejas Trails folks recently announced that the Bandera 100K has been named the USATF 100K Trail National Championship.  The race was already part of the Montrail Ultracup Series that awards four spots to Western States.  I think when you combine the two, I'm going to see a bunch of really fast people there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The IV method

All summer I felt like I was venturing out on these epic trail runs almost every week.  It seemed easy to rack up the miles while exploring in the mountains.  But now I'm running more than I ever have, and I haven't once left the immediate vicinity around my house.  Long runs, short runs, fast & easy runs...everything has been from my doorstep.  I'm not complaining, there's just nothing remarkable to write about these runs.  So here's a bunch of random stuff from the last few weeks:

  • Last Saturday, I put in a 40 miler on the HR trails in order to test my fuel plan for Bandera.  I call my plan the IV method because I'm shooting for a steady drip of calories instead of the quick shot my stomach doesn't care for when I pound a gel.  On this run, I poured one bottle of EFS liquid shot in my 22 oz. handheld filled with water and drank it over 1.5 hours.  I also ate a gel at the 1.5 hour mark.  I carried in my pack a second bottle and polished off both on my first 20 mile loop.  I followed the same plan on my second loop, but this time the 1.5 hour gel caused my stomach to tighten and cramp, so I think I'm going to go with a bottle of EFS every 1-1.25 hours and skip the gels.  If you haven't tried EFS diluted in water, you're missing out on a nice treat.  The stuff is mellow and smooth going down.  400 calories per flask.
  • I was pleased to pass through the troublesome miles (28-36) with no issues at all.  By mile 35-37, I was feeling really good, but I could tell my stomach was empty.  I had this hollow feeling.  Not a bad feeling, more like something was supposed to be in there.  I wasn't hungry, but was left wondering if that would need to be addressed at some point beyond 40?
  • At mile 13 on Saturday, I kicked a root and after several windmills with my arms, I hit the trail arms & chest first.  Thankfully I had layers on, so I didn't cut anything up.  I did create a minor dust storm that filled my mouth and eyes with dirt.  Later that night I was still picking mini pebbles out of the corner of my eyes!
  • Sadly, this was my second fall in a week.  The prior weekend I hit the dirt at mile 1.7 into a 20 miler and wasn't so lucky in the cuts and scrapes department.  I still managed to get in 15 miles despite the run never clicking for me. 
  • My other goal for Saturday was to run a consistent pace for both loops.  My first loop was .2 miles longer than the second, but I came in at 3:06:xx for both loops.  Felt pretty good about that.
  • I'm coming up on 1100 miles in my old Asic Gel Trabuco's, who still look fantastic in their old age.  They were my first trails shoes bought in early 2009.  I never spoke highly of them because there's no toe protection when I would kick rocks.  Now they're more comfortable to me than slippers.  I'm going to continue to wear them for shorter training runs until they bust apart.  Maybe 2000 miles??
  • I'm coming off my biggest month of mileage (Nov) with 307 miles.  Last week was my biggest week ever at 87.
  • I just booked a cabin for the LT100 weekend in August.  Thanks to Leila D. for the tip about looking in Twin Lakes.
Lastly, a huge congrats to Patrick for absolutely rockin' the Hellgate 100K on Saturday.  He finished in 3rd place overall.  Unreal!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ad Nauseum

Please raise your hand if you're sick of me talking about my flashlight. Okay, everyone can lower their hands now. Last time...I promise.

I found this velcro strap lying around and decide to see how it worked at holding the light on the back of my hand. It's awesome. I found that when carrying a handheld bottle in one hand and the light in the other, I struggled a bit when it came time to fiddle with other things (zipper, gel, bio break, etc). The picture makes it appear bulky & uncomfortable, but it's not at all. It also helps my arm to keep a more natural running motion while the light stays focused on the trail.

I'm really glad I figured this out now while I still have a lot of dark running ahead of me.

Another thing I learned last fill my bottles with hot water when heading out for a long run with temps in the low 20's. I filled up both handhelds with two scoops of EFS powder and hot water. Heading out the door at 5:00 am, I carried one bottle while having the other stashed in my empty hydration pack. At first it felt a little funny to have heat in my hand, but it took a good hour in the frigid temps for it to cool down (at which point the bottle was almost empty). When I took the second bottle out about 1:45 into the run, it was still hot. This may not work for everyone, but the warm grape drink was actually pretty tasty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Novel Idea

I was out on a long run over Thanksgiving weekend and thinking about how I've responded to the question, "why do you have to run so far?" I've been asked that a few times (okay, maybe once), and it was difficult to put into words why going beyond the marathon distance is appealing. Most people can accept running 26.2 miles, but start talking 31, 50, 62, or 100 miles, and it seems you lose them.

So here I am on my run of several hours, and I start thinking...

I like to read. If I were limited to novels of no more than 100 pages, just think of the loss of character & plot development that would occur. When an author is afforded as many pages as needed to tell their story, they have time to weave some masterful tales. Then I thought about some series: Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter. What if the authors stopped after one book? If someone asked me why I liked a particular story, I'd probably say that it was a kept me on the edge of my was a satisfying use of my time...I learned something....I was entertained.

