Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Mix Tape

The family had a lot of ups and downs in the last year, as did my running, and for the most part things are now in a better place than they were before.  I won't pretend to say that it was a "great" year, but it was an informative year for both my goals and desires for running as well as my priorities as a family man.  I've joked in the past that blogs (really the internet in general) are a place for people to bitch about nonsense and conversely make false proclamations of happiness.  An actual truism is that the rough parts of the past year certainly help to highlight the truly awesome parts of the year.

Xavier and I on our way to Mt. Sherman
In terms of running, I ran five races this year, and only ran well in one of them, Salida.  In that race I really struggled for the first 13 and last 3 miles, but it was still probably my best effort and certainly the best result of the lot.  I prepared, planned, and raced poorly for a majority of the year through Bighorn and had hopes of recharging and racing strong at the end of the year.  That didn't happen for a number of reasons, but life has its ways of throwing curves.  What the middle of summer actually brought was some much needed time in the alpine, my eldest's first 14er, pacing/crewing for Donnie's Leadman bid, and many beers with friends.

Pacing Donnie at Pb
Though it all I built some great friendships.  I can count Todd and Donnie, my two regular training partners, as great guys who help keep shit in perspective.  We went to the Grand Canyon together (along with Jeremiah and Greg) and Todd and I spent a couple of days chasing back-country routes this summer.  Those were by far the highlights of the running year; pure fun with a side of suffer.  I'm certainly looking forward to the new year's adventure running plans.  Often times the emails of route ideas ruin perfectly productive afternoons of work.

Todd acting appropriately
This past June also marked my wife's first 50 mile race.  A good weather day, smart training, and solid execution led to a great result.  The boys and I camped out on the course, and attempted to offer support along the way.  Really, we just made noise and likely slowed her down.  She was able to walk to the car afterwards, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for myself after my first 50.  Funny how things evolve, just a few years ago she was laughing at me for suggesting such an endeavor.  Now, she's another full blown convert to the ultra world.

The wifey, finishing strong.
Now, it's been 6 months since I posted anything here and mostly that was just due to a lack of motivation or desire to do anything here.  The fall was probably the most stressful time around the family for a multitude of reasons and we're still working out the kinks, but there have been some really cool moments mixed in.  Our oldest child, Xavier (now 5 years old), had been bugging us about being able to sign up for a "kid race", though he had little interest in a traditional 5K, insisting that it be a "mountain race".  We signed him up for the Rattlesnake Ramble, which was initially cancelled when the floods ripped through Eldorado Canyon.  However, after some recovery work, the race was rescheduled and Xavier got to run his race.

Doofus smile.  No idea where he gets that from...

One of the realizations I've had this year as a parent is that your kids will think whatever you do is normal.  My kids have no concept that ultramarathons are not mainstream.  While I certainly attempt to brainwash my boys (with great success, just ask them their favorite sports teams) I also try to encourage them to pursue whatever they find interesting.  For Xavier this means roughly every sport known to mankind.  For Oliver it means breaking shit.  Actually, that little one is a handful.  Attempts to steer his conniving genius have largely failed.

All together.
Now, where do I go from here?  I spent a good amount of time thinking about what my running priorities would be for 2014 after I missed out on the Hardrock lottery again (one of these years I might even make the wait-list).  I don't need a Hardrock qualifier for next year's lottery, and like most runners, I found myself racing just for the sake of racing a bit too much for my liking over the last two years.  So, I went through the list of available options and immediately ruled out anything I wasn't excited about.  I thought about the type of places I wanted to run.

Pretty much all the places I want to run look like this.
I also knew that I wanted to make extra room for an adventure.  No racing, just exploring with friends.  Some runners (mostly single people) can take these kinds of trips regularly, but those of us with families must balance the amount of travelling and time away from home.  Last year it was the Grand Canyon, a place I'd actively avoided until I could commit to doing it right.  Running R2R2R was the trip in 2013, and almost immediately on returning we'd pretty much decided that we'd try to find a way to do Zion in 2014.

Myself, Donnie, and Todd on the South Rim.  Photo by Jeremiah.
So, keeping that in mind, and working through the wife's racing/travel plans (she's planning a trip to the Methow Valley next summer) I decided on some races.

2014 Plans
March - Salida
May - Zion
June - Evergreen Mountain Run 
June - Lake City
July - Mt. Werner Classic (If accepted to CC100)
August - El Vaquero Loco (If not accepted to CC100)
August - Cascade Crest (lottery dependent)

Salida was an easy choice.  All things considered, it might be the most fun race in Colorado.  The town is awesome, the vibe is awesome, it's cheap, and it's beautiful.  At times technical, at times painfully fast, it's the perfect mix for a trail marathon.

Zion in May. Stoke factor is almost untenable.

Evergreen Parks and Rec put on great low key races for cheap.  I did this one back in 2009, time to return.

Lake City has been on my list for as long as I've been running ultras, and I had to forcibly decide to not race one of the Bighorn events this year so that I could make the trip to the San Juans.  I love Wyoming, and eventually I'll complete all the Bighorn runs (I just need the 30K and 50 miler), but it was time to do some more exploring and get after the solstice run.

