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My most boring post ever?

This one is just to get caught up on the last month, mostly for my biggest fan, my dad.  I’m more focused on running than writing and short on time for both so this one is photo-free and without any attempt to entertain.  How’s that for engaging the readership?

While the last few weeks are far from record-setting by any measure, it was a good start to the June-July Leadville 100 build-up.  I’ve been focusing more on vertical gain than total mileage which is, I think, making me slower all around.  But, it is also making me stronger and better-prepared (I hope) for the rigors of a real mountain 100-miler.  Racing in the “Colorado-flat” Greenland 50k, followed by a rugged, mountainous Quadrock 50-miler and this past weekend’s uber-hilly Dirty 30 50k, all in less than the last month, is good for establishing where I am.  I underperformed at each race, which doesn’t look good on paper but that wasn’t the point.  I enjoyed each race with enough energy for a strong finish, didn’t have any issues (falls, bonks, etc), and recovered quickly from each.

As I’ve often said over the last year, Colorado running is a different league.  I’ve gone from consistent top 15-20 overall positions in Texas ultras – with some quality top 10s – to very much a mid-packer here, even as I’ve improved.  The quality of the “average” runner here is unlike anywhere else in the world outside of east Africa and the old “just finishing is an accomplishment” is starting to have some meaning to me.  I do very much appreciate the health, lifestyle, and support of family and friends that allow me to see what I’m able to do on the trails, even if that means I’ll finish most races after my training buddies have already changed clothes, eaten a meal, and taken a nap.

Now it’s crunch time.  My general plan is to run a whole lot of mountain trail, rest a little, and do it again for the next 8 weeks before a pretty sharp taper to make sure I’m fully rested heading into Leadville.  I have two more races – the Leadville Marathon and the Silver Rush 50-miler (also in Leadville) but expect 12-15 long runs over the next two months.  I’m back to sleeping in my altitude tent, currently set to simulate about 8400′ with plans to move up to 10-11k’ over the summer.

I’m planning on a 2-3 day trip up to Leadville this weekend and fitting in high country trips with any friends I who can spare the time and are willing to gather me up when I fall off the training pace.  More than anything, I’m focused on enjoying the process.  And there are 8,000′ mountains right out my window as I type from the house, which is pretty hard to beat.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Boulder Dad + Run Blog Catch-up

Yesterday I did something I’ve been looking forward to for, well, kind of forever.  I hiked with my kid to the top of a legit mountain.  To be fair, we drove halfway up but it was still a HUGE effort for 6-year-old legs.  The route to the summit of Green Mountain, overlooking the Boulder valley to the east and dozens of snow-capped peaks to the west, was only 1.64 miles but it is almost entirely up hill.

A rare, unprompted hug just because:

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“Up hill” is hard to put in perspective for those who don’t live in the mountains.  Over that relatively short stretch, we climbed roughly 1500′, all on trail, most of it technical (rocky, rooty, angled) and almost all covered with a combination of ice, snow, slush, and/or mud. Even for adults, even in dry weather, the climb is a tough one.  There are parts where it is steep enough to grab onto trees or rocks to scramble upwards.  And he did it!  I surprised Sagan with some cake at the top, where he repeatedly made the final Big Rock climb to the summit marker.

Cake eater:

Image 2 Image 1

“Big Rock” (probably has a real, more stately name but I don’t know it) at the Green Mt. summit:

Big Rock

Once we summited, of course we had to make our way back down.  The return, in dry conditions, has tricky sections but is fairly quick to navigate.  With the conditions and lack of any solid footing (I made the mistake of going sans “traction” – the metal mini-crampon stuff that make ice/snow a little less slippery), we had to battle our way back down.  In spots, I had to swing Sagan over ice-covered rocks; most of the way down we held hands.  We figured out an effective method whereby I’d cross my hands behind my back and he’d hold both hands, using my body for balance and leverage.  It was kind of awesome.

With light-up kid shoes with kid-worn soles, it was a sometimes frustrating and entirely exhausting effort for Sagan but he had a good attitude.  He even ran some short dry sections in both directions.  By the end, after 2 hours and 32 minutes moving time, a 3.3 miles round-trip with over 3000′ of elevation change, he was a zombie.  But, no tears, almost no complaining, and mega, well-earned pride, enhanced by the many sincere compliments he received from other hikers (all adults, we saw no other kids of any age the entire trip).  He is a bad-ass kid and I couldn’t love him more.