In a similar way, running long distances provides that time and space for the run to develop. You go through a lot and see & experience much along the way. The plot (and sometimes cast of characters) grows with every twist and turn...much like a good story. When it ends, everything I said above could be said about a long run. It becomes much more than a jog to stay in shape. It's an adventure that keeps me excited to see what's around the next corner.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Looks like Geoff Roes' name just popped up on the Bandera entrants list. I guess he's game for taking me on again after his narrow 2hr 38min margin of victory in Steamboat last September.

Nick Clark set the course record at Bandera last year (9:16:57). I'm thinking it's going down even if Geoff has a mediocre day like he did in Steamboat. While battling sickness for several weeks, he went out and knocked 15 minutes off the previous course record. Man, I wish that's how I performed when feeling sick!

Six weeks out and I'm getting excited. In the words of RD, Joe Prusaitus, "Bandera is gonna be huge this year..."

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm thankful for a lot of things, but since this blog is about running, I want to say just how much I'm grateful for it (not the blog, but running)!

I'm thankful for the trails that take me on some amazing adventures to beautiful places.

I'm thankful for my health that allows me to wake up each morning and run. Every day I can do this is a blessing.

I'm thankful for races as they provide motivation to train, bring people together, and create a memory that will last a lifetime.

I'm thankful for all the wonderful people I know that have made this sport so much fun to share.

I'm thankful for my wife & daughters who support me through it all!

Happy Thanksgiving!

You've all probably seen this, but it is a great reminder of how incredible an opportunity it is to get outside and run.

Monday, November 22, 2010


In preparation for Bandera, I'm experimenting with all sorts of fueling options. I'm trying to up my caloric intake from 200 to 300 per hour. In Steamboat, I felt like I wasn't getting enough, but since I was despising gels during the second half of the race, I wasn't motivated to take in any more than absolutely necessary. I've heard good things about the EFS liquid shots as one 5 oz. flask has the calories & electrolytes of about four gels & one S-Cap. I took one on a 20 miler two weeks ago and was not impressed. The consistency was too thick and the vanilla taste was too strong. It just didn't go down well at all.

After reading Scott Jaime's MMTR report, I noticed he diluted the shots in a bottle of water. On a 30 miler Saturday, I mixed up two handheld bottles with water and one EFS shot in each. I drank one bottle every 1.5 hours. The diluted vanilla taste was light, smooth, and something I could see myself drinking for a long time in a race. It also worked very well at keeping my energy levels up. I did eat two gels during the last 8 miles, but if I had another bottle of water/EFS, I would have been fine.

My flashlight is still working great, but I found that when the temps drop into the low 20's, the aluminum light turns into a piece of ice. Because it is so small, I found I need to grab it tighter. Even with a glove on, it's cold and the firm grasp isn't comfortable. A little foam pipe wrap and some duct tape did the trick. There's no extra weight and now it fits in my hand perfectly.

Lastly, I took the Montrail koozie I got from the Run Rabbit Run and cut the bottom out to fit it around my bottle. Now as the contents approach the freezing point, my hand doesn't follow suit.

This running thing is all about making adjustments right?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


With the temps dropping, wind blowing, and flakes flying, I found
this little poem in the latest issue of Running Times to provide some timely wisdom.

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

The poem was found in a good article on motivation by ultrarunner, Eric Grossman. Here's the link:

Patrick & I hit the HR trails on Saturday for a long night run. We started at 9:00pm. It was quite chilly (mid-upper 20's) under clear and starlit skies. The breeze kicked up a few times and caused a few body parts to numb up, but overall we managed just fine. When we hit the 22 mile mark, we opted to skip a 4 mile out & back section in order to make the 4 mile uphill trek back to my house. 26 miles in about 4:02. For Patrick that capped a huge mileage week that included 17 miles on Saturday morning!

My favorite part of the night was the double creek crossing we encountered. I daintily hopped the rocks to avoid getting wet. Patrick splashed through both times. To give you idea of how cold it was, my hydration pack's "insulated" tube froze solid. I can only imagine how cold his feet must have been. I would say he's ready for Hellgate!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


On Sunday evening, the family gathered around the computer to sign me up for the Leadville 100. Why the whole family? Well, this is a big deal...and a decision that was not made casually. I need their help, support, and encouragement on race day AND every day between now and then.

So there we are, filling out the online form. Here's the extremely cheesy part....when it came time to click the "Submit" button, we all placed a hand on the mouse and pushed down. Well, that caused the mouse to move and click on some white space next to the button. Two more attempts produced a bunch of laughs, but still no submission. Finally I clicked while their hands just sat on top of mine. The next screen?

Payment Declined.

What?? Is this a sign that I shouldn't be doing this? Geez, talk about anti-climatic. I tried again and got the same result. The rest of the family walked away.

About a minute later, I got an email from my credit card company claiming "suspicious" activity on my account and asked if I authorize that activity. Heck ya! I clicked the "I authorize" link, went back to the LT100 site, submitted the form, and....

Payment Confirmed!!

