Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sixth time is a charm

Prologue -
Ten years ago I moved out to Utah for a job.  I had already run a couple of 100 mile races and had heard of the Wasatch 100.  I knew it was one of the toughest 100's in the country.  I also knew that if I was going to live in Utah I would have to run it at some point.
I ran my first Wasatch in 2005.  It was a lesson in reality.
I DNF'd at 61 miles due to being cold, really, really cold.  2006 I was better prepared for the cold, but I wasn't prepared for the asthma that dogged me for the last 25 miles.  I think my pacer thought I was going to die at some point, but I finished.  It was brutal, but I finished.
Since then I've always had it in the back of my head to finish with a  sub-30 hour time, but it wasn't until last year that I really had that as a goal.  Last year I came so close, finishing with a 30:06.  This year was going to be the year....I hoped.
All my fueling and drinking strategies worked really well last year, so I planned on repeating it as much as possible.
I had my pace chart setup with last year's splits and my usual optimistic splits for this year.

Aid StationDistanceAltitude2013 Actuals2014 Goal Out2014 Actuals
East Mountain Wilderness Park0 mi.4880 feet5:005:005:00
Francis Peak18.4 mi.7500 feet9:349:309:49
Bountiful B23.81 mi.8160 feet10:5810:5511:08
Sessions Lift Off28.16 mi.8320 feet11:5911:5512:10
Swallow Rocks34.61 mi.8320 feet13:5013:4514:10
Big Mountain39.07 mi.7420 feet15:0614:5515:31
Alexander Ridge46.90 mi.6160 feet17:1717:0017:42
Lambs Canyon52.48 mi.6100 feet18:5918:2519:11
Millcreek60.94 mi.7660 feet21:4621:0522:05
Desolation Lake66.02 mi.9170 feet23:4323:0023:56
Scotts Pass71.15 mi.9910 feet1:040:201:18
Brighton Lodge74.63 mi.8790 feet2:321:402:54
Ant Knolls79.13 mi.9000 feet4:393:404:49
Pole Line Pass82.31 mi.8925 feet6:055:106:07
Staton North87.28 mi.7658 feetN/A6:257:34
Decker Canyon93.89 mi.5910 feetN/A8:009:10
Soldier Hollow99.96 mi.5509 feet11:0610:0010:40

I have to get my outfit together, this is important

I was somewhat nervous because I didn't think my training was where it needed to be, yet when I would check my training log, I had more miles in than last year.  That helped alleviate some anxiety.
Weather?  Weather is always a factor at Wasatch.  Last year was very warm, even overnight and up high in the mountains.  this plays to my strengths.  Cold weather does not.  this year the weather looked to be similar to last year, just a bit cooler.

Race -
Start to Francis - 0-18.4
As usual, the start came way too early for me, but oh well.  I managed to get caught in several conga lines.  These frustrate the hell out of me, but also serve the purose of keeping me from going out too fast, so I just went with the flow and didn't really worry about passing anybody this early.  Unfortunately, I got caught way in the back of the pack.  This meant I would be slow right out of the gate and possibly not make my goal times.  Could be a problem later.
The trek to Francis was pretty uneventful.  I felt fine, the sun came up, scenery was beautiful as usual.  There were a couple of folks a Cool Spring like last year, handing out Gatorade and water.  There was a guy at the top of Chinscraper cheering and ringing a cowbell.  He had gone up the night before.  I'm always glad to get the longest and, to me, most difficult climb out of the way early.
I got to Francis about 15 minutes behind last year's time, and 20 minutes behind my goal.  Not an issue at this point. 
The HUMR's were running this aid station and it was wonderful to see a bunch of friends there.  I would see many of them later as several were going to be pacing other HUMR's later in the race.
HUMR Nation running the Francis aid station
My fueling strategy here was to get my Ultragen, drink some Coke, grab my burrito and baby food and get out.  I ate my burrito as I left and began the trek to Bountiful B.

Francis to Bountiful B - 18.4-23.8
Let's just say this isn't my favorite section of the race.  In fact, I rather don't like it at all.  Forest roads follwed by a steep climb and it's not fun.  However, I actually didn't do too bad thru this section and made up some of the time I had lost going to Francis.  I actually was faster than last year thru here.
Quick stop here and i was down the road again.