I have another kid I’m quite fond of but she’s usually doing this:

Story

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I’ve also been running.  Not much inspiration but I’m starting to get my head and heart into ultra mode again.  My previous blog post was right before heading out for the High Line Canal FatAss run.  I made it through reasonably well, covering about 59 miles in just over 13 hours.  It was flat and felt like it lasted 3 days.  Much of it I ran solo – the event had quite a few runners but each had their own goals and many we either running shorter portions much more quickly or doing out-and-backs from places along the route.  “Sherpa” John LaCroix, the organizer and only person to cover the entire 64ish miles of the run, amazed me with his determination and good will.

The High Line Canal run was my 4th event in John’s 2013 Winter Expeditions FatAss Runs.  I was surprised that, with the exception of John, I covered more total miles over the series than any of the 52 participants (full series results).  None of these were races – for time or distance, but it was nice to be recognized by John, who emailed:

Congrats to Mike Randall!
Mike ran the most HP Miles this winter with 147. He wins this winters Human Potential Prize pack which includes some PowerBar Product, a Human Potential Hat or Visor, and some other nifty things I’ll dig up in my garage.

For full disclosure, this DOES NOT MEAN I’m the top runner in the group – many of the men and women are top notch ultrarunners who ran only an event or two – but I did run the most within the scheduled series, which I still think is pretty cool.

I’ve had a few other big days out recently, including my first race of 2013 this past Saturday.  Out at the Greenland 50k I ran ok, finishing the four loops of smooth, flat (for CO), wide open trails in a respectable 5:07.  I think I took it too easy for the first 20 miles, not wanting to push at all in what was supposed to be an “easy” long run.  I now wonder how much faster I could have gone, given ideal weather and friendly course, but I’m kind of proud that I held back as planned and now, two days later with yesterday’s hearty hike in between, I feel physically and mentally ready to get back at it.  But, with the QuadRock 50-miler (11k’ climbing!) just 5 days away, I’ll be taking it easy all week so I’m somewhat fresh for that big ol’ challenge.

At Greenland 50k, almost naked…

Big spring and summer ahead, with 5 more ultras already scheduled, culminating in the Leadville 100.  I’m planning on running long quite a bit, resting a bit more in between, focusing more on ascent than mileage, and generally enjoying the mountains without putting much stress on myself.  I’d love to break 25 hours at Leadville (fewer than 10% of those who start the race do so) but I’m realizing that any finish there is and should remain my primary – and secondary – goal.  To that end, I need to be sure my body and mind are ready to just keep going and I’ll train accordingly.

I’m not sure how much run blogging I’ll be doing in the next few months.  Could have stretches where I pop on here daily, or maybe I’ll next update in late August.  Life is busy and good, with the move nearly finalized, many great, supportive friends, and some interesting summer to-dos with the family.  I think I’ll drink more beer, too.

The High Line Canal 100k tomorrow

Well, this’ll be something different.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be joining a handful of hearty souls to run a route along the High Line Canal FatAss “100k”, a trip of 62 or 63 or 64 miles, depending on whose distance is used.  In any case, it is really long, really flat, and nearly all paved stretch through Denver.  It is a major departure from mountain trail running I’ve been doing and there’s no telling how my body will respond.  It’ll be only the second time I’ve run over 52 miles (the first being last October’s Cactus Rose 100-miler) but I don’t think I’ve ever run over marathon distance entirely on pavement.  Chances of falling are greatly reduced, chances of screaming knees are nearly 100%.  Aid stations are wherever we cross paths with convenience stores.

Report to follow…

Sagan with oreo:

Oreo face

 

 

Winter in Boulder

It seems quite a chunk of time has passed since I’ve done any run blogging.  I’m ok with it.  A few times over the last couple of years I’ve felt guilty not posting more often but I now realize that is pure ridiculousness.  The simple truth is that we all have the same amount of time in the day and writing about my outdoor adventures just hasn’t been a high priority, or maybe a priority at all.  But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting out there.

This sometimes happens:

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There is a great misunderstanding about mountain climate among non-front rangers,  those unfortunate souls who life outside of the utopian weather bubble that straddles the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  Most people think mountains and equate winter with some frozen, frigid hell.  Not the case here in Boulder.  We’ll have a 2-3 day stretch of legit cold, sometimes accompanied by a few inches of snow, then, BOOM, right back to spring.  The legend of year-round sun is holding up and there have been quite a few days in January and February where I’m out on the trails in shorts, worried that I might be overheating a bit. No joke.