So I'm registered. Why register 10 months before the race? There is something powerful and motivating about putting up the money and clicking the button. My life changes and I quickly develop a focus that just isn't there when I'm "thinking about it". I love knowing right now that I'll be running 100 miles in 2011.

August 20th and into the 21st will no doubt be the longest day(s) of my life. I'm looking forward to the adventure in store between now and then. There are many great 100 milers out there, but I consider Leadville as the "home" race. I've spent a lot of time up there and can't wait to compete in "The Race Across the Sky".

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I've had a big obstacle to overcome this fall. Running trails in the darkness of the early mornings. I've spent the last two winters training for road marathons, so it had never been an issue for me.

When September rolled around, I attempted to run the Highlands Ranch trails in the dark. I immediately faced two problems. One, neither of my headlamps lit the trail up enough, so my pace suffered tremendously. I couldn't make out the ruts and undulations of the trails and had several "hyper-extending" experiences. Very frustrating. Second, those little bunnies rustling in the leaves just off the trail suddenly sounded like huge beasts...that were ready to attack.

In the backcountry of HR, we have deer, elk, coyote, fox, porcupine, and a whole bunch of smaller critters. None of them are anything to fear, but when it's dark, my mind likes to play tricks by getting me to abandon rational thinking. Rational thinking tells me these animals want nothing to do with a runner huffing and puffing on the trail. They see and hear me long before I see or hear them...and they run away. Irrational thinking finds me believing that they see me coming, get hungry, and will charge or coordinate an ambush. It's never happened.

This morning I had 5 deer get spooked and scamper 50 feet off the trail. Then I had an encounter that made me jump higher than anything before. A mouse...yes, a ferocious mouse scurried right where I was about to step and caused me to perform a flailing maneuver in order to avoid squishing it. I've also had several porcupine encounters, but only one was close as I came barreling around a corner. They sort of mosey along, and with a coat of quills, I'd probably not be in a rush to get anywhere either.

So how have a rectified my issues? Two things. I bought a Coleman Max 115 lumen LED handheld at Walmart ($24). It's amazing. I must look like a locomotive coming down the trail. I love holding it too. When at chest level, I see every shadow on the trail. When going fast downhill, I drop it to waist level and I can see every rut, rock & root. I'm now right back to the same paces I run in daylight. For kicks I raised it to "headlamp level" to see if a 115 lumen headlamp would do the trick. The angle was not nearly as effective for making out everything on the trail. The light takes three AAA batteries that only last 6 hours, but I bought some rechargeables, so I'm good there.
Regarding me being fearful of the creatures lurking in the dark, it has just taken time and practice. I've done it enough in the last two months that I feel comfortable with the whole thing now. One solution that has helped is to bring along my iPod Shuffle and listen to music. I know that most people would prefer to hear the rustling in the bushes, but I don't. The music blocks that out and I can run in peace...versus getting frequent, quick, and unnecessary releases of adrenaline. I've decided to only care about what is on the 20-25 feet of trail directly in front of me. The flashlight takes care of that, so I know what's coming.

With my running plans this winter, I needed to come to grips with running trails in the dark. If I couldn't, I figured my plans would need to change. I'm glad it's working out so far and my confidence is building. I'm sure the day after I post this some elk is going to plow me down, but until then...I'll be out there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Climbing the ladder...

It has been just over six weeks since Steamboat, and I've been simply loving my runs lately. No pressure, no training, and pretty much running however I feel that particular day. Even though I've had some longish runs, I feel totally rested from the long buildup of training and racing this summer.

With all that said, I'm ready to train again. I've been feeling like I want to sign up for something and get out of bed while it is still dark to prepare for it. I had planned to just go with the flow for another month or so before beginning my training for Moab, but that seems too far away now.

With two 50 milers under my belt, I feel it's time to take the next step up the ladder and shoot for a 100K. After chewing on it for a week, I just signed up for Bandera in January. It's all rolling hills with plenty of rocky singletrack. Unless something wacky happens with the weather (like it did last year), it looks like the rocks and how well my feet can handle them, will be the challenge with this race.

Leadville registration opens on Thursday. Anyone in? I may be soon!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Newfound Lake Loop

My other run during our vacation was to continue my 3 year tradition of running around Newfound Lake. It started when I was training for the NH Marathon in 2007 and running around the lake meant training on the actual course. After running in the NH Marathon again in 2008, I decided that I would continue to run that 16 mile loop each visit for as long as I can.

I started the run without any plan. It was the coldest day of the week, so I ran fast to get the body warmed up quick. The faster pace felt great, so I decided to keep pushing it. I ran about 75% of loop in the dirt on the shoulder. In some places it was smooth, while in others it felt like a semi-technical trail.

The town of Hebron. This 210 year old town features a village square that has barely changed in that amount of time.

Hebron Square from a different angle.

Big Sugarloaf Mountain. Summit #2 on my Elwell Trail adventure.

An area of the lake called the "Ledges". It is also the deepest part of the lake. 180'.

I don't know the story behind this lighthouse. Just thought it was a cool pic.

I ran the 16 miles in 1:56. That's cookin' for me on a training run. But man, did it feel good!