Bountiful B to Sessions - 23.8-28.1
I have had some bad spells thru here in years past.  Today was a bit different.  I felt pretty good for most of it.  Managed to run a few of the miles with Curtis and Ryan.  As we were coming up and over a slight rise, we saw something totally out of character for the race.  There along side the trail in the middle of nowhere at 9,000' was a living room.  Yep, recliner, rug, bookcase with books, end table and lamp, and Matt Van Horn sitting there holding up signs for runners. 

Coolest.thing.ever seen during Wasatch
 One of the coolest things I've ever seen at a race.  Anyway, about mile 26 I could feel myself start the mental descent into race purgatory. 

Showing my wife the picture of Matt
That point where you get a case of the "I don't give a shit", you want to call it quits, your legs hurt or are tired or both.  the thing is, there's nothing you can do about it except ride it out.  When you've done these things enough, you realize it's just part of the deal.  You will feel low at some point.  Well, this started just before Sessions and lasted for about 10 miles.  I just kept going. 

Sessions to Big Mountain - 28.1-39.1
Eventually, about 1-2 miles past the3 Swallow Rocks aid, I felt myself come out of my funk.  It was strange to just be able to feel my mood lift, my legs feel stronger and less tired.
anyway, I came into Big Mountain feeling pretty good.  Karen was waiting for me, had my next pack ready to go, got me my food, forced me to eat plenty and kicked me out.  Just what I wanted her to do.

Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon - 39.1-52.5
this section is mostly downhill and you'd think that would make it easy.  Nope.  There are some uphill sections, you're running thru here in the heat of the afternoon and exposed.  The downhills are steep and have large quantities of loose rocks.  Still, I managed to really make up some time here.  Like 20 minutes faster than last year.  About 2-3 miles before Alexander, Rayn lauck caught up and we had a good time running together.  About 1 mile out of Alexander, Curtis Thompson cuaght up to us.  I had been trading back and forth with these two since the early miles and it was fun to run a few miles with them, see how they were doing (great), just chat about stuff going on etc.  We all went into Alexander together and left a few minutes later.  the run down the pipeline trail is always kind of drudgery, not scenic, mostly uphill and still warm.  About a mile after leaving Alexander, however, I felt great and pulled away from Ryan and Curtis.  Usually I walk most of the uphills along here, this time I was running.  Good times.

Lambs Canyon to Brighton - 52.5-74.6
Karen was waiting for me at Lamb's and had everything ready to go.  I think I spent about 10 minutes here.  The least amount ever.  I also picked up Breein, my first pacer for the race.  My goal was to get to the top of Bear Ass Pass before dark.  I was leaving Lamb's about 10 minutes later than last year and I wasn't climbing quite as strong and had to turn on the headlamp about .5 mile from the pass.  Oh well, I felt good and we kept going.  Along here we saw Matt Van Horn again at the Lamb's Canyon trailhead.  This time he was dressed as a homeless guy holding a sign that said "Will work for ultra entries".  Pretty funny stuff.
Rolled into Upper Big Water (Millcreek) around 10pm, sat down, ate some food, pulled on some warmer clothes and got out.
The climb to Dog Lake went well, strong.  Dropped down to Blunder Fork, then up the trail to Desolation Lake.  This is always a steep rocky grind, but there has been some serious trail reqork going on and with a couple of switchbacks and smoother trail, we made pretty good time.  Got into Deso and got out after a bit to drink.  The climb up to Scott's Pass took about the same amount of time as last year, so no worries.  It was a lot windier across the ridge this year, and a bit colder, but for the second time, I stayed out of the tent at Scott's.  If you go in, it's warm and inviting and you stay longer than you should.  I drank some Coke and left.  Along this section I always stop for a couple of minutes, turn off my headlamp, lay down and enjoy the stars.  I also make my pacer do it.  I love to run out here at night and part of it is just looking at the wonders around you, even during a race.  The moon was alomost full and looked gorgeous peeking out from the few clouds that were out.  The run down to Brighton took about the same amount of time as last year.