My winter, so far, has been an athletic mix.  I’ve cut back quite a bit on the running, both frequency (3-5 times a week) and duration (runs of more than a couple hours have been rare) but I’ve added in some more intensity (running uphill, faster-paced stuff) and have gotten back to more strength and core work.  I’ve gotten in maybe a dozen sessions on the indoor rower, some circuits, and am returning to my push-ups and pull-ups throughout the day.

Gotta stay fit to be able to handle this:

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Thanks to John Lacroix’s “Fat Ass” events, I’ve gotten some adventurous, mountain trail time.  More on those on my Races and Journey Runs page but, in short, John organizes interesting, challenging routes, usually with lots of technical and vertical trail, often longer than advertised, and we start out as a group and see how long we can go before getting lost, too tired to continue, or otherwise deterred.  Many of the events have only a few finishers, and in some nobody finishes the proscribed course.  I’ve had my ass handed to me on each of the runs but finished the three I started, in respectable fashion if I do say so.  Other than those, which take us all over the place, my running has been fairly tame as I stick to the more familiar, local trails in and immediately around Boulder.

I joined the Boulder Track Club’s newest sub-group, the “Mountain-Ultra-Trail” (MUTs) runners.  The leader of BTC is Lee Troop, multi-time Olympian in the marathon, and super nice, supportive guy.  Friend (and realtor) Greg Nash is the MUTs coach and a few of my local run buddies are part of the group.  The group trains twice a week – and by “train” I mean runs so fast that I am immediately at the back of every session.  I attended a few tempo runs and a couple of hill repeat sessions and, while I certainly got in good workouts, I found that it isn’t for me.  At least not for now.  There is a ton of value in doing hard efforts, even as an “ultra” runner, and I am continuing to incorporate intensity in my runs at least a time or two each week.  But, with the MUTs, I was unquestionably the slowest person in the group, always finishing a 3-4 mile run in last place, often 4-6+ minutes behind the front-runners.  It is worth noting that I’m the slowest person, not the slowest guy, as the women in the group also smoke me.  It was demoralizing but, more importantly, I wasn’t really doing anything I couldn’t do on my own (running really hard, essentially by myself).  Since I wasn’t adding to the group and found myself coming home dejected, I’ve backed off and plan to return only if/when there is a bit more diversity in the, uh, “talent” of the runners within the group.

Lee Troop, winning the Austin Marathon last week:

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So, I’m back to doing my own thing.  I meet up with a motley crew of runners on a day to day basis – some friends who compete with some level of seriousness (but not in training), a cadre of former elites who now have a lot more going on in their lives than running and, thus, are happy to run easy with a laser focus on the social end of the experience, and random stragglers who come out for group runs.

And there’s a lot happening outside of running.  Story is walking and quite proud of herself.  She has teeth and eats anything we let her (broccoli and brussel sprouts are among her favorites).  Sagan is the perfect kid age – bubbling over with excitement over Legos and snow and, most recently, episodes from the original Twilight Zone.  He already is growing up enough to be too manly to bring stuffed animals to school on “stuffie day” and always wants the door locked when changing clothes but he’s kid enough to cherish snuggle time.  I’ve directed much of my energy to business pursuits, which I’m enjoying for the first time in years.  And Al and I are in full-on re-nesting mode, with the imminent closing on the new house and all that goes with the transition.

These are mine:

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Life is good, maybe the best it has been in many years.  2013 is shaping up to be a whirlwind of activity, travel, adventure, and growth.  I’m ready to go get it.  (For full disclosure, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee today so the enthusiasm might be overstated.)

 

 

 

 

2013: Mountain Man Plan

For those who NEED a chronological accounting of my more noteworthy racing and training days, you now have just the resource!  I’ve added a page to the blog called Races & Journey Runs.  It outlines pretty much all of my races and a wholly subjective list of other runs I think are kinda cool.

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Facial hair makes me feel manly and mountainy.  Mountainy manly.  Rugged and authentic.  Except when it makes me feel like a total skeezy poser wannabee.   But, I’ve been working really hard not to shave and now have something approaching a proper ultra-beard (and totally proper wife and baby):

Not sure how to grow the mustache part.