The Elwell Trail (Newfound Lake to Mt. Cardigan)

On the bucket list of every trail runner should be a mid-October run somewhere in NH-VT-ME area. Last week, I was vacationing in NH and bagged a sweet run in the famous fall foliage. About a week before we left, I found a write-up of the Historic Elwell Trail. My parents live on Newfound Lake, so it was a perfect run that I didn't have to drive far to reach.

The Elwell Trail summits many small peaks (Little Sugarloaf (948') & Big Sugarloaf (1360'), Bear Mtn (1835'), Oregon Mtn (2301'), and Mt. Mowglis (2400'), before connecting to the Mowglis trail and heading up Firescrew Mtn and Mt. Cardigan (3155').

When comparing them to the peaks in the Rockies, they're tiny. But string them together with plenty of bouncing up & down, a trailhead situated around 600', and I finished with close to 5000' of climbing. I'm confident that when these trails were blazed 85 years ago, they had never heard of switchbacks. Every ascent was almost a straight shot up!

My folks dropped me off at the trailhead at 7:30am. Immediately, I disappeared into a thick forest. They had received ample rain in the days prior to our arrival, so my Wildcats were soaked through within the first mile. With that said, it didn't bother me much as they seem to drain & dry well. It was a windy & cool day, but I thought it was next to perfect for an autumn run. Enjoy the pics!

Newfound Lake from atop Little Sugarloaf

Newfound Lake from atop Big Sugarloaf

Newfound Lake...again...from atop Bear Mtn.

Example of why NH is called the "Granite State"...and why I "ran" 15 min miles. Yes, that is the trail.

Ah...running alone in black bear country...during hunting season. I did my best to be seen and heard. From atop Oregon Mtn....Firescrew is above my right shoulder.

There were several spots to open it up and fly. Although, a few surprises were hiding under those leaves...puddles, roots & rocks.

Even with decent signs, the trails were sometimes a challenge to follow. Can you tell which way the trail goes?

Mt. Cardigan summit from atop Firescrew Mtn. I learned quickly that was ice glistening on the granite.

The fire tower on Cardigan's summit

I ducked behind the concrete shed underneath the fire tower to get out of the 25-30 mph winds and sub-freezing windchills.

Coming down Cardigan on the Holt trail.

Had to do some "road" running at the end to meet up with my family at an apple orchard. I could run all day on roads if they looked like this!

The stats on the day were about 16.3 miles in 4:03. Tack on an additional hour for breaks (pics, food, bathroom, rocks in the shoes, etc).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Roundup

On Saturday, Tanya & I ran in the Wildcat Mountain 10 Mile Trail Race here in HR. We didn't run the race together, but instead did our own thing and met up at the finish line. We did sneak in a high five as we passed each other on the out & back stretch.

Tanya ran a spectacular first trail race finishing in 1:45. She really enjoyed the trail scene, but would have liked just a little more "crowd support" out there! After the race she won a $55 Brooks long sleeve running shirt in a raffle. That made up for the lack of finishers medal, which is pretty much a requirement for any race she runs.

The 10 mile course was one that I had run about once a week all summer long. I've never raced on a "home course", so I was curious to see how much that would help to run a smart and solid race. I think it really helped. I decided to push it quite hard and see if I could nail a top ten finish. If you've followed my running for any length of time, you know that is something I typically don't shoot for.

When the race started, I was last in a pack of ten runners at the front. The first two miles were uphill and my heart rate was off the charts. My first split was a 6:46. I then made my move to pass two runners and settled into a slower pace as we continued to climb. The second was a 7:13. Once things flattened out a bit, I was able to notch two more sub-7 min. miles before starting another mile long climb. During this stretch the 6th place runner kept adding to his lead with no sign of slowing. Fortunately, the two guys behind me dropped back far enough that I couldn't see them anymore.

That's the way the rest of the race went. No passing, and no being passed. I crossed the finish line in 1:10, which was good for 7th place. For the first time ever, I placed 3rd in my age group (30-39) and scored a medal!

This race was satisfying on many levels. It was fun to get out and try to run fast. After several races where "slow and steady" ruled the day, it felt good to open it up and get the heart pumping. I haven't run a sustained 7:00 pace since April. I appreciated the advantage of knowing every single twist and turn in the trail. I knew when to hold back a bit, and when to just let go.

On Sunday, I ventured up to Evergreen with Patrick to meet up with Jim & Steve for a run up Bergen Peak. Jim lives just steps from a connector trail, so we got going quickly and motored up at a good clip. My legs were feeling quite heavy from the race on Saturday, but good enough to keep up with everyone. While on the summit, we experience our first snowflakes of the season. I was on Bergen with Patrick back in June when the summit was in a cloud. This time the clouds were broken up enough to afford scenic views of a snow dusted Mt. Evans. We ended up covering 12 miles in 2:03.

Thanks for hosting the run (and snacks) Jim!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Still Thinking About Leadville...

Well, I'm still thinking about Leadville for next August. I don't know what it's going to take to make me say "yes" or "no", but registration opens in less than a month.

Two big qualms I had with Leadville are the lack of online updates during the race, and Winfield.