Brighton to Pole Line Pass - 74.6-82.3
I stayed at Brighton entirely too long, about 20 minutes.  I wasn't wasting time, just trying to get lots of food down.  I love having scrambled eggs here, something I look forward to.  Once again, Karen had everything ready to go for me.  I picked up my second pacer here.  Jackie is training for her first 100 (the Bear) and had never paced anyone before.  Breein just told her that I knew what I was doing and to just watch and learn. 
Telling my wife I warned Jackie about pacing me
Jackie actually did a fantastic job of pacing.  She would be in front setting a pace just a bit faster than I would have and I kept up.  Exactly what I needed.
Brighton to Pole Line went well.  Faster than last year, but I felt better this year.  I saw one thing I saw that made me happy.  I had seen Andrea Martinez sitting at Brighton with a bum knee talking about dropping.  Now this chick took second last year and is a good friend of mine.  As Jackie and I were descending into Ant Knolls, she comes absolutely flying by with her pacer, all sorts of happy.  She had her knee worked on by a PT and a chiro and was feeling great.
Got into Ant Knolls about ten minutes behind last year's time, no worries, I felt great.  Made the climb and descent into Pole Line Pass only two minutes behind last year, that made me feel really good knowing that I had at least caught up to last year's time.

Pole Line to the Finish - 82.3-100
This section was way different than last year.  No dive or plunge, no Irv's torture chamber to deal with, mostly downhill dirt road.  I had 4:50 planned for this section as a time.  I ended up running it in 4:30.  The downside to this section was the last few miles were on a well graded, exposed hiking/biking/horsey trail that meanders along Deer Creek Reservoir. 
Coming down the road from North Staton aid
Not my favorite section and it seemed to go on forever.  Eventually we got to the trailhead, made our way up the little bit of paved road and across the finish line.  For some reason I really like finishing this race in the morning rather than the afternoon.

Aftermath -
I felt pretty good this year for the entire race.  I only had the one low point and ran pretty steady the entire time.  Not sure I like the new section from Pole Line to the finish.  It seems kind of anticlimactic to have an "easy" 17 miles after being put thru the wringer the previous 83.  I'd like to see some changes that will throw some more stuff at us later in the race. 
Shoes-I wore my Altra Lone Peak 1.5's and Injinji toe socks the entire time.  Never changed shoes, never changed socks.  Not one blister was to be found and I think I'll only lose one toenail.  That has to be a new record for me.
Food-I pretty much relied on my drop bags.  I had a dose of Ultragen (320 calories) in every drop bag.  Put a bit of ice in it and it's easy to drink.  I did have a PBR at Big Mountain and a half a turkey sandwich.  As usual, the PBR made me smile and put me in a happy place.  I did have frozen burritos in every drop bag as well, but after eating the first one at Francis, I wanted nothing else to do with them.  I also put a container of mini ravioli's in my drop bag at Upper Big Water.  I did a few gels from the start to Francis.  Those worked fine, but no gels after that.  Scrambled eggs at Brighton are always a hit with me, as is the sausage at Ant Knolls and Pole Line Pass.  Lots of Coke was drunk.
I never felt sleepy to the point of doing the drunken sailor march down the trail, probably the constant intake of Coke had something to do with that.
Oh, my time.  29:40:24
One other thing.  This was my sixth finish and my golden ticket to bypassing the lottery from here on.  Yay!
Many thanks to my wonderful wife Karen for her help crewing this year.  She's never crewed me at Wasatch and she did it perfectly.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons in Perseverance