Not sure how to grow the mustache part.

I haven’t widely discussed my 2013 plans and goals.  Well, I’ve probably discussed them more than Alison and a few Boulder friends would like to hear but otherwise I’ve been pretty quiet.  Basically within 24 of finishing the Cactus Rose 100 miler I had decided I (still) liked running far on trail but I’ve wanted to take it relatively easy for the rest of 2012.  I needed to recover, recharge, and focus on time with family.  I’ll continue to do so for a while, getting exercise most days but not exactly training.  More time in the gym to get stronger (I’ve come to really like the rowing machine), a little more faster-paced running, skipping the 4am wake-ups to run up the mountains in the dark.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m without focus and it doesn’t mean I’m not looking ahead.  Big picture is to just kind of play around over the winter and into the spring.  Some skiing, snow shoeing, social running, and roughly one long (5-12 hr) run per month.  Maybe even throw in some swimming and certainly lots of steep hiking.  Somewhat low mileage running – perhaps 30-50 per week most weeks – to allow more flexibility and variety.

Come May, the build-up begins for my 2nd shot at the 100-mile distance: the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 on August 17-18.  However, I no longer want to train for many months for a single event.  I could get sick, I could get injured, and other life circumstances might get in the way.  So, for the first time ever, I’ve set up a significant series of events, a season of training and racing, to keep me motivated and excited about the steps along the way.  I’ve put together a spreadsheet with my build-up races and longest training days, which includes 5  organized mountain races between marathon and 50mi, as well as a good bunch of long group training runs and lots of time at 10,000-13,000 ft.  I’ll have a legit challenge every 1-2 weeks May through July to get me fit for a solid effort at Leadville.  I’m kinda excited.

The Month Since My First 100-Mile Run

Pretty much all of life as we experience it comes down to chemicals and current.  Hormones and enzymes and neurons reacting to electrical pulses.  That sort of stuff.  All of what we are and all of what we do are affected.  Ours moods and motivations, our literal and figurative hungers, our desires and, ultimately, our relative level of contentment.

After a really, really demanding physical challenge, I’ve heard there can be a few weeks immediately following where, due to a stressed nervous system and fatigued endocrine system, a guy can  get all sorts of weird.  I’m superhuman, however, as I’ve been told quite a few times since hobbling to the finish of my race, so there was no reason to fear such a post-race psycho-physiological collapse.  In fact, I was back to running after just 3 days off.  And just a week removed from my nearly-28-hour run, I was hanging with my Boulder trail buddies for a 9+ miler.  Back to 40+ mile weeks 1 and 2 weeks after the race.

Then it hit me.  Aches from nothing.  Shortness of breath just walking around.  Low level depression that I couldn’t shake – even with espresso.  And, as readers of this blog might have noticed, a lapse in motivation that extended to even putting thoughts into the computer.  Thanksgiving week, spent in St. Louis, was particularly rough.  After what I’d say was my first run of any quality since the race – a 9-miler with Josh Wallach that included some tempo – I kinda fell apart.  After falling asleep  at 5pm on Tuesday, in all my clothes (flannel shirt and jeans and wool socks) and shivering for a couple hours under 3 layers of bedding, I knew I was over-extended.  Alison (again, as always) was great, allowing me to sleep guilt-free for nearly 15 hours in an 18-hour stretch, which started the turnaround.  I squeezed in a couple of lackluster runs to try to shake myself out of the funk, ending the STL trip with a walk-through effort in the multi-decade Friday-after-Thanksgiving football game.  [As an aside, I’m thinking that my now-150-something-pound frame isn’t all too well suited to O-line and certainly isn’t ideal for pass-rushing.]