For two years now, I've tried to follow LT100 runners through twitter updates and it was incredibly frustrating to not know what was happening for 4, 6, 8 hours at a time. If I'm running in it, I want friends and family to be able to track my progress throughout the day...and night.

I don't think a single LT100 runner had anything positive to say about the road to/from Winfield. I've seen pictures of the circus at the turnaround and that portion of the race is a big turnoff. Six miles of running through a constant dust cloud kicked up by the passing of cars...ugh!

This week I shot an email to the new owners of the LT100 family of events, Life Time Fitness. They're based out in MN. I simply expressed my concerns and asked for even a hint of changes that might be made for next year. I assumed I'd eventually get some canned response. Well, the very next day, I got a sweet email from Peter Spencer. Let's just say they are totally on top of the "issues" from Leadville 2010 and are going to be making some much needed changes. He said that online updates will be "100% better" than this year. Seeing that there were none, they can't get any worse! He also said that a change WILL be made for Winfield. Right now they are considering the option of restricting all car traffic while busing crews/pacers out there. Another idea in the hopper is to build a trail along the main road from Hope Pass to Winfield.

I'd be lying if I said my email exchange with Peter didn't get me excited. Right now, I'm looking at the entire calendar for 2011 and trying to figure out if I can make it work. I will not let the year revolve around this race. I want family life and other commitments to continue as normal, with training fitting in rather than vice versa. This philosophy has worked in the past, but planning and training for a 100 miler is a different animal.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mt. Falcon

Hopefully no one was looking for me at Deer Creek on Sunday. I had a last minute change of plans. All the horse-loving ladies in my house went to that Cavalia horse show in Denver, which freed up the entire afternoon for me! I had a gift card to Runner's Roost, so I shot up to the Lakewood store and picked up a pair of La Sportiva Wildcats and then went right over to Mt. Falcon to break them in.

What a great shoe! This summer I've been alternating between my Asic Trabuco's (2 years and almost 900 miles) and my Salomon XA 3D Pro Ultra (almost 600 miles). I raced with the Salomon's, but aside from the solid toe cap, I never thought they were all that great. But man that toe cap saved me on more than a few occasions.

Since I'm not that interested in a minimalist shoe right now, the Wildcat seemed to strike a nice balance. From the first few steps on the trail, I knew it was a good match for me.

I went back to Mt. Falcon because it was close to Lakewood, and there were a few trails I didn't get to check out when I ran there in June. Specifically the Two-Dog, Old Ute, and Devil's Elbow trails. They're all super short, but fun.

All in all, it was a great run. I pushed it pretty good, but not so much that I wasn't having fun. A few times, I found myself in ultra mode and I started hiking the uphills only to remind myself that there was no need to conserve for later. Other times I hiked out of necessity!

A favorite moment was descending a technical stretch of the Castle trail. About four hikers were taking a break on the side. I was flying down and by their expressions, they thought for sure I was going to bite it at any moment. Well, I didn't, and instead was just loving the run, the new shoes, and my post-RRR recovered state!

Totals for the day were 13.7 miles in 2:16.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 PPM Video - Trailer

Thought I'd share this trailer if anyone is interested in a closer look at the PPM. Look for yours truly around the 1:20 mark getting passed by a lady while camping out at an aid station. Well, she was the 2nd place female, so that's pretty cool.

I'm thinking of hitting up Deer Creek Canyon on Sunday afternoon (1:00ish) for a moderate 12-13 miles if anyone is interested in joining me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

RRR - What Worked...And What Didn't

Time for a little "out loud" introspection and race review here. I've now run two ultras and I thought I'd jot down some thoughts regarding what went well out there...and what didn't. I'm sure there will be more to add to the list as I digest and remember more, but here's what I came up:

What Worked

1. Shorts* with pockets (race ready) - About a week before RRR, I was given a new pair of running shorts for my birthday. They were the "race ready" type with five pockets around the waist band. I decided I would skip my hydration pack for the race and stuff my shorts while carrying handhelds only. I have to tell you they worked like a charm. I carried up to 6 gels, SCaps, TP, two ginger chews, and never felt I had any of it on me. The stuff did not bounce and never fell out. I can't say enough good things about them. Notice the "*".

2. Nutrition* - I implemented the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) to follow. At Silver Rush I was taking a gel every 45 minutes and after about 2 hours, I couldn't remember when I took the last one or calculate when to take the next. At RRR, going every 30 minutes allowed me to mindlessly follow the plan all day. I put another "*" because my plan had some negatives.

3. Hydration/Handhelds - I carried one 20 oz handheld for the first 22 miles before picking up the second. I never needed a second during those cooler morning hours, but I was glad to have the another one on the return trip. I learned that during the second half of the race, if there's more than 4 miles between aid stations, I need two.

4. Drop bag - This was the first time I used one (mile 13 & 38). I planned well with the right number of gels to pickup. I also had sunscreen which I applied at both stops. I also slowed down enough to really think through what I needed pickup and leave behind.