My training has been a bit off the past couple of weeks.  Either one or both vehicles have been in the shop and I've had to resort to riding my bike back and forth to work.  Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, I end up riding to the train station from my house, take the train, ride to work.  Then I ride the entire distance home (19 miles).  So I end up riding close to 25 miles a day.  Because of the time involved adn lack of transportation, I haven't been able to get the running in that I think I need for Wasatch.  It's kind of bugging me.
So, last Sunday I had the opportunity to get a 35 mile "run" in with a couple of lovely young ladies, Missy and Emily.  Both were looking for a really long run on the Wasatch course and wanted a tour guide of sorts.  Neither had run Wasatch in a couple of years, and were a bit unsure of the route in places.  The perfect opportunity to reset my training and see where I was.
We started our adventure at the Fernwood picnic area.  This is about 3.5 miles from the start of the Wasatch course.  It's also where runners start the single biggest climb of the race.
The day started cool, but we all knew that it would be a warm one, even at 9000'.
The first 20 miles went great.  We were having fun just trotting along and chatting.  We even managed to bag a couple of peaks, Thurston, and Francis, with short side trips.
My troubles started when we began the climb towards the Bountiful B aid station location.  Our last source of water was a stream that we crossed just before that.  We all tanked up on water knowing that we wouldn't have any more for the next 17+ miles.  I've never been a fan of the climb to Bountiful, but it didn't seem too bad.  I was slowing down some, but wasn't concerned.
We made it up to bountiful, then started our trek down the dirt roads to the Sessions Liftoff aid station location.  Even though it was Sunday, we encountered all sorts of 4x4, ATV, and motorcycle traffic.  Just the hazard of running down this road.
By the time we had gone 20 miles, I wanted out.  I was bonking, not hard, but just slowing down and having an attitude shift.  Trouble is, there's no easy way to get off the mountains.  You don't realize just how remote you are until you want to leave.  Even though we could look down and see civilization close by, it would have been a 5-10 mile minimum trek to make it down to that civilization.  Then I would have had to call my wife to come pick me up, then drive to Big Mountain to pick up my car.  Since we only had 10-15 miles left and I wasn't hurt or other wise dying, I kept going.  For about the next 5-7 miles I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, complaining to Missy.  Emily had gone on ahead a ways (probably so she wouldn't have to listen to me). 
Finally, I think Missy had enough of my complaining and gave me half of a 5-hour energy and that seemed to boost me some.  I realized that 1) I was physically fine, no injuries or illness, 2) I was doing something that I loved, running and hiking in the mountains, 3) It was a gorgeous day, even if it was warm, 4) I was actually moving at a pretty good pace, just not as fast as I wanted, 5) I was doing more physically and in better shape than the vast majority of people my age (55), and 6) I had cold beer in a cooler in my car.
So, what lessons did I learn out there?  First, take more calories.  I think that's why I bonked.  I did eat about 600-700 calories that I had with me, but I should have taken more along.  I did fine with water, I rationed it and finished the last of it about 1/4 mile from Big Mountain.  Second, I was reminded that I do have a gift of being able to go these kinds of distances.  Third, I'm not fast, but I can persevere when forced to.  Fourth, I was never really bad off, I just had a bad attitude.  Having a bad attitude is way, way different than actually being in any sort of danger, and I was never in any sort of danger. 
And last, I hope that when I do run Wasatch in September, I'll remember that it's just a low point I'm at and to persevere, because I will have a low point during the race.
Sorry, no pics.  I have enough pics of the Wasatch.
Here's the link to my route:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bryce 50 mile, talk about scenery overload

Prologue -

Last Saturday I ran my second ultra in as many weeks.  The previous week it was the Kettle Moraine 100K.  I did reasonably well at that one and was just looking to finish Bryce before dark and have some fun hanging out with fellow HUMR's, along with my wife and sister-in-law, for the weekend.  I was going to run the race last year, but a bout of surgery left me on the sidelines crewing and just hanging around.