Late July/Early August will be determined by the Cascade Crest Lottery.  I would love to run El Vaquero Loco, so if I don't get into CC I'm set on heading out to Afton for Ty Draney's annual sufferfest.  If I get in to CC, it's just a week too close, so I'll settle for my favorite race course in Steamboat at Mt. Werner.  This is a great race and would work perfectly in conjunction with CC.  The one race that missed out this year was the Standhope 60K.  I just don't think the travel aspect there works for me (this year).  Check out the course though, unreal.  Bucketlister.

Play in the mountains, it's good for the soul.
Obviously, if I get through the lottery, Cascade Crest will be the focus for my fall.  However, I'm not gonna let that derail any plans for alpine slogging.  Often the bummer for Pb runners is the desire to run the course for familiarity, and they miss out on the best season in Colorado.  I won't sacrifice that this year regardless, it's too good to pass up, and I've got some bucket list adventures close by that I'd like to tick off (RMNP traverse, Lost Creek, etc.).

If I don't get into CC, I might look into another late season option (The Bear/Volcanic 50 among the competitors), but I'll let that play out later.  For now, 'tis the season to prep for the fat ass down in the Springs by jaunting through the hills and drinking beer.  The wife and I got rec center passes too, so I'll be shooting hoops, climbing, and lifting a few weights through the winter months.

Lastly I'd like to thank the sponsors that willingly attach themselves to me.  I'm extremely grateful for the support from Drymax and Pearl Izumi.  I'm not a national class ultrarunner, and I don't get paid, but I can honestly say that the gear I've been using is gear that I would (and have) purchased with my own money.  I've worn Drymax socks for 4 years now and I've never been disappointed with them.  I've bought them for my dad, wife, and various other family members.  The company is small, and committed to runners. The ultrarunning community should be grateful for companies like Drymax that truly supply the sport with both great products as well as through sponsorship.  As well, I've been incredibly thankful for Pearl Izumi's support of my running, and their support of our fringe sport in general.  Long known as one of the finest cycling apparel producers in the world, their running gear has rapidly caught up in both function and simplicity.  Get your hands on the Ultra Short and you'll be glad you did.  I'm excited for all the miles I'll get to put on my trusty N2's this next year.

Now, I leave you in the capable hands of Oliver.

His winter plans? Sledding.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bighorn 100 2013

Wow, not sure where to start this one, but perhaps reminiscing on my DNF is a good way to start.  I was worried.  Going into the race I was 1 of 3 with 100's, ran one really well and had disastrous races in the other two.

From the start I felt dull, no energy and working too hard to keep it easy.  Eventually, I fell in line with Bryan and we hiked our way to the ridge.  For some reason I always seem to miss the turn into the brush, and again this year I missed it.  We were fortunate to be loud enough to catch Becky who was rockin' some tunes and on her way off course too.

Seemingly all the way into Dryfork my stomach started to turn and my legs began to ache.  I was pretty pissed off at this point as it seemed that my race from the year prior was reliving itself and I just felt like death.  Quickly I refueled and got on my way to Cow Camp.  To be completely honest, it was one of the lowest times I've had during a race, and coupled with the fact that it was so early in the race, I was fairly distraught.  The folks at Cow Camp were great, and served me some ice cold soda and tums.  While it didn't do much for my stomach, and I laid down on the side of the trail a handful of times between there and Bear Camp, I began to find at least a semblance of the fight I'd need to finish off the race if it took me 30 hours.

Descending the haul into Footbridge, I cranked the tunes and zoned out into one of the best rappers of all time: Nas.  Thankfully, Steve was down at the aid station crewing for Brendan and it was just great to see a friend.  By then I had fully embraced the suck and was content to grind out the best day I could.  I can't say my legs responded at all, but at least my mentality was gaining steam.  I had to really tough out the long drawn out climb to Elk Camp, but I did and I began seeing the leaders coming through, including Brendan, who looked great at the time.

Shortly after leaving, I needed to turn on my headlamp and negotiated the newer terrain to the slightly changed turn point at Jaws.  I didn't go into Jaws at all, knowing all too well the dangers of entering a hot tent on a cold night.  I sat my ass in a chair and changed out all of my gear, switching to pants, down jacket, beanie, gloves, and new shoes/socks.  That was probably the smartest thing I did all day, as the temps apparently dropped below even last year when I became hypothermic (low 20's).

My legs really had a hard time starting to go, and I began to really get that 100 mile ache after sitting for a bit.  However, a few miles after leaving Elk Camp, I was rolling, from here on in, I'd pass something like 15-20 people on the way home.  I ended up running all of the 17 miles into Footbridge where I'd lose the pants and switch sleeves and jackets because I had started to sweat pretty hard.  The climb up to Bear Camp was actually pretty fun, if grueling.