What Didn't

1. Nutrition - The actual nutrition & plan worked. What didn't work is my ability to mentally accept gels after 30 miles or so. I wanted an alternative, but was too scared to try anything at the aid stations for fear it was going to jack up my stomach. I've trained with other food, but not in the 30+ mile range. My task going forward is to experiment with all kinds of foods/drinks on long runs. I can see no way of completing a run longer than 50 miles if I can't eat or drink something else along the way.

1a. Caffeine - Almost all the Gu's I ingested had caffeine. I generally have two cups of coffee a day, so caffeine has never been an issue for me. I did have a cup of coffee before the race. By early afternoon, I think the steady drip of caffeine through each gel was starting to build up and get to me. I began feeling jittery. I think I need to slip in some decaf slurps once and a while.

2. Ginger Chews - When I was feeling nauseous between miles 28-34, I tried to eat a ginger chew. Maybe it was the brand I got, but it took me 10 minutes to swallow it. I don't think it worked either. Maybe I just needed time to let the feeling pass. I drank Coke at every aid station on the return and that tasted really good. I may try Tums too.

3. Mental Stimulation - I wouldn't say I got bored on the return. I was having fun out there. It's just that I went for hours running all by myself, with nothing or no one to break up the monotony. Generally, I'm quite comfortable running alone, but it seemed like I needed something to temporarily shift mental gears and stop focusing on how I was feeling. I now have an ipod shuffle, so I think I may try to incorporate that during later miles on future runs.

4. Splits/Watch - I had a loose goal of running an eleven minute pace during the RRR. I printed out a little Excel table with aid station splits at that pace. While I pulled it out a few times outbound, during most of the inbound run, I could have cared less about my pace/overall time. I had a much more complicated table for Silver Rush and remember thinking the same thing. So my question for future races I even bother? Should I just go run by feel and not worry about splits? It seems during those last 20 miles (of a 50 miler), there's just too much going on physically/mentally to stress about splits.

5. SCaps - These work for me as an acceptable electrolyte replacement tool. I just need to find an optimal way to carry them. For three races now, I've used a small ziplock bag. This bag is easy to open at anytime...other than during the race. Same with getting the caps out of the bag. For the first time, I dumped a bunch of them on the trail around mile 40. You should have seen me trying to bend over to pick them up out of the dirt! Either I'm going to switch to something else or find a better way to carry/dispense them.

6. Shorts - Okay, the race ready shorts are by far the "shortest" I own. After training all summer in longer shorts, these baby's revealed my pasty white every picture! I didn't think about it during the race, but good pictures will be forever glowing. Guess I need to start wearing them in May so the sun can get a jump start working up that high!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Run Rabbit Run - Long Version

"Top results are reached only through pain...You'll find the more difficulties you have on the way, the more you will enjoy your success." - Juha "The Cruel" Vaatainen

I went to put my shoes on 4:45 am the morning of the race and found an encouraging card from Tanya & the girls underneath them. The quote above was on the front. Right then, my mindset snapped into place. There was going to be no easy path to success. I could bank on pain and discomfort. Those guarantees, and how well I could embrace them, were going to be the determining factors for a successful race.

On that note, I've decided that I'm never going to say that such and such race was a tough one. I've learned now that they're ALL tough. Going 50 miles is very difficult no matter what, where or when. Something is bound to bite, altitude, terrain, elevation, mental fatigue, get the point.

Backing up a bit, I have been looking forward to the Run Rabbit Run all spring and summer long. I love Fall in Colorado, but always seem to get busy those last two weekends in September and miss the peak colors. What better way to guarantee that I'll see them up close, and for more time than ever before, then to run through them for 50 miles!

Just a taste of the beauty. Rabbit Ears Peak (aka...the turnaround)

We were staying at the same campground as Patrick and Jonathan, so I hitched a ride with them to the start. We bee-lined it for The Bear to seek warmth! They had a nice spread for runners and we all huddled inside until about 4 minutes before the start. At that point, we shuffled out into the darkness in just enough time to hear someone shout "GO!"

About two thirds of the runners wore headlamps. I did not and just stuck close to a few in order to steal some of their light. Within 15 minutes, the sky lightened just enough that I could make do just fine on my own.

I have to stop here and point out what I wuss I was at Silver Rush to be "shocked" at the 200' sledding hill all runners had to climb right at the start. Ha! If only I stopped to consider what RRR would throw at us, I'd have laughed and said the sledding hill was kids play. At RRR, you find yourself standing at the base of the ski mountain and once you cross the start line, you don't stop climbing until you're standing at the resort's highest point (10,300'). That would be 6 miles with 3400' of elevation. And after that, you then get the pleasure of running another 38 miles. Oh, but the real joke comes when after running those 44 miles, you find yourself back at the top of the mountain and faced with 6 final miles of leg crippling descent.

I carried my camera for the first 22 miles, so I could grab a few shots along the course.

Looking back to Steamboat after the climb to the top of Mt. Werner.

I actually felt great during the climb. I power-hiked most of it and chatted with a few runners. I connected with Aaron and Danny and enjoyed our conversation as it helped make those miles go by quickly. They were both running their first 50. Unfortunately, Aaron injured his hip and had to drop at mile 32. How cool is it that he went right to the finish and waited for runners to come through so he could cheer them in!