Race -

RD Matt got us all started right on time at 6am.  The first 1-2 miles were on some dirt road.  This allowed the field to spread out before we got to the single track.
So, my stated goal for this race was to just go out and have a good time, enjoy the scenery, and finish in a reasonable time.  I was still a bit tired from the 100K a week before.  Secretly I had a time goal of somewhere around 12 hours.  I figured that if I felt good, I should be able to finish in that amount of time.
See all the runners?  Yeah, neither can I
Once we got on the single track, the scenery really started to unfold.  Around every corner was a Kodak moment waiting to be had.  The first several miles had us winding our way thru forest, twisty and turny single track, stunning views, etc.  I hung with Curtis and Steve for quite awhile, but eventually they pulled ahead and left me to run alone.  We ran across ridges, amongst hoodoos, saw amazing rock formations, and long range views across the valley below.  Eventually we descended to the base of those same cliffs and got to the first aid station (10 miles).  I was feeling pretty good, drinking plenty, eating a bit here and there.  I grabbed some coke and headed out for the next section.  Now we were going thru some forest and meadows that were equally as scenic.  I don't remember a lot of specifics about this section other than it was stunning.  As I ran down a small canyon along a creek bed, I could hear the next aid station coming up.  HUMR canopy up and some familiar faces to get me stuff.  Debbie came in just after I did and I told her that she'd better catch me.
I knew that Lane, Pam, Madi, and Gage would be there for the HUMR's and as I rolled in, there was a big cheer.  It was awesome to see the
The next section was another long stretch of nine miles.  This section had us doing some serious climbing.  A couple of short steeper sections, but nothing huge.
Happy to see my peeps
Just long gradual climbs, winding thru small canyons and drainages, eventually coming out on top of a ridge and running right along the edge of a cliff.  Very cool.  The aid station at 27 miles (Blubber Creek) was manned by the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, so once again a bunch of familiar faces were seen.  I asked about a few runners ahead of me and got the scoop on how they were doing.  I hung out for a bit here.  I figured that since I was taking my time, why not visit, eat, drink and enjoy the scenery.  The aid station was right on the edge of the cliff.
Time wise, I was doing fine and well on my target of a 12 hour finish.  When I left Blubber Creek, I felt the competitive side of me start to kick in a bit.  I've never won a race, or even come close, but I still like to try and run my best time given the conditions.  I felt good, the legs were doing fine.  I knew that I still had teh hardest part of the course coming up, but at least I was over half way done. So I picked it up a bit, tried to do more running on the uphills.
The next section from 27-35 miles seemed like a lot of dirt road and a fair amount of climbing.  At the time I was playing tag with a few other runners.  I'd pass, then they'd pass.  Stuff like that kind of bugs me, I don't know why.  I figure if you're going to pass, stay ahead, but on the other hand, I was unable to stay ahead when I would pass.
I ran into the aid station at 35 miles (Kanab Creek) still feeling pretty good.  This aid station was also on the edge of a cliff and had stunning views to enjoy.  I didn't spend a lot of time here, just a couple of minutes.  I knew that in another five miles, I would again see the HUMR crew.

About a mile or so out of the next aid station at 40 miles (Straight Canyon) I met up with a guy (Zach) from Alabama running his first 100.  We had a nice chat and about half a mile out of the aid station we saw Hal Koerner coming up the road.  Well, the guy I was running with had to get a photo with his running idol.  We chatted with Hal for a couple of minutes.  Turns out his wife was running and he was waiting for her.  He actually knew who I was once I introducd myself.  Kind of surprising actually.  Anyway, as we ran into the aid station, I told Zach to grab a beer from the HUMR people. He had never heard of drinking a beer during a race.  I assured him that it was like drinking the nectar of the gods.  Anyway, Lane got me half a PBR, got Zach half a PBR and I grabbed some stuff to eat from the aid station table and left.  I knew the longest climb would happen over the next five miles and I wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible.  The first mile out of that aid station was a gradual climb on some single track along a creek.  Meadows, trees, sunshine, great trail, just all around awesomeness.  Zac Marion, was charging down the road and stopped to chat with me for a minute and give me a hug.  He looked great and was stoked to be running in first place.  A few minutes later, Leslie Howlett came running by.  She was looking strong as well.
See those white canyons in the distance?  Zion National Park
After that, it was about 3.5 miles of dirt road that just kept going up and up.  Nothing steep, but on tired legs, I couldn't run it.  I did manage to catch a few others along this stretch.  I'm not sure if they were 50 or 100 mile runners, but I still wanted to catch them.  Along this stretch I saw the first male and female runners for the 100 mile making the return journey.  One of the coolest runners I know,
A few minutes later I made it to the last aid station before the finish.  This aid station was on the highest point of the course and from 9500', I could see 30-40 miles south into Zion National Park.  As I was eating and drinking, a lady that ran with me across the Grand Canyon several years ago came in.  I hadn't seen Olga since that run almost six years earlier. 
Saw this good looking lady on the trail.  Olga King
We left the aid station together and had a nice chat for the next few miles.  Eventually I ran on ahead as I was looking to get this thing done.  The last five miles were pretty much all downhill and most of it was dirt road, but a couple of miles from the finish we were again directed on to some single track.  Zach, the guy from alabama caught up to me along here and thanked me for the beer back at 40 miles.  He said it hit the spot.  This part took us along the base of the pink cliffs, and they were indeed pink.  Along here I managed to put some distance between me and a couple of other runners that I had traded places with over the course of the day.  I also saw plenty of 100 mile runners out making the return trip, several that I knew.  I was glad I wasn't going to make that trip.  My legs were pretty well shot from two races in two weeks.  I managed to run strong the last 1/4 mile or so and crossed the finish line in 12:31.  Karen and her sister Kate were there waiting for me.  A bunch of the faster HUMR's were still hanging out as well. 
Aftermath -