At this point, I was totally in a zone, and I'd listened to so much hip hop music that I'd just start rapping the nastiest lyrics out loud as a source of habit.  By the time I'd make it Cow Camp, I was just shocked to see Steve and Brendan wrapped up in a blanket next to the fire.  And, as it turned out, Becky was in a tent too, later being removed via ATV.  Bighorn is bitch that way, a tough as nails course that does not lend itself to quick recovery or coddling aid stations.  I guess it's definitely part of the allure for me, and it certainly adds to the challenge.

I kept moving steady all the way back to Dryfork where for the first time I realized that if I kept my shit together, there was a chance of going under 24, but it was going to be incredibly close if it happened.  So, I managed to make myself try to forget about it until I got to Upper Sheep Camp and then I knew that if I got to the ridge strongly, I could have a go and see if the legs could take the terrible downhill.  On the way down, I was able to run pretty well for about 2/3 of the way, but just after passing Gary Gellin and Nikki Kimball I fell apart a bit and was forced to hike for 5 minutes or so.  Moving though the lower aid stations, I knew that with 5 miles left, I had to run 39:59 to break 24.  The miles were excruciating, the packed dirt road with rocks blasted my right arch and I was really hurting.  I can't really explain the mental anguish in forcing myself to try to run hard 97 miles in, but my god.  Turning the river and into the park, I realized they moved the finish a few hundred yards back and I was out of time, missing a Rusty Spurs club medal by 40 seconds.  I collapsed at the finish, totally exhausted.

For the first hour after the race, I've never felt worse.  The combination of miles, fatigue, and then pushing so hard for the last hour, I felt like I was going to throw up all my insides.  I had a tough time getting back into the car, but surprisingly after a short nap at the hotel, I was feeling pretty OK.  By dinner time, I was doing great, and the next day, I was almost all the way human.  In fact, today, 2 weeks later, I feel completely fine. After Leadville, I didn't feel right again until January, so I'm happy that I'm in good condition to enjoy the high country season in Colorado.  

So, how to evaluate the race?  Well, I had a terrible 55 miles to start out, and a pretty damn solid 45 finishing miles.  I'm so happy to finish and get that monkey off my back.  Certainly part of being able to recover quickly was due to not running to my potential.  The opening issues I faced were partly due to a bad day, and partly due to some crappy planning on my part.  I feel that I raced and ran too many super long runs (3 45mi or longer runs in 4 weeks) in the build up.  I simply cannot recover after all of that.  I also ran too intensely too far out, causing my peak fitness to come early, and entering the race I had felt pretty crappy for about 4-5 weeks.  I'm certainly still learning, and perhaps a coach would help, but the realities of life don't lend itself to that.

For now, I'm gonna enjoy a few of these:

Wear this around:

And lastly, I'll be up in the high mountains for the rest of summer and fall... More to come on that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quad Rock 2013

Well, the last really long day before Bighorn is now behind me and I feel pretty good today.  While I had a mediocre finishing time (for me, I suppose), I had a great time out on the Quad Rock course.  The thing with a course like this is that if you don't have great legs, or you're tired, the amount of extra time you add on is exponential.  What I really wanted, after some internal realistic discussion, was a solid long day.  That was precisely what I got and in the end I'm happy with that.
Finishing up.  Photo: MH
Just one year ago, I had peaked and had a smashing day on the Jemez course.  The thing was, Jemez was not my goal race and while I had a good result, I put myself in a grave doing so which translated to may of the problems I had prior to DNF'ing at Bighorn just a few weeks later.  While there are many folks who can race hard multiple times in a short window, I am not one of those people.

Car! Photo: MH
So, onto the race.  Mike was kind enough to put me up the night before thanks to Clarkie's absurd starting time!  However, once we got going, I settled into the climb and ran with a mix of folks and found what appeared to be a comfortable effort.  Horsetooth came easily enough and I was feeling OK despite the seemingly normal lack of pop in the legs (a product of my training, perhaps more on that later).

Cool shot of the Grass/Burn dichotomy.  Photo: MH
I had enough sense to break the course up mentally and for once I managed to forget the miles and simply run.  On our way up Arthur's the first go around, I latched onto Tom from the Springs and we had a great chat about all sorts of things pretty much the whole climb and descent into the turn.  It's funny how company makes the time pass, and before long we were watching the leaders come back through us.

I must say, as an avid opponent of loop courses, this was surprisingly easy to negotiate (mentally) even though I knew what was coming (a long ass climb).  I plodded my way back through the Arthur's climb and back through the Arthur's aid station where I started my routine of slamming coke at every aid.  From here on out it was the same old story, moderate running downhill, and a mix of hiking/jogging uphill.  I can see that it would be fun to make a course like this your focus and just try to hammer the climbs and hang on through the downs.  But that was not this day, this day was about surviving...