Good news is that I’m back to Boulder and getting back to myself mentally.  On Sunday I made my return to running long with a 25-mile, 6-hour mountain run with something close to 7000′ of climbing.  It was the first in a really cool non-race 2013 Winter Expedition Series of Fat-Ass (group run) event where like-minded folks suffer and celebrate together, free of charge, over 10 or 25 or, in one event to come, up to 62 miles on the trails.  The dedicated organizer, Sherpa John, even put together a video of the outing and compiled results from the day:

Here are the results from Sunday’s Brass Knuckle
Starters: 27
Finishers: 14
% Finishing Rate: 52%
Goshawk Milers: 11
Hopefully you all can see this chart.
Name Where From? Goshawk? Y/N Approximate Miles
(If you did not run all)
Finish Time
Engineer, Neeraj Broomfield Y 25 5:08
Harsh, Rob Boulder Y 25 5:56
Randall, Mike Austin, TX Y 25 5:56
Weiss, Elizabeth Boulder Y 25 5:56
Lassen, Ryan Boulder Y 25 5:56
Kingrey, Kyle Loveland Y 25 6:00
Sablik, Anna Denver Y 25 6:05
Salvesen, Greg Boulder Y 25 6:06
Sherpa John Thornton Y 25 6:06
Pfiel, Terri Boulder Y 25 6:07
Ahlers, Bill Arvada N 24 3:00
Dean, Corky Golden N 24 4:45
Zenzinger, Ted Arvada N 24 4:58
Grady, Mike Boulder N 24 4:59
Blatecky, Andy Boulder N 21.4 5:16
Friedman, Jeff Grand Junction N 21 5:21
Olsen, Walter Littleton N 21 5:21
Frederick, Chrissy Denver N 15 3:27
Evans, Amy Westminster N 14 3:28
Linney, Jessica Erie N 14 3:28
Durst, Dennis Aurora N 12 4:33
Coffman, Danni Montana N 10.4 2:48
Smiley-Coker Jenn Denver N 10.4 2:48
Zajac, Val Thornton N 10.4 2:48
Armstrong, Jerry Broomfield N 9 2:30
Williams, Brad Golden Y 8 1:28
Johnson-Cline, Jenn Thornton N 6 ??

 

I got lots of time in my head, wondering in the early miles if I was ready for such a long day.  But after the first 10 miles or so I came alive and very much enjoyed the running and conversation.  The time went much faster once I got to chatting with Greg Salvesen (9th place at the Cactus Rose 100), Liz Weiss (likely the best trail-runner in the group), Rob Harsh (Eco-Challenge and Primal Quest adventure sport veteran with more inspiring stories than time to tell them), and a handful of others, all with good attitudes and strong legs.

My full motivation isn’t roaring back yet but I am excited to get back at training.  I haven’t locked in any specific new goals or signed up for any races yet but I’m ready to start thinking about what comes next.  More importantly, I’m getting out of bed looking forward to the day, nothing hurts, and the mountains out the window are calling.

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Quick notes:

A guy I know a little, Jake Zmrhal, just ran around Mount Kilimanjaro.  Congrats!

Over the weekend ultra-running couple friends/superstars, Silke and Ryan, ran all the way across the Grand Canyon, turned around, and ran all the way back, in an adventure run known in ultra circles as the “rim to rim to rim” (R2R2R).  They covered the nearly 50 miles in “something like 10:20 running time and 12:15 total time”.  That’s really moving, as most people who I know (who are also pretty talented runners) take many hours longer.  I expect a full report will be posted soon at http://www.dirtproof.co.uk/.

Congrats to Greg and Julie Nash on adding some more ballast to the running stroller.  Sarah Lynn Nash was born November 19.

While 100-mile races are still largely under the radar for the general public, and even many runners, there is one that is king of them all.  The Western States 100 Endurance Run is the one that has made it into the mainstream, at least a little.  It is one of the oldest trail races around and, I think, the first organized 100-miler.  It draws the most prestigious field of runners, has been the backdrop for multiple documentaries, has gotten tv coverage, and features a point-to-point course that has, in the same race on the same day, had thigh-deep snow and triple-digit heat.  It has a very limited field and tight qualification standards.  Since I was able to qualify at the Hells Hills 50-miler in April, I figured I’d toss my name into the lottery.  Chances of getting in are mid-single digits but there’s at least a chance.  And it I do get in, oh boy.  I’ll know on December 8.

 

 

 

 

2012 Cactus Rose 100 – Race Report

Official race results

It’s been 10 days since my finish at the Cactus Rose 100.  For those reading this 100 years from now, a bit of perspective: last night the 44th President of the United States of America, Barrack Hussein Obama, was elected to a second term, marijuana became legal in Colorado, and a few more states acknowledged that any two consenting adults have the right to be married, regardless of religious traditions surrounding anatomical compatibility.

