Sunday, May 24, 2009

Race Report - Sageburner 50K

Having never been to Gunnison before, I was really excited to see the town and hang out for a bit. As there was a mountain bike race the day following hosted by 6 time Leadville 100 MTB champion Dave Weins, the town was in race mode with adventure seekers in abundance. I had convinced my buddy Kyle to come out for the ride and we set up camp just outside of town in the Dry Gulch camping area. The weather forecast called for scattered thunderstorm and rain showers throughout the weekend with highs in the low 60's, and it did not disappoint. We were lucky to have set up camp quickly upon arrival Thursday evening and got to work cooking up some fajitas in style.

Friday morning we headed back into town after breakfast to check out the little downtown area and grabbed some coffee at The Bean, a local coffee shop we would eventually hit up 4 times in 3 days. After some great joe we walked the main strip, dropped in a few shops and headed out to see Hartman Rocks and get a feel for how the race was to be set up. I was really impressed with the layout and was glad to be able to see the last few climbs of the course before the final descent to the finish line (though I would underestimate the technicality of the trail). After a short jog around to check out the terrain we headed out to the Black Canyon to see some sites and hike around. Gunnison truly is beautiful and the Black Canyon is not to be missed, we stayed for a few hours taking pictures, eating lunch, and taking in the beauty of the canyon. Soon enough it was time to head back into town for some carbs at Mario's Pizza. The pizza was delicious (double pepperoni Chicago style if you care to know) and was washed down by a Mirror Pond Ale. Then it was off to camp to catch some z's before the race.

Race Day:
I woke up at 5:50am and immediately started taking inventory; making sure I had everything I needed. I had premade two water bottles with GU20 and stashed 5 GU's in my bag. After checking the temperature I decided to toss a light long sleeve shirt in my bag just in case (I would've added gloves, but I forgot them at home). It was chilly, maybe high 30's low 40's and a bit of drizzle. We quickly packed up and made it to The Bean at 6:30 for coffee and a bagel with peanut butter. I began to visualize the race and my strategy there and grabbed a few cups of water before we headed out to Hartman Rocks.

The start area was buzzing with anticipation and the runners really turned out for this year's event. Last year the total finisher count was at 64 between both the 50K and 25K, this year however the race had filled to capacity at around 175 racers total. I caught a glimpse of the oldest runner in the field, Bill Dooper, at 74 years old he seemed ready to go with bright blue tights and a matching jersey. At 10 til 8 everyone started lining up and I was near the front, eventually ending up next to local studs Duncan Callahan and Tim Parr (it was the last I would see of them until the award ceremony).

As the gun went off, I filed back into about 40 or 50th position and began the first of many climbs and tried to get into a groove. The first 5 miles or so were pretty bunched up as the 25K runners wouldn't split off until 5.5, which meant I had to slow down on some of the rolling descents and push a little harder on the uphill sections to keep my position in the line. After the break I was suddenly alone as the 7 runners directly in front and behind me were all doing the 25K. I could see 1 or 2 runners about 500 yards ahead of me so I started to get into a better groove. At mile 8 the course dips out onto a road for 100 yards or so before taking you back up onto the single track. This was where I caught the first runner who was ahead of me, I remember him passing me early on, but he seemed to be struggling with some of the uphills which were muddy or rocky, but always tough.

10 miles in I caught a preview of how tricky and technical this course was going to be as there was about 40 feet of boulders and rock face to navigate and I ended up using my hand quite a bit to stabilize myself as I scampered through the rocks. At the next aid station I caught two other runners in front of me, and I quickly filled up my water bottles and took in some GU. I made it out before one of the runners and passed the other on the long gradual uphill out of the aid station. Following that was a long rolling downhill section that took you right into the nastiest section of the course. It was sort of a shock after the downhill section, but there was a figure 8 style 1.5 mile loop that demanded all of my attention to escape without falling or breaking something. This is the same course that the mountain bikers would tackle the next day and I was constantly thinking to myself, "holy s***, you've got to ride your bike down this?" I was shifting and jumping over logs dodging nasty boulders and a few times taking multiple rock dropoffs by simply jumping from one to the other and praying I didn't misstep.

Coming back out of this death trap was a steep, rocky, jeep trail that zaps the legs so I took in some more GU and washed it down. From here was another section of rolling single track and yet another descent through a beautiful aspen grove. But what goes down must come up and the sun had come out to heat up the course a bit so I took more fluid and tried to even out my pace. I hit the next aid station and the awesome volunteers met me down at the bottom of the hill leading up bringing Gatorade and filling up my water bottles. I chowed down on some potato chips and m&m's and took off again up the rocky switchbacks. From here the course follows a rocky ridge line for a while and I was made sure to be focused again as yet another technical rocky section warranted a sign for mountain bikes to dismount for their safety (and for good reason), it was steep as hell and solid rock.