And, after what seemed like an eternity, and a bit of hail, I popped out on the valley trails and meandered my way back to the finish line.  Now, I had prepared to kick Nick in the balls for starting so early, but he so graciously cooked up some Ultragen and I let it slide.  I must say that this race was seriously top notch.  The production, the aid, volunteers (good to see my friends out there on the course), and pretty well everything that goes on there was great.  This is not because I consider Nick a friend, but rather, this was a GREAT event.  Even though I was slow, I had a great time.  Beautiful trails, tough climbs, and fun descents.  The biggest praise I can give my sponsors is that my feet feel awesome today; no blisters and no sore feet!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gas Station Coffee*

Don't get me wrong, I love great coffee.  I appreciate the quest for it, the places you find it, how it smells as it is roasted, and the careful balance of flavors when prepared in delicate secultion.  I used to consider myself a connoisseur of great coffee, and looked down my nose at anything else.  There was only one problem:
I fucking love gas station coffee.  There, I said it.
You might ask, "why?" And, while there may be a simple answer, the truth lies a bit below the surface.
Finding locally sourced, gourmet, whatever the hell special coffee is easy in Denver, as it is in many places.  However, one is often limited to the local coffee house whose clientele aren’t often up and sipping cappuccinos at 4AM.  Certainly the coffee house crowd isn’t typically demanding a five star latte as they prep for a 12 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, and you can bet your ass that cute little shop isn’t on your way out of town.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, particularly if you already live in an outdoor paradise and City on a Hill is your local joint.  As for me, I’ve always found that gas stations are the best place to grab the cup of black gold before the sun comes up.
The thing is, gas station coffee is often the precursor to outdoor awesomeness.  You wake up, stumble out of bed, it's 4:30 in the morning.  By the grace of god you make it down the stairs without breaking an ankle, throw your pack in the back of your buddy's truck and hop in.  And that when it starts.
You stop, fill your cup with some concoction of "hazelnut/vanilla/odd shade" roast and grab a donut that was likely made in the attendant's basement about a month ago.  Now, chances are you've got to give it a minute in the car, because gas station coffee is usually served at about the same temperature that the core of our earth sits at.  But then, all possibilities are open.
I’ve taken off to all kinds of crazy places, driving 22 hours to run in my hometown coastal mountains, 12 hours into the desert, or 7 hours into the Rocky Mountain wilderness.  While the logistics may change, one constant remains, gas station coffee. The truth of it is this: if you wanna be awesome, you're gonna need some gas station coffee.  And some beer, don't forget the beer.

*I'm working on this a bit.  I told myself I'd write and submit a short for the Dirtbag Diaries, and this is the first idea I've written anything on.  So, this will likely expand and contract for a while.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April 2013

361 Miles
+51,876' Vertical
58 Hours
3 Days off
Two big days:
Cedro Peak

Justin exchanged some good advice and insight into my training deluge post Cedro Peak that I probably was choosing to overlook.  The basic premise revolves around expectation and goal setting.  This month was deliberate in its purpose and the purpose is preparation for Bighorn, plain and simple.  I missed my arbitrary goals, but not in a significant way, and I had 3 days off.  The days off were necessary and unavoidable (12 hours in a car two days to and from GC, day post CP).  I've since done some tempo work, nothing special, about and not real tempo either, but rather more in the line of what I'll need for longer ultras.  I've taken it easy since the GC trip to let my body recover, and I'm just now feeling like my legs are responding.  However, I need to take it easy still this weekend and into next week to hopefully have some pop at Quad Rock.  Talking with Scott at the PI shoot, I mentioned that I'd like to be somewhere in the 8:30-9:00 range, which would be a good honest effort, but not something that would lay me out.  Obviously the real question is going to be weather, as there is a legitimate chance it could be 80*F, or it could snow...

Last weekend was good times hanging out at the Cheyenne Mountain 25/50K.  Wifey was top-10 in the 25K and JT managed to break 10 hours.  Both impressive.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Grand Canyon

Thursday afternoon, as I sat staring at my computer screen, I simply couldn't focus.  I needed to get going, I needed to head west.  The weather notwithstanding, I was just so incredibly excited to go see the Grand Canyon for the first time, and to truly experience it.  We surly accomplished that.  Immediately upon arrival, we stopped to check out the views, then after checking in at the hotel we came back for sunset and beers.  Amazing.

3 of 5. Me, Donnie, and Todd.  Photo: Jeremiah Greif

Excited? Yeah.  Photo: Jeremiah Greif

Starting to sink in.  Photo: Jeremiah Greif
That alarm came early and we fumbled about getting ready for a long day in the ditch.  Greg's lady kindly shuttled us from the Bright Angel Trailhead to the South Kaibab and we took some photos and started running down the trail with shouts of joy and stupid grins plastered on our faces.

Down, down, down.  Photo: Todd Gangelhoff
We stopped at nearly every overlook without asking, but with all of us muttering some variation of "holy shit, man."  This is why...
Really? Really.  Photo: Todd Gangelhoff
The long way down seemed surreal, each new cliff face a new canyon and a new sight.  A short hold up with some mules could not derail our giddiness and before long we'd reached the Colorado.

