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.

Ruby Peak & Mt. Owen

Ruby Peak - Mt. Owen - Purple Peak (as seen from Lake Irwin)

We spent the holiday weekend camping at Lake Irwin near Crested Butte. The campground is situated at about 10,200' right below the start of the Ruby Range. Ruby Peak (12,641'), Mt. Owen (13,058'), and Purple Peak (12,753') are the three mountains that form the dramatic backdrop of this scenic spot.

Prior to our trip, I had researched the route to get to the top of Ruby & Owen. I knew I could leave from the campground, but didn't know exactly how far it was. I figured there would be a trail map at the campground/trailhead. No go. I then figured I'd get more information from the campground host. Again, no go. The host was a single lady whose first day on the job was the day before our arrival.

On Saturday morning, I slept right through my alarm and scrambled to get going about an hour late. I cruised up a jeep road for about three miles. When I got to treeline, the jeep road forks and the trail to the saddle between Ruby and Owen begins.

Beginning of the switchbacks

From here it is a few long switch backs filled with scree and talus as you rise above Green Lake and hit the saddle. From the saddle, I began my ascent of Ruby. It was steep and the trail (if you could call it one) involved all "hands on the knees" hiking. The good part about making a straight shot to the summit is that the climb is over quickly. I think I was up and down in about 20 minutes.

Approaching the saddle and quick shot up Ruby

Looking south from Ruby's summit at the Grand Dyke

Looking north from Ruby's summit at Mt. Owen & Green Lake (good name for it eh?)

Back in the saddle, I began my ascent of Owen. The ridge to Owen has about three false summits. The initial climb is covered with loose soil & scree which wasn't too bad going up....but coming back down?? Ugh.

The beginning of the ridge to Owen. The summit is the one to the left.

The ridge was exposed and windy. Not much opportunity to run up there as the rocky mess was slow going and the wind gusts came without warning. The wind wasn't really a problem this day, but what a difference a day makes as the intensity cranked up many notches on Sunday.

Looking back at Green Lake and Lake Irwin

Interesting rock formation

The summit of Owen is fairly small, but I found a perfect spot out of the wind to sit and soak in the view for 10-15 minutes. I scouted out Purple Peak for my return trip the next day.

From Owen's summit looking north along the rest of the Ruby Range. Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mtn are poking their heads out

From Owen's summit looking south at Ruby

I descended the same route without much excitement. My totals were 10.5 miles in 2:33 with about 3400' of elevation.

Here's a quick video from the summit of Mt. Owen.