Over the course of October 27-28, I was, indeed, able to cover 100 miles on foot, without stopping for a meal and no stationary sleeping (though I think I cobbled together about 45 seconds of moving sleep over the final 5 or 6 hours of the event).  The main thought I have about the experience, the idea that repeatedly came to mind both during and after the run, was this: participating in a 100-mile foot race is totally self-indulgent, likely dangerous, does not contribute to good health, and is largely pointless.  Such a race is expensive and exacts a toll on loved ones and, since about half of those who attempt the feat aren’t able to finish, can be as much a blow to the psyche as it is destructive to the body.  People usually fall and are cut, bruised, and aching everywhere whether or not they finish.  Torn muscles, blisters, sprained joints, and all manner of maladies arise from dehydration, sleep deprivation, and the ravages of the elements and terrain.  Puking, crying, and general disorientation are commonplace.

I finished, hobbling and spent, well off my goal time, and moaned in bed as I slept for the next 19 hours.  When I woke up, I wanted to do it all again.  Weird, right?  It all comes down to the satisfaction of doing it outweighed and overshadowed everything else.  It is supremely satisfying to lay out an objective goal, prepare for it for months or years, not knowing whether it is really even achievable, then have the opportunity to so fully test oneself.  Had I DNF’ed, at least I’d have known what I was made of.  It all probably sounds trite and cliché.  Still, in adulthood with work and family and a house to maintain and all that goes with the largely suburban, workaday lifestyle, we just adjust to the reality of doing small things.  Not to say that pizza with friends or taking kids to the park or paying the bills is unimportant.  But the things we routinely do, even the really fun stuff, isn’t really all that satisfying.  At least that’s what I believe the 80 runners starting the 100-mile race seemed to understand.

I went into the race with 2 main goals: (1) Finish without risking any permanent damage, and (2) do so in under 24 hours.  Both were reasonable goals based on my training and preparation and I figured if I could cover the distance without any injury or illness I’d be able to do so in less than 24 hours.  I was right and I was wrong.  Having never gone longer than 52 miles or so, and only having covered than sort of distance a couple of times, every step beyond had all sorts of uncertainty.  To improve my odds, I’d been running fairly high mileage, at altitude, almost entirely on trail, including many long runs (5+ hours), for months leading up to the race.  Andres Capra, my longtime friend, training partner, and multi-race teammate, was also out there for his first shot at a 100.  Between us we had quite a crew/pacer team, including my buddies Steve Levine from Chicago, Matt Wiencek from Boulder, our mutual ultra-running friend, Rob Clark, and Andres’ co-worker runner-athletes, Chris Kelter and Rob Nunez.  Pacers were allowed after 50 miles and Andres and I needed them every step.

I don’t think any potential race report readers have the endurance for a mile-by-mile sort of account of the day(s) on the trail so I’ll attempt to sumarize.  The course deserves a word before going into my experience.  That word could be sack-slapping.  Or 100milesoflooserock.  Or leg-grinding.  The four 25 mile loops, which change directions after each go-around, lack the altitude and long climbs of the mountains but make up for such challenges with about 40 miles of short, steep, ups and downs that are essentially scree for many stretches.  Having run the entire back half of the Leadville 100 just a few months ago, I feel qualified to say that, altitude aside, the CR100 course is at least as challenging.  The terrain is certainly as tough or tougher.

Here’re the basics of my day…

Pre-race, with Andres.  All optimism.

Loop 1 – Start to Mile 25

Within the first 10 minutes of the race Andres and I inexplicably found ourselves off-course with a handful of other runners.  Not sure how it happened but luckily it was only about a 5-minute detour and the only of the entire race.  We ran together, nice and easy, the entire loop coming through 25 miles right on schedule in about 5 hours.

Loop 2 – Mile 25-50

Coming into halfway…

Andres and I leapfrogged each other a bit but were mostly together all loop and we came through the halfway point in about 11 hours in good spirits, still chatting (probably about how awesome we are and how we’re so going to crush the race).  I had some distressingly early leg pains as early as about mile 30 that never really went away but nothing that was keeping me from running.  Not yet, at least.

Somewhere with Andres, I’m smiling so it must have been the first half…

Loop 3 – Mile 50-75

Many hours into the day, somewhere loop 3, I think.