Greg.  Photo: Todd Gangelhoff
Once we'd topped off water at Phantom Ranch, we began the flattish trail up towards Cottonwood Campground and I was instantly dropped by Todd and Donnie, who were blazing away, but slightly ahead of Jeremiah and Greg.  I nearly ran into the river a few times while staring up at the canyon walls.  The temps were ideal while my legs were already toast!  Perhaps the 45 miler last weekend was a bit of an excessive treat prior to a GC trip...
Jeremiah and I.  Photo: Todd Gangelhoff
In any case, I was passed by Jerimiah somewhere before CCG and I began lugging my way up the North Kaibab Trail.  Just below the ranger quarters, TK came up behind me and we said hi briefly and I could instantly tell he was gunning for Dakota's FKT as he was motoring.
My favorite stretch of trail, on the ridge, South Kaibab Trail.  Photo: Todd Gangelhoff
Somewhere before the overlook TK came flying back down, shortly followed by Todd and Tressa from Boulder.  All three were absolutely hammering the down, and I was content to know that I was nearing the top.  Up there, I met Jeremiah and Donnie, and we decided to head back down quickly since we were all nearly out of water.
Mmmmmm.  Photo: Jeremiah Greif
While I love downhills more than most,  my already hammered quads were barking at another 5K of drop!  Eventually we made it back down to CCG as it was really starting to heat up.  We spent a good chunk of time cooling off and picking up some more water.  From there we ran a solid pace back to Phantom Ranch where we were all pretty damn dehydrated and we lamented between ourselves while sucking down some Lemony Lemonade.
Canyons inside of canyons.  Photo: Jeremiah Greif
Only one thing left, about 10 miles and five thousand plus feet of vert!  I found myself in the middle of the group, isolated in an odd state of soreness and decent motor.  Lots of power hiking and a bit of running and I was making solid time until about 3 or 4 to go when I was out of water and feeling like I was about to puke all over the Chinese tourists that littered the trail.  I sat down in the shade to collect myself and serendipitously ran into Jay from the Springs.  He offered me a bar, which I declined, but got up to hike with him.  Turns out, Jay is the greatest pacer in the history of mankind and I nearly forgot just how terrible I felt!  After grabbing some water, we chatted life and plans while drinking in the last of the views from the Bright Angel Trail.  As I got to the last 1/4 mile I jogged up to the top and collapsed next to Todd and Jeremiah.

What do you do to top that? Crush some smothered burritos, multiple orders of tacos, the scraps of Donnie's meal, and a shot of Patron!  This was definitely the highlight of my year so far, and I cannot wait to go back!  In all, I was out there for 10 hours and 44 minutes, a distinctively pedestrian time, but a damn good time.  One day I'll go back and take a crack at running it fast, but it was so enjoyable to just go and spend a day tooling around one of the most incredible places this world has to offer.  If ever there was a reason to be an ultrarunner, this was it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cedro Peak 2013

As I sit and type this, I've got some memories planted firmly in my flesh.  Saturday was just "one of those days" for me.  From the off I had all kinds of blinking lights in the cockpit.  "Man, my legs are dead." "Well, good thing I forgot to charge my headlamp, I can't see a damn thing."  Four of us were together from the start, and we bumbled through the first 10 miles at a leisurely pace.  My body was fine, my breathing was fine, but just no go in the sticks.  As disconcerting as it was, I knew that the goal was larger, keep working, keep plugging through, that's the goal.

Coming off Cedro Peak on the way out (somewhere around 12 miles) I found myself hurtling towards the ground face first with no hands in front.  My body made an executive decision to attempt to take the fall with my left shoulder, and I was left to assess the damage.  I quickly got up, and the adrenaline seemed to hold everything together, no broken bones, no excessive bleeding, good to go.

I ran essentially with or near Jacob Lawrence(eventual winner) until aid 5.  Essentially he kept plugging at a solid pace, and I began to have some more issues.  I took 2 tylenol around 4 hours, which ended up causing some  kidney dysfunction.  Coupled with some slight dehydration, I had some issues with dark urine and pressure, so I essentially shut down the last 14 miles and jogged/hiked back to the finish.  I knew that Jacob was gone, and that I had a lot of other things this summer to do, so I wasn't keen to make a bad day worse by charging through the warning signs.  I don't know much about it, but I do know that the cases where people get in trouble are where they continue to push hard for long periods of time after these (or, likely worse) symptoms.

I ended up finishing in 7:46, good enough for second, but a long way from my targeted goal.  Sometimes, you have to play the cards you're dealt.  Once I was done, I started the process of flushing my system.  Between the time I finished and the time I'd arrived I took down somewhere in the range of 200 oz of water and Gatorade.  I've been peeing clear ever since I got home and haven't had any associated discomfort, so I'm confident that I avoided any lingering issue.  In fact, Sunday was my first day off in about 2 months.

Of course, a big congrats to Jacob (we've raced a couple times now), who ran a smart, steady race and seemingly held a consistent effort all the way through.  Also, Kim King (new RD) and her crew put on a great race.  Well organized, some neat swag, great aid stations, well marked and honest course.

What's next for me? Grand Canyon in 5 days!  Recover and execute.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I love the sentiment.  Looking forward to some time in the ditch.