So, overall, I had a pretty good race.  I did better than I thought I would.  I felt good the entire day, no stomach issues, no foot or leg issues.  Just a good time.
The race?  The course was incredible, phenomenal scenery at every turn.  The aid stations were well stocked and very helpful.  They had anything I needed.
Shoes - I ran in my old Altra Lone Peaks.  I think this is going to be my go-to shoe.  No foot issues at all.  No blisters, no trashed toenails.  I wish they had a bit more cush.  I need to get me a new pair though.
Drink - I think I drank about two gallons of water.  Although the day was kind of cool (upper 60's), it was breezy, very dry, and very sunny. 
Food - I didn't take my usual baby food for this race.  I figured that since it was only 50 miles, I could get my with stuff from the aid stations.  Nutella wraps are awesome, as is pickle juice.  A fair amount of Coke was consumed, one beer, and some Trader Joe's trail mix left over from the Buffalo Run.
Time - 12:33:01, 36th out of 109 finishers.  Good enough for 4th in my age group.  So, not too bad.
Here's some more random pics form the race and in the park the next day.
If you get a chance, go run this race.  Well organized, great, well stocked aid stations, well marked course, phenomenal scenery, tough course, but not overly so.  I think I'll be running this one again next year.
The pink cliffs near the finish

In the park with Karen and her sister Kate the next day

Random scenery pic

Added bonus, short restaurant review

We ate most of our meals at the Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant.  This place had great homemade food.  Seriously, I think virtually everything on the menu was homemade.  The bread was baked in house.  All of the pies were baked on site.  For my meals, I had the hot open faced turkey sandwich twice because it was so good.  Homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, all on homemade sourdough.  The pie?  Very tasty.  I had the lemon cream pie while Karen had the blueberry cream pie.  So, if you go down to Bryce, check this place out.  I think it has way better food than Ruby's, and it's cheaper as well.

Miscellaneous info -

UA Bryce50miProfile

UA Bryce50-100Map
Here's my Garmin info before the battery ran out.

Distance 45.3mi
Elapsed Time 11:21:40
Pace 15:03/mi
Elevation Gain 8,210ft
Mile Pace  Elev (ft)
1 10:54 77
2 10:43 173
3 11:20 3
4 10:19 -10
5 11:37 151
6 11:39 51
7 11:10 -161
8 11:17 -376
9 10:50 -259
10 11:38 35
11 14:32 -58
12 11:43 -26
13 13:31 101
14 12:41 65
15 13:00 -35
16 18:13 459
17 17:59 132
18 12:36 -357
19 18:45 192
20 15:31 394
21 15:23 238
22 14:08 -197
23 12:23 -484
24 18:53 340
25 20:03 310
26 17:01 187
27 19:18 170
28 28:03:00 170
29 16:43 71
30 11:10 -165
31 14:01 102
32 13:28 -166
33 16:23 101
34 15:33 8
35 14:56 -52
36 21:13 1
37 14:59 3
38 16:50 -306
39 11:36 -159
40 12:03 -137
41 19:58 -11
42 14:38 159
43 14:54 138
44 18:14 387
45 20:48 306
0.3 29:25:00 5