Leaving the Mt. Werner aid station. Wait, I thought we were done climbing?!?

Closer to the top, I met up with Aaron M. from Fort Collins. He was also running his first 50. We talked about running in FC and how cool of a guy local Nick Clark (whom I hope to meet someday) is. Nick is an amazing, elite runner who is very supportive and encouraging to many CO ultra/trail runners.

Cruising by Long Lake just before the 13 mile mark.

From miles 6 through 13, I puttered along in some pristine forests. The singletrack was a trail runner's dream. A few parts were steep and technical, but the majority of it was runnable.

A poor attempt at an action shot on the run.

My fueling plan for the run was to take a Gu every 30 minutes and an SCap every hour while trying to drink 15-20 oz of water between aid stations. After Silver Rush, I learned I need to commit to a schedule and make it very simple to follow. This plan worked like a charm for the first half. Then...well, we're getting there.

Lake Elmo...I think?

Dropping down to begin our approach to Dumont (lake and then aid station).

I arrived at the Dumont aid station (mile 22) feeling good as I met up with my amazing crew only 2 minutes behind my hopeful split. That was the good news, but it was overshadowed by my concern for the next 5-6 mile out and back to Rabbit Ears Peak. I had heard the climb was steep and my legs were starting to feel heavy. After a quick stop to drop off the camera and grab my second handheld, I took off to keep my momentum going.

If you look at my elevation graph at the bottom, you'll see the Rabbit Ears climb in the middle. It is relatively short, but man, the road was steep in parts and exposed to the sun. My favorite parts were running by Patrick and Jim (who ran an incredible 8:58 and finished in 13th) as they were looking very strong coming down. The final pitch found me struggling to gain decent footing on the crumbly dirt and small rocks. I said to a guy yelling at us through a megaphone that "this is sure going to be fun running down." Little did I know just how much.

I got checked in at the turnaround and started down. No more than 3 minutes later, I was navigating the sharp drop and my feet shot out from under me. My water bottles went flying, and I slid for about 5 feet on my right knee/leg. Ouch. I popped up quickly, but I was scraped up, hurting, and rattled. I walked for a few minutes trying to regroup. The scrapes were manageable, but I felt like I bruised my knee. Running was a challenge, but after a few miles, I settled into a comfortable level of pain and just forgot about it.

It helped to run by and give a shout out to Aaron and Jonathan as they powered up to the ears. Soon enough, I arrived back at Dumont and my crew was there waiting with high fives and a pacer.

Returning from Rabbit Ears. Mile 28. I was paced for the last 100' into the aid station!

Megan is not really thinking my antics are all that funny. She thought I smelled bad.

I grabbed enough gels to get me through the next 10 miles. This stretch was to be my worst. Immediately, I started feeling nauseous. I tried a ginger chew since I heard that has worked to calm down the stomachs of other runners, but instead I was left dealing with a mouthful of tar. It stuck to my teeth and wouldn't go down. Eventually it did, but provided no relief to my nausea. Dread came over me every half hour because that was "gel time". Just thinking about them caused me to cringe. I remained committed to my fueling plan and almost shot the gels back up as fast as I tried to get them down. I now know that forcing them down absolutely saved my race. I even felt a tinge of a bonkiness coming on and took an extra gel. Those calories did their thing and I was able to keep them down.

I recovered from my rough patch around mile 34. I was still hurting good, but so was everyone least that's what I kept telling myself. I had been about 200' behind this lady who was running the downhills and flats while hiking the hills. I followed suit and let her pace me for a few miles. We leap-frogged a couple of times, but she always seemed to find a way to get in front. I finally passed her at an aid station (mile 38) and began flying solo for quite some time as the miles ever so slowly ticked by.

Coming into the Mt. Werner aid station (mile 45), I was feeling good about the descent. I loaded up my bottles, drank a bunch of Coke, and started out. The first mile kicked my tail. Immediately I was cramping and I couldn't find a comfortable pace. I tried walking and that was no better. The second mile had me debating my options for what to do. I was so close and realized the only way I was going to finish under 10 hours was to run the entire thing...hard.

I don't consider myself a strong downhill runner or finisher of races. I've tried before to turn on the jets, but always burn out right away due to fatigue. Well, something happened and those final four miles were unlike anything I've ever experienced. I started running down those steep dirt roads as fast as I could. Everything hurt like mad, but I didn't care. There was no one in sight to pick, I was racing against the 10 hour mark. I could hear the noise from the finish, but couldn't see anything. I went from running a race completely void of emotions, to having tears pouring out of my eyes and streaming down my cheeks. I felt as alive as I ever have. With a mile to go, I could see the village and proceeded to run the fastest I had all day.

Put on a pair of sunglasses so you don't get blinded by my glowing thigh!

A RRR tradition - a finish line hug from a volunteer. Awesome!

Once over the finish line in 9:49:28, I got my bear hug from a volunteer and then more hugs from Tanya and the girls. I caught up with Aaron and learned about his hip issues. I then found Patrick and learned of his rebelling stomach that plagued him with projectile vomiting throughout the return trip. After hearing his story, I can't believe he finished! Within minutes, Jonathan came across the finish line with a big smile.