35 from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Some awesome background to the video.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March 2013

March was a pretty solid month for me, even if the long run efforts left something to be desired.  I was happy with my race at Salida given that I knocked off almost 20 minutes from 2012.  I know I've got time in me for that race, especially since I essentially ran the same race to the halfway point both years.  The shorter races definitely take a different mindset that I simply haven't mastered, and the ability to go hard from the off.

In terms of pure training, I was happy with my totals.  I hit my goal of 350 miles and 60K of vert (369.24 +60,054) and it wraps up my biggest month of vertical ever.  In April I've set my sights on pushing out the miles to 400 and the vert to 65K.  We'll see about that, but I've got a few big runs coming up to test me for sure.  First up is the Cedro Peark 45M in 2 weeks and R2R2R the following week.  I want to crank it at Cedro and hang on for the next weekend.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep the wheels turning into May and be able to race solidly at Quad Rock before tapering for Bighorn.

Lastly, there's a fun video put together from the Orcas Island 50K back in February.  I'm in it a handful of times, but you can follow a few tired strides of mine about 3:20 in or so.  Definitely worth a watch, really shows some of the beauty of the island.

Orcas Island 50k - 2013 from Project Talaria on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Salida 2013

After all the chatter of weather, we arrived this morning to a bone dry Salida.

A brisk start was easy chatter up around the mini starting loop, but as we hit the road, I drifted way off the pack.  I was feeling OK, but just didn't have the turnover to hang as 25+ guys left me in the dust.  My legs took a while to warm up to the trail, and really lagged on the dirt road to the turnaround.  Luckily, I managed to clean my act up after hitting halfway at just over 1:50 in.  

Aside from some blowing snow and my lack of hat/sun glasses the trail conditions were pretty ideal, whatever ice was around had a nice coating of snow to add some traction. The middle section of the course is my favorite, steep and nasty downhills let me really make up some ground and just before the final short climb I had moved my way into 13th.  I dropped off a bit in energy and Paul caught me and ran with me up to the final aid station.  We made a wrong turn shortly after which added a bit of time (not much, really) and as Paul accelerated down the smooth trail, I attempted to match his pace, puked up my gel, and backed off to settle down.

In the end, Paul got me by almost a full minute, a great race there at the end.  I was stoked to run nearly 20 minutes faster than last year, and felt strong pretty much the entire second half of the run with a big negative split.  To run faster, I'd need to put in some actual speed-work as I lost a lot of time on the smooth sections, and particularly that 4 miles of road early on.

The best thing about Salida remains the low key "family reunion" feel of the race.  Friends I've not seen in a few months all seem to show up and we get to chatter about the year's plans and where we'll see each other next.

Big props go to Keith for couching the marathon from sea level in primo fashion.  The pizza, beer, and corn whiskey from Moonlight was much deserved.

As usual, the drive home was the toughest part, driving back into the storm on tired legs...

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I had mentioned that I'd been keeping an eye on Quad Rock, well now that eye is set and done.  I'm in, I'm committed.

Should be interesting, and there will be some solid comp too, so just having a good day is the goal.  Climb, descend, repeat.  Three weeks post big ditch puts it at the perfect time.

I recently reread this piece, which has sort of been my unofficial motto for a few years now.  So my plan? Race hard, see what happens.

Salida looks to be getting snow Friday night and Saturday, which should make things more fun, in my opinion.  Getting home seems to be the only issue.

Monday, March 4, 2013

February 2013

288 miles (+48,381').

Missed one day of running which meant I missed my arbitrary goal of 300/50K' by one day's worth of stats. I've committed myself to letting arbitrary numbers go and simply doing what the day gives me without forcing it.  That said, March's arbitrary goal is 350/60K'.  More of this is simple base building and I think this year has begun quite well in that measure as I feel fit and I was able to get in more mileage and about four times the vertical than I have in the previous 5 years of running.

Last year I ran 250 miles in February and 19K of vertical.  So, the climbing is coming a bit more natural, although I've still a long way to go to be where I want to be.  Overall, I'm really happy with where I am and where I'll be in the build up to Bighorn.  I've been keeping my eye on Clarkie's Quad Rock rego list and as each passing day goes by I get more and more desire to race.

This coming weekend is Salida, of course, and hopefully this massive head cold passes and I avoid another 2012 race.  Otherwise, things are well in the running world and I'm really excited for a bunch of exploring and running every bit of unexplored trail and non trail on "my" Green Mountain.  Stoked to be heading down to the ditch with a great group of guys who "get it". More and more, I'm also excited to get this Bighorn monkey off my back (and to keep my HR status up).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


It seems that the Orcas Island kick in the pants along with some gradual gains in fitness have begun to stoke the fire again.  Funny how that works itself out after a nice long break.  Plans are set in motion for the year and I'm finally feeling comfortable about how things will play themselves out.

About a month or so ago I was really searching for motivation, and voiced some concern in regards to fitness/recovery to Todd on a run around Green.  Since we've moved to the foothills my weekly vertical has jumped by about 5,000' or more per week (as a reference, my biggest month ever was June of 2011 with 444 miles and +35,473, this January I ran 250 miles and +33,685').  Needless to say, the first 5-6 months were rough on my body, and I was not able to comfortably gain the mileage I'd wanted to prior to Orcas Island, feeling wiped after every run.  Todd had mentioned a similar fatigue after moving from the Highlands to Morrison a few years previous, so it was nice to know that I was at least in a normal phase of "adaptation".

