Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some things I've learned

Others prompted me to make a list of the things I learned while running 50 miles the first time. It's a great idea, so without further adieu, here's my list:
  • Train harder than you'll be racing - I should have done more hill training to be stronger on the later hills.
  • Buy a thin rain coat - I was close to hypothermic by the time I finished and it could have been avoided by a simple rain jacket. This could be a Colorado thing, but seriously, get one.
  • Have dry/warm, comfortable clothes ready at the finish line - Another thing that would have been way better. Preparation is key. Possible items include sandals/dry shoes, socks, t-shirt, sweats/shorts, jacket.
  • Mix it up - one thing that really helped on the long climbs was mixing in different styles of walking. I twisted a bit to the side and stepped over, this helped engage different muscles in my legs.
  • Stay positive - the hardest points of my race were when I was embracing negative feelings; be it my legs or general exhaustion. What helped was thinking about all the reasons I had to finish the race: my son, my wife, all the hard work I'd put in, it would be awesome, etc.
  • Just keep moving - This is easier said than done, but when it hurts, you just need to keep moving. Walking is ok, stopping doesn't get you anywhere.
  • Smile - This goes along with staying positive, but when you smile, you're more likely to have fun. When I was stuck under the blowing over tent with volunteers, I smiled, and the enthusiasm helped me run out of the aid station and embrace the adventure.
  • Take it in - Running 50 miles is cool, enjoy the ride. I ran for over 9 hours through the most amazing scenery this planet has to offer, what a cool thing to do for a day.
  • Thank people - The volunteers at ultras are top notch, they deserve your gratitude. The guy who took my bottles at the last aid station and filled them, and then the guy who joked and talked with me while I tried to eat a GU were really helpful and left a lasting memory of why I do this. I love this. People are more genuine in the mountains, life is easier, more simple.
  • Be simple - Work hard, train hard, love your family hard.
  • Follow your dreams - I realized that I want to do everything in my power to take care of my family. I want to live where I can smell fresh air, where my neighbors can't see in my windows from inside their home, where my son can play on the trail and in the dirt instead of with video games.
  • Buy a visor - I think it would be nice.
  • They say that being a parent prepares you for anything, and now I can say that it's true. What I failed to mention in my race report was that I got SUPER BAD chafing where my shorts liner fell on my skin. Down there by the boys (sorry ladies) I have 2 big scabs now, but they're better than they were. After the race I had a hard time walking because of the chafing (and the sore legs) but my son's diaper cream took all the pain away. SERIOUSLY. It was amazing. I'm not afraid to say it, runners with chafing problems need to buy diaper cream, you'll thank me later.
  • Make lists - This really helps!
So, I guess I have BurtonRW from my frequent forum for this. Thanks Burton. I've learned a lot from those who've been there before, and I'm going to try to continue to respect this most amazing sport by learning as much as I can and never thinking that I know it all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rocky Mountain Revelation

Sunday July 26th marked the 2nd annual Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run in Leadville, CO. Rachel, Xavier, and I had driven up to Silverthorne on Thursday to spend some time in the mountains while staying at a great cabin that belongs to my brother in law's aunt and uncle.

The alarm went off Sunday morning sharp at 3:55 am and I dragged myself downstairs to drink some coffee and have a peanut butter bagel for breakfast. At 4:30 am Rachel and I were on the road to Leadville (the X man staying behind with Ann and Ray) and not 15 minutes into the drive the rain started to fall. Throughout the drive the rain became progressively harder and was pouring pretty good when we arrived at the starting line. Rachel waited for a few minutes and then left me there at 5:30 so I huddled under the tent with a few other runners until everyone started piling in.

At the start of the race (roughly 10,200 feet above sea level), all the runners were under the tent about 20 feet from the line until over the loud-speaker came 5-4-3-2-1 and we all scrambled to the line to be a bit frightened by the man firing a huge shotgun just after the anouncer finished (this is Leadville of course). All 170 or so of us started our dash/hike up dutch henry hill which has no trail and is basically just scree at a 20% gradient for about 100 -150 yards. I filtered somewhere in the middle of the front group only to be quickly dropped into about 30th-ish place once the race really got under way.