Making it out of this section I was caught off guard as I suddenly heard someone behind me. I had been alone without seeing anyone for 10 miles and this guy came out of nowhere to pass me. We were probably at about mile 21 or 22 and I was starting to feel my legs tighten up to that familiar dull pain returned to my thighs. I hadn't planned on the technical nature of the course (at least the constant technicality) and I had probably over exerted myself early on. None the less I decided to push the pace when I could and run as much of the hills as possible. At the last aid station I made my one big mistake, taking only one water bottle for the last 5 miles. The final stretch of the course is pretty much one smaller descent, two biggish climbs, and one steep descent back down to the finish. I started to really struggle up the last hills and I was clearly dehydrated as I staggered through some really technical, rocky uphills and somehow survived without dying.

As I summited the final hill, I could see the finish line, but still had some work to do as the last mile is down what the locals call "collarbone alley" as it claims many a collar bone during wipeouts. I somehow made it down the hill with out falling and swervingly ran through the finish line where I promptly staggered, and fell over. Luckily my buddy was there with cold Gatorade and I was brought back to life in a few gulps. The nice volunteers came over and gave me congratulations and my finisher shirt. My finishing time was 5:17:55, which put me in 14th place overall, 11 minutes faster than my last 50K which was on a far less challenging course.

Overall, I felt that this race was awesome. Gunnison is gorgeous and the race was well organized with some amazing competition. Tim Parr ended up winning in 3:46, and I came away with an age group victory (because Tim and Duncan finished in the top 3) and a really cool handmade mug with "Sageburner 50K 2009 20-29" engraved on the side. I'll be back next year for sure, this was one of my favorite races I've ever done.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

PR week!

This was a fun week. It all culminated today with Xavier's 1st birthday, which he slept through the first 45 minutes of! We had fun, it was all just family and a few close friends. However, the day started with Rachel, Robert (my father in law, Dr. Bob), and I going out to Golden to run a 5K. Both my wife and my father in law love running short distance road races and had planned on doing this for a while. A few weeks back I thought I'd join in the fun and make it a whole family affair. It's a small local school benefit race so the competition wasn't very deep and I took 7th place overall. I didn't want to run really that hard, but I did sort of want to make sure I beat my father in law who was coming up from sealevel. In the end I ran a 19:59 (a personal PR) and Rachel ran a 24:35 (a personal PR). Robert ended up finishing between us at 22:28 (far from a PR for him as he is a big time runner and has been for a long time now).

For the week total that left me at 50 miles:

M: 5 Miles easy on the Highline trail with 1/2 mile pickups to finish
T: AM: 13 Miles to work PM: 5 Miles around Washington Park
W: Rest
T: 17 Miles at Deer Creek Canyon, 2x Red Mesa and Eagle Point
F: Rest
S: 5 Miles around Washington Park easy
S: 5 Miles including my 5K PR of 19:59

I had a great time during my long run on Thursday. I wanted to push the pace and see how my race effort would feel like, how my legs would respond by pushing on tough terrain. The run turned out fantastic as I managed to hold down 9:33 miles with 4790' of elevation gain. I'm excited and hoping to run really well this coming Saturday. I'm planning on not tapering really for this race and just do some normal days before the race.

If you want to see race results for today's 5K (to check to see if I'm lying!) you can go here:
Rachel was 36th overall!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pre-Race Contemplation

10 days until Sageburner and I'm really starting to itch. I know that this happens every time I race, but still I thought I'd be better prepared this time. I get anxious. Not nervous. Not scared. Anxious. It's annoying because I can't control it, and I truly think that all things in life should be savoured, sort of like that first cup of coffee in the morning. Smooth. However, with 10 days to go, I find myself wishing it were here already so I can run it and get it over with. I really don't want to think this way, and I certainly am not trying to run these races to put a notch in my belt (it would look like a scratch really anyways). I want to take in the whole experience, the race, the post-race, mingling, the mountains. I still think that it will happen, and I'm gonna be up in Gunnison for the rest of the weekend with 2 friends. I haven't been out with the guys in over 2 years. It will bring back some freshness that I feel I've been lacking, and I fear sometimes I may take that out on others, my family in particular. In any case, there are a few things that make me think that this anxiety may go away. Most importantly, my son turns 1 this Sunday and we've got family coming into town that I haven't seen in quite a while and for that I'm grateful. I still can't believe that I've been a father for a year and I'm not 25 yet. Also, my wife, father-in-law, and myself will be running a small 5K the morning of the party and it will be really fun. I've been really happy to see my wife start to really enjoy running, she's so damn cute when she hops out the door. She'll be heading for a PR hopefully, and certainly I will be as well. I haven't run a 5K race since I first started running for fun 2 1/2 years ago and I think my PR was (and I guess is) 23:22. Now I can run a 21:00 without sweating and I'll probably shoot for 19:59 just because, though I'll back off if I don't feel well. No reason to get hurt in a 5K. In any case, I'm glad to be running, I'm glad it's warming up, and I'm really glad to be alive and well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Two Weeks Out