The week prior to Orcas I managed to kick out some decent runs and since then I've been waking up feeling fresher than I'd been in the past, and it seems that the body is beginning to take the vertical and mileage in stride.  Despite some lingering soreness in the days immediately following the race (4 hours in a car and 3 in a plane are poor recovery tools), I've felt great since and am looking forward to Salida.

I've seemed to nail down my race plans for 2013 as well, though I've got some considering to do on a few things.  April is a trip to the Grand Canyon for the R2R2R and is locked in!  Originally I'd planned on doing a double Buchanan/Pawnee pass loop in May, but it's likely not going to be accessible for a running option that early and will likely be pushed back to July or August.  I've been considering running Quad Rock as a tune up for Bighorn which I've confirmed for June after talking with the wife.  I am not a fan of loop courses, though I do love the trails up there and I can't make it to Jemez this year because Rachel's 5K shares the weekend.

I'm planning to recover from Bighorn through June and early July, then just have fun in the high mountains through August.  I do want to go back to the Mt. Werner 50K, but it looks to be too close to Bighorn for me and I want to make sure I'm recovered and rested before launching the second half of the year.  Late September I'm planning on checking out the Devil Mountain 50 down in Pagosa followed by Deadman Peaks 50 in October as part of a build up to Hellgate in December.  Obviously focusing on a few things: being ready and fit for Bighorn and Hellgate.  I want to leave the latter part of summer and early fall for what makes Colorado awesome, big mountain running and camping with Rachel and the boys.

For now, it's simply time to get fit and have fun in the hills.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Orcas Island 50K

What a race. What a venue. I'd had Orcas Island on my radar since racing Sun Mountain a couple of years ago, so when James sent me a tempting note, I was in without blinking an eye.  I have a special affinity for the northwest, its weather, and climate.  The only downside to coming out to race in February was that it is about 2 months early!  I did my best to get as ready as I could, but the training leading up to the race was perhaps less than ideal.  So, I insisted to myself that because I'd come down from altitude, that'd make up for the fitness deficit.  All in all, I can't complain, the race was truly amazing.

I flew in and joined the list of runners missing the early ferry to the island.  In any case, I met some nice folks from Oregon and passed the time.  After getting lost on the island I managed to settle in and grab some food and a beer before heading to sleep.

Race morning was uneventful, and as the race was underway I was quickly unsure as to how things would pan out.  I knew it wasn't gonna be an excellent day (likely left the weekend prior on Falcon, dammit) but it wasn't gonna be a terrible day either.  Dead climbing legs meant getting passed constantly on the climbs and by the top of the first big one I was essentially where I'd be the rest of the day, around 20th.  I let it rip a bit on the first descent for the most part, and that was super fun.  

Photo: Glenn Tachiyama
I couldn't get a grip on where we were in relation to the course because I was too sucked into the surroundings, the big views, and the thick old growth forest.  Attempting to gain back some time, I promptly slammed my face off the ground.  That's the nice part of the northwest though, it's all so soft and forgiving!  That kind of fall could have ended my race back home, so I counted my lucky stars and managed to stay upright the rest of the way back home.

Initially going into the run, I had hoped I might be able to hit the 5 hour mark, but that quickly fell apart with my legs around the 2 or 3 hour mark.  I lost a lot of time on the powerline climb (not too different than the Pb version, just steeper, shorter, and lower).  Towards the top of Mt. Constitution I resigned a bit,and enjoyed my hike until I reached the summit.   When Jason Louitt passed me, I tried to go with him for about 200 yards before the fatigue hit me again.  I wasn't in pain per say, just had nothing in the legs, which is pretty easily deduced to the whole training issue.  All in all, I felt good all day, never had any terrible stretches, so hopefully that means that the endurance piece is coming, if slowly.  In the end, I finished in 5:25, which is still pretty solid for a race with +8755' of gain (in reference, the fire course at Jemez "only" has +20' of gain over 20 more miles).

So, what did I learn from this? I learned that the northwest is still awesome, you should definitely make space for your bucket list races, Washington folk really like their weed, and single ply TP sucks.

Also, James (Rainshadow Running) puts on badass races.  Thanks again for the wonderful time, I'll be back for more.  Big ups to Skaggs for dumpster diving the sparkling wine at RVR, which likely contributed to some excellent dance moves.

Lastly, but not least, thanks to Drymax (yet another blister free day), and Highgear for keeping me going.  2013 figures to be a great year of fun and running.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ending the Offseason

The offseason is coming to a close and I'm still struggling a bit to find my groove in training, though admittedly it's starting to come back despite some setbacks.