The first 2 miles are rolling with flatish sections and it lulled me into a false sense of security because the next 8 miles are uphill to just over 12,000 feet. Through this stretch I grouped up with Harsha from Team Crud, Jennifer, and one other runner (sorry, I forgot your name!). This was actually a great time for me and I chatted to keep myself from pushing too hard; come to find out Harsha had been at Sageburner too. Here I recieved the best possible, most simple line of advice I've ever recieved. As we were running Harsha turned and said, "you know, in these things, you really have to run your own race." It resonated, and about a mile later, I let the three of them pull out ahead as I mixed in more walking than they had.

When I reached the first aid station at mile 7ish I ran straight through with the plan to skip ever aid station until the turnaround at Stumptown as I had a 70 oz bladder in my pack that also stores 2 20 oz bottles on the sides. This plan worked to perfection as I had just the right amount of water to get there. Near the top of this first big climb the pitch is very steep and rocky, so I took my time and popped out on top feeling good. From here was a 3-4 mile downhill to Printer Boy aid station that I went through at 2:26 flat for 21st place. Continuing on there is another long section of downhill on really fun singletrack. The bottom of the hill marks "Oro City" where gold was first discovered in Colorado.

Climbing out of Oro city is tough, steep, and long. I ran into Nate from Texas who was having a rough time, and not carrying any liquids at all. We talked and ran for a while together but he told me to go on and he ended up dropping later on (it was a tough day). I was starting to feel the altitude a bit when we got above treeline and I came into the 3rd aid station alone, continuing to the last summit on the way out (or so I thought). As it turns out this is a false summit as you come off, descend about 500-600 and then get shot right back over at 12,500 feet. The descent to Stumptown (the turnaround) is seriously steep and hard to run at least until it flattens out about 2 miles from the base. Here I had a hard time running into the aid station and was passed by a few people.

When I came in I was at 4:24 for 22nd place but was quickly passed a few times on the uphill back out. I had grabbed an orange slice and filled my bottles so I went to work on the hill but struggled to hold any sort of "hiking" pace and logged a couple miles in the 20 minute range. After reaching the summit I had my first "holy shit" moment as I contemplated the 22 miles I had left. Not one to sit and ponder, I kept going, putting one foot in front of the other. I had a long descent back down to Oro City but my quads were already starting to pound in pain so I couldn't push as hard as I would have liked to. On the climb back to Printer Boy I had to walk pretty much the whole way and was passed yet again. Halfway up the climb there was a huge crack of thunder that had me worried (if you've ever been in the Colorado high country during a storm you know). Immediatly it started pouring, sometimes so hard you could only see about 15 feet in front of you, and then it turned to pea-sized hail which hurt like hell.

I jumped into the P.B. aid station for the second time at 6:36 for 25th place. It was hailing and windy, so windy it took a volunteer on each post to keep the tent upright. I put on a long sleeve and gloves, grabbed a pb&j square, topped off my bottles and jumped out into the middle of the fury to keep going as best I could. At the start of the final climb I was caught by John from Georgia and two others, and at this time I was beat. I felt like someone had beat me up, and then put my quads through a meat grinder; I was seriously doubting my ability to run the last 10 miles. However, as fate would have it, the cold wind and rain numbed my legs and I started to feel ok as I turned onto the downhill 10 miles to the finish.

I decided in my mind that I wouldn't let anyone pass me on the run into the finish and I could hold my spot in the top 30. I pushed it and was running around 9 minute miles, but by the time I reached the aid station I realized I had a shot to break 9 hours if I hustled (though my math was a bit off in my state of mind!). I held my 9 minute pace until I say the girl who passed me just before it started hailing; it was the first time I got the "hunter" feeling. All day I had been passed, only catching people at aid stations just to be caught again. I was going to give it everything I had. For me, I put the hammer down and started running my ass off, right around 7:50 miles and I quickly caught the first target, but I kept pushing. I was not going to give in until I passed out or hit the finish line. Less than a mile from the finish I caught Jennifer (and her funny friends who were out encouraging her) and then John from Georgia about a quarter mile from the line. I pushed hard over the final climb and ran hard through the line crossing at 9:14:22 for 24th place overall just 26 seconds from the 2 guys ahead of me and placing in my age group (if only the race had been just a bit longer!).