I think it's funny how the body responds to time off, both good and bad. Last week I did my long run to Bergen Peak, which was a long hard day, then I ran Mt. Falcon the next day and my legs were tired all week. This week, I decided that I needed to stay within myself and only do what I feel is easy on my body. With the Sageburner 50K two weeks from today, I thought it wise to not push it and make sure I was able to toe the line with fresh legs. That said, I still got a good week overall. Here's how it broke down:

Total: 50 miles

Monday: 3 miles, slow recovery with Rachel and Xavier
Tuesday: 17 miles, 13 on the way to work, hilly and consistent, 4 post work on highline with R & X
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 20 miles, Green Mountain and it was a warm beautiful day *NEW SHOES TOO!
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10 miles @ 7:24 pace, consistent good effort but not really working hard, gives me outside hopes of BQ'ing soon, maybe at Boulder Backroads...
Sunday: Mother's Day, gonna be with the fam all day, might go for a hike!

Running to work on Tuesday I felt sluggish, I had pushed really hard at the end of last week and it was still wearing on me. Regardless, I pushed through it and made it to work in time to take a long hot shower.

Thursday's long run was a tough one. I hadn't planned to go out and do it but I've been trying to make more family decisions and ask Rachel which day works best for her as I head out the door for a few hours. In this case I was a bit under-prepared and I only had 2 GU gels to my name. I decided to take a few bananas and call it good, only one problem with that. As I was leaving early as it was, I decided to fill up my camelback that night and strap the bananas to the cinch tie. In the morning I grabbed my bag, noticed it was a bit wet but didn't think much about it (that was stupid mistake #1). When I got to the trail head I shook out the jitters and threw my pack on and headed out. About 5 miles in I reached around to my pack for a banana and they were gone, I hadn't bothered to check them to see if they were secure before I left (stupid mistake #2) and they were no where in sight. I made a decision to just keep going and ration my GU gels. However, about 9 miles in I noticed that my water supply was gone, the lightness of my pack didn't trigger anything in my head until it was too late (stupid mistake #3). Luckily, I was at one of only 2 places on the trail where you can divert into a neighborhood and I took my chances. As I neared the first house, to my delight there were two people on the deck. I asked them if I could use their hose to fill my water and they said that was fine. It was like a dream, the water came out of the spigot ice cold, and I filled my 70 oz bladder to the brim and took off again. The remaining miles were much better, one hard push to the summit at Green mountain and then a lot of rolling single track back to the car.

When I finished, I downed a liter of Pedialyte and a protein bar while I hopped in an ice bath. I felt great. I think I'll be able to keep up a good pace for Sageburner, and I'm starting to get really antsy. But for now, I'm going to spend all of tomorrow with my 2 biggest fans:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Sunrise at Bergen Peak

Total: 55 miles

Mon: 5 mi 5K at 5K race pace
Tue: 12 mi easy
Wed: 7 mi moderately hard
Thu: 5 mi trail run +2200' pushing the little man (see pictures on the trail running partners thread)
Fri: Rest
Sat: 21 mi trail run to Bergen Peak +5700' felt good, strong on the latter half, should get another one of these in soon
Sun: 5 mi trail run +1300' pushing the little man (REALLY SLOW)

This was the biggest week I've run to date, and I can feel the heaviness in my legs. The good think is that my legs are just that, heavy, not hurting. I took an icebath Sunday night and that was the best decision I made all week. The Saturday long run I got in was really good, it was a chilly start and the fog reduced visibility to about 15'. To be honest it was such dense fog that I took two wrong turns on my way up to Bergen Peak trail, ending up at the upper parking lot once, and almost back to the lower lot the second. Once I woke up (it was 5:30am) and got on the right path I settled into a moderately slow climbing pace I started to liven up. The trail gets more technical the higher up on the Peak you get and I needed to stop and tighten up my shoe as I felt my left foot start to develop a hot spot while sliding around a bit in the toebox. I took in 2 GU (just plain) gels and drank some GU20 near the top as I was trudging through the packed snow at the summit.

Once I turned around I began tearing down at a blistering pace. The one aspect of my trail running that I feel is really accomplished is my ability to run smoothly and extremely fast over technical terrain. I think this comes from my mountain biking days and learning how to pick lines on the fly. The descent is long and steep and I felt a bit out of breath as I got back to meadow view trail. From here on out the trail is rather non technical with only a small amount of climing. I met up with Roy and Joanne from the Evergreen Runner's Circle for the last lap and cruised in at comfortable pace. I'm excited for May 23rd in Gunnison and I think I'll be able to turn out a good time, probably better than Prickly Pear despite the massive difference in terrain and altitude.