Family photos.
I have a race in a month and I'm slightly uneasy about my fitness going in.  The specifics of the race are really intriguing as it's 50K at sea level with nearly 9K of vertical.  The distance is not crazy, but I don't really feel comfortable running that hard for 5+ hours yet, so my main focus is going to be endurance in the coming weeks.  Over Christmas we traveled back to CA to visit my family and I ran my Simas Peak route (15+ miles/+4,100') in 2:17 going what felt like 80%.  I pushed hard with sustained effort on the climbs, but did not push the downs at all, just controlled.  Logically though, it's not likely I'll be able to duplicate that effort for 30+ miles, so I guess my goal is to try and be as close to 5 hours as possible.  With a new course it's hard to really have any prediction of what my time will be, and the Ultrasignup "goal time" calculation is just BS (it predicts an 11+ hour finish for Diana Finkel at Jemez. She ran 9:30 last year...).  So, who knows, my running lately has left much to be desired.

Part of the offseason I'm trying to kick the habit of was some sickness.  I caught a virus from my kids that unfortunately wiped me out the 3 days surrounding my birthday/new year.  I had zero energy and trouble eating for those days and generally lost the desire to do much of anything besides sleep and lay around.  Hopefully that's behind me, but you never know with these damned kids around.

The highlight of the offseason for me was the reintegration of some actual sport in my life.  I started playing indoor soccer again with a fun group of guys who all happen to be talented.  Specifically we're playing futsal, which is a much better version of the typical indoor game in my opinion and it's helped me work a bunch of muscles that I hadn't used in a while.  Initially I thought I'd just play this season and take the running year off, but I'm considering more and more the idea of continuing through the year.  It's been a lot of fun, and while I've picked up some bruises, it's generally been beneficial for my physical fitness and helps break up the training.

Current standings.  We are "RUSH".
Aside from that, my planning for the 2013 ultra year has been pretty quiet.  I've pretty well nailed down some ideas for what I'd like to do, but still uncertain in some areas.  I obviously have Orcas Island 50K on 2/2 and then Salida on 3/9, but after that the race schedule is generally quiet.  Rachel and I still have yet to finalize some stuff in regards to an anniversary trip which will likely include a race for both of us.  I'm excited that it looks as though I'm going to be able to check off a major bucket list item, the Grand Canyon R2R2R over the weekend of April 20th with Donnie.  The only way I want to see it for the first time is to really see it, all of it, on a single run.

Some other things in the works are a "Fat Ass" which I'm looking to do linking some trails from my house over Green, to Mother Cabrini, Lookout Mountain, Golden, and then back.  It's somewhere between 31 and 36 miles depending on what you take to get there.  I need to scout the section from MW to Cabrini to Apex as it involves a fair amount of off trail bushwhacking, but it'll be sweet.  I might actually try this sooner rather than later if I can find a good way though to Apex.

Roughly the idea.
Also in the works for the summer is a Front Range traverse starting at Lookout Mountain and heading south.  This is something that I've chatted with Todd about for 2 years, so this feels like the year to get it done.

I'm leaning towards running my 100 at Bighorn for some redemption (depending on what I decide on Cascade Crest), and using a super long fun run as a way to get ready.  The idea is a Buchanon/Pawnee/Pawnee/Buchanon double loop.  Simple idea is to start at night, drive up around midnight, and start the Buchanon direction first.  Finish the loop proper back at the car, refuel and head out in the opposite direction.  The wilderness aspect of the race would be good preparation for a race like Bighorn which lacks substantial support for long periods in the middle of nowhere.  The loop would be in the range of 52-54 miles and +13K of vert, so solid training and a good excuse to hang out in the Indian Peaks.  I think mid-May would be good target so long as it isn't still packed in with snow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Recap

Been pretty quiet lately on the blog.  Mostly I've been busy with work and life, trying to get things in order and running when I can.  Rather than write a huge post in regards to the year, I'm posting some photos to help speed it along.

Final figures for 2012:

277 Runs
498 Hours
50 Minutes
19 Seconds
3156.39 Miles
341,907 Vertical Feet

Snowmass Lake from the 4 pass loop run.

Camping with friends.

This burned down.

My best friend got married.

We bought our first house. I can now run trails from my front door.

Ran my first track race.

Kicked JT's ass.

Won my first 50M race.

Awesome photo from said race. Photo: Jason Halladay

Hung out high on some big peaks.

Oliver was small to start.

We hung out.

He got bigger.

And then he got stuck.

Ran some other races. DNF'd a bunch.

Found the limits of the Subi.

Finally don't have to worry about losing that damn ring.

Xavier went to his first soccer game.

Xavier grew up, dropped his first curse word at school, and beat his mom bowling.
An unfortunate sickness mellowed my plan for any fun on my birthday, but the year was a great one by any measure.  I'm looking forward to lots of fun in 2013.  Haven't really nailed down any running plans after March, but I've got a month to get ready for Orcas Island, and then another few weeks to prep for Salida.  After that, it's anybody's guess where I'll be, but hopefully I can pull off the Grand Canyon trip with Donnie, and either Bighorn or Cascade Crest.  My resolution is to get up Green Mountain (here in Lakewood) 100 times.  Started out with one slow ascent today.  See ya on the trails this year, bitches!