I was elated, a bit teary eyed, but mostly cold! I was congradulated by everyone including Harsha and his family, and went to find my fleece which had been sitting out in the rain. I had beat my goal of 10 hours, but also beat my wife and son to the finish line. They arrived 40 minutes later and I was shivering, purple lipped, and sort of coherent. I quickley shed my wet clothes, put a parka on, grabbed my bratwurst and we headed back to our cabin. My first 50 miler! I'm still sort of taking it in, but I can't wait to do it again!

A look back at my training leading up to Silver Rush:
6/8 - 6/14 : 52 miles
6/15 - 6/21 : 60 miles
6/22 - 6/28 : 45 miles
6/29 - 7/5 : 61 miles
7/6 - 7/12 : 40 miles
7/13 - 7/19 : 35 miles
7/20 - 7/25 : 10 miles

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Packing and Hoping

I'm drinking a protein shake while I write this post and desperately trying to remember what I've left out of my bag for the weekend. In just a few hours I'll be heading up to Silverthorne to spend some time at altitude with my wife and son before the big showdown on Sunday. I'm excited. My coworkers pretty much stopped working when I told them I was taking Friday and Monday off to go race 50 miles in the mountains. Mostly, I don't think they understood, but that's ok (not many people do). What do I hope to gain from this race? A finish. Some more confidence. It'd be nice to have a bit of swagger back; something I haven't had since collegiate baseball.

Wish me luck, I just may need it.

Happy Trails,


Sunday, July 19, 2009


This past week has been tough on me mentally. I've been a bit grumpy and moody in the middle of my taper. I would like to attribute that to not getting a trail run in the week prior. I HATE not getting into the mountains, it's one of the things I look forward to most. Add on the fact that my family was in town from Friday through Monday, we were crazy busy. This week has been a bit of a wind down week as we all recover from the socializing. On a whim I decided to enter into the Evergreen Park and Rec 10 mile race at Alderfer/3 Sisters park. This place is one of my favorite places to run and my main goals were to stay fit (not get hurt) and put in a decent effort that didn't over tax my legs. I think that I have succeeded in that. I ran a 1:31:33 which for me is a pretty good pace, though I did have some stomach cramping issues after only about 4 miles which was somewhat scary, but I walked it out and did some stretches to alleviate the problem. I think it was attributed to the stupidly fast pace I went out with, looking down after about 1 mile and I was on 5k race pace. Albeit it was mostly downhill, it was dumb nonetheless, so I really took the foot off the gas from miles 4-7 and just cruised back to the finish line. I'm glad that this happened though, because I think it will help me stay within myself next week in Leadville. Overall, I feel confident and nervous about the upcoming race, mostly excited to see how things will pan out...

Monday, July 6, 2009


I've been pretty busy as of late and haven't gotten around to writing an entry. Since the middle of June I've put in some good training runs. The week of June 22-28 found me with 3 hard days back to back to back starting on Tuesday. I did 13, 13, and 19 (the latter of which was intended to be 25). During the 3rd day I got lost on the side of Red Rocks park and ended up way off the trail I was attempting to find. I felt totally defeated and my body felt pretty beat up as well. So, taking the advice of a friend I decided it was better to take some rest days and try to put in a good week after recovering, after all it's best to show up to a race a little under trained than a little hurt.

This past week was a queen week for me, 3 weeks out from Silver Rush and a bit of nerves are starting to act up! Monday I ran home from work and Tuesday I ran in, both runs being sluggish in nature and I was questioning myself quite a bit. Thursday's run at Horsetooth Mountain Park in Ft. Collins probably would have been better if I didn't eat 8 strips of bacon right before I left. I almost puked 2 or 3 separate times on my way up to the Rock, but felt good for the last couple miles. The highlight of the last 2 weeks was my long run Saturday morning with my new friend Leila who I met though runner's world online and we ran 23 miles on the Colorado trail from 285 to Georgia Pass and back. Along the way we crossed fields of indian paintbrush, lupin, and some yellow flowers that were blooming. The final push brought us to the summit of Georgia pass that had amazing views of Breckenridge below and A-Basin. It was really nice to have some company for a long run for once and we held a good pace throughout.

Ultimately, I'm feeling nervous but confident about Silver Rush and I'm sure that I'll be having some trouble handling my own thoughts as the race comes nearer. Luckily, I've got my family coming into town this weekend and that should help curb the antsy feelings... 19 days left until my first 50 miler...