I picked up Steve to pace me at about 4pm.  It was a mental lift to have a friend along.  And it was a huge logistical help, as I could now further minimize my aid station pit-stop times since Steve could grab what I needed and I could get on my way immediately.  It is somewhat arbitrary, even misleading, to break the race into 25 mile segments.  With aid stations every 4.5-5.5 miles, most runners, myself included, are mentally just working to get to the next aid station.  After running for 11 hours, this was especially true.  The highs and lows came often.  I’d feel overwhelmed by the idea of running another 45 or 30 or eventually even 10 miles, while still having stretches where I felt really good.  These swings, though not too high or low, came at me every few miles the entire third loop.

Steve is a minor legend within my group of college friends.  He’s game, kind of freakishly so.  That’s the best way of describing him.  He can run a respectable marathon with minimal training, hammer back martinis and steaks like an alcoholic strong-side tackle, and dance for days at a time, sometimes all within the course of one long weekend.  He’s as likely to be backpacking solo through remote sections of Hawaii as hand-picking fine fabrics for a custom suit he’ll be wearing to a wedding in London.  He runs his own business mostly from his phone and is always looking for a challenge –or dare.  He was just what I needed to keep me entertained and moving.  Steve is also a big dude – more lineman than ultrarunner – but I’ve run and hiked and skied and otherwise suffered with him many times.

This is Steve.

But, as the miles wore on I found that his relative inexperience on trails, for long distances, and especially in the dark, made it tough to manage the pacing duties.  By mile 67 I looked back and could no longer see any sign of his headlamp.  A runner doesn’t stop for his pacer, it’s just the way it goes.  Maybe (probably) it makes me a dick but I think knowing that I could drop my pacer, WAS dropping my pacer, made me speed up.  I came into mile 70 aid station alone.  Luckily Chris Kelter was there, semi-fresh (though he’d been crewing pacing ALL day long), and he kept me company until mile 75.

Loop 4 – Mile 75 to Finish

And that’s when things fell apart.  Matt was patiently waiting for me around 10pm.  Though a sub-24 was still mathematically within reach, I understood that a 6-hour final loop was looking unlikely.  My legs were trashed.  I was able to run pretty much all of the flats, downhills, and even some of the gentler climbs for 75 miles.  But every step was hurting.  Not the expected knee pains, somehow all of my joints felt ok.  I had one blister developing on my left heel but that wasn’t much more than a minor distraction.  The muscles in my legs, however, hurt down to the individual fibers.  I wasn’t overly fatigued, my mood was acceptable (to me, at least), my stomach remained solid and I was able to keep taking in calories. I just couldn’t run, or more accurately, I couldn’t run any faster than I could hike.

Matt, a very experienced marathoner-recently-turned-trail-ultra-guy, was solid.  He is one of the most even-tempered friends I’ve ever had and that’s just what I needed as I suffered, creeping along, for 10 hours on that final loop.  When I felt good (I did have some decent short stretches) I ran.  The rest I hiked as efficiently as possible.  Matt pointed out at one point that his own pace was hardly changing and never more than a hike, even when I was running my hardest.  That was helpful to know.  Though somewhat discouraging, it made more sense to hike than run if I was essentially going the same speed.  We both fell asleep repeatedly while running; Matt once awoke to the bright reflection from his headlamp light on a course marker, thinking a car was coming towards him.  I did a lot of grunting the last few hours.

This must have been sometime after 7am (of the second day)…

Despite my inability to run for most of the last 10 hours, I somehow managed not to get passed until, with less than a mile to go, a guy flew by me (probably at 10 min/mile pace).  I tried to stay with him and was able to, for about 10 seconds.  Then I just stumbled my way in to finish in 27 hours, 44 minutes, 48 seconds, 18th place overall of the 47 runners who were able to finish (33 DNf’ed).

Crossing the finish line…

Immediately after the race, with Matt.  We look pretty good…

I never contemplated not finishing, though I wanted to stop more than I’ve wanted just about anything in my whole life.  I thought of my friends across the country, my family, especially Sagan, and everyone else who knew I was out there.  My ultrarunning-star friend, Olga, was out there supporting runners at an aid station we passed through 8 time over the course of the race.  She’s a hard woman to let down.  And I thought of Andres, who I admire and respect and sometimes hate a little for always being the better runner.  I was able to pull away a little bit around mile 60 and hadn’t seen him since.  I was certain he was just steps behind me, likely to speed past me soon, or surely in the final stretch to the finish.  I wanted him to finish, to have a good experience.  But I absolutely could not DNF and still hold my head high if he finished.  Of course, he finished and he likely would have been ahead of me if not for some lengthy aid station stops.  But, for once, I finished ahead of him.  I’ll bask in that achievement even if it makes me a dick, as I can’t quite imagine it ever happening again.  And I’m super proud of him for gutting it out in a still very-respectable time.  Even if it was slower than mine.  🙂

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Some FAQs, as I’ve had a lot of people ask the same stuff.