In closing, I can't say enough good things about the fine folks that put together the Run Rabbit Run. They work very hard and every penny earned goes to charity. They also paid tribute to former volunteer coordinator, Jenna Gruben, who also won the women's race in 2008 & 2009, but was tragically killed in a car crash earlier this year. Her family was present and all gathered to run the course in a relay format in her honor. It was fun to encounter "Team Jenna" runners throughout the day and cheer them along. I'm sure it was a healing day for them.

Here is the map and elevation chart for the day. I think the course is closer to 51 miles, but my watch registered 50.

Thanks for reading!

You might need to click the full screen button (4 arrows) to actually see anything.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Run Rabbit Run Update

Not the most scenic backdrop for a finish. The resort was under some serious construction.

Saturday's race (actually, the entire weekend) was everything I hoped it would be. I ran the best race I could and finished in 28th place with a time of 9:49:28.

I have a lot more to share, but it will take a few days to toss it all together.

Megan (our 7 year old) caught this video of the finish. Zoe (our 5 year old) can be heard in the background saying, "No! He's not hopping...hop...hop...hop." I wasn't kidding when I said she wanted me to bunny hop the whole thing!

You might need to click the full screen button (4 arrows) to actually see anything.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Next up...Run Rabbit Run

Everything is shaping up for an excellent race. I feel rested and mentally ready. Ready for what? I don't know for sure. I thought after Silver Rush, I'd have a more elaborate plan for Steamboat. To be honest, I don't feel any better prepared other than knowing that I can complete the distance. After running Pikes without a watch and solely by feel, I'm probably going to take a similar approach, but keep the watch on this time.

There have been a lot of ultras in the last month or so and I've been truly inspired by reading accounts of people digging deep...very deep...and completing huge challenges or goals. These reports (and the wisdom they contain) are something I plan draw on when the chips are down.

My 5 year old, Zoe, told me yesterday that she thinks I should bunny hop all 50 miles. That would certainly make for a memorable, yet painful day. I think I'll stick to running & hiking and hopefully more on the running side.

This is my last major race of the year, so I want to make it count. That means taking plenty of time soaking in the scenery (so far the weather looks ideal). That also means running a smart race, yet leaving it all on the course. I'm excited to hang out with new friends and take in a long weekend in Steamboat. It doesn't get much better than this!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mt. Owen & Purple Peak

I had hoped to get in a 15-20 mile run last weekend, but since my Ruby-Owen outing only fetched me 10 miles, I decided to go out again for round two on Sunday morning. I'm not one that prefers double bagging peaks, but with no map and limited time, I decided that heading back up to the familiar Owen and then traversing to Purple Peak was my best option. I was frustrated because there were trails all over the place, but I didn't know where they went. I wasn't feeling adventurous enough to start heading somewhere unknown.

I awoke to my alarm at 5:30 and got out in the dark and cold morning. I wasn't feeling the trail running love, but decided to push through. About a mile in, I noticed that the wind was particularly strong with no sign of letting up. I hit the main trail just as the sun rose and cast a red glow on the mountains as it was filtered by some clouds.

Am I running on Mars?

As I mentioned, the wind was nuts. I made it to the saddle and seriously considered heading back down and calling it a day. I have no idea what speed it was whipping at, but I knew I had never experienced anything like it. If you haven't watched the "Mt. Owen Summit 360" video in the previous post, please do so to experience what a more "normal" wind was like up there. Now turn your speakers up and listen to this 15 seconds I captured up on the ridge.

I plodded along with one hand covering the ear that faced the wind since it was entering and attempting to push my brain out the other side.

I spontaneously decided to take a quick detour and scramble up to one of the false summits to see the different views I knew it would offer. I wasn't disappointed.

Mt. Owen summit from one of the false summits

The traverse from Owen to Purple Peak

I made it to Owen's summit and grabbed a few minutes to regroup out of the wind. For some reason, it wasn't as strong there. As I stared out at Purple, I couldn't make out any consistent trail. Once I started, I figured I'd just keep shooting for the prize which was always in sight.

Purple Peak as seen from the summit of Mt. Owen

Well, I did find a faint trail that I proceeded to lose repeatedly. The climb to the summit was probably the most challenging of any climb I've done. Difficult Class II? Class III? I was on all fours trying to navigate the shifty talus. I was wiped mentally and physically by the time I reached the top. The constant wind was taking its toll. I snapped a few pictures and started what had become in my mind, the dreaded return trip.

Mt. Owen as seen from Purple Peak

Blue Lake which sits just below Purple Peak

Once again, the return trip offered no further mishaps or missteps. I can't tell you how happy I was to reach the saddle between Ruby and Owen and start to drop down where the wind could no longer blast me. I made it back to the campsite at just over 11 miles in 3:09. In two days of climbing, I didn't come across any other hikers. Despite the adversity, I wouldn't trade a minute of the time I spent up there. Summer is almost over, and those peaks will have snow on them soon. I will no doubt scan these pictures all winter long scheming up adventures I can embark on next year.