How close was I to the winner?  Why didn’t I win?

This is one I get a lot, including from Sagan, who doesn’t understand why I don’t win the races.  I understand why people ask it.  I’m fairly fit looking and I train all the time, at least compared to people who train less.  What well-meaning, very supportive friends and family don’t realize is that I’m super average as a runner.  I’ve never won an award or any kind, in over 50 races.  In ultras, the frontrunners are HOURS ahead of me.  In fact, in the CR100 I crossed paths with the eventual winner when I was at mile 43.  He was 14 MILES ahead of me at that point and he finished over 10 hours before me.  And he would be an hour or two behind some of the guys who I’ve met in Boulder if they came to the race.  I’ll never run a 13-hour 100 or a 2:15 marathon or 4-minute mile.  Not even close, with all possible coaching and training and doping and course cutting and machete throwing at runners ahead of me.  That said, I’m ok with my running and typically in the top quarter of runners in races, sometimes in the top 5-10%, and I continue to improve as I race and train more.

What’s my excuse for not running faster?

I have none.  The weather was nearly perfect, high in the 60s, lows in the upper 30s, and dry.  I never fell.  I didn’t get sick or injured.  I trained as much as I reasonably could, and on race-specific terrain.  I tapered well, came in rested, fit, lean, and in good spirits.  I had great pacers and crew and a sound nutrition plan that I stuck with.  The course was well-marked, the aid stations close together, and I didn’t have any trouble with gear.  I’m not sure what, if anything, I could or should have done differently, which is both comforting and discouraging since I don’t know how I can go faster next time.

What did I eat?

50-60 gels, one every 20 minutes for more than 12 hours then as often as I could stomach, all Powerbar brand, mostly un-caffeinated vanilla with some caffeinated strawberry-banana after halfway.

~100 ounces of plain coconut milk with whey powder, chugged at aid stations.  Maybe 30 ounces of “green” Odwalla juice

1 Bobobar, a few peanut butter sandwhich halves, 1 large bag of potato chips, small cup of mashed sweet potatoes, 1 cup weak coffee

How much did I stop/rest?

Essentially, not at all.  I think my longest aid station stop was under 5 minutes.  I never sat down (though I did squat once at mile 39), never intentionally slept.  I maintained a running motion, if not pace, for probably about 80 miles of the race.

How long did it take to recover?

I’m still not sure.  I fully took off 3 days after the race and have since run easy 3 times, hiked twice, and done some strength work in the last week.  I feel a bit sluggish but no major lingering pains.  My first real run test, a 9.5 mile trail run this past Sunday (7 days post-race) was a mixed bag.  Mentally I felt good, physically I felt great through about 4 miles, then I started aching until the finish.  I think I’ll be close to 100% in another week.

Is this out of my system, finally?

Nope.  I’m not super excited to run the CR100 course again but long distance trail running isn’t something on my bucket list, something to check off.  While the experience of the race itself may not be done for health, the training and nutrition and dedication are good for me, year-round.  It can fill my need for social time and solo time, it gets me outside to beautiful, remarkable places, it provides goals and direction for me, and an example of discipline and the strength of will and demonstrates the benefits of fitness for my kids.   And if I can look ok in my underwear 20 years from now, all the better for me and Alison.

What’s next?

First, helping to get Story sleeping and Alison some much needed rest and time to herself.  Running-wise, I’ll just do whatever seems like fun for the rest of 2012, though probably no racing.  I need and want to get some cross-training over the winter to get stronger.  Probably a decent amount of skiing and snowshoeing, definitely regular strength training, perhaps mixing in some swimming and rowing.  Further out, I know that I want to race more long-distance.  A shot at the Leadville 100 or a return to the TransRockies Run (6 days racing across the Rockies) interest me a lot for next summer.  Pacing others in trail ultras interests me, as do long adventure runs with friends outside of a race setting.